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AI .09.14 72
ith the
debut of
the F-35B
Lightning II
at the Royal
Air Tattoo
and the
Farnborough International Airshow cancelled
due to the types temporary grounding,
attention fell instead on another distinctive
twin-tailed jet from the United States.
Textron AirLand presented its Scorpion
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance
(ISR)/strike aircraft frst fown last December
in public for the frst time at the two events.
The aircraft, on the US experimental
aircraft register as N53ITA, made the 4,700
nautical mile (8,707km) journey to southern
England from the companys Wichita, Texas,
base via stops in Canada, Greenland, Iceland
and Scotland.
The Scorpions debut comes only two-and-
a-half years after Textron AirLand started
developing it. That rapid transformation
from concept to reality makes it one of the
fastest-developed combat types in recent US
aerospace history.
The aircraft has been designed to meet
what its manufacturer sees as a need for an
affordable combat jet. AirLand, a consortium
of investors and advisers (the latter including
the former US Secretary to the Air Force,
Whit Peters) started investigating the concept
for such an aircraft in the late 2000s. It
approached Textron the owner of Bell
Helicopter, Beechcraft and Cessna with the
proposal in 2011.
The two parties later
established a joint venture
and started design work in
January 2012, literally from a
PowerPoint slide with some key
operating requirements, according to Scott
Donnelly, Textrons Chief Executive Offcer,
in a presentation on the aircraft during
Filling a Gap
Donnelly explained the rationale
underpinning the Scorpion: For the last
30 or 40 years all of the investment was in
developing extraordinarily high performance
aircraft, like F-35s, Eurofghters, Super
Hornets aircraft of that class. Theres
capability in the single-engine turboprop
market served by aircraft like our AT-6 and
some others, but theres a huge gap between
the high end and [that] market.
Textron AirLand is pitching its Scorpion as an affordable
yet capable multi-mission platform.
Mark Broadbent reports
AI .09.14 73
AI .09.14 74
Textron AirLand says the Scorpion flls
that space by offering the performance
characteristics and systems of advanced
frontline types, but without their premium
price tag. The company says that, because
the aircraft uses off-the-shelf technologies,
it will make those sought-after high-end
capabilities more affordable and claims the
Scorpions unit price will be under $20 million
and cost $3,000 to operate per fight-hour.
That compares with the typical $60 million-
plus unit price and the fve-fgure hourly
operating costs of a fourth-generation fghter.
Payload Bay
One of the most important features of the
Scorpion is an 82cu ft (2.3m
) bay in the
centre of the fuselage capable of carrying
up to 3,000lb (1,360kg) of payload. We
designed [the jet] around an empty
space in the centreline of the aircraft for
customisation, said Dan Hinson, Chief Pilot,
Government and Special Missions at Textron
and Chief Pilot on the Scorpion project, in an
interview with AIR International.
The bay is compatible with sensors,
fuel and communications modules already
certifed and in service. The manufacturer
says this will enable operators to quickly
incorporate payloads into the jet or
change between them as their operational
requirements dictate, enhancing the
Scorpions fexibility and cost-effectiveness.
The aircrafts nose features a retractable
mount which carries a high-defnition electro-
optical/infrared sensor, enabling the Scorpion
to fy in clean confguration to an operational
area. The crew can then lower the sensor for
the mission and retract it into the aircraft for
the return to base, helping reduce drag and
improve effciency during missions.
The aircraft has an open architecture Modular
Mission System in the cockpit. This creates
compatibility with in-service sensors by
providing the processing for customers to
upload the software theyll need for their
particular equipment into the aircrafts avionics.
The company says this minimises
integration costs and provides the
opportunity to change payloads swiftly and
cost-effectively. We have the connectivity
there to enable customers to get the most
out of the aircraft, Hinson said.
At the Farnborough briefng Textron AirLand
President Bill Anderson said the Scorpion
has cooling and electricity for all of todays
high-end ISR packages and that, no other
aircraft in this class can offer that capability.
The jets six wing hardpoints can carry up
to 6,200lb (2,812kg) of ordnance. Its MIL-
STD-1760 connections, which standardise
the electrical interface between aircraft and
stores, mean the Scorpion can carry a range
of weapons including laser-guided and
GPS-guided rockets, bombs and missiles.
The inboard stations are also plumbed for
additional external fuel tanks to extend range.
The Cockpit
Another important facet of the Scorpions
cost-effectiveness is its use of avionics
already certifed and in operation. Many of
its systems have been brought across from
the Cessna Citation business jet, including
multi-function full-colour displays presenting
fight, aircraft performance, navigation and
mission information.
The Scorpion also has the Citations terrain
awareness and warning, engine indicating/
crew alerting, traffc collision and avoidance
and dual air data attitude heading reference
systems plus weather radar and integrated
moving maps.
Hinson said the cockpit displays provide
for a great degree of customisation. For
example, the weather radar and traffc
information can be overlaid on the moving
map and displayed on one screen,
consolidating navigation, route and weather
information in one place. It gives tailorable
information that youre looking for at the right
time to make the right decisions, he said.
The displays also show the outputs from
the sensors aboard and provide compatibility
with night-vision goggles. A playback
capability means the crew can analyse data
from the sensors during the mission.
Hinson said the Scorpion is proving very
predictable in its performance and handling.
The aircraft climbs smartly, an average of
almost 3,000ft a minute to fight level 270. It is
high wing-loaded so its nice and sturdy. In roll
its very nimble: theres not much in the way of
adverse yaw and a roll is completed in about
four-and-a-half seconds. Weve fown a lot of
formation with it and were able to precisely
control the position of the aircraft very easily.
The Scorpions twin Honeywell TFE731-
40AR-3S turbofan engines each generate
8,000lb (35.5kN) of thrust. They use
Length: 44ft 3in (13.4m)
Wingspan: 47ft 10in (14.5m)
Height: 14ft 2in (4.3m)
Standard empty weight: 11,800lb (5,352kg)
Max take-off weight: 21,250lb (9,638kg)
Max internal fuel load: 6,000lb (2,721kg)
Max internal payload bay: 3,000lb
Engines: 2x Honeywell TFE731-40AR-3S
Thrust: 8,000lb (35.5kN)
Max speed: 450kts (833km/h)
Service ceiling: 45,000ft (13,716m)
Ferry range: 2,400nm (4,444km)
The Scorpion over The Needles,
off the Isle of Wight, prior to its
RIAT and Farnborough appearances.
Uses systems from the
Cessna Citation business
jet including terrain
awareness, trafc collision
and avoidance, weather
radar and integrated
moving maps.
Manufactured from composite parts, the Scorpion boasts a 20,000-ying hour service life.
Lowered by the crew for the mission after completing a high-speed
dash to the mission area.
An 82cu ft (2.3m
bay provides
capacity for
sensors, fuel and
Laser and GPS-guided weapons can be
carried on six wing stations.
AI .09.14 75
conditioned bleed air to generate electrical
power and are directed by a digital electronic
engine control system. The aircraft has a
450kts (833km/h) top speed but its also able
to operate comfortably at 100kts (185km/h).
The combination of the effcient engines
and the aircrafts handling characteristics
presents an aircraft that Hinson thinks will
inspire confdence among its pilots.
According to Textron AirLand, the aircrafts
performance together with the customisation
available in the payload and avionics make
the Scorpion ideal for a range of roles. The
company sees a future for the aircraft in
close air support, maritime patrol, disaster
response, border security, counter-narcotics,
battlefeld surveillance and command and
control missions.
Anderson said the aircraft is capable of
fying up to 150nm (277km) with a combat
load, staying on station for fve hours
and returning to base, all without in-fight
refuelling adding that the jet can be
equipped with a Cobham air refuelling probe
system if required.
The payload bay and the retractable nose-
mounted sensor are vital in maximising the
Scorpions range and endurance, Hinson said,
because fying in clean confguration to the
mission area means the aircraft can make a
high-speed dash to where its needed without
having to suffer the tremendous drag penalty of
those systems hanging on the wings.
Speed and Endurance
The manufacturer says this combination
of high- and low-speed capabilities will be
particularly useful for nations looking to
conduct maritime patrol, border security and
anti-traffcking missions affordably, because
the jet can use its speed to respond quickly
to incidents and then slow down to remain in
operational areas for an extended period.
The combination will also prove useful, the
company says, in what it calls the aerospace
control alert mission intercepting
unidentifed low- and slow-fying aircraft.
[The] Scorpion can quickly scramble, launch
and reach 400-plus knots for the intercept,
says a promotional leafet. [It] can identify
aircraft at range through on-board and
off-board systems. With manoeuvring
speeds as low as 100 knots, the Scorpion
can effectively escort the aircraft while
maintaining a relative position.
Textron AirLand also sees a future for the
aircraft as a command and control platform
both for combat and in response to natural
disasters. It says the aircrafts crew will be
able to fy at slow speed for several hours
over the battlefeld or disaster scene, with
the electro-optical/infrared sensor receiving
and processing information and relaying it
to control centres.
Tactical Jet Training
The Scorpion is also being pitched for the
training role. We think this aircraft would
make a fantastic trainer, Donnelly said. Its
easy-to-fy [and] a great aircraft to transition
into a lead-in fghter-type role.
Its databus enables operators to
download training tasks from more
expensive fourth- or ffth-generation
combat jets. Hinson said the Scorpions
customisable software means operators
have fexibility in how complex they make the
training for their pilots, making the aircraft
suitable both for teaching new student pilots
and those in the fnal stages of training about
to head to frontline combat jets.
You can down-select what you can put
on the displays, he said. You can present
a basic display with just pitch attitude
and teach [the student] how to fy a plane;
or you can bring in other systems and
become more sophisticated as they are
able to start integrating all the [systems]
information. Theres a broad degree of
capability to train pilots.
Potential Buyers
At the time of writing, the Scorpion had yet to
secure any orders. RIAT and Farnborough,
both attended by high-ranking military
offcers from around the world, were an ideal
opportunity for Textron AirLand to showcase
the aircraft and highlight its potential.
Donnelly said Textron AirLand was
closely following the US Air Forces T-X
requirement for a new jet trainer to replace its
ageing Northrop T-38C Talons. Were very
interested, he said, but added that whether
the Scorpion is pitched for it depends on T-Xs
fnal requirements, which are still to be issued.
T-X aside, the company believes the
Scorpion has a bright future. It sees a
market for as many as 2,000 worldwide,
with countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle
East looking for affordable light combat jets
among the primary sales targets.
In bundling comparatively low acquisition
and operating costs, diversity in the
missions its able to carry out and good
performance, Textron AirLand says its
new jet offers one-of-a-kind ISR/strike
capability at unmatched value.
Its now up to the market to decide
whether it agrees.
Above: The jet is fast with the ability to get to an
escalating situation quickly, yet can manoeuvre
at much lower speeds, if the mission requires it.
According to the company, no other jet matches
the Scorpions affordability. Textron AirLand
70 SEPTEMBER 2014 #318
Its not often a new combat jet takes to the skies.
It is even more unusual for a dedicated intelligence,
surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) and strike
aircraft to do so. Guy Martin investigates Textron
AirLands remarkable Scorpion.
70-73_Scorpion_Sept.indd 70 04/08/2014 15:04
What gives the Scorpion further
fexibility is the fact that it has been
designed to carry two retractable
sensor mounts
71 #318 SEPTEMBER 2014
HE IDEA behind the
Scorpion is simple: build a
low-cost tactical jet and ISR platform
more capable than turboprops such
as the Beechcraft AT-6 and Embraer
Super Tucano, yet similar in capability to
the Lockheed Martin F-16, Fairchild A-10 and
unmanned aerial vehicles. The aircraft aims to achieve
this versatility with twin turbofans, allowing it to fly
either slowly or at high subsonic speeds, depending
on the mission. Flexibility is the Scorpions key word,
with a multitude of envisioned missions including
local interdiction, disaster support, air patrol, border
patrol, maritime surveillance, counter narcotics,
counter insurgency, air defence and light attack.
The jet is a joint venture between Textron and
AirLand Enterprises LLC. AirLand essentially
came up with the concept. Textron provides the
funding. It was first announced in September 2013
as a demonstrator, responding to the Pentagons
budget constraints and mission requirements.
Textron AirLand president Bill Anderson said the
project began in January 2012 with a prototype
being built in secret by Cessna at its Wichita, Kansas,
facility between April 2012 and September 2013.
aircraft by taking advantage of commercial aviation
technologies. Many parts come from aircraft
built by Textron subsidiary Cessna. The flap drive
mechanism is from the Citation XLS and Mustang;
the aileron drive mechanism comes from the
Citation X and the dual hydraulic systems are based
on the Citation X. The ejection seat was designed
around specifications provided by Martin-Baker,
rather than having Martin-Baker shoe-horn the
US16T ejection seats into the airframe at great
cost. Chief engineer Dale Tutt said using existing
components shaved a year off development time.
Textron AirLand said 70% of the aircrafts parts
were from Cessnas inventory, while 21% were
commercially available and nine per cent unique to
the Scorpion.
A project under wraps
A speedy development programme was also
designed to help reduce costs. Textron AirLand said
the Scorpions gestation period has been the fastest
of any tactical US jet, as it progressed from initial
design to first flight in under two years. Progress
was so rapid that testing was being undertaken as
the prototype was being built high speed wind
Taking on the big guys
Anderson said: We felt the high end of the military
jet market was completely saturated, with very
expensive aircraft like the F/A-18 Hornet and the
Eurofighter Typhoon. At the low end of the market,
you have UAVs and turboprops for tasks like border
patrol. In between, theres really not much, and
whats being sold is very old. We think the global
market for an aircraft like the Scorpion is in the
billions of dollars.
Textron AirLand believes the Scorpion will fill
a price and capability gap in the tactical military
aircraft market and will be cheaper than replacing
F-16s and A-10s. Scorpion has an estimated
operating cost of US$3,000 an hour, versus a USAF
estimate of US$25,000 for an F-16 (some estimates
put an A-10 flying hour at US$13,000 and an F-15
flying hour at US$23,000). Textron AirLand noted
that in Iraq and Afghanistan it was expensive to have
front-line combat jets dropping weapons on targets
in uncontested airspace.
Anderson has said his company aimed to keep
the unit cost of the Scorpion below US$20 million.
Textrons CEO Scott Donnelly said the project
sought to deliver an affordable, versatile, tactical
70-73_Scorpion_Sept.indd 71 04/08/2014 15:04
72 SEPTEMBER 2014 #318
tunnel testing took place 11 months before first
flight, as the wing panels were under construction.
Taxi testing of the Scorpion prototype (N531TA,
cn 721001) began on November 25 last year and
continued into December. The first flight was delayed
by bad weather. The Scorpion eventually made its 1.4
hour maiden flight on December 12, from McConnell
Air Force Base in Wichita, Kansas, piloted by Dan
Hinson, with 5,000 flight hours in 79 aircraft under
his belt, and co-piloted by David Sitz. It was described
as being stable and responsive with performance
better than expected. Altitude and speed were
kept between 10-15,000ft (3-4,500m) and 200kt
(230mph or 370km/h) on that first flight. Hinson
had familiarised himself on a Scorpion simulator
before taking off in the actual aircraft. Flight testing
continues, with 300-400 hours of additional testing
involving 150 flights scheduled for 2014, targeting
speed, altitude and the performance envelope.
Flight testing in May and June evaluated
performance at speeds of up to 455kt (523mph or
842km/h) and long-range flight. On June 21 the
Scorpion flew more than 1,000nm (1,150 miles
or 1,850km) between McConnell Air Force Base
and Oklahoma City. This was a useful test ahead
of sending the aircraft 4,700nm (5,408 miles or
8,700km) across the Atlantic to take part in the
Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford,
Gloucestershire, followed by the Farnborough
International Airshow. So far the Scorpion has
accumulated more than 100 flight hours and tested
performance, systems and capabilities, including
the interception of a Cessna light aircraft.
Final specifications call for a cruising speed of up
to 450kt (517mph or 830km/h) and a ferry range
of 2,400nm (2,760 miles or 4,440km) with 9,000lb
(4,080kg) of fuel maximum internal fuel load is
6,000lb or 2,800 kg). Maximum takeoff weight is
21,250lb (9,639 kg) weight has been reduced by
making the airframe primarily out of composites,
which also reduces fatigue and corrosion issues.
Service life is 20,000 hours.
Somewhat unusually for such an aircraft, the
Scorpion has an internal bay for up to 3,000lb (1,400
kg) of ordnance, as well as three hardpoints under
each unswept wing. The inner (wet) pylon can
accommodate 1,750lb (794 kg) while the centre
pylon can carry 950lb (430kg) and the outer one
is rated for 400lb (181kg). The internal bay can be
equipped according to the mission and is critical
to the Scorpions flexibility. Precision guided
munitions are on the list of options.
Textron displayed the Scorpion at Farnborough with
a variety of weapons, including the Griffin low-impact
missile, Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) guided
bomb, Small Diameter Bomb (SDB), G-CLAWS guided
munition, Enhanced Paveway IV bomb, Hellfire missile
and Directed Attack Guided Rocket (DAGR). Various
infrared-guided air-to-air missiles can be added to
the aircraft, as well as wing-mounted gun pods. No
weapons testing has begun and the final weapons
configuration will depend on customer requirements.
The Scorpion created considerable interest at the Farnborough airshow and was displayed with a variety or war loads. Alan Warnes
Textron AirLand
is aiming at
within the US
military, with a
keen eye on the
US Air National
70-73_Scorpion_Sept.indd 72 04/08/2014 15:05
73 #318 SEPTEMBER 2014
The Scorpion is given further flexibility by being
designed to carry two retractable sensor mounts.
Computer graphics show one sensor turret under the
nose and another under the fuselage these would
presumably contain laser designators, infrared/TV
cameras and similar equipment. The Scorpion
will carry the Wescam MX-15 sensor turret for
an upcoming homeland defence demonstration,
supported by the Kansas National Guard. Textron
AirLand has been quiet regarding the Scorpions
avionics fit but it appears there is no radar, with the
main focus being on the two sensor turrets/mounts.
Avionics include night vision compatible digital
cockpit displays with moving maps and satellite
The prototype is powered by two Honeywell TFE731
geared turbofan engines which, like the wings, can
easily be changed to allow the manufacturer to
modify the aircraft into a trainer or an unmanned aerial
vehicle. While not designed as a trainer, the tandem-
seat aircraft can be flown from both cockpits and could
be modified to fulfil this role - Textron AirLand may
be eyeing the US Air Forces long-term replacement
programme for its T-38 Talon trainers. However, the
Scorpion is better off as a replacement for Cessnas own
A-37 Dragonfly light
attack jet.
The Scorpion is
undoubtedly a
promising aircraft
but it is far more expensive
than light counter-insurgency turboprops such as the
Super Tucano and AT-6, and closer to dual-role lead-in
fighters like the BAE Systems Hawk, Aero Vodochody
L-159 series, Yak-130/M-345/L-15 and their brethren.
Where the Scorpion trumps these aircraft is through
its innovative dual payload capability, making it able to
perform surveillance and reconnaissance missions in
essence, performing the function of most unmanned
aerial vehicles (UAVs) without having to be concerned
about UAV airspace restrictions.
Textron AirLand is aiming at opportunities within
the US military (such as a low-end counterpart to the
Lockheed Martin F-35), with a keen eye on the US Air
National Guard. The chances of US military sales are
slim, especially in light of the current budget situation.
Nevertheless, Textron AirLand will proceed with foreign
sales regardless of any US order and the company
is seeing global market potential at 2,000 aircraft.
Apparently interest has been received from some US
partner nations but there is no launch customer as
yet. Textron AirLand is pursuing opportunities in the
America, Middle East and Asia-Pacific and says a launch
customer is close. If the aircraft gets its first customer,
production could begin in 2015, with deliveries 15-18
months after an order is placed.
The Scorpion is a similar project to the Paramount/
Aerosud AHRLAC being built in South Africa. Like
the Scorpion, this is also a private venture aimed at
designing a manned light attack/surveillance and
reconnaissance aircraft from scratch. However,
instead of going with twin turbofans, the Advanced
High Performance Surveillance Reconnaissance
Aircraft (AHRLAC) is opting for a single turboprop for
economy, low operating costs and time on station.
The market for dedicated light combat aircraft
has been limited, unless the aircraft has dual roles.
Northrops private venture F-20 Tigershark failed to sell
in spite of impressive performance at reasonable cost.
Whether single-purpose aircraft such as the AHRLAC
and Scorpion will shatter this trend is something that
remains to be seen and many air forces are waiting to
see whether the Scorpion can successfully compete
with cheaper but less capable turboprops and
unmanned aerial vehicles.
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