Moog, Air Tractor: We’ve Sold 10 Light Attack Planes
By DAVE MAJUMDAR • PARIS — Moog Space and Defense Group and Air Tractor Incorporated have found a buyer for the AT-802U light attack aircraft.
While company officials will only say they have made a sale for 10 such aircraft, which can carry an 8,000-pound payload and has 11 weapons hardpoints, other sources say that the aircraft are bound for the Middle East. One source said the aircraft are being sold to the United Arab Emirates.
AT-802 is a converted agricultural aircraft that has been fitted with a L-3 Wescam MX-15Di electro-optical infrared sensor and Rover data link. But, the aircraft still retains the wire-and-pulley flight control systems found on other general aviation aircraft. The Air Tractor company intentionally retained as much simplicity in the design as possible, said Mike Rhodes, an Air Tractor test pilot.
The aircraft retains the rugged landing gear, tough roll-over cage and beefy landing gear of its agricultural cousin. However, it is powered by a massive Pratt and Whitney Canada PT-6 turboprop producing 1,600 hp.
The converted aircraft is agile, but not aerobatic, Rhodes said. However, the aircraft is powerfully armed, with .50-caliber machine guns, bombs, rockets and missiles, among others, all controlled by Moog-built stores management system.
Of particular interest is a new Moog-developed air-to-ground weapon. Called the Moog Precision Guided Munitions, it is a 125-pound glide bomb that is similar in concept to the Pentagon’s Small Diameter Bomb. Jim Riedel, Moog’s business director, said that the weapon has a 40-pound warhead and is guided by an inertial navigation system with GPS assistance. It would be able to hit targets as far away as 25 miles away, he said.
The main advantage for a force acquiring the Air Tractor is that the aircraft an order of magnitude cheaper than any existing combat aircraft and offers better loitering time than a helicopter. However, it is an open question how a converted farm machine will cope with the rigors of combat.