“Scorpion”: Cessna’s new, low cost tactical strike aircraft (with some F-14 Tomcat inputs)

Sep 20 2013 - 20 Comments

Cessna parent company Textron has (secretly) developed a new tactical strike aircraft capable to replace current, costly combat planes in low lethality scenarios and homeland security mission: “irregular warfare,” border and maritime patrol, intelligence surveillance reconnaissance, counter-narcotics and air defense operations.

The aircraft is a two-seater with twin tails, two 8,000 lb turbofan engines, straight wings and all-composite fuselage (its shape, eapecially the tail complex, loosely reminds that of the F-14 Tomcat). The internal weapons bay and the external hardpoint give the aircraft the capability to accomodate precision guided munitions.

With a maximum speed of about 450 kts and a hourly cost of only 3,000 USD, the Scorpion, that will perform its maiden flight in the next few months, has all the features of the “perfect aircraft” emerged during the Libya Air War in 2011 that highlighted the need for low-cost combat planes to contain the cost of prolonged operations.

However, it is unclear whether such platform has real chances to see active service within the U.S. Air Force, considered that most, if not all its tasks, could be eventually fulfilled by weaponized drones (UCAVs – Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles).

Image credit: Textron

 

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  • Mohammed Lee

    The F-18 and F-22 have canted tails, not the F-14.

    • Sir Arthur Dayne

      if you look closely you can see that the tomcat’s tails are slightly canted (I think no more than 3 degrees) , one of the two more than other one for some aerodynamic reason I don’t remember

  • BernardP
  • ask2wice

    Because it looks so much like a modern fighter jet, the USAF will never buy it. It would put at risk their pet program, the F-35, and they know it. They’ll think that the American public might start to think that DoD can do better. That they can spend less while maintaining a credible defense posture.This makes the brass (and Lockheed Martin) cringe. Super Tuscano or T-6? That they will be OK with because it looks nothing like a jet, and they can explain it away as a cheap turbo-prop needed to do a cheap mission. But like the Navy, they want BIG and EXPENSIVE, not small and cheap! Small and cheap is for third-world countries only! And that’s what they want the American public to think too. So Scorpion doesn’t stand a chance. Like the F-20 (see below), the USAF will find a way to kill it even if it is a more sensible, cheaper alternative. The door to less expensive weapons systems is one that they simply do not want to open. Not even a itsy-bitsy crack! Too dangerous to their egos, and to their wallets!

    PS. It does look a lot like the F-14 – wings swept forward. As a matter of fact, had DoD not killed the F-14 program, a newly designed and improved Tomcat, one upgraded and kept in production, might very well have had a cantilevered tail section just like the Scorpion. Along with other improvements. And it would have far out-performed the F/A-18E/F, which would never have been borne in the first place had Tomcat continued. Never have evolved from the F/A-18, the E/F model being a totally redesigned aircraft from the original [smaller] model F/A-18 (which BTW lost to F-16 in a fly-off for a low-cost alternative to the F-15. Back then the designation for the aircraft was YF-17). But an improved Tomcat that would have bested the F/A-18E/F (longer legs, bigger payload, better performance)? Guess we’ll never know …

  • Saiful Lee

    even if the USAF is not taking any order, countries with tight budgets might considering buy the scorpion

  • Ferenc Van Den Ham

    Get 1 JSF or 10 Scorpions?

  • Philipp S

    Finally there’s a successor to the A-37!
    Name’s epic too!
    I’m Swiss and i hope my country buys some scorpions to augment the Gripen (should it ever enter service…).
    It really seems to be a good idea with so many countrys that have financial problems and seek cheap afordable multi-role aircraft.

    • crab

      Switzerland is no poor country. And besides, it’s importance goes beyond published data. If Switzerland were attacked it would be strongly defended by the West. I can’t imagine an scenario where the always-neutral switzerland should need to use land attack planes of any kind. A few interceptors would suffice for defense purposes.

  • Tommy b cool

    What an awesome litte aircraft; if only Cessna could bribe like the big boys it might stand a chance. In the meantime I hope I win the lottery (big euro millions win will do) so as I can buy one!

  • http://flightdreamz.stumbleupon.com FlightDreamz

    Might Cessna have better luck if they added a second cockpit and submitted this for the Next Generation Trainer? Too bad funding was cut (again) for the Light Air Support aircraft for Afghanistan this might have been able to fit that role.

  • Yak

    That plane looks like more twin-seater Hornet than Tomcat, in my opinion. Otherwise, her straight wing configuration with numerous pylons reminds me of other proven attack planes, such as the A-37 / Su-25 / A-10.

  • ask2wice

    I believe that the sub-sonic, inexpensive Scorpion is an attempt by Textron/Cessna to offer an alternative to the turbo-prop powered Super Tuscano (Brazil) that the USAF is going to buy (assuming the issue of purchasing the American (vice Brazilian) T-6 Texan II doesn’t pop up again). Scorpion may not be a bad idea.

    With all of the MANPADS floating around, it would seem to me that low-level bombing or strafing by the slow Super-Tuscano (see pictures below) would be a dangerous undertaking. Even with chaff/flare/laser countermeasures. Low or high, speed is life, and darned if I’d want to do a low-level bombing or strafing run in a Super Tuscano flying around places like Libya or Afghanistan knowing that the enemy probably has MANPADS. I’d want to get in and out as fast as i could so that the enemy never knew what hit them, and perhaps never had a chance to launch a should-held anti-aircraft ground-to-air missile. Or at least if they did, I’d want the ability to try and [successfully] evade it through high speed turns, high-altitude attack runs (if possible) or a simple high-speed dash.

    So if we are talking cheap light attack, which of the following would you chose (understanding that the F-20 is long gone – but could it be resurrected in an improved form while still being a low(er) cost alternative)?

    Hope you like airplane pictures! :)

    In order – T-6 Texan II, A-29 Super Tuscano, F-20 Tigershark, Textron AirLand Scorpion:

  • mzungu

    Why the internal weapon’s bay, if the airframe is not designed to be stealthy? At least design some stealth feature into it for marketing sake….

    • homebuilding

      It’s low and slow capabilities–with full speed capabilities approaching 500 kts is far cheaper and often better than monstrously expensive stealth design.

      Plus, this would be a cheaper, less complex plane–and it could be ‘scrambled’ in a fraction of the time. Pilot training and maintenance would be far less specialized, as well.

      It’s not lost on Cessna that this plane can be a toy for some really rich guys, too.

  • StanSki

    The DHS (Department of Homeland Security) would love these for dealing with rebel Americans when the time comes. Cessna wouldn’t have wasted time developing it if there were no need.

  • homebuilding

    Just think, they’ll be able to land it at Jabara (KAAO) without it becoming an international event.

    I want to know how slow it can fly–I understand that a 3rd, smaller turbine drops out of a pod for slow, reconnaissance flight–withdrawing for cruise speeds. (I’d believe the target might be as slow as 100 kts)

    Wichita, keep a sharp eye out–and have your binoculars ready, looking for ‘production green’ as that is typically the color used in flight testing (final customer colors to be determined, later)

    Report back, please.

  • Bigdirk

    Does it come with a radio control? Seriously, are there only two hardpoints on the port wing against three on the starboard? Or is that just the way the graphic was rendered ?

  • http://2buntu.com Roland Taylor

    I actually like it.