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
Yak-130 and its European Italian clone are both cheaper and have better performance.
These are high level trainers – their “light attack” role is counter insurgency only.
As shown in wars in Yugoslavia these types of planes are OK for limited air attack but are easy pray for F-16s or MiG-29s.
I think that the sub-sonic, inexpensive Textron/Cessna would be a great alternative or replacement for the Cessna A-37 Dragonfly that are still in use with a few Latin American countries.