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

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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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

8 Comments

  1. 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.

    • 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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:

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