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The First Flight of the Scorpion Light Tactical Jet

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The Scorpion light tactical jet took to the skies for the first time on Dec. 12. Lifting off from McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., the Scorpion completed an approximately 1.4 hour flight. The Textron AirLand LLC Scorpion, created by a joint venture between Textron and AirLand Enterprises, LLC, has experienced rapid development. The aircraft was constructed in the Cessna factory in Kansas, which decades ago produced the A-37 Dragonfly, the light attack jet used in Vietnam and exported to friendly nations for a range of missions similar to those envisioned for the Scorpion.

“It showed impressive stability and responsiveness, closely matching all of the predicted parameters for today’s maneuvers – it’s going to be a highly capable aircraft for the ISR and homeland security mission set.”

During the flight the Scorpion performed a series of handling maneuvers. “It showed impressive stability and responsiveness, closely matching all of the predicted parameters for today’s maneuvers – it’s going to be a highly capable aircraft for the ISR and homeland security mission set,” said Dan Hinson, who piloted the Scorpion with the help of copilot David Stitz. Hinson sounded pleased about what the Scorpion accomplished, though in the nonplussed manner typical of pilots. “The flight was completed according to plan,” added Hinson.

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The Scorpion on the runway of McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., before its successful first flight. Textron AirLand photo

“Today’s first flight is a major milestone for the Scorpion as the program transitions into the flight test phase,” said Textron CEO Scott Donnelly. Nothing encountered on the first flight has stopped Textron AirLand from looking ahead. “Today’s first flight met all expectations, and keeps us on track towards certification and production,” added Donnelly.

“Today’s first flight is a major milestone for the Scorpion as the program transitions into the flight test phase.”

The Scorpion is envisioned by Textron AirLand as fulfilling a role created by tightening budgets and the emergence of new mission sets, for not only the U.S., but also U.S. partner nations. “Having flown many tactical aircraft throughout my 23-year career with the U.S. Navy and with other aircraft manufacturers, I can say that the Scorpion compares very favorably to more costly aircraft currently used for low-threat missions,” said Hinson.

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The Scorpion is powered by twin turbofan engines that generate 8,000 lbs of thrust. Textron AirLand photo

Powered by twin turbofan engines that together generate 8,000 lbs of thrust, the Scorpion is capable of transitioning easily between low speed and high-subsonic speed. This is envisioned as providing the Scorpion with the ability to meet the demands of an array of diverse missions, such as irregular warfare, border patrol, maritime surveillance, emergency relief, counter-narcotics, and air defense operations. The Scorpion has a cruising speed of 517 mph and ferry range of 2,400 nautical miles. Besides being able to carry wing-mounted precision munitions, the Scorpion has an internal payload capacity of 3,000 lbs.

“When the design phase began less than two years ago, we were confident that we would deliver a uniquely affordable, versatile tactical aircraft by taking advantage of commercial aviation technologies and best practices.”

The first flight marked another step in a rapid advance for the Scorpion. The Scorpion has gone from the drawing board to first flight in less than two years. “When the design phase began less than two years ago, we were confident that we would deliver a uniquely affordable, versatile tactical aircraft by taking advantage of commercial aviation technologies and best practices,” said Donnelly. Along the way it has experienced an unveiling at the Air Force Association Air & Space Conference on Sept. 16, 2013 and a taxi test on Nov. 25.

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Steven Hoarn is the Editor/Photo Editor for Defense Media Network. He is a graduate of...