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Philippine Air Force pilots and technical team were invited to visit Textron AirLand in the United States earlier this year for free (All expenses paid). These PAF teams were given an opportunity to view Textron AirLand's new Scorpion jet at their facility and were also given a chance to fly the new Cessna Caravan.
According to Textron AirLand’s Scorpion jet may provide an answer to lowering defense budgets. The Scorpion is a low cost tactical jet.However, that is selling it much too short. The abilities of this machine far outweigh its $20 million price tag and $3,000 per flight hour operating cost. In contrast, the operating cost of an F-16 is roughly $22,500 per flight hour, while the new multi-billion dollar F-35 are set at $35,200 per flight hour.
The target missions for this ISR/Strike capable aircraft are numerous, including close air support (CAS), maritime and border security, tactical jet training, irregular warfare, and humanitarian assistance/disaster response. These missions are currently carried out by the United States Armed Forces and National Guard in much more expensive aircraft that were not originally designed for these purposes.
In a time of dwindling defense budgets, the Scorpion could fill in on these missions at a fraction of the current cost and at the same time allow the fire breathing boys to head back out to more high risk environments, concentrating more on what they were designed to do. Textron AirLand is also optimistic about foreign sales of the Scorpion. Allied countries that require surveillance and protection of their borders but lack the finances to acquire the more expensive tactical aircraft could benefit from the low cost jet.
Despite its attractive low price, the aircraft is extremely versatile and is loaded with some of the most sophisticated avionics and ISR systems out there. It’s straight, high wing design allows for numerous capabilities. First, the straight wing design allows the aircraft to speed out to a potential threat, intercept target, or disaster area at 450kts. Once there, the pilot can pull back the throttles and loiter for up to five hours at speeds as low as 100kts. Second, the high wing design allows for greater cockpit visibility during reconnaissance and surveillance missions.
The 47 foot wing span also incorporates six external hard points that can carry up to a total of 6200 pounds of ordinance in a variety of configurations. The pilots are met up front by an advanced 3D Synthetic Vision glass cockpit from Genesys Aerosystems, and all the bells and whistles you would expect from a top of the line ISR capable aircraft. The dual cockpits, along with the modern avionics also make the Scorpion well suited for a training aircraft to transition pilots to 4th and 5th generation aircraft.
But having the Scorpion Jet for the Philippine Air Force is still impossible because of our current procurement law (bidding policy) in the Philippines.