The United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) reported that it will receive the first Sky Warden aircraft from October this year.
Winner of the Armed Overwatch program, the Sky Warden is a military variant of Air Tractor’s AT-802 crop duster, modified in partnership with the company L3 Harris.
The competition had the participation of the AT-6E Wolverine (based on the T-6 Texan trainer), from Textron, in addition to the MC-208 Guardian (a military Cessna Caravan) and the MC-145B Wily Coyote, an adaptation of the PZL M28 made by Sierra Nevada.
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SOCOM plans to acquire 75 Sky Warden aircraft for surveillance, close air support and air strike missions. According to L3 Harris, the military version of the AT-802 has “the highest payload capacity of any turbine engine aircraft”.
Agricultural turboprop defeated light attack aircraft
SOCOM’s choice of the Sky Warden came as a surprise as the USAF was evaluating AT-6 and A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft in another program.
Based on advanced training models, both the Wolverine and the Super Tucano have a very extensive service list and were designed from the beginning for military service.
The Embraer aircraft is even used by countries in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East in counterinsurgency missions.
Sierra Nevada, a partner of the Brazilian company, however, preferred to offer the MC-145B in the Armed Overwatch competition.
L3 Harris defended its proposal by claiming that Sky Warden could be delivered in less than 12 months. SOCOM awarded the contract in August 2022, so a slight forecast delay.