The US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has defined the three finalists for the Armed Overwatch program, which will have a winner announced in July.
The models are the AT-802U SkyWarden, from L3Harris-Air Tractor, the MC-145B, from Sierra Nevada, and the AT-6E Wolverine, from Beechcraft, a well-known rival to the A-29 Super Tucano, from Embraer.
The competition foresees the ordering of 75 aircraft to be used in close air support to replace the Pilatus U-28A Draco.
Among the requirements are being robust, reliable and capable of operating in short and unprepared runways. The three competitors are aircraft of different origins. The AT-802U is based on the Air Tractor agricultural aircraft while the AT-6E is an advanced trainer. The twin-engine MC-145B is based on PZL Mielec’s M28 Polish transport plane.
Two other entrants, Leidos Inc’s Bronco II and MAG Aerospace’s MC-208 Guardian, were eliminated from the competition.
Super Tucano out
The Armed Overwatch program turned out not to be an opportunity for the A-29 Super Tucano, although the Brazilian aircraft is known for its good characteristics in close air support missions, as proved in Afghanistan. Sierra Nevada, an Embraer partner, ended up offering the MC-145B in competition, which has a more versatile configuration.
The A-29 turboprop, however, is participating in another program, the OA-X, along with the AT-6E, however, the US Air Force has indefinitely postponed any decision in this regard.