Saudi Arabia is considering acquiring the Textron AirLand Scorpion light attack aircraft, with initial discussions under way.
Scott Donnelly, chief executive of parent company Textron, says Riyadh is one of a number of customers it is in talks with over the developmental aircraft.
The recent arms deal between the USA and Saudi Arabia includes $ 2 billion for “light close air support” aircraft. However, no details on the type or delivery dates have been disclosed.
Cautioning that its talks with Riyadh are at an “early” stage, Donnelly, speaking on a second-quarter results call, added: “There are certainly a number of things that we are looking at, but we think that now the performance envelope, the capability of what Scorpion can do makes it a very viable product for their requirements. But it’s still in its formative stages, I would say.”
Scorpion, along with the Beechcraft AT-6 and Embraer/Sierra Nevada A-29, will participate in a test campaign for the US Air Force in August as the service evaluates the potential purchase of a light attack aircraft under its OA-X initiative.
Although there is no programme of record for the requirement, Donnelly believes there is sufficient support from senior USAF leaders to merit the experimentation phase.
“I think the air force is being pragmatic about the fact that they need to execute the experimentation programme, understand what the capability is of the platforms that they are looking at and then take their next step, whatever that might be.”
Textron displayed a prototype of the Scorpion, powered by twin Honeywell TFE731 engines, at the recent Paris air show and Royal International Air Tattoo in the UK.
Donnelly says talks with prospective customers continue, but acknowledges that some will be waiting for the outcome of the OA-X effort.