WICHITA, Kansas — Textron AirLand’s new small military jet, the Scorpion, has completed more than 50 hours of flight time since flight testing began in December, the company said.
“It’s performing extremely well – up to the design expectations and beyond in some cases,” said Textron spokesman David Sylvestre. “It’s right on schedule.”
Flight testing is going well enough, Sylvestre said, that the company plans to put the plane on display at two international shows in England in mid-July – Royal International Air Tattoo in Fairford, and the Farnborough International Air Show in Farnborough.
The intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance strike aircraft is under development at a Cessna facility in east Wichita.
Recent flights have been gathering data about the aircraft’s performance at various speeds, altitudes and climb rates, and the responsiveness of its avionics, flight controls and landing systems, the company reports.
So far, pilots have tested the plane at 30,000 feet and at a maximum airspeed of 495 mph true airspeed.
The Scorpion marks one of the fastest developments of a U.S.-built tactical jet, Textron said. The project progressed from an initial design to first flight in less than 24 months.
The jet is being built by a new Textron division, Textron AirLand, a joint venture with AirLand Enterprises.
Textron announced the Scorpion in September as a demonstration plane designed to accommodate the budget restraints of shifting mission requirements of the U.S. Department of Defense and allies abroad.
Low-volume production is slated for 2015. Testing and early production will be done in Wichita, the company has said. Beyond that, plans are indefinite.
The nearly all-composite plane borrows technology, but not the design, used in Cessna Citation business jets.
For example, the flight control systems are powered by dual hydraulic systems based on the Citation X.
It was built without government funds and the company didn’t go through the usual procurement process in which the military issues specifications and companies compete for the project.
Test pilots report that the plane is nimble and agile with plenty of power, including single-engine climbs, the company said.
“Scorpion has very good low speed characteristics,” it said in a statement. “It handles very well in the landing pattern and is stable when in the landing configuration.”
The testing program is on pace to complete 300 to 400 hours of flight time this year, which will require about 150 test flights.
That will include a number of international flights, pending regulatory approvals.
The Scorpion will have a cruising speed of up to 517 mph, a ferry range of 2,400 nautical miles, an internal payload of up to 3,000 pounds and wing-mounted precision munitions, the company has said.
The plane’s twin turbofan engines generate 8,000 pounds of thrust, which allows it to transition easily between low speed and high subsonic speed for a diverse set of missions, such as irregular warfare, border patrol, maritime surveillance, emergency relief, counter-narcotics and air defense operations, Textron said.