Textron Scorpion

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Textron recently unveiled the Scorpion. In an era of constricting defense budgets globally, its a rare thing for a manufacturer to offer up an unsolicited new design. Textron is most well known for its Cessna division, which has produced business jets and turboprops, and the Bell Helicopter division of Textron.

Scorpion is a demonstrator, searching out a USAF contract. Its unlikely this will succeed, as the USAF has not put forward a need for an aircraft like Scorpion. That is not to say Scorpion might not see success in the international sales market, though a sale to the US military would do much to shore up international interest. A few interesting possibilities exist, that I will discuss shortly.

Scorpion is designed for five hours of endurance. To Scorpion, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems, or weapons could be fitted. While Textron’s stated goal is to bring online an aircraft with an operating cost of three thousand dollars per flying hour, the company has declined to comment on unit costs. Crew requirements are flexible, with a crew as many as two possible, while Textron has hinted at an unmanned version being possible in the future. Scorpion will be fully capable of being utilized with a single pilot as well. The cockpit will be fitted with modern flat panel displays, but a fly by wire system was not used as a cost saving measure.

Overall, the Scorpion design is meant to be greatly simplified, and easily reconfigurable for given mission requirements. The payload bay will be capable of carrying either three thousand pounds of munitions, or an ISR suite. Leveraging their composite materials experience, Textron will make broad use of composites in Scorpion. Use of composite construction offers several advantages in operations areas with harsh environmental conditions.

Powering Scorpion are two Honeywell TF731 engines, which should provide ample power and cooling for electronic payloads. The use of the TF731 is a smart choice, as this engine has accumulated over one hundred million flight hours aboard Learjets, and other business jets. A side bonus is the widespread availability of spare parts on the commercial market.

EMB-314_super_tucano

Above is the Embraer Super Tucano. This is the aircraft I believe Scorpion is aimed squarely at. Super Tucano is an impressive aircraft, but one with drawbacks. The largest being that it is a prop driven platform. Scorpion would enjoy a speed advantage over Super Tucano, with the ability to provide a broader multi-mission capability. Where Super Tucano shines over Scorpion is in operational cost. If Textron can keep cost per airframe below the twelve million dollar mark, I believe they will have a winner.

Eleven nations currently operate the Super Tucano, and I believe Textron has an opportunity to make inroads there. Two other possibilities exist that are exciting. Both India and Oman operate the SPECAT Jaguar. Jaguar is an airframe that is getting long in the tooth. Scorpion could serve as an inexpensive replacement platform. Admittedly, Scorpion would not be a direct equivalent replacement platform, but it could offer an inexpensive alternative.

Scorpion might also offer an alternative to the TA-50 Golden Eagle for the Philippine Air Force. It all hinges on acquisition cost, and operations cost. Total costs are the large driving factor for the Philippines, along with maintainability.

Scorpion is slated for a first flight later this year. I think Textron can make this work for certain sectors of the international market, but I don’t see the US taking interest. For those who believe Scorpion could be a player in contention for a future USAF trainer replacement program, I think they are mistaken. A straight winged replacement would be a step backwards.

 

 

 

 

~ by arcturus415 on September 17, 2013.

6 Responses to “Textron Scorpion”

  1. I have no words but this jet looks awesome does anybody have an estimated cost/unit? I don’t know if this would be more or less than the F-35 or the Boeings Advanced Super Hornet. Maybe Canada might consider showing some interest for this plane to support the F-35s we’re supposed to purchase.

    • To be competitive, the price point per airframe would need to come in below the twenty million mark. To be truly successful, the fifteen-seventeen million per airframe price would be required.

      Scorpion wouldn’t fill Canada’s needs. Its not a fighter.

  2. Quite interesting, indeed. Thanks for review.
    Textron’s Scorpio and Embraer’s Supertucano remind me 2 Polish planes – Iryda and Orlik, respectively. Iryda (few prototypes were built) was to be close air support, training and reconnaissance plane, and Orlik’s still in service as training aircraft.
    What’s more, in late 80 there was also Skorpion (Scropio) project in Polish Airspace Inst, of close combat and ground attack machine, but was closed.
    Blame politicians for canceling Iryda and Skorpion. Check them on the Internet. BR

  3. Textron Cessna is trying to sale this jet to the ARABS….They can’t get no one else to buy because they haven’t certified the airframe….So they are pimping the plane to the Arabs…..SHAME ON YOU

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