In 1996, the US Navy and Air Force awarded Raytheon Aircraft Company, now Hawker Beechcraft Corporation (HBC), the contract for the joint primary aircraft training system (JPATS). The aircraft was subsequently named the T-6A Texan II.
First deliveries of the aircraft were made in 1998 with the initial operating capability being achieved by the US Air Force in October 2001 and the US Navy in August 2003.
Additional contracts for 26 aircraft were received for the Nato Flying Training Canada (NFTC) programme and 45 aircraft for the Hellenic Air Force (HAF) of Greece primary flying training programme.
The T-6A military trainer has been very thoroughly tested and qualified, having been through Joint FAA certification and military developmental testing, operational testing, and functional and physical configuration audits.
HBC has been delivering aircraft since 1998 and the total fleet size now numbers over 500 aircraft in operation at six US locations, as well as NFTC at CFB Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan; and with the HAF at Kalamata Air Base, Greece. HBC has entered long-term manufacturing commitments in US Government sales for 800 airplanes, with associated training equipment, through 2017. Logistic support plans for these aircraft extend beyond 2040.
In June 2008, Israel requested the foreign military sale (FMS) of 20 T-6A trainers, the contract for which was awarded in August 2009. HBC delivered the first four ofthese in July 2009.
In December 2008, Iraq requested the sale of 20 T-6A trainers to replace the current fleet of Cessna 172 Skyhawks and Cessna 208 Caravans. The Iraqi Air Force awarded HBC with a contract for eight T-6A trainers in August 2009; a second contract for seven more was award in September 2009, bringing the total to 15.
The first four T-6A trainers were delivered to Iraqi Air Force in December 2009. Another four were delivered in February 2010, and three more in in September 2010.
In May 2009, the US Air Force awarded a $123.7m firm fixed price contract for 20 T-6A trainer aircraft, training devices and technical publications. It ordered seven more T-6A aircraft in October 2009.
The T-6 avionics upgrade aircraft, a derivative of the T-6A trainer, is being developed by HBC. The aircraft, named T-6B has completed its inaugural flight in July 2009 and will be deployed by the US Navy as the primary aircraft for flight training. HBC received FAA certification for the T-6B in September 2009.
Safety was the number one priority in the T-6 aircraft design.
The T-6A provides performance and handling characteristics that will safely lead the student from ab-initio through primary and well into advanced training curricula. HBC wing and empennage designs have given the T-6A flying qualities that remain consistent throughout the flight envelope.
Stall strips ensure benign power-on and power-idle stalls; spins have excellent characteristics with slow, steady spin rates and simple, consistent, quick recoveries; and engine power provides for continuous aerobatic manoeuvres up through 22,000ft.
The Ground-Based Training System (GBTS) provides multiple levels of fidelity and flexibility that can be customised for any training programme.
Access to the cockpit is through the side-opening, single piece canopy and windscreen. The canopy and windscreen are tested to withstand the impact of a 1.25kg (4lb) bird without penetration throughout the flight envelope. Seating is in a stepped tandem configuration.
The pressurised cockpit is equipped with sunlight readable Smiths Aerospace multifunction active matrix liquid crystal displays.
The aircraft has a through the canopy ejection system with a Martin Baker Mark US16LA zero/zero ejection seat. When the pilot pulls the ejection handle, they will always eject; if the redundant canopy fracturing system fails, they will eject through the canopy without injury. Safety is enhanced by a titanium firewall, and by no penetration of fuel or hydraulic lines into the pressure vessel.
Trim aid device
A high-powered, single-engine turboprop aircraft normally requires extensive rudder control by the pilot. In order to reduce the need for rudder control on the T-6A, the Trim Aid Device was developed and patented by Raytheon Aircraft.
The device reduces the need for excessive rudder trim by balancing the trim requirements, using the aircraft’s pitch rate, air speed, altitude and engine setting to set the rudder trim tab position even in aerobatic manoeuvres.
PT6A-68 turboprop engine
The aircraft uses a Pratt and Whitney Canada PT6A-68 turboprop engine which provides a flat rated 1,100hp. The range of the aircraft is more than 1,667km.
The powerplant provides an initial climb rate in excess of 3,300ft/min and the aircraft climbs to 18,000ft in under 6mins. The maximum cruise speed of the aircraft is 500km/h and the altitude ceiling 9,500m. The aircraft demonstrates sustained turn performance of 2g at an altitude of 22,000ft.
Power management unit
The aircraft is equipped with the Power Management Unit (PMU), a highly advanced digital electronic engine control unit. The PMU, developed by Raytheon and Pratt and Whitney Canada, sets the engine power in response to the setting of the pilot’s power control lever and to the ambient pressure and temperature.
The control functions of the power management unit make it impossible for a trainee pilot to over-torque the engine. The power management unit recognises the conditions which could potentially result in flameout (cessation of combustion in the engine) and automatically provides ignition in the event of sudden decreases in speed or in the interstage turbine temperature.
The Propeller Interface Unit (PIU) is an electro-mechanical control unit mounted to the engine reduction gearbox, which provides a propeller speed signal to the PMU and responds to speed control signals from the PMU. The PIU provides overspeed protection via a mechanical overspeed governor.
One of the requirements of the programme for the Hellenic Air Force was to integrate basic air-to-ground weapons training capability into a portion of their fleet. HBC engineers conducted a full weapons integration and test programme. In conjunction and cooperation with the US Air Force Seek Eagle office, a full safe separation weapons qualification programme was conducted at Eglin AFB, Florida.
The aircraft has six underwing hard points, three on each side for carrying air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons systems. The centre station on each side is ‘wet’ for external fuel tanks.
In addition to the six under-wing stores stations, the FN Herstal weapons control system and Avimo gunsight increase the capability of the T-6 as a weapons trainer.
Hawker Beechcraft Corporation designed the T-6A for durability, reliability and sustained performance. The aircraft has a guaranteed airframe life of over 18,000 hours.
A number of features have been incorporated for ease of maintenance and to reduce the cost of operation. Avionics boxes are mounted one deep in large aft fuselage bays.
Fuel servicing tasks can be completed in less than five minutes through one access door and the filter can be inspected while the aircraft is being refuelled. The onboard oxygen-generating system (OBOGS) allows continuous operations without routine servicing. There is no programmed intermediate or depot maintenance.