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06:02 PM, August 1, 2017
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Air Tractor, L3 Enter OA-X Experiment With AT-802L Longsword
The AT-802L Longsword at Paris Air Show 2017

US firms Air Tractor and L3 will be offering their jointly developed AT-802L Longsword aircraft to participate in the fly-off at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico on Aug. 8 and 9.

The fly-off is intended to find a candidate for the US Air Force's armed turboprop aircraft program.

The Longsword is a light attack and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. Together, the companies developed the L variant off its predecessor, the AT-802U.

Air Tractor, based in Texas, and L3 in March showed the aircraft during the Avalon Airshow in Australia, rebranding it the OA-8 with hopes of securing Asia-Pacific partners.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and other leaders have said the light attack plane will not replace the service’s A-10 Warthog.

“We need to look and see if there are ways to save costs and do this in an efficient and effective manner and it could create a building partnership capacity.” Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, military deputy for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, said at the time of the invite announcement.

L3 developed a “certified, state-of-the-art glass cockpit and the L3 Wescam MX-15 EO/IR Sensor,” suitable for medium-altitude ISR and search-and-rescue missions, said Jim Gibson, president of L3 Platform Integration and the L3 Aircraft Systems sector.

The AT-802 is a crop duster made by Air Tractor, which in its “Longsword” configuration is modified by L3 to carry weapons and an electro-optical infrared (EO/IR) sensor, turning it into a light attack aircraft.

Further, the AT-802L is equipped with L3’s Wescam MX-15 EO/IR sensor and ForceX mission management system, and the company also installs a glass cockpit as part of the modification process.

The Longsword has 11 hard points and can carry 6,200 pounds of fuel or munitions, including precision-guided weapons with the addition of a laser designator.

The aircraft offers more than 10 hours of endurance without needing to be refueled, and can traverse 400-mile ranges while still staying on station for about six hours. It can also take off from unimproved fields, eliminating the need for a paved runway, L3 stated.

Variants are operated by countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Egypt and Kenya. The Air Force distributed formal invitations to the fly-off in March.

The A-29, built by Sierra Nevada Corp. and Embraer, and two Textron aircraft Scorpion jet and Beechcraft AT-6 Wolverine will also fly.

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