After an extended competition between various solid contenders, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) has selected the propeller-driven AT-802U ‘Sky Warden,’ made by L3Harris Technologies and Air Tractor, for its Armed Overwatch mission.
This has given proponents of prop planes for close air support a big boost.
The AT-802U Sky Warden is the winner of SOCOM’s Armed Overwatch program https://t.co/ktrFSfbKzj
— Fouzichetouane (@fouzichetouane) August 2, 2022
SOCOM plans to use the single-engine Sky Warden, as Air Force Special Operations Command’s (AFSOC’s) Armed Overwatch plane, to provide close air support, precision strike and armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions for counterterrorism operations and irregular warfare.
See the full description of the Sky Warden Aircraft here:
Testifying to Congress in April, commander of AFSOC Lt. Gen. James C. “Jim” Slife said the Armed Overwatch program was designed to reduce the need for so-called “air stacks” of specialized, single-role aircraft to fly together over objective areas.
Slife also said last year he hopes Armed Overwatch aircraft will be suited to hitting extremist groups in places like Africa, in which the airspace is essentially uncontested.
The small, light plane will be low cost, able to take off and land in austere fields, fly for long periods, and support a variety of modular payloads.
L-3’s statement noted that:
The fleet of modern multi-mission aircraft will address SOCOM’s need for a deployable, sustainable single-engine fixed-wing, crewed and affordable aircraft system. It will provide close air support, precision strike, armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), strike coordination and forward air controller requirements for use in austere and permissive environments. The aircraft will be used in irregular warfare operations.
According to Air Force Magazine:
The deal could be worth up to $3 billion and will include 75 aircraft along with training systems, mission planning systems, support equipment, spares, and logistics support. Initial operating capability is expected in fiscal year 2026, with full operating capability following in 2029.
“Armed Overwatch answers a critical need for U.S. Special Operations Command to conduct a wide range of operations globally in support of the National Defense Strategy,” SOCOM Commander Gen. Richard Clarke said in a release.
“This rugged, sustainable platform will operate in permissive environments and austere conditions around the world to safeguard our special operations forces on the ground.” ADN