The AT-802U Sky Warden has been selected by the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) for its Armed Overwatch program.
The initial $170 million contract will see the delivery of up to 75 aircraft, which will begin in 2023. The aircraft are intended to be used for counter-insurgency operations, close air support, armed reconnaissance, and various other operations in uncontested airspace.
The airplane, a collaboration between L3harris and Air Tractor, is an armed variant of the Air Tractor AT-802 agricultural aircraft.
“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,” L3harris said in a press release.
“The aircraft will be used in irregular warfare operations,” it continued.
The AT-802U Sky Warden is armored, equipped with a sensor and communications suites, and can carry a range of guided and unguided munitions, according to the manufacturer.
It has a payload capacity of 6,000 pounds (2,700 kilograms) and a capability to loiter for up to six hours, in addition to operating from unprepared airfields and austere environments.
The Armed Overwatch program was launched in 2020 to find a replacement for the ageing U-28A Draco, which is purely an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platform. In addition, the new aircraft was expected to perform close air support missions which are usually relegated to regular ground attack and fighter aircraft.