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A Modest Proposal
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TF ODIN

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King Airs
for CF

A Modest Proposal  —  Beechcraft AT-6B  for the COIN / Escort  role?

 Update 11 Dec 2008: CMC Electronics of Montreal announced a contract for 35 Cockpit 4000 IAS sets to Hawker Beechcraft for AT-6Bs.

If Canada is to follow the US Army's example of  Task Force ODIN to combat IED teams, the CF must have aircraft  to accompany  the observation aircraft. We have suggested  that this latter role could be filled  by a King Air. In TF ODIN, such aircraft are accompanied by medium UAVs or attack helicopters.  But Canada has neither of these types in service. Steve Daly, CD suggests another in-service aircraft to perform the interdiction role for a CF version of  ODIN [1] plus as an escort for transport helicopters.

That in-service aircraft is the CT-156 Harvard II  trainer. Beechcraft now offers an armed version, the AT-6B, with 6 wing pylons ( for fuel,  gun pods, rockets and guided munitions) and a belly-mounted electro-optical turret  for day/night observation and targeting. This concept is meant to satisfy both the conventional light attack role and FAC (forward air control) or spotter role. Several sources recommend the AT-6B as a natural CF choice for the COIN role. But Steve Daly is suggesting something different – the strike component for a force hunting IED teams.

Steve Daly  suggests that  this 'CF-156B' Harvard would make an ideal companion for  King Air-based  observation aircraft. But the armed 'CF-156B' would also be a tactical ISR asset  in its own right. While lacking a King Air's loiter time and radar, the Harvard can use its own E/O sensor turret to detect IED emplacers on its own or even  monitor  the Pak-Afghan border. In such roles,  this 'CF-156B' becomes a manned UAV, as it were. So if this is just a manned medium UAV, why bother? Availability and familiarity. Buying UAVs proved difficult but most CF pilots are 'current on type'.

Steve Daly had another suggestion for the 'CF-156B'. Aircraft could  be based at Cold Lake and  Bagotville with the two CF-18 fighter squadrons. All staff officers could use the type to maintain their pilot status.  In turn, those officers provide a cadre of  high-hour 'CF-156B' pilots committed to deploy overseas when needed. 'Canadianization' would  be  simple. CT-156 systems and cockpit would be incorporated into the otherwise stock AT-6B airframes. A mixed fleet is already proven. Australia flies the similar Pilatus PC-9s as trainers, display aircraft, as well as in the FAC role (far right).

 See CF AT-6B for the COIN role  for Steve Daly's fuller rationale and an exploration of other potential Canadian Forces roles for AT-6Bs.

[1] A CF version of TF ODIN might be Task Force Loki. In Norse mythology, Loki is blood-brother to Odin. Loki can move freely between different realms (often accompanying Odin or Thor), has magical powers, and is a trickster (being God of  Mischief as well as God of  Fire).