First T-6C trainers arrive home in Tunisia

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Tunisia’s Air Force has taken delivery of the first four of eight Beechcraft T-6C Texan II trainers from the United States, with the remainder to follow in the next month.

In late 2020 the Tunisian defence ministry announced eight T-6C trainers were being acquired, in addition to a possible four AT-6E light attack aircraft.

The first Tunisian T-6C was formally handed over to the Tunisian Air Force at Textron Aviation’s Wichita, Kansas, facility in September last year, but the first four aircraft were only delivered to Tunisia in May. Key Publishing reports the aircraft (serials N2766B/Y22081 ‘KA’; N2851B/Y22082 ‘KB’; N2852B/Y22083 ‘KC’ and N2853B/Y22084 ‘KD’) were ferried via Iceland, Scotland and the UK in mid-May.

Tunisian Pilots had begun training on the type at Textron Aviation Defence facilities in Wichita on 31 October. The T-6Cs will serve as the new primary training aircraft for the Tunisian Air Force and will be flown by No 13 Squadron at Sfax Air Base/Sfax-Thyna International Airport. The aircraft will be augmented by a suite of training devices, including a ground-based training system, an operational flight trainer and a computer-based training lab, to be supplied by TRU Simulation + Training, an affiliate of Textron Aviation.

The first four T-6Cs were officially inducted into service on 17 July during a ceremony attended by US Ambassador Joey Hood, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the United States Air Force for International Affairs Kelly Sebolt, and Algerian Minister of National Defence, Imad Memish.

Hood said the US was committed to supporting the defence ministry’s efforts to enhance the air force’s ability to meet security challenges and humanitarian needs, while Memish said the new aircraft would provide the Tunisian Air Force with advanced training capabilities.

Tunisian Air Force students do their basic training on SF-260s – Tunisia received nine SF-260CTs and 12 SF-260WT Warriors between 1974 and 1978; about 18 SF-260s remain in use. Tunisian student pilots then move on to the jet-powered Aermacchi MB-326, some 10 of which remain in service – they are the survivors of eight MB-326Bs delivered in 1965, and five MB-326LTs and seven single-seat MB-326KT light-attack aircraft delivered in 1977. The T-6Cs and AT-6Es will replace the SF-260s and nine surviving Aero L-59Ts (of 12 delivered) that operate in the lead-in fighter training and light-attack roles.

Morocco is the only other African nation that flies T-6s, ordering 24 for $185 million in October 2009. These were delivered from 2011.

The T-6 is a development of the Swiss Pilatus PC-9 turboprop trainer and was developed to fill the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System role for the US Air Force and the US Navy. The C model is a further refinement of the T-6A Texan II with an integrated glass cockpit, advanced avionics suite and hard-point wings that can accommodate auxiliary fuel tanks. In addition to the hard-point wings, the T-6C’s upgraded avionics include a Head-Up Display, Up Front Control Panel, three Multifunction Displays and Hands-On Throttle and Stick (HOTAS) controls. This equipment mirrors the systems and capabilities of front-line strike fighter aircraft, while retaining all the inherent training and flying characteristics of the T-6 trainer.

The AT-6E Wolverine light attack aircraft has seven hardpoints, allowing it to carry 1 860 kg of ordnance including HMP-400 .50 calibre machineguns, Mk 81 and Mk 82 unguided bombs, GBU-12, GUB-58, GBU-49 and GBU-59 Paveway II guided bombs, laser-guided rockets, AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and flares.

Targeting is through an MX-15D multi-sensor suite with colour and infrared cameras, laser designator, laser illuminator and laser rangefinder.

Both the T-6C and AT-6 share an 85% commonality in structure, avionics, and other systems.

The US State Department agreed to the sale of four AT-6 Wolverine aircraft to Tunisia in February 2020 for $325.8 million, including weaponry.

The Tunisian Air Force will also soon receiver other aircraft from Textron Aviation, with four Cessna Grand Caravans being readied for delivery. These are being modified by ATI Engineering Services with electro-optical/infra-red sensors, operator consoles, tactical radios, video data links and night vision compatible lighting.

The fleet of Grand Caravan EX single-engine turboprops will aid the Tunisian Air Force in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations in the country. The Caravans will not be armed but will be configured for ISR purposes to aid in Tunisia’s border security efforts.

On 8 January, the first Tunisian Grand Caravan EX was spotted at South St Paul/Municipal-Richard E Fleming Field in Minnesota with temporary registration N692EX, Scramble reported. Its future Tunisian serial is W41702/TS-UDB.