Tunisia to receive T-6 trainers next year


The Tunisian Air Force will receive eight T-6 Texan II trainers from Textron Aviation Defence next year.

In October 2019 the US State Department approved the sale of up to 12 T-6 aircraft to Tunisia for an estimated $234 million, and in late 2020 the Tunisian defence ministry announced eight T-6C trainers were being acquired, in addition to four AT-6C light attack aircraft.

On 11 June this year the US Department of Defence announced that Textron Aviation Defence had been awarded a $12 million contract for long lead items and an in-country basing survey for the eight T-6 II trainers for the Tunisian Air Force. Work is expected to be completed by October 2022 when the T-6Cs are delivered.

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 will likely fill the gap between the SF-260 and nine surviving Aero L-59Ts (of 12 delivered) that operate in the lead-in fighter training and light-attack roles.

After acquiring T-6C trainers, Tunisia subsequently ordered four AT-6C Wolverine light attack aircraft worth an estimated $325 million including associated equipment. The US approved this sale on 25 February 2020.

The Wolverines are being acquired with 468 Mk 81 250 lb bombs, 48 Mk 82 500 lb bombs, 3 290 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon Systems (APKWS) rockets, two spare Pratt & Whitney PT6A-68D 1600 shp engines, six L-3 WESCAM MX 15D Multi-Spectral Targeting System, six 12.7 mm machineguns as well as other equipment and training.

“The proposed sale will improve Tunisia’s ability to meet current and future threats by increasing their capability and capacity to counter-terrorism and other violent extremist organization threats. The AT-6 platform will bolster their capability to respond to and engage threats in multiple areas across the country. Additionally, the procurement of the AT-6 aircraft strengthens interoperability between Tunisia, regional allies, and the United States,” the DSCA said of the Wolverine sale.

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-6C 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.