Tunisian Air Force receives first T-6C Texan II trainer

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Tunisia’s Air Force has taken delivery of the first T-6C Texan II trainer aircraft from Textron Aviation Defence as part of an order for eight aircraft.

Textron said the first delivery took place on 21 September, with the second aircraft to be transferred later this year and the remaining six following in 2023.

Training of the initial cadre of pilots began on 31 October at Textron Aviation Defence facilities in Wichita, Kansas. The Tunisian Air Force will rely upon TRU Simulation + Training Inc, an affiliate of Textron Aviation Inc, for a suite of training devices and related support. The devices — slated for installation at Sfax air base in Tunisia — include a ground-based training system, an operational flight trainer and a computer-based training lab.

The Tunisian contract covers eight aircraft as well as in-country field service and logistics support, program management support, interim contractor support for the first year, training for pilots and maintenance professionals, spare engines, spare parts and aircraft support equipment.

In July this year Textron was awarded a $90 million contract on top of a previously awarded contract for Tunisia’s T-6Cs – in June 2021 Textron received a $12 million contract for long lead items. 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 a possible four AT-6C light attack aircraft.

“Tunisia is the thirteenth nation to acquire the T-6 and has now taken delivery of the 1 001st T-6 manufactured by our team in Wichita,” said Fouad Kasri, director of Sales & Strategy for Africa and the Middle East, Textron Aviation Defence.

“Becoming a regional leader in military flight training excellence is one of the milestones on the path to achieving our counter-terrorism and border security mission requirements,” said General Mohamed Hajjem, the Tunisian Air Force Chief of Staff.

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.

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.

Textron has an AT-6 Wolverine on static display at the Bahrain International Air Show taking place this week as the company continues to market the T-6 and AT-6 to potential customers around the world.