The US Air Force has selected Will Rogers Air National Guard Base in Oklahoma as the only location that will receive the AT-802U Sky Warden, the US Special Operations Command’s new close air support, armed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and precision strike mission airplane.
Secretary of the US Air Force, Frank Kendall decided on December 9 that the MC-12 Liberty ISR platform at the base will be replaced and the MC-12 Formal Training Unit will be converted to the AT-802U Total Force Integration FTU.
The 310th Special Operations Squadron, currently based at Cannon Air Force Base in New Mexico, will relocate to Will Rogers ANGB and will be joined by about 80 personnel to support the mission.
A site survey is scheduled for spring 2023 to assess operational requirements, potential impacts on existing missions, housing, infrastructure, and manpower. An environmental impact analysis will be conducted by the Department of the Air Force after the site survey is complete, with a final decision on the basing expected in fall 2023.
USSOCOM will receive the new AT-802U Sky Warden aircraft from L3Harris Technologies and Air Tractor under a contract from August this year worth up to $3 billion. The contract will see the two companies deliver up to 75 manned, fixed wing aircraft, with an initial program contract award of $170 million.
The Armed Overwatch program is aimed at providing special operations forces with close air support, precision strike, and special operations forces intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in austere and permissive environments.
At the time of the contract award, L3Harris said it anticipated modifying last summer’s Armed Overwatch prototype demonstrator into the production configuration and providing for customer weapon system testing in approximately six months.
Built on the Air Tractor AT-802U platform, Sky Warden is designed and built for austere operations. It has a 6-hour loiter capability at a 200 nautical mile combat radius, with a 6,000 lb combat load-out.
L3Harris says the Sky Warden has communications and sensor suites on par with larger aircraft like the King Air and the AC-130. The aircraft is also said to feature the largest payload capacity of any single turbine engine aircraft, allowing it to host communications, sensors and airborne ISR solutions.