The U.S. Special operations command has chosen an armed-to-the-teeth version of the venerable Air Tractor agricultural application aircraft as its new counter-terrorism platform in its Armed Overwatch mission. The AT-802U Sky Warden was chosen over two other finalists, the Textron AT-6 Wolverine, based on the Texan trainer, and Sierra Nevada Corp’s MC-145B Coyote, a high-wing twin based on the Polish PZL M28 Skytruck. In the end, it was the brawny Air Tractor’s payload capacity that likely tipped the balance, according to Forbes.
It can carry the Common Launch Tube, which can fire missiles, launch drones and small munitions and features a sensor suite integrated by L-3 Harris. The mission of these aircraft is to drop into trouble spots with little fanfare and even less support on the ground. Something else that distinguishes the Air Tractor is that it’s a taildragger, likely the only one in the inventory. Forbes did the math and figures the Sky Warden costs about $20 million apiece. It’s not the first non-agriculture application of the Air Tractor. Its Fire Boss variants have become the industry standard for Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) aerial firefighting aircraft.