Cropduster Attack Aircraft In Service


While the Air Force and some in Congress muse about a fleet of low-cost light attack aircraft (and seem to prefer mostly foreign-derived designs) there are two American-designed counterterrorism and close air support aircraft in service overseas. Just before he left office, President Barack Obama approved the sale of 12 weaponized Air Tractor AT-802U single-engine turboprops to Kenya for a total price of $413 million. There are also a couple AT-504 trainers included. L-3 is integrating all the missiles and guns, all of which are up-to-date munitions used on mainstream fighters and attack aircraft in the U.S. inventory. says the Air Tractors, which are hardened versions of the cropduster, will fill gaps that the Kenyan Defense Force’s aging fleet of F-5s have in engaging al Shabaab terrorists. The United Arab Emirates has been using Air Tractors for years and recently added another American design to its light attack fleet.

The middle eastern country recently bought 24 Archangel light attack aircraft based on Air Tractor’s main cropduster competitor Thrush. Although the UAE originally bought the Air Tractor platform, it wanted enhancements that the Air Tractor’s design couldn’t accommodate. Thrush and IOMAX worked together on the Archangel, which began deliveries in 2015. South American countries also use them against drug smugglers. As we reported last week, Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he’d like 300 light attack aircraft for the Air Force but there was no mention of the Air Tractor or Thrush in those musings. The AT-6 (built by Textron under license from Pilatus) and Embraer’s Super Tucano, built by Sierra Nevada Corp., are often cited as is Textron’s clean-sheet Scorpion jet. TangoSix shot the video below describing the armaments available on the Archangel.