Skip to main content

Company hopes new jet will save the Air Force a bundle

Textron AirLand hopes to sell the Pentagon on the Scorpion's low operational cost.
Textron AirLand hopes to sell the Pentagon on the Scorpion's low operational cost.
  • The new Scorpion jet would be used on low-vulnerability missions
  • The aircraft was developed without government funding
  • Plane's operation cost could be one-tenth of an F-16's costs
  • The Scorpion is expected to fly by the end of the year

(CNN) -- Could the U.S. Air Force's newest warplane be something the service didn't even ask for?

That's the hope of a joint venture between Textron, the makers of Cessna airplanes and E-Z Go golf carts, and AirLand Enterprises, a small company formed by former defense and aerospace executives hoping to market a low-cost aircraft to the U.S. military.

The joint venture, Textron AirLand, introduced its Scorpion aircraft Monday during a trade show in Maryland. The two-seat, twin-engine jet is designed to tackle low vulnerability missions at a fraction of the cost of the planes that now take on those assignments.

"The aircraft's design is well matched to the Air National Guard's missions such as irregular warfare, border patrol, maritime surveillance, emergency relief, counter narcotics and air defense operations," the joint venture's website says.

According to a report from Aviation Week, F-16s, which are currently used in many of those roles, cost about $25,000 an hour to operate. Textron AirLand's goal is for the Scorpion to perform those missions at almost a tenth of that cost, Aviation Week said.

"We began development of the Scorpion in January 2012 with the objective to design, build and fly the world's most affordable tactical jet aircraft capable of performing lower-threat battlefield and homeland security missions," Textron Chairman and CEO Scott Donnelly said in a statement.

Lightweight, quiet jet takes on aviation big boys Boeing and Airbus

The company hasn't said how much each Scorpion will cost to make, but says it isn't breaking any technological frontiers with it.

"We relied on commercial best practices to develop a tactical jet platform with flexibility and capabilities found only in far more costly aircraft," Donnelly's statement said.

Former Air Force Secretary F. Whitten Peters, an adviser to and investor in AirLand Enterprises, said the Scorpion has cost the government nothing so far, in a budget environment where the Pentagon is trying to save every nickel it can.

Transportation of the future

"In an impressively short time, the joint venture has designed and built a capable and mission-ready aircraft with no up-front government funding. We believe Scorpion will fill a critical price and performance gap in the tactical military aircraft market," he said in a statement.

Peters told Aviation Week the Scorpion could save the Pentagon $1 billion a year in fuel costs alone.

The Scorpion will be able to carry 3,000 pounds of weapons at speeds up to 517 mph, according to the company's website. The plane's ceiling is 45,000 feet.

Besides looking for sales to the U.S. Air Force, the company hopes to market the Scorpion overseas.

The jet's first flight is expected before the end of the year, the company said.

Ground control: Are pilotless passenger jets within reach?

Part of complete coverage on
It's New Year's Eve, and we're suspended 2,000 feet over Atlanta by an iconic gas bag. Hard to believe I'm actually flying the Goodyear blimp.
Superjumbo, the world's largest passenger plane, has finally conquered the world's busiest airport.
The Soviet shoot-down of Flight 007 killed 269 people, triggering outrage, conspiracy theories and an activist movement that lives on.
A pilot/film consultant with time in Cessnas, fighter jets and airliners reveals behind-the-scenes details about the aviation version of "Cars."
These huge planes have names like Dreamlifter and Super Guppy. Conversations stop. Fingers point. How can something so big defy gravity?
Pilots ranked Hong Kong's now-closed Kai Tak among the world's trickiest airports. Even top pilots said landing was hair-raising. Here are their stories.
It's an airport security idea that could sweep the U.S.: aviation enthusiasts who alert police about potential terrorism. They're doing it in Chicago.
Where avgeeks get REALLY close. It's arguably the most famous spotting destination on the planet: Maho Beach on the island of St. Maarten.
Here's the inside scoop on the plane crash scene in Denzel Washington's film "Flight" and how real pilots worked to save lives aboard United Flight 232.
He's a "hillbilly" who's been going full speed his whole life. Finally, Preston Henn got his hands on the fastest executive jet on the planet: the G650.
A coach class seat can be a chair of torture. Airline seat experts talk frankly about the anger and discomfort surrounding airline seats.
Can you analyze a traveler's personality by their favorite airplane seat? Of course not; don't be ridiculous. But let's do it anyway.
The Air Force calls it 309 AMARG: a 2,600-acre parking lot for about 5,000 retired U.S. military aircraft. And it's on my avgeek bucket list.
Join us aboard United Flight 1. For the first time since it was grounded for battery troubles, Boeing's 787 Dreamliner returns to domestic service.
 AF447 Rio-Paris plane flight black boxes displayed during a press conference on May 12, 2011, at the BEA headquarters at the airport of Le Bourget.
If data had been uplinked from Air France Flight 447 to satellites before it crashed, would loved ones have been spared some of their anguish?
Hijacker "D.B. Cooper" jumped from a 727 with $200,000. He was never caught. What happened to the top witness, an ex-flight attendant?
The Disbergers have turned airline getaways into an art form: 243 family trips, 7.5 million miles. Here's what they've learned.