With the fighter market stale of any new blood, this highlight reel from famed aerial photographer, Paul Bowen and cinematographer Roger Tonry, is a fresh perspective for a marketing campaign featuring the AT-6C turboprop light attack fighter. Strap some guns on the T-6 Texan II and you've got a sexy little fighter.
Starting life as a PC-9 by the Swiss manufacturer Pilatus, the aircraft is significantly modified by Beechcraft to form the venerable T-6 trainer. Enter the light attack and reconnaissance variant, AT-6C. By adding integrated weapons systems including .50 cal gun pods, unguided and laser guided bombs, laser guided rockets, and Hellfire short-range strike missiles, close air support capability was achieved to meet light attack and armed reconnaissance requirements. Touted for its flexibility to perform as both a trainer and light precision attack as well as Surveillance and Reconnaissance solutions for irregular warfare scenarios.
The T-6 has been used as a primary trainer for the the United States Navy and Air Force for over a decade as a replacement for the Cessna T-37 Tweet which made its last flight as a military trainer in 2009.
Political controversy has surrounded the AT-6 as Beechcraft has failed to win contracts from the U.S. military's Light Attack/Armed Reconnaissance program in favor of the more expensive and foreign built Brazilian A-29 Super Tucano. It first happened in 2011 after the USAF mailed the exclusion notice to the wrong address giving Beechcraft no time to appeal the decision. After the contract was awarded to the A-29, a stop-work order was issued in 2012 and terminated the contract after an internal investigation revealed documentation deficiencies with the Air Force's dealings with Beechcraft. The resulting corrective action appointed a new Light Air Support selection team. The selection process promptly resumed and again in 2013 while Hawker/Beechcraft was crippled from the burden of Chapter 11, the Super Tucano was chosen to fulfill the urgent needs of light attack support in the Afghanistan conflict.
One major advantage the AT-6C holds is that is shares a mission based system with Lockheed Martin's A-10C. This leverages potential outside investment toward system software upgrades and is also a common platform in the current pilot training infrastructure.
Now that Beechcraft has been procured under the large wing of Textron Aviation, it is now kin to Cessna and Bell Helicopter. With sufficient capital at hand, the push to win government dollars may have resumed, but with the recent first delivery of the A-29 Super Tucano, will there be room for the Beech contender?
A marketing campaign which includes video shot by award winning cinematographer/ director, Roger Tonry and pictures by world renowned aerial photographer, Paul Bowen, is a fantastic way to inform the public that even small, lightweight, turboprop fighters play an important role in military defense strategies.
Shot in and around Yuma, Arizona, this video captures the beauty of flight and the prowess of attaching some weapons to the T-6 Texan II. In order to capture such a close perspective Bowen shoots from various aircraft in tight formation but is often perched in the open tail gunner's position of a B-25 bomber.
Paul has shot photos in 20 different B-25 which offers three different stations including the nose, the escape hatch behind the right wing, and the tail gunner's position for the "in your face" vantage point. Having the tail cone removed on the ground before the flight eliminates any distortion or reflection from the glass.
After being securely strapped in, he hangs out the back, using his headset microphone to relay messages through the pilot to coordinate aircraft and get the perfect shot. Safety is always a priority and formation experienced pilots are required as well as a large crew to operate the lead and chase aircraft for a successful photo shoot.
Paul's photography has graced the cover of 1000s of magazines and he was hailed as one of the "51 Heroes of Aviation" by Flying Magazine among other numerous accolades. Bowen is possibly most famous for his use of aerial vortices. Skimming low over cloud tops, the spinning air currents produced by as a byproduct of lift, leave the tips of the wings and create a dazzling effect. Combined with beautiful aircraft and perfectly timed lighting, the result is stunning.
Starting out a simply as an amateur photographer in the 70s, Paul took a side job as a photographer's assistant for a agency working with Cessna. Even though he became airsick on his first flight he was rewarded for his tenacity and thus began the beginning of an entirely new genre of aerial art. Bowen's career was truly launched as he captured the attention of aviators world wide when his photograph of a corporate aircraft flying over fog first made the cover of Flying Magazine in 1992.
"It was the first time the vortices had been shown in a broad public way, both artistically and scientifically. It was the most successful cover of all time for Flying Magazine, and a turning point in my career," said Bowen. You can view a gallery of Paul's stunning aviation photography here. You should also keep a copy of one of his books on your coffee table like I do.
Only time will tell if this Bowen/Beechcraft cooperation will result in a successful push to keep Light Air Support military hardware made in the U.S.A.
Photos courtesy of Paul Bowen