Thailand Becomes First AT-6 Export Operator

Thailand is set to become the international launch customer for the AT-6 Light Attack Aircraft, Textron Aviation announced on Saturday. As part of the $143 million deal, Thailand will receive eight aircraft from 2024, as well as training and ground support equipment.

Thailand’s AT-6 aircraft, locally designated the AT-6TH, will partially replace the country’s retired L-39 Light Attack Fleet alongside the jet-powered Korean T-50TH. Construction is expected to begin next year in Wichita, Kansas.

Two AT-6’s seen carrying dummy Paveway bombs (Foreground) and Hellfire Missiles (Background). (Textron Aviation)

The AT-6 is an armed and upgraded version of the veteran T-6 Texan II trainer aircraft operated by the United States Air Force (USAF) and United States Navy (USN) among others. The AT-6 is designed to undertake light-attack, homeland security and reconnaissance missions. To accomplish that, it’s armed with a variety of munitions including the AGM-114 “Hellfire” and Paveway II laser-guided bomb. Earlier this year, following a long and drawn-out procurement process, the USAF received the first of two AT-6Es.

A Royal Thai Air Force JAS 39 Gripen takes off during Exercise Cope Tiger 16, on Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, March 7, 2016. Exercise Cope Tiger 16 includes over 1,200 personnel from three countries and continues the growth of strong, interoperable and beneficial relationships within the Asia-Pacific Region, while demonstrating U.S. capability to project forces strategically in a combined, joint environment. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech Sgt. Aaron Oelrich/Released)

In 2020, Thailand procured 12 unarmed Beechcraft T-6C Texan II aircraft from Textron for $162 million, as part of an “Integrated Training System”. At the time, the purchase fueled speculation that Thailand would also purchase the AT-6 given the commonality of the types.

Thailand’s T-6C’s will arrive in the country between 2022 and 2023. 

20170130-N-VZ457-058 Corpus Christi, TX (Jan. 30, 2017) Marine 2nd lt. Seth Montgomery, from Spokane, Washington, a student pilot assigned to Training Squadron 28 (VT-28) straps himself into a T-6 II. The T-6 II turbo prop plane is now used by the Navy as a training platform which replaced the T-34 Mentor. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2rd Class Victor R. Navarrete/Released)

Thomas Hammoor, Chief Executive and President of Textron Defense said: 

“We are honored the Royal Thai Air Force has competitively selected the Beechcraft AT-6 to conduct a broad array of missions in support of its border security and its anti-smuggling, counter-narcotics and anti-human trafficking operations.” 

According to Textron, the AT-6 offers “4th generation capabilities at 2nd generation acquisition, operating and sustainment costs”.