Textron AirLand is walking a fine line with its Scorpion pitch. The targeted mission set—light, armed and fast ISR—is in a niche nestled among armed twin-turboprops (such as the MC-12 Project Liberty), the forthcoming, single-engine T-38 replacement program and the high-end, stealthy fighters.
Allies are also buying turboprop-driven armed-attack aircraft, such as the Pentagon's purchase of Embraer A-29 Super Tucanos for Afghanistan. And foreign air forces tend to opt for multipurpose trainers that can also perform light-attack missions.
Comparatively, Scorpion offers speed over the twin-turboprops and simplicity versus the trainers, which are structurally optimized to withstand high G forces in order to prepare pilots for the F-22 or F-35. And, although some parties may want to recast Predator and Reaper unmanned aircraft for air and border patrols in the future, these UAVs remain blocked from operating in most of the domestic airspace.
Scorpion is in the final stages of assembly, and first flight is scheduled to occur by year-end.