This is the Scorpion, a jointly developed project from Textron and AirLand, that purports to be an ultra-affordable light attack fighter that can be used mainly on intelligence, surveillance and recon (ISR) missions.
As for why it's at an exercise for the National Guard, that's slightly more complicated. See, the Scorpion isn't part of the US military's arsenal, although the companies behind the project would certainly like it to be. Instead, it debuted last year and has been shopped around, with a particular focus on potential sales to the Air National Guard, thanks to its low cost.
Its appearance at Vigilant Guard 2014, a guard exercise that brings together units from across the US for training, was sort of an audition for the plane. The jet provided ISR of the exercise at no cost to Uncle Sam, while also giving the guard brass a tantalizing look at the new plane's capabilities.
"So it was mutually beneficial, because we wanted to see what we needed to do and prove what we said we could do, and we have done well beyond that in just these short three days," Paul Weaver, a former head of the ANG and an advisor for the Scorpion, told Defense News of the plane's participation in the exercise. "We're extremely satisfied and happy with what we have."
According to Weaver, the average cost of flight time in the Scorpion is a mere $2,700 an hour. That still sounds like a lot, until you realize that an F-16 costs about $22,500 per hour, while an F-22 costs around $68,000 per hour. Pair that with an expected per-unit price of less than $20 million, and the Scorpion's appeal, particularly to the ANG, becomes evident. The question is, will the US military move on that low price tag.
What do you think? Is an affordable, do-everything fighter just the solution the USAF and ANG need to counter the high-dollar troubles of the F-22 and F-35? Have your say in Comments.