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Farnborough 2018: Longsword in ‘holding pattern’ while L3 waits on launch customer

18 July 2018
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An AT-802L Longsword prototype is featuring on the static display at this year's Farnborough Airshow. While the prototype is festooned with weaponry, L3 is waiting on a launch customer before the USAF will put the aircraft through its Seek Eagle certification process. Source: IHS Markit /Gareth Jennings

The L3 Aerospace Systems–Air Tractor AT-802L Longsword light attack aircraft is waiting on a launch customer to be signed up before the weapons certification process can proceed, Jane’s was told on 18 July.

Speaking at the Farnborough Airshow, L3’s senior project manager for the Longsword, David Delzell, said that a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) customer must first be signed up before the US Air Force (USAF) will agree to put the light attack turboprop through its Seek Eagle process, whereby the service certifies that weapons can be carried and separate safely from an aircraft, and that they can hit the target.

“Weapons certification is the next step [for the Longsword], but without an FMS customer we are currently in a holding pattern,” Delzell told Jane’s , adding that the company has done everything needed for weapons certification short of going through the Seek Eagle process itself.

While Delzell said that L3 has “a number” of active export campaigns ongoing for its Longsword, the FMS deal that it is understood to be waiting on to kick-start the weapons certification process is for 12 aircraft to Kenya. The proposed USD418 million deal (which also includes two AT-504 trainer turboprops) was first disclosed in January 2017, but has been subject to a number of investigations from bodies such as the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the US Congressional Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (the principal oversight committee of the House of Representatives), as well as from congressman Ted Budd, who represents the North Carolina-based IOMAX, which offers a similarly configured Archangel Border Patrol Aircraft (BPA).

The GAO reported in September 2017 that it has no concerns with the proposed sale, though a contract has yet to be signed. Delzell declined to comment on the current status of this proposed sale.

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