Report: UAE, Textron in discussions about Scorpion jet

The United Arab Emirates is in serious discussions with Textron AirLand about buying the new Scorpion jet, sources told Defense Daily.

The Scorpion, designed and built in Wichita, is in flight testing.

The plane was designed to be an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance airplane with strike capabilities, Textron officials have said.

But sources told Defense Daily that the UAE is considering the Scorpion for its aerobatic squadron Al Fursan, which flies the Alenia Aermacchi MB-339.

A purchase for Al Fursan would be a first step in a larger relationship, the report said.

Textron’s policy is not to comment about possible sales, Textron spokesman David Sylvestre said.

“But the global international interest in Scorpion is strong, continues to grow, and we do have nations interested in being the launch customer,” he said.

The UAE has been hesitant to be a launch customer for a new plane. An industry source told Defense Daily that the UAE wants Textron to find another customer before it signs on.

The source told Defense Daily that Textron has had preliminary discussions with Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, Indonesia, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia about the plane, with Malaysia and Brunei the most likely candidates to be customers.

With a price tag of $20 million, the Scorpion costs less than other tactical aircraft, company officials have said.

The Scorpion twin-engine jet was built in secret at a Cessna facility in southeast Wichita and was publicly announced in September 2013.

The jet was designed as a tactical plane able to take on a variety of missions, such as irregular warfare, border patrol, maritime surveillance, emergency relief, counter-narcotics and defense operations.

The company is also developing a trainer version of the plane, Textron officials have said.

Low-volume production is slated for 2015. Testing and early production will be done in Wichita, company officials said.

The company is having ongoing discussions with a variety of locations about where full-rate production would be located, they have said.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mmcmillin.