Thailand Buys AT-6 for Coast Guard Type Missions

Defense News reports that Thailand has become the first international customer for the Textron Beechcraft AT-6 light attack aircraft.

Thomas Hammoor, president and CEO of Textron Aviation Defense, said in a statement that the Royal Thai Air Force selected the Beechcraft AT-6 to conduct a broad array of missions in support of border security as well as anti-smuggling, counternarcotics and anti-human trafficking operations.

This is basically the same aircraft Coast Guard aviators train on before they get their wings, but with upgrades. I can’t help but think something like this or the similar Embraer A-29 Super Tucano could handle a lot of ISR missions more economically than what we are using now.

They could be used to scout for D7 Webber class FRCs doing drug or migrant interdiction and provide shots across the bow and over-watch in lieu of a helicopter.

The Washington DC air intercept mission in particular comes to mind. Local searches for overdue boats is another possibility. As you can see these aircraft support integrated electro-optical sensors.

An AT-6 Beechcraft is on display at the 2021 Dubai Airshow. (Agnes Helou/Staff)

Armed, these could also provide a response to terrorist attacks. My earlier ramblings on Coast Guard aircraft missions here.

“US Navy helicopters and Coast Guard snipers are firing on suspected drug traffickers ‘daily,’ top admiral says” –Business Insider

Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony Phillips, a precision marksman at Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, displays the weaponry used by a HITRON during missions, February 23, 2010. US Coast Guard/Petty Officer 1st Class Bobby Nash

Business Insider has a story touting the success of the Navy/Coast Guard team effort in drug interdiction. This seems to be a report on Adm. Craig Faller’s (SOUTHCOM) remarks at the Surface Navy Association symposium in mid-January.

There is strong praise for the HITRON personnel.

“Coast Guard HITRON teams, which are sniper teams, have integrated into US Navy helicopters. So our Navy crews are involved in decisions to use … warning shots and disabling fire daily. I mean, it is a daily event,” Faller added. “We average numbers, sometimes large numbers, of events daily, and they’ve done it safely, effectively, completely in compliance with all the law of war and with precision. [I’m] very proud of that.”

I have to believe the “daily” claim is at least a slight exaggeration, since presumably HITRON was involved in all the cases and the report quotes Cmdr. Ace Castle, public affairs officer for US Coast Guard Atlantic Area, as saying they prosecuted 56 in 2020.

In any case, HITRON is getting a workout and proving their value. Worth noting that they and other Coast Guard law enforcement detachments, also serve on foreign ships working for SouthCom, including British, Canadian, Dutch, and French vessels.