WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE -- The Air Force has reached a one-of-a-kind deal with aerospace maker Textron AirLand to test the airworthiness of a jet that could be sold overseas.
Textron AirLand will reimburse the Air Force for the costs of the tests on the Scorpion, a light weight, low-cost surveillance and strike jet, according to company data.
The Air Force said the deal was expected to be "the first of many such agreements" to partner with companies to evaluate airworthiness of military-like aircraft not in the Defense Department fleet. The Air Force has not committed to purchase the plane, but to test it in a first-of-its-kind arrangement.
The Non-Military Department of Defense Military Aircraft office at Wright-Patterson and the manufacturer reached the terms though a cooperative research and development agreement.
"We stand to gain valuable insight into the state of aviation development outside of products (currently) in development or use within the Defense Department," the Air Force said in a statement.
According to company data, the two-seat, twin-tailed jet costs less than $20 million and $3,000 an hour to operate. The twin-turbofan plane has a reached an altitude of 45,000 feet and has a range of 2,400 nautical miles.
Prior to the deal, the Air Force limited airworthiness tests to aircraft in its fleet or U.S. aircraft sold through a foreign military sales program, the statement said.
"This knowledge will better position the Air Force to meet its own research and development needs and to capitalize on innovations in the commercial sector that may otherwise go unnoticed," the Air Force said. "Industry benefits by leveraging the Air Force's valuable expertise to receive an independent and expert assessment of their aircraft."
The evaluation will help the company reduce design risk and "result in an official assessment that may be useful to prospective foreign customers," the statement added.
Wichita, Kan.-based Textron AirLand would assemble the jet at a factory in Kansas, said aircraft spokeswoman Nikki Riemen.
"We do not speculate on future sales, but we are engaged in serious discussions with potential buyers," she said in an email.
The manufacturer says the Scorpion could be deployed for ground attack, maritime security, aerospace control alert and tactical jet training, among other uses.
In June, the jet appeared as a static display at the Vectren Dayton Air Show.