Businesswire reports that US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), as of August 1st, has chosen the L3Harris AT-802U Sky Warden aircraft for its armed overwatch program. The contract is worth up to $3 billion and calls for the delivery of 75 specialized, fixed-wing aircraft. If you are an aviation enthusiast, the plane may look familiar. That’s because it’s based on the Air Tractor AT-802U, well known for crop dusting and firefighting.

The deal includes training, mission planning, and plenty of spare parts. The first aircraft is due to be put into operation in 2026.

Air Force Magazine reports that Air Tractor and L3Harris jointly unveiled the Sky Warden for the first time in May of 2021. It beat out five finalists for the government contract. In addition, they note that the airframe utilized by the Sky Warden can carry a greater payload than any other single-engine turboprop plane.

The platform is equally good for spraying crops and hunting bad guys—screenshot from YouTube via Weapons of the World.

Wondering where the name came from? The online magazine, Flying, tells us it’s a nod to two aircraft with storied special operations histories; the Douglas A-1 Skyraider and the U-28 Draco. The Skyraider provided close air support to ground troops in Vietnam, and the Draco belongs to the Air Force Special Operations Command 319th, 34th, and 318th surveillance, reconnaissance, and airborne intelligence units.

In a statement released by SOCOM, Commander General Richard Clarke stated,

“This rugged, sustainable platform will operate in permissive environments and austere conditions around the world to safeguard our Special Operations Forces on the ground.”

On its website, L3Harris notes that it plans to “rapidly modify” its prototype aircraft into the “production configuration” within six months so that the weapons systems can be tested at that time. In addition, they note that “mission configured” aircraft will start to be produced next year in their Tulsa, Oklahoma modification center after initial airframe construction at Air Tractor’s Olney, Texas plant.

They are understandably quite proud of their product; Air Tractor President Jim Hirsch says, “The Sky Warden design reflects our commitment to America’s national security, and the AT-802U will be equipped with everything we’ve learned manufacturing aircraft over the past 46 years,” He continues, “The L3Harris team is an excellent partner, and our production and engineering staff are ready to immediately deliver this world-class product to our nation’s special forces.”