The Air Force said Wednesday it signed a first-of-its-kind cooperative research and development  agreement (CRADA) with Textron [TXT] to provide an airworthiness assessment of the company’s Model 530 Scorpion.

Air Force Technical Airworthiness Authority Jorge Gonzalez said Wednesday in a statement that the service has never had a partnership with industry to assess aircraft not under an Air Force acquisition contract. Textron developed Scorpion with its own funding, but has yet to find an international, nor domestic, buyer.

Textron is still searching for its first buyer for Scorpion. Photo: Textron.
Textron is still searching for its first buyer for Scorpion. Photo: Textron.

The assessment, conducted under the auspices of Gonzalez, may be used by industry as verification of the Scorpion’s safety design. The Air Force said the assessment is important when industry seeks to make direct commercial sales to foreign militaries.

Scorpion is a non-DoD military aircraft (NDMA). The Air Force in April opened a NDMA office to help the service gain valuable insight into the state of aviation development outside of the traditional defense sector, as well as an awareness of independent R&D activities of U.S. aerospace companies.

Shortly after opening, the NDMA office received many requests from potential industry collaborators and is currently engaged in multiple efforts, according to an Air Force statement. With a desire to keep business processes simple yet legally acceptable, the NDMA office is utilizing CRADAs as a mechanism to establish collaborative working arrangements with industry collaborators. The Air Force said using CRADAs to conduct airworthiness assessments with industry is a first.

No appropriated funds will be used for this service, according to an Air Force statement. The Air Force said it would not be able to respond by press time Wednesday. Textron deferred comment to the Air Force.

Though Textron may not have a buyer for Scorpion, the company entered into a collaboration with QinetiQ and Thales to bid for the United Kingdom’s upcoming Air Support to Defence Operational Training (ASDOT) program. The competitive contract, expected to be awarded in September 2018 with work starting in January 2020, is anticipated to be worth up to $1.6 billion over 15 years. In a QinetiQ statement, Textron said Scorpio was picked after a comprehensive analysis of over 50 aircraft. Scorpion can perform roles such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), close air support, armed reconnaissance, maritime and border patrol and jet training missions.