Another old pencil-drawing of mine turned into a FD-scale plane: The SCI OP-E Dragun Trainer and COIN airplane
By 1990, Thiarian military pilots received their basic pilot training on a mixture of SOATA Rallyes and Fouga Magisters, plus a few Aerospatiale Epsilons purchased in the early 80s. A requirement for a new basic trainer was formulated in 1990; the new plane was supposed to have low operating costs like a turboprop plane, but also offer jet-like flight performance, so it could replace not only the existing basic trainers, but possibly the Air Corps' Alpha Jet advanced trainers as well in time. Although SCI received no subsidies - as usual when the world market offered sufficient options to buy off the shelf - they designed a private venture trainer with a turboprop pusher engine and twin booms carrying the fins and rudders. The pusher configuration was chosen to provide a jet-like feeling for the pilots, and the whole package was near the upper end of the contemporary basic trainer category in terms of weight and size. It received the designation OP-E (Oiliuintoir Piolotach / Pilot Trainer Type E) and had its first flight in 1994. The prototype was tested against the Rhein-Flugzeugbau Fanranger, the SIAI-Marchetti S.211 and the FMA/Dornier Pampa - all of them jets, because of the proposed turboprops, only the EMBRAER Tucano was inside the specified performance envelope, and that plane was not eligible for political reasons. Facing only jets, the OP-E featured the lowest operating costs, and despite the rather high acquisition cost (second only to the Pampa), it carried the evaluation and was commissioned as the Dragun (Dragon) in 1996. 120 series aircraft were ordered for Thiaria's armed forces (72 for the Air Corps to equip three squadrons, 36 for the Navy to equip two of them, plus 12 units as materiel reserve) and delivered between 1998 and 2003. During production of this initial batch, SCI developed the basic design into a dedicated light ground support aircraft; with the growing number of low-intensity conflicts erupting everywhere on the planet, they saw enough sales opportunities to justify the project. Meanwhile, the trainer version had started to attract foreign customers, although the high cost limited the type's competitiveness against the cheaper Pilatus and EMBRAER aircraft. Ireland ordered 18 in 2000 to replace their Magisters, as usual lavishly subsidied by the Thiarian government; New Zealand ordered 28 in 2005 to replace both the PAC CT/4 and the MB.339, and South Africa ordered 24 in 2008 to replace the PC-7. Additional Thiarian purchases were off the agenda as soon as Thiaria had decided to buy into the EADS Mako programme; the air force had also concluded that the Dragun's performance was insufficient to be employed as a LIFT aircraft. The biggest order for the trainer version came in 2013 when India decided to scrap its domestic HJT-36 Sithara intermediate trainer programme after all four prototypes had crashed and ordered no less than 160 to replace both the HJT-16 intermediate and the HPT-32 basic trainers, with 40 to be built in Thiaria and 120 license-produced in India. The combat version was more successful from the outset. It first flew in 2001 and featured a stretched hull with a more powerful engine and more fuel, an extended nose with a laser designator, a FLIR unit in front of the cockpit, two lightweight 20mm cannon in the wings forward of the booms, light armour for the pilots and five external hard points for a payload of 2.000 kilograms. Although the Thiarian Air Corps was not interested, over three hundred were sold to Argentina (20), Uruguay (12), Peru (24), Mexico (48), New Zealand (18), Indonesia (32), Thailand (30), the Philippines (24), South Africa (32), Namibia (12), Ethiopia (40), Slovenia (12) and Estonia (12) between 2003 and 2013; over 180 are delivered to date. All orders for the Trainer and the attack version add up to 666 units so far; production is secured till at least 2017, and the Dragun is constantly being evaluated by additional possible buyers (Germany for instance is considering it as a T-37 replacement).
Thiarian Air Corps Trainer version
Royal New Zealand Air Force light ground support version with one auxiliary tank, two 68mm rocket pods and six Brimstone missiles