In 1937 the Army Air Corps ran a competition for a basic combat trainer. North American rose to the challenge by introducing a trainer based on the NA-16 prototype. The new prototype, designated NA-26 incorporated a larger WASP engine, a variable-pitch propeller, hydraulic system, and retractable inward undercarriage. The US Army Air Corps ordered 41 of the new aircraft under the designation BC-1 (NA-36). An additional 139 were ordered as instrument trainers under the designation BC-1I. The major production version was the BC-1A (NA-55) of which 92 were ordered, with one being delivered with a redesigned centre-section, the BC-1B. Nine were delivered with a new designation--the AT-6. The initial batch of AT-6s was no different then the BC-1As. 94 were ordered, which included the last nine of the BC-1A order.
Ten of the AT-6 were configured with armament for Thailand, but were impressed by the USAAC under the designation A-27.
517 AT-6As were built at the Inglewood, California plant with removable tanks and the R-1340-49 radial engine. Subsequently, all production of the AT-6 was transferred to the Dallas, Texas plant. Dallas-built production to US Army Air Force contracts included 1,330 AT-6As, 400 gunnery trainer AT-6Bs, 2,970 AT-6Cs, 3,404 AT-6Ds, and 956 AT-9Fs. The AT-6Cs were built to alleviate metal shortages and were manufactured with lighter metals and bonded plywood construction. The AT-6Ds signified the return to an all-metal version. The AT-6F was produced with a redesigned rear fuselage and strengthened wings.
The US Navy versions were designated SNJ. The SNJ-1 and SNJ-2 were equal to the USAAC BC-1, with the SNJ-2 featuring an R-1340-56 engine. The SNJ-3 was similar in design to the AT-6A, while the SNJ-4 equaled the AT-6C, of which 2,400 of this version were built. No less than 1,573 AT-6Ds were transferred to the US Navy as SNJ-5s. 931 USAAF AT-6Fs were procured as SNJ-6s on the behalf of the US Navy. Some SNJs were converted with arresting hooks for deck landing practice and were designated as SNJ-4Cs.
AT-16 was the designation given to 2,610 aircraft by the Noorduyn Aviation Ltd of Montreal for the RAF and RCAF. They were equal to the AT-6A.
In 1948, the AT, BT, and PT designations were changed to "T"; thereafter, the AT-6 became the T-6.
Through WWII, the AT-6 and SNJ were instrumental in the training of thousands of pilots. For the USAAF and US Navy, this aircraft was the primary advance trainer. Many RAF and RCAF pilots were trained in this aircraft, as well. The AT-6 Texan's performance and handling features made the aircraft an excellent transition from trainer to fighter aircraft.
Long after WWII, T-6 were produced. From 1949, 2,068 T-6s were built as T-6Gs for the US Air Force or SNJ-7s for the US Navy. This aircraft had a revised cockpit layout, an improved canopy, square-tipped propeller, relocated aerial masts, and F-51 type under-carriage, steer able tail wheel, and flap-actuating levers. Some were converted to LT-6G for forward air control aircraft during the Korean Conflict.
The final version was the SNJ-8 for the US Navy, which was due to enter service as the TJ-8; however the ordered was cancelled.
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