Air Tractor's Crop-Duster, Other Planes Revamped for Military Use

Tiny civilian planes are increasingly being revamped for military use

Air Tractor President Jim Hirsch isn’t in the business of making pretty airplanes. His crop-dusters are big, slow, and sturdy—perfect for flying low over cornfields and landing on dirt airstrips. He’s betting that means they’re pretty well suited to blowing up terrorists, too. The company is affixing armor plating, sensors, and weapons ranging from .50 caliber machine guns to air-to-ground missiles onto planes originally designed to douse cropland with chemicals and spray water on brush fires. It’s sold 24 of the aircraft to the United Arab Emirates air force and last year hired a marketing executive to travel the world in search of additional sales.

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