Attack aircraft for American special forces with a Soviet past. MC-145B Coyote

Attack aircraft for American special forces with a Soviet past. MC-145B Coyote
Attack aircraft for American special forces with a Soviet past. MC-145B Coyote
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At the end of June 2021, a new light attack aircraft for the Special Operations Command was presented in the United States. The aircraft presented is one of five currently undergoing testing as part of the Armed Overwatch program. The new vehicle is a lightweight twin-engine attack aircraft based on the Polish transport aircraft PZL M28 Skytruck.

Unlike the transport vehicle, the combat version of the aircraft, known as the MC-145B Coyote, will be able to use a wide range of weapons. Including guided munitions, among which are the AGM-144 air-to-surface missiles and the GBU-39 / B high-precision guided bombs. It is also known that the aircraft can carry small drones and other weapons systems.

US Special Operations Command Armed Overwatch Program

The Armed Overwatch program, initiated by the US Special Operations Command, involves the acquisition of 75 light attack aircraft intended for direct fire support of special forces soldiers, as well as reconnaissance missions, surveillance and reconnaissance.

The program was launched after summarizing the experience of recent local conflicts in which the US military took part. Military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have shown that special operations forces need aircraft that can be effectively used in difficult terrain. Take off and land from unpaved and unprepared airfields.

To solve these problems, back in 2006, the procurement of Pilatus PC-12 single-engine commercial turboprop aircraft began, which were converted for military use. The military version of these aircraft received the designation U-28A in the United States. At the same time, special forces units still felt the need for light strike aircraft, the operation of which would be much cheaper than using the F-15E and F-16 multipurpose fighters or the A-10 jet attack aircraft, not to mention the more advanced fifth generation fighters.

As a result, in 2020, the SOCOM Special Operations Command finally launched the Armed Overwatch program, which provides for the selection and procurement of a light attack aircraft. Experts note that this is the 7th attempt by the American armed forces to purchase light turboprop attack aircraft over the past 14 years.

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The Armed Overwatch program has overlapped with the coronavirus pandemic and faced funding shortages. In addition, congressional scrutiny of the program also delayed necessary payments, with the result that aircraft purchases never began in fiscal 2021. Armed Overwatch aircraft acquisitions are now slated to begin in fiscal 2022.

In May 2021, the US military decided on five companies that take part in the program and submitted their prototypes of light attack aircraft to the competition. These are Leidos, MAG Aerospace, Textron Aviation, L-3 Communications and Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC). It is not known how much money each of the companies has already received, but the total value of transactions concluded with them, according to SOCOM, was approximately $ 19.2 million.

Some of these five companies will eventually win, receiving a massive order for 75 light attack aircraft to replace the U-28 Draco multi-purpose turboprop aircraft. The winning company will have to deliver 75 aircraft within 5-7 years.The US military expects to finish testing prototypes by early 2022.

Soviet past of the MC-145B Coyote attack aircraft

It is curious that the future light attack aircraft of the US Special Operations Command may also be a Soviet development. MC-145B Coyote, presented by the Sierra Nevada Corporation, is built on the basis of the Polish light cargo-passenger aircraft PZL M28 Skytruck. This model is a western version of the Soviet An-28 light transport aircraft, the first flight of which took place back in January 1973.

The PZL M28 aircraft was actively operated and continues to be operated in Poland in civil aviation, as well as in the Air Force. The PZL M28 is a twin-engine aircraft capable of taking off and landing from small runways. For takeoff, the MC-145B Coyote aircraft with the maximum load requires a strip with a length of only 305 meters. And the minimum distance required for take-off is only 267 meters. According to this indicator, this is the best of the five aircraft entered for the competition.

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The PZL M28 is a modification of the An-28 base aircraft, which was assembled under license at the Polish aircraft plant PZL Mielec. The modernization was carried out in the early 1990s and consisted of replacing engines, avionics and installing a weather digital radar. On the modernized aircraft, the Soviet TVD-10B engines, which were produced in Poland under license, were replaced with five-blade Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65B turboprop engines.

The MC-145B Coyote version departs even more from the Soviet progenitor, although it retains recognizable design features. In this case, the appearance of the aircraft changes due to a significant transformation of the nose. Externally, the light attack aircraft is most similar to the Polish naval patrol aircraft PZL M28B Bryza 1RM bis. The Coyote also gets an all-glass cockpit with LCD displays, even more advanced avionics, and a modern autopilot.

Technical features and armament MC-145B Coyote

Like the An-28, the new MC-145B Coyote light attack aircraft is a strut-braced high-wing aircraft with a two-keel vertical tail and a landing gear that does not retract in flight. The all-metal aircraft is powered by two turboprop engines. What engines the new plane received is not reported, but most likely it is still Pratt & Whitney. The declared flight speed is 220 knots (407 km / h). Climb rate - 12, 29 m / s.

The aircraft has the following dimensions: length - 13.1 meters, height - 4.9 meters, wingspan - 22.05 meters. To facilitate the loading and unloading of passengers and cargo in the rear part of the fuselage there is a cargo door with a pneumatic drive measuring 2, 6 by 1, 2 meters. In addition to the main cargo compartment, the aircraft has a luggage compartment in the lower part under the fuselage, which can accommodate up to 303 kg of various cargo or equipment.

The maximum payload of the aircraft is 2300 kg. The empty weight of the aircraft is 4397.6 kg. The aircraft is able to carry up to 19 passengers or 18 paratroopers with full gear. Good carrying capacity and a sufficiently spacious cargo compartment make it easy to change the scope of the aircraft. In addition to a light attack aircraft, the aircraft can be used for tactical transport missions, transporting various cargo in hard-to-reach areas, carrying sophisticated reconnaissance equipment, landing or evacuating wounded soldiers.

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The aircraft is capable of carrying cargo or useful equipment for reconnaissance missions weighing up to 1000 kg over a distance of 800 nautical miles (1481 km). The maximum flight range is estimated at 3048 km, and the maximum time spent in the air is 6, 6 hours.

Since the aircraft is planned to be used as a light attack aircraft, the vehicle received four underwing suspension points for weapons. In addition, various reconnaissance and weapon systems can be deployed directly inside the fuselage. The project provides for the placement of vertical rails in the cargo compartment for launching various missile weapons systems.

At four points of suspension, according to marketing materials from SNC, AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface guided missiles can be located. The maximum flight range of the latest modifications of these missiles with a semi-active laser seeker is up to 11 km, the mass of the warhead is 8 kg. Also, high-precision guided bombs GBU-39 / B (SDB) weighing 130 kg can be installed at these suspension points. The hitting accuracy of the first variants was 5-8 meters, for the SDB II modification it decreased to 1 meter.

In addition, containers for launching unguided 70-mm aircraft missiles can be installed under the wing, as well as blocks for accommodating laser-guided aircraft missiles of the same caliber. We are talking about the AGR-20 Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System II (APKWS II) missiles, which are a further development of the Hydra 70 unguided missiles. a variant of this missile with an increased range of 12-15 km.

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Of particular interest are vertical launchers that can be placed in the cargo compartment of an aircraft. In total, the Coyote can carry 8 Common Launch Tube (CLT) launch tubes with launch holes in the floor of the cargo compartment. A feature of this system is that the launchers can be reloaded directly in flight.

In addition, the MC-145B Coyote will be able to act as a carrier of a small drone tube launch Coyote, developed by engineers at Raytheon. The device is able to stay in the air for up to 30 minutes, making flights to a distance of 80 km. The drone is positioned as an inexpensive surveillance and reconnaissance system. Also, a small consumable UAV can be used to intercept other drones.

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