In the post-war period, with the onset of the "jet era", the US and Great Britain retained combat aircraft with piston engines for a long time in service. So, the American piston attack aircraft A-1 Skyraider, which made its first flight in March 1945, was used by the American armed forces until 1972. And in Korea, piston-powered Mustangs and Corsairs flew alongside the jet Thunderjets and Sabers. The fact that the Americans were in no hurry to abandon seemingly hopelessly outdated aircraft was due to the low efficiency of jet fighter-bombers when performing tasks of close air support. Too high a flight speed of jet aircraft made it difficult to detect point targets. And at first, low fuel efficiency and low payload did not allow them to surpass the machines created during the Second World War.
In the 50-60s, not a single combat aircraft was adopted abroad, designed to operate over the battlefield and combat armored vehicles in conditions of strong anti-aircraft resistance. In the West, they relied on jet fighter-bombers with a cruising speed of 750-900 km / h.
In the 50s, the main attack aircraft of the NATO countries was the F-84 Thunderjet. The first truly combat-ready modification was the F-84E. A fighter-bomber with a maximum take-off weight of 10250 kg could take a combat load weighing 1450 kg. Combat radius without PTB was 440 km. The Thunderjet, which first flew in February 1946, was one of the first American jet fighters and had a straight wing. In this regard, its maximum speed at the ground did not exceed 996 km / h, but at the same time, due to its good maneuverability, the aircraft was well suited for the role of a fighter-bomber.
The built-in armament of the "Thunderjet" consisted of six machine guns of 12, 7-mm caliber. Air bombs weighing up to 454 kg or 16 127-mm NAR could be placed on the external sling. Very often during the fighting on the Korean Peninsula, the F-84 attacked targets with 5HVAR missiles. These missiles, which were put into service in 1944, could be successfully used to combat tanks.
Due to the high efficiency of 127-mm unguided missiles during combat operations, the number of suspended NARs on the F-84 was doubled. However, the losses of North Korean tankers directly from the strikes of the combat aircraft of the UN Forces were relatively small.
[i] T-34-85 on the bridge destroyed by American aircraft
The offensive impulse of the military units of the DPRK and the "Chinese People's Volunteers" dried up when the supply of ammunition, fuel and food stopped. American aviation successfully destroyed bridges, crossings, smashed railway junctions and transport convoys. Thus, not being able to effectively fight tanks on the battlefield, fighter-bombers made their advance impossible without proper logistics support.
Another fairly common western fighter-bomber was the Saber of the F-86F modifications. In the mid-50s, the production of supersonic combat aircraft had already begun in the United States, and therefore subsonic fighters were actively transferred to the allies.
On four hardpoints, the F-86F could carry napalm tanks or bombs with a total weight of up to 2,200 kg. From the very beginning of the serial production of the fighter of this modification, it was possible to suspend 16 NAR 5HVAR, in the 60s, blocks with 70-mm unguided Mk 4 FFAR missiles were added to its armament. The built-in armament consisted of 6 large-caliber machine guns or four 20-mm cannons. The aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 8,230 kg at the ground developed a speed of 1106 km / h.
The main advantage of the Saber over the Thunderjet was its higher thrust-to-weight ratio, which gave a better climb rate and good takeoff and landing characteristics. Although the flight data of the F-86F was higher, the strike capabilities of the vehicles were approximately at the same level.
An approximate analogue of the "Thunderjet" was the French company Dassault MD-450 Ouragan. The aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of about 8000 kg, accelerated near the ground to 940 km / h. Combat radius of action - 400 km. Built-in armament included four 20mm cannons. Bombs weighing up to 454 kg or NAR were placed on two hardpoints.
Although the total circulation of the built "Hurricanes" was about 350 units, the aircraft actively participated in hostilities. In addition to the French Air Force, he was in service with Israel, India and El Salvador.
The British Hawker Hunter had good potential in the fight against armored vehicles. This subsonic fighter, which first flew in the summer of 1951, was supposed to air defense of the British Isles, receiving commands from ground-based radar stations. However, as an air defense fighter, due to the increased speed of Soviet bombers, the Hunter quickly became obsolete. At the same time, it was relatively simple, had a solid, well-made glider and powerful built-in armament, consisting of a four-barreled battery of 30-mm Aden cannons with 150 rounds per barrel and good maneuverability at low altitudes. Fighter-bomber Hunter FGA.9 with a maximum takeoff weight of 12,000 kg, could take a combat load weighing 2,700 kg. Combat radius of action reached 600 km. The maximum speed at the ground is 980 km / h.
The conservative British retained the same unguided rockets that the Typhoon and Tempest pilots used to destroy German tanks in the Hunter's armament. The Hunter fighter-bomber significantly surpassed the Saber and Thunderjet in anti-tank capabilities. This aircraft has proven itself very well in the Arab-Israeli and Indo-Pakistani conflicts, remaining in service until the early 90s. Simultaneously with the "Hunters" in India and the Arab countries, Soviet fighter bombers Su-7B were in service, and there was an opportunity to compare these two vehicles in real combat operations, including when striking armored vehicles. It turned out that the Hunter, at a lower maximum flight speed, due to its better maneuverability, is more suitable for operations at low altitudes as a close air support aircraft. He could take more bombs and rockets, and with an equal caliber of guns, he had a larger salvo mass. In the Indian Air Force in the early 70s, the existing "Hunters" were adapted for the suspension of 68-mm cumulative NAR of French production and Soviet cluster bombs equipped with PTAB. This, in turn, significantly increased the anti-tank potential of the fighter-bomber. When attacking a point target, the view from the Hunter's cockpit was better. The combat survivability of the vehicles turned out to be approximately at the same level, but the Su-7B, due to its higher flight speed, could quickly get out of the anti-aircraft artillery range.
The strike variants of the Hunter were valued for their reliability, simple and relatively inexpensive maintenance and unpretentiousness in the quality of the runways. It is noteworthy that the former Swiss "Hunters" are still used by the American private military aviation company ATAK to imitate Russian attack aircraft in exercises.
Until the early 1960s, the air forces of the NATO countries were mainly dominated by American and British-made combat aircraft, which in no way suited European aircraft manufacturers. In France, the MD-454 Mystère IV and Super Mystère were used as fighter bombers, both of which were descended from the Hurricane.
The French "Mysters" were solid middle peasants, they did not shine with very high flight data or original technical solutions, but they fully corresponded to their purpose. Although the first generation French fighter-bombers performed well in both the Indo-Pakistani and Arab-Israeli wars, they did not find buyers in Europe.
"Super Mister", loaded to capacity with fuel and weapons, weighed 11,660 kg. At the same time, he could take up to a ton of combat load. Built-in armament - two 30-mm DEFA 552 cannons with 150 rounds of ammunition per barrel. Maximum flight speed at high altitude, without external suspensions - 1250 km / h. Combat radius - 440 km.
In the second half of the 50s, a competition was announced for a single NATO light attack aircraft. The generals wanted a light fighter-bomber with flight data of the American F-86F, but better suited for operations at low altitudes and a better forward-downward view. The aircraft was supposed to be able to conduct a defensive air battle with Soviet fighters. The built-in armament was to consist of 6 large-caliber machine guns, 4 20-mm cannons, or 2 30-mm cannons. Combat load: 12 unguided 127-mm rockets, or two 225 kg bombs, or two napalm tanks, or two suspended machine-gun and cannon containers, weighing up to 225 kg each. Much attention was paid to survivability and resistance to combat damage. The cockpit of the aircraft from the front hemisphere was to be covered with frontal armored glass, as well as to have protection for the lower and rear walls. Fuel tanks were supposed to withstand a lumbago without leaks with 12, 7-mm bullets, fuel lines and other important equipment were proposed to be placed in the least vulnerable places for anti-aircraft fire. The airborne electronic equipment of the light strike aircraft was designed to be as simple as possible, ensuring the possibility of using it during the day and in simple weather conditions. The minimum cost of the aircraft itself and its life cycle were specially stipulated. A prerequisite was the possibility of basing on unpaved airfields and independence from the complex airfield infrastructure.
Interested European and American aircraft manufacturers took part in the competition. The projects were financed by the USA, France and Italy. At the same time, the French strenuously pushed their Dassault Mystere 26, and the British counted on the victory of the Hawker Hunter. To their deep disappointment, the Italian Aeritalia FIAT G.91 was declared the winner at the end of 1957. This plane was in many ways reminiscent of the American Saber. Moreover, a number of technical solutions and components were simply copied from the F-86.
The Italian G. 91 turned out to be very light, its maximum take-off weight was a record low - 5500 kg. In horizontal flight, the aircraft could reach a speed of 1050 km / h, the combat radius was 320 km. Initially, the built-in armament included four 12.7 mm machine guns. A combat load weighing 680 kg was placed on four hardpoints under the wing. To increase the flight range, instead of weapons, two dumped fuel tanks with a capacity of 450 liters were suspended.
Military tests of the G.91 pre-production batch, conducted by the Italian Air Force in 1959, demonstrated the aircraft's unpretentiousness to basing conditions and the ability to operate from poorly prepared unpaved runways. All ground equipment required for flight preparation was transported by conventional trucks and could be quickly deployed to a new location. The aircraft engine was started by a starter with a pyro cartridge and did not require compressed air or power supply. The entire cycle of preparing a fighter-bomber for a new sortie took no more than 20 minutes.
According to the cost-effectiveness criterion in the 60s, the G.91 was almost ideally suited for the role of a mass light fighter-bomber and fully met the requirements for a single NATO strike aircraft, but due to national egoism and political differences it did not become widespread. In addition to the Italian Air Force, the G.91 was adopted by the Luftwaffe.
German light attack aircraft differed from Italian vehicles by their reinforced built-in armament, consisting of two 30-mm DEFA 552 cannons with 152 rounds of ammunition. The wing of the German vehicles was strengthened, which made it possible to place two additional weapon pylons.
Operation of the G.91 in Germany continued until the early 80s, the pilots were very fond of these simple and reliable machines and subsequently reluctantly transferred to the supersonic Phantoms and Starfighters. Due to its good maneuverability in terms of the ability to defeat point targets, the G.91 surpassed not only many of its peers, but also much more complex and expensive combat aircraft that appeared in the 70s and 80s. Light attack aircraft "Luftwaffe" during the exercises more than once demonstrated the ability to accurately shoot from cannons and NAR at decommissioned tanks at the training ground. Confirmation that the G.91 was indeed a very successful aircraft is the fact that several aircraft were tested in flight research centers in the United States, Great Britain and France. Italian cars received positive reviews everywhere, but this did not go further. However, it is difficult to imagine that in the 60s, even if it was very successful, but designed and built in Italy, a combat aircraft was adopted in the leading Western aviation countries. Despite the declared unity of NATO, orders for its own air force have always been too tasty morsel for national aircraft corporations to share with anyone.
On the basis of the more durable and roomy two-seat training G.91T-3 in 1966, the light fighter-bomber G.91Y was created with radically improved flight and combat characteristics. During test flights, its speed at high altitude came close to the sound barrier, but flights in the altitude range of 1500-3000 meters at a speed of 850-900 km / h were considered optimal.
The aircraft was equipped with two General Electric J85-GE-13 turbojet engines previously used on the F-5A fighter. Thanks to the use of an enlarged wing area with automatic slats along the entire span, it was possible to significantly increase maneuverability and takeoff and landing characteristics. The strength characteristics of the wing made it possible to increase the number of suspension points to six. Compared to the G.91, the maximum take-off weight has increased by more than 50%, while the mass of the combat load has increased by 70%. Despite the increased fuel consumption, the flight range of the aircraft increased, which was facilitated by an increase in the capacity of fuel tanks by 1,500 liters.
Due to the combination of low cost and good flight and combat characteristics, the G.91Y aroused interest among foreign buyers. But relatively poor Italy could not supply aircraft on credit and exert the same political pressure as the overseas "big brother". As a result, apart from the Italian Air Force, which ordered 75 aircraft, there were no other buyers for this rather successful aircraft. It is safe to say that if the G.91 was created in the United States, it would have become much more widespread, could participate in many armed conflicts and, possibly, would have been in operation until now. Subsequently, some technical and conceptual solutions worked out on the G.91Y were used to create the Italian-Brazilian light attack aircraft AMX.
In the 50-60s, the improvement of combat aviation followed the path of increasing the speed, altitude and flight range and increasing the weight of the combat load. As a result, the main attack vehicles of the US Air Force in the early 70s were the heavy supersonic F-4 Phantom II, F-105 Thunderchief and F-111 Aardvark. These vehicles were optimally suited for delivering tactical nuclear bombs and striking conventional ammunition at places of concentration of enemy troops, headquarters, airfields, transport hubs, warehouses, fuel storage and other important targets. But for providing close air support, and even more so for fighting tanks on the battlefield, heavy and expensive aircraft were of little use. Supersonic fighter-bombers could successfully solve the problem of isolating the battlefield, but for the direct destruction of armored vehicles in battle formations, relatively light and maneuverable combat aircraft were required. As a result, for not the name of the best, the Americans were forced to retrain into the F-100 Super Saber fighter-bomber. This supersonic fighter was the same age and roughly analogous to the Soviet MiG-19. An aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 15,800 kg could take up to 3,400 kg of bomb or other weapons on six underwing pylons. There were also four built-in 20mm cannons. The maximum speed is 1390 km / h.
"Super Saber" was very actively used by the US Air Force during the fighting in Southeast Asia and the French Air Force in Algeria. Compared to the F-4 and F-105, which had a higher payload, the F-100 demonstrated much better airstrike accuracy. This was especially important during operations near the line of contact.
Almost simultaneously with the F-100 fighter, the A-4 Skyhawk light attack aircraft, developed for the US Navy and ILC, was adopted. With a relatively small size, the single-engine Skyhawk had a fairly high combat potential. The maximum speed was 1080 km / h. Combat radius - 420 km. With a maximum take-off weight of 11,130 kg, he could take on board 4,400 kg of payload on five hardpoints. Including four four-charge launchers LAU-10 for 127-mm NAR Zuni. In terms of mass and size characteristics, launch range and the striking effect of a high-explosive fragmentation warhead, these rockets are close to the Soviet NAR S-13.
Apart from the piston Skyrader, of all the aircraft in the US military, at the beginning of the Vietnam War, the Skyhawk was best suited for providing fire support to ground units and destroying mobile targets on the battlefield.
However, during the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Israeli A-4s operating against Syrian and Egyptian tanks suffered heavy losses. Soviet-style air defense revealed the high vulnerability of light unarmored attack aircraft. If the American "Skyhawks" were mainly intended for use on aircraft carriers, then in Israel, which became the largest foreign customer (263 aircraft), these machines were considered exclusively as attack aircraft intended for action on the front line and in the near rear of the enemy.
For the Israeli Air Force, a special modification of the A-4H was created on the basis of the A-4E. This vehicle was equipped with a more powerful Pratt & Whitney J52-P-8A engine with a thrust of 41 kN and improved avionics, a number of measures to improve combat survivability were implemented on this modification. In order to increase the anti-tank potential, the 20-mm American guns were replaced by two 30-mm ones. Although the 30-mm armor-piercing shells were ineffective against the Soviet T-55, T-62 and IS-3M tanks, they easily penetrated the relatively thin armor of the BTR-152, BTR-60 and BMP-1. In addition to the onboard cannons, the Israeli Skyhawks used unguided rockets and cluster bombs loaded with cumulative submunitions on armored vehicles.
To replace the A-4 Skyhawk in 1967, deliveries of the A-7 Corsair II began to the deck assault squadrons of the US Navy. This vehicle was developed on the basis of the F-8 Crusader carrier-based fighter. Compared to the light Skyhawk, it was a larger aircraft, equipped with advanced avionics. Its maximum take-off weight was 19,000 kg, and the possible weight of suspended bombs was 5442 kg. Combat radius - 700 km.
Although the "Corsair" was created by order of the Navy, due to its rather high characteristics, it was adopted by the Air Force. The attack aircraft fought very actively in Vietnam, having made about 13,000 sorties. In pilot search and rescue squadrons, the Corsair jet replaced the piston Skyrader.
In the mid-80s, as part of a project to develop a promising anti-tank attack aircraft designed to replace the A-10 Thunderbolt II based on the A-7D, the design of the supersonic A-7P began. A radically modernized attack aircraft with a fuselage of increased length due to the installation of a Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-200 turbojet engine with an afterburner thrust of 10778 kgf was supposed to be turned into a highly effective modern combat aircraft of the battlefield. The new power plant in combination with additional armor was to significantly increase the combat survivability of the aircraft, improve its maneuverability and acceleration characteristics.
The Ling-Temco-Vought company planned to build 337 A-7P attack aircraft, using elements of the airframe of the serial A-7D for this. At the same time, the cost of one aircraft was only $ 6, 2 million, which is several times less than the cost of purchasing a new attack aircraft with similar combat capabilities. As conceived by the designers, the modernized attack aircraft was supposed to have maneuverability comparable to the Thunderbolt, with much higher speed data. On trials that began in 1989, the experienced YA-7P exceeded the speed of sound, accelerating to 1.04M. According to preliminary calculations, an aircraft with four air combat missiles AIM-9L Sidewinder could have a maximum speed of more than 1.2M. However, after about a year and a half, due to the end of the Cold War and the cuts in defense spending, the program was closed.
In the mid-60s, Great Britain and France signed an agreement to create a joint aircraft for close air support. At the first stage of creating a new strike vehicle, the parties strongly disagreed on the technical appearance and flight data of the aircraft. So, the French were quite happy with an inexpensive light attack aircraft, comparable in size and capabilities to the Italian G.91. At the same time, the British wanted to have a supersonic fighter-bomber with a laser rangefinder-target designator and advanced navigation equipment that would provide combat use at any time of the day. In addition, at the first stage, the British insisted on a variant with a variable wing geometry, but due to the rise in the cost of the project and the delay in development, they subsequently abandoned it. However, the partners were unanimous on one thing - the aircraft had to have an excellent forward - downward view and powerful strike weapons. Construction of prototypes began in the second half of 1966. Great Britain has placed an order for 165 combat and 35 two-seat training aircraft. The French Air Force wanted 160 combat aircraft and 40 twin aircraft. Deliveries of the first production vehicles to combat squadrons began in 1972.
The aircraft intended for the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the French Armée de l'Air differed significantly in the composition of the avionics. If the French decided to go along the path of reducing the cost of the project and do with the minimum necessary aiming and navigation equipment, then the British Jaguar GR. Mk.1 had a built-in laser rangefinder-target designator and an indicator on the windshield. Outwardly, the British and French "Jaguars" differed in the shape of the bow, the French had it more rounded.
The Jaguars of all modifications were equipped with the TACAN navigation system and VOR / ILS landing equipment, VHF and UHF radio stations, state identification and radar exposure warning equipment, and on-board computers. The French Jaguar A had a Decca RDN72 Doppler radar and an ELDIA data recording system. British single Jaguar GR. Mk.1 equipped with PRNK Marconi Avionics NAVWASS with information output to the windshield. Navigational information on British aircraft, after processing by the onboard computer, was displayed on the "moving map" indicator, which greatly facilitated the launch of the aircraft to the target in conditions of poor visibility and when flying at extremely low altitudes. During long-range raids, fighter-bombers could replenish fuel using an air refueling system. At first, the reliability of the propulsion system, which consisted of two Rolls-Royce / Turbomeca Adour Mk 102 turbojet engines with non-afterburning thrust of 2435 kgf and 3630 kgf - with afterburner left much to be desired. However, by the mid-70s, the main problems were eliminated.
There were also certain differences in the composition of weapons. The French fighter-bombers were armed with two 30-mm DEFA 553 cannons, and the British 30-mm ADEN Mk4 with a total ammunition load of 260-300 rounds. Both artillery systems were created on the basis of German developments during the Second World War and had a rate of fire of 1300-1400 rds / min.
A combat load weighing up to 4763 kg could be placed on five external nodes. On British vehicles, air combat missiles were placed on pylons above the wing. Jaguars could carry a wide range of guided and unguided weapons. At the same time, the main anti-tank weapons were 68-70-mm NAR with a cumulative warhead and cluster bombs equipped with anti-tank mines and miniature cumulative bombs.
The aircraft was adapted for low-altitude operations. Its maximum speed at the ground was 1300 km / h. At an altitude of 11000 m - 1600 km / h. With a supply of fuel in the internal tanks of 3337 liters, the combat radius, depending on the flight profile and combat load, was 560-1280 km.
The French were the first to try out the Jaguars in 1977 in battle. In the 70s and 80s, France got involved in a series of armed conflicts in Africa. If in Mauritania, Senegal and Gabon bombing and assault strikes against various guerrilla formations with great efficiency occurred without losses, then when trying to counter Libyan armored vehicles in Chad, three planes were shot down. Libyan units operated under the umbrella of air defense, which included not only anti-aircraft artillery, but also mobile air defense systems "Kvadrat".
Although the Jaguars during their combat career demonstrated very good resistance to combat damage, in the absence of armor protection and special measures to increase survivability, the use of aircraft of this type as an anti-tank attack aircraft was fraught with heavy losses. The experience of using French, British and Indian Jaguars against an enemy with an organized air defense system demonstrated that fighter-bomber pilots achieved the greatest success when striking clusters of troops with cluster munitions and destroying critical targets with precision-guided aircraft weapons. The main anti-tank weapons of the French Jaguars during Desert Storm were the American-made MK-20 Rockeye cluster anti-tank bombs.
The 220-kg cluster bomb contains about 247 small-sized cumulative fragmentation submunitions Mk 118 Mod 1. weighing 600 g each, with normal armor penetration of 190 mm. When dropped from a height of 900 m, one cluster bomb covers an area roughly corresponding to a football field.
British fighter-bombers used 278 kg of BL755 cassettes, each of which contained 147 cumulative fragmentation elements. The moment of disclosure of the cassette after dropping is determined using a radar altimeter. In this case, small bombs weighing about 1 kg are pushed out at certain intervals from the cylindrical compartments by a pyrotechnic device.
Depending on the opening height and the frequency of discharge from the compartments, the covering area is 50-200 m². In addition to HEAT bombs, there is a BL755 variant equipped with 49 anti-tank mines. Often, when striking Iraqi armored vehicles, both options were used simultaneously.
In the mid-70s, the main striking force of the Luftwaffe was the American-made F-4F Phantom II and F-104G Starfighter fighters. If the main "childhood sores" of the "Phantom" had been eliminated by that time and it really was a fairly perfect combat aircraft, then the use of the "Starfighter" as a fighter-bomber was absolutely unjustified. Although their own Air Force, after a short operation in the version of a fighter-interceptor, abandoned the "Star Fighter", the Americans managed to push the F-104G as a multifunctional combat aircraft in the German Air Force.
"Starfighter", which had a swift shape, looked very impressive during demonstration flights, but the aircraft with short thin straight wings had an unprecedented wing load - up to 715 kg / m². In this regard, the maneuverability of the thirteen-ton aircraft left much to be desired, and low-altitude flights, usual for a fighter-bomber, were deadly. Of the 916 F-104Gs delivered to the Luftwaffe, about a third were lost in accidents and disasters. Naturally, this situation could not suit the West German generals. The Luftwaffe needed an inexpensive and simple combat aircraft capable of operating at low altitudes against the tank wedges of the armies of the Warsaw Pact. The Italian-German G.91 fully met these requirements, but by the early 70s it had become morally and physically obsolete.
At the end of 1969, an agreement was reached between France and the Federal Republic of Germany on the joint development of a light twin-engine subsonic strike combat aircraft, which could also be used as a training aircraft. The machine, developed on the basis of the Breguet Br.126 and Dornier P.375 projects, received the designation Alpha Jet. At the first stage, it was planned that 200 aircraft will be built in each country participating in the project. Requirements for the tactical and technical characteristics of the Alpha Jet were developed based on the peculiarities of combat operations in the European theater of operations, where there were more than 10,000 units of Soviet armored vehicles and powerful military air defense, represented by both self-propelled anti-aircraft artillery systems and mobile air defense systems of medium and short range. And the course of hostilities itself was to be distinguished by its dynamism and transience, as well as the need to combat airborne assault forces and block the approach of enemy reserves.
The construction of light attack aircraft was to be carried out in two countries. In France, the Dassault Aviation concern was identified as the manufacturer, and in the Federal Republic of Germany, the Dornier company. Although it was originally planned to install the American General Electric J85 turbojet engine on the plane, which has proven itself well on the T-38 trainer and F-5 fighters, the French insisted on using their own Larzac 04-C6, 1300 kgf thrust. To avoid being hit by one projectile, the engines were maximally spaced along the sides.
Simple and reliable hydraulic control system provides excellent piloting in all altitude and speed ranges. During test flights, the pilots noted that the Alpha Jet is difficult to drive into a spin, and it comes out of it on its own when the force is removed from the control stick and pedals. Taking into account the specifics of the use of the aircraft and flights at low altitudes in the zone of increased turbulence, the safety factor of the structure was very significant, the maximum design overloads are from +12 to -6 units. During test flights, "Alpha Jet" repeatedly exceeded the speed of sound in a dive, while maintaining adequate control, and there was no tendency to roll over or to be pulled into a dive. In combat units, the maximum speed without external suspensions was limited to 930 km / h. The maneuverable characteristics of the attack aircraft made it possible to successfully conduct close air combat with all types of fighters available in NATO in the mid-70s.
The first serial Alpha Jet E entered the French combat squadrons in December 1977, and the Alpha Jet A entered the Luftwaffe six months later. The aircraft intended for operation in the FRG and in France differed in the composition of avionics and weapons. The French focused on the use of two-seater jet aircraft as training aircraft. And the Germans first of all needed a full-fledged light anti-tank attack aircraft. In this regard, the aircraft built at the Dornier enterprise had a more advanced sighting and navigation system. France ordered 176, and Germany 175 aircraft. Another 33 Alpha Jet 1В avionics very close in composition to the French Alpha Jet Е were delivered to Belgium.
The equipment of the German "Alpha Jet" includes: navigation equipment of the TACAN system, radio compass and blind landing equipment. The composition of the avionics allows flights at night and in poor visibility conditions. The weapon control system, with a laser rangefinder-designator built into the bow, makes it possible to automatically calculate the point of impact during bombing, launching unguided rockets and firing a cannon at ground and air targets.
On Luftwaffe aircraft, a 27-mm Mauser VK 27 cannon with 150 rounds of ammunition is suspended in a suspended ventral container. With a weight of a gun without shells of about 100 kg, it has a rate of fire up to 1700 rds / min. An armor-piercing projectile with plastic guide belts weighing 260 g leaves the barrel at a speed of 1100 m / s. An armor-piercing projectile with a carbide core at a distance of 500 m along the normal is capable of penetrating 40 mm of armor. In the head part of the projectile, in front of the core, there is a crushing part filled with cerium metal. At the moment of the destruction of the projectile, soft cerium, which has a pyrophoric effect, ignites spontaneously and, upon penetration of armor, gives a good incendiary effect. The penetration of a 27-mm projectile is not enough for a confident fight against medium tanks, but when firing at lightly armored vehicles, the effectiveness of destruction can be high.
The armament of West German aircraft, located on five external hardpoints with a total weight of up to 2500 kg, can be very diverse, which makes it possible to solve a wide range of tasks. The West German command, when selecting the composition of the attack aircraft's weapons, paid great attention to the anti-tank orientation. To combat Soviet armored vehicles, in addition to guns and NAR, cluster bombs with cumulative ammunition and anti-tank mines are intended. Also, "Alpha Jet" is capable of carrying suspended containers with machine guns of 7, 62-12, 7-mm caliber, aerial bombs weighing up to 454 kg, containers with napalm and even sea mines. Depending on the mass of the combat load and the flight profile, the combat radius can be from 400 to 1000 km. When using outboard fuel tanks during reconnaissance missions, the range can reach 1300 km. With a sufficiently high combat load and flight range, the aircraft turned out to be relatively light, the maximum take-off weight is 8000 kg.
The aircraft was well suited for basing on field unpaved airfields. The Alpha Jet did not require sophisticated ground equipment, and the time for repeated combat missions was reduced to a minimum. In order to reduce the length of the run on the lanes of limited length, landing hooks were installed on the Luftwaffe attack aircraft, which clung to the brake cable systems during landing, similar to those used in deck aviation.
French aircraft were mainly used for training purposes. Since the Jaguar was the main attack vehicle in the French Air Force, weapons were rarely suspended on the Alpha Jet E. However, it is possible to use the 30 mm DEFA 553 cannon in the ventral pod, NAR and bombs.
From the very beginning, the French side insisted on designing only a two-seater vehicle, although the Germans were quite happy with a single-seater light attack aircraft. Not wishing to incur the additional costs of creating a single-seater modification, the generals of the Luftwaffe agreed with a two-seater cockpit. The layout and placement of the cockpit provided a good forward-downward visibility. The seat of the second crew member is located with some elevation above the front one, which provides visibility and allows independent landing. Later, during the aerospace shows, where the Alpha Jet was exhibited, it was repeatedly stated that the presence of aircraft controls in the second cockpit increases survivability, since in the event of the failure of the main pilot, the second can take control. In addition, as the experience of local wars has shown, a two-seater car has significantly more chances to dodge an anti-aircraft missile and avoid being hit by anti-aircraft artillery fire. Since the pilot's field of view is significantly reduced during an attack on a ground target, the second crew member is able to inform about the danger in time, which gives a margin of time to perform an anti-missile or anti-aircraft maneuver, or allows you to evade a fighter attack.
Simultaneously with the arrival of the Alpha Jet A attack aircraft in the flight divisions, the remaining G.91R-3s were decommissioned. Pilots with experience in flying Fiats noted that at a comparable top speed, the Alpha Jet was a much more maneuverable aircraft with significantly greater combat effectiveness.
The Luftwaffe pilots especially liked the attack aircraft's ability to outplay fighters in air combat. With the right tactics of conducting aerial combat, the Alpha Jet could become a very difficult enemy. Repeated training air battles with fighters F-104G, Mirage III, F-5E and even with the newest at that time F-16A, showed that if the crew of the attack aircraft detected the fighter in time and then got up into a turn at low speed, drive it became very difficult to target him. If the pilot of the fighter tried to repeat the maneuver and was drawn into the battle on the bends, then he himself would soon come under attack.
According to the characteristics of horizontal maneuverability with the "Alpha Jet" could only be compared with the British VTOL "Harrier". But with comparable combat effectiveness against ground targets, the cost of the "Harrier" itself, its operating costs and preparation time for a combat mission were much higher. Despite the seemingly modest flight data against the background of supersonic aircraft stuffed with sophisticated electronics, the West German light attack aircraft fully met the requirements for it and showed very high performance in terms of "cost-effectiveness".
Although the maneuvering characteristics of the Alpha Jet at the ground surpassed all NATO combat aircraft existing at that time, the saturation of the European theater of air defense with military air defense systems made the survival of the German attack aircraft problematic. In connection with this, in the early 80s, a program was launched to increase combat survivability. Measures were taken to reduce radar and thermal signature. The modernized aircraft were equipped with devices for shooting heat traps and dipole reflectors, as well as American suspended equipment for setting active jamming to anti-aircraft missile guidance stations. The armament introduced the American guided missiles AGM-65 Maverick, capable of destroying point targets on the battlefield, outside the range of anti-aircraft installations.
I must say that the Alpha Jet's resistance to combat damage was initially good. A well-thought-out layout, a duplicated hydraulic system and spaced-out engines, even if the Strela-2 MANPADS were defeated, gave chances to return to their airfield, but tanks and fuel lines required additional protection from lumbago.
Calculations have shown that in case of abandonment of the two-seater cockpit, the freed up mass reserve could be used to increase security. The single-seat version of the attack aircraft received the designation Alpha Jet C. It differed from the basic two-seat modification by an armored cabin that could withstand shelling from 12.7 mm machine guns and a straight wing with six hardpoints and more powerful engines. The fuel tanks and fuel lines were supposed to hold armor-piercing rifle-caliber bullets. It was assumed that the combat effectiveness of a single-seat attack aircraft would double as compared to Alpha Jet A. If the project was implemented in the Luftwaffe, an attack aircraft could appear, comparable in its characteristics to the Soviet Su-25. Dornier specialists carried out a fairly deep study of the project documentation, but when the question arose about building a prototype, there was no money in the FRG military budget for this.