A small plane for large problems
Oddly enough, but in today's world the prospects for the turboprop attack aircraft are the highest, and this is dictated by combat experience and demand on the international arms market. In the development of private aviation in the interest of all countries of the world, but many just can't afford the aircraft of the 4th and especially 5th generation. At the same time, counterinsurgency aircraft which enables easy and cheap to solve local challenges by providing patrols, anti-smuggling and terrorism.
It is important to note that these tasks are not fully able to solve any drone. With all the advantages of UAVs for its shock potential can not compete with a manned aircraft. Drones are reconnaissance and surveillance, they are perfect for one-time strikes, but due to the limited capacity they are not able to provide effective fire support for special operations or "press fire" attacking militants in contrast to counterinsurgency aircraft.
In addition, as it became clear from the us experience of operating drones in the middle East, communication channels and data transmission UAVs were vulnerable to interference and interception of transmitted information, there are problems with the recognition of the operators of civilian persons and objects. Besides lightweight construction and inability of shock reconnaissance UAV to perform abrupt aircraft maneuvers, combined with narrow field of view camera and delay reaction to the operator makes them very vulnerable even in the case of minor injuries.
This, combined with a high accident rate and high cost makes the cost of replenishment of Park of the lost UAV is comparable to the cost of replenishment of Park of manned aircraft.
Also important is the fact that counterinsurgency aircraft can be used as a training, since they can perform all tasks of the basic training aircraft for flying schools. Due to less fuel consumption per flight hour, their cost will be lower than the jet training aircraft.
From the Second world war to Vietnam
The concept of counterinsurgency aviation was born in response to the demands of the time and contrary to the predictions of military analysts. At the end of the Second world war established a world political system with two distinct power centres – the USA and the USSR. The global conflict had any clear prospects for both sides. But even with awareness of this fact all the parties were preparing for a new war, developing more and more sophisticated weapons.
But unbeknownst to all types of military conflicts have changed: the war has ceased to be massive and pervasive, conflicts broke out in some regions, where very often against the army operated paramilitary (guerrilla) formations. In such circumstances, to use to support advancing ground forces, aviation equipment, designed for "big" war, proved to be impractical, expensive and in some cases inefficient.
The first problem with the support of the advancing land army units faced the USAF in Vietnam. Created for the war with the USSR jets were ineffective to support the army in the conditions of the jungle or attacking the enemy, using guerrilla tactics, and helicopters –not mobile and too prominent in the conduct of military operations. In turn, a converted training aircraft were vulnerable to air defense fire.
The first time (for example, during the war in Korea) problem solved, "old stocks" – the aircraft remaining in service since the Second world war, for example piston bombers A-26 Invader and attack aircraft A-1 Skyraider. These planes were designed for other purposes and did not satisfy the requirements of the military: combat losses and the development of the resource did their "death" only a matter of time.
In these circumstances, the United States and Europe launched several programs to establish a specific strike aircraft received US the name of the COIN (Counter-Insurgency – counterinsurgency, or counterinsurgency). The main idea of the programme was that against a small and vulnerable use is easy, cheap and multi-purpose aircraft that could strike at "soft" (poorly protected air defense) targets, to patrol, to serve as light transport/liaison AIRCRAFT, as well as various special non-combat tasks.
The result of these programs has become a number of different combat vehicles to fight the enemy, poorly protected air defenses.
Until the beginning of 1980-ies of XX century locomotives, the establishment of stormtroopers under the requirements of the programme COIN was the United States and France. France sought to retain influence in its African colonies, the United States used these machines to local wars for their interests on the territory of other countries.
Gradually for France the relevance of the for its air force these aircraft have disappeared (the lost colony) – all the cars were discontinued and decommissioned (e.g., counterinsurgency aircraft Potez-75, training aircraft T-28S Fennec).
But to leave the market, the French don't seem: in 2011, the French firm ATA presented at the air show in Le Bourget light reconnaissance and strike plane Pulsatrix. The company expects that the project will attract the attention of the States do not have sufficient funds to purchase specialized light attack aircraft.
In the US, by contrast, interest in counterinsurgency aircraft over time has only grown, and in 1990-ies of XX century began a kind of boom in such machines: over the next 20 years, private firms have developed several new aircraft – the A-22 Pirahna, Cessna AC-208 Combat Caravan, V-1-A Vigilant, Scorpion, AT-802U, Аrchangel BPA, АТ6-V.
One of the most famous aircraft established on the COIN program, was the American attack aircraft OV-10 Bronco, which the Americans in Vietnam were called "workhorse".
Russian light attack
For a long time in the Soviet Union's military rejected the idea of creating military equipment to fight the guerrilla (liberation) forces, and the establishment of overseas aircraft of this class explained the desire of the capitalists to exploit and oppress the occupied colony. The situation changed during the war in Afghanistan.
As well as in the US, domestic military leaders came to the conclusion that the established military equipment is not fully suitable for this conflict. But then the concept of counterinsurgency aircraft (military and did not enter this classification in the official lexicon) has not found many supporters. And yet the works were commenced – the first result was the Yak-52B (impact modification of UTS Yak-52).
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the subsequent transformation in our country put an end to all endeavors in this direction. However, in the last decade of XX century was created several interesting projects, such as, for example, aircraft KB Grunina. None of the samples went on flight prototypes and some remained on paper. Partial implementation of the concept of COIN in Russia can be considered produced in 1990-e and 2000-e years, converted to a patrol and strike missions light civil aircraft.
For example, FPS Russia is ordered to control the state border of the small batch of patrol aircraft, SM-92P, which is armed with machine guns and bombs to the NAR or modification of civil aircraft SP-92 "Finist". But these planes have a low vitality due to the relatively small flight speed and the lack of protection and are an interim solution on the principle of "cheap and cheerful".
The main burden of the fight against illegal armed groups in the Russian aircraft still rests on the shoulders of a gradually aging su-25 and helicopters of army aviation. But it should be noted that at a comparable counterinsurgency aircraft combat download of combat helicopters, because of design features and lower speed are an easier target for anti-aircraft fire, while possessing a higher cost.
In addition, the time spent turboprop attack aircraft in the target area due to the significantly lower specific fuel consumption can be many times more than a helicopter or su-25. An important factor is that the cost of flight hours turboprop attack aircraft can be several times less than a helicopter gunship or jet fighter planes, when performing the same tasks.
Half a ton of bombs and missiles
Analyzing the history of aircraft grade COIN, we can distinguish three qualitatively different approach to the creation of these aircraft. The first is the creation of a specialized attack aircraft from scratch. The advantage of this approach is the appearance of the aircraft, fully complies with the requirements of the customer. Drawback – the high cost of development work and deployment of serial production. Also the disadvantages include the narrow specialization of machines.
The second approach is the modification of an existing light civilian aircraft or a training machine for military purposes. Advantages of this method – the relative cheapness of production, as "almost the same plane" is already manufactured and operated. Disadvantages – not always performance and often low survivability.
The third approach – the creation of a multifunctional device, one of whose tasks is to fight the enemy, poorly protected air defenses. The advantages of such approach are in compliance with the requirements of the customer for the attack, and the area of its application in military and civilian purposes (for example, in the initial training of pilots). The disadvantages include higher cost than the second approach.
Combat experience showed that this aircraft should have a maximum speed of not more than 700 kilometers per hour, and working – not more than 300-400 kilometers per hour (otherwise, the pilot will experience a lack of time for aiming). The aircraft must have the armor of the cockpit and the most important parts of the structure from small arms, modern means of countering the MANPADS.
Depending on the tasks he should be able to apply a wide range of guided and unguided weapons with a payload weight in 1000-1500 kilogrammov, and also to have as a power plant turboprop engine as a more economical relative to the turbojet and with lower visibility in the infrared range.
Brazil, Argentina, USA, Russia?
To date, successfully produced and sold light attack aircraft Pilatus PC-9M (Switzerland), Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano (Brazil) and at-802U (USA). In the United States actively promoted the market of equipment of the new aircraft AT-6B (upgraded AT-6 Texan II) and IOMAX Archangel.
In the US air force began defining requirements for a new assault aircraft, which will replace the obsolete A-10 Thunderbolt II. According to Defense News, a possible project has received the symbol A. In the new plane for close air support should be used modern technology, enhancing its efficiency compared with the A-10.
As the existing planes, which can become a platform for a new attack aircraft, discusses the A-29 Super Tucano (export version of the Embraer EMB-314 Super Tucano) and AT-6 Texan II. In South Africa develop its own aircraft of this class, AHRLAC, in 2015, the prototype is aimed at flight testing.
The Argentine attack FMA IA.58 Pucara and the American OV-10 Bronco, previously discontinued, now re-commissioned and undergoing modernization from the point of view of improvement of the power plant and equipment avionics.
In domestic aviation, unfortunately, the aircraft of this class yet, although the need for such machinery is present. "Counterinsurgency" attack will not go away from the arms market, and to close this topic too early. The creation of a full aircraft of this class are not only able to improve the defense capabilities of Russia, perhaps even in the long term several reducing defense spending and training pilots, but also to allow her to occupy another niche in the world market of arms.
Interviewed Cyril Yablochkin
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