In the 80s, Eglin airbase was one of the largest American aviation test centers. In March 1981, a prototype McDonnell Douglas F / A-18 Hornet arrived for testing in a climate chamber. Tests have shown that a promising carrier-based fighter is capable of operating in the widest temperature range. In addition, the specialists of the Air Force Weapons Laboratory made a great contribution to the interface of the aircraft avionics with advanced types of aviation weapons.
In the same year, 1981, similar work was carried out with the prototype combat helicopter AH-64A Apache. This means that by the beginning of 80, the leadership of the US DOD was able to overcome the departmental approach to the development and testing of promising aircraft models, and the Eglin test site worked in the interests of not only the Air Force, but was also used by naval and army aircraft.
In 1982, in Eglin, the strike armament of F-16А / В Fighting Falcon fighters was tested. After successful tests of Maverick guided missiles, a strafing bombardment and bombardment of ground targets from 20-mm cannons, it was recognized that F-16 combat fighters are fully prepared for use as direct aviation support aircraft.
In 1983, the first Piper PA-48 Enforcer arrived at the airbase. This machine, also known as the Turbo Mustang III, was created on the basis of the Second World War P-51 fighter, but using the Lycoming YT55 L-9 hp turbo-prop engine, modern air-launched electronic equipment and armament. The engine rotated a four-bladed screw with a diameter of 2450 m, borrowed from a piston attack aircraft Douglas A-3,5 Skyraider.
Light attack aircraft PA-48
The length of the fuselage compared to the "Mustang" was increased by 0,48 meter, amended the design of the rear fuselage and the wing. The total area of the vertical tail has increased by 9%, and the area of the stabilizer has increased by 35,8%. The aircraft was equipped with a booster control system of ailerons from jet TCB T-33. The engine, the cockpit and the protected tanks are covered with armor made of composite material, designed to hit armor-piercing bullets from rifle caliber from a distance of 300 meters.
An aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 6350 kg could carry a combat load of 2576 kg on six nodes of the suspension. Although, according to the calculated data, the power of the power plant made it possible to accelerate to 800 km / h, its flight speed, based on safety requirements, did not exceed 650 km / h. The combat radius in the version equipped to combat low-flying and low-speed aerial targets was 740 km.
The armament set included two 30-mm GPU-5 suspension guns, a close combat weapon with an AIM-9 Sidewinder, free-fall bombs, and a NAR. On an improved version of the attack aircraft with an engine power 3000 hp It was supposed to install a built-in gun and use AGM-65 Maverick and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
Although, by today's standards, Enforcer is more suitable for the role of the anti-guerrilla plane, its customer was the US Air Force preparing for a big war with the USSR. The leadership of the US Air Force, despite the adoption of the attack aircraft A-10, was not delighted with him, considering the Thunderbolt-2 too large and expensive.
Among the generals and aviation specialists there was the opinion that the same task could be accomplished with an inexpensive and compact turboprop combat aircraft equipped with an ATGM. The program of creating a light turboprop attack aircraft, called Blitzfighter, was supposed to spend $ 500 million in prices of the beginning of 80-x. But it was not interesting for aviation corporations, who were used to multibillion-dollar orders, to build relatively inexpensive and simple warplanes. In turn, the command of army aviation and helicopter companies perceived it as an attempt to take away a piece of cake from anti-tank helicopters against the background of the implementation of the expensive program Apache. Over time, the Air Force also cooled to such a machine, the next major war in the jungle was not expected, and aircraft companies actively promoted supersonic multi-role fighters with sophisticated avionics and guided weapons. As a result, the semi-amateur company Cavalier Aircraft took up the creation of a light attack aircraft based on the P-51D Mustang piston fighter. In the future, the developments on the turboprop "Mustang" were used by Piper Aircraft, which was mainly engaged in the creation and production of private light-engine aircraft. In 1982, Piper received US $ 12 million from the Department of Defense for the construction of four prototypes.
Although Enforcer fully met the initial requirements of the Air Force and, if equipped with modern ATGMs, could successfully be used as a light anti-tank attack aircraft, reconnaissance spotter, or to fight helicopters, the aircraft did not go into the series. Foreign customers from countries where a light anti-insurgency aircraft was required, preferred the serial A-37 Dragonfly and OV-10 Bronco.
At the beginning of the 80's, the Eglin airbase became a place not only for training pilots of percussion machines and testing bombs and missiles designed to hit ground targets, but also a training center where fighter pilots practiced the skills to use air-to-air missiles. To this end, radio-controlled targets QF-100 and QF-106 re-converted from decommissioned F-100 Super Saber and F-106 Delta Dart fighters from the neighboring Tyndall airbase. Interception using air combat missiles occurred over the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and debris of downed targets fell into the ocean.
Somewhere from 1986, the F-15A 33 th tactical fighter aircraft fighter aircraft modified at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory were used to test the new AIM-120A AMRAAM medium-range missile. This rocket was developed to replace the AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range SD.
AIM-120 medium-range missile launch from F-15 fighter
Unlike AIM-7 with semi-active radar homing, which requires constant “illumination”, AIM-120 has an active radar homing, which works in the same frequency band with the carrier radar (3 cm wavelength). To modify the AIM-120A, the target acquisition range with the 3 ESR E2 is 16 — 18 km. Before that, the rocket is controlled by autopilot with a radio command course correction. The rocket has an onboard computer, which calculates the optimal guidance path to the target. Telemetry can be transmitted from the missile to the carrier about the modes of operation of the systems, including the signal that the target radar homing target is captured.
The range of launching the first modifications of missiles was 50-70 km, depending on the type and parameters of the target's flight. The length of the rocket 3,66 m, case diameter - 178 mm, wing span - 533 mm, starting weight - 157 kg. The WPU-6 / B solid propellant engine, which contains 45 kg of low-smoke polybutadiene fuel, is capable of accelerating the rocket to 4M speed.
In total, around 120 controlled and throw launches were made during the AIM-200A testing. In May 1989, a pair of QF-15 targets flying at 100-1500 meters were simultaneously hit by a pair of rockets launched from the F-3000A. In both cases, a direct hit occurred.
Radio-controlled target QF-100
This was the first real destruction of the group goal at different heights. Previously, in order to save fairly expensive radio-controlled targets, in the process of testing, they tried to avoid using combat units equipped with explosives, and the control system was set up so that the rocket flew alongside the target, without causing damage to it. After confirming the ability to simultaneously hit several targets, the issue of adopting AIM-120A AM AMRAM has been resolved positively.
In the Air Force Weapons Laboratory, they were engaged not only in air combat missiles, but also in missile attack warning systems. The timely detection of radiation from a rocket jet engine made it possible to undertake an evasion maneuver while simultaneously setting up thermal and radar interference. In the 1991 year, for the testing of the warning equipment in the laboratory, the obsolete UR AIM-4 Falcon was restarted and prepared for test launches. The missiles redesigned the control system, and the warheads were replaced with inert ballast. Now the missiles should not hit the target, but fly at a safe distance. In addition, the tail end of the Falcons prepared for the tests were colored red.
AIM-4 air combat missile prepared for testing
Initially, the missile attack warning equipment was installed on the C-141 Starlifter military transport aircraft. On a cumbersome transporter, turned into a flying laboratory, various sensors were tested, their optimal placement options, operating modes were selected, and countering equipment was tested.
C-141 Starlifter parked at the Eglin airbase
Subsequently, an overhead container version of the equipment was created, which was successfully tested in the F-15E Strike Eagle fighter-bomber. The adoption of the two-seater "Strike Eagle" took place in April 1988. The first "Impact Eagles" of the American Air Force externally differed from other F-15 models in darker camouflage and comfortable tanks.
After the adoption of several F-15E from the 58 th fighter squadron organizationally part of the 33-e wing, used for refining and testing of strike weapons at the Eglin proving ground. In particular, adjustable bombs with the JDAM guidance system were tested in Florida. An instrument set using the GPS satellite positioning system signals and control aerodynamic surfaces could be installed on existing 500-, 1000- and 2000-pound free-fall bombs. On tests, a QUO was achieved that did not go beyond a circle with a diameter of 11 meters. The bomb can be dropped at a distance of 25-30 km, that is, outside the range of the anti-aircraft systems of the near zone. The coordinates of the target can be loaded into the guidance system before or already during the execution of the flight task from the cockpit of the weapon operator. The cost of a set of guidance equipment together with the aerial bomb after the start of mass production was about $ 30 000.
Drop bombs GBU-31 with F-15E in Afghanistan
The need to create such guided aviation munitions was revealed during Operation Desert Storm. The use of aerial bombs and missiles with laser or television guidance in conditions of poor visibility, when the air transparency was reduced by heavy dust or fog. In addition, it was very costly to expend ammunition worth several hundred thousand dollars to defeat secondary targets. Of course, the combat stability of the satellite navigation system in the conditions of armed confrontation with a technologically advanced enemy is highly questionable. But against the countries of the "third world" that do not possess modern means of electronic countermeasures, the use of such bombs is fully justified.
From July to November, the 1992 carried out climatic and operational tests of the Bell Boeing MV-22 Osprey convertible plane at the airbase. The aircraft successfully passed all tests in Florida, but crashed during a flight to the Quantico Corps Marine Base in Virginia. "Osprey" crashed in the eyes of high-ranking military and government officials. In this case, all five people who were on board, were killed.
At the end of October 1992, the McDonnell Douglas C-17 Globemaster III military transport aircraft arrived in Florida. The new jet transporter was placed in an extensive climate hangar, where its onboard systems were tested with cold and heat.
After opening the doors of the climate laboratory, employees of the Eglin airbase, accustomed to the subtropical climate of Florida, where usually the winter temperature is within 15-20 ° С, had the opportunity to play snowballs. Practically all combat aircraft of the US Air Force and a significant part of large American airliners passed through the climate chamber of the hangar at the Eglin airbase. The size of the hangar and the power of freezers allow you to roll in there even a huge Lockheed C-5M Galaxy.
B-52 strategic bomber in the climatic hangar of the Eglin airbase
In 1993, the subtle Northrop B-2 Spirit “Spirit of Ohio” bomber was tested in the climate laboratory. The plane spent in the camera reproducing various weather conditions for more than 1000 hours. After that, the plane received a second unofficial name - "Ice and Flame." Under an agreement with the US military, airplanes also passed through the climate laboratory: Raytheon Hawker Horizon (Hawk 4000 business jet), BAE Systems Nimrod MRA4, Bombardier CS-100, Airbus A350. The automobile company Ford Motor Company has signed a ten-year contract to test the cold of its entire product line, starting with the small car Fiesta and ending with heavy trucks.
In 90-s of the last century, combat aircraft of US allies began to be actively tested at Eglin. So, from 1993 to 1994, the year here was the adaptation of the British carrier-based vertical take-off and sea-landing aircraft Sea Harrier FRS Mk.2 to use AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles. Test firing, as in the case of American fighters carried out on radio-controlled targets over the Gulf of Mexico. A little later, the upgraded F-120I Israeli Air Force fired AIM-15 missiles at the test site.
In April, 1999, the Marine Corps, established a combat training center for pilots at the air base. At the disposal of aviation KMP transferred part of the landfill with a total area of 10900 m². On the territory of the airbase 5 new buildings and barracks were built.
At the end of the Florida 90 test site was used to test new modifications of cruise missiles. 16 June 1999, a sea-based cruise missile RGM / UGM-109D Tomahawk with an inert warhead was launched from the Atlantic Ocean for a training target at the Florida test site. Reaching the goal, the rocket descended by parachute and was subsequently restored and used for re-training and test launch. After the first successful test, the launch of the maritime Tomahawks in the direction of the Eglin test site became commonplace. For example, 17 in January 2007 from the destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG-75), which in Russia became part of the “hurray-patriotic” mythology, was tested by the Tomahawk Block IV CR, which was guided by satellite navigation system using a preloaded digital satellite. map, flew 1195 km and successfully hit the target at the landfill.
In May, the 2000 of the year with Eglin’s GDP within the framework of the Linked project for the first time took off a heavy drone RQ-4Q Global Hawk. During a joint exercise with NATO, Global Hawk crossed the Atlantic twice and landed in Portugal.
Google Earth satellite image: F-16C and F-22A fighter jets at Eglin airbase
From June to August, the 2002 Florida F-5A Raptor 22 generation fighter was tested in Florida. In addition to testing in the climate chamber, the Raptor confirmed the ability to use strike weapons on ground targets.
In September, the 2002-pound CBU-1000 Attack Passive Weapons 107-pound bomb was tested at the test site. This aviation munition is designed for use in places where the use of conventional high-explosive bombs is either impossible or undesirable. The defeat of the target takes place on the principle of an artillery shot tungsten rods. For example, such a bomb can destroy aircraft in the parking lot without damaging the runway. According to the American data, CBU-107, equipped with the guidance equipment on the signals of the global satellite positioning system, 28 March 2003 of the year hit the antennas of transmitters installed on the building of the Ministry of Information of Iraq.
11 November 2002, the company Lockheed Martin conducted the first tests locking ammunition Loitering Attack Missile (LAM). It was assumed that an armament system designed to engage ground targets would consist of a launcher with 15 missiles with a combined guidance and target designation system. The munitions ammunition was to be controlled from a mobile command post based on an armored personnel carrier or van on the chassis of an army truck. The missiles should be able to “hang” in the air and conduct an independent search for a target using a combined homing vessel. The guidance system could be television, laser or with thermal seeker.
LAM test rocket launch
The LAM launcher could be placed in the back of an ordinary army truck. The launch container dimensions were 2 meters in height and 1,1 in width and length.
At the first stage, a rocket with a launch range of 40 km was tested. Its weight exceeded 53 kg, length reached 1500 mm, and diameter 180 mm. However, the military demanded to increase the range of destruction to 70 km. But at the same time, the dimensions and mass of the rocket inevitably increased, and its cost exceeded $ 46 000. Although the rocket confirmed the ability to maneuver over a given area, the manufacturer did not succeed in achieving stable operation of the guidance system, and the cost of the work repeatedly exceeded the planned budget. As a result, in 2011, the Ministry of Defense canceled the LAM program.
11 March 2003 at the Eglin test site tested the Mother of All Bombs GBU-43 / B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) created at the Air Force Weapons Laboratory. In the process of developing a bomb mass 9800 kg was advertised as the most powerful non-nuclear ammunition in the American arsenal. Its capacity in TNT equivalent is 11 tons. The radius of a continuous defeat in an explosion reaches 140 meters, partial destruction occurs at a distance of 1,5 km from the point of explosion. As a filling for GBU-43 / B, an Australian-made explosive known in the USA as H6 is used. It is a mixture of RDX (44%), TNT (29,5%), fine aluminum (21%), paraffin as a phlegmatizer (5%) and calcium chloride (0,5%). The power H6 exceeds the trotyl approximately 1,5 times. The mushroom cloud formed after the explosion was visible at a distance of more than 20 km.
GBU-43 / B Bomb Mockup
The bomb is equipped with lattice stabilizers, rudders and is equipped with a guidance system KMU-593 / B using GPS signals. During the tests, the bomb was dropped from the transport C-130H. Inside the plane, the GBU-43 / B is mounted on a cargo platform, which, together with the bomb, is pulled out through the hatch with a parachute. After a bomb is dropped, it quickly separates from the platform and is independently guided to the target.
GBU-43 / B for a moment from hitting the ground
The US Air Force ordered 17 copies of the GBU-43 / B. Technically, the "superbomb" was ready for use in combat conditions at the time of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, but there were no worthy targets for it. In a combat situation, GBU-43 / B was the first to use 13 on April 2017 in Afghanistan for the first time in Afghanistan. The bomb was dropped on a tunnel complex controlled by the Islamists, in the province of Nangarhar near the border with Pakistan. Pentagon officials said no more than 90 militants were destroyed.
In May, 2003 of the Eglin visited the 7 MiG-29 from the Jagdgeschwader 73. Soviet-made fighter aircraft, inherited from the Luftwaffe GDR Air Force, made several rocket launches at BQM-34 Firebees radio-controlled targets under radio-electronic countermeasures and took part in training air battles with F-16 fighters of the National Air Force and deck-mounted F / A-XNUM fighters and airborne F / A-XNUM fighters and airborne F / A-XNUM fighters.
UR P-27 launch from the MiG-29 fighter over the waters of the Gulf of Mexico
Despite the fact that almost one and a half decades have passed since then, the details and results of the training air battles and rocket firing have not been disclosed until now.
November 6 2003 in Florida as part of the Hyper-X program, tested a NASA hypersonic unmanned X-43 drone. With the help of an experimental X-43 in the United States, technical solutions were worked out, which were later to be used to create hypersonic cruise missiles and air launch missiles.
Launch of X-43 from B-52 bomber
The hypersonic ramjet engine of an experimental unmanned rocket plane was mainly powered by hydrogen. After dropping from the aircraft carrier to achieve the speed at which the scramjet starts to function steadily, the X-43 accelerates with the help of solid-fuel accelerators. On the experimental X-43 16 in November 2004, we managed to reach the speed of 10617 km / h. At the moment, the X-43 tests are minimized, and the results obtained are used to create a Boeing X-51 hypersonic rocket.
In the summer of 2004, tests of guided bombs GBU-39 weighing 110 kg began at the test site. Bomb GBU-39 belongs to the class SDM (Small Diameter Bomb - a small diameter bomb). The development of such aerial ammunition was due to the fact that the use of 500-, 1000- and 2000-pound bombs is not always justified due to excessive incidental damage and difficult near the positions of their troops on safety conditions.
GBU-39 guided bombs suspension on F-15 fighter-bomber
The relatively small weight and diameter of the SDM bombs make it possible for a combat aircraft to carry a larger number of weapons. The GBU-39 contains 17 kg of very powerful explosives. In the case of a delayed action of the fuse, the bomb is able to penetrate 91 cm of reinforced concrete, covered with soil. The main option is a guidance system that operates on GPS signals. The accuracy of the hit is 5-8 meters. It is possible to change the flight task by quickly transmitting data about the new target using the Link 16 data exchange network. Also, for bombs of this dimension, passive radar homing heads have been developed for hitting sources of radio frequency radiation, IR and laser homing systems.
Special attention was paid to the possibility of resetting the SDM from the X-NUMX-generation fighter of the F-5A, flying at cruising supersonic speed. In this case, a bomb with developed aerodynamic surfaces is able to fly around 22 km after separation from the carrier.
Air bomb GBU-39 SDB in position after dropping from carrier
In 2006, the first small-diameter bombs arrived at the United States Air Force, the purchase price of one ammunition was $ 115 000. According to information published in the media, the first combat use of the GBU-39 took place in October 2006 of the year in the Middle East. Currently, the carriers of this type of bomb are: F-15E Strike Eagle, PANAVIA Tornado, JAS-39 Gripen, AC-130W, F-16C / D Fighting Falcon, F-22А Raptor.
September 13 The first test of the BLU-2004 cluster submunition, designed to defeat group targets, such as armored vehicles, aircraft at parking lots, and transport convoys, took place at the landfill of 108.
After resetting the four BLU-108 united in one bombing bundle, they are separated and divorced into trajectories. After that, the aerial bomb reduces speed using a drag parachute. Each cluster bomb weighing 29,5 kg contains four disc-shaped combat elements fired horizontally at a small height.
BLU-108 cluster bomb application scheme
The diameter of the disks stabilized by rotation and moving in a spiral is 127 mm. A disk-shaped combat element with a weight of 3,4 kg contains 945 g Octol. When flying over the target, the combined electro-optical sensor is triggered, and the target is hit from above by the impact core. With the detonation of a striking element, in addition to the shock core, a significant number of fragments are formed, which pose a threat to unarmored equipment and manpower within a radius of 30-40 meters.
20 January 2005 of the Year with Eglin's GDP first flew the upgraded A-10C Thunderbolt II, which was tested in the 40 th test squadron. The main difference between A-10C and A-10А is the use of more advanced aiming and navigation equipment, as a result of which the attack aircraft was able to act around the clock and in all weather conditions. On board the aircraft appeared multifunctional displays and modern means of communication. Including high-speed data exchange system Link-16 and satellite communications equipment Satcom. The search for targets and the control of weapons are carried out using the suspension containers AN / AAQ-28 Litening or AN / AAQ-33 Sniper. According to the modernization program, the aircraft received a new wing, which will extend the service life to 2028 year.
Google Earth satellite image: F-35 fighter at Eglin airbase
Currently, the process of weapons development and operational tests of the X-Numx X-generation F-5 Lightning II fighter is under way at the air base and the nearby range. Moreover, the specialists of the Air Force Weapons Laboratory work with all three fighter versions. And not only American pilots, but also pilots from US allies who have expressed the desire to acquire F-35 fighters are being trained at the training center.
F-35C, owned by the 101 Fighter Bomber Squadron
At the moment, the Edwards 24 F-35A airbase is part of the 58 th Fighter Squadron of the Air Force Mighty Gorillas. More 15 F-35C included in the 101-th fighter-bomber squadron of aviation KMP Grim Reapers. Unlike the F-35A, designed for the Air Force, the F-35C is designed to be based on aircraft carriers.
To be continued ...