“The terrible Yak is fluttering in the sky, the Yak is banging about the deck!”
- piloting features of vertical takeoff and landing aircraft
- Sir, are you familiar with the notion of “frantic fifties”?
- This is hardly more dangerous than the "roaring forties"
- Your sarcasm is inappropriate. Typical horizontal visibility for those places does not exceed 800 yards, the lower edge of the clouds hangs only 200 feet above the water.
- Pilots from "Hermes" practiced landing in a continuous fog. In addition, they have special techniques - with a deterioration of visibility in the wake stream of an aircraft carrier, falloutfirers are dropped.
“With all due respect, sir, what is this circus all about?” In the Falkland area, the stormy weather of 200 days in a year, the vertical movements of the deck of a ship similar in size to Invincible, can reach 9 meters!
- You overstate.
- Not at all. Make good use of deck Aviation in those latitudes impossible.
- We have no choice. The squadron, one way or another, will require air cover.
Modern modification of the "Harrier" GR9. Afghanistan, 2008
British Harbor Aerospace is a carrier-based vertical fighter-bomber fighter-bomber, created on the basis of a ground-based VTOL “Harrier”. The family of cars is driving history since the beginning of the 1960-ies, when the British General Staff approved the opinion of the high vulnerability of stationary airfields. Urgently needed a plane capable of operating from limited sites. And it was created! The pretty Harrier (translated as “Lun”) was ahead of its time - the British managed to build a reliable fighter-bomber with flight data that were quite high at the time. The reason for the success of the Harrier family is the extremely successful Rolls-Royce Pegas engine with a deflecting thrust vector that provided near-sonic flight speed, significant combat load and fantastic maneuverability.
Despite its apparent complexity, the design of the Harrier with one engine and a system of control mini-nozzles (at the wing tips, in the nose and tail parts of the aircraft) turned out to be the only suitable solution. No offense to the Yak-38 Soviet VTOL project and the promising American F-35B, but the Harrier family are the only aircraft capable of vertical take-off and landing in aviation history.
During their career, the Harriers took part in many conflicts across the globe - from Afghanistan and Iraq to Argentina. Airplanes are still in service with the US Marine Corps aviation, carrier-based aviation of India, Italy, Spain, Thailand ... During its evolution, the design went from a simple, like a stool, Hawker Siddley Harrier to the "tricked" McDonnel Douglas AV-8B Harrier II, produced in the USA.
Despite his “wretchedness” compared to classic aircraft, the unique abilities of the Harrier rescued him more than once in difficult situations. And now, in the British admiralty, there is a heated discussion on sending land "Harriers" and deck "Sea Harriers" to the South Atalanta. Outside is the spring of 1982, the Falklands crisis. Let's see what decision the admirals will take ...
- Sir, "Sea Harrier" and "air cover" are incompatible concepts.
- Sailors know about it. But for all its awkwardness, the "vertical" is capable of conducting air combat and lifting a ton of bombs from the deck. A new modification of the “Sidewinder” - AIM-9L with full guidance was received by the squadrons. Plus a thrust vectoring engine ...
“You understand that the aircraft maneuvering area will be located in 100 miles east of the Falkland Islands.” A closer approach is too risky - Argentine aviation can strike ships. Given this circumstance, the time of Sea Harriers' patrolling over the landing areas is reduced to 10 minutes, and there is no dream of any operational fire support for the landing.
- Each car will have to make 4 departures per day, the pilots are ready to spend in the air before 10 hours - all for the sake of the British crown. "Sea Harrier" - a reliable machine, it will cope.
- Of course. But we must help deck aircraft. Do you follow my mind?
- Not sure I understood your thought.
- The Russians had such a general, it seems, Suvorov. He taught that you need to win the number of forces that are available. You just need to be able to correctly use them.
- Much more literate. We recruited half of the civilian container ships for military needs fleet. Somehow they scored a squadron of 60 pennants. I saw her in Portsmouth - honestly I’ll tell you, a sight unworthy of the British Admiral. Tiny frigates, mixed with old junk, merchant ships and replicas of warships.
- So, we have a squadron, there is a fighter-bomber capable of taking off and landing on any piece of surface. But there is no normal airfield, except for the swinging decks of two aircraft carriers.
- So you offer ...
- This is madness.
“No less crazy than taking off from the Invincible ramp in stormy weather.” Take a look at this picture.
- We call it Pierced Steel Plank (PSP) Landing Mat. Means for the rapid construction of helipads, roads and runways.
- I see. Where is the construction planned?
- Our experts believe the most likely place on the coast of the bay of San Carlos. Flat terrain, convenient approach to the shore.
- How long will the construction take?
- Yankees in Vietnam built 1000-meter strips in 50 hours (9852 strips). To some extent, it will be more difficult for us - a completely wild coast, a limited number of special equipment, and supplies only by sea. Harriers, on the other hand, do not need large spaces. We hope to cope for a week of hard labor. We first lay the 500-meter runway, gradually expand the airfield and taxiways. What you can not do for the British Crown!
- What is the situation with aircraft refueling?
- Sailors have a ready-made solution: flexible floating tank-bags. Fuel is pumped from tankers on the outer roadstead - further, the “fuel storage” is towed by the boat to the shore, where it is used for its intended purpose.
- This is some kind of nonsense!
- There is a proven formula: two soldiers from the construction battalion replace an excavator.
- But did you take into account the high vulnerability of the stationary airfield?
- Let's start with the fact that such a ersatz airfield is practically indestructible.
- Sir, not funny.
- Argentines are powerless to do something with our airfield. If we break the strip of 30 feet, we will pull out new strips from under the tarpaulin - and in an hour we will restore the runway. Burn the tank with kerosene - we will organize a spare "fuel storage" on the nearby beach. This is not an aircraft carrier in the ocean, where hitting one small bomb threatens to turn into a catastrophe.
- But seriously? What measures are taken to ensure safety?
- The Air Defense Command allocates a battery of the Rapier air defense missile system.
- How long is the airfield?
- Under normal conditions, the strips are kept for up to 30 days of continuous operation.
- How to deal with the delivery of special equipment to the South Atlantic?
- Elementary Watson. This will deal with SS Atlantic Conveyor and a number of other vessels.
The Atlantic Conveyor is a former civilian rocking-container carrier recruited at the beginning of the war for the needs of Her Majesty’s fleet. In the popular literature is under the designation of the helicopter carrier, air transport or military transport. In reality, the Atlantic Conveyor was both the first and the second and the third - an amazing vessel turned into a universal warship in 10 days. The container ship was supposed to deliver reinforcements to the South Atlantic: 8 deck-mounted "Sea Harriers", 6 "Harriers" in the land variant, 6 light helicopters "Wessex" and X-NUMX heavy military transport helicopters CH-5 "Chinook". In addition, there was a large supply of aviation fuel, spare parts, a party of tents and, most importantly, materials for the construction of a field aerodrome.
If the first task with the delivery of the aircraft "Atlantic Conveyor" performed perfectly, with the implementation of the second task a hitch occurred - 25 May 1982, the defenseless container ship received two Exocset anti-ship missiles aboard, completely burned out and sank on the way to the Falkland Islands. Together with the ship, most of the helicopters and the entire set of aluminum plates for the runway of the future airbase in San Carlos Bay went to the bottom.
- Smash me thunder !!! They sank the Atlantic Conveyor.
- Calm, only calm. We sent enough forces and means to the Falklands - we will use spare equipment. On board the landing craft RFA Sir Persival and the military transport RFA Stromness there is a lot of material for building the airfield: aluminum plates AM2, steel strips PSP. If necessary, dismantle the helipads from the ships of the squadron.
“But this is clearly not enough for the 500-meter band and 12 caponiers ...”
“Our specialists are confident that the available material will be enough for the construction of an 260-meter runway, taxiway and four caponiers for the Harriers.” Perhaps there is a place for a dozen helicopters. Everything will be OK.
- How are you doing with special equipment?
- Unfortunately, only one FV180 Combat Engineer Tractor. Work is in full swing, day and night — three days after disembarking, the soldiers prepared a short runway for helicopters and the first filling tank. It is expected that the air base will reach full readiness in the coming 3-4 of the day.
The legendary Harrier Forward Operating Base (FOB) is an advanced airbase in San Carlos Bay, built by British troops in 12 000 kilometers from their native shores, right under their noses from the Argentines. From here, combat air patrols flew out, and from here, C-Harrier strike groups hung with bombs.
The ground airfield provided exceptional capabilities for the operation of deck aircraft: despite the short runway (total 260 meters was half the planned), the strip length was noticeably longer than the aircraft carrier deck, which had a positive effect on the combat load of the aircraft. It is worth noting that, despite the status of the VTOL, the Harrier and Sea Harrier pilots usually took off with a short run - and an extra hundred meters of runway was converted into a large 50% bomb load. The land airfield was less dependent on weather conditions, more spacious, and most importantly - it was stationary, which greatly simplified the work of aviation.
3-4 C Harrier and several helicopters were permanently based on FOB. The advanced air group was recruited on a rotational basis - after several sorties the aircraft returned to the ships for maintenance, new cars flew in return. Periodically landed here for refueling "Sea Harriers", operating directly from aircraft carriers.
The successful location of the airbase allowed operational British fire support to the advancing British units - as a rule, Sea Harriers took no more than 20-25 minutes from the moment they received the request to plan and launch a bomb strike on the chosen target. These factors acquired particular importance at the final stage of the war, when the Argentinean ground positions began to be stormed (the Stanley garrison, the fortifications on Mount Tumbledown, etc.). It is fair to add that, despite individual successes, the impacting operations of “Sea Harriers” had a moral effect rather than practical importance. Airborne-rushing aviation gave confidence to British paratroopers and had a dismal effect on the Argentines. Otherwise, 200 bombs dropped - an insignificant amount to achieve at least some significant result in the action on the ground fortifications. For comparison: only the destroyers of Her Majesty's fleet fired 14 000 shells on targets ashore.
During the operation of FOB, two serious incidents were noted. For the first time, due to the pilot's error, the Harrier GR3 crashed, disabling the airfield for several hours. The second time the runway damaged the heavy Chinook helicopter, scattering fragile aluminum plates with its powerful screws. By the way, 10 vertical take-off and landing aircraft were lost during the operation for various reasons. The Harriers and Sea Harriers themselves destroyed about the enemy’s airplanes and helicopters around 30 (including those standing on the ground).
One of the paradoxes of the Falklands War: most of the Sea Harrier victories in aerial combat are the downed supersonic Mirages and Daggers of the Argentine Air Force. At the same time, most of the A-4 Skyhawk subsonic attack aircraft were able to break through the destructive barriers and attack British ships with free-falling (!) Bombs. The result of these attacks was monstrous - a third of the ships of Her Majesty’s squadron were damaged! Fortunately for the British sailors, 80% bombs did not work in a regular manner (to put it simply - they were stuck in the decks and did not explode). Half of them exploded - and Great Britain had every chance to "blow" in the Falklands War.
The existence of the FOB explains the paradox of the “vulnerability” of supersonic Mirage III fighters and the “invulnerability” of subsonic Skyhawks of the Argentine Air Force. The fact is that Daggera and Mirages, which had no air refueling systems, attacked targets on the coast and in the coastal waters of the island - after a long flight over the sea, Argentine pilots sought to reach the northern or southern tip of the Falklands to correct onboard navigation systems. It was here that the Sea Harrier combat air patrols were waiting for them.
At the same time, Skyhawk specialized naval attack aircraft equipped with in-flight refueling systems bravely operated in the open ocean, where, without encountering any opposition from British aircraft, they methodically turned Her Majesty's ships into a leaky sieve. (still! it is hopeless to control the air space over the endless ocean with the help of VTOL aircraft)
From this whole story, there are obvious conclusions:
1. Carriers are not able to replace the normal airfield. When the parades end and the case begins to "smell of kerosene" - deck aircraft tries to get out on the shore and once again not to tempt fate.
2. PSP Landing Mat and other pre-fabricated runways change the conditions of war. In some cases, it is possible in a matter of weeks to build an airfield on any suitable waste ground and to bomb at an enemy staggering from such impudence. Who does not believe in such "miracles" - please look at the illustration:
F4D Skyray amid Short Expeditionary Landing Field, Taiwan, 50's End
3. The key mistake of the Argentine military - after the capture of Falkland should immediately begin to extend the runway at Stanley Airport (the original length of 4000 feet ≈ 1200 meters). In stock, the Argentines had a whole month and, moreover, had all the necessary equipment. Before the British nuclear submarines arrived in the battle area, stopping all navigation, the Argentines managed to deliver thousands of soldiers, equipment, artillery and even armored vehicles to the islands! By lengthening the lane and transferring a Mirage squadron and a pair of Skyhawks to Stanley Stanley, the Argentines would turn the Falklands into an impregnable fortress.
4. The very funny thing. The first thing the British did after the return of the islands ... built a new, 3000-meter "betonka" at the Stanley airport for the base of any military aircraft.
Panorama Harrier Forward Operating Base
FV180 Combat Engineer Tractor - armored amphibious crawler loader for excavation and construction work in a military conflict zone