Modern anti-guerrilla aircraft. Part 2
The global war against “international terrorism”, which began in the 21 century, strongly fueled interest in light “anti-rebel” attack aircraft. In many countries, work began on the creation of new and adaptation for the shock purposes of already existing training, light transport and agricultural aircraft.
One of the most interesting vehicles of this designation is the currently undergoing South African light reconnaissance-strike combat aircraft - AHRLAC (Advanced High Performance Reconaissance Light Aircraft).
This two-seater 10,5 m long aircraft with a wingspan of 12 m is equipped with a Pratt-Whitney Canada PT6А-66 turbo-prop engine with a power of 950 hp. The peculiarity of this vysokoplan - forked tail and pusher propeller, which is located in the back of the fuselage.
With a take-off weight of about 4000 kg, the planned payload weight placed on the six suspension nodes should be more than 800 kg. As the built-in weapons used 20-mm gun. The lower part of the aircraft fuselage is designed as a "conformal container" to accommodate quick-change options for various equipment.
With a full combat load, the aircraft must have an 550 m take-off distance. The maximum aircraft speed will be about 500 km / h, the ceiling - 9500 m, and the flight range - 2100 km with full internal fuel capacity (it is also possible to use two outboard tanks). The duration of the patrol in the air must reach 7,5 - 10 hours.
AHRLAC is a device of the "manned UAV" concept that is gaining popularity and is designed to solve a wide range of tasks of reconnaissance, surveillance, patrolling, and striking ground targets as part of counterinsurgency. This concept involves the creation of a light attack aircraft, the cost of operating which is comparable to the cost of operating drones middle class. At the same time, the time of patrolling in the air and the capabilities of reconnaissance, surveillance and remote data transmission equipment should be appropriate or even better than that of unmanned aerial vehicles.
Recently, a characteristic feature of anti-insurgency airplanes is the installation of navigation, search-reconnaissance and communications equipment on them that allows them to act at any time of the day, as well as broadcast live video from cameras. In terms of weapons, emphasis was placed on guided high-precision ammunition.
To the fullest extent, the lightweight anti-insolation aircraft Cessna AC-208 Combat Caravan created by Alliant Techsystems complies with these qualities. The aircraft was developed under a contract with the US government to rearm the Iraqi air force. It is based on a single-engine turboprop general-purpose aircraft Cessna 208 Grand Caravan.
Avionics of this aircraft allows you to perform tasks of specific optoelectronic aerial reconnaissance and use high-precision aviation means of destruction. It includes: a small-sized digital computing device, an optoelectronic system (a color early warning camera, an infrared camera, a laser range finder and a laser target designator), an 18-inch tactical situation indicator, color LCD displays, data transmission line equipment for ground command posts, VHF radio station, etc.
The 3 629 kg take-off aircraft is equipped with the economical Pratt-Whitney Canada turboprop engine PT6A-114A with the power of 675 hp. The patrol time in the air is about 4,5 hours. Top speed about 350 km / h. Operation is possible from unpaved runways with a length of at least 600 meters.
In this aircraft, operated from 2009, the concept of an air command and reconnaissance point was implemented with the possibility of delivering independent strikes with high-precision weapons.
Two AGM-114М / K Hellfire air-to-ground rockets are used as armaments, suspended from underwing pylons. The cabin is equipped with ballistic panels to protect the crew from small arms. According to Iraqi officials, guided weapons are necessary to eliminate incidental damage when inflicting airstrikes on insurgents.
In 2009, a light attack aircraft AT-802U was presented at the Paris Air Show. The aircraft was created on the basis of the American AT-802 Air Tractor two-seater agricultural aircraft, produced from the 1993 year. With a take-off weight of 7257 kg, the aircraft accelerates to 370 km / h. Engine Pratt-Whitney Canada PT6A-67F horsepower 1600 hp The total capacity of the fuel system allows patrols for over 10 hours.
It differs from the basic version of the AT-802U by armoring the engine and the pilot's cockpit, a protected fuel tank and a reinforced fuselage and wings design. The AT-802U armament and special equipment complex was designed and installed by IOMAX specialists (Muresville, North Carolina).
Under the wing there are six suspension assemblies for weapon placement. Suspension of NAR and bombs weighing up to 500 pounds (226 kg) is possible. Containers with GAU-19 / A "Gatling" caliber 12,7-mm are used as machine gun armament. The total weight of weapons can reach 4000 kg.
For use of laser-guided AG-114M Hellfire II and DAGR (Direct Attack Guided Rocket) air-to-air URs, the aircraft is equipped with an AN / AAQ 33 Sniper-XR optoelectronic sighting system manufactured by Lockheed-Martin, which operates in visible and infrared bands. The system will allow the crew to conduct search, detection, recognition and automatic tracking of ground (surface) targets at 15 - 20 km distances in any weather conditions and time of day, their laser illumination and guidance of guided aircraft armament.
The plane has a secure communication line that allows you to transfer the image in real time. The machine is equipped with a launch warning system with automatic ejection of "heat traps" and electronic countermeasures AAR-47 / ALE-47.
The Air Tractor AT-802U aircraft successfully passed field trials in Colombia, operating against local left insurgents and cocaine drug barons. Under the 2009 contract of the year, 24 vehicles were delivered to the UAE and six more Air Tractor AT-802U as an observation aircraft must be delivered to Jordan. The governments of Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen are also showing interest in this car.
The American company IOMAX, which previously developed the Air Tractor AT-802U reconnaissance and strike aircraft armament, is now working to create a similar reconnaissance and strike vehicle based on the Thrush 710 aircraft competing with Air Tractor of the manufacturer of agricultural aircraft - Albany (GA) . The combat aircraft developed on the basis of Thrush 710, received the designation Archangel (Block 3) Border Patrol Aircraft (BPA), carried out by IOMAX since November 2012 of the year.
Air Tractor AT-802, and Thrush 710 are variants of almost one aircraft designed by Leland Snow in 1950-e, the appearance and characteristics of both machines are very close. The Thrush 710 has a slightly higher (at 35 km / h) speed at altitude, and gives a slightly better ratio of weapon weight and fuel. The Archangel with a take-off weight of 6715 kg has a cruising speed of 324 km / h at a distance of 2500 km.
The aircraft can carry up to its 12 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, up to 16 70-mm Cirit missiles with a laser guidance system, up to six UAB Paveway II / III / IV or JDAM on its six underwing nodes.
The Archangel BPA is equipped with a container with an electron-optical turret manufactured by FLIR Systems, an electronic intelligence system and a synthetic aperture radar. A double cabin with a tandem crew arrangement is equipped with three 6-inch color multifunction indicators for the pilot in the front cabin, and one 6-inch and one 12-inch indicators (for surveillance and targeting systems) indicators for the operator in the rear cabin. The cabin has dual controls.
Unlike the AT-802U aircraft, which is more designed for direct air support and counter insurgency using unguided weapons, the Archangel is designed as a platform for reconnaissance, monitoring and use of high-precision ammunition at altitudes from 3000 to 6000 meters, and at distances from 3 to 10 km from the target. The creators of the aircraft believe that the probability of survival of low-speed aircraft, such as the Air Tractor, in typical tasks of direct air support with the use of "melee weapons" in the presence of the enemy modern MANPADS and anti-aircraft systems with guidance from the radar is very low. Therefore, with the defeat of targets from the Archangel, emphasis is placed on the "remote" use of guided high-precision ammunition, outside the zone of effective anti-aircraft fire.
Archangel Block 3 Border Patrol Aircraft light turboprop patrol aircraft are currently participating in a competition announced by the Government of the Philippines to replace outdated Rockwell OV-10 Bronco counterinsurgency aircraft. The Philippines intends to acquire six direct aviation support aircraft totaling $ 114 million. Archangel's competitors are the Brazilian Super Tucano attack aircraft, the American Beechcraft AT-6 Texan II and the Swiss Pilatus PC-21.
The Archangel can carry more weapons on external hangers than any competitor. The cost of the machine is approximately 8 million dollars, which is significantly less than the “Super Tucano” (12-13 million dollars).
The pronounced "counterguerrilla" orientation has the light scorpion turbojet combat aircraft currently underway in the United States.
According to the company - developer Textron AirLand, the new aircraft is designed for use in local conflicts, border security, in the field of maritime patrols, in the fight against drugs.
The Scorpion has a tunable inner compartment that can be used to place weapons, sensors, or additional fuel. The compartment has a volume to accommodate a payload of 1362 kg. The aircraft has six underwing assemblies for the suspension of weapons or fuel tanks with a total weight of about 3000 kg. The maximum take-off weight of the aircraft will be 9600 kg, range 4440 km. The power plant of the aircraft consists of two Honeywell TFE731 turbofan engines with a total thrust of about 835,6 kN.
If a buyer is found, the aircraft can enter mass production as early as 2015.
By the "anti-insurgency" can be fully attributed consisting in service in the US "ganships" AC-130, armed with 25-mm, 40-mm and 105-mm guns.
Another armed aircraft based on the C-130 “Hercules” was the special operations support aircraft MC-130W Combat Spear.
Four squadrons, armed with MS-130, are used for deep raids into the depths of the enemy’s territory in order to deliver or receive people and goods during special operations.
Depending on the task being performed, the Bushmaster 30-mm gun and Hellfire missiles can be installed on it.
Recently, there has been a tendency to create “anti-security” vehicles on the basis of medium, light military transport and multipurpose aircraft by installing on them fast-mounted modules with artillery armament, suspension units for high-precision light ammunition and the corresponding reconnaissance and guidance equipment.
A prime example of interest in such machines is the MC-27J shown at the Farnborough air show. It is based on the C-27J Spartan military transporter.
The “main caliber” of this armed aircraft is the ATN GAU-30 23-mm automatic cannon, which is a modification of the Mk 44 Bushmaster.
The artillery system is mounted in the cargo cabin of the aircraft. The fire is carried out of the cargo door on the left side.
On the pages of the Military Review, the view was repeatedly expressed about the futility of manned “counterguerrilla” aviation and about the supposedly inevitable imminent replacement of light attack aircraft and “ganships” with unmanned aerial vehicles and faster and better protected attack aircraft. However, in practice, the opposite is observed.
So, in the USA, it is planned to write off the last remaining in service of the “classic” A-10 “Thunderbolt-2” attack aircraft. The bet on armed middle-class drones such as the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper has not fully justified itself.
The undoubted advantages of the UAV are lower operating costs and the absence of the risk of death or capture of the pilot in the event of a shootdown. At the same time, the loss of unmanned aerial vehicles in combat areas proved to be very significant. According to the US military, as of 2010, more than 70 MQ-1 / RQ-1 Predator was lost. In the same 2010 year, each Predator cost the US Department of Defense $ 4,03 million. Ie, the savings saved on relatively low operating costs were largely used to purchase new UAVs to replace the lost ones.
Attack drones capable of patrolling for a long time proved to be a very successful tool for eliminating al Qaeda leaders, but a small amount of ammunition on board (two Hellfire AGM-114) does not allow destroying multiple targets or hampering the actions of the enemy. In addition, these missiles, due to the insufficient mass of the warhead, are ineffective against caves and solid capital structures. Communication lines and data transmissions of American UAVs were vulnerable to interference and interception of broadcast information. The inability of the drone drone, if necessary, to perform sharp anti-aircraft maneuvers and the maximum lightness of the design makes them very vulnerable even in the case of minor damage.
An important factor is the large carrying capacity of light attack aircraft in comparison with UAVs, according to this indicator they are surpassed only by the strategic unmanned reconnaissance RQ-4 “Global Hawk”. In terms of the life and durability of the airframe, flexibility of application and resistance to combat damage, manned aircraft far exceeds unmanned aircraft.
Modern UAVs, their on-board equipment, control points and software are classified as “critical technologies”, which the United States does not share very readily. Therefore, it is easier for the Americans to deliver to their allies in the "anti-terrorist war" light "counterguerrilla" attack aircraft, from which it is possible to use a wider spectrum of aircraft weapons than the UAV.
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