Sunday, May 8, 2011

Teacher & Warrior: A-4 SkyHawk

by Kirill Belov

Honored assault and combat-capable aircraft Israeli Air Force A-4 Skyhawk getting ready for retirement. Who will replace them on the battlefield and in training flights?

Andzrail made ​​the final decision to remove from the ranks of its American ground attack aircraft Douglas A-4 Skyhawk. One of the symbols of the Israeli Air Force will relinquish its seat light training aircraft impact and the more modern colleague for combat training cohort.


Bearing structural element

Practically all Israeli pilots in the essence began their target run from “the Skyhawks”. This machine is for them something like the last combat training boundary. Evil tongues even taunt that among the pilots of attack aircraft permanently retained are only those having very very bad shots, which failed to advance to more complicated and important techniques: in the 70's - to “the Mirages” and “the Phantoms”, & later - on F-16 and F-15.

It is seemed that this view on the thing is erroneous and even in by something it is insulting. "Skyhawks" pilots perfectly shows themselves in combat operations of Israeli Air Force, which was the largest operator of these systems, not counting, in fact, the United States. Since 1966, Tel Aviv has purchased 217 of these machines, plus another 46 were transferred to Israel Air Force from U.S. Marine Corps to compensate large losses during the Yom Kippur War in 1973 (they hastily brought to the Levant on the aboard the aircraft carrier "Independence"). By the way, in that war, Israel, according to official data, has lost over a hundred aircraft, and just half of them - Skyhawk.

After adopting a more modern flying machines Skyhawk slowly receded into the background, focusing mainly on the training tasks in which they were engaged until recently.

The fall of 2008 in Israel was a scandal. The procedures of service Skyhawk, "wrote the newspaper Haaretz, identified major violations associated with the concealment of inoperability of certain units, especially the problems with the altimeter and the autopilot. It reached the fact that the mechanical damages on the landing gear wheels and their tires were ordered to paint, but not to patch up and to seal.

Not one machine fell in connection with these thoughtless measures into emergency and suffered, but taking into account its age as training ground attack, the command of the Israeli Air Force has landed planes to airfields. In December 2008 it was officially announced that the Skyhawk will withdraw from the flight crew and replaced by more modern aircraft, able to perform equally well as the training tasks, as well as lung function Assault on the battlefield.


Applicants in the queue

Candidates to replace the Skyhawks initially were very bitty zoo planes very different genesis and tactical and technical data. Among them was the American trainer T-45S Goshawk development of Boeing, Italian M.346 of Alenia Aermacchi, the US-Korean T-50 Golden Eagle , and even re-equipped double version of the fighter F-16B Fighting Falcon.

Alteration of "Fighting Falcon" abandoned almost at once: too complicated was F-16 as a training aircraft. In addition, the cost factor. Briefly stayed on the candidates paper was "Goshawk":a good plane, under which the United States were willing to impose a package of military aid to Israel, nevertheless, it did not possess the side-role combat capability. And the Israeli Air Force appreciated "Skyhawks" strike capabilities and demanded its changer, not only be training but also has martial virtues.

Italian M.346 - generally an interesting machine. This is a close relative of Russian combat trainer Yak-130 aircraft, but same can’t be said about its combat features. In the 90 years this plane was developed by Aermacchi together with Yakovlev and with the participation of the Nizhny Novgorod Aircraft Building Plant Sokol. However, already in 2000, Aermacchi abandoned  joint project and each side began to make their own machines. Actually it appeared  like Yak-130, now defined the Russian Air Force as a basic combat training machines. Italian as its "cousin" took off only in 2004.

The result came out not that much brilliant: the Russian Yak-130 demonstrates a more advanced set of features, both training and pure combat. Russian plane has the most advanced avionics complex and may impose a wider range of guided weapons. Incidentally, the open architecture avionics makes it relatively easy to organize and use of the Yak-130 west guided missile weapons - at least in the set, which is nominally M.346.

However, M.346 in November 2010 entered into the shortlist of two candidates for the Skyhawk. Included also was T-50 Golden Eagle, developed by South Korean firm Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) in conjunction with the American Lockheed Martin .

US-Korean plane has a number of differences. Firstly, it is supersonic: afterburner enable to give 1.5 Mach unlike transonic M.346. (Incidentally, the Chinese academic fighter L-15, very much smacks of its direct competitors Yak-130 and M.346, was also designed supersonic.) Second, in a complex airborne weapons and avionics, "Golden Eagle" can be applied very rich set of air armament. Among air to air missiles are the standard AIM-9 Sidewinder, but also more modern AIM-120 AMRAAM, which can not be run with "Italian". Among the spectrum of arms, in addition to duty AGM-65 Maverick, there are more interesting examples. For example, on-board T-50 allows you to apply successfully guided munitions system JDAM, guided aerial bombs and laser guided.

Israel is stepping up its presence in the market of defense technologies in South Korea, and in connection with the selection of T-50 as a replacement for the Skyhawk is very likely - in the framework of strengthening bilateral military-technical cooperation. So the chances of transoceanic consortium to fill their plane oldies "Skyhawks" appear to be somewhat more preferred.


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