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 Post subject: We were not wrong
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 8:18 pm 
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Very nearly two years ago, I wrote a piece about the Tucano headed: We are not wrong. This is how the piece started:

When, like this blog, we are so often far out on a limb, discussing ideas that no one else seems to be looking at – with critics lining up to pick holes in the arguments or tell us we've simply got it wrong (as they did when we advocated better armoured vehicles for our troops in Iraq), the sheer weight of contrary opinion, combined with the isolation, does make you seriously question your own arguments (and even your own sanity).

lView full article here

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 Post subject: Re: We were not wrong
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:28 pm 
The use of small, cheap planes to perform simple but vital tasks, such as strafing and bombing enemy troops,is nothing new.
I remember an interesting documentary in the C4 'Equinox' strand, about 15 years ago. It was all about a 'maverick' aero-engineer from Canada called Bob Diemart.
He argued that rather than spending billions of dollars on a handful of F/A-18s, Canada should instead purchase hundreds of small, cheap aircraft, capable of providing CAS, and killing tanks. The sheer quantity of these aircraft would be advantageous in any European war with the Soviets. The programme showed how he developed such a plane, and tried (and failed) to sell it to the Canadian forces.

I think he was on the right track. The problem is, there is *no way on earth* the RAF, USAF or any top-tier Air Force would ever consider adopting such a thing (except in small numbers for special missions), when it might impinge on funds available for 'proper' aircraft..
Such useful aircraft are only for second-rate air forces, such as Argentina, whose fleet of similar Pucara aircraft would have wreaked havoc in the Falklands had the SAS not destroyed many of them on the ground.

The history of air warfare is full of such aircraft - the Strikemaster, the A-37, the Pucara for instance. But tellingly, no major airforce ever adopts them in large numbers. They are either operated by small air forces, who can't affort fast jets, or by the big boys in small numbers.

The USAF did have success in Vietnam with similar concepts - bringing back relics such as the Skyraider and A-26 to good effect. I believe they even considered returning the P-51 Mustang back into production, in a modernised form.

For the wars we are engaged in right now, I would say there is a place for such platforms. You could probably buy ten for the price of a RAF Tucanos would be more use than the Typhoons.

Utilisation of paved roads as runways is another excellent idea. I think it was the Swedes who adopted this practice during the cold war, as they (rightly) figured that large airbases would be eliminated very early in the event of war with the Soviets. I remember back in the 80's, aviation writer Bill Gunston used every opportunity he could to highlight how 90% of NATO air forces could be wiped out in an instant by a nuclear strike, rendering trillions of dollars of high-tech hardware useless.


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 Post subject: Re: We were not wrong
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:34 pm 
Apologies - I appear to have managed to eliminate half a sentence from my post.

It should read:

For the wars we are engaged in right now, I would say there is a place for such platforms. You could probably buy ten for the price of a Typhoon. You could argue that hanging cannon pods on RAF Tucanos would be more use than the Typhoons.


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 Post subject: Re: We were not wrong
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 9:57 pm 
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Graham wrote:
Apologies - I appear to have managed to eliminate half a sentence from my post.

It should read:

For the wars we are engaged in right now, I would say there is a place for such platforms. You could probably buy ten for the price of a Typhoon. You could argue that hanging cannon pods on RAF Tucanos would be more use than the Typhoons.


I do not see Tucanos as an alternative to fast air ... I see it as a supplement. Not least of the advantages of the light turbo is that it is a way of re-introducing - at entry level - a fixed wing strike capability into the Afghan Air Force.

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 Post subject: Re: We were not wrong
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:16 pm 
Yes - it would be a good idea to buy a batch of these armed Tucanos, then leave them all behind for the Afghans when we finally withdraw.

I too do not see such aircraft as an alternative to fast jets; rather, they lend added capabilities which, right now, can perhaps only be covered by (much more expensive) attack helicopters.

It must be borne in mind however, that such aircraft could be highly vulnerable to ground fire, even from light machine guns. An Apache can survive hits from 23mm cannon fire, but I would say a few lucky hits from an AK-47 could bring down a Tucano. However, the Tucano is twice as fast, which would make it harder to hit.


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 Post subject: Re: We were not wrong
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:25 pm 
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Graham wrote:
Yes - it would be a good idea to buy a batch of these armed Tucanos, then leave them all behind for the Afghans when we finally withdraw.

I too do not see such aircraft as an alternative to fast jets; rather, they lend added capabilities which, right now, can perhaps only be covered by (much more expensive) attack helicopters.

It must be borne in mind however, that such aircraft could be highly vulnerable to ground fire, even from light machine guns. An Apache can survive hits from 23mm cannon fire, but I would say a few lucky hits from an AK-47 could bring down a Tucano. However, the Tucano is twice as fast, which would make it harder to hit.


The cockpit is also armoured and, unlike Apaches, the crews have ejector seats. As for Apache survivabilty, if a hit seriously damages the tail rotor, the machine is toast ...

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 Post subject: Re: We were not wrong
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:35 pm 
[quote="Graham"]
It must be borne in mind however, that such aircraft could be highly vulnerable to ground fire, even from light machine guns. An Apache can survive hits from 23mm cannon fire, but I would say a few lucky hits from an AK-47 could bring down a Tucano. However, the Tucano is twice as fast, which would make it harder to hit.[/quote]

My interest is primarily naval warfare. I have read many accounts of small arms bringing down 'planes. But to be honest as you say a lot of this was sheer luck; most of the kills would have really been down to heavier weapons (if not prompted by radar these would have been lucky shots too) or missiles somewhere else on the field. This was most succinctly pointed out by the naval architect DK Brown who says guns should be fitted to ships if for no other reasons than moral. I suggest you try your hand at clay pigeon shooting. Clay pigeons don't move at anywhere near the speed of even a turbo-prop and to scale your projectile would have to be something akin to the size of a hot balloon! As Dr North has pointed out many times we owe a duty of care to service personal. But it should be remembered they are there to take the fight to the enemy and there has to be balance between their safety and offensive capability.

Personally I think twin-engined turbo-prop would be better. Flying slightly higher with weapons on the beam it would be well out of AK range.

(Plus AK-47 tend to lob rounds. They run out of grunt very very quickly not much past 300 metres. I should hope the pilot would be flying a tad higher than that. Most Ak-47 I have handled aren't very comfortable devices.)


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 Post subject: Re: We were not wrong
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:43 pm 
Graham wrote:
C4 'Equinox' strand, about 15 years ago. It was all about a 'maverick' aero-engineer from Canada called Bob Diemart.


You are a star. I have been trying to remember the name of this Diemart person since this mess started.

I have already found a bit of video,

http://www.nfb.ca/film/defender/

Thanks again.


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 Post subject: Re: We were not wrong
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:50 pm 
RAENORTH wrote:
Graham wrote:
Yes - it would be a good idea to buy a batch of these armed Tucanos, then leave them all behind for the Afghans when we finally withdraw.

I too do not see such aircraft as an alternative to fast jets; rather, they lend added capabilities which, right now, can perhaps only be covered by (much more expensive) attack helicopters.

It must be borne in mind however, that such aircraft could be highly vulnerable to ground fire, even from light machine guns. An Apache can survive hits from 23mm cannon fire, but I would say a few lucky hits from an AK-47 could bring down a Tucano. However, the Tucano is twice as fast, which would make it harder to hit.


The cockpit is also armoured and, unlike Apaches, the crews have ejector seats. As for Apache survivabilty, if a hit seriously damages the tail rotor, the machine is toast ...


The Iraqis taught the US Army a lesson over Apachi vulnerability on one particular mission during the invasion. However, it is telling that although 30 of the 33 AH-64Ds deployed on this mission were badly shot up, all were able to fly home, with three scrapped asfterwards.
True, hitting the tail rotar is a disaster, but so is hitting the prop of a Tucano.
As for ejector seats, all well and good. But who would relish ejecting into the arms of the Taliban? True, you can't eject from a helicopter, but they can often be landed when damaged.
There is only one aircraft flying that can take any real damage, and that is the mighty A-10. I rather hope that the USAF doesn't leave any of those behind for the Afghans. Well, ok, 10 maybe!

Interestingly, whilst investigating whether the USAF holds any stocks of OA-10 Broncos in rserve (which I thought would provide an ideal aircraft for the Afghans), I find that Boeing has proposed introducing an updated version of this old airframe to offer the USAF for use in Afghanistan.
Here is the link for those interested:

http://www.flightglobal.com/articles/20 ... -year.html


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 Post subject: Re: We were not wrong
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 10:53 pm 

Joined: Wed Jul 23, 2008 12:59 pm
Posts: 1862
If COIN work with Super Tucanos was already an integral part of pilot training the invasion of Iraq might have gone very differently - once the shock and awe was finished a persistent air patrol could have been brought in and perhaps the insurgency wouldn't have overwhelmed us, the Iraqi armed forces could have been brought up to speed much sooner being trained on exactly the same kit as us and we could have left having got the job done.

Fast jets are great, useful and effective but cannot be in two places at once. The surveillance aspect of operating many more aircraft would surely have made a big difference in Iraq and would make a difference in Afghanistan now but the MOD seem not to think that. Yet with a bit of thought the capability could be added to the RAF without much hassle and not at enormous expense either, by replacing Tucanos with Super Tucanos and ensuring there was enough for training and active duty purposes.


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 Post subject: Re: We were not wrong
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:12 pm 
To the "naval aviation" guest: yes, I think we're agreed, there is a lot of luck involved in bringing down aircraft with small arms fire.
But, if you put enough of it up there, then you have a chance.
I would imagine that the main threat to allied aircraft in Afghanistan is from 50 calibre/14.5mm weapons.

Regarding your remark about guns on ships being mainly for morale, I'm not so sure. In WW2, I'm sure the variety of AA guns aboard carriers were a real threat to attacking Japanese.
Also, modern systems such as Phalanx are highly effective.

But when, may I ask, did you have a go with an AK-47?
I would like to take up clay pigeon shooting by the way, but I don't think I can be bothered with all the licencing.


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 Post subject: Re: We were not wrong
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:14 pm 
To the "Equinox" guest: I can't believe there is someone else who remembers Bob Diemart!
Thanks for the clip.


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 Post subject: Re: We were not wrong
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:21 pm 
Graham wrote:
Also, modern systems such as Phalanx are highly effective.

But when, may I ask, did you have a go with an AK-47?


Phalanx and Goalkeeper et al are RADAR controlled. When used against missiles you have to remember the missile is flying towards you. These weapons are operating in quite defined limits. Imagine somebody driving a vehicle directly at you; the vehicle would become bigger and bigger and closer and closer so "easier" to hit. When used against shells and mortars the trajectory is to compute making hitting the smaller target.

AK-47? I am old enough to know a time when semi-automatic weapons were available to the British public.


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 Post subject: Re: We were not wrong
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:24 pm 
Graham wrote:
To the "Equinox" guest: I can't believe there is someone else who remembers Bob Diemart!
Thanks for the clip.


That was me also. Since I posted I found out it is the whole documentary!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am a bit of left field thinker myself. Though you have to acknowledge expertise sometimes you have to question it. There seem to be a lot of knowledge people here. I am hoping their experience doesn't always stop them asking what if..........


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 Post subject: Re: We were not wrong
PostPosted: Tue Jul 21, 2009 11:33 pm 
To "the guest": yes indeed, it is the whole documentary. Excellent! I never thought I'd get to see any more of Mr Diemert.
If it wasn't past my bedtime, I'd be watching it now...


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