Air Weapon







Origin: Italy/Brazil.

Type: Tactical attack and reconnaissance aircraft.

Engine: One 11,030lb (5,003kg) Rolls-Royce Spey 807 turbofan.

Dimensions: Span (over AAMs), 32ft 9·75in (10·0m); length 44ft 6in (13·575m); height 15ft 0·25in (4·576m); wing area 226sq ft (21·0m2).

Weights: Empty 13,228b (6,000kg); max loaded 25,353lb (11,500kg).

Performance: Max speed with full external mission load at sea level 723mph (1,163km/h, Mach 0·95); cruising speed in bracket Mach 0·75 to 0·8; takeoff run at max weight 3,120ft (950m); attack radius with 5min combat and 10 per cent reverse with 6,000lb (2,722kg) of external ordnance (hi-lo-hi) 320 miles (570km), (lo-lo-lo) 230 miles (370km).

Armament: Total external load of 7,716lb (3,500kg) carried on centerline pylon, four underwing pylons and AAM wingtip rails; internal gun(s) (Italy) one 20mm M61A-a with 350 rounds, (Brazil) two 30mm DEFA 5-54 with 125 rounds each.


Development: This machine’s designation stems from Aeritalia/Macchi Xperimental, and it was started in 1977 as an Italian study project for a replacement for the G91 and F-104G. The eminently sensible decision was taken to aim at the subsonic limiting Mach number, the result being an aircraft that promises to be light, compact, relatively cheap, possessed of good short-field performance, versatile in operation and capable of carrying a wide assortment of equipment and weapons. The participation of the Brazilian partner has not only broadened the market and manufacturing base but also expanded the variety of equipment and weapon fits. 

       The basic AM-X will be used chiefly in tactical roles such as close air support and battlefield interdiction, operating with full fuel and weapons from unpaved strips less than 3,280ft (1,000m) in length. The design has attempted to maximize reliability and the ability to withstand battle damage, and to an exceptional extent everything on board is modular and quickly replaceable. The seat is a Martin-Baker 10L, fuel is divided between the fuselage and integral wings and flight controls are dual hydraulic with manual back-up.

       The two original customers have specified a simple range-only radar derived in Italy from the Israeli Elta M-2021. the Italian aircraft, of which 187 are planned to be delivered to the AMI to equip eight squadrons, will have a high standard of avionics, with a HUD, INS and Tacan, digital data highways and processing, an advanced cockpit display and a very comprehensive ECM installation. Any of three different photo-recon modules can be installed in a large baby in the lower right side of the fuselage, while an external IR/optronics recon pod can be carried on the centerline pylon.

       The Brazilian FAB expects to acquire 79, with VOR/ILS but no INS, different guns and other avionic variations. The original FAB force requirement was for 144, and it is possible that this may be restored.

Above: Second prototype of the Italian-Brazilian AM-X after roll-out from Aermacchi’s Venegono plant in July 1984. Production deliveries are scheduled to start in 1986.


       An unusual feature of the AM-X is that it has no direct competitor, other than refurbhised used A-4 Skyhawks or A-7 Corsair IIs, which are appreciably larger and much heavier aircraft.

       The first prototype flew in May 1984 and crashed a few weeks later but the second prototype flew in September 1984, as planned Deliveries will start in late 1986.



Aermacchi M.B.339


Origin: Italy.

Type: (339A) Light attack and trainer; (339K) single-seat light attack and operational trainer.

Engine: One Rolls-Royce Viper turbojet, (339a) 4,000lb (1,814kg) Viper 632-43; (339K) 4,450lb (2,019kg) Viper 680.

Dimensions: Span (over tip tanks) (A) 35ft 7·48in (10·858m), (K) 36ft (2·84in (11·045m); length (A) 35ft 11·96in (10·972m), (K) 35ft 4·88in (10·792m); height (both) 13ft 1·24in (3·994m); wing area 207·7sq ft (19·3m2).

Weights: Empty (A) 6,889lb (3,125kg), (K) 7,066lb (5,895kg), (K) 13,558lb (6,150kg).

Performance: Max speed (clean, S/L) (A) 558mph (898km/h), (K) 564mph (907km/h); takeoff run at max wt (A) 3,000ft (915m), (K) 2,986ft (910m); combat radius (both, with four Mk82 bombs, lo-lo-lo) 230 miles (371km).

Armament: (A) Wide range of external stores to maximum weight of 4000lb (1,814kg) carried on six underwing pylons, the four inners being stressed to 1,000lb (454kg) and the centre station on each wing being plumbed for a 71·5gal (325lit) tank, stores including AIM-9 or Magic AAMs and two pods each containing either a 30mm DEFA 5-53 gun and 120 rounds or a 12·7mm M3 with 350 rounds; (K) internal installation of two 30mm DEFA 5-53 guns each with 120 rounds, and maximum of 4,270lb (1,937kg) of external weapons carried on same six underwing hardpoints.


Development: The M.B.339 is a modernized development of the best-selling M.B.326 tandem jet trainer, hundreds of which are in use all over the world. Compared with the 326 the 339 has a revised air-frame, the most significant change being the provision of a raised rear cockpit for the instructor. The cockpit is pressurized and fitted with Martin-Baker Mk 10 zero/zero seats, and standard avionics include Tacan, VOR, DME and ILS and a Marconi dead-reckoning computer.

       Altogether the 339A is front-runner in the market slot immediately below the top layer as exemplified by the Hawk and Alpha jet. The latter have been widely sold not only as trainers but also as dedicated front-line attack machines. In 1982 the Italian Air Force received some camouflaged M.B. 339AS, and these are intended for use as part of an emergency close air support force. The lower powered 339A, however, cannot really succeed in such mission except in third-world visual environments (where its low price is attractive). The IndAer company of Peru hopes to build a large number under licence and may be permitted to export in certain markets.

       The Italian Air Force aerobatic team, Frecce Tricolori, uses M.B. 339PANs.

       Aermacchi has upgraded the performance with a more powerful single-seat model the 339K Veltro 2 (Veltro, Greyhound, was the name of a famed Macchi fighter of World War II). This is offered with such customer options as a HUD, TV type display and integral ECM installation, but no customer had signed as this book went to press in 1984.

       A number of M.B. 339A were deployed by Argentina to the Falkland Island (Malvinas) in the South Atlantic War of 1982.


Above: Camouflaged M.B.339As are used by the Aeronautica Militare Italiano in the emergency close-support role.


Below: The M.B.339PANs used by the Frecce Tricolori can be used in a military role, as demonstrated by this example with gun pods and bombs.



Aero L-39 Albatros


Origin: Czechoslovakia.

Type: Attack reconnaissance and target towing; trainer.

Engine: One 3,792lb (1,720kg) Ivchyenko AI-25TL turbofan. Dimensions: Span 31ft 0·5in (9·46m); length 39ft 9·56in (12·13m); height 15ft 7·8in (4·77m); wing area 202·36sq ft (18·8m2).

Dimensions: Span 31ft 0·5in (9·46m); length 39ft 9·56in (12·13m); height 15ft 7·8in (4·77m); wing area 202·36sq ft (18·8m2).

Weights: Empty 7,859lb (3,565kg), (ZA, 8,060lb, 3,656kg); maximum 10,141lb (4,600kg) (ZA, 12,346lb, 5,600kg).

Performance: Max speed (clean, tip tanks empty) 485mph (780km/h) at 19,685ft (6,000m), (ZA, same height) 469mph (755km/h); takeoff run at 9,480lb (4,300kg) 1,575ft (480m); time to 16,400ft (5,000m) at same weight, 5min; range at same height, max internal fuel, clean, 621 miles (1,000km).

Armament: (ZO, ZA, only) Four wing hardpoints (inboard 1,102lb, 500kg, each, and outers 551lb, 250kg, each for total maximum load to 2,425lb (1,100kg) mace up of various bombs, rocket pods, K-13A AAMs, recon pod or tanks; (ZA only) underfuselage pod housing GSh-23 gun with up to 150 rounds of 23mm ammunition.


Development: Czekoslovalia is the source for military trainers for the Warsaw Pact nations other than Poland. The Aero L-29 Delfin remains in service throughout WP air forces and many other countries, some 3,600 being built. The completely new L-39 was designed as a more fuel-efficient replacement with a modern stepped cockpit arrangement, and it has proved to be a very satisfactory aircraft. The cockpit is pressurized and fitted with rocket assisted seats usable down to zero height but not below a speed of 94mph (150km/h). Fuel is housed in a group of fuselage bags and the permanently attached tip tanks. The regular L-39 is unarmed and used for training basic and advanced pilots (including those designated to fly helicopters in air forces).

       Overseas acceptance of the L-39, assisted by large bulk deals for political ends, has been on an exceptional scale. Several countries have upwards of 24, and Iraq and Libya (the only announced recipients of the ZO armed version) have well over 100 each. Even the Sandinista regime in Nicaragua has received almost 100, and eyewitnesses state that these also are of the armed version.

       The L-39ZA, with the powerful Soviet gun, has been in production since early 1983, though recipients has not been identified. The L-39VO is a variant fitted with a winch for towing KT-04 targets for AA gunnery. By mid-1984 the number of all versions was estimated to exceed 2,000. A completely revised prototype was expected to have flown in plant the L-39 in production later in the decade.

Above: Company demonstrator of the L-39 Albatros, with which Aero Vodochodny has achieved considerable success.


Below: The second prototype L-39 shows a rather odd humpbacked aspect not really borne out in the side view.



British Aerospace Buccaneer


Origin: UK.

Type: Two-seat attack and reconnaissance.

Engines: Two 11,030lb (5,003kg) Rolls-Royce Spey 101 turbofans.

Dimensions: Span 44ft (13·41m); length 63ft 5in (19·33m); height 16ft 3in (4·95);wing area 514·7sq ft (47·82m2).

Performance: Max speed 690mph (1,110km/h) at sea level, range on typical hi-lo-hi strike mission with weapon load 2,300 miles (3,700km).

Armament: Rotating bomb door carries four 1,000lb (454kg) bombs or multisensor reconnaissance pack or 440gal tank; four wing pylons each stressed to 3,000lb (1,361kg), compatible with very wide range of guided and/or free-fall missiles. Total internal and external stores load 16,000lb (7,257kg).


Development: In April 1957 the notorious “Defence White Paper” proclaimed manned combat aircraft obsolete. Subsequently the Blackburn N.103, built to meet the naval attack specification NA.39, was the only new British military aircraft operation, its wing and tail were dramatically reduced in size as a result of powerful tip-to-tip supercirculation (BLC, boundary-layer control) achieved by blasting hot compressed air bled from the engines from narrow slits. The S1 (strike Mk 1) was marginal on power, but the greatly improved S.2 was a reliable and formidable aircraft.

       The first 84 were ordered by the Royal Navy but, when the government ordered the phase-out of Britain’s conventional carrier force, most were transferred to RAF Strike Command, designated S.2B when converted to launch Martel missiles. The RAF signed in 1968 for 43 new S.2Bs with new avionics and probe.

       Within the limits of crippling budgets the RAF Buccaneers have been updated by a few improved avionics, and have gradually been recognized as among the world’s best long-range interdiction aircraft. When carrying a 4,000-lb (1,814kg) bombload a “Bucc” at full power is faster than a Mirage, Phantom or F-16 at low level, and burns less fuel per mile. Many Red Flag exercises have demonstrated that a well-flown example is among the most difficult of all today’s aircraft to shoot down. On most occasions an intercepting aircraft has failed to get within missile or gun-firing parameters before having to abandon the chase because of low fuel state. Almost universally the Buccaneer aircrews consider that “the only replacement for a Buccaneer, with updated avionics.

Above: 208 Sqn’s Buccaneer S.2s are based at Lossiemouth for anti-shipping strikes: these S.2As are seen off Britain’s south coast during training.



Above: Buccaneer S.2B of 208 Sqn, showing wing hinges, stores pylon and the tracks of the leading edge vortex generators.


       Buccaneers equipped 15 and 16 Sqns of RAF Germany (2 ATAF) at Laarbruch in the land attack role, but these were replaced by Tornado GR.1s in 1983-5 (with replacement of Jaguar squadrons as well, RAF Germany will in effect gain one extra squadron). Tornados will also (despite the wishes of their crews, so popular is the present aircraft) replace 208 Sqn, No 1 Group, at Honington.

       The other two UK Buccaneer units, 12 and 216, are tasked with maritime patrol and will go on well into the 1990s. All they want is better avionics, not only internal (and a new nav/attack system due in 1984) but also better ECM than the external ALQ-101 pod. Their main anti-ship weapon will be Sea Eagle.

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