Could the AW. 169 (F.155) interceptor been made into a anti-tank close support?

Hammer Birchgrove

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I mean this plane:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aw169.JPG

Since I like thinking about what-if scenarios, I wondered what the AW. 169 could have done else than being a fighter interceptor. The Hawker entry was later made into a fighter-bomber and a strike fighter (though neither those got ordered), and the "winning" Fairey Delta 3 might have become a fighter-bomber and/or a photo reconnaissance plane (if it weren't for the 1957 White Paper).

So I thought: The AW. 169 would have four DH Gyron Jr jets, same as the Buccaneer Mk.1. The Gyron Jr:s got replaced by RR Spey turbofans in the Buccaneer Mk.2. So later versions of AW. 169 could have had Spey too. Four engines must give it quite some redundancy, and turbofans would give it good fuel economy.

The AW. 169 also have straight wings, sort of like Thunderbolt II/Warthog and the Sukhoi Su-25, but not exactly the same. (Frankly I'm not sure if the AW. 169 had straight wings or clipped deltas, but I'm indulging myself here. :) )

"All" that needs to be added is armour, a relatively big gun and "smart" weapons (possibly TV-Martels and laser guided bombs) directed by an advanced fire-control system (maybe taken from the TSR-2, including the Pave Penny laser guiding system).

Now why would the RAF have it? Well, even if the interceptor wasn't bought, Armstrong-Whitworth (or the Hawker Siddeley Group) might think the plane had some use, or would like if it had. Since Soviet tanks out-numbered NATO tanks in Europe, especially the British tanks (as pointed out in the Bond movie "Octopussy" ;) ), RAF and the MoD might consider doing the same against tanks as the Buccaneer did for Royal Navy when the Soviet Navy started to use new cruisers.

Am I way over my head now or have this some merit? ???
 

pathology_doc

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I think the answer to your question has to be a resounding "no". Looking at "British Secret Projects - Jet Fighters after 1950", the AW169 had such a thin (relatively unswept, similar to F-104 but longer-span) wing that all the fuel had to go in the fuselage and even the wheels were crammed into the nacelles between the Gyron Juniors - the only place for weapons was at the wingtips. This was a specialist interceptor design and not IMO amenable to being asked to do anything else.

Also, it's one thing to redesign the Buccaneer for unreheated Speys in place of the unreheated Gyron Jrs; the engines are practically inside the fuselage, and there's room to play with. The Gyron Juniors on the AW169 were afterburning, and optimized for high mach numbers at high altitude. If you put new engines in, you have to redesign the entire nacelle from the intake shock cone backwards - it's not just a matter of dropping in a new pair of engines.

Overall: You're looking at finding room in the aircraft for a completely different sensor fit, and is there sufficient auxiliary electric power to drive it and sufficient internal space for all the new black boxes even when you take the old ones out? Remember, these fighters were designed in the closing part of the valve era! Where are the weapons going to go? (Red Hebe and Red Dean were both considered for missile armament IIRC, so the weight of Martel might not have been a problem even on wingtip rails, but where are you going to hang the guidance pod unless you can build it into the aircraft - if you can?) Also, what does the engine change do to the nacelle shape and size? Is the wing mainspar still capable of carrying the load? What's fuel consumption like with FOUR afterburning Speys on board? If you choose the "dry" Spey, you're matching a subsonic engine to a supersonic-optimized airframe, which is a waste.
 

Hammer Birchgrove

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Thanks. Now I can avoid making a fool out of myself if I ever publish my Alternative History stories. ;)
 

Just call me Ray

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It's generally a bad idea to turn a small, high-speed interceptor into an anti-anything-ground close support craft. The Germans tried this with the F-104, and it didn't really work out well at all.
 

Hammer Birchgrove

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Wasn't the AW. 169 supposed to be a rather large aircraft? The largest of all F.155 entries IIRC.
 

pathology_doc

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Sizes (rounded up a little to nearest foot/10lb or so)

AW.169 - span 52ft, length 84ft, AUW 54000lb max
Fairey Delta III (equal first technically, and the F.155 winner by a whisker) - Span 47ft, length 74ft, AUW 50,460lb.
SR.187 - Span 52ft, length 84ft, AUW 97,000lb.

For comparison:

Panavia Tornado ADV F.Mk3 - Span 28.2ft swept, 46ft unswept; length 61ft, AUW 61,700lb (seems heavy, but that's what's written and that's what I've copied across).
Eurofighter Typhoon - Span 36ft, length 52ft, AUW c.33,740lb.
Lightning (P1B) - Span 35ft, length 55ft, AUW 28,000lb
(Source for above: British Secret Projects, Jet Fighters since 1950)

Lockheed SR-71/A12 (given in Gunston's Encyclopedia of Combat Aircraft, 1976, as A-11 family):
Span 56ft, length 108ft, AUW 170,000lb

It seems obscenely wasteful that a fighter the size of AW's effort should carry only two missiles - and that a two-Bluejay fit should have been considered as one of those options! How technology has evolved: the much smaller Tornado ADV can carry eight - four of which, today, do Red Dean's job at one-third of the size and weight and many times the range (AMRAAM), and the other four of which (late-model AIM-9) would out-perform Firestreak/Red Top in everything but warhead size (AFAIK Red Top still has the record for the biggest warhead in a Western IR missile).
 

pathology_doc

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*nods* However, Green and Swanborough's "Complete Book of Fighters", the only other reference I have which is new enough to refer to the ADV Tornado (as opposed to "MRCA"), agrees on (and gives only) the 60,000lb-plus maximum all-up weight. (I assume that's with full armament, two of those absolutely huge inner-hardpoint drop-tanks, and all the fuel they can put into it.)

Given that that's how F.155 would have launched (tanks top-full and all available weapons on board, though of course F.155 had no external tanks), it seems a fair weight to quote. Of course AW.169 could well leave Tornado standing in its wake, especially at high altitude when the rocket comes into play, though AMRAAM/Skyflash's snap-up abilities and the greater number carried would probably go a long way towards balancing the lethality stakes (assuming a reliable Red Dean for AW.169).

Perhaps a good "Bar" topic would be "How do you think the cancelled projects of yesteryear would stack up against modern aircraft doing the same job?" You'd have to make some assumptions, I think, or there'd be too many variables - the first and foremost being that once inside the firing envelope, the weapons perform as advertised - but I suspect it would make for an interesting discussion.
 

Hammer Birchgrove

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Thanks everyone. :)

I guess the Tornado with the Brimstone anti-armour missile would make my idea moot, even if it worked. :)

http://www.skomer.u-net.com/projects/start.htm
 

Hammer Birchgrove

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Okay, but what about Hawker P1104?

I start to think that the twin-engined Hawker P1104 (also a F.155 interceptor) would be more suitable for this idea. I guess you would get some of the issues with the AW. 169, but not as many, since it's single engined "little brother" P1103 would have been eventually developed into fighter-bomber or ground attack versions, if events had turned out differently.

But I'm only guessing...
 

Petrus

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Generally speaking any aircratf 'could' fly air-to-ground missions.
I recollect the USAF tried to use their F-102s in Vietnam to harass the communist forces along the Ho-Chi-Minh Trail with Falcon air-to-air (!) missiles. There was an idea that the heat-seaking heads of the missiles would lock on fires around which the VCs gathered at night. Indeed they could do so and some missiles were fired at such targets, but effects of their hitting them remain uncertain. Surely it was quite an expensive method of attacking very soft, i.e. human, targets.

Piotr
 

Hammer Birchgrove

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Thanks Piotr. I knew that the Delta Dagger was used in Vietnam, but not that is was used as a ground attack plane.
 

Petrus

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Hammer Birchgrove said:
Thanks Piotr. I knew that the Delta Dagger was used in Vietnam, but not that is was used as a ground attack plane.

There was an article about the F-102s use in Vietnam in the Air Enthusiast (issue 102 of November/December 2002), from which I got the info. Naturally, the Delta Daggers were deployed to South-East Asia as an air-defence asset. During the Vietnam war there was a persistent fear that the North Vietnamese would strike with their Il-28s at US bases in the South, which, as we know now, never happened. Actual lack of real air-threats made the F-102s quite jobless, so the idea to use them in the air-to-ground role. If I recall correctly besides the Falcon missiles under-wing pods with the Minigun gatling-MGs were also being tried by the F-102s.

Best regards,
Piotr
 

Just call me Ray

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Petrus said:
Generally speaking any aircratf 'could' fly air-to-ground missions.
I recollect the USAF tried to use their F-102s in Vietnam to harass the communist forces along the Ho-Chi-Minh Trail with Falcon air-to-air (!) missiles. There was an idea that the heat-seaking heads of the missiles would lock on fires around which the VCs gathered at night. Indeed they could do so and some missiles were fired at such targets, but effects of their hitting them remain uncertain. Surely it was quite an expensive method of attacking very soft, i.e. human, targets.

Piotr

I knew one of the pilots who actually flew those missions; unfortunately he died in an auto accident a year ago. I think I might have the story posted at Aircraft Resource Center (same user name as here).
 
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