How useless were the Luftwaffe's Alpha Jets?

uk 75

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One of the things that always puzzled me in the 70s was how the West German Air Force replaced its NATO light fighter bomber competition winning Fiat G91 with the Dornier Dassault Breguet Alpha Jet.
The Germans had the money to buy a raft of different planes for this role ranging from Jaguars and AV8s to A4 and A7s. Yet they chose this simple lightweight.
Was this inspired or dumb or something in between? I ask here because I have never read an account of how it was regarded in service
 

Pioneer

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Interesting question uk 75

I'm thinking it could have had a lot to do with the economy of scale that the Alpha Jet (both purchase, maintance, running costs......) offered - after all as much as the West German's were unquestionably the most committed and serious NATO country when it came to its own active defence, their finances weren't endless.
I'm guessing the two-engine safety/ redundency the Alpha Jet offered was a good choice for a ground attack aircraft, as was its warload capability for a little aircraft.
I think I remember reading somewhere that the Luftwaffe's Alpha Jet's were earmarked for anti-helicopter Fighter's over the battlefield, if and when the balloon went up.....
The duel nature of a training aircraft which could be employed in a combat role has always puzzled me somewhat, because as much as it make face valued sense, the notion of using and losing your principle training aircraft in combat seems to risky.

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Pioneer
 

Hood

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It was a cost effective solution, the RAF looked at the doing the same with their Hawks before the secondary air defence role was implemented a decade later in the early 1980s.
Trainers needed to lug around gun pods and bombs to train budding fighter pilots anyway so why not make use of them.
In answer to Pioneer's point, if the Soviets had begun rumbling across the IGB then it was a life and death situation where everything had to be committed. No use planning for the next intake of recruits when a conventional war could only be fought for a matter of weeks and when an escalated nuclear war meant quite potentially the endgame.
 

Archibald

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Don't underestimated the pork barrel issue, too - Dornier build half of the Alphajet with Dassault, hence job program. Much like the Jaguar btw, Dassault and Dornier ended selling Alphajets separately, competing with each others.
 

Apophenia

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...the notion of using and losing your principle training aircraft in combat seems to risky...

The thing is, the Alpha Jets assigned to the Jagdbombergeschwader weren't the Luftwaffe's primary fast-jet training aircraft - the T-38 Talons at Sheppard AFB were. Alpha Jets were used as weapons trainers at Luftwaffenkommando Beja in Portugal but, in Germany, not so much.

Beyond pork-barrelling, also keep in mind shifts in policy. Some elements in the Luftwaffe wanted more domestic (or at least European) air training, others were content to continue fast-jet training in America. The latter faction won out and German Alpha Jets went primarily to the JaBoG.

As for those alternative aircraft types, were any offered to West Germany for co-production? The Harrier would seem a good fit for the JaBoG but, early on, it had German rivals in the form of the EWR VJ 101 and VFW-Fokker VAK 191 programmes. The former tanked in 1968, the latter in 1972. For the Luftwaffe, that mean going all-in on the Tornado and, for economy, padding with the JaBo Alpha Jets. A what-if scenario to continue Luftwaffe V/STOL ambitions might have been UK-West German joint production and purchases of both the Harrier ('Habicht'?) and the Dornier Do 31 V/STOL tactical transport.

OT: I'd be curious to know if the Luftwaffe ever looked at improved rough field capabilities for the Alpha Jet (akin to Soviet Frontal Aviation). AFAIK, the Germans were content with operating from the Autobahnen if the balloon went up.
 

Archibald

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Also, didn't West Germany picked the Alphajet as a poor's man A-10 Whartog 8an aircraft they badly wanted but could not afford in large enough numbers) - in the antitank role with a ventral 30 mm gun pod ?
 

Michel Van

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The Alpha Jet primary role is pilot training
That was first objective of the Program, The Luftwaffe and Arme de Air needed new Training aircraft
Secondary objective was light support aircraft for Luftwaffe F-104G bombers
next to that is the Alpha very popular by Acrobatic Patrol

Studies
Luftwaffe look into use of Alpha as Anti Helicopter aircraft, a role the Aircraft could manage, but it's ground logistic not supported needed mobility on battlefield
Dassault look into Lancier a Alpha as fighter bomber / Anti Ship aircraft
 

coanda

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I had read comments from RAFG guys there at the time, that the plan was for the Alpha Jets to go after helicopters, and I believe that they trained for that mission. I'm led to believe that they could be quite effective as battlefield interdictors.

Am I correct in remembering that there was a version with a front seat and the rear cockpit had extra electronics instead of the rear seat?

The undercarriage design lends itself to unprepared strips.
 

martinbayer

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coanda,

there were German plans for an operational single seat version of the Alpha Jet, but the only example that I'm aware of that actually flew was a DFVLR (now DLR) demonstrator for Direct Side Force Control (DSFC) and Transonischer Tragflügel (transonic wing, TST) efforts.

Martin
 

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