NATO Light Fighter Bomber Competition

uk 75

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As has been pointed out on the thread about alternatives to the West German F104 buy, the West Germans also bought the Fiat G91 light fighter bomber.
This aircraft was designed for a NATO competition to strengthen the European Defence Industry and standardise a lightweight close support fighter able to operate from unprepared surfaces.
The G91 was so successful with the Luftwaffe and the Italian Air Force that they tried to develop a VSTOL replacement, the VAK191. When this proved too difficult, German bought the Alphajet and Italy first the G91Y and then the AMX.
Neither the UK (which simply converted it's Hunter into FGA9s) or France (Breguet lost the competition) bothered with the G91.
Supposing instead the US had pushed its own candidate for this role. The A4 Skyhawk might have served with US Army units in West Germany alongside European A4s. The NATO A4 might have gone on to serve on RN, Canadian, and Dutch carriers.
Alternatively as happened with the Alphajet West Germany might have gone with a Dornier Breguet design. Perhaps this plane would be so good that the UK adopts it as a cheaper solution to replacing FGA9.
 

Opportunistic Minnow

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I think in that case, the air arms that operated the G.91 would operate the A-4 instead and little else would change. The Italians might even purchase the G.91s anyway to keep the home fires burning. The US pushing their competitor doesn't change the Key West Agreement or the mortal sums on Canadian/Dutch carrier ops. Why the RN would spend US$ to replace the Buccaneer with the Skyhawk actually boggles me. Sorry but you need to change more than NBMR-1.
 

uk 75

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Fair points.
The G91 was actually pretty good and closer to what the Italians and W Germans wanted with their WW2 experience. Them getting A4s was presupposing a stitch up like the F104 across Europe.
NATO and the US were pretty keen on the allies like Canada and the Netherlands keeping their light carriers.
If the A4 had secured orders by enough countries it might also have obviated the need for the F5. Canada and Netherlands having Skyhawks instead of F5s would have helped the costs for the carriers.
The RN is a harder sell. The RAF definitely won't take A4s as it has plenty of Hunters and then wants something bigger to replace them (P1154/F4/Jaguar).
But as I have commented in another thread the UK could have opted to get out of the fleet carrier business earlier and provided NATO with the ASW carriers it kept asking the UK for (NATO wanted both from the RN in fact).
A Hermes size carrier or even Shangri-la and co with an ASW airgroup would use the A4 as an anti-snooper like the USN.
Bit of a long shot though as they could also operate Bucs.
 

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The whole point of the competition was to push European aviation to get away from the reliance on US systems. Not sure how the A-4 survives that "fatal flaw".

It's possible that Italy would be more ... cooperative, to pick a word haphazardly, than the French. Perhaps a selection of the Taon or the Etendard II/Mystere XXII would have worked better politically. Say a Taon selection with licensed production in Germany and Italy. Collaborative design work on a trainer derivative. Maybe more work on up-engining further developments later on the timeline. This might lead to a French, German, and Italian aircraft in the mould of the Alpha Jet a decade or so earlier.
 

uk 75

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All valid points.
I admit to just trying to get people to look at alternatives to the excellent G91.
I did not go down the Rain/Etendard route as there are folk here a lot more clued up on French designs.
 

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Canada and the Netherlands keeping their light carriers
Just to expand on this point, I think it would be a very hard sell. Both were expensive to operate, becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and periodically on fire. With the Netherlands' step back from Indonesia, their need for any power projection largely evaporated. ASW, these carriers' raison d'être, could be achieved far more cost-effectively with the advent of ASW helicopters (CH-124 & Wasp in this instance) operating from smaller, more efficient warships (Iroquois & Van Speijk), supplemented by LR MPAs (Argus & Atlantique). That's quite a lot of developments to sweep away to get A-4s!

Even if both naval arms were offered a couple of squadrons of refurbished ex-USN Skyhawks, delivered with full fuel loads, free of charge, I don't believe there would be the will in either nation to retain their carriers.

just trying to get people to look at alternatives to the excellent G91.
I'm struggling to think what alternative there is (beyond those actually offered). It is a very niche aircraft. If the primary purpose of the programme was industrial rather than warfighting ability, would not a LIFT-type aircraft, perhaps a licence-built NA T-2A or the MB-326 have fit the bill? If warfighting was the name of the game (the G.91 is somewhat anaemic in this regard and I would suggest that in 60s Europe, the A-4 was as well) then I would propose skipping ahead to a NBMR-3 without the VTOL fetish and developing an A-7 class aircraft. Not necessarily the A-7 itself, although I wouldn't rule out a licence arrangement. Germany and Italy could do worse, though this is perhaps straying outside the scope of this thread!

I've discounted the French aircraft not because they weren't capable but because the French industry needed no kickstarting.
 

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Hmmm, a what-if NATO G.91 replacement contest that eschews any notions of V/STOL.
Possible contenders off my head:
FIAT G.91X - similar to the real G.91Y but with a single RR Spey
VAK 291 - similar in concept to VAK 191B/G.95 but redesigned for conventional flight, Spey-class turbofan, larger wing
Alphajet - as historical
HSA P.1182 (early Hawk) - single seat version, Adour (maybe reheated)
BAC P.61/P.62 (BAC 107) family, VG or fixed wing (mini-MRCA in scope)
F-5
A-7
Mirage V
Jaguar

Avionics is the thorny issue, if you just want a limited day strafer, iron bomb scatterer then a high-subsonic Alphajet or G.91Y might do. As the RAF realised, some all-weather avionics are needed so LRMTS seems a must and that drives up cost, and in the late the RAF realised a Jaguar successor needed to be able to mix it with WP fighters for self-defence at the very least and FEBA air superiority. So something like the A-7 or Mirage V might be worth it, expensive but better to be mixing it with something capable of supersonics and agile, with decent avionics to get the job done first pass and able to lug enough bombs to make it worthwhile.
 

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As has been pointed out on the thread about alternatives to the West German F104 buy, the West Germans also bought the Fiat G91 light fighter bomber.
This aircraft was designed for a NATO competition to strengthen the European Defence Industry and standardise a lightweight close support fighter able to operate from unprepared surfaces.
The G91 was so successful with the Luftwaffe and the Italian Air Force that they tried to develop a VSTOL replacement, the VAK191. When this proved too difficult, German bought the Alphajet and Italy first the G91Y and then the AMX.
Neither the UK (which simply converted it's Hunter into FGA9s) or France (Breguet lost the competition) bothered with the G91.
Supposing instead the US had pushed its own candidate for this role. The A4 Skyhawk might have served with US Army units in West Germany alongside European A4s. The NATO A4 might have gone on to serve on RN, Canadian, and Dutch carriers.
Alternatively as happened with the Alphajet West Germany might have gone with a Dornier Breguet design. Perhaps this plane would be so good that the UK adopts it as a cheaper solution to replacing FGA9.
Wouldn't the US put forward FANG or F5?
UK had various Gnat options.
Spsin had what ended up as Egypt's only domestic fighter.
Germany had options itself.

And if say we talk of the A4, this would work best if sourced with a variety of European components.
 

zen

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Hmmm, a what-if NATO G.91 replacement contest that eschews any notions of V/STOL.
Possible contenders off my head:
FIAT G.91X - similar to the real G.91Y but with a single RR Spey
VAK 291 - similar in concept to VAK 191B/G.95 but redesigned for conventional flight, Spey-class turbofan, larger wing
Alphajet - as historical
HSA P.1182 (early Hawk) - single seat version, Adour (maybe reheated)
BAC P.61/P.62 (BAC 107) family, VG or fixed wing (mini-MRCA in scope)
F-5
A-7
Mirage V
Jaguar

Avionics is the thorny issue, if you just want a limited day strafer, iron bomb scatterer then a high-subsonic Alphajet or G.91Y might do. As the RAF realised, some all-weather avionics are needed so LRMTS seems a must and that drives up cost, and in the late the RAF realised a Jaguar successor needed to be able to mix it with WP fighters for self-defence at the very least and FEBA air superiority. So something like the A-7 or Mirage V might be worth it, expensive but better to be mixing it with something capable of supersonics and agile, with decent avionics to get the job done first pass and able to lug enough bombs to make it worthwhile.
Brough P.146 backup to P1127. STOL via blown wing and tail, single reheated Spey, bit of a Mirage F1 but with F4 influences.
 

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I admit to just trying to get people to look at alternatives to the excellent G91.
I did not go down the Rain/Etendard route as there are folk here a lot more clued up on French designs.
Wasn’t NBMR-1 supposed to lead to a “Phase 2” purchase with a more powerful Orpheus BOr.12 engine with reheat (8,200lbs vs 5,000lbs in the G91)? The Breguet Taon and Etendard VI A were both slated for that contest, as compensation for losing out to the G91 in phase 1.

That would have been interesting because the BOr.12 was basically identical in thrust, weight and SFC to a pair of J85s so the result would have been an aircraft very similar in all respects to the F-5A, but single engine. And easier to navalize if we’re talking specifically about the Taon and Etendard VI A… not sure what other candidates there might have been.
 

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This all cones back to the engine issue.
Certainly the failure to produce either developed Orpheus or the requested 30" jets by UK engine providers is a major failure.

In this the later RR-MTU effort RB.153 leveraging lift jet technologies did deliver a solution.
Just too late and too different to simply apply in place of Orpheus.

And Gyron Junior was too big, too heavy and too thirsty. But at least around at the right time.

Had Bristol achieved the desired result, either with Orpheus or BE.33, or RR with RB.123 or AS with P.151.

Then subsequent history would be rather different.

Similarly Gabizo wasn't that sparkling an engine and the Bradener E300 never got there beyond a few prototypes.
 

iverson

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While the A-4 didn't compete with the G-91R in the NBMR contest, a modified version did compete with it in the US Army's abortive close-support trials. While the Army liked the G-91, the third Army competitor became a rather more successful NATO light fighter: the Northrop F-5A/B. It served as the NATO light fighter for the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Canada, Greece (which rejected the G-91s purchased on its behalf), and Turkey. The F-5 was at least nominally nuclear-capable as well.
 

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riggerrob

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Northrup F-5 was priority-last on both the Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Canadian Navy wish lists. It was only forced upon the recently-integrated Canadian Armed Forces by Defense Minister Paul Hellier. Mr. Hellier was a former Northrup engineer cum politician who was looking to buy votes in separatist-leaning Quebec. Building F-5s at Canadair - on Montreal Island - was a good way to buy federal votes in Quebec.
Air Command struggled to find a role for the F-5. Its small payload made it too short-legged to patrol the vast Canadian Arctic. Nor could it carry enough bombs to seriously support Canadian soldiers on the ground. In the end, Canadian F-5s were used as low-cost, lead-in trainers for supersonic fighters. As soon as CF-18 Hornet entered front-line (er ... NATO service in West Germany) CF-5s retired.
maritime Command retired their last aircraft carrier: HMCS Bonaventure when they could only afford helicopters.

A-4 Skyhawk was liked by both the RCN and RCAF. The RCN favored A-4 because it passed deck-landing trials onboard HMCS Bonaventure and the RCAF liked Skyhawks because they could carry a decent load of bombs for the air-to-ground mission.
 
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