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What If ... assault gliders 1946?

riggerrob

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Suppose that operational helicopters were delayed several years beyond the original time line.
Airborne operations are still limited to parachutes and assault gliders.

What direction would assault gliders develop?
Would they be limited to delivering small squads (say the men) to capture strategic bridges?
Would they carry 20 or 30 infantry?
Would they grow big enough to carry light AFVs (e.g. SU-76)?
Would they grow even bigger?
... or do they remain light and flimsy and disposable?
How do engineers increase towing speeds (say 200 knots) to match cruising speeds of (prop-driven) bombers and transport tow planes?
How do they still fly steep approaches to land slowly in small fields?
How do they quickly unload heavy equipment?
Can they build an analog auto-pilot (based on tow-rope angle to ease pilot work load in cruise?
 

Apophenia

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Perhaps there are some hints in the design of the late-war German Kalkert 430. Towed by a single-engined fighter at speeds up to 192 knots, the Ka 430 was well-streamlined but could only carry 12 troops. BTW, the Ka 430 also used a parachute brake and/or rocket deceleration.

On the Allied side, it would probably involve cleaning up the aerodynamics of existing designs. Off the cuff, I'd say that Airspeed Horsa had the most potential in that regard. It had a fairly 'clean' fuselage but, for simplicity, Hessell Tiltman had gaving the Horsa very thick wings and a strut-braced tailplane. And the Horsa usually retained its undercarriage in flight. So, plenty of room there for possible aerodynamic improvements.

Of course, another way to increase speed would be to abandon towing altogether. A pick-a-back proposal was made for the Hamilcar to 'carry' a P-38 Lightning. Smaller gliders could be mated with pick-a-back single-engined fighters. Once released, those fighters could provide top-cover and try to suppress any AA in the landing zone.

As for carrying light AFVs, they kind of already were. The GAL.49 Hamilcar Mk.I was carrying the Tetrarch and M22 Locust light tanks. I don't doubt that some gliders would grow bigger still. The built Chase XCG-20 shows where the US Army thought it was going (as well as demonstrating one option for quicker unloading).

I'd guess that 'self-extracting' concepts like the GAL.58 Hamilcar Mk.X would also be seen in larger numbers (Waco's XPG-3 was a similar, if less powerful, concept).
 

Silencer1

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How about Soviet postwar gliders?
Yakovlev Yak-14 has been built in series.
Ilyuhin Il-32 - remain prototype.
Tsybin Ts-25.
Most of them fits to the "requirements", mentioned above.
 

Archibald

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Fouga (of Magister fame) had some assault gliders as late as 1949.
 

riggerrob

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In the USA, Chase developed the CG-14 and CG-18 assault gliders that led to the powered Chase/Fairchild C-123 Provider transport for the USAF.
C-123s served during the Vietnam War transporting troops and spraying Agent Orange defoliant chemicals.

The last mention of assault gliders in Canadian Army service was a batch of Wacos towed to Churchill, Manitoba for (winter) Exercise Muskox during the late 1940s.
 

riggerrob

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The last Canadian use of assault gliders was a batch of USAAF Waco CG-14 Hadrian gliders that re-supplied Operation Muskox from February to May 1946. Muskox started in Churchill, Manitoba, toured the Northwest Territories and Yukon before concluding at Grand Prairie, Alberta. The final parade through Edmonton was on May 6.
Ten Canadian-built Armoured Snowmobiles were accompanied by a single American-built Weasel.
They were supported by RCAF C-47 Dakotas and Norsemen.
An unknown number of USAAF Waco CG-15 Hadrian gliders - flown by American pilots - were also used to pre-position fuel caches and fly in spare parts too big for Dakotas.Groudn vehicles needed a LOT of spare parts!
After a Waco crashed - injuring its American pilot - a second Waco was "snatched" to fly the wounded to a hospital.
 

riggerrob

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Post-WW2, the Chase company developed the CG-14, CG-18 and CG-20 series of assault gliders.
The CG-14 prototype was mostly made of wood, while the CG-14A combined wood and metal construction.
The all metal CG-20 was further developed into the Fairchild C-123 Provider powered cargo plane that did plenty of heavy lifting in Vietnam. C-123 also sprayed defoliant chemicals during the infamous Agent Orange program.
C-123 had the distinction of being the only airplane to fly with 4 different forms of power: glider, piston engine, pure jet, combined piston and jet, finally turboprop!
 

Grey Havoc

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I believe there was at least one project for the covert insertion of Special Forces & equipment into enemy held territory during the 1980s. No hard details available though.
 

riggerrob

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Nowadays, Special Forces insert via gliding parachutes.
They like to exit transport airplanes at 20,000 or 30,000 feet (MSL), open soon afterwards and glide towards their targets. Ram-air parachutes have a 3:1 glide ratio on calm days, but can cover as much as 50 miles with a tail wind.
Back during the early 1980s, a combined SAS and SBS team opened over Dover Castle and glided across the English Channel to land in France.
Modern HAHO and HALO parachutes can cover even greater distances.
These parachutes are similar to the huge, rectangular parachutes worn by civilian tandem skydiving instructors. While civilian tandems routinely jump with 220 pound (100 kilogram) students, military tandem bundles often weigh 500 pounds!
During fighting in Afghanistan, SF liked to land above the snow line and set up observation posts over-looking Taliban villages. They often lay in wait for a week or three before Taliban arrived. Often SF only observed Taliban movements. Sometimes they called in air strikes or artillery on Taliban, then quietly walked out via the far side of the mountain. SF had to insert above the snow line to avoid being noticed by Afghan goat herders. Inserting above the snow line often meant that their foot prints were covered by fresh snow a few days before Taliban arrived.

I am not worried about operations-security because my comments are probably a decade out of date.

Master Corporal (retired) Rob Warner, CD, BA , a couple of sets of military jump wings and more than 4,000 civilian tandem skydives.
Strong Tandem Instructor/Examiner
FAA Master Parachute Rigger.
 
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