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Alpha Jet

World War II era fighters were rapidly phased out of service in favor of the first generation of jet tactical aircraft - the British Vampire, Meteor, Venom, Hunter, and Canberra; the American F-86 Sabre and F-84 Thunderstreak; and the French Mysthre and Ouragon. During the late 1950s, a second generation of aircraft drew upon the increasing pace of aerospace technological innovation and began to enter service. Beginning in the late 1960s, a third generation of aircraft began entering service in substantial numbers. These included the F-4, the Jaguar, the Mirage F.1C, the Harrier, and the Alpha Jet. A decade later, a fourth generation, which included such aircraft as the Tornado, the CF-18, the F-16, and the Mirage 2000, became operational.

The Alpha Jet and Jaguar are collaborative efforts derived largely from French designs. In French service, of course, the Alpha Jet was used as a trainer. In the GAF, the Alpha Jet assumed both a training and combat role. The Alpha-Jet and the MRCA Tornado are both considered successful examples of cooperation among European NATO members, and they are also viewed more as an expression of one European strategy to consolidate the defense and Arospace industry than a truly intent to achieve any greater standardization. The Alpha Jet partnership consisted of France's Dassault and Germany's Messerschmidt-Bolkow-Blohm [later Dornier]. The French never succeeded in selling many French-designed aircraft to members of the alliance, but their air force was equipped almost exclusively with French products (the Jaguar and Alpha Jet being the major exceptions).

Although the Jaguar program resulted in a common airframe and engines combination, the major avionics, subsystems, and other equipment on the French and British versions differed considerably. Furthermore, the French were forced to procure an aircraft that did not meet their original requirements for a low-cost advanced trainer with secondary attack capabilities. France went on to meet those requirements in the late 1960s by launching with Germany a new collaborative program, the Alpha Jet, in which the incompatibility of requirements was once again encountered. Like the Royal Air Force, the German Luftwaffe wanted more attack capability than that desired by France's Armee de l'Air, but this time, French interests dominated the program. In the Alpha Jet, the Germans ended up with a very modest attack aircraft that fell far below their original expectations.

The obvious advantages in a combination of the Lead-In Training with undergraduate pilot training syllabi could only be realized with the right kind of training aircraft in a total training system. The US Navy's T-45, the Hawk of the Royal Air Force, and the Alpha Jet of the German Air Force were all 1980s versions of this concept.

The Dassault-Breguet-Dornier Alpha Jet is a twin seat subsonic fighter bomber that due to its conception and versatile characteristics is particularly suitable for supporting air offensive operations, surface forces operations as well as for the advanced training on bomber fighters and operational conversion training, with the capability of using different weapon configurations. Its equipment allows it to obtain great efficiency when planning and executing missions. The Head Up Display (HUD) saves the pilot from looking down into the cockpit to read the instruments, by superimposing data on a clear plate mounted at the pilot's eye level. The navigation and fire control computers are rather precise and permit a great flexibility on attack missions. The use of "AFA" computer makes it simpler, quicker and more efficient the planning of a mission.

The Larzac engine is a two-spool low bypass ratio turbofan engine, which was designed and manufactured by Turbomeca-Snecma, and is used in the Alpha Jet trainer and ground attack aircraft. The LARZAC engine entered service in 1979 on the twin-engine Alpha Jet. The LARZAC maintenance policy incorporated a major technological development: a few aircraft operated by the French Air Force were equipped with flight tape recorders to record, for each engine, the evolution of engine parameters (time, Low Pressure Rotational Speed, High Pressure Rotational Speed) which were measured every second. Periodically, the magnetic tape was retrieved and downloaded in a microcomputer to calculate life consumption for the recorded flights.

The Alpha Jet 2 is a development of the training aircraft optimized for ground attack. It has an integrated weapon system (laser range finder, inertial navigation unit, Head-Up Display) allowing to fulfill either weapon system training missions or ground attack missions with a great accuracy. The Alpha Jet ATS (Advanced Training System), fitted in particular with state-of-the-art controls and displays (glass cockpit), will allow to train the pilot for the use of navigation/attack systems of the latest and future fighters aircraft.

The tactical requirement for combat effectiveness upgrading was approved early in 1985 for the Alpha Jet weapon system after the rough outline of the technically doable and meaningful had been worked out during preliminary phase studies. The original technical history is much more significant for the combat effectiveness upgrading program than it is in other weapon systems: the development objective for the Alpha Jet Program initially was a trainer which was to be equally suited for close air support sorties.

As a result of the change in the priority of the Alpha Jet tasks triggered by the change in the strategic concept of NATO according to MC 14/3 the Alpha Jet was to get simple equipment for the close air support mission, for example, a simple course gyro and a simple sight. This equipment however proved inadequate in the course of further definition and development against the background of the recognized threat and it was improved. A two-gyro platform was built and a modern Head-Up-Display (HUD) as well as the installation of an ECM system were prepared.

The selection decisions for equipping the Alpha Jet had to be made within a time frame in which the technology was also undergoing rapid change particularly in the electronic and the electro-optical areas: accordingly, the Alpha Jet had both analog and digital technology, that is to say, the combined fire-control and navigation system (NavAttack-System) was not designed homogeneously and there were very clear quality differences in the sensors. The Head-Up-Display is an entirely modern system whereas the two-gyro platform, from the current viewpoint, represents a technology that was on the way out because considerably greater accuracies coupled with better reliability can be achieved in laser-ring systems.

It is not just that the enemy air defenses were becoming ever tighter and more effective; the real targets for the Alpha Jet on the battlefield attain ever faster mobility and, if the aircraft is to be employed effectively, require highly accurate weapon delivery from low-level flight and at some distance to the target. An improved.2,75" air-to-ground missile was introduced independetly of the Alpha Jet combat effectiveness upgrading program. Maverick in the B Version and/or D Version were adapted to the Alpha Jet as an air to ground missile which had been introduced in the Luftwaffe but which could not initially be employed in the Alpha Jet.

For air-to-air combat, the AIM 9L guided missile, which has likewise already been introduced in the Luftwaffe, would be employed from the weapon station of the wingtips. However, no change in the priority of mission assignment to the Ilpha Set is connected with this. The Alpha Jet was not going to be a "fighter" with emphasis on the helicopter engagement mission.

The late 1980s witnessed a rapidly increasing emphasis on the use of helicopters ln the close air suipori attack role. New technology in both helicopter design and as new weapon systems made them an increasing threat. Due to sheer numbers alone of Warsaw Pact helicopters, NATO pilots were alrmst sure to encounter them either enroute to the target, in the contact or holding area for CAS missions, or on the way to the recovery base. Preparation and active training were the keys to defending against this growing threat.

The German Air Force (GAF) made a decision to attack these problems head on. It gave the Alpha Jet cormunity the responsibility of familiarizing itself with helicopter attack as a wartime mission. The idea is to use the Alpha Jet (close air supprt and offensive counter-air aircraft) because of its loirer operating speeds and excellent maneuverability. The lessons learned in the German Helicopter Attack Course were extremely valuable in preparing and increasing the confidence of German Alpha Jet pilots to successfuttV cope with this growing conplex threat.

With the end of the Cold War, Germany planned to replace their Alpha Jet force with Tornados on a 1 for 2 basis. The GAF's six squadrons of Alpha Jets were replaced by three squadrons of Tornado IDS. Two squadrons of Tornado Electronic Combat/Reconnaissance (ECR) aircraft were brought into service. The mission of the four squadrons of reconnaissance RF-4Es was in part be fulfilled by the ECRs.

At the summer 2013 Paris Air Show, French Air Chief Gen. Denis Mercier said he would like to see acquisition of an advanced turboprop plane to replace the aging Alpha Jet. A new generation turboprop such as the Pilatus PC-21 or Hawk T2 is seen as essential for delivering an affordable plane but with a high-tech cockpit that readies the pilot for flying the Rafale.

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Page last modified: 11-11-2014 19:36:20 ZULU