AN-2 Colt - Bomber
In addition to the transport and passenger versions, the An-2 piston biplanewas designed as a light reconnaissance-corrector and night bomber. Work on the combat version of the "Corn" began in OKB-153 in the spring of 1947. According to the project, it was to be a three-seater aircraft designed for night reconnaissance, artillery fire adjustment and night bombings, with the possibility of landing on ground front-line airfields with a short-range runway. The characteristics of the An-2, its low speed, high maneuverability, minimum mileage and takeoff were fully suitable for these tasks.
The aircraft, which received the symbol "F" ("Fedya") had a lot in common with the base An-2. In order to increase the convenience of combat use, the fuselage and tail empenage were modified. Closer to the tail, a cockpit of an observer pilot was mounted, which resembled a cage and was a glazed truss. In order to ensure the ease of use of defensive weapons in the rear hemisphere, the tail was made with spaced keels.
A turret with a 20-mm B-20 gun was installed behind the upper wing to repel the attacks of enemy fighters from the rear hemisphere. In the lower right plane was mounted another stationary 20-mm gun, which fired forward. Crew and engine jobs received armor protection. When used as a night bomber, the aircraft could carry twelve 50 kg of bombs in cassettes placed in the fuselage, under the lower planes were four holders for 100 kg of bombs or NAR blocks.
Tests of the An-2NAK (night artillery corrector) were successfully completed in the early 1950s. But due to the development of jet aircraft, the aircraft was not mass-produced. Subsequent events have shown the erroneousness of this decision. Po-2 and Yak-11 night bombers were used very effectively during the fighting on the Korean Peninsula in the early 1950s. Due to the low speed, the accuracy of bombing from Po-2 biplanes was very good, and the "flying shelves" themselves due to the large difference in speed and high maneuverability proved to be a very difficult target for American night fighters. There are several cases where night interceptors crashed while trying to shoot down Po-2 flying at night at low altitudes. Flying, as a rule, over enemy trenches and in the front line, North Korean light bombers were a real nightmare for UN forces. Dropping 100-150 kg small caliber bombs, they paralyzed traffic in the near rear and terrorized targets on the front line of the enemy. American soldiers called them "crazy Chinese alarm clocks." It seems that the night bomber An-2NAK, had similar to the Po-2 speed and maneuverability, with a higher payload could be much more effective in Korea.
The successful use of converted "corncrakes" in a number of military conflicts prompted the designers to return to the topic of military use of the An-2. At the beginning of 1964, a modified An-2 with attack weapons was tested at the airfield of the Air Force Research Institute in Chkalovsky.
Rifle and bomb sights were installed on the plane, the armament included NAR UB-16-57 units and 100-250 kg bombs. BDZ-57KU beam holders were mounted on the An-2 for the suspension of weapons. In the porthole and skin of the cargo cabin were made devices for firing Kalashnikov rifles. The results of military tests did not impress and work on this topic in the USSR was no longer conducted.
Despite the fact that the "combat" version of the An-2 did not go into series, this originally not intended for war aircraft has repeatedly participated in hostilities in various parts of the world. The first known case of combat use of the An-2 occurred in Indochina in 1962, when the North Vietnamese An-2 delivered cargo to its allies in Laos - the left neutralists and units of "Pathet-Lao". During such flights on the "cornfields" often fired from the ground. To suppress anti-aircraft fire on the An-2 began to hang blocks of 57-mm NAR S-5 and install machine guns in the doorways.
The next step of the DRV Air Force was targeted night attacks by South Vietnamese and American warships and ground bases. It is a well-known case when an An-2 group sank a warship of the Navy of South Vietnam (corvette or frigate according to modern classification) in a night combat flight with the help of NURS and damaged a landing ship of the South Vietnamese Navy. But a similar attack on a U.S. Navy destroyer that shelled the coast at night failed. The Americans, who controlled the radar airspace, detected the approaching An-2 in time and shot down one biplane with an anti-aircraft missile. Much more successful, the Vietnamese An-2 acted against armed boats and junks, which were attacked by American and South Vietnamese sabotage and reconnaissance groups.
The end of the Vietnam War did not put an end to the military career of the "corn". After the introduction of Vietnamese troops in 1979 in Cambodia, the An-2 struck at the Khmer Rouge. They were most often used as advanced air raiders. Pilots of the An-2, finding the target, "processed" it with bombs and NURS. Incendiary phosphor grenades were used to mark the target and aim at other faster attack aircraft, and thick, well-marked white smoke was emitted during the burning of white phosphorus, which served as a reference point. Interestingly, for air strikes in Cambodia on the "Khmer Rouge", along with low-speed An-2, the F-5 fighters and A-37 attack aircraft made in the United States were used.
The next time the An-2 went into battle in Nicaragua in the early 1980's. Several Sandinista agricultural planes were equipped with containers to hold 100 kg of air bombs. As such, the planes were used to bomb CIA-backed "contra" units.
The little-known page of combat use of the An-2 is the war in Afghanistan. In addition to transporting cargo to field airfields, these vehicles were used by the Afghan Air Force as light reconnaissance and correctors. Several times they bombed by villages occupied by armed opposition units. Good maneuverability and low infrared signature of the piston engine helped them to avoid defeat by MANPADS missiles. If the An-2 anti-aircraft machine guns came under fire, they went on a shaving flight or dived into the gorges. Repeatedly, the Afghan An-2 returned to the airfields with holes, but they are not in the reports of combat losses.
An-2 also occasionally participated in various conflicts in Africa. Machine-gun turrets were hand-mounted on airplanes, and hand grenades and industrial explosive cartridges were usually used to bomb ground targets.
The scale of the An-2's combat use in ethnic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia was much larger. In Croatia, a bomber squadron with about a dozen An-2s was created on the basis of the agricultural detachment in the city of Osijek. Since November 1991, Croatian "twos" had been involved in night bombings of Serb positions, with a total of more than 60 combat sorties. At the same time, homemade bombs dropped through open doors were used. Due to the low infrared visibility, the An-2 proved to be a difficult target for the Strela-2M MANPADS that the Serbs had. There is a case when the Serbian military spent 16 MANPADS missiles in order to shoot down a Croatian piston biplane at night. In total, the Croats lost at least five An-2s during the fighting near the city of Vukovar.
In January-February 1993, a Croatian An-2 bombed the positions of troops and important objects of the self-proclaimed Republic of Srpska Krajina. One An-2 was shot down during a raid on an oil field near the village of Dzheletovica. The crew managed to make a forced landing, but trying to escape persecution, the pilots exploded in a minefield.
In 1992, Croats used their An-2s during fighting in the former Federal Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. There, one plane burned in the air after hitting a 57-mm projectile anti-aircraft gun S-60. Bosnian Serbs got the equipment of local aeroclubs, they used the An-2 as scouts and light attack aircraft. In March 1993, a plane was shot down while bombing Muslim positions near the town of Srebrenica.
Cases of An-2 combat use during the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh were noted. According to media reports, one Armenian An-2 crashed after being damaged by anti-aircraft fire.
In Chechnya, General Dudayev had several serviceable An-2s at his disposal. It is known that some of them were prepared for use as night bombers. But these planes did not have time to take part in hostilities, all of them were destroyed in early December 1994 by Russian aircraft at the airfields of the base.
The use of "twos" in hostilities was usually forced. Transport-passenger, agricultural and aeroclub aircraft made combat sorties after minimal re-equipment and training.
The use of the An-2 for military purposes in the DPRK was approached quite differently. Much of the Soviet and Chinese-made biplanes in North Korea were being upgraded at aircraft repair plants. To reduce visibility at night, the planes were painted black, in the doorways and in the porthole mounted shooting turrets. Holders for bombs and NAR blocks were installed under the lower planes and the fuselage. In addition to the strike functions, the "twos" were tasked with throwing spies and saboteurs into South Korea. They crossed the line of demarcation at extremely low altitudes, remaining invisible to South Korean and American radars. The Military Museum in Seoul is currently showcasing a North Korean An-2 captured by South Korean intelligence during one of these missions.