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An-75 Madcap - Naval Variant

The Soviet Union began to develop a 'blue water' navy in the 1980's. It was soon realised that large aircraft carriers operating fixed-wing aircraft were essential for a any credible 'power projection'. Taking the US Navy as the benchmark, fixed wing fighters need a both tanker and AEW support capable of operating from a carrier, and the Soviet Union had neither.

In the middle of the 1970s the Soviet Union had a number of OKBs develop designs for carrier-based aircraft under the general program name Typhoon. The Soviet Naval fleet had undertaen a new task of developing an oceanic Soviet fleet. This began with building atomic rocket cruisers and aircraft-carrying ships. Because Soviet military doctrine bore a "defensive" nature, aircraft carriers in the USSR modestly named "heavy aircraft-carrying cruiser" [Tyazholyi Avianesushyi Kreyser - TAKR]. Nevertheless, TAKR of the "Tbilisi" class (now an only ship of this type in the Russian fleet - Admiral N.G.Kuznetsov) was already a valuable aircraft carrier, in contrast to the ships of the type "Moskva" or "Kiev" classes. For the accomplishment of the missions confronting ships of this class, helicopters and aircraft of the type Yak-38 were already clearly insufficient.

The study of combat experience and technical and operational indices of American impact carrier-based aircraft and support aircraft, their combat employment, including of aircraft of antisubmarine defense (PLO), radar surveillance ([RLD]) and electroninc warfare (REB), showed that subsonic aircraft with a long range, intended for actions against ground-based and waterborne targets, composed the basis of the impact forces of the fleet of the US. It was obvious that the presence on board the TAKR of several original types of combat aircraft substantially complicated and raised the price of the combat employment of aviation impact means, their operation and logistic support.

A shipborne variant of the An-71 received the tentative designation An-75. In 1982-83 the OKB studied a naval version of the aircraft. At first two versions were examined - one on the base of the constructed land machine, and the other newly projected. Subsequently work continued in the direction of the modification An-71 into the carrier-based aircraft An-71[K]. In the 4th quarter of 1983 the tactical-technical requirements [TTZ] appeared, while in the 3rd quarter of 1984 they developed technical proposal. In it was represented the version of the deck carrier aircraft, which carries out the TTZ fully. However, for it to operate aboard the aircraft-carrier a catapult was needed, but not a ski-jump runway. To substantially increase the thrust-weight ratio of the machine, a version with three starting motors was proposed.

The customer, after examining the technical proposal, made the several decisions. Further development of ship-based aircraft on the basis of the land-based aircraft was considered inadvisable, on the basis of the conditions for takeoff and landing from the aircraft-carrying ship, the mass of the RTK, the need for the major modification of land counterpart, conducting of the large volume of aerodynamic and bench studies. At over 75,000 pounds maximum take-off weight and a 104 foot wingspan, the Madcap was too large for continuous carrier operations. An AEW variant of the Ka-29 Helix helicopter was a better candidate for the job. Soviet authors wrote approvingly of the Royal Navy's use of helicopters in this role.

It was decided to continue works on the creation of ship version with the fulfillment of experimental design works with all stages. Work persisted on an An-71 navalistaion project, but its thrust/weight ratio was insufficient to permit 'ski jump' takeoffs. The An-71's engine arrangement hampered any wing-fold procedure. If they moved the engines underwing (as they have now done with the An-74TK-300) it would have freed up space for wingfold - and a new position for a rotodome - but it would have been, effectively, a new design. The project was dropped in favor of Yakovlev's 'clean sheet of paper' Yak-44 twin turboprop, which was later cancelled itself in 1995.

Another unusual variant of the An-72 which has recently been displayed at the Aviant aircraft plant is the An-72R. The An-72R was also designed to act as a carrier-born AEW aircraft, but with a phased-array radar mounted along both sides of its fuselage. This aircraft at the Aviant aircraft plant alongside Svyatoshino airfield near Kiev is believed to be only one of the three aircraft to survive.

Eventually, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the whole aircraft carrier program was called into question and when one carrier did finally enter service it did so without a fixed-wing AEW aircraft.




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