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Sturmovik / Udarnii-Samolet - Attack Aircraft


Su-25 Frogfoot
Il-102 Sturmovik



The idea of a battlefield aircraft or an aircraft of direct combat aviation support of ground forces on the battlefield, capable of delivering fire to enemy personnel and military equipment under intense enemy fire to effectively carry out combat missions by their forces, began to interest infantry and cavalry commanders with the advent of aviation. In the Great War, aviation was widely used not only for confrontation with the enemy in the air, but also for the destruction of enemy manpower and military equipment on the ground. Numerous types of aircraft appeared, which were used with varying success both for air battles and for fire support of troops. Moreover, already in the first period of the Great War, the Russian armies suffered significant losses not from machine-gun fire from German airplanes, but from ordinary iron arrows, which drove German pilots from high altitude to an accumulation of infantry or cavalry.

The Russian word udarnii may be translated as shock, strike or attack. An "udarnik" means striker, literally. Though the Russian term "udarnii-samolet" would be best translated as "attack aircraft", the word "udarnii" has a rather richer meaning.

The first Five-Year Plan in 1929 spawned a new demands on Soviet worker productivity. Shock workers (udarniki), a term originating during the civil war to designate workers performing especially arduous or urgent tasks, reemerged and was applied to all workers and employees who fulfilled obligations over and above their planned quotas. From 1929 onwards, shock work was linked invariably with socialist competitions. On August 31, 1935, Aleksei Stakhanov, a thirty-year-old miner working at the Central Irmino Mine in the Donets Basin, was reported to have hewed 102 tons of coal during his six-hour shift. This amount represented fourteen times his quota, and within a few days of the feat was hailed by Pravda as a world record. The party launched the Stakhanovite movement, and the title of Stakhanovite, conferred on workers and peasants who set production records or otherwise demonstrated mastery of their assigned tasks, quickly superceded that of shock worker. The brief period of extra physical exertion (known as "storming") associated with shock work was ill suited to complex production processes.

During the Great War, German attacks were carried forward by specially designated "assault divisions." When the German offensives faltered, feeble "trench divisions," whose personnel and equipment were inferior to the assault units, assumed the burden of defensive operations. These trench divisions had been purposely starved of replacements to flesh out the shock divisions.

The Soviet term "shock" as in "shock army" requires some explanation. Shock armies were combined arms formations intended to break into the enemy defense and develop the penetration through the defensive zone. Once they had secured a breach and established a bridgehead beyond the defensive zone, "mobile forces" (initially overwhelmingly tank-heavy and subsequently a little more balanced in terms of combined arms) would exploit the penetration and develop it to the objectives ofthe operation. Early Soviet theorists envisioned an operational unit or "shock army" as being a grouping of units above a corps. This was necessary to retain sufficient combat power afterachieving the costly tactical penetration. For example, the Soviet Second Shock Army, commanded by General A. A. Vlasov, slashed across the rear of the German Eighteenth Army in January 1942 only to become bogged down there in forest and marsh. Unsupplied and unreinforced, Vlasov's nine divisions and several separate brigades remained immobile in the German rear until finally capitulating in June 1942. In a more modern context the focus is not on the size of the unit, but the nature of the act performed. The shock army must be capable of "conducting successive operations from start to finish" and have the resources to permit it, without loss of time, to achieve operational depth.

Storm Aviation during the 1930s was a particular genus of combat aircraft. It acted as a rule, with strafing. This is one of its main differences from the actions of all other types of aircraft. Hedgehop increases combat power by 3-4 times compared with the actions of medium or high altitudes. Features strafing is mainly determined by the properties of the tactical ground-attack aircraft: attack methods of attack, the nature and quality of means of destruction; ways of combating ground-based air defense and air enemy, as well as forms and methods of tactical use of attack aircraft. Using fly-and employing various means of destruction, attack aircraft is capable to cause a sudden strong and powerful air strike on a variety of objectives and targets. Depending on aircraft assault weapons, the nature of the objectives and conditions may cause attack aircraft and a combined stroke, ie, hit the target at the same time in various ways, which greatly enhances the effects of combat and self-attack aircraft.

Russian military history knows a case in point when the future of the whole country depended on attack aircraft. IL-2, or, as the Germans called it, "reinforced concrete aircraft", was created to directly support the troops on the battlefield. It is important to emphasize that during World War II, ground targets were attacked not only by attack aircraft, but also by fighter pilots. At the beginning of the war, due to a lack of suitable equipment, these tasks were even carried out even by IL-4 bombers, which naturally led to huge losses.

The main difference between the IL-2 and other aircraft was that it was originally created as an attack aircraft: armor was part of the structure, which not only protected against bullets, but also carried a load. But all attempts to create an analogue of the Soviet attack aircraft in Germany failed. IL-2 became the most massive aircraft in the history of aviation: in total about 36 thousand attack aircraft were built, which greatly influenced the outcome of the war. Modifications of these machines were used in some countries until 1954, but in the USSR, attack aircraft were completely eliminated.

In April 1956 the Minister of Defense, Marshal Zhukov, presented to the leadership of the country, a report prepared by the General Staff and the General Staff of the Air Force on the low the effectiveness of attack aircraft on the battlefield in modern warfare, and it was suggested that attack aircraft be eliminated.

Assault aviation was abolished by order of the Minister of Defense of the USSR on April 20, 1956. This was due to the appearance of tactical nuclear weapons, which made us take a different look at the tasks of the Air Force over the battlefield: in the event of a nuclear war, attack planes seemed unnecessary. In addition, the command was confident that, if necessary, attack aircraft could easily be replaced by fighter aircraft, which even then could carry a wide range of weapons. But it soon turned out that this was not so.

Direct ground support of troops was and remains one of the main tasks of military aviation from the very moment of its inception. Experience of wars and military conflicts, development of aviation technology - all this worked constantly to perfect flying battlefield apparatuses. After the Great Patriotic War rapid development of jet aircraft led to an increase in speeds and height of flight. At the same time ongoing military conflicts invariably confirmed the necessity of the presence of the Air Force in simple and inexpensive specialized combat aircraft as much as possible adapted for assault action against ground targets.

In the second half of the 1950s, the Soviet Union tried to solve this problem with high-speed jet tactical fighters with tactical technical requirements (TTT) prevailing in specialized attack aircraft. The large scale exercises "Dnepr" conducted in the USSR in the fall of 1967 showed what was involved for support ground troops with supersonic MiG-21 and Su-7, as well as subsonic MiG-17 - the best results were made by the pilots flying the MiG-17. The secret was simple.

At this time the use of aviation adopted Soviet armament Su-7B and American F-105. It seemed what these supersonic high-altitude aircraft will be able to successfully solve problems striking ground targets in tactical depth. But the experience of the war in Vietnam and on Middle East again forced drawing attention to improvement by plane that provided a good overview from the cockpit, which allowed the pilot to recognize the target and hit it on the first run.

Despite the low efficiency of supersonic fighter-bombers in providing direct air support to ground units and operations against tanks, the Air Force leadership until the beginning of the 1970s did not see the need for a low-speed armored attack aircraft. Work on the creation of such an aircraft began on the initiative of the command of the Ground Forces.

The West did not stop development assault airplanes. It was determined that a plane with a low speed and height of action will be more effective. In 1963 US Air Force announced a competition of projects aircraft for local wars by the Counter-Insurgency [COIN] program, the result whom has become adoption of the turboprop combat OV-10A Bronco. US Navy Aviation since 1965 started to the creation of attack aircraft A-7A "Corsair", a subsonic modifications the carrier-based fighter F8E Crusader. This decision was accepted after in-depth review of existing and new aircraft projects!. In 1968 the AH program started, leading the creation of attack aircraft A-10A "Thunderbolt, which is still is in service with Air force USA. Other countries having developed aviation industry created light attack aircraft based on piston and turboprop engines.

By the mid-1960s, the military doctrines of the USSR and the USA again changed dramatically. It became clear that a full-scale nuclear war is unlikely, and conventional weapons will be involved in local conflicts. In 1967, the Dnepr exercises were held, during which fighter pilots tried to strike at ground targets. The results were unexpected: the most effective was the MiG-17 fighter, which, thanks to its maneuverability, allowed pilots to confidently recognize and hit targets. It was difficult for other high-speed cars to hit the ground because of their high speed. It became clear that the army needed a new attack aircraft, which became the Su-25, which later received the nickname "Rook" in the army.

All this did not escape the attention military leadership the USSR. In early 1969, the Minister of Defense Marshal A.A.Grechko turned to the leadership of the Ministry of Aviation Industry [MAP] with a proposal to hold a competition of projects for Light Attack Aircraft (LSS - Svet Sturmovik). The Air Force by mid-March 1969 formulated Tactical Technical Requirements [TTT] for the attack aircraft.

After that, for a long time it was not possible to agree on the characteristics of the machine. Representatives of the Air Force wanted to get a plane with high maximum speed, and the customer in the person of the Ground Forces wanted to have a machine that was vulnerable to anti-aircraft fire and capable of precisely picking out well-protected fire points and fighting single tanks on the battlefield. It is clear that the designers could not satisfy such conflicting requirements, and they did not immediately come to a compromise.

Already in the same month, MAP obliged CB CB. Ilyushin, A.I.Mikoyan, P.O. Sukhoi and A.S.Yakovleva hold at the competition based development of advance projects LSS in accordance with TTT Air Force from March 19, 1969.

The competition was attended by: Sukhoi Design Bureau with the T-8 project (Su-25), Ilyushin Design Bureau (Il-42), Yakovlev Design Bureau (Yak-25LSH), and Mikoyan Design Bureau - MiG-21LSH. At the same time, during the competition it was decided to stop work on the IL-42 and Yak-25LSh. As is well known, the result of this work was appearance and adoption attack aircraft Su-25.

Light attack aircraft intended for aviation support combined arms compounds by defeat enemy ground targets in tactical and the nearest operational depth. Main the task of the aircraft was to become destruction of manpower and equipment, including movable single and small targets day and night at visual visibility an additional task was considered the destruction of transport aircraft and small and medium helicopters heights basing aircraft could be carried out on unpaved airfields.

The development of the Su-25 project was started by young Sukhoi Design Bureau employees secretly from the leadership long before the USSR Ministry of Defense announced a competition for a new attack aircraft. In many ways, this influenced the victory of the Su-25: this car was the only one presented in the form of a full-size model, which, of course, also influenced the choice of the commission.

OKB SV Ilyushin submitted to the competition the project of the Il-102 attack aircraft, which was significantly larger than the Su-25: the empty mass was 13 tons versus nine for the Su-25, and the payload of the Il-102 was close to the Su-34 and amounted to 7 200 kg But it was the Sukhoi aircraft that was adopted, and, of course, this was done not only because the design bureau presented a full-scale layout: the project turned out to be closer to the needs of the military than the Il-102.

As a result of repeated demands for increasing combat load and speed, the Su-25 was transformed from a battlefield plane to a multi-purpose aircraft, but at the same time it lost the ability to base itself on small, minimally prepared sites near the front line and instantly fulfill targets on the battlefield according to the current situation.

This came around during the war in Afghanistan, because in order to reduce the response time to the calls of motorized riflemen and paratroopers, it was necessary to organize constant duty of attack aircraft in the air, and this led to a huge cost overrun of scarce jet fuel, which had to be delivered first from the USSR to the airfields of Afghanistan under constant fire of mujahideen , or to overcome huge distances from airfields in Central Asia.

Even more fatal was the problem of a light anti-helicopter attack aircraft. Its appearance in Soviet times did not take place, although several promising projects were proposed for consideration by the military. One of them is the light attack aircraft "Photon". The project of this attack aircraft, together with the developed model, was presented in the ordering departments of the Air Force armament service, but somehow it did not appeal to the aviators who repeated - any device that raises less than five tons of bombs is not of interest to the Air Force.

The "big attack aircraft", for understandable reasons, can not "hang" over the battlefield for a long time, working on the principle: - dropped bombs, shot and - flew away. As a result of this, the need arises for the emergence of new battlefield aircraft light non-aerodrome-based ground attack aircraft, which should be under the direct command of the battalion commander and brigade commander. Such aircraft should have one quality - be in the tactical reachability of the company, battalion or brigade location and be used for timely air cover and escort of military units during a halt, march or combat collision with the enemy, both on the defensive and on the offensive.

Ideally, light non-aerodrome-based ground attack aircraft should be directly tied to a specific platoon, company and battalion, ensuring the transfer of reconnaissance groups in the tactical depth of the offensive or defense, providing transportation of the wounded to the rear, during the so-called golden hour, to be involved in reconnaissance and observation on the battlefield and perform local tasks to suppress enemy firing points.

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Page last modified: 23-10-2019 18:32:27 ZULU