COIN Aircraft: Additional capability or pie in the sky?

EMB-314 Super Tucano

Recently I saw this…

TBM850 Radar Pod
TBM850 Radar Pod

 Which reminded me of this…

Vought F4U-2
Vought F4U-2

  Especially this bit…

   F4U2 Corsair RadarI then wondered if something similar could be done for this…?

EMB-314 Super Tucano
EMB-314 Super Tucano

The EMB-314 Super Tucano appears to be the ideal COIN aircraft.  It’s relatively cheap, has a good endurance and it can carry a wide range of weapons, including the AIM-9L Sidewinder.  The radar on the SOCATA TBM 850 may just be a weather radar, but given the historical significance of the radar equipped F4U Corsair, there lays the potential to expand the intercept capability.

Given that governments require greater capability from the aircraft within their air forces, I wondered if a radar unit would give the Super Tucano greater flexibility, especially if it could engage fighter aircraft?  Ok, you may say that this is just, as the title suggests, a pie in the sky idea (pardon the pun), but aircraft such as the Dassault Mirage 50 and the Mirage F.1 were fitted with small radar dishes as the customers tendered to be from hot countries, which had the advantage of clear, blue skies.  The same could be said for the Super Tucano, giving it the ability to attack aircraft beyond the visual range of the pilot.  As the AIM-9L has a range of between 0.6 and 22 miles, this would vastly expand the Super Tucano’s repertoire.  As for the layout, the radar antenna would be mounted in the wing pod, with the actual radar unit itself being mounted inside the fuselage, as close to the aircraft’s centre of gravity as possible.  Yes, a radar unit would add weight and drag, but this could be negated by having a single seat variant if necessary.

EMB-314 Super Tucano
EMB-314 Super Tucano

 As the EMB-314 has a service ceiling of around 35,000 ft, this of course is dependent on aircraft weight, temperature etc, carrying a pair of drop tanks and Sidewinders, coupled with ground radar, gives an air force something of a trump card.  Given its rough field capability, it isn’t fixed to large airbases as a modern jet fighter is, and allows the Super Tucano to survive day one of a significant conflict or avoid an Israeli style mass, pre-emptive strike.

 Although the idea of a propeller driven aircraft engaging a jet fighter may sound somewhat implausible, going on past experiences the reality begins to become more apparent:

  •  A Royal Navy Hawker Sea Fury shot down a Mig-15, Korea 1952, as did a USMC Vought F-4U Corsair the same year.
  • Two A-1 Skyraiders shot down two Mig-17’s during the Vietnam conflict.

 Accepted, the list is not exhaustive and the jets were second generation, but when you consider the plausible anti-helicopter capability of a COIN aircraft, a low cost prop versus the high cost fast jet or Apache attack helicopter, the potential would prevent an MOD bean counter from standing up in polite company.

In reality the customer of the Super Tucano tends to be third world air forces, with small, less exotic inventories.  Giving the EMB-314 a radar to extend their capability, and may allow the mouse to roar that little bit louder.

And for anyone who thinks that the Super Tucano may lack the twin engine redundancy that COIN really needs, how about a version like this…?

P-82 Twin Mustang
P-82 Twin Mustang


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