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PC-9M for COIN ops

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  • PC-9M for COIN ops



    COIN – COunter-INsurgency – aircraft were a military aviation fashion back in the 1960s and 1970s, mainly because of Vietnam. Now they’re coming back into fashion, because of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it looks like the Irish Air Corps have the right aircraft at the right time to do the job.

    Flight International recently reported that the USAF, on behalf of the Iraqi Air Force, wants to buy at least 8 counter-insurgency aircraft that can serve a dual role as intermediate to advanced trainers. The aircraft should be delivered from November 2008 - April 2009, with options to buy additional aircraft in annual lots of 6. They are specifying a single-engine turboprop powered by a PT6 family engine, with sensors and weapons including electro-optical sensors and guided weapons capability. There are four lookalike candidates: the Brazilian Embraer Super Tucano ALX, the Korean KO-1, the Pilatus PC-9M, and the Beechcraft AT-6B (based on the US version of the PC-9M).

    The AT-6B, for example - pictured above - is intended for roles such as close air support in a low intensity conflict environment, as well as training. It could operate as an escort for troop-carrying helicopters, for example, at a fraction of the cost of an attack helicopter. It will have Kevlar armour for crew protection, as well as provision for chaff and flare dispensers. The rear-seat crew member can operate some sensor or weapon systems, or function as a forward air controller, or the rear seat can be quickly removed to make provision for additional fuel or other stores.

    The Air Corps have at least some of this this capability already, in the PC-9M. What would it take – in terms of equipment, modifications, training, tactics – to develop a serious combat capability around these aircraft, a capability that would be very relevant to the types of military situations the Irish Defence Forces might expect to encounter in their overseas deployments?

  • #2
    hi there
    Well, for a start, they'd have to give it a IR-suppressed exhaust, armour all round the engine, belly, fuel tanks, ammunition stowage, canopy,etc. If they want to go about carrying the stuff in the picture, then they'd need the biggest P & W engine going, to haul all that crap about, especially all the draggy, scabbed-on flare/chaff throwers,the IR/FLIR camera, extra pylons,etc.
    Just bring back the A-37 or even a Skyraider with a turboprop.The USAF seems to have fits and starts about COIN every few years and then decides against it a few years later.
    Better still, buy SU-25s.They're cheap, plentiful, can carry anything and could fly off a Mayo boreen.
    regards
    GttC

    Comment


    • #3
      one step at a time?

      Well, maybe one step at a time...

      This is where the Air Corps are at now:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFJpys6CY1Y

      (I know this video has been posted before but it's particularly relevant here too.)

      They seem to have at least a basic ground attack capability. If they wanted to improve on this, what would be the next step? Some Kevlar for the cockpit? Defensive aids - could they be better integrated into the airframe? So without going the whole AT-6B hog, could some additional capability be developed at a reasonable cost?

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      • #4
        The Slovenians upgraded their PC-9M's with the help of an Israeli firm. They are now wired to carry Sidewinders and I think possibly external fuel tanks, but I'm unaware of whether or not the upgrade incorporated flare/chaff/ECM enhancements.

        As someone put it on another website:
        "Remember, the T-6 is just a Pilatus PC-9 and the original Swiss design is forbidden by law from being armed...anyone with armed PC-9s has made their own, alternative, arrangements. So flying in combat is not in its genes."

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        • #5
          Imagine the crustie reaction....i think we should do it just for that alone
          What are you cackling at, fatty? Too much pie, that's your problem.

          Comment


          • #6
            There is no need to upgrade the PC-9 M, it is a trainer, for training, it is not suitable for combat except in extreme emergency, if used in combat people will die, our people.
            Perhaps in the future some suitable for combat will be purchases, something like the F-50 of if certain people have their way , the much oversized F-18..............
            "We will hold out until our last bullet is spent. Could do with some whiskey"
            Radio transmission, siege of Jadotville DR Congo. September 1961.
            Illegitimi non carborundum

            Comment


            • #7
              Slovenian combat PC-9Ms

              According to ‘Air Forces Monthly’, the most potent unit of the Slovenian Air Force is the Air Combat Squadron, which has nine upgraded Pilatus PC-9Ms used for training and fire support. They have been modified to use a range of modern weapons by a team including with the French firm Alkan (underwing pylons), Israel’s EL-Op/Radom (avionics) and FN Herstal (weapons supplier, presumably). The upgraded PC-9M ‘Swift’ is capable of carrying up to 2,100lb (1,040kg) of armaments on its six underwing pylons in combat configuration. (As a matter in interest, Slovenia pays €60 million annually to Italy for the provision of air defence, about the cost of one new fighter aircraft per year….)



              But if Pilatus aren’t allowed to sell armaments, then the Irish PC-9Ms must have been upgraded since their acquisition also. The YouTube video shows their current combat capability, which could be quite useful in a low intensity situation, such as the Irish Defence Forces often operate in while overseas. It was stated at the time of the purchase of the PC-9Ms that they would have a limited combat capability, so this was obviously intended from the start. We’re never going to have fast jets – it would be a waste of enormous sums of money – so let’s make the most of what we’ve got.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by carrington View Post
                According to ‘Air Forces Monthly’, the most potent unit of the Slovenian Air Force is the Air Combat Squadron, which has nine upgraded Pilatus PC-9Ms used for training and fire support. They have been modified to use a range of modern weapons by a team including with the French firm Alkan (underwing pylons), Israel’s EL-Op/Radom (avionics) and FN Herstal (weapons supplier, presumably). The upgraded PC-9M ‘Swift’ is capable of carrying up to 2,100lb (1,040kg) of armaments on its six underwing pylons in combat configuration. (As a matter in interest, Slovenia pays €60 million annually to Italy for the provision of air defence, about the cost of one new fighter aircraft per year….)



                But if Pilatus aren’t allowed to sell armaments, then the Irish PC-9Ms must have been upgraded since their acquisition also. The YouTube video shows their current combat capability, which could be quite useful in a low intensity situation, such as the Irish Defence Forces often operate in while overseas. It was stated at the time of the purchase of the PC-9Ms that they would have a limited combat capability, so this was obviously intended from the start. We’re never going to have fast jets – it would be a waste of enormous sums of money – so let’s make the most of what we’ve got.
                Christ on a bike, I'm well aware of the fact that the Irish Air Corps PC-9's can carry a mix of Rockets & Machine Gun pods, thanks. As implied by my earlier post, this was arranged with a third party, possibly FN, during the purchase.

                Just answer me this; what role would you see the aircraft fulfilling, on say a deployment like Liberia?

                Then, explain to me why Ireland should supply an aircraft with "limited" combat ability on such a deployment, when one of our partners on the ground there, operates a world class fighter aircraft, has past experience on deploying to Africa and most importantly has a wide stock of precision air to ground munitions.

                The only role I can see for the PC-9 is possibly acting as a FAC, operating in tandem with much more capable, purpose built combat aircraft.

                An aircraft like the PC-9, without the benefit of laser guided, or gps guided weapons is going to have to come low to drop its payload, thereby making it vulnerable to small arms fire and considering the fact that it doesn't feature, and wasn't designed to feature armour - this is an insane risk to take. In my opinion anyway...

                Also, let's not forget that even the IRA had a couple SAM-7 systems in their inventory, so one can assume there would be a few such devices floating around Africa and the Middle East. A PC-9 doesn't stand a chance against an enemy that has something like that at their disposal.

                Comment


                • #9
                  I suggest you look for the an Cosantoir article that details an exercise by the AA units in Haulbowline protecting against the PC-9s.

                  Through terrain masking, the PC-9s stand a very good chance.
                  If you have to do it, you always have to do it right. Either it makes a difference, or it’s good practice so that when it does make a difference, it gets done right.

                  -Me.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    the story so far...

                    Just a bit of background...

                    This thread was prompted by discussion on another thread about door-gunners on the AW139s. That led to the question of the circumstances under which these guns might be used. I suggested that troop-carrying helicopters would need smaller, more heavily armed helicopters to escort them, if they were heading into situations where they might expect to use their door guns. (This is the process that led to the development of attack helicopters during the Vietnam war.) But this suggestion was 'shot down' - not unreasonably - as unrealistic for the Air Corps. So the more realistic alternative of using armed PC-9Ms for this purpose was then proposed, supported by the apparent growth of interest elsewhere in the use of this type of aircraft in low intensity, counter-insurgency conflicts.

                    What is the purpose of equipping these aircraft with weapons and training pilots for ground attack, if they are never to be deployed as combat aircraft?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Look, tactics and intel beat threats.

                      Even the Brits admit that if you don't have DAS (Defensive Aids Suite), tactics are still the best way to counter all known threats. The major step would be in instructing guys on how to counter the known threats and rehearsing that.

                      Sure, counter measures are an advantage and armour is a bonus, but look at aircraft that operated against these threats in the past without DAS and still fulfilled the mission. Falklands? Korea? Angola? Afghanistan with the Russians? Much of the equipment in a likely PSO environment is going to be of that nature. If it is of a higher level, int will suggest that a limited scope of ops is required.

                      The Su25 is laser guided everything and is a pain in the ass to keep on target. Or so my flight sim tells me!!! Give me a good old ballistic weapon and I'll be happy.

                      In an engagement against known AA weapons you have to expect a level of attrition. The nature of the incident would prove to be the crucial deciding factor of a deployment. Even in Iraq, the insurgents protect and hold the trained missile operators in reserve until they know they can get a kill. Missile packs have a limited battery life, and unless you have planned an engagement and are sufficiently trained to ensure a reasonable chance of a hit, there is no point in even powering up the seeker, cos it is a waste of a valuable asset. We're not the only buggers with limited assets!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        what's the point?

                        Originally posted by Turkey View Post
                        There is no need to upgrade the PC-9 M, it is a trainer, for training, it is not suitable for combat except in extreme emergency, if used in combat people will die, our people.
                        Perhaps in the future some suitable for combat will be purchases, something like the F-50 of if certain people have their way , the much oversized F-18..............

                        What's the point of this then?


                        Last edited by thebig C; 23 May 2007, 22:51.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by carrington View Post
                          What's the point of this then?

                          The point of red x is to tell you that frank doesn't like people stealing his bandwidth.


                          Catch-22 says they have a right to do anything we can't stop them from doing.

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                          • #14
                            Hi all
                            Just suppose you did bring a few armed PC-9s to Liberia or some such place!? What happens then? The Air Corps have no combat experience, no FAC experience, no experience avoiding live AA or SAMs and so on....whirling around Haulbowline is all very well, especially if you spent the day before reading the maps and have already flown over the place many times. I suggest trying out against the RAF Regiment over a previously unseen site might soften a few Air Corps coughs......The PC-9 in it's current state is as vulnerable as you can get. The grave yards are full of pilots of far better equipped and protected aircraft. Perhaps a few Liberian gunmen with rattly old AKs is all it can cope with right now.....
                            regards
                            GttC

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              what is it for?

                              Originally posted by GoneToTheCanner View Post
                              Hi all
                              Just suppose you did bring a few armed PC-9s to Liberia or some such place!? What happens then? The Air Corps have no combat experience, no FAC experience, no experience avoiding live AA or SAMs and so on....whirling around Haulbowline is all very well, especially if you spent the day before reading the maps and have already flown over the place many times. I suggest trying out against the RAF Regiment over a previously unseen site might soften a few Air Corps coughs......The PC-9 in it's current state is as vulnerable as you can get. The grave yards are full of pilots of far better equipped and protected aircraft. Perhaps a few Liberian gunmen with rattly old AKs is all it can cope with right now.....
                              regards
                              GttC

                              I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you, but this is the question that comes to mind: if the PC-9M is unable to engage in combat operations even in the lowest intensity environment, then what is it for? Why did we spend €60 million, when we could have bought a fleet of Cessnas for a small fraction of that price to teach people to fly? Because you don't need a PC-9M if you're going to end up flying a Learjet or a helicopter. Why did the Air Corps pay extra to have weapons fitted? There's no point training pilots for ground attack if there's no possibility of ever having to do it for real.

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