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FFA P-16 - Switzerland, 1955

Detailing the development and operational history of the FFA P-16 Jet-Powered Fighter / Close Air Support (CAS) Platform Prototype.

 Entry last updated on 4/18/2016; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ¬©

  FFA P-16  
Picture of FFA P-16

The FFA P-16 jet fighter prototype was the second major Swiss attempt at a local jet-powered combat platform seen during the Cold War.

Switzerland tried its hand at jet-powered fighter design during the Cold War years (1947-1991) resulting in what became known as the FFA "P-16". This aircraft followed the earlier EFW N-20 "Stinger" initiative - the country's first attempt - which netted the program nothing more than one completed prototype and an unpowered glider. Like the N-20 before it, the P.16 was an indigenous attempt at providing a local solution to a local problem - delivering a frontline combat jet to the Swiss Air Force to help usher out the aging and outmoded line of prop-driven fighters.

Due to the nature of the perceived war Switzerland would be fighting if ever invaded, an emphasis of the P-16 was for short-field operation with an inherently strong ground attack / Close Air Support (CAS) capability. By and large, the resulting aircraft was quite conventional for the post-World War 2 period: it seated a single pilot aft of a short nosecone, featured low-mounted straight wing mainplanes, wingtip fuel tanks, and was powered by a turbojet engine. The horizontal planes were held midway along the single vertical fin at the aircraft's rear. A split air intake configuration was used, half-moon openings seated to either side of the cockpit, to aspirate the single engine within the body of the aircraft. The tricycle undercarriage, reinforced for the rigors of unprepared landing strips, was wholly retractable and made up of a double-tired nose leg and double-tired main legs.

Proposed armament was 2 x 30mm Hispano-Suiza HS>825 cannons mounted in the nose with each gun afforded 120 projectiles. Each wing was given two hardpoints to carry a collective 5,700lb of ordnance in the form of conventional drop bombs. Additionally, a Matra 1000 retractable tray was installed under the forward fuselage which held 44 x 68mm SNEB rockets. Wingtip tanks offered increased operational ranges from the thirsty turbojet installation.

Production-quality aircraft in the series were to be powered by the British Armstrong Siddeley ASSa.7 "Sapphire" turbojet engine which outputted 11,000lb of thrust. Performance specifications included a maximum speed of 695 miles per hour, a range out to 900 miles and a service ceiling of 46,000 feet. Rate-of-climb reached 12,800 feet-per-minute. By definition, the P-16 was a "transonic" aircraft - neither subsonic nor supersonic.

A first-flight of a prototype (with ASSa.6 engine of 7,900lb thrust installed) designated "Mk I" was recorded on April 25th, 1955. However, this article was later destroyed in a crash. Two aircraft were completed to the Mk I prototype standard and followed by four planned pre-series aircraft designated "Mk II". The first of these flew with the ASSa.7 engine in place on April 15th, 1957. Only one of the four-strong lot was completed but two were reconstituted as "Mk III" entries fitted with the full armament suite. One of these was flown for the first time on July 8th, 1959 and the other followed into the skies on March 24th, 1960 - by this time the program was all but over.

Back in March of 1958, the Swiss Parliament had approved a procurement order of 100 aircraft built to the Mk III standard. The crash of a pre-production aircraft did little to inspire hope in the expensive local program and it was terminated by the government, the Swiss Air Force forced to buy British Hawker Hunter jets in their place. Some additional work on the part of FAA continued on their P-16 design in the continued hopes of still bringing the product to fruition but this resulted in just the two aforementioned completed Mk III aircraft.

Such ended the second Swiss attempt at a combat jet fighter.

FFA P-16 Mk III Specifications

Service Year: 1955
Type: Jet-Powered Fighter / Close Air Support (CAS) Platform Prototype
National Origin: Switzerland
Manufacturer(s): Flug und Fahrzeugwerke Altenrhein AG (FFA) - Switzerland
Total Production: 5

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 1
Overall Length: 47.01 feet (14.33 meters)
Overall Width: 36.58 feet (11.15 meters)
Overall Height: 14.01 feet (4.27 meters)

Weight (Empty): 15,521 lb (7,040 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 25,827 lb (11,715 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

Engine: 1 x Armstrong Siddeley ASSa.7 Sapphire turbojet engine developing 11,000lb of thrust.

Maximum Speed: 605 knots (696 mph; 1,120 kph)
Maximum Range: 783 nautical miles (901 miles; 1,450 km)
Service Ceiling: 45,932 feet (14,000 meters; 8.70 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 12,800 feet-per-minute (3,901 m/min)

Armament / Mission Payload

2 x 30mm Hispano-Suiza HS.825 cannons in nose
44 x 68mm SNEB aerial rockets in retractable ventral pack.

Up to 5,700lb of external ordnance across four hardpoints.

Global Operators (Customers, Users)

Switzerland (cancelled)

Model Variants

FFA P-16 - Base Series Designation
Mk I - Prototype model fitted with Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire ASSa 6 engine of 7,900lb thrust; 2 examples completed.
Mk II - Pre-production model with Sapphire ASSa 7 engine of 11,000lb thrust output; 1 example completed.
MK III - Armament fitted to Mk II forms; 2 examples

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