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Scaled Composites Model 151 (ARES)

Close-Air Support (CAS) Demonstrator Aircraft


Only one demonstrator aircraft was built for the Scaled Composites ARES program of the 1990s - this intended to fulfill a U.S. Army CAS aircraft requirement.

Detailing the development and operational history of the Scaled Composites Model 151 (ARES) Close-Air Support (CAS) Demonstrator Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 8/7/2018. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
The ARES "Agile Responsive Effective Support") Model 151 aircraft was developed and built by Scaled Composites of the United States to an Army specification calling for a low-cost, high-return Close-Air Support (CAS) combat platform (under the "Low Cost Battlefield Attack Aircraft" (LCBAA) initiative). Work on the design was begun in 1981 and eventually involved the Rutan Aircraft Factory with the attempt to bring together the best known qualities of current-generation CAS aircraft to find the perfect mating of low-altitude, long-endurance, combat agility, performance, short-field / rough-field capabilities and firepower.

Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites brand was used to build the needed flyable specimen, which it did, as the Model 151. It was used solely as a technology demonstrator over its service life to prove certain concepts of the new CAS aircraft sound which, in its original form, evolved around a canard-equipped, pusher-configured turboprop-powered platform armed with a massive 30mm rotary cannon. Its over-battlefield role, given this time in history, would have been neutralization of Soviet-originated tanks and vehicles as well as concentrations of enemy troops and convoys.

Before long, the turboprop approach was superseded by a more proven Pratt & Whitney Canada (PWC) JT15D-5 turbofan engine of 2,950lb thrust output offering considerable performance gains. A first flight of this aircraft was finally recorded on February 19th, 1990 though Scaled Composites would only build one flyable example to the standard.

The prototype was armed ultimately with a smaller-caliber (though no less potent) 25mm GAU-12/U series Gatling-style internal gun and this weapon system was tested actively aboard the aircraft with good results. With this armament fitted along the nose's starboard side, an intake was set to portside to aspirate the turbofan engine - and thus keep it clear of any gasses expelled from the powerful rotary weapon. Other armament options (to be held across multiple external pylons) were unguided rockets and the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" and AIM-92 "Stinger" families of short-ranged Air-to-Air Missiles (AAMs).

Despite the unorthodox asymmetric approach given to the gun and engine fits, the ARES took on a largely conventional arrangement elsewhere about its design incorporating the cockpit at the nose and the engine exhaust port at the rear. Twin vertical tailplanes were held on short tail booms and the aircraft lacked true elevator planes. The wing mainplanes were low-mounted and set near midships in the usual fashion. Canards, small forward-set wings, were seated high along the sides of the forward fuselage section quite near the aft area of the cockpit. The sole pilot sat under a single-piece, unobstructed bubble canopy which gave excellent vision out-of-the-cockpit. Ground-running was accomplished through a traditional wheeled / retractable tricycle landing gear arrangement.

As tested, the Model 151 managed a maximum speed of 466 miles per hour with a listed combat radius of 690 miles. Its service ceiling peaked at 35,000 feet.

Despite interest on the part of the U.S. Department of Defense during the early-going of the program, the Model 151 was completed as a private venture by Scaled Composites with little help from the military. It managed to meet and exceed its testing requirements and completed some 250 hours in the air before seeing storage. It was flown one more time in March of 2008 and is currently offered by the company as a research platform. Of course there were United States Air Force (USAF) authorities who actively worked against the ARES program and there stood elements of the Army who were also interested in protecting the Hughes AH-64 attack helicopter in its given over-battlefield role. The USAF currently enjoys the fixed-wing CAS role with its aging stock of Fairchild A-10 "Thunderbolt II" attackers. The AH-64 takes on the rotary-wing CAS role in turn.


YEAR: 1990
STATUS: Active, Limited Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Scaled Composites (Rutan) / Northrop Grumman - USA
LENGTH: 29.20 ft (8.9 m)
WIDTH: 34.94 ft (10.65 m)
HEIGHT: 9.84 ft (3 m)
EMPTY WEIGHT: 2,888 lb (1,310 kg)
MTOW: 6,096 lb (2,765 kg)
POWER: 1 x Pratt & Whitney JT15D turbofan engine developing 2,950lb of thrust.
SPEED: 466 mph (750 kph; 405 kts)
CEILING: 35,007 feet (10,670 m; 6.63 miles)
RANGE: 684 miles (1,100 km; 594 nm)
OPERATORS: United States (evaluated)

1 x 25mm GAU-12/U Gatling gun
2 x AIM-9 Sidewinder OR 4 x AIM-92 Stinger short-ranged air-to-air missiles.

Also: Rocket pods, gun pods, and conventional drop ordnance.
Graphical image of an aircraft Gatling-style rotating gun
Graphical image of an aircraft machine gun pod
Graphical image of an air-to-air missile weapon
Graphical image of a short-range air-to-air missile
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition
Variants / Models

• ARES- Base Project Name.

Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 500mph
Lo: 250mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (466mph).

Graph average of 375 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Scaled Composites Model 151 (ARES)'s operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (1)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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