SOKO G-4 Super Galeb (Super Seagull) Light Attack / Advanced Trainer Aircraft
The dual-role advanced SOKO G-4 trainer survived the Yugoslav war of the 1990s and still maintains a presence in todays military airspace.
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The G-4 Super Galeb (Super Seagull) advanced trainer/light strike aircraft was born out of a Yugoslavian requirement to replace the aging Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star and G-2 Galeb jet-powered trainers then in service. VTI - the Aeronautical Technical Institute of Yugoslavia - undertook the program and design work began sometime in 1973. The prototype - designated as "G-4 PPP" - was produced by 1975 and first flight was achieved on July 17th, 1978. Six pre-production aircraft were next produced and delivered for evaluation, these also coming under the designation of G-4 PPP. Full production under the SOKO/Lola Utva factories banner began in 1982 and the system was officially added to the Yugoslav military ranks in 1983. In all, between 123 and 135 Super Galebs would be delivered (sources vary on the exact count). She remains in active service today and holds a relatively stellar service record with only two lost to accident in her nearly-thirty year career. At one point, the United States evaluated the aircraft during its Joint Primary Aircraft Training System competition, American test pilots giving the G-4 favorable reviews, but the Yugoslavian aircraft eventually lost out to the indigenous Raytheon T-6 Texan II.
The Super Galeb sports a modern appearance. She holds a rather short nose cone with the cockpit situated just aft. The stepped cockpit features seating for two personnel in tandem - a student in the forward seat and an instructor in the rear seat when used in the advanced trainer role. The cockpit canopy is a multi-piece unit with individual systems for each pilot as well as a framed forward component. Ejection seats are afforded to both positions. A raised spine behind the cockpit area disrupts views to the "six" angle. Intakes are mounted along the sides of the fuselage and aspirate the single turbojet engine. Wings are low-mounted assemblies fitted approximately amidships in the design. The wings sport sweep along the leading edge, features cut-off rounded wingtips and have slight sweep along the trailing edge. The empennage is conventional and makes use of a single vertical tail fin with a pair of all-moving horizontal tailplanes mounted at its base, each sporting anhedral. The engine exhausts through a circular ring at the rear of the fuselage and base of the vertical tail fin. Her undercarriage is a traditional tricycle arrangement featuring two main single-wheeled landing gear legs and a single-wheeled nose landing gear leg.
Performance and Dimensions
The G-4 is powered by a single engine buried within the elegant fuselage. The engine itself is of British origin, a license-produced Rolls-Royce Viper Mk 632-46 series turbojet system delivering up to 4,000lbs of thrust. Her top speed is billed at 565 miles per hour while her range is limited to 1,553 miles. The G-4 maintains a service ceiling in the neighborhood of 42,160 feet and sports a rate of climb equal to 6,100 feet per minute. Dimensionally, the G-4 features a wingspan of 32 feet, 5 inches and a running length of 37 feet, 2 inches. Her sitting height is just over 14 feet. The aircraft fields an empty weight of 6,993lbs and boasts a maximum take-off weight (MTOW) near 13,889lbs.
The G-4 fits a single Soviet 23mm GSh-23L cannon within a ventrally-located gunpod as standard defensive armament. This is augmented by the ability to carry around 4,000lbs of external ordnance across her four underwing hardpoints, a fuselage centerline pylon and wingtips (some production models - possible seven total hardpoints). The GSh-23 gunpod is fully removable for adding more launch or drop ordnance. External ordnance options run the gamut of cleared munitions including conventional drop-bombs, cluster bombs, rocket pods, air-to-air missiles and air-to-surface missiles. Croatia was known to field their G-4s with R-60 AAM and AGM-65 Maverick compatibility (the R-60s on wingtip launchers and the AGM-65s limited to the outboard underwing pylons).
G-4 is reserved for the base production model maintaining its strike capabilities. The G-4s is the unarmed version of the G-4 base. The G-4t is a target tow platform while the G-4M was used to note an upcoming advanced prototype. The G-4MD became that prototype's production form and was a digitally upgraded and modernized G-4 complete with a HUD (Heads-Up Display), GPS navigation, IFF (Identification Friend-or-Foe) and HOTAS (Hands-On-Throttle-and-Stick). The G-4MD was a Serbia program upgrade with the intention of covering some 15 operational aircraft, extending their service life up to the year 2030. The G-4 prototype proper was intended for a first flight in 1992 but the Yugoslav civil wars dictated otherwise.
There was an existing proposal for a radar-carrying version of the G-4 with improved strike capabilities to be known as the "G-5". However, the war in Yugoslavia certainly killed the prospect and the G-5 was never to be. The revised aircraft would have been a single-seat, single-engine platform with similar qualities to the G-4 before it with the exception of a broader mission scope.
The G-4 was involved in the Yugoslav civil wars of the 1990s, ultimately leading to the dissolution of the country. Seeing most of her action primarily in the beginning of the conflict and there were unsubstantiated reports of the aircraft seeing combat in the Kosovo War (1998-1999). The aircraft proved adequate for the light strike role and only three of her type were reported lost to enemy fire. One such example lost her tail to a ground-based FIM-92 Stinger short-range, shoulder-launched, surface-to-air missile and still remained airworthy enough to make it to a friendly air base. Of the three aforementioned aircraft lost in combat, all three pilots ejected their mounts safely. The SOKO plant in Bosnia (at Mostar) was left to its occupiers after Serbian moved in during the Yugoslav civil war, stemming any further Super Galeb production for the near future. Many G-4s were subsequently destroyed during the 1999 "Allied Force" NATO bombing campaign.
Current and Former Operators
Current operators of the G-4 platform include the Serbian Air Force, the Myanmar Air Force and the Montenegro Air Force. Serbia controls some 24 units while Montenegro makes use of 17. Myanmar limits their force to just 6 total with only one of these being listed as operational. Former operators included the dissolved Yugoslavia nation and Republika Srpska, the latter known to have operated just one example. Myanmar took delivery of their G-4s in the 1990s.