The Alpha Jet series of aircraft was a joint Franco-German initiative to produce a highly-advanced tactical trainer with close-air support combat capabilities. The French firm of Dassault-Breguet generated the initial evaluation model under the designation of "TA501" (which combined the qualities of two earlier French and German proposals). The concept was accepted for further development by the two participating nations and ultimately was finalized to become the "Alpha Jet" of the late 1970s. Since then, the type has gone on to see service with several other nations including Belgium, Egypt and Thailand.
The Alpha Jet was of a conventional design meant to train upcoming pilots in the intricacies of jet-powered flight and high-speed weapons delivery. The twin-engine, two-seat strike platform proved an agile mount and was given a high-mounted, swept-wing monoplane arrangement which allowed for clearance of various ordnance types under the wings. A single vertical tail fin was affixed to above and between the two engine exhausts (aspirated by forward-set air intakes to either side of the cockpit). The forward-most pilot managed good visibility out of the large two-piece glass canopy. The instructor/co-pilot was seated in the more obstructed rear cockpit position. The undercarriage was of a conventional tricycle layout with two single-wheeled main landing gear legs and a single-wheeled nose landing gear leg - all retractable. Power is supplied by a pair of SNECMA Turbomeca Larzac 04-C5 series turbofan engines buried within the middle-aft portion of the fuselage. Maximum listed speed is 620 miles per hour at sea level with a ferry range out to 1,800 miles. The listed service ceiling is 48,000 feet with a rate-of-climb exceeding 11,200 feet per minute.
Standard armament for the German Dornier mounts includes a 27mm MauserBK-27 series revolving autocannon in a fuselage centerline gun pod. The French Dassault versions substitute this for a 30mm DEFA internal cannon at the same fuselage position. The Alpha Jet supports AIM-9 Sidewinder and Matra Magic II series air-to-air missiles as well as the AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missile. Additionally, the Alpha Jet is cleared to carry conventional drop bombs, cluster bombs, cannon pods and rocket pods across five hardpoints (5,500lb maximum load). She is plumbed at two hardpoints for 2 x jettisonable external fuel tanks.
Germany operated 93 such aircraft in its inventory and appreciated the value of the system as both an advanced trainer and a close-air support weapon (the latter in extreme circumstances) and fielded it as such through the Alpha Jet A models produced locally Dornier. German Alpha Jets were fitted with Doppler radar navigation systems and an advanced nav-attack suite capable of fulfilling the close-support requirement. Ultimately, the series was retired from frontline service with the Luftwaffe in 1997 with fifty examples sold to Portugal and a further six to the United Kingdom. As such, Germany is no longer an active operator of the Alpha Jet. The French received 99 Alpha Jet E models and still manage them in their inventory.
In all, some 480 Alpha Jets in a handful of marks were produced for Germany and France and select export customers. The system is still a proven commodity thanks to her sound design, strong performance in the desired roles and inherent versatility. The Alpha Jet series has been modernized and improved on several occasions to keep it a viable battlefield system for the near future.
Belgium; Cameroon; Canada; Germany; Ivory Coast; Egypt; France; Morocco; Nigeria; Portugal; Qatar; Thailand; Togo; United Kingdom; West Germany
(OPERATORS list includes past, present, and future operators when applicable)
✓Close-Air Support (CAS)
Developed to operate in close proximity to active ground elements by way of a broad array of air-to-ground ordnance and munitions options.
Developed ability to be used as a dedicated trainer for student pilots (typically under the supervision of an instructor).
43.4 ft (13.23 m)
29.9 ft (9.11 m)
13.7 ft (4.19 m)
7,871 lb (3,570 kg)
16,755 lb (7,600 kg)
+8,885 lb (+4,030 kg)
(Showcased structural values pertain to the Dassault-Dornier Alpha Jet A production variant)
2 x SNECMA / Tubomecha Larzac 04-C20 turbofan engines developing 3,175 lb of thrust each.
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