Turkey, heart of the Ottoman Empire, had joined the Central Powers in October 1914.Through a combination of botched diplomacy, neglect, and underestimation of the ability of Turkey to put up much of a fight, leaders in England and France rather suddenly found themselves confronted with a new set of major problems growing out of the Turkish decision. If the Ottoman Empire attempted to send its massive but ill-equipped army to reclaim its jurisdiction over Egypt, the Allies could lose the vital Suez Canal link between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

More imminently, Turkey controlled access to the Black Sea, where Russia had its only ice-free ports in winter, through the waterways connecting to the Mediterranean Sea. The Bosporus flowed as a narrow but unbridged waterway dividing Europe from Asia at the city of Constantinople, then the capital of the Ottoman Empire. That waterway passed south to the Sea of Marmara, enclosed by land in the 100-mile-long neck known as the Gallipoli Peninsula, where the water again narrowed in the Dardanelles passage (itself 38 miles long), before emptying into the Mediterranean. With ships, minefields, and shore-mounted artillery, the Turks found it quite easy to monitor all water-borne traffic and to prohibit the passage of any enemy warships or merchant ship traffic. With the Ottoman declaration of war, Turkey suddenly cut off the traditional Black Sea ports of Russia from Allied traffic. By closing the single strategic choke point of the Dardanelles passage, Turkey could prevent supplies from the Allies ever reaching Russia. Some of Russia’s other ports were icebound in winter, and the Pacific port of Vladivostok, although linked by rail to European Russia, offered a very poor substitute for the Black Sea ports closed by the Ottoman decision.

The Turkish threat to the Suez Canal seemed only slightly less imminent. Turkey had nominal rule over Egypt, although British troops had occupied that region since the 1880s to help guarantee British and friendly access through the canal, one of the world’s most crucial maritime choke points. If Turkish troops in nearby Palestine, then under Ottoman rule, marched across the 120-mile-wide Sinai Peninsula and closed the canal, the Central Powers could effectively block the best route for transport of troops from Australia, New Zealand, and India to assist Britain in Europe. The lightly manned garrison in Egypt had to be immediately strengthened against this very real threat.

Despite the strategic importance of the Ottoman Empire, with its ability to control these crucial waterways, policy makers in Britain and France and the public in those countries tended to think that any battles fought against the Turks would represent a “sideshow.” Western Europeans often jokingly spoke of the Ottoman Empire as the “sick man of Europe” for its ineffectual control of the Balkans and its losses of territory to smaller nations like Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria during the 1912–13 First Balkan War. The Ottoman acquiescence in the British occupation of Egypt, coupled with the seizure of the North African territory of Libya by Italy in 1911, all seemed to suggest that the empire verged on collapse and that its remaining territories would readily fall as spoils of war to the victors. Such expectations also rested on a racist view that Turks could not possibly stand up against British or other European troops. This illusion, in particular, died hard.

In Britain, some saw Turkish weakness as an opportunity. Winston Churchill, serving as First Lord of the Admiralty, believed that a British naval expedition to force the Dardanelles and take Constantinople could quickly open the way to aiding Russia and allow encirclement of the Central Powers. This concept would grow into a somewhat muddled plan to take the Dardanelles and the Gallipoli Peninsula, subdue Constantinople, and knock the Turks out of the war quickly.

The battles of World War I fought in the Middle East turned out not to be a sideshow at all, but rather a series of grand engagements that shaped the history of the region for the rest of the 20th century and left a legacy of lessons about how warfare would be fought in the new era. World War I in the Middle East revealed the difficulties of mounting a major invasion of troops from the sea and showed how out of date the traditional tactics of war had become. It also showed how a racial holocaust could transpire during a major war. And, in a lasting legacy, it left behind redrawn maps of the region that sowed the seeds of conflict for at least a century.


The effort against the Dardanelles and the landings of troops at Gallipoli led to more than 250,000 Allied casualties, and demonstrated many of the problems of coordinating army and navy forces in “combined operations.” A Royal Commission in Britain reviewed the mistakes almost immediately, and, over the next decades, a host of published studies dissected the campaign. The commission reviewed and studied every detail of the failed operation, from chain of command, to personality of officers, tactics on the ground, supply systems, and use of aircraft, ships, and submarines. Although the Allies made many mistakes, in some cases they simply suffered the bad luck of the accidents of war. In retrospect, the history of Gallipoli became one of the great tragedies of World War I.

While the great powers in western Europe engaged in war, Turkey unleashed a massive genocidal holocaust against the Armenian population of Turkey. At first, journalists and neutral diplomats like those connected with the American legation assumed the Turkish authorities simply wanted to repress any political dissent among the Christian Armenians who might feel more sympathy for the Russians than for their Muslim government. Such observers could not believe the early accounts of the horrors of extermination of the civilian population. However, before the slaughter subsided, upwards of 1 million Armenian civilians had been viciously murdered. This mass atrocity in itself served as a precedent, in several ways, for the later holocaust against the Jewish people conducted by the Nazi regime in the 1930s and under the cover of World War II. From the perspective of potentially victimized minority ethnic groups around the world, the Armenian tragedy far exceeded in importance the military defeat of the Allies during the Gallipoli campaign.

As the British attacked at Gallipoli, defended the Suez, and invaded the Mesopotamian provinces (now the nation of Iraq) of the Ottoman Empire, they came to realize that the Turkish army, although ill-equipped and although defeated in the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913, put up a formidable fight, especially when on the defensive. In fact, the principles that produced stalemate on the western front also served to stymie British and French advances at Gallipoli, in Mesopotamia short of Baghdad, and in the British effort to advance from the Sinai Peninsula through Gaza into Palestine. Entrenching shovels and the machine gun proved as effective in the hands of the Turks as in the hands of the French and Germans on the western front. The theory of massed attack by troops against defenders, inherited from the age of Napoleon, worked no better in the Middle East than it had in Europe. That method of war seemed equally disastrous at Gallipoli, on the Tigris River in Mesopotamia, and in Palestine. Although most Allied officers failed to learn that lesson during the war, a few did.

The war against the Ottoman Empire left the legacy of a completely changed map of the Middle East. The British, in this region as well as in Europe and the Far East, worked to gain allies by making secret promises of territorial adjustment. That concept might have been reasonable, except for the fact that in the Middle East the British made at least three separate contradictory groups of promises—to the French, to leaders of the world Jewish community, and to the Arabs. The British partially fulfilled other promises to the Russians, Italians, and Greeks, while assurances to the Kurdish people vanished into history. As the Allies cut up the Ottoman Empire and occupied parts of it in the postwar world, those contradictory promises would come back to haunt the British and would sow the seeds of future conflicts that would last into the 21st century. Many of the burning issues that occupied headlines in later decades, such as the status of Palestine and Israel, the nature of Iraqi nationality, and the relationship of Arabic- speaking states with Europe and the West, had their origins in the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. What seemed to the Arabs and even to British critics of the policy to be duplicity probably resulted from the fact that different statesmen and officers made various promises at different times. In that way they created a muddle of affairs not fully known until after the war when all the commitments began to surface.



Admin Box




Slim, who used to post photographs above his desk of the Japanese commanders he faced so that he might gain insight into their psychology by studying their faces, had always expected a counterattack against 15 Corps. Indeed, he had worked out that the blow was almost certain to fall on the flank of 7 Indian Division on the left. But when the Japanese did launch their counterattack, he was taken aback by its size and the sheer speed of the enemy. Where Slim had been tempting his foe to battle for his own short-term purposes, the Japanese counterpunch was part of a long-term, almost geopolitical objective. As some of Wingate’s critics had feared, the main consequence of Operation LONGCLOTH was that it gave the Japanese ideas of their own and specifically raised the idea of an attack on India. Lieutenant General Mutaguchi Renya, victor of the Singapore campaign in 1942 and now commander in Burma, wargamed the possibility of an attack on India and won the support of his superiors in Tokyo. His thinking was that if he could brush past the British in Assam and thus reach the gateway into the subcontinent, all India would rise up to greet their deliverers, led by the pro-Japanese Subhas Chandra Bose and his so-called Indian National Army. The fall of India would mean the definitive end of the British Empire in Asia and would even allow the Japanese to link up with the Russians in Persia. It must be said in passing that the Japanese geopolitical perspective was chimerical, for what was feasible in 1942 was, by 1944, after Stalingrad and Kursk, no longer so; by now the Germans were fighting for survival. Nonetheless, at the very moment Churchill was assuring Wavell that the Japanese would never invade India, Mutaguchi intended to achieve exactly that. Lieutenant General Hanaya Tadashi, commanding in the Arakan, was the stereotypical brutal Japanese officer of legend. His task was to make the British think that the counterattack in the Arakan was the appearance of the main army earmarked for the conquest of India, thus leading Slim to send up his reserves from Imphal. The operation in the Arakan was codenamed HA-GO and was intended as a feint to mask the real attack on Imphal, designated Operation U-GO. To mask U-GO convincingly, the assault in the Arakan had to be massive, and it was this that initially wrong-footed Slim.

Faced with such huge and unexpected numbers, Messervy, commanding the British rear, withdrew into the Admin Box and 7 Indian Division dug itself in for what everyone knew would be a brutal, slugging encounter. Slim had no choice but to commit his reserves at Imphal to Arakan, but still hoped he could use them as the hammer if the Admin Box could hold out and provide the anvil. For 18 days battle ebbed and flowed around the Admin Box but the Japanese could make little impression, despite ferocious hand-to-hand fighting. They had expected that once the British saw their communications severed by the outflanking movement on their left, they would panic and flee, allowing the Japanese to pick off individual regiments at will and thus destroy the whole of 15 Corps. Instead, morale held and the British dug in and waited for a relieving force. And now the scale of Japanese underestimation of the enemy became clear. Their arrogance and overconfidence was truly astonishing; it was almost as though they found it inconceivable that the British army could ever change its methods or tactics or that they might be facing an entirely different kind of opponent this time. Expecting to wind up the Arakan campaign in a mere 10 days, instead for 18 days they beat like oceanic waves against a towering cliff. Attacked by infantry and from the air, the garrison in the Admin Box never wavered, although casualties were terrific; the Box was so crammed with men and materiel that it was almost impossible for attackers not to find a target. The Japanese came closest to success right at the beginning of the siege, when they broke into the hospital compound and shot or bayoneted many of the sick; when they were finally cleared out on 9 February, the bodies of 31 patients and four doctors were found. The ferocity of the Japanese is explicable, though not pardonable, by their awareness of fighting the calendar as well as the British. Too late they realised the appalling risks they had been running with their chimerical 10-day timetable. Everything had been predicated on travelling light and seizing what they needed, but when the British did not roll over as expected, starvation loomed for the poorly supplied attackers. Moreover, casualties began to mount exponentially. Yet as Slim had predicted, the Japanese refused to admit defeat and instead redoubled their effort. By 13 February Slim was confident of victory and soon 26 Indian Division began to arrive to deliver the blow from the hammer. The Japanese fought desperately during the final battles for the Box on 17–24 February, but when they withdrew they left behind them 5,000 dead.

The Myth of Japanese Invincibility in the Jungle


(c) Cuneo Estate; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The one remaining psychological hurdle was the myth of Japanese invincibility in the jungle. To lay this to rest, Slim planned a campaign where he would enjoy such numerical superiority that he was bound to win; a single victory of this sort would prick the ‘Japanese complex’. This was why he returned to the scenes of British humiliation in early 1943 and ordered another offensive in the Arakan. Stilwell and other American commentators thought this pointless, at least if there was no simultaneous amphibious operation farther south, but they missed the point, which was that Slim was seeking out an easy victory. The one obvious card the Allies had in Burma was numerical superiority. In 1943 the Japanese had five divisions there, which would increase to seven in early 1944 and later to eight, plus four divisions of their Thai allies. Thus far Slim was amply fulfilling one aim of Allied policy, which was to draw enemy manpower away from the Pacific theatre. Against this, even leaving Chiang’s immobile Y-force out of the picture, the Allies could pit the three Chinese divisions Stilwell had trained at Ramgarh – 35,000 men in all – plus six British divisions and auxiliaries, not counting the Chindits and their auxiliaries. In the Arakan Slim was aiming at a two-to-one local superiority, which he hoped would be buttressed by a similar discrepancy in heavy armour and airpower. His 15 Corps would attack the so-called ‘Golden Fortress’ across the Mayu range – a system of defences consisting of interlocking bunkers and built around three distinct bastions: a western approach at Razabil, an eastern approach at Letwedet, and the strongest position of all, the centre, based on the labyrinth of tunnels the British had encountered the year before and which had hitherto been considered impregnable. Slim’s plan was that 15 Corps would advance to the Maungdaw–Buthidaung road and would then bifurcate, with 5 Indian Division attacking Razabil while 7 Indian Division took Buthidaung and assailed the Letwedet bastion from the rear; both divisions would then unite for the attack on the tunnels in the centre. Careful preparations were laid. A road was built over the Ngakyedauk pass in the Mayu range, and where the pass entered the valley at Sinzweya, in a flat area of dried-up paddy fields some 1,200 yards square, corps headquarters was set up – a farrago of buildings, arsenals, petrol dumps, a mule station, an officers’ shop, even a military hospital and soon dubbed the ‘Admin Box’.

Slim had gathered around him a cadre of trusted officers who knew his methods and had listened carefully to his lessons about concentration of force so as to have overwhelming local superiority, the crucial role of tanks, the importance of never attacking on a narrow front and the need constantly to be on the lookout for Japanese outflanking movements. A key part of his doctrine was the ‘hammer and anvil’. Adopting the basic idea of the bunker, he aimed to construct defensive positions in places the enemy had to attack to keep their lines of communication open. Heavily defended, such positions would form the anvil against which the enemy would waste their forces in vain, until the time came for Slim to send in the reserves as the hammer that would deliver the coup de grâce. Three additional factors made Slim confident of success: the Japanese habit of committing all their troops and not retaining a reserve; their reluctance to admit a mistake and cut their losses; and their appallingly idiotic habit of carrying their battle plans and marked maps into combat, so that when the British captured these documents they knew enemy intentions in detail. All these ideas Slim had often communicated to his inner circle, essentially ‘Punch’ Cowan, Philip Christison, Geoffrey Scoones, Frank Messervy, H.R. Briggs, C.E.N. Lomax, Douglas Gracey, Ouvry Roberts, Steve Irwin and Alfred Snelling, his supply and commissariat officer. It was all the more amazing, then, that when the campaign opened in January 1944, Christison, commanding 5 Indian Division, launched exactly the kind of frontal assault on Razabil that had proved so disastrous the year before. Perhaps overconfident after a massive USAAF air assault and a huge tank and artillery barrage, he sent in the infantry, who made no progress against the bunkers. Barbed wire, bamboo stakes and withering fire from pillboxes halted the tanks and heavy artillery in their tracks. From their nests, Japanese machine-gunners doled out fearful damage. Inwardly cursing Christison, Slim was in a difficult position, for if he intervened he would come across as a micromanager in the mould of Noel Irwin; he would be doing to Christison what Irwin had done to him in 1943. It was, he concluded, Christison’s battle, and he just hoped and prayed he would see sense. Fortunately Christison and Briggs recovered from their mistake and on the second assault moved to the Slim orthodoxy of guile, hooks and encirclement, forcing the Japanese to counterattack. But after five days (26–31 January), the Japanese bunkers still stood firm. At the end of January Christison switched his attentions from Razabil to Buthidaung and Letwedet.

Chinese Military Aviation






The Republic of China Air Force (ROCAF) was formed by the Kuomintang after the establishment of the Aviation Ministry in 1920. As tensions mounted between the China and Imperial Japan in the 1930s, a number of smaller Chinese warlord airforce men and equipment became integrated into the ROCAF in a centralized effort to counter Imperial Japanese military ambitions.

China became a nominal republic in 1912, when Sun Yat-sen’s Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) deposed the last Manchu emperor. But the country’s most prosperous, mercantile cities remained de facto foreign colonies. Shanghai’s International Quarter was actually a European city within a city, guarded by French and German legation guards and British, Japanese, and American Marines. The hinterland was ruled in feudal fashion by independent warlords, renegade Imperial or republican generals, wealthy landowners, or simple adventurers who exercised absolute powers of life and death over their subjects. Much of their time was spent in wars and conspiracies against rival warlords, so European-equipped and led private armies were everywhere. Sun Yat-sen, dependent entirely on the former Imperial army for defence, found himself all but powerless. He was forced into alliances with various warlords and lost control of the government he had been elected to lead.

Sun Yat-sen had one powerful ally, however: Lenin. At a time when all the Western powers were backing Japan and expanding their colonies, Soviet Russia renounced Tsarist-era territorial concessions and returned Chinese land. The Soviets supplied arms and advisers to Sun Yat-sen’s movement and set up a military academy under “Galen,” General Vasili Bluecher, and political commissar Mikhail Borodin. Promising Chinese army officers like Chiang Kai-shek were sent to Moscow for advanced training. Soon, the Kuomintang was able to secure a base of operations in Canton and, under the leadership of Sun Yat-sen’s Moscow-sponsored successor, Chiang, launched the Northern Expedition that would, by 1927, subjugate all warlords south of the Yangtze River.

In the 1920s, meanwhile, ultra-right, militarist factions came to dominate the Imperial Japanese Army. They saw their mission as conquest: Japan would establish a vast “East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere” that would drive out the Europeans and set Asians to their destined work, supplying labor and raw materials for Greater Japan. Resource-rich Manchuria and Mongolia were to be the initial targets of this great expansion.

Thirty-five years of effort had produced substantial gains by 1930. The Japanese had gained a foothold in China in the one-sided Sino-Japanese War of 1895, when China ceded Formosa (now Taiwan) and Koreato the Emperor’s government. The Russo-Japanese War built on this success by winning control over the Russian naval base at Port Arthur and the Russian railroads in southern Manchuria. The Versailles Peace Conference rewarded Japan’s wartime military and naval service with additional territory in China. The German colonies were awarded to Japan, in spite of the fact that China had itself sided with the Allies. Japan greatly expanded these holdings using anti-Bolshevism as cover. Japan’s forces in Russian East Asia were by far the largest to join the Allied intervention.

In 1931, the generals decided that it was time to complete this slow takeover of north China. When some track was conveniently blown up along a Japanese-owned rail line near the Japanese garrison at Mukden, Japan’s Korea-based Kwantung Army seized the whole province of Manchuria, citing the need to “maintain order,” to protect Japanese nationals, and, once again, to contain “communism.” The generals unilaterally declared the independence of Manchuria from China and proclaimed it the new Japanese protectorate of Manchukuo. In a clear threat to the rest of China, they selected the latter’s deposed Manchu emperor as the puppet head of state for their creation. The vain, gullible princeling soon found himself a virtual prisoner in his own supposed country.

During the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945), the ROCAF participated in attacks on Japanese warships on the eastern front and along the Yangtze river including interdiction and close-air support for the Battle of Shanghai in 1937. Initially, the Chinese frontline fighter aircraft were mainly Curtiss Hawk IIs and IIIs and Boeing P-26Cs. These engaged Japanese fighters in many major air battles beginning on14 August 1937, when Imperial Japanese Navy warplanes raided Chienchiao airbase; “814” has thus become known as “Air Force Day”. Chinese Boeing P-26/281 fighters engaged Japanese Mitsubishi A5M fighters in the world’s first dogfight between all-metal monoplane fighters. A unique mission in April 1938 saw two Chinese Martin B-10 bombers fly a mission over Japan, but dropping only anti-war leaflets over the Japanese cities of Nagasaki and Saga. It was a war of attrition for the Chinese pilots, as many of their most experienced ace fighter pilots, such as Lieutenant Liu Tsui-Kang and Colonel Kao Chih-Hang, were lost. Six months into the war, which is considered the beginning of World War II in Asia, the Chinese Air Force inventory of frontline American Hawk IIs and IIIss and P-26Cs were superseded by faster and better armed Polikarpov I-15s and I-16s as support from the Soviet Union grew and American support faded.

American P-40E Warhawk decorated with the famous sharkmouth nose art that had identified the AVG.

Through attrition and loss of their most experienced fighter pilots in the first half of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the Republic of China Air Force ultimately suffered irreversible losses in combat against the Japanese, and by the beginning of 1942 the ROCAF was practically annihilated by Japanese aircraft, particularly with the introduction of the Mitsubishi A6M Zero. The ROCAF was eventually supplemented with the establishment of the American Volunteer Group (known as the “Flying Tigers”) with heavily armed and armored Curtiss P-40 Warhawks, and subsequently rebuilt each year following Imperial Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor with new aid and vigor from the United States.

The Sino-Japanese War started on 7 July 1937. At that time, Chinese sources estimated the Japanese could field approximately 600 aircraft (from a total of 1,530) against China’s 230 combat aircraft. During the first phase up to 1939, aerial bombing of enemy bomber formations was tried with indifferent results, and leaflet-dropping raids carried out over Japanese cities.

The Japanese bombing raids were also fiercely contested, sometimes with significant Japanese losses. After suffering heavy losses in the Battle of Wuhan in October 1938, most air force units were withdrawn for reorganisation and training.

The ROC Air Force was reconstituted into seven Groups, one separate Squadron and four Volunteer Groups. In 1940, the Russian Volunteer Group was stood down. By the end of 1941, the air force had 364 operational aircraft. Up to 100 of these were P-40Bs operated by the American Volunteer Group. U.S. replacement aircraft began to arrive in March 1942. They included A-29s, P-40s, P-43s, and P-66s, and in 1945 B-25s, B-17s, and P-51Bs and -Ds.

In 1944, the USAAF U.S. 15th Air Force commenced joint operations in the China theatre.[citation needed] By this time the Chinese Air Force was mostly equipped with current operational aircraft types and was superior in all respects to the opposing Japanese air forces which remained.


The Chinese Aviation Museum, is also sometimes referred to as Datangshan due to its location adjacent to the mountain of the same name. The museum was first opened to the public on 11 November 1989, to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.

The museum is located 40 km (25 mi) north of Beijing city.

Part of the museum is located inside a cave in the side of Datangshan Mountain. The cavern was originally part of the tunnels and underground bunker system of Shahe Airbase, and is 586 metres (1,905 ft) long by 11 metres (36 ft) high by 40 metres (130 ft) wide. The road leading to the museum is actually also used as a taxiway between the base and bunker system.

List of aircraft used in China before 1937

This is a partial list of aircraft China purchased prior to 1937:

Rumpler Taube

Caudron G.3

Handley Page Type O

Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2

Avro 504, Vickers Vimy

Breguet 14

Breguet 273

Curtiss Model D

Curtiss HS-2L

Aeromarine 39

Curtiss JN-4

Polikarpov R-1

Caudron C.59

Schreck FBA-17

Schreck FBA-19

Raab-Katzenstein Pelikan

Fairchild KR-34CA

Focke Wulf S-24

Focke-Wulf Fw 44

de Havilland Gipsy Moth

Junkers F.13

Junkers W 33

Junkers W 34

Junkers A 20

Junkers A 35, Junkers K-47

Junkers Ju 52

Junkers Ju 86

Junkers Ju-160

Junkers K-53

Ryan Brougham

Potez 25

Potez 33

Blackburn Lincock




Sukhoi Su 25






The Su 25 is successor to the famous Il 2 Shturmovik of World War II. Fast and heavily armed, it is reputedly the most difficult plane in the world to shoot down.

The air war in Vietnam highlighted the need for simple close-support aircraft able to operate from unpaved strips close to the front. Such warplanes would also have to deliver heavy ordnance against targets with great accuracy and be able to survive intense ground fire. The United States parlayed its experience into the Fairchild A-10 Thunderbolt II, a heavily armored twin-engine bomber. The Soviets also watched these developments closely before deciding that they, too, needed similar aircraft and capabilities. During World War II Russia had deployed the redoubtable Il 2 Shturmovik aircraft for identical reasons, so in 1968 the Sukhoi design bureau became tasked with developing an equivalent machine for the jet age. The bureau settled upon a design reminiscent of the Northrop YA-9, which had lost out to the A-10 in competition. The new Su 25 was an all-metal, shoulder-wing monoplane constructed around a heavily armored titanium “tub” that housed both pilot and avionics. Engines were placed in long, reinforced nacelles on either side of the fuselage, and the fuel tanks were filled with reticulated foam for protection against explosions. To assist slow-speed maneuvering, the wingtip pods split open at the ends to form air brakes. Its profile is rather pointed, but a blunt noseplate covers a laser range finder/target designator. The Su 25 is somewhat faster than the A- 10, trusting more in speed to ensure survival than a dependency on agility and heavy armor. It is nonetheless an effective tank destroyer.

Technical description

The Su-25K’s service life was given as 1,500 flying hours before a major overhaul, and the service interval as 700 hours. They obviously did not expect high utilisation, since the 700-hour interval was also given as a seven-to eight-year gap. The first production Su-25 hardly differed from the later prototypes, and a technical description of one would apply just as well to the other. In fact, all Su-25s up until the Su-25T/TM were structurally similar, with much the same systems. Only a handful of changes were made as a result of later combat experience in Afghanistan, and they were limited in scope, despite their impact and significance.

The Su-25 was of conventional configuration and construction, apart from the extensive use of armour plate. The aircraft was an all-metal monoplane with a high-set, high aspect-ratio wing which was modestly tapered and slightly swept on the leading edge, but not on the trailing edge. The wing incorporated 2°30′ of anhedral. Engines were mounted to the fuselage sides in semi-conformal nacelles. Sixty per cent of the aircraft’s structure was of conventional Duralumin construction, with 13.5 per cent titanium alloys, 19 per cent steel, 2 per cent magnesium alloys and 5.5 per cent fibre-glass and other materials. Virtually no use was made of carbon-fibre composites or advanced aluminium lithium alloys.

Electrical power was supplied by a single 28.5-volt DC circuit, and by three 36-volt/400-Hz and one 115-volt/ 400-Hz AC circuits. The DC circuit consisted of a transformer, voltage regulator, and circuit breakers. Power was generated by a pair of engine-driven GSR-ST-12/400 generators, with two 25 Aph NiCad batteries available as an emergency power source.

A series of preproduction aircraft was subsequently deployed to Afghanistan, where the planes performed useful service against guerilla forces. Western intelligence had previously identified a Soviet parallel to the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt and dubbed it `Ram-J’ until it became better known as the Sukhoi Su-25 `Frogfoot’. A trial deployment is said to have been made as far back as 1980, but the type was most certainly used in the spring offensive. Working in conjunction with the Mi-24, this jet attack aircraft experimented with methods of co-ordinating the two disparate types, and the results will doubtless be noted for potential use in the Western theatre. They flew some 60,000 sorties, losing 23 machines in the process, but the decision was made to enter production in 1980. Since then 330 Su 25s have been built; they have received the NATO designation FROGFOOT.

The effect of the Stinger

The advantage of having two engines was fully exploited in the Su-25, in which the powerplants are mounted so close together that damage to one engine could cause collateral damage to the other. This became abundantly clear following the 1984 introduction of the Redeye SAM by the Mujahideen, and by the October 1986 delivery of General Dynamics FIM-82A Stinger SAMs. The introduction of Redeye was followed by the loss of two Su-25s in very quick succession, these aircraft having proved unable to decoy the SAMs away using flares. Flare capacity was increased from 128 to 256, by the addition of four 32-round dispensers scabbed onto the top of the engine nacelles. When the Mujahideen started using Stinger, the effect was even more dramatic. Four Su-25s were destroyed in three days, with two pilots lost. The Stingers tended to detonate close to the engine exhaust nozzles, piercing the rear fuel tanks with shrapnel and causing fires which could burn through control runs, or causing damage to the far engine. In order to prevent damage to one engine from taking out the other, a 5-mm armour plate was added between the two engines (acting as a giant shield and firewall), about 1.5 m (5 ft) long.

A new inert gas (Freon) SSP-2I/UBSh-4-2 fire extinguisher system was provided. This consisted of six UTBG sensors in the engine nacelles, which were connected to cockpit displays. The pilot had four push-buttons to actuate the extinguisher’s first and second stages for each section of the engine. The Freon was stored in spherical 4-litre (0.87-Imp gal) bottles, each containing 5.64 kg (12 lb) of gas pressurised at 6.9 to 14.2 MPa.

These modifications proved a great success, dramatically reducing the Su-25’s loss rate. No Su-25 equipped with the inter-engine armour was lost to a Stinger, although many were hit. The modifications were quickly incorporated on the production line, and were retrofitted to existing Su-25s.

Additional improvements were added during the period in which Su-25s were fighting in Afghanistan. On aircraft from the 10th production series, for example, the aileron control rod was fully faired in and the aileron trim tab was deleted. Elevator pivots were more effectively faired. Tenth series Su-25s also gained a second external APU/GPU socket. Other features appeared gradually, and cannot yet be pinpointed to a particular production series. The nosewheel was changed, from one which accepted a tubeless KN-21-1 tyre to one which took a tubed K-2106 tyre. The single long fuel tank access panel on the top surface of each wing was replaced by three shorter access panels, side by side. Small fins were added to the inboard faces of the bottom of each wingtip fairing, acting as glare shields when the PRF-4M pop-down landing lights were deployed. At the trailing edge of these pods, the airbrakes themselves were modified. Previously simply splitting 50° up and 50° down to give a > shape with the point forwards, they gained auxiliary segments which hinged upwards through another 90° at their trailing edges to give a shape reminiscent of a W turned on its side, with the central point pointing forwards. During production of the ninth production series the cannon muzzle was redesigned, with the ends of the twin barrels covered by a single muzzle shield. Many late production Su-25s had their distinctive SRZ and SRO ‘Odd Rod’ antennas replaced by simple blade antennas, similar to the SRO antennas fitted to later MiG-29s (which retained the traditional tripole SRZ antennas above their noses). The revised antennas may have combined interrogator and responder functions.

Convair F-102 Delta Dagger



The Delta Dagger was the world’s first supersonic interceptor and the first Air Force jet with a deltawing configuration. It was also unique in being armed only with missiles and rockets, not guns.

In 1950 the Air Force, faced with the specter of Soviet bombers coming over the North Pole, announced a competition to build a supersonic allweather interceptor. Two years earlier, Convair had already tested the XF-92, the world’s first delta-wing jet aircraft, the design offering certain advantages at high speed. In 1954 a scaled-up version, the XF-102, was flown, although it failed to exceed the sound barrier, or Mach 1. Upon further investigation, engineer Richard Whitcomb hit upon the application of “area rule” to reduce drag along the fuselage. Henceforth, the XF-102 was fitted with a pinched waistline, which finally allowed the craft to reach almost 800 miles per hour. The Air Force was impressed, and in 1956 the aircraft went into production as the F-102 Delta Dagger. By 1958 1,100 fighter and trainer craft had been manufactured and deployed.

The F-102 thus became the world’s first delta-wing supersonic interceptor; it was also highly automated. Once airborne, its advanced computers and telemetry would allow ground controllers to direct the craft precisely to an incoming target. When a radar lock was established, the sophisticated fire-control system would unleash numerous guided missiles or a cloud of unguided rockets at the intended target. Because guns were totally dispensed with, all missiles were stored in a weapons bay inside the belly. Ultimately, the Air Defense Command operated a total of 32 squadrons armed with the F-102. They remained in frontline service for two decades before being replaced by the faster McDonnell F101 Voodoo and Convair F106 Delta Dart. The aircraft was also operated in small numbers by Greece and Turkey.

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 38 feet, 1 inch; length, 68 feet, 3 inches; height, 21 feet, 2 inches

Weights: empty, 19,350 pounds; gross, 28,150 pounds

Power plant: 1 × 16,000–pound thrust Pratt & Whitney J57 turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 780 miles per hour; ceiling, 51,800 feet; maximum range, 566 miles

Armament: 6 × Hughes AIM4C radar-guided missiles; 24 × 2.75–inch unguided rockets

Service dates: 1956–1976

Convair F-106 Delta Dart



The Delta Dart guarded U.S. skies from Soviet bomber attacks for more than two decades. One of the most automated airplanes in history, its pilots did little more than direct takeoffs and landings.

The F-106 was originally a modification of the earlier F-102, but the changes proved so extensive that a new designation was warranted. Although it used the same wing, the fuselage was completely refined to incorporate a J57 engine with twice the power, and the air ducts were moved further aft for increased efficiency. The prototype first flew in 1957 and set a world absolute speed record of 1,525 miles per hour—two and a half times the speed of sound. Two more years of development were required before the F-106, christened the Delta Dart, was accepted into service. A total of 257 fighters and 63 two-seated trainers was built; they equipped 14 Air Defense Command squadrons by 1961. The F-106 was the most elaborately equipped fighter interceptor in history. Its MA1 fire-control system was tied into the semiautomatic ground environment (SAGE) defense network; SAGE could quickly direct the F-106 to any threatened point within the United States. Once a target was identified, onboard computers would launch either radar-guided Falcon or nuclear-tipped Genie missiles before standing off. Delta Dart pilots had little to do but take off, monitor instruments, and land. This capable aircraft was continually updated over the years with new avionics and armaments, and it remained the frontline of American defense for 25 years. It then flew with Air National Guard squadrons before retiring in 1988; many ended their days as expendable QF-106 target drones.

Type: Fighter

Dimensions: wingspan, 38 feet, 3 inches; length, 70 feet, 8 inches; height, 20 feet, 3 inches

Weights: empty, 24,420 pounds; gross, 34,510 pounds

Power plant: 1 × 24,500–pound thrust Pratt & Whitney J57 turbojet engine

Performance: maximum speed, 1,525 miles per hour; ceiling, 57,000 feet; maximum range, 1,800 miles

Armament: 1 × 20mm Gatling gun; 2 × AIM Falcon missiles; 1 × nuclear-tipped AIR2 Genie missile

Service dates: 1959–1988