Archive digitization



Aviation and Diplomacy

Frank Piasecki

NATO 1949-2009 Projekt ekspozycji w Muzeum Lotnictwa Polskiego w Krakowie



Polish Aviation Museum

31-864 Kraków,
al. Jana Pawła II 39
phone: (12) 640 99 60,
(12) 642 40 70
e-mail: info@muzeumlotnictwa.pl

a cultural institution of the Malopolska Region

Małopolska – Kraków Region


Patronage

Kraków Airport







Aeroplane: Cessna A-37B Dragonfly

Cessna A-37B Dragonfly
USA
ground attack plane
1968



  • Technical data


Span 10.93 m
Length 8.93 m
Take-off weight 6350 kg
Maximum speed 816 km/h
Ceiling 12730 m
Range 1628 km
Armament See text
Powerplant :
2 x J85-GE-17A, 2270 kG thrust

 

The international political situation at the break of the 1950's and 1960's, connected with an increasing activity of different guerrilla organisations, became an alarming signal to American military planners. The USAF was very well prepared for large scale operations, but at the same time unable to fight organised, small, moveable guerrilla detachments.

At the beginning of 1961, at the Cessna company, work on the T-37C aeroplane, built for training with different weapons, started. Its design was based on the T-37B. The T-37C was all metal, mid wing plane, powered by two turbojet engines. The cockpit sat two persons, side by side. The undercarriage was retractable. Guns were not applied as weapons. Various unguided rockets, gun packs and containers for cameras were envisaged to be hanged under the wings on two external hardpoints. The aircraft needed a poor payload before being capable of playing a role in combat. It was exported within the military aid programs.

In 1962 the Air Force Special Weaponry Centre came up with a description of conditions for a new anti-guerrilla aircraft, based from experience gained during hostilities in Asia and Africa. Aimed at this, the two T-37C's were brought to the Eglin AFB in Florida. Tests revealed that increasing the armament, combat range, replacing the engines with those of greater thrust and changes in the construction, made ground servicing in field conditions easier.

In 1963, a contract was signed by the Cessna Company meeting the Special Weaponry Centre's conditions. In October Cessna's test pilot flew the prototype of a new attack aeroplane for the first time. After competing tests, 39 of the AT-37 attack aircraft were produced. In August 1967, 25 AT-37A aircraft came through the hard exam of combat in Vietnam.

Experience allowed for a modified version to be made, the A-37B. It was powered with the new General Electric J-85 turbojet, according to new conditions. Range was improved due to wing tip fuel tanks and all the fuel tanks were self sealing. The undercarriage was reinforced and the tyres were wider, allowing for take off and landing from unpaved aerodromes. The aeroplane was equipped with armament buried in the upper front fuselage. The armament consisted of the electrically rotated, six barrel 7.62 mm Minigun, with 6,000 rounds/min firing rate and 1,500 rounds in reserve. Also, up to 3,000 kg of various ordnance could be carried on the eight pylons under the wings. Avionics consisted of radio, navigation and identification equipment.

577 of the A-37B's were produced, including 254 handed over to South Vietnam. In 1975 North Vietnam began an offensive against the South. As the result the unification of Vietnam was enforced. The majority of captured A-37B's were brought into service with communist Vietnam's air force. These aircraft then served during the Vietnamese-Cambodian War.

The A-37B's were also used in Central and South America, where they were involved in local wars. In total, 169 aircraft were handed over as a military aid, including 110 delivered straight off the production line. The USAF aircraft returned from Vietnam were transferred to the Air National Guard (ANG). After changing the designation to the OA-37B, they were in service with the USAF for observation and target guiding for fighter bombers. By the mid 90's, the OA-37B's were eventually retired from service with the ANG.

The A-37B on display was shipped to Poland from North Vietnam in the 70's alongside the F-5 Tiger II. After long lasting tests it came to the museum in 1992, stripped down. In 2015 it underwent a thorough conservation process and was given a paint scheme of an aircraft from No. 520 Fighter Squadron, 74th Tactical Wing, 4 Air Division Vietnamese Air Force (VNAF).

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