Maturing the 2nd generation “3rd Generation airplanes”

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The third generation witnessed continued maturation of second-generation innovations, but it is most marked by renewed emphases on maneuverability and traditional ground-attack capabilities. Over the course of the 1960s, increasing combat experience with guided missiles demonstrated that combat would devolve into close-in dogfights. Analog avionics began to be introduced, replacing older “steam-gauge” cockpit instrumentation. Enhancements to improve the aerodynamic performance of third-generation fighters included flight control surfacessuch as canards, powered slats, and blown flaps. A number of technologies would be tried for Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing, but thrust vectoring would be successful on the Harrier jump jet.

check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vertical/Short_Takeoff_and_Landing

Growth in air combat capability focused on the introduction of improved air-to-air missiles, radar systems, and other avionics. While guns remained standard equipment (early models of F-4 being a notable exception), air-to-air missiles became the primary weapons for air superiority fighters, which employed more sophisticated radars and medium-range RF AAMs to achieve greater “stand-off” ranges, however, kill probabilities proved unexpectedly low for RF missiles due to poor reliability and improved electronic countermeasures (ECM) for spoofing radar seekers. Infrared-homing AAMs saw their fields of view expand to 45°, which strengthened their tactical usability. Nevertheless, the low dogfight loss-exchange ratios experienced by American fighters in the skies over Vietnam led the U.S. Navy to establish its famous “TOPGUN” fighter weapons school, which provided a graduate-level curriculum to train fleet fighter pilots in advanced Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM) and Dissimilar Air Combat Training (DACT) tactics and techniques.

This era also saw an expansion in ground-attack capabilities, principally in guided missiles, and witnessed the introduction of the first truly effective avionics for enhanced ground attack, including terrain-avoidance systems.

TSR-2 XR220 at RAF Museum Cosford, 2002. Ferranti developed terrain following radar specifically for the TSR-2.

Air-to-surface missiles (ASM) equipped with electro-optical (E-O) contrast seekers – such as the initial model of the widely used AGM-65 Maverick – became standard weapons, and laser-guided bombs (LGBs) became widespread in effort to improve precision-attack capabilities. Guidance for such precision-guided munitions (PGM) was provided by externally mounted targeting pods, which were introduced in the mid-1960s.

AGM-65 Maverick.. air to surface guided missile

It also led to the development of new automatic-fire weapons, primarily chain-guns that use an electric engine to drive the mechanism of a cannon; this allowed a single multi-barrel weapon (such as the 20 mm Vulcan) to be carried and provided greater rates of fire and accuracy.

Apache Gun (M230 Chain Gun

Powerplant reliability increased and jet engines became “smokeless” to make it harder to visually sight aircraft at long distances.

F-4 Phantom in flight Apr 1982

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