Military Aviation

A quick look at Scaled Composites ARES, the mini A-10 that never was that played the part of the secret Me 263 jet in the movie Iron Eagle III

‘It’s fast, cheap to operate and easy to build. Most importantly, it has the ONE THING troops want and that the potential replacements for the A-10 lack: a big ass gun,’ Damien Leimbach, former USAF Avionics Technician.

Developed as a concept in support of a US Army request for a Low Cost Battlefield Attack Aircraft (LCBAA), the Scaled Composites ARES (acronym for Agile Responsive Effective Support) is a full-scale proof-of-concept demonstrator. The LCBAA design goals were low-altitude, anti-tank, battlefield support with long endurance, and capable of operating outside of improved airfields environment.

ARES has flown more than 430 hours, and demonstrated all of its design performance and handling qualities goals, including departure-free handling at full aft stick. During November of 1991, tests of the GAU-12/U gun system installed in ARES were performed, with outstanding results.

‘Think of it as a mini A-10,’ says Damien Leimbach, former US Air Force (USAF) Avionics Technician on Quora.

‘It’s a single seat, single engine, canard style Close Air Support aircraft with an internal 25mm Gatling gun.

‘The engine and single intake is mounted on the opposite side of the plane from the gun to balance it out and prevent the engine from ingesting propellant gasses from the gun.

‘It’s fast, cheap to operate and easy to build. Most importantly, it has the ONE THING troops want and that the potential replacements for the A-10 lack.

A big ass gun.’

Movie buffs may also remember the ARES in its role as the secret Me 263 jet in the screen classic Iron Eagle III. After the appearance in the movie, the aircraft has become a commercially available research test bed. The aircraft was stored in December 2000 at the Mojave Spaceport until Scaled Composites became a Northrop Grumman subsidiary and flown again on Mar. 7, 2008.

Leimbach explains:

‘It was designed from the start to use as many off the shelf components as possible. The jet engine is used in Cessna Citations. The hydraulics are from a Piper Malibu. The data bus is from an F-16. The gun is the GE GAU-12, already used in [AV-8B] Harriers and [as a lighter four-barrel cannon designated GAU-22/A] F-35’s. It has pylons to carry things like small diameter bombs, Hydra rockets, and Hellfires if upgraded with a targeting pod. For air to air it can also carry Sidewinders and Stingers.

‘The plane can withstand 8 G’s, and because it is so lightweight it has a range of 1200 miles.’

Leimbach concludes:

‘It has a combat radius of over 600 miles, and for reference the A-10’s is 250. Although I will concede that the A-10 carries a lot more than the Ares.

‘But just think about flooding the skies with these. What a sight.’

In the following video legendary aircraft designer Burt Rutan reveals the secrets of ARES.

Photo credit: Resplendent via Wikipedia

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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