Cessna A-37 Dragonfly

TypeLight ground-attack aircraft
Country of originUnited States
ManufacturerCessna
First flight1963
Introduced1963
ProducedCirca 1963 - 1970
Numbers built577
Unit costsData is not available
Max speedMaximum speed: 507 mph (440 knots, 816 km/h) at 16.000 ft

Cruise speed: 489 mph (425 knots, 787 km/h) at 25.000 ft
Max rangeRange: 800 nm (920 mi, 1,480 km)[citation needed]
Combat radius: 400 nm (460 mi, 740 km) with 4.100 lb warload
Service ceiling: 41,765 ft (12,730 m)
DimensionsLength: 28 ft 3.4 in (8.62 m)
Wingspan: 35 ft 10.3 in (10.93 m (including tip tanks))
Height: 8 ft 10.3 in (2.70 m)
Wing area: 183.9 ft² (17.09 m²)
WeightEmpty weight: 6,211 lb (2,817 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 14,000 lb (6,350 kg)
Powerplant2 x General Electric J85-GE-17A turbojet, 2,850 lbf (12.7 kN) each
ArmamentGuns: 1x .308 in (7.62 mm) GAU-2B/A minigun (mounted in nose)

Hardpoints: 8 under-wing with a capacity of 1,230 kg
Gun pods: SUU-11/A (1x 7.62 mm M134 minigun), GPU-2/A (1x 20 mm M197 cannon), 30 mm DEFA cannon

Rockets: four pods, each with seven 70 mm/2.75 inch rockets (Mk 4/Mk 40 FFAR rockets in a LAU-32/A, LAU-59, or LAU-68 launcher) or (Mk 66/WAFAR rockets in a LAU-131 launcher)

Missiles: AIM-9 Sidewinder

Bombs: 500 lb (241 kg) Mk.82 (x4 on multiple ejector racks), SUU-14 bomblet dispenser

Other: Napalm tanks, SUU-25/A Flare Dispenser
OperatorsCurrent Operators:
Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, United States, Uruguay, Vietnam

Former Operators:
Chile, Dominican Republic, South Korea, South Vietnam, Thailand, United States

The Cessna A-37 Dragonfly is a light ground-attack aircraft developed from a basic attack trainer, the T-37 Tweet. The A-37, also called Super Tweet, was developed by Cessna during 1960s and 1970s and intended to be a counter-insurgency (COIN) aircraft to take out small group of irregular insurgents.

The A-37 firstly saw combat in the Vietnam War but it was not the only battle experience for the Super Tweet. As the aircraft was also exported to several countries, mostly to South American countries, it saw combats to several conflicts in the region. A total of more than 577 units of A-37 had been manufactured. Some of them are still in service with several South American military forces.

The History of Cessna A-37 Dragonfly

Concerning over the increasing threat of communism in the South East Asia, United States military was increasingly eager to involve themselves in Vietnam. War in Vietnam was a guerrilla battlefield surrounded by hills and forest areas. Tactics of guerrilla warfare in the jungle typically use small group of troops and their movements are hard to detect.

To overcome the resistance of guerilla insurgents, a “not too fast” air attack aircraft was needed yet powerful enough to stifle or at least to slow their movement. Fighter aircraft was clearly not suited for such missions against the guerrillas in Vietnam because the fighters flying too fast. COIN aircraft was needed for taking out Vietnamese communist insurgents.

In the early days of the Vietnam War, United States relied solely on the Douglas A-1 Skyraider as its air attack power. However, as there were a lot of A-1 Skyraider shot down, then the United States military felt the need to continue the development program COIN aircraft, one of it was a further development of T-37 trainer aircraft. The program started in 1962 but was stopped in 1964. After considering the situation of conflict in Vietnam was increasing, eventually the program was continued.

The United States Air Force (USAF) believed that the performance shown by the T-37 was promising to be a light attack aircraft that expected. Several changes were made including the use of a stronger wing, the placement of three stores pylons on each wing, bigger wingtip fuel tanks capacity, General Electric GAU-2B / A 7.62 mm “Minigun” Gatling-style machine gun, a more powerful avionics and stronger landing-gear for most of the runway on the battlefields of Vietnam was a rough field.

All these changes had to be paid by increasing aircraft weight and consequently the Cessna had to use two new more powerful General Electric J85-J2/5 turbojet engines with 10.7 kN (2.400 lbf) thrust each.

In October 1964, the first prototype Yat-37D had its first successful flight and followed by a second prototype maiden flight a year later. Cessna was awarded a contract for the construction 39 units A-37 with some minor modifications.

During the war in Vietnam, in addition to carrying out a light attack missions, the A-37 also played a role as a helicopter escort, forward water controller (FAC) and night interdiction aircraft. The presence of A-37 in the Vietnam War was helpful since this aircraft was able to carry munition cluster dispensers, high-explosive bombs, napalm tanks, SUU-11/A Minigun pods and unguided rocket packs. To increase combat range, the A-37 also brought two additional external tanks on the inner stores pylons.

During the early period of the war, the A-37As flew thousands of combat sorties. The best of all, none were the aircraft lost to enemy fire, although reportedly two were wrecked in landing accidents. With the accomplishments it achieved, the USAF awarded an additional contract to Cessna to build 127 units of better version of Super Tweet with the designation A-37B. Until the war ended it was recorded that the A-37B had 160,000 combat sorties and the USAF lost 22 units.

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