Before moving on to cold war ships, I'd like to post some cold war (and after) airplanes not designed by Thiaria, but extant in the Thiariaverse. Some found their way into Thiarian service (screw continuity, I know, but that's progress for you), some not. They are presented in no order whatsoever.
1. Breguet Br.120 Orfraie / SCI T1S Ionadh / Mitsubishi B9M Tsurugi II
When French government decided to proceed with the PA58 aircraft carrier in 1961 due to ongoing Soviet efforts to put carriers to sea, both vessels were planned to perform a nuclear strike role in addition to their normal antiship, ASW and air defense duties. To that end, France and Verdun were to embark four squadrons each: fifteen Sirocco air superiority fighters, nine Alizé ASW aircraft and, as their main punch, twenty-four specimens of a new airplane for attacking heavily defended targets on land. Dassault had promised to navalize the Mirage IV, but failed to get the high landing speed under control, and that project faltered in 1963, when both new carriers were already under construction. Breguet was eager to step in and offered its brand-new Br.120 strike aircraft, which had been cancelled earlier in the year by the Armee de’l Air – under pressure of Dassault, who conceived it as a threat to his Mirage sales. That plane had been designed and partially constructed, but no complete prototype was available. It was a thoroughly modern design approximately the size of an F-4 Phantom. It offered excellent aerodynamics, the ability to attain Mach 2 with two Atar 9K-50 engines of 48/70 kN thrust, and had huge internal fuel supplies for a fully loaded combat radius of over 800 kilometers on a lo-lo-lo mission profile. Five external hard points could accommodate 5.500 kilograms of payload (500kg on each of the outer ones and 1.500 kg for the inner ones and the centerline pylon). A complex avionics suite including state-of-the-art ECM and self-defense systems and a twin Antilope terrain-following radar for low-level flight was provided. Although the Aeronavale’s requirement covered only 70 units (two carrier air wings plus a land-based squadron as OCU and some machines as material reserve), purchase of a foreign design was rejected on grounds of national pride. Construction of three prototypes was authorized late in 1963, and the first one could be rolled out after a remarkably short time early in 1965, when the first of the new carriers had just been launched and the second one was in an advanced state of construction. Initial tests were promising, and a pre-series of 15 for a comprehensive test programme was approved. By that time, the project had aroused foreign interest. Thiaria had acquired two old Essex-class carriers from the USA and purchased some Sirocco fighters, Etendard IVM attackers and Alizé ASW planes from France; both carriers were to be heavily reconstructed for larger capacity and equipped with the most capable carriberborne strike aircraft available. Thiaria went for the high-risk option of an all-new plane after the USA showed reluctant to deliver F-4s; in 1966, they placed an option on 54 machines to be delivered in kits for local assembly. At the same time, Germany’s naval aviation was interested in the Br.120 as an antiship platform, replacing the F-104, which was considered too short-ranged and not sufficiently reliable for long-range maritime strike missions, and in 1967, the Germans ordered 90 Br.120s. With over 200 units in the order book, the type was considered potentially profitable, and series production started as soon as trials were complete early in 1968. During trials, which were very satisfactory except for landing speed, which was at the upper limit for carrier operations, a few modifications were made. The series version had two 30mm DEFA 552 cannon and a reworked wing whose shape was identical with that of the Br.121 (a downscaled development of the Br.120 which formed the basis for the later SEPECAT Jaguar); also, a retractable refueling probe was added in front of the cockpit.
The conversion trainer variant was called Br.120E and had a re-designed forward fuselage with tandem seats; it had less fuel capacity, but all capabilities of the strike version.
Deliveries commenced in 1969 to the Aeronavale; the Marineflieger received their share from 1971 and the Thiarians from 1973. By that time, the Br.120 had been named Orfraie (Sea Eagle). The French and Thiarian machines had folding wings for carrier operations, whereas the German version (called Seeadler) had non-folding wings with strengthened outer hard points and 6.000kg payload in total. Ironically, the Orfraie’s primary nuclear strike mission had become obsolete by that time due to the introduction of strategic missile submarines into the French fleet, and it was introduced as a tactical and antiship platform. Typical payloads comprised up to twelve 250 or 340kg bombs or three radar-guided Martel ASMs or two AM.39 ASMs. Magic AAMs could be fitted for self-defense, although the Orfraie was not much of a dogfighter. By 1972, all four Br.120M squadrons were operational aboard the carriers France and Verdun.
The German variant Br.120A Seeadler had different engines; instead of the Atar 9K-50 of the Orfraie, they were adapted to mount US supplied J79 (50/80 kN thrust), which the Germans license-produced for the F-104. These were more powerful than the French turbines and provided superior flight characteristics, especially as the Seeadlers were lighter due to the non-folding wings and the less sturdy undercarriage. The outer pylons could take 750 kilograms each, enabling the Seeadler to carry up to four of the new Kormoran ASMs; Sidewinders were used for self-defense. They were mounted on rails on top of the wings (later adopted for the smaller Jaguar as well), which was not possible with the folding wing version. Deliveries were complete early in 1974.
The Thiarian version had the designation Br.120MT and was very similar to the French version, but also used domestically produced engines. The SCI RT2S (50/80 kN thrust) was officially an all-new Thiarian design, but in fact a heavily modified copy of the US J79, for which Thiaria’s license had been revoked by the US in 1967. Performance was similar to the German variant, although the Thiarian machines were heavier due to the wing-folding apparatus. Given the higher power and better fuel efficiency of the US engines, the Thiarian Br.120s had better climb rates, higher low-level speed and more range than the French original. Delivery of these planes to the left-wing Thiarian government was opposed by the USA, but the French were eager to comply because the Thiarian Air Force was baiting them with a proposal to acquire a production license for over 100 machines to replace their ageing Vautours. Thiaria’s – at that time – sole operational carrier LT Oirion was under refit till 1979, so the Thiarian Orfraies (called Iolar Mara – also meaning Sea Eagle) were operating from land bases until that time; they did not report FOC before early 1981, although deliveries were complete early in 1976 (fitting the RT2S engines resulted in some delays). They usually toted SM.39 ASMs, but could also drop laser-guided bombs.
In the meantime, more orders had come in. South Africa’s intention to buy more Buccaneers had been rebuffed by Great Britain, and 28 Orfraies with Atar engines were ordered instead in 1972 for delivery in 1974/5. Apart from the somewhat anemic Atar engines, they also lacked maritime strike capability and had simplified electronics, making them the least capable Orfraie variant, usually employed as a bomb truck in the bush wars with up to twelve 340kg bombs. They were dubbed Br.120AZ.
Pakistan also needed a replacement for the many Canberras it had lost in the recent war against India and purchased 36 in 1973, which were delivered in 1975/6. They were identical to the South African version and called Br.120AP. They were not certified for dedicated anti-shipping missiles as delivered; usually, they were employed as heavy bombers with two 1000kg bombs and four 340kg bombs.
The Thiarian Air force ordered 112 license-built machines in 1974 from SCI. The Thiarian-built Br.120s were dubbed SCI T1S Ionadh (Surprise) and were readily identifyable by their MiG-25-style wedge air intakes; they also had internal laser designators and FLIR. Like the A version, the Thiarian Air Force machines had rails for Magic II missiles on top of their wings. Thiarian license production commenced in 1975 and yielded 112 Ionadhs between 1976 and 1979 for the Thiarian Air Force. Main armament were Martel and AS.30 missiles, French smart bombs and Russian cluster bombs.
In 1974, another order came in at Breguet’s, this time from Canada, which wanted the Orfraie as land-based maritime strike aircraft; 44 were purchased to equip one wing. As by that time initial French service experience suggested that the single-seated version overburdened the pilot with tasks, the Canadians were the first user to order only twin-seat machines; the wing tanks were re-designed to partly compensate for the reduced fuel capacity in the hull. They were otherwise identical to the German version (J79 engines) except armament, initially using Bullpups before the Harpoon became available. Deliveries of the Br.120AC took place in 1976/7.
In 1975, the Kokoan Navy (Koko Kaijou) commenced a thorough refit of the fleet carrier Yonaga to enable her to carry contemporary aircraft instead of the obsolescent mix of F-11 and A-4 that at that time made up Koko’s shipborne aviation. To replace the A-4 on Yonaga and two new carriers (which were begun in 1977 and 1981, respectively) the Kokoan subsidiary of Mitsubishi acquired a license for 70 twin-seat Ionadhs from the Breguet/SCI consortium, which were equipped with very advanced domestic electronics. They were delivered between 1977 and 1979 and fitted for the new Type 80 antiship missile. This deal came as something of a surprise, as the Kokoan Air Force had recently acquired the F-4E as standard heavy strike-fighter, but the Koko Kaijou considered the F-4 as obsolescent and feared that their parliament would insist on purchasing the F-4 not only for the strike role, but also as air-superiority fighter, for which the Admiralty wanted nothing less than the F-14. In the end, the F-14 was acquired as standard fighter for both the Navy and the Air Force, while the Ionadh – which was called B9M Tsurugi II in Kokoan service, as the Koko Kaijou continued to use the old IJN aircraft designation system – served only with the fleet.
Norway’s interest in a dedicated anti-shipping plane led to an order of 28 BR.120As in 1976; deliveries took place 1977/8 under the designator Br.120AN. They were identical to the Canadian variant except armament; each could carry four Penguin ASMs.
Spain ordered 44 machines in 1977 for the maritime strike role; surprisingly, the order went to Thiaria rather than France, probably less for political reasons but for fiscal ones, as the Thiarians had reduced the price per unit as series production geared up, while the French prices had stagnated (and even increased, adjusted for inflation). The planes were standard Ionadhs with RT2S engines; the Thiarians stuck with the single-seat layout. Deliveries took place in 1980 and 1981. Spanish airplanes had to use AS.30 missiles for anti-shipping missions till Harpoons became available in the late 80s.
In the same year, Peru ordered 18 twin-seated units dubbed Br.120AU. Deliveries were planned for 1979, but were held back due to political issues when several French adventure travellers were killed by Peruvian security forces; the Peruvians tried to get off the deal and finally sold their batch to France in 1980, re-ordering them as Ionadhs from Thiaria in that year. Due to the lower price charged by the Thiarians, the order was expanded to 28 machines. They were delivered 1982/3, but not fully paid before 1989. The last machine from that order was the ultimate Orfraie/Ionadh ever built. Peru acquired some early-model RBS-15 missiles for antiship missions in 1988, delivery in 1990.
In preparation for their planned attack on Iran, the Iraqis ordered no less than 60 twin-seated Br.120 in 1978. These differed from all previous Br.120s by having more powerful M53 turbofans of 55/85 kN thrust. These allowed 8.000 kg payload and a top speed of Mach 2,2 at height and Mach 1,2 in low-level flight. The wings were strengthened and another hard point under each wing was provided. These changes warranted a new designation, and deliveries of the Br.120DQ commenced in 1980 and were complete in 1982. All were very active in the war against Iran; 19 were lost. They usually operated against land targets with AS-7 ASMs and cluster bombs, but could employ SM.39 missiles against ships.
The ex-Peruvian Orfraies had to be massively modified to meet Aeronavale requirements; they received folding wings and all electronics and avionics improvements built into the Iraqi machines. Despite the folding wings, the outer pylons retained the 750kg capacity of the fixed-wing versions. Deliveries took place in 1982; unlike earlier Orfraies of the Aeronavale, these planes were all twin-seated and equipped for SEAD missions. They usually carried four ARMAT anti-radiation missiles.
Production was complete in 1983 after 680 units. 426 were built in France, 182 in Thiaria and 72 in Koko. All operators considered the Br.120 a reliable machine with very good range and a mean punch. They were however just bombers; there never was any attempt to use them in any other role, and the single-seat layout of the early versions was less than optimal for long-range precision strike missions, as the pilot was overburdened with tasks. Apart from the obvious successes in exporting the type, it was also offered to various other potential customers. A heavily modified twin-seated version powered by two RR Spey engines and called Erne S.1 was offered to the British in 1975 and met keen interest by the RN; the government however was committed to the MRCA programme and blocked the offer. The RN thus was stuck with the obsolete Buccaneer till introduction of Sea Tempest in 1985.
The German Air Force similarly contemplated obtaining a twin-seated version of Seeadler with M53 engines as its standard strike aircraft, replacing the Starfighter; again, political considerations dictated sticking with the F-104 a little longer and replacing it with Tornadoes during the 1980s. The Germans had just ordered 250 Mirage F.8 as their standard interceptor and 200 Alpha Jets as their standard advanced trainer and wanted to avoid becoming wholly dependent on France for their entire inventory.
Once delivered, the Br.120 had a long and varied service history. The Aeronavale flew its Br.120Ms from 1968 through 2001 and successfully used them in the Second Gulf War, before they were phased out after 33 years of service; they flew from the carriers France, Verdun, Charles de Gaulle and Richelieu. They were modernized with improved electronics, FLIR, LLLTV, an internal laser designator, improved missile defensive gear and a new engine compartment with two M53 turbofans during the mid-1980s, becoming the Br.120M2. They were used for testing the supersonic ANS missile in the 1990s.
The Germans modified their Seeadlers in the early eighties with new ECM and defensive measures; they were phased out in 1997 after 27 years when the land based strike squadrons of the German Navy were disbanded and the maritime strike role was taken over by modified Air Force Tornadoes. In German Service, the Br.120 was used to trial the new heavy Jumbo ASM from 1984, which could deliver a 750kg warhead against a heavily fortified target over a distance of 50 km. They were usually TV guided, but could be fitted with the guidance kit of the Kormoran for antiship service. As the German machines were still in decent shape, 32 workable machines and the same number of hulks for cannibalization were sold to Indonesia in 1999 after refurbishment.
The Thiarian Navy flew the Br.120 from the carriers Oirion, Treighdin and Chros Deiscirt. They were used to shadow the Royal Navy during the Patagonian-Argentine war in 1982 and were active in Thiaria’s brief skirmish with Brazil in 1985, the Second Gulf War of 1991, where they attacked Iraqi installations with guided bombs and AS.30 missiles. They also were present in the New Portugal Independence war of 1997. A total of thirteen were lost in action; several of them used SM.39 missiles to sink Brazilian ships in 1985 and 1997. Three Thiarian machines were the only Br.120 who ever scored kills in aerial combat, all of them using Magic II missiles against Brazilian interceptors. After being modernized in a similar way as the French machines in the late 1980s – plus a completely new multifunctional phased array radar of Thiarian design – they were phased out in 1998/9 after an average of 26 years of hard use and replaced with T3S-4 Siolpaires.
South Africa’s Br.120s were intensely employed in Namibia against the Angolans and also took part in the Rhodesian civil war. They proved hard to intercept for Angolan and Cuban MiGs; only five were lost, all to ground fire. These planes were reported to be capable of dropping Nukes, although such reports were never confirmed. Due to tightening embargo measures against the Apartheid regime, they were never modernized, and lack of spares rendered all but ten grounded by the mid-1990s. After the end of Apartheid, they were retired without replacement to prove the new government’s goodwill.
The Pakistani Br.120s were regularly called upon during one of the many border skirmishes with India. They received similar modernizations as the French Br.120s in the early 1990s, and in 1999, two squadrons were cleared for the nuclear strike role, although the presence of Pakistani free-fall nuclear bombs was never confirmed. The initial batch was decommissioned around 2010, but 20 ex-Norwegian Orfraies remain in service, carrying Chinese C-802 ASMs; 12 of the older ones are still on storage and can be reactivated if required.
The Ionadh served with the Thiarian Air Force from 1976 to 2004; they were replaced partly by Mirage 4000Ds, partly by land-based T3S-5 Siolpaires. Their lifespan was limited by increasing maintenance requirements; they had been the first Mach-2-jets ever built in Thiaria, and their finish betrayed the lack of experience of their constructors. They received new radars in the early 1990 and from then on could fly SEAD missions with ARMAT missiles. They took part in the same conflicts as the Navy machines, although not as squarely in harm’s way; three were lost against Brazil and one in the Gulf war. Late in their career, they were fitted to carry Israeli Popeye missiles for use against heavily fortified targets. In 2006, a total of 28 Ionadhs, some of which were assembled from parts of up to five scrapped machines, were refurbished and sold to Peru to bolster the Peruvian inventory; more Thiarian Ionadhs were delivered for cannibalization.
The Canadian machines were phased out without replacement in 2002 through 2004 as a cost-saving measure after reaching the end of their designed lifespan. They had been modernized in a similar fashion as the French Navy Orfraies in the late 1980s; they could now carry four Harpoons each. An unknown number – probably up to 20 – were sold to a private company for scrapping, which delivered them to Iran instead, creating some scandal.
Koko’s Tsurugis served for 25 years; due to the stress of constant carrier operations, they were quite worn out at the turn of the century. In 2002, the first license-produced F/A-18E were delivered to the Koko Kaijou, which will serve till a domestic Japanese/Kokoan sixth-generation fighter will become available in the late 2020s. The last Tsurugi was retired in 2005. By that time, they were adapted to Type 93 antiship missiles and Type 90 AAMs.
Norway’s Orfraie fleet had a rather short lifespan due to high operating cost; there also were some unfortunate accidents which gave the Orfraie a bad press in Norway. They were retired in 1999, as soon as it was clear that the violent collapse of the Soviet Union after 1995 would not result in a new war, and turned into a short-lived peace dividend. They had received a modernization similar to the German Seeadler in the late 1980s; apart from Penguin missiles, they also employed Maverick ASMs against land targets. 20 machines were sold to Pakistan in 2002 after that country had joined the NATO intervention in Afghanistan.
The Spanish Ionadhs were replaced F/A-18As in 2008/09 after 28 years of service; the F/A-18s had themselves be acquired as fighters, but were refurbished to strike aircraft from 2003 as German-built JF-90s were delivered for the air-superiority role. Spanish Ionadhs were frequently employed on NATO missions and were seen over Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan, employing JDAM bombs from 2000. They were modernized in a similar fashion as the Thiarian Navy machines in the early 1990s. Several were sold to Peru as spare donators.
The Iraqi fleet was intensely employed in the War against Iran and suffered 17 losses, mostly against Iranian fighters. Ironically, 32 Br.120s were flown to Iran during the second Gulf war in 1990 and remained there; after 1991 the type was no longer in Iraq’s inventory. The Iranians commissioned the machines, achieving FOC in the late 1990s after acquiring another 20 or so airframes from a fraudulent firm which had been hired to scrap them for the Royal Canadian Air Force. The IRIAF currently is one of two remaining operational users of the Orfraie, which serves in two squadrons, using the Noor (copy of the Chinese C-801) ASM as their main armament. Some have been spotted over Syria, bombing IS and other Sunni Islamist groups with some success. Currently, negotiations are underway to acquire Su-34s from Russia to replace them.
Peru’s Ionadhs are also still in service; due to the acquisition of some ex-Thiarian and ex-Spanish airframes for cannibalization, 24 remain operational, with the same number on storage, and there currently are no plans to replace them. They have recently been adapted to carry Russian-built Kh-35 ASMs.
Of the 32 ex-German Seeadlers delivered second-hand to Indonesia, 20 remain operational. Like their Pakistani and Iranian counterparts, they have been modified to carry up to four Chinese C-801 ASMs. Despite their truly ancient age (some are 46 years old in 2019!), they are to remain in service till 2022 at least; as a decision upon a successor model has not yet been made, the Indonesian Br.120s are likely to be along even longer.