Status: Private demonstrator but leased to U.S. Army and USAF for evaluation purposes
Type: single-engine, single-seat ground support jet fighter
Program: Light Attack Turbofan Single (LATS), formerly LCBAA
Powerplant: 1 x 2,950 lb. (1340kg) P&W Canada JT15D-5
First flight: 19 February 1990 (pilot: Doug Shane)
Competitively priced for air forces with limited budgets, the Scaled Model 151 ARES (Acronym for "Agile Responsive Effective Support", Ares also being the Greek god of war) was originally developed as a low cost military and paramilitary aircraft. It was a privately funded, internal undertaking of Scaled Composites Inc. between 1985 and 1991, designed initially in response to a U.S. Army request for a Low Cost Battlefield Attack Aircraft (LCBAA).
ARES began life as an idea in the minds of U.S. Army Aviators Jim Kreutz and Milo Burroughs at Ft. Lewis, Washington. They firmly believed that something was needed to meet the increasing threat of Soviet air-air helicopter capabilities and the absence of adequate Close Air Support (CAS) aircraft (and doctrine) in the U.S. inventory. They took advantage of a new command called the 9th Infantry Division High Technology Test Bed (HTTB), whose charter was to look for new ways to streamline the Army's procurement processes, to propose that what the Army really needed was not just a better attack helicopter, but rather a fixed-wing aircraft optimized to fly and fight in the helicopter low-altitude environment. A significant advantage of the fixed-wing airplane was its speed, range and time-on-station capabilities, both well in excess of helicopters due to the greater fuel efficiency of fixed-wing flight. One of their important goals, resistance to departure from controlled flight (especially important at low altitudes), led them to the door of Burt Rutan, then the principal of Rutan Aircraft Factory, and currently president of Scaled Composites, Inc.
Two important developments came as a result of their meetings in Mojave. First, they were able to generate sufficient interest at general officer levels to perform a two-phased program. The first phase included the preliminary sizing and design of a Low-Cost Battlefield Attack Aircraft (LCBAA). This was performed during 1981 and 1982 by Rutan Aircraft Factory. LCBM used Army-inventory hardware as much as possible, including the Allison turboshaft engine used in the OH-58, and avionics and weapons systems. A turboprop pusher canard configuration, the LCBAA promised high agility, maneuverability, and departure resistance, combined with a 200 kt cruise speed and 4 hour duration. The second phase allowed building two Long EZ homebuilt aircraft for use as tactics demonstrators, as well as to evaluate detectability and composite reliability and maintenance characteristics.
The original LCBAA design was for a pusher turboprop aircraft, of generally the same aerodynamic configuration as the built version. It also was designed around a 30mm chain gun. Its mission goals were low-altitude, close air support, with long endurance, and with adequate field performance to operate from roads. Its structure and systems were simple enough to be maintained and repaired in the field. Of course, the whole notion of a low-cost, fixed-wing, CAS aircraft for the U.S. Army flew in the face of several deeply-entrenched narrow-minded, defeatist USAF/DOD policies; the LCBM concept, through no technical fault of its own, (and possibly because of the successes of the two Long EZ demonstrators in operational evaluations) was simply too controversial for those in love with the status quo.
Still intrigued by the concept, though, Burt Rutan kept the idea alive, at least within Scaled Composites (and its parent company from 1985-1988, Beech Aircraft). When Burt was able to get verbal assurance from highly-placed Pentagon officials that "if you'll build it, we'll evaluate it", Tom Phillips, then president of Raytheon, approved the allocation of a small amount of research funding to develop the design and build a demonstrator. As the design progressed, a couple of important design features evolved. First, while there had been considerable thought given to designing the aircraft around a 30-mm cannon, the perceived political sensitivities to a potential A-10 threat dictated using a 25-mm Gatling gun, the General Electric GAU-12/U. This would still allow evaluation of the "big gun, small composite airplane" suitability, it would enable the destruction of most target types up through light armor, and would be much more likely to get evaluated by the U.S. military.
The other important evolution was from turboprop to fanjet propulsion. Scaled's (and others') experience with pusher propellers showed two major faults for this type aircraft. The pusher propeller is highly susceptible to damage from surface debris kicked up from the nose wheel, and this aircraft was designed to operate from soft or rough unimproved fields or those littered with battle damage. Also, the pusher propeller lives in the air flow wake of the body in front, and particularly in a highly maneuverable airplane, this can result in high propeller loads as it sees the changing and sometimes separated flowfield coming off the body and flying surfaces ahead. This has not only structural implications, but also reduces propeller efficiency. By the time construction started in 1986, the design had evolved to the current configuration: an asymmetric design with the engine inlet on the left side of the fuselage, a single Pratt and Whitney Canada JT15D-5 turbofan engine (same as in the Beechjet/T-1A Jayhawk), and a GAU-12/U 25mm gatling gun on the right side.
The new airplane, designated Model 151, got a new acronym. Instead of LCBAA, it became Light Attack Turbofan Single, or LATS. Construction began in 1987, and when Beech Aircraft sold Scaled in 1988, Scaled bought the program back and finished it out of company funds. The final acronym, and the one used now, is ARES. Although Ares is the Greek god of war, it also stands for Agile Responsive Effective Support. First flight of the sole acknowledged ARES prototype was on February 19, 1990, with Scaled test pilot Doug Shane at the controls. Since that first flight, the ARES has flown more than 180 hours, and demonstrated all of its design performance and handling qualities goals, including departure-free handling at full aft stick. During November of 1991, under a contract from the U.S. Air Force, initial ground and flight (air-air and air-ground) tests of the GAU-12/U gun system installed in ARES were performed, with outstanding results.
Under contract to the U.S. Navy, Scaled developed an all-composite 19-tube 2.75 inch rocket launcher. This proof-of-concept launcher, as well as a baseline LAU-61, were flown on ARES in the summer of 1991. The purpose of these flights was to compare drag of the various launcher configurations. As a result, Scaled developed an instrumented pylon to carry a standard 1 inch ejector rack, which measures store drag through an internal load cell. The tests went well, and future goals include live firings of 2.75 inch rockets from the ARES, as well as other stores testing. ARES also participated in a series of infrared/electro-optical tests sponsored by the Naval Weapons Center called Long Jump in 1990. The results of these tests remain to be published. Also, significant radar cross section testing has been performed on ARES. While no attempt was made during either the design or fabrication of the demonstrator to incorporate signature-reduction technologies (to help ensure exportability), it is felt that with the treatment of some obvious areas the ARES could have respectably low RCS and IR signatures.
In the 125 flights and 180 hours of flight test since February 1990, the ARES has largely met its performance and handling qualities goals. Its asymmetric fuselage has thus far shown good results in shielding the inlet from gun gas ingestion, while providing good inlet performance. The composite structure has been very reliable, and easily accommodates the average 7000-lb recoil and 100 psi muzzle blast pressure of the GAU-12/U cannon. The canard configuration has allowed departure-free flying qualities, particularly during aggressive maneuvering and terrain flight, and the overall handling qualities have proven to be good. While the detailed assessments of specific mission suitability are far beyond the scope of our testing, it appears that the ARES concept offers suitable performance and flying qualities for a variety of military tasks, including anti-helicopter, light anti-armor, border patrol, and other low-intensity conflict missions, and, in 2-seat form, forward air control and tactics and proficiency training. Yet despite such satisfactory results, the ARES has yet to enter production, and has so far received no orders. It is currently in flyable storage at Scaled Composites' Mojave facility, and is still available for use as a research testbed. As an aside, ARES appeared in the movie Aces, Iron Eagle III in the guise of a Messerschmitt 263.
Population: 1 [N151SC] (c/n 001)