After the completion of the Erin II light sports jet, it was clear that the design had a high potential for market export and training use. As the US was not looking for a training at the time, as the Cessna T-54 tutor served as a stable basic trainer, and the international market was not in favor of tutors, it was decided that an attack variant should be made. Geared at developing nations that want some sort of air defense, the YA-50 was born. Originally just an Erin II Sports jet with a larger, uprated RJ-20-200 Turbofan (opposed to the Erin II's RJ-15-100, rated at 1,103 pounds), rated at around 2,000 pounds dry thrust. This boosted the aircraft's performance tremendously, but as soon as weight testing began, it was clear that the Erin II layout was not going to be able to handle nearly well enough with its current layout. The aircraft was faster than the original Erin II, but with a moderate warload it suffered from poor low-speed handling, and killed off a lot of short-field performance.
The Production aircraft features quite a bit of change over the sports design. A larger wing area, coupled with larger tip tanks, provides better low-speed handling. The tail and stabilizer was also increased. This solved the low-speed, high-weight problems nicely, and also added a degree of stability by adding large winglets to the tip-tanks. The aircraft was now a formidable weapons-platform, and after the twin .50 calibre machine guns were fitted (the fuel loss being offset by the increased tip-tanks) it was clear that the A-50 was going to be a superb aircraft.
Avionics and Loadout
Originally the A-50 was going to retain a two seater layout, but for many roles, including the main role of light attack, this would prove redundant. The pilot workload is considerably low, despite its very Spartan cockpit. It was identified, however, that there would need to be provisions for a second pilot on some flights, as laser-designation and FAC roles require full concentration on one of the pilots. A compromise was met. If the second pilot will not be needed, his entire cockpit, mounted on a sort of pallet system, can be lifted out, and replaced by a large fuel tank. This seemed complicated at first, but it was found that the change could be done rapidly, without the use of large machinery.
Borrowing from modern attack choppers, the A-50 has a chin-mounted FLIR camera, giving it capable night-time ability and good ground-tracking. Along with the FLIR is a small multi-mode radar, that can detect aircraft and ground craft from up to 30 miles away. A center-mounted laser-designation pod is fixed, and adds a great deal of capability to the aircraft without infringing on the cost that greatly.
The most surprising aspect of the A-50 is its awesome handling. The unswept-wings give a fantastic low-speed turning ability. The aircraft is also unnaturally fast for its size, having a max speed approaching 550 knots. Range is good, with about 3 hours of flight time at low level. Its turn radius is considerably smaller than larger attack craft, partly because of its extremely small size and weight. The aircraft would have no problem engaging with larger craft like the SU-25, except that its .50 calibre armament would not inflict as much damage on the aircraft as would be desired. Air-combat ability, therefore, is restricted to helo's and other softer aircraft, such as other light-attack.
The aircraft is the finest, cheapest light-attack aircraft available for the market. Performance is stunning, and even the US may take interest in the aircraft as an aggressor or even as a FAC in our own services.