Tactical Air Forces
|Tactical Air Forces|
|Type||Army Air Force|
The Tactical Air Forces are air warfare units of the Questarian Combined Forces. Questers does not have a single air force or air ministry, instead subordinating operational units like wings, groups, squadrons and flights to a number of Tactical Air Forces or Strategic Air Forces which fall under the command of the Chief of the Tactical Aviation Staff, a four-star command under the Chief of the National Defence Staff. The current Chief of Tactical Aviation Staff is Air Chief Marshal Stanley Sterling.
Tactical Air Forces date back to the formation of the Royal Flying Corps in 1917, but command of all aviation forces were given to the Army after the Questarian Revolution and integrated fully into the Army chain of command. The Fleet has its own aviation arm, but it is much smaller: as of 2016, the Tactical Air Forces maintained a fleet of 906 jet aircraft, including trainers, to the Navy's 294. All pre-jet training takes places centrally at the National Flying Training Centre, which also trains pilots for the state airline, FlyQuesters.
One Tactical Air Force, the Ninth Tactical Air Force, has been engaged in battle only once in the Commonwealth's history, in Karaman against local Karamish forces and against the Prekovi Air Force, but their predecessor, the Royal Flying Corps, fought in the Great War and the 1942 Varnian War. The modern role of the Tactical Air Forces is to claim air superiority and run interdiction and close support missions in support of the ground forces. The TAF are responsible for the air defence of the Questarian mainland, in what is known as Quick Reaction Alert. At least sixteen aircraft in nine bases are on twenty four hour alert to defend Questarian airspace.
Before 1998, Seventh Tactical Air Force was armed with weapons of mass destruction, allegedly anthrax, ebola and botulinum: these weapons were discontinued in 1998 after being judged ineffective as a deterrent against Prekovi or Morivaine nuclear weapons. Aircraft of Seven TAF roled to deliver these weapons to a potential nuclear attacker were re-placed into other commands and the Seventh TAF was disbanded.
Administrative command of the Tactical Air Forces is centralised at Tactical Aviation Headquarters, where the Chief of Tactical Aviation Staff is based. There are currently four Tactical Air Forces:
- First Tactical Air Force (HQ Jesselton) provides tactical aircraft for the Questarian forces facing Pollona.
- Second Tactical Air Force (HQ Haschester, Lampshire) provides tactical aircraft for the Questarian forces facing Varnia.
- Eleventh Tactical Air Force (HQ Altringham, Hareshire) provides strategic airlift services.
- Nineteenth Tactical Air Force (HQ Rochehaut) provides military aircraft for Questarian Troops Rochehaut.
- Twenty-fifth Tactical Air Force (HQ Cardigan Valleys) provides the headquarters for quick reaction and national air defence aircraft.
Questarian military aircraft designations comprise a type name plus a mark name, including an alphabetical role prefix; for example, Cheetah GR3 indicates the third production model of the Cheetah ground attack/reconnaissance aircraft. The name of the design and production plant is often placed at the beginning,for example; Chester Aviation Works produced the Cheetah, so it is called the Chester Cheetah GR3.
Air defence and multirole aircraft
Questers operates three main types of air defence jets, two of which also operate as multirole aircraft. The most modern is the Morivaine-acquired Longmarine Lightning FGR2. Five squadrons operate the Lightning, which was bought between 2004 and 2009 and produced under license in Questers. The plane was first built with the domestically produced Blue Vantage pulse-doppler radar, but was later upgraded to the Blue Viper. Both systems allow the aircraft to fire the Questarian-built, beyond visual range, active radar Skyflash ACTIVE and the short-range, all-aspect infrared imaging APAM missile. The 80 Lightning aircraft in service are accompanied by the older single-seat Haslane-Dowding Hurricane FGR3. This aircraft was contracted for in 1988 by the Royalist government, but the funds were never paid. The Communist government fought a two year legal battle to acquire the Hurricane, ending in 1998 when the Styrian government relented and allowed the purchase. 200 aircraft and 9 trainers were produced in Questers using a Questarian engine, the Blue Vantage radar and a Questarian ECM suite, and a further 120 were produced on option. 329 aircraft were in service by 2008, but 7 were lost in crashes and 19 in Karaman. The remaining aircraft are divided between twelve squadrons.
The air force also operates the Longmarine Longbow F4, which entered service in 1981 as a ground control intercept interceptor. There are 98 Longbow jets in seven squadrons, all of which have been upgraded to the F4 standard, which includes the Blue Vantage radar, the Skyflash ACTIVE and APAM missiles, and avionics for laser-guided and smart munitions. There are 7 Lightning training aircraft in No. 202 (Training) Squadron and 14 Longbow trainers in No. 268 (Training) Squadron. The Longbow saw extensive service in Karaman, where 11 aircraft were lost in combat and 7 were later written off due to damage. One of the three Squadrons based in Karaman, No. 49 Squadron, was disbanded and the remaining two Squadrons absorbed its aircraft.
Questers classifies its interdiction aircraft as 'raiders', even though they are rated for ground-attack and close air support missions. The two aircraft classified as raiders are the Canterbury Cougar GRS3 and the Canterbury Condor S3A. Both were acquired in the 1970s and 1980s, with life extension modifications in the 1990s. The Tactical Air Force operates 142 Cougar aircraft in seven squadrons, which are tasked with suppression of enemy air defences, attacking airfields and infrastructure, and general interdiction. It is equipped with precision and laser-guided bombs and cluster bombs, ALARM missiles and other packs such as reconnaissance pods, ECM pods and laser designators. The Condor is a high speed aircraft originally designed for reconnaissance but upgraded to use heavy laser guided bombs in a surgical strike role. There are currently 68 Condor aircraft in five squadrons.
Developed in the 1950s, brought into service in the 1970s and upgraded in the 1990s, both of the Questarian types of strategic bomber received lifetime upgrades in the early 21st century to fire precision guided missiles, either the Commonwealth Aviation Sky Antler 330 missile. or 1,000-lb conventional smart bombs. There are 42 Fantane Fulmar B2 in three squadrons, and 56 Longmarine Lance B2A in four squadrons. Both aircraft have a range of around 2,300 miles, and neither are supersonic. In the 1990s 10 Fulmars were converted to refueling aircraft, assigned to No. 277 Squadron. In the 1970s and 1980s, both aircraft carried chemical weapons as part of a strategic deterrent, but during the 1990s the effect of this deterrent was considered to be minimal, so all aircraft were re-roled into carrying conventional arms. 24 Squadron, flying the Longmarine Lance, is stationed in Rochehaut.