Arbeitsgruppe für Luft- und Raumfahrt
Groupe de Développement de Projets Aérospatiaux
Aerospace Project Development Group


The Piranha project was undertaken by ALR as a private venture with support from Swiss and European industry. The reasons for initiating the project was that development, manufacturing, operational and support cost of advanced tactical fighter aircraft at that time (F-111, F-15, F-18) had risen so high that the number of aircraft which an armed service was able to procure had been reduced to unacceptably low levels. This in particular for smaller air forces where the number of a/c was not sufficient for efficient operations and the vulnerability on the ground was too high.




Advances in aircraft system technologies around 1980 were progressing in areas such as:

  • Reheated turbofans, offering much improved fuel economy and hence reduced fuel consumption
  • Fly-by-wire systems, allowing increased trimmed lift and decreased trim drag enhancing agility and improving overall combat performances
  • Development in avionics, resulting in smaller and lighter computers, radars and navigation equipment
  • Precision weapons in air-to-air and air-to-ground

All this allowed for a reduction in aircraft size and was conveniently matched to modern armaments. There was a trend towards precision-guided munitions instead of iron bombs, so it could be argued that one smart bomb can have the same effectiveness as ten "dumb bombs".

Operationally, small combat aircraft, in addition, presented the following advantages:

  • A small silhouette is optically/visually more difficult to acquire and to track in air-to-air combat or by ground-based air defense
  • The small silhouette presents a smaller target for air-to-air and ground-to-air cannons
  • A small engine with medium bypass-ratio has limited IR emissions, reducing detection by IR-tracking and lethal range of IR-guided missiles
  • Lower acquisition and production cost per aircraft allow for procurement of a larger fleet. This results in numerical superiority in air-to-air scenarios as well as more and parallel engagements in air-to-ground combat
  • Ease to disperse a larger fleet of small combat aircraft over many small airfields for better protection against the counter-air threat


 Piranha 2Piranha 4Piranha 6
Engine Type 1x Adour RT172-63 with reheat 2x Larzac M74-08 with reheat 1x RB-199 Mk-104 with reheat
Thrust [kN] 2920 / 4490 3100 / 5000 4050 / 7300
Length [m] 10.7 10.57 11.57
Span [m] 6.5 6.5 6.5 (7.62)
Wing Area [m2] 16 16 16 (22)
Basic Mass Empty [kg] 3517 3868 4337
Internal Fuel [kg] 1950 2000 2014
Takeoff Mass Air-Superiority [kg] 6026 6427 6896
Combat Mass Air-Superiority, 50% Internal Fuel and 2x Missiles [kg] 6051 5427 5889
Max Mach at 11km Clean 1.55 1.7 1.9
Max SEP Clean at Sea Level [m/s] 220 230 320 (300)
Max Combat Radius Air-to-Ground, Lo-Lo-Lo, 3x Mk-83 [km] 370 378 386

Piranha 1 was a subsonic aircraft configuration optimized for anti-armor and anti-helicopter roles only.

The project’s constituents

Within the scope of the project the following work was performed:

  • Overall conceptual design integrating all important disciplines
  • Aerodynamic design incl. subsonic wind-tunnel tests with aerodynamic coefficient measurements, controllability and stability assessment
  • Testing of the aerodynamic stability by means of a free-flight model; additional wind tunnel measurements with this model
  • Definition and integration of essential subsystems
  • Structures layout and weight estimation
  • Calculation of maneuver, point performance and mission performance
  • Cockpit mock-up to study instrument and controls lay-out and ergonomics
  • Optimizing the accessibility of subsystems and weapon handling for quick turn-around times
  • Concept and model of a protected, autonomous shelter for 3 Piranhas, ammunition and fuel storage, control room and soldier’s room

Industry Set-Up

It was foreseen to realize mass production of Piranha fighters in a country aiming at building-up a domestic capacity of development and manufacturing of combat aircraft and which at the same time had to replace a substantial number of F-5 or MiG-21. The then Boeing Military Aircraft Company BMAC in Wichita (Kansas) participated in a joint concept development phase with ALR in 1984 to further detail the design of Piranha 6, implement a development plan and explore market opportunities. The US State Department banned the implementation of this collaboration with Middle East countries.

Images Geometry

Piranha 2Piranha 2


Piranha 4Piranha 4


Piranha 6Piranha 6


Piranha 6 Design Drawings

PIRANHA 6 was designed to meet the battlefield air superiority and battlefield interdiction roles. These role requirements led to a very small, agile supersonic fighter powered by advanced engines such as the Turbo-Union RB199, EuroJet EJ-200, or Snecma M88. The design works undertaken in the early eighties have been applied by ALR in other projects. An AviationWeek article on the concept, published in 1979 may be found here (login required).

Piranha 6


Piranha 6


Piranha 6 Preliminary Master Program Schedule

Piranha 6


Images Wind Tunnel

Piranha  Piranha


Piranha  Piranha


Images Cockpit

Piranha 6


Images Shelter

Piranha  Piranha


Images Free Flight

Piranha  Piranha