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Archive for February, 2013

On multirole aircraft

Posted by picard578 on February 23, 2013

Basic idea of multirole fighters sounds almost too good to be true: aircraft that can carry out both air to air combat and bomb enemy positions; in some cases, far more. Usual argument for multirole fighters is that it allows for more effective force, since certain number of aircraft will not be split among many different, narrowly specialized types, allowing for numerically superior force, as well as easier logistics.

 

But how it works out in practice? Answer is: not so great. First and foremost, pilot is most important part of aircraft. Good pilot in bad aircraft will always beat bad pilot in good aircraft; and only way for pilot to become – and stay – proficient is through constant training. Pilot that has to train for air-to-ground cannot spend as much time training for air-to-air, impacting his skill, and multirole aircraft are usually more complex, limiting time pilot can spend training in the air. Technology cannot compensate for lack of pilot skill, as capable pilots will always be able to counter opponent’s technological advantage by forcing him to fight at their terms. This was shown in exercises too, when experienced pilots flying F-15s and F-16s were able to defeat opponents flying stealthy YF-22, despite the latter’s advantage of stealth and unrealistically high Pk assumptions for BVR missiles, as well as agressor’s force own lack of dedicated counter-stealth measures. As soon as it happened, though, USAF put heavy limits on agressors which all but destroyed their capability to counter YF-22, and later F-22, effectively. In World War II, top 5 German aces shot down 1453 Allied fighters; however, it did not help as Allies were able to train far larger number of good pilots to replace losses.

Second, designing true multirole aircraft requires many compromises. Air superiority aircraft needs to be as small and as agile as possible – this results in small size, low wing loading and reduced static stability. But both small size and reduced static stability limit its ability to lug around heavy air-to-ground stores, while low wing loading creates problems during low-altitude penetration missions. Fast jets cannot do Close Air Support, as they cannot fly low and slow enough to identify targets – which was shown well in Iraq when 16 Kurds were killed and 45 injured in friendly fire incident in 2003. Further, while A-10s almost never missed, faster jets often had to make several attack passes to hit target – even when target was identified by ground troops; they are also very vulnerable to even small arms fire. Slow aircraft, for their part, suffer energy penalty when engaged by opposing fighters, which means that, if engaged, they cannot achieve advantageous position and must rely on heavy ECM to survive until air cover can arrive.

There are also many operational limits. Multirole aircraft are often heavier than single-role ones, which increases cost and limits their ability to take off from short dirt or metal-matted strips, which is a crucial ability for any modern air war (only Western fighters than I am fairly certain that possess this ability are small, close air support A-10 and multirole, but also relatively small, JAS-39 – latter doing it by virtue of clever design and close-coupled canards. But even Gripen had to pay for its multirole capabilities, with reduction of IR signature as seen from the ground being paid for by the loss of rearward visibility. Further, its main focus is still on air-to-air performance, with air-to-ground performance taking a distant second place). It allows aircraft to be based close to the troops they support, thus providing quick response, increasing number of sorties that can be flown by certain number of aircraft, as well as allowing aircraft to disperse quickly in case of airfield coming in danger. While this did not come in play in wars fought by US in Iraq and Balkans, only reason for that was huge US advantage in both quality and quantity of pilots, aircraft and ground crews.

 

Ability to take off from easily-repairable improvised air fields should never be underestimated: in 1971 Indo-Pakistani war, a squadron of PAF Super Sabres did not fly a single sortie as their runway had been cratered, despite aircraft remaining undamaged in underground shelters. There is also no need for STOVL capability: fighter can easily use JATO to take off from no runway if required, and land on grass field after expending most of its fuel and ordnance. This stems from the fact that aircraft spend most of their time on ground – and more complex aircraft is, more time it spends on the ground. Aircraft could also be hidden hundreds or thousands of meters away from runway, and carried to runway with helicopters.

 

While well-designed multirole aircraft can offer some cost savings, and can thus be logical step for smaller countries that cannot pursue several programmes at once, care must be taken that it does not go too far and passes point of negative returns, as it did in F-111 Aardvark and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which both had to adopt incorrect “maneuverability is irrelevant” mantra. In fact, all good multirole aircraft were always air-to-air first, anything else second, if they weren’t simply adapted from “no pound for air to ground” designs (examples of first are Saab Gripen and Dassault Rafale, of second F-16 and Eurofighter Typhoon).

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Posted by picard578 on February 18, 2013

On Genocide

Image

CC. Attribution and sharealike david_shankbone at http://flickr.com/photos/27865228@N06/4596336419

There is a question used to illustrate the way in which presuppositions can constrain discourse: “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” The discourse of US international relations is somewhat like the inverse of that question – perhaps equivalent to “have you been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize yet?” It appears that people find it very difficult not to become apologists for the US when they set out to critique the US. For example a recent paper on possible violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL) in US drone “signature strikes” takes as written that there is a sustainable claim that these strikes are legitimate self-defence. This is in order to make the point that even acts of self-defence must conform to IHL and IHRL. You might think that is a reasonable stance, but how can anyone possibly…

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Saab Gripen analysis

Posted by picard578 on February 16, 2013

Program history

SAAB Gripen is a result of relaxed-stability fighter rush initiated by (at the time) revolutionary F-16 fighter aircraft. It is not surprising that SAAB opted for delta-canard layout they themselves pioneered in 1960s, but other options were also evaluated (and rejected). This was influenced by testing programme of Viggen in late seventies, which verified benign high AoA characteristics of the layout. To Sweden, choice of small, cheap but highly capable fighter aircraft was obvious.

In 1979, after cancellation of too expensive B3LA project (a development of subsonic trainer and light attack aircraft), Swedish Air Force carried a reexamination of its requirements. Conclusion was that only affordable option was development of multirole aircraft capable of carrying out air superiority, ground attack and reconnaissance missions. Thus the JAS programme was born, drawing name from specified requirements (Jakt – fighter, Attack – attack, Spaning – reconnaissance).

In March 1980, Government endorsed the plan, but insisted that foreign contractors should be allowed to bid for the contract. As a response, Swedish (state-owned) aircraft industry formed a JAS Industry Group, comprising Saab-Scania, Volvo-Flygmotor, Ericsson Radio Systems and FFV to manage the bid by Swedish industry. Formal proposals were requested in 1981, and JAS IG submitted their proposal on 1 June 1981. After evaluation of proposals, it was decided to go forward with JAS proposal. On 30 June 1982, a fixed-price proposal was signed between the FMV and IG JAS for 5 prototypes and 30 JAS-39A aircraft. Following month, name Gripen was selected for the aircraft.

Ericsson was tasked with developing multi-mode radar, while FFV developed navigation and attack systems.

Mock-up of the final design was unveilled in early 1986. However, development of Flight Control System caused delays in final assembly of the aircraft, with first Gripen rolling out of assembly on 26 April 1987, after 7 years of development. First flight was achieved on 9 December 1988, but after its sixth flight, on 2 February 1989, aircraft veered off the runway and carwheeled. Following that, FCS was fixed, and on 4 May 1990, JAS-39-2 flew with new software. Fifth and final prototype flew on 23 October 1991. Testing showed drag to be 10% lower than predicted, and airfield performance was also better than specifications. In June 1992, contract for second batch of aircraft was approved.

On 4 March 1993, first production Gripen (JAS-39-101) made its flight, with second production aircraft delivered for service testing on 8 June 1993. It soon crashed during air display over Stockholm due to the pilot loosing control and having to eject. Following the accident, further flight testing was suspended until FCS was revised. Revisions included changes to canard deflection angles in combat mode. Testing continued on 29 December 1993.

One JAS-39A was converted from production line to serve as prototype for twin-seated trainer, JAS-39B. It features 65,5 cm fuselage stretch, and rear cockpit that is, except for lack of HUD, identical to the front one.

On 12 June 1995, SAAB and British Aerospace announced joint development of export variant. In 2001, joint venture was registered in Sweden as Gripen International. As Gripen was designed solely for Sweden’s needs, Export Baseline Standard was developed, resulting in C and D variant of the aircraft. Soon, Swedish Air Force decided to also acquire the new version, with last 20 aircraft of Batch 2 and 30 aircraft of Batch 3 conforming to EBS specification.

EBS featured retractable inflight refuelling probe on the port air intake, full-color English-language cockpit displays in Imperial units, new computers, night-vision compatible cockpit lightning, FLIR and reconnaissance pods, more powerful air conditioning system, OBOGS and stronger wings with NATO standard pylons.

In December 2004, BAe sold large portion of its stake in Gripen International to Saab, finally selling remaining 10% of their stake to Saab in June 2011. On 26 April 2007, Norway signed an agreement on common development of aircraft, with agreement between Saab and Thales Norway following in June, concerning development of communications systems. In June 2007, NATO Link 16 was added to datalink systems of Gripens in Swedish service.

On 23 April 2008, Gripen Demo (requested in 2007) was presented, serving as demonstrator for Gripen NG. On 27 May 2008 it had maiden flight, and demonstrated supercruise ability on 21 January 2008, flying at Mach 1,2 without reheat.

In 2010, Sweden awarded 4-year-contract for improving Gripen’s radar and other equipment. On 25 August 2012 Sweden announced plan to buy 40-60 Gripen NGs, following Switzerland’s decision to buy 22 Gripens of the same variant. On 17 January 2013, Sweden’s government approved decision to buy 60 Gripen E’s, with first deliveries in 2018.

Unlike with Viggen, Gripen’s test flights revealed no aerodynamic, structural or engine deficiencies; in fact, all of them were better than predicted. Only structural “fix” was added strake behind each canard surface.

Basic data (Gripen C)

Length: 14,1 m

Wing span: 8,4 m

Height: 4,5 m

Wing area: 25,54 m2; 30 m2 with canards

Wing loading:

326 or 383 kg/m2 with 100% fuel, 4 AMRAAM and 2 Sidewinder

287 or 337 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 4 AMRAAM and 2 Sidewinder

266 or 313 kg/m2 with 50% fuel and 2 Sidewinder

(*depending on wether canards are counted)

Thrust-to-Weight ratio: (80,51 kN – 18 100 lbf – thrust)

0,95 with 50% fuel, 4 AMRAAM and 2 Sidewinder

Fuel fraction:

0,27 (6 622 kg empty, 2 400 kg fuel) – 2 270 kg fuel was for A version’s “peace setting”; C version has only war setting

Weight:

6 622 kg empty

7 997 kg with 50% fuel and 2 Sidewinder

8 605 kg with 50% fuel, 4 AMRAAM and 2 Sidewinder

14 000 kg max takeoff

Maximum AoA:

>100 degrees (aerodynamic limit)

50 degrees (FCS limit)

Speed:

Mach 2,0 dash

Mach 1,15 cruise

Combat radius:

Ground attack, lo-lo-lo: 650 km

PS-05/A:

Range: 120 km vs 5m2 target (80 km vs 1m2 target)

Operational G capability: 9 g

Flyaway cost: 38 to 44 million USD (in FY 2013 dollars)

Cost per flying hour: 4 700 USD

Design

General

Saab Gripen is designed as a lightweight, highly maneuverable fighter. Close-coupled canard + delta wing arrangement was chosen to optimize maneuvering performance while also providing acceptable strike capabilities. Testing programs have verified excellent recovery capabilities for both Gripen versions. Further, delta canard configuration has inherently good battle damage tolerance due to “overlapping” surfaces, as well as positive trim lift on all surfaces, high maximum lift coefficient, good air field performance, and spin recovery capability. Floating canard also offers stable aircraft if EFCS fails.

To minimize weight, 30% of the structure is carbon-fibre composite. Aircraft is inherently unstable, and SAAB claims that it is first inherently unstable canard fighter to enter production.

While Gripen has low wing loading and good lift at high angles of attack, as well as relatively short wingspan, its thrust to weight ratio is below 1 at combat weight. Aircraft has operational service life of 8 000 flight hours.

Fuselage

One of things that can be noticed is large degree of wing/body blending, similar to F-16, which results in higher lift during maneuvers, as well as little or no interference drag that usually originates from wing-body juncture. Only exception to that are intakes, which are in side arrangement, with flat surfaces used for mounting canards. Body itself, having a “waist” noticeably thinner than parts immediately in front or aft of it, is clearly designed for transonic maneuvre.

Two small strakes are visible on the upper fuselage, located just behind canard surfaces, and single strake can be seen at bottom of fuselage; their purpose is to help enhance directional and lateral stability at high angles of attack.

Canards

Saab Gripen has canards that are relatively large compared to the wing. Canards are positioned close in front and slightly above the wing, and are tilted upwards, with large sweep-back. Location of canards at sides of air intakes prevents obstruction of air flow.

Primary purpose of close-coupled canards is not to act as control surface, but to increase lift at high angles of attack, where aircraft relies mostly on vortices to provide lift, by strengthening vortices generated by the wing and preventing their breakdown. Size and angle of Gripen’s canards are used to achieve as good as possible separation – vertical and horizontal – between canard’s tip and wing’s lifting surface, thus allowing for maximum vortex lift during high-alpha maneuvers – improvement of lift due to the close coupled configuration could be up to 50%, when compared to lift produced by surfaces in isolation. While thrust vectoring only increases maneuverability at very low speeds, and in supersonic regime, close-coupled canards are effective at any speed, though level of effectiveness varies with speed. As such, aircraft with close-coupled canards can have smaller wings for same lift at higher AoA (improving roll rate), being able to turn tighter at any air speed than otherwise possible with same wing size and angle of attack value, and achieving higher instantenenous turn rate. This also means that aircraft will be able to have lower wing span for same wing sweep and lift values, improving roll rates; smaller wing and reduced angle of attack also mean reduced drag when turning, allowing fighter to maintain energy better. However, downwash from canards also reduces wing lift at low angles of attack, reducing maximum payload fighter can carry.

Compared to LEX, canards are more versatile. Aside from being able to act as a control surface, canards can adjust position so as to produce maximum lift at any given angle of attack.

While Gripen managed to achieve angles of attack between 100 and 110 degrees during flight testing, normal AoA limit is 50 degrees as extremely high AoAs have no tactical use. Further, position of canards contributs to the fuselage lift of the fuselage just behind the canards during the turn, and canards themselves create lift, both in level flight and in turn.

Canard also has advantage over tail as the control surface – as center of gravity for modern aircraft is towards rear of the aircraft, usage of canard results in longer moment arm.

Canards can be tilted forward to nearly 90 degrees in order to aid braking during landing.

Wing

Wing itself is standard delta wing, offering large surface area, large volume and high strength for its weight. Shape of the wing ensures creation of vortexes at high angles of attack by wing’s leading edge, improving lift; wings are also equipped with small LERXes to strengthen said vortices. Another high lift device are leading edge flaps, which are used to increase lift at high AoA. When deployed during high-alpha maneuvers, flaps improve lift; however, they can also cause vortex breakdown. They also redirect air flow towards root of the wing, countering the tendency of air flow over delta wing to move towards wing tip. While usage of flaps can reduce drag, it only happens at speeds near stall speed, while in most other cases they increase drag. When flaps are not deployed, dogtooth leading edge configuration results in creation of single strong vortice at each wing, helping lift by countering tendency of delta wings to move air flow towards wing’s tips, and leave rest of the wing in stall. Wing is neither anhedral or dihedral, being located at half of the hull height. Due to wing’s (lack of) thickness, external actuators are required to control elevons.

Due to the Gripen being aerodynamically unstable aircraft, usage of delta wing also results in large trimmed lift during level flight, improving maximum lift by 10-20%, possibly more. Combination of close-coupled canards and low wing loading further improves air field performance, allowing for STOL capability.

While mechanism of lift creation at high AoA create additional drag, they increase lift and thus turn rate. But what some ignore while talking about drag “penalty” of close-coupled arrangement is that flow separation, aside from causing loss of lift, also causes major increase in pressure drag.

Rail launchers are located at wing tips, improving weapons loadout and allowing two missiles to be carried with minimum increase in drag, as well as improving lift/drag ratio of the wing.

Air intakes

Gripen’s air intakes are two-dimensional intakes, similar to those used at RA-5C. Intakes are separated from aircraft’s surface by fuselage boundary layer splitter plate, and provide adequate handling of fuselage boundary layer. High-alpha testing revealed no deficiencies in intake performance.

Fin

Tail fin is small relative to fighter’s size, compared to that of other Eurocanards and F-16. This might theoretically result in problems at high AoA; but usual way to change direction of aircraft is to rotate around X axis and pull nose up, and Gripen has additions on lower surface that may make fin unnecessary for directional stability.

Cockpit

One of major downsides of Gripen is its cockpit. While it allows good forward and side visibility, rearward visibility is very limited. This is dictated by its strike requirements, where exhaust from cooling unit is located behind cockpit to hide it from ground-based IR sensors. While SAAB did attempt to attenuate the problem by installing mirrors on forward canopy frame, it is only a partial solution.

Cockpit originally featured three monochrome multi-function displays, and wide-angle holographic HUD. It also has HOTAS controls that allow pilot to select many functions without lifting hands off the control stick or throttle. Ejection seat, unlike in previous aircraft, is not SAAB’s, but from Martin-Baker.

Engine

Engine is based on General Electric F-404 engine. Version used in Gripen, lincense manufactured by Volvo, had thrust boosted from 16 000 to 18 000 lbf (that is, from 7 257 to 8 165 kgf).

Operational characteristics

Gripen is capable of taking off and landing on roads, and could be capable of using unpaved runways. It can take off from 800 meter long snow-covered landing strips. Landing distance is reduced to 500 meters through usage of canards as air brakes, which is activated automatically when nose wheel establishes ground contact, as well as usage of elevons and large air brakes located at each side of fuselage behind the wing.

Further, it can be maintained by team of one specialist and five minimally-trained conscripts, and has very good combat turnaround time – less than 10 minutes. Gripen requires 10 man hours of maintenance for each hour in the air, and mean time between failure is 7,6 flight hours. Engine can be changed on road by 5 people in less than one hour. Airplane’s on-board systems include built-in “self-test” capabilities, with data being downloaded to technician’s laptop. All service doors to critical systems are at head level or lower for the easy access. Result is that Gripen requires only 60% of maintenance work hours of Viggen.

Aside from providing superior agility, Gripen’s FBW system is capable of automatically compensating for combat damage, including disabled or destroyed control surfaces – for example, using canards if aelirons are disabled.

Handling

Due to its aerodynamic layout, Gripen can be “parked” at 70 to 80 degrees of alpha. When giving adverse aeliron input, flat spin starts at up to 90 degrees per second rotation, and can be stopped by pro aeliron input. Aircraft has demonstrated spin recovery capability for complete cg and AOR range, as well as control capability in superstall, allowing recovery. During the spin testing, in one occasion when spin entrance was gained by wild maneuvering in afterburner, surge in thrust was recorded at high AoA and side-slip angles, but was immediately followed by instant recovery to full power.

Aircraft has operational G load limit of 9, and ultimate limit of 13,5 Gs.

Weapons

Gripen is armed with single Mauser BK-27 cannon, housed in a fairing on port side of aircraft’s belly (can be seen here). It currently also uses Sidewinder IR AAMs, though these are to be replaced with IRIS-T missiles. BVR missile is AIM-120 AMRAAM, though aircraft is also capable of using MBDA Meteor, Matra Mica, and BAe Sky Flash (built in Sweden as Rb-71).

For anti-ship combat as well as ground attack, it can carry SAAB RBS-15 missile (though only Mk3 version of the missile supports land attack missions). Dedicated air-to-ground missiles are AGM-65 Maverick (built in Sweden as Rb-75).

Fact that Gripen uses revolver cannon is a large advantage over aircraft using Gattling guns: while Gattling guns typically take 0,5 seconds to achieve full rate of fire, revolver cannons take only 0,05 seconds. As such, while M61A1 will fire 25 rounds in first half of second, weighting total of 2,5 kg, BK-27 will fire 13,45 rounds, weighting total of 3,5 kg. Larger caliber also ensures greater damage-per-hit, important due to stronger airframes of modern fighters.

Aside for gun, Gripen also has 6 missile hardpoints on wings. Two of these are in wingtip configuration, ensuring minimal drag in flight, while other four are mounted on low-drag pylons. Another hardpoint is located at the bottom of aircraft’s hull in centerline configuration. It is usually used for fuel tank carriage, though it can also carry targeting pods as well as ground attack ammunitions.

Sensors & EW suite

Gripen is equipped with radar PS-05/A, that is capable of detecting targets with RCS of 5 m2 at distance of 120 kilometers, which translates into 80 kilometers against 1 m2 target.

EW suite is built around AR-830 Radar Warning Receiver, with receiveing antennas at front and back of missile launch rails. BOL dispensers are bult into ends of missile launch rails and have capacity of 160 chaff packs or flares; BOP/C dispensers are built into the fuselage, and BOP/B into end of the wing pylons. Lattermost can trail BO2D towed repeater RF decoy, which can be used at supersonic speeds.

Gripen’s limited sensory suite in versions so far is a large shortcoming in combat – namely, lack of IRST, which means that Gripen pilot will have to rely on visual detection (not possible during night, insufficient in bad visibility conditions) or on opponent using his own radar (relying on opponent being an idiot should never be part of any plan). This was realized by SAAB, and Gripen NG will be given IRST; earlier version of Gripen, however, will either have to be retrofitted with an internal IRST system, or settle for using FLIR pod for both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions (if possible). That is probably connected to the fact that Gripen was always intended as a defense weapons, and could thus rely on directions from the ground.

Signature reduction

While the fact that Gripen is relatively small aircraft automatically means smaller IR and visual signatures, there were some specific attempts made at further reduction. Just behind cockpit are located ducts, which are used to release exceess heat from heat exchangers, reducing Gripen’s IR signature as seen from ground.

As far as radar signature is concerned, care was taken to reduce frontal RCS, though side RCS is not likely to be large as long as radar emitter is not at precise 90 degrees angle relative to the aircraft, which would result in return from aircraft’s side surfaces – in particular tail, nose and intake surfaces.

Datalinks and communications

Flygvapnet pioneered the use of datalinks in the combat aircraft, fielding first versions on SAAB 35 Draken in mid 1960s. Gripen is equipped with four high-bandwidth, two-way data links, with range of around 500 kilometers. This allows for exchange of targeting information and other data, even when one of aircraft is on the ground. One Gripen can provide data for four other aircraft, as well as get access to ground C&C systems and SAAB-Ericsson 340B Erieye “mini-AWACs” aircraft. It can also allow fighters to quickly and accurately lock on to target by triangulation of data from several radars. Annother possibility includes one fighter jamming the target while another tracks it, or several fighters using different frequencies at the same time to penetrate jamming easier.

Gripen NG

For Gripen E, SAAB has stated that empty weight will be under 7 000 kg, and engine also apparently has 22 500 lbs of thrust. It also has 3 300 kg of internal fuel, achieving 1 300 km combat radius with 30 minutes loiter time in AtA configuration on internal fuel, or 1 800 km with no loiter time. OTIS IRST will also be added.

Gripen NG will be significantly cheaper than other 4,9 generation aircraft, such as Eurofighter Typhoon or Dassault Rafale, and with 22 ordered by Switzerland and 40-60 by Sweden itself, it has prospect to achieve success on export market as well. Some sources place flyaway cost at less than 50 million USD; my estimate is that it will likely be around 45 – 55 million USD per aircraft.

According to some reports, wing area is double of Gripen C’s, fuselage is 20% longer, but it is made out of carbon nanotube reinforced polymer composites, reducing weight compared to Gripen C. All images of Gripen NG to date, however, seem to be using Gripen C / Gripen Demo as basis (Gripen Demo is test aircraft built by using Gripen C airframe, and images that could indicate wing area don’t show any difference in fuselage dimensions). Another presentation also shows Gripen NG’s empty weight as 7 120 kg, and wing loading as 317 kg/m2 in combat configuration with 50% fuel. (Interesting point is that same presentation states that IRIS-T will be able to shoot down BVR missiles from other aircraft, though slide in question is not entirely clear). OTIS IRST will operate in 3 – 5 and 8 – 11 micron wavelengths.

Conclusion? I won’t draw conclusion about NG until it is airborne and in service.

Image of Gripen landing. Take note of air brakes and canard position:

JAS-39 Gripen landing

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DoD: US Air Force wrong to blame the pilot

Posted by picard578 on February 16, 2013

http://news.yahoo.com/dod-air-force-wrong-blame-f-22-pilot-144413856–abc-news-topstories.html

 

While USAF has, in effort to protect its sacred cow – the F-22 programme – blamed the pilot Jeff Haney for a crash that has happened some moths earlier, Department of Defense has stated that Air Force’s conclusion is not supported by facts.

What is interesting is the fact that even USAF has admitted that pilot has experienced senses similar to suffocation. Further, USAF has concluded that “by clear and convincing evidence, the cause of the mishap was the MP’s [mishap pilot’s] failure to recognize and initiate a timely dive recovery due to channelized attention, breakdown of visual scan, and unrecognized spatial disorientation.” In fact, Haney failed to notice that he was in dive for full quarter of minute, and there was no radio call about emergency. This suggests that he was unconscious during the dive, something that Inspector General agrees is a possibility.

While USAF has insisted that OBOGS system (that was added to F-22 solely to increase cost) has been fixed, it seems that it is not necessarily so. To remind readers here, USAF conclusion was that it was faulty valve in suit that was to blame. However, F-22 is covered in stealth coating, glued together with toxic glues, while OBOGS takes oxygen from surrounding air. While F-18, another airplane using OBOGS, did have accidents related to pilot disorientation, rate was much lower, and no pilots ever experienced “Raptor Cough”. This is what F-22 pilot Major Gordon told “60 Minutes” about “Raptor cough,”: “In a room of F-22 pilots, the vast majority will be coughing a lot of the times. Other things – laying down for bed at night after flying and getting just the spinning room feeling, dizziness, tumbling, vertigo kind of stuff.”

These symptoms are not typical of either oxygen deprivation, fuel poisoning or carbon monoxide posoning – but they are typical of neurotoxins. Five maintenance workers also showed same symptoms. Only other aircraft whose workers suffered similar symptoms were B-2 bombers, where employees on production line were getting strange illnesses, that were diagnosed by doctors as poisoning.

Adhesives used to apply stealth covering can take months to dry. But half of F-22s maintenance is spent on stealth coatings, which means that adhesives are being constantly reapplied.

Worst part? It’s all for nothing. Stealth coating is useless in face of long-wavelength (L-band, VHF, HF) radars and IRST systems.

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“Why we must continue to fund the F-35” rebuttal

Posted by picard578 on February 9, 2013

Corporatistic American Enterprise Institute has published an article titled “Why we must continue to fund F-35“.

 

Despite their claims, F-35 fighter does not provide for either size or quality of the fleet. At 197 million USD unit flyaway cost for A, 237,7 million USD for B, and 236,8 million USD for C variant, F-35 is second most expensive fighter on the market, just behind the F-22. Its operating costs can be expected to be similarly oversized; while stealth coating itself may be more durable than F-22s, F-35 carries far more complex electronics. This problem is made even worse by its likely large maintenance downtime: assuming maintenance downtime of 80% of F-22s, 100 aircraft-strong F-35A force will be able to fly 454 sorties per week, costing 22,2 million USD total. But for same cost, one could have 656 Gripen C’s, which would provide for 10 018 sorties per week, costing 47,1 million USD – and for 22,2 million USD, one could have 4 723 Gripen C sorties.

Qualitatively, F-35 has lowered RCS, on which it relies to remain undetected. But that is its only advantage over competitors such as Gripen, Typhoon, Rafale or PAK FA. In a future battlefield based around passive sensors, F-35 will be at disadvantage – if it uses radar, it will be detected; and as far as visual and heat signatures are concerned, it is far easier to detect than most of its competitors. Technology it carries cannot compensate for these shortcomings.

While each F-35 variant is suited for different needs, stealth requirements as well as very different basic specifications (for example, one F-35 variant had to be capable of STOVL operations) have left its basic design very compromised in aerodynamic department. And despite AEI correctly stating that noone needs to drive a semitruck, F-35 is nothing more than a destined-to-fail attempt to promote semitruck as a Formula 1 racing car. In fact, answer to second point is in itself greatest argument against F-35, as it shows exactly why making three different aircraft would have been better choice.

Most of other characteristics advertised as F-35s advantages – networking, intelligence, surveillance and reconaissance – are not unique to F-35. All Eurocanards have very good networking capabilities, and are capable of undertaking intelligence, surveillance and reconaissance missions.

Finally, it must be realized that air-to-air combat between capable opponents was always, always, visual-range combat. With increased use of jammers, countermeasures and passive sensors, this is unlikely to change. This means that maneuverability remains important, and that smaller fighters will be in more advantageous position, assuming that wing loading and thrust-to-weight differences are not too large.

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Applyig John Boyd’s Patterns of Conflict on War in Afghanistan

Posted by picard578 on February 2, 2013

Main point of Boyd’s presentation is following:

One should operate at faster tempo than opponent and get inside his OODA loop, causing confunsion

This can be achieved through generation of rapidly changing environment and distorting adversary’s observation of it. Guerrilla warfare is basically based around it, denying opponent knowledge of where guerrilla forces are, as well as where and how will they strike. That can be partly denied to them through usage of manned aircraft, UAVs, and satellites in surveillance capability. However, due to the fluid nature of anti-guerrilla warfare, friction must be reduced to minimum; ideally, infantry platoons would be deployed individually, and each would have its own surveillance system under direct operational control of platoon itself. Platoons would also call in air support as required.

Further, Boyd makes a point that one should deny adversary capacity for independent action as well as opportunity to survive on his own terms – or at all. This is one thing that NATO forces in Afghanistan are failling to do: while NATO controls the cities, Taliban have near-free rein in the countryside. But Taliban, like any other classic guerilla movement, are dependant on support of people from countryside, which NATO does not control. Thus, NATO is making a fundamental strategic mistake by not restricting opponent’s capacity for independent action; infantry platoons should be moved from (in this situation, strategically irrelevant) cities, and into the countryside; especially since 75% of Afghanistan’s population lives in the countryside. Instead of few large troop concentrations, troops should establish numerous smaller posts and garrisons – Taliban usually move in platoon-sized formations or smaller, so these would not be in danger of being overrun. Light troops should be used to mount hit-and-run attacks against Taliban targets; troops in question can be light infantry, bycicle or light helicopter troops, depending on situation. This also ties in Boyd’s observation of superior mobility as an important asset.

Attacking enemy’s plans should be paramount; as guerrilla, as stated before, relies on support of local populace – not only for supplies, but also for intelligence and similar – action should be taken to alienate populace from Taliban. First, drones should not be used for assasinations, as such usage regularly claims disproportionate number of civilian casualties. This is especially devastating in the rural areas, as families there tend to be large and coherent. If there is need to kill off Taliban official, mission should be carried out by sniper teams. Second, soldiers should establish rapport with local populace. One way to do that is to make soldiers actually help civilians with everyday duties, help them to better organize their lives, and generally become a part of the local community – which includes soldiers simply talking to them. Talking, as in easy conversations you have in bars. (You can find a good blog article on that here). Local populace is usually a recruiting ground for guerilla, but if done correctly, it can also be of great help for Coalition forces in the area – providing information on terrain, terrorist’s movements and other forms of intelligence. Third, guerilla itself should be infiltarted to gain intelligence. And in guerilla warfare, importance of intelligence cannot be overstated: it is very easy to hit wrong target, or to receive incorrect or incomplete information, thus jeopardizing entire OODA loop. This is also way to unmask Taliban’s operations. Taliban don’t stand a chance against regular military in direct confrontations, so they have to be drawn out in the open. Further, special forces teams should use guerilla’s own tactics against them: there is precendent for that from World War II, where German elite Brandenburg division used guerilla tactics against Partisans in Yugoslavia. According to the Partisans themselves, only reason it did not manage to inflict serious, or crippling, damage was its lack of personnell.

Communications with outside world should be cut, so guerilla has no way of getting required supplies, and possibly reinforcements.

Due to the nature of terrain and warfare, troops should only carry bare minimum of needed supplies with them, leaving anything not needed in base, much like Brandenburg special forces division, as well as 7th and 13-th SS mountain divisions did in WW2. On command level, low-level commanders should be given only absolutely required instructions.

But in the end, most important thing to do in countering the Taliban is to deny them the recruiting grounds. As such, political and economic effort should be made in stabilizing not only Afghanistan, but the region as well. Boyd also notes importance of propaganda; as discussed above, troops should be encouraged to tie in with community. Aside from procuring valuable intelligence, it is even more important so that locals accept foreign troops as a friendly – or at least not hostile – element. Further, local troops should be traied, but trained well; half-trained, unmotivated militia can easily prove detrimental to the effort. Troops fighting against guerilla should keep on the offensive, to deny enemy chance to establish itself.

However, as success of any guerilla depends on them identifying with people – and vice-versa – socioeconomic situation should be improved to deny guerilla recruiting ground. Government should be competent and have minds of its people first and foremost on its mind (an impossibility if government is neoliberal). Corruption should be punished, and Government should provide a visible care for the people, to destroy any moral high ground guerilla could claim. Without doing that, there can be no victory, since guerilla war is in essence a moral conflict. Clear goal of rebuilding the Afghanistan should be set, and pursued, for only a stable society can guarantee peace; and that means US will have to abandon neoliberal philosophy.

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