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Archive for March, 2013

Value of stealth aircraft

Posted by picard578 on March 30, 2013


Unlike US Navy and every other air force across the world, USAF has decided to transit to an all-stealth air force.

But due to the Moore’s law, processing power doubles every 18 months – which means not only improvements in sensors that are already very capable of detecting stealth aircraft, but also that, as time passes, stealth aircraft is ever less capable against systems it was designed to counter – namely, active radars.

Air-to-air combat

Stealth vs radar

Stealth relies on processing gain advantage over radar, by reducing return below treshold of what can be detected by radar itself. However, due to the Moore’s law, radars are becoming ever more capable. Further, stealth fighters are designed with minimum nose-on RCS, which means that they are easier to detect by aircraft flying in wall formation. At the same time, jammers benefit from Moore’s law too, which enables fighter-based jammers to rapidly close the effectiveness gap with stealth, or even surpass it.

This purely theoretical thought exercise is not likely to be very relevant, however, as radar – being an active sensor – automatically gives position of aircraft using it away far before it can detect opposing aircraft, meaning that pilots will start shutting it down in combat as soon as losses due to its use start to mount due to radars’ use giving very important advantage of surprise to the opponent. Against both enemy aircraft and SAMs, dedicated jamming aircraft – ranging in size from converted medium-weight fighters to converted heavy bombers – are avaliable, and far more effective since they also protect other aircraft.

Stealth vs IRST

Most discussions about value of IRST against stealth focus on airframe being heated due to air friction. This, however, is wrong for a very simple reason: any time a gas is compressed, it heats. And compression of gasses in front of moving object is a normal, unavoidable occurence – only difference is scale of compression, which depends on object’s speed.

While aircraft do heat up less in rarer atmosphere, less atmosphere also means that more IR radiation – especially of longwave variety – reaches the infrared sensor. Further, at high altitudes – where stealth aircraft are required to operate – temperatures range from -30 to -50 degrees Celzius. At the same time, fighter supercruising at Mach 1,7 creates shock cone with temperature of 87 degrees Celzius. While PIRATE IRST can detect subsonic fighters from 90 km from front and 145 km from rear according to (somewhat outdated) publicly avaliable information, this range is 10% greater against supercruising fighter. At the same time, OLS-35 can detect subsonic fighter from 50 km from front and 90 km from rear. PIRATE’s own range is already comparable to that of fighter radars against 1m2 targets. (Note: Data used for both PIRATE and OLS-35 dates from 2008; it is possible that both have been improved in the mean time). Prototype Russian stealth aircraft PAK FA uses QWIP-based OLS-50M, so it is possible that QWIP technology may find its way into Su-27 family of aircraft. Identification can be carried out at 8 to 10 kilometers.

Parts of aircraft’s exhaust plume are also visible from front, which should present no problem for modern IRSTs that are capable of detecting AAM release due to missile’s nose cone heating.

Some IRST systems have laser rangefinder coupled with them, which means that they can be used to gain gun firing solution without usage of radar. While IRST is mostly immune to “beam turn” used to break radar lock, laser rangefinder may not be. Rangefinder, though shorter-ranged compared to IRST, would also have increased range at higher altitudes. IRST could also use sensitivity model (Atmospheric Propagation Model) to roughly estimate range and velocity of target without using any active sensors.

(Interesting to note is that Soviet MiG-31s were able to target SR-71 by using IRST; at speeds both aircraft were flying at in these situations, MiG-31s front surfaces would heat up to 760 degrees Celzius due to aerodynamic friction. SR-71 was not much better off; fortunately, order to attack was never given).

Astronomic IR telescopes can detect velocity of star down to 1 meter per second. This kind of precision would not be required for air-to-air combat, however, as closure rates between fighters could be up to 1 700 meters per second.

This means that stealth aircraft has no escape – if it attempts to increase effective range of its missiles, it has to increase speed – but this increases IR signature and allows it to be detected from larger distance. If it attempts to avoid detection, it has to reduce speed, which means that it has to come closer to IRST-equipped fighter.

USAF is obviously concerned about it – while IRST-equipped Super Tomcat was slated to be retired in 2008, it was hurriedly retired in 2006 under neoliberal stealth proponent Donald Rumsfeld. Both PAK FA and F-35 have IRSTs, but unlike PAK FA, F-35s IRST is optimised for air-to-ground missions, and is thus operating in appropriate wavelengths, reducing its range against aerial targets.

QWIP IRST such as PIRATE or OSF has some very useful advantages over “legacy” IRST. Aside from longer range, they can be tuned for sensitivity in certain IR band. While normal IRST operates in microwave to longwave IR bands, QWIP IRST can operate in very longwave bands, allowing for easy detection of objects that are only slightly hotter than the background, with difference being in single digit degrees of Cenzius. It can also use several bands in paralel, getting “best of the both worlds”.

While F-22 was designed to operate at high altitudes, as high as 15-20 kilometers, clouds only go up to 14 kilometers in some cases, with majority being below 4 500 meters – and even that only in tropics. All other stealth air superiority aircraft are similarly expected to operate at high altitudes.

Countering SAMs

Ground radars have to be above any obstacles to radar beam, which means that areas such as small valleys and canyons are usually not covered. Anti-radiation missiles and cruise missiles are very reliable against stationary radar sites; ARMs are better against mobile radars, as there is no radar that can pack up and leave in the time that ARM requires to reach it. SAMs are no different in that regard, and as such they can be kept shut down by use of anti-radiation missiles.

Without these two factors, however, stealth aircraft can be detected easily enough by long-wavelength radars, which completely ignore any practical amount of stealth coating, and are far less affected by stealth shaping measures than shorter-wavelength radars. These, then, can be used to guide IR SAM or IRST-equipped aircraft close enough for their IR systems to detect stealth aircraft.

Numerical issues

Numerical issues are probably the worst drawback of stealth. Stealth aircraft cost more and are harder to maintain than non-stealth ones. To demonstrate the actual impact, I will compare F-22 to two twin-engined aircraft designed to carry out similar mission to F-22s, but without stealth.

While F-22 costs 250 million USD per aircraft flyaway, cost for Tranche 3 Typhoon is 121,5 million USD, and cost for F-15C is 108,2 million USD. As such, 50 billion USD gives 200 F-22s, 411 Typhoons or 462 F-15Cs.

Sortie rate stands at maximum of 0,52 sorties/aircraft/day for F-22, 1,2 sorties/aircraft/day for F-15 and 1,2 – 2,4 sorties/aircraft/day for Typhoon (later value only assuming that design goals have been met). Thus, force bought would be able to support 104 sorties/day for F-22, 554 sorties/day for F-15C and 493 – 986 sorties/day for Typhoon.

Historically, quality of aircraft was always unable to compensate for force disparity once latter was above 3:1. As such, it can easily be seen that F-22 is, strategically, worse choice than Typhoon or F-15. And while all numbers are not yet avaliable, it cannot be expected that F-35 will perform any better in this crucial area relative to Gripen and F-16 than F-22 did relative to Typhoon and F-15. Me-262, while by any measure a revolutionary aircraft, was not used in large enough numbers to have impact against Allied fighters. In the end, Me-262 shot down no more than 150 Allied fighters, with 75 of them being lost in turn, in large part due to Allied superior numbers allowing them to catch Me-262 on take-off or landing.

BVR combat

Stealth aircraft are built under assumption that BVR radar-based combat trumps WVR combat. However, that assumption is unproven; neither AMRAAM or other BVR missiles were ever used beyond distance of 40-50 kilometers. In case of AMRAAM, usage was against aircraft with no radar, no IRST, no radar warners, no ECM, with badly trained pilots that were in most cases unaware they were under attack (and were not maneuvering as a consequence). Yet even in such perfect conditions, AMRAAM achieved 6 kills in 13 BVR launches, or Pk of 0,46.

During Desert Storm, in conditions identical to above, USAF F-15s launched 12 Sidewinders for 8 kills, for Pk of 0,67. For same F-15s, AIM-7 Sparrow achieved 23 kills in 67 shots, for Pk of 0,34.

Thus we have to take a look back at Vietnam. Why Vietnam? Simply because it was the last time US have fought somewhat competent opponent in the air. Even experience with IR missile suggests that Pk in combat against competent opponent will be far lower than above: AIM-9B achieved Pk of 0,65 in tests, which fell to 0,15 in Vietnam, to be improved to 0,19 with AIM-9D and J, whereas G model does not offer large enough sample for drawing conclusions. Yet even this was better than Pk for BVR missiles. While majority of AIM-7 shots were taken within visual range, during 1971-1973 in Vietnam, 28 BVR shots were made, resulting in 2 kills, one of which was a fratricide against an F-4 – a Pk of 0,071, as opposed to predicted Pk of 0,9 or more. During entire war, AIM-7D achieved 8% Pk, AIM-7E achieved 10% Pk and AIM-7E2 achieved 8% Pk. At the same time, guns had Pk of 0,28.

In fact, summary by Burton of kills made during Cold War has found that, out of 407 missile kills he studied, 73 were made by Sparrows in 632 firings, a kill rate of 11%. Sidewinder achieved 308 kills in around 1 000 firings. Out of all radar-guided missile kills, only four were made at BVR – two already described shots in Vietnam that were carefully staged outside of combat, and two similarly staged shots by Israeli air force. His summary of these 407 shots concluded that most targets were unaware and fired from the rear, and that there were almost no head-on BVR shots due to high closing rates. Only way to positively identify the target was by the eye.

When we take a look at the data above, a clear pattern begins to emerge: while Pk against incompetent opponent is significantly higher than against competent one, by a factor of almost five, relative weapons’ effectiveness remains unchanged: IR missiles achieve half the Pk of gun, and radar-guided missiles achieve half the IR missile’s Pk. Further, visual identification of target is still important, and is likely to remain so. In fact, during First Gulf War, majority of US casualties were due to the friendly fire, while in 1973 war Israeli pilots considered an on-board radar “essentially useless”, with Sparrow achieving one or no kills in that war.

This situation will even worsen for BVR-oriented aircraft in the future, as IRIS-T has capability to intercept and destroy BVR missiles. While it definetly will not be perfect, it will reduce number of missiles aircraft actually has to evade.

Time has also shown that maximum simplicity weapons and countermeasures, such as guns and flares/chaff, are usually most effective. This is unlikely to change.

Training issues

Pilot competence was always dominant issue in Air to Air combat. During German invasion of Poland, several Polish pilots became aces in 362 kph open cockpit fighters, when fighting against 603 kph Me-109, an early warning about importance of pilot skill. This was again shown when German fighters fought outnumbered in invasion of France, when higher-performance Spitfires and equal-performance Hurricanse fared poorly against Me-109s, which were flown by far more experienced pilots using tactics derived from actual combat as opposed to air shows and unrealistic peacetime exercises. Late in the war, Luftwaffe was unable to mount serious opposition not due to the lack of air frames – Allied bombing did not have major effect on German industry – but due to the lack of pilots.

Yet stealth aircraft’s large maintenance downtime prevents pilots from becoming familiar with their aircraft, and training enough in them. Modern fighters are also more complex than World War II ones, so lack of fighters is a very real possibility. AIMVAL tests, despite bias towards BVR, have also shown that ground controller assistance was more important to more complex and automated aircraft, and off-boresight missiles offered only slight improvement in results.


Stealth aircraft are expensive, and do not provide bang for the buck, in good part due to them being built on flawed reasoning and inaccurate assumptions. While they can be very useful against backward coutries, even in these cases larger numbers of cheaper aircraft will perform better. Assumptions behind stealth ignore lessons of combat to date, including the fact that pilot skill tended to dominate air combat (especially when combined with numerical superiority), as well as existing counter-stealth technologies.

Game-changing technologies were always simple in idea and execution, as relatively inexpensive. For comparision, stealth F-22 has cost of 12 690 USD per kg, F-35A costs 14 812 USD per kg, F-15C costs 8 504 USD per kg, F-16C costs 8 168 USD per kg, and Eurofighter Typhoon costs 10 942 USD per kg in its most expensive variant. It should be noted that F-22 lacks IRST and some of Typhoon’s systems, whereas F-35A is most loaded with electronics of aircraft listed. As such, stealth requirements add – without counting weight increase – 1 000 – 3 000 USD per kg. If the fact that F-22 is heavier than F-15C at least 7 000 kg is counted, stealth coating itself likely cost around 50 million USD, almost as much as my estimated flyaway cost of Gripen NG. IRST, on the other hand, costs around 1 million USD, and is far more useful than radar stealth.


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News: Danish fighter restart could hurt the F-35

Posted by picard578 on March 23, 2013


As Canada is having second thoughts about the programme, Denmark restarting the competition is not good news for F-35. Denmark is looking to replace F-16, an aircraft designed to be cheap, small and able to beat any competitor in the dogfight. F-35 is nothing of that.

While Denmark is only procuring 30 fighters, this is more important as an issue of trust. Canada’s and Denmark’s decision to review the programme could lead to other customers reconsidering their decision to buy flawed F-35 strike aircraft. Important to note is that Eurofighter Typhoon has reentered competition, apparently judging that political concerns – which are F-35s only real advantage over its competition, aside from mostly-useless radar stealth – may not hold against question of F-35s actual capabilities, as well as Denmark’s lack of need for aircraft that is designed solely for offensive purposes.

This is even more important as Western economies are still in bad shape, and defense budgets are usually ones of first areas to be cut. Therefore cost as an argument is growing in importance, and that is one area where Gripen has advantage over all other competitors, excepting possibly Super Hornet. Unlike F-35, future of Gripen NG has been assured, and in many areas it provides more bang for less buck when compared to F-35. It is also most similar in design, cost, size and role to F-16, aircraft that is being replaced. However, unlike Eurofighter, SAAB has not yet decided wether to recompete for the Danish deal.

Wait and see.

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Why USAF hates A-10 and why it can’t be replaced

Posted by picard578 on March 23, 2013

A-10 was, along with F-16, one of two tactical aircraft created by Fighter Mafia for USAF. Notably, while USAF managed to screw up F-16 by adding bombing and BVR capabilities, A-10 is still relatively unchanged, with exception of new electronics. It is safe, efficient, durable, reliable and cheap, managing to operate in wider range of meteorological conditions than any other aircraft. Its design allows it to evade most of ground fire, and to soak up the rest and still bring the pilot home safely. It can fly at speeds comparable to WW2 turboprops, allowing it to carry out Close Air Support. While it has performed admirably, USAF wants do retire it, with explanation that it is old, vulnerable, and that precision weapons render its capabilities – including its massive 30 mm Gattling gun – unnecessary.

But the real reason for that move is because the A-10 goes against everything USAF believes in. A-10 is the ultimate proof that highly capable and effective weapons do not need to be complex or costly, and that going up close and personal with target is oftentimes the only way to get things done. In fact, USAF only rushed it in production so that the Army does not take over entire CAS mission.

Cost itself is probably the most damning aspect of A-10 in USAF generals’ eyes. Aside for the sexy appeal of new technologies, especially stealth, Air Force generals who have supported highly complex weapons get to work in firms producing these weapons after retirement, for a very high salary. As a result, generals have sabotaged F-16, loading it up with electronics, pushed for production of stealth aircraft, and always kept looking for ways to remove the A-10 from the Air Force. Despite the A-10 outperforming every other aircraft during Desert Storm (or more likely because of it, USAF has mothballed most of the fleet, while outright lying about F-117s performance during the war. During the war, A-10 took out over half of 1 700 Iraqi tanks that were knocked out by air strikes, and about 300 APCs and artillery emplacements.

In 2002 – 2010 period, 60 A-10s have fired 300 000 of ammunition over Iraq, and recorded an 85% success rate. It is also less expensive and more environment-friendly to operate than fast jets, due to its large wings and slow, but fuel-efficent, turbofan engines. In 2010, US military started operating it on biofuel. At maximum power, A-10s engines are five times or more efficient than F-35s engine.

Due to these concerns, USAF has turned to 200 million USD F-35, promising that it will be able to do by virtue of high technology what 20 million USD A-10 already does by virtue of its excellent design, despite F-35 being more vulnerable than the F-16 (an aircraft that was never designed for CAS in the first place), and being incapable of slowing down enough to find and attack tactical targets. In fact, the F-35 is vulnerable to being taken down by AK-47 fire. But the F-35 allows USAF to justify huge future budgets, and not fall behind in budget battle between departments of US military, which have displayed notorious rivalry in the past (to the point of harming overall US combat ability, such as USAF not allowing US Army to operate fixed-wing CAS aircraft).

However, history of USAF promises about A-10 replacements is not shiny. Out of 24 Apache attack helicopters sento to the Kosovo, 2 have crashed on training mission in the first week and rest were grounded for duration of the war. Seven Apaches sent to attack Taliban in Afghanistan during Operation Anaconda were shot up by the machine gun fire, with five being damaged beyond repair. In Iraq, 33 Apaches attacking Republician Guard positions in Karbala were forced to turn tail and run in face of the heavy machine gun fire and few RPG-s, with one being shot down and 30 sustaining heavy damage.

Fast jets proved even less useful: on July 24 2004, unit led by SSgt Jamie Osmon, and comprising of himself and two other soldiers, was escorting a convoy sent to disarm an Afghan warlord. They themselves crewed a multi-wheeled armored vehicle, with other six vehicles containing 26 additional troops, which were comprised of Afghan National Army and Global Security forces. During the way, convoy entered a 30-50 meter wide canyon, but decided to leave it, turning south towards mouth of the valley. Upon reaching the mouth, however, convoy was ambushed. Lead vehicle, belonging to ANA, was destroyed by an RPG, and Ford Ranger behind it took small-arms fire. Rest of the convoy managed to double-back after extracting passangers from the Ranger. Three kilometers later, they were ambushed again, by an estimated 800 ambushers. Humvee laid down suppressing fire while rest of convoy retreated, and after running out of ammo, Humvee crew went on foot to find the convoy.

On the way there, B-1 bomber attempted to help, but it didn’t have any effect. Once convoy regrouped, Osmon asked for A-10 support, and was said that it is about an hour away. After an hour, A-10s – callsigns Tonto and Lobo – arrived. Pilots managed to determine where friendly troops as well as opponents are without any radio contact. Once the A-10s opened up with Vulcan guns, enemy fire ceased, and ground team finally managed to establish radio contact with the A-10s. Soon after, enemy tried to have US troops call off A-10 support by using captured ANA troops as bargaining chips.

After enemy dispersed, convoy limped home, with the A-10s loitering over the convoy protectively during entire 6-hour trip.

Several lessons can be taken from this encounter:

  • high-altitude “precision” weapons are completely ineffective against dug-in opponent
  • A-10s have huge impact on enemy ground troops, both physical and psychological, which cannot be replicated by high-flying aircraft
  • entire encounter was accoplished by eyeball, with only barest information avaliable to A-10 pilots
  • radio contact was only established after the A-10s have already started attacking enemy positions

US Army Sgt. First Class Frank Antenori has said that ‘As much as the Air Force and Navy would like to think that, fighter aircraft that travel at speeds can’t slow down to identify the targets,’. (“Fast Jets Not Ideal Choice for Close Air Support” by Roxana Tiron, National Defense magazine, April 2004 ).

There are many reasons why fast jets are not effective as close air support aircraft, and why that ineffectiveness increases with speed and altitude. First is that battlefield is a very mobile environment, with many small, fleeting targets. As a result, high-altitude jets are incapable of reacting effectively to the changing environments, first due to the limitations of sensory systems (we have yet to design a sensor more versatile and precise than human eye), and second due to the time it takes weapons to reach target (thus effectively creating a delay between “decide” and “act” parts of the OODA loop). Oftentimes, immediate, pinning / suppressive fire is required, sometimes very close to the ground units – so close that even smallest precision weapons are too high-yield.

In the mountainous terrains, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft have a hard time finding targets, requiring boots on the ground to do it. Even when terrain is not a problem, it takes 18 hours to complete targeting process by using reconnaissance satellites in the low Earth orbit. If assets are moved every 10 – 12 hours, they become essentially untargetable.

In Afghanistan, F-15Es have saved a downed SEAL team – by doing gun strafing runs. When precision weapons are used, their point of impact has to be calculated so as to ensure that bombs do hit their targets – and that takes 26 minutes on average; sometimes, it took up to several hours. Until the arrival of the A-10s in Afghanistan several months after start of operations, USAF CAS was abysimal, as its aircraft were not allowed to fly low enough; thus, Army units relied almost exclusively on USN close air support, as Navy aircraft were allowed to perform low-altitude strafing and bombing runs.

Precision strikes can be effective against fixed targets, but their effectiveness against mobile targets is limited – in which case gun strafing is a far better solution. Precision strikes require ground Forward Air Controller to be attached to the unit that has requested strikes – but there simply are not enough FACs. Even when there is FAC attached to the unit, he may be injured or killed, denying the unit ability to call for high-altitude support. Against fixed targets, precision strikes have regularly proven useless if targets were dug in, such as in the war in Kosovo where 3-rd Serbian Army has marched back to Serbia unscatched by NATO air attacks. Laser guided weapons require someone to keep in line of sight of target until weapon hits, and both laser guided and especially GPS munitions are prone to fratricide.

Further, units are only equipped with the limited number of radios to communicate among themselves and with aircraft. Smoke and white phosphorus markers require slow aircraft to be fully effective. Marker baloons, though not used by the US military, are another option for situations where markers cannot be effective (such as in forests) but they also require aircraft slow enough to see them, and the radio contact between aircraft and ground troops.

Precision munitions themselves are also far from precise. JDAMs are not terminally guided and often go astray. Further, bombs bump into each other and often into the aircraft on release, making fins bend; a problem that only gets worse as speed increases. Even when that does not happen, trying to simply steer a “smart” weapon is another problem which also gets worse with increasing speed. In both cases, once that happens margin of error worsens with altitude. Guidance systems often fail, due to damage during transport or installation, or other reasons, and precision munitions go astray: something that performance testers completely ignore while calculating CEP, counting only weapons that have performed “as expected”.

To render any kind of tactical bombing, CAS or otherwise, aircraft have to be well below cloud level. F-35 carrying two bombs will thus be vulnerable to smaller weapons, and will not fly air support (close or otherwise) on bad weather. On good weather, it will be quasi-loitering at 4 500 meters, blowing up decoys, civillians, rocks and wrecks of vehicles from previous war.

While there were several friendly-fire incidents involving the A-10, these have always been result of human error on part of overencumbered pilot; thus A-10 should be equipped with back seat for observer who will operate optical identification devices so as to provide visual target identification superior to current “use the binoculars” avaliable to the pilot. But while these incidents are shot up to the sky to be as visible as nuclear detonation, far more numerous failures of high altitude aircraft are buried. In fact, even current attack helicopters (which fly at half A-10s speed) have two crewman, pilot and WSO; task of latter is purely to operate weapons, which includes identifying targets before attacking.

Per-sortie (in)effectiveness is not the only concern. F-35 simply cannot generate enough sorties per day to replace A-10. It also requires large, vulnerable air bases with concrete strips, while A-10 can fly from any surface flat enough that can carry its weight, which not only makes it less vulnerable but allows it to follow the front and stay near supported troops, much like German Stukas did in World War II. F-35 also does not even begin to approach A-10s loiter capability, meaning that it cannot escort ground troops out of dangerous situations, nor can it loiter near the front, waiting to be called upon.

For the end note, A-10s not only should not be retired, they (and tactical aircraft in general) should be employed in the same way Wehrmacht employed Stukas and single-engine fighters in World War II: keeping them under nominal command of Air Force, but assigning them to larger ground units, to be under operational command of that unit’s command staff, with CAS aircraft being permanently assigned to units, and air superiority aircraft assigned and reassigned as situation required.

Further reading

Flying blind

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Myth of the defense spending as a job creator

Posted by picard578 on March 16, 2013

Many neoconservatives in United States defend the military budget from cuts with arguments that range from “it will threaten US security” to “it will lead to loss of jobs”. In this article, I will be adressing the latter argument.


But, fact is that long wars always cause recession, as money flow is redirected from civilian market to less efficient military one. In fact, since 2001 on, defense sector has accounted for virtually all new jobs. Net loss of jobs is also result of money flow redirection, as military spending is very inefficient job creator. While spending 1 billion USD on defense creates 11 600 jobs in military and related areas (military industry etc), tax cuts for individuals (not for corporations) create 14 800 jobs, spending on clean energy creates 17 100 jobs, spending on health care 19 600 and spending on education 29 100 jobs. As such, if just 100 billion USD from 700 billion USD of US direct defense spending was to be redirected on clean energy, health care and education in equal amounts, net gain would be over 1 million new jobs. Even when only mid-to-high wages are counted, 1 billion USD of military spending would create 7 300 such jobs, compared to 11 500 for clean energy and 18 500 for education.


Further, while smaller number of people with relatively high wages will likely save some money, average-wage worker will spend greater proportion of his wage, thus encouraging circulation of money and helping the economy. And military contractors are not exempt from neoliberalization-induced differences between worker and CEO pays: at Lockheed Martin, average worker earns 58 000 USD, but CEO earns 25 million USD, a gap of 431:1.


While 500 000 Americans are employed in aerodspace manufacturing, only around 150 000 of these jobs are in military sector.


Even increased military spending does not necessarily mean more jobs. In fact, since 2006, the largest military contractor – Lockheed Martin – has cut jobs while revenues have increased . Between 2006 and 2011, it received 10% increase in revenues (from 101 billion to 113 billion USD in constant year 2011 dollars) but cut 3% of the jobs, and pattern was similar in Raytheon. While defense contracts are not only sources of revenue for these companies, this is likely main reason for why stealth fighters are becoming so popular – since they are very expensive to make, but are produced in small quantities, corporation can employ smaller number of workers while receiveing same – or larger – amount of money. Result is increased profit, which is main concern of any corporation.


Increased military spending does not mean better weapons either – 44 million USD Gripen is far better weapon than 200 million USD Joint Strike Fighter. Yet despite that, it creates a massive brain drain due to large military R&D budgets, causing civilian sector to loose competetivness.


While war spending can help to stimulate economy, it only happens in absence of other areas to spend money at, or in cases when entire industrial potential of country is mobilized. World War II, for example, pretty much wiped out unemployment. But, as shown above, that is not the case with current defense spending, and World War II defense spending also reduced other parts of the economy.

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Saab Gripen vs F-35

Posted by picard578 on March 16, 2013


Contrary to some claims, F-35 has rather simple and conventional aerodynamics. Basic configuration is similar to F-16, however lack of LERX, and use of lower-performance but stealth-friendly chimes for high AoA lift enhancement, means that it will have far less body lift than F-16 to help compensate for its high wing loading, and wing lift will also be smaller at high AoA. Result will be (for a modern fighter) disastrous turn rate.

Further, it has internal carriage, which adds drag compared to low-drag AAMs and pylons, and its far higher weight also means more inertia that has to be overcome.

Gripen is, on the other hand, built for maneuverability. Close-coupled canards, wing-body blending, and wing shape all help increase lift during maneuvers, allowing aircraft to both achieve higher angles of attack, and to turn tighter at same angle of attack. Particularly canards create vortices that reattach air flow to the wing at high angles of attack. Aside from helping air flow over the wing, Gripen’s canards also help air flow over the body. 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 than it is case with tail. Further, Gripen has large degree of wing-body blending, and it’s wing loading is also far lower than that of F-35.

While thrust-to-weight ratio is below 1 for both aircraft, Gripen has far lower drag than F-35, partly compensating for F-35s superior thrust-to-weight ratio. While F-35 achieves maximum of Mach 1,6, clean or not, Gripen can achieve speeds of over Mach 2 clean.


First thing that can be noticed about both Gripen and F-35 is that neither has rearward visibility from cockpit. In Gripen’s case, attempt was made to attenuate the problem by installing rear-view mirrors onto the canopy forward frame. However, while Gripen’s visual and IR signatures are far lower than F-35s, Gripen itself does not have IRST, which means that F-35 may be able to detect it first.


In gun department, Gripen uses German BK-27, a 27-milimeter revolver cannon which was also supposed to be equipped to F-35, but in the end, F-35 received 25-milimeter rotary-barrel GAU-22. In air-to-air combat, BK-27 has a large advantage over GAU-12 in that delay between pilot pressing the button and full rate of fire being achieved is just 0,05 seconds, as opposed to 0,4 seconds for GAU-22. Further, on F-35, trap door must open if gun is internal (and assuming it wasn’t open already), possibly adding another 0,5 seconds to process. Maximum rate of fire is 1 700 rpm for BK-27, and 3 300 rpm for GAU-22. Muzzle velocity is 1 025 m/s for BK-27 and 1 040 m/s for GAU-22, but BK-27s shells – weighting 260 g as opposed to GAU-22s 184 g for HEI and 215 g for AP – will bleed off speed slower, and be less affected by wind and other air turbulences.

Therefore, in first half of second – which is crucial in dogfight; rarely will opponent fly in the same directon for full second or more – BK-27 will fire 14 projectiles massing 3,64 kilograms, and GAU-22 will fire 16 projectiles massing 2,94 – 3,44 kilograms, but only assuming that F-35 pilot opened gun doors beforehand – if he didn’t, GAU-22 will not fire any projectiles at all. GAU-22 may be a sign that US have (finally) understood that 20 mm cannons are not sufficient for modern air-to-air combat, similar to WW2, when they delayed introduction of 20 mm cannons instead of 50 caliber machine guns as main fighter armament well into Korean War. However, it is more likely that it was thought of as compromise between air-to-air and air-to-ground combat, considering that F-35 is primarly ground attack aircraft.


While F-35A costs 197 million USD flyaway, Gripen C costs 40 million USD flyaway. As such, Gripen can provide almost 5 times as large force as F-35A can. Further, due to Gripen’s lower maintenance and turnaround times, same force will be able to fly far more sorties. Gripen is also designed to operate from roads, and has STOL capability, something that F-35A lacks, though not the (even more expensive) F-35B.


According to this article, Lockheed Martin’s definition of 5-th generation fighter is following:

— stealth
— high maneuverability
— advanced avionics
— networked data fusion from sensors and avionics; and
— the ability to assume multiple roles.

Comparing F-35 and Gripen, it can be seen that while F-35 is stealthier on radar, Gripen has far lower IR and lower visual signature. Unlike F-35, it also has high maneuverability, and both aircraft have advanced avionics and multirole capability, while networked data fusion will be avaliable on Gripen NG. F-22 has high maneuverability but is not multirole, while Rafale and Typhoon only lack stealth. Thus, F-22, F-35, Typhoon, Rafale and Gripen NG are all equally 5-th generation aircraft, with Gripen C/D being just one step away.

And while another article defines fifth generation fighter as “being able to operate in anti-access environment featuring integrated air defenses…”, that capability can also be achieved in several ways, radar stealth being just one aspect of survivability, and rather limited one considering proliferation of passive sensors.

Further reading

Comparing modern Western fighters

Comparing modern fighter aircraft

Dassault Rafale vs F-35

Fighter aircraft engine comparison

Fighter aircraft gun comparison

NATO main battle tanks comparison

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F-35 brief

Posted by picard578 on March 16, 2013


This is a brief about F-35 strike aircraft. Lockheed Martin had stated many things about it, but not many are correct. For details, see inside.

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Aircraft carrier proposal

Posted by picard578 on March 9, 2013

Aircraft carrier has to be able to do following things:

a) carry as many aircraft as possible

b) launch them as quickly as possible

c) recover them as quickly as possible

d) have as many aircraft on deck as possible


While ski ramp is simpler, more reliable, and is safer than catapult-assisted takeoff, it puts heavy limits on payload carried. While two catapults can launch two aircraft in the air nearly simultaneously, there isn’t much difference in long-term launch rate. Thus ramp-equipped carrier is better for fleet defense, while catapult-equipped one is better for attack.


Both Navalised Typhoon and Rafale M are able to take off from ramp-equipped carrier with no catapult assistance. Rafale version will also carry E-2 Hawkeye AWACS, and A-262 Panther multipurpose helicopter.


Carrier would have four elevators, so that aircraft can be brought on deck as fast as possible. Bridge and Air Control Tower will be on opposite sides of the carrier, so there is no need to compensate for their weight, as they cancel each other out.


I have also decided to propose two possible sizes. First, smaller carrier will be 271,5 meters long and 46,4 meters wide (not counting superstructure). It will carry 21 Rafale and 2 Panthers on flight deck, and either 30 Rafales and 6 Panthers or 41 Rafale and 4 Panthers in hangar. Total will thus be 51 – 62 Rafales and 6 – 8 Panthers.




Second, larger carrier, will be 362 meters long at 69 meters wide, not countring superstructure. It will carry 31 Rafales, 3 Hawkeyes and 4 Panthers on flight deck, and either 35 Rafale, 2 Hawkeye and 10 Panther or 74 Rafale, 5 Hawkeye and 11 Panther in hangar. Thus, total will be 66 – 105 Rafales, 5 – 8 Hawkeyes, and 14 – 15 Panthers.



I personally prefer smaller carriers due to smaller number of eggs in one basket, and better handling in closed seas. While smaller EU carrier cannot launch AWACS, it can rely on AWACS from land bases, or use fighters for reconnaissance. They would also be used to escort larger carriers.




For United States, F/A-18C Hornet with IRST and DRFM jammer, EA-18G Growler, E-2 Hawkeye, C-2 Greyhound and SH-60 seahawk will be used. However, these have to use catapults for launch.


Carrier dimensions would remain same as EU carriers, but fighter compliment would differ. Small carrier would have 26 F-18s, 1 Hawkeye and 2 Seahawks on flight deck and either 29 F-18s, 3 seahawks and 2 Hawkeyes or 27 F-18s, 5 Seahawks and 2 Hawkeyes in hangar. Total would thus be 55 F-18s, 3 Hawkeyes and 5 Seahawks, or 53 F-18s, 3 Hawkeyes and 7 Seahawks.


Large carrier would have 31 F-18, 3 Hawkeyes and 3 Seahawks on flight deck and either 40 F-18s, 2 Hawkeyes and 10 Seahawks or 65 F-18s, 8 Hawkeyes and 20 Seahawks in hangar. Thus, total would be 71 – 96 F-18s, 5 – 11 Hawkeyes and 13 – 23 Seahawks.


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Quick solution to USAF downwards spiral

Posted by picard578 on March 3, 2013


US aircraft procurement is on obvious downwards spiral – huge increases in spending have resulted in equally huge decreases in procurement. Most numerous tactical aircraft in US service is still F-16, and is likely to remain so for next few decades. This is my solution.

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AIP vs nuclear submarines

Posted by picard578 on March 3, 2013





Cost of typical AIP sub is 100 million USD to 250 million USD, compared to 1,6 – 3 billion USD for typical nuclear submarine; though estimates for possible US diesel subs were as high as 500 million to 1 billion USD.


Here is list of submarine costs:


AIP submarines:

T-96 class (Sweden): 100 million USD

212-type (Germany): 250 million USD

Moray class (Netherlands): 250 million USD

Dolphin class (Germany): 500 – 870 million USD

Scorpene class (France): 450 million USD


Nuclear submarines:

Los Angeles class: 1 billion USD

Seawolf class: 2,8 billion USD

Virginia class: 1,8 – 2,5 billion USD

Astute class: 1,17 – 1,82 billion USD


Further, while nuclear submarines are not really harmful for its crew, disposal of spent nuclear fuel is very costly. Operating costs are also lower for AIP subs – nuclear submarines can cost 21 million USD per year to operate, along with 200 million USD refuelling and modernizing at half-life of 15 years, which adds up to 830 million USD over nuclear sub’s lifetime. At the end of service life, it can be refuelled and overhauled for 410 million USD, giving it another 12 years of life, and adding 662 million USD to total lifetime operating cost.




AIP subs generally provide submerged (AIP) endurance of 14-30 days, and total endurance of 45 to 90 days, as AIP systems cannot yet replace oxygen-dependant diesel engine. Nuclear subs, on the other hand, typically have endurance – submerged or not – of 90-100 days, limited by the food storage for the crew. Gotland class has submerged endurance of 14 days at 5 knots, while Type 212 submarine has submerged endurance of over 30 days at 4 knots, and can cruise for cca 3 000 miles.





Main advantage of modern submarine is stealth. While nuclear submarines have measures to reduce sound and magnetic signatures, nature of nuclear propulsion (steam turbine) makes them far more noisy than AIP submarine of same size. They also tend to be larger on a whole, making them even more detectable through either acoustic, infrared or magnetic sensors. Further weakness of nuclear submarine is that it has to cool down nuclear reactor, with hot water being dumped into ocean, leaving long trail behind the submarine; as such, it is even more detectable by IR sensors than just size difference suggests.


While Los Angeles class can dive to 450 meters regularly, German Type 214 (improved Type 212) can dive to 426 meters.


Nuclear submarines are typically faster than AIP subs, making them more suitable for open ocean. However, typical AIP sub is smaller and more maneuverable than typical nuclear submarine. This, combined with smaller acoustic signature, makes them far better suited for littoral waters, such as in North Sea, Mediterranean Sea or Western Pacific, where in some cases nuclear submarine is longer than the water is deep. As such, in islanded areas or choke points nuclear submarine can fall victim to smaller AIP subs, unable to detect and outmaneuver them. Nuclear submarines have cruise speeds of 20 – 25 knots, compared to 10 – 15 knots for AIP subs. Combining slower cruise speed with bursts of high speed can allow AIP subs to cover relatively large area, however, and effectivelly deny access to enemy nuclear submarines. HDM and MESMA systems used in AIP subs (submarines using them typically cost 250 million USD) are also far quieter than nuclear plant.


In shallow water, AIP sub is just as dangerous to surface ships as it is to nuclear subs. As Capt. Tom Abernethy, who commands the sub-hunting Destroyer Squadron 22 based in Norfolk , Va. , said: “Shallow water, you get a lot of noise reverberation and additional traffic, and you’re fighting in somebody else’s back yard which they know pretty well …. [In that environment, even a diesel sub] is absolutely a real threat, a formidable threat …. ”. Furthermore, unlike nuclear submarine, diesel submarine can hide on the floor, completely silent and immobile, until something passes nearby. And even with usage of active sonar, it is not easy to discern submarine from its surroundings.


Walter hydrogen peroxide turbine allows for 26 knots of submerged speed, however, though it is likely a “sprint” speed (which is in 30 – 35 kt range for nuclear subs) and not cruise speed. Perhydron fuel used in WW2 and later Walter submarines is combustive, and fuel lines must not have any right angle turns, as it can pile up and spontaneously combust in such angles – and even without that, Russian Walter submarines were called “cigarette lighters” due to their tendency to flame up. Further, turbine is very fuel-thirsty, limiting the range.


Out of modern AIP technologies, closed cycle steam turbines offer highest short term power output, but have lowest efficiency and highest fuel consumption. Stirling engine is quiet and simple, but large compared to its power output. PEM fuel cells currently have very low power output, but like all other AIP technologies, there is a lot of room for improvement.


In exercises, AIP and diesel subs have proven their worth. While exercuses are usually scripted (sometimes to an extent of being completely unindicative of actual combat capabilities of different weapons – this is case with USAF exercises involving 5th generation fighters), it was known for submarine commanders to deviate from script, with deviations producing rather interesting results. In 1981 NATO exercise Ocean Venture, an unnamed 1960s vintage Canadian diesel submarine “sank” the carrier USS America without once being itself detected, and a second unidentified vintage sub “sank” the carrier USS Forrestal. In 1989 exercise Northern Star, Dutch diesel submarine Zwaardvis “sank” carrier USS America. In RIMPAC 1996, Chilean diesel submarine Simpson “sank” carrier USS Independence. In 1999 NATO exercise JTFEX/TMDI99 Dutch diesel submarine Walrus “sank” carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, exercise command ship USS Mount Whitney, one cruiser, several destroyers and frigattes, and Los Angeles class nuclear fast attack submarine USS Boise. In RIMPAC 2000, Australian Collins class diesel submarine “sank” two US fast attack submarines, and almost “sank” carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. In 2001 Operation Tandem Thrust, HMAS Waller sank two US amphibious assault ships in water barely deeper than length of submarine itself, though it was later sank herself, and Chilean diesel sub took out Los Angeler class nuclear fast attack sub USS Montpelier twice during exercise runs. In October 2002, HMAS Sheehan hunted down and “killed” Los Angeles class USS Olympia. In September 2003, several Collins class submarines “sank” two US fast attack subs and a carrier. In 2005, Swedish Gotland-class submarine “sank” USS Ronald Reagan.


At least one similar occurence happened outside exercises: in 2006, Chinese Song-class diesel submarine reached striking distance of carrier USS Kitty Hawk undetected. While US are thinking about emulating diesel submarines with UUVs, most likely outcome will be platform just as, or less, capable than AIP submarine, while costing just as much as nuclear submarine, and being far more unreliable than either. As Robert Gates said, US spend more and more money for fewer and fewer platforms. I might add: and ones that are more vulnerable in many scenarios than what US are currently using.




AIP subs, while having disadvantages – mainly regarding speed and range – compared to nuclear submarines, also have many advantages that make than a must-have for any serious naval force. They can also be a nightmare for ASW and any other surface or submerged units when employed properly.

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