Defense Issues

Military and general security

Close Air Support fighter proposal

Posted by Picard578 on November 2, 2013

Historical lessons

While Gullio Douhet’s theory that bombardment of the enemy heartland can win the war has dominated USAF (USAAF during WWII) procurement ever since its formation has been thoroughly discredited (more about that in another article), Western air forces still procure far too many strategic bombers and deep strike fighters, while procuring insufficient number of close air support fighters; this often results in a situation where all ground attack aircraft, regardless of their suitability for the role, have to be used for close air support.

But Close Air Support is a very hard mission with strict requirements, which aircraft designed for other missions (“multirole” fighters, most tactical bombers with exception of aircraft designed specifically for CAS, any strategic bombers) do not meet. It is therefore paramount for these requirements to be well understood if CAS fighter is to be effective.

First concern is that crew of a CAS aircraft has to think of themselves and their mission as a ground soldiers, and understand infantry, armor and/or mechanized tactics. From this follows the requirement for CAS squadrons to be assigned to specific battallions and be colocated with them, but also a requirement for pilots to study ground combat – tactics, visual specifics of different vehicles. All of this means that “multirole” pilots are psychologically incapable of carrying out effective CAS, and that complex “multirole” aircraft are similarly incapable of satisfying basing requirements. In exercises, observers should sometimes swap places with ground troops and participate in them as infantrymen or otherwise members of ground units they are assigned to. Whenever CAS crews train, it should be with the unit they are assigned to, and observers should eventually reach the level where they will be capable of taking command of ground units.

Second problem is that Close Air Support is a very demanding mission. It is carried out at low altitude, so pilot will have a lot of trouble avoiding anti-air fire and avoiding to fly into the ground. This means that there should be a separate observer who will also command the aircraft, freeing up pilot to focus on flying.

Third concern is a coordination with both supported unit and the artillery. This means that ground unit should have attached ground FAC. Also, CAS aircraft should be survivable enough so as to be able to fly slow and low enough to identify targets.

It should also be noted that Close Air Support, while extremely useful, is an emergency procedure. Care should be taken to avoid situations where CAS is required; thus a CAS aircraft should also do a battlefield interdiction (every CAS aircraft can do interdiction, but not every aircraft capable of carrying out interdiction can perfom CAS); when CAS is requested, somebody has failed. In COIN operations, however, destruction of enemy before its contact with one’s own ground troops is often not possible. Battlefield interdiction, along with destruction of enemy ground formations on the move, includes destruction of communication lines – bridges, ship traffic etc.

Yet another mission well done by CAS fighters is the armed reconnaissance, when aircraft patrols in front of or at flanks of escorted unit(s), as designated by ground commander, and provides visual reconnaissance information directly to the ground commander. It also attacks detected enemy forces when appropriate.

In World War I, CAS consisted of attacking enemy ground positions before a major ground attack. Attacking was done by strafing, or by tossing small bombs over aircraft’s side.

Major performers of CAS in World War II were Germans with their Stuka units. Stuka was used primarly for Close Air Support, and its never produced successor (Hs-129B) was optimized for CAS, with two widely spaced engines, an armored cockpit and a 30 mm cannon carrying enough rounds for 18 tank-killing attacks compared to 6 for Stuka. Stuka could be considered a first dedicated CAS aircraft: it achieved low dive speeds below 200 kts, while carrying bombs weighting up to 500 kg. It was very maneuverable, and heavy armor meant that 20 mm AAA was considered an insignificant threat by Stuka pilots. While dive accuracy of ~10 meters was achieved, it was insufficient for tank killing; as a result, special tank-killing Stukas using 37 mm cannon were deployed to the Eastern front in 1943.

In the Battle of France, Guderian refused to stop his armored divisions after successful Ardennes offensive, resulting in first true “blitzkrieg” campaign. This also meant that he had to rely on “Stuka” units to replace usual artillery support. Later on, encirclement of Dunkirk proved that air power by itself cannot destroy dug-in enemy army.

At the Eastern Front, Stuka units performed CAS and battlefield interdiction. Hans Rudel, Stuka ace, flew 2.500 sorties on the Russian front, using his 37 mm cannon, and more rarely bombs, to destroy well over 500 tanks, some locomotives, two battleships and 12 Soviet fighters. In process, he lost 30 aircraft to accidents and AAA, a loss rate of 1,2%. Stuka itself cost about same as tanks it destroyed – 40.000 USD in 1943. Tank strafing attacks were executed either from almost vertical dive or from direct rear of the tank at altitude of around 10 meters. In presence of air defenses, vertical attacks were preferred with part of group attacking AAA, and remainder attacking assigned targets (usually tanks). They also informed ground troops of any enemy movement or deployment in their assigned areas. Thanks to their mobility – Stukas could easily take off from muddy fields – they could be colocated with ground troops. Whenever Russian tank columns were attacked, they would get off roads and start weaving maneuvers or disperse and try to hide. Rudel has also commented that high speeds are “poison” for finding tanks.

Neither RAF or USAAF were willing to develop specialized close air support aircraft. However, they did have some fighters which excelled in the close air support. US P-47 which failed as an air superiority fighter was eventually employed as a Stuka-equivalent. While high-altitude bombers dropped tons of bombs without any effect during Normandy landing, missing target area by miles, general Quaseada’s 1.500 P-47s running battlefield interdiction delayed 23 German divisions so much that their 3-day travel time took six weeks, and even those that did make it eventually were heavily mauled. Multi-engined bombers were also often tasked with providing CAS and battlefield interdiction, but were nowhere as effective. UK chose to create an armored and upgunned Hurricane model specialized for CAS; however, it was still a modification of an existing aircraft. Quaseada’s and Patton’s acceptance of close cooperation between Army and Air Force, their mutual trust, and Quaseada’s acceptance of importance of close air support, allowed Patton to go on his drive across France by relying on Quaseada’s P-47s to protect his right flank against attack from German ground forces, and thus concentrate full weight of his forces on the main attack. Towards the end of the war, Forward Air Controllers were attached to ground troops at the battallion level. USMC did that as early as 1943, and evolved a requirement for all aviators to serve at least one year in the infantry. F-4U turned out to be as suitable as P-47 for the same reasons: air-cooled engine and heavy armor.

Allies flew B-25s in low-altitude attacks. While not CAS aircraft, lessons gained are important for CAS fighter. Favorite speed was 250-300 knots. Pilots also considered survivability to be the best at altitudes below 50 and above 50.000 feets (below 15 and above 15.000 meters). While aircraft did get hit by small-arms fire during low altitude attacks, it was not dangerous.

In the Korean War, USAF originally had no CAS capability at all; B-29s delivered 13 CAS sorties per day, which were useless to troops they were supporting as they were delivered 3 miles forward. Interdiction missions were not a success either, as B-29s and B-26s dropped 4.000 bombs on railroad bridges on Yalu river, achieving 33 hits and blocking target bridges for one week. When bombardment of North Korean cities commenced, 90% of electric power was shut down – not by bombers but by fighters. Thus CAS fighter can also do a strategic bombardment when needed, though just like in Gulf Wars, knocking out of electic power in cities did not result in any impendement to enemy’s military activity. Another thing that Korean war demonstrated was ineffectiveness of the 450 knot jet fighters in the CAS role; this plus disbandment of all FAC capability in the interwar between WWII and Korean war meant that early USAF “CAS” was useless to troops on the ground. US Marine Corps have luckily created a strong tradition of close air support in their combined division/air wing teams during peacetime; as a result, they had very good CAS capability and dedicated majority of their sorties to the mission, using prop-driven Corsairs. Later on, USAF created a robust system of CAS aircraft coupled to airborne FACs as well as ground FACs. P-51 was first aircraft used in that role by USAF; while it proved an excellent fighter during World War II, exact same qualities that made it good fighter caused it to be unsuitable for Close Air Support: a rifle bullet through coolant radiator could destroy it. F-84 performed poorly as a CAS aircraft (once F-86 displaced it as an air superiority fighter) due to being too fast. Once trench warfare began, USAF placed strict altitude limits, only allowing survivable Marine Corsairs and Navy A-1s to fly below it; they however did not find many targets as both sides were well dug in. 50-cal (12,7 mm) machine guns, 20 mm cannons and 3 in rockets were used for attacking troops, vehicles, buildings, automatic weapons emplacements and combustible storage dumps; fragmentation bombs were used against these same targets; 500 lb (225 kg) general-purpose bombs and 5-in (127 mm) rockets were used against tanks, bridges, railway tunnels, artillery and AAA pieces and positions; 1.000 lb (450 kg) bombs were used against major bridges and tunnels, and napalm was jack-of-all-trades weapon, used against everything except railroad tracks. Rockets and bombs proved too inaccurate against the T-34, and .50 cal machine guns could not penetrate its armor. And while pilots rated napalm as most devastating, followed by rockets and then strafing, prisoners (actual subjects of these attacks) rated strafing as most devastating, followed by rockets and then napalm (simply lying down protects from effects of napalm since heat rises).

In Vietnam, high-speed jet fighters proved unsutiable for both battlefield interdiction and Close Air Support, with ordinary difficulties being compounded by the fact that missions were flown in heavily forrested areas. Old Navy A-1 propeller attack aircraft, used by Special Air Warfare forces, proved successful for night and day close air support due to its low speed maneuverability, survivability and extraordinary loiter performance. A-37, F-100 and F-4 were also used. A-37 had good maneuverability but lacked armament and loiter performance; F-100 was maneuverable but too fast, while F-4 and F-105 proved entirely unsuitable due to speed and lack of maneuverability. Navy A-4 was best CAS jet, A-7 was similar to F-100 and F-4 was used only when nothing else was avaliable. Due to complex control system, only aircraft loitering directly above troops requiring support acheved acceptable response time. Neither laser guided or electro-optical bombs were used in CAS, mostly due to the high percentage of “wild bombs”; weapons release computers were banned for the similar reason, and gun was preferred CAS weapon, though dumb rockets and bombs were also used. A-1s were only aircraft flying under 1.000 foot ceillings and providing support on cloudy nights when all other aircraft were grounded. During Ashau Valley helicopter assault, A-1s were the only aircraft that could operate under low ceillings in face of defenses that accounted for 30 helicopters lost. Marine CAS quality declined due to usage of F-4 and A-6 radar bombers, and cessation of requirement for pilots to serve a tour with infantry; it was still better than Navy or USAF one. Helicopters were also tested as a CAS platform, but it turned out that they were limited to area fire due to their inherent instability and inaccuracy of airborne swiwelled or turreted guns. They were also extremely vulnerable to all forms of air defenses due to lack of maneuverability (even AH-64 can’t pull more than +3,5/-0,5 g, compared to +11/-3,5 g for Rafale C and +7/-3 g for F-4). Only pros of helicopters were slow speed and the fact that they were owned by the Army. TOW missiles fired by helicopters did achieve good accuracy, but only against static undefended targets. Similarly, high-altitude “strategic” bombardment of North Vietnamese cities only demonstrated to them the US lack of resolve.

In the Gulf War, high-altitude “precision” bombing by B-52s and F-16s against dug-in Republician Guard failed. But in the war’s second week, Saddam sent significant military force towards the Saudi city of Khafji. Two A-10s and an AC-130 gunship destroyed 58 targets in a 71-vehicle convoy. Later, 20 Scud launchers were destroyed by two A-10s, using their 30 mm cannon. While air strikes made ground war possible at lower cost, they would have failed without said ground war. A-10s were just as survivable as the F-117s when operating in the same environment – at night, above heavily defended areas; all A-10 losses happened during the day, and F-117 was painted black to prevent some “smart” heads in USAF from sending it during day. Neither night flying A-10s, night flying F-111Fs or night flying F-117s suffered any losses. In Gulf War and Kosovo F-117 suffered 2 losses in 2.600 sorties, and A-10s 4 losses in 12.400 sorties – loss rates of 0,08% for F-117 and 0,03% for A-10. Thus it follows that radar stealth is not a survivability requirement, as the A-10 was nearly 3 times as survivable as the F-117. If only aircraft that were shot down, as opposed to written off due to damage, are counted, F-117 suffered 1 loss and A-10 3 losses – loss rates of 0,04% for F-117 and 0,02% for A-10; by this measure, A-10 was twice as survivable as F-117, and its slow speed was not detrimental despite claims made by USAF generals and often mindlessly repeated by general public. STOVL Harrier suffered heavy losses due to IR missiles as it has nozzles in middle of the body; F-18 with its nozzles located far back fared far better (5 hits and 1 loss). It should be noted that A-10s in the Desert Storm were far less survivable than they would have been when used competently – USAF ordered A-10s to retain their dark green color which made them stand out against both sky and the sand. In Kosovo war, high-altitude bombing – both of military and of civilian targets – proved useless, and Milosevic was one dictating the terms. NATO destroyed 13 tanks, 18 APCs and 20 artillery pieces; this was in part due to effectiveness of rather primitive countermeasures employed by Serbs (such as metal-lined-paper models). Later Corley’s survey claimed 246 tanks and APCs destroyed, but it actually only counted wether bombs detonated, counting decoys and misses into successful attacks and using evidence such as blurry cockpit videos and satellite recordings of munition detonations.

It should also be noted that A-10s were far less effective in the Gulf War than they could have been: they were assigned to “kill boxes” instead of acting as a free “jaeger air” and were jerked from “kill box” to “kill box” without any reason; often they could not finish the job in one “kill box” before being moved to uselessly loiter in the entirely empty “kill box”. Altitude restrictions helped cause some friendly fire incidents (such as attack on Mc LAV armored cards) and prevented A-10s from flying low altitude column cover and armed reconnaissance.

When fast jets operated on their own, they produced neglible results, dropping expensive ammunitions on decoys or previously destroyed targets, while having trouble finding well camouflaged and/or dug-in targets. They were not given the authority to descend to altitudes that would allow them to visually spot the enemy, nor did they have capability to loiter while looking for targets.

In Afghanistan, high altitude bombing also proved useless; A-10s, with their high-calibre cannon, low speed maneuverability and excellent, rugged construction, proved invaluable for providing Close Air Support. At least once it was provided without any radio contact with troops attacked, and A-10s provided cover for entire 6-hour return trip. On another occasion during Anaconda, Navy SEALs were pinned down by mortar fire; SEALs had to talk F-15E pilots into gun strafing runs since pilots never trained for that task, and F-15E is unsuitable for it since it is too fast. F-15Es were eventually successful, but it took several hours; this in turn meant several casualties that would not have happened had the A-10s been present. In 2007, an F-16 crashed while providing CAS: pilot had to perform gun strafing runs against Taliban to help ground forces in peril, but F-16 was too fast to come out of last low-level pass; unable to pull up, it crashed along with pilot (Maj. Troy Gilbert) inside. In mountain terrain, PGMs are not effective since such terrain offers ample cover and readily absorbs firepower. At Roberts Ridge, 12 Al Quaeda have been pounded by PGMs for hours; they suffered no casualties. PGMs are ineffective against moving targets; even when bombing static targets, bombs regularly bump into each other and into aircraft when dropped, bending fins – a problem which increases with airspeed (for this reason alone, any claims of 90% accuracy by PGMs are most likely bull); since any PGM is a complex system, guidance errors are also likely (AAMs failure rate is 50% for radar-guided BVR and 30% for IR WVR missiles). Caves that serve as hideouts remain invisible to high-altitude aircraft and satellites, and it is usually ground troops that discover them. Very often fire has to be delivered close to friendly troops; bombs are simply too destructive for that, especially precision ones which tend to be more destructive. Cannon is also very useful for suppressive fire. All of this lead to RAF Eurofighter Typhoons being equipped with guns despite original decision not to buy guns in order to save cost. There is another story which confirms usefulness of the gun: in Afghanistan, a Special Forces team attacked the compoind of the Taliban leader. Taliban reacted with heavy fire and the Air Force combat controller present was severely wounded; Predator overhead could not get a shot, while the F-16 ran low on fuel and departed. Finally, two A-10s arrived and controller asked them to make runs “danger close”; shells impacted 20 meters from the team – were this PGMs, both Special Forces team and Taliban would have been within kill zone, with only quality and quantity of avaliable cover deciding who will live and who will die. Taliban broke up the attack. Every member of SF team returned to the base alive, even the combat controller who had almost bled to death – and would have bled to death had attack lasted little longer (see previously described CAS mission carried out by F-15Es in support of SEALs for reference on how the fast jets have performed in similar circumstances).

In 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom, few hundred SOF and airborne paratroopers effectively coordinated with airborne FAC-directed CAS to tie up entire Iraqi divisions.

Arabs never displayed interest or capability for Close Air Support, in primarly due to chronic incompetence of their pilots, but also due to unsitability of high-speed jets. Israel also never displayed interest in CAS, and in 1973 war IAF failed to have any impact on Sinai campaign. Only air forces that had aircraft unsitable for any mission other than Close Air Support displayed interest in that mission; for this reason alone argument for fast jets (such as F-35) as CAS platforms falls flat on its face. There is no way to deliver effective CAS without getting low and slow; high speed is likewise not required to survive extensive air defenses. CAS is not effective in dug-in warfare. For this reason, CAS fighters have to be commanded by the Army and flown by the Army pilots.

Due to requirement for a good situational awareness and quick reaction times, UAV is unsuitable for this role, as it is for the air superiority (and for the same reasons). Quick reaction times also require a broadcast control by ground FACs and direct cooperation between loitering CAS aircraft and ground troops, which means cuttning out a central command. In part due to these problems, NATO has lost 46 UAVs in Yugoslavia. UAVs also have weather limitations: they cannot fly if cloud ceilling is 2.000 meters or less, headwind is 35+ knots, tailwind is 2+ knots or crosswind is 20+ knots, lightning is within 10 nm or there is a danger of ice formation on the airframe. Fast fighters also encounter similar limitations as they have to be below clouds to effectively operate in air-to-ground role – and they are too vulnerable for that if clouds are low.

Modern networked defenses can be very lethal when static – radar SAMs are nearly-useless, but IR MANPADS and especially anti-aircraft guns are dangerous and are main causes of losses amon CAS aircraft. Dug-in enemy is also less vulnerable to attack (while low-altitude CAS fighters can harm even dug-in opponents their effectiveness is very low, and dug-in forces are essentially invulnerable to high-altitude bombing). Modern electronic-heavy defenses are however very susceptible to the breakdown when moving, which means that CAS aircraft must be capable of dealing them heavy damage on these occasions. Also, known presence of CAS aircraft can force the enemy to remain static, leaving him very vulnerable to being outmaneuvered by one’s own ground troops. But to be truly effective, CAS aircraft must fly at very low altitudes, measured in hundreds and often in tens of meters.

While some say that modern sensors have made low-altitude CAS aircraft obsolete, even most modern sensors and weapons are often defeated by simplest of countermeasures. Criteria for effective CAS have changed little: air superiority, suppression of enemy air defenses, target marking, favorable weather, prompt response, terminal controller and aircrew skill. “Favorable weather” requirement means that high-altitude aircraft are impotent on days of heavy overcast; even so-called “all-weather” capability does little to help – USAF in Desert Storm faced major problems and even sortie cancellations due to unfavorable weather conditions. Due to this, relying on thin-skinned, high-altitude, high-speed jets means that ground troops will be left without any air support during bad weather days. Most importantly, ground troops do not think much of fast jets doing CAS as evidenced by statement by Army Sgt. First Class Frank Antenori: “Fast moving aircraft are not designed to support ground troops, 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.”

Basic requirements

From above, a list of basic requirements can be made: low cost, high sortie rate, long loiter time, rough field operating capability, basing mobility, low speed maneuverability (<300 meter turn radius at 140-300 kts; 45° attack speed of 225-275 kts), survivability (fast climb rate, rugged construction), high number of kills on board (20+ attack passes with gun and missiles, 15 attack passes with gun alone), high-calibre fast-accelerating cannon with fragmentation and AP rounds, iron bombs with delayed fuses.

Basing mobility is required for aircraft to remain close to the supported troops. Requirements that follow from it are rough field and road operating capability, easy maintenance, low fuel requirements.

Low speed maneuverability and survivability at low altitude are paramount since even most modern sensors will not help in heavily forrested areas, or indeed any area except for open desert. Camouflaged targets are very hard to find, and CAS fighters must have tight turn radius at low speed and altitude. Even modern imaging sensors cannot effectively distinguish actual targets from decoys, or find camouflaged targets – for these purposes, Mk.I eyeball is still the best sensor. It also needs to be slow so that pilot can detect smoke or hydrogen baloon markers.

Low-speed maneuverability requires low wing loading and thrust-to-weight ratio above 1 halfway through the mission. This means that thrust-to-weight ratio at takeoff will likely be around 0,8-0,9.

Survivability requires either separated, external twin engines or armored single engine; engine exhaust should be shielded, and engine nozzle(s) should be located at extreme rear end of the aircraft. Wing tip fuel tanks are a possibility; aside from keeping amount of violatile fuel away from crew, they could be used for keeping airplane afloat if forced to land on water. Further, tracking time should be reduced to minimum; gun requires tracking time of 2-3 seconds, while PGMs require tracking time in excess of 10 seconds, rendering aircraft extremely vulnerable. Unguided bombs and rockets fall somewhere in between. As aircraft must not remain above mask for more than 10-12 seconds, it is clear that PGMs have very limited utility. Fuel tanks will be separated from each other and surrounding equipment by foam. Another characteristic required to maximize survivability is ability to fly below 15 meters at speeds of 250-300 kts (460-560 kph).

Reasonable lethality against all possible targets is achieved only by large-calibre, high-velocity cannon with AP, SAP and HE rounds. IIR, electro-optical and especially radar-based weapons require far too long lock-on time, and former require absence of smoke and dust – features rarely found on the battlefield. That is not to say, that they are useless; however, their complexity and resultant risk of missing the target (while they have great CEP, many GPS and laser guided munitions malfunction, and sometimes go miles off the target) mean that they have very limited employment possibilities, mostly from low altitude against static targets. Even if 90% accuracy is achieved, remaining 10% is too dangerous – and higher the altitude, more dangerous it becomes.

Survivability, lethality, cost and situational awareness requirements eliminate UAV as an option.

Design

Best of both worlds shold thus combine two relatively small engines, separated, armored and with exhaust nozzles at or near the extreme rear of the aircraft; shielded engine exhaust; inner skin and outer armored panels, spaced from inner skin; small overall size; low wing loading; single GIAT-30 cannon with 200-500 (middle point 350) rounds; low, straight wings with external wheels; body-mounted external skiis; bubble canopy; fuel tanks separated from both engines and cockpit; separated bath tube for crew.

To fulfill requirements, aircraft will have to either use commercial engines or not use jet engines at all, opting instead for piston engines. Piston engines are several times more fuel efficient than jet engines, and can thus offer extended loiter time. However, turbofan engines offer higher thrust. Pusher propellers, while avaliable, are highly susceptible to debris kicked up when taking off or landing and suffer performance penalties during maneuvers due to the air flow disturbance during maneuvers. Turboprop engines are most efficient at 320 to 640 kph; turbofan engines are most efficient at 500 to 1.000 kph. Attack speed is at 420-510 kph, search speed is around 350 kph, though 800 kph may still be slow enough for both search and attack.

Engines will thus be commercial turbofan, CF700. Single CF700 weights 730 lbs (331 kg) and offers 4.500 lbs (2.041 kgf) of thrust; specific fuel consumption is 0,67 lb/lbf-hr, for a per-engine fuel consumption of 3.015 lb/h, or 1.367,6 kg/h (3,4 times less than that of M88 used in the air superiority fighter). Two engines will thus give 4.082 kgf of thrust and fuel consumption of 2735 kg/h.

Cannon will be French GIAT-30; as it is smaller than Gattling guns of same calibre, it will allow aircraft to be smaller, and thus cheaper and more survivable. It will be angled 2 degrees downwards. Possible modifications include higher muzzle velocity (stronger charge) and ammo that will include HE, HEAT and tungsten rounds. Secondary weapons will be dumb bombs, rocket launchers and pods containing 12,7 mm (.50 cal) machine guns. Linkless ammo feed will be used.

To achieve acceptable rough field operating capability, it will use large, wide, soft tires. Wheels should be only half-submerged when in flight, and widely separated, so as to allow aircraft to land even with wheels up; another possibility is for them to be fixed as on Stuka, though it adds drag. Yet another possibility is using wide, external skiis to allow operations from muddy fields, snow or ice.

It will ideally have a 40% fuel fraction, identical to the FLX, though anything above 35% is acceptable.

Survivability, as noted, requires armored engine, shielded engine exhaust, nozzles at extreme rear end of the aircraft; but also a small visual, acoustic and IR signature (thus small size), good situational awareness and countermeasures. As no practical amount of armor can ensure that engine will not be hit, two engines will be required; still, aircraft should be kept as small as possible to keep cost low, as well as to achieve low detectability and good basing performance. Aircraft should also have spaced armored skin, and engines should be spaced from each other. Another possibility is to reduce number of hits to minimum, which can be achieved by small size and good agility (low wing loading, high TWR), thus using single engine or two smaller engines. To provide protection from ground fire, engines can be mounted on top of the wings. Primary weapons will be gun, iron bombs and unguided rockets; only extraordinarily will it carry IR missiles.

Situational awareness will be achieved by a good cockpit visibility. It will be two-seat, with a pilot and a separate observer; observer is needed to leave pilot concentrated on flying, and to have someone who will study how various vehicles look and help avoid friendly fire incidents (it is not a new concept: French T-6 CAS/FAC aircraft in Algeria were two-seat). For night operations, both pilot and copilot will be provided with night-vision googles. This will also enable it to act as a forward air controller if prop-driven FAC is unavaliable for any reason.

Small size, long loiter time and good survivability will also make it a good SEAD aircraft; for this purpose, ALARM missile will be used. Aircraft will use terrain masking, using RWRs to find SAM sites and only going above terrain for brief periods of time in order to destroy SAMs before they manage to lock on to it.

AX

Data is as follows:

Length: 12,04 m (12,6 m with tail)

Wingspan: 12,97 m

Height: 3,2 m

Wing area: 26,5 m2

Empty weight: 6.500 kg

Fuel capacity: 4.900 kg

  • Rear tank: 160x110x199 cm = 16x11x19 dm = 3344 l
  • Forward tank: 220x110x110 cm = 22x11x11 dm = 2662 l
  • 1 l = 0,82 kg

Fuel fraction: 0,43

Weight: (30 mm GIAT-30 round: 530 g, AGM-65: 300 kg)

With 100% fuel + 600×30 mm rounds: 11.718 kg

With 50% fuel + 600×30 mm rounds: 9.268 kg

With 100% fuel + 600x30mm rounds + 4 AGM-65: 12.918 kg

With 50% fuel + 600x30mm rounds + 4 AGM-65: 10.468 kg

Wing loading:

With 100% fuel + 600×30 mm rounds: 442 kg/m2

With 50% fuel + 600×30 mm rounds: 350 kg/m2

With 100% fuel + 600x30mm rounds + 4 AGM-65: 487 kg/m2

With 50% fuel + 600x30mm rounds + 4 AGM-65: 395 kg/m2

Engines: 2xCF700

Thrust: 4.082 kgf

Fuel consmption: 2735 kg/h

Thrust-to-weight ratio:

With 100% fuel + 600×30 mm rounds: 0,35

With 50% fuel + 600×30 mm rounds: 0,44

With 100% fuel + 600x30mm rounds + 4 AGM-65: 0,32

With 50% fuel + 600x30mm rounds + 4 AGM-65: 0,39

Speed:

Cruise: 600 kph

Time in the air:

107 minutes (1,79 hrs) on the internal fuel

151 minute (2,52 hrs) with 2 1.000 kg drop tanks

Combat radius:

on internal fuel: 537 km

with 2 1.000 kg drop tanks: 757 km

Weapons:

1 GIAT-30 with 600 rounds (rate of fire of 2.500 rpm, 0,05s to full rate of fire = 15 1-second bursts)

6 wing hardpoints (AGM-65, ALARM, advanced anti radiation missile, or unguided munitions: rockets (15 70 mm or 5 127 mm rockets per pod), bombs (112 kg, 225 kg, 450 kg), recoilless rifles (75/90/105 mm); outermost hardpoints can hold IRIS-T for self-defense)

1 centerline hardpoint (jamming pod)

Sensors:

radar warner receivers

missile approach warners

Countermeasures:

chaff

flares

DIRCM

jamming pods (if terrain masking is judged insufficient)

Unit flyaway cost: 9.000.000 USD

Cost per flying hour: 1.000-1.500 USD

Sorties per day per aircraft: 3

Sorties per day per billion procurement: 333

Notes

Unit flyaway cost is calculated with assumption that AXs cost per kg is same as that of the A-10 (1.413 USD per kg).

Comparision with other fighters

AX’s weapons loadout allows it 21 attack pass; A-10 for comparision has 22 firing passes of gun ammo and 6 missiles, for total of 28 attack passes. A-10s unit flyaway cost of 16 million USD and 3 sorties per day per aircraft however mean that while A-10 can fly 186 sorties per day per billion USD, AX can fly 333 sorties per day per billion USD; a 1,8:1 sortie generation advantage; this means that ALX offers 6.993 attack passes per billion procurement USD per day, compared to 5.208 for the A-10. AX is also far less visible and more maneuverable, resulting in greater survivability.

Comparing it with other fighters that are supposed to perform CAS is nowhere near being a fair play: aside from being completely incapable of performing actual CAS, fast jets are also too costly. F-16C costs 70 million USD flyaway and can fly 1,2 sorties per day, resulting in 16 sorties per day per billion USD (a 21:1 advantage for AX); F-35A costs 184 million USD flyaway and can fly 0,3 sorties per day, resulting in 1,5 sorties per day (a 222:1 advantage for AX).

F-16C has 4,7 1-second bursts from gun and can carry up to 12 bombs, for a total of 17 attack passes; F-35A has 2,6 1-second bursts and can carry up to 10 bombs, for a total of 13 attack passes. Thus per billion procurement USD, F-16C offers a total of 272 attack passes, and F-35A offers a total of 20 attack passes. From this it can easily be calculated that, for equal procurement cost, F-16C offers 13 times as many attack passes as the F-35A, A-10 offers 260 times as many attack passes as the F-35A, and AX offers 350 times as many attack passes as the F-35A.

It is also interesting to compare it to several proposed CAS fighters. First one is Pierre Sprey’s CAS fighter (America’s Defense Meltdown, pg 161). Sprey’s fighter has 30 mm cannon, 8.000 kgf of thrust, 6.350 kg empty weight, 4.500 kg of fuel (fuel fraction of 0,41), 11.300 kg combat takeoff weight. Another Fighter Mafia’s proposal, “Blitz Fighter” by James Burton (made into concept at LTV Vought Company), an airplane with empty weight of 2.300-4.500 kg, using 4-barreled 30 mm Gattling gun and a minimum of sensors; it would have cost 7,4 million USD (adjusted for inflation to 2013 USD). AX has 30 mm revolver cannon, 4.100 kgf of thrust, 6.500 kg empty weight, 4.900 kg of fuel (fuel fraction of 0,43), 11.700 kg combat takeoff weight, and while it can carry guided AT missiles, it relies primarly on its gun and dumb weapons; it costs 9 million USD. It can be seen that while AX is not as radical concept as other two fighters, it offers most of the same advantages.

Outside links

Vought VB-100 Blitzfighter

EDIT 28.11.2013.: Camo designs

AX_camoAX_camo_1

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42 Responses to “Close Air Support fighter proposal”

  1. HGR said

    Really good blog. Preaching to the choir… I agree. How long a run way needed for such an aircraft?

    • picard578 said

      A-10s takeoff distance is 1.200 m, so considering that this aircraft is lighter (50% of A-10s weight when both are combat-loaded), smaller (12x13x3,2 vs 16x18x4,5 m) and has almost identical wing loading (487 vs 482 kg/m2) and thrust-to-weight ratio (0,32 vs 0,36), I’d say that its takeoff distance should be less than 1.000 meters. Though I didn’t intend it to require runway in a first place, but it would still need something to take off from.

  2. HGR said

    Thanks.

  3. HGR said

    Yesterday I saw an article on the Wall Street Journal about the USA building a replacement bomber for the B-52 and B-1 who are nearing their end of their life. The manager of the AF program is a bomber pilot (?) who was chosen for the specific reason that he should be able to tell what is worth having and what is not plus tasked with using only existing and developed technology… http://wsje.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx

    And then this one… I was wondering if it was written by pickard under a nom-de-guerre! http://blacktailfa.deviantart.com/art/Vought-VB-100-Blitzfighter-296126107 Why not build something like this?

    • picard578 said

      No strategic bomber is “worth having”.

      • Nuno Gomes said

        ?????How about for striking fixed target at long ranges?(bridges,industry,air bases,missile silos?????
        And strategic bombing did teach the germans and japanese one thing…there is a price to pay for following dictators…

      • picard578 said

        Actually, entire strategic bombing effort made Germans flock behind Hitler more than ever. Just as earlier German bombing efford strenghtened British resolve. Bombing industry accomplished nothing; German industrial output increased through the war. Bombing bridges was useful, but was primarly done by tactical bombers such as P-47s and Dauntless’. Similarly for air bases. In both Gulf Wars, strategic bombardment failed to achieve anything, and it was A-10s and (albeit far less effectively) F-16s running close air support and battlefield interdiction that had the greatest impact.

    • Blacktail said

      As a matter of fact, the VB-100 Blitzfighter was designed by Vought, as a response to a proposal made by USAF Col. James G. Burton (whom you may remember as the guy who forced the US Army to do live fire testing on the Bradley — which they tried to get out of, despite having promised to do so).

      All I did was turn the blueprint into a more presentable 3-view drawing, and remind everyone of the design’s history. 😉

      I also created this variation of the 3-view drawing you linked to, which predictably resulted in MAJOR drama within hours of posting it XD ;
      http://blacktailfa.deviantart.com/art/The-USAF-s-Worst-Nightmare-297596894

  4. HGR said

    Sorry, Picard already had the blitzfighter.

  5. […] close air support fighter proposal […]

  6. […] CAS fighter proposal […]

  7. Chris said

    “Turboprop engines are most efficient at 320 to 640 kph; turbofan engines are most efficient at 500 to 1.000 kph. Attack speed is at 420-510 kph, search speed is around 350 kph, though 800 kph may still be slow enough for both search and attack.”

    May I ask why the turbofan was chosen over the turboprop?

    It would seem that the 320-640 km/h range is perfect for the turboprop. Attack speeds fall well within that as do search speeds. I’m just curious as the loiter time may be extended with a turboprop over a turbofan.

    A few questions:
    – Do you think that this plane would be viable in an area with contested air superiority? Assuming that an enemy is competent, and has a decent air force with well trained pilots, I suspect that air superiority will be heavily contested and that it would be impossible to hold air superiority for an extended period of time. It looks like a durable design and small (so hard to detect and hit), so it should be able to maneuver against AAMs and against the enemy guns on fighters (as well as ground fire).

    – Do you think more ammo would be beneficial? During the Gulf War, there was at least one “Turkey Shoot” for the A-10 where the pilots ran out of ammo rather than targets to destroy. Of course, that would mean a slightly larger aircraft (and slightly fewer planes so perhaps not). That said, it may be beneficial for a slightly larger plane (longer gun barrel too might be viable for higher muzzle velocity).

    – Should the bursts be 1s or 0.5s? A while back, I do remember reading from tests that only a certain few fractions of a second resulted in kills. I’ll try to find the link later, but this is what I could find on the LAVP:

    https://ia601501.us.archive.org/4/items/a10gau8lowanglef00stol/a10gau8lowanglef00stol.pdf

    Other thoughts:
    – CAS Pilots should be required to serve in the ground forces for a period of time in order to familiarize themselves with working with ground forces. I believe that this is currently done in some cases.

    – Peacetime training should involve extensive coordination with FAC. Perhaps a FAC-CAS buddy system should be enacted where the FAC and CAS group will work closely together with each other for the duration of their careers.

    – During combat, I’d recommend deploying CAS with ground forces (say an assignment to a particular regiment), and getting the FAC and CAS pilots to build close relations with the ground troops that they will be working with for good coordination.

    • picard578 said

      “May I ask why the turbofan was chosen over the turboprop?”

      There are many considerations and efficiency is only one of them. Turbofan offers more thrust and thus better acceleration, as well as more flexibility in terms of positioning on the airframe. I have also planned from beginning to design a jet CAS aircraft and turboprop FAC aircraft, meaning that I already had an aircraft to take over search duties if necessary – and quite often, CAS aircraft will be called in by ground FAC, which requires comparably fast response time but also ability to slow down enough to actually attack the target. In nation-state war, CAS fighters would loiter at maybe 800 to 1.000 kph and higher altitude to minimize vulnerability to enemy defenses until FAC call came in. In sub-national conflict, armed FAC aircraft would usually be enough, and guerillas would disappear by the time any other aircraft came in anyway.

      “- Do you think that this plane would be viable in an area with contested air superiority? Assuming that an enemy is competent, and has a decent air force with well trained pilots, I suspect that air superiority will be heavily contested and that it would be impossible to hold air superiority for an extended period of time.”

      In such conditions it would be comparatively vulnerable, but assuming that enemy fighters are busy staying alive, it should not be in too much of danger. Also, once you start hanging heavy air-to-ground munitions to a fast jet, its maneuverability and speed will go through the floor. If it is targeted, it may be able to evade enemy missile, but to use visual-range missile enemies will first have to penetrate air cover, and BVR missiles are comparably easy to defeat even for AX, especially those of radar-guided variety.

      “- Do you think more ammo would be beneficial? During the Gulf War, there was at least one “Turkey Shoot” for the A-10 where the pilots ran out of ammo rather than targets to destroy.”

      What is important is not ammo per aircraft, but ammo you can place on aircraft bought for X USD. I have, in fact, already adressed this concern:
      >>AX’s weapons loadout allows it 21 attack pass; A-10 for comparision has 22 firing passes of gun ammo and 6 missiles, for total of 28 attack passes. A-10s unit flyaway cost of 16 million USD and 3 sorties per day per aircraft however mean that while A-10 can fly 186 sorties per day per billion USD, AX can fly 333 sorties per day per billion USD; a 1,8:1 sortie generation advantage; this means that ALX offers 6.993 attack passes per billion procurement USD per day, compared to 5.208 for the A-10.<<

      "- Should the bursts be 1s or 0.5s? A while back, I do remember reading from tests that only a certain few fractions of a second resulted in kills. I’ll try to find the link later, but this is what I could find on the LAVP:"

      That depends on situation, but 1-second burst will allow it to "spray" the area if it is engaging the infantry.

      "Perhaps a FAC-CAS buddy system should be enacted where the FAC and CAS group will work closely together with each other for the duration of their careers."

      Yes, that was my thought as well.

  8. […] Close Air Support fighter proposal […]

  9. Chris said

    “CAS aircraft will be called in by ground FAC, which requires comparably fast response time but also ability to slow down enough to actually attack the target. ”

    Fair enough.

    “In nation-state war, CAS fighters would loiter at maybe 800 to 1.000 kph and higher altitude to minimize vulnerability to enemy defenses until FAC call came in. In sub-national conflict, armed FAC aircraft would usually be enough, and guerillas would disappear by the time any other aircraft came in anyway.”

    Truth be told, given the massive budget that the USAF currently has, if even say, 1/5th of that were to be used to purchase aircraft like this one (along with the appropriate maintenance facilities), the amount of CAS airplanes that could be built would be well in the ten thousands over a period of years, kind of like how the Soviet Union produced huge numbers of the II-2 during WWII. There would be enough in the sky that they would respond very rapidly anyways.

    Yet another question, do you think that a 30mm cannon will do the job against modern armor? Assuming that the attacks are going to be hitting the top armor, rear turret, and rear body with KE tungsten rounds. You did mention the possibility of using a higher muzzle velocity (with a larger charge). A while back, I did see another airplane design (another link I need to look for).

    It had a 45mm gun, was about the size of the A-10 (apparently the designer had made the CAS plane around the gun), and with similar specs, although it had a much higher wing loading and thrust to weight (both dry and afterburner). Fuel fraction I think was in the .41-.42 range. Of course, your plane would give perhaps 50-100% more airplanes per $x billion spent, so there is that to consider. It was a relatively austere design, but in this case, bigger may be a bit better as to absorb the recoil of a 45mm gun, a larger frame and stronger engines seemed to have been necessary. The argument he had was that tanks would be more potent in the future, thus more firepower was needed. I’m not sure of that though – I think your design is probably adequate.

    “In such conditions it would be comparatively vulnerable, but assuming that enemy fighters are busy staying alive, it should not be in too much of danger.”

    There is that. The enemy fighters are looking out for enemy fighters.

    “Also, once you start hanging heavy air-to-ground munitions to a fast jet, its maneuverability and speed will go through the floor. If it is targeted, it may be able to evade enemy missile, but to use visual-range missile enemies will first have to penetrate air cover, and BVR missiles are comparably easy to defeat even for AX, especially those of radar-guided variety.”

    Well, presuming the enemy is competent, the following will happen:

    1. They will have their own dedicated CAS/interdiction craft (so they won’t be fitting high speed jets to bomb)
    2. Radar and radar missiles simply will not be used
    3. There will be dedicated enemy air superiority aircraft in the sky

    Death by radar missiles, radar SAM, and ARM missiles are not an issue for a well trained pilot in most cases. Death by guns of air superiority fighters and maybe their IR missiles though is another issue entirely. If intercepted, it’s probable that the plane could survive a near miss from a sidewinder or a few rounds from an aircraft cannon (well maybe more than a few), but at the same time, it’d be at risk as the air superiority fighter could likely out-maneuver. Pilot training and skill will win make or break the outcome.

    It’s interesting to note that Hans Rudel was able to shoot down several Soviet airplanes. Although he’s an exceptional pilot for sure, it shows that there may be a chance, especially because interestingly enough the same things that make a CAS airplane survivable against ground fire can help it in air to air. A few shots from a CAS gun will shred any thin skin airplane. Yet another possibility in such an environment is that the CAS airplane will encounter enemy CAS airplanes. That could lead to a dogfight (or hopefully a kill through surprise).

    I think it may be prudent to consider the ability to carry an IRST sensor on the CAS plane.

    I suppose then the plane would be used for these:

    1. Tactical interdiction (this will be the main job)
    2. Scouting (to be done along with FAC planes)
    3. CAS (Least likely because CAS is an emergency procedure).

    I suppose the tactical interdiction then would include:

    1. Strafing enemy vehicles
    2. Infantry, sometimes dug in (this will be the most important for COIN)
    3. Destroying vital chokepoints (ex: bridges)

    • picard578 said

      “Yet another question, do you think that a 30mm cannon will do the job against modern armor? Assuming that the attacks are going to be hitting the top armor, rear turret, and rear body with KE tungsten rounds. You did mention the possibility of using a higher muzzle velocity (with a larger charge). A while back, I did see another airplane design (another link I need to look for).”

      I did envision usage of tungsten rounds for anti-armor work, but I never calculated how effective it would be. I suspect that it could kill any T-72 variant with a rear attack, but probably not modern Western tanks.

      “It had a 45mm gun, was about the size of the A-10 (apparently the designer had made the CAS plane around the gun), and with similar specs, although it had a much higher wing loading and thrust to weight (both dry and afterburner). Fuel fraction I think was in the .41-.42 range. Of course, your plane would give perhaps 50-100% more airplanes per $x billion spent, so there is that to consider. It was a relatively austere design, but in this case, bigger may be a bit better as to absorb the recoil of a 45mm gun, a larger frame and stronger engines seemed to have been necessary. The argument he had was that tanks would be more potent in the future, thus more firepower was needed. I’m not sure of that though – I think your design is probably adequate.”

      Most good CAS planes are made around the gun, just as many good fighter aircraft were made around the engine (F-16, P-51, Me-109 were all basically smallest possible airframe around the largest engine avaliable). For this aircraft I had a grand total of three basic requirements: 30 mm cannon, high fuel fraction and two engines. It is basically enormous fuel tank with engines and huge firepower.

      “1. They will have their own dedicated CAS/interdiction craft (so they won’t be fitting high speed jets to bomb)
      2. Radar and radar missiles simply will not be used
      3. There will be dedicated enemy air superiority aircraft in the sky”

      Agreed.

      “Death by radar missiles, radar SAM, and ARM missiles are not an issue for a well trained pilot in most cases. Death by guns of air superiority fighters and maybe their IR missiles though is another issue entirely. If intercepted, it’s probable that the plane could survive a near miss from a sidewinder or a few rounds from an aircraft cannon (well maybe more than a few), but at the same time, it’d be at risk as the air superiority fighter could likely out-maneuver. Pilot training and skill will win make or break the outcome.”

      That is true, but it was true for all ground attack aircraft in history.

      “I think it may be prudent to consider the ability to carry an IRST sensor on the CAS plane.”

      If carried it is going to be a ground-attack FLIR, so just carry a pod. In most scenarios, night-vision googles should be enough.

      “1. Tactical interdiction (this will be the main job)
      2. Scouting (to be done along with FAC planes)
      3. CAS (Least likely because CAS is an emergency procedure).”

      I’d place it in different order, tactical interdiction first, CAS second and scouting to be done as a side-mission hand in hand with tactical interdiction, but never on its own.

      “1. Strafing enemy vehicles
      2. Infantry, sometimes dug in (this will be the most important for COIN)
      3. Destroying vital chokepoints (ex: bridges)”

      Yes.

      • Chris said

        “I did envision usage of tungsten rounds for anti-armor work, but I never calculated how effective it would be. I suspect that it could kill any T-72 variant with a rear attack, but probably not modern Western tanks.”

        One of the biggest flaws of current Western military procurement is the lack of testing. There hasn’t been anything like the LAVP tests since the 1970s. Instead, these days, we have “concurrency”, with the associated problems. I believe someone once said, if there were truly objective tests, there would be some very serious flaws revealed in how weapons are purchased and in order to protect pet projects, there is no testing.

        Hmm – that said, a case could be made that a larger 45mm gun might be a justifiable size increase then. It would with KE Tungsten rounds certainly knock holes in the back/top of a tank turret. In that case, what would be the smallest airframe that could hold that (remember that this will have to have a high muzzle velocity too for the KE round to work so the recoil will be pretty large). It may very well end up like the A10.

        What we really need is something like the LAVP, only against modern armor.

        If I were to design a craft specifically for anti-tank operations, it would likely have
        – 2x engines on top, medium sized (maybe large if fuel capacity allows); enough to get a good thrust to weight ratio
        – 45mm tungsten rounds (can fire AP, HE, and maybe incendiary as well)
        – 2 fins like on the A-10 (in case 1 gets destroyed)
        – Canards (to help maneuver)
        – FLIR support build in (no pod needed)
        – Wide flat tires too (to land on roads, dirt strips, and hopefully grass fields, also snow/sand would be ideal)
        – Fuel fraction >0.4 (enough to loiter); maybe hold fuel in wings in self sealing tanks?
        – Titanium “bathtub” (like on A10) around cockpit

        Hmm, would a delta wing work for a CAS plane? The benefit would be lowered wing loading.

        Downsides would be:
        – Bigger plane (try to make this as small as possible without affecting stability)
        – Barrel life on gun may be shorter (high velocity gun)
        – Fewer planes per $X/billion and fewer sorties, although Pk per sortie on enemy armor would be higher than your design
        – Fuel consumption would be higher

        Even so, it’ll be at a fraction of the F-35.

        This plane would however only be built in low to moderate quantities, depending on the type of enemy faced. Against a “conventional” competent 3rd generation army with a large complement of armor, this model would have to be favored over a 30mm model. Again, this is a plane mainly for anti-armor, although it would be a competent plane for regular CAS (although more expensive than your design).

        It would have to be used alongside your 30mm CAS planes and supported by FAC.

        Another issue is of course that against a competent opponent, they will try to destroy your planes on the ground. Ironically, the best way to do this would be with another CAS plane. By nature, CAS is vulnerable to this. It must operate near the front (and perhaps within range of long range artillery as well). As well, commando type raids are likely to be a reality.

        I guess the only way to win this one is cheap enough to be bought in large numbers (inevitably a couple will get destroyed), yet able to mount a potent enough gun to kill enemy armor. Flexible basing requirements (roads, dirt strips, grass, maybe snow and sand). Scatter them everywhere so that they’re not easy to find. Change landing locations regularly. Effective use of camouflage (not just to prevent enemy from seeing plane in air, but also to lower odds of enemy finding plane landing site and thus, plane from being destroyed on the ground).

        “Most good CAS planes are made around the gun, just as many good fighter aircraft were made around the engine (F-16, P-51, Me-109 were all basically smallest possible airframe around the largest engine avaliable). For this aircraft I had a grand total of three basic requirements: 30 mm cannon, high fuel fraction and two engines. It is basically enormous fuel tank with engines and huge firepower.”

        Pretty much this, although I would add armor to the list. There’s also self sealing tanks and some fire suppression on board. A titanium tub around the cockpit (like on the A-10) is I think a feature worth having or at least some cockpit protection.

        Yeah, things these days are weighed down by electronics. Radar, various other gadgets that in most cases could be done without. The main reason why they’re there is to make the MICC money.

      • Chris said

        Edit: About the delta wing – should not be a “pure delta” – it may end up being something like a tailed delta or compound delta. (Drawbacks to delta of course are at lower speeds). Not sure what the taper angle ought to be.

      • picard578 said

        “One of the biggest flaws of current Western military procurement is the lack of testing. There hasn’t been anything like the LAVP tests since the 1970s. Instead, these days, we have “concurrency”, with the associated problems. I believe someone once said, if there were truly objective tests, there would be some very serious flaws revealed in how weapons are purchased and in order to protect pet projects, there is no testing.”

        Which is exactly what MICC wants – design a faulty weapon > be paid to produce a faulty weapon > be paid to fix a faulty weapon. And US military high-ups help MICC in that since there is a track offloading them to industry.

        “Hmm, would a delta wing work for a CAS plane? The benefit would be lowered wing loading.”

        Compound delta maybe, you’d want straight wings in a CAS aircraft for reason of low-speed aerodynamics.

        “Another issue is of course that against a competent opponent, they will try to destroy your planes on the ground. Ironically, the best way to do this would be with another CAS plane. By nature, CAS is vulnerable to this. It must operate near the front (and perhaps within range of long range artillery as well). As well, commando type raids are likely to be a reality.”

        Which is why CAS aircraft has to be as easy to produce as possible, and easy to maintain so they can be dispersed. BTW, my FAC aircraft can act as a CAS aircraft too, and I suspect it could be produced quite quickly if needed.

        “I guess the only way to win this one is cheap enough to be bought in large numbers (inevitably a couple will get destroyed), yet able to mount a potent enough gun to kill enemy armor. Flexible basing requirements (roads, dirt strips, grass, maybe snow and sand). Scatter them everywhere so that they’re not easy to find. Change landing locations regularly. Effective use of camouflage (not just to prevent enemy from seeing plane in air, but also to lower odds of enemy finding plane landing site and thus, plane from being destroyed on the ground).”

        Exactly that.

        “Pretty much this, although I would add armor to the list.”

        You simply don’t design a CAS aircraft without armor, period, so I didn’t bother to list it.

        “Yeah, things these days are weighed down by electronics. Radar, various other gadgets that in most cases could be done without. The main reason why they’re there is to make the MICC money.”

        That, and prevalent mentality of looking at things from the platform level.

      • Chris said

        “Which is exactly what MICC wants – design a faulty weapon > be paid to produce a faulty weapon > be paid to fix a faulty weapon. And US military high-ups help MICC in that since there is a track offloading them to industry.”

        There’s no easy solutions to this one. The MICC is entrenched. That and even the ones that are not careerists often believe the official mantra of “technology and complexity are good”.

        How would I change how modern procurement works?

        1. All weapons are bought at cost
        2. Weapons that prove themselves to be effective will result in the company being paid a profit
        3. Exceptionally effective weapons would be paid a lot

        This would force a “results oriented” mentality. Don’t deliver a good weapon, don’t get paid. Of course, the big flaw is what makes a “good weapon”. That would have to be very clearly defined. The other, equally as critical:

        4. All non-engineers and people of a certain rank should be barred from long term employment in the defense industry or one of those high paid “consulting” positions, along with lobbying for the defense industry. Some restrictions may have to be put in place for engineers too.

        The truth is, with realistic testing, weapons like the F-35 would reveal themselves to be total failures. In the case of the F-35 replacing CAS, realistic testing would reveal that this is simply not going to work. It cannot turn well, it’s fragile, it doesn’t have a good gun for CAS work, and so on. But such realistic testing would likely imply that a real CAS airplane is needed.

        “Compound delta maybe, you’d want straight wings in a CAS aircraft for reason of low-speed aerodynamics.”

        I’ve been thinking about a compounded delta. I think it would be a trade-off:

        1. For scouting, this is not going to be very fuel efficient
        2. For rapid response, a delta will do better than a straight wing
        3. For ground attack, I think that it may pass the speed point where a compound delta is a net gain

        It’s a trade-off, like all wing design. In return though, at the higher speeds you will get better maneuverability and lower wing loading. Maybe even more capacity if some of the fuel is put in the wing (perhaps higher fuel fraction too, which may somewhat offset 1). In that regard, a delta CAS may be more reliant somewhat on FACs. I’m still debating the merits of it. The leading edge sweep and the second delta would likely be quite different.

        “You simply don’t design a CAS aircraft without armor, period, so I didn’t bother to list it.”

        There is that.

        On the other hand, it may be worth it for other readers, especially those with a MICC doctrine, for why armor is needed.

        Speaking of which, do you think that some degree of armor may be useful for an air superiority aircraft even at a slight loss of maneuverability? Historically, the Japanese Zero fighter from WWII had very little armor, but began to lose to American aircraft. This was largely due to the decline of the quality of Japanese pilots (especially after Midway), but did the technical characteristics of the Zero help end the plane?

      • picard578 said

        “There’s no easy solutions to this one. The MICC is entrenched. That and even the ones that are not careerists often believe the official mantra of “technology and complexity are good”.”

        That is actually a failling of the entire Western society. One my friend thought that touch-screen cellphones are absolutely cool, and so bought one. Few months later, cellphone became unusable and he switched back to the touchscreen one. By that time I already had “classical” Sony Ericsson (510 I think) by maybe three years, and it lasted two more years after that. When it finally died, I switched for Alcatel 2005X, simply because it was the only cellphone whose ergonomy I liked (large enough keys, no touch-screen).

        “1. All weapons are bought at cost
        2. Weapons that prove themselves to be effective will result in the company being paid a profit
        3. Exceptionally effective weapons would be paid a lot”

        Eh, only way weapons can prove themselves effective is in war between competent opponents, and I hope we won’t see such a war, now or ever.

        “Of course, the big flaw is what makes a “good weapon”. That would have to be very clearly defined.”

        Only way is to see what worked through history, and I mean in a long term, since there are always anomalies. For example, F-15 has achieved more kills than F-16, and suffered no losses to F-16s one. Does that mean that it is a more effective weapon? No. Reason was that F-15 was, except for the F-15E, employed solely for air-to-air, and F-16 was employed primarly in air-to-ground, with both being used exclusively against utterly incompetent opponents.

        “4. All non-engineers and people of a certain rank should be barred from long term employment in the defense industry or one of those high paid “consulting” positions, along with lobbying for the defense industry. Some restrictions may have to be put in place for engineers too.”

        Agreed.

        “But such realistic testing would likely imply that a real CAS airplane is needed.”

        And that is the problem. USAF doesn’t want to do CAS.

        “Speaking of which, do you think that some degree of armor may be useful for an air superiority aircraft even at a slight loss of maneuverability? Historically, the Japanese Zero fighter from WWII had very little armor, but began to lose to American aircraft. This was largely due to the decline of the quality of Japanese pilots (especially after Midway), but did the technical characteristics of the Zero help end the plane?”

        P-51 was best Western fighter, and it didn’t have much armor. P-47 had a ton of armor, and ended up being used as a CAS aircraft instead of air superiority – one of reasons being a serious shortfall in combat radius caused exactly by its huge quantity of armor (large amount of armor > more weight > stronger engine > higher fuel consumption; and you can’t add more fuel since it would start a vicious circle). Another was that high wing loading and weight are not really beneficial for maneuverability.

      • Chris said

        “That is actually a failling of the entire Western society. One my friend thought that touch-screen cellphones are absolutely cool, and so bought one. Few months later, cellphone became unusable and he switched back to the touchscreen one. ”

        To be fair, technology in the mobile sector has been improving at an impressive rate. These days, touchscreens are quite usable, although not perfect (battery life is not good and they’re not durable). But being an earlier adopter carries with it risks.

        “Eh, only way weapons can prove themselves effective is in war between competent opponents, and I hope we won’t see such a war, now or ever.”

        There is that.

        It needs realistic testing (ex: they cannot use falsified rules, which is a habit of many armed forces). That’s the only other way. Other tests include reliability (deliberately try to treat the weapon as they would in combat), and cost-effectiveness.

        In truth, for the US, given that they are on a “War on Terror” (an ill-conceived indefinite war), many weapon systems can already be tested. CAS, small arms, vehicles, armor, etc all have a place. Some things are of lesser use (ex: an air superiority aircraft, no matter how effective against other aircraft was simply not designed for this type of mission).

        I would argue that for a 4th generation force to be effective, it would have to be at least semi-competent. In practice, 4th generation forces are inconsistent. Some are exceptional, others are likely to get themselves killed.

        “Only way is to see what worked through history, and I mean in a long term, since there are always anomalies. For example, F-15 has achieved more kills than F-16, and suffered no losses to F-16s one. Does that mean that it is a more effective weapon? No. Reason was that F-15 was, except for the F-15E, employed solely for air-to-air, and F-16 was employed primarly in air-to-ground, with both being used exclusively against utterly incompetent opponents.”

        I suppose the P-47 being a competent CAS fighter would be another fluke.

        Hmm, would medieval combat be yet another? Remember, armor in the middle ages (full plate) could offer defense against pretty much everything except blunt weapons and even early firearms. It worked, but it was crushingly expensive, had mobility limitations, and you could only equip people of higher social standing with them.

        Of course, with the money spent on that armor for a few, it may very well be that for the money, more modest protection for all troops would have yielded better odds of victory. Such is the shortcomings of a feudal society.

        “And that is the problem. USAF doesn’t want to do CAS.”

        I’m of the opinion that the USAF and many other airforces need to be absorbed into their respective armies.

        Why? Armies recognize the need for CAS. Airforces feel it makes them second class. What happens if we give armies CAS? That means that air forces have some bomber interceptors and mostly are strategic bombing forces more so than anything else. That’s not a good use of money. Dedicated air superiority fighters are needed not bombers.

        The other option is to reform the air force’s DNA. I’m not sure how to do that though.

        I mean, you can tell that their claims that “CAS is too dangerous” are lies. Apparently CAS cannot survive a modern battlefield, but thin skinned aircraft and helicopters can.

        That and they simply don’t want a simple fighter. They view it as beneath them to use.

        “P-51 was best Western fighter, and it didn’t have much armor. P-47 had a ton of armor, and ended up being used as a CAS aircraft instead of air superiority – one of reasons being a serious shortfall in combat radius caused exactly by its huge quantity of armor (large amount of armor > more weight > stronger engine > higher fuel consumption; and you can’t add more fuel since it would start a vicious circle). Another was that high wing loading and weight are not really beneficial for maneuverability or high-altitude cruise.”

        I suppose so. As light as it can be then. I suppose it’s possible that someday, someone might be able to use more advanced materials for cheap (ex: materials that we once considered exotic become cheap and widely available, like titanium or carbon nanotube). Of course the same tradeoff appears – even lighter or armor. There may be an optimum point between armor and maneuverability then if that were to happen.

        But at the moment, with current technology, I’m forced to agree then – light will have to do.

        Another one – would a heavier caliber gun work out? I’ve heard some people advocate for as much as a 35-40mm gun high velocity gun on a fighter.

        Drawbacks:
        – Ammo is heavy (so can only use in short bursts)
        – Barrel is heavier

        But on the other hand, it can very well kill in a single shot.

      • picard578 said

        “I would argue that for a 4th generation force to be effective, it would have to be at least semi-competent. In practice, 4th generation forces are inconsistent. Some are exceptional, others are likely to get themselves killed.”

        Agreed.

        “Hmm, would medieval combat be yet another? Remember, armor in the middle ages (full plate) could offer defense against pretty much everything except blunt weapons and even early firearms. It worked, but it was crushingly expensive, had mobility limitations, and you could only equip people of higher social standing with them.”

        There was another point – it still had points where arrows could penetrate, and when opposing side had 10.000 archers against few hundred knights… plus archers, as light infantry, often got additional training with maces.

        “I’m of the opinion that the USAF and many other airforces need to be absorbed into their respective armies.

        Why? Armies recognize the need for CAS. Airforces feel it makes them second class. What happens if we give armies CAS? That means that air forces have some bomber interceptors and mostly are strategic bombing forces more so than anything else. That’s not a good use of money. Dedicated air superiority fighters are needed not bombers.”

        Yes, that’s probably the only solution.

        “Another one – would a heavier caliber gun work out? I’ve heard some people advocate for as much as a 35-40mm gun high velocity gun on a fighter.”

        That would cause a heavy ammunition shortfall, I chose 27 mm gun for my air superiority fighter and maximum I could fit in was 240 rounds.

      • Chris said

        “There was another point – it still had points where arrows could penetrate, and when opposing side had 10.000 archers against few hundred knights… plus archers, as light infantry, often got additional training with maces.”

        It’s actually open to debate now among modern historians about the effectiveness of longbows against plate mail. It’s believed that poor tactics (sending troops over mud that were heavily armored) probably sealed the fate of the French and that a large proportion of the archers used melee to take out the ones that did not get caught in the mud. I think it may be possible that the top tier steel armor offered near total protection save near the eyes, and that the wrought iron (wore by some of the French’s less well equipped men) were penetrated.

        But yes, numerical superiority would have won the day for the English. It’s still open to debate, seeing that sources on Agincourt are not considered entirely reliable. The numbers of troops to is in dispute. Same with Crecy. Historically though in Ancient Warfare, usually what would happen is one side would rout. The winning side would sustain relatively light casualties, say 1-3% and the losing side would be huge as much as >30%.

        Even assuming proper deployment though of troops, it begs the question in the quantity vs quality debate (and assuming you actually get quality when you pay more), at what point does quality begin to lose out and you get to a point where no amount of additional spending gets you a better force?

        Of course in the age of gunpowder, it seems to favor numbers even more. Lancaster squared (today) versus Lancaster Linear (ancient).

        “That would cause a heavy ammunition shortfall, I chose 27 mm gun for my air superiority fighter and maximum I could fit in was 240 rounds.”

        I suppose so. The other issue was the high recoil such a gun would cause. The only time this may work out well for a fighter the size of an Su-27 variant. Whether such a big fighter is worth the expense though is another matter.

        How much ammo do you think a fighter needs for a prolonged engagement?

        Fighter detects enemy.

        Should the fighter launch missiles though?
        Against a competent enemy, it may be better to try to get behind and get some gun shots off. Against an incompetent one, fire missiles.

        Against an incompetent enemy, the missiles are likely to kill. If not, a dogfight is likely to ensue or more missiles. The fighter is likely to win either.

        Against a competent enemy though:
        If the fighter chooses to fire a missile, they lose surprise (missile gives off very distinct signature). A dogfight is likely to ensue, in which case the fighter may or may not win.

        If the fighter chooses to try to close in behind, assuming they’re not detected, they may be better off with firing their guns. Gun is more likely to kill (missiles primary use then is to force enemies to maneuver), but if not, a dogfight still ensues.

        Now if a dogfight ensues, then the question becomes, how much ammo is needed? Especially against a good opponent?

      • picard578 said

        “I think it may be possible that the top tier steel armor offered near total protection save near the eyes, and that the wrought iron (wore by some of the French’s less well equipped men) were penetrated.”

        I did some research on topic a while back, and conclusion was that while plate armor offered good protection against longbow arrows, good-quality armor was very rare, and lower-quality, improperly maintained armor that most troops wore could be penetrated. Still, battle was apparently decided by longbowmen joining in the melee fight, and French casualties up to that point were fairly minor (helped by the fact that mostly knights and men-at-arms went into the attack).

        “How much ammo do you think a fighter needs for a prolonged engagement?”

        It is basically a number of on-board kills that matter. So figure each BVR missile = 0,08 kills, WVR missile = 0,15 kills, gun burst = 0,3 kills. Fuel should provide for multiple engagement, so total ammo should allow for multiple kills. Now decide on number of missiles that could be carried by fighter, and fill the gap by number of gun bursts. Generally, missiles give a total of 1 kills (6 BVR + 2 WVR missiles = 0,78 kills for most modern fighters) so you’d need at least 6 gun bursts; take average length as 1 second. If you go with BK-27 as I did, it is 6*28=168 rounds.

        “Against a competent enemy, it may be better to try to get behind and get some gun shots off. Against an incompetent one, fire missiles.”

        That depends on situation. If you think you can sneak up undetected to get a free gun shot, it is better to try. If you can’t, or are time-constrained, fire few missiles at BVR and few during the merge to force him to expend the fuel and to gove yourself an advantageous starting position.

        “Against an incompetent enemy, the missiles are likely to kill. If not, a dogfight is likely to ensue or more missiles. The fighter is likely to win either.”

        Agreed.

        “If the fighter chooses to fire a missile, they lose surprise (missile gives off very distinct signature). A dogfight is likely to ensue, in which case the fighter may or may not win.

        If the fighter chooses to try to close in behind, assuming they’re not detected, they may be better off with firing their guns. Gun is more likely to kill (missiles primary use then is to force enemies to maneuver), but if not, a dogfight still ensues.”

        Agreed.

        “Now if a dogfight ensues, then the question becomes, how much ammo is needed? Especially against a good opponent?”

        Generally, gun Pk against competent opponent was 30% (in Vietnam it was 26% but that was with crappy rotary designs). So count based on that.

      • Chris said

        “I did some research on topic a while back, and conclusion was that while plate armor offered good protection against longbow arrows, good-quality armor was very rare, and lower-quality, improperly maintained armor that most troops wore could be penetrated. Still, battle was apparently decided by longbowmen joining in the melee fight, and French casualties up to that point were fairly minor (helped by the fact that mostly knights and men-at-arms went into the attack).”

        That and a poor strategy by the French.

        I suppose that in this case, it’s a numbers thing. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the top end plate armor offered nearly total protection versus all archery fire. The outcome of the battle would be no different, simply because there were so few people in the top-end armor. The lower ranking men would be slain and the nobles (in the best armor) captured for ransom.

        “It is basically a number of on-board kills that matter. ”

        I suppose it’s a matter of, having more fuel, missiles, and gun ammunition on board gives you combat persistence. Especially if you can get a good “turkey shoot” because your opponent must retreat since they’re low on fuel (easy to kill while retreating and especially while landing).

        The issue here is that more ammo and missiles inevitably means a bigger plane. But bigger plane is not desirable. More, but smaller and lighter planes are.

        “That depends on situation. If you think you can sneak up undetected to get a free gun shot, it is better to try.”

        It’s an interesting situation.

        If you sneak up, the risk of detection becomes exponentially higher as you approach the enemy’s rear (presuming the enemy has some type of rear IR sensor).

        But if you fire a missile, the odds of it missing are very high, although you will force the enemy to burn fuel.

        I’m forced to agree that the gun is the better decision.

      • picard578 said

        “I suppose that in this case, it’s a numbers thing. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the top end plate armor offered nearly total protection versus all archery fire. The outcome of the battle would be no different, simply because there were so few people in the top-end armor. The lower ranking men would be slain and the nobles (in the best armor) captured for ransom.”

        That is mostly what happened.

        “The issue here is that more ammo and missiles inevitably means a bigger plane. But bigger plane is not desirable. More, but smaller and lighter planes are.”

        As I said, total number of missiles is important. So number of aircraft * number of missiles per aircraft.

        “If you sneak up, the risk of detection becomes exponentially higher as you approach the enemy’s rear (presuming the enemy has some type of rear IR sensor).”

        Most fighters don’t have rear IR sensors, only Rafale has rear covered by an IR sensors while Su-30 and PAK FA have rear-facing radars (and PAK FA might get rear-facing IRST).

  10. Chris said

    I’m still looking for the 45mm design, but there were 2 designs made during the early 1990s as possible follow-ons to the A-10.

    They became the Guardian, and the Eliminator:
    https://ia700501.us.archive.org/22/items/nasa_techdoc_19920012323/19920012323.pdf

    https://ia600505.us.archive.org/23/items/nasa_techdoc_19920011633/19920011633.pdf

    Unique to them, they proposed using canards to aid in maneuverability.

    • Chris said

      Somewhat OT Picard, but have you had the time to look at these 2 designs? What do you think?

      They are bigger designs and they do have some equipment that imo is not needed, but at the same time, they do introduce some ideas of what others have been thinking.

  11. Andrei said

    “First concern is that crew of a CAS aircraft has to think of themselves and their mission as a ground soldiers, and understand infantry, armor and/or mechanized tactics. From this follows the requirement for CAS squadrons to be assigned to specific battallions and be colocated with them, but also a requirement for pilots to study ground combat – tactics, visual specifics of different vehicles. All of this means that “multirole” pilots are psychologically incapable of carrying out effective CAS, and that complex “multirole” aircraft are similarly incapable of satisfying basing requirements. In exercises, observers should sometimes swap places with ground troops and participate in them as infantrymen or otherwise members of ground units they are assigned to. Whenever CAS crews train, it should be with the unit they are assigned to, and observers should eventually reach the level where they will be capable of taking command of ground units.”

    Taking this statement of yours into account wouldn’t it make sense for US CAS assets to be controlled by the USMC? I mean what you describe in that paragraph is practically a Marine aviator. Their creed is Every Marine is a Rifleman. They have to pass the same basic training as grunts and they have to first qualify as an infantry officer before being admitted to flight training. The A-10 would be the perfect aircraft for them. Maybe a variant could be developed where the engine nacelles could swing down 10-20 degrees and help with STOL performance that would allow the A-10 to take-off from a Amphibious warfare ship.
    I believe a new version of the Key West agreements should be made where aviation assets would be split between the services based on roles. So the USAF would have the Air Superiority and Strategic Aircraft (be they ISR or bombers) that they love so much, the Army would take over all transport aircraft, the Navy would have aviation for it’s needs, that is Fleet Defense/Air Superiority and Tactical Strikes (aircraft lighter then the strategic aircrafts of the USAF) and the Marines would have all CAS assets. This would diminish budgetary wars like the A-10 vs. the Apache, because the services would have few roles where they would overlap and would facilitate joint procurement, for example the Navy’s Fleet Defense Fighter could be a variant of the Air Forces Air Superiority fighter of vice-versa. In this scenario the USMC would need to be structurally changed. The ground units would have to be fewer in number and better integrated with SOCOM, and maybe have the Armys airborne units placed directly under their command. The Marines would thus became responsible for rapid reaction all over the world not just were there is a beach. They would come in with airborne and/or seaborne units establish a beach head, bring in CAS aircraft very fast and then wait to be relieved by the Army. Once the Army relieved them the Marine ground units retreat to resupply but the marine CAS squadrons remain to provide support for the Army. Thus Marine aviation assets would have to increase in number so that every Marine or airborne unit would have it’s organic CAS assets and enough Marine CAS squadrons remain available to support Army deployments. What do you think?

    • picard578 said

      No. Marine CAS should be undertaken by Marine aviators, but Army should have its own CAS aircraft, though adopting USMC attitude would help a lot. And as far as I’m concerned independent air force is not only irrelevant but also dangerous as it tends to focus on strategic bombing at expense of everything else. Croatian Air Force in Homeland War is the sole Western exception I can recall right now. If there is independent air force it should focus on air superiority only and leave CAS to the Army.

      • Chris said

        It would seem that inter-service cooperation is often lacking.

        If you want to do it right, it’s gotta be done inside your service. I mean, there are some things I feel would be better left to armies. They include:

        – Close air support/tactical interdiction
        – Strategic airlift
        – I would even argue that missiles if they are used may very well be best in the armies hands (and that’s pretty much strategic bombing in a way). Missiles I think should be used mainly like artillery – which in turn means that very expensive missiles cannot from a price:performance perspective justify their costs.
        – Ground based AA

        For air forces
        – Air superiority
        – In flight refueling?
        – I suppose certain functions like AWACS belong to the air force?

        To be honest, there’s a case to be made that all of these functions could be absorbed into an army.

        Let’s face it, a powerful reason why air forces don’t want to do the CAS mission is their DNA. They were born as strategic bombing services. Victory through air power alone is their fantasy. They find the CAS mission (in their opinion) makes them subordinate to the army. Air forces are reluctant to discuss the limitations of air power and strategic bombing.

      • Chris said

        Everyone tends to focus on their division.

        A while back, I spoke to someone who could be called a big fan of artillery-power. He pointed out that despite the emergence of tanks, artillery often remained the single largest source of casualties in a third generation conflict. I suppose it’s a fair point – and he emphasized mainly what artillery could do, at least in third generation warfare (where casualties inflicted are very important).

        Strategic air power in a sense is like over the horizon artillery. but at the same time, I would argue, artillery is a proven weapon. It cannot win wars alone, but when we look at the historical rates of casualties inflicted, yes, artillery has been very effective. Strategic bombing by contrast has proven to be unsuccessful relative to the amount of money invested. Basically, what the air forces message has been is more or less:

        Invest in the air force. Give the air force a lot of money to build super power bombers, with tons of PGMs, and more or less, ground forces and naval forces will not be needed, or only needed in very small quantities. Victory through air power alone. In this paradigm, air superiority fighters are looked upon as a concession to defense, while strategic bombers are looked upon as the true offensive war winning machines. No air force is willing to say that in public, but it is really what they want.

        Time and time again, this has proven to be not the case, but for the Air Forces to acknowledge this is ideologically against everything that they have fought for.

        • picard578 said

          Casualties inflicted are actually unimportant, and focus on first-generation attrition warfare was what lost Vietnam war for US. Third generation war is, more than other types of warfare, conflict of ideas as opposed to conflict of people. To win a COIN war, you have to have moral high ground… using UCAVs and DU munitions went a long way towards giving moral high ground to US opponents, and thus US cannot win in Afghanistan. Not anymore.

          Rest of the post I agree with, artillery and not air force was single greatest cause of casualties even on modern battlefields. Israelis thought that air force can replace artillery and got their asses handed to them… what many air force proponents ignore is the staying power of artillery, it can fight no matter what the weather and stay on station for days, weeks, months… air force cannot do that.

      • Chris said

        “Casualties inflicted are actually unimportant, and focus on first-generation attrition warfare was what lost Vietnam war for US. Third generation war is, more than other types of warfare, conflict of ideas as opposed to conflict of people.”

        Being an artilleryman, the person I spoke with measured in casualties.

        But yes, the essence of 3rd generation maneuver warfare is to avoid conflict in a sense and to move your forces in such a way so that they attack the enemy’s vulnerable rear, by unleashing fast, maneuverable forces deep into enemy territory.

        I find that on a lot of other forums, there’s a bunch of what I like to call “US is always number 1 fanboys” who blindly seem to always defend the US. I tell such people that the Abrams M1 tank, with it’s heavy fuel consumption, weight, and size is not well suited for this, that most armies could use a light tank. They always troll me and tell me that the M1 is best and that I know little of this matter.

        I say, nope. In the event of a competent opponent, the fuel consumption on a 70,000 kg+ MBT will be a serious issue – and the M1 uses a gas turbine, worsening the issue a lot. Keeping it supplied will be hard. Plus the ground pressure for a heavy tank seriously limits its mobility to roads and hard soil. There’s quite a few images of M1s stuck in soft soil all over the web.

        The M1 is a defensive weapon designed originally to defend Germany in the event the Cold War went hot. It is a tank killing heavy tank (it weighs about as much as Tiger 2 from WWII).

        What’s needed is:
        – A light tank, probably 15,000 to 30,000 kg with very low ground pressure and a good gun. Turretless is an option (keep it simple, keep it cheap). It should carry a gun with enough rounds to go on (say 50 rounds)
        – Supporting it will be a bunch of mobile tracked IFVs (M113 variants for the US, or the Russian BMP/BMD) armed with various upgrades (IFVs are pretty flexible in this regard)

        “To win a COIN war, you have to have moral high ground… using UCAVs and DU munitions went a long way towards giving moral high ground to US opponents, and thus US cannot win in Afghanistan. Not anymore.”

        That’s the thing. The US is just filled with technicians who view war as a matter of delivering bombs to the target. COIN is a moral war.

        A lot of Americans I speak with I find (and I meet quite a few since I live within 100 km of the US border) don’t understand this. Most Americans agree with me, but there’s quite a few that I find are very vocal that do not. They seem to think that if enough insurgents were killed that the rest would just give and be Americanized. It doesn’t work that way.

        The traditional advantages of conventional warfare don’t hold in 4G wars. Plus one other issue that the Americans don’t understand – they don’t understand why people won’t cooperate with them in the nations that they occupy. They understand that winning hearts and minds is important (somewhat), but they don’t understand the barriers, cultural, language, and political.

        “Rest of the post I agree with, artillery and not air force was single greatest cause of casualties even on modern battlefields. Israelis thought that air force can replace artillery and got their asses handed to them… what many air force proponents ignore is the staying power of artillery, it can fight no matter what the weather and stay on station for days, weeks, months… air force cannot do that.”

        I think that one of the reasons why artillery never gets the attention it deserves (especially after WWII) was because it doesn’t have the “sex appeal” (for lack of a better term) of say, high end aircraft. Unfortunately, this drives budgets these days. Not effectiveness. You never see films made about awesome artillery. You do however see them made on fighter warfare. Yet despite this, artillery is a proven technology. It’s shown it’s worth, everyone knows about it’s potential and it’s limitations. Nobody advocates “victory through artillery power alone”.

        I think there’s several things to consider:

        1. Israel never really had a dedicated CAS airplane. I mean their air force has good pilots and that’s been the key to many of their prior successes. But they never bothered to build up any CAS ability. They do have attack helicopters, but those are never going to perform to the same degree as CAS. Otherwise, their inventory consists of F-15s and F-16s – bombing aircraft.

        2. If the IAF cannot do it, who can? Training wise, the IAF is among the best in the world, so it suggests to me that it’s the limit of air power.

        Out of curiosity, what kinds of artillery would you build?

        I’d go with:
        – Quite a few towed guns (preferably towed by track)
        – Some simple rocket artillery in huge quantity (think BM21 Grad, although maybe on a tracked chasis)
        – Artillery pieces mounted onto the chassis of converted IFVs (like the M113), maybe with the rockets indicated above

        Keep it simple and in large quantity.

        I just don’t see the need for the very costly self-propelled guns. They have the fuel and spare parts requirements of a tank, with the ammo logistics needs of an artillery piece. What do you think?

        • picard578 said

          “What’s needed is:”

          I’d say a full spectrum, 55 ton heavy tank, 15 ton light tank and 35 ton medium tank.

          “They seem to think that if enough insurgents were killed that the rest would just give and be Americanized.”

          Tell me about that. I’ve met some who believe that US won the Vietnam war because it killed more VC than it lost troops.

          “They understand that winning hearts and minds is important (somewhat), but they don’t understand the barriers, cultural, language, and political.”

          Agreed. US troops in Muslim countries regularly do things that are certain to alienate the populace.

          “Yet despite this, artillery is a proven technology. It’s shown it’s worth, everyone knows about it’s potential and it’s limitations. Nobody advocates “victory through artillery power alone”.”

          Air power has also shown its limitations and potential, but as you said, it has appeal…

          “Out of curiosity, what kinds of artillery would you build?”

          Relatively lightweight towed guns, with heavier pieces transportable by truck (towed) and aircraft, and lighter pieces transportable by mules and light vehicles. Katyusha-type rocket artillery is also an option.

          “with the ammo logistics needs of an artillery piece.”

          As in, entire train composition for one day battle.

  12. Chris said

    “Tell me about that. I’ve met some who believe that US won the Vietnam war because it killed more VC than it lost troops.”

    What’s interesting is that many Americans assert that they were never defeated in conventional battle.

    Here’s a list of lost battles:
    http://www.g2mil.com/lost_vietnam.htm

    Most of these are small scale actions, but they do represent military defeats.

    “Agreed. US troops in Muslim countries regularly do things that are certain to alienate the populace.”

    I find that Americans are extremely well, American centric. Even I find people from other Anglo-Saxon nations find that offensive.

    From experience, I find that there is some justification in the “ignorant American” stereotype. Some Americans are very well informed about world events and very open to new experiences. Most however, are not and at times, downright hostile to other cultures. I find a higher percentage are in the “ignorant” category than compared to other developed nations.

    The other issue that I think is unique to the military is that a disproportionate number of new recruits tend to come from the working classes. For a lot of soldiers, it’s join the army, work in a minimum wage job with little opportunity for career advancement, or to end up in jail (look up the incarceration rates by the way for the US).

    “Air power has also shown its limitations and potential, but as you said, it has appeal…”

    That’s the thing. Engineers, technicians are in charge.

    You get promoted in most militaries by conforming to the status quo. Men like Heinz Guderian are the exception not the rule – and even in the German General Staff, there was stiff resistance to his revolutionary ideas. Witness for example the institutional resistance that John Boyd got. It’s been said that Gavin gave up a potential position to Secretary of Defense with his ideas, some of which were not profitable towards the MICC.

    “As in, entire train composition for one day battle.”

    I don’t know how many forums you read, although I did hear you go to the Indian Defense Forum regularly. Anyways, it’s something many forumers don’t understand. For every tank that’s on field (especially in the case of a tank like the M1, which is heavy and very fuel thirsty), there needs to be a lot of supply vehicles to support it.

    I mean to get a tank to the front you need:
    – Ammunition
    – Spare parts
    – Fuel
    – A supporting tank transporter

    Other vehicles
    – Recovery vehicles
    – Dedicated repair and support vehicles

    The heavier the tank, the bigger the load. Same idea with the self propelled artillery. That said, I do support something like the German STUG, which performed very well in WWII.

    I mean, weapons like the PzH 2000 are technically impressive, but when one factors in the logistics and the unit costs, it really does beg the question, is this truly the best price to performance ratio?

    • picard578 said

      “That’s the thing. Engineers, technicians are in charge.”

      Yes, and most tend to a) overlook human dimensions and b) overestimate capability of technology.

      “I don’t know how many forums you read, although I did hear you go to the Indian Defense Forum regularly.”

      I was active on quite few forums, but IDF is the only one where I’m still a regular poster.

      “I mean, weapons like the PzH 2000 are technically impressive, but when one factors in the logistics and the unit costs, it really does beg the question, is this truly the best price to performance ratio?”

      Not only that, but self-propelled artillery sacrifices strategic mobility and reliability for tactical mobility.

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