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  • August 2014
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Air superiority fighter proposal 6

Posted by picard578 on August 2, 2014

text and drawings by Picard578

3D designs by Riley Amos



Modern air forces are getting loaded with highly complex, expensive “mutirole” aircraft. Result is decreasing force size for same or increasing cost, while at the same time combat effectiveness of these air forces decreases. Main reasons are lack of understanding of components of fighter aircraft effectiveness, inability to enforce design discipline upon service and industry, and infatuation with new (and old) technologies without understanding wether, and why, certain technologies work or do not work.

Nature of air to air combat

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

—G. Santayana

Fighter aircraft exist to destroy other aircraft, and allow other aircraft to carry out their missions without interference from enemy fighter aircraft. That being said, there exists a colloqial – and incorrect – use of term “fighter aircraft” as being applicable to any tactical aircraft, even those that are primarly or exclusively designed for ground attack, such as the A-10 and the F-35. Task of the aircraft is to enable pilot to bring weapons systems in position for a successful kill.

You never make a big truck and tomorrow make it a race car. And you never can make a big bomber and the next day a . . . fighter. The physical law means that you need another airplane. . . . You should do one job and should do this job good.

—Colonel Erich “Bubi” Hartmann, GAP

Most important factor in aerial warfare is pilots’ skill. In every war, 10% of the best pilots skore 60%-80% of the kills. In the 1939 invasion of Poland, few Polish pilots became aces in 225 mph open cockpit fighters while fighting against 375 mph Me-109s. During 1940 Battle of France, French and British did poorly in aerial combat despite having fighters that were technologically comparable to German counterparts – main difference was one of tactics and training. Namely, while Luftwaffe was using finger-four formation (a flight of four fighters organized into two pairs that allowed leader-wingman and mutual formation cover, first adopted by Finland in 1934 and used by German pilots in Spain in 1938), RAF still used a three-ship “vic” formation optimized for bringing greatest firepower to bear on bombers; this formation however was based on gross exaggaration of bombers’ capability for self-defense, and did not take escort fighters into account. Once RAF adjusted tactics, loss rate improved. British fighters were still at disadvantage if they were caught during climb, which did happen despite usage of radar for early warning; this, combined with inferior training and small numbers which caused fatigue of few avaliable pilots caused Luftwaffe to have an advantage in aircraft losses. But 50% of RAF pilots were recovered safely while 100% of Luftwaffe pilots were lost (dead or captured), meaning that pilot attrition worked in RAF’s favor, and due to pilot attrition Luftwaffe eventually lost the Battle for Britain. Another British advantage was their preference for grass fields, which allowed several fighters to take off in a line-abreast formation.

When US fighters started escorting bombers, large twin-engined P-38 was the least successful and had to be withdrawn from role due to being too visible, too inferior in both transient performance (turn onset, roll onset, acceleration) and instantaneous turn rate, and having too low roll rate. Two engines were also a survivability handicap. P-51D had better cruise speed and dive acceleration than German fighters, as well as comparable turn and roll performance. P-47 was larger and slower, but had unparralelled dive and roll performance. It could not however escort bombers to their targets, unlike the P-51 and P-38, and was thus soon relegated to ground attack missions. In fact, effectiveness in air to air combat was inversely proportional to cost: best performer was $51.000 P-51, followed by $85.000 P-47. $97.000 P-38 was by far the worst performer, and had to be withdrawn from air superiority and bomber escort missions in European theatre in spring of 1944, only continuing in photo reconnaissance missions. Its main disadvantages were slow cruise speed (275 mph vs 362 mph for P-51 and 365 mph for Bf-109 G-6), large size and sluggish transient performance as well as slow maximum combat speed (Mach 0,68 compared to Mach 0,75 for Bf-109 and FW-190). Two engines were a survivability handicap – if either was hit, aircraft was likely to be lost. In Pacific theatre it performed well, primarly due to superior training of US pilots by that stage of the war and its faster cruise speed when compared to Japanese Zero – 100 mph advantage over the Zero allowed it to achieve surprise bounces while avoiding a maneuvering engagement.

In the end, large Allied numerical superiority won the air war; Germans were loosing pilots faster than they could replace them (aircraft were being replaced at an adequate rate). Near the end of the war, they introduced the Me-262; a heavily armed aircraft designed around the most advanced technology avaliable, it was called “the most formidable fighter” that the world has seen to date. Its high cruise speed made it hard for enemy pilots to attack it once it was in the air, and allowed it to engage enemy fighters at will. But it changed little; US fighter pilots learned to catch them when taking off or landing, and tactics were developed that allowed propeller aircraft to counter it in the aerial combat. In the end, Me-262s shot down 150 Allied aircraft for a loss of 100 Me-262s in air combat, of which 75 were shot down by fighters.

Against heavy bombers, Germans used a variety of armament. Results show that each 30 mm shell was 6 times as lethal as each 20 mm shell, but lower muzzle velocity meant that fire had to be opened from the closer range. Me-262s, whose primary task was attacking bombers, also operated in an old vic formation instead of a finger-four. Results also show how fundamentally wrong assumptions made by the USAAF bureocracy during peacetime were (a pattern that will repeat itself in every single war US fought after the WWII): USAAF assumed that head-on attacks on the bombers are impossible due to bombers’ speed advantage; tail armament can and must equal fighter’s firepower; manually-aimed turreted guns are more effective than fixed fighter’s armament. Yet by the 1943, bombers were slower, lower-flying and less heavily armed than fighters. Frontal attacks were commonplace, and flexible guns were 10 times less effective than fighter’s fixed armament. To quote RAND briefing: “It is easy for even large groups of smart people to get important assumptions wrong.”. Before escort fighters became avaliable, strategic bomber losses were between 10% and 70% per sortie.

In the night combat, which consisted entirely of stalking enemy bombers, main airframe characteristics required were good endurance and better sustainable speed than the target. There, twin-engined fighters proved useful even before the radar was installed on any of them. Luftwaffe had 350 night fighters by early 1943; despite none of them having a radar, they exacted sustained losses of 3-5% from night raids. First radars were installed on Luftwaffe fighters in early summer 1943, but at the same time twin-engined night fighters were augmented by several wings of radarless single-engined fighters. Combined with introduction of broadcast control, these measures increased RAF night bomber losses to 6,6% during the February 1944 “Big Week”, while USAFs daytime bomber losses were 6% during the same period.

Night combat actually followed same principles as day combat: surprise was primary factor, and IFF could only be established visually. Further, only single-mission specially trained pilots could be used effectively. World War II was also the first and the last time that significant night combat occured.

In Pacific, same principles applied. As Japanese (unlike US) could not replace pilots when they were inevitably lost, United States were eventually able to achieve superiority in both quality and quantity of pilots.

Tracer ammunition was sometimes used to help in targeting, but it often gave pilot away if first firing attempt was not successful, so many pilots had tracers removed from ammunition mix. Further, tracer trajectory alwas varies slightly from actual projectile trajectory, which can be misleading at the long range.

Another lesson from World War II concerns ground attack aircraft, but is relevant for fighters too. P-47 had very low lethality against German tanks, yet Germans considered it the best anti-tank weapon employed on the Western front. Reason was that the P-47 flew so many sorties that any movement by German Panzer forces guaranteed that the same will be attacked, just as any sortie by the Me-262s guaranteed that they will be attacked by superior numbers of Allied turboprops.

In the first two weeks of the Korean War, USAF F-80s have obliterated opposition consisting of slow, poorly piloted propeller Yaks. In November 1950, a flight of four F-80s encountered seven Russian-piloted MiG-15s and fought it to a draw. MiG-15s advantages in cruise speed, climb and acceleration meant that F-80s were outclassed, and first F-86s began appearing in December.

F-86s typically used fuel tanks to extend endurance to 80-100 minutes, allowing them to patrol the MiG valley for 45-50 minutes. Unlike MiGs, they were never under close control and all acquisitions were visual, giving them a substantial advantage, especially since F-86s tended to fly in numerous small formations as opposed to very large formations used by North Korean pilots. In direct comparision, MiG-15 had slightly better rate of climb, acceleration and level flight speed, while F-86 had better speed in a dive and far superior transient performance (roll and pitch rates in particular) thanks to its hydraulic controls. While MiG-15 had an edge in maximum turn rate, tendency to spin at high angles of attack meant that this superiority was rarely to never used.

On average, F-86 achieved 0,34 kills per pass when lead computing gunsight wasn’t used and 0,30 kills per pass when it was used. At 20.000 feet, average of 0,51 kills per pass was achieved, dropping to 0,27 at 39.000 feet.

Exchange ratio favored multiple smaller, independent formations over a single large formation. Further, as total number of aircraft in the air increased, kill/loss ratio went towards the parity. Majority of fighters were also shot down unaware. But it was pilot performance that made the difference: US fighter pilots were far more skilled than their Chinese counterparts, with only few Russian pilots flying in Chinese formations showing similar level of skill and generally being able to match US fighters. While exchange ratio between US Sabres and Chinese MiGs might have been as high as 10 MiG losses for each F-86 loss, exchange ratio between Sabres and Soviet MiGs was around 1,3 MiG losses for each F-86 loss.

With advent of supersonic fighters and missiles, dogfight was declared officially obsolete. In fact, that argument was made even earlier than that – as soon as the F-86 got equipped with Sidewinder, maneuvering combat was declared a thing of the past. Development of the AIM-7 itself started in 1946, and both military and contractors claimed 80% to 90% kill rates for it and other radar-guided BVR missiles. As a result, the F-4 didn’t even have a gun, and neither it nor F-104 or F-105 had adequate maneuvering capability. Cockpit visibility was also very bad, essentially nonexistent to the rear, due to technological promise of BVR combat and tail-warning radar. But missiles turned out to be underperforming – they malfunctioned 50% of the time, and engagements happened exclusively within visual range as there was no reliable way to identify aircraft beyond visual range. IR WVR missiles achieved Pk of 15%, compared to 11% for BVR IR missiles and 8% for BVR RF (radar guided) missiles.

In Vietnam, F-4s large size and the fact that it was the only aircraft in the theatre that smoked allowed NVAF pilots to fire their IR missiles from the edge of the missile’s effective range, thus achieving advantage in the effective engagement range over the F-4 despite latter’s large and complex radar and BVR missiles. F-4 pilots had trouble detecting the enemy due to bad situational awareness resulting from bad cockpit visibility. Only advantages that the F-4 had over the MiG-21 were acceleration, rate of climb and persistence, primarly due to MiG-21s inferior engine. Still, necessity of visual-range combat led to midifications to improve F-4s dogfighting capability – primarly installing a gun and wing slats. Still, MiG-21 scored 2:1 against US fighters in Vietnam, with MiG-17 doing less well but still achieving favorable exchange ratio. Despite the presence of supersonic aircraft, combat happened at Mach 0,5-0,9. One of reasons was that cruise speed for all fighters was no greater than Mach 0,9, but also that pilots tend to fly aircraft to maximize the turn rate, for which lower speeds are required.

In 1966 Fairwind IV exercise, USN Phantom IVs faced old-model French fighters. At the very beginning, French airmen decimated US fighters while carrier was in process of recovering its fighters. As exercise progressed, it became clear that US aircrews were outclassed by French colleagues. This was especially problematic as exercise established requirement for VID to prevent the fratricide – and unlike US, French never stopped training for dogfight. Despite flying far older and “inferior” fighters, they always outperformed the US pilots. F-4 pilot Lieutenant Junior Grade John Monroe “Hawk” Smith quipped “We just had our collective asses handed to us by a second-rate military flying club flying a bunch of cheap, little airplanes by pilots who didn’t even hold down an honest sixteen hour-a-day job. We looked like a bunch of buffoons…”.

Israeli pilots in 1967 and 1973 wars preferred visual-range Mirage III to F-4, referring to the latter as B-4, due to Mirage’s smaller size and better agility. Other than that, few lessons can be drawn from these wars due to the fact that Israelis have fought Arabs – after 1973 Israeli 80-1 victory, General Mordecai Hod remarked that the result would have been the same had both sides exchanged the weapons. For the same reason, both Gulf wars are useless for drawing any but most general of lessons. That being said, there is one useful lesson: when the 1973 war is compared to the Vietnam war, it clearly shows impact of training on missile Pk. While US fighters achieved radar missile Pk of 10,9% (276 shots / 30 kills) against NVAF fighters in a 1971-1973 period, in the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Israeli fighters achieved radar missile Pk of 41,7%, far closer to the 1991 Gulf War. This shows that opponent’s competence was a primary factor in missile performance. As a matter of fact, there was very little if any technological disparity between two sides in the Yom Kippur war, with Israel using F-4 Phantom jets against Arab MiG-21s and MiG-25s. In the Bekaa Valley war, Israeli Air Force outnumbered the Syrians 3:2.

In the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war, Pakistani F-86s achieved 6:1 exchange ratio against supersonic MiG-21s and Sn-7s and subsonic Hunters; only Gnat achieved exchange ratio advantage over the F-86, due to its smaller size and better acceleration. It should be noted that, in reality, majority of “supersonic” fighters are actually subsonic as they do not have useful supersonic endurance. Main reson for F-86s performance was superior training of Pakistani pilots.

In the Vietnam, Yom Kippur and Bekaa Valley wars, 632 radar-guided BVR missiles were fired for a total of 73 kills. Out of all BVR missiles fired, only 4 out of 61 BVR shots were successful. During the Cold War, radar-guided Sparrow missile has achieved Pk of 8% in visual-range shots and 4% in beyond-visual-range shots; this performance can be expected to continue against the competent opponent.

Between the 1975 and 1980, US Navy Fighter Weapons School (Topgun) instructors flying cheap F-5s consistently whipped students flying “more capable” – and definetly far more expensive – F-4s, F-14s and F-15s. In the 1977 AIMVAL/ACEVAL test, F-15 achieved 3,8 to 1 exchange ratio against the F-5 in one-on-one combat, but in 4 vs 4 combat exchange ratio was around 1 to 1. Another lesson was that the incremental hardware advantages tended to wash out as the opponents adapted, and human interactions were at least five times more influental on outcomes than test variables such as force ratio and initial conditions.

In the 1981, AMRAAM OUE (Operational Utility Evaluations) were conducted. Participants from operational squadrons conducted 1.200 engagements with 10.000 simulator sorties. Blue force had the BVR capability while Red force didn’t; yet it was situational awareness that had the most impact on outcome of the engagement as opposed to the hardware. It should be noted that pilot skill is the dominant factor in situational awareness as well as in all other factors, as clearly shown in AIMVAL/ACEVAL test as well as actual air combat through history.

In the 1982 Falklands war, British Harriers equipped with the AIM-9L achieved 19 kills in 26 launches, for a Pk of 73%. However, Argentine aircraft were fighting at the end of their operational range and so typically did not have enough fuel to attempt significant evasive maneuvering. Additionaly, they had bad rearward visibility, low cruise speed due to heavy external stores (majority if not all were heavily laden with bombs) and undertrained pilots. As a result, Harrier pilots were able to regularly execute a rear-quadrant attacks against unaware, and consequently non-maneuvering, targets. While Argentine aircraft were equipped with radar-guided Matra missiles, these did not shoot down any British aircraft; both lack of training inherent unreliability of radar-guided missiles were factors in disappointing performance of these missiles.

In both Gulf Wars (1991 and 2003), single-role aircraft have performed far better than multirole ones. Aircraft performance was independent of cost: expensive F-15 and cheap A-10 were the best performers in their respective roles, and was probably a result of optimization for one type of battle as well as pilot training. There were no gun kills for the first time in the history, but gun did provide a psychological factor of having a fallback option if missiles were expended. Also, despite Iraqi fighters having no ECM and typically failling to take the evasive action when being shot at, radar-guided missiles achieved Pk of 27,3% in the 1991 Gulf War. This was exclusively a result of malfunction in missile or fire control system; as it can be seen, missiles’ technological reliability has not improved at all since days of the Vietnam war. Yet there were only 5 confirmed BVR kills in the First Gulf War, despite radar-guided missiles accounting for 24 kills out of 85. Further, air-to-air-only F-15Cs performed far better than average, achieving radar-guided missile Pk of 34% (67 shots for 23 kills) and IR missile Pk of 67% (12 shots for 8 kills), confirming the overwhelming importance of training in weapons’ performance. For comparision, US Navy’s F-14s and F-18s achieved radar-guided missile Pk of 4,8% (21 shots for 1 kill) and IR missile Pk of 5,3% (38 shots for 2 kills), yet no-one uses that performance as a ballpark for future missiles’ performance, indicating a willful misinterpretation (and misrepresentation) of data.

Survivability-wise, radar stealth proved to be a non-factor: F-117s flew exclusively at night while achieving 0% loss rate. Two A-10 squadrons that also flew exclusively at night suffered no losses, just like the F-117s. There is also an anecdotal evidence that Iraqi ground radars detected the F-117s. In the later Kosovo war, F-117s suffered two losses. If 1991 Gulf War and 1999 Kosovo War are combined, A-10 suffered 4 losses in 12.400 sorties (1 loss per 3.100 sorties) and F-117 suffered 2 losses in 2.600 sorties (1 loss per 1.300 sorties). 1 F-117 and 1 A-10 loss were not shootdowns but unrepairable mission kills. Altitude was also an important factor: as in World War II, kill zone was between 30 and 30.000 feet; F-117s never flew inside it, while A-10s had to make frequent excursions through it in order to use their gun in Close Air Support. In the 2003 Gulf war, only 1 A-10 was lost.

Despite the IFF, NCTR and AWACS, misidentified allied aircraft were lost to US systems as recently as 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom.

In the end, as has always happened, new technological advances will add new possibilities, but will never negate the need for old-fashioned dogfight, and human factors – both one’s own and opponent’s skill, or lack thereof – still trump technology. Before the Desert Storm, Iraq never flew more than 240 sorties per day, typically far less than 200 sorties. Iraqi training lacked realism in either air-to-air or air-to-ground mode, and it rarely even attempted realistic force-on-force training. Coalition flew 2.100 combat sorties per day compared to Iraq’s 60 combat sorties per day; a 35:1 advantage. Iraq flew only 430 combat sorties in total, compared to Coalition’s 69.100 sorties, a 160:1 advantage for Coalition, as Iraq air force stopped flying alltogether some time into the war. This did not help, however, as Coalition flew 2.990 strikes against Iraqi aircraft shelters.

To quote USAF analysis of Iraq’s performance:

“…the overall performance of the Iraqi air force in Desert Storm in air-to-air combat was abysmal…Although Iraqi pilots sometimes started encounters with decent set ups, the consistent and overriding pattern evident in debriefs of kills by US F-15 pilots indicates a startling lack of situational awareness by their Iraqi adversaries. In general, the Iraqi pilots shot down did not react to radar lock-ons by Coalition fighters. They attempted very little maneuvering, either offensive or defensive, between the time when the intercept radar locked on to them and the time when they were hit by air-to-air missiles (or, …before running into the ground).”

Later on, AIM-120 has achieved 6 BVR kills in 13 launches. However, one kill was a helicopter; as a result, 5 kills in 12 launches gives a Pk of 42%. As before, targets were unaware they were being shot at; they were all flying straight and level, and did not use electronic countermeasures. Serb fighters also had inoperative sensors. All fights also involved numerical parity or US numerical superiority. On one occasion when a target was aware it was being shot at, it successfuly evaded 3 AIM-120Cs despite having no ECM. This clearly shows value of careful examination of combat realities, as humans always have a tendency to overestimate impact of any new technology (for a non-military example, see Ha-Joon Chang: 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism, 4th thing, for discussion of relative importance of dishwasher and Internet).

When DACT was held between AdlA Rafales and Greek F-16s, Greek pilots prepared beforehand while Rafale pilots came unprepared. As a result, Greeks dominated the exercise despite Rafale being an overall superior aircraft even in early versions.

Any new technology can be countered by appropriate tactics (which can then be countered by countertactics). In 1298, English used the longbow to break Scots at Falkirk, and to similar effects against French in 1346 at Crecy, 1356 at Poltiers and in 1415 at Agincourt. But unlike French, Scots learned their lesson and in 1314 at Bannockburn used cavalry to rout English archers before they deployed. Similarly, RAF in Iraq used obsolete biplanes to deny usage of air bases to modern German fighters deployed to help Arab rebels; Luftwaffe soon had to withdraw. Fact is that, while technology can add new dimensions to warfare, it cannot change nature of the war. Human competence – training, cohesion, adaptability – is always a decisive factor in weapons performance and typically outweights other considerations, such as numbers and technology. As such, no technology should be evaluated without adressing its impact on users. It is also wrong to use new technology to solve old problems (e.g. radar stealth, LPI radar) and ignore new tactical possibilities opened by usage of new technology (e.g. IRST).

Even when fighting inadequatly-trained low-tech opponent and consequently achieving high missile Pk, having a gun provides a pilot with comfort of having a fall-back option if missiles do not work, or if range is too low for missiles to be used effectively (typically

You can have computer sights or anything you like, but I think you have to go to the enemy on the shortest distance and knock him down from pointblank range. You’ll get him from in close. At long distance, it’s questionable.

—Colonel Erich “Bubi” Hartmann, GAF

Denying a gun firing solution can be achieved by accelerating out of the gun’s range. If that can’t be done, then the enemy has to be kept out of the tracking area, typically done by a hard turn and roll (jinking). If the enemy is using radar-based gun tracking, or even just range finding, its performance can be seriously degraded through usage of chaff or ECM, and radar guidance is useless in cluttered low-altitude anvironment. Releasing flares may also break attacker’s concentraton. If the attacker is at 6 o’clock with little closure and inferior roll and acceleration performance, a barrel roll can be an effective defense.

Avoiding a missile requires excellent instantaneous turn rate and transient (particularly roll) performance. Aerodynamically controlled missiles typically offer ther best turn performance at their highest speed since they typically operate well below their corner speed. TVC is typically used for short-range missiles, and is particularly effective at high altitude. A rule of thumb holds that missile needs at least five times the g capability of that of a target, but it can be far more than that depending on various factors – g load in turn is function of a square of speed, so to match the turn rate of a 9 g aircraft flying at Mach 0,79 (450 kts at 40.000 feet), a missile has to pull 130 g at Mach 3, or 230 g at Mach 4. Typical WVR missile can pull 40-60 g at Mach 3, while typical BVR missile can pull 30-40 g at Mach 4. If missile manages to follow despite that (usually due to relative position of a missile meaning that it does not have to correct much for target aircraft’s maneuver), a rapid 180* roll followed by a turn will usually produce a wide overshoot as not only will aircraft now be in a position to beat missile’s turn capability, but missile guidance correction will naturally lag behind target maneuvers. Evading a BVR missile is easier than WVR one not only due to turn performance, but also because higher launch altitude of BVR missiles means that a vapor trail is typically produced, making a visual acquisition easier. Best possibility of missile evasion is at corner speed.

Typical evasion maneuver consists of placing a missile at 3 or 9 o’clock and flying at high speed in order to cause a missile to pull a lead, and pulling a maximum amount of g once missile gets close in order to achieve better turn radius and force an overshoot.

Long range air to air missiles are typically guided through either command guidance, which is doable by either a radar, IRST or RWR since missile is ordinarily guided along the line of sight between the target and the launcher, meaning that no range information is required; beam guidance, where missile follows the center of the guidance beam; and preset guidance, where missile automatically flies to a calculated intercept point. Preset guidance is the least useful one since it is only useful if target does not change direction of flight during missile’s flight time. Command guidance as mentioned typically uses command-to-LOS technique, but having two or more platforms using either radar, IRST or RWR to accurately calculate position of the target in 3D can enable usage of lead-intercept missile trajectory. This however requires sufficiently fast datalink and computing process as well as accurate information on relative positions of both target and aircraft doing the targeting. Guidance instructions to the missile are typically transmitted through a radio data link, which is susceptible to jamming. Trailling wires are resistant to jamming, but are not used since they severely limit missile’s useful range. Beam guidance can be provided by radar or optical system but it requires missile to be maneuverable.

Most effective type of guidance is the homing guidance, which can be passive, semi-active or active. Passive homing relies on emissions from the radar itself (typically visual, IR or EM ones). Semi-active relies on the energy reflected off the target – typically radar or laser – provided by the external source. In active guidance, missile illuminates and tracks the target. Active and semi-active guidance warn the enemy of the impending attack, and even without that problem, these types of guidance tend to be less effective than passive guidance. Indeed, the first AAM to score a kill in combat was heat-seeking Sidewinder missile in 1958. Passive and active homing missiles that require launch platform to maintain track for a significant period of time also put launch platform in jeopardy by limiting its maneuver options and making it a target for anti-radiation missiles if radar is used for the task. For all guidance types, clear sky is the ideal employment background, and clutter may cause a loss of target.

Radar guidance has many problems beyond clutter. Jamming can deny or break the radar lock, as well as deny the accurate range information, or even fake such information to induce wide miss distances. Rapid maneuvers can vary the radar return, making it harder for lock to be achieved and possibly breaking it once it is achieved. Several carefully-spaced targets can cause the missile to home in on centroid, leading to large miss distance on any individual target; early IR missiles had the same problem, but it should be eliminated with imaging IR guidance of new missiles. For this reason, radar guidance is only useful against targets flying straight and level – which usually means strategic bombers, though in some cases (incompetent pilots and/or inadequate warning equipment, as was the case in Gulf Wars) fighter aircraft can also fly straight and level even when being shot at.

Missile range in rear-quarter shots is about 1/5 of range in forward-quarter shots. This severely limits missile’s effective range since target can be expected to turn away from the missile if any but very short flight times are expected. However, rear-quarter shots are the predominant type of engagement type since they allow fighter more time to identify the bogey while having better chance of maintaining surprise. Also, since launching the missile automatically means that at least approximate position of the aircraft is given avay, attack has to be carried from as small distance as possible to maximize probability of first shot being the lethal one. This in turn necessitates maintainig surprise for as long as possible, which then requires a rear-quadrant approach.

Missiles also tend to fare poorly in beam-quarter intercepts due to large possibility of detonation happening at far side of the target and doing no damage. At low altitude, ground clutter can cause a premature detonation of the missile. Altitude also has a major impact on missile range, with the same approximately doubling every 20.000 feet. From that it can be calculated that AIM-120D for example may have a maximum aerodynamic range of up to 180 km at 60.000 feet, but at typical combat altitude – 40.000 feet – it drops to 90 km, and at sea level it is no more than 22,5 km. Usable range is ~40 km at 60.000 feet, and ~20 km at 40.000 feet as target can be expected to turn away from the missile, and actual effective range is far shorter still. At 50.000 feet aerodynamic range is around 140 km, and effective range around 30 km. A 100-knot target speed advantage decreases the rear-quarter maximum range by 5-25 percent, again confirming importance of cruise speed – if a fighter 1 cruises at 40.000 feet and Mach 0,9 (515 kts) and fighter 2 at same altitude and Mach 1,2 (688 kts), then usable missile range drops to 11-18 km. It can also cause acquisition difficulties for radar-guided missiles, and in any case makes it harder for an unseen attacker to actually carry out an effective attack. Even when IFF issues were not a problem, there was no jamming and target did not tarke evasive action, no kill with a BVR missile has been achieved at ranges beyond 30 km. That being said, if firing parameters have been satisfied, and the missile does not malfunction, then an undetected launch is invariably fatal. In practice, at least two BVR missiles have to be launched even against the low-capability, unaware target, with some separation between the missiles.

If attacker does not have a gun, then defender can easily deny a missile shot opportunity by remaining inside the missile’s minimum range, and can turn a defensive position into an offensive one during a lag maneuver by turn reversal. If attacker does have a gun, however, then turn reversal results in a snapshot opportunity for the attacker. This also means that having one type of missile is not enough, since missiles with longer maximum range typically have longer minimum range as well, increasing envelope in which gun has to be used. If that envelope is too large, it may provide the enemy fighter with an effective immunity zone, in which both gun and missile shots are ineffective. This is made worse by the fact that missile’s minimum range increases as defender turns, and missiles’ minimum ranges provided by the manufacturers are for non-maneuvering targets.

Same calculations mentioned in missile evasion section are relevant for gun-only dogfight; speed has larger impact on turn radius than g. However, higher speed means more energy avaliable to trade for positional advantage, and best turn rate is invariably achieved at fighter’s corner velocity. F-16s corner velocity is at just over 0,6 Mach – 24* per second at 9 g with turn radius of 1.500 feet. For comparision, at 0,4 Mach it has turn radius of 1.500 feet but turn rate is 16* per second. To put this in context, 2* per second turn rate advantage allows the fighter to dominate the adversary if pilots are of similar proficiency, and a fighter with superior turn rate will dominate an opponent with inferior turn rate but superior turn radius. Most of the time, 1 g equals 3*-4* per second, which also makes vertical maneuvers important – downhill turn is tighter than the uphill turn with same g.

Better turn radius than the enemy may not be necessary to get a shot – lead pursuit is only necessary for gun shot, while pure pursuit is best for the missile shot and lag pursuit is best for approach. In a gun-only dogfight, lag pursuit should be used until fighter is within gun range (850 – 900 m). At that range, fighter should switch to the lead pursuit, and if necessary slow down through use of throttle, air brakes and out-of-plane maneuvers. However, radar-controlled gunsight always has some lag, and if target is jinking faster than sight could react, result is a highly accurate miss. Using pure pursuit for a gun attack always results in an overshoot.

While optical estimation of range and lead required a lot of practice even with assists, radar estimate was also far from ideal. At low altitude, ground return can render radar targeting unusable. Radars are also vulnerable to a wide variety of countermeasures, and defensive maneuvering can cause problems to radar. While problems are far lesser for gun firing solution than for radar guided missile one, and radar does cope well with steady-state maneuvers, lead correction is typically inaccurate. Thus a shooter has to maneuver within target’s plane of maneuver, causing the target’s apparent movement to be in a straight line. For this, turn rate has to be matched to LOS rate. But tracking shots typically are not advisable as they require pilot to remain in a steady state maneuver for some time. Further, enemy has to be kept within pilot’s field of view to avoid surprises, necessitating good over-the-nose visibility to allow a maximum amount of lead.

If bandit is outside the turn circle, even a tight defensive turn can allow bandit a gun snapshot. In that case, best action is to break suddenly out of the plane. On the other hand, if a pilot manages to get the bandit in such situation, he must be able to exploit a snapshot opportunity – this means that revolver cannon is a best weapon in such position as it can get lethal shot off very quickly. If bandit is outside the turn circle, there is a possibility for fighters to end up in scissors, which are typically won by the fighter which can slow down his forward velocity the quickest; delta wing fighters are in good position here because of delta’s high induced drag at high angles of attack. Lead turn favors fighter with better turn capability, which requires low wing loading and a good over-the-nose visibility so as not to loose track of the bandit. Pure and lag pursuit only requires similar turning capability. In a defensive turn, lift vector should be kept straight on the bandit.

Turn reversals are also effective guns defense maneuver, and if a fighter has better transient performance, several turn reversals can allow it to get into an offensive position. This was a popular maneuver in the F-86 community in Korea, and later in the F-16 community (called “The Snake”). Fighter also has to be able to bleed off speed rapidly to achieve lower turn radius during a flat scissors maneuver. Advantage in roll performance can negate opponent’s advantage in turn radius, but flat scissors are typically preferable maneuver for aircraft with lower wing loading. Variation are rolling scissors, where turn performance, roll performance and slow-speed control are crucial.

Head-on passes are problematic; best option is to turn level, or go either high or low. Mistakes that can lead to losing the dogfight are losing the sight of the bandit, insufficient g, poor airspeed control, bad lift vector control, failure to lead and trying to fight in the F-14 (or now the F-35). Level turn allows fighter to turn the nose towards the bandit, while vertical turn is useful for coming out of the sun at the bandit. If head-on pass is necessary, quick-snapshot capability is crucial, again pointing to revolver cannon as a best option if missiles are unavaliable. Missile shot should be used to force the opponent to break to the side. It should not be too early, else the opponent will have time to go back to the original heading, but too late missile shot gives the opponent a possibility of taking a shot of his own. If there are no missiles avaliable, one can either turn nose low, turn level or go straight into the vertical. Slice (nose-low lead turn) can be used to get nose on the bandit. Level turn is slower but allows the pilot to keep bandit in sight. Pull up to vertical can be used if it will get you between bandit and the sun, but it also gives the bandit a very hot target against the clear background plus the opportunity to gain an angular advantage.

When two fighter aircraft pass each other side-by-side, best option is to initiate a lead turn just as bandit passes 3/9 line. If bandit does the same, however, lead turn can degenerate into a Lufberry circle. In such situation, a fighter with better sustained turn performance will have an advantage. If there is not enough separation, fight will turn two-circle, though a pilot might force a one-circle fight in order to prevent the opponent from getting a missile shot if he himself is out of the missiles.

In multi-fighter fights, most important things are situational awareness and fuel. Fuel however does not mean total amount of fuel or even fuel fraction, but rather a number and type of maneuvers that can be executed with avaliable fuel. This shows value of having high thrust to weight and thrust to drag ratios, as fighter with a lot of thrust and little drag can stay in dry power and run the opponent out of fuel even if said opponent has higher fuel fraction and greater total fuel capacity. Additional factor in multi-fighter fights is that steady-state maneuvers are suicidal; transient performance is paramount, and most if not all firing opportunities are very short in duration. Even in one on one situations snapshot capability is invaluable as the reasonably competent pilot can always deny a guns-tracking solution to an adversary in a similar aircraft as long as he has energy. As energy is always lost during a maximum turn, and fighter must not slow down too much, it is standard approach to trade altitude for positional advantage while maintaining energy. This means that having higher altitude than opponent at beginning of engagement is advantageous.

As fights are always multi-fighter (at least two pairs of two fighters, four in total), with possible presence of more fighters nearby, all fighters will have to keep energy up while maneuvering unpredictably in order to avoid attacks from an unseen opponent. This means that fighters will typically use maximum turn and maximum acceleration, with little to no time spent between these two extremes (except when rolling, and even that will likely be done during a turn).

In the defensive spiral, one wants to achieve minimum acceleration, leading to usage of speed brakes, idle power, extended flaps and slats, and very high angle of attack. Ability to generate high induced drag is desireable. Ground however offers a hard limit, and when defender pulls out of the spiral he offers a very good snapshot opportunity to the attacker, if latter is equipped with WVR missiles or gun.

Energy advantage over the enemy is required if pilot wants to disengage, but as mentioned before, presence of missiles might cause disengagement to be unviable. Escape window is also highly sensitive to fighters’ relative positions and energies. Further, angular advantage is hard to impossible to maintain without having energy advantage, or at least same energy level as the opponent, since everything comes down to exchanging energy advantage for a positional advantage. This means that fighter has to have good ability to gain, keep, trade and recover the energy – basically, good climb rate and acceleration. That being said, higher thrust-to-weight ratio does not necessarily translate in energy advantage during a turning fight – lower wing loading or better thrust-to-drag ratio (which may be result of the low wing loading) may result in the lower TWR fighter having better energy performance. Energy fighter can also perform gun-and-zoom attacks if both fighters are out of missiles; these can be defeated if target can see the attack. If attack misses, however, roles can be easily reversed. Fighter with low wing loading will fight in horizontal plane and fighter with high thrust-to-weight ratio will fight in a vertical plane, but neither plane of fighting has inherent advantage over another, and low wing-loading plane can use tactics to counter zoom-and-shoot attacks by the high energy fighter even in a gun-only combat, in particular by making small angle gains while forcing the energy fighter to bleed out its speed through defensive maneuvering. There are problems, however: with energy tactics pilot may have trouble maintaining sight of the opponent, while slow-speed angle tactics leave fighter more vulnerable to an unseen attacker. Energy fighter is advised to make an effort to hide itself from the opponent by placing itself between the enemy and the sun, cruising at dry thrust and low g level to prevent formation of contrails and smoke, and keeping any active sensors turned off. If TWR is similar but one fighter has higher wing loading, lower wing loading fighter will almost certainly win if there is no significant disadvantage in roll performance or disparity in pilot quality. If wing loading is similar but one fighter has higher TWR, same result can be expected, and even moreso if one fighter has advantage in both wing loading and TWR. In all three cases, angles tactics are preferable to the fighter with performance advantage, while most useful piece of equipment for a disadvantaged fighter is a radio with which to call for help.

Acceleration is highest at 0 g, since there is very little induced drag. Parasitic drag is also reduced, and in the high subsonic regime, critical Mach number is increased by unloading. However, engine design may limit the time that fighter can spend at such condition. A dive can increase acceleration even more through use of gravity, and best overall acceleration is achieved by a steep dive followed by an unloaded acceelration.

If fighter has both gun and missiles, then these weapons complement each other: missile prevents the enemy from simply using extension escape, while gun prevents the enemy from simply staying inside the missile’s minimum range. Even if missile does miss, evasion maneuver required may place the enemy in defensive long enough for attacker to be able to satisfy gun engagement requirements relatively quickly; similarly, threat of a gun shot can be used to force the enemy to bleed off the energy and attempt a straight-line escape, with fatal results. If fighter with only a gun is fighting against a missile-equipped fighter, pilot will want to stay within enemy fighter’s minimum missile range. Missile fighter will want to increase separation and use energy tactics. If the gun fighter has rear-quarter missiles however, increasing separation may not be viable, and presence of missiles in general limits usefulness of energy tactics, making angular (turn) tactics more important. This also means that fuel fraction and efficiency can often decide the fight, with one of fighters getting shot down while disengaging due to the lack of fuel.

STOVL fighters tend to have small wings and consequently high wing loading, with bad acceleration capability and persistence due to high frontal area causing high drag. They may use VIFFing in order to increase instantaneous turn load by about 1 g, but at extreme cost in terms of energy as forward flight will be carried out exclusively on inertia, requiring high TWR to accelerate afterwards – which they tend not to have. VIFFing also uses up a lot of fuel. Conventional fighter can use angles tactics to deplete STOVL fighter’s energy, and switch to energy tactics once STOVL fighter starts to use VIFFing. Pressing the attack is often unnecessary, as high fuel consumption in both classical maneuvering and VIFFing regime combined with typically low fuel fraction will cause the STOVL fighter to rapidly consume its fuel reserves and disengage, giving conventional fighter ample opportunity to shoot it down when it tries to retreat from combat.

Against helicopters, unguided rockets and gun with visual gunsight are the best options as they minimize impact of clutter. Attacks should be made from above. Bombs may be the best anti-helo weapon due to large lethal radius, but they require good ground-attack proficiency and may be suicidal if helo is equiped with IR AAMs. While radar-guided missiles are outright useless in such a scenario due to clutter and jamming effect of helo’s rotor blades, missiles with IIR seeker have good ability to distinguish target from the clutter

In the BVR combat, AWACS or ground based radar can point the fighter in the right direction, but ultimately pilot must be ready to get missile(s) off the rails as soon as bogey has been identified (IFF issues have been adressed earlier). If bogeys are staying passive, only possibility of identification is a visual ID via IRST, camera or eyesight. Best option for this is the stern conversion since it allows most time to ID the bogeys while minimizing the risk of getting detected and attacked if bogeys are hostile.

But even against a good pilot in a superior fighter, one can win if he forces the opponent to make a mistake. For this, one must be better pilot than his opponent – and good pilots are made exclusively by in-flight combat training (as opposed to simulator training). This means that ease of maintenance, reliability and low operating costs are the most important characteristics of a fighter aircraft. Today’s USAF F-22, F-35 and F-16 pilots get 8-10 hours of flight training per month, and USN pilots get 11 hours per month. AdlA Rafale pilots get 15 hours per month, while RAF Typhoon pilots get slightly more at around 17,5 hours per month. This can be compared to a minimum of 20-30 hours per month required for fighter pilot to be truly proficient, while 40-60 hours per month is ideal.

As far as leader-wingman support goes, best option is a “double-attack”, where leader and wingman support each other without actually flying in the formation. This reduces chances of detection by the enemy, and allows for coordinated multi-vector attacks. Separation between fighters in this situation should be on order of one or two turn radii at the typical cruising speed. When cruising, optimum separation should be maintained so that one fighter covers another’s rear blind spot up to maximum visual detection range; this obviously favors fighters with good rearward visibility, as fighters should also take care to maintain visual contact with one another. In case that one of fighters engages a bogey, his wingman (even if “wingman” is technically element lead) can move high above the fight to provide effective visual coverage and engage any possible hostile fighters trying to take advantage of lead’s preoccupation with an enemy fighter; this also allows wingman to increase his energy level if his intervention becomes necessary at some point during the fight. If leader looses too much energy, he calls for wingman’s intervention and goes to replenish the energy while wingman engages the bogey, denying it the opportunity to replenish the energy. If a two-pronged attack is pursued, best option is to engage bogey from different vectors so that an offensive or defensive action against one fighter in the pair places bogey into an unfavorable situation relative to a second fighter in the pair. Two-pronged attack can result in a Loose Deuce, a two-on-one dogfight in which engaged fighter typically sets up the bogey for an attack by the free fighter. In either case, bogey is fighting at severe disadvantage. Loose Deuce however means that second fighter cannot maintain proper lookout for possible enemy fighters, making surprise attacks by the same dangerous.

It is possible for one fighter to attack a two-fighter formation if he stumbles across it. In this situation, surprise should be used so as to eliminate one of bogeys immediately, rendering the resulting engagement a one-versus-one, and possibly allowing him to escape. Higher bogey might be attacked first since it has higher energy level, and such attack may allow quick snapshot against the lower bogey, which is typically leader. On the other hand, leader is typically more experienced pilot, making him more dangerous opponent in a follow-up dogfight. If surprise attack is not successful, engaged fighter should switch between targets quickly to prevent them from coordinating attacks, and can use either energy tactics or angular tactics. Both have their drawbacks: energy tactics make him too predictable, while angular tactics quickly deplete the energy, leaving him vulnerable.

In a two-versus-two scenario, it is already possible for a pilot to get overloaded with work, as he has to keep an eye on wingman and two enemies. For this reason, increased number of aircraft in a fight always means that exchange ratio goes towards the equality. Constant practice is vital – as pilot becomes more proficient at each task of his mission, it takes less effort to accomplish them and some eventually pass into an automatism. This means that there is more brainpower, and time, to devote to tasks that cannot be done automatically, and may reduce the time required for even those tasks. Thus, practice gives pilot an advantage in an OODA loop, and makes him more likely to survive in a standard multi-bogey scenario. But these skills are lost quickly, and must be practiced constantly. Easy operation of the aircraft, unrestricted cockpit visibility, clear, dependable communications and reliable, resillient aircraft construction all serve to reduce the workload, and may be as important as aircraft’s flight characteristics in combat. Increasing enemy’s workload by flying the very small and very maneuverable aircraft is also a plus.

Bracket can also allow for a surprise and increasing the enemy’s workload, since in a two-vs-two scenario, neither of the enemy pilots will be able to keep more than one enemy fighter in sight, while both attacking fighters will have all other fighters in the air in sight. If dogfight develops, one fighter can engage in a dogfight with the enemy, while wingman covers him and keeps track of – but does not attack unless necessary – the second bogey. Better turn performance can enable a free fighter to defeat attacks by a free bogey without engaging in a protracted dogfight. If necessary, free fighter can attack the bogey, while a previously engaged fighter becomes a free fighter. This however necessitates a good energy recovery ability, as previously engaged fighter is likely to be low on the energy. If there are two bogeys, both fighters can engage one bogey each, and keep switching between the bogeys while keeping high energy (a Loose Deuce variation). This allows fighter to engage even a superior-performance opponents, but Loose Deuce requires pilots to be highly trained to be effective.

Tactical turn is a best option for disengagement, but it requires a lengthy straight-line extension between the turns, which in turn requires good acceleration capability, and may not be an option when facing a missile-equipped bogey. High cruise speed is also a necessity in order to prevent a reengagement by the opponents.

Large formations, aside from being larger to detect, are also harder to maintain without accidents. This means that pilots will have to spend considerable time and effort in order to maintain the formation. As a result, small formations are optimum, and in some situations single-ship operations may be preferable, particularly if fighter is equipped with RWRs and IR sensors that can provide warning of attack from any direction. Ability to identify and attack the enemy at long range is also valuable in facilitating single-ship operations; detection alone is not enough. Another requirement is a substantial cruise speed advantage, which facilitates rear-quarter attack and makes the same attacks by the enemy more difficult, as well as making withdrawal more difficult. Small aircraft size, maneuverability and lethal weapon systems contribute to single flighter’s survivability. Jamming also increases effectiveness of singles as coordination between fighters becomes impossible.

Single fighter should fly at highest possible sustained speed, and use hit-and-run attacks while avoiding maneuvering engagements if at all possible. Attacks should be made from the rear in order to maximize surprise, which necessitates higher cruise speed than the target. Missiles should be of a fire-and-forget variety, as any guidance type that restricts shooter’s maneuvers after the launch is an undesireable, and oftentimes fatal, burden.

During First World War, Germans usually engaged in large formations for sole purpose of maintaining local superiority, but between the wars focus shifted towards bomber interception, a pattern that will almost invariably repeat itself in the Western air forces up until the present day (examples: P-38/P-47; F-104/F-105/F-4; F-15; F-22; EF-2000). For fighter-to-fighter combat, however, a finger-four formation is optimal as it allows mutual leader-wingman support as well as support between sections. With a finger-four formation, tactics described previously can be used, with each pair acting as a single fighter. Advantage of a fluid-four formation is increased firepower, as well as the fact that each fighter of a pair can act independently if a situation calls for it. Using this doctrine, a four-plane division of F6F Hellcat fighters destroyed 50 Japanese fighter without receiving a single hit. Elements of section traded roles as engaged element and free element, earning it a nickname of “Valencia’s Mowing Machines”.

In modern enviroment, however, a fluid-four doctrine has to be used with greater spacing between fighters and less restrictions on a free element, as well as greater use of double attack and loose deuce. Against a superior number of fighters, it is hard to impossible to maintain coordination between pairs. Free element is also vulnerable to missiles. Three enemy fighters operating independently are also likely to wreak havoc against four enemy fighters in two formations, and greater number of fighters means better support through presence. This is a basis of the “Gaggle” doctrine in which each fighter operates independently, and turning is kept to minimum. In general, a turn should not be continued past 90* in any single direction without a quick reversal. If a bogey cannot be shot within 90* of a turn, pilot should go look for another target.

When engaging, fighters should always maintain at least a parity in elements, if not necessarily single aircraft, but coordination between elements has to be maintained if gaggle doctrine is to be effective; otherwise, fluid-four might be more effective. Gaggle is also generally more effective if enemy has an equal or greater number of fighters. If enemy has less fighters, then a fluid-four formation should be used as it will allow increased defensive ability while still maintaining parity in offensive ability.

It is possible to combine small WVR-only dogfighters with large BVR radar-based fighters, in which case a modified vie can be used. Line-abreast arrangement might be used to employ broadside-style attack. Once dogfight is joined, large fighter should stay out of hassle as it will attract enemy fighters and force dogfighters to defend it. However, using dissimilar fighters often means that one type will suffer from reduced range and/or endurance. High-performance fighters will also typically have to withdraw first for fuel considerations, and may be limited in withdrawal speed if they are to remain with lower-performance wingmen.

In a defensive one-versus-many environment, single fighter must not engage in a protracted dogfight, and instead has to engage in hit-and-run attacks. Higher cruise speed than the enemy might be the best defense as it prevents or at least limits surprise attacks from the rear. Weaving might also be employed to increase probability of detecting such an attack, even at cost of combat radius and increased possibility of attack. Turns however should be limited to simply chacking the blind areas, primarly 6 o’clock low, and should not be so hard so as to bleed speed. Maximum sustained turn should be used, though combination of hard turn with rolling belly check and subsequent straight-line acceleration might be useful. This techniaue provides effective defense even against unseen missiles. Clouds can be used for defense against guns and IR missiles, but are not very useful against radar-guided missiles.

Drawing the enemy into SAM coverage is a useful defense technique, even if SAMs are on his side – radar-guided SAMs typically cannot separate friend from the foe, and bogey is not likely to continue attack through heavy SAM coverage. To defender however, facing SAMs is typically preferable to facing enemy fighter(s).

Optimum formation, as mentioned, is a division of two fighters as it is a best baalnce between offensive and defensive power, especially if there is no reliable speed or altitude sanctuary. If larger numbers are required, they should take form of independant or semi-independant two-fighter divisions. If a two-fighter section(s) come(s) across a superior number of enemy fighters, techniques described in one-versus-many section should be used. With multiple fighters, weaving is actually counterproductive to covering the rear area, meaning that fighters should fly at straight line at their maximum cruise speed.

When attacking a larger formation, surprise should be always sought. If surprise cannot be achieved, attack should not be pursued. In many-versus-many environment, fighters should operate in pairs or individually, using loose deuce or gaggle tactics.

Once air superiority has been established, fighter should turn their attention towards other enemy airborne systems – primarly ground attack aircraft, but also AWACS, tankers etc. Another task is escort of one’s own ground attack aircraft as same carry out attacks against enemy ground troops, air bases and other surface targets. As fighters will be cruising in the contested zone, possibly over the hostile area, fighter sweeps should be staggered so that an entering (fresh) element can provide support for a retiring element, as latter will not have enough fuel for a protracted engagement. This however creates IFF problems, especially at BVR, and calls for fighters to be equipped with sensors capable of quality visual IFF (such as imaging IRST).

AWACS, if present, can provide control for fighter formations. Close control may be preferable during fighter sweep missions if not too many fighters are present, but since it is easily saturated, broadcast control is typically a better option. Data links may be preferable to radios due to greater resistance to jamming, but tactics should not rely on presence of any electronic means of communication.

Strikes are carried out either low-level by small groups of bombers that follow separate paths to the target, relying on surprise for success; or at high altitude by a single large group of aircraft relying on ECM, escorts and bombers’ own defensive armament. Defense against strikes is carried out by either Combat Air Patrol, Ground Alert Interceptor, or combination of the two. CAP has the advantage of intercepting the enemy at greater distance from target, and is typically a must when facing strike aircraft carrying long-range standoff weapons. It is usually stationed at “choke points” through which low-flying attackers must pass, such as valleys, mountain passes, rivers etc. Effective range of far CAP is determined by number of fighters, sensor coverage and fighters’ time on station. Altitude is also a consideration: detection favors low altitude so as to achieve a look-up against the enemy, while endurance of jet fighters is best at high altitude. If multiple fighters are avaliable at any given CAP station, a Lufberry circle can be used to provide continuous sensory coverage. For a single fighter or a pair (there should always be at least two fighters per station), a figure-8 pattern perpendicular to threat axis is optimum. If enemy attack is likely, then fighters should cruise at maximum non-afterburning setting.

CAP should be backed up with ground-alert interceptors, which should provide primary defense against larger raids. With interceptors colocated with protected target, larger number can be kept on the ground, fuelled, armed and ready for action. They can also more easily amass to counter large attacks, and do not need good endurance or sophisticated sensors.

Attack against low-level attack aircraft is quite simple. Since such aircraft tend not to have good rearward visibility, turning off any active sensors to prevent detection by target’s warning systems in conjuction with a rear-sector approach should be effective in achieving surprise. Low-level penetrator, if he detects the attack, might drop a bomb to try and catch a pursuing fighter in weapon’s fragmentation pattern; hard turn to left or right should work in countering that tactic.

High-level attack aircraft typically fly in massed formations with fighter escort. In such situation escort should be neutralized first. Destroying escort fighters may not be necessary; simply forcing them to drop external fuel tanks and engage in heavy defensive maneuvering (usually involving afterburners) might relieve them of so much fuel that they will have to return home and leave bombers vulnerable to further attacks. If defending fighters consist of two types, smaller dogfighters should engage the fighters while large radar fighters engage bombers (which actually is their design mission). However, greater precision of modern weapons and smaller fleet sizes have led to reduced number of massed attacks.

Fighter sweep just before the attack can be an effective way of neutralizing enemy defensive fighters. Still, strike aircraft will require some form of escort. Types of escort are reception, remote, detached and close. Reception escort provides reinforcements when they are needed, and is used in combination with other types of escort. Remote escort fiels ahead of the strike package and clears the route of enemy fighters, but it should be close enough so as to remain engaged until the strike is complete. Detached escort is positioned around the escorted aircraft so it can attack enemy fighters before same manage to attack escorted aircraft, and additional elements can be positioned to the rear and above the rear elements of the detached escort, acting as a reserve and a guard for lower-flying rear elements. Flanking escorts can be positioned between forward and rear escort, depending on distance between these elements. If speed of the air group is less than fighter’s preferred cruise speed, weaving might be employed. Close escort attacks the enemy in the final stages of his attack, once the enemy fighters are within visual range of their targets. It can also serve as a backup for detached escort, filling holes in perimeter, providing reinforcements and attacking enemy fighters that have broken through. Remote escort and fighter sweeps are most important elements of the escort.

Box formation is good defensively as well as offensively, as any fighters attacking the lead pair will be attacked by a trailling pair, while fighters in the trailling pair can lend each other support. If an enemy formation is encountered, box can use a pincer attack, with each pair attacking from one side. Pincer is also a good tactic for a fighter pair, but requires considerable training, as it is easier to mistime the attacks at beyond visual range than it is within visual range.

Cross-lock is useful in countering enemy pincer attack. As bogeys turn inward in a pincer, each fighter attacks the bogey that is further away from him, crossing paths. If executed properly, each fighter should have a firing opportunity against both the bogey he is attacking head on, as well as a second bogey.

In 4 vs 2 head-on attack, a double pincer can be used, when enemy formation as a whole is caught in a pincer, and each of the bogeys is caught in a pincer as well as they separate.

Hook maneuver can be used to allow one fighter to VID the bogeys while another prepares for a BVR attack, or both fighters can merge with bogeys. The leader continues on a collision course, while wingman achieves large vertical and lateral separation from the leader, and accelerates to approach bogeys from the side.

Break-away can be used to confuse the enemy and get one fighter to the merge unobserved. In this scenario, wingman initially trails the leader very close until the enemy takes radar lock, then rolls over and pulls into a split S. If the enemy is using Doppler radar, this should make the wingman invisible, and will result in clutter problems regardless of which type of radar are bogeys using. Once aircraft is purely vertical, wingman pulls out to the original collision heading.

When intercepting an aircraft at BVR, forward quarter intercept is preferable to direct head-on intercept due to longer identification range and better weapons performance compared to a direct head-on intercept. It is however easy to counter, and mans that attacker is likely to be detected, especially if enemy fighter has forward-facing sensors such as radar or IRST. Stern conversion is preferable to maintaining surprise and allowing more time for target identification, but it reduces weapons’ range and is easier to counter by jinking. Both these conversions can be combined, with fighter firing initial salvo from the front, followed by a stern conversion and rear-qarter attack.

Basing considerations

Large, visible air bases will get bombed or attacked by sappers. While speed, maneuverability and stealth enable aircraft to survive in the air, aircraft parked on the ramp of a typical air base has none of these characteristics. Between 1940 and 1992 there were 645 attacks on air fields, of which 384 were aimed at destroying the aircraft parked. 75% of the attacks used standoff weapons, while remaining attacks were penetrating (22%) or combined. Between 1940 and 1943, British Special Forces destroyed 367 Axis aircraft in North Africa. USAF in Vietnam quickly developed countermeasures against penetrating attacks, but no effective countermeasures against standoff attacks have been implemented up until the end of the war. During the Afghan War, guerillas used man-portable SAMs to shoot down Soviet aircraft when taking off and landing.

During invasion of Crete, RAF used revetments to protect fighters from indirect hits, but aircraft were eventually evacuated. Yet no attempt was made to render air fields unusable, and they were eventually captured and used by German invasion force transports. Revetments are also useful in limiting damage done if aircraft is destroyed by satchel charge. Same measures were used by USAF in Vietnam, as well as armored concrete shelters.

Air attacks are also a major threat. In fact, Allied air bases in World War II were subjected to attacks through the entire war – Germans bombed RAF air fields in the 1940 Battle for Britain, and in the 1945 they launched Operation Bodenplatte, destroying or damaging 500 Allied aircraft. Most of the Soviet Air Force was destroyed on the ground during Operation Barbarossa, and such attacks were commonplace through the entire war.

Again, Gulf Wars were an anomalous point – Iraqis were poorly motivated, uncreative and incompetent adversary, and made no effort at all to attack Coalition air bases, despite the fact that these air bases were closer to Iraq and Yemen than German air bases were to British lines in North Africa.

Reliance on fixed air bases not only increases vulnerability to attacks and possibility of enemy capturing the bases and using them for his own purposes, but also decreases flexibility and ability to generate sorties. STOL and rough basing capabilities are thus a must.

Yet US Air Force, and most European air forces (except Flygvapnet) operate under assumption that close and secure air bases will be avaliable in order to generate sufficient sorties. However, there is a number of threats that make typical air bases, as well as aircraft carriers, unviable. Ballistic missiles, bombers and cruise missiles can take out both air bases and ships; carriers are also under a very real danger of attack by submarines and fast attack craft. Ballistic missiles have range of 800-2500 km, while Flankers carrying ASCMs can attack ships 1.350 km from their bases. Missiles with submunition warheads could destroy 75% of the aircraft stationed at the typical USAF air base.

Fighter will have to be capable of flying from a two-lane highway. Lane width typically varies from 2,5 to 3,25 meters minimum width in Europe, with US Interstate Highway System standard width being 3,75 meters; same width is standard in most of European countries. Shoulder width in US is 3 meters on outside and 1,2 m on the inside, and in Europe it is 2,5 meters.

As a result, allowable wing span is between 7,5 and 10 meters, both values being less than in a previous proposal. To give a safety limit as well as allow as many European roads to be utilized as possible, starting wingspan goal will be =<8,75 meters, with 7,4 meters being optimum (assuming that it can be achieved without compromising other characteristics such as wing loading).

In most European countries required tunnel height is 4,5 meters, while Geneva convention requires 4,8 meters.

This requirement also leads to other design requirements: high thrust-to-weight ratio, good lift coefficient, low stall speed.

Since maintenance will also have to be carried at road bases with no access to complex hangar facilities, fighter will have to be as simple as possible. This does not mean sacrificing effectiveness; indeed, most effective weapons have always tended to be comparably simple in design – see “design requirements” for details.

Dirt strip basing is required in areas where there are no roads, or if roads get bombed (dedicated air strips certainly will). Further, ability to take off from dirt and grass strips gives major advantage in scramble time, allowing many fighters to take off abreast and quickly deploy in formation.

This means that front landing gear will have to be positioned behind air intakes, and ground clearance will have to be 100-170 cm. Wheels will also have to be placed relatively widely separated, necessitating placement in a base of the wing. Wheels will have to be proportionally big.


Modern IR sensors are rivaling radar in capability. PIRATE IRST of Eurofighter Typhoon can track subsonic fighter-sized targets from 90 km from front or 145 km from rear. It can identify the target at 40 km, and track 200 different targets. Range figures will be 10% greater against fighters supercruising at Mach 1,7, and a Mach 4 AMRAAM can be detected at 80 km. Angular resolution is less than 0,05*, possibly as good as 0,0143*. Fighter supercruising at Mach 1,7 generates shock cone with stagnation temperature of 87* C, and Mach 4 AMRAAM generates 650* C shock cone, while temperature of the surrounding air is -50* C at 10.000 meters, -54* C at 12.000 meters and -70* C at 15.000 meters. This shows that significant IR signature reduction is nothing but a dream, with even commercial IR detectors being able to detect 0,1* C differences in temperature. IRST can also use Doppler-shift measurements to estimate closure speed of the target. Atmospheric conditions also aren’t as much of a problem as typically believed: during testing, Rafale’s OSF managed to detect a turboprop C-160 through the cloud at range beyond MICAs engagement envelope. Even if cloud cover is thick enough to affect the IRST, most clouds do not extend above cca 10 km. Skyward-G, based on the PIRATE, has been stated to be capable of picking up all aircraft flying at speeds above 300 kts, regardless of IR signature reduction measures, simply through aerodynamic heating of the skin. It is also thought to offer better performance than PIRATE. Further, most of adverse conditions that may affect the IRST occur below the 10.000 feet, and radar has problems when detecting, and especially targeting, low-flying aircraft.

IRST will remain useful for several reasons. It is a passive system, therefore it does not warn the enemy. IR stealth is also a physical impossibility – act of moving an object through the air at high speeds causes air to compress and thus heat. Friction is likewise insurmountable problem, with leading edges of a supersonic aircraft heating up to very high temperatures, and jet engines themselves help to heat the airframe. None of these problems can be physically adressed; even if an IR-absorbent coating was to be invented and used, it would still not adress issues of friction, compression, glint, reflected IR radiation and engine exhaust. Further, it would cause anything inside it (crew, systems) to cook. Even if all these issues were somehow adressed, aircraft would have to be at the perfect temperature of the background, else it would still appear on the IRST regardless of wether it is hotter or cooler than the surroundings.

Aircraft also tend to have electronics that requires cooling, but also some that requires heating. F-22 in particular has two pitot tubes under the nose which are electrically heated to 270* C to prevent them from icing at high altitude.

For comparision, CAPTOR has range of 185 km vs 3 m2 target, angular resolution of 0,05* at 165 km, and can track 20 different targets.

If rangefinding precision greater than what PIRATE can offer is necessary, a laser rangefinder can be used. Downside is a range of only 20 kilometers as well as its negative effect on achieving surprise, so it should be most useful for generating gun firing solution in close-combat maneuvering scenarios. For this reason, LIDAR research should be pursued.

IRST also presents a stealthy opponent with a head-I-win tails-you-loose problem: a stealth aircraft can attempt to reduce IR signature by flying at a slower speed, but that will also reduce its own missile range. If it attempts to increase its missile range by flying at a higher speed, it increases its own IR signature.

Design requirements

“Keep it simple, stupid.”

— WWII saying

First and foremost, fighter should be easy to maintain and cheap to buy and operate. This means that a small single-engined fighter is optimum: small size leads to reduced weight and unit acquisition cost, while single engined design makes maintenance easier. It also means that fighter should only use essential electronics, and be a single-role aircraft as unit price of a multirole aircraft is typically a sum of unit prices of aircraft it combines.

Easy maintenance and low operating cost is required to facilitate training, since fighter pilots have to fly to gain and maintain proficiency level required. Larger complexity of modern fighters is showing – most Western air forces’ pilots train for 120-180 hours per year, while it was around 240-300 hours per year a mere decade ago. Between 1975 and 1980, US Navy Topgun instructors got 480-720 hours of flight training per year, and consistently whipped students coming from squadrons that got only 170-240 hours per year, despite latter flying F-4s, F-14s and F-15s against instructors in the F-5s. All studies support inverse relationship between reliability and complexity; complexity itself can be defined in a number of components that can go wrong (IRST + radar vs only IRST) and complexity of components themselves (EJ200 is a simple design compared to earlier turbofans). Not only do more complex systems have more parts that can go wrong, but it is also more likely that any given part will go wrong due to interaction between parts. More complex aircraft also more frequently require cannibalization to remain operational, and support structure of a more complex aircraft is more vulnerable to disruption in wartime. Increased hardware complexity also increases costs and decreases predictability of future costs. While some modern complex aircraft have better base level maintenance numbers than less complex aircraft (examples: Rafale, Typhoon), this is invariably achieved by transferring base level maintenance back to the depot, thus increasing vulnerable logistical tail. That transfer is achieved through Line Replaceable Units – M88 engine of Rafale for example consists of 21 replaceable modules. While this concept allows very easy flight line maintenance, it increases complexity of the support structure, since technicians have to maintain both modules (each of which includes a computer) as well as computers used to maintain the engine. It also means that each aircraft has to have greater number of spares for each component, since any faulty component will spend more time being maintained or transferred to/from maintenance, and there is less margin for absorbing the unexpected. For this reason, more complex aircraft have higher operating costs than their unit flyaway costs would suggest. 45 million USD Gripen costs 4.700 USD per hour to operate (ratio 9.574); 70 million USD F-16 costs 7.000 USD per hour to operate (ratio 10.000), 90 million USD Rafale costs 16.500 USD (ratio 5.454), 130 million USD Typhoon costs 18.000 USD (ratio 7.222), 128 million USD F-15C costs 30.000 USD (ratio 4.267) while 273 million USD F-22 costs 51.300 USD (ratio 5.322) (higher ratio is better). More complex aircraft also require more maintenance personnel: Gripen needs 10 assigned flightline maintenance personnel, compared to 30 for the F-15 (again, a difference roughly proportional to difference in unit flyaway cost). These maintenance personnel also have to be better trained (and by extension, receive higher pay), increasing personnel-related costs of maintenance far more than would be expected from simple increase in number of personnel.

Larger number of aircraft than the enemy allows more flexibility in force deployment and greater ability to absorb inevitable losses, as well as to saturate the enemy’s ability to process data and respond. In fact, history suggests that there is a limit of around 3:1 where quality can not compensate for superioir enemy numbers. This means that fighter should be as simple as possible while not sacrificing combat performance – which in turn means that design should be based around basic historical lessons which rarely to never change (details often change but underlying lessons do not). It is important to note that this refers to both total number of aircraft and number of sorties per day that number of aircraft procured can generate. Again, avaliability is related to complexity, avaliability for Gripen is typically 90%, for Typhoon 70% and for the F-22 it is 55,5%.

It should be noted that many times more complex aircraft were promised to have better MTBF and be easier to maintain than their less complex predecessors (A-7D vs F-111D; F-15C vs F-22A). It always turned out to be false – while F-111D Mark II avionics were predicted to have 1,42 MMH/S and MTBF of 60+ hours, as opposed to A-7Ds 2,79 MMH/S, it turned out that Mark IIs MTBF was well under 3 hours with 33,6 MMH/S. F-15 was similarly guaranteed to require no more than 11,3 MMH/FH with MTBF of 5,6 h (as opposed to F-4Es 24 MMH/FH and MTBF of 1,3 h); after entering the service it required 26,7 MMH/FH, a number that got reduced to 22,1 MMH/FH by 1990s.

Greater complexity also means that battle damage is harder to repair. During the Vietnam War, the depot backlog of damaged aircraft reached a point where it took two-years to get an F-4 repaired, and the ratio of damaged aircraft to lost aircraft fluctuated between 3 to 1 and 6 to 1. For this reason, advenced aluminum-lithium alloys might warrant investigation; these give the same weight for strength ratio as advanced composites, but are far easier to repair. (On a related note, “force multipliers” cannot be expected to work very well, or at all, in a war due to their typically high complexity level).

“The biggest target in the sky is always the first one to die.”

— Topgun saying

Visual and IR signatures should be small. Aircraft should be light in color so that either portions of aircraft in the light or in the shadow will blend in a background. Pastel gray might be the best choice, but actual color is not as important as long as it is dull – very bright colors however can be recognizable at distances greater than 10 miles, while small, well camouflaged fighter might not get detected until 2-5 miles. Light pastel background (sunset) combined with shadows on back-lit fighter can increase detection to 30 miles. Small fighters are best colored in two shades, and camouflage pattern should appear random. Camouflage can also be used to disguise aircraft’s attitude and maneuver. “Dazzler” camouflage is best for this purpose, but it increases initial detection distance.

Small IR signature requires small aircraft, minimizing usage of afterburner and low drag.

Due to importance of surprise, emphasis should also be placed on the situational awareness. Surprise is achieved by detecting and identifying targets more quickly and accurately than the enemy. This means that only passive sensors will be used, as these do not warn the opponent of fighter’s presence, and in any case only optical sensors (cameras, IRST) are capable of reliably identifying enemy aircraft outside the range of human vision – while PIRATE can identify fighter at up to 40 km, visual identification requires fighter to close to 400-800 meters regardless of wether it is equipped with radar. Radar is straight out useless as aside from not being capable of identifying the target*, it provides the target with a way of identifying and targeting the radar-using fighter at extreme ranges. Radar range varies with an inverse fourth power, while RWRs range varies with an inverse square power; in other words, an RWR of equal sensitivity to the radar can detect radar’s signals at 4 times longer range than radar can detect its own signals; this is without accounting for the fact that only a minor portion of signal (less than 2%) actually gets deflected back towards the emitter. This can also be used to target the emitting fighter via anti-radiation missiles. Even LPI techniques do not help – two standard techniques are frequency hopping, as well as spreading signal over a range of frequencies. But frequency hopping can be countered by RWRs capable of memorizing signals received and analyzing memorized data; as for spread spectrum technique, it is useless for a simple reason: radar signal as a whole is between 1 and 10 million times as strong as the background noise. AN/APG-77 can use 4 independent beams at any given time, which means that a signal from any of the beams is at very least 250.000 times as strong as the background noise of the same frequency. Even if it were able to project a single beam from each of its 1.956 T/R modules (a physical impossibility since it is interference between modules that allow the radar beam to be steered without moving the radar plate), each beam would be at least 500 times as strong as the background noise of the same frequency. As a result, any usage of radar alerts the enemy far beyond the effective radar range, solves his IFF problem and gives him a perfect beacon to guide his missiles. This means that the ultra-expensive F-22 is effectively a visual-range-only fighter, but in that mode it is disadvantaged due to its large size and high weight.

*[Except in ideal conditions through use of ISAR image, but even in ideal conditions range is less than IRST’s; usage of jamming, unknown external loads or maneuvering can severely degrade range or even prevent identification alltogether. Since radar has to dwell a long time on the target, and target must move in a predictable manner for relatively long time, ISAR is only usable against ground targets. Another similar technique, jet engine modulation, which uses jet turbine signature to identify the aircraft, is no more than 30% reliable and is useless if there is jamming or if the engine face is hidden – as it is in almost all modern fighters. For this reason, radar requires IFF transmitters to discern friend from foe, but pilots tend to shut these down in order to avoid being tracked – unless they are fighting incompetent opponent].

Another factor is that any bogeys attacking are likely to approach from the rear. But except for the relatively short-range missile warners, only sensors on a standard fighter aircraft capable of covering the rear hemisphere are pilot’s own eyes. Missile warners also do not guard against the gun attacks, which remain the best option for a quick surprise kill.

Due to consequentually overwhelming importance of visual and IR sensors, signature reduction measures will be focused on visual and IR domains (small size, ability to fly supersonically without afterburner). Initial detection range for PIRATE against a subsonic fighter is 145 km from the rear and 90 km from the front; supercruising at Mach 1,7 adds 10% to the range, and using afterburner increases fighter’s IR signature even more.

Avoiding getting surprised is achieved with good all-around situational awareness via good visibility from the cockpit and good RWR and IR sensor coverage. Many characteristics required for achieving surprise (such as small visual and IR signatures, passive-only sensors and high cruise speed) also help figher to avoid getting surprised. Unlike IRST, radar has no ability to detect an incoming air-to-air missile, and radar-based missile warners have limited range compared to IR MAWS. Radio and datalinks can also help, though they are likely to get jammed.

“As technology advances, we will rely more and more on passive sensors and visual search. This will be the case in a full-stealth environment. The radar cross section of an aircraft will be a fraction of what it is in today’s fighters. Detection using conventional radar will be difficult and likely to occur at a greatly reduced range. The aircraft that illuminates first will be quickly detected and targeted by accurate, state-of-the-art passive sensors. The importance of visual detection has not diminished with technological advances.”

– S.Schallhorn, K.Daill, W.B.Cushman, R.Unterreiner, A.Morris – “Visual search in the air combat”

Canopy should provide a 360* horizontal visibility, 15* over-the-nose visibility and 40* over-the-side visibility. Helmet should be lightweight and should not restrain the vision – no part of the helmet should be visible to the pilot wearing it. It should be fitted with a dark visor that can be quickly flipped into position, but visor should not be used unless absolutely necessary as even a clear visor degrades vision to some extent, and reduces visual depth of field. HMD in particular should not be used, as it can cause data overload in addition to reducing visual acuity; high off-bore aiming should be provided with a simple wire aid. Anything inside the cockpit should be dark and nonreflective. Rear-view mirrors should be placed outside the canopy, else their effectiveness will be nullified by canopy reflections. Airspeed and altitude measurements should be displayed on HUD.

Higher cruise speed is required in order to make rear-quadrant approaches as enemy is comparably blind in that sector; maximum cruise speed should be maintainable for 20+ minutes that fighter spends in the enemy air space, plus 200+ miles (322+ km) subsonic transit to and from the operations area, and additional 2 minutes of maximum afterburner. It also gives a fighter excess kinetic energy, increasing range of its missiles and allowing it to dictate terms of the engagement. It can also offset a possible situational awareness disadvantage – knowing where the enemy is is of little use if you can’t engage him. Supercruise requirement dictates a wing with 45* or greater sweep.

Maneuvering performance requires good ability to transit from one maneuver to another (roll onset, turn onset, pitch onset; roll performance could be identified as time to roll 90 degrees and then 180 degrees in another direction) as well as outturn, outclimb, outaccelerate and outdecelerate the opponent. Transient performance requires good wing response to control surface inputs in order to achieve maximum abruptness of maneuver while still retaining control, and also low weight to reduce inertia. Roll performance, which factors in a transient performance, requires low wing span. As mentioned before, rolls of more than 180* are rarely required in air combat, and maximum roll rate may not be reached during such short periods of roll; therefore, greater emphasis should be placed on the roll onset rate than on the maximum steady-state roll rate. Roll acceleration is a function of control power, but also of moment of inertia. Greater total weight and farther distribution from the fuselage axis both produce greater roll inertia. For this reason small single-engined fighters tend to have best roll performance. Transient roll performance is particularly important for guns defense, and also for missile defense, as this video shows.

Pitch rate is a combination of turn rate and angle of attack increase. Faster pitch onset typically results in a faster turn onset, and can also help in gun tracking. Pitch performance results from effectiveness of the pitch control and fighter’s resistance to pitch. AoA increase is useless beyond the stall onset angle, and maximum lift AoA cannot be achieved above corner speed due to g limits. Best pitch performance typically corresponds to best instantaneous turn performance.

Turn performance requires good lift-to-weight ratio, best approximated with wing loading, and aircraft with lower wing loading tend to have advantage in both instantaneous and sustained turn rate. Lift is particularly important for instantaneous turn performance, and is limiting factor below the corner velocity. Minimum sustained turn radius is typically achieved at 1,4-1,5 times the power-on stall speed, which is far less than speed for sustained turn rate. Sustained g capability is proportional to thrust-to-drag ratio; therefore a fighter with low thrust-to-weight but high lift-to-drag ratio can posses a better sustained turn capability than a high TWR fighter. If both fighters have same sustained g, one with lower wing loading will have better turn rate and radius. Climb performance requires good lift-to-weight ratio and thrust-to-weight ratio.

Acceleration requires high thrust-to-drag ratio, approximated through thrust-to-weight ratio, while deceleration requires ability to achieve high induced drag on demand. Acceleration can be approximated through climb rate. It should be noted that air combat alternates between maximum turn and maximum acceleration, with little time spent in sustained turn conditions, in order to remain as unpredictable as possible to an unseen attacker. Instantaneous turn performance coupled with transient performance is especially important for defeating gun or missile firing solution. Advent of missiles has placed increased emphasis on maneuvering performance by eliminating the non-maneuvering accelerating escape used to defeat gun attacks (except at relatively long ranges, but missiles are rarely used at ranges approaching their maximum ballistic range), which has historically prevailed; in case of either gun or missile attack, however, transient and instantaneous turn performance is the most critical for either attack or defense from the attack succeeding.

Drag can be reduced by minimizing aircraft surface area and minimizing its frontal area. Induced drag (produced during maneuvering) is minimized by reducing the wing sweep. It is also reduced by reducing the weight, since less weight requires less lift for a given turn performance. However, high energy loss rate might be desireable in some circumstances. Wave drag is reduced by sweeping the wings and reducing the aircraft cross-sectional area. Drag is especially high in the transonic region, where parts of the air flow over the airframe are supersonic while other parts remain subsonic; lower end of this area is at Mach 0,8-0,9, while higher end is at Mach 1,1-1,2.

Maneuvering endurance should also be good so as to minimize a possibility of running out of the fuel during a dogfight. High fuel fraction is achieved by a maximum simplicity of design as well as high fuel volume; latter can be achieved through wing-body blending (this approach has several other benefits, such as improved lift when turning and reduced drag). Low fuel consumption ironically is best achieved by very high thrust-to-weight ratio, thus minimizing number of tasks which require usage of afterburner. It is also helped by a single-engine design. Another requirement is combat radius, which is also helped by the high fuel fraction. Combat radius might be extended by external fuel tanks, but that is not a perfect solution as fuel tanks take up avaliable hardpoints, reduce cruise speed, and are inefficient (half of the fuel in external tanks is used to counter increased drag).

Dry thrust drops to 50% at 6.500 m / 21.000 ft and to 25% at 12.000 m / 39.400 ft. Afterburning thrust drops to 50% at 12.000 m / 39.400 ft, to 16% at 15.000 m / 50.000 ft and to 10% at 18.000 m / 60.000 ft. SFC is affected by speed and altitude – an engine with SFC of 1,8 at Mach 0 and sea level will have SFC of 2,0 at Mach 1,6 and 50.000 ft, and 1,95 at Mach 1,2 and same altitude.

In terms of weapons, emphasis should be placed on surprise and achieving kills quickly. Weapons should be easy to use, reliable, non-counterable and effective. Achieiving reliable kills requires creating and exploiting firing opportunities. In terms of weapons range, firing opportunities are limited by range at which positive identification can be achieved, typically visually (by eye or by visual sensors) – beyond visual range missiles tend to have maximum range well in excess of identification range of visual sensors. This does change if possible target uses active sensors which can then be used to identify it; in this case, identification tends to happen well outside weapons range. IFF is not useful as it is typically shut down to prevent enemy from tracking one’s aircraft, and random intermingling of aircraft makes it almost impossible to use it to sort friend from foe (both aspects were absent from Gulf Wars due to Iraqi’s incompetence). Other limitation in this regard is weapons’ acquisition and engagement envelope: gun can fire only forward, while missiles have limitations in terms of minimum range, ability to engage off-bore targets and target acquisition time. Background clutter can hamper both identification and engagement, and enemy can always use maneuvers to hamper engagement.

Fighter should also have adequate ammunition aboard to facilitate several kills. This is easy calculated by multiplying number of missiles and gun bursts with probability of kill of any given type of missile or gun. In the Korean war, linear-action guns achieved 0,31 kills per firing pass. Rotary guns used in the Vietnam war achieved 0,26 kills per firing pass due to slow fire rate acceleration, low lethality per round and slow flight speed beyond 1.000 feet. As for missiles, AIM-9 achieved 0,15-0,19 kills per firing attempt depending on model, while AIM-7 achieved between 0,08 and 0,1 kills per firing attempt. Both of these values are likely to be towards the lower end in combat between modern fighters.

Most reliable, easiest to use, hardest to counter and overall most effective weapon is gun/cannon (difference being in that cannon uses explosive projectiles and are typically 20+ mm in caliber) and visual-range IR missile, followed by BVR IR missile and only then by radar-guided missile (air-to-air anti-radiation missiles are in between the BVR IR missiles and radar-guided missiles, but these are not in a typical employ of the Western air forces). Rules of gun combat have remained mostly the same. Attack has to be made from as close distance as possible in order to reduce dispersion; obviously, high-calibre revolver cannons have advantage in effective range over rotary counterparts due to less projectile dispersal. They also tend to have higher effective firepower: in close combat, it is imperative to get shot off nearly instantly in case that tracking shots are impossible or enemy tries to defeat it by changing plane of turn by rolling, and while rotary guns take some time to achieve maximum rate of fire, revolver and linear action cannons achieve it almost instantaneously. Motion imparted by rotating barrels and vibrations produced by rotation can lead to major reduction in gun accuracy. Gun does have to be placed in a way that will avoid ingestion of gasses produced by the aircraft engine. IR missiles are also effective as they help maintain surprise, while radar missiles are only effective against non-maneuvering or lightly maneuvering targets.

In order to facilitate road basing, wing span should be less than 8,75 meters, with 7,4 meters being optimum. In order to facilitate dirt strip basing, air intakes should be 100-170 cm above the ground to minimize possibility of FOD ingestion, and should have FOD screens. Wheels should also be proportionally large.


Number of engines

Single engined fighters tend to be smaller, lighter, cheaper to buy and operate, easier to maintain and better optimized aerodynamically (better lift-to-weight, lift-to-drag and thrust-to-drag ratios); they are also regularly more fuel-efficient and have higher fuel fraction. Yet there is a belief that single-engined fighters are inherently less survivable than twin-engined fighters.

While this definetly does hold true for the ground attack aircraft, it is far less clear-cut for fighters. If a twin-engined aircraft loses a single engine, it immediately looses 50% of the thrust and 81% of the performance, making it a sitting duck and easily killed by the opponent. Single engined fighters meanwhile tend to be smaller and lighter, which automatically improves survivability in a dogfight. Further, small size tends to make them easier camouflaged on the ground, and larger number of aircraft in the air can help survivability as well.

Twin engined designs do not necessarily have better peacetime survivability either. F-106, despite being single-engined, had 15 losses in first 90.000 hours, compared to 17 for the F-4. In the first 213.000 hours, it had 26 losses, compared to 44 for the F-4. It can be seen that the more complex F-4 had worse loss rate than the F-106 despite having two engines, and while F-106s loss rate improved, F-4s grew worse. Single-engined F-105 also had low peacetime loss rate, and most losses of both the F-16 and the F-18 were due to human screw-ups. Another reason is the fact that the F-16s are multirole fighters and often fly very fast close to the ground, plus being a first relaxed stability design operational. Swedish JAS-39 has a better safety record than the F-18 despite having one engine less – 13% of Canada’s CF-18s have been lost in crashes compared to 2% of Gripens; a loss rate of 0,36% per year versus 0,08% per year for Gripens. Comparing JAS-39 (Gripen) with EF-2000 (Eurofighter Typhoon), Gripen suffered 5 crashes total in 203.000 flight hours. None were related to either engine or aerodynamic configuration of the aircraft: 2 were due to underdeveloped FCS, 2 were due to the pilot error and 1 was due to ejection seat issue. Typhoon suffered 3 crashes total in 240.000 flight hours. One was due to double engine flameout and two due to unexplained reasons. Rafale suffered 4 crashes in 64.000 hours. F-15 had a crash rate of 2,36 per 100.000 hours. F-18 crash rate is 3,6 per 100.000 hours.

MiG-21 is much maligned in India due to its high crash rate. However, many crashes are not a result of the single-engined design but rather of bad cockpit visibility and high landing speed. Further, MiG-21s have high total crash numbers because they constitute 75% of the IAF fighter fleet. Other problems include lack of simulators and inadequate maintenance. Many MiG-21s, and majority of spare parts, were produced locally in India and were not up to Russian (let alone Western) standards. Lastly, twin-engined MiG-23 actually had higher crash rate than MiG-21.

In the end, theoretical superior peacetime survivability of a twin-engined aircraft is neither large or certain enough to offset lower combat survivability, typically smaller fleet size, higher maintenance downtime and higher operating cost. (A more extensive article regarding single vs twin engined fighter issue will follow sometime after this article).

Design outline

Engine used will be EJ200 variant, as EJ200 is the modern engine that is closest to turbofan (except for the excessively large PW F119). EJ200 is also designed to have high amount of resistance to FOD, and has a comparably simple design. Like the F414, it uses a blisk (bladed disk) for its fans and compressors, improving maintenability and FOD resistence.

EJ230 variant has been tested in 2010, and EJ270 variant should be avaliable after 2015.

Data is as follows (EJ230):


Dry: 7.348 kgf

Afterburning: 10.478 kgf


Dry: 0,74 kg / kgf*h

Afterburning: 1,7 kg / kgf*h

Fuel consumption

Dry: 5.438 kg/h

Afterburning: 17.812 kg/h

Pilot’s seat will be reclined back 29 degress to help tolerate the g forces. Standard AoA limit will be 28*.

Basic configuration will be a close-coupled canard-delta. This will allow excellent maneuverability by delaying stall and thus allowing higher maximum lift, and also by reducing drag due to larger amount of vortex lift. Instantaneous turn rate will be significantly improved through dynamic stall, as a stall of pitching up wing gets delayed to angle of attack well above that of a static stall angle. Safety will also be improved, as free-floating close coupled canards make aircraft stable, allowing pilot to use analogue system to fly it without need for a computer help. Close-coupled canard configurations are naturally dynamically unstable as canard moves center of lift forward, and canard is located in wing’s upwash; dynamic instability also allows for better response to control surface inputs than standard static instability does (better pitch rate through the mean angle of attack range and pitch/turn onset rate). A properly positioned canard creates a low pressure region on front part of the wing upper surface which has a significant contribution to lift. However, canard has to be relatively high above wing’s plane else it will reduce lifting ability of the wing at low angles of attack due to canard’s downwash; on the other hand, downwash can serve to reduce wing’s effective angle of attack and delay separation at high angles of attack (cca 18-20* and above). Since aircraft spend combat time at either maximum turn or maximum acceleration, that loss will not adversely affect combat performance, though it will harm STOL performance. Lower-swept wing (44-45*) is less affected by negative effects of downwash on wing lift than higher-swept wings (60*), and presence of the canard may cause it to produce significant amounts of the side-edge vortex lift on the low swept wing. While canard strake can delay the canard stall, there is little effect on the wing lift. Another advantage of a close-coupled canard is greater trim control.

High canard configuration produces significantly more lift at high angles of attack than coplanar or low canard configuration, as well as the most linear pitching moment curve (low canard configuration can in fact decrease lift by causing a formation of the low pressure area at the wing underside). Maximum lift gain with the close-coupled canard can be 20-50% when compared to a sum of lift produced by the canard and the wing on their own, meaning that higher wing loading may be acceptable; larger canards also tend to produce greater lift coefficients, and adding a strake to the canard can improve lift generation capability. In fact, lift gain from a close-coupled canard is typically twice of what could be expected by simply adding canard area to area of the wing itself, though it can be far more (a canard with 9% of the wing area in one case increased maximum lift by 34%). F-4 equipped with a foreplane was able to pull a full g more at 470 kph and 9.000 meters, reducing time needed for a 180* turn by 30 seconds, and had 14 kph lower approach speed. Saab Viggen similarly used canards to increase lift at low speeds and reduce landing and takeoff speeds for STOL capability. Modern unstable close-coupled canards have lift-drag ratios in the level flight and at low AoA comparable to those of the conventional aircraft as canard is trimmed for minimum drag in level flight, while at high AoA there is a large improvement in a lift-to-drag ratio compared to the conventional aircraft in addition to the favorable trimmed lift interference. Both lift and lift/drag ratios are enhanced at all angles of attack above cca 10*, while optimizing canard for maximum lift at 10* angle causes a large drag penalty; for this reason canard will be set to minimize drag at low AoA. Lift enhancement will start above cca 12-15* AoA. Maximum lift coefficient (and thus turn rate) can be expected at 32* AoA. Lift/drag ratio decreases at very high angles of attack, indicating that significant thrust levels will be required, though not as significant as for conventional configuration with thrust vectoring. Increasing the size of canard does increase maximum lift up to canard/wing size ratio of 0,25; any further increases result in a loss of the lift. Presence of canard eliminates wing vortex breakdown, allowing vertical tail to remain effective at comparably high angles of attack, as well as allowing far higher maximum angles of attack to be achieved (110* for close-coupled canard configuration vs 70* for long arm canard configuration). Canard area should be 16-21% of the wing area, and canard trailling area should be slightly in front of the wing leading area and not overlap, else a loss of lift occurs.

In the supersonic flight, close-coupled canards suffer from smaller center of lift shift, maintaining maneuvering advantages of unstable aircraft for longer – studies show that effectiveness of canard in increasing lift and decreasing drag is independent of Mach number. Another advantage is that canard produces upload in supersonic maneuvre while tail produces download as tailed aircraft is now stable, giving a superior lift/drag ratio in maneuvre when compared to tailed aircraft, as well as superior lift-to-weight ratio. Absence of tailplane and the canard’s position above the wing also results in a lower supersonic drag, as there is no interference drag which is present in a tailed configuration. Close coupled canard’s benefits do reduce with increasing Mach number, however, and above Mach 2 may be negative. Canards are best used on aircraft intended for supersonic cruise and transonic maneuver.

When comparing various canard sweep angles (25*, 45*, 60*), 60* swept canard produced maximum lift while maximum L/D ratio was developed with a 25* swept canard; thus a 45* sweep can be considered optimal compromise.

Delta wing allows good lift-to-weight ratio due to the large surface area and relatively low weight of the wing itself. One of reasons for its good lift production is that large part of the wing area is near the wing root, and is thus less affected by the spanwise loss of lift which occurs towards the wing tips. Nonslender delta wings (<55* wing sweep) allow for air flow reattachment even after breakdown reaches the apex of the wing, however vortex generating surfaces (LERX and close-coupled canards) are required for flow reattachment at high angles of attack in the post-stall region. Flexible wing can increase lift and delay stall compared to the nonflexible wing of the same geometry. This effect is helped by vibrations which promote reattachment of the shear layer and thus lift enhancement. Moderate wing sweep angles (around 50°) help formation of semi-open separation bubbles, helping flow reattachment.

Region between the trailling vortices is also subject to downwash, which affects the classical tail control surfaces. Trailling-vortex drag also represents approximately 75% of the drag in maneuvering combat and 50% in subsonic cruise. For this reason aspect ratio (span squared divided by wing area) has a major influence on drag. Low span loading reduces drag in both cruise and maneuvering flight; as a result, low wing sweep wings are more efficient. However, aspect ratio for combat aircraft should not be higher than 3,5, as wave drag is dominant at supersonic speeds. Relaxed static stability combined with delta wing means that elevon trimming loads in level flight are positive, with elevons adding to lift. Another effect is a reduction of supersonic trim drag. Delta wing also has a benefit of more gradual transonic drag rise and lower supersonic peak drag. 45* wing sweep is the minimum required for efficient supercruise.

Additional benefit of the delta wing is reduction of aerodynamic centre shift. Combined with similar effects of the close-coupled canards, this results in a major increase in a supersonic maneuverability, as well as greater possible variation in external loads. With unstable delta wing trimming actually improves lift in level flight by 20% or more.

Using sharp LERX (maneuver strake) combined with close-coupled canard can promote vortex interaction, strengthening wing and inner canard vortices and delaying air flow separation further than either device could do by itself. Canard leading edge vortex will also move downwards and inwards (improving body lift) and LERX vortex will move outwards (improving wing lift); outer canard vortex will remain unaffected and energize outer portion of the wing. Maneuver strake is best combined with relatively low-sweep wing. LERX also improves typical benefits of a standard delta wing, which are a consequence of a large amount of the vortex lift. Aside from delaying air flow separation and thus improving maximum lift, these vortices also serve to improve directional stability and spin recovery characteristics, although none of these benefits are as pronounced with LERX as they are with close-coupled canards; best effects are achieved by using both canards and strakes. This allows wing to be smaller for the same amount of maximum lift, thus reducing wing span and roll inertia.

Overall, delta wing with close-coupled canards produces significant improvements in maneuvering ability and controllability in all axes, including those typically thought to be exclusive to thrust vectoring – such as extensive supersonic and post-stall maneuvering capability. To quote John M Kersh: “a properly located closecoupled canard can greatly enhance lift at high angles of attack with no drag penalty when compared to a wing/body configuration. If it is desired to perhaps more elegantly enhance lift at higher angles of attack and avoid some of the pitfalls associated with thrust vectoring — such as the expense, weight penalty, and excessive fuel consumption — the use of a close-coupled canard may be an excellent choice.” Close coupled canards provide a natural resistance to departure from a controlled flight, and unlike long-coupled canards, they have proven spin recovery capability for complete cg and AOR range as well as superstall recovery capability.

In order to reduce drag, all pylons should have sharply swept leading edge. Straight tip with launcher rail can improve lift/drag ratio of wing, and cropping required to mount the launcher rail avoids tip drag at high angles of attack. When aircraft reaches a transonic region, wave drag appears, causing a major rise in a total drag. At supersonic speeds, wing sweep is required to reduce wave drag and avoid usage of sharp leading edges, which would cause unacceptable maneuvering performance. Another cause of supersonic drag is trim drag; since aerodynamic centre moves aft with increasing speed, greater control surface deflection is required to negate any pitch-down moment. Since close-coupled canard-delta aircraft suffer from a smaller aerodynamic centre shift at supersonic speeds compared to the tailed configuration, thus reducing trim drag, they would appear to be ideal for supersonic cruise. There is also no adverse tailplane / afterbody pressure drag interference. Wing does have to be stiffer as trailling edge surfaces are ones providing roll control. Wingtip launcher rail can improve lift/drag ratio. Frontal crossectional area should be reduced as much as possible in order to keep drag down, and airframe should conform to the area ruling – while not necessary for the supersonic flight, it results in a major transonic drag reduction. Area ruling means that body crossectional area should be reduced as wing crossection increases. Tail cone can be long and without control surfaces in order to reduce aft body drag; this will also allow usage of air brakes.

Vertically, wing should be positioned mid-body with large degree of wing-body blending. Beneficial effects of such configuration include reducing drag in level flight (due to elimination of interference drag from wing-body juncture as well as reduction in wave drag), increasing lift at high angles of attack and increasing avaliable fuel volume. Disadvantage is a heavier structure due to need to reinforce the wing structure at base of the wing. Negative dihedral can be incorporated in order to increase roll sensitivity.

Wing thickness should be 3-4% near the tip and 6-8% near the root to reduce supersonic drag and eliminate shock stall. Any lower thickness would lead to too heavy wing and too much drag due to the lift. Separation due to the low thickness can be supressed with leading-edge flap, leading to improved airfield performance and reduced drag. Aerofoil should be supercritical.

Trailling edge control surfaces (ailerons/flaperons) should be sharp. Outboard aileron placement provides large moment arm when rolling, but this limits allowable wing twist due to aileron reversal effect, requiring stiffer wing. Inboard placement allows for a more flexible wing. However, canards can help prevent wing tip stall, and high lift devices are better placed inboard in order to reduce fatigue on the wing. Ailerons should also be relatively large so as to allow acceptable roll response during times when wing is generating large amount of lift.

Leading edge flaps can be used in a sawtooth configuration to help prevent the separation on the outboard part of the wing by producing vortex. This vortex also helps improve the longitudinal stability and reduce the buffet levels, as well as prevent the outboard spread of the stall. Flaps can also reduce drag by 10-20% for a given lift coefficient. High lift devices should take up cca 70% of the wing span and =<20% of the wing chord.

Rafale-style air intakes provide good air flow at high sideslip angles and angles of attack. Boundary layer means that the intakes will be offset from the fuselage by 1% of their distance from the nose, by using a boundary layer bleed. Inlet placement will energize the airflow over the wing and around the vertical tail fin; combined with LERX and canards, it will allow much higher controlled angle of attack, and reduce drag. However, intakes also have to be placed in front of canards in order to stop the wake from canard from entering the intakes, and they should also be in front of the front wheel to prevent FOD damage.

Landing gear bay doors should open forward, acting as air brakes when landing. Canards and elevons should also be used as air brakes. Landing gear itself should be of a tricycle configuration, with nose landing gear being just aft or just forward of the air intakes in order to minimize possibility of FOD and aft landing gear being to the sides of the engine. This configuration also makes aircraft directionally stable while taxiing, improving safety during cross-wing landing. It also allows a better view for the pilot while landing. Nose gear will use two wheels to allow ctapult assisted takeoff. Overturn angle (angle between vertical axis going from center of gravity and the line between center of gravity and main gear wheel) should be at least 25*. Angle between the wheel base and lower end of the engine nozzle should be at least 15-20 degrees. Nose wheel will be steerable.

IR signature should be reduced as much as possible. Largest source of the IR signature on the aircraft is the engine, due to both exhaust plume and rear airframe heating. Since usage of afterburner leads to a major increase in IR signature, it should be minimized. This video quite clearly shows the effects of airframe heating due to the engine operation as well as the effects of afterburner usage. Non-afterburning plume actually has less significant IR signature level (IRSL) than tailpape and rear fuselage skin, since only IR radiation from broadening wings of the plume reaches the IR detector. Notched nozzle can reduce the length of the hottest part of the plume and facilitate radial spreading of the jet exhaust and its mixing with the ambient air.

Other sources are aerodynamic heating of the airframe, sunshine and earthshine reflections and electronics. Parts of the airframe that are most subject to the aerodynamic heating are those in most direct contact with the air stream – aircraft nose, wing and vertical tail leading edges, inlet lips, drop tank and missile noses. Swept pylons might reduce IR signature somewhat, but greatest reduction is avoiding usage of drop tanks. Minimizing amount of electronics also reduces the need for cooling, reducing IR signature. IR absorbent paint is another possibility, but some such paints increase aerodynamic drag, thus increasing IR signature.

RCS, while not as important as visual, IR and EM (electromagnetic emissions) signatures, should not be ignored, as smaller RCS provides more time for RWRs to sort out incoming radar signals, and increases effectiveness of ECM. Many aerodynamic and IR signature reduction characteristics will also reduce the RCS, such as swept wings and pylons. Engine front face should be shielded, and landing gear bay doors should have swept or sawtooth design on leading and trailling edges.

Nose will be as short as possible and pointed downwards to allow for a good over-the-nose visibility, while still providing enough room for required equipment (sensors). Strakes can be used to help stabilize the vortices and prevent adverse yaw. Elliptical nose is stabilizing along the longer but destabilizing along the shorter axis – horizontally aligned elliptic nose produces a significant pitch-up moment. While horizontally stabilizing nose may be beneficial in preventing a spin, it can aso prevent, or make more difficult, a spin recovery if spin actually develops.

Cockpit should have a bubble canopy with relatively high-positioned pilot seat in order to provide as good visibility as possible, not only over the nose but also rearward and over the side. Visibility should be 360* horizontal, 15* over-the-nose and 40* over-the-side, though having a fixed windshield might be useful in the event of the canopy failure.

Vertical tail fin will be located at top of the aft fuselage. Height from the ground to the top of the vertical fin should be less than 4,8 meters, though larger fin might be required for sufficient directional stability. Destabilising effect of the forward fuselage depends on the fuselage height squared and the length ahead of the centre of gravity. It will have dorsal fairing to increase effectiveness at high sideslip angle. Ventral fins might be used to reduce the need for large dorsal tail fin, as they are mounted in the clean air at high angles of attack.

Wing loading at combat configuration should be between 190 and 280 kg/m2, with target goal being around 250 kg/m2. Wing span should be less than 8,5 meters, preferably around 7,4 meters. Aside from improving basing ability, low wing span will improve roll performance. Low wing loading improves airfield performance, instantaneous and sustained turn rates at both subsonic and supersonic speeds, and ceillings.

RWR antenna spacing of 25 wavelengths is required for 0,1* accuracy. As X-band radar has a wave length of up to 3,75 cm, 94 cm distance between receivers will be required. On the other hand, antennas should be placed as close possible to the body of the aircraft so that there is a minimum of aeroelastic warping, and spacing of 9,4 cm is enough for 1* accuracy.

Design outline – summary

* single engine

* wingspan between 7,4 and 8,74 meters

* front landing gear behind air intakes

* large wheels and wide landing gear base

* ground clearance 100-170 cm

* IRST a primary sensor

* good visibility from cockpit (360* horizontal, 15* over the nose, 40* over the side)

** 16,35* over the nose achieved

* 45*-55* wing sweep

* high fuel fraction

* canard area 16-21% of the wing area; canard sweep 45*

* LERX sweep 73*

* wing aspect ratio <3,5 * wing thickness 3-4% at tip, 6-8% at the root * flaps 70% of the wing span * air intakes akin to Rafale * Overturn angle (angle between vertical axis going from center of gravity and the line between center of gravity and main gear wheel) >=25*.

* Angle between the wheel base and lower end of the engine nozzle >=15-20 degrees.

* notched engine nozzle

* 4,8 m from ground to top of the vertical tail fin

* RWR antenna spacing >94 cm


As PIRATE has 40 km identification range (target of unknown size), 80 km range MICA IR should be more than adequate as a basic BVR missile, with Meteor being used in beyond radar range engagements with RWR providing the IFF. MICA can also be used as a secondary IRST, allowing better coverage of a frontal area than PIRATE by itself would allow.

Basic WVR missile will be IRIS-T, with other options being A-Darter and Python 5. IRIS-T is capable of 60 g peak at Mach 3 with weight of 87,4 kg and range of 25 km, while A-Darter should be capable of 100 g peak at Mach 3 with weight of 93 kg and range of 10 km.

To compare, Mach 1 at 30.000 feet is 589 knots, and at 40.000 feet and above it is 573 knots. As pointed out here, in order to pull as tight turn as a fighter aircraft, missile has to pull amount of g that is amount of g’s aircraft can pull multiplied by difference in speed squared. This means that A-Darter will have 2,1 times as wide turn radius as a Rafale pulling sustained 9 g turn at 360 kts at 40.000 feet. When avoiding the missile, however, roll and instantaneous turn performance are more important. Rafale pulling 10 g at 440 kts will result in Darter having 2,7 times as large turn radius as Rafale. This makes it clear that missiles are not end-all of aerial combat, and gun is still necessary.

Gun will be French GIAT 30 due to high firing acceleration, rate of fire and round weight combining to give it highest firepower of all current cannons in first half a second; round weight combined with high muzzle velocity gives it large effective range. This can be seen when comparing the GIAT 30 with M61 and BK.27.

Data is as follows:

Gun: GIAT 30

Round weight: 530 g

Projectile weight: 275 g

HE/I content: 17,5%

Muzzle velocity: 1.025 m/s

Maximum rate of fire: 2.500 rpm

Time to max RoF: 0,05 s

Rounds in first 0,25 s: 9

Rounds in first 0,5 s: 19

Weight in first 0,25 s: 2,48 kg (0,43 kg HEI)

Weight in first 0,5 s: 5,23 kg (0,92 kg HEI)

High acceleration and rate of fire, heavy round weight, high HE/I content and high muzzle velcoity combine to make GIAT 30 the best air-to-air cannon in existence. Rate of fire can be reduced to 1.500 rpm, giving 12 rounds and 3,3 kg in first 0,5 s.

Gun: M61A2

Round weight: 263 g

Projectile weight: 100 g

HE/I content: 11%

Muzzle velocity: 1.030 m/s

Maximum rate of fire: 6.600 rpm

Time to max RoF: 0,5 s

Rounds in first 0,25 s: 13

Rounds in first 0,5 s: 27

Weight in first 0,25 s: 1,3 kg (0,14 kg HEI)

Weight in first 0,5 s: 2,7 kg (0,3 kg HEI)

As it can be seen, GIAT 30 can throw 190% as much weight and 300% as much HEI in first 0,25 s, or 194% as much weight and 307% as much HEI in first 0,5 seconds.

Gun: BK-27

Round weight: 516 g

Projectile weight: 260 g

HE/I content: 15%

Muzzle velocity: 1.100 m/s

Maximum rate of fire: 1.700 rpm

Time to max RoF: 0,05 s

Rounds in first 0,25 s: 7

Rounds in first 0,5 s: 14

Weight in first 0,25 s: 1,82 kg (0,27 kg HEI)

Weight in first 0,5 s: 3,64 kg (0,55 kg HEI)

BK-27 has advantage in firepower over the M61A2 but it can only throw 73% as much weight and 63% as much HEI as GIAT 30 can in first 0,25 seconds, or 70% as much weight and 60% as much HEI in first 0,5 seconds. It only surpasses GIAT 30 in destructiveness if latter’s rate of fire is reduced to 1.500 rpm.

Sensors, communications and defense suite

Primary sensor will be Skyward IRST coupled with Type 158 laser rangefinder. Rangefinder will be turreted.


Defense suite will be SAABs IDAS-3. Radar warning system will cover UHF-Ku bands, and use interferometric technology for 1* accuracy and geolocation capability. Internal jammer will be DRFM MDS. Missile warning will be provided by IR version of MAW-300. Brite Cloud decoy jammers will be used in dispensers. Each dispenser will have 39 flares or 19 decoys. While typical flares are ineffective against imaging IR missiles, liquid fuel pyrophoric decoys might provide some level of effectiveness against them, depending on wether missiles in question are designed to home in on the exhaust plume or the airframe itself. BriteCloud decoy will be the primary jamming device as internal jammer can cause missiles to home in on the jammer’s emissions. This is not very likely with a DRFM or deceptive jamming, but it does mean that using more classical types of jamming (barrage, base and possibly pulse) is not advisable, and that offboard jamming devices are a preferred option. Internal jammer can still be useful for jamming missile’s radar or fuse.

Data link will be MIDS FDL, and radio will be IDM. IDM also has ability to act as a secondary data link.

If necessary, an X-band air-to-air radar will be used in an external pod – this should be primarly useful for intercepting bombers and transports, though a dedicated bomber interceptor aircraft (such as the F-15 variant) is a preferred option, with FLX left free to focus on the air superiority.


HUD will be same as in Gripen.

Final design



Helmet will not have HMD or it will be optional; it will however provide HOBS capability. As a result, current Tornado helmet might be the best option; another possibility is to mount Scorpion HMCS on a relatively lightweight helmet, or simply use a wire aid.

tornado HMCSHGU55P_with_Scorpion_and_Clear_Day_Visor_5b

HMD might however be helpful for night and bad-weather flying, in which case Thales Topsight E will be used.


Before using the HMD, a basic night vision gear should be tested for the purpose.


It should be interesting to note that a first powered fixed-wing manned aircraft, 1903 Wright Flyer, was an unstable canard-wing configuration. In Flyer’s case, canard provided only control power and not lift. First jet fighter to use wing sweep for its aerodynamic advantage, as well as first fighter to use LERX to increase wing lift at high AoA was Saab J29 Tunnan. J-35 Draken was the first double delta and remained in service for 45 years. Saab Gripen was second modern canard-delta design, entering production only one year after Dassault Rafale.

Design calculations

Airframe area

Forebody: 5.280 cm2 = 5,7 ft2
Air ducts: 114*2*39*pi + 2*350*19*pi = 27.935 cm2 + 41.783 cm2 = 69.718 cm2 = 75 ft2
Canards: 10.122 cm2 = 10,9 ft2
Wings: 203.644 cm2 = 219,2 ft2
Vertical stabilizer: 33.496 cm2 = 36 ft2
Fuselage: 524 cm*764 cm + 415*230 cm = 495.786 cm2 = 533,7 ft2
Splitter plates: 5.300 cm2 = 5,7 ft2

Airframe weight

Forebody: 9,7 kg * 2
Air ducts: 128,1 kg * 2
Canards: 18 kg * 2
Wings: 336 kg * 2
Vertical stabilizer: 58,9 kg
Fuselage: 911,1 kg * 2
Splitter plates: 10 kg

Total: 2.874,7 kg

Wing area

Wing + body: 177.160 + 168.270 + 34.000 = 379.430 cm2 = 37,9 m2

Wings themselves: 121.626 px2 * 2 = 243.252 cm2 = 24,3 m2

Canards: 5.061 px2 * 2 = 10.122 px2 = 1,01 m2

If standard wing area calculation approach is included (that is, includes surface of body between the wings, as seen here), then FLXs wing area is 32,4 m2.


Equipment weight

(Dimensions: L:W:H)

EJ230: 1.235 kg installed weight, 4 m length, 0,737 m diameter

GIAT 30: 120 kg, 2,4 m length

Skyward IRST: 30 kg * 3
Type 158 laser transciever: 3,4 kg * 1, 251x105x104 mm
RWS-300 Dual Front End Receiver: 2,5 kg * 2; 170x40x220 mm
RWS-300 0,7-40 GHz Spiral Antenna: 0,5 kg * 6; 110x110x67,5 mm
LWS-310 sensor: 1 kg * 4; 115x90x76 mm
MAW-300 sensor: 2,2 kg * 4; 134x130x130 mm

BOP dispenser: 2 kg * 8; 236x128x270 mm
Flare: 0,215 kg * 156
BriteCloud decoy/jammer: 0,7 kg * 76, 200 mm l
MDS DRFM jammer: 5,9 kg * 1, 121x149x305 mm

Skyward IRST processor unit: 25 kg * 1
Laser electronics unit: 1,3 kg * 1; 150x103x75 mm
EWC-300 Controller: 10 kg * 1; 193x359x124 mm
Safety switch unit: 0,7 kg * 2, 82 mm length, 65 mm width, 11 mm height
FCS: 16 kg * 2, 85 mm length, 85 mm width, 55 mm height
System, navigation: 15,6 kg * 2, 386 mm length, 191 mm width, 191 mm height

Cockpit displays:
TDCU: 2 kg * 1; 128x127x120 mm
HUD: 15 kg * 1
Screens: 5 kg * 2

IDM: 3,8 kg * 1; 188x91x224 mm

Data link:
Terminal: 16,8 kg * 1; 340x190x190 mm
RPS: 6,5 kg * 1; 340x60x190 mm
Antennas: 2,2 kg * 3

Ejection seat: 59 kg
Titanium landing gear: 315 kg
Electrical: 90 kg
Environmental control, pressurization, oxygen: 100 kg
Hydraulics, actuators: 90 kg
Missile rails: 12 kg per rail
Refueling probe: 50 kg
EPU: 79 kg
Canopy: 130 kg
Pilot w/ G suit, helmet, Mae vest, personal weapon: 100 kg

Total: 2.800,44 kg

Fuel capacity


3.751.600 cm3 – side fuel tanks
1.551.000 cm3 – wing tanks
5.302.600 cm3 total


3 x 450 gal (5.109 l total) or

1 x 450 gal + 2 x 300 gal (3.975 l total) or

3 x 300 gal (3.408 l total)

Standard fuel will be JP-8, a military version of JET-A with corrosion inhibitors and anti-icing additives and density of 0,804 kg/l. JET-A itself can also be used, and it has the same density.

Maximum internal fuel: 4.263 kg

Maximum external fuel (subsonic): 4.108 kg

Maximum fuel (subsonic): 8.371 kg

Maximum external fuel (supersonic): 2.740 kg

Maximum fuel (supersonic): 7.003 kg

Gun ammunition weight

Ammo box: 750*240*180 mm
Total ammo: 8*25 = 200; 106 kg

External stores weight

IRIS-T: 87,4 kg

MICA IR: 112 kg

Meteor: 185 kg

300 gal tank: 167,4 kg (empty), 1.087,56 kg (full)

Aircraft weights

Design empty: 5.275 kg
Basic empty (design empty + unusable fuel, undrainable oil, survival equipment): DE + 85,26 + 9,89 + 72,7 = 5.442,85 kg
Operational empty (basic empty + crew, weapons racks, ejectors, gun, etc.): BE + 100 + 12*4 = 5.590,85 kg
Armed empty (operational empty + gun ammo, missiles): OE + 106 + 2*87,4 + 6*112 = 6.543,65 kg
Combat (armed empty + 50% fuel): AE + 2.088,87 = 8.632,52 kg
Combat takeoff (armed empty + 100% fuel): AE + 4.177,74 = 10.721,39 kg
Maximum takeoff (practical): Operational Empty + Internal Fuel + Gun Ammo + 2 MICA IR + 6 MBDA Meteor + 3×450 gal fuel tanks: 5.580,85 + 4.177,74 + 106 + 2*112 + 6*185 + 3*1.485 = 15.663,59 kg
Maximum takeoff (theoretical): 16.200 kg

NOTES: 2% of the fuel is not usable; oil is 1% of the engine weight; pilot weights 100 kg with equipment; theoretical maximum takeoff weight is calculated with [weight in kg = dry thrust in lb]; practical maximum takeoff weight includes 100% internal fuel and heaviest designed loadout; standard armed emptyassumes gun ammo, 2 IRIS-T and 6 MICA IR; empty weight of EFT is 10% of its fuel capacity.

Point-defense takeoff (armed empty + 30% f.f.): 6.533,65 + 2.800,14 = 9.333,79 kg
Point-defense combat: 6.533,65 + 1.400,07 = 7.933,72 kg

Minimum takeoff distance

Takeoff distance is 650 meters for Gripen C and 600 meters for Gripen E. Wet TWR is 0,82 for C and 0,89 for E. This means that 9% increase in TWR means 8% decrease in the takeoff distance – even more actually, since the Gripen NG has higher wing loading.

As a rule of thumb, 10% increase in takeoff weight increases the takeoff run by 21%.
10% increase in landing weight increases the landing run by 10%.
10% increase in wing area (9% decrease in wing loading) decreases the takeoff speed by 5%. Roll is proportional to the square of the takeoff or landing speed.
Compared to concrete, dry grass increases the takeoff run by 15%. It also increases the landing roll.

Rafale Cs takeoff distance at a concrete runway is 820 m dry, 590 m AB, with 490 m landing roll. Its combat takeoff weight is 14.942 kg, with a wing loading of 327,61 kg/m2 and thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,007 wet or 0,665 dry. Landing weight is cca 10.500 kg (est.), with wing loading of 230 kg/m2 and thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,436 wet or 0,948 dry.

FLX combat takeoff weight is 10.721,39 kg kg, with a wing loading of 330,9 kg/m2 and thrust-to-weight ratio of 0,977 wet or 0,685 dry. Landing weight is 6.728,61 kg, with wing loading of 207,7 kg/m2.

Wing loading increases takeoff roll by 0,5%. Weight difference means reduction of takeoff roll to 56,43%. TWR difference decreases takeoff roll by 3% at dry thrust and increases it by 1% at wet thrust. This means that FLXs takeoff distance is 451 m dry, 338 m AB at concrete air strip and 519 m dry, 389 m AB at grass strip.

Lower wing loading reduces landing roll to 99%. Weight difference reduces landing roll to 64%. This means that FLX has 310 m landing roll at concrete air strip and 357 m landing roll at grass strip.

FLX point defense takeoff weight is 9.333,79 kg, with a wing loading of 288,08 kg/m2 and thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,12 wet or 0,79 dry. Wing loading decreases takeoff roll by 1,5%. Weight difference means reduction of takeoff roll to 32%. TWR difference decreases takeoff roll to 87% at dry thrust and 90% at wet thrust. This means that FLX has takeoff distance of 225 m at dry thrust and 167 m at afterburner.

Time for takeoff

Dassault Rafale needs 8 seconds to take off in full afterburner. FLX would thus need 6,3 seconds for takeoff with afterburner at normal weight and 5,1 seconds at point defense takeoff weight.


Rafale C has a dry TWR of 0,790 at combat weight and cruise speed of Mach 1,4. 90 kN M88, which would give a dry TWR of 0,972, would increase it to Mach 1,65 (both speeds are with 6 missiles). 4 missiles add speed penalty of 0,1 M, it means that 23% increase in dry TWR increases cruise speed by 17,2%. As FLX has a dry TWR of 0,851 at combat weight, its cruise speed should be 5,79% above Rafale Cs when clean, or Mach 1,59; with 8 missiles, it should be Mach 1,49. Maximum speed will be limited to Mach 2,0 by air intake design.

7* increase in wing sweep increases the cruise speed by Mach 0,1. Since wing sweep is 50* as opposed to Rafale’s 48*, calculated cruise speed will be increased by Mach 0,03, to Mach 1,62 with 4 missiles and 1,52 with 8 missiles.

Rafale C accelerates from M 0,8 to M 1,2 in 26 seconds with 4 MICA and 50% fuel. In same configuration, FLX would need 24 seconds for acceleration of M 0,8 to 1,2.

Climb rate and service ceilling

Time to 10.000 meters is 100 seconds for Gripen C, while Gripen NG should better this by 10-15%, again shoving a roughly proportional increase in performance compared to dry TWR. Initial climb rate for Gripen C is 15.240 meters per minute, or 254 meters per second. Initial climb rate for Dassault Rafale is 18.300 meters per minute, or 305 meters per second, with 18.000 m / 59.055 ft service ceilling. From that it would follow that Rafale can climb to 10.000 meters in ~83 seconds.

FLX has dry TWR of 0,685 at combat takeoff weight, compared to 0,665 for Rafale. Thus FLX should be able to climb to 10.000 meters in 81 second, with initial climb rate of 313 meters per second, and service ceilling of 18.457 m / 60.513 ft.

At point defense takeoff weight, it has dry TWR of 0,79. Thus it should be able to climb to 10.000 meters in 70 seconds with initial climb rate of 362 m/s.

Turn rate

9% decrease in wing loading decreases speed by 5%. Rafale has wing loading of 275,6 kg/m2 at combat weight, compared to 266,13 kg/m2 for the FLX. Assuming that the effect is similar, this means that turn speed for instantaneous turn will be reduced by 2%. This will improve instantaneous turn rate by 2,9%. Since FLX has slightly higher wing sweep but also higher TWR and similar overall aerodynamics, same will be assumed for sustained turn rate; that is, turn speed for sustained turn will be reduced by 2%, and turn rate increased by 2,9%.

Roll rate will be assumed to be similar to Rafale’s. It should be notes that this is FCS limit, and aerodynamics would allow significantly higher maximum roll rate. More importantly, FLX will have more rapid roll onset than any fighter in existence due to combination of aerodynamics and small wing span.

End values:
Instantaneous turn rate: 31 deg/s
Sustained turn rate: 25 deg/s
Roll rate: 300 deg/s


Gripen C uses 48,5% of the fuel for subsonic cruise from and to the combat area, giving 1.164 kg of fuel for 800 km trip (400+400), or 1,455 kg/km in air-to-air configuration. Novi Avion had range of <940 km (est.) at 2.565 kg of internal fuel, for 1,323 kg/km, presumably clean. A value of 1,3 kg/km (1.276,47 kg/h) will be used for FLX due to its smaller size and superior aerodynamics compared to those of Novi Avion. Fuel consumption at maximum dry thrust is 5.438 kg/h and at maximum reheat it is 17.812 kg/h.

Time and fuel usage:
startup and taxi: 77 kg
takeoff: 31,17 kg
climb to 10.000 meters: 122,36 kg
supersonic cruise: 1.812,67 kg
combat: 594 kg
descent and landing: 75 kg
landing reserve: 24,7 kg
unusable fuel: 85,26 kg

cruise to and from combat area: 1.355,58 kg

Supersonic combat radius without combat area cruise: (3.168,25 kg of fuel)
Internal fuel: 470 km @ M 1,52
1×300-gal EFT: 501 km @ M 1,42
3×300-gal EFT: 538 km @ M 1,22

Subsonic combat radius with supersonic cruise: (1.355,58 kg of fuel)
Internal fuel: 521 km
1×300-gal EFT: 813 km
3×300-gal EFT: 1.398 km

Subsonic combat radius without combat area cruise: (3.168,25 kg of fuel)
Internal fuel: 1.218 km
1×300-gal EFT: 1.391 km
3×300-gal EFT: 1.737 km
1×450-gal EFT: 1.477 km
3×450-gal EFT: 1.996 km

Ferry range: (3.762,25 kg of fuel)
Internal fuel: 2.894 km
1×300-gal EFT: 3.240 km
3×300-gal EFT: 3.932 km
1×450-gal EFT: 3.413 km
3×450-gal EFT: 4.451 km

Range in point defense interception (no combat area cruise, no external fuel tanks)

Time and fuel usage:
startup and taxi: 77 kg
takeoff: 25,23 kg
climb to 10.000 meters: 105,74 kg
supersonic cruise: N/A
combat: 594 kg
descent and landing: 70 kg
landing reserve: 24,7 kg
unusable fuel: 85,26 kg

cruise to and from combat area: 1.818,21 kg
Subsonic combat radius without combat area cruise: 699 km
Supersonic combat radius without combat area cruise: 269 km


Speed of the sound at 30.000 ft is 1.091 kph or 303,1 mps. FLXs supercruise speed in combat configuration is likely achieved at ~40.000 ft, where speed of sound is 1.062 kph or 294,9 mps.
Climb is at full military power.
50% of the fuel in the external fuel tank is used to counter increased drag.
300 gal tank has 920 kg of fuel; this gives 900 kg of usable fuel.
450 gal fuel tank has 1.350 kg of usable fuel.
Weight of a drop tank is 10% of its capacity in kg, without a pylon.
Combat wing loading should be 250-325 kg/m2.
Cruise speed, climb rate, sustained turn rate and roll rate will actually be better than indicated here due to the FLX being a single-engined design while Rafale is a twin-engined design.


Gripen C has a unit flyaway cost of 44 million 2014 USD at 6.800 kg, or 6.471 USD/kg. Gripen Es unit flyaway cost is 43 million USD; at 7.100 kg this gives 6.056 USD/kg.

Rafale C has a unit flyaway cost of 92,7 million USD at weight of 9.550 kg. Removing one engine would reduce weight by 897 kg and cost by maybe 4,3 million USD (assumption based on the F414), leading to a cost of 88,4 million USD and weight of 8.650 kg, for 10.220 USD/kg.

FLXs unit flyaway cost will be assumed to be 7.582 USD/kg. At operational empty weight of 5.590,85 kg, this gives a unit flyaway cost of 42.392.000 USD.

RWR accuracy

RWR antenna spacing of 25 wavelengths is required for 0,1* accuracy. As X-band radar has a wave length of up to 3,75 cm, 94 cm distance between receivers will be required. On the other hand, antennas should be placed as close possible to the body of the aircraft so that there is a minimum of aeroelastic warping, and spacing of 9,4 cm is enough for 1* accuracy.

A finished design has minimal RWR spacing of 152 cm or 40,5 wavelengths. This means that FLXs RWRs will have accuracy of 0,062*. AIM-120 has seeker range of 12 nm, AIM-54 of 11 nm and MICA of 10 nm (10 nm = 18,52 km).

This can then be used to determine maximum range at which missile can be used in theory. By using arbitrary 9 km effective seeker range (1/2 of MICA’s maximum seeker range) and +-45* search angle, we get 0,062 = 2 arcsin (0,5*9/d); 0,062 = 2 arcsin (4,5/d); 0,032 = arcsin (4,5/d), 4,5/d = sin (0,032); 4,5/d = 0,032; 0,032 d = 4,5; d = 141 km. Even with a safety factor, it is clear that the FLX will be capable of engaging radiating fighters at well over 100 km. With 18 km seeker range and +-45* search angle, engagement range of 281 km is possible, and if search angles greater than +-45* are allowed, engagement ranges of well over 300 km (up to 578 km with +-90* search angle) are possible.

Using AIM-120s seeker range of 22 km and 45* search angle, we get 0,062 = 2 arcsin (0,5*22/d); 0,062 = 2 arcsin (11/d); 0,032 = arcsin (11/d); 11/d = sin (0,032); 11/d = 0,032; d = 344 km maximum engagement range. As before, allowing greater search angle allows a significantly greater engagement range.

Radar cross-section

FLX has similar overall design when compared to Rafale but is much smaller. Rafale has RCS of 0,15-0,3 m2 from front, so FLXs RCS could be 0,1-0,2 m2. With 8 missiles, and considering that 4 of these have no pylons, RCS will be 0,65-1,00 m2. To take Su-35, it will detect FLX with radar at 255-284 km, and will start locking on at 204-227 km.

However, with jamming, reduction in range can be as much as 78%:

Click to access a257316.pdf

In that case Su-35 will start locking on at 45-50 km. Electronic acquisition will take at least 10 seconds, against cooperative target, and in this situation several times longer. With Mach 2,69 mutual approach speed (1,49 + 1,2 supercruise), 10 seconds means that distance between fighters will decrease by 8,15 km; 30+ seconds which is more likely means that distance between fighters will decrease by 24,5 km. Consequently, Su-35 can launch a missile at 20-42 km, and even then it may not know target’s identity due to lack of good IRST and FLX remaining passive. In all cases (20 – 220 km launch distance), Su-35 will be vulnerable to passive attack by the FLX using radar warners for targeting.

Design overview



Crew: 1-2

Length: 13,1 m
Wingspan: 8,5 m
Height: 3,44 m
Wing area: 32,4 m2
Canard area: 1,01 m2

Empty weight: 5.442,85 kg
Loaded weight: 10.721,39 kg
Combat weight: 8.632,52 kg
Maximum takeoff weight: 15.663,59 kg
Maximum internal fuel: 4.263 kg
Fuel fraction: 0,44

Powerplant: 1xE230 afterburning turbofan
dry thrust: 72 kN (16.200 lbf / 7.348 kgf)
wet thrust: 103 kN (23.100 lbf / 10.478 kgf)

Maximum speed: Mach 2,0
Cruise speed: Mach 1,52 with 8 missiles, Mach 1,62 with 4 missiles

Combat radius on internal fuel:
521 km standard mission profile
1.218 km maximum

Ferry range:
2.894 km on internal fuel
4.451 km with max. fuel

Service ceilling: 60.513 ft
Climb rate: 313 m/s

Wing loading:
331 kg/m2 combat takeoff
266 kg/m2 combat

Thrust-to-weight ratio:
0,98 combat takeoff
1,21 combat

G load:
Standard: +9/-3
Limit: +11,1/-3,2
Override: +13/-3,2
Ultimate: 16,5

AoA limit:
32* operational
110* aerodynamic

Turn rates:
Instantaneous turn rate: 31 deg/s
Sustained turn rate: 25 deg/s
Roll rate: 300 deg/s

Guns: 1xGIAT-30 with 200 rounds
8 hardpoints

3 * Skyward IRST (150 km range, 170* field of regard)
1 * Type 158 laser transciever
6 * RWS-300 RWR (100-300 km engagement range)
4 * LWS-310 LWR
4 * MAW-300 IR MAWS

internal DRFM jammer
disposable jammers / decoys

Unit flyaway cost: 42.297.000 USD
Operating cost per FH: 4.600 USD

3D designs by Riley Amos and Alex Postevca (added 15.11.2017.)

Situational awareness



Fighter pilots with modern anti-g suit and appropriate (inclined) seat can handle 9 g sustained maneuvers and short g peaks far in excess of that.

Limit load is the maximum load expected in service, and there must be no permanent deformation of structure at the limit load. Ultimate load is defined as a safety factor times the limit load, and aircraft must be capable of withstanding the ultimate load for 3 seconds without the structural failure. For fighter aircraft, safety factor is 1,5, and 1,85 for naval variant. Naval variant of FLX will thus have limit load of 9 g.

With baseline EJ200 (20.250 lbf / 9.185 kgf), thrust-to-weight ratio would be 1,07 at combat weight and 0,86 at combat takeoff weight. Dry TWR at combat weight would be 0,71, leading to cruise speed of Mach 1,32 clean and 1,22 with air-to-air loadout.Canard area is 5% of the wing area in the final design, about same as it was for Rafale A. This means that lift gain should be 10-20%, possibly 20-30% when combined with LERX.

Engine should have multi-fuel capability.

200 cannon rounds gives 18 0,5-second or 8 1-second bursts at 1.500 rpm, or 10 0,5-second or 5 1-second bursts at 2.500 rpm.

If necessary, GIAT 30 could be replaced with BK-27. This would give 205 27 mm rounds for the same weight, and a total of 14 0,5-s bursts or 7 1-s bursts, but at significantly lower per-burst destructiveness (0,55/1,09 kg of HEI vs GIAT 30s 0,92/1,88 kg of HEI).

3D design by Riley Amos (added 16.8.2016.)


Existing missiles to be used


Weight: 87,4 kg

Length: 2,94 m

Diameter: 0,127 m

Wingspan: 0,447 m

Operational range: 25 km

Flight altitude: SL to 20 km

Speed: Mach 3

G load: 60 g

Seeker: passive IR


Weight: 112 kg

Length: 3,1 m

Diameter: 0,16 m

Wingspan: 0,32 m

Operational range: 50 km

Flight altitude: SL to 11 km

Speed: Mach 3

G load: 50 g

Seeker: passive IR


Weight: 185 kg

Length: 3,65 m

Diameter: 0,178 m

Operational range: >315 km (ballistic flight path); 100 km (straight line)

Speed: Mach 4

G load: 40 g

Seeker: passive anti-radiation with secondary active RF mode

BVR missiles proposals

IR Meteor

Weight: 180 kg

Operational range: >250 km

Seeker: passive IR

Dual-stage IR missile (IRIS-T + MBDA Meteor)

Weight: 250 kg

Operational range: 300-350 km

Seeker: passive IR

Dual-stage IR missile (MICA IR + MBDA Meteor)

Weight: 275 kg

Operational range: 350-400 km

Seeker: passive IR

Dual-stage anti-radiation missile (MBDA Meteor + AIM-120)

Weight: 315 kg

Operational range: 450-500 km

Seeker: passive anti-radiation with secondary active RF mode


Combat configurations overview


Standard: wingtip stations IRIS-T, underwing and body stations MICA IR
Dogfight: wingtip and body stations IRIS-T, underwing stations MICA IR
Interception: wingtip stations IRIS-T, underwing stations MICA IR, body stations Meteor
Heavy interception: wingtip stations IRIS-T, underwing stations dual rails with MICA IR, body stations Meteor, central station dual rail with Meteor
Long range combat: wingtip stations IRIS-T, body stations MICA IR, underwing stations Meteor
Combat air patrol: wingtip stations IRIS-T, outer underwing and body stations MICA IR, inner underwing and centerline stations 300 gal fuel tanks
Long range patrol: wingtip stations IRIS-T, outer underwing and body stations MICA IR, inner underwing and centerline stations 450 gal fuel tanks
Point defense: wingtip stations IRIS-T, underwing and body stations MICA IR, 30% fuel fraction at takeoff

Performance: dry thrust: 72 kN (16.200 lbf / 7.348 kgf), wet thrust: 103 kN (23.100 lbf / 10.478 kgf), wing area: 32,4 m2
Standard: 8.632,52 kg weight, 266 kg/m2 wing loading, 1,21 TWR
Dogfight: 8.583,32 kg weight, 265 kg/m2 wing loading, 1,22 TWR
Interception: 8.778,52 kg weight, 271 kg/m2 wing loading, 1,19 TWR
Heavy interception: 9.530,52 kg weight, 294 kg/m2 wing loading, 1,1 TWR
Long range combat: 8.924,52 kg weight, 275 kg/m2 wing loading, 1,17 TWR
Patrol: 10.497,39 kg weight, 324 kg/m2 wing loading, 0,998 TWR
Point defense: 7.933,72 kg weight, 245 kg/m2 wing loading, 1,32 TWR

NOTE: “Performance” numbers are for aircraft with armaments + 50% internal fuel if there were no external fuel tanks carried, and armaments + 100% internal fuel if configuration included external fuel tanks

Subsonic radar pod (design by Riley Amos)


Supersonic radar pod (design by Riley Amos 14.9.2018.)



These drawings show the maximum possible display options. However, any display symbols should be disabled if the pilot wishes so, to prevent information overload during combat. For example, if central AoA scale is distracting or blocks the view, it should be possible to disable it with one press of a button. For this, FLX would include a set of buttons just below the HUD so that pilot can quickly choose which parameters will be displayed on HUD and/or HMD before entering the combat zone. In fact, the only symbols for which such on/of switches would not be included would be gun piper (which only appears if gun is a selected option anyway) and missile track/lock icons. Low fuel warning would also appear automatically.

FLX tactics

1 2 6 8 5 3497









More powerful engine

EJ270 will be used as a possible upgrade option; data is as follows:

Dry: 7.938 kgf
Afterburning: 12.247 kgf

Dry: 0,74 kg / kgf*h
Afterburning: 1,7 kg / kgf*h

Fuel consumption
Dry: 5.874 kg/h
Afterburning: 20.820 kg/h

Subsonic cruise consumption will stay the same, but higher dry thrust will increase supercruise speed as well as fuel consumption during supercruise. It will also raise thrust-to-weight ratio at combat weight to 1,42 at combat weight and 1,16 at combat takeoff weight.

Thrust-to-weight ratio at dry thrust and combat weight will be 0,92. Cruise speed will be Mach 1,69 with 4 missiles and Mach 1,59 with 8 missiles.


If necessary, an advanced LIDAR might be used to complement the IRST, replacing the laser rangefinder. A 9.115 micron LIDAR would be sufficient to detect jet engine exhaust soot particles at distances up to 80 km, while enhancement by condensed ice particles in wake contrails will allow for detection well beyond 100 kilometers. When contrails are present, detection at ranges well beyond 200 km may be possible. LIDAR is superior to radar not only in detection range against “stealth” aircraft but also in that it only warns the aircraft it hits directly. It is still inferior to the IRST on both counts however, so it is best used as a secondary sensor in the case that a range estimate more precise than what the IRST can provide by itself is required. Long wavelength LIDAR is also safer for eyes than shorter-wavelength ones.

LIDAR is most effective at altitudes at which stealth fighters typically operate (55.000 – 65.000 feet), as atmosphere is quite thin there, while there is a very large chance of aircraft producing the contrails (aerodynamic, convention and engine exhaust contrails). Engine exhaust contrails actually form very rarely at less than 30.000 feet. Wake trail vortices however are a necessary byproduct of lift creation by aircraft’s wings and cannot be eliminated.

Taiwan invasion scenario

Scenario is adapted from RAND Pacific Vision presentation. Gun Pk for 1-second burst will be assumed to be 31% for revolver and linear action cannons, 26% for rotary guns, 15% for IR WVR missiles, 11% for IR BVR missiles and 8% for radar-guided BVR missiles. Thus salvo Pk will be:

3-missile RF/AR BVR salvo: 0,08 + 0,074 + 0,068 = 22,2%
4-missile RF/AR BVR salvo: 0,08 + 0,074 + 0,068 + 0,062 = 28,4%
3-missile IR BVR salvo: 0,110 + 0,098 + 0,087 = 29,5%
4-missile IR BVR salvo: 0,110 + 0,098 + 0,087 + 0,078 = 37,3%

Su-30MKK: 6 RF BVR AAM, 4 WVR AAM, 6 gun bursts
F-15C: 6 RF BVR AAM, 2 WVR AAM, 8,6 gun bursts
F-16A: 6 RF BVR AAM, 2 WVR AAM, 4,7 gun bursts
F-16C: 6 RF BVR AAM, 2 WVR AAM, 4,7 gun bursts
F-18E: 12 RF BVR AAM, 2 WVR AAM, 5,2 gun bursts
F-22 (S): 8 RF BVR AAM, 4,8 gun bursts
F-22 (H): 12 RF BVR AAM, 4,8 gun bursts
F-35A (S): 4 RF BVR AAM, 2,6 gun bursts
F-35A (H): 10 RF BVR AAM, 2,6 gun bursts
Rafale C: 8 IR BVR AAM, 2 WVR AAM, 3 gun bursts
Typhoon: 6 RF BVR AAM, 2 WVR AAM, 5,4 gun bursts
Gripen C: 4 RF BVR AAM, 2 WVR AAM, 4,2 gun bursts
Gripen E: 6 RF BVR AAM, 2 WVR AAM, 4,2 gun bursts
F-5E: 2 WVR AAM, 11,2 gun bursts
FLX (S): 6 IR BVR AAM, 2 WVR AAM, 5 gun bursts
FLX (H): 4 RF/AR BVRAAM, 8 IR BVRAAM, 2 WVRAAM, 5 gun bursts

Su-30MKK: 55 million USD
F-15C: 128,1 million USD
F-16A: 30,5 million USD
F-16C: 71,1 million USD
F-18E: 71,6 million USD
F-22: 273 million USD
F-35A: 145 million USD
F-35C: 264,8 million USD (B is halfway between A and C)
Rafale C: 92,7 million USD
Typhoon: 129,2 million USD
Gripen C: 44 million USD
Gripen E: 43 million USD
F-5E: 26,5 million USD
FLX: 39,4 million USD

Number of fighters:
Su-30MKK: 97 (5,34 billion USD)
F-15C: 41
F-16A: 175
F-16C: 75
F-18E: 74
F-22: 19
F-35A: 36
Rafale C: 57
Typhoon: 41
Gripen C: 121
Gripen E: 124
F-5E: 201
FLX: 135

Sortie rate (sorties/fighter/day):
Su-30MKK: 1,0 (assumption)
F-15C: 1,04
F-16A: 1,19
F-16C: 1,19
F-18E: 1,5
F-22A: 0,52
F-35A: 0,47
Rafale C: 2,7
Typhoon: 2,4
Gripen C: 2,18
Gripen E: 2,0 (assumption)
F-5E: 3,6
FLX: 2,7

Number of fighters in the air: (number of fighters * sortie rate / 3,6)
Su-30MKK: 27
F-15C: 12
F-16A: 58
F-16C: 25
F-18E: 31
F-22A: 3
F-35A: 4
Rafale C: 43
Typhoon: 27
Gripen C: 73
Gripen E: 69
F-5E: 201
FLX: 101

First shot to Red Force:

27 Su-30MKK fire 54 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 12 F-15s killed. Total losses: 0 Su-30, 12 F-15C

27 Su-30MKK fire 54 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 12 F-16s killed. 46 F-16s fire 92 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 20 Su-30s killed. 7 Su-30s fire 28 WVR missiles. 4 F-16s killed. 42 F-16s fire 84 WVR missiles. 7 Su-30s killed. Total losses: 27 Su-30MKK, 16 F-16A

27 Su-30MKK fire 54 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 12 F-16s killed. 13 F-16s fire 26 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 6 Su-30s killed. 21 Su-30s fire 84 WVR missiles. 13 F-16s killed. Total losses: 6 Su-30MKK, 25 F-16C

27 Su-30MKK fire 54 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 12 F-18s killed. 19 F-18s fire 57 4-missile RF BVR salvos. 16 Su-30s killed. 11 Su-30s fire 44 WVR missiles. 7 F-18s killed. 12 F-18Es fire 24 WVR missiles. 4 Su-30s killed. 7 Su-30s fire guns. 2 F-18s killed. 10 F-18s fire guns. 3 Su-30s killed. 4 Su-30s fire guns. 1 F-18 killed. 9 F-18s fire guns. 2 Su-30s killed. 2 Su-30s fire guns. 1 F-18 killed. 8 F-18s fire guns. 2 Su-30s killed. Total losses: 27 Su-30MKK, 23 F-18E

27 Su-30MKK fire 54 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 3 F-22s killed. Total losses: 3 F-22A

27 Su-30MKK fire 54 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 4 F-35s killed. Total losses: 4 F-35A

27 Su-30MKK fire 54 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 3 F-35s killed. Total losses: 3 F-35C

27 Su-30MKK fire 54 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 12 Rafales killed. 31 Rafale fires 62 4-missile IR BVR salvos. 23 Su-30s killed. 4 Su-30s fire 16 WVR missiles. 2 Rafales killed. 29 Rafales fire 58 WVR missiles. 4 Su-30s killed. Total losses: 27 Su-30MKK, 14 Rafale C

27 Su-30MKK fire 54 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 12 Typhoons killed. 15 Typhoons fire 30 3-misile RF BVR salvos. 7 Su-30s killed. 20 Su-30s fire 80 WVR missiles. 12 Typhoons killed. 3 Typhoons fire 6 WVR missiles. 1 Su-30 killed. 19 Su-30s fire guns. 3 Typhoons killed. Total losses: 8 Su-30MKK, 27 Typhoon

27 Su-30MKK fire 54 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 12 Gripens killed. 61 Gripen fires 61 4-missile RF BVR salvos. 17 Su-30s killed. 10 Su-30s fire 40 WVR missiles. 6 Gripens killed. 55 Gripens fire 110 WVR missiles. 10 Su-30s killed. Total losses: 27 Su-30MKK, 18 Gripen C

27 Su-30MKK fire 54 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 12 Gripens killed. 57 Gripens fire 114 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 25 Su-30s killed. 3 Su-30s fire 12 WVR missiles. 2 Gripens killed. 55 Gripens fire 110 WVR missiles. 3 Su-30s killed. Total losses: 27 Su-30MKK, 14 Gripen E

27 Su-30MKK fire 54 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 12 F-5s killed. 27 Su-30s fire 108 WVR missiles. 16 F-5s killed. 173 F-5s fire 346 WVR missiles. 27 Su-30s killed. Total losses: 27 Su-30MKK, 28 F-5E

27 Su-30MKK fire 54 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 12 FLXs killed. 89 FLXs fire 178 3-missile IR BVR salvos. 27 Su-30s killed. Total losses: 27 Su-30 MKK, 12 FLX

27 Su-30MKK fire 54 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 12 FLXs killed. 89 FLXs fire 89 4-missile RF BVR salvos. 25 Su-30s killed. 89 FLXs fire 178 4-missile IR BVR salvos. 2 Su-30MKK killed. Total losses: 27 Su-30MKK, 12 FLX

101 FLXs fire 101 4-missile AR BVR salvos. 27 Su-30s killed. Total losses: 27 Su-30MKK, 0 FLX

First shot to Blue Force:

12 F-15Cs fire 24 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 5 Su-30s killed. 22 Su-30s fire 44 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 10 F-15s killed. 2 F-15s fire 4 WVR AAMs. 1 Su-30 killed. 21 Su-30 fires 84 WVR AAMs. 2 F-15s killed. Total losses: 12 F-15C, 6 Su-30MKK

58 F-16As fire 116 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 26 Su-30s killed. 1 Su-30 fires 2 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 0 F-16s killed. 58 F-16s fire 116 WVR missiles. 1 Su-30 killed. Total losses: 0 F-16A, 27 Su-30

25 F-16Cs fire 50 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 11 Su-30s killed. 16 Su-30s fire 32 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 7 F-16s killed. 18 F-16s fire 36 WVR missiles. 5 Su-30s killed. 11 Su-30s fire 44 WVR missiles. 7 F-16s killed. 11 F-16s fire guns. 3 Su-30s killed. 8 Su-30s fire guns. 2 F-16s killed. 9 F-16s fire guns. 2 Su-30s killed. 6 Su-30s fire guns. 2 F-16s killed. 7 F-16s fire guns. 2 Su-30s killed. 4 Su-30s fire guns. 1 F-16 killed. 6 F-16s fire guns. 2 Su-30s killed. 2 Su-30s fire guns. 1 F-16 killed. 5 F-16s fire guns. 1 Su-30 killed. 1 Su-30 fires gun 2 times. 1 F-16 killed. Total losses: 21 F-16C, 26 Su-30

31 F-18Es fire 93 4-missile RF BVR salvos. 21 Su-30s killed. 6 Su-30s fire 12 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 3 F-18s killed. 28 F-18s fire 56 WVR missiles. 6 Su-30s killed. Total losses: 3 F-18E, 27 Su-30

3 F-22s fire 6 4-missile RF BVR salvos. 2 Su-30s killed. 25 Su-30s fire 50 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 3 F-22s killed. Total losses: 3 F-22, 2 Su-30

3 F-22s fire 9 4-missile RF BVR salvos. 3 Su-30s killed. 24 Su-30s fire 48 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 3 F-22s killed. Total losses: 3 F-22, 3 Su-30

4 F-35As fire 4 4-missile RF BVR salvos. 1 Su-30 killed. 26 Su-30s fire 52 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 4 F-35s killed. Total losses: 4 F-35A, 1 Su-30

4 F-35As fire 4 4-missile and 8 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 3 Su-30s killed. 24 Su-30s fire 48 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 4 F-35s killed. Total losses: 4 F-35, 3 Su-30

43 Rafale Cs fire 86 4-missile IR BVR salvos. 27 Su-30s killed. Total losses: 0 Rafale C, 27 Su-30

27 Typhoons fire 54 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 12 Su-30s killed. 15 Su-30s fire 30 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 7 Typhoons killed. 20 Typhoons fire 40 WVR missiles. 6 Su-30s killed. 9 Su-30s fire 36 WVR missiles. 5 Typhoons killed. 15 Typhoons fire guns. 5 Su-30s killed. 4 Su-30s fire guns. 1 Typhoon killed. 14 Typhoons fire guns. 4 Su-30s killed. Total losses: 13 Typhoon, 27 Su-30

73 Gripen Cs fire 73 4-missile RF BVR salvos. 16 Su-30s killed. 11 Su-30s fire 22 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 5 Gripens killed. 68 Gripens fire 136 WVR missiles. 11 Su-30s killed. Total losses: 5 Gripen C, 27 Su-30

69 Gripen Es fire 138 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 27 Su-30s killed. Total losses: 0 Gripen E, 27 Su-30

27 Su-30MKK fire 54 3-missile RF BVR salvos. 12 F-5s killed. 189 F-5Es fire 378 WVR missiles. 27 Su-30s killed. Total losses: 12 F-5E, 27 Su-30

101 FLX fire 202 3-missile IR BVR salvos. 27 Su-30s killed. Total losses: 0 FLX, 27 Su-30

101 FLXs fire 101 4-missile AR BVR salvos. 27 Su-30s killed. Total losses: 0 FLX, 27 Su-30

Most likely to gain first shot (factors: sensors, EW suite, kinematics, missile range):
Su-30MKK vs F-15C: Su-30
Su-30MKK vs F-16A: Su-30
Su-30MKK vs F-16C: Su-30
Su-30MKK vs F-18E: Su-30
Su-30MKK vs F-22: F-22
Su-30MKK vs F-35A: either (F-35 will have detection range advantage and first overall shot advantage, but Su-30MKK will have longer *effective* missile range)
Su-30MKK vs Rafale C: Rafale
Su-30MKK vs Typhoon: Typhoon
Su-30MKK vs Gripen C: either (Gripen will have advantage in EW suite and cruise speed, but Su-30 will have advantage in sensors, acceleration and top speed)
Su-30MKK vs Gripen E: Gripen
Su-30MKK vs F-5: Su-30
Su-30MKK vs FLX (S): FLX
Su-30MKK vs FLX (H): FLX

As it can be seen, FLX carries same number of missiles as Gripen E, and achieved similar exchange ratio in both scenarios. What this means is that 70 FLXs can be used to deal with PLAAF forces while remaining 31 go after PLAAF support assets or hang back to protect their own support assets.

Further reading

Robert L Shaw – Fighter Combat

Pete Bonnani – The Art of the Kill

Ray Whitford – Design for Air Combat

Patrick Highby – Promise and Reality: Beyond Visual Range Air-To-Air Combat

America’s Defense Meltdown

Roger Thompson – Reforming America’s Overhyped Airpower

Radar – shield or target?

Overreliance on Technology in Warfare: The Yom Kippur War as a Case Study

Our radar-laden weapons attract their own doom
Air-to-air weapons effectiveness

Quality versus quantity fallacy

190 Responses to “Air superiority fighter proposal 6”

  1. MarkyMark said

    I think that the F-16A with the upgraded GE F110 engine would be a good plane to use. That gives you a simple, light, proven airframe with 28,600# of thrust vs. the 25,000# with the P&W F100. Remove all but the most essential avionics to get weight down, and you have one HELL of a dogfighter!

    As for the F-20, I don’t know if production could be restarted on it or not. I would think that, with all the T-38s and F-5s already out there (2,246 F-5s in all versions and 1,146 T-38s for a total 3,392 of that airframe), that spares are still being made; if spares are still being made, then would that not make it easier to produce the type again? Even if Northrop Grumman no longer had the tooling, how expensive would it be to recreate it for such a simple airframe?

    For either aircraft (F-16A or F-20), I like your idea of using IRST in lieu of the heavier radar. At the most, I’d go with a passive radar set, but nothing more; this way, you could detect an enemy foolish enough to use his radar. Active radar is useless, because you give yourself away the moment you light it off. As you pointed out elsewhere, EMCON is the name of the game.

    In any case, we need a new generation of Spreys, Spinneys, and Boyds to rise up; we need a new “Fighter Mafia” to take on the MICC. With what we spend on defense, we can, should, and indeed must get more bang for the buck. No matter what one thinks of the F-22, 187 of them simply is NOT enough. And, with the F-35 shaping up to be the modern incarnation of the Brewster F2A Buffalo, it doesn’t matter how many of them we have, because they’ll all get slaughtered anyway! Our pilots deserve better than that, as do the American people.


    • picard578 said

      “I think that the F-16A with the upgraded GE F110 engine would be a good plane to use.”

      I’ve scheduled an F-16 upgrade proposal, which is basically an F-16A with F-100-PW-229, which has 29.160 lbf of thrust. That, and few other changes.

      “In any case, we need a new generation of Spreys, Spinneys, and Boyds to rise up; we need a new “Fighter Mafia” to take on the MICC.”

      Circumstances have changed since then, MICC is more powerful than ever and unlike Vietnam, US interventions in Iraq have ended in initial military “victories”, thus giving a major ego boost to US generals (who, normally, don’t want to admit that these victories had to nothing to do with senior leadership or technological superiority, but rather with Iraqi incompetence and lack of motivation at all levels, US competence at low levels – which managed to compensate for incompetence at high levels – and massive numerical superiority, especially in the air).

      “No matter what one thinks of the F-22, 187 of them simply is NOT enough.”

      Agreed. F-35 was to provide numbers, but it is obvious from its basic design it will never manage to do it. Plus its hopeless for anything other than bombing undefended static targets.


    • picard578 said

      If you take a look at the above, F-16A, Rafale C, Gripen NG and FLX are the aircraft that achieved the best exchange ratios against the Su-30, in both scenarios. Granted, it is an utterly unrealistic scenario, but in this scenario all four aircraft are actually at disadvantage in comparision to the other aircraft used because they don’t get to play their strengths: small visual and IR signature, excellent situational awareness, high cruise speed, excellent maneuverability at both subsonic and supersonic speeds, passive BVR engagement capability. F-16A is lacking in most of these measures compared to Rafale and Gripen, and all of them are lacking compared to the FLX, but at least some of these issues can be fixed relatively easily and they are still better than most other aircraft compared.


  2. MarkyMark said

    Circumstances have changed since then, MICC is more powerful than ever and unlike Vietnam, US interventions in Iraq have ended in initial military “victories”, thus giving a major ego boost to US generals (who, normally, don’t want to admit that these victories had to nothing to do with senior leadership or technological superiority, but rather with Iraqi incompetence and lack of motivation at all levels, US competence at low levels – which managed to compensate for incompetence at high levels – and massive numerical superiority, especially in the air).

    I’m afraid you are right about the MICC. It’s far more powerful than it was post Vietnam, to the point of having a stranglehold; it would take a miracle to break it now. They’d go after the new Spreys, Spinneys, and Boyds like the Army went after Billy Mitchell in the 1920s, and they’d destroy them; the MICC does not tolerate dissent. A new “Fighter Mafia” wouldn’t have a prayer of getting close to a position of influence, let alone making a difference. We can only hope Pierre Sprey is right about F-35 procurement being stopped at 500, and that we are forced to pursue another option.

    What I would like to see is for Congress to use the power of the purse to reign in the Pentagon; they can tell the Pentagon that either they shape up, or they get their funding cut-end of story. Under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, all government outlays are solely the purview of Congress, as are raising an army and navy. I guess that the K Street lobbyists working on behalf of the MICC have put too much grease on too many Congressional palms for that to happen…


    • picard578 said

      “What I would like to see is for Congress to use the power of the purse to reign in the Pentagon; they can tell the Pentagon that either they shape up, or they get their funding cut-end of story. ”

      I’m not sure how realistic that is, take a look at plays military industry does: F-35 is produced in 48 out of 50 federal states, and US politicians don’t want to be seen as harming workplaces of their own state.


      • MarkyMark said

        Unfortunately, I think you were right about that. The sad thing is that American flyboys unfortunate enough to be saddled with flying the F-35 will be at risk-all to placate a bunch of know-nothing, blowhard politicians…

        Along that vein, the selection of the F-22 was a political decision, not one of merit; the F-23 was the better fighter. The F-22, which was built by Boeing and Lockheed. Back in the late 1980s to early 1990s when the F-22 was undergoing development, the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. The Speaker of the House was Tom Foley of Washington State. Boeing’s factories were all in Seattle, Washington area then. The chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee was Sam Nun, hailing from GA. Lockheed Georgia was in his state. Ergo, our DoD selected the plane whose companies were located in the states of powerful legislators, not the one that was actually better.


  3. There is a very interesting article from Edward H Heinemann* on the Air International magazine (1982), `A veteran designer`s Thoughts on Figthers`.

    Here is a little extract:

    “Simple concept

    My study for a highly flexible fighter envisages a fundamentally simple aeroplane capable of operation across the full fighter spectrum and from both land bases and carriers. Spanning 32 ft (9,75m) and possessing an overall length of 50ft (15,25m), it supplements 352 s sq ft (32,70m2) of clipped near-delta wing area with 70 sq ft (6,50m2) of similarly-configured canard to provide a total area of 422 sq ft (39,20m2). These dimensions would seem to be the optimum for the amount of fuel and equipment required.
    The design is based on use of an afterburning PW 1120 engine and a total internal capacity ( wing and fuselage tanks) of 1,100 US gal (4 1641), and armament is very much a matter of customer choice. Provision has been made for a single 25-mm GAU-12/U gun located in the fuselage nose, a pair of AIM-9 sidewinder, two or four 500-1b (226,8-kg) bombs on the fuselage centerline in conformal array, or either one or two cruise missiles.
    The optimum fighter would, of course, be a single-seater, but the many requirements for a second seat for a radar operator, for conversion training, etc, are so strong that I have made provision for the additional crew member from the outset, this space being available for an additional fuel tank when operated in single-seat form. No exotic materials are contemplated – many discussions with operating crews have stressed the importance in which they hold familiarity with materials for making repairs – and the wing structure, constructed in one piece from tip to trip for minimum weight, employs simple integral stringers. The mainwheels retract forward into the wing, turning through 90 deg, and the nosewheel, which also retracts forward , is of conventional Navy type equipped for catapult take-off.
    I would very much like to build such an aeroplane as I have outlined, but without a factory and design staff… I fear that I must leave the task to the younger men who will produce the fighter of the future and to whom I say LOST OF LUCK.”

    Air International October 1982

    *Famous aircraft designer from Douglas Aircraft

    P.S. In the issue there is an illustration showing the project, a nice canard layout.


    • picard578 said

      As far as multirole fighters go it sounds OK… similar to the Gripen E. But I still prefer single-role fighters… see difference in dimensions between the FLX and that proposal.


  4. Some remarks.

    1- Landing gear:
    The track is too narrow, something less than one meter between the wheels, the landing could be trick with cross winds, dangerous with asymmetrical loads and difficult to handle when taxiing at high speed. An A-4 Skyhawk concept would be good. On the wings (you will have a better fuselage cross section, less drag and less radar signature) the landing gear could retract forward, rotating ninety degrees. In addition, no need hydraulic back up, the gear could be forced down by air stream and gravity. Unfortunately, there will be some loss of fuel load but you can have a wider track, a very light, simple and strong landing gear and easy to maintain.

    Better to consider the weight of an open/close mechanism for a 130 kg canopy, it is supposed to be manual I presume.

    3-Armament load:
    I do not quite understand why a fighter has to carry so many missiles.
    I think, in a real situation, large enemy formations would be very uncommonly to see, no more than six or eight aircraft (?). On the other hand, a fighter would never fly alone, always in a two or four aircraft formation. Moreover, a massive load of missiles (eight!) could be a tremendous loss of equipment and money in a case of flight accident, especially during peacetime.
    I think a four missiles load would be optimum for a fighter.

    4-3D drawing:
    The proposal has reached sufficient maturity to have a frontal view.
    There are issues difficult to project mentally, for instance, the landing gear position, the cannon muzzle, etc. A frontal view would be very helpful.


    • picard578 said

      “The track is too narrow, something less than one meter between the wheels”

      Landing gear isn’t at 90* angle when deployed, end distance would be above two meters.

      Take a look at this, that is how I envisioned FLXs landing gear:

      I’d rather have additional stress on the landing gear than on the wings, since landing gear is easier to replace and fix than a composite airframe.

      “dangerous with asymmetrical loads”

      FLX will never carry asymmetrical loads except maybe when returning from the mission, if all missiles haven’t been spent. And even then, I don’t think that 200 kg of assymetric load at best would have too great impact.

      “On the wings (you will have a better fuselage cross section, less drag and less radar signature) the landing gear could retract forward, rotating ninety degrees.”

      It would also result in greater stresses on the airframe – especially wings, as well as greater mass away from center of gravity and aircraft’s axis.

      “I do not quite understand why a fighter has to carry so many missiles.”

      Missiles are typically considered primary weapons of modern fighters. You seem to assume one missile = one aircraft killed, which is far from reality.

      Take a look at Pks that can be expected in a war:

      Against a cooperative target:
      Gun: 100%
      IR WVRAAM: 67%
      IR BVRAAM: (51%)
      RF BVRAAM: 34%

      Against a non-cooperative target:
      Revolver cannon: 31%
      Gattling gun: 26%
      IR WVRAAM: 15%
      IR BVRAAM: 11%
      RF BVRAAM: 7%

      So against a cooperative target, FLXs with a standard load (6 IR BVRAAM, 2 IR WVRAAM, 5 gun bursts) would have 9,4 onboard kills, of which missiles would provide 4,4 kills and gun would provide 5 kills. Against a noncooperative target, it would have 2,51 onboard kills, of which missiles would provide 0,96 kills and gun would provide 1,55 kills.

      In other words, if you are going to fight Arabs you can easily send in FLXs with just four conformal missiles and gun in order to conserve fuel and reduce wear on missiles. But if you are fighting a competent opponent, you will need every missile you can get without sacrificing too much of flight performance.

      (If you do decide to sacrifice flight performance, FLX can easily carry 4 IR WVRAAM and up to 10 IR BVRAAM – two per each underwing station and central station. That gives it 1,7 kills with missiles alone and a total of 3,25 kills).

      And keep in mind that pilots are more important than the aircraft. 10% of best pilots typically get disproportionate number of kills, regardless of a situation, so fighter has to be capable of achieving several kills with a standard load even if you outnumber the enemy.

      That is one of things I do like about Flankers – Russians never bought into US assumptions about BVR combat, so Flankers carry large number of missiles, because missile spam is about the only way to get a reliable kill in the BVR combat.

      “The proposal has reached sufficient maturity to have a frontal view.
      There are issues difficult to project mentally, for instance, the landing gear position, the cannon muzzle, etc. A frontal view would be very helpful.”

      I know, I might do it sometime but I won’t promise anything.


      • I see.

        You will need some space for a landing gear like that, more struts and drag assembly, in case of hydraulic failure, a pneumatic or another hydraulic back-up. More weight, more complexity.
        Anyway, the FLX seems to be a shoulder-wing aircraft, I suggest the compact Mitsubishi F-1 landing gear.


        • picard578 said

          I know. And I only used that image for an illustration on what configuration would look like. BTW, Gripen C uses similar configuration as well, though Saab changed it for Gripen NG in order to increase quantity of internal fuel:


    • picard578 said

      “The proposal has reached sufficient maturity to have a frontal view.
      There are issues difficult to project mentally, for instance, the landing gear position, the cannon muzzle, etc. A frontal view would be very helpful.”



  5. […] Air superiority fighter proposal 6 […]


  6. Mike said

    Just to revive the discussion on guns and other things…

    Excellent thread, though one with some truly disturbing implications…

    Firstly the RAF had no even vaguely scientific way of measuring the effectiveness of cannon armament. One knowledgable poster who has clearly been involved in design and procurement explicitly states that the models they did have were utterly wrong.

    Second it is explicitly stated by aircrew that they receive very little time on gunnery training. Particularly banner shots ( which don’t strike me as being a necessarily effective way of training). AtG range training I have some experience of, though hitting the same targets without any need to aquire or manouvre is a poor or very basic level of training. Two firings at the same target in a pass ( one from long range) are described as being ineffective.

    Third the impression given is that it ( gunnery ) is either very hard or they aren’t very good at it!

    Fourth it is explicitly stated that the RAF procurement decisions merely focus upon the highest and hardest target! Feel free to call me a simpleton but my own predilection would be biassed towards being able to hit things with legs. Then wheels and a capability against tracks or higher value targets. The RAF inventory certainly seems to evidence this focus.

    Fifth, our discussion earlier might well represent more time and thought than has been expended by the famously incompetent British defence ministry since the end of the second world war, when their contribution was stealing a German designed cannon and using it barely modified for the next forty or fifty years.

    Sixth the reference to a Norwegian study was interesting to me. The MG213’s shell followed your own ideas regarding a large shell which can cause explosive damage. The Norwegian study found that smaller splinters along the lines of the fuselage would be more effective. This leads me to think that I may have been at least partially correct in wondering whether a greater number of bullets penetrating would be more effective than a small number of cannon shells exploding alongside or on the skin.

    Seventh your ideas on cost per flying hour being the prime determinant of effectiveness in combat are, I think, validated. It is not unreasonable to assume that the huge cost per flying hour of the RAF fleet ( even when compared to other nations operating the same type) leads to a lack of realistic training in anything other than the higher end and politically expedient missions. I, personally, assumed that profiency in AtA and AtG use of guns would be at the heart of fighter airmanship. The opposite appears to be true in the comments on that thread.

    Eighth the concept of spread is one that I think I mentioned earlier in the comments. Whilst only mentioned in that thread in relation to someone winning a prize by spraying and praying by wobbling the controls the idea of firing in order to blank off an expected manouvre is an interesting one, should enough ammunition be carried to enable it.

    Ninth, the RAF has no radar or IRST cued sight comparable to the Soviet designs, which appear to be given a high design priority.

    Tenth, the RAF receives at least 10 billion Euros a year, yet couldn’t provide the infantry with a decent CAS platform despite upwards of 15 years of conflict ( their Harriers with no gun were described as utterly useless by an Infantry officer in Afghanistan)..

    I have many other thoughts, few of them good….


    • picard578 said

      “Fourth it is explicitly stated that the RAF procurement decisions merely focus upon the highest and hardest target!”

      Not surprising, as such targets typically require the most expensive weapons.

      “Tenth, the RAF receives at least 10 billion Euros a year, yet couldn’t provide the infantry with a decent CAS platform despite upwards of 15 years of conflict ( their Harriers with no gun were described as utterly useless by an Infantry officer in Afghanistan)..”

      It could. But it wouldn’t. Air forces tend to ignore needs of any other branch (which is why I think that independent air force should not be allowed to exist). Only possible exceptions are Flygvapnet (they did place a great deal of attention on anti-maritime warfare, but none on CAS) and Russian Air Force (Su-25 is the only proper CAS fighter in the world other than the A-10).

      Nice thread you found, BTW.


      • Mike said

        Yes, it was rather illuminating.

        Couldn’t agree more on serarate air forces, whilst humour things like this…

        Probably tell you far more than any bean counting analysis of available airframes etc.

        “Su-25 is the only proper CAS fighter in the world other than the A-10”

        It’s the only dedicated tank buster but certainly not the only CAS aircraft. I’m pretty sure there are still numerous A37 operators out there, an aircraft which I hold in the highest esteem. In fact I’d probably cite it as the single most useful combat aircraft produced in the last 50 years. Comparing it’s combat record to the thread I posted previously where a gun run against a truck is described as high risk is somewhat stark, though not I think unfair. If anything comparing a 7.62 armed modified trainer which whilst nimble wasn’t capable of serious speed ( 500 knts) to a modern day, purpose designed, 27mm armed, mach 2 capable fighter is unfair. One flew 160,000 sorties and suffered 22 losses against a powerful array of AAA and small arms, the other wouldn’t even turn up against a truck with a machinegun due to a perceived level of risk to the golden elephant.

        One thing that puzzles me is why these things are designed around service lives averaging around the 6000 hour mark. If I was going to buy a sedan with 6000 hours on the clock I would be expecting to see 200,000 to 300,000 miles on the odometer, and wouldn’t touch it with a third that number on it. Again unfair as a modern fighter is more akin to a race car or supercar than a sedan. Modern engines tend to have 2-4000 hours service life and contracts usually provide 6 years worth of support and maintenance. If you ( wrongly) assume 1 pilot per airframe and 30 hours per month then surely 2500 or 3000 hours would be sufficient and include a buffer for ops or selling the airframes on to allies. So why not design fighters around a 6 year replacement cycle?

        Most production lines seem to operate in the teens per year mark, the difference in designing something for 1500 hours rather than 500 is huge and the costs of cramming updated avionics into existing airframes sometimes defies belief.

        Iterative development is the only answer to inherent complexity yet the designed service life seems to be a massive and deliberate barrier to such.


        • picard578 said

          “It’s the only dedicated tank buster but certainly not the only CAS aircraft.”


          “I’m pretty sure there are still numerous A37 operators out there”

          A few, it seems, but there aren’t large numbers of them avaliable and they are being gradually retired. Pity.

          “One flew 160,000 sorties and suffered 22 losses against a powerful array of AAA and small arms, the other wouldn’t even turn up against a truck with a machinegun due to a perceived level of risk to the golden elephant.”

          Which is one of reasons for why multirole fighters are useless for CAS. They are eye-wateringly expensive, and quite vulnerable, so they are unlikely to be risked for gun runs if the enemy has as much as light machine guns. Unfortunately, in many situations you can’t have CAS without a gun.

          “One thing that puzzles me is why these things are designed around service lives averaging around the 6000 hour mark.”

          6.000 hours + 30 hours per month = 200 months or 17 years. Most air forces fly less than that, so airframes last far more than 17 years.

          “So why not design fighters around a 6 year replacement cycle?”

          Because modern fighters are extremely expensive and take a long time to design and build. Which means that they can’t be replaced quickly.


  7. Mike said

    Another interesting quote from a Janes article…

    “He also described how RAF Typhoon crews are carrying out training with the aircraft’s 27mm Mauser cannon. “We used it first on exercise in the Middle East, and we’ve also had great success in the UK in the air-to-air and air-to-surface roles,” he said. “The other Eurofighter nations have used it, but primarily air-to-air. The question for us now is sustainability, logistics, and support; at the moment we could use the gun day-to-day if needed to because we could put the support structures in place, but we’re taking a measured approach and not routinely operating it.”

    Seems to relate to 4 Typhoons which went out to the UAE in December 2013. The first squadron appears to have been declared operational in the AtG role in the middle of 2008, presumably if the quote is accurate without ever firing a single round…

    “Because modern fighters are extremely expensive and take a long time to design and build. Which means that they can’t be replaced quickly.”

    Reducing their expected service life would, I think, decrease costs very significantly. Certification and flight testing seems to take several years and weapons integration several years more. The design itself, if requirements are fixed, can take up to a decade or more. Hence you might have 15 years invested before the first squadron is operational, the production line might be open for 10 years and then the aircraft continue to fly for another 10. Thats a 35 year lifecycle, though in the main we are seeing cycles far longer than that. Worse, if the replacement design is late then SLEPs are prohibitively expensive. Also there is a gap between a design team spending their 15 years or so initially, then presumably walking around a field until they are needed for the replacement design a decade later. Same with the production line, 10 years of work on one design, then wait at least a decade before prototypes are needed for the replacement.

    As a business model it stinks.

    For instance the Yak-50 was designed for an airframe life of 300 hours. If the designers had tried to put a high performance 9g+ capable airframe onto the market with a life of 8000 hours it would have cost closer to a million I’d imagine than £50k. Most of the cost of a modern fighter is in engines and avionics, both of which advance at an appreciable rate. Why design a fighter then that will outlive it’s engine by a factor of three or four times? Why then a fighter that will need extensive avionics upgrades possibly on several different occasions to fit into an increasingly obsolete airframe?

    I suspect one of the main problems with the F-35 is it’s ambitious airframe life which they have to deliver on in order to pork barrel the maintenance contracts ( which are for 35 years apparently).


    • picard578 said

      “Reducing their expected service life would, I think, decrease costs very significantly.”

      I’m not sure about that. Only thing that would do is to make airframe lighter, but engines, sensors, flight computers – all the most complex things in the aircraft, in other words – would stay the same (engines would also get somewhat cheaper, and you could overclock them to get more performance, but complexity would stay the same). So cost reduction would not actually be as large as required (you might reduce cost by 5-25% while cutting service life to 50%).

      And if the aircraft cannot be upgraded any more but can still fly, and you have a replacement, why not sell it to recover some of the costs?

      “Most of the cost of a modern fighter is in engines and avionics, both of which advance at an appreciable rate. Why design a fighter then that will outlive it’s engine by a factor of three or four times? Why then a fighter that will need extensive avionics upgrades possibly on several different occasions to fit into an increasingly obsolete airframe?”

      But that is just it. It is easier to upgrade an existing engine with new technologies, and upgrade existing sensors with new technologies, and then fit upgrades into an existing airframe, than to go from the scratch. And that way you already have half the work done when you need new airframe – you can use existing components to reduce costs, and then gradually upgrade or replace them (which is what I intended with the FLX). As a result, you can keep using a good airframe for quite a long time – A-10 is still the best CAS fighter in existence, F-16 is also a very good aircraft (albeit inferior to most new arrivals), Gripen A is one of best existing fighters…

      For example, both Tornado and early Typhoon prototypes used RB.199. It is smaller than the EJ200, but has almost the same weight. So instead of two RB.199s producing 14.990 kgf of thrust you can have two EJ200s producing 18.355 kgf of thrust. Or take a look at Gripen – RM-12 can produce 8.209 kgf of thrust (combat weight TWR=0,94), while F414-400 (which has exact same diameter but is slightly shorter) can produce 9.979 kgf of thrust (c.w. TWR = 1,14) and F-414EPE can produce 11.975 kgf of thrust (c.w. TWR = 1,36).

      You can also upgrade engines by replacing certain components – for example, EJ200 to EJ230, or M88-2 to M88-4. Again, far cheaper than designing an entirely new engine.


      • Mike said

        We’d have to look as real data to see whether it was cheaper or not, I suspect it is marginal at best.

        Bear in mind that whilst the airframe might only make up 30% of the cost up front, it has implications in later years which aren’t necessarily a bargain.

        Taking the F18C fleet as an example, the modification and maintenance costs for new ( less than 6 years old) fighters is roughly $1.5m per year. Taking a 15 year old example the same costs are closer to $4 million per year. The real cost though is in availability. Whilst the 18 had a reasonable record with mission capable rates topping 85% when new the same value ( when you include depot maintenance) drops significantly below 50% for 15 year olds and is probably closer to 40% for 20 year olds. Hence to get 1 years worth of availablity out of an airframe you’ll be paying less than $2 for a new aircraft and at least close to $10 spread over 2.5 years for an older one.

        So you need to buy more than twice as many aircraft in order to keep them in service for 20 years, of which these take longer to design and build and then cost you an arm and a leg whilst spending more time as paperweights on an aircraft carrier ( or more likely in training) in their latter years than they do as assets.

        The designs themselves will be heavier, more complex, use significantly higher amounts of exotic or difficult to fabricate materials and will perform more poorly. The producer will see most of it’s revenue from maintenance and upgrades and will therefore focus it’s staff and business on this aspect. Defects or problems will be fixed rather than designed out of the aircraft, further lowering MC rates and increasing costs in latter years.

        There was a proposal recently to SLEP the E/F models in order to avoid buying further F35s, it did indeed show that it was cheaper to squeeze an extra 10 years out of them ( at a cost of between $23 and $33 m per airframe not including M+M costs) than to buy new ( and $80m was the price used for comparison) F35s. Would be a different story if the 35 wasn’t a pig though.

        There are problems here though, if the E/F was capable of handling tasks and threats in the 2020-2030 timeframe then it was clearly a poor design for the 1999-2020 timeframe. Over designed for a long life and over bought to account for losses and downtime in it’s latter years.

        So does this actually work out cheaper in the long run?

        Think about the other implications in second order effects. Keeping an aircraft in service for 20 years means building larger aircraft carriers to account for availability, having more overall staff involved in maintenance both at depot and line and managing a fleet of aircraft currently ranging from 1 to 16 years old. This too on a project which was both on time, budget and under weight, which is a rarity.

        Would you prefer your ground crews to be proficient at cannibalising airframes or getting new builds turned around sooner?

        Six years is probably not the optimum number, but 20 certainly is not and 30 is ridiculous.

        Hence I’d argue, and the figures used are from a program which is wildly successful, that much of the cost inherent in modern multirole fighters is due to the design requirement for a long life.


        • picard578 said

          “Bear in mind that whilst the airframe might only make up 30% of the cost up front, it has implications in later years which aren’t necessarily a bargain.”

          I know that. But with airframe designed for shorter service life, you will simply arrive at that kind of situation sooner, as decay is progressive, and airframe designed for shorter service life naturally decays more quickly. What is needed now is to reduce acquisition cost of fighters while leaving service life intact, so that there is no need to keep fighters in service any longer than necessary. Problem is not that airframes are designed to last for too long, but that modern fighters are so expensive that airframes are retained way past their service life.

          “The designs themselves will be heavier, more complex, use significantly higher amounts of exotic or difficult to fabricate materials and will perform more poorly.”

          True. But most of the cost in modern fighters is in avionics, so using an airframe with very short life is not economical as a cost reduction measure since you will end up paying, say, 75 million USD every 5 years instead of, say, 90 million USD every 15 years (and that’s optimistic). If avionics could be designed “plug&play”, it may be a different issue, or may not.

          “Would be a different story if the 35 wasn’t a pig though.”

          Not really. Even Gripen C costs some 35-45 million USD unit flyaway.

          “Think about the other implications in second order effects. Keeping an aircraft in service for 20 years means building larger aircraft carriers to account for availability, having more overall staff involved in maintenance both at depot and line and managing a fleet of aircraft currently ranging from 1 to 16 years old.”

          That is true, but in all these areas there are far more pressing issues (primarly usage of complex, large multirole fighters). And it is a question wether buying new fighters every 6 years will be cheaper.

          “Six years is probably not the optimum number, but 20 certainly is not and 30 is ridiculous.”

          Actually, I’d say that the optimum number is some 10-15 (no more than 20) years for air superiority and 10-20 (no more than 30) years for ground attack aircraft (keep in mind, multirole aircraft are both). Interestingly, F-16 was originally designed for service life of 4.000 hours in the air, which, if you keep in mind a requirement for 30-40 flight hours per month for maintaining a proper level of piloting proficiency, turns out to be between 8 and 11 years. I’d go for 4.000-6.000 hour airframe and 40 hours per month, so about 8 to 12 years in service. With a 38.246.000 USD aircraft and direct cost of 4.450 USD per flight hour, this gives 56 – 65 million USD lifecycle costs. Even when indirect costs are accounted for, this gives no more than 118 million USD lifecycle costs per aircraft. This gives a cost of 11.000 – 14.000 USD per hour (and 6.000 hour lifetime is actually cheaper).

          For comparision, F-35A has unit flyaway cost of 145.000.000 USD, likely direct cost per flight hour of cca 35.000 USD, total cost per flight hour of cca 50.000 USD and airframe life of 9.000 hours. Since it will not fly more than 15 hours per month, this gives it 50 years in service, direct lifecycle cost of 460 million USD and total lifecycle cost of 595.000.000 USD per aircraft. This gives it a cost of 66.000 USD per hour. Going back to the previous paragraph, F-16C has a unit flyaway cost of 70.000.000 USD, direct cost per flight hour of 7.000 USD, total cost per flight hour of 21.000 USD and airframe life of 4.000 hours in the air. This gives it 8 to 11 years in service, direct lifecycle cost of 98 million USD and total lifecycle cost of 154.000.000 USD per aircraft, for 38.500 USD per hour.

          If FLX is used to the maximum extent – 80 hours per month – you do indeed get 4-6 years of lifetime.

          “Hence I’d argue, and the figures used are from a program which is wildly successful, that much of the cost inherent in modern multirole fighters is due to the design requirement for a long life.”

          MOST of the cost is in the multirole requirement, which requires stronger (thus heavier and more expensive) airframe for the same airframe life, larger size, more extensive sensor suite, more complex engines, more complex software (due to more weapons and greater range of Cg positions) etc. This directly leads to requirements for increased airframe life and even more costs, but the requirement itself is not the main cause.


  8. […] II GR-7: 352 kg/m2 Harrier II Plus: 393 kg/m2 J-35J Draken: 183 kg/m2 Tornado ADV: 711 kg/m2 FLX: 259 […]


  9. Silavite said

    I was discussing this proposal with someone else online who was adamant that radar is still absolutely needed, this is his argument.

    “[IRST] Can track incoming at 90km and outgoing at 145km? Identify at 40km? Cool.
    Radar equipped fighters can track and identify both at ~300km with altitude, bearing, and speed.

    IRST can use the doppler effect to estimate closure speed. Neat. You could prrrrrobably get a heading out of that. You won’t get an altitude out of that though unless it’s integrated with a radar system or GPS and a system to CC that and it’ll all be approximate guestimates.

    You’re still in a problem where you’re more dependent on AWACS being up and working and responding quickly to things vs the ability of a radar-based platforms in a uniform setting (where you aren’t fighting countries flying similar craft) being able to tell for themselves “Whoops that’s an F/A-18″ and call out a buddy spike without having to dial home. Being able to tell that’s a Su-27 at 300km vs 40km is a HUGE ******* DIFFERENCE.”

    I’m a bit skeptical of the 300km radar figure, and I have no info on his doubts about IRST’s ability to give headings/altitudes/speeds.


    • picard578 said

      “Radar equipped fighters can track and identify both at ~300km with altitude, bearing, and speed.”

      I’ll use Rafale and Su-30/35, as India has them both, and China has Flanker variants as well; plus, Rafale is closest to my FLX proposal. Irbis-E may be able to detect target of 5 m2 RCS at 425 km. However, there are issues.

      Rafale has RCS of 0,15-0,3 m2 from front. With 6 missiles, and considering that 4 of these have no pylons, RCS will be <1 m2. So:

      (RCS1/RCS2) = (R1/R2)^4
      (1/5) = (R1/425)^4
      0,2 = (R1/425)^4
      0.66874030497 = R1/425
      R1 = 284

      This is detection range. Tracking range is 80% of detection range, so Su-35 can start locking on at 227 km, assuming no jamming.

      With classical jamming, reduction in range can be as much as 78%:

      Click to access a257316.pdf

      Assuming 30%-80% reduction, Su-35 can start locking on at 45-159 km. Electronic acquisition will take at least 10 seconds, against cooperative target, and in this situation several times longer. With Mach 2,6 mutual approach speed (1,4 + 1,2 supercruise), 10 seconds means that distance between fighters will decrease by 7,9 km; 30+ seconds which is more likely means that distance between fighters will decrease by 23,6 km. So Su-35 can launch a missile at 135 km.

      Now, Rafale's jamming is interesting. According to some information, SPECTRA reduces RCS by a factor of 1,5 to 3. This means that Rafale will be detected at

      (RCS1/RCS2) = (R1/R2)^4
      (0,6/5) = (R1/425)^4
      0,12 = (R1/425)^4
      0,58856619127 = R1/425
      R1 = 250

      (RCS1/RCS2) = (R1/R2)^4
      (0,3/5) = (R1/425)^4
      0,06 = (R1/425)^4
      0,49492320038 = R1/425
      R1 = 210

      Again, tracking range is 80% of detection range, so Su-35 can start locking on at 168-200 km. If this RCS reduction can be combined with classical jamming (possibly via standoff jamming), then Su-35 will lock onto Rafale at distance of 10 – 132 km at most.

      This is all academic, of course, since Su-30 cannot identify Rafale until it gets within either IRST ID range (assuming that OLS-30 can identify aircraft at all) or visual range (~800 m), as long as Rafale stays EM silent; radars can only generate image of static objects in no-jamming environment, as they have to change aspect relative to said object to do so. Rafale on the other hand can use IRST to identify Su-30 at 40 km, and TV channel allows the same at 45 km. Another issue is missile range: AIM-120D has aerodynamic range of 180 km, but its effective range is 36 km, if enemy aircraft doesn't turn away. If it does, or attack is pursued from the rear, its effective range is ~9 km.

      FLX will fare even better than Rafale. Being smaller, it will have lower RCS, especially since four of its missiles are conformal and don't have pronounced hardpoints. It has superior IRST, with 90 km head-on detection range vs 80 km for OSF, and it can use enemy's own radar signals to generate a firing solution at 140-340 km (though Rafale may be able to do the same as well, at ~200 km IIRC).

      "You won’t get an altitude out of that though unless it’s integrated with a radar system or GPS and a system to CC that and it’ll all be approximate guestimates."

      I guess this guy has never heard of kinematic ranging.

      "You’re still in a problem where you’re more dependent on AWACS being up and working and responding quickly to things vs the ability of a radar-based platforms in a uniform setting (where you aren’t fighting countries flying similar craft) being able to tell for themselves “Whoops that’s an F/A-18″ (…) Being able to tell that’s a Su-27 at 300km vs 40km is a HUGE ******* DIFFERENCE."

      Assuming that radar-based platforms have no IRST, then said radar-based platforms absolutely have to have an AWACS up and running to have any hope of effective BVR engagement. Unless they fancy lots of blue-on-blue incidents. This of course assumes that enemies stay RF silent; if enemies use radars, then you can use their own radar signals for IFF. It works in reverse as well, while FLX's PIRATE can identify a fighter at 40 km, if said fighter uses radar then FLX can engage it at maximum missile effective engagement range (36 km for AIM-120D, 160 km for MICA IR, maybe 100 km for Meteor).

      "I’m a bit skeptical of the 300km radar figure, and I have no info on his doubts about IRST’s ability to give headings/altitudes/speeds."

      IRST has significantly better angular resolution than radar, but significantly worse range resolution. It can give heading (especially if it can see image of aircraft), but yes, altitude and speed are a problem since you need range for that. There are solutions however. Most obvious is usage of an active sensor such as radar or laser rangefinder (Rafale's laser rangefinder has range of 33 km), but kinematic ranging is also possible, as is datalinking several aircraft together. That is a reason why I have proposed fitting FLX with LIDAR, which would allow precise range estimate at 80-100 km.

      300 km radar figure is, as I have shown above, rather optimistic against FLX. It will be true against very large fighters with little RCS reduction measures (F-15, Su-27/30 etc), but against FLX or Eurocanards, you can safely forget it.


    • picard578 said

      I’m going to do a more detailed response to his post later.


    • picard578 said

      Here is a full reply, I’d like you to post it there and say it’s from me since I couldn’t register:

      “Radar equipped fighters can track and identify both at ~300km with altitude, bearing, and speed.”

      Actually, they can’t. They can detect, maybe track, but not identify. (The only fighters that can track fighter-sized targets at 300+ km are Russian Flankers, Su-35 to be more precise, and even then it requires fighter to have a barn-door RCS and no jammers). Irbis-E may be able to detect target of 5 m2 RCS at 425 km, but that’s a big iffy. Even if it can, Rafale has RCS of 0,15-0,3 m2 from front. FLX is smaller than Rafale, so let’s say 0,1-0,2 m2. With 8 missiles, and considering that 4 of these have no pylons, RCS will be 0,65-1,00 m2. Let’s round it to 1 m2.

      (RCS1/RCS2) = (R1/R2)^4
      (1/5) = (R1/425)^4
      0,2 = (R1/425)^4
      0.66874030497 = R1/425
      R1 = 284

      This is detection range. Tracking range is 80% of detection range, so Su-35 can start locking on at 227 km, assuming no jamming.

      With jamming, reduction in range can be as much as 78%:

      Click to access a257316.pdf

      Assuming 60%-80% reduction, Su-35 can start locking on at 45-91 km. Electronic acquisition will take at least 10 seconds, against cooperative target, and in this situation several times longer. With Mach 2,73 mutual approach speed (1,53 + 1,2 supercruise), 10 seconds means that distance between fighters will decrease by 8,27 km; 30+ seconds which is more likely means that distance between fighters will decrease by 24,8 km. So Su-35 can launch a missile at 20-83 km, and even then it will not know what it is launching at.

      FLX has two ways of detecting and targeting Su-27/30/35. Its IRST can detect Su-35 at 100 km (90 km vs subsonic target + 10% vs supercruising target) from front and 160 km from the rear. RWR will be able to detect Su-35s radar at several hundred kilometers, but it will only be accurate enough for targeting solution at distance of maybe 140 km.

      However, all of this does not really matter as neither fighter has a missile with >100 km effective range. To use Western missiles, Meteor has an effective range of ~100 km against aircraft in attack and 25 km in chase; AIM-120D has an effective range of 36 km against aircraft in attack and 9 km in chase.

      “Yeah…ground based radar stations have troubles tracking low and slow because of clouds and mountains. Airborne radar systems don’t, though, and we’re talking about equipping flying craft here not ground stations.”

      Airborne systems have trouble tracking anything low because of clutter.

      “You’re still in a problem where you’re more dependent on AWACS being up and working and responding quickly to things vs the ability of a radar-based platforms in a uniform setting (where you aren’t fighting countries flying similar craft) being able to tell for themselves “Whoops that’s an F/A-18″ and call out a buddy spike without having to dial home. Being able to tell that’s a Su-27 at 300km vs 40km is a HUGE FUCKING DIFFERENCE.”

      Actually, it is kinda the opposite. The only reliable way to identify platforms is to not rely on IFF but solely on onboard sensors. This means either NCTR (with radar) or video recognition (with visual sensors, including IRST). But there is a problem. Radar NCTR works in two basic ways. One is to identify the aircraft through its specific engine first stage signature. This does not work if aircraft in question has hidden engine face (like FLX, Rafale, Typhoon, Gripen, F-22, F-35… you get the idea) or if approach puts target aircraft at anything but head-on collision course. Second one is radar imaging. It is possible, but is very resource-intensive in terms of processing, and easily defeated by jamming. Even rapid maneuvers can seriously degrade imaging performance, and in either case it has lower range than IRST imaging.

      Third way includes reliance on enemy sensors. Basically, if the enemy uses radar, and you have its signature in database, you can recognize aircraft type. This obviously means major disadvantage for whoever is using radar in the first place.

      “As a short-range fighter craft on the lo philosophy paired with our hi bid F-22’s and such this could maybe work but historically speaking that relationship rarely gets employed like they say it should on paper and F-22’s require so much maintenance for their flight time I see a situation where these FLX’s are going up against Su’s and Mig’s without that screen and it not ending well at all for the FLX’s whereas F-16’s and F-18’s could handle themselves (and have shown to be able to handle themselves) much better.”

      First, FLX does not have “short range”. I fail to see how is 1.124 km combat radius on internal fuel “short-ranged”, considering that literally the only Western fighter with greater combat radius is the F-22 (1.166 km, mere 42 km (4%) advantage). 40% fuel fraction isn’t there for nothing.

      Second, I don’t see how the “F-16 and F-18 can handle themselves much better”. As I have explained above, not having radar is not a very large disadvantage. If radar really is required, I don’t see why it would be impossible to put AESA radar into supersonic external fuel tank (or supersonic pod), and have one FLX in each flight carry such a radar.


      • Silavite said

        From anon,

        “RWR will be able to detect Su-35s radar at several hundred kilometers, but it will only be accurate enough for targeting solution at distance of maybe 140 km.”

        FLX can get a targeting solution off of its RWR? What?

        Anywho I’m still not hearing anything in this figures to say that the IRST is superior to Radar, just a bunch of measurements and comparisons to say “it’s not as bad as you think”. It’s still not as good, and we’re getting ready to roll out systems like the AN/APG-81 which reportedly has a 400km range so that gap is going to fluctuate in how large it is from time to time…but there will always be a gap with radar ahead of the curve.

        EDIT: I do want to add, since the author might read this, that despite my criticisms I think it’s an impressive idea and I appreciate the amount of work he has put into designing all of this. IRST is an impressive technology and he obviously knows more about this than me, but despite the figures and reasoned argument I think there’s still a clear reason to include radar in birds vs. a solely IRST dependent platform.

        For my own opinion, I think I understand what your point is with using solely IRST. The element of surprise is crucial for achieving a kill, so it is worth cutting off range that won’t be within effective firing distance anyway for the benefit of surprise.


        • picard578 said

          To anon:

          “FLX can get a targeting solution off of its RWR? ”

          It is about precision. Old RWRs couldn’t target anything because they were not accurate enough – 10* accuracy of classical radar warners was not enough for anything but a “look there, missile’s gonna come from there” warning. FLX uses interferometric radar warners, and distance of the smallest base pair is enough for 0,062* accuracy (RWR antenna spacing of 25 wavelengths is required for 0,1* accuracy, 2,5 wavelengths for 1* accuracy. FLX has minimum spacing of 152 cm or 40,5 wavelengths, as explained in the article). Combine this accuracy with missile seeker range and you get the engagement range – and I used 9 km seeker range when calculating engagement distance, considerably less than even MICAs seeker range (about half of it, actually). Plus, it would most likely be used with anti-radiation missiles (I have proposed using both Meteor and a theoretical dual-stage BVRAAM as anti-radiation missiles – RWR would get initial targeting data, they’d follow radar emissions of a targeted fighter with their own antennas during the flight, and would go active once within seeker range, if at all).

          EDIT: For comparison, CAPTOR has angular resolution of 0,05 ° at 165 km. So a 100+ km engagement distance with RWR is most likely achievable with FLX’s configuration.

          “Anywho I’m still not hearing anything in this figures to say that the IRST is superior to Radar”

          Main issue is that most, if not all, BVR kills have happened when target was surprised. IRST allows for surprise, with radar you are warning the enemy at least of your presence. IRST is also far harder to jam, and most fighters don’t carry high-powered IR lasers anyway. Further, all ID measures can get hacked except for ones not dependant on electronic transmissions. Hence a requirement for VID and/or NCTR. From what I know, IRST actually has longer ID range than radar NCTR modes.

          “It’s still not as good, and we’re getting ready to roll out systems like the AN/APG-81 which reportedly has a 400km range so that gap is going to fluctuate in how large it is from time to time…but there will always be a gap with radar ahead of the curve.”

          It is not as good in terms of raw performance (range etc.) but I still have issues with using radar. First is that radar may well be incompatible with achieving BVR kills against a competent opponent. All BVR kills so far were against comparably low-capability targets that were, most of the time, surprised. Serb MiG-29s were literally climbing into USAFs AMRAAMs, with no missile warners or ECM suite avaliable – and in some cases at least they had no operable radar or IRST as well, though neither would have warned them of incoming missiles anyway (IRST might, but IIRC on MiG-29 it is cued by radar and it is a far cry from PIRATE anyway). Still, in one account I know of, a MiG-29 evaded several AMRAAMs after seeing his wingman get shot down (if I remember it correctly). Iraqi aircraft also typically had no RWR or MAWS. Second one is that using radar for search – which is its main advantage over IRST – means warning all and sundry at several times the detection distance. In fact, target will get the same energy as radar at four times the distance, and this is assuming perfect reflection – but reflection is never perfect, and a personal car has an RCS of 100 m2 compared to between 1 and 25 m2 for a typical fighter aircraft, which should give you an idea of how much gets reflected away. Third one is raw performance. You can either optimize a fighter for aerodynamic performance (e.g. Rafale) or for radar performance (e.g. F-15), not both. I chose the aerodynamic performance, and I doubt that with the size and configuration I was aiming at a radar would have given better range performance than IRST (plus I would have it used as an RWR most of the time anyway). Now if it could be possible to include radar antennas into wing and tail leading edges, I might consider it, but I’m not sure it was ever done, and I don’t know how heavy such elements would be or what their performance will be. I did include the radar pod (check the loadout options illustration), with an idea that a single flighter in each flight would use it and then datalink information to his wingmen. I still have to find an AESA radar that can fit into a 1.250 l supersonic fuel tank though.

          Radar will, by its nature, always have greater range in ideal conditions. But that is the key: in ideal conditions. However, modern fighters regularly have a self-defense suite, and there are also standoff jammers. There was an article about EFAs IRST back in 1990s I have a photo of, in which it is mentioned that “simulated trials of EFA’s ECR-90 radar show that its airborne detection range capability can be cut to less than 9km (5nm) by a combination of known Soviet stealth techniques and stand-off jammers.” Mind you, it is likely vs a Flanker, so it would be even less against something with smaller RCS (like Su-35 / Flanker-E, or J-10). While I don’t think that as good performance will be achieved vs a modern AESA radar, it still points to an impressive performance by jammers.

          “I do want to add, since the author might read this, that despite my criticisms I think it’s an impressive idea and I appreciate the amount of work he has put into designing all of this.”

          No problem, I always like a nice discussion – and you can’t have a discussion if everyone agrees in everything. I only have a problem when people disregard what I write with no arguments (more than once I read something along the lines of “You can’t have a fighter without a radar, that’s stupid”, and that was it, no argument, no examples, nothing but a lot of hot air) or arguments like “everybody is doing it differently, ego you are wrong”.

          “but despite the figures and reasoned argument I think there’s still a clear reason to include radar in birds vs. a solely IRST dependent platform.”

          There is a reason, yes. But all designs are tradeoffs, and I don’t think radar is necessary as a part of fighter’s regular sensory suite.

          EDIT: something I missed from a previous post:

          “By the by I love the “can track 200 simultaneous targets” metric.”

          Alien cows from space!

          On a serious note, it can track “200 simultaneous targets” not just “200 simultaneous aircraft”. “Targets” likely include aircraft as well as any missiles they may have fired.


          “For my own opinion, I think I understand what your point is with using solely IRST. The element of surprise is crucial for achieving a kill, so it is worth cutting off range that won’t be within effective firing distance anyway for the benefit of surprise.”



  10. Roberto Santana said

    Here some suggestions:

    1-The bottom of fuselage is flat, from the first station (behind the radome) to the wing trailing edge, there is no curvature, so if we compare the front view with the lateral view, there is no room to place the cannon under the aircraft. Since the FLX is very similar to the Rafale, I would suggest to place the GIAT in the right wing root. See the figure.
    2- There is a plenty of room on the vertical fin base, you can put a lot of electronics there and optimize the other places of the aircraft. Again, see the Rafale.
    3- Put the RWR antennas (forward and rear) on the wingtip missile launch rail.

    Here a picture, I hope it can help:

    P.S. See the bubble canopy shape.


    • picard578 said

      I can’t access your picture.

      “1-The bottom of fuselage is flat, from the first station (behind the radome) to the wing trailing edge, there is no curvature, so if we compare the front view with the lateral view, there is no room to place the cannon under the aircraft.”

      Actually, there is room, and you could make an incision in the airframe to allow rounds to pass, similar to what Gripen did (it’s got gun in a similar location). I’d rather avoid placing it into wing root in order to minimize off-axis recoil when firing, plus it would reduce fuel capacity.

      “2- There is a plenty of room on the vertical fin base, you can put a lot of electronics there and optimize the other places of the aircraft. Again, see the Rafale.”

      Yeah, might be doable. OTOH, I’ve already got a more-or-less empty nose due to removing the radar.

      “3- Put the RWR antennas (forward and rear) on the wingtip missile launch rail.”

      Won’t do. Interferometry requires relative locations of RWR antennas to be quite precisely known, and wings flex a lot during the flight. Aerodynamic distorsions of wings will prevent accurate measurements, and thus passive targeting.


    • Silavite said

      I am definitely making this my new desktop background. (It looks awesome!)


  11. Roberto Santana said

    Since the overall size of aircraft is already defined (length and wingspan), you can increase the wing area bringing the wing trailing edge backward until reach rear end of the wingtip missile rail. It would bring some weight penalty but you can gain an expressive number in maneuverability an fuel volume.


    • picard578 said

      I’m not so sure about that. Yes, it would decrease wing loading. However, FLX is an unstable aircraft for maneuverability purposes. Extending wing area backwards would mean that center of pressure will also move backwards, reducing instability margin and possibly even making it stable. Now, if I follow your suggestion, canard influence on wing lift, canard lift and forebody lift may or may not compensate for this Cp movement, and I prefer to play it safe.


  12. Silavite said

    You addressed a point about IRST that gives me an idea. IRST has good angular resolution, but poor range resolution. The solution to this may lie in something I picked up in my time playing the Silent Hunter submarine games.
    The Four Bearings Method:,%20Kuikueg.pdf
    It uses 4 hydrophone bearings (though any type bearing can be conceivably used) to calculate the speed, course, and range of a target ship. A program with this method time-compressed could have IRST bearings fed into it. Since IRST delivers very accurate angular info, the fact that the method is greatly accelerated would not effect the accuracy of the measurements greatly. Combining this with data acquired from doppler shift and outside sources could make IRST extremely accurate.
    Heck, if the RWR data is as accurate as you claim, you could even determine the enemy’s position with the RWR!


    • picard578 said

      It is possible… kinetic ranging in fact works in a similar way, calculating distance through angular difference while flying in a weaving pattern. Or you can datalink several fighters together.


  13. […] size of a Zeppelin may allow for a full-sized air superiority fighter to be used istead of microfighter; both versions will be designed. Zeppelin will have a service […]


  14. stormshadow said

    Why don’t you choose for the FLX a delta wing with a 60* or more wing sweep. It would reduce supersonic drag and increase supersonic acceleration and supercruise speed witch is important in air to air combat like you said. Also at equal wing area a 60* or more wing sweep delta wing would be lighter. Also because the FLX would be longer, you could put 4-6 air to air missile under the fuselage.


    • picard578 said

      Because it would increase drag when turning and lead to inferior takeoff/landing performance. Possibly reduce maximum lift as well.


      • stormshadow said

        In a dogfight with modern IR missile, instantaneous turn rate is much more important than sustain turn rate so the extra drag wouldn’t be a disadvantage and could be even an advantage because it’s mean you can decelerate quicker and make your opponent overshoot.
        For takeoff, the FLX has already a lot of lift because of the low wing loading and the lerx/canard/slat and combine with hight TWR, it will always have a low take off distance so you can’t gain much anyway. For landing you can use a hight AoA landing like the X-31 maximizing lift and so reduceing the landing distance.
        In BVR, you need maximum supersonic acceleration and sustain turn rate and maximum supercruise speed, so a hight sweep 60* delta wing is perfect for that.


  15. stormshadow said

    The X-31 use TVC for hight AoA landing but because FLX has already close couple canard, it’s doesn’t need TVC for such a landing.

    And even without it, landing distance wil be very short because of the low wing loading combine with close couple canard and lerx.


    • picard578 said

      Problem is that high AoA landing increases possibility of a mishap due to reduced visibility from cockpit, and increased probability of aircraft’s rear end scraping the floor. It is also very problematic on aircraft carriers for precisely these reasons, and FLX is supposed to be a carrier aircraft as well.


  16. […] article will compare a theoretical FLX concept with the F-35 JSF. Hence, it is more than just a comparison of different aircraft. Rather, it is a […]


  17. ldutra said

    This could be the start of a booklet. Have you considered to make an ePub out of it and have it out in Kobo, Amazon & the such? I see from an answer to a question in your About page that you write in MS Word. Fill in a glossary, footnotes and bibliography, incorporate your excellent explanations given as answers to the questions above, and perhaps you would have a minor bestseller. Just open it in LibreOffice, load the eLaix extension and you should have an ePub (conversible to Mobi) in next to no time.


  18. […] characteristics necessary are small size (with wingspan ideally being less than 8,75 meters) plus rough field and STOL capability. Saab Gripen is the only aircraft which fulfills […]


  19. […] of an air-superiority-fighter-slash-bomb-truck. Matching its air superiority capabilities with a properly designed fighter would result in a 40-50 million USD price tag, compared to Rafale’s current 90-100 million […]


  20. Serge said

    Well, I have mastered 1% of what you wrote, understand 59% and will have to take your word for it for the balance. One thing that is clear to me, is that preparing for a real war takes a back seat to a other interests, which makes a large percentage of debates between fighter plane enthusiasts an exercise in jaw flapping. There is a great deal of money to be made with “fear”.


    • picard578 said

      Can’t agree with that more…


      • Serge said

        One thing puzzles me about your FLX; you say it resembles more closely the Rafale concept, but in principle, I would have thought it to the NG as it possesses many of the Rafale performance benchmarks but at a fraction of the acquisition and maintenance cost while also being designed to operate and be serviced in a “realistic all out” war setting and not a “policing” setting.


        • picard578 said

          FLX is actually a mix of Rafale’s and Gripen’s characteristics:
          Rafale: dual-service (land-carrier) air superiority fighter, focus on passive approach in air combat, high missile loadout, range and combat endurance relative to aircraft size, comparatively high cruise speed
          Gripen: high ground survivability through road basing, low operating cost, small logistical footprint

          Basically, FLX is a combination of Rafale’s tactical qualities with strategic advantages of Gripen. Best of both worlds. Now I don’t remember the context in which I made that statement, but I believe I was referring to tactical application.


        • Serge said

          OK. Now for the million dollar question; in 2 parts, if you had to chose, off the shelf, dollars included, which of the two would you chose and why?

          Also, given Canada’s Geo political reality, which, the SH, NG or the Rafale do you think will prevail and why?

          I know you are busy, so no need for long detailed answer as I have only mastered 1% anyway, and you never know, we might still go F-35 … but let the 35 sleep for now.


        • picard578 said

          If I had to choose, I would go for Gripen, due to ease of maintenance and low operating cost.

          As far as Canada goes, it will likely be Super Hornet – Canada is part of NATO, and right next to United States, so politics will likely preclude procurement of any non-US fighter.


        • Serge said

          Cheers! I enjoy your writing. Fascinating to say the least.


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