Defense Issues

Military and general security

F-16 new build proposal

Posted by Picard578 on December 15, 2014

Introduction

While I have proposed design of a fighter aircraft that would be superior to any existing or projected fighter aircraft in the world, USAF is unlikely to ever accept a proposal that uses so much of the non-US technology (that being said, in my NATO air forces proposal a CAS aircraft is mostly based on US technology). Further, it would take at least 3-4 years to put into production – and considering the bureocratic nature of modern design projects and lack of external pressure, more likely timeframe is 15-20 years.

New F-16 would be based on the F-16A, but with major modifications.

F-16A data

Length: 15,06 m

Wing span: 9,96 m

Height: 4,88 m

Wing area: 27,87 m2

Turn rates:

12-14 deg/s sustained
Armament:

1 M61A1 with 511 rounds (511 rounds 134 kg)

Weight:

7 076 kg empty

9 569 kg with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder, 4 AMRAAM, gun ammo

11 149 kg AtA takeoff weight

Wing loading

343,3 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder, 4 AMRAAM, gun ammo

400 kg/m2 AtA takeoff

Thrust-to-Weight ratio (10.809 kgf)

1,13 combat

0,97 AtA takeoff

Fuel fraction:

0,31 (7076 kg empty, 3160 kg fuel)

Proposed modifications

Sensors:

  • since the F-16 does not have an IRST, a Skyward IRST should be added so as to allow the completely passive search, track and targeting. Weight gain: 30 kg sensor head, 25 kg processing unit = 55 kg
  • AN/APG-66 will be removed and nose redesigned for better high AoA performance. Weight loss: ~120 kg
  • MAW-300 IR MAWS will be added. Weight gain: 8,8 kg
  • RWS-300 RWR will replace AN/ALR-69 RWR. Weight gain: 8 kg – 19 kg = -11 kg (11 kg weight loss)
  • EW system controller unit will be replaced with EWC-300. Weight gain: 8 kg – ? kg = <8 kg

Weapons:

  • due to unsuitability of Gattling guns for aerial combat, M61 will be replaced with BK-27. Weight loss: 12 kg
  • 511 20 mm rounds weight 134 kg while 280 27 mm rounds weight 144 kg. Weight gain: 10 kg

Engine:

  • F-100-PW-229 turbofan will be used instead of F100-PW-200. Thrust: 8.074 kgf dry, 13.226 kgf wet. Weight gain: 0 kg.

F-16NG data

Length: 15,06 m

Wing span: 9,96 m

Height: 4,88 m

Wing area: 27,87 m2

Armament:

1 BK-27 with 280 rounds

8 hardpoints

Weight:

7.000 kg empty

9.503 kg with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder, 4 AMRAAM, gun ammo

11.083 kg AtA takeoff weight

Wing loading

341 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder, 4 AMRAAM, gun ammo

398 kg/m2 AtA takeoff

Thrust-to-Weight ratio (13.227 kgf)

1,39 combat

1,19 AtA takeoff

Fuel fraction:

0,31 (7.000 kg empty, 3.160 kg fuel)

Comparision with the FLX

Compared to the FLX, it is 29% heavier in terms of empty weight and has 13% higher combat weight, which will result in greater inertia. Its higher wing loading and usage of tailed delta configuration instead of FLXs close-coupled canard delta also reduces instantaneous turn rate, and leads to higher drag during level flight. F-16 could cruise at Mach 1,1 with 2 wingtip missiles; if the version in question was A, then the NG could potentially cruise at up to Mach 1,3 with 2 wingtip missiles or Mach 1,2 with 6 missiles, both inferior to the FLXs Mach 1,5 with 8 missiles, showing inferior thrust-to-drag ratio despite superior thrust-to-weight ratio (due to interference drag caused by horizontal tail, lower wing sweep, higher level flight AoA due to higher wing loading, higher trim drag due to lack of close coupled canard and higher skin drag). Its drag during turn will also be higher since it does not have benefit of close-coupled canards while having higher wing loading (341 vs 259,4 kg/m2 at combat weight), though the difference is somewhat reduced by the F-16s lower span loading (954,1 vs 988,8 kg/m at combat weight).

It should be noted that with both aircraft, wing loading itself is not the best indicator. F-16s tail produces lift during sustained turn, adding 60 ft2 / 5,57 m2, but retracts from lift while pitching aircraft up. This means that effective wing loading is 426,14 kg/m2 during instantaneous and 284,18 kg/m2 during sustained turn. FLXs canards on the other hand have area of 1,01 m2 and increase maximum wing lift by 10-30% over what can be gained from the wing itself, as well as providing additional lift during pitch-up but settling into a neutral position (where they provide no up- or down- -force) during sustained turn. Since it is unlikely that the wing will have experienced a major stall during sustained turn regardless of presence of canards, FLXs effective wing area is 36,65-43,13 m2 during instantaneous turn and 32,4 m2 during sustained turn, leading to wing loading of >190-229 kg/m2 during instantaneous and 259,4 kg/m2 during sustained turn. While both the F-16 and (likely) the FLX achieve maximum lift at 32* degrees AoA, standard F-16s are incapable of reaching that angle of attack due to insufficient directional stability and tendency to pitch up at high angles of attack (caused by widening of the nose in order to accept larger multipurpose radar). F-16NG will not have that problem and will be capable of reaching the maximum lift AoA.

As these values are based on 50% fuel, F-16NG will have significantly lower fuel fraction. At fuel fraction of 0,15, F-16NGs will have 1.527 kg of fuel, leading to combat weight of 9.450 kg, wing loading of 339 kg/m2, span loading of 948,8 kg/m2 and thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,4. At the same fuel fraction, FLX will have 956 kg of fuel, leading to combat weight of 7.284 kg, wing loading of 225 kg/m2, span loading of 856,9 kg/m and thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,44. F-16NG may have superior cruise endurance given the equal fuel fraction, due to larger fuel capacity; this however is offset by higher wing loading (and thus higher 1 g angle of attack), interference drag created by presence of horizontal tail in wing’s plane, and higher span loading leading to higher vortex drag.

Wingspan of less than 8,75 m is required for optimal road basing performance; here the F-16NG is disadvantaged with wing span of 9,96 m compared to the FLXs 8,5 m. Higher wing span and lower effectiveness of outboard control surfaces (due to lack of close-coupled canards) will also reduce F-16NGs roll onset rate; lack of close-coupled canards will lead to lower pitch onset rate. This inferior transient maneuverability will, combined with inferior instantaneous turn rate and acceleration, lead to inferior dogfighting performance.

Both aircraft will have excellent situational awareness thanks to good passive sensor suite and cockpit visibility, but the F-16s larger size and stronger engine would make it more visible on IR sensors and visually (leading to maybe 5-10% greater detection distance, at least). Operating cost per hour would also be higher at >7.000 USD for the F-16NG compared to 4.450 USD for the FLX.

Conclusion

This version would be significantly superior to either the F-16A, F-16C, F-15, F-18 or the F-35 when it comes to air-to-air combat. It would still be inferior to the FLX and to Rafale (or Gripen NG), though it would come close to the F-22, and likely surpass it. It should be cheaper than either Rafale or most other modern fighters with the exception of Gripen.

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30 Responses to “F-16 new build proposal”

  1. Chris said

    This design would certainly take it closer to the YF-16 heritage.

    The problem of course as always is the MICC. The direction the US is going is the F-16V. Apparently compared to the original, it adds 2.5 tons more mass than the F-16A. I suppose it’s the closest thing to admission we’ll get from LM that the F-35 is falling apart.

    The other issue is that there’s no technical limitation preventing something like the FLX. It’s ideological and about profits.

    • NicJon said

      Couldn’t agree more Chris. 🙂

    • picard578 said

      Agreed. F-16V is a multirole aircraft and is intended to fulfill the original purpose of the “multirole F-16” scam: that is, to provide a cheap, capable bomb truck without threatening the F-15 (and now the F-22) in their royal mission of air-to-air combat (in USAF parlance, it means primarly bomber interception).

      FLX is very close to the LWF idea, except it adds BVR capabilities (admittedly, any BVR capabilities beyond air-to-air ARM were not practical in the LWF days).

  2. NicJon said

    Great work Picard. Great stuff. I really like this idea of improving the F-16A. Something Sprey has mentioned in the past – ie. Giving it a modern day 32,000 Ib engine. Sprey said ‘then you’d have a smoking aeroplane’. Spreys mate Wheeler also mentioned in regards to the F-16A – ‘Thats a fairly hot aeroplane’ even in its standard form to a Dutch current affairs program.

    Admittedly the F-16A is the most sensible version to pick to modify, so 10/10 Picard. Every upgraded Falcon has become less and less agile due to increases in weight despite engine power gains. The A version is the pick of the bunch.

    But I can’t help but wonder how the YF-16 (and/or YF-16 with your modifications) would compare Picard. Afterall, Sprey maintains that the ‘YF’ is best F-16 there ever was.

    Kind regards and great work as always! 🙂

    • picard578 said

      “Something Sprey has mentioned in the past – ie. Giving it a modern day 32,000 Ib engine.”

      I believe that is actually where I got the idea originally, though it spent a lot of time on a shelf till I dusted it off.

      “Sprey said ‘then you’d have a smoking aeroplane’. Spreys mate Wheeler also mentioned in regards to the F-16A – ‘Thats a fairly hot aeroplane’ even in its standard form to a Dutch current affairs program.”

      And they were entirely correct.

      “Every upgraded Falcon has become less and less agile due to increases in weight despite engine power gains. ”

      Lift to weight, lift to drag and thrust to drag ratios are far more important than thrust to weight ratio. And keep in mind that lower lift to weight ratio (higher wing loading) automatically means lower lift to drag and thrust to drag ratios since aircraft has to fly at higher angle of attack to maintain same flight condition (regardless of wether it is a level flight or a turn), which increases drag for the same amount of lift. Which makes it quite obvious that more thrust does not equate more performance – aircraft that has better aerodynamic performance will always be more agile than aircraft that has inferior aerodynamic performance but more thrust for size/weight. This is something many people ignore.

      “But I can’t help but wonder how the YF-16 (and/or YF-16 with your modifications) would compare Picard. Afterall, Sprey maintains that the ‘YF’ is best F-16 there ever was.”

      YF-16 could only pull 7,5 g, so I’d first upgrade the airframe to tolerate 9 g. But overall, it would be better than the F-16A (for one, F-16A cannot achieve maximum lift coefficient as widening the nose to accomodate the fire control radar reduced its directional stability).

  3. picard578 said

    I’ll note here that with baseline EJ200 and with fuel fraction of 0,15 the FLX has TWR of 1,26.

  4. Chris said

    I wonder what an improved Gripen NG or Rafale might look like.

    The reason why I ask is because the designers of those two aircraft at least seem to have some understanding of what makes a good air to air fighter and it’d be more likely that something improved would be built in Sweden or France than the US.

    I suspect that when the F-35 inevitably fails, there will be either more F-22s or a similar aircraft.

  5. Henrik H. said

    Hi Picard,
    what happened to the Gripen C upgrade proposal? I get “Error 404 – Not Found”

  6. Roman Chyla said

    While I love your articles it beats me why do you insist on misspelling the word “comparison.” Is this some kind of a test?

  7. NicJon said

    ‘It would still be inferior to the FLX and to Rafale (or Gripen NG), though it would come close to the F-22, and likely surpass it’

    Its interesting Picard – Despite the F-16NG upgrades, you estimate that the Falcon would still fall short of the Rafael, Gripen NG and be merely a rival to the Raptor. Mmm…. perhaps I should give more credit to the Dassault and Saab designs.

    p.s

    After having another look at your F-16NG specs Picard, the only thing that I’d mention would be the option of keeping AMRAAM’s – You would still keep Radar guided missiles despite their track record vs IR guided missiles such as the Sidewinder?

    Kind regards! 🙂

    • picard578 said

      “Its interesting Picard – Despite the F-16NG upgrades, you estimate that the Falcon would still fall short of the Rafael, Gripen NG and be merely a rival to the Raptor.”

      There is a limit on what you can do with old aircraft. Rafale isn’t that physically larger than the F-16, though it is heavier, but it still has lower wing loading, generally superior aerodynamics. Gripen NG also has lower wing loading, superior aerodynamics, is of similar size and weight and will have comparable sensors and armament – though cockpit visibility is a problem. F-22 similarly has better aerodynamics – F-16A (basis for the F-16NG) has ITR of 28 deg/s, while both Rafale and F-22 have STR of 28 deg/s and ITR of 36/35 deg/s, respectively, though the F-16NG will have better turn rates than the F-16A. F-16 is also let down by its cruise speed of Mach 1,2 with 6 missiles, while F-22 can cruise at Mach 1,7 with 8 missiles, which may counter F-16NGs advantage in small size and IR sensors.

      “You would still keep Radar guided missiles despite their track record vs IR guided missiles such as the Sidewinder?”

      Since US don’t have IR BVRAAM, yes – though I’d like them converted to IR guidance (AMRAAM + AIM-9X or MICA IR seeker).

  8. NicJon said

    Another question regarding the F-16NG’s Wing Area Picard…

    From YF-16 to F-16A, the wing area went from 280 sq feet to 300. However, so many changes happened that Boyd had asked that the wing area be increased to 320 sq feet to regain back agility that had been lost through all the ‘enhancements’.

    Would you consider a wing area increase upgrade Picard?

    p.s

    Of course the background was that Boyd was denied his request. The person in charge had chosen to put his career first. Years later he contacted Boyd and apologised and wanted to be friends again. Boyd hang up on him! – haha!

    • picard578 said

      “Would you consider a wing area increase upgrade Picard?”

      That would be a good idea, but it would require a considerably more thorough redesign and calculations – to the point that doing a completely new aircraft (e.g. FLX) is easier.

      Thanks for the info.

  9. MarkyMark said

    Though not entirely on topic, what do you think of vectored thrust? Why?

  10. tdcoish said

    Picard,

    I have been thinking about a modern fighter for both America, and my country (Canada). Really, if you take the F-16 as a starting point and then:

    1) Move to a canard design
    2) Remove radar, streamline nose
    3) Change gun from M61 rotary cannon to something like BK27 or dual M39 (20mm) cannons
    4) Put a modern electrical dash in there (I’ve heard the Super Hornet has a very nice cockpit interface)
    5) Put the F414-EPE in there, which generates 5,400 lbs less thrust, but for 1,950 lbs less, and less fuel consumption, less drag, etcetera
    6) Put an IRST on the front, or two on the front pointing in different directions if that can be made aerodynamically
    7) Put IR MAWS on the tail.
    8) Design the airplane like the Swedes, with an eye for low cost and easy repairs in the field
    9) Strengthen landing gear for rough field operation (like Swedes again)

    You have yourself the best fighter plane in the world.

    Of course, these changes are an entirely new fighter plane, that must undergo serious testing, just like a truly new design, but I can’t help but think that this can be done for a lot cheaper than a totally new design, starting from scratch.

    Avionically, the removal of the radar does a bunch for us. First off, it removes 120kg’s and streamlines the nose of the aircraft as you said. More than that, since we used to have a radar in the nose, we can now put whatever we want in the nose, which means that we can go the F-5 route, and put dual guns in the nose, or we can simply put a bunch of electronics in the nose. Since the plane will be designed for total Air Superiority, that is to say Interception, and DogFighting, we can strip out all the electronics designed to aid in the AtG role. To that end, while I’m a big fan of tearing out excess electronic crap, the increased space in the fighter allows us to much easier place any electronics in there if we decide that we need a redesign of the layout. Secondly, the more things are packed in, the more things are hard to maintain, so the decreased density of the aircraft can only be a good thing. When it comes to actually wiring up the plane, we already have a working example, so a lot of the tedious work has been done for us. Finally, the FCS has already been written and extensively tested, so it can simply be put into the new aircraft. For the future, I would look extremely critically at all the electronics, with an eye to outright removal, and redesign for weight and cost savings, but that is something that can go into the A2 version of the plane.

    The landing gear needs to be redesigned, but only to a point. Secondly, how much does it really cost to test out landing gear? It’s amazing how they could test the landing gear of the OV10 Bronco back in the 60’s by creating a bumpy field and flying over it a few times, combined with picking the plane up with a crane and dropping it. As a matter of fact, you can still do that, and again, it’s not like strong landing gear is this unsolved problem that we need the reanimated corpse of Werner Von Braun to gift us the solution to. The actuators that control the landing gear can simply be taken from the F-16.

    The electrical dash is another solved problem, as is the touch screen on the Super Hornet. There is no reason that this stuff won’t actually make the plane cheaper. There’s also no reason that this stuff can’t be made smaller than it is on the existing F-16.

    Inside the cockpit, we are going to have the exact same seat, with the exact same control stick, with the exact same cockpit glass shape and design. Solved problem.

    Aerodynamically the canards are going to also require a redesign of the wing, and the smaller engine requires a redesign of the body. However, the intake is going to be the exact same pitot intake with a splitter plate. No question though, the aerodynamic design is the biggest change. Having said that, the development of Computer Assisted Design leads us not just to creating better aerodynamic designs, we also can do it much cheaper, since we don’t need a gigantic, expensive wind tunnel that isn’t even as good.

    IR MAWS can just be slapped on, and easily wired up to the cockpit, although we’re going to have to figure out the best way to present this to the pilot. For starters, a screen that shows the location of the heat blip in relationship to the plane, in three dimensions of course, can be trivially set up.

    All of the above points are stated under the presumption of a non-incompetent bureaucracy, as well as a non-corrupt and hostile Air Force in the first place. Having said all that, my inspiration for this was the development of the A7-Corsair II, which the Navy asked for on a fixed-price contract, and which was delivered to them for the ridiculously cheap price of less than 1 million each (1966 dollars), after a total development time of less than 3 years from start to mass production. There is absolutely no reason other than disgusting bureaucracy that we can’t develop a top of the line fighter plane for less than 100 million today, if existing technologies (especially engines) are utilized. Factoring in the various costs of an aircraft, it is not at all unreasonable to expect a per-plane manufacturing cost of less than 10 million, provided that mass manufacturing techniques are actually utilized, although total costs must amortize the cost of project development.

    Using existing technology to improve a successful older design is totally against the current dogma of the US Military bureaucracy. This is because “new” stuff can justify massive development costs, as well as massive initial costs, due to the “massive technological improvement” due the the shiny newness of itself. This is why instead of the M113A5 APC revision, or a very similar new design for something around 300-500k we get the Stryker IFV piece of garbage for 11m. Instead of the improved F-16 I’m suggesting for ~15mil, we get the F-22 and F-35 for 200-350m, but it’s okay because they’re “stealth”. There is a strong institutional prejudice away from things that are cheap, because they are cheap.

    Having said all that, Canada is famous for taking great American airplanes, and building the definitive version of them. Our CF-86’s were the best version of the f-86, mainly due to a much better homemade engine and power assisted controls. Our CF-5’s were the best version of the CF-5, adding new landing gear for shorter takeoffs, better engines, better navigational systems, and a midair refueling probe. Our CF-18’s are the best version of the FA-18, with a false canopy bottom (adopted by everyone else after us), and small aerodynamic changes to correct for wing droop at low speeds. It won’t actually happen, but it would be extremely fitting for us to create an improved airplane, let’s call it the CF-16-2, which managed to save the Americans from Lockheed Martin.

    • Picard578 said

      Indeed. Problem I think is partly in modern humans mentality – they want something “new”, something “revolutionary” – just look at the adds. But evolutionary approach to design is oftentimes far better and more flexible.

      • tdcoish said

        Actually Picard, I’ve been meaning to ask you about your ideal implementation of a Strike Fighter. The way I see it there are three primary roles for a fighter:

        1) Interception – Mig 31 great example
        2) Area Control for Army (dogfighting) – FLX, F5 more pure example
        3) Bomb Truck/Strike Fighter/Naval Shiphunter – A6, A7

        With a long range ramjet missile or two I can see your FLX being a fantastic Interceptor, and of course it’s a great Dogfighter, so you’ve probably got the first two things covered pretty well. Having said that, I have been doing some thinking as to what makes a great Strike Fighter. Personally, I would go with something very similar to the A7, but with a modern design emphasizing range and payload. Although there is a negative association, there is a certain art to making a great bomb truck.

        I was struck how engine design is much harder than I thought at first glance. Do you go with a small, non-afterburning, turbojet (or vlow bypass turbofan), get up to about 0.5 T/W, and use the space savings to pack the thing full of fuel? Or do you instead go with a medium bypass engine like the TF 34 that the A-10 uses? If so, where do you put it and how does that affect the intake design. The original A-7 had a vlow bypass 15,000 lbs turbofan, which I think would be preferable since the plane is going to be at the 600-1000 kmph speed range quite frequently. Still, there are lots of interesting decisions that I have only partly answered in my head. I also think that the plane should in fact have a built in radar, just like the A-7, but maybe podded would be better.

        Curious to hear from you, if you had to design a plane for that one role, what kind of plane would you design?

        • Picard578 said

          Strike fighter cannot replace close air support aircraft IMO, so you need four types actually.

          There is a difference between strike fighter and strike aircraft. Strike aircraft is solely ground attack aircraft. Strike fighter is a ground attack aircraft with ability for air combat aside for self-defense. A-7 was attack aircraft, it could carry Sidewinders, but then so can the A-10. For strike fighter, I would go with something similar to Rafale B or F-15E.

          Engine design depends again on a role. As a rule of thumb, increased speed and/or altitude = reduced bypass ratio; reduced speed and altitude = increased bypass ratio. Specialized air superiority aircraft tend to have bypass ratio up to 0,4; multirole ones between 0,3 and 0,6 or so, and ground attack aircraft anything above. CAS aircraft will likely have bypass ratio above 10:1.

          Location of engine again depends on role. With air superiority fighters, you want them as close to centre line for minimum roll inertia and centralized mass distribution (e.g. any single-engined fighter, for two engines Rafale, Typhoon, F-18). For multirole fighters, you want them somewhat separated but still close to centre line (e.g. Su-27/Flanker and MiG-29/Fulcrum families of fighters). For CAS aircraft, you want them podded and very separated (e.g. Su-25 and A-10).

          As for intake design: subsonic you don’t need much of an intake, just engine pod. Up to Mach 1,8, you want an S-shaped air intake with simple inlet. For Mach 2,0, you want to add either a protruding splitter plate or DSI intake. Above Mach 2,0, you need a *very* complex design in general, specifics of which I don’t really know as I never was interested in passing these speeds.

          You have book “Design for air combat”, it is a good starting point.

          I already did make designs/design concepts fir aircraft:
          https://defenseissues.net/2014/08/02/air-superiority-fighter-proposal-6/
          https://defenseissues.net/2013/12/28/close-air-support-fighter-proposal-3/
          https://defenseissues.net/2014/08/16/forward-air-controller-aircraft-proposal-revised/

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