Comparing stealth fighters

Introduction

A Christmas / New Year present for all of you.

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This article will compare “stealth” fighters, regardless of wether they are in service. Aircraft compared are as follows: F-22, F-35, T-50 / PAK FA, J-20 and J-31. Following article will form a basis for comparision:

https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/comparing-modern-fighter-aircraft/

Radar will be ignored for two reasons: its nature as an active sensor makes it tactically irrelevant in air-to-air combat even between conventional aircraft, and even if used, low RCS of fighters being compared means that IRST will still have far longer detection range.

It should be noted that this comparision includes test and development prototypes, and as such cannot be truly accurate due to lack of data and changes to the final version. US T&D prototype of the F-22 – YF-22 – was (rightly) called “paint job with shape of the F22″.

Comparision

Impact on pilot’s skill

As stated, pilots should fly at least 30-45 hours per month. Neither the F-22 or the F-35 fulfill that requirement (F-22 can offer 15 hours per month at maximum), and no other stealth fighter on the list is likely to fulfill it either. If anything, PAK FA and J-20/31 are likely to have worse record than the F-22, if standard pattern is followed.

Numbers in the air

Again, no precise comparision is possible due to the lack of information.

F-22A has unit flyaway cost of 273 million USD, mission avaliability of 55,5% and sortie rate at 1 hour per sortie of 0,52 sorties/day/aircraft. Assuming 20 billion USD cost, this gives 73 aircraft flying 21 sortie per day. (Another figure I found that is unconfirmed, 70,6% avaliability, would allow it 27 sorties per day).

F-35A has unit flyaway cost of 145 million USD, mission avaliability of 35% and sortie rate (at 1 hour per sortie) of 0,53 sorties/day/aircraft. Assuming 20 billion USD cost, this gives 138 aircraft flying 26 sorties per day.

T-50 has an expected unit flyaway cost of 50-100 million USD, though real figure will likely be higher (up to 150 million USD). As it is a stealth fighter with RAM coating, it is likely to have avaliability similar to the F-22, as well as relatively low sortie rate. Assuming 45-65% mission avaliability and 0,4-0,6 sorties/day/aircraft, it can provide 133-200 aircraft and 24-78 sorties per day for 20 billion USD procurement cost.

J-20 is expected to cost cca 80 million USD, though it will likely end up costing cca 150 million USD. Again, assuming 45-65% mission avaliability and 0,4-0,6 sorties/day/aircraft, it can provide 133 aircraft and 24-52 sorties per day.

J-31 will likely cost cca 80 million USD. Assuming 45-65% mission avaliability and 0,4-0,6 sorties/day/aircraft, it can provide 250 aircraft and 45-98 sorties per day.

(It should be noted that all these aircraft will have exorbant prices when development costs are included, as these tend to be multiple times higher than for 4th and 4,5th generation fighter aircraft. They are also hard to maintain and unreliable – no exceptions).

For comparision, Rafale C has a unit flyaway cost of 90 million USD, demonstrated mission avaliability of 100% and sortie rate (at 1 hour per sortie) of 2 sorties/day/aircraft. Assuming 20 billion USD cost, this gives 222 aircraft flying 444 sorties per day (a 17:1 advantage over the F-35). If mission avaliability is reduced to 90%, it still gives 200 aircraft flying 400 sorties per day, a 15:1 advantage over the F-35 and at least a 4:1 advantage over the J-31.

Quick response to attacks and on-ground survivability

F-22 has an approach speed of 155 knots. Wing span is 13,56 meters and takeoff distance is 480 meters. While takeoff distance is acceptable, wing span is well above 10 meter maximum allowance for adequate road basing capability.

F-35s high wing loading and weight result in high minimum approach speeds. Even the F-35C, with its comparably low wing loading (compared to other two F-35 variants – F-35Cs wing loading is similar to the F-22s) has to deflect flaps to 30 degrees in order to meet maximum approach speed limit of 145 kts, resulting in poor handling qualities. Its sink rate of 21 feet per second is considerably higher than the typical 10 fps sink rate. It also has a wing span of 10,7 meters, which is just above the maximum 10 meter wing span allowable for optimal road basing capability. Takeoff distance for air defense is 183 meters for C.

T-50 will likely have approach speeds on order of 150 knots. It also has a very robust undercarriage with large low pressure tires, allowing excellent STOL and likely dirt strip capability. Takeoff distance is around 458 meters, though values of 300-400 meters have also appeared. Road basing capability is limited by wing span of 13,95 meters.

J-20 is estimated to have a takeoff distance of 470 meters, but 13 wingspan meter limits road basing capability.

J-31 has a takeoff distance of 400 meters and a landing distance of 600 meters. Wingspan of 11,5 meters however limits its road basing capability.

Ability to achieve surprise bounces without being surprised

F-22 does not have an IRST, which means that it has to use radar to engage the enemy at beyond visual range. This, combined with its large size (18,9 m length, 13,56 m wingspan, 5,08 m height) and high IR signature, severely limits its ability to achieve surprise bounces. In terms of avoiding surprise it is no better: while limited rearward visibility is somewhat compensated for by high cruise speed of Mach 1,7, its high IR signature despite some IR signature reduction measures means that it will be easily noticed (engine IR signature reduction measures seem incidental, just a byproduct of having to combine thrust vectoring and all-aspect radar stealth, but they exist – which is far more than can be said for any other fighter discussed here. More specifically, flat engine nozzle helps cool the air, and nozzles themselves are hidden by tail booms).

Due to severe transonic buffeting, wing roll-off and low acceleration, F-35C is essentially a subsonic aircraft in both air intercept and ground attack missions. Even other two variants, though capable of limited supersonic flight, can not achieve supercruise as typically defined (sustaining speeds above Mach 1 without afterburner). All F-35 variants also have very high IR signature due to hugely powerful engine (with no IR signature reduction measures) required to push its brutal shape through the air, unaerodynamic airframe and lack of IR signature reduction measures. Problem is made worse by the fact that the F-35 has very limited rearward visibility, making surprise bounces from rear quadrant a certainity. Depending on amount of data Chinese have stolen, it might be possible for them to render F-35s sensors worthless by feeding them false information. Only advantage that the F-35 has over the F-22 is presence of IRST, but “IRST” in question is basically an in-build Litening pod, being optimized for the ground attack, and so has limited air-to-air performance (limited ability to detect targets at higher altitude than the F-35, limited range and resolution). As limited as it is, it still allows the F-35 to detect and attack the enemy without need to use radar, and thus to achieve surprise.

T-50 has a frontal IRST, as well as a rearwardfacing IRST. This provides it with good sensors coverage, and allows it to detect and possibly engage rear-quadrant threats well out to beyond visual range, though its own engines’ exhaust might mask targets directly to the rear. Having IRSTs also allows it to engage the enemy completely passively, thus maintaining surprise for longer (assuming that it uses QWIP technology, OLS 50 could track a subsonic fighter at 130 km via its engine exhaust, and likely at 80 km from front). High cruise speed of Mach 1,6 allows it great freedom of choosing when and how to engage and also reduces the possibility of suffering a rear-quarter bounce while increasing the possibility of achiveing the same bounce against most other fighters. However, inadequate rearward visibility will still make it vulnerable to surprise bounces in within visual range fight, and engines have no IR signature reduction measures.

J-20 is a large aircraft (20 m length, 13 m wingspan, 4,45 m height). As a result, its ability to achieve surprise bounces is rather limited. As with the F-22, it has to rely on high cruise speed (Mach 1,4-1,6) to avoid rear-quadrant attacks due to high IR signature and bad rearward visibility. While it does have an IRST, which will enable it to attack the enemy aircraft completely passively (a crucial element in achieving surprise), location and shape of its IRST suggest that it is similar in purpose and capabilities to the F-35s EOTS – in other words, it is not a fully developed IRST, but is instead a built-in IR targeting pod optimized for ground attack. Its canopy and cockpit design seems to provide barely adequate rearward visibility. Engines have no IR signature reduction measures.

J-31 is 16,9 m long and has a wing span of 11,5 m, which indicates moderate IR signature. It is expected to have an IRST of similar type as the J-20, though its smaller size will help in achieving surprise, especially if it turns out to be capable of supercruise. However, it is still very vulnerable to surprise bounces due to inadequate rearward visibility. Engines have no IR signature reduction measures.

Maneuvering performance

F-22 has combat weight of 24.883 kg, a wing loading of 317,4 kg/m2, thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,35, and span loading of 1.835 kg/m. Wing sweep is 42*, and engine has a power-to-frontal area ratio of 26,82 N/cm2. As a result, the F-22 will have good instantaneous turn rate, sustained turn rate and acceleration, while its weight harms transient performance; it also uses thrust vectoring to improve high-speed high-altitude performance. However, low fuel fraction of 0,29 will limit endurance.

F-35A has combat weight of 18.270 kg, a wing loading of 427,9 kg/m2, thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,07 and span loading of 1.707,5 kg/m. Wing sweep is 34*, and engine has a power-to-frontal area ratio of 17,86 N/cm2. As a result, the F-35 has very bad instantaneous and sustained turn rates (50% of the F-22s sustained turn rate, or ~14 deg/s) as well as bad acceleration, while its weight still harms the transient performance. Inefficient aerodynamics and powerplant will also limit combat endurance despite excellent fuel fraction of 0,38.

T-50 has a typical combat weight of 21.500 kg, a wing loading of 272,8 kg/m2, thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,39 and span loading of 1.541 kg/m. At heavy combat weight (50% maximum internal fuel capacity) of 23.150 kg, it has wing loading of 294 kg/m2, thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,3 and span loading of 1.659 kg/m. Wing sweep is 46,5*, and engine has a power-to-frontal area ratio of 22,85 N/cm2. Aircraft itself also has very small frontal area, about half of the F-22s. Result is that T-50 will have excellent instantaneous turn rate as well as very good sustained turn rates and acceleration, but its weight harms transient performance (though it will still be better than the F-22s). It also has a very good fuel fraction of 0,36, indicating good combat endurance. Overall it adheres very closely to Boyd’s energy-maneuverability requirements.

J-20 has an estimated combat weight of 26.422 kg, a wing loading of 339 kg/m2, thrust-to-weight ratio of 0,95 (possibly 1,1, but lower value is more likely as J-20 uses Russian AL-31F and will continue to do for forseeable future, until Chinese manage to copy it) and span loading of 2.032 kg/m. Wing sweep is 43* and engine has a power-to-frontal area ratio of 19,02 N/cm2. As a result it will have adequate instantaneous turn and climb rates, but limited acceleration and sustained turn rates, while transient performance will be very limited. Lack of horizontal tail will reduce interference drag and improve cruise speed and sustained turn rate, while canards will improve pitch/turn onset and instantaneous turn rates. Fuel fraction is very good at 0,35, indicating good combat endurance. Low wing loading and usage of canards combined with large LERX indicates greater focus on high-speed high-altitude performance, including maneuvering combat, and.usage of long arm canards as opposed to close-coupled ones indicates a focus on high-altitude interception. However, location of landing gear (center of gravity is always slightly in front of main landing gear) indicates that center of gravity is in front of centre of lift, or at least not far behind, thus indicating either stable or very slightly unstable aircraft. (Compare to Rafale).

J-31, at least its pre-production variant (production variants will be heavier), has a combat weight of 17.600 kg. As a result, it will have a wing loading of 440 kg/m2, thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,13, and span loading of 1.530 kg/m. Wing sweep is 35*. This means that it will have very bad turn instantaneous and sustained turn rates, though its sustained turn rate and cruise speed will be better than the F-35s due to flatter, more aerodynamic fuselage resulting from not having a STOVL variant.

Armament

(ability to achieve quick kills, vulnerability to countermeasures, ability to maintain surprise, and number of onboard kills)

In terms of kill probability, revolver and linear action guns have Pk of 0,31, rotary guns of 0,26, IR WVR missiles of 0,15, IR BVR missiles of 0,11 and RF BVR missiles of 0,08. BVR missiles’ Pk falls by 25% compared to values listed when actually used at beyond visual range.

F-22 uses the M-61 gun as well as AIM-9 Sidewinder WVR missile and AIM-120 BVR missile. As the M-61 needs 0,25 seconds to spin up to full rate of fire, and gun doors require 0,5 seconds to open, it will fire 37 projectiles weighting 3,77 kg in the first second. Missile bay doors also require 0,5 seconds to open. While both gun and IR missiles may allow it to surprise the enemy within visual range, it uses radar-guided BVR missiles which destroy surprise even when fired by using data from offboard sensors or RWRs, and are comparably unreliable and easy to decoy, jam, confuse or evade. That being said, AIM-9X Block III entering service in 2022 may have a range of up to 60 km. With standard loadout of 13 gun bursts, 2 WVR IR and 6 BVR RF missiles, it has a total of 4,16 onboard kills.

F-35 uses the GAU-22/A gun as well as AIM-9 Sidewinder WVR missile and AIM-120 BVR missile, though only the latter will be typically carried. GAU-22/A needs 0,4 seconds to spin up to full rate of fire and gun doors require 0,5 seconds to open. Thus, in the first second it will fire 16 projectiles weighting 2,94 kg. Again, usage of radar guided missiles does not allow it to surprise the enemy at beyond visual range, and unlike the F-22, it can only carry an IR missile at wingtip stations, thus negating its radar stealth. With standard loadout of 11,3 gun bursts and 4 RF BVR missiles, it has a total of 3,26 onboard kills.

T-50 uses the GSh-301 gun as well as R-73 WVR and R-77 BVR missile. GSh-301 achieves its maximum rate of fire of 1.800 rpm instantaneously, and thus can fire 15 projectiles weighting 5,79 kg in first 0,5 seconds. If standard Russian practice is followed, its BVR missiles will have RF, AR and IR variants; PAK FAs RF variant uses an AESA seeker, thus reducing the probability of seeker getting jammed or loosing track of the target. Presence of IR and AR BVR missiles allows, when combined with presence of the IRST, a completely passive engagement at beyond visual range. Assuming 12,5 gun bursts, as is standard for the Flanker family, as well as 2 IR WVR and 6 RF BVR missiles gives it a total of 4,67 onboard kills. If RF BVR missiles are replaced with IR BVR missiles, total number of kills increases to 4,84. It is also capable of carrying Kh-58UShE anti-radar and RVV-BD air-to-air missile, both with 200 km range. This indicates that SEAD/DEAD and AWACS elimination are also important missions for the T-50.

J-20 does not seem to have a gun, and it might carry 4 BVR and 2 WVR missiles. This gives it a total of 0,62 – 0,74 onboard kills, depending on wether BVR missiles are of the RF or IR variety. As with the T-50, it has an avaliable selection of RF, IR and AR BVR missiles, which increases probability of kill for a salvo as each type of missiles behaves differently.

J-31 can carry 4 BVR missiles. If it does not have a gun, this translates into a total of 0,32 – 0,44 onboard kills, depending on wether missiles are of the RF or IR variety.

Damage tolerance

F-22 has two closely packed engines, similar to the F-15. Its wings are also capable of carrying 4-g loads even after some combat damage. Fuselage fuel tanks are designed to be empty by the point 60% fuel capacity has been reached, thus avoiding possible fuel ingestion by the engine. However, at longer combat radiuses the F-22 will carry external fuel tanks, which means that possibility of ingestion is present, and there are still fuel tanks at sides of the engines. Hydraulic and electric systems are redundant. However, both main hydraulic pumps are placed near the centerline, close enough for a high single hit-kill probability. Tail actuator bay has no fire protection, potentially leaving the aircraft uncontrollable if damaged. Aeliron actuators and flight control avionics are very close to flammable hydraulic liquid. Hit into a missile bay is likely to take out the entire aircraft, a vulerability shared by all stealth fighters. A hit on gun ammunition will disable the gun but will not result in loss of the aircraft. While two engines are thought to provide an increased survivability, some failure modes (e.g. a disk burst, uncontained engine fire) will result in loss of both engines. Also, both engine control units are located at the bottom of the aircraft, as are all engine accessories.

F-35 is far worse when it comes to damage tolerance than any other fighter listed. Both A and C variants have massive quantities of fuel surrounding the engine inlet. This fuel will be at an elevated temperature during flight, and especially during combat, as it is used as a heat sink. Same fuel is used in aircraft’s hydraulic system, including the system used to swivel the F-35Bs vectoring nozzle. A hit from a 30 mm HEI round (as used by most Russian and Chinese fighters as well as Dassault Rafale) is almost certain to ignite the fuel and catastrophically destroy the aircraft, and engine is likely to ignite it even if the hit itself doesn’t. Even 25 mm and 20 mm shells or .50 cal and 7,62 mm bullets, as well as fragments from SAMs and MANPADS can cause a loss of aircraft. And since the F-35 is primarily a ground attack aircraft, it is likely to be fired at from below – which is a problem as its primary avionics bay is located in the lower front fuselage, an area most likely to be hit by the AAA fire. Engine inlet and air intakes are also surrounded by fuel. This lack of damage tolerance is compunded by the fact that the F-35s pilot may not be capable of bailling out due to ill designed cockpit and ejection seat.

F-35B has a lift fan which is untested against combat damage. It also melts asphalt, spalls concrete and crumbles flight decks with high-temperature Mach 1 exhaust. This means that the F-35B could damage (or, if unlucky enough, destroy) itself while landing, and will be an operational nightmare due to extreme airfield maintenance requirements.

T-50 has two widely spaced engines whose thrust lines are canted outwards at 2-3 degrees. As a result, it can fly with only one engine active, and any hit is less likely to take out both engines. Flip side is that it increases roll inertia somewhat, increasing probability of damage, though usage of independently vectored thrust might compensate for that somewhat.

J-20 has an advantage over all other fighters mentioned in that it has additional control surfaces in canards, leading to increased redundancy.

J-31 has an advantage over the F-35 in that it does not have a STOVL variant, as well as having two engines.

Ground attack performance

(important points: gust sensitivity, radar stealth, payload, combat radius)

F-22s all aspect radar stealth and supercruise speed mean that it can comparably easily avoid most typical air defense systems and take out high value targets, without need for low altitude flight. Requirement for rear aspect stealth has been achieved at cost of nozzle design that is both heavy and causes some thrust loss. It has a maximum combat radius on internal fuel of 1.166 km and internal payload of 900 kg (2×450 kg JDAM or 8×110 kg SDB).

F-35 has limited side and rear stealth and no supercruise capability. This is because it is meant for low-altitude penetration, where its high wing loading reduces its gust sensitivity and allows it to achieve higher speeds than typical low wing loading aircraft could achieve. It has a maximum combat radius on internal fuel of 1.082 km and internal payload of 900 kg; however, effectiveness of delivery compared to the F-22 is impeded by the lack of the supercruise (though it is compensated for by lower aircraft cost). It should be effective in SEAD: as its radar was capable of jamming the F-22s radar in tests, it should also be capable of jamming modern frequency-agile X-band SAMs (but not VHF SAMs). However, radar can only jam targets in front of the aircraft, and F-35 has no internal jammer to compensate for compromised rear aspect radar stealth.

T-50 is not as good as the above two in ground attack due to nonstealthy engine nozzles, lower and aft fuselage as well as a gap between air intakes; it also does not use saw tooth design. Further problems are caused by protrusions outwards of engines, intended to house WVR AAMs. As a result, it does not have as good deep penetration capabilities at high altitude as the F-22 does, and low wing loading limits its ability to hide below the radar coverage. Some info suggests that gaps are to be covered with net that has openings of less than 1/4 of wavelength of typical radars, and thus acts as a solid plate towards the radar. However, combination of high cruise speed and altitude might reduce SAM effective range so much that rear aspect stealth won’t matter anyway (specifically, to less than 1/5th of stated maximum range), and production engines might increase its rear aspect stealth (though it is also possible that Russians will opt for retaining 3D TVC nozzles over improving stealth). Production variant is also unlikely to retain current spherical IRST. It has a maximum combat radius on internal fuel of 1.250 km (est.) and internal payload of >=2.600 kg. It might be able to carry two 1.500 kg anti-ship bombs

J-20 uses a stealthy design, and stealth coatings probably based on the F-117 (after Serbs shot down the F-117, Croatian intelligence services noticed Chinese agents buying parts of the downed F-117 from local farmers) and possibly the F-35 (project’s rather porous information security was consistently penetrated by Chinese hackers). However, its round engine nozzles mean that it does not have as good stealth performance as the F-22, though it is likely better than the T-50 due to the more even underside. It should be noted that canards are not actually a stealth penalty: a Lockheed Martin engineer who worked on the F-35 has stated that early canarded configuration was not any less stealthy than later wing-tail configuration (due to aircraft always flying at angle of attack, tail will not be masked by the wing except for a short time and only if aircraft radiating is at higher altitude than stealth aircraft; against ground radars, horizontal tail is as much of a penalty as canards). It likely has a maximum combat radius on internal fuel of cca 1.800 km and internal payload of cca 3.000 kg. It utilizes glide bombs, meaning that it can release its payload outside the radar detection range, possibly even taking into account increased RCS due to open weapons bay doors, and use supercruise to defeat rear-quadrant SAM shots.

J-31 is mostly similar to the J-20, and it also has a high wing loading similar to the F-35, allowing it better low-level performance. New J-31 demonstrator also has a saw-tooth nozzle, showing greater focus on penetrating air defenses. It has a combat radius on internal fuel of 1.250 km and maximum internal payload of cca. 2.270 kg.

However, if enemy uses VHF and HF radars, value of stealth is heavily reduced if not eliminated alltogether – as shown by the F-117, shot down only 18 seconds after getting discovered by the VHF radar, and another F-117 that got mission killed. In such situation, none of the “stealth” fighters are much better than the conventional ones.

Combat radius also has implications for basing survivability. Most if not all of these fighters will require large and vulnerable air bases to functions; these have to be located outside the range of most prevalent threats. Since evolved Scud missiles may have range of up to 1.100 km, T-50, J-20 and J-31 have the adequate combat radius, while F-22s is borderline adequate and F-35s is completely inadequate.

Counter-AWACS performance

All fighters discussed have low frontal RCS and thus improved ability to destroy AWACS. Ideal scenario however would require a fighter to sneak up to within its longest missile range (preferably within half of it) without being detected by AWACS. Characteristics required are thus low frontal RCS and high cruise speed as well as air-to-air missile range.

AWACS used for comparision will be E-3 Sentry with 400 km detection range vs 5 m2 RCS aircraft, and 855 kph maximum speed. Radar range calculation is (RCS1/RCS2) = (R1/R2)^4, where RCS = radar cross section, while R=range. Speed of sound at 30.000 ft is 1.091 kph.

F-22 has 0,0001-0,0014 m2 frontal RCS (average RCS is 0,3-0,4 m2). Its longest-ranged missile is AIM-120D with 180 km range. Thus it will get detected at 27-52 km, well within half-range of the AIM-120D.

F-35 has 0,00143-0,006 m2 frontal RCS. Its longest-ranged missile is AIM-120D with 180 km range. Thus it will get detected at 52-74 km, well within AIM-120Ds half-range. Export F-35 has an RCS of 0,25 m2 and will get detected at 190 km, just outside the AIM-120Ds maximum aerodynamic range. To cover remainig 100 km to AIM-120Ds half-range it will require 346 seconds (5,8 minutes) at cruise speed of Mach 0,95 or 206 seconds (3,4 minutes) at maximum speed of Mach 1,6.

T-50 has 0,006-0,015 m2 frontal RCS (average RCS is 0,5 m2). Its longest-ranged missile is R-77 with 110 km range. Thus it will get detected at 74-94 km and to cover remaining 19-39 km it will need 40 to 81 seconds at cruise speed of Mach 1,6 or 31 to 64 seconds at maximum speed of Mach 2,0. (Most likely RCS is 0,013 m2). However, its R-37 missile (not yet in service but likely will enter service by the time T-50 does it as well) has a range of 400 km, allowing it to easily take out AWACS.

(Previous RCS figures are estimates from official releases, J-20 figure is APA estimate

J-20 has 0,001-0,1 m2 frontal RCS. Its longest-ranged missile is PL-12 with 70-100 km range. Thus it will get detected at 48-150 km, which in best case is just within the PL-12s half-range.

Conclusion

Overall PAK FA is the best and F-35 is the worst stealth fighter, where air superiority is concerned. Rating would go roughly T-50 > F-22 > J-20 > J-31 > F-35. T-50 and F-22 seem to be air superiority fighters and interceptors, though PAK FA shows greater focus towards air superiority than the F-22. J-20 is primarly a bomber/transport interceptor, while both J-31 and F-35 are primarily (if not solely) ground attack aircraft. F-35s air combat capabilities were intentionally limited in order to prevent it from replacing the F-22. Still, F-35s purpose is often misunderstood – it is not, and never was, an F-16 replacement. While the F-16 was the top dogfighter in the US air fleet, F-35 is optimized for strikes against fixed targets and deep incursions.

This shows different Russian and Chinese approaches. While PAK FA (T-50) is optimized to shoot down US fighter aircraft (primarily F-22 and F-15), J-20 is more optimized for shooting down US AWACS, transport and tanker aircraft, thus neutralizing its relatively short-range fighters without having to engage them in combat at all. F-22 is a compromise between two roles. T-50 seems to be the only stealth fighter made with actually realistic approach to aerial combat, in particular focus on maneuverability, passive sensors and on-ground survivability and ability to operate without large air bases (which will get destroyed), while J-20 is meant to avoid aerial combat, though it should be capable of handling itself if it comes to that.

What is also important is that US are the only country planning to replace all fighters with stealth variants. Both Russians and Chinese seem to be planning to use their stealth fighters to supplement conventional forces, to be used for highly specific missions such as AWACS hunting, tanker destruction and strikes against heavily defended targets (especially air bases and command and control facilities), while other aircraft establish air superiority (though T-50 seems to be meant to destroy other stealth fighters as well). This strategy targets precisely the most vulnerable parts of US air power structure. US, despite experience with stealth, have not – unlike Europe, Russia and China – taken many steps to counter stealth aircraft. IR sensors still seem to be considered primarly ground attack additions, and there is little in way of development and production of counter-stealth (VHF, HF, passive) radars, unlike in China, Russia and Europe.

Notes

Missile guidance types:

RF – active radar

IR – infrared

AR – anti-radiation

Further reading

http://aviationweek.com/zhuhai-2014/j-20-stealth-fighter-design-balances-speed-and-agility

http://thepoliticallyincorrectfish.com/pif2/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/f-22_v_f-35_comparison.pdf

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47 replies

  1. Interesting article but I was wondering what keep any fighter from shooting down awacs, what kind of defense systems do they have?

    • AWACS’ best defense is the ability to detect enemy fighters early and then vector its own fighters to intercept. Other than that, it can have jammers (Boeing E-3 has mountings for ECM pods) and chaff/flares, but these are of limited utility due to AWACS’ own size, low cruise speed and lacking maneuverability.

  2. How come there’s such a big difference in RCS between original and export F-35? Geometry and volumes must be identical so it can only be about integrated wave absorbing composites.
    With the F-35 already very questionable, and relying so much on radar stealth strategy, I can’t understand any air force in the world willing to commit itself to a degradated version of it!

    • It is not only about RAM but also quality of construction. Though it is possible that export aircraft will indeed have as low RCS as the US version, I have found statements going both ways, but still decided to list it regardless. You can never be too sceptical where military industry claims are concerned.

    • There no difference whatsoever between the RCS of the ‘original’ and export F-35.

      Reality Check: JSF’s Phantom Export Variant

      Brigadier Gen. David Heinz, program executive officer for the F-35, rejected a claim by Boeing executives that Washington was selling a “dumbed down” version of the F-35 to international partners, Reuters reported June 16 from the Paris Air Show.

      “I state categorically that I am not doing a different variant of aircraft for my international partners today,” Reuters quoted Heinz as saying in an interview. He said foreign countries who bought the F-35 would be subject to a U.S. disclosure process and U.S. export controls, but [that] the aircraft being sold today were the same airplanes that were also being built for the U.S. military services.

      http://www.defense-aerospace.com/article-view/feature/106186/%3Cb%3Eupdated:%3C%C2%A7b%3E-jsf-export-variant.html

  3. The issue here is not the amount of aircraft that will be produced. It’s that the sums of money spent will be very real and very sobering.

    I think that stealth has become something like poison gas was in WWI, a sort of dead end with a lot of attractiveness for many people – the idea that technology can solve the serious problems of war.

    • “I think that stealth has become something like poison gas was in WWI, a sort of dead end with a lot of attractiveness for many people – the idea that technology can solve the serious problems of war.”

      Indeed. And sad thing – that has proven itself in current presidential elections in Croatia – is that large numbers of people will easily believe a large lie.

      • Totally OT, but regardless of whether Ivo Josipović or Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović win, will either of them address any of the domestic problems? I suspect that the defining characteristic will be the gap between what they say and do.

        On that note, I suspect that outside of the US, everyone will be forced to supplement their fighters that buys the F-35. Then they will learn the hard way that the F-35 is garbage it would seem.

        • “Totally OT, but regardless of whether Ivo Josipović or Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović win, will either of them address any of the domestic problems?”

          Unlikely. Ivo Josipović however can be counted to create more problems on top of the existing ones.

          “I suspect that the defining characteristic will be the gap between what they say and do.”

          It’s less of a gap and more of a complete contrast.

      • I’ve often wondered if the Dunning Kruger effect was indeed true. They also suggested that society may simply be “too dumb for democracy”. In that case, it might have been inevitable that the plutocrats would take over.

  4. Well, if you take in account T-50 which is still not in production than be consistent and take R-37/RVV-BD missile also. With 215nm range it seems like perfect AWACS killer weapon. Beside from this, i agree with rest of analyses. Regards.

  5. Oh come now Picard. Your article has an agenda and it shows. You’re posting figures and numbers, but more often than there’s included without any references to back them up.

    Here’s a list of faulty statements in the article –

    1. F-35A has unit flyaway cost of 145 million USD, mission avaliability of 35% and sortie rate (at 1 hour per sortie) of 0,53 sorties/day/aircraft. Assuming 20 billion USD cost, this gives 138 aircraft flying 26 sorties per day.

    Unfortunately this is something I’ve corrected you on before.

    The F-35A’s current recurring flyaway cost is $108 mil which will to fall to $70-75 mil by 2019.

    – To equate mission availability rate from 2012-13 i.e during the early SDD, to the aircraft’s availability at FOC six years down-the-line is not a very honest ‘analysis’ on your part, and I suspect you know that.

    – From a maintenance perspective, with the ALIS and Fibremat the F-35 is far better off than the other stealth aircraft on the list.

    2. For comparision, Rafale C has a unit flyaway cost of 90 million USD, demonstrated mission avaliability of 100% and sortie rate (at 1 hour per sortie) of 2 sorties/day/aircraft. Assuming 20 billion USD cost, this gives 222 aircraft flying 444 sorties per day (a 17:1 advantage over the F-35). If mission avaliability is reduced to 90%, it still gives 200 aircraft flying 400 sorties per day, a 15:1 advantage over the F-35 and at least a 4:1 advantage over the J-31.

    – The Rafale C has unit flyaway cost slightly under $80 mil. And there is no aircraft in the world with a mission availability of 100% in peacetime.

    3. All F-35 variants also have very high IR signature due to hugely powerful engine (with no IR signature reduction measures) required to push its brutal shape through the air, unaerodynamic airframe and lack of IR signature reduction measures. Problem is made worse by the fact that the F-35 has very limited rearward visibility, making surprise bounces from rear quadrant a certainity.

    – You’ve again ignored the impact of the bypass ratio on the IR signature.

    – And the ‘lack of IR signature measures’ have been debunked references on earlier threads. No mention of the active liquid cooling system for the leading edges, the IR topcoat or the effect of the LOAN-derived nozzle.

    – The DAS delivered HMDS imagery for the F-35 results in it having the best cockpit visibility of any aircraft on the list.

    4. T-50 has a frontal IRST, as well as a rearward-facing IRST.

    – The T-50 only has a forward facing IRST. If you’d like to count IR warning sensors are IRSTs, then by that logic the F-35 has seven IRSTs covering a 360 deg envelope.

    5. F-35A has combat weight of 18.270 kg, a wing loading of 427,9 kg/m2, thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,07 and span loading of 1.707,5 kg/m. Wing sweep is 34*, and engine has a power-to-frontal area ratio of 17,86 N/cm2. As a result, the F-35 has very bad instantaneous and sustained turn rates (50% of the F-22s sustained turn rate, or ~14 deg/s) as well as bad acceleration, while its weight still harms the transient performance. Inefficient aerodynamics and powerplant will also limit combat endurance despite excellent fuel fraction of 0,38.

    Please post references to the claimed 14 deg/s STR.

    6. F-35 has limited side and rear stealth and no supercruise capability. This is because it is meant for low-altitude penetration, where its high wing loading reduces its gust sensitivity and allows it to achieve higher speeds than typical low wing loading aircraft could achieve.

    – The F-35 is not meant for low altitude penetration. No modern fighter will risk destruction by AAA & QR-SAMs, let alone a stealth aircraft. The F-35 will employ PGMs from standoff ranges.

    – The F-35 doesn’t have the speed or altitude of the F-22, but its according to the USAF.

    7. J-20 uses a stealthy design, and stealth coatings probably based on the F-117 (after Serbs shot down the F-117, Croatian intelligence services noticed Chinese agents buying parts of the downed F-117 from local farmers) and possibly the F-35 (project’s rather porous information security was consistently penetrated by Chinese hackers).

    – The Chinese hacking efforts might have helped, but the F-117’s ‘iron-ball’ stealth coatings were positively archaic (dating back to the 1970s). Practically useless for a modern design.

    8. However, if enemy uses VHF and HF radars, value of stealth is heavily reduced if not eliminated alltogether – as shown by the F-117, shot down only 18 seconds after getting discovered by the VHF radar, and another F-117 that got mission killed. In such situation, none of the “stealth” fighters are much better than the conventional ones.

    a) – The F-117 pilots were employing very lax tactics borne out of overconfidence by flying the same mission route repeatedly.

    – Large parts of the NATO comms were unencrypted. The Serbs had prior access to the NATO ATO. Basically, the SAM battery knew where the F-117s were going to be.

    b) – The shoot-down happened at a range of just 13 km. The VHF detection at 50 km on the other hand was not capable of handing out tracking information for the missile.

    – A stealth aircraft is thus far better off than a conventional one for the simple reason that the latter can be engaged by an FCR at far longer ranges than for the former.

    9. Combat radius also has implications for basing survivability. Most if not all of these fighters will require large and vulnerable air bases to functions; these have to be located outside the range of most prevalent threats. Since evolved Scud missiles may have range of up to 1.100 km, T-50, J-20 and J-31 have the adequate combat radius, while F-22s is borderline adequate and F-35s is completely inadequate.

    – No Scud has the kind of CEP required to make it a significant threat to aircraft on the ground, especially when the airbase retains an active SAM detachment.

    – The F-35A carries more internal fuel than the F-22 and has a larger combat radius.

    – What is your basis for commenting on the adequacy of the PAK FA, J-20 & J-31’s combat radius, or lack thereof? Please post references if you actually have figures for range.

    10. F-35 has 0,00143-0,006 m2 frontal RCS. Its longest-ranged missile is AIM-120D with 180 km range. Thus it will get detected at 52-74 km, well within AIM-120Ds half-range. Export F-35 has an RCS of 0,25 m2 and will get detected at 190 km, just outside the AIM-120Ds maximum aerodynamic range. To cover remainig 100 km to AIM-120Ds half-range it will require 346 seconds (5,8 minutes) at cruise speed of Mach 0,95 or 206 seconds (3,4 minutes) at maximum speed of Mach 1,6.

    – There is no difference between the RCS of an F-35 operated by the USAF and other export customers.

    11. T-50 has 0,006-0,015 m2 frontal RCS (average RCS is 0,5 m2). Its longest-ranged missile is R-77 with 110 km range. Thus it will get detected at 74-94 km and to cover remaining 19-39 km it will need 40 to 81 seconds at cruise speed of Mach 1,6 or 31 to 64 seconds at maximum speed of Mach 2,0. (Most likely RCS is 0,013 m2). However, its R-37 missile (not yet in service but likely will enter service by the time T-50 does it as well) has a range of 400 km, allowing it to easily take out AWACS.

    – The PAK FA’s patent filing claims an RCS ranging from 0.1-1 sq. m.

    12. F-35s air combat capabilities were intentionally limited in order to prevent it from replacing the F-22. Still, F-35s purpose is often misunderstood – it is not, and never was, an F-16 replacement. While the F-16 was the top dogfighter in the US air fleet, F-35 is optimized for strikes against fixed targets and deep incursions.

    The F-35 was ALWAYS supposed to be an F-16 replacement (1743 A-variants to be ordered), with the F-22 replacing the F-15C. And the F-35’s capabilities were never limited beyond what was required to keep it affordable (i.e. a STOVL variant achieving 400-500 extra orders).

    13. What is also important is that US are the only country planning to replace all fighters with stealth variants. Both Russians and Chinese seem to be planning to use their stealth fighters to supplement conventional forces, to be used for highly specific missions such as AWACS hunting, tanker destruction and strikes against heavily defended targets (especially air bases and command and control facilities), while other aircraft establish air superiority (though T-50 seems to be meant to destroy other stealth fighters as well).

    – The Russians are purchasing 4th gen aircraft to bolster their numbers which have plummeted as large parts of the Soviet-era aircraft inventory was phased out.

    – The Chinese have large numbers of 3rd gen aircraft that need replacement and will thus continue to produce J-10/11 variants.

    – Post 2020, both will shift to exclusive production of fifth gen aircraft which in China’s case at least, will replace the bulk of the 4th gen inventory by 2035.

    _____________________

    There are two issues which you haven’t addressed in your analysis:

    I. Radar employment You made a blanket statement that radars are useless because they give away the aircraft’s position. You have no factored in assisted launches, with one aircraft radiating and the launch platform operating radar silent in missile range of the enemy.

    II. Situational Awareness ESM/EW systems, sensor fusion, MMI, secure data-linking, etc are all elements that you’ve omitted.

    • “– The F-35A’s current recurring flyaway cost is $108 mil which will to fall to $70-75 mil by 2019.”

      Recurring flyaway cost is 120 million USD and 145 million USD for nonrecurring flyaway cost. And no, it won’t fall by much except maybe if they play with books – which will make either F-35B or C (or both) more expensive. In fact, such playing probably already happened.

      “– To equate mission availability rate from 2012-13 i.e during the early SDD, to the aircraft’s availability at FOC six years down-the-line is not a very honest ‘analysis’ on your part, and I suspect you know that.”

      Yes, because it always improves… F-117 had a 70% mission avaliability rate at its best (and it is a single-role aircraft), F-22s was 55,5% in 2012 (up from 51,25% in 2003). Last figure I have for the F-35 is 30%, which is far below either of these figures.

      “– The Rafale C has unit flyaway cost slightly under $80 mil.”

      If you don’t count taxes (19,6% governmental tax (VAT)), it costs cca 72 million USD per unit. 80 million USD is an old(er) figure including the tax.

      “– You’ve again ignored the impact of the bypass ratio on the IR signature.”

      True. But then exhaust plume is the hottest part of the engine.

      “– And the ‘lack of IR signature measures’ have been debunked references on earlier threads. No mention of the active liquid cooling system for the leading edges, the IR topcoat or the effect of the LOAN-derived nozzle.”

      LOAN nozzle has minor effect at best on IR signature, its purpose is radar signature management. Liquid cooling system is used on the F-22, I never found any info on the F-35 using it beyond some forum talk. IR topcoat has no impact on friction as it, by its nature, has to be below the RAM coating.

      “– The DAS delivered HMDS imagery for the F-35 results in it having the best cockpit visibility of any aircraft on the list.”

      If it works, and even then, its overall visual acuity will remain inferior to actual out-of-cockpit visibility (thanks to low resolution and black-and-white nature).

      “– The T-50 only has a forward facing IRST. If you’d like to count IR warning sensors are IRSTs, then by that logic the F-35 has seven IRSTs covering a 360 deg envelope.”

      Wrong. See here:

      Rearward facing IRST is quite obvious in both images. I also have a photo of it with a third IRST showing below the cockpit but I can’t bother searching for it on the Web right now.

      “Please post references to the claimed 14 deg/s STR.”

      Air Force Association: “The F-22 can turn at twice the rate of an F-35”

      “The F-35 is not meant for low altitude penetration. No modern fighter will risk destruction by AAA & QR-SAMs, let alone a stealth aircraft. The F-35 will employ PGMs from standoff ranges.”

      A-10 can easily risk it, and survive it. As for the low altitude penetration, F-35 has no other choice vs VHF SAMs, though yeah, its high wing loading is more likely a result of the idiotic focus on STOVL.

      “The Chinese hacking efforts might have helped, but the F-117’s ‘iron-ball’ stealth coatings were positively archaic (dating back to the 1970s). Practically useless for a modern design.”

      They are nowhere near “practically useless” if you don’t have any prior experience with stealth coatings.

      ” No Scud has the kind of CEP required to make it a significant threat to aircraft on the ground,”

      Unless it can be equipped with a guidance system and submunitions dispenser. In any case, modern missiles do have both, and greater range than Scud (which is a V-2 copy).

      “The F-35A carries more internal fuel than the F-22 and has a larger combat radius.”

      Yes, 80 kg more. And F-22s maximum combat radius is 1.166 km compared to 1.082 km for the F-35.

      “What is your basis for commenting on the adequacy of the PAK FA, J-20 & J-31’s combat radius, or lack thereof?”

      Fuel capacity and fuel fraction plus overall design. As for figures, I found 1.700 km for PAK FA and 1.500 km for J-20.

      “The PAK FA’s patent filing claims an RCS ranging from 0.1-1 sq. m.”

      US and Russian RCS measurement is different. US measure only frontal RCS, PAK FAs figure is average RCS.

      “The F-35 was ALWAYS supposed to be an F-16 replacement”

      In air-to-ground role only. Which makes it far closer to being a Harrier replacement.

      “Post 2020, both will shift to exclusive production of fifth gen aircraft which in China’s case at least, will replace the bulk of the 4th gen inventory by 2035.”

      Sources?

      “I. Radar employment You made a blanket statement that radars are useless because they give away the aircraft’s position. You have no factored in assisted launches, with one aircraft radiating and the launch platform operating radar silent in missile range of the enemy.”

      It still gives away the attack, and datalink can give away position as well, plus it can be jammed.

      “II. Situational Awareness ESM/EW systems, sensor fusion, MMI, secure data-linking, etc are all elements that you’ve omitted.”

      ESM/EW is only relevant if the enemy is using radars, and secure data linking is an oxymoron.

      • Recurring flyaway cost is 120 million USD and 145 million USD for nonrecurring flyaway cost. And no, it won’t fall by much except maybe if they play with books – which will make either F-35B or C (or both) more expensive. In fact, such playing probably already happened.

        – The LRIP 7 URFC was $112 mil ($120 mil including non-recurring costs). The LRIP 8 is $108 mil; both the airframe and engine costs have fallen by 3.5-4%. The $145 mil figure you’re stating is the procurement cost. I’ve explained the difference to you before.
        _____________________

        Yes, because it always improves… F-117 had a 70% mission avaliability rate at its best (and it is a single-role aircraft), F-22s was 55,5% in 2012 (up from 51,25% in 2003). Last figure I have for the F-35 is 30%, which is far below either of these figures.

        The figures you have for the F-35 date back to 2012 and are utterly irrelevant to the aircraft’s stats at FOC. The support infrastructure & staff is still being created. Its no more relevant than the Rafale’s mission availability in 1996.
        _____________________

        If you don’t count taxes (19,6% governmental tax (VAT)), it costs cca 72 million USD per unit. 80 million USD is an old(er) figure including the tax.

        It was €70 mil in 2013 or about $98 mil at the then exchange rate (€1 = $1.4). That would make it about $78 mil after subtracting VAT, which I rounded up to $80 mil. The figure stated in your article on the other hand is $90 mil flyaway, which is clearly incorrect.
        _____________________

        True. But then exhaust plume is the hottest part of the engine.

        And a higher bypass ratio will result in a significantly cooler exhaust plume. The F135’s bypass ratio is 0.57 compared to 0.3 for the M88.
        _____________________

        LOAN nozzle has minor effect at best on IR signature, its purpose is radar signature management. Liquid cooling system is used on the F-22, I never found any info on the F-35 using it beyond some forum talk. IR topcoat has no impact on friction as it, by its nature, has to be below the RAM coating.

        – You may right here. The F-35 is intended to operate mostly in the subsonic and transonic regime where its surface temperature should barely be higher than room temperature (unlike the supercruising F-22).

        – What is the purpose of the IR topcoat if not to reduce the surface temperature of the aircraft? Frictional heating will only come into play in the supersonic regime, and will still be mild compared to the engine exhaust gases in afterburner conditions, which will dominate the IR signature.
        _____________________

        If it works, and even then, its overall visual acuity will remain inferior to actual out-of-cockpit visibility (thanks to low resolution and black-and-white nature).

        – It works just fine with the new Gen 3 helmet. And visual acuity is not an issue because the aircraft takes care of the friend-foe identification and throws it up on the pilot’s visor with classification.

        – Its also able to track targets beyond visual range allowing the pilots to ‘zoom’ on them if he needs to.
        _____________________

        Wrong. See here:

        Rearward facing IRST is quite obvious in both images. I also have a photo of it with a third IRST showing below the cockpit but I can’t bother searching for it on the Web right now.

        – That’s the 101KS-O sensor. Its a MAWS cum DIRCM. It is NOT an IRST.

        – There’s only one (conventional) IRST on the aircraft i.e. 101KS-V and that’s positioned on the nose.

        – The F-35 will also have DIRCM available from the Block 4 stage (Northrop Grumman’s ThNDR cued by the DAS), though it’ll probably be retrofitted to existing units only in Blk 5.
        _____________________

        Air Force Association: “The F-22 can turn at twice the rate of an F-35″

        – That’s hardly enough to establish a 14 deg STR limit for the F-35. What altitude? What airspeed? ITR or STR? Exactly ‘twice the rate’ or almost ‘twice the rate’?

        – If you’re referring to Col T. Fornof’s Red Flag briefing for the F-22’s 28 deg rate, keep in mind he claimed a turn rate of 15-20 deg for the F-15C at 20kft. So, by extrapolation the F-35 turns nearly as well as the F-15?

        – All this is huge stretch, until concrete figures are released by the USAF.
        _____________________

        A-10 can easily risk it, and survive it. As for the low altitude penetration, F-35 has no other choice vs VHF SAMs, though yeah, its high wing loading is more likely a result of the idiotic focus on STOVL.

        – The six A-10s that were shot down in the Gulf War proves that it can’t. And that was a conflict without a substantial number of MANPADS fielded. The A-10 might be functioning well in a COIN scenario but USAF doesn’t want to risk it in a situation where an A-10 can be knocked out of the war by a $150K Igla-S.

        – If the French Air Force can ‘manage’ CAS with the Rafale, the USAF can ‘manage’ with the F-35A. Low altitude penetration has NEVER been stated as an operational profile for the F-35.

        – The STOVL allowed the program to register at least 500 additional orders. The USMC, UK & Italy are already committed but there’s a long list of countries who may end up operating the F-35B include Singapore, Spain, Japan, Australia, India, Turkey and possibly South Korea.
        _____________________

        They are nowhere near “practically useless” if you don’t have any prior experience with stealth coatings.

        – Big gap from that to ‘J-20 uses stealth coatings based on F-117’.
        _____________________

        Unless it can be equipped with a guidance system and submunitions dispenser. In any case, modern missiles do have both, and greater range than Scud (which is a V-2 copy).

        – Cruise missiles can be intercepted by SAMs, AAA as well as fighters. Ballistic missiles are harder to intercept but fly more predicable flight paths. Practically every J-20 and J-31 airbase is within Tomahawk range for USN SSGNs in the South China Sea, but that doesn’t discount them as credible warfighters.
        _____________________

        Yes, 80 kg more. And F-22s maximum combat radius is 1.166 km compared to 1.082 km for the F-35.

        Fuel capacity and fuel fraction plus overall design. As for figures, I found 1.700 km for PAK FA and 1.500 km for J-20.

        – You haven’t posted any references to back up those numbers. To the best of my knowledge Chengdu & Sukhoi/UAC haven’t released any official statistics. The number floating around for the F-22 is 410nm but since the conditions haven’t been specified its more or less useless.

        – Prima facie though the F-35’s comparable fuel load, lower weight, subsonic cruise optimized airframe (higher wing-loading -> lower drag) and higher bypass engine, would suggest a longer combat radius than the F-22.
        _______________

        US and Russian RCS measurement is different. US measure only frontal RCS, PAK FAs figure is average RCS.

        – Yeah, so that would be an average RCS of 0.1 sq.m from the frontal aspect and 1 sq.m from the side aspect. The F-22 and F-35 are still stealthier by an order of magnitude, at least from the frontal aspect.
        _______________

        In air-to-ground role only. Which makes it far closer to being a Harrier replacement.

        – Both the Harrier II and the F-16 were multi-role aircraft not air to ground aircraft. The whole concept of dedicated strike aircraft went out with the retirement of the F-111. Like the F-16, F-18 & Harriers that its replacing, the F-35 was always intended to be a multi-role aircraft.
        _______________

        Sources?

        – Empirical. CAC is currently producing the J-10B and will be delivering the J-10C between 2016 and 2020 according to the Sina Military Network. SAC is currently delivering J-16s and will also be delivering the newer J-15Bs by 2016.

        – Neither company has announced a follow-on variant for the J-10 & J-11 families and both are deep in the development of the J-20 & J-31 projects.

        – Substantial part of the Chinese fleet is of older vintage requiring replacement.

        http://fas.org/nuke/guide/china/agency/plaaf-orbat-st.htm

        – There is thus no evidence that the Chinese are manufacturing 4 & 4.5G aircraft to ‘hedge’ against or supplement their stealth programs. They’re there merely to catch up with what the US and its allies ALREADY field.

        – Same with Russia. Its order enough Flankers to keep the production going till 2016. With a supplemental order, Su-35 production might make it to 2018 or so.

        – Post-2020 both Russia & China will exclusively be building 5th gen aircraft, just like the US.
        ________________

        It still gives away the attack, and datalink can give away position as well, plus it can be jammed.

        ESM/EW is only relevant if the enemy is using radars, and secure data linking is an oxymoron.

        – The target may know its being ‘painted’ by a radar but it has no means of locating the launch platform.

        – The F-35 fields a highly directional data-link (MADL) that cannot be detected. Even the Link 16 will only give away the radiating aircraft’s position. And jamming it is easier said than done operating in burst mode.

        – Both the Russians and Chinese intend to employ radars in combat given how money they’re investing in it. They’ll likely intend to use jamming (which you mentioned too). And they will have to use data-links without which they cannot operate in a C4I network. They’ll have to operate against ground-based radar & SAM threat environments as well as carry out SEAD/DEAD functions. All applications necessitate a high-end EW system.

        – Even the Rafale F3R which will become operational in 2018 has an upgraded SPECTRA suite (while omitting the IRST). The ESM suite can hardly become irrelevant for the next gen US, Russian & Chinese fighters.

        • “The figures you have for the F-35 date back to 2012 and are utterly irrelevant to the aircraft’s stats at FOC. The support infrastructure & staff is still being created.”

          It will still never achieve mission avaliability rates of modern 4th gen fighters. It will be lucky to achieve 60%.

          “And a higher bypass ratio will result in a significantly cooler exhaust plume. The F135’s bypass ratio is 0.57 compared to 0.3 for the M88.”

          And F135 also runs far hotter and has far more thrust than the M88.

          “- You may right here. The F-35 is intended to operate mostly in the subsonic and transonic regime where its surface temperature should barely be higher than room temperature”

          Difference temperature is what matters, and PIRATE for example can detect a subsonic fighter aircraft at 90 km head-on (which means that detection is carried out mostly through skin friction).

          “- What is the purpose of the IR topcoat if not to reduce the surface temperature of the aircraft?”

          IR topcoat has to be below RAM or latter will be useless, and RAM itself significantly increases friction and thus IR signature due to its characteristics.

          “Frictional heating will only come into play in the supersonic regime”

          Funny, considering that a) detection range difference between subcruising and supercruising fighter is only cca 10% according to RAND, and b) Gripen’s OTIS is stated to be capable of picking up aircraft cruising at Mach 0,5 solely through skin friction.

          “And visual acuity is not an issue because the aircraft takes care of the friend-foe identification and throws it up on the pilot’s visor with classification. ”

          Which assumes that IFF works.

          “- That’s the 101KS-O sensor. Its a MAWS cum DIRCM. It is NOT an IRST. ”

          PAK FA has a dedicated MAWS, and no MAWS system in the world uses that large turreted sensors, or with such placement. It might be a DIRCM, but why does it look identical to the IRST?

          “So, by extrapolation the F-35 turns nearly as well as the F-15?”

          It is possible for a sustained turn rate.

          ” The six A-10s that were shot down in the Gulf War proves that it can’t.”

          First, your figures are wrong. Six A-10s were hit by enemy air defenses during the Gulf War, all by the IR MANPADS, THE most dangerous type of SAM. Three of them were shot down, while three returned to base. Out of those three, one was not economical to repair and was written off while two were put back into service, for a total of four losses.

          Second, in the entire Gulf and Kosovo wars, A-10 flew 12.400 sorties while suffering 4 losses (3 shot down, one written off). F-117 flew 2.600 sorties while suffering 2 losses (1 shot down, 1 written off). This means that loss rate was 0,032% (1/3.100 sorties) for the A-10 and 0,077% (1/1.300 sorties) for the F-117, while shootdown rate was 0,024% (1/4.100 sorties) and 0,038% (1/2.600 sorties), respectively. In other words, A-10 was 58% more survivable than the F-117 if we go by the shootdown rate, and 2,4 times as survivable as the F-117 if we go by the total loss rate.

          Keep in mind that standard loss rate was 2% in WWII and 0,033% in the Vietnam war. Given all this, saying that the A-10 is “unsurvivable” flies in face of the facts, at least until someone deploys Tesla’s beam of destruction. If there was an “unsurvivable” tactical aircraft in USAF inventory in the 1990s, it was the F-117.

          “If the French Air Force can ‘manage’ CAS with the Rafale”

          It can’t. Whenever French needed to do proper CAS, Gazelles were sent, not Rafales. Rafales were only ever used against static targets and occasional enemy formation miles from the friendly units.

          “the USAF can ‘manage’ with the F-35A.”

          Nope.

          “Low altitude penetration has NEVER been stated as an operational profile for the F-35. ”

          It is the only option to avoid detection against VHF radars.

          “The STOVL allowed the program to register at least 500 additional orders.”

          And f***ed up its basic performance. But then again, F-35 was always a corporate welfare project first and a weapon second.

          ” Big gap from that to ‘J-20 uses stealth coatings based on F-117’. ”

          They are based on the F-117 in that the F-117 was the starting point – same way that the F-22 is based on the F-15.

          “Cruise missiles can be intercepted by SAMs, AAA as well as fighters. Ballistic missiles are harder to intercept but fly more predicable flight paths. ”

          SAM performance is less than stellar, against either aircraft or missiles.

          “but that doesn’t discount them as credible warfighters. ”

          Only because at least some Chinese air bases are underground.

          “To the best of my knowledge Chengdu & Sukhoi/UAC haven’t released any official statistics.”

          Those are avaliable estimates, and as I have explained, I did not base my estimates on these figures.

          “higher wing-loading -> lower drag”

          Completely wrong. Higher wing loading increases drag as aircraft requires higher angle of attack to maintain level flight (and yes, aircraft is *not* at 0* AoA even in level flight). It is typically used for low-altitude flying aircraft (Tornado for example) as it reduces gust sensitivity.

          Overall, you are completely ignoring majority of primary components in combat radius: lift-to-drag ratio, thrust-to-drag ratio, fuel efficiency and fuel fraction. F-35s only advantage over the F-22 is higher fuel fraction. It has very low thrust-to-drag ratio thanks to low engine thrust-to-drag ratio (easily estimated by power per cm2 of frontal area, since engine frontal area is a huge component of drag), high wing loading (requiring higher AoA to maintain level flight and resulting in low L/D ratio) and fat fuselage. Lif-to-drag ratio is low due to high drag and low lift (thanks to high wing loading). Fuel efficiency is also low due to low thrust-to-drag and lift-to-drag ratios as well as comparably high engine SFC.

          “F-35 was always intended to be a multi-role aircraft. ”

          More like a strike aircraft with self defense ability.

          “Neither company has announced a follow-on variant for the J-10 & J-11 families”

          Which does not discount upgrades and possible later developments. They will likely end up in the same situation as US, being forced to extend lifespan of their non-stealth aircraft.

          “Substantial part of the Chinese fleet is of older vintage requiring replacement.”

          Possibly by J-20/31, possibly by Flanker variants.

          “The target may know its being ‘painted’ by a radar but it has no means of locating the launch platform. ”

          That is true. It can, however, locate the detection platform, and that one will have to be very close in order to defeat modern self-defense systems.

          “while omitting the IRST”

          Yes and no. OSF upgrade is staggered, French are upgrading visual sensors and new IRST will be introduced at a later date.

  6. It will still never achieve mission avaliability rates of modern 4th gen fighters. It will be lucky to achieve 60%.

    – This is your opinion which you have thus far not supported with any references. According to the latest DOT&E report, as of Oct 2014, the F-35 operational fleet’s mission availability had risen from 37% to 51% (this figure includes aircraft dispatched to the depot). This is lower than the target for 2014 (60% availability) but with a 5 full years to go for FOC, the program target availability of 80% is hardly unachievable.
    ________________________

    And F135 also runs far hotter and has far more thrust than the M88.

    You’ve again produced no evidence to support the claim about the F135 running hotter. Highest turbine inlet temperature does not equal highest exhaust temperature. Bypass ratio has to be factored in. Nor does higher thrust always equal higher exhaust temperature (engines of commercial aircraft being an apt example).

    ________________________

    Difference temperature is what matters, and PIRATE for example can detect a subsonic fighter aircraft at 90 km head-on (which means that detection is carried out mostly through skin friction).

    IR topcoat has to be below RAM or latter will be useless, and RAM itself significantly increases friction and thus IR signature due to its characteristics.

    Funny, considering that a) detection range difference between subcruising and supercruising fighter is only cca 10% according to RAND, and b) Gripen’s OTIS is stated to be capable of picking up aircraft cruising at Mach 0,5 solely through skin friction.

    – Claims by any manufacturer about their IRST being able to track a head-on enemy aircraft from frictional heating in subsonic conditions at those ranges are utter and complete BS. Lets look at the basic physics involved:

    1. Assume an altitude of 35,000 ft and a high subsonic speed of Mach 0.9.
    2. Assume air recovery temperature approx equal peak skin temperature.
    3. At 35,000ft, ambient temperature is about 35 deg C.
    4. T(rec) = T(amb) * (1+0.18*M^2)

    – Computing that gives us a peak skin temperature of about 270K or close to 0 deg C.

    – Jet exhaust temperatures in contrast go up to 500 deg C in mil AB and past 1700 deg C with afterburners. Even the jet wake has temperate of about 40-50 degrees.

    – Its an amazing claim that an IRST that can track a 1700 deg C body at 150 km will be able to track an object at 0 deg C at 90 km. (And that’s without going into disruptive weather conditions.)

    – The reference YOU quoted in your article on the PIRATE was from an Austrian air force site (suprisingly Austrian EFs aren’t even equipped with the PIRATE). That reference too doesn’t say anything about subsonic targets.
    _________________________

    Which assumes that IFF works.

    If you have evidence that the IFF will NEVER work, please share. Otherwise you’re just resorting to rhetoric.
    _________________________

    PAK FA has a dedicated MAWS, and no MAWS system in the world uses that large turreted sensors, or with such placement. It might be a DIRCM, but why does it look identical to the IRST?

    – What difference does it make what it looks like? The Russians say the 101KS-0 is a MAWS cum dazzler for defensive applications. You’re saying its an IRST just because its enclosed in a bulb that is superficially similar to typical IRSTs. Which claim do you think is more credible?
    _________________________

    It is possible for a sustained turn rate.

    Which would make the F-35’s STR pretty decent.
    _________________________

    First, your figures are wrong. Six A-10s were hit by enemy air defenses during the Gulf War, all by the IR MANPADS, THE most dangerous type of SAM. Three of them were shot down, while three returned to base. Out of those three, one was not economical to repair and was written off while two were put back into service, for a total of four losses.

    – I’m afraid your figures are the ones that are wrong. There were a total of six outright casualties. Of the six A-10s lost, only two returned to base and both were total write offs.

    http://www.2951clss-gulfwar.com/a10_combat_losses.htm

    http://www.ejection-history.org.uk/Aircraft_by_Type/A-10_Thunderbolt_II.htm

    – Four other A-10s sustained very substantial battle damage of which two were cannibalized with the remaining two returning to service.

    http://www.2951clss-gulfwar.com/abdr-home.htm

    2951st Combat Logistics Support Squadron: In August 1990 the squadron was put to the test with the onset of Operation DESERT SHIELD. As the situation evolved into Operation DESERT STORM, over 150 maintenance, supply, and transportation personnel were deployed to the Middle East, to sustain the war-fighting effort. The 2951st was the only CLSS tasked with actual ABDR in a combat environment, repairing aircraft and returning all but 2 damaged aircraft to combat as detailed on this website.
    _________________________

    Second, in the entire Gulf and Kosovo wars, A-10 flew 12.400 sorties while suffering 4 losses (3 shot down, one written off). F-117 flew 2.600 sorties while suffering 2 losses (1 shot down, 1 written off). This means that loss rate was 0,032% (1/3.100 sorties) for the A-10 and 0,077% (1/1.300 sorties) for the F-117, while shootdown rate was 0,024% (1/4.100 sorties) and 0,038% (1/2.600 sorties), respectively. In other words, A-10 was 58% more survivable than the F-117 if we go by the shootdown rate, and 2,4 times as survivable as the F-117 if we go by the total loss rate.

    – The A-10 suffered a total of 8 losses in the 1991 war (4 lost, 2 completely written off, 2 cannibalized and retired). The F-117 ‘write-off’ has never been confirmed.

    – In the 2003 Iraq War, only one coalition fighter was lost to enemy fire. An A-10 shot down by a Iraqi SAM.

    http://www.ejection-history.org.uk/Aircraft_by_Type/A-10_Thunderbolt_II.htm

    (April 8, 2003)

    – Also from the GAO report on the Gulf War –

    “Evidence from the Air Force, DIA, GWAPS, SPEAR, and other expert sources shows that the principal deficiencies of the Iraqi IADS were that (1) it could track only a limited number of threats, and it had very limited capabilities against aircraft with a small radar cross-section, such as the F-117; (2) its design was easy to disrupt, and the key IADS nodes were easy to target, [DELETED]; and (3) many of its SAMs were old or limited in capability, and the Iraqi air force played almost no role in the conflict, although it had been intended to be a major component of air defenses.”

    ^ Easily disruptable IADS rife with deficiencies. Old & limited SAMs. Also, the F-117 continued to operate over high threat areas such as downtown Baghdad whereas the A-10 never operated in the same vicinity.

    – Also, the F-117 was been retired 7 years ago. The F-35 is in a different league when it comes to its capability and sensor fit. The A-10 in contrast remains functionally the same as it was in 1991.
    __________________________

    Keep in mind that standard loss rate was 2% in WWII and 0,033% in the Vietnam war. Given all this, saying that the A-10 is “unsurvivable” flies in face of the facts, at least until someone deploys Tesla’s beam of destruction. If there was an “unsurvivable” tactical aircraft in USAF inventory in the 1990s, it was the F-117.

    – Nine A-10s hit by SAMs in 1991. Six of them were lost. One more was later cannabalized.

    http://www.rjlee.org/air/ds-aaloss/

    – Whatever its performance against a ‘Tesla beam of destruction’ may be, the A-10 sure as hell has proven to be vulnerable to SAM threats.

    – And for the record the MANPAD threat in Iraq ’91 was pretty mild. Today, 25 years later most IADS systems in the world have been extensively upgraded and there’s been a proliferation in MANPADS.

    – The A-10 on the other hand hasn’t evolved to become more survivable in that profile. Where a significant SAM threat exists, it’ll be forced to operate at medium altitudes with an LDP and PGMs.
    __________________________

    It can’t. Whenever French needed to do proper CAS, Gazelles were sent, not Rafales. Rafales were only ever used against static targets and occasional enemy formation miles from the friendly units.

    In that case, I’m sure the US can manage with its AH-64Es and AH-1Zs.
    _________________________

    It is the only option to avoid detection against VHF radars.

    1. VHF radars can’t be used to generate a weapons track.

    2. Being ground-based they have horizon limitations.

    3. Being large and bulky, they’re prime targets for cruise missiles.

    – BTW how do you suggest the Rafale will avoid detection against VHF radars? Fly low altitude as well?
    _________________________

    And f***ed up its basic performance. But then again, F-35 was always a corporate welfare project first and a weapon second.

    It f***ed up the Rafale’s (and SH’s) export prospects by pricing it out of the market, while severely denting the Gripen E’s. Cost is already down to $108M (URFC) and set to drop to $80-85M by 2019.
    _________________________

    They are based on the F-117 in that the F-117 was the starting point – same way that the F-22 is based on the F-15.

    That’s a .. unusual way of looking at it, but sure okay.
    _________________________

    SAM performance is less than stellar, against either aircraft or missiles.

    Only because at least some Chinese air bases are underground.

    – The runways are still exposed. The area can be saturated with cluster munitions. By 2018-19 the THawk BlkIV will get the new Joint Multiple Effects Warhead System warhead allowing it directly breach such hardened defences.

    – Bottomline is, if you start factor in vulnerability of airbases to missiles into the aircraft’s performance, neither the J-20 nor J-31 will come off any better than the F-35.
    _________________________

    Those are avaliable estimates, and as I have explained, I did not base my estimates on these figures.

    Please post the sources of your figures.
    _________________________

    Completely wrong. Higher wing loading increases drag as aircraft requires higher angle of attack to maintain level flight (and yes, aircraft is *not* at 0* AoA even in level flight). It is typically used for low-altitude flying aircraft (Tornado for example) as it reduces gust sensitivity.

    At low angles of attack and high air speeds (corresponding to typical subsonic cruise for a fighter aircraft) parasitic drag will always dominate induced drag.
    _________________________

    Overall, you are completely ignoring majority of primary components in combat radius: lift-to-drag ratio, thrust-to-drag ratio, fuel efficiency and fuel fraction. F-35s only advantage over the F-22 is higher fuel fraction.

    – Please show me your evidence of the F-22 having a better lift-to-drag ratio or better fuel efficiency. (Thrust-to-drag ratio will affect agility NOT endurance).
    _________________________

    It has very low thrust-to-drag ratio thanks to low engine thrust-to-drag ratio (easily estimated by power per cm2 of frontal area, since engine frontal area is a huge component of drag), high wing loading (requiring higher AoA to maintain level flight and resulting in low L/D ratio) and fat fuselage.
    Again thrust-to-drag ratio has ZERO impact on endurance. Nor does it have any impact on the thrust-to-drag value.
    _________________________

    Lif-to-drag ratio is low due to high drag and low lift (thanks to high wing loading). Fuel efficiency is also low due to low thrust-to-drag and lift-to-drag ratios as well as comparably high engine SFC.

    Just saying it has ‘high drag and low lift’ is not enough. You’ve got to actually produce proof of the F-22 having a better drag-to-lift ratio.
    _________________________

    More like a strike aircraft with self defense ability.

    semantics aside, its role is exactly what the F-16’s & F-18’s was.
    _________________________

    Which does not discount upgrades and possible later developments. They will likely end up in the same situation as US, being forced to extend lifespan of their non-stealth aircraft.
    Doesn’t change the fact that they will exclusively be building fifth gen fighters from 2020. They’re not hedging risks with 4th gen aircraft out of any uncertainity vis a vis stealth aircraft.
    _________________________

    That is true. It can, however, locate the detection platform, and that one will have to be very close in order to defeat modern self-defense systems.

    – The radiating platform doesn’t have to be close at all. To take the Rafale RBE-2AA as an example, it can detect a 3 sq. m. target at 180-200 km and track it at ranges in excess of 150km.

    – Most of the Rafale’s peers already field or will be fielding more powerful radars (APG-77, APG-79, APG-81, APG-82, Irbis-E, N036 Byelka, Captor-E, ES-05 Raven).

    – So a EF/SH/Rafale with external stores will be tracked at ranges of well over 100 km (if not much much more).

    – The launch platform in contrast will remain silent and undetected while entering missile range.
    _________________________

    Yes and no. OSF upgrade is staggered, French are upgrading visual sensors and new IRST will be introduced at a later date.

    There is no information about any OSF upgrade being sanctioned for development.

    • “- This is your opinion which you have thus far not supported with any references. ”

      No stealth aircraft ever achieved it, and F-35 is not likely to achieve it either as it is actually more complex than the F-22 in many aspects.

      “You’ve again produced no evidence to support the claim about the F135 running hotter. Highest turbine inlet temperature does not equal highest exhaust temperature. Bypass ratio has to be factored in. ”

      Yes, because thermal energy produced by the turbine inlet magically disappears somehow… it still has to go somewhere, be it exhaust or the airframe. And while bypass ratio helps, you are also forgetting that the M88 has two cooling channels compared to the F135s one.

      “Lets look at the basic physics involved:”

      …while completely ignoring mechanics.

      “At 35,000ft, ambient temperature is about 35 deg C.”

      45*C below zero, actually.

      ” Its an amazing claim that an IRST that can track a 1700 deg C body at 150 km will be able to track an object at 0 deg C at 90 km.”

      Your assumption is completely wrong. You yourself said that 1700 deg C is for afterburners, whereas I have clearly stated that PIRATE can track SUBSONIC, a.k.a. non-afterburning, fighter aircraft at 90 km head-on and 145 km from the rear. Once fighter uses afterburners, detection range increases, possibly several times.

      Further, since IRST is an optical sensor, there are two basic limitations on IRST detection range:
      – temperature difference between target and the background, and IRSTs thermal sensitivity
      and
      – target’s size and IRSTs resolution

      Your calculation is completely ignoring the latter limitation, which for modern QWIP IRSTs is actually more important than temperature difference between target and the background.

      “That reference too doesn’t say anything about subsonic targets. ”

      RAND does.

      “Which would make the F-35’s STR pretty decent.”

      Compared to what?

      “The A-10 suffered a total of 8 losses in the 1991 war (4 lost, 2 completely written off, 2 cannibalized and retired). ”

      All of them during daytime (Iraqi air defenses were comparably ineffective during night). F-117 operated only during night. Even taking into account your figures, A-10s loss rate would still not be worse – or at least much worse – than the F-117s across two wars.

      “- In the 2003 Iraq War, only one coalition fighter was lost to enemy fire. An A-10 shot down by a Iraqi SAM. ”

      And A-10 also happens to be the only aircraft that a) regularly violates altitude restrictions and b) regularly does the most dangerous (and most important) mission any air force can do.

      “Also, the F-117 continued to operate over high threat areas such as downtown Baghdad whereas the A-10 never operated in the same vicinity.”

      Except A-10s did operate over same high threat areas as the F-117s, DURING THE DAY.

      ” A-10 sure as hell has proven to be vulnerable to SAM threats. ”

      Yet US Army continues to operate far more vulnerable Apache attack helicopters. So to say that USAF is retiring A-10 due to survivability concerns is BS.

      “The A-10 in contrast remains functionally the same as it was in 1991. ”

      Only because USAF does everything it can to get rid of it. Get it some IR MAWS, proper self-protection system and better engines and countermeasures, and it can easily perform even against modern IADS.

      “In that case, I’m sure the US can manage with its AH-64Es and AH-1Zs.”

      It can. It can also manage with F-15s instead of F-22s, F-16s instead of F-35s (actually, in this case it would be better off), Los Angeles instead of Virginia, M60 instead of M1…

      “1. VHF radars can’t be used to generate a weapons track. ”

      They can be used to cue IR SAMs to close enough distance for missile’s own sensor to take over.

      “2. Being ground-based they have horizon limitations.”

      As do all other ground-based radars… which just so happen to be the main justification for development and procurement of “stealth” aircraft.

      “3. Being large and bulky, they’re prime targets for cruise missiles.”

      All radars for long-range SAMs are comparably large and bulky, and modern VHF radars are mobile.

      “BTW how do you suggest the Rafale will avoid detection against VHF radars? Fly low altitude as well?”

      Low altitude is the only option to avoid detection against VHF radars for any fighter aircraft, so yes.

      “It f***ed up the Rafale’s (and SH’s) export prospects by pricing it out of the market,”

      We’ll see.

      “- Bottomline is, if you start factor in vulnerability of airbases to missiles into the aircraft’s performance, neither the J-20 nor J-31 will come off any better than the F-35. ”

      Most modern fighter aircraft will not (only exceptions are Russian Flankers and Saab Gripen… possibly Rafale, F-16 and PAK FA, but rather doubtful).

      “- Please show me your evidence of the F-22 having a better lift-to-drag ratio or better fuel efficiency.”
      “Just saying it has ‘high drag and low lift’ is not enough. You’ve got to actually produce proof of the F-22 having a better drag-to-lift ratio. ”

      Span loading is similar (1813 kg/m vs 1707 kg/m, IIRC), but the F-35 has no LERX, and its engine has low ratio of power to frontal area. It also has a very fat body that is aerodynamically compromised by requirement for STOVL.

      “(Thrust-to-drag ratio will affect agility NOT endurance). ”

      Wrong, as higher thrust to drag ratio translates into requiring lower engine power for equal speed. This of course assumes equal TWR.

      “semantics aside, its role is exactly what the F-16’s & F-18’s was.”

      Its intended role, yes. Just as the F-111 was intended to be a tri-service multirole fighter. Ended up being a bomber and EW aircraft.

      “- The radiating platform doesn’t have to be close at all. To take the Rafale RBE-2AA as an example, it can detect a 3 sq. m. target at 180-200 km and track it at ranges in excess of 150km. ”

      Only if target in question has absolutely no onboard self-defense systems. If it has, you’ll be lucky to get values that are 1/3 of what you wrote. More realistic figure would be 1/10th.

  7. One for all, the naming “5th generation” is not an industry standard.
    If we compare, point by point, the capacities of the various planes, we quickly notice that this naming makes no sense, including in the country which invented the concept.
    It is simply an attempt of commercial discrimination, as made by all marketing companies and it is far much easier to do that than build an operational and usefull fighter.
    Some may think less “iconic” and more “realistic”.

  8. No stealth aircraft ever achieved it, and F-35 is not likely to achieve it either as it is actually more complex than the F-22 in many aspects.

    – This is guesswork on your part. The F-35’s serviceability is already up from the 37% that you quoted in your article to 51% (Oct 2014).

    – That’s less than the target rate of 60%. Assuming a similar proportion of the 80% by 2017 target is met, availability in 2017 will be 70%.
    ______________________

    Yes, because thermal energy produced by the turbine inlet magically disappears somehow… it still has to go somewhere, be it exhaust or the airframe. And while bypass ratio helps, you are also forgetting that the M88 has two cooling channels compared to the F135s one.

    :O

    – What in the world are you talking about? Thermal energy is produced in the combustor NOT by the turbine inlet. This is a simple Brayton Cycle at work. The energy at the turbine inlet is what drives the turbine in the first place.

    – Its the temperature at the turbine-outlet/engine-exhaust that determines the IR signature NOT at the inlet. And since a higher bypass engine will extract greater work, the exhaust gases will be at lower temperature. And that’s WITHOUT factoring in a greater volume of cold bypass air being blown into the exhaust.
    ______________________

    “At 35,000ft, ambient temperature is about 35 deg C.”

    45*C below zero, actually.

    That’s a typo obviously. -35 deg C is what I’ve used in my calculations but lets take -45 deg C. Put the figures, use a speed of Mach 0.9 and you get peak skin temperature of -12 deg C.

    That temperature difference is barely greater that of a human body outdoors. To put that in perspective, its like an aircraft flying over Brussels tracking a morning jogger in Bruges (assuming there is no atmospheric distortion).
    ______________________

    Your assumption is completely wrong. You yourself said that 1700 deg C is for afterburners, whereas I have clearly stated that PIRATE can track SUBSONIC, a.k.a. non-afterburning, fighter aircraft at 90 km head-on and 145 km from the rear. Once fighter uses afterburners, detection range increases, possibly several times.

    – Without afterburners, the exhaust temperature is upwards of 450 deg C. Compared to skin temperature less than -10 deg C. Just 50 km difference in detection range? Fat chance.

    – And yes you’ve made these statements vis a vis range but like I mentioned in my previous, you’ve posted no references to support them.
    ______________________

    Further, since IRST is an optical sensor, there are two basic limitations on IRST detection range:
    – temperature difference between target and the background, and IRSTs thermal sensitivity
    and
    – target’s size and IRSTs resolution

    Your calculation is completely ignoring the latter limitation, which for modern QWIP IRSTs is actually more important than temperature difference between target and the background.

    Ambient Temperature: -45 deg C.

    Skin Temperature: -12 deg C.

    Temp Difference: 33 deg.

    Exhaust Temperature: ~450 deg C (for P&W F100 – subsonic)

    Temperature Difference: 485 deg

    – So, the IRST detects a 33 deg temp gradient at 90 km and a whopping 485 degree gradient at just 145 km. That’s clearly absurd.

    – Especially when you consider that the IRST sensor will resolve a physically big exhaust far more effectively than tiny bands of heating on the aircraft’s leading edges.
    ______________________

    RAND does.

    – You haven’t posted any reports/articles/analysis by RAND.
    ______________________

    Compared to what?

    – Compared to F-15C which is still widely accepted as an excellent performer (not withstanding Sprey’s kookey preachings).
    ______________________

    All of them during daytime (Iraqi air defenses were comparably ineffective during night). F-117 operated only during night. Even taking into account your figures, A-10s loss rate would still not be worse – or at least much worse – than the F-117s across two wars.

    – CAS in daytime is its job description. Its not like you could send it into downtown Baghdad at night and expect it to survive.

    – To use your sortie figures, the A-10 suffered 8 losses over 12,400 sorties (1/1500) while the F-117 registered one confirmed loss in 2600 sorties (1/2600).

    – And even if we agree that the A-10’s loss rate isn’t much worse, fact remains you’re comparing it to an aircraft that was retired in 2008. The A-10 will join it very soon and rightly so.
    ______________________

    And A-10 also happens to be the only aircraft that a) regularly violates altitude restrictions and b) regularly does the most dangerous (and most important) mission any air force can do.

    – A more pertinent issue is – why do altitude restrictions apply to the A-10 if it is so impervious to damage?
    ______________________

    Except A-10s did operate over same high threat areas as the F-117s, DURING THE DAY.

    No A-10 ever ventured into downtown Baghdad. It simply wouldn’t have survived. Even the Package Q Strike resulted in two F-16 losses despite operating at medium altitude.
    ______________________

    Yet US Army continues to operate far more vulnerable Apache attack helicopters. So to say that USAF is retiring A-10 due to survivability concerns is BS.

    – The USAF is retiring the A-10 because it can’t afford to support a single role aircraft in today’s environment. Ideally it would like to operate the A-10 as well as the F-117. But they are most definitely ‘like-to-have’ weapons rather than ‘need-to-have’ weapons.

    – Between the fighter fleet, attack helicopters, AC-130s and UAVs, the COIN situation can be handled comfortably.

    – The Apache is not survivable against a modern IADS and will never be employed as such. The US Army still feels it can afford to operate 600 AH-64Es. That’s that. The USAF doesn’t have the same luxury as its gearing up for the Air-Sea Battle strategy, a linchpin of the new ‘Pivot to Asia’.
    ______________________

    “The A-10 in contrast remains functionally the same as it was in 1991. ”

    Only because USAF does everything it can to get rid of it. Get it some IR MAWS, proper self-protection system and better engines and countermeasures, and it can easily perform even against modern IADS.

    – Given the ranges involved and the flash/projectile-rich environment, by the time the MAWS blares and the pilot identifies the threat trajectory, he’d have practically no time left to manoeuver.

    – Automated flare systems might help against older systems but most modern SAMs use dual-band (IR plus UV) band seekers. The latest models employ IIR seekers which are all but immune to flares.

    – Only thing that would help against the IR-SAMs and MANPADS is DIRCM. At the moment, there is no fighter/attack aircraft employing DIRCM operational anywhere in the world.
    _____________________

    It can. It can also manage with F-15s instead of F-22s, F-16s instead of F-35s (actually, in this case it would be better off), Los Angeles instead of Virginia, M60 instead of M1…

    No it can’t. Not against China. Not against Russia. And two decades from now that’ll be a much larger list as PAK FAs & J-31s (as well as AEW&C systems) proliferate across the world.
    ______________________

    They can be used to cue IR SAMs to close enough distance for missile’s own sensor to take over.

    Practically every IR-SAM is a short range system. If you’re launching blind (or near-blind in this case), you’d be better off with a active SAM. IR missile seekers unfortunately don’t have the range to acquire a target at long distances (especially head-on). Being cheap and expendable, in that respect they’re doubly inferior to an IRST.
    ______________________

    As do all other ground-based radars… which just so happen to be the main justification for development and procurement of “stealth” aircraft.

    – Still leaves AEW&Cs airborne. And AESA equipped fighters on CAP.
    ______________________

    All radars for long-range SAMs are comparably large and bulky, and modern VHF radars are mobile.

    – They’re mobile yes, but not to the point where they can avoid being tracked by modern ESM systems. The bigger threat however will still remain airborne (and aerostat mounted) radars.
    ______________________

    “BTW how do you suggest the Rafale will avoid detection against VHF radars? Fly low altitude as well?”

    Low altitude is the only option to avoid detection against VHF radars for any fighter aircraft, so yes.

    That leaves the aircraft exposed to AAA and MANPADS. Also, at low altitudes, its radar will be horizon limited, its munitions will be extremely range-limited, its situational awareness will be miserable and it’ll be a sitting duck for any fighter patrol at mid-to-high altitudes in the area (especially given the lack of radar stealth).
    ______________________

    “- Bottomline is, if you start factor in vulnerability of airbases to missiles into the aircraft’s performance, neither the J-20 nor J-31 will come off any better than the F-35. ”

    Most modern fighter aircraft will not (only exceptions are Russian Flankers and Saab Gripen… possibly Rafale, F-16 and PAK FA, but rather doubtful).

    Whatever the range of the fighter may be, the airbase is certainly not mobile. And the vast majority of fighter bases in the world are within hostile cruise missile range.
    ______________________

    Span loading is similar (1813 kg/m vs 1707 kg/m, IIRC), but the F-35 has no LERX, and its engine has low ratio of power to frontal area. It also has a very fat body that is aerodynamically compromised by requirement for STOVL.

    Wrong, as higher thrust to drag ratio translates into requiring lower engine power for equal speed. This of course assumes equal TWR.

    – LERX comes into play at high angles of attack. In level flight it has little impact on lift and therefore little impact on range.

    – The thrust-to-drag figure is irrelevant because it describes max thrust to drag. No aircraft cruises at max thrust. The F-22’s greater TWR/TDR will simply enable more reserve power than the F-35 at cruise speed. NOT more range.
    ______________________

    Its intended role, yes. Just as the F-111 was intended to be a tri-service multirole fighter. Ended up being a bomber and EW aircraft.

    Except that the F-111B was cancelled within a year of the first flight while the F-35 is already being inducted by all three services to replace the multi-role F-16, F-18 and Harrier.
    ______________________

    “- The radiating platform doesn’t have to be close at all. To take the Rafale RBE-2AA as an example, it can detect a 3 sq. m. target at 180-200 km and track it at ranges in excess of 150km. ”

    Only if target in question has absolutely no onboard self-defense systems. If it has, you’ll be lucky to get values that are 1/3 of what you wrote. More realistic figure would be 1/10th.

    – What are the sources for your figure of ‘1/3’ and ‘1/10’. Frankly, it sounds like an effort on your part to make IRSTs viable as a primary tracking tool, rather than something verified by real world testing and/or exercises.

    – Onboard self-defence systems to do what? Spoof it or jam it? Both are extremely hard calls against a latest gen AESA. Jamming for one will almost certainly give away your position nullifying the objective.

    – In addition, the radiating aircraft can switch to a burst-share mode, with his silent wingman (and/or other aircraft in the flight) picking up the reflected radiation and sharing it (using the MADL) to compute tracking solutions. The track range will be somewhat lower but it’ll effectively be immune to any DRFM jamming/active cancellation.

    • “This is guesswork on your part. The F-35’s serviceability is already up from the 37% that you quoted in your article to 51%”.

      – Well, nothing is comparable until F-35 is operational, is it?

      ______________________

      “And yes you’ve made these statements vis a vis range but like I mentioned in my previous, you’ve posted no references to support them”

      – I did not see your references for each statements you made yourself.

      ______________________

      “Your calculation is completely ignoring the latter limitation, which for modern QWIP IRSTs is actually more important than temperature difference between target and the background”

      – Do you really know all foreign products specifications? Including sensitive military products?

      ______________________

      “You haven’t posted any reports/articles/analysis by RAND”

      – Maybe because links are here, in this site?

      _____________________

      “Only thing that would help against the IR-SAMs and MANPADS is DIRCM. At the moment, there is no fighter/attack aircraft employing DIRCM operational anywhere in the world.”

      – well , I could be, as you are, a little agressive and ask for a link or say: “At the moment, there is no stealth aircraft fully operational in the world” but I will just suggest you to be more curious about what is happening beyond your borders.

      _____________________

      “No it can’t. Not against China. Not against Russia. And two decades from now that’ll be a much larger list as PAK FAs & J-31s (as well as AEW&C systems) proliferate across the world.”

      – So, when does the game start? When every “stealth” airplane is really ready and usefull for war? Could be never, it’s good news.

      ______________________

      “Low altitude is the only option to avoid detection against VHF radars for any fighter aircraft, so yes”

      – To be the only option you know does not mean it’s the only that exist.

      “Also, at low altitudes, its radar will be horizon limited, its munitions will be extremely range-limited, its situational awareness will be miserable and it’ll be a sitting duck for any fighter patrol at mid-to-high altitudes in the area (especially given the lack of radar stealth)”.

      – Your faith is respectable though your words are a bit ideologic but your under-estimation of non American weapon capabilities is just… funny. You never have any single doubt about LM promises but
      all actual key points of foreign products are systematically questioned. Do you Work you for a company in particular?

      • “This is guesswork on your part. The F-35’s serviceability is already up from the 37% that you quoted in your article to 51%”.

        Well, nothing is comparable until F-35 is operational, is it?

        – Mission availability at FOC will be higher than IOC. Mission availability at IOC will be higher than it was during development. That’s a self-evident fact.

        – The F-35’s availability having crossed 50% clearly negates the 37% figure that the article relies on. And also demonstrates the absurdity of using a figure for an aircraft under development to characterize an operational system.

        ______________________

        I did not see your references for each statements you made yourself.

        -Unfortunately the comment section doesn’t allow me to append my posts with footnotes and adding hyperlinks in the posts gets them caught up in the spam filter.

        – All the same, point out the statement for which you want a reference and I’ll find it for you.

        ______________________

        “Your calculation is completely ignoring the latter limitation, which for modern QWIP IRSTs is actually more important than temperature difference between target and the background”

        Do you really know all foreign products specifications? Including sensitive military products?

        – Err.. the comment which you’re rebutting here was made by Picard not me. (That’s why I put it in quotes.)

        ______________________

        “You haven’t posted any reports/articles/analysis by RAND”

        Maybe because links are here, in this site?

        – No they’re not. Not on the article on PIRATE at least.

        – Nor does a Google Search of the website produce any such report.

        https://www.google.com/?q=site:defenseissues.wordpress.com+RAND+IRST

        _____________________

        well , I could be, as you are, a little agressive and ask for a link or say: “At the moment, there is no stealth aircraft fully operational in the world” but I will just suggest you to be more curious about what is happening beyond your borders.

        – First, there are two stealth aircraft that have been fully operational for a long time now i.e. F-22 & B-2. (Possibly three if the RQ-180 is included.)

        – Second, no fighter aircraft in the world has a DIRCM operational today. There however was some talk of it being introduced on the Su-25SM3 upgrade. In either case, this would be a basic system derived from systems operational on helicopters and transport aircraft. Mounted on exhausts and effective against basic IR seekers (as opposed to UV & IIR units).

        – The first fighter to be operational with a DIRCM will likely be the PAK FA (101KS-O) possibly around 2018 if not later, followed by new-build F-35 Blk 4s (NG ThNDR) which should come around 2021 (with the capability being retrofitted to older F-35s in Blk 5). In both aircraft the system will be co-housed with the MAWS.

        _____________________

        So, when does the game start? When every “stealth” airplane is really ready and usefull for war? Could be never, it’s good news.

        – The game, as you put it, started in 1914 with the advent of the first World War.

        – Any stealth aircraft is ready and useful for war at IOC. It will subsequently add capabilities with upgrades and iterative variants. In that respect, its no different from a conventional aircraft (take a look the Rafale’s capabilities at the F1 stage).

        ______________________

        “Low altitude is the only option to avoid detection against VHF radars for any fighter aircraft, so yes”

        To be the only option you know does not mean it’s the only that exist.

        – This is again… awkward. The statement that you just rubbished was made by Picard not me. That’s why it was in quotes.

        – I do however welcome your support, accidental as it may have been. 😉

        __________________

        “Also, at low altitudes, its radar will be horizon limited, its munitions will be extremely range-limited, its situational awareness will be miserable and it’ll be a sitting duck for any fighter patrol at mid-to-high altitudes in the area (especially given the lack of radar stealth)”.

        Your faith is respectable though your words are a bit ideologic but your under-estimation of non American weapon capabilities is just… funny. You never have any single doubt about LM promises but
        all actual key points of foreign products are systematically questioned. Do you Work you for a company in particular?

        – The statement that you’re rebutting vis a vis fighters being limited in terms of sensor & weapon range and vulnerable to enemy aircraft, AEW&C and QR-SAMs/MANPADs, applies to all fighters (incl. the F-35) not the just Rafale. So no this is not a US-vs-France thing.

        – All I was doing was illustrating why low-level strike is a dangerous thing in today’s threat environment.

        – No I don’t work for any US defence company anymore than Picard works for Dassault or yourself for Thales.

      • While I respect enormously the analyses of the historic speakers of this site, I support nobody in particular because I do not consider to be in a fight. Here is the place of the sincere and impartial explanations. On the other hand, you seem to be convinced of the systematic superiority of the productions from a single country and I am only pointing out to you that it is maybe a little more balanced.
        Several times, on several subjects, your certainties were put in defect and you continue nevertheless to repeat them while avoiding skillfully answering. Who do you want to convince finally? You

        To consider to be the strongest in all domains is an enormous global weakness.

    • “- What in the world are you talking about? Thermal energy is produced in the combustor NOT by the turbine inlet.”

      Thermal energy is produced by any part of the aircraft that is heated up. F135s turbine inlet has a temperature of almost 2.000 deg C. But according to you, it doesn’t matter?

      “Its the temperature at the turbine-outlet/engine-exhaust that determines the IR signature NOT at the inlet.”

      IR signature of aircraft is determined by IR emissions from the same, and these are not limited to engine exhaust.

      “And since a higher bypass engine will extract greater work, the exhaust gases will be at lower temperature.”

      For the same intake temperature, yes.

      “That temperature difference is barely greater that of a human body outdoors.”

      Even assuming that you are correct, modern IRST can detect temperature gradients down to single-digit deg C.

      “- Without afterburners, the exhaust temperature is upwards of 450 deg C. Compared to skin temperature less than -10 deg C. Just 50 km difference in detection range? Fat chance. ”

      As I have already explained, but you are intent on ignoring it, temperature difference is NOT the primary limitation of modern IRST systems. Resolution is.

      “- So, the IRST detects a 33 deg temp gradient at 90 km and a whopping 485 degree gradient at just 145 km. That’s clearly absurd. ”

      Baka. Modern IRSTs can comfortably detect temperature gradients in single digit deg C, but temperature difference is NOT the only limitation. You really think that you’d be able to see a pidgeon at 200 km in vacuum, despite nothing being there to absorb any light waves reflected from it? No, because your eye doesn’t have good enough resolution for that.

      “Especially when you consider that the IRST sensor will resolve a physically big exhaust far more effectively than tiny bands of heating on the aircraft’s leading edges. ”

      Yes, because aircraft’s nose cone does not heat at all beyond the leading tip…

      “- Compared to F-15C which is still widely accepted as an excellent performer (not withstanding Sprey’s kookey preachings).”

      F-15Cs ITR is lower than Rafale’s and F-22s STR (21 deg/s vs 28 deg/s). Even if the F-35 can match the F-15 in turn rate, it is nowhere near enough to match new aircraft.

      “CAS in daytime is its job description.”

      Indeed. But it just means that any aircraft doing CAS will suffer comparably greater loss rate than aircraft which have the luxury of being able to fly only at night.

      “To use your sortie figures, the A-10 suffered 8 losses over 12,400 sorties (1/1500) while the F-117 registered one confirmed loss in 2600 sorties (1/2600).”

      Even using these figures, F-117s loss rate is only slightly better than the A-10s, which actually suffered 6 shootdowns. Further, A-10 actually flew more night sorties than the F-117, and suffered no losses at night (no A-10s were even damaged during night); F-117 flew only at night. During the Desert Storm, A-10 regularly faced air defenses significantly more lethal than what the F-117 faced over the downtown Baghdad. Over Kosovo, no A-10s were lost while F-117 suffered 1 shootdown and 1 mission kill / writeoff. F-117 never faced the most lethal air defense systems, which are optically-aimed AAA and IR SAMs.

      A-10 also regularly flew SEAD/DEAD missions, something it was never designed for, unlike the F-117. Then there is the utter idiocy of sending an aircraft with dark green paint scheme.

      https://books.google.hr/books?id=PUKzU6v96vUC&pg=PA102&lpg=PA102&dq=A-10+in+downtown+baghdad&source=bl&ots=-c7ZokIcm3&sig=OkkS4ldp_9fZjDR-c_bnjYhXsWk&hl=hr&sa=X&ei=kavMVKmMC8XHPduugOgH&ved=0CEYQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=A-10%20in%20downtown%20baghdad&f=false
      – you can see that operating only at night did more for the F-117s survivability than its design did

      “And even if we agree that the A-10’s loss rate isn’t much worse, fact remains you’re comparing it to an aircraft that was retired in 2008. The A-10 will join it very soon and rightly so. ”

      And it should be retired soon, provided that a replacement is designed. If no replacement is going to be designed (none are in the process of being designed, at any rate), then upgrading the A-10 is the second best option.

      “- A more pertinent issue is – why do altitude restrictions apply to the A-10 if it is so impervious to damage? ”

      Troll. I never said that the A-10 is “so impervious to damage”, I’m just saying that it is not unsurvivable piece of crap you’re making it out to be. And altitude restrictions apply to all aircraft, it is just that the A-10 pilots were the only ones willing to violate them. You should ask yourself why.

      “No A-10 ever ventured into downtown Baghdad. It simply wouldn’t have survived. Even the Package Q Strike resulted in two F-16 losses despite operating at medium altitude. ”

      Bullshit. It ventured, and it survived.

      http://www.pogo.org/our-work/straus-military-reform-project/weapons/2014/chuck-hagels-a-10-legacy.html
      http://www.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/223/Article/117270/operation-iraqi-freedom-hero-shares-her-story.aspx

      And in the last link, you can see that not only the A-10s did fly over the downtown Baghdad, but also flew low enough to employ their 30 mm guns. Plus, as you can see in the following link, downtown Baghdad was NOT any more dangerous than the rest of it:
      https://books.google.hr/books?id=PUKzU6v96vUC&pg=PA102&lpg=PA102&dq=A-10+in+downtown+baghdad&source=bl&ots=-c7ZokIcm3&sig=OkkS4ldp_9fZjDR-c_bnjYhXsWk&hl=hr&sa=X&ei=kavMVKmMC8XHPduugOgH&ved=0CEYQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=A-10%20in%20downtown%20baghdad&f=false

      “The USAF is retiring the A-10 because it can’t afford to support a single role aircraft in today’s environment.”

      So why it isn’t retiring F-15 as well?

      “But they are most definitely ‘like-to-have’ weapons rather than ‘need-to-have’ weapons. ”

      F-15 and F-22 are “like-to-have” weapons, A-10 is “need-to-have”.

      “Given the ranges involved and the flash/projectile-rich environment, by the time the MAWS blares and the pilot identifies the threat trajectory, he’d have practically no time left to manoeuver. ”

      Not really. Enemy missile launch cannot occur too close because missile wouldn’t have time to lock on, and MAWS would blare as soon as the missile launched.

      “The latest models employ IIR seekers which are all but immune to flares. ”

      Flares can still temporarily blind missiles.

      “No it can’t. Not against China. Not against Russia.”

      It can, even against China and Russia. Not that such a war will ever happen.

      “Still leaves AEW&Cs airborne. And AESA equipped fighters on CAP. ”

      Fighters are unlikely to use radars.

      “That leaves the aircraft exposed to AAA and MANPADS. Also, at low altitudes, its radar will be horizon limited, its munitions will be extremely range-limited, its situational awareness will be miserable and it’ll be a sitting duck for any fighter patrol at mid-to-high altitudes in the area (especially given the lack of radar stealth). ”

      And all of it is true for any fighter aircraft. However, you must remember that same limitations apply to air defense systems as well.

      “Whatever the range of the fighter may be, the airbase is certainly not mobile. And the vast majority of fighter bases in the world are within hostile cruise missile range. ”

      Aircraft aI have listed are those that can use either road or open country bases, meaning that you won’t know where their bases are beforehand. It still won’t make them immune to missiles, but you won’t be able to take out entire air force in one go.

      “- LERX comes into play at high angles of attack. In level flight it has little impact on lift and therefore little impact on range.”

      In level flight LERX reduces drag and modifies Mach line.

      “Except that the F-111B was cancelled within a year of the first flight while the F-35 is already being inducted by all three services to replace the multi-role F-16, F-18 and Harrier. ”

      F-111 is still in service in some countries. And F-35 is too big to fail.

      “What are the sources for your figure of ‘1/3’ and ‘1/10’.”

      ECR-90 trials have shown that jamming could reduce its range to less than 9 km against Flankers. I was simply conservative.

      “Onboard self-defence systems to do what? Spoof it or jam it? Both are extremely hard calls against a latest gen AESA. Jamming for one will almost certainly give away your position nullifying the objective.”

      And using one will also give away one’s position, so both sides will be in same trouble.

      “The track range will be somewhat lower but it’ll effectively be immune to any DRFM jamming/active cancellation.”

      It won’t be immune, no radar is.

  9. Thermal energy is produced by any part of the aircraft that is heated up. F135s turbine inlet has a temperature of almost 2.000 deg C. But according to you, it doesn’t matter?

    – Thermal energy is not PRODUCED by any part of the aircraft (frictional heating aside). Its generated in the combustor.

    – If the turbine inlet were nice and cool, the aircraft would fall out of the sky. The thermal energy is what drives the engine.

    – You’re making a basic mistake here in confusing the inlet and exhaust temperatures.
    __________________________

    IR signature of aircraft is determined by IR emissions from the same, and these are not limited to engine exhaust.

    – The primary source of IR radiation (tail-on) is the engine exhaust.

    – The turbine inlet is certainly not a major contributor to the thermal signature of the aircraft.
    __________________________

    “And since a higher bypass engine will extract greater work, the exhaust gases will be at lower temperature.”

    For the same intake temperature, yes.

    – Despite a higher turbine inlet temperature, the F-35’s exhaust could well have a lower IR signature thanks to a higher bypass ratio.

    – This is something you’ve clearly not factored into your analysis of their IR signatures.
    __________________________

    Even assuming that you are correct, modern IRST can detect temperature gradients down to single-digit deg C.

    – Single digit detection at what range? 50 km? 90 km? And please share the source for the same.
    __________________________

    As I have already explained, but you are intent on ignoring it, temperature difference is NOT the primary limitation of modern IRST systems. Resolution is.

    – Boss you can’t have it both ways.

    – On one hand you’re playing up the Rafale supposedly low IR signature (and contrasting the F-35’s supposedly high figure). Simultaneously you’re claiming that its the size of the target and resolution of the IRST that matters, rather than the IR signature.
    __________________________

    Yes, because aircraft’s nose cone does not heat at all beyond the leading tip…

    – The nose does not heat uniformly beyond the tip. The peak temperatures I stated (which were pretty low by most measures) applied to only the tip. The rest of the nose will be much cooler.
    __________________________

    F-15Cs ITR is lower than Rafale’s and F-22s STR (21 deg/s vs 28 deg/s). Even if the F-35 can match the F-15 in turn rate, it is nowhere near enough to match new aircraft.

    – ITR and STR are independent variables.

    – Just because the F-15C’s ITR is low doesn’t mean the F-35’s ITR is low (as is clearly evidenced by the huge difference in their AoA figures).
    __________________________

    Indeed. But it just means that any aircraft doing CAS will suffer comparably greater loss rate than aircraft which have the luxury of being able to fly only at night.

    – Any aircraft flying low altitude in daytime will take heavy casualties against a suitable armed adversary. That figure may be somewhat lower for the A-10, but that doesn’t make it any more affordable or the particular flight profile any more feasible.
    __________________________

    Even using these figures, F-117s loss rate is only slightly better than the A-10s, which actually suffered 6 shootdowns. Further, A-10 actually flew more night sorties than the F-117, and suffered no losses at night (no A-10s were even damaged during night); F-117 flew only at night. During the Desert Storm, A-10 regularly faced air defenses significantly more lethal than what the F-117 faced over the downtown Baghdad. Over Kosovo, no A-10s were lost while F-117 suffered 1 shootdown and 1 mission kill / writeoff. F-117 never faced the most lethal air defense systems, which are optically-aimed AAA and IR SAMs.

    – The A-10 NEVER faced conglomerations of air defence as lethal as those facing the F-117.

    – There was no place in Iraq or Kosovo that had a greater concentration of air defences than Baghdad.

    – For that matter, the A-10 was never employed to attack Belgrade either.

    – Gen Chuck Horner interview with AFA:

    Q: This conflict [Desert Storm] has shown that?

    A: It shows that the gun has a lot of utility, which we always knew, but it isn’t the principal tank-killer on the A-10. The [Imaging Infrared] Maverick is the big hero there. That was used by the A-10s and the F-16s very, very effectively in places like Khafji.

    The other problem is that the A-10 is vulnerable to hits because its speed is limited. It’s a function of thrust, it’s not a function of anything else. We had a lot of A-10s take a lot of ground fire hits. Quite frankly, we pulled the A-10s back from going up around the Republican Guard and kept them on Iraq’s [less formidable] front-line units. That’s line [sic] if you have a force that allows you to do that. In this case, we had F-16s to go after the Republican Guard.

    Q: At what point did you do that?

    A: I think I had fourteen airplanes sitting on the ramp having battle damage repaired, and I lost two A-10s in one day [February 15], and I said, “I’ve had enough of this….”
    __________________________

    you can see that operating only at night did more for the F-117s survivability than its design did

    – The F-117 has been retired and the USAF doesn’t have the luxury of operating a tactical aircraft that can safely operate only at night (if that is the ‘safe’ flight profile being advocated for the A-10).
    __________________________

    And it should be retired soon, provided that a replacement is designed. If no replacement is going to be designed (none are in the process of being designed, at any rate), then upgrading the A-10 is the second best option.

    – In today’s ORBAT, there’s no space for a single role aircraft that can only operate in permissive environments. You don’t hear of the Brits, French, Koreans, or Indians lining up to buy those retiring A-10s. Why do you think that is?
    __________________________

    Troll. I never said that the A-10 is “so impervious to damage”, I’m just saying that it is not unsurvivable piece of crap you’re making it out to be. And altitude restrictions apply to all aircraft, it is just that the A-10 pilots were the only ones willing to violate them. You should ask yourself why.

    – Nine A-10s hit with IR-SAMs. Six total losses with one more written off later. No its not ‘unsurvivable’. But one would hardly describe it as exceptionally survivable either.

    – As for why no other aircraft type operates at low altitudes in a hostile environment, that’s simple. They don’t want to get shot down.

    – And the same applies to the A-10 as well. Over the Balkans, the ROE hard deck was limited to 10,000ft with aircraft allowed to get to 8,000ft in attack dives.

    – The pilots may have been willing to risk more dicey attack approaches, the folks who were responsible for the aircraft (which is owned by the taxpayer) did not.
    ___________________________

    “No A-10 ever ventured into downtown Baghdad. It simply wouldn’t have survived. Even the Package Q Strike resulted in two F-16 losses despite operating at medium altitude. ”

    Bullshit. It ventured, and it survived.

    – Never happened.

    – The GAO report referenced in the POGO link, talks about the A-10 being pitted against more lethal types (i.e. IR-SAMs & AAA), not more lethal environments. The A-10 never flew against the sort of concentrated air defences that existed in downtown Baghdad. And the F-117 flying night missions was never under any real threat from the AAA and the like.
    ___________________________

    And in the last link, you can see that not only the A-10s did fly over the downtown Baghdad, but also flew low enough to employ their 30 mm guns.

    – Read it again. The link you posted is about A-10s operating over downtown Baghdad in 2003 not in the lot less benign 1991 environment. And that too at the end of invasion when coalition ground forces had already penetrated and were fighting inside Baghdad. (And one A-10 was still lost to a SAM, the next day.)
    ___________________________

    Plus, as you can see in the following link, downtown Baghdad was NOT any more dangerous than the rest of it:

    – No. It says three things –

    1. There were more SAM batteries in and around Baghdad than rest of Iraq put together. AAA over Baghdad was more severe than anywhere else.

    2. The SAM and AAA coverage did not intensify in downtown Baghdad but also covered metropolitan zone. (That I’ll concede.)

    3. Other aircraft tasked with strikes over Baghdad were F-15Es, F-16s, F/A-18s, F-111Fs and B-52s. No A-10s.
    __________________________

    “The USAF is retiring the A-10 because it can’t afford to support a single role aircraft in today’s environment.”

    So why it isn’t retiring F-15 as well?

    – It is retiring the F-15. The last F-15A/B was retired in 2009. F-15C retirements have begun; 51 aircraft are scheduled to be taken out of service this year.

    – Its still got its uses in peacetime; QRA/air policing/air defence, but all the same, for better or worse, it’ll be replaced with the F-35A by 2025.

    – The F-15E is a multi-role platform and will thus be around for long long time yet.
    ___________________________

    F-15 and F-22 are “like-to-have” weapons, A-10 is “need-to-have”.

    – The ISAF campaign in Afghanistan is being rolled up. The Iraq deployment ended a while ago. There’s no political will for anymore expeditionary ground campaigns for the foreseeable future.

    – The A-10 is therefore superfluous to requirements and being retired early. For most other attack requirements, the air force can manage with the existing fleet.
    ___________________________

    “Given the ranges involved and the flash/projectile-rich environment, by the time the MAWS blares and the pilot identifies the threat trajectory, he’d have practically no time left to manoeuver. ”

    Not really. Enemy missile launch cannot occur too close because missile wouldn’t have time to lock on, and MAWS would blare as soon as the missile launched.

    – Take nice comfortable range of 3.5 km. With max range at 5 km, nobody would call that ‘too close’.

    – Take a speed of 600m/s, which most MANPADS can do. That gives you a 6 seconds until impact. (The Stinger-C does 750m/s, so 5 secs for newer gen types.)

    – The MAWS isn’t going to point out every flash on the ground. It’ll certainly take a couple of seconds to identify the threat. Lets be generous and call it one second. 4-5 seconds left.

    – The pilot then has to identify the direction of the incoming missile, so that he can turn ‘into’ its trajectory. If he turns the wrong way, he just becomes a nicer jucier ‘deader’ target.

    – Add in the delay in the aircraft’s response and you’ll realise the pilot has only enough time to launch flares and nothing else.
    ____________________________

    “The latest models employ IIR seekers which are all but immune to flares. ”

    Flares can still temporarily blind missiles.

    – The latest gen of MANPADS operates dual-band IR and UV.

    – IIR can’t really be dazzled by flares. (If it could what would that say about the MICA-IR’s pK.)
    ____________________________

    It can, even against China and Russia. Not that such a war will ever happen.

    – China has already started fielding huge numbers of J-10s and J-11s. According to Jane’s by 2016 it’ll be inducting about 80 fighters annually. And 2020 onwards that’ll be replaced by dozens of J-20s and J-31s being added.

    – The US and allied forces will not be able to win a conflict if they decide to stick with only their existing 4th gen fleet.

    – A war against Russia or China is unlikely, not impossible. I’m unlikely to ever get cancer (no particular lifestyle risk, no family history) but my insurance still covers it.

    – China and Russia certainly take the prospect seriously enough to invest billions in their armed forces modernization programs.
    _____________________________

    “Still leaves AEW&Cs airborne. And AESA equipped fighters on CAP. ”

    Fighters are unlikely to use radars.

    – No. Your opinion is that fighters should not use radars. I think we’ve already established that (foolishly mistaken as they may be) most air forces have every intention of using radars in combat. This BTW includes the French who’ve invested billions in AESA tech.

    This is from an Air & Cosmos article on the French Air Force’s new AESA equipped Rafales and how they’re intended to be employed in combat:

    En combat hors de portée visuelle, cet avantage crucial permet d’améliorer la discrétion du Rafale face à ses ennemis. Alors que les avions équipés de radars AESA resteraient hors de portée des armements et des capteurs des chasseurs ennemis, d’autres Rafale non AESA s’approcheraient des cibles, radar éteint, maximisant l’effet de surprise pour mettre en œuvre leur Mica en profitant d’une désignation d’objectif transmise via la Liaison 16 par les Rafale à antenne active. Un concept d’emploi qui n’est pas sans rappeler celui de l’US Air Force, qui a déjà fait savoir qu’elle envisageait d’utiliser ses F-15C AESA pour détecter des cibles à longue distance, au profit de F-22 furtifs qui pourraient alors tirer leurs missiles de manière totalement discrète.
    .
    .
    In beyond visual range combat, the crucial advantage is that it improves the discretion with which the Rafale deals with its enemies. While aircraft equipped with AESA radars would remain out of reach of weapons and sensors enemy fighters, other non Rafale AESA would approach the target, radar silent, maximizing the surprise effect to launch their Micas with target designation transmitted via Link 16 by Rafales with active antennas. An employment concept that is reminiscent of the US Air Force, which has already said it plans to use its F-15C AESA to detect long-range targets, the F-22s could then use their stealth to launch their missiles in a totally discreet manner.
    _____________________________

    And all of it is true for any fighter aircraft. However, you must remember that same limitations apply to air defense systems as well.

    Applies to all fighters, agreed. But only to ground based defences. AEW&C units and fighters on CAP at high altitude will have no such restrictions
    _____________________________

    Aircraft aI have listed are those that can use either road or open country bases, meaning that you won’t know where their bases are beforehand. It still won’t make them immune to missiles, but you won’t be able to take out entire air force in one go.

    – To the best of knowledge none of the aircraft on the list have been adapted for rough field conditions (unlike say.. the Gripen).

    – You’ll also never be able to sustain a sortie rate anywhere comparable to that from an proper airbase.

    – Also without knowing the location of these dispersed makeshift bases and their distance from their likely AoR, how are you computing their ranges as ‘adequate’, ‘inadequate’ or ‘barely adequate’. What exactly is the benchmark for ‘adequacy’?
    _____________________________

    In level flight LERX reduces drag and modifies Mach line.

    You can achieve drag reduction through wing blending. Mach line is not relevant; ideal cruise speed will be high subsonic for both aircraft.
    _____________________________

    “Except that the F-111B was cancelled within a year of the first flight while the F-35 is already being inducted by all three services to replace the multi-role F-16, F-18 and Harrier. ”

    F-111 is still in service in some countries. And F-35 is too big to fail.

    – Eh.. what?!! The F-111 only ever served in two countries – US & Australia. It retired from USAF service in 1998 and from the RAAF in 2010.

    – F-35 might have been too-big-to-fail for the US DoD. Not for all the other customers who’ve lined up to buy it. And all those who’re buying it intend to use it as a multi-role fighter, just like it was intended.
    _____________________________

    “What are the sources for your figure of ‘1/3′ and ‘1/10′.”

    ECR-90 trials have shown that jamming could reduce its range to less than 9 km against Flankers. I was simply conservative.

    – The ECR-90 isn’t a frequency agile AESA.

    – Please post a source for the 9 km figure.
    _____________________________

    And using one will also give away one’s position, so both sides will be in same trouble.

    It won’t be immune, no radar is.

    – The radar platform needs only one or two pulses to get a hit off every hostile in range.

    – DRFM jamming is a reactive activity that can only be performed after the active target has started radiating. For a modern AESA, that delay is more than enough to carry out a tracking function.

    – The SPECTRA is primarily for self-defence. Unlike the EA-18G, its not intended to carry out brute force wide-band ‘whiteout’ jamming.

    – And while the sort of ‘smart’ jamming that it excels at, is effective against older PD radars, it will always lag behind a frequency hopping AESA backed by sufficient processing power (and the F-35’s ICP has no dearth of computing power).

    • “- Thermal energy is not PRODUCED by any part of the aircraft (frictional heating aside). Its generated in the combustor. ”

      You really think that electronics do not require cooling?

      “- If the turbine inlet were nice and cool, the aircraft would fall out of the sky. The thermal energy is what drives the engine. ”

      Indeed. Which is just one of myriad reasons why IR stealth is impossible.

      “- You’re making a basic mistake here in confusing the inlet and exhaust temperatures. ”

      I’m not confusing them, fact is that temperature of inlet has to go somewhere and thus contributes to the engine’s IR signature. And if you take a look at IR images of aircraft, you will see that entirety of the engine is clearly visible through the airframe thanks to its IR emissions, not just the exhaust.

      “- The primary source of IR radiation (tail-on) is the engine exhaust. ”

      Tail-on yes, but to focus just on it is an amateur mistake.

      “- Despite a higher turbine inlet temperature, the F-35’s exhaust could well have a lower IR signature thanks to a higher bypass ratio. ”

      As far as exhaust temperature goes, yes. But then again, it also produces far more thrust which means that plume will be larger – and as I have pointed out before, size also matters with modern IRST, due to resolution limits.

      “- On one hand you’re playing up the Rafale supposedly low IR signature (and contrasting the F-35’s supposedly high figure). Simultaneously you’re claiming that its the size of the target and resolution of the IRST that matters, rather than the IR signature. ”

      I am factoring in size in the overall comparision. Rafale is actually smaller than the F-35 from front and side, despite overall dimensions being similar. Further, size of its exhaust plume, when viewed from side, is smaller due to smaller powerplant.

      “- ITR and STR are independent variables.”

      ITR is always higher than STR, if by only few deg/s.

      ” (as is clearly evidenced by the huge difference in their AoA figures). ”

      Wing loading is far more relevant for ITR than AoA. In fact, increase in AoA beyond 30-some degrees not result in increase in ITR, because stalling means that there is no increase in lift.

      “That figure may be somewhat lower for the A-10, but that doesn’t make it any more affordable or the particular flight profile any more feasible.”

      Affordability for what? War is never a no-loss matter, and aircraft that suffers losses while providing tactical effect is far more valuable than invulnerable, but useless, aircraft. A-10 provides capability no other aircraft does, and has saved so many lives that this entire discussion is meaningless.

      “- The A-10 NEVER faced conglomerations of air defence as lethal as those facing the F-117. ”

      No, it faced far more lethal ones.

      “- There was no place in Iraq or Kosovo that had a greater concentration of air defences than Baghdad. ”

      Both A-10 and F-117 flew over Baghdad, but even there concentration of air defenses was not uniform, and A-10 flew in higher-risk areas than the F-117.

      “Gen Chuck Horner interview with AFA: ”

      Take a look at what general Horner said *during* the Gulf War: “I take back all the bad things I have ever said about the A-10. I love them! They’re saving our asses!”

      “if that is the ‘safe’ flight profile being advocated for the A-10”

      You can’t have “safe” tactical profile if you want CAS.

      “In today’s ORBAT, there’s no space for a single role aircraft that can only operate in permissive environments.”

      Translation: we don’t want to serve as flying artillery for the Army and want to get rid of the A-10 ASAP. Besides, by that measure, what was the last time USAF did NOT serve in a permissive environment? I can’t think of any.

      ” You don’t hear of the Brits, French, Koreans, or Indians lining up to buy those retiring A-10s. Why do you think that is? ”

      Because no air force wants to do close air support. But if French Army didn’t think that unarmored Gazelle helicopters are too vulnerable to be used in that role, or US Army with their comparably (to the A-10) lightly armored and sluggish Apaches, why do you and USAF think that the A-10 is unfeasibly vulnerable?

      “Nine A-10s hit with IR-SAMs. Six total losses with one more written off later. No its not ‘unsurvivable’. But one would hardly describe it as exceptionally survivable either.”

      It is very survivable considering its mission profile. And in quite a few of these losses, A-10 still brought the pilot back home.

      “And the same applies to the A-10 as well. Over the Balkans, the ROE hard deck was limited to 10,000ft with aircraft allowed to get to 8,000ft in attack dives. ”

      As I said before, A-10 pilots regularly violated ROE, including hard deck, in order to use the gun.

      “The pilots may have been willing to risk more dicey attack approaches, the folks who were responsible for the aircraft (which is owned by the taxpayer) did not. ”

      Sorry, but pilots have far better overview of risk-benefit than bureocrats do. As far as bureocrats are concerned, war should be waged without any losses (event though the only way to do it is to not get into one in the first place).

      “- Never happened. ”

      A-10 did fly over downtown Baghdad in 2003:
      http://www.pogo.org/our-work/straus-military-reform-project/weapons/2014/chuck-hagels-a-10-legacy.html
      http://www.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/223/Article/117270/operation-iraqi-freedom-hero-shares-her-story.aspx

      “- Read it again. The link you posted is about A-10s operating over downtown Baghdad in 2003 not in the lot less benign 1991 environment. ”

      Talking about A-10 over Baghdad in 1991 makes no God damn sense because US troops never were inside Baghdad in 1991, all fighting was in Kuwait and near Saudi border. A-10 is not a strategic bombardment platform like the F-117 (or F-15E, or AtG-configured F-16), it is the Close Air Support aircraft. THIS means that its tasks are carried out within few dozen kilometers from friendly unit, except for some deeper incursions during battlefield interdiction sorties, but even then they would not have gone to the Baghdad, becasue there were no targets for the A-10 in there at the time.

      “And that too at the end of invasion when coalition ground forces had already penetrated and were fighting inside Baghdad. ”

      Which is precisely when the A-10 was needed. They didn’t fly earlier because there were *no troops to support*. You are completely ignoring the fact that the A-10 is a CLOSE AIR SUPPORT aircraft, not some “flying knight in shining armor will win the war all by himself” strategic bombardment or deep strike platform.

      “- The ISAF campaign in Afghanistan is being rolled up. ”

      To expect it to be last campaign of that type is unrealistic, not to say moronic – as clearly proven by ISIS.

      “- The A-10 is therefore superfluous to requirements and being retired early. For most other attack requirements, the air force can manage with the existing fleet. ”

      ISIS begs to disagree.
      http://foxtrotalpha.jalopnik.com/the-usafs-much-maligned-a-10-warthogs-are-deploying-to-1640395280
      http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/2015/01/19/a10-strikes-isis-11-percent/21875911/
      http://www.wired.com/2014/12/a10-warthog-isis/
      http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/01/21/legendary-10-warthog-sends-isis-fleeing-even-as-it-faces-pentagon-cuts/
      http://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/u-s-wild-boar-aircraft-inspires-terror-isis-ranks-mosul/

      “- Take a speed of 600m/s, which most MANPADS can do. That gives you a 6 seconds until impact.”

      How long until MANPADS accelerates to the maximum speed?

      “- Add in the delay in the aircraft’s response and you’ll realise the pilot has only enough time to launch flares and nothing else. ”

      He does have time to turn. Not a full turn, but enough to start turning, which may well be enough to, combined with countermeasures, evade the missile.

      And ISIS is using Strela against the low-flying A-10s. Not very effectively.
      http://theaviationist.com/2015/01/19/a-10-strela-iraq/

      “- IIR can’t really be dazzled by flares. ”

      It can’t be “decoyed” in a classical sense, but flares can mask the target.

      “- The US and allied forces will not be able to win a conflict if they decide to stick with only their existing 4th gen fleet. ”

      No, they can’t. Most of the aircraft are too old, but replacing them with Rafale, Gripen NG or similar platforms would be perfectly adequate.

      “most air forces have every intention of using radars in combat”

      Intention does not translate into reality. USAF had every intention of not deploying the A-10 against ISIS, yet the A-10 ended up deployed. USAF had every intention of procuring at least 350 F-22s, they’re stuck with 180. USAF had every intention of using the F-16 in air-to-ground only and avoiding visual-range dogfights, yet dogfights (some of them involving the F-16) happened even in 2003 war.

      “AEW&C units and fighters on CAP at high altitude will have no such restrictions ”

      No, they have different restrictions (such as ground clutter).

      “You can achieve drag reduction through wing blending. Mach line is not relevant; ideal cruise speed will be high subsonic for both aircraft. ”

      Wing blending is a different issue. As for Mach line, it is not relevant for subsonic cruise, but you want as high cruise speed as possible when in combat area. That being said, no modern fighter aircraft has fuel fraction required to maintain that cruise speed for necessary time.

      “- The ECR-90 isn’t a frequency agile AESA. ”

      And it didn’t face modern jammers. Plus as I said, I was conservative, for that very reason.

      “- Please post a source for the 9 km figure. ”

      Article about Rafale’s IRST by Guy Norris.

      “- The radar platform needs only one or two pulses to get a hit off every hostile in range. ”

      I’d REALLY like to see a source for that. Because last time I checked, even the F-22s radar needed 10-15 seconds acquisition time before launching the BVRAAM.

      “- DRFM jamming is a reactive activity that can only be performed after the active target has started radiating. For a modern AESA, that delay is more than enough to carry out a tracking function. ”

      Wrong. Even modern AESA needs several seconds to lock on to a cooperative target, more than enough for DRFM to kick in.

  10. You really think that electronics do not require cooling?

    – Heat produced by electronics has a minimal effect on the aircraft’s IR signature.
    ___________________________________

    Indeed. Which is just one of myriad reasons why IR stealth is impossible.

    I’m not confusing them, fact is that temperature of inlet has to go somewhere and thus contributes to the engine’s IR signature. And if you take a look at IR images of aircraft, you will see that entirety of the engine is clearly visible through the airframe thanks to its IR emissions, not just the exhaust.

    Tail-on yes, but to focus just on it is an amateur mistake.

    As far as exhaust temperature goes, yes. But then again, it also produces far more thrust which means that plume will be larger – and as I have pointed out before, size also matters with modern IRST, due to resolution limits.

    – We’re not discussing generalities, we were comparing IR signatures of the F-35 and competing aircraft including the Rafale. And thus far you have not produced any real evidence of the F-35’s IR signature being any higher.

    – The only data point mentioned so far is the F135’s high inlet temperature, which does NOT prove that the aircraft has a greater IR signature.

    – A higher bypass ratio will not only result in a cooler exhaust but also provide better heat insulation for the ‘hot’ section of the engine. That’s why the F-35’s engine being more visible the airframe is again total guesswork on your part
    ____________________________________

    I am factoring in size in the overall comparision. Rafale is actually smaller than the F-35 from front and side, despite overall dimensions being similar. Further, size of its exhaust plume, when viewed from side, is smaller due to smaller powerplant.

    – First, going by your logic by virtue of its smaller size the F-35 is less susceptible to IRSTs than all other stealth aircraft except for the J-31. You should therefore amend your article to reflect that fact. Lets see if you do.

    – Second, the difference in size between the Rafale and F-35 is very marginal. In fact, after the Rafale is loaded with external fuel and a comparable payload it will have a larger effective cross-section.

    – Third, unless you know how the F-35’s plume has been ‘shaped’ by the nozzle (read: spike signature), and how much of it is ‘shrouded’ by the airframe, its pointless to make claims about how susceptible it makes the aircraft.
    ___________________________________

    ITR is always higher than STR, if by only few deg/s.

    – That’s not the issue. The point being made was that a low ITR for the F-15 does NOT translate into a low ITR for the F-35, just because their STRs are comparable.
    ___________________________________

    “That figure may be somewhat lower for the A-10, but that doesn’t make it any more affordable or the particular flight profile any more feasible.”

    Affordability for what? War is never a no-loss matter, and aircraft that suffers losses while providing tactical effect is far more valuable than invulnerable, but useless, aircraft. A-10 provides capability no other aircraft does, and has saved so many lives that this entire discussion is meaningless.

    – The A-10 is completely useless in a war against a strong opposition i.e one with substantial air power and an adequate number of short range defences.
    ___________________________________

    “- The A-10 NEVER faced conglomerations of air defence as lethal as those facing the F-117. ”

    No, it faced far more lethal ones.

    – Like where? We’ve already established that it never went up against the concentrated air defences at Baghdad in ’91 or Belgrade.
    ___________________________________

    “- There was no place in Iraq or Kosovo that had a greater concentration of air defences than Baghdad. ”

    Both A-10 and F-117 flew over Baghdad, but even there concentration of air defenses was not uniform, and A-10 flew in higher-risk areas than the F-117.

    – The A-10 flew over Baghdad in 2003 NOT 1991. And that too in the end stages, long after the air defences had been degraded.
    ___________________________________

    Take a look at what general Horner said *during* the Gulf War: “I take back all the bad things I have ever said about the A-10. I love them! They’re saving our asses!”

    – And I’m sure he grew to have a soft spot for the aircraft. Doesn’t change the fact that they were pulled back from high threat targets after sustaining losses as the interview makes amply clear.
    ___________________________________

    “if that is the ‘safe’ flight profile being advocated for the A-10″

    You can’t have “safe” tactical profile if you want CAS.

    – EO guided PGMs from medium altitude is the only safe way to do CAS. You pull a low level stunt against well trained infantry equipped with MANPADS and your aircraft is likely to be written off the books.
    ___________________________________

    “In today’s ORBAT, there’s no space for a single role aircraft that can only operate in permissive environments.”

    Translation: we don’t want to serve as flying artillery for the Army and want to get rid of the A-10 ASAP. Besides, by that measure, what was the last time USAF did NOT serve in a permissive environment? I can’t think of any.

    – Will all future warfare will be a repetition of the past? Have the days of conventional warfare come to an end?
    __________________________________

    Because no air force wants to do close air support. But if French Army didn’t think that unarmored Gazelle helicopters are too vulnerable to be used in that role, or US Army with their comparably (to the A-10) lightly armored and sluggish Apaches, why do you and USAF think that the A-10 is unfeasibly vulnerable?

    – So in your opinion, every air force in the world is staffed by callous irresponsible bastards? UK, France, SK, India and so on. Except for the US and Russia that DID develop dedicated CAS aircraft.

    – Perhaps the USAF and I figure that if the French can manage with their unarmored Gazelles, the US Army can manage with its ‘lightly armored and sluggish’ Apache.
    _________________________________

    “Nine A-10s hit with IR-SAMs. Six total losses with one more written off later. No its not ‘unsurvivable’. But one would hardly describe it as exceptionally survivable either.”

    It is very survivable considering its mission profile. And in quite a few of these losses, A-10 still brought the pilot back home.

    – So you’d define 7 losses out 9 hit aircraft to be ‘very survivable’? That’s a unique perspective.

    – Majority of the cases where the aircraft brought the pilot home, it had sustained AAA and small arms fire NOT missiles.
    _________________________________

    “And the same applies to the A-10 as well. Over the Balkans, the ROE hard deck was limited to 10,000ft with aircraft allowed to get to 8,000ft in attack dives. ”

    As I said before, A-10 pilots regularly violated ROE, including hard deck, in order to use the gun.

    – That was before the ROE was relaxed to allow them to actually participate in the strike operations beyond a reconnaissance role.
    _________________________________

    “The pilots may have been willing to risk more dicey attack approaches, the folks who were responsible for the aircraft (which is owned by the taxpayer) did not. ”

    Sorry, but pilots have far better overview of risk-benefit than bureocrats do. As far as bureocrats are concerned, war should be waged without any losses (event though the only way to do it is to not get into one in the first place).

    – The specific RoE are formulated by the air force NOT bureaucrats or politicians who merely spell out policy. And the pilot isn’t paying for a crashed aircraft out of his own pocket.

    – When the aircraft is downed and the theatre commander is left with lesser air assets and the political support for the campaign is affected, the pilot is still not penalized.

    – If the pilot gets shot down, the military is expected to get him out even if the shootdown was his fault.

    – So no, determining risk-reward equation for an air campaign is NOT the pilot’s prerogative and for good reason.
    ______________________________

    A-10 did fly over downtown Baghdad in 2003:

    http://www.pogo.org/our-work/straus-military-reform-project/weapons/2014/chuck-hagels-a-10-legacy.html

    http://www.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/223/Article/117270/operation-iraqi-freedom-hero-shares-her-story.aspx

    Talking about A-10 over Baghdad in 1991 makes no God damn sense because US troops never were inside Baghdad in 1991, all fighting was in Kuwait and near Saudi border.

    – The A-10 did NOT operate in the concentrated air defences of Baghdad in 1991. And when it did start operate in the Baghdad, air defences were nearly non-operational. It was close to being a permissive environment.
    ______________________________

    A-10 is not a strategic bombardment platform like the F-117 (or F-15E, or AtG-configured F-16), it is the Close Air Support aircraft. THIS means that its tasks are carried out within few dozen kilometers from friendly unit, except for some deeper incursions during battlefield interdiction sorties, but even then they would not have gone to the Baghdad, becasue there were no targets for the A-10 in there at the time.

    “- The ISAF campaign in Afghanistan is being rolled up. ”

    To expect it to be last campaign of that type is unrealistic, not to say moronic – as clearly proven by ISIS.

    “- The A-10 is therefore superfluous to requirements and being retired early. For most other attack requirements, the air force can manage with the existing fleet. ”

    ISIS begs to disagree.

    – You’ve managed to contradict yourself in the space of three sentences.

    – First you claim, quite vehemently, that the A-10 is a CAS aircraft not a strike aircraft meant to operate ‘within a few dozen kilometers from friendly units’.

    – Then you follow that up with an example of an air campaign where operations consist overwhelmingly of strike missions not CAS.

    – And just FYI, as of Jan 2015, the A-10 has accounted for a measly 6% of total strikes by coalition forces against ISIS. The campaign will carry on fine even after the A-10 rotate out of the theatre.
    _______________________________

    “- Take a speed of 600m/s, which most MANPADS can do. That gives you a 6 seconds until impact.”

    How long until MANPADS accelerates to the maximum speed?

    Its a rocket engine, so near instantenously. Barely over a second. Plenty of videos of youtube proving that fact.
    _______________________________

    “- Add in the delay in the aircraft’s response and you’ll realise the pilot has only enough time to launch flares and nothing else. ”

    He does have time to turn. Not a full turn, but enough to start turning, which may well be enough to, combined with countermeasures, evade the missile.

    – He has less than three seconds of reaction time after he identifies the missiles trajectory. He’ll barely be able to bank the aircraft. Full turn? Doesn’t have ghost of chance of achieving that.
    _______________________________

    And ISIS is using Strela against the low-flying A-10s. Not very effectively.

    – More a reflection of ISIS’ technical competence than the Strela’s performance.
    _______________________________

    “- IIR can’t really be dazzled by flares. ”

    It can’t be “decoyed” in a classical sense, but flares can mask the target.

    – The flares would need to be huge. In real life however the missile’s software can identify the trailing flares and ejection pattern. Not to mention MANPADS have a UV mode as well.
    _______________________________

    “- The US and allied forces will not be able to win a conflict if they decide to stick with only their existing 4th gen fleet. ”

    No, they can’t. Most of the aircraft are too old, but replacing them with Rafale, Gripen NG or similar platforms would be perfectly adequate.

    – Against thousands of J-10s and J-11s and hundreds of J-20s and J-31s. Nope. Not unless you’re rooting for the Chinese.
    _______________________________

    “most air forces have every intention of using radars in combat”

    Intention does not translate into reality. USAF had every intention of not deploying the A-10 against ISIS, yet the A-10 ended up deployed. USAF had every intention of procuring at least 350 F-22s, they’re stuck with 180. USAF had every intention of using the F-16 in air-to-ground only and avoiding visual-range dogfights, yet dogfights (some of them involving the F-16) happened even in 2003 war.

    – So you think every major air force in the world is investing in expensive AESAs, training with radars, adopting stealth to counter enemy radars but its all a huge bluff and in real life they’ll adopt YOUR theories, keep their radars off and use IRSTs instead?
    _______________________________

    “AEW&C units and fighters on CAP at high altitude will have no such restrictions ”

    No, they have different restrictions (such as ground clutter).

    – These aren’t ancient pulse doppler radars we’re talking about. Ground clutter is not a limitation for newer gen of mechanical radars (to say nothing of PESAs & AESAs).
    _______________________________

    “You can achieve drag reduction through wing blending. Mach line is not relevant; ideal cruise speed will be high subsonic for both aircraft. ”

    Wing blending is a different issue. As for Mach line, it is not relevant for subsonic cruise, but you want as high cruise speed as possible when in combat area. That being said, no modern fighter aircraft has fuel fraction required to maintain that cruise speed for necessary time.

    – A steady drag profile is the ONLY advantage of LERX in level subsonic flight. And the same can be achieved through wing-fuselage blending.

    – The F-35’s higher fuel fraction will likely result in a higher combat radius than the F-22.
    _______________________________

    “- The ECR-90 isn’t a frequency agile AESA. ”

    And it didn’t face modern jammers. Plus as I said, I was conservative, for that very reason.

    – It doesn’t matter how modern the jammer is, it will ALWAYS lag behind the frequency switching operation of an AESA, unless it employs a wideband high power brute force approach like the Growler (which modern self defence suites like the SPECTRA are NOT). With the proviso that the radar platform should have adequate processing power to manage the radar (and the F-35 has more than all other fighter types put together).

    – Older pulse dopplers needed constant illumination to generate a tracking solutions. AESAs in contrast can operate in multi-frequency pulses. In contrast, jammers have improved in terms of power and flexibility but the principle of operation remains fundamentally the same as it was two decades ago.
    _______________________________

    I’d REALLY like to see a source for that. Because last time I checked, even the F-22s radar needed 10-15 seconds acquisition time before launching the BVRAAM.

    – You’re confusing tracking and detection. The F-22’s radar doesn’t need 10-15 seconds acquisition time for detecting a threat.

    – And while we’re on the subject, there’s a video on the web on the F-35’s APG-81 generating a tracking solution for 23 hostiles in 9 seconds. The first four targets were tracked in half a second including one at 90 nm (144 km).

    – And that’s without going into low volume searches, multi-ship LPI modes and so on.
    _______________________________

    “- DRFM jamming is a reactive activity that can only be performed after the active target has started radiating. For a modern AESA, that delay is more than enough to carry out a tracking function. ”

    Wrong. Even modern AESA needs several seconds to lock on to a cooperative target, more than enough for DRFM to kick in.

    – DRFM to kick into what? The AESA isn’t operating on a single frequency or even a narrow band of frequencies.

    • “And thus far you have not produced any real evidence of the F-35’s IR signature being any higher. ”

      F35
      – single engine with a single cooling channel producing 12.700/19.512 kgf of thrust
      – cruise speed of Mach 0,95 with 100% dry thrust > needs afterburner for supersonic flight
      – reduced thickness of engine casing and airframe to save weight

      Rafale
      – two engines equipped with a secondary cooling channel producing 9.953/15.077 kgf of thrust
      – cruise speed of Mach 1,4 with 100% dry thrust > does not need full dry thrust for subsonic cruise
      – no weight reduction during design process

      “A higher bypass ratio will not only result in a cooler exhaust but also provide better heat insulation for the ‘hot’ section of the engine. That’s why the F-35’s engine being more visible the airframe is again total guesswork on your part ”

      It is nowhere near guesswork. F135 does have higher bypass ratio, and if you were comparing it with, say, EJ200 you would have been correct about heat insulation. However, Rafale has a secondary cooling channel which 1) cools the engine casing even further than possible with single cooling channel; 2) helps insulate hottest part of the engine from the airframe; 3) produces relatively cool air flow which surrounds the engine exhaust plume. It also has two nozzles, with outer nozzle helping hide the inner nozzle and engine exhaust.

      “First, going by your logic by virtue of its smaller size the F-35 is less susceptible to IRSTs than all other stealth aircraft except for the J-31.”

      That is correct as long as it stays subsonic. However, it will not really help the F-35s running cover, as BVR missiles’ effectiveness increases with launch platform’s speed, and the F-35 can’t go supersonic without afterburner.

      “You should therefore amend your article to reflect that fact.”

      I have already included it into comparision.

      “The point being made was that a low ITR for the F-15 does NOT translate into a low ITR for the F-35, just because their STRs are comparable. ”

      As a matter of fact, F-35 is likely to be capable of sustaining a greater percentage of maximum turn rate. So for comparable STR, F-35s ITR should be lower.

      “- The A-10 is completely useless in a war against a strong opposition i.e one with substantial air power and an adequate number of short range defences. ”

      That assumes that there are no friendly fighters in the sky. And short-range defences do not make the A-10 useless.

      “- Like where? We’ve already established that it never went up against the concentrated air defences at Baghdad in ’91 or Belgrade. ”

      And F-117 only operated during the night, when air defences’ effectiveness is significantly reduced. Plus said F-117s had EF-111 escort.

      “EO guided PGMs from medium altitude is the only safe way to do CAS.”

      Yes, a safe way for the pilot. Not a safe way for the troops getting killed by the “friendly fire”.

      “Will all future warfare will be a repetition of the past? Have the days of conventional warfare come to an end? ”

      No and no. But that does NOT justify focusing only on the World War III scenario.

      “So in your opinion, every air force in the world is staffed by callous irresponsible bastards?”

      More or less yes. It has to do with the fact that air force is basically part of the army in its role, so don’t have to have to do anything with the army itself in order to avoid having to become part of the army in the name as well.

      “Except for the US and Russia that DID develop dedicated CAS aircraft. ”

      USAF only developed a CAS aircraft in order to kill the US Army’s Cheyenne helicopter (which was basically a combo of helicoper and prop aircraft). Once that was done, A-10 procurement stopped, well short of the number that would have been required, while Army was left to develop less capable and survivable Apache helicopter.

      “Perhaps the USAF and I figure that if the French can manage with their unarmored Gazelles, the US Army can manage with its ‘lightly armored and sluggish’ Apache.”

      While ignoring the fact that the Apache is considerably less effective and more expensive than the A-10.

      “So you’d define 7 losses out 9 hit aircraft to be ‘very survivable’?”

      Compared to 2 losses out of 2 hit aircraft for the F-117?

      “That was before the ROE was relaxed to allow them to actually participate in the strike operations beyond a reconnaissance role. ”

      A-10 pilots never really gave crap about ROE decks, at least those worth their salt. Those who did respect ROE decks caused friendly fire incidents.

      “The specific RoE are formulated by the air force NOT bureaucrats or politicians who merely spell out policy. ”

      Air Force is controlled by bureocrats.

      “When the aircraft is downed and the theatre commander is left with lesser air assets”

      I think we would agree that 9 useful aircraft is better than 10 useless ones?

      “So no, determining risk-reward equation for an air campaign is NOT the pilot’s prerogative and for good reason. ”

      For a very bad reason, since pilots are the only ones who can accurately determine it.

      “Then you follow that up with an example of an air campaign where operations consist overwhelmingly of strike missions not CAS. ”

      If you are referring to ISIS, reason for that is idiocy and not the fact that CAS is any less effective.

      “And just FYI, as of Jan 2015, the A-10 has accounted for a measly 6% of total strikes by coalition forces against ISIS.”

      Because USAF will never allow enough A-10s to be deployed. And A-10 is actually performing 11% of strikes against ISIS, reason for your lower percentage is that idiots in USAF refused to deploy it until it became obvious that they don’t have other choice.

      “The flares would need to be huge.”

      Or a large number of them.

      “Against thousands of J-10s and J-11s and hundreds of J-20s and J-31s.”

      In other words, against thousands of J-10s and J-11s. J-20 and J-31 will not generate many sorties.

      “So you think every major air force in the world is investing in expensive AESAs, training with radars, adopting stealth to counter enemy radars but its all a huge bluff”

      It’s not bluff it’s stupidity.

      “A steady drag profile is the ONLY advantage of LERX in level subsonic flight. And the same can be achieved through wing-fuselage blending. ”

      And LERX + wing-fuselage blending has advantage over both.

      “The F-35’s higher fuel fraction will likely result in a higher combat radius than the F-22. ”

      Which it did not. In fact, their combat radius is comparable (1.166 km for the F-22 vs 1.082 km for the F-35A).

      “It doesn’t matter how modern the jammer is, it will ALWAYS lag behind the frequency switching operation of an AESA”

      Which means that it can still pull of a range pull.

      “The F-22’s radar doesn’t need 10-15 seconds acquisition time for detecting a threat”

      That is not acquisition time.

      “And while we’re on the subject, there’s a video on the web on the F-35’s APG-81 generating a tracking solution for 23 hostiles in 9 seconds. The first four targets were tracked in half a second including one at 90 nm (144 km)”

      And it launched a missile?

      “The AESA isn’t operating on a single frequency or even a narrow band of frequencies.”

      And how is that relevant? DRFM works by retransmitting detected signals, it can do well against AESA.

  11. Sorry. My fault. I forgot to remove the links. Will try again.

  12. WITH REGARD TO THE IR SIGNATURE:

    – First, please substantiate these claims by you with sources:

    1. F135 has a single cooling channel.

    2. F-35 needs 100% dry thrust to cruise at Mach 0.95.

    – An obscure Dassault document claims the Rafale can supercruise at Mach 1.4. Can you show me any evidence of Rafale actually demonstrating supercruise? Just FYI, the F-22 and Eurofighter have done it. Publicly.
    _____________________________

    It is nowhere near guesswork. F135 does have higher bypass ratio, and if you were comparing it with, say, EJ200 you would have been correct about heat insulation. However, Rafale has a secondary cooling channel which 1) cools the engine casing even further than possible with single cooling channel; 2) helps insulate hottest part of the engine from the airframe; 3) produces relatively cool air flow which surrounds the engine exhaust plume. It also has two nozzles, with outer nozzle helping hide the inner nozzle and engine exhaust.

    – That WAS complete guesswork on your part.

    1. The F135’s internal construction is classified, so the nature of the cooling mechanisms are not publicly known.

    2. Would you care to explain how a ‘cooling channel’ works (sheaths/spirals?) and why two are always better than one regardless of their efficacy?

    3. The engine casing is NOT the primary contributor to the aircraft’s IR signature. That would be the exhaust gases which are hotter by an order of magnitude.

    – In the F-35’s case the greater portion of the exhaust output consists of cold bypass air. In addition, the hot engine is more efficient leading to the hot part of the exhaust being cooler as well.

    – As an exercise I suggest you try comparing the M88 to a commercial turbofan such as the CFM 56 or PW6000 families.
    _____________________________

    That is correct as long as it stays subsonic. However, it will not really help the F-35s running cover, as BVR missiles’ effectiveness increases with launch platform’s speed, and the F-35 can’t go supersonic without afterburner.

    – If you’re running from a missile, the aircraft frontal IR signature is far from your biggest worry.

    – And if the pilot is trying to get within optimum launch conditions, the rear IR signature is still not his primary concern.

    _____________________________

    “You should therefore amend your article to reflect that fact.”

    I have already included it into comparision.

    – No you have not. All your article says is that the ‘all F-35 variants also have very high IR signature’ which is wrong while also reflecting a misunderstanding of Brayton’s Law.

    – The statement in the article should go something like this – “along with the J-31, the F-35 has the smallest physical size which combined with its high bypass engine should give it the smallest IR signature among the aircraft compared”.

    – Other demonstrably false statements that remain unamended include ‘F-35 has very limited rearward visibility’, ‘unit flyaway cost is $145 million’, ‘mission availability is 35%’, ‘export F-35s have a lower RCS’ and so on.
    _____________________________

    As a matter of fact, F-35 is likely to be capable of sustaining a greater percentage of maximum turn rate. So for comparable STR, F-35s ITR should be lower.

    – ITR is not a function of the STR. Period. They are independent variables and the only relation they share is that ITR>STR. By what margin the ITR exceeds STR is not something you can determine with guesswork.

    – The F-15 and F-35 may have comparable STRs but that reveals nothing about how their ITRs compare.
    _____________________________

    WITH REGARD TO A-10 v F-35 FOR CAS

    – You’re repeatedly ducking the point I’m making with one liners, to whit –

    1. Aren’t the French managing CAS with their Rafales, Tigers and Gazelles? There is ZERO reason why US can’t employ the same combination i.e. F-35s, Apaches and Cobras for CAS, to achieve comparable results after the retirement of the A-10.

    2. Your assertion about the A-10 being more survivable than other aircraft applies ONLY to low level flight against AAA & IR-SAMs. In all other flight regimes (i.e those associated with non-permissive environments) its less survivable than other aircraft. The only reason for flying low in turn is to employ the gun.

    3. Your other (previously stated) assertion about guns being responsible for less friendly fire than PGMs has not been supported by you with any statistics whatsoever. You’ve opted for an anecdotal approach that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. The only proven advantage of the gun is the effect on morale. If you have any ACTUAL statistics do share, because I haven’t seen any in your articles on the matter.
    _____________________________

    More or less yes. It has to do with the fact that air force is basically part of the army in its role, so don’t have to have to do anything with the army itself in order to avoid having to become part of the army in the name as well.

    – Wow. So no air force in the world gives a fig about ground forces. Talk about painting with a broad brush.

    – In any case, the USAF is merely ‘reducing’ itself to the level of callous unfeeling bastards staffing the AdlA, RAF, Luftwaffe and so on (all of whom for some unknown reason have been spared your brickbats).
    _____________________________

    “Perhaps the USAF and I figure that if the French can manage with their unarmored Gazelles, the US Army can manage with its ‘lightly armored and sluggish’ Apache.”

    While ignoring the fact that the Apache is considerably less effective and more expensive than the A-10.

    – The Apache is at least as survivable as the EC Tiger while being considerably more effective.
    _____________________________

    “Then you follow that up with an example of an air campaign where operations consist overwhelmingly of strike missions not CAS. ”

    If you are referring to ISIS, reason for that is idiocy and not the fact that CAS is any less effective.

    “And just FYI, as of Jan 2015, the A-10 has accounted for a measly 6% of total strikes by coalition forces against ISIS.”

    Because USAF will never allow enough A-10s to be deployed. And A-10 is actually performing 11% of strikes against ISIS, reason for your lower percentage is that idiots in USAF refused to deploy it until it became obvious that they don’t have other choice.

    – You’re being deliberately obtuse here.

    1. You stated repeatedly and forcefully that the A-10 was a CAS aircraft and not a strike aircraft (thus justifying its non-participation in Baghdad strikes until the last stage of the war).

    2. You gave the operation being conducted against ISIS as an example of a mission tailor-made for the A-10. This despite the fact that the missions against ISIS consist of strike & interdiction not CAS.

    – Any unbiased observer can see that 1 & 2 are contradictory.

    – The A-10 is performing 6% of coalition strikes (the 11% figure you quote is the fraction of the USAF sorties performed by it; USAF accounts for only 60% of all strikes).

    – You’ve posted no evidence of the USAF being ‘forced’ to deploy the aircraft. There is nothing to suggest that the deployment is anything but a regular rotation (or ‘tour’ as the US military calls) through the operational theatre.
    _____________________________

    “The flares would need to be huge.”

    Or a large number of them.

    Take a look at any picture of flare launch. A large number is deployed sequentially, never at the same time which (like the human eye) an IIR seeker can distinguish. In this case, it’ll have a secondary UV channel as well.
    _____________________________

    “Against thousands of J-10s and J-11s and hundreds of J-20s and J-31s.”

    In other words, against thousands of J-10s and J-11s. J-20 and J-31 will not generate many sorties.

    – What evidence do you have that the J-20 and J-31 will not generate as many sorties as previous gen aircraft?
    _____________________________

    “So you think every major air force in the world is investing in expensive AESAs, training with radars, adopting stealth to counter enemy radars but its all a huge bluff”

    It’s not bluff it’s stupidity.

    – Now this is the most puzzling thing.

    1. The air forces in question have actual access to the best AESA radars and can determine their ranges.

    2. The air forces in question have actual access to the best jammers, existing and in development, and can determine their performance in real world conditions.

    3. The air forces in question have actual access to the best IRSTs available.

    4. The air forces in question have actual access to the best EW systems in existence.

    5. They’re all unanimous in their focus on radar & stealth while giving a lower priority given to the IR regime (foremost among them being the French with their IRST-lacking Rafale F3R).

    – In contrast you have ZERO access to any real data regarding any recent system (radar, jammer or IRST) and therefore your claims (‘radar range reduces by two-thirds under jamming’) cannot be substantiated.

    – The astounding part is the confidence with which you proclaim that the whole world is not just wrong but stupid, and only you’re right.
    ______________________________

    “A steady drag profile is the ONLY advantage of LERX in level subsonic flight. And the same can be achieved through wing-fuselage blending. ”

    And LERX + wing-fuselage blending has advantage over both.

    – No it doesn’t LERX only comes into play at higher angles of attack. Its got no particular utility in reducing drag beyond what can be achieved through wing-fuselage blending.
    ______________________________

    “The F-35’s higher fuel fraction will likely result in a higher combat radius than the F-22. ”

    Which it did not. In fact, their combat radius is comparable (1.166 km for the F-22 vs 1.082 km for the F-35A).

    – The F-22’s combat radius has never officially disclosed AFAIK but lets assume that statement is accurate.

    – You just disproved your own claim made in the article:- “T-50, J-20 and J-31 have the adequate combat radius while F-22s is borderline adequate and F-35s is completely inadequate”

    [The T-50/J-20/J-31 combat radius is unknown as well making the first part also complete guesswork.]
    ______________________________

    “It doesn’t matter how modern the jammer is, it will ALWAYS lag behind the frequency switching operation of an AESA”

    Which means that it can still pull of a range pull.

    – Not just a range pull but a complete tracking solution.
    ______________________________

    “The F-22’s radar doesn’t need 10-15 seconds acquisition time for detecting a threat”

    That is not acquisition time.

    – Use whatever term you feel is appropriate, fact remains the APG-77 doesn’t need 10-15 seconds for detection, let alone the APG-81.
    _______________________________

    “And while we’re on the subject, there’s a video on the web on the F-35’s APG-81 generating a tracking solution for 23 hostiles in 9 seconds. The first four targets were tracked in half a second including one at 90 nm (144 km)”

    And it launched a missile?

    – Whether it launched a missile is not the point, but for the record a tracking solution would definitely have allowed it to launch a missile. Or alternatively it could have transmitted the coordinates to a friendly aircraft closer to the target.

    – The actual subject of the debate is the utility of jamming; ineffective given the extremely fast acquisition rate of the APG-81 (19 targets in 3 seconds, including several at ranges exceeding 150km). If the radar operates in pulses the jammer would never be able to suppress it, though it would limit its flexibility.
    _______________________________

    “The AESA isn’t operating on a single frequency or even a narrow band of frequencies.”

    And how is that relevant? DRFM works by retransmitting detected signals, it can do well against AESA.

    – By the time the DRFM jammer retransmits signals, the AESA emitter will already have switched to a different set of frequencies and waveforms. The jammer will do splendidly against a radar that is not frequency agile. Against an AESA driven by heavy processing power and operating in LPI mode, it will always remain a few steps behind.

    • “1. F135 has a single cooling channel. ”

      “2. F-35 needs 100% dry thrust to cruise at Mach 0.95.”

      Here:

      And even if my interpretation is wrong (as in, it doesn’t need 100% thrust, only 90-95%), it is quite clear that the F-35 cannot achieve supersonic flight without afterburner:
      “What we can do in our airplane is get above the Mach with afterburner, and once you get it going … you can definitely pull the throttle back quite a bit and still maintain supersonic, so technically you’re pretty much at very, very min[imum] afterburner while you’re cruising,” Griffiths said. “So it really does have very good acceleration capabilities up in the air.”
      “While a fine bomb-hauler and (one hopes) a good multi-service airframe, the F-35 is a mediocre performer. The problem with the F-35 … is speed. It doesn’t have the capability to supercruise. Speed lets us get inside the decision cycle of the bad guy.” – 1st Fighter Wing commander Brigadier General Burton Field

      One of problems is wing sweep, as the F-35 has extended transonic region. Another problem are its relatively small air intakes.

      “Can you show me any evidence of Rafale actually demonstrating supercruise?”

      Rafale A reached Mach 2 with M88-2 in dry thrust and F404GE400 in full afterburner (12 tons of thrust). Rafale C has 9,95 tons of dry thrust and superior aerodynamics.

      Also:
      “The naval version (Rafale M) can supercruise up to Mach 1.4 while carrying six air-to-air missiles (MBDA MICA).”
      http://siae.netdirect.fr/2011/sites/actu/docs/3-vol/fiches2011/Rafale_G-B.pdf

      “1. The F135’s internal construction is classified, so the nature of the cooling mechanisms are not publicly known.”

      Yes, ’cause it uses liquid coolant at near absolute zero and dumps excess heat into subspace. There are only so many ways you can cool down the engine.

      “2. Would you care to explain how a ‘cooling channel’ works (sheaths/spirals?) and why two are always better than one regardless of their efficacy?”

      Cooling channel is just that, a space surrounding the engine casing, allowing circulation of air around it and thus cooling. Second channel adds a layer of insulation plus improved cooling. That air flow in the M88 also does not mix with the exhaust but rather surrounds it. Second nozzle present also helps mask the hottest part of the plume from most angles.

      “3. The engine casing is NOT the primary contributor to the aircraft’s IR signature. That would be the exhaust gases which are hotter by an order of magnitude. ”

      All parts matter. As far as exhaust gases go, most important signature reduction aspects are ability to fly supersonically without afterburner, and how well is the exhaust plume hidden. Rafale is superior to the F-35 in both aspects.

      “– In the F-35’s case the greater portion of the exhaust output consists of cold bypass air. In addition, the hot engine is more efficient leading to the hot part of the exhaust being cooler as well.”

      That is true. Fact still remains that the F-35 requires greater percentage of thrust to achieve same speed, that it has 30% more thrust in total despite lower TWR (1,184 vs 1,266 with 15% fuel fraction + 6 AAMs, 1,068 vs 1,197 with 50% fuel + 6 AAMs, yet it has 12.700 kgf of dry thrust compared to Rafale’s 9.953 kgf), and that it has one engine compared to Rafale’s two.

      “– If you’re running from a missile, the aircraft frontal IR signature is far from your biggest worry.”

      No, maximum speed and rear IR signature are.

      “– And if the pilot is trying to get within optimum launch conditions, the rear IR signature is still not his primary concern.”

      No, cruise speed and frontal/side IR signature are.

      “which is wrong”

      Nope.

      ““along with the J-31, the F-35 has the smallest physical size which combined with its high bypass engine should give it the smallest IR signature among the aircraft compared”.”

      Except that would be blatantly incorrect, F-35 cannot supercruise, has a single, rather powerful engine

      ” ‘F-35 has very limited rearward visibility’,”

      Easily demonstrated by simply looking at the aircraft from the side.

      ” ‘unit flyaway cost is $145 million’”

      For the F-35A, for B and C it is higher.

      “– ITR is not a function of the STR. Period. They are independent variables and the only relation they share is that ITR>STR. By what margin the ITR exceeds STR is not something you can determine with guesswork. ”

      ITR depends on lift/weight ratio. STR depends on lift/drag and thrust/drag ratios; however, lift/drag ratio depends, among other things, on lift/weight ratio since aircraft with higher lift/weight ratio will require less angle of attack for the same turn rate. ITR indeed is not a function of the STR, but they are not independent either.

      “1. Aren’t the French managing CAS with their Rafales, Tigers and Gazelles?”

      They are. But it is costly, and far from optimal.

      “There is ZERO reason why US can’t employ the same combination i.e. F-35s, Apaches and Cobras for CAS, to achieve comparable results after the retirement of the A-10.”

      There is also zero reason why US couldn’t continue to build F-15 and F-16 instead of procuring F-22 and F-35, or use M48 and M60 tanks instead of M1 variants. If you can do a task with one system, it does not mean that another system would not provide better effectiveness.

      “2. Your assertion about the A-10 being more survivable than other aircraft applies ONLY to low level flight against AAA & IR-SAMs.”

      Which is quite often a must if you want to do proper CAS.

      ” The only proven advantage of the gun is the effect on morale. ”

      And the fact that it can be used even when enemies are very close to troops being supported.

      “– Wow. So no air force in the world gives a fig about ground forces. ”

      Correction: decision makers don’t give a fig about ground forces. Pilots do, but they are not responsible for procurement policies.

      “In any case, the USAF is merely ‘reducing’ itself to the level of callous unfeeling bastards staffing the AdlA, RAF, Luftwaffe and so on”

      That is correct.

      “(all of whom for some unknown reason have been spared your brickbats).”

      I’m merely using USAF as a case study. Repeating “USAF and every other NATO air force” would get boring quickly. Anyone with even a slightest ability to thing should understand that anything I say about USAF and CAS applies to the rest of NATO as well.

      “1. You stated repeatedly and forcefully that the A-10 was a CAS aircraft and not a strike aircraft”

      It is.

      “2. You gave the operation being conducted against ISIS as an example of a mission tailor-made for the A-10. This despite the fact that the missions against ISIS consist of strike & interdiction not CAS.”

      Battlefield interdiction is a job best suited to CAS aircraft. Besides, you are wrong about A-10 not providing CAS:
      http://theaviationist.com/2015/01/24/a-10-attacks-isis-mosul/
      http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=586_1423263259

      They are supporing Peshmerga in combat operations, *and flying at low altitude*.

      “– You’ve posted no evidence of the USAF being ‘forced’ to deploy the aircraft.”

      Forced by reality. No other aircraft can provide quality CAS.

      “– What evidence do you have that the J-20 and J-31 will not generate as many sorties as previous gen aircraft?”

      Fact that the F-22 and F-35 fail to do so, plus the fact that stealth aircraft are far more expensive than their predecessors?

      “– The astounding part is the confidence with which you proclaim that the whole world is not just wrong but stupid”

      So a bunch of bureocrats designing the policies of militaries (with huge help of bribes coming from industrial sector) now constitutes “whole world”?

      “– No it doesn’t LERX only comes into play at higher angles of attack. Its got no particular utility in reducing drag beyond what can be achieved through wing-fuselage blending.”

      Wrong. LERX modifies the Mach line and creates a shock in front of the wing leading edge, thus reducing drag during supersonic flight. This effect is independent from wing-fuselage blending.

      “– You just disproved your own claim made in the article:- “T-50, J-20 and J-31 have the adequate combat radius while F-22s is borderline adequate and F-35s is completely inadequate” ”

      Disproved it in what way? J-20 is estimated to have 1.800-2.500 km combat radius (link below), T-50 is likely in 1.500-1.800 km range (estimated at 1.750 km, see link below), while the F-22s combat radius is 1.166 km and F-35 is 1.082 km.
      http://aviationweek.com/zhuhai-2014/j-20-stealth-fighter-design-balances-speed-and-agility
      http://www.deagel.com/Strike-and-Fighter-Aircraft/T-50_a000333001.aspx

      “– Use whatever term you feel is appropriate, fact remains the APG-77 doesn’t need 10-15 seconds for detection, let alone the APG-81.”

      Acquisition means targeting. Detection is completely different thing and it is mostly instantaneous.

      “– Whether it launched a missile is not the point, but for the record a tracking solution would definitely have allowed it to launch a missile.”

      It would have. But radar has to keep tracking the target at least until the missile leaves the launch rail, which needs few more seconds.

      “– By the time the DRFM jammer retransmits signals, the AESA emitter will already have switched to a different set of frequencies and waveforms. The jammer will do splendidly against a radar that is not frequency agile. Against an AESA driven by heavy processing power and operating in LPI mode, it will always remain a few steps behind.”

      That depends on how quickly can AESA switch frequencies and wether RWR and jammer can keep up with it.

  13. I’m really sure how I should respond considered this seems increasingly like an ego issue. Otherwise what possible reason could one have for continuing to insist that the flyaway cost of the F-35 is $145 million despite having been corrected no less than half a dozen times WITH an explanation of the difference between flyaway and procurement costs.

    As to the rest –

    1. The bypass insulates the F135. You’re yet to prove that it needs a secondary cooling channel to achieve a low IR signature.
    2. Unlike every other aircraft on the list (and the Rafale) F-35 is not limited by cockpit visibility. DAS + HMDS.
    3. As per your own statement on the QWIP tech, the F-35 should have the lowest IR signature in a typical cruising profile (something your article fails to mention).
    4. I asked for evidence of Rafale having publicly demonstrating supercruise. You responded by upping the claim to supercruise at Mach 2. (EF demonstrated it in Switzerland & Singapore. F-22 did a bunch of places).
    5. The A-10 is not flying CAS in Iraq or Syria. The Pershmerga have no FACs on ground. Interdiction missions can be (and are) flown by plenty of aircraft including MQ-9s.
    6. A low ITR for the F-15 does not imply a low ITR for the F-35.
    7. You say you don’t have a double standard when it comes to the US v Europe. I’d be more inclined to believe if you were to write an article about how, say.. France’s sanctioned 225 fighter fleet should consist of fewer Rafales and more refurbished ex-USAF A-10s. You know… as a follow on to your advocacy for more A-10s and less F-35s.
    8. You said in the article that the F-22’s range was adequate and F-35’s inadequate. Contradicted in the same article by giving out only a 7% difference in their combat radii (figures that BTW are as usual lacking supporting references).
    9. Do you honestly think the J-20 and J-31 range ‘estimates’ are anything but hot air? The J-31’s airframe design hasn’t even been finalized yet (the tail fin is being replaced entirely by a new one).
    10. We were discussing the LERX’s impact on range i.e. in cruise conditions. The F-22’s LERX (which is minimal anyway) isn’t going enable a larger max combat radius than the F-35.
    11. There is zero reason for the APG-81 to ‘keep tracking the target until the missile is launched’.
    12. Backed with the colossal processing power of the F-35’s ICP, the APG-81 can switch frequencies faster than any EW suite can respond let alone jam.

    The F-35 can detect and track a conventional fighter like the Rafale at ranges of over 100km before it can respond with jamming, turn off the radar and then transmit the tracking solution to another radar-silent F-35 for missile launch through an LPI (LOS) datalink. And after a short period repeat the exercise to provide a mid course update for the missile.

    _________________________________

    As to your statement about how no air force in the world is willing to adopt your concepts because every last one of them is staffed by stupid and/or corrupt bureaucrats is such an mind-boggling statement that I’m not really sure how to respond. Especially given that most air forces in question have access to latest radars, jammers and IRSTs, which you have.. well.. none, forcing you to rely on guesswork based on the tiny bits and pieces of publicly available information.

    • “1. The bypass insulates the F135. You’re yet to prove that it needs a secondary cooling channel to achieve a low IR signature.”

      Forgetting the exhaust plume?

      “Unlike every other aircraft on the list (and the Rafale) F-35 is not limited by cockpit visibility. DAS + HMDS.”

      Which is unlikely to be superior to visual detection, even assuming that it works (comparably low resolution, plus being monochrome).

      “As per your own statement on the QWIP tech, the F-35 should have the lowest IR signature in a typical cruising profile”

      True. But typical cruise speed is cca Mach 0,8, which is quite low.

      ” I asked for evidence of Rafale having publicly demonstrating supercruise. You responded by upping the claim to supercruise at Mach 2. ”

      I never “upped the claim”, if you have failed to understand it is not my fault. It achieved Mach 2 with one engine being in dry thrust and another being in afterburner. This means that it can achieve Mach 2.0 with roughly 25% more thrust than it has avaliable for supercruise.

      http://siae.netdirect.fr/2011/sites/actu/docs/3-vol/fiches2011/Rafale_F.pdf
      La motorisation du Rafale est confiée à deux réacteurs modulaires M88-2, des réacteurs à double double corps et double flux qui offrent un rapport poussée/masse élevé et de fortes accélérations. Ces réacteurs permettent au Rafale en configuration défense aérienne (Missiles et ventral de 1 250l) d’accélérer en supersonique sans usage de la PC (Super-croisière). De même, le Rafale Marine peut accélérer avec six missiles air-air MICA jusqu’à 1.4 M sans usage de la post-combustion. Le 28 avril dernier, le ministère de la Défense indien a retenu le Rafale comme candidat potentiel dans le programme MRCA.

      The engine of the Rafale is entrusted to two modular reactors M88-2, dual reactor body double and double flow that provide a thrust / high mass and high accelerations. These reactors allow the Rafale air defense configuration (Missiles and ventral 1 250l) speed supersonic without the use of PC (Super-cruise). Similarly, the Rafale can accelerate with six MICA air-to-air missiles to 1.4 Mach without the use of afterburner. On 28 April, the Ministry of Defence of India retained the Rafale as a potential candidate in the MRCA program. (Google Translate)

      http://wayback.archive.org/web/20071122095016/http://www.dassault-aviation.com/fileadmin/user_upload/redacteur/AUTRES_DOCS/Fox_three/Fox_Three_nr_8.pdf
      More significantly, it can supercruise in dry power, even with four missiles and a belly drop tank

      “France’s sanctioned 225 fighter fleet should consist of fewer Rafales and more refurbished ex-USAF A-10s.”

      I already did something similar, except it was for the entire NATO, and it proposed aircraft that is more similar to Gripen instead of Rafale:
      https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/nato-air-forces-proposal-3/

      As I have pointed out before, I am using United States for a case study since they have the largest military and the largest budget out of all NATO militaries, and I’m assuming that people can think. If US with 343 A-10s don’t have enough CAS capability, then France with no CAS aircraft at all definetly doesn’t have enough CAS capability.

      BTW, A-10 is not for export so I don’t think that your proposal is politically feasible.

      “There is zero reason for the APG-81 to ‘keep tracking the target until the missile is launched’.”

      Blindly launching the missile won’t result in a kill.

      “The F-35 can detect and track a conventional fighter like the Rafale at ranges of over 100km before it can respond with jamming, turn off the radar and then transmit the tracking solution to another radar-silent F-35 for missile launch through an LPI (LOS) datalink.”

      With help of Merlin’s wizardry, maybe. But in reality, F-35 will need to keep its radar turned on for quite some time in order to detect Rafale and then generate a tracking solution. This gives Rafale’s EW suite more than enough time to respond, which will mean that the F-35 will need even more time to implement ECCM.

  14. yo im having problams with enlighting people that the f22 is not the best firster in the world but they are having none of it and there main augments are

    1.f22 will see (insert any modem fighter what is not f22) and shoot it down with out them knowing it was there.
    2. f22 is combat proven due to it has performed Amazing in red flag excises
    3.and if stealth is not a good thing then why is it sent to scare other nations

    • I know these, they are standard parts of the F-22 mythology.
      1) F-22 has to rely on radar to detect targets, so against aircraft with competent RWR its emissions will get detected.
      2) Exercises don’t count unless you know parameters. Maybe not even then.
      3) For that I’ll just reply with old PR adage: “It is not important what has happened, but what people believe has happened”. Stealth is primarily a PR trick.

  15. i do know if u got my other comment but i carnt see in the comment thread so ill

    for starts im on a Crusade to free peoples mind from propaganda
    this happens to include a lot of debates
    basically i have been debates this orther chap on YT on why the f22 is not the best Fighter in the world i have stated sources etc
    but his arragonce persist on

    in short i would like u to help me disable this Inderviduel and show him the truth

    +Stormsquad​ f22 is air supremacy fighter yet its dropping bombs on arubs with aks as for pak fa t50 its doing weapon testing and the f22 has never engaged in a real air to air encounter and yes I know red flags but all those kilss are computerized with a 90 percent hit chance within bvr and wvr when in realty the the bvr hit chance is much much lower and as for stealth is only good against third world arub contrary with 1950s migs since there raders are ancient

    The f22 goimg against any modern fighter like eurofighter gripen su 30/35 Rafael would have a hard time due to modern contmesures and more than 9g manvers.

    Inconclusion tge f22 pak fa (if it even enters service on time )is good against middle east contrary with ancent gear but would perform on avrage against modern fighter jets so ,80 percent of the time the f22 would be engaging opponent in wvr (if the contray inst third world)

    source https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/tag/f-22-raptor/

    dude goes in extensive detail about f22 and air combat itself and he pretty much touches on everything i basically credit ur website as my source

    he replys with

    First of all, please type properly. F-22 is considered an Air dominance fighter as opposed to the F-15 which is an air superiority fighter. Second of all, instead of blaming the F-22 for not getting any kills, why not blame the enemy for not sending up its fighters to defeat the F-22 since they obviously speak so highly of their planes?

    And if the F-22 is so bad in stealth and everyway, then why are there already sent F-22s near Russia to scare them?? And as for the rest of your comment, just come back when you have learned how type in English properly, looks like kiddish language

    so i reply with
    +Stormsquad did u even read the source I gave u about the raptor dude explains everything u believe and separates facts from fiction
    and to answer u qustian of why the f22ws are in russia to scare putin is merley a PR trick do u even think the f22s scare putin and if so then lets go by ur logic and say the su 24s and su 27s were sent by russia to scare Obama its saber rattling its just to gorillas beating the chest.

    and yes ik that f22 is an air supremacy fighter
    but why is its such wonderful talents being used to bomb Ground targets

    and why you resorted to being a Grammar Nazi

    also if u would like to go disprove my source then the person who runs the sight is active on it very often and would more then likely have a debate with u 

    i also offer to him that he could debate with u on the topic but i hightly doubt he will

    is there anything u think should add or take away

    regards David

    • “i do know if u got my other comment but i carnt see in the comment thread so ill ”

      When you first post, and when you first post links, WordPress holds up comments to be approved. And I can’t check even every day for comments, I’m rather busy nowadays.

      “but his arragonce persist on
      in short i would like u to help me disable this ”

      Problem is that all human opinions are formed partly on emotional basis, and many are even formed primarily on emotional basis (affective beliefs). Those are extremely hard to change, as even attempt to change them will be seen as an insult and apriori rejected.

      “+Stormsquad​ f22 is air supremacy fighter yet its dropping bombs on arubs with aks as for pak fa t50 its doing weapon testing and the f22 has never engaged in a real air to air encounter and yes I know red flags but all those kilss are computerized with a 90 percent hit chance within bvr and wvr when in realty the the bvr hit chance is much much lower and as for stealth is only good against third world arub contrary with 1950s migs since there raders are ancient”

      F-22 dropping bombs again is a PR trick, ISIL has no aircraft so USAF got F-22 to bomb so they can say “hey, F-22s are doing something useful”. But it is the A-10 which is most important platform in counter-ISIL operations.

      As for Red Flag, yes BVR missiles are assumed to have a 90% kill chance. Best they achieved was IIRC 52% against utterly inept air forces, and 8% against competent air forces.

      “First of all, please type properly. F-22 is considered an Air dominance fighter as opposed to the F-15 which is an air superiority fighter. Second of all, instead of blaming the F-22 for not getting any kills, why not blame the enemy for not sending up its fighters to defeat the F-22 since they obviously speak so highly of their planes?”

      ISIL has no aircraft, so sending any up would be quite hard.

      “And if the F-22 is so bad in stealth and everyway, then why are there already sent F-22s near Russia to scare them?? And as for the rest of your comment, just come back when you have learned how type in English properly, looks like kiddish language”

      As before, it is not important how good F-22 is, what matters is how good Russians believe it is. Or more precisely, how good US military believes Russians believe F-22 is. And US military, with its technological view of warfare and complete disregard for assymetric strategies, doctrines and tactics, believes F-22 to be quite awesome.

      “also if u would like to go disprove my source then the person who runs the sight is active on it very often and would more then likely have a debate with u
      i also offer to him that he could debate with u on the topic but i hightly doubt he will ”

      I already had a few debates with him on Youtube, but right now I barely have time to be active on the blog, let alone anywhere else.

  16. It would be interesting to see those figures stand up against the F2.

    Almost ignored by the western media, though not a stealth aircraft it does cost enough to be in the same ballpark. So what do you get with top end 4th gen tech rather than leaping to 5th? The somewhat lesser block60s would also be a good yardstick.

    To make it fair a reasonable focus on the weapons system as a whole though would be in order. AESA active AAMs and whatnot would be a difficult to quantify but interesting exercise to consider.

  17. I’d rather take the F-16A. It has lower combat weight (9.434 kg vs 12.226 kg), lower wing loading (338,5 kg/m2 vs 351 kg/m2) and higher thrust-to-weight ratio (1,15 vs 1,098), plus it costs less. Add IRST and you’re good to go.

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  1. F-35s cost reduction promises and reality « Defense Issues
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