Defense Issues

Military and general security

  • Follow Defense Issues on WordPress.com
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 268 other followers

  • May 2015
    M T W T F S S
     123
    45678910
    11121314151617
    18192021222324
    25262728293031
  • Categories

F-5A upgrade proposal

Posted by picard578 on May 1, 2015

F-5A overview

Weight:
3.667 kg empty
2.812 kg max weapons load
1.787 kg fuel
5.966 kg combat takeoff (100% fuel, 6 AIM-9)
5.072 kg combat (50% fuel, 6 AIM-9)
9.333 kg max takeoff

(AIM-9 = 85,3 kg)

Dimensions:
14,38 m length
4,06 m height
7,7 m wingspan
15,79 m2 wing area

Engines:
2x J85-GE-13
2.720 lbf / 1.234 kgf dry thrust per engine
4.080 lbf / 1.851 kgf wet thrust per engine

Wing loading:
378 kg/m2 combat takeoff
321 kg/m2 combat

TWR:
0,62 combat takeoff
0,73 combat

Speed:
Mach 1,4 maximum
Mach 0,97 cruise

Weapons:
2 M39 cannons (280 rpg)
2 wingtip pylons
4 underwing pylons
1 fuselage pylon

Upgrades

Guns

F-5s two M39 cannons will be replaced by a single GIAT 30. M39 = 80,9 kg * 2, GIAT 30 = 120 kg, weight loss 41,8 kg.

Ammunition weight will stay the same albeit at reduced capacity.

Engines

Engines will be J85-GE-21B, same as used in the F-5E. Data is as follows:
Dry thrust: 3.500 lbf / 16 kN
Wet thrust: 5.000 lbf / 2.268 kgf

This will incur no change in weight.

IRST

PIRATE IRST will be added to facilitate night combat and BVR capability. Weight gain: 30 kg IRST + 25 kg processor unit = 55 kg total.

Countermeasures

BOP dispenser: 2 kg * 4

Flares: 0,215 kg * 78

Jammers: 0,7 kg * 38

Weight gain: 51,37 kg total (8 kg basic empty)

NOTE

Austere version (F-5A-A) will have no IRST and no countermeasures. Both versions will receive helmet mounted targeting sights for high off-bore engagement capability, as well as wing LERX for improved maneuverability.

F-5A-2 overview

Weight:
3.688 kg empty
1.787 kg fuel
6.042,8 kg combat takeoff
6.141,2 kg BVR combat takeoff
5.149,3 kg combat (50% fuel, 6 IRIS-T)
5.247,7 kg BVR combat (50% fuel, 2 IRIS-T, 4 MICA IR)

(IRIS-T = 87,4 kg, MICA IR = 112 kg)

Dimensions:
14,38 m length
4,06 m height
7,7 m wingspan
15,79 m2 wing area

Engines:
2x J85-GE-13
1.588 kgf dry thrust per engine
2.261 kgf wet thrust per engine

Wing loading:
383 kg/m2 combat takeoff
389 kg/m2 BVR combat takeoff
326 kg/m2 combat (50% fuel, 6 IRIS-T)
332 kg/m2 BVR combat (50% fuel, 2 IRIS-T, 4 MICA IR)

TWR: (4.522 kgf thrust)
0,75 combat takeoff
0,74 BVR combat takeoff
0,88 combat (50% fuel, 6 IRIS-T)
0,86 BVR combat (50% fuel, 2 IRIS-T, 4 MICA IR)

Weapons:
1 GIAT 30 cannon
2 wingtip pylons
4 underwing pylons
1 fuselage pylon

F-5A-A overview

Weight:
3.625 kg empty
2.812 kg max weapons load
1.787 kg fuel
5.924 kg combat takeoff (100% fuel, 6 AIM-9)
5.030 kg combat (50% fuel, 6 AIM-9)
9.291 kg max takeoff

(AIM-9 = 85,3 kg)

Dimensions:
14,38 m length
4,06 m height
7,7 m wingspan
15,79 m2 wing area

Engines:
2x J85-GE-13
1.588 kgf dry thrust per engine
2.261 kgf wet thrust per engine

Wing loading:
375 kg/m2 combat takeoff
319 kg/m2 combat

TWR: (4.522 kgf thrust)
0,76 combat takeoff
0,90 combat

Weapons:
1 GIAT 30 cannon
2 wingtip pylons
4 underwing pylons
1 fuselage pylon

181 Responses to “F-5A upgrade proposal”

  1. armchair_general said

    You forgot one thing HMD/HMS integration

    Like

  2. Chris said

    It is certainly worth getting the A-2 variant for the countermeasures and IR sensor.

    It’d be mostly a point defense interceptor type of aircraft. The fighter simply does not have the range to go very far and it’d be vulnerable to being bounced. Wing loading too is a bit on the heavy side.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      Agreed. F-5 is indeed a point-defense interceptor, and wing loading is a result of a small wing (delta would be better) and older structure and materials. Any attempts to rectify these flaws would mean a major reconstruction.

      Like

  3. I would suggest a wing with LERX from the latest ‘E’ models (i.e. Singapore Air Force) or even from the F-20. A new ejection seat would be fine, a Matin Baker Mk.10L.
    By the way, the FLX seems to have a ACES II, but since that seat was originally designed only for USAF aircraft (USAF has the rights of production), the project would be more competitive if it had an internationally recognized, perhaps, ‘licensed’ Martin Baker model.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      Thanks.

      FLX does have ACES II, simply because it is the seat I could find a drawing and weight data for. But a different seat is a possibility.

      Like

    • Chris said

      I would not be surprised to learn if ACES II was not necessarily the best ejection seat.

      There have been claims the Russian design is better. Not sure if true though.

      Like

      • Roberto Santana said

        ACES II, Martin Baker, Zvezda*; all have proven to be excellent ejection seats, maybe some cost issue, and of course, politics.

        *Anyway, it is a kind of thing in which a ‘bad seat’ would not last long! 🙂

        Like

      • Chris said

        I’m not too worried – so long as it works when you need it.

        It’s probably more politics than anything else.

        Like

  4. Chris said

    Yeah I think that the issue is that the wings are just too small.

    I’d probably design something that looks like Riccioni’s microfighter design.

    I wonder if it’d be possible to make a modern version of the Folland Gnat that is Delta Winged.

    Like

  5. Duviel said

    Its easier to shoot them on the ground, or keep them on the ground.

    Thats why an aircraft that can penetrate air defenses (un-detected would be best) and destroy airfields is so important. Especially in first strike. Guided missiles might do the job well enough.

    In planned war or later stages of any war, aircraft will be scattered to remote airfields and thats usually a lot of airfields to target effectively. Regardless eliminating main bases will greatly hamper any airforce, for various reasons.

    don’t you think?

    Like

    • Chris said

      It’s why Picard wants his FLX and ALX designs to take off from grass fields.

      The Russians have made their Su-27 and Mig-29 have filters to prevent FOB damage to the engines.

      Main airfields are not going to last very long. Even remote ones may not last long.

      Like

    • picard578 said

      I never understood why have large air bases at all? Large maintenance depots and storage facilities make some sense (assuming that there are smaller ones scattered around as well), but I’d prefer having my air force scattered all around even during the peacetime – not necessarily just standard air bases, but also “abandoned” road tunnels, dirt strip air bases and such. Naturally, different locations would be used during the wartime, but it would provide valuable experience and training necessary for wartime operation in adverse conditions. It would also decrease response time in the case of emergency, as it would provide greater geographical density.

      Like

      • Duviel said

        Whats smartest and best is not always what is most beneficial to the special interests (commercial, political, and personal interests of leaders) that call the shots. As an American I worry about all this complacency. I hope I am right and the US does not need to fight a competent apponent for a long long time. Then again, thinking about it. Rest of the world’s militaries are not all that formidable or smart either.

        What really sucks is how much money we blow on tech/equipment and cant get easy fixes done right that would be even more valuable tactically.

        I hope really this is all a big smoke screen and we got stuff nobody knows about prepared.

        It would make sense to not show your best cards. But, I am not hopeful in our use of good sense.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “Rest of the world’s militaries are not all that formidable or smart either. ”

          Agreed. But none rely as much on technology (and numbers) as US military does. Except maybe Chinese for the latter one.

          “I hope really this is all a big smoke screen and we got stuff nobody knows about prepared.”

          I doubt it. Human idiocy is never to be underestimated.

          Like

      • Chris said

        China does at the very least use underground bases more extensively.

        http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-2011-01.html

        Like

  6. Chris said

    I never understood why have large air bases at all? Large maintenance depots and storage facilities make some sense (assuming that there are smaller ones scattered around as well), but I’d prefer having my air force scattered all around even during the peacetime – not necessarily just standard air bases, but also “abandoned” road tunnels, dirt strip air bases and such. Naturally, different locations would be used during the wartime, but it would provide valuable experience and training necessary for wartime operation in adverse conditions. It would also decrease response time in the case of emergency, as it would provide greater geographical density.

    Strictly from an efficiency standpoint, it may be easier to keep such an airbase supplied. It may be easier to do R&D.

    Outside of that, certain aircraft like large transport planes, strategic bombers, and stealth aircraft probably need a decent sized base. I cannot imagine a plane like the F-22 operating outside of such an environment.

    But I think it’s just 2nd generation war mentality of most air generals, who have never had to fight a peer equal in the past.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      “Outside of that, certain aircraft like large transport planes, strategic bombers, and stealth aircraft probably need a decent sized base. ”

      That is true, but for transport aircraft civilian air ports and large dirt strips are sufficient… no need to have a dedicated air base made out of concrete. It is only stealth fighters that require dedicated air bases by their very nature.

      Like

      • Duviel said

        I know you have always been anti-stealth and although I disagree with much of your statements on the fact I have learned a few very mund opening facts from your writing.

        I want to know why are stealth aircraft the only ones requiring large bases?

        I know the stealth coatings do require lots of upkeep but other than that whats different?

        Also, why cant stealth coatings be maintained in small facilities?

        Additionaly, aircraft like B-2 or F-22 do not need coating to be stealthy. Coating helps but shaping alone gives a very large reduction in RCS.

        You also need an aircraft (like the F-22) that can fight on par with other top fighters even without stealth being a factor. I would agree that an IRST/Optical sensor would be a great idea for the F-22. Most everything I keep reading (outside this blog mostly) says that F-35’s DAS can be used as a air to air IR/optical sensor with 360 degree capability. In addition to air to ground capability.

        I want to repeat I beleieve that F-22 & F-35 are not worth the price. I am not defending the aquisition or the program. I do want to serve as a bit of a counterweight to the prevailing thought on this blog.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “I want to know why are stealth aircraft the only ones requiring large bases?”

          They’re not. But while you can design a non-stealth aircraft that will not require a large air base, stealth aircraft have an inherent need for them as mainaining stealth coating is a very complex issue.

          Most Western fighters do require large bases: F-15, F-16, F-18, F-22, F-35, Tornado, Rafale, Typhoon. F-16, F-18, Rafale and Typhoon can fly from roads, but still require complex maintenance facilities. IIRC, Gripen is the only Western fighter designed with field maintenance in mind.

          “I know the stealth coatings do require lots of upkeep but other than that whats different?”

          Other than stealth coatings and added mechanical complexity of weapons bays, nothing.

          “Also, why cant stealth coatings be maintained in small facilities?”

          It may be possible, but it would likely lead to increased RCS and increased maintenance downtime. And it will require rather complex technology and a lot of people to do, so “small facility” is a relative word.

          Take a look at how stealth coating maintenance works and looks:
          http://www.tyndall.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123359148
          http://www.whiteman.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123264086

          For proper survivability, you need not only a small aircraft that can be maintained in the field, but also low maintenance downtime, low fuel consumption, and low “baggage train” – as few maintenance personnel and materials as possible. Aside from stealth coating, stealth aircraft are inherently larger than non-stealth ones, which means greater fuel consumption and thus greater logistical train.

          “Additionaly, aircraft like B-2 or F-22 do not need coating to be stealthy. Coating helps but shaping alone gives a very large reduction in RCS. ”

          Correct. Stealth coating only reduces RCS by one order of magnitude (say, from 0,1 to 0,01 m2), everything else is shaping. However, stealth coating is included in shaping – aircraft skin needs to be perfectly smooth in addition to having a correct basic shape. This is more complex than it sounds, as at high speeds particles in the air – especially if they’re something large, like rain drops or – act as a sandblower, which degrades stealth coating and its performance.

          For an example:

          “Most everything I keep reading (outside this blog mostly) says that F-35’s DAS can be used as a air to air IR/optical sensor with 360 degree capability.”

          Theoretically, it is possible. Theoretically, Rafale’s DDM / DDM NG can also be used in the same way.

          Key word here is theoretically. It will require large processing power and good helmet-mounted displays to make a good use of it, especially in a cluttered combat environment.

          Like

      • Andrei said

        “Theoretically, Rafale’s DDM / DDM NG can also be used in the same way.”

        The DDM NG seems to be so accurate and powerful that the IRST component of the OSF on the latest version of the Rafale the F3 is no longer carried as standard, but it’s optional. That means that the DDM NG offers detection ranges similar to the IRST component of the OSF which was what 90 km from the front? From what I read the full OFS is carried now only when increased resolution is required.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “The DDM NG seems to be so accurate and powerful that the IRST component of the OSF on the latest version of the Rafale the F3 is no longer carried as standard, but it’s optional.”

          Only until new IR sensor is developed. It’s an issue of technological obscolence. You simply can’t expect a missile warner, especially a fisheye sensor, to have the range of a telescopic IRST.

          Like

      • Andrei said

        That’s what I meant by Higher Resolution. The OFS and the DDM NG work in the same way when “scanning”, they don’t scan as a traditional IR sensor but stare at the entire field of view at the same time and identify heat sources. What the OFS can do alone is identify a particular target on it’s own by using its telescopic properties to focus on particular heat sources either with the visual or IR camera. The DDM NG can not do that but the SPECTRA software can use the information received from the DDM NG to provide the identification of targets. Because the DDM NG array is of a newer technology then the IR array in the OFS it offers pretty much the same range for identification when coupled with SPECTRA. However it cannot provide imaging like the OFS. Probably the next upgrade in 2016 or 2018 will upgrade the IR function in the OSF to Skyward or better levels.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          Wrong, FSO is a scanning IRST like PIRATE and Skyward, and for a good reason as it allows far greater detection range albeit at expense of field of view.

          DDM NG is a missile warner, so having staring system was a must.

          BTW, visual identification is the only reliable way of identifying aircraft – and that is how IRST will typically be used to identify aircraft, though other parameters may be used for early ID guess.

          Like

      • Andrei said

        “Wrong, FSO is a scanning IRST like PIRATE and Skyward, and for a good reason as it allows far greater detection range albeit at expense of field of view.”

        You might be right about the Pirate and OSF being scanning arrays (old tech). I didn’t find definitive information on them using long-wave focal
        plane array sensors (staring ) or not, The Skyward G on the other hand is a Staring array with 3 FOVs. From this article http://www.gripenblogs.com/AnalyticsReports/Vayu_Gripenforgesahead.pdf (pdf won’t open in browser you will have to download ): ” The IRST employs a long-wave focal plane array sensor, also called a ‘staring array,’ with three fields of view. In long range search mode, the system effectively behaves as an infrared telescope and in wide-angle mode it provides a night-vision image that can be projected on the head-up display (HUD). Being a passive sensor, IRST systems can only provide reliable azimuth and elevation
        data but the Skyward-G is also able to provide rudimentary range information via ‘kinetic ranging,’ wherein the aircraft performs a weaving manoeuvre and range to target is determined by the change in azimuth or elevation angles. Additionally, the IRSTs on two (or more) aircraft can triangulate range to target by sharing tracking information over their datalinks. Skyward-G is based on the Selex PIRATE system used on the EuroFighter Typhoon, but by virtue of being newer, has seen more development on both the hardware and software fronts, allowing for better and more discriminate performance. ”

        The difference between staring array sensor and a traditional scanning sensor is like the difference between an AESA radar and a Mechanical scanned Radar.

        “BTW, visual identification is the only reliable way of identifying aircraft – and that is how IRST will typically be used to identify aircraft, though other parameters may be used for early ID guess.”

        That’s what I was trying to say. The DDM NG can do the early ID guess through SPECTRA, which is okay for self defense, because it allows one to detect possible enemies at long ranges and positively identify them when/if they open fire, but for visual identification which would be required in an Counter Air mission the IRST is required. So the Rafale F3s now carry the infrared sensor of the OFS only when they anticipate that they will need to identify targets visually at long ranges, or in precision ground attack/recon missions where data from the IRST is fused with data from the Damocles pod and data from IR seeker heads.

        Like

    • Chris said

      Strategic bombers will need them, as will the largest transport aircraft (like the C-5). But yeah, there is much to be said about using civilian airports for dual use (done in many nations).

      I’m of the opinion that there should be many small underground locations throughout a nation in regards to aircraft basing for small aircraft and that yes, during peace time, they should be used to operating on roads and less than ideal situations.

      I think that it’s been speculated that the top brass like large airfields because they like to live in relative comfort versus out in the field, where conditions are more austere.

      Like

      • picard578 said

        Strategic bombers are a waste of resources, and transport aircraft can use civilian airports just fine – or even better, design them with tracks so that even large transports can use dirt strips.

        “I think that it’s been speculated that the top brass like large airfields because they like to live in relative comfort versus out in the field, where conditions are more austere.”

        I agree that it is the case. A comment to that effect was made at combat reform, though in a less polite format.

        Like

      • Chris said

        “Strategic bombers are a waste of resources, and transport aircraft can use civilian airports just fine – or even better, design them with tracks so that even large transports can use dirt strips.”

        True – bombers are a waste, as are stealth aircraft, but the issue is they exist – so the infrastructure to support them also needs to exist.

        “I agree that it is the case. A comment to that effect was made at combat reform, though in a less polite format.”

        The problem is against a good opponent, there isn’t going to be the luxury of getting into large comfortable bases.

        Like

    • vyse said

      Problem with operating from dirt strips, abandonned road tunnels, higway etc, is how do you deal with the logistics? Sure it’s a good feat if combat aircraft can take-off from such improvised bases, but where will the pilots and maintenance staff come from? And what about the approvisionement (weapons, kerosene, food, medical stuff…). Basically with large cargo and transport planes out of the equation, logistical side must be assured by trucks, cars, possibly helos… Could even be trains and / or boats depending of the geographical specificities of the zone, but in the end it’s not allowing even half of the reactivity of aircraft based logistics, which is no mean feat in war times.

      On a larger bases the key point is you have everything you need available, pilots are living on site (or very close), so scramble time is kept within a few minutes. If there is a critical need for replacement pieces, staff, or urgent need to exfiltrate civilians or harmed troops, you can still rely on transport and cargo planes.

      That is, of course, if your large base hasn’t been bombed indeed, which bring us back to the initial point of needing versatile air bases. So the point is not to defend large base as I agree their vulnerability could lead to immobilisation of aircrafts, but I think for the reason I evoked reaction time and sortie rate from improvised airfields might be so low that you’ll basically have an insignifiant tactical impact.

      In essence, depending from large base might reduce you AC availability to zero if they’re destroyed, but depending from dispersed low sized bases might makes it inefficient and un-maintainable on the middle term.

      I wonder if the solution could not come from a concept of high resilience / quick repair of large bases strips and facilities. I could be based on main facilities (hangars, quarters) being underground, air control being remote (turtle shell concept basically), and on the other side having large construction capability in the undergroud facilities, sized to be able to repair terrain and lay new tarmac in says, less than 12 hours. Sounds pueril and simplistic I know, but it could be a direction to consider anyway. What do you think?

      Like

      • Duviel said

        I love the concept.

        I do beleieve that ideally, having infastructure so that you can do logistics, etc. for small, dispersed sites (along with aircraft capability) would be best.

        In some cases operating from large airbase (or having large aircraft carriers) would be best tactically but, against a peer apponent (lets say in theory NATO Vs Russia in 2020 if they keep improving and if it stays non-nuclear) it will be nearly impossible to keep airbases and large runways from being hit often. And, with modern bunker busting bombs underground or hardened facilities would also be in great peril. They would have to be deep underground and with lots of hardening. Runways have to be above ground regardless.

        I know that some boast to be able to shoot down incoming missiles and have inpenetrable air defense shields but I dont think anyone who studies air warfare realistically beleives that missiles and aircraft will not get through regularly. Especially with the proliferation of Stealth tech and hypersonic terrain hugging cruise missiles.

        I think ideally you need some hardening and enhanced repair abilities as you mentioned. Along with some dispersion of assets with logistics to support dispersion.

        Realistically changes needed to accomodate any of the two ideas fully would be too costly to be warranted in this geopolitical and economic environment.

        Firms would drain 100’s of billions from US and rest of NATO to acomplish this. If the F-35 program costs 200 billion how much would this restructuring cost?

        We cant trust government’s and military’s to properly use our tax dollars thats the core issue. Huge waste and curruption cuts into ability to improve military capabilities. Even if the right tool is chosen and developed the excessive costs limit our abilties.

        Best middle ground would be I think to slowly develop ability to disperse aircraft, supplies and manpower to the hundreds of private and public civilian airports/airfields all around The US (and im sure europe as well) just in case your main airbases are knocked out, you can still fight with some capability. With reduced capability but at least some capability. You will be taking out the enemies airbases as well so both sides will be in same boat. Side that can best (best being key word)

        1) Detect and shoot down enemy penetrating aircraft and/or missiles.

        2) protect assets on ground with hardening and redundancy.

        3) Operate from dispersed airfields

        Will dominate.

        Being able to deny enemy those capabilities by

        1) Fielding aircraft or missiles that can penetrate defended airspace and hit targets with precision.

        2) Fielding warheads (airplane deployed or otherwise) that can defeat hardened targets and cause most damage to runways

        3) Fielding inteligence and survalance capabilities that can find dispersed airfields and having tactical agility and ability to hit these. Therefore degrading enemy dispersion capabilities.

        Will be the counter game.

        Its always good to be flexible, having all your eggs in one basket gives your enemy a clear target/capability to degrade.

        Like

      • picard578 said

        “Basically with large cargo and transport planes out of the equation, logistical side must be assured by trucks, cars, possibly helos”

        Not really. Many transport aircraft can land on dirt strips (C-17, C-130, A400M, ) and I wouldn’t call them exactly “small”. And even a small transport aircraft can carry more cargo than a helicopter. In cases where transport aircraft can’t land due to too narrow area (as in, road strip), they can still drop supplies via parachute – it has been done in Vietnam.

        “On a larger bases the key point is you have everything you need available”

        Not if said “everything” has been blown up by cruise missiles.

        “but I think for the reason I evoked reaction time and sortie rate from improvised airfields might be so low that you’ll basically have an insignifiant tactical impact.”

        Depends on supply situation, yes. Improvised air fields have been used in World War II, but modern aircraft have greater need of fuel and ammo than WWII prop aircraft.

        “I wonder if the solution could not come from a concept of high resilience / quick repair of large bases strips and facilities.”

        That is worthless if you don’t have aircraft to fly from it. Aircraft shelters are not invulnerable; only underground aircraft storage would make them comparably safe, and even then there is a danger of the enemy bombing an entrance to the facility.

        “I could be based on main facilities (hangars, quarters) being underground, air control being remote (turtle shell concept basically), and on the other side having large construction capability in the undergroud facilities, sized to be able to repair terrain and lay new tarmac in says, less than 12 hours.”

        It is possible, but you still have an issue of it being easily found. And if the enemy uses clutter munitions, it might take a lot longer than 12 hours to repair air strip.

        Like

      • vyse said

        “In some cases operating from large airbase (or having large aircraft carriers) would be best tactically but, against a peer apponent (lets say in theory NATO Vs Russia in 2020 if they keep improving and if it stays non-nuclear) it will be nearly impossible to keep airbases and large runways from being hit often. And, with modern bunker busting bombs underground or hardened facilities would also be in great peril. They would have to be deep underground and with lots of hardening. Runways have to be above ground regardless.”

        Yes, that’s the killing point I agree. Even Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad bunker was blasted, yet it was quite a modern and expensive one. Even if a structure able to survive penetrating bombs was designed, its cost would be redhibitory.

        It’s kind of an idea from the bad guy in a Bond movie lol, impressive stuff but quite irrealistic.

        Still, developping a protocol and setting up infrastructure for some quick fix ability could become a big problem for ennemy’s strategy. As Picard says, if all your plane have been destroyed it sounds like a loss of effort, but in the context of Allied force (OTAN), it could mean a base written off the map by the ennemy could be reactivated quickly and exploitable by allied air forces soon.

        Like

      • Chris said

        If you give a lot of small targets, that are widely dispersed, it will be much harder to destroy.

        Like

  7. Chris said

    At the end of the day, it’s only going to be smaller aircraft that can go into the small bases. The civilian equal would be like crop dusters or the turboprop jets. You won’t see the largest of aircraft regularly operating in such environments. The logistics load is just too big and large aircraft need the specialized maintenance facilities.

    The largest aircraft though can operate off road (See this An-124 for example):

    I think though that when it comes down to war against a competent foe, though, large airfields simply are not going to be an option. You’ll need lots of small depots for logistics and maybe setup some underground storage as well for aircraft.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      A400M is also dirt-strip capable, as is C-130.

      Like

    • Chris said

      Basically, cargo aircraft should be able to operate.

      The other reason why I mentioned the AN-124 is because it is one of the largest aircraft in the world. If it can operate off road, then most aircraft should able to.

      Let’s see, what large aircraft there are:

      – Cargo lift
      – Refueling tankers
      – Perhaps a passive AWACS-like sensor aircraft (I don’t mean the radar kind, which I suspect will be very vulnerable)

      Is there a need for any other large aircraft?

      I don’t think that for naval use, something like the Tu-22 or Tu-160 is justified for anti-carrier warfare. There are cheaper aircraft for that. There isn’t a need then for large heavy bombers.

      Like

  8. Chris said

    The best option would be to try to store your aircraft underground and constantly change locations. Have multiple entrances to the hangars ideally so that it reduces the odds of getting a plane caved in. This is the sort of culture that you need to build up during peace time – get people used to doing it.

    Also, build lots of decoys. They work. They don’t cost too much. Newer and better decoys can even give some IR signatures and little features like the glass reflecting sunlight do work. With enough, the enemy will be exaggerating kills and wasting ammo.

    I guess this is another good reason to advocate for lots of small aircraft – more targets to destroy as well.

    Getting aircraft destroyed on the ground is every enemy’s best wish – whether that be through missiles, long range artillery, their own aircraft, or perhaps commando-type raids. It’s best to give as many points of failure as possible

    Like

    • Duviel said

      “Also, build lots of decoys. They work. They don’t cost too much”

      I don’t know if you can decoy GPS guided bombs or terrain reading bombs like some versions of the tomahawk. If you think you can destroy GPS satelites thats another question. But, probably worth trying.

      “The best option would be to try to store your aircraft underground and constantly change locations. Have multiple entrances to the hangars ideally so that it reduces the odds of getting a plane caved in”

      Tactically its a good idea but strategically not. It would be too expensive to build such facilities in high number. In todays world NATO and the US are not realistically threathened. Neither is Russia or China. National (that usually means big business interests) Interests can be at risk but nothing close to existential. You cant spend that much cash without a big enough threath. Also, having only a few underground bases is pointless because they can be destroyed with bunker busting bombs. Or even a small tactical Nuc (again very unlikely) if its a big war.

      Runways are still on surface. I dont know of anyway to keep runways underground. Even a dirt runway needs to be in good shape a few of those dispersal bombs with a few dozen bomblets each can make a dirt strip useless for a long time. Runway has to be by the bunker.

      “I guess this is another good reason to advocate for lots of small aircraft – more targets to destroy as well”

      Yes, and maybe also for VTOL aircraft that can take of with barely any runway and can be hidden anywhere since they can land basically anywhere and take of from a small concreate strip.

      “It’s best to give as many points of failure as possible”

      For sure! You want to be flexible and have tactical options.

      What if its bad wheather and I cant use laser guidance, What if my radar guidance is getting jammed, what if the enemy is flying out of the sun on a suny day, what if they have IR reflectors on ground. What if my GPS satelites are degraded and made unreliable, What if my main airbases are bombed, what if there is a fuel shortage, what if main supply routes are cut off through land, what if air re-supply is not possible, etc, etc, etc.

      You always want to be able to have alternate ways of functioning and fighting on so that just one or two of the above wont take your force out of action. And, to give your foe more than a few things to have to figure out how to target or counter.

      I also want to mention that you can’t have it all. Thats why you have to focus your resources on developing capabilities that your enemy is least likely to be able to counter in the future.

      For example: You can penetrate enemy air and attack enemy targets with stealth aircraft, aircraft with EA/ECM, aircraft with superior maneuverability and speed, or with thousands of small missiles. Which one is hardest to counter? Well than maybe you should focus your resources on that capability.

      Unless you want to put your nations entire productive, scientific potential into the war machine you have to be smart in investing so that you can meet your defense needs.

      Like

      • picard578 said

        “Yes, and maybe also for VTOL aircraft that can take of with barely any runway and can be hidden anywhere since they can land basically anywhere and take of from a small concreate strip. ”

        Yes, that would be a good idea if:
        1) a VTOL aircraft could be designed to match a STOL aircraft in performance
        2) FOD issue was solved

        First one may not be critical, but a second issue means that you need concrete/asphalt platforms. Plus, most VTOL aircraft can’t take off vertically with full internal fuel, let alone weapons, and are rather expensive and complex to maintain.

        “You can penetrate enemy air and attack enemy targets with stealth aircraft, aircraft with EA/ECM, aircraft with superior maneuverability and speed, or with thousands of small missiles. Which one is hardest to counter? ”

        Small missiles would need an aircraft to carry them, and large missiles are only useful against fixed targets. So a combination of 2, 3 and 4 is the best option.

        Like

    • Chris said

      I don’t know if you can decoy GPS guided bombs or terrain reading bombs like some versions of the tomahawk. If you think you can destroy GPS satelites thats another question. But, probably worth trying.

      GPS guided bombs will go where the bombers bomb. If that’s on faulty intelligence, then they are going to blow up a bunch of decoys.

      The other issue is that with PGMs, you only have a limited inventory (they cost as much as 10x at times as much as “dumb” bombs), so if you’ve expended a lot of them, then you’re out of PGMs.

      Tactically its a good idea but strategically not. It would be too expensive to build such facilities in high number. In todays world NATO and the US are not realistically threathened. Neither is Russia or China. National (that usually means big business interests) Interests can be at risk but nothing close to existential. You cant spend that much cash without a big enough threath. Also, having only a few underground bases is pointless because they can be destroyed with bunker busting bombs. Or even a small tactical Nuc (again very unlikely) if its a big war.

      You could use them for civil usage as well. Armored aircraft hangars could also be used.

      It would not be a cheap undertaking, although with tunnel boring equipment, it’s possible. There may be savings too if you buy in bulk.

      Runways are still on surface. I dont know of anyway to keep runways underground. Even a dirt runway needs to be in good shape a few of those dispersal bombs with a few dozen bomblets each can make a dirt strip useless for a long time. Runway has to be by the bunker.

      Picard’s aircraft were to take off on grass fields.

      Plenty of those and you cannot bomb every single grass field. You could also use JATO tanks to shorten the take off distance (Switzerland does this). Zero length launch may also be worth exploring.

      I also want to mention that you can’t have it all. Thats why you have to focus your resources on developing capabilities that your enemy is least likely to be able to counter in the future.

      Ideal for engaging enemy aircraft would probably be a group of CAS aircraft that could scout behind enemy lines too. The intelligence they collect may be as valuable as the actual casualties inflicted.

      Don’t bother with large strategic bombers, radar AWACs, the C&C aircraft, etc. A passive sensor and patrol aircraft may be worth it though.

      Like

  9. Chris said

    The big issue is that you gotta have your people used to it during peacetime so that when war happens, they are ready for it.

    Like

  10. Chris said

    Off topic, but it is confirmed, Everest Riccioni has passed away last month:

    http://www.pogo.org/our-work/straus-military-reform-project/military-people-and-their-ideas/2015/member-of-fighter-mafia-passes.html

    He made a lot of contributions to supercruise in particular.

    Like

  11. Roberto Santana said

    An interesting excerpt from an aviation magazine:

    “The EAF has more than 40 air bases available, apart from emergency fields and military strips, the majority of these being concentrated in Lower Egypt, north of Cairo, a clutch of some 20 bases being situated in the Nile Delta. Most of the air brigades rotate regularly among forward bases for one- or two-weeks deployment periods to ensure retention of familiarity with terrain over which combat could possibly take place.”

    Air International , ‘Egypt An Air Power in Transition’, April 1982.

    Like

  12. Chris said

    Oh and, the F-5 can take off from roads too:

    So can the F-16 and apparently the E-2C (AWACs).

    The F-16 is particularly impressive, as it would mean that the YF-16 should be able to (lighter plane). A YF-16 with a modern engine and perhaps a modern composite airframe would be competitive even today.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      Well, most fighters can take off the roads if road is wide enough for their wingspan. But taking off roads is one thing, operating from road bases is something different.

      Like

      • Chris said

        F-16 (and preferably a YF-16), along with F-5 should be able to, provided they get FOB protection and maybe wider wheels.

        The logistics should not be too bad. I would imagine a Rafale-like aircraft might struggle though.

        Like

      • Chris said

        Maybe I take that back – Rafale isn’t much bigger than F-16. It may be more difficult to supply a dual engine plane though.

        Same with Eurofighter; I would not expect it to operate from off road bases.

        Like

    • Roberto Santana said

      The frontal view looks good! Very nice view.
      I think you can improve the bubble shape, something like that:
      http://gunfighterproject.com/

      🙂

      The pilot will need to turn his head sometimes!

      Like

      • picard578 said

        Canopy’s already shoulder-wide, I don’t think turning head would be a problem.

        Regarding your design, it reminds me of F-100 Super Sabre (nearly identical, in fact). There are some issues with that design:
        – nose intake is vulnerable to high angle of attack and sideslip effects, limiting airflow and thus engine power during maneuvers
        – it also limits both maximum and cruise speeds. Cruise speed is crucial for gaining surprise, though even a subsonic aircraft may work well since most modern “supersonic” aircraft still cruise subsonically. It will still be at disadvantage against, say, Typhoon, Rafale, Gripen NG, FLX or other IRST-equipped supercruisers.
        – planform is classical tailed swept wing. This allows most of the wing to be utilized for lift, but compared to delta wing, it increases drag during cruise flight. Delta + LERX might be a better choice, similar to the F-16.
        – F404-GE-100D engine will likely cost some 4-5 million USD (afterburning version costs 6 million USD).
        – you might want to use GIAT 30 instead of ADEN as it is significantly superior in dogfight (2.500 rpm vs 1.700 rpm, 1.025 m/s vs 790 m/s, 244 g vs 130 g HEI rounds; total kinetic energy is 5,34 MW vs 1,15 MW at maximum RoF, and GIAT 30 also has significantly higher explosive energy as well. Higher muzzle velocity also means less time to target).

        Like

      • Roberto Santana said

        Thank you for your comments.
        Yes, the GIANT 30 seems to be a spectacular weapon.
        In fact my whole idea was to mix the pure gun dogfight, simple and clean design with the classical concept of fifties and sixties. I think it would be a good concept in late sixties and in the beginning of seventies, something to mimic a MiG-17 or MiG-19 in the “Feather Duster” project, a agile aircraft with a powerful engine, maybe the P&W P-408.
        I think that little fighter with an afterburning engine if would have an astounding performance indeed. A Bearcat from the jet age!
        Again, I really do appreciate your opinion.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “In fact my whole idea was to mix the pure gun dogfight, simple and clean design with the classical concept of fifties and sixties. I think it would be a good concept in late sixties and in the beginning of seventies, something to mimic a MiG-17 or MiG-19 in the “Feather Duster” project, a agile aircraft with a powerful engine, maybe the P&W P-408.”

          That aerodynamic design is from fifties, actually. So it is appropriate.

          “Yes, the GIANT 30 seems to be a spectacular weapon.”

          It is GIAT 30, and if you want a design from fifties, I suggest using this:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hispano-Suiza_HS.404#British_production

          It is 20 mm gun, and so far more lethal than .50 cal machine guns as found on F-86 but with much greater muzzle velocity than Soviet 37 mm cannons.

          “I think that little fighter with an afterburning engine if would have an astounding performance indeed. ”

          Back then there were no afterburning engines, best you could have was this:
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De_Havilland_Ghost
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Electric_J47

          In your design you seem to have mixed elements from 1950s and early 1960s (aerodynamic design, controls, airframe, avionics, armament) and 1970s-2000s (power plant, ejection seat).

          Regarding performance, there are major limitations:
          – aft tail is very close to the wing. Now, F-86 could achieve 90*+ AoA, but tail was very far aft from the wing
          – classical nose air intake as found on F-86 limits maximum speed to subsonic / low transonic speeds

          Like

      • Roberto Santana said

        I think the Mk12 (US Navy version of Hispano-Suiza) was not so good, despite being a very popular gun. In operation the gun proved prone to jamming under high ‘g’ force. The ADEN/DEFA guns did a very good job in the Arab-Israeli wars and Indo-Pakistan conflicts, sometimes with just one shot, they could blow up a whole MiG-21. The tailerons/wing configuration I took from North American Vigilante and the BAC TRS-2, I do not know how it could handle in a combat maneuver, even if it could actually fly (!) since it is a non fly-by-wire aircraft. I think a good subsonic engine from the fifties could be Hispano-Suiza Verdon (P&W J 48), 7,700lbs; from sixties/seventies is the P&W J52 P408 11,000lbs and a “modern” engine I could consider the Hawk 200 Rolls-Royce Adour.

        “In your design you seem to have mixed elements from 1950s and early 1960s (aerodynamic design, controls, airframe, avionics, armament) and 1970s-2000s (power plant, ejection seat)”

        Yes, indeed, that is the idea.

        Like

      • Roberto Santana said

        Here, a size comparison with F-20:

        Like

    • Roberto Santana said

      “Same with Eurofighter; I would not expect it to operate from off road bases.”

      Speaking of that, see this spetacular statement about Typhoon from Pierre Sprey, check 02:20.
      I like that guy!

      Like

      • picard578 said

        Typhoon is very complex and expensive to fly, being relatively large it drinks a lot of fuel so yes, it is too big for missions against ISIS. But main problem is the type of the jet, a dedicated CAS aircraft that may be as large as Typhoon would not be so expensive, because civilian high-bypass turbofans use very little fuel, and single-role jets are generally easier and cheaper to fly and maintain than multirole ones.

        Like

      • Chris said

        It would simply not make the defense industry as much money.

        That is why it will not be selected.

        Like

  13. Roberto Santana said

    Dear Picard578,

    What kind of aircraft would you suggest to perform an aggressor function?
    Nowadays, I know, it is financially and practically impossible and I cannot figure something to simulate such aircraft like a SU-35. But if you could propose a wholly new aggressor aircraft for USAF or US Navy/Marines, what kind of engine, electronics and features it would have?
    Perhaps, a specialized version of FLX?

    Like

    • picard578 said

      “What kind of aircraft would you suggest to perform an aggressor function?”

      Of existing aircraft, Gripen – either C version fitted with IRST, or E.

      “Perhaps, a specialized version of FLX?”

      Possible. I would have it fitted with radar, though, as enemy fighters are likely to use radar – at least in air-to-ground.

      Like

  14. Andrei said

    “BTW, I have added frontal view for FLX.”

    I have a question about the placement of the Skyward on the FLX: why have you placed it in the same position as IRSTs on the Suhois, Rafale and Eurofighter, instead of in the nose? On the aircraft which currently use IRST, it’s placement is dictated by the use of Radar which takes up the whole nose so the IRST has to be above (Suhoi, Rafale, Mig-29, Eurofighter) or bellow (F-14 and F-35). But the FLX is not using radar so the IRST could be put in it’s place and thus have a much better FOV especially for looking down.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      “why have you placed it in the same position as IRSTs on the Suhois, Rafale and Eurofighter, instead of in the nose?”

      Placement was primarily dictated by shape of the IRST, which is designed for aircraft with radar. Ergo, I had no option but to place it on top of the nose. There are two other issues as well: nose of supersonic aircraft has to be very pointy due to aerodynamic concerns, whereas IRST would make nose blunt (in fact, radar performance is sacrificed for aerodynamic performance in making a pointy nose). Second, aircraft nose is one of the hottest part of the aircraft, which would somewhat reduce IRSTs performance.

      It is true that placing IRST head on tip of the nose would allow much better FOV, but it would require completelly new sensor design, and lookdown capability isn’t very important for air superiority fighters anyway. If you want better FOV, you can always carry IR pod – notice that IRST pod is one of possible loadout options for the FLX.

      Like

    • Roberto Santana said

      A X-31 radome cone with a retractable IRST would be fine.

      Like

    • picard578 said

      I’ve added a third IRST. So now FLX has full spherical coverage with dedicated IRST sensors, plus near-spherical coverage with RWRs and MAWS.

      Like

      • vyse said

        Picard, I was wondering, what is the energy demand of passive devices like IRST or TV channels?
        I bet it is far, far lower than electro-magnetic radars, isn’t it? And as Chris said it’s rather light too.

        If so, it’s obviously sensors which gains surpasses the downsides, so you could multiply them as much as needed to obtain 360° awareness on all axis.

        Like

  15. Mike said

    “Yes, that would be a good idea if:
    1) a VTOL aircraft could be designed to match a STOL aircraft in performance
    2) FOD issue was solved”

    Depends upon what you mean by performance. The Sea Harrier certainly shone in DACT against all opponents, especially WVR. Pretty much the ideal size and weight for a cheapish fighter, not too difficult to maintain and very popular with it’s crews. Not to mention combat proven in all roles. Still 1960’s tech though, the Olympus was based on the Orpheus and it was tricky to fly resulting in a high accident rate.

    FOD issue is a biggie, though the Russians have shown the way I think. MIG29 and the likes clever engine inlet ramps which close entirely sucking air from above are one potential solution ( which also gives truly carefree handling, see John Farley’s test flight of a 29), the other is…. interesting..

    Back to performance the biggest issue is the amount that a STOVL can carry whilst retaining range and reaction time. Hanging a few bombs off a Harrier in a forward base is fine as long as the sortie rate can be maintained ( the USMC Harriers certainly managed this impressively in the GW) though as an interceptor such a vehicle is always going to be either subsonic and range challenged or huge and expensive ( a la the F35).

    Range and payload therefore are not a huge issue in the CAS or strike environment as forward basing allows a higher sortie rate. As an interceptor though, whilst there have been a few attempts at supersonic types, the mathematics just doesn’t work compared to a STOL design. A VTOL fighter cannot get off the ground with enough fuel and weapons to make it count effectively. As far as I can work out at full chat a Sea Harrier would burn through about 2/3 of it’s fuel getting to 100nm, assuming it took off with full tanks in the first place.

    Pinching a few ideas from the past might provide a solution though.

    The Skyhook system never generated any orders but did provoke much interest. Reading some of the advantages ( in particular about 1300lbs saved from eliminating the undercarriage) it sounds more interesting..

    It was specced for use at sea, particularly from destroyer sized vessels which could field about 5 aircraft, No great reason though why it couldn’t work on land too ( and indeed during the trials it did). So instead of an airfield or a semi prepared strip you have a Skyhook crane which could allow something Sea harrier sized to avoid the problems encountered close to the ground ( reingestion and FOD).Re-arming would simply be a case of prepping a trestle with the required ordinance. Range might still be a bit limited, but well within bounds for CAS work.

    As an interceptor though it wouldn’t work, unless we borrow an idea from the 30s… An airship.

    Something that can carry about 30 tonnes, including a largeish AWACS radar. Oh and a couple of Skyhook cranes. See where I’m going with this yet? They wouldn’t have to be very complicated affairs, apparently the Sparrowhawk pilots found ‘landing on their blimp much easier than on land. Interceptors don’t go on CAP, they form up on the blimp and are secured via the Skyhook system at which point they are refueled. There they wait burning no fuel until needed. Once targets appear they simply detach, intercept from an already considerable altitude and return to a Skyhook or fixed base. As soon as they are launched two further VTOLs take their place, effectively a omnipresent cab rank backed by a large radar and aerial refuelling.

    Assuming, rather generously, that the equivalent STOL would be operating 100nm behind where the CAP would be needed, at high subsonic it would take about 10 minutes to arrive and then be limited to a couple of hours CAP before returning. Hence why you need about 24 aircraft to maintain a 2 aircraft CAP 24 hours a day. You could do the same with much fewer aircraft and axe some of your expensive AAR and AWACS assets…

    As far as I can see, and with 60’s tech, a Skyhook optimised Sea Harrier with a blimp 100nm downrage would be saving over 5000lbs in fuel and undercarriage weight. No need for a radar, just an IRST as it would be back by the blimps. Oddly enough blimps have always proved rather more difficult to shoot down than people expect, and when they do ( provided they aren’t hydrogen lifted) they tend to just drift slowly towards the ground. Might be quite surviveable and cheap.

    Crazy, but the maths seem to work. 🙂

    Like

    • picard578 said

      “Depends upon what you mean by performance.”

      1) Ease of maintenance and sortie rate
      2) Situational Awareness (especially rearward visibility)
      3) Cost
      4) Cruise speed
      5) Maneuverability
      6) Range
      7) Missile load

      “The Sea Harrier certainly shone in DACT against all opponents, especially WVR.”

      DACT ain’t combat, and Harriers never engaged in a dogfight as Argentine aircraft typically did not notice Harriers approaching from the rear, and in any case didn’t have any fuel avaliable for maneuvering combat anyway.

      IIRC, French Mirage IIIs handily beat Harriers in DACT training, either shortly before or shortly after the Falklands campaign. Not sure about its accuracy, though.

      “Pretty much the ideal size and weight for a cheapish fighter, not too difficult to maintain and very popular with it’s crews.”

      Agreed. It still had issues of high wing loading and draggy airframe, though.

      “Not to mention combat proven in all roles.”

      For a certain value of “combat proven”.

      BTW, my favorite pre-teen (pre-1970s) jet fighters are F-86, Draken, English Electric Lightning and Dassault Mirage variants. I do like Viggen and F-102/106 as well, just not as much as the ones listed.

      “MIG29 and the likes clever engine inlet ramps which close entirely sucking air from above are one potential solution”

      Agreed. I thought about using such solution on FLX, but there were certain issues (air intake configuration, primarily).

      “Back to performance the biggest issue is the amount that a STOVL can carry whilst retaining range and reaction time.”

      Not in air-to-air combat. For AtA, greatest limitations are maintenance/cost issues, speed and maneuverability.

      “Range and payload therefore are not a huge issue in the CAS or strike environment as forward basing allows a higher sortie rate. ”

      Yes and no. They are not immediately obvious issues, but CAS requires extended loiter time, which in normal circumstances would translate into range. I’m talking about loiter time that is measured in hours here. Take a look:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairchild_Republic_A-10_Thunderbolt_II – 460 km with 10 minute combat and 1,88 hour loiter
      https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/close-air-support-fighter-proposal-3/ – 603 km with 10 minute combat and 2 hour loiter

      Now compare with STOVL flighters:
      Harrier II Plus: 556 km with 2 minute (?) air combat and no loiter
      F-35B: 833 km with 2 minute (?) air combat and no loiter

      Even in strike, long range is sometimes necessary (deep strike, the very mission F-35 is made for).

      “So instead of an airfield or a semi prepared strip you have a Skyhook crane which could allow something Sea harrier sized to avoid the problems encountered close to the ground ( reingestion and FOD).Re-arming would simply be a case of prepping a trestle with the required ordinance. Range might still be a bit limited, but well within bounds for CAS work.”

      You would need massive thrust for that to work, and range would still be limited, plus it would mean harder maintenance as well. So dirt strip capability is still a better option, as it allows greater flexibility. Plus STOVL/VTOL aircraft have to be made as light as possible, which does not mix with huge gun and heavy armor required for CAS. In other words, STOVL CAS aircraft is an impossibility. You could use regular STOVL aircraft in CAS, but as Falkland and Gulf Wars showed, they are extremely vulnerable to ground fire.

      “As an interceptor though it wouldn’t work, unless we borrow an idea from the 30s… An airship.
      Something that can carry about 30 tonnes, including a largeish AWACS radar. Oh and a couple of Skyhook cranes.”

      No need for STOVL for that.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airborne_aircraft_carrier#Airship_projects

      FLX for example could use JATO or catapult for takeoff and airhook for landing. STOVL/VTOL certainly would help, especially in terms of number of aircraft carried, but it would create issues as well.

      “Assuming, rather generously, that the equivalent STOL would be operating 100nm behind where the CAP would be needed”

      Not necessarily. That is a limitation (and indeed a generous one) if one is using classic air bases. But if you have a dirt strip / grass field capable flighter aircraft, you can have them fly from grass fields, possibly alongside troops. Possibly, I know it can be done with CAS fighters, high-performance air superiority jets would be problematic in that regard.

      You’d still save fuel on climb, though.

      “As far as I can see, and with 60’s tech, a Skyhook optimised Sea Harrier with a blimp 100nm downrage would be saving over 5000lbs in fuel and undercarriage weight. No need for a radar, just an IRST as it would be back by the blimps.”

      Indeed. I might do a proposal for that sometime. Though I’d combine this with my proposal for FLX, if possible.

      BTW, Rafale has been flown at speeds as slow as 18 kts in dogfights, and landing speed is 115 kts compared to airship speeds of 50-120 kts (cruising/maximum). This means that you may not even need STOVL for an airborne aircraft carrier, regardless of wether it has runway or not.

      “Oddly enough blimps have always proved rather more difficult to shoot down than people expect, and when they do ( provided they aren’t hydrogen lifted) they tend to just drift slowly towards the ground. Might be quite surviveable and cheap.”

      Indeed. Modern AAMs use fragments to bring down aircraft, so it would take an entire barrage to bring down one Zeppelin.

      Like

      • Mike said

        You’d think there wasn’t much better than bullets to defeat an airship, experience in WW1 though showed that they are simply tough targets that require mass dispersed firepower. And that with a hydrogen fill.

        “DACT ain’t combat, and Harriers never engaged in a dogfight as Argentine aircraft typically did not notice Harriers approaching from the rear, and in any case didn’t have any fuel avaliable for maneuvering combat anyway.”

        Both excellent AC, close enough to come down to the prejudice of the individual I think. Still, a clear win on statistics of kills alone to the SHAR. SHARs and Harriers for that matter did remarkably well against allcomers, you could only really pick their cruise speed and range as being a bit weak.

        “FLX for example could use JATO or catapult for takeoff and airhook for landing. STOVL/VTOL certainly would help, especially in terms of number of aircraft carried, but it would create issues as well.”

        Low, slow and highigh alpha I can see it being a mathematical possibility, at 30,000 feet nada. The advantage of Stovl here is that something akin to a SHAR could add it’s thrust to the blimp. Couple of cranes to catch the airframe and the interceptors can idle or even shutdown ( not sure about restarting a jet at latitude). Add some form of platform however ( 30t capability would include lifting a couple of jets) to transfer the ceptors onto and additional aircraft could form up, merely adding their directed lift to compensate. 60kts over the wings and plenty of fuel on the blimp, loiter time would be entirely pilot dependent I think.

        No great lack of space on the bottom rung of a blimp so potentially you could have about as darned many CAS jets parked as you like, purely fuel dependent.

        “Even in strike, long range is sometimes necessary (deep strike, the very mission F-35 is made for).”

        We have discussed this before, my idea of CAS is not an armoured tankbuster per se, or indeed a deep strike airframe. More A-37 than A-10, the Harrier falls between the two definitions.

        “You would need massive thrust for that to work, and range would still be limited, plus it would mean harder maintenance as well. So dirt strip capability is still a better option, as it allows greater flexibility. Plus STOVL/VTOL aircraft have to be made as light as possible, which does not mix with huge gun and heavy armor required for CAS. In other words, STOVL CAS aircraft is an impossibility. You could use regular STOVL aircraft in CAS, but as Falkland and Gulf Wars showed, they are extremely vulnerable to ground fire.”

        Again definitional except the point I totally agree on, namely that a pound saved in one area saves pounds in another. Especially in cost, personally I’d much rather be able to swarm a target with 5 ton airframes than rely on a few 15 ton ones. I’m guessing you could buy a squadron of SHARs for a single F35B.

        My point really isn’t specifically about the SHAR. As I say 60’s tech but a remarkable success and an excellent example to use, particularly due to the two aspects and types. If you took the idea of designing a short range VTOL dogfighter with no undercarriage, and assumed the availability of a blimp you could therefore save more weight on fuel and radar. A new build SHAR with a reasonable weapons load could take off vertically, only with reduced fuel. One of the things that killed them was their old engines simply didn’t provide the rated thrust, especially in hot environments, and every pound lost there resulted in a negative feedback loop. Arguably though even the SHAR design as standard could reach a blimp with a decent AA loadout, as long as it could be fully refueled there it would be potent.

        A specific design of course could save weight all over the shop. Enough, I think, to make if feasible and useful as a point defence interceptor from a ground based Skyhook ( say 100+ nm range) and certainly enough to make it very potent from a blimp whose range and time on station might as well be infinite.The Olympus was fairly crude in modern terms and plenum chamber burning appears to have been developed in the 2000s.

        Note that I’m not arguing against forward basing for CAS ( or my idea of CAS). Harrier-a-likes with a rugged undercarriage could still use them and probably wouldn’t be very viable from a Shyhook installation. Saying that even a range of 50nm wouldn’t necessarily be un-useful with tropps in contact in a set position. They would however be able to form up and refuel on the blimp in order to construct a strike package, all ably protected by the ceptors. I merely foresee these extra aircraft having to add their own engine thrust to the blimp’s lift in order to balance the forces.

        What would such a blimp be vulnerable against? Radar AAMs against a large AESA / Jammer? IR would barely have a target with the, probably electric, engines switched off, particularly at night. Partly solar powered might even be viable. Could even add a light CIWS or manpads against cannon runs, assuming the defending fighters and their backup are defeated. I very much doubt it would be needed. Put it high enough with a good IRST and nothing stealthy currently flying could get close enough to it without being detected,

        Even should it get hit it isn’t going to be an expensive platform, unmanned and you could always send a couple of jets to hook up and guide it home. Might even be able to refuel them at sea…. No idea how but it would certainly solve the AEW / Carrier bourne tanker problem if you could.

        Come to think of it I wonder what range you’d get from a 155mm starting out at 30,000 feet?

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “Still, a clear win on statistics of kills alone to the SHAR.”

          Lies, damn lies and statistics. Statistics alone, without context, are worthless. In the end, pilot is the most important factor, but even an ace pilot is no good without fuel to maneuver.

          “We have discussed this before, my idea of CAS is not an armoured tankbuster per se, or indeed a deep strike airframe. More A-37 than A-10, the Harrier falls between the two definitions.”

          For CAS, you need a gun and armor. Only thing debatable is an actual extent. Heavy armor designed to maximize survivability over a wide range of threats, or just light Kevlar armor to protect pilot against small arms fire? One gun or several of them? Single caliber gun(s) or a mix of different calibers? 7,62, 12,7, 20, 25, 30 or 40 mm?

          It all depends on what you want the aircraft to do. With ALX, I immediately knew I couldn’t design a very small aircraft, as I wanted a second crewmember in order to reduce pilot’s workload (this workload was the primary cause of several friendly-fire incidents which USAF naturally immediately used to attack the A-10, and very concept of dedicated CAS aircraft, as flawed). So I could just as well mount a 30 mm gun, though it would have to be smaller than the A-10s. Engine was selected in a way that either one of two engines had to provide more thrust than gun’s recoil.

          I did think about light attack aircraft, but I decided to combine it with a concept of turboprop AFAC / CAS / COIN aircraft.

          Regarding Harrier, it has some major issues for CAS. It has no armor, it also has very unsafe arrangement wrt engine and fuel placement, there is an issue of loiter time as well, plus limited firepower.

          “Especially in cost, personally I’d much rather be able to swarm a target with 5 ton airframes than rely on a few 15 ton ones.”

          My idea precisely, or rather a part of the idea (second part is that those 5 ton airframes will still be individually superior to anything currently in existence).
          https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2014/08/02/air-superiority-fighter-proposal-6/ – 5.600 kg empty
          https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/close-air-support-fighter-proposal-3/ – 6.500 kg empty

          “I’m guessing you could buy a squadron of SHARs for a single F35B.”

          Five, to be more precise. But you could also buy 2 A-10s for each Super Harrier, with each A-10 being far more survivable, effective and easier to maintain than Super Harrier. Which is one of reasons I don’t like STOVL aircraft, they simply don’t provide you anything you don’t have with STOL aircraft, at least in ground attack, as they can’t take off vertically expect in very light configurations (typically light AtA config, and not full onboard fuel either).

          “If you took the idea of designing a short range VTOL dogfighter with no undercarriage, and assumed the availability of a blimp you could therefore save more weight on fuel and radar.”

          It will be a while before I do anything about it, though, and there are a few problems. Namely, the engine. I always use as many existing components as possible, and one of these is always the engine. But only STOVL aircraft are Harrier II, which has a rather old engine, and F-35, whose engine is way too large for my purposes, plus it’s not very good either (being optimized for ground attack).

          “Note that I’m not arguing against forward basing for CAS ( or my idea of CAS). Harrier-a-likes with a rugged undercarriage could still use them and probably wouldn’t be very viable from a Shyhook installation. Saying that even a range of 50nm wouldn’t necessarily be un-useful with tropps in contact in a set position.”

          Issue is that STOVL/VTOL aircraft are more FOD sensitive than STOL ones, which is never a good thing, especially for forward basing. As for short-range CAS, I had that idea before, but decided that it might be better to use AFAC for light CAS.

          “Radar AAMs against a large AESA / Jammer?”

          Modern radar AAMs have home-on-jam mode. It is not very useful against DRFM jammers, but if radar is used to brute-force jam enemy radars, they will be dangerous. And even an AESA does not make you invulnerable to anti-radiation missiles.

          You are also completely forgetting IR BVRAAM. Blimps are huge and comparatively slow targets, and IRST can detect them through engine heat and sunshine reflections from the surface.

          “IR would barely have a target with the, probably electric, engines switched off, particularly at night.”

          At nigh maybe, but even that is questionable – will blimp ever cool down to temperature of its surroundings, especially higher up in the air? – but during the day sun reflections and heating due to sunlight will be enough.

          “Put it high enough with a good IRST and nothing stealthy currently flying could get close enough to it without being detected, ”

          That is true. Plus, a blimp could carry very large array of sensors, far larger than most aircraft.

          Like

      • Duviel said

        Just quick shime in.

        In Falklands (and all fighting before late 80’s) no body had missile warners, RWR, or stealth. Surprising enemy was a matter of skill more than aircraft. Why did the Argentine’s not exploit British many weaknesses in that war? The British were better trained and prepared in all aspects thats why.

        Good debate. Hard to digest for a lay person like me but good.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          Actually, RWRs existed before that – they first appeared during World War II on ships, and IIRC USAF deployed first aircraft-mounted RWRs during the Vietnam war – but Argentines did not have either RWRs or MAWS, and while I believe that Harriers did have RWRs I know for certain they had no MAWS.

          Like

    • vyse said

      Hi Mike.

      As a fellow Harrier fan, I strongly recomand you read ” A nightmare’s Prayer ” from Michael Franzak, if you haven’t already. He’s a marine who was deployed in Afghanistan from October 2002 to September 2003. His squadron actually did use AV8Bs for CAS.

      http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8088472-a-nightmare-s-prayer

      As much as one can admire Jumbo Jets, you would’nt rate it as a safe bird, taking in account pilots point of view. Stunning, powerfull, agile, yes. Safe and easy to operate, no.

      Like

  16. Mike said

    Every modern jet comes with at least $10 million worth of armour, all you need is speed, guns and numbers for close air support.

    I’ve no objection to citing equipment in such a way that it provides protection but armour itself is wasted weight on any but very specialist aircraft ( A-10 and Su25 basically).

    Come to think of it when I think of a list of aircraft used for CAS only a few ever had armour, out of a very long list.

    Lets call it ground attack rather than CAS.

    “You are also completely forgetting IR BVRAAM. Blimps are huge and comparatively slow targets, and IRST can detect them through engine heat and sunshine reflections from the surface.”

    Good luck to them. Given the cost of a modern BVRAAM they can ripple fire em for all I care. Bagging a few cubic metres of helium in a few compartments while the defending ceptors shoot and scoot sounds like a marvellous plan to me. Hell they’d have enough gas to chase them all the way back too, and I doubt they’d be unhappy at their opponents expending all their medium range weapons. Personally I’d just hide behind the blimp. 🙂

    A few radar reflectors or heat sources for wherever you’d prefer the missiles to hit. Worst case scenario would be losing a few tonnes of aviation fuel and a radar antennae. Most likely, even with multiple hits, would be the remote pilot calmly deciding where to set her down. I doubt the damage caused would cover their fuel bill. 🙂

    “It will be a while before I do anything about it, though, and there are a few problems. Namely, the engine. I always use as many existing components as possible, and one of these is always the engine. But only STOVL aircraft are Harrier II, which has a rather old engine, and F-35, whose engine is way too large for my purposes, plus it’s not very good either (being optimized for ground attack).”

    You make my point rather well… The Orpheus was hardly an advanced engine.

    Take something along the lines of an F118, ( 19k thrust) do the Olympus thing with it and you have and engine which is several hundred Kg lighter and delivers almost 50% more thrust to weight in a much smaller package. A full metre shorter.and at least 10% better fuel consumption. This would fit rather well in a lightened airframe.

    Or a non afterburning 135, don’t forget you can take a couple of metres off and quite a bit of weight too, without the afterburner, which would actually make it narrower than an Olympus and about the same length.

    In fact I’d be tempted to go for the latter, even assuming that airframe technology has not moved and and the Shyhook shar was an almost identical airframe do you think it wouldn’t get off the ground with 28,000lb of thrust? Don’t forget you don’t strictly need the 1000 imp gal fuel load anymore or the 1300lb undercarriage…. That would take off vertically with full weapons, fuel and a pilot who liked donuts. No need for special heat proof landing pads, it would effectively be landing 50 foot up in the air. Higher if need be, a 125 tonne crane could probably manage 200ft. Fuel economy looks to be a tadge worse at max thrust, but at max thrust it would be more comparable to something along the lines of an F101 in zone 4, and much more efficient with it.

    What would an F-35 be able to do if it was less than half the weight and din’t need to carry 8 tonnes of fuel around in it’s slack,fat arse?

    Stealth would be pointless, pointing to a cheap aircraft. You’d have to find it’s launch site first and if riding around on a huge blimp isn’t a surprise killer I don’t know what is. No expensive radar integration etc…

    “Five, to be more precise.”

    Maybe full lifecycle it would end up being somewhere upwards of five. Last price I could find for a SHAR was about $30 million in today’s dollars, of which $12 was Engine cost.. F35B is still looking at $300+ million since the,last creative accountancy.

    Oddly enough the original JSF project was meant to come in at about $30 million per copy… modified F135 without burner might come in at close to $20 of course, enlarging the roll nozzles and getting rid of that silly bit on the back effectively.

    So given the same airframe minus undercarriage about $38 million only with a 50% fuel 8 AAM thrust to weight ratio of about 1.4.

    An EE lightning wouldn’t catch it!

    Like

    • picard578 said

      “Come to think of it when I think of a list of aircraft used for CAS only a few ever had armour, out of a very long list.”

      And most of them were not specialist CAS aircraft. Successful ones I can think off the top of my head – P-40, A-1, A-10, Su-25 – all had/have armor. P-38 did not have armor and has proven very vulnerable, P-51 same thing, F-15E is a ground attack aircraft but has never shown effective at CAS,

      I really “like” how Wikipedia calls A-1 “a piston-powered, propeller-driven anachronism in the jet age” while ignoring that things it was doing were simply things no fast jet could ever do.

      “Or a non afterburning 135, don’t forget you can take a couple of metres off and quite a bit of weight too, without the afterburner, which would actually make it narrower than an Olympus and about the same length.”

      Problem with that is that it is an engine designed for ground attack. Engine diameter has a major impact on aircraft’s drag, especially supersonic, and F135 has a rather large frontal area and shitty thrust-to-drag ratio. Granted, a lot of that has to do with the engine bypass due to its high bypass ratio, but I’m not sure how exactly large its turbojet “core” really is.

      Like

    • Duviel said

      “Every modern jet comes with at least $10 million worth of armour, all you need is speed, guns and numbers for close air support”

      For Real CAS (where you are helping troops already engaged) you also need lots of fuel and/or low fuel consumption and armor to be able to go down low into AAA range. What good is fuel gonna do you if you cant take any fire? Then you can’t do CAS! I would say gun, armor, fuel, numbers and good low-speed handling. in that order.

      Strike/ground attack is different. Its something you do behind enemy lines/ in enemy territory where precision and proper identification will probably not be that important, tactically speaking.

      To help out troops facing tanks or heavily armored artillery, sensors and avionics that are good at identifying and precise at guiding are also needed. Thats why A-10 carries Maverick and TOW II on top of gun. TV camera and wire guidance are probably most accurate and less decoyable (if thats a word) guidance known. Although, range is limited.

      For A-10/Su-25 types I would rather have armor than speed. Speed is no good in real CAS (is useful in getting there fast) missions.

      I do beleive that A-10 use is limited in peer type fight. It can mostly operate in friendly or heavily contested ground and air.

      Im not comprehending the blimp thing?

      I am not an engineer. But, I do wanna say that just because the math works does not always mean the product will.

      Like

      • picard578 said

        “Im not comprehending the blimp thing?”

        Basically:

        I can’t say I’m entirely convinced it will work… I’d have to do further research before reaching a conclusion, but the idea itself is sound.

        Like

        • Duviel said

          Thanks!

          Very interesting. Basically a floating carrier.

          I don’t know. Seems like a big target. How do you defend that?

          Looks even more defenseless than naval carriers.

          Like

        • picard578 said

          “I don’t know. Seems like a big target. How do you defend that?”

          Keep it out of the range of the enemy fighters. CAP and stuff.

          “Looks even more defenseless than naval carriers.”

          That is one of reasons why I’m not certain about it.

          Like

      • Mike said

        “For Real CAS (where you are helping troops already engaged) you also need lots of fuel and/or low fuel consumption and armor to be able to go down low into AAA range.”

        If by real CAS you mean two armoured formations fighting it out, or motorised with towed AAA at least, then Picard’s list of aircraft would be unlikely to be used for CAS. Also this form of engagement makes up a really tiny percentage of actual CAS missions flown historically. Triple A concentrations on the FEBA are rare even given the fluid nature of battle and would expect a healthy dose of 155mm should they open up.

        In the above scenario such assets would almost certainly be used in a SEAD role, or for battlefield interdiction ( Deep air support). If SEAD succeeds then anything with bombs or guns becomes a CAS asset, though the number of likely scenarios where armoured aircraft are required close to FEBA is low and most would be performed more effectively by rotary wing.

        The only requirement for an aircraft to be involved in CAS itself is that the objectives and coordination of the mission are tightly coupled with the movement and intentions of ground forces. Hence yes, the A-10 makes a fine CAS asset, but was designed as a deep air support vehicle to destroy tanks before closing with friendly forces. Arguably the B-1 also made a good CAS asset, due to it’s long loiter time and weapons load in very friendly air environments at least.

        The primary criteria for the effectiveness of CAS are reaction time, coordination and accuracy. Armour may help somewhat with the latter, but I doubt it. Along the FEBA I’m guessing that 98% of all bombs and cannon rounds historically have been expended by non armoured aircraft. The conundrum is that enhancing the former ( reaction time) with speed leads to a reduction in the latter.

        A similar connundrum exists with aircraft weight. Adding weight ( armour) results in significant increases in take off distance, hence why armoured aircraft are rarely flown from unprepared strips. It also significantly reduces range, and climb rate. The latter being vital for CAS.

        The US Marine Corps places a distinctive and almost unique focus on CAS, yet to the best of my knowledge has never operated an armoured non rotary wing aircraft of any type. Aircraft losses in Vietnam, where the primary threat was AAA, suggest that more than 98% were unarmoured, but this hasn’t lead to exclusively armoured CAS aircraft as the examples didn’t fare much better.

        Small bullet, big sky.

        ” Im not comprehending the blimp thing?”

        I did say it was crazy. 🙂

        Even crazier, a blimp gunship.

        Taking data for a 300gr .380, at sea level it has a maximum range ( firing at about 37 degrees) of about 7500m horizontally at standard conditions
        At 5000 feet this becomes 9369 metres horizontal – clearly it would go further by the time it reached the ground though on the horizontal this is a 22% range improvement.
        At 10000 feet 11359m, and a 48% improvement
        at 15000 feet 13767 and a 79% improvement.

        I can only guess at higher altitudes as I can’t find a calculator which will work with these values. Clearly the horizontal range is an underestimate ( the projectile would still be travelling at almost 300m/s with 15000 feet to fall in the final example). Also note that doubling the altitude doesn’t double the underestimate of the range, it is considerably more. As the air thins the ranges are increasing exponentially.Best fit looks like about a 400% increase in range at 30,000 feet.

        I chose this 380 as it has a similar muzzle velocity and ballistics to a 155mm shell,

        So take the same 30 tonne capacity blimp and stick a turret housing on it, something that can fire GPS guided shells. Say the AS-90 turret ( about 19 tonnes including 48 rounds of ammo) , add some sensors of whatever flavour you like and plenty of fuel…

        Then just send it off to provide on call fire support at about 2 minutes notice to anywhere within 100km of it’s location. All values to the best of my knowledge are under-estimates, you certainly wouldn’t want the turret armour for a start, Loiter time would likely to be in terms of days.

        For enforcing no fly zones ( just shell their airbase if they have a pop at it), peacekeeping, and anywhere that bringing heavy artillery is a bit awkward. Normally they’d go on a boat at 8 kts so 60kts would be quite an advantage.

        Keeping a few Typhoons to pop over to Libya from Cyprus cost well over a billion quid including ordnance. Shells are cheap and fuel is practically free.

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “then anything with bombs or guns becomes a CAS asset”

          Anything with bombs and guns that can fly slow and low enough to actually identify and precisely attack mobile targets while maintaining coordination with friendly forces. Which means a dedicated CAS asset, as multirole jets are too fast, too thin-skinned, and most important of all, their pilots can never properly integrate into ground army. A CAS pilot has to think as an infantryman, as a tank commander, or as a SOF trooper, depending on the mission. No multirole aircraft pilot has training or mindset for that.

          “The only requirement for an aircraft to be involved in CAS itself is that the objectives and coordination of the mission are tightly coupled with the movement and intentions of ground forces.”

          Aye, but ideally, that will be achieved with a minimum or no radio communication between ground troops and CAS aircraft. And even heavy radio communication or datalinks are not enough to turn a multirole aircraft into a CAS platform. CAS pilot has to have training to integrate into ground forces’ play, and aircraft that can allow him good overview of what is going on the battlefield. Focus that many people have on “identifying and destroying targets” shows a complete misunderstanding of what CAS mission really is about.

          CAS aircraft are far, far more than flying artillery. If you want a comparison, B-1 is a flying 155 mm towed howitzer while A-10 is a flying main battle tank. Both are excellent at their roles, but you can’t replace a tank with a howitzer. B-1 can drop bombs on targets pointed out by ground troops – assuming that targets are not too close to said troops and that troops have target designators – but it will never be able to properly integrate with them.

          “Along the FEBA I’m guessing that 98% of all bombs and cannon rounds historically have been expended by non armoured aircraft.”

          Most major CAS platforms were armored. Ju-87, P-47, Il-2, A-10, Su-25… but most aircraft historically were not armored, and you use what you have, even if it is not ideal.

          “The US Marine Corps places a distinctive and almost unique focus on CAS, yet to the best of my knowledge has never operated an armoured non rotary wing aircraft of any type.”

          They have other constraints. For one, they hardly ever used single-role CAS aircraft due to limited space on amphib ships. But when they used dedicated aircraft, these were armored. A-1 for example. Harrier could be considered an exception, but it was multirole, and you can hardly have armored STOVL aircraft.

          “but this hasn’t lead to exclusively armoured CAS aircraft as the examples didn’t fare much better.”

          But it has lead to exclusively armored CAS aircraft – A-10 would have never been designed if not for Vietnam.

          Like

      • vyse said

        Off topic, but since this post has reached once again A-10 and CAS debate:

        http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/boeing-discussing-international-a-10-warthog-sales-412606/

        Who do you think might be the “clients” Boeing is disscussing with?
        Considering it is tied to Korea Aerospace for A-10 modernisation deal, South Korea sounds a logical buyer.

        But I think most logical choice would be that NATO coutries invest in a common fleet, as it perfectly fits into current scheme of anti-jihadist warfare, and also would be a powerfull asset in the Nato Reaction Force, intended to react quickly in case of Russia getting serious in eastern Europe. (which would rather certainly involve massive use of tanks and other heavily armored vehicles, as Russian are not fouled into the “exclusive Aerial warfare” that occidentals finds so comfortable ATM, despite poor results, even against unprofessional ennemy.)

        Like

  17. But when they used dedicated aircraft, these were armored. A-1 for example.

    All marine corps fixed wing jets are procured for cas, it is the reason detre for their existence. I’ll give you the skyraider, even though I’m not convinced many carried armor. In fact you can buy mini model kits is to convert a normal skyraider into a marine corps one, by removing the armour..

    If your own personal definition of an aircraft designed for cas is one that carries armour then fair play.

    It does mean excluding many types which merely preferred extra range and rate of climb. Clearly though your definition should only include proof against small arms, 20mm and above clearly indicates a deeper role where iads are involved.

    Whilst it will never happen, I thought it was a logical thing to do about a decade ago, the raf could pick up a couple of squadrons for little cost. Seeing as we are lacking an mpa you’d think raiding the boneyard for a few Vikings would make sense too. Could even sort out the crowsnest debacle with Trackers…

    Like

    • picard578 said

      “All marine corps fixed wing jets are procured for cas, it is the reason detre for their existence.”

      Which doesn’t mean they can do it. STOVL jets have proven themselves notoriously vulnerable when doing ground attack missions, especially CAS. Add to that the lack of payload and too high maneuver speeds… theory is one thing, reality something different.

      Many times weapons or organizations cannot, or chose not to, perform what is stated as being their reason for existence. To use a non-military example, MMF exists to help developing and underdeveloped countries, yet what it is doing is stripping them to the bone, destroying their economies with “structural adjustment” programmes.

      “If your own personal definition of an aircraft designed for cas is one that carries armour then fair play.”

      It is not my personal definition. “CAS” aircraft can be any aircraft carrying out close air support, even P-51s got used for CAS, but unless it has at least some armor, it will not be survivable. At the very least, you need protection for pilot and fuel tanks against small-arms fire.

      Aircraft designed for CAS is something different, and it should have:
      1) precise weapons; this does not mean just guided munitions but also gun and unguided rockets
      2) excellent slow-speed maneuverability
      3) long loiter time
      4) good damage tolerance
      5) dirt strip capability

      Like

  18. How do you figure that stovl aircraft are vulnerable?

    In the gulf war av8s returned 0.15 percent loss rate per sortie… Frankly not much higher than peacetime training despite lots of bad guys shooting at them.

    Like

    • picard578 said

      In Gulf War I, 5 Harriers were lost in combat out of 3.342 sorties, loss rate of 1,5 per 1.000 sorties (F-16 had loss rate of 0,2 per 1.000 sorties and A-10 of 0,5 per 1.000 sorties – 4 losses out of 8.084 sorties). Peacetime class A mishap rate was 11,44 (compared to 4,19 for the F-16 and 2,4 for the A-10).

      Out of seven Harriers that were hit, five were destroyed (71%). Out of six A-10s that were hit in Gulf War I and Kosovo War (in total of 12.400 sorties), 4 were lost (67%).

      http://www.pulitzer.org/archives/6722

      Most aircraft in the Gulf War actually had lower loss rate than during the peacetime training.

      Like

    • Chris said

      One more consideration. The Harrier, if it were to be used in a CAS role would have an even higher loss rate. Medium caliber AA would be lethal against it. It would not be able to stand up to the kind of damage any CAS plane ever could.

      It’s strange that in a shooting war, the wartime losses would be lower than peacetime training though. That would never happen against a good opponent.

      Like

      • Mike said

        What do you think did provide CAS in operation Desert Storm?

        There was no distinction between CAS and interdiction missions, indeed as Saudi had the largest concentration of military airfield capacity in the world ( built for just such a scenario) the conduct of the air war was a stacked cab rank system. Aircraft would come on station and remain there for 10 to 15 minutes. If there was a TIC that needed air support then that would be their mission, without it they would attack pre-planned interdiction targets, the slot being filled by the next aircraft to arrive. It didn’t matter whether the aircraft on station was an F16, A6, F18 or Harrier, same mission profile. None of them had armour.

        The 60 AV8’s forward based spent quite some time twiddling their thumbs because of it. Their turnaround rate was 23 minutes. Even so they delivered close on twice the ordinance per mission of the equally trained and and in flight refueled F18s ( about 3500lbs to the F18’s 2000lbs). One squadron was able to sortie 72 missions in a single day.

        Whilst it is true that they were more vulnerable to ground fire ( 6 F18’s were hit by manpads without loss) this is only to be expected when comparing a 52,000lb auw twin with a 30,000lb auw single. In total they made up 3.3% of the offensive aircraft present and dropped 6.77% of the total tonnage of bombs, pulling twice their weight. The official analysis of airpower in the gulf war excluded them explicitly due to the low number of strategic targets they were tasked with, so what do you think they were hitting?

        Frankly given the extreme luxury of being able to fly and fuel such huge numbers of aircraft it is remarkable that the little Harriers still showed their worth. And this despite being denied PGMs and even FLIRs by the beancounters.

        Like

      • Chris said

        If I found myself in an extended shooting war, I’d rather have something like an A-10 for CAS. Ideally, it’d be closer to Picard’s ALX ideas.

        For taking on armor, I’d want a larger CAS aircraft (with heavier guns for tank destroying – I would want a larger gun developed that can burst full power in the first 0.5s faster – maybe a gas operated 40mm gun due to their much faster spin-ups than electrical guns).

        Like

  19. Chris said

    Now that I think about it, there may be use for a drone.

    It will be a small, very light drone. It will be a sort of “scout sensor”, with no armament and only an IRST sensor and a transmitter for detecting enemy aircraft.

    Maybe a command aircraft (like a 2 seat fighter) might be useful as well.

    Like

    • Mike said

      I’m thinking there is a potential use for a specialist CIWS blimp.. Or rather a flak / ASuW / fire support one…

      Flak went out of fashion partly because the maximum effective altitude was never going to be much more than 20,000 feet for a reasonable sized gun. Hence you needed missiles against high flying aircraft and smaller calibres became to norm specifically against low flying. What it you lifted the gun to that altitude though?

      Take a 57mm bofors ( 14 tonnes with 1000 rounds of ammo) and stick it on the bottom of a blimp along with sensors. No need to worry about fast attack craft if you have a fleet off a hostile shore, Or any surface ships for that matter seeing as they are all unarmoured. Would love to know what a stealthy billion dollar airframe would do with 220 rounds per second inbound. I’m guessing they wouldn’t be emitting so would they even know they were being fired on? Or for that matter what range and altitude you’d get out of a 6 pounder at really high altitude. Might well rival the reach of current sea level based AAW destroyers… More than big enough to take out armour as it would be hitting near vertically. High enough rate of fire to worry entrenched infantry / artillery / ASM positions etc. Shore launched sea skimming missiles might prove the most attractive design target though. Given a system with about 50nm range it could sit between a fleet and the coast, knock down any skimmers and saturate the area of the launch platform in hot lead too.

      Interesting comparison, the SM2-ER and the AIM54 Phoenix have arguably similar ranges. Minus the warhead, which is similar for both. You can see that the 1300kg SM2 needs three times the weight of rocket motor to achieve the same as the 400kg Phoenix. The difference is the altitude and speed they are launched at, hence why supposed missile ranges are so tricky. Launching a Sparrow at 50,000 feet and Mach 2 will see it a long way downrange. 1000 feet and 450 knots and not far beyong visual range.

      It looks as though my calculations in a post above really are huge underestimates. The Indians have some experience with high altitude artillery, both in warfare during Kargil and since, as they have had to rewrite the range tables at altitude. My estimate for 15000 feet was a 79% increase and 48% for 10,000, though they have found their 155s gain a 75% increase from just 12,000 feet.

      Come to think of it what sort of range could you achieve with a SAM starting from altitude? Sea Dart had a similar ( 80nm) ballistic range to the SM2 as it used a Ramjet despite weighing a third as much.

      The gumps have just spent $12 billion designing and building three Zumwalts, whose only real purpose is in providing 80nm 155mm artillery support.

      Wouldn’t it be amusing it you could get the same effects with a $40 million blimp with an existing weapons system bolted on?

      But yes, comparing existing technologies Lockheeds crowsnest proposal mounts 2 180kg radars plus operators in a Merlin, hence about 5 hours endurance at 10,000 feet. For 24 hour coverage you’d probably need five or 6 aircraft at £40,000 per flying hour. And probably couldn’t sustain this indefinitely.

      Even assuming the total sensor fit is close to the Merlin’s max of 5 tonnes the HAV 304 could, it appears, easily outdo it.

      “Northrop also said the LEMV could be used as a cargo aircraft, claiming that it had enough buoyancy to haul seven tons of cargo 2,400 miles at 30 miles per hour.”

      So over 3 days endurance with a higher payload. 6300shp versus 1400 shp, I think we can assume it is going to be cheaper to run. Assume the same number of crew though the blimp will be much safer.

      So $50 initial cost for 44 Merlins, Crowsnest vaued at $750 for 10 sets, HM2 conversion about $40 million per aircraft. That’s $1.6 billion, $168 million per AEW bird.

      You could afford to specifically design two airship tenders.. Maybe something along these lines

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USNS_John_Glenn_%28T-MLP-2%29

      And equip them with 6 sensored up blimps for the same money. Be very useful for other things too…

      Like

      • picard578 said

        “Take a 57mm bofors ( 14 tonnes with 1000 rounds of ammo) and stick it on the bottom of a blimp along with sensors.”

        I was thinking a combination of 20 mm, 40 mm, 57 mm and 120 mm guns. Only problem is, what is the largest calibre Zeppelin’s structure could safely support?

        “The difference is the altitude and speed they are launched at, hence why supposed missile ranges are so tricky.”

        Aye. Nominal missile ranges listed are achieved at high altitude, supersonic speeds and head-on approach. But depending on conditions, range of AIM-120D missile could be as low as 5-9 km.

        “The gumps have just spent $12 billion designing and building three Zumwalts, whose only real purpose is in providing 80nm 155mm artillery support.”

        That, and providing money for the contractors.

        “Wouldn’t it be amusing it you could get the same effects with a $40 million blimp with an existing weapons system bolted on?”

        Indeed.

        “Be very useful for other things too…”

        Such as cargo carriers etc.

        Like

  20. Mike said

    “Only problem is, what is the largest calibre Zeppelin’s structure could safely support?”

    I doubt there is one. Largest I can find that has been tried was the…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QF_12_pounder_18_cwt_naval_gun

    On one of the Royal Navy rigids. C130 mounts 105mm, just a question of damping, though the modern blimps from the LEMV project are not fundamentally unstable in the same was an an aircraft.

    “Such as cargo carriers etc.”

    When I was in Afghanistan the cost of a gallon of fuel was said to be $75. There are plenty of articles which claim anything from $125 to $400. This was despite using civilian firms to haul it most of the thousand miles from Karachi. The reason was simple enough, the only road passed through the Pashtun tribal areas and they simply could not afford for the convoys to be hit. Hence they simply paid the same people who would have been hitting them to protect them instead, at contractor rates which are otherwise known as footballers wages. Oddly enough the Taliban were never short of cash. More than likely the way the war was prosecuted was purely to encourage the use of heavy armoured gas guzzlers, therefore increasing profits on the fuel racket.

    Still 18000 tonnes per day over at least 1000 miles makes for an interesting case study.

    Assuming the largest possible road tankers ( 11600 gallons, though I very much doubt the roads could take these) you would need 45 trucks arriving per day. 50 hour round trip again assuming an incredibly generous 40 miles an hour with no breakdowns or rest for the crews so about 90 trucks total, call it 100. Lets say each truck given the harsh terrain only lasted 100,000 miles, $200,000 per truck? Comes to about $100 million a year purely in cost of trucks. The cost then is clearly in protecting these trucks as the actual fuel bill per year was well above $10 billion.

    So given a 30 tonne capacity blimp you’d need about 60 to deliver the same quantity of fuel. $2.73 as bought by the US military. The fuel alone would cost about $500 million leaving $9.5 billion per year to spend on the airships themselves. Provided they were less than $150 million a piece you’d be in profit inside of a year. K class US Navy blimps cost about the same as 3 P-38 lightnings, with a 12 man crew so they aren’t inherently expensive platforms. Seven tonne capacity seems to retail for about $40 million as a prototype.

    Afghanistan was an extreme and doolally example of course, though the ability to lift plant and heavy machinery should not be underestimated. For instance you need an airfield, first you need to be able to protect it whilst work commences.

    Lift a JCB ( about 10 tonnes) along with lots of Hesco and you can build a fire base where ever you like, no need for roads. Dot several of these around, ably supported by long duration fire support and the heavy plant can be moved in to level the ground and build the airfield. No need to go via the beach to bring supplies and ammo ashore, Fuel, weapons and supplies dropped straight to the point of need assuming you can keep control of the air.

    Indeed the main problem with forward basing itself for CAS or stovl aircraft is the logistics. The main advantage to large airbases is their location close to infrastructure so spending the extra on fuel to get the aircraft over the point of need makes sense when you’d otherwise have to be protecting convoys of trucks within about 50 miles of the moveable FEBA where they would be vulnerable to interdiction.

    The logistics tail and the need for infrastructure wags the dog to a huge extent. Biggest single item by tonnage in a set piece battle is the artillery’s logistics, which consumes about 85% of the total. El Alamein and the desert war in general is an interesting case in point. Patton’s drive eastwards consumed so much fuel that the Red Ball express was set up to supply it. 6000 vehicles each having to be fueled, maintained and crewed, all in excellent infrastructure with plentiful roads and railways. In fact most tanks lost in the desert campaign were due to breakdown rather than enemy action, you’d only need a handful of large capacity blimps to simply lift any armoured vehicle back to depot.

    Even a 81mm mortar’s daily requirements ( 250 rounds) amount to almost a tonne and the fuel needs of a modern division probably dwarf those of a WW2 corps.

    57mm on a blimp gunship would be dual use, effectively a CIWS as well as high velocity fire support vehicle. I imagine there would be a place for something along the lines of an AMOS 120mm in a purely HE fires effect. Makes you wonder whether you’d need vehicle based direct fires at all baring miniguns / 50 cal class with a few of these dotted around the battlefield.

    Like

    • Chris said

      Logistics will be the weak point of any army for a sustained war.

      That’s why I think that tanks like the Abrams probably will not be sustainable for Blitzkrieg – fuel and reliability becomes an issue. I suspect that more tanks will be lost due to inadequate supplies or mechanical breakdowns than destroyed by enemy action.

      The other issue of course, that should probably assume that wars will be fought over hostile terrain and the opponent will attempt to disrupt logistics as much as possible, seeing it correctly as a soft underbelly.

      Like

      • Mike said

        Despite being as close to source for fuel as could reasonably be expected the gulf war still saw Abrams running out of fuel right left and centre.

        I’ve seen several eye witness accounts of multiple Abrams knocked out in the same conflict, many on one road. They don’t appear in official accounts though.

        Back to my crack pipe smoking obsession with blimps though…

        Was wondering whether it would be possible to lift either a VHF or UHF radar on a blimp. This would render all current stealth technology pointless. Turns out it has already been done….

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N-class_blimp

        The AN/APS-70 was UHF, and towards the lower end of the band too.

        It’s weakness was in the operating altitude of only a few thousand feet. Similar size to the HAV3 though, which if it meets it’s design criteria is capable of 20,000ft for 21 days, though probably with a smaller sensor package.

        Like

    • picard578 said

      So FLX + ALX + blimp = winning combo.

      Like

      • Mike said

        I think FLX + ALX is already a winning combo.

        Don’t take my wild ideas as a criticism of your designs, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t fundamentally agree with the concepts.

        Unfortunately given our hell bent destruction on the rocks of the F35 program I find it more likely that Chinese copy of harrier + blimp is a winning combo. The F35 is just a Yak-141 which hasn’t been visiting weight watchers often enough, and would, I suspect, be clubbed like a bay seal. Add persistent aerial VHF or UHF radars into the mix and you’d be mad to get into one.

        Not sure the skyhook thing would work with FLX or ALX, though with a 200 metre long structure travelling at 60 kts into a headwind there might be a way. Launching wouldn’t be a problem, just drop them nose down. Might work if the blimp took off with them initially. Jets rendezvous with tankers all the time at higher speeds.

        The main problem with blimps seems to be pressure altitude. Modern ones are designed around a -1 foot or low pressure altitude with the engines doing what little work is required to get them in the air and traditional aerodynamics to help. The trouble with old designs was the need to vent gas as fuel was used up or replace with weight with rain water. This is extremely expensive with Helium. There are several solutions to this. Airbags within the helium space which the engines inflate and deflate to increase or decrease lift and systems which simply compress the helium back into tanks.

        There are certainly examples from history, the Akron and Macon had a useful load of about 150,000lbs despite massive rigid framework. They were rather large though. Worrying accident rate in nasty weather, too although partly this was due to poor weather forecasting and primitive instruments.

        I suspect there may be a use yet for hydrogen, most of the lift provided by helium but with internal compartments shrouded by the kevlar protected helium filled with hydrogen which is used both as lift and as a fuel. Electric motors powered by fuel cells, as they used them both for the Apollo missions and deep sea exploration I suspect altitude isn’t going to be a problem. Hence the extra lift from the hydrogen gets the blimp to altitude before the decreasing volume of hydrogen means the engines work harder as it approaches it’s destination. There would be the potential to crack rainwater into hydrogen and oxygen, not sure about the efficiency or suitability of this though. The Hindenburg did something similar, using propane as it had neutral buoyancy, it didn’t matter to the trim how much was used. Thin film solar panels along the top? Certainly enough acreage though whether it would be worth the weight is debateable.

        Height is the key, getting them above manpads range with a useful load. Apparently the hindenburgs were so stable that you could balance a pencil end on whilst flying. Can’t imagine a better environment for CIWS, especially as AAMs are not designed for terminal manourvres in the same way some AsuMs are. How vulnerable would they be though? Increased range at altitude would be a factor but the only way anyone could find out would be to test this. They also have an easy and natural counter, which clearly precluded their use in former years. Heavy calibre AA of any description would not struggle.

        Of course you could chain them… Smaller blimps with an ogive rear end which just bump into each other and are tethered. Hence a fuel convoy which had to get through might see several fuel cars with additional ciws / fighter defences attached. Same frontal area with increased power equals more speed. Chain 10 of them and you might get proper speeds out of them. Or side by side, load is too heavy the undersling it beneath two of them.

        One thing I haven’t mentioned is their abilities in ASW which are clearly proven in the second world war. 60kts low and slow plus a MAD sensor and sonobuoys equals very upset submariners. So upset they even shot one of them down. Arguably with the mobility of SSNs compared to their WW2 brethren frigates are a bit on the slow side and make excellent targets in and of themselves.

        Some time I’ll have another look at Rommel’s fuel requirements in the desert campaign and on the eastern front. I have a suspicion that the Graf Zeppelins which were scrapped in 1940, if converter purely for fuel carriage, might have provided a partial solution. Not sure how long they would have lasted in a sandstorm of course…

        Like

        • picard578 said

          “I think FLX + ALX is already a winning combo.”

          Compared to what is out there, for sure.

          “Don’t take my wild ideas as a criticism of your designs, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t fundamentally agree with the concepts.”

          Constructive criticism is always good, and I don’t have a problem accepting an idea just because it isn’t my own.

          “Not sure the skyhook thing would work with FLX or ALX, though with a 200 metre long structure travelling at 60 kts into a headwind there might be a way.”

          I wan’t thinking skyhook, but rather a classic runway atop the Zeppelin. Alternatively, you could combine JATO and skyhook – Rafale flew as slow as 18 kts, and FLXs landing speed would be even lower than Rafale’s 50 kts, so landing would not be a problem, with Zeppelin’s maximum speeds >50 kts (at least for the FLX).

          Like

      • Andrei said

        I followed the discussion on blimps with great interest, because I posted in the past about using hybrid airships for resupply and as carriers.
        My opinion on the matter is that a classic cylindrical blimp is not worth the investment. Being lighter then air, it usually requires quite a large ground crew to manhandle them on the ground. Hybrid airships how ever which derive only part of their lift through buoyancy and the rest through aerodynamic lift are a more interesting proposition. Being heavier then air they can land and park on the ground on their own. By deriving part of their lift through buoyancy they have the long loiter time and endurance of the blimp and require much less thrust then aircraft to lift equivalent loads. By being usually lifting bodies they have greater streamlining then blimps and thus a higher speed and also can reach higher altitudes (there was a project for a Hybrid Airship sentry which had an operating altitude of 15000 m ). With thrust vectored engines they can achieve true VTOL operation by taking-off vertically with their full load, which a “VTOL” aircraft can not do, and landing vertically unassisted which a blimp can not do.
        The best example of hybrid airship is this one: http://aeroscraft.com/technology-copy/4580412172 the Aeroscraft. It comes in four sizes with payload of 0, 66, 250 and 500 tons. It has vectored propellers which give it full VTOL capability. It also has a air cushioned landing gear which allows it to land on water and move both on land and on water like a hovercraft, thus having rough field capabilities that an aircraft can not even dream of. It also has a large ventral cargo bay which allows cargo to be winched up or down or could be used to recover and park aircraft.
        So my opinion is that a hybrid airship with a payload of about 200 tons could make the surface navy extinct. At this payload it could carry a squadron of FLX/ALX style aircraft with ease, or alternatively a large number of cannons, it wouldn’t even need turrets for them thanks to it’s capacity to turn on the spot by reversing the engines, and hovering, they could all be mounted on the broadside. Such a airship would be immune to submarines, not only that but it could hunt submarines unimpeded. It will also have the high ground against any surface vessel trying to attack it, even the longest ranged SAM missiles would struggle to climb to intercept the airship while any missile fired by the airship would have an incredible boost in range. Not to mention that a single hit is usually enough to cripple a surface vessel while an airship would need multiple hits. Also the airship would have the advantage of seeing any possible aggressor hundreds of km away. An most importantly it would be cheaper then any existing corvette class.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: