Military aircraft configurations overview

Design goal Characteristics required Ideal planform
Dogfight fast transients (roll onset, pitch onset)

subsonic-transonic turn rates (instantaneous, sustained)

energy management (acceleration, climb)

cruise speed and endurance

close-coupled moderate-sweep canard delta
BVR combat energy management (acceleration, climb)

supersonic turn rates (sustained, instantaneous)

cruise speed and endurance

top speed

long arm moderate-sweep canard delta
BVR interception top speed

cruise speed and endurance

energy management (acceleration, climb)

tailless moderate-sweep delta

tailless high-sweep delta

Low-altitude strike low-altitude performance (speed, acceleration, range)

payload

tailed low-sweep wing
Long-range strike

Strategic bombardment

range

payload

optional: cruise speed, service ceiling

tailless moderate-sweep delta

tailed low-sweep wing

long-arm canard-delta

flying wing

Close air support fast transients (roll onset, pitch onset)

subsonic turn rates (instantaneous, sustained)

energy management (acceleration, climb)

cruise speed and endurance

combat endurance

damage tolerance

tailed no-sweep wing

close-coupled low/no-sweep canard wing

Reconnaissance high altitude performance (service ceilling, cruise speed, endurance)

range

payload

moderate-sweep delta wing
Patrol range

endurance

payload

tailed no-sweep wing
Transport range

payload

takeoff and landing

tailed low-sweep wing

tailed no-sweep wing

Design goal Characteristics required Engine configuration
Dogfight fast transients (roll onset, pitch onset)

subsonic-transonic turn rates (instantaneous, sustained)

energy management (acceleration, climb)

cruise speed and endurance

single-engined
BVR combat energy management (acceleration, climb)

supersonic turn rates (sustained, instantaneous)

cruise speed and endurance

top speed

payload

twin-engined
BVR interception top speed

cruise speed and endurance

energy management (acceleration, climb)

payload

twin-engined
Low-altitude strike low-altitude performance (speed, acceleration, range)

payload

damage tolerance

twin-engined
Long-range strike

Strategic bombardment

range

payload

optional: cruise speed, service ceiling

twin-engined

multi-engined

Close air support fast transients (roll onset, pitch onset)

subsonic turn rates (instantaneous, sustained)

energy management (acceleration, climb)

cruise speed and endurance

combat endurance

damage tolerance

payload

twin-engined
Reconnaissance high altitude performance (service ceilling, cruise speed, endurance)

range

multi-engined

twin-engined

single-engined

Patrol range

endurance

multi-engined

twin-engined

Transport range

payload

takeoff and landing

multi-engined

twin-engined

Design goal Characteristics required Engine type
Dogfight fast transients (roll onset, pitch onset)

subsonic-transonic turn rates (instantaneous, sustained)

energy management (acceleration, climb)

cruise (speed, endurance)

turbojet

low-bypass turbofan (BPR <0,4)

BVR combat energy management (acceleration, climb)

supersonic turn rates (sustained, instantaneous)

cruise speed and endurance

top speed

turbojet

low-bypass turbofan (BPR <0,4)

BVR interception top speed

cruise speed and endurance

energy management (acceleration, climb)

turbojet

low-bypass turbofan (BPR <0,4)

Low-altitude strike low-altitude performance (speed, acceleration, range)

payload

damage tolerance

moderate- to high- -bypass turbofan (BPR >0,4)
Long-range strike

Strategic bombardment

range

payload

high-bypass turbofan (BPR >0,9)

turboprop

Close air support fast transients (roll onset, pitch onset)

subsonic turn rates (instantaneous, sustained)

energy management (acceleration, climb)

cruise speed and endurance

combat endurance

damage tolerance

high-bypass turbofan (BPR >0,9)
Reconnaissance high altitude performance (service ceilling, cruise speed, endurance)

range

payload

turbojet

turbofan

Patrol range

endurance

payload

turboprop

piston

Transport range

payload

takeoff and landing

turboprop

piston

high-bypass turbofan (BPR >0,9)

Design goal Characteristics required Crew compartment
Dogfight quick decision cycle single-seat
BVR combat high information input

quick decision cycle

single-seat

two-seat

BVR interception high information input two-seat
Low-altitude strike quick decision cycle single-seat
Long-range strike

Strategic bombardment

long mission duration multi-seat
Close air support high information input

quick decision cycle

high information output (to ground troops)

two-seat

single-seat

Reconnaissance high information input

long mission duration

multi-seat
Patrol high information input

long mission duration

multi-seat
Transport long mission duration

low information input

multi-seat

two-seat

Design goal Characteristics required Primary sensor(s)
Dogfight high resolution

resistance to jamming

high probability of surprise (no emissions)

IRST

video

BVR combat high resolution

resistance to jamming

high probability of surprise (no emissions)

reliable ID

IRST
BVR interception long range

high volume search

radar
Low-altitude strike high resolution

resistance to jamming

high probability of surprise

reliable ID

FLIR

video

Long-range strike

Strategic bombardment

resistance to adverse meteorological conditions radar
Close air support high resolution

resistance to jamming

high probability of surprise

reliable ID

FLIR

video

Reconnaissance high resolution

resistance to jamming

high probability of surprise

reliable ID

IR

video

Patrol high resolution

resistance to jamming

reliable ID

high volume search

IR

video

radar

Transport resistance to adverse meteorologic conditions

high resolution

radar

IR

Design goal Characteristics required Canopy type
Dogfight good situational awareness bubble
BVR combat good situational awareness

low drag

bubble / semi-bubble
BVR interception low drag sunk
Low-altitude strike low drag sunk
Long-range strike

Strategic bombardment

low drag sunk
Close air support good situational awareness bubble
Reconnaissance low drag sunk
Patrol low drag sunk
Transport low drag sunk
Design goal Characteristics required Gun type
Dogfight quick reaction time (firing acceleration)

short flight time (high muzzle velocity)

high precision

high damage (heavy shell, high HE content)

25-30 mm revolver
BVR combat N/A (Not Applicable) N/A
BVR interception N/A N/A
Low-altitude strike high damage (heavy shell, high HE content)

large ammo load

25-30 mm rotary
Long-range strike

Strategic bombardment

N/A N/A
Close air support high damage

good precision

large ammo load

large number of firing passes

30-35 mm rotary

30+ mm linear action

Reconnaissance N/A N/A
Patrol N/A N/A
Transport N/A N/A
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7 replies

  1. For close air support’s characteristic, i will add small radius turn.
    Subsonic turn rate is important but it’s important too having a radius turn as small as possible to keep target in sight easily and reduce time between fire engagements.

    For dogfight’s charateristuc, i will add fuel efficiency (not far from “energy management” you mention, indeed).
    In dogfight particulary, the first to break combat cause of low fuel has few chance to stay alive.
    In dogfight, you can choose to stay in a “draw” position, taking few risks cause you know you have more fuel or more saving fuel capabilities than you oponent. Waiting him to break then, following him to shoot. These two points(“last to break” and “draw as a tactics”) give some “comfort” in a pilot’s mind engaging a dogfight.

    • In dogfight ,if you dont have irisT which has very good defensive capabilities and 180 engagement, bith contenders die, even if an f22 would encounter a mig 21 with proper wvr missile: that is why has not much sense to trow a modern and expensive fgihter in wvr.

      • Don’t understand what you mean by “both contenders die without irisT type missile.
        I was thinking about dogfight canon, maybe that why i don’t understand.

        In a wvr combat before canon part, indeed, with same type of missile on both side, at the first crossing, the game can be equal , but if it comes to manoeuver just after, fuel efficiency and turn rate will be crucial.

      • That is an assumption that is at best untested. Seeing how WVR missiles achieved 60-70% Pk against largerly nonmaneuvering targets, I wouldn’t put much money into it.

      • R “Don’t understand what you mean by “both contenders die without irisT type missile.”
        Very few missiles have 180 degrees launch window; iris t has also very high intercept ratio vs incoming missiles.

  2. It’d be interesting to consider the possibility of maybe a single engined CAS aircraft as well.

    As I’ve noted before, another possibility is a turboprop driven CAS aircraft, for the loiter time.

    With BVR combat, I think that you will want to have an aircraft that is at least a decent dogfighter, in case you do get intercepted. Something like a tailess close coupled delta variant of the Su-27 like I’ve described before I think is the best compromise. It won’t have the transient performance of a smaller aircraft due to size and wingspan, but it will still be very lethal. You could also go with what the Eurofighter has done with the long arm canard (such an aircraft might be a hybrid between the Su-27 variants with their high fuel fraction and the Eurofighter), although you’d want to consider deleting the radar.

  3. The latest F-35 report:
    http://www.pogo.org/straus/issues/weapons/2016/pentagon-tester-warns-against-f-35.html

    It’s comically bad. This would be amusing, were it not so tragic.

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