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Archive for the ‘weapons’ Category

Another consequence of very high flight to maintenance ratios in aircraft – vulnerability to disasters

Posted by altandmain on October 15, 2018

This article discusses how flight to maintenance ratios can leave air forces exposed to the unexpected, including natural disasters.

A high flight to maintenance ratio is one of the big issues in fighter aircraft that are complex. It is often an issue that does not go acknowledged during the procurement stage of military spending, but has immense consequences. Lower is better in this case, because it means less maintenance is needed per hour of flight.

Flight to maintenance ratio, roughly means that for every hour of flight, how many man maintenance hours does one need on average to keep the aircraft operational? A high flight to maintenance ratio means that more man hours are needed for every hour of flight.

The B2 stealth bomber, for example has the worst flight to maintenance ratio, and as a result seldom flies.

Hurricanes and other losses

Recently, a hurricane struck the United States. What occurred is that the hurricane, Hurricane Michael, took a sudden turn that was not expected and changed course towards the Florida Panhandle, where Tyndall Air Base is located. Tyndall Air Force Base is a major US Air Force base, where many F-22 stealth fighters are stationed.

There were 55 F-22 aircraft stationed there, but only 33 were moved out and the status of the remaining 22 are not known. It would seem that some were destroyed by the hurricane.

It is likely based on the comments that the USAF could simply not evacuate them quickly enough.

Air Force officials have not disclosed the whereabouts of the remaining 22 planes, other than to say that a number of aircraft were left at the base because of maintenance or safety reasons.

An Air Force spokeswoman, Maj. Malinda Singleton, would not confirm that any of the aircraft left behind were F-22s.

But photos and video from the wreckage of the base showed the distinctive contours of the F-22’s squared tail fins and angled vertical stabilizers amid a jumble of rubble in the base’s largest building, Hangar 5. Another photo shows the distinctive jet in a smaller hangar that had its doors and a wall ripped off by wind.

All of the hangars at the base were damaged, Major Singleton said Friday. “We anticipate the aircraft parked inside may be damaged as well,” she said, “but we won’t know the extent until our crews can safely enter those hangars and make an assessment.”

It is likely based on the comments that the USAF could simply not evacuate them quickly enough. The extent of the damage, if you read the full article, is not yet known, but appears to be extremely extensive.

The reason why aircraft like the F-22 are going to be affected by this is because stealth aircraft have a set of unique characteristics that make them vulnerable:

  1. A very high flight to maintenance ratio means that they simply cannot take off quickly enough. They are down for maintenance when they need to move most urgently.
  2. There are fewer of them (since there are less than 200 F-22s due to the costs to manufacture them and because the program was terminated early), so any losses will be a larger percentage of total fleet losses.
  3. Where they can evacuate to is limited. Stealth aircraft like the F-22 or B2 need special climate controlled hangars and have a lengthy supply chain.
  4. The sheer complexity means that there will be unexpected downtown of these aircraft. From the article below:

The high-tech F-22 is notoriously finicky and not always flight-worthy. An Air Force report this year found that on average, only about 49 percent of F-22s were mission ready at any given time — the lowest rate of any fighter in the Air Force. The total value of the 22 fighters that may remain at Tyndall is about $7.5 billion.

This is inherently exposed in not just a war against a competent enemy, but also in peacetime against natural disasters.

A brutal reality of this world is that disasters that occur suddenly will happen. Whether they be hurricane/typhoons, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, or any other disaster, a smaller fleet with a high flight to maintenance ratio means that the entire fleet of aircraft is far more vulnerable to being caught by surprise by these events.

The F-35 would also be affected

The F-35 JSF is significant in that it will be replacing the majority of aircraft in not just the USAF fleet, but also several NATO allies.

The F-35 also suffers from a high flight to maintenance ratio.

Four years into their operational career, F-35 fighters are expected to require between 41.75 and 50.1 maintenance man-hours (MMH) per flight hours, or about three times as many as most fighter aircraft currently operated by Western air forces.

Considering both the F-35 and F-22 are in this situation, this will leave the fleets of Western air forces far more vulnerable, not just to enemies in a war, but also to natural disasters and other unexpected events.

What would be the solution?

The solution is to procure cheaper aircraft (so that more aircraft can be procured and losses would be a small percentage of the fleet). These aircraft would be more widely dispersed, so that they are harder to destroy, either by an enemy, or in this case by a natural disaster.

Picard’s FLX proposals are a good step forward to protecting the Western air forces against losses like this one.

The existing aircraft would be retired. This is not without historical precedent. The F-14 was retired in part due to its unfavorable flight to maintenance ratio.

The decision to incorporate the Super Hornet and decommission the F-14 is mainly due to high amount of maintenance required to keep the Tomcats operational. On average, an F-14 requires nearly 50 maintenance hours for every flight hour, while the Super Hornet requires five to 10 maintenance hours for every flight hour.

Not only does a more complex aircraft mean fewer aircraft due to the expensive unit costs, but it also means fewer sorties per aircraft because they will be down for maintenance. This is on top of the greater vulnerability to natural disasters.

A historical perspective

Natural disasters, in the history of war, have played a key role in swinging the outcomes of many wars in the past. It would be extremely inadvisable to think that modern armies are immune to the effects of unexpected natural disasters and other weather events.

Furthermore, if we consider the effects of a natural disaster on these aircraft, what could the effects of a surprise attack be from a competent enemy? With so few aircraft concentrated in a handful of bases, and with such a high flight to maintenance ratio, the losses could be quite bad indeed. These aircraft would be in known locations on the ground. Forget for a moment about being radar stealthy in the air and worry about being exposed on the ground. Prudence would demand that we reduce our vulnerability to such events.

In a way, the OODA loop is much slower with these aircraft. Since it takes so long to maintain each aircraft, the ability for an air for with a large percentage of its total aircraft with high flight to maintenance ratios to react to a changing battlefield. It would take more time for example, for intelligence to be relayed and then a sortie generated in response to that intelligence. There are fewer aircraft, concentrated in a handful of locations, and they need more time before going to a sortie to prepare.

Clearly the solution is to procure more aircraft that are less complex, cheaper, and easier to maintain. This will not only mean fewer losses due to unexpected events, but also a much faster OODA loop.

This is an extremely costly lesson to learn, but fortunately one that was learned in peacetime and not in a war.

On a final note, I wish the best of luck to everyone affected by Hurricane Michael.

 

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Posted in weapons | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Stealth fighter characteristics and requirements overview

Posted by Picard578 on August 8, 2018

Introduction

Stealth fighters are spreading, yet very few to none have what is necessary for a stealth fighter to be truly effective. Some are better than others – PAK FA would eat F-35 for lunch and spit out the bones – but all have serious flaws and are, in essence, half-baked experiments in stealth fighter design. So what would an ideal stealth fighter be? (Note: It may not be possible for some countries to build such a fighter – an optimization for operational stealth might fly in the face of other design requirements).

Requirements

Survivability

Main idea behind stealth is to improve survivability. Survivability is one of the most important characteristics of modern weapons systems, yet it is far more complex than generally appreciated. It does not mean merely avoiding getting hit, but rather surviving to carry out the mission – in tactical terms, aircraft that had been forced to withdraw due to lack of fuel or could never take off due to a big hole in tarmac is as “dead” as one that had been shot down.

Lethality

Stealth improves lethality as well. Effectiveness of weapons depends in large part on employment range: it is not the same thing to shoot from 10 or 100 kilometers.

Endurance

In order to actually make use of the above, aircraft needs to be capable of getting to targets and back. Required endurance necessarily depends on mission profile: will the fighter be employed defensively or offensively? Since stealth fighters are by nature offensive weapons, they will require greater endurance than non-stealth fighters; but defensive stealth design is possible to envision as well. Endurance should be measured by combat tasks: e.g. acceleration from subsonic cruise speed to combat cruise speed followed by climb to operational altitude and acceleration to top speed in order to fire missiles. This could be more precisely specified as:

  • Ingress at 15.000 ft

  • Acceleration from Mach 0,9 to 1,2 at 15.000 ft

  • Climb to 30.000 ft and acceleration to Mach 1,7 (assumed dry cruise speed)

  • Cruise at Mach 1,7

  • Maximum deceleration turn from Mach 1,7 to Mach 0,8 at 30.000 ft and maximum power

Training

All the above characteristics depend on how well trained the pilot is. A well-trained pilot will be able to optimize aircraft employment, weapons employment etc., while badly trained pilot will unnecessarily waste weapons and fuel. As Iraqis discovered in 1991., 2003. and 2014., it is no use to give a rifle to a monkey. A well-trained pilot in shit aircraft will always beat a badly-trained pilot in excellent aircraft. Usefulness of BVR combat in recent conflicts was largely due to enemies being incapable of proper defensive action due to lack of training and equipment failures (no MAWS, no RWR). Human factors trump technology, yet this is not sufficiently realized in many circles. One good thing about newer fighters are their extensive networking capabilities, which can significantly improve performance – assuming, of course, networking works against a peer opponent.

Characteristics

Survivability

Ground survivability

No tactics are as useful as cheating, and in air combat, ultimate cheating is destroying the enemy before he has had a chance to get into air in the first place. Even the most “stealthy” fighter aircraft would find its stealth useless to hide it if its air base can be found as easily as most Western bases can. Fighter aircraft spends most of its time – two-thirds at very least – on the ground, and it is precisely there that it is the most vulnerable. Yet most Western fighters are not really optimized for road basing, let alone dirt-strip basing (even if most can fly from roads in extremis, sustained road operations are much more difficult). A proper road-based fighter needs to have low maintenance requirements, low fuel usage, low wing span and ability to operate from dirt-strip and muddy roads. For stealth fighter, this means very resillient radar-absorbent skin (not paint!) as well as robust undercarriage and FOD-resistant engine. Undercarriage should have good shock absorption and large, low-pressure tires, as well as mud and FOD protection. Nose wheel should be mounted behind the air intakes to prevent any FOD damage to the engine.

Further, fighter should have very good STOL, acceleration and climb performance to escape, if necessary, any attack against the air base itself. While not necessarily as important as it was in pre-missile era, altitude is still an advantage, meaning that fighters should reach combat altitude before enemy attackers come into range.

Combat survivability

By its nature, stealth fighter relies on stealth to protect it. What this means is minimizing radar, infrared and visual signatures. Radar signature is minimized by obvious means: proper airframe shaping, internal weapons carriage, hidden engine front and application of radar absorbent materials. These measures are especially effective against fire-control X-band radars, but are less effective as frequency decreases. VHF radar has significantly improved performance against stealth fighters, while HF radar can ignore stealth alltogether. However, neither can be employed on fighters or missiles.

Infrared signature can be minimized by optimizing both design and performance characteristics. Supercruise capability is especially important here, as it allows supersonic flight without using extremely detectable afterburner. Engine should have an additional cooling channel and external nozzle compared to “normal” fighter engines. Bypass ratio is an opern question: high bypass ratio would reduce engine IR signature at subsonic speed, but low bypass ratio would improve cruise performance and reduce engine power necessary for any given cruise speed. For an air superiority fighter, low bypass ratio engine should be chosen.

Visual signature is minimized via small size, which also helps reduce infrared signature. Another factors are camouflage paint and especially smokeless engine.

Electromagnetic signature has two aspects: incoming emissions (radar) and outgoing emissions. Enemy radar is defeated primarily via shaping for minimum radar cross section. This means a smooth shape with carefully controlled reflections, no corner reflectors, or any random protrusions. Consequently, weapons and sensors must be carried internally: hence faceted IRST/EOS housing on F-35. Radar cross section (RCS) should be based on in-air measurements, as different aspects, air conditions, condensation trails and engine emissions can affect RCS compared to ground-based model measurements. This is just as important for assessing fighter’s infrared signature, if not even more so. Measurement should utilize radars of different frequencies as well, as different aspects of radar signature (shaping, contrails etc.) have different impact on different frequencies, and shaping grows less effective as frequencies increase, being much less effective against VHF radars and irrelevant against HF over-the-horizon radars. Second aspect is emissions control. Fighter itself must minimize or eliminate all outgoing electromagnetic emissions. This means minimal to no radar usage, directional outgoing data links (if any), and either offboard or directional electronic countermeasures. Radar is especially important as it is by far the most powerful source of electromagnetic emission on the aircraft.

However, stealth fighter cannot rely on stealth to always protect it. It may come up against enemies with good IR sensors, be forced to defend a (relatively) stationary asset, or be caught in a position where range is too close. It might run out of BVR missiles and be forced to enter a dogfight. As such, it needs to have backup options: good self-defense suite, good maneuverability and cruise capability.

In order to avoid being surprised, fighter should have 360* coverage with most important sensors – RWR, LWR and MAWS. Radar will naturally be positioned forward, and should be capable of being used in active and passive modes both – with latter itself having options for picking up reflections by radar of an emitting friendly fighter, or else picking up enemy radar emissions – a giant RWR, essentially. IRST will also be forward-oriented, but IR MAWS should be configured so as to allow it being used as a short-ranged IRST. This will allow pilot to “see through” the airframe. Fighter should also be capable of cruising at speeds of Mach 1,5 to 1,8 for at least 20 to 30 minutes in combat area. This however may be problematic to achieve in a stealth design, but 15 minutes cruise should be absolute minimum. For this reason, a turbojet engine may have to be considered.

Electronic countermeasures will have easier time due to stealth fighter requiring less powerful signals to spoof enemy targeting regardless of the range. However, infrared missiles will present a significant threat as IR signature cannot be significantly suppressed. Enemy radar missiles may be jammed by AESA jammers alternating between two fighters in a “blinking” manner, forcing the missile in a home-on-jam mode to to alternate between two targets, expending fuel and energy.

In maneuverability, stealth fighter will likely be at disadvantage due to its very nature: need to carry weapons internally. This means that it will be larger and heavier than an enemy with comparable normal payload. F-22 can carry eight missiles internally; Gripen E, with similar weapons load, is less than half the empty (or combat, for that matter) weight. Stealth fighter might gain some advantage due to having no interference drag from carrying weapons internally, but simple conformal carriage can eliminate most of these advantages, even when ignoring that smaller fighter will likely have maneuvering advantage – less impact from weapons carriage matters much less once one figures in the fact that baseline / starting point is not the same. However, maneuverability of a stealth fighter can still be improved (kept competitive) by ensuring low wing loading, high thrust-to-weight ratio, good transient characteristics (control response) and small size. Transient characteristics in particular can be improved by including close-coupled canards in the design. Since transient maneuverability is the most important aspect of maneuverability, canards should be included. Canards can be high (above the wing) or coplanar with the wing. In either case, some stealth will be sacrificed, but maneuverability benefits should be significant. Sustained turn performance is comparatively irrelevant, but for a stealth fighter meant to fight at beyond visual range, acceleration and climb performances are crucial.

Lethality

Beyond visual range missiles achieved good performance in recent wars. To fight at beyond visual range, fighter must be capable of identifying its targets at beyond visual range as well. While in ideal conditions this can be done via various mechanisms such as radar NCTR, various factors such as interference and jamming, unavailability of AWACS etc. can render radar ID too unreliable. That BVR missiles were used in the first place was due to presence of radar NCTR, persistent AWACS availability, which when combined with incompetent enemies led to excellent effectiveness. In more adverse conditions, radar-guided beyond-visual-range missiles cannot be relied on. This problem can be mitigated in two ways.

First, stealth fighter should be equipped with IR guided BVR missiles, such as French MICA IR. Combined with onboard IRST, it will allow both identification and engagement of unccoperative targets in ECM-heavy environments. Aside from being much more ECM-resistant, IR missiles have inherently greater lethality than radar-guided missiles. Meanwhile imaging IRST is the only reliable means of identification in ECM-heavy environment, unless both sides leave IFF turned on (which they may do if two sides utilize same aircraft types). Radar imaging cannot be used if radar is jammed. It is also the only way of ensuring reliable surprise due to being a passive sensors: radar is likely to give away fighter’s position, unless data is being fed from an offboard platform (possibility of which is questionable) or the enemy does not have a good radar warning receiver. Against Third World air forces, AESA radar can be left safely on. Radar itself should be capable of functioning as RWR and using that data (plus data from IRST) to optimize low-energy emissions for fire control purposes; in essence, radar becomes a rangefinding system.

Second, stealth fighter should have good cruise performance – that is, cruise speed and endurance. Cruise, not maximum, speed will allow it to dictate engagement terms and potentially catch enemies unaware (most fighters do not have sensors covering the rear aspect with the exception of various warning devices). It will thus be capable of choosing when, how and whether to engage. High cruise speed and endurance will also serve to extend its missile range and reduce enemy missile range from rear-quarter attacks – area where all fighters, but especially stealth ones, are relatively most vulnerable from.

Further, narrow-beam two-way datalinks should be ensured. While they still risk giving away fighter’s location, data links should allow it to utilize offboard sensory data for engaging targets. In theory, such a system could be utilized to allow some degree of a completely passive rangefinding. Datalinks should be utilized to share sensory feeds between fighters and from AWACS, as well as for communication. They should not be utilized for command; instead, pilots and flight leaders in particular should be left maximum freedom of action based on mission goals and situation overview provided via datalink.

If the enemy has not been shot down at BVR, and just letting him go is not an option, stealth fighter may need to close to visual range. As noted above, stealth fighter will be at disadvantage in maneuverability. This means that, assuming it has any advantage at all, stealth fighter will have advantage in energy fight: carrying out what are basically “hit and run” attacks instead of engaging in a turning fight. This however is extremely risky in a modern battlefield, as a well-placed IR missile shot can still force it into a turning fight where it will be at a disadvantage. Energy fight will also require significant fuel reserve. Combined with supercruise requirement, this leads to 30% fuel fraction being absolute minimum, 35% a possibly adequate value, and 40% to 45% to be achieved if possible. However, due to design limitations of a stealth fighter, anything above 30% fuel fraction may prove unrealistic for an air superiority design. Meanwhile E-M requirement means high thrust-to-weight ratio.

Stealth fighter should not be too expensive – losses happen, and numbers do matter. Peacetime fighter fleet should include enough extra (reserve) fighters that pilots do not lose out on flight hours due to repairs, maintenance or accidents. This should also include a number of “spare parts” fighters, to be cannibalized in case that spare parts are not delivered in time. Ideally, each pilot should have two fighters, so as to spread wear over two airframes and allow aircraft to undergo proper maintenance. As stealth itself causes additional costs compared to conventional designs, fighter should be as small as possible.

Generally, a fighter in good position to shoot will achieve a kill – this was proven in wars from World War I to Gulf Wars. However, proliferation of missile warners may put that into question: importance of surprise in achieving kills was based on the fact that it was generally too late for a surprised target to do anything once “woken up” (typically by being shot at). In more than a few cases in modern wars – such as the case of Yugoslav MiGs in 1999 – enemy pilots only noticed they were under attack once missile detonated close to their fighters – or flew harmlessly past the canopy. But introduction of MAWS, especially IR MAWS, means that surprise becomes impossible unless one goes for a gun kill (assuming, of course, that MAWS is not configured to warn for fighters, and since modern IR MAWS is basically a high-resolution IR camera, even that will likely not be a surprise). If MAWS notices incoming missile early enough, pilot has time for evasive action. Therefore, visual-range performance of a stealth fighter is still crucial for its overall air combat performance. BVR missiles will still be important for scoring against Third World air forces, as well as for opening up for a closer, more lethal engagement. This means that MAWS IR cameras should be capable of feeding image as well as targeting and ID data to pilot’s HUD or HMD. This will make job of keeping track of targets in both BVR and dogfight much easier.

Training and tactics

Training should be optimized for operations in fours and pairs. Any larger formations harm fighter’s lethality, be it at within visual range or beyond visual range – larger number of smaller formations has advantage over smaller number of larger formations, even if larger formations have overall greater number of fighters. Large engagements in general should be avoided in order to achieve maximum kill-loss ratio. Fighter itself should be highly reliable and easy to maintain in order to facilitate “live” training.

Training should be literally “ground up”. Stealth starts and ends on the ground – a flaming wreck in a blown-up air base is not particularly stealthy, or particularly useful. Any proper stealth fighter should be designed to operate from hidden air bases. This means easy maintenance, low logistical requirements, small size and road basing capability at minimum. Each fighter should come with a fuel truck or two, a spare parts truck, ammunition truck, lightweight mobile maintenance and repair equipment. Additional equipment shoud include enough camouflage netting – effective in visual, radar and IR spectrums – to hide fighter as well as its entire support apparatus. A fighter without that is not a proper stealth fighter. Currently, Gripen C is far more stealthy than F-35 – just in different area, but people who focus only on in-flight stealth cannot understand that.

Conclusion

Ideal stealth fighter would be, in essence, Stealth!Gripen – certainly not an overweight monster like F-35. However, for maximum effectiveness, it should still be supported by non-stealth fighters, exploiting “cracks” these fighters create. Some of these non-stealth fighters could be Western versions of Flankers – large, twin-engined, two-seat aircraft with huge radar and capable of dirt strip operations. These could then act as command fighters.

Posted in proposals, weapons | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

The return of a light tank

Posted by Picard578 on April 25, 2018

Adapted from https://hrvatski-vojnik.hr/menu-2018-godina/item/4067-povratak-lakog-tenka.html

US Army is seeking a new light tank. Mobile Protected Firepower (MPF) is a new vehicle which will significantly strenghten US Army infantry brigades. The vehicle will be component part of Infantry Brigade Combat Team, and will provide direct fire support. Tank will be used in conditions where distance, terrain or time constraints prevent deployment of heavy armour, essentially fulfilling the role of Stryker MGS.

Light tank will provide infantry with ability to counter enemy armour, fortifications, and to provide freedom of maneuver. Previous concept of light tank, M551 Sheridan, was a failure because of a low-pressure gun intended to fire guided missiles, which turned out too unreliable.

New tank has to be air mobile, with at least C-17 and if possible C-130 being able to carry it. As such, it has to have mass of no more than 32 tonnes. Main armament will be gun of either 105 or 120 mm calibre, capable of destroying armoured vehicles from motion, in all weather conditions. MPF must also be able to traverse obstacles, particularly in urban terrain; as such vehicle will be tracked. Vehicles within ICBT have to be able to operate for 24 hours without refuelling, and armour has to protect against small arms fire and shrapnel. As there are no existing vehicles fulfilling the requirements, new vehicle will have to be developed.

After prototypes are tested, two final choices will enter EMD (Engineering and Manufacturing Development). Each manufacturer will deliver 12 preserial production vehicles, and production should begin in 2022. Production is planned at 26 vehicles in 2022., 28 in 2023., and 50 vehicles per year from 2024. to 2032. First operational unit should receive MPFs in 2025. Price should not be above 6,4 million USD per vehicle.

Candidates are BAE Systems, General Dynamics Land Systems (GDLS) and Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC). BAE Systems is going forward with modernized M8 AGS. Basic vehicle has aluminum armour and, with combat weight of 19,5 tonnes, could be parachute-deployed from aircraft, and 3 to 4 can fit into C-17. Level 2 protection against light cannons mass is 23 tonnes, and with protection against calibres up to 30 mm mass is 25,5 tonnes. General Dynamics will likely base vehicle on Griffin demonstrator, with 120 mm gun and ASCOD / Ajax chassis. SAIC vehicle is based on chassis from Singaporean NGAFV IFV and turret from Belgian CMI Defence company. NGAFV in IFV variant has mass of 29 tonnes, and remotely controlled turret with 30 mm Bushmaster cannon and 7,62 mm coaxial machine gun. Crew is 3 plus 8 infantry, with 70 kph top speed, 24,5 HP/t. MPF would have 105 mm turret Cockerill 3105 with protection up to STANAG 5 level. NGAFV with Cockerill turret would weight 32,5 tonnes.

Posted in news, technology, weapons | Tagged: , | 11 Comments »

Balancing a fighter design

Posted by Picard578 on September 1, 2017

Introduction

Producing a balanced fighter design is a key element of an effective air force. Yet it is also very hard, as tactical capability has to be balanced against strategical capability. “The best is the enemy of good enough” holds true for fighter design as it does for everything else. Fighter design is a balance of compromises, and focusing too much on one side of design leaves gaping holes in the other side of design. Amongst modern fighters, F-22 is tactically an excellent design but is garbage when it comes to strategic capability. F-35 is tactically good for certain ground attack missions (SEAD, DEAD) but worthless for other ground attack missions (CAS) and air superiority, and also strategically worthless. On the other side of the spectrum, original Su-27 and MiG-29 designs were adequate in strategic ability, but were tactically very lacking to say at the least. The only well balanced design in existence is likely Swedish Saab Gripen, with some other designs – F-16, F-18, Tejas and Rafale – being merely adequate.

Tactical capability

Situational awareness and emissions stealth

Sensoy suit should be primarily passive. This way, fighter will be able to achieve surprise in aerial combat. Since surprise is number one issue when gaining kills, all active emissions by fighter itself – radar, radio, dana links etc. – should be avoided. Where such emissions are necessary, they should be provided to the fighter by offboard means, such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and airborne warning and control systems (AWACS). This will allow fighter to achieve surprise, and deny enemy the opportunity to use fighter’s own emissions to find and possibly even target it. Issue with this approach is that IRST has limited rangefinding ability, though its angular resolution is superior to that of the radar. Rangefinding options exist, but passive rangefinding is comparatively imprecise, while active rangefinding warns the opponent. While a degree of surprise is achieved merely by initial detection being passive, even if active rangefinding gives away fighter’s presence, this still limits missile probability of kill as the enemy has time to prepare while a targeting solution is calculated and missile launches and traverses the distance. Completely passive surveillance and targeting avoids that issue, but at the price of more limited situational awareness due to range and scan time issues. IRST also has the advantage of not being easily jammed. Midwave IRST is better for ground attack aircraft due to lower susceptibility to aerosoil, while longwave IRST is better for air superiority fighters as it is less affected by water droplets, and can see straight through thin cloud cover. IRST also allows for detection of stealth fighters at useful tactical distances, and just as importantly, allows for somewhat reliable identification of targets, thus making BVR combat possible. By using PIRATE IRST as a basis, subsonic fighters may be detected at 90-160 km, depending on the altitude and aspect. Supersonic fighters may be detected at 250-500 km distance, again depending on the altitude and aspect.

Radar may be provided either onboard, or through offboard means. If radar is provided in an integrated package, care should be taken that a quest for radar performance does not compromise other fighter’s characteristics, such as size, maintenance or flight performance. However, small fighters are limited by radar’s output and aperture size. For this reason, and due to radar giving away fighter’s presence, an integrated radar is not an ideal solution. Another possibility for an onboard radar is a radar pod. This way, radar is not limited by the size of the fighter’s nose cone, and does not have to be carried by all fighters in a squadron. Radar may also be carried by a command fighter or an AWACS, preferably both. Command fighters would be large, twin-engined, two-seat fighter aircraft with extensive sensory suite. Ideally, they would have nose, cheek and rear sensory arrays – consisting of RADAR and IRST, and possibly LIDAR – as well as standard radar, laser and missile warners, providing a 360* situational awareness. Due to their relative vulnerability, they would be kept back while providing sensory feed to other fighters. Last option is AWACS. This aircraft is even larger and more vulnerable than a command fighter, but also has even more powerful radar. Due to relatively large crew, AWACS is an ideal coordination center, but even so maximum autonomy should be provided to fighter pilots and flights. Overall, a combination of radar pods, command fighters and AWACS aircraft seems to be an ideal solution. A radarless fighter design can be seen here. Offensive fighter however would likely not be able to rely on either AWACS or ground radars, and should thus be equipped with its own onboard radars. Ideally, it would have nose, cheek and tail X-band arrays, and leading edge L-band arrays.

Fighter should also have good cockpit visibility, with bubble canopy and general nose area design optimized so as to provide good over-the-nose, over-the-side and rearward visibility. Canopy would ideally be frameless, though a separate windshield may be provided so as to protect the pilot in the case of mid-air canopy failure (e.g. accidental ejection of the canopy).

Pilot training

Pilot is the most important part of the aircraft, and thus pilot training is the most crucial for performance, including survivability. Pilot training heavily outweighs any technical concerns. In war, 10% best pilots score 60-80% of all kills. During Battle of Poland in1939., a few Polish pilots became aces in 225 mph open cockpit biplanes while fighting against 375 mph Me-109 modern monoplane fighters. Meanwhile, during 1940 Battle for France, French and British pilots did poorly despite their fighters being as good as German ones, due to using incorrect tactics. Later Battle for Britain was not lost because of fighter production, but because Germans were incapable of recovering pilot losses: while 50% of British pilots shot down were recovered safely, all German pilots were lost due to fighting over a hostile territory. Likewise, air war against Germany in late 1944 was won because Germans were not able to replace fighter pilots at adequate rate.

Training is made easier by simulators, but live training in actual aircraft is still irreplaceable. Consequently, pilot has to be able to fly regularly, and often – one hour per day or more. To fulfill this requirement, aircraft has to have several characteristics. It has to have low maintenance downtime, low operating cost and high system reliability. Peacetime availability has to be high to very high, which is achieved by having adequate ground crews as well as an excess of spare parts and fuel available. Ideally, there would be an excess number of fighter aircraft compared to pilots, for two main reasons. First, such a situation would mean that pilots are not limited in training and combat by their machines. If a fighter aircraft is not available due to damage or maintenance, pilot simply uses a spare one. Second, it would provide a pool of spare fighters to be cannibalized if spare parts are not available for whatever reason. This situation should be avoided as much as possible, but expecting it to never happen is moronic. To achieve this however, fighter aircraft has to have both low procurement cost and low operating cost, combined with high reliability. All these requirements lead to a final requirement for a small, simple fighter design. Fighter should also be single-role, as single-role aircraft and especially single-role pilots are far superior in their designed role than aircraft and pilots carrying out multiple roles.

Human-machine interface

In order to simplify both training and operation, allowing pilot to focus on tactics instead of managing the aircraft, interface has to be simple and intuitive. This can be achieved through usage of design utilizing large touch screens with as few switches and buttons as possible. Another important factor is the ability to optimize HUD/HMD symbology so as to avoid cluttering. This would ideally include the ability to quickly switch between different programmed HUD layouts, as required by the situation. Layouts themselves should be as minimalist as possible. This would reduce the amount of information forced onto the pilot by the aircraft systems, allowing him to focus on actual combat. Each pilot should be given possibility to personalize HUD and screen layouts. Information should be presented in a graphic form as much as possible, with numbers and letters being used only where absolutely necessary.

Physical stealth

Aircraft should have as low visual, IR and EM signature as possible. Visually, this means that fighter itself should be small, less than 15 meters in length and 10 meters in wingspan. It should also be painted light gray, and have as few protrusions as possible. Care should be taken to ensure that engines have as little smoke emissions as possible, regardless of the operating conditions, as smoke can increase visual detection distance by a factor of 3 to 5. As noted before, situational awareness should be provided primarily through passive means, and aircraft should have an option of IR BVRAAM.

While internal weapons carriage is not an option due to other concerns, radar cross section should also be minimized. There are several approaches which can minimize RCS on conventional fighters. First, airframe should be optimized so that there is a minimum number of unnecessary protrusions – everything should be flush with the airframe. Refueling probe can be internal, or else aircraft could use boom refuelling so that fighter itself has no protrusions. Missiles should be carried conformally, with ideally two wingtip stations and two to four body stations allowing for conformal carriage. This way, missile rail as well as a gap between the missile and aircraft’s airframe would be eliminated. Missiles themselves should have retractable wings, which would eliminate scattering from the missiles as well as the possibility of missile wings acting as corner reflectors. Aircraft’s wings and canards should both be canted – downwards for wings, upwards for canards – not only to achieve adequate separation for aerodynamic purposes, but also to avoid forming a corner reflector with vertical stabilizer. This approach would also prevent missile winglets, if conventional missiles are carried on wingtip stations, from forming a corner reflector with coplanar radar source.

In IR spectrum, aircraft should be capable of supercruise so as to minimize the need for afterburner. This should be reinforced by having high thrust-to-weight ratio, even on dry thrust. Consequently, engine should be capable of achieving high percentage of total thrust without afterburner, pointing to a low bypass ratio, possibly even a turbojet. Engine woud have dual nozzles, with outer nozzle hiding the hotter inner nozzle as well as the hottest portion of afterburner. Additional cooling channel may also be provided, coupled with the outer nozzle. This cooling channel would utilize cool air from the boundary section layer, instead of the hotter air provided by the engine itself. Aircraft should be aerodynamically well designed and small, so as to minimize the engine emissions necessary. Air exhaust for the electronics cooling would lead into the engine air duct, so the hot air would be ejected with already superheated engine exhaust.

For a multirole fighter, acoustic stealth is also important. This means limiting the aircraft size, weight and thus engine power. Aerodynamic design should also be with as few protrusions as possible in order to eliminate irregularities in the air flow.

Weapons

Weapons should allow both quick reaction during close combat and silent kills during long-range combat. As a result, normally used weapons would be 30 mm revolver gun, short-range IR missile, medium-range IR and dual mode RF/anti-radiation missiles, and long-range dual mode RF/anti-radiation missiles. Missile ranges should be in brackets of 25, 50, 100, 150, 300 and 500 kilometers. Going with noted, IR missile option should be present for missile ranges of 25, 50 and 100 kilometers, with RF/AR missiles being available for ranges of 50 kilometers and greater. Usage of IR missiles would result in improved reliability as well as reduced vulnerability to countermeasures.

Fighter should have at least one onboard kill in adverse conditions. Assumed probability of kill used here are 0,31 for revolver cannon, 0,26 for rotary gun, 0,15 for IR WVRAAM, 0,11 for IR BVRAAM and 0,07 for RF BVRAAM against uncooperative targets. Against cooperative targets, Pk values assumed will be 1 for gun, 0,73 for IR WVRAAM, 0,59 for IR BVRAAM and 0,46 for RF BVRAAM (pilot training and situational awareness are the primary determinants of aircraft’s ability to avoid the missile). With four conformal stations – two wingtip and two body stations – and four wing stations being assumed, fighter should be able to carry eight missiles, plus 6 gun bursts to allow for two kills. In “stealth” configuration, with two IR WVRAAM and two IR BVRAAM, total number of kills is 2,38 against uncooperative targets and 8,64 against cooperative targets. If normal configuration is assumed to be two IR WVRAAM, two IR BVRAAM and four RF BVRAAM, total number of kills should be 2,66 against uncooperative targets and 10,48 against cooperative targets. BVR missiles overall have limited effectiveness against fighter aircraft, and are mostly useful against large targets such as AWACS or transport aircraft. They are useful when pursuing a retreating target due to longer range, and can be used to force the enemy into unfavourable situation for the merge. It should also be noted that the missile effectiveness noted here is for visual range only; at BVR, BVRAAM Pk is halved compared to the values noted.

In order to maximize kill probability at beyond visual range, BVRAAM should be of a ramjet design, so as to maintain thrust during the terminal phase. Long-range BVRAAMs could combine ramjet primary missile with solid-fuel rocket secondary stage, coasting in a ballistic path until close enough to target. Unless this is done, there is no chance of a BVR missile hitting an aware target outside the visual range, as it will lack energy and maneuvering capacity to do so – probabilities of kill noted earlier are all achieved within visual range. Probability of kill at altitude is low even with maneuvering ability intact. A missile that pulls 40 g at sea level will only pull 13 g at 10.000 meters and 2,85 g at 20.000 meters, unless 40 g is a structural limit. AIM-9 for example can pull 40 g at SL and at 10.000 ft, and 35 g at 20.000 ft. At 40.000 ft, AIM-9 should be able to pull no more than 13 g. Meanwhile, F-16 for example can sustain 9 g at up to 10.000 ft, and Rafale can sustain 9 g at 40.000 ft. In terms of more relevant (for missile evasion) instantaneous turn performance, F-16 can pull 9 g at altitudes up to 35.000 ft; at 40.000 ft, maximum limit is 7 g, and 5 g for most of the envelope. Missile on the other hand needs at least five times the g performance of a fighter aircraft to achieve a hit, possibly even more (lowering the speed of a missile does not improve turn rate as missiles typically operate well below their corner speed). As it can be seen, even AIM-9 is very unlikely to hit a maneuvering F-16 at 20.000 ft, and basically impossible to hit it at 40.000 ft. As a consequence, fighter aircraft should carry a large number of missiles and be able to fire them in pre-programmed salvos if goal is a BVR engagement. If fighter is optimized for visual-range combat, it should be able to carry missiles conformally, and fire them even from high off-bore angles, as well as to maintain missile lock during rapid maneuvers so that pilot can fire off a missile immediately upon achieving a desired position.

Gun is most likely to be used against large, undefended targets such as AWACS or transport arircraft in order to avoid wasting missiles. Other scenario is usage against targets that are too fleeting to achieve a missile lock, or are within missile’s minimum engagement distance. As a result, premium is placed on damage output in quick bursts. Firing opportunities in a dogfight are brief, and length of a burst is never longer than 1,5 seconds. This means that gun has to pump out as much damage as quickly as possible, which in turn requires quick acceleration and high HE-I content of the shell. Overall, the best choice is a high-calibre (30 mm) revolver cannon.

Kinematic performance

Aircraft should be capable of supercruise, so as to minimize the infrared signature while supersonic, as well as extending the time it can spend at supersonic speeds. This would allow the pilot to surprise the enemy from the rear, and avoid getting surprised himself. It would also allow it to dictate the terms of the engagement, avoiding the unfavourable engagements. Supercruise speed goal should be at least Mach 1,5 with six conformal missiles and no external fuel tanks. Fighter should be able to spend at least 20 minutes at that speed in the combat zone. Combat radius calculations should include the supercruise as well as combat. For defensive purposes, fighter should be assumed to operate without external fuel tanks, while in offensive purposes normal load would be six missiles and two to four external fuel tanks. Therefore, 300-400 km combat radius with 20 minute supercruise on internal fuel would be acceptable performance. This will likely lead to fuel fraction of 0,35-0,45, depending on the aircraft performance, aerodynamics, engines and size. For a dedicated offensive design, target combat radius would be 500-800 km with 20 minute supercruise on internal fuel.

Fighter should have 9 g turn capability in both instantaneous and sustained turn. If possible, 11 g instantaneous turn capability should be pursued as normal performance, with 13 g in override. Roll onset should be very rapid in order to allow fast transients, both in level flight and during the turn (at angle of attack). This is important for both dogfight and missile evasion purposes, as missile guidance lags behind an aircraft. Climb capability should be at least 300 m/s when clean at sea level, >350 m/s if possible. Ideally, turn rate would be above 30 deg/s instantaneous, 24 deg/s sustained and 300 deg/s roll rate. Fighter should be able to both gain and lose speed quickly, to allow outmaneuvering the opponent in a dogfight, as well as missile evasion. For this, moderate-to-high sweep tailless delta is a best choice. Engine should be turbojet in order to allow for quick changes in fan rotation rate and thus engine output – larger diameter of turbofan engine leads to comparatively more sluggish response. Just as importantly, turbojet engine should be capable of achieving higher thrust-to-weight ratio, especially at dry thrust. This would reduce the need for afterburner, leading to improved persistence even though fuel consumption at same engine setting will likely increase. Fighter’s combat weight should be low in order to reduce inerta and allow quick transients that are key to winning an air engagement. Reduction of roll inertia specifically can be achieved through single-engined configuration, low wing span, and locating heaviest ammunitions as well as most fuel as close to the aircraft centre as possible. Offensive design however would do well with two engines so as to ensure backup in the case of a failure or a hit by a SAM or AAA, in order to get the pilot back to the friendly territory.

Strategic capability

Ground survivability

Despite the name “air craft”, modern aircraft – especially fighter jets – are less air craft and more air hoppers. Fighter aircraft in particular spend only a portion of time in the air – no more than a third, and many far less. Most of the time is spent on the ground, undergoing maintenance, repair, refit and refuelling. As a result, ground survivabilty is a crucial aspect of aircraft survivability. To achieve this, fighter should be capable of operating from road bases. Minimum takeoff and landing distances should be less than 500 and 400 meters, respectively. Wingspan should also be less than 8,75 meters for a defensive design. A dedicated offensive fighter would likely have to have larger wingspan as well as longer takeoff and landing distances, thus placing emphasis on dirt strip performance. Logistics requirements should also be low, in particular in terms of spare parts and fuel. Low fuel usage means that fighter itself should be relatively small. Easy repairability in field would mean usage of aluminium alloys instead of composites, though decision should be made after taking into account impact on aircraft performance.

Numbers in the air

In order to carry out all the task, fighter force has to be able to launch enough sorties – best weapon in the world is useless if it cannot cover all necessary areas, and planet is a large place. Larger number of aircraft than the enemy’s also allows for tactical (as well as operational and strategic) flexibility, allowing one portion of the force to engage the defending fighters while remainder goes after crucial targets that had been left without cover. This means that fighter’s procurement and especially operating cost should be low, as well as its logistics requirements. Again, this leads to requirement for a small, easily maintained fighter aircraft.

Ease of maintenance

Aircraft should have a simple and maintenance-friendly design. Number of individual components should be kept to minimum, and all important components should be placed so as to allow easy access from the outside. Components themselves should be grouped into easily replaceable modules – which themselves should be repairable in the field. Minimum number of parts should be used in construction.

Logistical footprint

Logistical support is the most vulnerable element of any force. If supply chain is disrupted, the entire combat force is quickly rendered impotent. For this reason, minimizing logistical footprint for any given force is mandatory. Chain itself consists of several main elements. First one is the producer, albeit it is not always relevant in the war. Items produced in the factory are stored in the depots at home, and then shipped to military bases – which, in the case of expeditionary military forces such as the US military, are often overseas, requiring shipping over large distances. Once transferred over the sea, they are unloaded at port, and either stored there or transferred to inland supply depots. From there, items are transferred to military units and bases that require them (not all bases are large enough to function as supply depots on their own). In a specific case of fighter aircraft, the chain consists of manufacturers (aircraft parts, weapons, fuel), supply depots and air bases at home, supply depots / large air bases abroad, and forward operating bases (e.g. road bases).

Supply footprint of a fighter unit is not limited to fighter aircraft themselves, but also to any and all support elements – AWACS, tankers, air bases themselves, ground forces providing security for said air bases. Most modern fighter aircraft are large and complex machines, requiring dedicated air bases for operation. Such fighters themselves already have high logistical footprint due to complex maintenance and high fuel usage. Footprint is only increased by the equally complex tools required for maintenance – especially when it comes to stealth fighters such as the F-35. Further, air bases themselves require constant maintenance. Not only tools for fighter maintenance have to be maintained, but also the aircraft runway (FOD walks!), hangars, living quarters for pilots and ground crews. Dedicated air bases themselves are very vulnerable to attacks, and are also very lucrative targets. This means that they require security in the form of extensive missile and air defense systems, as well as powerful ground forces for defense against ground assaults. These forces require massive supplies as well, which typically means usage of large transport aircraft. Due to importance, vulnerability and obviousness of these air bases, they are typically situated far behind the front line. As a result, fighter aircraft have to traverse long distances to the combat zone, requiring tanker support to reach their targets, further increasing their logistics footprint.

For this reason, fighter aircraft has to be able to operate from FOBs (Forward Operating Bases). That way, fighters would be close to friendly ground troops, increasing the time spent in the combat zone, and thus reducing the size of the force necessary for the effect. These bases should be very small, holding no more than a few fighters each (ideally, a pair or a flight of four). Fighters and everything else present would be camouflaged with the use of multispectral camouflage nets, making finding them more difficult. Crews would live in tents, which would be camouflaged the same way. In the case some are discovered and attacked, wide dispersal of forces achieved in this way would limit damage compared to attack agaist conventional air bases. Due to necessarily small size of such bases, any fighters used from there have to have small logistics footprint, and ground forces present would also be small. All of this would result in very small logistics footprint of each base, as well as reduced footprint of the force as a whole. Small logistics footprint required would necessarily mean a light (5-7 metric tons empty) single-engined fighter design, however measures could be taken to reduce footprint of larger aircraft as well – specifically, dirt strip / open field capability.

Conclusion

As it can be seen, fighter design may change in major ways depending on its role and expected environment. However, most basic things are common for all fighters, and it would be a mistake to ignore them.

Further reading

https://defenseissues.net/2014/08/02/air-superiority-fighter-proposal-6/

Posted in weapons | Tagged: , , , , | 56 Comments »

Why variable sweep wings or “swing wings” for fighter aircraft are not effective at air superiority

Posted by altandmain on August 19, 2017

Why not another variable sweep fighter?

There seems to be a lot of F-14 nostalgia around. While it may have had a great deal of impact on how the US Navy conducted fleet defense, we have to consider the effectiveness of the concept of variable sweep aircraft. It is human nature to always want to look up to the past.  The other reason may very well be that people find the F-14 to look visually attractive and want similar proposals.

The reason why we will not see future variable sweep fighters however is because there are very serious drawbacks compared to fixed wing aircraft.

Short Background

Variable sweep wings, known as “Swing wing” evolved as a solution for early jet engines. Experiments were being made as early as WW2 with wings that could change their sweep on the ground, such as the Messerschmitt P.1101.

Back then jet engines produced less thrust because they ran at lower inlet temperatures and were overall more primitive. Wings with a sharp sweep were desired for high top speed, but that left the aircraft vulnerable in dogfights, which as Vietnam revealed still happened, and also led to high take-off and landing speeds. High take off and landing speeds are less safe, which would result in increased number of crashes. They also led to long runways, limiting off  road mobility and making it easier to disable for enemy forces, as there would be a far larger airport to protect.

In Europe, there were two key projects, the Panavia Tornado, which entered service as a mult-role interceptor/bomber, and the Dassault Mirage G, which never entered production. The US would build the F-111, which was a very heavy variable sweep multi-role aircraft. The famous F-14 was derived from the F-111. The USSR made several variable sweep designs, most notably the  Mig-23 and the Su-24.

Bomber designs were also made by the US and USSR. The B1 Lancer from the US, along with the Tu-22 and Tu-160 from the USSR. All 3 bombers remain in service.

What do swing wing aircraft bring?

Their main advantage is that they can use that variable sweep wing to find the optimal wing swing angle (within their sweep limits) for a given airspeed.  This can allow for fuel savings on the climb and landing during a fighter sortie.

On aircraft carriers, they have the advantage of having very low sweep on take-off and very high sweep when bursting with full afterburner. Variable sweep wings can also be folded for compact storage without compromising wing’s structural integrity (as is the case with folding wings like on F-18E).

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On an aircraft carrier, deck-space is always going to be a bottleneck. While a carrier may look very large to an untrained eye, deck space is always at a very big premium.

So why not on fighter aircraft?

To achieve variable sweep aircraft, that requires a large gearbox in the fuselage of the aircraft. This gearbox adds a great deal of mass and makes the fuselage larger, causing drag. This means that fuel fraction on such aircraft is lowered a great deal.

In a dogfight, this heavy gearbox would mean that compared to a fixed wing, it would result in an unfavorable thrust to drag, even if the pilot could switch to what they felt was the optimal sweep right before combat. Switching the wing sweep during a dogfight would be risky, as it could cause a loss of energy.

This would mean:

  1. Higher wing loading due to mass of gearbox
  2. Faster fuel consumption due to gearbox
  3. Lower transient performance (very important in a dogfight)

This gearbox would also lead to lower G limits as well. On the F-14D, the symmetric limit at 50,000 lbs was 6.5G. The F-16  and F-15 were both capable of 9G. Navalized versions of the F-18 were capable of 7.5G, while certain land based variants of the F-18 could also perform 9G. For a comparison, Dassault Rafale can do 11G, with an ultimate limit of 16.5G.

The gearbox lowered the aircraft’s fuel fraction. An empty F-14D has a mass of 43,735 lb ( or about 19,838 kg) and can take on 16.200 lb of fuel. This results in a fuel fraction of 0,27, which is below 0,30 fuel fraction required for sufficient combat persistence.

Jet engines have become far more powerful than their 1960s and 1970s counterparts, allowing for much higher thrust to weight ratios. As such, they can achieve lower take distances, even more so on an aircraft carrier with a catapult. This fact somewhat negates swing-wing’s main advantage of high low-speed efficiency.

Modern computer control surfaces too have played a role in rendering variable wing sweep obsolete as they can adjust wing shape and size very rapidly, without the weight penalty.

Complexity and reliability problems

The more complex a system is, the more risk there is for failure.

When the US Navy opted to retire the F-14 in favor of the F-18, a big reason that was given was the appalling flight to maintenance ratio.

The decision to incorporate the Super Hornet and decommission the F-14 is mainly due to high amount of maintenance required to keep the Tomcats operational. On average, an F-14 requires nearly 50 maintenance hours for every flight hour, while the Super Hornet requires five to 10 maintenance hours for every flight hour.

I’ve been told that a newer F-14 would likely require 40 to 1 and on average, the F-18 requires 8 to 1, which is in line with the USN’s claims of 5-10 to 1. So in that regard, the F-18 would be able to generate much higher sortie rates. Keep in mind that the 50 to 1 is with after  the General Electric F110 engines were put on the F-14. Early F-14s suffered from an unreliable TF-30 engine that was prone to flame-outs.

Compounding the problem, the  high flight to maintenance ratios mean that there’s a good chance you will not have enough F-14s available when you need them the most (ex: if an enemy launches a surprise attack on your carrier battle group, you may need to scramble the aircraft very quickly).

There were other points of failure. Sometimes when one side of the gearbox worked properly and the other did not, it could lead to an “asymmetric wing sweep”.

f-14-asymmetricWhile the aircraft could fly in such a situation and land with some difficulty, this leaves a point of failure. This could also be a weakness in combat, as the hydraulics could be damaged.

Much like this F-14, under Australian service, the F-111 did encounter a similar incident, and the B1 did once as well. I suspect that under Warsaw Pact service, Soviet variable sweep designs may have too.

Conclusions

The cons simply outweigh the pros when it comes to variable wing sweep. There are very significant penalties in terms of mass, cost, and complexity for variable sweep wings. While they may bring some advantages in the take-off and can have the “optimal” sweep for each scenario, the drawbacks outweigh these to the point where we are not seeing variable wing sweep aircraft on modern aircraft.

They are simply a dead end as far as aircraft design goes. While they may have seemed like a good idea on paper, when implemented in combat aircraft, they carried significant drawbacks that outweighed any advantages they brought.

 

Posted in technology, weapons | Tagged: , , , , | 15 Comments »

Opposing Views: Debating The F-35’s Strengths And Weaknesses

Posted by Picard578 on August 17, 2017

Aug 8, 2017Aviation Week & Space Technology

F-35, in Black and White

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Podcast: F-35 in the Crossfire, Part 1

It is hard to find a more divisive topic in the aerospace world than the Lockheed Martin F-35. Aviation Week Pentagon Editor Lara Seligman sat down with two industry veterans who hold opposite views on the fighter: Marine Corps Lt. Col. (ret.) Dave Berke, a former Top Gun instructor, has flown the F-35, F-22F-16 and F-18; and Pierre Sprey, of “Fighter Mafia” fame, helped conceptualize designs for the A-10 and F-16. Excerpts follow. Listen to their debate in full at AviationWeek.com/check6

Seligman: Lockheed Martin and U.S. Air Force pilots contend that the maneuvers we saw at the Paris Air Show laid to rest the rumors that the F-35 can’t dogfight. Pierre, do you think that’s true?

Sprey: That was nonsense, just marketing hype. The demo was as phony as all the other [air show] demos are. They had a super-light F-35, and the performance wasn’t all that impressive. I talked to a guy who prepped an A-10 for the air show, and they did the same thing—they [made] it so light it actually looked super maneuverable, which it’s not, except at low speed. The F-35’s turn rate was not impressive. It was [much] slower than a 30-year-old F-16. An engineer friend of mine clocked it at 17 deg. per second. Any old F-16 can do 22 [deg. per second].

KEY QUESTIONS ABOUT THE JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER
Can the F-35 dogfight?

How does the F-35’s ability to communicate in flight change warfare

What are the difficulties of producing F-35—a program that remains in development?

What are the impacts of the F-35’s $406 billion price tag?

Berke: I would not disagree. Air show demos are exactly that, a demonstration. I think part of the reason this demo got so much publicity is there has been a long-held misunderstanding of what the airplane can do in the visual arena. People have made claims that it’s incapable of dogfighting and things like that. It is a highly capable, highly maneuverable airplane, like everybody who has ever flown it understands.

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Pierre Sprey helped to conceive the design of the F-16 and A-10 fighters. Credit: James Stevenson

Sprey: The airplane that flew at Paris was totally incapable of combat. And that’s not just me talking; that’s the operational testers of the Air Force, Navy and the Marines. In their assessment, the configuration that was flying in Paris, to go to war, would need an escort to protect it against enemy fighters. It would need extra help to find targets, particularly air-to-ground threats.

How does the F-35’s networking capability change the game for warfare?

Berke: I can’t think of any airplane that we’re flying today that would want to get into a dogfight. I would avoid that in any platform. F-22 pilots don’t fly around looking for dogfights. Part of the reason why the F-35 and the F-22 have such a massive advantage over legacy platforms is their ability to make really intelligent decisions. You’re getting information presented to you on a much larger scale, and it’s fused more intelligently.

All my career, I’ve flown fighters, and flown them in combat, and I was a forward air controller. It’s all about making an intelligent decision as soon as you can. It is really difficult for me to overstate what a massive advantage you have in decision-making in the F-35. I don’t know a single pilot—and I know a lot of F-35 pilots—that would even consider taking a legacy platform into combat. The F-35 advantage over these platforms is infinitely greater.

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When he was an active duty Marine, Lt. Col. (ret.) David Berke flew the F-35B, F-22, F-18 and F-16. Credit: U.S. Marine Corps

Sprey: The original marketing hype, both out of the services and Lockheed Martin, was always “It’s a great dogfighter; it’s a great close-support platform.” In truth it can’t do any of those missions very well because, like all multimission airplanes it’s highly flawed, and the technical execution of this airplane is unusually bad by historical standards. I agree with [Lt.] Col. Berke that no airplane looks for a dogfight. On the other hand, in serious wars sometimes you can’t avoid it. The F-35 is a horrible target if it has to get into a dogfight. It’s got an enormously high wing load. It’s almost as unmaneuverable as the infamous F-104. 

All that networking stuff, if it worked, would make the pilot smarter and more situationally aware. But right now it is an impediment, and it might be a permanent impediment given the cyber [threat], which is horrible for this airplane. All that reliance on networking is giving inferior, less well-funded, less equipped enemies a tremendous opportunity, because the airplane is so vulnerable to all kinds of cybermeddling. The people we might face—Chinese, Russians, Yugoslavs, whomever—are all pretty clever with computers. We’ve given them a tremendous opportunity to wreck our airpower for almost no money.

Berke: I would disagree with virtually all of that. The idea that there are things wrong with the airplane is 100% true, but the idea [that] does not work is 100% not true. To fuse broadband multispectral information, [radio frequency], electro-optical infrared, laser infrared and laser energies among several cockpits, ground users and sea-based platforms is really complicated stuff. And so there are things wrong with the airplane. I don’t know a single [F-35] pilot that would deny that. But the idea that you would read some sort of report on the airplane’s performance and then draw the conclusion that it is broken forever is a leap. We inside the community haven’t done a good job of explaining how amazing the airplane is.

You could bring 100 people into this room and ask what warfare is going to look like in 30 years, and you’re going to get 100 different answers. If I hear somebody talking about dogfighting, that person is not thinking about the future. And if I hear somebody say “wing loading,” that’s a red flag that you are thinking about the wrong things. Among every Marine, Air Force and Navy [F-35] pilot I know who came from a legacy aircraft—Hornets, F-15s, F-16s—there is no debate about what is the most capable aircraft they’ve ever flown and what they would take into combat tomorrow.

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“If you bought F-16s at the same budget, you’d be able to buy five times more airplanes.” —Pierre Sprey. Credit: Lockheed Martin Photos

What are the difficulties posed by what is known as concurrency—the process of producing F-35s and testing them before system development is complete?

Sprey: The testing that has taken place so far is very benign. It’s engineering testing—there has not been any rough testing yet—and the airplane has performed very badly on a whole score of issuesThey’re not flying against any stressful scenarios for the simple reason that the Joint Program Office is sabotaging the operational tests, and this is very deliberate. Because if you fail, the [program] might be canceled. 

I have mixed feelings about pilots being so enthusiastic about their airplanes. It is very common now, because the services are so wound up with procurement, and people critical of their equipment tend to have shorter careers. I think you want to be skeptical about everything you work with. You don’t want to be a true believer going into combat and wind up hanging from a parachute, or dead.

Berke: The idea that any professional uniformed officer, let alone a fighter pilot, would somehow find themselves unprepared for the horrors of combat because they were illusively in love with their equipment is preposterous. I’ve [been] a Top Gun instructor, and we would spend 8 hr. debriefing a flight. All you do is talk about things you did wrong, your strengths, your weaknesses, how to mitigate one and play to the others. If you are going to ask a fighter pilot who has done operational testing what their opinion is, the idea that even one shred of what they say is a party-line answer would be offensive. I’ve spent 23 years as a U.S. Marine, and never once did I get the implication that I shouldn’t be completely honest with my evaluation.

The F-35 has good and bad things about it. In the operational test world, we are focused on making the airplanes better. We spend our time on a laundry list of things that need to be improved. When every single pilot that has taken the airplanes into highly complex [exercises] at Red Flag and at places like Nellis [AFB, Nevada,] comes back with overwhelming dominance, it’s difficult not to be really supportive. So if you hear pilots saying the F-35 is awesome, it’s not a sales pitch. It’s steeped in a long history of flying several different airplanes in different environments.

F-35 procurement costs have come down in the last couple of years, but this year they ticked up slightly to $406 billion from about $380 billion.

Sprey: Cost is part of what force you can bring to bear. To create airpower, you have to be able to put a bunch of airplanes in the sky over the enemy. You can’t do it with a tiny handful, even if they are unbelievably good. You send six airplanes to China, they could care less about what they are. F-22 deployments are now six airplanes, and that’s because of the cost. Force is a function of cost and how reliable the airplane is, how often it flies per day.

If you bought F-16s at the same budget, $400 billion, instead of F-35s, you’d be able to buy five times more airplanes. It is five times as expensive and flies at best half as often. My feeling is it will fly less often than an F-22—it is a good deal more complicated than an F-22, and it’s showing that right now. If that’s the case, it may fly once every five days, in which case if will fly one-fifth as often as the F-16.

Berke: I don’t care how cheap the airplane is; if you can’t fly it in combat, it is useless. We are inventing technology that didn’t exist before, and it’s all driven toward the idea of being relevant in a highly complex, 3D battlespace that we have a hard time predicting even for the next 15 years. I don’t want to buy a car that’s cheaper and then have that car not be drivable in three years. The fact is the Chinese [are developing] fifth-generation airplanes. They are building and buying [them] right now, and that’s going to make air warfare complicated. [The F-35 is] too expensive? That’s easy to say. Compared to what? Losing a war in 15 years? Or compared to an F-16 in 1977? Make sure you get that frame of reference right, because it is really important.


NOTES: F-35 is unmaneuverable POS, and it is true that often, you simply cannot avoid a dogfight. It is also true that air show demos are done with only light fuel load. As for F-35s vaunted networking abilities, it is a complex system, and complex systems in a war are prone to failure. You simply have to have a backup, which means dogfighting capability. Even F-22 was designed to be able to dogfight. F-35 was not designed for dogfight because it is a ground attack platform, it was only pushed into air-to-air role after F-22 couldn’t be procured in large enough numbers. And networking is a danger as much as an opportunity.

Berke is talking about the future, but how can you know the future if you don’t know the past? That future they are talking about is based on the performance of BVR missiles against Iraqis and Yugoslavs, first of whom were incompetent fools all across the board, and latter who were also undertrained and flying literal flying bricks (aircraft had no radar, no MAWS, no RWR, no ECM… real representative of peer threats). Sensor fusion is important, but wing loading is also important… even in BVR combat, you need to be able to maneuver. Wing loading matters for turn rate, for climb rate, and both are still quite important. And F-35 may be more capable than “teens”, but those are not its competitors.

Equipment is important, and equipment that doesn’t work is useless. And in war, you have to have reliable equipment. What is more important is that complex equipment often leaves more avenues open for it to be countered. Berke talks about F-35s performance in air combat, but does not mention its survivability on the ground. And that is possibly F-35s biggest Achilles heel.

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Cumulative projectiles

Posted by Picard578 on July 16, 2017

At the beginning of war against Croatia, Yugoslav Army had available almost 3.000 pieces of armoured vehicles. Large portion of these vehicles were quickly lost or disabled. Due to very limited anti-armour capabilities of Croatian military, especially early in the war, most of these were destroyed by cumulative (HEAT) projectiles. Cumulative rounds themselves have many advantages. Unlike subcaliber projectiles, their effectiveness does not depend on the impact velocity. This led to development of a wide range of portable antitank weapons. Price of such a weapon can be >450 times less than price of a tank. They are also highly effective: once Germans introduced Panzerfaust to the Eastern front, Soviet losses in terms of completely destroyed tanks reached 30% of all the tanks used.

Cumulative / HEAT projectiles work by focusing the stream of hot gasses onto a small surface area. The shell is designed as a conical cavity with a copper lining, behind which there is an explosive charge. A stream of hot gasses and particles created by the lining penetrates the armor plate at hypersonic speeds. A portion of armour at the point of penetration turns into small particles that are carried into the tank’s insides. The opening created by the stream is only a few centimeters across. After passing through the armour, stream turns into a funnel, with typically 15 degree expansion zone and a range of several meters. Crew in the path of the stream is killed, and stored munitions can activate if the stream penetrates the projectile or the shell. Effectiveness of a HEAT projectile is directly related to its calibre (diameter) – greater the diameter, greater the effectiveness. As such, 60 mm “zolja” has a penetration of 300 mm RHA (RHA – equivalent of a homogenous steel armour), while 90 mm “Osa” penetrates 400 mm RHA. Armour of T-55 tank is only up to 100 mm, meaning that these weapons easily penetrate it. However, cumulative projectiles never strike the armour at 90* angle, meaning that effective penetration is less (that is, effective armour of the tank is more than the nominal values). More modern HEAT projectiles can penetrate armour thicknesses up to 700% as thick as the projectile diameter.

For maximum effectiveness, HEAT projectile has to be touching the armour when it detonates. This can be prevented in several ways, such as slat (cage) armour and spaced armour, which detonates the projectile away from the main armour, causing focus of the stream to be lost. Tool boxes are also an effective obstacles. Israelis also utilized bricks and sandbags to enhance basic armour. Composite armours are also effective against HEAT threats. Since gas stream acts as a fluid, when passing different materials it gets misshapen, forming vortices and breaks, which reduce its penetrative power. By using such techniques, modern tanks achieve effective armour thicknesses against HEAT of up to 2400 mm (for basic B-84, HEAT equivalent thickness of the front hull plate is 600 mm). Even so, tanks remain vulnerable to hits to turret ring / turret-hull junction, side and rear armour (depending on armour distribution and effective thickness), top armour and drive gear. Particularly vulnerable is side armour of wheel / drive area, which is typically not thicker than 100 mm. For this reason, side skirts are often mounted with ERA or composite armour blocks.

Another important factor is armour angle. In reality the projectile never strikes the armour at the perfect 90* angle, which results in reduced penetration (increased effective thickness of the armour). Some tanks also have highly angled armour, particularly at the front, but the effectiveness of this measure is somewhat reduced by necessitating thinner armour due to greater area being protected (a 100 mm plate has effective thickness of 200 mm at 30* and of 292 mm at 20* angle).

Armoured personnel carriers and infantry fighting vehicles typically have armour much thinner than that of a contemporary main battle tanks. Typically, armour of such vehicles is expected to provide protection against small-arms fire only, as well as shrapnel from projectiles up to 155 mm. Frontal armour is expected to provide protection against light antimateriel weapons, such as sniper rifles up to 20 mm in caliber. They are however easily penetrated by any dedicated antitank weapon. This is especially problematic because such vehicles carry infantry inside. Exception are few APCs that are actually built on the tank chassis, such as Israeli Namer APC which has armour protection thicker than that of Merkava MBT. Despite typically lesser armoured protection, APCs and IFVs have greater firepower against infantry when compared to the MBT, especially at small distances. Alongside vehicle-mounted weapons, which aside from machine guns can include small-calibre automatic cannons and/or grenade launchers, APCs and IFVs may have gun ports for the infantry. Consequently, infantry carriers are much more dangerour opponent to infantry at small distances due to far smaller dead zones.

For defense against HEAT projectiles, tanks and other armoured vehicles can employ ERA (explosive-reactive armour). This consists of explosive tiles, which activate upon impact, destroying the warhead and destabilizing the jet stream before it reaches the main armour. However, such armour can be activated by small-arms fire as well as by tandem warheads, whereas smaller warhead mounted on the nose activates the explosive armour whereas larger aft warhead attacks the primary armour of the tank. Even more modern missiles can employ triple warhead, whereas first warhead penetrates the spaced armour, second penetrates the ERA and the third warhead penetrates the main armour. Some countries, such as Russia and Israel, have started deploying active defenses aimed at destroying the projectile before it even reaches the tank in the first place.

Main disadvantage of HEAT projectiles is that they have larger diameter than subcaliber projectiles, and thus shorter effective range due to significantly reduced accuracy. When used in guns with rifled barrels, projectile rotation disperses the charge jet due to the centrifugal force, reducing penetration due to reduced jet density. More modern HEAT projectiles however can have a counter-spinning jet stream, which cancels out the projectile spin, resulting in a non-spinning jet. This is done by specifically designed copper liners. Non-spinning cumulative projectiles can be fired from a rifled barrel, by using rotating plastic girdle or a rotating body..

 

While plumage stabilization allows the full penetrative power of the jet to be preserved, it also causes problems of its own. In unitary shots, feathers must be placed into the sleeve, taking up propellant space. Plumage can also fail at high initial velocities of the projectile. For optimum operation it should exceed diameter of the projectile, which requires it to be foldable, which is not suitable for implements with a muzzle brake, as its opening is prevented by the powder gases. When using caliber plumage, space restraints mean that streamlined shape of the projectile head has to be abandoned, causing a drop in speed. Last possibility is usage of a sub-caliber projectile, which results in reduced penetration. Plumage stabilized projectiles also tend to have lesser velocity and thus lesser likelihood of hitting.

A variant of the shaped charge concept is the explosively formed penetrator (EFP). This variant uses the interaction of detonation waves to deform a dish or a plate of metal into slug shaped projectile. Projectile, which has low length-to-diameter ratio, is then propelled towards the target at two kilometers per second. Its impact thus causes wide but shallow hole. More modern variants however can produce rods / stretched slugs, which have far greater penetration. Other variants are multi-slugs, which are more effective against lightly armoured or area targets, and finned projectiles which have better accuracy. These projectiles have relatively low penetration, and are thus restricted to usage against more lightly armoured top surfaces of MBTs, as well as usage against less heavily armoured vehicles.

Due to reduced effectiveness of cumulative (HEAT) rounds against heavily armoured targets, modern HEAT rounds are often multipurpose (HEDP). These types have the warhead surrounded by the conventional fragmentation casing, allowing it greater effectiveness in blast and fragmentation role against unarmoured targets while still retaining armour penetration capability. Another example of such rounds is HESH, which is effective against tank armour and also against buildings. Important advantage of HEDP rounds is that it is no longer necessary to store two or more different types of HE rounds, which is an important concern due to modern tanks having limited ammunition space (Leopard 2 – 42 rounds, Challenger 2 – 49 rounds, Leclerc – 41 round, M1A2 – 42 rounds, Merkava IV – 48 rounds). Multipurpose HEAT projectiles can also be used against helicopters if equipped with proximity fuze / proximity switch, as well as against bunkers.

Increases in tank armour have made man-portable HEAT missiles larger, heavier and thus less useful. This, along with advances in active protection systems, may swing the balance back towards the tanks and against infantry unless new solutions are found.

Notes;

HEAT – High Explosive Anti Tank

HEDP – High Explosive Dual Purpose

HESH – High Explosive Squash Head

RHA – Rolled Homogenous Armour

ERA – Explosive Reactive Armour

EFP – Explosively Formed Penetrator

MBT – Main Battle Tank

IFV – Infantry Fighting Vehicle

APC – Armoured Personnel Carrier

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Armoured vehicle utilization

Posted by Picard578 on June 16, 2017

Armoured vehicles mentioned here are outlined in this link:

https://defenseissues.net/2017/02/11/proposal-for-army-armoured-vehicles/

Heavy tanks’ primary purpose is to punch holes in enemy defences. Secondary role is that of a direct fire support for infantry. They are primarily intended for frontal attacks against defensive positions, urban combat and other situations where protection takes precendence over mobility. During defense, they are primarily deployed in mobile frontline groups, supporting fortified strongpoints and eliminating enemy combat units. Heavy tanks also lead any counterattack once the enemy has lost their momentum. Because of this, main targets for heavy tanks are enemy fortifications and armoured vehicles.

Medium tanks are maneuver units, carrying out flanking maneuvers against the enemy that has been tied up by heavy armour. If an opportunity presents itself, they will move along with light tanks past the enemy lines, attacking enemy support and logistics elements. Their primary purpose however is tactical as opposed to operational maneuver, due to their larger size and heavier weight. They also form armoured reserve when on the defense, ready to counter any enemy breakthrough. Unlike heavy tanks, which are primarily breakthrough tanks, medium tanks are expected to primarily act against the enemy armour in maneuver battle.

Light tanks are not supposed to engage enemy combat units at all. They are scouts and raiders, moving ahead of heavier units to warn them of potential ambushes. If opportunity presents, light tanks will slip past the enemy lines to wreak havoc with enemy support and logistics elements, robbing the enemy frontline units of their mobility. This same employment is also used in defensive operations. If necessary, light tanks may act as tank destroyers, using their superior mobility to outmaneuver and destroy enemy main battle tanks. This however is not their primary usage, and should be avoided. Light tanks may take on the role of heavy and medium tanks if terrain does not permit employment of heavier vehicles.

During march, light tanks would undertake scouting duties. Heavy tanks would bring up the front and the rear, and medium tanks would protect the flanks. In breakthroughts, heavy tanks would support the attack at breakthrough points. Once breakthrough has been achieved, medium tanks would roll up the flank of the enemy frontline units, while light tanks would pass into the enemy rear areas and neutralize enemy logistical and C4ISR support. In airborne assaults, light tanks would be dropped in with the infantry. Once air fields had been secured, medium and heavy tanks would be deployed.

Primary purpose of assault guns is direct fire support of infantry, as well as destruction of enemy defences, particularly those that survived indirect-fire bombardment. Because of this, they sacrifice mobility in favour of firepower and protection, mounting both more powerful gun and heavier armour than the tanks they are based on. Secondary role is that of tank destroyers in defensive employment. When utilized in armoured division, tank destroyer versions follow tanks and secure any gained territory from enemy armoured counterattack. Assault guns however keep with the tanks and help dispose of the static positions. A portion of assault guns may stay behind with tank destroyers, allowing their powerful high explosive projectiles to be utilized against enemy infantry units.

Tracked APCs are intended primarily for infantry transport, allowing infantry to follow tanks and deploy when necessary. For this reason, there are three weight classes of APCs, each based on the chassis of one tank type. Heavy APC variant is intended primarily for urban combat, having heavy protection as well as capability for both direct and indirect fire support of the troops it deployed. Medium and light APC variants are intended for maneuver warfare, following their respective tank types. IFV variants of APCs improve on their infantry support capabilities, allowing tanks to focus on tasks other than infantry fire support. Tank destroyer variants of APCs are expected to provide last-ditch protection from enemy armoured attacks. Wheeled APCs fulfill same tasks, but are intended for urban warfare.

Air defense vehicles are expected to provide layered air defense to divisions on the attack. For this reason there is a great variety of weapons employed, allowing effective engagement of aerial targets at all relevant ranges. Being based on a tank chassis allows it to follow armoured units through all types of terrain that are passable to tanks. Air defense tasks include engagement and destruction of enemy fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft, as well as destruction of munitions dropped by enemy aircraft.

Flamethrower tank is intended for destruction of enemy strongpoints and bunkers, primarily in close-range urban combat where liquid flamethrowers can be useful. If necessary, it can also be used for clearing away plant growth that impedes combat operations.

Mortar carriers are intended for indirect fire support of infantry engaged in combat. Compared to howitzers which fire heavy, relatively thick-skinned shell at comparatively shallow angle, mortar carriers fire high-content HE shell with thin walls at steep angle. This makes them an excellent choice for defense against massed infantry attacks, as well as destroying unprotected equipment, ammunition and fuel stashes etc. Relatively low recoil should allow even mortars based on tanks far higher elevation. Light mortar carrier in particular would be good indirect fire support weapon due to nearly unlimited elevation; this is paid for by its increased vulnerability to small arms fire and artillery bombardment.

Self-propelled howitzers are intended for indirect fire support. Unlike mortars, howitzers cannot be utilized when the enemy is very close – direct-fire role excepted – and are far less useful than mortars in difficult terrain. However, they have heavier and sturdier shell at higher velocities compared to mortars. This allows howitzers advantage in range as well as greater effectiveness against enemy fortified positions. Large-calibre artillery in particular would be effective against heavy fortifications, and thus concentrated under divisional command, while smaller-calibre artillery would be attacked to maneuver elements.

MLRS systems are intended primarily for area supression fire missions, when it is imperative to launch large number of rounds in short span of time. If combined with guided missile rounds, they could be utilized even for point destruction missions. Their advantage compared to conventional artillery is longer range, allowing them to remain safe from most enemy surface weapons. However, size of rockets means that far larger supply chain is required for the same number of projectiles to be transported. Larger-calibre MLRS should have the capability to fire rockets with armour-penetrating warheads, thus allowing for destruction of enemy fortifications.

Armoured car is intended primarily to provide infantry with a light armoured vehicle optimized for urban operations. Since such cars would be (comparatively) low-value targets, they can be used for scouting and screening of higher-value tragets in both urban and country environment.

Gun truck is intended to give infantry versatile fire support capable of engaging a wide variety of targets. Basic version mounting machine guns or anti-aircraft gun would allow for anti-aircraft defense, as well as direct fire against enemy infantry and soft-skinned vehicles. Relatively low price and good situational awareness would make it excellent for convoy protection.

Reconnaissance vehicle would act as a control center for a reconnaissance section. It would be equipped with UAVs, as well as working alongside foot-mobile and motor-bike scouts, in addition to its own extensive sensory systems. Datalink connections would allow transfer of information in close to real time. As a result, its presence would significantly improve situational awareness. Some vehicles should be assigned directly to command, with others operating independently and transferring data to all units in certain range. Such vehicles would move alongside light armoured formations in particular, allowing them to avoid enemy strongpoints and armoured units, as well as informing units behind of the enemy situation and movements.

Combat units will be supported by armoured logistical vehicles. This is especially important in counterinsurgency / guerilla warfare where there is no front line, making supply units vulnerable to attack. It would also be important in conventional warfare, particularly urban combat which presents similar problems to logistical units as counterinsurgency does, exposing them to direct attacks. Another utilization for such units would be escorting maneuver units in combat zone, allowing far better mobility and thus freedom of maneuver. Light tanks in particular would benefit from this due to their task of penetrating deep behind the enemy lines. Mobility-wise, armed combat engineering vehicle would be useful in destroying barricades in cases of urban combat, while bridge carrier and amphibious rig vehicles would allow crossing of obstacles such as rivers and (smaller) lakes. Combat engineering tractor would provide generalist support for light tank units deep behind enemy lines.

Some support vehicles, such as armoured ladder carrier and water cannon vehicle would be utilized almost exclusively for urban combat. Another such vehicle is ammunition trailer, which would likely limit mobility over the open country, but would prove invaluable in urban warfare for increasing tank’s supply of machine gun ammo. Armoured bulldozer would also be heavily utilized in urban warfare for removing barricades, and would see some utilization in open country for digging tank pits. It would be used for a wide variety of tasks in general, such as earthworks, digging moats (or filling them in), mounting digging sand barriers, building fortifications, rescuing stuck, damaged or overturned armoured vehicles, clearing landmines, IEDs and explosives, clearing terrain obstacles and demolishing structures. These tasks are also filled by combat engineering tractor, but at greater cost.

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The Quantum Behavior of the 5.56×45 NATO Round

Posted by Picard578 on May 24, 2017

Wandering Through The Night

Almost since introduction the 5.56×45 NATO has exhibited the qualities of Schrodinger’s Cat, simultaneously being an ineffective battle round while simultaneously being terribly effective to the point where people keep trying to ban it for civilian use. Thousands upon thousands of words, and hours of argument, for both sides have been spent on the subject.

The 5.56 naysayers routinely pull out ballistic tables and show all sorts of lovely numbers about energy in foot pounds remaining at range: http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20120831_art004.pdf and it should be noted that this article makes the “post hoc” fallacy that the 5.56×45 is inadequate because the M14 EBR program was used. The author makes no analysis of what the mix ratio was, and how those rifles were employed, and other tactical considerations. In Afghanistan the SEALs of Seal Team 10 often considered the 7.62×51 inadequate as a sniper rifle platform since they had the 300 Win Mag…

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Naval mines

Posted by Picard578 on May 1, 2017

Mines

Naval mine are a significant danger to both combat operations and transport of men and equipment over the sea. This is an especially important problem for the coastal navies, due to restricted areas in which they operate.Over 300 types of mines are produced by 30 countries, and many more have them in use. Mines cause damage disproportionate to their price, and anti-mine warfare efforts increase this price even more. Read the rest of this entry »

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