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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/

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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.

 

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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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Modern artillery munitions

Posted by Picard578 on April 16, 2017

Introduction

Munitions are used for fulfilling the primary task of artillery, which is destruction or neutralization of enemy army, as well as enabling or supporting the ground maneuver by suppressing enemy defenses. First munitions were spherical stone projectiles, launched from ballistae and catapults. Identical projectiles were also used by first gunpowder artillery. Those were typically around 8 cm in diameter. French navy used basalt, which has higher density and hardness, to achieve increased hitting power; those projectiles could penetrate ship’s wooden sides at 200 meters. Stone projectiles were also used as incidendiary projectiles by coating them with lime, followed by resin. These were superseded by lead, which was easy to shape due to low melting point. In early 13th century (cca. 1221.), Chinese were using explosive ceramic projectiles, launched from catapult or a cannon. These were filled either with gunpowder, or a combination of gunpowder and metal shrapnel. In Europe, projectiles from bronze or iron were also used. These could be homogenous, or filled with gunpowder; earliest percussion fuzes – using flint to create the spark – appeared in 1650. Another type of shot was canister shot, which was used against combat for infantry at close range, and was particularly effective against linear formations of Middle and early New Ages. But when linear formations disappeared after American Civil War, canister shot was replaced by shrapnel, which utilizes time fuze and detonates in the air. During the 19th century, two main types of fuzes were used, time delay and impact fuzes. Time fuzes were combustion types, consisting of a burning fuse train, ignited upon firing. There were various designs, but all were only accurate to approximately the nearest 1/2 or 1/4 sec at best. Read the rest of this entry »

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Radar in counter-battery role

Posted by Picard578 on April 1, 2017

Artillery is dangerous because it is hard to find, hard to destroy, and has the ability to very quickly attack targets via indirect fire. Importance and difficulty of finding the enemy artillery was noticed early in World War I; French were the first to try to locate the enemy artillery, by locating the gun flash produced when firing. This was hard to do if the artillery was far away (reflections had to be used) and unreliable. This it was quickly replaced by sound detection techniques, which were also adapted by British and German militaries as well.

The basis of this technique is a row of 6-7 microphones in a 12 kilometre line. Since the sound spreads in the circles, microphones all detect the sound of a gun at different times, which allows calculating location of the origin of the sound. Original system was based on ordinary stopwatch and telephone cable or radio link, but it worked very well. Similar, but automated, system is in use today. Such system has major advantages in that it is low-cost and completely passive, making it very hard to find and destroy. However, it also has numerous disadvantages. Atmospheric state determination is crucial for its correct operation. The refractive index of air has to be found along the entire sound path, and wind affects system’s performance. Up until the appearance of GPS, setting up the system was also very difficult. Due to these and other issues, it is an inherently defensive technique, difficult to use in rapid movement (albeit it is possible to have two teams of “sounders” alternately set up the line ahead of each other). Read the rest of this entry »

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Bicycle at war

Posted by Picard578 on February 21, 2017

History

First bicycles (“Penny-Farthings”) were tall and dangerous to ride due to propensity for causing inadvertent sommersaults. These bikes were first tested in war by the French, used by dispatch riders and scouts during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-1871, while Prussians still relied on push cycles. This conflict destroyed the French bicycle industry, and further advancement was left to United Kingdom and United States. It was English inventor John Kemp Starley who developed the “safety bicycle” by applying the invention of drive chain. In 1870. Italians introduced bicycle to their bersaglieri troops. Trained to carry dispatches, they averaged 12 miles an hour across open country. Read the rest of this entry »

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