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Posts Tagged ‘analysis’

A Complete Analysis of the Upcoming Siege of Winterfell Part 1

Posted by picard578 on April 27, 2015

Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire

Introduction

“Tell me, turncloak, what battles has the Bastard of Bolton ever won that I should fear him?” (TWOW, Theon I)

One of the most anticipated plotlines from The Winds of Winter is the Siege of Winterfell. The Siege, originally intended to be included in A Dance with Dragons, was cut to The Winds of Winter. But even though The Winds of Winter hasn’t been released yet, I believe there are significant clues how the Siege of Winterfell will unfold and what the outcome will be.

But to say that the battle will have significant consequences would be understating it. For Stannis Baratheon, it’s a zero-sum game. If he wins, he rejuvenates his claim to the Iron Throne. But more than simply gaining momentum, a victory by Stannis would redirect the North to confront the threat of the Others. If Roose Bolton wins, he solidifies his Wardenship of…

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A Complete Analysis of Robb Stark as a Military Commander

Posted by picard578 on April 27, 2015

Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire

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“Battles,” muttered Robb as he led her out beneath the trees. “I have won every battle, yet somehow I’m losing the war.” – Robb Stark, ASOS, Chapter 14, Catelyn II

Introduction

First, two bald statements to kick this post off:

  • Robb Stark was the greatest tactician during the War of the Five Kings.

and

  • Robb Stark was the worst strategist of the War of the Five Kings. (Though Balon Greyjoy gives Robb a run for his money for worst strategist.)

On the face of it, these two statements contradict each other, but in these posts, I will attempt to defend both of these statements with textual evidence and some non-technical references to military strategy.

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A Complete Analysis of Stannis Baratheon as a Military Commander

Posted by picard578 on April 26, 2015

I know it is a medieval fiction, but it has good lessons for even modern warfare.

Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire

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“Whatever doubts his lords might nurse, the common men seemed to have faith in their king. Stannis had smashed Mance Rayder’s wildlings at the Wall and cleaned Asha and her ironborn out of Deepwood Motte; he was Robert’s brother, victor in a famous sea battle off Fair Isle, the man who had held Storm’s End all through Robert’s Rebellion. And he bore a hero’s sword, the enchanted blade Lightbringer, whose glow lit up the night.” – ADWD, Chapter 42, The King’s Prize

Introduction

About a month ago, I did a series of posts on Robb Stark as a military commander, and I figured that the next character from the series that I wanted to analyze militarily was Stannis Baratheon. I’m going to try to accomplish it in 3 parts. Part 1 will be looking at Stannis’s military accomplishments in the events leading up the books, part 2 will deal with…

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Assessing the SAM threat

Posted by picard578 on February 15, 2015

Introduction

SAMs are the new boogeyman of the USAF, one which they are also using in their political games. They want the F-35 because, they say, legacy aircraft are “unsurvivable”. They want to retire the A-10 and leave ground troops without any support because, they say, it is unsurvivable. But how much truth there is in their assertions?

Historical overview

During the Vietnam war, SAMs saw extensive usage. They were used primarly to defend key targets but were also deployed in the field; many were also mobile (though level of mobility they had does not even begin to compare with modern SAMs, thanks to excessive times necessary to either deploy or pack up). Read the rest of this entry »

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Dassault Rafale analysis

Posted by picard578 on August 24, 2013

Airframe

Airframe itself is common between Rafale C and Rafale M, and is designed for 16,5 g ultimate limit load. As 16,5 / 1,5 = 11, Rafale can pull 11 g maneuvers on a regular basis without shortening airframe life; this can be seen here (Rafale in video pulls 10,1 g). While airframe itself is common, other modifications – such as stronger landing gear and larger and stronger tail hook – added 500 kilograms to Rafale M when compared to Rafale C. Still, there is 95% parts commonality between Rafale C and Rafale M. Like Gripen and Typhoon, Rafale can, in certain parts of flight envelope, maintain 9 g as long as pilot can withstand it. Rafale can in fact pull 9 g at 500 kts and 10.000 ft and still accelerate when clean (and clean configuration includes 2 wingtip AAMs), with service ceilling of 50.000 ft (15.000 meters) at least, possibly 59.000 ft (18.000 meters).

Aerodynamics

Dassault Rafale is monoplane delta wing aircraft with close-coupled canard. Wings are of mid-wing arrangement with large degree of wing-body blending, resulting in aerodynamically streamlined aircraft with less interference drag than either high- or low- -wing configuration. 48 degree wing sweep results in a transonic bias aircraft with supersonic capability. This lower wing sweep also results in formation of the primary vortex closer to wing surface than in highly-swept (60 degrees or more) delta wings. Additionally, this relatively low sweep compared to some other delta-wing fighters results in lower span loading, minimizing lift-dependent drag. Wing thickness also has impact on maximum speed: thicker wing means lower maximum speed but also better characteristics in combat due to delayed flow separation. Latter shortcoming can be somewhat countered by usage of flaps. Wings can twist to prevent wing tip stalling and subsequent loss of control. Since center of gravity is aft of center of lift, trimming during flight improves maximum lift by maybe 20%.

Wings have launch rail mounted at end, and there is single vertical stabilizer. As unswept wings are limited to subsonic flight, and wings with sweep greater than 60 degrees have poor airfield performance, high lift-induced drag, and poor maneuverability, wing sweep in modern combat aircraft is always between 20 and 60 degrees, something that Rafale’s wing sweep achieves.

Delta wing leading edge creates vortices which help lift at higher angles of attack. Whereas lowly-swept wings as found in civillian aviation stall at AoA values between 14 and 18 degrees, more swept wings offer advantage of strong vortex lift, which can be further improved by high-lift devices such as LERX which strengthen wing vortices. Vortical flows form close to wing’s surface and starts forming at very low angles of attack. End result is large improvement in lift/drag ratio at subsonic speeds for wide AoA range as well as improvement in maximum AoA values. There is, however, large amount of lift-induced drag at subsonic speeds. Another benefit of delta wing is its low wing loading (approximate measure of lift-to-weight ratio) which results in good turn performance; as low wing loading results in high gust sensitivity and is thus undesireable for strike aircraft, Rafale’s very low wing loading makes it obvious that it is optimized for air superiority. High lift coefficient (of which wing loading is part) also improves airfield and cruise performance, but negatively impacts low-altitude penetration.

Additionally, delta wing had good dynamic stall characteristics. As airfoil is rapidly pitched upward, it creates significant vorticity in air flow, improving both lift and pitching moment. Result is an improvement in instantaneous turn rate. Past the Cl(max) AoA, lift loss is more gradual.

Usage of tailless delta means that there is no adverse tailplane/afterbody pressure drag interference, and aircraft does not exhibit Dutch roll when travelling at high speed. However, as there is no tail to provide roll control, and control surfaces are on the wing itself, it means that wing must be stiffer, limiting wing twist and increasing possibility of wing tip stall. Launcher rail located on wing tip improves L/D ratio. Flutter and aerilon reversal are also eliminated, and due to Rafale being unstable, elevons add to lift when turning. Wings themselves are anhedral, reducing lateral stability; this was required due to Rafale’s wide body and wing vertical position. Flaps and aerilons can be used to improve lift during takeoff and landing.

Canards are, as mentioned, of close-coupled configuration. This has benefits on aircraft performance in both subsonic and supersonic flight when compared to conventional delta wing or wing/tail configuration. One of reasons is that canard produces vortices which are very strong immediately behind canard itself, and get progressively weaker, but also a downwash. Properly positioned downwash creates a low pressure region on front part of the wing upper surface which has a significant contribution to lift, and also causes aircraft to be dynamically unstable, providing advantage in response to control surface inputs when compared to either stable or statically unstable configurations. Further, vortices created by canard root, aside from improving wing lift during maneuvers by themselves, interact with vortices created by LERX (LERX itself creates vortices from both root and wing junction, helping both body and wing lift; vortices from canard tip energize outer parts of wings and do not interact with any other set of vortices but help with avoiding wing tip stall and improve response to aeliron inputs); this interaction between LERX and canard root vortices results in vortices being strengthened, prividing large increase in Clmax and decrease in angle of attack for Clmax, by lowering effective angle of attack of the wing. This in turn could have resulted in less lift at very low angles of attack, but vertical separation between canard and wing ensures that it does not become an issue (also a reason for Gripen’s angled canards). It does stabilize detached vortex of the main wing, thus providing greater vortex lift and which results in increase in lift at higher angles of attack; vortex lift also starts sooner for close-coupled canard configuration than for pure delta (and since canard does not interact with the wing, long-arm canard configuration can be considered “pure” delta for purposes of this explanation). Result is that Rafale does not need to achieve as high angle of attack for Clmax as pure delta would have, thus reducing induced drag from which delta-wing aircraft suffer at high angles of attack; it also achieves more lift at Clmax, by up to 50%. Wing center of pressure also moves aft with increasing Mach number due to canard delaying stall over outboard wing panels, and there is reduction in subsonic-supersonic aerodynamic center shift which means that aircraft remains unstable even when supersonic, thus improving maneuvering performance. All of these effects are stronger for canard positioned above the wing than one positioned at same level as wing; movable canard is also better lift-enhancing device than fixed canard or LERX. LERX vortices, aside from helping wing lift, also increase body lift when maneuvering, made possible by large degree of wing-body blending present. Another benefit is reduction in wing bending moment and structural weight due to shift of aerodynamic load distribution inboard.

Close-coupled canards allow Rafale to maneuver in post-stall regime by increasing maximum lift coefficient (Clmax), making it supermaneuverable (post-stall regime is any angle of attack beyond Clmax; TVC is not required for post-stall maneuvers, as even aircraft such as F-18 can achieve angles of attack beyond Clmax. Maximum angle of attack that Rafale has reached during testing is 100 degrees, showing extensive post stall maneuvering capabilities). This is a result of canard-wing vortex interaction, with presence of canard eliminating wing vortex breakdown. PSM can allow Rafale to trade energy for positional advantage in one-on-one aerial combat (this is not as good idea in flight-on-flight or squadron-on-squadron, let alone larger, encounters). They also allow spin recovery and superstall recovery; that is, aircraft with close coupled canards are almost impossible to depart from controlled flight (FCS and machanical problems notwithstanding). Additional advantage of close-coupled canards is that canard root vortexes energize air flow around vertical tail fin, meaning that it remains effective even at high angles of attack (same effect which allows wing control surfaces to remain effective at extreme angles of attack). Reason for this is a constructive interference between vortexes created by canard and those created by LERX, with downwash from canard suppressing flow separation from the wing and canard trailling edge vortex creating low pressure region above main wing surface; this effect is very pronounced in Rafale due to high canard configuration, and region makes a major contribution to lift; in fact, due to vertical separation of canard from wing, vortex lift starts appearing from 4,27 degrees of AoA. Using same effect, Saab Viggen was able to generate 65% greater Clmax at approach than a pure delta wing, achieve much greater trim control than pure tailless delta (such as Mirage) and achieve STOL capability. Rafale has advantage over Viggen in that its canards are controllable, allowing for better control of vortices, and can take off in 700 meters when carrying 4 MICAs and auxilliary fuel tank; minimum takeoff distance is 400 meters and landing distance is 450 meters. When landing, both canards and trailling-edge control surfaces can be used for braking, and Rafale may be able to use canards for braking even while in flight.

Large degree of wing-body blending means that vortices, especially those originating from canard root, allow for large amount of body lift during maneuvers. It also reduces drag in level flight, improving range. Vortexes also make wing more responsive to control surface inputs, including roll.

Along with canards and LERX, Rafale can improve lift at low speeds by using flaps, which help prevent flow separation at higher angles of attack. Combination of LERX, canards and flaps also produces very large drag reductions at typical maneuvering angle of attack, improving sustained turn rate.

In supersonic flight, close-coupled canard-delta configuration suffers from smaller aerodynamic centre shift with Mach number than pure delta, tailed or long-arm canard configuration, leading to lower trim drag due to reduced control surface deflections, and maintaining maneuvering advantages of unstable aircraft (all other configurations result in aircraft becoming stable during supersonic flight; this means slower response to control input and less lift since control surface upward deflections in stable aircraft detract from lift). Combined with already-discussed close-coupled canard features, this results in improved wing response to control surfaces inputs. Close-coupled canard also provides natural damping, making turbulence reduction FCS function unnecessary; while this characteristic is very important in low-level and transonic flight, it helps improve flight characteristic in all flight regimes.

One of important factors in airframe design is that drag rises sharply in transonic region, from mach 0,8 to mach 1,2, often doubling when compared to drag below mach 0,8. At subsonic speeds, lift dependant drag varies inversely with square of the wing span, which means that maximising wing span is desireable. But in supersonic flight, increasing wing span leads to large increase in drag. However, Rafale’s LERX creates shocks at its root, in front of wing leading edge, thus reducing drag and allowing it less sweep and larger wing span than seen in Mirage. This helps counteract drag caused by close-coupled canard.

Mid-wing vertical arrangement is more laterally stable than low-wing arrangement, especially when combined with Rafale’s wide body. As too much lateral stability can cause severe Dutch roll and excessive roll response to lateral gusts, Rafale’s wings are designed with anhedral to reduce stability.

Rafale uses two semi-circular air intakes on the windward side, separated by the body so as to prevent interaction in case of single engine failure. Their position, being shielded by the airframe, provides protection against both high angles of attack (to give an example, F-18s air intakes encounter air flow at around 60% of aircraft’s angle of attack; this is result of both their being shielded by LEX and fuselage to the side of intake redirecting air flow towards the intakes) and yaw angle, as well as sideslip. This design also means that fuselage takes the strain during carrier operations. Intakes are separated from the fuselage so as to avoid capturing the fuselage boundary layer (layer of air where air slows from high velocity relative to aircraft at its edge to standstill at the surface itself) as boundary layer, if enters engine, impairs pressure recovery and increases distortion, thus lowering intake performance; space between intake and fuselage is called external boundary layer bleed. This space is repartitioned, and expansion waves from it energize canard root vortex. Engine cooling duct is also located in this layer. In case that Rafale is equipped with stronger engine, intakes can be enlarged.

There was no need to incorporate moveable lips: engine takes what it needs, and cannot have air forced into it. What this means is that at high air speeds some air spills around the intake as there is more air flow than engine can accept. This may help the above-mentioned effect of canard root vortex energization. As engine can only make use of subsonic air flow, air flow captured in supersonic flight must be slowed down to Mach 0,4-0,5. This is done through series of shocks, with first set of shocks happening at the diffuser plate, second set at air intake mouth and further shocks being generate within the intake; it is addition of diffuser plate that allows Rafale to achieve Mach 2,0.

Dassault has opted to reject dedicated air brake (which was present on Rafale A but not on production Rafales) to save on complexity and weight, as it was deemed unnecessary – Rafale can use its control surfaces (canards and elevons) instead of brake. This also means that there is no 6 o’clock blind point due to using air brake.

Vertical fin is very high in order to remain effective at supersonic speeds, but also due to relative aft location of center of gravity, which requires larger control surface for the same effectiveness. While it may have been rendered ineffective at high AoA in conventional designs, vortices created by LERX and canards mean that it remains an effective control surface even at relatively high angles of attack.

Radome gives good aerodynamic characteristics as well as good radar performance as a result of its axisymmetric shape. Canopy is designed to provide good rearward visibility, though framing limits visibility in some directions; nose shape provides very good visibility over the nose and sides. Framing does allow for a fixed windshield in the event that canopy is detached.

Engines

Rafale is powered by two Snecma M88 afterburning turbofans, which allow it to supercruise in dry power at Mach 1,4 with 6 air-to-air missiles, or Mach 1,3 with 6 air-to-air missiles and a supersonic fuel tank. When not carrying external stores, Rafale can reach Mach 2 (dash) and 16.800 meters. Compared to turbojet, turbofan produces lower proportion of its thrust without reheat, but has far lower fuel consumption. Unlike turbojet, turbofan can also achieve as much as 200% of dry thrust when in reheat, albeit at cost of massively higher fuel consumption, which is as much as 700% of consumption when dry.

M88 has two cooling channels, reducing temperature of exhaust; it also has additional external nozzle, which helps hide its exhaust and limit angle from which a good lock can be established by using engine exhaust’s IR signature. Engine injects cool air around the engine casing which cools the engine (reducing IR signature of the entire rear part of the fuselage) and nozzles before shielding the exhaust with the cooler air. Engine is designed primarly for low altitude penetration and high altitude interception missions. Its smoke-free design improves fuel efficiency and makes aircraft harder to detect visually than older smoky designs. It can be reassembled and put back into operation without using the test bed, and modular design (21 modules) means that there is no need to change entire engine if it malfunctions. M88-2’s static thrust is rated at 10.971 lb dry and 16.620 lb with afterburner; this gives Rafale thrust-to-weight ratio greater than 1 at air-to-air takeoff weight. Nozzle is variable-exhaust, which allows for optimization of exhaust velocity, and therefore thrust produced.

Landing gear and accessories

Rafale has a landing parachute fitted below tailfin. Both Rafale C and M have landing arrestor hook, but Rafale M hook is larger and stronger than Rafale C’s, as necessitated by carrier landing requirements. Rafale B uses same hook as Rafale C.

Rafale M’s landing gear is stronger than C’s, due to carrier operations requirements; nose gear is also longer, giving it a nose-up position when on the deck. This however adds weight.

Stealth

While Rafale is not a VLO aircraft, measures have been taken to reduce its radar cross section. Main aspect of stealth design is concentrating most radar returns in very small number of “spikes”, which leads to design that emphasizes small number of parallel surfaces. But frontally, main contributor to RCS in traditional fighter aircraft are engine faces. Thus, modern designs, including Rafale, have curved intakes that hide engine faces.

Further, Rafale has sawtooth design on all surfaces that are not angled when viewed from front, such as inner air intake surface as well as wing and canard trailling edge control surfaces; all panels and landing gear doors also have sawtooth design. Rafale’s fin is radar-transparent, and air intakes are treated with RAM. It can also carry 2 missiles in wingtip carriage; drag- and RCS- -wise, these missiles are almost irrelevant. Rafale’s canopy is also coated with gold, which reduces RCS signature from rather uneven cockpit innards, while protrusions are used to hide gap between canards and the airframe. All these measures provide Rafale with frontal RCS that is, according to Dassault, 1/10 of Mirage; this translates into 0,1-0,2 m2.

While non-retractable probe does cause small increase in RCS, Dassault opted for it instead of retractrable one in order to reduce mechanical complexity and increase fuel flow, thus reducing refuelling time.

As for IR stealth, engine features described above, as well as Rafale’s excellent aerodynamic design, make Rafale’s IR signature comparatively low, far lower than so-called stealth fighters’ (F-22 and F-35, though F-22 may have lower IR signature from direct rear). Additional factor in reducing aircraft’s IR signature is Hot Spot treatment.

Engines are smokeless, which helps reduce visual signature. However, all these stealth measures are worthless if fighter is using its radar to find the enemy. Thus Rafale has a wide array of passive sensors which allow detection, identification and targeting of airborne and surface targets; more about these later.

Resillience

To survive possible battle damage, Rafale has dual redundant hydraulic and electric control system. Fly-by-wire controls can be automatically reconfigured by the system in the event that battle damage is detected. Further, many of its control surfaces are also redundant – both canards and trailling-edge control surfaces can be used to control the aircraft, and both can also be used as air brakes to reduce landing distance. Rafale is also EMP resistant since it can serve in nuclear attack role.

Cockpit

Rafale uses Martin-Baker Mark 16F “zero-zero” (zero speed, zero altitude) ejection seat, which is inclined 29 degrees to improve pilot tolerance to g forces (inclination is almost identical to F-16s 30 degrees). In fact, “Rampant Rafale” article stated that with such inclination French pilots have found no reason to carry upper-body pressure suits, albeit it gives no details on g forces pulled without it. An on-board oxygen generator system is used to eliminate the need for stockpiling oxygen canisters.

Pilot uses sidestick controller mounted on the right side of the seat and throttle on the left; this arrangement makes use of stick under high g loads easier than with center-stick arrangement. Rafale also has direct voice input capabilities, allowing pilot to perform actions through spoken commands. Rafale also features a “glass cockpit” with wide-angle holographic head-up display and two color flat-panel multifunction displays with touch screen interface. There is “extraordinary” amount of sensor fusion, making it easier for the pilot to concentrate on fighting. What is interesting about Rafale is that HUD and cockpit interface are in English, even in French aircraft, and pilots (sometimes at least) even speak English on briefings. This might be a leftover of Cold War when such practices would improve coordination with rest of NATO.

While Rafale is very sensitive to control inputs, for purposes of refuelling there is a “RFL” DFCS switch, which reduces flight controls responsitivity and makes aircraft feel more stable and conventional.

Sensors

Radar

RBE2 PESA radar currently in use allows for range of 139 km against 3m2 target; AESA radar in development can detect 3m2 target at 208 km, or at 278 km when coupled with SPECTRA. RBE2 PESA can track up to 40 targets and engage eight of them at once with MICA missiles. It also supports air-to-ground attack for ground and naval targets, navigation and automatic terrain following modes, provides +- 60° azimuth and elevation coverage, and allows for IFF interrogation; it also has LPI characteristics. While it was possible for Rafale to go straight for AESA, Dassault engineers opted for developing PESA first to reduce risks.

Optical systems

There are two optical systems that compose OSF: TV camera, and IRST. IRST is dual band, covering 3-5 and 8-12 micron wavelengths, and allows for detection of subsonic fighter aircraft at distances of up to 80 kilometers from front or 130 kilometers from the rear. This would also allow for detection of AMRAAM-class BVR missile launch at 130 kilometers, and detection of missile itself at little less than 120 kilometers. It can also act as FLIR, providing target image up to 40 kilometers away. According to report, it can show image of Transall cargo aircraft through a “fine layer of clouds” at more than 40 kilometers. TV camera can identify aircraft at 45 kilometers, whereas laser ranger coupled with these systems allows for ranging at distances up to 33 kilometers. This ID capability is important since noone will turn on IFF (or radar) in a combat zone.

While TV camera itself is fixed, offering 60 degree FoV, IRST can be steered. This allows it to act like a radar, searching a volume of sky, and provide +-90 degrees FoV coverage. IRST can search for targets independently, be slaved to radar or be cued by SPECTRA.

Weapons

Gun

In air-to-air combat, due to frequent high-G maneuvers, with change of plane of maneuvre being common, high-deflection shots and snapshots are common, with length of burst typically not being greater than 1-1,5 seconds. As Rafale’s GIAT-30 is a revolver cannon with a 0,05 second spin-up time, it will perform better than Gattling cannons.

Relatively high caliber and precise nature (revolver cannons are inherently more precise than Gattling ones) of GIAT-30 is advantage since airplanes have vulnerable areas, and shot into these areas can disable the aircraft. Under real conditions, projectiles also tend to be more effective if concentrated on a smaller area. However, GIAT-30 may be too precise: targeting other fighter is difficult.

Other important charactersitcs of aircraft cannon are 1) maximum rate of fire, 2) delay between pressing the trigger and first projectile leaving the barrel, 3) delay between pressing the trigger and maximum rate of fire being achieved, 4) number of projectiles fired in first 0,5, 1 and 1,5 seconds, 5) weight of projectiles fired in first 0,5, 1 and 1,5 seconds, 6) number of 0,5 and 1 second bursts avaliable, 7) energy of all projectiles carried. In next paragraph, I will compare GIAT-30 to BK-27 in Typhoon and M-61A2 in F-22 to give approximate idea of GIAT-30s strengths and shortcomings.

GIAT-30 has maximum rate of fire of 2.500 rpm, delay before achieving maximum RoF of 0,05 seconds, and muzzle velocity of 1.025 meters per second, with each projectile weighting 275 g. In first 0,5 seconds, it will fire 20 rounds weighting 5,5 kg, and 41 round weighting 11,3 kg in first second of firing. Rafale carries 125 rounds, enough for 6 0,5-second bursts (more if lower rate of fire is selected).

BK-27 has maximum rate of fire of 1.700 rpm, delay before achieving maximum RoF of 0,05 seconds, and muzzle velocity of 1.025 meters per second, with each projectile weighting 260 g. In first 0,5 seconds it will fire 13 rounds weighting 3,38 kg, and 27 rounds weighting 7,02 kg in first second of firing. Typhoon carries 150 rounds, enough for 11 0,5-second bursts.

M-61A2 has maximum rate of fire of 6.600 rpm, delay before achieving maximum RoF of 0,25 seconds, and muzzle velocity of 1.050 meters per second, with each projectile weighting 101 g. In first 0,5 seconds it will fire 41 round weighting 4,14 kg, and 96 rounds weighting 9,7 kg in first second of firing. However, since it has trap doors covering it to preserve F-22s stealth characteristics, there will be a 0,5 second delay between pressing the trigger and first projectile being fired if pilot didn’t open gun doors beforehand. Thus F-22 will fire 41 rounds in first second of firing.

As it can be seen, GIAT-30 has higher effective throw weight than either of other two principal Western fighter cannons, and also higher effective rate of fire than BK-27 and F-22s M-61 installation (due to F-22s stealth requirements). But ammunition avaliable is limited due to its high calibre and Rafale’s relatively small size.

Air-to-air missiles

Rafale C has 14 external stores attachements, of which 12 can be used for weapons carriage; two wing stations closest to aircraft’s body are only used for air-to-ground weapons, which means that Rafale can carry 10 air to air missiles. Missiles include MICA, Meteor and Magic 2; all 10 stations can carry MICA missiles, though some can be replaced by Magic 2 and Meteor missiles, for a mix of 4 MICA, 4 Meteor and 2 Magic 2 missiles. There are two wingtip AAM stations and four conformal AAM stations at each side of the fuselage, meaning that Rafale can carry a total of 6 AAMs while suffering neglible drag (and RCS) increase. In Rafale M, longer and stronger nose gear required for carrier landings necessitated removal of front centerline stores pylon.

MICA is Rafale’s main AtA weapon. It is a dual-role BVR and WVR missile with maximum range of 80 kilometers, and can be rail-launched or ejected. It has maximum speed of Mach 3, maximum g capability of 50 g (these are, like with all missiles, achieved only some time after the launch, right before missile runs out of fuel), and can engage maneuvering target at maximum distance of 60 kilometers. Wing pylons allow for MICA to be released at loads up to 9 g, while airframe points are limited to up to 4 g. It is offered with either dual active radar or imaging infrared seeker, and has both LOBL (Lock On Before Launch) and LOAL (Lock On After Launch) capability. It is equipped with thrust vectoring and capable of HOB (High Off Boresight) engagement even of targets that are directly behind the Rafale. MICA IR seeker can also be utilized as an IRST for discrete optronics monitoring prior to the launch; this capability is not very important to Rafale due to its OSF IRST. Warhead is triggered by a Doppler radar proximity fuze. When used in combination with OSF and SPECTRA, MICA IR allows for completely passive engagement of targets even at beyond visual range. MICA was developed from 1982 onward by Matra; first trials occured in 1991 and missile was commissioned in 1996.

Magic 2 is an old dogfighting missile, designed in 1968 by French company Matra (which is also producing MICA). It has 8 fixed and 4 movable fins, as well as a soldi fuel engine. Unlike preceding Magic 1, it is an all-aspect missile, and has rage of 8 km (compared to 5 km for Magic 1). Allegedly, seeker can function as “poor man’s IRST” out to range of 15 km. It also has better resistance to countermeasures.

MBDA Meteor is a long-range BVR ramjet missile, intended for delivery before end of 2013. Different sources give range as being anywhere from 100 to 250 kilometers, but actual range is classified. It is said however that ducted rocket in Meteor has three times the range of the solid rocket; assuming that comparision is made to the missile it is replacing, Meteor’s range may be around 225 kilometers. Amount of thrust can be controlled by varying throat area of the gas generator nozzle, and thus burn rate. However, usage of active radar seeker means that it is more susceptible to countermeasures when compared to MICA IR, and defensive maneuvering by target might break radar lock.

Air to ground weapons

Rafale can carry a total of 9.500 kg of air-to-ground weapons. These include dumb bombs and unguided rockets, but also a variety of guided missiles and “smart” bombs. It can also carry Thales Damocles targeting pod and Reco NG digital reconnaissance pod.

MBDA Apache is French GPS-guided anti-runway cruise missile. It uses submunition warheads, and has range of 140 km with maximum speed of 950 kph. Warhead contains 10 KRISS 50-kg anti-runway submunitions. Submunitions are designed to penetrate concrete, and their detonation can be programmed to prevent repairs being carried out. Missile has stealth characteristics (in both radar and IR spectrum) and can follow a pre-programmed flight path at very low altitude.

SCALP EG/Storm Shadow is a newer missile based on Apache. It has range in excess of 250 km (potentially up to 400 km) with maximum speed of Mach 0,8, and uses a 400 kg BROACH warhead designed to take out hardened targets; BROACH is a tandem warhead, with first charge perforating target structure and removing soil above it (if there is any), with follow-up penetrator warhead penetrates inside the target and detonates after a pre-selected delay. Missile flies at low altitude, but can be launched from low or medium altitude. Terminal guidance uses passive imaging infrared sensor with autonomous target recognition system; at terminal stage, missile climbs to medium altitude and ejects ballistic cap, allowing IR seeker to see the target and select precise strike point based on comparision with files stored in missile’s memory. Missile also has “abort” mechanism: if target identification and acquisition process is unsuccessful, missile will fly to a predetermined crash site.

AASM is a guidance kit for dumb bombs which can use INS, GPS, imaging infrared or semi-active laser guidance. Bomb weights are 125, 250 or 1.000 kg. Unlike US JDAM kit, AASM includes rocket booster and enlarged fins which extend range up to 60 km at high altitude or 15 km at low altitude. GPS/INS guidance has 10 meter CEP, while IIR/laser guidance allows for CEP of 1 meter. Unlike former, IIR and laser guidance kits allow for attacks on moving targets. When using INS or GPS guidance, coordinates are manually entered into system by the pilot.

Paveway II is a set of laser guidance kits for 250, 500 and 1.000 kg bombs. Its reliance on laser guidance means that it can attack moving target but also that adverse weather conditions can cause it to loose a lock and miss the target. It consists of stability/lifting wings at the rear end of the bomb and guidance section at front of the bomb.

AS-30L is a short-range laser-guided air-to-ground missile (mid-course guidance is inertial with laser being used in end stage). It has range of 3-11 kilometers, and has two-stage solid fuel rocket motor – a short burn time booster and longer burn time sustainer. It weights 520 kg, with warhead weight of 240 kg, and has maximum speed of Mach 1,5.

AM39 Exocet is an air-launched anti-ship missile, with range of 50 to 70 kilometers (depending on launch platform’s speed and altitude). After the launch, it guides inertially towards the target, only turning on the radar late in flight in order to find the target. During ingress, it stays 1-2 meters above the sea surface, which means that it can only be detected when 6.000 meters away (unless detected by aircraft). Maximum speed is 315 meters per second (Mach 0,95), which means that target has only 20 seconds to react.

ASMP is air-to-surface missile with 150/300 kt nuclear warhead. It has 300 km range at high altitude or 80 km at low altitude, and maximum speed at high altitude of Mach 3. Range against naval targets is 60 km. ASMP-A is improved version of missile, with 500 km range (likely 130 km at low altitude) and 300 kt nuclear warhead.

Defensive systems

SPECTRA is an all-including defense system. It includes radar, laser and missile warning sensors, along with active jamming and four chaff-flare dispensers. It can automatically identify and categorize threats and take defensive actions. All elements are built into the airframe, with radar warner antennas being located alongside engine intakes and in a module on top of the tailfin, which also incorporates laser warning sensors. Jammer antennas are built into canard mounts, and laser warners are mounted on each side of the fuselage below the cockpit.

SPECTRA can record data obtained during the mission to provide electronic intelligence, and several Rafales can use datalink to coordinate SPECTRA activities (this may be only a future upgrade, however). It also may have active cancellation capabilities, as it is mentioned that it has “stealthy jamming modes capable of reducing apparent RCS of aircraft”; while it is impossible to respond to incoming signal instantaneously, delay might be small enough to allow for major RCS reduction against at least simpler radars. SPECTRAs angular accuracy is good enough to allow engagement of targets well beyond visual range, and targeting of targets on the ground. F1 Rafales, however, did not have full SPECTRA capability.

Here is overwiev of components:

DBEM can carry out ELINT/SIGINT functions, as it is integrated RWR and ECM. It is capable of detecting targets up to 250 km away, while localisation (including range estimation), identification and prioritization can be done for radar threats up to 200 km away. Due to its angular precision (<1*), it can also be used to guide radar and, presumably, IRST, as well as to attack targets. It has frequency coverage of 2 to 40 GHz (some sources suggest that lower end of frequency coverage is 100-200 MHz) and 360* angular coverage, and can be used to passively target and attack both ground and airborne emitters. During ground missions, it is capable of recognizing types of enemy air defenses and using that data in conjuction with terrain data to project “lethality zones”, allowing pilot to select safest ingression path.

DECM is an AESA jammer, with 3 antennas located on fin root and canard roots. It has offensive, defensive and stealthy jamming modes. Each antenna can use thin beams to selectively jam radars of enemy fighters, possibly several at the time. It may also be useful against missiles with active radar seekers.

DDM is an IR-based missile warner, with 360 degree azimuth coverage. It consists of two wide-angle imaging IR sensors on the fin tip pod sides, and has very low false alarm rate. DDM NG (delivered on serie Rafales in 2012) also provides angular resolution that allows for cueing of weapons, including DIRCM. Unlike radar-based missile warners such as on Eurofighter Typhoon, which emit detectable signals all the time, DDM is completely passive and as such does not give away Rafale’s position.

DAL is a laser warning system. It consists of 3 sensors, two on front fuselage sides in front of canards and one on rear of SPECTRA fin tip pod.

4 upward-firing flare dispensers are fitted in the fuselage in wing roots, just forward of engine exhaust, while 2 chaff dispensers are located on the rear fuselage sides behind the wings. While flares are not effective against missiles with IIR seekers, chaff can be effective against active radar homing missiles.

Fuel tanks

Rafale’s rear centerline pylon and two inner wing pylons on each wing are “wet” and can carry total of 5 1.150 liter conformal fuel tanks or 1.250 liter supersonic fuel tanks. Alternatively, three 2.000 liter external fuel tanks can be carried on centerline and inner wet pylons on each wing. At least 1.250 l and 2.000 l tanks are cleared for speeds up to Mach 1,6.

Costs

Wikipedia puts flyaway cost at 90 million USD (when adjusted for inflation), which means that actual unit flyaway cost (without VAT) is 75,3 million USD. This article by Defense Aerospace, dating from 2006, puts Rafale C unit procurement (flyaway) cost at 62,1 million USD, including VAT; without VAT, it would come down to ~52 million USD. When adjusted for inflation, 2013 price would be 72,45 million USD, or 60,6 million USD without VAT. Considering that aircraft get upgraded with new systems, Wikipedia figure is more likely.

If one includes VAT and additional systems (weapons etc.) that are usually sold abroad, cost rises dramatically: India’s first 126 Rafales have price tag of 20 billion USD, translating into 160 million USD per aircraft.

Tactical analysis

In air-to-air battle, Rafale is most likely to stay completely passive. As all possible threat aircraft either have no passive sensors capable of independent acquisition and identification of targets or have sensors inferior to Rafale’s, this places it in advantageous position. Regardless of wether enemy has stealth fighters or not, Rafale can loiter at Mach 1,4 with 6 AAMs (or Mach 1,3 if centerline tank is included) and wait for the enemy to be detected by SPECTRA, OSF or DDM, in worse case extrapolating from missile launch direction when enemy tries to attack (also through use of DDM), and using that data to attack the enemy. This will effectively make any LO designs in use by the enemy (e.g. J-20) superfluous, as Rafale does not need radar to fire missiles well beyond visual range – or for anything else other than gun firing solution. Variety of missiles Rafale can carry will allow it to fire several missiles with different seekers at each target; BVR salvo might consist of MICA EM, MICA IR and Meteor. This might increase otherwise-abysymal BVR missiles’ effectiveness against fighter aircraft.

In visual-range combat Rafale’s high agility and low energy loss rate make it very challenging opponent. Its high-calibre gun, only matched by Russian fighters, means that it can quickly cause catastrophic damage to the target.

Strategic analysis

While Rafale C is a comparatively expensive fighter at around 75 million USD unit flyaway, it is not much more expensive than F-16C and is cheaper than Typhoon, F-15C or any stealth aircraft; only Western fighter aircraft that is significantly cheaper than Rafale is Gripen C. And while cost of single fighter is important, what matters is number of aircraft in the air; this is calculated by taking number of fighters that can be bought for 1 billion USD and multiplying it by number of sorties that can be flown by a single aircraft in certain amount of time, usually one day.

Unlike Gripen, there is no info which suggests that possibility of road basing was taken into consideration during design process. If correct, this would make Rafale vulnerable to the enemy attack while on the ground – several hits by cruise missiles or cluster bombs / dispensers can make entire air base unusable for prolonged periods of time even if aircraft in it are not destroyed.

Comparision with other fighters

Eurofighter Typhoon

Typhoon has larger radar, but that doesn’t matter because noone sane is going to use radar in air-to-air combat anyway (then again, sanity of Western military policymakers is questionable). What does matter is airframe agility, weapons systems, as well as IR and visual signatures.

As far as agility goes, Rafale takes the cake since it has better aerodynamic configuration and greater g tolerance. However, while very good, Rafale’s MICA missiles are not as capable when shooting down fighters as Typhoon’s IRIS-T, nor are they as good anti-AWACS weapon as longer-ranged Meteor. On the other hand, GIAT-30 is superior to BK-27 in several ways, such as per-projectile destructiveness and rate of fire, and SPECTRA is superior to DASS.

Rafale is limited to 55.000 ft altitude due to safety, while Typhoon can achieve 65.000 ft. While Rafale can supercruise in dry power at Mach 1,4 with 6 air-to-air missiles, or Mach 1,3 with 6 air-to-air missiles and a supersonic fuel tank, Typhoon’s supercruise speeds in same configurations are Mach 1,5 and 1,4, respectively.

Strategically, Rafale is cheaper and consumes less fuel; it may also be easier to maintain, as evidenced by target maintenance of 8 MMHPFH, compared to Typhoon’s 9; wether these targets have been achieved is not known to me at this point.

Saab Gripen

Gripen has aerodynamic configuration comparable to Rafale, though not as refined. Gripen is smaller and lighter, but has higher wing loading and very low thrust-to-weight ratio. This means that Rafale may be able to match its instanteneous turn rate, and does surpass Gripen’s sustained turn rate. Gripen C also has worse EW suite and no IRST. While NG version will solve most problems, it will also increase wing loading and overall complexity. Gripen is most likely easier to maintain than Rafale, though difference might not be very large as both have design features meant to make maintenance easier; it does use much less fuel, which is definetly a factor in lower operatin costs. Another, and very large, Rafale’s disadvantage is its lack of road-basing ability, something it shares with all other fighter aircraft mentioned in comparision section except for Gripen. However, Gripen is around 50-75% less expensive than Rafale, though Gripen E will be more expensive than C; this translates into greater force presence.

F-18

F-18 is US multirole carrier-based fighter aircraft. It is inferior to Rafale in almost every way: it has less refined aerodynamics, lower operational g limit, lower design g limit, higher wing loading, lower thrust-to-weight ratio, lower climb rate and has no IRST. It is also slightly less expensive than Rafale, but larger maintenance downtime means that Rafale has advantage in providing force presence for cost.

F-18E Super Hornet costs almost as much as Rafale, but has lower range, lower g limits (7,5 g compared to Rafale’s 11), worse aerodynamics (inherited from F-18A), higher wing loading (402 kg/m2 at 50% fuel and 6 AtA missiles compared to Rafale’s 276 kg/m2), lower thrust-to-weight ratio (1,07 at 6 missiles and 50% fuel compared to Rafale’s 1,22), lower climb rate, lower service ceilling and lower speed (Mach 1,8 dash, compared to Rafale’s Mach 2). In fact, both F-5 and F-16 are superior dogfighters. Its combat radius of 722 km is less than half of Rafale C’s.

Su-35

Su-35 is a Russian fighter, an answer to US F-15. It is very large and heavy twin-engined aircraft. While it has better aerodynamics than F-15 or F-16, it is still inferior to the Rafale. This, coupled with high wing loading (408 kg/m2, over 100 kg/m2 higher than Rafale’s), large size and high weight results in inferior maneuverability in air combat as well as inferior climb rate. While it may be equipped with thrust vectoring, it will not make it more maneuverable than Rafale, while increasing fuel consumption, weight and likelyhood of fatal mechanical failure. It has slightly higher service ceilling, and maximum speed of Mach 2,25 which also isn’t much more than Rafale’s Mach 2.

While it has larger radar, this is not significant because using its radar will only make it a target for SPECTRA. Meanwhile, its IRST is decisively inferior to Rafale’s OSF, with 62,5% of OSFs range. It has identical armament loadout to Rafale C, being able to carry 30 mm gun and 14 hardpoints, but its gun and missiles are inferior to what Rafale can carry.

F-22

F-22, like all stealth aircraft, is evolutionary design, a result of a flawed idea that enemy capabilities should be matched symetrically; only difference compared to F-15 is that it does not attempt to outrange enemy radar by increasing its own radar, but rather by reducing RCS. Yet it is fundamentally flawed. Its complete lack of optical sensors means that it has very limited IFF capabilities since pilots usually only turn IFF transponders on once they have left the battle area and are well inside friendly airspace. This means that F-22 will only be able to fire at BVR with help from extremely vulnerable assets such as AWACS and F-35s, if at all. If uplink proves not to be unjammable, F-22s will find themselves relegated to visual-range dogfighters unless refitted with imaging IRST or video camera. Even if it does prove able to fire from BVR, at such ranges missile’s kill probability will be low, and it will still be giving itself away.

Aerodynamically, Rafale’s close-coupled canards provide it with all advantages of thrust vectoring and no disadvantages. In protracted close-range fight, F-22s usage of thrust vectoring will result in a huge fuel consumption, which – along with F-22s brick-like shape and low fuel fraction – will allow Rafale to run it out of the fuel, assuming that F-22 does not get killed due to the lack of energy. Rafale also has better instantaneous turn rate due to better aerodynamics and lower wing loading, as well as better roll rate due to lower wingspan and better roll control – F-22s thrust vectoring provides it with nose pointability without increasing g load, but it still needs lift to turn, and Rafale is also excellent at pointing the nose due to its close-coupled canards. F-22 also has inferior rearward visibility, which means that during dogfight Rafale is less likely to get jumped unaware, even when DDM is ignored.

In my estimate, Rafale’s OSF should be able to detect it from ~80-120 km from the front, and ~90-180 km from the rear. It is worth noting that at 11.000 meters, outside atmosphere temperature is -56,5 °C, whereas temperature due to the air friction is 54,4 °C at Mach 1,6 and 116,8 °C at Mach 2; in short, difference between aircraft and the embiant air is over 100 °C. This also applies to all other “VLO” fighters at these speeds. One (and only) mission where F-22 is superior to Rafale is SEAD; all-aspect stealth and higher cruise speed allow it to more easily destroy enemy radar stations, at least as long as these do not operate in VHF or HF bands.

F-35

Contrary to what many think, F-35s internal weapons carriage does not provide any advantage in retaining energy during dogfight; first because it does not have very good aerodynamic shape compared to Rafale and because internal stores add weight and drag; second because Rafale is, like Typhoon, designed for combat performance at 50% fuel and 6 AAMs. To obtain high agility, aircraft needs large amount of excess lift, which is achieved by having low wing loading and high lift coefficient (Cl); excess thrust, which is measured by thrust-to-weight ratio; low drag, which is achieved by having relatively slim body, avoiding wing stall and minimizing angle of attack for any particular turn rate; high maximum structural load, allowing aircraft to pull high g maneuvers repeatedly. F-35A (baseline and most numerous F-35 variant) is inferior to Rafale in all aspects: it has very high wing loading, and traditional aerodynamic configuration results in greater loss of lift with increasing angle of attack; thrust-to-weight ratio is comparably low; aerodynamic configuration is optimized for strike, and very fat body (result of both STOVL and VLO requirements) results in a very high drag; lack of close-coupled canards means that F-35 has to achieve higher angle of attack for same lift coefficient, and finally greater weight results in greater inertia. Maximum speed of Mach 1,6 means that it cannot outrun Rafale or any other modern fighter aircraft. F-35’s reliance on beyond visual range combat forces it to carry large number of missiles, but even when using external pylons, F-35 can carry no more than 8 missiles. Due to removal of fire protection measures and fuel carriage around the engine, single round from Rafale’s 30 mm cannon can bring it down.

As for F-35s “stealth”, Rafale’s OSF can likely detect it at ~100 km from front, and ~200-220 km from the rear if F-35 is subsonic. F-135 is world’s hottest running engine, and has no IR signature reduction measures, which were deleted to save weight; F-35s inability to supercruise makes this even worse since F-35 will have to use afterburner to fly supersonically, producing very visible afterburner plume. EOTS is also optimized for air-to-ground detection, leaving it underperforming when compared to dedicated air-to-air IRST – compared to Rafale’s IRST-centric approach to air combat, this is a very serious shortcoming (or would be if two fighters were to ever come to blows, which is unlikely). Internal weapons carriage does not add to stealth, but only likelyhood of failure (in addition to performance penalties mentioned above). Both aircraft have 360 degree coverage with IR sensors, though F-35 uses six narrower-angle cameras as opposed to Rafale’s two fish-eye cameras. Its uneven belly makes it rather unstealthy to even X-band radars from below, and it is not stealthy from behind (in fact, Gripen may well have lower RCS from the rear).

J-20

J-20 is enlarged F-35. But even ignoring size and weight difference, it is different enough from F-35 to warrant a separate section. While it has similar aerodynamic configuration to the F-35, it is far larger and has large canards right behind air intakes; wings are also more swept, indicating higher operational Mach than the F-35. These features may also make it more maneuverable than the F-35, but its wing loading is likely to be too high to allow it to match Western air superiority fighters – in fact, canards are likely addition made during design process to try and salvage some performance. Its mammoth size – its length is estimated to be around 22 meters – also points to this conclusion, as does the fact that its landing gear is located well forward, indicating a very stable aircraft (and thus less maneuverable than same design but unstable). Stealth requirements mean that canards are coplanar to wing, which in combination with their distance from wing leading edge makes them ineffective as lift-enhancing surface. Chinese industry is still reliant on Russia for high-performance fighter engines, and AL-31F (most powerful Russian engine China has access to) is inadequate for J-20s heavy weight; resultant low thrust-to-weight ratio is another area where it is similar to the F-35.

Its radar stealth is focused on frontal aspect; side and rear aspect stealth is – like the F-35 but unlike the F-22 – far inferior to the frontal aspect stealth. It does not seem to have any IR signature reduction measures to speak of, which means that it is not stealthy at all when it comes to combat against modern fighter aircraft, IRST-less F-22 and Gripen C excepted – in this way it is also very similar to the F-35. It is certain to have higher IR signature than the F-22. Unlike F-22, its center bays can accept 4 missiles, for a possible total of 6 internally-carried missiles.

J-31

J-31 is a blend of F-22 and F-35 characteristics. Overall aerodynamic configuration goes more towards F-35, though vertical tails, nose and cockpit are basically taken from F-22 (including lack of rearward visibility). Intakes and wings are copied from the F-35, which may suggest poorer maneuverability and supersonic performance when compared to the F-22 – or Rafale.

Conclusion

Despite some statements, Dassault Rafale is, and always was, primarly an air superiority aircraft. It has aerodynamics whose refinement goes beyond what is seen on other fighter aircraft around the world, even Saab Gripen, and is equipped with wide range of weapons which allow it to carry out different missions. Still, it would profit from being able to launch IRIS-T.

Possible upgrades

Thrust vectoring

Thrust vectoring could be put on Rafale, but its effectiveness would be low to none. Rafale is already capable of most things that TVC equipped aircraft can do; only possible benefit of thrust vectoring is longer range due to less drag in level flight. What it would certainly increase, however, is expense, weight, complexity, fuel consumption, maintenance downtime, unreliability and possibility of crash.

DIRCM

DIRCM can be placed on Rafale as a future upgrade, and DDM NG offers good enough resolution for DIRCM to be useful against missiles.

Aircraft data

Rafale C 1

Wing span: 10,8 m

Wing area: 45,7 m2

Length: 15,3 m

Height: 5,34 m

Empty weight: 9.060 kg

Operational empty weight: 9.550 kg*

Maximum takeoff weight: 24.500 kg**

Fuel capacity: 4.750 kg* 1

Engines: 2×72,9 kN Snecma (14.867 kgf total)

*added

**fixed

Rafale M 2

Wing span: 10,9 m

Wing area: 46 m2

Length: 15,27 m

Height: 5,34 m

Empty weight: 10.196 kg

Maximum takeoff weight: 24.000 kg

Maximum speed: Mach 1,6

Maximum altitude: 50.000 feet

Engines: 2×7,5 t Snecma

AtA weapons: 1×30 mm 791 DEFA, IR/EM MICA AAM, IR MAGIC II SRAAM

Recommended reading

R. Whitford – Design for Air Combat

Trivia

The word canard is coming from the French canard which means DUCK. Ducks have a layer of feather just around the neck which has an effect on their aerodynamics; on aircraft it is a control surface positioned in front of the main wing instead of behind.

Media

http://tigroukam.free.fr/Hotel/Avions/Rafale/rafale.jpg

http://i146.photobucket.com/albums/r279/sampaix/0000012965ba3b22bfec3da6007f0000000.jpg

http://i146.photobucket.com/albums/r279/sampaix/capture2ak.jpg

http://i146.photobucket.com/albums/r279/sampaix/LOL-4.jpg

http://i146.photobucket.com/albums/r279/sampaix/offense.jpg

RafaleMM20

Click to access Fox_Three_nr_8.pdf

“Endurance is excellent, even at low-level where we can fly at 450 knots for 1 h 30 min in a clean configuration.”

Click to access foxThree_nr_10.pdf

Click to access Fox_Three_nr_4.pdf

http://www.defense-aerospace.com/article-view/feature/125860/rafale-in-combat%3A-%E2%80%9Cwar-for-dummies%E2%80%9D.html

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Eurofighter Typhoon analysis

Posted by picard578 on May 4, 2013

Program history

Typhoon is a result of a programme to satisfy both German and UK Air Force requirements. In July 1979, air staff from UK, Germany and Italy initiated European Combat Fighter study. In April 1982, preliminary design of ACA (Agile Combat Aircraft) was known, though it had twin tail and cranked delta wing. In December 1983, France and Spain joined up, after which requirements for new 9,5 ton, twin-engined, single-seat, delta-canard fighter were outlined.

More than 25 000 simulations were conducted, aimed at arriving at optimum solution. Results were:

  • air attack does not replace air defense
  • only manned aircraft provide flexibility required for an air defence system
  • quantity cannot replace the quality
  • future air combat is not a stand-off problem, but is highly flexible; avionics and armaments cannot replace superb flight performance on their own
  • radar performance with long detection range, large field of view and multi-target capability is required
  • low observability within certain ranges is important
  • short range combat is dominated by highly unsteady maneuvers, rapidly changing load factors, shorter firing opportunities and smaller space envelopes ending in lower speeds
  • remotely piloted vehicles are not flexible enough and are very expensive

Other requirements were good maintainability and reliability, single seat, short turn-around time, low life-cycle costs, 6 000 hours life time, range of 550 kilometers and ability to take off and land on short runways. Radar was developed by Euroradar consortium.

But there were points of divergence: whereas Luftwaffe preferred weight of 8,5 tons, AdlA preferred 9-ton aircraft and RAF wanted 11-ton one. As a result, upper and lower weight were agreed upon. Soon, Dassault obtained contract to design a fighter with empty weight of 9,25 tons, whereas rest of consortium (BAe, MBB, Aeritalia and CASA) focused on aircraft with empty weight of 9,75 tons. By February 1985, both designs were presented, yet neither fulfilled European Staff Target requirements.

Reason for diverging ideas about weight were different requirements: France wanted export-friendly multirole aircraft, whereas Britain wanted longer-ranged aircraft, capable of reaching Central European battlefield from British Islands, as well as utilizing British engines. Further, it proved impossible to reach an agreement on who will exactly lead the project.

In August 1985, France decided to pursue its own programme after being denied lead in programme, and being only nation with requirement for a carrier capable aircraft.

In 1986, weapons systems companies that were taking part in the project formed joint management company Eurofighter GmbH, and engine companies formed Eurojet GmbH. In 1987, Chiefs of Staff of Air Forces of four countries developing fighter signed European Staff Requirement for Development (ERS-D) of the European Fighter Aircraft (EFA). Aircraft was to be optimised for air-to-air combat in both BVR and WVR regimes, with capability to perform Air Defence, Air Superiority, Offensive Counter Air, Air Interdiction, Offensive Air Support, Maritime Attack and Reconnaissance.

Engine designs were developed by Rolls-Royce and Snecma, both designs optimized for aircraft proposals of their respective countries. This paid off when France left the project to develop carrier-capable Rafale, utilizing Snecma’s engines. Development of EFA continued with original focus on air-to-air missions.

Production contracts were awarded as following: 33% to each Germany and UK, 21% to Italy and 13% to Spain. This corresponded to number of aircraft that were to be procured; out of total of 760 aircraft, UK and Germany each were to purchase 250, Italy was to purchase 160 aircraft and Spain 100.

In 1992, in light of changed political situation, review of the project was undertaken. Requirement document was completely reconfirmed, whereas industry stated that baseline Eurofighter is still the most cost-effective solution. In view of reduced threat, however, number of aircraft was reduced from 720 to 602.

Technical problems made it impossible to adhere to original timetable: first flight of a prototype, planned for 1991, took place in April 1994. In February 1992, Spain announced that it will only buy 87 instead of 100 aircraft, and Germany reduced its purchase to 140. Due to German reluctance, Eurofighter consortium undertook study on how to reduce Eurofighter’s unit price. This study was delivered to governments in October, after which UK signalled intention to continue with original programme, alone of needed, and suggested triliteral continuation of programme to Italy and Spain, after which Germany too decided to continue with project. Large part in force reductions was played by budget cuts following fall of Soviet Union.

In December 1993, governments agreed to continue the project, although with changes to overall configuration of the aircraft; consequently, project was renamed “Eurofighter 2000”. In April 1995, memorandum on dividing costs incurred due to redevelopment was signed.

Project was especially important for UK and Spain, which – unlike other countries – used project to develop military technology, contrary to current trend that military adapts technologies developed for civilian purposes.

In 2002, Austria became a procurement partner in programme, and first aircraft were delivered to Germany and Spain in 2003, with Italy receiveing first Typhoon in 2005. In 2007, multi-role Typhoons were delivered to the UK and Austria. In 2006, Saudi Arabia selected Typhoon, though only after forcing UK to cease investigation of bribery in Al Yamamah weapons deal between UK and Saudi Arabia. First Saudi Typhoon was delivered in 2009.

Airframe

Eurofighter Typhoon is a relaxed-stability twin-engined tailless canard-delta design. Design requirements were subsonic, transsonic and supersonic agility. Aerodynamic instability results in decreased lift-dependent trim drag

Airframe is made with generous use of composites, titanium and aluminiom-lithium alloys (over 70%) in order to reduce weight. Side-effect of that is that it is more resistant to corrosion, and thus easier to maintain in humid environments. However, Typhoon is not suitable for the carrier aircraft due to the canard placement as well as structural reinforcements that would have to be done in order for airframe to withstand stresses of carrier operations.

Use of composites, as well as general shape, results in reduced frontal RCS. Aircraft also uses structural health monitoring and automatic equipment failure detection equipment.

Wings and canards

Typhoon’s canards (canard, fr. = duck) are very large and placed up front so as to minimze interaction with the wing; in essence, canards are performing the same function as tail does in tailed aircraft. Position results in minimal induced and trim drag, as well as minimal interaction with air intakes, which are mounted under fuselage to maximise air flow at high angles of attack, and is well suited for long-range supersonic aircraft. While close-coupled canard typically results in increased lift at higher angles of attack, effect is irrelevant at supersonic speeds. Eurofighter also stated that Typhoon’s high level of instability resulted in lift advantage due to close coupled canards being minor. As a control surface, long-arm canard is far more effective than either tail or close-coupled canard of similar size, as it offers faster control response due to longer moment arm, and if stall angle of canard is lower than that of the wing, aircraft is effectively stall-proof. As all positions other than low-and-forward and high-and-aft have been deemed aerodynamic disasters, low-position long-arm canard was eventually chosen.

Compared to tailed delta configuration, Typhoon’s configuration has the advantage of larger wing area (made possible by not using the horizontal tail surfaces) as well as the fact that canard actually adds lift during the turn, while tail detracts from the total lift. However, there is no interaction between canard and the wing, and as such wing has to rely solely on lift provided by vortices created by the wing itself during the high-alpha maneuvers. Leading-edge slats are used to improve aerodynamic wing lift during maneuvers. Canards are also more effective than the tail due to the longer moment arm they offer, thus requiring less force to achieve the same effect. At supersonic flight, chosen configuration has additional benefit compared to tailed delta: as it suffers smaller aerodynamic centre shift with Mach number, it has reduced trim drag, and there is no adverse tailplane/afterbody pressure drag interference. However, canards are inefficient as a roll control device, so wing has to be stiffer than in tailed delta configuration.

Wings are positioned low on the body, and are of normal delta shape with 53 degree sweep, cropped tips, offering large wing area and volume at light weight. This shape also causes creation of vortices even at relatively low angles of attack, increasing the avaliable lift beyond one caused by normal aerodynamic flow; as a result, stall angle of delta wing is higher than usual even without high-lift devices. Size of vortices increases with angle of attack. However, addition of LERX (for which there is enough space between wing leading edge and front end of intakes) would strenghten these vortices and cause a major improvement in Typhoon’s already good turn performance. Another importance of delta wing is in its dynamic vortex burst behavior; namely, a delta wing that is pitching up will produce vortex burst that lags behind when compared to wortex burst for same angle of attack under static conditions; result is higher instanteneous turn rate for delta wing. Amount of lag also increases as speed of pitch-up increases; result is that pitch-up condition creates major increase in lift compared to static condition. High drag, however, means that delta wing has lower lift-to-drag ratio than regular wings unless paired with high-lift devices such as close-coupled canards which increase lift for most given AoAs, but are absent from Typhoon. Wings also have high-lift devices in form of leading edge slats; these can be deployed to increase lift during takeoff and landing, and also during combat to prevent air flow separation at moderate angles of attack, though latter is not always done because of large increase in drag it causes. When deployed during maneuvers, they also improve directional stability. As tips are cropped, tip drag is lowered at high angles of attack. Large wing reduces aerodynamic effects of heavy external weapons stores, but also limits effectiveness of trailling-edge control surfaces. Additional effect is increased effectiveness of control surfaces as dynamic pressure increases, whereas in tailed aircraft, effectiveness is reduced with increase in dynamic pressure. Wings are also elastic, able to twist during maneuvers in order to prevent tip stall. However, fact that some control surfaces are at rear end of the wing limits their effectiveness at supersonic speeds, and delta wing itself restricts supersonic maneuverability by making aircraft stable. This in turn means that aft control surfaces no longer help the lift, as they do in unstable aircraft, but reduce the effective lift.

Low position of the wing results in better takeoff performance, better view from the cockpit, less induced drag, and less lateral stability compared to high position. Compared to mid position, however, it has more interference drag. It also results in 3-8 degrees of effective dihedral even before any actual anhedral/dihedral of the wing is considered.

Low wing loading and large amount of vortex lift result in good instantenenous and sustained turn rates, shorter takeoff distance, but also in bad low-altitude performance, making it obvious that aircraft is designed as air superiority platform.

Both wings and canards are swept back and sized so as not to enter shock wave cone.

Fuselage

On both sides of the fuselage, Typhoon has vortice generators, used to create fuselage lift at high AoA.

Intakes are two-dimensional and placed under the hull, in a fashion similar to the F-16. That arrangement has the advantage of fuselage serving as the air flow straightener, improving air flow into the engine during high-alpha maneuvers and thus preventing loss of thrust. Intakes are also distanced from the fuselage, preventing ingestion of turbulent, low-energy boundary layer air, which would reduce engine efficiency. Due to their position however, they are subject to magnified side-slip effects.

Intakes have lips which are used to affect flow of the air into them, additionally improving intake of air at high angles of attack, as well as adjusting amount of air influx depending on the current speed, thus ensuring optimum engine performance over very wide flight envelope. These lips, however, add to the mechanical complexity. Air ducts themselves are curved, which serves dual purpose of reducing frontal RCS, as well as causing a series of shock waves to slow down air flow to subsonic speeds during supersonic flight – that slowdown being a requirement for engine operation at supersonic speeds. Additional shock is caused by diverter plate above intakes.

As intakes are designed for a supersonic performance, sidewalls and lip tips are not sufficiently blunt to significantly delay air flow separation; as a result, air flow losses increase sharply after passing 30 degrees of alpha. At 70 degrees, losses can be as high as 20%.

Design of cockpit and fuselage in general provides a very good visibility for the pilot, even to the rear. However, nose shape and large canards placed up-front mean that lookdown capability is somewhat limited, thus making carrier variant of the aircraft unlikely.

There are four semi-conformal stations for BVR missiles on the fuselage; however, there are no wingtip stations for WVR missiles, as wing tips are taken up by defensive aids subsystems. There is total of 12 weapons stations capable of carrying missiles, with centerline station being used for fuel tank.

Fin

While an all-moving fin was considered, standard fin was chosen to save weight despite the reduction in the control power. As aircraft bank, using lift from wings and not tail input for turning, reduction in control power of the fin is mostly inconsequential for dogfight. However, fin is still important for supersonic maneuvering; as a result, it is very large. Too large vertical fin can result in problems if roll is experienced, causing aircraft to enter sideslip in direction of the roll, and start spiralling to the ground; too small fin can result in Dutch roll, which while not inherently dangerous does result in reduced performance.

Typhoon’s fin is sized for directional control at Mach 2.

Engines

Engines are Eurojet EJ-200 turbofan engines, and were specifically designed for high thrust and fast reactions. They allow aircraft to reach top speed of Mach 2, and also allow for supercruise of Mach 1,4 when clean, or Mach 1,2 in air-to-air configuration. Combination of strong engine, low wing loading and long arm canards means that Typhoon is able to take off with 700 meter runway.

Each engine produces 60 kN of dry thrust and 90 kN of thrust in afterburner at peacetime setting, with wartime setting being 69 kN dry and 95 kN in afterburner. Specific fuel consumption is 21-23 g/kNs in dry thrust and 47-49 g/kNs in afterburner. As Typhoon has 4 500 kg of fuel, this allows for 8,5 minutes of afterburning thrust.

Landing gear

Typhoon uses tricycle landing gear, with two wheels aft and one forward, which results in stress due to landing being better distributed.

Situational Awareness

Canopy

Canopy is of bubble shape with bow frame. While bow frame does limit forward visibility, it leaves rear hemisphere completely unobstructed. This shape allows for very good visibility from cockpit, which is crucial for dogfight.

IRST

Most useful sensor for detecting enemy aircraft in combat environment is definetly IRST. As IRST is passive, it cannot be jammed or detected by the opponent, providing unparalelled tactical advantage. Image from IRST can be overlayed on both HMS and HUD.

Typhoon’s PIRATE IRST can detect subsonic fighter aircraft, head-on, from distance of at least 90 kilometers, and at least 145 kilometers from the rear. Identification can be done at 40 kilometers, which is slightly beyond visual range. (All values are, however, for optimal conditions).

In terms of mission profiles, it is able to perform target acquisition and identification, as well as allow for low level night flight.

Radar

Current Typhoon’s radar is a mechanically scanned pulse doppler radar. Developed as ECR-90, and renamed into CAPTOR, it operates in X band, and weights 193 kilograms. Operating modes are long range air-to-air (BVR), close range visual (WVR) and air-to-surface. It has track while scan ability, and can be slaved directly to HMD. Detection range against 5 m2 targets is over 160 kilometers.

Defensive systems

Defensive system – DASS/Praetorian – is housed internally. It allows fully autimatized prioritisation of threats as well as response to said threats, with manual override being avaliable.

It has electronic support measures, radar warner, laser warner, active missile approach warner, DRFM jammer, two towed decoys, chaff, flares. Jamming pod and towed decoy are housed on the wing tips.

Radar and laser warner allow passive Typhoon to detect active fighter from longer distance than active aircraft can detect it, and as such provide a large situation awareness advantage.

Missile Approach Warner gives 360*360 degree situational awareness.

Weapons

Gun

Typhoon’s gun is Mauser BK-27, a 27-milimeter gas operated revolver cannon developed in late 1960s for Panavia Tornado. It fires 27×114 mm high explosive shells at 1700 rounds per minute. Standard loadout of 150 shells allows for 5,3 seconds of continuous firing. Being a revolver cannon, it reaches full rate of fire in around 0,05 seconds, compared to 0,5 seconds for a typical Gattling design. Relatively heavy 260 g shell is also very destructive, an important aspect due to high structural strength of modern fighter aircraft. Impact fuse operates to 85 degrees of impact angle.

Missiles

Typhoon’s primary WVR missiles are IRIS-T and AIM-132 ASRAAM. IRIS-T is short-range IR missile equipped with thrust vectoring. It is capable of engaging targets at any angle around aircraft, even those that are directly behind, due to its lock on after launch capability; lock-on before launch capability is also present. Fuze is radar proximity based, and seeker is roll-pitch infrared imaging seeker with 128*128 resolution and +-90* look angle for high-off-boresight engagement capability. Using imaging technology makes it resistant to flares (but not to jamming). Target can be designated by either radar or pilots’ helmet mounted sight, and IRIS-T offers 360 degree defense capability. Maximum intercept range is 25 kilometers, speed is Mach 3 and it can pull 60 g turns. Missile is propelled by a solid propellant motor.

Aside from already described, IRIS-T has one ace up the sleeve; namely, ability to destroy incoming missiles, both air-to-air and surface-to-air ones. While this is definetly not a foolproof system, and it is impossible to predict how well it will work, if it does work it can reduce number of BVR missiles aircraft has to contend with, but also most likely force pilot to engage enemy with gun.

Development of IRIS-T started after Cold War, when evaluation of systems in MiG-29 revealed multiple aspects in which Russian AA-11 was superior to US Sidewinder, then in use in Luftwaffe. At the same time, extensive air combat simulations showed that far more targets will enter short range of 500 to 5000 meters than previously assumed.

IRIS-T concept was presented in 1995, and development started in 1996 under German leadership. Germany also absorbed 45% of total development costs of 300 million Euros, or 135 million Euros. Partner nations were Germany, Greece, Italy, Norway, Canada and Spain, with Diehl BGT Defence assuming overall responsibility. Missile entered service in December 2005.

During testing, IRIS-T achieved a direct hit against target with infrared countermeasures; I have not found data about nature of countermeasures in question.

AIM-132 ASRAAM is, when compared to IRIS-T, longer-ranged but less agile, being able to pull 50 g turns, reach range of 50 kilometers and speed of Mach 3. Minimum range is 300 meters.

Development of ASRAAM started in 1980s as a joint project between UK and Germany. Unlike with IRIS-T, ASRAAM was not intended as a highly maneuverable missile, as its main purpose was to bridge gap between AIM-120 and Sidewinder. As such, ASRAAM did not use thrust vectoring technology, putting emphasis instead on high velocity and increased range.

In 1990, however, reunification of Germany gave a Luftwaffe look at Russian short-ranged Vympel R-73. It proved to be more dangerous missile than previously anticipated, outperforming Western IR missiles by wide margin in every category save for range. Germany consequently (and correctly) decided that AIM-132 performance is lacking, and decided to develop IRIS-T.

After that, UK looked for a new seeker, selecting Hughes infrared imaging seeker, same one as used in AIM-9X. Seeker has high off-boresight capability of +-90 degrees and lock on after launch capability.

Typhoon’s primary BVR missile is MBDA Meteor, which is not yet in service. It is able to reach range of over 100/150 kilometers and speed of over Mach 4. It can be guided by its launch platform, another fighter aircraft or even AEW&C platform.

Two intakes at each side of lower body are designed to reduce missile’s radar cross section. However, these may limit missile’s maneuvering capability.

Aside from these, Typhoon is capable of carrying US-designed AIM-9X WVRAAM and AIM-120 BVRAAM. AIM-9X Sidewinder has minimum range of under 1 kilometers and maximum range of 35,4 kilometers. It is capable of reaching Mach 4, and can pull maximum of 50 g. AIM-120D AMRAAM has minimum range of 900 meters, maximum range of 110/160 kilometers and speed of Mach 4; however, Typhoon is more likely to use AIM-120C-5 which has same speed but maximum range of 75/105 kilometers.

It should be noted that ranges given are maximum ones in ideal position: at high altitude, with enemy aircraft coming head on. At low altitude, range is 1/5 of that at high altitude, and range against aircraft in flight is 1/4 of that against aircraft in attack. Also, while it can be safely assumed that IR missiles can be released at 9 g turns, such limits are not so clear for BVR missiles.

Air-to-ground weapons

Typhoon is capable of using variety of air-to-ground weapons, ranging from bombs to cruise missiles. Precision weapons are laser-guided Paveway bomb, GPS guided JDAM bomb, Storm Shadow cruise missile, Taurus cruise missile, ALARM anti-radiation missile, HARM anti-radiation missile, Brimstone anti-armor missile, BL-755 cluster bomb, Harpoon anti-ship missile, and Penguin anti-ship missile; in future it could use DWS-39 cluster submunitions dispenser missile.

Paveway “bomb” is actually entire series of guidance kits for GBU bombs developed in the United States, and Paveway bombs are actually already existing weapons fitted with Paveway guidance kits. Bombs weight 113, 227, 454 and 907 kilograms, and are used for attacks on both soft and hard targets. Similarly, JDAM is GPS guidance kit for bombs of 924, 959 and 459 kg. JDAM kit costs 20 000 USD, and consists of aerodynamic control and stability surfaces, as well as onboard computer attacked to the Inertial Measurement Unit; IMU is updated regularly through GPS. Once the bomb is launches, it takes around 30 seconds for GPS to get a fix on its exact location.

First test drop of Paveway occured in 1965, and was first used operationally over Vietnam in 1968, where it achieved successes. In 1972, Paveway II follow-up program started. Paveway kit had bang-bang guidance system, which means that control surfaces are either fully deflected or not at all; this was finally upgraded in Paveway III, which also enabled attacks from low altitude. Paveway bombs come in general purpose, demolition and cluster variants.

Storm Shadow is fire-and-forget air-launched cruise missile. It has reduced RCS and range of 250-400 kilometers, flying at Mach 0,8. Missile weights 1300 kg with 450 kg BROACH warhead that consists of penetrating charge, used to clear soil, and a delayed-fuze main warhead. It is fire-and-forget missile, and once launched, is fully autonomous. Attack on target is done in “climb then dive” pattern to achieve best penetration. Missile is optimized for pre-planned attacks on static targets, and uses passive imaging infrared sensor with autonomous target recognition capability. At terminal phase of flight missile climbs, ejects the ballistic cap allowing its IR seeker to acquire the target, and descends towards target, constantly redefining the aim point. If attack is aborted, or target cannot be acquired/identified, missile flies to a predetermined crash site.

Taurus KEPD 350 is air-launched cruise missile developed in partnership between LFK and Saab Bofors Dynamics. It can reach over 500 kilometers at maximum speed of Mach 0,8-0,9. Double 500 kg warhead, called Mephisto, consists of precharge and initial penetrating charge to clear soil and enter a bunker, and a main warhead with variable delay fuze. Missile can be used for attacks against static targets and ships, and includes self-defense countermeasures. Flight path is programmed before use by mission planners, based on data on enemy air defenses. Missile is typically GPS guided, though it can navigate long distances without GPS support thanks to INS (Inertial Navigation System), IBN (Image Based Navigation) and TRN (Terrain Referenced Navigation) systems. Like with Storm Shadow, attack is of climb-and-dive nature, and high-resolution IR camera, used to help navigation, can also be used to help targeting.

ALARM is British anti-radiation missile used primarly for SEAD. It is 4,3 meters long, has wing span of 0,72 meters, diameter of 0,244 meters and weights 265 kg at launch. Seeker is wideband RF antenna, which according to Jane’s consists of four antennas forming a fixed two-axis interferometer with lower mid-band to high-band coverage. Seeker is programmed to select highest-value secondary target should primary target go offline. Warhed is a heavy metal (probably Tungsten) casing blast fragmentation device, designed to produce high-velocity fragments which perforate antenna and any supporting electronics. Tail section houses two-stage parachute used for loitering modes, allowing missile to stay in the air for extended periods of time, forcing SAMs in the area to stay off-line. When loitering, missile climbs to altitude of 13 kilometers before activating parachute. Missile homes on to radar’s side lobes, and seeker typically knows type of target it is attacking, allowing warhead to go off at optimum altitude from target.

ALARM has five operating modes. First three, used when location of emitter is known, are direct mode, in which missile directly attacks nearest active target; loiter mode, in which missile loiters with parachute above nearest known target, forcing target – and any nearby – to stay offline; dual mode, in which missile flies in attack mode towards designated target, but switches to loiter mode should target go offline. Remaining two, used when location of emitter is not known prior to launch, or when missiles are used against mobile SAMs, are Corridor/Aera supression mode, in which missile climbs steeply from low launch altitude and then coasts in shallow dive, waiting for targets to come on-line. Universal Mode is similar, but is used for high- to medium- -altitude launches, providing better range and larger search pattern.

Missile can be programmed on the ground, or just prior to the launch. It is launched directly from the rail, in a similar fashion to Sidewinder, and has range of over 90 kilometers.

AGM-88 HARM is US anti-radiation missile which uses dual-thrust rocket motor. It weights 360 kg at launch and has range of over 46 kilometers; seeker is a broadband spiral antenna. Once launched, it can operate in one of three modes: preemptive, missile-as-sensor and self-protect.

In preemptive mode, missile is fired before locking on a target; RWRs can then be used to locate threat radars. Advanced HDAM version has GPS/INS guidance, which can be used to restrict missile to engaging targets in certain area. Further, seeker is able to recognise pulse repetition frequencies of threat radars, allowing it to select a specific radar operating in any single band.

Brimstone is UK dual mode radar/laser-guided ground attack missile. It is used against armored targets, and uses millimeter-wave radar for target acquisition, which can be programmed to only activate after passing a certain point, so as to minimise potential for friendly fire. Missile uses dual warhead, with first warhead eliminating reactive armor and primary warhead penetrating main armor of the vehicle. It can be used in both direct and indirect mode; in former, aircraft’s own sensors are used to designate targets.

It is a fire-and-forget weapon, and is programmable to adapt to specific mission environments, including ability to find targets within a certain area or to self-destruct if targets cannot be found. Several missiles can be fired in a salvo against multiple targets. Missile weights 48,5 kg with 300 g precursor warhead and 6,2 kg main warhead. It is 1,8 meters long. Radar seeker operates at near-optical wavelengths, theoretically allowing for target recognition.

BL-755 cluster bomb is primarly used against armored vehicles, with other vehicles and personnell being a secondary target. It weights 264 kg, has shaped charge HEAT warhead and can produce over 200 000 fragments. Payload consists of 147 bomblets in 7 containers, each containg 7 sections with 3 bomblets each.

DWS-90 / BK90 is gliding stand-off cluster bomb (submunitions dispenser). It contains 72 bomblets, and like BL-755 is banned in multiple countries due to submunitions being a threat long after the combat stopped, thus violating Geneva conventions (submunitions released from US cluster bombs during Vietnam war are still killing civillians). It is not yet integrated on Typhoon.

AGM-84 Harpoon is anti-ship sea-skimming missile with active radar seeker. It weights 526 kg, with 221 kg warhead, and can reach range of over 124 kilometers, speed of 850 kph and maximum altitude of 910 meters. Length of air-launched Block II Harpoon is 3,84 meters. Guidance system is GPS-aided inertial navigation system.

Penguin missile is a littoral anti-ship missile developed by Norway with financial support by US and West Germany. It was first NATO anti-ship missile with IR seeker for terminal guidance (pre-terminal guidance is inertial). Mk 3 version is 370 kg heavy, 3,2 meters long with 120 kg warhead and range of 55 km using solid fuel. It can follow a waypoint flight path.

Costs

Flyaway cost per aircraft was stated in 2002 to be 60 million Euros per aircraft, or 63 million then-year USD. When corrected for inflation, resultant value would be 80,46 million USD in 2012 USD. However, current unit flyaway cost seems to be between 100 and 125 million USD, depending on version. Unit procurement cost is 144 to 199 million USD, depending on Tranche.

Jane’s has stated that operating cost per hour is 18 000 USD. This, while higher than Rafale’s 16 500 USD, is identical to F-18s cost of 18 000 USD per hour and lower than F-15s 30 000 USD per hour or F-35s likely 48 800 USD per hour.

Tactical analysis

Eurofighter Typhoon is a highly maneuverable fighter, with low wing loading and high thrust-to-weight ratios, as well as good weapons and cockpit visibility. Its usage of revolver cannon and external missile carriage allow pilot to exploit fleeting firing opportunities whereas good rearward visibility allows him to avoid being ambushed from the rear.

However, its fuel fraction is too low for combat-useful supercruising performance, and it is heavier than Rafale or Gripen, which does hurt its maneuvering performance. There is also rather large tactical deadweight in the nose.

Strategic analysis

Typhoon definetly isn’t cheap fighter; with flyaway cost above 100 million USD and maintenance cost per flight hour of 18 000 USD it is most expensive modern fighter aircraft in Europe, unless F-35 (which is actually a ground attack aircraft, and is not yet in service) is counted. Thus it is questionable wether it can provide required force presence in case of a major war.

Further, it is limited to large, visible and vulnerable concrete runways. This means that it is in danger of both being attacked on the ground, attacked at takeoff/landing or being grounded by destroyed air strip. Maintenance is also more complex than that of SAABs Gripen.

Comparision with other fighters

Dassault Rafale

Dassault Rafale is Typhoon’s primary competitor. While some hold Rafale to be primarly a bomber and not an air superiority aircraft, that is wrong as Rafale has all characteristics of fighter aircraft: low wing loading, high thrust-to-weight ratio, high structural g load and good cockpit visibility. Rafale also has higher fuel fraction than Typhoon, allowing it greater endurance, and higher structural load factor. Other advantages are lower wing loading at 50% fuel and lower drag when turning, provided by cleaner aerodynamics and close-coupled canards. Typhoon does have higher thrust-to-weight ratio, reducing Rafale’s advantage due to lower drag.

F-35

F-35 is a radar LO strike aircraft, made obvious by its fat shape, bad rearward cockpit visibility, high wing loading and low thrust-to-weight ratio. Its aerodynamics also mean that it has less vortex lift and less body lift avaliable when turning, excaberating the problem and giving it far worse lift-to-drag and lift-to-weight ratios than those of Typhoon.

Its internal weapons carriage does give it some drag reduction, which is easily offset by increased weight, complexity and reduced payload. Weapons payload in aerodynamically clean air-to-air configuration is identical, with both fighters having 4 BVRAAMs, but Typhoon’s conformal carriage provides it with faster response time as F-35 has to open doors to fire missiles. Similar situation is with guns: whereas F-35s GAU-22/A has a higher rate of fire, 3 300 rounds per minute when compared to 1 700 for BK-27, weight “thrown” by both guns is 7,4 kg per second for BK-27 and 10,12 kg for GAU-22/A. But while BK-27 reaches full rate of fire within 0,05 seconds, GAU-22/A reaches it 0,4 seconds. Thus even assuming that F-35 pilot opened gun doors beforehand, BK-27 would have fired 13 rounds weighting 3,38 kg in first half of second, compared to 16 rounds weighting 3,44 kg for GAU-22/A. If pilot did not open gun doors, then GAU-22/A will only start firing in 0,5 seconds, and reach full rate of fire in 0,9 seconds.

Where air-to-air is concerned, Typhoon also has advantage in sensors department; while F-35s IRST is only optimized for ground targets, Typhoon’s PIRATE’s position and wavelengths are optimised for air-to-air combat. F-35 itself has huge IR signature thanks to its fat shape and a powerful engine which has 7% more thrust than Typhoon’s two engines combined, yet has almost no IR reduction measures.

Conclusion

As can be seen, Typhoon is a very capable aircraft. However, it is also costly and cannot provide very large battlefield presence. Thus, it should be complemented by the cheaper aircraft, such as Saab Gripen A/C or F-16A, albeit aircraft in question should be equipped with QWIP IRST and DRFM jammers.

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Saab Gripen analysis

Posted by picard578 on February 16, 2013

Program history

SAAB Gripen is a result of relaxed-stability fighter rush initiated by (at the time) revolutionary F-16 fighter aircraft. It is not surprising that SAAB opted for delta-canard layout they themselves pioneered in 1960s, but other options were also evaluated (and rejected). This was influenced by testing programme of Viggen in late seventies, which verified benign high AoA characteristics of the layout. To Sweden, choice of small, cheap but highly capable fighter aircraft was obvious.

In 1979, after cancellation of too expensive B3LA project (a development of subsonic trainer and light attack aircraft), Swedish Air Force carried a reexamination of its requirements. Conclusion was that only affordable option was development of multirole aircraft capable of carrying out air superiority, ground attack and reconnaissance missions. Thus the JAS programme was born, drawing name from specified requirements (Jakt – fighter, Attack – attack, Spaning – reconnaissance).

In March 1980, Government endorsed the plan, but insisted that foreign contractors should be allowed to bid for the contract. As a response, Swedish (state-owned) aircraft industry formed a JAS Industry Group, comprising Saab-Scania, Volvo-Flygmotor, Ericsson Radio Systems and FFV to manage the bid by Swedish industry. Formal proposals were requested in 1981, and JAS IG submitted their proposal on 1 June 1981. After evaluation of proposals, it was decided to go forward with JAS proposal. On 30 June 1982, a fixed-price proposal was signed between the FMV and IG JAS for 5 prototypes and 30 JAS-39A aircraft. Following month, name Gripen was selected for the aircraft.

Ericsson was tasked with developing multi-mode radar, while FFV developed navigation and attack systems.

Mock-up of the final design was unveilled in early 1986. However, development of Flight Control System caused delays in final assembly of the aircraft, with first Gripen rolling out of assembly on 26 April 1987, after 7 years of development. First flight was achieved on 9 December 1988, but after its sixth flight, on 2 February 1989, aircraft veered off the runway and carwheeled. Following that, FCS was fixed, and on 4 May 1990, JAS-39-2 flew with new software. Fifth and final prototype flew on 23 October 1991. Testing showed drag to be 10% lower than predicted, and airfield performance was also better than specifications. In June 1992, contract for second batch of aircraft was approved.

On 4 March 1993, first production Gripen (JAS-39-101) made its flight, with second production aircraft delivered for service testing on 8 June 1993. It soon crashed during air display over Stockholm due to the pilot loosing control and having to eject. Following the accident, further flight testing was suspended until FCS was revised. Revisions included changes to canard deflection angles in combat mode. Testing continued on 29 December 1993.

One JAS-39A was converted from production line to serve as prototype for twin-seated trainer, JAS-39B. It features 65,5 cm fuselage stretch, and rear cockpit that is, except for lack of HUD, identical to the front one.

On 12 June 1995, SAAB and British Aerospace announced joint development of export variant. In 2001, joint venture was registered in Sweden as Gripen International. As Gripen was designed solely for Sweden’s needs, Export Baseline Standard was developed, resulting in C and D variant of the aircraft. Soon, Swedish Air Force decided to also acquire the new version, with last 20 aircraft of Batch 2 and 30 aircraft of Batch 3 conforming to EBS specification.

EBS featured retractable inflight refuelling probe on the port air intake, full-color English-language cockpit displays in Imperial units, new computers, night-vision compatible cockpit lightning, FLIR and reconnaissance pods, more powerful air conditioning system, OBOGS and stronger wings with NATO standard pylons.

In December 2004, BAe sold large portion of its stake in Gripen International to Saab, finally selling remaining 10% of their stake to Saab in June 2011. On 26 April 2007, Norway signed an agreement on common development of aircraft, with agreement between Saab and Thales Norway following in June, concerning development of communications systems. In June 2007, NATO Link 16 was added to datalink systems of Gripens in Swedish service.

On 23 April 2008, Gripen Demo (requested in 2007) was presented, serving as demonstrator for Gripen NG. On 27 May 2008 it had maiden flight, and demonstrated supercruise ability on 21 January 2008, flying at Mach 1,2 without reheat.

In 2010, Sweden awarded 4-year-contract for improving Gripen’s radar and other equipment. On 25 August 2012 Sweden announced plan to buy 40-60 Gripen NGs, following Switzerland’s decision to buy 22 Gripens of the same variant. On 17 January 2013, Sweden’s government approved decision to buy 60 Gripen E’s, with first deliveries in 2018.

Unlike with Viggen, Gripen’s test flights revealed no aerodynamic, structural or engine deficiencies; in fact, all of them were better than predicted. Only structural “fix” was added strake behind each canard surface.

Basic data (Gripen C)

Length: 14,1 m

Wing span: 8,4 m

Height: 4,5 m

Wing area: 25,54 m2; 30 m2 with canards

Wing loading:

326 or 383 kg/m2 with 100% fuel, 4 AMRAAM and 2 Sidewinder

287 or 337 kg/m2 with 50% fuel, 4 AMRAAM and 2 Sidewinder

266 or 313 kg/m2 with 50% fuel and 2 Sidewinder

(*depending on wether canards are counted)

Thrust-to-Weight ratio: (80,51 kN – 18 100 lbf – thrust)

0,95 with 50% fuel, 4 AMRAAM and 2 Sidewinder

Fuel fraction:

0,27 (6 622 kg empty, 2 400 kg fuel) – 2 270 kg fuel was for A version’s “peace setting”; C version has only war setting

Weight:

6 622 kg empty

7 997 kg with 50% fuel and 2 Sidewinder

8 605 kg with 50% fuel, 4 AMRAAM and 2 Sidewinder

14 000 kg max takeoff

Maximum AoA:

>100 degrees (aerodynamic limit)

50 degrees (FCS limit)

Speed:

Mach 2,0 dash

Mach 1,15 cruise

Combat radius:

Ground attack, lo-lo-lo: 650 km

PS-05/A:

Range: 120 km vs 5m2 target (80 km vs 1m2 target)

Operational G capability: 9 g

Flyaway cost: 38 to 44 million USD (in FY 2013 dollars)

Cost per flying hour: 4 700 USD

Design

General

Saab Gripen is designed as a lightweight, highly maneuverable fighter. Close-coupled canard + delta wing arrangement was chosen to optimize maneuvering performance while also providing acceptable strike capabilities. Testing programs have verified excellent recovery capabilities for both Gripen versions. Further, delta canard configuration has inherently good battle damage tolerance due to “overlapping” surfaces, as well as positive trim lift on all surfaces, high maximum lift coefficient, good air field performance, and spin recovery capability. Floating canard also offers stable aircraft if EFCS fails.

To minimize weight, 30% of the structure is carbon-fibre composite. Aircraft is inherently unstable, and SAAB claims that it is first inherently unstable canard fighter to enter production.

While Gripen has low wing loading and good lift at high angles of attack, as well as relatively short wingspan, its thrust to weight ratio is below 1 at combat weight. Aircraft has operational service life of 8 000 flight hours.

Fuselage

One of things that can be noticed is large degree of wing/body blending, similar to F-16, which results in higher lift during maneuvers, as well as little or no interference drag that usually originates from wing-body juncture. Only exception to that are intakes, which are in side arrangement, with flat surfaces used for mounting canards. Body itself, having a “waist” noticeably thinner than parts immediately in front or aft of it, is clearly designed for transonic maneuvre.

Two small strakes are visible on the upper fuselage, located just behind canard surfaces, and single strake can be seen at bottom of fuselage; their purpose is to help enhance directional and lateral stability at high angles of attack.

Canards

Saab Gripen has canards that are relatively large compared to the wing. Canards are positioned close in front and slightly above the wing, and are tilted upwards, with large sweep-back. Location of canards at sides of air intakes prevents obstruction of air flow.

Primary purpose of close-coupled canards is not to act as control surface, but to increase lift at high angles of attack, where aircraft relies mostly on vortices to provide lift, by strengthening vortices generated by the wing and preventing their breakdown. Size and angle of Gripen’s canards are used to achieve as good as possible separation – vertical and horizontal – between canard’s tip and wing’s lifting surface, thus allowing for maximum vortex lift during high-alpha maneuvers – improvement of lift due to the close coupled configuration could be up to 50%, when compared to lift produced by surfaces in isolation. While thrust vectoring only increases maneuverability at very low speeds, and in supersonic regime, close-coupled canards are effective at any speed, though level of effectiveness varies with speed. As such, aircraft with close-coupled canards can have smaller wings for same lift at higher AoA (improving roll rate), being able to turn tighter at any air speed than otherwise possible with same wing size and angle of attack value, and achieving higher instantenenous turn rate. This also means that aircraft will be able to have lower wing span for same wing sweep and lift values, improving roll rates; smaller wing and reduced angle of attack also mean reduced drag when turning, allowing fighter to maintain energy better. However, downwash from canards also reduces wing lift at low angles of attack, reducing maximum payload fighter can carry.

Compared to LEX, canards are more versatile. Aside from being able to act as a control surface, canards can adjust position so as to produce maximum lift at any given angle of attack.

While Gripen managed to achieve angles of attack between 100 and 110 degrees during flight testing, normal AoA limit is 50 degrees as extremely high AoAs have no tactical use. Further, position of canards contributs to the fuselage lift of the fuselage just behind the canards during the turn, and canards themselves create lift, both in level flight and in turn.

Canard also has advantage over tail as the control surface – as center of gravity for modern aircraft is towards rear of the aircraft, usage of canard results in longer moment arm.

Canards can be tilted forward to nearly 90 degrees in order to aid braking during landing.

Wing

Wing itself is standard delta wing, offering large surface area, large volume and high strength for its weight. Shape of the wing ensures creation of vortexes at high angles of attack by wing’s leading edge, improving lift; wings are also equipped with small LERXes to strengthen said vortices. Another high lift device are leading edge flaps, which are used to increase lift at high AoA. When deployed during high-alpha maneuvers, flaps improve lift; however, they can also cause vortex breakdown. They also redirect air flow towards root of the wing, countering the tendency of air flow over delta wing to move towards wing tip. While usage of flaps can reduce drag, it only happens at speeds near stall speed, while in most other cases they increase drag. When flaps are not deployed, dogtooth leading edge configuration results in creation of single strong vortice at each wing, helping lift by countering tendency of delta wings to move air flow towards wing’s tips, and leave rest of the wing in stall. Wing is neither anhedral or dihedral, being located at half of the hull height. Due to wing’s (lack of) thickness, external actuators are required to control elevons.

Due to the Gripen being aerodynamically unstable aircraft, usage of delta wing also results in large trimmed lift during level flight, improving maximum lift by 10-20%, possibly more. Combination of close-coupled canards and low wing loading further improves air field performance, allowing for STOL capability.

While mechanism of lift creation at high AoA create additional drag, they increase lift and thus turn rate. But what some ignore while talking about drag “penalty” of close-coupled arrangement is that flow separation, aside from causing loss of lift, also causes major increase in pressure drag.

Rail launchers are located at wing tips, improving weapons loadout and allowing two missiles to be carried with minimum increase in drag, as well as improving lift/drag ratio of the wing.

Air intakes

Gripen’s air intakes are two-dimensional intakes, similar to those used at RA-5C. Intakes are separated from aircraft’s surface by fuselage boundary layer splitter plate, and provide adequate handling of fuselage boundary layer. High-alpha testing revealed no deficiencies in intake performance.

Fin

Tail fin is small relative to fighter’s size, compared to that of other Eurocanards and F-16. This might theoretically result in problems at high AoA; but usual way to change direction of aircraft is to rotate around X axis and pull nose up, and Gripen has additions on lower surface that may make fin unnecessary for directional stability.

Cockpit

One of major downsides of Gripen is its cockpit. While it allows good forward and side visibility, rearward visibility is very limited. This is dictated by its strike requirements, where exhaust from cooling unit is located behind cockpit to hide it from ground-based IR sensors. While SAAB did attempt to attenuate the problem by installing mirrors on forward canopy frame, it is only a partial solution.

Cockpit originally featured three monochrome multi-function displays, and wide-angle holographic HUD. It also has HOTAS controls that allow pilot to select many functions without lifting hands off the control stick or throttle. Ejection seat, unlike in previous aircraft, is not SAAB’s, but from Martin-Baker.

Engine

Engine is based on General Electric F-404 engine. Version used in Gripen, lincense manufactured by Volvo, had thrust boosted from 16 000 to 18 000 lbf (that is, from 7 257 to 8 165 kgf).

Operational characteristics

Gripen is capable of taking off and landing on roads, and could be capable of using unpaved runways. It can take off from 800 meter long snow-covered landing strips. Landing distance is reduced to 500 meters through usage of canards as air brakes, which is activated automatically when nose wheel establishes ground contact, as well as usage of elevons and large air brakes located at each side of fuselage behind the wing.

Further, it can be maintained by team of one specialist and five minimally-trained conscripts, and has very good combat turnaround time – less than 10 minutes. Gripen requires 10 man hours of maintenance for each hour in the air, and mean time between failure is 7,6 flight hours. Engine can be changed on road by 5 people in less than one hour. Airplane’s on-board systems include built-in “self-test” capabilities, with data being downloaded to technician’s laptop. All service doors to critical systems are at head level or lower for the easy access. Result is that Gripen requires only 60% of maintenance work hours of Viggen.

Aside from providing superior agility, Gripen’s FBW system is capable of automatically compensating for combat damage, including disabled or destroyed control surfaces – for example, using canards if aelirons are disabled.

Handling

Due to its aerodynamic layout, Gripen can be “parked” at 70 to 80 degrees of alpha. When giving adverse aeliron input, flat spin starts at up to 90 degrees per second rotation, and can be stopped by pro aeliron input. Aircraft has demonstrated spin recovery capability for complete cg and AOR range, as well as control capability in superstall, allowing recovery. During the spin testing, in one occasion when spin entrance was gained by wild maneuvering in afterburner, surge in thrust was recorded at high AoA and side-slip angles, but was immediately followed by instant recovery to full power.

Aircraft has operational G load limit of 9, and ultimate limit of 13,5 Gs.

Weapons

Gripen is armed with single Mauser BK-27 cannon, housed in a fairing on port side of aircraft’s belly (can be seen here). It currently also uses Sidewinder IR AAMs, though these are to be replaced with IRIS-T missiles. BVR missile is AIM-120 AMRAAM, though aircraft is also capable of using MBDA Meteor, Matra Mica, and BAe Sky Flash (built in Sweden as Rb-71).

For anti-ship combat as well as ground attack, it can carry SAAB RBS-15 missile (though only Mk3 version of the missile supports land attack missions). Dedicated air-to-ground missiles are AGM-65 Maverick (built in Sweden as Rb-75).

Fact that Gripen uses revolver cannon is a large advantage over aircraft using Gattling guns: while Gattling guns typically take 0,5 seconds to achieve full rate of fire, revolver cannons take only 0,05 seconds. As such, while M61A1 will fire 25 rounds in first half of second, weighting total of 2,5 kg, BK-27 will fire 13,45 rounds, weighting total of 3,5 kg. Larger caliber also ensures greater damage-per-hit, important due to stronger airframes of modern fighters.

Aside for gun, Gripen also has 6 missile hardpoints on wings. Two of these are in wingtip configuration, ensuring minimal drag in flight, while other four are mounted on low-drag pylons. Another hardpoint is located at the bottom of aircraft’s hull in centerline configuration. It is usually used for fuel tank carriage, though it can also carry targeting pods as well as ground attack ammunitions.

Sensors & EW suite

Gripen is equipped with radar PS-05/A, that is capable of detecting targets with RCS of 5 m2 at distance of 120 kilometers, which translates into 80 kilometers against 1 m2 target.

EW suite is built around AR-830 Radar Warning Receiver, with receiveing antennas at front and back of missile launch rails. BOL dispensers are bult into ends of missile launch rails and have capacity of 160 chaff packs or flares; BOP/C dispensers are built into the fuselage, and BOP/B into end of the wing pylons. Lattermost can trail BO2D towed repeater RF decoy, which can be used at supersonic speeds.

Gripen’s limited sensory suite in versions so far is a large shortcoming in combat – namely, lack of IRST, which means that Gripen pilot will have to rely on visual detection (not possible during night, insufficient in bad visibility conditions) or on opponent using his own radar (relying on opponent being an idiot should never be part of any plan). This was realized by SAAB, and Gripen NG will be given IRST; earlier version of Gripen, however, will either have to be retrofitted with an internal IRST system, or settle for using FLIR pod for both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions (if possible). That is probably connected to the fact that Gripen was always intended as a defense weapons, and could thus rely on directions from the ground.

Signature reduction

While the fact that Gripen is relatively small aircraft automatically means smaller IR and visual signatures, there were some specific attempts made at further reduction. Just behind cockpit are located ducts, which are used to release exceess heat from heat exchangers, reducing Gripen’s IR signature as seen from ground.

As far as radar signature is concerned, care was taken to reduce frontal RCS, though side RCS is not likely to be large as long as radar emitter is not at precise 90 degrees angle relative to the aircraft, which would result in return from aircraft’s side surfaces – in particular tail, nose and intake surfaces.

Datalinks and communications

Flygvapnet pioneered the use of datalinks in the combat aircraft, fielding first versions on SAAB 35 Draken in mid 1960s. Gripen is equipped with four high-bandwidth, two-way data links, with range of around 500 kilometers. This allows for exchange of targeting information and other data, even when one of aircraft is on the ground. One Gripen can provide data for four other aircraft, as well as get access to ground C&C systems and SAAB-Ericsson 340B Erieye “mini-AWACs” aircraft. It can also allow fighters to quickly and accurately lock on to target by triangulation of data from several radars. Annother possibility includes one fighter jamming the target while another tracks it, or several fighters using different frequencies at the same time to penetrate jamming easier.

Gripen NG

For Gripen E, SAAB has stated that empty weight will be under 7 000 kg, and engine also apparently has 22 500 lbs of thrust. It also has 3 300 kg of internal fuel, achieving 1 300 km combat radius with 30 minutes loiter time in AtA configuration on internal fuel, or 1 800 km with no loiter time. OTIS IRST will also be added.

Gripen NG will be significantly cheaper than other 4,9 generation aircraft, such as Eurofighter Typhoon or Dassault Rafale, and with 22 ordered by Switzerland and 40-60 by Sweden itself, it has prospect to achieve success on export market as well. Some sources place flyaway cost at less than 50 million USD; my estimate is that it will likely be around 45 – 55 million USD per aircraft.

According to some reports, wing area is double of Gripen C’s, fuselage is 20% longer, but it is made out of carbon nanotube reinforced polymer composites, reducing weight compared to Gripen C. All images of Gripen NG to date, however, seem to be using Gripen C / Gripen Demo as basis (Gripen Demo is test aircraft built by using Gripen C airframe, and images that could indicate wing area don’t show any difference in fuselage dimensions). Another presentation also shows Gripen NG’s empty weight as 7 120 kg, and wing loading as 317 kg/m2 in combat configuration with 50% fuel. (Interesting point is that same presentation states that IRIS-T will be able to shoot down BVR missiles from other aircraft, though slide in question is not entirely clear). OTIS IRST will operate in 3 – 5 and 8 – 11 micron wavelengths.

Conclusion? I won’t draw conclusion about NG until it is airborne and in service.

Image of Gripen landing. Take note of air brakes and canard position:

JAS-39 Gripen landing

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F-35 Analysis

Posted by picard578 on October 7, 2012

Program history

F35 is designed to be LO interceptor / fleet defense / tactical bomber / ground attack / CAS / reconnaissance / air controller and intelligence plane built in CTOL, STOVL, and CATOBAR variants.

As Chuck Spinney puts it: “The problem was that each service had very different requirements. The Air Force wanted 1,763 cheap bombing trucks to replace F-16s and A-10s; the Navy wanted 480 “first day-of-the-war” deep-strike stealth bombers to compete with the Air Force in strategic bombing; and the Marines, still haunted by the ghosts of Admiral Frank Jack Fletcher and Guadalcanal, wanted to replace aging Harriers and conventional F/A-18s with 609 short takeoff vertical landing (STOVL) JSFs that will operate from big-deck amphibious assault ships if need be.” It also replaces Navy’s AV-8B, Sea Harrier and A-6.

For an example of how different requirements can cause trouble, one only has to take a look at requirements for fighters and strike aircraft: while fighter aircraft have to have as low wing loading as possible, so as to increase maneuverability to maximum, low-penetration strike aircraft work better with high wing loading and small wing. That fact alone makes it obvious what F35 is supposed to do.

Another problem was usage of computer models to settle final design before all issues have been found by flight testing.

In 2002, order was reduced by 400 planes, from 2853 to 2443 planes, and it is looking at further reduction. If F22 is any indication, US might end up with 713 planes (500 Air Force, 200 USMC), which will then cost 538 million USD per plane (F22s cost 421 million USD per plane as of 2012), and produce 383,6 billion total program expense. However, as with F22, F35 is simply too big to fail.

YF35 was even more limited than YF22 as technological demonstrator, and winner was determined by a flyoff demonstrating only low-speed handling, STOVL capability, and producibility with at least 70% parts commonality. Competitive prototyping, including working out bugs before large-scale production, was absent in both programmes. LRIP, meanwhile, escalates costs of any changes to design, essentially cementing it as well as allowing contractor to build up powerful political alliances by establishing nation-wide network of subcontractors. When weapon becomes obvious failure on performance and economical goals, it is already impossible to cancel, thus freeing contractor from obligation of having to fulfill its performance and cost promises.

Developing engine has incurred cost overruns of as much as 850 million USD.

There are also quite a few issues with the plane as well:

  • upper lift fan door actuator problems

  • ejection seat and pilot escape system failed tests

  • problems with restarting engine if it flames out in flight

  • braking on wet runaway is deficient

    • four above issues were known in 2011; reported cost to fix them was 30 million USD per plane in lots 2-5

  • no protection against cyber attacks

Also, it is not one airplane for three services; with part commonality of 30%, it is basically three different airplanes, with only looks being similar.

While some countries – such as South Korea, Japan, Norway, Italy and UK – are considering F35 as option for their air forces, evidence exists that they are only doing so due to heavy political pressure from United States; as discussed in F22 analysis, US Military Industrial Complex has unprecended influence on US Government, to the point that it could be said that Federal Government is owned by MIC. South Korea plans to buy 60 of aircraft. Situation in Korea is similar to 2003 deal in Poland, where Lockheed Martin and US Government exerted heavy political and diplomatic pressure to ensure that Poland will choose it over Eurofighter and BAE deals. United States themselves have a long history of threatening allied nations if they are unwilling to purchase US weaponry. Basically, countries aren’t buying US weapons, but alliance with United States. Similarly, United States have refused to upgrade South Korean F16s so as to make F35 only answer – excuse was that they did not want new radar technology to fall into Chinese hands, despite the fact they offered same technology on F35.

Costs

Like F22, F35 is more famous for its perpetual increase in costs than for its hyped abilities. There are many reasons for such increase, such as false cost estimates made by Lockheed Martin, reduced orders and problems with aircraft itself. Official numbers are 122 million USD as a flyaway cost, and 150 million USD as unit procurement cost. However, these numbers are outdated.

Unit costs

In 2011, one F35 of unspecified model had a weapons system flyaway cost of 207,6 million USD and unit procurement cost of 304,15 million USD, as opposed to official numbers of 122 million and 140-150 million USD, respectively. Developmental costs have increased due to many patch-ups (such as structural strengthening of rear fuselage) and fixes; costs were additionaly increased by abandonment of “fly before you buy” policy – some aircraft were bought before development was finished, and thus had to be brought up to standard later – which is extremely expensive.

In 2012 weapons system flyaway costs were 197 million USD for F35A, 237,7 million USD for F35B, and 236,8 million USD for F35C. Unit procurement costs per aircraft may have been as high as 352,8 million USD per aircraft, if 16% increase in per-unit cost is correct, giving 861,2 billion USD total program cost.

Maintenance and operating costs

F35s estimated cost per hour of flight is 35 200 USD in 2012 dollars. And that is for F35A, CTOL variant which, logically, should be easiest to maintain. Also, a leaked Pentagon report estimated that Canada’s fleet of 65 aircraft will cost 24 billion USD to maintain over next 30 years.

However, more logical would be to use F-22’s cost per flying hour as beginning point of estimate; assuming F-35 costs 80% of F-22s cost per flying hour, its operating cost will be 48 800 USD.

Strategical analysis

Effects of numbers

Effects of numbers are various. First, fewer planes means that these same planes have to do more tasks and fly more often, therefore accumulating flight ours faster and reaching designed structural life limit faster. Also, smaller force will attrite faster; more flight hours per plane will mean less time available for proper maintenance as well as greater wear and tear put on planes, further reducing already limited numbers.

In combat, side capable of putting and sustaining greater number of planes in the air will be able to put a larger sustained pressure on the enemy.

F35s shortcomings – force size and quality

F35, as it is obvious, is NOT a “low cost, affordable solution”. With its flyaway cost of over 200 million USD, it is more expensive than F15, let alone F16 it is supposed to replace. Moreover, its low reliability and high maintenance requirements are going to reduce that number even more.

Effects of training

Wars in history – such as Yom Kippur War, Croatian War for Independence or Ottoman invasion of Europe – have proved dangers of overreliance on technology as replacement for doctrine, tactics and training. Whenever technology has been solely relied on, it had failed.

F35 does not have a double-seat version, therefore harming training further; which is exceptionally noticeable with high training requirements for complicated operations like vertical landings. Simulators, meanwhile, cannot replace training – meaning that lack of training in two-seat STOVL variant will result in preventable accidents.

Strategic bombing

Whereas from World War II to modern day, Close Air Support missions carried out by variety of aircraft – perhaps most famous being WW2 German Stuka dive-bomber and modern A10 Close Air Support plane – were very effective at winning the wars, strategic bombing missions were a failure.

It can be safely said that Germans lost World War 2 due to spending too much on strategic bombers, and too less on Stukas. Despite the fact that one multi-engined bomber cost as much as five Stukas, five times more bombers were produced than Stukas – out of 114 000 aircraft produced by Germany in World War 2, 25 000 were heavy bombers, but only 4 900 were Stukas. If investment in heavy bombers had been transferred to Stukas, 130 000 Stukas would have been produced.

At Dunkirk, RAF lost 60 aircraft, mostly fighters – Luftwaffe lost 240, mostly heavy bombers. And while British shipping took a fearful beating – 6 destroyers lost, 23 warships damaged, 230 smaller ships and boats were lost – losses were caused primarily by Stukas.

Meanwhile, Allied strategic bombing failed to do as much as scratch on German war production – while in beginning of 1940, monthly production figure for Me-109 was 125, it was 2 500 in autumn of 1944. If that figure had been reached in 1940, Battle for Britain would have taken completely different course.

During German attack on Russia, strategic bombers failed to do anything except consuming scarce fuel. Strategic bombers were part of Soviet retaliation on attack – Me-109s shot down 179 of these. Meanwhile, only 300 Stukas were present to cover entire front – utterly understrength when compared to what was required to exploit numerous opportunities for turkey shoots that disorganized Red Army presented during its wild retreat. It is safe to say that Stukas could have won the war in the Eastern Front for Germany – but they were not given enough attention.

During 1941, Luftwaffe had lost 1798 heavy bombers from the beginning number of 1339. Stuka losses were 366 from the beginning number of 456. Also, during same year, several Stuka raids sank Soviet battleship “Marat”. The cost of all 4 900 Stukas produced during 10-year period was cca 25 million USD – about same as the battleship. Meanwhile, British sent 299 heavy bomber attacks against German ships “Gneiseau”, “Scharnhorst” and “Prinz Eugen”, which were in harbour right over the Channel. 299 attacks and 8 000 sorties later, they accomplished nothing, aside from losing 43 bombers (and no fighters) and 247 men. When ships moved in 1942, British sent heavy bombers to stop them, losing 60 aircraft and 345 airmen. Meanwhile, two highest-scoring Stuka pilots on the Eastern front had a score of 518 and cca 300 tank kills, respectively.

Similarly, V-1 and V-2 missiles achieved close to nothing – and 6 000 V2s equaled cost of 48 000 tanks (it should also be noted that Germany produced a total of 29 000 tanks during entire war) or 24 000 fighter planes.

In Great Britain, sir Arthur Harris was convinced that his bombers could kill enough German civilians to force Germany to capitulate. It did not work – not only losses in heavy bombers during 1942 totaled 1402 heavy bombers (while total number of heavy bombers in service during same year never went above 500), but it did not achieve any effect – German war production soared.

During First Gulf War, high-altitude bombing by B-52s and F-16s against dug-in Iraqi forces was as ineffective as above-discussed strategic bombing campaigns. 300 high-altitude sorties were flown daily by F16s, without effect. On the other hand, two A10s and single AC130 demolished Iraqi convoy moving towards Saudi city of Khafji – 58 out of 71 targets were destroyed.

In Kosovo, 78-day strategic bombing by NATO against Serbia achieved nothing.

In Second Gulf War, “Shock and Awe” 10-day strategic bombing campaign achieved nothing. Saddam’s regime toppled 21 days after beginning of ground invasion.

Tactical analysis

BVR combat

Since development of first BVR weapons, each new generation of fighters would make someone declare that “dogfighting is a thing of past”. Invariably, they have been wrong. In 1960, F4 Phantom was designed without gun – and then Vietnam happened.

US went into Vietnam relying on a AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided missile. Pre-war estimated Pk was 0,7 – Pk demonstrated in Vietnam was 0,08. Current AIM-120 has demonstrated Pk of 0,59 in combat do this date, with 17 missiles fired for 10 kills. However, that is misguiding.

Since advent of BVR missile until 2008, 588 air-to-air kills were claimed by BVR-equipped forces. 24 of these kills were by BVR missile. Before “AMRAAM era”, four out of 527 kills were by BVR missile. Since 1991, 20 out of 61 kills may have been done by BVR missile, while US itself has recorded ten AIM-120 kills. However, four were NOT from beyond visual range; Iraqi MiGs were fleeing and non-manouvering, Serb J-21 had no radar, as was the case with Army UH-60 (no radar, did not expect attack), while Serb Mig-29’s radars were inoperative; there was no ECM use by any victim, no victim had comparable BVR weapon, and fights involved numerical parity or US numerical superiority – in short, BVR missile Pk was 50% against “soft” targets. Also, 16 BVR missile kills in Desert Storm are far from sure – it says that “sixteen involved missiles that ‘were fired’ BVR”, meaning that these could have WVR kills prefaced with BVR shots that missed. Five BVR victories are confirmed, however – one at 16 nm (and at night), one at 8.5 nm (night) and three at 13 nm, which more than doubles number of BVR victories.

In Vietnam, Pk was 28% for gun, 15% for Sidewinder, 11% for Falcon, 8% for Sparrow, and essentially zero for Phoenix. Cost of expendables per kill was few hundred dollars for gun, 15 000 USD for Sidewinder, 90 000 USD for Falcon, 500 000 USD for Sparrow, and several millions for Phoenix. Overall cost for destroying enemy with BVR missiles – including training, and required ground support – has never been computed.

In Cold War era conflicts involving BVR missiles – Vietnam, Yom Kipuur, Bekaa Valley – 144 (27%) of kills were guns, 308 (58%) heat-seeking missiles, and 73 (14%) radar-guided missiles. Vast majority of radar-guided missile kills (69 out of 73, or 95%) were initiated and scored within visual range. In true BVR shots, only four out of 61 were successful, for a Pk of 6,6 %.

In Desert Storm itself, F15s Pk for Sidewinders was 67% as compared to Pk for BVR Sparrow of 34%. However, Iraqi planes did not take evasive actions or use ECM, while there was persistent AWACS availability on Coalition part – none of which can be counted at in any serious war.

Post-Desert Storm, there were 6 BVR shots fired by US during operation Southern Watch – all missed.

There are other examples of radar missile engagements being unreliable: USS Vincennes shot down what it thought was attacking enemy fighter, and downed Iranian airliner, while two F14s fired twice at intruding Lybian fighters, missing them at BVR with radar-guided Sparrows and shooting them down in visual range with a Sparrow and Sidewinder.

BVR combat cannot – for obvious reason – fulfill critical requirement of visual identification. IFF is unreliable – it can be copied by the enemy, and can be tracked; meaning that forces usually shut it down. As such, fighter planes have to close to visual range to visually identify target. Moreover, presence of air-air anti-radiation missiles, such as Russian R-27P, was shown to be able to force everyone to turn off radars – possibly including AWACS. Radar signal itself can be detected at far greater range than radar can detect target at – even when it is LPI – meaning that enemy has ample time to use countermeasures and/or maneuver away from incoming missile. Uplinks to AWACS can be jammed, and if AWACS is shot down/scared away, it means that some F22s, with far weaker uplinks, will have to act as spotters for other F22s.

While modern IRST can identify aircraft by using its silhouette, range for such identification is low (~40 km for PIRATE).

Moreover, F35 is far from stealthy; since shape is far more important than RAM, and F35 is far larger than F16, its RCS will be closer to that of F16 than that of F22.

WVR combat

In Desert Storm, US forces fired 48 WVR missiles, achieving 11 kills, for Pk of 0,23. However, historically, Pk for IR missiles was 0,15, and 0,308 for cannon. While F16s fired 36 Sidewinders and scored zero kills, at least 20 of launches were accidental, due to bad joystick ergonomy, which was later modified.

While missiles have become more reliable, countermeasures have advanced too; as such, while IR missiles may be aircraft’s main weapon, gun kill remains most reliable way of getting rid of enemy.

Effects of numbers

In WVR, numbers are usually decisive. F35, even more than F22, relies on a (flawed, as shown above) concept of decisive BVR engagement to compensate for larger numbers of enemy fighter planes it can be expected to engage – especially since it is proving to be anything but low cost counterpart to F22.

However, even in BVR, numbers do matter. Lanchester square criteria, which holds that qualitative advantage of outnumbered force has to be square of outnumbering force’s numerical advantage, is even more applicable for BVR combat than for WVR, due to lack of space constrains. Thus, due to Su-27s costing 30 million USD, as opposed to F22s 250 million, F22s would have to enjoy 70:1 qualitative advantage just to break even – which is extremely unlikely. Historically, 3:1 was usually a limit of when quality could no longer compensate for enemy’s quantitative advantage, in both BVR and WVR.

Superior numbers also saturate enemy with targets, and cause confusion. USAF itself has always depended on superior numbers to win air war.

F35s shortcomings in air combat

F35 is overweight and underpowered – with a wing loading of 446 kg/m^2 and thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,07 (at empty weight), it cannot hope to outmaneuver any modern fighter plane – even ancient MiG-21s, with wing loading of 308 kg/m^2 can outmaneuver it. Actually, F35’s wing loading is slightly worse than F105 Thunderchief.

Indeed, many fire safeties had to be removed to save weight.

Sukhoi fighters, which many countries which are member of the program want it to counter (UK will use far more capable Typhoons in AtA role, instead using F35 as self-defensible tactical bomber, which it is), are far more capable than F35 in air combat.

Number of different capabilities and electronical systems in airplane necessitates second crew member – luxury that no F35 variant can provide. Task saturation can, and often does, result in “close calls” and mishaps. Place for second crew member was not put in – due to vertical landing requirement. Airborne Air Controller missions also require second crew member – in F/A-18 D/F, that work is done by Weapons and Sensors Operator (WSO) in back seat.

While F-35 does have jammers, all that jammers do is to turn missile into unguided rocket; aircraft still has to have maneuverability to evade missile.

F35s shortcomings in WVR combat

F35 is, so much is obvious, designed as tactical bomber with limited capacity of self-defense. Its maximum G load is 7 – 9, depending on version (7 G for F35B, 7,5 for F35C and 9 for F35A), versus 9 which is standard for modern fighter planes. Last time 7 Gs were acceptable was Vietnam war. Its wing loading is high – 526 kg/m^2, worse than the famous F-105 “Lead Sled”, and thrust-to-weight ratio is 0,87, at loaded weight. At 50% fuel, with 2 Sidewinder missiles and 4 JAGM, F-35A would weight 17 858 kg, for a wing loading of 418 kg/m2 and thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,09. In same configuration with 100% fuel, it would weight 22 221 kg, for a wing loading of 520 kg/m2 and thrust-to-weight ratio of 0,88.

Worse, naval version – one rated at 7 Gs – has best turning capability due to lowest wing loading, as long as it doesn’t go fast enough that G limit does not limit its turning ability.

Its high wing and thrust loadings, as shown above, do not allow F35 to achieve maneuverability required for a modern front line fighter. It is double inferior – in both wing and thrust loading – to most modern fighter planes. It also does not have a bubble cockpit; pilot’s rearward visibility is literally zero, while its weapons, which require doors to open, do not offer it ability to perform dogfight-critical “snapshots” in order to shoot down enemy aircraft. It’s large frontal crossection does not allow it to achieve acceleration comparable to fourth generation aricraft, such as Rafale, Typhoon, Gripen or F16.

It is also very noisy and relatively large aircraft, making it very detectable at visual range.

F35s shortcomings in BVR combat

First, it is not stealthy at all. Stealth is measured against five signatures – infrared, sound, visual, and radar footprint as well as electronic emissions. Visual, by definition, is not important for BVR combat; but sound and infrared signature are impossible to lower enough for plane to be VLO, especially when supersonic. While it is not a shortcoming by itself, legacy fighters not even making any effort to lower it, it becomes one when coupled by its low numbers and maximum of two BVR missiles carried in VLO configuration – essentially necessitating use of 6 to 8 F35s to kill a single target (growth to four BVR missiles is planned, halving numbers given). On better note, F35 is equipped with IRST; however, it is optimized for ground attack.

While F35s only hope to survive air combat is to “launch and leave”, its maximum speed of Mach 1,6 means that most fighter planes in the world can easily overtake it and shoot it down – even if that means ejecting missiles. Also, it means that its BVR missiles won’t have very good kinematic performance.

Moreover, F35s stealth capability has been downgraded from VLO to LO, meaning its frontal RCS is roughly comparable to that of modern European 4,5 generation aircraft. Also, at ranges stealth is effective at, BVR missiles have already expended fuel and have extremely low Pk.

F35 shortcomings in ground attack missions

F35 is completely incapable of providing close air support. First, many major safety measures in regards to fire safety have been dropped due to increasing cost. Second, its high wing loading and high drag make it unable to slow down, and its lack of maneuverability, thin skin as well as fact that engine is literally surrounded by fuel – which is also used to cool down aircraft’s skin – coupled with lack of fire safety measures, make it extremely vulnerable, and unable to go low enough and slow enough to provide effective close air support.

Inability of fast jest to provide effective close support was graphically demonstrated when, in Afghanistan war, 2001, 30-man combined US/Afghan team was ambushed by 800 Talibans. Single B1B which was nearby tried to help, but couldn’t fly low and slow enough to reliably identify targets. Two A10s were sent – as soon as they opened fire with cannons, Taliban attack ceased, and A10s covered team for next 6 hours. (Taliban also tried to negotiate a release of some captured ANA members if US team was to call off A10 support).

As far as bombing is concerned, it can only carry two 907-kg bombs in its bomb bay – anything else, and it rapidly becomes non-stealthy.

Despite STOL/VTOL capability, F-35 can only fly from prepared concrete airfields, due to vulnerable engine.

Comparasion with other planes

“Fifth generation fighter” label has been coined as PR trick by Lockheed Martin. In fact, Lockheed Martin officials claim that fifth-generation fighter should have ALL following characteristics to qualify:

  • VLO

  • supercruise

  • supersonic performance focus

  • extreme agility

  • high-altitude ops

  • missile load-out for fighter performance

  • integrated sensor fusion

  • net-enabled ops

Eurofighter Typhoon lacks only VLO. Dassault Rafale also lacks supersonic performance focus, however, its supersonic performance is very good. F-35, on the other hand, lacks VLO, supercruise, supersonic performance focus, extreme agility, high-altitude ops, and missile load-out.

F16

F16 is far better fighter and bomber than F35. F16 does not carry weapons internally, allowing it to fire off shots quickly. Its cockpit visibility is far superior to that of F35; it has lower wing loading (431 vs 526 kg/m^2 loaded) and higher thrust-to-weight ratio (1,08 vs 0,87).

Cost issue is completely in favor of F16. Whereas F35 has unit flyaway cost of over 200 million USD, F16s unit flyaway cost is 60 million USD for latest model, easily giving it 10:3 advantage in numbers.

In Gulf War I, F16s flew 13 340 sorties, and had 3 confirmed losses to enemy action, 7 losses total; thus, loss rate was one plane per 4460 sorties for confirmed combat losses, or one plane per 1900 sorties for total losses – both far better than F117. In Kosovo war, one F16 was shot down out of 4500 sorties.

F16 was also designed to be able to operate from straight stretches of motorway if airfields were to be destroyed.

Moreover, while one F22 can fly only one sortie every three days, and F35 seems to be in similar vein, F16 managed to fly 7 – 9 sorties a day in Israeli service (in USAF one F16 usually flies 6 sorties per 5 days).

F35 is also four times louder than F16 (and twice louder than F-15), making it easier to detect by ground-based acoustic sensors, and presenting an environmental hazard.

Whereas est F-35s cost per hour of flight is 48 800 USD, F-16s cost 4 600 – 7 000 USD, depending on version.

F18

F18 is also better fighter and bomber than F35. Unlike F35, which can only carry two 900-kg bombs without becoming non-stealthy, F18 can carry a total of 6 200 kg of external ordnance and fuel. Also, it costs up to 57 million USD, enabling numerical advantage of 3,6 to 1, in essence being able to deliver 12 times more payload for same unit cost – and that without going into its superior sortie rate.

Its wing loading of 441 kg/m^2 and thrust-to-weight ratio of 0,96 (both for loaded) are superior to these of F35. Also, its cockpit design allows for rear visibility, unlike F35.

F-18 cost per flying hour ranges from 11 000 – 24 000 USD, and flyaway cost is 67 million USD per aircraft for E/F version.

Saab Gripen

Saab Gripen is probably the best dogfighter in the world – or it would be if it got F16-esque bubble canopy, although Saab tried to remedy the lack of rearward visibility by installing mirrors.

Its wing loading is 283 kg/m2 loaded, and thrust-to-weight ratio is 0,97 – both better than F35s. Moreover, its close-coupled canards allow it to achieve and maintain high AoA, thus giving it even tighter turns at subsonic speeds than its wing loading would indicate. Usage of external missile carriage and revolver cannon allows it to use split-second opportunities, which F35 cannot. To top all that, its flyaway cost is between 40 and 60 million USD. Gripen NG will also have thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,08, and even lower wing loading, as well as IRST.

A10

In over 8 000 daytime missions in Gulf War One, A10 suffered 3 losses to IR missiles – in other three cases, plane was hit but returned to base safely. Meanwhile, 83 % of A10s that were hit made a safe landing. In Gulf War and Kosovo campaigns, A10s flew 12 400 sorties while suffering 4 losses – a one loss per 3100 sorties, far less than F117, which had 1 loss per 1300 sorties.

In Afghanistan in 2001, 4-man US special ops team leading 26 ANA troops was ambushed by 800 Taliban. B1B bomber, sent to do “close support”, failed to achieve any effect. Team leader, sgt. Osmon, asked for A10s. Two A10s were sent – after A10s opened fire with their cannons, Taliban ceased attack and dispersed. A10s escorted team during entirety of next 6 hours, a trip that would have normally taken 2 hours.

This incident only serves to prove that F35 has no capacity whatsoever to perform Close Air Support missions – it is too vulnerable, so it cannot fly as low and as slow as CAS missions require it to fly; it does not have a required loiter time – inefficient aerodynamics, small wing and large weight necessitate both high speed and high fuel consumption for it to stay in the air; and it lacks armament required to perform such missions, such as specialized cannon like GAU-8 A-10 is equipped with. A10 is also slow enough, survivable enough and maneuverable enough to enable pilots to use binoculars and night vision googles to find and identify targets, often coupled with simple radio link to troops on ground, in keeping with KISS principle.

Rafale

Rafale is of aerodynamically unstable canard-delta configuration. It has wing loading of 307 kg/m^2, and thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,1, loaded. Moreover, its close-coupled canards provide additional boost to its maneuverability by allowing it to achieve higher angle of attack, and it is equipped with advanced IRST and weapons systems. Its price – 90,5 million USD flyaway, 145,7 million USD unit program cost for most expensive variant – also mean that it is also far superior design from strategic standpoint, easily providing 2:1 advantage for same price. It’s IRST has maximum range of 100 km against fighter-sized targets. Operating cost is 16 500 USD per hour.

F117

In Gulf War I, 42 F117s generated, at 0,7 sorties per day, less than 1300 sorties out of 33 000 flown, and made 2 000 laser-guided bomb attacks. Out of 15 SAM batteries in Baghdad reported attacked by F117s on first night, 13 continued to operate – these 15 strikes were also only strikes launched by F117s during war. In same night, 658 non-stealth aircraft also hit targets, with no losses whatsoever.

While F117s did have zero losses in the war, as opposed to 2 F16s, and 4 A10s lost, night was a much safer combat environment than day, and the F-117 flew only at night. Two squadrons of A-10s flew at least as many night sorties as the F-117. Their losses were the same as the F-117’s: zero. F-111Fs also flew at night and also had no losses.

The A-10s and the F-117s flew in both the first Gulf war and the next war in Kosovo in 1999. The day-flying A-10s suffered a total of four losses in both wars. The night-flying F-117s suffered two casualties, both to radar missiles in Kosovo. However, F117 suffered 1 loss per 1 300 sorties, as opposed to 1 loss per 3 100 sorties for A10 in Kosovo and First Gulf War (F117 has flown 2 600 sorties in both wars, compared to 12 400 for A10). Moreover, both F117s were hit by same SAM battery, whose commander was apparently only one to use the tactic of combining VHF radar with IR SAMs.

In Kosovo war, Serbs launched 845 radar-guided SAMs – 2 F117s and one F16 were hit, for effectiveness rate of 0,36 %.

B2

F35 will be far less capable bomber than B2. Unlike B2, which was designed for nighttime low-level penetration and similarly low-level bombing, F35, being designed for daytime operations, and having far higher wing loading (446 vs 329 kg/m^2) cannot fly as low and slow, making it unable to reliably hit small targets. F35 is also far smaller, and has shape reminiscent of legacy fighters, making it more vulnerable to VHF radars. Compared to B2, which can carry 80 230-kg GPS-guided bombs, F35 will, in stealth configuration, carry two 910 kg (A and C models) or two 450 kg (B model) weapons, and unlike B2, it cannot carry long-range air-to-surface standoff weapons.

While B2 is seven times as expensive as F35, it does not have to be built in so large numbers (necessitated by F35 being replacement for five different airframes) and is easily several times as effective as F35 in bombing role; its size and shape also make it, in theory, harder to detect by low frequency radars, albeit its RAM is useless against them. Downside of B2 is that it cannot defend itself if it is detected (by IRST, for example); and while F22s in service may be used to provide it, they will be detected by VHF radars.

However, above theorizing is made noot by reports that B2 “has radar that cannot distinguish a rain cloud from a mountainside, has not passed most of its basic tests and may not be nearly as stealthy as advertised”. While B2 is able to “hug” the ground to evade radar, legacy platforms can be equipped with same systems – and radar used for that type of flying can easily be detected (as proven in Vietnam, where several F111s were lost due to that radar). Also, like F22, it is vulnerable to rain – specifically, its stealth coating is.

Moreover, B2 carries only 4 times more payload than F16 despite costing – at 2.2 billion FY 1995 USD per plane – or 3,17 billion in FY 2010 USD – 52 times more. It is also maintenance-demanding, requiring environment-controlled hangars which exist only at Whiteman AFB – if these are destroyed, maintenance of B2 will be rendered impossible. To add injury to an insult, during entire Kosovo war, 21-plane, 66-billion USD B2 fleet delivered a meager one sortie per day. 715 A10s, bought for cost of 4 B2s, were procured, and 132 A10s sent to First Gulf War managed to generate over 200 sorties per day.

One more problem is that B2 has design lifespan of only 30 years – as such, it costs 8 300 USD per hour, regardless of whether it is flying or not.

Su-27 variants

All Su-27 variants are capable of defeating F35 in one-on-one combat, due to combination of IRST, RWR, and good maneuverability. Moreover, they are cheaper than F35 (Su-35 has estimated cost of 45 to 55 million USD, enabling them to outnumber it as much as four to one).

MiG-21

MiG-21PFM from first half of 1960-s has wing loading of 339 kg/m^2 and thrust-to-weight ratio of 0,79 at gross weight; MiG-21-93 has wing loading of 384 kg/m^2, and thrust-to-weight ratio of 0,8 at gross weight. As such, both fighters can outmaneuver F35, while F35 probably can outaccelerate them. However, both have advantage in that they don’t require weapon bays’ doors to open before firing a shot, and even ability of F35 to outaccelerate MiG-21 can be questioned, due to bad aerodynamical profile of former.

Aircraft comparision table

Thrust-to-weight ratio at 50% fuel:

F35A: 1,07, F35B: 1,04, F35C: 0,91

Typhoon: 1,35

Rafale: 1,3

Wing loading:

F105: 452 kg/m2 @ takeoff weight

F35A: 408 kg/m2 @ 50% fuel; 745 kg/m2 @ max takeoff weight

F35B: 416 kg/m2 @ 50% fuel; 639 kg/m2 @ max takeoff weight

F35C: 326 kg/m2 @ 50% fuel; 512 kg/m2 @ max takeoff weight

Typhoon: 262 kg/m2 @ 50% fuel; 459 kg/m2 @ max takeoff weight

Rafale C: 259 kg/m2 @ 50% fuel; 536 kg/m2 @ max takeoff weight

Rafale B: 265 kg/m2 @ 50% fuel;

Rafale M: 275 kg/m2 @ 50% fuel;

Counter-stealth technologies

Stealth versus classical radar

Su-27s radar performance has doubled over past 8 years, and by 2020 Flanker family radars will be able to detect VLO targets at over 46 kilometers. Also, US stealth planes fly mission with same radar jamming escorts that accompany legacy platforms.

During the Gulf War, the British Royal Navy infuriated the Pentagon by announcing that it had detected F-117 stealth fighters from 40 miles away with 1960s-era radar. The Iraqis used antiquated French ground radars during that conflict, and they, too, claimed to have detected F-117s. The General Accounting Office, Congress’ watchdog agency, tried to verify the Iraqi claim, but the Pentagon refused to turn over relevant data to GAO investigators.

Also, even modern VLO planes have to operate alongside jamming planes, such as EA-6B or EA-18, when performing ground attack, confirming that even legacy radars are far from useless against VLO planes.

Main way to reduce plane’s radar signature is shaping – stealth coating simply deals with last few percentages. Which means that F35 is going to blow its radar stealth as soon as it maneuvers; additionally, its stealth capability was far lower than that of F22 from get-go. Moreover, it was downrated from VLO to LO by US Defense Department (for reference, Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale are LO from front).

Moreover, target RCS is determined by 1) power transmitted in direction of target, 2) amount of power that impacts the target and is reflected back, 3) amount of reflected power intercepted by radar antenna, and 4) lenght of time radar is pointed at target. While normal procedure was to slave IR sensor to radar, advent of IRST makes it possible to slave radar to it.

That is not only solution. In a series of tests at Edwards AFB in 2009, Lockheed Martin’s CATbird avionics testbed – a Boeing 737 that carries the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s entire avionics system – engaged a mixed force of F-22s and F-15s and was able to locate and jam F-22 radars, according to researchers. Raytheon X-band airborne AESA radar – in particular, those on upgraded F-15Cs stationed in Okinawa – can detect small, low-signature cruise missiles.

VHF radar

While VLO planes are optimized to defeat S- and X- -band radars, VHF radars offer a good counter-stealth characteristics.

Simply put, RCS varies with the wavelenght because wavelength is one of inputs that determines RCS area.

VHF radars have wavelengths in 1-3 meter range, meaning that key shapings of 19-meter-long, 13,5-meter-wide F22 are in heart of either resonance or Rayleigh scattering region. Same applies for F35.

Rayleigh scattering region is region where wavelength is larger than shaping features of target or target itself. In that region, only thing that matters for RCS is actual physical size of target itself.

Resonance occurs where shaping features are comparable in wavelength to radar, resulting in induced electrical charges over the skin of target, vastly increasing RCS.

However, their low resolution and resultant large size means they are limited to ground-based systems.

Russians and Chinese already have VHF radars, with resolution that may be good enough to send mid-flight update to SAMs. Also, it is physically impossible to design fighters that will be VLO in regards to both low power, high-frequency fighter radars, and high-power, low-frequency ground-based radars. Such radars can, according to some claims, detect fighter-sized VLO targets from distance of up to 330 kilometers (against bombers like B2, their performance will be worse, but such planes have their own shortcomings – namely, IR signature and sheer size). Manufacturers of Vostok E claim detection range against F117 as being 352 km in unjammed and 74 km in jammed environment.

Also, RAM coatings used in many stealth planes are physically limited in their ability to absorb electromagnetic energy; one of ways RCS reduction is achieved is active cancellation – as signal reaches surface of RAM, part of it is deflected back; other part will be refracted into airframe, and then deflected from it in exact opposite phase of first half, and signals will cancel each other on way back. However, thickness of RAM coating must be exactly half of radar’s frequency, meaning that it does not work against VHF radar for obvious reasons – no fighter plane in world can have skin over half a meter thick.

There is one detail that apparently confirms this: in 1991, there was a deep penetrating raid directed at destruction of VHF radar near Baghdad; radar, which may have alerted Saddam at first wave of stealth bombers approaching capital. Before US stealth bombers started flying missions, radar was destroyed in a special mission by helicopters. Also, during fighting in Kosovo, Yugoslav anti-air gunners downed one F117 with Russian anti-air missile whose technology dates back to 1964, simply by operating radar at unusually long wavelengths, allowing it to guide missile close enough to aircraft so as to allow missile’s IR targeting system to take over. Another F117 was hit and damaged same way, never to fly again.

These radars, being agile frequency-hopping designs, are very hard to jam; however, bandwidth available is still limited.

Also, while bombers like B2 may be able to accommodate complex absorbent structures, it is not so with fighters, which are simply too small.

Another benefit is power – while capacity of all radars for detecting VLO objects increases with greater raw output, it is easier to increase output of VHF radars.

It is also possible for VHF radar to track vortexes, wake and engine exhaust created by stealth planes.

Another advantage of low-frequency radars is the fact that they present poor target for anti-radiation weapons, making them harder to destroy. Moreover, new VHF radars are mobile – Nebo SVU can stow or deploy in 45 minutes, while new Vostok-E can do it in eight minutes.

IRST

All Su-27 variants, as well as most modern Western fighters, carry IRST as a part of their sensory suite. Russian OLS-35 is capable of tracking typical fighter target from head-on distance of 50 km, 90 km tail-on, with azimuth coverage of +-90 degrees, and +60/-15 degree elevation coverage.

Fighter supercruising at Mach 1,7 generates shock cone with stagnation temperature of 87 degrees Celsius, which will increase detection range to 55 km head-on. Not only that, but AMRAAM launch has large, unique thermal signature, which should allow detection of F22 and missile launch warning up to 93+ kilometers, while AMRAAM moving at Mach 4 could be detected at up to 83 kilometers. That is worsened by the fact that F35 cannot supercruise, therefore additionally increasing its IR signature by requiring afterburner.

Integrating Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector technology greatly increases performance – Eurofighter Typhoon already has one with unclassified detection range for subsonic head-on airborne targets of 90 kilometers (with real range being potentially far greater).

Infrared imaging systems (like Typhoon’s or Rafale’s) provide TV-like image of area being scanned, which translates into inherent ability to reject most false targets. Also, while older IRST systems had to be guided by the radar, newer ones can do initial detection themselves. Given that stealth planes themselves rely on passive detection in evading targets, using passive means in detecting them is logical response for fighter aircraft. Missiles themselves can use infrared imaging technology, locking on targets of appropriate shape.

While there are materials that can supress IR signature of a plane, most of these are highly reflective in regards to radar waves, thus making them unusable for stealth planes, and other ways of reducing IR signature are not very effective.

Moreover, these systems do not adress fact that air around aircraft is heating up too – whereas, as mentioned, shock cone created by supercruising aircraft is up to 87 degrees Celzius hot, air temperature outside is between 30 and 60 degrees Celzius below zero.

Moreover, Russian Flankers use IRST together with laser rangefinder to provide gun firing solution – althought that is redundant, considering that any modern radar can achieve lock on F22 at gun-fighting ranges. Historically, Soviet MiG-25s have been able to lock on SR-71 Blackbird from ranges of over 100 kilometers by using IRST. Fortunately, order to attack was never given.

IRST can also provide speed of target via Doppler shift detection – IR sensors used in astronomy can detect velocity of star down to 1 meter per second, whereas fighter travelling at Mach 1,1 moves at 374 meters per second. Laser ranger can also be used to determine range to target.

While F35s IRST has tracked ballistic missiles to ranges of 800 kilometers, that claim is misleading as ballistic missiles are extremely large, extremely fast and make no effort to hide their IR signature. In similar vein, Typhoon’s PIRATE has tracked planet Venus.

Passive radar

Passive radar does not send out signals, but only receive them. As such, it can use stealth plane’s own radar to detect it, as well as its IFF, uplink and/or any radio traffic sent out by the plane.

Also, it can (like Czech VERA-E) use radar, television, cellphone and other available signals of opportunity reflected off stealth craft to detect them. Since such signals are usually coming from all directions (except from above), stealth plane cannot control its position to present smallest return. EM noise in such bands is extensive enough for plane to leave a “hole” in data.

However, simply analyzing and storing such amount of data would require extreme processing power as well as memory size, and it is prone to false alarms. It is also very short-range system, due to amount of noise patterns being required to detect, map and store.

RWR

Similar in principle to passive radar, two RWR-equipped aircraft could use uplink to share data and triangulate position of radiating enemy aircraft.

Lidar

Infrared doppler LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging; doppler LIDAR senses doppler shift in frequency) may be able to detect high altitude wake vortices of stealth aircraft. While atmospheric aerosoils are not sufficient for technique to work, exhaust particles as well as contrail ice particles improve detectability to point that aircraft may be detected from range well beyond 100 km; exhaust particles themselves allow for detection of up to 80 km.

Wake vortices are byproduct of generating lift, and are, as such, impossible to eliminate – aircraft wing uses more curved upper and less curved or straight lower surface to generate differences in speed between two airflows. As result, upper airflow is faster and as such generates lower pressure when compared to airflow below the wing, generating lift. That, however, has result of creating vortices behind the trailing edge of the wing.

Background scanning

In that mode, radar does not look for stealth plane itself; instead it looks for background behind stealth plane, in which case sensory return leaves a “hole” in data. However, that requires radar to be space-based; or, if stealth plane is forced to fly at very low altitude due to defence net, radar can be airborne too.

Another possibility is using surface-based radio installations to scan the sky at high apertures and with high sensitivity, such as with radio telescopes.

As it is known to radio-astronomers, radio signals reach surface uninterrupted even in daytime or bad weather; and since map of stars is well known, it can be assumed that any star not radiating is eclipsed by an object, such as stealth plane. And as with very sensitive radio-astronomical equipment, every part of sky is observed as being covered with stars. It is also doable by less sensitive detecting equipment, simply by serching for changes in intensity of stars.

Over-the-horizon radar

Over-the-horizon radars invariably operate in HF band, with frequencies around 10 Mhz and wavelengths of 30 meters, beacouse it is band in which atmospheric reflection is possible. Also, at that point, target will create some kind of resonance and shaping will be largely irrelevant, as will be RAM coating, as explained above.

However, lowering frequency of radar means that size of radar aperture has to grow in proportion to radar wavelength to maintain narrow beam and adequate resolution; other problem is that these bands are already filled with communications traffic, meaning that such radars are usually found in early-warning role over the sea.

Such systems are already in use by US, Australia (Jindalee), Russia and China.

Bistatic / multistatic radar

Since VLO characteristics are achieved primarly by shaping airframe to deflect radar waves in other direction than one they came from, and thus make it useless to classic systems. However, such signal can be picked by receiver in another position, and location of plane can be triangulated.

While every radar pulse must be uniquely identifiable, that feature is already present in modern Doppler pulse radars. What is more difficult is turning data into accurate position estimate, since radar return may arrive to transmitter from variety of directions, due to anomalous atmospheric propagation, signal distortion due to interference etc.

Acoustic detection

Planes are noisy, engines in particular but also airflow over surface. In former case, bafflers are added, while in latter, noise is reduced by shaping plane so as to be more streamlined. However, internal weapons bays, when opened, create a great amount of noise.

Ultra-wide band radar

UWB radar works by transmitting several wavelengths at once, in short pulses. However, there are problems: 1) it is more effective to transmit power in one pulse, 2) UWB antenna must work over factor of ten or more in wavelength, 3) it would offer numerous false clutter targets. In short, if, for example, UH frequency and VH frequency were used, such radar would combine UHF’s and VHF’s advantages AND disadvantages.

Also, it is very hard to make RAM that would be effective against multiple frequencies.

Cell phone network

Telephone calls between mobile phone masts can detect stealth planes with ease; mobile telephone calls bouncing between base stations produce a screen of radiation. When the aircraft fly through this screen they disrupt the phase pattern of the signals. The Roke Manor system uses receivers, shaped like television aerials, to detect distortions in the signals.

A network of aerials large enough to cover a battlefield can be packed in a Land Rover.

Using a laptop connected to the receiver network, soldiers on the ground can calculate the position of stealth aircraft with an accuracy of 10 metres with the aid of the GPS satellite navigation system.

IR illumination

IR illumination – famed “black light” of World War 2, used in Do 17Z-10 and Bf 110D-1/U1 night fighters – works on exact same principles as radar, with only difference being EM radiation’s wavelenght, which is in IR range.

Since it is active technique, it also betrays location of emitter, and thus cannot be relied on for regular use by combat aircraft – althought it can be fitted instead of radar – but can be used by air defense networks.

Detecting LPI radar

F35s, like F22s, radar uses frequency hopping to counter radar recievers. However, it can only use relatively low spread of frequencies, and can be detected by using spread-spectrum technology in RWRs.

Another way to hide radar signal is to include spread-spectrum technology; it is intended to reduce signature of radar signal and blend it into background noise. However, such radar still emits a signal that is 1 million to 10 million times greater than real-world background noise. It is relatively simple to build spread-spectrum passive receiver that can detect such radar at distance four times greater than radar’s own detection range.

There are other ways of making radar LPI: 1) make a signal so weak that RWR cannot detect it, and increase processing power, 2) narrow the radar beam and 3) have radar with far higher processing gain than RWR. Option one is impractical, and is only viable for few years, until newer RWR’s are avaliable, even assuming it is initially successfull. Option two does not affect target being “painted”, and option 3, closely connected to option one, is only, again, viable for few years.

Conclusion

F35 is overweight, overpriced, underperforming and unnecessary aircraft, terrible at everything it is supposed to do, and extremely expensive to operate and maintain. All missions that F35 is supposed to perform can be done more effectively and at lower cost by legacy aircraft, and as such, it would be better for US to scrap F35 until separate, non VLO replacements for F16, F18 and Harrier can be developed.

Export successes are no proof of aircraft’s capabilities: if country has done business with firm in past, it is more likely to go for that firm’s product. All countries that bought F-35s (Italy, Japan, Norway, etc.) are ex-F-16 users; similarly, India, which has a long history of using French products, including Mirage-2000, opted for Rafale instead of either Typhoon, Gripen, F-35, F-16 or F-18. Saudi Arabia, which has/had Tornadoes in its air force, opted for Eurofighter Typhoon.

Additions

RCS size vs detection range

Target – RCS size in m2 – relative detection range

Aircraft carrier – 100 000 – 1778

Cruiser – 10 000 – 1000

Large airliner or automobile – 100 – 1000

Medium airliner or bomber – 40 – 251

Large fighter – 6 – 157

Small fighter – 2 – 119

Man – 1 – 100

Conventional cruise missile – 0,5 – 84

Large bird – 0,05 – 47

Large insect – 0,001 – 18

Small bird – 0,00001 – 6

Small insect – 0,000001 – 3

F117 to VHF radar – 0,5 – 84

Effective range is calculated by formula (RCS1/RCS2) = (R1/R2)^4, where RCS = radar cross section, while R=range.

RAM coatings

RAM coatings can be dielectric or magnetic. Dielectric works by addition of carbon products which change electric properties, and is bulky and fragile, while magnetic one uses iron ferrites which dissipate and absorb radar waves, and are good against UHF radars.

Outside links

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQB4W8C0rZI&

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhGIglwmFB8&feature=relmfu

Further reading

F-22 analysis

Saab Gripen analysis

Eurofighter Typhoon analysis

Dassault Rafale analysis

Saab Gripen vs F-35

How the F-35 is destroying USAF (and other air forces)

Why F-35 cannot replace the Harrier

On F-35 export success

“Why we must continue to fund the F-35” rebuttal

F-35 and its troubles

F-35s air-to-air capability or lack thereof

How stealthy is the F-35

Actual F-35 unit cost

EDIT 22.5.2015.:

http://forum.baloogancampaign.com/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=152&sid=5903961d85cbcc31a481bf9ca914d793

I found this response to my article while looking at stats. I don’t feel like registering on forum, and in any case thread is several months old, so I’ll just post reply here in hope that it will clean up some questions to people who might read it.

“This can only be an approximation of lift, and fails in the case of non traditional wing and body geometry, like that which the F-35 uses. ”

F-35 and most other modern fighters (Rafale, Gripen, F-16…). But even so, wing “area” as measured accounts for most of the body lift, and remaining part is typically too small (no more than 10-15% of the wing area) to have a decisive impact on performance. It might change the outcome of comparing, say, F-16C and F-35A, but comparing Rafale and F-35A? Forget it. Further, Rafale has close coupled canards which can increase maximum wing lift by as much as 35% compared to what wing-body configuration alone can achieve, yet people rarely point this out. Considering this, difference between the F-35 and Rafale will be greater, not smaller, than what wing loading suggests. Complaint is valid, however, when comparing the F-35 with more traditional configurations such as the F-15, F-16, Mirage and Flankers.

“Furthermore, the wings on it aren’t that small at all, and the body isn’t that wide. Here are some comparison images, thanks to u/norouterospf200 on Reddit:”

Wing size is driven by aircraft’s weight. Absolute wing size doesn’t matter as much as wing loading. F-35A, a pre-weight growth aircraft, has worse wing loading than F-16C after all weight growth it undertook. Now, F-35 will not suffer as much weight growth as the F-16 did, but it is not a rosy picture.

Also, images used compare top view of the F-16 and front view of Rafale with the F-35. But F-35 is in Typhoon’s weight class, so both top and front view should use Typhoon for comparison.

“To compute a loading, these must be considered as lift surfaces, and thus the simple computation fails.”

Most of the body area is accounted for in wing area.

“The design of several components was radically altered after the aircraft was first built. One example is the removal of fueldraulic shutoff values, a change made to save weight after testing revealed that additional systems had to be added. He criticizes the F-35 for not identifying issues through flight testing, then criticises it when they identify issues through flight testing.”

Bullshit by the bucket. I’m not criticizing using flight testing to find out issues, I’m criticizing decision to cut on flight testing because “computer models, har har har” and usage of Low Rate Initial Production to saddle USAF with few hundred F-35s before design has been finalized and issues fixed.

“So, the author would rather the F-35 go to full rate production immediately?”

No, I would have no production at all until testing has been finished. Is thinking really that hard?

“LRIP is to allow the F-35’s design to change as flaws are identified and production processes are improved, without having to modify gigantic fleets of aircraft.”

Incorrect. That is what pre-serial production testing with operational prototypes (that is, post-development aircraft used to test the finalized design) is for. Five to ten production-version aircraft is quite enough for that, no need to saddle military with dozens of flawed LRIP prototypes sold as production aircraft.

In fact, specific purpose of LRIP is to increase profits of contractors by increasing number of aircraft to be modified.

“Which is why the aircraft was in low rate production, so that issues wouldn’t have to be fixed on many many more aircraft.”

And it would have costed far less if it were discovered on production-model prototypes than on LRIP aircraft.

“The most recent LRIP costs were $106 million for an F-35A.”

Without engine.

BTW, I really like how he thinks that I should have used figure from the article written two years after I have finished my article. I didn’t know I was to be aware of the articles that haven’t been written yet. This time travel stuff really must be easy; I’d like to learn it, if possible?

“One from Bill Sweetman of all people is that F-35A costs $31 thousand and hour, and the program estimates that the aircraft will end up costing approximately $24 thousand per flight hour For context, the F-16 costs $22 thousand/flight hour.”

Time travel again. RE: F-16, he is comparing apples to oranges here. F-16 operating cost includes base maintenance as well, direct operating cost is 7.000 USD for the F-16 and estimated at cca 20.000 USD for the F-35.

“The USAF is buying 1,763 F-35As.”

Is hoping to buy. Unfortunately, that number is science fiction at best, pure fantasy at worst.

“As such, the USAF will have to deal with a deficit of negative 518 aircraft.”

PR bullshit at its finest. Also, F-35 is expected to replace F-15 as well, not just the F-16, since the F-22 numbers were cut.

“on twin engined medium bombers.”

Which were used for strategic bombing. Ergo, they were strategic bombers.

Heavy bomber =/= strategic bomber.

“A number of other points are also totally unresolved – the Stuka was outdated by 1941”

And had far more capable replacement in the pipeline, one that was never built in susbstantial numbers.

“the equivalent number of tanks weren’t logistically possible to make”

Even 10.000 extra tanks would have been a huge boon.

“Furthermore, do you want to know how many gun kills there have been air to air since (and including) desert storm? 2 – both made by A-10s against Mi-8s. Yes, they’re helicopters.”

Yes, because shooting down nonmaneuvering POS with no RWR, no MAWS, no IRST, no EW/ECM suite, and a pilot who’s barely able to take it off the ground is same as shooting down a maneuvering 4th generation fighter. </sarcasm>

“Clearly, F-16C was an unmitigated failure.”

F-16 was designed as an air superiority fighter, and BTW there was F-15E to take over such tasks. F-18 also has a variant with second crewmember.

“and is not noticeably noisier, either.”

Competition being the F-15?

“Additionally, the F-35 has substantial IR plume reduction technology built in, contrary to his assertion.”

Which is only relevant when aircraft is cruising at low speeds and low altitudes. High up where air superiority fighters operate, it is nothing more than trying to hide a bull elephant behind a laptop.

“You know, I would have thought that there was another system called EO-DAS that was specifically designed for air to air use, in addition to the EOTS sniper pod equivalent.”

EO-DAS is a WVR MAWS, same as Rafale’s DDM NG. It has no BVR targeting capability.

“He carefully ignores the fact that the internal bays let it fly at mach 1.6 while carrying much more fuel, forcing most pursuers to RTB before they can catch it.”

Most pursuers can fly at Mach 2,0 with missiles and with throttle set at less than 100%.

“However, stealth lets you get closer than would otherwise be possible, increasing Pk proportionately. ”

Not if the enemy has IRST. In IR spectrum F-35 is as stealthy as a drunken elephant in a porculan store.

“Irrelevant at altitude – the F-35 simply won’t need to take AAA or missile damage, because it flies above their operational altitudes and thanks to EOTS can deliver munitions effectively from that height.”

And kill very troops it is trying to save.

“Nice – making 2000lbs sound smaller by converting to metric for no reason whatsoever.”

Weight stays the same, and in the cause he didn’t notice, most of the world uses metric system. World does not consist solely of United States and United Kingdom.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | 39 Comments »

F-22 Analysis

Posted by picard578 on October 7, 2012

 Program history and military-industrial complex

F22 program is a prime example of bad management – large developmental and production costs meant reduction in number of planes procured; that, in turn, increased per-aircraft cost even more, and led to further cuts. Result was that original number of airframes was cut from 750 to 680 during H. W. Bush’ administration. In 1993-94, Clinton Administration cut number further, to 442 planes; 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review cut number to 339 aircraft – about three wings worth, althought it did leave option of buying two more wings if air-to-ground capability was introduced into F22. In 2002, there was another attempt to cut numbers further, but it did not pass, but in 2003, number was cut to 279, and in 2005 to 178 aircraft. Later, four aircraft were added to procurement plan.

In 1990s, Air Force cancelled program to develop multi-role replacement for F16, and, along with the navy, begun a new effort – Joint Advanced Strike Technology program, or JAST, which led to development of F35 Joint Strike Fighter. Marine Corps also joined in.

In December 2010, Program Budget Directive, pushed by Rumsfeld, slashed 10 billion USD from F22 procurement, leaving it at anemic levels of only 183 planes, number later raised to 187.

Here is how number of F22s to be procured changed over time:

1986 – 750 F22s

1991 – 648

1993 – 442

1997 – 339

2003 – 279

2005 – 178

Lt. Gen. Daniel Darnell estimated that, by 2024, USAF will be short of its 2250 fighters requirement by some 800 aircraft (it must be noted that US policy had its military ready for two major theater wars – however, it is unlikely that either Russia or India will join China in the even of US-China far; actually, opposite is far more likely, especially in case of India). Problem is even worse since air superiority is crucial element of all US military plans.

Major problem was abandonment of competetive prototyping policy introduced with F16 program, where designers would build full-technology, combat-capable prototypes based on skeleton requirements, test them, redesign and fix what needed, and then test them again, meaning that bugs were being discovered during production; same mistake is being repeated with F35. Prototype was tested, but it had little in common to finished plane – it did not have stealth skin, and was lighter than finished F22. Even shape was very different, and there was no demonstrative dogfight – in Pentagon, it was called “paint job with shape of F22”. Prototypes were selected in 1986, and flyoff between YF-22 and YF-23 was in 1990, and after YF-22 was selected, it went right back to the drawing table, and was heavily redesigned – F22 has nothing except shape in common with YF-22. For example, loaded weight was increased from 22 680 kg to 29 300 kg. Also, low-level production made it difficult to cancel outright, problem increased by fact that main goal of F22 program was to get money to contractors. Production also started in 1997, despite the fact that, by then, less than 4% of testing had been complete.

Capabilities also changed – in 2002, limited ground attack capacity was added, earning it designation of F/A-22, which was in 2005 changed to F-22A.

Whereas F15 entered service 5 years after development started, F22 waited full 24 years. One of reasons for that is permanent war economy in the US, which caused a merger of previously separate government and corporate managements. That has caused a proliferation of useless projects, whose only purpose is to make money for contractors, sub-contractors and sub-sub-contractors.

However, military-industrial complex does have support in United States due to number of jobs it creates. F22 project itself was divided among 1 150 subcontractors in 43 states and Puerto Rico, employing 15 000 people, for precisely that reason – to make it difficult to get rid of. When accounted for local economies, 160 000 jobs were put at risk. Same trick was tried with Nike-Zeus missile defense program, and failed.

From 1990 to 2000, US Government spent 2 956 billion USD on the Department of Defense. In 2002, 35 million people do not have secure supply of food due to living in poverty, 1,4 million more than in 2001, and 18 000 out of over 40 million people without health insurance died due to lack of treatment. Two thirds of all public schools have troublesome environmental conditions.

Cost of Vietnam war was 676 billion USD. Current US military budget draws 10 % of US GNP. Actually, in 1952 – which saw highest level of defense spending during Cold War – US defense budget was 589 billion in FY2008 USD. In 2008, it was 670 billion USD. And these figures are based on Pentagon’s own data, and therefore lowered, as you will see below. CIAs 2007 World Factbook estimated 400 billion USD defense spending for rest of the world combined. In 2008, China and Russia had defense budgets of 81 and 21 billion USD, respectively. In 2010, number was 178 billion USD for China; however, as with US 500-billion-USD number, both numbers for 2008 included “base” spending only.

Real US defense spending in 2010:

  • 534 billion “base” spending
  • 6 billion “mandatory” appropriations (mostly personell-related expenses)
  • 130 billion for financing war in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • 22 billion for nuclear weapons (to Department of Energy)
  • 106 billion to Department of Veterans
  • 43 billion to Department of Homeland Security
  • 49 billion for UN peacekeeping operations, aid to Iraq and Afghanistan and gifts to Israel plus other costs of State Department
  • 28 billion to Department of Treasury, to help pay for military retirement
  • 57 billion to pay for Pentagon’s share of interest on debt

Additions to the flow of capital funds from the Pentagon are welcomed. One example is the pulley puller for the F-16 fighter – essentially a steel bar two inches in length with three screws tapped in. In 1984, this small item was sold to the DoD by General Dynamics for $8,832 each. If the same equipment were custom ordered in a private shop it would cost only $25.

It is typical that weapons cost three times or more than initial cost estimates. F22s flyaway cost has increased from 35 million USD originally projected – 60 million in FY 2009 USD – to 250 million USD, or 412% of initial estimated cost. One of causes are misrepresentations of costs – as John Hamre, Pentagon controller from 1993 to 1997 said, military-industrial complex knew that plane would cost more than projected, but costs were misrepresented at Capitol Hill in order to secure the project. Policy of cost misrepresentations is still in effect – more about it below.

Another telling fact is that, between 2001 and 2005, 16 out of 17 major weapons systems did not meet required specifications – not one was stopped, or delayed in production, as result.

US, with its permanent war economy, is basically a militarized state capitalism..

One part of it is administrative staff. French designed and built the Mirage III with a total engineering staff of fifty design draftsmen. The Air Force’s F-15 Program Office alone had a staff of over 240, just to monitor the people doing the work.

As a result, US budget is larger than that of rest of the world combined. Over 27 000 military contractors are evading taxes and still continue to win new business from Pentagon, owing an estimated 3 billion USD at end of 2002 fiscal year. It is made worse by fact that only things that limit cost increases are external – US Congress, Government and taxpayers. Current US military spending per year is, as seen above, around 1 trillion USD.

During 2002, Boeing had received $19.6 billion in government contracts. In support of such results, the Boeing management spent $3.8 million for lobbying of various sorts and made campaign contributions to members of Congress amounting to $1.7 million.

Military itself is penalized by receiving unreliable equipment that is too complex, requiring hard-to-find skilled maintenance talent, and prone to malfunction. In 2010, there have been claims that Chinese shot down F22 with a laser; most likely in order to fund more research into exotic weapons (YF-1984?). Another possibility is that US is also pressurizing China into revaluing its currency, or simple propaganda as a goal of racheting up Chinese fear factor, as it was doing in last decade or so. Reason it became popular is due to all the hype F22 received.

Moreover, US wants to sell F22 to other coutries, and does it with other weapons systems – effect it creates is that US is in constant arms race with itself. Meanwhile, money expended on hardware means that US pilots’ training is suffering.

One of main problems with US weapons manufacturers is that these corporations cannot convert to civilian production (as William Anders, General Dynamics’ CEO said in 1991 – “… most [weapons manufacturers] don’t bring a competitive advantage to non-defense business,” and “Frankly, sword makers don’t make good and affordable plowshares.”), and are constantly and consistently eating away scarce resources that still remain avaliable to other sectors. Two relatively small wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had put a cosiderable pressure on US military budget, even more than Vietnam war, while Military-industrial-Congressional complex grows in power and influence – exactly what President Eisenhower warned against in his farawell adress.

Cold War itself served as an excuse to keep money flowing into MICC. By 1991, it was so well established that shutting it down became nigh impossible; still, it began creating a series of wars and false dangers – Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, the first and second Gulf wars, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, the war on terror, etc. – to justify its continuing survival (going by some analyses, it is entirely probable that even 2001 attacks were orchestrated by elements inside US to justify a continuing stream of wars and ever-increasing defense budget, as well as reductions in personal freedoms. Even if that is not the case, however, attacks were still masterfully exploited in pushing for those goals).

It also should be noted that unit number reductions, contrary to what DoD apologetics say, are not a cause of a growing costs in either F22 or F35 – or most other US programs. Rather, they are a symptom, just like F22 itself is just a symptom of broblems in modern-day US – and, generally, Western – society; namely, that money and technology can solve any problem, and that people should not stay in way of profit.

F22 costs

F22 is, as it is obvious to everyone who knows something about it, very costly airplane to both produce and use. But, what are real numbers?

F22 is perhaps more famous for its perpetual increase in costs than for its hyped abilities. There are many resons for such increase, such as false cost estimates made by Lockheed Martin, reduced orders and problems with aircraft itself. Official numbers are 150 million USD as a flyaway cost, and 350 million USD as unit procurement cost. However, these numbers are outdated.

Unit and modernization costs

In 2011, one F22 had a flyaway cost of 250 million USD and unit procurement cost of 411,7 million USD per plane. In first half of 2012, it was 422 million USD per aircraft.

Developmental costs have increased due to many patch-ups (such as structural strenghtening of rear fuselage) and fixes. As for flyaway cost, full half of it goes on stealth coating – generally, it takes 30 minutes to make sure that single rivet is installed in accordance to stealth requirements – and just F22s fuselage midsection has around 60 000 rivets – and most of them are either exposed to radar, or in hard-to-get locations. Moreover, aircraft are not produced anymore – they are built, individually, like in a locomotive factory. (In World War 2, United States tanks were produced, on assembly line, like cars. German tanks were built in aforementioned fashion, which increased complexity of process, greatly reducing factories’ output).

Discrepancy between official and real costs are logical, considering that all DoD cost estimates are based on Lockheed Martin’s internal documentation – cost control is utterly nonexistent.

F22s electronics components are not federated – they are designed to work only with another component of same design, thus any electronics upgrade would see replacement of entire electronics system. Computer chips are already outdated – F22 uses 32 bit 25 MHz chips, that are outdated even by civilian market.

Maintenance and operating costs

F22 is supposed to replace F15 fleet, but operating costs of brand-new F22s are already greater than F15s – namely, F22’s operating cost was 63 929 USD per hour in 2010; compare that with operating cost 30 000 USD per hour for F15C, and F22s own 44 259 USD per hour operating cost in 2009. It did fall down to 61 000 USD per hour in 2012.

When we compare that to promises of Lockheed Martin about F22s lower operating costs when compared to F15, it becomes obvious, not only that Lockheed Martin cannot be trusted (that much already is obvious) but that military-industrial complex desperately wants to protect Cold War status quo, which allows them to get richer – by downplaying future consequences of current decisions, they can continue loading defense budget with even more costly and complex weapons.

Problems

Here, I will not put cost of most fixes until now – beacouse I don’t know it – but rather a list of technical problems F22 has encountered so far (some may have been fixed in meantime):

  • leaky fuselage access panels, leading to corrosion problems
    • four largest aluminium panels replaced by titanium ones; each titanium panel costs at least 50 000 USD
  • bad quality control
    • fatigue problems
      • aft boom
        • fixed by reinforcing it
    • structural quality problems
      • titanium booms connecting wings have structural failures that could result in loss of airplane; problem “solved” by increasing inspections over the life of the fleet, with expenses mostly paid by Air Force
      • 30 F22s were badly glued
    • defective VLO coating
        • Lockheed knowingly used defective coatings
      • cracks in airframe
      • small parts require frequent reglueing – and glue can take more than a day to dry
    • problems with life support systems
      • oxygen problems limited planes to maximum altitude of 7 600 meters, as opposed to official maximum altitude of 19 800 meters
      • in 2011, OBOGS failure meant that pilots were breathing a mixture of oxygen, anti-freeze, oil fumes and propane, and F22 fleet was grounded.
      • 2012 OBOGS problems apparently caused by OBOGS sucking evaporating steath coating along with air – many simptoms that both pilots and ground staff displayed are typical of neurotoxins

All of that, especially given large number of potentially safety-threatening problems, points towards conclusion that F22 was approved for production before it was ready for it, much like later F35. So far, three F22s have been lost – two in accidents, one due to faulty life support systems – leaving United States with 185 aircraft.

Strategical analysis

Effects of numbers

Effects of numbers are various. First, fewer planes means that these same planes have to do more tasks and fly more often, therefore accumulating flight ours faster and reaching designed structural life limit faster. Also, smaller force will attrite faster; more flight hours per plane will mean less time avaliable for proper maintenance as well as greater wear and tear put on planes, further reducing already limited numbers.

In combat, side capable of putting and sustaining greater number of planes in the air will be able to put a larger sustained pressure on the enemy. Until advent of F16 and F18, USAF and USN were constantly worried about being outnumbered – for a good reason. Yet, small numbers of F22 are now, somehow, desireable.

F22, even assuming all promises made by USAF and Lockheed Martin are actually true, will not have numbers to make impact. In that, it is similar to Me262 Sturmvogel, German jet fighter from World War 2. Like F22, it was designed as a technological wonder; and unlike F22, it actually used technology that was not used in any other fighter plane before it. Yet, it was defeated by superior numbers of Allied technologically inferior fighter planes. While it did cause some alarm, its ultimate effect on course of war was negligible.

F22s shortcomings – force size and quality

To stop aging of its fighter inventory, USAF should have had acquired 2500 fighter planes between 1998 and 2013. In contrast, only 187 F22s were produced, and even fewer F35s. Only low cost option is to restart production of F16 – for one F22, one can get four F16s; seven, if we go with F22s unit procurement cost.

Acquiring only 180 aircraft means that USAF will use 80 planes for training and home defense, 50 for European and 50 for Pacific theater. When these numbers are combined with low maintenance readiness, owing due to its complexity and stealth coating, it will reduce F22s operational avaliability and strategic impact to insignificance – in 2009, its avaliability was 55 – 60 %. It also had serious maintenance problems, such as corrosion. It could also fly on average 1,7 hours between critical (mission-endangering) failures, and from 2004 to 2008, its maintenance time per hour of flight increased from 20 to 34 hours, with stealth skin repairs accounting for more than half the maintenance time. In 2009, number was 30 hours of maintenance per hour of flight, while in 2011, F22 required 45 hours of maintenance for every hour in the air. In 2012, only 55,5% of all F-22s were avaliable at any given time.

As is obvious from this, and “Maintenance and operating costs” section, all F22s maintenance trends have been negative for years. Moreover, only 130 of these planes are combat-coded.

187 F22s in inventory can, at best, generate 60 combat sorties per day, which is pathetic number against any serious enemy – whereas F16s bought for same cost would generate 1000 combat sorties per day, F22s presence likely will not even be noticed in strategic sense. Number of sorties will also become even lower as combat attrition and increased maintenance take its tool. There is also fact that per-unit maintenance costs for new F22s are, as seen previously, far larger than those for 30-year-old F15s, and will increase as time passes.

Also, while simulators may be good for cockpit procedures training, they misrepresent reality of air combat; as such, F22s unreliability also harms pilots training.

(Note: Out of 187 F22s that have entered active service, 3 have crashed, bringing number down to 184. It is still not large enough change to cause major effect on numbers noted above. It is unknown to me wether all of crashed F22s were combat-coded)

Effects of training

As US commander in Gulf War said: “Had we exchanged our planes with the enemy, result would have been the same”. Even best hardware on planet will not help if pilots are undertrained – and F22 pilots are on way to become that, due to F22s high maintenance requirements. When Israeli Air Force swept Syrian MiGs from sky in invasion of Lebanon in 1982 with exchange ratio of 82-0, Israeli Chief of Staff made same comment.

Between 1970 and 1980, instructors at Navy Fighter Weapons School, who got 40 to 60 hours of air combat manouvering per month, used F5s to whip students, who got only 14 to 20 hours per month, in their “more capable” F4s, F14s and F15s. US pilots in Vietnam complained that 20 – 25 hours of training per month is inadequate. Currenly, F22 pilots get only 8 to 10 hours of flight training per month.

Israeli pilots in 1960s and 70s got 40 to 50 hours of flight training per month. US Congress, meanwhile, cut 400 million USD from pilot training in 2008, to help pay for F22s.

F22 shortcomings – other

One of shortcomings of F22 is very simple – it requires large, very visible runaways in order to even get into air. Not only such runaways will be prime target – and hardened shelters aren’t protection against new weapons, while concrete runaway can be easily disabled for a relatively long span of time – they are also in danger of “goal tending” – enemy aircraft, with larger fuel fraction and lower wing loading, can simply go ahead of returning F22 force and shoot them down while F22s are trying to land. And with low numbers of F22s, this danger is very real. In short, if air defenses of base are disabled or destroyed, a pair of biplanes with air to air missiles could hover near base and not let anyone take off.

Also, hardened shelters USAF uses can be penetrated by modern munitions designed specifically for that use.

In World War 2, last major war United States have fought, such airfield vandalism was always a danger – even when US had air superiority. So, how US solved it? It didn’t – it simply produced airplanes at faster rate than enemy could destroy them – one airplane per hour. F22s complex design, aside from making it very difficult to produce and maintain, also makes it very vulnerable. What on legacy fighters would be counted as cosmetic damage, can force costly repairs on F22 – stealth skin is prime offender.

Also, unlike most other aircraft, F22 is not designed to be upgraded over time. It might get new versions of old electronics, but nothing new – such as IRST, which it badly needs. As F22 is designed to rely on technology to overcome enemy, and not on airframe performance as F16 was, such lack of upgradeability will be especially painful.

Tactical analysis

BVR combat

Since development of first BVR weapons, each new generation of fighters would make someone declare that “dogfighting is a thing of past”. Invariably, they have been wrong. In 1960, F4 Phantom was designed without gun – and then Vietnam happened.

US went into Vietnam relying on a AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided missile. Pre-war estimated Pk was 0,7 – Pk demonstrated in Vietnam was 0,08. Current AIM-120 has demonstrated Pk of 0,59 in combat do this date, with 17 missiles fired for 10 kills. However, that is misguiding.

Since advent of BVR missile until 2008, 588 air-to-air kills were claimed by BVR-equipped forces. 24 of these kills were by BVR missile. Before “AMRAAM era”, four out of 527 kills were by BVR missile. Since 1991, 20 out of 61 kills may have been done by BVR missile, while US itself has recorded ten AIM-120 kills. However, four were NOT from beyond visual range; Iraqi MiGs were fleeing and non-manouvering, Serb J-21 had no radar, as was the case with Army UH-60 (no radar, did not expect attack), while Serb Mig-29’s radars were inoperative; there was no ECM use by any victim, no victim had comparable BVR weapon, and fights involved numerical parity or US numerical superiority – in short, BVR missile Pk was 50% against “soft” (non maneuvering with no ECM or sensors) targets. Also, 16 BVR missile kills in Desert Storm are far from sure – it says that “sixteen involved missiles that ‘were fired’ BVR”, meaning that these could have WVR kills prefaced with BVR shots that missed. Five BVR victories are confirmed, however – one at 16 nm (and at night), one at 8.5 nm (night) and three at 13 nm, which more than doubles number of BVR victories; most kills were still within visual range.

In Vietnam, Pk was 28% for gun, 15% for Sidewinder, 11% for Falcon, 8% for Sparrow, and essentially zero for Phoenix. Cost of expendables per kill was few hundred dollars for gun, 15 000 USD for Sidewinder, 90 000 USD for Falcon, 500 000 USD for Sparrow, and several millions for Phoenix – costs here are given in 1970 dollars. Overall cost for destroying enemy with BVR missiles – including training, and required ground support – has never been computed.

AMRAAM itself costs 500 000 USD per missile, and USAF was forced stop buyng Sidewinders in order to afford AMRAAMs. In fact, towards end of UN military intervention in Bosnia, US military started to report shortages of BVR missiles required to equip its fighters.

In Cold War era conflicts involving BVR missiles – Vietnam, Yom Kipuur, Bekaa Valley – 144 (27%) of kills were guns, 308 (58%) heat-seeking missiles, and 73 (14%) radar-guided missiles. Vast majority of radar-guided missile kills (69 out of 73, or 95%) were initiated and scored within visual range. In true BVR shots, only four out of 61 were successful, for a Pk of 6,6 %, and all four were carefully staged outside of large engagements in order to prove BVR theory (two were in Vietnam, and two by Israeli Air Force after US pressured Israel into establishing BVR doctrine).

In Desert Storm itself, F15s Pk for Sidewinders was 67% as compared to Pk for BVR Sparrow of 34%. However, Iraqi planes did not take evasive actions or use ECM, while there was persistent AWACS avaliability on Coalition part – none of which can be counted at in any serious war.

Post-Desert Storm, there were 6 BVR shots fired by US during operation Southern Watch – all missed. As recently as Operation Iraqi Freedom, Allied aircraft were lost to friendly fire, despite usage of IFF systems, AWACS, NCTR and relatively orderly war.

There are other examples of radar missile engagements being unreliable: USS Vincennes shot down what it thought was attacking enemy fighter, and downed Iranian airliner, while two F14s fired twice at intruding Lybian fighters, missing them at BVR with radar-guided Sparrows and shooting them down in visual range with a Sparrow and Sidewinder.

BVR combat cannot – for obvious reason – fulfill critical requirement of visual identification. IFF is unreliable – it can be copied by the enemy, and can be tracked; meaning that forces usually shut it down. As such, fighter planes have to close to visual range to visually identify target. Moreover, presence of anti-air anti-radiation missiles, such as Russian R-27P, was shown to be able to force everyone to turn off radars – possibly including AWACS. Radar signal itself can be detected at far greater range than radar can detect target at – even when it is LPI – meaning that enemy has ample time to use countermeasures and/or maneuver away from incoming missile. Uplinks to AWACS can be jammed, and if AWACS is shot down/scared away, it means that some F22s, with far weaker uplinks, will have to act as spotters for other F22s.

While modern IRST can identify aircraft by using its silhouette, range for such identification is low (~40 km for PIRATE).

WVR combat

In Desert Storm, US forces fired 48 WVR missiles, achieving 11 kills, for Pk of 0,23. However, historically, Pk for IR missiles was 0,15, and 0,308 for cannon. While F16s fired 36 Sidewinders and scored zero kills, at least 20 of launches were accidental, due to bad joystick ergonomy, which was later modified.

While missiles have become more reliable, countermeasures have advanced too; as such, while IR missiles may be aircraft’s main weapon, gun kill remains most reliable way of getting rid of enemy.

Effects of numbers

In WVR, numbers are usually decisive. Thus, F22 relies on a (flawed, as shown above) concept of decisive BVR engagement to compensate for larger numbers of enemy fighter planes it can be expected to engage.

However, even in BVR, numbers do matter. Lanchester square criteria, which holds that qualitative advantage of outnumbered force has to be square of outnumbering force’s numerical advantage, is even more applicable for BVR combat than for WVR, due to lack of space constrains. Thus, due to Su-27s costing 30 million USD, as opposed to F22s 250 million, F22s would have to enjoy 70:1 qualitative advantage just to break even – which is extremely unlikely. Historically, 3:1 was usually a limit of when quality could no longer compensate for enemy’s quantitative advantage, in both BVR and WVR.

Superior numbers also saturate enemy with targets, and cause confusion. USAF itself has always depended on superior numbers to win air war.

In short, F22 supporters have to learn to count.

F22s shortcomings in air combat

For beginning, four major characteristics were not met – one, 26 per cent increase in weight has led to wing loading and thrust-to-weight ratio slightly inferior to those of F15C; meaning that, for reasons of physics, there was no increase in manouverability – from outstanding, F22s manouverability was reduced to ordinary, except when it comes to air show tricks, that invariably bleed off energy. Weight increase also led to decrease in fuel fraction, from 0.36 to 0.28, which is too low even for a supercruise fighter – fuel fractions of 0.28 and below yield subcruisers, 0.33 provides quasi-supercruiser and 0.35 and above gives combat-useful supercruise performance. Simply put, supercruise characteristic has failed – 50 year old F104 can match F22s supercruise radius, and F15C, to which F22s supercruise rainge is usually compared, is one of worst fighters in terms of supercruise range. This means that F22 has to rely on subsonic cruise in combat – and that despite the fact it was designed for supersonic cruise, therefore worsening its already bad aerodynamical performance. Stealth itself was not achieved because F22 is, due to its size, is very visible in visual, infrared and acoustic spectrum, and its radar can be sensed by advanced RWRs, as demonstrated by Eurofighter Typhoons at China Lake – or by anti-radiation missiles, which Russians have, and aren’t afraid to sell them. With regards to visual detection, F22 is some 25 to 30 per cent larger than F15, and can be detected visually from order of 10 miles, or 16 kilometers head on, or 25-35 nm (46 to 65 km) from side. Avionics system itself is outdated. Moreover, when cruising supersonically, loud sonic boom betrays its location.

Also, to fully exploit its stealth advantages, F22 has to remain passive, even with its LPI radar; due to its lack of IRST or other passive sensors (with exception of RWR, which only work if enemy uses radar), it is limited to being fed data by friendly aircraft, usually AWACS (while other fighters may do it, it is questionable they will be able to penetrate jamming). Such planes can be shot down, effectively forcing F22 to choose between radiating in EM spectrum or fighting blind when compared to IRST-equipped fighters. Moreover, stealthy aircraft are only stealthy at night, whereas air superiority is primarly daylight mission – and F22s large size means that it will be spotted first. Large size is partly because of requirements for radar stealth – shapes required for achieveing radar VLO are very volume-ineffective. It is also very visible to sensors not based on active radio emissions, such as IRST.

F22 is also supposed to fight at high altitudes, around 20 000 meters. At such altitudes, both IRST, IR missiles’ seekers and missiles themselves will have greatly increased range.

F22s shortcomings in WVR combat

In WVR combat, F22 is pretty much very observable fighter – it is very large, which does not serve purpose of stealth. As noted above, its wing loading is comparable to that of F15C, although, being unstable design, it will be more maneuverable. Also, usage of gun doors and weapons bays increase response time, making snapshots within brief optimal “windows” a wishful thinking. While it is superior to F15 and F35, it is inferior in manouverability to F16A, and is inferior in physical size to all current US fighters; as TopGun saying goes: “Largest target in the sky is always first one to die” – a fact proven by actual combat: most planes were shot down unaware, from the rear.

That fact has been proven in exercises – whenever “Red” aircraft entered visual range, F22 invariably died (so far, list of F22 WVR “killers” contains F16, F18. Eurofighter Typhoon and Dassault Rafale). Even thought in one such instance, F22 managed to “destroy” three F16s out of four, fight in question started in BVR; when last F16 got to WVR, F22 died – fact that it is the largest fighter in US inventory certainly helped.

Also, missiles have minimum weapons engagement zone; usually around a mile or little less, as missile’s warhead takes time to arm, and depending on missile’s g-capacity (AIM-9B has minimum range of 930 meters when fired from straight behind at sea level at Mach 0,8). Thus, gun is often only remaining option – option which, in F22s case, is unsatisfactory, due to usage of Gattling design in combination with gun doors; both of that mean that F22 is unable to perform crucial split-of-second shots, due to combination of gun spin-up time and requiring doors to open increase time between press on a trigger and first bullet leaving barrel to around a second – whereas, to score a kill and survive during mass dogfight, pilots would have to launch missiles quickly at multiple targets and then leave – tactic appropriately called “launch and leave”.

While missiles can perform 30-g manouvers, they move far faster than fighters, which means both increased turn diameter as well as increasing possibility of missile to miss target for no clear reason, even when target is not manouvering or using ECM. This, combined with probability of fighter simply running out of missiles – which is, with F22s low numbers, very likely – means that gun combat is far from outdated; and in it, F22 is handicapped.

Thrust vectoring itself is mostly useless for aerodynamically well-designed aircraft – which F22 is not, due to heavy tradeoffs required for stealth – in majority of combat scenarios. While thrust vectoring improves maneuverability in certain flight regimes – namely, it enables post-stall maneuvers, and improves maneuverability at a) very high speeds and very high altitudes (>12 000 meters), where air is too thin for classic control surfaces to be utilized efficiently (which is main reason for TVC in F22 and Eurofighter Typhoon, as they are designed primarly as high-speed, high-altitude BVR interceptors; furthermore, at supersonic speeds, aircraft becomes statically stable), and b) very low speeds (under 150 knots) and very low altitudes, where ait flow over control surfaces is not fast enough. These particular regimes of flight are either mostly useless (extreme altitude) or outright dangerous (low speed, post stall) in majority of combat scenarios – at low speed, aircraft is defensless against competent opponent, and its life span can be measured in seconds, while only a small part of air combat happens at high altitudes and speeds, given unreliability of IFF in combat. Moreover, extreme energy loss caused by use of thrust vectoring can leave even aircraft that has started from good energy state vulnerable to enemy missiles and gunfire after some time. In other flight regimes, TVC-equipped aircraft are no more maneuverable than traditional aircraft – or even less, in case of various canard configurations. Specifically, using TVC means that aircraft continues to fly in one direction while nose points in completely another, with tremendous loss of energy; and to turn, aircraft still requires excess lift from wings in order to pull it around. Moreover, it takes time for aircraft to start executing a turn, during which aircraft itself rotates, rear end of aircraft drops and aircraft itself sinks – a perfect opportunity for a gun shot. While it can be useful in one-on-one gunfights (which are generally carried out at low speeds, where TVC does improve maneuverability for a time, until loss of energy becomes too great) if pilot knows how to use it, it is far from perfect (it should be noted that even despite that, Rafale managed to have one win and 5 draws against F22 in exactly such situation).

While post-stall maneuvers look cool at exercises, they are dangerous in real combat as they leave plane vulnerable to enemy due to lack of energy required to evade missiles; therefore, only useful things that TVC adds are safety, by providing two more control surfaces; and engine efficiency, by allowing aircraft to position itself better relative to air flow, thus improving range and decreasing fuel usage – very important in peace time. F22, having 2D and not 3D TVC nozzles, may be lacking in former when compared to 3D TVC-equipped aircraft – although, as F15 has proven, loss of one engine doesn’t require TVC for compensation. TVC can also be used as a propaganda/marketing trick, to fool the gullible.

In short, thrust vectoring is dangerous for plane using it if pilot doesn’t know how to use it (requires lot of training) and does not entirely compensate for airplane’s size and weight – so you can forget the prospect of F22 outmaneuvering, say, Eurofighter Typhoon or Dassault Rafale, at any combat-useful speed. To turn at combat speed, aircraft still requires lift from wing – that is, low wing loading.

According to some sources, F-22 allegedly has sustained turn rate of 28 degrees, while other sources put it at 23-24 degrees per second. As 28 degree per second sustained was made by an USAF colonel who wasn’t even F-22 pilot, it most probably was a mistake – possibly intentional; thus, second figure is more reliable (28 degrees per second is probably instanteneous turn rate). For comparasion, Typhoon has instanteneous turn rate of over 30 degrees per second, and sustained turn rate of 23 degrees per second, and Rafale has instaneteneous turn rate of over 30 degrees per second, and sustained turn rate of 24 degrees per second. These figures, however, are most likely for corner speed; due to lack of energy aircraft faces at such speeds, turn rate figures presented here are, as opposed to wing loading and thrust-to-weight ratio figures, of questionable utility.

F22s shortcomings in BVR combat

First, short supercruise range due to small fuel fraction does not allow F22 to pursue enemy or reliably avoid being jumped and/or pusued itself. While F22s supercruise range is superior to F15C, which is easily the worst supercruiser in USAF, it will be inferior to aircraft with higher fuel fraction, better aerodynamics (Eurofighter Typhoon) or both (Dassault Rafale).

Second, it is not stealthy at all. Stealth is measured against five signatures – infrared, sound, visual, and radar footprint as well as electronic emissions. Visual, by definition, is not important for BVR combat; but sound and infrared signature are impossible to lower enough for plane to be VLO, especially when supersonic. While it is not a shortcoming by itself, legacy fighters not even making any effort to lower it, it becomes one when coupled by its low numbers and maximum of six BVR missiles carried in VLO configuration – essentially necessitating use of 2 F22s to kill a single target. And even if it was, it is not equipped with IRST (although it can be mounted), thus necessitating F22 to emit signals – radar (it is equipped with both UHF and VHF radar antennas, in addition to normal engagement radar) plus IFF or (jammable) uplink to another plane (with IFF) – to detect enemy, which defeats entire purpose of stealth, and allows enemy anti-radiation missiles to home in on F22s powerful radar.

That problem is worsened by the fact that all US fighters emit in area of 10 000 Mhz in order to get all-weather capability – meaning that enemy only has not to emit in that area in order to solve IFF problem. In combat, enemy equipped with ARMs can force everyone to shut down radars, returning combat squarely into visual range.

Meanwhile, US did make effort to develop ARM in 1969, but it was cancelled due to possibility of it threatening radar missile development as well as F15 and F14 programs. French are also selling advanced ARMs all over the Third World, meaning that US might find itself in a trouble in next war.

Moreover, as soon as F22 manouvers, it is going to blow its – already limited – radar stealth. It is only VLO within 20 degrees off the nose, and its reported radar signatures only take frontal aspect versus high-frequency radars into consideration.

In IR spectrum, F22 simply cannot hide, especially when supercruising – fighter moving at supersonic speeds generates shock cones of hot air; a feature impossible to hide to IRST.

It also seems (3) that AMRAAM does not even work in cold environment – exactly where F22 is supposed to carry out its interception missions. Also, at ranges stealth is effective at, BVR missiles have already expended fuel and have extremely low Pk.

To make matters worse, EW countermeasure suite can be as effective as stealth in BVR, as demonstrated when EF-18 “Growler” defeated F22 in one-on-one BVR engagement, and when IAF MiG-21 equipped with jamming equipment managed to get to merge with F-15 in exercises.

While datalinks are touted as allowing one F22 to do the targeting and another to launch BVR missile, mid-flight update can only be done by platform that launched the missile – a safety measure preventing enemy from hacking into uplink and sending missile back to fighter that launched it.

Comparasion with other fighters

“Fifth generation fighter” label has been coined as PR trick by Lockheed Martin. In fact, Lockheed Martin officials claim that fifth-generation fighter should have ALL following characteristics to qualify:

  • VLO
  • supercruise
  • supersonic performance focus
  • extreme agility
  • high-altitude ops
  • missile load-out for fighter performance
  • integrated sensor fusion
  • net-enabled ops

F-22 has all except net-enabled ops, and Eurofighter Typhoon lacks only VLO. Dassault Rafale also lacks supersonic performance focus, however, its supersonic performance is very good.

Su27

Su-27 family of planes are large planes with even larger radomes – Russian radar manufacturer Phazotron is developing a Flanker-sized powerful radar – Zhuk ASE – which will outclass every single radar in US inventory except for that of F22.

However, IRST carried by Flankers is far greater problem, as explained in “counter-stealth” section.

Su27 family of planes are also very manouverable, despite their size.

In 1992, Su27 could see F22 from 15 kilometers. In 2000-2008, Flanker family’s radar performance has doubled – meaning that by 2016, Flankers should be able to detect F22 from distance of 45 kilometers.

F15

As explained above, F15C is equal to slightly superior in regards to F22 in most basic characteristics: thrust-to-weight ratio, wing loading and fuel fraction. It is superior to F22 in rearward cockpit visibility, as well as fact that no gun doors and externally mounted missiles allow for split-of-second snap-shots critical for dogfight. Its similarity to F22 in dogfight was also acknowledged1 by its pilots to Everest Riccioni, retired USAF Colonel and member of Fighter Mafia.

F15 is also faster (Mach 2,5 vs Mach 2,2) and carries 940 rounds for its cannon, as opposed to 480 rounds for F22. Each F15 can also fly 1 sortie per day (USAF numbers, Israeli managed 3 – 5 sorties per day), as opposed to one sortie every 2-3 days for F22.

F16

F16 costs 60 million USD in plane, and has operating cost of 4 600 USD per hour. Whereas 180 F22s can only generate 60 combat sorties per day, F16s bought for same cost can generate 1728 combat sorties per day (number of combat sorties = aircraft for equal cost x sortie rate; latter is 1,2 for F16 and 0,7 for F22) if we use unit procurement costs, or 900 combat sorties if we use unit flyaway costs. (It should be noted that these are USAF numbers – surge numbers for F16s in Israeli service are far greater – 7 – 9 sorties a day).

Original version of F16 would cost 30 million USD per plane, when adjusted for inflation. It also had better manouverability – while F22 weights almost 30 000 kg – even more, when latest fixes are counted – F16 weights bit over 18 000 kg. Original versions were half that weight.

Eurofighter Typhoon

Eurofighter Typhoon is another plane famous for its cost overruns. Currently, Tranche 2 Typhoon has unit procurement cost of 142 million USD per plane, and unit flyaway cost of 118 million USD per plane. Tranche 3’s costs are 199 million USD per plane unit procurement, and 122 million USD per plane flyaway cost. Its operating cost is 18 000 USD per hour.

Typhoon’s thrust-to-weight ratio is 1,14, while its wing loading is 312 kg/m2. F22s thrust-to-weight ratio is 1,09, while its wing loading is 375 kg/m2 (all figures for loaded aircraft). At 50% fuel, with 2 Sidewinders and 4 AMRAAM, Typhoon’s TWR will be 1,28 and wing loading 277 kg/m2; F22s values are 1,28 and 318,8 kg/m2. (weight 24 882,6 kg)

Also, both F22 and Eurofighter Typhoon have top speeds around Mach 2 (Mach 2 for Typhoon and Mach 2 – 2,2 for F22, as it has fixed inlet); F22 also can achieve Mach 1,5 while supercruising in AtA configuration, while Typhoon is limited to Mach 1,21 supercruise in AtA configuration (2 WVR, 4 BVR missiles + center drop tank). Clean-configured, numbers are Mach 1,7 for F22 and Mach 1,5 for EFT. Both can reach altitude above 50 000 ft (15 000 meters).

There are reports that Typhoons engaged and defeated F22s in a mock dogfights at China Lake; with Typhoon’s DASS suite allowing it to close range to F22 and enter a dogfight in which Typhoon was superior, due to its better manouverability – as all wins Typhoon had over F22 were by missiles, not by gun, dogfights were likely carried out at high subsonic speeds where F22s TVC is useless. Similar thing repeated itself at Farborough air show; however, Typhoons that fought with F22s at latter exercise were Luftwaffe ones, which were not equipped with IRST or HEA helmet which permits off-bore shots and thus had to point nose at F22 to get a “kill” (F22s themselves were not equipped with helmet mounted cueing system either). While some people claim that F22s were handicapped by pilots not having vests of their anti-G suits, that claim is untrue – order to remove vests due to oxygen problems came only a week after sorties between Typhoons and F22s were flown, with highly demanding maneuvers undoubtably used by F-22s when fighting Typhoons possibly highlighting problems with vests. As for Typhoons, while they were “slicked off as much as possible”, that probably means they did not have missiles or fuel tanks – Typhoon’s clean configuration is with 2 IR and 4 radar guided missiles.

In general, Typhoon has demonstrated better sustained and instanteneous turn rate than F22 at subsonic speeds. Addition of LERX has potential to improve its already excellent turn rates by 10%, and TVC, when added, will give additional boost to its low-speed maneuverability, as well as to its supersonic maneuverability. It will also allow aircraft to get itself out of stall. At supersonic speeds, both aircraft can pull up to 7 G.

Typhoon’s PIRATE IRST has shown ability to track stealth aircraft just by heat generated by stealth airplane’s skin friction (it tracked B2 stealth bomber at air shows from over 40 nm (74 km) (1) ). Maximum range is claimed (2) to be up to 150 kilometers (50 to 80 km for sure), which fits wth my calaculation of its range against tail-on subsonic targets in next paragraph. It also can identify targets at over 40 kilometers.

(Now for little calculation: Typhoon’s PIRATE can detect subsonic head on airborne targets from 90 kilometers. Russian OLS-35 can do the same from 50 kilometers (tail-on, range is 90 kilometers; so PIRATE’s range in such situation is probably ~160 km, although this is a guess). Su-35 can also detect missile launch from 93+ km, and Mach 4 AMRAAM from 83 km – meaning that Typhoon should be able to do it from 167+ and 149 kilometers, respectively. AMRAAM at Mach 4 requires 1 minute 50 seconds to cover that distance. Meanwhile, unclassified range for F22s radar has range of 200-240 km against 1m2 target, and AIM-120D AMRAAM has range of 180 km. As Typhoon’s frontal RCS is 0,25 – 0,75 m2, it means that F22 can detect it from 141 – 223 km. Of course, Typhoon’s RWR will detect any radar transmission from far longer range, and as jammers of same generation generally shave off 2/3rds of radar range, it means that F22 will not be able to lock on to Typhoon until it is at disrance of 47 – 74 km when clean, or 67 – 80 kilometers if Typhoon is in air-to-air configuration. F-22s RCS should be between 0,0001 and 0,0014 m2, which means Typhoon’s CAPTOR radar, which has reported range of 185 km against 1m2 target, should be able to detect it from 18 to 35 kilometers.)

Interesting to note is that F22 has 8 internal and 4 external hardpoints, which give it total of 12 hardpoints – same as much smaller Typhoon (Typhoon technically has 13 hardpoints, but center one is reserved for fuel tank). Standard air superiority outfit is 6 AMRAAM + 6 ASRAAM, as compared to F22s 6 AMRAAM and 2 ASRAAM.

Moreover, it is planned for Typhoon’s AESA radar to have ability to detect enemy aircraft completely passively, by relying on radio emitters from outside; that way, it can detect even stealth aircraft from large distance.

Dassault Rafale

Dassault Rafale’s blended wing-fuselage design, relatively small size and light weight result in comparably low wing loading – even smaller than it can be calculated by simply dividing weight by wing area. Latter method results in wing loading of 306 kg/m2 and thrust-to-weight ratio of 1,1 at loaded weight. Its close-coupled canards also help it maintain lift at high angles of attack, as well as to create dynamic instability; however, its close-coupled canards improve maneuverability mostly at lower speeds and altitudes, similar to F22s thrust vectoring, meaning that it should have similar maneuverability to F22. (Rafale was also able to outmaneuver Typhoon at lower altitude, but higher up Typhoon had the advantage). At Al Dhafra, Rafale and F-22 fought six 1-vs-1 gun-only dogfights, which means that both Rafale’s close-coupled canards and F-22s TVC could be used to full effect due to slow speeds these engagements were likely fought at. Rafale won once, and remaining five engagements were draws. (4, last image. Both OSF and gun targeting data are clearly visible in upper set of photos, showing that Rafale was in position for a gun shot against F-22.)

Rafale is also capable of supercruise, and its relatively high fuel fraction in most versions (0,33 for C, 0,32 for B and 0,32 for M) as opposed to low fuel fractions of F22 and Eurofighter Typhoon (0,29 Typhoon, 0,28 F22) allow for greater persistence and range.

Rafale M costs 90,5 million USD flyaway, 145,7 million USD unit program cost. Operating cost is 16 500 USD per hour.

Counter-stealth technologies

Stealth versus classical radar

Su-27s radar performance has doubled over past 8 years, and by 2020 Flanker family radars will be able to detect VLO targets at over 46 kilometers. Also, US stealth planes fly mission with same radar jamming escorts that accompany legacy platforms.

During the Gulf War, the British Royal Navy infuriated the Pentagon by announcing that it had detected F-117 stealth fighters from 40 miles away with 1960s-era radar. The Iraqis used antiquated French groud radars during that conflict, and they, too, claimed to have detected F-117s. The General Accounting Office, Congress’ watchdog agency, tried to verify the Iraqi claim, but the Pentagon refused to turn over relevant data to GAO investigators.

Also, even modern VLO planes have to operate alongside jamming planes, such as EA-6B or EA-18, when performing ground attack, confirming that even legacy radars are far from useless against VLO planes.

Main way to reduce plane’s radar signature is shaping – stealth coating simply deals with last few percetages. Which means that F22 is going to blow its radar stealth as soon as it maneuvers, and it is physically impossible for airplane to present its reduced nose-on or side-on RCS to all radars.

Moreover, target RCS is determined by 1) power transmitted in direction of target, 2) amount of power that impacts the target and is reflected back, 3) amount of reflected power intercepted by radar antenna, and 4) lenght of time radar is pointed at target. While normal procedure was to slave IR sensor to radar, advent of IRST makes it possible to slave radar to it.

That is not only solution. In a series of tests at Edwards AFB in 2009, Lockheed Martin’s CATbird avionics testbed – a Boeing 737 that carries the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s entire avionics system – engaged a mixed force of F-22s and F-15s and was able to locate and jam F-22 radars, according to researchers. Raytheon X-band airborne AESA radar – in particular, those on upgraded F-15Cs stationed in Okinawa – can detect small, low-signature cruise missiles.

VHF radar

While VLO planes are optimized to defeat S- and X- -band radars, VHF radars offer a good counter-stealth characteristics.

Simply put, RCS varies with the wavelenght beacouse wavelength is one of inputs that determines RCS area.

VHF radars have wavelengths in 1-3 meter range, meaning that key shapings of 19-meter-long, 13,5-meter-wide F22 are in heart of either resonance or Rayleigh scattering region.

Rayleigh scattering regios is region where wavelength is larger than shaping features of target or target itself. In that region, only thing that matters for RCS is actual physical size of target itself.

Resonance occurs where shaping features are comparable in wavelength to radar, resulting in induced electrical charges over the skin of target, vastly increasing RCS.

However, their low resolution and resultant large size means they are limited to ground-based systems.

Russians and Chinese already have VHF radars, with resolution that may be good enough to send mid-flight update to SAMs. Also, it is physically impossible to design fighters that will be VLO in regards to both low power, high-frequency fighter radars, and high-power, low-frequency ground-based radars. Such radars can, according to some claims, detect fighter-sized VLO targets from distance of up to 330 kilometers (against bombers like B2, their performance will be worse, but such planes have their own shortcomings – namely, IR signature and sheer size). Manufacturers of Vostok E claim detection range against F117 as being 352 km in unjammed and 74 km in jammed environment.

Also, RAM coatings used in many stealth planes are physically limited in their ability to absorb electromagnetic energy; one of ways RCS reduction is achieved is active cancellation – as signal reaches surface of RAM, part of it is deflected back; other part will be refracted into airframe, and then deflected from it in exact opposite phase of first half, and signals will cancel each other on way back. However, thickness of RAM coating must be exactly half of radar’s frequency, meaning that it does not work against VHF radar for obvious reasons – no fighter plane in world can have skin over half a meter thick.

There is one detail that apparently confirms this: in 1991, there was a deep penetrating raid directed at destruction of VHF radar near Bagdad; radar, which may have alerted Saddam at first wave of stealth bombers approaching capital. Before US stealth bombers started flying missions, radar was destroyed in a special mission by helicopters. Also, during fighting in Kosovo, Yugoslav anti-air gunners downed F117 with Russian anti-air missile whose technology dates back to 1964, simply by operating radar at unusually long wavelengths, allowing it to guide missile close enough to aircraft so as to allow missile’s IR targeting system to take over. Another F117 was hit and damaged same way, never to fly again.

These radars, being agile frequency-hopping designs, are very hard to jam; however, bandwidth avaliable is still limited.

Also, while bombers like B2 may be able to accomodate complex absorbent structures, it is not so with fighters, which are simply too small.

Another benefit is power – while capacity of all radars for detecting VLO objects increases with greater raw output, it is easier to increase output of VHF radars.

It is also possible for VHF radar to track vortexes, wake and engine exhaust created by stealth planes.

Another advantage of low-frequency radars is the fact that they present poor target for anti-radiation weapons, making them harder to destory. Moreover, new VHF radars are mobile – Nebo SVU can stow or deploy in 45 minutes, while new Vostok-E can do it in eight minutes.

IRST

All Su-27 variants, as well as most modern Western fighters, carry IRST as a part of their sensory suite. Russian OLS-35 is capable of tracking typical non-afterburning fighter target from head-on distance of 50 km, 90 km tail-on, with azimuth coverage of +-90 degrees, and +60/-15 degree elevation coverage.

Fighter supercruising at Mach 1,7 generates shock cone with stagnation temperature of 87 degrees Celzius, which will increase detection range to 55 km head-on. Not only that, but AMRAAM launch has large, unique thermal signature, which should allow detection of F22 and missile launch warning up to 93+ kilometers, while AMRAAM moving at Mach 4 could be detected at up to 83 kilometers. Modern IRSTs are sensitive enough to detect missile release from its nose cone heating.

Integrating Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector technology greatly increases performance – Eurofighter Typhoon already has one with unclassified detection range for subsonic head-on airborne targets of 90 kilometers (with real range being potentially far greater).

Infrared imaging systems (like Typhoon’s or Rafale’s) provide TV-like image of area being scanned, which translates into inherent ability to reject most false targets. Also, while older IRST systems had to be guided by the radar, newer ones can do initial detection themselves. Given that stealth planes themselves rely on passive detection in evading targets, using passive means in detecting them is logical response for fighter aircraft. Missiles themselves can use infrared imaging technology, locking on targets of appropriate shape.

While there are materials that can supress IR signature of a plane, most of these are highly reflective in regards to radar waves, thus making them unusable for stealth planes, and other ways of reducing IR signature are not very effective. Moreover, these systems do not adress fact that air around aircraft is heating up too – whereas, as mentioned, shock cone created by supercruising aircraft is up to 87 degrees Celzius hot, air temperature outside is between 30 and 60 degrees Celzius below zero.

Moreover, Russian Flankers use IRST together with laser rangefinder to provide gun firing solution – althought that is redundant, considering that any modern radar can achieve lock on F22 at gun-fighting ranges. Historically, Soviet MiG-25s have been able to lock on SR-71 Blackbird from ranges of over 100 kilometers by using IRST. Fortunately, order to attack was never given.

IRST can also provide speed of target via Doppler shift detection – IR sensors used in astronomy can detect velocity of star down to 1 meter per second, whereas fighter travelling at Mach 1,1 moves at 374 meters per second. Laser ranger can also be used to determine range to target.

Passive radar

Passive radar does not send out signals, but only receive them. As such, it can use stealth plane’s own radar to detect it, as well as its IFF, uplink and/or any radio traffic sent out by the plane.

Also, it can (like Czech VERA-E) use radar, television, cellphone and other avaliable signals of opportunity reflected off stealth craft to detect them. Since such signals are usually coming from all directions (except from above), stealth plane cannot control its position to present smallest return. EM noise in such bands is extensive enough for plane to leave a “hole” in data.

However, simply analyzing and storing such amount of data would require extreme processing power as well as memory size, and it is prone to false alarms. It is also very short-range system, due to amount of noise patterns being required to detect, map and store.

RWR

Similar in principle to passive radar, two RWR-equipped aircraft could use uplink to share data and triangulate position of radiating enemy aircraft.

Lidar

Infrared doppler LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging; doppler LIDAR senses doppler shift in frequency) may be able to detect high altitude wake vortices of stealth aircraft. While atmospheric aerosoils are not sufficient for technique to work, exhaust particles as well as contrail ice particles improve detectability to point that aircraft may be detected from range well beyond 100 km; exhaust particles themselves allow for detection of up to 80 km.

Wake vortices are byproduct of generating lift, and are, as such, impossible to eliminate – aircraft wing uses more curved upper and less curved or straight lower surface to generate differences in speed between two airflows. As result, upper airflow is faster and as such generates lower pressure when compared to airflow below the wing, generating lift. That, however, has result of creating vortices behind the trailing edge of the wing.

Background scanning

In that mode, radar does not look for stealth plane itself; instead it looks for background behind stealth plane, in which case sensory return leaves a “hole” in data. However, that requires radar to be space-based; or, if stealth plane is forced to fly at very low altitude due to defence net, radar can be airborne too.

Another possibility is using surface-based radio installations to scan the sky at high apertures and with high sensitivity, such as with radio telescopes.

As it is known to radio-astronomers, radio signals reach surface uninterrupted even in daytime or bad weather; and since map of stars is well known, it can be assumed that any star not radiating is eclipsed by an object, such as stealth plane. And as with very snsitive radio-astronomical equipment, every part of sky is observed as being covered with stars. It is also doable by less sensitive detecting equipment, simply by serching for changes in intensity of stars.

Over-the-horizon radar

Over-the-horizon radars invariably operate in HF band, with frequencies around 10 Mhz and wavelengths of 30 meters, beacouse it is band in which atmospheric reflection is possible. Also, at that point, target will create some kind of resonance and shaping will be largely irrelevant, as will be RAM coating, as explained above.

However, lowering frequency of radar means that size of radar aperture has to grow in proportion to radar wavelength to maintain narrow beam and adequate resolution; other problem is that these bands are already filled with communications traffic, meaning that such radars are usually found in early-warning role over the sea.

Such systems are already in use by US, Australia (Jindalee), Russia and China.

Bistatic / multistatic radar

Since VLO characteristics are achieved primarly by shaping airframe to deflect radar waves in other direction than one they came from, and thus make it useless to classic systems. However, such signal can be picked by receiver in another position, and location of plane can be triangulated.

While every radar pulse must be uniquely identifiable, that feature is already present in modern Doppler pulse radars. What is more difficult is turning data into accurate position estimate, since radar return may arrive to transmitter from variety of directions, due to anomalous atmospheric propagation, signal distortion due to interference etc.

Acoustic detection

Planes are noisy, engines in particular but also airflow over surface. In former case, bafflers are added, while in latter, noise is reduced by shaping plane so as to be more streamlined. However, internal weapons bays, when opened, create a great amount of noise.

Ultra-wide band radar

UWB radar works by transmitting several wavelengths at once, in short pulses. However, there are problems: 1) it is more effective to transmit power in one pulse, 2) UWB antenna must work over factor of ten or more in wavelength, 3) it would offer numerous false clutter targets. In short, if, for example, UH frequency and VH frequency were used, such radar would combine UHF’s and VHF’s advantages AND disadvantages.

Also, it is very hard to make RAM that would be effective against multiple frequencies.

Cell phone network

Telephone calls between mobile phone masts can detect stealth planes with ease; mobile telephone calls bouncing between base stations produce a screen of radiation. When the aircraft fly through this screen they disrupt the phase pattern of the signals. The Roke Manor system uses receivers, shaped like television aerials, to detect distortions in the signals.

A network of aerials large enough to cover a battlefield can be packed in a Land Rover.

Using a laptop connected to the receiver network, soldiers on the ground can calculate the position of stealth aircraft with an accuracy of 10 metres with the aid of the GPS satellite navigation system.

IR illumination

IR illumination – famed “black light” of World War 2, used in Do 17Z-10 and Bf 110D-1/U1 night fighters – works on exact same principles as radar, with only difference being EM radiation’s wavelenght, which is in IR range.

Since it is active technique, it also betrays location of emitter, and thus cannot be relied on for regular use by combat aircraft – althought it can be fitted instead of radar – but can be used by air defense networks.

Detecting LPI radar

F22s radar uses frequency hopping to counter radar recievers. However, it can only use relatively low spread of frequencies, and can be detected by using spread-spectrum technology in RWRs.

Another way to hide radar signal is to include spread-spectrum technology; it is intended to reduce signature of radar signal and blend it into background noise. However, such radar still emits a signal that is 1 million to 10 million times greater than real-world background noise, and each component of radar signal must be thousands of times stronger than background noise of same frequency in order for radar to work. It is relatively simple to build spread-spectrum passive receiver that can detect such radar at distance four times greater than radar’s own detection range.

There are other ways of making radar LPI: 1) make a signal so weak that RWR cannot detect it, and increase processing power, 2) narrow the radar beam and 3) have radar with far higher processing gain than RWR. Option one is impractical for already mentioned reasons – radar must be far stronger than background noise. Option two does not affect target being “painted”, and option 3 is only viable for few years.

Exercises charade

F22 proponents use exercises in which numerically inferior F22 force swept skies clear of enemy fighters as a proof of its supposed effectiveness. However, exercises are preplanned, unrealistical and designed to play at F22s strengths while ignoring its weaknesses as well as reality of air combat.

What is missing from claims of F22s superiority could fill a Bible. First, exercises assume fighters charging head-on at each other with identities clearly known, like medieval knights; then, F22s use their radars to detect adversary aircarft – which are not equipped with modern radars or any radar detectors – and launch computerized missiles which rarely miss. Second, all kills were made from beyond visual range, with positive identification of “enemy” aircraft.

Adversaries, meanwhile, were simulating very simple OPFOR tactics (“Damn the AMRAAM, full speed ahead!”), equal fleet costs and fleet readiness were not represented in fights. Forgotten is the possibility of assymetric response – such as IRST, anti-radiation missiles or radar warning devices, all of them very basic measures that most potential opponents F22 might be used against have. Forgotten is unreliability of BVR missile shots. Forgotten is unreliability of BVR identification – utterly impossible if forces shut down IFF (which they do, so as not to be tracked).

That was also shown by ATF predecessor of F22 – whereas, at first, stealthy ATFs were very successful, very soon adversary (“red”) pilots created tactics which allowed them to use their numbers to unmask stealth planes. To supress Red Force’s unanticipated and undesirable mounting successes, Air Force altered exercises until tests lost all semblance to reality. Successful adversary tactics and undesirable results went unrecorded, and were not reported to superiors; by virtue of “script”, ATF – and therefore F22 – survived.

While F14D Tomcat was equipped with primitive IRST, later replaced by more modern IRST-TSC set, it never participated in exercises against ATF or F22.

Alternatives

There are many alternatives to procuring F22 until a replacement can be designed and put into service. One is restarting production of F15C. Other possibilities include buying Dassault Rafale or Eurofighter Typhoon.

F22s maximum achieved production rate of 36 per year and high cost mean that it would take 7 years and 63,5 billion USD to replace all F15s (254) in service (currently there are 195 F22s built for 80,145 billion USD, 187 operational; replacing F15s would bring number to 441, 60 more than USAF stated minimum requirement. Actual requirement of 762 planes would bring cost to 290 million USD per plane, and total cost to 221,4 billion USD). USAF also has to acquire at least additional 1500 combat planes, which would, with F22, take 42 years and 375 billion USD.

F16 would give 1500 planes for 90 billion USD, within 9 years, and as such would be excellent stopgap measure until a new, non-stealthy, super-agile dogfighter could be designed.

While F35 is touted by USAF as good way to increase numbers, that is not true – first, F35 is a ground attack plane, not a fighter; second, with unit flyaway cost of 207 million USD and unit procurement cost of 305 million USD, it simply cannot give sufficient numbers without dealing death blow to already fragile US economy.

Notes

When USAF chief of staff was aked wether he really believes claims he makes about F22, answer was “I express opinions about F22 that I am told to express.”.

Conclusion

All of the above means that:

  1. F22 cannot get a jump at enemy – at WVR, it will get detected by IRST or visually; at BVR, either plane or missile launch/missile itself will get detected by IRST; and since it has to radiate to find targets, it is at disadvantage in radar area of detection too. It is based at wrong premises and cannot be relied on to secure air superiority, air supremacy, or even air dominance
  2. When ambushing enemy fails, it will be forced into close-in, manouvering dogfight, and killed
  3. F22 is too costly to operate in numbers large enough to win air war. Thus, converting it to fighter-bomber and using it to attack advanced SAMs that are proliferating would be far smarter move, until VHF radars become advanced and numerous enough to completely deny it aerospace
  4. F22 can be easily countered by combining VHF radars and IRST-equipped fighters; with radars handling first detection and then guiding fighters close enough to VLO target for their IRST to acquire it.

F22, is, therefore, literal silver bullet – extremely expensive and less effective than ordinary lead bullet. As can be seen, loyalty to the F22 that some people show does not hold under scrunity – most likely, it is simply emotional attachement to overly hyped and quite sexy airplane. But even Fallen Madonna with Big Boobies that Lt. Gruber obsessed about cannot win a battle, much less war.

Additions

RCS size vs detection range

Target – RCS size in m2 – relative detection range

Aircraft carrier – 100 000 – 1778

Cruiser – 10 000 – 1000

Large airliner or automobile – 100 – 1000

Medium airliner or bomber – 40 – 251

Large fighter – 6 – 157

Small fighter – 2 – 119

Man – 1 – 100

Conventional cruise missile – 0,5 – 84

Large bird – 0,05 – 47

Large insect – 0,001 – 18

Small bird – 0,00001 – 6

Small insect – 0,000001 – 3

Effective range is calculated by formula (RCS1/RCS2) = (R1/R2)^4, where RCS = radar cross section, while R=range.

RAM coatings

RAM coatings can be dielectric or magnetic. Dielectric works by addition of carbon products which change electric properties, and is bulky and fragile, while magnetic one uses iron ferrites which dissipate and absorb radar waves, and are good against UHF radars.

One of most known RAM coatings is iron ball paint, which contains tiny spheres coated with carbonyl iron or ferrite. Radar waves induce molecular oscillations from the alternating magnetic field in this paint, which leads to conversion of the radar energy into heat.

The heat is then transferred to the aircraft and dissipated.

A related type of RAM consists of neoprene polymer sheets with ferrite grains or carbon black particles (containing about 30% of crystalline graphite) embedded in the polymer matrix. The tiles were used on early versions of the F-117A Nighthawk, although more recent models use painted RAM. The painting of the F-117 is done by industrial robots with the plane covered in tiles glued to the fuselage and the remaining gaps filled with iron ball paint. The United States Air Force introduced a radar absorbent paint made from both ferrofluidic and non-magnetic substances. By reducing the reflection of electromagnetic waves, this material helps to reduce the visibility of RAM painted aircraft on radar.

Foam absorber typically consists of fireproofed urethane foam loaded with carbon black, and cut into long pyramids. The length from base to tip of the pyramid structure is chosen based on the lowest expected frequency and the amount of absorption required. For low frequency damping, this distance is often 24 inches, while high frequency panels are as short as 3-4 inches. Panels of RAM are installed with the tips pointing inward to the chamber. Pyramidal RAM attenuates signal by two effects: scattering and absorption. Scattering can occur both coherently, when reflected waves are in-phase but directed away from the receiver, and incoherently where waves are picked up by the receiver but are out of phase and thus have lower signal strength. This incoherent scattering also occurs within the foam structure, with the suspended carbon particles promoting destructive interference. Internal scattering can result in as much as 10dB of attenuation. Meanwhile, the pyramid shapes are cut at angles that maximize the number of bounces a wave makes within the structure. With each bounce, the wave loses energy to the foam material and thus exits with lower signal strength. Other foam absorbers are available in flat sheets, using an increasing gradient of carbon loadings in different layers.

A Jaumann absorber or Jaumann layer is a radar absorbent device. When first introduced in 1943, the Jaumann layer consisted of two equally-spaced reflective surfaces and a conductive ground plane. One can think of it as a generalized, multi-layered Salisbury screen as the principles are similar.

Being a resonant absorber (i.e. it uses wave interfering to cancel the reflected wave), the Jaumann layer is dependent upon the λ/4 spacing between the first reflective surface and the ground plane and between the two reflective surfaces (a total of λ/4 + λ/4).

Because the wave can resonate at two frequencies, the Jaumann layer produces two absorption maxima across a band of wavelengths (if using the two layers configuration). These absorbers must have all of the layers parallel to each other and the ground plane that they conceal.

More elaborate Jaumann absorbers use series of dielectric surfaces that separate conductive sheets. The conductivity of those sheets increases with proximity to the ground plane.

Iron ball paint has been used in coating the SR-71 Blackbird and F-117 Nighthawk, its active molecule is made up by an iron atom surrounded by five carbon monoxide molecules.

Iron ball paint (paint based on iron carbonyl) a type of paint used for stealth surface coating.

The paint absorbs RF energy in the particular wavelength used by primary RADAR.

Chemical formula: C5FeO5 / Fe (CO)5

Molecular mass: 195.9 g/mol

Apparent density: 76.87 g/cmc

Molecular structure: An Iron atom surrounded by 5 carbon monoxide structures (it takes a balllike

shape, hence the name)

Melting point: 1536° C

Hardness: 82-100 HB

It is obtained by carbonyl decomposition process and may have traces of carbon, oxygen and nitrogen. The substance (iron carbonyl) is also used as a catalyst and in medicine as an iron supplement however it is toxic. The painting of the F-117 is done by industrial robots however the F-117 is covered in tiles glued to the fuselage and the remaining gaps filled with iron ball paint. This type of coating converts the radar wave energy into heat (by molecular oscillations), the heat is then transferred to the aircraft and dissipated.

Ideal fighter plane

Ideal fighter plane should be a small, cheap, single-seat single-engine plane. It should have a limited RCS reduction – as much as can be achieved without sacrificing performance or increasing cost too much (no RAM), no active sensors, good visibility and excellent manouverability, and should rely on IR missiles as its main air-to-air weapon.

In real world – we don’t live in Lockheed Martin’s fantasy world, after all – raids at airfields are always a danger – even when you have air superiority. Now, with long-range cruise missiles, more than ever. This means that plane must be capable of flying from hastily-prepared and hastily-repaired airfields, as well as using underground bases and underground runaways.

Links

  1. http://i39.tinypic.com/197es8.jpg
  2. http://www.bmlv.gv.at/truppendienst/ausgaben/artikel.php?id=807(by Google Chrome translate software)
  3. http://www.janes.com/products/janes/defence-security-report.aspx?id=1065969816
  4. http://www.flightglobal.com/blogs/the-dewline/2011/12/08/rafale%20F22.jpg

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