3.667 kg empty
2.812 kg max weapons load
1.787 kg fuel
5.966 kg combat takeoff (100% fuel, 6 AIM-9)
5.072 kg combat (50% fuel, 6 AIM-9)
9.333 kg max takeoff
(AIM-9 = 85,3 kg)
14,38 m length
4,06 m height
7,7 m wingspan
15,79 m2 wing area
2.720 lbf / 1.234 kgf dry thrust per engine
4.080 lbf / 1.851 kgf wet thrust per engine
378 kg/m2 combat takeoff
321 kg/m2 combat
0,62 combat takeoff
Mach 1,4 maximum
Mach 0,97 cruise
2 M39 cannons (280 rpg)
2 wingtip pylons
4 underwing pylons
1 fuselage pylon
F-5s two M39 cannons will be replaced by a single GIAT 30. M39 = 80,9 kg * 2, GIAT 30 = 120 kg, weight loss 41,8 kg.
Ammunition weight will stay the same albeit at reduced capacity.
Engines will be J85-GE-21B, same as used in the F-5E. Data is as follows:
Dry thrust: 3.500 lbf / 16 kN
Wet thrust: 5.000 lbf / 2.268 kgf
This will incur no change in weight.
PIRATE IRST will be added to facilitate night combat and BVR capability. Weight gain: 30 kg IRST + 25 kg processor unit = 55 kg total.
BOP dispenser: 2 kg * 4
Flares: 0,215 kg * 78
Jammers: 0,7 kg * 38
Weight gain: 51,37 kg total (8 kg basic empty)
Austere version (F-5A-A) will have no IRST and no countermeasures. Both versions will receive helmet mounted targeting sights for high off-bore engagement capability, as well as wing LERX for improved maneuverability.
3.688 kg empty
1.787 kg fuel
6.042,8 kg combat takeoff
6.141,2 kg BVR combat takeoff
5.149,3 kg combat (50% fuel, 6 IRIS-T)
5.247,7 kg BVR combat (50% fuel, 2 IRIS-T, 4 MICA IR)
(IRIS-T = 87,4 kg, MICA IR = 112 kg)
14,38 m length
4,06 m height
7,7 m wingspan
15,79 m2 wing area
1.588 kgf dry thrust per engine
2.261 kgf wet thrust per engine
383 kg/m2 combat takeoff
389 kg/m2 BVR combat takeoff
326 kg/m2 combat (50% fuel, 6 IRIS-T)
332 kg/m2 BVR combat (50% fuel, 2 IRIS-T, 4 MICA IR)
TWR: (4.522 kgf thrust)
0,75 combat takeoff
0,74 BVR combat takeoff
0,88 combat (50% fuel, 6 IRIS-T)
0,86 BVR combat (50% fuel, 2 IRIS-T, 4 MICA IR)
1 GIAT 30 cannon
2 wingtip pylons
4 underwing pylons
1 fuselage pylon
181 thoughts on “F-5A upgrade proposal”
You forgot one thing HMD/HMS integration
I did, but how reliable HMD will be in combat? A simple helmet-mounted targeting sight might be better.
It is certainly worth getting the A-2 variant for the countermeasures and IR sensor.
It’d be mostly a point defense interceptor type of aircraft. The fighter simply does not have the range to go very far and it’d be vulnerable to being bounced. Wing loading too is a bit on the heavy side.
Agreed. F-5 is indeed a point-defense interceptor, and wing loading is a result of a small wing (delta would be better) and older structure and materials. Any attempts to rectify these flaws would mean a major reconstruction.
I would suggest a wing with LERX from the latest ‘E’ models (i.e. Singapore Air Force) or even from the F-20. A new ejection seat would be fine, a Matin Baker Mk.10L.
By the way, the FLX seems to have a ACES II, but since that seat was originally designed only for USAF aircraft (USAF has the rights of production), the project would be more competitive if it had an internationally recognized, perhaps, ‘licensed’ Martin Baker model.
FLX does have ACES II, simply because it is the seat I could find a drawing and weight data for. But a different seat is a possibility.
I would not be surprised to learn if ACES II was not necessarily the best ejection seat.
There have been claims the Russian design is better. Not sure if true though.
ACES II, Martin Baker, Zvezda*; all have proven to be excellent ejection seats, maybe some cost issue, and of course, politics.
*Anyway, it is a kind of thing in which a ‘bad seat’ would not last long! 🙂
I’m not too worried – so long as it works when you need it.
It’s probably more politics than anything else.
Yeah I think that the issue is that the wings are just too small.
I’d probably design something that looks like Riccioni’s microfighter design.
I wonder if it’d be possible to make a modern version of the Folland Gnat that is Delta Winged.
Its easier to shoot them on the ground, or keep them on the ground.
Thats why an aircraft that can penetrate air defenses (un-detected would be best) and destroy airfields is so important. Especially in first strike. Guided missiles might do the job well enough.
In planned war or later stages of any war, aircraft will be scattered to remote airfields and thats usually a lot of airfields to target effectively. Regardless eliminating main bases will greatly hamper any airforce, for various reasons.
don’t you think?
It’s why Picard wants his FLX and ALX designs to take off from grass fields.
The Russians have made their Su-27 and Mig-29 have filters to prevent FOB damage to the engines.
Main airfields are not going to last very long. Even remote ones may not last long.
I never understood why have large air bases at all? Large maintenance depots and storage facilities make some sense (assuming that there are smaller ones scattered around as well), but I’d prefer having my air force scattered all around even during the peacetime – not necessarily just standard air bases, but also “abandoned” road tunnels, dirt strip air bases and such. Naturally, different locations would be used during the wartime, but it would provide valuable experience and training necessary for wartime operation in adverse conditions. It would also decrease response time in the case of emergency, as it would provide greater geographical density.
Whats smartest and best is not always what is most beneficial to the special interests (commercial, political, and personal interests of leaders) that call the shots. As an American I worry about all this complacency. I hope I am right and the US does not need to fight a competent apponent for a long long time. Then again, thinking about it. Rest of the world’s militaries are not all that formidable or smart either.
What really sucks is how much money we blow on tech/equipment and cant get easy fixes done right that would be even more valuable tactically.
I hope really this is all a big smoke screen and we got stuff nobody knows about prepared.
It would make sense to not show your best cards. But, I am not hopeful in our use of good sense.
“Rest of the world’s militaries are not all that formidable or smart either. ”
Agreed. But none rely as much on technology (and numbers) as US military does. Except maybe Chinese for the latter one.
“I hope really this is all a big smoke screen and we got stuff nobody knows about prepared.”
I doubt it. Human idiocy is never to be underestimated.
China does at the very least use underground bases more extensively.
Strictly from an efficiency standpoint, it may be easier to keep such an airbase supplied. It may be easier to do R&D.
Outside of that, certain aircraft like large transport planes, strategic bombers, and stealth aircraft probably need a decent sized base. I cannot imagine a plane like the F-22 operating outside of such an environment.
But I think it’s just 2nd generation war mentality of most air generals, who have never had to fight a peer equal in the past.
“Outside of that, certain aircraft like large transport planes, strategic bombers, and stealth aircraft probably need a decent sized base. ”
That is true, but for transport aircraft civilian air ports and large dirt strips are sufficient… no need to have a dedicated air base made out of concrete. It is only stealth fighters that require dedicated air bases by their very nature.
I know you have always been anti-stealth and although I disagree with much of your statements on the fact I have learned a few very mund opening facts from your writing.
I want to know why are stealth aircraft the only ones requiring large bases?
I know the stealth coatings do require lots of upkeep but other than that whats different?
Also, why cant stealth coatings be maintained in small facilities?
Additionaly, aircraft like B-2 or F-22 do not need coating to be stealthy. Coating helps but shaping alone gives a very large reduction in RCS.
You also need an aircraft (like the F-22) that can fight on par with other top fighters even without stealth being a factor. I would agree that an IRST/Optical sensor would be a great idea for the F-22. Most everything I keep reading (outside this blog mostly) says that F-35’s DAS can be used as a air to air IR/optical sensor with 360 degree capability. In addition to air to ground capability.
I want to repeat I beleieve that F-22 & F-35 are not worth the price. I am not defending the aquisition or the program. I do want to serve as a bit of a counterweight to the prevailing thought on this blog.
“I want to know why are stealth aircraft the only ones requiring large bases?”
They’re not. But while you can design a non-stealth aircraft that will not require a large air base, stealth aircraft have an inherent need for them as mainaining stealth coating is a very complex issue.
Most Western fighters do require large bases: F-15, F-16, F-18, F-22, F-35, Tornado, Rafale, Typhoon. F-16, F-18, Rafale and Typhoon can fly from roads, but still require complex maintenance facilities. IIRC, Gripen is the only Western fighter designed with field maintenance in mind.
“I know the stealth coatings do require lots of upkeep but other than that whats different?”
Other than stealth coatings and added mechanical complexity of weapons bays, nothing.
“Also, why cant stealth coatings be maintained in small facilities?”
It may be possible, but it would likely lead to increased RCS and increased maintenance downtime. And it will require rather complex technology and a lot of people to do, so “small facility” is a relative word.
Take a look at how stealth coating maintenance works and looks:
For proper survivability, you need not only a small aircraft that can be maintained in the field, but also low maintenance downtime, low fuel consumption, and low “baggage train” – as few maintenance personnel and materials as possible. Aside from stealth coating, stealth aircraft are inherently larger than non-stealth ones, which means greater fuel consumption and thus greater logistical train.
“Additionaly, aircraft like B-2 or F-22 do not need coating to be stealthy. Coating helps but shaping alone gives a very large reduction in RCS. ”
Correct. Stealth coating only reduces RCS by one order of magnitude (say, from 0,1 to 0,01 m2), everything else is shaping. However, stealth coating is included in shaping – aircraft skin needs to be perfectly smooth in addition to having a correct basic shape. This is more complex than it sounds, as at high speeds particles in the air – especially if they’re something large, like rain drops or – act as a sandblower, which degrades stealth coating and its performance.
For an example:
“Most everything I keep reading (outside this blog mostly) says that F-35’s DAS can be used as a air to air IR/optical sensor with 360 degree capability.”
Theoretically, it is possible. Theoretically, Rafale’s DDM / DDM NG can also be used in the same way.
Key word here is theoretically. It will require large processing power and good helmet-mounted displays to make a good use of it, especially in a cluttered combat environment.
“Theoretically, Rafale’s DDM / DDM NG can also be used in the same way.”
The DDM NG seems to be so accurate and powerful that the IRST component of the OSF on the latest version of the Rafale the F3 is no longer carried as standard, but it’s optional. That means that the DDM NG offers detection ranges similar to the IRST component of the OSF which was what 90 km from the front? From what I read the full OFS is carried now only when increased resolution is required.
“The DDM NG seems to be so accurate and powerful that the IRST component of the OSF on the latest version of the Rafale the F3 is no longer carried as standard, but it’s optional.”
Only until new IR sensor is developed. It’s an issue of technological obscolence. You simply can’t expect a missile warner, especially a fisheye sensor, to have the range of a telescopic IRST.
That’s what I meant by Higher Resolution. The OFS and the DDM NG work in the same way when “scanning”, they don’t scan as a traditional IR sensor but stare at the entire field of view at the same time and identify heat sources. What the OFS can do alone is identify a particular target on it’s own by using its telescopic properties to focus on particular heat sources either with the visual or IR camera. The DDM NG can not do that but the SPECTRA software can use the information received from the DDM NG to provide the identification of targets. Because the DDM NG array is of a newer technology then the IR array in the OFS it offers pretty much the same range for identification when coupled with SPECTRA. However it cannot provide imaging like the OFS. Probably the next upgrade in 2016 or 2018 will upgrade the IR function in the OSF to Skyward or better levels.
Wrong, FSO is a scanning IRST like PIRATE and Skyward, and for a good reason as it allows far greater detection range albeit at expense of field of view.
DDM NG is a missile warner, so having staring system was a must.
BTW, visual identification is the only reliable way of identifying aircraft – and that is how IRST will typically be used to identify aircraft, though other parameters may be used for early ID guess.
“Wrong, FSO is a scanning IRST like PIRATE and Skyward, and for a good reason as it allows far greater detection range albeit at expense of field of view.”
You might be right about the Pirate and OSF being scanning arrays (old tech). I didn’t find definitive information on them using long-wave focal
plane array sensors (staring ) or not, The Skyward G on the other hand is a Staring array with 3 FOVs. From this article http://www.gripenblogs.com/AnalyticsReports/Vayu_Gripenforgesahead.pdf (pdf won’t open in browser you will have to download ): ” The IRST employs a long-wave focal plane array sensor, also called a ‘staring array,’ with three fields of view. In long range search mode, the system effectively behaves as an infrared telescope and in wide-angle mode it provides a night-vision image that can be projected on the head-up display (HUD). Being a passive sensor, IRST systems can only provide reliable azimuth and elevation
data but the Skyward-G is also able to provide rudimentary range information via ‘kinetic ranging,’ wherein the aircraft performs a weaving manoeuvre and range to target is determined by the change in azimuth or elevation angles. Additionally, the IRSTs on two (or more) aircraft can triangulate range to target by sharing tracking information over their datalinks. Skyward-G is based on the Selex PIRATE system used on the EuroFighter Typhoon, but by virtue of being newer, has seen more development on both the hardware and software fronts, allowing for better and more discriminate performance. ”
The difference between staring array sensor and a traditional scanning sensor is like the difference between an AESA radar and a Mechanical scanned Radar.
“BTW, visual identification is the only reliable way of identifying aircraft – and that is how IRST will typically be used to identify aircraft, though other parameters may be used for early ID guess.”
That’s what I was trying to say. The DDM NG can do the early ID guess through SPECTRA, which is okay for self defense, because it allows one to detect possible enemies at long ranges and positively identify them when/if they open fire, but for visual identification which would be required in an Counter Air mission the IRST is required. So the Rafale F3s now carry the infrared sensor of the OFS only when they anticipate that they will need to identify targets visually at long ranges, or in precision ground attack/recon missions where data from the IRST is fused with data from the Damocles pod and data from IR seeker heads.
Strategic bombers will need them, as will the largest transport aircraft (like the C-5). But yeah, there is much to be said about using civilian airports for dual use (done in many nations).
I’m of the opinion that there should be many small underground locations throughout a nation in regards to aircraft basing for small aircraft and that yes, during peace time, they should be used to operating on roads and less than ideal situations.
I think that it’s been speculated that the top brass like large airfields because they like to live in relative comfort versus out in the field, where conditions are more austere.
Strategic bombers are a waste of resources, and transport aircraft can use civilian airports just fine – or even better, design them with tracks so that even large transports can use dirt strips.
“I think that it’s been speculated that the top brass like large airfields because they like to live in relative comfort versus out in the field, where conditions are more austere.”
I agree that it is the case. A comment to that effect was made at combat reform, though in a less polite format.
“Strategic bombers are a waste of resources, and transport aircraft can use civilian airports just fine – or even better, design them with tracks so that even large transports can use dirt strips.”
True – bombers are a waste, as are stealth aircraft, but the issue is they exist – so the infrastructure to support them also needs to exist.
“I agree that it is the case. A comment to that effect was made at combat reform, though in a less polite format.”
The problem is against a good opponent, there isn’t going to be the luxury of getting into large comfortable bases.
Problem with operating from dirt strips, abandonned road tunnels, higway etc, is how do you deal with the logistics? Sure it’s a good feat if combat aircraft can take-off from such improvised bases, but where will the pilots and maintenance staff come from? And what about the approvisionement (weapons, kerosene, food, medical stuff…). Basically with large cargo and transport planes out of the equation, logistical side must be assured by trucks, cars, possibly helos… Could even be trains and / or boats depending of the geographical specificities of the zone, but in the end it’s not allowing even half of the reactivity of aircraft based logistics, which is no mean feat in war times.
On a larger bases the key point is you have everything you need available, pilots are living on site (or very close), so scramble time is kept within a few minutes. If there is a critical need for replacement pieces, staff, or urgent need to exfiltrate civilians or harmed troops, you can still rely on transport and cargo planes.
That is, of course, if your large base hasn’t been bombed indeed, which bring us back to the initial point of needing versatile air bases. So the point is not to defend large base as I agree their vulnerability could lead to immobilisation of aircrafts, but I think for the reason I evoked reaction time and sortie rate from improvised airfields might be so low that you’ll basically have an insignifiant tactical impact.
In essence, depending from large base might reduce you AC availability to zero if they’re destroyed, but depending from dispersed low sized bases might makes it inefficient and un-maintainable on the middle term.
I wonder if the solution could not come from a concept of high resilience / quick repair of large bases strips and facilities. I could be based on main facilities (hangars, quarters) being underground, air control being remote (turtle shell concept basically), and on the other side having large construction capability in the undergroud facilities, sized to be able to repair terrain and lay new tarmac in says, less than 12 hours. Sounds pueril and simplistic I know, but it could be a direction to consider anyway. What do you think?
I love the concept.
I do beleieve that ideally, having infastructure so that you can do logistics, etc. for small, dispersed sites (along with aircraft capability) would be best.
In some cases operating from large airbase (or having large aircraft carriers) would be best tactically but, against a peer apponent (lets say in theory NATO Vs Russia in 2020 if they keep improving and if it stays non-nuclear) it will be nearly impossible to keep airbases and large runways from being hit often. And, with modern bunker busting bombs underground or hardened facilities would also be in great peril. They would have to be deep underground and with lots of hardening. Runways have to be above ground regardless.
I know that some boast to be able to shoot down incoming missiles and have inpenetrable air defense shields but I dont think anyone who studies air warfare realistically beleives that missiles and aircraft will not get through regularly. Especially with the proliferation of Stealth tech and hypersonic terrain hugging cruise missiles.
I think ideally you need some hardening and enhanced repair abilities as you mentioned. Along with some dispersion of assets with logistics to support dispersion.
Realistically changes needed to accomodate any of the two ideas fully would be too costly to be warranted in this geopolitical and economic environment.
Firms would drain 100’s of billions from US and rest of NATO to acomplish this. If the F-35 program costs 200 billion how much would this restructuring cost?
We cant trust government’s and military’s to properly use our tax dollars thats the core issue. Huge waste and curruption cuts into ability to improve military capabilities. Even if the right tool is chosen and developed the excessive costs limit our abilties.
Best middle ground would be I think to slowly develop ability to disperse aircraft, supplies and manpower to the hundreds of private and public civilian airports/airfields all around The US (and im sure europe as well) just in case your main airbases are knocked out, you can still fight with some capability. With reduced capability but at least some capability. You will be taking out the enemies airbases as well so both sides will be in same boat. Side that can best (best being key word)
1) Detect and shoot down enemy penetrating aircraft and/or missiles.
2) protect assets on ground with hardening and redundancy.
3) Operate from dispersed airfields
Being able to deny enemy those capabilities by
1) Fielding aircraft or missiles that can penetrate defended airspace and hit targets with precision.
2) Fielding warheads (airplane deployed or otherwise) that can defeat hardened targets and cause most damage to runways
3) Fielding inteligence and survalance capabilities that can find dispersed airfields and having tactical agility and ability to hit these. Therefore degrading enemy dispersion capabilities.
Will be the counter game.
Its always good to be flexible, having all your eggs in one basket gives your enemy a clear target/capability to degrade.
“Basically with large cargo and transport planes out of the equation, logistical side must be assured by trucks, cars, possibly helos”
Not really. Many transport aircraft can land on dirt strips (C-17, C-130, A400M, ) and I wouldn’t call them exactly “small”. And even a small transport aircraft can carry more cargo than a helicopter. In cases where transport aircraft can’t land due to too narrow area (as in, road strip), they can still drop supplies via parachute – it has been done in Vietnam.
“On a larger bases the key point is you have everything you need available”
Not if said “everything” has been blown up by cruise missiles.
“but I think for the reason I evoked reaction time and sortie rate from improvised airfields might be so low that you’ll basically have an insignifiant tactical impact.”
Depends on supply situation, yes. Improvised air fields have been used in World War II, but modern aircraft have greater need of fuel and ammo than WWII prop aircraft.
“I wonder if the solution could not come from a concept of high resilience / quick repair of large bases strips and facilities.”
That is worthless if you don’t have aircraft to fly from it. Aircraft shelters are not invulnerable; only underground aircraft storage would make them comparably safe, and even then there is a danger of the enemy bombing an entrance to the facility.
“I could be based on main facilities (hangars, quarters) being underground, air control being remote (turtle shell concept basically), and on the other side having large construction capability in the undergroud facilities, sized to be able to repair terrain and lay new tarmac in says, less than 12 hours.”
It is possible, but you still have an issue of it being easily found. And if the enemy uses clutter munitions, it might take a lot longer than 12 hours to repair air strip.
“In some cases operating from large airbase (or having large aircraft carriers) would be best tactically but, against a peer apponent (lets say in theory NATO Vs Russia in 2020 if they keep improving and if it stays non-nuclear) it will be nearly impossible to keep airbases and large runways from being hit often. And, with modern bunker busting bombs underground or hardened facilities would also be in great peril. They would have to be deep underground and with lots of hardening. Runways have to be above ground regardless.”
Yes, that’s the killing point I agree. Even Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad bunker was blasted, yet it was quite a modern and expensive one. Even if a structure able to survive penetrating bombs was designed, its cost would be redhibitory.
It’s kind of an idea from the bad guy in a Bond movie lol, impressive stuff but quite irrealistic.
Still, developping a protocol and setting up infrastructure for some quick fix ability could become a big problem for ennemy’s strategy. As Picard says, if all your plane have been destroyed it sounds like a loss of effort, but in the context of Allied force (OTAN), it could mean a base written off the map by the ennemy could be reactivated quickly and exploitable by allied air forces soon.
If you give a lot of small targets, that are widely dispersed, it will be much harder to destroy.
At the end of the day, it’s only going to be smaller aircraft that can go into the small bases. The civilian equal would be like crop dusters or the turboprop jets. You won’t see the largest of aircraft regularly operating in such environments. The logistics load is just too big and large aircraft need the specialized maintenance facilities.
The largest aircraft though can operate off road (See this An-124 for example):
I think though that when it comes down to war against a competent foe, though, large airfields simply are not going to be an option. You’ll need lots of small depots for logistics and maybe setup some underground storage as well for aircraft.
A400M is also dirt-strip capable, as is C-130.
Basically, cargo aircraft should be able to operate.
The other reason why I mentioned the AN-124 is because it is one of the largest aircraft in the world. If it can operate off road, then most aircraft should able to.
Let’s see, what large aircraft there are:
Perhaps a passive AWACS-like sensor aircraft (I don’t mean the radar kind, which I suspect will be very vulnerable)
Is there a need for any other large aircraft?
I don’t think that for naval use, something like the Tu-22 or Tu-160 is justified for anti-carrier warfare. There are cheaper aircraft for that. There isn’t a need then for large heavy bombers.
The best option would be to try to store your aircraft underground and constantly change locations. Have multiple entrances to the hangars ideally so that it reduces the odds of getting a plane caved in. This is the sort of culture that you need to build up during peace time – get people used to doing it.
Also, build lots of decoys. They work. They don’t cost too much. Newer and better decoys can even give some IR signatures and little features like the glass reflecting sunlight do work. With enough, the enemy will be exaggerating kills and wasting ammo.
I guess this is another good reason to advocate for lots of small aircraft – more targets to destroy as well.
Getting aircraft destroyed on the ground is every enemy’s best wish – whether that be through missiles, long range artillery, their own aircraft, or perhaps commando-type raids. It’s best to give as many points of failure as possible
“Also, build lots of decoys. They work. They don’t cost too much”
I don’t know if you can decoy GPS guided bombs or terrain reading bombs like some versions of the tomahawk. If you think you can destroy GPS satelites thats another question. But, probably worth trying.
“The best option would be to try to store your aircraft underground and constantly change locations. Have multiple entrances to the hangars ideally so that it reduces the odds of getting a plane caved in”
Tactically its a good idea but strategically not. It would be too expensive to build such facilities in high number. In todays world NATO and the US are not realistically threathened. Neither is Russia or China. National (that usually means big business interests) Interests can be at risk but nothing close to existential. You cant spend that much cash without a big enough threath. Also, having only a few underground bases is pointless because they can be destroyed with bunker busting bombs. Or even a small tactical Nuc (again very unlikely) if its a big war.
Runways are still on surface. I dont know of anyway to keep runways underground. Even a dirt runway needs to be in good shape a few of those dispersal bombs with a few dozen bomblets each can make a dirt strip useless for a long time. Runway has to be by the bunker.
“I guess this is another good reason to advocate for lots of small aircraft – more targets to destroy as well”
Yes, and maybe also for VTOL aircraft that can take of with barely any runway and can be hidden anywhere since they can land basically anywhere and take of from a small concreate strip.
“It’s best to give as many points of failure as possible”
For sure! You want to be flexible and have tactical options.
What if its bad wheather and I cant use laser guidance, What if my radar guidance is getting jammed, what if the enemy is flying out of the sun on a suny day, what if they have IR reflectors on ground. What if my GPS satelites are degraded and made unreliable, What if my main airbases are bombed, what if there is a fuel shortage, what if main supply routes are cut off through land, what if air re-supply is not possible, etc, etc, etc.
You always want to be able to have alternate ways of functioning and fighting on so that just one or two of the above wont take your force out of action. And, to give your foe more than a few things to have to figure out how to target or counter.
I also want to mention that you can’t have it all. Thats why you have to focus your resources on developing capabilities that your enemy is least likely to be able to counter in the future.
For example: You can penetrate enemy air and attack enemy targets with stealth aircraft, aircraft with EA/ECM, aircraft with superior maneuverability and speed, or with thousands of small missiles. Which one is hardest to counter? Well than maybe you should focus your resources on that capability.
Unless you want to put your nations entire productive, scientific potential into the war machine you have to be smart in investing so that you can meet your defense needs.
“Yes, and maybe also for VTOL aircraft that can take of with barely any runway and can be hidden anywhere since they can land basically anywhere and take of from a small concreate strip. ”
Yes, that would be a good idea if:
1) a VTOL aircraft could be designed to match a STOL aircraft in performance
2) FOD issue was solved
First one may not be critical, but a second issue means that you need concrete/asphalt platforms. Plus, most VTOL aircraft can’t take off vertically with full internal fuel, let alone weapons, and are rather expensive and complex to maintain.
“You can penetrate enemy air and attack enemy targets with stealth aircraft, aircraft with EA/ECM, aircraft with superior maneuverability and speed, or with thousands of small missiles. Which one is hardest to counter? ”
Small missiles would need an aircraft to carry them, and large missiles are only useful against fixed targets. So a combination of 2, 3 and 4 is the best option.
GPS guided bombs will go where the bombers bomb. If that’s on faulty intelligence, then they are going to blow up a bunch of decoys.
The other issue is that with PGMs, you only have a limited inventory (they cost as much as 10x at times as much as “dumb” bombs), so if you’ve expended a lot of them, then you’re out of PGMs.
You could use them for civil usage as well. Armored aircraft hangars could also be used.
It would not be a cheap undertaking, although with tunnel boring equipment, it’s possible. There may be savings too if you buy in bulk.
Picard’s aircraft were to take off on grass fields.
Plenty of those and you cannot bomb every single grass field. You could also use JATO tanks to shorten the take off distance (Switzerland does this). Zero length launch may also be worth exploring.
Ideal for engaging enemy aircraft would probably be a group of CAS aircraft that could scout behind enemy lines too. The intelligence they collect may be as valuable as the actual casualties inflicted.
Don’t bother with large strategic bombers, radar AWACs, the C&C aircraft, etc. A passive sensor and patrol aircraft may be worth it though.
AWACS with IRST and ESM suite would be well worth the investment.
The big issue is that you gotta have your people used to it during peacetime so that when war happens, they are ready for it.
Off topic, but it is confirmed, Everest Riccioni has passed away last month:
He made a lot of contributions to supercruise in particular.
An interesting excerpt from an aviation magazine:
“The EAF has more than 40 air bases available, apart from emergency fields and military strips, the majority of these being concentrated in Lower Egypt, north of Cairo, a clutch of some 20 bases being situated in the Nile Delta. Most of the air brigades rotate regularly among forward bases for one- or two-weeks deployment periods to ensure retention of familiarity with terrain over which combat could possibly take place.”
Air International , ‘Egypt An Air Power in Transition’, April 1982.
Smart. That way they retain capability to disperse aircraft among forward bases.
Peacetime habits lead to better wartime performance.
Oh and, the F-5 can take off from roads too:
So can the F-16 and apparently the E-2C (AWACs).
The F-16 is particularly impressive, as it would mean that the YF-16 should be able to (lighter plane). A YF-16 with a modern engine and perhaps a modern composite airframe would be competitive even today.
Well, most fighters can take off the roads if road is wide enough for their wingspan. But taking off roads is one thing, operating from road bases is something different.
F-16 (and preferably a YF-16), along with F-5 should be able to, provided they get FOB protection and maybe wider wheels.
The logistics should not be too bad. I would imagine a Rafale-like aircraft might struggle though.
Maybe I take that back – Rafale isn’t much bigger than F-16. It may be more difficult to supply a dual engine plane though.
Same with Eurofighter; I would not expect it to operate from off road bases.
Correct. Rafale may be able to operate from some roads, but smaller aircraft still have the advantage in number of possible locations they can operate from as well as supportability.
BTW, I have added frontal view for FLX.
The frontal view looks good! Very nice view.
I think you can improve the bubble shape, something like that:
The pilot will need to turn his head sometimes!
Canopy’s already shoulder-wide, I don’t think turning head would be a problem.
Regarding your design, it reminds me of F-100 Super Sabre (nearly identical, in fact). There are some issues with that design:
– nose intake is vulnerable to high angle of attack and sideslip effects, limiting airflow and thus engine power during maneuvers
– it also limits both maximum and cruise speeds. Cruise speed is crucial for gaining surprise, though even a subsonic aircraft may work well since most modern “supersonic” aircraft still cruise subsonically. It will still be at disadvantage against, say, Typhoon, Rafale, Gripen NG, FLX or other IRST-equipped supercruisers.
– planform is classical tailed swept wing. This allows most of the wing to be utilized for lift, but compared to delta wing, it increases drag during cruise flight. Delta + LERX might be a better choice, similar to the F-16.
– F404-GE-100D engine will likely cost some 4-5 million USD (afterburning version costs 6 million USD).
– you might want to use GIAT 30 instead of ADEN as it is significantly superior in dogfight (2.500 rpm vs 1.700 rpm, 1.025 m/s vs 790 m/s, 244 g vs 130 g HEI rounds; total kinetic energy is 5,34 MW vs 1,15 MW at maximum RoF, and GIAT 30 also has significantly higher explosive energy as well. Higher muzzle velocity also means less time to target).
Thank you for your comments.
Yes, the GIANT 30 seems to be a spectacular weapon.
In fact my whole idea was to mix the pure gun dogfight, simple and clean design with the classical concept of fifties and sixties. I think it would be a good concept in late sixties and in the beginning of seventies, something to mimic a MiG-17 or MiG-19 in the “Feather Duster” project, a agile aircraft with a powerful engine, maybe the P&W P-408.
I think that little fighter with an afterburning engine if would have an astounding performance indeed. A Bearcat from the jet age!
Again, I really do appreciate your opinion.
“In fact my whole idea was to mix the pure gun dogfight, simple and clean design with the classical concept of fifties and sixties. I think it would be a good concept in late sixties and in the beginning of seventies, something to mimic a MiG-17 or MiG-19 in the “Feather Duster” project, a agile aircraft with a powerful engine, maybe the P&W P-408.”
That aerodynamic design is from fifties, actually. So it is appropriate.
“Yes, the GIANT 30 seems to be a spectacular weapon.”
It is GIAT 30, and if you want a design from fifties, I suggest using this:
It is 20 mm gun, and so far more lethal than .50 cal machine guns as found on F-86 but with much greater muzzle velocity than Soviet 37 mm cannons.
“I think that little fighter with an afterburning engine if would have an astounding performance indeed. ”
Back then there were no afterburning engines, best you could have was this:
In your design you seem to have mixed elements from 1950s and early 1960s (aerodynamic design, controls, airframe, avionics, armament) and 1970s-2000s (power plant, ejection seat).
Regarding performance, there are major limitations:
– aft tail is very close to the wing. Now, F-86 could achieve 90*+ AoA, but tail was very far aft from the wing
– classical nose air intake as found on F-86 limits maximum speed to subsonic / low transonic speeds
I think the Mk12 (US Navy version of Hispano-Suiza) was not so good, despite being a very popular gun. In operation the gun proved prone to jamming under high ‘g’ force. The ADEN/DEFA guns did a very good job in the Arab-Israeli wars and Indo-Pakistan conflicts, sometimes with just one shot, they could blow up a whole MiG-21. The tailerons/wing configuration I took from North American Vigilante and the BAC TRS-2, I do not know how it could handle in a combat maneuver, even if it could actually fly (!) since it is a non fly-by-wire aircraft. I think a good subsonic engine from the fifties could be Hispano-Suiza Verdon (P&W J 48), 7,700lbs; from sixties/seventies is the P&W J52 P408 11,000lbs and a “modern” engine I could consider the Hawk 200 Rolls-Royce Adour.
“In your design you seem to have mixed elements from 1950s and early 1960s (aerodynamic design, controls, airframe, avionics, armament) and 1970s-2000s (power plant, ejection seat)”
Yes, indeed, that is the idea.
Here, a size comparison with F-20:
“Same with Eurofighter; I would not expect it to operate from off road bases.”
Speaking of that, see this spetacular statement about Typhoon from Pierre Sprey, check 02:20.
I like that guy!
Typhoon is very complex and expensive to fly, being relatively large it drinks a lot of fuel so yes, it is too big for missions against ISIS. But main problem is the type of the jet, a dedicated CAS aircraft that may be as large as Typhoon would not be so expensive, because civilian high-bypass turbofans use very little fuel, and single-role jets are generally easier and cheaper to fly and maintain than multirole ones.
It would simply not make the defense industry as much money.
That is why it will not be selected.
What kind of aircraft would you suggest to perform an aggressor function?
Nowadays, I know, it is financially and practically impossible and I cannot figure something to simulate such aircraft like a SU-35. But if you could propose a wholly new aggressor aircraft for USAF or US Navy/Marines, what kind of engine, electronics and features it would have?
Perhaps, a specialized version of FLX?
“What kind of aircraft would you suggest to perform an aggressor function?”
Of existing aircraft, Gripen – either C version fitted with IRST, or E.
“Perhaps, a specialized version of FLX?”
Possible. I would have it fitted with radar, though, as enemy fighters are likely to use radar – at least in air-to-ground.
“BTW, I have added frontal view for FLX.”
I have a question about the placement of the Skyward on the FLX: why have you placed it in the same position as IRSTs on the Suhois, Rafale and Eurofighter, instead of in the nose? On the aircraft which currently use IRST, it’s placement is dictated by the use of Radar which takes up the whole nose so the IRST has to be above (Suhoi, Rafale, Mig-29, Eurofighter) or bellow (F-14 and F-35). But the FLX is not using radar so the IRST could be put in it’s place and thus have a much better FOV especially for looking down.
“why have you placed it in the same position as IRSTs on the Suhois, Rafale and Eurofighter, instead of in the nose?”
Placement was primarily dictated by shape of the IRST, which is designed for aircraft with radar. Ergo, I had no option but to place it on top of the nose. There are two other issues as well: nose of supersonic aircraft has to be very pointy due to aerodynamic concerns, whereas IRST would make nose blunt (in fact, radar performance is sacrificed for aerodynamic performance in making a pointy nose). Second, aircraft nose is one of the hottest part of the aircraft, which would somewhat reduce IRSTs performance.
It is true that placing IRST head on tip of the nose would allow much better FOV, but it would require completelly new sensor design, and lookdown capability isn’t very important for air superiority fighters anyway. If you want better FOV, you can always carry IR pod – notice that IRST pod is one of possible loadout options for the FLX.
I still think having multiple IRST sensors integrated into an airframe would be worth it.
The mass penalty is relatively modest and it’s going to lead to longer range spherical viability.
A X-31 radome cone with a retractable IRST would be fine.
I’ve added a third IRST. So now FLX has full spherical coverage with dedicated IRST sensors, plus near-spherical coverage with RWRs and MAWS.
Picard, I was wondering, what is the energy demand of passive devices like IRST or TV channels?
I bet it is far, far lower than electro-magnetic radars, isn’t it? And as Chris said it’s rather light too.
If so, it’s obviously sensors which gains surpasses the downsides, so you could multiply them as much as needed to obtain 360° awareness on all axis.
“Yes, that would be a good idea if:
1) a VTOL aircraft could be designed to match a STOL aircraft in performance
2) FOD issue was solved”
Depends upon what you mean by performance. The Sea Harrier certainly shone in DACT against all opponents, especially WVR. Pretty much the ideal size and weight for a cheapish fighter, not too difficult to maintain and very popular with it’s crews. Not to mention combat proven in all roles. Still 1960’s tech though, the Olympus was based on the Orpheus and it was tricky to fly resulting in a high accident rate.
FOD issue is a biggie, though the Russians have shown the way I think. MIG29 and the likes clever engine inlet ramps which close entirely sucking air from above are one potential solution ( which also gives truly carefree handling, see John Farley’s test flight of a 29), the other is…. interesting..
Back to performance the biggest issue is the amount that a STOVL can carry whilst retaining range and reaction time. Hanging a few bombs off a Harrier in a forward base is fine as long as the sortie rate can be maintained ( the USMC Harriers certainly managed this impressively in the GW) though as an interceptor such a vehicle is always going to be either subsonic and range challenged or huge and expensive ( a la the F35).
Range and payload therefore are not a huge issue in the CAS or strike environment as forward basing allows a higher sortie rate. As an interceptor though, whilst there have been a few attempts at supersonic types, the mathematics just doesn’t work compared to a STOL design. A VTOL fighter cannot get off the ground with enough fuel and weapons to make it count effectively. As far as I can work out at full chat a Sea Harrier would burn through about 2/3 of it’s fuel getting to 100nm, assuming it took off with full tanks in the first place.
Pinching a few ideas from the past might provide a solution though.
The Skyhook system never generated any orders but did provoke much interest. Reading some of the advantages ( in particular about 1300lbs saved from eliminating the undercarriage) it sounds more interesting..
It was specced for use at sea, particularly from destroyer sized vessels which could field about 5 aircraft, No great reason though why it couldn’t work on land too ( and indeed during the trials it did). So instead of an airfield or a semi prepared strip you have a Skyhook crane which could allow something Sea harrier sized to avoid the problems encountered close to the ground ( reingestion and FOD).Re-arming would simply be a case of prepping a trestle with the required ordinance. Range might still be a bit limited, but well within bounds for CAS work.
As an interceptor though it wouldn’t work, unless we borrow an idea from the 30s… An airship.
Something that can carry about 30 tonnes, including a largeish AWACS radar. Oh and a couple of Skyhook cranes. See where I’m going with this yet? They wouldn’t have to be very complicated affairs, apparently the Sparrowhawk pilots found ‘landing on their blimp much easier than on land. Interceptors don’t go on CAP, they form up on the blimp and are secured via the Skyhook system at which point they are refueled. There they wait burning no fuel until needed. Once targets appear they simply detach, intercept from an already considerable altitude and return to a Skyhook or fixed base. As soon as they are launched two further VTOLs take their place, effectively a omnipresent cab rank backed by a large radar and aerial refuelling.
Assuming, rather generously, that the equivalent STOL would be operating 100nm behind where the CAP would be needed, at high subsonic it would take about 10 minutes to arrive and then be limited to a couple of hours CAP before returning. Hence why you need about 24 aircraft to maintain a 2 aircraft CAP 24 hours a day. You could do the same with much fewer aircraft and axe some of your expensive AAR and AWACS assets…
As far as I can see, and with 60’s tech, a Skyhook optimised Sea Harrier with a blimp 100nm downrage would be saving over 5000lbs in fuel and undercarriage weight. No need for a radar, just an IRST as it would be back by the blimps. Oddly enough blimps have always proved rather more difficult to shoot down than people expect, and when they do ( provided they aren’t hydrogen lifted) they tend to just drift slowly towards the ground. Might be quite surviveable and cheap.
Crazy, but the maths seem to work. 🙂
“Depends upon what you mean by performance.”
1) Ease of maintenance and sortie rate
2) Situational Awareness (especially rearward visibility)
4) Cruise speed
7) Missile load
“The Sea Harrier certainly shone in DACT against all opponents, especially WVR.”
DACT ain’t combat, and Harriers never engaged in a dogfight as Argentine aircraft typically did not notice Harriers approaching from the rear, and in any case didn’t have any fuel avaliable for maneuvering combat anyway.
IIRC, French Mirage IIIs handily beat Harriers in DACT training, either shortly before or shortly after the Falklands campaign. Not sure about its accuracy, though.
“Pretty much the ideal size and weight for a cheapish fighter, not too difficult to maintain and very popular with it’s crews.”
Agreed. It still had issues of high wing loading and draggy airframe, though.
“Not to mention combat proven in all roles.”
For a certain value of “combat proven”.
BTW, my favorite pre-teen (pre-1970s) jet fighters are F-86, Draken, English Electric Lightning and Dassault Mirage variants. I do like Viggen and F-102/106 as well, just not as much as the ones listed.
“MIG29 and the likes clever engine inlet ramps which close entirely sucking air from above are one potential solution”
Agreed. I thought about using such solution on FLX, but there were certain issues (air intake configuration, primarily).
“Back to performance the biggest issue is the amount that a STOVL can carry whilst retaining range and reaction time.”
Not in air-to-air combat. For AtA, greatest limitations are maintenance/cost issues, speed and maneuverability.
“Range and payload therefore are not a huge issue in the CAS or strike environment as forward basing allows a higher sortie rate. ”
Yes and no. They are not immediately obvious issues, but CAS requires extended loiter time, which in normal circumstances would translate into range. I’m talking about loiter time that is measured in hours here. Take a look:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairchild_Republic_A-10_Thunderbolt_II – 460 km with 10 minute combat and 1,88 hour loiter
https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/close-air-support-fighter-proposal-3/ – 603 km with 10 minute combat and 2 hour loiter
Now compare with STOVL flighters:
Harrier II Plus: 556 km with 2 minute (?) air combat and no loiter
F-35B: 833 km with 2 minute (?) air combat and no loiter
Even in strike, long range is sometimes necessary (deep strike, the very mission F-35 is made for).
“So instead of an airfield or a semi prepared strip you have a Skyhook crane which could allow something Sea harrier sized to avoid the problems encountered close to the ground ( reingestion and FOD).Re-arming would simply be a case of prepping a trestle with the required ordinance. Range might still be a bit limited, but well within bounds for CAS work.”
You would need massive thrust for that to work, and range would still be limited, plus it would mean harder maintenance as well. So dirt strip capability is still a better option, as it allows greater flexibility. Plus STOVL/VTOL aircraft have to be made as light as possible, which does not mix with huge gun and heavy armor required for CAS. In other words, STOVL CAS aircraft is an impossibility. You could use regular STOVL aircraft in CAS, but as Falkland and Gulf Wars showed, they are extremely vulnerable to ground fire.
“As an interceptor though it wouldn’t work, unless we borrow an idea from the 30s… An airship.
Something that can carry about 30 tonnes, including a largeish AWACS radar. Oh and a couple of Skyhook cranes.”
No need for STOVL for that.
FLX for example could use JATO or catapult for takeoff and airhook for landing. STOVL/VTOL certainly would help, especially in terms of number of aircraft carried, but it would create issues as well.
“Assuming, rather generously, that the equivalent STOL would be operating 100nm behind where the CAP would be needed”
Not necessarily. That is a limitation (and indeed a generous one) if one is using classic air bases. But if you have a dirt strip / grass field capable flighter aircraft, you can have them fly from grass fields, possibly alongside troops. Possibly, I know it can be done with CAS fighters, high-performance air superiority jets would be problematic in that regard.
You’d still save fuel on climb, though.
“As far as I can see, and with 60’s tech, a Skyhook optimised Sea Harrier with a blimp 100nm downrage would be saving over 5000lbs in fuel and undercarriage weight. No need for a radar, just an IRST as it would be back by the blimps.”
Indeed. I might do a proposal for that sometime. Though I’d combine this with my proposal for FLX, if possible.
BTW, Rafale has been flown at speeds as slow as 18 kts in dogfights, and landing speed is 115 kts compared to airship speeds of 50-120 kts (cruising/maximum). This means that you may not even need STOVL for an airborne aircraft carrier, regardless of wether it has runway or not.
“Oddly enough blimps have always proved rather more difficult to shoot down than people expect, and when they do ( provided they aren’t hydrogen lifted) they tend to just drift slowly towards the ground. Might be quite surviveable and cheap.”
Indeed. Modern AAMs use fragments to bring down aircraft, so it would take an entire barrage to bring down one Zeppelin.
You’d think there wasn’t much better than bullets to defeat an airship, experience in WW1 though showed that they are simply tough targets that require mass dispersed firepower. And that with a hydrogen fill.
“DACT ain’t combat, and Harriers never engaged in a dogfight as Argentine aircraft typically did not notice Harriers approaching from the rear, and in any case didn’t have any fuel avaliable for maneuvering combat anyway.”
Both excellent AC, close enough to come down to the prejudice of the individual I think. Still, a clear win on statistics of kills alone to the SHAR. SHARs and Harriers for that matter did remarkably well against allcomers, you could only really pick their cruise speed and range as being a bit weak.
“FLX for example could use JATO or catapult for takeoff and airhook for landing. STOVL/VTOL certainly would help, especially in terms of number of aircraft carried, but it would create issues as well.”
Low, slow and highigh alpha I can see it being a mathematical possibility, at 30,000 feet nada. The advantage of Stovl here is that something akin to a SHAR could add it’s thrust to the blimp. Couple of cranes to catch the airframe and the interceptors can idle or even shutdown ( not sure about restarting a jet at latitude). Add some form of platform however ( 30t capability would include lifting a couple of jets) to transfer the ceptors onto and additional aircraft could form up, merely adding their directed lift to compensate. 60kts over the wings and plenty of fuel on the blimp, loiter time would be entirely pilot dependent I think.
No great lack of space on the bottom rung of a blimp so potentially you could have about as darned many CAS jets parked as you like, purely fuel dependent.
“Even in strike, long range is sometimes necessary (deep strike, the very mission F-35 is made for).”
We have discussed this before, my idea of CAS is not an armoured tankbuster per se, or indeed a deep strike airframe. More A-37 than A-10, the Harrier falls between the two definitions.
“You would need massive thrust for that to work, and range would still be limited, plus it would mean harder maintenance as well. So dirt strip capability is still a better option, as it allows greater flexibility. Plus STOVL/VTOL aircraft have to be made as light as possible, which does not mix with huge gun and heavy armor required for CAS. In other words, STOVL CAS aircraft is an impossibility. You could use regular STOVL aircraft in CAS, but as Falkland and Gulf Wars showed, they are extremely vulnerable to ground fire.”
Again definitional except the point I totally agree on, namely that a pound saved in one area saves pounds in another. Especially in cost, personally I’d much rather be able to swarm a target with 5 ton airframes than rely on a few 15 ton ones. I’m guessing you could buy a squadron of SHARs for a single F35B.
My point really isn’t specifically about the SHAR. As I say 60’s tech but a remarkable success and an excellent example to use, particularly due to the two aspects and types. If you took the idea of designing a short range VTOL dogfighter with no undercarriage, and assumed the availability of a blimp you could therefore save more weight on fuel and radar. A new build SHAR with a reasonable weapons load could take off vertically, only with reduced fuel. One of the things that killed them was their old engines simply didn’t provide the rated thrust, especially in hot environments, and every pound lost there resulted in a negative feedback loop. Arguably though even the SHAR design as standard could reach a blimp with a decent AA loadout, as long as it could be fully refueled there it would be potent.
A specific design of course could save weight all over the shop. Enough, I think, to make if feasible and useful as a point defence interceptor from a ground based Skyhook ( say 100+ nm range) and certainly enough to make it very potent from a blimp whose range and time on station might as well be infinite.The Olympus was fairly crude in modern terms and plenum chamber burning appears to have been developed in the 2000s.
Note that I’m not arguing against forward basing for CAS ( or my idea of CAS). Harrier-a-likes with a rugged undercarriage could still use them and probably wouldn’t be very viable from a Shyhook installation. Saying that even a range of 50nm wouldn’t necessarily be un-useful with tropps in contact in a set position. They would however be able to form up and refuel on the blimp in order to construct a strike package, all ably protected by the ceptors. I merely foresee these extra aircraft having to add their own engine thrust to the blimp’s lift in order to balance the forces.
What would such a blimp be vulnerable against? Radar AAMs against a large AESA / Jammer? IR would barely have a target with the, probably electric, engines switched off, particularly at night. Partly solar powered might even be viable. Could even add a light CIWS or manpads against cannon runs, assuming the defending fighters and their backup are defeated. I very much doubt it would be needed. Put it high enough with a good IRST and nothing stealthy currently flying could get close enough to it without being detected,
Even should it get hit it isn’t going to be an expensive platform, unmanned and you could always send a couple of jets to hook up and guide it home. Might even be able to refuel them at sea…. No idea how but it would certainly solve the AEW / Carrier bourne tanker problem if you could.
Come to think of it I wonder what range you’d get from a 155mm starting out at 30,000 feet?
“Still, a clear win on statistics of kills alone to the SHAR.”
Lies, damn lies and statistics. Statistics alone, without context, are worthless. In the end, pilot is the most important factor, but even an ace pilot is no good without fuel to maneuver.
“We have discussed this before, my idea of CAS is not an armoured tankbuster per se, or indeed a deep strike airframe. More A-37 than A-10, the Harrier falls between the two definitions.”
For CAS, you need a gun and armor. Only thing debatable is an actual extent. Heavy armor designed to maximize survivability over a wide range of threats, or just light Kevlar armor to protect pilot against small arms fire? One gun or several of them? Single caliber gun(s) or a mix of different calibers? 7,62, 12,7, 20, 25, 30 or 40 mm?
It all depends on what you want the aircraft to do. With ALX, I immediately knew I couldn’t design a very small aircraft, as I wanted a second crewmember in order to reduce pilot’s workload (this workload was the primary cause of several friendly-fire incidents which USAF naturally immediately used to attack the A-10, and very concept of dedicated CAS aircraft, as flawed). So I could just as well mount a 30 mm gun, though it would have to be smaller than the A-10s. Engine was selected in a way that either one of two engines had to provide more thrust than gun’s recoil.
I did think about light attack aircraft, but I decided to combine it with a concept of turboprop AFAC / CAS / COIN aircraft.
Regarding Harrier, it has some major issues for CAS. It has no armor, it also has very unsafe arrangement wrt engine and fuel placement, there is an issue of loiter time as well, plus limited firepower.
“Especially in cost, personally I’d much rather be able to swarm a target with 5 ton airframes than rely on a few 15 ton ones.”
My idea precisely, or rather a part of the idea (second part is that those 5 ton airframes will still be individually superior to anything currently in existence).
https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2014/08/02/air-superiority-fighter-proposal-6/ – 5.600 kg empty
https://defenseissues.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/close-air-support-fighter-proposal-3/ – 6.500 kg empty
“I’m guessing you could buy a squadron of SHARs for a single F35B.”
Five, to be more precise. But you could also buy 2 A-10s for each Super Harrier, with each A-10 being far more survivable, effective and easier to maintain than Super Harrier. Which is one of reasons I don’t like STOVL aircraft, they simply don’t provide you anything you don’t have with STOL aircraft, at least in ground attack, as they can’t take off vertically expect in very light configurations (typically light AtA config, and not full onboard fuel either).
“If you took the idea of designing a short range VTOL dogfighter with no undercarriage, and assumed the availability of a blimp you could therefore save more weight on fuel and radar.”
It will be a while before I do anything about it, though, and there are a few problems. Namely, the engine. I always use as many existing components as possible, and one of these is always the engine. But only STOVL aircraft are Harrier II, which has a rather old engine, and F-35, whose engine is way too large for my purposes, plus it’s not very good either (being optimized for ground attack).
“Note that I’m not arguing against forward basing for CAS ( or my idea of CAS). Harrier-a-likes with a rugged undercarriage could still use them and probably wouldn’t be very viable from a Shyhook installation. Saying that even a range of 50nm wouldn’t necessarily be un-useful with tropps in contact in a set position.”
Issue is that STOVL/VTOL aircraft are more FOD sensitive than STOL ones, which is never a good thing, especially for forward basing. As for short-range CAS, I had that idea before, but decided that it might be better to use AFAC for light CAS.
“Radar AAMs against a large AESA / Jammer?”
Modern radar AAMs have home-on-jam mode. It is not very useful against DRFM jammers, but if radar is used to brute-force jam enemy radars, they will be dangerous. And even an AESA does not make you invulnerable to anti-radiation missiles.
You are also completely forgetting IR BVRAAM. Blimps are huge and comparatively slow targets, and IRST can detect them through engine heat and sunshine reflections from the surface.
“IR would barely have a target with the, probably electric, engines switched off, particularly at night.”
At nigh maybe, but even that is questionable – will blimp ever cool down to temperature of its surroundings, especially higher up in the air? – but during the day sun reflections and heating due to sunlight will be enough.
“Put it high enough with a good IRST and nothing stealthy currently flying could get close enough to it without being detected, ”
That is true. Plus, a blimp could carry very large array of sensors, far larger than most aircraft.
Just quick shime in.
In Falklands (and all fighting before late 80’s) no body had missile warners, RWR, or stealth. Surprising enemy was a matter of skill more than aircraft. Why did the Argentine’s not exploit British many weaknesses in that war? The British were better trained and prepared in all aspects thats why.
Good debate. Hard to digest for a lay person like me but good.
Actually, RWRs existed before that – they first appeared during World War II on ships, and IIRC USAF deployed first aircraft-mounted RWRs during the Vietnam war – but Argentines did not have either RWRs or MAWS, and while I believe that Harriers did have RWRs I know for certain they had no MAWS.
As a fellow Harrier fan, I strongly recomand you read ” A nightmare’s Prayer ” from Michael Franzak, if you haven’t already. He’s a marine who was deployed in Afghanistan from October 2002 to September 2003. His squadron actually did use AV8Bs for CAS.
As much as one can admire Jumbo Jets, you would’nt rate it as a safe bird, taking in account pilots point of view. Stunning, powerfull, agile, yes. Safe and easy to operate, no.
Every modern jet comes with at least $10 million worth of armour, all you need is speed, guns and numbers for close air support.
I’ve no objection to citing equipment in such a way that it provides protection but armour itself is wasted weight on any but very specialist aircraft ( A-10 and Su25 basically).
Come to think of it when I think of a list of aircraft used for CAS only a few ever had armour, out of a very long list.
Lets call it ground attack rather than CAS.
“You are also completely forgetting IR BVRAAM. Blimps are huge and comparatively slow targets, and IRST can detect them through engine heat and sunshine reflections from the surface.”
Good luck to them. Given the cost of a modern BVRAAM they can ripple fire em for all I care. Bagging a few cubic metres of helium in a few compartments while the defending ceptors shoot and scoot sounds like a marvellous plan to me. Hell they’d have enough gas to chase them all the way back too, and I doubt they’d be unhappy at their opponents expending all their medium range weapons. Personally I’d just hide behind the blimp. 🙂
A few radar reflectors or heat sources for wherever you’d prefer the missiles to hit. Worst case scenario would be losing a few tonnes of aviation fuel and a radar antennae. Most likely, even with multiple hits, would be the remote pilot calmly deciding where to set her down. I doubt the damage caused would cover their fuel bill. 🙂
“It will be a while before I do anything about it, though, and there are a few problems. Namely, the engine. I always use as many existing components as possible, and one of these is always the engine. But only STOVL aircraft are Harrier II, which has a rather old engine, and F-35, whose engine is way too large for my purposes, plus it’s not very good either (being optimized for ground attack).”
You make my point rather well… The Orpheus was hardly an advanced engine.
Take something along the lines of an F118, ( 19k thrust) do the Olympus thing with it and you have and engine which is several hundred Kg lighter and delivers almost 50% more thrust to weight in a much smaller package. A full metre shorter.and at least 10% better fuel consumption. This would fit rather well in a lightened airframe.
Or a non afterburning 135, don’t forget you can take a couple of metres off and quite a bit of weight too, without the afterburner, which would actually make it narrower than an Olympus and about the same length.
In fact I’d be tempted to go for the latter, even assuming that airframe technology has not moved and and the Shyhook shar was an almost identical airframe do you think it wouldn’t get off the ground with 28,000lb of thrust? Don’t forget you don’t strictly need the 1000 imp gal fuel load anymore or the 1300lb undercarriage…. That would take off vertically with full weapons, fuel and a pilot who liked donuts. No need for special heat proof landing pads, it would effectively be landing 50 foot up in the air. Higher if need be, a 125 tonne crane could probably manage 200ft. Fuel economy looks to be a tadge worse at max thrust, but at max thrust it would be more comparable to something along the lines of an F101 in zone 4, and much more efficient with it.
What would an F-35 be able to do if it was less than half the weight and din’t need to carry 8 tonnes of fuel around in it’s slack,fat arse?
Stealth would be pointless, pointing to a cheap aircraft. You’d have to find it’s launch site first and if riding around on a huge blimp isn’t a surprise killer I don’t know what is. No expensive radar integration etc…
“Five, to be more precise.”
Maybe full lifecycle it would end up being somewhere upwards of five. Last price I could find for a SHAR was about $30 million in today’s dollars, of which $12 was Engine cost.. F35B is still looking at $300+ million since the,last creative accountancy.
Oddly enough the original JSF project was meant to come in at about $30 million per copy… modified F135 without burner might come in at close to $20 of course, enlarging the roll nozzles and getting rid of that silly bit on the back effectively.
So given the same airframe minus undercarriage about $38 million only with a 50% fuel 8 AAM thrust to weight ratio of about 1.4.
An EE lightning wouldn’t catch it!
“Come to think of it when I think of a list of aircraft used for CAS only a few ever had armour, out of a very long list.”
And most of them were not specialist CAS aircraft. Successful ones I can think off the top of my head – P-40, A-1, A-10, Su-25 – all had/have armor. P-38 did not have armor and has proven very vulnerable, P-51 same thing, F-15E is a ground attack aircraft but has never shown effective at CAS,
I really “like” how Wikipedia calls A-1 “a piston-powered, propeller-driven anachronism in the jet age” while ignoring that things it was doing were simply things no fast jet could ever do.
“Or a non afterburning 135, don’t forget you can take a couple of metres off and quite a bit of weight too, without the afterburner, which would actually make it narrower than an Olympus and about the same length.”
Problem with that is that it is an engine designed for ground attack. Engine diameter has a major impact on aircraft’s drag, especially supersonic, and F135 has a rather large frontal area and shitty thrust-to-drag ratio. Granted, a lot of that has to do with the engine bypass due to its high bypass ratio, but I’m not sure how exactly large its turbojet “core” really is.
“Every modern jet comes with at least $10 million worth of armour, all you need is speed, guns and numbers for close air support”
For Real CAS (where you are helping troops already engaged) you also need lots of fuel and/or low fuel consumption and armor to be able to go down low into AAA range. What good is fuel gonna do you if you cant take any fire? Then you can’t do CAS! I would say gun, armor, fuel, numbers and good low-speed handling. in that order.
Strike/ground attack is different. Its something you do behind enemy lines/ in enemy territory where precision and proper identification will probably not be that important, tactically speaking.
To help out troops facing tanks or heavily armored artillery, sensors and avionics that are good at identifying and precise at guiding are also needed. Thats why A-10 carries Maverick and TOW II on top of gun. TV camera and wire guidance are probably most accurate and less decoyable (if thats a word) guidance known. Although, range is limited.
For A-10/Su-25 types I would rather have armor than speed. Speed is no good in real CAS (is useful in getting there fast) missions.
I do beleive that A-10 use is limited in peer type fight. It can mostly operate in friendly or heavily contested ground and air.
Im not comprehending the blimp thing?
I am not an engineer. But, I do wanna say that just because the math works does not always mean the product will.
“Im not comprehending the blimp thing?”
I can’t say I’m entirely convinced it will work… I’d have to do further research before reaching a conclusion, but the idea itself is sound.
Very interesting. Basically a floating carrier.
I don’t know. Seems like a big target. How do you defend that?
Looks even more defenseless than naval carriers.
“I don’t know. Seems like a big target. How do you defend that?”
Keep it out of the range of the enemy fighters. CAP and stuff.
“Looks even more defenseless than naval carriers.”
That is one of reasons why I’m not certain about it.
“For Real CAS (where you are helping troops already engaged) you also need lots of fuel and/or low fuel consumption and armor to be able to go down low into AAA range.”
If by real CAS you mean two armoured formations fighting it out, or motorised with towed AAA at least, then Picard’s list of aircraft would be unlikely to be used for CAS. Also this form of engagement makes up a really tiny percentage of actual CAS missions flown historically. Triple A concentrations on the FEBA are rare even given the fluid nature of battle and would expect a healthy dose of 155mm should they open up.
In the above scenario such assets would almost certainly be used in a SEAD role, or for battlefield interdiction ( Deep air support). If SEAD succeeds then anything with bombs or guns becomes a CAS asset, though the number of likely scenarios where armoured aircraft are required close to FEBA is low and most would be performed more effectively by rotary wing.
The only requirement for an aircraft to be involved in CAS itself is that the objectives and coordination of the mission are tightly coupled with the movement and intentions of ground forces. Hence yes, the A-10 makes a fine CAS asset, but was designed as a deep air support vehicle to destroy tanks before closing with friendly forces. Arguably the B-1 also made a good CAS asset, due to it’s long loiter time and weapons load in very friendly air environments at least.
The primary criteria for the effectiveness of CAS are reaction time, coordination and accuracy. Armour may help somewhat with the latter, but I doubt it. Along the FEBA I’m guessing that 98% of all bombs and cannon rounds historically have been expended by non armoured aircraft. The conundrum is that enhancing the former ( reaction time) with speed leads to a reduction in the latter.
A similar connundrum exists with aircraft weight. Adding weight ( armour) results in significant increases in take off distance, hence why armoured aircraft are rarely flown from unprepared strips. It also significantly reduces range, and climb rate. The latter being vital for CAS.
The US Marine Corps places a distinctive and almost unique focus on CAS, yet to the best of my knowledge has never operated an armoured non rotary wing aircraft of any type. Aircraft losses in Vietnam, where the primary threat was AAA, suggest that more than 98% were unarmoured, but this hasn’t lead to exclusively armoured CAS aircraft as the examples didn’t fare much better.
Small bullet, big sky.
” Im not comprehending the blimp thing?”
I did say it was crazy. 🙂
Even crazier, a blimp gunship.
Taking data for a 300gr .380, at sea level it has a maximum range ( firing at about 37 degrees) of about 7500m horizontally at standard conditions
At 5000 feet this becomes 9369 metres horizontal – clearly it would go further by the time it reached the ground though on the horizontal this is a 22% range improvement.
At 10000 feet 11359m, and a 48% improvement
at 15000 feet 13767 and a 79% improvement.
I can only guess at higher altitudes as I can’t find a calculator which will work with these values. Clearly the horizontal range is an underestimate ( the projectile would still be travelling at almost 300m/s with 15000 feet to fall in the final example). Also note that doubling the altitude doesn’t double the underestimate of the range, it is considerably more. As the air thins the ranges are increasing exponentially.Best fit looks like about a 400% increase in range at 30,000 feet.
I chose this 380 as it has a similar muzzle velocity and ballistics to a 155mm shell,
So take the same 30 tonne capacity blimp and stick a turret housing on it, something that can fire GPS guided shells. Say the AS-90 turret ( about 19 tonnes including 48 rounds of ammo) , add some sensors of whatever flavour you like and plenty of fuel…
Then just send it off to provide on call fire support at about 2 minutes notice to anywhere within 100km of it’s location. All values to the best of my knowledge are under-estimates, you certainly wouldn’t want the turret armour for a start, Loiter time would likely to be in terms of days.
For enforcing no fly zones ( just shell their airbase if they have a pop at it), peacekeeping, and anywhere that bringing heavy artillery is a bit awkward. Normally they’d go on a boat at 8 kts so 60kts would be quite an advantage.
Keeping a few Typhoons to pop over to Libya from Cyprus cost well over a billion quid including ordnance. Shells are cheap and fuel is practically free.
“then anything with bombs or guns becomes a CAS asset”
Anything with bombs and guns that can fly slow and low enough to actually identify and precisely attack mobile targets while maintaining coordination with friendly forces. Which means a dedicated CAS asset, as multirole jets are too fast, too thin-skinned, and most important of all, their pilots can never properly integrate into ground army. A CAS pilot has to think as an infantryman, as a tank commander, or as a SOF trooper, depending on the mission. No multirole aircraft pilot has training or mindset for that.
“The only requirement for an aircraft to be involved in CAS itself is that the objectives and coordination of the mission are tightly coupled with the movement and intentions of ground forces.”
Aye, but ideally, that will be achieved with a minimum or no radio communication between ground troops and CAS aircraft. And even heavy radio communication or datalinks are not enough to turn a multirole aircraft into a CAS platform. CAS pilot has to have training to integrate into ground forces’ play, and aircraft that can allow him good overview of what is going on the battlefield. Focus that many people have on “identifying and destroying targets” shows a complete misunderstanding of what CAS mission really is about.
CAS aircraft are far, far more than flying artillery. If you want a comparison, B-1 is a flying 155 mm towed howitzer while A-10 is a flying main battle tank. Both are excellent at their roles, but you can’t replace a tank with a howitzer. B-1 can drop bombs on targets pointed out by ground troops – assuming that targets are not too close to said troops and that troops have target designators – but it will never be able to properly integrate with them.
“Along the FEBA I’m guessing that 98% of all bombs and cannon rounds historically have been expended by non armoured aircraft.”
Most major CAS platforms were armored. Ju-87, P-47, Il-2, A-10, Su-25… but most aircraft historically were not armored, and you use what you have, even if it is not ideal.
“The US Marine Corps places a distinctive and almost unique focus on CAS, yet to the best of my knowledge has never operated an armoured non rotary wing aircraft of any type.”
They have other constraints. For one, they hardly ever used single-role CAS aircraft due to limited space on amphib ships. But when they used dedicated aircraft, these were armored. A-1 for example. Harrier could be considered an exception, but it was multirole, and you can hardly have armored STOVL aircraft.
“but this hasn’t lead to exclusively armoured CAS aircraft as the examples didn’t fare much better.”
But it has lead to exclusively armored CAS aircraft – A-10 would have never been designed if not for Vietnam.
Off topic, but since this post has reached once again A-10 and CAS debate:
Who do you think might be the “clients” Boeing is disscussing with?
Considering it is tied to Korea Aerospace for A-10 modernisation deal, South Korea sounds a logical buyer.
But I think most logical choice would be that NATO coutries invest in a common fleet, as it perfectly fits into current scheme of anti-jihadist warfare, and also would be a powerfull asset in the Nato Reaction Force, intended to react quickly in case of Russia getting serious in eastern Europe. (which would rather certainly involve massive use of tanks and other heavily armored vehicles, as Russian are not fouled into the “exclusive Aerial warfare” that occidentals finds so comfortable ATM, despite poor results, even against unprofessional ennemy.)
But when they used dedicated aircraft, these were armored. A-1 for example.
All marine corps fixed wing jets are procured for cas, it is the reason detre for their existence. I’ll give you the skyraider, even though I’m not convinced many carried armor. In fact you can buy mini model kits is to convert a normal skyraider into a marine corps one, by removing the armour..
If your own personal definition of an aircraft designed for cas is one that carries armour then fair play.
It does mean excluding many types which merely preferred extra range and rate of climb. Clearly though your definition should only include proof against small arms, 20mm and above clearly indicates a deeper role where iads are involved.
Whilst it will never happen, I thought it was a logical thing to do about a decade ago, the raf could pick up a couple of squadrons for little cost. Seeing as we are lacking an mpa you’d think raiding the boneyard for a few Vikings would make sense too. Could even sort out the crowsnest debacle with Trackers…
“All marine corps fixed wing jets are procured for cas, it is the reason detre for their existence.”
Which doesn’t mean they can do it. STOVL jets have proven themselves notoriously vulnerable when doing ground attack missions, especially CAS. Add to that the lack of payload and too high maneuver speeds… theory is one thing, reality something different.
Many times weapons or organizations cannot, or chose not to, perform what is stated as being their reason for existence. To use a non-military example, MMF exists to help developing and underdeveloped countries, yet what it is doing is stripping them to the bone, destroying their economies with “structural adjustment” programmes.
“If your own personal definition of an aircraft designed for cas is one that carries armour then fair play.”
It is not my personal definition. “CAS” aircraft can be any aircraft carrying out close air support, even P-51s got used for CAS, but unless it has at least some armor, it will not be survivable. At the very least, you need protection for pilot and fuel tanks against small-arms fire.
Aircraft designed for CAS is something different, and it should have:
1) precise weapons; this does not mean just guided munitions but also gun and unguided rockets
2) excellent slow-speed maneuverability
3) long loiter time
4) good damage tolerance
5) dirt strip capability
How do you figure that stovl aircraft are vulnerable?
In the gulf war av8s returned 0.15 percent loss rate per sortie… Frankly not much higher than peacetime training despite lots of bad guys shooting at them.
In Gulf War I, 5 Harriers were lost in combat out of 3.342 sorties, loss rate of 1,5 per 1.000 sorties (F-16 had loss rate of 0,2 per 1.000 sorties and A-10 of 0,5 per 1.000 sorties – 4 losses out of 8.084 sorties). Peacetime class A mishap rate was 11,44 (compared to 4,19 for the F-16 and 2,4 for the A-10).
Out of seven Harriers that were hit, five were destroyed (71%). Out of six A-10s that were hit in Gulf War I and Kosovo War (in total of 12.400 sorties), 4 were lost (67%).
Most aircraft in the Gulf War actually had lower loss rate than during the peacetime training.
One more consideration. The Harrier, if it were to be used in a CAS role would have an even higher loss rate. Medium caliber AA would be lethal against it. It would not be able to stand up to the kind of damage any CAS plane ever could.
It’s strange that in a shooting war, the wartime losses would be lower than peacetime training though. That would never happen against a good opponent.
What do you think did provide CAS in operation Desert Storm?
There was no distinction between CAS and interdiction missions, indeed as Saudi had the largest concentration of military airfield capacity in the world ( built for just such a scenario) the conduct of the air war was a stacked cab rank system. Aircraft would come on station and remain there for 10 to 15 minutes. If there was a TIC that needed air support then that would be their mission, without it they would attack pre-planned interdiction targets, the slot being filled by the next aircraft to arrive. It didn’t matter whether the aircraft on station was an F16, A6, F18 or Harrier, same mission profile. None of them had armour.
The 60 AV8’s forward based spent quite some time twiddling their thumbs because of it. Their turnaround rate was 23 minutes. Even so they delivered close on twice the ordinance per mission of the equally trained and and in flight refueled F18s ( about 3500lbs to the F18’s 2000lbs). One squadron was able to sortie 72 missions in a single day.
Whilst it is true that they were more vulnerable to ground fire ( 6 F18’s were hit by manpads without loss) this is only to be expected when comparing a 52,000lb auw twin with a 30,000lb auw single. In total they made up 3.3% of the offensive aircraft present and dropped 6.77% of the total tonnage of bombs, pulling twice their weight. The official analysis of airpower in the gulf war excluded them explicitly due to the low number of strategic targets they were tasked with, so what do you think they were hitting?
Frankly given the extreme luxury of being able to fly and fuel such huge numbers of aircraft it is remarkable that the little Harriers still showed their worth. And this despite being denied PGMs and even FLIRs by the beancounters.
If I found myself in an extended shooting war, I’d rather have something like an A-10 for CAS. Ideally, it’d be closer to Picard’s ALX ideas.
For taking on armor, I’d want a larger CAS aircraft (with heavier guns for tank destroying – I would want a larger gun developed that can burst full power in the first 0.5s faster – maybe a gas operated 40mm gun due to their much faster spin-ups than electrical guns).
Now that I think about it, there may be use for a drone.
It will be a small, very light drone. It will be a sort of “scout sensor”, with no armament and only an IRST sensor and a transmitter for detecting enemy aircraft.
Maybe a command aircraft (like a 2 seat fighter) might be useful as well.
I’m thinking there is a potential use for a specialist CIWS blimp.. Or rather a flak / ASuW / fire support one…
Flak went out of fashion partly because the maximum effective altitude was never going to be much more than 20,000 feet for a reasonable sized gun. Hence you needed missiles against high flying aircraft and smaller calibres became to norm specifically against low flying. What it you lifted the gun to that altitude though?
Take a 57mm bofors ( 14 tonnes with 1000 rounds of ammo) and stick it on the bottom of a blimp along with sensors. No need to worry about fast attack craft if you have a fleet off a hostile shore, Or any surface ships for that matter seeing as they are all unarmoured. Would love to know what a stealthy billion dollar airframe would do with 220 rounds per second inbound. I’m guessing they wouldn’t be emitting so would they even know they were being fired on? Or for that matter what range and altitude you’d get out of a 6 pounder at really high altitude. Might well rival the reach of current sea level based AAW destroyers… More than big enough to take out armour as it would be hitting near vertically. High enough rate of fire to worry entrenched infantry / artillery / ASM positions etc. Shore launched sea skimming missiles might prove the most attractive design target though. Given a system with about 50nm range it could sit between a fleet and the coast, knock down any skimmers and saturate the area of the launch platform in hot lead too.
Interesting comparison, the SM2-ER and the AIM54 Phoenix have arguably similar ranges. Minus the warhead, which is similar for both. You can see that the 1300kg SM2 needs three times the weight of rocket motor to achieve the same as the 400kg Phoenix. The difference is the altitude and speed they are launched at, hence why supposed missile ranges are so tricky. Launching a Sparrow at 50,000 feet and Mach 2 will see it a long way downrange. 1000 feet and 450 knots and not far beyong visual range.
It looks as though my calculations in a post above really are huge underestimates. The Indians have some experience with high altitude artillery, both in warfare during Kargil and since, as they have had to rewrite the range tables at altitude. My estimate for 15000 feet was a 79% increase and 48% for 10,000, though they have found their 155s gain a 75% increase from just 12,000 feet.
Come to think of it what sort of range could you achieve with a SAM starting from altitude? Sea Dart had a similar ( 80nm) ballistic range to the SM2 as it used a Ramjet despite weighing a third as much.
The gumps have just spent $12 billion designing and building three Zumwalts, whose only real purpose is in providing 80nm 155mm artillery support.
Wouldn’t it be amusing it you could get the same effects with a $40 million blimp with an existing weapons system bolted on?
But yes, comparing existing technologies Lockheeds crowsnest proposal mounts 2 180kg radars plus operators in a Merlin, hence about 5 hours endurance at 10,000 feet. For 24 hour coverage you’d probably need five or 6 aircraft at £40,000 per flying hour. And probably couldn’t sustain this indefinitely.
Even assuming the total sensor fit is close to the Merlin’s max of 5 tonnes the HAV 304 could, it appears, easily outdo it.
“Northrop also said the LEMV could be used as a cargo aircraft, claiming that it had enough buoyancy to haul seven tons of cargo 2,400 miles at 30 miles per hour.”
So over 3 days endurance with a higher payload. 6300shp versus 1400 shp, I think we can assume it is going to be cheaper to run. Assume the same number of crew though the blimp will be much safer.
So $50 initial cost for 44 Merlins, Crowsnest vaued at $750 for 10 sets, HM2 conversion about $40 million per aircraft. That’s $1.6 billion, $168 million per AEW bird.
You could afford to specifically design two airship tenders.. Maybe something along these lines
And equip them with 6 sensored up blimps for the same money. Be very useful for other things too…
“Take a 57mm bofors ( 14 tonnes with 1000 rounds of ammo) and stick it on the bottom of a blimp along with sensors.”
I was thinking a combination of 20 mm, 40 mm, 57 mm and 120 mm guns. Only problem is, what is the largest calibre Zeppelin’s structure could safely support?
“The difference is the altitude and speed they are launched at, hence why supposed missile ranges are so tricky.”
Aye. Nominal missile ranges listed are achieved at high altitude, supersonic speeds and head-on approach. But depending on conditions, range of AIM-120D missile could be as low as 5-9 km.
“The gumps have just spent $12 billion designing and building three Zumwalts, whose only real purpose is in providing 80nm 155mm artillery support.”
That, and providing money for the contractors.
“Wouldn’t it be amusing it you could get the same effects with a $40 million blimp with an existing weapons system bolted on?”
“Be very useful for other things too…”
Such as cargo carriers etc.
“Only problem is, what is the largest calibre Zeppelin’s structure could safely support?”
I doubt there is one. Largest I can find that has been tried was the…
On one of the Royal Navy rigids. C130 mounts 105mm, just a question of damping, though the modern blimps from the LEMV project are not fundamentally unstable in the same was an an aircraft.
“Such as cargo carriers etc.”
When I was in Afghanistan the cost of a gallon of fuel was said to be $75. There are plenty of articles which claim anything from $125 to $400. This was despite using civilian firms to haul it most of the thousand miles from Karachi. The reason was simple enough, the only road passed through the Pashtun tribal areas and they simply could not afford for the convoys to be hit. Hence they simply paid the same people who would have been hitting them to protect them instead, at contractor rates which are otherwise known as footballers wages. Oddly enough the Taliban were never short of cash. More than likely the way the war was prosecuted was purely to encourage the use of heavy armoured gas guzzlers, therefore increasing profits on the fuel racket.
Still 18000 tonnes per day over at least 1000 miles makes for an interesting case study.
Assuming the largest possible road tankers ( 11600 gallons, though I very much doubt the roads could take these) you would need 45 trucks arriving per day. 50 hour round trip again assuming an incredibly generous 40 miles an hour with no breakdowns or rest for the crews so about 90 trucks total, call it 100. Lets say each truck given the harsh terrain only lasted 100,000 miles, $200,000 per truck? Comes to about $100 million a year purely in cost of trucks. The cost then is clearly in protecting these trucks as the actual fuel bill per year was well above $10 billion.
So given a 30 tonne capacity blimp you’d need about 60 to deliver the same quantity of fuel. $2.73 as bought by the US military. The fuel alone would cost about $500 million leaving $9.5 billion per year to spend on the airships themselves. Provided they were less than $150 million a piece you’d be in profit inside of a year. K class US Navy blimps cost about the same as 3 P-38 lightnings, with a 12 man crew so they aren’t inherently expensive platforms. Seven tonne capacity seems to retail for about $40 million as a prototype.
Afghanistan was an extreme and doolally example of course, though the ability to lift plant and heavy machinery should not be underestimated. For instance you need an airfield, first you need to be able to protect it whilst work commences.
Lift a JCB ( about 10 tonnes) along with lots of Hesco and you can build a fire base where ever you like, no need for roads. Dot several of these around, ably supported by long duration fire support and the heavy plant can be moved in to level the ground and build the airfield. No need to go via the beach to bring supplies and ammo ashore, Fuel, weapons and supplies dropped straight to the point of need assuming you can keep control of the air.
Indeed the main problem with forward basing itself for CAS or stovl aircraft is the logistics. The main advantage to large airbases is their location close to infrastructure so spending the extra on fuel to get the aircraft over the point of need makes sense when you’d otherwise have to be protecting convoys of trucks within about 50 miles of the moveable FEBA where they would be vulnerable to interdiction.
The logistics tail and the need for infrastructure wags the dog to a huge extent. Biggest single item by tonnage in a set piece battle is the artillery’s logistics, which consumes about 85% of the total. El Alamein and the desert war in general is an interesting case in point. Patton’s drive eastwards consumed so much fuel that the Red Ball express was set up to supply it. 6000 vehicles each having to be fueled, maintained and crewed, all in excellent infrastructure with plentiful roads and railways. In fact most tanks lost in the desert campaign were due to breakdown rather than enemy action, you’d only need a handful of large capacity blimps to simply lift any armoured vehicle back to depot.
Even a 81mm mortar’s daily requirements ( 250 rounds) amount to almost a tonne and the fuel needs of a modern division probably dwarf those of a WW2 corps.
57mm on a blimp gunship would be dual use, effectively a CIWS as well as high velocity fire support vehicle. I imagine there would be a place for something along the lines of an AMOS 120mm in a purely HE fires effect. Makes you wonder whether you’d need vehicle based direct fires at all baring miniguns / 50 cal class with a few of these dotted around the battlefield.
Logistics will be the weak point of any army for a sustained war.
That’s why I think that tanks like the Abrams probably will not be sustainable for Blitzkrieg – fuel and reliability becomes an issue. I suspect that more tanks will be lost due to inadequate supplies or mechanical breakdowns than destroyed by enemy action.
The other issue of course, that should probably assume that wars will be fought over hostile terrain and the opponent will attempt to disrupt logistics as much as possible, seeing it correctly as a soft underbelly.
Despite being as close to source for fuel as could reasonably be expected the gulf war still saw Abrams running out of fuel right left and centre.
I’ve seen several eye witness accounts of multiple Abrams knocked out in the same conflict, many on one road. They don’t appear in official accounts though.
Back to my crack pipe smoking obsession with blimps though…
Was wondering whether it would be possible to lift either a VHF or UHF radar on a blimp. This would render all current stealth technology pointless. Turns out it has already been done….
The AN/APS-70 was UHF, and towards the lower end of the band too.
It’s weakness was in the operating altitude of only a few thousand feet. Similar size to the HAV3 though, which if it meets it’s design criteria is capable of 20,000ft for 21 days, though probably with a smaller sensor package.
So FLX + ALX + blimp = winning combo.
I think FLX + ALX is already a winning combo.
Don’t take my wild ideas as a criticism of your designs, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t fundamentally agree with the concepts.
Unfortunately given our hell bent destruction on the rocks of the F35 program I find it more likely that Chinese copy of harrier + blimp is a winning combo. The F35 is just a Yak-141 which hasn’t been visiting weight watchers often enough, and would, I suspect, be clubbed like a bay seal. Add persistent aerial VHF or UHF radars into the mix and you’d be mad to get into one.
Not sure the skyhook thing would work with FLX or ALX, though with a 200 metre long structure travelling at 60 kts into a headwind there might be a way. Launching wouldn’t be a problem, just drop them nose down. Might work if the blimp took off with them initially. Jets rendezvous with tankers all the time at higher speeds.
The main problem with blimps seems to be pressure altitude. Modern ones are designed around a -1 foot or low pressure altitude with the engines doing what little work is required to get them in the air and traditional aerodynamics to help. The trouble with old designs was the need to vent gas as fuel was used up or replace with weight with rain water. This is extremely expensive with Helium. There are several solutions to this. Airbags within the helium space which the engines inflate and deflate to increase or decrease lift and systems which simply compress the helium back into tanks.
There are certainly examples from history, the Akron and Macon had a useful load of about 150,000lbs despite massive rigid framework. They were rather large though. Worrying accident rate in nasty weather, too although partly this was due to poor weather forecasting and primitive instruments.
I suspect there may be a use yet for hydrogen, most of the lift provided by helium but with internal compartments shrouded by the kevlar protected helium filled with hydrogen which is used both as lift and as a fuel. Electric motors powered by fuel cells, as they used them both for the Apollo missions and deep sea exploration I suspect altitude isn’t going to be a problem. Hence the extra lift from the hydrogen gets the blimp to altitude before the decreasing volume of hydrogen means the engines work harder as it approaches it’s destination. There would be the potential to crack rainwater into hydrogen and oxygen, not sure about the efficiency or suitability of this though. The Hindenburg did something similar, using propane as it had neutral buoyancy, it didn’t matter to the trim how much was used. Thin film solar panels along the top? Certainly enough acreage though whether it would be worth the weight is debateable.
Height is the key, getting them above manpads range with a useful load. Apparently the hindenburgs were so stable that you could balance a pencil end on whilst flying. Can’t imagine a better environment for CIWS, especially as AAMs are not designed for terminal manourvres in the same way some AsuMs are. How vulnerable would they be though? Increased range at altitude would be a factor but the only way anyone could find out would be to test this. They also have an easy and natural counter, which clearly precluded their use in former years. Heavy calibre AA of any description would not struggle.
Of course you could chain them… Smaller blimps with an ogive rear end which just bump into each other and are tethered. Hence a fuel convoy which had to get through might see several fuel cars with additional ciws / fighter defences attached. Same frontal area with increased power equals more speed. Chain 10 of them and you might get proper speeds out of them. Or side by side, load is too heavy the undersling it beneath two of them.
One thing I haven’t mentioned is their abilities in ASW which are clearly proven in the second world war. 60kts low and slow plus a MAD sensor and sonobuoys equals very upset submariners. So upset they even shot one of them down. Arguably with the mobility of SSNs compared to their WW2 brethren frigates are a bit on the slow side and make excellent targets in and of themselves.
Some time I’ll have another look at Rommel’s fuel requirements in the desert campaign and on the eastern front. I have a suspicion that the Graf Zeppelins which were scrapped in 1940, if converter purely for fuel carriage, might have provided a partial solution. Not sure how long they would have lasted in a sandstorm of course…
“I think FLX + ALX is already a winning combo.”
Compared to what is out there, for sure.
“Don’t take my wild ideas as a criticism of your designs, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t fundamentally agree with the concepts.”
Constructive criticism is always good, and I don’t have a problem accepting an idea just because it isn’t my own.
“Not sure the skyhook thing would work with FLX or ALX, though with a 200 metre long structure travelling at 60 kts into a headwind there might be a way.”
I wan’t thinking skyhook, but rather a classic runway atop the Zeppelin. Alternatively, you could combine JATO and skyhook – Rafale flew as slow as 18 kts, and FLXs landing speed would be even lower than Rafale’s 50 kts, so landing would not be a problem, with Zeppelin’s maximum speeds >50 kts (at least for the FLX).
I followed the discussion on blimps with great interest, because I posted in the past about using hybrid airships for resupply and as carriers.
My opinion on the matter is that a classic cylindrical blimp is not worth the investment. Being lighter then air, it usually requires quite a large ground crew to manhandle them on the ground. Hybrid airships how ever which derive only part of their lift through buoyancy and the rest through aerodynamic lift are a more interesting proposition. Being heavier then air they can land and park on the ground on their own. By deriving part of their lift through buoyancy they have the long loiter time and endurance of the blimp and require much less thrust then aircraft to lift equivalent loads. By being usually lifting bodies they have greater streamlining then blimps and thus a higher speed and also can reach higher altitudes (there was a project for a Hybrid Airship sentry which had an operating altitude of 15000 m ). With thrust vectored engines they can achieve true VTOL operation by taking-off vertically with their full load, which a “VTOL” aircraft can not do, and landing vertically unassisted which a blimp can not do.
The best example of hybrid airship is this one: http://aeroscraft.com/technology-copy/4580412172 the Aeroscraft. It comes in four sizes with payload of 0, 66, 250 and 500 tons. It has vectored propellers which give it full VTOL capability. It also has a air cushioned landing gear which allows it to land on water and move both on land and on water like a hovercraft, thus having rough field capabilities that an aircraft can not even dream of. It also has a large ventral cargo bay which allows cargo to be winched up or down or could be used to recover and park aircraft.
So my opinion is that a hybrid airship with a payload of about 200 tons could make the surface navy extinct. At this payload it could carry a squadron of FLX/ALX style aircraft with ease, or alternatively a large number of cannons, it wouldn’t even need turrets for them thanks to it’s capacity to turn on the spot by reversing the engines, and hovering, they could all be mounted on the broadside. Such a airship would be immune to submarines, not only that but it could hunt submarines unimpeded. It will also have the high ground against any surface vessel trying to attack it, even the longest ranged SAM missiles would struggle to climb to intercept the airship while any missile fired by the airship would have an incredible boost in range. Not to mention that a single hit is usually enough to cripple a surface vessel while an airship would need multiple hits. Also the airship would have the advantage of seeing any possible aggressor hundreds of km away. An most importantly it would be cheaper then any existing corvette class.
Nice… I’ll look into it when I get time.
I wonder if infantry could be transported by blimps across large distances. You could even put light tanks or APCs as well.
The other thing I would recommend doing is mounting some large IRST apertures on blimps as a detection system.
You could also try to build some decoy blimps as well that are cheap to try to get the enemy to waste fire on them.
“I wonder if infantry could be transported by blimps across large distances. You could even put light tanks or APCs as well. ”
It would be possible. Might be more cost-effective than transport aircraft, though I imagine landing would be a problem (vehicles would also have to be carried underneath the blimp, similar to how it is done with transport helos).
“The other thing I would recommend doing is mounting some large IRST apertures on blimps as a detection system. ”
Yeah, and you could put lot of them underneath gondolas.
The problem with blimps is that they are very vulnerable and have limited cargo capacity. They are too slow, large, and defenseless to operate by themselves, and are an unnecessary burden on escorts. They stopped using them after WWI because of that.
However, i do like the idea of a network of unmanned balloons with passive sensors creating a net of information that can be data-linked to defensive fighters (operating a net of balloons over enemy controlled territory would be impossible). This would overcome some of the limitations of passive sensors.
“The problem with blimps is that they are very vulnerable and have limited cargo capacity.”
I’m not so sure about vulnerability. They are large, slow and easy to hit, but most of the blimp is a gas balloon, and unless it is something flammable in there, you need to punch an absurd number of holes in it for enough gas to leave in order to shoot it down. There is still a problem of wether engines and gondolas can be armored, though.
“However, i do like the idea of a network of unmanned balloons with passive sensors creating a net of information that can be data-linked to defensive fighters”
Aye, and while you say they would be vulnerable, some of them can reach 120.000 – 150.000 ft. S-300 and S-400 have a maximum altitude of cca 98.000 ft. They may still be vulnerable to fighters, though, but even there an AAM would have to climb some 55.000 – 100.000 ft.
Engine armor would just add mass, although weight distribution could be an issue. That and building a support structure around it.
Gondolas, if you spread them evenly, I think moderate armor might be possible.
“The problem with blimps is that they are very vulnerable and have limited cargo capacity. They are too slow, large, and defenseless to operate by themselves, and are an unnecessary burden on escorts. They stopped using them after WWI because of that.”
Not to AAMs, small warheads which would probably only perforate a couple of internal helium ballonets. Punching holes in the side is going to have little effect, some helium will escape but very slowly, the rest would rise to the top of the blimp. Don’t forget, they aren’t pressurised per se. Internal pressure will be only very slightly above the atmospheric. They don’t pop, explode, collapse or disintegrate. They would be most vulnerable to old fashioned flak, though unless N Korea is hiding some this has all but disappeared from the world’s orbat.
A cannon run would cause plenty of problems, as it would on the 5 AWACS aircraft you’d need to buy, maintain and crew in order to replace one blimp. Saying that would you risk a combat aircraft within gun range of a CIWS equipped ship? Same principle, you’d keep them out of harms way in all but extreme situations. Goodyear have some experience of bulletholes in blimps. Apparently every redneck with a rifle takes potshots at them as the modern advertising models shift around the CONUS.
Gondola and engines would be easy targets, though IR signature on electric engines is very low, the sun’s glare from the skin would drown them out. Is someone really going to program AAMs to target the gondola just in case they run into a blimp? So what if an engine does get taken out, would result in the dreaded 7 engine approach of B-52 lore.
Clusterbomb over the top of one would be very effective now I come to think of it.
As for cargo capacity some of the rigids could probably have rivaled an AN-124 if dedicated to cargo. The difference however is in how you define capacity. The capacity to lift huge or outsize items definitely belongs to the airship. Also the capacity to deliver it, sure an AN-124 could haul it to the nearest 10,000 foot runway but that might well be 300 miles from where you want it. Hybrids in the 500 tonne class are quite feasible, much cheaper to buy and run than any equivalent aircraft too.
Most cargo aircraft are cubed out long before they reach their maximum tonnage.
“However, i do like the idea of a network of unmanned balloons with passive sensors creating a net of information that can be data-linked to defensive fighters”
Why just passive? JLENS uses light X band and VHF radars to first detect and then provide targetting for Patriot barreries and whatnot over a third of a million square miles. Stealth is no use against them, loiter time about a month. I’m guessing you could buy the weapons system for the fuel bill of the 5 sophisticated AWACS operating month in month out. Not to mention that you’d have 8 expensive radars sitting on a flight line somewhere rather than emitting.
“As for cargo capacity some of the rigids could probably have rivaled an AN-124 if dedicated to cargo. The difference however is in how you define capacity. The capacity to lift huge or outsize items definitely belongs to the airship. Also the capacity to deliver it, sure an AN-124 could haul it to the nearest 10,000 foot runway but that might well be 300 miles from where you want it. Hybrids in the 500 tonne class are quite feasible, much cheaper to buy and run than any equivalent aircraft too.”
At least to companies have proposed hybrid airships with 1000 ton payloads that is about 3 times as much as much as the AN-225 and about 4 to 5 times more then the AN-124. The most interesting proposal I linked before: http://aeroscraft.com/technology-copy/4580412172 Aeroscraft, which also has a patent pending “CONTROL OF STATIC HEAVINESS (COSH)” ( http://aeroscraft.com/technology-copy/4580412172 ) system which permits the airships to vary it’s buoyancy almost like a submarine becoming heavier then air for landing and lighter then air for cruise. The company describes the system the following way: “Unlike other airships, the Aeroscraft is the only vehicle with COSH. COSH is an internal, patent-pending system that controls the vehicle’s buoyancy so that the vehicle is heavier-than-air during ground operations and lighter-than-air during flight. The COSH system compresses non-flammable helium into the helium pressure envelopes to allow the vehicle to manage buoyant lift similarly to submarine’s ballast management under water. COSH allows the Aeroscraft to act as a “flying submarine.” Also the Aeroscraft comes with air-cushions instead of classical landing gear which allows it to land anywhere even on water and thus deliver it’s cargo in the middle of nowhere and it has a cargo-bay with a volume at least 4 times the volume of the An-225.
Basically because of the huge cargo-bay low fuel consumption due to being lighter then air during cruise and capacity to land anywhere where there is enough space, this think could make trucks obsolete even in civilized countries. Imagine small electric powered Aeroscraft delivering goods inside cities without worrying about traffic and with basically no pollution. They could even plug into the electric grid to recharge while unloading cargo.
Best way to take out a blimp would be a gun run from the top of the blimp (helium is lighter than air so it would escape). Bomb drop might work, but it will be harder than it sounds to get an accurate hit, although within a lethal radius, it might cause enough damage to down the airship. Even then, the gas loss would be slow enough that there would be time for the people on board to try to escape by parachute.
For missiles, another consideration:
– You could put much more potent jammers with the extra mass of the ship
– You could also carry a lot more flares
– Sheer size = more countermeasures
So it’s mostly the gun and “dumb” weapons that you have to worry about like unguided bombs.
I suppose it makes sense to have a few escorts then.
On the note of infantry, this sounds like a much better idea then trying to land paratroopers. Blimps can carry more infantry/vehicles/supplies for any Blitzkrieg or perhaps to reinforce areas that need extra troops.
An 1000 ton payload Aeroscraft (see links I posted previously in comments to this topic) could land two squadrons (companies) of Leclercs anywhere where there is space.
“I wan’t thinking skyhook, but rather a classic runway atop the Zeppelin. Alternatively, you could combine JATO and skyhook – Rafale flew as slow as 18 kts, and FLXs landing speed would be even lower than Rafale’s 50 kts, so landing would not be a problem, with Zeppelin’s maximum speeds >50 kts (at least for the FLX).”
That would mean a very rigid airship, the helium container isn’t pressurised per se so you’d need a very rigid structure. Also the materials used for the helium bag wouldn’t take kindly to hot jet exhaust or Jato so you’d be lifting some form of ceramic or metal runway. There is a reason gondolas are always underslung, putting topweight on one of these would quickly make it unstable.
Probably possible to lash some sort of runway between two classic cigar blimps, or design a hybrid which incorporated it, though you would end up using a lot of the load bearing capability
The advantage of skyhook would be simplicity and weight. Also with vectored thrust engines a harrier could add it’s power to control the blimp. Say you designed the blimp to carry a large VHF radar at 12,000 feet along with plenty of aviation fuel. Piddly little electric motors that only allow 30 – 40kts or so powered by a turbine generator feeding from the carried aviation fuel. The skyhook system, no crane needed, just an attachment point, would add very little weight, 2 Cap harriers rendezvous and attach, plugging themselves into the onboard fuel via a standard AAR nozzle.
The SHARs can then use their thrust vectoring to control the blimp, taking it up to 30,000 for better radar coverage and speed. Adding their onboard power generation to the blimp’s to increase the power output of the radar.
It might be possible to do something akin to skyhook with an FLX, but I doubt it. Thinner air means higher landing speeds not less, it is akin to hot or high operations. The Jaguar for instance was a decent performer at sea level, rumour has it they only became airbourne in Kandahar due to the curvature of the earth. 🙂 Approach to a blimp at the lowest possible speed at altitude would mean high alpha, which would make any sort of skyhook system very difficult. Best bet would be matching the speed of the blimp, though this would lead to design compromises for a faster blimp.
A hybrid could probably take off with aircraft attached. With SHARs though they would merely add to the lift for shorter range very heavy payloads, an FLX or similar would just be dead weight.
Don’t think I’m obsessed with Harriers, it is the whole STOVL / VTOL equation that changes if you can loft a good amount of aviation fuel with the ability to dock an aircraft and carry it. No reason why some form of skyhook couldn’t latch onto an AW609 for instance, the aircraft merely matches speed a few tens of feet below the gondola and a crane slips in behind the rotors and latches on. Probably feasible.
Instead of needing a large aircraft carrier and 24-48 aircraft to provide CAP and strike options, you could probably reduce this to between 12 and 16, ideally of similar types. Of these destroyers and frigates would be able to supply a couple each. Either short ranged from a purely skyhook launch or using the blimp. Would you even need an aircraft carrier?
Carriers themselves are still based around the concept of the alpha strike, launching large number of aircraft a couple of times a day before retiring every few days to refuel and re-provision. The aircraft themselves might be multirole, but the escorts certainly aren’t. Say each tender could service three or four hybrid blimps. Changing between fire support / ciws, airbourne aircraft carrier / AEW , ASW and area air defence ( VLS launchers firing downwards!) would simply be a matter of changing the payload, something that an optimised John Glenn could easily accomplish.
It would be fascinating to wargame this, not sure whether Command – Modern Naval supports blimps and hybrids but it could probably be hacked to give some idea…
“Also the materials used for the helium bag wouldn’t take kindly to hot jet exhaust or Jato so you’d be lifting some form of ceramic or metal runway.”
Just a note here: JATO would be combined with skyhook, not runway.
“The SHARs can then use their thrust vectoring to control the blimp, taking it up to 30,000 for better radar coverage and speed.”
I’m not sure it is practical, as it would mean a lot of stress on aircraft themselves and on the skyhook.
“Thinner air means higher landing speeds not less, it is akin to hot or high operations.”
I know. But Hindenburg had maximum speed of 135 kph or 73 kts, which is several times higher than Rafale’s minimum speed. And 18 kts was achieved in dogfight against Mirage, so I don’t think it was very low altitude (hard deck is typically 10.000 ft, IIRC).
“A hybrid could probably take off with aircraft attached. With SHARs though they would merely add to the lift for shorter range very heavy payloads, an FLX or similar would just be dead weight.”
Another possibility is designing a special aircraft for blimp, it would not need landing gear or as much fuel as, say FLX, so it could be smaller. OTOH, VTOL system would still add performance penalties and reduce range, and in any case I need a good STOVL engine to start designing it – which is a problem, ’cause I’m not aware of one existing, unless I’m going to design an aircraft that will be used primarily for ground attack, and engines themselves are quite large.
“Instead of needing a large aircraft carrier and 24-48 aircraft to provide CAP and strike options, you could probably reduce this to between 12 and 16, ideally of similar types.”
Problem is that VTOL aircraft are quite vulnerable in strike missions, yet design compromises also mean that they are also very performance limited and vulnerable in air superiority missions as well. Neither Harrier or F-35 are sufficient for these purposes, being more-or-less dedicated strike aircraft in modern terms, so I’d have to design an aircraft for proposal myself, and I don’t have an adequate engine (or time right now, but time can be found sometime, engine I’m not sure about). Further, sortie rate will be limited due to maintenance issues connected to STOVL and, in F-35s case, stealth.
“Would you even need an aircraft carrier? ”
Yes, for CAS aircraft and STOL air superiority fighters. VTOL aircraft can be a huge help, but simply can’t really take over jobs of classical / STOL aircraft.
“I’m not sure it is practical, as it would mean a lot of stress on aircraft themselves and on the skyhook.”
Not in the vertical, which would be the main point of thrust vectoring. Trying to put 20,000lbs though it wouldn’t be a good idea, though at idling speed I think a pegasus would still provide an order of magnitude more power than many of the engines typically carried by hybrids.
“And 18 kts was achieved in dogfight against Mirage,”
I’ve seen Su-27s and other types do 0 knts, only briefly though. 🙂
“OTOH, VTOL system would still add performance penalties and reduce range, and in any case I need a good STOVL engine to start designing it – which is a problem”
But that is the whole point of my endless waffling. You are still thinking of designing an aircraft with climb rate / payload / time on station and other characteristics. I’m thinking of this more as a weapons system.
Think of it this way, you are designing a fighter with two mission profiles. One is to reach 10,000 feet with weapons and the minimum fuel to return to base if something goes wrong from a crane 50ft up ( no fod problems). The second profile is purely to intercept, starting from 20-30,000 rather than sea level. No loiter, CAP or payload, that is taken care of by the blimp. Say detection at 320 nm, all it has to do is intercept and potentially knife fight an adversary or 4 at whatever altitude and retire. No need for stealth, performance is the key here, hell if they didn’t pick up a 70m2 radar target and realise there might be a nasty dangling from it then they aren’t emitting at all and don’t read Jane’s enough.. Stupidity kills.
As for the engine not existing, neither did the Pegasus. It was basically a mishmash of Orpheus and Olympus, indeed the original Pegasus had very similar thrust and characteristics to the Olympus. If there is a reason why a VTOL engine needs to be overly wide then I don’t know it – except to fit the planned fuselage. Afterburning with vectored thrust is possible ( PCB has been demonstated), but I’m thinking cheating a bit.
In my minds eye I see it looking a lot more like a starfighter or F106 with a conical intake aka the Lightning than a Sea Harrier. No undercarriage, and not sure about internal weapons carriage, wouldn’t cause much drag at altitude and stealth isn’t an issue. With roll and pitch and yaw nozzles tailless might be a distinct possibility.
Ideally, should the first interception fail, there should be time to send another ( or pair) after the same target before they get within striking distance of the blimp / forward base / strategic target / ship.They would launch for the blimp as soon as the first interception started.
Hence the entire point I waffled about before waffling on… Those very same performance penalties and range problems are, I think, more than massively overcome and handsomely exceeded by the overall weapons system itself.
The back of my fag packet is screaming less than 4 tonnes empty…. Considerably less if Jato were allowed, which is quite feasible from a crane system.
“Yes, for CAS aircraft and STOL air superiority fighters.”
Given your views on CAS, aka armoured tankbuster, no such airframe has ever been designed to fly from a carrier. Even the A-1 initially wasn’t armoured and would have struggled to scratch enough paint from a late model T34 to justify the tag. Luftwaffe went for well above 20mm for a reason….
Also aircraft carriers are crap at CAS. Need too much searoom and CAP, never mind escorts, to risk close enough to an unfriendly shore to make the range / loiter / provisions / bring back equation stack up. This in the 60s before containerised Sunburns / AIP / untra devious mines. Alpha strikes are the Carrier’s trade in game.
“You are still thinking of designing an aircraft with climb rate / payload / time on station and other characteristics.”
What’s the point of interceptors if they get shot down? If you wanted a close escort of blimp, they’d face the same problem as fighters escorting bombers in WWII – they would be very visible, easy to find and thus in danger of getting shot down. If you wanted them to intercept the enemy, again you want them to do so as far away from blimp as possible – you can’t really rely on blimp just soaking up missiles, and its size and relative lack of maneuverability would make it an ideal target. So you still need fighters that can catch and outfight the enemy.
It has nothing to do with payload or time on station. It has to do with acceleration, cruise and top speeds and maneuverability though. What I’d want on blimps is something similar to Everest Riccioni’s Microfighter, small and highly agile fighter. Due to its small size and optimization for performance it wouldn’t have fuel necessary to perform like classical fighter, but would compensate for that with performing far better than classical fighters in actual air combat.
“Given your views on CAS, aka armoured tankbuster, no such airframe has ever been designed to fly from a carrier”
Primary CAS aircraft should ideally be an armored tankbuster. But if you look at my ALX and OLX proposals, ALX is primarily designed for CAS but can also perform as a FAC, while OLX is primarily FAC aircraft but can also carry out CAS duties. In COIN warfare, once you find the enemy you often don’t have the time to wait for even a supercruising hotrod to arrive, let alone a flying tank; you have to act now, and that is why OLX has armaments as well.
I’m quite certain that P-47s did fly from a carrier a few times.
“Alpha strikes are the Carrier’s trade in game.”
You’d still need some type of CAS aircraft to effectively support amphibious landings. Though wether there will be amphibious landing is… questionable.
I don’t think the stress should be that much worse than a naval carrier, which has to essentially “hook” an aircraft (basically what amounts to a controlled crash).
The issue with Thrust vectoring though is that it does exact a weight and maintenance penalty, the skyhook I think will work better, even if the airframe will have to be strengthened.
With some modification, Zero Length Launch might be possible for something like the FLX.
Landing would be harder though.
“You’d still need some type of CAS aircraft to effectively support amphibious landings. Though wether there will be amphibious landing is… questionable.”
That’s the big issue.
It could only ever happen at an undefended or lightly defended area, or you’ll have a repeat of the Dieppe raid.
“It could only ever happen at an undefended or lightly defended area, or you’ll have a repeat of the Dieppe raid.”
That is the point of having an amphib capability, strategic mobility. I don’t think anyone has suggested storming a beach in an opposed landing in quite some time, with amphibs though you can stretch their defences as they have to cover the possibility.
NGFS is far more important than CAS itself on such an occasion, though precision strike would be necessary. I do marvel at the American’s solution, an armoured $4 bilion cruiser with two 6″ guns.
We had the right idea in the 20’s with the Insect class. 600 ton somewhat armoured shallow draft gun platforms which could be taken apart and transported by proper ships to wherever they were needed. Designed for rivers and inshore waters, they were considered to be very expendable. 80nm range cruisers are still only packing 2 6″ guns, and they won’t be risked up a river! You could probably get a similar effect with decomisioned tank turrents on top of a platform on stilts!
Dieppe was a travesty in many ways. The paucity of naval assets assigned to soften up the area was laughable. Saying that it probably amounted to more than every single big gun carrying ship the RN currently has blazing away. Warfare may have changed but artillery hasn’t. A 4.5″ gun is remarkably similar in capability and effects then as now. The solution is not $4 billion cruisers or CAS though.
What about a monitor with twin 16” turret?
I do agree that CAS aircraft cannot replace naval gunfire, but the opposite holds true as well.
“What I’d want on blimps is something similar to Everest Riccioni’s Microfighter, small and highly agile fighter. Due to its small size and optimization for performance it wouldn’t have fuel necessary to perform like classical fighter, but would compensate for that with performing far better than classical fighters in actual air combat.”
Do you mean the microfighters designed to fit in the hold of a 747? Some images in the link below..
Something along those lines yes, though the primary constraint in that design was the tiny wingspan, 17 feet if I recall. Even the 104 was considerably wider then that.
I suspect it would be very difficult to get a high altitude optimised fighter out of a truly tiny span. Such a microfighter would save in many areas, no need for radar, undercarriage ( not even a skid as it would be VTOL and designed for a crane assisted landing), fuel needed to get to height and fuel needed to get to wherever the blimp patrolled. I agree they would be targets, but I wouldn’t want them 200 miles behind the lines, as close to the FEBA as the local situation allowed. Skyhook cranes would be forward deployed so reinforcements close at hand. Hell if a microfighter did have to land somewhere inopportune then just send a crane or blimp to pick it up. 🙂 If a blimp was hit badly enough that it couldn’t make a controlled landing then you haven’t really lost that much. Worst case scenario would be slap a few patches and a new gondola on it.
Given that a combat aircraft’s price appears to escalate at the square root of it’s weight, one could only speculate at the likely price. Unfortunately I think the added drag of larger AAMs is going to be quite a factor in a small, fast, airframe so might be limited to IR only unless recessed or internal is an option An Asraam on each winglet would be pretty awesome though.
There isn’t any great reason to make them too tiny, The ability to take on a reasonable quantity of fuel to allow for a classical CAP mission would be beneficial, Light weight but with internal capacity, it’s not as though a 4 tonne fighter can drink enough fuel to matter in the wider scheme of things. At any rate it is tail weight and undercarriage which scale faster with empty weight than engine size. Undercarriage was one of the biggest design problems with the Harrier, the strange bicycle with outriggers took them years to master, when clearly a plane designed for rough strips would be more likely to sport wide wing mounted gear. Was simply too heavy though.
“Primary CAS aircraft should ideally be an armored tankbuster. But if you look at my ALX and OLX proposals, ALX is primarily designed for CAS but can also perform as a FAC, while OLX is primarily FAC aircraft but can also carry out CAS duties. In COIN warfare, once you find the enemy you often don’t have the time to wait for even a supercruising hotrod to arrive, let alone a flying tank;”
Which is why carriers concentrate on the inland targets, to enable amphibs and NGFS to get close enough. Even with a dash speed of 500kts an armoured CAS waiting on the catapult would take 24 minutes to arrive at the coast from a typical carrier with searoom. Too slow. The alternative is to cab rank them, but then you need CAP and you run out of airframe hours even before the physics preventing useful AAR from a deck bite you in the bum. Two cap + 2 CAS 24/7 = 48 airframes, a large carrier which still has a limited weapons and fuel load. Could sustain it for a few days, but aircraft start breaking and COD is problematic.
Saying that your ALX bears quite a striking resemblance to the Grumman Nutcracker. Wouldn’t have to be VTOL, just able to fly slow enough at low alpha to make Skyhook viable, say 25-30kts.. Slightly uprated engines, bit of extra weight for the hydraulics…. Might be viable.
“Do you mean the microfighters designed to fit in the hold of a 747?”
“Given that a combat aircraft’s price appears to escalate at the square root of it’s weight, one could only speculate at the likely price.”
Actually, it is proportional to its weight, for a given complexity level. Heavier aircraft tend to be more complex, however.
“Even with a dash speed of 500kts an armoured CAS waiting on the catapult would take 24 minutes to arrive at the coast from a typical carrier with searoom. Too slow.”
True, though that is countered by the fact that a dedicated CAS aircraft will have very long loiter time. As in, several hours.
“Wouldn’t have to be VTOL, just able to fly slow enough at low alpha to make Skyhook viable, say 25-30kts.. Slightly uprated engines, bit of extra weight for the hydraulics…. Might be viable.”
FLX can fly that slow, ALX… probably not.
Click to access 529372.pdf
Do mine eyes deceive me or could you fit a Pegasus in that design? Further forward than the F404 derivative, at the centre of gravity… Slightly bigger wing, larger intake, current afterburner position taken by fuel ( empty for takeoff) and maybe even 2 internal weapons bays or semi recessed at the rear, pitch yaw and roll nozzles, delete the skid…. T/W would be almost 2:1 even in strike configuration.
Hmm.. Pegasus is quite a bit heavier, and thirsty, not ideal… Could do much better with 21st century tech.. Still…
Say we can add another 1800lbs of fuel by moving the engine where the air intake is currently a void, another 600 in the tail and 600 extra in larger wings ( it does say the original design is limited by weight, not volume)
New gross weight including PIRATE IRST 11820 with 4 X Mica IR. + original 2400lbs fuel.
Point defence range from crane max thrust lo-lo-lo 60nm.
Blimp range, 4 X Mica + 5400lbs fuel hi-lo-hi 4min combat, 10% reserve 382nm. ( very similar to original config with 2400lbs fuel so a bit low..)
CAP hi-hi-hi 2 hours @ 100nm. ( this I think is a long way out)
As usual, all underestimates. I’ve used Sea Harrier figures for the velocity and fuel consumption, The latter will be about right though this is clearly a much faster and more slippery aircraft, capable of at least Mach 2. It would probably be supercruising in the latter mission as cruise thrust is probably closer to military for the original engine.
Be a tiny visual target, Nasty to knife fight.
I suspect Picard’s figures will be closer to the mark!
“Further forward than the F404 derivative, at the centre of gravity…”
That could create problems with nozzle exhaust… too far forward and aircraft becomes exceedingly vulnerable to older-style heat-seeking missiles.
Other than that, I agree with most of it.
Hmmm… Pegasus is just too damned thirsty.
Two other options, modified F119, as fitted to the X-32 or more likely similar F118. Smaller engine, could probably squeeze more fuel in..
With F118… gross weight 11,060 lb. Eliminating tail pipe, adding cold ( as on X-32 F-119) and hot ducts probably weight neutral. Still viable even if it added 1000lbs…
Point defence range lo-lo-lo max thrust all the way 99nm
Blimp range, 5400lbs, 4 X Mica 4 mins combat 10% reserve 666nm
CAP hi-hi-hi @100nm 2hours 40mins.
What were the stats for the FLX again? 🙂
I did a bit of the redesign for the FLX. I’m still not finished with calculus, but it basically moves landing gear outboard and increases internal fuel load.
Considering that the original Boeing study was a bit of a joke… The mental shenanigans used to select the Boeing 747 instead of a C-5 were almost amusing. This placed a massive design limit on the airframe, namely the wingspan and size of aperture it would have to fit through.
Still it is the only ground up design for a crane based aircraft I’ve ever heard of, the Harrier of course had to have an undercarriage which caused immense problems.
For those reasons alone it is a sub-optimal design, though it looks awesome!
It does show though the immense contraints that something as simple as undercarriage puts on a design. Plenty of examples from history, the Me-109 had a famously naff design for instance. Ground clearance, sink rate, ability to withstand Catobar, positioning on fuselage or wings, complexity of hydraulics and hinged doors, emergency backup systems, weight and internal space used…. All have a large effect on the eventual design, which has a disproportionate effect on lighter fighters as the cube squared law vaguely operates.
Hell the microfighter wouldn’t be viable with an undercarriage, though if you forget the internal space and other complications even adding the 1000+ lbs of weight has a huge effect.
What do you think the cruise, military and max speeds at altitude would be for a sub 4 tonne microfighter with tiny cross section and 19,000lbs to play with Picard? I can only guess though some of the graphs on the design are certainly interesting… 300 to 600 kts in 5 seconds! Maybe it should have looked more like the X-43. 🙂
X-36 layout would be very interesting too.
C-5s cargo hold is 37 meters long, 4,1 m high and 5,8 m wide. At these dimensions, it could hold 3 Microfighters if Microfighter’s size is constrainted to 11,5 x 5,6 x 4 m.
“What do you think the cruise, military and max speeds at altitude would be for a sub 4 tonne microfighter with tiny cross section and 19,000lbs to play with Picard?”
Can’t say without a finished design – probably better than the FLX, considering necessarily higher wing sweep. Anyway, I’d need M88 variant for Microfighter, I think that EJ200 is a wee bit too large. Besides, M88 is closer to a turbojet than EJ200, so without range, payload etc. requirements constraining the size and thus TWR with any single engine, it might be a better choice. Particularly M88-3 with 20.000 lbf of afterburning thrust might be a good choice.
With close-coupled canards helping low-speed maneuverability, it would be able to both take off and land on a C-5.
“That could create problems with nozzle exhaust… too far forward and aircraft becomes exceedingly vulnerable to older-style heat-seeking missiles.”
That depends on which aspect the threat is from. If manpads then yes, the hot exhausts are clearly visible from the ground in a high wing design. If against a WVR Ir missile it is an advantage as banking or pulling G shrouds the visible exhaust under the wing. Saying that this is still preferable to a single hot tail pipe which is clearly visible on egress from any aspect in both scenarios…. It also means that half of your heat signature is blanked at any time. Modern imaging IR ones probably wouldn’t be easily fooled.
In a low wing design though the opposite is true and would I think would be slightly preferable for manpads environments. The problem here is that rate of climb out of a bombing or strafing run is important, which would potentially expose a hot exhaust on egress.
Then again we have seen a rapid change in the nature of exhaust nozzles for fighters. Thrust vectoring in at least one dimension is becoming more common place and the Harrier’s would not be state of the art today. There is the distinct possibility that nozzles could not just swivel but also provide lateral movement. Might help considerably with a tailless design, which I am very keen on for a microfighter. Tails cost weight and drag.
I’m not sure about the physics for this but here’s the scenario. Low wing VSTOL ( think classic delta mirage for simplicity) finishes gun run and pulls out of dive, is targeted by manpads. Launch is detected either automatically ( F-35 supposedly has this) or visually and either closes the hot nozzle ( very problematic I think) or directs it linearly, towards the wingtip whilst a ceramic plate pops out from behind the nozzle ( a bit like an airbrake though it would be shielded from most airflow by the nozzle itself) blanking the heat source.
This might be a recipe for a flat spin, though the hot nozzles will always be close to the CofG ( and there are pitch, yaw and roll nozzles which could help out) so would accelerate the airframe laterally. Not as in angularly via rubber but actually sideways. Now directing hot exhaust over the top of a wing would I think stall it, possibly resulting in an almighty side slip, a bank towards the threat and a pitch away pushing some negative G.
For a high wing aircraft I think it would result in the nearside wing generating more lift ( a bit like blown flaps), plus the lateral acceleration and positive G alpha. Got to admit I wouldn’t want to be the test pilot.Or the chap programming the cray to work out the likely effects.
Frankly whatever happened, if it was controllable at all, it would be very difficult for a rules based algorithm in the seeker head to follow, designed as they are for hot pipes at the tail of an aircraft and will largely assume conventional control. A bit like viffing laterally rather than horizontally. Would make formation flying a tadge nerveracking!
Could be there are more advantages to having your exhaust close to the CofG than negatives.
“Saying that this is still preferable to a single hot tail pipe which is clearly visible on egress from any aspect in both scenarios….”
Main threats nowadays are from the ground… and it is about damage location. Which is why I’m thinking about redesigning ALX as well, putting engines farther to the rear.
Yeah I would agree, naval gunfire support is huge – and will be critical. The insect class looks like a good idea. A modern variant would be very good as well, especially when the tides are not favorable and as you’ve noted, in rivers. You’d want larger heavier guns in the rear as well – I think it’s worth investing in some cruiser sized vessels designed for naval gunfire support for this. It’s specialized yes, but it will make or break.
I just gave Dieppe, because it is an example of literally everything done incorrectly for an amphibious assault. The position, the lack of surprise, no tanks, limited intelligence, limited naval gun support, and multiple other mistakes doomed that one.
What would be your choice of landing craft? The issue I see is that an enemy will likely mine the beaches.
“What would be your choice of landing craft? The issue I see is that an enemy will likely mine the beaches.”
Depends what you want to lift and how badly you want to lift it! Increasingly the USMC and other major amphibious powers are seeing themselves more as vertical envelopment from the sea rather than ship bourne infrantry rushing ashore saving private Ryan style, hence the V-22. This in itself is a tacit admission of the vulnerability of modern escorts to shore based defences.
The Russian attitude to this appears to be, “Bring it on!”. They have large numbers of LSTs and LCAs, most of which seem to sport more CIWS than a RN destroyer. Not to mention huge hovercraft, which the USMC also favours. They either have great faith in their CIWS or little faith in the thousands of anti-ship missiles they’ve sold.
At the end of the day you might be able to land troops by helicopter but you are still going to have to supply them by sea ( including supplying the helicopters, The LHAs, the carrier that protects them, the escorts that protect the carrier etc) so I’d don’t entirely follow the reasoning in forking out huge amounts of cash for air assets unless it is a luxury you can truly afford, as in you aren’t sacrificing boots for assets that are expensive in peacetime. The Russian Mistrals were more for attack helicopters than transports, and they know a lot about transport helos.
There will always be an unprotected beach, and if there isn’t you’ve already done your job and can happily harass them at your leisure. Hence lots of LCAs and LCTs for my money backed up by dedicated NGFS. Call me a traditionalist but none of it breaks at inopportune times such as slightly inclement weather, which is exactly when you want to be operating. If a helicopter isn’t broken then it is merely because you haven’t looked at it long enough. CAS is great, as long as the weather is nice. The humble 6 inch and infantry never fail though.
I do have more than a soft spot for the old R3 Tradewind, not so much because the thought of an airbourne LST was necessarily uber useful, more that large flying boats made excellent patrol, cargo and tanker aircraft. Infinite runway length is a very good thing. The Russians had similar ideas with their ecranoplans. The original proposal for the tradewind saw it unfurling a huge skirt and riding onto the beach as a hovercraft with 20mms blazing away at the ( presumably) single machine gun guarding it.
The main problem with amphib operations historically was sea mines rather than mined beaches. The latter was possible, for a few high tides at most. Inchon for instance was delayed by weeks with the fleet sitting offshore because the Koreans had found a few fishing boats to dump mines over the side from. The mining operation around UK coastal waters in ww2 was impressively huge and little known, nor the sheer number of minesweepers the RN possessed even at the beginning of the war ( think we’re down to about 6 now). Hence the two should go hand in hand, but never seem to.
LSTs and the like are very cheap assets and damnably useful for other things.
” They either have great faith in their CIWS or little faith in the thousands of anti-ship missiles they’ve sold.”
Or both. Guided weapons allow attacks on greater distances, but unguided tend to produce more hits per number of rounds fired. Basically, probability of a hit is inverse of maximum engagement range.
What I’d want for amphibious landings are hovercraft capable of disembarking tanks. Invulnerable to sea mines (at least to most of them) and very fast.
I would agree with you. I’m closer to the Russian mentality than anything else, although you will want to sweep the area for mines. Massing CIWS seems like a smart thing to do.
The Russians also have their wing-in-ground ekranoplanes and large hovercraft. I would agree that flying boats are viable.
It might even be possible to mount some artillery on the large landing craft or hovercraft for direct fire support, on top of naval support. The crew operating though would have to be well protected.
The issue I see with helicopters landing is not just keeping troops supplied, but their vulnerability. MANPADs are a huge threat. If people think that MANPADs are a threat to CAS – then they will be lethal vs rotary wing aircraft, especially the cargo kind.
Mines are a good defense against such landings and after laying, which is why they get used. You’d want to sweep areas for mines (not just one area or it will be obvious to the enemy where you want to land). Either that or use all hovercraft and ekranoplanes (but it still might restrict naval craft that would otherwise be able to come closer).
Any landing will want a full array of modern equals to Hobart’s Funnies.
One of the problems with modern amphibious operations is that they require cooperation between service arms, and are therefore a funding nightmare whenever the generals admirals and marshals go to war with each other.
Who for instance should be responsible for minesweeping? You would think the Navy, but they operate far from the shore in most cases, out of secure ports. Hence in most situations they will supply some, though such a small tasking that it is barely worth the effort to maintain it. Gulf war was a good example, one USMC brigade offshore tied down 6 Iraqi divisions. They weren’t used because of the number of mines in the waters, and the Navy would have needed about 50 minesweepers to clear them, or most of them. The Navy had 6 in total. Hence the choice was to assault at maybe 20-30% casulaties or remain a force in being.
Similar tale in the Falklands, though they did take along some tugs to operate as minesweepers there weren’t enough. Woodward ended up sending a frigate to manouvre round a bit in order to check for mines the hard way! Modern minesweepers are small, grp hulls with lots of expensive electronics on board. Not much use for anything but their intended role. Not much use for cocktail parties either.
The other direct threats to an amphib operation are subs, aircraft, ASMs and the logistics and capability to build up a force on the beachhead faster than the opposition can oppose. Subs are clearly the Navy’s responsibility, but the threat is DE so SSNs are no use. Neither is a lot of your blue water ASW gear. Fancy operating an MPA 2 miles off a hostile coast? When a president or prime minister asks whether our nuclear deterrent is safe in blue water and the answer is no, he gets upset. If he did happen to ask whether the single rusty Kilo sitting off the coast of mongistan can be hit and the answer is no he isn’t quite as bothered.
Air superiority is clearly the Air forces responsibility, but just as the Navy has to expend lots of airframe hours merely protecting their assets so too the air force is surprisingly limited in what it can do unless the bad guys come up to play. Airfields are tough targets.
Detecting and prosecuting ASMs is clearly the Navy’s job when they are carried by surface ships or subs, but what when they are airbourne? What about land based? Detecting the latter requires sophisticated C3 which is most likely the airforce, prosecuting highly mobile batteries then requires inter service cooperation which is more fiction than reality.
Last but not least is the part which the modern idea almost ignores. Landing troops is the easy part, you then have to supply them, reinforce them and prevent the enemy reinforcing their force. The latter requires pre-emptive deep strike on infrastructure and interdiction. The former requires ships, make the hovercraft as big as you like, the V-22s as numerous as you like, you still have to clear the mines and get rid of all other existential threats in order to supply your force.
These ships have to be shallow draughts which can beach themselves, in other words the same vessels you left offshore away from threats whilst your V-22s, helicopters and hovercraft put troops ashore. Thing is there aren’t that many of them because all the money has been spent on stuff that flies. Helicopters answer some of the questions posed, but their expense in peacetime means that corners are cut elsewhere.
“It might even be possible to mount some artillery on the large landing craft or hovercraft for direct fire support, on top of naval support. The crew operating though would have to be well protected.”
They certainly did in WW2, trouble is the guns are used to being static on dry land so accuracy is quite an issue without the sort of stabilisers that naval mounts have. Especially on smaller craft. Again I like the Russian idea, main problem with rocket artillery is keeping it supplied on the battlefield. Not an issue on a 3000 tonne ship though.
“What about a monitor with twin 16” turret?
I do agree that CAS aircraft cannot replace naval gunfire, but the opposite holds true as well.”
The problem with the big guns is that they were designed to pentrate armour belt. The bursting charge might be as low as 50lbs or 5% of the weight. Also they were designed for low angles, yes you can fire them at land targets a long way off but accuracy suffers as the shells often tumble and frankly the targets you’d need something that big for are probably better hit by aircraft. The thing which terrified the Germans wasn’t so much HMS Rodney taking out an entire battalion of Tigers at 30nm as they massed for an assault, but the weight of accurate fire that a 12 gun light cruiser could bring to bear and the rate of fire from a 4″ destroyer.
A single land based 155 might manage 1 round per minute, a division might have 3 batteries ( actually of much lower calibre). One three gun turrent of a 6″ cruiser could overmatch this. Only the heaviest fortifications could withstand them, heavy field installations such as pill boxes would be shredded. Most naval turrets would hold 200-250 rounds per gun, which is the sort of arsenal that would take weeks or months to stockpile on land. The psychological effects are probably only understood by the Russians, who appear to have tested such things on their own troops. Shell shock is a real phenomena as many German troops on the eastern front would attest.
Arguably the only successor to the Erebus class is the Zumwalt, which is…. very American. 14,000 tonnes to mount a couple of 6 inch guns is not progress! Saying that 80nm range certainly is. They wanted 32, they’ve built 3.
The problem with Monitors in general is the same as the rest of the brown water navy, interservice cooperation and a single use platform that doesn’t specifically further the Navy’s goals or provide a general purpose platform. They are always needed, but in wartime when the core assets are shown to be lacking.
Personally I think diesel subs and something akin to the Insect class are the answer. No reason why an SSK couldn’t mount a VLG, do it’s ASW and landing sneaky beaky types thing and then provide NGFS from the surface during an assault. I suspect the issue would be that all submarines have become so packed with sensitive kit that putting something that goes bang on them would upset the electronics.
Small ships have mobility issues, especially ones designed for shallow water. Large ships have to be more general purpose to secure funding and can’t be everywhere at once.
This is hardly beyond the wit of man but if you look at the various programmes that have been cancelled, 8inch mounts for the US Navy, replacing the 4.5s with 155s for the RN etc it is pretty clear that the problem is political and not technical.
The US Congress mandated NGFS role for the US Navy stemmed from grown up congressmen who were on the beaches in the Pacific war. They knew the value from first hand experience but it doesn’t seem as though their efforts to retain the capability have come to much.
Same with the RN. No history books analyse their secondary role of shore bombardment in the same way that they do strategic bombing yet it was arguably a more decisive capability.
“The problem with the big guns is that they were designed to pentrate armour belt. The bursting charge might be as low as 50lbs or 5% of the weight.”
That is an issue of ammo. You’re talking AP rounds. During World War II, battleships had HE rounds with large bursting charge for use against soft targets such as air fields.
“Also they were designed for low angles, yes you can fire them at land targets a long way off but accuracy suffers as the shells often tumble and frankly the targets you’d need something that big for are probably better hit by aircraft.”
History has shown that air power is nowhere as destructive as naval gunfire (Vietnamese have said that USS Missouri (?) did more damage in 3-day bombardment of a single harbor than USAF did in two year strategic bombardment of Vietnam). BTW, you can fire at higher angles simply by reducing the charge and thus muzzle velocity. Or having comparably shorter guns than ones found on Iowa / Vanguard.
“The problem with Monitors in general is the same as the rest of the brown water navy, interservice cooperation and a single use platform that doesn’t specifically further the Navy’s goals or provide a general purpose platform.”
Indeed. Brown-water navy and any CAS/battlefield air interdiction duties should be controlled by the Army.
“I suspect the issue would be that all submarines have become so packed with sensitive kit that putting something that goes bang on them would upset the electronics.”
That is one part of a problem, yes. Another part is that there isn’t much room on submarines, so you could have only very limited ammunition for shore bombardments.
“The US Congress mandated NGFS role for the US Navy stemmed from grown up congressmen who were on the beaches in the Pacific war. They knew the value from first hand experience but it doesn’t seem as though their efforts to retain the capability have come to much.”
It is not a mission that Navy wants to do, just like Air Force does not want to do CAS. US Navy wants to prepare for a World War II blue-sea battle against Imperial Japanese Navy.
You’d have to have multiple LSTs to supply the forces that do land that have enough supplies for the campaign. That and you’d have to protect those forces from attack. It’s possible the enemy might let you go through and attack the soft skinned logistics vehicles.
Supply by air would be cost prohibitive and likely capacity prohibitive. I don’t think helicopters are the answer. Vehicles need massive amounts of fuel for example and the helicopters capacity is constrained – plus the helicopters themselves are very maintenance intensive.
HE-type ammo are available for naval gun support. I suppose a few AP rounds might be worth keeping (taking on enemy bunkers and fortified positions, although if you are talking battleship calibre guns, HE might do the job). You need both CAS and naval gunfire. That and it has to coordinate well with the ground forces. Then you have to keep everything supplied – fuel, ammo, parts, food, water, etc.
I suspect one of the reasons why there is a Marine Corps is because of these interservice rivalries.
I think that airdrops via STOL airlifters are a better option for resupply than helicopters. Helicopters would be good as spotters for battleship gunfire if fixed-wing spotters are unavaliable, though.
“That is an issue of ammo. You’re talking AP rounds. During World War II, battleships had HE rounds with large bursting charge for use against soft targets such as air fields.”
Even the HE rounds had a surprisingly low content.
“BTW, you can fire at higher angles simply by reducing the charge and thus muzzle velocity. Or having comparably shorter guns than ones found on Iowa / Vanguard.”
I know, but the sweet spot between weight of shell and range is around 8″, not 16.
“That is one part of a problem, yes. Another part is that there isn’t much room on submarines, so you could have only very limited ammunition for shore bombardments.”
Total VLG on the Zumwalts is around 300 tonnes, which is not a huge addition to the displacement of a sub. A matter of design, current designs minimise displacement for good reasons though a cheap patrol sub wouldn’t need to. For instance the Golf class 1950s diesel subs carried three IRBMs quite comfortably in a relatively small design.
“HE-type ammo are available for naval gun support. I suppose a few AP rounds might be worth keeping (taking on enemy bunkers and fortified positions, although if you are talking battleship calibre guns, HE might do the job). You need both CAS and naval gunfire. That and it has to coordinate well with the ground forces. Then you have to keep everything supplied – fuel, ammo, parts, food, water, etc.”
The advantage that offshore artillery has is best shown by HMS Rodney around D-day. She banged off her 120 rounds per gun to immense effect, sailed to Milford Haven, re-stocked and was back on the gun line a day later. Compare and contrast to the same 1000 tonnes of artillery shells which would have to be shipped to the crowded beach head and trucked to the arty positions. Much more tail to the logistics even if you discount the added firepower and protection of the battleship.
“I think that airdrops via STOL airlifters are a better option for resupply than helicopters. Helicopters would be good as spotters for battleship gunfire if fixed-wing spotters are unavaliable, though.”
The Americans tried this a few years ago on excercise in Northern Iraq. Took half their strategic transport fleet to keep a brigade sized force supplied. That half of their transport fleet is a decent percentage of the world’s total.
“Supply by air would be cost prohibitive and likely capacity prohibitive. I don’t think helicopters are the answer. Vehicles need massive amounts of fuel for example and the helicopters capacity is constrained – plus the helicopters themselves are very maintenance intensive.”
Exactly, and the reason the helicopters are preferred is because of the mine threat and the need to maintain air superiority anyway. Diminishing returns. You can land them by hovercraft or whatever means, you just can’t supply them unless you deal with the possibility of sea mines. This also dictates the amphibs staying further offshore, which decreases the effectiveness of NGFS, means you have to rely more on strike aircraft, increases the cost and maintenance effects….
Maybe the answer is to have small landing craft that can double as minesweepers, nasty design compromise though.
“Total VLG on the Zumwalts is around 300 tonnes, which is not a huge addition to the displacement of a sub. A matter of design, current designs minimise displacement for good reasons though a cheap patrol sub wouldn’t need to. For instance the Golf class 1950s diesel subs carried three IRBMs quite comfortably in a relatively small design.”
It’s less about displacemen and more about volume.
“The Americans tried this a few years ago on excercise in Northern Iraq. Took half their strategic transport fleet to keep a brigade sized force supplied. That half of their transport fleet is a decent percentage of the world’s total.”
Which means that slower, more vulnerable and far more capacity-limited helos have no hope in hell of keeping a brigade resupplied. Which means we’re back to trucks. And why strategic transport fleet? I don’t suggest lugging cargo all the way from CONUS or Europe.
“It’s less about displacemen and more about volume.”
VLG is about 1200 m3 which isn’t small…
Compared to a mid sized sub ( for instance the Golf) of 2500-3000 tonnes which is well north of 6000 m3.
Data from the Golf because it already includes the space needed for IRBMs.
Would be a considerable addition, and I’m not advocating the same design just bolted on, but not a deal breaker for a mid sized sub in volume terms.
“And why strategic transport fleet? I don’t suggest lugging cargo all the way from CONUS or Europe.”
Because it isn’t all about weight, transports are cubed or CoG’ed out long before they reach their tonnage in most instances. Hence for many items you need large aircraft.
“For a high wing aircraft I think it would result in the nearside wing generating more lift ( a bit like blown flaps), plus the lateral acceleration and positive G alpha. Got to admit I wouldn’t want to be the test pilot.Or the chap programming the cray to work out the likely effects.”
If you blow anything on the underside of a wing, you decrease lift. Bernoulli’s principle. The sum of the static and dynamic pressures is constant. So if you increase dynamic pressure by blowing something on the underside of the wing the static pressure decreases. Since Lift comes from the difference in static pressure bellow and above the wing (bigger on the underside and smaller on the upper-side) then by decreasing static pressure bellow the wing you decrease lift for that wing. If the effect is not similar for the other wing it will cause the aircraft to roll, it’s how ailerons work.
Would certainly be a banking effect of one type or another, though I’d want to see it in the flesh rather than theoretically. Does raise an interesting possibility as control surfaces are very expensive in design terms. The location, power and weight associated with the hydraulics to move ailerons etc. This would be a more significant cost in a very small fighter than a heavy one. If piping exhaust around the plane could help to augment or replace control surfaces then it might reduce weight, complexity and especially maintenance. I’d imagine it would have a more pronounced effect at altitude where the air itself is thinner ( 1/4 at 36,000) and therefore control surfaces less responsive. At low speeds and high angles of attack too.
Yaw, pitch and roll nozzles were used on the rocket powered 104’s as their control surfaces had no authority above about 60,000 feet. Other than blown flaps ( either over or under) I’ve never heard of it being used though.
“Does raise an interesting possibility as control surfaces are very expensive in design terms. The location, power and weight associated with the hydraulics to move ailerons etc. This would be a more significant cost in a very small fighter than a heavy one. If piping exhaust around the plane could help to augment or replace control surfaces then it might reduce weight, complexity and especially maintenance. ”
You’re thinking hydraulics in terms of pre-fly-by-wire days. Today with fly-by-wire, commands are electrical, and actuators are contained units either electrical or electro-hydraulic. In any way since the F-16 there is no longer hydraulic piping. If the actuator has an hydraulic component then hydraulic battery and fluids are all contained on the actuator itself. Getting rid of hydraulics has shaved at least 1000 kg from the F-16, and Rafales often cited capability to carry it’s own weight and a half in weapons comes from this weight savings. On the other hand piping for exhaust would be much more heavier then for hydraulics, as it would have to resist high temperatures. So in conclusion you wouldn’t save weight by replacing current fly-by-wire controls with jet. On the contrary.
Quite recent but interesting…
“You’re thinking hydraulics in terms of pre-fly-by-wire days.”
No, I’m thinking about hydraulics and moving parts in general. To move a part against supersonic flow takes strength, which means weight. Second biggest design weight penalty on all aircraft if my memory serves. A self contained hydraulics or electrical unit buried in the wings is still weight and space taken, all of which has to be maintained, powered and designed for. Most structural components are hollow or cutout anyway, so there isn’t necessarily a weight penalty at all. Nor would heat proofing be a big issue, if necessary you just cool the flow.
A control system of equal authority which used no electrical or pneumatic inputs would clearly be a superior solution.
It seems that Demon UAV has significantly greater authority from its fluidics than control surfaces…
Problem is how would such a system respond to airflow disturbances – vortex flows, stalls, unsteady flows etc.
Looks nice, but it is mentioned primarily in terms of stealth and wing size. Unlike U(C)AVs and airliners, fighter aircraft need to be capable of rapid change of flight state. I’m not sure it is achievable with blow system as of yet – Demon relied on TVC as well as blow system, and system is not yet tested at high angles of attack:
"It seems that Demon UAV has significantly greater authority from its fluidics than control surfaces…"
I found no such statements in the article, but it's probably too early to tell anyway.
“Looks nice, but it is mentioned primarily in terms of stealth and wing size. Unlike U(C)AVs and airliners, fighter aircraft need to be capable of rapid change of flight state. I’m not sure it is achievable with blow system as of yet – Demon relied on TVC as well as blow system, and system is not yet tested at high angles of attack:”
There are research papers that go into far more depth than newspaper or periodical articles. The TVC was also a blow system of fluidics rather than a mechanical vectoring, I’ve seen two references, one which claimed that pulses of air into the jet exhaust moved the column by 15 degrees and another 30 degrees.
“I found no such statements in the article, but it’s probably too early to tell anyway.”
Lots more to read than just the press releases. 🙂
BAe Daemon is a completely different proposition to what you were talking about. It dose not divert the whole thrust of the engine like you were proposing but only minute quantities that are used to shape the airflow around the aircraft. It dose not allow the aircraft to generate lateral velocity vectors like you were suggesting. It dose allow to have an aircraft perform classical maneuvers without any moving surfaces, but it also requires an air flow with as little turbulence as possible, because it controls the boundary lair conditions which if I recall only appears in laminar airflow . That is why it’s feasible only in cruise flight or in supersonic flight, where laminar air-flow is a prerequisite. It dose indeed offer an weight advantage over actuators but only for very high mach numbers, above mach 3 I believe.
It is useless for high maneuverability transonic or even low supersonic aircraft as any maneuver in these regime creates turbulent air-flow, in fact turbulent air-flow, in the form of vortices, is desired for these aircraft as it increases maneuverability, Rafale for example has 4 different vortex generators (canards, chines for the canards, LEX for the wing and the delta wing itself ) which is what gives it the high agility it has. For such an aircraft “fluidic flight controls” are useless, unless it is used as a separate system for cruise flight only. Something like this is to be investigated as
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“Would certainly be a banking effect of one type or another, though I’d want to see it in the flesh rather than theoretically. ”
That would probably be a very expensive wish as it would probably result in a crash. You might not like theory but this kind of theory confirmed thru hundreds of experiments is at the base of science and engineering. If established theory such as aerodynamics predicts an effect, then you can be sure that no experiment would contradict that prediction at most would just tweak it a little. In the case of what you are proposing, that is blowing a high speed, high debit jet under a wing, the effect would be uncontrollable roll and a small banking effect which would result in a sort of corkscrew.
“Problem is how would such a system respond to airflow disturbances – vortex flows, stalls, unsteady flows etc.”
By means of the GMABFFGG.
” That is why it’s feasible only in cruise flight or in supersonic flight, where laminar air-flow is a prerequisite. It dose indeed offer an weight advantage over actuators but only for very high mach numbers, above mach 3 I believe.”
I don’t know which papers you are reading…. I’d be interested in the links though. Almost completely contrary to much of what I’ve read…
“It is useless for high maneuverability transonic or even low supersonic aircraft as any maneuver in these regime creates turbulent air-flow, in fact turbulent air-flow, in the form of vortices, is desired for these aircraft as it increases maneuverability, Rafale for example has 4 different vortex generators (canards, chines for the canards, LEX for the wing and the delta wing itself ) which is what gives it the high agility it has. For such an aircraft “fluidic flight controls” are useless, unless it is used as a separate system for cruise flight only. Something like this is to be investigated as”
You’ve missed the point, spectacularly so….
For instance the Demon is a scale model of a UCAV, arguably an actual UCAV as some of the discussion is about weight and complexity scaling. They fitted normal elevators and ailerons of about 50% trailing edge length as well as CC surfaces for the rest. The design of the FTV surfaces is too constrained to be coincidence.
It appears they underestimates the authority of the CC surfaces though, they could have been a quarter the actual length despite the angular moment being less than the traditional surfaces, as the gain over traditional surfaces was around 10 at higher speeds and considerably more at low. Without scaling efficiencies and partly using supplies from the local plumbing shop the full length traditional surfaces would have been more than 4 times heavier, and offer less authority.
Also the idea that this is useless in vortex manafactured maneuvering is a strange one to my mind. Votex generators are designed to provide control surface authority at high angles of attack where flow separation occurs. Thus they are only designed to impact upon a small part of the overall length of those surfaces and generally only in one plane. Thus if you had an aircraft designed purely around votices you would not need full length control surfaces.
You also assume that CC is incompatible with the latter, which might be an engineering challenge but isn’t necessarily true.
Even if what you said were definitively true the idea that weight savings in a cruise profile would be useless is an interesting one, such profiles make up 90% of even a fighter’s airframe hours.
“Also the idea that this is useless in vortex manafactured maneuvering is a strange one to my mind. Votex generators are designed to provide control surface authority at high angles of attack where flow separation occurs. Thus they are only designed to impact upon a small part of the overall length of those surfaces and generally only in one plane. Thus if you had an aircraft designed purely around votices you would not need full length control surfaces.”
Actually, wrong. Vortex generators are designed to prevent air flow separation from the wing, for two purposes: to improve lift and to prevent loss of control authority. Both are necessary to achieve high maneuverability required by modern fighter aircraft.
What Picard said to which I would like to add that preventing loss of control authority, is a side-effect, the main effect is increase in lift. Rafale for example I think is designed to generate Vortices at relatively low angles of attack specifically for the increase in lift to improve turn characteristics. Furthermore if you ever watched a Rafale perform you would have noticed that the Vortices don’t impact “a small part of the overall length of those surfaces and generally only in one plane.” but actually the whole length of the control surface, when it comes to the canards, and more the half of the wing control surfaces.
Also you make a small confusion when it comes to control authority. This designates the capacity of a control surface to affect the state of the aircraft, i.e. initiate a maneuver. It has no baring on the capacity of the aircraft to carry out the maneuver. To carry out a maneuver the aircraft needs more then control authority it needs lift and thrust. This is where vortex generators come in. They provide the lift necessary to turn the aircraft, the fact that they increase control authority is just a very happy side effect. When you design an aircraft to be agile in combat you chose lift and vortices over obtaining the same control authority with lighter controls at the expense of lift. For supersonic maneuvering it’s a whole other story. Maneuvers in supersonic are more sedated then in subsonic and transonic. One dose not want the drag associated with high angles of attack or vortices because consequences might me catastrophic. So for supersonic flight vortices are not needed. Also in supersonic flight control authority becomes essential because to simply initiate a maneuver in supersonic is a very difficult task. So here the increase of control authority and reduction in weight of Fluidic controls is desired. For ground attack you want to carry as much payload as possible and don’t need high angle of attack maneuvers so again increase in control authority at the expense of weight is desired. So for transport aircraft.
“I don’t know which papers you are reading…. I’d be interested in the links though. Almost completely contrary to much of what I’ve read…”
You provided two commercial links. If you have some scientific articles please provide those. Fluidic controls is not my main area of interest and all I recall is from scientific articles I read years back, which I would have to dig hard to find again.
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“You also assume that CC is incompatible with the latter, which might be an engineering challenge but isn’t necessarily true.”
I didn’t said that. In fact I said: ” For such an aircraft “fluidic flight controls” are useless, unless it is used as a separate system for cruise flight only. Something like this is to be investigated as ” . Fluid flight controls have a regime at which they are better then classic control and it’s worth investigating if one can’t have an aircraft with multiple control systems each optimized for a specific flight regime.
“Even if what you said were definitively true the idea that weight savings in a cruise profile would be useless is an interesting one, such profiles make up 90% of even a fighter’s airframe hours.” It doesn’t matter if a fighter spends only 0.1% of it’s airframe hours in combat conditions. Those are the conditions for which you design the fighter. Otherwise if you follow some technological wonders that give you some advantage for some flight regimes which might be a big sum of the aircraft life but are not critical to what the aircraft is designed to do you wind up with another F-35.
To return to the case of the fighter: critical for what a fighter is supposed to do is maneuverability you don’t sacrifice that for cruise efficiency, even if it effects range. There are other ways to increase range (drop tanks, conformal tanks, increasing internal fuel volume by shifting internal volumes around, air refueling) which don’t affect agility.
Should have said, where flow separation would otherwise occur. Just a matter of tense….
What we are talking about here is efficiency. A more efficient aircraft can carry less fuel and has less overall weight , which means greater range and more maneuverability. Positive feedback loop. Having a better pilot at the controls is one real world example of efficiency, there can be stark differences between the fuel a rookie brings back and an experienced pilot.
I certainly don’t agree that the F-35 supports your argument. Quite the opposite, it is an example of a magnificently inefficient brick which is being asked to bend the laws of physics to produce an end result. It looks as though CC will allow more effective ailerons, which is increased maneuverability, not less.
Interestingly the one big problem with CC is in landing, where high authority is needed whilst the engine is at idle. Proposed solutions are to provide an APU or an engine which bleeds off a reasonable flow even at idle. VTOL aircraft are the opposite, they land at high revs so could be very useful in this regard.
This is all very recent and complex so I don’t think anyone is an instant expert!
I’d be surprised if anyone saw negatives here though, even if a CC system was the same weight and gave the same authority the advantages in servicing ( no need for full teardowns to check hinges / actuators and fatigue, which is non trivial with large carbon fibre wings) would be massive enough to recommend it.
“This is all very recent and complex so I don’t think anyone is an instant expert!”
Fist off all is not that recent. In my country the problem was worked on by prof. Elie Carafolie since the 50s. I have a colleague that was his PhD student and put a lot of work in using low-powered jets to obtain effects similar to canard or to increase wing lift and decrease wing loading of a very low span wing. Also blow flaps which where very popular in the 60s are another application of the same principle. The CC system is just another take on the system. which is still in its infancy and will have a lot of hurdles to pass before and after reaching technological maturity. The biggest of which will be maintenance. Blow flaps that I mentioned earlier where very popular in the 60s, most aircraft conceived back then had them, but they fell out of use because they where maintenance intensive. The CC system seams to have less piping but it still seems to me as being more maintenance intensive then an FBW actuator which can be changed in a matter of minutes. Where as an jet based system is part of the airframe.
“Interestingly the one big problem with CC is in landing, where high authority is needed whilst the engine is at idle. Proposed solutions are to provide an APU or an engine which bleeds off a reasonable flow even at idle. VTOL aircraft are the opposite, they land at high revs so could be very useful in this regard.”
This is an example of why this technology still needs to be investigated. Adding an APU just for landing undoes all of the weight advantages of using fluid controls.
I think we’ll have to agree to disagree.
Hope not of the MiB 3 variety! 😀
Just a thought on CIWS at altitude…
Already discussed increased range, which could be significant in itself. The majority of SARH missiles would do little maneuvering against a blimp given it’s small velocity so the thinner air might provide a solution. Also active AAMs will, I think, fly a relatively predictable path, even given midcourse guidance, until their own active seeker lights up, which also provides an opportunity. With no last ditch defences other than decoys and jamming I’ve never heard of an AAM with pre-programmed terminal maneuvers.
Fletchette rounds are very short ranged at sea level, a few hundreds of metres depending upon calibre. At altitude though I think the dispersion would be lower as well as the range being higher. Even a simple canister round might be effective. I suspect a gun with a decent calibre and rate of fire could put up a cloud of fletchettes large and wide enough that any incomming missile would have to fly through it. Even if the probability of an actual hit wasn’t high enough to justify it I wonder on the effect on the airflow over the missile’s winglets. They are designed for smooth air at altitude, a cloud of supersonic projectiles would cause massive turbulence in their wake which would probably defeat the onboard dumb flight programming.
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That is one weak point of the blimp though – defense. Fletchette rounds so long as they blow up an incoming missile are good enough. I wonder if it would be practical to arm fighter jets with flechettes as some type of countermeasure or even for gun ammo (high muzzle velocity).
Rotating ball turrets have historically proved vastly inferior to the fixed mounts of fighters – I think that having a few microfigher-type aircraft is a good idea.
The other is that it will be hard for any incoming airplane to hit the blimp by surprise. It will have basically multiple crew and multiple IRSTs in all directions.
“Rotating ball turrets have historically proved vastly inferior to the fixed mounts of fighters – I think that having a few microfigher-type aircraft is a good idea.”
Absolutely, but the weapons which I think would be effective against blimps are very short ranged. CIWS though might be a game changer. Noone seriously suggests putting advanced combat aircraft at risk using cannon runs or dumb bombs against CIWS armed ships. Given the pointlessness of any form of stealth for a blimp there is no reason not to have the radars fired up 24/7. Fire as many million dollar missiles at me as you like if a few hundred dollars worth of shells can take them out repeatedly.
I think so, although IRST may be a better option if you want to go passive.
Active radar means a big target for Anti Radiation Missiles, although i guess with adequate coverage, the point is moot.
Big target for everything…
The fact you can lift an AWACS quality radar, of more likely a VHF set means that nothing stealthy can sneak up. In fact stealth designs will show up better on a VHF set.
For instance less than 5 tonnes gets you the JLENS sets, VHF out to 320nm and X-band fire control radar out to 150 which could be used to guide ship based SAMs, patriots etc. You wouldn’t really want to lift the control stations and crew, just offhand them to a ship via a microwave link ( which X-band AESAs can do too). If you are putting out that sort of power then a small CIWS radar or to isn’t going to make you any more visible.
A 70m2 target or so is going to show up on opposition radars at their absolute max range, so no point hiding.
Yes, that could work.
You would need a massive CIWS system.
There may be one benefit to this. It may act like “barn door” drawing in all enemy fire towards taking down the airships.
Anecdotal evidence from WWII, but when the Germans deployed their Tiger tanks, often the Tiger tanks would draw all incoming fire. This could allow some of the more clever commanders to try to take advantage of this.
Battleships had this tendency in naval warfare as well.
“You would need a massive CIWS system.”
Depends what you mean by massive… Also indirectly how large you make the blimp / hybrid.
If you design a 10 ton capacity blimp for a 1 day loiter then it isn’t quite like an aircraft where a lower load will be efficient, you might as well pack it to the rafters. Most of the engine power will go counteracting the huge drag rather than the weight, which is supported by the helium.
CIWS comes in all shapes and sizes, everything up to 114 and even 127mm could be considered CIWS, anything below 57mm most certainly, though there has been a marked reduction in weights in the last few years. Bofor’s 40Mk4 for instance is 2500kg, including quite a bit that you could strip off. There has only been a couple of CIWS systems deployed on aircraft, such as the tail gun on the B-52, though increasingly designers are putting them on much smaller surface ships. Hence the reduction in weight.
Just how big a CIWS would depend upon the effectiveness and range at altitude, which isn’t something anyone has tested to the best of my knowledge. The tail gun on the 52 or the dual 23mm on the back end of several Russian bombers were to ward off enemy fighters on gun runs, not missiles.
Even tanks are starting to get lightweight CIWS of various types which are in development in order to defeat incoming missiles,
As many of the naval mounts are dual purpose I think they would clearly have a role to play. Something that could sit between a carrier and a hostile shore which had a good chance of detected and destroying shore based ASM batteries would be manna from heaven. If one allowed the searoom needed to be cut from 200nm to 50 it would have a huge effect on strike aircraft effectiveness and even design.
12,500kg would buy you a Kashtan… I’d like to see anyone get past that!
“There may be one benefit to this. It may act like “barn door” drawing in all enemy fire towards taking down the airships.”
Exactly, make them unmanned and you really aren’t losing much even if it isn’t recoverable.The alternative would be putting hundreds of men in a frigate or destroyer in the way.
You would need several Kashtan systems – for full coverage in all directions (or whatever you are using).
I bet though with some R&D, it might be possible to make it moderately lighter weight. There still needs to be a loading system and various other support, so at least somewhat manned may be needed.
Another question is the estimated cost of the airship. How much per unit and how many to build? The economies of scale could work if you built a modest number of ships.
You might be able to put guns at the top of the airship. top prevent top gun runs as well for enemy fighters.
“You would need several Kashtan systems – for full coverage in all directions (or whatever you are using).”
Kashtan would ex excessive, just the power requirmeents would kill the weight, though I think only one CIWS would provide enough cover provided it had sufficient train from the Gondola. Clearly you’d want to lighten them as much as possible
“Another question is the estimated cost of the airship. How much per unit and how many to build? The economies of scale could work if you built a modest number of ships.”
They aren’t fundamentally expensive. Commercially available Zeppelin NTs, which are a bit smaller than I’d envision, go for just north of $10 million. The HAV 304 with a gas lift of 20 tonnes, is reported to be about $40 million, though the aerodynanic lift would increase this. Considerably less than the equivalent aircraft, and much lower operating costs too.
The money would go into integration of sensors and designing different gondolas for different loadouts.
Say an AEW blimp using the two JLENS radars would easily fit into a HAV 304, with weight to spare. Manned you could fit control consoles and a permanent crew, unmanned you would need to design a microwave comms system between the blimp and a base station or ship. Radars wouldn’t be cheap but compared to an AWACS for which you’ll be paying north of $500 million and need several more airframes it’s a fairly stark choice.
Designing one with skyhooks and a big fuel tank would be fairly trivial I think. Same for a transport version, the money there would go on procedures and operational testing. ASW would depend upon the sensor fit. MAD and sonobuoys, not terribly expensive. Could even take the entire sensor for of a Merlin or Seahawk easily, in fact these blimps would be a bit big. I wonder whether you could operated a towed passive array?
A better upgrade would be the F-5G/F-20 Tigershark, since it had 60% more thrust than the F-5A through F-5E variants.
It also had lot more weight.
I’d still recommend reducing relative signature where possible – having mostly passive sensors is good for that or only using radar for short bursts. If you are far enough from the front line, it still is possible to keep your thermal signature relatively low and if you have a lot of anti-radiation missiles (which the airship can carry a few of), then the enemy will be reluctant to turn on their active radar as it will give away their location as well.
The other as you note is to put massive anti-missile systems, CIWS, perhaps flechette launchers, jammers, flares, and other countermeasures all over the airship.
I’d prefer to use something cheap and expendable to get the enemy to waste their missiles on.
Why not go with the F-5G/F-20 Tigershark instead? That fighter has the GE F404 engine, providing 60% MORE thrust than the two J85s in the F-5E. That gives you better TWR, better acceleration, better everything.
It also gained way too much weight compared to F-5A. That being said, putting in F414EPE might be good idea.
What is it you like about the F-5A vs. the more capable F-5E or the F-20? Though the F-5A would make a very good WVR fighter, it wouldn’t be good for use much beyond that.
It is cheap, simple and not too hard to maintain, and you can make it into an OK BVR fighter as well – just put in more powerful engine and IRST. That being said, F-20 with F414EPE would be a better choice.