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Thread: Shift in AF flight culture?

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    Council Member jkm_101_fso's Avatar
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    Default Shift in AF flight culture?

    More AF pilots want to "fly" UAVs?
    Does anyone know which UAVs require an officer to fly?
    Privates fly Ravens in the Army. I realize the AF UAVs are bigger and more $$$$$$.

    Air Force looks to keep more pilots grounded

    By Sig Christenson
    San Antonio Express-News
    December 23, 2008

    The top Air Force flight school students often get the best shot at the hottest planes.

    But instead of listing the A-10 Warthog as the first choice on her “dream sheet” of planes she'd like to fly, 2nd Lt. Raquel Dronenburg picked the plane virtually everyone else in her class of 22 had hoped to avoid — the one that will never have room for a pilot in the cockpit.

    “I wanted to actually do something productive with my time instead of sitting around and waiting for training to start,” said Dronenburg, one of the top students in the class, explaining that flying a manned aircraft meant delays that could run 15 months.

    Pilots typically want to fly in the air, not from a ground-based cubicle. That's why Monday's graduation from the Air Force's Unmanned Aerial System Fundamentals course, the first of its kind at Randolph AFB, was so remarkable.

    It marks a shift in the Air Force's culture. The service's center of gravity has always been the pilot wrapped in a cockpit, engaged in mortal combat, but technology and insurgent warfare are driving big changes.

    John Pike, director and founder of globalsecurity.org, a military information Web site, called the cultural change “fundamental, radical and revolutionary” — striking at the heart of how the Air Force sees itself.
    http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/loc..._grounded.html
    Sir, what the hell are we doing?

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    2nd Lt. Raquel Dronenburg ?

    That's DRONE nburg?

    Am I the only one laughting?
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

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    Council Member jkm_101_fso's Avatar
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    Default Ha! Good catch!

    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    2nd Lt. Raquel Dronenburg ?

    That's DRONE nburg?

    Am I the only one laughting?
    I missed that one...what an irony for her.
    Sir, what the hell are we doing?

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    Council Member 120mm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    2nd Lt. Raquel Dronenburg ?

    That's DRONE nburg?

    Am I the only one laughting?
    Yes, very funny. And once she retires, she could have an awesome career as a DoD Civilian Employee....

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    Not surprising. Cultural change is a generational thing IMO.

    More AF pilots want to "fly" UAVs?
    Yes and no. Certainly more people at the beginning of their careers want to fly UAV's. The opinion of a lot of mid-career officers I've talked to is quite different. In one sense, flying is a part of them - they can't imagine flying an aircraft with no sensory input beyond visual and auditory cues. Can they be trained to do it? Of course, but it doesn't feel like flying to them anymore than a driving simulation feels like driving to a NASCAR driver. They are also worried about their careers, though this concern has diminished greatly over the past year.


    Does anyone know which UAVs require an officer to fly?
    Privates fly Ravens in the Army. I realize the AF UAVs are bigger and more $$$$$$.
    There are several tactical UAV's "flown" by enlisted personnel in the Air Force - primarily the security forces. I'm not up to speed in this area, but I believe they are some of the same models used by the Army.

    The larger "theater" level and weaponized UAV's are flown by officers. These are the UAV's that fly in controlled airspace above about 3000 feet. The requirement for officers in this role is certainly a cultural one, but one might argue that officer's aren't strictly necessary for much of anything.

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    Council Member Umar Al-Mokhtār's Avatar
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    Default So I'm sitting in a meeting...

    a few years back at ACC HQ at Langley AFB (not at the table, mind you). The topic of the CIA taking out AQ folks with a Hellfire armed Predator came up. The whole issue of "armed" Predators seemd to elicit a certain response from the "fighter" community. The point was made that USAF UAVs at the time were routinely "flown" by enlisted folks. In a very subtle way the discussion turned to the possibility that someday UAVs may actually down other aircraft after which it was then posited that perhaps enlisted folks were not the right people to fly UAVs. I quickly jotted down the following for my colleague seated next to me: Because we wouldn't want the first "ace" of the 21st Century to be...an enlisted person...the HORROR!!!!!
    "What is best in life?" "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of the women."

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    Council Member Surferbeetle's Avatar
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    Default 61 Knots!

    Bear with me, its a little off topic...

    Spiegel has a video of a trimaran cruising along at 61 knots before it all goes bad (about a quarter of the way down the page on the left). Boat is toast, crew is all ok. Reminds me of the the ekranoplan
    Last edited by Surferbeetle; 12-23-2008 at 11:20 PM.
    Sapere Aude

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    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
    2nd Lt. Raquel Dronenburg ?

    That's DRONE nburg?

    Am I the only one laughting?
    No, you are not alone. I wonder, is it really a coincidence? LOL!

    Adam L

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    Times, they are a changing. Another sign is a statement by a "former Clinton administration Pentagon appointee" in the Dec 8 issue of Aviation Week to the effect that the F-35 is a superior fighter to the F-22 because its computer processors are better.

    Regarding the story, it seems to be that young, intelligent, fit officers are perhaps better used somewhere else than a stateside cubicle with a big video screen in it. The same goes for young, intelligent, fit enlisted men. As the story mentions the same job can be done by middle aged, fat, near sighted civilians.

    Secondly, if this trend continues, as it probably will, it will be to the benefit of the Army and Marines. The aggressive young men who would have gravitated to the jets aren't likely to be thrilled by the prospect of helping the computer fly the drone; which leaves Apaches, Cobras, tanks etc.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Times, they are a changing. Another sign is a statement by a "former Clinton administration Pentagon appointee" in the Dec 8 issue of Aviation Week to the effect that the F-35 is a superior fighter to the F-22 because its computer processors are better.
    I have been wondering if that was the case for some time now. Thank you for the info.

    Adam L

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    I should have made clear that I rather disagree with the statement of the Clinton adm. official. I am still old fashioned enough to think things like range, speed, altitude capability, number of missiles carried etc. are more important than how much the cpu wows the boys at Microsoft.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    Regarding the story, it seems to be that young, intelligent, fit officers are perhaps better used somewhere else than a stateside cubicle with a big video screen in it. The same goes for young, intelligent, fit enlisted men. As the story mentions the same job can be done by middle aged, fat, near sighted civilians.
    Finally! A job description just for me!
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    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    I am still old fashioned enough to think things like range, speed, altitude capability, number of missiles carried etc. are more important than how much the cpu wows the boys at Microsoft.
    I agree with you on that. I should have been clearer in my statement. I have been wondering for some time if its avionics and targeting systems are superior. Given the time between their development and the rate of advancement, I would have to say that it is possible. In fact, if they are not, I am little curious if the F35 systems were held back in some way. Also, the better the c.p.u.'s are, the smaller and lighter the on-board computers will be. This enhances the fighter's capabilities as well as its durability.

    I am also curious if the F22 is really far superior in maneuverability. Both fighters are capable of performing beyond the physical limits of the pilots. This means that the computers have to hold the fighters back from their full capabilities. If this is so, wouldn't both fighters be held to similar turning rates, etc.

    As far as missiles are concerned, it is my understanding that the F35 is capable of carrying more than the F22. The F22's biggest advantage is its superior speed which gives the pilot the option of choosing when to fight. I don't know much about the stealth characteristics of either airplane. All I know is that the F22 is supposed to be stealthier. Is it stealthy enough that the F35 would have trouble targeting it? The F22 may be advanced enough to defeat superior numbers of F15 and F16, but I am curious about just how much it is superior to the F35.

    Adam L

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    Adam,

    Your comment touches on all the main points of contention between the F-35 and F-22 folks. The advocates and proxies for each aircraft, sensing a changing budgetary future, are now attacking each other and their aircraft will full vigor. 99% of what you hear in this "debate" about capabilities and comparisons between the F-35 and F-22 will be self-serving, biased, use only a grain of truth or be just plain wrong.

    In the case of "obsolete" processors on the F-22, that's true to a degree, but largely irrelevant. After all, the F-35 is still in development (IOC in 2013 if all goes well) while the F-22 is nearing the end (in all probability) of its production run and got IOC in 2005. So it's not surprising that some of the F-35's electronics will be better, but in the end that doesn't mean much for a variety of reasons (F-22's will be upgraded, electronics is only apart of performance, etc.).

    Things like weapons loadouts, maneuverability, etc. are very complex and situation dependent. Advocates tend to pick the circumstances which best favor their particular platform. Still, F-22 maneuverability is better than the F-35 in fair comparisons simply because the F-22 has thrust vectoring and the F-35 does not.

    The F-35 "carrying more" again depends on what's being carried and in what configuration and for what purpose. The F-22 has larger internal weapons bays, so it can carry more weapons and maintain full stealth and aerodynamic capability than the F-35 using internal bays, but the F-35 has more hard points overall, so it can carry "more" and a greater variety of weaponry (since it is primarily and air-to-ground platform), but does so at a cost. At least until the stealth external hard mounts are developed.

    In reality the F-35 and F-22 are complimentary and so putting them up against each other often serves to obscure than illuminate. In a way, it's like arguing over whether the C-130 or the C-17 is the "best" transport aircraft.

    Unfortunately, we're going to hear a lot more of this "debate" as F-22 advocates work to extend the production past 187 airframes and the F-35 folks work to preserve what's planned and avoid any cuts. It's going to be ugly all around.

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    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    I am aware of the politics involved, and I agree with you on just about everything. I agree they are intended for very different roles. I also am not sure how "upgradeable" the F22 or F35 will be. Upgrading aircraft which have almost completely composite structures will be extremely difficult and costly unless it has been designed to deal with this. Both of these planes will only be good for 20-30 years from production. Composites don't last the same way that metal does.

    The reason I am critical of the F22 has a great deal to do with the fact that most of the propaganda that is being turned out on its behalf is focusing almost completely on its ability to fire lots and lots of missiles on multiple targets. If that is all they want out of the thing they really didn't build what they should have. If that was what they wanted they should have focused completely on stealth, speed and payload. Maybe they should have cut the pilot out of it. If a dogfighter is what they want, I just don't know if they built the right plane. A dogfighter has to be durable, or it must be built in numbers. Yes, it is more than capable of defeating a flight larger than itself only utilizing guns, but if it does take any damage it will be extremely difficult to repair. A composite structure is extremely brittle, I worry about just how little is needed to damage it.

    What I really want to know, is what is the role of the F22 going to be in reality.

    Adam L

    [Note: I have been a big supporter of the F22 in and of itself, I am just critical of how it fits into the bigger scheme of things. I am also very critical of the F35, but that's a whole other post. LOL!]
    Last edited by Adam L; 12-25-2008 at 12:59 AM.

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    Council Member carl's Avatar
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    I am an advocate of the F-22 over the F-35 because it seems it is coming down almost to an either or situation. Limiting F-22 production would have us depending mostly on a light bomber which I don't think is a wise thing to do over the next 20-30 years. To my mind the F-35 is a crackerjack light bomber but maybe not a crackerjack fighter. (My definition of fighter is plane that is really good at killingl other planes so they don't bother your guys.)

    An article in the Dec 15 issue of Aviation Week states the F-22 has and all-aspect radar cross-section signature of -40dBsm. The F-35 has a "-30dBsm signature but not all-aspect stealth". The article also states the F-22 can "operate within the engagement envelope of the SA-20 and SA-21" but the F-35 is at "greater risk." I am not qualified to tell whether these statements are true or propaganda.

    All airplanes are compromises as is the F-22. Maybe they came up with a neither/nor airplane but from what I read here and there it is a pretty good compromise.

    There is blog on the Aviation Week site that has a LOT of material on the F-22 vs. F-35. Ken White reads it everyday I believe.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Council Member Adam L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by carl View Post
    I am an advocate of the F-22 over the F-35 because it seems it is coming down almost to an either or situation. Limiting F-22 production would have us depending mostly on a light bomber which I don't think is a wise thing to do over the next 20-30 years. To my mind the F-35 is a crackerjack light bomber but maybe not a crackerjack fighter. (My definition of fighter is plane that is really good at killingl other planes so they don't bother your guys.)
    I agree with you 100%, but I don't know if there is any way Congress will ever provide sufficient funding to get back to reasonable production numbers.

    Claimed Production Number:
    Original - 750
    1990 - 648
    1994 - 442
    1997 - 339
    2003 - 277
    2006 - 183
    2008 - 187

    The problem is that I don't think anyone is looking 20-50 years down the road. Given the development time, and cost, of any program we really need to plan this way. This is especially so given that I believe these aircraft will have relatively short lifespans.

    Adam L
    Last edited by Adam L; 12-25-2008 at 01:48 AM.

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    Council Member Danny's Avatar
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    Default F22 Superior

    The F22 is superior to the F35 in almost every way (based on my conversations with AF and my reading of the stats), but more of it (i.e., the component parts) are inside the fuselage, making it stealthier and better-performing but of course more expensive.

    I am making no comment here about which is the better buy for the money, just which is better.

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    In WWII the Navy and Marine Corps has flying Sgts. and Chiefs. I know a few of the former flying sgts. who had moved up to the Commissioned ranks and Warrent ranks in the mid 1950's. Outstanding individuals and proud as hell that they flew against the Japanese in WWII
    as enlistedmen.

    The Japanese Navy and the RAF and RAN also had enlisted pilots in WWII. The Russians had enlisted women fighter pilots.

    Does the price of the plane and not the natural skill dictate the pedigree?

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    Council Member William F. Owen's Avatar
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    Default F22 and F35

    There is a problem that the USAF seems to want to ignore in the shape of passive radar and networked electro-optics.

    Passive radar is here now and defeats stealth to a good enough degree to get a cheap IR seeker in the same space (Lock on long after launch). It is not even that expensive or complex. Factor in the strides being made in electro-optics and remote gun laying and F22 may well get shot down or badly damaged by an air bursting 155mm artillery round. Big UAVs are basically dead.

    At the very best, such systems will force expensive aircraft to stay fast and high.

    The future of airpower is actually up for grabs and the picture is not that full of roses!
    Infinity Journal "I don't care if this works in practice. I want to see it work in theory!"

    - The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
    - If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
    Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition

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