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Old 10-13-2010   #1
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Default F-16 Replacement

The big plane is to replace the F-16 and A-10 with the F-35 (as well as the Marine Harrier and older model Marine and Navy F-18A/B/C models). Most are aware of the cost overruns (yes, it's true) and issues with the engine.

Question: Is it realistic to build a smaller F-22 to replace the F-16?

Question: It it possible to replace Harriers with VTOL CAS UCAVs?

Question: Should the production of the F-22 (possible FB-22 variants) end at 183 or continue to 381 air frames?
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Old 10-13-2010   #2
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Do you mean by "smaller F-22" the F-35? If so, they aren't the same airplane.

The F-22 is meant to go out and clear the skies of enemy aircraft, capable formidable enemy aircraft like the big Sukhoi. The F-35, even with the F, is a light bomber. I don't see it having near the capability to fight and kill capable enemy aircraft that the F-22 does. It just doesn't have the flight performance; and despite what the tron gods say, flight performance makes a difference.

Drones may be the way to be in decades coming but I just don't see it in the near term. They crash a lot for one thing. They go stupid and wander around the sky. You can afford that with a Pred that mostly looks and occasionally shoots a Hellfire, but replacing the Harrier... And, they are radio controlled. If it is radio controlled somebody smart can send a radio signal to it and steal it from you.

My opinion not just yes, go up to 381 F-22s, but hell yes. From what I read there is nothing in the world that even comes close. We should sell it to the Japanese too. The development dollars are all spent so we just pay production costs for each one. The cost of the F-35 I think will eventually equal or exceed that of the F-22 and with the Raptor you get a real honest to goodness fighter, not just a light bomber with delusions.

If the past is any guide, your questions should provoke a lot of replies. People love to talk about airplanes.
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Old 10-13-2010   #3
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Let me ask the question the other way around.

Why would continuing to build and employ F16, A-10, AV-8B+, and F-15X be a bad idea? Why wouldn't this work?
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Old 10-13-2010   #4
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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
Let me ask the question the other way around.

Why would continuing to build and employ F16, A-10, AV-8B+, and F-15X be a bad idea? Why wouldn't this work?
Age of airframes. You can manufacture new ones (assuming that the production line tools remain) or "zero-hour" them (which also practically means remanufacturing them).

Design. There is a limit as to how much you can squeeze out of an existing airframe in terms of flight performance, space for avionics, etc. This is partly what killed the F20, ie an F16 with a brand new airframe and resulting growth potential. You can't plug in F22 engines into an F15E and expect a performance boost, even if the engines fit.

While there is no big Red Army capable of beating down the gates of Western European capitals right now, there is still a necessity of maintaining a credible force with at least technological parity if not superior.

Aside: I see that the RAF is fighting to maintain its budget share, but I guess this is for another thread (or even another forum).
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Old 10-13-2010   #5
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Originally Posted by Maeda Toshiie View Post

While there is no big Red Army capable of beating down the gates of Western European capitals right now, there is still a necessity of maintaining a credible force with at least technological parity if not superior.
Agree, and improved F16, A-10, AV-8B+, and F-15X all do that. Be aware, Tthe real capability/performance of upgraded types is usually under-played because they threaten the viability of new types.

Quote:
Aside: I see that the RAF is fighting to maintain its budget share, but I guess this is for another thread (or even another forum).
If by fighting, you mean sacrifice all types and capabilities to maintain the Typhoon fleet, then yes they are!
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Old 10-13-2010   #6
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Wilf asks a fair question. Or why not get a production line up and running producing a modern version of the A-6 Skyraider for ourselves and the many small, poor countries that have requirements? (sure they want F-16s, but really?)

For the top end aircraft critical issues are threat, deterrence and asymmetric counters.

1. What is the threat? (combination of capability, inclination, likelihood, risk, etc)

2. Do current platforms effectively deter that threat?

3. Are there relatively simple, inexpensive counters to these new platforms that can be quickly rolled out by opponents putting us right back at the same deterrence balance we are at currently?

4. What are the missions that drive this. Are there changes of policy that would cause some of those missions to (rightfully) either fall off the books or take a much reduced priority.

I don't have the answers to any of these. I did participate in the High-End Asymmetric Threat section of the last QDR though, so I do have some insights. Sometimes we use our desire for numbers or types of platforms or organizational units to drive retention or adoption of missions, that in turn then drive policy decisions. My one recommendation is that we need to turn that around to the extent possible.

Services and the corporations who produce these platforms are biased advocates; which is fine, so long as we've designed the process to contain those biases into limits set by our national policies and military missions. Currently (and I suspect historically) they opposite is true. BL, neither General Dynamics nor General Officers should pick our wars for us.
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Old 10-13-2010   #7
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Here's the first of a series of two articles (part 2 isn't out yet) by the former SECAF on this topic...

http://www.sldinfo.com/?p=11959
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Old 10-13-2010   #8
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Lt General Deptula’s depiction in that article is wildly off.

1) The F-22 and F-35 don't have the radar capability (especially not in LPI mode) to substitute for a lack of AEW support. In fact, most F-22s don't even have a proper datalink capability.
Four F-22s would need to almost constantly circle to provide sufficient radar coverage. Their main radar has at most about 110° coverage because of its primitive fixed installation.
F-22s in their preferred BVR air combat tactics would need to move back and forth quickly, not circle around. They could be surprised and engaged in deadly WVR combat without AEW support.

2) It has been acknowledged long ago that it's a myth that stealth bombers need no jammer support for penetration of well-defended regions (there's no EA in the single digit SAM defences 5th gen attack depiction).

3) It's ridiculous to claim that 4 F-35 can replace 8 F-16C in the strike component unless you assume that the F-16's use old munitions while the F-35's use new ones. F-16 has a vastly better payload capability. The assumption of different ammunitions is not legitimate for a platform copmparison.
Plus: The F-16 can employ many (heavy) munitions which a F-35 cannot transport (at least not internally - and external storage removes the low observability advantage, leading to greater support needs because of reduced survivability).

4) It's inappropriate to believe that 4 F-35 suffice for a "DEAD" (destruction of enemy air defences) mission. The mere suppression can already require more ammunition than F-35's can story internally (especially if we assume that they keep at least some air/air missiles!).
The destruction requires follow-on attack within line of sight and additional munitions.
Some background about why I don't buy the implied assumption of advanced ARM hyper-effectiveness:
http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot....ions-hype.html
http://defense-and-freedom.blogspot....-emitters.html
I understand that (very) low observable aircraft need only a tiny opening in an AD network, but even they need it twice - infiltration and exfiltration. They can furthermore be channelled in their movements if they're only ment to slip through instead of fighting their way through - channelled in favour of surprise AD and interceptors.

5) Finally - F-35 and "EA" (electronic attack) is rather odd, for jamming means to give up low observability.


That graphic - and the whole article - is no honest presentation of a realistic assumption. It's political-economic marketing hype.
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Old 10-13-2010   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maeda Toshiie View Post
Age of airframes. You can manufacture new ones (assuming that the production line tools remain) or "zero-hour" them (which also practically means remanufacturing them).

Design. There is a limit as to how much you can squeeze out of an existing airframe in terms of flight performance, space for avionics, etc. This is partly what killed the F20, ie an F16 with a brand new airframe and resulting growth potential. You can't plug in F22 engines into an F15E and expect a performance boost, even if the engines fit.
Both spot on points.

I won't go into the operational capabilities or political aspects of either the F22 or F35, but from an engineering, manufacturing and maintenance standpoint both aircraft have some significant advantages over the current crop. Several years ago I worked for a company making aerospace components was involved with several projects for the F22 and the cancelled Comanche helicopter.

There has been tremendous effort placed into design for manufacturability, reliability and maintenance on both the airframe and engines of the F22, and now the F35. Manufacturing capabilities and efficiency has made huge shifts in the past thirty years and constructing new F22s and F35 will be little more expensive than the older aircraft (in adjusted dollars), the real expense is in materials (lots of titanium and composites) and the advanced technology aspects.

The designers of this new generation of aircraft have actually been seeking significant input from the assemblers in the factories and technicians if the field; operations on the F15/16 that were intended for one person but actually take two, really can be performed by one on the F22/35. The engines used in the F22, and as the basis for the F35 engine, have 40% fewer major components than most prior jet engines and been designed to keep them flying with minimal maintenance man hours by shifting most of the critical components to the bottom of the engine, thus eliminating the need to remove the engine unless a complete overhaul is required. The use of modular systems makes component change out in field conditions very quick and one small innovation that I really liked was the elimination of safety wire with the advent of a new type of connection plug; no need to find lost wire twisting pliers any more.

As an aside, my cousin is a Harrier pilot in the USMC; I'll get his impressions the next time he's home on leave and we have a chance to talk.
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Old 10-13-2010   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
Agree, and improved F16, A-10, AV-8B+, and F-15X all do that. Be aware, Tthe real capability/performance of upgraded types is usually under-played because they threaten the viability of new types.
The loss of A10s without a similar replacement would certainly a shame, considering that the current potential replacements do not have some of its capabilities (and which are certainly needed). And I recall reading some who were against the idea of single seated F16s replacing F4s in the SEAD "Wild Weasel" role due the lack of the second crew member to share the workload.

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Originally Posted by Bob's World View Post
Wilf asks a fair question. Or why not get a production line up and running producing a modern version of the A-6 Skyraider for ourselves and the many small, poor countries that have requirements? (sure they want F-16s, but really?)
I think this is an issue of roles and the number of different aircraft types needed. For logistics and training, it would be good to limit the number of airframe types. Furthermore, you can reduce the fleet size that is needed to perform X types of missions.

Taking your example, a modernized A6 Skyraider (A6 tends to remind me of the Intruder though) would be useful in Afghanistan right now and probably more bang for the buck as compared to the rest of the USAF stable. Essentially a COIN type. However, how much useful would it be outside of Afghanistan or the current GWOT? A WW3 WP vs NATO scenario isn't likely for the next 10 or maybe even 20 years, but it ain't gonna do much to deter the PRC. The PRC issue is one worth keeping track of for someone living in South East Asia.

In my own amateur way, I'll try address your points:
1. 2 based on projection of the present: PRC and Russia. The second isn't credible but having sufficient capacity to deter can make quite a difference. Their technology is still behind the West and certainly do not have the funds to field the numbers at present. However, when you look at South Ossetia war, the Russians are not unwilling to flex whatever military muscles it still has when it wants to. Presently: a motley crew of 4 gen (early to late) and small numbers of 4.5 gen equipment and crew with questionable amount flying hours.

As for the first, the PLAAF and PLANAF are slowly growing their capabilities. Technology wise, they are still behind even the Russians in some areas (eg engines). However, it is clear that they want to stake out their claim on the waters off their shores and they would want something to back their words.
Presently: a lot of 4 gen equipment (most are early 4th gen) with some 4.5 gen.

Main point: the Russians have the experience and system to run a capable air force (though not quite at the NATO level), but do not have the funds to do so. The PRC's problems are opposite, ie lacking the experience and system to build an air force for serious power projection (or even just to cover their ground forces) but they have the funds to attempt doing so.

2. Yes. BUT the F15 airframes are aging. Even if you replace them with F15s, you aren't going to buy F15Cs with 1990s technology, are you? If you consider the cost of the latest versions of F15Es or even the Silent Eagle, the cost differential with respect to F22s doesn't seem that much.

3. Not really, though SAMs are comparatively cheaper than to operate and maintain. Why else is there so much concern over the S300s? I do not know if the latest models can effectively engage and destroy F22s but it is naive to assume that the F22s are invulnerable for its projected service life.

Of course, air forces don't win wars (cue Soviet general joke), at least not on land but are the ground forces willing to live under a neutral sky instead of a totally friendly one?

4. I think the mission of establishing air supremacy (not air superiority) will not fall off the books. The US and its allies capable of accomplishing it in the present moment (against most potential adversaries), it is difficult for such the capability to be allowed to fall off unless it is totally bank breaking. If you have the ability to beat your opponent 100:0, would you give that up easily?

Last edited by Maeda Toshiie; 10-13-2010 at 01:41 PM.
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Old 10-13-2010   #11
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Do you mean by "smaller F-22" the F-35? If so, they aren't the same airplane.

The F-22 is meant to go out and clear the skies of enemy aircraft, capable formidable enemy aircraft like the big Sukhoi. The F-35, even with the F, is a light bomber. I don't see it having near the capability to fight and kill capable enemy aircraft that the F-22 does. It just doesn't have the flight performance; and despite what the tron gods say, flight performance makes a difference.

Drones may be the way to be in decades coming but I just don't see it in the near term. They crash a lot for one thing. They go stupid and wander around the sky. You can afford that with a Pred that mostly looks and occasionally shoots a Hellfire, but replacing the Harrier... And, they are radio controlled. If it is radio controlled somebody smart can send a radio signal to it and steal it from you.

My opinion not just yes, go up to 381 F-22s, but hell yes. From what I read there is nothing in the world that even comes close. We should sell it to the Japanese too. The development dollars are all spent so we just pay production costs for each one. The cost of the F-35 I think will eventually equal or exceed that of the F-22 and with the Raptor you get a real honest to goodness fighter, not just a light bomber with delusions.

If the past is any guide, your questions should provoke a lot of replies. People love to talk about airplanes.
I did mean a smaller F-22, but as you stated a two different missions, two different aircraft.

Good points made on the Harrier/UCAV idea. I figured present technology would cause limitations.
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Old 10-13-2010   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
Let me ask the question the other way around.

Why would continuing to build and employ F16, A-10, AV-8B+, and F-15X be a bad idea? Why wouldn't this work?
Great question and makes sense so it will not happen. Make new ones that are generation 4.5 - well the F-15SE is a 4.5, but the USAF does not seem interested. The USAF is putting new radars in the F-15 (I beleive the same one in the F-22). I've heard about another 4.5 gen F-15 called the Golden Eagle, but I might be confussing this with the Silent Eagle.
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Old 10-13-2010   #13
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IMO the F-35 goes ahead regardless of costs because so much has laready been spent.

If the F-35 were cancelled and production lines were not put back on line for F-16, F-15, AV8-BII, and A-10 what current aircraft might meet the needs?

Is the F-18E a suitable replacement for the F-16?
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Old 10-13-2010   #14
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I read recently that aircraft technology can only go so far before the performance of the aircraft (extreme g forces) kills the pilot. The key is missile technology or the ability to shoot down aircraft behind you, below, above, etc.
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Old 10-13-2010   #15
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Originally Posted by gute View Post
Great question and makes sense so it will not happen. Make new ones that are generation 4.5 - well the F-15SE is a 4.5, but the USAF does not seem interested. The USAF is putting new radars in the F-15 (I beleive the same one in the F-22). I've heard about another 4.5 gen F-15 called the Golden Eagle, but I might be confussing this with the Silent Eagle.

The Golden Eagles are existing F15Cs being fitted with the APG-63(V)3 AESA radar.

Silent Eagles are new F15s incorporating LO technology.

F18Es are replacements for F14s, not F16s. If the USAF wants, they can buy new F16 block 60s and stuff in an AESA radar as well to replace existing F16s.

As for AV-8, I doubt they can restart the production line or want to buy Russian stuff. There is no other alternative to F35B.
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Old 10-13-2010   #16
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Quote:
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I read recently that aircraft technology can only go so far before the performance of the aircraft (extreme g forces) kills the pilot. The key is missile technology or the ability to shoot down aircraft behind you, below, above, etc.
Conscience is lost at +12g with liquid-based anti-g suits. That's 3 Gs higher than with pneumatic anti-g suits and well beyond most airframes' safety limits.

The acceleration won't kill the pilot directly at 13-20 G, but he's unable to control the aircraft and might take relatively long to recover and regain control afterwards. Automated evasion manoeuvres should therefore be possible beyond 12 G - it just takes a while until the pilot can regain control.



The problem is another one, and independent of "manned or unmanned". Large airframes simply cannot withstand as high accelerations as cylindric missiles, the missile manoeuvrability wins. This is apparently even true despite the fact that an intercepting airframe needs to pull a many times as Gs to hit an evading airframe (such as 42 Gs to reliably hit a 9G evading object).

Aircraft manoeuvrability is largely irrelevant for today's fighters because the most advanced air-air missiles can already be launched to hit a target behind the launching platform. They simply turn on the first few hundred meters by 180° and lock on after launch - guess why the Russians installed rear radars in their last fighter series. The F-35 has the DAS for the same purpose (and other purposes).



I suspect that active defences (jamming or shooting down incoming missiles, known from ships and now also from tanks and transport aircraft - bound to happen in fighters) will become relevant in the near future.
This will add even more per unit cost and require additional installation volume and surface.
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Old 10-13-2010   #17
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The big plane is to replace the F-16 and A-10 with the F-35 (as well as the Marine Harrier and older model Marine and Navy F-18A/B/C models). Most are aware of the cost overruns (yes, it's true) and issues with the engine.
The issues are mainly with a second engine the DoD doesn't want, but Congress plans to give them anyway. Whether the services can get by with legacy aircraft is irrelevant at this point - all the eggs are in the F-35 basket for better or worse.

Quote:
Question: Is it realistic to build a smaller F-22 to replace the F-16?
Given the incompetence of the procurement/development system, a "smaller" F-22 is going to add significant development costs. If push comes to shove, better to buy an existing aircraft.

Quote:
Question: It it possible to replace Harriers with VTOL CAS UCAVs?
Sure it's possible, but that will require a whole new development program. Can we keep the harriers going until then? Can we afford the expense of a new weapons system of a design that's never been done before?

Quote:
Question: Should the production of the F-22 (possible FB-22 variants) end at 183 or continue to 381 air frames?
That's already been decided - the production line is shutting down. Most of the parts for the last run of aircraft are being made right now. The final delivery is only a year away. There's no indication that Congress or the President have any interest in changing that.

Also, one can't ignore the politics of this. Sure, it's technically feasible to buy more existing legacy aircraft, but Congress likes the jobs and preserving the industrial base.

Plus, when you look at it, legacy aircraft aren't that much cheaper (of course, we don't really know what the F-35 is going to cost yet). For example, the latest and greatest F-15 (Silent Eagle) is estimated at about $100 million per aircraft while an F-22 is about $135 million. The latest estimates for the F-35 put the unit cost at the same price - and the F-35 was supposed to be the "cheap" plane.

The F-22 is more expensive than a new F-15 but bests the F-15 is almost every respect. Whether that additional capability is worth an $35 million premium is a judgment call, but the point is that "legacy" aircraft aren't as cheap as commonly believed.

The newest F-16's run about $60 million - or less than half of what an F-35 is projected to cost. Plus, the F-35's superiority to the F-16 isn't as definitive. Is it worth it? Again a judgment call. I was dubious about canceling the F-22 program for this reason. Considering the F-35 now costs as much as an F-22, it probably would have been better to keep the F-22 and cancel the F-35 in favor of upgraded legacy aircraft. Problem is that the F-35 program is too big to fail at this point.
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Old 10-13-2010   #18
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I advise to not delve into cost comparisons. That terrain is badly mined.
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Old 10-13-2010   #19
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Yes, there's a lot of definitional differences, wishful thinking and downright deception regarding costs. Despite that, you can't just eliminate cost as a factor in decisionmaking.
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Old 10-13-2010   #20
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Certainly not, but discussing cost differences takes about as much thoroughness and transparency of sources and quotations as a scientific study - or it runs into troubles.
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