Jump to content
Clark Griswold

Trends in Air to Air Combat

Recommended Posts

I guess unless they threw together a good amount of bombers and leveled Taiwan (since they would have Air Superiority), but that wouldn't leave much left for them to have gained by taking the island, and would certainly have cost them all credibility as a noble nation, and the economic impact that would come from the sanctions etc.

Nevertheless, the thought of there being any place or situation in the world where we wouldn't have Air Superiority, if even for a temporary period, is still alarming. Especially considering how much money and experience we have in that arena. Oh well, hopefully if it ever came down to something like that, the training and experience of our pilots would be enough... that is, if the AF can afford to get our pilots that training and experience.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I guess unless they threw together a good amount of bombers and leveled Taiwan (since they would have Air Superiority), but that wouldn't leave much left for them to have gained by taking the island, and would certainly have cost them all credibility as a noble nation, and the economic impact that would come from the sanctions etc.

True - the day after especially if it is a trading day on the NYSE and at the UN would be very interesting. I think China has made the calculation that military action itself is not a good idea but the credible threat of military action is better as they pursue their idea of One China - Two Systems. Right now, Taiwan ain't bittin' but who knows as things go on...

Taiwan rebuffs Chinese leader's new pitch for unification

Back to the topic of the thread though... Looking at the J-20 which seems to be kinda interceptor-like and with probably better combat radius from the size and fuel capacity compared to the F-22, the PLAAF seems to still want a maneuverable enough fighter (canards for the J-20) but will sacrifice some of that for range, speed and additional weapons or other capabilities (ECM, EA, passive sensors, etc). One AF is voting with its dollars in where it thinks Air to Air is going.

Referencing Col Boyd's E-M theory and the way we have designed 5th gen fighters, have we put too much into that? That is maneuverability / rapid energy change is important but not as much as now as great BVR, good missile load out, combat range, power for speed / altitude to maximize 5th gen engagements and SA capabilities (Data Link, Passive Detection, etc.).

I ask this as Stillion makes that point in his presentation but he takes it too far in my opinion with the idea of C2 mothership controlling UCAVs firing missiles separately but from 1990-2002 about 80% of the kills were with BVR or AAM, and have we reached the point where the fighters still need maneuverability but not at significant expense of speed, range, stealth, sensor capacity, weapons load, etc. Not arguing for an F-111 or a Thud but does a 9G thrust vectoring capable fighter still make sense?

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don't worry, your job is not going anywhere. JSTARS is funded for another 5 years but if I were king, then I would have the USAF fly the Sentinel R1 to fly something modern.

I'm no expert, so I should probably stop now, but it seems in the radar sensor game dish size matters sts, and the bombardier looks to have a smaller canoe. Maybe scientists got clever, and it works just as well so this is a great idea.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If the Air Force purchases enough F-35s for 2 wings with 6 squadrons and 1 FTU, with the intention of using it as a first night strike fighter, it's going down a route similar to the F-117.

Would the unit cost explode if this happened?

Edited by 12xu2a3x3

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm no expert, so I should probably stop now, but it seems in the radar sensor game dish size matters sts, and the bombardier looks to have a smaller canoe. Maybe scientists got clever, and it works just as well so this is a great idea.

Neither am I on GMTI SARs but it is the size, cost and footprint of the HVAA assets is something we have to look at as the big ones time out on the airframes or are just not supportable with old avionics, TF-33s and vacuum tube powered computers. The next generation needs to be on a big business jet and be supportable at a FOB without a wagon train of logistics vehicles and have an endurance on station great enough to not need AR. Not to be a salesman for IAI, but the Israeli AWACS is the way things should be done, 8+ hours on station and their AESA radar updates every 2-4 seconds vice every 20-40 seconds with a rotadome.

Nothing against ACC but they are probably not the Major Command to have these assets in, not sure who would be better but the AWACs and JSTARs should have been replaced by modern systems, even at the expense of a new pointy nose airplane, like the F-35A.

If the Air Force purchases enough F-35s for 2 wings with 6 squadrons and 1 FTU, with the intention of using it as a first night strike fighter, it's going down a route similar to the F-117.

Would the unit cost explode if this happened?

Yup

Edited by Clark Griswold

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

lol 130 million dollar per plane busted by 50 million dollar radar/missile upgrade. we need a combination of LO strike/superiority aircraft (low numbers) and high punch low cost tradition platforms (high numbers).

that way we can go in, knock out the radar and missiles and make them come and duke it out with us if they really want to.

Or we could deploy hundreds of LO versions of the IAI Harpy/Harp and save a ton of money, then send in a small number of LO strike for whatever is leftover, followed by a deluge of conventional. Edited by McDonut

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Or we could deploy hundreds of LO versions of the IAI Harpy/Harp and save a ton of money, then send in a small number of LO strike for whatever is leftover, followed by a deluge of conventional.

would LOVE to see how well those UCAVS work against a military with real EA capes. hell look at what the iranians did.

lets not even get into the scenario of the ultimate trump card. China/North Korea in an act of desperation launch a missile attack on satellites in orbit causing an ablation cascade denying everyone access to space, but more importantly cutting off our single most valuable tools for warfighting. sure levels the playing field pretty quickly

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

would LOVE to see how well those UCAVS work against a military with real EA capes. hell look at what the iranians did.

lets not even get into the scenario of the ultimate trump card. China/North Korea in an act of desperation launch a missile attack on satellites in orbit causing an ablation cascade denying everyone access to space, but more importantly cutting off our single most valuable tools for warfighting. sure levels the playing field pretty quickly

Absolutely, not only that, but EMPs are not just some sci-fi stuff that only exists in the matrix movies.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Referencing Col Boyd's E-M theory and the way we have designed 5th gen fighters, have we put too much into that? That is maneuverability / rapid energy change is important but not as much as now as great BVR, good missile load out, combat range, power for speed / altitude to maximize 5th gen engagements and SA capabilities (Data Link, Passive Detection, etc.).

Features that make a jet maneuverable also improve BVR effectiveness. Compared to Stillion's subsonic, lumbering drones, a supersonic & maneuverable fighter flies higher, imparts more energy to its weapons, has reduced closure turning into a crank/out and accelerates more rapidly to a more effective extension.

WVR or BVR, higher G-loadings can impose greater energy expenditures on enemy weapon employment.

Edited by Supercritical

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

WVR or BVR, higher G-loadings can impose greater energy expenditures on enemy weapon employment.

I always drop my bombs/shoot my missiles with at least 6.9g on the jet to give my weapons that extra "umph".

  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Features that make a jet maneuverable also improve BVR effectiveness. Compared to Stillion's subsonic, lumbering drones, a supersonic & maneuverable fighter flies higher, imparts more energy to its weapons, has reduced closure turning into a crank/out and accelerates more rapidly to a more effective extension.

WVR or BVR, higher G-loadings can impose greater energy expenditures on enemy weapon employment.

Stillion makes the argument that would contradict your assertion about maneuverability and BVR effectiveness.

From page 39 of his report:

Costs of Maneuverability
Just as with speed, there would be no need to reduce the maneuverability of combat aircraft designs if it could be incorporated for “free.” Just as with speed, however, adding features necessary for high maneuverability to a combat aircraft imposes constraints that force aircraft designers to make tradeoffs in other areas of performance and add weight and cost to the aircraft. For example, maneuverability is enhanced by a relatively low wing aspect ratio and a high thrust-to-weight ratio to allow for tight turns and sustain energy at high G-loads. Low wing aspect ratio tends to reduce aerodynamic efficiency, and, as previously mentioned, high thrust-to-weight ratios result in inefficient engine cruise performance.61 High maneuverability also requires strong aircraft structures, and these add significant weight. The load-bearing structure of an aircraft with a design goal of maintaining 9-G turns must be three times as strong as one designed to sustain only 3-Gs. For any given level of aircraft structure technology, this will make the 9-G structure significantly heavier than the 3-G structure if both aircraft are to have the same range and payload. Since aircraft cost is closely correlated with empty weight, adding maneuverability contributes directly to aircraft cost.
Another potential drawback to high-maneuverability designs is that they require significant vertical tail area to facilitate high-angle-of-attack maneuvering. This was not much of an issue before the advent of stealth technology. However, large vertical tail surfaces add significantly to the side radar cross-section of aircraft.62 So, while increased maneuverability certainly contributed to the combat effectiveness and survivability of fighter designs in the past, it is much less clear that its future value will outweigh its costs.
61 Wing aspect ratio is the ratio of the square of an aircraft’s wing span to the area of the wing. For a given wing area, the longer the span, the higher the aspect ratio. Higher aspect ratio wings allow for lower induced drag and greater cruise efficiency, but have higher bending stress for a given load requiring greater structural weight, assuming similar materials, and generally lower roll rates because they have a higher moment of inertia to overcome than a lower aspect ratio wing of the same area. Lower-aspect ratio wings offer higher roll rates and produce more lift at high angles of attack than highaspect ratio wings. Both of these factors have received high priority in fighter designs resulting in relatively stubby wings compared to aircraft designed for efficient cruise flight like airliners.
And page 26
From his report also on Gulf War Air to Air Engagements:
TABLE 1 . SUMMARY OF FIRST GULF WAR AERIAL VICTORIES
Detection and Identification
In twenty-seven of thirty-three engagements against fixed wing aircraft (82%), AWACS provided target information and identification before U.S. fighters detected enemy aircraft. On average AWACS detected and identified enemy aircraft while they were still over 70 nm from U.S. fighters. In the four engagements where ACM occurred, U.S. pilots first detected enemy aircraft at 5 nm or more on radar.
Air Combat Maneuvering (ACM)
In only four of the thirteen visual range encounters did U.S. fighters engage in significant ACM to attain firing position. Only 15% of all engagements and 38% of visual range engagements involved ACM.
BVR Engagements
Sixteen of thirty-three engagements between fixed wing aircraft occurred BVR (48%). On average, U.S. pilots detected enemy aircraft on their own radars at 42 nm and launched missiles at 10 nm. U.S. pilots fired twenty-eight AIM-7s. Twenty-two of the AIM-7s hit their target or the debris (79%).
Speed
At no time did any U.S. aircraft exceed 650 knots (Mach 1.03 at 12,000 ft), even against targets moving at 700 knots or more.
I think it is a matter of degrees, obviously a fighter should not be load limited to 3Gs but if you could have significant range improvement, sustainable high cruise speed, RCS reduction, more weapons / ECM, and enough maneuverability would that not make a better fighter / interceptor?
I still disagree with his idea / concept but I respect his research and presentation of argument. Maneuver is still a major factor and will continue to be in air to air engagement, it just needs to share the stage with SA, LO, range and high cruise speed.
Edit: poor posting technique for referenced material by the sage of food additives.
Edited by Clark Griswold

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Absolutely, not only that, but EMPs are not just some sci-fi stuff that only exists in the matrix movies.

34 mins later, NK would be vaporized, with hardened 1950s technology.

And they know it's true, because we've done it before.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You're right Clark: it's a Catch-22.
-The 3G jet's wreckage will be lighter and less expensive than the 9G jet that shot it down.
-An F-22 pilot might punch as his jet flames out, but only after clearing the skies of J-20s that traded performance for RTB gas.
And with another Catch-22, I think Stillion unwittingly sabotages his argument by using the AIM-120 in his scenario. Why? Today's BVR missiles are Mach4+, high T/W and with control surfaces capable of dozens of G's. Designing frickin fast missiles extends effective range because high closure denies the target the time to draw out the distance the missile must travel. As platforms go, sit down sometime (if you haven't) and look at RMax and stern WEZ for combinations of sub/supersonic shooters/targets. Mach snot does heinous things to the WEZ offensively and defensively, all I'm gonna say about that. It's true: a subsonic low T/W missile with high-aspect ratio wings and low RCS might have enough range to chase its target all the way back to base, but now you've become a JASSM shooter and Red Air has killed all your dudes.
Lastly what do you mean by "sustainable high cruise speed"? If you're a Stillionaire, you're talking 0.85M tops. Even if the jet is a little faster, matching thrust to level-flight 0.85M would provide more valuable altitude. If you desire speeds >Mach for the reasons in the last paragraph, you start down a logical design path:
-First, you commit to low aspect ratio to tuck wings inside the Mach cone
-Second, you need higher T/W to push through Mach
-Next, you need larger tail surfaces for the altitudes you will likely employ at and...
-Finally, to enhance crank and E-Pole maneuvers from >Mach you need G capability
All this to say that you're right: it's a trade-off. I think we've (correctly) emphasized performance; we worry about money and fuel later.
Edited by Supercritical
  • Upvote 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You're right Clark: it's a Catch-22.
-The 3G jet's wreckage will be lighter and less expensive than the 9G jet that shot it down.
-An F-22 pilot might punch as his jet flames out, but only after clearing the skies of J-20s that traded performance for RTB gas.
And with another Catch-22, I think Stillion unwittingly sabotages his argument by using the AIM-120 in his scenario. Why? Today's BVR missiles are Mach4+, high T/W and with control surfaces capable of dozens of G's. Designing frickin fast missiles extends effective range because high closure denies the target the time to draw out the distance the missile must travel. As platforms go, sit down sometime (if you haven't) and look at RMax and stern WEZ for combinations of sub/supersonic shooters/targets. Mach snot does heinous things to the WEZ offensively and defensively, all I'm gonna say about that. It's true: a subsonic low T/W missile with high-aspect ratio wings and low RCS might have enough range to chase its target all the way back to base, but now you've become a JASSM shooter and Red Air has killed all your dudes.
Lastly what do you mean by "sustainable high cruise speed"? If you're a Stillionaire, you're talking 0.85M tops. Even if the jet is a little faster, matching thrust to level-flight 0.85M would provide more valuable altitude. If you desire speeds >Mach for the reasons in the last paragraph, you start down a logical design path:
-First, you commit to low aspect ratio to tuck wings inside the Mach cone
-Second, you need higher T/W to push through Mach
-Next, you need larger tail surfaces for the altitudes you will likely employ at and...
-Finally, to enhance crank and E-Pole maneuvers from >Mach you need G capability
All this to say that you're right: it's a trade-off. I think we've (correctly) emphasized performance; we worry about money and fuel later.

We'll worry about the money later? Sounds awesome, that's how you wound up with only 187 F-22's, great idea.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

would LOVE to see how well those UCAVS work against a military with real EA capes. hell look at what the iranians did.

lets not even get into the scenario of the ultimate trump card. China/North Korea in an act of desperation launch a missile attack on satellites in orbit causing an ablation cascade denying everyone access to space, but more importantly cutting off our single most valuable tools for warfighting. sure levels the playing field pretty quickly

The Chinese won't do that. They'll hack the living hell out of every space system we have and toast our sats without having to get out of their pajamas.

As for the Iran drone incident example, that's like using the sole F-117 shootdown as a reason not to develop LO technology.

But I still think you are right about the issue. Current drone tech wouldn't be able to pay the bill in a CDO environment, but it will someday. If we are smart about it, we will make that day happen soon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

AESA radar missiles. Worth the cost and effort to develop?

Bad News for U.S. Warplane Pilots: Russia’s New Dogfighting Missile Can’t Miss (Just the title of the article, they seem to be selling it rather than reporting on it)

Japan Upgrading 60 F-2s With AAM-4, J/APG-2

Continuing with that idea of better missile, is that the realistic solution to the F-35 and its compromises? Maybe it's not the best fighter but has one helluva missile (if we put the money into the effort).

Edited by Clark Griswold

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

AESA radar missiles. Worth the cost and effort to develop?

Bad News for U.S. Warplane Pilots: Russia’s New Dogfighting Missile Can’t Miss (Just the title of the article, they seem to be selling it rather than reporting on it)

Japan Upgrading 60 F-2s With AAM-4, J/APG-2

Continuing with that idea of better missile, is that the realistic solution to the F-35 and its compromises? Maybe it's not the best fighter but has one helluva missile (if we put the money into the effort).

Lockheed Test Pilot Calls For Longer Range AIM-120

So you're proving my argument? Stop wasting money. Build more f-16s and give them better missiles

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So you're proving my argument? Stop wasting money. Build more f-16s and give them better missiles

Yep, but we are well past V1 with F-35 so it is now a matter of how do you mitigate or maximize it depending on whether your outlook is glass half empty or half full.

AESA missile guidance seems like another advantage to improve the odds when the 35 will have to do air to air.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yep, but we are well past V1 with F-35 so it is now a matter of how do you mitigate or maximize it depending on whether your outlook is glass half empty or half full.

AESA missile guidance seems like another advantage to improve the odds when the 35 will have to do air to air.

It's a cat and mouse game and all I'm saying is it's cheaper to builder better radars and guidance then it is to do a clean sheet LO platform like we keep doing. Hell the silent eagle looked tits man

Bottom line is in a glass half empty guy with the f35. We canceled the f22 for less crimes an it was cheaper too. (Ok ok we cut orders. Same diff )

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

it's cheaper to builder better radars and guidance then it is to do a clean sheet LO platform like we keep doing

True, but it also is far less effective capability-wise than what we need. No matter what you do, you cannot make an F-16 into what is needed to cover the next 30-40 years, you can only make it better to a point, and that point misses the mark if it's to not be flown in conjunction with assets like the F-35.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

True, but it also is far less effective capability-wise than what we need. No matter what you do, you cannot make an F-16 into what is needed to cover the next 30-40 years, you can only make it better to a point, and that point misses the mark if it's to not be flown in conjunction with assets like the F-35.

Agreed. I guess in arguing against clean sheets that have everything and the kitchen sink. Think iterative, not revolutionary. If we can turn jets quicker and cheaper they can uptake the technology faster. Gone are the days when the military has the best technology.

We also need to see that our competitors are content with letting us spend ourselves into oblivion becoming more and more reliant on computers. There is an inherent problem with that. It can be seen manifesting in the Chinese having the largest hacking outfit in the world. Followed by the Russians. This is no coincidence.

My biggest issue lies in the fact that we are not fundamentally changing aerial combat. We are digitizing it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

My biggest issue lies in the fact that we are not fundamentally changing aerial combat. We are digitizing it.

But isn't that the current evolution? Aerodynamics are largely the same, and sure there are advancements to be made, but computational advancements can be much more quickly and cheaply upgraded than physical ones.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But isn't that the current evolution? Aerodynamics are largely the same, and sure there are advancements to be made, but computational advancements can be much more quickly and cheaply upgraded than physical ones.

True but we are over leveraging our capabilities on it trying to make giant leaps ahead of our adversary's. The problem is by the time the weapons system goes operational it's been so long and telegraphed the enemy quickly has a counter for it.

And besides. I fear that digitization of air warfare will lead to over reliance on automation and the temptation for training standards to dip for the sake of cost ala Airbus and the top notch Asian flight schools. Just look at the recent JQP a10 pilot flyif in shit weather dropping bombs on target. That seat of your pants kind of flying is what I don't want to loose

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But isn't that the current evolution? Aerodynamics are largely the same, and sure there are advancements to be made, but computational advancements can be much more quickly and cheaply upgraded than physical ones.

I respectfully disagree good sir.

You're definitely right that computational advancements are faster and easier than physical ones, but I think that there is indeed room for improvement in the aerodynamic front. Especially since we now have avionics and computers advanced enough to take advantage of tailless and/or swept forward designs. The tailless concept of the FB-22 looked pretty decent in my eye.

DSI and conformal tanks are good examples of recent aerodynamic improvements too.

dvlax40 also brings up some good points about training standards and enemy countermeasures. You could also say a lot for just flight time in general.

The way I see it, technology ebbs and flows, but training and experience are invaluable elements that stand the test of time.

The good thing about gadgets/avionics/tech advancements though this that they are essentially instantly transferable to another airframe if the current airframe doesn't work out. E.G. the Commanche tech that went into the other airframes in the Army including Apaches and the modified 60s used in the Bin Laden raid.

Wow I need to hurry up and get an engineering degree before the rest of my life becomes little more than mental masturbation on an interweb forum in blogospace....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

.

Wow I need to hurry up and get an engineering degree before the rest of my life becomes little more than mental masturbation on an interweb forum in blogospace....

Trust me. Those dude hate their lives. We get to wax philosophically about the best course. They know the best course and still have to tow the company line. ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×