Penetrating Counter Air / Next Generation Air Dominance

Military aircraft - Post cold war aircraft, including for example B-2, Gripen, F-18E/F Super Hornet, Rafale, and Typhoon.
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weasel1962

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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 00:39

The extra range does mean tanking occurs further back which either gives tankers a safer zone or allows counter-air more time to intercept.
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wrightwing

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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 01:39

It may also give the option of only needing to tank on the return trip, while keeping tankers at a safer distance. That also preserves a greater element of surprise.
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element1loop

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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 02:38

quicksilver wrote:"So the first deep Counter-Air strike wave had better be overwhelming and persistent, and not require tankers to get close."

Unless some kind of warp drive is invented in the next ten years, every (reusable) asset will require tanking -- all of 'em -- because you can't otherwise afford 'overwhelming' or 'persistent' or the range implied in getting 'close' (or 'close enough' to go along with the other two).


One of the original touted aims of PCA was the ability to loiter within enemy airspace. High-altitude loiter-speed (i.e. barely within envelope low-speed, minimum drag possible) engine efficiency and stealth design emphasis gets that. Popcorn pointed out that the propulsion planned is not an engine we know about.

The challenge then is penetrating via not being tracked early (i.e. HF/VHF). Speed is not a priority, stealth will be. I expect wedge-shaped with shorter wings, large wing area and high body-lift (operating well above mid-latitude jetstream loiter inefficiency, but can still take advantage of it for cruising) for very low drag levels with M~0.7 loiter with airliner-like low fuel burns for the size and weight of aircraft. Very much like evolving an F-117A approach of sneaking in slow, unnoticed, then pole-axing an opponent in a couple of minutes. While the larger more obvious external air operation gets rolling, then PCA hangs around to take on targets of opportunity and to kill with A2A then get out past the incoming F-35 lines to find a tanker and RTB.

At the same time the next waves of PCA are going in deep to take out what your ISR detected and prioritized.
Accel + Alt + VLO + DAS + MDF + Radial Distance = LIFE . . . Always choose Stealth
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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 03:19

If the intent is also to incorporate longer-ranged AAMs, then launch speed will still be a factor.
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element1loop

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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 03:29

weasel1962 wrote:If the intent is also to incorporate longer-ranged AAMs, then launch speed will still be a factor.


Yes, but the beauty of this is ...

I expect wedge-shaped with shorter wings, large wing area and high body-lift (operating well above mid-latitude jetstream loiter inefficiency, but can still take advantage of it for cruising) for very low drag levels


... that it's also the ideal shape for going fast at high altitude so the engine gets that capacity also. An observer just looking at the shape (on the ground) would presume it's optimized for very high speed, when it's actually optimized for low-speed loitering as well (much like the F-22A is in that respect).

I should also mention the trading of altitude for speed, rather than relying on a throttle alone to get the launch parameters, thus minimizing fuel burn and heating while allowing for a gradual climb back to the prior level. If you have strong stealth and the long-range sensors for it, you will also have the time to do that (plus coordinate with other PCAs and their data to get A2A kills).
Last edited by element1loop on 18 Dec 2018, 03:47, edited 1 time in total.
Accel + Alt + VLO + DAS + MDF + Radial Distance = LIFE . . . Always choose Stealth
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jetblast16

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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 03:46

PCA -> laser-armed, Mach 2+ super cruiser, vertical tailless, AAM lobber, all-aspect stealth, multi-spectral sensor packed, sensor fusion beyond F-35

Of course it won't be affordable :bang:
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element1loop

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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 03:52

jetblast16 wrote:PCA -> laser-armed, Mach 2+ super cruiser, vertical tailless, AAM lobber, all-aspect stealth, multi-spectral sensor packed, sensor fusion beyond F-35

Of course it won't be affordable :bang:


Again, the original PCA idea was to rapid-prototype and produce a basic airframe in service [i.e. with less capability than an F-35A] but with a lot of adaptability and flexibility allotted to the design fielded, then develop, evolve and add to it incrementally, over decades, as the penetration requirements and the role evolved. i.e. cheaper and shorter into service.
Accel + Alt + VLO + DAS + MDF + Radial Distance = LIFE . . . Always choose Stealth
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quicksilver

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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 06:14

Fantasy...and an expensive one that the USAF cannot afford; $300M per pony, and they’re still choking on $85M F-35s in the numbers they need to recap the majority of the force.
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element1loop

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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 11:07

Regardless, in a period when strategic assessments indicate Great Power conflicts could realistically occur, the budget constraints, thinking and assumptions of the prior period of low-levels of threat are no longer applicable.
Accel + Alt + VLO + DAS + MDF + Radial Distance = LIFE . . . Always choose Stealth
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quicksilver

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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 14:18

Sweeping generalizations do not erase geography and the laws of physics.

Do the math. Where do they have to come from? Where do they have to go? How long do they have to stay there (airborne)? Where do they have to return to? What weapons will they carry and how many (internally, no less). By your claims they have to be overwhelming (ie numbers) and persistent (stay for a while) in the middle of contested airspace. And the systems cimmands overseeing the project are oh-for-three on delivering the newest shiney object on time and on budget, while Congressional oversight says the unit cost will ONLY be 300% of what the most recent government acquisition ordeal comes to.

How’s that B21 thing going? How’s that new tanker going? How about a new land-based strategic deterrent?

To geography and lop, let’s add money, politics and government bureaucracy.
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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 16:20

quicksilver wrote:Fantasy...and an expensive one that the USAF cannot afford; $300M per pony, and they’re still choking on $85M F-35s in the numbers they need to recap the majority of the force.


As excited as I am for PCA, I have to agree - thing is going to be hella expensive.

The USAF is in real jeopardy of not being able to afford 1,700 F-35's, and a truncated order just drives the per unit cost up (for everyone, not just the USAF). I agree the capability is nice to have, but what's more important?

1.) Fielding small numbers of USAF "superfighters" to gain air superiority over a foreign country's mainland, or...
2.) Fielding an air force full of cutting edge strike fighters, vs. continuing to fly geriatric F-15's and 16's?

As much as I'd like both, I think #2 is more important. It may mean we're not able to impose air dominance over the Chinese mainland, but is that really necessary? To my mind, it's more important to checkmate them outside of their borders. Build an Air Force that can hold and keep Japan, S.Korea, Guam, Taiwan etc.. Besides, what kind of foreign policy demands we take China altogether?

Let the Chinese have China. We'll take everything else..
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crosshairs

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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 19:16

mixelflick wrote:
quicksilver wrote:Fantasy...and an expensive one that the USAF cannot afford; $300M per pony, and they’re still choking on $85M F-35s in the numbers they need to recap the majority of the force.


As excited as I am for PCA, I have to agree - thing is going to be hella expensive.

The USAF is in real jeopardy of not being able to afford 1,700 F-35's, and a truncated order just drives the per unit cost up (for everyone, not just the USAF). I agree the capability is nice to have, but what's more important?

1.) Fielding small numbers of USAF "superfighters" to gain air superiority over a foreign country's mainland, or...
2.) Fielding an air force full of cutting edge strike fighters, vs. continuing to fly geriatric F-15's and 16's?

As much as I'd like both, I think #2 is more important. It may mean we're not able to impose air dominance over the Chinese mainland, but is that really necessary? To my mind, it's more important to checkmate them outside of their borders. Build an Air Force that can hold and keep Japan, S.Korea, Guam, Taiwan etc.. Besides, what kind of foreign policy demands we take China altogether?

Let the Chinese have China. We'll take everything else..


You have to define what expensive means. To me and my salary, a brand new Cessna SKylane is hella expensive.

The F-15s and F-16s are wearing out. The US has something like 175 F-15C/D and roughly 200 of the Strike Eagle. The C/D are irrelevant in a modern battlefield and far, far too out numbered.

Don't forget what the best defense is: a strong offense. Fielding a force of aircraft to keep the Chinese and (ahem the North Koreans) from trying to expand is a losing strategy because the Chinese will challenge the US every change it gets. Look at what's going on with freedom of navigation in the world's free oceans because the Chinese decided to build some islands with runways and missiles on them.

To counter the Chinese, you need a variety of systems that can penetrate their airspace. The B-21 will be one "hella" important asset when it comes to that.

If the US can field an ultra long legged PCA that can penetrate their homeland, that will shift their focus from expanding overseas to defense of the homeland. We WANT to stop them from developing overseas bases.

The US needs to contain the Chinese threat from expanding. The way to do that is to threaten their homeland.

B-21
PCA
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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 20:12

quicksilver wrote:Congressional oversight says the unit cost will ONLY be 300% of what the most recent government acquisition ordeal comes to.


Completely invented numbers and they don't even bother to use Air Force (or even Navy) inflation indices
for fixed-wing aircraft for outyear estimations. So it's useless even as a budgetary guide.

quicksilver wrote:How’s that B21 thing going?

Fixed-price acquisition

quicksilver wrote:How’s that new tanker going?

Fixed-price acquisition

quicksilver wrote: How about a new land-based strategic deterrent?

Essentially fixed because ICBM cost is 80% determined by propulsion stack which is more or less
shared between the Navy, NASA and commercial/DOD space.
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sferrin

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Unread post18 Dec 2018, 20:13

mixelflick wrote:
quicksilver wrote:Fantasy...and an expensive one that the USAF cannot afford; $300M per pony, and they’re still choking on $85M F-35s in the numbers they need to recap the majority of the force.


As excited as I am for PCA, I have to agree - thing is going to be hella expensive.

The USAF is in real jeopardy of not being able to afford 1,700 F-35's, and a truncated order just drives the per unit cost up (for everyone, not just the USAF). I agree the capability is nice to have, but what's more important?

1.) Fielding small numbers of USAF "superfighters" to gain air superiority over a foreign country's mainland, or...
2.) Fielding an air force full of cutting edge strike fighters, vs. continuing to fly geriatric F-15's and 16's?

As much as I'd like both, I think #2 is more important. It may mean we're not able to impose air dominance over the Chinese mainland, but is that really necessary? To my mind, it's more important to checkmate them outside of their borders. Build an Air Force that can hold and keep Japan, S.Korea, Guam, Taiwan etc.. Besides, what kind of foreign policy demands we take China altogether?

Let the Chinese have China. We'll take everything else..


It's not just over China's mainland. The China Sea theater is huge and the F-22 doesn't have the legs.
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weasel1962

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Unread post19 Dec 2018, 01:13

Budgets are not completely invented. What the CBO, which is the budgeting office, does is to lay down markers on affordability. I think the fact that they have incorporated this into projections suggest its affordable at $300m a pop, if there isn't massive cost overruns and a second point. That second point being that if its going to be at $300m a pop with current F-35 acquisition, there needs to be an increase in budget (or consequently some movement in F-35 acquisition). Some read the 2nd part as unaffordable, others would read that it merely needs some planning.

I don't think F-22s are currently too short ranged. This depends on basing. On south china sea, what the CVs can deploy is way more than the PLAAF/PLAN basing capability in that locality. F-22s from Guam can already reach that locality w tanker support. For Taiwan and China near shores, the main available bases are in Korea and Japan. If deployed from those bases, the range of the F-22 is enough, even without significant tanker support. What would require significantly more tanker support would be basing from Guam.

How would PCA change the above w added fuel? On basing from Guam, it will still need tanker support, just less. However, current tanker support from Guam is relatively safe because its a long way from China so in my mind, its not really that useful. On basing from Korea/Japan, it increases loiter. Whether that's worth the added fuel carried is a question mark. Convince the Philippines to open a base and problem solved.

Overall, I'm not currently convinced a massive increase in fuel load for PCA is useful. An increase corresponding to the higher thrust next gen engines that would preserve the current combat radius would be logical but beyond that, I'm not sure. I'm not a F-22 pilot either so there would be operational issues that I won't be aware of but based on public info, I don't see the value for a china context.
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