ST21 Super Tomcat

Military aircraft - Post cold war aircraft, including for example B-2, Gripen, F-18E/F Super Hornet, Rafale, and Typhoon.
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Tiger05

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Unread post19 Oct 2019, 17:14

madrat wrote:Why would F-14D get a non-compete order when F/A-18 with F1x0-class motors gets you power to run something overall easier to maintain and with true multirole capacity from the get go? Digital FBW. Automated leading edge extensions. AMRAAM. Internal signal detectors and integrated CM equipment and mission computer software of Hornet. Buddy pack systems. Same bus architecture as Hornet. Same manufacturer as Hornet. Already familiar vendor for working with APG-63 which was architecturally similar to APG-71 and could have gone APG-71 route if necessary. More hardpoints for external fuel and ordnance. The only thing it didn't have was F-14 electro-optical gear for the intercept mission. Otherwise they were long on experience with Tomcat class fighters. But significantly lower RCS. Maybe Super Hornet evolves by a hybrid Eagle-Hornet program to benefit what became F-15E.


Your hypothetical F110-powered SH would still lack the range of the F-14D (let alone the range of the ST21 with its increased internal fuel capacity) though. Remember that the SH is a smaller and much draggier design than the F-14. It is actually more comparable to the F-15C in terms of size and MTOW.

Regarding the hardpoints, the SH and F-14D are actually fairly even matched here. The SH has 11 hardpoints against 10 for the F-14D keeping in mind that, realistically, a SH would need to carry at least one EFT (but often 2 or even 3) to get anywhere. The F-14D OTOH had long legs even on internal fuel alone.
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Tiger05

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Unread post19 Oct 2019, 19:42

aaam wrote:The original reason for the F/A-18E/F was the same as for F-14 Quickstrike: an interim aircraft to provide strike capability pending arrival of the plane the Navy really needed for that role, A-X. F/A-18C/D was scheduled to conclude its production run, the ones on order would have filled out the Navy's needs (there being only so much space on a flight deck). When SH was ordered into production, additional "Classic" Hornets had to be ordered to fill the decks for the F-14Ds that wouldn't be coming and also because without a "warm" Hornet production line, the cost of the Super Hornet would go up drastically... how do you keep the workforce and infrastructure in place if you're not building anything?

The larger fuel tanks were possible and MDD had even studied adopting them on the Classics, the Canadians were already using them, but it would take some work to get them operational for carrier work. However, the momentum for a totally new aircraft (which MDD naturally favored) meant that was not pursued. Besides, if you had Quickstrike, wold you need to keep the Classic Hornets? I dunno.

Again, the thing to keep in mind is that the shutdown of the F-14D and the decision to build the Super Hornet was initially a DoD, not Navy, decision.


Hindsight is 20/20 but cant help but feel that they (whether it was DoD or Navy) didnt really play their cards right at the time. This strategy of pursuing both the A/F-X and the SH seems very questionable to me given the context back then. Lets see... The Cold War had ended, the USSR was no more, the public was clamoring for the "peace dividend" and defense budgets were being slashed. There was few, if any, political appetite for any new major military programs. On top of that, Naval Aviation's reputation was at an all-time low after the Tailhook scandal, the A-12 debacle and relatively poor performances during Desert Storm. Yet, seemingly unfazed by all this, the powers that be were requesting funds for not one but TWO new major aircraft programs for the Navy including an "interim" aircraft. This does not look like a winning strategy to me and i am not surprised that A/F-X died fairly quickly (ironically to pay for the SH). And thus the "interim" solution became the permanent solution. Brilliant move. :roll:

I dont have all the facts but it seems pretty apparent to me that they were slow to adapt to the new harsh realities of the post-Cold War. They should have examined their options better and came to the conclusion that there were perfectly viable alternatives available right now. Look closely at what Air Force had done with the F-15 and how it had turned it into a superb multirole fighter and start from there. THAT was the example to follow instead of trying to reinvent the wheel with the SH. Both the F-14D and F/A-18C were in production, were very capable and had considerable growth potential left. Continue procurement of existing types in an upgraded form until the next decade or so while perhaps pursuing A/F-X (or alternatively the ST21) as a long term ambition for a future F-14D replacement post-2015 would have been a far more prudent and reasonable decision IMO. And it would have been much less controversial and likely an easier sell to Congress.

But maybe its just me talking drivel (again)... :P
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madrat

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Unread post20 Oct 2019, 03:22

Tiger05 wrote:Your hypothetical F110-powered SH would still lack the range of the F-14D (let alone the range of the ST21 with its increased internal fuel capacity) though.

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Tiger05 wrote:Remember that the SH is a smaller and much draggier design than the F-14. It is actually more comparable to the F-15C in terms of size and MTOW.

No, the Eagle is much bigger than the basic Super Hornet. Your fuel load, drag, etc grows with the bigger body.
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Tiger05 wrote:Regarding the hardpoints, the SH and F-14D are actually fairly even matched here. The SH has 11 hardpoints against 10 for the F-14D keeping in mind that, realistically, a SH would need to carry at least one EFT (but often 2 or even 3) to get anywhere. The F-14D OTOH had long legs even on internal fuel alone.

You are correct, that would be a factor. But to continue the Tomcat-derived development was not cheaper than Super Hornet. It would be interesting to see what competition would bring. I think you'd of seen the F-15 body adapted to decks using what they knew from the Super Hornet program. The Tomcat and Eagle-derived Super Hornet in a competition would certainly raise eyebrows.
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aaam

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Unread post21 Oct 2019, 00:32

Please let me address a couple of your points:

"Hindsight is 20/20..." .

What I wrote on Oct 13-14 was known at the time. It's not hindsight.

"This strategy of pursuing both the A/F-X and the SH seems very questionable...". T

The issue was that with the (probably correct) cancellation of the A-12 and the cancellation of the (in hindsight, arguably incorrect) A-6F, the USN was in a bad way regarding strike assets. The original reason for the SH, like the proposed F-14 Quickstrike, was for an interim aircraft to act in the strike role until the plane the Navy really needed, the A-X, could arrive. With the loss of the F-14D, it was determined that that aircraft would need more fighter capability and thus the requirements were evolved into the A/F-X.

"... relatively poor performances during Desert Storm.". Remember that NAVAIR was constrained by the Air Tasking Order, and they weren't the ones controlling that.

Your point about the irony of the A/F-X's cancellation is well taken.
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aaam

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Unread post21 Oct 2019, 02:14

Madrat:

If I may, I'd like to address some of your points, but in the interest of brevity I'm not going to quote everything you included in you posts.

Super Hornet (SH) is indeed pretty big. It's only three feet shorter than the F-15E and actually has a greater wingspan.

Regarding the cost of developing Quickstrike (QS) vs. that of developing the SH, there's no question that to develop the F-14D QS from the F-14D would cost far less, even MDD didn't dispute this. You weren't actually doing that much additional. The weapons additions were already planned, you ported over the existing software from the F-15E, the A2G sensors were off the shelf, biggest change to the cockpit was a revised display and NVG compatibility. Basically, modifications to an in-production aircraft. SH, OTOH, was a whole new aircraft with all that entailed. Super Tomcat 21 (ST) would definitely cost more to develop than QS, but a number of sources at the time estimated it would still be less than the SH development bill. Again, because you're doing a modification to an existing aircraft as opposed to developing a new one. The biggest confirmation of this is that you could take a F-14D or QS and rebuild it into a ST, and get into service years sooner. You could not take a Hornet and rebuild it into a SH. It was a new aircraft.

Regarding the "non-compete" order for the F-14D, Navy looked at both upgrading the F-14 and an upgraded F/A-18 in the mid '80s. After evaluation they decided to go with the F-14D. In the case of the SH, there was not competitor, just a directive from DoD to go forth with it.



I'm not sure why you say the SH was derived from the Eagle; maybe I'm misreading what you say. A QS would be a carrier born F-15E, with certain additional capabilities (ISAR for one) , but not as much payload/range; the Strike Eagle carries a loooottt of fuel.

Regarding the radar/fire control, the Tomcat's APG-71 was a marriage of the Eagle's APG-70's computers and processors (85% commonality), enhanced, with the much more powerful transmitter and larger antenna of the AWG-9. APG-70 was derived from the ARPG-63. SH's APG-73 was, according to Raytheon, an upgrade of the APG-65. The APG-65 didn't have the power and capability of the '63, but had the big advantage of being smaller and lighter than the -63, something vital to the Hornet.

Oh, and AMRAAM? F-14 was the first aircraft to fire (non-guided) AMRAAM. It was decided that in the '90s there wasn't going to be as much Navy need for enhanced fighter capability as greater strike capability. So the money budgeted to integrate AMRAAM with the F-14 was reprogrammed to add LANTIRN instead.


Now regarding the proposed SDH (Super Duper Hornet), what's the point? Part of the brilliance of the F414 (derived from the F412 for the canceled A-12) was that despite it's higher thrust, it has the same dimensions as the F404 and is less than 200 lbs. heavier. That's partly why they could espouse the fiction that the SH is just a mod of the Classic Hornet. It's also why the F414 is a good candidate to save the Tejas.

The F110, is much larger and heavier than the 404/414. The diameter alone is more than 11" greater. This would a significantly bigger center section, which would drive an even more extensive design change for the SDH than was required for the SH, and that was a new aircraft in itself. Significantly greater design and development costs. Given the shape of the aircraft, would it be able to meet the required exhaust to blast deflector distance (one of the reasons Northrop had to redesign their ATF into a canard for the NATF was that distance)?

Yes, you'd have a lot more thrust, but you'd still have that relatively draggy wing and shape at higher speeds, and thrust is only one factor in aircraft design and capabilities. I give you Dassault's superb Rafale. It has a lot less thrust than the SH, but compare its agility, payload/range and behavior around the boat. The fixed wing would require less maintenance than the Tomcat's vg. but that's not going to be anywhere near enough to make up for what it would cost to get the SDH into service and to buy it. And if you do get it into service (years later), would you get dramatically more capability than a QS or ST? I concede the maintenance costs would be less, although the requirements for the F110 might be more than for the later F414, but everything is a tradeoff.
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aaam

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Unread post21 Oct 2019, 02:40

Wrightwing:

Regarding F414 EPE, although a number of programs would like it no one has shown any indication they'd be willing to fund what it would cost to get it. it. In fact the "classic" EPE as originally mooted isn't even on offer anymore.
Last edited by aaam on 21 Oct 2019, 18:49, edited 2 times in total.
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mixelflick

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Unread post21 Oct 2019, 14:21

I wouldn't count on it..

The Navy for whatever reason doesn't want bigger motors. It may be the greater unit cost, it may be the TBO getting lower, it may be SFC going way up. Whatever "it" is, it's preventing them from giving the Hornet what it's needed since day 1: More thrust.

But it is delivered on time and either on or under budget. It flies day in and day out, performs multiple missions and can carry just about everything in the Navy's inventory. For what they've been using it for, it'll do. May even be the best solution for the wars it fought from from 2003 to present. The next war? Tough to say..

If we get into it with China, I'd have some real reservations about Chinese Flankers and the like, especially when paired with the PL-15 and upcoming PL-21. They really need to get the AIM-260 on the SH and fast, because as it stands its out punched by several Chinese aircraft (J-16, SU-35 and J-20). I suspect the J-10B/C as well, even though that's considered a "light" fighter.

It can certainly handle the J-15, but the Chinese know that so will be eager to get their other aircraft in play in the event of a confrontation. Way too close for comfort right now...
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aaam

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Unread post21 Oct 2019, 18:47

mixelflick wrote:I wouldn't count on it..

The Navy for whatever reason doesn't want bigger motors. It may be the greater unit cost, it may be the TBO getting lower, it may be SFC going way up. Whatever "it" is, it's preventing them from giving the Hornet what it's needed since day 1: More thrust.

But it is delivered on time and either on or under budget. It flies day in and day out, performs multiple missions and can carry just about everything in the Navy's inventory. For what they've been using it for, it'll do. May even be the best solution for the wars it fought from from 2003 to present. The next war? Tough to say...


The thing with the EPE is more the development cost that seems to be the driver. GE said in its original proposal that an EPE would have the same TBO (or actually better, since it was using the EDE engine as the baseline) as existing F414s. What everyone seems to be saying is that whle the more powerful version sure would be nice, the expected performance gains don't seem to be worth enough to justify spending the up fron money to get them.
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madrat

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Unread post22 Oct 2019, 03:15

I was thinking more along the lines of merging what became F-15E and F/A-18E-F into a single fighter program to cure two birds with one stone. They would then markey F/A-18 as the mid-range fighter and F-15 derivative (maybe its own designation like F-24?) to market to both the USN and USAF. I'm not so sure the variable intake would have to be retained, since a fixed intake could have reduced RCS characteristics. Definitely would want the canted tails like the Super Hornet, not much different than F-15SE was proposed. And I think you go for the wingtip AIM-120 rather than the AIM-9. The wing has to fold, but try to keep as much of the original F-15 wing as possible. Like what eventually came to the F-15E, add the CFT's for larger external loads. Maybe even add the S/MTD ACTIVE canards, which were really just modified tails from a Hornet...

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mixelflick

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Unread post22 Oct 2019, 15:32

The F-24 looks very Foxbat like, especially the big intakes, raked wing and canted vertical tails.

I dunno how this aircraft would perform, but we could speculate. Looks fast, as in mach 2.5 plus fast. Is that operationally useful though? Experience tells us no. Big nose means plenty of room for a big radar though, perhaps the biggest and most powerful around (aren't those already flying on Advanced Eagles?).

The LERX's speak to a slower landing speed, as well as the possibility for high alpha maneuvers. I dunno. It looks big, heavy and expensive. Could probably handle every mission though and do it better than either the SH or SDH. The big question is, would the Navy buy it?

Years ago, I would have said yes. They seemed to be uncompromising on kinematic performance. Obviously, they compromised quite a bit on the SH. There would have to be a strategic shift in thinking back to the uncompromising camp, or at least moving in that direction.

We are getting the F-35C though, an aircraft far superior to those just discussed. To me, that's a movement back into the uncompromising direction, although not ful tilt. What will really be interesting is what direction the Navy goes on F/A-XX.

A return to full up uncompromising on performance?
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aaam

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Unread post22 Oct 2019, 20:06

You know, with all this talk of a Super Duper Hornet or an F-24 (which would take a lot of rework for carrier capability), there's one other solution for that time that's being overlooked : Just continue with the A/F-X. Better than both and probalby cheaper to develop.
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sferrin

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Unread post22 Oct 2019, 20:55

mixelflick wrote:The F-24 looks very Foxbat like, especially the big intakes, raked wing and canted vertical tails.


More like a Vigilante.

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"There I was. . ."
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madrat

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Unread post22 Oct 2019, 23:26

aaam wrote:You know, with all this talk of a Super Duper Hornet or an F-24 (which would take a lot of rework for carrier capability), there's one other solution for that time that's being overlooked : Just continue with the A/F-X. Better than both and probalby cheaper to develop.

It's hard to argue with that logic if the money had already been spent.
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edpop

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Unread post24 Oct 2019, 08:30

Don't forget there was a striker version known as the "Bombcat".
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aaam

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Unread post24 Oct 2019, 19:25

edpop wrote:Don't forget there was a striker version known as the "Bombcat".
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