CSBA Analyst Calls For F-35C Redesign

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SpudmanWP

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Unread post14 Feb 2019, 01:38

To reduce the impact of F/A-18 E/Fs on long-range CVW capacity, the following mission analysis assumes that F/A-18
E/Fs and the future FA-XX fighter are both able to conduct refueling operations using buddy tanks and that F-35Cs are
used for OCA and escort operations in support of strikes when FA-XXs are needed as tankers. This approach was chosen
because of the potential for the FA-XX to be an F/A-18 E/F derivative, whereas the F-35C does not have this capability
today and is not envisioned as having it in the future.


Isn't the MQ-25 taking over tanking duties and not (ever) FA-XX?
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steve2267

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Unread post14 Feb 2019, 02:17

I am unfamiliar with Navair tanking philosophy or policies. Jake Grafton always hit a tanker first think after his cat shot... and since the author was an A-6 driver, I figure that's going to be close to the way it really is -- when flying over the deep blue... take gas whenever you can get it. But it also seems pertinent that the nasal radiators would not want to be in a position when coming off target or going feet wet again... that they HAVE to tank lest they go swimming. That is... after launch, at some point, tank and get enough gas to fly the strike, return to the boat and land. Once at the boat, if bolters require it... tankers will be available to refuel for additional trap attempts. Am I more or less correct? (Tank -- then fly the mission with enough gas to get back to the boat without having to tank again?)

[ NOTE: Afghanistan and Iraq may have been different in that they were (more or less) permissive environments; the USAF had flying Shell & Conoco stations all over the place. I'm writing in this post about an "alpha strike" across 1000nm of water, or whatever has everyone's panties in a wad these days. ]

If I am on point... then having a UCAV (i.e. MQ-25) re-fuel outbound F-35Cs @ 400-450nm, so tanking is completed by 500nm from the boat, means that an F-35C with a nominal 670nm combat radius, should be able to push out to ~920nm before having to return to the boat. JSOW-ER and/or JSM should give the F-35C the ability to prosecute targets out to about 1200nm. This is without any gee-whiz AETP or F-135 GO 2.0 upgrades. (If GO 1.0 can yield 7% better fuel consumption, then that 920nm gets pushed out to around 965nm give or take.)

If AETP comes along with 30% better fuel burn, then topping off via MQ-25 by 500nm appears to push the F-35C to a combat radius of ~1200nm. Even without a 500nm topoff by MQ-25, AETP would seem to push the combat radius of the F-35C out to ~950nm. Save the MQ-25's for the thirsty Rhinos.

Depending on how much gas an F-35C takes to launch, climb, and cruise out to 400-450nm... and how much gas Boing can stuff in the MQ-25... a single MQ-25 might be able to refuel a flight of four @ 400-450nm. (If that is, an F-35C might be able to burn only 4000lb (ish) to get there. But, that might be optimistic. Alternatively... Every F-35C launches & climbs up to cruise altitude right away. Then immediately tank from MQ-25. At around 400-450nm, tank again. Am swagging that tanking right after climbing to cruise, that a single MQ-25 could top off four F-35C's @ 4-450nm. The issue then may become how long tanking takes. The idea being that at 500nm everyone has full tanks. Maybe need one MQ-25 for every two F-35C's to account for tanking times.)

[My swags were based off an assumed 670nm combat radius of the F-35C that I saw in the past few days.]

Bottom line, with MQ-25, and especially if AETP or GO 2.0 can deliver, where is the need for a new derivative F/A-XX?

I am not seeing a need to stretch the F-35C for gas.

I do see a potential requirement for longer weapons bays that would be able to swallow hypersonic AGM's that have a decent range (300nm? 500?). Hanging something 20-25' long off the wings is going to kill your gas mileage and won't help your VLO signature much.
Take an F-16, stir in A-7, dollop of F-117, gob of F-22, dash of F/A-18, sprinkle with AV-8B, stir well + bake. Whaddya get? F-35.
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Unread post14 Feb 2019, 03:09

popcorn wrote:
usnvo wrote:
If they have done it, they haven't advertised it.


Sure, I could understand that but OTOH deterrence is enhanced if you can demonstrate to potential bad guys that such z capability exists.


I agree. I doubt they have done a flight test yet. First, because as far as I know, they do not have a MARV target yet and second because AFAIK they have only done three tests of the SM-6 Dual I yet, all against MRBM targets. Additionally, although at least at maximum range where the re-entry slant angle is pretty low, I would guess the SM-6 intercept point will be beyond the sensor range on the MARV so it is unlikely to be maneuvering at that point. At closer ranges the MARV will be coming down much more steeply.
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Unread post14 Feb 2019, 04:16

XanderCrews wrote:Is it really hard to imagine that maybe the Navy can't have a raptor class bird?

develop better weapons, squids. You made the bed, lie in it


Yes, it's ludicrous to push USN F-22 derivative when USN has F-35C now which could easily take on a F-22A class jet in A2A and have a good chance of winning. On top of that, the best bet is to kill the threat on the ground which that same F-35C will do brilliantly, especially with MQ-25s supporting.

I could not agree more that precision strike reach using better LO weapons is the solution to cracking the nut at much longer-range at the outset. It's about time the USN, which is finally embracing LRASM, steps up to JASSM-ER/XR, and add the JSOW-C-ER to the mix as well. Even if that weapon mix is expensive to acquire, it's still cheaper than creating a new long-range USN strike aircraft and maintaining that in service for 30 years.

And the idea of the F/A-18E/F airframe seeding an F/A-XX ... is repugnant ... when you have a single-engine, high-payload, very compact VLO F-35C, which can serve as an already very advanced basis for an F/A-18E/F replacement. Because that's all F/A-XX will be - a replacement of old SH. The F-35C will easily meet that after BK4 is completed. USN would have rocks in its head to go for another evolved superhornet airframe, when it can have a smaller actual VLO strikefighter airframe doing it instead.
Accel + Alt + VLO + DAS + MDF + Radial Distance = LIFE . . . Always choose Stealth
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Unread post14 Feb 2019, 04:42

I think
A revamped fa-18 aint gunna happen
a stretched f-35c aint gunna happen, tweeks using the existing airframe is a possibility.
what's next on the list? A clean sheet f/a-xx using next get tech, a possibility if ever there is funding.
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Unread post14 Feb 2019, 05:07

optimist wrote:I think
A revamped fa-18 aint gunna happen
a stretched f-35c aint gunna happen, tweeks using the existing airframe is a possibility.
what's next on the list? A clean sheet f/a-xx using next get tech, a possibility if ever there is funding.


Extremely doubtful that the US would redesign the F-35C. Yet, we will see it and it's USAF and USMC cousins upgraded
over time. (Engines, Avionics, Weapons, etc.)
Last edited by Corsair1963 on 14 Feb 2019, 08:51, edited 1 time in total.
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popcorn

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Unread post14 Feb 2019, 06:40

usnvo wrote:
popcorn wrote:
usnvo wrote:
If they have done it, they haven't advertised it.


Sure, I could understand that but OTOH deterrence is enhanced if you can demonstrate to potential bad guys that such z capability exists.


I agree. I doubt they have done a flight test yet. First, because as far as I know, they do not have a MARV target yet and second because AFAIK they have only done three tests of the SM-6 Dual I yet, all against MRBM targets. Additionally, although at least at maximum range where the re-entry slant angle is pretty low, I would guess the SM-6 intercept point will be beyond the sensor range on the MARV so it is unlikely to be maneuvering at that point. At closer ranges the MARV will be coming down much more steeply.


We should get a hint when request appears in the budget, means they're getting serious.
Similar to sourcing of Coyote as supersonic ashM analogue.
"When a fifth-generation fighter meets a fourth-generation fighter—the [latter] dies,”
CSAF Gen. Mark Welsh
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Unread post14 Feb 2019, 11:00

sferrin wrote:
marauder2048 wrote:The bomber streams were detected with OTH-B and then destroyed
with terminal seeker equipped MaRVs launched by surface ships and
submarines
.


There are no such weapons in the US inventory. Nor have there ever been. Backfires & Bears were to be detected by Hawkeyes and attacked by Tomcats (hopefully before weapon release). The AS-16 Kickback (Kh-15) was designed specifically to fly over lofted Phoenix shots. That was the outer air-battle at sea. (With AS-4s in the mix as well.)

marauder2048 wrote:In some cases, stealthy UAVs lurked around bomber ingress routes


Which stealthy UAVs are these?


I did say they were concepts :)

Ballistic Intercept Missile was the missile -> LORAINE was the kill vehicle
Condor was the original UAV envisioned but wasn't survivable enough.

But AFAIK the ROTHR OTH-B radars are the main (and possibly only) remnant.
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Unread post16 Feb 2019, 13:00

An F/A-18 derivative for F/A-XX is stupid, for all the reasons listed here (and more). Yet, it's consistent with the all Hornet Navy they've built. They probably want/need Boeing to stay in business just to service their SH's which will (regrettably) be sticking around for decades to come.

Had we built the Super Tomcat 21 way back when, things wouldn't be so dire today for fleet air defense. It wouldn't have been stealth, but in terms of speed/supercruise, long, long legs, a huge AESA and weapons carrying capability... they'd have a VERY robust air defense capability today. And as already noted, it wouldn't be a truly clean sheet design. Or at least that's how they could have sold it to Congress (see the SH).

Just sayin'...
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Unread post16 Feb 2019, 14:35

mixelflick wrote:An F/A-18 derivative for F/A-XX is stupid, for all the reasons listed here (and more). Yet, it's consistent with the all Hornet Navy they've built. They probably want/need Boeing to stay in business just to service their SH's which will (regrettably) be sticking around for decades to come.

Had we built the Super Tomcat 21 way back when, things wouldn't be so dire today for fleet air defense. It wouldn't have been stealth, but in terms of speed/supercruise, long, long legs, a huge AESA and weapons carrying capability... they'd have a VERY robust air defense capability today. And as already noted, it wouldn't be a truly clean sheet design. Or at least that's how they could have sold it to Congress (see the SH).

Just sayin'...


Are you aware that the Tomcat was a maintenance nightmare, right?
This would still be true for the Tomcat 21 because the main reason why the Tomcat was a maintenance nightmare was due to its sweep-wing design which obviously would be kept in the Tomcat 21.
So there's not much that could be done regarding the Tomcat 21 in order to reduce its maintenance needs, as such the level of availability would be much, much lower than the Super Hornet and as such its operational as well as its acquisition costs would be much higher than the Super Hornet and due to this, the most likely thing to happen would be that the sensors and avionics of the Tomcat 21 wouldn't necessarily be any better (or would likely be worse) than the Super Hornet ones.
And all of this for what? For a somehow better performance the Navy would lose in numbers, availability and combat effectiveness.

Of course when someone says that the US Navy should stop procuring/ordering the Super Hornet and only order new F-35C's instead then I fully agree! However I cannot agree that a Tomcat 21 would be a better option compared to the Super Hornet. Not even by a long shot (IMO, of course).

Anyway, I still think that if the US Navy really wants a new (manned) aircraft and other than a F-35C then the best choice would IMO be a revamped/improved and come back of the A-12 Avenger II with full modern technology obviously. This would give the Navy a very long range stealth aircraft (as opposed to Hornet or Tomcat based designs) which could perform both very long range air-to-air and air-to-ground missions (in the later case, a good A-6 replacement).
Since the A-12 was a McDonnell Douglas design it should now belong to Boeing and as such a "new A-12" production would allow Boeing to stay in business (manufacturing a really relevant aircraft for future operations) and since it would be based on a existing design then its develop cost should be lower than a clean sheet design. Being a subsonic design should also help with the development and manufacturing costs as well.
A 4th/4.5th gen fighter aircraft stands about as much chance against a F-35 as a guns-only Sabre has against a Viper.
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Unread post16 Feb 2019, 14:56

The A-12 Avenger II basically had the same fuel capacity and internal workload of a F-35C but with about 60% of the thrust and no supersonic/maneuvering capability. It's already obsolete and is not coming back. The F/A-XX can only seriously be either a paid for evolved F-35C or a clean sheet competitive competition. PCA will probably be too big to be navalised but then again JSF was mandated by the Politicians so you never know but it will have to be a hell of design to meet both service requirements. Of course Boeing could try and bypass normal channels and try and sell an evolved stealthier Super Hornet Block IV as the F/A-XX but Congress really has to finally put an end to this Boeing corporate welfare when F-35C is in full scale production.
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Unread post16 Feb 2019, 15:33

marsavian wrote:The A-12 Avenger II basically had the same fuel capacity and internal workload of a F-35C but with about 60% of the thrust and no supersonic/maneuvering capability.


Well, even back then (circa early 1990's) the A-12 Avenger II was supposed to have an internal fuel capability of 21,322lb while the F-35C internal fuel capability is 19,624lb. That's still higher than the F-35C although slightly so. I would say that new materials and construction techniques should eventually increase the A-12 design's fuel capability considerably so.
Moreover, new and more powerful engines would also increase the A-12's planned thrust.
All of this together with having a flying wing design and being subsonic would IMO mean that the A-12's range would easily surpass that of the F-35C.
Actually the reason why I'm "proposing" such as new/revamped A-12 design is because I believe that this would basically be the only carrier-based design that I can remember which could easily surpass the F-35C's range.

And while it wouldn't have the supersonic and (super)maneuvering capabilities - and IMO it wouldn't need since that's what the F-35C is for! - it would have the other traits that no supersonic/maneuvering F/A-XX would have which is having far more range and loiter capabilities which would not only be useful for long-range/picket air-to-air missions and traditional air-to-ground strike missions but who knows if couldn't also perform some Anti-Submarine missions as well as even tanker missions - or resuming being a replacement for both the A-6 and the S-3 Viking while also being able to perform some very long range air-to-air missions.
Such aircraft together with the F-35C would give the US Navy an extremely powerful (and likely affordable) punch well into the future.
Again, my 2 cents...
A 4th/4.5th gen fighter aircraft stands about as much chance against a F-35 as a guns-only Sabre has against a Viper.
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Unread post16 Feb 2019, 17:05

While I don't know the exact bypass ratio of the A-12's F412 engines, they're described in this article as having a 'far higher bypass ratio': https://www.flightglobal.com/FlightPDFA ... 200980.PDF

That suggests the 412 was a medium or high bypass engine, so it'd likely have had considerably better range than the F-35.

Plus being a tailless flying wing, it'd likely have had better stealth too.

It'd definitely be much higher maintenance though.
Last edited by knowan on 16 Feb 2019, 19:19, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post16 Feb 2019, 17:16

ricnunes wrote:I would say that new materials and construction techniques should eventually increase the A-12 design's fuel capability considerably so.


"increase considerably so"? Do tell!

Navy couldn't be bothered with X-47B. Should be simple to slap a cockpit in that sucker, eh?

While your general argument may have some merit to us armchair naval theorists... the professionals seem to have no interest in that planform, nor any interest in requirements for such a platform. But I disagree with your casual "easy to stuff more gas" in that plane meme. A 1m x 1m x 1m box is still a cubic meter. No matter how you construct it, or out of what, you are not going to get more than about 800kg of JP-5 in it.
Take an F-16, stir in A-7, dollop of F-117, gob of F-22, dash of F/A-18, sprinkle with AV-8B, stir well + bake. Whaddya get? F-35.
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Unread post16 Feb 2019, 23:49

steve2267 wrote:Navy couldn't be bothered with X-47B. Should be simple to slap a cockpit in that sucker, eh?


Well, I'm not talking about the X-47B, am I? I'm talking about the A-12.
Saying or hinting that the A-12 and the X-47B are the same/similar thing because they have a flying wing design would be akin to saying that the F-106 and a Rafale for example are the same/similar thing because they have Delta Wings.


steve2267 wrote:While your general argument may have some merit to us armchair naval theorists... the professionals seem to have no interest in that planform, nor any interest in requirements for such a platform.


Well, thanks for giving me some merit.
Regarding "the professionals seem to have no interest in that planform" I wouldn't be 100% sure of that since for example some of the proposed F/A-XX designs seem to be based on a flying wing design, although I grant that they seem to have the supersonic route in mind.


steve2267 wrote:
ricnunes wrote:I would say that new materials and construction techniques should eventually increase the A-12 design's fuel capability considerably so.


"increase considerably so"? Do tell!
...
But I disagree with your casual "easy to stuff more gas" in that plane meme. A 1m x 1m x 1m box is still a cubic meter. No matter how you construct it, or out of what, you are not going to get more than about 800kg of JP-5 in it.


Well, if you assume that the entire internal free areas of the A-12 are fully used to stuff fuel tanks/cells then you would be correct of course.
But I don't believe that the entire internal free areas of the A-12 are used to stuff fuel tanks/cells and in case I'm right here right then newer and lighter materials could be used not only to build a lighter aircraft but also lighter and bigger fuel tanks which eventually could take more of the eventual free internal spaces/areas without costing more weight, this again assuming that there's such free space/area available inside the A-12.
A 4th/4.5th gen fighter aircraft stands about as much chance against a F-35 as a guns-only Sabre has against a Viper.
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