Historical perspective from an enlightened dinosaur

Discuss the F-35 Lightning II
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Gums

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Unread post16 Nov 2012, 22:01

Salute!

The thread about stealth and quantities and capabilities and such has compelled me to provide a personal perspective.

First of all, I am not an anti-high tech dinosaur. I also do not ascribe to the doctrine that demands many low-tech systems versus a fair amount of very capable high-tech systems. My problem is that we have never gone thru with the initial cost estimates for the complete buy of the new systems. Hence, less than 200 Raptors versus the 700 envisioned 17 years ago. It's too easy for the U.S. Congress to cut a year's cost by buying less. So when this continues for a few years we wind up with unit costs beyond imagination.

A really great treatise on the topic at hand was a paper done by Michel. Seems to be a PhD or master's dissertaion. Very long, heavily documented, but has several sections relevant to our discussion on the other thread. It's also of interest to me personally as I flew with, served under or instructed some of the referenced folks.

http://www.sluf.org/misc_pages/michel_3_55.pdf

+++++++++++++++++++

So I started out learning in a Korean War vintage trainer - T-33. Flew the newer T-37 first. Then went to the F-101B after checking out in the F-102. Single seat for one, a RIO in the other. Cosmic avionics in 1966, I tellya. Super autopilots, good radars, IRSTS, etc.

Went to 'nam in the A-37. It was like a WW2 attack plane with a TACAN, heh heh. 100% manual weapon delivery and tgt acquisition. And then to the SLUF.

Wow! Single seat with latest and greatest avionics. Gold-plated, and look up my threads about that thing. Cosmic ground radar with terrain-following, projected map display, coupled inertial/doppler nav system, super accurate computed bombing system.

Then to the Viper in initial cadre. Super A2A radar, good air to ground radar, cosmic wepon delivery system. No decent autopilot, nor radar altimiter, nor back-up nav system. But! very capable in both roles and had lots better range than it is given credit for. It was also much cheaper than the Eagle. Also easier to maintain. Oh yeah - FBW system that allowed us to get the most outta the jet's aero capabilities.

So I saw cheap, primitive. I saw more expensive, high-tech. I saw the trade-off between technology and numbers. I never saw the extremely high-tech, high-priced jets we are basing our air forces on for USN and USAF.

I liked the high tech, to a point. The advances in computers and displays allowed one pilot to do as much as a crew, and at less cost and more gas. I never heard an F-4 or F-111 troop complain or whine about workload in the SLUF or the Viper.

OTOH, I always worried about how far we could go with the technology without making less jets and very expensive ones.

The 1991 experience showed the potential of a stealth platform performing a limited mission and with outstanding results. It also showed the results of a doctrine that took out the IAD capabilties, then went for the jugular vein. What I fear is we look too much at that 1991 experience and not consider a scenario with many airborne and ground threats that we cannot overwhelm in a day/night or two. Let your imagination ponder what that scenario might be. Who? Where?

Somewhere in the middle is an acquisition policy and a military doctrine and no sierra threat analysis of what systems we need and what they are for.

later...

Gums opines...
Gums
Viper pilot '79
"God in your guts, good men at your back, wings that stay on - and Tally Ho!"
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firstimpulse

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Unread post16 Nov 2012, 23:15

Great opinions, and even better to hear them from somebody with decades of real-world experience.

In my estimation (coming from a college freshman with no experience but tons of research), high tech systems will almost always beat larger numbers of low tech systems in conventional warfare. The first example that comes to mind is the Gatling gun coming out in the Civil War. Didn't really matter how many bad guys needed to be dealt with. You just killed more. And in a worst-case conventional conflict (with China, for example) I believe the same principle applies- mostly because the swarms of Flanker and Fishbed based aircraft that we'd have to deal with would probably have less than a four-to-one numerical advantage over just our 5th generation platforms at the moment. Which isn't nearly enough to overwhelm a generational gap in technology. Throw in our AWACs, tankers, 4th gen aircraft of various types, our allies' craft, a much better logistics system, and better training systems, and it seems very unlikely that any nation, or any likely alliance of nations, could deny air dominance (not just superiority) to the United States in the event of conflict.

Of course, there are the new 5th generation aircraft being prototyped by nations which are potentially hostile, and this and the simple craftiness of an enemy could throw a monkey wrench into things theoretically, using such things as long range "AWACs killer" missiles against tankers and AEW craft. But the bottom line is that the overwhelming advantage will always seem to go to the nation with moderate numbers of high-tech systems. Even if a nation decided to buy 600 or 700 top-line Flankers to insure a 6-to-1 numeric advantage against a deployed force of >100 Raptors (which might be enough to overwhelm the F-22s in some cases) it would cost more than the entire F-22 program.
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Unread post16 Nov 2012, 23:44

@Gums You saw action in a A-37 Dragonfly? wow.. I've flown the A-37 before, small jet with a lot of weapons load, turned and burned pretty good too. One of our pilots owned the jet. We didn't drop ordinance and our guns were simulated. The A-37 pilots who saw combat are considered legends.

Question; With modern avionics it'd be possible to make a light fighter (F-5 sized or a little bigger) still have sensor fusion, ATFLIR/OLS and AESA radar in a 5th gen package. Do you think that is worth pursuing for both training and as an "export" fighter for countries that can't afford to operate the F-35?
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Unread post17 Nov 2012, 00:09

You can simulate the F-35 sensor fusion in a single-seat trainer. And using autopilot technologies one could conceivably make a twin-seat jet impractical. Your instructor would see from your perspective with a few seconds of delay, but that should be perfectly acceptable. The training system could also decouple pilot controls whenever necessary, too.
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Unread post17 Nov 2012, 00:21

From what I have read, Sweden will only be ordering single seat Gripen NGs.
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Unread post17 Nov 2012, 01:07

madrat wrote:You can simulate the F-35 sensor fusion in a single-seat trainer. And using autopilot technologies one could conceivably make a twin-seat jet impractical. Your instructor would see from your perspective with a few seconds of delay, but that should be perfectly acceptable. The training system could also decouple pilot controls whenever necessary, too.

That is an interesting idea. Training is exactly the kind of environment where communication is not an issue, so why not have the trainer on the ground? He could remotely take over the aircraft if there was any trouble, and, with proper ground-based sensors, he could have much better situational awareness than if he was in the plane.
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Unread post17 Nov 2012, 01:39

And with virtual reality displays already being part of the sensor fusion you can basically reset the training mission repeatedly. Air traffic controllers would keep the exercise within a training box and with the right management you could have a small team of trainers instruct whole squadrons simultaneously. Red Flag operational training at a salty pace of 10-12 hours a month without traveling to Nellis.
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Unread post17 Nov 2012, 01:42

count_to_10 wrote:
madrat wrote:You can simulate the F-35 sensor fusion in a single-seat trainer. And using autopilot technologies one could conceivably make a twin-seat jet impractical. Your instructor would see from your perspective with a few seconds of delay, but that should be perfectly acceptable. The training system could also decouple pilot controls whenever necessary, too.

That is an interesting idea. Training is exactly the kind of environment where communication is not an issue, so why not have the trainer on the ground? He could remotely take over the aircraft if there was any trouble, and, with proper ground-based sensors, he could have much better situational awareness than if he was in the plane.

They have flown QF-4s remotely many times, and soon will be flying QF-16s remotely.

Another idea for initial F-35 training flights, having a Landing Safety Officer on the ground, with ability to "command" a waive off. This has been tested with the F/A-18 as a surrogate jet for the X-47 UCAS-D program.
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Unread post17 Nov 2012, 01:55

Gums wrote:What I fear is we look too much at that 1991 experience and not consider a scenario with many airborne and ground threats that we cannot overwhelm in a day/night or two. Let your imagination ponder what that scenario might be. Who? Where?

I recall David Hackworth's About Face, where he describes being overrun repeatedly in Korea during the first year. The US Army & UN forces went in thinking, "How hard can this be? We're fighting the Koreans!"

Enter the Chinese PLA. They used bugles for signals because they had so few radios. He described them as being thick like ants across the terrain. Artillery, HMGs, bombing, strafing, it hardly made a dent. They just marched over the dead and kept advancing. The US and allies were so completely outnumbered they literally couldn't kill them fast enough. So they fell back, and fell back, and retreated, and fell back some more. The PLA drove the US Army - battle hardened and fresh from WWII mind you - along with its UN allies almost completely out off the Korean Peninsula, and they did it with sheer numbers. Not technology. Not tactics. Overwhelming numbers.

Oddly, or maybe ironically, the Allied Forces in WWII presented the same problem to the Germans. The German's weapons, training and tactics were generally superior, and in some cases far superior, to ours. We simply overwhelmed them with numbers and industrial production. We could lose a wing of fighters caught on the ground and replace them days later with fresh aircraft. They would lose a wing and that was it. No replacements. No more fighters in that sector. Things like that win wars.

Quantity has quality all its own.
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Unread post17 Nov 2012, 02:02

Some engineers might ask why not just produce mass quantities of modern V1 missiles which could overwhelm any modern defence system.

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Unread post17 Nov 2012, 02:12

alloycowboy wrote:Some engineers might ask why not just produce mass quantities of modern V1 missiles which could overwhelm any modern defence system.

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They're called Tomahawks and it gets expensive. :)
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Unread post17 Nov 2012, 03:11

Gums wrote:. What I fear is we look too much at that 1991 experience and not consider a scenario with many airborne and ground threats that we cannot overwhelm in a day/night or two. Let your imagination ponder what that scenario might be. Who? Where?


My understanding is that the Serbian conflict did highlight that modern air defenses,can remain a significant threat long, long after the start of a conflict. Doctrine has evolved accordingly, driving the acquisition of more survivable and cost-effective platforms.
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Unread post17 Nov 2012, 04:02

sferrin wrote:
alloycowboy wrote:Some engineers might ask why not just produce mass quantities of modern V1 missiles which could overwhelm any modern defence system.

Image


They're called Tomahawks and it gets expensive. :)


Yeah... 1.5 million a pop. The US Air force and navy can hit thousands of targets in one night. That's alot of missiles. What if the war is say a week or a month. Maybe years. I guess it's ok. Put it on our tab. Our grand kids can pay for it. :roll:
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Unread post17 Nov 2012, 04:04

borntoholdout wrote:Put it on our tab. Our grand kids can pay for it. :roll:

I take it you're a member of Congress? :D
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Unread post17 Nov 2012, 04:43

stereospace wrote:
Gums wrote:What I fear is we look too much at that 1991 experience and not consider a scenario with many airborne and ground threats that we cannot overwhelm in a day/night or two. Let your imagination ponder what that scenario might be. Who? Where?

I recall David Hackworth's About Face, where he describes being overrun repeatedly in Korea during the first year. The US Army & UN forces went in thinking, "How hard can this be? We're fighting the Koreans!"

Enter the Chinese PLA. They used bugles for signals because they had so few radios. He described them as being thick like ants across the terrain. Artillery, HMGs, bombing, strafing, it hardly made a dent. They just marched over the dead and kept advancing. The US and allies were so completely outnumbered they literally couldn't kill them fast enough. So they fell back, and fell back, and retreated, and fell back some more. The PLA drove the US Army - battle hardened and fresh from WWII mind you - along with its UN allies almost completely out off the Korean Peninsula, and they did it with sheer numbers. Not technology. Not tactics. Overwhelming numbers.

Oddly, or maybe ironically, the Allied Forces in WWII presented the same problem to the Germans. The German's weapons, training and tactics were generally superior, and in some cases far superior, to ours. We simply overwhelmed them with numbers and industrial production. We could lose a wing of fighters caught on the ground and replace them days later with fresh aircraft. They would lose a wing and that was it. No replacements. No more fighters in that sector. Things like that win wars.

Quantity has quality all its own.


I think this is pretty misguided honestly.

First, in the Korean War I don't think you can act as if the US Army there was fresh from the 2nd World War or battle hardened. The officers were, but most of the men were not. When China entered the war they had some initial success but never pushed the US to the brink of being out of the war. Initially the US and their allies panicked because they didn't really know how to deal with the tactics but when they put in a competent commander in Ridgeway they learned to hold their ground and started inflicting massive casualties on the Chinese. China had some success with their tactics but I think you would be hard pressed to find anyone who thought they had a formula for success long term going there.

Second, I think that is a terrible misconception of the 2nd world war. In a great many areas (nearly all of them that mattered) the Allies were generally ahead technologically. Radar, radios, fighters (with the exception of the ME-262 which came too late), bombers, encryption, trucks, artillery and many other things. Everyone gets enamored with the handful of wonder weapons the Germans had and seems to forget how behind they were in everything that mattered. Not just in production levels but just flat behind. Yes they had assault rifles late in the war. Yes they had a couple of jet fighters. But this was not a case of them being overwhelmed by pure numbers.
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