Charlie: Excuse me Lieutenant…is there something wrong?
Maverick: Yes ma’am. The data on the MiG is innacurate.
Charlie: How’s that, Lieutenant?
Maverick: Well, I just happened to see a MiG 28….
A critical look is being taken at what some in the military tactical aviation field had long suspected – that being the prospect of a two-seat F-22 Raptor.
Now before any of you single-seat purists go off half-cocked, let me state flat out that as the Radar Intercept Officer son of a dedicated single-seat 4,000-hour-plus A-4 Skyhawk-250-missions over Vietnam father, I’ve heard all those names for the “Guy In Back” – “The loss of 200 lbs of gas” comes to mind, with my personal favorite being the Brit’s “Talking Ballast”.
But with the electronic battlespace of today, having two bodies – and two heads and two sets of eyes and two brains coupled with two mission capabilities in that cockpit makes a certain amount of sense. Particularly in light of the potential enemy air order of battle that may be in store for us in the future along with an increasingly complex and challenging airspace.
Aviation Week and Space Technology’s David Fulghum has the below article out in the 1 Oct issue that talks about the value of two-seat fighters. Opinions (and arguments) abound regarding the value of such a move but can we really discount the consideration of a Raptor-version of the F-15E Strike Eagle or even the now-retired F-14D Super Tomcat (Supersonic Attack – No Escort Required said the patch) in light of what that additional capability brings to the warfighter’s table? What we don’t want, of course, is a step backwards in this digital-cockpit age. Fulghum states in his article “Recent operational experience with the F-22 produced an aural environment, described by participants as spooky, where aircrews seldom speak and move information by data link, which is faster and more accurate than talking.”
However, with the advent of advanced radars such as Raytheon’s APG-79 active electronically scanned array radar, which is standard equipment in the Block II versions of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, having this “spooky” cockpit environment of tactical decision making at the speed of thought could continue. The APG-69 provides the ability to decouple the cockpits so that the pilot can concentrate on an air-to-air mission while the rear-seat/GIB/WSO prosecutes a ground attack, both using specific elements of the radar simultaneously.
In addition to that capability, keep in mind the overarching need to make our scarce defense dollars go as far as they can and the fact that a single-mission platform is a thing of the past speaks well for a multi-crew/multi-mission 5th-generation platform that gives the Joint Commander a much more versatile toolkit from which to conduct air operations.
Bottom line, though, when you discount the tactical advantages of that second cockpit, what would you rather have? 30 seconds of a burner wave-off or a reliable drinking buddy who will stick with you all night?
Two-seat fighters take on multiple missions as bombing and network-attack combine
David A. Fulghum, Washington
Cyber, Kinetic War Collide: New two-seat strike fighters and electronic-attack aircraft are quickly emerging as a combat necessity.
That need heralds the beginning of a revolution for the military aviation that will likely see the end of large-platform bombers and intelligence-gathering aircraft.
Instead, military aviation will start looking like the Israeli Air Force, which abandoned bombers for fighter-size aircraft that can strike at strategic ranges.
Even hard-core, single-seat fighter pilots who have long considered a back-seater unnecessary and sometimes even a hindrance are changing their minds.
Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, the U.S. Air Forces first deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, says that the ability to conduct simultaneous air-to-air and air-to-ground combat in addition to sophisticated electronic attack and, soon, information warfare, will keep two aircrewmen fully occupied.
The threat of cyber attack means, We have to look at the fragility of the electromagnetic spectrum, Deptula says. We have to study the problem. But the manpower crunch is so great that any solution that requires more personnel is going to be a hard sell. Nonetheless, he contends that there is great need for an airborne, self-regenerating network capability to recover quickly from electronic or computer attack and strike back.
Also on the Israeli model, the U.S. will seek to reduce its acknowledged over-reliance on network-centric warfare. This new generation of aircraftoften based on existing designs such as the F-15, F-16, F-18 and stealthy F-22will have the ability to survive massive cyber and electromagnetic pulse attack and quickly create local area networks to begin gathering intelligence and generating counterattack missions.
Senior military officials say that new tandem designs, combined with advanced sensor packages and wideband data links, are at least doubling the capabilities of tactical aircraft. But all that will require two crewmen to conduct simultaneous air-to-air, air-to-ground and, possibly, cyber combat.
The shift is already underway. Boeing and Lockheed Martin are each either fielding or designing at least two new two-seat aircraft.
The Navy is fielding the first Boeing Block 2 F/A-18F Super Hornets with VFA-213 at NAS Oceana, Va., while the first production EA-18G Growler electronic-attack aircraft flew last month.
Lockheed Martin officials privately say they are looking at two two-seat concepts. The first is a new version of the F-22 with a large wingredesigned from the FB-22 conceptfor more fuel. But unlike the bomber wing, it will allow supersonic cruise. A fuselage plug will add the second seat and a larger weapons bay that could include advanced, long-range missile designs. The company estimates the second seat would add only about 10% to the airframe cost.
It could become an option for the 2018 USAF bomber competition.
There is also a competition to put active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars in the Air Forces two-seat, F-15E fleet, to be awarded in late October.
Another competition is to come in November to put AESA radars in F-16s. Lockheed Martin officials also believe that there are at least two more blocks of advanced F-16 designs that could provide new capabilities, including advanced radars and electronic attack. They note that while USAF uses its two-seat aircraft for training, Israel, Singapore (see p. 50) and other foreign users put a weapon systems officer in the back seat for specialized attack and reconnaissance missions.
All of these new designs are wrapped around increasingly sophisticated versions of the AESA radar that can triple the range of conventional radars.
Depending on the size of array and target, it varies from around 100 mi. for an F-16-size array to more than 150 mi. for an F-15 which will carry the largest, fighter-sized AESA array. Thats slightly more than the F-22. However, because the Raptor is stealthy, it can get closer to the target for a more detailed look.
Other electronic-surveillance sensors can again double the range. Specifically, if a target is within line of sight, it can be seen and identified from details as minute as the targets vibration, the movement of a mechanically scanned antenna or virtually any electronic emission. As the range shortens, ever lower power emitters (walkie-talkie-type radios) and smaller flying objects (stealthy cruise missiles) can be detected with a collection of multispectral clues.
Airborne AESAs combined with electronic-attack and surveillance systems are themselves becoming tools in increasingly sophisticated network attack.
The Air Warfare Center is testing developmental airborne network-attack capabilities, says Lt. Gen. Robert Elder, commander of the 8th Air Force, which has been tapped for cyber warfare operations and shares Barksdale AFB, La., with the new Cyber Warfare Command. Some of the star graduates and experienced instructors from the Air Weapons School are preparing to introduce airborne network attack into Red, Blue and Black Flag exercises, he says. Black Flag is a new arena for specialists to experiment with new technologies in a combat environment and decide where the Air Force should invest its resources.
We are actually starting to practice with these [tactical network-attack] capabilities, Elder says. With enough testing, well get the confidence to bring them into the exercises. Tactical home for the operation capability will be basically stealth platforms like F-22, F-35 and B-2, but it will also include space, bombers, fighters and large intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, he says. Some of the early work on such projects includes the Suter series, involving the RC-135 Rivet Joint and EC-130 Compass Call. And one of the platforms we did a lot of work with was the [E-8] Joint Stars, Elder adds.
A quickly developing international market is likely. Ive got people coming to me that dont really know what an AESA radar is, but they do know they want it for their air force, says a radar developer at the Air Force Association show in Washington last week.
The move is sure to generate budget wars between the services budgeteers (who are trying to trim defense spending) and operational commanders (who want the added capability) because two-seat aircraft cost more, as does the training and retention of weapon systems officers. Advocates contend that with the same numbers of aircraft, two-seaters can perform more combat tasks than single-seaters and more easily split up to cover a larger airspace (because each can do air-to-air and air-to-ground combat simultaneously).
These two-seat, integrated multi-sensor designs will be very useful in irregular war, but there will have to be a very disciplined approach to crew coordination, says Maj. Gen. Allen Peck, a veteran F-15 fighter pilot, commander of the Air Force Doctrine Development and Education Center and vice commander of the Air University. If youre not careful, two guys may end up doing the work of one.
Recent operational experience with the F-22 produced an aural environment, described by participants as spooky, where aircrews seldom speak and move information by data link, which is faster and more accurate than talking.
There are other technology factorsand an overarching threatthat drive planners to two-seat solutions. AESA allows the pinpointing of small air and ground targets. Integration of sensors and access to offboard intelligence sources allow the rapid accumulation of real-time data for simultaneous air-to-air and air-to-ground combat. And, the worlds air forces realize theyre vulnerable to computer-network and electronic attack, say Deptula and Elder.
Israeli defense officials, who have created the model that the U.S. is looking to for guidance, first revealed their intention to Aviation Week & Space Technology last year to back away from overreliance on network-centric warfare. Part of the solution, the Israeli Defense Forces contends, is to keep more manned aircraft in its inventory and keep them longer than planned. That doesnt mean abandoning plans for the heavy use of unmanned surveillance and combat aircraft, but it does mean the modernization and continuing purchase of advanced manned strikefighters, such as the F-15 and F-16 family and, eventually, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.