Lockheed Test Pilot Calls For Longer Range AIM-120

AIM-120San Diego, Calif. — The U.S. military needs a longer range AIM-120 to fully utilize the advances made by America’s fifth generation fleet — the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the F-22 Raptor, said one of Lockheed Martin’s top test pilots.

The AIM-120 is an advanced medium-range air-to-air missile and America’s premiere air-to-air weapon in the fleet. The latest model, the D-model, can fly Mach 4 with a range of about 180 kilometers or about 97 nautical miles. William Gigliotti, Lockheed Martin’s lead test pilot at the Fort Worth site, said he wants to see that range extended to take advantage of the advanced radars inside the F-22 and F-35.

He highlighted the recent advances made by the Chinese and the range of their missile defenses and fighter aircraft. 

“When we war game it out, that’s the Achilles heel of the U.S. fighter fleet,” Gigliotti said referring to the AIM-120 at a F-35 panel session at a Navy conference here. Two other Navy F-35 pilots and one Marine Corps F-35 aviator, who also sat on the panel, agreed with Gigliotti.

Gigliotti didn’t challenge the U.S. military to develop an improved variant. He instead challenged the defense industry to start developing one now.

Of course, the Air Force and Navy are in the last stages of operational testing for the AIM-120 D model. Most aircraft are equipped with the AIM-120C3-C7 variants.

Operational testing on the D-model was delayed when the Pentagon halted the program in 2009 to allow Raytheon, the lead contractor, to address four performance and reliability deficiencies. The program was restarted in 2012, but was then again delayed because of sequestration funding levels.

Besides the F-35 and the F-22, the AIM-120 is also carried by the F-15, F-16 and F/A-18 along with other fighters.

About the Author

Michael Hoffman
Michael Hoffman is the executive editor at Tandem NSI and a contributor to Military.com. He can be reached at mhoffman@tandemnsi.com.
  • BlackOwl18E

    You mean to tell me this test pilot just said what everyone already knows?

    I’ll give you guys a hint on why this was not done earlier: “The program was restarted in 2012, but was then again delayed because of sequestration funding levels.”

    The funds for a longer range AIM-120D were taken and fed to the F-35 program. In fact, those funds are still being fed to the F-35 program right now. The Navy already has been saying for a while that what will matter in the future are payloads more and platforms less, which is why they want more Super Hornets and are still trying to ditch the F-35C against the OSD’s wishes.

    Let me give you the real translation of what these test pilots just said: “The F-35 is insufficient for future combat without better missiles.”

    Sound familiar to anyone? The F-35 is so expensive that everything must die in order for it to live.

    The Russians are already aware of this dilemma and openly said they are doing something about it a long time ago: http://rt.com/news/t50-missile-advanced-guidance-

    They have a new version of the R-77 in development for the PAK-FA that will field an AESA radar seeker (essentially the same thing we were probably doing with the AIM-120D AMRAAM). The Russians have found that producing AESA radar guided missiles is extremely expensive, but their conclusion was that if these new missiles can practically guarantee hitting and killing their target from extremely long ranges they’re worth the cost. We’re not gonna find funds like that in a budget dominated by the JSF. Our F-35 test pilots are only just now talking about this.

    • Dfens

      Ok then, let’s kill the JSF so we can fund a missile development program. Brilliant. And the US taxpayer gets zero for the $200 billion they’ve currently sunk into JSF and our forces will continue to fly 1970’s era aircraft for the next 3 decades assuming JSF is replaced by another new fighter program tomorrow. Oh, and fighter boy will personally guarantee the next fighter program will be way better than the last one, because that’s the way things always go. Dontcha know. The next airplane program is always better than the last one, right up to the time they start building airplanes. But I guess the American taxpayer is supposed to be too stupid to notice that. Apparently the fighter jocks certainly are.

      • BlackOwl18E

        I did not say to kill the whole program. Dfens, you’ve seen my posts. You know that I just want the F-35B and F-35C cancelled. Those two alone would free up enough funds for a lot of things. I think we should let the USAF have the F-35A. They’ll just get bankrupt over it anyway and it’ll be fun to watch that happen.

        Honestly, the next fighter program for the Navy will be different and the reason it will be different is because the Navy has already started work on it in advance and they are doing it with lessons learned from the F-35 program, most notably don’t involve partner nations and don’t make an all-purpose aircraft. The Navy wants F/A-XX, which they have designed to be a purpose built machine for the carrier enviroment. I think F/A-XX will turn out well. The Super Hornet will do fine until then as long as it has good ordnance and the Growler with the NGJ. The Navy knows this, which is why they are fighting hard for it. The only question is if Boeing can keep the Super Hornet line long enough till then.

        • Dfens

          The Navy gave up good airplanes to keep the F-18, but now they know what it takes to build a good airplane? Right. Hell, the Navy told us F-35 was a good airplane up until now. Which lie are we supposed to believe? And by the way, they always have another program in the works, and it is always better than the current program. Hell, I know how that goes better than anyone. I helped pitch CSA to the Navy. That f’er was going to make fuel during cruise. We guaranteed it. Because there’s no lie the Navy believes as much in as the lie they want to believe. And that’s why the defense contractors are rich.

          • BlackOwl18E

            Dfens, thank you for being honest. I seriously think you’re wrong on this issue and I would like you to give me a reason why you think that. The Super Hornet actually does compensate for the capabilities of every one of the aircraft it replaced (with the only exception being the S-3 Viking’s sub hunting role). It is about 90% of the fighter that the Tomcat was at less than 50% the cost. That’s a big deal, especially when you can create a fighter like that in numbers and operate them cheaply. The Super Hornet with the AIM-120D (which is supposed to have an engagement range of 120 miles when finished) is an interceptor on level with the Tomcat and its nearly 100 mile AIM-54 Pheonix missiles. The Navy was actually betting on the AIM-120 being finished well before now and with it the Super Hornet would have been able to do the long range intercept role on a level pretty comparable to the F-14. However, things didn’t go as planned and they didn’t count of the F-35C and F-35B soaking that money up.

            The Super Hornet has actually saved the Navy a lot of money by funneling all of the capabilities of the aircraft it replaced into a single air frame via advanced systems. It may not do them all spectacularly, but it does them well enough to get the job done in the hands of a good pilot. And unlike a lot of programs, the Super Hornet actually delivered on its promises. It was on time, it was cheap, it was reliable, maintainable, and easily able to accept upgrades. The Navy does know how to build good airplanes and the Super Hornet proves that. The full Hornet/Super Hornet force that we have now is much cheaper to operate than our old Carrier Air Wing, while maintaining all of the capability. If you need one capability done more effectively you simply increase the number of Hornets/Super Hornets sent on that specific mission, which the Navy can affordably do when they have a full tactical Air Wing of them.

          • Dfens

            Neither the F-14 nor the A-6 had to tank as soon as it got off the deck. That’s unique to the F-18. The F-14 could carry more ordnance farther and was faster and a better interceptor than the F-18 even though it never did have the engines it was designed to have. Hell, if they had retrofitted the F-14 with F119s it would show the F-22 what supercruise really is, and do it at M2.5.

            The A-6 also did not need to tank when it got off the carrier, would carry a huge bomb load, and was such an effective bomb truck in Vietnam that often the N. Vietnamese would beg the US to stop sending in B-52 strikes when it was actually A-6 Intruders bombing the hell out of them.

            The F-18 does nothing well. It can’t carry a big bomb load or enough fuel due to the supersonic wing. It can’t fly supersonic well because it’s a flying barn door. The only major improvement I see in the E/F is that the vortex bubble burst doesn’t take the verticals off anymore. Pilots love their planes. Everyone knows that. Hell, that’s why all of Lockheed’s CSA “configurations” looked like S-3 derivatives. Nothing gives an S-3 pilot a woody like seeing a souped up version of his own airplane, but by any objective measure the F-18 is a total failure, and the E/F is good money after bad. You can bolt a new avionics box on any airplane, but you can’t make a crap airplane better even by scaling it up. And as for “cost effective”, if we really wanted to be cost effective we wouldn’t have a navy. Cost effective my ass.

          • BlackOwl18E

            That is the exact reason why Boeing is promoting the conformal fuel tanks for the Super Hornet series. The Navy is able to compensate for that.

            Also, that is statement about the F/A-18 doing nothing well is simply not true at all. It’s flexible and good at a lot of things in the tactical spectrum, which is exactly what Boeing built it for. The Super Hornet can go toe-to-toe with any threat in the air and it can carry a decent payload for destroying things on the ground. It doesn’t do ground like the A-6, but it definitely does it well enough that if you have enough Super Hornets you wouldn’t need the A-6 at all. The F/A-18 an objective failure? Seriously that’s makes no sense. A full force of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets with advanced weapons is roughly just as effective and even better in some areas while being much cheaper to operate that the mixed force we had before.

            Okay you completely lost me at “we wouldn’t have a navy.” Are you just anti-military all together? Do you think we should all put down our weapons and become pacifists? Is that your definition of the ideal “cost effective” solution? You certainly have no problem saying a lot of negative things about the system, but you have not brought any solutions to the problems you mention. Seriously, what do you think we should do about this?

          • Dfens

            I think we should use the best airplane for the job and not compromise to “cost effective.” Cost effective is crap. All cost effective has ever done is killed good weapons in favor of bad. And by the way, Boeing didn’t design the F-18, Northrop did, and all those conformal tanks are going to do is increase the drag in proportion to the amount of fuel increase. They make a bad design worse, not better. Hell, if Boeing really wanted to increase the range of the F-18 they’d put tip tanks on the wings.

          • BlackOwl18E

            You know what I meant regarding the design of the F-18. And Boeing has already conducted tests with the Conformal Fuel tanks. The numbers are already out and the Super Hornet with the conformal fuel tanks can fly farther than the F-35C can. The tanks are proven to work and will give a significant range difference, allowing the Super to carry weapons a lot farther. Drag is not really an issue, in fact the Super has far less drag with the conformals than with the external fuel tanks.

            So what you’re saying is we should have a more expensive fleet of mixed tactical aircraft purpose built for different roles rather than one aircraft that can do it all good enough at a cheap price.

            Okay. I buy that. I disagree, but I understand where you’re coming from.

          • Trons Away

            If Boeing were to fix the pylon cant, the Super Hornet platform is just fine to serve as the bulk of the CVW until an F/A-XX comes along. Tomahawk, F/E/A-18E/F/G, and E-2D will provide capable power projection for everything other than night one near peer competitor. F-35C could get to the target, but only if the carrier could get close enough. A-6E would be dead 100NM off the coast.
            E-2D and AEGIS for fleet defense.
            SH-60 and SSN for ASW. Hoovs lost SOs in the mid-90s, I don’t know if CSA was going to do ASW. We do need a new COD.
            My opinion, dump 35B/C, buy/upgrade SH with CFT, and put our money into early deployment of UCLASS, and future development of F/A-XX.

          • William_C1

            Why the hell do all of you fools insist on dumping the F-35B? Even by cannibalizing British aircraft we can’t keep the Harrier II fleet flying forever!

          • Trona Away

            The fools are those that decided that several nations and multiple services could use the same platform, despite extremely divergent requirements. The need for the B lift fan variant caused many compromises in capability for the A and C. Why does the USMC need a short-range, low-payload, 5th gen stealth fighter to execute CAS from an amphib? What’s the sortie generation from a six plane det? Reality is, Harriers don’t operate from FOB whatever when the Corps goes ashore. They operate from large airbases/APODs, and have the same logistical requirements while generating less combat capability than traditional TACAIR. F-35B will have the same issues. USMC has wed itself to 35B, and we’re all married to this bride, now. Here’s some controversy:
            1. USMC buys the same aircraft as USN, like for the previous 100 years of Marine Aviation. (18E/F/G). Blasphemy!
            2. Give USMC 8002s amphib capable direct control armed UCAS (like R/MQ-21variant).

          • Dfens

            Ha, Trons Away is no doubt right. The F-18 would probably do better with the current tanks given the proper tow in than they are with those dorked up conformal tanks, but there’s no money to be made by tweaking the current tanks. Tip tanks would be even better, but they’d have to be designed correctly, and there’s no one at Boeing who can do that.

            The F-14 made a better fighter/attack airplane than the F-18. It would carry more bombs and it would actually go supersonic (unlike the F-18), but the Navy is all about “cost effective”.

            The reason we will never get true procurement reform from the military is clear in this thread. The military believes the lies they want to believe. Boeing tells the Marines the F-32 will take off vertically and then it won’t. It is an obvious lie. Do they receive any sanctions for lying? Hell no. The Marines count on Boeing to tell the lies they want them to tell about the V-22. They don’t want them to stop lying. They just want them to tell the lies they want to hear.

          • Trons Away

            Many truths, Dfens, but we’ve put ourselves in this position with the procurement system as it is. If you procured a new build, modern avionics, Tomcat, I’m with you. In other words, the Navy went with the 14 vice the 18 for “super-izing”. I believe cost margins and community politics killed that early, and the pure fighter guys came to realize the F/A thing was the future after SH became program of record. SH was either almost or FOC by the time TC got JDAM.

            Remember the bumper sticker: SH is 30 percent common with legacy airframes. Dirty secret, that means 70 percent not common, and most of the commonality is consumables or turn in items. Completely new airframes. As a MO/aviator, don’t tie me to those bent-a** legacy airframes. Each is handmade and none fly the same. Essentially, any capability that the legacy Tomcat may have had, would be eclipsed by the SH sortie generation, sensors, CPH, etc. Slightly longer range means nothing when your jets are hangar queens.

            The Navy may have made the wrong choice by going with SH, but it still may be a better choice than going all in with Lightning II.

          • Dfens

            They would have needed new F-14 airframes, but it wouldn’t have required over sizing like the F-18. The F-14 already maxed out at 70,000 lbs. the older F-18’s were derived from the F-5/T-38. it was basically a high wing F-5 with a weird leading edge extension (LEX) to generate vortex lift at slow carrier landing speeds.

            The F-35 is crap, no question, so what’s the next program? They’re not getting better. They are getting worse. You can’t just cancel every new airplane. At some point you’ve got to start building them.

            I’d be happy if the Air Force or the Navy would say, “F you, contractors” and develop the F-23 into a producible airplane. That’s the best airplane design we’ve seen ever without question.

          • Aresfire2

            The YF-23 was the best beast ever designed! There is a reason why two are still around as far as we know of and most likely a few others tucked away somewhere at Northrop Grumman or at a Boeing Phantom Works Black Hole some where?
            She was faster and stealthier then the F-22 and leaves the F-35 nowhere close. The new FA/XX, as a F/A/B-36 LOL, which will be going to the Navy and then to the USAF. She will be a multiple purpose air to air combat fighter and then a medium bomber – strike fighter. She will not have any vertical stab’s and will need the new electro-magnetic catapult rail coming on line for the Navy in the new carrier’s! She will be very big and heavy, but her size and capabilities such as speed, stealth and most important of all will be her lack and ease of crew maintenance. This alone will just reduce her flight hours to maintenance and diminish the need for extra aircraft. Please forgive my F/A/B-36 because I just used the next number inline and added the letter’s do to her multi-capabilities… LOL/JMHO

          • Aresfire2

            Sorry USMC, Zero VTOL/STOL, you got your wishes, MV-22 and the F-35B. To bad the USMC did not have enough fore sight and common sense to refurbish some of the A-10’s my lack of knowledge USAF are getting rid of. Granted the USAF is refurbishing a couple of squadron’s. But for MV-22’s escort there is not a better platform. That’s why the USAF still want’s the HOG. Even though the F-35B might be slow compared to even the Super Hornet can one imagine a stealth fighter flying as slow as possible to escort a Tilt Rotor who’s proprotors will be seen way before arrival? A-10’s or a new less expensive A-6 Turboprop Texan would be the answer. The MV-22’s cruise at 275 knots as for the F-35B’s 350-500 knots????? HELP

          • Dfens

            If you look at the way the F-23 is laid out, there is room for a vertical lift fan in the center fuselage. All that it would need after that is an articulating floor on the bottom of those laminarization tunnels that would turn the exhaust stream for pitch, and since there are 2 engines, even roll control. They could probably figure out something for yaw too.

          • The F-18 in any variant doesn’t match the Tomcat. If the earlier Tomcats had the engine that the last D versions did they would have been so much better. The Phoenix was a heavier hitter that the 120.

          • Trons Away

            February 2054 defense tech.org comment:
            “No variant of the Veritech Fighter can match the Super Hornet. I don’t care if it can fly in space and transform into a robot with karate chop hands and a giant laser cannon. Zentradi and their Sukhois will fill the sky with blood now that the Super Hornets are gone.”

            Bet me…

          • Dfens

            Yes, that’s it exactly. The thing is existing aircraft have a a huge lobby group. Their pilot’s and crews love them, and the manufacturers love to build them. At some point, though, you’ve got to move on, especially with aircraft like the F-18 that has done little to distinguish itself with anything other than avionics. Hell, I’ve met Gene Adams (father of the F-18 avionics system) and he’s a great guy, but even he has moved on from the F-18.

          • Tiger

            Jack of all trades; Master of None.

      • drone

        In economics, a sunk cost is any past cost that has already been paid and cannot be recovered. For example, a business may have invested a million dollars into new hardware. This money is now gone and cannot be recovered, so it shouldn’t figure into the business’s decision making process.

        Or, let’s say you buy tickets to a concert. On the day of the event, you catch a cold. Even though you are sick, you decide to go to the concert because otherwise “you would have wasted your money”.

        Boom! You just fell for the sunk cost fallacy.

        Sure, you spent the money already. But you can’t get it back. If you aren’t going to have a good time at the concert, you only make your life worse by going.

        • Dfens

          The F-18 is an under powered, aerodynamic nightmare, fuel inefficient piece of crap. So I’m going to give up on the new piece of crap that at least has stealth for the old piece of crap? No thank you very much. The Navy gave up on a bunch of good airplanes to keep the current piece of crap, and then they tell us the next program is going to be better? I wasn’t born yesterday.

          • Stormcharger

            As interesting as that assertion may be, perhaps you could cite some operational data to back it up? And what good airplanes did the Navy give up on?

        • Jeff M

          The hole in your analogy is that you know you’ll have to go to a concert eventually, you know we’ll need a replacement aircraft eventually. The only way to actually save money is to SKIP a generation of aircraft, which we do all the time, but not this time.

          • Dfens

            Hell, it’s been over 30 years since the Navy had a new airplane now. How long do you think a generation actually lasts?

      • S O

        “And the US taxpayer gets zero for the $200 billion they’ve currently sunk into JSF”

        You wrote it yourself: “sunk”.
        Sunk costs are irrelevant.

        The point about not wanting to use 1970’s-designs in the 2020’s is valid, but the sunk costs are no valid argument whatsoever.

        • Dfens

          If $200 billion is nothing to you, then you deserve what you’re going to get.

          • S O

            No matter what decision is done, the 200 billion are gone.

            Make two lists of advantages and disadvantages for cancellation and program continuation each.
            The 200 billion appear on both lists or on none, for the choice doesn’t change their expenditure. The choice makes no difference; the billions are spent already.
            It’s plain wrong, irrational, to take them into account (unless you were responsible for the waste and try to cover it up). Most people understand the sunk costs fallacy at least after it’s been explained to them.

          • Dfens

            Yeah, if only we’d listen to the bean counters. They will save us.

          • S O

            Well, those who fail basic math and logic surely won’t.

      • Bernard

        The JSF needs to be junked, in 20 years manned fighters will be obsolete and drones will control the skies. That’s what we need to focus on. People keep underestimating the advancement of computer technology, things are changing fast.

    • XB-70

      What we need is the AIM-54 Phoenix it still has a classified rang. The Iranians shot down a test drone from 230 miles away. That is what we need!

      • Dfens

        Nothing could carry it anymore. Plus, I’m not really sure it could hit anything. The old mechanical sweep radars were pretty slow. The Phoenix with a new escan radar might be ok, although I’d argue that passive seeker missiles are more appropriate for today’s air to air conflicts. All a radar does is announce its presence to the world and even with escanning, it’s hell to keep track of a target with a closing speed as high as M5.

        • Lance

          Id say the Super Hornet is a flop for a pure fleet defender escort fighter. Face it the magical AIM-120D is not operational. The F-18 is a lot slower and has shorter range and payload the F-14 it replaced had. The F-14 died due to tactics Dick Cheney had in both influence in the Navy and personal fiancés in Boeing. The F-18 both in A/C and E/F model where not meant to replace the F-14 they were replacements for the A-7 and A-6 attack planes. Face it this one airframe model makes a less capable Navy strike Wing then a more expensive multi platform fleet would. This must be cheap model shows how narrow minded the navy is since they keep saying all wars will be like Iraq and will not need fighters or fleet defenders. face it a flight of F-18 Super Hornets would be blown out of the air in a raid again Iran since they still have F-14s and since running out of AIM-54s now use the Russian copy which is the AA-9 Amos missile. Total reliance in the AIM-120 when new Missiles are needed is a poor military brass idiocy idea. A new AA missile may need to come, its not the AIM-120D.

        • Lance

          Sorry Defens is right The f-14 and F-111 where both the only planes who carried them the pathetic F-18 cannot carry such a heavy missile. The USAF never tried to field them so its unknown if the F-15 or F-22 could carry one. If so they could only carry 2 of them.

      • reality

        Plus it was designed to hit the jets that would be going after the fleet, which were large jets such as Bears and Backfire bombers, not SU-35’s. The phoenix is not meant to be as maneuverable as them. you want a 200 mile missile, need to design one, the Phoenix is not up there to be going after PAK-50’s or such.

      • Tiger

        Rules of Engagement make this long range shot talk, a red herring. Nobody is going weapons free without a clear ID of a target first.

  • ATC

    In addition, if your platforms are so expensive (& unreliable) that you have fewer of them in the air, then surely you need longer range missiles to cover a given airspace.

    Should probably ditch the AIM 120 in favour of the Meteor, but not sure if it fits in F35/F22 weapons bays.

    • Musson

      What good is a 120 mile missile when your Rules of Engagement require visual inspection?

      • Nessuno

        Boom. There it is. The most unappreciated obstacle to American forces in a next generation Pacific conflict.

        The opening waves of the conflict will be a blood bath while the politicians in Washington adjust to the new reality.

        Will it then be too late?

        That probably depends on how many aircraft we have, but with skyrocketing costs, that doesn’t look good.

      • Bernard

        You could get visual confirmation from a camera on board the missile. Just leave the warhead inactive until the it’s satellite link provides authorization. Unless we gain confidence enough to let the on board computer decide.

    • S O

      Longer range AAMs are not necessarily about longer combat ranges.

      A longer nominal range is the by-product of a more energetic propulsion, which may be pursued mostly to have a high thrust left during the terminal engagement (thrust still available = thrust vectoring agility available, and possibly the chance to engage the dodging and thus slowed-down target a second time after a miss).

  • Jacob

    So in 20-30 years’ time, when we’re about to replace the AMRAAM with whatever comes next, will we still be calling it the “advanced” medium-range air-to-air missile? For that matter, if we’re going to improve its range, maybe the second letter won’t be descriptive of the missile anymore either.

    • blight_


    • Mystick

      It will probably have “Joint” in the alphabet soup, if the trends to this point are followed.

      • blight_

        AMRAAM will be renamed to JAMRAAM.

        sed -i ‘s/^/J/’

  • superraptor

    Just team up with the Israelis. The next generation Raphael AAMs are in the works. Forget Raytheon. They will not be able to pull it off. Then there is the Meteor missile. We have options, why not apply them.

    • Ben


    • david

      And if we did that the Israelis would probably give the tech to China like they always do. No thanks!

      • blight_

        I suppose if Arrow and Iron Dome find their way into China you might have a leg to stand on. I thought Phalcon didn’t go to China, though Lavi may or may not have.

        We’ve used Israel as a cutout for American tech transfer before: remember Iran Contra? Israelis were already supplying Iran to fight Iraq and they just added TOW and Hawks to it on our command.

  • Liv

    Here’s my question: if the Raptor fires the AMRAAM at super cruise, doesn’t it already have a range advantage from that momentum?

    • Dfens

      It would if the F-22 actually had super-cruise. The term super-cruise was intended to mean that the F-22 would be capable of routinely cruising at around Mach 2 like the Concorde civilian airplane designed in the 1970s. Instead, because of the poor supersonic performance of the F-22, the term was dumbed down to mean the airplane can cruise without staying in after-burner (it has to employ the after-burner to get supersonic and only then can it cruise supersonic), but then it’s range is cut by nearly an order of magnitude.

      • Lightingguy

        I must be reading different sources, but the F22 can achieve mach 1.7 without the use of afterburners. Range is reduced though from a subsonic flight profile. Is this not the case and can you cite a source ?.

        • Dfens

          It can go M1.7 but it can’t “supercruise” that fast. Once it gets supersonic the fuel burn rate goes way up. It wasn’t supposed to do that. The whole point of the ATF program was to develop a fighter that lived in the supersonic realm. They actually did develop a prototype that showed it would do that, but it wasn’t the F-22.

          • Steve B.

            One definition of Super Cruise is to achieve sustained speeds above mach one without using afterburners. The F22 does that and can attain mach 1.7 without AB’s. I believe that fits the definition. It uses fuel at a faster rate then when going subsonic, but at a much slower rate then when using AB’s. The original ATF request was for super cruise speed out to mach 1.4-1.5, which the F22 achieved. It did not achieve the intended mission radius goal.

          • ajspades

            Steve B.,
            Correct, the F-22 can achieve and sustain supersonic flight without use of afterburners. It isn’t the first aircraft to do this, but is (one of) the first to do this in an operational configuration.

          • Dfens

            The hell it can. The F-22 needs the after burners to get supersonic. It can cruise at low supersonic speeds once it has used the after burners to get there, but even that takes a very high throttle setting even if the after burner is off.

          • S O

            Acceleration isn’t cruise, you seem to be very confused.

          • Steve B.

            No it doesn’t. The whole point of Super Cruise is you don’t need AB’s to accelerate to a high mach number. Other AC have this ability as well.

          • Dfens

            Look, this isn’t that hard. The F-22 needs burner to get supersonic. The F-22 does not need burner to sustain supersonic speed, and it can go as fast as M1.7 without leaving the after burner on, but it doesn’t cruise at M1.7. That’s full military power for those engines. You’d burn them up in a few minutes at that setting. It can cruise at something like M1.3 or M1.4 and it’s range at that speed is much reduced. I think it is something like 1/4th the subsonic range. It’s really not all that useful and only satisfies one not very useful definition of supercruise. It just happens to be the one that looks good on the military propaganda sheets.

          • S O

            BS. Mil Power can be used for extended periods. They’re meant for combat in general and that used to last many minutes.
            Besides, gas turbines can run at about 80% max. (dry) output as normal cruise output IIRC.

          • IronV

            What prototype was that?

          • Dfens


          • IronV

            Ah. I thought so. Well, agree or disagree, the F-22 won the competition based upon its superior balance of capabilities.

          • Dfens

            No, the YF-23 lost because schedule trumped performance. The 23 didn’t really show what it was capable of until the last flight or the last couple of flights. By then the Air Force had already decided and they didn’t want to look bad by reversing themselves. Like any lie, that one has cascaded into many others because if the truth were known people would be furious.

          • IronV

            Your analysis is conjecture and pure speculation–not supportable by any objective evidence. The deeper you go, the less it looks like you have any idea what you’re talking about.

          • Dfens

            Yeah, I guess I’m just not a good internet expert.

          • IronV

            When you say things such as “The Air Force chose the F-22 because it didn’t want to look bad,” you leave yourself in a very vulnerable position to say the least…

          • Dfens

            I’m sure that any minute now my credibility will slip lower than the DoD’s. It may even get down as far as the credibility of a defense contractor. I live in constant fear of that.

  • Dfens

    “Gigliotti didn’t challenge the U.S. military to develop an improved variant. He instead challenged the defense industry to start developing one now.” Gigliotti must be from Colorado if he thinks that’s going to happen. The defense contractors make an incredibly thin profit margin. The only way they can sustain themselves with a 10-15% profit margin is by completely eliminating all risk. If the military wants the contractors to go out and develop crap on their own, they could pay their contractors higher profit margins, but with no real incentive for these contractors to develop anything on their own funds, the most likely scenario is that the stockholders and company executives would simply pocket that money. The bottom line is, if you want the contractors to develop weapons on their own, then fix the procurement system so it rewards that.

    • Stan

      While I agree that defense industry would not do this on its own dime, 10-15% profit margin is spectacular especially considering who is paying. You want an example of a small profit margin, look at Amazon.

      • Dfens

        No, airplanes aren’t books. The aviation industry traditionally made a much higher profit margin back when they were developing their own airplanes. That’s how they could afford to do it. It’s great to clear 10%. If that’s your bottom line profit, then that’s fantastic, but the 10% aerospace companies make on defense contracts still has to be adjusted for overhead costs. Sadly, it’s a really f’ed up system.

        • blight_

          There’s something Ayn Rand about it.

          • Dfens

            It’s been a while since I read those books, but, yes, it’s just like when the books talked about why they couldn’t hire the best companies to make stuff. When I was a kid we had these movies about poor little Paco who grew up in Mexico and his parents couldn’t afford to let him go to school so he ended up poor like his parents and the cycle continued for generation after generation, and we’d all sit there and think how lucky we were to be in the US instead of Mexico. And now Mexico builds all our “American” cars.

        • S O

          Bullocks. 10%-15% is a high profit margin when applied to total turnover.

          Keep in mind those companies don’t really need to bother about production since they have guaranteed profit on development contracts. They could keep develop ultimately cancelled crap and still get their profit.

          Besides, any profit above 0% is enough to survive since divesture is highly unlikely.

          • Dfens

            History says you’re wrong. I didn’t write history, but I also wasn’t born yesterday.

          • S O

            Except you’re writing bullocks here.
            A quick search yields mountains of confirmation about how the average large corporation profit margin is below 10%.

            Example http://mattbruenig.com/2012/02/06/corporate-taxes

            I wasn’t born yesterday, that’s why I have a degree in economics and don’t tolerate people writing shit about economic issues when I see it.

          • Dfens

            At some point in their careers engineers generally learn not to argue with what works, or in this case, worked.

    • blight_

      The problem is that 10-15% cost-plus is per project, and unless they can bill every employee in the company to it, it means that 10-15% per project is split between employees not on the project in question and the shareholders.

      Crap, I just gave LM another idea…

      • Dfens

        Exactly. Don’t worry, though, Lockheed has already figured that one out and has found ever more elaborate ways to charge what would normally be considered overhead directly to contracts. Now they have it set up so that corporate executives are considered a direct charge to the contract. It’s actually too bad they can’t figure out a way to make janitors a direct charge. Then maybe they’d clean those rat infested facilities once in a while. Damn Boeing too. Those cube farms are chock full of toxic waste.

        • blight_

          For NIH/NSF etc research grants in the US, the institution typically skims off half the money as protection money…I mean, “indirects”.

          Investigator A gets 10m to investigate cancer, the institution takes 5-6M. In exchange, you still have to pay for core facility services, employ techs and grad students, buy equipment while they provide bathrooms, janitor, light and water…which doesn’t seem like it should be half of a research grant. Everyone screws the government, even state and private research institutions on grant funds. Luckily the computing facilities are paid for out of indirects, and my research actually involves said facilities. I pity the microbiologists who are getting money skimmed to pay for a supercomputer they have nothing to do with!

          It’s kind of like health insurance: when you don’t know what you’re paying for, the numbers are just fudged so that you can make what you feel is appropriate. Then when you’re forced to itemize, you’re pilling people twenty bucks a tablet, which is always hilarious and embarrassing.

          • Dfens

            Hell, that’s nothing. The big aerospace companies get about $350 an hour for engineering labor. I’d be more than happy to see even 1/4th of that.

          • blight_

            Different ways to screw the taxpayer. StateU is playing for chump change.

            NIH isn’t as rich as the DoD, you know

          • Dfens

            Better to kill than heal, apparently.

      • S O

        No, cost accounting takes into account the personnel costs including the overhead costs.
        Any “profit margin” is on top of ALL costs.

  • Lance

    I agree forget the AIM-120 we need a new AIM missile period. Navy lost performance BIG time when Dick Cheney. Force out the F-14 and its AIM-54 missiles which have longer range and are faster then the AIM-120 series missiles. We should look at new technology in this area. I do caution on this AIM-120D its been delayed several time seems they can get it to work just right more emphasis to look into a new missiles for Raptors and Eagles.

    • ronaldo

      Where do you get these numbers ? The Phoenix shouldn’t even be in this conversation as it was engineered for an entirely different mission……not a ” dog fight’ missile at all. It was engineered to climb to cruise at between 80-100,000 ft and then plunge UNPROPELLED down to it’s enemy target.

      It was so ill conceived for a fighter on fighter mission that only ONE was ever fired in combat….in Iraq and the results were never known.

      Geez guys…do you homework !

      • Lance

        No the AIM-54 was a full supersonic missile and the Iranians in the Iran Iraq war shot everything from MiG-21s 23s and 25s to Mirage F-1s and SU-22s with them. DO some Homework on the Iran Iraq war and get info from more than wikipedia Need a fleet defender and missile to do this modern Chinese or Russian bombers can shoot fleets of sea skimming anti-ship missiles at a carrier and be flying back home before a AIM-120 armed Hornet can engage one. Your the one who seem seems to be not doing your home work you think all wars will be like Iraq or Afghanistan where ships will never be a target. Ronaldo do your home work go rent some books.

        • Tiger

          Just because you think you can shoot that far, does not mean I’m going to get clearance to fire on a Unknown, without ID, That may not be a threat.

      • Atomic Walrus

        Just about all air-to-air missiles have a rocket motor that burns out before the terminal maneuvering phase. Phoenix was designed to hit targets at long range. If employed properly, the target would never know it was coming. Definitely not a dog fight missile, but as you note, it was never meant to be.

        • S O

          Just about all antique ones may do.
          There are booster-sustainer rocket engines and restartable rocket engines in use.

  • Tribulationtime

    Easy!. 1) Twin Update INS 2) on-board radar with AESA (like fighters radar update, maybe bigger diameter) 3) expendable booster 4) Carrie them on dedicate comformal external stores 5) Purpouse: first volley from + 250 km.

  • Salva

    What a joke!!After all the money spend on this turkey, now they asking for a longer range missile.!!.is it not ?? the idea of stealth, to give you the ability to get close to your enemy and stab(short range aam) him in the back without warning??.what a croc?..how come we don’t hear non-stealth a/c fighter pilots(F15,F16,F18 ) asking for longer range aam.instead of spending all that money developing ultra expensive stealth a/c,why not instead concentrate on developing a long range stealth aam?.i mean if we make mach 2+ F22 stealth a/c, why not a mach3, long range stealth aam. Like the old phoenix long range aam(F14) ,but with stealth.?.that way we can mount 3 dozens of them on a B52 or B1 bomber and sweep anything off the sky for 300 miles.!!!

    Ohh hell ..what do i know?? I’m just a humble tax paying school bus driver!!!!

    • Dfens

      In a stealth vs. stealth engagement, you are right, nothing is going to happen at long range. The idea is to have better stealth than the enemy, better passive sensors (including eyeballs), and a better information system (Link16, Link22) than the enemy so you get the first look and presumably the first kill. You don’t want to engage the enemy in a classic dogfight because that negates your stealth advantage.

      If it is stealth vs. non-stealth you could have some long range shots. You would be aware of the enemy long before they are aware of you, and you can take them down with long range missiles. The problem with using long range radar guided missiles is that you have to radiate to keep the missiles on track, which negates your stealth. Even if only the missiles radiate to find the target, it still gives the enemy a pretty good idea of where you are.

      • blight_

        Debating if the future is low RCS shape of missile (Have Dash), off-bore capability (found in the AIM-120D) and a LPI seeker..

        There’s a power and volume budget for missiles the more powerful you go and it also is kind of moot if you have a datalink to an aircraft’s radar…

    • Guest

      Go to You Tube and look up MALD, C-130, MCALS.
      You have the correct idea but you are making some key mistakes.
      First off, nobody in their right minds closes to an enemy who has superior numbers, shorter radius back to base and a better performing aircraft as superior total missile count.
      You swing and miss and now you cannot get away from the fight because he can SEE YOU, literally. And the F135 engine on the F-35 JSF is particularly crippled here in that it is a very hot plume which attracts IRST and seeker heads for -miles- greater distance than the previous F100/110 on the F-15/16.
      Second, long range doesn’t mean much if you take forever getting there. The super-long AIM-54 shot 110nm/125mi only hit it’s target because it continued closing and it took almost three minutes to get to the impact point of 71nm.
      In a real war condition, the target will have done any of a dozen different, random or deliberate, things (90`left and extend etc.) to further complicate the intercept geometry and then the missile cannot make up the difference.
      OTOH, if you switch to turbine, not rocket, propulsion, for the same weight of about 300lbs as the AMRAAM, you can now fly almost 500nm. Which means you can put your missiles well out ahead of the ingressing friendly formation and when they acquires the target, using network linked optical seekers, they are only about 10-15nm ahead of the enemy.
      What is more, since they have already covered the midcourse which is where most rocket-motor weapons burn up a lot of energy doing nothing, ‘very fast’, they now have a more stable, 500-600 knot, capability to attack, miss and reattack. The same way wolves would use pack tactics to distract and wear down a moose or elk before moving in for the kill.
      As for why most ‘normal’ fighter pilots don’t want more than AIM-120, the answer is simple. They want the F-35 as job insurance before their F-15/16 fall apart under their feet while believing they can always pay for better missiles later.
      And, so long as they have a given X-level missile system based around (realistic) 2-5nm heat shots and 6-10nm BVR radar weapons, they can always ‘game the system’ with tactics and countermeasures to defeat other pilots as much as weapons.
      As soon as you start going uber-tastic on your weapons system performance, suddenly it’s an accountant’s game of statistics: X many shots fired from Y range = Z kills, due to saturation.
      Figher pilots are like the jock classes they are taken from in high school: athletic and competitive driven towards individual excellence as achievement. But unlike the Glory Daze crowd who never live past their Football Championship, they are college educated in mathematics and physics to the point where they -know- they can be beaten, if the numbers get bad enough. And so they try, via their Union Shop closed society, to control the evolution of their combat environment in the absolute smallest increments possible.
      This is great for peacetime, where it funds large armed forces who are essentially only competing with each other as parade forces and symbols of national pride. But in conflict, where a tiny city-state country like Iraq cannot possibly hope to have enough resources to beat a continental nation-state like the U.S., it inspires ‘cheating’.
      And as we all know, in love as in war, there is no cheating.

  • bart

    Just make a AA missile with enough range that it can be fired from the runway at home base. ;)

  • Big-Dean

    Bring back the Tomcat and the Phoenix missile!

    • ronaldo

      Phoenix never shot down anything. Epic fail.

      • IronV

        You seem to have a fixation with Phoenix, and not a favorable one. Way ahead of its time and never fired in enough numbers operationally to measure its effectiveness either way.

        • Dfens

          They might have worked against Bear bombers, but they were pretty useless against the Libyan fighters in the Gulf of Sidra. They probably splashed some Q’s, but that’s not quite the same, is it?

          • IronV

            Again. Not enough data to make that conclusion. Phoenix tested well and was in any case a dramatic engineering achievement. To describe it as an “Epic Fail” is not just unsupportable but really an insult to the work and innovation that went into it.

          • Dfens

            Ok, yes, I see your point. North Vietnam certainly used radar guided ground to air missiles very effectively against US aircraft in that war, so you’d have to think anything we’d be using now would be far advanced over that.

    • SPL

      Ask the Iraqi AF about their “Iranian Phoenix Experience”…

    • blight_


      Wonder if NASA ever did get its hands on those Phoenix missiles..

      • Dfens

        Damn, I want to know where you buy military surplus items like that? The 4th of July is coming up and like all good idiots I want my final words in life to be, “y’all watch this.”

  • I wonder if it were wise relying on just one missile type and if there should not be a parallel development of another medium to long range missile for the US.

  • citanon

    You guys realize what he just said right:

    The detection and tracking ranges for the F22 and F35s are now so long, even against newer generation threats, that they now need a longer range missile than the AIM-120D to keep up.

    This coupled with Marine Gen Robert Schmidle’s comments on 60 min regarding the abilities of the F-35 vs FIFTH GEN Russian and Chinese fighters should give the F35 haters here something to think about: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/f-35-joint-strike-fig

    These planes are not just and evolutionary step. They are doing something entirely different that has not been publicly disclosed. If Schmidle is right, then they will be worth every penny.

    • displacedjim

      Right. On. Target.

      • yogiberra111

        Yes. Finally someone gets it right.

  • William_C1

    The test pilot is right. The AMRAAM was a huge improvement but we can do far more than even the latest AIM-120D.

    Sensor improvements could be made through use of a dual mode seeker (adding IIR in addition to active radar) or an electronically scanned array. Based on DARPA’s T3 program adding a passive anti-radiation capability is another possibility. This would enable a secondary capability to suppress radar guided SAMs on the ground. Useful when you consider the F-35 will almost always be carrying two such missiles internally regardless of what other stores are being carried.

    Propulsion could be improved through either a VFDR (similar to what the MBDA Meteor employs) or an advanced dual-pulse/multi-pulse rocket motor.

    Some of the concepts tested in the Have Dash II program might be worth a second look too.

  • Hialpha

    OKAY! I wish people would stop talking about the AIM-54 like they understand what the hell they are talking about! Sure, 40 years ago when it was conceived it was impressive on paper and in testing, but as already noted, its true combat value was unassessable. Its day is done and so is the Tomcat so let it go!

    Somebody at the top of this forum said something like (I’m not bothering to scroll up for a real quote) “the Super Hornet provides 80% of the fighter capability of the Tomcat.” You know when people say that 86% if all statistics are made up? Yeah, that one was complete, absolute garbage. No kidding, the Super Hornet is slower, and lighter on gas than the Tomcat but that the sensor fusion, precision avionics and weapons systems and high maneuverability of the SH really are a generation ahead of the last Tomcat upgrade. Period. Statements that start with “woulda,” “shoulda,” or “coulda” and end in “Tomcat glory forever” are irrelevant.

    The truth is that the AIM-120 is a very good, reliable missile. But it isn’t the only very good, reliable missile and the newest tech from around the world has evened the playing field. Anyways as far as medium or long range air to air missiles, the Pk’s are always oversold and we buy from the lowest bidder. Besides, as good as the missiles are, the tactics involved aren’t always properly implemented (Mongo pull trigger too soon, OOPS) which means that it doesn’t matter how sh%t-hot your missiles are if you can’t launch them on timeline. Jeez!

    Okay, I’m off my soapbox about that — now on to the article. I don’t think this is a hit on the F-35 just because some test pilots have asked for a better missile. I’m not a huge fan of the F-35, especially for the Navy family, but test guys are in a good place to ask for a better missile because testing that stuff is their job. The guys in no-kidding deployable squadrons don’t typically talk about that stuff because they are training to use the weapons they have not the weapons they want.

    As far as the AIM-120D, it’s no secret that the government is robbing peter to pay paul with it’s acquisition of the F-35. There is a lot more money to be made both in the US and abroad if we can get the thing flying. If we were to get the thing flying without cracking and sell it properly, nobody would remember that an aircraft is only as good as the sensors, weapons and survivability that it can bring to a fight; except, of course, the dudes who fly it. ;-)

    • Tiger

      Good & reliable missile?

  • oblatt2

    The F-35 really gives a shot in the air to all those air-forces with late 60s and 70s fighters. Suddenly they are competitive with teh latest American aircraft.

    While at the same time the F-35 enables all sorts of innovative tactics such as launch on bearing. With such large no escape zones due to poor kinematics the poor F-35 pilot can only watch and sweat. Hope hes not seen as any active or passive seeker lock on cant be out-maneuvered.

    Lockheed’s solution is stay at home – never go near air defenses of any sort.

    • William_C1

      So are all of these late 60s and 70s aircraft just going to magic themselves to a close enough range where they can actually detect the F-35?

      Launch on bearing? So the F-35 pilot would just have to switch his radar back to standby and bank to the right or left, probably not even having to hit the afterburner. Meanwhile his wingmen will be maneuvering to both cover him and keep track of the enemy, and linking that information directly to him so he stills knows where everybody is.

    • citanon

      It’s O.O.D.A. Not just focus on A and forget the OOD.

      • displacedjim

        Forget about it. oblatt and lance are consistantly the least cogent posters on this site.

  • Chuck Mock

    The powers that be killed the F-14—Phoenix program and that missle had 130 mi capability and they were working on expanding its range. Now they have shot themselves in the foot.

    • William_C1

      The Phoenix was primarily designed to kill large bomber sized aircraft. It could be used against fighters and the improved AIM-54C was supposedly better than the original AIM-54A against such targets, yet it still didn’t have the best odds to hit compared to late model AIM-7s or the AIM-120.

      The Phoenix was never used in combat against the targets it was intended for but the few times it was used against fighters by the USN it caused the enemy (Iraqi MiGs) to flee but eventually missed the target.

      The Iranians supposedly claimed a respectable number of kills with the 285 Phoenixes they did have, but few of the actual details on these engagements are known. The Iraqis did tend to flee when lit up by the radar of USN F-14’s so it seems they had learned to fear the F-14 in the Iran-Iraq War.

  • TonyC.

    The AIM-120 was designed to replace the Sparrow as a fire and forget medium range air to air missile. The idea of a long range air to air missile has been around since the development fo the AIM-54 Phoenix for the F-14A. The problem is size and weight, both of which should be manageable with new technologies. The US military objective of first shot, first kill is the driving factor for longer range weapons. Most engagements will still probably result in more conventional dogfights using Sidewinders and a gun. This is a result of the Rule Of Engagement that normally enters into any combat scenario. The F-22A is the best fit for the one fighter fits all combat envelopes scenario, but it can’t fly from an aircraft carrier. A new long range missile would best help the US Navy and Marine Corps.

    • displacedjim

      X-Rays? Sure, because they are as close to one-shot-kills as any missile has gotten so far. Guns? Nope. Name the last gun kill aganst another fighter. Possibly in LO v. LO engagements in the future guns in Air-to-Air might return to again being something a little more than just a 1000pound dead weight insurance policy against that 1-in-a-1000 oh sh!t moment.

      • TonyC.

        The gun was last used in Viet Nam and the Sidewinder in Operation Desert Storm. The gun is needed when visual confirmation of the enemy aircraft is required under ROE. The pilots all want a gun, it is the best close in weapon when the fighters are head to tail in a traditional dogfight. If there is a war involving a REAL opposing air force (ie: China), all weapons will be needed.

        • Thomas L. Nielsen

          Plus, for situations short of an all-out shooting war, it’s a bit complicated (and expensive) to fire warning shots with an AIM-9X.

          Regards & all,

          Thomas L. Nielsen

        • displacedjim

          Unlike what many had hoped in the ’60s, by the ’80s missiles really have become reliable enough to make the gun just a back-up, and by today all-but-superfluous–and dogfighting is headed on that same path for now. There’s no good reason why a war with China should have to change that, either, although of course it’s always possible our forces could be hamstrung with restrictive ROEs that force us to fall back into tactics that make using guns more likely.

          • Dfens

            Guns are about more than air-to-air combat. I’ll bet there’s been more than one time in the last couple of desert conflicts that an F-15 has emptied its ammo box on enemy troops coming through the wire.

          • displacedjim

            Absolutely. That’s why I’ve been careful every time to limit my comments to only A-to-A against another fighter. F-15E, F-16, and F-18 have all been used many times to make gun passes.

  • NickG

    You guys are unbelievable! Relax let the folks at DOD work this out. The F-35 does have its (many) issues (just like most new A/C) before it. They will get worked out or eventually the program gets killed. Yes, we really could use a longer range missile especially for our legacy fleet. I would not be very worried about what the Russians fabricate as they cannot even put together a real hockey team for their own Olympics. The Chinese are the ones to watch.

  • wtpworrier

    “The latest model, the D-model, can fly Mach 4 with a range of about 180 kilometers or about 97 nautical miles.”____________________________________________________Thats a pretty good ways out. I mean, when you can stand 90 miles out and have the possibility of hitting the target, h-ll…why have jets? Not only that, our “potential” enemy don’t have anything that can out fly it, nobody does as far as that matters…as far as we know.

    • I believe we should have kept the 14 and built them with latest tech, avionics, and F-119s engines that work. Keep the F/A-18 because the dam thing works!!! Ordnance: The range is too dam short and too dam slow. New more compact air-to-air missile with multi-tri optics and radar, the ability to track with radar and infa red at the same time and a range of 150+. Finally, send the 20mm valcan cannon down to Arizona to Dillon and let them rebuild them like the M134 Gatling Gun. And give the 20s a bigger ammo can. _finished, but what do I know. I used to shoot artillery.

      • Dfens

        F airplanes. I say we make a bunch of swords and go all 300 on their ass…

  • I think everyone is missing the real problem here. We need a propulsion technology that will add range without increasing the size of the missile. A major problem with the AIM-54 was its size. An F-14 could only carry 6. Now, if bombers are your only target that might be good, but we must expect that F-22s are likely to be fighting out numbered by more than 6 to one. At the start of the conflict, the enemy will control when and where he will mass. That means if we can double the range of an AIM-120 with a new motor, we could also make new missiles half the size with nearly the range of the missile with the older motor. That would give the F-22 two regular size (with double the range motors), and eight smaller missiles with the range of the previous AIM-120 for a total of 10 missiles. Long range fights are good, but they still will be rare. And they are called missiles and not hittles for a reason, despite what the Russians think of their new R-77M. When used correctly, end game maneuvers will always be capable of defeating a missile at high speed. Having more missiles per plane is really much more important. It allows fewer planes (which is the problem with the F-22) to be more productive per sortie.

    • displacedjim

      I’m not sure why you think we’ll be fighting at more than 6-to-1 odds. Of course, 6-to-1 against F-22s basically just means each F-22 kills several bandits with the rest running for home.

      • Because the enemy will choose when and where to fight, and will have the advantage of massing where we aren’t. That sort of thing happened in war. Also, since countries like China are building more airplanes than we are. If you read what I posted, you would understand that missiles “miss”. Pks are never 100%. It is unlikely that the AIM-120 would ever get a Pk above 80% against a near peer enemy. Don’t assume the enemy will just run home either. Su-30MKI/J-11 can get targeting data on stealth aircraft from VLF radars that would allow them to find a general area of stealth planes. These radars would have to be jammed/destroyed for stealth aircraft to succeed. The Chinese at least are disciplined enough to send fighters to overwhelm F-22s even after some of thier aircraft are destoryed.

        • displacedjim

          And it’s the single biggest point about our 5th-gen a/c that *we* will have the situational awareness advantage and *we* will choose the fight. No, China is not building more aircraft than we are, and certainly not in the categories that make a real different beyond their numbers, i.e., our legacy 4th-gen fighters that we have far more of than they do, and 5th-gen that we are actually using while they won’t have anything resembling them in service for another decade. Thanks, I’m aware of missile Pk. I suggest you’re dreaming that their J-11 can get “targeting” data on our LO a/c from any ground-based radars regardless of operating frequency, and once again you appear to be talking about some scenario where we are fighting them over/near mainland China. I have a hard time agreeing that is particularly likely. “Overwhelm” our F-22? When our F-22 are out of ammo they’ll leave, and there won’t be anything the PLAAF can do to stop them.

        • displacedjim

          Your concern seems to me to only be viable in about the worst-case scenario out of all the possible conflicts world-wide: Us trying to drive downtown over China, but without us properly peeling their air defense onion first. My answer to that would be the answer the doctor gave me when I told him it hurts when I twist my spine like this–“Then don’t do that.”

  • Guest


    Nope, but you’re close.
    First off, the reason Miss-iles live down to their name is three fold:

    1. They emphasize the wrong part of the envelope.
    Getting across the midcourse before the threat flies out of envelope or disappears from your scope is all well and good but it puts a HUGE amount of mass into go-quicker rather than farther. And I mean seriously farther. As in 300-500nm. Which a six foot long, 300lb, turbine powered MALD can do.
    2. Repass For The Win.
    When they get to endgame, AAM/SAM are either going too fast or too slow to be optimized to the one dice throw chance they get to turn harder on those tiny wings and bodylift. Which is silly because missiles are really nothing more than kamikaze wingmen and if they have flown X many miles in Y many seconds for optimum terminal energy maneuver, the threat merely needs to avoid that intersection of altitude, impulse seconds and speed to beat them. Whereas, if they are already out front flying lead sweep like hounds before the hunters at little more than 500 knots, then where they are encountered becomes more random and what the threat does to avoid them isn’t as effective because they can have ‘rechargeable’ energy factors (as turbine engines), just like it does.
    3. Threats and counters are cheaper.
    Time is again a primary factor in choosing whether you look-shoot-look on single missile engagements. Or shift to shoot-shoot-look on salvos. In the former case, a long range shot which missiles must be repeated because you cannot afford to double up on salvo attrition if you are only carrying a few and long times of flight equate to lots of threat closure on your position if not commitment to MCG to your own shot. But at the same time, close-in engagements, whether you double down or not, make the chance of counter shot or active defense from the moment of launch (rather than the moment the MAWS/MLDS detects the inbound when it is 5-10nm out) much higher.
    Because modern QWIP IRST can see motor ignition from a high energy propellant at 80km or more. Now, for the same SSPK, you are shooting 2 missiles, minimum, anyway. Though they might miss the lighting of an F112 type turbine with an obstructive flow diffuser.
    CUDA is essentiallly AAAM without the booster as what you described- a half-AMRAAM length mini-BVR shot that can be loaded 2 per station on the JSF door launchers.
    It is radar guided which means it may or may not work well against RFLO technologies developed in the next 20 years.
    And it is not invulnerable to the next ‘coming soon’ solutions which will be cheap Missileer UCAVs that act like maximum-ELO trucks for sensor cuing platforms (L/S-Band AESA on Blk.40 GHawk will look down on most stealth threaths upper fuselage decks where they are ‘hotside’ easier to see) that are much further back.
    Kill a 10 million dollar UCAV loaded up with 10X.5 million dollar AAMs and you’ve only lost 15 million. Whoopy. Buy 6 more and you will equal the cost of a single F-35.
    Nor will the missile do well in the dawn of the SSL age as 100KW, weaponized, slab slasers migrate from ground to airborne use.
    Indeed, as ground threats move towards 1MW by 2025 and relay (via aerostat lofted prismatic mirrors, good to 60km+) by 2035, the need for cheap, invisible, missiles to essentially operate _independently_ (without threat terrain overflight by parent aircraft) in enemy battlespaces will become a driving factor in whether air superiority is achieved or air defenses simply ‘endured’ as a function of mass launch of aeroballistics as hypersonic cruise weapons (ARRMD/FastHawk/RATTLRS).
    IMO, subsonic,<500nm, manned, airpower is as dead as the dinosaurs on the other side of the world from the KT impact. We just haven't seen the tech proliferation catch up with leading shock wave of change.

    • William_C1

      These Missileer type UCAVs don’t yet exist outside of possible black projects. We are still many years away from true “smart” autonomous capability for UCAVs which when dealing with an EW intensive environment will be necessary for such platforms to have the same degree of utility as manned aircraft. Keeping such UCAVs cheap will be rather difficult. The Predator is very simple in comparison. While such a Global Hawk could serve as a new generation of AWACS it is still going to be somewhat vulnerable to large long-range AAMs. It will be therefore be necessary for some stealthy UCAVs to have radar systems of their own, or to be supported by manned aircraft (6th generation fighters) to provide guidance.

      When lasers reach such a point (which won’t be for some time) they will revolutionize the battlefield but we aren’t there yet. On future missile designs it will become necessary to minimize radar, IR, and other categories of signature to increase the difficulty of detecting and targeting them. Yet they have to be cheap enough to afford in large numbers as lasers may still down a significant % of them. That will also be quite a challenge.

      Continued research into plasma shielding concepts should be a priority to protect both manned and unmanned aircraft from directed energy weaponry. On manned aircraft it will also be necessary to shield the aircrew from being blinded visually by laser systems, which means they would be flying entirely by the aircraft’s sensors in such an environment with no “direct” view out the cockpit.

      Considering how expensive all of this will be I’m starting to think part of the American political spectrum would rather just surrender the technological lead to the countries (likely China) who invest heavily in directed energy weaponry.

      • Guest

        Disagree. Missileer UCAVs are little more than an autopilot, GPS and MAWS system linked together. The human does all the route planning as a function of where threat AD is an what the nearest baselanes are.

        The robot simply goes round and round, like any V-1 buzzbomb having a bad hair day.

        When trade emerges, you send a datalink squirt to the aircraft using the same AESA technology as your radar (F-22 has passed 170 megabyte radar maps using it’s APG-77 as a ‘microwave modem’, in 4 seconds) which is to say the difference between there-and-back-again on a sensor pulse vs. one way trip for the commo traffic.

        While modern fighter combat is entirely dependent on datalinks anyway (a fighter section could not survive without offboard ISR links, even with pilots), the reality remains that the aircraft which has the least emissions and the least performance requirements to complete an aggressive intercept, can be both designed (flying wing = simplest structural pathways and best bowtie signature values) and employed (off to the side, waiting for a threat launch) in the manner least likely to attract attention.

        Sensorization is not the problem many assume it to be either. The weapons of the S-300/400/500 classes which have the reach to nail a standoff HALE platform also run about 60-100 million dollars per battery.

        Nail these with a combination of SatRecce overhead, SOF and expendable targeting drones like the Mirach series and you don’t have a cause for concern because the whole point of the UCAV-forward strategy is to hit the shooter early in his intercept (gear in well, preferably) so that even if he does get an LRAAM off at your GHawk AWACS, it doesn’t have midcourse data.

        Put another way: If you can risk your 40 million dollar RQ-4 to in-country recce with onboard radars and optics blazing away at short range, a standoff AEW&C mission is nothing.

        Northrop Grumman just completed lab testing of the 108KW Gamma Firestrike ‘Slab’ laser and for a 5-10km weaponization threshold, it’s roughly the size of an industrial microwave oven and only weighs 500lbs. Operational versions will see use no later than 2020, even if we don’t productionize the technology, because the solid state laser is based on civilian telecoms tech which means it cannot be proliferation-contained.

        Comparatively, the F-35 is going to be an albatross draped around the U.S. DODs neck until 2060, by which time 1MW lasers will be common place and aerostat tethered relay mirrors will take the beam up out of the pollutant saturated, low altitude, air to high altitude where they will reach 60-100km downrange.

        At which point, having UCAVs will be the difference between having airpower and having WWI level, ‘over the top’, attrition among aircrews like they were infantry facing machine guns for the first time.

        BVR as a manned jet firing all of two missiles while carrying a pair of 12nm standoff bombs almost to overflight of the target is as dead a concept as the dinosaurs, the day after KT. The pilot community just don’t know it yet.

        • William_C1

          For clarification are we talking about UCAVs hauling standoff air-to-ground weapons like the JSOW or JASSM or are we talking about air-to-air missiles? For air-to-air combat even active radar missiles require mid-course guidance updates. The Global Hawk would still be vulnerable to very long range air-to-air missiles and strategic SAMs. While those systems are very expensive, a Global Hawk with a very powerful state-of-the-art AESA radar won’t be cheap either. Just for the sake of insurance I think it would be a good some of those stealthy UCAVs to have their own radar arrays.

          Autonomous air-superiority missions will be possible before a lot of other tasks, but in my opinion such missions will be very unlikely outside of a total war scenario between superpowers. In a more limited conflict the possibility of downing a civilian or allied aircraft will make a lot of people hesitant to use UCAVs in such a manner. The use of manned “6th generation” fighters as controllers may be useful here.

          The challenge in destroying batteries of long-ranged SAMs like the S-400 is that they will typically be protected by a lot of shorter ranged systems, many of which are designed to engage cruise missiles and even smaller targets down to the size of HARM missiles. The introduction of laser air defense systems only makes the job that much more difficult.

          UCAVs are still going to be vulnerable to such direct energy weapons, although on the positive is that there is no risk of a pilot being blinded. I’m guessing by this time our own aircraft will be capable of carrying their own laser systems for active defense against enemy missiles and various uses against other targets. Yet having each individual UCAV carry such a system certainly wouldn’t be affordable.

          So how do we deal with an integrated air defense system featuring some high-powered lasers? Use stealth to get as close as possible and then attempt to overwhelm with numbers? I don’t see many other options. Do you think this is to be done at very low or high altitude?

          We’ve operated far greater numbers of complicated (for their time) aircraft than 2,400 or so F-35s. There is no reason this should be an albatross around our neck. The Russians and Chinese know about what the future could contain yet they aren’t hesitating from building their own 5th generation fighters. There is no reason we should halt our own programs based on what may or may not occur decades from now.

          Like I said we aren’t yet to that point where BVR combat is redefined. Nor will we be there for many years yet. Shorter ranged weapons are naturally cheaper than longer ranged systems like the JASSM or the next generation of supersonic or hypersonic cruise missiles. To overwhelm an IADS the use of small and cheap weapons in large numbers may be necessary.

          • Guest


            For clarification are we talking about UCAVs hauling standoff air-to-ground weapons like the JSOW or JASSM or are we talking about air-to-air missiles?

            JASSM and JSOW are very large and expensive and in the JASSM-ER’s case, subject to better launch methods from either a CABS configured C-17 or a groundlaunch/VLS launch ala LRASM-B.
            Particularly given the nature of the F-35s restricted payload (deepXnarrow and very warm), there is nothing that says a UCAV cannot be a truck for manned jets, provided it’s signature is equal to or less than theirs. I would however offer that a quad of 300lb GBU-53/B on a BRU-61 smart rack is a better size/weight fight for an aircraft which is /also/ an A2A missile truck.

            For air-to-air combat even active radar missiles require mid-course guidance updates.

            The A-12 Avenger would have been qualified with the AIM-152 AAAM and that combination would have required an F-14 with a standoff of at least 50nm (and a separate illuminator pod) to be useful because the APQ-183 radar was Ka Band and thus useless on any target much outside 15nm.
            If Shooter:Illuminator can work for the A-12/F-14D, it can work for UCLASS/F/A-18F (or F/A-XX or MQ-4C).
            The key here is that you want to have the ability to shoot from waaaaaay over here as soon as your SOF team or your COMINT wireup or your UGS or your primary surveillance radar picks up the threat in the baselane. The implication being (for the A-12) that you could loft a weapon while ingressing at low level, still some 20-30nm out or more.
            Which means that the Fighter doesn’t run into hard floor issues with shooting into ingressing aircraft traffic lanes (F-15C in Desert Storm had a floor of 2,000ft) while ‘hovering’ at the edge of the SAM engagement envelope. This is particularly a problem with mechanical arrays like the AWG-9 and APG-63V but it also applies to the AESA generation simply because the array is tilted up to prevent a hogs nose effect with very little gimballing possible on the American radars.
            For a LO aicraft already at altitude and well within the SAM envelope, this doesn’t matter as much, provided the standoff platform is well and truly ‘out there’, with enough ERPs to paint the aircraft.

            The Global Hawk would still be vulnerable to very long range air-to-air missiles and strategic SAMs.

            Global Hawk costs on third the price of an F-35.
            And you begin your air campaign, as indeed we did in 2003, with a 60-90 day period of killing the enemy radars and semi-mobile SAMs, using cheapo UAVs that literally fly parallel to roads, and look under bridges, optically.

            While those systems are very expensive, a Global Hawk with a very powerful state-of-the-art AESA radar won’t be cheap either.

            GHawk on it’s own is about 40. If you add in all the goodies of Mission Equipment Package and control station, it comes up to about 100 million.
            The principle difference is that the MP-RTIP on the Blk.40 is a veritable bill board sized array and has ENORMOUS power off either side (cooling dependant). It is X-Band but could be lowered to C/S and maybe even L-band where range response is better (though clutter degradation is worse).
            Which means that, so long as the threat has to come up to play, because we are cruising and dropping bombs from 40K, the RTIP radar will see them, from upwards of 200nm away. Even LO threats of the F-117 generation.

            Just for the sake of insurance I think it would be a good some of those stealthy UCAVs to have their own radar arrays.

            The A-45 was originally to have a version of the TESAR/MESAR system on the RQ-4. Then they went to ‘XTRA’ as a conformal array (smart skin stuff). I frankly don’t believe that this is a good idea for the simple reason of cost. I would be interested in a pack-hunting option in which the weapons bay could be fitted with a palletized system looking through a special door.
            That said, my first thought when you mentioned this was not RF at all but an 800mm objective lens range tracking camera with a hyperspectral doped 1028X1028 array optical system.
            Again, because if you are flying in the 40-60K range, the weather is not going to be as important an issue and if you have the signature capabilities to penetrate the SAM belts, you also gain the side-look ability to catch plume tracks exiting the baselanes from a considerable distance.

            Autonomous air-superiority missions will be possible before a lot of other tasks, but in my opinion such missions will be very unlikely outside of a total war scenario between superpowers.

          • Guest

            Which is why they should be automated.
            Look, in Vietnam we faced three principle shortcomings which prevented us from flatly trouncing the second rate VPAF:
            1. ROE
            You can’t bomb Kep except the third friday of May in a leap year. You can’t shoot BVR because we’ve lost 5 jets and an Australian Gunboat compared to the hundreds which will fall to MiGs, either directly or because supporting missions like Weasels and SOJAM were driven offstation.
            2. Lack of Equipment.
            When the first QRC pods became available, they were reserved for the bombers and that made TARCAPing a very risk business. Even once the pods started to become a little less thin on the ground, we had issues of wiring compatibility vs. coverage (spatial and band) wherein an F-4 which was already on the edge of safe gas suddenly had to give up one of it’s 370 gallong wing tanks because the ALQ-71/87/101 wouldn’t go anywhere else. Half the reason for carrying AIM-4 rails was because they gave correct voltage power for a jammer pod.
            Beyond this we have issues with the Dogfight radar mode constantly dumping Sparrows and Sparrows with poor to non-existent maintenance being flown for a dozen missions like they were wooden rounds. Vs. Sidewinders that couldn’t be fired at all, over 2G and had no envelope prediction on jets which were often either inside their 2,000ft fuze Rmin or able to exit their 4-6,000ft RMax when they were fired (AIM-7 SSPK of .08 is at least half related to the issues with Sidewinder being near equally worthless at .15).
            3. Lack Of Coverage/Cross Roling.
            A2A is a mission that is flow 70%. Maneuvered 25%. And prosecuted 5%. And you really don’t know which or when which means you had better have an excess rather than a shortfall of total sorties or you will find yourself robbing your support missions to get your BOTOTs covered and that’s just beggin’ for trouble as the VPAF often showed amazing insight and fortitude in pressing through BARCAPs HAVCAPs to prosecute EB-66/EKA-3, even when they were covered.
            Of course the opposite of this is not an F-16 or 35 with a pair of AMRAAM aboard because then you have the B-17 bomber turret defense. You fight the mission by the profile you fly. And for OCA, that means you don’t lug bombs. You stay fast and clean. And you have people in the slots who know what they are doing because they are trained for this, the most difficult of the mission arts.
            You _do not_ suddenly become a fighter when a MiG sweeps across your nose, chasing some other poor, bombed up, bleepard.
            This is particularly true with the advent of working BVR/ARH for both sides in that you can end up with a mission kill, just dumping weapons and gas to get enough smash on the jet to defeat an inbound threat fired from 10-15nm out.
            All of which together is why we bought 750 F-15s and 2,000 F-16s and the latter ‘Boyd’s Baby’ as a super dogfighter extraordinaire, never scored a single A2A kill in 1991. Even though it did drop a lot of bombs.
            But those days are passing.
            First, because the threat is changing. Moving towards LO and Lasers and Hunting Weapons of it’s own.
            Second, because the nature of the mission is not the same. In Rolling Thunder, it could take 12 bombs on a MER and two TERs to hit in the same hundred block as the target.
            In Allied Force, a single plane could hit -two- targets with GBU-10/24, if it had the gas and the expendables to survive the attempt.
            In 2003, it was JDAM and the ability to hit two targets simultaneously.
            And today, it is the ability, with AASM and winged SDB/JDAM-ER, to nail arrays of DMPIs without having to cross the 50nm standoff point.
            The farther stood off from the target you are, the more the threat _has to_ come out to meet and greet you before you hit your BRL. Or they are just suckin’ wind on being there at all.

            Early commit means a long BVR phase with little likelihood of cluttered or clumped up targets and an easy EID/EOID deconflict because everybody is following the flow of traffic rather than coming off target every which way and often moving against it.
            Which is where you have to think about whether you want to invest in the spear or the carrier or a mix of the two and if so, in what admixture for a mission which is again, flown 70% of the time without trade, just as life insurance.

            In a more limited conflict the possibility of downing a civilian or allied aircraft will make a lot of people hesitant to use UCAVs in such a manner. The use of manned “6th generation” fighters as controllers may be useful here.

          • Guest

            Doubt it sir.

            If someone is flying airliners in a declared conflict zone then they have passed the stupid threshold for adding a little bleach to the gene pool. If you fire a 200nm ranged weapon in X airspace, there is no reason (with today’s advanced strapdown inertial units and microminiaturized, hardened, GPS) not to have a range safe Y-limiter option which keeps the war in the ring.

            We learned that lesson with HARM back in 1999 and Blk.VI with the new, non-STARM, 1760 interface and the autopilot (as AARGM) basically has turned that weapon into a powered, hypervelocity, JDAM. Due to inertial errors, you may not hit the radar if it dummyloads soon enough and erects a decoy screen. But you will certainly be able to hit an empty safe zone (lake, ravine, etc.) nearby.

          • Guest

            The challenge in destroying batteries of long-ranged SAMs like the S-400 is that they will typically be protected by a lot of shorter ranged systems, many of which are designed to engage cruise missiles and even smaller targets down to the size of HARM missiles. The introduction of laser air defense systems only makes the job that much more difficult.

            I agree although I tend towards the even cheaper end of things with upgrade-APS and microsecond reaction times. A tank is a six million dollar investment. The equipment and expertise inside an air defense bunker or radar van is likely to run closer to 20 million while controlling another 70 million or more in missiles.
            Invest in the terminal defense to go along with ARM pits and decoys and you don’t have to buy as many 8 million dollar SA-15 or SA-19 to act as goal keepers.
            The problem is that this only effects the choice to move from an emphasis on Manned to Uninhabited platforms as a function of costs vs. role dedication.
            And again, you have to look at how often the the Air To Air mission is flown vs. how many alternative weapons you can put on the same station for an A2G equivalent.
            F-16’s are a four missile (tips + outers) platform or an EIGHT bomb SDB equivalent.
            To which I would add that RFLO is _two dimensional_ based on aspect and azimuth limits, hence, Stealth only works so long as you keep it nice and slow, round and around, on a steady race course track with no jinking or banking or flat plating of the airframe to start casting multipath reflections from.
            UCAVs are great at this because a flying wing has no secondary reflection paths as surface alignments (tails, condi nozzles etc.) to worry about. The tube-and-airfoil F-35, with it’s all of 2 missiles?
            Not so much.
            In any case, a GBU-53 which runs 263,000 dollars can be purchased in far greater numbers to flat out saturate the defenses _IF_ you drop your inventory purchase of 200 million dollar superfighters, by even a fraction (5 X 200 million = 1 billion = 3,802 GBU-53).
            And it must be added that any time you make your 100 million dollar per battery air defense into a primary target itself, rather than something which is numerous enough that it can defend multiple, higher value, civilian or military infrastructure HVTs, you are on the backside of the investment curve in terms of having to expend more effort to defend the defense than the defense provides coverage of the defended.

            UCAVs are still going to be vulnerable to such direct energy weapons, although on the positive is that there is no risk of a pilot being blinded. I’m guessing by this time our own aircraft will be capable of carrying their own laser systems for active defense against enemy missiles and various uses against other targets. Yet having each individual UCAV carry such a system certainly wouldn’t be affordable.

            The future of air combat is HSP. Hypersonic Strike Platforms. I launch from a Carrier ‘Somewhere in the Pacific’. I land at Shindand in AfG or Al Udeid in Qatar. And then I go back the other way.
            This saves me from having to worry about ROTHR targeted DF-21D, keeps the number of strikes per day relevant (because the HSP is dropping 10-20 weapons), removes the airwing overhead costs as enabler missions, and basically takes the laser threat out of the picture because the KEMs are skipping across the atmosphere like slung stones over a millpond and coming down at Mach 8 or so.
            Lasers will not necessarily work against this kind of munition delivery capability.
            First, because it’s going to compress the engagement window frightfully tight.

          • Guest

            Second because it’s going to be pushing a hypersonic shock whose stagnation temp is like a plasma plow ‘deflector shield’ which makes killing the KEM hard. Indeed, the best way to blow up such a mini-MARV is to essentially heat /one side/ of the bow wave and cause the weapon to destabilize and breakup under titanic Q loads.

          • Guest

            The point here is that the HSP can hostage industrial base targets deep in the enemy rear area while allowing much smaller naval and air forces (whose universal basing mode will largely make the labels pointless) to intervene and deescalate crises rather than forcing us to fight another Desert Storm type, half a trillion dollar buildup, operation. Six months after it’s ‘rescue and recover’ as opposed to ‘defend and protect’.
            That’s the high end. That’s what happens when, towards the end of this century, all the high-power morality statements about the end of large scale conflict runs up against a wall of 14 billion screaming mouths demanding to live a Western Lifestyle while we run ever more perilously short of resources.

          • Guest

            For the low end, you want to continue to make tech improvements that allow you to handle Libya, Syria, Iraq type threats without having to blow out your budget on an intermix of superweapons from the cold war era.
            In this case, UCAVs doing utility missions like A2A with VLRAAM allow you to buy fewer superfighters (F-35) which in turn allows you to invest in more bomb trucks so that those combat controllers in the remaining manned jets (I favor two seaters for this reason) can essentially hook into a robotic pylon system for which they supply targeting.
            Graceful redundance allows for the combat controller to send the UCAVs in _first_. When faced with an uncertain/rushed fight for which high power laser weapon and hypervelocity SAM cannot be found and killed (with recce drones and cruise missles) before major air operations start.

            So how do we deal with an integrated air defense system featuring some high-powered lasers? Use stealth to get as close as possible and then attempt to overwhelm with numbers? I don’t see many other options. Do you think this is to be done at very low or high altitude?

            See above. Stealth buys you altitude. Altitude buys you standoff. Standoff alleviates you of ‘penaid weight’ problems while thinning the enemy defense to the point where he had better have an alliance several countries wide to defend his homeland.
            Because at a middle hypersonic regime of Mach 10, your weapons will fly the better part of a timezone before tipover.

          • Guest

            If you go low, you are working the horizon LOS limit on active sensors but active systems are increasingly shifting towards point to point secure comms while leaving network opticals and acoustics (with AHM/APS level kill systems for deep-layered defense against cruise platforms) that can be bought for only a little more cash than you would invest in block purchase of cell phone cameras (See: ADADS).
            This effectively multiplies rather than reduces the threat engagement envelope by shortening the ballistic slants required to kill flyover threats like cruise missiles. Go supersonic and your range halves. While encouraging the use of similar systems (MALI) to fire from overhorizon and pick up your MASSIVE thermal signature before firing their own booster to perform the cutoff kill.

            We’ve operated far greater numbers of complicated (for their time) aircraft than 2,400 or so F-35s. There is no reason this should be an albatross around our neck. The Russians and Chinese know about what the future could contain yet they aren’t hesitating from building their own 5th generation fighters. There is no reason we should halt our own programs based on what may or may not occur decades from now.

            I beg to differ. One dollar in 1944 would be worth $13.20 today. A P-51D in 1945 cost 50,985 dollars, today an equivalent price would be $673,002.00. North American and her licensed subsidiaries built somewhere north of 15,000 P-51s. That’s roughly 10.09 billion dollars worth of hardware.
            If you sent 2,500 P-51Ds to Iraq and dropped 2 bombs from each, twice a day, even if you lost half of your force to SAMs and AAA, you would exceed the total of 3,000 bombs dropped (including cruise) during all of Desert Storm _within a single day_ while commiting less than 1/5th of your fighting force.
            Change that to F4U-4s and now you can fight from land or sea, regardless of theater.
            We have taken the condition of miiltary superiority as a condition of providing our warriors with the ‘best of the best’ in force protection systems to an absurd extreme.

            Like I said we aren’t yet to that point where BVR combat is redefined.

            Sir, we hit that point almost 25 years ago.
            Until 1991, there had been 527 air to air kills, of which four had been BVR (point of exception, Iran claims many AIM-54 kills which are officially ‘unacknowledged’). Since 1991, there have been 61 kills of which 20 have been BVR.
            The F-35 carries two internal, LO-protected, AIM-120. If it’s pilot faces a threat and doesn’t expend those weapons before visual range, to maximize the effectiveness of stealth, he or she have made a massive tactical mistake. If they expend them, WVR, they have essentially made RFLO pointless because IR/optical tracking (of the missile launch cons especially) has become predominant and so external carriage of AAMs devalidates the weight and volume bloat that is commitment to internal carriage for RFLO reasons.

          • Guest

            Nor will we be there for many years yet. Shorter ranged weapons are naturally cheaper than longer ranged systems like the JASSM or the next generation of supersonic or hypersonic cruise missiles. To overwhelm an IADS the use of small and cheap weapons in large numbers may be necessary.

            The problem with your argument is that SSLs will make closure to release point, even with standoff weapons like the 263,000 dollar GBU-53 (which is about as cheap as they come if you want both range and multi-spectral guidance options) to multiply shot counts a randomly survivable condition.
            Even as the ‘per round’ /cost/ of lasers make guided engagements pointless because, even if there is a weather deck that blocks long range shots (and 1MW lasers will go through clouds, they just need a relay mirror to then turn and go downrange), the combination of target hardening, advanced APS and the lasers themselves offer the potential to kill _the descending munitions_. Which are falling subsonic.
            The implication being that Timbuktu doesn’t need to scrape together 100 million for an S-400 battery if they can spend half that and get a couple hundred SSLs and APS systems.
            Now, if you have no threat of unintended shoot down of a friendly manned jet, out of lane, because lasers make manned penetration unwise by 2030, the question you MUST ASK is why you want to have manned jets whose 1.45 Trilion Dollar cost comes with a 10,000hr lifetime that takes them out to 2060. Thirty years AFTER they are essentially unuseable in either the secondary OOTW/LIC/SSC theater.
            Or the major MTW/MRC conflict.
            In this, you are then left with the realization that you don’t want to invest in ‘manned missions to support the F-35 strike mission’ if the F-35 strike mission is untenable. Instead, you want to shift to a mildly throwaway system like a UCAV which has superior signature, persistance and altitude abilities to do the OCA/DCA force protection mission while gradually easing off on the numbers of manned jets which you keep around for the ‘less dangerous’ theater taskings.
            Until the day comes when they must be pulled entirely.
            Such a neckdown process then lets you allocate more money to things like HCM (Hypersonic Cruise Missile ala X-43) and HSP (Hypersonic Strike Platform ala HTV-3X) to undertake rapid response theater strike under conditions where you simply don’t have the forces to cover all regions -and- need a platform which is survivable all the way up to a Near Peer level of threat capability because ‘standoff’ is now in the upper hundreds to low thousands of miles.
            Basically, I see no reason to ‘wing it’ on FNOW (First Night Of War) missions with manned airpower when you can task 100 cruise missiles at 800,000 dollars (roughly the cost of a P-51D in modern dollars) to undertake point target strikes and then ‘review the BDA, next day’ to decide whether or not to send in UCAVs, after.
            If you multiple that cost by FIVE TIMES for a hypersonic (Mach 8 to 800nm in 15 minutes) weapon, you are STILL only talking the equivalent of losing 4 F-35 fighters at 100 million dollars each, to pay for 100 hypersonic cruise weapons.
            The difference then being that the JSF _pilots_ neeed another 223 million dollars a year (12 aircraft squadron, 1.25 manning ratio, 20 flight hours per mission X 2 missions pre pilot, X31,000 dollars per flight hour for the F-35, X12 months per year), whether you send them to fight a war or not. That’s just one squadron. If you have 20 squadrons, the cost difference for HCMs is ENORMOUS, in favor of the missile.
            Because the HCM is just dead heading in whatever VLS it’s packed in until the moment comes you need to shoot it. Year in a and year out. Pennies per mile. Wooden Round. No Training.

          • William_C1

            You sir have a lot of interesting ideas. I’ll read and respond to what I can when I get the time. There was a good article I found some time ago about how laser weaponry would change the balance of air-power, I’ll try to dig that up if I can.

    • Greg

      I finally ran across this discussion thread and found your comments insightful. I’d be interested in your comments or criticisms of the following related concept. http://www.texasaircraftdesign.com/html/new_air-t

      • Guest


        Can'[t see a thing beyond the Black X box.

        • Kostas

          It is a proposal about converting a C-17 (yes, the cargo aircraft) to a fighter by incorporating highly powerful radars, hundreds of missiles and decoys and 2 CIWS like the phalanx.

          The problem with such a concept is that the aircraft would have an HO (high observability), zero maneuverability. Even if the develop a CIWS for that airplane, you would have to develop a very cheap command controlled missile ( no need for expensive seekers), with LO characteristics and a big warhead (since it would have minimal electronics that would not be a problem). So you fire a salvo of these missiles against the target, the EW systems would not be able to hide such a huge target, the minimal maneuverability would increase the Pk of the missiles (and would allow for a simple command control missile) while the saturation attack would overcome even a highly effective CIWS system (the cost of the command controlled missiles would be very low).

          So overall I don’t think this C17 is a good idea.

    • Kostas

      Global hawk has a 60000ft ceiling, the same as most modern fighters. Lets suppose that a new UAV AWACS platform would have a ceiling 30000 ft more than a fighter. This would give just a few degrees of angle of radar “downlooking” for a target 100nm away. Do you really think that these few degrees would negate the stealth characteristics of thefighter? I highly doubt so. Please convince me, otherwise your whole proposal would be invalid.

      • Guest

        First, let’s deal with the reality of flights at the lower end of Astronaut territory. Sure, jets can get there. Walt Bjorneby was flying F-102s and F-104s in this part of the envelope in the 1960s.
        But for the majority of aircraft, this is not a useful (combat ceiling = positive climbrate of 1,500ft/min) or even stable (absolute ceiling stabilized climb rate 500ft/min) regime. It’s the artifact of a dipsy doodle or unload-zoom by a skilled pilot with _very careful_ maintenance of throttle control to keep the engine lit.
        For some jets (like the Starfighter and now the F-22) there is a combination effect of so little drag, so much wing area, so much thrust or such an optimized engine effect (T2 reset vs. a core with a very wide thermal band) that the ability to go supersonic feeds the mass flow through the double shock inlets as the principle suck-squeeze part of sustaining the height band. Again, to use Mr. Bjorneby as an example, he has been within snap up limits of the AIM-4 system (with an AIM-26A nuke Falcon) on the Deuce and _snap down_ conditions with enough maneuver authority for a gun shot on the Zipper.
        But these are few and far between performance points that do not reflect the majority of combats or the design points of the fighters mean to face them, 30,000ft and more lower.
        A Rafale and a Typhoon, being designed for NATO’s CentFront (where high altitude = low G would be lethal in the face of the WARPAC GBAD anyway) would not perform well here because they don’t have the fuel to go fast nor the thrust trust as engine core temps to sustain a decent supercruise. A MiG-31 might and a Su-35 or PAK-FA would have to but these jets are all very thin on the ground, outside Russia herself.
        To which I would add a further modifier: Pilot performance. We all know of the F-22 problems with pilot loss of consciousness due to contaminated oxygen or ‘whatever’. My personal belief is that, as you go higher and atmospheric pressure lets off, even in a Raptor where the cockpit differential is higher than most, you start to get tissue saturation effects which essentially burn the body chemistry out of balance as the metabolism goes to peak load on the high aerobic saturations and then the least little bit of stress, it’s nap time.
        The human body reacts in very strange ways to changes in atmospheric pressure and if you are not wearing a full up pressure suit, you are going to suffer them on a random basis.

        • Guest

          Now the final variable: intelligent missile autopilots.
          Once upon a time, missiles only knew themselves as vector points. How fast, how far, how long in air. The closest they came to spatial sense of the world around them was the preprogrammed seeker cone which defined an angular and range offset target occupancy expecation zone (how far I am from my victim). That has since changed as most missiles have, at some level or another GPS/GLONASS/Beidou/Galileo reception which feeds a sophisticated IMU rather than a simple gyro strapdown system (dumb for most of the flight) and so provides a lot better trajectory shaping for long range shots. Kinematic control which is bound to become even better as new generation missiles standardize on VFDR/ramjet or relightable/gel type motors to put the important part of the burn in the right part of the envelope where low drag and optimum terminal endgame performance combine.
          All of which nominally point towards fighters, with their limited altitude persistence, low crew saturation thresholding and extremely poor power loading on their nose-only aperture, as being non functional as mini-AWACS.
          Which means that people don’t train for this regime like they perhaps should if they honestly expect to face an F-22 (T-50, J-20 etc.) threat.
          OTOH, a Global Hawk Blk.40 has a ten foot long canoe hanging under it and -no- secondary mission performance (supersonic, high G, high payload etc.) drivers which means that it can both push a lot more PAO (polyalpholefin) as front end coolant to support a high duty cycle simultaneous waveform/range gate interleave. And operate down a notch in S band or even hybrid S/X band to get a LOT more range and superior resonant vs. direct path returns.
          Now consider the functions of an AOA or similar, high end, IRST which, stashed behind the a translating door in the bulbous alien head of an RQ-4 and looking down from 60K to 30K can likely see things, even on a VLO platform (ECS cooling vent dumps) which no other platform is likely to and _because the air is clear_ of all the weather, pollutants and other anaprop that is resident in 30K-0 realm, have a decent chance of acquiring targets at ranges far beyond what an F-14D AAS-42 might have acquired in the 1990s.
          Indeed, suppose you separate the platforms so that your IRST is now on a cheap, forward-orbited, UAS and cues the radar bird with transient hits as the threat air goes by. Such that the radar can instantly switch to pencil beam, jam a huge number of db down the angular radial and perhaps even tune the volume scan or PRI/PRF to the aspect that it expects to see even a VLO jet in. All of which means that you have a, not a 200km but a 250-300 _nautical mile_ detection threshold which essentially covers an entire country with just 1-2 orbits, looking in over the fence.
          All of a sudden, your ability to established a network grid over enemy territory in the OCA role goes from minimal pre-sweep levels with a Fighter TARCAP to something nearer to 2-3 days of constant, endurant, ISR.
          This is important because even if you have Specwar or UGS and wired-for-sound overwatch on threat airbases you cannot do a SEA style teaball alert system (eavesdropped ADGE leads to QRC-249 College Eye interrogation and tracking) nor even a Musket level (E-3 + F-15C radar interleave to establish positive BVR target ID) system. Because the threat is VLO and it is likely to be moving _very fast_ from the moment the gear hits the well.
          Take this up another notch to hunting weapons as remissioned target/recce drone technology launched from the catapults on the backs of 5 ton trucks and para-recovered at GPS/ground beacon specific ‘drop zone’ areas and now you no longer even have association with a 10,000ft runway to drive launch warning.
          And that gets pretty bad, pretty quick, because, even in a relatively poor threat nation, there may be a couple thousand hardstands as presurveyed concrete pads with wired in or directional microwave network linkage, able to feed and take launch commands from equally remote network grids to fire a sweep of missiles along a give sweep bearing and ‘run out the radial line until you find something’. Which Specwar may have a helluva time tracking down and slicing, even if the total number of launchers is much more prosaic at say 50-100.
          To counter this means having your own template for a ‘reverse ADGE’ that can be established over enemy territory very quickly, very cheaply, and so provide significant depth of field in which to solidify threat VLO or saturation drone attack tracks and vector intercepts or avoidance maneuvers for aircraft or packages that have been caught out on the ingress.
          All while keeping your own HDLD ISR assets as far from the madding crowds as possible, behind a HAVCAP screen.
          Persistent altitude in a longspan wing, tuned FADEC, UAS like the RQ-4 or RQ-180 buys you this at probably 1/10th the operating costs of an E-3 or 767 type conversion and at least 2-3 times the on station endurance. Which includes the ability, in the face of A2AD threats, to transit from out of region all the way into the target area across 10-12,000nm, in a single push, sans tanker drag and with very long range threat avoidance routing penalties accepted out of hand.

          • Kostas

            IRSTs cannot provide a fire solution (do not provide range, speed etc data), they are good only as cueing systems for radars. So, lets go back to the AWACS UAV platform, which is the key system to your whole proposal. I did not see any evidence that the few degrees of downlooking (that this platform would offer) negates the RFLO characteristics of the 5th gen fighters. Any arguement about more powerful or more focused beams applies to conventional radars as well and we know that these techniques are NOT effective because even if they manage to detect a LO aircraft in ideal conditons, in real lie they do not work because they are susceptible even to barage (let alone more sophisticated) jamming.

          • Guest


            IRSTs cannot provide a fire solution (do not provide range, speed etc data), they are good only as cueing systems for radars.

            Not true. The earliest forms of gunsight used stadiametric ranging (two ‘goalposts’ which span the wings of a target whose known dimensions then allow the deflection of a pipper into fixed lead). The principle remains the same now with the added bonus of intensity measurements and dual-aperture (fighter paired) sensors that make it possible to create a trackfile from composited angle-rate differentials.
            The difference is that, so long as the modern sensor is seen as a 10-15″ optical boresight with 256X256 or less detector count on the SFPA, there is no way to get a long enough range image to see the target as more than a dot. Shift this to something closer to a range tracking camera looking out through what would be the canopy/windscreen of a manned fighter and all this changes.
            In any case, the ability to track optical targets into narrow beam radar handoff is itself not a bad idea, simply because the radar is going to run you anywhere from 7-10 million and be increasingly vulnerable to both counter detection (LPI or no) and subsequent HPM counters which equate to chopping the nose off and replace the entire antenna as modern AESA do not have plug’n’play modular DTRM repair options.
            A passive IRST may present some slightly harder RF fenetration issues to protect the VLO scheme but is going to be cheaper overall to purchase and own and a 24″ optical bore looking through an optically flat chisel nose or side panel is goign to have a HUGE detection range advantage on high-clear targets. Targets which should be made to play up through the contrail band terminus of 40-45K to even have a hope of engaging our forces.

            So, let’s go back to the AWACS UAV platform, which is the key system to your whole proposal. I did not see any evidence that the few degrees of downlooking (that this platform would offer) negates the RFLO characteristics of the 5th gen fighters.

            The majority of fighters are 4th Generation and even those which are 5th Gen are not operating at 50,000ft or more on a routine, endurant, basis.

          • Guest

            You may refuse to accept this principle advantage of the HALE UAS as you see fit but it doesn’t change the fact that a 2X2ft array on the nose of a fighter which rarely exceeds 40K is NOT going to be persistent or omnidirectionally capable in terms of scanning large volumes of airspace another 20,000ft higher. You beat stealth from Wheels In Well and that means the ability to mix bands and powerloadings so that C or S band gives you the range and X band gives you the clutter reject. It is not something can be reactively achieved after the fact of QRA launch by a fighter pretending to be a satellite rather than the kintic weapons carrier it is designed to be.

            Any argument about more powerful or more focused beams applies to conventional radars as well and we know that these techniques are NOT effective because even if they manage to detect a LO aircraft in ideal conditons, in real lie they do not work because they are susceptible even to barage (let alone more sophisticated) jamming.

            The notion that ‘conventional radars’ applies to fighters which are the only other radar asset capable of routinely operating in the FL60 altitude band is specious. The RTIP radar on the Blk.40 Global Hawk is enormous- http://images.gizmag.com/hero/block40globalhawk.jhttp://files.air-attack.com/MIL/globalhawk/rq4blo

            If the main fuselage is 47.6ft long and the sideview drawing here- http://www.northropgrumman.com/Capabilities/Globa

            Scales out to 185mm, with the antenna fairing being some 55mm or roughly 3.36 times shorter, then 47.6 / 3.36 = a potential antenna length of say (2ft shorter than the fairing) some _twelve feet X two feet deep_.
            What this means is that the aircraft has a lot of azimuth as DTRM count to play with in generating spot nulls like a tilted hand in front of ones eye, staring past headlights, to defeat jammers. And thus it can play all the SNR games the enemy cares to while using alternate channel steps to do it’s real lookthrough on the signal.
            While the enemy has to constantly worry about taking an ARM to the teeth in trade.
            Noise jamming simply isn’t that effective on high power, high frequency fidelity and fine pointing polarized antenna systems. Smarter deception techniques can work but they also work on fighter radars which is to say “Is my DRFM better than yours?” If it isn’t stop buying Chinese components and design/source your own.
            What the APG-77, 79 and 81 cannot do is bring a second ping into the detection threshold battle and this is the difference between X-band and a mid/low band, resonant, secondary aperture count giving you both a resonant and optical mode scatter model. The one is subject to signal polarization as lobe-form and target shaping interactions with heavy RAM attenuation possible. The other treats the entire airframe as a resonant dipole, like a tuning fork and this is beyond the abilities of passive stealth to functionally absorb or neutral bearing deflect in a fighter sized platform.
            Something else that needs to be considered is the relative capability of the platform vs. manned equivalents and the risks that go with it.
            The manned platform is going to face some serious horizon problems on absolute radar range and this means it either stands off and performs a basic airspace coordination/deconfliction role or it stands forward and risks getting shot down as just another 2G, 200m2, converted airliner, target.
            A HALE UAS is in the same boat because it is functionally flyign so high that any nearby blast is going to snap the wings and the stall margin is under .5G, best case. But it’s roughly half the cost of a 250 million dollar MSRP manned AWACS and it comes in variants which means that your MEP can be parted out so that only /some/ face the ultimate risk.
            At the same time, if we are honestly talking radar datalinks in ROBE/BACN role ‘you might as well’ stick the mission in a platform which is already lit up like a lighthouse because the RQ-4 is going to have both the download bandwidth and the rapid fire frontend rates sufficient to be a node server _if_ it can see the friendlies. Which an active C-band element and/or upper hemisphere transponders on the VLO assets in question make possible.
            An E-3 with that once a minute rotodome? Not so much.

          • Kostas

            MP-RTIP is an X-band radar http://www.aviationtoday.com/av/military/Airborne
            therefore your concept of mixing bands on the MP-RTIP is theoretical. Lets assume that this is feasible (to produce a radar with mixed X/C/S bands), do we have any evidence or any experience that this would be effective against modern LO aircrafts?

            By the way, I see that you are a big fan of hypersonic platforms. I am also excited about the idea of Mach 10 aerial vehicles, but jumping to the conclusion that they would dominate the air warfare is somehow premature. I would not mention all the technological challenges that remain to be solved. I would just present a tactical scenario of how these vehicles would actually be vulnerable to low cost solutions.

            These hypersonic vehicles would be flying on high altitude (less air resistance) in straight trajectories. They would produce a high IR signal due to the friction, which would be visible from hundred of miles away due to the atmospheric clarity at these altitudes, plus they will be visible from space. So, lets assume that you can detect them from a distance of 200 nm. That gives you 100 sec reaction time. Their straight trajectory would make very predictable the the points it would fly over. You launch an air-to-air missile towards a point of the anticipated trajectory. At these heights, a missile would need over 140 secs to lose 1 Mach from its maximum speed. Lets assume that you launch an AMRAAM-type missile from an airship or a missileer UAV that would patrol in the area. The missile would travel approximately 120 kms at the 100 secs that you have as a reaction time. Even if a direct hit is not accomplished or even if the fragments do not cause enough damage, the blast would “derail” the hypersonic vehicle, which would immediately be turned into burning pieces by the huge aerodynamic forces.

            My point is that a satellite or an airborne IRST network along with air launched missiles would make the hypersonic platforms vulnerable. What am I missing?

          • Guest


            Back in the 1980s-90s timeframe the USAF looked into the use of modified RQ-4 aircraft (no bulbous nose radome, localized datalinks between a constellation of aircraft) to provide a ‘Raptor Talon’ capability to instantly erect a fall-back missile defense around the periphery of a threat nation for purposes of denying them the early boost and ascent phase ‘freebie’ by which a mobile TEL might otherwise be able to scoot outside the coverage zone of a similarly ground launched ‘uppier tier’ based defense (what we now call SM3IIa).

            The drones provided an enormous height leverage which meant that relatively small (I want to say <400lbs) missiles could make the intercept on a crossing target basis in the 1.5-2km/sec area of a BPI/API event.

            The problem was that they couldn't get the packaging on the interceptor down to useful levels. ASAS or HARM based boosters with an AMRAAM frontend led, eventually, the to NCADE as an all-in-one integrated weapon but the problem remained that, once the booster was through, it became a dead weight pendulum effect on the back of the interceptor whose divert/attitude control motor kill effector then had to separate to provide adequate terminal energy to make the intercept on what was indeed a very hot weapon moving up through the lower atmosphere atop a blow torch of motor.

            Packaging the booster separation was not easy within the weight class they were looking for and more importantly, if the threat did the same, using a high energy solid and early staging to separate the bus as it came up and deploy the warhead/decoy spread well below 100K, the interceptor in fact -did not- have an easy discrimination time of it.

            This also defeated the purpose of the airborne carriage as a means to preloft a KKV and required a 'diver' approach which meant an endo intercept with aero controls and a warhead instead of a contact kill in an entirely different motor impulse design which, if it was going to separate an expended booster, had to do so _very fast_.

          • Guest

            Fusing then became and issue and what it came down to was that, without a W-25 on a mini Sprint/Spartan level ABM, you couldn’t do both missions as a convergent climbing profile agasint low energy threats (going endo with ACM equipped KKV) vs. endo diver technology with aerocontrols and a warhead just wasn’t possible in one missile. With the limited payload possible on the RQ-4, multiple weapon types was also ruled out and this rather ruined the entire idea vs. what the USN could do with a Mk.41 VLS full of Standards (a 3,000lb missile with excellent radar tracking means you can also do some midcourse, if you are in the ground track corridor).

            Now extend this problem of a lightweight missile chasing a highspeed target to something which is -already- at 200,000ft and 2-2.5km/sec. Your UAV or LTA launched missile had better be sized to match that profile (think S-400 40N6) and/or equipped with a nuke or nuclear pumped HPM generator.

            Is it possible? Sure. But look at the ground track. If I use am EML to achieve positive separation of 200-300m/sec on a BFR which then does something like a satellite traejctory mechanic at another 30m/second vector change for 20 seconds before bussing out a bunch of LFRs, I can still put a Mach 6-8 spread of weapons half a timezone or more to _either side of the ground track_, which means that I don’t have to come within more than about 500nm of a target to kill it.

            That’s a pretty big ground track to cover Kostas and because it’s a ‘straight thru’ shot in a shuttle bomber profile (ECS to Shindand or Al Udeid for instance, then back again) it doesn’t have to be done in any but the most oblique fashion.

            Put a motor on your rock and now you have a mini-ICBM launcher in the fashion of the GAM-87 Skybolt-

            Except, again, you are already moving at 5,000 knots+ and in zero drag altitude conditions such that the nature of your booster profile is one of reaccelerating to regain whatever energy you might have lost at separation while maintaining a trajectory profile that lofts a little further down range. 1,500nm? 2,000? It’s possible, provided you keep the midcourse energy high enough to defeat the very high end S-400/500 class weapons which wound be essential to intercept the weapon and might actually have a chance of doing so (because the target location is a the predictor factor on siting).

            We’re already more than halfway there with FOBS types systems like the X-37 ‘hangs in the sky’ endurant platform testing. But the key is to make it _tactically_ available so that the massive investment this nation has made in carriers can be maintained without the need to plow through an overwhelming (faster mission cycle, further reach, easier targeting against the blue void) BASM/ASCM threat.

          • Guest

            Imagine something like the X-37 (or X-38) with VG wings buried in the upper body which retract behind glove fairing doors like on the B-1B.

            Imagine a very simple (no high AOA, no G-distress, no A/B) turbine that _shuts down_ for most of the mission and thus needs to only be assured of ready relight and stable thrust curves in the landing mode, after 80% of the mission weight as JP-8 is burnt off.

            Imagine that your entire ascent profile is basically that of riding-the-rocket with SRBs that deplete their mass fraction, completely, in getting to scramlight height.

            Now imagine that, you dedicate 90% of your engineering and volumetrics trades to the largest portion of the flight envelope which is _Militarily Relevant_ rather than to three different landing modes designed serve service interests as turf protection that the F-35 represents (less than 1% of the design mission parameter is spent in takeoff and landing and _nobody is shooting at you_).

            It is this operational window which will define an HSP or Hypersonic Strike Platform’s capability set as completely beyond the reach of air defenses oriented around tactical defense, much like the ATF-22 was designed to overtop, overspeed and over-stealth those of the WARPAC in the 80s and 90s.

            The difference is that, with an HSP, you open up so much of the enemy’s backfield target sets, even from exceptionally long range standoff (2,000-3,000nm out into the Pacific) that, while your basing mode is safe, NONE of their fixed industrial infrastructure is. Which is important because Asia makes Europe look like a telephone booth.
            http://www.xphomestation.com/xp-china-map.jpg http://www.sacu.org/maps/provmap.png

            That’s 3,500nm from Beijing to Hong Kong Kostas. And China is nearly twice as wide, East to West (where all it’s principle military industrial complexes are located, in the far hinterlands of Xinjiang and Qinghai) as it is North to South.

            If you want dominance in Asia, you need to _think big_.

            Subsonic, <550nm, Tacair doesn't do it. IRBMs from subs or strike configured surface unit VLS doesn't do it (too many individual target sets for the cost). But a reusable strategic pentrator might. And in a world where 70% of the earth's surface is covered with water, making that system carrier capable _as a cost driver_ (SRBs are cheap, multicycle engines capable of SSTO levels of Mach 25 TAV deployment from CONUS, very much less so), is reasonable, given how few allies we have that are still willing to let us base-in to their region on 'matters of national interest'.

            We have about 30-50 years to develop this capability before China's enormous economic power, along with global resource depletion and a 10-going-on-14 billion population overburden, well beyond global carrying capacity, makes another World War all but impossible to avoid.

          • Kostas

            in 1985 we had the ASM 135 with a ceiling of 500 km. I don’t see why a modern version with proportional navigation using satelitte input for targetting cannot intercept the hypersonic vehicle. I believe that this is the main reason they are now looking more for a tactical hypersonic platform rather than a strategic platform.

          • Kostas

            Lets suppose that the AWACS UAV flies at 60k and my LO fighter at 30k. That is a 10km difference, at 180 km ( possible max range of amraam D) that translates to 4 degrees of angle of downlooking. I am not sure how this would make any difference to the detection of the LO fighter.

            In addition, your radar is mixing bands in order to reject clutter with the X band and detect the LO fighter with the C or S or L bands. Barage jamming at X band or spoofing would really challenge this system. I really doubt that such a system could overcome the enemy’s ECM systems. In non-LO fighters battle radars can overcome the ECM due to the high RCS of the target, but when you are dealing with RFLO fighters its the ECM systems that have the advantage over the radars.

          • Guest

            Lets suppose that the AWACS UAV flies at 60k and my LO fighter at 30k. That is a 10km difference, at 180 km ( possible max range of amraam D) that translates to 4 degrees of angle of downlooking. I am not sure how this would make any difference to the detection of the LO fighter.

            The grazing angle is shallow but the exposed area of the upper fuselage deck is still relevant, not as a 2 dimensional vertical plane but as a series of interconnect horizontal ones. Using the F-35 (which would have no business being at 30,000ft with that wing and thrust loading) as a casepoint, you have the cockpit, gun fairing, ECS inlet/exhaust, the complex curve of the dorsal spine, the wing and tail root intersections both with each other and with the spine, the added DAS fairings in front of the tails and the exhaust whose serrated X-Band cutouts are not in any way designed to absorb or ameliorate low-band travelling waves which will flow up and down the fuselage. Given that most of these features will also create surface friction and the F135 in particular is one of the hottest cores ever produced, the notion that the jet is BOTH a radar and IR emitter in this ‘hotside’ environment (with Swedish testing of the IR-OTIS prototype on the JA-37 testbed showing that it had greater detection range than the PS-05 radar, at altitude).

            In addition, your radar is mixing bands in order to reject clutter with the X band and detect the LO fighter with the C or S or L bands. Barrage jamming at X band or spoofing would really challenge this system.

            No. Because again, antenna SNR gains and bearing subtend angles on modern AESA are so fine that standoff jamming is relatively easy to defeat and carrying a jammer with you defeats the purpose of VLO in that, again, with modern DRFM, it becomes possible to ‘ping’ the Jammer and use it’s inverse bearing gain (noise) or range gate stealing (deception) to JAT the jammer the same way you would track a searchlight. CrossPol/CrossEye offers some potential, especially for short period terminal defense in combination with expendable jammers and Jaffing but here too, the difference in aperture size between a Sorbitsaya or followon (or Spectra or TRD) and even a conventional radar antenna is such that the array can subdivide and cross look it’s own TRM look angles and play endless games with the Jammer which is going to lose because it is either hauling a towbird with some pretty restrictive angle off, power and techniques generation conditions or it’s got a 10″ antenna on each wingtip which provides it’s own, fixed, phase vs. baseline separation predictability. Only standforward with sacrificial jammer drones or missiles like MALD-J really stands much of a chance of jumping inside the receiver processor and that only because it is typically really close and able to saturate the sidelobe blankers. Neither of which are very likely in the case of an RQ-4 or similar HALE AWACS.

          • Guest

            I really doubt that such a system could overcome the enemy’s ECM systems. In non-LO fighters battle radars can overcome the ECM due to the high RCS of the target, but when you are dealing with RFLO fighters its the ECM systems that have the advantage over the radars.

            And I really question whether your and my understandings of how VLO works are coequivalent. ANY signal can be exploited for passive targeting purposes. That is why the ALR-94 and ASQ-239 are flying antenna farms. IMO, this .25 degree targeting is in fact related to how Stealth actually works but to keep things simple, if it lights off, it gets killed. This is why VLO assets don’t have multiband jammers onboard. This is why you /have/ VLO rather than a mass of mixed SPJ and Support jammers alone. Because the jammers can degrade the SNR threshold gains on the receiver to aid VLO penetration but they cannot themselves push forward enough avoid eating an AA-ARM moded BVR Seeker weapon to the teeth if they overstep their closure and get into it with /another/ VLO or masked fighter.
            Indeed, the notion that the radar on fighters can ‘jam’ other threats is itself facetious because the radar doesn’t operate in the critical bands used for fire control and datalinks to the missiles which, themselves, are closing at super or hypersonic speeds to the point where the target RCS is bigger than the jammer strobe it can create to hide behind. Added to which is the fact that radar has a low duty cycle and poor PAO flow to act as a jammer. Which means that, while AESA based systems can generate enormous peak loads, they cannot sustain them.
            It being these last two facts (missiles have autonomous seekers which close to burn-thru under ‘guidance’ from radars that may be separate from their launch point and almost certainly use a lower operating band to get more power in the signal), along with the existence of IIR based MAWS on U.S. platforms, which tells me that the ‘radar as jammer’ idea is in fact a cover for a limited ability to HPM the missiles themselves. Zapping their electronics like a buglamp.
            None of which changes the fact that if you loft a bunch of cheap, drones with IRST forward and use their tracking of targets coming out of baselanes, you can _cue_ the AESA on a big radar platform like the Blk.40 GHawk to where you need to look to pick up the target. This solves a whole bunch of problems related to optimal waveform and expected aspect return indexing. And relieves the higher altitude AWACS platform of volume search waste of power, PRF and range gating as duty cycle.
            Beyond which, the AWACS still has to coordinate a whole bunch of disparate platforms and the easiest way to do so, whether it can see them directly or they are using CDL-X or Ka to talk to ‘whisper to god’ up in the MilStar doesn’t matter. The point is that the HALE UAS can do things which the tired airliner conversion, 20-30Kft lower down, simply cannot. THERE is your argument for low grazing angles, slow antenna reservice rates and generally poor range performance deriving from archaic technology has a valid point.
            HALE vs. Manned is a non-event. Especially when the HALE can do what it does for days at a time, using inflight refueling and AAR technologies.
            And if you are going to make the HALE work in those ‘gapped’ areas where coverage is thin because you don’t have enough Raptors to specifically dedicate them to maybe-if lookin, then NOT having to pay for the manned platforms coordinator/BACN roles means you can also afford to buy the kinds of ISR only MALE UAS which go out and plug the coverage holes in dangerous places.

          • Guest

            UCLASS is likely going to end up overfed, overspec’d, overweight and ‘just another CSA’ but there is no reason for it be so. Given a common payload system it should be possible to convert between paired T3/AIM-120D, quaded SDB-II and a simple surveillance and data relay package in a platform which is NOT the size of a Greyhound bus but something closer to the X-45A.
            The whole point of that aircraft being that it doesn’t need a hand holder in surveillance missions and thus it frees up the manned platforms to operate in smaller-than-division numbers in high threat areas because they know, going in, that they have eyes-on first look.
            Whether they also have supplementary wingman as missile rails is relevant only insofar as you don’t aren’t chained ot a subsonic missileer with a gel-rocket or relightable solid or whatever AIM-120D is that makes it worth 1.5 million apop.
            OTOH, if there is an armed variant wolfing about amongst the sensor sheep, AND there is a HALE UAS stood off in relay and command node (radars and high datarate comms antennas -can- be made similar) role, then the man on the ground or in a Carrier CIC can look at his big picture, give the sanity check on surrounding friendlies and release the drone escort to speed up and fire as the target comes to bear.
            Lose an ISR airframe? That’s too bad. Miss your random attrition shot? Also unfortunate. But if BEING THERE to arouse that interest and take those shots on an enemy otherwise recalcitrant when it comes to challenging a manned fighter, then that is worth it. Because a smoke trail and SAR beeper in the distance is not 21 Fishbeds rolling out of superhardened HAS farms to head back north after the OAF ACC has stated for the record that the FRY air force was shot down 3 weeks before.
            Air Superiority in SEA was flown 70% of the time, maneuvered 20% of the time, engaged 10%of the time and scored kills 2% of the time. Getting airframes to cover the mission while holding the sortie rates as bomb counts up required Marines escorting RB-66s and similar shennanigans. Today, we don’t have 5,000 F-4s to play with. We need to be able to broaden the coverage, lower the cost:risk assessment and remission the manned assets away from handholding missions which, even in OCA (BARCAP/TARCAP) are more likely to be shooting gallery target drone roles for SAMs more than anything.
            In this, I am offering a complete system with overlapping and yet redundant (small drones can fly off of carriers and use direct datalinks to other manned assets or be commanded by a BAMS MQ-4C flying in from beyond the local theater commanders need to protect it). Pretending that fear of unmanned lethal systems is a legitimate concern when the alternative is a 150 million dollar JSF or vaporware PAK-FA, doesn’t work. Lethal drones are cheap and the technology to build them has been SOA for the last 40 years at least. Stealth Fighters are only effective so long as you hunt them with radar and in sufficiently small threat numbers that you cannot dogpile. Hunting Missiles as Turbo-SAM could change all of that and we had better be prepared with our own remote/low value counters or we will be taking it in the teeth as the adversary of the moment finally learns to stop fighting as a mirror of the way we do things. You can afford, by reputation as well as economics, to lose unmanned systems. You cannot do so with manned equivalents. Half of why we were forced out of Vietnam derives from the simple perception that ‘might -is- right’ and we weren’t dominant enough to deserve to win.
            Such an exploitable condition can never be allowed to happen again.

          • Kostas

            The lower fuselage of the F35 is much more complicated than the upper (e.g. engine inlets, EOTS, landing gear etc) but that has not prevented the designers from achieving LO characteristics. Therefore I cannot believe that the upper fuselage has some special characteristic that would make it detectable to X band radars from a shallow angle of 4 degrees. This would have been a serious flaw for an aircraft with a primary focus on strike missions (which means that it wouldn’t have the ceiling of dedicated air superiority aircrafts) and it would have gone public. By the way, I believe that you mean that 30k operational ceiling is too low for F35. The airframe has impressive lift characteristics (wing loading is an obsolete term for modern designs that produce lift from the fuselage as well as from the wings, F35’s huge take off weight provide evidence that the design can produce huge lift) and the aircraft has impressive thrust to weight ratios for real life scenarios.

            State of the art EW systems use the AESA radar as the jamming emitter, achieving huge power to blind enemy radars even from angles that the gain is too low. In such a case the radar would be able to detect the direction of the jamming, but it would be very difficult (impossible) to detect the range, therefore no firing solution.
            Additionally, if the EW is more advanced than the radar, the EW would be able to spoof the radar without the radar even knowing about it.
            My point is that any detection that relies on X band has a disadvantage against LO designs in this band, in conduction with the modern EW systems that are optimized for this band (e.g. Barracuda/APG-81).

            Lets assume that this C/S/X radar system is effective against LO aircraft and jam proof. Your whole proposal relies on this radar platform to coordinate the whole air defense. Therefore, it would take just a long range AAM (ramjet or turbojet powered) to autonomously approach the target (passive anti-radiation guidance) to destroy the radar and the whole air defense network.

            One more flaw of your proposal is that it relies on directional AESA-based data links. That would increase the cost of the platforms that carry data link transmitters, and it would either increase the RCS of the carrier if the radar platform is gimbaled or it would allow only for intermittent data-link if the emitter is fixed in the airframe.

            What I am saying is that you need multiple manned, LO, multiple sensor carrying platforms that would act as nodes in a network, which might include UCAVs. The manned platforms would allow for jam proof SHORT range data links. The manned platforms would command the UAVs in the complex, rapidly changing battle environment. The multiple sensors on the manned aircrafts would create redundancy in surveillance and targeting functions. The LO would negate the long range sensors of the enemy, which are still the radars.

          • Kostas

            Dear guest, you have some interesting ideas, but I don’t agree with your proposals. Apart from the AWACS UAV, your proposal also relies on autonomous UAVs. I like the idea of UAVs as adjuncts to manned fighters but I see many issues with the autonomous UAVs.

            1) they rely on long range data-links. We know that all communications are jammable. If you have a man in the loop you don’t need long range comms but just short range data-links that are much more jam-proof.
            2) they rely on satellites either for comm or for GPS. We know that GPS is jammable and satellites are vulnerable to the EMP of a nuclear explosion in space and to anti-sat weapons (China possesses that capability)
            3) I don’t like the idea of autonomous killing machines. I think it is a matter of time that some ethical considerations would impose a ban on autonomous killing machines
            4) Even if other countries do not want such a ban, I think we should impose it now. We might have a 10 years technological advantage in making autonomous UAVs with killing capabilities, but opponents would shortly follow. Then the air superiority would depend on who can produce more (quantity). I don’t believe that we are the ones who can have the largest quantity over time. So we should ban this technology now, ignore any tactical advantage it might give us for some years and gain the strategic benefit of not having to confront this technology in the future.

          • Guest


            Dear guest, you have some interesting ideas, but I don’t agree with your proposals. Apart from the AWACS UAV, your proposal also relies on autonomous UAVs. I like the idea of UAVs as adjuncts to manned fighters but I see many issues with the autonomous UAVs.

            Uhhhh, thanks. The ability to fly ’round and ’round a given CAP point /=/ true autonomy. It goes where you send it. It operates on individual airframe tailored lists of command terms which never repeat (Shoot = Apple, then Automobile, then Ajax etc.) and it can be equally hard restricted (by time or location) to where /not/ to shoot.

            1) they rely on long range data-links. We know that all communications are jammable. If you have a man in the loop you don’t need long range comms but just short range data-links that are much more jam-proof.

            About five-seven years ago, an APG-77 was used as a digital modem to send a 170MB radar map in about 4 seconds. Stealth is the means by which you know where your forces are but the enemy does not. Either because you have some special waveform encoding that looks for specific shape geometries (top side shielded from dirt observation) in the airframe or because the airframe itself, upon detecting a specific network handshake in a radar beam sweep from a ‘friendly direction and encrypted waveform’ (which can be physically lobe, polarization and PRI/PRF varied as well as digitally layered through multiple sideband encodings) sends back a brief ‘here I am!’ loud whisper. All of which can, again, vary with each sending and be further highly directional through the use of AESA technology.
            Janes did an article awhile back that covered a check ride by a RAND analyst on an ACMT flight in the backseat of an F-15. His report: “We rarely saw our wingman and never saw the enemy, we were never inverted and never pulled more than 3-4G.” Is a description of what the requirements of energy management in the thin air of high altitude = best F-Pole fighting has done to change the Top Gun assumptions of air combat and the absolute need to operate in short-lunge BVR, far from your wingman so that, through a combination of pump and drag, one or the other of you can ALWAYS get into advantaged shot position by taking one of the airframes outside the sensor cone of the threat.
            What that means at the moment is the use of distributed radio network antennas, either as blades on F-15/16/18 or striplines imbedded in the skin of F-22/35 etc. airframes. These are neither secure (massive sidelobes from simple dipole arrays) nor directionally powerful enough to be trusted as transponder enabled commo systems.
            A radar based system has the potential to be MUCH more reliable and discrete but at the same time, you have to be able to put a fairly large array on gimbaled pedestal that can look in any direction above and around the jet to maintain secure pointing connectivity while rejecting all lower hemisphere noise. A UCAV can do this, by design, simply by putting the antenna where the pilot would sit. And the resultant datarates and fast synch will be so quick and linear as to be nearly impossible to ‘one way trip’ jam.
            Put another way: If they can jam directional, microwave, commo, your radar itself is going to be so compromised as to be useless.

          • Guest

            2) they rely on satellites either for comm or for GPS. We know that GPS is jammable and satellites are vulnerable to the EMP of a nuclear explosion in space and to anti-sat weapons (China possesses that capability).

            Nearly every force is now dependent on spatial sense from satellite nav, saying that autonomous systems are more so is facetious at best. That said, jamming the signal, theater wide from reception by VLO airframes whose own location you are unsure of is not a sure thing either while shooting down Geosynchronous satellites with existing ASAT technology requires an OTV level booster to take the weapon from LEO through HEO transfer and then out another 16,000 miles higher yet. Not simple. Not presumptive.
            If need be, you can also revert to simpler options like astro inertial and Spartan type TERPROM, where appropriate.

            3) I don’t like the idea of autonomous killing machines. I think it is a matter of time that some ethical considerations would impose a ban on autonomous killing machines.

            An ICBM is an autonomous killing machine. So is an AAM once pitbulled off the tether. So are a lot of cruise missiles. So are mines and torpedos. Shortly, we will have guided bullets that are autonomous. A cluster of nannites adhering to someone’s skin and effecting their central nervous system is within the realm of genetically targetable autonomous weaponry. The truth is, whether you like it or not, the ethics of autonomous killing systems is more about their practicality (ontological navigation) and ease of construction (software from readily available civilian vendors) than their application. Indeed, one of the things which makes air to air systems particularly easy to engineer as autonomous platforms is the relatively simplistic environmental navigation logic in a no-carpet-no-lumps sense. When viewed this way, the use of conventional missile components in every sense -except- the powerplant is all that restricts the range and independent acquisition (from launch-platform cuing sensor detection thresholds) on AAMs anyway.
            My own take on ethnics is that lasers will drive autonomy because the cost of a pilot lost in an eyeblink to megawatt class weapons will be deemed too rich for most countries to bear and it will ‘suddenly’ be realized that a missile which costs 1 million dollars each is still 150 times cheaper than an F-35 /to purchase/ let alone train with over a 40 year lifecycle.
            Weapons which are hideously expensive to own and operate and ruinously dangerous to the warrior in terms of outside threats are _unethical_ to acquire at levels which the F-35, 1.5 trillion dollar, render as a criminal act of fraud compared to the wooden round nature of missiles which are both low maintenance and able to be launched in sacrificial swarms without regard to losses.

            4) Even if other countries do not want such a ban, I think we should impose it now. We might have a 10 years technological advantage in making autonomous UAVs with killing capabilities, but opponents would shortly follow. Then the air superiority would depend on who can produce more (quantity). I don’t believe that we are the ones who can have the largest quantity over time. So we should ban this technology now, ignore any tactical advantage it might give us for some years and gain the strategic benefit of not having to confront this technology in the future.

            Sir, they were testing A2A capable BQM-34 back in the late 1970s. Anyone who can perform maintenance on an airline APU can design a small turbine sufficient to create turbo-SAM which will come up, fly a few hundred miles and then recover to a fixed point in it’s INS.
            This is technology that is seventy plus years old. It is NOT developmental as anyone who has seen a Delilah decoy and compared it to a BQM-74 Chukar could tell you (or a Mirach 600 or a Tupolev 349 etc.).
            It is the very cheapness and ready availability of these weapons vs. the ENORMOUS ‘Sanger’ costs of a fighter as launch platform which never survives the destruction of it’s 10,000ft runway, buried fuel farm and HAS complex, that will drive nations who are tired of being bullied by the U.S. to acquire systems which bypass the numbers and institutional experience of the USAF/USN/USMC.
            And while this is not really an ethics question from the standpoint of how the weapons are employed (they target other willing warriors in a restrictive battlespace environment where civilianes are not directly at risk) it -is- a morally soundcontention for an armed force which has the means readily to hand to build high capability defenses which potentially include the ability ot hit the enemy basing mode (and thus kill a lot of jets, near their base,rather than just one or two).
            Are you serious about defending your homeland or not? Warfare has enjoyed a full century of conventional airpower. Times as technology modes change and the people who will suffer the greatest inequity of ‘moral condemnation’ are the Don Quixotes who continue to tilt at that windmill with a system which is dated, expensive and utterly inept in the face of other threats like network optics and SSLs which would render their dated, macro-scale, _slow_ approach useless anyway.

          • Kostas

            Dear guest, I really like these additional points that you make, but I would like some further comments on my other objection:
            “I did not see any evidence that the few degrees of downlooking (that this platform would offer) negates the RFLO characteristics of the 5th gen fighters. Any arguement about more powerful or more focused beams applies to conventional radars as well and we know that these techniques are NOT effective because even if they manage to detect a LO aircraft in ideal conditons, in real life they do not work because they are susceptible even to barage (let alone more sophisticated) jamming.”

            Once I have this answered, I would then present you my thoughts on hypersonic platforms.

            Thanks, I really enjoy this dialogue

          • Greg

            I mostly agree and with your comments and would amplify them as follows:
            1) UAVs do not need to be operated, only controlled. Once a UAV is commanded to engage a target, communications will not be any more necessary than for a missile. Successful jamming would only prevent the UAV from receiving an abort – not tactically useful to the enemy.
            2) UAVs are no more vulnerable to EMP than modern manned fighters and properly designed UAV will be better shielded since they have no canopy.
            3 & 4) I think you nailed it and have nothing to add. It amazes me people accept guided missiles and think autonomous UAV are somehow evil or dangerous. I’ve been an aerospace engineer for 30 years and can’t define the difference between them in a way that does not present a conflicting example. If someone proposes we let machines select their own targets, then I would also have concerns – though one might argue Phalanx is already doing that.

          • Greg

            Regarding my post from yesterday. The link I provided does indeed describe a C-17 turned into a missile truck. There is nothing magical about C-17 but it is a modern aircraft with a large payload capacity. Something purpose built which flies higher with lower signature would be better.

            My logic goes something like this:
            1) F-22 is at the limits of maneuverability for a manned aircraft. Missiles are improving and do not have human limits. Missiles will also get smarter to better discriminate between targets and decoys. Stealth will become less effective as sensors improve. Pks will go much higher and manned fighters will be untenable.

            2) Patriot, Phalanx, and Iron Dome demonstrate technology capable of destroying incoming weapons – down to mortar shells. This thread has posited protecting S-300 batteries with similar weapons. Such weapons could be adapted to operate on and protect a large aircraft; even Phalanx at a ridiculous 13,000 pounds per copy could be feasibly carried by a C-17. Better, lighter protection systems are certainly possible.

            3) While A2A missiles are faster than anti-ship missiles, they are also much lighter and thus more fragile and more easily deflected. “Good” weather can be assured above 30,000 feet, making defense more reliable. Actively defeating missiles may be a viable strategy for aircraft with the payload and power available to operate such systems.

            4) If active defense is effective, there is no need for maneuverability to escape a missile. This works out nicely since fighter type aircraft could be difficult to outfit with such defensive systems. There is also less need for Stealth.

            5) A large and secure aircraft would be a much better control platform for UAVs than a fighter aircraft (even a two man fighter). If it did not need to be Stealthy to survive, it could employ active radar and communications as needed (like an AWAC).

          • Kostas

            How about a saturation attack by multiple missiles to overcome any active defense systems? these missiles need not be expensive because the high observability and the zero maneuverability of your platform would negate any high cost sensors or high agility characteristics on the missile.

          • Greg

            My purpose of bringing up this incarnation of the missile truck concept is to see if there are vulnerabilities or other reasons a missile truck could not perform the A2A mission. I appreciate your comments or criticisms and hope to learn.

            Here are my expectations about a saturation attack from the ground or many aircraft (attack from both is the sum of these).

          • Greg

            A2A: Russian F-22 knock-offs will probably cost upwards of $50M; lesser aircraft will be too busy dodging missiles to coordinate an attack. Aircraft closing within 30 km will quickly die so weapons will be BVR, radar guided missiles (not cheap); 30 km is 22 seconds at Mach 4. Assume enemy fighters can carry 6 BVR missiles; 20 aircraft (at north of $1B) can carry 120 missiles which they could fire over a period of several seconds. It would be very complex to plan an attack where the missiles from multiple aircraft arrive simultaneously and require precision flying and lots of communication; C-17 turns would spoil the timing anyway. If enemy aircraft attack from the same quadrant, missile vectors would resemble the ground attack case. Enemy aircraft attacking from multiple quadrants requires knowing the C-17 mission plan in advance and leaves enemy aircraft (having expended their missiles and exposing their position) very vulnerable to C-17 missiles, roving F-22, and potentially UAV missile sleds – many would not survive.

          • Greg

            In both cases the C-17 has some control of where incoming missiles are engaged relative to its own flight path. A large quantity of attacking missiles is likely to intercept, at speeds of Mach 2.5 or more, a curtain of fragments from pervious missile destructions – missiles don’t like that. It may also be difficult to keep missiles from targeting each other or even bumping into each other. OTOH, if the C-17 flees from the missiles, its defensive zone continues to move away from this fragment “shield”, not impacting performance of its defensive systems.

            In the end, the C-17 is not invulnerable but is far from an easy target. Loss of a C-17 missile truck is likely about 3 times as costly as loss of a F-22. Its loss would be felt, but not like loss of a carrier or LHD. Even an attempt to destroy the C-17 would be costly to the enemy.

          • Kostas

            Lets suppose that the (F) C-17 would have two Phalanx CIWS with 360 coverage. the range of the Phalanx is 3.5 km in sea mode, lets assume it would be the same in this air mode. For a Mach 3 missile, the 3.5 km would mean 3.5 secs of flight. Lets assume that the phalanx can engage one target per second ( it takes a full 1 sec to rotate 100 degrees). That means that this CIWS platform would be overwhelmed by a salvo of >7 missiles arriving at the same time. The simultaneous arrival is not unattainable given the limited maneuverability and speed of the platform. 7 missiles would require just one fighter to attack your C-17. Given that the fighter would launch the missiles from higher altitude and higher speed, it is safe to assume that (if they use similar missiles) the fighter can attack the C17 without even entering the firing envelope of C-17’s missiles.

          • Greg

            I see you are not enthused. I think you may slightly overestimate potential effectiveness of Phalanx – but your estimate is close enough for illustration.

            A single aircraft cannot fire 7 missiles which simultaneously arrive at a target many miles away. +/- 1% in missile velocity over 95 nm is like 3.5 secs spread at impact – and I doubt A2A missiles even have spec requirements for velocity variation (we usually only care about minimum velocity). Flight path is also critical since even minor direction changes affect missile velocity.

            Ignoring missile velocity variation and flight path variation, consider this example: F-22 can fire its BVR missiles in quick succession to minimize weapons bay door open time (for Stealth reasons). F-22 still requires about 0.5 seconds between successive missiles or 2.5 seconds between missile #1 and missile #6.

            Under your example with each Phalanx killing 1 missile per second after they close to 3.5 km, a pair of F-22 with perfect coordination and perfect tactics cannot down a C-17 fitted with 2 Phalanx. The first pair of missiles is destroyed at 3.5 km and #11 and 12 are destroyed at 1.0 km. At which point both F-22 are out of BVR missiles.

            A second pair of F-22 arriving 4 seconds later would have exactly the same result. Our C-17 is invulnerable to any pair of F-22; it requires at least 3 F-22 in a coordinated attack to threaten the C-17. OTOH, 12 missiles from the C-17 has a fair chance of killing all three F-22 unless they are far enough away to run.

            This is where missile range becomes important. It is not acceptable for the enemy to be able to take shots at our C-17 without risking their own aircraft. Higher altitude is one way to solve that; another is longer range missiles. Longer range missiles (with same technology) would be longer and heavier. C-17 has plenty of weight and volume margin to accommodate bigger missiles.

  • scott

    i agree

  • Rob C.

    I wonder what it would take to make less expensive long-range missile that isn’t going to screw up things further with cost. I’m not technologisti, i do understand the cost and logistics is factor. Phoenix missile, which was last long-range air-to-air missile US had, was resonable but it was big missile with allot needs. Sure it didn’t fire, but isn’t that saying we didn’t get into alot conflicts that called for one? Sadly, i think its going take more money that people are going say is waste to make Extended-Range version of the AIM-120 in service, that maybe new missile with same name as the current one due to politics.

  • internal carriage has its limits. Missiles need solid fuel to make range. F22 and JSF just cant handle the length required. Maybe some day a ramjet can be used to cut the length down.