Boeing’s evolved Super Hornet, the F-35 as an “F-35 killer”, and it sux to be USMC General Amos #military

The January 17 print edition of Aviation week has an article featuring Boeing’s plan for an evolved Super Hornet. In it is a photo of an F-18E Super Hornet setup as a show-room floor engineering study to showcase a variety of future equipment.

It shows an odd looking IRST that hangs off the gun door (the avionics boxes for it being located somewhere else), a big center-line low observable weapons bay that could carry one 2000 or 1000 pound class JDAM, or two 500 pound class JDAMs or four AMRAAMs or four Small Diameter Bombs (SDB).

It also has the shoulder conformal fuel tanks which together are good for an extra 3000 pounds of gas.

The article goes on to show an advanced cockpit (not part of the mockup) that can only be what you would see if there was a Boeing F-32 Joint Strike Fighter.

Also mentioned are uprated engines. We have seen this offered for the Super Hornet before; either you get a little more thrust or you can get more reliability, but not both. Part of the motivation for the uprated motors was that the wheezing performance of an already under-powered design was an attempt to make Pudgy competitive for India. Stock motors may put out 22k of thrust on a test stand but not when installed on the aircraft.

The article makes claims of lots of range. I won’t say what the numbers are because they don’t sound all that believable. Boeing mentions improved range and even more with external tanks but doesn’t mention that unless they want to redesign the wing, those external stores along with their pylons will be pointing outward 4 degrees; a result of design inbreeding without thinking things through otherwise known as history. Early in the Super program, the design crew had to come up with a way to keep dropped stores from bashing into each other and the aircraft after trouble was discovered in the wind tunnel. The kludge of a fix–outward pointing pylons and stores–means that every time an admiral gets up in front of congress and reports that the Super Hornet has 40 percent more range than the classic; he doesn’t have a clue of what he is talking about.

So for Boeings range claims; they require a flying version of the mockup. They state (like F-16 tests have shown) that the conformal fuel tanks don’t hurt performance much. With that, I think the conformals are a good thing. They will give more range than stock Super Hornets.

The article teases us with part if its title “JSF Killer?”. To that I would say; “no”. So far the only thing that has killed the F-35 program is the F-35 program. There wouldn’t be 24 Super Hornets in Australian service if in 2006, the F-35 program didn’t spook the then Defence Minister, Mr. Nelson. The Navy would not be buying more Super Hornets if the F-35 program was composed of sound engineering practice. Instead, what the American public and Joint Strike Fighter Partner nations get are fairy tales of F-35 greatness; no superlative spared.

The evolved Super Hornet would be a great power-hitter for the U.S.; 12 years ago during Operation: ALLIED FORCE. This evolved design would be great if all your enemy had were legacy SAM systems and some half-broken down MiG-29s.

Today? Well this Boeing mockup can be looked at not only as a combined package but as a buffet. If you only added the conformal tanks to a Block II Super Hornet, the United States Marines would have just the kind of aircraft needed to support their ground troops. The Super Hornet will always be cheaper than an F-35 (until real evidence appears). It will always be more proven than an F-35 (until real evidence appears). It will always be more practical than an F-35 (until real evidence appears).

Neither the Super Hornet (in any form) or the F-35 can stand up to advanced air defense systems growing in the Pacific Rim, so any claim that the F-35 will help deal with this problem is a pure nonsense. The F-35–if it ever matures–like the Super Hornet, will always be a second-tier strike aircraft which will need the likes of the F-22 to make the airspace safe vs. hard threats.

It sucks to be Marine General Amos forced to sell the Just So Failed idea to anyone gullible enough to listen. If the USMC is seriously interested in sustaining their fighter flying club, they better come up with a plan-B.

35 thoughts on “Boeing’s evolved Super Hornet, the F-35 as an “F-35 killer”, and it sux to be USMC General Amos #military

  1. I think its a good idea that Boeing is working on upgrading the F/A – 18. That’ll give them work and a bit of experience going into the F/A-XX work (which I hope begins soon).

    Also, I thoroughly approve of companies working on their own initiative to give upgrades / new ideas. I hope that the department of defense, in a country, pursues at least some of these ideas.

    And, when the F-35 is operational, I hope that Lockheed will do the same, offer total upgrades to the airframe, without a government telling them to do the work.

    • “And, when the F-35 is operational, I hope that Lockheed will do the same, offer total upgrades to the airframe, without a government telling them to do the work”.

      A: How sadly comical,what you be saying is IF the F-35 EVER becomes operational.

      And I’m sure that Lockmart will offer Joint Power Point Fighter upgrades at some hugely inflated price and justify it with the same sensor fusion/5th gen marketing snake oil backed up by a firm grasp of PowerPoint technology.

  2. Fabulous – Australia will probably order 96 of these once the F35 penny drops in Canberra.

  3. ELP,
    Yeah, I saw that article. Note that most of the ‘7-8-9’ figures are either for A2A with light loads (the 3,000lbs essentially replaces the centerline tank -only- which does indeed suggest that drag goes way down for the removal of the wing pylons). Or that assume Strike with much more total gas.
    I believe someone did mention (cough) that ‘three tanks’ would no longer be necessary. Keep that in mind when you think about F/A-18Fs with the NFF and APG-79 vs. legacy F/A-18E/Fs without. We may be talking disparate range capabilities in the same way that a GE Viper was not a P&W Viper when they tried those Gorilla raids on Baghdad, back in the day.

    The problem with the wing pylons is the lateral clearances, both from each other and from the fuselage side. If you remove the outboard pylon (which is practical because you can’t load a lot of light stores there without messing them up and you can’t load heavy stores there without messing up the wing), and replace them with just the original two wing pylons spaced sufficiently apart for with these wide-beam pods, you may find that most of the toe-and-cant crap goes away.

    In this, I believe the article said couple things which you misinterpreted:

    1. The USN jets woul have the IRST in the nose of the centerline pod and the avionics elsewhere. I believe the nose installation, which looks kinda like the LRMTS from a Tonka, could keep the avionics where they need to be, -if- you dump the gun. Or at least part of it’s generally useless ammo load. Flex-tasking with a new gun door (ala F-18 ATARS installations) was mentioned I believe and the implication is of course that ‘many countries’ don’t want to have their IRST wobbling in the breeze on the front of a removeable pod. Which can probably be translated as ‘The USN is cheap and if the AIRST is bought at all, it will only go on a few jets with most using the ATFLIR’.

    2. The F414-GE-400s don’t simply look good. They chop the Mach .8 to 1.2 acceleration times in half (I don’t have the magazine here in front of me but we’re talking 238 seconds IIRR from online sources). Past Mach 1.3 the jet is drag limited anyway but the supposition is that the aircraft is capable off being a transonic fighter where its FQ LO signature gives it an edge in pole-boosting (and where every other jet, including the F-15/16, is signature as much as acceleration limited from getting smacked in the teeth trying to boost to a higher value like the commonly quoted M= 1.6). I am personally more interested in the bring back and around-boat performance boosts because I believe that the Super Horror will always be Ps limited based on wingloading -and- thrust (i.e. lift induced figures) anywhere above 20K which is just about the basement for supersonics.

    3. The superpod can take 2 AMRAAM and 4 GBU-39/53. Same deal as the F-35, with the missiles on the doors. Would have to see the separation tests myself but if so, a combination of JDRADM (AMRAAM-as-ARM) and 12 SDB plus tanks could be a good thing.

    3. The overwing tanks I am -not- convinced of. You don’t want to have something start ‘dripping’ on a carrier where you have to winch the sucker off to make repairs or effect reseals. Just look at the amount of grunt work (2hrs for 2 tanks, 4hrs for 4) it takes to rig up a whale. They supposedly use the airframe liftpoints and make intrusions onto the wing fuel lines to achieve all thi and that’s also less than a stellar idea IMO, you have no idea how hard a carrier landing is until you make a bad one and these are not maple syrup trees you’re punching into. Added to which is that little wingloading/lift induced problem I mentioned. You can’t just dump CFTs if you suddenly need agility more than gas.

    4. One of the neat things about the X-32 program was the portalling effects. You could have variably scaled miniwindows (picture in picture) and it looks like, since then, that they’ve added 3D depth of field to a gods eye perspective view. Don’t like the scab-on attempt to make EODAS happen but it proves that the concept of super-avionics integration is not exclusive to the Lockheed crowd.

    If I was going to make a fighter out of a flying dumptruck, it would all start with munitions.

    Powered ordnance beats gliders (JAGM is a must, even if it’s just Brimstone II relabelled with a TRISTAR seeker). And turbine standoff + sorta-LO gets you a flying fighter screen -ahead of- your principle attack aircraft.

    The best performing fighter in the world is a dogfight missile with a fuel tank instead of an SRM tube people.

  4. If Congress (or the the actual F-35 JPO itself) does not kill the F-35, then yes, I’d be confident with two of the above deployed Super Hornet ‘E’ mods (on a price point) defeating a single F-35A in Red Flag 2017.

    I’m actually not a fan or supporter of the centerline LO pod. It takes up valuable space, not to mention adds cost and adds diversion to a proper, immediate Super Hornet upgrade program.

    Go with an internal IRST, CFT, enhanced cockpit and improved engines (I’d suggest 75% of fleet modulated on the more fuel efficient, maintenance-friendly setting.. and 25% set on the high-performance air defense setting).

    I’d go further of course and add the AIM-162 w/ NCADE’s enhanced 9x seeker and possibly a dual mmW terminal seeker. Put 4 rounds (2 per pylon) on in-line-set outboard Suu-79 pylons. Inboard Suu-79 EFT pylons not needed due to centerline tank and CFT.

    Lastly, I’m in the camp that would approve of even a single-seat E model incorporating the Growler-lite wing-tip gear to round off the superior situational awareness (compared to F-35s long-range sensing capabilities).

    I would NOT want to be a two-ship of block III F-35A flying Red Flag 2017, facing 4 such fictional next-gen Super Hornets.

  5. If it is a new airframe instead of upgrade, why can’t they lengthen the neck/forward fuselage a little? say 2-3 inches. I am sure the engineer can rearrange the rest of internal and find the extra space more than enough for entirely new avionic. Centerline pod seems a little drastic just to add IRST.

    I still say, it’s way pass time to get medieval and force LM to share that F-35 glass cockpit so it can be installed on the rest of F-teen. (F-15,F-18 specially) F-22 can also use entirely new avionic.

    But… don’t forget my idea of scaling up F-18 and putting 2 D-135 engine. haa!

  6. Getting such acceleration out of the F-18 with the IRST hanging on the gun door as shown, the CFTs, the funny looking bump behind the cockpit (laser-IR warning), would, after adding that weight and drag would be interesting to see if it is possible with what-ever thrust they think they can squirt out of an up-rated pair of motors. Seeing is believing.
    Thought about the CFT on carrier thing. My thoughts were with the Marines that see most of their Hornet ops today come from a conventional airfield. Not as big a deal there and would be useful. Hard to say what a foreign customer would do, but if you offered the uprated motors to the Navy/Marines, the pencil pushers would take the other option of that motor upgrade-the one that gives better maintenance metrics and not the one that gives better motor thrust (with less hours between pulling the motor).
    There will be no parole from the Governor on the Super Hornet wing. Unless Navy comes up with some cash (good luck) it will never be redesigned. Meaning that any time you hang a plyon on the jet, it will be pointing outward (the middle and inboard) or canted (outboard). Once a drag-o-matic, always a drag-o-matic.

    • OTOH, there may be enough E/Fs in future production to warrant that redesign.

      And with FADECs, I can easily conceive of a War Emergency rating for the engines.

  7. Ha! If one wants to make a fighter out of the later Hornets it’s time for stronger differentiation single sea fighter – twinseater attack I say. The evolutionary SHornet should only be built as twinseater from now on. And the fighter versions should be based on refurbished current single-seater SHornets with EDE engines, single-purpose AAM pylons, and the IRST instead of the M61 in the nose.

    I don’t believe that the flight dynamics of a SHornet with that weapons/sensor canoe under the belly and CFTs on the back will improve. And I don’t think that a belly sensor is a good idea. Rather than a belly LO canoe I’d say do two underwing LO’d and properly area ruled canoes that replace all current underwing pylons. Then use the belly station for the F-35 belly gun pod if needed.

  8. Really why don’t they do something about the horrible drag/poor aerodynamics and miserable top speed before pasting on IRST, conformal tanks, etc?

    And as Eric has noted, real engines are needed!

    All together I’m not much impressed, for the same money we could buy an AESA equipped Rafale or Sea Gripen and get a whole lot more all around performance.

      • The Rafale will it outrun and out climb the Super Hornet any day of the week, and its canard design gives it real advantages landing on a carrier deck. Yes it’s expensive, but its also proven, operational, and fully interoperable with current US carriers.

        To bring some clarity to the real prices of the fighters on the market I would recommend reading the Defense Aerospace report attached below. While it was published in 2006, it’s still pretty close including the real price of the F-35. Read this closely, you may be surprised.

  9. The development costs for a Sea Gripen would be far in excess of this proposed super-Super Hornet. As for the Rafale, that might work, but it doesn’t appear to be much of a jump above the F-18 to begin with.

    I would like to make a brief comment to Geogen. How can you say that a cobbled together airplane, which always had ok maneuvering capability, and now has many extra bits and pieces slapped onto it, will be better than a F-35 at the air to air combat? That statement is kind of ludicrous, and really could only come from someone who is determined to attack the F-35 at every opportunity without consideration for the issues at hand.

    This plane will have a lowering maneuverability envelope, because of the conformal fuel tanks and the center pylon IRST mod. And, it will still be less stealthy than the F-35, no matter what they do to it (apart from a total body restructuring…). On the flip side, it appears to be a solid upgrade for the F-18, which will be used in carrier groups for another 20 years and perhaps could use that upgrade.

  10. ELP,

    An AAM is a lot like a supercavitating torpedo, you know? Getting those first 70 knots while the bubble blows up to form a sheath around the weapon is the ‘hard part’.

    Same deal here with getting a shock on the nose of the missile as it slips the Mach, lots of wasted energy there. 1.3 is thus a good Mach point to get decent range out of the AIM-120D or, as G2 suggests, a 10″ motor + NCADE powered AIM-162. The Difference between a Mach 7 (F/A-18) and a Mach 10 (F-22, if it will fit) intercept is unimportant if you are using onboard sensors because you are downrange acquisition limited anyway.

    As for the Marines thinking they are still an independent airforce, that’s a wave off sir. The 2001 TAMP _ensured_ that the USMC would be available to provide the 7-carrier surge so that we wouldn’t be 30 days out from responding to another 9/11.

    They’re not gators, they’re saltwater crocs.

    Beyond which, how sophisticated does a CAS deliverer have to be? I would rather have the old, wormy, jets with the APG-73 and AAS-46 go to the guys who are bombing targets that shoot back with DShK and MANPADS than see them get tricked out JSF wannabes.

    Whether you treat USMC aviation as transforma-Squids or as their own organic MAGTF capability (which makes LHA-6 an entirely different ‘sea control’ beast btw…), they don’t need first line capabilities unless they are going up against the first team, in the first wave.

    And that, I don’t believe, is ever going to happen again. ‘Cuz their carriers are too tiny.

    The Indians are looking at the Hornet as part of their MMRCA for the following, specific, reasons:

    1. They want the F414 on the cheap for the Tejas.
    2. They want to buy into AESA and netcentrics to energize
    their aerospace industry and upgrade their ruskitronic

    Frankly, I would give them neither.

    The whole Cope India ACMT thing bought us zip-all beyond exposing our airframes and operating modes to a -threat- instrumented range. No added Raptors. No real belief that the exercise wasn’t rigged for show to get more. No NATO level competent joint-force training like the Alaska operation a couple years later.

    As long as the Indians sleep with the Russians and there is a constant risk of ‘when your ally is the enemy of your friend, the dead end up burying the living’ strategic compromise over the Kashmir, we need to keep our powder dry and our flints clean.


    That said, I’m all for a single-engine standard on carrier decks and as you mentioned in another article, there is also the ‘color of money’ principle in bringing the F135 to sea on the Fords and presumably, by retrofit, to the Nimitz class.

    I do wonder about that wing. Specifically, did they -actually- toe out the ribs or stringers to take the longitudinal loads or simply drill the spars ‘at an offset’ for the primary spanwise load bearing?

    See, unlike the others, I see the weapons pods as being the principle item of merit in the whole program. They are cheap (er than engines or CFT mods); they are transferrable between platforms (JSF needs more bang for it’s buck); they are flexible in terms of hardpoint (14 or 30) and carriage box volume issues; and they finally begin to condense external carriage in a way that gives ‘value added’ (missiles -and- bombs) multiplication effect in a manner that single purpose buried munition pylons and conformal munitions (Have Dash, Have Slick etc.) cannot.

    They can even be preloaded for fast turns.

    But none of that is gonna mean much on the Super Hornet if you are turning an external tank sized profile area, sideways to the wind. It’s not a sail boys. We don’t tack and jib in today’s navy.

    Once a drag-o-matic, always a drag-o-matic.

    Ainh. I think you’re missing the point to be honest sir. We will _never fight_ a littoral war in the SCS/ECS region. Why? Because we don’t have the (total airwing) legs or the speed to make long range strikes mean anything vs. the overall risk to the _basing mode_ platform.

    And the Chinese and Indians are not stupid. They won’t try to sanitize a million cubic miles of airspace to hit single airframes when they can sink the entire airwing at home plate.

    The Chinese have effective SSN. They have effective Cruise. They have effective ASBM. They have nukes. I assume they have airlaid naval mines.

    That’s a recipe for repeating The Cuban Missile Crisis only this time it will be the _U.S._ who are 6,000+ miles from home and our huff and bluster “Or I’ll…” will be met with stoic smiles as ‘Or you’ll what, blow up your sole supplier of cheap commercial goods, your sole backers of Qualitative Easing, the sole growth economy on the planet for your wastrel bankers to recover their losses in?’.

    The Chinese have U.S. over a barrel. They can ruin us the moment they unpin their currency from ours. Or destroy us utterly, physically, with nothing more than their long-stated policy of holding countervalue targets at risk.

    If we do the same to them, we are out of the game, economically, even if nothing else happens to us in reaction.

    What’s a CSG here and there, ‘between friends’ in that equation?

    This has -always- been the reason why we have been crippled in our foreign policy during the nuclear age as a nation whose Navy we cannot afford to lose in either SLOC maintenance or offensive strike, close to shore.

    Blow up the PLAN? Be our guest, _We’re already in the theater_.

    Blow up a 20,000 man USN CSG/ARG? Whatcha Gonna Do? Cry?

    This is what makes the Super Hornet ‘good enough’, in combination with great network sensorization and weapons coverage to win -every other- likely theater. Because now they have to come out and play in our deep blue bryar patch. And despite new-Navy crap we still have the institutional edge to beat them. I think.

    Let me state this again: We aren’t able to beat a first line threat nation with carrier air in the littorals, no matter which (fastjet) platform we go with. Because they won’t target the jet. They’ll target the basing mode with weapons systems the jet can’t find or deal with on an as-equals (time cycle) basis. Carriers are big, ugly, signatures and easy to mission kill, with or without nukes.

    Which means that we are instead down to fighting, not Carlo Kopp’s view of a modernized PLAAF with 200+ J-20s but rather the odd 10-20 Pak-FA or J-20 that a 2nd line client state like Pakistan or Iran can afford.

    And I kill those by collapsing their basing mode logistics (20,000lbs of fuel per sortie) around their ears and saturating their sortie generation (combat turn) windows until I catch them on the ground. Which is where fighters should be destroyed. All the time.

    Preferrably starting the fight with a combination of Strategic and Sealaunch Cruise from a CSG startposition well over the theater AOR horizon.

    For whatever vanilla Su-27/MiG-29 residual threat is (one trip roadbasing) left, _turbine powered AAM_ beats Mach 1.5 sprint boosting of SPR missiles. Because we can have the missiles _in the air_, 200nm off the fighter’s nose, when the threat goes wheel in well and becomes visible. And if nobody comes up to play, we can use GPS to slam them into ground targets, just as nice.

    We have got to stop playing this game as if it’s a tit-for-tat, symmetrical, technical, one-upmanship match. We’ll go broke and ‘they’ will win by default. Literally.

    This, more than anything, is why I want to go to UCAVs across the board. Because we can collapse USAF/USN inventories and training pipes into a single (JPALS) golden-wings brigade whose VLO, in combination with sophisticated munitions, is all you need for 2nd line states.

    And then use the institutional overhead savings to bring small detachments of Theater Strategic TAVs ondeck for the big boys.

    Black Swift is not a ‘way out there’ idea. It’s just that the idiots involved want to make it into an intercontinental FALCON rather than something which we can field within ten years.

    Hey Idiots. It’s called an _ICBM_.

    And if you don’t know what that is, rest assured the bad guys do. And they’d better not see something come out of CONUS at Mach 20+ or they might overreact. Worse, they might steal the tech and send it back at us, 10 years after IOC. Just like the J-20.

    ‘Tactical’ airpower is what happens in a 60nm circle around a Netfires launchbox. Theater airpower is where we need to be thinking about, in a 3,000nm SOI around the CSG as force isolate.

  11. Tejas is dead. They just don’t know how to bury it. No 414 ever made will cure it.
    The program is so far down the crapper it will take a swan dive to save it.

  12. In short, I would close my argument on this thread – as much as it’s a hard aircraft for me to swallow too – in saying that a properly modernized and upgraded Super Hornet block should be a near-term, accelerated, interim recapitalization strategy for USN. Until a more feasible, sutainable and effective ‘next-gen’ plan can be formulated.

    It should and imho could be delivered by time F-35A is expected to go IOC (late 2016 or even 2017). Upgrade it to a standard of systems and stopgap advanced weapon sys capable of yes, ‘defeating’ an entry level IOC block III F-35A.

    If Navy can afford to fix the wing and/or even just the pylon alignment, then that would be a bonus. If Navy can afford and can find tactical advantage using the conceptual LO weap pods, then that is bonus. But imho, there are priority system upgrades, configurations and absolutely force-multiplying weapon modifications which could more cost-effectively elevate the Fleet’s deterrence value and combat potency (ahead of plan A’s delayed schedule), under a sustainable procurement and at far less a risk.

  13. I don’t think it is too late for Boeing to steal some thunder. With everything that isn’t happening with the F-35, the door is still open for them to resurrect the X-32. I know that there would be some laughter at such a suggestion, but let’s think about it. If, and I stress if, they don’t try and reinvent the wheel, they can have an aircraft ready in quick time. Use Super Hornet avionics, even use Hornet landing gear. No risk there. Cram a P&W F119 engine in the sucker – don’t mess with the F135. Flight test the sucker like no tomorrow, and before you know it you have an aircraft that will be more survivable than the teen series which will fill the gap until the F/A-XX.

  14. What a great discussion. The evolved Super Hornet is really a stop gap measure until the USN gets it sh*t together and decides that having air superiority is a priority again, much like the DoD under Mr. Gates.

    Also when comparing the “value” of fighter purchases, we should factor in their projected effectiveness over the next decade against the emerging threats (PAK-FA/J-20/triple digit SAM systems, etc). As much as I like the Gripen and Rafale over the Super Hornet, they too will be nullified by the rapidly changing threats on the Pacific rim. So really all these aircraft can only be consider interim steps to a 5+ or 6th generation fighter.

    The F-35 is also much the same, while it does have “some” stealth, it just does not offer the baseline fighter performance envelope to compete with a production J-20 as well as the other 4.5 gen fighters starting to emerge in China.

    Until the USN starts to get serious again about A2A fighters, the big stick of carrier air power will continue to be eroded by the arms race now occurring in the Pacific.

    Bring on the F/A-XX, or get out of the business of projecting power with carriers, its time!

  15. Jason,
    Thanks. I think about this stuff and people look at me strange when I start talking to myself so…I come here. :-]

    Tejas was always a dead duck. What do you need a MiG-21 replacement for when your enemy to the left has M11 ballistics and your enemy to the right has DF-21 and 30?

    Even the Pak-FA is a dated concept when you have to go, what, 1,500nm?, over the Himilayas to hit anything in China worth killing.

    What is true and what is wanted are two separate issues however.

    The LCA could very well be something of a valid aerospace industry building effort or purely a nationalist ego driven Edsel (or Ajeet). But it’s still _Indian_.

    And as long as HAL keep plodding along on the Mk.1 with ‘upgrade plans’ in the works, they get money and so do the people who get paid to buy this stuff in their

    This is pure trickle down pig-digs-for-acorn economics and I wouldn’t have any problem giving them the baseline F414-GE-100 to pursue that dream if I thought it might buy us a hundred F/A-18 sales and maybe friendly depot maintenance if not basein rights.

    Except that they are sleeping with the Russians and the Israelis.

    And we are in bed with the Pakistanis and the Chinese.

    NLOS-LS is not dead due to technology lapse reasons. It just got coopted by IAI who would prefer we bought our technology base back from them.

    Spike comes in about 5 different flavors from Mini (four per backpack, looks like the old Cobra/Bantam MACLOS ATGM, <2km capable) to NLOS which, at 25km and 100KG, looks like a mini-Nimrod and is getting close to PAM in capabilities. Update: see also 'Jumper' system.

    The Brazillians have FOG-MPM which goes out to 60km. The Germans have or would have had, the naval adapted Polyphem. /Even the Serbians/ have ALAS.

    And it _all_ goes back to the FAAD-NLOS system (FOG-M) which was demonstrated against both airborne and surface targets, out to 15km, what, 25 years ago?

    If we wanted the NDT/+ capability in a longer ranging Javelin (neh Topkick) with a fiber link, sans the huge microwave DL vulnerability of Netfires, we could have it, tomorrow.

    Not least because we have the money to make Tristar work, if seeker multispec is what we want to distinguish our missile with.

    Put another way, the U.S. is the -only- nation which is treating tactical airpower as a 50,000lb TOW class airplane expending 20,000lbs of consumable stores per sortie, sitting on a roadbase, less than 50 miles behind the front.

    Where an NLOS missile could hit it. Shame on you USMC.

    Back in Octoboer 2001, when we were staring at less a 'blank check' than 'third mortgage' moment on OEF and the writing was on the wall for Iraq, I would have agreed with you.

    If only because going to PWSC finalists rather than committing to a _production_ rampup with SDD would have also given time to qualify the X-45C and X-47B as doing what they were supposed to: which was make carrier air possible with a robot.

    Now, I don't think so.

    The tailed and swept delta of the F-32 would be an entirely different structures enclosure than the X-32 and would have to be fully requalified as it's own airframe.

    The F119 is a hot core that doesn't need the frontfan massflow enabler of the super big gulp inlet (the X-32 had nearly 54,000lbst worth of thrust to support direct lift for the STOVL designpoint and routinely ran away from the X-35) and the latter is what largely drives the (IMO) hugely inefficient layout of the centerline engine and massive burner tube with separate exhaust while bloating the fuselage beam and depth to provide volume for the weapons bays.

    Without all these, the F-32 actually begins to look more like an F-16 with a supercritical wing than anything. But it's also such a different airframe that it's not worth trying to reinvent the JSF mission spec, without STOVL (the Boeing's only hope of beating the Ugly Girl stigma) in competition with a fresh piece of paper approach.

    JSF is programatic poison. Any F-111B vs F-14A fruit that falls from that tree…

    Why does the U.S. want to 'compete' with the Chinese in their own backyard? You either technically dwarf them. Or you lose. Outclassing them in this instance means bringing your strike warfare platform in from so far out into the blue that X/Y/Z systems (FAC, Sub, OTH-B) no longer have an easy search footprint to make the kill chain viable.

    I don't want to see pilots spending 50-100minutes transiting the blue water gap necessary to keep the carrier safe, followed by 200+ minutes, feet dry, 'fighting' anyone. That's ridiculous (and it's more or less, exactly what we did in OEF and OIF).

    The more gas you haul as dead weight, RF stealthily inside the airframe, the more you throw out the afterburner trying to do 'fighter things' (minimum 750fps Ps value) creating a massive IR signature to SFPA on threat platforms across the board (optics will largely replace radar even as 'radar' has largely replaced UHF comms, in the 21st century). All of this happening on the wrong end of the radius equates to being one engagement too many from a flameout and technology loss.

    And when they dogpile you, the more targets you are forced to engage, the more your offensive:defensive payload fraction goes to 'look out, I got both internal racks loaded for pussycat today I tell'ya!' levels.

    The notion that a carrier with a 10-12 (even 15) hour mission evolution intervals between launch and recovery cycles can afford to have a 'fighter' and an 'attack' dedicated airwing is itself questionable IMO. Unless, at least one of those elements has such low cost and low spotting factor that you are able to return to a 70 airframe 'Roosevelt Load' total strength. Up from today's level of about 40 jets.

    Good luck with that.

    I guess I just need to be convinced that:

    1. Aeroballistic cruise weapons aren't a cheaper, faster, means to move back into the deepstrike, reactive targeting, game.

    Particularly since they are increasingly likely to be thrown at us and we have both a mechanical intercept and a DEWS techbase lead to shoot them down with.

    Even AIAA President and former chief egghead of the USAF: Mark Lewis, advised against pushing the SOA so hard (on TBCC/HSRFRV) that we collapsed the program under the weight of fiscal expenditure loading like we did NASP. Weaponize the X-51 he says. Or extend the range and speed of TACMS type SPRs say I. _Why Not_, if all's you're looking to do is hostage coastal industries and smack-back ASBM/ASCM batteries in real time, to a <800nm depth? Why invest in throwing out a manned strike option when the precision of today's missiles is such that you don't need repeat strike or multi-carriage to ruin someone's economy?

    OTOH, if you are going to be hostaging the depths of China as back-country factories and infrastructure, look at a map-

    And ask yourself what the bleep does 'tactical air superiority' have to do with the 3,500 miles between Beijing and Canton?

    That's an XB-70 and YF-108 scenario you're describing.

    Oh, so China is -also- dependent on a maritime import/export economy you say? Fine. Blockade their shipping in blue water. And dare them to come try and stop you.

    2. What business it is of ours to be defending the right of three microstates to run us bankrupt buying commercial goods at inequitable levels of import/export protected trade for the 'privilege' of protecting them while selling the store (including our R&D) as technology base to fund another cold war with the macrostate who owns the debt we create being the world's protector?

    Bring the industry back home or invent it as new. Sell the microstates nuclear technology to keep their neighbors and the macrostate busy juggling chainsaws against _in theater_ 'Western Threats'.

    If we aren't pushing that mess, we can instead stand firmly behind the Monroe Doctrine as a 'but we aren't bothering you, have your hegemony of the East but you take a step past 175W and we'll smack you so hard the sound of your breaking teeth will be heard round the world…' counter to any attempt at breaching the Western Hemisphere with 'hostile' trade or weapons.

    None of the above prevents us from investing in the new weapons technologies of the 21st century: Hypervelocity, DEWS, CW/IW, distributed systems, cluster robotics and autonomous robotics.

    But for pities sake, let the Koreans, ROChinese and Japanese play rodeo clown with the PRChinese bull. It's _not our fight_ and it is -their- barrel.

    3. That the consequences of globalism must be globalistic preparation for warfare.

    If you look at history almost -every- big fight was preceded by peripheralism where forces tested each other out in remote or unaligned theaters.

    Fighting in the peripherals is the expeditionary doctrinal paradigm which needs efficiency, cheapness and staying powers as it's principle warfighter effectors over absolute performance.

    In particular, if you want to slow China down in an absolute sense, fighting them, corporately, in Africa while revamping our internal controls (manufacturing, immigration and renewable resources) over our own consumerist needs for imports as trade deficit management (which is to say -debt- management) is a great way to start back up the rocky road from failed socialist state to functional superpower.

  16. I would concur, RSF, re: a Stopgap SH III strategy.

    As far as the ‘next-step’ is concerned… I’m still not fully sold on an F/A-xx scheme (might be too radical and set too far out in an acquisition schedule?). N-UCAS class UCAV, if operationally feasible, should be factored into the equation of course too. (which of course eats substantially into the F-35C piece of JSF’s business model — killing Program sustainability/viability).

    But I would still be in a camp arguing that carrier borne (and road/land-based) Tactical aviation is not yet dead. It is still a relevant ‘balance-of-power-geared’ acquisition model imho, as is maintaining the ‘capability’ to deter and reinforce an ally in time of crisis, etc. I’d like to say this in a geo-strategic scheme of things is not necessary today, but I just don’t think we’re quite there yet as a planet in early 21st century.. Hopefully soon, yes.

    • well a plane launched from a ship is not dead yet as long as fighter plane does not have enough range to fight from friendly base.

      but current form of super carrier + gen 4 fighter is dead. As dead as large gun boat vs. carrier around 1942. They just don’t want to admit it yet. It is an expensive gear and awesome looking afteral.

      1, super carrier battle group is economically unaffordable. It’s always behind technologically. (propulsion, electronic, hull, deployment method.)

      2. It’s easy target. can be tracked from satellite everywhere, since its so large.

      3. as a group its pretty slow moving. (did I mention it’s a large group? and sticks out?)

      It just doesn’t have the “momentum”. A large rival will see it coming the minute it set sails out of a port. What is the point flying F-35 out of a ship that can be seen hundreds of miles away?

  17. The battleship peaked and faded. Carriers are in the same boat so to speak. 😉

    A carrier fighter, unless we find a way to make arresting gear and the like out of zero-weight super plastic, will always start out with a disadvantage over a land-based counterpart of equal technology. There is going to be a tradeoff somewhere–reliability, acceleration, maneuverability, range, and payload being the top five (in no particular order).

    I like Anon’s idea. Let Japan, ROK, etc. defend themselves. If the Chinese want to play punk ass let them come out into our big blue pond to do it. We’ll whip their asses and send them home just like every other Navy on the planet that dares to challenge us. Otherwise, we don’t care what they do.

    • “I like Anon’s idea. Let Japan, ROK, etc. defend themselves. If the Chinese want to play punk ass let them come out into our big blue pond to do it”.

      Looking back through history that sounds remarkedly like some of the folks back home that wanted to let Europe deal with Hitler on their own.

      And now we can see how that worked out…..

  18. I disagree.

    In 15 yrs even a stealth frigate will be detected from leaving port by a multiple of sats.

    So then what, only deploy mini-subs from a beach?

    I could only conjecture enough that the entire strategic essence of a destroyer group or Carrier group or any group is in the relative show of presence (a properly equipped and gunned carrier group would obviously bring more presence than anything else) and as a raw deterrence capability. If one doesn’t pay the price for this, then one doesn’t play.

    It’s as simple as that… until we have a Planet Earth at peace and everyone taking a holiday together climbing the Malindang frontier range and calling it a day. imho.

  19. If everybody can see everybody else, than agility and strategy matter. It’s spanish armada vs. dutch privateer situation.

    I would imagine a naval battle in the future will be a very agile stealthy ships – yes, probably has to go up and down the water line to hide from radar – and a lot of fighters and drones. Up to a point bigger ship becomes unwieldy.

    The current thinking of bigger is better won’t last. It will hit a) economical limit b) negative strategic return.

    what happen if somebody comes up with a small missile corvette that can roam 5-6000 nm undetected at 40 knots, and only 1/100th the price of attack submarine? It may only carry less than 10 missiles, but if it can position itself in right places, it can bring down a battle group supply lines by itself.

  20. Of course; bigger is not always better and indeed comes a point of diminishing returns for everything, yes… yet I guess I would not want to be that cheap, uber high-tech corvette either… zipping by an opponent’s force-multiplying fishing trawler, a.k.a. stealth-corvette-killer? There’s always a detection system, counter-measure and counter-counter measures, sure. It’s always been a crazy game on the high seas. Nothing else is new. imho.

  21. With smaller ship, one can use advance material. Composite, ceramics, alloys, coatings, etc. One can’t make big ship out of advance material without going broke. it is also hard to design exotic hull for big ship. But current small ship has limited range, due to propulsion bottle neck. so range and useful load are limited. However recent diesel and turbine combined with hybrid propulsion shows a lot of promise for smaller ship.

    We know a lot about radar and electromagnetic. but under water, we are reduced to primitive sonar, plus one or two other tricks, but short range. That’s why nobody can detect a small electric submarine effectively. If somebody start designing a high performance lightweight hull for submersible corvette using advance material. I guarantee you that guy will win any war against all current navy arsenal. Every single one of current missiles uses IR or radio wave, which can easily defeated using composite. There is no counter measure against small composite submersible boat. None. Background noise will obscure it.

    Plus, a tank crew has to operate weeks on ends in a campaign. Why couldn’t a “ship” be manned by 4 persons like a tank instead of hundreds or thousand even? modern ship is far safer than a tank. So. if I can build a comfortable operating environment for 20-30 crew, I expect that ship should be able to operate in water alone for months. Just like a german submarine.

    DCNS is already proposing such ship, tho’ still a concept.

    But this is war ship, not aircraft carrier. Altho’ I suspect the same thinking will prevail too. A carrier should only exists to serve attack aircrafts, instead of a ship with aircraft to attack. Anything that has nothing to do with attack aircraft should be removed. Its performance is solely to optimized aircraft mission. If they can’t find my carriers, I already win half the battle for my stealth fighters. Of course building a stealth carrier would be a pretty ambitious task.

  22. Future technological conflicts will also be fought through cyber attacks on “net centric” systems and the destruction of reconnaissance and communication satellites.

    This is the problem with just using long range strike weapons to deal with someone like China. If you can’t communicate or get good intel on your targets, how can you use “smart” weapons to destroy them?

    With this in mind stealth technology will continue to grow in importance for both aircraft and ships due to the need to have human eyes in person on the battle field.

    Stealth technology in the future will advance with the use of metamaterials that can defeat both visual and electromagnetic detection. These same materials will allow aircraft and ships to match backgrounds like a chameleon.

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