Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Dave Majumdar's F-35 'Punk Journalism'...Again

Whereby 'boy journalist' double downs on David Axe's 'Dogfight' B.S, ignores reality and dances around Libel in just a few paragraphs. 

But hey! Its always fun to watch someone debase themselves for pennies a word right?...right? 
Today, Dave Majumdar, once a promising aero reporter, apparently needed some rent money. Why else would he fabricate another F-35 click-bait hit piece for the lower-brow crowd, (update: the Punk is now the 'Defense Editior' of the digital rag) rehashing the pap that David Axe used to set off a disinformation cascade? Now I could spend all night Fisking Majumdar's craptastic article to include "27 8x10 color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as evidence" but there's only a couple of things worth my time, nailing Dave to the wall, that should cast the rest of his 'pap' under the proper spotlight. The first is his apparent (willful?) inability to discern information from 'spin':    
Meanwhile, proponents of the F-35—primarily Lockheed Martin and the JSF program office (JPO)—tried to dismiss the results—aggressively calling out the War is Boring outlet by name. The company and the Pentagon claimed that the tests were not truly representative because the F-35 test article involved in the trial versus the F-16 was not equipped with a full set of avionics, didn’t have its stealth coatings, and did not use the jet’s helmet-mounted display and, moreover, was not equipped to simulate high off-boresight missiles like the AIM-9X Sidewinder. Besides, the F-35 was designed to fight from long-range—the JPO and Lockheed claimed.Both sides of the debate are correct—but neither side is telling the whole story. As a good friend on the Hill recently told me: “In political communications, facts are an interesting aside, but are completely irrelevant. What we do here is spin.” That’s exactly what’s happening here—both sides are selectively cherry picking facts to make their case—spin.

Dave...Tell your 'friend' to F.O.A.D.

"Tried to dismiss the results" Dave? Facts are not "an interesting aside" to people who design and build weapon systems.  What the JPO and LM responded with was 'The Truth'. It was a post-stall agility test, testing for areas where it might be worthwhile to 'open up' the control laws (CLAWs) and was not a 'dogfight'. 

The Testing in Question was Described Ahead of Time Last Year 

Not only was what the JPO/LM response the TRUTH, it was one that was KNOWN and in the public domain the year BEFORE the test ever occurred and therefore it is also a delightfully 'provable' truth. I buried the lede with this point in an earlier post, but I recreate an excerpt here:  
From the 2014 AIAA paper "F-35A High Angle-of-Attack Testing"[1], authored by a Mr. Steve Baer, (Lockheed Martin "Aeronautical Engineer, Flying Qualities" at Edwards AFB), and presented to the Atmospheric Flight Mechanics Conference held between 16 and 20 June 2014, in Atlanta, Georgia we find that F-35 High AoA testing was designed to follow in the following progression:  
"The test objectives for high angle-of-attack testing are as follows:
1) Characterize the flyqualities [sic] at AoAs from 20° to the control law limit regime with operationally representative maneuvers.  
2) Demonstrate the aircraft’s ability to recover from out of control flight and assess deep stall susceptibility 
3) Evaluate the effectiveness and usefulness of the automatic pitch rocker (APR)  
4) Evaluate departure resistance at both positive and negative AoA with center of gravity (CG) positions up to the aft limit and with maximum lateral asymmetry.  
5) Assess the handling qualities of the aircraft in the High AoA flight."
Now, in case a 'punk journalist' or other factually-challenged reader wanders by (am I psychic or what?), we need to be clear that #5 has nothing to do with "dogfighting". We know this because Mr. Baer makes two points shortly thereafter within the paper. 
The first point is relevant to the state of the testing at the time of his writing. I observe that this paper was written during Objective #4 testing and published at about the time it concluded. This observation is supported by the paper's passage [emphasis/brackets mine]:

With intentional departure testing [Objective #4] wrapped up, the team will soon move into departure resistance [Still Objective #4] and plan to remove the SRC now that these systems have been verified. In this phase of testing, the jet will test the CLAW limiters with much higher energy and rates than previous testing, fleshing out and correcting areas that may be departure prone. Lastly, select operational maneuvers [Objective #5], such as a slow down turn and a Split-S, will be used to gather handling qualities data on high AoA maneuvers. With the completion of this phase, the F-35 will be released for initial operational capability in the high AoA region.

Note: 'SRC' is a 'Spin Recovery Chute'.
Clearly the testing was not yet at step #5 at the time of writing but to emphasize same, the author followed the above paragraph with [brackets/emphasis mine]: 
While the flight test team will explore legacy high AoA maneuvers for handling qualities, it will be the Operational Test and Evaluation team that will truly develop high AoA maneuvers for the F-35. In the operational world, a pilot should rarely be taking the F-35 into the high angle-of-attack regime, but the ability to do so could make the difference between being the victor or the victim in air-to-air combat....
So with this paragraph, not only does the author expound on the exploring of "legacy high AoA maneuvers" that is to come, he specifically identifies Objective 5 test "Handling Qualities" objectives and assigns the kind of testing that will "truly develop high AoA maneuvers for the F-35" (vs. 'legacy' which may be differed 'from') to the Operational Testers and NOT part of the Edwards AFB Developmental Test Team activities.
In a nutshell, just within these two paragraphs that Baer wrote in early/mid 2014 is precisely what the JPO/LM stated in their official response to Axe's so-called 'article'. 
Therefore the "reasonable man" may logically and confidently conclude the LM/JPO response:
  • WAS NOT simply something that was contrived in response to Axe's made up bullsh*t but...
  • WAS accurately asserting what the testing was truly about..
Go ahead Dave, spring the few bucks to buy a copy from the AIAA. Have someone with the requisite knowledge explain it to you.
Majumdar's incompetence takes him into another reprehensible act, whereby he uses David Axe's idiotic output as the justification for insinuating Billie Flynn lied to him:
The company has repeatedly made assertions about the F-35’s performance that have later proven to be false. One example I can cite immediately is when Lockheed test pilot Billie Flynn told me how a fully laden F-35 has better high AOA performance and acceleration than all comers save for the F-22. The test report that David Axe managed to obtain clearly shows Flynn’s assertions to be false. 
Nice one. Does 'Majumdar' mean 'A**hat' in English? Aside from the fact Majumdar implies Flynn is a liar, there's also the comparatively minor commission of a non-sequitur to boot.  

The rest of Majumdar's 'article' is crap too, just not worth bothering with in light of the above affronts to reality. A 'great' day for aero journalism, eh?

[1] AIAA #2014-2057

Sunday, September 06, 2015

“Fighter Aircraft” Design Part 2: Driven by Operational Requirements

Most important characteristics of a fighter aircraft?...It depends upon ‘when’ you ask the question

(Part 1 here)

Updated and Bumped: Part 2 is now complete below the fold.

Before any discussion about whether or not a fighter is ‘good enough’ to be an ‘effective’ and therefore ‘successful’ fighter design, there has to be a discussion on WHAT makes a fighter aircraft design effective and successful in the first place. While many may think they know the ‘magic mix’ that makes a fighter design a good one, the problem with the ‘many’ thinking they ‘know something’ is that the ingredients, and to be more precise, the mix of ingredients have been evolving continuously under pressure of technological and operational developments that span the entire history of fighter design. As I indicated in Part 1, for this part of the series we will use “The Characteristics of a Fighter Aircraft”, a 1977 paper by Prof. Gero Madelung to guide us through fighter development into the 1970s. At the time of his preparing this paper, Prof Madelung was the Managing Director of Panavia, the company formed expressly to develop and build the Panavia Tornado aircraft.

The First ‘Characteristic’ Emerged Quickly

Prof. Madelung tells the history of fighter development in terms of the development and application of technology in response to the operational requirements over time, beginning with the first ‘challenge’ that had to be overcome (all text in [brackets] throughout this post are mine):
The initial generation of fighter aircraft (in W.W.I) had first to solve the problem of developing an effective armament, the art of maneuvering flight having been provided by the Wright Brothers only a few years earlier. The unarmed early airplanes were nevertheless providing effective reconnaissance and were as such already "fighters”. The Wright Brothers thus delivered probably also the world’s first actual fighter to the U.S. Army Signal Corps. The "armed fighter" was only a reaction to an earlier airborne threat [Zeppelins] to the land and naval forces.
The initial armament by hand-held guns was soon overtaken by the aircraft-mounted machine gun, but it was difficult for the pilot to control the airplane with one hand and to point the gun with the other, especially if a propeller in the front was in the way of the natural line of sight.
The solution of taking a weapons operator or "gunner" along was detrimental to the fighter’s rate of climb and speed. The other solution of reverting to a "pusher installation'' of the engine also resulted in a heavier airplane.
The truly ingenious solution was that of firing through the tractor-propeller with a rigidly mounted gun and to accurately point and aim by controlling the direction of flight and attitude of the aircraft. The propeller was protected first by local armour and later by a synchronizing system.
This system was, I believe, invented by R. Garros of France in 1915, met instant success and set a pattern which is still
[as of 1977] valid. I am recounting this well known history because I believe that it really started the fighters as a special breed of airplanes.
Prof. Madelung further observed that the thrust of fighter design for the next two decades appeared to be maximizing the fighter’s “1g SEP” (Specific Excess Power) or Rate of Climb to get higher than your opponents as a priority over other parameters, which drove increasing engine horsepower by an order of magnitude (10 times the WWI horsepower ratings) during that time while increasing weight only by a “factor of 3.5”. The size of the aircraft changed little during this period and most were sized around the pilot it would carry.  Prof Madelung observed that the aerodynamics of the aircraft were held “subordinate” to structural load-carrying considerations,  which meant that external bracing, and fabric covering over wood and steel tubing structure remained the norm.
To summarize this era, we find that (aside from getting as much climb performance out of the spindly early fighter designs) the single dominant characteristic of a fighter during this rather extended timeframe was ‘a machinegun aligned to the direction of flight’.
The alignment of gun and plane simplified the attacker’s problem of ‘attack geometry’ by reducing the variables involved. This simplification of the problem enabled the fighter pilots of the era to methodically plot and execute a path of attack, within some predictable level of certainty, that would at least enable him to fire his gun(s) in a direction that would place bullets on target.

Aerodynamics, Propulsion and Structural Design Matures

Prof. Madelung continues:
By the early 30's however the designers of airliners and bombers started to really apply aerodynamics including retractable landing gears and combined this with higher wing loadings and stress-skin aluminum structures. They were outspeeding the contemporary fighters which did only about 230 mhp [sic] with an engine of 600 hp. The fighter community had to react since it could not justify its existence for long by pointing out how excellent they remained in fighting their own kind. This started a revolution in fighter requirements and for the next 25 years these were reoriented towards excelling in maximum speed. It also started the introduction of mechanical complexity with all sorts of variable geometry features: retractable landing gear, hydraulic system, flaps and slats - soon used as maneuver devices, cooling flaps and variable pitch propellers.
The first fighter coming -very close to this new concept in 1939 was, I believe, the Russian Polikarpov “Rata”, which was only lacking the aluminum stress-skin and the closed canopy. In the following year appeared the ME-109 and the Curtiss P-36 followed shortly by the Spitfire… …all of which had without much increase in engine power a speed advantage of some 30% over the previous fighters. Early combat encounters proved the superiority of the new design
[approach] despite its higher wing loadings.
Complexity Drives Engineering Costs.
(Pg 20)

So it was the advancements in larger aircraft design that drove a “revolution” in fighter aerodynamics and structural design before WWII. Ever-increasing speeds in turn drove increased complexity of systems and structures to achieve those speeds and control the aircraft at those higher speeds. Implied here is also the fact that to fly faster, the aircraft also had to fly higher as well.  As an illustration of the kind of investment in time and money the increase in complexity required, we need look no further than the relative engineering costs that came with technology changes of the era. Where we find that by the time airframe construction techniques moved to widespread use of monocoque construction, aircraft engineering costs were approximately 2 ¼ times higher than for an aircraft in the ‘wood and fabric’ days.

If there is a recurring theme in this history, it is that requirements have, and do, drive complexity. That complexity has impacted design in different ways over time, including (in general) an increase in wing-loading as a by-product of the necessary complexity. We will see that the trend persisted to at least up until the F-15/F-16 era.

The Jet Fighter Arrives

Madelung now tells us that the constantly increasing ‘need for speed’ made the next pivotal point in fighter design recognizable beforehand:
Once the philosophy of maximizing fighter speed had been accepted, it was soon recognized that propulsion by propellers (and reciprocating engines) would be limiting this to some 450 mph. [propeller efficiency plummets as tip speed approaches the speed of sound.] Work on the first jet engines started at about the same time when the second generation fighters emerged, and took only 10 years, to the mid-40’s, to completely take over the propulsion of fighters. In this period the reciprocating engines were developed to high performance up to about 2800 hp and with turbo-supercharging for altitude performance.
Yet the first operational jet aircraft in 1944, the ME-262, immediately had a speed advantage of about 100 mph with two jet engines of only 2000 lbs thrust each. Relative to the fastest bomber, the B-29, the advantage was almost 200 mph. The airframe and aerodynamics of these first jet fighters were at that not really advanced over the contemporary aircraft apart from the thinner symmetric airfoil, tapered spar caps made of steel and a nose landing gear with a breaked
[sic] wheel. I was an apprentice at Messerschmitt when production of the ME-262 had started and I recall that the advent of the jet engine was welcomed as a move towards mechanically more simple fighters. The reciprocating engines with their increasing number of cylinders, already 48 cylinder engines were under discussion, their supercharging and their cooling system were getting increasingly more complicated. The jet engine had fewer moving parts and bearings, and the podded engine installation of the twin jet was mechanically very neat.
Madelung noted also that the new engines were not so ‘neat’ for the operators who had to learn a whole new way of managing their operation and power output. Today, FADEC-equipped jet engines are simpler to operate than many light sport propeller-driven aircraft.  The sudden jump in speed achievable by the jet engine performance drove fighter design right into the next technical developments that were necessary:
Again combat experience of the speed advantage was positive, despite another increase in wing loading. The associated disadvantage of requiring longer runways for these fighters was accepted by the Air Forces.
It was evident that further development of the jet engine would soon push the aerodynamic design concept to its mark under limit. The propulsion break-through was however followed by an aerodynamic breakthrough with the discovery of effect of wing sweep in the early 40’s. Again this technology reached the users first with fighter aircraft, that is with the F-86 and the Mig-15 in 1948. The speed was pushed right up to M 0.9, the limit of the thick swept wing, another step of about 160 mph.

Many people thought that fighter speed performance would settle for a while at that, and this may have been better in the long run…

However, the aviation world and in particular the fighter community, was in a speed craze and daring experimental airplanes in the U.S. had demonstrated by 1947 that the sonic barrier could be overcome by brute force and skillful design in terms of thrust, reduced wing thickness and powered control surfaces.
The increased thrust requirement could be met by the jet engine by reheat, which in turn required variable nozzles and resulted in additional complexity. Wing loading had to be further increased and so were the airfield requirements. Brake parachutes were required to shorten the landing run.

Speed Limits

Prof. Madelung’s wistfulness over increasing speeds and ‘paths not taken’ is recognition that the military utility of increasing top speed past a certain point in the end provided a smaller return on time and dollars invested than it was worth, but we didn’t know it at the time:
The fighter community lost its innocence [sic] at this stage and only the major military powers, the U.S. and Russia, entered this round in the early 50’s with the introduction into service of the NA-F100 and the Mig-19, one and a half years later. The thrust of these magnificant [sic] fighters was about 3 times that of their predecessors, their speed at Mach-1 .3 about 40% higher. The single engine, single seat F-100 had about twice the take-off weight of its predecessors, at 30000 lbs equal to the twin engine medium bomber "NA-62 [North American Aviation Project Number for the B-25] Mitchell" with a crew of 4 only 12 years earlier…
So Prof Madelung observed that, for the first time, the fighters’ size and weight due to the increasing complexity grew out of proportion with the speed increase. The increases in propulsion, structure, and systems complexity needed just to be able to fly at supersonic speeds drove the weight and size growth. Let us note here that as of this time in fighter development history that the ‘day-fighter’ sub-type was the norm for fighter design and that the need to make all fighters all-weather, 24-hour weapon systems was not yet the norm.
The aviation world of Britain, France and Sweden however followed suit with prototypes which were demonstrated in the mid 50’s, capable of Mach-2 and introduction into service of these fighters started 1958 to 1960. From the technology of the F-100 and the Mig-19 it was a matter of air intake development and further refinement of engine and airframe to reach the limit speed for aluminum airframes. The first fighter prototype to reach this limit was, I believe, the Lockheed F-104, with a thin unswept wing. A wing concept which was to gain prominence in future fighter designs, particularly in the U.S. "Mach-2" was to be the limit of the fighter communities’ speed craze and only special purpose aircraft, such as the Lockheed YF-12, SR-71 and the Mig-25,· were developed for yet higher speeds. The fighters which were developed in the :mid-50’s are however still now [1977] dominating in quantity in the world’s forces, and inflation makes these complex airplanes appear inexpensive relative to anything we do in the 70’s.

A Rebalancing

It would be hard to find a better illustration that all the handwringing these days over increased costs and complexity is not a ‘new’ sport and that things will always look simpler and less expensive in retrospect than what Prof. Madelung wrote here in 1977. He then discussed the state of fighter design drivers in the 1977 milieu:
The question arises why, having reached the “ultimate performance" in terms of speed, new fighter designs were actually required. It is not surprising that the requirements picture was at first hazy for the follow-on generation, the development of which only started toward the end-60’s sand early 70"s with one notable exception [AV-8 and STOVL].
The following new requirement areas were however becoming apparent:
1. In the late 50’s concern was mounting relative to the vulnerability" of fighter forces relying on these long 9000 ft runways...
2. Another new requirement which became important to the fighters in their fighter-bomber role was that of low level/high speed penetration. In fact, most of the early Mach-2 fighters are usable in this role due to their high wing loading. The F-104 with appropriate navigation equipment and plenty of external fuel is
[1977] still widely in service for this task, a task which is of particular importance in Central Europe. 
Under ‘area .2’, Prof Madelung discussed the technology developments that came out of this new requirement including “fan-jet engines with greatly improved fuel consumption and the terrain following radar system”. He also made a point to emphasize the importance of, a practical scheme for the variable sweep wing” that “allowed the retention of optimum high speed/low level dash performance with a gain in cruise performance at all altitudes and greatly improved air-field performance.” Prof Madelung continued:
3. Another new requirement which emerged in the late 60"s called for a better balance of performance in air-to-air combat. The high speed capability of the Mach-2 fighters of the mid-50’s turned out to be of little practical use as there were no bomber and recce aircraft flying at such speeds (apart from special purpose aircraft which. could not be intercepted anyway by a tactical fighter), and air-to-air combat could actually be sustained only in the lower transonic regime with these airplanes. A better balance of performance could be achieved mainly by a decrease in wing loading, which would provide for higher turn rates in the speed and altitude regime of dog-fights, at the expense of increased wetted surface and of a heavier airframe, i.e. trading rate of climb and low level dash performance. It is a tribute to aviation technology that the new generation of fighters actually improve also the latter two performance regimes while making a big step forward in turn rate and as a fallout in airfield performance.  
4. Finally the new fighters would require a "look-down" capability of the radars in their air-to-air role in order to be able to fight the low level intruders. …
So the trend shifted for the first time in decades to not a more ‘maneuverable’ and ‘balanced’ fighter design, once the practical upper limit of aircraft speed was reached:
The four U.S. designs, the F-14, F-15, F-16 and F-18 and the Viggen have low wing loadings (50 to 70 lbs/ft2·) to optimize turn rate. The latest three U.S. designs, the F-15, F-16 and F-18 have at the same time thrust to weight ratios in excess of one, resulting in a big step forward in dog-fight capability. They employ advanced materials including composites and very advanced engines. The latter two designs are introducing a new aerodynamic feature, the "strake", to improve the lift of the thin, unswept wings at high angles of attack. In the case of the F-15 this dog-fight capability is combined with fairly long range air-to-air missile intercept capability which results in a very big fighting machine, with a wing area of 650 ft2, as big as the F-14 fleet defence fighter….In Europe most of the forces have emphasized the requirements (1) and (2), that is low level/high speed penetration capability associated with excellent airfield performance. The defence environment of these countries requires instant and effective response, day and night and all weather in the land battle. The latest fighter engine technology with the magnificant [sic] thrust to weight of about 8.0 and variable sweep with considerable use of titanium were applied in the Tornado to improve payload-range by a factor of about two for this mission, and to cut runway requirements to 60%. This twin engine fighter with plenty of avionics, a crew of two and a wetted surface of only about 1850 ft2 is smaller than an F-4 Phantom, about in-between the big and new U.S. fighter with wetted surface of about 2800 ft2 and the small fighter of about 1400 ft2. At the same time this aircraft will provide first-class long range air-to-air capability with an air defence avionics fit and long range missiles. 

What Was to Come after 1977?

Prof. Madelung then ruminated on what would be the NEXT developments in fighter aircraft design, and as it happens he was largely prescient, foreseeing most developments that have since occurred or are emergent at this time, I see only one complete ‘miss’, a tail-sitting fighter did not come about. But that may have been due to the collapse of the Warsaw Pact as much as anything else. Who knows what would have happened otherwise? But I’d say he had an amazingly complete vision of what would be the major requirements that would drive those developments.
The outlook into the more fighter-specific areas is difficult because of the attendant operational trade-offs which depend upon projected structures of threat and friendly forces. The "haze'' obscuring the real future requirements is still very thick, apart from the broad scope of ECM, the air-to-ground weapons area and the requirement to reduce unit cost.
In any case it will be increasingly necessary to “destill"
[sic] the essentials for future combat effectiveness, rather than relying on the simple formulas like maximizing rate of climb or speed or turn rate. We have already seen two breaks in such simple and general formulas. The trade of quality versus quantity will remain most difficult.
Prof Madelung predicted increased use of the post-stall flight regime:
In fighter aerodynamics and control we will probably open up the post-stall regime for another increase in dog-fight maneuverability….
But he also saw under what conditions that post-stall maneuverability might not be so important: recognizing other development could obviate the advantage:
…As long as weapons remain installed in the classic fighter style requiring turning of the whole aircraft for pointing of the weapons, this post-stall maneuverability may also be of interest to other than dog-fight missions….
He recognized the potential of thrust vectoring in exploiting the post-stall maneuvering capability:
…Post-stall maneuvering will require some form of auxiliary control such as used on VTOL aircraft or missiles, for example by thrust vectoring. It will also require an air intake and engine suitable for angles of attack of 90°. Both techniques are basically available…
Project GunVal Concept: Cannon Turret on F-89.
The turret rotated and the guns elevated 90 degrees. Sanity
inserted itself before the system ever flew. (Northrop Photo)   
Madelung reluctantly (based upon past experiences) brings up the possibility of Off-Boresight Capabilities (OBC) AND helmet mounted sights:
…Another next generation fighter may be (the return of) some form of pointing the weapons other than by the pointing of the entire aircraft. I hesitate to put this forward since all earlier attempts involving some form of weapons-turret and a gunner have been failures when used on fighters. The fixed guns operated by the pilot have been a tremendous success due to the light weight and low volume and due to the accuracy of firing achieved with this installation. However the rate of pointing of the fixed weapons is slow, even a fighter with a turning rate of 18°/second will take some 6 seconds for 90° change of directions. Modern weapons installations on ships and cars will do 90° in less than one second. One approach to overcome this problem is to program, with the aid of a helmet sight, the projectile or missile to turn at very high “g” after being fired from a conventional fixed launcher. It may be rewarding to find a simple way of achieving this with a gun since this form or armament is still the most economic one.
Helmet Mounted Sights may not have required all that much of a leap in imagination given the then state of the art and the known initial goal of employing them on what would become the F-15, but taken in context of all his thoughts on the future it is still impressive that he thought them significant.

Stealth Was Seen as Too Hard for Aircraft

Madelung recognized the advantages of reduced RF and IR signatures, falling short in his vision only because he was not aware of the revolution in stealth that was underway as he spoke:
Yet another design feature may be that of reduced signature for radar and IR missiles. For a full-fledged fighter with all its other requirements these appear to me pretty difficult additional ones.However one should bear in mind the advantages of small aircraft size in this context as well as for reduced probability of visual detection and last but not least for a better chance of not being hit. The next generation of fighters should, and not only for these reasons, be of moderate size.As the control of UAVs by manned aircraft seems to be brought up more and more as ‘the future’ Prof. Madelung’s observations on the topic seem particularly ‘timely’:Finally this outlook has to cover the prospects of unmanned fighter aircraft: adding up all the interface design features which are required to allow the pilot to control an aircraft, as well as the features to provide for the appropriate environment and safety, a lot of sensors and computing capacity could be provided instead, using microprocessor technology. The ''cruise missiles" are paving the way in this direction and I expect that the fighter aircraft designers will have to take this development very serious. The manned fighter will have to concentrate on the more difficult tasks which cannot be readily programmed. One could imagine combined systems of manned fighters and unmanned aircraft like a hunting party with hounds, the latter being "programmed" to track and harass under the command of the former.
Recognizing the limits to the return on investment from increasing aircraft capabilities, he foresaw a shift to more capable weapons such as AMRAAM and ASRAAM etal. And the interest in even more advanced weapons continues unabated.
The future of both the manned and unmanned fighter may however depend largely on the development of more effective weapons and methods for the air-to-ground battle in order to achieve a better balance of cost effectiveness.
Prof Madelung then concluded:
Some 75 years ago the Wright Brothers had the vision, skill and persistence to develop the prototype of powered aircraft, and gave birth to a new dimension of mobility and spirit of mankind. The fighter aircraft is one of the grim but magnificant [sic] outgrowths of this new dimension and will continue to participate in a lead role of aeronautics if the "fighter community" will maintain and develop its vision, skill and persistence offering-new and cost effective qualities and performance rather than retiring to marginal improvements.

To Recap the Part 2  'SoFar'

Operational requirements other than ‘maneuverability’ drove fighter design for far longer than post-stall ‘Supermaneuverability’ has been part of the definition, and ‘maneuverability’ was and still remains only one of the required hallmarks of fighter design.
Further, while ‘maneuverability’ has always been a requirement, the definition of same evolved over time. ‘Maneuverability’ only increased in importance relative to top speed and ability to climb after the option of increasing the top speed and climb rates for fighter aircraft reached their practical operational limits.
Most important to the current and near-term future of fighter design considerations are:
1. ‘Maneuverability’ as it is currently interpreted to include post-stall controllability is a relatively new construct in the history of fighter design development and even in 1977, the limitations of post-stall maneuvering, and developments that could render it less effective or even ineffective were already foreseen. 
2. Low Observable aircraft were seen as unachievable by a noted aircraft designer at the same time the US was developing the first Low Observable (LO) aircraft in the form of the F-117. We do not have Prof. Madelung’s thoughts on the ramifications of this development, but he obviously grasped the significance of LO in even mentioning the possibility of LO weapons (a couple of examples of same I was supporting or flight testing by the early-mid 1980s’.)

Update below the fold:

Sunday, August 09, 2015

“Fighter Aircraft” Design: Driven by Operational Requirements

Part 1: Introduction

In the wake of the disinformation cascade set off by the mischaracterization of an F-35 Developmental Test report leaked to the poster-boy for Punk Journalism (and his equally hapless compadres) it became apparent that somebody, someplace should highlight just how infantile all the F-35 H8er and click-bait copycats have been on the subject.

Since ‘Axe is Boring’ ‘broke’ the story (if you can call being hand-fed the raw data by some other cretin and then making sh*t up about things he doesn’t understand ‘breaking’), I think we’ve seen every perversion of reality about the test itself, the relevance of the test, the F-35’s capabilities, the history of air combat, ‘dogfighting’, and airpower-in-general trotted out and gleefully regurgitated as if it were gospel by the innumerate and the illiterate.
As creative as the fiction published about the aircraft (it was an early production 'A' model: AF-2) performance during  the Developmental Test has been, it seems most if not all of the F-35 criticisms related to the ‘leaked’ test report fall into two broad categories. In the first category we can place all the claims/accusations that the F-35 is not somehow ‘fighter’ enough to successfully engage in air combat. In the second category we can place all the assertions that the scenarios flown in this one test were representative of how the F-35 would perform Air Combat Maneuvering aka ‘Dogfighting’ in actual combat.

We will deal with both these strains of criticisms in what will be Part 2 and Part 3 respectively within this short series. In Part 2, we will recall a rather cogent, insightful and in many ways prophetic AIAA paper from 1970s: “The Characteristics of a Fighter Aircraft”. This paper is the text transcript for the Wright Brothers Lectureship in Aeronautics speech given by Prof. Gero Madelung (speak German?) to attendees of the annual AIAA Aircraft Systems and Technology Meeting in 1977.  I’ll then introduce the thoughts on fighter development from a very influential and widely-cited engineer (among aircraft design types anyway) who among other things can be considered the originator of the concept ‘supermaneuverability’.  Thus, Part 2 (which may have to be broken into sub-parts if it gets too unwieldy) will bring us up to speed on top-level ‘fighter’ aircraft design drivers right up to the present-day state-of-the-art, and maybe a peek or two at the future.

Whereas Part 2 will provide proper background and perspective, Part 3 will be where the perspective will be applied and so will be more ‘analytical’. We will break down a 1 vs. 1 air combat scenario into a high-level conceptual model of constituent phases and associated combatant states. Then we will apprise the F-35’s potential advantages and disadvantages at different points of reference during engagement scenarios as it moves into and out of those phases and states and under what conditions it can navigate its way through those phases and states. We will also weigh the relevance of those advantages/disadvantages to possible combat outcomes.

Part 3 will take some time to complete after Part 2, so I will ask the readers to bear with me on any delays, or perhaps I will invite comment on aspects of the approach to Part 3 as I build the conceptual model. We should not have to account for probability of outcomes and only illuminate the ‘possibilities’ for discussion-- which will simplify the problem significantly but not to the point that careful construction will not still be necessary just to avoid oversimplification on the one hand or sophistry on the other. This is the hard part of Part 3: to make complete enough to be valid and convey meaning, not so complete that too many eyes glaze over. The topic would be a lot easier for me to treat if there were more authorized references to the F-35’s Developmental Test that I could tie into, but we’ll muddle through without them somehow.

This is also probably going to seem awfully obvious and trivial in many places to some, but I want to have a single reference to point non-technical minds to in the future. -- Because this is one of those topics where you could get worn out just beating down the same stupidity and misperceptions every time they pop up.
Finally, in each part I will include a reminder:
Nowhere in this series of posts, or in any other posts the reader will find here, is the assertion made that ‘maneuverability’ (however one defines it) is "unimportant"-- in the past, modern day or immediate future . This must be stated unambiguously up front because I've seen the tiresome broad-brush accusation of same made too-often when anyone dares challenge some closely held belief as to maneuverability’s relative importance to fighter design or dares challenge the vague reasons why many of the uninitiated think “maneuverability” is important. 
This note won’t stop tired criticisms from arising, but it will make intelligent people stop and think before they paper any comment thread with false conclusions. And this series of posts isn’t for the people too stupid to know better anyway.

Part 2 is here

Friday, July 31, 2015

CNO Nominee Richardson Got These F-35 Questions Too?

I told them I didn't want the job, but I answered them anyway.

Hat Tip "spazinbad" @

SMSgt Mac appearing before SASC?
CNO Nominee Admiral Richardson answered some pre-confirmation hearing questions. I like his answers pretty much, but like my answers better. It comes with the freedom of being long retired (as well as never being an Admiral).

RE: Tactical Fighter Programs
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, which is the largest and most expensive acquisition program in the Department’s history, was formally initiated as a program of record in 2002 with a total planned buy of 2,443 aircraft for the U.S. At projected procurement rates, the aircraft will be procured by the Department well into the 2030 decade to reach its total quantity buy. The program has not yet completed its systems development and demonstration phase, and is not due to enter full rate production until 2019, 17 years after its inception.

The Navy’s FY16 budget request indicates a program of record of 369 F-35C, with Navy procurement continuing throughout the life of the F-35 procurement program. The overall requirement for 2,443 aircraft was established nearly 20 years ago. Since that time, however, there have been countervailing pressures to: (1) reduce force structure to conserve resources; (2) improve capability to respond to prospective adversary technological advances and increased capabilities from updated threat assessments; and (3) respond to an evolving national defense strategy.

Do you believe the Navy’s F-35C requirement is still valid?
Well Senators, that’s quite a preface to a “yes or no” question. But as it comes from such an august body as the Senate Armed Services Committee, I will use the working assumption it is offered to provide proper perspective to the questions to come, rather than an attempt to ‘poison the well’,and so the Committee’s prefacing informs my response,and I believe due diligence also requires me to to expand upon the very fine points the Committee raises, in part as an answer to this first question. 

As the Committee very well knows, the F-35 Program is as large and expensive as it is because it is really three programs in one. While there have been studies that have reviewed whether or not combining programs was worth the effort, we must note that aside from them all having contentious ground rules and assumptions embedded, that NONE of them measured the costs and benefits of the F-35 program against the typical number of programs we would have to undertake to successfully field three different aircraft. Can there be any doubt looking back at history that at least four or perhaps five programs would have to be attempted to actually field three different jets? Can we possibly fathom the procurement costs per airplane if we had attempted to field the minority F-35B and F-35C as stand-alone programs? Mr. Chairman and Committee Members, the Navy and Marine Corps budgets are very blessed to have the Air Force subsidize The Department of the Navy’s rent-seeking by absorbing a disproportionate percentage of the net development costs.

As the bulk of the development is behind us in sunk cost and schedule, and there is no indication that the way forward is too difficult, completion of the systems development and demonstration phase should not be a problem.

That it will have taken 17 years to reach full rate production would be an issue above my station if I were still on active duty: I would not be in a position to second-guess prior Congressional decisions to stretch development and delay production, trading risk for schedule and cost. It would also not be my place to pass judgement on the actions of prior Congress’ that created the three-in-one program approach in the first place. 
As a retiree who returned to civilian life over twenty years ago however, I am free to answer that the former was typical, foolish, political tinkering and/or ego-stroking on the part of Congress. The latter however, is shaping up to have been a very good idea by your predecessors.

And so the final answer to your question is therefore, of course: “Yes”--the F-35C will be a VITAL part of the future Carrier Air Wing.

Do you believe the Navy can afford and needs to procure 310 more F-35Cs with a procurement cost of over $42 billion?

As to ‘need’, the F-35C provides essential 5th generation strike fighter capability to our Carrier Air Wings. Without this capability, we cannot achieve air superiority. The Department of the Navy currently has a requirement for 340 F-35Cs. That number needed of course is always subject to revision as national strategies change and new information is made available. For example, on the one hand, the Navy doesn’t yet have any operational experience with low observable or fifth generation capabilities. As the Navy gains experience, it will probably create opportunities and incentives to not procure more of or retire older systems faster on the one hand. On the other hand, the Navy has a history of buying aircraft over long timeframes due to expected attrition, and given the F-35C’s stellar initial sea trials, we may just not lose as many jets like we have in the past and so they will not need replacement. If I were confirmed as CNO, I would work with the Chairman and other service chiefs to revalidate the appropriate number of aircraft the Navy requires to meet the mission.

Speaking to the cost figure offered, let us note that the numbers you mention are either future inflated dollars or dollars that include developmental cost dollars that are already sunk, both, and/or are based upon presumptions of future economic factors that may or may not apply. They are also spread over how many years? I would enjoy exploring the nuances of these numbers with the SASC, numbers that should never be aired in a casual manner, as no doubt the SASC would agree.

Do you believe that the Navy will still want to buy the F-35C, an aircraft design that will be 30 years old before the Navy production is scheduled to finish?
Well let’s see, we’re flying the F-18C/Ds and F-18E/F/Gs right now. The current versions are evolutions of a design originally produced in 1975 and are still in procurement. That’s 40 years since inception. So 30 years should not be a stretch at all for the Navy and the F-35, especially considering that unlike its predecessors, the F-35B and C are designed to evolve as required over time. Right now the Navy is committed to making the F-35C the next Carrier Air Wing fighter, complementing the F/A-18E/F until the F-18 reaches the end of its lifetime in the 2030s when the basic design will be over 50 years old. I believe once the fleet gets its hands on the F-35C, the fighter/strike community will set new standards in creative thinking and divining ways to get rid of the older jets and buy more F-35Cs as the older jets obsolescence becomes more obvious.

Do you believe the Navy’s current and planned force mix of tactical aircraft is sufficient to meet current and future threats around the globe, and most especially in the Asia-Pacific theater of operations where the “tyranny of distance” is such a major factor?

Currently, I do. There are capability, inventory, and readiness aspects to delivering the required force mix. If I was ever to be confirmed as CNO, I would work with leadership to determine the best options to pace the threat in a dynamic security environment. The fiscal environment will bound the scope of our efforts, and so I would urge Congress to work harder in creating a fiscal environment that will provide for all of our Constitutionally-mandated needs.

The Secretary of the Navy recently remarked that he believed the F-35 should be and would be the nation’s last manned fighter aircraft. Do you believe this to be true?
If I were to be confirmed as CNO, I would work with the Secretary of the Navy to aggressively advance the development of unmanned systems. It is crucial that we push the boundaries of what unmanned technologies can achieve; the next generation in tactical aviation will play a large part in this transformation.

Having said the above, let me also observe that the Secretary has all of the technical knowledge and expertise in all the relevant knowledge areas and disciplines, with the liberal-arts and legal education sufficient to have once been a competent junior ship’s officer. I’m sure he was a very fine surface warfare officer, once upon a time. His thoughts and opinions on the subject of UAVs carries all the commensurate weight that comes with such an accomplished background.

I thank the Committee for their interest. Now go away.

Monday, July 27, 2015

F-35B IOC is Imminent

Prepare for all the Handwringing

Word on the street is that F-35 IOC is all done except for the signatures (which always leaves the political angle, but ya gotta have faith).

I remember all the angst when the B-2 IOC occurred. How did that work out?
Like this:
IOC is the beginning, not the end. People who think you can field a perfect airplane out the door don't know airplanes, people, or how weapon systems become operational.
Note the critics were still acting in accordance to their SOPs even after B-2 IOC. Although the GAO pretty much threw in the towel after they published the report they had already written before Allied Force in 1999 (with only a cursory nod to the reality that just smacked around their paper pushing exercise.  

By the time F-35 FOC occurs, the critics will have lost all their teeth and will be gumming it to death. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

P.W. Singer and August Cole? 'Game Show' Quality Defense Analysis

(Apologies to Game Shows Everywhere)

Ersatz sound-bite providers cum defense 'thinkers' P.W. Singer and August Cole have piled even more B.S. on the F-35 non-story that was made up out of whole cloth earlier over at 'Axe is Boring'.

To summarize the authors (in sequence):
  1. Help propagate the disinformation cascade by repeating the nonsensical hit-piece-on-a-report that neither they nor the original author propagating such drivel apparently are capable of understanding. 
  2. Misrepresent the official response to said hit-piece and critique their own misrepresentation. 
  3. Repeat a tired old ‘we tried missiles only’ trope. (Only interceptors designed to engage nuclear-armed bombers at a distance were ever ‘missiles only’ armed). 
  4. Misrepresent the Navy’s actual design objective of the F-4, which was as a "Fleet Interceptor" of aforementioned bombers, and armed with A2A missiles designed to intercept those same less-than-maneuverable bombers and at very high altitudes (unlike how the ROEs shaped SEA combat). BTW: The Air Force ALWAYS wanted a gun on its F-4s in the fighter role. Robert the ’Strange’ said ‘NO’ to the AF until the F-4E. 
  5. Provide a cartoon snapshot of the fighter pilots' post-1968 experience in SEA. 
  6. Then reassert the bogus F-35 hit-piece masquerading as ‘reporting’ and analysis as if there were 'facts' involved.

So then.... 

Q: What IS there about the rest of the authors' so-called ‘analysis’ that would make their ‘blog post’ anything other than 'intellectual' booger-flicking?

A: Nothing.

By way of a palate cleanser, lets compare Singer and Cole's B.S. with some, y'know...FACTS.

Contrary to what some might believe, I try not to just point at the stupid people and their stupidity without also providing some positive and countervailing content. So in passing, let us review some information that at least provides some information as to what that 'test' Axe & Co. got their beta-boy panties in a wad over  REALLY means -- instead of what they want it to mean (apparently just because it fits their preconceived life-positions).

The Testing in Question was Described Ahead of Time Last Year 

From the 2014 AIAA paper "F-35A High Angle-of-Attack Testing"[1], authored by a Mr. Steve Baer, (Lockheed Martin "Aeronautical Engineer, Flying Qualities" at Edwards AFB), and presented to the Atmospheric Flight Mechanics Conference held between 16 and 20 June 2014, in Atlanta, Georgia we find that F-35 High AoA testing was designed to follow in the following progression: 
The test objectives for high angle-of-attack testing are as follows:
1) Characterize the flyqualities [sic] at AoAs from 20° to the control law limit regime with operationally representative maneuvers. 
2) Demonstrate the aircraft’s ability to recover from out of control flight and assess deep stall susceptibility 
3) Evaluate the effectiveness and usefulness of the automatic pitch rocker (APR) 
4) Evaluate departure resistance at both positive and negative AoA with center of gravity (CG) positions up to the aft limit and with maximum lateral asymmetry. 
5) Assess the handling qualities of the aircraft in the High AoA flight
Now, in case a 'punk journalist' or other factually-challenged reader wanders by, we need to be clear that #5 has nothing to do with "dogfighting". We know this because Mr. Baer makes two points shortly thereafter within the paper. 

The first point is relevant to the state of the testing at the time of his writing. I observe that this paper was written during Objective #4 testing and published at about the time it concluded. This observation is supported by the passage [emphasis/brackets mine]:
With intentional departure testing [Objective #4] wrapped up, the team will soon move into departure resistance [Objective #4] and plan to remove the SRC now that these systems have been verified. In this phase of testing, the jet will test the CLAW limiters with much higher energy and rates than previous testing, fleshing out and correcting areas that may be departure prone. Lastly, select operational maneuvers [Objective #5], such as a slow down turn and a Split-S, will be used to gather handling qualities data on high AoA maneuvers. With the completion of this phase, the F-35 will be released for initial operational capability in the high AoA region.
   Note: 'CLAW' is Control Law and 'SRC' is Spin Recovery Chute.
Clearly the testing was not yet at step #5 at the time of writing but to emphasize same, the author followed the above paragraph with [emphasis mine]: 
While the flight test team will explore legacy high AoA maneuvers for handling qualities, it will be the Operational Test and Evaluation team that will truly develop high AoA maneuvers for the F-35. In the operational world, a pilot should rarely be taking the F-35 into the high angle-of-attack regime, but the ability to do so could make the difference between being the victor or the victim in air-to-air combat....
So with this paragraph, not only does the author expound on the exploring of "legacy high AoA maneuvers" (the 'legacy' part is important) that is to come, he specifically assigns the kind of testing that will "truly develop high AoA maneuvers for the F-35" (vs. 'legacy' which may be differed from) to the Operational Testers and NOT part of the Edwards AFB Developmental Test Team activities. 

In a nutshell, just within these two paragraphs that Baer wrote in early/mid 2014 is precisely what the JPO/LM stated in their official response to Axe's B.S.
Therefore the "reasonable man" may logically and confidently conclude the JPO response:
  1. WAS NOT simply something that was contrived in response to Axe's made up bullsh*t  but...
  2. WAS accurately asserting what the testing was truly about...
....debunking all and any claims to the contrary.

[1] AIAA #2014-2057

Minor changes for clarity, readability and typo corrections made 23 July 15 @ 1944 hrs.  

Sunday, July 19, 2015

'That's All Brother' Update

Like most stories that come out in the mainstream media, they seem to never come out with all the important details just right. I'm following the 'That's All Brother' saga as it unfolds, and in the wake of the CAF's VERY successful 'Kickstarter' campaign, some more pieces of the backstory surrounding the rediscovery of this historic C-47 are coming to light.

Now, according to this article-- which also mentions 'That's All Brother' will be on static display at the EAA's annual Oshkosh fly-in, the aircraft company that 'found' the plane in it's turboprop conversion queue, didn't just 'find' it . 'That's All Brother' had been tracked by an individual who served in the same unit after the pilot of 'That's All Brother' in postwar service and it was this gentleman-- an Air National Guard 'boomer'--in addition to the conscientious crew at Basler Turbo Conversions was instrumental in making the right people aware through personal perseverance:
Matt Scales was serving in an Alabama Air National Guard unit when he learned one of his unit's former members — Donalson, who died in 1987 — had flown the lead plane in the D-Day invasion. In 2007 Scales tracked down the unit Donalson served in during the war and searched the unit's history. He figured it would end there because most military historians didn't bother to record tail numbers.
But Scales and fellow military historian Ken Tilley hit the jackpot. Donalson's unit historian wrote down his D-Day plane's tail number: 42-92847. On a lark, Scales looked up the tail number in the FAA's database and got a hit. It was privately owned by a man in Arizona who was excited to learn his plane had flown on D-Day.
Scales, again, figured that was the end of it. He continued working as a boom operator in an air refueling wing and as a police officer in Alabama. Three years later he decided to check the database again and learned that by then the plane had been purchased by Basler Turbo Conversions in Oshkosh, which repurposes old DC-3 and C-47 planes into modern aircraft.
Randy Myers, director of production and engineering at Basler, had seen "That's All, Brother" with its Vietnam gunship paint parked at the airport in Waupaca years ago and made an offer to the Arizona man. Myers wouldn't learn of the D-Day connection until much later.
Once Scales realized it was at Basler, he contacted museums and aviation preservation groups to see if any were interested in saving the aircraft that led the D-Day invasion. None were, and Scales figured his quest had finally come to a dead end.
But last year a blogger mentioned the combat history of the C-47 parked in the boneyard behind Basler. Smith, of the Commemorative Air Force, thought his group was the perfect fit to save it. It exchanged a C-47 in its collection for "That's All, Brother" and began fundraising for the restoration.
There's lot's more of the story at the source.

Scales' enquiries and efforts are what spread awareness of the artifact and its location. And though no group responded to his personal efforts directly, it was those efforts that allowed the chain of events to unfold as they did.

Note: I wonder how much of this was also serendipitous. Scales served in the Alabama ANG, Were the resources that Scales needed to get the right tail number perhaps more readily available at Maxwell AFB, home of the Air University, in Montgomery?


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A Mysterious LM CUDA Missile Update

Just gets more interesting as time goes on...

Major Hat Tip to Marauder for finding the relevant AFIT Technical thesis and passing it along

Regular readers may remember one of my most popular posts on LM’s CUDA missile concept. In that post, I hypothesized some about the CUDA’s weight and resultant performance by using a comparative analysis of what little was known about the CUDA and existing missiles with known physical characteristics. Key assumptions were that the same kind of propellant characteristics and relative scaling of the different components of existing missiles would apply to the CUDA.

Based upon a recent AFIT paper I no longer believe that approach is sufficient.

Employment of a CUDA missile ‘concept’ was used in a thesis written by Army Major Casey D. Connor, and published earlier this year. In his paper “AGENT-BASED MODELING METHODOLOGY FOR ANALYZING WEAPONS SYSTEMS”, Major Connor modeled and examined the relative effectiveness of different missile loadout combinations for a very specific A2A mission using two methods of attack: 'straight-in' and ‘pincer’.
The paper was exploratory in nature, and there’s not enough in the paper to come to any more conclusions than Major Connor did -- but I’m sure someone will read more ‘findings’ into it than he did. In fact, I'd expect 'some' to leap to all kinds of ‘conclusions’ about a lot of different sub-topics because the paper really does raise some very interesting questions that someone else will probably/hopefully pick up and follow-up on going forward.
The value of the paper to us in this instance is that it gives us an indication of some key performance—shall we say—“possibilities” for a CUDA-like weapon system. The paper uses the terms CUDA-like and SACM (Small Advanced Capability Missile) interchangeably. Given the rumblings on the web and in aero media since the CUDA concept’s existence went public, the relationship of the CUDA (a Lockheed Martin concept) to SACM (the programmatic objective of CUDA) is now better known. No surprises there.

What is Surprising?

What IS surprising (to me at least) are the characteristics used for the CUDA/SACM in Major Connor’s thesis. Specifically, Connor provides the CUDA/SACM weight used in his simulations as 49Kg (108 lbs). This has HUGE implications. 

If by my original speculation where I extrapolated known data about existing technology, I had arrived at a weight estimate that was 45.5 lbs higher (153.5 lbs) than the 108lb weight Connor uses, then it almost certainly speaks of significantly more advanced/miniaturized technology than simply scaling down 'more of the same' from existing systems.

I had toyed with putting a wedge in my original estimate for a reverse-weight spiral (less structural weight is needed the lower the non-structural weight), but thought that would have been pushing all the ‘estimating’ a little too far. As it turns out I would have come closer, but still nowhere near a mere 108 lbs for a CUDA weight estimate by my using current weapons for baseline info. I think now that ‘Next generation’ guidance, control, structure, and maybe  propulsion technology breakthroughs almost certainly permeate that CUDA/SACM design concept. As the scaling of RM propellant weight probably still applies (harder to make lighter propellant than other components), I don't think there's much weight change per cubic inch of volume there. But even so, this new lower weight could potentially drive the CUDA/CACM higher in the ‘Delta V’ performance than what I had previously estimated.

What Changed?

If only the weight is lower, with the other factors such as the ratio between pre-launch and expended rocket motor weights, and propellant/rocket factors, etc., then the CUDA potential top speed would not necessarily be higher than my first estimate (~24% higher than AMRAAM using existing missiles as guides). But I don’t think that at this new lighter weight, the same ratio CAN still hold true: a larger percentage of the total CUDA/SACM weight is now more likely found in the rocket motor -- if only just because everything else got lighter.
This shift in weight contribution, in turn, would mean a larger percentage of pre-launch weight is propellant that will be expended in acceleration. The scope of the impact of such a change is unknown, but here is a parametric exploration of the impact of various possible RM weight ratios from no change (54.53%) and up to a little more than 5% increase (60%):
What if the CUDA has a higher percentage of propellant weight than the AMRAAM?
(updated verbiage for more clarity less obfuscation)
As you can see, very little increases in the ratio of propellant weight to total weight yields significantly higher potential Delta V that could be tapped into to:

  1. increase range, 
  2. enable shaping complex flyouts, and/or 
  3. increase end-game dynamics. 
That this improved performance is likely a ‘truism’ in the CUDA/SACM design concept is reflected in Major Connor’s findings.

Connor’s modeling of the engagements he selected resulted in outcomes where the ‘pure’ CUDA/SACM loadout successfully engaging the RED AIR targets at significantly greater distances (32%-38% greater, depending on attack method used) than the Medium Range Missile Model (AMRAAM-basis) used (see Fig. 43 below from the source). That kind of range advantage would be consistent with a higher Delta V for the CUDA/SACM weapon.

[Note: Read the paper for information on the mixed loads of a short range missile (AIM-9X ‘like’), medium range missile (MRM) and the CUDA/SACM weapons]

The higher performance of the CUDA/SACM also shows up in the higher 'effectiveness' ratings of the pure CUDA/SACM loadout over the pure MRM loadout. As Figure 42 from the paper below illustrates, the pure CUDA/SACM missile loadout kills targets at better than a 2 to 1 advantage over the MRM’s kill rate as well as doing so at ranges farther than the MRM. 

This increased effectiveness suggests perhaps an even better end-game kinematic CUDA/SACM design performance than the MRMs due to a higher percentage of propellant design weight, working with the hit-to-kill Attitude Control Motors (ACMs) in the front-end. 

Connor’s focus in the paper isn’t on getting into the nuances of the CUDA/SACM’s capabilities, but the higher performance of the CUDA concept indicated by the data is supported by his observations within the text as well:
The main characteristics of the new missile technology examined in our research include hit-to-kill technology in which the missile uses a kinetic warhead to attack the target, agility in that the missile’s guidance, propulsion, and control surfaces allow it to maneuver more flexibly towards a target, and a smaller size allowing each fighter to carry more missiles. These new weapons have the potential for dramatically changing the range of possible tactics and mission roles allowed. (p.1)
Tactics best suited to the new missile are ones that maintain BVR to take advantage of the increased engagement ranges and possibly combined tactics that allow the flexible maneuvering characteristics of the new missiles to engage enemy aircraft at angles that the enemy aircraft will be unable to counter. (p.102)
There’s a lot of other ‘food for thought’ on many air combat topics in the paper. Connor was meticulous in documenting what he could of the methodology that he used including the limitations, ground-rules and assumptions. There’s also some excellent sources listed for further reading in the list of references.

Time will tell if the SACM concept will be developed into a full-up weapon system. But I must say that if it doesn’t go forward in some iteration or another I will be even more surprised than I have been so far in following the CUDA/SACM story.

Note: minor edits for readability and clarity made 16 July @ 1945 CST.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

David Axe is More Boring Than Ever (Bless His Heart)

And still practicing Punk Journalism 

Bumped! Axe Doubles Down

*******Update 2 at End of Original Post******* 

Gawd. Saw this at work today and am only posting a short comment because somebody (surer than sh*t) will read something into any non-comment on my part, considering how I've already provided input (17 March 2015) on this subject:
I will bet dollars to donuts that IF the program chooses to respond to such hooey, that we will discover the first two BFM "tests" were in the middle of January, the first two flights were on two consecutive days, the missions were flown by two different pilots, and both of them had nothing but glowing reviews about the jet's performance. If I find eventually a public source to validate this 'guess' I will be happy to also share who I 'guessed' were the pilots, which flight they flew, and which plane(s?) was/were flown. And perhaps even quote the pilots.
First, I'm certain that whatever the test pilot report being cited by Axe may bear some faint resemblance to Axe's representation of same. Axe's perversions of the facts, per his usual modus operandi come via his bizarro assertions-stated-as-fact  and their complete disconnect from any reality as to the purpose and goals of the first A2A scenarios that were flown.

What the objectives were came out shortly after I made my first comments. From Av Week online (2 Apr 15)and with important bits in bold/EMPHASIS:
The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter has been flown in air-to-air combat maneuvers against F-16s for the first time and, based on the results of these and earlier flight-envelope evaluations, test pilots say the aircraft can be cleared for greater agility as a growth option. 
Although the F-35 is designed primarily for attack rather than air combat, U.S. Air Force and Lockheed Martin test pilots say the availability of potential margin for additional maneuverability is a testament to the aircraft’s recently proven overall handling qualities and basic flying performance. “The door is open to provide a little more maneuverability,” says Lockheed Martin F-35 site lead test pilot David “Doc” Nelson..... 
..... “When we did the first dogfight in January, they said, ‘you have no limits,’” says Nelson. “It was loads monitoring, so they could tell if we ever broke something. It was a confidence builder for the rest of the fleet because there is no real difference structurally between AF-2 and the rest of the airplanes.” AF-2 was the first F-35 to be flown to 9g+ and -3g, and to roll at design-load factor. The aircraft, which was also the first Joint Strike Fighter to be intentionally flown in significant airframe buffet at all angles of attack, was calibrated for inflight loads measurements prior to ferrying to Edwards in 2010.

The operational maneuver tests were conducted to see “how it would look like against an F-16 in the airspace,” says Col. Rod “Trash” Cregier, F-35 program director. “It was an EARLY look at any control laws that may need to be tweaked to enable it to fly better in future. You can definitely tweak it—that’s the option.”
The expectation of the tests was to see how the airplane behaved when slung about in a A2A engagement using the current control laws within the current G-limit design, and they found they can open them up the laws for more. Let's ignore the fact we don't know AF-2's empty weight and that the program was delivering the SDD baseline weight aircraft about the time the engagement occurred.

Let's pretend it doesn't matter that we don't know the weight of the F-16 or the altitudes and speeds the engagements occurred either. Let's also ignore the fact that ALL jets need to have many such engagements before the aircrew really know how to best exploit their advantages. Even without all that, Axe is STILL  just laying down a nice pile of fertilizer for the rest of the Punk Journalists and Faux Reformers to spread and nurture yet another disinformation cascade.

Sit back and watch the fun. Any bets on who cites this weak-a** hit-piece first?

Update: I see is on the case.

Update 2(1 July 15)

Wow. A lot can happen in a day, and I can't even go into the kind of detail I'd love to go into for some of it. (I'll have to stay 'hypothetical' about the now-out-in-the-open Test Report, given the caveats plastered at the top and bottom of every page of the report.)

First. A former fighter driver with experience in both the F-16 and F-18 chimed in with some thoughts that fit pretty much hand-in-glove with what I've stated so far in his post: Why The “F-35 v F-16″ Article Is Garbage.
Second. The global disinformation cascade Axe set off (and I predicted) was gathering a lot steam until the former fighter driver posted his thoughts.

Third. The F-35 program office and LM then added some information that was also consistent with my posts on the topic. (I'm not claiming any special insight here, just an experienced one that appears to be consistent with other experienced viewpoints.)

Fourth. Axe appears to have felt enough sting in the criticism he's received so far to now have gone a step further and posted a lightly-sanitized copy of the report. If he cared a whit versus just playing a gadfly, I would love to explain to him the cognitive dissonance between what the report says and means in contrast to what he asserts it means. I suspect the JPO or LM will have to go through the process of releasing some of the leaked information for export just so they can spell it out for the low-information crowd.

Until they do, I won't be linking to or addressing anything directly mentioned in the report because doing so could constitute an 'export'. I like my current digs and income status and look terrible in orange or broad stripes, so NO.
Axe better hope he's as insignificant a pissant as I think he is, because the caveats on those pages obviously leave him and his employer open to criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits. It would take a lot of political capital to be spent by the anti-defense crowd to keep Axe and Co. out of the grinder if Uncle Sugar or Lockmart decide to call them out on this. BTW: May whoever leaked the report be far less connected and may the scum twist in wind over this leak.

Given I won't be discussing the contents of the report, I WILL say that Axe's doubling-down on this stupidity gives me some inkling as to how Forest Rangers must feel when some life-long urbanite visits the park and keeps pointing at some small woodland creature insisting it is a 'bear' no matter how many times the Ranger points out the differences. I can't believe he offered the report as if it supported his position. Is he THAT clueless, or is he 'whistling past the graveyard' hoping nobody will call him out further on his peddling crap?

Maybe he wouldn't have made this mistake of misreading things into the report that aren't there, if he read more widely.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

An Open Letter to Ed Driscoll: Power of CAS Myths

Guest 'Pundit' at Instapundit, Ed Driscolllinks to a craptastic "Save the A-10" editorial (unattributed) at Investors Business Daily.... SIX MONTHS after it was published?

I thought the editorial at the link was so bad at the time it came out (along with a bunch of similar A-10 puff pieces), I don't remember paying it much heed.  But Driscoll's resurrection of this poorly 'informed' op-ed illustrates--- once again-- the power of the CAS Mythology and "narrative". Just look at the comment thread at Instapundit. Yikes!

Normally, I like what Ed Driscoll writes, and writes about, but he's waaay out of his area of expertise this time.

Dear Ed: That IBD Op Ed could have been written by one or more squirrels.  

No, the A-10 wasn’t designed to stop Soviet Tanks. This is a common misconception I've heard General Officers utter. We are so ahistorical.

The A-10 was conceived as a weapon that could attack “hard targets” and cooperate with Army Airmobile forces in SEA. After Vietnam, the Air Force HOPED it could be survivable in the NATO order of battle and did all kinds of things to make/keep it relevant. In Europe, its main advantage was the ability to get below typical rotten Euro-weather that would keep fast-movers off the target. We have sensors and communications now that remove the weather restriction for fast movers. the F-35's The weapons the A-10 was designed to survive against predated MANPADs, Integrated Air Defense Systems and even radar controlled AAA that even the NVA were pushing into the South at the end of the Vietnam War. (Google Lam Son 719).

The A-10 wasn't fielded in 1972. It first flew, in a fly-off, in 1972. (I was there) It didn’t hit IOC until 1976 or FOC until 1978.  Core operational concepts for Europe weren't developed until 1979 (I was there too).

The A-10 HAS to fly low and slow because it doesn’t have the kinds of sensors (SNIPER pods are an improvement, but not enough) and communications capabilities to sort out the battlefield well prior to the attack. It often HAS to loiter longer just because it takes longer to set up an attack.

The cockpit armor and other design features make it harder to shoot down that it would be otherwise, but having bits and pieces shot off you is not a long term survival strategy. A-10s in Desert Storm saw the most intense air defense environment they have seen before or since. They did not do well. A-10s were pulled off the Iraqi Republican Guard units and tasked against weaker units as a consequence.

Yes “A supersonic fighter pilot flying miles above the battlefield will not see enemy forces the way a Warthog pilot can” – They will see it better. I’m always fascinated by people who cite 'low and slow" as an advantage: as if flying there gives one more time to view the ground. That maybe true at Piper Cub speeds. But I’ve 'done' low and 'A-10 slow' a the same time and the scenery is whizzing by pretty fast. It ain't that great for picking up and following specific specs out of all the other specs.

A fast mover may cost more $ up front, but if the attrition rate is even a few percentage points lower, the savings, not to mention the ability to sustain operations, far outweighs the operating costs—even if you don’t factor in the fewer 'dead aircrew' part. THAT is the proper context for framing a statement like “Force requirements should be dictated by battlefield requirements, not budget restraints.”

The F-35 will provide CAS in its own way and not in the manner the A-10 provides it, so the open question is not whether or not the F-35 “can take the punishment the A-10 can”. The open question is:
Why do people think you have to take punishment like an A-10 to fly CAS?
The Warthog is still a low-intensity-conflict “hammer”: A Completely appropriate design (ignoring they are worn out) solution if ALL you are going to do is flatten insects. It is NOT so appropriate if you have to also be ready to face  Thor who is swinging his own hammer. Unless you have the extra dollars to buy and support both kinds of weapons systems to deal with bugs and Old Norse deities, you want the one that can beat the gods without getting beat yourself.

May I Suggest Some Remedial Reading?
Start at Part 1 (Links for Part 2 through 8 at bottom of Part 1).

Just found out where and how Driscoll got suckered in.