Part 3 : Updated and Bumped
I'm still working on the F-35A vs Block 60 F-16 comparison, but wanted to add a reference to a comment I made at Breaking Defense in response to one 'Peter Goon': a former FTE (best known as a talking head for Air Power Australia ). I'm repeating it here because for some reason, the graphics accompanying my response did not post, and one is an update of a chart shown already in this series. Mr Goon dropped a series of snarky comments, any of which can be discarded, but none so readily as this one:
RE: Q: How does an aircraft that takes over 60 seconds to accelerate from 0.8M to 1.2M at 30k ft ISA have "at least" the maneouvrability of a Block 50 F-16C which does this in less than 30 seconds, with 4 missiles on board?
Well Skippy, your first big problem is that the only F-16C Block 50 that can go from M.8 to M1.2 in "30 seconds" can only carry two missiles and....its about out of fuel.
Your second big problem is that you are comparing your infeasible F-16 loadout with an F-35 KPP configuration that is carrying 60% (of a much larger capacity than the F-16) fuel load AND 2 tons of bombs.
To answer your question more fully, and as a object lesson to others that it is YOU who are really pedaling the "indifference to reality" with hyperbolic nonsense, the F-35A at KPP weights and loadouts SPANKS the Block 50 F-16 in transonic acceleration for all but at the very lightest weight/drag combinations identified in the F-16's operating manual.I dropped two graphics with data extracted from the Hellenic AF Block 50/52 Change 8 Operators manual, but they didn't 'take' for some reason. First, the F-16 Block 50 basic weight/drag data:
|This is the heaviest a Block 50 F-16 can get without adding drag by hanging stuff off the outside|
|Only at the lowest weight/drag combinations can a Block 50 transonic performance best the F-35A KPP configuration. Remember the F-35A is carrying 60% internal fuel AND two 2K Lb JDAMs.|
KPP Requirement or no, ‘What If’ the F-35 will someday really need to get rid of all or part of extra seconds in the new KPP enroute to Mach 1.2?
This post and series is not for those people.It has been for people who want to understand more about the changes and their ramifications. Agreement or approval by me or anyone else as to the acceptability of these KPP changes is irrelevant. The agencies to which they are relevant have already decided.(Right about here those ‘other people’ would mentally register a need to utter a Circumstantial Ad Hominem against those responsible that when you strip away all the unsupported assertions, logically translates into little more than “those people are the experts, what do they know?...oh and “they must be lying!” or “what are they hiding?”)
BUT!... probably, someday, someone flying one of the F-35 variants is going to REALLY need to accelerate M.8 to M1.2 as quick as the original KPP specified or even more quickly (just not often enough to pursue it as a KPP). Truth be told, there’s probably going to be a time or twelve where somebody is going to wish ‘instantaneous’ translation to Mach 10, but you have to draw the line someplace within the laws of physics.
IF there is some operational need to shave all or part of 8 seconds (or the longer times for the other variants) going from .8M to 1.2M, can it be accomplished? If so, HOW would it be done, and is the remedy needed so onerous that it will adversely impact the F-35’s viability or operational utility? With the F-35A needing only to overcome 8 seconds, the program office could have easily just specified a lower weight to accomplish the feat, and a checklist item added to the effect of “if you want to do ‘this’, then ensure fuel and weapons on board do not exceed X lbs”. But as fuel on board at a mid-mission point tends to be a valuable commodity, and weapons carriage is a fighter aircraft’s reason for being, I presume everyone can see why the users, JROC and program office didn’t take that route.
“One Weird Trick”If, by chance, “8 seconds” is a big deal, even for an aircraft with a ‘greater initial acceleration than an F-16’ and it still means those 8 seconds crossed some breakpoint minimum needed operationally, then the good news is it is rather easy to accommodate. In fact, fighter pilots have been using ‘this one weird trick’ (Man, I hate those ads) for decades to squeeze extra acceleration out of the transonic region.
It’s called ‘Unloading’
Hat tip to Pat ‘Gums’ McAdoo, USAF Lt Col (Ret), at F-16.net for first reminding me of this ‘way back when’:
“RE: transonic accel....... I'll bet that the profile was st-and-level and then gofor it. We who have done it know that all ya gotta do is reduce AoA by lowering the nose a tiny amount and shazaam!”You can also bet any future opponent that the F-35 runs into WILL also be doing the same thing. Sometimes ‘unloading’ will be the best thing for a pilot to employ, sometimes something else will be the best thing to do. Aeronautics has advanced to exploit the medium to its maximum. There is no magic airplane that does everything better than any other airplane within each generation or two: there's always a 'catch'.
Unloading the wing during an acceleration run through the transonic region pays off in increased acceleration (or reduces the decline of acceleration if that is all that is desired) immediately. It is also the key part of employing the Rutowski Profile (Ref #10 in Part 2) in reducing climb times for the same reasons. When a pilot completely 'unloads' the wing, all of the wing wave drag coefficient contribuion due to lift goes to zero, and the aircraft ‘sinks’ (altitude decreases). This is a relatively slower rate of descent compared to an actual ‘dive’, by the way. But a dive is also an option for even greater acceleration, and as Shaw observes (Fighter Combat, p. 407) it is even more effective the heavier and ‘cleaner’ an aircraft is-- assuming the dive does not take the aircraft past its structural limits. When that much wave drag suddenly disappears, the acceleration rate increases dramatically (Shaw recommends a “sharp pull-down” to a dive attitude then an ‘unload’ as particularly effective). Higher acceleration rates are like compound interest: the more you have earlier, the more the distance you cover and the more speed you have at the end: If the wing is unloaded early in a run when acceleration rate is already high but late enough that the aircraft is near Critical Mach, the time the plane would need to be unloaded might be exceedingly small for an F-35A to achieve 1.2M those eight seconds faster. It might help people to be able to visualize how little difference there is between M.8 and M1.2 at 30K feet if we use a graphic (we're keeping the numbering of figures as beginning in Part 1):
|Figure 20: Every tenth of a Mach is about 40KIAS at 30K ft Altitude|
|Figure 21: Typical Drag Curve for a 'Loaded' Straight Wing|
|Figure 22: Typical Drag Curve for an 'Unloaded' Straight Wing|
|Figure 23: Straight Wing Drag, Loaded vs Unloaded|
The actual amount of drag reduction will vary depending upon the total aircraft design (and remember it will also vary by airspeed and altitude). Shaw’s “Fighter Combat” provides a convenient graph highlighting the increases in acceleration that can be expected at different altitudes over a wide speed range for legacy aircraft. It is modified here to illustrate the altitude and Mach range of interest:
|Figure 24: Typical Benefits of Unloading on Acceleration (Original source as noted, modified by Elements of Power)|
|Figure 25: Unloading and/or Diving to Achieve Original KPP times.|
This might be a good time to interject the observation that if there was ever evidence the original KPPs were established before the aircraft design was even undertaken, it is the original common KPP of 65 seconds for the F-35B and F-35C: two airplanes with vastly different weights and wing areas. This tells me the trade space for the F-35C design might not have been fully understood when the Navy laid down the requirements or the KPP really was a 'let's see what we can get' figure.
We should also note here that the KPPs were/are against a predicted weight standard and that all indicators are that the predicted weights are being beaten, with all variants coming in (for now) below the modeled weights used for the KPPs. Those lower weights mean lower wave drag to begin with, and in turn better transonic acceleration.
Bowman BTW, is now a Navy Captain, and as far as I know continues to NOT be an F-35 'fan'. I'm still hoping for some karma backlash that will tie him to the F-35 program as a developer or operator, just for the entertainment value alone.
Conclusions?Other than changing the KPPS evidently was not a 'big deal', there's not much to conclude: just a lot of open questions remain.
That the program was warning far ahead of the KPP change that the spec was unrealistic (Ref #3 and #4 in Part 2), makes the initial acceleration KPP looks more like it was a ‘show us what you can do and we’ll revisit the issue later’ placeholder. An entirely likely possibility is that as the program matured, different advantages were seen in areas of aircraft capabilities that shifted design emphasis to 'someplace else'. A KPP may be set based upon an assumption of X capability would require KPP X to be one thing, and then as the design matures, and operational concepts evolve or even threat perceptions shift, it becomes apparent that X capability isn't as important as Y capability, which if is addressed would require more or less out of the KPP X.
The Bottom Line, AgainFor the F-35A model, the 8 second difference between new and old KPP appears to be trivial. The F-35B would probably have to unload a few seconds earlier or for a few seconds longer to meet the old KPP and the F-35C may have to unload a lot earlier and for a few more seconds to do the same.
But it is hard to say for certain, because the B and C early acceleration profiles may be just as good as pilots flying the F-35A assert about the CTOL version. The F-35C might have the toughest time making up the acceleration difference because it has a much larger non-lift contributor to wing wave drag to go with the larger lift contribution. But as it is also slightly longer overall and especially longer in the wing and tail surface areas, the F-35C shape in its entirety may (I don't think so but I can't rule it out) be lower drag than the others above Mach 1.1+. Or the F-35C may have other lower drag advantages due to something like its ‘cleaner’ wing attachment transition on the bottom surface. Who knows?
The newer 'changed' KPPs are as far as we know, still based upon modeled F-35 performance using “end-of-life, worst-case” scenario relative to the F135 engine’s power capacity” (Ref #7 Part 2) and “two per cent thrust” penalty (Ref #8 in Part 2). These ‘wedges’ against the F-35's performance could also be the difference between meeting the old KPP and needing the new KPP in the case of the F-35A, and part of the difference for the F-35B and C.
The importance of the KPP change all comes back to what Tom Burbage was quoted as saying in Ref #4:
“...the biggest question is: are the acceleration characteristics of the airplane operationally suitable?”The people buying and flying the airplane apparently say ‘yes’. And they've got the data and required knowledge and judgement to make the call. The voices outside the program do not.