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It's time to get rid of Fighter Generations

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posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 03:23 PM
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The generational system for fighters seems to have come about just after WWII, and has been in use until today. It's time to throw the book out and change how things are done. The generational system worked for awhile, but it has become a hindrance far more than helpful anymore.

Cost

Early generational fighters were very basic. They were subsonic, carried dumb bombs, limited gunsights, etc. As each generation has come into being, they've gotten more advanced, which leads to more missions and equipment, which leads to more cost. The F-105 Thunderchief was officially listed as a Second Generation aircraft, and cost $2.14M for a D model in 1960 dollars. The F-4, which came about the same time, was a Third Generation fighter, and ran about $2.4M for an E in 1965 dollars. The F-14 Tomcat, which entered service in 1975, and was a Fourth Generation fighter, cost $35M per aircraft. And even incremental changes in generations add large costs to the aircraft. The F-18 is considered a 4.5 Generation aircraft, and costs $65.3M per aircraft for a Super Hornet. By the time you get to Fifth Generation, which is where we are now, you don't even blink at costs per aircraft well in excess of $100M. The F-35 will potentially get down to $80M, by selling over 2,000 aircraft to the US military, and several hundred to foreign allies. And all of this is just for the aircraft itself. Each generation of aircraft requires improvements to infrastructure required to support the aircraft, and increased life cycle costs over the last, because the aircraft are being asked to go longer, and do more over that longer life than ever before.

It Boxes in Aircraft

One of the biggest problems with the Generational system is that aircraft of a certain generation are pretty much required to do certain missions. Fourth Generation aircraft are considerably more computerized than Third Gen aircraft. Fifth Gen aircraft pretty much have to have stealth capabilities to fit into the definition. Instead of building the best design for the mission, designers are worried about fitting everything that a Fifth Generation aircraft is supposed to have onto one airframe. Where an F-15SE might work better for a nation that is buying an F-35, if they want a Fifth Generation fighter, which they're being convinced will be required to survive future conflicts, they have to buy the F-35, which means fewer aircraft available to them to do the same number of missions unless they choose to wait until costs come down, in which case, they're putting more strain on their existing aircraft, trying to wait as long as possible to get costs down as low as they can before buying them.

They're Difficult to Define

Generations have often proven to be very difficult to define what exactly constitutes each one, and you can get three different definitions from three different people. The US hasn't finished defining what Sixth Generation means, but are already trying to develop aircraft that meet potential definitions. And meanwhile Russian designers are talking about Seventh Generation. So we have a system that is driving up costs, is hard to define, and puts aircraft into boxes, and no one can even agree what makes up a generation. Who defines what a generation is?

Each New Generation Takes Longer to Develop

When the F-14 was developed, it was five years from first flight to service entry. With the F-15, it was three and a half years between first flight and service entry. The F-22 took slightly over 8 years from first flight to service entry. The F-35 is currently at eight and a half years for the B model between first flight and service entry, it will be nine years for the A model, and twelve years for the C model. The Sixth Generation will be looking at 12-15 years or possibly longer before it sees service entry, as they're talking early 2020s for RFP, and mid 2030s for service entry.

It's time to leave the monikers behind, and get back to developing platforms that are best for the mission. Don't worry about what box they fit into, just get them flying and into service. If stealth works, add it. If it's not required, don't add it. Leave the definitions where they belong, in the dictionary, and just get the aircraft into service.




posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 04:08 PM
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American Dollar is way too high for any US allies to even afford them. You can't blame them.
F-22 is currently the best fighter than no one is allowed to purchase. This leads to other nations building their own or buying it from other nations. Russian alternative is much cheaper and better than US alternative. Same with the French Rafale.



posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 04:08 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58


The development of the triangle ships has evidently reached a point in tight economic times that the façade of also producing expensive, typical aircraft (of any type) are a needless drag on the entire section of our military air power. The Russian's "7th generation" is probably a coy description for their work on a triangle type of craft . Surely, the Chinese are working on their own version. You aircraft enthusiast may ignore UFOs and triangles, but the foreign intelligence services certain will have not ignored the eye-witness reports from over three decades.

My point for years has been that the inevitable is coming, must come. How our policy makers will spin the ET aspect out of the shift should be interesting. After all, UFOs don't exist even if we have funny craft of our own that move as they do.



posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 04:12 PM
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a reply to: makemap

The Rafale certainly isn't a Fifth Generation, and the Russian alternative might not be, depending on which definition you use. It's certainly having its share of problems though. Which, again, proves what I'm saying. The T-50 meets most of the definitions of a Fifth Generation fighter, but, depending on who's talking, it's either a 4.5+++ or even a 4.75 because some of the features are unknowns. The Rafale, and the Typhoon are certainly good aircraft, but since they don't check all the boxes on a list somewhere, they're pigeonholed into being something that some nations aren't interested in, because they don't fit the right definition.



posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 05:21 PM
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The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do a bit of everything, as James Fallows explains in "The Tragedy of the American Military". Instead, the aircraft can barely do anything: it has trouble flying at night, its engines have exploded during takeoff, and early models suffered structural cracks. There's no end in sight, either. The all-in costs of this airplane are estimated to be as much as $1.5 trillion. (That's approximately the same price as the entire Iraq War.) In this video, Fallows explains how such a disastrous project came to be—and why it can't be stopped.

link

The cost of the f35 to the tax payers of the US (so far), which is currently a 'junk' aircraft, is more than fifty grand for every single US man, woman, and child.

The money may be a made up lie, but the amount of time we each spend in slavery to earn that money for these jokers isn't.



posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 05:27 PM
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a reply to: lordcomac

Which, again is the point. We've gone from $2M an aircraft, to currently over $100M an aircraft, because of a definition and a series of check boxes.



posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 05:55 PM
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originally posted by: makemap
American Dollar is way too high for any US allies to even afford them. You can't blame them.
F-22 is currently the best fighter than no one is allowed to purchase. This leads to other nations building their own or buying it from other nations. Russian alternative is much cheaper and better than US alternative. Same with the French Rafale.

Nice one.
Reminds me that the Indian Air Force is buying up the Rafale, 36 'initially' Well it's supposed to be just 36, although they wanted/want more, but it seems the 36 was a government to government deal, which seems to suit all parties....more to come? very likely.

Dassault is on a winner I think. Governments these days want the full Monty, and they don't look at jingoistic blogs on the internet decrying the competition, especially if it comes from countries that don't offer the full Monty for their products.



posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 06:04 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

Another Zaph thread that should be an op-ed in AvWeek or Air & Space, shocking!

More directly, how much of the rising costs are also due to ever-smaller production volumes?

I know it's all apples to oranges, but in its day, the B-29 was as advanced as the B-21 was today, with its pressurization, remote turrets, and jetliner flight ceiling. The same applies to the B-47 and the B-52 as well. And yet, because we were building them by the thousands, the per-unit costs were manageable.

Now, the F-22 and F-35 make the B-29 or the B-47 look like the Wright Flyer by comparison, but might the per-unit costs of each be lower if mission creep and growing per-aircraft capabilities hadn't left the USAF or Congress feeling like they only needed 1/10th as many of them as they did F-4 Phantoms or F-86s.



posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 06:23 PM
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a reply to: Barnalby

It's become a vicious cycle. Each generation costs more, and tries to do more. The more it does, the more that needs to be crammed into it. That means more risk of overrun. The more overrun, the more chance of numbers being cut, which drives unit cost up more, which leads to more cuts, and on and on.
edit on 4/28/2016 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 06:29 PM
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Great OP.

Apparently the military is not above the consumer craze. Gotta have the next bling even if it does not do any more for you and what you do.

I always found it odd that we would bother with an F-35 here in Canada. Why cant we just supe up our F-18's ? Do we have to go looking for long range air strikes now becaus that ia the plane we have? F-35 does nothing for Canada.

I dont know much about planes but I know we do jot need the larest and greatest to to keep up with the military consumer jones.



posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 07:07 PM
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a reply to: Zaphod58
Agree on all your point...

The generational system worked for awhile, but it has become a hindrance far more than helpful anymore.


Leave the definitions where they belong, in the dictionary, and just get the aircraft into service.

And then in your next response...

The Rafale certainly isn't a Fifth Generation, and the Russian alternative might not be, depending on which definition you use


The T-50 meets most of the definitions of a Fifth Generation fighter, but, depending on who's talking, it's either a 4.5+++ or even a 4.75 because some of the features are unknowns

OK ...OK....so drop the generation labels then...here and now..its all just marketing hype... see how ingrained it is.... Lead by example...



posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 07:17 PM
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a reply to: CovertAgenda

It was part of my point. The Rafale will sell, but not to nations that want something like the F-35, or something identified as fifth generation.

And the T-50 clearly meets almost all the check boxes for fifth generation, but is being called something else, which shows my point of them being hard to define.



posted on Apr, 28 2016 @ 07:21 PM
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a reply to: MALBOSIA

The current CF-18 fleet are older airframes, which are starting to see parts problems. Some of their parts are no longer made, and others are expensive to get.

The Super Hornet will, in 10 or 15 years be in the same place the Eagle and Viper are now. Good airframes, still useful, but less effective than they were. If you get something like the Typhoon, or F-35, you're getting an aircraft that will be relevant until the 2040s or 50s. That means you're not back here again in 15 years.



posted on Apr, 29 2016 @ 12:34 AM
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originally posted by: Zaphod58
a reply to: MALBOSIA

The current CF-18 fleet are older airframes, which are starting to see parts problems. Some of their parts are no longer made, and others are expensive to get.

The Super Hornet will, in 10 or 15 years be in the same place the Eagle and Viper are now. Good airframes, still useful, but less effective than they were. If you get something like the Typhoon, or F-35, you're getting an aircraft that will be relevant until the 2040s or 50s. That means you're not back here again in 15 years.


I said this in another forum, my grandad probably saw 2 generations, mum mum will probably see 5, I am likely to see 8+ at the rate we are going. How on earth can you afford to have production runs of 2000+ aircraft if they go obsolete so quick!

It's clear that you add a few $m for stealth or you could sacrifice that for speed, or you can have this gizmo or that one...

Agree the generation thing seems to be getting ridiculous but I wonder how many of my non AV-nerd friends (most of them) would even know what a generation of aircraft was!



posted on Apr, 29 2016 @ 12:42 AM
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a reply to: Forensick

Current clean sheet aircraft won't, but the Super Hornet has been flying for 20 years already. The A, which some countries still fly started flying in 1978 with the C first flying in 87. That's a long time for a design to be flying already when you're talking fighters.
edit on 4/29/2016 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)



posted on Apr, 29 2016 @ 07:17 AM
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a reply to: Zaphod58

Yeah, but how do we break the feedback loop?

Part of me thinks that the Russians (unintentionally) may have stumbled upon the answer with the "evolutionary, not revolutionary " track that their far-lower budgets have forced them to take.

They didn't even try to meet the F-22 until two decades after the prototype first flew, but in the meantime, they turned the Flanker into an extremely formidable, yet affordable gen 4+ aircraft.

It would be as if we had chose to build the F-15SE (or the Super Tomcat 21) in the 1990s alongside the Rhino, and built them by the hundreds.

It's not that I think that the 5th gens are a flawed investment, I'll go on record as believing that the F-35 and especially the F-22 still resembles something out of science fiction to the point that it is surreal to watch it fly, and it's easily the most impressive (white world, operational) aircraft to have ever flown.

That said, the incredible capabilities of the 5th gens made them too easily resemble "silver bullets" to the USAF and Congress, and when presented with the bill for those incredible capabilities, it is not surprising that they saw how capable the aircraft was and thought "we only need a handful of them".



posted on Apr, 29 2016 @ 10:06 AM
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a reply to: Barnalby

It's an interesting conundrum, but at least someone in the Puzzle Palace appears to be on the right track. They're looking at improved weapons systems instead of jumping straight to a new fighter, which will take 30 years to see FOC at the rate development is slowing.



posted on Apr, 29 2016 @ 10:13 AM
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Do you think it would help any if congress took steps to stop the suppliers for Boeing, Lockheed etc from jacking up the prices as soon as the contract is given to the parent company?

Or for that matter is that even still a problem?

I know once upon a time a big part of the wild prices was boeing would say I can do it for X, based off the current market prices... then various companies that supply those parts would promptly have "shortages" causing an increase in cost.

Just curious if that was a still a piece of the cost issue.



posted on Apr, 29 2016 @ 10:21 AM
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a reply to: Irishhaf

They need to take a page from the Tomcat book. They told Grumman what they wanted, and penalized them for everything that didn't meet what they wanted. And it was incremental penalties.



posted on Apr, 29 2016 @ 10:43 PM
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It's important to understand the way some aspects of military planning work. Almost always, it's with an extremely strong Systems Engineering approach - top down, and following the V-model. Understanding Systems Engineering and the V-model is absolutely fundamental if you wish to understand how modern military systems are developed and implemented - or even understanding what terms such as concurrency actually mean.

For the U.S 6th generation research, they are essentially laying the groundwork for future aircraft to come after the F-22 and the F/A-18 E/F, by looking at high-level concepts (at the top-left of the V-model). Such an aircraft will likely enter service post-2030, and remain in service for several decades (for simplicity sake, let's assume 4 decades). The way military will fight from 2030 to 2070 will be massively different to the way we fight today. The geopolitical landscape will be vastly different to that of today. The technologies available will be much different to those of today. Some possibilities include all-aspect stealth, unmanned aircraft, AI, and hypersonic weapons. Countries such as China will be much stronger than they are today, probably exceeding that of the US in terms of economic power, while fielding 5th generation fighters in the 2020 time frame.

That's why the 6th generation fighters are 6th generation fighters. They were designed with a different technological, political, and military context than 5th generation fighters. So with this in mind, I completely agree with the term 6th generation being applied to those aircraft.

I don't want the term "6th generation" to be too narrow though. The US Navy concept for a 6th generation fighter might be massively different than the US Air Force one. The Russian 6th generation aircraft (successor to PAK-FA) might be something entirely different. You'll note that when the F-22 came out, the term 5th generation included supercruise. Lockheed Martin was just trying to advertise their product to those who didn't know any better. Then the F-35 came out and the definition changed. I agree that the term 5th generation describes both aircraft well.


The F-4, which came about the same time, was a Third Generation fighter, and ran about $2.4M for an E in 1965 dollars. The F-14 Tomcat, which entered service in 1975, and was a Fourth Generation fighter, cost $35M per aircraft. And even incremental changes in generations add large costs to the aircraft. The F-18 is considered a 4.5 Generation aircraft, and costs $65.3M per aircraft for a Super Hornet

Some of your figures are not adjusted for inflation which makes comparison more difficult.

I agree with what you're trying to say, the Super Hornet still ends up being more expensive than the F-14. I am wondering however if there are other reasons for the cost escalation? Has the cost of material gone up? Have wages increased faster than inflation? It's also worth noting aircraft are also asked to do more than they ever have before. Also plenty of 4.5 generation fighters have ended up more expensive than the F-35 (Rafale, Eurofighter, F-15).


Instead of building the best design for the mission, designers are worried about fitting everything that a Fifth Generation aircraft is supposed to have onto one airframe.

I think you're mixing up causality. They also follow the process I outlined above not "checking boxes".


Where an F-15SE might work better for a nation that is buying an F-35, if they want a Fifth Generation fighter, which they're being convinced will be required to survive future conflicts, they have to buy the F-35,

I highly doubt a F-15SE will work better for many nations, I also highly doubt it will be cheaper. I also highly doubt professionals see the term "5th generation" and buy an aircraft on that basis. Rather, 5th generation aircraft were designed specifically to the era which we live in (2010 to 2040) and therefore have qualities which are very important. Even if the terminology of aircraft generations were to be deleted, I doubt it would change much to professionals.
edit on 29/4/16 by C0bzz because: (no reason given)




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