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First F-35C Pilots Graduate from TOPGUN

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posted on Jun, 21 2020 @ 12:22 PM
a reply to: RadioRobert

Again, you’re looking at this from a theoretical perspective. You’re not wrong, but this is simply not what actually happened.
There was no actual dustup for the last twenty years. 8 plane strike packages weren’t a thing for during the global war on terror except for the initial invasion of Iraq. The reality consisted of very few planes on station providing continuous air support for coalition forces involved in COIN operations. And the majority of the air support missions were flown from airbases in-country anyway.
In the end, it was not a lack of tanker support that drove navair into the ground. The jets gave up first, readiness rates plummeted and maintenance hours skyrocketed. A longer-legged, but more maintenance-heavy fighter jet wasn’t the solution required for the war that they actually fought.

In fact, fighter jets aren’t the solution to provide close air support during counter-insurgency operations period. Switching to an aircraft that can haul what, two or four additional JDAMs for another 200 nautical miles makes no actual difference. Hence why there was no push to improve the capabilities of tacair through introducing lighter ordnance, conformal fuel tanks, increasing the tanker fleet, and whatnot. Naturally, you end up relying on far more suited platforms like strategic bombers and gunships, just like you wrote.

So no, the range of the Super Hornet is certainly not just fine in a theoretical context. Block III CFTs can't get here fast enough. But it's also true that the range was adequate for the actual mission of the last two decades.

About the future. The billions saved by the Super Hornet buy would have been needed to procure the Super Tomcat. At a rate of two Tomcats for three Super Hornets if you’re very lucky. Those billions would not have been available to introduce the F-35C sooner.
Not to mention you can’t just use the money to make the problems of the JSF program go away. They needed time more than anything and if you’re buying LIRP F-35Cs at an increased rate you just end up with a whole lot of birds in dire need of upgrades later on. But that's beside the point.
The truth is, choosing the Super Tomcat in the 90s means you'd be looking at maybe three fighter squadrons for each wing today. Plus aging Vikings and no dedicated EW fighter jet. And even if you can speed up the introduction of the F-35Cs for three or four years, the Tomcat/Lightning air wing would be severely understrength compared to what we are looking at today.

Also, I don’t know where the mythical BARCAP/fleet-wide air defense thingy comes from. That mission is gone. The Chinese have no intention to attack Carrier Strike Groups with massed bomber fleets. They’ll use long-range cruise missiles, ballistics, and hypersonic weaponry. The main asset to counter these attacks are not some lonely interceptors far out hauling a handful of AMRAAMs but fleet-wide missile defense coordinated by carrier base, fully networked AEW aircraft relying on shipborne radars.

Going forward it will be vastly more important to ensure an adequate wartime supply of ESSM, ERAM, and SM-3 Block IIs than to agonize over at what range an interceptor flight might knock out a couple of incoming missiles. That’s just not a thing anymore.

posted on Jun, 21 2020 @ 01:06 PM
a reply to: mightmight

Again, you’re looking at this from a theoretical perspective. You’re not wrong, but this is simply not what actually happened.

Well, that's pretty obvious. The Navy neutered itself is what actually happened.

At a rate of two Tomcats for three Super Hornets if you’re very lucky. 

Only if we're pretending later attained flyaway cost numbers are an accurate depiction of accounting for the costs of the Shornet program...

Also, I don’t know where the mythical BARCAP/fleet-wide air defense thingy comes from. That mission is gone.

Yeah, it's gone because the Navy painted itself into a corner and can no longer do it. The best way to counter anti-ship missiles is by destroying the launch platforms before they are within range for launch, and the eyeballs before they can relay useful targeting information. the second best way is to target them pre-terminal phase in "cruise". They cannot do any of those reliably any longer because they don't have anything with range or endurance for counter-air or strike, so they are forced to use VLS-based air defense -- the cells of which cannot be reloaded at sea, which means the whole CVBG needs to retreat after in the face of any sustained threat.

Going forward it will be vastly more important to ensure an adequate wartime supply of ESSM, ERAM, and SM-3 Block IIs 

There are not enough cells at sea to be "adequate" even if we had the supply of them (and you're right; we don't)

posted on Jun, 22 2020 @ 09:21 AM
a reply to: RadioRobert

The neutered themselves, alright. But in doing so they were able to fight the actual war on terror. Two decades of continuous operations would not have been possible with a smaller Tomcat based air arm. And if they had tried, navair today would be combat ineffective and remain so for years and years to come. Hence, they got lucky.

So again, about cost. Yes, I continue to pretend the Super Hornet program was much cheaper than developing and procuring and advanced Super Tomcat.
Grumman was already building the plain F-14D for some 40 million a plane in the 90s. Developing and procuring a Super Tomcat 21 would have easily resulted in unit costs above 80 million in the 2000s. Getting them up to the same capabilities of later Super Hornets being build in the last decade, unit costs would have peaked above 100 mill.
On top of that, you’d have costly upgrades for the earlier Super Tomcats build in the 90s.
The cost wouldn’t come down either. The maintenance cost of your overall older fleet would suck up your procurement budget, there’d be no Growler to offset the cost and the export market would be even smaller.

About missile defense and stuff. Destroying launch platforms is simply a no starter, with or without Super Tomcats. The Chinese are sitting on extremely long-range cruise missiles. If they can generate a targeting solution, they can launch them from well beyond the interception range of any fighter-sized platform.

I don’t think they have to few VLS cells. A wartime deployment of TF70 alone boosts more than 1000 VLS cells and could easily be reinforced substantially by Third Fleet. Been a while since I last looked at the numbers, but at this point, they should have less than 1500 ERAM and ESSM each. And the few SM-3 interceptors available are deployed all over the world thanks to this bs idea of defending Europe and the Middle East with shipborne Aegis BMD.

Reloading isn’t that much of an issue. They could cycle destroyers quite easily between the Pacific AO and Japanese ports. The Chinese still lack the firepower to take those out permanently. They just won’t have any suitable missile to reload. And I don’t even want to know how viable the aging RIM-66M stocks still are.

edit on 22-6-2020 by mightmight because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 22 2020 @ 11:39 AM
Again, the eventual fly away costs for a Shornet is not representative of what the program cost the Navy. Depending on when your decision is made, since range/capability doesn't matter and the only thing you're interested in is cost and available airframes, you could buy new and SLEP Classics for half the price the Shornet program to get numbers up for the Navy and USMC taking advantage of a mature program with an established logistics train-- all of which drives cost and which was proposed by many in Congress.
And if all you're worried about is bombtrucks in permissive environments, the S-3 has plenty of life, was doing the job just fine, and the A-6 fleet was retired right after a SLEP. Burn out those airframes in permissive environments-- you already own them, and they are much more efficient at it. No need to fund development and purchase of a brand new airframe.

If they can generate a targeting solution,

How do you propose they are generating that solution exactly?

A wartime deployment of TF70 alone boosts more than 1000 VLS cells ...

And how many of those are loaded with ASROC and Tomahawks? And at roughly 3-4 shots per 2 ASM, how long does that remainder last? How long does it take to rotate out ships to and from harbor (where they are vulnerable), and what are you doing in the lag time?

It's a blue water sea control fleet now, and the only real striking power is going to come from subs.

posted on Jun, 23 2020 @ 10:41 AM
a reply to: RadioRobert

The eventual very low fly away cost is not representative of the total program cost. I just used the figure to illustrate how cheap an advanced Super Tomcat would eventually need to be to hope to draw even on the total cost. And I just don’t think this would have been possible. An advanced Super Tomcat program will always cost you more than the Super Hornet program.

No matter what, the Super Tomcat is the bigger and more complex aircraft. It would have required are far more extensive redesign than the Hornet since it’s based on considerable older tech. It’s intended tech level would have lack about half a decade behind what the Super Hornet was eventually built upon since it would have gone into mass production in the 90s instead of the early 2000s. This means expensive upgrades down the line. And Grumman already built the F-14D for no less than 40 million a plane in the early 90s. There’s just no way an advanced Super Tomcat built in the 2000s onward would land in the same ballpark, very much unlike the Super Hornet if we adjust the figures for inflation.
If you don’t agree with this take, fine with me. I just don’t get it. Somewhat higher refueling requirements will never offset this.

As for what I would have done, I’ve been arguing for a pure Hornet based air wing, eventually supplemented by an actual UCLASS based UCAV ever since the Obama administration decided to end F-22 production in favor of the JSF program in 2009. Carriers don’t need an integrated LO strike capability to be mission effective in 99% of all conceivable missions apart from fighting the Chinese.

And since China is spending all its time and money on coming up with new ways to effectively fight American Carrier Groups anyway, they are the wrong tool for that job period. It’s pointless to invest countless billions in increasing the capabilities for the near-peer fight if they’ll end up on the sidelines anyway. This doesn’t mean they are obsolete, it just means there’s a greater need for smart and economical procurement while focusing on the actual mission – which was bombing Sandistan back then. The Super Hornet was well suited for this circumstance.
I cannot say what position I would have had in the 90s since I really didn’t pay much attention to it at the time and it’s too easy to judge in hindsight.

As for a Chinese kill chain to target carrier groups with cruise missiles – if I were them, I’d focus on a robust spaceborne surveillance system for tactical geolocation. Just what they’ve been doing for the last ten years, building up satellite constellations with potentially devastating capabilities.
If they keep up their pace, they’ll have a near real-time tracking capability eventually. In the meantime, you’d link the spaceborne surveillance with their extremely long-range OTH facilities and cover the gaps with supersonic recon drone.
The rest is up to the cruise missile. Compared to ballistics or hypersonics, it’s comparatively easy to fit them with a robust sensor package to pick up something. And if the first wave just thins out the escorts, that’s fine too.
About VLS, if you have decent sources about their standard loadouts these days, please share them. I could only guess.
In a total war scenario, the US Pacific Fleet should be able to deploy more than 50 Destroyers and a dozen Cruisers within a month or two. I don’t see why they’d lack the VLS cells to screen say two Carrier Groups with two carriers each. Especially not if the JMSDF helps out too. They just don’t have the missiles stocks to keep it up for long.
And what would you do with them anyway? They cannot penetrate the Chinese A2AD umbrella and hit targets along the coastlines, regardless of what fighter jet they employ. They could go after PLAN surface assets but why bother when LRASM equipped strategic platforms could do that in one afternoon.

posted on Jun, 23 2020 @ 02:32 PM
a reply to: mightmight

An advanced Super Tomcat program will always cost you more than the Super Hornet program

How does slapping mature systems from the F-15E and ATF programs into a slightly modified aircraft cost substantially more than development and procurement of a clean sheet design? Fly away cost will always be lower for the Shornet, but is not representative of real accounting. Just like cost per hour will always be lower for the Shornet, but does not reflect an operational reality. If I need to send three four-cylinder pickups to do the job of a fullsize truck, it doesn't matter that the maintenance and operating cost of a small truck is half as much per hour as the larger.

As for a Chinese kill chain to target carrier groups with cruise missiles – if I were them, I’d focus on a robust spaceborne surveillance system for tactical geolocation

You have some serious resolution and FOV problems involved with satellite surveillance. There are also problems with noise (clouds, waves, etc) in any spectrum used-- most multi-spectal has relied on contrast. And while it's not impossible to filter out things you don't wish to see, it's not easy. There is also a lag between imagery, processing, analysis, dispersion to units, launch. Let's say it takes a timely 10 minutes to process and analyze the data and determine the carrier's location. It takes another hour to generate orders, prepare/launch a sortie to engage, and transit time to launch. That's all pretty fast, but by the time you get to launch from your blind aircraft, the carrier is "somewhere" in a 30-50 nm circle. That's not real useful (for targeting). What it is useful for is telling you where to look.
Similar to UHF/VHF "anti-stealth". Works great to say, "hey there's someone out there in this stretch of sky". Not so great at actually giving the data you need for firing solutions. It narrows down where to key your other sensors to.
By nature, resolution is going to depend on sensor size vs wavelength, so OTH are going to be large (usually fixed) targets.

extremely long-range OTH facilities and cover the gaps with supersonic recon drone.

OTH and satellites will give you an early warning capability and give you a much smaller patch of ocean to search-- they won't generate targeting data. Supersonic drones and other reconnaissance are a swell way to get a solution. Too bad we don't have anything onboard with legs for a sustainable BARCAP at distance...

 it’s comparatively easy to fit them with a robust sensor package to pick up something

IR/TV terminal phases don't have wide FOV or effective range, SARH is out because we don't have a transmitter, and active homing is going to be greatly limited by sensor size and altitude. Again, works just fine if we can get it into the relatively small window it needs to be in for a hit. Not so good at "somewhere over there".

As for the DF-21, I doubt it provides an incredibly useful ability, but I equally doubt the Navy would be inclined to risk sustained operations in that range-- especially without the legs required to project meaningful force at those distances. Which again, pushes the CVBG into "sea control".,

posted on Jun, 24 2020 @ 09:31 AM
a reply to: RadioRobert

The final Super Tomcat 21 proposal would not have been a slightly modified F-14D. We’re talking new engines, redesigned fuselage, entirely new avionic suite including new radar and a glass cockpit, redesigned hardpoints, and integration of half a dozen additional subsystems to bring the Tomcat up to 90s multirole standard.
If you think this integration would have been any cheaper than the 5.6 billion FY96 US-$ it took to develop the Super Hornet I don’t know what to tell you.

Mind you the figure is not relevant anyhow since initial development costs are not even a tenth of the total program costs of the Super Hornet program at this point. You said it yourself, fly away cost would always be higher for the F-14, so even if you save a billion or two in development, total procurement cost would still be higher.

The truck argument is somewhat dishonest IMO. Your full-sized truck doesn’t get you anywhere when it’s down for maintenance half the time or you need to service multiple targets at once. You also simply don’t need three Super Hornets to do the job of one Super Tomcat in the actual combat environment during the global war on terror. The ratio is probably something like 4 to 3. But we’ve been over this.

About spaceborne surveillance. I agree with everything you wrote there. They can’t do satellite-based targeting yet. They building towards it though. And in the mean-time, the rough location is just the starting point for other assets to take a closer look. Their strategic OTH facilities, high supersonic UAVs - good luck killing them before they spot the ships with any fighter – even subs if they feel like it.

And honestly, I really don’t think you’d need to get the box to smaller than say 20 nm². The task force will be dispersed anyway and if you throw a hundred cruise missiles at the box, you hit something eventually. You could also program them to do multiple passes over the target area. They either find a target or the enemy will waste ammunition shooting them down. It doesn’t have to be pretty or surgical. It just needs to work once.

Also, I think you’re too pessimistic about the sensors. NextGen stuff can do a lot more than what was previously utilized, just look at Raytheon's MST sensor package. Specifically, about the detection ranges of active radar homing, the Russians were talking acquisition ranges in excess of 30nm against aircrafts twenty years ago. These days on a cruise missile ?
And in any case, the reality is, as soon as missiles start flying the task for will start radiating like crazy. They don’t have much choice in this regard, you can’t just run fleet wide (ballistic) missile defense from an E-2D. Perfect anti-radiation environment.

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