posted on Feb, 22 2007 @ 03:08 PM
For myself, the design layout of the system doesn't pass the smell test. The average (BGM-109) CM is about 18.5ft long yet only weighs about
2,600lbs. 7,500bs on an equally small wing/body lifting area is ridiculous.
Most PGMs are only 12-14ft long, any more and you get some _serious_ carriage (literally a pressure buildup on the side of the fuselage from the front
of the munition) and clearance issues (on both the main wing TE surfaces and the stabs). The release energies also go way up as soon as you have a
lifting body shape to make sure the weapon doesn't 'surf' the wing flows right back up into the pylon. The only weapon which really comes to mind
as being 'similar' to the Minion for size:weight on a tacair class jet is the GBU-28 and even those are at least simple tubes.
The design layout actually reminds me more of an AGM-154 JSOW than the JASSM which immediately begs the question of how you plan to put an intake,
weapons bay and landing gear into the LOWER hemisphere which is presumably also where you want your greatest LO protection. In the proposed AGM-154D,
the fuel tank runs along the strongback and the tadpole tail houses the microturbine and a small lateral intake duct. But nothing that weighs
7,500lbs and is expected to range over 1,000nm is going to work that way (indeed, it would be better if it were a 1,000nm /radius/. Plus 2hrs in the
The combination of the size, small wings and questionable fuselage design constraints makes it hard for me to see this platform as being very suitable
to continuous use in a surge environment during the first few days of a war, not least because, if you can get it down without HUGE numbers of landing
accidents, you are still going to have to turn it and then load it on /another/ airframe whose own operating cycle will be tied to its 'DC' use.
Myself, it's an awfully cheap ass way to get to a 1/3rd deep strike capability when you know you NEED that kind of force asset regardless and so
there is no reason to do it on the cheap just to make sure a pilot is along for the ride (because the best drone controller is a bizjet with a
comfortable cabin environment and enough performance:payload margin to be relatively safe in the ops area during extended periods of combat control
for these assets).
Assuming you just /have to/ do things as cheap as possible:
A. Carry it light and fuel it AT the release point, just like an external tank
only in reverse.
B. Level all the control surface index lines to minimize RCS planes and
then link their extension through a SINGLE (ultra reliable) actuator.
C. Put the VG wings FORWARD and use something akin to a stretch
polymer 'deformable skin' tightened between the forward and aft
wingskins to maximize total lifting area while conserving LO
treatments to only the rigid LE/TE areas. Done right, it may in fact also
be possible to balloon these skins for added fuel stowage.
D. Simplify and reduce the stabilization surface count as much as possible,
including 2D (lateral, ala X-36) TVC to replace the vertical tails (two of
everything is a 100% failure mode when both have to deploy perfectly
for either to function.)
E. Tandemize your munitions carriage in a linear bay ala the Viggie
system. Small munitions with drogue chutes should have no
problem 'slowing down' in the wake, not least because they are
guided. This lets you avoid the problem of nesting rounds and covering
a bay opening while exploiting the full length of the weapon to carry
weapons of varying length and a constant 6-10" carriage box. Putting
most of your lifting area aft (Delta wing) means you can maintain
your CofG while ramming from the front, aft, on a simple pneumatic
bottle which may well be the same one you use to extend your wings.
All while keeping the majority of the lower forward fuselage dedicated
to whatever sensor window you need. My choice would be a hollow
strongback with the VSM/SMACM/GBU-39 munitions completely isolated
as a prepackaged train (bottle-weapon-weapon-weapon rammed at
launch) exiting over the exhaust.
F. Build out sponsons (or even a ruled facet line of the whole body) on the
sides of the missile body so that you can both provide a shelf for the
inner wings to level on and a rigid, level, lower attachment point for
a /slightly/ wider gear track while again keeping the damn interior
volume a little less straight-shot cluttered. Particularly if you go with a
facet, this is also a perfect opportunity to layer RAM and/or fuel into a
dual-liner void. Think 'stealthy KH-55SM' here.
What I am describing is essentially a tinker toy version of the existing X-45/47 design planforms. There is little or no justification for it so long
as it remains incapable of VTOL (and thus jet speed operations from small decks without a carrier in attendance). But if the USAF is, as usual,
determined to degrade the UCAV concept until they have an excuse to kill it 'because manned is so much better!', this is at least the basis for a
good engineering exercise.