posted on Jan, 5 2006 @ 11:13 AM
The first thing you HAVE to do is generate conops for major theaters and specifically DECIDE whether GSTF is dead now that the Raptor is a 183 plan
toy force (and the B-2 always was). Then you need to generate force structure models to backup whatever expeditionary days:destination:wardate
fractional interval you are going to support.
This includes deployment pallet counts and total sortie:day expectations /per airframe/ as much as any specific 'solution' to the tanker which
supplies them. Because gas-pass requirements for a 20,000lb internals jet to anywhere will go down as a function of must-reach-alternate
requirements. Even as the need to stack multiple additional fueler orbits for Barney (the drag queen of AMC) /requires/ the addition of
pallet-carriage on the KC.
Furthermore, once you get to theater, there will be some serious conditional modifiers to consider.
An F-22 can fly out 600-800nm at Mach 1.25-1.43 on a burnup/flyup profile in about 50-70 minutes. Hit a tanker, go /another/ 300+nm at Mach 1.6, hit
a target and come back out, hit the same tanker, and go home. In this alone it is superior to ANY 'multirole optimized' platform on the planet
because a force half the size can fly twice as many missions as a typical 1.5:day subsonic platform.
The JSF for instance cannot do this. The JSF may well end up not having the all-sector VLO and certainly lacks the supercruise sling-bomb (+50%
standoff munition increase) options to be able to get over the fence without a host of 'other player' subsonic jets like the EA-6B/18G.
It should also be noted that for any jet to be 'joint' must first and foremost be hermaphroditic. So that if (laughably) you decide to use you
naval JSF component (all ten planes on deck) to make first-day-of-war happen within say 7-10 days of deployment; you can tank it without whaling up
your Super Horrors (the only jets in the airwing which come /close/ to being able to supply Air Dominance 'escort' over similar radius).
If you have to go with boom-and-drogue as an either or option, you add weight and stress on the wings even as you double or triple the number of
flight clearances that small F-jets must make behind big-wake (engine and tip vortice in particular) tankers.
Of course, as usual, the optimum solution is an EDGE-GPS AAR capable UCAV because then, for 10,000lbs fewer dinosaurs, you can go twice as far AND
hang around for 84% longer (20 minutes vs. 120 minutes at 1,100nm) which effectively means that not only are you looking at new ways to do an existing
mission (typical over-fence time was 170-210 for OEF and OIF, vs. 90-110 in DStorm). But you may well begin to handle the 'unconventional' (SSC)
threat more readily and more often (four times as many UCAVs looking for Black SUV trains = more tankers regardless).
My own concern is that we are in fact configuring our own Air Power needs around an anachronistically dated concept of major interdiction activities
based SOLELY on the assumption that the USAF driving numbers on ONE platform (the worst one they could have chosen) will in turn guarantee an economic
as much as military result 'in line with current policies'.
Unfortunately, with nations like Britain and Turkey basically making it clear that they want full FACO rights to VLO (Which TUSAS will then pass to
the Israelis and BAe will hand off to EADS 'or else' face major partnership penalties of their own). And the U.S. /finally/ realizing that
Anti-Tamper doesn't mean diddly dip to technology proliferation (something the LOCLOExCOM warned about almost a decade ago), this presumption of
laying off some of our massive international debt through yet more arms sales is probably itself an illusion. Because the USAF will likely end up
with fewer than 1,000 JSF (750 is my bet) and this will make ALL the 'cheap fighter' drivers of a major purchaser economy-of-scale effect on
followon acquisition cost go away.
Even as Neurone and other UCAVs incorporate their own LO with the added advantage of non-residual fighter performance requirements and 'who cares if
the pilot dies' removal of initial and followon currency training burdens.
With all that, my only real guess is that the more we get into 'lingering nation building' conflicts like AfG, the more we will be needing to look
at larger fleets of small jets in the Challenger(ASTOR)/EMB-145(P.99/ACS) and 737 (Wedgetail/P-8) classes rather than some monster 767-400ER type
So that any belief in a common followon sensor/C2 platform to merge the E-3 and E-8 will not benefit at all from a shared-tanker baseline airframe ala
the _first and only_ B717/C-135 mold.
The simple fact of the matter is that timesharing and intelligent optics (classification capable) allows many UCAV/UAV type remote apertures to
service a wider area under the control of many fewer operators and CDL type satcomms promises to offload task saturation to ground stations, half a
Of course this brings us back to using uninhabited assets almost exclusively to develop a battlefield corporate intelligence network, something which
can only happen if technology baseline funding is made available through crushing of manned airpower waste.
And again brings into question the use of large scale tankers for anything but CONUS:theater basic deployments.
There is also talk about beging research on a stealthy intra theatre transport to help support army missions.
This is the only interesting design concept being considered IMO, and it's chief vulnerabilites (as MC-X and ATT) are Virginia (Quantico) Georgia
(Lunchmeat) and Texas (Bell-Boeing)politics. Namely, time has outrun the Tiltrotor, at least in it's basic 'medium lift' CH-46 replacement
And yet the REAL need is for something just as ground breaking (risky) as a true ESTOL (rolling VL if possible) system in a C-130 performance
Short of massive ejector lift improvements in a blended wing body plenum structure, I don't think we can take a 40-60,000lb lift class airframe. And
if we do, it will most likely be a jet or propfan rather than TProp/Rotor system.
The one /nice/ thing to consider is that if the U.S. makes a major shift towards hybrid and compound propulsion, we may well be able to take refueling
speeds up towards 300 knots and 10-15,000ft or more. At which point the notion of a 170 knot stall margin or tobogganing down hill with a 30-100ft
weedwhacker less than fifty feet off your tail may go away.
Unfortunately, all I see in this area things like the Boeing Super Frog quadtilt and simply chopping off the tail doesn't buy you 80,000lbs of
payload margin on such a largely conventional (draggy) design.
IF we were serious about a New World Order in which nation building and the suppression of brushfire conflicts was the beginning of a movement towards
world government and an end of nationalism via toy-force independent militaries (UN standing force replaced). An NWO in which war itself /by any
nation/ was classified as a capital crime against humanity (including use of federal force upon internal civillian populaces). A NWO in which it was
legal and proper to intervene to stop such actions within hours of their beginning. We might see a massive switch of technology emphasis towards
loitering remote and tactical surface action/logistics support missions designed to police up insurgent or rogue forces after reduction and
immobilization by tactical unmanned strike.
As is, the world reaction to the our 'adventurism' in Iraq. And our own embarrassment over it's seemingly pointless and unjustifiable continuing
destabilization effect. Will probably cause a major shift in doctrinal emphasis as soon as we are out of that miserable place in 2008/9.
Unfortunately, yet another return to 'conventional' (heavy/mech) fighting will itself be a mistaken direction to take because the level of world
technology sophistication and armaments buildup is too similar to the 'big gun and no where to shoot it off' sense of regional protonationalism
backed by old-school politics that predated WWI's idiocy. Add to this an increasing willingness to abandon the U.S. force model (can't be beat, too
much of a lead) for 'shortcut' force components like UCAV and DEWs. And you have a recipe for disaster inherent to a KT Boundary type
utility/survivability cutoff on strategic interdiction type air-power centric actions. What this will mean to the U.S. island-continent force and
force deployment structures is anybody's guess. But the working theory must obviously be that some snotnosed guerillas isn't apt to bring in a
100KW THEL/ATL on donkey back. While a Chinese intervention in the Straits of Malacca, Formosa or Korea around 2020 most likely will have these
options organically available.
One other thing that needs to be considered is oil. At current rates of expanded yearly usage in the Far East especially, we will no longer be able
to meet demands around 2025 as production levels and then falls off, quite sharply, by 2050. If we shift to methane or slush hydrogen type
'alternatives' we may well need to consider the change in power:unit quantities vs. the requirement for cryo safeties as a function of how we design
reaction-mass airpower. Super-KC reliance at that point will likely be representative of an inability to properly airframe design trades configure
our forces at an economics of ton:mile decisioning as much as any weapons system threat.
The sadness for me is that war has lost it's purpose. Thanks to the demonization factor of Kaiser Wilhelm and Hitler, we no longer have the
bloodymindedness to bring together strategic, cultural and physical resources for a better share-out among the conquered as well as victors. At the
same time, it is clear that the battlefield is too dangerous and expensive for the presence of man to be 'entertained' purely as some kind of
social-factors release of mass-tension. And I hate to see investment in technology for it's own sake when it burns resources that have no secondary
benefits to compareable to purely civillian equivalents. Certainly the 'Ford Motors' lie about MIB contract employment is no longer maintainable
when we are too poor to subsidize or protect private industry. And too unchallenged to buy even 'gotta haves' like the Raptor in numbers that give
credence to the massive R&D investments that created the latest generational tech base.
In this, the symbolic image of a civillian cargo/passenger airframe performing a vital if wholely unglamorous 'functional' mission as a
minimum-change conversion is not to be ignored as metaphoric irony compared to the over-evolved super predator killing platforms.