posted on Jan, 17 2006 @ 06:58 AM
Can't comment on the Word Doc, it doesn't seem to want to download for me.
OTOH, the Janes article makes for a good laugh in that Bill Sweetman, as usual, puts a polite face on the most vicious battle you can imagine.
'Everyone Agrees'. Within the air services dominated by current and ex aircrews, that the only mission that the UCAV can do is the one which
doesn't further narrow the role spectrum which they are already, as a collective, inferior at executing.
Thus 'the question' is what ONE mission can you design a UCAV to do that both does not threaten manned air warfare platforms.
And can /never/ be 'developed or expanded' to include others.
Right now, that basically comes down to instrumented target decoy and loitering JAG clearance and BDA. None of which are 'combat' (kill something)
Fast-Jet UCAVs will halve the number of landing/takeoff and weather related (too little power, too low a mass-inertia quotient, /way/ too big a wing)
crashes. Even as they finally bring serious options in terms of airfoil design and mission payload as a function of thrust to weight.
Again, this threatens to strip away the RC sailplane image and leave a glittering T-800 endoskeleton underneath. And 'everyone knows' that if the
Terminators played by the laws of biology vs. hard-metal physics, humans wouldn't stand a prayer.
Rummy's QDR is a the real joke however. In that it seems to cut things it doesn't (R&M turfwars that more or less endup juxtapositioned where they
started in the services). While leaving major 'symbol' or cash-cow programs up for chopping block economics KNOWING that they will be saved by
bycamberal as much as partisan budget conference meetings late in the Congressional FY.
'And everyone goes home for Christmas happy'.
Knowing they've passed the buck on ruining our economy for another year.
OTOH, every pilot with half a brain secretly feels inadequate when contemplating all the things that even a cow-bomber UCAV can do which he cannot.
Simply because it is THERE when he is not.
Thus there is real hatred by the anachronistic for that which outclasses them completely. And the recent 'rumor' of J-UCAS cancellation will not be
met (as was the multiple attempts in the late 70's to kill Cruise) with a morally obligated Congress who doesn't wish to spend 'extravagant sums'
on the LRAACA/LRMP B-1A.
Because our trade deficit is so bad and our mounting war debt so huge that 'we absolutely gotta have' a top seller which has USAF-as-UL approval.
While providing max-pork in the home districts. And that is the F-35. Not the A-45.
The UK Ministry terminated a technology investigation that amounts to little more than an AST definition of what the RAF would like to have but cannot
even come close to affording. Indeed, FOAS sounds more like a B-3 than anything to replace the Tornado and while that may itself be overstating the
Brit need to 'project independently', it doesn't matter because the MOD is YEARS into red ink with the current expenditures on Iraq and the desire
to update everything from network comms to the Euroflubber's A2G capabilities.
The only thing that the UAV option brings to them is a chance to avoid Tranche 3. Which is itself only No Strike Flubber practical if the JSF /also/
fails and the CVF is reconfigured to true CVTOL/STOBAR and away from STOVL. i.e. The UK cannot keep, let alone field than two tacair types in service
through 2050 and they damn well know it.
Project Churchill is most likely an effort aimed as securing electromagnetic compatibility on everything from sensors to C2 and perhaps even a little
ways into the mists of HPM and EMI.
Getting everybodies bandwidth in one sock is not unlike coordinating cell and TV communications standards with the understanding that the guy out
there trying to pirate your signal probably has a bomb or two to chuck at you if he succeeds and thus data security is almost as important as total
throughput and interconnectivity.
I also wouldn't put it past the Limey's to try and 'piggyback' on our CDL architecture which means 240MPBS in X and Ku bands going through
whatever (MILSTAR?) satellite network is now the baseline for 'netcentric ops'.
In terms of being 'cut off', well, that's what happens when you confuse island geography with social politics ain't it guv?
OTOH, the ex GCC now Thales, ex-BAe now 'EADS sort of' sleeping arrangements and City Whore stock deals make most of Britains attempts to play both
sides off the middleman while crying victim a bit over the top to be anything but snickerable.
Lastly, the notion of 'putting off flying' until 2010 is merely an invite for the poor dumb Amis to let down whatever baseline technology standards
(auto flight and EDGE enhanced GPS and JPALS as ATC as well as landing) so that the Euro's can catch up. At the first sign of someone making REAL
progress towards a combat system, everybody will jump in because the difference in acquistion, training and ops prices will be SO HUGE that only by
leading the pack will one's view forward, as rather than of the top mut on the mush team be secure.
Oz is simply trying to figure out if A6K should be missing link (Gen 5 as the JSF) or if 'someone will play' with their own industry in making a
UCAV viable as a strike aircraft with F-111 legs and F-18 teeth.
It won't happen. We will sweeten the promise if not the deal and HUG+ will die in favor of the F-35 even as the Vark finally dies a decrepit
maintenance nightmare death.
If there is clarity in any of this it is that 'he who dares' may win VERY big. But only if contemplation of a production coallition is met with a
(joint) Roles and Mission and _Inventory_ (not production) base sufficient to justify a platform that may well do more to tip the balance of aerospace
power in peacetime than it does in war (everything from SAR to resource management and counter-smuggling should be advertised as 'possible').
"If you ask 10 USAF generals what they want the J-UCAS to do you will get 10 different answers," says one USAF officer close to the programme.
Sorry, I had to direct quote this one because it is, flat out, a LIE. You would get ONE answer which is 'we don't want it at all'. Because the
UCAV is to manned airpower what the rifled bullet and the flintlock key and trigger system was to the knight's class. Pure and instantaneous power
to the common man at the expense of the aristos.
That said, the notion that there are multiple options available is less a matter of what can be done than all the missions (CSA for one) which have
been shoved aside in pursuit of tacair uber alles.
NO U_C_AV should be dissimilar for any of the user forces in terms of ability to condense fighter wings into carrier compatible exponents. Because
that baseline is what will allow us to destroy USAF dominance of a 2,500 airframe fighter fleet imbedded, tick like, in the F-16. Even as it forces
the USN to accept that stealth may only be affordable if it doesn't come with a man attached at the hip.
Secondary roles (what the X-47 was changed to mid-stream in the UDS/UOS after the squids refused to allow tactical testing off a carrier) to include
tanking and surveillance and relay missions will also benefit from being USN compatible, in so far as they are basically roles already suited to the
RQ-4 and similar HAEUAV and the USAF is rapidly losing it's targeting/tanking dominance with the failure of the KC-767 and E-10 programs. The
question then being whether the existing configuration (or /any/ 'combat' labeled platform) can undertake delicated missions near obstacles or other
aircraft such as ASW and Whaling.
God knows it makes NO SENSE to equip the Super Horror as the worlds most expensive strike tanker but increasing the offload while maintaining even
residual (altitude and internal C4ISR) options on other missions is going to be iffy. Even if you can get a pilot to line up and plug in behind a
In terms of a true bomber, I just don't really see it. If you start flying even a 2,000-2,500nm 'theater strategic' radius from Diego Garcia or
Guam, you instantly lose the advantages of size:cost on MULTIPLE _presence_ based missions over a given low-tech threat. As fuel burn will be
enormous, especially at high speed, even for a micromunition carrier.
OTOH, threat levels will continue to escalate and while development of either AGM-158B 'JASSM-ER' or followon hypersonic weapons (i.e. standoff
protectors) means a continuation with the large-muntion payload volumetric as much as weight fraction, it doesn't really justify the jet's presence
in a theater where a naval asset can project similar Tactihawk/Blk.IV or FastHawk/ARRMD weapons at pennies on the mile equivalent costs.
Only hypersonics will truly improve the airframes responsiveness and that will not only destroy loiter completely, it will invite 'tactical
retaliation at strategic ranges' that put CONUS under the same threat as everyone else.
Only the small-fast penetrator option looks interesting to me because it poses the question of what we could do if we took the F-35B SDLF concept and
made it into a platform specifically designed for ops off of smaller cruiser task groups without a current AEW&C or OTH coordination capacity.
In this, the absence of weapons could be a good thing as 'national asset' qualification could enable all kinds of remote guidance and recce options
not now considered viable for enabling SAGs inshore.
Provided MP-RTIP comes of age and we at least /consider/ a continuing compromise inherent to mini-UAV (Finder etc.) systems to replace large scale
optics with close-in distances.
Unfortunately, this instantly puts you at loggerheads with the Big Deck Carrier dinosaurs and such a disruption in the R&M hunting preserves (USAF and
USN) would undoubtedly lead to everybody hammering the nail that dared to standup.
Finally, the only reason the 'bigger, longer ranging' UCAV may prove to be acceptable is that it can be engineers sandbox stuffed to the gills until
you have a 10-15 million dollar small promise turn into a 42 million dollar behemoth which they can fight like accountants on a dollars and cents
Indeed, this is much the same argument as once drove the F-22 and F-35 debate (such as it was) with the claim that the latter, later, jet could carry
a bigger stick. Now we are finding that smaller bombs are actually better because they do _less_ indirect damage. And numbers carried make a hoax
out of existing payload-as-thousand-pound-lies statistics.
Which is where the X-45A with a 3,000lb payload and the A-45C with upwards of an 8,000lb payload (if you go with externals) suddenly becomes
laughable. Since the cost of owning 2.5 UCAVs _still_ doesn't match the flyaway+TLC dollars of a single JSF.
But those three drones will cover twice the number of simultaneous targets which means that you can take down conventional target set frag lists
(Radar, Airbase, SAM, Command, Garrison, Storage, Transport, Infrastructure) at three times 8 (24 vs. 8) the rate.
While at least having a hope in heck of FINDING the odd needle in haystack option of Osama driving around in his black SUV. Or a Pack TEL raising
it's launch arm in the absence of a flash-vaporizing C2 structure rescinding the order to flatten New Delhi.
Until someone puts their boots on the neck of the USAF in trying to upgrade complexity while downplaying munitions changes, they will continue to make
lies of 'vague accusation' based on some kind of LOMD driven 'size is everything' claim of capability.
When the reality couldn't be further from the truth. Netcentric warfare is loiter, sensor and bandwidth driven more than any other single element of
'combat' design worth.
Loiter is obvious: optimize the platform to a cruise rather than sprint performance point by lowering installed thrust and frontal area drag
modifiers. It is also a function of LO in the sense of required all-sector minimalization of signature to prevent drive-off.
Sensorization is one of those (relatively) lightweight shared-penalty (cost) characteristics which 'everybody has to have'. So you might as well
put it in the cheapest baseline airframe you can find. The one thing which is NOT necessary in a sensor package is an excess of range or resolution
at range. Because it is better to have a dozen SenseCAP orbits and one long range 'heye ball' to back up their findings. Than to have one asset
trying to watch over an entire country from one racetrack orbit in which half the terrain matrix is either masked or out of range.
Bandwidth is a killer. Because it effectively says how many (active) users you can have on the net at any one time. That said, there is nothing to
prevent multiple combat control/tasking agencies (openings at the top!:-\ operating on separate C2 loops from integrating REGIONALLY separated
platform data through a central system.
Nor is there real reason to believe that 'live video' (upwards of a 2 second lag) is the only means of designating targets using digital fractal map
recognition of scenes to recognize, differentiate and designate gridded fixed and wormtrail historical MTI targets.
All of which comes down to the difference between a streaming MPEG3 and a zipped JPG for total datarate soak of the comms channels.
WE KNOW THIS. Because we have been running 'digital battlelab' experiments since the mid 80's in an attempt to both justify a top heavy command
and control organization table. And to integrate forces (in training as much as combat) across very large geographic separations.
It's just that all the morons who want to 'play the game' as direct participants are raising their ugly heads like serpents in need of a good
God Rest their ugly little aerial assassin hearts in a very cold cold ground. Because airpower needs to be both more responsive and more
survivably/deployably robust in supporting SURFACE forces than is now presently the case. And it is only the service politics and a general fear of
block obsolescence that keeps them demanding more from the class than rightfully they can give themselves.
Evolution is a revolution in many small steps. And it's not until you realize what completely worthless creatures pilots are that you start to
accept how small an increment it will take to better their mark and usefully raise the bar.