posted on Jul, 26 2006 @ 03:56 PM
Heavy Fighters are mostly used in Interceptor and Dogfighting roles, They are the best and most powerful fighters ever built but they can be costly to
run and maintain.
This is actually a misnomer. 'Heavy Fighter' usually was used in connection with what the Germans called a 'destroyer' concept and what the
Allies later came to term an 'all weather' or 'night' fighter.
As such absolute range and payload ability (usually including 2-crew manning concepts), along with reliability of engines and systems at specific
combinations of altitude and rpm setting was generally more important than absolute performance and indeed, most of the heavy fighters (Me-110, P-38,
Mosquito) were used either _very_ selectively against threats which could not match the types performance in one specific envelope point (the 110C
'Zerstorer' was faster than a Mk.1 Spit below 6,000ft, the P-38 could use BnZ tactics to destroy Pacific and Mediterranean targets without being
'catchable' to force a dogfight). Or as covert intruders and escorts where night and/or lowlevel conditions provided a modicum of protection
against dedicated lightweight fighters that would otherwise maul them very badly.
With the possible exception of the Lightning, NONE of these types could even potentially be considered 'dogfighters' and indeed saw some of their
best use in striking airfields where the Axis fighters were coming in to land or taxiing. The alternative being the loitering direct defense of
bomber streams or sea convoys under questionable weather conditions and at extended radii using AI equipped blind-intercept gear that a single seater
would have had a hard time accomodating and could not bring to a longrange fight.
Later on, as jets brought supersonic capabilities with large nuclear payloads and heavy avionics (AI/GMR/TFR) became the norm, the assumptions of
dogfighting capability disappeared entirely and weight of the fighter became proportionate to the grotesquely increased rates of fuel consumption and
consequent volumetric enclosure of skin required to push all that metal through the air, over radii that could allow at least the nominal protection
of the 10,000ft runway required to launch a 50-70,000lb jet from. Especially as AAMs and more advanced AI radar began to solidify the 'infront of
the nose' killing zones, 'multirole' (employment if not designation) began to be possible yet the true definition of heavy fighter was more
definitively split between Strike and Interceptor missions.
As such, a more appropriate listing might be:
Sukhoi 15 Flagon,
OCA Air Superiority
YF-23 Black Widow,
With the possible exceptions of the F-15, Su-27* and F-22*, _none_ of these airframes are particularly well suited to 'dogfighting' and given the
purely aerodynamic prototypical nature of three of them; all can be defined as being payload centric (pylons and fuselage carriage defined) rather
than truly performance driven platforms such as the 'day fighters' of old would have been defined by.
Nothing which presents a 500-800 square foot wing area in planform should be 'flat plated' in maneuvering combat because this will only benefit the
side which has smaller fighters in making nose-on pointing selections from outside a hawked fight.
The Phantom does not perform well above 20,000ft. Yet it will take particularly early model MiG-21s which are noteably quite agile here, at any
altitude below 10,000ft. F-4s have been noted to 'escort' B-52s operating at 35-40,000ft using their missile systems and the very predictability of
the bomber tracks to compensate for their own physical envelope shortcomings.
The Lightning is a fair energy fighter but does not have the weapons system or fuel to exploit it's capabilities against any but the most cooperative
of targets. Thus while it's 42,000lb gross weight is fairly hefty, it truly belongs in something more akin to a 'lightweight interceptor'
classification category similar to the F-5 or MiG-21 series.
OCA or Offensive Counter Air is now fully prosecutable solely based on the performance of the airframe's weapons systems. As such, the utility of
'heavy fighters' under daylight/CAVU conditions when facing lightweight point defense interceptors has grown past the initial vulnerabilities of
their 'gunzo' or Guns Only WWII progenitors.
*The Su-27 and F-22 as well as the F-14 are what could be termed 'fuel fighters' with two specific threshold performance (acceptable G and
G-onset/axis) levels thanks to a bloated internal fuel fractional loads for extended radii. At the higher weights, they are in no way truly
dogfighters and should never be employed in the face of either S2A or A2A fires where they could be engaged before burning down to a lighter weight.
This poses probably the most significant limitation upon conventional signature airframes in terms of needing all the gas they can get to maintain
supersonic sprint capabilities to extend their missile poles into if not over Area Defense (SAM based) defenses while still retaining adequate egress
and recovery margin to make tanker or home plate.
The F-22 is one of the first weapons systems which can win or disengage from all combats _by choice_ without commiting to WVR engagement thanks to a
combination of LO, sophisticated 2DSAR mapped signature recognitive radar (EID) and a multiple fire and forget onboard weapons suite which does not
impose a midcourse guidance closure penalty. It is thus unlikely _by cost and inventory numbers_ to be considered a dogfighter, because it's
principle mission as an 'enabler' to other platforms will require it to carry and employ IAMs, even during D1/R1 missions when threat air is most
likely to be present in numbers. This reflects both the weighted emphasis placed upon S2A fires as the highest threat out there and the types new
designator as 'COE' autonomous operations platform IMO.
One of the key factors which is often not mentioned is that Heavy Fighters gain more than lightweight ones do from coordination with airborne battle
platforms. Particularly in the middle missile age where NCTR technologies and datalinks remained largely restrictive by weight from employment by the
smaller types and A/B time was a function of external fuel loads dropped on sprint up.
A good working idea for what a heavy fighter is and how the design came to be optimized that way through various generations of employment
(WWI->Present Day) can be had from _All Weather Warriors_ by Mike Spick.