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F-35 Versus European Competition

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posted on Jul, 28 2006 @ 02:37 PM
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The F-35 (recently named the Lightning II) is due to enter service soon. While the F-22 is widely seen as the ultimate air-to-air machine, the F-35 is described as a multi-role aircraft. How does the F-35 compare in the air-to-air mission against likely competitors like the French Rafale, the Swedish Gripen, and the multi-national Eurofighter?

The Rafale, Gripen, and Eurofighter are all in service or expected to enter service in 2006. All of them boast some of the best electronics suites ever to appear in combat aircraft. All have top speeds approaching 2,000 kilometers an hour. All three aircraft carry excellent beyond-visual-range missiles (like the Mica, AMRAAM, and Meteor). All are highly maneuverable. But will they be better than the F-35 in a fight?

The answer, surprisingly, is probably not. The F-35 has one big advantage over these three fighters from Europe. Its radar signature is very small – as is the case with the F-117 and F-22. Given that its speed is comparable to the European jets, and its AESA radar is at least as good as the European systems, this "invisibility" is a decisive advantage. The best weapons in the world are useless if they cannot see their targets.

The F-35 will be able to see the Rafale, Gripen, and Eurofighter long before it can be seen itself. The first rule of air combat may be "speed is life", but the second rule is "lose the sight, lose the fight". In the 21st century, sight includes radar. It is very likely that the only warning the F-35 may give of its presence will be when its radar has locked on to one of the European fighters. By that point, the F-35 is already close to launching its AMRAAMs.

This is probably the major reason for the United States Air Force's future dominance of the air. Even its second-best fighter will probably be able to best the front-line designs of other western nations in a "paper" fight based on specifications and capabilities. When the level of training American pilots get is added to the mix, the F-35's advantage becomes staggering. One other factor to consider is that the United States Air Force plans to have 1,763 F-35s on inventory (the Marine Corps and Navy variants would add another 780 F-35s to the mix). If the Rafale is built to a planned force level of 292, and the Saudi order for the Eurofighter goes through, the combined Gripen, Rafale, and Eurofighter production runs will total 1,262, meaning there will be two F-35s for every one of the advanced European fighters. – Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com)

www.strategypage.com...



Training is a big factor regardless of a given aircraft's capabilities and American pilots get among the best and the most hours.




posted on Jul, 29 2006 @ 04:13 AM
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Number23,

>>
The F-35 (recently named the Lightning II) is due to enter service soon. While the F-22 is widely seen as the ultimate air-to-air machine, the F-35 is described as a multi-role aircraft. How does the F-35 compare in the air-to-air mission against likely competitors like the French Rafale, the Swedish Gripen, and the multi-national Eurofighter?
>>

It sucks because it was always intended to. So as to not 'jeopardize' the two-tier (Hi-Lo) system that the F-15/16 and 14/18 pioneered. At a time when the F-22 was still situated to be affordable based on economies of scale. Congress heard we didn't plan on selling it and immediately let loose a communal squeal of outrage that has, ever since, put the Raptor into a diminishing-returns category of less-inventory:more-price guarantee of microforce purchases.

Without enough F-22 around to BOTH suppress AND target A2A threats, the 'only two' BVR shot capabilities of the JSF looks like what it is: Too Risky.

OTOH, the world as a whole didn't anticipate the arrival of glide-kit IAMs with 17" CEPs flying in from 40-60nm, subsonic and 80 or more, supersonic, either. With these ANY airframe is doing a 4:1 tradeup in terms of number of DMPIs vs. number of sorties. And so the USAF is looking, but wait, let's get to that insanity in a moment...

Point Blank: An F-35 with external pylons and AIM-120D on them is a more survivable A2A machine than one with just the two internal AIM-120C5/6 weapons. Shooter Illuminator actually makes sense then and only gets better yet when you switch to turbine or ram propulsion. Unfortunately, it is the _S2A_ threat (with it's much lower bandwidth and much higher power:area antenna ratios) which dominates today. And against that, you had better not have ANY external stores lest the halfwave interactions breaks the whole airframe up into sub-dipole shapes and scatterers to a 150-300km range S-300/400.

>>
The Rafale, Gripen, and Eurofighter are all in service or expected to enter service in 2006. All of them boast some of the best electronics suites ever to appear in combat aircraft. All have top speeds approaching 2,000 kilometers an hour. All three aircraft carry excellent beyond-visual-range missiles (like the Mica, AMRAAM, and Meteor). All are highly maneuverable. But will they be better than the F-35 in a fight?
>>

They are not intended to. They are intended to win a NATO fight which means sub 300nm radii against the screaming hordes of Russian Red Rovering air. None of which has LO. With decent BVRAAM leveraging, they will beat an Su-30 without (AIM-120C7 vs. R-27RE1). Without (AIM-120B vs. R-77AE), the question comes down to avionics and missiletronics and still the Western designs should win. Where BVRAAM actually means LRAAM, the biggest question is going to be how many, if any, of the early generation AESA (RBE2) or late Planar Array (PS-05/CAPTOR) weapons will support extended shot engagements. STT maybe. TWS multishot, I doubt it. And so if the threat is coming at you with 20 aircraft and you have a CAP of all of 4 with 4 long lance AAMs, you may be screwed regardless.
It should also be noted that a lot of Low Observables is inherent to the manufacturing processes by which it is 'characterized' as individual layered RF absorbers and substrates. Since this administration has seen fit to whore stealth technology to both Australia and the UK, you can bet that 'radar invisibility' will be entirely dependent on how long it takes the technology to migrate across the EADS/Thales 'and beyond'.
You cannot trust anyone with a secret so operationally critical that it remains effective only if you keep it to and for yourself.
I would also like to state that if MICA was half what the French advertise it to be, they wouldn't be in such an all-fired rush to buy into Meteor (242lb munition weight and 'excellent BVR' performance being a contradiction in terms). We OWN AMRAAM and any 'upgrade' to it, through Euromissile. And Meteor is in a class by itself, if it works.

>>
The answer, surprisingly, is probably not. The F-35 has one big advantage over these three fighters from Europe. Its radar signature is very small – as is the case with the F-117 and F-22. Given that its speed is comparable to the European jets, and its AESA radar is at least as good as the European systems, this "invisibility" is a decisive advantage. The best weapons in the world are useless if they cannot see their targets.
>>

At 60-80nm, /all/ head-on radar signatures are tiny. The question becomes one of getting your nose pointed and your targets sorted _quickly_ while the conditions for engagement (line in the sand) are met to let you _FIRE FIRST_.

After which, the side with the best pole control (INS/GPS on the missile means absolute certainty of shotclock and seeker cube overlay) and best average MISSILE mach is going to get the first terminal decision. And the threat which has the best ASE suite and/or counterintercept options will win that decision.

>>
The F-35 will be able to see the Rafale, Gripen, and Eurofighter long before it can be seen itself. The first rule of air combat may be "speed is life", but the second rule is "lose the sight, lose the fight". In the 21st century, sight includes radar. It is very likely that the only warning the F-35 may give of its presence will be when its radar has locked on to one of the European fighters. By that point, the F-35 is already close to launching its AMRAAMs.
>>

I've never seen a ghillied sniper win a sprint.

At the same time, playing the damn-the-torpedoes game only works when nothing else impale you in your headlong rush.

Principally the S2A else.

OTOH, if you have turbine or ram propulsion, there is no real advantage to the 'running start' regardless. Because total threat areas, CAP orbit restrictions, IFF requirements and own-radar detection distances vs. _any_ nose-on threat will all be more determinative than F-Pole kinematic performance.

That said, there is no guarantee that the threat will remain static. If radar doesn't work, then a high gain optical system with folded optics may do just as well, particularly if handed off from a longwave surface radar. If you can track the target -by any means- sufficient to put an angular trace on it, you can run a tethered missile out on the bearing.
Alternatively, get rid of the intermediary bus vehicle and shift to all Turbo-SAM. We had 400 aircraft in Kosovo. 800 in GW-3. With seldom fewer than 50-70 aircraft overhead for the majority of the 'still has an airforce' initial portions of the aircampaign. WHAT THEE HECK do you think a four ship division of fighters is going to do against that? Even if all 16 of their BVR weapons strikes true before they are slaughtered.
Ans: Not a damn thing.
Yet, for 200 million dollars in jets and another quarter billion or so for 5 years worth of pilot training, spares, gas and weapons, you could put up _450_ missiles alone. At one million dollars each. Given only that those 'SAMs' can in fact loiter. Be recovered and reused once or twice. Have sufficient networking and seeker efficiencies to sweep a skirmish line forward through space. And are able to 'come 'round again' to _reattack_ after an initial miss.
You could afford to trade 50 missiles per day for 10-15 U.S. airframes and STILL COME OUT AHEAD.



posted on Jul, 29 2006 @ 04:14 AM
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Certainly better than any other putz-wannabe airpower has done in the last three decades.
No about the only thing to be said here, for any of the jets, is that if 2-way digital tethers are the norm by 2010 when the next 'major' war occurs, the F-35 which lights off will NOT be the one doing the shooting. It will be 20-40nm behind or beside the jet which is.
THAT is where true LO advantagement applies because it allows you to work with much greater detached support conditions (permanent offensive split X10). Even as it _shortens_ the pole position problems of conventional, rocket boost-slide missiles. Yet the fact remains. 2 weapons is not enough to take on 4 enemy with. And unlike an F-22 pair which may have six AMRAAM in the escort-shooter and 2 AMRAAM in the SDB-carrying illuminator, the F-35s will all be 2-shot wonders. GREATLY limiting their ability to function independently.
Indeed, the only thing I can see offsetting this limitation is the ATL and ABL. As the true means by which air dominance is measured. The 2-3% of the time where A2A is in fact prosecuted at all. The 'next best fighter' may well be a 747.

>>
This is probably the major reason for the United States Air Force's future dominance of the air. Even its second-best fighter will probably be able to best the front-line designs of other western nations in a "paper" fight based on specifications and capabilities. When the level of training American pilots get is added to the mix, the F-35's advantage becomes staggering. One other factor to consider is that the United States Air Force plans to have 1,763 F-35s on inventory (the Marine Corps and Navy variants would add another 780 F-35s to the mix). If the Rafale is built to a planned force level of 292, and the Saudi order for the Eurofighter goes through, the combined Gripen, Rafale, and Eurofighter production runs will total 1,262, meaning there will be two F-35s for every one of the advanced European fighters. – Harold C. Hutchison (haroldc.hutchison@gmail.com).
>>

Utter bilge. First, you have to ask what the agenda is of someone dead set on measuring the capabilities of ALLIED vs. U.S. airpower doctrine. When in point of truth, you will be more likely to see 20-30 Indian Rafale facing off against 10 USN F-35C than a NATO vs. NATO grand melee.
Second, American 'multirole' training is akin to check-the-box pencil whipping. For every mission you need a MINIMUM 17-20 hours per month to retain competencies. Yet the 'multirole' F-16s which now do SEAD+Strike+A2A+HAVCAP+Homeland Defense are in fact doing a little of each on each mission. And kind of 'blending between' the highpoints of any given specialist capability vs. those which they are on a building curve with. It doesn't help that we are wasting HUGE amounts of ops-account funds and deployment time boring holes in the sky as NTISR manned-Predators.
Next, most realistic air combat training is done, horizon level, with less than 3Gs on the airframe and _never seeing_ your opponent. It is in fact closer to 1960s/70s intercept training as run by ADC and Guard intercept units than true dissimilar/high-energy maneuvering.
Additionally, if you are outgunned by any one system element/ROE condition or particularly the total -system synergy- of the threat, the individual performance of the pilots is going to mean diddly dip. As they will lose the initiative and be driven to entirely defensive, self-survival driven, tactics of desperation. As Cope India has shown. KEEP IN MIND, that the participating units for the original exercise at Gwallior were all F-15C drivers with _no other mission than A2A_, something they practice every flight. The aircraft were equipped with late mod AMRAAM and AIM-9X with JHMCS as well as digital datalinks. And yet they could not break through a CAP and Fighter-WACS system that was entirely voice driven. And composed of dated mixed forces in the MiG-21/23/29 class, accompanie by Su-30 acting as fighter directors. The Indians, without SAMs and with _equal time in_ defeated the Americans, repeatedly, so long as the _technology vs. numbers_ matchup was relatively equal.
Lastly, the numbers you use for the total inventory are completely wrong. The USAF has been 'threatening' (begging off in the hopes of winning export customer signup for early production blocks) to reduce to 1,100-1,200 airframes for almost 3 years now. The USN is down to about 170 F-35C. The USMC is down to about 240 F-35B. Decisions they came to almost 5 years ago. Even as the U.S. FMF process has 'guaranteed' Tier 1/2/3 foreign partner pricing numbers on the order of 48-52 million dollars for airframes that will now cost the U.S. taxpayer some 107 millin dollars to buy for our own services. i.e. We would be _better off_ ending the entire foreign delivery of JSF and returning to an 'All U.S.' purchase at the original numbers. Than we are selling half as many as we have culled from out own inventory requirements. While relying on international sales of _even fewer_ 'export = downgraded LO' versions to make up the difference.
FURTHERMORE THERE IS NO PRODUCTION COMMONALITY BETWEEN WHAT REMAINS THREE INDIVIDUAL AIRCRAFT TYPES. Each of which has different flyaway prices ranging from about 62-65 for the straight F-35A. To 77+ for the F-35C. The real crime being that the entire program is being elephant-into-mailbox stuffed down the throats of the taxpayers who will REALLY have to pay for them. Based on the SDD flight test numbers of an interim F-35A. As an aircraft without production weight savings which will fly almost two years before any of the 'dangerously uncertain' (weight:performance critical) versions. An interim configuration which will, nonetheless, be determinative as to whether the F-35 is in fact produced at all.

CONCLUSION:
Utter lies circulated by Lunchmeat and the Service Teams eager to capitalize on the propoganda opportunity created by the rollout. Combined with factually inaccurate and contextually 'assumptive' numbers data. Don't believe it any further than you can throw your monitors. The requirement for Air Combat capabilities are well nigh on vestigial. The prosecution of dynamic air combat tactics in an S2A dominated threat environment is extremely foolish. And the dawn of hunting weapons and DEWS makes what little remains between the margins, utterly ridiculous for applicability. As usual, those who look like wolves yet are set to guard the sheep end up fleecing same for their own good. The F-35 is a pure pork program and at least one Secretary Of The Air Force had the honor to say so before resigning.


KPl.



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