posted on Dec, 31 2006 @ 03:49 AM
On this weekend of the first flight of the Lightning II I am reminded how it is supposed to be the last manned fighter for the US (and allies). This
has led me to wonder what form air defence will take in the future.
Air Defense in my language is akin to the Continental AD mission set performed by NORAD and ADC/ADTAC. If that is truly your envisioned mission then
the question becomes one of replacing extant fighters /more cheaply/ than can be achieved with similar manned followons.
In this, the F-16 will kill any crazed nutjob airliner likely to be seen 'just fine' and while you may want a little longer legs to catch the odd
Bear/Blackjack 'practicing' to obliterate U.S.; you don't necessarily need to multiply your hourly cost of operations from 10-12 grand for an F-15
up to 60-70 grande for an E-3 with UCAV.
Indeed, 'words would be spoken' if said 'official enemy' were to begin routinely doing lolo ingress actions which could even theoretically bypass
ground based detection methods as the only real gapfill/LOS horizon justification for integrating AEW&C into the overal AD mission set.
There are the air defence ships of course, such as HMS Daring, and missile systems like Patriot but these are elemental air defence components which
fit into an overall picture with the F-22 and Typhoon etc.
The question, IMO, is whether or not you want to invest in a dedicated A2A UCAV at all. Aside from completely humiliating the Skyknight community as
has been routinely done with Firebees since the days of the GAR Falcon (and would never be allowed on an 'official' basis because that would ruin
the image of the U.S. as invincible and create an arms race in which 'anyone with an RC industry' could compete, even as it zeroed the profit margin
of the 'real' MIB which wags the dog); the best argument against the UCAV is the notion that you can carry it, not externally but internally.
Indeed, once you marry the concept of the MALI to the high end performance of the Meteor, within a 250,000 dollar round cost; you get the equivalent
of a 'fighter' (multiple repass attacks after a 'patrol to acquisition to kill' cycle), even if it is hauled within one of those ground attack
model UCAVs you were talking about being so easy to execute.
If UCAV's are the future (and for bombing they certainly are) this leads me to wonder how air defence UCAV's might be deployed. The thought of
relying on a scramble from the ground seems unrealistic for some reason and the idea of having UCAV's constantly in the air, refuelling as necessary,
Indeed, the essence of separation between a TurboSAM/AAM and a true 'Fighter' UCAV is apt to be the recoverability requirement. If the drone is
expected to fly for 8-10 hours zipping back and forth as it chases wayward intruders into the WDC no fly zone, then you might want to invest in a set
of landing gear rather than a parachute pack to recover the fuel tank necessary to feed a J85 class engine with enough gas to sustain 300 knots
forever and 600 knots for 15 minutes.
In this, one thing is certain: The F-16 which scrambled to intercept the Cessna left the dirt at 11:57am. And achieved divert at 12:04pm. Yet the
Cessna had crossed the final 16nm ADIZ boundary at 11:50. At a 'leisurely' 100mph (1.6nm/min), the difference of 7 minutes and '12 miles later'
put them over K street if not the Capital and White House before the flying monkey in his aerial ferrari could play catchup and achieve terminal
Which is to say that the manned QRA mission is completely ineffective and indeed the notion of flushing all those people onto the streets against a
slightly faster twin with a dirty bomb or sprayer tanks (something the customs scrambled UH-60 could not have caught) would have STILL meant a mass
casualty in the pathetically predictable effort to 'save one and all from falling skyscrapers'.
Despite the notional existence of a 'layered defense' (S2A as MANPADS or VSHORADS if not lasers presumably), particularly against high speed
threats, you are better off going with something that is either already in-air _cheap_. Or can be rendered so without the nearest-runway lag (ZELL
off a 2ton truck ala Mirach).
All of which argues most definitively against a mutant-under-glass solution. And probably against the gear weight in the second option.
I therefore wonder if the 'Air defence fighter' of the future might simply consist of an AWACS aircaft carrying two or four dedicated A2A UCAV's
similar to the LO flying wing types now under development, under its wings in the same way that current fighters carry missiles?
An Airliner can outrun most fighters in an extended race Waynos. Hell, they can outclimb, outrun and outleg them given a relatively short headstart.
Ask any Flying Monkey that has had a fully fueled KC-135 rocket away like a Saturn V from their hamhanded approach to contact.
Burner equalizes things but only to the extent that you are CLOSE ENOUGH TO START WITH to perform an extended VID assessment and subsequent escort.
Of course you will always face the constipation of authorization as 'chain of command' broken links. By which insanity 9/11 ATC folks /were
screaming/ at the worthless gits in the Air Force to get a Zulu bird up and at'em and the jolly blue suited mafia /still/ insisted on heading out at
a leisurely .9 Mach overwater to 'look for cruise missiles'.
If you want to really be safe against the most likely threat requiring an 'air defense' systematic approach; you need to install cabin cameras and
crypted auto destruct devices in every major airliner. Along with doubling the exclusion zone area around key assets (chemical dumps, atomic power as
well as national government facilities etc. etc.) and _required_ flight plan filing with strictest route-adherence inherent to an interactive TCAS as
preliminary highway-in-sky auto flightpath aid commuter/biz/private air. Most of whom blunder about in strictly point to point navigation with little
or no SA either.
Past that, and 'Air Defense' is a joke. We fight our battles over other peoples skies just to make sure that OUR 'Air Defense' problem is solved.
And if we cannot afford to man all our Pave PAWS etc. strategic radar systems 24:7:365, we have no business pretending that the final effector in the
kill chain matters relative to the absent coverage of surveillance-as-first.
Something which ADC pilots were stating was a 'complete farce' of an ADGE as far back as the early 1980s when they had only 'just begun' to retire
Is this possible or workable? I have no idea, but how does the idea sound to you guys?
Assuming you really meant /offensive/ counter air, I would replace the AWACS with an RQ-4 platform boasting an RTIP precision 3D Air Search X-band
antenna and at least 3-4 command uplink channels.
I would then fill the belly of an X-45/47 class system with MALI followons. Ingress that platform at high or low levels (it's signature being almost
certainly less than that of an F-whatever, simply because it isn't tailed or hognosed or equipped with gaping inlets) to beat the local threat
vectoring/sector system coverage. And then, using shooter-illuminator (ADAAM) tactics, fire spreads of missiles into the threat baselane 'as they
This allowing you to maintain the forward-as-cheap missileer while keeping the power and horizon line of the rearwards illuminator secure to cue the
missile via 2-way datalinking.
[edit on 31-12-2006 by ch1466]