reply to post by Zaphod58
The SE, is supposed to have a noticeably smaller RCS (according to Boeing), but pretty much all they did was add weapons bays, and cant the
tails. There is some RAM added to the design, and some other changes, but it is still an Eagle. You aren't going to get the LO that most countries
want now with one. It just can't be done.
Just putting the weapons inside can net a huge RCS reduction. Even in non-LO airframes, the mere act of having your munitions bay reflect radar waves
as opposed to the weapons inside of it reduces the induced returns as well as the complex returns from the multiple surfaces of weapons.
Now - you're not going to be able to make it into the ATF realms; but you may marginally improve survivability by reducing the effectiveness of older
radar systems and improving the effectiveness of countermeasures. You'd be looking at a minimal cost increase (if not a cost decrease due to the
prevalence of composite airframes these days) for gains in structural integrity and marginal gains in survivability.
The Block III Hornet is basically going to end up being a Hornet with new engines, new radar upgrades, avionics upgrades, POSSIBLY have thrust
vectoring (which I doubt, but even if it does it would be the same as the F-22, which it turns out has some WVR issues I hadn't heard about), and
other incremental upgrades. They might end up putting RAM coatings on some parts to give it a smaller RCS, but again, you can't get the LO that the
F-35 will get.
The F-35 is not really that effective of an LO design. Certainly not to the degree that warrants the cost. You can get an F-22 for the same price,
these days (well, if they would authorize manufacture of the F-22 once more) - and have a much better all-aspect LO airframe with better strike
fighter capabilities (the only issue being a shallow munitions bay - but you can still equip sizable penetrating JDAMs into it).
At the end of the day - I'm not going to be flying the F-35 into a hot AO. It's too short in the poot with too few teeth and a flawed 'invisibility
cloak.' I'd much rather go with an F-18 using stand-off anti-radiation missiles, an F-15 on a terrain-following JDAM run - or an F-22 in a similar
run appropriate for the RCS profile (putting a supersonic JDAM right up the rectum is certainly gratifying).
Still - the Block III would represent a large gain in range (reduced fuel for the thrust with reduced drag through CFTs and conformal bays) and will
have the next point-release of the F-35s avionics. That, alone, makes it a very tempting buy for existing F-18 operators - who would be dividing
their logistics commonality by purchasing the F-35 that represents a redundant role.
Even if the F-35 doesn't live up to the range that LM is giving out, it has the one thing that everyone wants now. The LO coating.
That hasn't been a large focus since the early 90s. It's why the ATF program was DOA. LO air superiority fighters and strike platforms lost
considerable support following the breakup of the soviet union. While methods of reducing the effectiveness of detection methods has become an aspect
of every modern aviation platform, it's also proven to create primadona airframes that are not compatible with environments wars usually occur in.
The largest reason for LO has been advances in composite structuring as well as the relative ease of using simple geometric principles to reduce RCS
values. That said - countries pursuing their own LO airframes have often made considerable sacrifices for the sake of practicality and
maintainability. The PAK-FA/T-50, for example, makes a number of sacrifices regarding IR emissions and radar returns off of its exhaust manifolds.
It also incorporates canted vertical stabilizers along with horizontal stabilizers - a choice shared by Lockheed in their design of the F-22 but
rejected by the design of the F-23.
Ever since Desert Storm, people started to realize that "this stealth s**t really works!"
When you use it right. Considerable planning goes into utilizing our former F-117 force and our B-2 force. It requires very thorough intel analysis
that allows precise navigation planning to maintain the illusion of there not being an aircraft on a bombing run.
The ATF and other concepts to develop strike platforms to replace the F-15E / F/B-111 were a blend of survivability by performance and survivability
by illusion. They were to be the practical implements of LO technology that allowed you to utilize it tactically as opposed to strategically.
And that's the part that many people don't understand. LO is, largely, a strategic asset. It's why the military has been largely opposed to the F-35
from the beginning. Not that politicians will ever start listening to the people who really know what's up.
edit on 24-7-2012 by Aim64C
because: (no reason given)