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How the Air Force killed the fighter fleet

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posted on Nov, 7 2012 @ 10:28 PM
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This goes directly to several threads I've authored about the age of the USAF fleet, and the problems they are facing. Lt. Col. Christopher Niemi has written a paper on the F-22 program, and the current status of the US fighter fleet. He has some very interesting things to say, and is extremely knowledgeable on the subject. He is one of eight IOT&E pilots for the F-22, and the former commander of the 525th Fighter Squadron from Elmendorf AFB.

He starts out with a graph that should scare the hell out of anyone that follows the Air Force in any way. In 1985, there was a high of almost 200 aircraft purchased. This included the first F-15Es, F-15A-D, and F-16s. By 1995 there were a total of zero aircraft purchased. This was repeated in 1999. In 2001 and 2002, a very small number of aircraft were bought. The majority of them were F-22s, with a few F-15Es included. From 1993 on, the highest number of aircraft purchased per year was only around 20.

His next point is about service life that has been used to date. Over 200 aircraft have used between 41-50% of their service life. Almost 700 have used between 61-70% of their service life. Then we come to the F-15. A disproportionate number of F-15s as compared to other aircraft have used between 71-91% of their service life.

Here's where things get interesting. In 1993 the GAO issued a classified report on the F-22/F-15 debate. The unclassified version was released in 1994. The unclassified version claimed the F-15 was superior in four of the five categories analyzed. It stated that except for China, seven countries that were analyzed only had between 188 and 460 aircraft, fewer than the F-15s that were in service at the time. The F-15 would be able to maintain air superiority until the 2014 time frame the GAO said, and recommended that IOC for the F-22 be delayed seven years.

The Air Force countered with its own report on the matter. According to their report the F-15 was inferior in range, and short range missiles, equal in radar and long range missiles, and only superior in flight performance. They argued the GAO underestimated the threat, and overestimated the F-15 capabilities. They used the non-existent threat of a Soviet project that never came to production in their simulations.

The Air Force at one point claimed that the F-22 would be able to do the mission of an RC-135 (it can't), and would have many features that are actually equal to or superior on the upgraded F-15C as opposed to the F-22.

There's a lot more in there, but the scary part is that the Air Force is ignoring all the lessons that they should have learned with the F-22 program, and doing the exact same thing with the F-35. Soon we're going to have a fleet of F-22s and F-35s, and nothing else, because everything else is either too old to penetrate enemy airspace against the defenses in place, or has fallen apart because they've gone so far past their life expectancy.

It's really made me nervous to see how bad the fighter force has fallen apart, but everyone ignores it, and says that everything is fine. The Air Force is rapidly going down the road to wearing the Emperors new clothes.


www.airpower.au.af.mil...




posted on Nov, 7 2012 @ 10:55 PM
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With the new designs of foriegn aircraft comming onstream, and the persitent problems fielding the F35 series,
Are you figuring some lag time before sufficient aircraft can be supplied to the forces should a real shooting war apear on the horizon, with and aircapable foe?(both offensive and defensive ie area denial capable)
Like how long would these antiquated though still flying planes have to fill the gap should need arise?
How many mothballed aircraft could be brought back to flight standards?
Or did we sell all our old f16s to whoever would buy?
I may be wrong, but the US has probably many more times the airforce than most other countries than china or russia.....and we have better systems in them......
With the world situation the way it is, war between major powers is pretty much a stalemate.......
So we are likely not gonna fight any large quantity of either chinese or russias best airplanes because they reserve them for themselves and their proxies get the dregs.....



posted on Nov, 7 2012 @ 11:07 PM
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reply to post by stirling
 


The Air Force has more aircraft than most other Air Forces that they would come up against. The problem is that the average age of said fleet is as old as their pilots. The F-15 is limited in the number of Gs that it can pull. The F-16 fleet has cracks in something like 25% of the fleet. The only reason the A-10s are in good shape is because they're upgrading to the C standard, which replaces the wing box, which will extend the life of the airframe.

They're trying to use two aircraft to replace four, that all have different missions. They are going to end up with a small fleet of aircraft, trying to do every mission that they fly, and it's going to fail miserably. Other countries are slowly starting to catch up, which is a problem for our fourth generation fighters, that are still the backbone of the force. Until they buy a more diverse fleet, like they have now, they are going to screw themselves into the ground.



posted on Nov, 7 2012 @ 11:44 PM
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The state of American affairs in general has been in decline, both as a result of policy changes since the Cold War's close, and the downturn of the economy. When the nasty Reds were attempting to match the United States missile for missile and plane for plane it was pretty straightforward that things would be designed, put into service, used, and discarded at a pretty high rate as technology improved. It was also pretty well a given that it would all be paid for. That assumption has sort of gone to poo as of late, and it seems that as policies change the doctrine of acquiring war materiel has not really kept up. Neither the money nor the motivation are really out there anymore to design and mass-produce a new, radical design every 10 years, but the newest American designs don't seem to take that into account. It seems as though not enough effort has been put into coming up with backup plans (or planes?) in case things don't turn out as rosy as all the aggressive predictions made in the initial stages of the projects, though if the administration keeps banging its head against the F-35 brick wall they might learn something.

I'm sure you're all tired of hearing me talk on about the Russian system vs American one, but tough beans. Here it is. The Russians never really had the sheer powerhouse of an ecomony as the Americans did, but they did manage to scrap along and get some reasonable results out of their projects. What they did do really well is come up with robust designs that were well set up to accept future upgrades and changes as needed. To some extent the Americans did as well with the F-15 and F-16 which still have great longevity as designs. That being said, if they have any more Flanker variants we are going to run out of letters to designate them. It turns out that it's far cheaper to take a known design and make smaller tweaks to keep it at par than to make new airframes every so often to keep ahead. Surprise surprise. The thing is that Russia has gone on ahead and pursued this same philosophy with PAK-FA, where it was made with future-proofing upgrades specifically in mind. Having a look at the F-22: AIM-120D and AIM-9X integration planned for 2017 (I won't lie, I hadn't checked in on exactly how slow the upgrade progress was for the F-22 before writing this sentence, but after looking in on it I am far more appalled than I was a paragraph ago). Really? The AIM-9X won't even be current by the time it gets on the Air Force's favourite toy.

The other half of the design process is the general lack of backup plans for if (when) things don't go to plan. Again with the Russian comparisons. Sorry. Even while PAK-FA was still in its early stages, they had options. If, for whatever reason, PAK-FA fell flat on its face and the Flankers were falling out of the sky the Russian Air Force probably could have made it out. The design bureaus never really stopped producing new stuff, and if pressured could have pressed the button to produce the Mikoyan 1.44 or the Su-47 or whatever other demonstrator was on hand. They had reasonably recent stuff that they could put out on the lines and put into service if stuff started failing. The US doesn't really have the same amount of options on tap. You have some stuff like the F-15SE or F-18E/Fs in the event that there might (will) be a gap between current service planes and the F-35, but you really are pigeonholed into doing something that people won't be happy with.

Now what is likely to happen given the current state of affairs? I suspect that in the not-too-distant future the USAF will find out that the state of its inventory is not too great. It will probably take something significant like a serious crash or loss to hostile fire to really generate the motivation, but given time it will probably occur. If that happens you know there will be a giant race to see who can capitalize on the market share that will open up. I was originally very critical of Boeing taking it upon themselves to design something like the F-15SE, but as the risk of a gap between current inventory and their replacements adds up it's looking more and more like a smart call. In the event that poo hits the fan, the politicians and the military will be looking for something they can just press the panic button on and get some aircraft into emergency service. I would say that Boeing have put themselves in a smart spot by gambling that the Air Force is not up the bar that it thinks it is. Based on this article and the evidence it references I would also be inclined to say that there are some very clever people working at Boeing.



posted on Nov, 7 2012 @ 11:52 PM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


You could also include a thread about how the Air Force killed the Bomber and Airlift fleet.

I wonder how far past the B-52 it's lifespan? Or the KC-135, C-130 and C-5? Heck, didn't they just park the Spartan fleet as well?

All still capable aircraft, but they are getting old. There is no denying that.



posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 12:25 AM
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reply to post by TDawgRex
 


If you go back to the first thread that I authored I talked about the state of the Air Force in general. I included all the tankers, bombers, and fighters in that one.

www.abovetopsecret.com...

I've been going on about this since 2009, and it's just been getting worse in that time frame.



posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 12:35 AM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 

There are several reasons that the USAF has not set plans for a large number of F/A-22 and F-35 purchases. The USAF has and will be soon flying Robotic Stealth Fighters. These Highly Secret and New Fighters have performance that goes way beyond any Manned Aircraft as well as it is in line with the U.S. Military's Directive to create a 40% Robotic Air Force by 2020.

Thus they are not making anymore F/A-22's and the F-35 will not be made in large numbers either.
Split Infinity



posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 12:40 AM
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reply to post by Darkpr0
 


Incremental upgrades will get you far, but then you run into the problem of someone developing an entirely new level of foe. That's the problem the F-15 is facing now. It has been, and still is adequate against most aircraft it will have to go up against. It still has one of the best radars in the world, and has gotten better with the AESA upgrade. But in a WVR fight, it's in trouble against some of the more advanced aircraft out there.

You can compensate for this somewhat, with TVR, and other upgrades, but at some point, you're going to have to develop something new, that incorporates new technologies. Eventually technology is going to outpace your ability to upgrade.

Personally, I like the F-15SE, but I have my doubts about the claims Boeing is making about the changes being made to the basic aircraft. I think that what the Air Force needs to do is replace the older F-15s with new F-15s, be they SE or Golden Eagle airframes, but new airframes either way. That way they have F-15s that are capable of WVR fights that the older ones aren't capable of.

The problem is that the current leadership is so in love with stealth, and the idea of the F-22/F-35 combination, that they're going to say and do anything they can to ensure that the only things left in the inventory are those two aircraft. It's the same thing that happened with the F-22. They compared the F-15 to an aircraft that didn't exist, and there was no evidence that it was ever going to exist, but against it, the F-15 didn't stack up. The irony is that the categories that they said the F-15 was inadequate in, the F-22 is inadequate in as well.



posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 12:43 AM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


Thank you for that. Upon opening that link, I realized that I have read it, though forgot to give you kudos. Made up for that.

You are one of the guys I look to, to keep up on the comings and goings within all branches of our military.

I’m a ‘ol Air Force brat that joined the Army ( to spite my Dad…but that’s another story
) and jumped out of supposedly perfectly good aircraft for over ten years of my career.

One thing that amazed me though was how fast the USAF switched from the C-141 to the C-17. That was quick.

I don't understand why we cannot do that with the rest of the fleet.



posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 12:54 AM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


There is no more money...

This will be somewhat similar in other military areas, spending will be declining in most conventional war assets to be focused on power projection (including supply) and then urban and asymmetrical combat platforms.

It would be fun to have a peak into the alternate reality where China invades the Americas (the continent) via container ships, the strategic placement of Chinese interests in deep water ports and even construction of some outside their boarders (Pakistan, Africa and South America) would be a very interesting asset to explore in military strategy for a rapid and covert way of invading the US and reduce the risk of nuclear retaliation...



posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 12:59 AM
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reply to post by TDawgRex
 


If you look at Kelly Johnson, and how he used to do things you'll really be amazed.

The F-22 program began in the early 1980s as the ATF (Advanced Tactical Fighter). It took them until the 1990s to even decide which two companies were going to build demonstrators, and they won't even be close to the "final" configuration for another 10 years or so probably.

In the early 1950s, the Air Force gave a contract to Bell, Martin, and Fairchild Engine and Aircraft to develop an overflight aircraft to go over the Soviet Union. Lockheed heard about it, and asked Johnson to design something. He designed the U-2, which was rejected by the Air Force, but the CIA went for, when they were approached about it. First flight took place in 1955. The first operational flight was in 1956.

He also designed the A-12/SR-71. The A-12 first flew in 1962, and was flown until 1968, by the CIA. The SR-71 first flew in 1964, and was operational by 1968.

Kelly Johnson was known to approach the Air Force with a design, and tell them that it was what they needed. A number of his designs were rejected, but several, including the F-104 were accepted and went on to long careers with the Air Force.
edit on 11/8/2012 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 01:05 AM
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Originally posted by Zaphod58
reply to post by TDawgRex
 


In the early 1950s, the Air Force gave a contract to Bell, Martin, and Fairchild Engine and Aircraft to develop an overflight aircraft to go over the Soviet Union. Lockheed heard about it, and asked Johnson to design something. He designed the U-2, which was rejected by the Air Force, but the CIA went for, when they were approached about it. First flight took place in 1955. The first operational flight was in 1956.



I know that this is a Fighter thread, but the U-2 story astounds me.

The USAF is cutting back on the Globalhawk in favor of the U-2.

Maybe sometimes, the old ways are the best ways?



posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 01:08 AM
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Fighter pilots are a liability...
Them and their required equipment add unneeded weight.
They aren't stealthy.
They have to sleep.
They have to eat.
Use the restroom...
And you gotta pay the suckers to boot...

As much as guys like you and me might not like it, the days of manned fighters is drawing to a close.



posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 01:16 AM
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reply to post by defcon5
 


Until those drones can be hacked anyways.

Hmmm, that sounds familiar.



posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 05:55 AM
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reply to post by TDawgRex
 


The Air Force lied about the Global Hawk to retire it. Congress has ordered them to keep at least some of them now. They're still deciding on that though.



posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 06:22 AM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


I love this section of ATS, it is isolated from conspiracy theorists and we can actually have a discussion.

I remember reading a couple years ago in Air Forces Monthly or another mag about this very topic. What are the real numbers we are looking at as far as a gap? From what I remember, on the navy side, it was about 3 Carrier wings worth of aircraft. But then, the Navy is in a tighter spot than the USAF, because their only option would be to buy f/a-18s until we build enough 35s. I am a big fan of the late John Boyd, and this is what happens when you gold plate these projects, you get delays and cost increases and an aircraft that can do everything but can do nothing extremely well. The only way this might change is if some maverick in the DoD or uniformed services gets together with one or a group of contractors and tells the truth to the press, and maybe the contractors will make public some of the plans they have or had on the drawing board in the past.



posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 06:48 AM
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Its a worry for sure.

SE would get my vote too. Recapitalise the F-15 fleet with it.

Or (and this is a left field solution), How about a USAF Typhoon. Get Boeing to build it stateside and add the Thrust Vector Capability, Conformals already developed and add the AESA developed for the F-35.

For a limited amount of NRE you could have almost the payload of an F-15 with super cruise and the agility of an F-16.

Only thing missing is the stealth but the F-22, F-35 is there for that. The only thing holding it back is euro bickering and lack of money. A US variant would cut through all that.



posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 08:19 AM
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reply to post by defcon5
 


I agree with that view. I think the F-22 and F-35 could be the last manned US fighters and the future is probably with UCAVs or unmanned combat aerial vehicles which are already being used.

Currently the F-22A Raptor is the best jet fighter in service by a long way in my opinion. The F-35 is having some problems and the USAF is going through a big transition as the F-15, F-16 and A-10 get closer to the end of their service life.
I think the USAF have the situation under control and I wouldn't worry about future US airpower, it will get the job done if there is anything to do.

This is an excellent site which some of you may not have seen before.

www.ausairpower.net...


The emergence of the Russian Sukhoi T-50 / PAK-FA, the intended replacement for the T-10 Flanker series, marks the end of the United States' quarter century long monopoly on the design of Very Low Observable (VLO) or stealth aircraft. Designed to compete against the F-22 in traditional Beyond Visual Range (BVR) and Within Visual Range (WVR) air combat, the PAK-FA shares all of the key fifth generation attributes until now unique to the F-22 - stealth, supersonic cruise, thrust vectoring, highly integrated avionics and a powerful suite of active and passive sensors. While the PAK-FA firmly qualifies as a fifth generation design, it has two further attributes absent in the extant F-22 design. The first is extreme agility, resulting from advanced aerodynamic design, exceptional thrust/weight ratio performance and three dimensional thrust vectoring integrated with an advanced digital flight control system. The second attribute is exceptional combat persistence, the result of a 25,000 lb internal fuel load. The internal and external weapon payload are likely to be somewhat larger, though comparable to those of the F-22A.


www.ausairpower.net...

The Russian replacement for the Flanker series sounds very good and makes things a bit more complicated.
Maybe a stealthy UCAV is the next step.



posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 08:25 AM
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BAE in the UK is deeply into drone fighters ive heard.......What we have im not entirely sure......
Do you think it possible, that the fighter role of the flight, of four could be changed to a one pilot, AND THREE DRONE SWARM?
Using the F35 inter plane systems? or variation of same....
This would seem to me to make a lot of sense.....even one pilot one drone combos would be effective.....
A cheap drone could be taking the flak, and its nerves would be electronic.....(think Kamikaze manouvers)
or use on flak infested targets, to gain superiority.....
Savings in pilot training would be enormous......enough to pay for lots of drones ......
Imagine a wingman that flys perfect formation all the time, who never stops checking your six, and who is willing to destroy itself to save yer ass.......
Could this be be a potent force multiplyer you havent considered?



posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 11:55 AM
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Originally posted by stirling
BAE in the UK is deeply into drone fighters ive heard.......What we have im not entirely sure......
Do you think it possible, that the fighter role of the flight, of four could be changed to a one pilot, AND THREE DRONE SWARM?
Using the F35 inter plane systems? or variation of same....
This would seem to me to make a lot of sense.....even one pilot one drone combos would be effective.....
A cheap drone could be taking the flak, and its nerves would be electronic.....(think Kamikaze manouvers)
or use on flak infested targets, to gain superiority.....
Savings in pilot training would be enormous......enough to pay for lots of drones ......
Imagine a wingman that flys perfect formation all the time, who never stops checking your six, and who is willing to destroy itself to save yer ass.......
Could this be be a potent force multiplyer you havent considered?


The one use for drones where i think it could eventually excel is Maritime Airborne Early Warning. Instead of having a big aircraft with a load of operators circling the carrier group have a super long endurance UAV at extreme height with the Radar and a data link to the carrier. The operators/analysts could all be on the carrier and the saved weight of the crew compartment be fuel.

Using drones for combat ops is not so easy. Plinking the Taleban with a Predator is one thing. Trying to do the same thing in contested environment with threats, jamming and spoofing is something else. Not saying it wont come, but i don't think its as imminent as some think.


edit on 8-11-2012 by justwokeup because: typo





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