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How the Air Force killed the fighter fleet

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posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 01:17 PM
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Whether the USAF buys another manned fighter or not is totally irrelevant at this point. Even UCAVs take time to develop, and we're approaching, for lack of a better term, critical mass on a fighter shortage. The F-15 is rapidly approaching the end of its projected service life, and their answer is to extend the service life.

The Air National Guard, with the exception of Hawaii which is a pretty unique situation, hasn't received a new aircraft in probably decades. They get the hand me downs from the active duty force, that the active force doesn't want anymore because they're old, or maintenance intensive. But more and more the ANG is being tasked with more missions that previously had been the purview of the active force. If nothing is done, such as getting F-22s for the ANG, or giving brand new F-35s (which are still years away from being close to ready) to them there are going to be units of the ANG that are going to have an air defense mission, and very few, if any planes to fly the mission with because they've become too old.

There is no excuse for the lies that have been told to justify the F-22, to the detriment of every other aircraft in the inventory. Just as there is no excuse for development having taken 20+ years, and still being years away from having their full capabilities. With the money that has been spent on this program, it should be much closer to full capabilities than it truly is.

What really disgusts me though is the fact that after all that has happened with the F-22 procurement, the F-35 is following the exact same path. The first F-35 squadron was supposed to have been stood up this year. We're three years minimum from seeing them at either IOC or IOT&E from everything I've read about the program. The first weapons separation test just occurred within the last month or two.

As for the UCAV idea, the X-47 is starting to follow the same path of decades to operational. The first X-47 pictures were released years ago, and they're looking at another year or two before they even fly an approach to an aircraft carrier, let alone are flying off the deck of one.

I love the Air Force. I grew up on a flightline, and I spent many years of my life out there. But this is really disgusting to watch, the way they are screwing themselves into the ground. It started to become really apparent around the time of the first attempt at a new tanker buy, and it's just been getting more and more clear that the current management is a pitiful joke that can be bought by any contractor with big enough pockets (Boeing and Lockheed).




posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 03:48 PM
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Originally posted by Zaphod58
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.


That's not a "the only reason" - that is fleet maintenance.

The fact is that airframes can often have their lives usefully extended by thousands of hours by replacement of fatigue-sensitive parts such as the wing.

It's a big job - but it is usually orders of magnitude cheaper than designing a a new a/c.


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.


Maybe in 50 years if things keep trending as they do now.

But y'all don't want to live with trillion dollar deficits any more, and modern airframes ARE much more capable than those of 30-40-50 years ago and able to do more jobs - often because the electronics required is now so much smaller and lighter.

And developing a new a/c is horrendously expensive - look at F-22, F35, C-17, A-400, Eurofighter.

So airframes are going o have to last longer, be refitted, and do more roles than they were intended.

Old hands are just going to have to get used to it.



posted on Nov, 8 2012 @ 04:18 PM
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reply to post by Aloysius the Gaul
 


No, it's not the ONLY reason that the A-10 is in better shape, but it's a big reason as to why. The most fatigue sensitive part is the wing box, which is being replaced with the upgrade to the C standard.

The F-15 is being extended to 18,000 hours if testing by Boeing shows that it can be, but even so a lot of them are still going to be fairly close to their extended life span. The "lead-the-fleet" aircraft are already 2,000+ hours past their expected life cycle of 8,000 hours.

It's going to be a lot sooner than 50 years before we see an effect of this happening. They're saying that within 10 years some Guard units will have to retire most, or all of their aircraft due to age, and maintenance issues. It won't hit all at once, but it's going to be happening much sooner than you think.



posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 11:18 AM
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I realize it's not a solution the the problem, but would it be a cost effective option to immediately purchase a bunch of new F-15SE's and later block F-16's for the active force then pass them onto the ANG as the F35's numbers grow? I imagine they would be more than enough to handle any domestic threats, and would cost significantly less than any fifth gen fighters. Plus the crews are already trained and maintenance practices are already in place.
edit on 9-11-2012 by Orwells Ghost because: sp



posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 11:20 AM
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reply to post by Orwells Ghost
 


Actually that would be a really good way to handle the problem as an interim solution. I didn't even think of doing that, I was just looking at 1-2 or 1-3 buy, where they would buy one new one, and retire two to three older ones. We can't afford a straight 1-1 buy, but we also don't need the huge numbers that we still have anymore.



posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 11:33 AM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


Sounds like the USAF needs another Curtis LeMay to cut through the bureaucratic/political BS and get done what needs doing. There's too much obfuscation and pocket lining going on.

I've been following your posts on China's growing fighter program, and it looks like they are catching up quite rapidly in terms of airframes. IMO the USAF's greatest asset is not it's technology, but it's pilot and support crew training and standards of excellence. Those will be tough to maintain with no planes to fly.



posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 11:37 AM
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reply to post by Orwells Ghost
 


Oh, the number of times LeMay has rolled over in his grave. We need someone who is willing to put something other than the latest pet fighter project first. That's what has been slowly killing the Air Force over the last few decades, is that all the CinCs have come up through Air Combat Command, which means they're former fighter jocks. I'd love to see the bomber guys or an Air Mobility Command guy get it for awhile. Maybe get back to remembering that there are other planes than fighters out there.



posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 01:36 PM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


Interesting read. I'll throw in a couple points as to what I think is going on...

First is the new tanker. As you said, that's a major stumbling block to the DOD defense budget. Also on this path is the new bomber. And now the F-35. Regardless, we decided to wait until it was almost too late to get all three of them at once. Kinda stupid if you ask me.

I will say this though, the F-35 is better than most people give it credit for. As I'm sure you've read here, the F-35 is replacing alot of aircraft with one jet, including EW planes. The marines are replacing an entire jet with the F-35 on top of harriers, etc. So while it may cost more per jet that usual, the benefits of having this all in one jet will be huge. If you haven't read this yet check it out...www.airforce-magazine.com... it talks about sending in a four-ship of F-35's on a mission and not needing other aircraft to go with it..

The fighter’s capabilities will make it a three- or four-for-one asset, said the Lockheed briefers, meaning that it will be able to simultaneously perform the roles of several different aircraft types—from strike to electronic attack, from command and control to battlefield surveillance. O’Bryan pointed out an important truth about air combat: Fourth generation strike aircraft assigned to hit targets guarded by modern anti-access, area-denial systems (A2/AD, in military parlance) require the support of "AWACS, electronic attack, sweep airplanes, SEAD" (suppression of enemy air defenses) aircraft and cruise missiles. Such a package could run to dozens of aircraft. The same mission, he claimed, can be achieved with just a quartet of F-35s. Each would be capable of operations that go well beyond air-to-ground missions. The four-ship would be a potent factor in any scenario calling for the employment of airpower, O’Bryan asserted. In short, he concluded, the F-35 is "the efficient package" for future strike missions, offering high probability of success with "lower probability of loss." When it comes to maintainable stealth design, the F-35 represents the state of the art, O’Bryan said, superior even to the F-22 Raptor, USAF’s top-of-the-line air superiority aircraft. The F-22 requires heavy doses of regular and expensive low observable materials maintenance. F-35 stealth surfaces, by contrast, are extremely resilient in all conditions, according to the Lockheed team. "We’ve taken it to a different level," O’Bryan said. The stealth of the production F-35—verified in radar cross section tests performed on classified western test ranges—is better than that of any aircraft other than the F-22. This, he went on, is true in part because the conductive materials needed to absorb and disperse incoming radar energy are baked directly into the aircraft’s multilayer composite skin and structure. Moreover, the surface material smoothes out over time, slightly reducing the F-35’s original radar signature, according to the Lockheed Martin official. Only serious structural damage will disturb the F-35’s low observability, O’Bryan said, and Lockheed Martin has devised an array of field repairs that can restore full stealthiness in just a few hours.


Pretty good stuff. I'm almost thinking that this aircraft is a lot better than most people think, and that's supposed to be that way all along.



posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 01:41 PM
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reply to post by boomer135
 


I agree that it's going to be better than people think it will be. The problem I have is the F-22 was supposed to be so much more than it is too. The Air Force leadership at the time promised it would be able to perform the EW mission, the RC-135s mission, to an extent the AWACS mission, etc. And now we have an aircraft that can perform some of those missions to a very limited extent, and can only "talk" to other F-22s, without an interpreter present. Now we hear that they are following the same procurement route with the F-35, and I have to wonder if, as good as it will probably be, are we going to see the same thing happen here too?



posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 01:52 PM
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Here's some interesting information:
www.flightglobal.com...



posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 02:01 PM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


Hey just wondering, we don't know much about the performance of the F-22 or what it can do. Does anybody have some facts about the actual abilities of this aircraft? Just wondering if it's only what the military has told us.



posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 02:18 PM
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reply to post by boomer135
 


Very little is actually known. I'll sit down during our off time later in the week and see if I can come up with anything.
edit on 11/9/2012 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 02:19 PM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


I've seen it in the air from a tanker many times, including a race with an F-16 in which the F-22 left it in the dust. But other than that, I'm not sure what it can really do.



posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 02:25 PM
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The F-22 Raptor is an incredible jet, no doubt. Very high agility and slow speed high alpha capability make it the best dogfighter (not that anything would get close to it). Very high thrust to weight. Supercruise at Mach 1.6 without afterburner and very long range. Designed to defeat Flanker series in BVR and WVR. Ramjet AMRAAMs with longer range? Advanced radar and sensor fusion and very stealthy. Most info on it is classified no doubt still don't even know what it's top speed is, my guess around Mach 2, fixed engine intakes. PGM capability. Advanced radar warning threat ID system. It all adds up to first look first shot versus anything flying. I've flown it in DID TAW flight sim with a pretty good flight model, that's probably about as close as I'm going to get to the real thing. Like the F-15 F-16 thrust to weight in excess of one, clean you can accelerate straight up to about 15,000ft. Fun. Max ceiling unknown probably 80,000ft+. In Falcon 4.0 Allied Force (the best sim ever made for PC) I can get the F-16C block 50 up to 87,000ft!!!

This is some of the best info I've seen. Also World Airpower journal pretty good.

www.ausairpower.net...

By the way a single seat fighter is never going to fulfill AWACS capability.
The F-15s and F-16s still have a bit of life in them yet, before the F-35 takes over.
edit on 9-11-2012 by JimTSpock because: Read kc135 instead of rc135



posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 02:32 PM
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reply to post by JimTSpock
 


No, the idea was that a group of Raptors working together would have the ability to get an AWACS type picture of the battlefield, and pass it on to other aircraft. The problem is that while they have an amazing sensor suite, they don't have the datalink that every other aircraft in the US Air Force has. They have a Raptor specific datalink that has to go through a BACN style translator to talk to any other aircraft that the US has. Which is beyond asinine.

And it wasn't the tanker mission, it was the RC-135 electronic surveillance aircraft it was supposed to be able to perform. The Air Force told Congress that the F-22 would be able to use their radar system as an EW platform, they can't. They told them it would be able to perform the electronic surveillance mission, it can't. They told Congress that it was built to fight a threat that they knew was never going to be built. Basically, they lied their asses off to get their shiny new toy (which granted is an impressive aircraft), to the detriment of the entire rest of the Air Force, which was then basically ignored to the point that it's reaching dangerous levels of age.

As for the F-15, yes it still has life in it, but we're looking at another 5 years minimum before we're seeing F-35 squadrons, and probably closer to 10 years before they're even close to fully operational. The original design life for the F-15 was 8,000 flight hours. That has since been extended, and is trying to be extended again. There are already F-15s that have over 10,000 flight hours on them. They have already been G limited, and speed limited, due to their age.

The F-16 still has life on it, but there are a number of aircraft that have cracks developing in them. Some in the wing root, others in the bulkheads. Something along the lines of 25% of all the F-16s in the US inventory have some kind of cracks in them. A quarter of the fleet. A Navy Top Gun class was cancelled for the first time ever, because their F-16s had cracks so bad they had to be grounded.
edit on 11/9/2012 by Zaphod58 because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 02:40 PM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


F-22 radar doesn't have the range of the E-3 radar. But that tactic could work with data link.
That's bad news about the airframe fatigue. Sorry I thought KC-135 and then went back and read RC-135. It could do a bit of ELINT I suppose. The airforce are naughty lying to congress. That must piss them off.
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posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 02:48 PM
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reply to post by JimTSpock
 


No, it wasn't meant to take over the entire AWACS mission, just be a "local AWACS" for lack of a better term.

The problem is that it can't. Instead of installing the Link 16 system that every other aircraft and ship in the US inventory uses, the Air Force team working on the F-22 chose to go with the Intra-Flight Data Link (IFDL), because it can't be detected by SIGINT. So instead of using a burst transmission system on the Link 16, and allowing the F-22 to talk to everything else in the US military, they now have to have another aircraft in the area that the F-22 can talk to, that will then translate the information to Link 16 speak, and send it out to everything else. That means another high value asset in the area that needs more aircraft to protect it.

And the argument that they didn't go with Link 16 because the F-22 is stealthy is such BS. Both the B-2, and the F-117 use a datalink that can talk to other aircraft and they're much more vulnerable than the F-22.



posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 02:49 PM
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Maybe we need to bring back the Fighter Mafia? Build a semi-stealthy highly maneuverable plane that costs 1/3rd to 1/2 of a 35 and use the f-35 and f-22 to kick down the door and then throw a bunch of f-16 vistas or f/a-18 HARV's at the objective? One has to wonder if in the future the US might potenitally sit out certain conflicts due to the perceived risk of losing one of those pricey toys. I think I will re-read one of my John Boyd books for some inspiration



posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 02:54 PM
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reply to post by steppenwolf86
 


That was about the only good the Fighter Mafia did, was forcing a low cost fighter down their throat. Something like that again would be perfect. But everyone loves their shiny new stealthy toys.



posted on Nov, 9 2012 @ 02:58 PM
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reply to post by Zaphod58
 


Are you sure about the data link thing? It could be classified. If you're right that is pretty dumb. They just had that oxygen problem.

www.globalsecurity.org...
edit on 9-11-2012 by JimTSpock because: added link





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