Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Ok, I have noticed that I have been recieving a large number of page views on my article concerning the Boeing F-15E+ Super Eagle.
Due to this apparent large interest I think I'll revisit this and give a bit more in depth detail on this latest offering of "new tech" meets "old school".
Suggested as a gap filler, not an alternative for the delayed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (I still can't get used to calling it the "Lightning"), Boeing has offered to produce 100 to 150 "Super Eagles" at a $60 million per unit price tag.
Not meaning to be a threat to the acquisition of the F-22 and F-35, the F-15E+ is conceived to fill the gap should the F-35 get delayed - which we all know will happen.
It is understood by Boeing that the F-22 and F-35 are first wave attack aircraft, intended to "kick the door down" by stealthily reducing enemy air defenses to ashes. The role the F-15E+ Super Eagle would play is to keep the door down by continued supression of enemy air defenses via persistent coverage/area denial.
Granted the Super Eagle will not be a stealth asset as the F-22 and F-35 are, although there is a chance it could have LO (low observable) features like the F-18 Super Hornet.
So what is known about the F-15E+ Super Eagle's features and specs?Basically, the Super Eagle concept is an enhanced combination of the F-15K (South Korean version with 15 weapons stations) and the F-15SG (Singapore version with advanced radar).
The advanced radar mentioned for the Super Eagle is the Raytheon APG-63 v3 AESA with an option to go with the v4 which would utilize F-22 type advanced functionality, auch as air to ground attack mode, enhanced air to air abilities including cruise missile detection and attack, plus a variety of electronic attack options and netcentric war fighting capacity.
Will the Super Eagle be built? That remains to be seen, if congress were to be controlled by the Democrats you can almost be assured the F-35 acquisition timeline would suffer, and if that happens the probability of a Super Eagle buy becomes more likley.
None of this is really taking into concern how a slowdown in the F-35 production will affect it's international partnerships. That would not be good on many different levels.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
DARPA and Lockheed will not build the two planned HTV-1 craft (hypersonic test vehicles) because one of the subcontractors, C-CAT experienced delamination issues with the curved leading edges of the carbon-based aeroshell.
DARPA and Lockheed will now shift their efforts to a different HTV-2 design whose multi-piece aeroshell has thinner leading edges and will be easier to build because it's less of a technical stretch.
Meanwhile, thermal protection research must continue, as well as research into scramjet propulsion.
Also, on Oct 25th a $33.2 million addition to the FALCON prototypes agreement, that enables continued development and demonstration of the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle portion of the Falcon program. Work will be performed in Palmdale, CA (Skunkworks), Philadelphia, PA, and Fort Worth, TX. The HTV-2 ptototype is expected to be completed in September 2008.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006A blog-friend of mine, George Dunn reports on Lockheed Martin's morphing UAV and presents some truly thought provoking information.
Excerpt: "In an article for Janes Defence Weekly in June 2005, Nick Cook writes that the Morphing UAV is three weeks from its first flight yet no confirmation of an actual flight is available. In the same article Cook describes a system similar to the one in the above patent but doesn’t go into as much detail and quotes manager of Lockheed Skunkworks, Frank Cappuccio saying that such a system will be tested in the following six to nine months. If Lockheed kept to this schedule the technology should have finished testing by April 2006."
I highly suggest you check out his article: "Morphing UAV to be Launched from Submarine"
Saturday, October 21, 2006
An interview featuring Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Wynne aired on CSPAN, October15th, 2006. In that interview Wynne said that the program to enable the Global Hawk to replace the U-2 Dragonlady has been delayed by Congress.
The original timetable set in 2005 was to have the USAF's 33 U-2's retired by 2011. The issue seems to be that the Global Hawk is not yet able to do all that the U-2 can. Apparently the GH cannot deliver the same quality of broad area synoptic imagery that the U-2 can.
These static photos taken from as high as 90,000 can cover an enormous area with intricate details of troop placements, with subsequent passes showing direction of troop movement. This is a feature that satellites can not provide either. Satellites passing over an area of interest can only show a smaller area in each shot and then the follow-up shots taken on different passes (read at differing times) must be put together like a mosaic.
One of the problems facing the USAF concerning the U-2 is persistence and loiter time over the area of interest. The extreme conditions of flying at 70-90,000 feet limits how long a pilot can fly the aircraft.
"One of the things that we find is... the airplane can outlast the pilot." said Wynne, he then noted that the USAF is looking into ways of extending the flight time of the U-2, and one option being considered is to "automate the U-2", or make it an unmanned vehicle.
US Air Force considers pilotless U-2; UPI
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Russia continues to develop new models of its Pchela-1T UAV. By Western standards, it's a pretty limited system. The UAV weighs 304 pounds, carries day and night cameras, but can only stay in the air for two hours at a time.
The Pchela takes off with the aid of two rockets, and lands via parachute. It's cruising speed is 120 kilometers an hour, and it can operate up to sixty kilometers from the operator. Russia sells the Pchela-1T as a system (two trucks, control and launch gear, and ten UAVs) for about $5.5 million.
The system has been used successfully in Chechnya, but its short endurance takes away the one major advantage of UAVs; persistence. With only two hours endurance, and a complicated take off and landing procedure, you're not getting much for your money when you buy Pchela, which must be why Russia is the only user.
Russia has tried to find foreign buyers, but has had no luck because of the Western competition.
Radius of action, km.....60
Flight altitude range above sea level, m.....100 to2500
Flight speed, km/h.....120 to 180
UAV takeoff mass, kg.....138
Control:- automatic flight, programmed;- remote, manual.
Measurement error of UAV coordinates in:- range, m.....150- azimuth, deg .....1
Start altitude above sea level, m.....2000
Altitude range of optimumreconnaissance over underlying surface, m..... 100 to 1000
UAV angular rate of turn, deg/s .....3, minimumIntegrated system deployment time, min.....20
TV camera field of view in pitch, deg.....5/-65
Maintenance personnel training period, hours.....200
Wind velocity at UAV start, m/s.....10
Wind velocity at UAV landing, m/s.....8
Monday, October 16, 2006A proposal, unveiled publicly in September but never before publicised, would give "armed autonomous systems" the authority to shoot to destroy hostile weapon systems but not suspected combatants. Accordingly, any people killed or injured in the attack would be considered the collateral damage of a successful strike on a legitimate target. "
If you stop and think about what this is, it really is a new paradigm for conducting warfare," John S Canning, a chief engineer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center and one of the authors of the proposal, told Jane's on 3 October.
However, experts on the laws of war contacted by Jane's were not persuaded that the group's proposal would pass legal review. The chance that innocent civilians or even a disproportionate number of combatants could be killed by the misjudgment of a robotic system would still be the over-riding factor. "You better have a human looking through that screen", before the unmanned system takes a shot, said Gary Solis, who recently retired as the law of war professor at the US Military Academy.
The laws of armed conflict require that for any attack to be legitimate, the attacker must be able to discriminate between combatants and civilians, as well as avoid creating damage that is disproportionate to the threat.
Source: Janes Defense Weekly
Sunday, October 15, 2006
During the recent MSPO-2006 military exhibition in Kielce, Poland, the SpetsTechnoExport Ukrainian State Trade Enterprise (a subsidiary of the Ukrspetsexport company) released preliminary information on a new short-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system. The new missile is being developed by the Luch Design Bureau in Kiev. During the Soviet era, Luch developed missile subsystems but the organisation is now working on its own missile concepts.
The new missile is 1.625 m in length and 108 mm in diameter. It is of simple cylindrical shape with an ogival nose cone, four small cruciform wings located about 70 per cent down the length of the fuselage and two aerodynamic control surfaces. The wings and control surfaces are folded, allowing the round to be packed into a tubular transporting/launching container. At launch, the missile weighs 34 kg.
Source: Janes Defense Weekly
Unless this is a free electron laser with varible frequencies, (which it's not) it could prove problematic in targeting an object through clouds of dust, smoke or moisture; so I do not see this as being a long range or high altitude system but rather a peril for helicopters and close air support craft like A-10's. And of course the size of the missile is also indicative that it isn't a long range-high altitude system. Retired RAAF air vice-marshal Peter Criss has put aside usual conventions to openly question the wisdom of Canberra spending about $16 billion for the F-35 Lightning, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter. The Government committed an initial $300 million to become an early partner in the JSF program, with a final decision to be made by 2008. But Mr Criss says the RAAF should, in fact, consider buying the F-22 Raptor.
Read more here... Boeing has begun flight testing for the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) program and has generated "first light" of ATL's high-energy chemical laser in ground tests, achieving two key milestones in the laser gunship development effort.
During the "low-power" flight tests, which began Oct. 10 and conclude this fall, the ATL ACTD system will find and track ground targets at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. A low-power, solid-state laser will serve as a surrogate for ATL's high-power chemical laser.
To prepare for the tests, the ATL aircraft, a C-130H from the U.S. Air Force 46th Test Wing, was outfitted with flight demonstration hardware at Crestview Aerospace Corp. in Crestview, Fla. The hardware includes the beam director and optical control bench, which will direct the laser beam to its target; weapon system consoles, which will display high-resolution imagery and enable the tracking of targets; and sensors.
Boeing fired the high-energy chemical laser for the first time in ground tests on Sept. 21 in Albuquerque, N.M. -- an achievement known as "first light." Ground tests of the laser will conclude this fall. By 2007, Boeing will install the device on the aircraft and fire it in-flight at mission-representative ground targets to demonstrate the military utility of high energy-lasers. The test team will fire the laser through a rotating turret that extends through an existing 50-inch-diameter hole in the aircraft's belly.
"ATL will transform the battlefield by giving the warfighter a speed-of-light, precision engagement capability that will reduce collateral damage dramatically," said Pat Shanahan, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. "The start of flight and laser testing shows that Boeing is making solid progress toward making this revolutionary capability a reality."
Boeing is developing ATL for the U.S. Department of Defense through an ACTD program.
ATL will destroy, damage or disable targets with little to no collateral damage, supporting missions on the battlefield and in urban operations. ATL will produce scaleable effects, meaning the weapon operator will be able to select the degree and nature of the damage done to a target by choosing a specific aimpoint and laser shot duration. For example, targeting the fuel tank of a vehicle could result in total destruction of the vehicle, while targeting a tire might result in the vehicle stopping without injury to the driver.
Monday, October 09, 2006In the face of North Korean nuclear brinkmanship and China's continued military buildup, Japan's new leadership has renewed efforts to further strengthen their military.
Though this effort is actually across the entire spectrum of their military, there are two main focal points; that is the acquisition of a new fighter and missile defense.
Japan's attempts to secure a buy of Lockheed Martin F-22's to replace it's ancient F-4's have so far been met with little or no support from Washington. (Exports of the F-22 are restricted by US law).
However, US Gov't officials and Lockheed have offered the F-35 Lightning. Boeing is most likely going to offer the updated F-15 EX Super Eagle as it's being called along with the F-18 Super Hornet.
Japan has also considered the possibility of building their own stealthy fighter similar to the F-22. Researchers have in fact been working on a design for the F-X concept.
So whats it going to be?
An indigenous fighter, the F-15 Super Eagle, the F-18 Super Hornet or the F-35 Lightning?
My money is on the Lightning but I would love to see the Super Eagle get some buys.
It would also be interesting to see what kind of stealthy aircraft Japan could come up with.
Saturday, October 07, 2006First flight of the Lockheed F-35 Lightning is imminent according to sources. At this point the 1st F-35 is in need of the final paint job, but other than aesthetics the aircraft is basically ready to fly.
Test runs of the engine have been made, even with afterburner. Testing continues with the electronics systems and as soon as they get a thumbs up on that it will probably take flight.
Cheif Test Pilot for the F-35 program, Jon Beesley has been selected to fly the Lightning on it's maiden flight.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006Sources tell me that the F-22 Raptor will be participating in Red Flag 2007 which begins it's first leg in January.
This will be the first time that the Raptor will take part in an exercise where foriegn countries are represented. It is unclear as to whether the Raptor will fly with any aircraft other than US aggressor squadron F-15 and 16's.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley has ordered a study to determine the USAF's future unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) force needs.
Of particular interest is the future of the medium-altitude UAV mission, now handled by the General Atomics Predator. Congress has earmarked money for more Predator A's and the more powerful B models, exceeding USAF requests.
Moseley has expressed a desire to pursue more widespread UAV operations.
"I think we have enough experience with these things that we can begin to develop a true operational concept [for] unmanned systems above 3,000 ft.," Mosely was quoted as saying. "Let's get at this problem as a theater commander would. There has not been any reduction in appetite for these things."
Source: AW&ST; Oct 2, 2006
Sounds to me like Congress is trying to ram UAV's down the throat of the "Fighter Mafia" Don. :P