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Author Topic: JSF F-35 & Military Aviation & Aerospace Thread [cleaned up]
Blayne Bradley
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Restarting thread to eliminate the extra baggage, I agree I was wrong for overreacting but I feel that it will not be possible to have a constructive conversation with such remarks hanging around so here goes. I will be quoting people's contributions in quote tags.

My Opening Post:

quote:


Talking to some air power experts, hobbyists and contractor folks it seems that there is a growing consensus that the F-35 is not just an overly expensive piece of junk but a piece of junk that can do none of its roles nearly as effectively as a plane dedicated to its roles individually.

The arguments tend to go down as follows:

0) Its trying to be the role of the "light fighter" a role that both the Chinese and the Russians have given up on as useless in todays environment preferring instead the heavy fighter concept.

1) It lacks the fuel capacity to have the operational range to be effective in the ground attack and CAS roles.

2) Because it is build around the concept of stealthiness it isn't anywhere as capable as the F-22 in the air superiority role.

3) Because it is trying to do "everything" it has faced frequent cost overruns it can no longer fulfill its intention as being a cheaper alternative to the F-22 that can be "mass produced". Further undercutting this is that now the DoD is proposing a new "light fighter alternative" to the F-35 with minimum capability.

4) The initial fanfare of 3100 F-35's to replace America's and Allies Gen3 and Gen4 airframes seems to be stillborn, there is considerable growing reluctance as the cost increases and delays occur in the buyers corner that may mean the proliferation of the F-35 may be a non starter. Considerable political resistance in Canada; Italy, United Kingdom, Australia, Turkey and heck even the United States have all reduced, or delayed their initial orders also increasing its costs considerably.

The F-35 will likely still be delivered to various country's, afterall the airframes on the current F-18 and F-16 fleets are aging, but there's considerable noises being made that updating/upgrading the F-117 would do a far better job at the strike role than the F-35 and only the F-22A has a chance at engaging the PAK-FA and the J-20 (or its successor if the J-20 is a tech demonstrator).

Here's some links:
JSF analysis
Hypothetical Combat between the three planes
Su-35
PAK-FA

Capability "Surprise" an analysis into the failure of the DoD to have foreseen the PAK-FA and respond appropriately.


Lyrhawns Opening Post:

quote:

But yeah, the F35 DOES have some pretty serious problems. You haven't even touched on one of the bigger ones, which is a fatal design flaw that makes it impossible for a hook to catch the arresting wire on a carrier, which means the naval variant at the moment is in serious trouble, though the Marine Corps seems to be a big fan of theirs. I know that countries like Great Britain are getting extremely nervous that the plane they've been waiting for for a couple decades is starting to look further and further away in terms of a delivery date.

But most politicians will say that so much money has already been sunk into this thing that they can't just pull out now. It'd be years before the next plane was ready to go. My wonder in all of this is how this hasn't sparked a serious discussion on military procurement procedures. For all the caterwauling in Congress about government waste and spending problems, how are we okay with the hundreds of billions of dollars wasted on this airplane that at the end of the day might not even being mass produced? And this was supposed to be the CHEAP alternative to the Raptor! But because it's in the MILITARY budget, well, it's safe from criticism. Absolutely ridiculous. This is one of the few things I was with McCain on. Military procurement is a joke. It takes way too long and costs way too much.

My Responce:

quote:

I don't mention trivial technical problems because they aren't related to what are now design problems inherent to the intended role of the F-35, problems that cannot be solved through fiddling with it, upgrades, or exchanging a few parts or investing a few more billion dollars into it.

These are issues that I highlighted that are inherently unsolvable, being a light fighter and about half the mass of the F-22A is what cripples the F-35, not the lack of a hook, and the fact that the plane itself was designed to be a jack of all trades but a master of none.

Bad hook? Engineering problem, solveable.
Half the combat radius of the F-22A? Not Solvable.

Military procurement is a separate issue that is only somewhat related to the F-35, even if cost controls were in place and the F-35 didn't end up overbudget it would still be a bad plane that doesn't suit the needs of the USAF or any branch of service.

The problem of procurement is that it is still operating under a cold war mentality of where all projects get unlimited funding and lack basic cost controls, and is marketing driven as opposed to technology driven.

Mucus:
quote:

It would actually be nice if the F35 were "a piece of junk" that the various governments could get right now. Right now, they're signing up for delivery of "a piece of junk" in four to six years.

It's worse than pre-ordering Duke Nukem Forever back in the day.

Wingracer:
quote:

The F35 was destined for failure the moment the requirements were written. Any time someone tries to save money by building a plane that does it all, you end up with a ridiculously expensive, over complicated nightmare that does nothing well. Just look at the F105, F111, etc.

The answer isn't one really expensive plane, it's many different, cheaper, purpose built aircraft.

We already have the best CAS plane ever made and it's cheap, the A10. What are we doing with them? Scrapping them.

We already have the greatest air superiority fighter ever made, the F15. Unfortunately it is getting a bit long in the tooth so we get the F22. It looks like a big step up but is it enough? Only time will tell.

What about stealth aircraft to deliver precision guided munitions? Isn't that what F117s and B2s are for?

Seems to me the only people that really could use a new plane is the Navy. This is also the one area where a multi-role plane might make sense but unfortunately, the F35 looks pretty useless in this role.

Drone Sub Discussion

Aros
quote:

Anyway, drones make traditional fighters obsolescent.

"They shot us down, Sarge."

"Send up another dozen. It's just money."

Scott R
quote:

I just heard a panel on this on NPR's SciFriday. While drones are good for some things, one panelist noted that there's a HUGE technology gap between what a drone is capable of and what a fighter jet is capable of. Drones won't be prepared for air-to-air combat for a long time.

I should think, however, that we're well on our way to creating the first automated strafe bomber.

Hopefully no one's posts got eaten.
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King of Men
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Drones are cheap. A fighter jet can knock down one easily enough, perhaps; how about five, or a dozen?
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Blayne Bradley
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A fighter can easily track dozens of targets, Russian fighters can interlink their sensors and track several times that.
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King of Men
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Tracking them is fine. What you want to do is shoot them before they shoot you, noting that a five-to-one kill rate may be perfectly acceptable to the side with drones.
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Rakeesh
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That's true right now, yes-how long will it be true, this particular advantage of manned aircraft? If manned aircraft have a long-term advantage in that respect, how big is it? Big enough that, say, it's still cost effective to lose five drones per fighter downed, or not?
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Orincoro
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KoM, I think the F-14 Tomcat was designed specifically to meet the theoretical requirement of being capable of engaging 20 times it's own numbers in air to air combat, taking the Mig-20 (or something, I don't remember) as a baseline.
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Mucus
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Tracking Mig-20s is one thing, tracking small drones might be more difficult. Can the F-14 even detect current drones with their small heat signature, let alone if they put some stealth technology into it?
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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
KoM, I think the F-14 Tomcat was designed specifically to meet the theoretical requirement of being capable of engaging 20 times its own numbers in air to air combat, taking the Mig-20 (or something, I don't remember) as a baseline.

Ok, that may go some way towards answering the objection. I note that "designed for the theoretical requirement" and "able to do" are not the same thing; and both the F-14 and Mig-20 are aging by now. Engaging (which, you'll note, is again not the same as "destroying") today's drones, much less those of 2020, may be quite a bit more difficult.

Edit to add: This language of 'engaging' seems rather obtuse to me. A Sopwith Camel can 'engage' any number of Mig-20s. What's wanted is the ability to win such an engagement.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by Mucus:
Tracking Mig-20s is one thing, tracking small drones might be more difficult. Can the F-14 even detect current drones with their small heat signature, let alone if they put some stealth technology into it?

Nobody flies the f-14 anymore except Iran. I don't know about the Super Hornet- maybe.
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Aros
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There seems to be an assumption that a fighter will see more than one drone at a time. This will probably never be the case. And drones can typically fly a lot higher than fighters.

Drones provide a surgical strike capability. Unless the fighter knows the exact target, it isn't going to be good for a whole heckuva lot.

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Xavier
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I do think that in a real large scale (non-nuclear) war between the US and a major power (Russia/China), that the fighter plane would quickly be replaced with drones.

Forget a dozen, I could easily see hundreds of drones for every one fighter plane. In a World War II style war-time production switch-over, make that thousands.

Makes me a little sad as when I was a kid I really dug fighter planes. I just don't see a future for manned aircraft of any sort in a decade or three.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
KoM, I think the F-14 Tomcat was designed specifically to meet the theoretical requirement of being capable of engaging 20 times its own numbers in air to air combat, taking the Mig-20 (or something, I don't remember) as a baseline.

Ok, that may go some way towards answering the objection. I note that "designed for the theoretical requirement" and "able to do" are not the same thing; and both the F-14 and Mig-20 are aging by now. Engaging (which, you'll note, is again not the same as "destroying") today's drones, much less those of 2020, may be quite a bit more difficult.

Edit to add: This language of 'engaging' seems rather obtuse to me. A Sopwith Camel can 'engage' any number of Mig-20s. What's wanted is the ability to win such an engagement.

Noted, of course. The F-14 was designed to engage these numbers- the objective not being necessarily to destroy all of them. The basis of the design was an aircraft with the boost capacity, radar, range, and weapons load out necessary to engage full squadrons of Migs. The idea was that they had a broader attack envelope, and so could wallay an entire squadron of attacking craft, narrowing their own attack envelope in the process. If you can harrass a support squadron much closer to the center of its envelope, you can limit it's effective range to exclude the center of your own. And if you are heavier and faster, with more powerful weapons, you can do this without engaging directly.

Think of two ships in open water, 1000km apart. If I launch an F-15 with an attack envelope of 2000 miles or more, meaning if it flew strait and returned at the end of its fuel capacity, it could fly 2000km in any direction, and you launch 10 Migs with a 1500km envelope, my F-15 can burn excess capacity and reach your Migs well inside their envelope, before they reach my ship. Then my F-15 can maneuver for longer, and faster, than your Migs can. They can't split up and make a run at my ship, because I can outrun any that head for their target, and can't be caught by any supporting fighters if I break off after the attacker. So the mere presence of the superior craft, itself with a wider engagement envelope than the Mig, precludes the attack.

That logic is different with drones, so I don't know. But I do know that the principle was sound with air to air fighter combat.

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Blayne Bradley
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Yes, with up to date tracking equipment as noted in the above links though this is air frame dependent, for example the radar that could track stealthy aircraft (recall stealthiness right now gives a plane the size of the Su-35 the radar cross section of a golf ball) might be too big or have cooling requirements beyond what the F-14 air frame can give, but I believe the F-22A certainly is capable of.

What the discussion kinda looks like its assuming though is that "drone" capability will keep increasing while manned fighter craft will flat line and stagnate. I do not believe this to be a valid assumption considering the huge leaps being made in the last 8 years.

BVR combat is already mostly a wash as the missiles are either easily avoided or not at easy for current front line airframes like the F-22 or the F-35 or god forbid the F-18 have a hard time tracking targets beyond 20 nautical miles so it's going to come down to dogfighting.

So if BVR combat is likely to be a wash based on current capabilities as everyone manages to keep up with jamming and stealth technologies so it comes down to dogfighting of which there are more downsides then there are upsides for drone dogfighting.

For example if drones are being controlled by pilots on the ground then you have the problem where the data streaming is easily susceptible to jamming, hijacking, interference, etc. Drone combat is never going to usurp manned fighter combat.

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Lyrhawn
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You also have to consider that on board radar isn't necessarily a deal breaker. For the US at least, we've had an integrated fighting system that relies on either ground based radar or AWACS for detection and command and control that lets fighter pilots essentially keep their radars turned off to make them less observable. Other countries use them as well, but you also have to consider training.

No other country in the world has as many flight hours as United States pilots and crews, and none of them will for the next decade absent a dramatic surge in military training from somewhere like China. The technical specifications of any military machine do matter, probably more so in fighters than in other machines like tanks or rifles, but experience plays a huge role. It's what tells you to bob when you should have weaved, and for the moment, no one beats US pilots at that.

At some point, I think drones will beat out fighters for capability for a lot of reasons. Pilots are subject to G forces, drones are not. Drones can stay aloft almost indefinitely, pilots need to sleep and eat. Fighters are just flying weapons platforms. Build better missiles and a more maneuverable, fast, stealthy platform, but without worrying about the pilot, and you could probably make many more of them for the money than you could if you worried about the pilot. Plus, pilot training is exorbitantly expensive as well.

I do agree with Blayne that the real problem comes from controlling drones. Without a foolproof way to ensure total uninterrupted control of a drone, we can never rely on them completely. They'll have to invent some new kind of control, and I don't know what that looks like.

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Kwea
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Blayne, thank you. I agree that you overreacted, but I also agree that the conversation devolved from there. I think this is a pretty interesting topic, and having a new thread makes it easier to focus on that.

I don't knbow enough about the pitfalls of this specific plane to comment, but I know we need a re[lacement for our older planes. There is only so much patching and replacing you can do on those before you literally HAVE to retire them, and we have been putting a lot of them to major use, far more than we considered we might be 10 years ago.

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King of Men
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quote:
What the discussion kinda looks like its assuming though is that "drone" capability will keep increasing while manned fighter craft will flat line and stagnate. I do not believe this to be a valid assumption considering the huge leaps being made in the last 8 years.
You don't have to assume that manned craft will stagnate, but it does look very reasonable to me that their development will be slower than that of drones. The reason is that drones are a relatively new technology, still in the exponential-increase part of their S-curve, while fighter aircraft are mature - indeed the first air-to-air engagements are getting on for a century in the past - and cannot develop as rapidly.

Then, as Lyrhawn mentions, there's G-forces. The fundamental limit to the manoeuvrability of a manned aircraft is the blackout limit of the pilot. Drones have limits which are way higher - no moving parts!

It's true that jamming the control stream is going to be a big problem for drones, though. Onboard AI may be a suitable answer.

quote:
Think of two ships in open water, 1000km apart. If I launch an F-14 with an attack envelope of 2000 miles or more, meaning if it flew straight and returned at the end of its fuel capacity, it could fly 2000km in any direction, and you launch 10 Migs with a 1500km envelope, my F-15 can burn excess capacity and reach your Migs well inside their envelope, before they reach my ship. Then my F-15 can maneuver for longer, and faster, than your Migs can. They can't split up and make a run at my ship, because I can outrun any that head for their target, and can't be caught by any supporting fighters if I break off after the attacker. So the mere presence of the superior craft, itself with a wider engagement envelope than the Mig, precludes the attack.
Only if my 20 Migs can't destroy your one F-14! Even if they take some losses, they just have to get lucky once. Notice that the doctrine you outline was never tested in full-on combat against a Great Power. Also, the airy assertion that "I can outrun any that head for my ship" is a bit irrelevant since you don't need to outrun one, you need to run down and destroy all twenty before they launch their missiles at your ship. True, the Soviets would probably not have tried this sort of "Zerg Rush" strategy because they wanted their pilots back; but with drones, who cares? It doesn't matter that you can run down 17 of my twenty; it only takes one to get through into missile range. (Modulo close-in defenses, to be sure - the point is that the ability to run down a single drone making a break for missile range is not sufficient, you have to engage and destroy enough of them that the remainder can't overwhelm your next line of defense.)
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Kwea
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I DO know that we are actively designing and testing a number of new drones that we feel will eventually replace a number of our existing planes.
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Onboard AI may be a suitable answer.
We tried that already.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
[QB]quote:
Think of two ships in open water, 1000km apart. If I launch an F-14 with an attack envelope of 2000 miles or more, meaning if it flew straight and returned at the end of its fuel capacity, it could fly 2000km in any direction, and you launch 10 Migs with a 1500km envelope, my F-15 can burn excess capacity and reach your Migs well inside their envelope, before they reach my ship. Then my F-15 can maneuver for longer, and faster, than your Migs can. They can't split up and make a run at my ship, because I can outrun any that head for their target, and can't be caught by any supporting fighters if I break off after the attacker. So the mere presence of the superior craft, itself with a wider engagement envelope than the Mig, precludes the attack.
Only if my 20 Migs can't destroy your one F-14! Even if they take some losses, they just have to get lucky once. Notice that the doctrine you outline was never tested in full-on combat against a Great Power. Also, the airy assertion that "I can outrun any that head for my ship" is a bit irrelevant since you don't need to outrun one, you need to run down and destroy all twenty before they launch their missiles at your ship. True, the Soviets would probably not have tried this sort of "Zerg Rush" strategy because they wanted their pilots back; but with drones, who cares? It doesn't matter that you can run down 17 of my twenty; it only takes one to get through into missile range. (Modulo close-in defenses, to be sure - the point is that the ability to run down a single drone making a break for missile range is not sufficient, you have to engage and destroy enough of them that the remainder can't overwhelm your next line of defense.)

As I said, drone strategy would be different. The point of the doctrine in cold war days was similar to that of the nuclear doctrine- the F-14 was a deterrent that spelled certain destruction of any single opposing fighter, and even though the Soviets fielded whole squadrons of them for every one of ours, it remained very difficult to envision any strategy that would ensure success against the F-14's capabilities, even with vastly superior numbers.

You also have to consider the advantage of the larger engagement envelope. The F-14 could potentially engage a large number of craft that had no matching range capabilities. It was too fast for anything the Mig mounted, and it could engage a Mig from outside the Mig's effective range, meaning it could basically run circles around a squadron of Migs and just take pot-shots, and they could never react fast enough. And, as I said, any one of them breaking away was either committing suicide by putting itself outside its returnable attack envelope (thus, burning the reserve fuel and ditching), or leaving itself open to attack. If they all moved together, that was even easier. If they split up, they could do nothing to support each other. And this would all be happening, as I said, well *inside* the Mig's attack envelope. So the perimeter of maneuvering space is narrower (that is, the cone of space that encompasses the widest possible angle of approach to the target, originating from their launch position). The Migs can't stray outside this cone, or they lose the initiative (they lose range to target), and fighting inside of it favors the Tomcat, which is already *at* its target, and can burn fuel in engagement, while still returning.

Of course this was never tested, and yes, it's likely that in any given scenario, an F-15 would have lost the initiative to 20 Migs. The scenario made most sense when the opposing ships were outside the Mig's attack envelope (so the F-15 could reach a target that could not strike back), But of course, the F-15 was supported by smaller craft, and it also flew in squadrons. That has at least something to do with why there never was such an engagement. The commitment of resources on the side of a Mig squadron (not to mention the likely death toll), would have been enormous.

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King of Men
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If your superior craft is not only faster than the Migs or drones, but also faster than their missiles, that changes the game quite radically. But it is not clear to me that this is now the case.
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Orincoro
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No, I don't know. It *was* the case at certain periods regarding the Tomcat and the F/A-18. At least, these craft were fast enough that the engagement envelope for a Mig's missile was too small to catch it before it left the envelope. Meaning that even if the missile was faster, it didn't have the range needed to catch up before exhausting its fuel. In air-to-air terms, that's a pretty small window- you're not going to hit anything unless it's head-on, and it doesn't even try to maneuver- and the whole point of the F-15's design was that it wouldn't get caught with an attacker in its baffles, because it was too fast for that. Scenes from Top Gun not withstanding, I don't think the Russians ever flew anything that could match an F-15 in speed for any length of time- and that's the key as well. The Mig had to exhaust huge amounts of fuel to keep up with it, and it didn't have that fuel to spare.
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Blayne Bradley
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quote:

You also have to consider that on board radar isn't necessarily a deal breaker. For the US at least, we've had an integrated fighting system that relies on either ground based radar or AWACS for detection and command and control that lets fighter pilots essentially keep their radars turned off to make them less observable. Other countries use them as well, but you also have to consider training.

You can't always rely on AWACS, and the Russians for instance instead rely on interlinking between planes to take on the same role to the same effect, but there are somethings AWACS can't do and that will be detecting stealthed planes BVR which relies on relatively short ranged IR detection.

quote:

No other country in the world has as many flight hours as United States pilots and crews, and none of them will for the next decade absent a dramatic surge in military training from somewhere like China. The technical specifications of any military machine do matter, probably more so in fighters than in other machines like tanks or rifles, but experience plays a huge role. It's what tells you to bob when you should have weaved, and for the moment, no one beats US pilots at that.

I think this confidence isn't particularly warranted, we're seeing assumptions being raised and assumed on a broad array of crucial issues that we say prior and during Vietnam and I think its going to lead to the same problem. Basically an assumption that technology will make dog fighting and the human factor obsolete so investment and training in those can be neglected which is going to be the institutional result.

And we saw what happened in vietnam, the missiles didn't work and aircraft got shot down because they forgot lessons from WWI.

Beyond that not having enough man hours isn't that hard to fix, there's no institutional restructuring or massive problem that needs to be reorganized, it is just a matter of budget.

Sure it takes time for the effects to ripple down but starting it up isn't that hard.

quote:

At some point, I think drones will beat out fighters for capability for a lot of reasons. Pilots are subject to G forces, drones are not. Drones can stay aloft almost indefinitely, pilots need to sleep and eat. Fighters are just flying weapons platforms. Build better missiles and a more maneuverable, fast, stealthy platform, but without worrying about the pilot, and you could probably make many more of them for the money than you could if you worried about the pilot. Plus, pilot training is exorbitantly expensive as well.

At some point being maybe 50 to 100 years from now for AI to get good enough at target identification and tactics but that isn't anytime soon for the foreseeable future. The problems you put onto manned fighter crafts I do not believe drones are free of, drones will need a human element for a long time, either direct control or as supervision. And keeping planes aloft 24/7 isn't new to the USAAF, they've done it before.

Also drones very much are subject to g forces, right now the whole point of fly by wire controls is that the modern planes as they are designed now would fall out of the sky in order to maintain the capabilities they currently do at the g forces they do carrying the weaponry and avionics they do. Taking away the human element doesn't negate this, if anything it makes it more pertinent because a drone will still need the capability to be stealthy AND carry weapons AND have the required operation range, communications and electronics and detection equipment. This still makes g forces very much a design consideration.

It's still sounding like technology for technology 's sake, that drone technology and capabilities will just be *better* then human capability in the long term, I don't see that as being entirely convincing that manned craft will just stagnate, each of the "lets just design a better x" also applies to manned flight.

Also theoretically there's always going to be the fact that an onboard pilot will almost certainly have better reaction speeds then data streaming, which easily for the next 50 years knocks out AI considerations as feasible for the likely and foreseeable future. Dogfighting and g force wrenching turn fighting requires an almost clairvotent reaction times on behalf of the instincts and training of human pilots for instant by instant decision making. I just don't see drone combat with its at best 60 milisecond responce times making the cut.

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Blayne Bradley
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quote:

I DO know that we are actively designing and testing a number of new drones that we feel will eventually replace a number of our existing planes.

I also know we were designing a plane meant to replace a number of existing planes, it was called the F-35.
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Orincoro
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quote:
Also drones very much are subject to g forces, right now the whole point of fly by wire controls is that the modern planes as they are designed now would fall out of the sky in order to maintain the capabilities they currently do at the g forces they do carrying the weaponry and avionics they do. Taking away the human element doesn't negate this, if anything it makes it more pertinent because a drone will still need the capability to be stealthy AND carry weapons AND have the required operation range, communications and electronics and detection equipment. This still makes g forces very much a design consideration.
He was talking more about banking speed there. A machine can bank at the maximum tolerance of the airframe. A human can't, obviously. As long as there's meat in the machine, it can only ever bank at around 9.
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Orincoro
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(Someone posted about BSG and then deleted it...)

That was always a headscratcher for me. Why would they build them to be vulnerable to G-forces?

But then, ou have to assume BSG involved some form of intertial dampening. Imagine the G-forces involved with a ****ing thermonuclear weapon going off against the hull. No air to compress, but still- in contact with the hull. It would have turned the crew into paste.

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Mucus
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(Sorry, for context, I made a geeky observation about the new Cylon raiders before Orincoro's post)
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Blayne Bradley
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
No, I don't know. It *was* the case at certain periods regarding the Tomcat and the F/A-18. At least, these craft were fast enough that the engagement envelope for a Mig's missile was too small to catch it before it left the envelope. Meaning that even if the missile was faster, it didn't have the range needed to catch up before exhausting its fuel. In air-to-air terms, that's a pretty small window- you're not going to hit anything unless it's head-on, and it doesn't even try to maneuver- and the whole point of the F-15's design was that it wouldn't get caught with an attacker in its baffles, because it was too fast for that. Scenes from Top Gun not withstanding, I don't think the Russians ever flew anything that could match an F-15 in speed for any length of time- and that's the key as well. The Mig had to exhaust huge amounts of fuel to keep up with it, and it didn't have that fuel to spare.

I would like to make a note that discussing 30 year old planes may not be the best means of figuring out the feasibility of drones [Smile]

Russian BVR Combat Doctine

quote:

The supersonic cruise capability, integrated sensor suite, respectable VLO performance, extreme agility and exceptional persistence of a mature production PAK-FA will produce a significant impact in the post 2015 period, at the tactical, operational and strategic levels. In turn, this will also produce a political impact.

The PAK-FA represents an excellent example of the kind of “capability surprise” studied in the late 2009 Defense Science Board report. While the failure to account for the imminent arrival of this design in United States TACAIR force structure planning qualifies the PAK-FA as a “known capability surprise”, the important advances in PAK-FA aerodynamic, kinematic and low observables design also qualify it as a “surprising capability surprise”.

Technical analysis of the PAK-FA, in the following sections of this paper, shows that its aerodynamic performance and agility will exceed that of all United States built combat aircraft currently in service or planned, with the exception of the yet to be defined “sixth generation fighter”, which at best is 15 - 20 years away from Initial Operational Capability (IOC). Technical analysis of the PAK-FA also shows that the aircraft's VLO shaping permits the existing prototype configuration to achieve similar VLO performance to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and with lower and aft fuselage VLO shaping design improvements, potentially competitive VLO performance against the F-22A Raptor.

At the tactical level this will produce a large impact in Beyond Visual Range and Within Visual Range air combat.

An important qualification is that most recent analyses of relative air combat capabilities performed in the United States assume that BVR combat will arise much more frequently than WVR combat. The basis of this assumption is that opposing air combat capabilities are easily detected and tracked by ISR systems, permitting United States fighter aircraft to choose the time, place and type of engagements to an advantage. This assumption collapses if the opposing fighter has significant VLO capability, as a mature PAK-FA will. The result is that attacking PAK-FAs will have to be engaged at much closer ranges than existing non-stealthy threats, as they enter predictable geometries, when attacking high value targets such as AWACS/AEW&C platforms, tankers, or defended surface assets.

Another important qualification is that the extreme agility of the PAK-FA design will significantly degrade the kill probability of all United States Air to Air Missiles, (AAM) especially though the AIM-120 AMRAAM, which will be challenged to sustain the necessary manoeuvres to defeat the PAK-FA. Like the F-22A Raptor, the PAK-FA will provide a significant capability for the kinematic defeat of inbound missile shots.

Parametric and tactical analysis performed by Air Power Australia in 2008 - 2009 on the likely impact of a mature production PAK-FA deployed against United States' fighter types has been completely validated, given the configuration of the PAK-FA prototype.

“How stealthy does the PAK-FA need to be to defeat US legacy fighters? A radar cross section of only -20 dBSM would deny early Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile shots using the AIM-120C/D AMRAAM to all current and planned US fighters. Doing any better, like -30 dBSM or -40 dBSM, simply increases the level of difficulty in prosecuting long range missile attacks.”

“The consequence of this is that missile combat will be compressed into shorter distances and shorter timelines, putting a premium on the stealth, supersonic persistence and close combat agility of US fighters. A larger portion of engagements will be at visual range, and most BVR engagements will end up taking place inside 30 nautical miles.”5

In Beyond Visual Range combat, the combination of supersonic cruise and competitive VLO performance will allow the PAK-FA to emulate the tactics developed for the F-22A Raptor. The PAK-FA can thus be expected to produce greater lopsided air combat exchange rates to those achieved by the F-22A Raptor when flown against legacy “teen series” fighters in exercises since 2004. Even if the PAK-FA design were only to attain half of the effectiveness of the F-22A Raptor, it will still yield BVR exchange rates of the order of 50:1 against legacy fighters.

The arrival of the PAK-FA therefore irrevocably enforces the end of the operational usefulness of the teen series (F-15 / F-16 / F/A-18) generation of fighter aircraft, marked by the advent of the Su-35S, in the traditional fighter roles of air superiority, air defence and tactical strike in contested airspace. These aircraft will retain operational utility only in permissive environments, where neither the Su-35S nor the PAK-FA is deployed or is able to be deployed.

No less interesting is the impact at a tactical level when the PAK-FA is flown against the F-22A Raptor.

“Fights between the F-22A and the PAK-FA will be close, high, fast and lethal. The F-22A may get ‘first look’ with the APG-77, the Advanced Infra Red Search and Track (AIRST) sensor having been deleted to save money, but the PAK-FA may get ‘first look’ using its advanced infrared sensor. Then, the engagement becomes a supersonic equivalent of the Battle of Britain or air combat over North Korea. The outcome will be difficult to predict as it will depend a lot on the combat skills of the pilots and the capabilities of the missiles for end-game kills. There is no guarantee that the F-22 will prevail every time.”6

The tactical impact of a mature production PAK-FA is therefore a loss of the overwhelming advantage provided until now by the F-22A Raptor. Flown against the PAK-FA, a decisive outcome can only be guaranteed by numerical superiority of the F-22A force in theatre.

The United States' Office of the Secretary for Defence (OSD) has since late 2008 promoted the use of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as a substitute for the F-22A Raptor, employing this rationale as a justification to Congress for the premature termination of F-22 production. Therefore, the survivability and lethality of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter when pitted against a mature PAK-FA has become the critical measure of the operational and strategic value of planned United States TACAIR capabilities.

Parametric and tactical analysis performed by Air Power Australia in 2008 - 2009 on likely engagement outcomes between the PAK-FA and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are also validated by technical analysis of the PAK-FA prototype design.

“The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter struggles to survive against the conventional Su-35BM Flanker, with only its -30 dBSM class front sector stealth keeping it alive in some BVR combat situations. Against even a -20 dBSM class PAK-FA, the F-35 falls within the survivability black hole, into which US legacy fighters such as the F-16C/E, F-15C/E and F/A-18A-F have already fallen.”5

“The fate of the F-35 Lightning II would be far worse in an air combat environment challenged by the PAK-FA. If the Mach 1.5 PAK-FA is using its infrared sensor as the primary sensor and observes radio frequency emission control (EMCON), then the first detection by the F-35’s APG-81 radar could be at ~20 nautical miles or less with a missile launched by the PAK-FA’s infrared sensors already inbound from 60 to 70 nautical miles away. The PAK-FA could easily break to a direction outside the F-35’s AIM-120 engagement zone.”6

“The sustained turning performance of the F-35A Lightning II was recently disclosed as 4.95 G at Mach 0.8 and 15,000 ft. A 1969 F-4E Phantom II could sustain 5.5 Gs at 0.8 Mach with 40 percent internal fuel at 20,000 feet. The F-35 is also much slower than the 1960s F-4E or F-105D. So the F-35A’s aerodynamic performance is ‘retrograde’ when compared with 1960s legacy fighters. The consequence of such inferior JSF performance is that its DAS might detect an incoming missile, but the aircraft lacks the turn-rate to out-fly it. As the F-35 also lacks the performance to engage or escape, repeated ‘freebie’ shots from the PAK-FA could inflict high losses. Expect the exchange rate to be of the order of 4:1 in favour of the PAK-FA, possibly much higher.”6

The arrival of the PAK-FA therefore also irrevocably enforces the end of the operational usefulness of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, defined around a 1990s technology threat spectrum, in the traditional fighter roles of air superiority, air defence and tactical strike in contested airspace. The F-35 will, not unlike legacy fighters, retain operational utility only in permissive environments, where neither the Su-35S nor the PAK-FA is deployed or is able to be deployed.

The operational impact of indecisive combat loss exchange rates between a mature production PAK-FA and the F-22A Raptor, and very high F-35 Joint Strike Fighter loss rates against a mature production PAK-FA have major implications at an operational level, and consequently, at a strategic and political level.

Once the PAK-FA is deployed within a theatre of operations, especially if it is supported robustly by counter-VLO capable ISR systems, the United States will no longer have the capability to rapidly impose air superiority, or possibly even achieve air superiority. This will not only deny the United States access to an opponent's defended airspace, it also presents the prospect of United States forces being unable to reliably defend in-theatre basing and lines of resupply. Should this occur, in-theatre basing and surface assets become exposed to air attack by aircraft armed with a wide range of accurate and highly lethal Precision Guided Munitions, with the potential for very high loss of life and equipment deployed in-theatre.

Conventional thinking in the planning of air campaigns, empirically observable from the Blitzkrieg campaigns of the 1940s through to the recent United States led air campaigns since 1991, places a heavy emphasis on the defeat of opposing airfields by aerial attack, to deny an opponent the opportunity to contest airspace. To achieve this effect, an attacker needs the capability to repeatedly penetrate defended airspace to shut down airfields, keep them shut down, and inflict attrition upon opposing aircraft on the ground.

The execution of this campaign strategy by United States forces, and Allies, is now becoming problematic due to the development and proliferation of advanced anti-access capabilities such as counter-VLO capable ISR systems, and advanced high mobility Surface Air Missile systems, such as the S-300PMU2 Favorit / SA-20B, S-400 Triumf / SA-21 and planned S-500 series. This strongly limits United States options, as only the B-2A Spirit and F-22A Raptor can penetrate such defences with acceptably low loss rates.

The deployment of a mature PAK-FA into such an environment very significantly increases risks to United States forces, as the aircraft can credibly challenge the F-22A Raptor in air combat. While the intended survivable strike/ISR aircraft defined in the most recent Quadrennial Defense Review document may, eventually, provide a credible capability to penetrate advanced anti-access capabilities, and thus attack opposing airfields, it will need to be defended against the PAK-FA, and airfields deploying this aircraft will also need to be defended against PAK-FA aircraft tasked with counter-air strike missions.

In terms of technological strategy, the PAK-FA thus effectively defeats the force structure model planned for United States TACAIR capabilities, as defined by OSD policy statements, and as reiterated in the recently released Quadrennial Defense Review document.

Should the United States continue along the force structure path for TACAIR mapped out by OSD policy definition of the last three years, it will be denied access to any operational theatre into which credible numbers of the PAK-FA are deployed by an opponent. In turn, the United States will be deterred from the use of conventional forces in such a scenario. The consequence of this, in turn, is that significant pressure will be placed upon a future President to threaten the use of, or operationally use, tactical nuclear weapons7.

A not dissimilar situation would arise in the scenario where the Su-35S is deployed, in tactically significant numbers, or in concert with the PAK-FA. Jointly and severally, these scenarios have deeper geostrategic and political implications which are beyond the scope of this paper.

If the United States does not effect some fundamental changes to its force structure plan, it will lose the strategic option of employing non-nuclear military capabilities in theatres where the PAK-FA and/or significant numbers of the Su-35S are deployed.

The only practical low risk option available to the United States is to deploy over this decade large numbers of advanced fighter aircraft which are competitive against the PAK-FA in air combat, both BVR and WVR.

The proposed “sixth generation fighter” is not a viable contender in this time frame. The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is not competitive and cannot be made to be competitive due to basic design limitations in aerodynamic and VLO shaping performance. The only aircraft built by the United States which can survive in airspace contested by the PAK-FA is the F-22 Raptor, and given the time frame of interest, it is the only design which can be adapted to defeat the PAK-FA.

In basic grand strategy terms, the arrival of the PAK-FA leaves the United States with only one viable option if it intends to remain viable in the global air power game - build enough F-22 Raptors to replace most of the US legacy fighter fleet, and terminate the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as soon as possible, as the F-35 will no longer be a usable combat aircraft for roles other than Counter Insurgency (COIN), though more cost effective and more appropriate solutions already exist for this role.

In strategic and techno-strategic terms, the PAK-FA is the most prominent “game changer” in the fighter domain since the T-10/Su-27S Flanker B entered operational service during the mid 1980s. If the United States does not fundamentally change its planning for the future of tactical air power, the advantage held for decades will be soon lost.

This isn't from the link but on a different page:

http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-2010-01.html#mozTocId233428

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
I think this confidence isn't particularly warranted, we're seeing assumptions being raised and assumed on a broad array of crucial issues that we say prior and during Vietnam and I think its going to lead to the same problem. Basically an assumption that technology will make dog fighting and the human factor obsolete so investment and training in those can be neglected which is going to be the institutional result.

And we saw what happened in vietnam, the missiles didn't work and aircraft got shot down because they forgot lessons from WWI.

Beyond that not having enough man hours isn't that hard to fix, there's no institutional restructuring or massive problem that needs to be reorganized, it is just a matter of budget.

Sure it takes time for the effects to ripple down but starting it up isn't that hard.

You're sort of making my point for me. Dogfighting isn't a matter of pulling a trigger, it's the part of fighter pilot training that requires the most man hours in a cockpit to train because you can't use technology to solve that one in-combat. Like it or not, it's currently a major advantage that USAAF pilots have over their competitors. That won't always be the case, but it is at present.

And no, it's not a particularly difficult problem to fix, but it takes two things: time and money. You can't pay more to have pilots absorb knowledge faster, it just doesn't work that way. It takes a few years from the starting point. Maybe China is starting to do that, they'd be smart to, but it's not cheap, and it's not fast.

quote:
At some point being maybe 50 to 100 years...
which easily for the next 50 years knocks out AI

Now who is making assumptions? Those are awfully big guesstimates given the rapid pace of technological advancement. I don't even think we can conceive of what practical combat will look like in 50 years.
...

We haven't even addressed things like lasers. The Air Force has been testing an on board laser for the F-35. One of the few major advantages the F-35 has is a massive power plant. They needed it to power the lift fan for VTOL, but for the non-Marine variants, that's a huge amount of excess power and space. So they've been playing around with putting small lasers on them, and they're making rapid progress.

The problem thus far has been to come up with a laser that is small enough, with enough range and power to fire multiple shots to take out a target. The technology already works aboard an ABL 747, it has shot down ICBMs in test scenarios. But it needs to be scaled up in power and range so the plane won't need to be quite so close to the target. Given rapid advances in laser technology, I think 50 years is an extreme high end guess. I'd say in the next generation or two of fighters, lasers will be a major component of air war that will fundamentally alter the discussion we're having right now.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Orincoro:
quote:
Also drones very much are subject to g forces, right now the whole point of fly by wire controls is that the modern planes as they are designed now would fall out of the sky in order to maintain the capabilities they currently do at the g forces they do carrying the weaponry and avionics they do. Taking away the human element doesn't negate this, if anything it makes it more pertinent because a drone will still need the capability to be stealthy AND carry weapons AND have the required operation range, communications and electronics and detection equipment. This still makes g forces very much a design consideration.
He was talking more about banking speed there. A machine can bank at the maximum tolerance of the airframe. A human can't, obviously. As long as there's meat in the machine, it can only ever bank at around 9.
Sorry if there was any confusion, but yes, this is what I meant. Pilots black out under G forces that an air frame can handle but a pilot, even with a G suit, cannot.
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Aros
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I never meant to infer that a drone can be a superior fighter. My point was, with a drone strategy you don't NEED fighters. Drones can exist in high orbit for long periods of time and provide precision strikes. For a high priority target, you can have hundreds of them converge from different directions. We don't need huge bombs anymore -- just accurate ones.

And jamming isn't really that big of an issue, if you understand the tech. Furthermore, modern drones can be pre-programmed and operate independently of a pilot.

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Orincoro
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Can't but agree. Drone strategy has such wildly different implications, the tech doesn't even need to be much better. It just allows you to do so much more.
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Blayne Bradley
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This article I believe answers and rebuttles the majority of the points raised here:

quote:

UCAV Fundamentals

The basic idea underpinning most UCAV development is that of a low cost, stealthy robotic combat aircraft capable of undertaking very high risk, or typically very high attrition, roles in which the used of manned aircraft is regarded to be problematic. The political impetus for UCAVs resides largely in the CNN Effect, as shot down aircrew are regarded to be a very high value negotiating asset by a great number of regimes which find themselves frequently at odds with the US or indeed other developed nations. Downing a combat aircraft and capturing its crew presents a tremendous propaganda coup for many regimes, especially if involved in combat with a developed nation. Given the propensity of many media organisations to generate large series of human interest stories around the missing aircrew, the issue of recovering the crew might end up rivalling the military objectives of the campaign in media coverage. In extreme cases, downed aircrew can be used very effectively as a means of exerting political pressure on the government of a Western democracy - providing fodder for domestic and foreign opponents of military actions.

The conflict in Yugoslavia in many respects shaped much of the early thinking around the DARPA/US Air Force/Boeing X-45 program - a campaign environment where secure basing was relatively close, but the opponent cleverly used mobility and concealment of air defence equipment to snipe at loitering combat aircraft, especially low flying fighters.

The defeat of mobile SAM and AAA systems requires loitering or persistent bombing techniques, which permit the bomber to engage as soon as the identity of a discovered target is confirmed. The dilemma is of course that loitering in contested air space invites a sniping shoot and scoot SAM shot.

In turn this is reflected in the priorities seen in the DARPA/US Air Force/Boeing X-45 program - Suppression of Enemy Air Defences / Destruction of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD/DEAD) is the prime role for the vehicle, as this is the role historically where there is greatest potential for high value combat aircraft loss and aircrew capture.

In the most fundamental sense a UCAV is any robot aircraft capable of delivering a weapon. An F/A-18A or F-16C retrofitted with a suitable control computer and digital datalink communications package would become a UCAV. Whether a UCAV is custom designed for a role, or produced as a derivative of an existing combat aircraft, is an implementation issue. Indeed, proposals have been floated in recent years for UCAV variants of the F-16C and JSF, intended to address the issue of aircrew exposure and very long loiter times.

UCAVs do offer some compelling advantages other than avoiding aircrew exposure. A UCAV does not fatigue, and thus endurance is bounded by consumables like lubricants, weapon payloads, and availability of aerial refuelling assets. Another consideration is G tolerance - UCAV CPUs do not experience GLOC.

The core technology issue in UCAVs is not the design of the airframe - in principle any airframe can be adapted. The do or die item will be the software in the UCAV's central mission computer and the digital radio datalinks which connect the central mission computer with offboard operators or mission supervisors.

The software code required for a UCAV is not trivial, despite public assertions by UCAV proponents suggesting this is not an issue.

For any combat aircraft to perform its role effectively, and survive in combat, it has to be controlled and managed through its sortie. In manned aircraft this function is performed by a human wetware, which provides cognitive and decisionmaking capabilities, which are enhanced by hardware/software systems for aircraft and weapons managment and control, and by a typically complex suite of sensors such as radar, warning receivers, thermal imagers etc.

In a modern manned aircraft 60% or more of the total cost of the vehicle usually falls into the domain of the avionics and the software running on the avionics. This ratio may be further skewed in time with fifth gen vehicles like the F/A-22A and JSF. What more than half of the vehicle's cost amounts to are subsystems which collect, process and present information to the operator, and drive the vehicle and systems on command.

In a UCAV the cognitive and decisionmaking capabilities of the pilot or crew must be replaced. One extreme, a wholly autonomous UCAV, does so with a hardware/software system, the other extreme, a wholly remote controlled UCAV, does so via radio datalinks to a remote operator in another aircraft or ground station.

There is a very fundamental tradeoff in play here - more onboard intelligence reduces the demand for datalink capacity, and vice versa.

UCAV proponents will often argue that existing computer technology can wholly replace the pilot in a combat aircraft - in effect, they argue that the cognitive and decisionmaking capabilities of an experienced combat pilot or WSO can be successfully emulated in software, or can be emulated in the near future. A common line of argument advanced is that Moore's Law, the exponential growth law in hardware computing power, will see to this very soon. After all, current microprocessor chips in transistor counts rival the neuron counts of small mammals - ergo a gaggle of 2020 microprocessors are likely to rival the human brain in switching element counts.

Curiously enough, the enthusiastic belief that human cognitive and decionmaking capabilities will soon be emulated in computer hardware/software is not one shared widely in the computer science research community, or indeed the artificial intelligence (AI) research community. A major computer science conference in the late 1990s dealing with Moore's Law demonstrated a complete lack of consensus on whether true artificial intelligence can be produced by 2040. Empirical experience in science indicates that accurate predictions of what technology can be created usually hold only one decade out - thereafter outcomes tend to be highly unpredictable.

In practical terms, replacing the autonomous capabilities of the human crew in a UCAV will require the computing technology to wholly emulate the thought processes of that human crew. UCAV lobbyists and proponents in arguing the imminent replacement of manned aircraft with UCAVs are arguing the imminent emergence of true artificial intelligence - an argument no self respecting computer scientist will touch!

An interesting question which remains to be answered is whether it is wise, let alone politically viable, to deploy wholly autonomous UCAVs with true AI capabilities. Robot warriors such as James Cameron's Terminator (Universal) have tremendous popular appeal, but some very fundamental questions arise with robot killing machines - their motives are by their fundamental nature different from those of human warriors. A citizen soldier is defending his community, and ultimately his gene pool, a custom designed robot psychopath presents a whole range of ethical, legal, command and management issues which remain to be understood.

In the absence of true artificial intelligence, other important issues must be resolved before UCAV technology can fulfill its full potential.

Datalink capacity is a key issue. While many roles such as SEAD/DEAD or reusable cruise missile style bombardment are undemanding in bandwidth, other roles such as armed reconnaissance, loitering bombardment, and even interdiction can require up to multiple Megabytes per second - a consequence of real time video image transmission. Such throughput, especially if using satellite relays or UAV based pseudo-lite relays, is not the province of small fixed omni antennas. Typically X-band satcom uplinks require either steerable dishes of around one metre diameter, or in a stealthy vehicle an AESA (phased array) of similar size. Angular coverage for a satcom arrangement almost dictates an AESA flush mounted in the spine of the UCAV.

Without onboard AI the complexity of the role will push up bandwidth demands, as a human operator becomes increasingly needed to drive the UCAV and its systems. Datalink throughput capacity is a hidden cost in any UCAV - if a US$ 5M UCAV ties up 30% of a US$250M communications satellite or several US$30M communications relay UAVs, what is the true system level cost of the UCAV package? Again, this is one issue which UCAV proponents often gloss over - the practical reality is that the cost advantages of removing combat pilots and WSOs may not stack up against the overheads required to operate a UCAV remotely. It is worth noting that an RQ-4A Global Hawk complete with sensor package and ground station rivals the cost of an F-15E fighter.

Datalink resilience is another key issue. While the technology is available to make substantially jam resistent, and frequently covert, radio datalinks, the reality is that smart opponents will find ways of jamming or interfering with datalinks. A well designed datalink typically reacts to jamming by reducing its throughput, trading away its available throughput and reach to reject the jamming signal. UCAVs which are significantly dependent upon their datalinks may suffer serious impairment in capability in a heavily jammed environment. Manned aircraft in such situations are sufficiently autonomous to prosecute most missions to completion, a UCAV with limited autonomy may have to abort its mission. It is worth noting that datalink throughput and jam resistance is improved by increasing power-aperture performance (not unlike radar), which ultimately amounts to fighter like AESAs committed to carrying one and zeroes first and foremost.

Aerial refuelling will be a key capability in making full use of the benefits inherent in the UCAV. Without the impediment of aircrew fatigue, a UCAV with aerial refuelling capability can remain airborne indefinitely, consumables permitting. Yet again, aerial refuelling (AAR) for UCAVs is vapourware. AFRL under US Air Force sponsorship are performing research and development in this area but we may not see working hardware for years to come. At this time two techniques are being actively explored. In a boom refuelling environment, a video based system in which a software system analyses tanker shape/size changes to determine relative position appears to be the preferred approach. With hose/drogue refuelling, a package of LED lights in the drogue basket is viewed by an optical sensor on the UCAV's boom, permitting precise relative position measurement. Aerial refuelling involves flight in very close relative proximity, which tends to introduce coupling effects - the control loop required for AAR must be considerably faster than a control loop for an ordinary autopilot.

With an aerial refuelling capability, a tanker equipped for automated UCAV refuelling could tow a package of UCAVs to within several hundred nautical miles of a target, unleash the UCAVs to perform their respective missions, and then tow the UCAVs back to a runway. If the UCAVs need to loiter, a tanker could be swapped for another to ensure that adequate fuel supplies are available.

The current technology base will permit the development of UCAVs with substantial levels of automation in basic functions, but with very limited autonomy in performing more complex tasks. Full autonomy in complex roles will remain unattainable until a true AI technology becomes available - and this may well be many decades away, despite the unquestioning optimism of UCAV proponents.

UCAV proponents who choose to believe otherwise are staking their credibility on a technological holy grail, which like faster-than-light space travel, cold fusion and other such ideas awaits a fundamental technological or scientific breakthrough to become reality. While true AI will almost certainly appear in time, planning force structures around expectations that such a breakthrough is imminent is clearly foolish, as history repeatedly demonstrates. The UK experience with Duncan Sandys is a lesson all too frequently forgotten.

http://www.ausairpower.net/TE-UCAV-2003.html
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TomDavidson
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quote:
In practical terms, replacing the autonomous capabilities of the human crew in a UCAV will require the computing technology to wholly emulate the thought processes of that human crew.
I reject this premise utterly. And because this is the entire rationale behind the author's subsequent rejection of autonomous drones, it kind of leaves the article flapping in the wind.

A missle or laser platform does not need to wholly emulate the thought processes of a human. The point of such platforms is that they can be cheap, numerous, and relatively simple, while also being faster, smaller/lighter, and more maneuverable than craft which need to support human pilots.

The article's insistence on "true AI" is ridiculous and stupid. We don't want our bombs to be self-aware.

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King of Men
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I'm reminded of an old joke from a parody of military fiction that I read once; it went something like this:

The LED display on the gun lit up: KILL! KILL! WHERE IS THE ENEMY?

"Smart ammunition," Harald remarked, firing three times. As he reloaded a new message appeared: HELL NO WE WONT GO!

"Even smarter ammunition."

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Lyrhawn
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Haha. [Smile]
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fugu13
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Yeah, as someone very familiar with the state of the art in machine learning, the entire premise is nonsense (the typical sort of nonsense assumed by people who don't understand computer programming). Will the capabilities of such an AI be up to those of a human pilot in many areas? Heck no, but they don't have to be, and for some things they'll be better (for instance, computers are already better at safely avoiding unexpected road obstacles than humans are). They only have to be good enough to manage a device that exploits their advantages -- such as being immune to fatigue and g forces and the like.
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Kwea
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
quote:

I DO know that we are actively designing and testing a number of new drones that we feel will eventually replace a number of our existing planes.

I also know we were designing a plane meant to replace a number of existing planes, it was called the F-35.
I never said we weren't, or that we shouldn't.


As far as G forces....I think the point being made was that drones won't black out under extreme g's the way pilots do. For many years now the limit of what a plane could do wasn't a limit of what the plane could execute, but what the pilots could tolerate.

I don't think anyone here was saying that drones function in a 0-G field, or that they are immune to structural concerns and metal fatigue.

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Aros
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That article is crazy outdated. It's citing X-45s? What about the Sky Warrior program??? Oh, sorry, they keep renaming it. Grey Eagle, it's called now.

Where'd you get that, Blaine? 2002?

On a more serious note, strategy has changed a lot in the last 10 years.

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Mucus
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Yeah, we drive closer to Kabul now [Wink]
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