daftandbarmy said:Of all the US arms and services it's interesting that the USAF, arguably, has been the least 'tested in battle' by the opposition over the years owing to the US military engaging in fights that primarily involve their ground and naval forces.
Seriously, since WW2 anyways, if you want your kid to be most likely to come back from a war uninjured, have them join the Air Force.
As a result a big dust up with a peer, or near peer, foe on the aviation front could result in a drastic 'learning curve' for the USAF.
Weinie said:Notwithstanding the talk of "carrier killers" and other bugbears, the Chinese Navy wouldn't last more than 72 hours in a real faceoff with the US Navy. And their Air Force would fare even worse. The US Army would, in a peer to peer dustoff, destroy the Chinese army.
Could the F-15EX Transform the U.S. Defense Industry?
Can Boeing, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Air Force use an old fighter to teach the U.S. aerospace industry new tricks?
As was widely reported in July, the Air Force has decided to acquire a large number of F-15EX fighters over the next several years. The F-15EX was initially expected to replace the elderly F-15 C/D, but the latest reports indicate that it may also replace the Air Force’s fleet of F-15Es.
Essentially, the F-15EX concept binds generations of technological innovation into the very old F-15 airframe. The F-15EX uses the classic F-15 frame but incorporates a host of technological improvements developed over the course of the last thirty years.
Serial production of the F-15, driven largely by foreign sales in recent years, enables the integration of new technologies and keeps both the workforce and the manufacturing facilities fresh. The logic of replacing the F-15E (alongside the F-15C/D) is straightforward:
*the F-15 and the F-35 have overlapping, non-identical missions and capabilities;
*the F-15EX significantly expands the capabilities of the existing F-15 fleet
*Eliminating the need for expensive service life extension programs.
At the very least, the F-15EX project means that the Air Force will have new, advanced airframes capable of doing the jobs that F-15s have been doing for decades.
More interesting, however, is the idea that the F-15EX may offer a pathway into the Digital Century Series (DCS). To review, the Century Series concept (associated most notably with Air Force chief of acquisition Wil Roper) involves designing and building an evolutionary set of airframes in small batches with open-source architecture. Roper has embraced the “Century Series” metaphor, notwithstanding the lack of success of the first “Century Series” which produced a set of mediocre aircraft soon eclipsed by the F-4 Phantom II, and critiques that the focus on manned aircraft is misplaced, and that the attention given to the DCS would be more profitably spent on unmanned aerial vehicles.
In the DCS concept, digital engineering technologies would allow the separation of production and design, while the use of 3D printing and other advanced manufacturing technologies would remedy some of the problems associated with the multiplication of spares and maintenance procedures. More importantly, the system would enable to continuous integration of new technologies into new airframes, as opposed to the much slower process necessitated by the precise requirements of stealth airframes. Thus, the “Digital Century Series” represents an entirely new way of thinking about aircraft acquisition, and indeed could lead to a substantial restructuring of the US aerospace industry.
It’s wrong to say that the F-15EX is the first stage of the DCS. Stephen Trimble argues that while the F-15EX program uses many of the same tools that the Digital Century Series envisions, including advanced computer modeling and a modular platform, it is not part of the DCS per se…
Dr. Robert Farley has taught security and diplomacy courses at the Patterson School since 2005. He received his BS from the University of Oregon in 1997, and his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in 2004. Dr. Farley is the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force (University Press of Kentucky, 2014), the Battleship Book (Wildside, 2016), and Patents for Power: Intellectual Property Law and the Diffusion of Military Technology (University of Chicago, 2020). He has contributed extensively to a number of journals and magazines, including the National Interest, the Diplomat: APAC, World Politics Review, and the American Prospect. Dr. Farley is also a founder and senior editor of Lawyers, Guns and Money.’
Lockheed-Boeing Battle Heats Up as USAF Looks to Buy F-15EX
The F-35 maker is fighting to keep its monopoly on the Air Force’s fighter-jet shopping list.
While it’s not unusual for companies to battle one another for weapons deals, these fights often occur behind the scenes, as lobbyists and executives spar inside the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill.
But the fight over whether the U.S. Air Force should buy one or two types of $80 million fighter jets is spilling into the public view, in the pages of the trade press and in think tank reports. Air Force leaders say they need both the F-35 Lightning II, the newest fighter in the U.S. military arsenal, and the F-15EX, the latest version of the twin-engine jet first flown in 1972.
Early last year, Lockheed began to fight back against Boeing’s reappearance on the service’s tactical-jet shopping list.The battle became a war in July when the Air Force placed a $1.2 billion order for eight jets and said it might spend up to $23 billion to buy up to 144 new F-15s in the coming years.
It’s rare for a conservative think tank to explicitly call for canceling defense programs; typically, they argue for increasing defense spending and buying more weapons. But the influential Heritage Foundation has consistently urged the Air Force not to buy the F-15EX...
Bending the Principle of Mass: Why That Approach No Longer Works for Airpower
It is one of warfare’s oldest questions: What is mass, and what advantages accrue from sheer numbers? The concept has variously been defined as being about “the superiority of numbers,” or “concentrating the effects of combat power.”
While commanders often desire numerical superiority over their adversaries, they are not always able to achieve it. Instead, commanders use methods such as maneuver to achieve a local superiority in combat power. Maneuver is just one of many ways commanders attempt to artificially inflate the mass of their forces. Others include improving command and control, enhancing lethality, and seeking to possess better information than their opponents. All of these methods can allow assets to contribute relatively more to a fight, thereby potentially offsetting a requirement for mass. Over the past 50 years, the United States has progressively placed more emphasis on artificial mass — command and control, lethality, and superior information — as a substitute for actual mass.
A critical question, however, is what happens when an adversary combines these measures with actual mass? If both sides are lethal, networked, and effectively commanded, then what factors determine who has the advantage? As Lawrence Freedman argues, the “sensible application of superior resources tends to be successful.”
As a result, this question is becoming increasingly relevant for the Department of Defense as a whole. After decades of either a qualitative and/or quantitative advantage against likely opponents, it is now facing a massive buildup of increasingly modern Chinese forces. Just weeks ago, China announced that its fifth-generation fighter, the J-20 Mighty Dragon, would be entering mass production. How will the United States fare if faced with modernized mass?..
Information is similarly problematic. Although information can and does enable increased force effectiveness, its decisiveness is subject to debate. Coalition efforts in the “Global War on Terror” have been drowning in information for years. And while the coalition has made plenty of decisions based on data, those have often been disconnected from the larger strategic picture. Similarly, David Kilcullen argues that adversaries can hide within and exploit data. No competent adversary will be so awed by Air Force information networks that they will surrender. Adversaries will adapt to and attempt to exploit any actions by the Air Force. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
U.S. Air Force efforts to bend the principle of mass have resulted in a highly capable and lethal force. This force is also inadequate for extended competition against an adversary with mass of its own. While the Air Force has been making some efforts to achieve mass such as the mass production of the F-35, procurement of the F-15EX, and development of low-cost attritable aircraft technology, these sidestep the problem. Adversaries will not only choose to fight the Air Force’s attritable technology. Instead, they will target all elements of Air Force power projection: bombers; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft; tankers; fighters; and attritable aircraft. Mass is important across the force.
The Air Force, given its recent wrestling with more traditional notions of mass, should lead efforts in the Department of Defense to ensure it is prepared for a conflict against a peer competitor. The first action is to broadly review how it defines mass in doctrine. Can the principle of mass actually be bent through increased effectiveness? Or does that situation apply only in permissive environments or against overmatched adversaries? Is the definition adequate for peer competition?
Second, the service should study its ability to operate forces given historical peer-conflict attrition levels. In World War II, the Air Corps not uncommonly lost 5 percent of dispatched aircraft on strike missions. That loss rate was echoed by the Israeli Air Force in the Yom Kippur War. Can the U.S. Air Force sustain a loss rate of 5 percent over likely conflict time horizons? Are there assets whose loss would have a more debilitating effect on the force than others? Do plans incorporate this possibility?
Finally, the Department of Defense more broadly should pay special attention to the efforts of potential adversaries, such as China, to increase their own mass. China is currently the world’s second-largest air force, with more than 600 fourth-generation fighters and an increasing number of fifth-generation fighters. By contrast, the U.S. Air Force has more than 2,000 fighters, of which more than 350 are fifth-generation. However, as demonstrated by the tremendous growth of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy over the past 20 years, this advantage could nullified in the coming decade.
The recent announcement that the J-20 would be entering mass production should serve as a warning sign that other nations are taking the idea of mass seriously. While it is possible that advantages in technology and networks could compensate for some deficit in mass, it would be fatal to rely on those advantages only to find out they were negated. The Air Force should ensure it has the numbers, or industrial capacity to create the numbers, necessary to prevail even without a significant technological advantage.
When the United States entered World War II, the Air Corps thought unescorted daylight precision bombing could win the war. It was wrong — at great cost in blood and treasure. But mass allowed leaders to quickly replace losses and simultaneously grow the force. In other words, mass allowed leaders to make mistakes in the uncertainty of a new conflict. Peacetime planners before World War II were wrong about the tactics of that war, but they set commanders up for success by providing mass that could be adapted to the needs of wartime. And even if overt conflict is unlikely, mass will remain essential for deterrence.
Today’s peacetime planners don’t have to get everything right, but they should ensure commanders have the resources they need to fight and win. This means critically examining definitions of mass, reevaluating the likelihood of losses, and once again paying attention to one of warfare’s oldest considerations: numbers.
2nd Lt. David Alman is an Air National Guard officer attending specialized undergraduate pilot training. He holds a B.S. and M.S. in aerospace engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and works as a management consultant in his civilian career.
Dr. Heather Venable is an associate professor of military and security studies at the U.S. Air Command and Staff College and teaches in the Department of Airpower. She is the author of How the Few Became the Proud: Crafting the Marine Corps Mystique, 1874–1918. She also edits for The Strategy Bridge and The Field Grade Leader and is a non-resident fellow at Marine Corps University’s Brute Krulak Center for Innovation and Creativity. These opinions are the authors’ own and do not represent that of the U.S. Air Force or the Department of Defense.
The US Air Force has built and flown a mysterious full-scale prototype of its future fighter jet
The U.S. Air Force has secretly designed, built and flown at least one prototype of its enigmatic next-generation fighter jet, the service’s top acquisition official confirmed to Defense News on Sept. 14.
The development is certain to shock the defense community, which last saw the first flight of an experimental fighter during the battle for the Joint Strike Fighter contract 20 years ago. With the Air Force’s future fighter program still in its infancy, the rollout and successful first flight of a demonstrator was not expected for years.
“We’ve already built and flown a full-scale flight demonstrator in the real world, and we broke records in doing it,” Will Roper told Defense News in an exclusive interview ahead of the Air Force Association’s Air, Space and Cyber Conference. “We are ready to go and build the next-generation aircraft in a way that has never happened before.”
Almost every detail about the aircraft itself will remain a mystery due to the classification of the Next Generation Air Dominance program, the Air Force’s effort for fielding a family of connected air warfare systems that could include fighters, drones and other networked platforms in space or the cyber realm.
Roper declined to comment on how many prototype aircraft have been flown or which defense contractors manufactured them. He wouldn’t say when or where the first flight occurred. And he refused to divulge any aspect of the aircraft’s design — its mission, whether it was uncrewed or optionally crewed, whether it could fly at hypersonic speeds or if it has stealth characteristics.
Those attributes, he said, are beside the point.
The importance, Roper said, is that just a year after the service completed an analysis of alternatives, the Air Force has proven it can use cutting-edge advanced manufacturing techniques to build and test a virtual version of its next fighter — and then move to constructing a full-scale prototype and flying it with mission systems onboard.
“This is not just something that you can apply to things that are simple systems” like Boeing’s T-7 Red Hawk trainer jet, the first Air Force aircraft to be built using the “holy trinity” of digital engineering, agile software development and open architecture, Roper said.
“We’re going after the most complicated systems that have ever been built, and checked all the boxes with this digital technology. In fact, [we’ve] not just checked the boxes, [we’ve] demonstrated something that’s truly magical.”
Now, the Next Generation Air Dominance program, or NGAD, sits at a decision point. Roper declined to say how quickly the Air Force could move its next-gen fighter into production, except to say “pretty fast.”
But before the service decides to begin producing a new generation of fighters, it must determine how many aircraft it will commit to buy and when it wants to start purchasing them — all choices that could influence the fiscal 2022 budget...[read on]
MarkOttawa said:Now a real NGAD shocker:
The US Air Force has built and flown a mysterious full-scale prototype of its future fighter jet/quote]
Now two important articles suggest not a prototype for one fight jet but rather a number of possible airframes being developed based on utilization of advanced technologies for design, development and production in small lots:
1) Steve Trimble at AW&ST:
The Nearly Decade-long Story That Led To NGAD Flight Demonstrator
Before Roper’s [USAF assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics] comments, the closest hint of the flight demonstrator’s existence came about a year ago. In previously unreported comments, Gen. David Goldfein, the then-chief of staff of the Air Force, offered the most explicit, unclassified description of the NGAD program during a September 2019 press conference.
“Here’s our NGAD strategy: We have five key technologies that we’re investing in that we don’t intend to have all come together on a single platform,” Goldfein said. “They will all mature and accelerate at difference paces. As they become ready, you will see us adapting them on existing platforms, sensors and weapons and also looking at new platforms, sensors and weapons.”
With the exception of an adaptive-cycle propulsion system, the Air Force has not specifically linked other new technologies to the NGAD program. But the new family of systems is likely to require further advances in communications and networking, onboard electrical-power generation, thermal management of waste heat and potentially new types of armament and sensors, such as directed-energy weapons and passive detection systems. Such technologies can be developed and tested on the ground but still must be validated in-flight in a relevant air vehicle configuration. In his comments in 2019, Goldfein hinted about the necessity of a flight demonstrator but stopped short of providing a timeline for the first flight.
“There has to be a test article to be able to take some of these technologies to mature,” Goldfein said. “That’s probably about as far as I can go.”..
2) Tyler Rogoway at The Drive's "The War Zone":
The Air Force’s Secret Next Gen Air Dominance Demonstrator Isn’t What You Think It Is
Like the future of air combat in general, there are lots of misconceptions about the secret technology demonstrator and the program it belongs to…
The future of air combat will be highly cooperative in nature, leveraging advanced networks and intertwined families of disparate aircraft designed to achieve tactical objectives together. It will not be about new do all missions/carry all sensors super fighters. As such, it is only logical, if not essential, that this new way of thinking about aerial warfare has found a fertile medium in the form rapidly fielded demonstrators and test articles used to prove the concepts and technologies behind it. What would be far more troubling and surprising is if there were no NGAD-related demonstrators flying, or at least a demonstrator featuring some of the technologies behind what will be an entire family of new air combat systems related to it.
The death of the fighter, at least as we understand it today, is key to this. Spending years designing and building a ‘YF’ prototype of an exquisite new tactical jet, and then putting it into production many years after that prototype first flew, if it even makes it that far at all, is becoming a major enemy to America’s future claim on air superiority. It is this failing internal process that NGAD and the ‘e-Plane’ initiative is aiming at vanquishing just as much as an enemy’s fighter force or air defense network.
As such, it is very unlikely that NGAD is a ‘new fighter’ as many have extrapolated it to be. Instead, it will be a system of platforms and underlying shared technologies that will work together seamlessly to break the enemy’s decision cycle and dominate future air wars.
Could it include a manned, tailless, supercruising, long-range tactical jet with a relatively large payload? For the few of us that have been begging for this aircraft for many years, on its surface, this would be exciting. And yes, it is possible that something like this may work as one potential component of NGAD, but the hard truth is that capabilities have moved on, and it would serve as just a node in a larger and more diverse ecosystem that will primarily be unmanned. Once again, that is if such an aircraft were to even end up being part of NGAD at all, which seems doubtful at this point.
So, seeing that we are talking about an ecosystem of networked platforms that will share modular sensors and a common communications architecture here, not a new super fighter, we should expect far more demonstrators and test articles now than ever. Even ones that have existed before the NGAD program came to be could potentially be re-roled to support the testing of aspects of the program. As far as I understand it, this type of ‘recycling’ is anything but rare.
That being said, could a more mature demonstrator of a tailless, supercruising, long-range quasi-‘fighter’ (in name only, like the B-21 is a ‘bomber’) be flying? Yes, it’s possible. But it is unlikely to be a prototype as many have called it and other test articles or demonstrators would support other aspects of the program…
So, it is not just possible, but probable that the NGAD demonstrator is very different than what most seem to expect it to be. In fact, the entire ‘fighter’ like concept associated with it could be far more of misdirection than reality. The ‘demonstrator’ could actually be an entire family of rapidly prototyped and already developed systems, with the networking and command and control architecture, shared sensors, and weapons being far more of a focus than the airframes themselves.
Above all else, it is certain that there is a ton of this type of rapid prototyping and flight testing occurring in the shadows today, well beyond the confines of the NGAD program. The secret nature of these initiatives means that people don’t see them, so it all seems new…
So, the bottom line is two-fold. First off, the combat Air Force of the future is going to look drastically different than what it has looked like for decades past. As a result, we are likely entering into the twilight of the age in which the fighter reigns supreme within the air combat domain.
Second, and most importantly, is that if the USAF wasn’t testing its best future air combat hunches and different aspects of the complex ecosystem of technologies that will support its designs on the future of air dominance with flying demonstrators, that would be highly troubling…
MarkOttawa said:One way to approach the arsenal plane, further links at original:
Air Force C-17 Launched A Pallet Of Mock Cruise Missiles During Recent Arsenal Plane Test
The test was part of a larger set of experiments centered on improving the service’s communications and data-sharing networks.
A U.S. Air Force C-17A Globemaster III transport aircraft simulated the launch of multiple AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile cruise missiles via a palletized system during a recent major demonstration exercise. This is the latest in a series of experiments to evaluate the possibility of using cargo aircraft as so-called “arsenal planes” to provide additional strike capacity, especially during a high-end conflict.
The Air Force Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation (SDPE) office within the Air Force Research Laboratory announced on September 30, 2020, that it had conducted the test as part of the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) Onramp #2 event, which had wrapped up earlier that month. The 412th Test Wing led the palletized munition test flight, in cooperation with Air Mobility Command, which provided the C-17A from one of its units at McChord Air Force Base in Washington State.
It’s not clear where the simulated launch actually took place, but the ABMS Onramp #2 included demonstrations at the ranges surrounding Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, and in the Gulf of Mexico. A combined operations center and intelligence fusion cell at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland helped coordinate the various activities.
The overall goal of the event was to explore how the various communications and data sharing networks and related systems under development as part of the ABMS program could help link together various sensors and weapon systems. Cruise missile defense was a major focus area, with the event including a first-of-its-kind demonstration of a U.S. Army howitzer shooting down a target drone acting as a surrogate cruise missile using a Hyper Velocity Projectile (HVP) after receiving targeting information from off-board sources.
Increased network connectivity is also extremely important for the arsenal plane concept, as cargo aircraft do not generally have means of identifying targets at stand-off ranges and then gathering the necessary information to engage them all on their own. Other platforms would almost certainly be responsible for feeding that information to airlifters operating in this role.
Transports, such as the C-17, would then use their large load carrying capacity, combined with palletized launch systems, to offer means of rapidly engaging a large number of targets across a broad area [emphasis added]. Being able to quickly convert airlifters to and from an arsenal plane configuration would also give the Air Force a very flexible and relatively low-cost means of generating large amounts of extra strike capacity, especially compared to procuring additional heavy bombers.
“A Palletized Munitions capability could enable various airlift aircraft to employ a range of weapons en masse via a self-contained, roll-on/roll-off palletized system, and may offer an alternative way for the Air Force to bring more mass to the fight,” Dr. Dean Evans, the Palletized Munitions Experimentation Program Manager at SDPE, said in a statement after the test during the ABMS Onramp event. “The successful demo represents a key step in SDPE’s Palletized Munitions Experimentation Campaign, which will determine if the Palletized Munitions concept is feasible and provides a competitive advantage for the warfighter.”
The stealthy AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM) family of land-attack cruise missiles would be especially capable and combat-proven weapons to combine with the arsenal plane concept. The standard A model has a range of around 230 miles, while the extended range B variant can hit targets out to around 575 miles or more. The Air Force is in the process of acquiring an extreme-range D version now, as well, that will have a range in excess of 1,000 miles. Integrating these weapons into the service’s palletized munitions systems could also serve as a stepping stone to adding the AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), a derivative of the JASSM, to the mix, further expanding the capabilities of future arsenal planes [emphasis added]...
C-17s and other airlifters acting as arsenal planes could also provide additional close air support or other strike capabilities in lower-risk environments using precision-guided bombs or other shorter-range weapons. The range of these aircraft would enable them to loiter for extended periods over portions of the battlefield, as well. The Air Force had already revealed that C-17 had flown just this kind of mission during the ABMS Onramp event, as well, dropping loads of palletized Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) GPS-guided bombs.
“This concept, once fully mature, is for the munitions to behave just as if they were dropped from a bomber aircraft,” Air Force General Jacqueline Van Ovost, the head of Air Mobility Command, said during the Air Force Association’s main annual convention, held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in September. “They separate from the airplane, they ignite their motors, fly to pre-designated waypoints using different flight altitudes, and then they strike their targets.”
“Our ability to flex to use this airplane [the C-17] in multiple ways is what really brings this richness to operations. While we’re flying regular cargo deployments and distributions, there are still lots of legs where we’re flying airplanes where you have the capacity to do so,” she continued. “We haven’t really looked at the full concept to see how many it would take, and this is not taking the place of any of the Global Strike capabilities. This is just the capability we want to have, should we need it, and if we pull it into an [operations] plan, that’s great.”..
All told, the Air Force looks to be moving quickly to explore these concepts anew and it will be very interesting to see how these projects continue to evolve in the near term. If they are pursued to an operational capability, they could drastically increase the USAF’s ability to carry large numbers of heavy weapons into the fight over long ranges, which is absurdly relevant considering the challenges faced with a potential fight against a peer-state, especially in the vast Pacific theater [emphasis added].
Contact the author: firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S. Air Force ‘Arsenal Plane’ Revival Sparks Intense Debate
A proposal to modify Lockheed C-130s and Boeing C-17s to air-drop existing and new long-range munitions is now favored as a short-term solution by the Air Force Warfighting Integration Capability (AFWIC) office, which is charged with developing new operational concepts by the Air Staff.
Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), which has responsibility for the bomber fleet and inventory of intercontinental ballistic missiles, prefers developing a new aircraft optimized for the mission, rather than seeking to borrow strike capacity from an already overburdened air mobility fleet [could a new-build large Boeing airliner, e.g. 787, be suitably modified?]…
MarkOttawa said:Now two important articles suggest not a prototype for one fight jet but rather a number of possible airframes being developed based on utilization of advanced technologies for design, development and production in small lots:
1) Steve Trimble at AW&ST:
2) Tyler Rogoway at The Drive's "The War Zone":
Introduction to the Air Force’s Next Generation Air Dominance Program
October 6, 2020 10:14 AM
The following is the Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Air Force Next-Generation Air Dominance Program: An Introduction.
From the report
On September 15, 2020, U.S. Air Force acquisition executive Dr. Will Roper announced that the Air Force had flown a full-scale flight demonstrator as part of the Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program.
The announcement came as a surprise to many observers, both as the NGAD program was believed to be an early-phase technology development program unlikely to yield hardware in the near term, and because funding began two years ago, which is unusually fast to design and build a military aircraft. DOD had mentioned an interest in building a new “X-plane” prototype as far back as 2014, but it is not clear whether this led to the NGAD demonstrator.
What Is the NGAD Program?
The Air Force has said that NGAD exists to examine five major technologies that are likely to appear on next generation aircraft, with the goal of enhancements in survivability, lethality, and persistence. It has not specified what four of those technologies are.
The one acknowledged NGAD-related technology is propulsion. Over the past few years, the Air Force has invested substantially in variable cycle engines. Other likely candidates include new forms of stealth; advanced weapons, including directed energy; and thermal management. The current engine on the F-35 and its variants expected to be on the B-21 produce a tremendous amount of electrical power that can enable new weapons. That could require advanced techniques to manage generated heat, so that it does not become part of the aircraft signatures and make the plane easier to detect.
Is the Goal of NGAD a New Fighter?
The technologies involved in NGAD are being developed to provide air dominance. Part of the program’s goal is to determine how to achieve that end, independent of traditional ideas. NGAD could take the form of a single aircraft and/or a number of complementary systems—manned, unmanned, optionally manned, cyber, electronic—forms that would not resemble the traditional “fighter.”
For example, a larger aircraft the size of a B-21 may not maneuver like a fighter. But that large an aircraft carrying a directed energy weapon, with multiple engines making substantial electrical power for that weapon, could ensure that no enemy flies in a large amount of airspace. That is air dominance. There appears little reason to assume that NGAD is going to yield a plane the size that one person sits in, and that goes out and dogfights kinetically, trying to outturn another plane—or that sensors and weapons have to be on the same aircraft.
MarkOttawa said:Taking advantage of airlines woes?
USAF is Closing the Pilot Shortage, But Still Planning for Post-Pandemic Dip
The COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the commercial airline industry means Air Force pilot retention—a big problem earlier in the year—is in a relatively good position, but the service still needs to prepare for empty cockpits when the economy comes back.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., speaking Oct. 28 at the virtual Airlift/Tanker Association Conference, said the downturn in the industry means USAF is doing a “pretty good” job keeping its pilots around. Before the pandemic hit in March, the service said it was still short about 2,100 pilots. Brown did not provide an update on that number, but said, “Retention is always a challenge, it ebbs and flows with the economy.”
The Air Force keeps a chart that has a “red line” showing the amount of pilots it needs, and a “blue line” showing how many pilots it has, and “those lines never meet,” he added.
Brown is meeting with the A3 Operations, Plans, and Requirements office to determine steps to take, and the upcoming aircrew summit in December will include discussions on issues such as the shortfall. While he doesn’t have a “crystal ball” to predict the Air Force’s specific steps in the future, the service is undergoing some steps now to alleviate the potential return of a big pilot shortfall.
Specifically, the Air Force is focused on production. “If you produce more, retention becomes less of a problem,” he said.
Air Education and Training Command is pushing ahead on initiatives such as Pilot Training Next and Undergraduate Pilot Training 2.5, using new technologies like virtual reality to streamline pilot training. These steps “help in some cases with production,” he said.
tomahawk6 said:The USAF is working on adding laser weapons to fighter. You need alot of power to make it work.
CBH99 said:I know nothing about this stuff, but wouldn't a jet engine generate more than enough power for laser? Especially if it's to engage incoming missiles?
MilEME09 said:Depends on the power output of the laser vs the energy generation capabilities of the aircraft.