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2006-02-23 Science & Technology
Strategy Page: The TacAir Empire Strikes Back
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Posted by 3dc 2006-02-23 01:11|| E-Mail|| Front Page|| [301 views since 2007-05-07]  Top

#1 Read, its 2006 and da thingys are hyping up for possible mil action(s) this year. MadMoud and the Iranian Mullahocracy are all but officially demanding Iran be invaded this year, as early as March 28, 2006 iff PRAVDA, etc. is to be believed. STRATEGYPAGE also has an article describing the Top Ten Signs America will attack IRAN - gotta watch those Pizza and Take Out meters, boyz.
Posted by JosephMendiola 2006-02-23 02:04||   2006-02-23 02:04|| Front Page Top

#2 Get these dinosaur admirals out of the service. Unmanned vehicles are the way of the future.
Posted by gromky">gromky  2006-02-23 05:09||]">[]  2006-02-23 05:09|| Front Page Top

#3 Get these dinosaur admirals out of the service. Unmanned vehicles are the way of the future.

"Get these dinosaur fighter proponents out of teh service. Bombers are the way of the future." And the 8th Air Force suffered losses of 25% per mission without significantly denting German economy. Oh and before the A-bomnb (unforeseen by the proponents of strategic bombing) no air force was able to force ennemy to surrender without the help of those "unneeded" services called land army and Navy.

Before the weapon of the future is ready, admirals and generals have to fight the wars of the presnt. And the presnt is: UCAVs, real UCAVs with a real payload, can't land on carriers, and I suspect, barely on airstripes.
Posted by JFM">JFM  2006-02-23 05:43||   2006-02-23 05:43|| Front Page Top

#4 Gotta agree with JFM on this. Long range tactical UAV bombers are the future. Although where a bomber ends and a smart missile begins is purely a matter of $¢s.
Posted by phil_b">phil_b  2006-02-23 06:38||]">[]  2006-02-23 06:38|| Front Page Top

#5 I might agree with respect to deployment but not with respect to R & D. There were plenty of cavalry officers in 1941. It's always hard to call these changes, but the Navy seems to be playing too conservatively here.
Posted by Jack Bauer 2006-02-23 08:00||   2006-02-23 08:00|| Front Page Top

#6 USN may be cutting back UCAV research, but USAF and Army are not - their budgets have greatly increased.
Posted by lotp 2006-02-23 08:02||   2006-02-23 08:02|| Front Page Top

#7 Actually JFM, you're quite wrong about one thing:

UCAVs land frequently - and some of them autonomously - every single day. Lots of them. Many with unexpended ordnance. In combat areas.

So "barely" is wrong. Its quite routine anymore. There are place I've been that have those in the pattern along with manned vehicles, just fine.

And the issue of carrier landings is about to become moot - there is very little that these systems cannot correct for and do so much faster than a human. And with higher G-loads and lower weights (dont need all the stuff that keeps the pilot alive) for the same thrust, they are much more capable.

Update your knowledge base.
Posted by OldSpook 2006-02-23 10:11||   2006-02-23 10:11|| Front Page Top

#8 Someday, UCAVs will completely replace manned aircraft for most applications. We aren't there yet, but it's probably just a few years off.

Spook, I think you're right about carrier landings. A combination ILS and terminal guidance system that could auto-navigate the UCAV right down to the arrester wire is probably not that much of a challenge anymore.
Posted by Mike 2006-02-23 10:18||   2006-02-23 10:18|| Front Page Top

#9 OldSpook: the key word was real. I was not talking of improved plane toys barely able to lift a couple HellFires but of something large enough for carrying seveeral tons of ordnance. That means much larger take-off and landing speeds. Still larger if plane is required to have the kind of aerodynamics who allow to break the sound barrier.
Posted by JFM">JFM  2006-02-23 10:35||   2006-02-23 10:35|| Front Page Top

#10 For the latter, you might see hypersonic missiles deployed first.
Posted by lotp 2006-02-23 10:42||   2006-02-23 10:42|| Front Page Top

#11 There's the problem JFM - you're fighting the wrong war.

We dont need several tons of lift. This isnt WW2, we are not trying to level whole areas with mass tonnage -we dont need to drop thousands of 500lb bombs to take out a refinery anymore. This isnt Korea where we have to drop hundreds of bombs on the Sinju bridge just to mildly damage it. This isn't even Vietnam: Compare Rolling Thunder over Vietnam with iron bombs and B-52's, to the stand-off strikes via cruise missles from far fewer B-52's and the like in the first gulf war.

The max bomb size thats typically called for anymore is 500 pounds, and the Hellfire and new 250lb guided bombs are the preferred weapons. When you can put 250 pounds of modern HE within inches of the target, you simply do not need much more than that.

Anything more specialized (like bunker busters) or bigger than that the B-1 and B2 can delivery it. Remember we are talking tacair and direct support of ground operations, as well as opearational deep strike on targets - targets that dont qualify for expenditure of cruise missles.

So we dont need massive lift capacity for modern tactical air activity. And for this activity, UCAVs are every bit as capable, cheaper to fly and maintain, and lower risk.

And they can be bought in larger numbers - remember the most expensive component in a tactical strike aircraft is the pilot. If you drop that expense, then you can buy many more airframes and be even more effective.

And aside from that, if you've ever seen a pred or ghawk, you'd not be calling them toy planes.

You still might want to consider an upgrade to your knowledge base.
Posted by OldSpook 2006-02-23 11:41||   2006-02-23 11:41|| Front Page Top

#12 Certainly the Global Hawk isn't exactly a toy:

Global Hawk, which has a wingspan of 116 feet (35.3 meters) and is 44 feet (13.4 meters) long, can range as far as 12,000 nautical miles, at altitudes up to 65,000 feet (19,812 meters), flying at speeds approaching 340 knots (about 400 mph) for as long as 35 hours. During a typical mission, the aircraft can fly 1,200 miles to an area of interest and remain on station for 24 hours. Its cloud-penetrating, Synthetic Aperture Radar/Ground Moving Target Indicator, electro-optical and infrared sensors can image an area the size of Illinois (40,000 nautical square miles) in just 24 hours. Through satellite and ground systems, the imagery can be relayed in near-real-time to battlefield commanders.

When fully-fueled for flight, Global Hawk weighs approximately 25,600 pounds (11,612 kilograms).

The Predator is a smaller plane,

Length: 27 feet (8.22 meters)
Height: 6.9 feet (2.1 meters)
Weight: 1,130 pounds ( 512 kilograms) empty, maximum takeoff weight 2,250 pounds (1,020 kilograms)
Wingspan: 48.7 feet (14.8 meters)
Speed: Cruise speed around 84 mph (70 knots), up to 135 mph
Range: up to 400 nautical miles (454 miles)
Ceiling: up to 25,000 feet (7,620 meters)
Fuel Capacity: 665 pounds (100 gallons)
Payload: 450 pounds (204 kilograms)

but it's not a toy either, especially when you consider the whole operational system of which it is a part:

A fully operational system consists of four aircraft (with sensors), a ground control station, a Predator Primary Satellite Link, and approximately 55 personnel for deployed 24-hour operations.

The basic crew for the Predator is one pilot and two sensor operators. They fly the aircraft from inside the ground control station via a C-Band line-of-sight data link or a Ku-Band satellite data link for beyond line-of-sight flight. The aircraft is equipped with a color nose camera (generally used by the pilot for flight control), a day variable-aperture TV camera, a variable-aperture infrared camera (for low light/night), and a synthetic aperture radar for looking through smoke, clouds or haze. The cameras produce full motion video while the SAR produces still frame radar images.

The MQ-1 Predator carries the Multi-spectral Targeting System with inherent AGM-114 Hellfire missile targeting capability and integrates electro-optical, infrared, laser designator and laser illuminator into a single sensor package. The aircraft can employ two laser-guided Hellfire anti-tank missiles with the MTS ball. ....

That smaller size has some major logistical advantages:

The Predator aircraft can be disassembled and loaded into a "coffin." The ground control system is transportable in a C-130 (or larger) transport aircraft. The Predator can operate on a 5,000 by 75 feet (1,524 meters by 23 meters), hard surface runway with clear line-of-sight. The ground data terminal antenna provides line-of-sight communications for takeoff and landing. The PPSL provides over-the-horizon communications for the aircraft.

An alternate method of employment, Remote Split Operations, employs a smaller version of the GCS called the Launch and Recovery GCS. The LRGCS conducts takeoff and landing operations at the forward deployed location while the CONUS based GCS conducts the mission via extended communications links.

Posted by lotp 2006-02-23 12:01||   2006-02-23 12:01|| Front Page Top

#13 The new UCAVs in R&D are almost as big as normal aircraft and carry twice the payload as a manned fighter. They cost less, are faster and can withstand higher Gs and have longer legs and are easier to maintain then normal aircraft as well. These babies will be out around 2010-2012. They can be controled via satellite from anywhere in the world so they can pump out more sorties than manned aircraft as well since a guy doing an 8 hour shift in Space Command can hand off control to a guy in Guam at the end of the day. 24/7 control and flight. Mid-air refueling is also part of their package as well. Programing is better so the UCAV can choose its own course from live feeds from satellite and the human controllers really don't need to do anything except watch to make sure it doesn't fuck up. They use very tight communucation beams and frequency hop so they can't be jammed by normal equipment. (You can jam anything, but you would have to have a huge dish that jams every frequency and people on the other side of the planet would be able to target your ass.)
It is happening and will be here very, very quickly. Within 15 years, these babies will be on call 24/356 and able to lotter over a theater of operation with mid-air robotic refueling and able to hit anytime someone pushes a button.
Posted by mmurray821 2006-02-23 12:08||   2006-02-23 12:08|| Front Page Top

#14 To clarify the above post, it is the Air Force and Army making them. The Navy most likely will just buy some, hence the cutting of their budget. Why do the same work twice?
Posted by mmurray821 2006-02-23 12:10||   2006-02-23 12:10|| Front Page Top

#15 Because the stresses of a carrier landing are far greater than for a field landing. It's aslways been so unless the AF wants to adopt the Navy palne such as the F-4.
Posted by Nimble Spemble 2006-02-23 12:39||   2006-02-23 12:39|| Front Page Top

#16 Wonder if they aren't building them carrier-capable, just doing it under the AF budget. Anybody know?
Posted by Mike 2006-02-23 14:06||   2006-02-23 14:06|| Front Page Top

#17 Mike,
I do know with the F-35 that the Navy version just has heavier landing gear and an arrester hook. I am thinking they might do the same with the UCAV.
Posted by mmurray821 2006-02-23 14:31||   2006-02-23 14:31|| Front Page Top


"Within 15 years, these babies will be on call 24/356..."

What about the other nine days in the year?

Posted by Vinkat Bala Subrumanian 2006-02-23 15:12||   2006-02-23 15:12|| Front Page Top

#19 Those are the offical holidays. Can't work on them. Union rules you know.

Posted by mmurray821 2006-02-23 15:33||   2006-02-23 15:33|| Front Page Top

#20 Northrop Grumman is working a CV-capable UAV. regarding the comment that it is hard to tell where the UAV quits and the missle begins: real easy: the UAV is "s'posed' to come back" (snark disengaged)
Posted by USN, ret. 2006-02-23 15:38||   2006-02-23 15:38|| Front Page Top

#21 This is just a replay of the battleship vs carriers crap the Navy went through in the 1920s and 1930s : a bunch of brasshats made their bones on carriers and will defend them to the death. Of course, the first time we lose a carrier battle group to someone else's UAV swarm, the tide will offically turn. Until then, the Army and AF will continue the research, and the smart aerospace firms will spend some of their own funds to make their UAVs carrier-worthy.
Posted by Shieldwolf 2006-02-23 15:43||   2006-02-23 15:43|| Front Page Top

#22 OldSpook, the Navy is working on magnetic induction to launch and land aircraft with far greater control than at present. Paradoxically, this may save large capital ships like aircraft carriers, because the huge amounts of electricity needed can only come from a massive power plant, probably nuclear.
Posted by phil_b">phil_b  2006-02-23 17:32||]">[]  2006-02-23 17:32|| Front Page Top

#23 And re post #4, I was agreeing with the quote JFM was disagreeing with, and therefore diagreeing with him.
Posted by phil_b">phil_b  2006-02-23 17:34||]">[]  2006-02-23 17:34|| Front Page Top

#24 OldSpook: I kind of wonder if the US could build a high altitude aircraft as large an Antonov An-225, that Soviet behemoth. The reason being that even if it took two refuelings just to get it up to the Stratosphere, the ability to drop something on the order of 1,700 - 250lb JDAM iron bombs would be spectacular.

I gather a B-52 can "only" carry 51 such bombs, and even in a chalk of three, total 153 bombs, they can "only" obliterate a half-square-mile area.

So even if were just carpet bombing, we are talking the annihilation of over 5 square miles.

But a JDAM dropped from the stratosphere could glide hundreds of miles. Targetting 1700 enemy targets simultaneously. dayamn.
Posted by Anonymoose 2006-02-23 20:02||   2006-02-23 20:02|| Front Page Top

#25 the Navy is working on magnetic induction to launch and land aircraft

Ummmm, wouldn't that generate a pulse as great or greater than a nuclear EMP? (Square of distance, it's less than 10 feet away)
I know the military has hardened electronics, but this seems self-defeating, fry your onboard electronics each launch?
Also announce to the world (With EMP) your every launch and it's location?
Seems a very bad idea.
Posted by Redneck Jim 2006-02-23 21:22||   2006-02-23 21:22|| Front Page Top

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