Tag Archives: plane

Japan’s Aging Air Force

18 Oct

Japan faces a big dilemma. It’s two main adversaries in the region, Russia and China, which Japan has several territorial disputes with, have already begun developing the next generation of combat aircraft and have begun massive modernization efforts while Japan has been operating the same fleet primarily made up of 200 F-15s since the late stages of the Cold War. It’s fleet is becoming older and increasingly more expensive to maintain. Finally, after a decade of shrinking defense budgets, the JASDF is getting a big budget with money for upwards of $8 billion worth of air power. While originally eyeing the American F-22 Raptor, Japan has had to look elsewhere due to the ban on exports imposed by the US Congress, which is a shame because I think that if any US ally needs a shot at getting the F-22 it’d be Japan. They need it. Instead, Japan will choose from 3 different aircraft. They are:

The F-35 Lightning II

The F/A-18 Super Hornet

And the Eurofighter Typhoon

Not bad choices. Any one of these aircraft should fair very well against most of what the Russians, Chinese and North Koreans have to throw at them. Japan has currently set aside funding for 40 planes but that number is certainly going to  rise significantly in the face of Russian and Chinese rearmament. They’re likely to choose one of the American fighters due to their military alliance with the US and they already work closely with the American military which uses the same parts and equipment so cooperation would be easier. If Japan wants to maintain stability in the region then investing in its power projection capabilities is paramount and this new fighter deal will go a long way to achieve that end.

McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle

14 Oct

The F-15 is a twin engine tactical fighter capable of operating in any kind of weather conditions and was designed by the renowned McDonnell Douglas. Their design was selected in 1967 to give the US military a dominant air-superiority fighter, which would become one of the most successful fighters in modern times with over 100 aerial combat victories and no air-to-air losses. The F-15’s first flight was in July 1972. It went through rigorous trials and entered service in 1976 and is expected to remain in service with the US military until 2025. Since it’s production, the Eagle has also entered service with the armed forces of Saudi Arabia, Japan and Israel. Originally envisioned as a pure dogfighter, the F-15 has been further developed into 2 upgraded models. The F-15E Strike Eagle which is equipped with more advanced avionics and electronic warfare capabilities. The F-15SE is a stealthy version, complete with internal weapons bays and radar-absorbent materials.

The F-15 was developed in the F-X program of the late 1960’s in response to fears that the Soviet MiG-25 Foxbat could outclass current American fighters. McDonnell Douglas beat out heavy hitters like General Dynamics, Fairchild Republic and North American Rockwell to snatch up the lucrative fighter contract. The Eagle’s design incorporated the best aspects of older combat jet aircraft like the F-4 Phantom and combined it with the best in new technology and advanced designs like the “look down/shoot down” radar that could distinguish low-flying targets from ground clutter, a new canopy that provided unparalleled visibility, and all-new avionics and computer information systems.

Being the first strictly air-superiority fighter developed by the US since the F-86 Sabre from the late 1940’s, the production of the F-15 also required an overhaul in the design of advanced air-t0-air weaponry. The revolutionary canopy and heads up display allowed the single pilot to conduct air combat and fly the plane as safely and effectively as possible. It can be outfitted with several types of missiles including the Sparrow, AMRAAM, or Sidewinder. It also features an internal M61A1 20 mm Gatling gun under the right wing.

The Eagle has seen extensive combat use, mostly by Middle-Eastern militaries in regional conflicts. The first air-to-air kill was scored by an Israeli Air Force ace in 1979 and during Israeli raids into Lebanon in 1979-81, F-15As shot down 13 Syrian MiG-21 Fishbeds and 2 Syrian MiG-25 Foxbats. F-15s served in the 1982 Lebanon War where they shot down 40 enemy planes, 23 Syrian MiG-21 Fishbeds, 17 MiG-23 Floggers and 1 Syrian SA.342L Gazelle helicopter. In 1984, Saudi F-15C pilots shot down 2 Iranian F-4E Phantoms. In 1985, F-15s were used in a ground attack role to bomb a PLO headquarters in Tunisia. Saudi pilots shot down 2 Iraqi Mirage F1s during the Gulf War. The Eagle is also capable of being equipped with a satellite killer missile and has performed numerous successful tests. The USAF deployed F-15C, D, and E models to participate in the First Gulf War where they accounted for 36 of the 39 aerial victories. As of 2008, the aerial combat record for the F-15 from all operators stands at 104 kills and 0 air combat losses.

Number built: 1,198

Unit Cost: F-15A/B: $27,900,000. F-15C/D: $29,900,000

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1: pilot
  • Length: 63 ft 9 in (19.43 m)
  • Wingspan: 42 ft 10 in (13.05 m)
  • Height: 18 ft 6 in (5.63 m)
  • Wing area: 608 ft² (56.5 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 64A006.6 root, NACA 64A203 tip
  • Empty weight: 28,000 lb (12,700 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 44,500 lb (20,200 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 68,000 lb (30,845 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney F100-100 or −220 afterburning turbofans
    • Dry thrust: 17,450 lbf (77.62 kN) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 25,000 lbf for −220 (111.2 kN for −220) each
  • Fuel capacity: 13,455 lb (6,100 kg) internal

Performance

  • Maximum speed:
    • High altitude: Mach 2.5+ (1,650+ mph, 2,660+ km/h)
    • Low altitude: Mach 1.2 (900 mph, 1,450 km/h)
  • Combat radius: 1,061 nmi (1,222 mi, 1,967 km) for interdiction mission
  • Ferry range: 3,450 mi (3,000 nmi, 5,550 km) with conformal fuel tanks and three external fuel tanks
  • Service ceiling: 65,000 ft (20,000 m)
  • Rate of climb: >50,000 ft/min (254 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 73.1 lb/ft² (358 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 1.12 (−220)

History of US Arms Sales to Taiwan

26 Sep

The US has had close ties with the Republic of China (Taiwan) since their fight against Japan in World War 2. And American support continued despite the ROC’s defeat by the communist forces of the People’s Republic of China in 1950. Taiwan was an important part in the plan to contain the spread of communism in Asia during the Cold War and offered behind the scenes assistance to anti-communist forces in Korea and Vietnam. After the Taiwan Relations Act was passed in 1979, it became US law to supply Taiwan with military hardware and to defend them against outside aggression, specifically China. The US has made good on this promise on 3 separate occasions known as the Taiwan Strait Crises in 1954-55, 1958, and 1995-96 when American naval forces in the region were mobilized to deter Chinese military posturing.

As of now, there have been at least 53 separate arms deals reaching an estimated $60 billion worth, not including inflation which could very well raise the deals to over $100 billion. Most sales are for advanced technology such as surface-to-air missiles, fighter jets and other hi-tech equipment not easily produced indigenously. I’ve tried to compile all available data I could find so let me know if you notice something that I left out.

1979, July- 48 F-5E, $240 million

1979, November- 500 AGM-65 Maverick, $25 million

1980, January- BGM-71 TOW, MIM-23 Hawk, MIM-72 Chaparral, $280 million

1980, July- M110A2, $3.7 million

1982, April- Aircraft parts, $640 thousand

1982, June- Armored personnel carriers, mortar vehicle, command vehicle, $97 million

1982, August- $620 million

1982, November- Vehicles, spare parts and ancillary equipment, $97 million

1983, February- 66 F-104G, no data on dollar value

1984, June- 12 C-130, $325 million

1985, February- 12 F-5, F-100, T-33, T-28 radar and spare parts, $325 million

1985, June- 262 MIM-72 Chaparral, $94 million

1986, August- S-2T, AN/TPQ-37, S-2E/G, Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate, $260 million

1989- 88 Standard Missile, $44 million

1990, August- F-5, F-104, C-130 radar, $108 million

1991, September- 110 M60A3, $119 million

1992- 8 C-130, $220 million

1992, July- Rental of 3 Knox class frigates, $230 million

1992, August- 207 Standard Missiles, $126 million

1992, September- 150 F-16s, $6 billion

1993, January- 200 Patriot missiles and related equipment, $10 billion

1993, March- 4 E-2T, $900 million

1993, June- Aircraft parts, radar and navigation equipment, $156 million

1993, November- 150 Mk46  Mod5RC torpedoes and related components, $54 million

1994, February- Rental of 3 Knox class frigates, $230 million

1994, September- 4 MSO ocean minesweepers, no data on dollar value

1994, October- Rental of 2 Newport class tank landing ships, $2.6 million

1995, May- 160 M60A3, $223 million

1996, August- 1299 FIM-92 Stingers and related equipment, $420 million

1996, September- 110 Mk46 Mod5 torpedoes, $69 million

1997, March- AGM-84A, AH-1W, S-70C, $232 million

1997, May- 700+ DMS systems, $58 million

1997, May- 2 Knox class frigates, no data on dollar value

1998- 4 S-70C, $70 million

1998, March- OH-58, AH-1W and related equipment, $452 million

1998, August- unknown material, $350 million

1998, October- unknown material, $440 million

1999, April- Early warning radar defense system, $800 million

1999, May- Hellfire II, ANVRC-92E, SINC-GARS-based radio systems, intelligence electronic warfare systems, high-mobility multipurpose wheeled and additional equipment, $87 million

1997, July- E-2T and F-16s, $550 million

2000, March- Improved Hawk system and related equipment, $202 million

2000, June- F-16s on-board navigation and targeting pods, AN/ALQ-184 electronic countermeasure pods, $356 million

2000, September- AIM-120C medium-range air to air missiles, Harpoon ship-to-ship missiles, 155 mm self proelled artillery and communications eqipment, $1.4 billion

2001, April- incomplete order, $18 billion

2003, November- 200 AIM-120C-5, no data on dollar value

2004, April- 2 Ultra-high frequency early warning radar and remote equipment, $17.8 million

2007, March- 453 AIM-120C-5 missiles, air-to-air missiles, $421 million

2007, 66 F-16 C/D, $3.7 billion

2007, September- P-3C, Standard Missiles-2, $2.23 billion

2007, November- Patriot missile system upgrades, $939 million

2008, October- Patriot anti-missile system, E-2T, Apache helicopters and other weaponry, $6.46 billion

2011, September- Upgrades for F-16s, $5.85 billion

There’s a PDF file on this site with the original details.

The US is required by law to aid Taiwan in developing its military but is loath to sacrifice its increasingly vital relationship with China and the decision to upgrade Taiwan’s older F-16s instead of selling them new ones has shaken the Taiwanese government. They have a few options on the table if they wish to close the ever widening gap between them and the mainland. First, they could see about simply buying the production license for the F-16 if that’s what they really wanted. It’s less diplomatically sensitive and would allow Taiwan to build as many as it needs. Second, they could develop their own fighter program. Such an endeavor is expensive but Taiwan is one of the most developed countries in the region and already has a high technological base from which to work from. How Taiwan handles the situation could very well decide by what terms it eventually rejoins the mainland, of its own free will with special conditions for reunification or by Chinese conquest.

Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor

7 Sep

The F-22 is an American built, single-seat, twin engine, 5th generation stealth air superiority fighter, and is widely hailed as the most advanced fighter ever created. While originally built for the purpose of dogfighting, the Raptor is also capable of attacking ground targets designated by friendly forces,electronic warfare and signals intelligence. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics is responsible for most of the construction of the aircraft but has teamed up with Boeing Defense, Space and Security who makes the wings, aft fuselage, avionics and training systems. In 1981, the US Air Force began seeking out a future replacement for the F-15 and F-16 in response to new high performance Soviet fighter jets like the Su-27 Flanker and MiG-29 Fulcrum. The Defense Department sent out a request for proposals. Many companies participated in the design competition but ultimately it came down to Lockheed/Boeing/General Dynamics who came out with their YF-22 against Northrup/McDonnell Douglas and their YF-23 after a 50 month demonstration phase. The Secretary of the Air Force selected the YF-22 as the winner, favoring its greater agility over the YF-23’s greater speed and stealth. The F-22 as it’s known today had its first flight in 1997 and officially entered service on December 15, 2005.

The Raptor was two internal weapons bays, one on the bottom and two on each side. It has room for one short range missile in each side bay as well as six medium range missiles in the center. Up to four medium range missiles can be swapped out for two medium sized bombs or four small diameter bombs. It is also capable of carrying some air-to-surface munitions although it is unable to designate targets on its own. It has also been fitted with an M61A2 Vulcan cannon on the right wing with enough ammunition for five seconds of continuous fire. Amazingly, the F-22 has been able to close within Vulcan range during training dogfights without being detected. Also, each wing has two hardpoints able to carry extra fuel tanks or missiles when stealth is not a priority.

The F-22 is constructed using state of the art, heat and stress resistant polymers and metals. However, some of these materials are highly toxic and personnel involved in their handling must wear special protective gear. The aircraft is fitted with an advanced high performance engine of which the  maximum thrust is classified but is estimated at 35,000 lbf. An internal weapons bay is a key design feature which makes stealth and supercruise possible, giving the aircraft a top speed of approximately 1,500 mph. The thrust vectoring nozzles allow the Raptor to come in at extremely high angles of attack which has contributed greatly to kill ratios in war games and is a key strategy of the F-22. The aircraft possesses very little ground attack potential on its own since it has no forward looking infrared, laser designator, laser spot tracker, and no external pods to attach them.

Equipped with the most advanced and top-secret fighter software, radar, and situational awareness programs on the market  and with its stealth, the F-22 is able to operate much closer to the battlefield despite poor air-to-ground performance. Due to it’s unique electronic warfare abilities it’s also able to function as a mini-AWACS or airborne early warning and control platform. The Raptor fleet has already received the first round of upgrades in software since entering service and is on schedule to get the latest updates as they become available. The cockpits are all glass and designed to be used in conjunction with night vision goggles due to the lack of optical or infrared vision devices. In addition, the ICAW (Integrated Caution, Advisory and Warning System) allows the pilot to be a tactician instead of a babysitter.

The F-22’s stealth is due to the overall shape of the aircraft, the use of RAM (radar absorbent materials), and even things as minuscule as specially designed hinges and pilot helmets with minimal radar return. Previous generations of stealth aircraft were high maintenance, often requiring 100+ hours of maintenance per flying hour. The F-1117 Nighthawk required constant maintenance to its radar reflective coating and the B2 Spirit requires a climate controlled hangar which makes combat deployments overseas incredibly difficult. The F-22 however can undergo repairs like any other fighter and has a “Signature Assessment System” which notifies the pilot when wear and tear begins to degrade the aircraft’s performance or stealth capabilities.

Due to the lack of an enemy with an advanced air force, the Raptor has not been tested in actual combat but has participated in numerous training exercises and war games where it consistently outclassed other new fighters, most notably the Eurofighter Typhoon, during most engagements. In November 2007, Raptors were scrambled to intercept Russian bombers over Alaska. An F-22 was the first fighter ever to be aerially refueled with an all synthetic compound.

Because of the incredibly high cost per aircraft and delays in the 6th generation fighter programs of potential adversaries, the ban on exports, and the development of the supposedly cheaper Joint Strike Fighter program, there have been many calls to cease production of the F-22. As of now, the procurement cap for the aircraft stands at 187 aircraft, down from the desired 650.

Number Built: 175 (As of 2011)

Unit Cost: $150,000,000

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 62 ft 1 in (18.90 m)
  • Wingspan: 44 ft 6 in (13.56 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 8 in (5.08 m)
  • Wing area: 840 ft² (78.04 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 64A?05.92 root, NACA 64A?04.29 tip
  • Empty weight: 43,430 lb (19,700 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 64,460 lb (29,300 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 83,500 lb (38,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 Pitch Thrust vectoring turbofans
    • Dry thrust: 23,500 lb  (104 kN) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 35,000+ lb (156+ kN) each
  • Fuel capacity: 18,000 lb (8,200 kg) internally, or 26,000 lb (11,900 kg) with two external fuel tanks

Performance

  • Maximum speed: **At altitude: Mach 2.25 (1,500 mph, 2,410 km/h)
    • Supercruise: Mach 1.82 (1,220 mph, 1,963 km/h)
  • Range: >1,600 nmi (1,840 mi, 2,960 km) with 2 external fuel tanks
  • Combat radius: 410 nmi (471 mi, 759 km)
  • Ferry range: 2,000 mi (1,738 nmi, 3,219 km)
  • Service ceiling: 65,000 ft (19,812 m)
  • Wing loading: 77 lb/ft² (375 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 1.08 (1.26 with loaded weight & 50% fuel)
  • Maximum design g-load: -3.0/+9.0 g

Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II

1 Sep

The A-10 is an American built, single-seat, twin engine, straight wing CAS (close air support) and ground attack aircraft designed by Fairchild Republic in the early 1970’s. It’s purpose is to destroy tanks, armored vehicles and other ground ground targets with limited air defense capabilities and is the first aircraft ever designed for the USAF for the sole purpose of CAS. During the Vietnam War, large numbers of ground attack aircraft were lost due to small arms fire, surface-to-air missiles, and low level anti-aircraft gunfire which brought criticism that the air force didn’t take CAS seriously. The US already had attack helicopters for use in CAS roles but they were ineffective against armor. Initial development of the precursor to the A-10, the A-X, began in 1966. The final prototype was built in Hagerstown, Maryland and first flew on May 10, 1972.

The plane was pretty much designed around the GAU-8 Avenger, a monster rotary cannon (the heaviest ever put on an aircraft) which can shred even the most heavily armored tanks and serves as the A-10’s main armament. The GAU fires depleted uranium armor-piercing shells! In addition to the death cannon, the A-10 is also capable of carrying a wide assortment of air-to-surface missiles, cluster bombs, rocket pods and laser-guided munitions.

The air frame is loaded up with over 1,200 pounds of armor and has the highest survivability of any plane in the air force, being specifically designed to be able to complete missions even after sustaining heavy damage. The frame itself was designed to withstand armor-piercing and high explosive projectiles up to 23mm. The aircraft has triple redundancy in its flight systems and mechanical systems to back up double redundant hydraulic systems. These safety measures, in addition to measures that I don’t have to time to go into or this post would be a few thousand words long, this plane is almost unkillable.

It’s received many upgrades over the years including a laser receiver pod that allows for faster and more accurate target acquisition, a new navigation system, night vision and safety measures. More recently, the A-10 fleet will be given new cockpit displays, computer systems and data links.

The A-10 first saw action in the 1991 Gulf War where it destroyed over 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles,1,200 artillery pieces and 2 attack helicopters. 4 were shot down, all due to anti-air missile defenses. It participated in peacekeeping over Bosnia and Kosovo and later brought the noise in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2001 and 2003. 6 A-10’s also participated in Operation Odyssey Dawn during the Libyan Civil War.

                                                         

Number built: 716

Unit Cost: $11,800,000 (1994 dollars)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 53 ft 4 in (16.26 m)
  • Wingspan: 57 ft 6 in (17.53 m)
  • Height: 14 ft 8 in (4.47 m)
  • Wing area: 506 ft² (47.0 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 6716 root, NACA 6713 tip
  • Empty weight: 24,959 lb (11,321 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 30,384 lb (13,782 kg) On CAS mission: 47,094 lb (21,361 kg)
    On anti-armor mission: 42,071 lb (19,083 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 50,000 lb (23,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric TF34-GE-100A turbofans, 9,065 lbf (40.32 kN) each

Performance

  • Never exceed speed: 450 knots (518 mph, 833 km/h) at 5,000 ft (1,500 m) with 18 Mk 82 bombs
  • Maximum speed: 381 knots (439 mph, 706 km/h) at sea level, clean
  • Cruise speed: 300 knots (340 mph, 560 km/h)
  • Stall speed: 120 knots (138 mph, 220 km/h)
  • Combat radius:
    • On CAS mission: 250 nmi (288 mi, 460 km) at 1.88 hour single-engine loiter at 5,000 ft (1,500 m), 10 min combat
    • On anti-armor mission: 252 nmi (290 mi, 467 km), 40 nm (45 mi, 75 km)) sea-level penetration and exit, 30 min combat
  • Ferry range: 2,240 nmi (2,580 mi, 4,150 km) with 50 knot (55 mph, 90 km/h) headwinds, 20 minutes reserve
  • Service ceiling: 45,000 ft (13,700 m)
  • Rate of climb: 6,000 ft/min (30 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 99 lb/ft² (482 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.36

Grumman F-14 Tomcat

30 Aug

Back in the 1950’s, the US needed a  long range, high endurance interceptor to protect it’s carrier battle groups against anti-ship missiles. The specifications they set forward were a Fleet Air Defense aircraft with more powerful radar and longer range missiles than the F-4 Phantom II to intercept bombers as well as missiles. Both the navy and air force were involved in the design and testing process, often fighting over what specifications were needed and what weren’t which resulted in the heavy and lackluster F-111B put forward for the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) program.

General Dynamics, the producer of the F-111 teamed up with Grumman to find ways to improve the aircraft and were eventually sidelined. Due to difficulties in making a “one size fits all” fighter, Congress allowed the Navy to pursue their own designs. Grumman gave the design better radar, more reliable and powerful engines, ground attack capabilities and improved missiles among other things.

Introduced in 1974 after extensive modifications and testing, the Tomcat was the premier air superiority fighter of its time with a 2 seat cockpit and bubble canopy that offered much better visibility than its predecessor, the F4. It was also eqipped with the revolutionary geometry wing design where the wings would sweep back for high-speed intercept but swing forward for lower speed flight to offer greater stability. Avionics and anti-aircraft armament were all top of the line and pushed the technological barriers of the early 1970’s.

The Tomcat served as America’s premier air superiority and tactical reconnaissance aircraft from 1972-2006 and with Iran’s air forces from 1978 to present. The fighter didn’t see actual combat until the Gulf of Sidra incident in 1981 when 2 F-14’s engaged 2 Su-22’s and destroyed them easily. While never participating in large aerial battles, the Tomcat boasts a modest combat record with 135 air to air kills, most of which are from the Iran-Iraq War, 4 air to air losses, and 4 losses due to ground fire.

Although it has been retired by the US, it’s still in service with the Iranian air force. But due to numerous sanctions they are unable to import replacement parts leaving them with 60 (allegedly) Tomcats left, most of which are probably unfit for combat.

Number Built: 712

Unit Cost: $38,000,000 (1998)

                                                                            

General characteristics:

  • Crew: 2 (Pilot and Radar Intercept Officer)
  • Length: 62 ft 9 in (19.1 m)
  • Wingspan:
    • Spread: 64 ft (19.55 m)
    • Swept: 38 ft (11.58 m)
  • Height: 16 ft (4.88 m)
  • Wing area: 565 ft² (54.5 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 64A209.65 mod root, 64A208.91 mod tip
  • Empty weight: 43,735 lb (19,838 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 61,000 lb (27,700 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 74,350 lb (33,720 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric F110-GE-400 afterburning turbofans
    • Dry thrust: 13,810 lbf (61.4 kN) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 27,800 lbf (123.7 kN) each
  • Maximum fuel capacity: 16,200 lb internal; 20,000 lb with 2x 267 gallon external tanks

Performance

  • Maximum speed: Mach 2.34 (1,544 mph, 2,485 km/h) at high altitude
  • Combat radius: 500 nmi (575 mi, 926 km)
  • Ferry range: 1,600 nmi (1,840 mi, 2,960 km)
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,200 m)
  • Rate of climb: >45,000 ft/min (229 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 113.4 lb/ft² (553.9 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.91