Saturday, January 30, 2010

An Alternate 5th Generation Fighter Metric...

Question.  What if.  What if we threw out the standard definition of a 5th generation fighter?  What if the real definition is closer to historical standards and the stealth issue is just a dead end road down the developmental path of fighter design?  What would a 5th gen fighter then look like?

Well it would have to meet these revised requirements.  (Smile Alex Puzzle and APA)
1.  It would be a thoroughly modern design.  No ability to upgrade an existing 4th gen.
2.  It would have to have a max speed of at least Mach 2.5
3.  It would have to be able to super cruise.
4.  It would not be necessary to carry weapons internally.
5.  It would have to have the avionics!  AESA, Helmet mounted sights, sensor fusion...
6.  It would be long ranged with a large fuel load.
7.  It would not be optimised for any role other than air superiority.

Those requirements would mean that of all the aircraft flying today, only the F-22 would actually meet that requirement.  The Eurofighter for all its glory is not a true supercruiser and neither is the Gripen, Rafale etc...

The Russian T-50 might meet that requirement but we just don't know yet.  The next closest aircraft under those requirements would be the SU-35S.  Interesting.

I'm not sure about whether a new 'dynamic' is needed to determine what makes a 5th gen fighter.  What I do know is that the Russians and possibly the Chinese are about to change how we view it.

What makes a 5th generation fighter...

The T-50 has brought the debate about 5th gen fighters back to the forefront.  Exactly what characteristics does it take to make a fighter a 5th gen???

According to the US Air Force the following....
Fifth-generation fighters are characterized by being designed from the start to operate in a network-centric combat environment, and to feature extremely low, all-aspect, multi-spectral signatures employing advanced materials and shaping techniques. They have multifunction AESA radars with high-bandwidth, low-probability of intercept (LPI) data transmission capabilities. 

The Infra-red search and track sensors incorporated for air-to-air combat as well as for air-to-ground weapons delivery in the 4.5th generation fighters are now fused in with other sensors for Situational Awareness IRST or SAIRST, which constantly tracks all targets of interest around the aircraft so the pilot need not guess when he glances. These sensors, along with advanced avionics, glass cockpits, helmet-mounted sights , and improved secure, jamming-resistant LPI datalinks are highly integrated to provide multi-platform, multi-sensor data fusion for vastly improved situational awareness while easing the pilot's workload. Avionics suites rely on extensive use of very high-speed integrated circuit (VHSIC) technology, common modules, and high-speed data buses. Overall, the integration of all these elements is claimed to provide fifth-generation fighters with a "first-look, first-shot, first-kill capability

it also includes...
Other technologies common to this latest generation of fighters includes integrated electronic warfare system (INEWS) technology, integrated communications, navigation, and identification (CNI) avionics technology, centralized "vehicle health monitoring" systems for ease of maintenance, fiber optics data transmission, and stealth technology.
The ability to super cruise is not a condition necessary to meet 5th generation requirements.  It would also appear that unless the Russians have perfected the avionics side of business then they still haven't reached that level yet.

But back to the 5th generation thing.  The T-50 can be considered a 4.75(?) fighter.  Big engine, probably but no one's sure...great agility and a big AESA array.  Heck if you stuffed the F-15 with the F-22's engines--took care of the AESA(already being done)---fitted it with Helmet mounted sights---added data links and finally applied radar absorbent coatings with the Silent Eagle modification you could accomplish the same performance of the F-22 without the cost---plus you'd have a cheap solution that would more than likely match the T-50 if not exceed it in terms of performance.  The more I read and learn, the less impressed I am by the T-50.

T-50 depending on India?

Wow, the conversations regarding the T-50 continue to rage.  The latest 'conventional wisdom' is that the T-50 will reach production quite soon because India will be footing a large part of the bill.  The same India that got screwed on previous airplane deals with Russia, the same India that is moving to the west as far as weapons purchases are concerned, and yes the same India that is a basket case when it come to weapons purchases in general.  Read this and weep T-50 fans....via
NEW DELHI — Germany's ambassador on Friday described as a "nasty surprise" India's decision to scrap a tender for six refuelling planes, for which Franco-German group EADS was front-runner.
India promised earlier this month to stage the global tender again after saying the 60-billion-rupee (1.31-billion dollar) price for six Airbus A-330 mid-air refuelling aircraft quoted by EADS was too high. Airbus is an EADS company.
"It came as a little bit of a nasty surprise for us and very disappointing that it was rejected at the political level," Germany's ambassador to India, Thomas Matussek, told reporters in New Delhi.
After two years of trials, the Indian air force had chosen the Airbus planes but the finance ministry objected to its price.
The diplomat's comments came ahead of a week-long trip to India beginning Monday by German President Horst Koehler.
"This rejection was not explained to us in detail," the ambassador added.
Last month, New Delhi also rejected a proposed tie-up between EADS and India's biggest defence contractor, Larsen & Toubro, to supply electronic warfare systems, avionics and radars.
The deal was rejected because it would exceed existing caps on foreign investment rules, according to Larsen & Toubro.
India will spend 30 billion dollars on military contracts by 2014. That includes the purchase of 126 fighter jets worth 12 billion dollars.
In addition, it will also spend 10 billion dollars on homeland security by 2016.