Category: Uncategorized

DGA orders An-225 ‘super transporter’ for French air force

An-225-vs-747

 France’s defence procurement agency, the DGA has placed a surprise €415 million order for three ultra-large Antonov An-225 transport aircraft from the Ukrainian Antonov State Company. The An-225′ Mriya’ (Ukrainian for ‘dream’) is the longest and heaviest aircraft in the world.

 

The aircraft will differ from the existing An-225 in several ways, most notably the replacement of the six ZMKB Progress D-18 turbofans with four uprated Rolls-Royce Trent XWB turbofans.  According to Antonov, the new engines will improve reduce fuel usage by 30%; other benefits will include increased reliability and a lower noise footprint. New avionics systems will include a glass cockpit and navigational aids from the Thales Group.

The first An-225 will be delivered to France in 2021, the second in 2022 and the last one the following year. In French Air Force service the type will be known as the Gargantua (a giant from a 16th Century French story). It will be equipped with the Airbus Refuelling Boom System and underwing hose-and-drogue refuelling pods. The aircraft will offer a vast increase in power projection and emergency relief capability to the French airforce. The An-225 is capable of transporting four main battle tanks, something no other aircraft can do.

In addition to its these roles, it will be possible to configure the type to carry up to 500 passengers. In a medevac layout, it will include the French MORPHEE intensive care module carrying up to twenty patients as well as 122 passengers. The third aircraft will be eventually be fitted out in an Advanced Airborne Command Post/VVIP configuration, but will initially enter service in a multi role tanker transport role.

The move is welcome news to the beleaguered Antonov company. This will be the first time the An-225 has entered serial production and the company is anticipating additional orders, possibly from Australia’s RAAF which has long sought an aircraft in this class.

 

If this interests you, support Hush-Kit.net with a donation (buttons above and below). If this goes well we’ll be able to give you much more! Recommended donation £15. Many thanks for helping to keep us impartial and independent.

You may also enjoy A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters, Flying and fighting in the Lightning: a pilot’s guideInterview with a Super Hornet pilot, Trump’s Air Force Plan, 11 Worst Soviet Aircraft, 10 worst US aircraft, and 10 worst British aircraftMiG-21s, MC-21s and the overrated Typhoon: In conversation with FlightGlobal’s Stephen TrimbleThe F-35 will fail, until the US learns to shareAn air force of my own #1Top 8 Mach 3 fighters

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Everything you always wanted to know about Indian air power but were afraid to ask: In conversation with Shiv Aroor

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Shiv Aroor makes himself familiar with India’s next fighter, the Dassault Rafale

 

India air power is a fascinating, and perplexing, subject. We met up with Indian defence reporter Shiv Aroor to find out more.

If this interests you, support Hush-Kit.net with a donation (buttons above and below). If this goes well we’ll be able to give you much more! Recommended donation £15. Many thanks for helping to keep us impartial and independent.

What’s your name and what do you do?  

My name is Shiv Aroor. I’m a journalist based in New Delhi, India. I’m a TV anchor & consulting editor with the India Today Group, where I’ve spent ten years reporting on the military, conflict and the country’s big stories. I’m also editor of Livefist, where I do original reporting on defence and aerospace in India and the neighbourhood. I started Livefist in 2007 when I moved from a newspaper to a television station as a space to continue my writing. The blog became much more popular than I had anticipated and will be, starting April, my principal work. In ten years, Livefist has won two awards.

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What was the greatest news coup of your publication?
Livefist has scooped a number of secret or unknown military programs over the years. I think the biggest, most important coup was my 2010 scoop on India’s AURA UCAV project, a project that wasn’t publicly known to even exist. The report spawned huge interest that continues to this day. We’re proud of our ‘reveal’ list, which includes India’s supersonic Long Range Cruise Missile (LRCM), HAL’s seaplane concept and several other Indian aviation and weapon systems.

The Indian Air Force claims to have a fighter shortage, is this the case and if so, how should they solve it?  
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The Indian Air Force has a legacy ‘sanctioned strength’ of 42 full-ops fighter squadrons, and currently operates a little over 30. The reason I say ‘legacy’ is because that number, defined many decades ago, doesn’t quite take into account higher performance jets eroding the need for larger numbers. You’re inviting problems if the planning-related bean count involves both MiG-21s and Su-30MKIs in the same sweep. It’s a bit of slippery slope. The ‘no replacement for numbers’ theory has some good arguments, but many bad ones — not least inventory and cost. Many of the IAF’s logistics and planning issues probably have a road leading to that inescapable tether around its sanctioned squadron strength. I’ve suggested in the past that the indigenous LCA Tejas should be inducted in large numbers to build an eco-system around the platform and help speed up the replacement of MiG-21 squadrons.


Flying and fighting in the Mirage 2000
here.

Was Rafale the right aircraft for the IAF, and if so, why? 
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The Rafale was a fair distance more than what the IAF had been aiming at in its infamous, self-destructive M-MRCA contest. An effort to acquire large numbers of cheap, light-medium aircraft aircraft spiralled into an inherently fallible toss-up between flagrantly different aircraft, both in terms of capability and cost. It’s a bit of a joke now, but a former IAF chief actually boasted about wanting to patent the selection process the IAF used in the M-MRCA. On the face of it, the IAF loves the Rafale, and is looking forward to operating it. It also fits with the IAF’s expansive air dominance requirements on two fronts with a nuclear undertone. It will also be the first fighter the IAF operates with a smorgasbord of new technologies, including an operational new generation AESA radar. But 36 aircraft is a bit of a nothingburger for both the IAF and France. For the IAF, it’s a complex addition to inventory without numbers that speak economy of scale.


Typhoon versus Rafale: the final word here


The IAF is much beloved by aviation fans for its diversity of types, but this must be expensive and cause logistical problems. Why does it have more types than similarly sized air forces? 
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A nightmare is what it is. A ‘diversity of types’, as you put it, is possibly the nicest way you could describe it. The IAF is saddled with more types than it can handle optimally given budgetary, man-hour and other constraints. This ‘diversity of types’ is thanks to a number of historic factors: Diplomatic pressures (did you know the IAF didn’t even want the Su-30MKI?) and periodic political pivoting. Both factors seemingly justified by the unfortunate lack of a credible indigenous fighter program that could deliver on time. While some would argue that the impulse for foreign imports was spurred by the unavailability of a domestic solution, the truth is likely somewhere in the middle. It’s a combination of both, garnished with some astonishing flourishes of bad planning over the years, that has left the IAF with a Christmas Tree of inventory.

What is ‘Make in India’ initiative and how do you think it should proceed? 

Well, the Make In India campaign is a very ambitious, but in my mind necessary, effort towards putting India very seriously on a large-scale manufacturing map. For far too long, India has remained unplugged from global supply chains in sectors where it has enormous potential. Defence happens to be one of them. There’s a long way ahead, and an ocean of inter-warring bureaucracies that come in the way of an efficient roll-out, but it’s trying to make a start. They key is India’s long ignored private sector for complex systems-related defence production. If that doesn’t happen, and soon, this is brochure in the wind.

Is it possible to write about military aircraft in a non-political way? Is there a risk of normalising them by celebrating the amazing technology they include? b9b274ffb08a71a37a2bc6e7730b4cd5

I like to think I write about military aircraft in a non-political way. A lot of terrific aviation writers, (including you Joe) do that, and really well. Appreciating aircraft for what they are is a liberating exercise. And I think you ask a really good question because it really is tremendously difficult to look at aircraft shorn of the politics that come with them. Yes, celebrating the technology they include definitely normalises them, but again, I like to think that for all the political/controversial stuff that goes into aircraft programmes, there’s a lot of space to appreciate the machines they are.
Why does the Indian Government seem to take so long to make military aircraft procurement decisions? 
Easy. Fast decisions in India are generally looked upon with suspicion. This stems from a legacy of slow decisions. And after the Bofors scandal in the 1980s, defence procurement sits is nice and snug at the bottom of the pile. Couple that with a traditionally long-winded bureaucracy and a system that doesn’t place national security spending above party politics, and you have files that don’t move.

 The top ten dogfighting aircraft here

 Does India spend too much or too little or defence?

 Terrific question. India definitely spends enough, but it certainly doesn’t spend it smartly. We still don’t have lean forces, and like other countries with large armed services, spend a colossal amount on salaries and pensions. Budgets for modernisation and acquisition of weapons are frequently returned to the treasury unspent. There are grave overlaps and double-efforts across agencies, a lack of synergy that has a huge attendant cost too.

In terms of training time/flight time/tactics how good are IAF crews?

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 They compare very favourably, in many cases better than a lot of air forces. The IAF cadet navigates a training regimen that’s buffeted by obsolete aircraft and changing doctrine. The IAF also has a pretty substantial shortage of pilots. In terms of tactics, a combination of type diversity and a very long wait outside of real fourth generation tech gives IAF pilots a frequent edge in that adage that applies to all militaries, but especially to India’s — they’ll fight with what they have.

 

Is the Pakistan Air Force still viewed as the primary notional threat, and if so how do the air forces compare?

No longer. An air war with Pakistan isn’t the aggravating prospect it was in the sixties and seventies. The PAF is very well trained and professional force, but a full-scale air power confrontation of the kinds that took place between India and Pakistan and 1965 and 1971 would be likely end quite badly for Pakistan.

How does the IAF match up against the Chinese air force?

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Like most countries, the Indian military regards their Chinese counterparts with one enduring question: ‘what’s their long term gameplan?’ In terms of a straight bean count, China outclasses the IAF in size and structure. In terms of how things are matched in terms of logistics, deployment and how stretched the PLAAF is in its areas of responsibility near India, the game is a measure more equal. Chinese air power, in my mind, is less of a pressing concern to India than its naval strength.

You may also enjoy 11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated?

Which fighter type should the Indian Navy procure? 

 I’m actually in the process of doing a comparison of the aircraft eligible for an Indian Navy deal, so I haven’t really made my mind up yet.

Tejas has a very bad reputation, is it deserved?

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Not all of it, but some, sure. There’s a great deal of propaganda both against and for the Tejas in India — emotive, extreme opinions on the program, ranging from cruel ridicule to flag-wrapped patriotism in favour of an Indian jet. There’s very little sensible, cool-headed assessments of the program. I’ve tracked the Tejas for 13 years. I have to say I’ve swung sharply on the project too. But I’ve maintained right through that the Tejas needs to see squadron service early, with concurrent development. Get it out of development and into flying units. I strongly believe it is a better aircraft than it is reputed to be.

Sukhoi/HAL FGFA – will it happen? Do you think it’s a good idea? 

Anyone looking at the FGFA (it’s called the PMF in India) as a joint programme is kidding themselves. There hiccups right now are probably only an appetizer. Without going to deep into problems with the T-50 itself, HAL will have next to no input on the platform. Any suggestion that it is a partnership is ludicrous. HAL’s license-built Su-30MKIs, the ‘joint’ India-Russian aviation program that comes to mind most obviously, are almost entirely from knocked-down kits. Worse, Indian-built Su-30s are more expensive than units that could have been imported. Net-net, more expensive jets with zero spin-off benefits for HAL’s capabilities, and commitments to operate an enormous fleet that’s hugely expensive to maintain. These are solid aircraft, but that’s one tough deal.

Do you have a favourite aircraft- and if so, why?

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The F-15E Strike Eagle, without a doubt. I played an F-15 game by a company called Microprose on one of those big black floppy disks as a teenager in the early nineties and fell completely in love with the aircraft. Anything I say about why I love the F-15 would come up short. It’s an aircraft that has many associations for me, and as I grew up, was enormously happy to learn that its capabilities and aeronautical elegance fully justified my very unempirical love. I got my first chance to see one in 2005. Let’s just say I’d trade all of the five fighter sorties I’ve done so far for one in an F-15E. I hope Boeing or an operating air force is reading this interview.

What did you think about the cancellation of the recent Russo-Indian transport aircraft? 

Inevitable. And won’t really mean much. There are a plenitude of transport aircraft programs in country. The Make-in-India C295 program between Airbus and Tata to replace the IAF’s Avro HS748s is one. There are other concept aircraft on the drawing board too.
 

What are your thoughts on the HAL AMCA?

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The AMCA is actually a DRDO/ADA concept. HAL will only build it. It’s necessarily ambitious, has a large list of seriously cutting edge target technologies and will be India’s first real crack at a stealth aircraft. Apart from a good centrepiece for meaningful foreign collaborations, I think the AMCA is worth India’s time and money. It’s a good way off, but there’s reason to believe that lessons learnt from the Tejas program will be built into the AMCA, both technologically and in terms of fording pitfalls.

The Su-30 has reputation for poor reliability and maintainability in IAF service- why is this?1373993526321448549

The Su-30 fleet has suffered availability and maintainability problems, forcing the Indian Air Force into a looming upgrade programme. What started off as a deal that didn’t fully lock in Russian support and guarantees is now having to follow up with more contracts to spruce up the fleet. And this is even before all 272 aircraft have been delivered.

I’ve heard wildly differing accounts of the RAF/IAF exercises where Typhoons flew against Su-30s, what is your understanding of this?

The 2015 Indradhanush exercises? The IAF did in fact brief journalists about how they hit that one out of the park in close combat/WVR engagements. I’m not sure we’ll ever know the truth, but I wouldn’t discount either side entirely. Revealing the ‘score’ after an exercise meant to build a joint working ethic as much as bonhomie is a bit of gaffe, so I’m not surprised the RAF reacted the way it did.

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What should I have asked you? 
Which aircraft do I hate the most? The F-111. Only joking…
It would be the P-75 Eagle. It will always be unbelievable to me that the F-15’s namesake predecessor could be such have been such an audacious dud.

 If this interests you, support Hush-Kit.net with a donation (buttons above and below). If this goes well we’ll be able to give you much more! Recommended donation £15. Many thanks for helping to keep us impartial and independent. 

 

Bizarre trippy educational film from Lockheed (1969)

If this interests you, support Hush-Kit.net with a donation (buttons above and below). If this goes well we’ll be able to give you much more! Recommended donation £1. Many thanks for helping to keep us impartial and independent. 

 

You may also enjoy A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters, Flying and fighting in the Lightning: a pilot’s guideInterview with a Super Hornet pilot, Trump’s Air Force Plan, 11 Worst Soviet Aircraft, 10 worst US aircraft, and 10 worst British aircraftMiG-21s, MC-21s and the overrated Typhoon: In conversation with FlightGlobal’s Stephen TrimbleThe F-35 will fail, until the US learns to shareAn air force of my own #1Top 8 Mach 3 fighters

Not forgetting:  11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

You may also enjoy top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story of The Planet SatelliteFashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. 

Saab J 29 Tunnan and JAS 39 Gripen compared: Part 1, The barrel and the griffon

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The JAS 39 Gripen entered service with the Swedish Air Force in June 1996 and is now the sole combat type in the Flygvapnet. Paul Stoddart compares this fourth generation aircraft with its ancestor, the portly yet effective, J 29 Tunnan which entered service 46 years earlier. 

If this article interests you, support Hush-Kit.net with a donation (buttons above and below). If this goes well we’ll be able to give you much more! Recommended donation £15. Many thanks for helping to keep us impartial and independent. 

Two Western European nations have independently designed and built jet fighters of each generation since World War II. The leader, at least in terms of numbers exported, is France; Dassault’s highly successful Mirage series leading to the current Rafale. The other country is not, as you might expect, the UK but Sweden. A relatively modest nation, in GDP and population, Sweden has consistently punched well above its weight in the aerospace world. The Swedish Air Force (Flygvapnet) was the first West European air arm to take on charge a modern generation fighter, the Saab JAS 39 Gripen, ahead of both France’s Rafale (2001) and Europe’s Typhoon (2003). This is ‘gripen’ or griffon in English, is a mythological beast half eagle, half lion.

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The prototype Gripen first flew on December 9th, 1988 and in October 1997 the first squadron was declared operational. Despite a population less than one sixth that of Britain or France, and with a correspondingly smaller economy, Sweden again led Western Europe in designing and building a state of the art combat aircraft. Saab’s track record in cutting edge jet fighters spans half a century. It began with the other half of this duo, the J 29 that first flew on September 1, 1948. Its stout fuselage gave rise to its nickname ‘Tunnan’, meaning barrel (and related to the English word ‘tun’ a barrel or cask and an Imperial measure of capacity equal to four hogsheads). Viewed from the rear, a taxying Tunnan resembled a waddling duck but its performance in the air bore comparison with any of its contemporaries.

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The Gripen is a tiny fighter, even the famously ‘lightweight’ F-16 is bigger and heavier.

When the North American F-86 Sabre entered USAF service in late 1948, it was the West’s first swept wing jet fighter to do so. Close on its heels came the USSR’s equivalent, the MiG-15 which reached front line squadrons during the winter of 1949-50. By contrast, the first British designed and built swept wing fighter, the Hawker Hunter F.1, did not enter service until July 31, 1954. As a stopgap, the Royal Air Force bought Canadair built North American F-86E Sabres, the first of which was handed over in January, 1953. By that time, the Tunnan had been in service for almost three years, deliveries to the Flygvapnet having begun in May, 1951. Saab might have lagged Britain in piston engined fighter design but it has been a worthy competitor in the jet age. The J 29 set the trend of Saab’s innovative design approach. It was not merely the first Western European jet fighter to have swept wings but also the first to have a flying tail (ie an all moving tailplane rather than an elevator hinged from the trailing edge of a fixed tail), automatic leading edge slats and full span aileron/flaps. Thus, for several years Saab’s Tunnan was the most advanced fighter in service in Western Europe. With Gripen, for its first years of service, Saab might justifiably make the same claim.

Ten most attractive Swedish aircraft here

Origins

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The J 21 with some kind of pretty Saab car, Hush-Kit knows nothing about cars and will wait for some pedant to inform him of the model from the comments section.

Saab entered the jet age by way of an interim step. Sweden’s main fighter during the latter half of the 1940s was the somewhat bizarre piston-engined Saab J 21A. It was an unconventional design featuring a central ‘pod’ fuselage with the tail mounted on twin booms. The pod contained the cockpit and a rear mounted engine driving a pusher propeller. This feature prompted another Saab innovation; to ensure pilot clearance past the propeller on bailing-out, Saab fitted an ejection seat of its own design, the first example of such a system to reach front line use by some accounts (the German Heinkel He 280 featured an ejection seat, but never entered service) . Unorthodox the J 21A might have been, it was readily adapted to jet power as the J 21R. The V-12 Daimler Benz DB605B piston engine was replaced with a 3,000 lb (13.32 kN) thrust de Havilland DH Goblin turbojet, the same engine as used in the DH Vampire fighter. First flying in March 1947 and entering service in August 1949, the J 21R proved to be a manoeuvrable aircraft and an excellent weapons platform though it lacked performance for the fighter role. Recognising the Goblin’s lack of power, in December 1945 the Swedish Air Board directed Saab to base its new jet fighter project on the DH Ghost turbojet, which was rated at 5,000 lb (22.2 kN) thrust. Svenska Flygmotor built the engine under licence as the RM2. The fighter specification required the retention of the J 21A’s manoeuvrability and ability to operate under Sweden’s harsh conditions together with a maximum speed of Mach 0.85, a high service ceiling and the heavy armament of four 20 mm cannons.

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The J 21’s airframe was converted into the jet-powered J-21R.

Barrel role

Although the Tunnan was to become an effective ground attack aircraft, the original J 29 requirement was aimed primarily at the interceptor role. By contrast, the JAS 39 specification from the outset was for a multi-role capability so that a single Gripen variant could replace all versions of its predecessor the Saab 37 Viggen. (The two-seat JAS 39 is a trainer with full combat capability). JAS is an acronym for the three main Gripen roles: Jakt (fighter), Attack (attack), Spaning (reconnaissance). The Viggen was built for the Flygvapnet in four marks: AJ 37 attack, SH 37 sea surveillance, SF 37 photo-reconnaissance and JA 37 fighter. Those versions differed in the avionics systems fitted and the weapons carried; the JA 37 also featured a new pulse doppler radar and an extensively developed version of the Volvo RM8 turbofan engine. Gripen does more than replace the various Viggen variants with a single type. With its multi-mode radar, it is capable of swing role missions retaining considerable air-to-air capability while configured for an air-to-surface sortie.

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The Gripen’s small size eases maintenance, as many access panels are reachable from ground level.

The Gripen specification was very demanding in the multi-role requirement alone and the setting of a strict weight limit increased the challenge. All other things being equal (and they rarely are in aviation) aircraft cost is broadly proportional to weight; a shrinking defence budget dictated a firm price limit for the new fighter. Saab responded with its usual innovative approach, and bucked the trend of fighter weight increasing with each generation. Where the Viggen had an empty weight of around 23,100 lb (10,500 kg), the Gripen A tipped the scales at only 14,300 lb (6,500 kg), a reduction of 38%. This is actually extremely light for a modern combat aircraft. To put it in context, the Lockheed F-16A, which was specifically designed for the USAF’s Lightweight Fighter project of the early 1970s, weighed 16,234 lb (7,364 kg) empty, some 13% more. The fighter closest in weight and concept to the JAS 39 was the now defunct Northrop F-20 Tigershark. It had an empty weight of 15,060 lb (6,831 kg) and used a variant of the same engine used by the Gripen. Despite its high performance, the F-20 was not procured by any of the American forces and thereby lost in the export marketplace to the ubiquitous F-16. The JAS 39 is of a later generation than the Tigershark and is achieving impressive export success.

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The cancelled Tigershark was in many ways comparable to the Gripen, though was considerably less capable.

My flight in a Gripen here

Where to put the radar? 

Engine integration is a powerful design driver of a fighter’s airframe. The complete powerplant system comprises the intake and duct, the engine itself and the jet pipe plus nozzle; all these features affect the final form of the aircraft. Centrifugal compressor engines such as the DH Ghost are broad but relatively short and the 4 ft 5 in (1.35 m) diameter Ghost/RM2 was responsible for the stubby fuselage of the Tunnan. Axial flow engines are slimmer and produce leaner airframes but this can result in packaging problems for other systems. By contrast, the Tunnan fuselage had sufficient volume to stow (as well as the engine and cockpit) 308 Imp gallons (1,400 litres) of fuel, the undercarriage and the main armament. The air intake was placed centrally in the nose with a straight duct to the engine positioned in the rear fuselage, which aft of that was cut back below the tail to reduce the length of the jetpipe. Nose intakes were typical of the period (eg Sabre and MiG-15) and although the long ducts to a mid-fuselage located engine can cause relatively large pressure losses, they perform well through a wide range of angle of attack (AOA) and sideslip angles. They are also free from flow separation effects from other parts of the airframe. The main drawback of this approach is that it leaves little space to fit a radar.

Top 10 fighter radars here

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By contrast Saab’s next military design, the A 32 Lansen, had twin lateral intakes leaving the nose free for its radar installation (the first Swedish aircraft with such a system). Similarly, the Gripen reserves its nose for the radar and uses twin lateral intakes offset from the fuselage sides, plus splitter plates, to avoid the stagnant boundary layer. The intakes themselves are of plain pitot design with no variable ramps or moving centre bodies for shockwave control. Although this may somewhat limit the Gripen’s maximum speed, it should be remembered that fighters spend a small fraction of their flight time supersonic. Pitot intakes proved entirely sufficient for the very successful F-16 and serve the JAS 39 well. They are also much cheaper than variable intakes and more reliable as there are no moving components to fail. The bifurcated intakes merge in the fuselage mid-section to form a single, circular section duct some distance upstream of the engine face. The aim is to allow the mingling airstreams to stabilise before entering the compressor.

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The Gripen’s intake position is partly dictated by the aircraft’s small size.

At first sight, the Gripen’s intake location could appear less than ideal. An agile fighter might be expected to have its intakes under the fuselage (eg Eurofighter Typhoon) as this location is superior at high AOA to side intakes. Two points should be noted here: the Gripen is a small aircraft and its nose undercarriage is set forward of the intakes. Had the intakes been placed under the fuselage, they would have been very close to the ground with the consequent danger of ‘fod’ (foreign object damage) from the ingestion of debris thrown up by the nosewheels. Siting the Gripen’s intakes laterally on the fuselage much reduces this risk. There is also a school of thought that side location offers the best compromise of the conflicting demands of the aerodynamic, structural, weight and space requirements of intake design.

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The F404 engine also powered (or powers) the Phantom Ray, X-45C, Rafale A, F-20, Tejas, X-29, BTX-1, F-117, T-50, F/A-18, X-31 and A-4SU.

Saab has stuck to the single engine design philosophy from the Tunnan, through the Lansen, Draken and Viggen to the Gripen in order to minimise cost. Twin engine fighters are more expensive than the single engine equivalent and although a ‘spare’ engine is useful, twins do not have half the loss rate of singles due to engine problems.  (The single versus twin issue is worth an article itself).  The JAS 39 is powered by a Volvo Flygmotor RM12 turbofan, a development of the General Electric F404-GE-400 used in the Boeing F/A-18 C/D Hornet (the F-20 used the F404-GE-100). It is rated at 12,140 lb (54.0 kN) dry and 18,100 lb (80.5 kN) wet; these figures are some 15% greater than the original and are achieved from a 5% increased mass flow and higher turbine entry temperature (TET). This output is achieved from an engine of 2,325 lb (1,055 kg) dry weight representing a thrust to weight ratio of 7.8:1. The bypass ratio of 0.34:1 is fairly low and aimed at high performance at high altitude while retaining reasonable economy in lower level cruise. Of modular design, the RM12 has a three-stage fan and seven-stage high-pressure compressor, each driven by a single stage turbine. The first stage of the fan and the first two stages of the HP section have variable stators; the HP inlet guide vanes are also variable. All the turbine blades are of single crystal form with internal air-cooling to support the high TET. As the RM12 is used in a single installation compared to the twin engined Hornet, it also features a strengthened first stage fan for improved birdstrike resistance.

World speed record

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The RM2 seems crude by comparison with its single stage compressor developed from those used in superchargers for aero piston engines. The dramatic extent of jet engine development since World War II is demonstrated clearly here. Technologies such as single crystal blades and internal blade cooling were simply not available to the RM2. At 5,000 lb (22.2 kN), the RM2’s thrust is only 41% of the RM12’s dry figure and 28% of its reheat output. The definitive Tunnan, the J 29E, with a loaded weight of 16,600 lb (7,530 kg) had a thrust to weight ratio on take off of 0.30:1. By contrast, the Gripen A at its maximum take off weight of 27,500 lb (12,500 kg) has figures of 0.44:1 in dry and 0.66:1 in reheat. The last Tunnan variant, the J 29F, had an afterburner (detailed below), which raised take-off thrust to weight ratio to 0.36:1. This was a 20% improvement on the E variant but still well below the Gripen’s figures. Nonetheless, the Tunnan was no slouch. A J 29B broke the world record for the 310 mile (500 km) closed course in May 1954. The record had been held by the F-86 Sabre at 590 mph (950 km/h) but the Tunnan raised it to 607 mph (977 km/h). In January 1955, two Tunnan S 29Cs gained the world record for the 620 mile (1,000 km) closed course achieving an average speed of 560 mph (901 km/h).

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An Austrian Tunnan in flight.

Paul Stoddart served in the Royal Air Force as an aerosystems engineer officer and now works for the Ministry of Defence.  His interests include air power and military aircraft from the 1940s onward.  He is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.  He is giving a lecture at the headquarters of the Royal Aeronautical Society (4 Hamilton Place, London) at 18.00 on Thursday 1st June on the undeveloped potential of the Spitfire as an escort fighter.  It will last around 45 minutes with 15  minutes of Q&A.  

Part 2 coming soon. 

Notes: All information in this article is taken from public domain sources.

This article is Paul’s personal view of the development of the Tunnan in comparison with the Gripen A.  It contains no implication of Ministry of Defence policy nor should any be inferred.

If this article interests you, support Hush-Kit.net with a donation (buttons above and below). If this goes well we’ll be able to give you much more! Recommended donation £15. Many thanks for helping to keep us impartial and independent. 

You may also enjoy A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters, Flying and fighting in the Lightning: a pilot’s guideInterview with a Super Hornet pilot, Trump’s Air Force Plan, 11 Worst Soviet Aircraft, 10 worst US aircraft, and 10 worst British aircraftMiG-21s, MC-21s and the overrated Typhoon: In conversation with FlightGlobal’s Stephen TrimbleThe F-35 will fail, until the US learns to shareAn air force of my own #1Top 8 Mach 3 fighters

Not forgetting:  11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versus Typhoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

You may also enjoy top WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Want something more bizarre? The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story of The Planet SatelliteFashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. 

MiG-21s, MC-21s and the overrated Typhoon: In conversation with FlightGlobal’s Stephen Trimble

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The Super Constellation, the Carry Grant of airliners.

More often than not, the first time you hear breaking aviation news it will be via Flight Global‘s Stephen Trimble. Hush-Kit met him to talk turkey. 

This site exists thanks to people like you donating. Help us carry on by using the donation buttons above and below. Many thanks to those who help us. 

 

What’s your name and what do you do? 

You’re smart to start with a softball. My name is Stephen Trimble. I manage FlightGlobal’s news coverage in the Americas and I write about aviation news almost everywhere, with a particular focus on commercial aviation and propulsion.

 
What is the most underrated current aircraft programme? And why? 

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The best MC since Ghostface Killah.

The Irkut MC-21. A case could be made for the Bombardier CSeries, given its order book compared to its technology and raw potential. By that standard, however, I would argue the MC-21 on paper comes out slightly ahead. Say what you will about Russian manufacturing and product support (and you’d be correct), but the paper design of the MC-21 is very impressive and, I think, under-appreciated. If the Comac C919 represents China’s attempt to replicate the A320neo’s performance and technology, the MC-21 looks more like Russia’s attempt to slightly surpass the best from Airbus and Boeing in the narrowbody sector.

For passengers, the MC-21 is slightly wider than the Airbus A320 and the cabin is pressurized at 6,000ft, which is a cozy 2,000ft below the narrowbody standard. For pilots, it has a modern cockpit with fly-by-wire flight controls coupled to the first application of active side sticks in commercial aviation. For airlines, it offers Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan engines and highly efficient composite wings. The MC-21 wing box and panel itself is fashioned using a liquid resin that is cured into dry fiber tape in an oven rather than an autoclave. That makes the Russian process potentially, if it works, a step ahead of the more laborious autoclave-based systems used elsewhere to make composite material for primary aircraft structures.

What was the best fighter of World War II? Answer here

That’s not to suggest that I think the MC-21 design fully offsets the industrial and, let’s be honest, political challenges of buying Russian commercial aircraft. In a market segment with upwards of 25,000 deliveries forecasted over two decades, FlightGlobal expects Irkut to deliver about 700 MC-21s, which is infinitesimal compared to its rivals. However, if Airbus or Boeing had opted out of re-engining in favor of replacing the A320 and 737, I submit you’d see a clean-sheet design with at least the same cabin width and pressurisation level as the MC-21, along with state-of-the-art fly-by-wire controls laws and safety-enhancing active side sticks.

What is the most underrated historical aircraft? And why? 

mig21sm-2

No-one ever found out what the word ‘Fishbed’ meant, but that didn’t stop the MiG-21’s global success.

Not to over-use the Russian angle, but I’ll go with the MiG-21. Sure, the ‘Fishbed’ wasn’t the best fighter of its era, but among contemporaries it wasn’t bad either. But it’s dogfighting skill is, I believe, secondary to it’s true importance. I consider the MiG-21 as the Kalashnikov of second-generation supersonic fighters. Its acquisition instantly endowed dozens of countries with respectable airpower for a relatively small price (albeit not politically). That with a few electronic upgrades the MiG-21 remains a potent modern weapon (see the Cope India exercise in 2006) suggests the Russians know how to make a hardy and adaptable weapon system. My runner-up would be it’s American contemporary, the Northrop F-5, for many of the same reasons.

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The MiG-21 Bison: vintage ballbreaker.

 

What is the most overrated current aircraft, and why? 

This is the kind of question that gets me into trouble, but I’ll answer it. I often like to immediately answer this question with “Eurofighter Typhoon”, simply because I enjoy how much that annoys a few of my favorite British friends (JL: are you reading this?). Instead, I’ll annoy everyone and award my most over-rated honor to the Airbus A320neo family. I understand, of course, the seat-mile economics that make some versions of this aircraft family more popular than, say, the current line-up of 737 Max models. I also understand the industrial and competitive logic that drove Airbus to re-engine and not replace the A320. But I am convinced a lot of structures and systems technology available today that could make air travel more comfortable and efficient gets left on the drawing table, due merely to the dynamics of Airbus-Boeing duopoly in the narrow body sector. See my response about the MC-21 for more details.

What is the most overrated historical aircraft? 

Clearly, it was initial reaction by the West to the MiG-25. It was supposedly a high-speed SR-71 killer with the dogfighting prowess of an F-15 (which, by the way, the USAF completely re-spec’d after first sighting the Foxbat on May Day in 1967). We have Viktor Belenko’s defection to thank for finally exposing the truth about the MiG-25. The Foxbat was still a grand achievement by the Soviets, but it was not the magical beast that many in the West made it out to be. It’s an example that I think aerospace journalists must always remember. It’s our job to question extravagant claims about the capabilities of new aircraft, be they ‘our’s’ or ‘their’s’, and be careful to fall into the trap of promoting agendas based on hype.

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Is it possible to write about military aircraft in a non-political way? Is there a risk of normalising them by celebrating the amazing technology they include?

This is a great follow-up to your last question. I used to work at Jane’s, where I learned the remarkable story of founder Fred T. Jane. He started Jane’s Fighting Ships around the turn of the last century after working for years as an artist in Portsmouth. A favorite subject of his sketches were the many naval warships that would call at Portsmouth to refuel. Opsec being a bit different in those days, Jane often invited himself aboard foreign warships, allowing him to see and draw the various systems, including armor, propulsion and weaponry, up close. Jane recognized that what he saw in real-life often clashed with the hype he read in certain newspapers or heard from certain politicians. With the publication of books like Jane’s Fighting Ships, the public finally had a reference to compare against that hype. If a politician said the German navy had a battleship twice as fast as the Royal Navy, the public could then consult Jane’s Fighting Ships to examine the data.

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L4, frigate! Hit but not destroyed.

If the specialty military and aviation trade press have one thing to contribute, I believe it’s to act as the public’s check on the hype generated by the proverbial military-industrial complex. Obviously, there’s a limit on what we can know without a security clearance and access to things like MASINT data, but we should do our best to know everything that it is possible to know. It’s very difficult to detect the precise line between fact and hype, but it’s our duty as journalists to try our best to get as close to the mark as possible.

Top Mach 3 fighters here

As for the risk of “normalizing” a weapon system, your point is well-taken. I usually struggle to hide a wince when I read a phrase like “the beloved A-10”, to use a recent example, in a news story. That said, it’s also clear to me that the most modern fighter aircraft today represents the pinnacle of mankind’s ability to extract the most performance from a machine, and at some level you have to appreciate that or you wouldn’t be human.

Is there any investigative journalism in aviation journalism? If so, can you give an example.

Absolutely. Military aviation, in particular, requires advanced investigation, using tools such as FOIA (the USA’s useful although limited open records law) and carefully cultivated sources. The folks over at The Drive blog — Tyler Rogoway and Joe Trevithick, in particular — have effectively weaponized FOIA against Pentagon bureaucrats and the US aerospace industry. On the commercial side, I again have to point to my old co-worker Ostrower as the master at penetrating corporate smokescreens. His former colleague at the Wall Street Journal, Andy Pazstor, has the FAA and NTSB wired, to use an increasingly popular term.

How do you balance impartiality with not offending aerospace advertisers – is this ever tricky? 

I don’t balance reporting with advertising for our magazine. If that causes advertising relationships to become tricky, it’s not something that involves me.

What was the greatest news coup of your publication?


My colleagues are doing great work every day. But my favourite “news coup” still comes from a remarkable five-year run of Boeing and 787 coverage by Jon Ostrower at FlightGlobal, which catapulted him to the Wall Street Journal in 2012 and more recently CNN. I’ve seen a lot of great aviation coverage over the years by several news organisations, but nothing else I’ve seen in my experience that compares with that stretch. It was thrilling to watch from a few feet away.

What advice would you give to those wishing to write about aviation?

If you mean writing news about aviation, let me encourage everyone who has even a little interest, but with a very important caveat. I recommend that you first learn how to write news independently from the aviation field, and then apply those skills to aviation. I’ve found it’s much easier to teach someone about aviation than about how to write a news or feature article under tight deadlines. There are many exceptions, but  there’s a reason we call them exceptional.

What is the greatest myth about the F-35? 

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A pre-JSF supersonic ‘Super Harrier’ concept.

I think people lose sight of how the F-35 program was viewed after contract award in October 2001, which I covered. If you’d have told me then what we know today about the average unit costs and the schedule for milestones like IOC and Block 3F delivery, I’d probably assume the program wouldn’t have survived the scandal. It was just supposed to be so much cheaper and easier. That it has survived is probably due to the skill of the most recent program manager, Lt

Gen Chris Bogdan. His immediate predecessor, Vide Adm David Venlet, stabilized what seemed in 2010 in some ways like a sinking ship, then Bogdan kept that ship on course without hitting another Titanic-sized iceberg, if I may mix my metaphors a bit recklessly.

See here: The F-35 will fail, until the US learns to share


What are the best- and worst-run aircraft projects? 

My vote for best-run is probably the Saab Gripen. Many have tried, but never has a country done more with fewer natural political and industrial advantages than the airpower Lilliputians of Linkoping, to mix my fictional and factual geographical references.

(HK: Bill Sweetman would concur)

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A Gripen operated by Iron Maiden’s small highly-trained air force of heavy metal singers.

I’m not sure about worst-run, but I’d say the project most under scrutiny today is the geared turbofan engine. By all accounts, it’s meeting Pratt & Whitney’s ambitious fuel efficiency targets. But it’s been dogged by teething issues in-service and its inability to meet ramp-up targets has been a burden for Bombardier and Airbus. P&W says it has to plan to fully recover on both fronts by the end of the year, and I hope they make it. There’s several programs, and, indeed, entire national industries, depending on it.

Your Tweeter feed features some fascinating material – where do you find it?

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The original ‘Gripen’, the cancelled F-20 Tigershark.

Everywhere, really. My job and travels allow me to often see very interesting things, so I share those on Twitter as much as possible. So much pops up in discussion forums like the UK’s Secret Projects, Russia’s Paralay and the Sino Defence Forum, so I like to highlight that stuff whenever I can. And I love a deep-dive down obscure aerospace history, which sometimes yield gems. I spent the last few days on vacation digging through the fabulous aerospace collections at the Huntington Library, where I found Northrop’s internal stop work order on the F-20 and an epic rant of a memo on “idiot charts” from Kelly Johnson to his Skunk Works staff in 1963. I don’t have a place to put that stuff in our news coverage, so Twitter makes a nice, easy and free outlet.

Dangerously distracting list of aviation articles here.

Do you have a favourite aircraft- and if so, why? 

My favourite aircraft is the Lockheed Model 1049 Super Constellation. I had the privilege to fly on the Breitling Connie at Farnborough in 2014, which is a career highlight. The DC-6 was probably more versatile and certainly more popular with airlines, but, with apologies to the BAC/Aerospatiale Concorde team, I still prefer the way Hall Hibbard and Kelly Johnson melded style and performance with the Connie.

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Gary Powers: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”

 

What should I have asked you? 

Anyone who knows me knows that by now I wished that you had asked me about my ride several years ago at the Paris Air Show in a Boeing F/A-18F Super Hornet, which was lovely. And thank you for asking.

 Can you tell me about any very strange aircraft projects that I’m unlikely to have heard of? 

That YOU are unlikely to have heard about? Impossible.

If this article interests you, support Hush-Kit.net with a donation (buttons above and below). If this goes well we’ll be able to give you much more! Recommended donation £12. Many thanks for helping to keep us impartial and independent. 

You may also enjoy A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters, Flying and fighting in the Lightning: a pilot’s guideInterview with a Super Hornet pilot, Trump’s Air Force Plan, 11 Worst Soviet Aircraft, 10 worst US aircraft, and 10 worst British aircraft

USS Carl Vinson night flight operations

An aeroplane/shark hybrid about to be released into the wild.

An air force of my own #1

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Reading about some of the over-priced nonsense the military buys is maddening – but could you make better choices? In the first of a series we burdened Justin Bronk with the daunting task of re-equipping the air arms of the United Kingdom. Would his notional air force be combat effective? Good value for money? Most importantly, would it be stylish? 

You may support this blog by hitting the donate buttons on this page, if this goes well we’ll be able to give you much more. Recommended donation £15. Many thanks for helping to keep us impartial and independent. 

Air Force Procurement

Head of procurement: Justin Bronk

Occupation: Research Fellow for Combat Airpower, RUSI

Nation to defend: United Kingdom (pre-Brexit vote)

Year: 2016

Training

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Glider trainer: DG-505 (50)

Basic trainer: PZL-130 Orlik (120)

Twin-engined prop trainer: Piaggio P.180M Avanti (30)

Jet/Turboprop/LIFT trainer: Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master (70)

Other: None

Tankers & Transport

Light tactical: Modernised Antonov An2 Colt (20)

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Medium: Airbus A400M Atlas (30)

Strategic transport: Boeing C-17 Globemaster III (9)

Short range CSAT: Agusta A109E (5)

Tanker: Airbus A330-MRTT Voyager (15)

Hack: de Havilland Tiger Moth (1 per flying squadron)

VVIP transport: One of the A330-MRTT’s as currently converted

Presidential Transport: N/A

Other: None

Combat

(specify chosen munitions)

Fighter: Eurofighter Typhoon FGR.4, Tranche 3B, with ASRAAM, AMRAAM C7, Meteor, Paveway IV, Brimstone II, Storm Shadow, ALARM/AARGM, SPEAR 3. (230)

Attack: Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II, with SPEAR 3, AMRAAM C7, Paveway IV, GBU-24 Paveway III (80)

SEAD: F-35As as above with Typhoons carrying ALARM/AARGM and Storm Shadow in support (check out this thought-provoking article on why the F-35 will fail)

Heavy bomber: None

Fixed-wing gunship: AH-64E Apache Guardian (50) (I did say fixed-wing, but you’re the boss)

Other: None

Rotorcraft

Trainer: MD540F Advanced Little-Bird (100)

Light transport: None

Medium transport: Boeing Chinook Mk6 (60)

Heavy transport: Boeing Chinook Mk6 (60)

Attack: AH-64E Apache Guardian (50)

Search & rescue: V-22 Osprey (10)

Other: MD540F Fleet Optionally Equipped for Light Recon and Attack Duties

Intelligence & surveillance

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AWACS/AEW: Saab Erieye-ER radar and mission system on large platform, e.g. A330 (6)

Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR): RC-135 variants (~8)

Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR): MQ-9 Protector (12)

Battlefield surveillance: MQ-9 Protector (12)

Maritime Patrol: Kawasaki P-1 (10)

Reconnaissance: Eurofighter Typhoon with DB110 Pod (6)

Other: none

Display teams

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Fixed-wing jet: Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 1 (9)

Fixed-wing propeller: None

Rotorcraft: MD540F (3)

Historical flight: BBMF, obviously

Other: None

Carrier aircraft

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Source: aircraftresorcecenter.com

Fighter: Rafale M re-engined with EJ200s (40)

Attack: Rafale M re-engined with EJ200s (40)

Tanker: V-22 Osprey, noting that it can only offload 12,000lb so only for top-up overhead tanking

COD: V-22 Osprey (12)

Helicopters: MH-60S Knighthawk (25)

Other: None

Misc Aircraft category

Firefighter: None

Air ambulance: MD 902 Explorer (40)

Mountain rescue: MH-60S Knighthawk (10)

Police: MD 902 Explorer (60)

Others: None

Air force defence regiment

Camouflage: MTP

Standard weapon: H&K 416

Sidearm: Sig Sauer P226

Light support weapon: CETME Ameli

Heavy machine-gun: GMPG

Sniper rifle: Accuracy International AX338

Vehicles: Miscellaneous

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Misc equipment: C-RAM

Our verdict

Cost effectiveness & sense

The two high-risk items that stand out are the re-engining of the Rafale and the creation of a new AWACS aircraft. Leaving aside the Mustang, British aviation historians may baulk at the idea of re-engining. The additional of British Spey engines to the Phantom, though not without some benefits, resulted in the most expensive and slowest F-4 (at least at high level). Rafales would make perfect sense for a British carrier re-equipped with ‘cats and traps’, (Eurofighter themselves have acknowledged a carrier-based Typhoon is a non-starter – as soon it is beefed up sufficiently it loses its main virtue its massive thrust-to-weight ratio and its very low wing loading), and though the use of the EJ200 would be welcome news to Rolls-Royce, the effort would be slow and expensive- it would also be a huge undertaking for the marginal improvements it would offer.

Though the dimensions of the two engines are very similar (the EJ200 is marginally longer) this may be an unnecessary effort. Generally Bronk has demonstrated a fair and cost effective procurement policy.

The vast rotary-wing force may be hard to justify during peacetime, though I guess the UK’s been on a war footing of some kind since 1990.

73/100

Political considerations

Collaborating with Ukraine on a new An-2 production line sends a strong message of support to the beleaguered nation. The export of Japanese military aircraft may involve some constitutional changes. Bronk’s armed forces remain closely tied to the US, but maintain strong ties to Europe thanks to the Rafale purchase.

70/100

Aesthetic appeal 

Mr Bronk’s suggestions have been rooted in pragmatism rather than aesthetic appeal and he has not chosen the most exciting or beautiful aircraft. Still FAA Rafales would be gorgeous, Tiger Moths are elegant and the Kawasaki P-1 is pretty cute. Oh, wait 30 Avantis? That is actually pretty wonderful.

70/100

Realism

Bronk’s choice’s are a little too sensible for my taste, where is the Presidential An-225? The vast fleets of Beriev Be-200s? The MiG-31 display team?

80/100

Imagination

See above- he is no Dali, but to be fair we didn’t ask him to be.

50/100

Total score: 343/500

Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

Guide to surviving aviation forums here

If this article interests you, support Hush-Kit.net with a donation (buttons above and below). If this goes well we’ll be able to give you much more! Recommended donation £15. Many thanks for helping to keep us impartial and independent. 

You may also enjoy A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters, Flying and fighting in the Lightning: a pilot’s guideInterview with a Super Hornet pilot, Trump’s Air Force Plan, 11 Worst Soviet Aircraft, 10 worst US aircraft, and 10 worst British aircraft

The F-35 will fail, until the US learns to share

 

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” -as Mark Twain never said

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Why does it always rain on me? Is it because I lied when I was a F-117?

Will the F-35 revolutionise warfare, or is there a fundamental flaw in the way this aircraft and its cutting edge technologies will be deployed? Henry Cobb believes that there is something very wrong at the heart of the F-35 concept that will severely limit the world’s biggest weapons programme. 

The United States’ military doesn’t want a fair fight. “Rather, we have to maintain a joint
force that has the capability and credibility to assure our allies and partners, deter aggression and overmatch any potential adversary.” Put simply it wishes to scare its potential enemies and if need be, beat anyone.

Leaving aside the question of whether the US should try to maintain military supremacy, it’s interesting to notice a particular trend that has been going on US military thinking since its birth. During the American Civil War and World War II the United States achieved this ‘overmatch’ (an American word) largely through numerical superiority- but in both conflicts introduced new technologies that provided a temporary military advantage. The USS Monitor rendered all the wooden fleets of her day obsolete in one battle- and while the nuclear bomb has been considered the wonder weapon of the second World War, radar and computing played much bigger roles in the Allied victory.

You may support this blog by hitting the donate buttons on this page, if this goes well we’ll be able to give you much more. Recommended donation £15. Many thanks for helping to keep us impartial and independent. 

monitor

Some kind of metal battleship, probably not the USS Monitor, but who cares? It’s only a ship and not a lovely aeroplane.

The Allied power’s advantage in radar provided a tactical advantage in air and anti-submarine combat, while their early computers broke Axis powers cryptography for strategic advantage.  Still, it was the American headstart in nuclear weapons that provided the ‘First Offset’ to the perceived Soviet battlefield numerical advantage. In this sense, the word ‘offset’ means a counter to diminish the opposing force.

As with iron-hulled warships, radar systems, and computers, potentially hostile powers noted these advantages and copied them. Though technologies are rarely the creation of one nation alone, the US has often been the first to develop technologies to the point of practicality. USS Monitor was not the first Ironclad (a ship using metal armour), the first was French – but it was the first to be used in combat.

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After french fries served in tin buckets, the worst human invention.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work defined the Pentagon’s current ‘Second Offset’ strategy as attack with precision guided weapons that have the same effect on enemy forces as the First Offset’s potential use of nuclear weapons – without crossing the nuclear threshold. He acknowledges that the Second Offset is running out of time because hostile forces have copied and applied these techniques and counters to American advantages, but he hasn’t outlined a comprehensive plan to replace it.

Dan Gouré, Vice President of the Lexington Institute, noted that “second offset strategy relied on several key technologies – stealth, precision guidance for aircraft and weapons and information networks – and a new strategy of deep attack to counter the threat from massed Soviet mechanized forces”, but has called the Third Offset a smokescreen that lacks substance.

We gave a military analyst a trillion pounds and told him to have fun, here are the results

Too much faith in the Lightning

Bob Work has said that the ‘big idea’ for his Third Offset “is human-machine collaboration and combat teaming”, central to this is the F-35. But his faith in the F-35 to be a “war winner … because it is using the machine to help the human make better decisions” is sadly misplaced.

The F-35 Lightning II has “the most powerful and comprehensive integrated sensor package of any fighter aircraft in history“. These sensors gather far more information than the pilot could hope to grasp and therefore the 513th Electronic Warfare Squadron of the USAF hosts the United States Reprogramming Laboratory to update the lookup tables that drive the F-35’s sensor fusion, producing a simplified view of the battlefield
that the pilot can handle.

This automatic sensor fusion is intended to provide the situational awareness that has traditionally been provided by a backseater radar /electronic warfare operator. And so long as the Reprogramming Lab geeks faithfully anticipate and properly program the lookups into the computers this system will never tire or overlook any threat they’ve been programmed to detect. Even better, the F-35 is designed to fight in flights of up to four fighters which not only automatically share information but actually perform distributed sensor fusion to use all the sensors on all of the four aircraft together to detect threats too subtle for the sensors of any one of the aircraft to find on its own.

However this distributed sensor fusion doesn’t work.

The blind men and the elephant

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Light bestial erotica

The old Indian story of ‘the blind men and the elephant’ tells of a group of blind men who touch an elephant to learn what it is like. Each one feels a different individual part. They then compare notes and learn that they are in complete disagreement – the man who has felt its tail believes it to be like a snake, the man who felt the tusk believes it to be a long sharp bony animal and so on.

The flight of F-35s suffers from the ‘blind men and an elephant’ problem. Each fighter forms its own view of the target and they fail to reconcile these distinct views together.

This is assumed to be a minor software glitch that could be rectified if only a little more programming effort is thrown at the problem. The actual error lies in the flawed development model that assumes that the Reprogramming Lab can anticipate all battlefield situations and vacuum up the fog of war with a little more software effort and a block upgrade of the computers in the entire fleet every four years.

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The late John Boyd created the Observe/Orient/Decide/Act (OODA) loop concept to explain the decision-making process. OODA theory favours those with that demonstrate agility in making decisions. Quite how impressed he would be to hear that the USAF is adopting a four-year OODA loop to handle battlefield decisions (that can change by the second) can easily be imagined.

 

ALIS in wonderland 

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else—if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”

“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

-Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass

The science fiction writer Vernor Vinge in his novel ‘Rainbows End‘ used the ‘Red Queen’s Race’  as an analogy for the struggle between encouraging technological development and protecting the world from new weapons technologies. A race where if you run fast enough, you get nowhere.

But surely the United States can at least keep ahead of hostile nations that don’t have the resources to match us in a red queen’s race? Yes, the Russian and Chinese 5th generation fighters will never catch up to the constantly improving F-35, but outside of an ‘Invasion America’ scenario they don’t have to match the Americans plane to plane. The F-35 will more likely to be called to attack an integrated air defense network than act to defend one. When operating over enemy territory American stealth aircraft will be subject to detection by lower frequency radars whose longer wavelengths require radars too large to be carried by tactical aircraft.

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ALIS

Hiding in lightning

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Can’t you feel it McCloud? It’s the quickening!


But at least the F-35 will alert its pilot when it is being tracked by a lower frequency radar so he can take evasive action? Perhaps not. As an example: consider the radio frequency signature of natural lightning, or sferics. 
The F-35 sensors surely include a lightning detector function, but the programmers must consider this as a weather, not weapon or hostile sensor, warning. Therefore, to counter the F-35-  build a bi-static  radar that uses fake sferic radar pulses. (A bistatic radar’s two transmitters are stationary relative to each other, so two radars in different aircraft flying steadily can be used to form a bistatic set).

The F-35 will robotically filter out every pulse and never bother to track down the transmitter. These low-frequency signals deliver target tracks insufficient for weapons targeting (but can put fighters in the right general part of the sky to use more accurate passive sensors using infra-red), but stealth aircraft are much less stealthy against lower frequencies.

These fake sferics will have encrypted codes as frequency and time band gaps in their signals to distinguish them (for the hostile forces at least) from natural events and to act as a data channel to guide silent running defending stealth fighters near enough to track the F-35s by infra-red.

(As as interesting aside, the very first practical application of radar goes back to 1895, when Alexander Popov, a physics instructor from a Imperial Russian Navy school, developed an apparatus using a coherer tube for detecting distant lightning. Britain’s 1920s radar effort also started with lightning detection)

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Can’t think of anything funny about missiles.

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Once such a system is fielded the Reprogramming Lab geeks will work feverishly to distinguish the artificiality of these signals from the natural phenomena and will eventually produce a working patch that will be ready just as the hostile forces ready their next trick. This innate weakness of the F-35 comes from it being trapped in a Second
Offset development model (a model upgrades happen slowly). 

AIM-9P-FAS

Ditto.

How did the United States go from fielding the only IR air to air missile to merely being about tied with the best? The Europeans, Russians and Chinese have copied from the Sidewinder. This is why the Second Offset is no longer delivering an enduring offsetting advantage. And if the F-35 remains on the existing Second Offset path the United States will actually fall behind hostile forces.
Well, consider the Sidewinder missile. It started with a brilliant idea for how to construct an inexpensive and reliable infra-red seeker and tie this into a basic guidance system. While the initial version had major restrictions on its tactical deployment, the latest AIM-9X is one of the best infra-red air to air missiles in the world. The latest Sidewinder is so good that our top fighters like the F-22 haven’t caught up with capabilities such as high off-boresight  (the ability to launch  missiles at extreme angles to the side, or in some case even backwards) launches by US Navy Super Hornets or European fighters with their IRIS-T and ASRAAM.

The problem is the Second Offset Development model, which is:

* Designers have a concept for the hardware and software for a weapon system.
* Prototype hardware and software is produced and tested in laboratory conditions.
* Equipment is mass produced and fielded.
* Operational real world experience is sent back to the designers to create the next block upgrade.

This is why the Second Offset is no longer delivering an enduring advantage. And if the F-35 remains on the existing Second Offset path the United States will actually fall behind (potentially) hostile forces.

Won’t Work’s “human-machine collaboration and combat teaming” save the
F-35? Not if it continues to be used as a purely tactical collaboration. The labs develop the hardware and software, the sensors on the fighter detect (or not) hostile forces and the pilot responds. What the pilot learns in her sorties is then shared slowly through the unit and service levels before eventually making its way back to the Reprogramming Labs for the next block upgrade years later. This is really no different than the F-22, F-117, F-15, F-4, etc. We haven’t improved our procedures and so the rest of the world has had a chance to catch up.

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Low observable paint scheme.

The US hasn’t improved its model for fielding improvements and so the rest of the world has had a chance to catch up, by copying from our systems and on occasion downloading US specifications.

This one way flow of information in the Second Offset development model is a lot like the waterfall software development model, and is years too slow for this Third Offset world.

The F-35’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) already provides for a back channel to return operational information from the field back to the fleet, but this is currently only used for hardware maintenance.

The F-35 could switch from the last fighter of the Second Offset to the first fighter of the Third Offset by using ALIS to share what human and machine learn on each mission.

 

Applying this to the problem (mentioned above) of sensor fusion: the F-35 will apply its own best guess at what each sensor blob actually is. The pilot will then look as deeply as she likes into the data, calling for a rescan if she’s still unsure. Her own F-35 will then remember her selection for the remainder of the current flight and then share this update to its data model through ALIS. The sensor fusion puzzle is taken out of the hands of a few Reprogramming Lab geeks and crowd-sourced to every American and allied F-35 pilot. Each pilot then adds both her own contribution to the fight and a small exponential improvement for the entire fleet, which will then get better every day. When hostile forces tap into this network and download the latest data model they will find that it is finely tuned to the latest American sensor hardware and it will take them time to adapt this to their own equipment or use the insights to redesign their own gear to evade detection. And every minute while they are doing this the American network is learning and improving.

Non-democratic adversaries would be loathe to share data model building tasks with their own pilots, much less other countries. This distributed human-machine learning then becomes an enduring Third Offset advantage, because it is constantly adapting. The F-35 Lightning II will strike freely only after it escapes the waterfall.

 

Henry Cobb is a corporate Director of Special Projects,  You can reach him on Twitter
@henrycobb

-Henry Cobb 

Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit

Guide to surviving aviation forums here

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You may also enjoy A B-52 pilot’s guide to modern fighters, Flying and fighting in the Lightning: a pilot’s guideInterview with a Super Hornet pilot, Trump’s Air Force Plan, 11 Worst Soviet Aircraft, 10 worst US aircraft, and 10 worst British aircraft

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“Just tell everyone it did really well”

 

 

McDonnell 220 Business Jet Promo Film – 1963

What’s not to like about the McDonnell 220? It even had a cabin pressure equivalent to the air in Mexico City. Unfortunately no one liked it and it never went into production.

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Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit
Go on- donate and keep us in fancy clogs and cashew nuts. The donate buttons can be found on this page. Thank you. 

You may also enjoy B-52 pilot chooses Top 10 Cold War bombers, Flying & Fighting in the Mirage 2000: a pilot interview, The World’s Worst Air Force, 10 most formidable dogfight missiles, The ten coolest cancelled airlinersTen incredible cancelled Soviet fighter aircraftTen worst Soviet aircraftTen incredible cancelled military aircraftFighter aircraft news round-up,  11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versusTyphoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

Top 8 Mach 3 fighters

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As well as being a razor, mach 3 is a speed. It’s very fast. Flying at mach 3 produces oven-like skin temperatures and requires aircraft with exotic propulsion systems, and structures wrought from unusual metals that refuse to behave as well as aluminium. Despite these seemingly insurmountable challenges, several mach 3 fighters have been considered. Some have even flown.

 

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8. Mikoyan ‘MiG-41’

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The Russian MiG bureau has barely kept its head above water over the last 25 years, but according to some reports it is quietly working on a mach 4+ interceptor to replace the MiG-31, dubbed the ‘MiG-41’. You never know what to believe when it comes to Russian military aircraft, though it seems doubtful that Russia could afford such a programme if it couldn’t even fund the PAK FA by itself (it required reluctant Indian investment). If it is ever made, it will require a revolutionary form of propulsion – perhaps a modern variable-cycle interpretation of the J58 that powered the SR-71?

7. Dassault Mirage  (cancelled)

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For thirty years the French solution to anything was the Mirage. VTOL fighter? Try a Mirage. Swing-wing fighter? Try a Mirage. Nuclear medium bomber? Same again. So it’s perhaps no surprise to learn that several mach 3 Mirage concepts were studied. Butch intakes, new transparencies and huge engines would have given the MD 750 a formidable appearance. Generally the French air force prefers lighter fighters, and like many heavyweight Dassault concepts this failed to get funding.

6. North American XF-108 Rapier (cancelled)

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Of the slew of unflown mach 3 interceptor designs considered by the USAF in the 1950s, the North American XF-108 Rapier got the closest to being fully developed. If it had entered service it would have been exceptionally advanced: it was intended to carry the Hughes AN/ASG-18 radar, the first pulse-Doppler fighter radar set with a look-down/shoot-down capability (something that didn’t become common until the 1980s). It was also to be equipped with an infra-red search and tracking (IRST) system, and Hughes GAR-9 (missiles capable of destroying bombers over 100 miles away). Powered by two of the same engines as the equally ambitious XB-70 Valkyrie (and equipped with the same escape system), the F-108 would have been impressive but insanely expensive – in 1959 dollars the project would have cost four billion! The project was scrapped, which though a sane act, did deprive the world of what would have been the epitome of a kick-ass fighter. Its unfortunate name was temporarily carried by the F-22. 

5. General Dynamics/MD RF-4X Phantom II (cancelled)

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In the 1970s, the Israeli air force wanted a reconnaissance aircraft capable of carrying the extremely impressive HIAC-1 camera. The F-4 was considered, but the G-139 pod that contained the sensor was over 22 feet long and weighed over 4000 pounds – and the Phantom did not have the power to carry such a bulky store and remain fast and agile enough to survive in hostile airspace. One solution was to increase the power of the engines with water injection, something that had been done for various succesful F-4 record attempts. This combined with new inlets, a new canopy and huge bolt-on water tanks promised a mouth-watering 150% increase in power. This would have allowed a startling top speed of mach 3.2 and a cruising speed of mach 2.7. This level of performance would have made the F-4X almost impossible to shoot-down with the technology then in service. The F-4X would also have been a formidable interceptor – something that threatened the F-15 development effort, causing the State Department to revoke an export licence for the RF-4X. Even with the increase in power, the Israeli air force was still worried about the huge amount of drag, but a solution came in the form of a slimmed-down camera installation in a specially elongated nose. This meant the interceptor radar had to be removed, which assuaged the State Department’s fears and the project was allowed to continue. However worries from the F-15 project community returned (as did worries about how safe the F-4X would have been to fly) and the US pulled out. Israel tried to go it alone but didn’t have enough money, so the mach 3 Phantom never flew. rf-4x_4

4. Republic XF-103 (cancelled)

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In 1949, the USAF issued the Weapon System WS-201A request for an advanced supersonic interceptor, which became better known as the ‘1954 interceptor’. The brief was demanding — perhaps too demanding. It called for an extremely fast all-weather interceptor with a sophisticated radar and air-to-air missile armament. A mach 3 top speed was sought, which would be over three times faster than the fastest contemporary fighter. One of the main stumbling blocks to achieving mach 3 was the fact that jet engines of the time simply weren’t up to the task. Enter Alexander Kartveli. Born Alexander Kartvelishvili in Tbilisi, Georgia, he was a hugely important designer, who worked on the potent P-47 Thunderbolt, the beautiful and impressive Republic XF-12 Rainbow, and the slightly shabby Gloster Javelin. To solve the propulsion problem he proposed using a Wright J67 turbojet (essentially a Bristol Olympus) supplemented by a RJ55-W-1 ramjet. Though the project was eventually cancelled in 1957 without ever flying, the design did inform the Republic RF-84F Thunderstreak and later F-105 Thunderchief (notably in the intake configuration)

3. Mikoyan MiG-25 (1964)

1259071601_image_114Yes yes- I

Yes, yes – I can hear all you dorks shouting ‘the MiG-25 is limited to mach 2.83, and as low as 2.5 operationally’. But it can go mach 3. Famously an Egyptian one (admittedly the recce version) legged it across Israeli airspace at a whopping 3.2, ruining the engines according to legend. The MiG-25 was the only mach 3 capable fighter (yes, yes—fighter interceptor if you’re going to be a dick about it) to enter service. At speeds above mach 2.5 aluminium is not much good so an alternative was needed. Mikoyan adopted a radically different solution to Lockheed’s: instead of using titanium as the primary material (which was difficult to work with, expensive and mostly being shipped to the US) the MiG-25 used 80% nickel-steel alloy, 11% aluminium, and only 9% titanium. I seem to remember it also contains 5kg of gold. The British had experimented with steel for their utterly crap Bristol 188.

Despite its limitations (terrible agility, range and avionics), the MiG-25 has proved surprisingly capable in air-to-air combat, downing a brace of Iranian F-4s (and an F-5s). The most successful Iraqi MiG-25 pilot was Colonel Mohammed Rayyan, who was credited with 10 kills. In Desert Storm the type shot down a US F/A-18 Hornet, and even put up a spirited dogfight against the then invincible F-15.

2. Mikoyan MiG-31 (1975)

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The MiG-31 is the Volkswagen New Beetle to the MiG-25’s Volkswagen Beetle. Beefier and far technologically superior, the MiG-31 remains in service with the Russian air and space force today.

In 1986 six MiG-31s intercepted an SR-71 over the Barents Sea by performing a coordinated interception. It is rumoured that after this interception, no SR-71 flew a reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union.

Structurally, it’s a little different to the MiG-25, being 49% arc-welded nickel steel, 33% light metal alloy, 16% titanium and 2% composites. It is also an absolute beast, with a maximum take-off weight the same as a Boeing 737 airliner — or more than five MiG-21s! Armed with the longest range air-to-air weapon outside of Sweden and comfortably able to outdrag a Raptor, the MiG-31 remains in a league of its own.

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1. Lockheed YF-12 (1963)

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Not only did the YF-12 actually fly, it could also comfortably exceed mach 3. It was the largest and fastest fighter that ever flew, and smashed a load of speed and altitude world records. When the F-108 was cancelled in 1959, it seemed a waste to junk the advanced radar and missiles so someone had the bright idea to stick them on a top secret spyplane airframe then in development: the A-12 (which later evolved into the famous SR-71 Blackbird). Ironically, it was designed to shootdown Soviet bombers, yet was made from Russia-sourced titanium (it had been procured with an innocent-sounding cover story).President Johnson announced the existence of the YF-12 in 1964, allowing it to be used as a cover story for any observed test flights of the still-secret A-12/SR-71. Stealthy, supercruising and capable of flying at extremely high altitude, the YF-12 was in many ways the grandfather of the F-22 Raptor.

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Go on- donate and keep us in fancy clogs and cashew nuts. The donate buttons can be found on this page. Thank you. 

You may also enjoy B-52 pilot chooses Top 10 Cold War bombers, Flying & Fighting in the Mirage 2000: a pilot interview, The World’s Worst Air Force, 10 most formidable dogfight missiles, The ten coolest cancelled airlinersTen incredible cancelled Soviet fighter aircraftTen worst Soviet aircraftTen incredible cancelled military aircraftFighter aircraft news round-up,  11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versusTyphoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

The untold story of the Heinkel He 546 Nazi superbomber

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The Heinkel He 546 was a German aircraft designed by Siegfried & Roy at Heinkel Flugzeugwerke in 1941. It is believed by many historians that the design of the aircraft was an act of sabotage by two designers unsympathetic to the Nazi regime. It is likely that Siegfried & Roy deliberately set out to produce a dangerously flawed aircraft, the development of which would suck up vast resources, and deprive the Luftwaffe of the fast medium bomber they sought.

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The first He 546 flew on 27 February 1942, piloted by chief test pilot Gerhard Nitschke, who was ordered not to wear anything ‘too flashy’ so as not to upstage the rather ungainly looking aeroplane (Nitschke said he would wear a simple Adidas hoody and Bermuda shorts for the test flight). But he ignored these orders and wore an exceptionally racy zoot suit in peacock green. Nitschke said that the He 546 performed well, except when it was in flight. Nitschke also praised its “sardonic flight and landing characteristics” and “whimsical performance, which is close to that of a diesel milk-float”. During the second test flight Nitschke revealed there was insufficient longitudinal stability during climb while eating a cheese sandwich.

Despite a concerted development the aircraft failed to prove effective and was dropped by the Luftwaffe. It said goodbye to the world of military aviation and was re-launched into the heady theatre scene of 1940s London.

The Heinkel He 546  is best known for performing a flight demo version of Joyce’s Ulysses (1922), a landmark air demonstration in which the episodes of Homer‘s Odyssey are paralleled in a series of barrel rolls and Cuban Eights. The ‘546 also produced its own writings include three books of poetry, a play, occasional journalism and a battle rap about destroying Spitfires. The work was described as ‘unhinged but readable’ in a review by The Aeroplane in 1944.

The He 546 continued to perform during most of the Second World War, appearing at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre in 1943 in The Reluctant Bomber and on tour with Amy Brandon Thomas‘s company in ‘The Coventry Air Waltz’. In 1945, it appeared in Death from the air, a comedy produced by Hawtrey. The 546 recalled in its memoirs, “My part was reasonably large and I was really quite good in it, owing to the kindness and care of Hawtrey’s direction, and the lack of coordinated ack-ack fire.” 

On 23 April 1976, the He 546 collapsed from catastrophic structural failure in front of millions of television viewers, midway through his act on the London Weekend Television variety show Luftwaffe Lovelies, transmitted live from Her Majesty’s Theatre. It was buried next to the cafe at IWM Duxford where it remains to this day.

General characteristics

  • Crew: 36 (pilot, navigator/bombardier/nose gunner, ventral gunner, dorsal gunner/radio operator, side gunner, choirmaster, choir, Sous chef, hot yoga instructor)
  • Length: variable
  • Wingspan: disappointing
  • Height: of fashion
  • Wing area: smoking
  • Empty weight of pilot: 14 stone 7 pounds
  • Loaded weight: 14 stone 10 pounds
  • Max. takeoff weight: No comment you cheeky mare
  • Powerplant: 2 × Jumo 711F-1 or 211F-2 martini-cooled double binary inverted V-12, 5,300 hp  each

Performance

  • Maximum speed: 34 km/h (downhill)
  • Range: Good at playing villains, can cry on request
  • Ceiling: Sistine Chapel pastiche, some dry rot
  • Rate of climb: One step at a time
  • Wing loading: sassy
  • Power/mass: One squat thrust to one liturgy

The He 546 was created by Francis Bennett

Follow my vapour trail on Twitter: @Hush_kit
Go on- donate and keep us in fancy clogs and cashew nuts. The donate buttons can be found on this page. Thank you. 

You may also enjoy B-52 pilot chooses Top 10 Cold War bombers, Flying & Fighting in the Mirage 2000: a pilot interview, The World’s Worst Air Force, 10 most formidable dogfight missiles, The ten coolest cancelled airlinersTen incredible cancelled Soviet fighter aircraftTen worst Soviet aircraftTen incredible cancelled military aircraftFighter aircraft news round-up,  11 Cancelled French aircraft or the 10 worst British military aircraftSu-35 versusTyphoon10 Best fighters of World War II , Su-35 versus Typhoontop WVR and BVR fighters of today, an interview with a Super Hornet pilot and a Pacifist’s Guide to Warplanes. Flying and fighting in the Tornado. Was the Spitfire overrated? Want something more bizarre? Try Sigmund Freud’s Guide to Spyplanes. The Top Ten fictional aircraft is a fascinating read, as is The Strange Story and The Planet Satellite. The Fashion Versus Aircraft Camo is also a real cracker. Those interested in the Cold Way should read A pilot’s guide to flying and fighting in the Lightning. Those feeling less belligerent may enjoy A pilot’s farewell to the Airbus A340. Looking for something more humorous? Have a look at this F-35 satire and ‘Werner Herzog’s Guide to pusher bi-planes or the Ten most boring aircraft. In the mood for something more offensive? Try the NSFW 10 best looking American airplanes, or the same but for Canadians. 10 great aircraft stymied by the US

horten_ho_xiii_a_in_flight