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[*] posted on 26-7-2020 at 11:46 AM


Quote: Originally posted by CaptainCleanoff  
Agreed. Things are infinitely better than they were 10-15 years ago in terms of actual platform capability, that is an objective fact. The new gear coming online in the future will be world class.

The problem is, as you say, and what is the main driver in my opinions, is the lack of platform numbers. We just don't have enough.


Well things are growing slowly... Additional air combat capability planned, larger E-7 replacement, larger AAR replacement, larger C-130J replacement, more Poseidon / Tritons than we had AP-3C’s etc...

The addition of the Super Hornets and Growlers to the existing Hornet fleet (and planned JSF fleet) meant we had more fighter numbers than at any time since the very early days of Mirage III when at our peak we had 116x fighters in-service.

Hopefully the ‘additional air combat capability’ is on top of the existing force, not merely a substitution for the existing Super Hornet capability.

Personally I think the long planned 4th JSF squadron should be added to the Orbat at a minimum and the Growler squadron expanded to a full 18 aircraft for below:

72x F-35A - existing plans.

24x F-35A - additional air combat capability.

24x Super Hornets - as currently in-service but upgraded to Block 3 standard locally as JSF comes online fully and retained for 2 seater CAS capability / maritime strike / large aircraft escort / loyal wingman UCAV control duties. Subject of replacement when / if USAF / USN ‘6th Generation’ air combat capabilities become feasible.

18x Growler - upgraded with NGJ, AARGM-ER and Growler Block 3 enhancements. Subject of replacement when / if USAF / USN ‘6th Generation’ air combat / EW capabilities become feasible.

xx - number of ‘loyal wingman’ UCAV’s / ISR to supplement manned fighter aircraft and boost overall sortie numbers.





In a low speed post-merge manoeuvring fight, with a high off-boresight 4th generation missile and Helmet Mounted Display, the Super Hornet will be a very difficult opponent for any current Russian fighter, even the Su-27/30
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[*] posted on 26-7-2020 at 07:31 PM


Less than six months ago I would have said 'yeah right' to your list.

Now, with an ever more threatening China and a government that seems to have discovered some spine and the financial wherewithal to back it up, who knows, but the sky may not be the limit.




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[*] posted on 26-7-2020 at 09:54 PM


Quote: Originally posted by unicorn  
Less than six months ago I would have said 'yeah right' to your list.

Now, with an ever more threatening China and a government that seems to have discovered some spine and the financial wherewithal to back it up, who knows, but the sky may not be the limit.


Apart from the extra Growlers and the uncertain nature of what ‘additional air combat capability’ means exactly, all I listed are in-service, ordered or planned...

It’s quite amazing actually...




In a low speed post-merge manoeuvring fight, with a high off-boresight 4th generation missile and Helmet Mounted Display, the Super Hornet will be a very difficult opponent for any current Russian fighter, even the Su-27/30
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[*] posted on 27-7-2020 at 06:27 PM


Quote: Originally posted by ADMK2  
Quote: Originally posted by CaptainCleanoff  
Agreed. Things are infinitely better than they were 10-15 years ago in terms of actual platform capability, that is an objective fact. The new gear coming online in the future will be world class.

The problem is, as you say, and what is the main driver in my opinions, is the lack of platform numbers. We just don't have enough.


Well things are growing slowly... Additional air combat capability planned, larger E-7 replacement, larger AAR replacement, larger C-130J replacement, more Poseidon / Tritons than we had AP-3C’s etc...

The addition of the Super Hornets and Growlers to the existing Hornet fleet (and planned JSF fleet) meant we had more fighter numbers than at any time since the very early days of Mirage III when at our peak we had 116x fighters in-service.

Hopefully the ‘additional air combat capability’ is on top of the existing force, not merely a substitution for the existing Super Hornet capability.

Personally I think the long planned 4th JSF squadron should be added to the Orbat at a minimum and the Growler squadron expanded to a full 18 aircraft for below:

72x F-35A - existing plans.

24x F-35A - additional air combat capability.

24x Super Hornets - as currently in-service but upgraded to Block 3 standard locally as JSF comes online fully and retained for 2 seater CAS capability / maritime strike / large aircraft escort / loyal wingman UCAV control duties. Subject of replacement when / if USAF / USN ‘6th Generation’ air combat capabilities become feasible.

18x Growler - upgraded with NGJ, AARGM-ER and Growler Block 3 enhancements. Subject of replacement when / if USAF / USN ‘6th Generation’ air combat / EW capabilities become feasible.

xx - number of ‘loyal wingman’ UCAV’s / ISR to supplement manned fighter aircraft and boost overall sortie numbers.



Yeah that would be a very nice fighter fleet. And the additional support and patrol aircraft will be a great enhancement.

Although I don't see the Growler fleet or more specifically, the Electronic Attack capability being expanded until the Growler replacement comes about. The FSP actually states "...replacement and expansion on retirement of the EA-18G Growler...". So yeah, I wouldn't be expecting a larger EA capability until well after 2030.

How many "Loyal Wingman" platforms do you think we are realistically looking at? At what point does it become a capability rather a niche platform? I'm interested to see the costs involved and whether or not the platform can attain its goal.

While more stuff is great, and the investment is long overdue, lets not give the government/defence a standing ovation and slap on the back just yet. The signs about China's belligerence and hostile activities have been around for well over a decade but our politicians had no problem to sit back and let China screw us as long the money kept coming in. Even with all this much needed investment it's well overdue and paced poorly. With all the "punching above our weight" garbage being bandied about for the last 20 years, perhaps now that statement will actually ring true and not a hollow statement... in another 10-15 years or so.
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[*] posted on 27-7-2020 at 06:36 PM


Boeing secures six-year support contract for Australian P-8As

By Greg Waldron

27 July 2020

Boeing Defence Australia (BDA) has secured an A$287 million ($205 million) sustainment contract for the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) fleet of 12 P-8A maritime patrol aircraft.

The six-year contract combines three previous contracts and covers maintenance, engineering, and logistics for the 737 derivative, says Boeing.


Source: Greg Waldron
A Royal Australian Air Force P-8A at the Singapore Airshow in February 2018


“Under this new contract, BDA will not only be responsible for the Australian elements of the sustainment program but also takes on a platform steward role,” says BDA director of commercial derivative aircraft, Darryn Fletcher.

“This means taking full ownership for everything needed to keep the platform flying and broadens BDA’s responsibilities to include asset management, aircraft-on-ground responsibilities, and cyber-worthiness amongst other tasks.”

The existing four-year support contract for the type ends in October 2020.
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[*] posted on 28-7-2020 at 07:57 AM


From today's Australian

Defence off target in $1.5bn fighter shortfall

BEN PACKHAM
FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND DEFENCE CORRESPONDENT

Taxpayers have paid for $1.5bn worth of capabilities on the nation’s Joint Strike Fighters — including ship-killer missiles and advanced jet-to-jet communications — that won’t be delivered under the approved $16.5bn funding for the aircraft.

Defence officials told a parliamentary committee that the fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters won’t get advanced Maritime Strike capabilities or a new Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) communications system under the program’s original timetable or budget.

Defence has received government approval to defer the capabilities, but the budget to purchase Australia’s 72 JSF’s remains unchanged in what analysts say is an effective $1.5bn cost increase.

The federal government confirmed in Defence’s new plan that Australia would acquire new long-range anti-ship missiles from the US for $800m.

But the stealthy cruise missiles, which have a range of more than 500km, are yet to be integrated into the JSFs, which needs to carry missiles internally to maintain its stealth characteristics. They will initially be available for use on the nation’s F/A-18F Super Hornets.

Defence said the planned BLOS capability — allowing the F-35 to communicate with other ADF aircraft and assets at long ranges — would be available in a future software upgrade.

Labor assistant defence spokesman Pat Conroy, who grilled Defence officials on the issue in a recent committee hearing, said the jets were being delivered at full cost with “important, promised capabilities missing”.

“It’s not good enough for the government and Defence to say don’t worry about paying $16.5bn for an aircraft worth $15bn, we’ll get those capabilities through later projects,” he told The Australian.

“This is breathtaking arrogance and ignores the fact this means the RAAF will not get the capabilities they were promised and it means taxpayers have to pay for two more very expensive projects.”

Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts told the joint public accounts and audit committee the decisions were about “trading off those key things that we need in the capability today versus those that can be conducted in future phases”. Defence added in a statement to The Australian that changes to the program were “reviewed against the evolving threat environment, technological maturity and cost”.

“Decisions regarding the F-35 program have been considered on the basis of capability, interoperability and overall cost across the Defence portfolio and will deliver, over time, a better capability mix for Australia. They should not be considered in isolation,” it said.

“Defence remains confident that the F-35A Lightning II best meets Australia’s 5th generation multi-role fighter needs.”

The deferral of planned F-35 capabilities without a corresponding budget adjustment was first revealed in a footnote in a 2019 Auditor-General’s report, which said the move was “due to cost pressures”.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute budget expert Marcus Hellyer said at the time the decision was “effectively a $1.5bn real cost increase”.

“This means that 9 per cent of the project scope has been moved off into some undefined point in the future, but Defence is hanging onto 100 per cent of the budget to acquire the remaining 91 per cent,” Dr Hellyer said.

US defence giant Lockheed Martin recently flagged a slowdown of work on the F-35 program, saying the coronavirus crisis had delayed delivery of parts for its US assembly lines. Defence said it expected delivery of some aircraft to be delayed.




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[*] posted on 28-7-2020 at 02:18 PM


Quote: Originally posted by unicorn  
From today's Australian
Taxpayers have paid for $1.5bn worth of capabilities on the nation’s Joint Strike Fighters — including ship-killer missiles and advanced jet-to-jet communications — that won’t be delivered under the approved $16.5bn funding for the aircraft. Defence officials told a parliamentary committee that the fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters won’t get advanced Maritime Strike capabilities or a new Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) communications system under the program’s original timetable or budget.



Rescheduling delay, rather than cancellation of planned capability developments, just not enough money for the whole enchilada, in one go. RAAF has good reason to get this stuff funded as this is what will produce the edge if force is used, and strike is needed as an option. “Please Sir, can I have more?” I can think of some missile defense plans that might take a haircut to make this happen.


Quote: Originally posted by unicorn  
From today's Australian
The federal government confirmed in Defence’s new plan that Australia would acquire new long-range anti-ship missiles from the US for $800m. But the stealthy cruise missiles, which have a range of more than 500km, are yet to be integrated into the JSFs, which needs to carry missiles internally to maintain its stealth characteristics. They will initially be available for use on the nation’s F/A-18F Super Hornets. Defence said the planned BLOS capability — allowing the F-35 to communicate with other ADF aircraft and assets at long ranges — would be available in a future software upgrade.



LRASM on P-8A has been in planning as a possible option since 2013, IIRC, from earlier discussion documents. It was not considered an option on F-35A, as it’s available to USAF on the B-1B for joint killing of the heavier fleet units, while USN only recently got JASSM and LRASM integrated on SH.

The other factor is F-35A will not be ready to rapidly integrate with LRASM (and many, many other in service and developmental weapons) until the Block IV Universal Armaments Interface (UAI) is integrated on F-35A (possibly in 2023). So a delay on LRASM or a newer JASSM is a bit meaningless until that occurs. Plus enough LRASMs have to be built. Until recently the build rate and build quantity was very low (and unit price was very high as a result, but as nothing compared to a cruiser or carrier’s cost). Consequently it will be many years before Australia gets a full war load of LRASM for P-8A. I’m presuming P-8A is where they’ll go first, then SH as numbers rise, but F-35A uses JSOW with lower standoff, but more range and platform speed, until LRASM integration on F-35A - a lower priority option.

Due to altitude performance and very low drag plus higher speed and range of F-35A with altitude it will be a vastly better JSOW launch platform than SH ever could have been, the glide range will be excellent, but the glide speed is slower compared to LRASM. Who cares, if they have a better thermal signature, and still approach and hit the target with next to no warning?

The big item there is the BLOS delay, as that will be at the core of capability development and integration with many other systems. That one they’ll need to get funded.


Quote: Originally posted by unicorn  
From today's Australian
Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts told the joint public accounts and audit committee the decisions were about “trading off those key things that we need in the capability today versus those that can be conducted in future phases”. Defence added in a statement to The Australian that changes to the program were “reviewed against the evolving threat environment, technological maturity and cost”. “Decisions regarding the F-35 program have been considered on the basis of capability, interoperability and overall cost across the Defence portfolio and will deliver, over time, a better capability mix for Australia. They should not be considered in isolation,” it said. “Defence remains confident that the F-35A Lightning II best meets Australia’s 5th generation multi-role fighter needs.”



I’d say don’t bank on SH BKIII upgrade. RAAF will want new technologies delivered first, or instead.

--

One other thing, where's the funding to upgrade F-35A to Block IV, from Block 3F IOC/FOC capability level? That will have to be coughed up soon-ish too to maintain capability development and interoperability.
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[*] posted on 28-7-2020 at 03:12 PM


Quote: Originally posted by unicorn  
From today's Australian

Defence off target in $1.5bn fighter shortfall

BEN PACKHAM
FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND DEFENCE CORRESPONDENT

Taxpayers have paid for $1.5bn worth of capabilities on the nation’s Joint Strike Fighters — including ship-killer missiles and advanced jet-to-jet communications — that won’t be delivered under the approved $16.5bn funding for the aircraft.

Defence officials told a parliamentary committee that the fifth-generation F-35 stealth fighters won’t get advanced Maritime Strike capabilities or a new Beyond Line of Sight (BLOS) communications system under the program’s original timetable or budget.

Defence has received government approval to defer the capabilities, but the budget to purchase Australia’s 72 JSF’s remains unchanged in what analysts say is an effective $1.5bn cost increase.

The federal government confirmed in Defence’s new plan that Australia would acquire new long-range anti-ship missiles from the US for $800m.

But the stealthy cruise missiles, which have a range of more than 500km, are yet to be integrated into the JSFs, which needs to carry missiles internally to maintain its stealth characteristics. They will initially be available for use on the nation’s F/A-18F Super Hornets.

Defence said the planned BLOS capability — allowing the F-35 to communicate with other ADF aircraft and assets at long ranges — would be available in a future software upgrade.

Labor assistant defence spokesman Pat Conroy, who grilled Defence officials on the issue in a recent committee hearing, said the jets were being delivered at full cost with “important, promised capabilities missing”.

“It’s not good enough for the government and Defence to say don’t worry about paying $16.5bn for an aircraft worth $15bn, we’ll get those capabilities through later projects,” he told The Australian.

“This is breathtaking arrogance and ignores the fact this means the RAAF will not get the capabilities they were promised and it means taxpayers have to pay for two more very expensive projects.”

Air Vice-Marshal Catherine Roberts told the joint public accounts and audit committee the decisions were about “trading off those key things that we need in the capability today versus those that can be conducted in future phases”. Defence added in a statement to The Australian that changes to the program were “reviewed against the evolving threat environment, technological maturity and cost”.

“Decisions regarding the F-35 program have been considered on the basis of capability, interoperability and overall cost across the Defence portfolio and will deliver, over time, a better capability mix for Australia. They should not be considered in isolation,” it said.

“Defence remains confident that the F-35A Lightning II best meets Australia’s 5th generation multi-role fighter needs.”

The deferral of planned F-35 capabilities without a corresponding budget adjustment was first revealed in a footnote in a 2019 Auditor-General’s report, which said the move was “due to cost pressures”.

Australian Strategic Policy Institute budget expert Marcus Hellyer said at the time the decision was “effectively a $1.5bn real cost increase”.

“This means that 9 per cent of the project scope has been moved off into some undefined point in the future, but Defence is hanging onto 100 per cent of the budget to acquire the remaining 91 per cent,” Dr Hellyer said.

US defence giant Lockheed Martin recently flagged a slowdown of work on the F-35 program, saying the coronavirus crisis had delayed delivery of parts for its US assembly lines. Defence said it expected delivery of some aircraft to be delayed.


Did this idiot even get that checked before it was published, by someone with basic reading comprehension let alone any knowledge of defence?

Firstly, that $1.5b comes from WITHIN that $16.5b funding envelope, not external. I am not a maths expert, but $16.5b + $1.5b equals $18b, does it not? Not spending that $1.5b immediately because the capability isn’t ready yet, is not a ‘real increase’ it’s the same cost, simply deferred. It isn’t $16.5 + $1.5 it’s $15b now + another $1.5b down the track...

Secondly, those capabilities have been delayed by JSF program delays, not defence funding issues. JSF Block IV that will allow the deployment of such capabilities is still under development...

Thirdly, LRASM’s $800m budget is to acquire the weapons and integrate them on Shornet, it has nothing whatsoever to do with JSF, other than in due course those weapons will also be carried by JSF. But it’s a completely separate program... So is it now $16.5b + $1.5b + $800m?

Also the old ‘must carry weapons internally for stealth’ BS. Fark me... Does he wonder at all WHY those weapons in part have a 500k plus range?




In a low speed post-merge manoeuvring fight, with a high off-boresight 4th generation missile and Helmet Mounted Display, the Super Hornet will be a very difficult opponent for any current Russian fighter, even the Su-27/30
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[*] posted on 28-7-2020 at 03:18 PM


"BUT Air Power Australia told me..........."
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[*] posted on 28-7-2020 at 04:51 PM


Quote: Originally posted by CaptainCleanoff  
Although I don't see the Growler fleet or more specifically, the Electronic Attack capability being expanded until the Growler replacement comes about. The FSP actually states "...replacement and expansion on retirement of the EA-18G Growler...". So yeah, I wouldn't be expecting a larger EA capability until well after 2030. … Even with all this much needed investment it's well overdue and paced poorly. With all the "punching above our weight" garbage being bandied about for the last 20 years,


Speculating, but as I've read elsewhere such EA capability expansion delay is more likely to be an artifact of early low annual build numbers of NGJ jammer (why NGJ FOC is scheduled to be so late). Thus legacy jammers hang around much longer than expected.

It's possible Growler never gets NGJ in more than very limited integration numbers, and are replaced by a new USN EA platform before NGJ finally makes a meaningful appearance, thus expanding RAAF's fielded EA capabilities. Hence why they're being mentioned that way. I read it to mean the entire Superhornet fleet won't be lingering in RAAF service deeper into the 2030s. They will be replaced as soon as possible with a new E/AXX type, but with NGJ pods standard. I know RAAF committed to remain compatible with USN Growler, but I wouldn't presume that includes Block III upgrades if Growler will be replaced as soon as possible to enable 'expanded' RAAF EA capability.

The fact remains F-35A is a powerful EA fighter platform in its own right. Those, plus Growler, may suffice, until NGJ matures, into the early 2030s. It may be that legacy pods and limited NGJ availability is a good tactical mix and advantage to work with. Plus that a newer platform provides both the new air combat capability, plus the expanded EA support capability. Superhornet was interim F-111 strike replacement, and supposed to go away ASAP once F-35A could provide the strike capability, from approximately 100 F-35A. So let's hope the Superhornet replacement sets a new bar for USN fighter range, altitude, cruise speed and VLO performance.

In the end I think why re-invent the wheel here? Evolve the F-35C into the F-35D, as a high-altitude, long-range striker, with a three-stage high efficiency engine with higher thrust, plus 5,000 lb of conformal fuel and upgrade the sensors and comms. Then derive E/A-35 from that F-35D, with NGJ integrated into the former weapons bays. Easier to do if you’re new-building, so redesign the entire center section to remove the bays, but roughly maintain the VLO outer mold line. A fast, long-range, high-altitude EA support fighter, which can operate alone and defend itself from anything, or operate with a ‘wingman’ separated by 300 km and can combine in real time to drown out any opposing defense system with EA.

To me reinventing F-35C would be a waste of time and money, better to modify it into the F/A-35D, with better everything. You lose some of the JSF concept of fleet commonality, but end up with a new more F-22 like performance capability. A new aircraft produced in a fraction of the time from a new factory line building them faster as well, thereby ending the dilemma of slow uptake of F-35C, while still using and developing a lot of the common F-35C parts. It’s still a known quantity for carrier ops too. Still able to integrate seamlessly with F-35C, and an easy transition for pilots. Easy to simulate as well, easy to upgrade, same architectures. You don’t even have to work toward interoperability, it’s there from the beginning. Thus minimal testing and integration required, plus a renewal of the VLO tech at the same time. IMO, that’s too many advantages to ignore, this would be next to perfect for USN, and same for RAAF - much better than the F-111, operated for a fraction of its long-term cost.

RE the rest of quoted, I suspect a lot of the delays actually are due to sequencing technical maturity of aspects to get to objectives. We aren’t exactly swimming naked in the interim though, we will have a fairly good capability along the way to a mid-2030s much stronger force. IIRC, it was John Howard who came out with the punch above our weight line. Perhaps it helped to raise or maintain higher standards at that time. It’s long ago lost the aspirational charm.
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[*] posted on 28-7-2020 at 06:29 PM


Quote: Originally posted by magnify  
Quote: Originally posted by CaptainCleanoff  
Although I don't see the Growler fleet or more specifically, the Electronic Attack capability being expanded until the Growler replacement comes about. The FSP actually states "...replacement and expansion on retirement of the EA-18G Growler...". So yeah, I wouldn't be expecting a larger EA capability until well after 2030. … Even with all this much needed investment it's well overdue and paced poorly. With all the "punching above our weight" garbage being bandied about for the last 20 years,


Speculating, but as I've read elsewhere such EA capability expansion delay is more likely to be an artifact of early low annual build numbers of NGJ jammer (why NGJ FOC is scheduled to be so late). Thus legacy jammers hang around much longer than expected.

It's possible Growler never gets NGJ in more than very limited integration numbers, and are replaced by a new USN EA platform before NGJ finally makes a meaningful appearance, thus expanding RAAF's fielded EA capabilities. Hence why they're being mentioned that way. I read it to mean the entire Superhornet fleet won't be lingering in RAAF service deeper into the 2030s. They will be replaced as soon as possible with a new E/AXX type, but with NGJ pods standard. I know RAAF committed to remain compatible with USN Growler, but I wouldn't presume that includes Block III upgrades if Growler will be replaced as soon as possible to enable 'expanded' RAAF EA capability.

The fact remains F-35A is a powerful EA fighter platform in its own right. Those, plus Growler, may suffice, until NGJ matures, into the early 2030s. It may be that legacy pods and limited NGJ availability is a good tactical mix and advantage to work with. Plus that a newer platform provides both the new air combat capability, plus the expanded EA support capability. Superhornet was interim F-111 strike replacement, and supposed to go away ASAP once F-35A could provide the strike capability, from approximately 100 F-35A. So let's hope the Superhornet replacement sets a new bar for USN fighter range, altitude, cruise speed and VLO performance.

In the end I think why re-invent the wheel here? Evolve the F-35C into the F-35D, as a high-altitude, long-range striker, with a three-stage high efficiency engine with higher thrust, plus 5,000 lb of conformal fuel and upgrade the sensors and comms. Then derive E/A-35 from that F-35D, with NGJ integrated into the former weapons bays. Easier to do if you’re new-building, so redesign the entire center section to remove the bays, but roughly maintain the VLO outer mold line. A fast, long-range, high-altitude EA support fighter, which can operate alone and defend itself from anything, or operate with a ‘wingman’ separated by 300 km and can combine in real time to drown out any opposing defense system with EA.

To me reinventing F-35C would be a waste of time and money, better to modify it into the F/A-35D, with better everything. You lose some of the JSF concept of fleet commonality, but end up with a new more F-22 like performance capability. A new aircraft produced in a fraction of the time from a new factory line building them faster as well, thereby ending the dilemma of slow uptake of F-35C, while still using and developing a lot of the common F-35C parts. It’s still a known quantity for carrier ops too. Still able to integrate seamlessly with F-35C, and an easy transition for pilots. Easy to simulate as well, easy to upgrade, same architectures. You don’t even have to work toward interoperability, it’s there from the beginning. Thus minimal testing and integration required, plus a renewal of the VLO tech at the same time. IMO, that’s too many advantages to ignore, this would be next to perfect for USN, and same for RAAF - much better than the F-111, operated for a fraction of its long-term cost.

RE the rest of quoted, I suspect a lot of the delays actually are due to sequencing technical maturity of aspects to get to objectives. We aren’t exactly swimming naked in the interim though, we will have a fairly good capability along the way to a mid-2030s much stronger force. IIRC, it was John Howard who came out with the punch above our weight line. Perhaps it helped to raise or maintain higher standards at that time. It’s long ago lost the aspirational charm.


Yeah I was actually wondering if the expanded EA capability could in fact just be another squadron of F-35 with NGJ integration - albeit a highly modified variant like you suggest. Though I think it more likely that it will be an entirely new aircraft such as the NGAD (F/A-XX) with electronic warfare/attack and NGJ integration from the outset. At least I hope this is the direction that the USN is taking with the NGAD. Perhaps some kind of internal payload system that can either take on a system pod like NGJ or a weapon system, leaving the internal weapon bays and external hardpoints for extra fuel and missiles as needed.

From the early public design talk, the NGAD seems to be a beefed up VLO Super Hornet (at least in thought) with much greater range and comparable or greatly increased payload, so hopefully those plans come to fruition, because on paper, it already seems to be more useful than the F-35 in the strike role. - EDIT: Just read an article (https://www.defenceconnect.com.au/strike-air-combat/6280-us-...) where a member of the HASC thinks that the NGAD should be based on an in-service aircraft, so probably F-35C, so the evolved F-35C you're talking about could in the running. Although if that is the case, I don't see how it could reach the desired performance goals hinted at by the CSBA (see here: https://news.usni.org/2020/02/10/navy-cuts-super-hornet-prod...) for 1000nm range from the carrier with a payload similar to a fully strapped Rhino/Growler - twice that of the F-35C.

Agreed with technical maturity dilemma, and yeah things take time to get into place. I know RAAF have wanted to push towards being a truly 5th gen air force for a long time now, so they've had to bide their time and make do until that could become a reality. Unfortunately, the reality is that while they waited, the world didn't sit still and wait patiently. I honestly think the RAAF could easily achieve much of its goals with the fighter fleet now in or coming into service with the F-35 and Super Hornet/Growler. The Rhino/Growler fleet should have been expanded and should never have been viewed as simply an interim capability, because it is so much more than that.
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[*] posted on 28-7-2020 at 07:01 PM


I'm of the mind that it would be an error to go for a twin again when a single can do the same VLO job much more cheaply. And much more reliably than a single could in 1981. Whatever the final mix, let's hope we get an unexpectedly large number of them, so the long-term investment and economy of operating scale makes more operating and capability delivery sense, plus that they really rip at high-altitude cruise, agility and the A2A stealth fight.
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[*] posted on 28-7-2020 at 07:18 PM


Quote:
...so probably F-35C, so the evolved F-35C you're talking about could in the running. Although if that is the case, I don't see how it could reach the desired performance goals hinted at by the CSBA...


There is almost certainly a whole multitude of modifications that could be made to the F35C to dramatically boost performance and weapons loadout once it is no longer limited by the necessity to be similar to a variant that needs to take off and land vertically.




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[*] posted on 28-7-2020 at 07:36 PM


That is certainly true, let's hope it comes to pass.
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[*] posted on 28-7-2020 at 08:04 PM


Quote:
... Although if that is the case, I don't see how it could reach the desired performance goals hinted at by the CSBA ...


Except what is being said isn't at all accurate, it depends very much on the mission and the flight profile. From that article:

Quote:
… A study released last year by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said that, in order for a future carrier air wing to be effective in a major conflict with China, it would need to develop aircraft that could operate consistently at ranges of up to 1,000 nautical miles from the carrier. That’s double the effective combat range of an F-35C.


No it isn't.

F-35A “combat range” is labeled as 669 nmi (770 mi, or 1,239 km) on internal fuel, which presumes prompt transit and combat takes place and involves excess fuel burns, from SAMs, fighters and/or profile change and dash.

F-35A range is also nominally given as 760 nmi (870 mi, or 1,410 km) on an "Interdiction Mission", on internal fuel, with internal A2A config (no AIM-9XII+).

The C version is similar.

Now add 27.4% more fuel (i.e. 5,000 lb conformal), plus 25% more efficient fuel burn from a three-stage engine. Fly it 10,000 feet higher, using the bigger wing area for lower AoA, thus lower drag. The A suffers a bit from higher AoA and parasitic drag with its shorter wing. And it is flying within much lower atmospheric pressure therefore lower drag, thus with let's say ~100 kt higher cruise speed for approx the same fuel burn rate as at 45,000 ft. And an internal fuel burn which lasts for say 6.5 hours down to minimums with the single (up to 5.3 hrs was reported with long-endurance flights in the A model maintaining minimums on te current engine and 18,250 lb, preserving 2,500 lb minimum fuel intact) @ lets say 550kt.

So 550 nm, each hour, for 6.5 hours, once in the cruise, so say about 5 mins to get up there efficiently to a stable high-cruise speed, without afterburner, at FL550.

As you can see, such an achievable F-35D would certainly be able to routinely operate at 1,000nm radius from the carrier on internal fuel alone.

Now add MQ-25s and LRASM or JASSM-ER. 2,000 nm range stealth strikes become doable plus don’t take too long for the pilots. One full working length day (or rather, night) will get that done, with a high level of automation to reduce fatigue and stress.

So I’d say we may well see a new F-35 variant, if the US Navy is pushed to, "shit, or get off the potty", because there’s no way a twin, the size of the SH, is getting anywhere near that routine operating radius.
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[*] posted on 29-7-2020 at 09:59 AM


Quote: Originally posted by CaptainCleanoff  
… with a payload similar to a fully strapped Rhino/Growler - twice that of the F-35C.


Just wanted to clear up this aspect, it also isn’t correct.

F-35C internal payload = 5,700 lb
F-35C external weapon payload = 10,495 lb
F-35C internal fuel = 19,624 lb

The proposed ‘D’ numbers below presume no further significant weight gain for ‘D’ variant – but new engine and CFT will add weight.

F-35D internal payload = 5,700 lb
F-35D external weapon payload = 5,495 lb
F-35D internal fuel + 5,000 lb in CFTs = 24,624 lb

F/A-18F/G BkII + (3 x 480 US Gal) = 28,170 lb of fuel
Available weapon weight with that fuel load = 5,750 lb = MTOW
SH BkII max dry thrust power to weight at max fuel and MTOW = 1:0.39

[BTW, most small business jets like Embraer Phenom 300 for instance, have almost exactly this same 1:0.39 P:W ratio when full fuel with 1 pilot, so SH would achieve about 5,000 ft/min initial max climb rate, with 100% dry thrust, for a rather sluggish climb out to a fairly low max stable cruise altitude (due excess AoA requirements and drag added) and a low end cruise speed whilst doing so. Not good for range, or potential combat. F-35A already has P:W of 1:0.56 with its max internal fuel + the same weapon load, on max dry thrust. While F-35D would be nearer to 1:0.65 to 0.7, with internal fuel + CFT fuel, and same weapon load, max dry thrust. Not as good as F-22A (approx 1:0.75 max dry and full weapons), but getting much closer to it. Static thrust numbers used.]

SH BkII max afterburning thrust power to weight at max fuel and MTOW = 1:0.66

So SH cruise speed and altitude will be comparatively lower and slower with much less efficient specific fuel consumption, and the inefficiency of twin engine, as opposed to single high thrust.

Superhornet block III max range available payload I speculate will be 5,800 lb to about 10,000 lb, which depends what the engine upgrade does to MTOW and payload margins.

Superhornet block III practical fuel load would be almost unchanged from BkII, possibly less, but with a more efficient engine burn. The CFTs only free-up 2 pylons, add more weight (and unlikely to be as large as 480 US Gal capacity they replace), to take advantage of whatever the engine upgrade does to the available weapon payload rise.

So …

Current Block RAAF F/A-18F/G, with 3 x 480 US Gal lb = 28,170 lb fuel load. This uses 3 hard points, induces high-drag, and considerably lower cruise-speeds and lower cruise altitude capability, producing much poorer specific fuel consumption than an F-35C, thus much lower range than F-35A or C.

Consider, if you add BK III conformal fuel tanks alone to a RAAF SH, with 3 x 480 US Gal in external tanks, you no longer have ANY remaining strike weapons or A2A payload available. Nada!

So this isn't going to happen for RAAF Shornets, without the engine upgrade as well (and the rest of BKIII). All that using CFTs will practically do, is free-up 2 hard points, but without increasing the fuel or range. So only an engine efficiency dividend will increase the Bk III’s range, i.e. the max fuel load with CFTs is actually likely to be less than the current 2 x 480 US Gal option with the BkII.

The remaining available weapons payload for SH BkII, when using the full 3 x 480 US Gal is only 5,794 lb, for the pylons and strike and A2A weapons.

i.e. about the same as the current USAF F-16C Bk50, which the F-35A thoroughly outclasses for payload, range and cruise speed (look at what Dutch air force pilots are saying about the comparative difference).

Note also that this is without including added weight of pylons for external weapons and the fuel load. So available weapon payload is maybe 5,000 lb, all up, with BkII’s maximum fuel load and range.

That full fuel and weapons weight lb = 66,046, i.e. it uses 100% of RAAF BkII payload capacity.

5,000 lb for remaining SH BkII weapons amounts to 2 x 2,000 lb A2G strike weapon, and 2 x AIM-9X and the targeting pod. Nothing left for AMRAAMs, so they need A2A escort. So at best SH BKIII upgrade will allow enough A2A BVR missiles to not need to be escorted, but it will not provide enough payload margin to add 2 more 2,000lb strike weapons (unless there's a radical improvement to engine performance and fuel-burn efficiency gain).

Which in effect means the 2 pylons that were freed up by adding CFTs, must now go un-utilized!

:no:

OK, so there’s a bit less parasitic drag here for SH BkIII - but not in a good way.

And that SH max range available weapon payload is almost exactly the same as F-35C/D, with full internal weapon payload. Except F-35C/D can carry far more externally, with MQ-25 support, but the SH BkIII due to very much higher drag, due the external carriage, and flying 20,000 ft lower than F-35D, will have nothing like F-35C or F-35D internal weapon strike ranges or endurance, and needs a lot more MQ-25 support as well.

Stuff that.

SH BKIII has no payload, range or other performance advantage over either F-35A, F-35C, and will get nothing near this proposed F-35D, for a USN high-altitude, long-range, fast VLO deep-strike, and long range air interdiction. Indeed the SH is comparatively completely outclassed, like comparing SH to F-22A in A2A - Golden puppy verses Bengal Tiger level outclassed.

Now can you imagine what 2 or 4 x F-35D, with F-22A like performance, but far more range than F-22A (Raptor can use two external tanks to add range), with KC-30A support, Intel and JORN early warning and tracking, could do to a flight of 4 incoming Chinese stealth bombers, before they can get to weapons release range (with say a load of 20 stand-off missiles each for a 80 cruise weapon attack on Darwin and Katherine, etc.?

With F-35D RAAF could render Chinese stealth bombers ineffective against Australian targets, and the PLAAF would probably lose a couple, if not all aircraft within such an attack.

[They'd need to rely on subs and BMs so we make sure those don't work too well either.]

I seriously doubt a beefed up F/A-XX twin will do better at strike or air defense than the current F-35A already can. An improved F-35D would blow it away in all areas unless F/A-XX radically departed from the SH approach and bore no resemblance to Shornet BKIII it replaces.

So … why waste time and money re-inventing a perfect 5th-gen fighter/attack jet, when you already have the basis for that in service, and can radically improve it further, with minimal time, cost, development, integration and testing to FOC?
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[*] posted on 29-7-2020 at 01:49 PM


One last point, our potential opposition has no such long-range and high-altitude single engine VLO option. And is unlikely to field anything comparable within 25 years. This is an advantage in efficiency, performance, reach and cost that we should exploit to the absolute maximum, as there's no way to beat F-35 but with a comparable single. They couldn't follow the high altitude high thrust and efficiency of evolved F-16s, until the Chinese tried to with the J-10.

And unlikely to compete with an even higher flying F-35D 5th gen variant any time soon, the J31 is a flop, no payload performance or range, simply because it had to be a twin in order to fly.

The F-22A needed to be a twin design to get up high and perform exceptionally, but the F/A-18A and F/A-18F did it for reliability over water, which severely limited range, and impaired other performance levels. So I don't expect great things from another naval twin design (which will always have to be heavier).

But a small F-35 single with a larger wing area can now be fielded which will get up as high as F-15E twin, or F-22A, and fight it out on equal kinematic terms, plus VLO. That's an incredible advantage to have. Maybe in 20 years our likely opposition can match F-16 performance level, plus engine reliability, but by then F-35 engines in a much bigger fleet will have bought it about equal to F-22A kinematics just as the F-22A is retiring. Continuing on with small but heavy naval twins means lower performance, and it will be stuck within a lower altitude band and lower speed range, with higher fuel burn, and more support aircraft required to compete.

This is how USN burned through its SH BkII fleet, via tanking to support Shornet twins. That's why availability and readiness fell sharply as the money dried up. Repairs became uneconomic. Get a long-range high altitude single though and USN gets back to fast long-range capability and no more buddy-refueling pods on fighters.


[I suspect persistent slow uptake of F-35C into USN service is because they're working on a more capable version of it, as they repair, replace and upgrade the existing SH fleet.]
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[*] posted on 29-7-2020 at 04:16 PM


Yeah that "twice the range" thing, I was merely going off what was written in the USNI news piece. I should have done a little due diligence when it came to performance differences. But thanks for the detailed response, very interesting!
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[*] posted on 29-7-2020 at 04:25 PM


Yeah, I realized it was the USNI article pushing that. They should know a lot better. The things that make you go hmm.
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[*] posted on 29-7-2020 at 05:16 PM


Yeah, I'd have to say, given the above, they'd have to be mad to replicate SH with a large twin engine design. And USN/HASC know well the limitations and issues now within the fleet with sustainment and support. So rationalising the fleet and working upon the foundation established with F-35C is why basing the NGAD on an in-service design is one potential option. But then again, F-35 introduces it's own issues with sustainment. I'd say it's a relatively good chance the NGAD will be a development of the F-35 design, if only for the simple fact it could be faster and cheaper to make design changes to an already in-service and evolving design.

I'd still like to see some kind of dedicated internal mission role kit system that allows for either EA/EW pods, or just extra missile options that doesn't impact on the internal bay or take up hardpoints for extra fuel or external weapons. But such a system would likely require an entirely new design or an enlarged F-35, which is probably not ideal.
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[*] posted on 29-7-2020 at 07:03 PM


Growler is designated support so that indicates a protected role which requires few missiles, but as it is not VLO, it needs some. What we get probably won't be like Growler any longer though, and SiAW DEAD weapon is internal carry on F-35A so who needs them on a VLO EA aircraft? A VLO F-35 shouldn't need to do a lot of defending of itself with a SiAW, nor with AMRAAM's A2A replacement. As a support aircraft that would be getting it very wrong, but it still may carry AIM-9XII for when stuff does go wrong.

I'd be very happy to see 24 x EA-35 with NGJ capability implanted, and another 48 x F-35D as deep-strikers and long-range air defense interceptors, able to get out deep and change the balance on a daily basis. With F-35A doing the closer tasks and providing backup, plus providing ADF IADS support for targeting missiles, to make sure ADF's missile defence works very well at the key locations that must be protected.

Who knows what wider ADF joint EA requirements are, it may be an Army force, naval support, drones or comms aircraft support, while F-35A and F-35D fleet get no support, beyond IADS protection on the ground. I've read senior USAF state they don't want Growler operating anywhere near F-35A, which was taken to mean it doesn't need support jamming, and is self-sufficient. VLO aircraft with good pilots, situation awareness, tactics and weapons simply shouldn't need dedicated EA support to attack and survive, especially with the weapons, sensors and comms available to them now.
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[*] posted on 29-7-2020 at 10:13 PM


Yeah that's a good point on weapons carry and EA role, it doesn't require many missiles, especially in terms of A2A. What I was thinking was more so the ability to carry more HARM/AARGM-ER missiles (when in service) in highly contested airspace, considering China's A2/AD and extensive air defence zone. Having more space onboard dedicated to weapons carry would make the platform more potent. Then again extra launch platforms could be seen in a loyal wingman type UCAV variant or part of the escort.

As far as a dedicated SEAD/DEAD role for F-35, not sure it was posted here or not, but apparently there is a plan for structural modification for the role incoming (https://www.defenseworld.net/news/27116/Lockheed_F_35_Jets_t...), whether or not that is simply for the missiles, or for the jammer capability... not sure. Although, I don't really see the NGJ capability being condensed into a small or smaller package at this point. I'd say the modifications are simply for the launch of HARM/AARGM-ER missiles.

Agreed on the numbers of platforms, that would give RAAF some serious punch.
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[*] posted on 30-7-2020 at 09:30 AM


It’s the combat force of F-35A, which needs SiAW (AARGM-ER) most. That said, electronic-attack support aircraft in the Vietnam era were in the thick of the air battle, they carried the enabling capability to survive SAMS which other aircraft in diverse role strike-packages couldn’t fit on board. So a ‘support’ aircraft designation perhaps, but a bit meh in a real fight, even if survivability is a high priority.

And EA watts with distance, follows the inverse-squares law, so the closer it is the more signal and less watts needed to dominate an EM spectrum range. Plus the proper role is in the name, i.e. ATTACKING, with electronic support. So they probably will need a range of kill weapons as well if those can be carried without compromising their own survivability and tactics. In that case the VLO is not to hide an active emission, it is to prevent weapons locking-on and breaking a weapon's kill-chain, thus the VLO is used to survive weapons, and not to be stealthy (except in approach and withdrawal).

That's a heck of a confidence-building advantage for a dedicated EA aircraft to have, so evolved E/A-35 is perfect for bringing that.

There’s a reference to the SEAD/DEAD structural mod in the F-35 thread here on the same date:
http://www.thefifthcolumn.xyz/Forum/viewthread.php?tid=40&am...

“Stand-in Attack Weapon” (SiAW) seems to be what the structural modification is about. As I understand it, it’s a low-observable design, at least when in flight. Probably fine on wing pylons too with high stand-off range, but only if JORN is working, and there’s no J20 nearby.

Those NGJ pods are big suckers, so I can’t see those going internal and leaving any room for weapons in bays. (EA antenna directionality clearances and placement for footprint is also an issue) If a VLO Growler replacement can’t carry the weapon internally, there’s always the option of having a wingman escort with a couple of SiAW and AMRAAM’s presumably multi-purpose replacement weapon.

The other option is to place NGJ bands inside a ‘loyal wingman’, or other drone, to support aircraft or weapons. But then again that seems to reinvent upgraded MALD-J capability, that's recoverable.

OTOH, ‘Predator C’ has a large weapons bay and the ability to carry many weapons on several pylons, with a single jet engine for efficiency.

But MQ-25 also has a very handy weapon bay, a single engine, a stack of fuel for range and loiter, and a very low-drag shape plus much low-observable design once the refuel pod and pylons are removed. Or put NGJs on these two MQ-25 pylons, and the 3rd band pod inside the MQ-25s weapon bay. Many ways to skin the Growler replacement cat and expand RAAF EA capability with NGJ. But in the end what RAAF does will be what USN does, using an in service carrier-based aircraft. An MQ-25 variant would fall into that category, which then opens up the possibility of long-range tactical auto-tanking, for a RAAF F-35D. Tactical small drone tanking was something which was being considered by RAAF early last year. Except no boom on MQ-25, but an F-35C doesn't need a boom, and a USN F-35D deep striker derived from the C model, wouldn't need a boom on the tanker either. But an F-35D can still take fuel from KC-30A, (with hose and drogue auto-tanking developed and tested on it now).

Nevertheless, AFAIC, USN will still need an F-35D single for F/AXX. The question is, is a single-pilot fighter, already a very busy pilot, attractive as a real-time digital EA platform? Would a remote multi-person external operating crew, on ship, or elsewhere, be a better option, mediated and supported via BLOS comms capabilities? Or single pilots flying NGJs about, in an E/A-35, with the EA operators at a remote naval base? And would that have reliable enough data bandwidth within an EA battle?

What a capability development dilemma for USN, and thus for RAAF force choices (a choice they appear to have already thought through).
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[*] posted on 30-7-2020 at 07:57 PM


Boeing responds to Australian trainer RFI with T-7 information

By Greg Waldron

30 July 2020

Boeing says it has responded to Australia’s request for information (RFI) related to acquiring a replacement for the BAE Systems Hawk 127.

“The T-7, which is scalable, interoperable and configurable, is ideally suited to address the Royal Australian Air Force’s [RAAF’s] next-generation frontline fast-jet aircraft training requirements,” says Boeing.


Boeing is pitching the T-7 as a replacement for Canberra’s Hawk 127s

“The advanced pilot training system features a low-risk, leading-edge, live, virtual and constructive, fifth-generation aircrew training environment,” the company adds.

Canberra issued the RFI for its Project Air 6002 Phase 1 future Lead-In Fighter Training System (LIFTS) in June.

Following the RFI, BAE, Boeing and Leonardo all confirmed that they were interested in the requirement. Korea Aerospace Industries said at the time that it was reviewing the request.

“No other training system in the world today will better develop the skills required to operate the RAAF’s most advanced frontline aircraft like the [Boeing] F/A-18 Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler and the [Lockheed Martin] F-35,” says Chuck Dabundo, vice-president of T-7 programmes at Boeing.

The company adds that the T-7 training system includes the aircraft and ground-based equipment including simulators and debriefing stations.

Boeing also promoted the T-7 at the 2019 Avalon Airshow near Melbourne.

The T-7A Red Hawk emerged victorious in a long-running competition to replace the venerable Northrop T-38 in US Air Force service. The deal will see Boeing provide 351 examples valued at up to $9.2 billion.

Cirium fleets data shows that the RAAF operates 33 Hawk 127s.
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[*] posted on 31-7-2020 at 01:21 PM


From the DTR mag link posted in the RAN thread:

EA-18G Growler Replacement allocation is $7.6-$11.4 billion. A spend of up to $11.4 billion AUD buys a whole lot of aircraft with NGJs. Forward projected cost, but that's currently 2/3 the 72 x F-35A program spend - former biggest evah!

(Before the French Sub 'recession' we had to have.)

PDF link (page 35):
https://mcusercontent.com/ebe687fe800f7d0f2f28fa168/files/80...


Combine that with the "up to 28" additional Air Combat Capability $4.5-$6.7 billion, listed immediately above it, and that looks to be approaching a VLO force of around 136, or even a 148 fighter aircraft force, during the mid-2030s.

(With PC-21, and the new lead-in fighter trainer. Just hoping all these extra jets turn out to be a new USN F-35'D', and an E/A-35 based on it.)
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