Penetrating Counter Air / Next Generation Air Dominance

Military aircraft - Post cold war aircraft, including for example B-2, Gripen, F-18E/F Super Hornet, Rafale, and Typhoon.
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talkitron

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Unread post13 Jul 2017, 19:33

It seems like USAF's next generation Penetrating Counter Air may not be manned:

The next air superiority platform—the Penetrating Counter Air aircraft—is “not a fighter,” insists the Air Force officer whose team came up with the concept, but will rather be a key flying sensor platform with lots of weapons and long range that will enable USAF’s existing fighters.


http://www.airforcemag.com/Features/Pag ... tform.aspx
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mixelflick

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Unread post15 Jul 2017, 17:15

To my mind, this is really odd...

One would think the "existing fighters" situation circa 2030 would be borderline desparate by then: Aging F-22's and F-15's that are geriatric. The F-35? Thought we were using those for air to ground. This would be a fundamental (HUGE fundamental) shift in how air superiority is defined.

If so, they must REALLY think the age of the dogfight is over. Not sure I'd be making that assumption until F-22's are dropping Sukhoi's and Migs wholesale, from many KM away and in multiple theaters...
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southernphantom

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Unread post15 Jul 2017, 18:47

Talkitron, we're reading this differently. You take "not a fighter" to mean unmanned; I take it to mean something to the effect of a B-21 variant designed to support fighters with sensors and additional munitions, basically a VLO Megafortress-like platform. Remember the 'arsenal ship' concept?
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tacf-x

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Unread post16 Jul 2017, 02:16

southernphantom wrote:Talkitron, we're reading this differently. You take "not a fighter" to mean unmanned; I take it to mean something to the effect of a B-21 variant designed to support fighters with sensors and additional munitions, basically a VLO Megafortress-like platform. Remember the 'arsenal ship' concept?


The article did say that the PCA aircraft has some overlap with the B-21. However, it also said that they will not be the same aircraft.

I do agree though. This aircraft seems to have a requirement for incredible range and endurance. As such it would likely be quite different in general dimensions to that of a classical 'fighter' even with miniaturized munitions and AETP-derived engines.
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neptune

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Unread post16 Jul 2017, 13:17

PCA: bomber vs. fighter, strategic vs. tactical, 3-500klbs. vs. <100klbs., global vs. local(<1000mi.)

B-52@500Klbs., B-1@400Klbs., B-2@370Klbs., B-21@???
F-22@83Klbs., F-15E@81Klbs., etc.

bomber vs. fighter 4-6x weight of fuel(range) and weapons

PCA/ tactical,
-Similar engines to B-21 (1or2 vs. 4)

-Similar avionics to B-21 (F-35)

-Similar weapons to B-21; (few vs. many)

-Similar weapons; (missiles; cruise vs. close range (Aim-9,120, AGM-88,etc.)
-Similar weapons; (bombs; gliding(standoff, 200-500Lbs.) vs. large(2+Klbs.)
-Similar weapons; JASSM cruise missile(1KLb); capacities (32/24/16(strategic) vs. 2-4(tactical))

PCA while similar to a strategic bomber, it will not be a strategic bomber. PCA while similar to the fighter will not be a F-22 (Red Baron/ air-air combat) fighter.

PCA should be unmanned/autonomous with drone pilot intervention.
IMHO
:)
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wolfpak

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Unread post16 Jul 2017, 17:14

IMHO The PCA will be a 21st Century F-4. If you read the AFA mag article it will be multi-role and as the article mentions not an arsenal plane. I don't think AI software is anywhere near the point on taking on the replacement of a human making decisions on such missions. The use of autonomous air vehicles (other than cruise missiles) in denied air space has yet to be seen.

What the PCA may do is truncate the F-35 buy. If they hold off the replacement of the dedicated Wild Weasel units until the late 2020's they PCA may be the aircraft of choice. That is not to say that the F-35 units can't perform the mission today and in the 2020's but if the AF wants to procure the PCA in sufficient numbers think they will need to highlight it's multi-mission capabilities to prevent what happened to F-22 procurement.
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talkitron

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Unread post16 Jul 2017, 20:38

The link to the Air Force Magazine page I originally posted is messed up. Here is the correct link, hopefully.

http://www.airforcemag.com/Features/Pag ... tform.aspx
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talkitron

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Unread post16 Jul 2017, 20:39

southernphantom wrote:Talkitron, we're reading this differently. You take "not a fighter" to mean unmanned; I take it to mean something to the effect of a B-21 variant designed to support fighters with sensors and additional munitions, basically a VLO Megafortress-like platform. Remember the 'arsenal ship' concept?


Yeah, I agree that a manned B-21 derivative is possible based on the article. Sorry for leaping to unmanned.
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mixelflick

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Unread post17 Jul 2017, 15:24

It sounds like a big (real big) change in fundamental assumptions...

We're hearing about it possibly being unmanned, possibly NOT being a fighter sized aircraft. The range and payload specs speak to that. Artificial intelligence, possible directed energy weapons... This sounds like a bigger jump forward than the F-22 was vs. the F-15 (and that should scare some people)!

Personally, I'd love to see an enlarged YF-23a. Something around 25% bigger with a 2nd crewman for those long duration, high workload/demand missions over the South China Sea. Maybe even 50% bigger! The airframe was so ahead of its time... Would still look futuristic if it were rolled out today. In theory it'd have new, more powerful engines that would allow it to super-cruise the entire mission (like the old YF-23a did). As far as payload, all they'd need to do is stretch it a bit and a 16-20 AMRAAM load out wouldn't be out of the question.

Since the YF-23a has already flown, it's not like they'd be starting from scratch. Precisely what the Air Force specified. You also already have a top notch sensor platform (F-35) to build off of. Only the engine would be brand new, and that's assuming they don't resurrect GE's variable cycle engine that again, which flew several decades ago.

I just hope she's built in numbers this time. Make it a slam dunk for 500 airframes, and prevent anyone from pulling a Gates on us...
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tacf-x

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Unread post17 Jul 2017, 16:08

mixelflick wrote:It sounds like a big (real big) change in fundamental assumptions...

We're hearing about it possibly being unmanned, possibly NOT being a fighter sized aircraft. The range and payload specs speak to that. Artificial intelligence, possible directed energy weapons... This sounds like a bigger jump forward than the F-22 was vs. the F-15 (and that should scare some people)!

Personally, I'd love to see an enlarged YF-23a. Something around 25% bigger with a 2nd crewman for those long duration, high workload/demand missions over the South China Sea. Maybe even 50% bigger! The airframe was so ahead of its time... Would still look futuristic if it were rolled out today. In theory it'd have new, more powerful engines that would allow it to super-cruise the entire mission (like the old YF-23a did). As far as payload, all they'd need to do is stretch it a bit and a 16-20 AMRAAM load out wouldn't be out of the question.

Since the YF-23a has already flown, it's not like they'd be starting from scratch. Precisely what the Air Force specified. You also already have a top notch sensor platform (F-35) to build off of. Only the engine would be brand new, and that's assuming they don't resurrect GE's variable cycle engine that again, which flew several decades ago.

I just hope she's built in numbers this time. Make it a slam dunk for 500 airframes, and prevent anyone from pulling a Gates on us...



YF-23 flew so long ago that it pretty much would be like building a brand new aircraft. The average age of the people that worked on that prototype is going to be pretty high. As such the tribal knowledge affiliated with that airframe will likely be gone. The same goes for the YF-120.
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SpudmanWP

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Unread post17 Jul 2017, 17:13

I always like this FB-23 concept

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"The early bird gets the worm but the second mouse gets the cheese."
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neptune

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Unread post18 Jul 2017, 06:34

tacf-x wrote:....YF-23 flew so long ago that it pretty much would be like building a brand new aircraft. The average age of the people that worked on that prototype is going to be pretty high. As such the tribal knowledge affiliated with that airframe will likely be gone. The same goes for the YF-120.


PCA-???
....with new CNRF+ type materials, new F-135+ engines, and 2,000 mi. range (in/ out) MTOW 150Klb.?? (how big?)
....stealth (vlo) with "IR" design concern; Mach 1 or 2 / or subsonic?? (how fast?)
....SA Maximum, total passive ISR+?? (F-35+?)
....autonomous (F-35 mission computer+) with one crew (backup with a thermos/ box lunch?)
....FB-23 style?
....2-4hr. flight time (duration?)
....refueling (after launch (top-off) and before recovery (minimums) "Only")
....other???
:)
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geforcerfx

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Unread post18 Jul 2017, 19:02

Well I guess I got what I wanted, with the way our weaponry is going the "traditional" fighter values won't count for as much. Sound's like PCA will be something that the USAF can launch from Guam and maintain air dominance in the south china sea without the help of tankers, that will make the Chinese sweat a little bit. Should be a good replacement for the F-22 and F-15E, but by 2030 there won't be many existing fighters left, seems like the USAF is damn impressed with the F-35A.
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arian

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Unread post18 Jul 2017, 23:33

It's going to be a dead-end project, in my opinion. No clear role, no clear advantage. Technology in weapons, sensors, etc. is moving too fast to start thinking of an airplane today. I think you need to let some of these technologies mature so that you can figure out how to use them and integrate them into an airplane. By 2030 lasers, miniature AAMs, multi-band AESAs may be places we can't predict today. Especially when its not clear that one large airplane would provide an advantage over a swarm of smaller UAVs controlled by fighters.

The idea here seems to provide a platform for sensors which can survive "deep" in enemy territory and support 5th gen fighters. Basically a combat AWACS. The armed component is probably secondary.

This is the same thing that swarms of UCAVs with sensors would also aim for. I don't think big, expensive and rare is going to be the winning combination here.
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arian

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Unread post18 Jul 2017, 23:42

geforcerfx wrote:Sound's like PCA will be something that the USAF can launch from Guam and maintain air dominance in the south china sea without the help of tankers, that will make the Chinese sweat a little bit.


In my opinion, this is the sort of thinking that renders an aircraft project DOA. Single mission, single use, against a fictional enemy that is hyperbolized, and which in reality will never face. The military may love this sort of thinking because it can justify just about anything by coming up with lots of "what ifs", but this sort of thinking won't survive the first signs of scrutiny. South China Sea? Isolated island outposts hundreds or 1,000 miles away from China? I'm pretty sure that doesn't require much in new assets to deal with (not from us anyway. China would need a heck of a lot of new technologies however)
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