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Lockheed's F-35 in flight -- image courtesy Lockheed Martin
The F-35 Lightning II makes its maiden flight

Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II single-seat fighter made its maiden flight this past Friday. The F-35 is the production version of the X-35 Joint Strike Fighter prototype which was selected over the competing Boeing X-32.

The flight marked the culmination of a five-year gestation period and was for the most part successful. "The Lightning II performed beautifully," said F-35 Chief Pilot Jon Beesley. The flight was scheduled to last an hour, but was ended after just 38 minutes. An in-flight glitch took place in which an air data probe flashed a warning in the cockpit. As a result, “gear-up" testing was not performed during the flight. "We designed the aircraft with redundancy so if one of the sensors is out we can fly with the other one. That part worked just fine," said Beesley.

There will be three distinct versions of the plane in the $276.6 billion USD program. Prices will range from $45 million USD per plane for the F-35A to $60 million per plane for the F-35C.

The F-35A is the smallest/lightest of the bunch and will be put into service by the US Air Force. It is destined to replace the F-16 and A-10 (oh how we will miss the GAU-8/A Avenger). The F-35B is the STOVL variant which will replace the AV-8 Harrier currently in service with the US Marine Corps. The F-35C will be used by the US Navy where it will replace the F-18A/B/C/D.

The United States is currently partnered with Australia, Great Britain, Canada, Denmark, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway and Turkey on the F-35 program. Other countries including Israel and Singapore are also interested in the F-35 program.

Given all the news surrounding the success of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), it would be interesting to see if Lockheed's proposed pilot-less variant of the F-35 will ever see the light of day -- if only in prototype form.



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US should fund this as well...
By RussianSensation on 12/18/2006 2:23:49 PM , Rating: 2
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukhoi_Su-37

Su-37 also stores a radar in the tailcone of the plane that allows it to fire missiles behind the plane.

Thrust vectoring allows the Su-37 to direct the exhaust gases in 3 dimensions, substantially improving maneuverability, especially at low speeds.

The Su-37 can carry air-to-air and air-to-surface weapons on 12 stations. The number of missiles and bombs carried can be increased to 14 with the use of multi-payload racks.

This is probably best dog fighter in the world and would cost a "bargain" if outsourced in Russia since there is no need for R&D costs already incurred by the country.




RE: US should fund this as well...
By Einy0 on 12/18/2006 3:22:11 PM , Rating: 2
It would cost more than we would deem acceptable. The SU-37 is a fantastic innovative design. However just because it's designed and made in Russia doesn't mean it's cheap to make. In fact Russia has only a few of them. They cannot afford to make them for themselves. Also consider maneuverability, the F-35 is a small agile type fighter. The SU-37 is a huge interceptor type aircraft. The type of thrust vectoring on the SU-37 helps, but it still is not as agile as an F-35 will be.


RE: US should fund this as well...
By stromgald on 12/18/2006 4:46:28 PM , Rating: 2
Einy is right. The F-35 is not on the same level as the Su-37. The F-35 would most likley beat the Su-37 in a dog fight easily because of the Lightning II's stealth characteristics and more advanced avionics. There is also a big size difference too.

The American equivalent of the big Su-37 is the F/A-22 Raptor, but they're not the same on a technological level since the F/A-22 is a considered a 5th generation fighter, and the Su-37 is derived from the Su-27, a 4th generation fighter.

The Russian equivalent of the F/A-22 is the Su-47. Although the manuverability of the F/A-22 isn't explicitly documented, most aircraft experts think the Su-47 is probably more manuverable due to the forward swept wing, but the F/A-22 is more stealthy and of course, has better avionics.


By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 12/18/2006 4:58:16 PM , Rating: 1
Before 2002, the Su-47 was designated the S-37. Perhaps that's where some confusion was.


RE: US should fund this as well...
By harshw on 12/18/2006 8:38:33 PM , Rating: 2
The F-35 is certainly not on the same level as the Su-37/Su-35. The SU-37 competes with the F-22 rather than the F-35. The Russian equivalent of the F-35 is the PAK-FA programme.

Right now, the only country with a complete fleet of operational TVC aircraft is India with around 36 aircraft: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Su-30MKI. But the SU-30MKI is too expensive to use as a mainline fighter, just as the F-22 is too expensive. Hence the need for the F-35 and the PAK-FA. As for the fact that the F-35 is more manouverable than the SU-30MKI or the SU-35/37, all I can say is that the MKI variant has been flying for some time while the F-35 is doing maiden flights now ... http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8348797004...


By KristopherKubicki (blog) on 12/19/2006 6:15:19 PM , Rating: 1
The PAK-FA is actually two separate aircraft (last I checked anyway) since an X-craft has not been chosen. This consists of the Sukhoi Su-47 and MIG-1.44/1.42. Although the aircraft is supposed to compete with the F-22, it has a 2015 intro date also.

While we are on the topic of TVC, also check out India's HAL Tejas. It's set to be the country's mainline fighter in the next few years. It might not hold much weight against a Su-37 or F-22, but as far as other delta-wing aircraft go it's impressive. Oh and it's made almost exclusively in India.


RE: US should fund this as well...
By skyyspam on 12/18/2006 9:55:52 PM , Rating: 2
Who cares about agility.

Airplanes do two things:

1) drop bombs
2) shoot missiles

Yeah, the Su-27 series is a great bunch of airplanes, but the basic airframe has some flaws:

1) it's ungodly huge!!
2) the engines have to be replaced often
3) it's not very stealthy
4) it's only cheap until you add a good radar, IRST, etc...

Stick some weapons on the thing and then see how well it turns. Put some decent avionics on it, and see what happens to the price tag. Load it down with bombs or missiles, and it becomes a flying pig, like every other jet in existence.


By Martin Blank on 12/19/2006 12:51:08 AM , Rating: 2
Airplanes also get involved in dogfights. It happened over Iraq in 1991, and it happened over Yugoslavia in the 1990s. If we get involved with China at some point, it will happen there, too.

You're among the group that has declared the dogfight dead since the 1950s, and you've been wrong every time since.


RE: US should fund this as well...
By harshw on 12/19/2006 4:33:02 PM , Rating: 2
Flying pig ? At the 1994 Farnbourough airshow the Su-30MK did its airshow routine with ordnance on all 12 pylons - a total of 7,000 kgs. This was sanctioned by Sukhoi designer Mikhail Simonov to counter criticisms that the Sukhois could only do their TVC enhanced aerobatics without stores.


RE: US should fund this as well...
By FITCamaro on 12/20/2006 4:15:22 PM , Rating: 1
Airplanes do 3 things:

1) drop bombs
2) shoot missiles
3) dodge missiles and bullets other planes or AA installations fire at them.

What do you need for that? Manueverability.


RE: US should fund this as well...
By exdeath on 12/19/2006 10:03:21 AM , Rating: 2
The F22, Typhoon, and Su-37 have been ranked in combat before and normalized in terms of either F15 or Su-37 kills. Against each other I think the Typhoon is equal to like 4 Su-37s and the F22 is equal to like 12 Su-37s. A single F22 has also been shown to have a 8:0 or so kill ratio against the F15C in real life combat sims. F15C pilots complain they never even found the damn thing as they watched their buddies fall to radar locks one by one. Now the F15C is the undisputed and unrivaled king of air to air fighter of the world... think about that for a second.

Just some basic known stats I dug up on F22 vs SU-37, all in favor of the F22:

-10,000 lbs lighter airframe
-4,000 lbs more thrust *per* engine
-173 ft^2 more wing area, this higher wing loading
-super cruise and 1,000 miles longer operating range
-flys higher and faster with much faster climb rate
-better electronics
-stealth when using only internal weapons
-3,000 lbs more take off weight and 10,000 lbs lighter air frame translates to 13,000 lbs more ordnance when using external weapon mounts
-all of the above while being 10 feet less length, 5 feet less high, and 4 foot less wingspan.
And finally:

F-22 is actually in production, the Su-37 is not. So yeah...

America! Fuck yeah!




RE: US should fund this as well...
By stromgald on 12/19/2006 12:10:38 PM , Rating: 2
What about against the Su-47 Terminator? The Su-37 is a fourth generation fighter and the F/A-22 is one of the first fifth generation fighters, the comparison is ridiculous. Its like a F-14 vs. a F-4. Its not a fair comparison. The Typhoon is also a fourth generation fighter.

I think the F-22 might edge out the Su-47, but not by much. The forward swept wing of the Su-47 gives it better manuverability than the F-22 and it also has very good stealth characteristics (but not as good as the F-22).

For those who don't know, the 'generations' are levels of technology incorporated into fighters. Its kindof vague, but there's more information here: http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/history/q0182... .


RE: US should fund this as well...
By exdeath on 12/19/2006 5:04:06 PM , Rating: 2
Don't know enough about the Su-47 to say because it is a 'paper launch' aircraft that isn't in production. As far as I know the Su-47 is a concept used as a test bed for furthering military aviation technology in general; I don’t expect it will see the light of day on its own, so it doesn’t really matter if it’s better or worse. If anything I would expect the things learned from the Su-47 to go into an even better production fighter, but in what quantity is questionable.

There were hundreds of designs on paper that have been superior to the F-15 for years and years, but none of them have or ever will see the light of day, much less in sufficient quantities to be a threat. The F-22 only furthers that gap by at least a factor of magnitude of 10.

As for maneuverability, the F-15 and the F-22 weren’t made to wow crowds at air shows, they were made to be unbeatable at shooting down other planes ^_^


RE: US should fund this as well...
By stromgald on 12/19/2006 6:33:25 PM , Rating: 2
The S-37 was the test aircraft that wowed crowds with its backslide/tailslide manuever at airshows. The name was changed to the Su-47 because it was deemed 'ready for production' after some slight redesigns. It's not exactly a paper launch, but I doubt any country is getting more than maybe a few dozen of these monsters in the next decade.

The Su-47 can easily outmanuever an F-15 and maybe an F-22 just by its design (tighter turning radius, higher angle of attack, etc.), but of course avionics and pilot skill/training are usually more important factors in a dog fight. That's where the US will win hands down against anyone except maybe Israel.

It isn't so much that the F-22 and F-15 weren't built to wow people at airshows, its that the U.S. military doesn't like to show off their planes. Sukhoi doesn't have any restrictions from the Russians because they're trying to gain some pride/respect by showing off their country's new aircraft.

My point is that the F-22 isn't the best design ever built. From an aerodynamic manuverability standpoint the Su-47 is superior IMHO. With the same pilot and same avionics suite, I'd bet on the Su-47 over the F/A-22 in a dog fight. But you're right in that the F/A-22 does put the US air superiority way above any other country's because the Su-47 isn't entering production.


RE: US should fund this as well...
By MrBungle123 on 12/19/2006 7:25:48 PM , Rating: 2
does it really matter which plane can turn more sharply when modern fighters can already pull more G's than the pilot can handle anyway?


RE: US should fund this as well...
By stromgald on 12/19/2006 9:01:16 PM , Rating: 2
G's and turning radius aren't the same thing. They're related, but not the same. Turns by aircraft aren't 'flat' turns so by flying at a higher angle of attack and by sacrificing some altitude, a Su-47 can change direction much more quickly than a F/A-22 that has to fly more parallel to the ground just to maintain altitude. The tri-wing configuration of the Su-47 also helps with this ability. This is also the reason why the F/A-18 Hornet is such an excellent dogfighter, the leading-edge design of the wing allows for very high angles of attack.


RE: US should fund this as well...
By exdeath on 12/20/2006 11:37:37 AM , Rating: 2
My point was, in the real world, the Su-47 pilot still wouldn't even know the F-15 or F-22 is in the sky until the AMRAAM shows up out of nowhere on the outer ring of the Su-47s radar warning receiver closing in at Mach 4


RE: US should fund this as well...
By stromgald on 12/20/2006 2:15:10 PM , Rating: 2
The Su-47 is also stealth so other than visual contact or help from an advanced multi-source passive radar, an F-15 or F-22 wouldn't see the Su-47. The same goes the other way too. With the correct software and multiple radars, it is possible to track an F/A-22.

Also, it's not that hard for an expert pilot to dodge a missile when you can manuever at slow speeds better than a F/A-18.

I agree with you that in the real world, with the F/A-22 being used by the USAF and the Su-47 used by any other country except maybe Israel, the F/A-22 would win. From an aircraft to aircraft only standpoint, the Su-47 has a very good chance of winning.


RE: US should fund this as well...
By exdeath on 12/20/2006 5:11:03 PM , Rating: 2
I was referring to avionics and range more than the stealth aspects; hence I included the F15C as well as it can do what I described without stealth.


RE: US should fund this as well...
By jarman on 12/21/2006 4:37:55 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Also, it's not that hard for an expert pilot to dodge a missile when you can manuever at slow speeds better than a F/A-18


Please do not comment on things you do not understand. What you have seen in movies does not apply to the real world of air combat. There is no "dodging" of missiles as they try to hit your aircraft. The sensor load, speed, and armament of modern air-to-air missiles (or even surface and sea-to-air variants) negates a pilots ability to out fly the missile. If a modern missile has engaged a target and the target does not have effective electro-mag or stand-off counter measures, the target WILL be hit.


By stromgald on 1/1/2007 11:16:53 AM , Rating: 2
You're making bad assumptions about what I know/understand. I'm not basing this on movies or TV, but on fact and what I know from work.

When I said 'dodge' a missle, I meant using chaff or flares. Just having these items doesn't allow you to avoid a missle, it involves throwing the distracting material one way and running as fast as possible in another. That involves turning in short distances at high speeds. The Su-47's design allows it to do that a lot better than the F/A-22.

If dodging and manueverability isn't an issue like you say, then why would thrust vectoring be such a big deal on the F/A-22? The fact is that even with the advanced electronic jamming (radar and IR) on the F/A-22, the way to survive an missle lock is still to dodge and use things like chaff or flares.


RE: US should fund this as well...
By tcsenter on 12/26/2006 2:10:14 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
A single F22 has also been shown to have a 8:0 or so kill ratio against the F15C in real life combat sims. F15C pilots complain they never even found the damn thing as they watched their buddies fall to radar locks one by one.
That's because most of the F-15C's combat systems and avionics suite are over 10 years old (in technology standards), particularly the inferior AN/APG-63(V)1 radar system, and deliberately being kept that way to justify the 'need' for the F-22. Though much improved over the original version, the APG-63(V)1 capabilities are still very dated and near the limits of its upgradeable processing and memory capacity.

Raytheon has developed a major retrofit package, the AN/APG-63(V)3, based on the same Active Electronically Scanned Array technology found in the F-22's AN/APG-77, with major processing, memory, and avionics capability increases over the AN/APG-63(V)1. Certain elements within the Air Force, defense industry, and Congress are trying to prevent this and other cost-effective improvements to the F-15C because it would close the capability gap between the F-22 and F-15C.

http://www.aviationnow.com/avnow/news/channel_awst...

The F-15C's aerodynamics and flight performance characteristics are still on a par with newer aircraft, all it needs is a modern avionics and combat systems overhaul, as well as an engine upgrade and significant improvements in the reliability of several sub-systems, all of which have passed development and prototype phases and are ready for operational evaluation. A few studies/analysis of these improvements concluded the F-15's air superiority could be extended at least 15 years into the future for about $5 billion or less.
quote:
Now the F15C is the undisputed and unrivaled king of air to air fighter of the world... think about that for a second.
Correct, now think about why we are spending 200+ billion to 'replace' the "indisputed and unrivaled king of air-to-air (and multi-role) fighter" in the world when that status could be extended by at least 15 years at a cost of not more than $5 billion.

While we will need to replace the F-15 at some point, it is fairly indisputable that point would be no sooner than 2022 with cost-effective improvements, but for the 'push' in favor of the F-22 by certain interests within the defense industry and military. The further-out we attempt to predict the needs and capabilities of a future aircraft, the more likely those predictions will be wrong. The F-22 will already be 15 years-old when it is slated to finally replace the F-15. We could have kept it in development phase for another 10 years at a fraction of the cost and ended up with an even better and future proof replacement for the F-15C.


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