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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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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.


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