Skip to comments.Marine Aviation has no Other Option but Wait for JSF
Posted on 03/07/2010 10:48:58 PM PST by ErnstStavroBlofeld
The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are running out of fighters. Heavy wear and tear over nearly a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan has depleted the two services combined fighter force. Purchases of new planes have been delayed by controversial planning decisions. As a result, U.S. maritime forces operate at elevated risk. Robotic systems could help mitigate this risk, but the Navy has resisted adopting pilot-less aircraft.The U.S. Navy also has shortage of fighters, primarily F/A-18C/Ds. Together, both services are currently short by around 50 aircraft, but this so-called fighter gap could deepen to an estimated 125 aircraft by 2017 before the new Lockheed Martin F-35 enters service in large numbers. The naval fighter gap first appeared around 2006, when the Marines decommissioned two fighter squadrons flying F/A-18D and AV-8B, owing to unexpected fatigue issues.
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Take the F-22 Light!
That should be the choice.
F-22 is a good fighter!!!
The X47 and its ilk have lots of potential too. They’re cheaper and much more expendable since they don’t have a pilot and they’re, potentiallly, much more maneuverable. they’ll push an airframe to the limit whereas a manned fighter pushes its pilot to the limit. The F22 and F35 are great planes but unmanned fighters is the way of the future especially if we’re fighting, oh...I don’t know...everbody.
What about all the A/B models in the bone yard? I'm sure many have been cannibalized for parts, that being their final function, but I would be really surprised if they didn't keep a goodly number in deep storage, rather than "parts aircraft".
Good enough for smoking camel (drivers). Save the later models for Iran, or other nations with more advanced vehicles.
With You Know Who in the White House, those JSFs (F-35s) might be a while in coming.
Yes it is, but the Marines don't want a fighter per se, they want an attack aircraft to support the Marines on ground. Air Superiority is a Navy and Air Force job.
A couple of years ago, my wife and I went down to Beaufort, SC for an impromptu reunion for a bunch of us who served there in the 1960’s.
It was bittersweet at best.
One of the guys there was a Colonel who stayed in the Reserves and keeps up-to-date with aviation issues at HQMC. He opined that Marine aviation was on the way out. Too expensive.
I don’t agree, but I only get one vote.
I spent it on Scott Brown.
Also, it’s not Navalized.
It’s really the F-35 or, perhaps, more SuperHornets for the Navy. But the Marines want SVTOL, so it’s really just the F-35.
The other advantage of the X47 and other remotely piloted aircraft. There isn’t a need for combat search and rescue.
F-35 makes a lot of sense for the Marines, but frankly, I don’t quite get it’s purpose in other services. It’s like it’s trying to do too much at once, like it’s an F-16/F-117/A-10/AV-8 all rolled into one, but without the F-16s dogfighting record, without the F-117s bomb capacity, or the A-10s huge gun.
"Top Gun" BS Syndrome... What if the carrier JSF is a flop?
Salt air must corrode away what little brains wind up in the Navy...
Four years or so ago +/- Pukin Dog said the F35 was DOA, no way, never gonna get funded, never...DOA. Now it is all we have and it ain’t close to being in service. We in trouble.
IMO unmanned aircraft are the way of the future, but there will always be manned aircraft. At first it will be UCAVs doing joint strike duties with 5th-gen aircraft (e.g. a Raptor leading a strike package of 5 UCAVs into enemy territory), coupled with a hybrid approach where the next gen bomber is able to be flown either UCAV or manned (one of the next generation bomber concepts has this - it is a UCAV with a cockpit basically, and depending on the danger of the mission the pilot can opt out and the plane does its thing).
However it will be some time before we see the truly unmanned 'swarm' UCAV hunter-killers seamlessly melding ground attack and air-to-air totally autonomously. The current families of advanced UCAVs in the US and Europe are not really unmanned ...the most appropos term is 'remotely piloted drones' since there is still a man in the loop. Sure, several of them can perform missions autonomously, even landing and taking off, and making their mission objectives via way-points. Even cruise missiles do that. However, a Global Hawk taking off independently, following an established series of way points to the target box, loitering them while mapping the area with its SAR and other senses, and then following a series of way points home and landing autonomously ...that is quite different from the flexibility and dynamism that, say, a USAF F-22 Raptor with a pilot would be able to do. Sure, the future variant of the French NEUron or German Barracuda stealth UCAVs will be able to do the same, and drop some L-JDAMs while at it, but that will also be different from the immensely evolved and enhanced mission flexibility that a human pilot in a F-35 can provide. What the USN/USAF/German/French stealthy UCAVs are, in a nutshell, are stealthy cruise missiles that do not destroy themselves but return to base. E.g. ...in the French case, their NEUron would be like a Scalp EG that returns to base, and the German Barracuda would be like a Taurus that comes back home.
Now, UCAVs will write their own check when they are able to be not only fully autonomous (which they are somewhat able to do already in a basic manner ...e.g take off, waypoints, land; or takeoff, bomb, land), but are so in an advanced manner, are able to make fluid mission critical changes, can swarm, can operate in an environment of EXTREME (note: let's not assume we will only be attacking Iraq, Grenada or Afgahnistan ...it may be China, Russia, or some Western European country rather than some third-world rathole with MiG-21s and J-7s)jamming and inteference, or even an environment where the enemy, at the opening stages of the war, took out several critical US satellites (near-peer states, in particular China and Russia, would impede, disable or destroy US satellites at the opening bugle call of a regional conflict). The UCAVs have to be able to 'think' on the fly, indicating a level of AI that has to be quite ....let's say something out of Terminator. That will be quite interesting, because while the sensors of even current UCAVs are amazing, it is one thing to have 'data' and another thing to have 'information.' Even the dumbest USAF or USN pilot (I'm sure there must be some dumb ones LOL) is, currently, much better than even the brightest UCAV in the US or Europe. Will that change in the future? Well, maybe ...although to have an AI that functions in a dynamic environment, withOUT the need for waypoints, is something that might take some time. Not impossible (I never use that word), but it is currently not available (I've been following the DARPA funded autonomous robotics project where teams have to program a computer controlled vehicles and cars to make a journey, and until quite recently none were able to do so. The one that first did so was jerky. That will obviously improve going forward, but it means that translating it to the air, and having swarmed UCAV groups like some speak of, will take some time).
I see future UCAV use limited to 3 forms for the time being (before we get a major AI breakthrough ...and I mean MAJOR AI BREAKTHROUGH): i) advanced stealthy UCAVs like the ones being worked on by the USN and the French that follow waypoints to get to a target area, and once there they are able to engage static and/or moving targets with an assortment of bombs and missiles (think the Reaper ...but far more advanced, extremely stealthy, and may include an electronic attack functionality).
ii) the second approach I would use is advanced stealthy UCAVs like the ones mentioned above, but that are led by a 5th-generation platform (e.g. the Raptor) or even a 6th generation platform (in my imaginings, this would be an EXTREMELY stealthy platform that instead of maneverability and weapons instead is an electronic command and control platform, where the pilot controls are small group of UCAVs at a standoff distance, with the UCAVs doing the dirty deeds of bombing and attack). These UCAV + manner platform would assault next-generation advanced IADS (like the S-500 the Russians are currently in the concept stages of building, or advanced versions of the currently cutting edge S-400 and improved S-300 systems), and the manned platform would also serve as a stop-gap in case the advanced near-peer country takes out satellites (which, were I in charge of China, would immediately do the moment I sniffed anything close like a Yankee ship coming close in a hot-situation with Taiwan. Let me say again foreign countries with ability, like China and Russia, were watching with intense interest what was happening in Grenada, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq 1+2, and Afghanistan. While those countries really had no chance against the US, the tactics the US used against them made other countries - like say China - notice how effective the US military machine was, and how backward their own stratagems were. This is why even Russia has been embarking on a NATO-ization of its military doctrine ...they were watching, and if we have to face a China in the future it will not be as easy as Iraq). Anyways, the UCAV+5/6 gen manned would be perfect for this. Furthermore, this approach could also be effective for air-to-air ....the 6-8 UCAVs could possess very powerful AESA with X, S and L bands (the S and L bands to track future stealthy fighters from China and Russia ...or Europe and Japan ....hey, allies change) and several next-generation advanced air-to-air ramjet missiles ....assuming each of the 8 UCAVs has 7 very-long-range ramjet missiles, that means 56 missiles, and each has 1 advanced short-range missile (meaning 8 short range missiles) .....it would be bloody murder for anything out there.
iii) The third approach I (had I the funds and the political will) would use is parasitic UCAVs ...which attach to enemy satellites and disrupt their functionality. I am not talking about kill vehicles ...that would be stupid for the US, Russia and/or China ...destroying satellites only releases more space debris, and that would only endanger your own satellites. However, these 'UCAVs' would instead attach themselves and impede the functionality of the machine ....in my mind they would be similar to barnacles, and how they attach to ships (and whales) and become a bloody nuisance! At their purest form I would even make them a temporary problem ...after 4 months they stop messing up the enemy satellites. Why? Because that would hopefully make the enemy also develop similar weapons, which impede rather than destroy (think of it as a soft-MAD for space which - a. Would work for 'clever' foes like Russia and China, who unlike the crazy Islamists at least use their heads, b. in 4 months time the war has either ended, and if not just launch more, c. goes around the 'weaponization' of space since all I am doing is 'locking their wheels' for a short while).
Anyways, that is what I would be doing with UCAVs were I an American, Russian or Chinese citizen working in the specific industries. What I do NOT see, for now (and the foreseeable future) is swarms of advanced AI UCAVs playing a role straight out of Terminator. Sure, the German car I currently drive has a purchase option (that I do not have) of self-parking ....but there is a difference between cars with radars that can park themselves and have automatic cruise by following the car ahead of it, and SWARMS of UCAVs that think, communicate, act and react in a manner that is indistinguishable from how a formation of human pilots would. That would be true AI ...and the day that happens ....
In both a good way and a frighteningly bad way. Good because in war the machines will be able to provide us with an immense advantage (taking out enemy centers of gravity becomes more like a game of advanced chess ....or better yet advanced Go or Weichi), and the threat that should the enemy get the secret sauce before us then the same threat applies to us. There is also the ethical question on whether sentient AI should be allowed to have all the say when it comes to waging war?
Anyways, UCAVs are the future ....in more ways than most of us (including myself) can think right now, but also in LESS ways than many of us expect. Cross out intelligent swarms for now ....we are still dealing with 'remotely piloted platforms' that can do quite a number of autonomous functions, but are still not at the level of AI that enables them to replace humans.
That’s was a very interesting perspective. thanks for taking the time to share it. We’re on the same page here too. I see the sixth generation of fighters as being stealthy with kind of a semi-automatic command guidance system whereby some AI is utilized for certain aspects of the platform and some remote piloting is done for others. An example would be the Russian T-90 tank with its shtora active defense system which, when painted with a laser or infrared emitter, takes over the turret briefly to deploy appropriate counter measures and then hands control back to the gunner. I see the 7th generation aircraft as being being just the opposite. Given Moore’s law and our semi-conductor advantages, it seems inevitable. Also, considering the very real possibility of facing an enemy like Russia and China and their proxies, it seems very wise to build weapon systems that preserve our warriors rather than sacrifice them. We will not be able to afford the casualties that our enemies will be able to sustain and they will defeat us by attrition just as we defeated the Germans. It also seems like the current UCAVs might be particularly useful for penetrating and disabling an advanced air defense netowrk prior to sending in manned assets functioning as decoys, diversions, and as reconnaisance assets.
McNamara tried to make the F-111 the joint USAF/USN fighter bomber of its time in the 1960s. It failed miserably with Navy carrier tests and was just not a fighter, not matter how much $$$$$ DoD dumped into it.
As a result, the USAF got the F-111 as a medium bomber, and the Navy ultimately got the F-14 in its place, which worked out very well for both services.
Yes UCAVs are the way of the future, bur sentient AI?
Nothing based in silicon chips, CPU’s, integrated circuits and software could ever achieve sentience. Its a contradiction of terms, an oxymoron.
Nice flight of fancy though, well written.
That would be a foolish choice since it cannot operate from the deck of a CVN or LHA/LHD.
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>>That would be a foolish choice since it cannot operate from the deck of a CVN or LHA/LHD. <<
The Marines don't want stealth. They don't want air superiority. The Marines want vertcial operation to replace their AV-8Bs. If it must come wrapped in a semi-stealth package, they'll take it.
After all the work done on the F-35B, it would both be stupid to try to start over with a vertical lift F-22 derivative, and the F-22's footprint is too big to fit on the types of ships the Harrier II operates from.
The F-35B will get built, and will end up costing $300 million apiece when R&D is factored in, due to the low volume of F-35s that will end up being built.
X-47 is a deep strike and ISP platform, when its finally ready. There remains some serious issues with it operating with manned aircraft. Its got lots of potential, but its no where near ready.
Since losing the F-14 and the AIM-54C, designed to defend from Bomber-streams launching anti-ship weapons, the Navy began to rely on the the short-legged F/A-18 variants with AIM-120D's for Fleet Defense. Currently, the X-47 cannot support AIM-120's, and to make them capable would cost more than makes sense.
Using X-47 with the F-35B for land-attack purposes makes some sense, but UCAV's for Fleet Defense will take more development time and money than the degradation of the current F/A-18 force will allow, as the article points out.
Further, I've always been unhappy with the reliance on Burke/Tico class ships for Long- and Medium-range Fleet Defense AAW. Besides AEGIS ship's vulnerability to swarm attacks, and the Mk 41's cluster risk of damage, I worry about shooting themselves dry and being unable to reload cells while under way. Let's face it, you can build a LOT of Sunburn or better Anti-Ship, supersonic, sea-skimming missiles for the cost of a DD or CA.
But that's just my uninformed opinion...
Or, better yet, a navalized version of the A-10.
Now, THERE's a thought! Can't you just imagine what that'd look like!?! "Go Ugly" could take on a whole new meaning with Marines driving...
Naah, no telling what kind of complete disaster the procurement process would make of that. I mean, look what they did with the A-12.
I’m looking at the UCAV role beyond fifth generation. I guess, in the mean time, we’ll need to go to war with what we have until we have what we need.
Then they need the A-10 Warthog!
There are different versions, just like there were of the F-111. Only more so. The Marines, and the Brits at least, want the STOVL version. The other services will want CTOL, with the Navy wanting theirs to be carrier capable. All versions will share many systems and parts, but will be different aircraft. The AF will have the biggest paylond and/or longest range. The Marines the smallest/shortest, with the Navy's in between somewhere. Only the STOVL versions would have the heavy weight penalty of the extra powered lift devices.
But nobody gets the GAU-8. Mores the pity.
I worked on the Flying Dorito. We got canceled before Dick Cheney (as SecDef) did for the aircraft.
Or A-10s. I'd bet with minimal mods, the A-10 would be carrier capable. Wing folding might a problem, but maybe not too. It uses the same engines as the S-3. But they'd have add a probe for aerial refueling, since the Navy doesn't do booms, which the A-10 is equipped for. But many aircraft have had that modification when sold to foreign customers. Some have gone the other way when taken into USAF service from a Navy design. Like the F-4.
Unfortunately neither the OV-10 or A-10 is STOVL capable.
Of course the DESTROYER IN CHIEF is just gleeful . . . and dreaming of other treasonous ways to destroy our military.
I understand; but another thing to consider is the current airframe lacks a vertical stabilizer, severely limiting high-g ACM.
I’d have to say that for the fleet CAP role, they’re going to have to start with a clean sheet of paper. That implies anywhere from 7 to 15 years development before it’s ready.
For the Marines, I have to say I like the idea of someone like Grumman taking the Fairchild A-10 and reworking it for Short-Deck carriers. If we had to, I think this is more do-able than going for the UCAV’s.
Besides, the only thing UCAV’s are is a re-useable SLAM, which will take longer to develop, and cost WAY more. Why not build more Tomahawks?