Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The "3-D" In 3-D Air Superiority

You may not have known it, but I also do 3-D art... have been growing and developing my skills for about 20 years now. And I just thought I'd throw some of my samples on here to show you. You can get prints in t-shirts, mouse pads, some art even is on hats, shower curtains and bed duvets of all sizes.

Surf over to http://www.IamFritz.com to see my whole selection.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Whole New Way of Aerial Combat Pt. 2

So before I get started, we need to look at exactly what the current big threat is...
 Flights of bombers hauling tons of cruise missiles.
The old Cold War Bears hauled one big ASM called the Kitchen. One very big and bad missile. Those days are gone, now. In the pic above, you can see that Tu-95s (whatever version they're up to now) can carry no less than 8 cruise missiles. And we don't even know what's in the internal bay. So, waves of Tu-95s releasing waves of missiles. They (cruise missiles ) were designed solely for for one thing. Run fast and stealthily to things and make them go away in a big puff of smoke, noise and sadness.

The new air-to-air Amraams, the AIM-120D, was designed to kill small, stealthy cruise missiles (and stealth fighters by the way. Ahem). But you can only hang so many missiles on a fighter before it can't take off, go fast or maneuver. And the modern bombers and some cruise missiles can be pretty squirrelly in transit. Which direction are they coming from? Which are decoys? High or low? And then there's ICBMs- a very real threat now that North Korea has rattled that saber, demonstrating the ability to hit the continental US with nuclear ICBMs. These things come screaming down from the sky, near vertical trajectories, and they're very, very fast. And what's our defense? There are basically two weapons- ANG Eagles loaded with Amraam-Ds, and Navy cruisers/destroyers with SM-3s. Both are great. But they also share limited range, limited payload, and would need to be in exactly the right spot at the right time... and need 100% hit rate. Aaaaand that's pretty impossible. It's appeared impossible to the Pentagon's top brass for years, too. And here's what they've been working on for the fix... Lasers. 
Light Amplified through the 
Stimulated Emission of Radiation.
AW&ST Feb 16, 2015: A defense contractor called General Atomics has been working on a full size UAV whose sole payload is a 9,000 canoe shaped 150kW laser pod. Testing is already underway, and has been highly positive. And by testing I mean a prototype on a mountain top shooting down drones and blasting ground targets dozens of miles away. It fires a 3-second burst, which takes out the nose cone of approaching missiles or fighter (which ruins their primary sensor and renders them unflyable) then shifts to the next target in 1-3 seconds, and fires again. The current unit can fire 10 times, then takes 3 minutes to recharge. And said recharge comes from the power of the jet itself. The problem with it is that while that testing has been going on, the GA labs have developed a smaller 3,000 lbs unit that has the same range and power output. Not tested in the world, but functioning perfectly fine in the lab.

But that one's not going into a UAV. You know where it's going? Well, what other aircraft is there that has canoe shaped "pods" that can hold 3,000 lbs and fight?

The FAST Packs/CFTs of an F-15 can hold up to 9,000 pounds of fuel, but a 
3,000 pound payload makes it lighter, faster and more maneuverable.
These lasers won't be on big, slow airliners- they'll be on fighters. Mach two, 9g turnin' n burnin', afterburnin', laser-blasting fighter planes. It's all part of a program the Pentagon is calling Eagle 2040.

That's right. As in F-15 Eagle.

I was at a certain Air National Guard base a couple years ago talking to some crew chiefs. And believe me, sometimes, they're more fun than the pilots are (I said sometimes, not always). When out of nowhere, the one guy said, "Well, our F-15s are going to be getting conformal tanks in a few years. It's already paid for, they just have to make `em." Conformal fuel tanks? On ANG fighters? I know, it didn't make any sense! But now, that we can see that said tanks won't be holding fuel, but lasers, it makes perfect sense.
Now, Air Force Special Operations Command said, "Hey! We want those on our C-130s! We could just sit up there and zap away at bad guys as long as we have fuel, and still take out any missiles they shoot at us!" But a ranking officer said, "No, not until we get them installed on our fighters." 

Another officer in charge of weapons development, and I'm sorry I lost the link but I'm looking for it, said he wanted two, not just one, but two of these installed on F-15 Eagles. That's one per CFT. So now, instead of engaging 4 or six fighters 10-20 miles away with AMRAAMs, and hoping you got them all before the merge, a single F-15 Eagle will be able to shoot down -I'm talking instantly confirmed kills- 20 bandits, in two minutes. And at ranges much greater than 20 miles... 

"Zap- Splash one". 

"Zap- Splash two". 

"Zap- Splash 3". 

And so on... 

...up to twenty. 

Yeah, "Zap- Splash Twenty." 

Twenty kills in a single sortie.

"Lead, I gotta turn cold and recharge," 

"Roger. I'm hot now so I'm re-engaging."

Imagine what a flight of four can do. 

Or a squadron.

And for tactics sake, AMRAAMs- I don't know if you're needed anymore. AIM-9Xs still are in case there's an exorbitant number of bad guys.I mean, I assume these lasers aren't that flexible in a dogfight. But -holy crap- watch out if they are. When they are, I mean. I assume guns will be retained, but maybe not. The engineering to balance the plane might be deemed too expensive (just throwing in a big lead weight is not that simple, actually, when you're working off the X or Y axis of a high performance airplane).

And you know what else that 3,000 lbs, canoe will fit into? Yep- the belly bay of an F-22 or F-35. Doesn't really matter how many missiles you can carry now, does it? Or if you can do a sustained 9g turn (which I'm still convinced the F-35 will be able to do once the FBW software gets it kinks debugged)?

And honestly, I've been looking at these "conformal" tanks they've been putting on F-18s and F-16s and saying, really? But now, it makes sense.

And remember how the Viper pilot said he shot down a drone BEHIND him with a data-linked AIM-9X?

I know it sounds crazy, but this stuff is developed and in testing. The theoretical bounds have been met or surpassed. Fellow jet heads, we are going into a completely new era now. Military aviation, in 20 years, is going to be a completely different ball game.

Now how long until our virtual "enemies" concoct their own lasers, or countermeasures? 

Some say Russia already has...

Aviation Week and Space Technology has been my primary source of information, as they tend to be ahead of everybody else anyway. See: AW&ST Feb 16, 2015, AW&ST Aug 17-30, 2015, AW&ST Sep 28-Oct 11, 2015

More sources to come as I dig them up

Monday, October 26, 2015

Whole New Way of Aerial Warfare Pt. 1

I've been doing research on military aviation since the 70s. As in, 1970s. I've read journals as a kid that you may not have even probably heard of. And I'm here to tell ya, there is something big- I mean BIG- coming around the corner in military aviation. More accurately, we're already turning it.

To begin, I'll take a look at how we got where we are now.

We're past the 100 year mark in aviation, and the same with military aviation. USAF, USN, USMC, etc.

Military aviation by itself was an amazing leap upward and onward in war-mongering. Instead of being limited to watching your enemy with spyglasses from a hill, you could now fly over the enemy and observe, even photograph his location, troop placement, headquarters, direct artillery...

photo courtesy BBC

...and eventually drop bombs. This was terrorizing to the guy on the ground. But amazing to the guy in command of the planes! And as time went on, bomb sights were invented that made the bombs more accurate. And airframes grew in strength, size and power to deliver bigger bombs more accurately. Laser-guided bombs, and eventually satellite space GPS wizardry would deliver bombs from such heights and distances that enemy ground targets only knew they were being bombed... when the bombs began to hit. No jet noises, no warning, nothing. This new control over teh battlefield was amazing and whoever owned the sky, would win the battle or even the war.

Air-to-air combat has undergone similar incredible growth. From the first rifle being leveled at another aviator at close range, to machine guns with rotor interrupters, to harmonized Gatling guns, getting close to the enemy meant more damage per swoop and swerve. Radar and heat-seeking missiles meant I only need to kind of know where you are, and you were killable when only a speck in the sky. Radars and computers turned that speck in the sky into a blip with targeting and intercepting information all available to the pilot- from 20 miles away. Up to one hundred miles away in some cases. Again, each advance gave one side an amazing advantage over their enemy, and it was good...

I'm not even going to get into radars, AESA radars, ECM jamming, Infra-red Search and Track... it's all so very, very advanced and complicated.

It has gotten to a point where pilots are pushed to their 9g limit, airplanes can't go any faster without melting in the air, they can't carry any more missiles without stalling out, and stealth... ECM... it's all maxed out.

Think about it. The arguments about which jet is best have become moot. Every fighter is maxed out for its role. Is the Su-35 or MiG-29 or MiG-31 REALLY any better than the F-15C, F-22A or Typhoon? No, they are not. Oh, their performance envelopes bulge in different places, but in a mix, it's all up to the pilots nowadays who's going to land on a runway, and who's going to land in a parachute harness.

But someone, in some government cubicle, has figured out how to bend it all around again, as the cry went out: It's time for new tech.

Is it smarter, faster missiles? Well, there are a few projects being worked on. The Cuda missile for the F-35. The new AA-3 for the JASDF. But no, that's not it.

The answer lay in the biggest, most spectacular, undersold, military aviation flops in history...

The Boeing YAL-1.

photo courtesy Boeing.com

The YAL-1 was a Boeing 747 whose whole capacity was filled with lasers, lasers fuel, laser things and other laser stuff. It was meant to orbit off a country's coast and shoot down ballistic missiles as they lifted off their launch pads before they even had a chance to get up high or come back down on targets of US interest with their tricky tricks like going hypersonic, or dispensing supersonic cluster munitions, etc.

The promise was amazing. Like all technological wonders (pay attention here, new tech and F-35 critics) it had hurtles and failures. But finally in the mid-90s, it began dropping simulated and real ballistic missiles out of the sky like nobody's business.

And just as they got it working, they, the Department of Defense, dropped it.

Seriously?  Dropped? Was this not too good to pass up? I mean, it was working! Why would they drop such a great weapon? 

I'll tell ya why- because it WORKED. But it wasn't meant to be a final product. It was a test bed. A technology development test bed. It was never meant to be deployed in numbers.

Digress to an air show at Hill AFB about this time. An Air Force Colonel had a tent with tons of brochures and shirts and stuff about the YAL-1. I approached him. He was sold on the tech and the project, I could tell. But the exchange naturally turned to the project's cancellation. And it was then that I heard something that I wish I had paid more attention to:

This colonel didn't blink when I brought up the cancellation, instead, he gave me a Clint Eastwood squint, and said, "Well, don't worry. We'll be seeing lots more of this to come."

... or words to that effect. I tried to talk a little more, but he seemed to lose interest then (was that it?). So I did, too.

But that line, despite my best efforts to forget it, stuck in my head. In part 2 of this article, I'll explain why.

Come back for Part 2 SOON

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

1000 Hits!

As I prep my big three-part series on new innovations in aerial combat (which will come across as cool and credible as it will amazing and "Are we really there yet?" I wanted to send out a big thank you to all my current and past visitors as I've rolled past the 1,000 hit mark.

Thanks! And the next 3 entries are well worth waiting for, believe me!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

As Promised- Sentry Eagle Video!

Here is the video I shot standing by the taxiway at the 173rd Fighter Wing training exercise Sentry Eagle 2015.

I know it took a while, but here it finally is...

Come back soon for what I think will be a very, very interesting discussion on the the next, big weapon system- and how it will change the nature of aerial warfare from the very core.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Recent Exchange on Facebook

The following photo triggered the following exchange in a Facebook Group called Fox One:

Me: "Peek-a-boo. You're dead."
Other Guy: "Until he meets - The doctor (sic) Suchoi..."
Me: "You're right. Dr Suchoi is killed from way beyond peek-a-boo range."

Said witty response earned me two (2) Likes.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Getting the Tomcat, Fair and Balanced Part II, Baby

Okay. So after my last entry, I found myself feeling something peculiar. It was intense love and awe, but it was blanketed over with hate, spite and contempt. And it was aimed at the F-14 Tomcat.

After all, the F-14 Tomcat, as I've noted way, way back in my blog, was my first combat aviation love. As a three-year-old no less.

And I regularly "Like" and comment on photos in the Facebook F-14 Tomcat Lovers page.

So why the deep hatred?

Well, I'm a guy, which means I know what I feel, but don't really care why I feel it. So it took me a bit to dig into my emotional circuitry and try and figure this out.

And yes, I did finish Osprey's Iranian F-14s in Combat. And I recommend you buy it.

What a read.

I was in awe of what the Iranian Imperial Air Force (IRIAF) claims to have accomplished with these jets. I mean, if only half of what they claim is true, still "Wow."

So I got my other F-14 books out: F-14 Tomcat: Bye-Bye BabyHow to Fly and Fight in the F-14 Tomcat, The Cutting Edge (which is a real steal now), Aero's Grumman F-14 (another steal on Amazon)... hours of old VHS tapes and so on. Still, "What an incredible jet!" And still, Hate.

I figured I'm have some great change of heart. An epiphany, if you will. All the excitement and awesomeness of the F-14 Tomcat blasting away my negative waves and my love for the bird would rise- like a Phoenix (pun intended). But that didn't happen.

I just felt more pissed than I did before. But I finally realized why.

We should NOT be protected by the F-15 Eagle and the F-18 Super Hornet.

We should be protected by the F-15 Eagle, and the F-14 Tomcat.

Don't get me wrong- the Super hornet is a great strike platform. If you don't mind hauling your carrier group within ASM range of the enemy's coastline. And if you don't mind that the enemy's strike force can now get 200% closer to you. And if you don't mind this compromise and that compromise.

But the F-14 Tomcat had a few advantages. Namely: Range, speed, payload, avionics, performance, I mean the list goes on. Did you notice that? Yes, that's all teh qualities of a fighter plane. And it outclasses the F-18E/F in every way.

Why the hell is the Navy flying the Superbug? Why wasn't the F-14 chosen, that new Strike 21 F-14E upgrade? Grumman HAD all the machinery for it. Ready to go! Just a nip and tuck. Brand new F-14Es were still cheaper than the deelopment of the F-18E/F. Not like the size-increasing, range decreasing, costly upgrade for the F-18.

Oh yeah, a Senator was bribed by Boeing Sales reps. I remember Aviation Week & Space Technology did a big story on it back in the 90s. But no one cared.

I hate the F-14, because after all it could do, it was murdered in cold blood by our government. Our CVGs are more vulnerable- and not by a little, by a lot- because of government corruption. It just plain pisses me off.

And great plane that it was- possibly, the best plane ever- I can't get past that is gone.

Yeah, I know. Pretty lame, huh?

Well, don't let me leave you as brokenhearted as I feel... watch a few YouTube videos of the Amazing F-14 Tomcat. And be sure to post in the comments below.