Tuesday, May 28, 2013
A Pig With Lipstick is Still a Pig, Not a Greyhound.
Here's the thing. There won't be a valid competition without a fly-off that involves getting all the competitors up to Cold Lake to see how they each perform in various mission scenarios and against each other. That's not about to happen - mainly because the F-35 probably wouldn't do terribly well. That's mainly because it's not a fighter but a light attack bomber. Just ask Paul Metz.
Metz was the lead test pilot for Northrop's YF-23 stealth fighter that lost to rival Lockheed's YF-22 Raptor in the American air force competition to become that country's air superiority fighter. Fortunately for Metz, once the Northrop offering was knocked out of the running, Lockheed chose him to be its chief test pilot for the F-22.
Metz was interviewed - way back in 1998 kids (when you were still using fake ID to buy beer) - about what made the F-22 such a formidable fighter. His explanation also reveals why the F-35 isn't much of a fighter.
"The decision to integrate the technologies of stealth, supercruise, super-maneuverability and sensor fusion was the result of significant advances in each of these areas in the 1970s and 80s. In particular, stealth technology had advanced to the point that high lift, high angle of attack aerodynamic shapes could co-exist with stealth requirements.
"Supercruise is vital to the entire concept of a stealthy fighter. Stealth alone does not make you 'invisible' , only very small. Speed confounds the enemy's problem by reducing the time allowed to detect, lock on, launch and have the missile or gun rounds reach your aircraft. Taken to its extreme, a fighter that could travel at the speed of light could probably survive on its speed alone. By the time you saw your speed-of-light fighter, it would be long gone. The F-22 has yet to conquer warp speeds but the high sustained supercruise speeds are a distinct advantage in evading the enemies weapons.
"The F-22's thrust-vectoring can provide remarkable nose pointing agility should the fighter pilot choose to use it. What is not widely known is that thrust-vectoring plays a big role in high speed, supersonic maneuvering. All aircraft experience a loss of control effectiveness at supersonic speeds. To generate the same maneuver supersonically as subsonically, the controls must be deflected further. This, in turn, results in a big increase in supersonic trim drag and a subsequent loss in acceleration and turn performance. The F-22 offsets this trim drag, not with the horizontal tails, which is the classic approach, but with the thrust vectoring. With a negligible change in forward thrust, the F-22 continues to have relatively low drag at supersonic maneuvering speed.
" Stealth, supercruise and supermaneuverability are the components of the pilot's 'chariot'.
Unlike its competition, the F-35 is not supercruise capable. It is capable of supersonic flight in afterburner but at the penalty of massive fuel consumption which greatly limits its range. That's a big deficiency for the interceptor mission. The F-35 also does not have thrust vectoring. It already has a weight problem that has caused designers to remove vital safety equipment. It is single-engine which leaves it vulnerable to ground fire, especially from shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles. This vulnerability coupled with fuel and weapon limitations leaves it a poor choice for the sort of ground support missions we flew in Libya and our allies provided in Afghanistan.
In other words, it's lame in the air defence role, in the air superiority role, and in the ground support role, all three main missions of a genuine fighter aircraft. That leaves it with one mission - light attack bomber.
Which is why we won't be seeing the F-35 put through a fly-off competition. The lipstick might come off.