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Author Topic: F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.  (Read 38655 times)

Offline Bruno Anthony

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Re: F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.
« Reply #15 on: November 02, 2012, 05:51:38 pm »

From F-16.net:

As for the A-16 Block 60, the project failed because the 30mm gun generated excessive heat that damaged inner components of the left fuselage.

Quote
In November 1988, the 174th [Tactical Fighter Wing] of the New York [Air National Guard]began transitioning from the A-10A Thunderbolt II to the F-16A/B block 10, becoming the first unit to operate the F-16 in a Close Air Support role.

During Desert Storm, their 24 F-16A/B aircraft were equipped to carry the General Electric GPU-5/A Pave Claw pod on the centerline station. The pod houses a 30mm GAU-13/A four-barrel derivative of the seven-barrel GAU-8/A cannon used by the A-10A, and 353 rounds of ammunition. The aircraft received the new designation F/A-16, and were the only F-16s ever to be equipped with this weapon, intended for use against a variety of battlefield targets, including armor.

If the tests were successful, there were plans for a fleet of F/A-16C's with the same armament. To demonstrate the concept, the AF installed Pave Penny avionics, 30mm gun pods and European One paint jobs on 7 F-16C's (#83128, -129, -130, -131, -132, -144, -2??). F-16B no. 2 (#75752) was given similar treatment except for a Falcon Eye system. These aircraft flew from Nellis with the 'WA' tailcode.

The F-16s from the 174th were deployed to the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm, but the project proved to be a miserable failure [emphasis added]. Precision aiming was impossible for several reasons:

  • The pylon mount isn't as steady as the A-10's rigid mounting
  • The F-16 flies much faster than an A-10, giving the pilots too little time approaching the target
  • Firing the gun shook the aircraft harshly and made it impossible to control
  • Essential CCIP (continuously computed impact point) software was unavailable
Pilots ended up using the gun as an area effect weapon, spraying multiple targets with ammunition, producing an effect rather like a cluster bomb. It took only a couple of days of this before they gave up, unbolted the gun pods, and went back to dropping real cluster bombs - which did the job more effectively.

The F/A-16C plan was quietly forgotten. The USAF still has plans to replace the A-10 with F-16s, but they no longer involve 30mm gun pods (or, apparently, a designation with an "A" in it).

Also from F-16.net:

A-16

In the fall of 1989 I was out at Ft. Walters Texas (an hour or so west of Ft Worth) driving around in an M-60A3 tank belonging the 49th armor division. I was there to play target to the A-16 in a series of hide and seek games. Our tank was suppose to find a nice hiding place in the dark and scan the skies with the TTS (tank thermal sight). We were suppose to get a sooting solution with a simulated proximity det beehive (flachette) round before GD's Chief Test Pilot (the late Joe-Bill Dryden) could find and lock in on us with Falcon Eye. In 10 out of 10 exercises he found us first. Most of the time we didn't see him until he literally blocked out the stars above us. After his pass we were able to maintain lock on him until he interposed a terrain feature (the aft section of an f-16 shows up quite nicely on Far-IR).

Besides the new camo and falcon-eye the a-16 had 1 other striking difference from its stable mates.....armor. It had kevlar laminate backed by light metallic matrix. This was installed under the skin around the crew compartment flight control computer and compressor.

What this little exercise proved was that a highly skilled pilot can glide in on a target at mach .95 (with the engine throttled back to idle for noise reduction) and acquire a hidden ground target at night before the target acquire him. After the exercise controller called it quits Bill put on a little impromptu air show and then flew back to GD Ft. Worth /Carswell AFB (Now Ft Worth Joint Use Reserve Base).

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Offline Bruno Anthony

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Re: F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.
« Reply #16 on: November 02, 2012, 05:55:36 pm »
The full a-16(i.e. F-16 Block k60) was never actualy built although IIRC the AFTI test bed had some of the avionics for the A-16 on it.  Are we sure the proposed A-16 would not have worked because the bastardized version used by the ANG didn't cut it with the 4 barrel 30mm?

Offline Bruno Anthony

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Re: F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.
« Reply #17 on: November 02, 2012, 06:33:54 pm »


GUARD UNIT PROVES F-16 GUN POD, BUT NEXT STEP NEEDS BIGGER COMPUTER
676 words
14 August 1991

Aerospace Daily
ASD
Pg. 241
Vol. 159, No. 31
English
Copyright 1991 McGraw-Hill, Inc.

Testing and refinement of General Dynamics F-16s being flown as dedicated close air support aircraft by a New York Air National Guard unit has eliminated an earlier vibration problem with the plane's huge 30mm gun pod, and the only outstanding issue is the larger one of making a CAS airplane out of a Block 10 F-16, a Guard official told The DAILY yesterday.

Although the 174th Tactical Fighter Wing--the first CAS-dedicated AF unit to get F-16s--deployed to the Gulf with the pod, the gun was only used for one day, near the end of the war. The unit was never really able to serve as a test case for the A-16 in combat, instead interdicting Republican Guard troops deep inside Iraq.

Still "we've done the gun pod tests this summer," said Lt. Col. Robert Purple, base commander at Hancock Field in suburban Syracuse, N.Y., where the 174th is based. An earlier problem with severe vibration when the cannon was fired turned out "not to be an issue," even though "everyone thought it would be," Purple added.

Getting the most out of a CAS upgrade--for example, using Constant Computed Impact Point (CCIP) to target air-to-ground munitions--requires a lot of computing power, and a problem with the F-16A/Bs being flown by the Boys From Syracuse is that "the computer's not big enough," Purple said. "With the As you take out to put in. With the C/Ds you put in."

Some Air Force officials have said that at a minimum the F-16s will have to go through the Block 30 upgrade to accomplish the CAS mission. Apart from that, Air Force plans for a whole package of CAS enhancements- -including the Agile Eye helmet-mounted display and targeting system, Pave Penny target designation, and an Automatic Target Handoff System-- may be put off to pay for unexpected costs on the F-22 and F-16 (DAILY, Aug. 12).

The 174th's aircraft are still slated to receive further modifications, but to what degree they will resemble the envisioned F/A- 16 will depend on funding and policy decisions in Washington.

"The debate goes on over which Blocks" will receive CAS mods, Purple said, and "with horrible cuts coming the Air Force wants the Guard to share in the cuts." Purple noted that the 174th's aircraft will begin receiving ring laser gyros fairly shortly.

The wing isn't flying with a full complement of aircraft, but that may also soon change, he said. The 174th flies 17 F-16As and two F-16Bs, after losing two aircraft just before and during the war--the first to an engine problem and the second to surface-to-air missile fire two days before the war ended.

That aircraft was later repaired and returned to service, but blew a tire during a landing in Saudi Arabia, causing a crash and fire that nearly destroyed the plane. The pilot escaped, but the decision was made to scrap the aircraft.

"Sometime starting next week we may be getting four more from McConnell" AFB, Kan., he said--two As and two Bs. Meanwhile, pilots will fly a slightly abbreviated flight schedule until after next month, when as many as six aircraft should fly every day.

The 174th began Field Technical Training to convert from A-10 Thunderbolt IIs to F-16s late in 1988, and since then has served as a test case both for CAS modifications and for flying the F-16 in a CAS role. The Boys From Syracuse routinely train with the Army's 10th Mountain Brigade and several artillery units at Ft. Drum in Watertown, N.Y., and until recently regularly deployed to Germany to fly with Luftwaffe Tornados.

Early experience already showed that the F-16/Tornado combination was much more compatible than the A-10/Tornado match, and better served the evolving CAS mission--battlefield air interdiction.

Offline Grey Havoc

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Re: F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.
« Reply #18 on: March 21, 2013, 09:31:04 am »
A bit of general background in the form of a, quite anti-Warthog, article on CAS from December 1990: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a516342.pdf

The author favours the A-16 heavily although he doesn't outright come out and say it.
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Offline 2IDSGT

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Re: F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.
« Reply #19 on: March 21, 2013, 09:57:43 am »
CAS has changed a great deal over the past 20 years due to the vastly increased availability of guided weapons.  It's still nice to hear that 30mm roar; but for the most part, the A-10 does its job from on-high nowadays and regular fighters can handle tank-busting from 12,000 AGL.  The only real advantage I see it having over the F-16 now is loiter-time (still very important to a grunt).  Fortunately, by the time it gets replaced by the F-35, we'll probably have drones better capable of handling the boring job of long-duration CAS for Infantry guys in a COIN war.

Offline Grey Havoc

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Re: F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.
« Reply #20 on: March 21, 2013, 10:21:12 am »
Here's the paper on which the article I previously posted was based: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a220659.pdf

And here's an 1989 Air War College Research Report that suggested dropping dedicated CAS aircraft altogether: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a217868.pdf

Going back to the A-16 itself, I've just came across a March 1989 document titled 'OPERATIONAL TEST PLAN CONCEPT FOR EVALUATION OF CLOSE AIR SUPPORT ALTERNATIVE AIRCRAFT'.


By the way, according to this document, the Block 30 F-16s which were intended to help subsitute for the A-16 when it was cancelled would have had the F/A-16 designation.
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Offline 2IDSGT

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Re: F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.
« Reply #21 on: March 21, 2013, 10:36:21 am »
And here's an 1989 Air War College Research Report that suggested dropping dedicated CAS aircraft altogether: http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a217868.pdf
Yeah, I'm not a fan of that idea at all.  It doesn't have to be an A-10 loaded for bear, but you need something that can hang around for awhile in the low-intensity environment.  CAS isn't just about making the loud noises, sometimes it's handy just to have someone up there giving directions.

Offline blackstar

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Re: F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.
« Reply #22 on: May 17, 2014, 05:42:53 am »
There was a recent op-ed in Defense News about the decision to retire the A-10. The author mentioned the A-16 and noted that the USAF had plans in the late 1980s to retire the A-10 in favor of the A-16. He even quoted a USAF general saying that the A-16 was the ideal platform. He said that a squadron of F/A-16s went to Operation Desert Storm and did so poorly that they were withdrawn within a month.

If true, it was a good parallel with what is happening today.

Offline GTX

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Re: F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.
« Reply #23 on: May 17, 2014, 11:00:05 am »
There was a recent op-ed in Defense News about the decision to retire the A-10. The author mentioned the A-16 and noted that the USAF had plans in the late 1980s to retire the A-10 in favor of the A-16. He even quoted a USAF general saying that the A-16 was the ideal platform. He said that a squadron of F/A-16s went to Operation Desert Storm and did so poorly that they were withdrawn within a month.

If true, it was a good parallel with what is happening today.


Link to said op-ed please?

Offline Triton

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Re: F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.
« Reply #24 on: May 17, 2014, 02:08:36 pm »
I presume this is the op-ed to which blackstar refers:

"Commentary: A-10 Still the Best in Its Field"
May. 5, 2014 - 02:16PM   | 
By CHRIS CHOATE

Source:
http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140505/DEFREG02/305050019/Commentary-10-Still-Best-Its-Field

Quote

Remember the A-16? Don’t worry — the US Air Force doesn’t, either.

Without question, the stepchild of the Air Force is the A-10 “Warthog.” It isn’t pretty. Worse, it’s defined as a single-mission aircraft — a cardinal sin in today’s environment where even air superiority aircraft have to portray an ability to perform a secondary mission.

Yet, thanks to civilian control of the Air Force, the venerable and battle-proven A-10 is now approaching its fourth decade of service to the United States. Throughout its illustrious career, the Warthog has faced only one serious threat: the budget cutters within the Air Force.

Each trip to the gallows for the A-10 has been accompanied by the rationale that other platforms can adequately perform the close-air support (CAS) mission. The common denominators of the “other platforms” have been afterburning engines (read fast), air-to-air radars (read cool and highly desirable for Red Flag and other training at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.), and cannons either designed for air-to-air combat or added as an afterthought. In short: characteristics necessary for modern fighter aircraft but having little utility in the CAS environment.

Today’s replacement for the A-10 is the F-35. Like the previous CAS replacements, it has the common denominators listed above. But before the Air Force starts making room for the remaining A-10s at the boneyard in Arizona, it would behoove the service to study its first attempt to replace the slow and ugly Warthog during the 1980s. The blond-haired, blue-eyed choice of that era: the A-16.

According to an April 1989 Air Force Magazine article, the “close air support fighter” for the 1990s was “stuck in the bureaucratic bogs of Washington.” About $27 million had been spent on the issue, and the debate was settled. The answer was the A-16, a modified variant of the F-16.

Critics of the A-16, flat-Earthers of the day, were labeled as supporters of a nostalgic “mudfighter,” an upgraded A-10 or similar plane that was “slow and simple, but heavily armored.” According to the article, such a platform would not survive the battlefield of tomorrow and was not even capable of providing the “kind of air support the Army needs and says it wants.” Speaking at an Air Force Association symposium in January 1989, then-Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Welch said, “The data does not say ‘mudfighter.’ No matter how you slice it, the data says A-16.”

Fast forward to 1991. Among the many types of aircraft sent to expel Iraq from Kuwait were squadrons of A-10s and F/A-16s of the 174th Tactical Fighter Wing. Modified with a 30mm gun pod, the F/A-16s would validate the $27 million study and show the doubters in Washington that the days of the mudfighter had passed. It didn’t work out that way. The A-10 performed brilliantly. The F/A-16 proved to be a near disaster, and the gun pods were downloaded within days of the start of the air war. And the A-16? It was never heard of again.

So what’s different this time? Not that much. Like the F-16, the F-35 will be a remarkable aircraft. It will excel in interdiction and is expected to be very capable in counter-air operations against near-peer competitors. Unfortunately, the ability to conduct traditional, primary, or in the words of the critics, glamorous air operations does not translate well into the CAS environment. “Traditional” air combat values speed; CAS does not. Traditional air combat is one pass and haul ass; loiter time is a critical requirement of CAS.

In CAS, size and numbers matter. The A-10 was built around a 30mm cannon with more than 1,000 rounds. The Air Force version of the F-35 will carry a smaller 25mm cannon with 180 rounds (yes, 180 — that’s not a typo. Strafe the ditch by the line of trees? You’ll need a four-ship of F-35s.

In the Air Force’s defense, it should be noted the Navy and Marine F-35s do not even have a gun. They will have to carry the 25mm cannon in a gun pod. There is not one key aspect of the CAS mission where the F-35 will be better than the A-10. Not one.

No one envies the Air Force’s budget dilemma. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the wars we’re fighting today are ones where the enemy has more in common with a 19th century militia than a modern military. The low-end war is not going away, and to succeed, our nation will need to fight and bring home every son and daughter we possibly can.

For troops in contact, the A-10 is one of America’s best weapons. It should be retained until we can afford a real replacement. ■

Chris Choate is a retired US Air Force colonel who performs operational test and evaluation work with the service as a civilian employee. These views reflect only those of the author.

Offline GTX

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Re: F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.
« Reply #25 on: May 17, 2014, 02:29:56 pm »
That's a pretty thin argument in favour of the A-10.  It basically hinges upon the use of the 30mm gun pod by the F/A-16.  Note:  In an environment where the enemy can shoot back with SAMs, the A-10 wouldn't be relying upon its gun but rather missiles.  In fact, the same was even the scenario against systems such as ZSU-23-4s where the strategy would be to remove them first using mavericks or similar.


The reality is that the A-10 is a dated weapon now and one that is not even used in the way a lot of people imagine it is.  Moreover, in environments such as CAS, its gun is overkill (a human doesn't die any more if hit by a burst of 30mm rounds instead of 20mm or even 7.62mm).

Offline Triton

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Re: F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.
« Reply #26 on: May 17, 2014, 03:41:27 pm »
That's a pretty thin argument in favour of the A-10.  It basically hinges upon the use of the 30mm gun pod by the F/A-16.  Note:  In an environment where the enemy can shoot back with SAMs, the A-10 wouldn't be relying upon its gun but rather missiles.  In fact, the same was even the scenario against systems such as ZSU-23-4s where the strategy would be to remove them first using mavericks or similar.

The reality is that the A-10 is a dated weapon now and one that is not even used in the way a lot of people imagine it is.  Moreover, in environments such as CAS, its gun is overkill (a human doesn't die any more if hit by a burst of 30mm rounds instead of 20mm or even 7.62mm).

The A-10 Thunderbolt II was designed solely for close air support (CAS) of ground forces. I don't believe that advocates of the A-10 are proposing that the aircraft enter the battlespace solo. It seems to some that supporting the A-10 takes away from the F-16 or the F-35 or is an argument against the F-16 or the F-35. Why does it have to be an either/or proposition? Why should the A-10 be expected to defend itself against SAMs? It seems like the argument against the A-10 is that it isn't multirole and it is stealing resources away from the much more expensive F-35. No one is advocating sending the AH-64 Apache Longbow to the boneyard because of the threat of radar-guided SAMs and SPAAGs.
« Last Edit: May 17, 2014, 03:55:13 pm by Triton »

Offline GTX

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Re: F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.
« Reply #27 on: May 17, 2014, 04:07:38 pm »
It seems to some that supporting the A-10 takes away from the F-16 or the F-35 or is an argument against the F-16 or the F-35.


Of course it is being used to argue that!  Are you denying that?

Offline Abraham Gubler

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Re: F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.
« Reply #28 on: May 17, 2014, 04:25:21 pm »
No one is advocating sending the AH-64 Apache Longbow to the boneyard because of the threat of radar-guided SAMs and SPAAGs.

The Apache is a helicopter. It can hover at an altitude of 6 feet AGL. The A-10 is an aircraft. It can not hover nor can it safely fly for long periods below tree top level. The difference is rather important when facing a high level GBAD threat.
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Offline quellish

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Re: F/A-16. A CAS aircraft with some get up and go.
« Reply #29 on: May 17, 2014, 05:04:01 pm »
In an environment where the enemy can shoot back with SAMs, the A-10 wouldn't be relying upon its gun but rather missiles.  In fact, the same was even the scenario against systems such as ZSU-23-4s where the strategy would be to remove them first using mavericks or similar.


The scenarios where the A-10 uses it's gun are limited but important. An A-10 is much more likely to use a CBU or guided weapon than the gun. It's a nice gun with a large magazine, but the gun is only part of the A-10 story. Often the rules of engagement are restrictive and require positive visual confirmation of targets. Because the A-10 can fly under the weather and can loiter, it is a good asset to have. Unfortunately IR and radar sensors can't always give you the picture of the target you need to execute the ROE.

Moreover, in environments such as CAS, its gun is overkill (a human doesn't die any more if hit by a burst of 30mm rounds instead of 20mm or even 7.62mm).


In most environments, low observables are also overkill - especially under post-DESERT STORM US doctrine. This is why in the 90s there was much talk of "scalable" observables and "first day stealth". Once an enemy's air defenses are rolled back during the initial days of a conflict, observables may not be as important for survivability.


The A-10 gun is has a large magazine, is well integrated into the aircraft, and the plane flys slowly enough to allow the pilot time to set up his gun pass. The aircraft was designed to be survivable while it was vulnerable attacking. An F-15E flys a lot faster, has a much smaller magazine, and the pilot may not have a lot of experience attacking ground targets with the gun (IIRC, in the 90s they didn't get to practice much). Those things can make a big difference.


http://www.airforcemag.com/MagazineArchive/Pages/2007/July%202007/0707strafing.aspx