Advanced F-14 Tomcat instead of the F-35

jedi44

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With the constant delays and increasing costs of the F-35,would it not be better to revisit the ST-21 model of the Tomcat?
The cancellation of the F-22 program demonstrates how expensive such new fighters are,so it can be assumed that the new Russian and Chinese stealth fighters cannot be produced in great numbers either.
The airframe of the Tomcat was so ahead of it's time and finally the hardware and software upgrades caught up to maximize the Tomcat to what it should have been originally.
I feel the F-18E is just not the scare tactic the US Navy needs to deter any aggressor from attacking the battlegroup.
The Super Tomcat 21 has just that effect!
It is a pity that the DoD has wasted so much funds exploring the F-35 when upgrades to the Tomcat would have made more sense.
The F-18E is a great strike fighter,but not in the same league as the ST-21.90% of the capability of the F-22 at half the price.
Pity we will never find out,a great opportunity lost!
 

Stargazer2006

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jedi44 said:
Clarify kidding GTX.

Perhaps he means that a swing-wing 1960s-designed aircraft simply can't compare with a 1990s-designed one optimized for low RCS? Just a thought.
 

jedi44

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I am sure the engineers at Northrop Grumman would incline to disagree.
I know the possibility is now impossible to bring the Cat back.
Low RCS materials and technology are surface applications that can make most 1960's aircraft still relevant,they still think it is possible with planes like the F-15.
Just my opinion,agree or disagree.
 

Stargazer2006

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There is A LOT more to reduced RCS than simply coating. The shape of the aircraft, the position of the air intakes, the exhaust... If you think the F-14 could have filled the F-35 mission simply with the addition of a special coating and some upgraded electronics you are mistaken. Not to mention the fact that the F-35 was conceived as multi-service from the start (can you picture the USAF settling for a 30-year-old Navy fighter??) AND with VTOL/CTOL variants, something which would have been impossible to achieve with the F-14.

Don't get me wrong, I love the F-14, and was shocked by the decision to withdraw it from service, when other aircraft that are older still fly. But it simply WASN'T the aircraft the services wanted, no matter what.
 

jedi44

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Your point is well taken Stargazer,I do not disagree one bit with your rational.
But from a start projection of $70million to now $130million per aircraft is it worth it?
 

Stargazer2006

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Perhaps not. In fact we already see some observers comment that stealth may no longer be a top priority in a new design.

As to trying to find a fit-all design for all services, it is pretty much what we call in French "a five-legged sheep", something you may look for all your life and never find... I'm glad that back in the fifties, the different services didn't wait for that rare bird to procure aircraft, they had their own requirements and each of them found an aircraft suitable for the task. Going tri-service may have simplified some matters but it also complicated things. A bit like going European in fact... ::)
 

GTX

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Exactly! F-35 aside, the concept of bring a 1960s' design (remember the F-14 first flew in 1970) back into production/service as your front line fighter is absurd. Given the level of technology involved and the fact that it hasn't been in any sort of production since the early '90s, the costs of even bringing back it in its previous (F-14D) configuration would be significant. To also then presumably give it a major systems upgrade would also be significant - remember that a very large part of the costs with any new combat aircraft actually lie with the internal systems. Therefore, assuming you went for F-35 or even F-22 equivalent sensors, avionics etc, you are still going to be paying a lot, not to mention the integration costs and schedule.


Is the nostalgia really worth all that?
 

beachhead1973

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I forget that the F-35 dates from the 90s sometimes.

Guess growing up reading about WWII aircraft, I figured that advanced technology would make it easier to design an aircraft faster and better, but it was the Clinton years...
 

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jedi44 said:
I am sure the engineers at Northrop Grumman would incline to disagree.
I know the possibility is now impossible to bring the Cat back.
Low RCS materials and technology are surface applications that can make most 1960's aircraft still relevant,they still think it is possible with planes like the F-15.
Just my opinion,agree or disagree.

...maybe the iranian way. F-14+RQ-170=... ;D ;D ;D

Cheers!
 

Triton

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What about the threat posed by new anti-aircraft weapon systems, particularly the Almaz-Antey S-400 Triumf (NATO: SA-21 Growler) to an updated F-14 Tomcat such as Quickstrike, Tomcat 21, Attack Super Tomcat 21 (later known as ASF-14)? Isn't it short-sighted to think only of the threat posed by adversary fighters?
 

TaiidanTomcat

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There is no such thing as a "simple, cheap upgrade" that makes an aircraft stealthy, with advanced sensors, and internal bays. All these things require complete redesigns of the aircraft and massive dollars and years to make happen. Look at the Super Bug and Gripen NG (due in the year 2020)

jedi44 said:
Low RCS materials and technology are surface applications that can make most 1960's aircraft still relevant,they still think it is possible with planes like the F-15.
Just my opinion,agree or disagree.

That is an opinion alright. It is not factual. Its like being half pregnant. You are or you aren't. And all these proposals to upgrade old aircraft fall into the "aren't category" No matter what Boeing tells you. Its the reason no one is buying the F-15SE. as of right now no one has actually pulled off making a 1960s aircraft relevant as you say by surface applications.

I think one of the worst myths perpetuated by Aviation fans is that aircraft are "Easily upgraded" with technology that is generations ahead of whatever they are proposing it, and stealth is just about adding new skin to the old air frame, and canting the fins more (Thanks for helping that myth Boeing!!) If it was that easy, we would have stealth C-17s, and Stealth C-130s, And Stealth F-15s

Is it possible to create an upgraded Super Tomcat 21? of course it is!! But it will not be cheap, not be simple, and not be quick. If money, time, and political patience were no object then you could go crazy.

Last I checked all the tooling for the Tomcats had been destroyed in the 1990s, and the remaining aircraft in US Service turned into razor blades and beer cans. With the requirements for stealth you would be starting from scratch anyway. It would look like this:

f22-natf.jpg


Or this:

NATF-2S.jpg


Or any other cool thing Stargazer can come up with if you ask him nicely. ;D Please?
 

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The F-35 owes its low RCS to:
1. Shape, Shape, & Shape
2. Internal Weapons
3. RAM that it part of the structure (not simply painted on coatings)


Any new-age ST-21 should not be relying on 1 or 2 and would only have 3 (RAM).


Trying to achieve a low RCS with just RAM and no shaping while relying on external weapons is impossible. The laws of physics cannot be denied.


Then there is the issue of cost. The ST-21 would be heavier, have a swing wing, and have two engines. Not only would the acquisition cost be more, but so would the lifetime maintenance costs be more thanks to the two engines, swing wing, and the imaginary RAM.
 

Triton

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I presume that manufacturers of anti-aircraft weapons systems are working on improving detection and targeting of stealth aircraft. There is synthetic aperture radar, L-band radar, infra-red search and track systems (IRSTs), over the horizon (OTH) radar and these systems coupled with increases in computing power per Moore's Law. During their service lives, fifth generation fighters may not enjoy the advantage that they have today.
 

SpudmanWP

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During their service lives, the 5th gen fighters of today will continue to grow and evolve. Just as the F-16 Blk5 of yesteryear grew into the F-16 Blk60 of today in order to be effective and survive in today's battlefield, the F-35 will evolve as new threats come online and the technologies are developed to deal with them.
 

quellish

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TaiidanTomcat said:
I think one of the worst myths perpetuated by Aviation fans is that aircraft are "Easily upgraded" with technology that is generations ahead of whatever they are proposing it, and stealth is just about adding new skin to the old air frame, and canting the fins more (Thanks for helping that myth Boeing!!) If it was that easy, we would have stealth C-17s, and Stealth C-130s, And Stealth F-15s

Yes and no. It is certainly possible to "upgrade" an existing design to lower it's signature. For *some* aircraft it may be possible to get a substantial reduction, but even a moderate reduction may be enough to be tactically relevant. No one - even aviation fans - suggests that an observables retrofit to an existing aircraft would result in a signature competitive with an aircraft designed from the start for VLO.

As far as the F-14, yes, it would be extremely difficult to lower the RCS by more than let's say -30dbsm for the relevant bands. The radar and inlets would be very challenging and expensive. And at that point, what are you getting? Would you bring back the AIM-54 or stick with the AIM-120?
 

Abraham Gubler

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DonaldM said:
I presume that manufacturers of anti-aircraft weapons systems are working on improving detection and targeting of stealth aircraft. There is synthetic aperture radar, L-band radar, infra-red search and track systems (IRSTs), over the horizon (OTH) radar and these systems coupled with increases in computing power per Moore's Law. During their service lives, fifth generation fighters may not enjoy the advantage that they have today.

Unfortunately for all these options the physics of the universe and the atmosphere of Earth are pretty much constant… No amount of Moore’s “Law” can make up for thermodynamics.

Which is why sensors like fighter mounted L-band and IRST are never going to be detecting fifth generation fighters at combat distances. And why sensors like OTH radar remain huge investments in resources to work and even then bouncing radar waves of the ionosphere only provides queuing information not targeting.

It is so much easier to type the end of stealth via passive radar, L-Band, IR, OTH etc than to actually make any of these technologies work against LO aircraft in the same way that conventional radar works against non LO aircraft.
 

TaiidanTomcat

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DonaldM said:
I presume that manufacturers of anti-aircraft weapons systems are working on improving detection and targeting of stealth aircraft. There is synthetic aperture radar, L-band radar, infra-red search and track systems (IRSTs), over the horizon (OTH) radar and these systems coupled with increases in computing power per Moore's Law. During their service lives, fifth generation fighters may not enjoy the advantage that they have today.

oh the old "if we try we may lose, so we better quit" plan. Never seen it work but people still love it. ;D

The invention of Anti Aircraft weapons has not meant the obsolescence of aircraft, nor the invention of anti tank weapons meant the obsolescence of the tank, nor the invention of anti ship missiles the obsolescence of the ship, nor the invention of Anti Submarine Weapons the death of the Submarine, nor the invention of Anti Radar missiles meant the obsolescence of radar, nor the invention of bunker busting bombs meant the obsolescence of Bunkers, Nor the invention of anti infantry weapons meant the end of infantry, Nor have Interceptors meant the end of bombers, etc, etc, etc.

quellish said:
TaiidanTomcat said:
I think one of the worst myths perpetuated by Aviation fans is that aircraft are "Easily upgraded" with technology that is generations ahead of whatever they are proposing it, and stealth is just about adding new skin to the old air frame, and canting the fins more (Thanks for helping that myth Boeing!!) If it was that easy, we would have stealth C-17s, and Stealth C-130s, And Stealth F-15s

Yes and no. It is certainly possible to "upgrade" an existing design to lower it's signature. For *some* aircraft it may be possible to get a substantial reduction, but even a moderate reduction may be enough to be tactically relevant. No one - even aviation fans - suggests that an observables retrofit to an existing aircraft would result in a signature competitive with an aircraft designed from the start for VLO.

The "upgrade" so far has amounted to a completely new aircraft in the case of an F-18, and a redesign in the case of the Gripen NG. You are welcome to point out other aircraft I may be missing. The F-15SE as of right now is just new CFTs on the same old aircraft. The fact that these aircraft must be "new build" tells me they are not "upgrades"
 

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I believe that if the USN could have their way, their next generation strike fighter would be quite different from the F-35C. Something larger, with two engines, and greater range for a start. Yet due to money, politics, etc. they can't get exactly what they want, so going with JSF and getting the F-35C is the next best thing.

Yet if they had their way, I wonder how much focus they would put on the strike mission vs. air-superiority. After both the A-12 and NATF were cancelled, the USN still placed priority on a new attack aircraft in the A-X and A/F-X programs. This was still the case after further F-14 development was halted too. With the prospect of a new generation of Russian and Chinese fighters, would their "ideal aircraft" be more capable in air-to-air combat? Something with high altitude Mach 2+ performance, supercruise, all of those nice features.
 

Triton

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I wasn't advocating rebuilding/upgrading fourth-generation fighters over fifth-generation fighters I was asking what sort of threat advances in radar technology and computers would be, particularly ground-based SAM systems, to stealth aircraft. Is it short-sighted to think exclusively of duels between fighter aircraft to justify ATF, JSF, and NGAD?
 

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DonaldM said:
I wasn't advocating rebuilding/upgrading fourth-generation fighters over fifth-generation fighters I was asking what sort of threat advances in radar technology and computers would be, particularly ground-based SAM systems, to stealth aircraft. Is it short-sighted to think exclusively of duels between fighter aircraft to justify ATF, JSF, and NGAD?

Apologies. :-X


"...the most expensive thing in the world is a second-best military establishment, good but not good enough to win." -- Robert A. Heinlein,
 

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DonaldM said:
I wasn't advocating rebuilding/upgrading fourth-generation fighters over fifth-generation fighters I was asking what sort of threat advances in radar technology and computers would be, particularly ground-based SAM systems, to stealth aircraft. Is it short-sighted to think exclusively of duels between fighter aircraft to justify ATF, JSF, and NGAD?

These aircraft are certainly not built to only defeat air to air threats. They are also designed to survive and defeat ground to air threats.

Stealth is a physics based technology. There is no way getting around physics. IR is a terrible air search and track system. This was obvious back in the 1930s when R.V. Jones’s work was put on the back burner and R.A. Watson Watt’s RDF given the priority. Nothing has changed since to counter these basic physical parameters: IR radiation dissipates in the atmosphere several significant degrees faster than radio waves, even if you detect an IR signature you just get a bearing and not a range and like any passive system immensely vulnerable to false positives.

Even if you can network together a huge field of IR or other passive sensors in order to track LO aircraft you are simply creating a highly vulnerable system. Ordinarily a ground based air defence system that has large numbers of networked nodes is much harder to defeat than a single radar station working on its own. But when most of these anti-stealth *proposals* relay on all of these networked nodes working together in order to detect and track a LO aircraft it becomes much easier to defeat. Because you only have to knock out a few nodes and the rest becomes worthless in tracking the LO aircraft.

How anyone is going to create a working air defence system against a threat sophisticated enough to field LO aircraft based on IR and other passive detection systems without a huge dose of wishful thinking is beyond me.
 

quellish

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TaiidanTomcat said:
The "upgrade" so far has amounted to a completely new aircraft in the case of an F-18, and a redesign in the case of the Gripen NG. You are welcome to point out other aircraft I may be missing. The F-15SE as of right now is just new CFTs on the same old aircraft. The fact that these aircraft must be "new build" tells me they are not "upgrades"

HAVE GLASS, which paved the way for exportable low observables, was (and still is) definitely an upgrade program.
 

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quellish said:
HAVE GLASS, which paved the way for exportable low observables, was (and still is) definitely an upgrade program.

Have Glass doesn't reduce an aircraft's RCS by several significant figures required to give it LO capability.
 

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It may be a bit off topic, but I recall a relatively recent article about some US agency or group looking to set a new standard for stealth designs, several orders of magnitude lower than what has been achieved up to now. I can't recall any of the details however, for all I know I just imagined the damn thing.
 

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Abraham Gubler said:
How anyone is going to create a working air defence system against a threat sophisticated enough to field LO aircraft based on IR and other passive detection systems without a huge dose of wishful thinking is beyond me.


Even if you figure out the technology, for Country B to replace all existing radar systems with theoretical LO-detecting ones noone has actually built yet would be prohibitively expensive. More expensive than it cost Country A to buy 24 F-35s.


And stealth aircraft also have reduced IR emissions, don't forget. Many IR frequencies are effectively absorbed by the atmosphere. This means only certain temperatures travel long distances and only certain frequencies are used in IR detectors. If you can arrange for your IR emissions to lie in a range which is absorbed efficiently....
 

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quellish said:
As far as the F-14, yes, it would be extremely difficult to lower the RCS by more than let's say -30dbsm for the relevant bands. The radar and inlets would be very challenging and expensive. And at that point, what are you getting? Would you bring back the AIM-54 or stick with the AIM-120?


Seems pointless to bring back the Tomcat if the Phoenix isn't coming back as well. I am as yet unconvinced that a large ultra-long-range AAM with a sizeable warhead for bomber-destroying (or hacking down of large, fast SSMs or ASMs) is not worthwhile, or that removing the Tomcat from service was the right idea.


Does anyone out there have a stores station weight capacity/stores clearance map for the Tomcat? Chris Chant's "Modern Aircraft Armament" gives figures for the outrigger pylons (originally for Phoenix/Sparrow/Sidewinder) and a single line going to the belly with the cryptic figure "8500lb". Pictures I've seen suggest two pallets of some kind, so are we looking at two MERs with 4500lb each, or something else?
 
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