Blitzfighter / Bushwacker / ATLAS lightweight attack studies

yasotay

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Seems similar in mission to the Rutan ARES project (?)
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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Some context about Blitzfighter from Aviation Week. Studies were done by Northrop, General Dynamics, Grumman, Vought and Rockwell. Image included but from which company is not given - looks possibly Northrop to me.


Article is interesting.

Low-Cost Ground Attack Fighter Studied
By Edward W. Bassett

Washington—Defense Dept. and Air Force are studying a new, low-cost, simple ground-support fighter for the 1980‘s that could counter the expected Soviet armored threat against NATO.

About 100 industry, military and congressional representatives discussed the requirements of the aircraft, called “Bushwacker” or “Blitzfighter,” at a recent meeting in Springfield, Va., where preliminary sketches of designs for the aircraft were shown by five airplane manufacturers. The competitors are General Dynamics, Grumman, Vought, Northrup and Rockwell. The new fighter would be:

  • Highly maneuverable and weigh less than 10,000 lb. It would have a top speed of 450 kt. and be maneuverable in strafing runs at speeds as low as 150 kt.
  • Equipped with a single machine gun, firing General Electric GAU-8 30-mm. ammunition, probably a four-barrel version of the seven-barrel GAU-8 in the USAF/Fairchild A-10.
  • Fitted with a single existing or modified engine in 8,000-1b.-thrust category.
  • Manned by one pilot and capable of fighting below 200 ft. with enough range to patrol over significant segments of a 900-km.-wide front.
  • Capable of operating from a 4,000-ft. unprepared surface, such as a black-top highway.
  • Prototyped under a $500-million research and development program. Unit fly—away cost would be $2 million.
  • Experts familiar with the embryonic stage of the program said one of the main fears is that “the bureaucracy will get their hands on it [the Blitzfighter] and do the same thing to it that was done on the A-10. They made the A-10 much more sophisticated and therefore much more costly than it needed to be.” “What is unique about this new fighter is that it is small and unsophisticated,” one official said. The overall strategic and tactical advantages of incorporating this aircraft, not only into USAF but also into other NATO air forces, stem from its simplicity and size.
The concept of the Blitzfighter is aimed at some of the military problems identified in the Budgetary Consolidated Guidance (AW&ST Mar. 20, p. 21) given by the Pentagon to President Jimmy Carter in February. One of the main problems that document identified is that Warsaw Pact forces have numerical superiority over NATO forces in aircraft. Officials familiar with the Blitzfighter noted that the advantage of more complex aircraft declines as the total number of aircraft in aerial fight increases and that advantage also decreases as the number of opposing aircraft increases. Including a high number of relatively cheap and simple fighters, such as the Blitzfighter, into NATO air forces would reduce the Warsaw Pact’s numerical superiority. Any Soviet armored attack would have to be in the form of a “blitzkrieg, that is a lightning fast thrust into Western Europe,” these officials said.

“This would be an antiarmor aircraft,” one official said. “It would be able to knock out tanks and slow down such an advance and its deployment would be a deterrent for such an attack. It’s the blitzkrieg idea that gave rise to the informal name for this airplane.” “Right now the aircraft is in what you might call the undercurrent stage,” one official said. “There’s a lot of informal activity by Northrop, Grumman, General Dynamics, Vought and the North American Rockwell people. It is being intensely considered at certain levels of the Defense Dept. and the Air Force, [but] it could all dry up and go away. A couple of generals could simply say, ‘Stop thinking about it.’ Right now it’s as if it [the Blitzfighter] were in the 'early days of the AX program,” which eventually led to the A-10. Most of the five manufacturers named brought preliminary sketches of their version of the new fighter to the May meeting.

The Blitzfighter’s unit fly-away cost, projected at less than half that of the A-10’s $5.02 million, means that more of the new fighters could be built within the Pentagon’s budget constraints. Officials, who point out that the Blitzfighter is designed to complement and not replace existing fighters, said the new aircraft could be in production within eight years. They hope to see funding for design exploration in the Fiscal 1980 budget. The projected small size, armament and engine also have a bearing on the aircraft’s tactical success. Requirements call for a wing loading of under 50 lb./sq. ft. The wing also would be stressed to take 7-9g loads for limited periods, such as during a pullout. The aircraft would have no external fuel tanks.

“It would probably have a thrust to weight ratio of 0.9,” one official said. Another official put the ratio in the range of 0.5-0.8. If a number of advanced systems were added, the additional weight would mean the aircraft would lose its agility and ability to maneuver at low altitudes, one official said. General Electric said the GAU—8 is effective against heavy armor at a range of 5,000—6,000 ft., and would be more than adequate for head-on air-to-air combat. The aircraft must have the agility to turn any aerial encounter into a head—on situation, and adding any further heavy weight would be a handicap. Being able to maneuver at low altitudes also would enable the pilot to use the masking effect of the terrain to foil radar directed weapons such as surface-to-air missiles.

The size of the aircraft and the choice of engine also would affect the radar and the infrared signature of the aircraft. A by-pass engine in the 8,000-lb.-thrust range would give the plane a cooler infrared signature. Increased weight due to the addition of more systems would necessitate a larger engine and erase this advantage.

blitzfighter-png.545953

Artist's concept shows single-engine, single-pilot Blitzfighter envisioned by one manufacturer. It has a gross takeoff weight of 9,000 lb., empty weight of 6,400 lb., wingspan of 32 ft., overall length of 39 ft., wing area of 180 sq. ft. and wing aspect ratio of 5.5.
 
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overscan (PaulMM)

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Blitzfighter was a James G. Burton idea promoted by Pierre Sprey.
 

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overscan (PaulMM)

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Note the representative design.
 

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overscan (PaulMM)

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BLITZFIGHTER CONCEPT QUESTION .
As I see it, the Blitzfighter could be a truly low cost, lightweight fighter for the 1990s — an alternative to V /STOL perhaps. Industry is developing the concept with company and IR & D funds; no DOD contracts. The Blitzfighter would be procured by the thousands, would re quire very little training to operate, and would promise high readiness rates through simplicity. Capability would come from force size rather than sophistication . Characteristics — Blitzfighter Weight : 7,500 lbs. to 10,000 lbs. as compared to 20,000 lbs. to 40,000 lbs. for current fighters. Operational Radius: 100 nm Propulsion : one 5000- pound thrust turbofan engine Equipment: one 30mm gun with 350 rounds of ammo, radio, air conditioner and ejection seat Unit Flyaway Cost : $1.8 million The Blitzfighter, if ever developed, might yield a larger, more ready force. What is your assessment of this concept? Would this be an alternative to V / STOL for the 1990s ? Why not explore this concept further ? How much would be required in FY80 to do so ?

General PHILLIPS.
The Air Force's most prominent deficiency in the Air Interdiction and Close Air Support Mission Areas is the [redacted]. The Blitzfighter concept does not address nor could it satisfy this need. As envisioned, the Blitzfighter would be an ultra -specialized air craft. Its specialization would deny the Tactical Commander needed flexibility in the fluid character of battle and its gun -only capability assumes away the need for mass destructive firepower. A key limiting factor in providing air support is the opportunity to expend ordnance ; the opportunity dictated by the traditional Euro pean bad weather. Simple, minimum avionics type systems will not provide the opportunity to employ tactical airpower when and where it will be needed, thus creating a sanctuary from which the enemy could be able to make and/or exploit breakthroughs. Even if favor able weather allowed the Blitzfighter to operate , the concept lends itself to a reactive or defensive role because it presupposes failure of NATO ground defenses ( operative only against enemy penetrations). Looking at cost of the system in isolation is not a valid measure of capability to do the job in the perceived environment. In addition to cost estimates, we must examine performance, effectiveness, survivability, vulnerability, etc. , data . We can then conduct cost versus mission effectiveness trade-offs in relation to the required capability. Numbers of aircraft are important and a truly low cost, high reliability tactical aircraft could allow the Air Force to increase the number of aircraft in our inventory. However, if the needed capability is not inherent in the force, the numbers of aircraft become meaningless. Fur ther, only front end unit acquisition cost (disregarding capability) is what makes the Blitzfighter concept attractive. Operations and Maintenance, Spares, Personnel and training costs could be a real cost driver if we considered buying aircraft by the “ thousands." The Air Force plans to conduct concept definition studies for a system to satisfy identified needs. The Air Force would look favorably on a truly low cost tactical aircraft design if it were effective and best satisfied our needs. Whether Blitzfighter or any other system would be an alternative to V /STOL for the 1990s is subject to evaluation of the concept definition studies. The FY 80 request of $ 8.0M in PE 63230, Combat Aircraft Technology, if approved ,will permit the Air Force to pursue the required concept definition studies.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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Fighter Objectives
The article on the Blitzfighter (AW&ST June 26, p. 16) misses the point. Perhaps it was conceived by nostalgic colonels who yearn for a propless P-47.
The object of the exercise is to kill lots of tanks (artillery, etc.) when and where it hurts most. The number of tanks killed in a given time is roughly the product of four factors: T, the fraction of the time when operations are feasible; A, the number of available aircraft; S. the sortie rate per aircraft, and K, the number of tanks killed per sortie flown. Dead tanks=TASK. If, instead of A-10's, we buy twice as many half-price Blitzfighters (with half-price pilots?), A might be doubled, K would probably decrease (fewer shots per sortie) and both T and S would be about the same. Hence, the best we could hope for would be twice the tanks killed, and the cost of additional widows’ pensions would haunt us for decades.

If the Pact should choose to attack in winter. the Battle of the Bulge tactic, T, and hence the number of tanks killed, might be zero. At best, the A-10 or Blitzfighter can fly only about 15% of the time in winter. It is dark two-thirds of the time, and even in daylight the pilot frequently cannot see to fly, navigate or find the target because of low ceilings or haze. Russian smoke generators won’t make it any easier.

If, however, our short-sighted bean counters were willing to spend about 10% more per A-10, the A<10 fleet could kill several times as many tanks as a fleet of austere blind attack aircraft, The solution is to put a large-aperture bistatic thinned array radar in the now empty leading edge of the wing and to tie it to a simple inertial navigation system (INS) and gunsight. Such a radar can have a resolution of 4 milliradians, 20 ft. at gun range. It can detect and track tanks at 3-5 mi., and it can provide very good navigation and terrain-avoidance references in concert with the INS. Such a system could be added to
the A-10 for less than half a million each, less than 10% of the purchase price. A breadboard radar of this type was built and demonstrated several years ago on a $99K contract, but it did not transition to engineering development because there was no ROC to kill tanks at night. '

With such a system, and without adding pilots, bases or shelters, K would increase dramatically because of better target detection, and more accurate weapon delivery. T would increase from less than 0.15 to more than 0.95. (icing is a restraint.) The total tanks killed, TASK, when it counts, would be increased by a factor of more than 10, at an incremental cost of less than 1/10. In comparison, the Blitzfighter is not cost-effective.

If the Blitzfighter program goes forward, the pilots should be recruited from a' population of unmarried delinquents who have survived at least three knife fights in dark alleys. They should train by riding motorcycles in hand-to-hand combat with fire trucks and should be washed out of the program if they are washed out of the saddle. Frontal lobotomies would help, or training in megalomania at the Academy, because it will be essential that pilots of the Blitzfighter be convinced that their eyeballs are better than radars and that their aircraft is a better gun platform/missile launcher than a tracked vehicle.

ERIK BUCK
Edwards, Calif.
Rather funny letter to the editor. AWST 21 August 1978.
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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As it happened, I was putting together a proposal for a new airplane at that time (March 1978). My proposal was exactly the opposite of the $50 million plane. I prepared an advocacy briefing that called for the devel- opment of a small, simple, lethal, and relatively cheap airplane that would be designed solely for close support of the ground troops who would be engaged with Soviet tanks and armor. Because the intelligence community was making such a big deal about how difficult it would be to stop the Soviet blitzkrieg, I named this airplane the “Blitzfighter.” Rather catchy, I thought.
Everything about my proposal, including how the plane would be used, was diametrically opposed to the prevailing philosophy relating to the new wonder weapons of the Air Force. I wanted an airplane in the 5,000- to 10,000-pound class (one-tenth the weight of the Enhanced Tac- tical Fighter), one smaller than any combat airplane in the inventory (one-fourth the size of the A-10), and one that cost less than $2 million. At this price, we could flood the battlefield with swarms of airplanes.

The airplane would be designed around a four-barrel version of the same cannon that was in production on the A-10, which used a seven- barrel cannon that fired shells costing only $13 apiece. This was a far cry from the guided missiles on the Enhanced Tactical Fighter that cost several hundred thousand apiece. The Blitzfighter would have no high-tech bells and whistles and no wonder weapons. Essentially, it would contain an engine (an existing commercial one), a pilot, a titanium-armored bathtub for the pilot to sit in, a few flight instruments, a radio for the pilot to talk to the ground troops, and a cannon for killing tanks. Nothing more—no radars, infrared sensors, guided missiles, or any of that high-priced junk being installed on every other airplane—was needed.

With the ability to operate from grass fields, the Blitzfighter did not demand fixed, expensive airfields that probably would cease to exist ten minutes after a war started. Squadrons of Blitzfighters would pack up, move from pasture to pasture overnight and follow the flow of battle. Pilots would receive only verbal orders that identified the main points of their effort and left the details of execution to them, a notion that was consistent with Boyd’s theories. The plan was in direct contrast to the standard practice of using excruciatingly detailed orders published by higher headquarters for each mission. The orders dictated how much fuel went on board, which weapons were loaded on which wing, the exact route that would be flown to the exact target that had been assigned, and even when the pilot would be allowed to relieve himself. Such rigid orders did not always match up to what was happening in a fast-moving situation.

Finally, the Blitzfighter would be operated at treetop level so that pilots could use their eyeballs to find tanks that were trying to hide. To survive at this level, the plane had to be extremely agile and dart, twist, turn, accelerate, and decelerate far better than any airplane we had.
I presented this advocacy briefing to General Toomay and asked his permission to make a formal request to our design bureau at Wright Pat- terson Air Force Base for design studies. He nearly gagged. He was a high-tech advocate. Everything I was proposing was anti-high-tech. Nat- urally, we got into an argument.

He said, “You have to put a radar on the plane; you can’t find tanks without a radar.”
I responded, “You can’t find tanks with radars; radars can’t see through trees, over hills, and when they do see something, you don’t know whether the blob on the scope is a friendly tank, an enemy tank, or a Volkswagen full of refugees; no sir, you can’t find tanks with radars.”
He said, ‘Yes, you can.”
I said, “No, you can’t,” my voice rising.
Then, standing up, he raised his voice, ‘Yes, you can.” General Toomay was a large man, over 6 feet 8 inches tall. (His son, Pat Toomay, who took after his father, was a defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys at the time.) At this point, the argument was over. We had been through this routine many times.
Even though he disagreed with me, General Toomay permitted me to proceed without making any changes. That’s the kind of man he was. He knew that my proposal was going to stir up a hornet’s nest once the word got out, and he really enjoyed making the system react to unconventional ideas.
I immediately fired off a teletype message to John Chuprin, chief of our design bureau at Wright Patterson. John had performed thousands of design trade-off studies on the lightweight fighters for Boyd a few years before. He and his staff went to work and, within a month, reported back that it was entirely feasible to build the airplane I wanted—like I wanted it. He even gave me preliminary designs for three possible configurations.
Armed with this information, I hit the briefing trail. My intent was to quietly build a network of support at various key agencies within the Air Force and within the Office of the Secretary of Defense before the establishment could react and kill the idea—much the same way the lightweight fighter program had been ushered in.

One of the first places I went with my briefing was the A-10 program office at Wright Patterson, where Boyd arranged for me to meet Col. Bob Dilger. Dilger was in charge of producing the 30-mm cannon and the ammunition used on the A-10. Because that equipment was such a key part of my proposal, I was anxious to get his reaction.

Dilger is an eccentric character. He was a fighter pilot in Vietnam and was credited with one MIG kill. After firing his radar-guided missiles at his opponent and watching them all miss, he literally ran his opponent into the ground. Bob can be quite aggressive, and he loves a good fight. I liked his style. We quickly became friends. We would join forces a few years later, to the discomfort of the army.

Dilger was very excited about my proposal and pledged his support. While I was there, he also briefed me on an unusual test program he was running. The normal way to test ammunition coming off the production line is to select samples at random and fire them in a laboratory environment to measure muzzle velocity, trajectory, and other factors to determine if they meet the specifications of the production contract.

Dilger did it differently. He put some realism into the tests. He scrounged up a bunch of old Army tanks and about a half dozen Soviet tanks (T-55s and T-62s), loaded them up with fuel and live ammunition as though they were in combat, and deployed them in typical Soviet tank formations on the Nevada desert. He then talked operational A-10 fighter units into attacking the tanks. Using their combat tactics, they fired Dilger’s production line samples of ammunition.

These tests gave pilots valuable training experience. They also revealed, for the first time, major inconsistencies in the computer models that were used to predict the lethality of U.S. weapons. It seems that the test results differed by a factor of two from the model predictions on the lethality of the ammunition. The Soviet tanks were easier to kill than predicted, and the old U.S. tanks were more difficult to kill than predicted. The models were not only in error by a factor of two, but they were off in two different directions. This really caught my attention, and I would pursue this subject with great vigor in the years to come.

I next slipped into the Pentagon and quietly briefed Boyd, Spinney, Christie, and the other rebels in the TAC Air Shop. It was like preaching to the choir, for this whole crowd had become disenchanted with the direction things were headed in the tactical air forces of all three services.

Boyd arranged for me to meet and brief Pierre Sprey. I had heard much about Pierre and was anxious to meet him. He became extremely excited over the Blitzfighter concept, not just the airplane itself but the whole philosophy and concept of operation. He offered suggestions to improve my briefing and put a little more bite into it. Pierre is very good with the editing pen, as I would learn in the years to come. He would become my chief editor during my running battle with the Army over the Bradley. His pens are shaped like fangs, and his finished product drips with blood, usually Army blood.

Meanwhile, unknown to me, Pierre was busy spreading the Blitzfighter story throughout the defense industry and on Capitol Hill. The concept was stirring up a lot of excitement in the design bureaus of various com- panies. Early in June 1978, a large group of designers and newfound advocates met in a hotel conference room in Springfield, Virginia, about 10 miles south of the Pentagon, to explore the concept in some detail and trade ideas on design approaches. Unfortunately, the press also was there.

Aviation Week ran a two-page story about the conference and treated the Blitzfighter like it was an officially sanctioned Air Force program. The story cited the design studies that 1 had asked Wright Patterson to do and even showed sketches of the designs.
The Air Force senior leaders were shocked and horrified. The story broke about two weeks after my favorite four-star, General Infamous, had arrived on the scene, and he immediately went ballistic.
Undoubtedly, he got many calls from his fellow four-stars. Like many of them, he was an Enhanced Tactical Fighter advocate, and he was not going to let this Blitzfighter nonsense continue. He directed that I stop briefing. I was not allowed even to show him the briefing or explain the concept to him in any fashion. His closed mind had all the answers, and the Blitzfighter was not one of them. He pronounced to the world that the Blitzfighter idea was dead, by fiat, and then he arranged for me to be transferred out of his hair—again.

But the Blitzfighter was not dead. It would raise its ugly head numerous times during the next few years as one of several symbols of the Reform Movement. Each time it surfaced, the senior leadership went berserk.

James G. Burton - The Pentagon Wars - Reformers Challenge the Old Guard
 

overscan (PaulMM)

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Air Force is pursuing concept definition studies that include consideration of a “truly low-cost tactical aircraft design.” Blitzfighter (AW&ST June 26, 1978,
p. 16) or another system as an alternative to V/STOL in the 1990s will be a prime subject of these studies. Recent congressional hearings, where the Air
Force detailed the “guns-only capability” of the Blitzfighter and the disadvantages of its simple avionics in European weather, show some offiicial
pessimism about the concept.
AWST 13 August 1979
 

red admiral

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Interesting to compare with what actually happened in the proposed 90s ISD. e.g. many fire and forget Brimstones on UK Tornados to salvo fire all-weather from stand off...
 

Pheagle-Falken

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[snipped]
But the Blitzfighter was not dead. It would raise its ugly head numerous times during the next few years as one of several symbols of the Reform Movement. Each time it surfaced, the senior leadership went berserk.

James G. Burton - The Pentagon Wars - Reformers Challenge the Old Guard
Reading through all of that has made me realize just how much more delusional the Reformers are than I thought they already were.
 
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