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Low Level/Tactical Bomber

danielgrimes

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The UK has spent a lot of effort on a series low level/tactical bombers - Mosquito, Canberra, TSR2, Tornado IDS. The USAF don't seem as interested in this mission/aircraft as us? Other than the F-111, has the USAF ever commissioned this type of aircraft?
 

sferrin

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danielgrimes said:
The UK has spent a lot of effort on a series low level/tactical bombers - Mosquito, Canberra, TSR2, Tornado IDS. The USAF don't seem as interested in this mission/aircraft as us? Other than the F-111, has the USAF ever commissioned this type of aircraft?

By the time the F-111 was heading out a one-mission tactical bomber was too expensive. You have the F-117 but that's not really what you're looking for. Had the A-12 not been cancelled the US would be flying those in theory. Probably would have still ended up cancelled but due to no $$$ rather than incompetence. "F-35, F-22, or A-12, pick any two."
 

yasotay

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I believe the USAF believes that the low level mission is both too expensive (aircraft wear and tear) and unnecessary. Current most likely threats appear not able to influence their operations about 20,000 feet. Recent world events appear to indicate with the right electronics and computer skills, one can fly into heavily defended areas and prosecute targets. Also low level ops make many of the precision weapons they have developed at less very marginal if not out right useless. Until practical offensive energy weapons are fielded, I do not think the USAF will return to low level operations for tactical bombing.
 

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danielgrimes said:
The UK has spent a lot of effort on a series low level/tactical bombers - Mosquito, Canberra, TSR2, Tornado IDS. The USAF don't seem as interested in this mission/aircraft as us? Other than the F-111, has the USAF ever commissioned this type of aircraft?

The F-105 was a dedicated, all-weather low level tactical fighter-bomber, which was used entirely inappropriately in Vietnam - flying in formation at medium altitude.

Most recently, the F-16 Block 40 was intended for a low-level role in Cold War Europe, a role which very quietly disappeared.

In the end, the United States dropped low-level tactics because of the inevitable attrition losses. Low-level tactics were the only answer to 1950s Soviet SAM threat, but by the mid-to-late 1960s it was obvious that this was only an interim approach and defense suppression was the real key to survivability. It took the end of the Cold War to finally end any support in the Pentagon for low-level tactics, but that is a another story.

The British remained devoted far longer to low-level tactics due to the lack of real combat experience in the RAF. If British pilots had experienced the attrition of "Rolling Thunder," perhaps the RAF would have devoted more resources to defense suppression instead of low-level flying.
 

LowObservable

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Then there was the four-jet, low-level bomber built and tested in the US in the 1950s....
 

Avimimus

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I remember a couple of Tornado IDS (Italian?) were lost during Desert Storm due to manpads, so they moved to higher altitudes. Before GPS/Radar/EO targeting and use of guided weapons it was necessary to get below the cloud cover to deliver ordnance and in some parts of Europe, seasonally at least, that requires flying very low.

I heard that development of the B-2 and F-117 was triggered by estimates showing very high levels of attrition due to the Soviet SAM belt in the 1970s. Something like a complete loss of strike capability five days once its capability was fully deployed.

For this reason I think the move has been to cruise missile launch from long range carriers (with the actual missile being at low altitude during the terminal run). A lot of tactical aircraft (F-16 etc.) would be used/could only be used at low level when they has to go within range of the more powerful SAM systems (S-300 etc.).
 

Just call me Ray

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Avimimus said:
I remember a couple of Tornado IDS (Italian?) were lost during Desert Storm due to manpads, so they moved to higher altitudes.

British, several crews were made POWs, at least one did not survive his internment.

I heard that development of the B-2 and F-117 was triggered by estimates showing very high levels of attrition due to the Soviet SAM belt in the 1970s. Something like a complete loss of strike capability five days once its capability was fully deployed.

For this reason I think the move has been to cruise missile launch from long range carriers (with the actual missile being at low altitude during the terminal run). A lot of tactical aircraft (F-16 etc.) would be used/could only be used at low level when they has to go within range of the more powerful SAM systems (S-300 etc.).

More or less.
 

sferrin

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LowObservable said:
Then there was the four-jet, low-level bomber built and tested in the US in the 1950s....

???
 

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I'm glad it's not only me that finds this strange. It would seam that since the easing of relations with the USSR the US has basically resigned any capability of penetrating the territory of a sophisticated advisory other than with missiles.

The only assets vaguely appropriate are 19(?) B-2s and the small, limited range F-22 force and these would never have been started under todays philosophies. Once surveillance catches up with current stealth technology (as the Russians say it already has) even these will be useless.

The only dedicated tactical jammer aircraft are a dwindling number of Prowlers since the F-111 Ravens got retired.

If their satellites can be neutralised (not too difficult) even their missiles will be of limited use without target info. I can't see Global Hawk lasting long against S-400 type systems. Russian and Chinese planners must be delighted.

Cheers, Woody
 

sferrin

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Woody said:
I'm glad it's not only me that finds this strange. It would seam that since the easing of relations with the USSR the US has basically resigned any capability of penetrating the territory of a sophisticated advisory other than with missiles.

The only assets vaguely appropriate are 19(?) B-2s and the small, limited range F-22 force and these would never have been started under todays philosophies. Once surveillance catches up with current stealth technology (as the Russians say it already has) even these will be useless.

The only dedicated tactical jammer aircraft are a dwindling number of Prowlers since the F-111 Ravens got retired.

If their satellites can be neutralised (not too difficult) even their missiles will be of limited use without target info. I can't see Global Hawk lasting long against S-400 type systems. Russian and Chinese planners must be delighted.

Cheers, Woody


JASSM, Tomahawk, hopefully RATTLRS/HyFLY/something-else-fast in the future. Once the IADS are down then everyone else will jump in.
 

Mark Nankivil

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LowObservable - do you mean by chance the three engined XB-51?

Enjoy the Day! Mark
 

Antonio

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LO, where was the fourth engine?

(I also was one amongst who thought it was two poded plus one tail engine :-\)
 

LowObservable

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This is a truly dastardly stumper of a question... Four jets... M=0.9 on the deck a design case... Definitely designed to carry bombs...
 

Just call me Ray

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LowObservable said:
This is a truly dastardly stumper of a question... Four jets... M=0.9 on the deck a design case... Definitely designed to carry bombs...

Some possible guesses I'm going to throw in:

B-45

061020-F-1234S-013.jpg


XB-46

061023-F-1234S-019.jpg


B-58

061101-F-1234P-001.jpg


XB-59

http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=2742

But pretty much all of those were high or medium-altitude bombers

the only 4-engine low-level bomber I can think of is the good old B-1, but that was a 1970's development at the earliest:

060707-F-1234S-019.jpg
 

Sundog

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Well, there was the Martin SeaMaster (4 engines), which, IIRC, they thought could be mildly supersonic on the deck. That plane was as tough as nails and had incredible performance to match. It would have certianly been in a class of it's own.

BTW, the USAF did give up on "on the deck" (OTD) air strikes, which was usually done to avoid RADAR, and to limit reaction time of gunners, as you're all well aware, when they figured out they could evade RADAR with technology (LO). In fact, they stated as much to the Navy when the Navy was developing the A-12. The reason the A-12 had the exhaust on the bottom was that the Navy believed that it would still have to penetrate at low level/OTD, so they wanted the exhaust shielded from above.

The USAF disagreed with them, telling them that if they used LO and stayed above 20K ft they should be fine. I'm not sure how much the Navy knew about the F-117 at the time as I'm sure the USAF's experience with it was one of the main reasons for their point of view. This is why the USAF version of the A-12 would have had the exhaust above the wing, instead of below, since they planned on using them above 20k ft and wanted the exhaust shielded from below, e.g.- F-117 & B-2.

Of course, the low level strike work, if actually needed, would now be handled by Strike Eagles. Although their performance is certainly not anywhere near the best performance of a pure strike design in this role.
 

LowObservable

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The Seamaster it is. Funny how we think of seaplanes first as "seaplanes" and only then by their mission...
 

Woody

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sferrin said:
JASSM, Tomahawk, hopefully RATTLRS/HyFLY/something-else-fast in the future. Once the IADS are down then everyone else will jump in.

Isn't that a bit like saying once you've won then you can attack? Sounds like something Hermann Goering might have said before the Battle of Britain and we all know what happened to him. But the tactical parallels don't stop there: reliance on a fearsome reputation won against smaller ill prepared enemies, generally aging equipment and faith in wonder weapons that cost moon beams to develop but never quite get finished.

It's all in fun lads (and lasses?) :)

Cheers, Woody
 

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