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USAF/US NAVY 6th Generation Fighter Programs - F/A-XX, F-X, NGAD, PCA

Colonial-Marine

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NATF & A-12v2 were "small" in that they were single-service, single-use airframes both destined for a service where all must bow to the Gods of the Flattops.

Without the C then the A would have only had a 1k bomb bay instead of 2k, the B would not have had SWAT, and both the A & B would have ended up heavier than they did.

In a "common avionics & engine" scenario, the C would still be limited to the performance of the F135 so I am not sure of what benefit separate programs would have been. In either case, costs would have only gone up as most development would have to be duplicated and parts economy of scale goes out the window for anything not avionics or engine related.
As far as I know without the C variant the whole airframe layout would have been much different anyway so I don't think you can make a direct comparison about weight like that.

616158
From https://www.codeonemagazine.com/f35_article.html?item_id=137

The F135 wouldn't really be optimal for a twin-engine fighter so perhaps something closer to an updated F119 using as many improvements as possible from the F135 would make sense if we detach cost from the picture for a second.

While I feel that the F-35C will certainly be a useful asset for the carrier air wing there is a lot of overlap in the overall characteristics of the F-35C and F/A-18E, especially once they upgrade the latter with CFTs and whatever else they're planning. In an ideal world the Navy would have gotten something larger than the F-35C with greater performance although it would inevitably cost somewhat more. Alternatively the F-35C and some sort of "F-14E" would probably have complimented each other pretty well in an alternate reality.
 

SpudmanWP

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The F119 is too large for a twin engine "strike fighter" that the USN was looking for. They would have had to go with two separate engine types instead of a single which leads to even higher costs.

Of course that is overlap in the mission of the F-35C & F-18E/F, that is one of the reasons that they SHOULD NOT have kept buying the E/F. Having the same mission is NOT having the same capability and now the USN is stuck with newer SHs for the next 30+ years. What they should have done was stick to the original plan for the F-35C and also finally do the F/A-XX to replace the SH, you know, the original goal of NATF. Remember that the F-35C was designed to replace the Classic Hornet, not the Super Hornet so it would not have been a large airframe that required two F119-class engines.

My comments on weight were due to LM's screw-up on calculating the "weight of empty space" that lead to SWAT which would likely have happened regardless of the configuration chosen.
 

Mark S.

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If the replacement for the Air Force's F-16 had not been part of a joint program would its attributes be different? The design points for internal weapon load weights, the capability for super cruise, unrefueled range and radar cross section. Think there were a lot of trades to create the JAST/JSF aircraft. Not saying it would have been better but it would certainly have been different. Have wondered if the McDonnell Douglas JAST proposal had been a CTOL only design would it have been a very stealthy super cruising strike aircraft?
 

bring_it_on

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If the replacement for the Air Force's F-16 had not been part of a joint program would its attributes be different? The design points for internal weapon load weights, the capability for super cruise, unrefueled range and radar cross section. Think there were a lot of trades to create the JAST/JSF aircraft. Not saying it would have been better but it would certainly have been different. Have wondered if the McDonnell Douglas JAST proposal had been a CTOL only design would it have been a very stealthy super cruising strike aircraft?
What was the point? The F-22A was already in production and they could have simply just bought more if they wanted those attributes. Of course, that would have done nothing for the USAF modernization plans given the need to replace a massive number of F-16's in the future. The Navy too was looking at something to replace the Classic Hornet and the F-35C does that and then some. Had they wanted something at the higher end of the spectrum they would have stuck around on the N-ATF. This was their third bite at the apple when it came to a new clean sheet combat aircraft program after one that just didn't go anywhere (NATF) and the other which was a failure.
 

rooster

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If the replacement for the Air Force's F-16 had not been part of a joint program would its attributes be different? The design points for internal weapon load weights, the capability for super cruise, unrefueled range and radar cross section. Think there were a lot of trades to create the JAST/JSF aircraft. Not saying it would have been better but it would certainly have been different. Have wondered if the McDonnell Douglas JAST proposal had been a CTOL only design would it have been a very stealthy super cruising strike aircraft?
Not sure what the real question is. If the usaf had a F-16 replacement program it would likely still be very similar to the f-35a with the exception being the aircraft would have been or could have been more slender and therefore more likely to have some higher cruise speed than the f-35a. A clean F-16 can exceed mach 1 without reheat. I think the only difference is that a dedicated F-16 replacement might be a few thousand pounds lighter empty weight and able to cruise over 1 mach. And it might be a prettier aircraft.

During the atf days, the airforce began planning the Agile Falcon. Look it up.

My observations
There was no dedicated F-16 replacement with stealth and supercruise because it would have killed the atf.
The F-16 is a strike fighter. The JSF is be definition a strike fighter. The usaf got a direct F-16 replacement.
The JSF lead to the early termination of the f22.
There used to be some limited but official artwork from late 80s and early 90s of a stealthy F-16 replacement. Don't recall the contractor. Kind of looked like the French eurocanard minus the canards and upright tail. I imagine it would have been something like that. Definitely wasnt a Lockheed piece. Some of the guys here in the industry may know of this.
 

Mark S.

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Thanks Rooster. I always wondered if there was a program prior to the JAST and what it would have been. I remember a conversation in the mid-90's in which I was told that the planned procurement of the F-22 would be cut due to the ending of the cold war. Think at that time the plan was for 750 F-22's.
 

rooster

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The only F-16 replacement "pre JAST" program that I know of is "Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) 1990-1993"



They were stealthy bu not so sure on super-cruise ability.
Yup, forgot the program name. There were a few sexy designs floating around you can't find online.

Supercruise to be useful needs a twin engine fighter. At least in those days. You need to carry enough fuel to be useful thus would grow weight and then the need for another engine.

Having reread this, I recall a MDD twin design with cranked wings about hornet sized. Not stealthy but probably fast.
 

TomcatViP

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Just that it would be clear to all, "slenderness" has nothing to do with max speed and drag. The X-3 is "slender" but didn't go as fast has the X-1E that has a bulky fuselage.

One of the fastest plane down low over Europe was the Buccaneer that isn't really "slender".

The bulky Orbiter was one of fastest winged aircraft to fly...

Efficiency comes in many way. There are no one single solution to all problem. And one thing that we can say is that the 35 is Uber efficient.
 

sferrin

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Just that it would be clear to all, "slenderness" has nothing to do with max speed and drag. The X-3 is "slender" but didn't go as fast has the X-1E that has a bulky fuselage.
Because it had crap engines. Stick a pair of afterburning F125s (used in Taiwan's F-CK-1 Ching Kuo) back there and see how fast it goes. (I don't disagree with the rest of your post. :) )
 

rooster

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Just that it would be clear to all, "slenderness" has nothing to do with max speed and drag. The X-3 is "slender" but didn't go as fast has the X-1E that has a bulky fuselage.

One of the fastest plane down low over Europe was the Buccaneer that isn't really "slender".

The bulky Orbiter was one of fastest winged aircraft to fly...

Efficiency comes in many way. There are no one single solution to all problem. And one thing that we can say is that the 35 is Uber efficient.
I recall some issues with the F-102 versus solved on the F-106 because of the "coke bottle" effect.

But really, the F-35 isn't a slick airplane. If it were, you would not hear pilots reporting that pulling back on the throttle is like slamming on the brakes on a sports car. When you pull the throttle back and the plane has think about it for a few minutes, if it wants to slow down, that's a slick plane.

The Orbiter also had more thrust for an airplane than any other airplane in the world.

Come on, we're talking about the reality of all other things being equal from one aircraft with one powerplant to another different aircraft with the same powerplant. Please don't make me look up GA aricraft speeds that are powered by an O-360 to prove my point.
 

djfawcett

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The bulky Orbiter was one of fastest winged aircraft to fly...
LOL - you must be joking......a D10 bulldozer will go mach 25 with with over 6.5 million lbs of thrust as long as you put a point on the plow! Also, high fineness ratio (long and slender) has a huge amount to do with supersonic drag - the higher the ratio, the lower the drag. Coupled with area ruling, this makes for efficient supersonic cruise. I know, the retort is that the F-22 does not have a good fineness ratio, and to some degree that is correct although not terrible. But, it is area ruled with a huge amount of thrust. Even the F-23 sort of proves the concept. We can all agree that the F-23 was marginally faster than the F-22 - less several Lockheed skunkworks test pilots. The F-23 is longer and has a better fineness ratio as well as being area ruled. Additionally, comparing the X-3 with the X-1e is a bad comparison. The X-1e is rocket powered which means whether is is standing still or going mach 1 the thrust is the same. Sferrin is right, the X-3 was turbojet powered that were not very good. More importantly, a turbojet decreases in thrust as a function of velocity and density - i.e. - bad engine at high speed and altitude means marginal performance.
 

bobbymike

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From Inside Defense

As part of a scathing review of the House's proposed fiscal year 2020 defense policy bill, the White House Office of Management and Budget told House lawmakers this week a proposed $500 million cut to the Next-Generation Air Dominance program would delay the program by three years.
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Some have no interest in defending this nation
 

Desertfox

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I do wonder what the JSFs would have looked like had all three services gone their separate ways. Who pushed for stealth?

I could see the Air Force going with either a F-16XL derivative or the McD JSF design (supposedly the best one, killed by its VTOL version?). Could the Navy have gone with an Americanized Rafale (Would Dassault even work with say Boeing?)? Would the Marines have been stuck with an improved Harrier?
 

TomcatViP

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Given their extensive research on Canards prior to anything similar in Europe, it would sound obvious to me that they were not expecting much of the Dassault concept. As I have wrote plenty of time earlier, insight (by itself) is the high stake of the 21st century in aero design... and sadly it's a given resulting only from past public/mil research expends and corporate scientific culture.
 

SpudmanWP

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No B or C if history is any indicator. The A would have survived since the USAF, Partner, and FMS sales has enough juice to sustain it on it's own.
 

Colonial-Marine

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The F119 is too large for a twin engine "strike fighter" that the USN was looking for. They would have had to go with two separate engine types instead of a single which leads to even higher costs.

Of course that is overlap in the mission of the F-35C & F-18E/F, that is one of the reasons that they SHOULD NOT have kept buying the E/F. Having the same mission is NOT having the same capability and now the USN is stuck with newer SHs for the next 30+ years. What they should have done was stick to the original plan for the F-35C and also finally do the F/A-XX to replace the SH, you know, the original goal of NATF. Remember that the F-35C was designed to replace the Classic Hornet, not the Super Hornet so it would not have been a large airframe that required two F119-class engines.

My comments on weight were due to LM's screw-up on calculating the "weight of empty space" that lead to SWAT which would likely have happened regardless of the configuration chosen.
Wasn't one of the engine types being considered for A/F-X some development of the F119 optimized for lower altitudes? I'd agree that whatever they came up with would likely be more expensive than the finalized F-35C but it might be more capable too.

Of course some of the delays to the original JSF program schedule pretty much necessitated further Super Hornet production, the most recent buys however seem to be nothing more than orders to keep Boeing busy. From what I've been told here NATF wasn't intended to replace the Super Hornet, rather the Super Hornet was supposed to be an interim strike aircraft prior to A/F-X. I'd like to see more progress with F/A-XX but comments over the past few years make it seem like the Navy is once again being indecisive and uncertain about what they want.

I could see the Air Force going with either a F-16XL derivative or the McD JSF design (supposedly the best one, killed by its VTOL version?). Could the Navy have gone with an Americanized Rafale (Would Dassault even work with say Boeing?)? Would the Marines have been stuck with an improved Harrier?
I think the USAF would end up with a fighter that is similar to the F-35A in many ways. Large single engine and stealthy with room for internal carriage of at least 1,000 lb class munitions. Perhaps it would be a bit longer and more aerodynamically refined. Perhaps a V-tail instead of separate horizontal and vertical arrangements.

Navy would hopefully get something out of the A/F-X program, maybe a further development of the variable sweep Lockheed-led design. Yet considering it is the Navy I wouldn't be surprised if they screwed the whole thing up.

Marines would almost certainly be left out in the cold without a Harrier replacement because nobody wants to budget for that in the "post-Cold War" environment.
 
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rooster

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I have a background in software and electronic modules. Let me say the unmanned fighter is still a ways away. Unlike the "bombing" mission and altering navigation to deal with pop-up threats that had not been planned for, the "fighter" mission is infinitely more complicated. Not just with maneuvering but the mission complexities. Friend and foe identification. Changing scenarios. Changing mission priorities.

You need a human in the loop. It needs to be totally unjammable if the human is offboard.

Cheapest most reliable solution is to keep a human in the cockpit.

Some missions like cruise missile defense I can see those not needing a human in the cockpit. But what does that buy you?

Serious question. What does it buy us to take the human out of the airframe? To design an optionally manned platform.

Totally unmanned takes out life support and some space savings. Optionally manned fighters though will still have that equipment.

Is the technology there to allow unmanned fighters operate over conus? Risky without reward I think.
 

Grey Havoc

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No B or C if history is any indicator. The A would have survived since the USAF, Partner, and FMS sales has enough juice to sustain it on it's own.
Possible, though it likely would have been a significantly different design.
 

SpudmanWP

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Not sure how "different" it would have been. It would still have been a single-engine, internal bombload fighter. Those two items dictated the "chubby" appearance more than anything else.
 

TomS

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Ok, now replace the turbojet with a turbofan (even a low-bypass one like the F135). And enlarge the bomb bay to two or three times the size of the F-105's bay. It ends up looking more like this:



Tell me that isn't a bit chunky looking...
 

TomcatViP

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Dimensions of the carrier lift had greater impact on the chunky/chubby aspect of that airframe that the choice of a WB and engine configuration. I am inclined to think that this is similar with the 35 (Marines).
 
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LowObservable

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The Buccaneer's overall length was close to that of the F-105.

There are all kinds of what-ifs concerning what might have happened had the JSF been structured from the outset as a three-airplane, common-parts (engine core, avionics, LO systems &c) program.

Spud is right (no comment) on one consequence: the STOVL version would have been seen as very costly on a PAUC basis. However, this does not mean that the common program made STOVL cost less - it just amortized the non-recurring costs (including SWAT and its fallout) over the total buy.

I somehow doubt that a separate program would have been successful, particularly as it became apparent that the advantages of Harrier STOVL (small carriers and off-concrete operations) were very difficult to attain with a much larger, supersonic aircraft.

On the other hand, a common-parts USAF/USN program could have been much less costly (no new engine, for starters) and less technically challenging. Think of a bigger Rafale with an internal bay.
 

sferrin

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I somehow doubt that a separate program would have been successful, particularly as it became apparent that the advantages of Harrier STOVL (small carriers and off-concrete operations) were very difficult to attain with a much larger, supersonic aircraft.
And yet look at how many countries are signing up for Bs. The UK could have bought Cs for their carriers but elected for Bs. South Korea is going to build at least one carrier for them. Japan is modifying a class of ship for them, etc.
 

LowObservable

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And yet look at how many countries are signing up for Bs.
Well, yes, but you, Spud and I have already paid the STOVL-attributable non-recurring costs, so it's not the same calculus at all,
 

LowObservable

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1 - Of course not.

2 - However, that has nothing to do with the point I made. The B costs more to manufacture.
 

sferrin

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1 - Of course not.

2 - However, that has nothing to do with the point I made. The B costs more to manufacture.

Yes, it does, but is there any evidence that the big chunk of STOVL-specific NRE cost is NOT part of the B's sale price?
 

kaiserd

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1 - Of course not.

2 - However, that has nothing to do with the point I made. The B costs more to manufacture.

Yes, it does, but is there any evidence that the big chunk of STOVL-specific NRE cost is NOT part of the B's sale price?
Presumably the STOVL aspects (lift fan etc.) took up a significant part of the R&D cost of the JSF/ F-35 project while a significant part of the extra cost of each F-35B is the “per item” manufacturing cost of those STOVL components.
As contributors so far have not offered any figures on the split it appears likely that (largely but not necessarily exclusively, generalizing here) the r&d aspects got allocated to the overall program (hence to some extent to each F-35 irrespective of which version) while the per plane cost of the F-35B is carrying cost of the associated set of STOVL components, but none of the contributors currently know the precise split.
Perhaps better we can agree that much rather then getting into existential arguments about having to produce evidence to prove each other theories are wrong, versus the more common expectation of producing evidence to support theories in the first place.
 

LowObservable

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KaiserD is correct. R&D of the STOVL version has never officially been broken out, and the entire program cost was split between the Navy and USAF, plus partner contributions.

My own analysis suggests that a USN/USAF aircraft to roughly comparable specs could have performed adequately with existing or derivative engines, would have needed a much simpler dem-val or TMRR phase, and wouldn't have run into the same weight problems as afflicted the F-35 - and would therefore have avoided the consequent manufacturing problems and delays. That's a lot of money right there. There's an alternative view that the STOVL requirement constrained the size of the airplane and therefore saved money, but I don't believe it.
 

sferrin

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KaiserD is correct. R&D of the STOVL version has never officially been broken out, and the entire program cost was split between the Navy and USAF, plus partner contributions.
That would seem to suggest that all F-35 customers subsidized the developement of the F-35B.

There's an alternative view that the STOVL requirement constrained the size of the airplane and therefore saved money, but I don't believe it.
Considering the F-35C tops out at 70,000lbs it didn't constrain it very damn much. I'd have thought LHA elevator size would be the constraint but Spudman said it was some other factor that escapes me at the moment.

I remember your argument of 2 F414s instead of one F135. Without STOVL it might have been a J-31 with better engines, avionics and fineness ratio. EPE engines could have bumped thrust up to 53k or so. Doubt it would have ever had 3-stream engines but maybe it wouldn't have needed them. Still, no F-35B so. . .


 

Desertfox

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Assuming the JSF program is three different aircraft and the McDonnell Douglas JSF wins the Air Force contract, does McD survive or do they still get bought out by Boeing? They would also be the front runners for an improved Harrier since the Marines would not likely get a new aircraft.
 

rooster

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KaiserD is correct. R&D of the STOVL version has never officially been broken out, and the entire program cost was split between the Navy and USAF, plus partner contributions.
That would seem to suggest that all F-35 customers subsidized the developement of the F-35B.

There's an alternative view that the STOVL requirement constrained the size of the airplane and therefore saved money, but I don't believe it.
Considering the F-35C tops out at 70,000lbs it didn't constrain it very damn much. I'd have thought LHA elevator size would be the constraint but Spudman said it was some other factor that escapes me at the moment.

I remember your argument of 2 F414s instead of one F135. Without STOVL it might have been a J-31 with better engines, avionics and fineness ratio. EPE engines could have bumped thrust up to 53k or so. Doubt it would have ever had 3-stream engines but maybe it wouldn't have needed them. Still, no F-35B so. . .
Weren't there 2 engine STOVL concepts in the 80s?
 

sferrin

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Yes but getting a shaft-driven lift fan to work with TWO engines would be a giant pain in the backside.
 

rooster

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Yes but getting a shaft-driven lift fan to work with TWO engines would be a giant pain in the backside.
I distinctly recall 2 engine supersonic harrier replacement concepts in the 80s. No shaft driven fans.

If the shaft driven fan was 'required', why was it not in the JSF requirements?
 
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