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Bomb Trucks - Why not use transport planes ?

Discussion in 'Air Force & Aviation' started by Fi11222, Jun 16, 2018.

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  1. Fi11222

    Fi11222 New Member

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    Hi everyone. This is my first post here, so please bear with me.

    I once saw a video of an exchange btw. a top USAF general and senator Mc Cain during a congress hearing. It was about the future of the A-10. The general was saying that when the A-10 will be retired, the CAS mission will be spread out among various planes, including the B-1. That seems to make Sen. Mc Cain quite unhappy along the lines of "how can you tell me that a strategic bomber can become a CAS plane ???!!!"

    I guess that what the general meant was that the B-1 can be used as a high-flying bomb-truck loitering for hours over an area and dropping JDAMS or other precision munitions as needed.

    It is quite obvious that a B-1 can do this mission well as it has the payload capacity and range to do it quite comfortably.

    However, this is probably not the most effectve use of a platform like the B-1 which has a quite high cost per flight hour. Wouldn't it be possible to use slightly modified transport planes (C-17, C-130, ...) to do the same mission? Inserting a custom designed bomb rack/delivery mechanism into the cargo bay does not seem like a huge deal. Of course, it could not achieve the same dropping speed as a vertically opening bomb bay but for the CAS bomb-truck mission, in which only a couple of bombs have to be dropped at a time, this would not matter.

    Of course, a transport plane has to worry about shifts in its center of gravity, but airdrops of heavy payloads (far heavier than a few JDAMs) are conducted on a routine basis so I do not see why this would be an issue.

    In doday's mostly permissive insurgency-related air environments, I do not see why a transport plane would be threatened in any way. Most insurgency groups have only MANPADS, at best, and it is possible to fly high enough to not bother with those and yet be in a position to deliver precision guided munitions with ease.

    There may be of course some reason that I am not aware of. If so, please enlighten me.
     
  2. Todjaeger

    Todjaeger Potstirrer

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    The first thing which comes to mind is how much ordnance needs to get dropped in a CAS strike at a time, and how much ordnance can be safely dropped and clear an aircraft like a C-17, or C-130.

    I readily admit to ignorance in terms of answers to those two questions, but I rather suspect the drop rate would be too low. After all, the C-130 has been in service in one fashion or another since around 1954 and apart from dropping massive ordnance like the BLU-82 out the back occasionally, has never been developed into a bomber.

    In addition, there is the question of ordnance capacity. The C-17 can transport and equivalent weight to the ordnance a B-1B Lancer can carry and drop/launch (actually a bit more) but it has to be distributed in a specific way, which might not work with ordnance, and/or a dropping mechanism out the back. A C-130 itself could not come close to what a B-1B can carry and drop.

    If resources were dumped into developing a transport to bomber conversion, I am certain it could be made to work. However, I doubt it would be a quick, easy or cheap conversion and in an operation sense, I am uncertain that there would be any significant savings vs. using B-1B Lancers in a CAS role.
     
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  3. Fi11222

    Fi11222 New Member

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    In a CAS situation, it seems to me that relatively few ordnance needs to be dropped at a time; typically one or two JDAMs or maybe a slightly higher number of SDBs. During a full 8 or 10h misssion of course, the total number of ordnance dropped will be higher. But it will be dropped piecemeal, as FACs request them. I do not see why you would need to drop more than 1 or two precision guided munitions in a typical urban/insurgency firefight situation.

    Of course, if the scenario is one of conventional warfare/carpet bombing, the B-1B will be unquestionably superior. But this kind of scenario does not seem to be happening that often nowadays. For insurgency/urban warfare scenarios, which generally occur with an uncontested airspace, it seems to me that the BONE has a much less obvious edge. Especially, one can ask whether all that electronic warfare gear that the BONE carries, and which has to be maintained even if not used, is not a little bit out of place when all the opposition can muster is a few jury-jigged weaponized drones costing $99 apiece.

    If a C-130 can carry the MOAB or daisy-cutters, it could indeed carry a few JDAMs fairly easily. I suspect that the "never been developed into a bomber" part has more to do with bureaucratic infighting and branch jealousies than anything else ("What!? Cargo haulers would become bombers? Never in my lifetime!")

    I honestly doubt that. One can imagine a bomb delivery kit, of the same footprint as palletized cargo, that could be inserted as needed in the cargo bay of a C17 or C-130 and would turn the plane into a "bomb truck" in the true sense of the word (see for example, this video - only the bomb-delivery racks at the begining). That could hardly be very costly to design and build. And it would not permanently turn the plane into a bomber but only on a per-mission basis, which would surely add to the cost effectiveness. We are not talking about the same kind of conversion as those of AC-130s. These planes are indeed very complex; much more so than one which would simply drop ordnance out the back ramp. We are talking of precision guided munitions delivered from altitude here. There is therefore no requirement for the plane itself or the bomb-release mechanism to be particularly accurate. A simple GPS-fed bomb-release software, possibly run on an ordinary laptop, coupled to a mechanical bomb rack no more complex than an airport baggae-handling conveyor, could probably do the job.
     
  4. Todjaeger

    Todjaeger Potstirrer

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    That is one of the things which would need to be known with specifics. I myself was operating under the assumption like CAS similar to calling for artillery or mortar fires, where a volley of a half-dozen or more rounds in rapid succession and close together might get used to destroy or more likely suppress hostiles.

    AND

    Where I could see problems occurring in development and deployment is in first getting the PGM properly programmed with either the GPS coordinates and/or using the proper seeker, then getting the munitions free of the aircraft to drop. The BLU-82 for instance, is atop a pallet with a parachute attached to the pallet which is released out of the lowered rear ramp, so that the airstream catches the parachute which drags the pallet out of the C-130 and then the BLU-82 breaks free (or the straps break/pop off) one the pallet is no longer in the aircraft. To achieve something similar in smaller ordnance, there would either need to be disposable pallets and parachutes, or some sort of articulated mechanism which can drop the bombs past the end of the cargo ramp, and during take off, landing, or normal flight, be retracted into the aircraft. In addition to all this, the aircraft would need some sort of bomb sight to know when the aircraft was approaching and over the drop zone as well as to program targeting data into the ordnance. By way of example, B-1B Lancers were fitted with a radar in the nose which was derived from the APG-66 radar used in the F-16's, as well as targeting pods. One of the things that indicates to me is that the level of avionics which would be required is much more than 'just a laptop'.

    Honestly, I think it would probably be easier and cheaper if a transport aircraft had a bomb bay cut into the floor, than to try and develop a workable system for dropping quantities of ordnance off the ramp safely.
     
  5. Stampede

    Stampede Active Member

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    I can see the appeal as a concept for small to medium sized air-forces,however funding for this concept will probably not be forth coming by these potential operators.
    If a low cost pallet sized system could be made to truck a small quantity of precision weapons with the type of range offered by medium sized air lifters then I can see a potential market for such a system. I think however it may be more practical to carry on the wing a small quantity of weapons such the SBU-39 Small Diameter. Bomb and other sized weapons. As a commercial venture the large aircraft manufacturers may see the potential and come on board.
    The cost of conversion would be cheaper than acquiring a new dedicated bomb truck which would appeal to many.
    Transport plane one day, medium bomb truck the next !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!..
    Would it have appeal for the RAAF,maybe not. But for New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia and like sized Air Forces this may give some flexibility and capability not currently available.


    Regards S
     
  6. Fi11222

    Fi11222 New Member

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    I am not so sure. Yes, in theory, the payload weight capacity of a B-1 is over twice that of a C-130. But that is rarely used in full with the B-1 because of space constraints.

    For example, for the GBU-38 (one of the most commonly used JDAMs), the maximum loadout of a B-1 is 48 units, or only about 10 tons. But the payload of a C-130 is 20 tons. Given the space available inside a C-130, is is quite clear that this would not be a limiting factor here. A C-130 could therefore conceivably carry twice as many GBU-38 JDAMs as a B-1.
     
  7. Todjaeger

    Todjaeger Potstirrer

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    Those same space constraints are going to impact any ordnance a hypothetical transport-turned-bomber will carry as well. Per the USAF B-1B Lancer factsheet, the bomber can carry 84 Mk-82 bombs, or 15 GBU-38 JDAM's, which is essentially a Mk-82 500 lb. bomb with a GPS-guidance kit attached. For some reason, the B-1B Lancer can actually carry and drop more (24) of the larger/heavier GBU-31 JDAM's which is like the GBU-38 but based around the Mk-84 2,000 lb. bomb instead. What the above means, is that there is something about the GBU-38 causing a significantly smaller number to be fitted to the B-1B, whether that is additional volume the GP kit occupies, or an interface needing more space to receive coordinates, or something else I readily admit ignorance of. Whatever it is though, is almost certainly going to impact fitting that specific ordnance to other platforms as well. After all, the B-1B can carry more than 5x the number of Mk-82 bombs which is what the GBU-38 is based on.

    When trying to compare ordnance load-outs, it is not as simple as going just by weight of ordnance, though that can give a guideline. There are volume limitations, as well as a need to include an ordnance carriage and deployment system, while factoring in appropriate systems for targeting. As previously mentioned, the B-1B already includes an appropriate radar and targeting pod, and systems to relay the targeting data to the ordnance.
     
  8. swerve

    swerve Super Moderator

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    IIRC Airbus offered to produce a palleted launch system for dropping assorted weapons out of the back of the A400M, having done outline design. I've seen pictures of a palletised cargo door launcher for the MALD, & a video of a Taurus missile test launch from the back of what looked like a Transall. So obviously it can be done, & has been thought about.
     
  9. Fi11222

    Fi11222 New Member

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    Very interesting. Do you know how to find more details about these ?
     
  10. Todjaeger

    Todjaeger Potstirrer

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    Interesting, though that IMO would have been an inefficient method of delivering a volume of Taurus missiles. An A400M could likely hold a maximum of three pallets of Taurus missiles due to the length of the cruise missiles and A400M cargo compartment. Depending on how the missile would break free from the pallet, then the pallets might have been located with either a single missile each, or several missiles (no more than nine per pallet would physically fit though).
     
  11. Feanor

    Feanor Super Moderator Staff Member

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  12. swerve

    swerve Super Moderator

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    All I know has been found in public sources online, so seek & ye shall (with a bit of luck) find.

    I'm afraid I didn't keep links. Sorry.