USAF News and Discussion

swerve

Super Moderator
I have heard elsewhere that the USAF have been hanging out for AESA technology to mature further before making the next leap (something about S-band T/R modules of a particular power density or some such). Hearsay at this point I confess but would explain the persistence with Sentry.
Why? Look at Erieye. The current generation has GaN TRMs, with a much higher power density than the original GaAs TRMs. Looks the same externally. Also has different processors behind them, different screens for the operators, etc. SAAB offers existing customers upgrades all the way up to the latest version. Design the architecture right, so you can take out an outdated piece of kit & slot in a new one, & a system like can be akin to grandad's axe.

Design the physical architecture right & it becomes a fairly minor job to integrate it on different aircraft, too: Erieye's been operated on a Fairchild Metro for development, & in air force service on the SAAB 340, SAAB 2000, Embraer EMB-145 & now the Bombardier Global 6000.

That shouldn't be beyond the abilities of the US companies in that line of business. After all, they're much bigger than SAAB.
 
Last edited:

StingrayOZ

Super Moderator
Staff member
The US could order ~75 E7 to replace the E3's. Italy and NATO are looking at them. But even as an interim measure, a smaller buy would still make a whole lot of sense if they wanted to develop something better.

IMO E3 or E7 if a fight with even a less than peer comes in the future, will have to stand off and be relegated to serving as a flying traffic management system in safe air.
I dunno.. E7 cruises about 300kmph faster. An E3 is going to stand out like dogs balls, being a bigger, slow (much slower than regular commercial air traffic) target, with very much an old school radar blasting away. Sure the E7 isn't stealthy, but is much less likely to stand out, but is probably a good platform to operate drones and UAV's with its radar and IFF and coms capability being many decades newer. E7 is much better to mix and match play with the P8, and operate from smaller regional and island airports than the E3. Slipping into 737 traffic with ease. And at the end of the day the E7 is ~ 40+ year newer aircraft that is going to be more reliable, easier and cheaper to maintain.

The G550 AEW or ELINT is great complimentary capability, and would likely operate underneath the wider cover and control of the E7. F-35's and other systems (OTHR and ships) can also feed information into CEC E7's. An E7 doesn't have to fly in in close to do anything.

In contested airspace your talking about stealth aircraft launching long range munitions from perhaps 1000nm from targets.
 

swerve

Super Moderator

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
First absolutely agree with This would make a lot of Sense for the USAF.
Boeing is about to start production of E7 for our allies in the RAF.
That means a warm production line, with 737 NG available for conversion or new production. Degrees of commonality with existing in service aircraft (P8 is based on huge 737-800), C40 Clipper is based of 737-700C
As to tempting other European buyers... not quite sure about that. The UK and France pretty much placed identical orders for the E3 back in the day and both are aging. The UK has placed its order for 5 E7. France on the other hand I has developed a case of Not invented here syndrome. If they were to buy, I expect it to be an Airbus bird with a Erieye radar. Other European countries have now an expanding number of options as business jet builders have begun offering smaller more affordable AEW capabilities that in the past would have limited Airforces to E2, Hawkeye, E3 Sentry or Soviet models.
Italy for example uses the IAI Eitam a GV airframe with conformal Radar arrays also used in other specialized roles by the USN and Australia.
Greece uses the Embraer R99.
Sweden the Saab 340.
right now the bulk of European AEW power is the 15 E3 operated by NATO as joint. Soit could shift or not.

They tried that it was the E10. The main reason this might work is in light of F15EX we have a USAF who seems to be looking at the dynamics differently. Questioning if High refit and low availability is reasonable vs off the shelf systems that offer similar capacity at a short term high investment but long term longer lifespans.
707 based platforms are old today. KC135 dates to the days of Kennedy and Ike. It’s engines are the main issues for the airframe. The last new variants of the series were the E6 and the navy is already looking at options to replace those.

The USAF is already showing signs that it’s large legacy support aircraft based off now long retired commercial liners are sooner rather than later slated to retire.
E4B
KC135

The question seem to be based on what is more survivable to the role.

When JSTARS recap was canceled the USAF said that they felt it just wasn’t survivable vs a near peer foe. This shouldn’t have been a real shocker. As far back as the beginning of development of the system we know as JSTARS the USAF worked on a stealth version, Tacit Blue under the Battlefield Surveillance Aircraft-Experimental. In the end they put the budget friendly 707 based E8 in to service yet were always working in the black as we know on things like the RQ170, Polecat, Darkstar meant to service the stealth JSTAR role.
If you think about it the same holds true for any commercial airliner or business jet or cargo plane based platform. We have already seen cases where P8 and EP8 have been harassed by fighters around Russia and China. Seen Iran shoot down a Global hawk and as far back as 1969 when a Navy EC 121 was shot down by the DPRK we have known AEW are not untouchable. So part of why in my mind probably has to do with the question of is it worth it?
If it worth the investment of billions of taxpayers dollars for a platform that at best will have limited effect in the front lines?
IMO E3 or E7 if a fight with even a less than peer comes in the future, will have to stand off and be relegated to serving as a flying traffic management system in safe air. Fourth generation fighters, tankers and the like would fall into the same position operating to maintain allied airspace. They can’t go to the front without being destroyed. Fifth generation fighters and VLO platforms would be operating in that contested zone between the enemy stronghold airspace and allied stronghold fighting to establish a foothold and push the other out. In this context AEW and JSTAR in contested air are stealthy drones with datalinks and LPOI radars networking between fighters and bombers.
So is the cost of a totally new AEW platform worth it? Probably not. But off the shelf maintaining of that capability is. So the USAF has to date worked to keep E3 as the Navy worked to Keep E2. Yet with issues of readiness due to age of the E3 airframe it’s getting harder to justify. Buying off the shelf could buy back that capability.
I think that the USAF will have to change how they do AEW&C upgrades when they replace the E-3 AWACS. The way that the RAAF operates and upgrades the E-7A Wedgetail is totally foreign to the USAF and I don't actually think that their culture would allow them to follow the same or a similar path. Heck it took Boeing a while to figure out that they weren't being ripped off.

The RAAF are using incremental upgrades of the Wedgetail AEW&C systems that are warfighter lead. So its the actual crews themselves coming up with ideas and suggestions that are then worked on, improved and approved within the Squadron, then sent straight out for immediate action. It's not done the normal way where an acquisition team in Canberra work on it, submit through the system and 2 or 3 years later it might get final approval to be sent to the contractor. It's a new way of doing things and it's working really well for the RAAF Wedgetail capability and its utilisation. I wouldn't be surprised if they are doing the same thing within their P-8A community.
 

OldTex

Member
Should be some low hours A380s around nowadays . . . :D
I like the idea of using the A380 as the basis for a new USAF "Doomsday" plane. The only fly in the ointment would be that the money doesn't all go to an American company (basically Boeing).
 

swerve

Super Moderator
Ah, but Airbus has already sold the aircraft. Why not take advantage of the glut before it's too late? I expect the conversion could be done in the USA, & GP7270-powered aircraft could be found, rather than Trent. to maximise the US content.
 

OldTex

Member
As the A380 production has finished only second hand aircraft would be available, with the aircraft leasing companies having quite a few and are looking to get rid of them. There would be increasing issues for the ongoing support and airworthiness of the aircraft in the future. I suspect that if a new aircraft type was to be pressed into service as the "Doomsday" planes it would likely make more sense to select an aircraft like the Boeing 777.
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
As the A380 production has finished only second hand aircraft would be available, with the aircraft leasing companies having quite a few and are looking to get rid of them. There would be increasing issues for the ongoing support and airworthiness of the aircraft in the future. I suspect that if a new aircraft type was to be pressed into service as the "Doomsday" planes it would likely make more sense to select an aircraft like the Boeing 777.
With the uncertainty in future commercial aviation due to COVID, Boeing might want to offer substantial discounts to the USAF on 777X, new allows for better customization and brand new is a plus. It might be the only option to recover some of their investment on the 777X program. Perhaps a few for tanker applications wouldn’t be a bad idea either...except for Boeing’s stellar performance with the KC-46.:rolleyes:
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
As the A380 production has finished only second hand aircraft would be available, with the aircraft leasing companies having quite a few and are looking to get rid of them. There would be increasing issues for the ongoing support and airworthiness of the aircraft in the future. I suspect that if a new aircraft type was to be pressed into service as the "Doomsday" planes it would likely make more sense to select an aircraft like the Boeing 777.
I believe that the USDOD and USAF required a four engined aircraft because of the potential of engine failure due to a variety of causes. That is why twin engined aircraft are not being considered.
 

Terran

Active Member
This is personal opinion, but I think if you want to talk about military A380, then the best option would be to convert them to freighters for NATO use. Sure it’s no C17 but the bulk of actual military logistics don’t need roll on/Roll off.
E4C is what the USAF has its heart set on. Much like it did for VC25B the 747-8 just seems to be the right size right range right number of engines.
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
The 747-8F is nearing the end of production once the last few orders are completed. A shame no military orders will be considered now but, like the C-17, down the road we will hear whining about how some extra jets should have been ordered and is it feasible to restart the line. Restart would be just like the F-22 and C-17 attempts, zero.
 

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
There certainly is lots of noise regarding fighters lately, F-15EX, new F-16 replacement, possible F-35 cutbacks, and the recent NGAD test flight.

The latest is from Warrior Maven suggesting the future 6th Gen fighter may come in Pacific and Atlantic versions. Range capability would be the likely difference. An interesting suggestion by the author stating the rapid progress of the NGAD program is why the USAF didn’t press for a F-22 restart. This could also be another reason for possible F-35 cuts besides CPFH.

 
Read forum rules — no one-liners and this vs that, please
Last edited by a moderator:

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro

John Fedup

The Bunker Group
This link provides some information on the RQ-180 and how it may be the most revolutionary game changer that has come along in the last 20 years. Most of the content discusses the RQ-180’s role as a secure network gateway for an array of various aviation assets.
 

Terran

Active Member
There certainly is lots of noise regarding fighters lately, F-15EX, new F-16 replacement, possible F-35 cutbacks, and the recent NGAD test flight.

The latest is from Warrior Maven suggesting the future 6th Gen fighter may come in Pacific and Atlantic versions. Range capability would be the likely difference. An interesting suggestion by the author stating the rapid progress of the NGAD program is why the USAF didn’t press for a F-22 restart. This could also be another reason for possible F-35 cuts besides CPFH.

F22 restart is sadly a no go. Were we back a decade ago it might have been a realistic option but with so much time past now the industry base is extinct. Plus the design would need such a total rework that it would really be a Super Hornet or CH53K situation where in it’s a new aircraft with an old name.
F15EX buy was rationally made. With the cuts to the F22 buy F15 was pushed to the 2040s life span. However F15C and D the bulk of the USAF are literally flying at the edge of their wings falling off. The USAF did a cost benefit and realized that the cost of repair and life extension for Legacy Eagles would rival buying new fighters. So given that and the timeline they looked at options.
First alternative was to use upgraded F16. USAF To Keep Upgraded F-16s Till 2048 As Fate Of F-15C In Doubt
That went over with congress like a Polka band at a High school prom.
So the USAF shopped Boeing and Lockheed Martin to see what they had. Boeing offered ready to go F15 Advanced Eagle from the export line. Boeing Is Pitching the US a New F-15, Using Its Super Hornet Game Plan
Lockheed offered the hypothetical F22/F35 Hybrid. Lockheed Pitching F-22/F-35 Hybrid to US Air Force
The latter was high risk and potentially very expensive so the USAF chose F15EX.
now as to F16 replacement, that is F35.
Inside the USAF is a faction whom have been arguing from the moment the last USAF F16 was accepted that they should have more. They see the Export versions as really impressive and are a little envious.
They have been arguing for More F16 off the export line for years. Now they are back arguingfor it based off the factors of F35 upkeep price for national guard. Then came General Brown. He said okay some logic here but we could do better.
So he launched a Study to look at if a new 4.5 Gen fighter is needed. Because he agrees that a lower upkeep is advantageous to some degree but he wants what F35 offers in avionics. The Ability to on the fly upgrade and over the air update. Problem is F16 block 70 doesn’t offer that yet. It’s good but not that good. Hence “Clean Sheet” which would if actually acted on would become a major redesign of F16. Like a F16 block 80.
Now NGAD. NGAD is not a fighter program, Not really. Dr. Roper talked about the “Digital Century series” hardening back to the F100, F101,F102,F103 ecta.
What NGAD seems to be is an architecture. A series of interrelated platforms that will be developed as opposed to one platform. Think of it more like how they build cars. You have a standard design and every couple years they give it a refresh or new features.
now how this plays out is hard to gauge but my best guess is NGAD will be a wholistic approach to Air dominance. Not a single fighter but fighters, drones, technology upgrades and more. The kitchen sink approach.
As such F35 wouldn’t be cut by NGAD it would be initially in parallel eventuality possibly folded into. F16 buys are the other matter. It might cut into as F16 is projected to serve until 2048. New F16 for ANG would if bought curb off 600 units from the 1700 planes. However this isn’t set yet. It’s being talked about but Congress would have to both be briefed and set it in law.
This link provides some information on the RQ-180 and how it may be the most revolutionary game changer that has come along in the last 20 years. Most of the content discusses the RQ-180’s role as a secure network gateway for an array of various aviation assets.
Now this is more interesting.
When F22 first appeared it was loaded down with everything they could to make it not just a fighter like the F15 before it. But then to make it a mini AWACS. Because unlike the F15 and F14s it wasn’t going to have the ability to fly with a E3 or E2. Those just couldn’t operate in denied airspace. The huge Radar would ping every enemy Radiation seeker And the Civil airframe would stand out for hundreds of miles on Mig radar screens. So fifth gens like F22 and F35 are loaded with sensors and Data links to Awacs themselves. But being a fighter they can only have a radar of such a size. F35 has made that as large as possible by building it into the airframe yet that is still a limitation. This is where the argument The Drive is making comes in. Basically the RQ180 according to them is a Stealth AWACS.
Using datalinks and sensor feeds from drones and fighters operating around it RQ180 would gobble up data and create an all seeing eye. A composite image map allowing operational control of the threat zone. Even mapping of potential weak points of coverage possibly allowing for penetration by non stealth aircraft. As well as relaying that image beyond line of sight so commanding platforms in the rear can move assets to take advantage or push operations.
 
Last edited:

Sandhi Yudha

Well-Known Member

Ananda

The Bunker Group

According to the article this's the concept from USAF for F-22 replacement. LM working on this, or this's just another contender. Anyway based on this, USAF preference are still not to reopen F-22 line, but move straight toward replacement.

That's quite remarkable for F-15, where there's going to be used at least for another two decades with F-15EX. While F-22 is aim to be replaced.
 
Top