McDonnell Douglas F-15XX
Both moves are likely to push A-12 unitcost, currently estimated to be $84 million,even higher.Although the A-12 survived the Pentagonreview, confidence in the programme washit by the announcement that the aircraft'sfirst flight had been delayed from Novemberthis year to late 1991.The General Dynamics/McDonnellDouglas industry team revealed in June thatit had "...indicated to the Navy that therewill be a delay in the first flight of theaircraft beyond early 1991, to later the sameyear". The team added it was "... workingon revised plans and schedules and newestimates of its cost to complete the programme". The Navy's response was immedi
with Navy Secretary, Lawrence Garret,ordering an immediate review of the programme.General Dynamics and McDonnellDouglas have predicted cost overruns of upto $900 million on A-12 development andinitial production. The Navy looks set toreject the team's claim, however. The A-12full-scale development contract, issued inDecember 1987, fixed the funding ceiling at$4.8 billion. GD now says that "...the twocompanies are less than halfway throughthe planned time period, while somewhatmore than half of the ceiling price has beenspent or committed".
A-12 UNDER THREAT
Congress is putting more pressure on the
with the SASC voting to deny all the$1.5 billion requested in FY1991 for procurement. The HASC has not gone quite asfar, voting to cut $1.15 billion. The Housecommittee would prefer the 14 A-12s (eightTwo
F-14 derivatives have been proposed by Gru
development and six production aircraft)already funded to be completed and testedbefore giving the go-ahead for any furtherproduction.Trouble with both aircraft, set to carryout the Air Force and Navy's future air-defence and strike missions, has led torenewed emphasis on future development ofcurrent airframes.Options for an Air Force alternative tothe F-22/23 ATF centre on the McDonnellDouglas F-15 Eagle and the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon.The ATF requirement is to replace theF-15 from about 1995. The Air Forcecurrently operates five variants of the F-15;the F-15A and C air-superiority fighters andtheir two-seat B and D counterparts; and thetwo-seat F-15E dual-role attack/air-superiority fighter.The F-15A first flew in July, 1972, andthe last F-T5C for the Air Force wasdelivered in October, 1989, after a ten-year
nan to replace NATF
production run. The planned purchase of36 F-15Es in FY1991 would end procurement of the latter at a 200-strong force.If Congress agrees to Cheney's recommendations, the last F-15E would be delivered in May, 1993, taking total Air ForceF-15 procurement to 365 As, 59 Bs, 409 Cs,61 Ds and 200 Es.Under the present "conservative" estimateof F-15 airframe life of 6,000h, the fleet willbegin to retire around 2000. Fatigue testingindicates that the airframe life could beextended to 8,000h. If test results areproved conclusively, Cheney says, ATFprocurement can be safely delayed.A new variant of the F-15 proposed byMcDonnell Douglas is the F-15F. A single-seat air-superiority fighter, the F-15F will"...essentially be a basic F-15 airframe withadvanced avionics such as a glass cockpit",says McDonnell Douglas. The F-15 variantexists only as a concept but has been linkedwith potential Saudi Arabian and Israeliinterest.An advanced radar is likely, with a 15cm(6in) display replacing the 10cm one. TheF-15F will be able to carry out ground-attack missions, leaning on experiencegained with the F-15E.
A more likely alternative to the ATF wouldbe the F-15XX, which has already beenconsidered in this role, and would have anairframe similar to that of the F-15E.The aircraft would feature new offensiveand defensive avionics and stealth characteristics, mainly aimed at front-quadrantsignature reduction. Radar and engines willprobably be those intended for ATF.The major difference would be a largerwing constructed mostly from composites.This would increase area by about 10%, to62.2m
) from 17m
and span to23m from 13.1m. The wing would featurecamber-changing leading-edge slats.The longer wing would allow the F-15XXto cruise at supersonic speed without afterburner by reducing transonic drag. Fuelcapacity would be increased by up to
(6171b).The cost for 750 F-15XXs, including
142FLIGHT INTERNATIONAL 5-11 September 1990