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Elliot S, 05-Sep-1990. After ATF..., Flight International

Elliot S, 05-Sep-1990. After ATF..., Flight International

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Published by: Foro Militar General on Feb 18, 2013
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Could an advanced McDonnell Douglas F-15 derivative replace ATF?
The budget axe threatens both US Air Force F-22/F-23 Advanced TacticalFighter and Navy A-12 Advanced Tactical Aircraft. Fallback positionsare being prepared, reports
Simon Elliott.
P
ogramme stretches and delays, costover-runs, and the prospect of reduced procurement with the US AirForce and Navy's two key program
mes,
the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF)and the A-12 Avenger Advanced TacticalAircraft (ATA), are forcing the US Department of Defense to examine the use ofexisting airframes to fulfill its requirementsinto the next century.Under current plans the Air Force's ATFwould replace the F-15 in the air-superiority role while a navalised variant,the Naval ATF (NATF), would replace theNavy's Grumman F-14 Tomcat. The Lockheed/Boeing/General Dynamics F-22 andthe Northrop/McDonnell Douglas F-23 arethe two competing ATF designs.The General Dynamics/McDonnellDouglas A-12 Avenger would replace theA-6E Intruder in the Navy's medium-attackrole and its ATA form would replace the AirForce's General Dynamics F-lll andMcDonnell Douglas F-15E strike aircraft.The ATF/NATF programme hit troubledwaters in May when US Secretary of Defense, Richard Cheney, proposed stretchingout procurement and delaying productionof the aircraft by two years, saying thatworld events "...reduce the urgency ofbeginning ATF procurement". Productionwould start in financial year (FY) 1996 andpeak at 48 a year in
FY2001,
down from 72a year in FY1999. Procurement remains at750 aircraft.The NATF was worse hit, with procurement reduced to 546 from 618, and atwo-year production delay. NATF production is now scheduled to start in FY2000and to peak at 48 a year in FY2004.CONGRESSIONAL PRESSUREThe ATF programme is also under increasedpolitical pressure. Congress is not only-concerned about the budget but, given thechanges in Eastern Europe, about ATFrequirements — although the programmewas endorsed by the Pentagon's majoraircraft review three months ago. The Airis examining upgrades of the F-15and F-16 as an alternative to ATF, havingbowed to political pressure.The Air Force Acquisition Office is saidto have directed the ATF Systems ProgramOffice at Wright-Patterson AFB to conductmission analysis studies, the results ofwhich will be evaluated at the Air ForceCenter for Studies and Analysis.In line with the evaluation, the SenateArmed Services Committee (SASC) allocated $100 million in its FY1991 budgetmark-up to preserve an upgraded F-15option. The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) has also cast doubts on ATF'sfuture by voting to deny full-scale development funds but add S200 million to the$674 million sought for demonstration andvalidation. In this case development wouldcontinue but the developed aircraft mightnot be produced.The two competing ATF designs are stillin demonstration/validation and the AirForce requires final submissions for thedevelopment phase by the end of December.The winning design is scheduled to beannounced on 30 April, 1991.The Northrop YF-23 rolled out at Edwards AFB on 22 June, and the LockheedYF-22 rolled out by. the end of August. TheYF-23 is already flying and the YF-22 isscheduled to fly in September:The subsonic A-12 Avenger has comeunder even greater pressure. Cheney hasproposed reducing procurement from 858to 620, entirely eliminating aircraft for theUS Marine Corps. The major reason behind
cuts,
is the likelihood that US Navy aircraftcarriers will be cut back in number, possibly to 12.A-12 production would peak at 36 a yearin FY1994, down from 48 a year in FY1995.In addition, Cheney proposes deferringproduction of 400 Air Force ATAs untilafter FY1997; the previously planned datewas FY1993.FLIGHT INTERNATIONAL 5-11 September 1990 141
 
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 programme". The Navy's response was immedi
ate,
with Navy Secretary, Lawrence Garret,ordering an immediate review of the programme.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
A-12,
with the SASC voting to deny all the$1.5 billion requested in FY1991 for procurement. 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 Dynamics 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 procurement of the latter at a 200-strong force.If Congress agrees to Cheney's recommendations, the last F-15E would be delivered 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.
ATF ALTERNATIVE
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 characteristics, 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
2
(205ft
2
) from 17m
2
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 afterburner by reducing transonic drag. Fuelcapacity would be increased by up to
1,360kg
(6171b).The cost for 750 F-15XXs, including
142FLIGHT INTERNATIONAL 5-11 September 1990
 
development and production, is estimatedto be $33 billion.The smaller F-16 could also have potential for modification as an ATF replacement.Air Force F-16 procurement continuesagainst a planned acquisition of 2,729aircraft, and the first of 270 F-16 AirDefence Fighters — F-16As modified tocarry the AIM-7 Sparrow radar-guided air-to-air missile — was delivered to the AirForce early last year. The current production variants for the Air Force are the F-16Cand two-seat F-16D.The F-16 Falcon 21, mooted as analternative to the ATF, was not examined bythe Pentagon in its major aircraft review.The aircraft is a development of the arrow-wing F-16XL, the new 58.5m
2
trapezoidaldelta wing being a compromise betweensupersonic and subsonic manoeuvring. A14.8m-long fuselage would carry four semirsubmerged AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-airmissiles, with two AIM-9 Sidewinders wing-mounted.
NAVY FIGHTER SHORTAGE
Delay or cancellation of the NATF, set toreplace the F-14 in the fleet air-defence role,could put the US Navy in a worse positionthan the Air Force. A recent report from theCongressional Research Service says theNavy will suffer a serious carrier-bornefighter shortage by 2004, which would lastuntil about 2012.The shortage, caused by ageing F-14s anddelays in NATF delivery, means the Navycould be as many as 146 fighters short ofthe 427 required even by a smaller 12-carrier force.The report argues that, at 300h a year,F-14 retirement would have to begin inFY1999. The Navy had reasoned that itwould not need to retire F-14s beforeFY2002, as aircraft life could be extendedto 9,000h from 7,350h. It appears, however,that there is no funding for life-extensiontests.The Navy has received 557 F-14As. Thefirst of 38 F-14A(Plus) Tomcats, with General Electric F110 engines, was delivered in1987, and 32 F-14As are being converted tothe same standard.The first of 37 new-build all-digitalF-14Ds was delivered in February this year.The US Navy also plans to upgrade 104F-14As to D standard under the F-14D(R)re-manufacturing programme. Six aircraftwill be upgraded under FY1990 funding, 12in
FY1991,
18 in FY1992, 20 in FY1993, 24in FY1994 and 24 in FY1995.Upgrading will begin with airframes withthe highest flight hours, and Grumman seesno barrier to mixing F-14D and F-14D(R)aircraft. Each aircraft in the D(R) programme will take up to 15 months tocomplete re-manufacturing.Among the many improvements with theF-14D are the Hughes APG-71 radar, aninfra-red search and track (IRST) sensor,and JTIDS secure datalink.If the Navy does suffer a fighter shortfallearly next century the options are to upgrade or buy more F-14Ds (up to theoriginal target of 400), Grumman's improved F-14 Tomcat 21, or McDonnellDouglas's upgraded F-18 Hornet 2000.The Tomcat 21 is a Grumman studydesigned to satisfy Navy strike-fighter requirements into the next century. In 1989,Grumman estimated the aircraft would cost$30 million a copy and would be able tocarry out most NATF missions. The baseline aircraft would have increased rangeand loiter time, all-weather ground-attackcapability, improved radar and missiles forthe air-to-air role, and could incorporateNATF-derived systems if the money wasavailable.To date, 822 F-18 Hornets have beenfunded by the US Navy and Marine Corpsand requirements go up to
1,150.
Thecurrent production variants are the F-18Cand two-seat D. The first two-seat night-
THE BEST
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Helmets Ltd, Moat Factory,Wheathampstead, St. Albans,Herts. AL4 8QT, UK.Telephone: (058283) 4211Fax: (058283) 4210Telex: 825587 HELMTS G
FLIGHT INTERNATIONAL 5-11 September 1990

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