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Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Case for Integrated Joint Strike Force - Given the evolution of fighter aircraft to Sixth Generation

On Facebook I wrote the following note of the evolution of 5th Generation fighter Aircraft. The note is mainly taken from key articles (especially the NATO draft paper on 6th Generation fighter aircraft)

The link to FB note is HERE

Reproducting the Note below

The 4th Generation fighter Aircraft (A shift to electronics and information compared to earlier generation fighter aircraft)

The 4th generation of fighter jets was introduced in the 1970s and 1980s. Examples of this generation include such mainstay models as the Grumman F-14 Tomcat, the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle, and the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. A major innovation of the 4th generation was the introduction of fly-by-wire systems.Whereas flight controls worked mechanically before, the pilot’s movements of the flight stick were now transmitted via electronic signals to the flight control computers. In this way, the flight control computers could compensate for unintentional movements of the aircraft. Most importantly, however, this allowed manufacturers to make the aircraft intentionally unstable; while counter-intuitive, such instability can increase agility and lift and reduce drag. The flight control computers take this instability into account and correct for it. In 4th-generation aircraft, for the first time, electronics became the centrepiece technology of jet fighters.Furthermore, they introduced such technologies as head-up and multifunctional displays, which allowed pilots to see additional information without turning their head;radars with significantly longer ranges; as well as composite materials which, for example, reduced overall weight. 
The 4.5 Generation fighter Aircraft

Towards the end of the Cold War – but especially after it came to an end – the development of new aircraft slowed down. To bridge the gap between the 4th and 5th generation, many 4th‑generation jets, especially in the United States, were upgraded, making them significantly more capable than the original models. Aviation experts dubbed this the 4.5th generation. The F-15E Strike Eagle, the F-16E/F Desert Falcon, and the F-18E/F Super Hornet are all examples of such efforts. These aircraft are generally more capable than their earlier versions, but a number of innovative technologies stand out. First, active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars were built into some of them. AESA radars have many advantages compared to older radars. They can send multiple radar beams and perform multiple functions at the same time, and their signatures are much more difficult to detect by other radars. AESA technology will remain an important source of innovation for the future. Second, high-capacity data links were installed, enabling better exchange of information with other aircraft and users.Third, advanced digital electronic systems improved the 4.5th-generation aircraft considerably. Fourth, these aircraft were able to carry the newest and future weapon systems. Sometimes jet fighters of the 4.5th generation also possess infra-red search and track (IRST) sensor systems, which can detect and track infra-red radiation, and even limited stealth features based on airframe design and radar-absorbing coating materials, as seen in the F-18 Super Hornet for example.

Key Innovation in 5th Generation Fighter Aircraft

unprecedented interoperability with very secure communications; muchincreased situational awareness for the pilot, including in no-light conditions; andadvanced stealth technology, making these jets very difficult to detect. 

The F-22 is today the most capable fighter jet in the world. It has very low observability, with experts estimating that its radar signature is comparable to the size of a marble. It possesses supercruise ability, integrated avionics, and so-called thrust vectoring, by which aircraft can manipulate the direction of the engine’s thrust.
The F-35 is an all-round fighter jet developed by the United States in co-operation with eight Allied countries (Australia, Canada, Denmark, Italy, Norway, The Netherlands, Turkey, and the United Kingdom). In the United States, it will be in service in three different versions, in the US Air Force, Navy, and Marines. The United States plans to buy more than 2,400 F-35 and to export the aircraft to Allied and partner countries in large numbers, in particular to those participating in the development programme. The F-35 is less stealthy compared to the F-22, with a radar signature the size of a golf ball, as well as less agile.
The F-22, F-35, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and the Rafale will represent the most capable Allied fighter jets for the next two to three decades at least. 
The Rand report is critical of F35 programme however and it says

a. Joint Aircraft Programs Have Not Historically Saved Overall Life Cycle Cost
b. Joint Aircraft Programs Could Increase Operational and Strategic Risk to Warfighters

It recommends
Unless the participating services have identical, stable requirements, the U.S. Department of Defense should avoid future joint fighter and other complex joint aircraft development programs.

The recent Rand Blog however points to commonality in 6th Generation requirements

"a common airframe, while in theory capable of achieving savings, could not cost-effectively meet both Navy and Air Force requirements."
But if history is any lesson, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the services, Congress and contractors should resist calls for further efficiencies through airframe commonality, a path that would likely undermine potential cost savings and compromise future mission effectiveness.
On Non Allied fifth gen fighters the NATO report says

The PAK FA is a stealth fighter developed in co-operation with India and aims to compete with the F-22 and F-35 in terms of capabilities. Indeed, some analysts believe that the PAK FA could outperform the F-22. Russia believes that it can be introduced in 2015/2016. 
A better strategy to counter Aircraft superiority of opponent howevere is A2/AD.

developing new combat aircraft is very expensive and complex. Therefore, a number of states are seeking to negate the advantages of Allied air power (and their military power in general) through so‑called anti-access and area denial (A2/AD) concepts and capabilities. In the air domain, A2/AD aims to prevent air forces from entering and transiting specific air spaces and thereby to deter opponents. A2/AD is an asymmetric and thus much cheaper strategy than the symmetric balancing of military capabilities. A country such as Iran has vigorously pursued an A2/AD strategy in recent years, in case a conflict erupts in the Persian Gulf or the country decides to block the Strait of Hormuz.

Highly sophisticated Integrated Air Defence Systems (IADS) are the cornerstone of air A2/AD strategies. In recent decades, NATO Allies have relied on four principle ways to defeat such air defences: airborne systems to locate them; anti-radiation missiles, guided bombs and cruise missiles to destroy them; electronic counter-measures to jam them; and stealth technology to evade them (Kopp 2009). However, recent advances in IADS are posing serious risks to Allied aircraft. This applies in particular to the 4th and 4.5th generation, but even stealthy aircraft might soon become vulnerable. For example, some experts suggest that, already today, the F‑35 cannot reliably circumvent the most sophisticated IADS.
IADS will likely exhibit some or all of the following traits (Kopp, 2009):

-           higher mobility
-           better jamming resistance
-           phased array antenna technology, with AESA radars on the horizon
-           increased missile range and radar power
-           ability to operate in lower radar bands to defeat stealth technology
-           better exploitation of hardware and software advances
-           improved defensive counter-measures
-           increased ability to intercept smart weapons
-           alternative missile seekers
-           techniques to ensure that they will be hard to detect by incoming aircraft
-           hybridisation of systems, combining anti-aircraft artillery and surface-to-air missiles

The 6th Generation Fighter Aircraft

The NATO report concludes

In other words, when the end of the life spans of the F-22, F-35, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Rafale approaches, merely upgrading them might not suffice. This is why looking at technologies that can prepare the way for a new generation of Allied jet fighters is necessary. 
For the 6th Generation fighter to be available by 2030/2040, most experts converge around a few general features (Tirpak, 2009; Cenciotti, 2011):

-           extreme stealth, e.g. the jets should be stealthy across a greater range of spectrums
-           engine efficiency at all flight speeds, from subsonic to multi-Mach speeds
-           advanced exterior skin constructed with nano-technology and meta-material, i.e. material engineered to exhibit properties not found in nature
-           exceptionally powerful computer networking and communication capabilities
-           extremely sensitive sensors
-           the option of unmanned flight
-           advanced weapon systems, possibly lasers and other directed energy weapons

Next Generation Tactical Aircraft and Next Generation Air Dominance, with concept jets named F-X and F/A-XX. Both have reached out to industry to gather information on where they see the future to be headed, but the outlines of such next-generation efforts are still very abstract.
On the 6th Generation Fighter Aircraft some experts believe a shift away from speed. For example the article  quotes

"a next-generation fighter would not necessarily be a supersonic fighter, but rather a subsonic stealthy flying wing that would carry extremely long-range missiles. In simple terms, Stillion argues that stealth, payload and sensor capability will trump traditional fighter metrics like speed, altitude and turn capability."

it is too early to discount highly maneuverable fighter aircraft designs for future US Air Force and Navy warplanes, even as advances in long-range air-to-air missile technology makes dogfights less likely.
Meanwhile, the Russian 6th Generation Fighter aircraft could be "unmanned" as described in this article last year

MY QUESTION - Given these changes with India having Su30MKI, LCA MkI and potentially MkII and PAK-FA available in a decade for us along with AMCA, what should India develop, buy and coolaborate on and with whom?

Reference (taken verbatim) from

1. NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Science and technology Committee THE FUTURE OF COMBAT AIRCRAFT: TOWARDS A 6th GENERATION?

My Views: A Case for Integrated Joint Attack System (IJAS)

A2/AD with IADS must ... For defence. For deep penetration. .. a uniquely IAF terminology ... stand off missiles launched from stealthy UCAVs is what Sixth gen may turn out to be ... yet the IADS with synergistic assemblage of discrete components, systems and munitions is essential. What in effect I am saying . It is fine to discuss the individual weapon weapon system capabilities ... however .. war will require a comprehensive synergy between system of systems ... just like IADS I think IAF should rather India should work on an integrated Penetration system if you want to use IAF terminology .. I would rather like to call it an Integrated Joint Attack System IJAS ...including all elements operating synergistic manner ... that I think is the key missing piece as of now ... Modular IJAS is what we should define develop and evolve.

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