‘Do it or die’: US creates a military aircraft for war with China

This post was published in Gazeta. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.


MOSCOW, (BM) – After it became apparent that the main combat vehicle of American carrier-based aircraft F / A-18 Super Hornet does not have a sufficient combat radius, and during hypothetical combat operations with China, American aircraft carrier attack groups run the risk of falling within the reach of China anti-ship missiles, efforts to Implementation of the program for the creation of next-generation carrier-based fighters in the United States has intensified significantly, Defense News writes.

As previously reported by “Gazeta.Ru”, US Navy aircraft carriers are threatened by Chinese ballistic anti-ship missiles like DF-21D, called “killer aircraft carriers”.

The main element of this complex is a special five-axis chassis on which a transport and launch container with a rocket is transported. It is this chassis that allows you to transfer missiles to the desired area, as well as launch from a minimum distance to the target.

According to various estimates, the DF-21D missile has a length of 10-12 m and a diameter of about 1.5 m.The launch mass is estimated at 14-16 tons. It is alleged that the DF-21D missile is capable of hitting surface ships at a distance of 100 to 1450 km.

In the event of an armed conflict between Beijing and Washington, this means that until the destruction of the anti-ship systems DF-21D, the U.S. Navy carrier attack groups will not be able to approach the Chinese coast less than 1400-1500 km without great risk. And consequently, Navy carrier-based aviation will not be able to use aviation weapons on coastal targets of the enemy.

As aircraft carrier vulnerability and carrier-based range issues continue to be circulated in the American expert community, the U.S. Congress has earmarked funding for the Navy’s research efforts to create a next-generation fighter to replace the relatively short range F / A-18 Super Hornet.

The effort to develop a system or family of systems to replace the short-range F / A-18 Super Hornet is a do-or-die attempt that will determine whether American aircraft carriers will remain relevant in the 21st century or whether they will follow the chariot and combat paths elephant, writes Defense News.

The US Senate Committee on Armed Forces, according to the National Defense Act, requires the Navy to develop a specific plan for the creation of next-generation carrier-based fighter aircraft.

However, the situation is quite controversial. This happens only a few months after the program was reduced from the requested $ 20.7 million to $ 7.1 million in Congress.

In comparison, the US Air Force requested $ 1 billion to fund the next-generation aviation dominance program, but ultimately saw a relatively insignificant reduction of 10%, which was called a “secret adjustment”.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Forces requires the Navy to formulate a procurement strategy for fighter aircraft and determine the typical composition of the aircraft carrier wing and attack fighter squadrons to better prepare for potential conflicts under the U.S. National Defense Strategy. This follows from a summary previously published on the committee’s website.

As you know, the U.S. Navy nullified the planned purchase of at least 36 decked F / A-18 Super Hornet in the period from 2022 to 2024 fiscal years. This move should save $ 4.5 billion, which is planned to be redirected to the sixth generation fighter program, known as Next Generation Air Dominance or F / A-XX.

The US Navy tried to solve the problem of insufficient combat radius of carrier-based aviation by adopting the MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial vehicle [Skat], but this program, according to experts, may encounter significant delays.

As previously reported by Gazeta.Ru, the first deliveries of drones-tankers, designed to increase the radius of combat use of the main deck aircraft of the US Navy, are expected in 2021. Expenditures of about $ 2.16 billion are planned for the project. However, it is quite possible that these terms will be substantially shifted “to the right”.

But what exactly will be F / A-XX, while it is more in the field of assumptions, hypotheses and, in the best case, drawings. Last June, the U.S. Navy completed an analysis of alternatives, and a spokesman for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Procurement of Arms and Military Equipment said earlier this month that the program was in the process of developing a concept.

But some experts in the US believe that, given the budgetary limitations of the Navy in the foreseeable future, F / A-XX should be derived from the current aircraft.

Hudson Institute Senior Researcher and Retired Submarine Officer Brian Clark told the House Armed Services Committee that it would be wise to continue to buy the F / A-18 to maintain a hotline for the potential F / A-XX.

“I think that F / A-XX should probably be derived from an existing aircraft, and not some completely new design from scratch, given the financial constraints that we are within,” Clark said. “Thus, maintaining production lines for both of our existing strike fighters is a good idea, allowing both machines to be an option for the future F / A-XX.”

In 2019, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense Bob Wark announced that the next fighter really needs to be unmanned, and that this way will save some money.

“The focus should be on F / A-XX. If you really want a large combat radius of such a machine, this should be the platform from which the use of long-range weapons is carried out,” said Work.

“Since the Navy buys the F-35C, the Marine Corps buys the F-35B, and at the same time, the Navy still buys the Block III Super Hornet, then you cannot afford to implement two or three programs at the same time. So F / A-XX is what you need to focus on. And if the analysis shows that you need a large radius of combat use of a carrier-based fighter, then this clearly indicates an unmanned version of a combat vehicle,” he added.

But naval aviation “showed a very weak appetite” for adopting a long-range unmanned fighter, although, according to former chief of naval operations, retired Admiral Harry Roghead, who spoke on the House’s Armed Services Committee along with Brian Clark, the US Navy is generally “embraced by unmanned technology.”

“In 2012, we took off an unmanned aerial vehicle from an aircraft carrier,” said Roghead.

“In 2012, And since then this has never happened. For eight years, in my opinion, inaction in attempts to promote this new technology is not aggressive under any conditions,” the admiral added.

“The implementation of the Next Generation Air Dominance or F / A-XX program may lead to revolutionary changes in the field of combat use of fighters. According to preliminary data, the main feature of F / A-XX will be an innovative mixed-type weapon system under the control of artificial intelligence,” Konstantin Makienko, deputy director of the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, told Gazeta.ru.

As the source said, the tactical and technical requirements for the sixth generation US fighter sometimes look fantastic.

It is believed that this machine should have a speed of 5 Mach (approximately 5600 km / h), and the aircraft should be in the air for up to 50 hours in an unmanned version, and combine the functions of an attack fighter and reconnaissance.

According to the stated data, the F / A-XX fighter should significantly surpass any existing types of attack aircraft.

As you know, the Boeing Corporation has been developing a prototype of the sixth generation F / A-XX fighter for several years. Outwardly, it will resemble the B-2 Spirit strategic bomber, that is, it is made according to the “flying wing” scheme.

This is a kind of aerodynamic design of a tailless aircraft glider with a reduced fuselage, the role of which is played by a wing that carries all the units, the crew and the payload. Aircraft will be created in manned and unmanned versions.


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