Tag Archives: Air Combat Command

CSBA Study Finds Large, Long-Range Aircraft Would Do Better In Combat

Air combat going beyond visual range

A future fighter aircraft is likely to need more range and payload than speed and agility as countries like Russia, China and Iran invest in long-range air defenses that can keep high-value support assets including aerial refueling tankers up to 1,000 nautical miles away from their military installations, but stealth remains critical despite advances in radar technology, according to a new Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments study.

Advances in beyond-visual-range weapons make it increasingly unnecessary to have highly maneuverable fighter jets like the F-22 Raptor, and first-strike aircraft are unlikely to have support of large, unstealthy bombers, tankers, and airborne surveillance and early warning aircraft, according to John Stillion, an air power analyst with CSBA.

Those are just some of the findings presented in Stillion’s new report on trends in air-to-air combat — unveiled at an Air Force Association event in Washington April 14.

The report comes as Air Combat Command explores its requirements for a sixth-generation air dominance platform to come after the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and F-22. Senior service officials have emphasized that the future platform might not be another fighter jet, and that it could be manned or unmanned.

According to Stillion’s assessment, next-generation aircraft would benefit greatly from having a larger combat radius than current fighter designs, and an increased loadout of long-range, air-to-air weapons.

“The aerial combat lethality of large combat aircraft may be competitive or even superior to more traditional fighter aircraft designs emphasizing speed and maneuverability,” Stillion’s report states.

Subscribers can view the full story here.

Beale AFB Combating Uncertainty With Focus On Global ISR Mission

U-2 vs. Global Hawk debate is Washington’s job

While lawmakers and military officials in Washington debate the U-2 and Global Hawk’s future, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base, CA, is focusing on the global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission instead of stressing about which aircraft might eventually be retired, according to the wing commander.

In a Feb. 13 phone interview with Inside the Air Force, Col. Douglas Lee said the tussle over which airframe should be retired and when should concern those inside the beltway, not the airmen conducting the mission.

The wing, headquartered at Beale AFB, has been the subject of several contentious force structure decisions in recent years as the Air Force has asked Congress for authority to retire the U-2, then the Global Hawk, and then the U-2 again. Meanwhile, the wing’s manned MC-12 Liberty tactical airborne surveillance mission is being transferred from Air Combat Command to the Army and a portion of the fleet will eventually go to Air Force Special Operations Command.

Subscribers can view the full story here.

Decision On Sensor Key To Universal Payload Adapter Solution

For SYERS, OBC sensor transfer

Air Combat Command appears ready to support Northrop Grumman’s universal payload adapter solution for transferring national security sensors from the U-2 to the RQ-4B Global Hawk once it is determined which sensors would be most appropriate to carry on the high-altitude unmanned surveillance aircraft.

Northrop believes its internally-developed adapter, which involves airframe and software changes, would allow the Global Hawk to carry the Optical Bar Camera (OBC) and Senior Year Electro-optical Reconnaissance System (SYERS) sensors currently supported by the U-2 spy plane — an aircraft the Pentagon has targeted for retirement to cut costs.

The company last year offered to reconfigure six Global Hawks for $48 million, but the Air Force declined the offer citing a lack of “sufficient technical information.” More recently the company offered to demonstrate the universal payload adapter design using its own funds, however, that would require the Air Force to provide Northrop with one Global Hawk and SYERS sensor.

During an Oct. 10 interview with Inside the Air Force, the head of ACC’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance weapon systems division confirmed the command’s continued interest in the universal payload adapter (UPA) and said the service is working closely with Northrop on a final solution.

“We’re trying to identify the sensors that would be most appropriate to put on the UPA right now,” Col. James Merchant said. “We’re right in the middle of it.”

Subscribers can view the full story here.

Inside the Air Force – 10/10/2014, Vol. 25, No. 41