Rear Admiral Yin Zhuo of the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (a.k.a. “the Chinese Navy”) recently commented that the Shenyang J-15 is better than the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet in terms of air-to-air combat, but slightly inferior with regard to engaging surface targets.
In terms of its performance compared to other carrier-based aircraft in service around the world, Yin Zhuo said that the J-15 capabilities are high. For instance, it reaches a similar level to the U.S. F/A-18C/D “Super Hornet”. While overall it is slightly inferior to the F/A-18E/F, it has better performance in air combat. Its ability to attack land and sea-based targets is lower than the F/A-18E/F, but it is at least equal to, and perhaps slightly better than, India’s Mig-29K.
Aviation analyst Andrei Pinkov gave a comparative analysis of the J-15 and the F/A-18:
“The orientation of F/A-18E/F is a fighter attacker, so that its maneuvering is not so good as the J-15, which derives from an air control fighter. This means that the J-15 is more likely to shoot down F/A-18E/F in close combat,” says Pinkov. “However, the ‘Super Hornet’ is able to take off with the assistance of catapult, so that its real payload is likely to exceed that of J-15, which takes off by means of ski-jump. Thus the U.S. fighter has advantages in terms of attack and combat radius.”
During 2013, the J-15 has made a series of test flights from China’s new aircraft carrier the ‘Liaoning’ as both the aircraft and carrier work-up to operational status. RAdm Yin Zhuo refused to confirm that the J-15 was already in mass production, but commented that online speculation is logical based on the facts that J-15 is already in service, and its technology is mature enough for mass production.
Yin Zhuo said that the full service life of the J-15 would be about 25 to 30 years. The fact that the J-15 and its variants are now regularly seen in flight, and taking off and landing on aircraft carriers, indicates that it will not be subject to any further major modifications. Once mass production is under way the aircraft design will be fixed other than in terms of possible changes to radar and electronic communication systems, or modernization of the engine after 10 to 15 years of service. However, the profile, basic finish, and performance standards of the aircraft have been established.
Tricky bastards, those Kamarians. You’ve got to watch them.
Exercise TALISMAN SABER fleet prepares for battle
Following aggression by the fictional island nation ‘Kamaria’, Australia and the United States have been called upon to form a combined force to restore peace and security to the region.
Now, a large and highly capable Australian and US Navy fleet is amassing in the Coral Sea to prepare for action against the mythical ‘Kamarians’.
This fictional scenario provides the backdrop for Exercise TALISMAN SABER 2013, a bilateral Australian/US exercise aimed at improving combat readiness and the ability of US and Australian forces to operate together.
As the fictional political scenario unfolds, warships from the Royal Australian Navy and the US Navy’s 7th fleet are gathering together for an initial period of force integration training, designed to get the two navies used to working together before engaging in higher level ‘free-play’ combat exercises.
Training so far has included anti-submarine and anti-air warfare exercises, underway replenishments and coordinated manoeuvres involving multiple ships steaming in formation.
Among the fleet is the Upgraded Anzac Class frigate HMAS Perth, sporting its recently-installed anti-ship missile defences.
Attacks by Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18 Hornets have tested the ship’s upgraded sensors and combat system while members of Perth’s 5-inch gun crew have proven their skills in live firing exercises against towed airborne targets.
Perth’s bridge and operations room teams have been put through their paces working in close company with US Navy Arleigh Burke class destroyers USS Preble and USS Chung Hoon and Ticonderoga Class cruiser USS Antietam and Australian guided missile frigate HMAS Sydney.
Other members of the ship’s company have participated in several fire fighting and damage control exercises.
HMAS Perth Commanding Officer, Captain Lee Goddard said this initial phase of the exercise training was invaluable, as it set the scene for the next stage of the combined training.
“This initial force integration training aims to bring together a large number of ships that will be working together during the exercise so they can become an effective combined fighting force.
“It gives us the opportunity to establish command and control relationships, refine operating procedures and learn how we can best use the capabilities each ship brings to the task force.
“Once this solid foundation is established, we can safely move into higher level training in a free-play exercise environment where we respond to a rapidly unfolding exercise scenario,” Captain Goddard said.
Perth is participating in exercise TALISMAN SABER alongside other Royal Australian Navy vessels HMA Ships Choules, Sydney, Waller and Tarakan and helicopters from 816 and 808 Squadrons. Also involved in TALISMAN SABER is Spanish combat support ship ESPS Cantabria and ships from the US Navy’s 7th Fleet, including the USS George Washington aircraft carrier strike group and an expeditionary strike group led by Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard.
Exercise TALISMAN SABER will run from 15 July – 5 August, with around 28,000 Australian and US personnel taking part in the 21-day exercise being held in the Coral Sea and in military training areas in central and northern Queensland.
Supporting activities are also underway in the waters of the Timor and Arafura Seas, and throughout Queensland and the Northern Territory.
Imagery is available on the Australian Defence Image Library at http://images.defence.gov.au/TS13-023.
Here’s an old drum that I like to pick up and bang. Nobody else really wants to hear the tune any more, but it’s still a personal favourite.
Let’s crunch some basic numbers.
- F/A-18E/F Super Hornet £44m ($67m)
- F-35B Lightning II £130m ($197m)
Price per (36 aircraft) carrier air wing:
- F/A-18E/F Super Hornet 1584m ($2412m)
- F-35B Lightning II 4680m ($7092m)
So the savings to the British taxpayer (remember them… the people that elect the
clowns politicians that make these mistakes decisions) on a carrier air wing of 36 aircraft would have been £3276m ($4680m). Two air wings (1 for each carrier) would amplify the savings to £6552m ($9360m).
SIX-POINT-FIVE BILLION POUNDS!
That’s enough to fund the entire Type 26 frigate programme of 13 vessels and increase that programme to an operationally-efficient 16 (16x £350 = £5600) and build an eighth Astute-class submarine (£800m) and order 3 more River-class OPVs (£150m).
Yes, I am aware that my accounting is simplistic. Yes, I am aware that folks in the Fleet Air Arm and Royal Air Force want shiny new F-35 aircraft and would consider the F/A-18 as a “make do.” Yes, I am aware that money was already wasted redesigning the carriers for “cats & traps” then back again. Yes, yes, yes. But I still like my old drum and I still like the simple tune I play on it.
Please note the strong assertion that this is not to replace the F-35, but merely supplement it. Which, of course, means it will replace the F-35… and we’re all left wondering why we went ahead and spent so much money on it in the first place.
USN, Industry Seek New Concepts For 6th-generation Fighter
WASHINGTON — The makeup of the US Navy’s carrier air wings will start to shift in a few years as the F-35C joint strike fighter begins to enter service. The typical carrier flight deck will see both F-35s and F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets in operation. But thoughts already are turning to what lies beyond the F-35’s fifth-generation aviation technology, to the planes that in the 2030s will begin to replace the F/A-18s flying with US and international services.
Rear Adm. Bill Moran, the Navy’s director of air warfare in the Pentagon, offered his thoughts on the future aircraft, dubbed the F/A-XX, during an interview in the Pentagon.
Q. Where are you today on what you think the sixth-generation aircraft is?
A. We don’t talk in terms of generations of airplanes. It’s really ill-defined in my view, and mostly wrapped around stealth technology. So we are not in the business of trying to design and build a sixth-generation air wing. I do not even talk about sixth generation. But I do talk about where our aircraft quantities start to run out of service life.
The bulk of our force today are Super Hornets and they will be there for a long time, out until the end of the 2020s, early 2030s timeframe. But then that need starts to occur when the airplanes reach 9,000 hours of service life. When that happens, we are either going to buy a bunch more F-35Cs, or we are going to have to start looking at capability that we can replace the capability set, the mission set that the F/A-18 E/Fs do today.
We are taking an approach called FA-XX. We’ll [start a study] next year that would assess all those missions the F/A-18 E/F plugs into, in the air wing. How could we capture those capabilities in another way instead of buying another very high-end, very expensive platform replacement? Certainly there will be platforms involved, but do they have to be platforms that look and feel and operate much like an F/A-18 E/F or an F-35 does today? Could it be done differently? Could we do the mission sets different?
For example, we talk a lot to NAVAIR [Naval Air Systems Command] about future designs being more of a truck that has an open architecture design, so you can plug different sensors, different payloads and weapons into that for a specific mission, and be able to move those sensors and payloads around so you can do multiple different missions on different days, or different sorties, instead of trying to build everything into a jet — that becomes very expensive.
It is very much in line with [the direction of Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations], where he talked about payloads over platforms. In other words, the payload piece is what is important. Getting the right payload in the right place, at the right time is also critical. But what kind of truck that payload rides around on is what we are really after.
So we want to look holistically at all of the things that contribute to a mission. They include space-based. They include other platforms that are already part of the air wing — E-2D Hawkeyes, EA-18G Growlers — and the rotary wing component. How do we do a system-of-systems look across all of those platforms, and decide what capability gaps we need to cover as the F/A-18 E/Fs start to fall off?
Now we try to tell industry that we are just opening up the aperture to have a conversation about what they think the art of the possible is. I have had some great discussions with industry partners about this. Do not just look to walk in here with a new design, a sixth-generation aircraft. I am not interested in that conversation yet. I am interested in what are the technologies that you think you can bring? And specifically propulsion, which drives future capability. That is the timeline driver. If you are looking at a game-changing propulsion capability, whether it is long dwell, fast and high, all of those types of attributes to a propulsion capability, we have got to start working that now to lead to whatever the truck looks like.
And as you are developing that propulsion capability, then you can start to look at what kind of payloads? What kind of sensors? What kind of integrating capability that you want to develop across the air wing, so you continue to have the same effect of a different shape, a different mix of an air wing in the future.
Q. Do you think about unmanned aerial vehicles?
A. You could look at small UAVs launched off a truck that do different mission sets currently done by larger platforms that are very costly or expensive. There are lots of [concept of operations] questions that come into play as we study this. And of course, now you are trying to project a threat that is in the 2030s and ’40s and even in the ’50s — and what that threat could evolve to. That is going to drive a lot of how you view what the air wing ought to look like that far out.
So it really is our opportunity right now, while we are building F-35s, while we are continuing to mature F/A-18 E/Fs to deal with the ’20s and ’30s. What are we looking at beyond that?
When you look at normal development plans that take an average of 17 years for aviation, we are at that point right now if we are truly going to get to a 2030 capability. But we are not bought into [whether] it has to be a high-end fighter, or a high-end anything. What we do know is that we need to design it to allow us the most flexibility in how we operate that, whatever it is in the future.
Do not wait for us to tell you line by line what the requirement is. We are way too early in that. I need to understand what you think are the possibilities in propulsion, sensors, networks, architecture. All of those things have to be designed into whatever this thing might look like in the future.
Q. You issued a request for information (RFI) about a year ago for the next fighter. What were the responses?
A. Official responses are highly classified; we are parsing through with a team at NAVAIR and in our Special Programs branch. And they are intriguing. They run the gamut of, here is our aircraft design of the future, to here is a capability design of the future. And somewhere in there is our trade space and how we are going to view this.
But again, it just opens up the conversation. We are very early in this. And what we hope to do is now take that process into an analysis of alternatives, a formal AOA, that will take a couple of years to complete because it is very complex. We hope to get it started in 2014.
Q. The logical responders to the RFI would be Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman. Are you interested also in hearing from conceptual groups, not necessarily aircraft manufacturers?
A. The major folks have all jumped in, and to the degree to which we have maybe some others that might want to contribute in a different way, I could not tell you right now. But I want to hear from people who think completely outside our normal acquisition process.
Q. What is your thinking about a manned versus unmanned fighter?
A. What we said in the RFI was, we want you to think manned, unmanned and optionally manned. We are not trying to drive a solution here. And we recognize there might be different mixes of those options that are more effective in the ’30s and ’40s than what we have today. But we want to understand why you think that. What are the capabilities they bring? And then let’s have a discussion.
Q. Are you driving to introduce an aircraft around 2030?
A. Yes. See, everybody wants to dive right back into, do you want a platform? And my answer is, I know I am going to start to lose the capability set that Super Hornet brings to the air wing today, starting in the late ’20s or early ’30s. So what capabilities can we start designing that replace that, the mission sets that the Super Hornet does today? When you think there are at least nine or 10 different missions the Super Hornet contributes to today, does it have to be done by the same very advanced, complex capable airplane platform?
Q. Do you envision that say, in 2040, the FA-XX will completely replace the F-35 along with the Super Hornets? Or will it serve alongside the F-35?
A. This effort is not at all to replace the F-35 — it is almost if you flip it upside down. When you look out in the ’30s and ’40s, what we are aiming to do is to complement what the F-35 brings, much like the F-35 will complement what the F-18s currently bring and deliver in the air wing. Today, there is a graceful, gradual replacing of legacy Hornets with F-35s. As the F-18 population starts to run out of service life, we have got to bring in a new capability that complements what the F-35 brings.
The British government has indicated that it will likely purchase 15 aircraft (enough for a single squadron), but further procurement is entirely dependent upon the bean-counters at HM Treasury. Lockheed Martin still lists the UK’s buy-in at 138 aircraft, but this seems unlikely in Austerity Britain. It does rather make a person wonder whether the new Royal Navy Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers will rapidly become two VERY EXPENSIVE helicopter carriers. It may revive old questions as to whether a conventional carrier with cats & traps and the cheaper (by millions), functional (combat proven), already operational (again, proven) F/A-18E/F Super Hornet would have been a far, far better choice for the RN.
UK Will Try To Boost F-35B Landing Weight
July 5, 2013, 12:50 PM
Senior British military officials confirmed that the UK will conduct shipboard rolling vertical landing (SRVL) trials on the F-35B version of the Lockheed Martin Lightning II stealth combat jet. The SRVL technique would allow the aircraft to land at higher weights than is currently possible in the VTOL mode. The F-35B has faced weight problems, leading to concerns that it could not “bring back” to its aircraft carrier a useful weapons load that has not been expended in combat. The British have done nearly all the previous research and simulation on SRVLs.
The officials said they are satisfied that the F-35B could bring back the internal weapons load that is initially planned, comprising–in the UK case–two AMRAAM air-air missiles and two Paveway IV smart bombs weighing some 5,000 pounds. But, one added, when high temperature and/or low pressure conditions prevail–such as in the Gulf of Oman–it would be prudent to achieve another 2,000 to 4,000 pounds of bring-back weight, for either fuel or weapons, especially since the F-35 will be able to carry additional weapons on wing pylons, when stealth is not a requirement.
The UK will formally decide later this year on a further purchase of F-35s, beyond the three already acquired (at a cost of $350 million) for test and evaluation (T&E). The number under consideration is believed to be 15, enough to equip an initial operational squadron. Another 30 are likely to be approved before 2015, when another British defense review will consider how many more F-35s the country can afford. Until then, the officials maintained, the UK “program of record” remains a total of 138 F-35s. Most observers believe that the UK will not acquire more than 100 F-35s, and some suggest the final total might be as low as 70.
The officials revealed that the UK will work closely with the U.S. Marine Corps to bring its F-35Bs into operational service. After it is formed in 2016, the first British squadron will be based at MCAS Yuma and integrated with the co-located USMC F-35B fleet. Pilots of both services will be able to fly the others’ aircraft. The squadron will relocate to RAF Marham in the UK in early 2018 and be ready for combat from land bases by the end of that year.
Meanwhile, the UK’s three T&E jets will embark on the new Queen Elizabeth II aircraft carrier for trials in the same year.