No air combat game Archives

No air combat game Archives

no air combat game Archives

no air combat game Archives

What to Expect from Sixth-Gen Aircraft

Illustration: Scott Rekdal / Turbosquid

The United States and several European nations are pursuing next-generation fighters. While many details are closely held or are still being fleshed out, a picture is starting to emerge of the capabilities they will possess.

A mockup of a Franco-German-Spanish stealth jet, part of the Future Combat Air System, or FCAS, was unveiled at the Paris Air Show in June. It came about a year after the United Kingdom displayed a model of a Tempest platform at the Farnborough Air Show. Across the Atlantic, the U.S. Air Force and Navy are planning to develop their own “next-generation air dominance” capabilities.

Survivability against sophisticated enemy air defenses is expected to be a key requirement of sixth-generation systems that might have to square off against advanced adversaries such as China or Russia.

“It has to be able to penetrate the worst potential defenses we could be up against,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in a recent interview with National Defense.

The U.S. Air Force’s “Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan” outlined a need for a new “penetrating counter-air” platform that could go deep into enemy airspace and conduct kinetic and non-kinetic attacks.

While fifth-generation platforms such as the F-35 and F-22 are low-observable against today’s X-band radars, the concept of stealth will likely be broader for future systems, said retired fighter pilot Gen. Hawk Carlisle, president and CEO of the National Defense Industrial Association and the former commander of Air Combat Command.

“It has got to try to be stealthier across more of the radar spectrum. It has to be stealthy in the IR spectrum. It has to be stealthy in the electromagnetic spectrum and how much it emits. It has to be stealthy in other ways,” he said. “When we talk about sixth-gen, it’s multispectral stealth across as many sensor capabilities as exist out there.”

Another way to improve survivability is to suppress enemy air-defense systems with electronic warfare tools or shoot down their missiles and fighter jets, analysts have noted.

“Navy leaders intend [the future fighter] FA-XX to be survivable in highly contested environments, which it might achieve through a combination of sensor countermeasures and self-defense weapons rather than aircraft shape and coatings alone,” said a report published last year by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments titled, “Regaining the High Ground at Sea: Transforming the U.S. Navy’s Carrier Air Wing for Great Power Competition.”

BAE’s Director of Future Combat Air Systems Michael Christie — in an interview published in Eurofighter World magazine — said the Tempest will need to have the right defensive technologies to protect itself against a large number of enemy assets. BAE is the prime contractor for the Tempest project.

European missile-maker MBDA envisions platforms armed with interceptors.

Even if aircraft are stealthy, “we think that in the end game you will still have the threat of incoming missiles,” said Jean Dupont, the company’s head of media relations. “The only way to get rid of these very sophisticated threats will be to have … self-defense missiles onboard the aircraft.”

An Air Force Research Laboratory video released last year titled, “Air Force 2030: Call to Action,” included a computer-generated F-X fighter shooting down an enemy aircraft with a laser.

Carlisle said he anticipates lasers being integrated onto U.S. fighters once size, weight, power, thermal management and beam control challenges are solved.

“We’re not there yet. It’s going to take a little bit of time,” he said. But “that capability is not too far in the future.”

Other possibilities for directed energy weapons include high powered microwaves or an electromagnetic pulse-type of capability, he said.

“If you can do something to disrupt the microelectronics in an adversary system, then you potentially can render it combat ineffective,” he explained. “We’ve demonstrated we can do it with a couple of different systems, so I think that’s another … capability that could come forward before too long.”

Another factor to consider is the need for speed. Carlisle noted that historically there has been a tradeoff between speed and stealth because quicker aircraft tend to have higher infrared signatures. However, cooling technologies could potentially enable next-gen systems to fly faster without sacrificing low-observability.

Range and endurance are other key characteristics of any aircraft. Some observers have raised concerns about existing platforms’ combat radius.

“One of the hits on fighters is you spend a lot of time going to the tanker because of range” limitations, Carlisle said.

The CSBA report said the Navy’s FA-XX is expected to emphasize range and speed. Future naval aircraft might need to provide offensive counter-air support from carriers that are located as far as 1,000 to 1,200 nautical miles away from enemy missile launchers, the authors said.

Another CSBA report commissioned by Congress and published earlier this year titled, “An Air Force for an Era of Great Power Competition,” said the service needs a penetrating counter-air platform that has greater range, endurance and payload capacity than contemporary fighters. Such a plane must be capable of conducting electronic warfare attacks to help suppress threats and enable other penetrating aircraft to survive and perform their missions.

A future system or family of systems “has to be able to have the legs to persist in that environment for long as we need it to persist,” Goldfein said.

It must also have the ability to punish U.S. adversaries with its firepower, he noted. The service is pursuing a next-gen air-to-air weapon, as well as highly maneuverable hypersonic strike missiles.

“You can make a missile pretty low-observable,” Carlisle said. “Now you look at a hypersonic missile that’s doing Mach 5, Mach 8, Mach 12, … even if the adversary knows it’s there as it passes through a weapons envelope so quickly, their ability to react and do something is very limited.”

Meanwhile, MBDA is planning to create a new series of smart missiles that could be networked with other systems. The multinational company is part of the Tempest and FCAS teams, and it intends to develop technologies for both systems.

“We want to build synergies between those programs … in the weapon set,” Dupont said.

Nations must also decide if they want their next-generation fighters to be manned, unmanned or optionally manned.

Unmanned systems can operate without the limitations of the human pilot, such as fatigue and being able to handle G forces, Carlisle noted. They also keep airmen out of harm’s way. However, officials still see value in having a human in the loop to make decisions.

“We all know that technically, of course, it’s feasible” for a next-generation fighter to be unmanned, said Florian Taitsch, head of media relations for Airbus Defense and Space.

“But as far as I understand, the European nations … [prefer] having a man sitting there in the cockpit.”

Airbus is one of the prime contractors for FCAS.

The Tempest could be manned or unmanned, according to the United Kingdom’s latest combat air strategy.

The U.S. Navy sees advantages in both options, said Anjanette Knappenberger, deputy director of air warfare in the office of the chief of naval operations.

For certain scenarios and certain mission sets, an autonomous platform might be able to get the job done, she said during a panel at this year’s Navy League Sea-Air-Space Symposium.

“But we’re seeing a lot more ability to leverage some of that … autonomy but still be in the loop with the manned system,” she added. That was one of the focus areas that the service looked at in its next-generation air dominance analysis of alternatives.

Sixth-generation fighters may be accompanied by robotic wingmen when they go into battle.

Taitsch said the future combat air system is expected to include a manned fighter that will function as a mothership for drones called remote carriers.

Christie said manned/unmanned teaming and artificial intelligence will be a key component of next-generation air warfare. “One of the challenges is working out what the man does and what the machine does,” he noted.

The Pentagon is gung-ho on the concept, envisioning a family of systems cooperating to accomplish their mission.

“The Air Force is talking a lot about loyal wingman … where there’s a manned platform and then there’s a group of unmanned capability that is either semi-autonomous, totally autonomous or totally controlled,” Carlisle said.

“You may have a man in the loop that’s maybe back in the rear so he’s less threatened, but he controls things in front of him,” he explained. “You may have that penetrating capability with man in the loop that goes forward … but he has the ability to control the rest of the systems from his place. Or you could have it all forward and unmanned” with a human overseeing the mission from much farther away.

The Air Force Research Lab is already testing a low-cost Valkyrie drone that could be paired with the fighter fleet.

Future fighters might even be able to carry unmanned aerial vehicles that could be deployed from the mothership.

“Our idea is to have something so compact, light [that it would be] completely compatible with the launchers,” said Sebastien Palaprat, an engineer with MBDA. The systems could operate in swarms and be networked with other weapons.

The Pentagon has experimented with this concept. In 2016, a swarm of more than 100 Perdix micro drones were deployed from three F/A-18 Super Hornets at China Lake, California.

Data processing and sharing, enabled by automation and artificial intelligence, will be key to next-generation air dominance, officials and other observers say.

The FCAS will include an “air combat cloud” to enable fighter jets and other military forces to share “all the information available on the battlefield in real time with anybody,” Taitsch said.

That would be a major leap in situational awareness capability, he noted. Anybody who claims that this level of information sharing is already happening has “seen too many films that are coming out of Hollywood,” he added.

Christie said situational awareness will be a key feature of any future force. “The next generation will be all about … information dominance.”

Carlisle expects sensor fusion capability will be radically improved in next-gen systems.

“We have to learn to DANCE,” he said, using an acronym which stands for data, algorithms, networks, cloud and edge computing.

“You need the data. You need the algorithms, which is the AI or machine learning. You need the networks so that you can pass this around. You need the cloud for that data accessibility. And then you need computing at the [tactical] edge,” Carlisle explained. “I think that’s going to be where the sixth-gen is going to take us.”

Some Air Force and Navy officials are now shying away from using the term sixth-generation fighter, and have adopted the phrase next-generation air dominance, or NGAD, to describe their future systems, which will be supported by space, cyber and other capabilities.

Goldfein said the Air Force could develop multiple types of sixth-gen aircraft.

“I don’t know right now whether it’s a single platform [or] it’s a number of platforms,” he said. “I want to keep that wide open so we can really drive towards game changing technology as we go forward.”

Next-gen aircraft might not look like today’s fighters, Carlisle said.

“In people’s mind when they think fighter, they think F-22, F-35, F-18, F-15, F-16 — but it may not be a fighter in the traditional sense,” he said. “It may have different attributes. It may be a bigger airplane with a bigger internal storage and bigger payload.”

The mockups unveiled by European powers, on the other hand, have a more traditional look. The Tempest “will probably still be an iconic fighter aircraft but with lots of related systems,” Chrisitie said.

Countries are moving forward with their sixth-gen plans. By the end of next year, the Tempest project is expected to shift from a concept phase to an assessment phase. The U.K. Defence Ministry aims to have the aircraft operational by 2035.

Later this year, the FCAS program will move from a joint concept phase to a demonstrator phase. The new fighter is expected to be ready for action by 2040.

The U.S. Air Force and Navy are planning to field new platforms in the 2030s. Analyses of alternatives have already been conducted, and billions of dollars for next-generation air dominance capabilities are included in the future years defense program.

The Air Force is doing risk reduction and prototyping, which is expected to run through fiscal year 2024, according to budget documents. The Navy is planning to initiate a concept refinement phase in fiscal year 2020, according to Capt. Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James “Hondo” Geurts.

The race is on to develop the most cutting edge systems.

“We have a very strong industrial base that’s bringing lots of new ideas to us,” Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord told reporters. “We might have a very good competition there.” 

— Additional reporting by Connie Lee

Topics:Air Power, Air Force News

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Air Combat Tales From Australia’s Storied Pitch Black Aerial War Games

"In 1982, Pitch Black was a Sector Air Defence Exercise (ADEX) designed to exercise the air defense sector as it was established at Williamtown — that meant exercising the alert-detect-scramble-intercept kill chain, with an emphasis on night flying. As pilot of a Macchi ‘target’, my job was to simply fly a pre-planned route out of Richmond that entered the Williamtown airspace from the North West. Along the way, I would be intercepted by Mirages scrambled out of Williamtown, no doubt launching from an alert posture in the Willy Operational Readiness Platform."

"There was no free play (in the exercise). I have no idea who was calling the shots, but I suspect it was the Sector Air Defence Commander, and in those days we used to have such things as SADOC (Sector Air Defence Operations Centre) executive courses to teach people how to do that stuff."

"My next Pitch Black experience was in 1988. By this time I was a Hornet FCI flying with No. 77 Squadron. Five out of my seven exercise events were flown at night. By 1988, the exercise had shifted to Darwin but it was still an Air Defence Exercise. This meant the defenders were the good guys (Blue), with the attackers playing the bad guys (Red). My logbook shows me that there was a United States Air Force F-15 outfit in town playing adversaries. Because the exercise was (centered) on Air Defence, it was very much a ‘clean’ exercise of RAAF air defense capability — no allies played on the Blue side. It’s worth noting that F-111s were always Red Air."

"I next flew a Pitch Black in 1991 as FCI with No. 75 Squadron. I flew 12 missions all labeled Vital Area Defence (Darwin) with four of them flown at night. Once again, visiting USAF F-15s flew as Red Air. By now I was beginning to think Pitch Black was getting a bit tedious."

"We had excellent airspace, we had an exercise that included complex scenarios flown at night (no one else was doing that), but we had a purpose-built F/A-18 base at Tindal that was not being exercised, we were only beginning to think about developing Delamere Range, and we were still spending hours on alert practicing moving up and down the alert posture."

"When we got airborne, we would spend many hours going around and around a CAP station — you would consider yourself lucky if you got to intercept anything. There was no real debrief or attempt to analyze outcomes and there was certainly no kill removal (where participants who are ‘shot down’ are required to leave the airspace)."

"By Pitch Black 2002, I was now Commander Air Combat Group (ACG), I was the Officer Conducting the Exercise, so I changed the rules. I converted Pitch Black from an air defense exercise into a strike exercise."

"In developing the exercise, we tried to maintain the good bits from the previous incarnation, but avoid some of the bad stuff. Exercise Pitch Black 2002 was the first Pitch Black where we were able to exercise Air Combat Group as a Group with F-111 and F/A-18 finally working together. We certainly kept the night serials."

"The exercise in 2002 was flown on the East Coast with No. 75 Squadron Hornets deployed to Amberley (the Republic of Singapore Air Force also participated that year). This was the exercise that generated some ‘crinkly faces’ in the planning conference because it was the first time that we changed the roles of Red and Blue Force. In 2002 we had just returned jets from the Diego Garcia deployment, and we would soon deploy No. 75 Squadron in early 2003 to the Middle East Area of Operations. There was a bit going on."

"Exercise Pitch Black 2002 involved some heavy planning in order to generate enough overland airspace (additional Training Areas off the top of the Richmond airspace was included too, as I recall). Out of that experience, we realized that we should retain an exercise as an annual event, but keep one focused on air defense (in odd years) while the bigger Pitch Black exercise (in even years) got heavily into the complex offensive exercise that it has become."

"We kept the exercise to a planned daytime and nighttime event, which meant we could control activity through ‘periods of vulnerability’ and, as long as the players stayed within the ‘VUL Time’ (VUL meaning Vulnerability Window — the time period when the exercise was ‘active’) they could free play their tactics. Moving off the ADEX script also gave the air defenders an asset management challenge that had been missing in scripted exercises. De-emphasizing air defense also gave the exercise a lot more meaning and value for the participation of other Force Element Groups."

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no air combat game Archives

How to look for... Royal Air Force operations record books 1911-1963

What are these records?

These are Royal Air Force (RAF) operations record books (ORBs), though the oldest books pre-date the formation of the RAF in April 1918 and cover operations carried out by its predecessors, the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).

Most of these Air Ministry records date from the Second World War but there are some from the First World War as well as books from between the wars and beyond, up to the mid-1960s.

The ORBs, in series AIR 27, were created to provide a complete record of a unit from the time of its formation. Each book includes an accurate record of operations carried out by the unit.

This online collection also includes some operations record books for dominion and Allied Air Force squadrons under British Command.

What can I view online?

Series AIR 27 contains over four thousand pieces but it’s pieces AIR 27/1 to AIR 27/2893 that you can view and download online (£). To view the remainder of the series, which covers ORBs right up to the early 1990s, you would need to visit The National Archives in Kew.

What information do the records contain?

The ORBs comprise of:

  • ‘summary of events’ forms (also known as Form 540)
  • ‘detail of work carried out’ forms (also known as Form 541)
  • appendices where applicable (which may include operational orders, miscellaneous reports and telegraphed messages)

Information includes:

  • aircraft type and number
  • names
  • rank of flight crew
  • names of passengers
  • weather conditions
  • flight/sortie details

The records can be used to create a list of all the flying operations that RAF aircrew completed. They are also an excellent source for building a picture of squadron operations.

How do I search the records?

You can search the records using the fields below.

You don’t need to complete the date field to find a record but it may help you by narrowing your search.

Alternatively, go to Discovery, our catalogue, to search by catalogue reference.

Some of these ORBs are searchable by the names of the crew, at The Genealogist website (£).

What do the records look like?

The records are arranged by squadron number and date and time of sortie or flight.

The majority of the records consist of standard RAF Form 540 diary pages with a mix of handwritten and typed formats.

To get an idea of what the records look like have a look at the below examples which show the summary of events and the records of events of 101 Squadron for December 1943.

Summary of events(PDF, 0.80MB)

Records of events(PDF, 4.26MB)

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