From the TD Archives – Low Cost CAS Aircraft

Another topic that often attracts a great deal of interest, even the Chief of the General Staff made several points about £70m Typhoon’s providing Close Air Support and surely, something cheaper would do.

In this post, I came down firmly on the side of using fast jets for CAS when compared the the likes of Super Tucano’s

https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2009/09/cheap-cascoin-is-an-illusion-lets-get-off-the-bandwagon/

But with platforms like Harvest Hawk, C295 gunships and the crop spraying tank busters like the Air Tractor and Iomax, am wondering if I was wrong.

Maybe there is a place for low cost CAS, especially with the growing abilities of precision direct and indirect ground launched munitions.

I also like the idea of ‘upstream engagement’ using air power, just with something that is affordable for the typical nation we would be engaging with.

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IXION
July 24, 2014 2:21 pm

Of I will play.

IHMO the biggles style staffing run with auto cannon or smallish rockets may be a thing of the past v anyone who can shoot back. Most close air support seems to be being done from mid altitude above effective manpad range.*

Given an aircraft of reasonable speed and lifting capability.. does it need to be a fighter jet?

How about a fast-ish turbofan engined aircraft based on one of the many medium executive jets?

* if I am wrong about that then turbo props make even more sense.

Keil Kraft
Keil Kraft
July 24, 2014 2:34 pm

Nothing wrong in considering something basic that can operate off rough strips, doesn’t need complex servicing, based on commercial systems and benefits from economies of scale, especially when against rebels, etc armed with limited tech. May be a step too far but an internal combustion engine has a lower IR signature than a gas turbine and better endurance at low altitude so may be an updated version of the Hawker Typhoon or Tempest. How are those two stroke diesels progressing? Definitely an area for consideration.

Ace Rimmer
July 24, 2014 2:35 pm

I agree with Ixion, after reading about the UK’s conflict in Aden, the Hawker Hunter seemed the ideal platform. Given the number of Hawk users in the Middle East I’m wondering now why the RAF arm the Hawk in a CAS role for Afghanistan. Definitely cheaper than the Tornado’s they deployed (not to be drawn into the ‘we should’ve never got rid of the Jaguar’ argument!).

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 24, 2014 2:42 pm

What about something like the Bombardier Global express? has got speed loiter and especially height to it’s advantage.

Are we going to be facing poorly equipped enemies within the next 10 years? ISIS have manged to acquire a decent haul of kit, Hamas are using the latest generation ATGW’s and the opposition in Ukraine have some decent SAM missiles.

Should we be looking at the Gripen as our expeditionary/CAS airframe? from experience kicking tin with the Harrier Force, I don’t think we are going to be using the F35 from expeditionary airfields any time soon.

The Other Chris
July 24, 2014 2:47 pm

I posted this in the Open Thread on Monday. It sums up my feelings to low level CAS:

Still impressed that the A-10C is surviving for another year!

DOD FY15 budget details:

https://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/fy2015-dod-budget-attempts-to-steer-congress-towards-sequestration-fy16-relief-021966/

There’s strong discussion about the slaying of sacred cows in the UK. The A-10 is definitely one of them from a US perspective.

It’s a phenomenal example of engineering, performs the low level CAS role arguably superior than any other air vehicle in existence or planned.

The main problem it faces is that aircraft performing low level CAS (and Strike) [TOC: A-10 and Tornado sorties, GW1 and GW2] have suffered disproportionate fleet damage resulting in a severe lack of mission availability when not operating in a permissive environment.
Think Defence Open Thread

MSR
MSR
July 24, 2014 3:02 pm

This debate is analagous to the Hi Lo fleet mix which is often suggested as a way of affordably boosting ship numbers. The argument goes that the navy’s bread and butter tasks of presence patrol, anti drugs, anti piracy, SAR and disaster relief are all within the capabilities of cheaper Lo level OPV or corvette style vessels, so we should only buy a few Hi level frigates for ASW and carrier escort.

But the counter argument says that frigates can do all the bread and butter stuff AND fight peer on peer wars, but the Lo OPV cirvettescan’t and would just be floating targets.

So it is with Typhoon CAS verses cheap Lo level CAS specialist. Typhoon can act down I the role of myd miver in tin pot wars and next year go toe to toe with a peer competitor. And just as if you bought OPVs to supplement a few frigates, so you will inevitably see Hi level Typhoon numbers cut to realise savings from having Lo level CAS aircraft: that’s how the system works. The RN know this which is another reason they resist the Hi Lo fleet mix idea. Then you would suddenly have too few Typhoon to see off next year’s peer competitor.

Better that the Typhoons/frigates move mud/catch pirates in between the really big stuff so that we’ve got them when we need them, and so that we’re actually getting some use out of these expensive items in the meantime!

monkey
monkey
July 24, 2014 3:09 pm

The CAS role by the likes of A10/SU-25 is hard to match as these purpose designed aircraft have proved the worth in Iraq/Afghanistan and Afghanistan/Iraq-Iran/Chetneya respectively being able to go low and slow whilst soaking up ground fire , providing enduring cover in a protracted firefight as well as delivering heavy fire power.
In Afghanistan a pair of A-10’s provided 3 hours of cover to a coloum of 60 US troops ambushed in a ravine whilst recovering a truck that had slipped partly into the ravine. The pilots dropped their bomb load on to the Taliban fighters and emptied their 1100 rounds each of 30mm . The Taliban eventually withdrew leaving 18 dead . Their is no replacement on the drawing board for the A-10 with the USAF due to funding considerations earmarking the F35 for this role. A doctrine change will be required if a relatively fragile highly complex FJ is to replace this venerable workhorse to protect it from random ground fire bringing a short sharp end to £100m worth of aircraft from a lucky hit from a random burst from a £50 AK.
The Air Tractor conversion seem along the right lines as an interim measure,10hrs of endurance and mounting a pair of 0.50 gatlings and 2600 rnds along with various bomb/rocket pods on a highly manoverable airframe brings a lot to the party.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 24, 2014 3:15 pm

@monkey

The SU-25 is not doing too great in the Ukraine at the moment. Where the USAF right when they said the A-10 could not survive in a non permissive environment?

Jules
Jules
July 24, 2014 3:22 pm

Well it’s time to order more hawks, or at least it will be shortly, so Hawks that can actually fight not just simulate fighting…
I like the idea of a C295 MPA/Transport fleet but we could have a spooky gunship version with a pylon or two on each wing for Brimstone, Jack of all trades, master of none but maybe good enough???
I’d love to see the faces of an enemy that gets shot up, bombed and then gets 40-50 fully equipped paras deployed at them in a onner, from the same plane!
Fantasy on lot of levels I know but fun to think about!

Slightly Agricultural
Slightly Agricultural
July 24, 2014 3:26 pm

I think it really depends on the threat environment. If you’re up against someone with S-300’s you probably aren’t going to being doing much CAS for a while. Conversely, if you want to hammer ISIS anything above the MANPAD envelope with defensive aids turned on is probably safe.

For that reason, I can’t see us getting a dedicated CAS platform. For high-risk scenarios we either splash the cash to use Tiffys, or chance Reaper if it looks well dicey. For permissive environments you want something that can loiter all day. That’s ether Reaper again or a big ‘ole bomb truck, and presumably what we’ll be using most.

That’s where I see the money being spent. Big airframes acting as arsenal ships, dispensing spades of complex weapons from a safe height, or UAS carrying as many small precision munitions as they can hang off the wings; be it Brimstone, GPS mortar rounds or surplus treacle pudding (those suet blocks would pack a punch, and the syrup sauce is pure chemical warfare).

Although i’m always in favour of any plan that involves buying Gripen (with a Eurofighter engine, of course) to pad out the FJ fleet, much as I hate Crabs…

IXION
July 24, 2014 3:27 pm

DN

I think the point is that we are talking about a sort of permissive environment aircraft.

After all against a 1st rank air defence all the drones are toast, sentinel- toast, beach king air toast, and AC130 toast.

Ok one does not want to be silly with this – it can’t be done is a Cessna. I am Talking about an aircraft dropping guided weapons from 20,000 ft

A biggish fastish turbo prop twin or a a twin turbofan is another matter.

Lets be clear we are talking about an aircraft that not only would be 1/4 the cost of typhoon (even at a relatively high spec) it would be a lot less mant intensive and use a whole lot less fuel….

Rocket Banana
July 24, 2014 3:28 pm

CAS is high-risk.

A cheap (Hawk/Tucano) aircraft stands much the same chance of being hit as an A-10 or Apache.

So you either boost numbers (and pilots), make sure that being hit doesn’t stop you (A10) or hide and shoot from behind a screen (Apache).

What I can’t quite understand is where CAS aircraft are more useful or effective than modern guided artillery.

Is the A10 actually used for CAS? Is it not just an anti-personnel / anti-front-line aircraft like Apache? Does it actually operate “close” to the friendly forces?

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
July 24, 2014 3:31 pm

How about a Defender with the cabin replaced by a bomb bay to provide a medium level bomb truck, it can fly above 7.5km which is the max range of virtually all MANPADS’s, It has a Defensive Aids Suite and could easily carry a targeting pod. This would provide precision guided munitions and Air-to-Ground missiles, whilst seriously cutting the cost of providing the CAS. THis clearly woul only work in an Iraq/Afghan style conflict.

Challenger
Challenger
July 24, 2014 3:38 pm

@MSR

I agree, it would be lovely if we could afford both the highly specialised stuff and cheap n cheerful platforms to bulk things out and take over some of the more mundane tasks, but if it’s a case of either/or then you have to choose the former over the latter.

Their are exceptions brought about by opportunism though, the 3 bigger/better OPV’s for example. They are being built to keep the shipbuilders busy and would cost tuppence to run so maybe it’s worth pushing for their retention alongside the high-end vessels instead of replacing them in these specific circumstances.

Panix
Panix
July 24, 2014 3:40 pm

The US is in the process of mothballing all their A-10 Warthogs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairchild_Republic_A-10_Thunderbolt_II). It has a serious anti vehicle gun, and easily capable of carrying lots and lots of ordinance – how many small diameter bombs could you hang off it? Plenty of spares, proven in both low intensity and near pear conflicts. A reasonable compromise in speed between fast jets and turboprops. Ready now, not like the Just So Failed.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 24, 2014 3:41 pm

IXION

‘I think the point is that we are talking about a sort of permissive environment aircraft.’

In that case don’t waste your money on a new airframe just buy precision stuff you could throw out the back of an A400 or C130.

El Sid
El Sid
July 24, 2014 3:44 pm

First you’ve got to define what modern CAS involves. Someone posted a link a while back that said even in GW1, the A-10’s spent the majority of their time dropping missiles and LGBs. Reaper can do that job with much greater persistence. On the other end, we have Apache if you just want to spray bullets or rockets around. Now obviously there’s a small niche in between – but is that niche big enough to justify a dedicated airframe?

As for FJs doing the job – a squadron of Tonkas cost £20m/month to base in Afghanistan, yet they were typically only in contact a couple of times a month, and were dropping maybe 1-3 Brimstone/Paveway in that month. IIRC on average they were dropping a bomb/missile on 3% of sorties, using the gun on 3% of sorties, and doing shows of force on 3% of sorties. To get the full picture I guess you should combine that with the total missile drops from Reapers, and also find out the numbers for allied aircraft drops in support of British troops, but that won’t be open source. Obviously, in that <10% of cases they were doing an important job, the question is how best to achieve that effect.

My feeling is that certainly for the UK, anything other than a squadron of dedicated ground-attack Hawk 200 is daft. Perhaps better would be to raid the Black/Seahawk/AH-1 toy cupboard, and see what we can bolt-on to the Wildcat – missile pylons, gun pods, Longbow pods, that kind of thing. Shifting RAPTOR-like capability onto a cheaper platform like Sentinel also makes sense.

Slightly Agricultural
Slightly Agricultural
July 24, 2014 4:09 pm

@El Sid
The recent Wildcat press renderings show it pretty well tooled up with 10x LMM, not a bad loadout. Wonder how the flight cost stacks up against Apache? And definitely room for another hardpoint on each side, plenty of scope as you say to raid the toy box and buy something MOTS, some guns perhaps?

The Other Chris
July 24, 2014 4:15 pm

Re: A-10 “success”.

From the horses mouth:

“The other problem is that the A-10 is vulnerable to hits because its speed is limited. It’s a function of thrust, it’s not a function of anything else. We had a lot of A-10s take a lot of ground fire hits. Quite frankly, we pulled the A-10s back from going up around the Republican Guard and kept them on Iraq’s [less formidable] front-line units. That’s line [sic] if you have a force that allows you to do that. In this case, we had F-16s to go after the Republican Guard.

Q: At what point did you do that?

A: I think I had fourteen airplanes sitting on the ramp having battle damage repaired, and I lost two A- 10s in one day [February 15], and I said, “I’ve had enough of this.”

– General “Chuck” Horner, Commander, U.S. Central Command Air Forces 1987-1992

Was the A-10 a success when applied to what it was designed to do?

How do AH-64D availability figures compare for the same period, for example?

Ed Zeppelin
Ed Zeppelin
July 24, 2014 4:17 pm
DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 24, 2014 4:21 pm

@Slightly Agricultural,

Isn’t the advantage of fixed wing over rotor, the larger area it can cover?

I agree we need to make the most of the massively expensive Wildcat, but I’d try not to make it an Apache replacement.

Chris Werb
Chris Werb
July 24, 2014 4:30 pm

In a permissive air environment, something like a Reaper with pods of guided 70mm rockets and a few HELLFIRES is going to offer way, way more combat persistence than an A-10 and with far greater precision and reduced possibility of blue on blues than with cannon strafing passes.

Mark
Mark
July 24, 2014 4:34 pm

We deployed a subsonic single engined turbofan aircraft with no radar for several years to afghan. It was called harrier worked very well.

Considering the systems on board harrier what would you leave off the platform to have made it cheaper in the cas role?

TAS
TAS
July 24, 2014 4:35 pm

All wonderful fantasy ideas.

What will we sacrifice then in order to buy a quantity of low-end single-use limited-capability aircraft? Remember, the magic credit card of free money has been shredded.

The hi-lo argument has nothing to do with cost and everything to do with capability. If you horse-trade a dozen Typhoons to gain 30/40 armed Tucanos, then you have a dozen fewer Typhoons for any high-end capability requirement and a load of low-capability platforms that are easily outmatched in anything but the most permissive environment.

The UK contribution to Coalition operations is high-end warfighting capabilities. We are not the world’s policeman and have no right to go strafing fields anywhere. In any case the future of politically acceptable warfare is not razing the turf but deliberate, precision strikes against preplanned targets with high-level approval and collateral damage estimation in place. Cheap CAS has no role in this where we can do this from Typhoon, GR4, Predator, F35, precision artillery and precision NFS.

Hannay
Hannay
July 24, 2014 5:28 pm

I think that ditching the traditional CAS approach and using Reaper (or another MALE) in the armed overwatch role is the way to go. Most of the time troops are not in contact with the enemy but you have persistent ISR reaching out around you which is massively increasing the troop’s situational awareness and reducing the likelihood of them needing really prompt CAS. When contact comes, you have a great view of what is going on, and with ROVER have very good target identification and clarification system. Then use Brimstone or Paveway as appropriate, although something smaller like LMM or APKWS may also be useful.

Where Reaper and other turboprops fall down is in getting to places quickly because they are quite slow. This is offset with Reaper because it is a persistent asset and it is affordable to have a dedicated task line in the area of interest. If a quicker response is needed, then integrating SPEAR CAP 3 would be a good way to go as then you have a quick missile which expands your coverage over a much greater area.

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 24, 2014 5:33 pm

A cheap CAS aircraft does not necessarily mean writing off a squadron of Typhoon.

Fast jet training has been cut over the years for RAF pilots, concentrating resources on those preparing for deployment. They all train on Tucano; buy a dozen to give the RAF something to maintain flying hours. In many instances they’ll be adequate; as long as we have the QRA and an expeditionary squadron ready to go, the Tucano team can jump back into their fancy and expensive fast jets and train up ready for their turn if needs be.

Another option would be to arm the Army’s Wildcats, then re-role the Apache crews to Tucano or similar instead of replacing them like for like. A cheap and faster platform, and the Air Corps would still have Wildcat for when they actually needed vertical lift.

Alistair
Alistair
July 24, 2014 5:41 pm

How about the Rhodesian ‘Lynx’?

http://www.combatreform.org/RLIfireforcecessna337lynxarmament.jpg

Well a modern equivalent.

GAB
GAB
July 24, 2014 5:45 pm

The Other Chris July 24, 2014 at 4:15 pm:”Was the A-10 a success when applied to what it was designed to do?
How do AH-64D availability figures compare for the same period, for example?”

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The AH-64 came as as considerably worse and the A-10 was assigned many missions during the gulf war to cover for the AH-64. I doubt that the U.S. Army would have as many attack helicopters if : 1) they could operate fixed-wing tactical aircraft, or 2) if the USAF actually provided all of the support the Army wanted.

A good text on the A-10 is “The Warthog and the Close Air Support Debate” by Campbell, Douglas N.

Campbell takes a reasonably critical of the A-10 (he is an A-10 pilot), but also takes the Horner to task for that quote.

GAB

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 24, 2014 5:46 pm

“The hi-lo argument has nothing to do with cost and everything to do with capability. If you horse-trade a dozen Typhoons to gain 30/40 armed Tucanos, then you have a dozen fewer Typhoons for any high-end capability requirement and a load of low-capability platforms that are easily outmatched in anything but the most permissive environment.”

I am sympathetic to this, not least for the reason MSR gives above. There is also short shrift given to having extra types complicating the supply/maintenance chain.

That said, we do operate Hawk already, and it is combat capable… as well as being cheap to purchase and cheap to run, and uncomplicated to maintain in austere conditions.

Much as I think we need a new africa-corps centred around those three light-cav units scattered piece-meal around the adaptable force, i do wonder if we would make extremely good use out of a low-fi expeditionary air-wing.

even just boosting the existing fleet so that it is possible to generate an operational group when required. we are going to spend more time in africa, and very possibly 100km from anything more developed than mud huts.

Mark
Mark
July 24, 2014 6:06 pm

We get the people to operate these cas aircraft from where exactly?

How much do you think it would take to bring a hawk indeed a tucano to a harrier spec theatre entry standard? And does it offer more for less than reaper/avenger and apache

A Different Gareth
A Different Gareth
July 24, 2014 6:14 pm

The Other Chris said: “There’s strong discussion about the slaying of sacred cows in the UK. The A-10 is definitely one of them from a US perspective.

It’s a phenomenal example of engineering, performs the low level CAS role arguably superior than any other air vehicle in existence or planned.”

I would be interested to see if it could be operated with the cannon replaced with: extra fuel and/or a smaller canon with more ammo, optical turret or maybe even a gun turret as was tried on the OV-10. Might be difficult to operate though with just the pilot. Could autopilot be set to circle a target area?

If any of that works then the case could be made for a modern follow up aircraft designed to be able to carry a big cannon but also able to be fitted with other things in its place.

The Other Chris
July 24, 2014 6:48 pm

I second GAB’s recommendation for The Warthog and the Close Air Support Debate (Campbell, 2003). It’s a good read:

OOP Hardback

Also recommend Fire for Effect: Field Artillery and Close Air Support in the US Army (McGrath, 2010)

Kindle eBook (.mobi)

PDF available gratis from http://usacac.army.mil/

Campbell is an A-10 pilot and comes at CAS from within. Where Horner’s comments are important are in regards to whether an asset would be deployed by a decision maker.

I doubt we’ll ever see the A-10 deployed against Iraq-level armed forces again for front-line use as a result.

Jonathan
Jonathan
July 24, 2014 6:54 pm

We do tend to forget in the hi lo debate that someone has to drive the thing into harms way. As a nation we tend have a bad reaction if we think serviceman and women have died because the government was being cheap when procuring kit. Shot down, captured or killed pilots does not a popular government make.

I can see the mail headline:

E was done for cus is plane was cheap…..third world RAF flying third rate planes….. Shock

monkey
monkey
July 24, 2014 7:02 pm

The GAU8 with a full load of 1100 rnds of 30mm weighs 1828kg.
The GAU19/B weighs 50kg so fitting two gives 100kg which leave’s 1728kg for ammunition and its storage so about 10,000 rnds of 0.50 cal ☺ The slightly heavier GAU19/A was to be used on the soon to be retired Kiowa’s but only got as far as type approval status. That’s an awful lot of ammo to lay down on a target.GD have already tested it on the Air Tractor to.

Rocket Banana
July 24, 2014 7:03 pm

How much do you think it would take to bring a hawk indeed a tucano to a harrier spec theatre entry standard? And does it offer more for less than reaper/avenger and apache

You need a Turboprop or even a piston engine to work in austere conditions and require only a chap in blue overalls and a wrench to fix. There’s little point in deploying a squadron of Hawk for CAS.

I also think the overall price of MQ-9 is too much for anything other than standoff attacks which should be doable by in-theatre Apache or a few deployed jets. It would be nice if the UAV were to stick to surveillance and we had the ability to launch heavy loads of cluster munitions (I know these are illegal in this silly country).

Always liked the Cessna A-37 Dragonfly but appreciate its problems ;-)

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 24, 2014 7:06 pm

‘We do tend to forget in the hi lo debate that someone has to drive the thing into harms way’

And if that person is a fast jet pilot they have cost £3m+ to train. If we do go the cheap route of props then CAS will need to be moved to the AAC, or we bin the tranche 1 Typhoons and replace with Gripen (so it can be used in more environments than a hawk). Or find a way to use the A400/C130J that does not involve drastically changing the airframe.

One thing is for certain and that is the F35 is not going to leave either the aircraft carrier or a fully prepared airfield and is going to be an expensive airframe for CAS.

Ted
Ted
July 24, 2014 7:08 pm

Simple solution… well ish

You take a unit such as 100 sqn (our aggressors with hawk T1) and keep them at an operational level on the aircraft which I believe they basically do. Then you have aircrew and aircraft available for any surge. I.E. Flying hawks on CAS tasks in Afghan or on the flip side of the coin covering for a lack of typhoons if there was a peer on peer war.

What do you lose? Your training and agressor capability for a short time.

For longer term deployments you could always use 100 sqn initially for say 6 months. Buy more tucano and train your most recent course with a few experienced chaps into your low cost CAS solution.

Okay so not that simple…

Jim Webster
Jim Webster
July 24, 2014 7:19 pm

Curiously enough there is a study going on at The Yeomanry Volunteers web site (http://www.theyeomanryvolunteers.org/) about this very idea of using commercially available light aircraft in CAS roles for home defence with around thirty aircraft & owners signed up to conduct a trial.

As already stated these aircraft have a low IR signature that would make it difficult to for most MANPADs to lock onto and kill and while the payload of them is usually a maximum of around 500kgs this doesn’t stop them being employed in two or three aircraft flights with a different role for each aircraft ie No 1 Manpads defence with a flare/Decoy pod, No 2 with a radar jammer, No 3 with a submunition dispenser/missile. This, of course, goes against the grain particularly in the RAF where you have to have a multi-million pound aircraft with everything loaded onto it that will make a spectacular explosion when destroyed as it fits into the targets defence system parameters quite nicely whereas a cloud of tiny little one engined mass produced monoplane would seem to stand a much better chance of getting close enough to the target to cause significant damage to the ships fighting capabilities but not be powerful enough to actually sink it I suspect.

Some computer simulations that have been run so far had two flights attack a destroyer with two pods of 40 miniature ARM/Drones which were to small for the ships weapon systems to lock onto. Singly they did not have much effect due to the small warheads but when the radar head was struck by more than fifteen of them (87% of the time) it was effectively destroyed thus reducing the destroyer to the status of a glorified cruise ship unable to engage anything effectively.

As there are some 3000 suitable private aircraft in the 750kg weight carrying class (+ c6000 heavier load carriers) in the UK alone available for this sort of thing perhaps it is time for a rethink on CAS?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 24, 2014 7:19 pm

‘We do tend to forget in the hi lo debate that someone has to drive the thing into harms way.’

Fast jet training is the most expensive type of training. It costs some £3.8 million to train a fast jet pilot prior to operational training, with a further £1.9 million for the cost of an operational training course. (NAO 2012)

If we are going to move to a prop CAS aircraft then it will need to be moved to the AAC to make the most of the cost savings. Either that or replace the Typhoon tranche 1 with Gripen, and gain the benefit of a cheaper multi role platform. Personally I would find a way of using the A400 with minimal airframe alteration, throw in some bunk beds a BV with ORP’s and you could have it on station for 24hrs with AAR.

I haven’t forgot about waste, they can use Jon bags.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
July 24, 2014 7:26 pm

@ Simon,

This is why I like the idea of a Britten-Norman Defender carrying more weapons possibly in a bomb bay. We already fly them in war zones and they can carry weapons but I believe we use them only for ISR.

@ Ted

Hawk can’t carry enough weapons, two A2G missiles I believe plus two sidewinders.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 24, 2014 7:28 pm

What a great thread to have: Fire for Effect: Field Artillery and Close Air Support
– food for thought; will have to look at the freebie source, with better time

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 24, 2014 7:34 pm

Saab and Boeing are teaming up to provide a brand new a/c as a T38 replacement
,.. Yeah, sure! It is going to be a toned-down Gripen

So-oo, rather than” replace the Typhoon tranche 1 with Gripen” replace all hawks with that”Gripen”?
– get some CAS on the deal?

IXION
July 24, 2014 7:55 pm

For all ‘the A 10 is overrated’ stuff I agree perhaps in its pure operational doctrine it was flawed.

However remember hearing quote on radio from British officer about air support in afghan.7

Along the lines of: ‘

If the pilot answered with an Italian accent he would miss the target. If he had a French accent he just wouldn’t show up. If he had an English accent his harrier would show up drop a few bombs on target and then have to go. If he had an American accent the whole unit cheered up! As an a 10 would turn up and flatten the target completely….

He then went on to wonder if the RAF could get A 10s.

BTW

worth recalling that Russian SU equivalent was deeply feared by the Afghan rebels who called it ‘The German Aircraft’ because they initial thought something so tough and capable could not be Russian designed!

I happen to think doing coin from a a400 a bit extreme but not g from say a c27.

How about a fleet of em390s

replacing sentinel. MPA. And a transport version with gunship. Not fantasy fleet. It’s only fantasy fleet if flown by 6 ft blond females…

Ted
Ted
July 24, 2014 7:59 pm

Okay so what about 100 sqn with gripen? I’m sure they ‘d be delighted

Jim
Jim
July 24, 2014 8:13 pm

The aircraft your looking for has already been invented;

2 man crew
max speed 288 mph
range 1,382 miles
ceiling 30,000 foot
5 hard points rated up to 500lb bombs, and a mix of sidewinder, rockets and machine guns.

AND it can take off and land on the QE class carriers
unfortunately it was retired in 1995, but there are probably some stored in that Arizona desert. Its the OV-10 Bronco.

Topman
Topman
July 24, 2014 8:26 pm

The problem with using turboprops/trainers is that they look appealing; cheap, capable and simple to operate. However when you start to load them up in the real world with the kit needed it creates a large performance penalty. We have recently and are likely to have few airbases and covering a large area, you’ll notice the time to arrive and start dropping bombs. In a ‘home’ environment I can see the attraction of them if it’s an environment that suits. When you are in areas that you don’t get to pick they are drawbacks.

@ DN

‘CAS aircraft then it will need to be moved to the AAC to make the most of the cost savings’

How so ?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 24, 2014 8:27 pm

‘The aircraft your looking for has already been invented

2 man crew
max speed 288 mph
range 1,382 miles
ceiling 30,000 foot
5 hard points rated up to 500lb bombs, and a mix of sidewinder, rockets and machine guns.

AND it can take off and land on the QE class carriers’

I thought the Gripen was faster with less range and the Sea Gripen is just on paper ;-)

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 24, 2014 8:35 pm

@Topman

The AAC only get elementary flying training, and then move onto basic rotary wing training, therefore you get the savings in training. You could keep them in the light blue but would you get anyone just wanting to fly prop CAS or would you use some rotary pilots?

There might be some savings in ground crew and maintainers as well.

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 24, 2014 9:12 pm

Well on another thread, I floated the idea of a ground attack Hawk with Paveway IV, Brimstone, ASRAAM & an EO/targeting pod, so I will give it another airing here.
If you want something “go faster”, but not as expensive as a Typhoon/F-18/F-35/Rafale, how about the Korean FA-50? The combat version of the T-50 advanced trainer.
I quite fancy the Defender as a poor mans MPA. If we can only afford a few high end P-8 Poseidons, then I would make the numbers up with MPA equipped Defenders.

Jules
Jules
July 24, 2014 9:15 pm

Transport:
http://www.airbus.com/aircraftfamilies/military-aircraft/c-295/
Gunship:
http://defensetech.org/2011/10/19/atks-light-gunship-package/
MPA:
http://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/riat-airbus-military-steps-up-c295-mpa-offer-to-uk-388594/
New engines and extended range:
http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=30702:airbus-military-launches-new-c295-variant&catid=35:Aerospace&Itemid=107
I’m leaving out AEW etc because it’s not what we want, even so it’s a bean-counters orgasm!
I’d love the ro-ro kit for MPA to be useable on the A400 as well.
Affording them at 28mil a shot and all the kit and Mods to make em useful on top, that is another thing…
How much a piece, I wonder but it is a lot of utility form one airframe, still we can’t afford them. The Tucano’s are going as are the old Hawks eventually, so if we wanted to use em for bombing we can’t. We’d have to ask the nice PFI people if we can use the planes they have on lease for for some live round practice, very far away…

Topman
Topman
July 24, 2014 9:17 pm

@DN

Basic rotary training won’t really equip anyone to do CAS they will need to do some extra training. The training costs would be the same I would think.

The Other Chris
July 24, 2014 9:21 pm

Biggest weakness of the C295 are it’s legs. Endurance at range is far below what the UK normally expects and by factors.

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 24, 2014 9:23 pm

On the A-10 issue, I know a lot of people like it, but its getting old & the original manufacturer has long since gone. Thinking about US budget woes, I cannot see the USAF getting 1763 F-35A. If I was them, I would cut that number to 1400, scrap the A-10s, use that money to develop & buy 200-250 long range F-35E & have money spare for 200-250 Textron Airland Scorpions to take on the CAS role.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
July 24, 2014 9:23 pm

@All, don’t forget that CAS is close support, whereas Battlefield Air Interdiction (BAI) is done beyond the Fire Support and Coordination Line (FSCL). What most of you are talking about is BAI, which no one in the Army worries about at all, as it doesn’t involve them. Shorthand: a few brave Kevins dropping bombs about 50 clicks away. Nothing to do with us.

CAS is however hugely important to the Army, as we are on the receiving end if it does not go well, hugely interested. Which is why we would rather that the Kevins had no role at all in it, and since we obtained Apache, rather pleased that they normally don’t. After all, you can talk to an Apache commander in a common language, which is simpler than a fast jet pilot who is probably wanting lat longs, not grids. And none of the teenage Kevins understand synchronisation matrices while flying at 600 knots, or want to go around again because the ruddy Gunners are two minutes diffy on the route of march, which they normally are.

It was a very good thing for the Army when the Kevins got bored of being shouted at by men in green for woeful performance at CAS, Apache came in and it was generally agreed that CAS was now an AH role, so the Kevins stopped doing it. Too complex for them.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 24, 2014 9:25 pm

@Topman

Will we not save money in the fact that they will not require to progress onto Hawk (if we are using a prop airframe) and then OCU on a given FJ airframe? Plus they will not need to do air to air (once the Tonka’s retire) as well as ground attack training in an expensive to run FJ.

Would you still get recruits into the RAF as FJ pilots if they were doing CAS in prop aircraft for a couple of year stints at a time?

Rocket Banana
July 24, 2014 9:29 pm

The problem with using turboprops/trainers is that they look appealing; cheap, capable and simple to operate. However when you start to load them up in the real world with the kit needed it creates a large performance penalty

No the problem is scope creep from a simple aircraft to something with DAS, a AESA radar and every weapon system imaginable.

On a slightly different note I thought I ‘d simply say that CAS stands for Close Air Support. This was support required by ground troops to do their job.

Perhaps things have simply swapped round and the RAF needs to call in Close Ground Support (CGS) to actually achieve the desired objective. I’m not having a jab at the RAF, rather the way we try and achieve everything through aerial supremacy first and a ground offensive second?

It paints a different picture. It paints the F35 loitering “magic eye” with call-in precision strikes to allow a company of light infantry to rapidly get in, do their job, and get out. This is very different to a front-line moving forward with full logistical support calling in air strikes against difficult enemy positions. It also means no capability for “occupation” which at the moment might well be a good thing?

Mark
Mark
July 24, 2014 9:32 pm

I repeat the question A theatre entry standard harrier in afghan see pic below.

http://www.flyer.co.uk/images/Harrier%201.jpg

Now given you need something the size and weight of harrier with the power requirements of a Pegasus to meet uk standards what are we leaving off to squeeze all this onto a hawk or a Tucano?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 24, 2014 9:34 pm

@Mark,

The fuel tanks? ;-)

Rocket Banana
July 24, 2014 9:39 pm

Mark,

I’d leave off around 5 tonnes of airframe and engine ;-)

That would mean David Niven could exclude the external tanks ‘cos they wouldn’t be needed either.

Perhaps we should leave the ejection seat, life support and pilot out too?

TED
TED
July 24, 2014 9:42 pm

ohh hadnt heard of scorpion before looks very nice. How about 100 sqn equipped with them?

Topman
Topman
July 24, 2014 9:42 pm

@Simon

You need to add extra equipment onto the basic fit of various trainers mooted that is inescapable. The amount added will be debated but it will have a knock on, on performance that is a given.

Mark
Mark
July 24, 2014 9:51 pm

Deleting Fuel tanks would be an option hawk is pretty short legged clean it will have a impact. Essentially in that photo you have 9 stores carried not to mention the onboard requirements you can’t see, to fit them on hawk or the like leave half of them off

but as a starter for ten 2 of the 3 pods under the aircraft are pretty mandatory and I doubt youll see anything up without fuel tanks.

Not a BOffin
Not a BOffin
July 24, 2014 10:56 pm

Please God make it stop. It’s worse than this..

Jeremy M H
July 25, 2014 4:10 am

Honestly I think that the idea of a dedicated CAS aircraft of a lower tier, light attack aircraft (ala the A-4 or Alpha Jet) are pretty much gone. That niche simply doesn’t exist anymore. In the environments in which such aircraft could fly and be effective you might as well just make use of drones which as many have pointed out are more persistent and cheaper. You can supplement this by weaponizing larger aircraft that may already be there doing other jobs as well. And as others (Mark in particular) have pointed out you don’t fly in even a medium threat environment without having to carry enough equipment that you are a long way towards a first line fighter anyway.

The A-10 is a fairly special case really. It was really just one of the early solutions to the problem of how you breakup a Soviet armored attack coming in echelons at you. Apache and Hellfire were another part of this. Eventually sensor fuzed weapons and things like Brimstone came along to better address that problem (which largely went away anyway).

The A-10 is certainly useful. Were money no object I would want to keep some around for search and rescue support and COIN work simply because it is a highly intimidating aircraft for insurgents to deal with. But to really save money you have to lose the whole type from the inventory. Of the aircraft out there it is the one the USAF can most afford to spare.

I frankly don’t see any NATO power bothering to acquire a low end aircraft for CAS. All are advanced enough to operate drones in the same role. Those low end aircraft make the most sense for a nation that would find drones technically challenging to operate. That isn’t NATO.

The Other Chris
July 25, 2014 5:54 am

Agree with NaB. No idea why we’re aspiring to the strike capability of Angola.

Jules
Jules
July 25, 2014 7:41 am

Take out the missile sites with Tommo’s
Suppress any AA with standoff missiles from phoons
Bomb whats left with Paveway IV from Phoons
Then send in the Army with their Apache’s…
And the Reapers…
If they’re is still firing back after that just give them what they want because they are doubly hard Bstrds…
To be honest I don’t see whats wrong with the above, as long as each does it’s job?
(Ok RT!)
Do we really need more? I’d like us to just have more stuff/options but I can’t really see the point in anything solely dedicated to CAS/COIN, unless it’s controlled by the Army, who would likely choose to do it with Apache anyway? There are so many other areas that we need kit more, hence my suggestion of the CASA 295 because it can be used in more than one role.

I think the amount of portable gear now available to shoot down cheapo aircraft is too great, and in order to make any Aircraft survivable it’d no longer be cheap…

TAS
TAS
July 25, 2014 8:10 am

What we are actually lacking, which would be far more useful than 10th generation Spitfires for armchair Biggles’, is any form of airborne Electronic Attack and PSYOPS capability. The US make very good use of their COMPASS CALL and COMMANDO SOLO aircraft as well as the Growler – and we have nothing. In the kinds of future operations we are most likely to be involved in, this is an area of capability that we sorely need far more than what is being discussed here.

Topman
Topman
July 25, 2014 8:14 am

@DN

I see what you mean, maybe so. However if we had so many a/c bought we’d probably make a specialism to fly just a specific CAS a/c. Recruitment wouldn’t be a problem, if we has bi-planes they’d still be queues around the block.

@RT
CAS is still firmly in the RAF’s tasking. Practiced regularly by both Tonka and Typhoon. Maybe you had a bad experience, but for example, last time I was on Herrick the answer from the Army was a firm ‘more please’. Infact they pushed the Tresury for more money specifically to get more manpower and more airframes out on Herrick. ‘Too complex for them.’ Yes, that must be it ;)

Ace Rimmer
July 25, 2014 8:47 am

@Eng Tom, the idea of a bomb bay in the Defender sounds ideal in principle, but I feel that in reality it would reduce the performance of the aircraft, which can be quite sedate at the best of times. I think if you’re going to go down that path it would be better to go for an OV-10 Bronco, which is an already proven airframe, albeit with advanced avionics and targeting systems.

The Defender is great as a utility aircraft and in the general support role, but the only armed role I could see it excelling at would be at night, carrying out general support and interdiction armed with a couple of Hellfires, which limits its operational capability somewhat.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 25, 2014 8:48 am

@Topman

Fair enough.

@All

The Thales Free-Fall LMM, weighs 6Kg the missile version weighs 13Kg would it not be quite simple to drop these weapons out of a transport plane type plane rather than buying a single use airframe? the SDB weighs 129Kg would that not be quite a simple task to add a pylon and integrate to an existing airframe?

TAS, touched on the need for airborne Electronic Attack and PSYOPS capability, with the weapons I highlighted above could we not combine the two (if we need to). I think he is correct in highlighting our lack of ability in this area, so how many P8’s are we willing to not buy (or buy a cheaper MPA) to fund some of these airframes? Could we not purchase an airframe that could do all the above, a modern C130 if you will.

Topman
Topman
July 25, 2014 8:58 am

@DN

You can with enough mods use transport a/c but the problem is capacity within that fleet. Alot will be tied to transport kit and people. Unless you buy enough to role into providing CAS full time. Then there’s training for the crew and I’m very suspect about claims of ‘simply’ rerole the a/c into another totally different role.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 25, 2014 9:21 am

@Topman

I was thinking more in the role of AC130, CAS support to specialists and planned ops rather than bog standard CAS use, we have Apache and FJ for that. We would have to stand up a dedicated unit to provide EA and PSYOPS, with a bit of specialist CAS, which brings me to the question of what airframe? are we going to specify that the MPA replacement can fulfill a variety of roles so we can do all the above (if we deem it necessary) without breaking the bank and flying various small niche fleets within the Airforce.

The Germans and Spanish are wanting to offload 23 A400 between them, these airframes do not have the strengthened floor of ours (I might be wrong) would these be an option as a multirole airframe?

NB It would not be hard to persuade some Army types to drop ordnance of the ramp of an aircraft, we would be so overawed by the technology that our minds would go numb! ;-)

The Other Chris
July 25, 2014 9:44 am

The German and Spanish aircraft are production slots at the moment. Imagine the UK taking them and switching the slots to our specs?

A fleet of 45 would make a lot of people happy.

Too much to add a helicopter AAR requirement to skip past the AirTanker PFI and get the A400M crews rated…?

@TD

I’m struggling to find an article on the use of the upper A400M cargo door. I’m sure I’ve seen one, are you aware of one in your archives or in your research lists?

Specifically surrounding options for delivery with just the upper door open e.g. systems similar to the Viper Strike launchers on the Harvest Hawk:

http://media.defenseindustrydaily.com/images/ORD_Gunslinger_on_KC-130J_Harvest_Hawk_lg.jpg

Also looking for details on inner partition doors. ideally to maintain pressure in the cargo area while the cargo doors are opened, or at least provide a heated/protected environment.

Topman
Topman
July 25, 2014 9:51 am

@ DN

I think the costs are an interesting one, sometimes I think the costs are sometimes cheaper using smaller numbers of cheaper a/c than modifing larger a/c. Modifiy larger a/c to perform a number of specialist very different roles isn’t cheap.
Noted, best the pongos stick to stamping their feet on a parade ground somewhere. ;)

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 25, 2014 10:18 am

@TOC

‘The German and Spanish aircraft are production slots at the moment’

Thats even better, we can complete the mods and integration during construction. All we need to do know is source a MOTS package for the different roles and get moving. :-)

@Topman

As always the numbers will need to be crunched, and for certain roles the A400 might be a bit of an overkill. Maybe a fleet of smaller aircraft such as the C27J would be more practical for the roles, couple with intratheatre lift? it has a slightly longer range with greater payload capacity than the C295 and shares engines and components with the Hercules.

That reminds me I need to put a claim in for my knees! ;-)

The Other Chris
July 25, 2014 10:28 am

Slightly out of date A400M delivery schedule:

http://media.defenceindustrydaily.com/images/PUB_A400M_Delivery_Schedule_2012_lg.jpg

Note doesn’t include accelerated UK delivery (aircraft deliveries moving forward) but does include the production slots for 3 additional aircraft added in SDSR 2010 to potentially bring the fleet up to 25.

Would still like the Spanish/German 23 slots for 48 mind… getting closer to France’s 50!

Would also mean everyone who’s after variants (e.g. AC, MPA, SAR) have more of a chance at obtaining a base aircraft to modify.

Topman
Topman
July 25, 2014 10:31 am

@DN
Yes I suspect something bigger than small turbo prop but below herc would work out best. Able to do all roles reasonable well and not too expensive. I wonder how easy it would be too modify, if Mark is lurking he might be able to comment?

Well spend it wisely! :)

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 25, 2014 10:48 am

Paris Air Show MC 27J Gunship

‘Well spend it wisely!’

Not a chance, I’ve got a mid life crisis to fund! ;-)

RADISH 293
RADISH 293
July 25, 2014 11:14 am

Some times you just have to bold.!

Reading this blog it’s evident how many defence contractors want to cash in on lucrative Government contacts to design or adapt products and make a considerable profit at the tax payers expense.

It’s not often that any of them take a risk and offer a product that there’s no requirement for but there is an obvious need.

Since the global financial melt down every Government has been trying to cut costs and get better value for money from its defence spending.

Recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated the need for differing defence equipment. They have come down to boots on the ground. Air support has proved invaluable but we have not had to face a peer air power.

Textron is a very brave Firm to come up with an Aircraft that no one has asked for.

I believe their Scorpion is possibly one of the most important aircraft of the moment.

All the song and dance is about the F35 Lighting II, but it’s still having issues years after it was first conceived. The Scorpion has gone from PowerPoint to flying prototype in under two years.

The simple concept is; Its not the best but it’s good enough.

For a massive amount of missions we don’t need anything with the capability or complexity of the F35 or its predecessors. Many of the close air support and surveillance missions will be flown with total air superiority. Future conflicts are likely to take place in Africa where it is again its unlikely we will face a peer airforce.

Textron are projecting the cost of the Scorpion at around USD20M with a modest operating cost. All of this they have done without a single “Can we have this, can you make it do that.”

Spending a considerable amount of their own money it could prove very lucrative. It has first been displayed outside the US at Farnborough where I understand it drew quite a lot of interest.

Slightly Agricultural
Slightly Agricultural
July 25, 2014 11:42 am

@DavidNiven
Isn’t the advantage of fixed wing over rotor, the larger area it can cover?

I agree we need to make the most of the massively expensive Wildcat, but I’d try not to make it an Apache replacement

True, but then the trade-off is that rotary can hang around one area longer (no pun intended….much).

I’d see an AH Wildcat as a complement to Apache, rather than a replacement. If we are ever in another conflict where MERT flights are possible then AH Lynx could act as escort, freeing up Apache for other roles.
With the right data links and avionics they could probably also be very effective as a pack. Apache has the Longbow radar and gucci FLIR cameras etc, while one or more Lynx can be a nimble flanker taking targetting data from the Apache (or scouting ahead to provide it). There is already talk of using Apache as a mothership for drones, proving some of the technology and TTP’s with Wildcat could be a sensible first step towards that. And maybe an ad-hoc Combat SAR too (still room for 2 in the back, right?).

All subject to a sensible cost analysis though. Maybe it’s just cheaper to have 2x Apache doing their thing and keep your AAC Wildcats doing what they do; moving pathetically small packets of troops around…

Observer
Observer
July 25, 2014 11:43 am

RADISH, you should talk with our Chris here. :)

I see one big problem with a dedicated CAS aircraft though. You already have limited number of airframes due to budget, so it is almost critical to stretch what each individual airframe can do, which means multi-roled aircraft. Sure you can get 2? or 3? for one high end multi role aircraft, but 200 interceptors which can switch to 200 ground attack aircraft once air superiority is achieved is a lot more flexible than 100 interceptors and 200 ground attack aircraft. If you had an unlimited budget and manpower pool, or a very specific threat environment, sure, have a specialist craft makes sense, go all out with Skyriders, A-6s, A-7s and A-10s, but if you are limited in the number of frames you can have, you got no choice but to multi-role.

Personally though, I suspect that the main problem in CAS is that multi-role fighter loadouts are not really optimized or considered. People rhapsodize about the A-10 but you can get the same effect with fighters loaded with gun pods or rocket pods, yet most of the time, you see them lugging 500 Ib bombs, which are good in single pass destruction of tactical targets, but not the interdiction effect that most people seem to favour.

So before we go out to buy a brand new plane, maybe we should be looking at how to make our current ones do what we want first? Gun pods and rocket pods would be a good starting point to consider.

Chris
Chris
July 25, 2014 11:47 am

Obs – would that be the Chris with no savings and little hair left and the bailiffs hammering at the door? Thought so.

Brian Black
Brian Black
July 25, 2014 11:54 am

Folks are mentioning Harvest Hawk along with Atlas.

I think Atlas is too big for a gunship role. The Americans, who must surely be the experts on aircraft gunships, would by now be using C27 for the role had they not run out of money. That was partly due to the belief that the AC130 was too big and obvious a target during daylight hours.

And Harvest Hawk works because it’s a kit for a KC130, a tanker. They’re making use of an aircraft that would be pootling about the place anyway. Atlas isn’t a tanker in RAF service, so you’d be making the weapons fit its primary purpose, which would be an unnecessarily expensive way of delivering a handful of bombs or missiles; and the cost of having an unnecessarily large aircraft in that role is again partly why the US wanted to use the little C27 for the job.

Observer
Observer
July 25, 2014 11:58 am

Well, the Americans have lots of aircraft, many of which are parked out in the middle of a desert collecting dust. They can afford to muck around. The US is not really a good example to follow, they have a lot of unique characteristics that other countries don’t.

Topman
Topman
July 25, 2014 12:03 pm

‘True, but then the trade-off is that rotary can hang around one area longer (no pun intended….much).’ #

That depends on how far away the helicopter has to fly, it might have to expend a fair amount of it’s fuel just getting there. Not many can AAR either.

The Other Chris
July 25, 2014 12:05 pm

Scorpion may do well internationally, is there scope for a UK requirement? The listed capabilities are:

– ISR
– Domestic interdiction / “air sovereignty patrol”
– Light attack
– Low-threat battlefield missions

UK has (amongst a long list of assets at home and abroad): Watchkeeper, Typhoon, Reaper, Sentinel/Shadow R1, Tornado, BAE 146, Rotor fleets… they all cover the above in a spectrum of performance, cost and high/low threat environments. We have additional programs lining up for future service including whatever Scavenger is being called this week on top of the highly anticipated return to MPA fleet operation.

The latter capability in particular traditionally took on far more tasks than hunting submarines.

Is the low-cost Scorpion (or other platform) really low-cost if it’s additional-cost to the above?

Also note the back-peddling from a cheaper CAS alternative compared to F-16/A-10 when the Scorpion was first announced to the above listed roles. Not suggesting the Scorpion is no good, but highlighting the vulnerability in low-level CAS once more in a platform that does not appear as survivable as the A-10 on the surface.

As mentioned, I can see Scorpion performing well internationally, specifically for innovative smaller militaries (e.g. Finland, maybe Switzerland) and for second line militaries (e.g. US National Guard).

The Other Chris
July 25, 2014 12:11 pm

@BB

Just to clarify, my own Harvest Hawk reference was only in relation to searching for a reference that I can no longer find which covers various modes of the Atlas cargo door operation and an official partition system that was being proposed at one point. Harvest Hawk door mechanism mention was for illustrative purposes as the equipment hasn’t yet been rolled out to other C-130 variants such as the USCG SAR version.

Peter Arundel
Peter Arundel
July 25, 2014 12:12 pm

OK, ladies and gents, do we actually need Close Air Support? What does it do other than drop HE where the poor sod on the ground says it’s needed? The afore mentioned poor sod doesn’t care if that HE drops off a drone, A-10 or Tucano, is fired from an AC130, AH-64, MLRS or 105mm light gun. All he cares about is that HE arrives where he wants it as soon as possible. With modern GPS he knows where he is – and so does the incoming ordnance.
Aircraft are expensive.
Aircrew are expensive.
Drones are expensive.
Leaving aside the expense, the reaction ‘back home’ to the loss of any of the above is politically toxic.

A battery of laser or GPS guided rockets is, relatively, cheap. The old German LARS 110mm rocket system had a range of 6.5 to 25km and was based on a lightly armoured MAN truck. Something similar with modern dual mode guidance would be able to react faster than any aircraft or drone and would cost much less too.

As Ixion pointed out at the very beginning, straffing with cannon and rocket pods is too risky against all but the most primitive opponents and once that facet of CAS is removed then is there really a need for any of it?

The Other Chris
July 25, 2014 12:15 pm

Arundel

Aforementioned book covers your question well:

http://usacac.army.mil/cac2/cgsc/carl/download/csipubs/mcgrath_fire.pdf

Simon257
Simon257
July 25, 2014 12:16 pm

Whatever we choose, I think we all agree it must carry Brimestone/Spear 3 plus Paveway IV.

It just depends on how many you need to hang of an aircraft. For COIN overwatch missions a Reaper will do fine just. So to would a C-295 or MC-27J Gunship also fitted with a Brimestone/Paveway IV package. But these can only operate in benign airspace. If OPFOR have MANPADS or say even SA-11’s then you will need something better than a Hawk or an Air Tractor! The Ukrainian Air Force have nothing to counteract Seperatist SAM systems. And since we decided to withdraw the ALARM missile last year neither do we!

I don’t know if this has been posted before but this is footage of tests of Reaper firing Brimestone:
http://brimstonemissile.com/video-dual-mode-brimstone-direct-hits-mq-9-reaper/

The Other Chris
July 25, 2014 12:18 pm

What we’re starting to boil down to is the Payload required to deliver an effect and the Platform required to deliver the availability.

Mark
Mark
July 25, 2014 12:19 pm

Toc an a400m update

http://www.slideshare.net/mobile/robbinlaird/a400m-update-june-2014

http://www.slideshare.net/mobile/robbinlaird/an-update-on-the-a400m-program-june-2014

Having personally experienced few nightmare with italian suppliers of aero structures I have a instant dislike of all things italian so on c27 touch and barge pole come to mind.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 25, 2014 12:19 pm

@ Peter Arundel

What happens if you do not control the battle space where you want to site your artillery? As for responding quicker, it is hard to respond much quicker than an orbiting aircraft.
As i have said a on numerous different subjects, the answer is very very very rarely black and white, sometimes the answer will be artillery, other times the best option will be AH and in other cases a drone, FJS or even NFS.

This why we have systems so that we can react appropriately to the evolving situation on the ground.

There is no such thing as a single catch all solution to military planning and operations.

The Other Chris
July 25, 2014 12:20 pm

Much appreciated Mark, thank you.

Observer
Observer
July 25, 2014 12:22 pm

PA, problem with using 155mm as fire support is that you’ll need one battery every 40km of frontage you own, and if you are talking about COIN, it is even worse. Compare it to a fighter that can cover that distance in 2 minutes and faster if loitering at high altitude and coming in at a dive.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 25, 2014 12:33 pm

@Slightly Agricultural

‘I’d see an AH Wildcat as a complement to Apache, rather than a replacement’

I would too, in fact I would have just carried on using the MK9A. I think there is a reason that no integration of missiles etc are planned at the moment with Wildcat, and that is when the decision to update the AH fleet comes around the treasury will not be able to say “why not use Wildcat” as there will be a cost to integrating the required systems to Wildcat that can be compared to the cost of the AH fleet, which will hopefully mean the AH upgrade gets the green light.

@Simon 257,

‘it must carry Brimestone/Spear 3 plus Paveway IV’

I think they are overkill for most of the targets you would use them for, maybe LMM, Small Diameter Bomb and freefall LMM might be a better mix.

@Brian Black,

I think the Americans found the AC130 too expenisive because it was a one trick pony, hopefully we are looking at getting more capability from a single airframe to help spread the cost, such as the Harvest Hawk idea.

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 25, 2014 12:43 pm

@TD
As I said no single system but what you have to take into account is that GMLRS was never used as a “show of force” where as quite often a low fast pass by a FJ was used as a “show of force|” and the actual firing or dropping of ordnance was never required.

Jonathan
Jonathan
July 25, 2014 12:44 pm

If there was a need for a low cost light CAS aircraft , the market seems to rammed full of contenders. So I would imaging procurement would be easy. The Beechcraft AT-6 looks good. Not that I support the concept of quantity over quality.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 25, 2014 12:44 pm

Yep, it does

“This all points to a reduced need (but not the elimination) for fast jet CAS in all but the most demanding scenarios, i.e. the most likely scenarios”

As @RT pointed out, the fast jets have interdiction as their job- and sometimes “no can do” without the c apability to fight other fast jets; be it before, or during.

Jonesy
Jonesy
July 25, 2014 12:47 pm

Its been mentioned a couple of times here….but I feel its worth mentioning again…in a low-intensity conflict against militia type forces the Ukrainian’s are losing Su-25’s and An-26’s on a weekly basis.

A-10 is mentioned above. The TFX contest that generated A-10 defined the threat systems as the Shilka quad AAA and Romb battlefield SAM. A-10 was to defeat this threat with a mix of low ‘n slow high manoeverability, armour, system redundancy and the AGM-65 Maverick missile. The threat environment now is an order of magnitude more severe.

Op Allied Force a decade ago plus…RoE defined a minimum 15k ft AGL flight limit to reduce risk from V/SHORADS. Move forward on that paradigm and your looking at a need for decent optronics at very least to be able to deliver ordnance, with acceptable confidence, from a permissable altitude.

Figure in the potential for state actors to leave the odd Buk fire unit to crop up in unexpected places and take a few potshots and detailing your CAS platform to be ‘permissive-air only’ seems frankly bizarre…..as permissive air is very likely to become scarcer and scarcer. The platform will need top notch optronics, PGM interfaced, high datarate comms connected and generally a bit on the pricey side because of it.

If you want man in the loop because of attendant CNN-firing-inhibit’s F-35B would seem to be a nice fit…handy as were buying them already. If you want high persistance orbit Reapers over the target at 25k ft…or, better yet, buy in Avengers and have them ready to fit HELLADS to knock down the SA-11’s.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 25, 2014 12:53 pm

@TD

If we arm the Shadow’s, would that not be an overlap into Reaper territory? where as we are looking for more of a bomb truck type airframe, do we want to combine the two in a larger airframe?

All Politicians are the Same
All Politicians are the Same
July 25, 2014 12:59 pm

@ Jonesy

You have to factor in the pretty unique circumstances in the Ukraine where the rebels are firing at Ukrainian aircraft from Ukrainian population centres thus negating any possible conventional response. It is not a lack of physical capability to to respond (although this is not brilliant) but rather a reluctance to fire a missile at a launcher surrounded by houses full of their own people.

Mark
Mark
July 25, 2014 1:02 pm

More use of reaper or putting LMM on shadow are definitely worth doing and I think reaper now launches the majority of air launched weapons in afghan they make sense for low lower level operations were minimal or discrete numbers of boots on the ground are required.

The benefit fastjets have over all the other options especially artillery is from a single location they can provide large amounts of fire power over hundreds of miles of an operation theatre and do not burden the battlefield logistics network doing it.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 25, 2014 1:02 pm

@TD,

It would be, I wonder if anyone has got the info. Could we possibly be able to retire the Reapers and finance and arm a full squadron of Shadow’s for more economic running costs and better capability?

How many LMM and free fall LMM could a Shadow carry?

Topman
Topman
July 25, 2014 1:05 pm

@TD

Yes, we can do small scale detchments if needed and all by Air. Typhoons deploying to Cyprus last year is a good example. GW1 another, I think they moved everything on a couple of Tristars. Generally not done all via air though, in Europe quite often driven in convoys from 2MT. If further the big stuff goes by sea. All the kit would be in the tens of tons, although hugely depend on where you were going, how many a/c and what the ex/op is.
Have you got a link for the F22 air moves?

The Other Chris
July 25, 2014 1:25 pm

“Show of Force” as a method of operation is going to be a two-edged sword when used in future.

Pro: Ordnance may not need to be dropped at all. Lives saved. Potential for amicable discussion. A family’s compound doesn’t need to be flattened. That’s more important than the obvious cost saved.

Con: Proliferation of MANPAD’s is at some point going to result in an engagement designed to lure in a CAS aircraft for low-level non-ordnance-delivery passes. Are our DAS sufficient to cope with that reliably?

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 25, 2014 1:28 pm

On the subject of what use a [flight] of Hawks might be for an afghanistan/mali style Op; i seem to recall that there was a very sobering article written by a TD’er here on the cost (human/cash/readiness), in deploying a squadron on the Libya Op.

Given topman’s comment above:
1. Would Hawk place a [significantly] reduced logistic, maintenance, and training burden on the RAF vis-a-vis Typhoon?
2. In the type of Op described above, at Flight scale, would Hawk be [sufficiently] capable of fulfilling that kind of mission?

I am conscious that I am asking very similar types of questions as to the CVR(t) Mk2 for Africa thread a month or so back…

if not, fair enough. just trying to get a better understanding.

monkey
monkey
July 25, 2014 1:35 pm

Pierre Sprey ,the great F35 critic , has proposed re-looking at the A-10 concept (he wrote the A-10 initial requirements ), basicly a new build using modern aircraft construction techniques and sensors to give faster,more manoverable, lighter , better armoured , greater survivability ,you get the picture . Basicly it explains why he is slagging off the F35 (rightly or wrongly , until its in service we won’t actually know ) he wants a slice of that huge,ginormous,planet conquering (you could probably colonise Mars for the price of the F35 programme ) pie.
Personally I am with OBS on this, better with our budget to have ‘enough’high end FJ that can do all ,than sacrifice airframes for more numerous mission specific planes. In the end it can’t be beyond the wit of man to produce a very cheap ,made of plywood/cheap GRP composite and using a couple of Lycoming 0-540-A with an small bomb/missile load and a lot of fuel that takes off flies to a preset point ,fly’s in circles for long time at 7000m and drops its load on whoever tells it to (preferably us rather than ‘them’).No complex sensors ,radar to drive the initial price/running costs up.If they are cheap enough, simple enough , with simple enough automation to take off/land ,fly to where preset , and return when empty we could flood the air space with them. A bomb truck or bomb Transit if you prefer , the white van man of the skys and just as dangerous ☺

Topman
Topman
July 25, 2014 1:46 pm

@TD

Thanks, as I thought they deployed to another USAF base. The plan would change should they deploy to an non USAF base. It would be interesting to see how many C17 they would need. Knowing some of the kit the F22 goes with, it would be a few more than one.

Topman
Topman
July 25, 2014 1:47 pm

@jedi

1 in addition or instead of Typhoon

2. How many do you mean, 4?

TAS
TAS
July 25, 2014 1:55 pm

Erm – not wishing to question the great TD but… “So nothing too ambitious, arming the RAF’s Shadows with a couple of DM Brimstone and 3 or 4 LMM would be a really useful uplift for not a great deal of cost”

How much? https://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2014/07/much/

Observer
Observer
July 25, 2014 1:59 pm

Nice shot TAS, direct hit. :)

The Other Chris
July 25, 2014 2:07 pm

Ouch! Torpedo’s away, eh?!

It does make sense to weaponise Sentinel/Shadow R1. The more the likes of MQ-9 Reaper and Sentinel converges the more it makes sense to think of those types of platforms as manned/remotely-manned surrogates of each other.

If you’re arming one platform, why not the other and include the two in the same contract to MBDA?

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 25, 2014 2:13 pm

@ Topman –

“1 in addition or instead of Typhoon 2. How many do you mean, 4?”

1. Instead. i.e. right now use Hawk in Afghan, or Mali.
2. What do we typically consider a flight (we have four in the FI)?

The Other Chris
July 25, 2014 2:19 pm

Weaponising Watchkeeper:

Do you think it’s worth it?

Pro: Fewer links, and therefore more reliability and faster response time, in the “kill chain” for Royal Artillery.

Con: Public opinion on armed drones operating over home ground.

There’s no official requirement to arm and this allows a “we have no plans” stance to be reported in the media. Earlier development releases had indicated a “desire” to weaponise in the long term.

LMM and the unpowered gliding version of the same would be the obvious candidates for weaponisation. Hermes 450 has two wet hardpoints for external fuel tanks.

Topman
Topman
July 25, 2014 2:20 pm

@Jedi
Well the costs would be lower be quite abit, but whether it could perform to the same level would be unlikley. I’d bet you’d end up pairing the a/c up with something more capable. I’ve seen the french do similar with some of the Mirages short of puff.
It’s not a hard figure, depending on platform somewhere between 2-6. So four would fit in a flight. I’m not sure upgraded hawks would achieve much.

Jonathan
Jonathan
July 25, 2014 2:55 pm

@TD

“MoDs retirement village ( commonly known as Yeovilton) ” sure you don’t mean Yeovil ? Not a lot of retirement accommodation at the camp, but lots in yeovil.

A Different Gareth
A Different Gareth
July 25, 2014 3:04 pm

RE the A-10: Warplane Goes From Tank Killer to Storm Chaser

“One of the military’s feared tank killers, the A-10 Thunderbolt, will soon start its new career as a storm chaser.

The retired plane is getting a $13 million scientific makeover so that it can fly though some of nature’s biggest storms and withstand hail and lightning strikes, reported Science magazine (Subscription required). Also known as the Warthog, the Thunderbolt is not the prettiest plane, but it will gather data that will be beautiful in the eyes of storm-chasing scientists.”

There are some pictures of it here: Oklahoma aeronautics firm works with Navy researchers to modify combat jet for storm research

They have removed the gun, installed lots of weather sensors and are armouring some of the more fragile bits to cope with hail.

I’ve thought of another use for the big front space you get if you remove the gun: Firing guided CRV7. You could have a row of firing ports angled downwards and reloaded automatically from above. If the space was long enough you could have two rows, one about a rocket length behind the other. You could carry a variety of warheads and lots of them. Venting the rocket gases might be an issue though.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
July 25, 2014 3:12 pm

Clearly a black-budget project:

“a team from Guthrie-based Zivko Aeronautics and the U.S. Navy Postgraduate School’s Center for Interdisciplinary Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Studies is turning the combat jet into a storm-chasing aircraft”
– after the one year reprieve, the A-10 force will continue to fly; with the pilots out of the line of fire

Simon257
Simon257
July 25, 2014 3:27 pm

@ DN

Watching the video of the Brimestone test. It does seem a waste of a missile when it is used on a pick up/technical sized target. Unless of course you really want someone dead!

Phil
July 25, 2014 4:14 pm

We’ve been relatively lucky for a long time about where we are throwing bombs. But there are plenty of relatively high performance SAM systems out there that, perhaps, a separatist group might use. We could very easily find ourselves then with a big chunk of our force structure staying at home and feeling sorry for itself. Especially at low level.

Fact is we don’t need specialist CAS, we don’t need low-level CAS and I daresay, we don’t need CAS at all any more. Who thinks we should ditch some of our top end assets to for a plane that performs an obsolete role badly that several other ground and air platforms can do, and can’t do it anywhere more dangerous than Afghanistan?

The A10 was a wonderful plane for the 1970s. It has no place in the modern USAF but that’s their own problem.

mr.fred
mr.fred
July 25, 2014 4:23 pm

Isn’t an important part of the proposed low-cost CAS aircraft that of its capability as an surveillance asset?
Mostly two-seats, generally equipped with good, all-weather, optics.
Surely the advantage is that you can have one of these things circling overhead, using their surveillance equipment to observe movement on the ground and able to launch/drop precision munitions at short notice as requested by ground forces or to interdict enemy forces moving out of sight of the ground forces.
If these aircraft are part of the training progression to your fast-jets then so much the better. I think the Tucanos are due out of service at some point so perhaps the replacement ought to have a weapons capability.

It may mean that we will end up using a technical package on a par with the Algerian airforce, but they will be for CAS rather than strike and we will still have the high end. The objective is to achieve our CAS whilst spending more along the lines of what the Algerian airforce spend.

Phil
July 25, 2014 4:38 pm

Why not just use UAVs to cue ground based PGMs? Cheap as chips comparatively speaking and zero risk to UK lives.

The Other Chris
July 25, 2014 4:45 pm

Capability already exists in the UK inventory.

e,g, Laser designator and target marker in the Watchkeeper EO/IR/LSS turret

https://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/uk-gives-green-light-to-watchkeeper-uav-0909/

The Other Chris
July 25, 2014 4:47 pm

MQ-9 equivalent functionality in the MTS-B Turret (Multi-spectral Targeting System):

http://www.bga-aeroweb.com/Defense/MQ-1-Predator-MQ-9-Reaper.html

Of course Reaper can self-designate its own munitions.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 25, 2014 4:58 pm

Do we need to redefine the term or create a new term for what we are discussing?

We seem to be combining ISTAR and CAS within the same context. We could all but do away with FJ CAS in the traditional sense and use precision fires and AH. If we arm ISTAR assets are they not for for fleeting targets of opportunity rather than dedicated CAS platforms.

Should not CAS be a method of delivering a large amount of ordnance for a persistent period of time directly in support of ground units, rather than using UAV’s (unless it is dedicated bomb truck with no other role) and the like. Is that not what aircraft such as the AC130 bring to the table? a long loiter time and prolonged firepower from an in service airframe. I don’t think there is enough situational awareness with UAV’s to be fully capable of fulfilling the role of CAS, I might be wrong.

mr.fred
mr.fred
July 25, 2014 4:59 pm

Phil,
An option, perhaps, but you have to account for bandwidth availability, and have a ground-based system in range.
Are they so cheap though? A Reaper costs more than a Super Tucano (although it isn’t clear if either does or does not include optics.)

jedibeeftrix
jedibeeftrix
July 25, 2014 5:08 pm

cheers, Topman, always obliged to be further edumacated. :)

Hannay
Hannay
July 25, 2014 5:15 pm

The Textron Scorpion is a new aircraft and plenty of people are excited about it but it offers very little capability for the cost.

Compare it to Reaper – the only advantage is the higher speed at about double. On the other hand you have massively less endurance (about 10 times less), less situational awareness, fewer weapons integrated, fewer sensors integrated, and quite probably less survivable. All this lower capability is available for considerably more purchase and operating cost than Reaper. If you wanted equal capability to Reaper e.g. 24/7 task line then you’d have to buy dozens of platforms instead of three.

Fundamentally, an armed MALE UAV makes by far the most sense for low threat environments. For higher threat environments, there’s a limited improvement from current fast jets with DAS, but for any sort of integrated air defence system with modern medium range SAMs you need UCAS like Taranis or F-35.

John Hartley
John Hartley
July 25, 2014 5:39 pm

Given how few fast jet squadrons the UK may end up with, anything extra that can help in a crisis, is a good thing. I am not talking about the UK buying hundreds of CAS Hawks. However, the Red Arrows will need new planes from 2020. In the 80s, their existence was justified by their secondary war role as point defence fighters with a 30mm gun pod & a pair of sidewinders. So how about 11 new build T2+ with a secondary CAS capability armed with Brimstone, Paveway IV & Asraam? Such an aircraft would have good export potential too.

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 25, 2014 5:53 pm

What would we use in Ukraine now? and if we wanted to engage and defeat the enemy there, which means prolonged contacts and maneuvering (worst case scenario) would the occasional Reaper be able to sustain the coverage given it’s limited load out?

Ace Rimmer
July 25, 2014 6:30 pm

JH, I like the idea of the Hawks, I was pondering earlier today regarding a two seater Hawk with the rear seat and avionics taken out and all the necessary black boxes in their place, possibly with the targeting pod mounted further forward on the fuselageto maintain the C of G.

Ace Rimmer
July 25, 2014 6:32 pm

JH, I like the idea of the Hawks, I was pondering earlier today regarding a two seater Hawk with the rear seat and avionics taken out and all the necessary black boxes in their place, possibly with the targeting pod mounted further forward on the fuselage to maintain the C of G.

Phil
July 25, 2014 6:43 pm

Are they so cheap though? A Reaper costs more than a Super Tucano (although it isn’t clear if either does or does not include optics.)

Did you watch that London crossrail programme the other night? They talked about the tunnelling machines, massive things. There was a metaphorical drum roll as the commentator announced how much they cost – £11 million quid. The MoD drops £11 million quid down the back of the sofa yet this awesome machine cost just that. And I’d bet the farm it was because it has no need of the incredibly expensive electronics and engines the MoD uses. So I’d bet that the optics and electronics cost the lionshare and that a Tucano thus kitted out would cost almost as much as a Reaper so kitted out.

You talk about bandwith – well can you be sure you’re operating in a permissive environment? Can you be sure that this won’t change overnight when a friendly power gives them some SAMs under the table to get back at us?

Why have a manned plane drop the same, for effect, ordnance as a ground based PGM for CAS? Why have any RAF assets other than perhaps ISTAR doing any CAS at all? Monumental waste of time and money and airframes.

mr.fred
mr.fred
July 25, 2014 7:30 pm

Phil,
I’m not thinking about hostile jamming when I mention the bandwidth issue, just that bandwidth is finite and streaming real-time video over a satellite link may not always be available.
SAMs are a problem – that’s what a defensive aid suite is for. A UAV would be also toast in such a situation too, and to be honest, even a high-end fast jet would be in trouble if it was getting down in the weeds.

Why air drop? You might not have a ground launcher available or in range. The CAS bird is also the ISTAR bird, so it can self designate

It’s probably sensible to have a range of indirect fire assets too. Some mortars, something like spike NLOS, light gun for shorter ranges, 155mm howitzer and gmlrs for longer ranges.

The low-cost CAS planes could also be used to patrol wide areas of countryside, operate at higher levels and using optics to scan roads to look for IED emplacements. The lower cost per hour might make that a practical consideration.

Phil
July 25, 2014 7:39 pm

SAMs are a problem – that’s what a defensive aid suite is for.

I doubt they come cheap.

even a high-end fast jet would be in trouble if it was getting down in the weeds.

Which is why they shouldn’t.

You might not have a ground launcher available or in range.

Unlikely but equally you may not have a airframe on station either.

The low-cost CAS planes could also be used to patrol wide areas of countryside, operate at higher levels and using optics to scan roads to look for IED emplacements. The lower cost per hour might make that a practical consideration.

The thing is what’s the point? By the time you add DAS and optics and other self-defence gadgetry and the comms and datalinks you’re still talking considerable amounts of money for a role that is untenable the moment an enemy manages to get their hands on a serious bit of AA kit. In any Vietnam or Ukraine type scenario our fleet would be useless.

If you want to eliminate the expense of CAS simply delete the requirement of manned aircraft to perform CAS. It makes no sense to use a manned aircraft to scan for threats in a COIN environment either.

30-40 years ago it might have been useful, but certainly not now.

mr.fred
mr.fred
July 25, 2014 8:21 pm

The point? Just adding another option to consider rather than unthinkingly jumping on the bandwagon.
UAVs are toast in the face of any half-serious anti-air capability, they are reliant on limited bandwidth, they have appalling situational awareness, the crash rate is worryingly high and they just aren’t that cheap.
Still, it’s better than Fireshadow.

It might not be viable as a standalone fleet, but perhaps as an alternate/additional use for the training fleet?

How many UAVs get shot down? how are they more survivable than an armed trainer like the Super Tucano?

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
July 25, 2014 8:27 pm

‘using optics to scan roads to look for IED emplacements’

Can they do that? or more to the point can an operator read ground sign that well?

Phil
July 25, 2014 8:55 pm

UAVs are toast in the face of any half-serious anti-air capability, they are reliant on limited bandwidth, they have appalling situational awareness, the crash rate is worryingly high and they just aren’t that cheap.

All of that applies to manned aircraft as well though.

I think we can boil things down to two main facts:

Any fixed wing aircraft, manned or unmanned, is extremely and dangerously vulnerable at low levels even from manual AAA fire. The threat doesn’t have to go up by much to make it not worth sending anything low level above the enemy.

Ground based weapons can now deliver the same level of indirect fire accuracy (arguably faster) than an fixed wing aircraft.

So a cheap COIN aircraft won’t be massively cheap (factoring in pilot training. maintenance and the electronics and optics fit needed) and will operate at the very margins in terms of threat level doing a job that the ground forces can do themselves (far more rapidly if they don’t have to de-conflict with fast air). Yet we should expend resources on this?

Mark
Mark
July 25, 2014 9:16 pm

If you look at the two aircraft the raf use in rolls no similar to being discussed the kingaer 350 the shadow r1 and reaper. The shadow costs about 25m dollars each and come with a das system and various ground sensors including eo but there not armed probably about an extra 10m per aircraft if they were to be armed. The reaper airframe are about 15-20m dollars and they are weapons capable but don’t have a similar das system because there unmanned. Shadows offers the ability to have people on seen in the air and operate in areas and conditions when reapers can’t. Reaper offers persistence the ability to shoot back and are expendable. Adding 5 avenger air vehicles could offer persistent contested isr capability in the near term to support a manned f35 contested isr capability and a reasonable cost giving ground systems are common. Add low freq ew type pods ect to the uavs and interesting options potentially appear.

The Other Chris
July 25, 2014 9:48 pm

Operating altitude for MALE drones (e.g. MQ-9 Reaper) is 20,000′-45,000′. Whereas a HALE (e.g. RQ-4 Global Hawk) a maximum of 60,000′.

At those altitudes the visible horizon is between 170 and 300 miles. RADAR horizon is a little further than visible.

Typical US operation of an RPAS is to fly four or more aircraft in the air for an “orbit” for multiple viewpoints, persistence and redundancy.

SA-7 Grail (MANPAD) reportedly has a range of 3.5 miles and a maximum altitude of 15,000′.

The 9M317 missile a Buk variant operates (to keep the examples contemporary) reportedly has a range of 20 miles and a maximum altitude of 45,000′.

DomS
DomS
July 25, 2014 9:58 pm

Regarding Hi – lo mix, yes the high end kit can do low intensity warfare and it doesn’t work the other way round. But burning your airframe hours on LIC has a real cost in terms of years in service. For that reason it’s different to the frigate/opv argument

The Other Chris
July 26, 2014 6:10 am

One of the reasons why ISR/ISTAR assets are increasingly weaponised with strike payloads. If they’re burning airframe hours and are going to be in the vicinity anyway, they are in a position to deliver precision weapons.