Thursday, June 3, 2010

Stealth has a price.

Stealthy aircraft, namely the F22 and F35, no longer carry weapons on under wing racks. Instead missiles are tucked into internal missile bays lest enemy radar get a return off the ordinance. So far so good. Unfortunately the missile bays on F22 and F35 are just big enough to accept AIM-120 "Slammer" air to air missile. They are too small to fit the bigger anti-radiation missiles (HARM) used to knock out enemy radar and SAM sites.
The Air Force is working on smaller anti radiation missiles, small enough to fit, but this is probably a loser long term. An anti radiation missile has to be big to carry enough "bang" to do a ground site, which are more robust than aircraft. I remember the old AGM-45 Shrike we used in Viet Nam. Nice missile but the warhead wasn't big enough to do the job.
Then there is the never fading Air Force desire for a bomber. Every Air Force officer has seen "12 o'Clock High" and wants to have a modern B17. In Viet Nam and Iraq the bombing was done by fighters. The jet fighters carry as heavy a bomb load as the B17's and defend themselves as well. Or at least the old, reliable, but unstealthy F105, F4, F15 and F16 can, the fancy new stealth F22 and F35 may not. Be that as it may, USAF wants a bomber. They haven't decided range, payload and survivability requirements yet, but they know they want a bomber.

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