Friday, June 8, 2018

Bring back the cats

The U.S. Military has a long and checkered history when it comes to aircraft development. Without a doubt, we made stead strides of improvement during WW2 and the years following, but during and after Vietnam, the tendency became to replace aircraft with less capable ones.
One of the best examples is the switch from the F-4 Phantom to the F-16 Falcon. While the F-16 is a capable fighter, when first deployed, it lacked the all weather capability of the F-4. Yes, we had and still have the F-15 Eagle which does surpass  the F-4 in most areas, but we only built about 1,200 of them vs the nearly 5,200 Phantoms. The Phantoms were so versatile that we kept them around until 1996, a whopping 36 years of service. They continued service for an additional nineteen years as target drones.
Just under 4,600 F-16 aircraft were produced, and while the end of the cold war gave us relief from our need for a great fighter. the tensions remain, and now China is becoming a player in the global war market with their claims in the South China Sea.
Looking at specs;
Max Speed; 1473 mph
Ferry Range: 1677 mi
Service ceiling: 60,000 ft
Rate of climb, 41,300 FPM
Wing loading 78 lbs/sqft

Max Speed; 1544 mph
Ferry Range: 1840 mi
Service ceiling: 50,000+ ft
Rate of climb, >45,000 FPM
Wing loading 96 lbs/sqft

Max Speed; 1650+ mph
Ferry Range: 1677 mi
Service ceiling: 65,000 ft
Rate of climb, >50,000 FPM
Wing loading 73.1 lbs/sqft

Max Speed; 915 mph
Ferry Range: 2620 mi
Service ceiling: 50,000+ ft
Rate of climb, >50,000 FPM
Wing loading 88.3 lbs/sqft

Max Speed; 1190 mph
Ferry Range: 1840 mi
Service ceiling: 50,000 ft
Rate of climb, 50,000 FPM
Wing loading 93 lbs/sqft

The F-4 was a great fighter in it's day, but soon, they began heaping multiple rolls onto it. The same is true for the F-15, F-16, and make no mistake, the F/A-18 is mostly about A. Maybe they should call it the f/A-18? Really, it should have been just the A-18 but even then, it does not equal the A-6 Intruder, or even the A-7 Corsair II. Instead, it offered multi roll capability aka, the ability to do many things POORLY! Maybe they should have kept the F-4 around, it could carry 18,650 lbs of ordnance, or relied on the F-4 which could haul 14,500 lbs.
So, where am I going with this?With the shifting dynamic in China, we may very soon be regretting giving up the F-4 Tomcat, and it appears I am not the only person who thinks so.

What we have now lacks the capabilities of the F-14, and our enemies are building better stuff every day.


Gregory said...

I thought that they went to the F-16 because of fuel availability or costs...

JeremyR said...

The F-15 is an expensive platform. In order to get the number of planes they wanted, the Air Force had to accept the idea of having some jets which were lower cost and lower performance.
What still has me banging my head is the decision by the Navy to shred the Tomcats. Head to head, the Tomcat can best them with ease whether in the dog fight, or attack, or ground support. One could say they weren't needed after the Soviet Union collapsed, but it is a rule of nature, another monster will rise from the swamp that we must deal with, and we have China and Iran, as well as Russia back at it.

Gregory said...

Yep. Now I see what you are talking about. Well, Mr. Trump should be able to get the military set up with all the proper fighters and bombers, right?