From: Washington D.C.
I hear you. But, doesn't it seem like a very high price tag for a "niche" aircraft?
Well... they bought a small number of "expensive" aircraft to perform a niche HIGH PAYOFF mission that large numbers of expensive aircraft couldn't perform at an acceptable level of risk. The flip side of the coin is always how much are you willing to risk to do the same thing?
I assume (from CMANO/CMO) that the Prowler would have had to stay pretty close to the F-117 in order for it to provide any kind of benefit. Those are hard to electronically see, and they do provide excellent cover.
It depends. The power from the jammer received at the target goes as 1/R^2. The radar return at the target goes as 1/R^4. So... how far the jammer is from the target depends in part on balancing those factors. There's more, though. How far is the jamming target from the target area/ingress route? Is it off axis? What kind of radar is it? One of the biggest drivers of jamming effectiveness in CMO/CMANO is the combination of the jammer's "Generation" and the target's "Generation." They use that as a proxy for a variety of variables which they probably won't ever find data on the low side for. The reduced radar cross section of the F-117 means that the jamming aircraft maybe don't need to get as close in order to protect them. Detection range goes as the fourth root of the rcs. There isn't one single solution for jammers. You want to keep them close enough so that they can protect the thing they're supposed to protect but not so far away that they make themselves vulnerable. It's a balancing act, like so many of these things.
Tell me, what don't they just install those jamming pods on a few strike aircraft rather than just having them on Prowlers and Growlers? Are those pods huge or something?
There's lots of reasons. EW is one of the most complex aspects of warfare. It is EXTREMELY technical and requires a great deal of knowledge about how radars work in order to be successful. Basically, it's a full time job. Similarly, putting kinetic effects on target is also an extremely technical job, and is also a full time job. To get the full potential of EW, you need specialists. Growlers are a lot more automated than Prowlers, but they still have a back seater whose whole life is messing up electronics with other electronics. You'll never see that kind of specificity in single seat strike aircraft.
And they are huge and powerful. They run off their own power source, which includes an electric generator. They occupy a weapons station so it'd be less ordnance on target. Also, depending on the type of jamming involved, the jamming aircraft highlights itself, so it can't necessarily ingress as close as an aircraft without jamming. So one of the challenges of employing EW is coordinating the strikers with the EW aircraft. You want to keep them in alignment, and you want to take the jammer in far enough that it's effective but not so close that it's vulnerable. There's also such a thing as sidelobe jamming, so maybe you don't need to be in alignment. Of course with AESA/PESA radars there's less in the side lobe department, so that might not be the way to go. It all just depends. There's lots and lots of variables, and every case needs to be looked at as a different problem. Part of being a good tactician is understanding and balancing all the different variables to ensure mission success within a certain specified acceptable level of risk. Each platform has its job to play, and the mission commander (MC) is the conductor of an orchestra of different flights, each with their own targets and roles. The whole thing needs to be timed and spaced very accurately to ensure maximum effectiveness.
Regarding the cost, from the outside looking in, it appears that someone got a huge contract to build this plane that needs other planes to do some of its work for it. They certainly didn't stick around very long before being moth-balled.
Do you believe that the F-117 program was a waste of money?
No, I don't. Because if you'd given other aircraft the same job, it'd likely have been at enormous cost, assuming they could do it at all. All of air war is a team sport. There are no lone wolves out there.
It paved the way for future LO/VLO programs (e.g. B-2, F-35, F-22, JASSM, etc. ) and demonstrated the feasibility of a new technology. I actually think the biggest reason for the F-117s retirement was that it was shot down once. Regardless of why that happened, the wreck of that aircraft is now sitting in a museum in Serbia, displayed prominently. Someday I'd like to take a look at it. It has almost certainly been subject to exploitation by bad actors, which means that if the first shoot down was lucky, any subsequent shoot downs are less likely going to be about luck and more about being good.
On a side note, and I brought this up to Kushan the other day as he was playing El Dorado Canyon, don't you think that the F-111 was merely used on the attack on Benghazi in 1986 because it hadn't seen any action as of yet. It seemed to me that rather than make three refueling stops along the way with the F-111s, they could have just used two waves of A-6s from the two carriers. The A-6s carry more ordinance anyway.
It seems similar to the F-117. Neither it, or the F-111 ever really seemed like they delivered that much bang for the buck.
It's just an observation.
F-111s had plenty of action! They'd been in use since the Vietnam War and the Linebacker campaigns. They're great aircraft! In El Dorado Canyon the A-6s were tasked with other targets. The original plan wasn't to have to go around France and Spain, but unfortunately due to diplomatic issues they had to take the long way around. If other countries won't give you the overflight rights, it makes things more complicated. F-111s struck many targets through the first Gulf War as well. They were awesome.
Navy tactics and Air Force tactics are often very different. For the Air Force, the heavy hitters are bombers, that means B-1, B-52, and B-2. They can go lighter, but that's more of a surgical strike role, or a supporting strike. That means their requirements are different. Remember, this is a team sport, not everyone needs to be the quarter back. You need offensive linemen, kickers, defensive teams, and special teams as well. The Navy, on the other hand, uses tactical aircraft very much the same way they used cannons on battleships. To the Navy, strike aircraft are their big guns. For them, a carrier air wing is an integrated strike force of complimentary capabilities. While they can integrate with the Air Force, they really are intended to operate in support of a naval task force. Since they have no bombers, the A-6 filled that role. The Air Force, on the other hand, is structured to do multiple missions simultaneously. They bring bulk to the fight. On the one hand, they can act in support of a naval task force, or a ground offensive, they're also capable of conducting an independent air campaign, which is a little different focus from the Navy.
In the end it's all one fight one team.
(Go Air Force! Beat Navy!) ;-)
< Message edited by SeaQueen -- 2/14/2021 8:27:58 PM >