Russian fighters for the USAF/USN?
[FONT=Verdana, Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=6][*******#680000]Russian fighters for the USAF/USN?
The ultimate irony …[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=2]by Robert W. Kress with Rear Adm. Paul Gillcrist, U.S. Navy (Ret.)[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=1]PAGE ONE[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=VERDANA, ARIAL, HELVETICA][SIZE=3][*******SILVER]1 • 2 • 3 • 4 • 5 • 6 [/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT] [CENTER]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=2]Articles home page[/SIZE][/FONT][/CENTER]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=2][*******BLACK]Editors’ note: In this wonderful piece of aeronautical and political irony, it seems that our newfound but uneasy friends, the Russians, may be our best source of new fighter aircraft. Bob Kress, ex-Grumman VP of advanced programs and chief engineer on the F-14, and Adm. Paul Gillcrist, retired USN fighter pilot, make a convincing argument that rather than spend ridiculous sums for new fighters that will probably show up too late to do us any good, we should buy Sukhoi Su-27 airframes and "Americanize" them with our engines and flight-control systems. Controversial? Absolutely! Logical? Make your own decision.[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=2][*******BLACK]RIGHT: The Su-27 is bigger than the F-14 and F-15, and its capabilities and economics are so outstanding that a number of nations are in the process of adapting it to set it up as the primary U.S. foe in future conflicts (photo by Katsuhiko Tokunaga).[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=3]Soon after Desert Storm, by some inexplicable miscalculation, the U.S. Navy voluntarily opted out of the important sea-based, deep-interdiction mission it had brilliantly carried out during and since WW II. It decided on the early termination of the A-6 program and to scrap the new A-6 "composite wing" program for which Boeing had already been paid hundreds of millions of dollars. This would have carried A-6Fs well into the next century.
In the strike configuration for which it originally had been designed, the F-14D was to have been the bridging mechanism between the A-6 and the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). It is hoped (repeat, hoped) the JSF will arrive easily in the next millennium. With the A-6 out of the picture, and until the JSF arrives, the F-14D is the only game in town that has the same punch.
The problem with using the F-14D as the bridge between the two aircraft is that it is on the edge of extinction. In another inexplicable move, beginning about 1990, the U.S. Navy, per orders of then Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney, planned to phase out of the F-14 program and, apparently to ensure there would be no second thoughts, ordered the destruction of all F-14 tooling. Incredible!
The F-18 E/F program that is supposed to take over the sea-based, deep-interdiction, precision-strike mission does not have a long-range, high-payload, precision-strike capability, so the F-14Ds are the current workhorse delivery men of the 2,000-pound, LGB/radar-guided bombs in the many trouble spots around the world, as required. The USAF tries to supplement U.S. Navy strikes but is handicapped by diplomatic and political constraints.
Unfortunately, the tragedy does not stop there. The requirement for the Nimitz and follow-on class carriers hinges, most experts say, on its ability to carry out sea-based, deep-interdiction missions. Without the F-14s, Congress will not support the construction of more $3.5 billion Nimitz-class carriers if deep-strike aircraft are not ready on the first day of the conflict.[/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=2][*******BLACK]LEFT: Grumman F-14Ds, as based on the USS Constellation, are on the edge of extinction and are our last Naval aircraft capable of carrying heavy bomb loads for long distances (photo by Randy Jolly).[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif][SIZE=3]Somebody in the White House will have to answer the President’s question, "Where are the carriers?" with the reply, "What carriers?" We decided not to build any; remember?
[/SIZE][/FONT][FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=3][*******BLACK]The U.S. Navy
The U.S. Navy retired the venerable long-range, heavy-attack A-6 aircraft, not because they lacked their original capability and survivability, but because they were disintegrating due to old age. They went into service in 1962—37 years ago!
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=2][*******BLACK]LEFT: the Grumman A-6E Intruder, now taken out of the fleet, was neither fast, nor glamorous, but it was rugged, reliable and carried an immense bomb load on long, low missions. It has no direct replacement (photos by Randy Jolly)..[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]
The F-14D has now taken over for the A-6 in the fighter/bomber role as it was originally designed to do. On top of that, when the Tomcat has loosed its bombs, it is a formidable dogfighter! With the 150 or so F-14s left, however, the U.S. Navy can only maintain this fighter/bomber force until about 2010—if it is lucky! And even doing that will require quick funding of restoration efforts to a lot of aircraft.
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=2][*******BLACK]LEFT: according to the authors, the F/A-18 is simply too small to carry either the fuel or ordnance required by deep interdiction missions. [/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]
Cheney’s order of no more F-14 production was a wasteful move that cannot be explained rationally, nor was there ever any reason offered. The effect of the order, however, was to leave a clear path for further acquisition of the F-18A and its desperately needed mission-performance upgrade, the F-18E. The F-18s are good airplanes, but neither version comes close to the payload/range capability of the F-14 or the A-6.
The cake was iced by the acquisition of Grumman by Northrop in 1993—the cat devoured by the mouse, so to speak. Seventy percent of the aircraft on carrier decks at the time were Grumman-built. On the other hand, Northrop had never built a tactically significant aircraft in its entire 60-year history.
The USAF problem is different. The Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program resulted in the development of the excellent Lockheed F-22 stealth fighter and the very powerful and well-behaved Pratt & Whitney F-119 fighter engine. The USAF has many upgraded F-15 fighter/bomber aircraft in inventory and could build and upgrade even more. So, acquisition of the F-22 is not as critical an issue, timewise.
The problem lies in the enormous acquisition cost of the F-22 (see Aerospace America, November ’98). The cost associated with introducing it to service would probably result in the forced retirement of many workhorse F-15s. Further, the effects of stealth aircraft design measures on fighter aircraft performance, cost and combat operability have been seriously questioned.
The F-15s must be replaced in the next 10 to 20 years, but with which aircraft?
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=2][*******BLACK]Scale models show the relative sizes of the different fighters. From the left: MiG-29; F-14D; Su-27; F-15; F/A-18. Note the tiny relative size of the F/A-18 (photo by Walter Sidas).[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]
On the other side of the fence, our combined U.S. Navy/USAF fighter/bomber force will face approximately 404 Russian Su-27 Flanker aircraft by 2002 ("Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft"). China has been licensed to build 200 (no license to export—so they say!).
The Su-27 is already known as a premier highly maneuverable fighter. What is less known is that it is a brute of an aircraft—bigger than the F-14 and F-15. It has a huge internal fuel capacity and, like the F-14, can carry a lot of very large bombs in attack roles—neatly hidden from radar detection between the podded engine nacelles. In addition, its external shape results in a naturally low radar signature without compromising its performance. The vaunted MiG-29 is a midget compared with the Su-27—not unlike comparing the F-18 with the F-14. No wonder the world market opts for Su-27 payload/range versus the MiG-29. Even better for our purpose, the Su-27 has already been modified for carrier operations, and it was planned for the first Russian carrier, the Adm. Kuznetzov.
By 2002, the U.S. will be outgunned by an ever-growing number of countries owning the Su-27. The Su-27 has a deep-strike capability that’s on a par with the current 500-nautical-mile U.S. capability, which, by the way, is in the process of rapidly fading to 300 n.m. as the F-14s go out of service and are replaced by F-18s with half the bomb load. The same goes for the F-15, except that its strike bomb load is on a par with the F-14, and it isn’t disappearing as quickly.
We need some more affordable, high-performance "big guys" soon! So what can be done?
An American Su-27?
Before assuming that the concept of buying Su-27s for the USAF and USN is a whacky idea, let’s first see whether it has some merit. The Su-27 is a known excellent fighter. It has been partially “navalized.” It is a big brute. In the event of a conflict, we will be nose to nose with it worldwide. It exists and is in production, so we could easily buy Su-27 aircraft models as gap-fillers; we already have acquired two for evaluation. To make things even better, the airplane is inexpensive by any standards.?
A recent unofficial quote from a Russian source says that Su-27s can be bought for about $8 million apiece. Perhaps the carrier version would cost substantially more. Compared with F-18E/F costs, the Su-27 may offer enormous procurement savings plus large mission- and combat-effectiveness benefits.
Aviation Week recently announced plans by Australia to replace its F/A-18s and F-111s with MiG-29s and Su-27s. Maybe this proposal is not such a crazy idea after all!
In the long term, we would want to upgrade Su-27 models in thrust and avionics to give us an edge over the worldwide Su-27 threat. The Pratt & Whitney F-119 engine is significantly more powerful than the Russian Su-27 powerplants and can be built with elegant pitch and yaw thrust vectoring. The General Electric F-120 F-23 engine could also be used. Without being specific, the U.S. avionics industry should be able to substantially upgrade Su-27 systems. Cost will be the driver, but here, the Su-27 may be the solution for the U.S. Navy and USAF as interim gap-filler aircraft. For the long term, there are several options:
• Buy bare airframes made to specifications for completion in the U.S.
• Obtain a license to build Su-27s in the U.S. without export rights.
• Build some parts in the U.S. and buy major subassemblies from Russia for assembly in the U.S. (really a variant of the second option).
[CENTER] [FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=2][*******BLACK]On the carrier version of the Su-27, both the wings and the horizontal tail fold. The authors argue that the Russian fighter/bomber can do the F-14’s job at a fraction of the cost of a new, U.S.-built airplane (photo courtesy of Paul Gillcrist).[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT] [/CENTER]
As a side issue in the procurement of these aircraft, the U.S. would certainly be funding a large part of Russia’s economic recovery, which would help to keep it stable and less of a threat. Obtaining a really good deal on Su-27s should be realistic and beneficial to both countries. It would also further cement the collaboration between Russia and the U.S. in the face of jointly perceived threats.
Somebody (let’s see some hands, folks) should carefully explore the procurement cost and fleet readiness implications of the proposals we’ve presented. Since we’re supposedly retired, this is something we can no longer explore without the help of a major agency.
As long as we’re asking questions about the future fighter programs, what about the JSF program? It is a joint U.S. Navy/USAF/USMC next-generation fighter program! (Heard that one before?) But this time, a dimly perceived USMC VTOL fighter is the objective!
Has anyone figured out that when an engine fails during hover, a twin-engine VTOL will do a rollover very quickly, thus preventing pilot ejection? Even Harriers require quick pilot action to avoid insidious, slow, roll-control loss if the nose was allowed to get too high in a crosswind hover. Many were lost. Thus, a VTOL for the Marines must be a single-engine configuration, which means that it must be a single-engine aircraft. It also means that the JSF will be another fighter in the 30,000-pound class (using the F-119 engine, for example).
You might wonder why we are taking these positions. We could talk about politicians, the specifics of current international events and future perils—of which we know nothing of substance.
What we do know is how we perceived the world unfolding as youngsters on December 7, 1941. Our leaders saw what was coming but were too late to achieve a high state of readiness. So, we listened to the radio and watched “Movietone News” in horror, grief and fear until our industrial capability at last turned the tide.
On the surface, the current world situation is not as threatening, but many world trouble spots may demand military attention via conventional forces and weapons. Events that do arise will do so quickly, leaving little time to build up the military. Our forces must be ready at all times—something that seems to have lost its importance in the last decade. Tactical airpower must be refreshed in strategy and form, unencumbered by politics and corporate interference. In other words, we’ll always need the ability to dash in, drop a lot of bombs and get out. If we don’t do something about the impending vacuum of that capability very soon, we may find ourselves unable to effectively smack some dictator’s backside when he needs it.
[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=3][*******BLACK] Marine test pilot checks out an old adversary
Ramenskoye airfield looked run- down, half abandoned. The pavement had potholes. The lawns were untended, and the building looked old. During our brief walk, my escort and I small-talked as well as a recently introduced American and Russian could. The stairwell was adorned with photographs of significant men in Soviet aviation history. Russian, as opposed to Soviet, aviation was still too young to have provided its first member to this shrine.
We walked through doorways whose doors were not square with their jambs and stepped over lips in the floor where construction miscalculations had caused hallway segments to not quite align. We entered a room that once was probably a bustling office; now it was occupied by gray metal desks, stuck-drawer wooden cabinets and pieces of office paraphernalia in faded shades of green and beige. This was our briefing room. No photos on these walls, I noted, as Tatyana, my escort and interpreter, left to inquire about my safety pilot.
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=2][*******BLACK]ABOVE: An Su-27 pulls through the vertical portion of the Cobra maneuver to show its extreme slow-speed manuverability (photo by Katsuhiko Tokunaga).[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=3][*******BLACK]I wondered what history had occurred in this room. Who had sat at that desk? Did that file cabinet contain classified information that could have been useful to enemy airmen? Was this telephone here then? Silly questions—the kind you ask yourself when you stand at a historically significant site. I was interested in these silly questions because it was possible that the events in this room a few years earlier could have set up an air battle, which, as a U.S. Marine pilot, may have included yours truly.
But that was another time, and this was a friendly visit to the Gromov Flight Research Institute a little more than 20 miles southeast of Moscow in the town of Zhukovskiy. And it was my extreme good fortune to be offered the opportunity to fly the Su-27—NATO code-named "Flanker."
Tatyana returned with the pilot, Anatoly Kvochur, who would fly with me. I had asked about him during the previous days. Everyone spoke of him with reverence, and his stature at the flight-test center was obvious to me long before we met. He was impressively modest and cordial—a very likable guy and a bona fide hero of Russia. Despite his limited English and my nonexistent Russian, our brief went well, and I felt good about flying with him.
Our airplane was an Su-27UB; the UB designation signifies the two-seat trainer version with full combat capability. This particular airplane had no weapon system because it was a test article and was also used for airshow demonstrations. It differed from the single-seat fighter by the obvious addition of a raised rear seat and the less obvious taller vertical fins. Its overall length was the same as the single-seater’s. Its basic operating weight was 38,600 pounds, and a normal takeoff weight was in the 53,000-pound range.
Being careful not to step on the K-36 ejection seat, I contorted, stretched and muscled my flight-gear-clad body into the front cockpit. Two ground crewmen threaded straps through eyelets, plugged hoses into fittings and cords into jacks, and I wondered how I would be able to get out of there expeditiously if something went wrong in the chocks. Six months earlier, I had asked the same question when I flew the MiG-29 here at Zhukovskiy. The answer then was to eject because the unstrapping procedure would take too long. The only problem with that answer then was we were starting in a bunker with a steel overhead; at least the Su-27 was parked on the ramp.
Once the strap-in tug of war was complete, the seat height had to be set according to the ground-crewman’s instruction. I liked the seat where it was, but the crewman insisted it be lowered until my eyes were aligned with a reference mark on the side of the seat. This was explained as a center-of-gravity consideration for the seat should ejection be necessary. Unfortunately, this position was lower than I was accustomed to in any tactical jet, and it stole a good part of my external view. Seated in this proper vertical location, I found that the canopy sills, instrument panel and ejection-seat head box all protruded into what was otherwise a marvelous field of view.
The seat and restraint system were comfortable. And I knew they were capable. During the Paris Airshow a couple of years earlier, the world had watched as the same seat saved the demonstration pilot’s life, ejecting him from the out-of-control MiG-29 at an extremely low altitude—good thing because I was flying with the same pilot today.
Having also flown the MiG-15, -21 and -29, I immediately noticed that the Su-27’s cockpit displayed a generational leap in human factors and an abidance with industry convention. Gone was the single hand-brake lever on the control stick for normal braking in favor of individual toe brakes. The broad white *****e down the center of the instrument panel—presumably to aid the pilot with neutral stick placement in an out-of-control situation—was also gone, perhaps because of the introduction of a "panic" button that allows the autopilot to recover the airplane to a straight-and-level condition at the pilot’s request. There were still a few aft-console switches that were difficult to reach, and at least one was unguarded (the consequence of using it suggests that it should have been guarded). Then there’s the stick height—too high. Though not as objectionably high as in earlier Mikoyan fighters, the Su-27’s stick grip is high enough to preclude resting your forearm on your thigh. Remember, adjusting the seat height to accommodate stick height is not an option. On a good note, we had the environmental control system. This wonderful device was controlled with a thermostat that the pilot could adjust in 1-degree-Celsius increments; once set, the cockpit remained comfortable for the entire flight.
For years, I heard fellow pilots complain that the most difficult part of flying jets is getting them started, but once the chocks have been removed, they behave like any other airplane. Su-27 pilots can’t make that claim. Its automation makes for an uncomplicated engine start and post-start process. Engine start up is a matter of placing the throttles in the idle position and tapping the start switches. The rest is automatic. Other pilot cockpit checks are comparably simple.
Ready to taxi, I stepped on the toe brakes for chock removal, and the pedals went right to the hard stop. Convinced we had lost hydraulic pressure, I held up the evolution until Kvochur explained that what I was feeling was normal. The brakes behaved normally during the ensuing taxi, but I didn’t care for the insufficient pedal-force increase as the brakes were applied. Perhaps this was the result of a first foray into toe brakes for the Russians, or the result of the inadequate "feel" of a brake-by-wire system, or maybe that feel is exactly what their pilots wanted. Seems to me—in theory at least—that this would increase the likelihood of over-braking, or relying on the anti-skid system, although neither occurred during our flight.
Approaching the hold-short line, I made one final scan of my cockpit. Hmm; some switches forward, some aft, some buttons illuminated, some dark; all labeled in Cyrillic letters; well, the ground crew had set the switches, and I hadn’t touched anything I wasn’t told to. There were no red lights; that was good news.
This must sound crazy: two pilots with limited verbal communication capabilities who, until just a couple of hours ago had been strangers, occupied two different cockpits in a sophisticated fighter (completely foreign to one pilot) and were about to fly with the intention of exploring a few of those "envelopes" pilots are always talking about. Sure sounds crazy when I read it now. But we weren’t as isolated from each other as it might appear. We were both pilots. We both had tactical military backgrounds. We both had invested years studying the other’s equipment and battle doctrine. We had briefed the flight in general terms with the ample clarifications of an interpreter, and we were both test pilots. This last fact didn’t make us better or special, but it gave us a common language. Speaking, gesturing and demonstrating our intentions in terms of traditional flight-test techniques eliminated airborne surprises. Understanding how these universal stability, control and performance tests affected handling qualities, pilot/airplane interface and maneuverability allowed us to efficiently transition from one event to the next without confusion. I would discover an unexpected characteristic and then perform a discriminating maneuver to observe its effect, and I felt sure that Kvochur knew what that follow-up maneuver would be sometimes before I did, and I was doing the flying!
Last edited by Kilo; 03-15-2007 at 07:42 AM.
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=3][*******BLACK]How it goes
The runway at Ramenskoye is almost 18,000 feet long. The Su-27 used about 10 percent of it to get airborne in afterburner. This distance could have been less, but I had momentarily misread the kph (kilometers per hour) airspeed indicator. The gear handle had to come up immediately, and the pitch attitude was promptly adjusted to nose up to avoid accelerating through VLE—the speed up to which it is safe to retract the gear.
Power. Russian fighters have always had impressive performance with afterburner (AB), and the Su-27 elevated that impression to a new plateau. With each of its two afterburner Lyulka AL-31Fs pumping out more than 27,000 pounds of thrust, this machine had some get up and go. Accessing that afterburner power required the actuation of finger levers on the throttles. These levers also had to be used to de-select afterburner.
Most fighter pilots won’t linger in burner, because the fuel flow is in the tens of thousands of pounds per hour. Too much AB time could mean not having enough gas to get home or to an airborne tanker, and that’s as good as a kill for the opponent. Although the single-seat Su-27 had an impressive 21,000-pound-plus internal fuel capacity, there’s no doubt those AL-31s guzzle the gas in AB. There was another more pressing, although less tactical reason, for my stinginess with the burners. The more time I spent being wowed with afterburner performance, the sooner I would run out of gas and have to land.
The airplane can accelerate, turn and climb better than most. Lest the opponent think bugging out of the fight is the best idea, the Su-27’s unusually large internal fuel load and alleged Mach 2-plus capability should be enough to chase down most egressing opponents and finish the fight.
As thrilling as all that go power was, I limited my fuel-consuming performance checks in favor of a more in-depth flying-qualities evaluation. Yes, the airplane can sustain more G during a turn than a lot of pilots want to sustain (the flight-control system limits the G to +9). Yes, the airplane has enough thrust to climb away from an opponent who can’t and to accelerate back to maneuvering speed after intentionally or carelessly getting slow. Yes, the bottom line is the airplane is everything I thought it would be in the performance department.
[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT][FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=3][*******BLACK] A few complaints
Airplane response to control-stick displacement was initially too slow, in my opinion. The final result was fine, but the "ramp-up" was too gentle for my tactical preferences. For example, slamming the stick to the right stop ultimately produced an impressive roll rate, but that roll rate developed too slowly. A full-stick aileron roll produced an average roll rate of approximately 180 degrees per second—well short of the 270 degrees per second published in some journals—but this average included the time spent at the slower roll rate during the roll acceleration or ramp-up. Without flight-test instrumentation, it’s difficult to determine when the ultimate roll rate was achieved. However, when I recentered the stick after a full-displacement aileron roll, the airplane continued to roll an additional 90 degrees during its roll-rate ramp-down. This characteristic forced me to "shape" my lateral control inputs. In other words, if I wanted to aggressively stop the roll rate at a wings-level attitude following that aileron roll, I had to switch from full right stick to almost full left stick to put the brakes on the roll rate.
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=2][*******BLACK]ABOVE: The Su-27 cockpit, engine and controls system could be completely "American-ized" for a fraction of the cost of a new aircraft (photo by Katsuhiko Tokunaga[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT] [FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=3][*******BLACK]This is extra work the fighter pilot shouldn’t have to contend with in the heat of battle. Interestingly, the F-16’s flight control computers do this for the pilot in that airplane; when the pilot stops applying lateral stick, the flaperons momentarily reverse direction, and the plane stops rolling without the need for control shaping by the pilot.
This ramp-up effect was also present during pitching maneuvers, but to a less objectionable extent. Pitch-pointing the Su-27 was easy to do for gross target acquisition, in which aiming "close" was good enough. Refining that close-aiming solution to an exact-aiming solution was more difficult because of the ramp-up/ramp-down characteristic that hampered predictability. Initially, it appeared the airplane was not responding aggressively enough to my stick pull/push when in fact, its pitch rate was still developing. Unfortunately, fighter pilots don’t have time to wait for the desired pitch rate or pitch-rate change to develop—and we’re talking fractions of a second here. I found myself again control-shaping in an attempt to hurry the pitch change then shaping again to avoid the ramp-down once the desired pitch solution had been achieved.
Are these design flaws? Probably not. Remember, most weapons of choice during the Su-27’s development days were guided by radar, laser, or heat signature. Successful use of these "smart" weapons didn’t require exact aiming or fine tracking. If the Su-27 pilot had to resort to old-fashioned bullets or unguided "iron" bombs or rockets, those predictability problems and control-shaping requirements would play a significant detrimental role.
Some sophisticated fly-by-wire airplanes just leave me feeling as if I’m not connected to the airplane through the stick and pedals. Intellectually, I know I’m not, but I want to feel as if I am. That connection is the glue between pilot and machine; it feels more predictable, and that allows me to venture right to the envelope edges with the confidence that the airplane will do what I ask in the way that I want. For the most part, the Su-27 provided that feeling. The caveat was pilot aggressiveness. The less aggressive the maneuver, the better connected I felt to the airplane.
During our flight, we had some air space restrictions, so most of my “clinical” stability and control testing occurred at an altitude of 9 kilometers or approximately 25,000 feet above mean sea level (MSL) with a cruise speed of Mach 0.80. The usual battery of stability and control tests revealed a well-behaved airplane with the possible exception of the time-constant (ramp-up/ramp-down) issues already mentioned. There was no perceptible adverse yaw, and the airplane tended to remain in whatever angle of bank I left it with no stick or pedal requirement on my part.
Because stick or pedal displacement merely provided inputs to the flight-control computers, artificial control forces were fed to the cockpit controls, as they are in all modern fighters. How much force is the correct amount depends to some degree on pilot preference, and the Su-27’s control forces suited me just fine. The idea is to have enough force to discourage over-controlling the airplane but not so much as to make prolonged maneuvering tiresome. Stick-force-per-G is a common metric for how much pulling elicits how much G, and I estimated the Su-27 to be between 4 and 5 pounds per G for most maneuvering tasks. Full lateral stick took no more than 20 pounds, which is just about right for one-handed flying.
Getting to this point in the flight consumed about 35 precious minutes of my allotted one hour. Eager to see it all, I asked Kvochur to show me some of the Su-27’s stuff. He took control of the airplane like a maestro accepting his instrument. My hoedown fiddle playing became his violin concerto. His control inputs were usually smooth and always deliberate, and the airplane responded to his stroking like a purring cat. It was abundantly clear he had a few hours in this cockpit. I felt comfortable informing Kvochur I was ready for him to demonstrate the Cobra maneuver.
We discussed the Cobra in our flight brief. It went something like this:
Me: "I would like you to show me the Cobra maneuver."
Kvochur: "Yes, sure."
Me: "What entry airspeed and altitude should we use?"
Kvochur extended the fingers of both hands in a calming gesture and said: "I show you."
That was it. I looked toward our interpreter for a read on this physical punctuation, but she returned the internationally universal shoulder shrug. So I took his brevity as an admonition against prying too much into this top-secret aerobatic phenomenon and made a mental note to be prepared to absorb as much technical data as I could during his demo.
When I was ready for the demo, he had me turn off the angle of attack limiter and another fly-by-wire switch that was never explained completely to me. Then he said, "I do one. We do one. You do one." The setup was 350 kilometers per hour (approximately 190 knots) in straight and level flight. He pulled the stick all the way back, and the airplane pitched nose up past vertical. In a little more than one second, we were more than 90 degrees nose up after the stick pull. He recovered the plane back to straight and level, and the maneuver was complete. The speed was about 90 knots as the nose approached the horizon. During the "We do one," I was again surprised at the non-aggressive control inputs. He used large pedal displacements during the first half of the pitch-up then transitioned to differential throttle control to keep the roll and yaw minimized. For the nose-down recovery, the stick was moved well forward but not all the way. Differential throttle that gave way to rudder-pedal activity essentially kept us wings-level throughout. My turn: I replicated what I had just ridden through, and the results were the same. I didn’t get past 90 degrees nose up like Kvochur, but I was awed anyway. Despite the radical attitude change, the entire maneuver was completed under 3G. Throughout this seemingly suicidal contortion, the engines never complained, and there was no implication of an impending loss of control.
Fun complete, I switched the limiter and fly-by-wire switches back to their normal positions, and we headed back. During the 10-minute return trip, I solidified my opinions about aggressive aiming corrections leading to over-controlling with a series of mock attacks on Western Russian countryside and clouds. Of course, there was no real need for aggressive maneuvering to sight in on these stationary targets, and I also verified that fact as patience rewarded me with easily accomplished, precise aiming.
I also had time to verify other observations—particularly in the human factors or pilot/airplane-interface arena. The heads-up display (HUD) symbology was slightly out of focus. I don’t know whether this is true in all Su-27s, but I didn’t like it. Unlike, say, our F-18 pilots, Su-27 pilots don’t use the HUD as a primary flight display. It contains the necessary information—airspeed, altitude, attitude, etc.—but it’s more of a reference of convenience.
There’s another Russian display issue I just plain don’t like and that’s the attitude indicator. Unlike the airplanes most of us are accustomed to, where the airplane symbol remains fixed and the artificial horizon behind it moves, the attitude indicator in the Su-27 does the opposite. With ours, the artificial horizon always remains parallel to the real horizon. If we perform a 30-degree bank turn in a cloud, the airplane and airplane symbol are 30 degrees to the artificial horizon. When we emerge from the cloud, the airplane is 30 degrees to both the artificial and real horizons. In the Su-27 and other Russian airplanes, the artificial horizon remains fixed relative to the airframe, and the airplane symbol moves. Emerging from a cloud in a 30-degree bank, the pilot would see the artificial horizon 30 degrees to the real horizon and the airplane symbol 30 degrees to the artificial horizon. That places the airplane symbol 60 degrees to the real horizon in a 30-degree bank turn. In a 90-degree bank, the airplane symbol is inverted when compared with the real horizon—not the best method of preserving spatial orientation, in my opinion.
Cleared for a straight-in approach to a touch-and-go, I configured the plane for landing. The landing gear extended along with a symmetric flaperon and slat deflection. Maintaining altitude during this transition was almost a hands-free evolution—just a little back-stick did the trick.
The airplane’s generally good manners continued throughout the landing approach. Lateral control felt a bit mushy to me, but longitudinal and lateral stick force and displacement harmony felt right. Pitch response in the flare was predictable, and setting the landing attitude came easily the first time. We had a few knots of crosswind, but it posed no centerline control problems. The main gear provided a soft touchdown, and the nose lowered naturally with no unusual pilot effort.
I selected full non-afterburner power for the go, desiring to minimize fuel consumption and hoping for an additional touch and go. Kvochur had another idea. I felt him moving the throttles and calling for AB, so that’s what I did. Once airborne, I intended to leave the gear down, being Navy-trained, but again, Kvochur insisted on cleaning up the airplane. I was beginning to resent his unbriefed participation in my takeoff when his reasoning became clear. I felt the stick begin to move back and soon realized what he had in mind—a loop. While I didn’t care for this surprise, I concluded that then was not the time to discuss it. We continued to accelerate as we climbed, pulling more and more back-stick throughout. We topped out approximately 1,800 feet above the runway, and the higher airspeed coming down the back side of the loop allowed enough G to finish the loop at 1,000 feet—pattern altitude.
Out of gas, my next landing was a full stop. Although the Su-27’s stinger tail cone houses a drag chute, the three miles of runway obviated even a consideration of its use. Normal rudder-pedal activity kept the airplane on centerline throughout the roll-out, and the full-time nosewheel steering took over transparently from the rudders as speed decayed.
Instrument student pilots quip that one peek from under the hood is worth a thousand scans. Well, one flight is worth a thousand hours of poring over tactical manuals and performance-chart overlays. Having flown most of the U.S. fighter inventory at the time, I gained immeasurable insight into the relative capabilities of their best and our best. As impressed as I was with the performance of the Su-27, I came away from my flight quite secure in our own capabilities.
To say this flight was the thrill of a lifetime might sound overplayed, until you consider it was an opportunity of a lifetime—for which I remain extremely grateful.
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=2][*******BLACK]Drawings by Lloyd S. Jones[/COLOR][/SIZE][/FONT]
[FONT=Arial, Helvetica][SIZE=3][*******BLACK] U.S. Navy aircraft design comparisons
In the tables that follow, we’ve attempted to compare the fighter/bomber mission performance of the F-14D, F-18A, F-18E and Su-27. We cannot obtain or use classified U.S. Navy data. However, "Jane’s All The World’s Aircraft" is presumably an accurate source of aircraft data. Tactical missions and loads differ from aircraft to aircraft, but an aeronautical engineer can extract some valid, nearly accurate comparisons and conclusions.
So here we go. We apologize for dragging you through the technical mud! Table 1 compares the F-18A, F-18E, F-14D, A-6E and Su-27 in the long-range fighter/bomber mission. In so doing, some fundamental issues of physics begin to emerge.
The message of Table 1 is that big is beautiful! The F-18A and substantially puffed-up F-18E don’t carry much of a weapon load compared with the big guys. As you will see in the next table, they don’t carry it very far either, in spite of their huge external fuel loads that prevent large weapon load-outs by using up wing store stations. Note the large takeoff fuel percentages: the big boys fly farther on less fuel, as Table 2 shows.
One caution in viewing these numbers; although they have been extracted from "Jane’s," aircraft companies are marvelously innovative at hiding the facts while appearing to be completely candid; we’ve been there. Further, for some numbers in the table and the tables that follow, we have made corrections to establish a common baseline.
Now that we have a common attack mission, let’s address the mission performance and fundamental aero/propulsion issues. Table 2 clearly shows where "big is beautiful" comes from. Look at the radius multiplied by bomb-load factor (R x B). The F-14Ds and the SU-27s have twice the capability of the F-18s, so only half as many aircraft and crew need to be endangered (the bombs are twice as big and in-flight refueling is rarely needed). The mission radius comparison speaks for itself.
Wing loading and thrust to weight require a bit more explanation. Wing loading at the attack-mission weight simply defines your predicament if you are jumped while carrying a full bomb load. After dropping the bombs, your wing loading is much better, as shown in the table; so is the thrust-to-weight ratio (T/W). Note that the F-18E and F-14D are nearly equal in T/W at .98 and .97 compared with the Su-27 at 1.06. The reason is that the weight of bombs dropped is doubled for the big guys.
The turning drag/lift factor is proportional to the span loading (W/b^2) at a given G loading and indicated airspeed (IAS). It is related to induced drag and is familiar to aerodynamicists. It is the dominant parameter in calculating sustained G. In air-combat turns, the induced drag at a given G level is directly proportional to the span loading. With its wings unswept below Mach .7 via the sweep programmer, the F-14’s induced drag in turns is half that of the other aircraft tabulated due to its big span (squared). And aircraft combat maneuvering at the Yuma range proved that after the initial engagement, most of the time was spent below Mach .7.
One might ask why the F-18s and Su-27 have almost twice the turning drag of the F-14D. For the F-18s, the straight wing requires a very thin airfoil that mitigates against a big span. The Su-27 uses sweep to cut supersonic drag, and that allows a thicker wing section for reduced weight but is limited in span due to pitch-up considerations in transonic turns.
Is the Su-27 the perfect airplane? No; but it is so close that with a little good old American hot-rodding and innovation, it could put us ahead of the bad guys for a long time to come.
Simply not going to happen. But I understand what the article is saying about capability gaps.
I think it's much more likely that if problems becomes glaring, that the US would figure out how to stretch out what they have and then develop their own, either new or based off existing aircraft. Even with options like the Su-27 and Typhoon readily available, I think it's much more likely that you'd see a Super Eagle in similar fashion to the Super Hornet. And/or a navalized F-22.
Lack of range seems to have been addressed with a higher reliance on in-air refueling. Payload with precision guided weapons.
History will show if they've made the right decisions.
Kilo, this article has been circulating around internet aviation boards since at least 1997. It simply will never happen.
X 10 to that............seen it many times before. Will just never happen, out of pride itself....that's like giving the Army AK-47s !
Originally Posted by MacGyver
I remember this article was posted on mp.net once - and I think in the last one somebody said that it already was a repost
The advantage of the F-18E is that with a carrier, you don't need a long strike range, while commonity with the equipment is the same as the F-18C. Add some tanker F-18F and you get the same range.
And we just use those expensive B-2's for long range strike. In today's political world, you wont see a US SU-27 anytime. Plus we would be charged $18 million per plane.
yes you do.
Originally Posted by Ironlung
Lance Major Sergeant & Saffie envoy for the League of Cantankerous Old Farts.
I posted this story a while ago.... In someone elses SU-27 thread I think.
I think with the Raptor, the Strike Eagle and the Super Hornet, there is no need for Flankers. The systems are looking obsolete, too and Russia wont give the newest versions away to the western enemy.
It would also require Russian maintenance equipment, new personnel training, new tools...new weapons everything...the US would have to change the whole Air Force inventory.
Even being slightly more efficient in some ways, I will never see the US with foreign aircrafts, especially when it comes to russian Jet fighters since the US leaded the area during a half of century, to be honest, it mainly seems to be a matter of pride.
The US bought a couple of french dolphins a couple of years ago, but the french helicopters were one the most efficient in terms of capabilities during some years, but this happened before the ongoing US-French tension, heh.
the new US Presidential heli is European, isn´t it ? the EH 101
Originally Posted by thunderbird84
and wasn´t the Air Force ( or Cost Guard) going to buy some Embraer (Brazilian) planes ?
Yes the new Presidential flight is a Merlin... and I believe the USMC are about to be re-equipped with the same with more possible orders to come.
But all built in the US as far as I know...
also the new Light Utility Helicopter for the Army is European....Eurocopter 145