Karan M wrote:The US's disinterest in IRSTs and then run back to them, speaks for itself IMHO.
I don't think it speaks for anything besides them trading one thing for another. 3rd, 4th and 5th gen US designs have or have had IRST's depending upon what the sensor capability/cost trade space was at the time. Some had it in their designs, only for it to be traded away on grounds of cost (F-22 and F/A-18 spring to mind here as future F-15 variants) while others have used them for various roles. Different fighters were designed around different threats with varying degree of EW/EA capabilities. Their sensor suites reflect and even weapon portfolios reflect that. The F-14 for example needed a LWIRST capability and AIM-54 combination against the threats of the time and to meet its mission needs. The F-15 did not.
Re: RF seeker missiles, until and unless the RF seeker community can extend their window of opportunity against X/Ku/Ka-Band optimized threats, they are in for a window of hurt, when the actual OpEval against LO/VLO threats especially those with high band jammers end up resulting in abysmal Pks.
Why would they not be actually doing operational evaluations right now (or like 10 years ago)? against both stand along threats (DRFM jammers) and integrated threats (Low Observable plus countermeasures)? Do you think the US, European, Russian, Chinese and other operators who have 5th generation aircraft or who otherwise have access to low-observable crafts have not flown a seeker against that threat? Especially since VLO aircraft have been in service for decades?
The Missile seeker is one of the most fundamental capabilities in beyond visual range air-warfare and almost all capable air-forces who retain this capability in house will be constantly investing as much time and effort into matching it up with these systems as they can and using the results to both inform product improvement and develop the NG of these systems.
Component level testing for such things is a constant process and as long as you have good test beds you use this against the most expensive (to develop) threats.
Testing against larger, more powerful and computationally heavy DRFM payloads was why they shifted to the QF-16 target instead of the QF-4. It now has 3 Jammer payloads that it can carry depending upon what it is simulating and whether it expects to come back (they use more expensive payloads in such a case) or not (limits how much expensive equipment can be added).http://www.airforcemag.com/DRArchive/Pa ... -Test.aspx
Integrated end to end testing (different from practically evaluating the seeker for example against a LO threat in a dynamic environment) was something that was difficult to replicate in a controlled T&E environment but that will change by 2020 as at least 2 5th generation Aerial Target systems with integrated EW payloads will be used for F-22 Increment 3.2 and F-35 FOT&E (among other platforms and missile systems).https://www.flightglobal.com/news/artic ... bu-456793/
One would assume that all this would go towards helping develop the next generation of systems, and that these things are already contributing to that end with Air-Forces around the world.
I don't know what the RF seeker community is but these are some of the same OEM's that are also working on some of the most cutting edge IIR systems for air and space based applications. Even with western operators the systems engineering is not outsourced to an OEM, most of it and the constant testing to support the analysis and develop and provide for future need is retained by the operator community or by the government labs while in many cases the OEM's sometime maintain their own systems and test beds to support internal research and development. I assume it is also the case in France, Germany, Japan and elsewhere (the missile systems I cited earlier).
Going purely by what major players do or don't do has limitations.
So let's expand the horizon. what are some of the non major players doing? Any pure IIR BVRAAM's being worked on at the moment, or planned for the future by some of those? What tools are these players using to derive to their different calculations that are leading them down to a different path. Do those decisions have to do with any other factors that are relevant to them and perhaps not to (or not to the same degree) to the other players?
Many folks try to hard-sell what they have, while furiously trying to develop something else in their labs. When that occurs, suddenly the roadmap changes, the brochures changes and what was their yesterday gets relegated to 2nd tier. As an observer of the corporate rat race, its common across almost all industries. As is the tendency to hype up visionary capabilities and get some poor customer to pay for it on "trial basis".
Right. But until they do a 180 degree flip and change course it is rather difficult to argue for something when there is no real evidence pointing to that happening.
The original post from Nam was that he expected there to be a trend of long range ramjet powered IIR missiles with data links as a potential response to LO aircraft proliferation. As i mentioned in my post, I don't think there is enough (or any?) evidence at the moment to form that conclusion (happy to be proven wrong). I further went on and opined that just as radar operators and designers discovered "Not Just a Radar", AESA seeker applications beyond traditional roles will explore other possible capabilities currently limited by capability or available power or thermals. I feel the same for communications. Data links on missiles have long trailed data-links in other environments when it came to performance and flexibility largely dictated by SWAP trades and cost considerations. Some of those things can and will change over time allowing for more and better multi-party and higher bandwidth and lower latency communications and data sharing. That is directly linked to concepts that current missiles use to overcome jamming or other forms of disruption.
The Missile seeker operates in the terminal end game and the challenge with LO aircraft is to get the missile to an area where it can use that seeker and obtain a lock. Seeker performance evaluation against a host of RCS optimized aircraft designs is actually the easy bit even in a flight environment (seeker test beds are available to operators and OEMs alike and in many cases so are 5th gen aircraft or LO flightworthy articles and dynamic RCS and IR signature measurement capability has also existed for decades). This can then be used to optimize seekers and chart a course of where they need to be in terms of power and performance over time (LO aircraft have existed since the 1980's so this problem isn't exactly new). Some of that capability will likely come from new missile concepts but a lot of it will have to come from outside platforms just like it does now so how the data is shared, who shares it, how it is gathered and how quickly all this can be done (multiple systems and aircraft generating and processing data) is probably going to play a big role. We've recently made a jump from the aircraft sharing information (very limited information) to the missile to the missile also sharing (very limited) information to the aircraft. Next logical progression is to increase the quantity and quality of the data that is shared and for multiple sources to share that data, possible simultaneously.
For generations the missile-aircraft comms link has been at the mercy of a directional radar. This was fine because most other communication options operated in a frequency space not optimal for the role. That is no longer the case now. You have high frequency (Ku band) data links that can now handle fairly substantial data rates with very low latency. Even higher frequency systems are further being explored to develop still smaller and jam-resistant LPI systems. Moreover they can now be paired with completely passive 360 degree sensors that have the ability to tag-team a 3D track. 2 impediments still remain for exploiting this capability for the application. 1) to develop multi-beam systems for faster and simultaneous communications (i.e. to be be able to transmit and receive at the same time and with multiple parties) and 2 ) to design more SWaP optimized antennas. Both problems are being tackled and this has the potential of dramatically improving and expanding on the Aircraft-Missile relationship and how you get high quality data to the missile to get it to the right place at the right time for it to exploit its terminal seekers. It also opens up possibility of collaborative cognitive EW where you are no longer just using organic systems for CEW but sharing data obtained from forward deployed sensors or even the missiles themselves.
The terminal seekers themselves are relatively easier as AESA based and dual band RF+IIR approaches are easier to do and in some cases (AESA seeker in Japan and RF+IIR missiles in US and Israel) are already being used. It is more difficult to target, track and engage LO targets at long ranges or to get the missile where it needs to be..The most pressing challenge is involved with developing, maintaining and exploiting a kill chain against not just a silver bullet force but a large force of VLO aircraft as is likely to exist in future air battles. That is the hard nut that all are currently investing a lot of time and effort to crack.
Using this graphic below for illustration purposes only (it is for A2G applications but goes a long in way in also explaining advances in A2A warfare over the 80's, 90's, and 2000's timeframe has shaped capabilities ). The A2A kill chain as measured in time has shrunk thanks to a plethora of new capabilities and technologies fielded over time such as AEW, long range voice and data communications, and common situational awareness and operating picture. Active AA missiles have also contributed to this shrinking in a a big way over time. A lot of this was based on technologies matured in the 80's and even earlier. The 2000's was when sensor fidelity and performance improved by leaps and bounds. This further added to shrinking of the Observe-act cycle time.
LO aircraft are designed to reverse that trend i.e break kill-chains and delay F2T2EA enough to get the job done. The challenge that everyone is now going to have to address is how to restore that capability. This is a fundamental that low-observable fighters with highly integrated avionics and discrete communications have brought about. There is a reason why everyone with resources or a need is investing whatever they can to pursue or buy this capability. It is akin to the race to field active AAM's a couple of decades ago only that it is harder and more expensive to obtain and develop and has other advantages against other systems outside of air to air combat.
How you communicate with both each other and your weapons has a big role to play here. This is why 5th generation aircraft, all have dedicated layers for these purposes for both discrete sharing of data and for handling those volumes at ranges. This is a much bigger challenge than just developing a long term roadmap for seeker capability over decades that LO aircraft have been operational and for the decades they will remain operational. I suspect folk working on RF and IIR side of things have been working towards that end for decades. This is not a technology that has just recently shown up. Any half decent Red Teaming effort would direct you towards those investments. Currently 5th generation aircraft are flying with missiles borrowed or otherwise adapted from 4th generation aircraft (missiles tailored or designed around their abilities and limitations). Technologies around the world that will allow a generational leap in AIM will likely begin emerging around the middle of next decade and will begin proliferating from there on in just as the last generation of BVRAAMS did.
I never spoke a word about IIR+RF missiles (which exist already and which have the potential to offer an advantage) or IRST's on fighters etc. But happy to discuss those further.