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Subject: Bring back the Douglas A4...
HeavyD    7/5/2012 10:22:55 PM
SO here in Oregon a community is trying to get the USS Ranger, retired Forrestal class carrier, as a floating museum. Thinking about the Ranger led to the A4, one helluva capable aircraft. Give it the most upgraded J52 engine with 12k thrust up from 9300, and it's STOL, baby. It can go up to 16k thrust with an afterburner. Perfect for ski-jump carriers, and dirt cheap to buy and maintain compared to Harriers. With smart munitions a 250 lb SDB that hits its target is much, much more effective than a 500 or 1000 pounder. LEss collateral damage too. Or deploy with 70mm hydras (guided and otherwise) and a GAU-12 25mm gatling gun for CAS missions. The A4 could even supplement No-Fly missions with modern avionics and A-A missiles. I KNOW THIS ISN'T A 5th GEN AIR SUPERIORITY FIGHTER. The Marines don't need that. A carrier off the coast of Somalia doesn't need that. Besides, do we really want to send in a 150 million dollar F35b into CAS missions where the enemy doesn't have any radar-guided AA defenses? I'm talking reality, not fantasy here. 2500 F35s is a fantasy. We'll be lucky to get 500 - 1000 through the budgetary meat-grinder that is coming. Also I'm clearly not saying the exact 1950's design A-4, but a similarly-capable aircraft. Single-engine, 6000lb payload with full fuel load for CAS loiter, buddy-fueling capability, high sub-mach. Not the highest tech tool in the box, but then again neither is the A-10 and the Marines would collectively sport one giant chubby if they could get a carrier version of the Warthog, now wouldn't they?
 
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JFKY    You're call for the A-4   7/17/2012 9:48:37 AM
Is akin to your call for SSK's.  It focuses on marginal/niche roles and the supposed savings of dedicated platforms for those niche roles, whilst ignoring the macro level of costs.   There simply isn't enough money in the USN/USMC for F/A-18's and F-35's AND A-4's "for Somalia."  Any platform purchased is going to have to be able of operating off of Somalia or in the Straits of Taiwan.  We can't have the "army" for fighting and the "army" for occupying, as some have suggested...we can afford ONE FORCE, so it has to be able to perform at hi and low levels of intensity.  Plus I might add, the re-starting of the A-4 production line is going to be extremely expensive.  They haven't been built in over 30 years, do you think the tooling and jigs are still just sitting around?
 
You need to start looking at procurement and life cycle costs, and worry less about "neat capabilities."
 
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HeavyD       7/17/2012 1:25:54 PM
You are right.  The Marines don't need an A-4 type, they need a A2D turboprop - similar to the A-1 Skyraider.  Wikipedia it, it's a cool bird.
 
435 knot speed, up to 5500 lbs weapons.
 
Given that we now have Hellfires and Brimstones, Griffins, SBDs and numerous other longer-range air-surface missiles that the A2 would be more than capable of carrying, a turborpop capable of taking off from an America class carrier without a catapult (but requiring arrestor cables) makes all the DOLLAR SENSE in the world.
 
Procurement and operational costs a FRACTION of a F35B.  Smaller too.  And for 95% of CAS missions it would do just as well as a Harrier or F35B.
 
I'm quite serious:  has there been a single mission the Marines have flown in Iraq in the last 10 years with a Harrier that a A2 couldn't perform?  Or Afghanistan?
 
With a new engine and prop we're probably looking at 6000shp and 25% more pull/thrust.  Load it with 6 Brimstones/Hellfires and a pair of SDBs and this baby is STOL all the way. 
 
 
You know I'm not the only one thinking this way - I've read that the venerable OV-1 Bronco is being redeveloped as a manned/drone aircraft.  Where we have absolute air superiority ain't nothing wrong with props.  Especially now that we can stay well out of MANPADS range.
 
Stealth and 5th generation maneuverability in Iraq and Afghanistan is as worthless as a ferrari engine and carbon-fiber bodywork in a NY taxicab.
 
 
 
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JFKY    HeavyD   7/17/2012 2:05:39 PM
yes 5th generation stealth fighters don't need it in Af?Pak or Iraq, but need it over Taipei, but a Turbo-Prop won't survive over Taipei...so let's buy 5th generation that can operate in BOTh, rather than an aircraft that can operate in only one.....
 
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Reactive       7/17/2012 2:14:20 PM
And UAVs (jet/prop or heli) will routinely provide a lot of the CAS requirement going forwards..  but my guess is that they will resemble the fuel efficient, persistent models that are currently in development...
 
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LB       7/17/2012 10:59:07 PM
Actually many air forces should have lower cost attack aircraft.  Whether this applies to the US is another matter.  It's not at all clear the USMC ever wanted to operate the A-10 though many would argue they should have.
 
Whether the proper aircraft for this mission is an A-1, A-4, A-7, or A-10 class aircraft, however, would be a matter of some debate.  The USMC wants to operate a single fighter for various reasons and while a modern A-4 class aircraft would be cost effective one aspect of going to a single fighter type is the resulting force structure reductions.  They wouldn't want to operate additional units.
 
I'd suggest the modern A-1 is the A-10.  What might be far more useful, as well as much more cost effective, would be an aircraft like the Super Tucano.  Of course this would be COIN only aircraft for very low threat environments.  SOCOM wants such an aircraft, mostly for ISR, but the USAF isn't going to bother as any aircraft not an F-35 is seen today as a threat to F-35 budgets.  It's what happens when you entirely bet the tactical aviation farm on one aircraft.
 
The other issue is getting the Corp to admit that the AV-8 and AV-8B while offering useful capability are expensive to operate with very high accident rates and that perhaps they really didn't need or want an all VSTOL fighter force (which they're not getting anyway).  Thus they'd be better off with an A-10 or other similar role aircraft.  Good luck with that.
 
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WarNerd       7/18/2012 4:11:54 AM
The other issue is getting the Corp to admit that the AV-8 and AV-8B while offering useful capability are expensive to operate with very high accident rates and that perhaps they really didn't need or want an all VSTOL fighter force (which they're not getting anyway).  Thus they'd be better off with an A-10 or other similar role aircraft.  Good luck with that.
Whatever the Marine Corp buys for an aircraft needs to be able to fly off a carrier, or it probably won’t be available until it is no longer needed. The A-1 can do that, the A-10 cannot.
 
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LB       7/18/2012 12:22:02 PM
That's certainly been the view for some time but it's a false construct.  The majority of Marine tactical aviation while capable of operating from a carrier isn't deployed in that manner.  The ability to operate a few AV-8B's or F-35B's from the Gator's is a useful but minor capability.  Marine squadrons assigned to carrier air wings do not deploy from the carrier ashore.  Fighter units deploy overseas exactly the way Air Force squadrons do.
 
 


Whatever the Marine Corp buys for an aircraft needs to be able to fly off a carrier, or it probably won’t be available until it is no longer needed. The A-1 can do that, the A-10 cannot.

 
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HeavyD    JFK...   7/18/2012 4:19:18 PM

 
DO THE MATH!  Even if you ignore the procurement costs of the F35B  (and $200mm+ per is hard to ignore) this aircraft costs over $38000 per hour to operate.  Over 5000 hours this is $190MM!  Compare this to an off-the-shelf Embraer Super Tucano A-29.  Unit cost = $14mm, operational cost = $500 per hour, and no it's not missing a digit.  More discussion on the A-29s capabilities below, this is about the math.
 
$14mm + 10,000 flight hours (double the F35Bs, it's slower and less capable) @$500 per = $5mm, for a total of $19mm per.  IN OTHER WORDS...You can buy and operate 20 A-29s for 20,000 total hours for the cost of 1 F35B.  OK, this doesn't include having to train 20 pilots and Pentagon Procurement bloat, etc, so let's round down to 15:1.
 
Would you send an A-29 over Taipei?  That would be silly, as silly as flying F35Bs over no-threat areas like Afghanistan.
 
 
 - Heavy D. 
 
 
 
More on the A-29: 
  Brazilian A29 Super Tucano.  It is basically an armed trainer.  Because it's a trainer it has 4th gen avionics and a 3000lb payload.  According to the always-accurate Wikipedia the Super Tucano is designed to work in 'low threat' environments it has a unit cost of $9mm - $14mm and an operating cost of...wait for it...$450 - $500 per hour. Oh, and a 12000  operational hours for the airframe.
 
A F53B is one of the most expensive multi-role fighers EVER with a unit cost of over $200mm.  It's also going to be one of the most expensive aircraft EVER to operate with an estimated, wait for it, $38,400 per hour  (source:http://defense.aol.com/2012/03...)
Over just 5000 operational hours for comparison (as it's faster to and from patrol area, can carry more munitions) op costs = $192mm.
 
By acquiring 50 of these, and over a 10,000 operational life (I'll compare it to 5000 hours for a F35B because it's slower to and from the target area) that is 50X$14mm = $700mm for the aircraft, and 50,000x$500 = $25,000,000 in operational costs.  Let's DOUBLE this to $1.4 billion for 50 aircraft and (pentagon bloat, mods for carrier landing, arrestor cables on 3 carriers) quadruple op costs to $100,000,000... $1.5B total.
 
6 F35bs = $1.2B, 30,000 hours x 10,000 per hour = 300,000,000  = 1.5 Billion total.
 
TELL ME WE SHOULDN'T DO THIS...IF ANYTHING FOR AFGHANISTAN'S SAKE!
 
We're gonna be there for the next 10 years in some capacity, let's fly Super Tucs now to protect convoys and drop Griffins on bad guys, and set them up with a program to continue after we leave, I mean really leave some time in the next decade.
 
 
 
 
 
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JFKY    Do the Math HeavyD   7/18/2012 6:37:23 PM
The US isn't going to buy A-29's AND F-35's...only one...and since the -35 can fly over both Taipei and Kabul, it makes since to purchase the F-35.
 
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