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Future UK Combat Aircraft (Project Tempest)

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Defiance
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Future UK Combat Aircraft (Project Tempest)

Postby Defiance » 06 Feb 2017, 08:29

Here we go guys, somewhere we can chat in general about future UK combat aircraft developments however tangentially linked (that's right, manned, unmanned, fair-to-air, air-to-ground, capability, industry whatever!). Seems like the default rule is because i'm the OP I can now decide what is/isn't OT.

Although it's within the RAF section as a core customer, would be interested to bring in dicussion potential partners too as they are important considerations to. . . well . . .consider

Carry over from the BAE Replica thread to keep the ball rolling.

shark bait wrote:no, I am consistant, the skills within the UK's very strong aerospace sector is capable of developing a world class aircraft, as demonstrated in the past. The problem is funding the development, and funding the support of a bespoke aircraft would be challenging.

To alleviate that challenge a partner nation is desireable. Personally I would only condiser the Americans or French. Japan is a wild card, capable, and well funded, but little precidence for cooperation.


I'd be wary of considering the former to be true if the latter were to happen. Personally if we partnered with the US I believe it's likely their industry would see it as an opportunity (through the inevitably lop-sided quantities wanted) to arrange the T&Cs such that the UK would lose key skills in certain areas to be able to do a national program in the future. That's another competitor nation struck off.

But I might be a cynic ;)

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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby bobp » 06 Feb 2017, 08:45

I think its safe to say that the UK needs something to replace the Typhoon, and to some extent the Tornado. The question really is what do we need that will outclass anything the Russians or Chinese can throw at us, and be sufficiently affordable at the same time.

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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby Dahedd » 06 Feb 2017, 09:33

Best option to buy into the USN F/A-XX programme ?

Then pair that up with whatever comes from the development of Taranis UCAV ?


That or see if the UK can join the Japanese in their new aircraft given our new defence pact with them.

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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby shark bait » 06 Feb 2017, 19:33

Ditching the our partners and going off elswehere? thats playing the french at their own game :D

Interestingly the aim of FCAS is to inform desicions on the future mix of manned and unmanned platforms, so we may see more than one aircraft pop out the end.

For me thats would be the idea sutuation, a more numerous small Taranis like drone, teamed with a larger B2 like manned aircraft to act as a control center and bomb truck for the drones.
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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby Defiance » 06 Feb 2017, 20:03

If that future vision were to hold true then you'd have to be able to guarantee electronic dominance (we now how fond certain nations are of EW) else all those drones can fall out of the sky, is that something we can guarantee?

Conversely, is this solution able to perform QRA or intercepting civil aircraft in a cost effective way? Or would we need the mothership, fleets of drones + something supersonic with decent endurance to do a civil policing role? (Don't have an answer to these just mixing the pot :) )

To me that solution, as fascinating as it is, lends itself more to the superpowers than middle power nations (in my opinion)

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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby SKB » 06 Feb 2017, 20:06

It'll be a mixture of BAE UCAV's and manned aircraft from the pool of 138 F-35B's that aren't attached to a QEC carrier.

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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby shark bait » 06 Feb 2017, 20:32

Electronic warefare wont make drones fall out of the sky, and if they've done a good job of the software, they should remain fully operational even under electronic attack.

The use of electronic attack will not be wide spread against aircraft either, primerally because by the very nature of the attack its broadcasting the location of the emitter, making it highly suseptable to a counter attack. On top of that both sides need to be carefull using their advanced electronic warfare techniques becuase the other side will be busy listening, analysing and replicating any techniques.

EW is a big deal, but like everything else its no silver bullet, with strenghts and weaknesses that limit how its deployed.

As for QRA, who says that has to be manned?
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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby Defiance » 06 Feb 2017, 20:57

You've got a more optimistic view of of the digital warfare age than I do! If you've got that system optimised based on networking alone, that's one hell of a point-of-failure and if you're considering the likes of China or Russia that's gotta be one hell of a robust system as it'll be getting blasted with everything they have before their fighters come into play.

Feel like if you're talking 'control of the air' then having a pilot maintains options which is what I like.

As for QRA it doesn't necesarily have to be manned, the point is if you're investing in this arsenal mother ship does it not seem like overkill? Is it capable of higher altitude supersonic intercept? Can it scramble in an efficient manner? If not are you either going to do continuous patrols or go split fleet? Can you afford it?

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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby shark bait » 06 Feb 2017, 22:22

The gurrent generation of unmanned vehicles are simple remote control aircraft, those are not particularily resistant to electronic attack. The generation of unmanned vehicles under development now, including taranis, are entirely different, making use of autonomy. That gives it the ability to make its own desicions and function normally without a constant data collection.

What will happen is the drones will act as data collecting nodes that will find targets all by its self, and when possible relay that information back to a larger manned platform, which will act upon that data, potentially launching a stand off weapon, which may then be guided to the source by drone.

Yes the network is very important to the system, but maintaining constant connectivity isn't because all nodes have the ability to think for themself. The nature of electronic warfare means periodic communications are still possible, which makes the system feasable as long as the vehicles are fully autonomous.

Autonomy is a game changer, we can remove the man from the loop and still get intelligent feedback from the systmem. Removing the man from the loop has a few advantages, hopefully one can be cost to offset the increase of cost of manned platforms. Without the pilot, losses become more acceptable, so a simpler more numerous system that can used in high risk scenarios, and sustain some losses, would be advantagous.

DARPA a sowing the seeds of that kind of concept right now with their 'gremlins', I am highly interested to see how it develops.
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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby Defiance » 06 Feb 2017, 22:40

So you're counting on periodic connectivity between the nodes, would that then result in your shooter not having a real time display of targets?

Being honest I have no idea how resilient datalinks are to EA it's not my area, I just have an extremely hard time believing they can be counted on to provide a picture to your one HVAA. If it does not work as advertised, which in a war is a possibility, what are you left with? Is it better than an equivalent spend of manned fighters which can rely on a network but be resilient when operating without that aid?

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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby shark bait » 06 Feb 2017, 22:49

If the aircraft have line of sight comminications they do not need to broadcast data to everybody around, like Link 16, which in turn broadcasts the senders location. Instead its better to be smarter and use highly directional transmissions, which is much harder to intercept. Remember only the drone needs to transmit, if needed the valuable manned platform can stay silent.

Networking will indeed be a serious challenge, that all forces must consider. Securing acess to the digital domain is just as important as the traditional domains, and it effects manned and autonomous systems just the same.

A manned fighter has no more resilliance than an autonomous fighter to electronic attack.

Surely we would still want the HVAA to have its own capabilities, and the ability to act independantly? the drones are the best used to keep the valuable humans at stand off distance, and still have 'eyes on the ground', ready to react from afar?


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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby Defiance » 07 Feb 2017, 07:08

shark bait wrote:If the aircraft have line of sight comminications they do not need to broadcast data to everybody around, like Link 16, which in turn broadcasts the senders location. Instead its better to be smarter and use highly directional transmissions, which is much harder to intercept. Remember only the drone needs to transmit, if needed the valuable manned platform can stay silent.


Which makes sense, thanks for the explanation :)

shark bait wrote:Networking will indeed be a serious challenge, that all forces must consider. Securing acess to the digital domain is just as important as the traditional domains, and it effects manned and autonomous systems just the same.

A manned fighter has no more resilliance than an autonomous fighter to electronic attack.


I would still argue not, while it comes down to exactly how good the on-board autonomy may or may not be, it's not unlikely that a trained pilot would provide better decision making under those conditions than a system, although that's where the winds are blowing these days

shark bait wrote:Surely we would still want the HVAA to have its own capabilities, and the ability to act independantly? the drones are the best used to keep the valuable humans at stand off distance, and still have 'eyes on the ground', ready to react from afar?


So we're talking a B-2 sized mothership which can be supersonicwith a Xg sustained turn rate? Alternatively you end up with something akin to the tactical fighters we have now for the cost argument which is more something I could be on board about. Otherwise that's a very expensive beast which, i'd say, would absolutely make it a superpower weapon.

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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby shark bait » 07 Feb 2017, 07:51

We're being very conceptual here, so I'm going to avoid choosing the type of aircraft, but I will say a larger aircraft makes sense for the following reasons;
  • 2 Pilots, they have to fly and manage a battle network so load sharing is desirable
  • Intercontinental range, respond anywhere without tonnes of logistics
  • Increased low observability characteristics across a wider spectrum
I just used the B2 as a nice example, it doesn't have to be anything like that, and I do think a similar aircraft offers desirable characteristics, such as the above.

Yeah it sounds expensive, and any next gen aircraft will be. The concept here allows for some cheaper unmanned aircraft to work as part of the system, which is suppose to offset the increased cost of the manned platform.

Humans do tend to think humans are better at decision making, but more and more that is being proved wrong. If you study failures the biggest cause is operator error, and within that the big causes are lack of training and misinterpretation of data, events machines are much less susceptible to. Autonomous systems can monitor more digital data, much quicker and more accurately than a human brain, which if trained correctly leads to better decisions.

An autonomous system, will be just as capable as any manned system, within its parameters.

If we look at the F-35 the pilot is an organic component within an entirely digital system. It is approaching the stage where that organic component is the limiting factor. Does it make sense to have an end to end digital system, with the human instead assuming the role of supervisor?
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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby Defiance » 07 Feb 2017, 08:10

I suppose the biggest thing here is timeframe, it feels like this is the natural evolution at some point in the future. In your opinion what sort of timeframe would you see this sort of thing becoming a reality?

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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby Dahedd » 07 Feb 2017, 08:19

Reading the Black Buck story in the Vulcan page makes me think its time he UK got back into that range again. A larger long range strategic optionally manned Taranis spin off should be considered.

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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby shark bait » 07 Feb 2017, 10:18

Its possible for the next generation, perhaps coming in the 30's. All the hardware is available to make it happen, and the software techniques already exist, they just need applying to a military aircraft application.

What is going to take the time is the training of the system. You need to collect vast amounts of data, analyse and feed back the results back into the system in an iterative process, to gradually increase the capabilities of the system. This is one of the reasons why google is a leader in intelligent systems, they have access to a vast well structured data stream to train their models with. Replicating that for our application is going to be a challenge, which is why getting these development aircraft with the French is so important.
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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby shark bait » 08 Feb 2017, 18:27

This just popped up on my feed, and is relevant to the discussion we are having;
http://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/74 ... nes-emerge

It appears the USAF is interested in a semi-consumable drone to work alongside it's manned platforms. It's quite similar to my earlier suggestion for some unmanned manned teaming.

High value manned platforms working along side low value unmanned platforms, seems like a nice way to offset the ever increasing price of air power and restore a balance between quality and quantity.
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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby Defiance » 08 Feb 2017, 21:54

I think we may have slightly different definitions of the term 'high value manned platforms' depending on what it's relative to. A developed tactical fighter as we know it today fits that definition relative to that UCAV, but when I hear 'high value manned platform' I think of something far more substantial.

Manned/unmanned teaming is fine, i'm more comfortable with the concept where - in the case of this drone - the capabilities the drone puts forward are supplemental to (rather than integral to) the capabilities of the manned component.

Still also believe it's something we're not likely to see (in its totality) within the next 'generation', but that's more just gut feeling :)

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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby LordJim » 08 Feb 2017, 22:16

We are probably going to end up with a combination of F-35s and UCAVs post 2030, with the latter replacing the Typhoons and the F-35s taking over the QRA role which they should be able to do quite nicely if/when both ASRAAM and Meteor are integrated. There will probably be more than one UCAV with a high/low mix with Protector being the low, relatively speaking and a Low vis platform being the high. The RN could also see a rotary UCAV to supplement the Merlin/Wildcat but unless somebody develops a STOVL Stealth UCAV, the carriers will have to rely on the F-35. Mind you if we end up with two wings of F-35s, around 100 airframes at least we will be able to put a decent number on one of the Carriers if needed, more so if the RN gets its own wing with an additional 30 airframes. Actually 130 seems a familiar number assuming our planned total doesn't include replacing those bought earlier rather than bringing them up to later specs like we have done with the Typhoon.

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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby shark bait » 08 Feb 2017, 22:18

Any platform with a man on it becomes a high value aircraft, we certainly can't use them as semi-consumable like a drone could be. I do think there is a good argument for larger manned combat aircraft than we have today.

I totally agree the drones have to be an additional capability to supplement the manned aircraft's own capabilities, there would be real value if the systems could work independent of each other, and combine to extend the reach and collect more data for the manned aircraft.

I can also see some value operating these drone from the back of a C-130 where the environment allows it.

We differ on the last point, this is very much possible for the generation in the works now. The technology is there, it just needs developing for this application.
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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby Defiance » 08 Feb 2017, 22:37

shark bait wrote:Any platform with a man on it becomes a high value aircraft, we certainly can't use them as semi-consumable like a drone could be. I do think there is a good argument for larger manned combat aircraft than we have today.


There's where the perspective bit can be tricky, I agree the pilot is valuable but in the context of assets it's the things like tankers/AEW which (to me) are what i'd class as high value, if that makes sense? I suppose i'm relating it more to force multipliers.

shark bait wrote:I totally agree the drones have to be an additional capability to supplement the manned aircraft's own capabilities, there would be real value if the systems could work independent of each other, and combine to extend the reach and collect more data for the manned aircraft.


This clears this a lot up for me, other places i've seen describing this sort of warfare had the drones do the majority (if not all) sensing and tracking with the manned component having none of this (no radars, IRST etc) and just having a large stock of BVRAAMs causing total interdependence. That's what I thought you were describing so hopefully you could see why I was that sceptical about it

This then follows onto the latter point . . . .

shark bait wrote:We differ on the last point, this is very much possible for the generation in the works now. The technology is there, it just needs developing for this application.


If i've understood your earlier comment regarding what the UCAV should bring to the table then you're right it's very much the sort of thing which is currently achievable.

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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby shark bait » 01 Mar 2017, 13:34

The Boeing X-45A's are a good example of how those kind of tactics are achievable, and that was done back in the early 2000's. It was groundbreaking stuff back then, and the Americans true leaders, but they appear to have stifled a bit, allowing the rest (us) to catch up.

It's a very interesting little case study, and I hope we are aiming to follow on where Boeing left off. It looks like we are, because demonstrating autonomy was the main reason behind Taranis, as well as some advanced manufacturing practice.

If we can build on Taranis, and develop it into a small networked drone, that can exploit swarm tactics, we will be very well positioned for the future. It's the swarm tactics that offer some real value.
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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby marktigger » 01 Mar 2017, 14:25

with UK involvement in the Turkish project and the Airbus tornado replacement project (hopefully there will be a merger of these programs) coupled with UK F35 involvement we could be in an interesting position. However talk of a typhoon replacement Is very premature with updates they should be around for a long time.

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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby Defiance » 01 Mar 2017, 14:47

Germany's going to have to do something if they want a new program to replace Tornado, there's not many other people interested in that sort of timeframe for that class of product who aren't already doing other things. If they reckon they can go it alone then more power to them but the costs would be challenging.

More than likely if they can't get onto a program reasonably then it'll be Typhoon enhancements.

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Re: Future UK Combat Aircraft General Discussion

Postby ArmChairCivvy » 01 Mar 2017, 16:10

Defiance wrote: it'll be Typhoon enhancements


The best is yet to come - there is such a Rusi write-up. Not that I have read it.


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