|I was thinking about fighters and SAMs .....
The advantages of fighters over SAMs for air defense include:
• Range, fighters have a much longer range than SAMs.
• Visual verification, fighters can visually verify that the target is a enemy not a low flying Lear Jet!
• Fighters are reusable.
• Fighters can escort transport aircraft.
• Fighters can do other things other than air defense.
The disadvantages of fighters for air defense include:
• Cost, including both up front capital cost and especially the ongoing cost of training pilots and maintaining aircraft which have to be flown frequently in peacetime to train the pilots.
• Fighters, at least CTOL fighters, are dependant on long fixed runways to operate. This means that they cannot easily be forward deployed, and, because they also lack persistence, this in turn means that they are not always available.
• If fighters have to close to visual verification range, even the most sophisticated may suffer unacceptable casualties from 50/50 WVR engagements with enemies with relatively simple and lethal IIR guided, trust vectoring, helmet sight cued AAMs.
The advantages of SAMs over fighters for air defense include:
• SAMs are persistent as they are actually organic to the land or naval forces or infrastructure they protect and are also thus instantly available .
• Low cost, especially low ongoing costs as few personnel are required and most training can be done via simulation. (Though the cost would increase with the area to be protected...)
• Some SAMs can do other things that fighters can't, such as ballistic missile defense or C-RAM.
Cons of SAMs:
• Short range compared to fighters
• Poor sensor height/range/visibility.
• Can't visually verify targets.
• Single use, resulting in very high costs for some engagements, such as defending against small UAVs.
• Can't escort transport aircraft.
I was thinking:
Why not combine the two and develop a reusable, vertically launched, area air defense UCAV, somewhat analogous to the German World War II Bachem Natter?
This could be:
• Launched vertically, from sealed tubes.
• Deployable with land or naval forces.
• Powered by a turbojet or throttle-able liquid fueled rocket.
• Controlled by a line of sight data link (overcoming one of the problems of a UCAV, as the data link will only need to be LOS, not satellite).
• Armed with IIR guided WVR AAMs such as the AIM-9X or IRIS-T.
• Partly or wholly recoverable, perhaps by a GPS guided aerofoil such as some special forces use for delivering supplies, or such as that used by the I-View UAV, or perhaps it could land on an undercarriage if a runway is available.
• Have a radar of much greater size and power than a SAM (as it is recoverable).
• Refueled and rearmed quickly (something which the Natter couldn't!)
It could also perhaps:
• Have distributed electro optical/TV/IIR sensors like the F-35 will, to provide all around images.
• Be employed together with JLENS tethered AEW aerostat balloons to overcome the sensor height problems.
• Have a parachute, such as an ALARM anti radar missile uses, which the UCAV could use to loiter for a while if it is launched and doesn't discover a target.
What do people think? Does this concept have any merit?
A reusable, vertically launched, area air defense UCAV would seem to have many of the advantages of fighters (range, visual verification, low per round cost) and of SAMs (persistence, availability, low peacetime cost), and some advantages which neither fighters or SAMs have (safe visual verification).