Author Topic: 'Affordable' Stealth fighter?  (Read 2373 times)

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Offline deathjester

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'Affordable' Stealth fighter?
« on: February 13, 2013, 02:05:03 pm »
An idea came to me yesterday.  Does stealth have to be so expensive?  Do they have to be designed over the course of decades at billions of expenditure, so that only a handful are affordable?

Try this on for size:  A small turbofan / ducted propfan aircraft, made of carbon fibre panels, over a carbon fibre, or wood frame.  Give it reversed direction intakes to disguise fan blades, and a bare minimum of ferrous components.  Internal weapons bay with munitions made largely from non - ferrous materials.  Utilise a basic, blended body shape optimised for a small frontal area.

Hawk jet trainers are said to be near on invisible at low level over the sea, even more so for the WW2 era Horten flying wings, so an aircraft especially built to be low observable, without being 'stealthy', would be a lot cheaper than a purpose built stealth aircraft! 

Discuss...

Offline aerofan

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Re: 'Affordable' Stealth fighter?
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2013, 02:57:02 pm »
Quite interesting a William Edward Willoughby "Teddy" Petter's Midge/Gnat concept but in the form of a stealth plane . I recalled that when Lockheed-Northrop built a static fullscale Horten Ho-229 a few years ago, they used a metallic paint on the fibreglass parts that were originally made of metal. This was to give the trurer result when they tested on the pedestal. To run a small turbofan you'd still need metal components for that but it could be hidden the way the F-117 did their intakes with a grille like panel. You could also try running cool air ducts at the exhaust to reduce the heat signature. If you use a ducted fan like the RFB Fan trainer ATI-2, I wonder how deep in the fuselage you could put it to try and hide it. Using it will resolve the heat signature problem. Hmmmmmmm that ducted fan one sounds really good as it would be even lower cost than the turbofan. I hope others will put some input as this has got  me very curious.

Offline deathjester

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Re: 'Affordable' Stealth fighter?
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2013, 03:14:41 pm »
Well, it just seems to me that aircraft are getting so expensive, and taking so long to develop, that there may well be a kind of backlash / demand for the companies involved to cut costs and hurry up!

I happened across a discussion about 7th generation fighters - the concensus was that such an aircraft would either be:

A lower tech 'throwback'

or

A hyper expensive all singing, all dancing super jet, so hideousley costly that even the richest nations could only afford one example, and they would be so scared of losing it, that it would never be used! 

IMHO, neither would be worth having - what we need is a simple aircraft to operate and maintain, that uses hi tech principles to maintain superiority, rather than out and out gadgetry.

Offline aerofan

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Re: 'Affordable' Stealth fighter?
« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2013, 03:29:28 pm »
Well, it just seems to me that aircraft are getting so expensive, and taking so long to develop, that there may well be a kind of backlash / demand for the companies involved to cut costs and hurry up!

I happened across a discussion about 7th generation fighters - the concensus was that such an aircraft would either be:

A lower tech 'throwback'

or

A hyper expensive all singing, all dancing super jet, so hideousley costly that even the richest nations could only afford one example, and they would be so scared of losing it, that it would never be used! 

IMHO, neither would be worth having - what we need is a simple aircraft to operate and maintain, that uses hi tech principles to maintain superiority, rather than out and out gadgetry.


That was the plan with the F-5 series. The lower tech airframe with hi-tech avionics would be a better way to go especially with the foreseeable transition to UCAV's.

Offline deathjester

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Re: 'Affordable' Stealth fighter?
« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2013, 03:40:33 pm »
Well, my personal take on UCAV's and the like is that if you can't 100% guarantee that you can maintain control in the face of ECM, hacking, and plain old atmospheric interference, then yo are much better off with a manned platform...
...
or start designing Bolo's...  :tank:

Offline joncarrfarrelly

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Re: 'Affordable' Stealth fighter?
« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2013, 03:44:35 pm »
Military aircraft development has been 'slow and expensive' since the late 1930s, and as aircraft capabilities
have increased so have the relative costs and development time. Ditto in the world of civil airliners.
More speed = more $$, More range = more $$, More bombs = more $$ etc., and all = more time.

BTW stealth features are only one aspect of the design in the current generations of aircraft,
none of them are 'pure stealth' one-trick ponies like the F-117 or B-2, nor are the stealth
features the largest drivers in the cost increases.

The F-5 concept was never for a 'low-tech' aircraft, the whole point was to use then state-of-the-art
materials and methods to design and produce a less complex and easier to maintain aircraft.
There was nothing 'low-tech' about the airframe in terms of structure, materials or aerodynamics.
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Offline deathjester

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Re: 'Affordable' Stealth fighter?
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2013, 04:01:52 pm »
Hmm, I see what you are saying.  What I am getting at, in a way, is that all of the development work has been done and payed for, so now is the time to reduce the costs of making the things, surely?

Also, I would like to bring up the example of the P-51 Mustang, designed and built in an incredibly short amount of time (102 days!), and developed to its zenith in around three years...so they can do it when they try!!

Offline joncarrfarrelly

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Re: 'Affordable' Stealth fighter?
« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2013, 05:14:17 pm »
... and the P-51 may be the perfect example of 'the exception that proves the rule'.

 ;D  ;D

Having worked in aerospace I can assure you that 'all of the development work' has
not been done and paid for, because even when re-using existing engineering it has
to be adapted to the project in hand which takes time thus funds to pay for the
engineering man-hours. Then once you have a producible design you have to pay the
planners, the purchasing folks, the marketing folks, administrative overhead, the
manufacturing folks etc., etc.
 ;D
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Offline deathjester

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Re: 'Affordable' Stealth fighter?
« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2013, 05:28:52 pm »
Yes, I take your point!  And to be fair, if NAA hadn't moved fast, they wouldn't have got the contract, I expect!

My point is, though, that surely the cost of these technologies can be reduced, lest the companies actually price themselves out of the market!  Witht the ever escalating F-35 costs, that is looking an increasingly likely prospect!

Also, what I would really like is a technical discussion - focusing on creating a viable (albeit hypothetical) design for an affordable stealth aircraft....

Something like, a project, that a country with...umm, less monetary advantages, could reasonably begin, and see through to production with a small indigenous aircraft industry...

Offline Go4fun

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Re: 'Affordable' Stealth fighter?
« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2013, 05:32:07 pm »
I would think something like the Mosquito with some cross-breeding from the auto industry for the engine. Modern car engines use composite intakes and cam or valve covers and all kinds of parts elsewhere. I've even heard of composite engine blocks being tested.
Such an engine buried in the interior of an aircraft with proper designing would seem to be acheivable at a lower cost that $XXX,000,000 dollars a pop.
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Offline Captain Canada

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Re: 'Affordable' Stealth fighter?
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2013, 05:32:27 pm »
A stealthy Hawk sounds loke a cool plane....would need a stealthy weapons pod as well.

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Offline Go4fun

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Re: 'Affordable' Stealth fighter?
« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2013, 05:46:07 pm »
A stealthy Hawk sounds loke a cool plane....would need a stealthy weapons pod as well.

 :cheers:
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Offline deathjester

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Re: 'Affordable' Stealth fighter?
« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2013, 06:01:46 pm »
That's kind of my point - to an extent, the Hawk already is stealthy - kind of.

In the UK, the Royal Navy use some Hawks to train warship crews in how to deal with low level threats (sea skimming missiles/attack aircraft).  The Hawk had such a low RCS, that they had to fit radar reflectors to increase its visibility to radar, as the planes could easily hide in the 'clutter' near the surface!

Offline Go4fun

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Re: 'Affordable' Stealth fighter?
« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2013, 06:14:26 pm »
It depends on the mission of the fighter. Low level attack planes can hide in the ground clutter already. High and medium altitude are a little trickier. I still like the 'plywood, spruce and wood adhesive' approach for wings and hull. It's when you fit engines, avionics and weapons it gets harder.
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Offline joncarrfarrelly

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Re: 'Affordable' Stealth fighter?
« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2013, 06:35:45 pm »
As to a technical discussion, the first thing to do would be to define stealth.

While I know from personal experience that wood-epoxy composite structure has advantages, and
disadvantages, in boat construction it would not be a good choice for construction of a military airframe
as ease of repair is not a point in its favor. Nor is it any "stealthier" than glass or carbon fiber reinforced
plastic composites. Nor would it be any cheaper, the custom wooden boats of the company I worked for
cost several times that of a similar sized fiber-glass boat. Carbon-fiber composites are so common today
that it would probably be the most cost-effective route.
"Evil our grandsires were, our fathers worse;
And we, till now unmatched in ill,
Must leave successors more corrupted still."
Horace, 65BC - 8BC. Marsh translation.