Author Topic: No F-35 - play nicely!!  (Read 533 times)

Offline GTX_Admin

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No F-35 - play nicely!!
« on: August 21, 2020, 02:58:54 AM »
Hi folks,  Whilst I am a keen advocate of the F-35, I am prepared to consider a alternate world where there is no F-35.  Let's say budget cuts or perhaps bureaucratic bungling or inter-service rivalries sees it killed off before it even left the drawing board or at least the X-32/X-35 never go beyond one-off prototypes/demonstrators.  After all, it wouldn't be the first time such a thing happened.  So where does this leave things in the current world with Air Forces looking for modern fighters?  I see the following as the main contenders (I am ruling out new programs/clean sheet designs):

  • Boeing Super Hornet
  • Boeing F-15 developments
  • Lockheed Martin F-16 developments
  • Eurofighter Typhoon
  • Dassault Rafale
  • Sukhoi Su-27 developments
  • Harrier II developments for STOVL

Looking at the current/soon likely F-35 operators, we have:

  • Royal Australian Air Force
  • Royal Canadian Air Force
  • Belgian Air Component
  • Royal Danish Air Force
  • Israeli Air Force
  • Italian Air Force
  • Italian Navy
  • Japan Air Self-Defense Force
  • Royal Netherlands Air Force
  • Royal Norwegian Air Force
  • Polish Air Force
  • Republic of Korea Air Force
  • Republic of Korea Navy
  • Republic of Singapore Air Force
  • Royal Air Force
  • Royal Navy
  • United States Air Force
'
  • United States Navy
  • United States Marine Corps

Some may be obvious - e.g. USAF might simply continue with F-16/F-15 developments.  RAF might keep with Typhoons. etc  But what about alternate ideas such as RAAF Eurofighter Typhoons?
« Last Edit: August 21, 2020, 03:04:33 AM by GTX_Admin »
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Offline Kelmola

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Re: No F-35 - play nicely!!
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2020, 03:39:25 AM »
Does the F-22 still exist? If so, then the US might reconsider the export restrictions to select countries (UK, Japan for example). Of course, said countries could then supplement it with less stealthier alternatives.

USAF will probably buy even new-built Strike Eagle derivatives, with Silent Eagle a real possibility. Block 60/70 F-16's  will also see US service. Talk of retiring the A-10 stops.

Japan will probably still rush the development of Mitsubishi X-2 even if they are able to procure F-22.

You said new programs/clean sheet designs would be overruled, are continuations of existing or cancelled programs still off-limits? If not, then Northrop-Grumman may then try to sell the Black Widow again. USN will probably restart the NATF and/or A-12 Avenger programs  (the former is more of a clean sheet, but the A-12 had progressed already to the mockup stage). If the issue with JSF being cancelled was the unit cost due to stealth, sensor fusion, or something else and not the liftjet technology, Lockheed may try to corner a part of the STOVL market and, using their partnership with Yakovlev, engineer a US equivalent of Yak-141, in the manner of M-346/Yak-130.

Offline kerick

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Re: No F-35 - play nicely!!
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2020, 05:02:54 AM »
F-22 is in operation but I believe production has stopped. The big deal was Congress didn't want the big secrets getting out by selling it to everyone but now we are selling F-35 to everybody. Go figure. If no F-35 then maybe way more F-22 sales to close allies.

Offline Frank3k

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Re: No F-35 - play nicely!!
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2020, 05:18:08 AM »
Drones everywhere. Pilots become desk jockeys, with the occasional F-15F (Fancy) or F-22 flying with the drones. Or F-18s from big boat targets.  Unmanned, LEO or suborbital craft to deliver mass to targets at short notice, once you get tired of playing nice.

Offline Logan Hartke

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Re: No F-35 - play nicely!!
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2020, 10:42:33 AM »
Oooh, this is interesting. Again, assuming the JSF gets smothered in the cradle (lets's say circa 2000), then you have some interesting possibilities. I'll try to keep it fairly realistic and not entertain too much fantasy (like the "FB-23", etc.)

I think the biggest one that you're forgetting on your list of possible alternatives, Greg, is the F-22 Raptor.



I think the USAF is going to get at least 300, maybe the 381 it wanted or more if it's cleared for export and they can keep the line open for another decade. Anyway, I'll give my thoughts in the order you proposed, again, trying to be as sensible as possible and not do my own personal "wish list".


  • Royal Australian Air Force - Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

The boring (and most likely) answer here is that the RAAF would just get more Super Hornets. Even if cleared for the F-22 (which the RAAF would be), then it's doubtful they'd swallow that bill. I could be wrong, though. If the PLAAF is looking scary enough, the per unit price comes down enough, and the line stays open long enough, then an couple squadron F-22 buy is possible, but I still wouldn't bet on it. The F-15 would be a good fit, but I don't think it offers enough of a generational leap for Australia to operate it alongside the Hornet. I think a split Hornet/Eurofighter buy is more likely than a Hornet/Eagle.

  • Royal Canadian Air Force - Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

Similar to the above, but I think the Super Hornet is even more likely. The Rafale would be an interesting option, but I don't find it too likely.

  • Belgian Air Component - Lockheed F-16V Viper

The sensible option is something like an F-16V. Rafale would again be cool, but unlikely (more likely than any other nation on this list, though). Honestly, Belgium would probably be happier with this alternative scenario than the real world one.

  • Royal Danish Air Force - Lockheed F-16V Viper

I think the F-16V is the most likely, but politics play a big role and I think the Typhoon or Gripen have more to offer in this category. They're certainly more interesting, but my money is still on new F-16s.

  • Israeli Air Force - Lockheed F-22 Raptor

Israel would be pushing very, very hard for F-22s. I think the only world where they don't get them is the one where the F-22 is barred from export in this scenario, which I find unlikely due to political lobbying. More F-15s and F-16s are quite probable, even with a Raptor purchase, though. If the Raptor is not on the table, then I think Israel will be the lead customer for a seriously stealth-spec'ed F-15SE Silent Eagle.

  • Italian Air Force - Lockheed F-16V Viper

They may outright buy new F-16s after their happy lease of the F-16A/Bs in this timeframe. I think Typhoon as dedicated fighter and F-16 as ground attack/SEAD Tornado replacement would be very sensible. More Typhoons in a more multirole configuration is an option, too--obviously--but I don't think Italy would want a single type fleet.

  • Italian Navy - No replacement

Given the lower threat environment in the Mediterranean post-Cold War and the limited ranges, I see Italy going with upgraded Harriers until they can't fly them anymore, then retiring without replacement sometime in the 2030 timeframe.

  • Japan Air Self-Defense Force - Lockheed F-22 Raptor

This is another interesting one. I think the F-22 buy goes ahead, Japan buys ~120 F-22s, then opts for either new-build F-15s, ATD-X-based F-3s, or (most likely) a combination of the two. Upgraded or new-build F-2s are possible, but I get the impression that the JASDF was a little disappointed with the F-2 and wouldn't want to throw good money after bad.

The real question is what would happen to the desired ship-borne aircraft role that Japan most recently bought the F-35B for? I think those plans don't ever come about in this world. I don't see Japan going full STOBAR or CATOBAR with Hornets and I don't think new Harriers would offer the capability Japan wants. I think this one just dies on the vine.

  • Royal Netherlands Air Force - Lockheed F-16V Viper

I think the most likely option is new-build Vipers, likely assembled in Europe. While Typhoons and Rafales are possible, I honestly don't see it happening. I think the original NATO F-16 consortium from the 70s will just re-buy the F-16 again.

  • Royal Norwegian Air Force - Lockheed F-16V Viper

Again, I think boring F-16Vs is likely, but a Nordic buy of Gripens is a possibility. Norway sometimes does some interesting stuff with its equipment, so Typhoons, Meteor-integration on Vipers, or Gripens are all options on the table.

  • Polish Air Force - Lockheed F-16V Viper

Much as the Larry Bond fan in me wants to see Polish F-15s, I think more F-16s is the name of the game again here. Eurofighters or new-generation Eagles could happen because Poland really wants latest-generation tech capable of taking on anything Russia can put in the sky, as we've seen in their surprising enthusiasm for the F-35 currently.

  • Republic of Korea Air Force - Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle

Considering the number of types that Korea currently operates (KAI KF-16, Boeing F-15K, and--eventually--the KAI KF-X), a couple squadrons more of any of these would cover the gap left by missing F-35s. They might get F-15SE Silent Eagles if that variant becomes a reality. A more interesting option would be the Typhoon since it did so well in the F-X Phase 3 competition, but considering the fact that the F-15K won the other two phases and the F-15SE progressed well in the final phase, I don't find it the most likely. I don't see Korea getting F-22 clearance, but they've been moving up the US's priority list, so I could be wrong.

  • Republic of Korea Navy - KAI KF-X

I'm inclined to repeat my comments for Japan's F-35Bs, but Korea's been surprisingly ambitious lately, and I'm wondering if they wouldn't try their hand at a carrier variant of the FA-50 (think Tejas) or KF-X (à la J-31).

  • Republic of Singapore Air Force- Boeing F-15SG Strike Eagle

By far the most interesting option here is Singapore option for the newer, stealthier, high tech Rafales that did so well in competition against the F-15, but I think 12 more F-15s is the most likely option here. F-16Vs and the more advanced F-15SE Silent Eagles are also likely (but still boring) options.

  • Royal Air Force - Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4

Any of the American teen series would be seen as a retrograde step and offer no industrial advantage compared to the Typhoon, so I think they're all non-starters. I also think the F-22 is unlikely due to the pricetag and lack of industrial cooperation opportunities. A single type fleet may not be wise, but I see no realistic alternative.

  • Royal Navy - Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

I think the RN sticks with the CATOBAR redesign of the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers and goes for Super Hornets instead of Rafales. They're less expensive, offer greater commonality with the US Navy, and throws a bone to US industry after buying just Eurofighters for the RAF.

  • United States Air Force - Lockheed F-22 Raptor

The USAF wanted more F-22s and this is a good way to get them. You'll likely have more of a high-low mix between F-22s and new-build teen series fighters. Fewer low observable fighters in this scenario, but I think a similar number of airframes overall.

  • United States Navy - Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

The USN will really want a higher performance fighter than the Super Hornet and I think they'll start getting serious about it once the J-15 starts going to sea on PLAN carriers with J-31s expected to follow. I don't know if that will take form as a manned Gen 6 platform (I don't think the USN has the budget to go it alone, so that would have to be a joint project again) or a UCAV. I think the UCAV/loyal wingman scenario is the likeliest one. Boring, I know, but that's where the world is heading. In good news, I think some budget would be found to fix the Super Hornet's stupid wonky pylons.

  • United States Marine Corps - Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet

Easy transition from the legacy Hornet and already in the Department of the Navy's supply chain. This seems pretty straightforward to me. I think the Harrier is going to be extended in service until at least 2030, likely with at least AN/APG-66 radar, eventually replaced by the AN/APG-83 SABR. When it does get replaced, I think it would be either a non-stealthy STOVL or another UCAV (more likely, I think).

I'm sorry if these are the "boring" answers, but I think there's a lot of options for countries nowadays when it comes to defense spending. Without the F-35, that money flows easily and naturally to other programs. There's certainly opportunity for the Eurocanards to pick up more orders, but I think that a lot of countries looking to replace their F-16s will end up going with another US fighter, in many cases because they're spending US Foreign Military Financing dollars.

Cheers,

Logan

Offline LemonJello

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Re: No F-35 - play nicely!!
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2020, 09:23:55 PM »
I'd like the idea of previously cancelled or current designs being improved and mass produced.
- A-12 for USMC and USN
- F-16XL, F-15E/F/G for USAF
- maybe even a SLEP to the fare-thee-well F-14E/F/G for USN fleet defense? 
- AV-8C/D with improved VTOL/STOVL technology for USMC

Offline elmayerle

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Re: No F-35 - play nicely!!
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2020, 01:04:28 AM »
AV-8D "Harrier III" to replace existing Harriers, upgraded engine and electronics along with a one foot stretch of the intakes and forward fuselage and a matching stretch of the rear fuselage plus wingtip Sidewinder rails.  This was already under study and the basic Pegasus still had growth.  This would allow a newer engine with the same envelope to be developed for the AV-8E.  Note that the AV-8C was an upgrade of the AV-8A.

I could see LM-Aero developing a F-16 version with a productionized diverter-less intake since such was trialed on a F-16.

I honestly don't think the A-12 would have been resurrected, at least not without major changes as I've heard some real horror stories on it from folks at LM-Aero/Fort Worth.

SLEP options for the F-14 exist (upgraded engines, ASEA radar, frame-less blown windscreen, et al.) and would definitely extend its life.

Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: No F-35 - play nicely!!
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2020, 02:37:42 AM »
Thanks guys, looking a little further at the timeline and some of the options/non-options:

The earliest/latest I see the F-35 being cancelled would be:

  • Earliest: November 1996 when, in the real world, Boeing and Lockheed Martin were awarded contracts to produce  their X-32/X-35  concept demonstrator aircraft.  If this did not happen you would have no F-35; or
  • Latest:  October 2001 when, in the real world, Lockheed Martin was declared the winner and was awarded the System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract for what became the F-35.

So taking these dates and applying against the various contenders/additional options:

  • Boeing Super Hornet - as already mentioned, a definite option with its first flight in November 1995 and service introduction 1999.  I can see Boeing strongly pushing this especially given the technology/capability enhancements over other options (this ain't a warmed over Classic Hornet);
  • Boeing F-15 developments - definitely an option for new growth.  I can see a stronger push of F-15E variants such as the F110 powered ones;
  • Lockheed Martin F-16 developments - again definitely an option with stone pushes of Block 50/52 variants and derivatives;
  • Eurofighter Typhoon - I think this would definitely tried to fill the gap competing against the likes of the Super Hornet and Rafale as pushing for the 'new kid' title.  Production contracts were first awarded in January 1998 in they entered initial service August 2003;
  • Dassault Rafale - alongside the Typhoon, this would compete with the Super Hornet.  Interestingly, production of the first aircraft started in December 1992, but was suspended in November 1995 due to political and economic uncertainty. Production only resumed in January 1997 after the Ministry of Defence and Dassault agreed on a 48-aircraft production run with delivery recommencing 2002.  A X-32/X-35/F-35 cancellation might have added wealth to that;
  • Sukhoi Su-27 developments - unlikely for most Western nations but who knows...;
  • Harrier II developments for STOVL - obvious for those wanting STOVL but there might only be so much one could squeeze out of what is basically an old design.  I think you may see upgrades but also, equally a push for some such as the RN to give up on the concept and consider the likes of Super Hornets/Rafales or even Navalised Typhoons (see below);
  • Lockheed Martin F-22 - In the real world, proper production commenced September 2000 with service entry December 2005 so it would be an option.  By 1996 the USAF planned to get 648 aircraft and by 2001 this had been further reduced to 339.  Therefore, X-32/X-35/F-35 cancellation could see these numbers revered, at least for the USAF.  Is till think the price might have driven greater reliance on F-15s/F-16s.  Foreign sales only become possible if the Obey Amendment to the 1998 Department of Defense Appropriations Act is either avoided or overturned.  This is obviously easier if there is an earlier cancellation date since it might night happen.  Even then though, it is worth noting that both Japan and Israel did push for the F-22 in the real world but both backed away because of the price.  Australia also looked at it but both price and perceived lack of attack/strike capability deterred it.  Now, if a larger production run was maintained for the USAF, thus spreading out the costs more to get a lower production cost plus the further development of the F/A-22 concept (anyone remember that?), perhaps we could see that change.  Who knows, perhaps even a revisit of the Carrier based F-22N is possible but I highly doubt it since by then the USN is already committed to the Super Hornet;
  • Northrop/McDonnell Douglas F-23 - I highly doubt you would see this as it was beaten in 1991 by what becomes the F-22.  Moreover, by 1997, McDonnell Douglas is no more and unless Boeing sees benefit in challenging the F-22, I doubt they would try a Lazarus moment.  More likely to focus on F-15/F/A-18;
  • Grumman F-14 - the F-14 might keep going a little longer in USN service beyond the real world 2006 retirement but I still see the Super Hornet being introduced as per the real world.  I also doubt you would see any new production/customers given the F-14 was last produced in 1991 and thus would have already be gone by then.  Moreover, in 1994 Grumman ceased to exist as a separate entity , so even if given a Lazarus moment, you would be talking about a Northrop Grumman F-14;
  • McDonnell Douglas/General Dynamics A-12 Avenger II - Cancelled in January 1991 and still tied up in court battles so no-one would have touched that.  Plus it was arguably too specialised;
  • F-16XL - beaten by the F-15E back in February 1984 so I doubt it.  Moreover, General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin found that they could keep selling F-16 derivatives without needing to revisit the XL concept; and
  • Mitsubishi F-2 Developments - Japan could possible have grown production more than the 98 produced in the real world, but I don't see anyone else buying this over-priced F-16.


« Last Edit: October 17, 2020, 02:38:25 AM by GTX_Admin »
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Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: No F-35 - play nicely!!
« Reply #8 on: August 22, 2020, 02:38:16 AM »
A possible contender for the RN FAA:

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Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: No F-35 - play nicely!!
« Reply #9 on: August 30, 2020, 04:24:10 AM »
Not that I am advocating...

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Offline ScranJ51

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Re: No F-35 - play nicely!!
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2020, 04:51:58 PM »
Interesting question.

I was involved (somewhat) with AIR 6000, even going overseas to talk to some of the "options".

One issue we found with the Typhoon at the time (I'm talking 2003 here) was the lack of capability of the early tranches of the aircraft.  It wasn't going to be until Tranche 3 or so where you had a reasonable air to ground option.  That didn't sit well (but see other considerations below).

The visit to Dassault was interesting, and I think Rafale was shaping as an interesting option.  The company were about to set up an office in Canberra, and the Dassault "Rep" arrived in Canberra the day the JSF decision was announced.  One of the interesting points was that, at that stage, the French were planning on flying a mix of Rafale's - in that a "normal" formation would be a single seater and a dual - the idea being the extra set of eyes/brain in the second aircraft allowed some sorting of the bigger picture.

One option that AIR 6000 looked at (at that time) was the mix between the aircraft and weapons.  I remember an interesting discussion where a purchase of missiles (such as Storm Shadow) would be "fired" out of canisters dropped out the back of something like a C-130.  So, you would fly the attack sortie in the C-130, launching from long range, then return to base, take out the missile canisters and replace them with humanitarian aid so you could go repair the havoc you had just caused your defeated enemy!

One of the other interesting discussions was JASSM  on P-3's.  Launch out of Darwin, disappear over the ocean and fired from the middle of nowhere against known targets (think about it  8).

Also had an briefing by the US on future air weapons and where things might go. (sorry - can't share, it was classified!!   ;))

I also remember seeing some promotional material about the SU-27 sitting around in Capability Development - but I doubt if we would ever seriously have considered that option.

I'm not sure if the US will ever consider release of F-22 to anyone - the aircraft is supposedly the "Silver Bullet" - why would you ever let anyone else have it.  Having been to Oahu a couple of times and watched them out of Hickham - amazing.  Interestingly, in the TALISMAN SABRE series of exercises, the US would NEVER let an F-22 be shot down - it was always an in-flight emergency that bought one down.

On the Super Hornet issue, I was involved in writing the Hornet and F-111 End of life-of-type papers for a major Committee (think about it) and purchase of Super Hornets was never considered until the F-35 started to get delayed (back in 2003 the plan was IOC in 2015!!!) and I was out of Investment Analysis (IA - where I served as an RAAF Officer) before briefly being courted to come back and help write the Super Hornet proposal because of my IA background (didn't get the gig!!!) after my time in HQAST/HQJOC and my return to Strategy Group.

One question that was never answered ( and seldom asked) is what is the bombing capability of the F-22?  Bit like the Tomcat - "not a pound for air to ground" - but turned out to be a reasonable bomber.

Cheers
« Last Edit: October 15, 2020, 04:58:17 PM by ScranJ51 »
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Offline GTX_Admin

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Re: No F-35 - play nicely!!
« Reply #11 on: October 17, 2020, 02:14:21 AM »
One option that AIR 6000 looked at (at that time) was the mix between the aircraft and weapons.  I remember an interesting discussion where a purchase of missiles (such as Storm Shadow) would be "fired" out of canisters dropped out the back of something like a C-130.  So, you would fly the attack sortie in the C-130, launching from long range, then return to base, take out the missile canisters and replace them with humanitarian aid so you could go repair the havoc you had just caused your defeated enemy!

One of the other interesting discussions was JASSM  on P-3's.  Launch out of Darwin, disappear over the ocean and fired from the middle of nowhere against known targets (think about it  8).

Indeed - the idea was kicked around with the RAF FOAS requirements as well.  Basically separate the strike mission from the fighter mission - bit like the old Transport Bombers of the '20s/'30s:



One could possibly even take it a step further and have an AEW&C aircraft either loaded with long range air-to-air missiles or possibly accompanied by a transport equipped with such to take care of the air-defence role.  Maybe not sexy but when one looks objectively at it and realises that you are after an end effect it does raise eyebrows.

If it wasn't already heavy, one might even consider the likes of a E-7 Wedgetail combined with a P-8 Poseidon - a "F-9" perhaps ;) whereby you have a E-7 with the Bomb bay loaded with something like MBDA Meteors...

One question that was never answered ( and seldom asked) is what is the bombing capability of the F-22?  Bit like the Tomcat - "not a pound for air to ground" - but turned out to be a reasonable bomber.

It was touched upon back between 2002 and 2005 when it was briefly referred to as the F/A-22.  You can still find diagrams such as this around showing bomb capabilities:

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Offline sanka

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Re: No F-35 - play nicely!!
« Reply #12 on: October 18, 2020, 08:44:29 PM »
F-16XL, with the right engine replacement (F110-129) accidentally can supercruise. I don't see a F-15 do that. Yes please..

And upgraded A-10's with modern avionics. (glass cocpit)

Every plane for it own role, wich works way better then a jack of all trades..

Offline elmayerle

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Re: No F-35 - play nicely!!
« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2020, 12:12:36 AM »
F-16XL, with the right engine replacement (F110-129) accidentally can supercruise. I don't see a F-15 do that. Yes please..

And upgraded A-10's with modern avionics. (glass cocpit)

Every plane for it own role, wich works way better then a jack of all trades..
Why not go all the way with the F110-132 used in the F-16E/F aircraft.  Better yet, develop the radical F-16 configuration that was offered to UAE, essentially a stretched F-16 fitted with a derivative of the F-22's wing.  From what I understand, it had very definitely supercruise capability.

Offline apophenia

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Re: No F-35 - play nicely!!
« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2020, 08:20:39 AM »
...  Better yet, develop the radical F-16 configuration that was offered to UAE, essentially a stretched F-16 fitted with a derivative of the F-22's wing.  From what I understand, it had very definitely supercruise capability.

For modelling purposes, maybe combine that F-22-winged F-16U with the 'diverterless supersonic inlet'?
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Offline elmayerle

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Re: No F-35 - play nicely!!
« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2020, 09:42:07 AM »
...  Better yet, develop the radical F-16 configuration that was offered to UAE, essentially a stretched F-16 fitted with a derivative of the F-22's wing.  From what I understand, it had very definitely supercruise capability.
For modelling purposes, maybe combine that F-22-winged F-16U with the 'diverterless supersonic inlet'?
A production version would take some doing (the testbed one was, IIRC, scabbed onto the test aircraft) but would not be impossible.