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The Military Technology

Russian Stealth Fighter Makes Its First Flight 418

Posted by kdawson
from the can-you-see-me-now dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The long-awaited Russian stealth fighter, codenamed PAK FA or T-50, has had its first test flight today. This Google translation of a Russian article has a photo of the jet. Production is supposed to begin in 2015; the AP reports that India is helping with development. It's reportedly designed to compete with America's F-22 (first flight: 1997). Relatedly, according to Wikipedia, Japan is planning to fly its own stealth fighter, the ATD-X, which we have previously discussed, in 2011."
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Russian Stealth Fighter Makes Its First Flight

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  • That changes the whole argument on the F-22 being killed now, doesn't it? We'll see calls coming out to restart F-22 production, but probably an F-22 B where some of the stealth stuff that drives up operational costs gets dropped in the interest of being just a good first line fighter.

    • to keep Russia bankrupt trying to catch up to it.

      1. Come up with super tech military program
      2. Fund it until it becomes too costly
      3. Wait for the other guy to spin up to compete against it
      4. Move the bar further out

      considering the US Defense departments budget its an easy game to win. What they spend on one program is more than most can spend on many.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by tjstork (137384)

        to keep Russia bankrupt trying to catch up to i

        The only problem is, we're bankrupt due to entitlements.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Nimey (114278)

          And because our pols lack the stones to raise taxes to pay for anything.

        • by timeOday (582209) on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:23AM (#30949732)
          Entitlements don't bankrupt us at all. Old people do need money to eat and get health care. If if not for social security, medicare, etc, people would just have to redirect what they now pay in taxes towards savings for retirement, or spend more on supporting their elderly parents, etc. It's not like all that money people are now using to put food on the table, keep their homes warm, and get medical treatment would magically be available to build super-weapons instead.
          • Foolish assumption. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@ ... Dl.com minus bsd> on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:33AM (#30949878) Homepage Journal

            Old people do need money to eat and get health care

            You assume that because they need it, they should get it. At the other end of the scale is a child that needs an education. If there's only one dollar out there, and the old guy wants it, versus the child, I'd say, give it to the child, and let the old guy die.

          • by brennz (715237) on Friday January 29, 2010 @01:08PM (#30951438)

            Old people may need money to eat and get health care.

            The question is whether or not that money should be coming from their own savings, their families, or the US taxpayer.

            Prior to the growth of entitlements, there was a massive amount of $$ available for defense, if needed.

      • Chronic Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

        by TheMeuge (645043) on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:06AM (#30949498)

        The chronic problem of the West is using the logic they learned in their own countries when analyzing Russia. Russia was never good to its citizens, and it was hardly ever not on the brink of national bankruptcy. But that rarely stopped it from making new weapons... that were largely more robust, if less sophisticated, than their western counterparts.

        Getting into another arms race with Russia is a recipe for the US bankruptcy as much as it is for Russian... and while overspending on defense in the US would causes political instability, Russia is quite happy to make new weapons while its population starves.

        • Re:Chronic Problem (Score:5, Informative)

          by amn108 (1231606) on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:32AM (#30949858)

          Very good observation. As a person who has lived in Russia some 10 years in total, I can say that Russian government even though one of the people (for better or worse) has traditionally been one that will pursue bold objectives without taking notice of the more at-hand problems, such may be criminality, morale, education (well that one may be an exception now, and thank gods for that) etc. Too many older folks or their trusted descendants sit in the corridors of power in Kremlin that do not want to deviate from old style of doing things - still envisioning grand Mother Russia not only very potent but in fact aiding the rest of the world. Whether it does so at the cost of its own citizens, is of no concern to these few individuals in power - to them it is the image and glory that counts. Russia's ambitions cover as much ground as its whole land and more. In time, they will learn to see be realistic, only despotic communism could handle (and did so for limited time, as history shows) the kind of progress seen there until '89. New Russia must understand that it has to choose between happy people and happy but overambitious leaders. When the balance is restored, it perhaps can become productive without using its people. As someone who has seen a lot of misery there but also a lot of absolutely ingenious minds, I would say it has what it takes, but is still with one foot in the mess that was left after the last "party" collapsed. That's nothing new though...

      • by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:31AM (#30949856)

        to keep Russia bankrupt trying to catch up to it.

        1. Come up with super tech military program
        2. Fund it until it becomes too costly
        3. Wait for the other guy to spin up to compete against it
        4. Move the bar further out

        The story of the F-15, as related to me by an Air Force guy. The Russians come out with a new interceptor, the MiG-25. In reality it's a lead sled, can go really freakin' fast in one direction and fire off some missiles but it has very little flexibility and is not that good of an aircraft. But since we don't have good intel on it, we start guessing as to what it's capabilities would be, making up all sorts of shit. The Air Force freaks out and demands we build a counter and that eventually became the F-15, fully capable of doing everything the Foxbat was supposed to do. Total overkill.

        Doublechecked wiki, this story is confirmed there.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mig-25 [wikipedia.org]

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by dunkelfalke (91624)

          Are you really sure that F-15 can outrun a missile? Because that wikipedia entry proves that a MiG-25 very well can.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      The U.S. made all this noise about the missile defense system, which the Russians said would escalate an arms race and this thing is suppose to compete with the F-22 which the U.S. already created in order to better fight the last war. The question though, if the U.S. hadn't restarted the arms race, would Russia have bothered making this plane? Maybe, maybe not. I agree though, regardless of who started the arms race this time, there will be calls for more planes to compete, more than likely from Republi
      • federation credits (Score:2, Insightful)

        by zogger (617870)

        The global arms industry exists just as much because it is profitable, as it is being really necessary. It falls into the ludicrous unreal geez-loweez that's a lot of loot profits range. There's huge bucks/roubles/yen/renminbi/euros whatever in prepping for wars and fighting wars, any size.

        It is not just any one nation's fault, in other words.

      • by GooberToo (74388) on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:56AM (#30950244)

        Maybe, maybe not.

        The answer is absolutely yes. They started engineering stealth aircraft before the Soviet Union collapsed. They have maintained their program in a drastically reduced capacity until such times they can afford to ramp it back up. They found a partner which allowed them to continue their efforts on a reduced budget.

        In absolutely terms, their efforts never stopped. The F22 did not spur this plane. Rather, the F117 spurred it on, which is very much in the midst of the cold war.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Inda (580031)
      Why? Why bother?

      How about spending the money on something better? Or do you have the best edjucation, healthcare, housing and schooling already?
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        compared to the US?

        education - yes
        AFFORDABLE healthcare - yes
        housing - capable of taking +40C in the summer and -40C in winter
        schooling - how is this different to education?
        • by paiute (550198)

          compared to the US?

          education - yes
          AFFORDABLE healthcare - yes
          housing - capable of taking +40C in the summer and -40C in winter
          schooling - how is this different to education?

          Education: okay, probably when you take into account the whole student body, not just elite academies.
          Healthcare: surely you jest with me.
          Housing: your use of communistic units brings your patriotism into question.
          Schooling: grammar fail disqualification.

          You get 1 out of 4. In MLB you would have a chance if you are a middle infielder with stellar defensive skills, in the NHL you would be a failure as a goalie.

        • Must be a joke... (Score:5, Informative)

          by TheMeuge (645043) on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:12AM (#30949576)

          You must be kidding.

          Education - teachers and college professors get paid barely enough to literally survive, when they get paid at all. After the exodus of the Jewish scholarly elite, and the subsequent evacuation of any non-Jews that had academic credentials, Russian education is barely starting to recover...

          Healthcare - hospitals are in shambles. If I remember correctly, you would have to bribe every nurse and orderly in turn to get clean(er) sheets and non-expired medication. Better to bring your own, bought on the black market.

          Housing - it is not lacking in strength, but it's barely above the level of trailer parks in amenities

          Moscow and St. Petersburg city centers are not a good indicator of the conditions in Russia. They are about as sophisticated as the West, at Western (or higher) prices. Given that a chief physician of a large hospital makes about $1000-1500/month while paying New York prices for groceries and only about 1/2 as much for housing, it should give you a lot of pause before making these ridiculous comparisons.

    • I wouldn't be surprised if Lockheed Martin/Boeing secretly funded Russia's stealth fighter project to justify restarting production on the F-22. That would be business as usual - gotta keep the wheels of the industrial military complex spinning.

    • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday January 29, 2010 @10:38AM (#30949094) Homepage

      The counter to a stealth fighter would be better radar, not more stealth fighters of your own.

      I'm not even sure why there's a supposed role for fighters any more anyway. When's the last time a plane was downed by another plane, rather than being bombed on or shot from the ground?

      Uh, wait. We're talking about defence procurement, aren't we? Sorry, I forgot. :(

      • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:06AM (#30949504) Homepage Journal

        To answer your question for the US the Iraqi war. For Russia they downed a drone just last year with a fighter.
        Every time somebody says that Fighters are not needed anymore something happens that prove that idea wrong.
        Same with Aircraft Carriers and Tanks.

      • by Bakkster (1529253) <Bakkster.man@gWELTYmail.com minus author> on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:08AM (#30949520)

        The counter to a stealth fighter would be better radar, not more stealth fighters of your own.

        Actually, the counter is both on the same platform. You need weapons that can defeat the stealth fighter, since ideally you want to eliminate the target, not just look at it.

        So, you want a fighter that has a small enough radar cross-section and sensitive enough radar that you see the other guy first. Then your missile just needs to be pointed in the right direction, it can aquire the lock later when it's close enough to detect their radar cross-section.

        I'm not even sure why there's a supposed role for fighters any more anyway. When's the last time a plane was downed by another plane, rather than being bombed on or shot from the ground?

        We shot down an Iranian drone [defencetalk.com] over Iraq a few months ago. Before that, seems the last fighter-fighter engagements were Desert Storm, only because we haven't been in an air-war since. It's possible I'm missing some conflict, though. Assuming things were to go south with Iran, Pakistan, India, Russia, China, or North Korea we would need air superiority fighters. Air superiority doesn't win wars on its own, but it's hard to win a conventional war without it.

      • by swb (14022) on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:30AM (#30949848)

        With what we're learning with the drone program, the best thing would be to develop an unmanned fighter. AFAIK, the big limitation on fighters these days is the guy in the cockpit. We're capable of developing propulsion and airframes capable of greatly exceeding human endurance and that's what's needed to take fighters to the next level and to really keep the competition on their toes.

        Even at par with manned fighters in terms of raw performance, an unmanned fighter, minus the cockpit, life support systems, human avionics interfaces and the pilot, is hundreds of pounds lighter, and probably somewhat smaller -- all this yields better fuel consumption, more weapons capacity, better avionics and probably mission-optimizable in most categories.

        Fighters probably have a role, albeit more in the strategic realm, but as we learned from 9/11, bombers aren't the only aerial threat and the ability to intercept or get on target very quickly over most targets is welcome. But overall I think you are right, our money is best spent on the resources for asymmetrical warfare.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mdarksbane (587589)

          Making an AI that can fly a drone between GPS points and one that can best a human in a dogfight are two entirely different levels of difficulty.

          The human body is the current limitation on the performance envelope, but the human mind is still far ahead in terms of strategic and tactical control capability.

    • by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:07AM (#30949516) Journal

      Disclosure: I was an avionics tech on the original Stealth Fighter, the F-117A, back in the late 80's-early '90s. (37th TFW, Tonopah Test Range).

      Back then, stealth was achieved by a combination of architecture (the angles), materials, and flying the thing under certain profiles (that is, you avoid flying too close to enemy radar installations, fly at night, etc). The whole idea was to be a literal hole in the sky, or at least make enemy radars less effective - enough to get in, do your job, and get out. The results have been somewhat mixed - during our whole Desert Storm tour, not a single F-117 got so much as a paint chip, let alone a bullet hole - sand and heat was a bigger danger to the things than lead. OTOH, one was shot down over Bosnia during the late 1990's.

      When it comes to stealth? You either fly quietly, or you get noticed by enemy A/A and fighters. Modern stealth tech has taken a step back from the looks of it, and appears to have cast aside the whole idea of sneaking around, which IMHO was the whole point to stealth in the first place. Also, the F-117A was, in essence, a small tactical bomber - it has no dogfighting ability to speak of (no guns, and A/A missiles would be damned clumsy to use from one - doing that would make you even less aerodynamic than you already are, and carrying even one air-to-air missile would eat half of your bomb load). Old-school, we snuck around, making sure that the only time you noticed one of our jets was from the explosion its bombs made on your property. The Russian jet and the F-22 take a different tack - they only want to make it a little bit harder for an already-flying missile to find them, without sacrificing speed and maneuverability too much. But - if you load either one with a full bomb load, those round bombs will happily give your position away to the first radar dish that you come even partially close to.

      So use them only for air superiority, you say... cool - but the whole point of air superiority is to own the sky, and noticeably so. ;) Any other role besides those two (e.g. ground support), and you face the same big risk as any other aircraft - that of being taken down by the first piece of dumb lead to fly in your direction.

      Long story short, stealth is useful in limited circumstances at best, and even at this time doesn't really justify its expense and R&D outside of those circumstances.

      • by GooberToo (74388) on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:49AM (#30950128)

        Modern stealth tech has taken a step back from the looks of it, and appears to have cast aside the whole idea of sneaking around, which IMHO was the whole point to stealth in the first place. Also,

        No idea why you think that. The F117 was basically designed during the 70s and heavily based on prototypes developed during the late 60s. Its shape is heavily derived based on computational limitations of the period. Keep in mind, much of the math was still done on slide rules and less computing power than a 386. Because of this, specific flight profiles are required to maintain radar stealth. In certain aspects, the aircraft is visible on radar. In short, it is not an all aspect stealth aircraft. And once you get close enough, even a radar lock becomes possible.

        Modern stealth is designed with new materials and supercomputers. These aircraft maintain stealth at all aspects. Outside of afterburners, even their heat signature is lower than that of the F117. Simply put, the F117 is a dinosaur by modern equivalents. Hell, the F117 basically has clusters of 486s and the F22 has a couple of "super computers." Even from on-board computational capabilities, there's not comparison.

        As far as I know, all F22 pilots are F15 pilots. One F22 can take out a squadron of F15s and typically never be seen. Its greatest limitation is weapon payload. Which is to say, a single F22 will run out of ammo before it can even become a target. IIRC, the best public record indicates a 14+:1 kill ratio, or better, with the F22:F15. And keep in mind, the F15 has NEVER been shot down in actual air to air combat. And yes, there has been air to air engagements.

        The F15 pilots, after their mock engagements made it very clear that even after they were able to get directly on the tail of the F22, they generally couldn't obtain a lock or after doing so, the lock was quickly lost. Furthermore, because of the huge maneuverability advantages of the F22, it was almost impossible to stay on the F22's tail for any length of time. Some F22 kills were scored but by far, that was the exception rather than the rule. And keep in mind, we're talking about the creme de la creme of fighter pilots sitting in those F15s.

        As for your bomb comment, that too is not accurate. That's exactly why all munitions are carried internally. Modern aircraft maintain stealth throughout all stages of flight EXCEPT for actual weapon release. The F22 is capable of releasing missiles inverted and in high G turns because they are mounted on hydraulic rams. They are basically catapulted off the aircraft. This means they can engage targets in aspects and during maneuvers which are impossible with other aircraft. And its only during the actual release that the weapon bay opens. So the window in which stealth is compromised is extremely limited. And the fact that they can super cruise away immediately after engagement means within seconds they are once again phantoms.

        Simply put, the number of counties which can even offer an F15-quality of air resistance is extremely tiny and most of them are our allies. Make no bones about it, modern stealth aircraft are light years beyond the poky F117's capabilities in every measurable way possible. To say they have taken a step backwards is completely baseless and in no way accurate.

        • by greyhueofdoubt (1159527) on Friday January 29, 2010 @06:15PM (#30956002) Homepage Journal

          I can corroborate the 14:1 kill ratio. I've participated in green flag excercises at Nellis and our pilots (in f-16s) came back fully defeated (pretend killed) after every mission. That is not to say that our pilots are not good- they are, and they have had chances to prove that in several combat zones.

          Simply put, the F-22 dominates the sky. Every aspect of the aircraft is superior in terms of performance. One thing that is left out in these discussions is pilot task saturation; in the F-22, the aircraft computers take care of many tasks, and does them better than humanly possible, allowing the pilot to focus more on flying. My conscience tells me to leave it at that, considering the sensitivity of the subject, but you can probably find more information somewhere else.

          As someone who has been working on fighters for almost a decade, I am still continually amazed by everything I learn about the F-22. I've personally heard generals and some colonels who have been flying since the f-4 was new say that the F-22 was to them an entirely new paradigm in combat flight. They couldn't say enough good things about it.

          I know I probably sound like a shill for lockheed-martin, but I'm trying to counteract the dozens of posts that lament the f-22 as already outdated, as merely an incremental improvement on the f-15, or as an aircraft that could be suitably replaced by its cost in f-16s. None of those things are true.

          -b

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Hognoxious (631665)

        Any other role besides those two (e.g. ground support), and you face the same big risk as any other aircraft - that of being taken down by the first piece of dumb lead to fly in your direction.

        That's where a stealthy aircraft with air to ground capability is useful - to take out the enemy's air defences and make it safer for conventional aircraft to attack "proper" targets. But drone technology has improved so much recently that maybe they're the thing for that niche.

    • by rev_sanchez (691443) on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:50AM (#30950140)
      I think we're moving away from high cost fighters and into fleets of low cost drones. The google tells me that an F22 runs about $150+ million each and a predator drone runs about $4.5 million. The training/maintenance/and other support costs are much lower for drones and the costs should go down since you'll make many, many more drones than larger aircraft.

      I know our drones now aren't air to air fighters yet but a squadron of drone fighters would probably run a lot cheaper and be nearly as effective as a couple of big expensive planes. I'd also expect that it might be a little easier to stealth up a drone than something that has to carry a person and a drone could perform manuvers that a plane couldn't do safely with a human pilot inside. Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo, and PC game makers have also been training a generation of drone pilots for free.
    • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Friday January 29, 2010 @01:09PM (#30951488) Journal

      That changes the whole argument on the F-22 being killed now, doesn't it?

      No, not really. As a Russian, let me tell you - since the fall of the USSR (and especially in 2000s), there had been a slew of announcements of new weapons that are supposedly so awesome they can match and outperform the American ones. The problem with them is that what few things actually leave the development stage and enter production, get produced in minuscule quantities. The old Soviet solid manufacturing base is mostly gone (you've got to maintain the factories, and keep workforce there and well-trained - none of that was done), and replacement is nowhere to be seen. Not to mention the simple lack of money, which was always there, but is particularly true these days [tradingeconomics.com].

      You can basically expect a production run on the order of a dozen or two of those things, just enough for them to fly over in the next V-day military parade while Putin goes on about how the country is restored to its former might and glory. Maybe they'll send one or two to fly real close to, say, Estonia, just to remind them who's the daddy (and get a few more cheers from the "patriotic" crowd). But that's about it. And, to remind, US currently has 145 operational F-22s... there's absolutely no way Russia can catch up with that, even if you discount the rest of the air fleet (and even if PAK FA is indeed on par with F-22 in performance, and superior to F-35 - which is by no means certain yet - I very much doubt it can hold up to two F-35; not to mention the higher quality of training of American pilots, which is historically demonstrated).

      Also, one other thing... Russia doesn't have any long-distance force projection capability. There's only one operational air carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov [wikipedia.org], and that one is in a less than perfect state, and even then inferior to the current generation of US carriers, much less the next one. And, while I have no doubts about US introducing the new line of its carriers on time, there are many doubts about the ability of Russia to do the same, despite all the talks of more carriers being needed (which have been going on since mid-90s). So all those next-gen fighters end up being mostly a defensive weapon, and potentially usable in border conflicts like the recent one in Georgia (though in those cases, air superiority is usually ensured by a preemptive all-out air strike on the enemy airfields, as again seen in Georgia).

      Nothing to see here, move along...

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Friday January 29, 2010 @10:11AM (#30948836)

    do you have to think in Russian to fly it?

  • by singingjim1 (1070652) on Friday January 29, 2010 @10:13AM (#30948858)
    Do they all just collide in midair?
  • Is it just me or the google translation engine is a lot better this days?

    AI is improving quickly. Of course someone will answer telling me that this is not real AI. It was considered AI when it couldnt be done and as soon as it can be done, it is just a stupid algorithm.

  • (to get started:)
    Man, I hope their firefox works better than mine.
    They'd have finished it years ago if it wasn't for Gecko and XUL.
  • Stealthy ? (Score:5, Funny)

    by daveime (1253762) on Friday January 29, 2010 @10:17AM (#30948908)

    has a photo of the jet.

    So not *that* stealthy then ? Of course, I guess if it was that good, the pilot would never be able to find where he parked the thing.

  • by codeButcher (223668) on Friday January 29, 2010 @10:29AM (#30949010)

    My country has also developed a stealth airplane. It's so stealthy nobody has seen it yet.

    Or the tax money used to develop it....

  • by blincoln (592401) on Friday January 29, 2010 @10:29AM (#30949014) Homepage Journal

    ...or did someone fabricate this part of the Wikipedia article?

    The Sukhoi PAK FA... NATO reporting name: Firefox

  • ... have a video. [youtube.com]
  • So usually these technology don't progress without the corresponding technology acting in response. Has radar or any detection technology made any progress in detecting stealth aircraft? Just curious.
  • by snsh (968808) on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:01AM (#30949440)
    THIS is how we make stealth car in India

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7eOVpBCtPo [youtube.com]
  • You have to think in Russian.

    --

    This thing looks like the F-22 and the Su-27/35 had a baby. i'd like to see how it actually measures against the F-22.

  • Relatedly, according to Wikipedia, Japan is planning to fly its own stealth fighter, the ATD-X, which we have previously discussed, in 2011.

    Funny I don't remember talking about that. Must still need to do some catching up on /.

  • That's great that they can contend with our F-22. But what happens when we have a few dozen pilots each remotely commanding a Squadron of UAV [slashdot.org]?

    Honestly, I don't know why people waste their time trying to catch up with something that's already totally outdated.
  • by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday January 29, 2010 @11:51AM (#30950164)

    The viability of manned aircraft is a question of technology. By the end of WWII, proximity-fused shells on US Navy ships made convention air attack against them a suicide mission. If the US Navy was forced to fight an identical opponent in '46, air attack would likely have been abandoned. The Japanese resorted to suicide attacks in part because conventional attacks were already suicide, at least a crash dive might let you get a hit. The cruise missile a refinement of the suicide plane concept. The idea of dive-bombing or torpedoing a warship from the air quickly fell out of favor. But that was ok for airplanes since they could carry missiles and engage from beyond the range of return fire. While aircraft did indeed use gravity bombs and later guided bombs against naval targets in the following decades, that was usually in third-world wars or against small patrol ships. Nobody would think of risking that against a proper warship.

    The rise of the SAM's made things trickier for land-attack craft. A multi-million dollar jet is risked attacking tanks that are worth maybe $200k. The attrition rate under the 6 Day War was so high it was thought the end of manned combat aircraft had been reached. But subsequent development of Wild Weasel tactics and improved ECM put the SAM's on the defensive. But technology continues to improve. The early missiles were laughable. The F-4 went to Vietnam armed only with missiles and did not achieve an air-to-air kill until the gatling-equipped version arrived. But missile tech is very, very good now. The last gun kill achieved by the Air Force was an A-10 versus a Hind in Gulf War 1.

    The question now is one of development cycles. The F-22 program started in '81 and didn't go operational until 2005. Ridiculous! How many SAM generations came during that time? And how much cheaper will those weapons be? The damn B-2's cost a billion bucks a pop and are irreplaceable. We're not cranking up the production lines for any more. And what are they good for, truly? To carry cruise missiles? Why do we need a fancy bomber for that? Why not just load cruise missiles on C-17's and kick them out the back a thousand miles from target? There, now you have cargo-bombers and can buy more aiframes for the same money.

    The Poles kept cavalry units up until WWII. They finally were disabused of the idea by Germans with panzers. I think it's going to take a similar catastrophe to move us past the idea of manned combat aircraft.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by brennz (715237)

      "The rise of the SAM's made things trickier for land-attack craft. A multi-million dollar jet is risked attacking tanks that are worth maybe $200k".

      Tanks cost more than 200k.

      True ground attack aircraft such as an A-10 are dramatically different from the a standard high flying fighter. An A-10 may have some vulnerability to SAMs, but they are much harder to shoot down than say an attack helicopter. Generally when A-10s are operating, it is as a close air support, so they have some measure of security on th

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by GooberToo (74388)

      Ridiculous! How many SAM generations came during that time?

      You call into question the number of generations out one side of your mouth and point out the duration of a single generation out the other. Somehow the irony seems to have been missed.

      There hasn't been very many generations. Period. Second of all, in order to create a generation which can counter, you generally have to know what it is you're countering. At best they have a lot of speculation. Third of all, the math doesn't even make sense. Why spend billions creating new target/trigger mechanisms to counte

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