Monthly Archives: December 2014

Procurement Games 2014: How to Win, FREMMs, and Influence People

In fighter procurement, there’s a concept known as the high-low mix: buy a small number of expensive fighters and a large number of less expensive fighter. The theory goes that it’s bad to be outnumbered and bad to be out-gadgeted, so mix the two together and mitigate the disadvantages of both1.

There’s a similar paradigm in naval procurement, although the reasoning is different. Big, expensive surface combatants—your carriers, your Kirovs, your Burkes—are well and dandy, and indeed, are usually more capable than the equivalent tonnage of smaller things. They have an enormous and obvious drawback, though: physically, they can only be in one place at a time. Luchtburg has its ‘high’ platforms in its aircraft carriers2, and it also has its ‘super-low’ local naval force3. What has been missing, up to this article, is a solid, dependable, light- to middleweight warship: an Oliver Hazard Perry for the modern age.

I’ve rather given up the game in the title, because, for a nation in the Americas, there is only one choice that makes any sense for worldwide sea lane influence: the FREMM, a French-Italian collaboration. Specifically, I’m talking about the Italian anti-submarine version. Over the French version, it has 900 tons, extra range and speed, room for a second helicopter, extra VLS tubes4, anti-submarine cruise missiles, a towed array, and a better radar. As I see it, a frigate5 has three major roles.

First, and most traditional, is the anti-submarine role. The Italian ASW FREMM is an extremely capable ship in this regard. Perhaps its most critical edge over other, similar options is the ability to carry two medium-lift helicopters. With their mobility, sensors, and immunity to counterattack, helicopters are extraordinarily important ASW assets, to the point where I dismiss out of hand any ASW ship without room for a brace of helos. Also important is a good towed sonar, and FREMM doesn’t disappoint. It has an advanced towed array from Thales, which has such exciting features as a separated transmitter and receiver array for working around layers, and low-frequency operational modes for longer active detection ranges.

Second, a ship operating by itself must be able to defend itself against air and cruise missile threats. The Italian version uses the Selex EMPAR radar, one of the class-toppers in the realm of passive electronically-scanned arrays for naval vessels, and the Luchtbourgish version carries thirty-two tubes6. As with all FREMMs, it supports Aster 15 and Aster 30 missiles. As an added bonus, the latter has a dedicated anti-ballistic variant in testing, and already has minor anti-ballistic capability. Luchtburg’s FREMMs will come with standalone SEARAM launchers mounted on the foredeck and the hangar roof.

Third, a frigate must be able to attack other things on the surface, be they other seagoing vessels or land targets. The VLS, with its sixteen SYLVER A70 cells, can support cruise missiles, and the FREMM has eight cruise missile launchers amidships (the Italian version can launch anti-ship missiles, anti-submarine missiles, and land-attack missiles from the midships launchers). Further, for smaller targets, our FREMM variant mounts a pair of OTO-Melara rapid-firing 76mm guns. OTO-Melara produces a bunch of interesting ammunition for its rapid-firing guns, including an anti-ship round with IR terminal guidance, and a GPS/INS-guided land-attack munition.

1. I think. I’m not actually an expert.
2. And probably Arleigh Burkes or indigenous large missile destroyers, but I haven’t decided yet.
3. I’ll tell you later.
4. As equipped, it only has sixteen, but the Italians reserved room for another sixteen.
5. I’ll be using the European term for the FREMM, although calling a 6900-ton ship a frigate is patently absurd.
6. I would like more, but I don’t think it’s plausible to pack them in.

Comment on our procurement posts in the Procurement Games comment thread.

2014A: Project Carius (The Thunderbolt MBT)

To beat the Red Army, you need numbers. Thus holds conventional wisdom as well as the experiences of Napoleon’s Grande Armee and Hitler’s Wehrmacht. You. Need. Numbers. Borgundy doesn’t have those. Can’t really get them either, because conscription is gone, and there’s no use trying to go down that road again. Can’t borrow numbers, because the NATO big cheese, America, has a bunch of other commitments in other parts of Europe, not to mention Asia and the Middle East. So, like all powers stuck at a quantitative disadvantage, we’re going to go for a qualitative edge. Hence, Project Carius, which has yielded Thunderbolt, the most powerful tank…in the world. Let’s take a tour.

Sorry, no flash photography.

MAIN GUN
We’ll start with the main gun, both because it’s a striking aspect of the tank, and because it’s where I started in the design. Most modern tanks use a 120mm gun if they’re good friends with America, or a 125mm gun if they’re good friends with the Soviet Union. Thunderbolt’s main gun is a 140mm L/47 smoothbore. L/47 means its barrel is 47 times longer than it is wide. It’s built for high-pressure rounds, and APFSDS-T rounds from it will go clean through the turret face (i.e. the thickest armor) of any current tank. It’ll laugh in the face of 1,200 mm of RHA steel. If we can hit it, we can kill it. Other less interesting but nonetheless important features of the gun include a protected bore evacuator and a thermal sleeve.

The aforementioned APFSDS-T rounds are somewhat problematic. To get the desired performance, each round is a one-piece unit (no separate propellant charge) that is 1.5 meters long and weighs 40 kg. This mandates the use of an autoloader, rendering crew size debates academic. The large round size also makes internal ammunition arrangements difficult. We’re also very concerned with survivability–we’re building a main battle tank, not a tank destroyer. To maximize crew safety, we’re going to take a page out of the Abrams design and store our main gun ammo in the bustle, beneath blow-out panels. The idea is that we won’t be able to perfectly protect the ammo from enemy fire, so accept the vulnerability and direct the blast outward, away from the crew. Then, we’re left merely with questions of mechanical layout and capacity. Our autoloader system will use a pair of side-by-side, electrically-driven horizontal carousels, each containing 18 rounds. The carousels are isolated from the crew compartment and each other by bulkheads, with small doors that open automatically for rounds to pass through. Rounds are indexed electronically by barcodes, allowing the computer to know how many rounds of each type are remaining. Blow out panels are above each carousel compartment. The twin carousels provide some measure of redundancy, allowing the tank a chance to continue fighting if one carousel is compromised. Other available round types include HEAT and a gun-launched ATGM. This missile insures that the Thunderbolt gives up no range to the Soviet AT-11 Sniper GL-ATGM.

OTHER GUNS
The Thunderbolt has formidable secondary armament as well. Instead of the usual coaxial general-purpose machine gun, the Thunderbolt mounts a 30mm Bushmaster II Chain Gun. This was chosen to maximize stowed kills and increase the number of targets that could be engaged without the use of the main gun. The Bushmaster II is electrically driven, making it phenominally reliable. It’s dual feed capabile, and is compatible with all standard NATO 30x173mm rounds.

The commander’s roof machine gun is a pretty conventional affair. We have an M2-HB mounted in a remote weapons mount, slaved to the commander’s independent sighting unit. This is pretty typical for modern tanks.

SENSORS AND FIRE CONTROL
The Commander normally observes the battlefield through his independent viewing unit. He has the option of using either day or thermal imaging modes, with 3x, 6x, 13x, 25x, or 50x magnification. He has his own laser rangefinder, as well as optional stadia rangefinding reticles for HEAT or APFSDS rounds on higher magnification settings. The commander can pass targets to the gunner and have the turret automatically turn onto target, or receive targets from the gunner and have his viewing unit turn to the target for additional observation. The commander can also override the gunner and slave the turret to his sighting unit for aiming purposes. He can fire the gun if desired. Additionally, the commander can see the view through the gunner’s sight on his monitor. The commander’s sighting unit has an auto-scan mode if the commander wishes to keep an eye on the monitor while doing other tasks. As a backup observation system, he has eight periscopes arrayed around his hatch to observe the battlefield.

The gunner observes the battlefield and targets on it through his roof-mounted panoramic sight. He also has day or thermal imaging modes, with 3x, 6x, 10x, or 20x magnification. The gunner’s sight also has a laser rangefinder, as well as optional stadia rangefinding reticules for both ammo types. The gunner’s backup sight is an 8x telescopic sight that has been boresighted to the main gun. It can also be used to verify that the gun is clear of an obstruction. Thermal imagers for both the commander and the gunner are dual band units (MWIR and LWIR).

The driver has the usual trio of periscopes providing a reasonable field of view while buttoned up. The center periscope is a combination thermal viewer unit that gives him the ability to operate at night without lights. Additionally, a thermal backup camera is fitted to aid in backwards maneuvering.

The Thunderbolt uses fiber optic cables and a data bus to coordinate information for the computer system. In addition to the aforementioned sensors, the Thunderbolt is equipped with the usual set of crosswind sensors, muzzle reference system, and cant sensors. The fire control computer will automatically compute lead for a firing solution on a target. It is also capable of automatically tracking a target. The computer system can interface with the datalink to share data including position information, maps, planning details, and targeting data with other nearby vehicles. Position data for the current tank is determined by the inertial navigation system, GPS receiver, and a north-finder unit. This data is shared so the crew can view locations of nearby friendly units. Relevant information about status of the tank is also displayed to the crew on the internal monitors.

ARMOR
Actual armor composition and configuration is classified, and details have been removed by the War Office’s Directorate of Secrets Protection. Here’s what they’re willing to let us share. The armor structure has been designed to be fully modular around the turret and hull front. These modules can be easily removed (with a convenient crane) for replacement of damaged modules in the field or simplified upgrades of armor in the most important areas. The turret face armor is a massive 1.3 meters thick, and side armor is approximately 50 centimeters thick. Armor modules on the turret face include depleted uranium. Other materials used include titanium diboride, titanium-aluminum alloys, triple-hardness steel, and nano-crystalline ceramics. In order to allow for a turret face built like the Rock of Gibraltar but not put the Thunderbolt into the realm of stupid-heavy tanks like the Maus, we’ll also need to make some effort to reduce weight. A critical part of this effort is the widescale replacement of RHA steel with titanium aluminum alloys in structural components of both the turret and the hull. This will provide very significant weight savings for no loss in structural strength or protection.

OTHER PROTECTION
A few other protective systems are of note. First, as is almost obligatory for a modern tank (or a modern refit of an older tank), the Thunderbolt has a spall liner to protect the crew from fragments of hull knocked loose by a hit. There’s the usual modern Halon-gas based fire suppression system for the engine compartment to put out flames as well. Finally, the GALIX system of smoke grenade/decoy launchers have been liberally placed about the turret. These can fire smoke to obscure the tank (and it’s IR signature) from an enemy or incoming missile. These can be fired manually by the crew, or automatically from the laser warning system or missile approach warning system. Finally, the Thunderbolt is also equipped with Rafael’s Trophy Active Protection system. This uses a series of small radars mounted around the turret (also used for missile approach warning notifications for the crew or GALIX cueing) to detect an incoming missile, which is then neutralized by a shotgun-like blast. This provides added defense against large ATGMs.

ENGINE
This took me quite a while to work out. Gas turbines have come a ways since the AGT-1500, and there’s also the French hyperbar V8X to consider. And then there’s everyone’s default choice, the relatively compact MTU MB 883 V-12 diesel. We’re going to go with that V8X. The V8X is basically a hybrid engine that starts life as a rather overbuilt V8 diesel engine, and then went in search of more power. An ordinary diesel engine designer would add one or more turbochargers at this point, but not SACM. Instead, they hooked a mini gas turbine up to the blowers rather than using a tap on the exhaust. Et voila! Massive amounts of extra pressure in the cylinders (a whopping 32.1 bar mean effective pressure). All the power one needs to drive his tank of choice (1,500 hp), along with great torque. Plus, unlike a conventional turbocharger, there is no turbo lag. The massive boost pressure is available immediately, even at idle. The little gas turbine engine can also function as an integrated APU, saving most of the space and weight of a separate installation. Additionally, the V8X has no trouble starting in the cold, unlike conventional diesels. The V8X has somewhat increased fuel consumption, especially at idle, due to the little gas turbine, but it is not as bad as a regular gas turbine. Also, since it does not require the big recuperator or the additional reduction gearing, the V8X powerpack is smaller than the gas turbine powerpack.

SUSPENSION
The Thunderbolt is designed with an advanced hydropneumatic suspension system. This was chosen because of reduced weight compared to a conventional torsion bar suspension, plus the ability to reduce hull height over a torsion-bar-equipped hull. Hydropneumatic in-arm units are also somewhat easier to replace than torsion bars. Furthermore, the suspension is centrally controlled, allowing the tank’s crew to adjust ride height, or provide additional incline/decline to the main gun. This will allow them to use the terrain more effectively.

VITAL FIGURES
Crew: 3 (Driver, Commander, Gunner)
Weight: 65 Tonnes
Cost: $14.2M

Fishbreath Plays: Starsector, Part II

I talked some about logistics in my last post about Starsector. Now, I’d like to touch on what I think is its best feature: its combat engine.

This video depicts a quick 1v2 battle I set up in the game’s combat simulator. HSS Daring, my cruiser from my previous Starsector post, faces off against a Venture-type cruiser and a Buffalo destroyer.

Have a watch, preferably on Youtube proper in high definition, and feast your eyes and ears upon the visuals and sounds. It’s in the running for the best-looking two-dimensional game of all time, I would say.

Okay. There is one major, overriding concern in Starsector combat, and that is ‘flux’. Flux is the generic resource which runs just about everything. Firing weapons takes it, and crucially, having your shields up and taking damage to your shields increases flux. You can choose to vent flux, which shuts down your shields and weapon systems, but quickly drains your flux. If you wait too long and your flux bar overflows, your ship overloads. (It happens to the enemy cruiser toward the end of the video above.) When overloading, it drains flux more slowly than normal, and much more slowly than venting, while sitll rendering you vulnerable and helpless to respond. Once you get through the shields, there’s armor (represented by yellow damage numbers in the video) and hull (orange ones).

Besides some caveats about beam weapons impacts and weapons fire generating ‘soft flux’, which goes away when the shields are up, and other weapons impacts generating ‘hard flux’, which only drops when the shields are down, that’s all there is to it, and it’s a brilliant piece of game design. It solves a few problems all at once. First, it allows for very easy tuning of relative ship performance. High-tech destroyer underperforming? Give it a better shield damage-to-flux ratio. Old-fashioned heavy cruiser too easy to pack with high-cost modern weapons? Give it a lower flux dissipation rate, and it’ll be able to unload a few powerful volleys to start a fight, but will have to fall back to recover afterward. Battleship failing to absorb damage like it should? Give it more flux capacity.

Beyond that, it also forces the player to think about a ship’s weaknesses in fitting, and to think on his feet when the fight is on. Absorbing damage from a lot of enemies requires most of an ordinary ship’s flux capacity, and captains have to be able to choose their moments well to put an enemy ship out of commission in such circumstances as that.

Anyway, I have one more video for you, which shows the command system and a much larger battle. In the main, ships are autonomous vessels controlled by NPC captains. (Eventually, this will be even more true: NPC captains will be characters, requiring pay, who have personality traits. Worried about your fancy carrier getting too close to the fighting? Put a captain with a lot of caution in command. Want your attack cruiser to get stuck in more? Look for an aggressive guy.) You put orders markers down on the map, and the number of orders you can give per battle is limited. (Spend a command point, and you can give orders for free as long as the command interface is open.) You have to decide which tasks are important enough to request your subordinates carry out specifically, and rely on them not to get in too deep on their own. So far, I’ve found this system to be more than sufficient. Again, it pushes the player into tradeoffs—is it more important to me to have a frigate protect my flagship against incoming fighters, or to have a frigate run down an enemy freighter at the far end of the field of battle? It also frees the player to get on with the business of actually fighting. There’s no benefit, and indeed there is active harm in, attempting to micromanage, so you’re best off setting up your orders, charging into the fray yourself, and checking on the state of things every now and then.

A Question of Procurement 4B: They Bought the Farm

Let’s start to whittle this field down some. First to go is the MiG. The MiG-35 is a much improved version of that old terror of the late-80s, the MiG-29. It has much improved avionics, and maintains the type’s famed agility. However, no one has actually bought the MiG-35, so parts availability may be a concern. While the avionics are better, they’re still not as good as what comes standard in Western types. Plus, even with the new electrics and polish, it’s fundamentally a short range fighter, with relatively few hardpoints and small gas tanks. Also, being Russian, it’s harder and more expensive to maintain. So it’s really unsuited to our needs.

Next down is the Su-35S. On paper, it looks like a phenomenal fighter, with a big, powerful radar, great agility, tons of hardpoints, and long range. However, it’s doesn’t really have much in the way of ground attack capability with guided weapons when compared to western types. It can’t actually haul that much weight, especially for it’s size–it only carries about as much as the significantly smaller Super Hornet. Plus, being a really big Russian fighter, it promises to be an expensive maintenance nightmare, with high life cycle costs. As Fishbreath pointed out, it’s limited to Russian missiles currently. While western weapons could be integrated, we’d have to foot the bill, which probably will murder the highly competitive unit cost. And did I mention political pressure from other NATO members? So this one is out.

We can also eliminate the F-15E Strike Eagle without too much trouble. It’s a big fighter with plenty of range and an impressive hauling capacity to be sure. Also, it’s got a two-man cockpit, giving the advantage of a second pair of eyes and someone to mind the guided weapons. But it’s also very, very expensive to procure and operate, and really doesn’t have the fancy built-in sensors and avionics that we’d expect in our modern fighter. Some countries have procured versions with electronics that are better than the USAF-standards, but those are a mixed bag, and bring up questions of spares availability. Plus you’re stuck paying for all of the integration and testing yourself, which really isn’t ideal, and further drives up the cost. It also invites delays. We can do better for our money, so the Strike Eagle strikes out.

Much as it pains me, we find the F-16E Viper (Block 60) to be the last eliminated in the preliminaries. The Viper is basically the benchline combat fighter of it’s generation, doing just about anything you could ask of it reasonably well. And the -E model adds a fancy AESA radar, some integrated jamming equipment, a revamped cockpit, and conformal tanks (with the added side effect of completely ruining the lines). One might think this would be a shoe-in, because it’s reasonably priced to purchase and operate? So why did it fail to make it to the final round? Simple: it’s just not a big enough improvement on the -C Viper. When you’re confronted by the prospect of S-300PMU2 and S-400 SAMs and big, new Flankers, you want something more than last year’s fighter with a few more optional extras added. Plus, while the F-16E is reasonably priced for a modern combat fighter, the bill won’t sit well when it comes time to put the budget up for a vote. Borgundy is currently an operator of F-16Cs, and while it would make sense from a spares perspective, the bill for what will be seen as a ‘glorified upgrade’ won’t sit well. They’ll want a capability gain, as will the Aviation General Staff. When it comes down to it, in the fourth dimension of fighters, politics, the F-16E is all wrong. So, unfortunately, we must eliminate one of my favorites from this competition.

On to the Final Showdown!

Comment on our procurement posts in the Procurement Games comment thread.

2014A – Alternate History Formation

This is a setup that I’m going to use for my December 16th Special, and possibly other things if the mood strikes me. Fishbreath is welcome to it as well, if he so chooses. Anyway, we’re going to setup a bit of alternate history, because it’s fun and because I need a justification for a Secret Project. All alternate histories need a Point of Divergence, plus a bunch of consequences. Our point of divergence is August 21, 1991, when the August Putsch succeeds in toppling Gorbachev, and putting Gennady Ivanovich Yanayev in power as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union does not fall, and manages to retain most of its holdings, with the exceptions of East Germany and Poland, thanks to some rapid moves by NATO. East and West Germany are more-or-less happily reunited, and Poland is a part of the new frontline. Greatest salient ever. The Baltic states and the Ukraine are very unhappy, but not strong enough to do anything about it (yet).

But wait, there’s more chaos afoot. Efforts to (finally) protect Poland and East Germany from a returning Red Menace left NATO unprepared to intervene in the Persian Gulf, when one Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Flush with success, he gambled further, striking south again in an effort to grab some oil from those perfidious Saudis. The resulting fights for the oil fields of northern Saudi Arabia left them aflame for weeks, driving up the price of oil, and providing a handy influx of capital to the troubled Soviet Union, as well as some handy extra leverage against the Ukraine. The Iraqis have been mostly pushed out of Saudi Arabia, and by now (2014), the price of oil has stabilized at something reasonable given American shale oil and Soviet reserves. Reunification of Germany has helped with manpower reserves, but overall hurt their defense budget. Advance NATO contingents are now forward-deployed in Poland, squaring off against the Red Army.

Other fun facts: Luchtburg is a nonaligned state that has bought too much Soviet equipment for the Americans to be happy with them, and too much Swedish equipment for the Soviets to like them much more. Brazil and Argentina have formed an alliance to promote economic development and support indigenous military development1. They’re both promoting big growth through spending, and military expansion including some significant naval buildup. The Middle East is as unstable as ever, with the Saudis angry about Kuwait, the Iranians and Iraqis at each other’s throats, Syria attempting to crush a revolt, and Egypt as stable as ever (which is to say, not at all). Borgundy is a NATO member, and proud to make good old security guarantees to the Poles, even if they’re fifty-odd years late.

And now, our crisis. The current General Secretary is one Vladimir V. Putin, who is attempting to suppress an uprising in Western and Central Ukraine. NATO’s forces in Poland are on alert, and generally predisposed to the south. Meanwhile, in the Baltic states, additional forces have been deployed to pre-empt any sympathetic rebellions. To the eyes of NATO, this resembles the sort of aggressive prepositioning that the Soviets are fond of. A countermove must be made, and Borgundy’s special contribution will be in position shortly.

Join us for a special feature on December 16th, commemorating the seventieth anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, as we take a closer look at this special contribution.

1. Fishbreath comments: fortunately, neither Sweden nor the Soviets are likely to stop taking my money.

Discuss at the 2014A discussion thread.

Procurement Games 4A: The Daaaaaaaanger Zone!

The modern combat fighter is an essential component of the modern air force, especially considering that heavy bombers aren’t what people tend to build these days. We’ll first look at Borgundy’s thoughts on air combat, how this influences our desires, and then we’ll look at what’s available on the market. And yes, this is going to take multiple parts.

The primary duty of a fighter is to establish and maintain air superiority. Once air superiority is established, other missions become easier. Without an ability to maintain air superiority, all those wonderful armored vehicles we just bought are just a bunch of big targets. So having a fighter that is good at air combat is key. Unfortunately, these days everything is multirole (or other, stupider, advertising-speak equivalent terms to multirole). But we’ll still want to make sure our multirole fighter is a capable aerial combatant.

However, the most important component is not the fighter, but the pilot.is the more important part of the system. Good pilots in inferior fighters beat poor pilots in superior fighters almost every time. To get good, you need flight hours. And, while trainer hours are good, hours in type are better. So we’ll want to be able to keep maintenance costs down and availability up. This will also help with sortie generation. Sortie generation is most easily accomplished with numbers, however, so we’ll also be looking to try to keep unit costs down.

Let’s look at some other constraints, helpfully brought up by Fishbreath. As a continental power, Borgundy doesn’t really care much about aircraft carriers, so we also don’t require our fighters to be able to make a carrier landing, which opens the field up quite a bit. We also don’t care about buddy refueling, because while it’s a nice bonus, we can actually operate real tankers from land based runways. That was easy, actually. As you may have already guessed, Luchtburg and Borgundy are different places.

We have other interests and constraints as well. While the air superiority mission is paramount, since we’re buying a multirole fighter, we’ll want it to actually be able to haul some bombs. This means we’ll like designs that have plenty of hardpoints, but also the capability to lift plenty of weight of stores. A helpful bonus is plenty of hardpoints plumbed for drop tanks, because operating range is an important concern for us. Borgundy’s location is helpfully far from the front lines of a resurgent Red advance, but that makes range more important to adequately strike deep or operate over expected battle areas in Poland and the Baltic States. Range can also be enhanced with conformal fuel tanks, another feature that we’d like to have.

Next we come to the electrics. Specifically, we’re looking for a modern phased array radar, preferably actively scanned. We want infrared search and track, glass cockpits, helmet mounted sights, missile approach warning systems, integrated jammers, and the more computing we can get to process all this for the pilot and make his life easier, the better. But good electrics are no substitute for good kinematics, and the reader should rest assured that the standard, John-Boyd endorsed benchmarks of thrust/weight ratio, wing loading, and fuel fraction are no less important than the modern benchmarks of sensor potency.

Speaking of John Boyd, there is one more hard constraint that he would be proud of. Borgundy refuses to look at any fighter that does not come with an internal gun. While this is much less of an issue for Borgundy than it would be for Luchtburg, in that it only rules out certain variants since we’re not just looking at naval fighters, this is an important point to make all the same. Borgundy has made a habit of taking lessons from history, and we recall how well dogfighting worked in Viet Nam when AIM-7 Sparrows didn’t live up to their purported Pk. So, we can start the fighter availability by throwing out the JAS-39F (Two-seat Gripen NG), as well as the F-35B and F-35C (VTOL and Naval JSFs).

Anyway, on to the contenders! We have, in no particular order:

–Saab JAS-39E Gripen NG
–Dassault Rafale B/C
–Lockheed Martin F-16E Viper
–Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet
–Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 3
–Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II
–Mikoyan MiG-35 Fulcrum-F
–Sukhoi Su-35S Flanker-E
–Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle

Quite a few planes. Next time we’ll take a look on which of these we can rule out early, and which will make it to the Final Round Flyoff.

Comment on our procurement posts in the Procurement Games comment thread.