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 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.

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