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Mq-25: X-47B Photographed With Buddy Stores


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#1 Josh

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 1219 PM

I had some questions about the MQ-25 program in light of pics of the X-47B with buddy stores being released. This may mean it is the intended submission or that its operating as a software surrogate.

First, I never had heard previous to this that the existing buddy store was part of the requirement - ie an external pylon must accommodate the same store used on F-18s. This makes sense as a risk reduction/cost reduction. It also would allow the future MQ-25 to have a non-tanking role by just shedding the store.

My first question is whether anyone knew what other systems were being submitted to the competition? I assume GA is going with Predator C/Avenger. Boeing? Lockheed?

My second question is whether anyone had stats on the fuel load carried by a standard X-47B? The USN requirement is apparently 1600 gallons. The buddy store itself carries 300gal, and the X-47 was photographed with an additional drop tank which presumably is 600gal? The empty weight of the original aircraft is given as 14k with an MTOW of 44k and up to 4500lbs of ordnance - that would leave up to 25k of additional storage, but presumably there isn't enough room for that much fuel. During the refueling experiments with the aircraft it reportedly took on 600 gallons, which is a fairly modest amount (roughly 4000lbs?).

How likely would it be that the X-47 could retain its strike role if a totally externally mounted system (assuming it were adopted and it is not just being used as a surrogate platform)? If the weapons bay wasn't permanently filled in with fuel stores, it should be strike capable?

#2 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 1226 PM

I think I read something about this a couple of months ago in Air Forces monthly. I think the basic idea was they are not sold in using it as a weapon yet because the technology is not proven, but they figured using it as a flying gas tank whilst they operate it as sea is a good way of building experience with using RPV's from a carrier. And in fairness it sounds like a good idea. Nobody really wants one landing in Iran if they can avoid it...

 

Im not quite sure of any more details than that, I will try and look the article out. Presumably they were going to be building a specialised tanker variant, ala KA-6D.



#3 Josh

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 1247 PM

It seems to me if the goal is eventually strike, going with the proven low RCS X-47 platform is the the propper path, unless it is prohibitively expensive compared to the other offerings. Drones have a shorter life than manned aircraft but it still seems unwise to me to develop a non-peer platform for fueling and then have to develop and alternate platform for any actual strike missions. But we'll know more when the submissions are all clear.

#4 bfng3569

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Posted 23 August 2017 - 1230 PM

proper path is probably irrelevant at this point.

 

From what i have read, and i could have misunderstood, but it seems the navy is requiring the use of the existing pod set up to reduce cost and developement issues.

 

the requirement for a the tanker to operate near enemy defences was dropped, so essentially it will be refueling returning aircraft somewhere near the carrier (no stealth required at that point).

 

so it comes down to the cheapest competitor that meets the limited requirements.

 

and the X-47 may or may not be aircraft.

 

going the cheap route may be smart, but then again, having a stealthy tanker that can loiter far out from the carrier would seem like the better way to go operationaly to actually increase the range of existing aircraft.



#5 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 23 August 2017 - 1349 PM

It seems to me if the goal is eventually strike, going with the proven low RCS X-47 platform is the the propper path, unless it is prohibitively expensive compared to the other offerings. Drones have a shorter life than manned aircraft but it still seems unwise to me to develop a non-peer platform for fueling and then have to develop and alternate platform for any actual strike missions. But we'll know more when the submissions are all clear.

My impression is that is the end goal, they just want to prove the technology by doing something less demanding first.

 

It will be interesting to see how it turns out, for all we know as already said they might go with a different system instead. Presumably they could convert some F18C's into the buddy tanker role. Seems a bit strange but the RN had its own carrier based tanker squadron based on Supermarine Scimitars, which was also an attack fighter. Seemed to work out ok.



#6 Josh

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Posted 23 August 2017 - 1417 PM

I can understand wanting to do something less ambitious than a combat mission with the first roll out. But it seems to me there should be the ability to grow the platform into a strike asset from the get go.

Actually from the gossip I've heard, of the four submissions it *appears* that all but the Avenger/Predator C are based on existing flying wing designs: X-47,RQ-170, and Phantom Ray. The GA offering is the odd man out in that company, if that gossip pans out.

#7 Special-K

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Posted 01 September 2017 - 1153 AM

https://news.usni.or...arrier-air-wing

From the above link:

 

The inclusion of the unmanned MQ-25 Stingray aerial tanker into the U.S. carrier air wing could increase the effective strike range of the strike fighters aboard aircraft carriers by up to 400 nautical miles, the commander of Naval Air Forces told U.S. Naval Institute’s Proceedings.

Air Boss Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker said the service’s goal was for the Navy’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aerial vehicle to be able to deliver about 15,000 pounds of fuel at 500 nautical miles from the carrier to the air wing’s strike fighters, which would almost double their operational range.

“The MQ-25 will give us the ability to extend the air wing out probably 300 or 400 miles beyond where we typically go. We will be able to do that and sustain a nominal number of airplanes at that distance,” Shoemaker said in an exclusive interview in the September issue of Proceedings.
“That will extend the reach of the air wing, and when we combine that with additional weapons we are buying, we will get an impressive reach.”

The strike range of a carrier air wing is now only about 450 nautical miles – the effective unrefueled radius of a Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The additional 300 to 400 miles could potentially extend the reach of the fighters up to or beyond 700 nautical miles.

The additional range extension would be the farthest the air wing could reach out since the Navy retired the Grumman F-14D Tomcat from its inventory in 2006. An F-14D had an estimated unrefueled combat radius – with two fuel drop tanks – of about 650 nautical miles.

 

 

Some more information.  I guess it's a step in the right direction, but I wonder if they should consider also consider bringing back something like the S-3 Viking that could do tanking along with a number of other missions.

 

 

 

-K



#8 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 02 September 2017 - 0155 AM

The S3 should never have gone away. They desperately need an LR Anti Submarine aircraft on these carriers, but try and convince the US Navy of it. They seem to think the threat of sea launched cruise missiles  beyond the outer screen has gone away.



#9 bfng3569

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Posted 03 September 2017 - 1607 PM

Interesting that the Navy has updated the requirements to push the ranking out that far now.

Seems like the right idea.

But the only question now is will a stealthy or low observable reqiurement be added or looked favorably upon?

Or will cost be thr deciding factor?

#10 Chris Werb

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Posted 03 September 2017 - 1703 PM

The S3 should never have gone away. They desperately need an LR Anti Submarine aircraft on these carriers, but try and convince the US Navy of it. They seem to think the threat of sea launched cruise missiles  beyond the outer screen has gone away.

 

OK Stuart, go ahead and try and convince me of the need for long range ASW aircraft on CVNs. I'm all ears :)



#11 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 04 September 2017 - 0205 AM

 

The S3 should never have gone away. They desperately need an LR Anti Submarine aircraft on these carriers, but try and convince the US Navy of it. They seem to think the threat of sea launched cruise missiles  beyond the outer screen has gone away.

 

OK Stuart, go ahead and try and convince me of the need for long range ASW aircraft on CVNs. I'm all ears :)

 

Because they are cool? :)

 

As far as working the GIUK line, you dont because the P8 is perfectly good enough for that. Working sanitized routes, ditto. The problem comes when you realise that the long distance cruise missile submarines the Soviets were developing, like the Oscar, have not gone away. Its only being compounded by new boats like the Yasen, which also have a cruise missile capability. The only part of the problem that has changed is the Russians dont have the ocean surveillance capability the Soviets had in Satellites and long range MPA's. They may try to get that back,  The point to remember (and I discovered this to my cost wargaming the 1973 naval standoff) is how P8's can provide on the spot cover for the fleet when the fleet is operating far forward, say Murmansk. And its not. Its only on board ASW that would be risked in those circumstances. I cant see P8's being risked in that kind of situation, considering the crew on board and that they dont have nearly enough of the damn things to go round.

 

 

Lets look at it like this, the air defence threat to US carriers is negligible, yet they still are obsessed with having fighter aircraft capable of taking on the most nimble of fighter aircraft in the open ocean. Yet Submarines, which they are far more likely to encounter in the deep ocean, the only defence they have against is the frigates or embarked ASW Helicopters. The question arises, is there any kind of threat that could be introduced against a task force that would require switching of resources that quickly from one beam to another. As yet, no. An emerging threat? Possibly. Depends on whether they run their budget into the ground building SSN's, which seems to be an ambition. Clearly Yasen is an indication of where they want to go. I doubt the Chinese dont have similar ambitions.

 

Looked at another way, something like the S-3 gives greater coverage of area than an ASW helicopter and can respond to contacts quicker. So being able to do more work quicker should require fewer airframes to do the same job, leaving more room for bombers.

 

 

Personallly, I think an ASW version of Osprey would be the best solution with the resources they have. But as an interim solution using S3's which still seem to have lifespan on them strikes me as an intelligent stopgap.



#12 Panzermann

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Posted 05 September 2017 - 0407 AM

Lets look at it like this, the air defence threat to US carriers is negligible, yet they still are obsessed with having fighter aircraft capable of taking on the most nimble of fighter aircraft in the open ocean.

 

 

Not really anymore with only both flavours of Hornet in use at the moment. Both are multi-role just as the succeeding F-35 is and not optimised air superiority fghters.



#13 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 05 September 2017 - 0459 AM

Lets put it this way, they are not bombers in the same class as the A6. They are clearly more manoeuvrable than the F14. So you have to ask, at one end of the spectrum are they optimised, air defence, or ground attack? Ill grant you they can do both, but equally clearly, the bomber mafia lost the fight over whom gets the most deck space.

 

Now clearly X47 would be ideal as a penetration bomber. And yet its lost that fight and is starting out at least as a tanker, whose priority is to extend the range of the Fighter bombers.

 

Lets face it, Its Maverick's navy these days isnt it? :)



#14 Josh

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Posted 05 September 2017 - 1216 PM

The S-3s lost the ASW mission long before they were retired.

I question a submarine's ability to target OTH with cruise missiles. Such targeting would have to come from some other asset tracking the CV and sufficiently sophisticated coms to transmit this info to the submarine in a timely fashion. It also would in most cases require the sub to run at a shallow depth either with a mast raised or at least a buoy deployed to receive satellite coms. If the enemy is tracking you that well, I think the air threat is still the biggest problem.

#15 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 05 September 2017 - 1304 PM

Well we are seeing an increased usage of spy trawlers in Russian usage. I was interested to note that during the 1973 naval standoff, they always kept a tattletale at close range to a US Carrier relaying targeting data. It wouldnt last long in a war, but if you exchanging a destroyer, a Corvette or a Spy Trawler for a supercarrier, its not a bad exchange. And clearly at places in littoral areas, the ability to sneak up and get within a firing position is going to be rather easier than in the open ocean.






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