- The MQ-25 is going to increase the sortie duration and generate another point of vulnerability to threat air. There is absolutely no hiding two jets in close proximity with a drogue mounted hose stretched between them. This means you will have to defend by going low to dip the radar horizon to avoid longshottign from the likes of SA-5/10/20, among others. If you are low, you are hotsiding that dorsal inlet and exhaust to an IRST on a J-20. Now you have to forward send escorts to protect the refueler orbits and that's more gas pass on the front end, rather than egress, 'meet you on the way out'.
Similarly, unless the Fords return us to 80-90 aircraft airwings of 6-8 squadrons of 12-16 jets, the number of sorties you generate per day is not going to get better. Sorties per day = DMPIs downrange = quicker reduction of threat IAMDS targets sets and more transitional shift to support of ground forces. If the Chinese roll Taiwan or Kim comes south behind a wave of nukes, you are not going to have time for a traditional SEAD reduction campaign. You are gonna roll with the war you brung son.
How this will all integrate with a housekeeping (FORCAP, SENSCAP) 1.5-2hr sortie cycle is anyone's guess but the reality is that if you want hangtime over the threat battlespace, you don't want to put DAS+EOTS+APG-81 on a fighter which has a fixed man-up-front loiter.
- The networkign is not what is at issue for GCE Drone Support.
Availability is. You DO NOT WANT a Grey Eagle or Reaper over the battlespace, trying to provide WAS level optics for multiple ground teams. You want something fast enough to come in with the Day 1 shooters, at height, with weapons, as a supporting gun cabinet multiplier. And you want something that can then stay fast, stay high, and stay on station for longer periods when those initial taskings are done.
The USAF thinks MAKO and Valkyrie are the way forward for this but who is it that gets in-theater first responder tagged to an emergency mission set? The Marines. And the Marines either need to have something which can operate, at speed, over the beach, without screwing up a helicopter deckspot cycle in a beachhead mission (VARIOUS UCAV). Or they need to have a Navy platform nearby which can push a fast, skyhawk or smaller, level mission asset, well forward, for long periods while maintaining the low speed/rough seas recoverability of a navalized asset. IMO, it was a terrible mistake to push for robo-KonoCo over the ability to support ground force assets right now.
Because you can work the electronics through multiple iterations. But it takes real money to get the flying hardware and bed down of a lifetime spares supply chain, out to the fleet.
How critical is this? Back when DARPA was running UOS/UDS, they were using a small Honeywell F124 (bizjet) turbofan which gave the X-45A a mission endurance of 2.3 hours at 1,100nm. Then Big Blue Bad For You stepped in and literally stole the program out from under DARPA's care and made it J-UCAS. Changing up the X-45B/C to an airframe twice as large, goldplated to beat hell and so heavy it had to have an F404 (F/A-18) powerplant.
Totally blew the metrics on fueled persistence, at distance. Which the USAF said was okay because it could air refuel. Except THE PURPOSE of UCAVs was to lighten the load, across the board, in terms of support assets needing support assets to push gorilla forward.
The Sum Of Dumb is a failure to acknowledge that a 900nm radius can be done by a hypersonic missile in under 15 minutes and yet takes a minimum of two hours at Mach .9. But you have to BE THERE to see the TCT transient and report it back.
And that ROBE/BACN asset is where you need to have dedicated systems optimization in terms of conditioned power, cooling, altitude and so on. But it is also such a LARGE asset that you can use a G650 or Challenger for the mission, because your guys are sitting in a shirt sleeve cabin environment and they are a LONG ways from the Gargoyle/Gladiator threat.
Doing that is easy. Making the shift to missile based strike is doable. Where we are continually torpedoed is in the Brown Shoe community, insisting that tacair can do it all when, frankly, they can't. They are too slow, too expensive to train in peacetime and with the arrival of SSL level directe energy systems, they are increasingly going to Over The Top level Maxim Gun casualties to too many battlefield systems.
Someone needs to be the adult in the room and chop tacair's funding in half. NGAD/PCA is the point to do that, along with the F-35, outyear purchases.
Or we will lose the next war, refighting 1991.