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Tomcat Scratches Phantom
A U. S. Navy F-14 Tomcat flying from the carrier Saratoga (CV-60) accidentally shot down an Air National Guard RF-4C Phantom during Zeroises in the Mediterranean in April. Both of the Phantom’s crew "'embers were rescued.
Apart from the embarrassment, this incident illustrates some important ac'°rs of modem naval combat. The F-14 pilot reportedly fired when his c°ntroller on board the carrier gave a free-fire order. The controller later Sa'd that such orders are commonly given during exercises, and that P'lots generally know not to shoot; the pilot was the least experienced on °ard. The latter said that he saw an unmarked (i.e., low-visibility mark- 'n8s) aircraft diving toward his ship, received the order, and shot. His J'st Sidewinder air-to-air missile missed; his second killed the target.
Sidewinder is generally considered a reliable missile; that two were "eeded illustrates the fact that no modem missile is 100% effective. The accident is probably best described as a case of IFF (identification lend or foe) error, and as such it is important mainly as a warning that "ch errors would be inevitable in actual combat. The Mediterranean is l area of high tension; U. S. ships are always in danger of being at. cked there. A pilot would rely on his controller, either on board ship or an E-2C Hawkeye, to know the overall tactical situation, including ^r8et identification. Given the rapid pace of air combat, the pilot has to „e 'rained to react reflexively when he is told to engage an air target.
' Consciously, seeing an aircraft apparently diving on his carrier, he "bably thought he was dealing with a Kamikaze—not inconceivable in a* Part of the world.
j. That the aircraft was clearly a U. S. type would have made little mrence, assuming that the F-14 pilot had time to recognize it before ^Ponding by reflex and firing. The Navy frequently must face Third all°r*d Powers equipped by the West. Moreover, both tacit and explicit ^ lances among anti-Western states and subnational groups may spread pi C weapons to those who did not originally purchase them. One exam's the Stinger missiles provided to Iran by Afghan resistance groups, t- I, T‘14 pilot had seen the RF-4C being aerially refueled by a U. S. ntc: r m'nutes before he shot it down, and apparently he did not associ- the *^e two even,s un'il after the incident, partly because he lost sight of f0a,rcraft between refueling and missile release. He could not, there- lr.re’ sure it was the same aircraft. He had to rely on the carrier to keep of the air target picture; that is the basis of effective air control. jsae lesson is not that a fighter pilot was trigger-happy or even that it "ti ^n®erous t0 exercise in peacetime, but rather that some level of blue- Cj Ue 'osses may '"evitable in war. Dangerous peacetime exercises n help keep that level to its unavoidable minimum.
averick Targeting Improved
gr^u8hes announced in April the development of a multiple-target, Uncl-attack system for use with Maverick missiles, under an Air Force li^nnstration contract. Currently, a pilot can attack only one target at a (liff though most aircraft can carry several missiles, pilots will find it elcult to survive multiple passes at any one area, although they can 0vPect to survive the first pass, owing to the element of surprise. More- ra|]r’ 'n a target-rich environment such as Central Europe, a pilot natu- an ^ 'Van,s to make a preliminary pass to determine which target is worth
inn ■ Hughes Rapid Fire system searches the target area using the imag- "ilrared seeker of one of the Maverick missiles on board, distinguishing targets by their apparent shape and size. It automatically chooses the six most promising targets and automatically assigns one missile to each. The pilot can veto the selection of the system’s preferred firing order.
Because it scans the target area independently of the pilot, Rapid Fire makes for much quicker firing decisions. Hughes claims that it can fire four Mavericks in less time than it takes a pilot to aim and fire one.
Although Rapid Fire is currently an Air Force project intended for the F-16, it is probably applicable to Marine Corps AV-8B Harriers, which carry Mavericks. Rapid Fire uses the seeker on board the missile rather than any new seeker permanently mounted aboard the aircraft; much of the system is almost certainly software running in the aircraft's general- purpose computer. Thus, whatever the development cost of the system, actual implementation in a wide variety of aircraft might be inexpensive.
The combination of using the missile seeker (rather than a new onboard device) and the aircraft general-purpose computer for fire control should greatly increase the flexibility of U. S. aircraft. Moreover, as cockpits increasingly use imaging displays rather than mechanical dials, it becomes easier to shift those displays between conventional ones and images associated with targeting. Similar displays may be projected onto future helmet visors.
Goshawk Makes First Flight
The McDonnell Douglas T-45A Goshawk, the Navy’s new jet carrier trainer, flew for the first time at Long Beach on 16 April. The test program will continue through October 1989, when the first production deliveries are scheduled. It should enter service in fall of 1990. Plans call for 300 to be produced, to replace both the T-2C Buckeye intermediate trainer and the TA-4J Skyhawk advanced trainer. The T-45 is one element of an integrated course of simulation and flight training that will substantially reduce actual flight time and, therefore, aircraft acquisition and operating costs. Students now fly 66 hours in a turboprop T-34C Mentor, then 90 hours in a T-2C, and 100 in a TA-4J—a total of 256 hours. The turboprop primary stage will be dropped, and students will fly 175 hours on the Goshawk. That, in turn, will drop to 160 hours by 1993, the corresponding simulator time increasing from 115 to 130 hours. At the same time, the training aircraft fleet will be reduced from 515 to 300. It is hoped that net Navy and Marine Corps training costs will fall about 43%. It is likely that the number of flight instructors will also fall, an important consideration given the problems of officer retention and of the authorized total size of the naval officer corps.
The Goshawk has been adapted for carrier operation from the British Aerospace Hawk trainer; the British company will build wings and aft fuselages. The prototype Hawk trainer flew in 1975, and the airplane is in service or on order for the Royal Air Force, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Finland, Indonesia, Kenya, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and Zimbabwe. In British and other foreign service, the Hawk is also adaptable as a light attack bomber and basic interceptor; British Aerospace is currently marketing a single-seat attack version, carrying as much as 6.800 pounds of underwing ordnance. There are no announced plans for any ordnance capability on the Navy Goshawk.
**dings / July 1988