Is the MRMF an air superiority fighter?
Not in the traditional sense. The existing lightweight fighters are probably the finest aerial combat machines ever designed. They have been optimized for superior maneuvering capability in those parts of the flight envelope where most dog fights end up (around 20,000 feet and subsonic), especially when gunnery is employed for the kill.
The MRMF is optimized for superiority in the arena where the lightweight fighters (and even the F-22 class fighters) are of limited use. Those other fighters have been so highly "inbred" that they are ill equipped to deal with the multi-role maritime missions taken on by the MRMF.
To better answer your question, the MRMF operates in the arena where air superiority is either achieved; or, where air superiority is not an issue in the OTW conflict envisioned. Still, the MRMF is well able to take care of itself in a fight. The MRMF carries defensive air-to-air missiles as well as electronic countermeasures and towable decoy devices.
Why design and use a fighter class airplane to hunt subs?
The answer is in three parts. First, because the very low speed maneuvering capability that comes with STOL (short takeoff and landing) features, the MRMF is well suited to the ASW task. Secondly, there is a definite cost savings to be achieved by using the MRMF in this capacity; many of the current ASW aircraft are reaching the end of their useful lives. And finally, the technology and miniaturization of modern day electronics allows more effective utilization of ASW hardware with fewer onboard flight personnel. The bottom line is more return for the taxpayer dollars invested.
Why do you target the MRMF mainly for the U.S. Marine Corps?
The basic configuration of the MRMF is that of a high payload attack fighter, capable of rapid response operations from widely dispersed land or sea bases. The anticipated arena of conflict is that part of the world where there is more water than land, where free access to vital sea lanes must be maintained for national and global stability. Vast underwater resources are currently being explored in these regions; and, it is natural to expect that conflicts will arise over their control.
Because the regional geographical area covered by these resources is vast, it would require a large armada of ocean going vessels to patrol and police these waters; and, there are many kinds of threats which could present themselves in so doing. A large sea going task force is not conducive to good diplomatic relations with the major powers whose land borders these waters.
The obvious alternative to deploying large naval battle groups into these areas, during OTW conditions, is to patrol and survey these waters from the air. More important, is the ability to quickly and effectively respond to seaborne hostilities with sufficient threat of force to deter any such attempt on the part of small rogue nations, or major powers, who might consider the use of private agencies to accomplish their political goals. The MRMF is capable of doing so because it can be easily configured, and deployed, to deal with most of those conflict scenarios.
Can the MRMF be deployed from aircraft carriers?
Yes; but, because of its required lightweight design, catapult and arresting loads must be kept lower than with conventional carrier based aircraft. By designing STOL capability into the MRMF, catapult and arresting loads do not have to be very large. The STOL feature also allows the MRMF to operate from small WW-II class aircraft carriers, like those which are now used for helicopter and assault troop operations. These are very cost effective systems.
What do you mean by lightweight design?
Normally, a carrier based attack fighter capable of carrying 7-8 tons of stores to a range of 1,000 NM would have a gross weight of about 72,000 lbs. The MRMF gross weight for the same mission is 56,000 lbs. This includes 20,000 pounds of internally stored fuel.
The MRMF gross weight figures are unbelievable; how can this be?
During the initial design, every weight penalizing aspect of the fighter was challenged before any other requirements were considered. Major offenders were the fuselage superstructure, landing gear placement, weapons bay cavities, flight control effectors, wing-box design and fuel storage systems. Employing MATV (Multi-axis Thrust Vectoring), as used on the experimental F-16 MATV, it was possible to design the fighter without conventional aerodynamic empanage control surfaces. The results are indeed remarkable; but, the process is well understood. For every pound of dead weight removed, the gross weight of the MRMF became 3.5 pounds lighter.
How can you carry two rather large ALCMs on the MRMF?
The blended wing-body design of the MRMF has a large wing chord junction with the fuselage. Conventional designs would place the landing gear in this region; and, this would preclude any large stores such as torpedoes or ALCM carriage. The MRMF does not have main landing gear in this part of the design. Therefore, the MRMF can support both long torpedoes and existing ALCMs.
Why is there no sweep in the MRMF wing?
The MRMF is not optimized for supersonic flight; and so, the requirement for low wave drag was not as critical as it is on an air superiority fighter. More important is the MRMF requirement for very high altitude, long range, reconnaissance when configured for RECON missions. The RECON MRMF has a 60 foot wingspan; while the wingspan of the other configurations is only 40 feet. This is accomplished by designing the wing so that it folds just outboard of the avionics undercarriage wing pod. A larger outer wing panel is mounted for the MRMF RECON mission; and, the wing planform was designed to deal with flight control stability issues using two different wing configurations.
At what speed does the fully loaded MRMF lift off?
The fully loaded MRMF lifts off at 100 knots equivalent airspeed (EAS) using our proprietary boundary layer control (BLC) technology. MRMF BLC is unconventional in that it minimizes the adverse longitudinal control effects experienced by traditional BLC methodology. The MRMF BLC allows the blended wing-body configuration to achieve extreme angles of attack where high lift can be derived from the wing-body combination. In addition, the single 33,000 pound class engine helps to support the MRMF weight during the rotation to takeoff speed at those high angles of attack.
What is the turn-around time to reconfigure from RECON to ASW missions?
Approximately 45 minutes. This allows time to exchange the two mission avionics wing pods, to exchange the outer wing panels; and, to refuel and rearm the MRMF for ASW operation.
Is that a canard on the forebody of the MRMF?
Yes. The MRMF has a fixed incidence variable sweep canard of very high aspect ratio. It is deployed during STOL takeoff and during slow speed ASW maneuvering. It is also deployed during supersonic egress, after weapon stores are offloaded--where evasive or defensive maneuvers may be required to enhance the survivability of the MRMF when under attack.
During conventional flight, the MRMF canard is buried within the MRMF forebody. During flight phases in which the wing control surfaces need to be set to minimum drag conditions, the MRMF canard is deployed to optimize the aerodynamic center of the blended wing-body.
Why does the MRMF carry avionics in its wing pods?
The MRMF carries 90% of all avionics within its two removable wing pods. The fuselage contains flight control and air data avionics along with communications and navigation systems. Placing most mission related avionics within the removable wing pods provides the MRMF with rapid mission reconfiguration. This feature also minimizes MRMF downtime for avionics maintenance. When avionics maintenance is required, the related avionics wing pod is removed by a weapons loader and exchanged with a fully tested avionics mission pod. Time is not wasted attempting to service faulty avionics subsystems while installed in the MRMF. The forward avionics package in each wing pod is a FLIR sensor-tracker passive ranging system.
How does the MRMF deal with engine failure in flight?
When the engine loses thrust, the MRMF cannot depend upon MATV for pitch and yaw control. This could be a critical shortcoming if design consideration is not given to the possibility of engine flame out. [ FYI: Fighters designed to hover do not survive engine failures in hover mode.]
When the engine ceases to function, the MRMF digital flight control system automatically deploys the forebody canard to assist the wing elevons in maintaining stable pitch control. In addition, the aft section of each wing pod housing contains variable differential speed brakes which are deployed for control of yawing moments. The speed brakes are actually sections of the aft wing pod faring which spread open to provide braking and/or auxiliary yaw control.
The aft wing pod housing also contains the towable decoys as well as the towable ASW/decoy magnetometers used in anti-submarine operations. All decoys are radar and IR prominent.
What kind of remote airbase support does the MRMF require?
The MRMF is designed to operate from remote bases with minimal depot-like facility support. Spare parts and engines can be flown in using the MRMF's stores carriage capability as well as its wing pod features. The USMC V-22 Osprey and helicopter transports can provide for remote logistical support, bringing supplies, fuel , relief flight crew and support personnel to the remote staging bases. Bases can be rapidly deployed over wide regions of the tactical arena.
Is the MRMF designed with stealth capability features?
The answer depends upon the mission. The MRMF is designed to carry far more stores than any stealth fighter is capable of doing. Stealth carriage of stores poses a major design problem which would preclude low cost STOL operations since the stores have to be carried internally, as in the case of the F-22 and F-117. Internal carriage of stores increases the weight of the fuselage (or wing) considerably; and, this would be detrimental to short field operations.
The MRMF possesses a degree of "natural stealth" by virtue of its tailless architecture. Like the B-2, it is difficult to see in profile because it exposes little cross-sectional area to the viewer, be it visual or radar in character. When external stores are deployed, there is little to reflect any radiation which is projected upon the MRMF. This makes the MRMF difficult to detect.
Since the MRMF will find most of its use in OTW (other than war) operations, the ability to operate under tactical conditions of total stealth is a needless expense. The cost of operating a stealth fighter in peacetime needs to be weighed against its return on taxpayer investment.
There are not many uses for an F-117 class fighter during OTW times; and, fighters like the F-22 will spend most of their operational life training pilots for hot war engagements. At the same time, the MRMF will be earning its keep by providing wide area reconnaissance and patrol services for the U.S. Navy on a daily basis. It also stands ready to support hot war operations with its ability to launch ALCMs from long range, well away from radar threats.
Is there a connection between the MRMF and the recently retired AFTI/F-16?
The answer is an emphatic YES! The lead designer of the MRMF was a staff consultant on the now historic AFTI/F-16 DFCS and AFTI/F-16 AMAS programs, as well as a consultant on the F-16 MATV and A-12 programs.
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