Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ultra-Tech Garage: Boeing F-227 Skyfire

Not only is it GURPSday once again, it's also my birthday to boot!  

So to celebrate, I got a brand new entry for the Ultra-Tech garage  that’s fresh from the factory!

In today's post we take a look at a hypothetical TL9 Naval fighter called the F-227 Skyfire and some of the air to air armaments it carries.

I got to say this write up was my most complicated work since my Power Armor Design article and it took a lot of time and research to get it done (there's a reason that this is only my second Ultra-tech Garage post heh) but hopefully it'll live up to my readers exceptions.

Also a special thanks to GURPS ubermensch, Ghostdancer (go read his blog noaw!), for braving through some math for me heh.

Follow me after the jump if  ya want to hop onto that highway to the danger zone!

Boeing F-227 Skyfire                                                                               (TL9)

By the mid 21st century it was thought that the age of manned fighter jets was at its end. Most western air forces had started to phase out its manned fighters for fully AI driven drone fighters, keeping only a handful in action for reserve uses such as acting as command craft for a squadron of drone fighters. However this pilotless future ran into a massive road block after the first official AI drone on manned fighter combat in history.

In the early morning twilight of  June 22nd, 2062 a flight of four US Navy QF-17 Alley Cat drones were sent to shoot down a squadron of eight third world nations fighters. The enemy fighters were being sent out to sink ships carrying refugees fleeing a nation that had come under attack from controlling nation of the enemy fighters. The fight was predicted to be a one sided slaughter, the Alley Cat's were up against vastly outdated 4th gen fighters, piloted by fighter jocks who were rated at being no more than "adequate" at best. The opening moments were promising. The Alley Cat’s had better radar and better stealth and had detected enemy force well before they were even aware they being followed and three of the eight bandits were splashed  neatly with the first volley.  The remaining enemy fighters spit up, three went full blower and sprinted towards the ships while the other two sprinted towards the drones in the hopes of negating the drones ability to use their beyond visual range missiles. Once the bandits closed to dogfight range, things went south badly. Somehow the two enemy pilots, seemingly out of pure desperation, were able to close into gun range with the drones and force the drones to break formation. The drones tried to use their numbers to regain the situation but, lacking guns of their own,  could not adjust the bandits tactics quickly quickly enough. One of the bandits seemingly made itself an easy target on purpose and as two of the drones splashed it, the other bandit used the opening to shoot them both down before the remaining drones took it down as well. The remaining two drones then went full afterburner and sprinted after the remaining three bandits before the could sink the ships, quickly taking them done but not before one of the bandits was able to snap shot off an dogfight missiles downing a third drone.

While the drones had completed the mission and had shot down all of the enemy fighters, the fact was they could not handle rapidly changing environment of a close range dogfight, especially against desperate pilots who were trying every crazy maneuver they could pull off. This flaw showed that AI drone technology still hadn't quite reached the point of being able to deal with instant crisis response on the same level of a trained human could. Fully AI controlled drones might just not have been ready for the air superiority role yet and the US Navy set out specifications for a new multi-mission superiority manned fighter.

 Needing a new manned fighter as soon as possible, the US Navy put out the called for a carrier born, twin engine, single pilot, multi-mission superiority fighter that was capable of at least Mach 2 supercruise and a top speed of mach 2+. Every American and even some European aircraft manufacturing corporations threw their hat out into the ring but when the dust settled Boeing’s  X-227 was the clear winner and entered production as the F-227 Skyfire.

One of the main selling points that Boeing exploited to win the contract was the fact that it was still a major player in the maned civilian flight market and had not too long before the programs start retooled their factories to to take advantage of the many fruits of advanced Ultra Tech nanomanufacturing technology that was now available. Using modern nanoengineering techniques, the F-227 was built from an semi-monocoque  hull from that is made from 72% advanced nano-fiber reinforced aluminum  reinforced with titanium nanocomposite at major structural points and arachnoweave composite in areas that are subject to large flex loads. This gave the Skyfire a very light airframe which despite being nearly the same size as 5th generation tactical fighter like the F-22 Raptor, its airframe weighed nearly 20% less while having the same load bearing capacity. The plane was 62ft long with a 53ft wing span and its shape was a somewhat diamond shaped semi-delta with a relatively wide underside to house the main weapons bay and two small canards for extra maneuverability near the cockpit. It's frame has been reinforced to deal with the rigor of carrier landings and a arrestor hook is located just after the main weapons bay towards the rear of the craft.

Its frame was covered in nano-carbon tube reinforced carbon fiber composite RAM paneling  which had the ability to alter its color (has programmable camouflage, Ultra-Tech pg. 99). They were embedded with smart matter micro-articulators which not only gives the Skyfire advanced active variable geometry wings that could radically change their shape and surface area depending on the circumstances but an  full on "blend-body" variable geometry frame that can both slightly alter its shape to maintain optimal streamlining no matter what speed regime it is in as well as make sure it maintains its stealth profile. This feature gives the fighter a relatively high stall speed and incredible maneuverability without having to compromise its stealth maintaining the United States dominance in stealth technology (-6 to detect by Radar. See Ultra-Tech pg. 100, treat as TL10 Stealth). While not as advanced as its stealth the Skyfire also has full infrared clocking to reduce its heat signature (-4 to detected with IR sensors, Ultra-Tech pg. 99).

Its single pilot cockpit is sealed and pressurized and houses a holographic crew station (Ultra-Tech pg. 24) with a full glass cockpit and HOTAS (Hand On Throttle And Stick) layout, a medium laser com (Ultra-Tech pg. 44) with IFF Integrator  (Ultra-Tech pg. 151), medium radio (Ultra-Tech pg. 44), a fast, harden C6 personal computer (Ultra-Tech pg. 22) which usually runs programs such as IFF Comm, Tacnet, Silhouette and a Weak Dedicated AI (Ultra-Tech pg. 28 for the AI and pg. 149 for the other programs. Also see Future Solider, Pyramid 3/55 Military Sci-Fi more detail and options for the programs as well as a good worked example of a Weak Dedicated AI), a TL9 Internal Navigation System (Ultra-Tech pg. 74-75. +4 to Navigation (Land, Sea and Air)), a 12 man-hour limited life support system (Ultra-Tech pg. 224) and a zero/zero ejection seat.

In the pilot's chair is a small compartment (about 1 cubic foot of space) containing a Survival kit with a TL9 Heavy Flashlight (1lbs, Ultra-Tech pg. 74), TL9 Envirobag self inflating life raft (5lbs, Ultra-Tech pg. 75), TL9 Filtration Canteen (1lbs empty, 3lbs full, Ultra-Tech pg. 75), TL9 First Aid Kit (2lbs, Ultra-Tech pg. 198) with a dose of Analgine, antirad and a hyperstim (Nil weight, Ultra-Tech pg. 205),  four C cells (2lbs, Ultra-Tech pg. 19) and seven days worth of rations (10.5lbs, Ultra-Tech pg. 73). The kit is broken down into two containers, one for the rations and one for everything else. The ration kit  weighs a total of 11.6lbs and the main kit weighs 11.9lbs.

The canopy was made from advanced laminated polycarbonate 20mm thick (DR19) that can change its opacity (the canopy goes fully opaque during normal flight since the pilot's helmet  and the cockpits holographic display gives them a full 360° view of the surrounding air space). A titanium nano-composite tub surrounds the bottom of the cockpit giving the pilot extra protection (gives DR21 from underneath, DR17 from the sides and DR14 from the front and rear).   

The pilot wore an advanced flight suit (DR4 vs burning damage) that incorporates a smart G-suit that mimics the way dragonflies use fluid sacs around their organs to survive high Gs, and a helmet with a full helmet mounted display augmented reality suite (treat as a HUD, Ultra-Tech pg. 24, with augmented reality, Ultra-Tech pg.56) and head motion tracking. The suit along with the pilot's chair help regulate blood flow while pulling high-G maneuvers and gives the pilot a +5 to HT to avoid the effects of high acceleration (Basic Set pg. 434). The suit has many pockets and pouches to hold small items like pen and note pads and hold total of around 2lbs worth of gear (0.1 cubic feet). It also incorporated a holster for a 10mmCLP Heavy Pistol  (Ultra-Tech pg. 135 and 137) and can hold two spare magazines. The suits weighs 14lbs and the helmet weighs 5 lbs.

It was equipped with two General Electric F812-GE-1,280 3-Dimensional Thrust Vectoring After Burning Turbo-Ramjets capable of producing 31,200lbf  (139 kN) of thrust each dry or 42,000lbf  (187 kN) at full afterburner. This gives it an acceleration of 1.1Gs at military power under normal combat loads  and a afterburner acceleration of 1.4Gs. This  high level of thrust to weight ratio along with its streamlined profile and variable geometry frame system lets the F-227 super cruise up to Mach 2.2 and reach a top speed Mach 2.7 at full burn.

Its main sensor suite consisted of a forward looking AN/APG-109 multi-mode radar (see Ultra-Tech pg. 54-65) with a 250 mile range and a AN/AAG-233 32× hyperspectral  imaging sensor  (see Ultra-Tech pg. 61) slaved to the pilot's helmet. For full situational awareness the Skyfire makes use of the AN/ASQ-157 ACN (Active cellular network), a lower resolution combination 95 miles multi-mode radar and 16× hyperspectral  imaging sensor arranged in a "smart skin" active cell net across the aircraft's body which gives the pilot 360° all aspect situational awareness through both their helmet mounted display and holographic display.

For defense it had an AN/ALT-89 deceptive ECM(-4 to jam radar, -2 to jam imaging radar.See Deceptive Radar Jammer Ultra-Tech pg. 99), AN/ALP-103 radar/ladar warning receiver (Tactical ESM Detector, Ultra-Tech pg. 62) and a MJU-56 countermeasure launcher (25mm Multi-purpose countermeasures fired in groups of 5 for -5 to hit with guided and homing weapons. Holds 6 uses. See this post for rules for countermeasures).

The F-227s armament loadout was fairly conventional for modern fighters. It had two "dogfight" bays mounted on side of the engine nacelles. Each one held a single AIM-15 Cyclopes short ranged missile on a swing-out rails system that would extend the missile out at a 40° angle so that the missile could launch with zero risk of colliding the fighter's fuselage  no matter how violent it might of been maneuvering.

On its underside it had its main armament bay covered by two hatches. The bay was large enough to hold up to four large 1,000lbs bombs or four cruise missiles, or four 600 gallon fuel tanks (each tank increases range by 218 miles. Each tank weighs 4,300lbs) or sixteen smaller  250lbs bombs. However its primary mission was air to air and eight AIM-152 Vamprye medium range missiles mounted two a piece on LAU-196 ejector rail units which used a pneudraulic piston to launch the missiles out from the aircraft's belly at up to 50Gs ensuring safe clearance even at high G maneuvers. Twelve AIM-15s could technically be loaded in the bay mounted three a piece on four LAU-201s but in practice this configuration was never used.  

Two extra hardpoints can also be installed on each wing, each able to hold up to 5,000lbs worth of equipment or ordnance. In practice each hard point could hold one 1,000lbs bomb, four 250lb bombs, one cruise missile, one 600 gallon fuel tanks, two AIM-152s or three AIM-15s. However, unless the items attached to the hardpoints was stored in a costly stealth pod, the fighters stealth characteristic would be compromised (-2 to stealth) so they are rarely used outside of adding extra drop tanks to increase the fighters ranged unless air superiority has been established over the battlespace.

Despite its rather impressive missile loadout, a gun was once again installed as a point attack weapon when at knife fighting range. The latest member of the venerable M61 Vulcan family, the M61A5  EPM (Enhanced Propellant Munition) was what was installed. This version made use of an advanced ETC (Electro-Thermal Combustion) system to boost the weapon's muzzle energy by almost 30% while making use of  nano-composite materials to reduce the overall weight of the weapon, despite its strengthened barrels, to just over 200 lbs as well as the use of caseless 20mm ammunition to allow it carry almost a third more rounds for the same weight as conventional cased rounds.

While the F-227 is an exceptional craft and has been successful in all combat actions so far and  it has  had only one lose against unmanned fighters during cross nation combat exercises so far, it has only gone up against outdated fighters both manned and unmanned in actual combat. Because of this the jury is still out on whether or not this Skyfire marks the return to prime for manned combat aircraft.

Boeing F-227 Skyfire
Terms and notation are as defined in Vehicle Statistics (Basic Set pg. 462-463).
TL Vehicle             ST/HP   Hnd/SR   HT   Move      Lwt.  Load  SM   Occ.  DR   Range  Cost       Loc.      Stall Notes
9    F-227 Skyfire   132       +5/4         12f     11/838   29.5  11.4   +6     1SP    4      980       $500M  g3WiW   92   [1]

[1]The listed move and range assumes it is at military power. At full after burner its move becomes 14/1,036 but reduce its range by three miles for every mile it crosses do to increased fuel use.

F-227 Armament 

Machine Guns and Autocannon
For additional information, see High-Tech, pg. 129.

General Dynamics M61A5 EPM, 20×68mmCL SAPHE (TL9)
The latest variant of the venerable M61 Vulcan cannon six barreled gatling gun line, the M61A5 EPM (Enhanced Propulsion Munition) makes use of nano-composites to make it the lightest Vulcan despite boasting an Electro-Thermal Combustion (ETC) action that allows it to fire its 20mm rounds at a velocity 25% higher then a conventional round and heavier barrels to handle the greater muzzle energy. As with most fighter mounted Vulcans it has two selectable rates of fire; 66! and 100! It's power requirement is 13.5kW. 

On top of being the first ETC capable Vulcan, the M62A5 is also the first model to use full on caseless ammunition, letting  the round weigh less and take up about a third less space allowing for more rounds to be held. The F-227 makes use of SAPHE ammunition (see High-Tech pg. 169). Its ETC needs 3.61kW per shot or 238.26kW per 66 round burst and 361kW per 100 round burst.

The F-227 hold 520 20mm rounds in a 206lbs drum mounted underneath the cannon and feeds the it via a linkless system. The drum needs 2.05kW to power the feed system.

GUNNER (MACHINE GUN) (DX-4 or other Gunner at -4) 
TL  Weapon         Damage           Acc    Range           EWt.        ROF        Shots    ST    Bulk   Rcl    Cost         LC Notes
9     M61A5         7d×3 pi++         5       2,300/9,600   201/352   66!/100!   520(52) 22M    -11    2      $60,000   1     [1]
      Follow-Up      2d+2[1d] cr ex

[1]Very Reliable. Will not malfunction unless lack of maintenance lowers Malf. (see Basic Set pg. 407).

Ammunition Table 
Name                            WPS     CPS
20×68mmCL SAPHE   0.38      $20 
20×68mmCL Ball         0.38      $10

Guided and Homing Missiles
For further information, see High-Tech, pg. 150-151.

Pacific Coast Technologies AIM-15  Cyclopes, 130mm (TL9)
The AIM-15 is a first generation Hyperspectral homing short range missile. It has a 32× Hyperspectral imaging sensor it uses to track its target and is armed with a 130mm angular blast fragmentation warhead (see High-Tech pg. 174). Must like the F-227, the Cyclopes uses a "blend-body" design and 3-dimensional thrust vectoring to give it unprecedented maneuverability making it the primer dogfighting missile of the later half of the 21st century. Backblast is 11d burn.

Raytheon AIM-152 Vampyre, 180mm (TL9)
The mainline Mach 4.8 medium beyond visual range of both the US Airforce and Navy. Vampyre uses an 112 mile range active multi-mode radar seeker to home in on targets. It is armed with a 40 lbs high explosive, blast fragmentation warhead. The Vampryre has 3-dimensional thrust vectoring to give it good maneuverability for its size and speed but is nowhere as nimble as the Cyclopes instead relying on it's speed and range to take down targets.  Backblast does 6d×5 burn.

TL Weapon                   Damage                  Acc     Range               EWt.     ROF    Shots      ST       Cost      LC   Notes
9   AIM-15 Cyclopes    7d+2 pi                     6        1,100/54,000     190        1×195  1(20)     22M     $112K   1
9   AIM-152 Vampyre   7d×19 [9d]  cr ex     5        3,700/209,000   340        1           1(20)    25M     $600K   1

1 comment:

  1. Happy Birthday!

    I'll try and give this a thorough reading when time permits but from here it looks good - I'll likely glean from this in my own upcoming aircraft articles.