In fact, we are shocked to see the fifth generation fighters such as F-22A, F-35 and su-57 flying in the blue sky at major air shows and defense exhibitions. Its just an intuitive feeling on the surface. The real combat effectiveness of these advanced fifth generation fighters depends to a large extent on the various types of precision guided weapons, especially air-to-air missiles. Therefore, in a sense, the technical level of air-to-air missiles that a country can develop determines the combat capability of its advanced fighters to a considerable extent.
Smaller size to increase aircraft carrying capacity
The most obvious technical feature of the fifth generation of air-to-air missiles currently under development in the United States, Russia and Europe is that their overall dimensions are greatly reduced, which of course also brings about the reduction of the weight of the whole missile. For the fifth generation fighters, the benefits of the reduction in the overall dimensions of the fifth generation air-to-air missiles are obviously greater.
In fact, the miniaturization of air-to-air missiles is not a new technology that emerged only after the fifth generation fighters were put into service. As early as the end of 1960s, the US Air Force put forward the idea of developing small air-to-air missile, which is aim-82, which only put forward the concept design and then died. After that, the Soviet Union also developed a miniaturized r-60 short-range combat air-to-air missile with reference to the design idea of the United States. However, with the over the horizon air combat becoming the mainstream, small short-range combat air-to-air missiles, such as the r-60, which have a very short range, soon fell out of favor.
After entering the 21st century, the fifth generation fighters, represented by F-22A, began to be put into mass service. Its excellent stealth design determines that the airborne weapons and ammunition can only be mounted in the built-in bomb compartment. For an advanced fighter, the internal space that can be provided for airborne weapons and ammunition is very limited on the premise of ensuring the necessary space for fuel, airborne equipment, etc.
Therefore, after a lot of measurement and trade-offs, the design of the built-in bomb compartment of the fifth generation fighters can only guarantee the most basic operational requirements of airborne weapons and ammunition. For example, the typical air combat built-in weapons of the U.S. Air Force F-22A aircraft carry only two aim-9 short-range combat air-to-air missiles and six aim-120 medium and long-range interceptor air-to-air missiles. Because of its smaller size, the built-in bomb compartments on both sides of the F-35 can only hold two aim-120 medium and long-range interceptor air-to-air missiles and two JDAM precision guided bombs.
In case of necessity, the U.S. military industry also retained the design of external weapon and auxiliary fuel tank on the fifth generation fighters such as F-22A and F-35, which is now called beast mode. Only in the beast mode which completely destroys the stealth shape, the fifth generation fighters, such as F-22A and F-35, can achieve basically the same missile carrying capacity as the fourth generation fighters in the form of airborne weapons. If we want to ensure the stealth of the fifth generation fighter and increase the quantity of ammunition in the built-in bomb compartment, we can only develop a new and smaller fifth generation air-to-air missile, rather than continue to use the fourth generation air-to-air missile in service. This is the biggest original intention of the US, Russia, Europe and other military enterprises to develop the fifth generation of air-to-air missiles.
MBDAs fifth generation air-to-air missile.
Taking the fifth generation of Russian air-to-air missile mentioned at the beginning of this paper as an example, its overall dimension is even smaller than that of the fourth generation of active short-range combat air-to-air missile R-73, and its length is basically only about half of that of R-77 medium and long-range air-to-air missile. Therefore, according to the expectation, the two built-in bomb compartments in the middle of the belly of the fifth generation su-57 fighter plane could only hold a total of 6 R-77 medium and long-range air-to-air missiles. If the fifth generation air-to-air missiles were replaced, 8 missiles could be mounted in a single bomb compartment, and the combined two bomb compartments could achieve a load of 16 missiles. From 6 to 16, this doubling of the number of mounts will be a qualitative leap in improving the operational capability of the fifth generation of su-57 fighters.
The same is true for the CUDA air-to-air missile developed by Lockheed Martin and the peregrine falcon air-to-air missile developed by Raytheon, both of which are basically about half the length of the air-to-air missile intercepted and fired at a long distance in the aim-120. In this way, if we take the belly bomb compartment of the fifth generation F-22A fighter as a reference, we could only mount six aim-120 medium and long-range air-to-air missiles, and replace it with the fifth generation air-to-air missiles such as CUDA and peregrine falcon, as many as 12, which has exceeded the number of external missiles mounted by most fourth generation fighters.
Falcon air-to-air missile
The fusion of combat air-to-air missile and interceptor air-to-air missile
Another advantage of the greatly reduced dimension of the fifth generation air-to-air missile is that it can truly integrate the short-range combat air-to-air missile with the medium range interceptor air-to-air missile. This can greatly simplify the procurement of airborne weapons and ammunition as well as the logistics support system, and at the same time comprehensively improve the combat capability of the fifth generation fighters.
In fact, the integration design of combat air-to-air missile and interceptor air-to-air missile has been tried by foreign military enterprises for a long time. For example, air-to-air missiles such as French Mika and Soviet r-27 are divided into radar guided and infrared guided missiles. On the premise of the same main missile body layout and rocket engine, different seeker are installed to achieve different purposes of mid-range interception and short-range combat. However, the disadvantage of this method is that the size and weight of the infrared guided air-to-air missile used in the short-range combat is basically the same as that of the radar guided air-to-air missile used in the middle range interception, which is much larger than the conventional short-range combat air-to-air missile.
Therefore, although the degree of generalization has been improved, the number of missiles actually mounted on the fighters has been reduced. Moreover, in combat air combat, the fighter planes of both sides are relatively close, basically in the visual range. In this case, it is a waste that the infrared guidance type of air-to-air missiles, such as French Mika and Soviet r-27, still uses the same missile body and engine as the medium range air-to-air missile.
Of course, there are also some foreign military enterprises that go the opposite way and make articles on short-range combat air-to-air missiles. For example, Rafael, Israel, based on the strange snake - 4 short-range combat air-to-air missile, replaced its infrared seeker with a radar seeker, and developed the Derby medium range air-to-air missile. Compared with France Mika and Russia r-27, Rafael Israels shortcomings in this approach are just the opposite - subject to the strange snake - 4 short-range combat air-to-air missile body design, Derby medium range interceptor air-to-air missile range is insufficient, in the subsequent improvement, we have to replace the dual pulse rocket engine or even booster to increase the range.
In fact, until the fifth generation of air-to-air missiles come to the surface, the real integration of combat air-to-air missiles and interceptor air-to-air missiles is possible. On the one hand, most of the fifth generation air-to-air missiles adopt the compound guidance system of active radar guidance and infrared thermal imaging guidance, which completely breaks the boundary between air-to-air missile and air-to-air missile divided by radar and infrared guidance. In particular, the ability of attacking stealth fighter is greatly enhanced when the medium and long-range air-to-air missile integrates the infrared thermal imaging guidance mode.
On the other hand, the original attached aim-9 short-range combat air-to-air missile can be replaced by the more advanced fifth generation air-to-air missile for the fifth generation fighter with side capsule design similar to the F-22A. In addition, according to the design of F-22As fifth generation fighters side bomb chamber, it is possible to mount two fifth generation air-to-air missiles after some modifications because the size of the fifth generation air-to-air missiles is smaller than that of aim-9s short-range combat air-to-air missiles.
In this way, the F-22A fifth generation fighters side bomb cabin plus belly bomb cabin can hold up to 16 Fifth Generation air-to-air missiles, almost reaching the level of the so-called missile truck such as the F-15E. Whether it is used for self-defense or offensive air combat, this amazing payload will make the fifth generation F-22A of the U.S. air force more flexible. Just as many women often say that there will never be a single garment missing from their wardrobe, fighter pilots will never be bothered by too many bombs on their planes. Attaching an additional air-to-air missile often gives fighter pilots a sense of security and confidence.
New operation mode
F-35 mount CUDA air-to-air missile
The reason why the fifth generation air-to-air missile can form performance generation difference with the fourth generation air-to-air missile in service is also due to its new operation mode.
First of all, the fifth generation air-to-air missile began to try to destroy enemy aircraft in the form of kinetic energy impact, such as CUDA air-to-air missile developed by Loma company of the United States. The advantage of this design is that it can save more space for seeker and fuel tank without setting fuze and warhead. This method is very meaningful when the overall size and internal volume of the projectile are quite limited. Of course, direct impact mode also puts forward higher requirements for seeker and flight control system.
In my opinion, the most effective way to destroy the enemy aircraft is to break through the key parts of the body, such as cockpit and engine compartment. There are pilots in the cockpit who operate the fighter directly. Killing them can make the fighter lose control and crash. In the same way, breaking through the engine compartment and completely destroying the engine can also make the fighters fire or even explode. In order to achieve this goal, CUDA air-to-air missile adopts a lateral thrust control system similar to patriot 3 antimissile missile, that is, a large number of small lateral thrust rocket engines are installed in the front of the missile body. In this way, its course control is much more direct and faster than the tail rudder, gas rudder and vector control system.
CUDA air-to-air missile.
Secondly, on the premise that the size and volume of the fifth generation of air-to-air missile is far smaller than that of the fourth generation of medium and long-range air-to-air missile, a breakthrough in ballistic design and engine is needed to achieve the same or even longer range. For example, the overall layout design of Peregrine Falcon air-to-air missile developed by Raytheon company refers to the companys main product - standard - 6 long-range ship to air missile, so its flight control mechanism and ballistic design should also be used for reference.
In this way, the air-to-air missile of Peregrine Falcon is likely to adopt the high throw ballistic mode. In other words, after launching from the carrier aircraft, the Falcon first climbs to a higher altitude at a large angle, and then completes the middle flight in the jump glide mode. At the end of the trajectory, the seeker of the missile finds and locks the target by the instruction of data link and other platforms, then it flies to the target in the form of large angle dive and destroys it. In this process, with the help of double pulse rocket engine, the air-to-air missile of Peregrine Falcon will be able to realize the perfect combination between small projectile and large range.