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Collimatrix

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  1. Trade-offs in WWII Fighter Design

    This is a good question, and I don't know the definitive answer offhand. If I had to guess though, cooling was the biggest problem. The HE-177 did not have a push-pull configuration, but it did have four engines with only two engine nacelles. Each nacelle had two engines in tandem, driving a common driveshaft and propeller. Cooling was evidently a problem, as the HE-177 had, according to Bill Gunston, probably the greatest propensity of any aircraft ever mass produced for catching on fire during level, cruising flight. Another issue is maintenance. WWII high-output piston engines were very maintenance intensive, and stuffing the engines together in common nacelles would have made service trickier.
  2. Trade-offs in WWII Fighter Design

    But if you try sometimes... Fighter aircraft became much better during the Second World War. But, apart from the development of engines, it was not a straightforward matter of monotonous improvement. Aircraft are a series of compromises. Improving one aspect of performance almost always compromises others. So, for aircraft designers in World War Two, the question was not so much "what will we do to make this aircraft better?" but "what are we willing to sacrifice?" To explain why, let's look at the forces acting on an aircraft: Lift Lift is the force that keeps the aircraft from becoming one with the Earth. It is generally considered a good thing. The lift equation is L=0.5CLRV2A where L is lift, CL is lift coefficient (which is a measure of the effectiveness of the wing based on its shape and other factors), R is air density, V is airspeed and A is the area of the wing. Airspeed is very important to an aircraft's ability to make lift, since the force of lift grows with the square of airspeed and in linear relation to all other factors. This means that aircraft will have trouble producing adequate lift during takeoff and landing, since that's when they slow down the most. Altitude is also a significant factor to an aircraft's ability to make lift. The density of air decreases at an approximately linear rate with altitude above sea level: Finally, wings work better the bigger they are. Wing area directly relates to lift production, provided that wing shape is kept constant. While coefficient of lift CL contains many complex factors, one important and relatively simple factor is the angle of attack, also called AOA or alpha. The more tilted an airfoil is relative to the airflow, the more lift it will generate. The lift coefficient (and thus lift force, all other factors remaining equal) increases more or less linearly until the airfoil stalls: Essentially what's going on is that the greater the AOA, the more the wing "bends" the air around the wing. But the airflow can only become so bent before it detaches. Once the wing is stalled it doesn't stop producing lift entirely, but it does create substantially less lift than it was just before it stalled. Drag Drag is the force acting against the movement of any object travelling through a fluid. Since it slows aircraft down and makes them waste fuel in overcoming it, drag is a total buzzkill and is generally considered a bad thing. The drag equation is D=0.5CDRV2A where D is drag, CD is drag coefficient (which is a measure of how "draggy" a given aircraft is), R is air density, V is airspeed and A is the frontal area of the aircraft. This equation is obviously very similar to the lift equation, and this is where designers hit the first big snag. Lift is good, but drag is bad, but because the factors that cause these forces are so similar, most measures that will increase lift will also increase drag. Most measures that reduce drag will also reduce lift. Generally speaking, wing loading (the amount of wing area relative to the plane's weight) increased with newer aircraft models. The stall speed (the slowest possible speed at which an aircraft can fly without stalling) also increased. The massive increases in engine power alone were not sufficient to provide the increases in speed that designers wanted. They had to deliberately sacrifice lift production in order to minimize drag. World War Two saw the introduction of laminar-flow wings. These were wings that had a cross-section (or airfoil) that generated less turbulent airflow than previous airfoil designs. However, they also generated much less lift. Watch a B-17 (which does not have a laminar-flow wing) and a B-24 (which does) take off. The B-24 eats up a lot more runway before its nose pulls up. There are many causes of aerodynamic drag, but lift on a WWII fighter aircraft can be broken down into two major categories. There is induced drag, which is caused by wingtip vortices and is a byproduct of lift production, and parasitic drag which is everything else. Induced drag is interesting in that it actually decreases with airspeed. So for takeoff and landing it is a major consideration, but for cruising flight it is less important. However, induced drag is also significant during combat maneuvering. Wing with a higher aspect ratio, that is, the ratio of the wingspan to the wing chord (which is the distance from the leading edge to the trailing edge of the wing) produce less induced drag. So, for the purposes of producing good cruise efficiency, reducing induced drag was not a major consideration. For producing the best maneuvering fighter, reducing induced drag was significant. Weight Weight is the force counteracting lift. The more weight an aircraft has, the more lift it needs to produce. The more lift it needs to produce, the larger the wings need to be and the more drag they create. The more weight an aircraft has, the less it can carry. The more weight an aircraft has, the more sluggishly it accelerates. In general, weight is a bad thing for aircraft. But for fighters in WWII, weight wasn't entirely a bad thing. The more weight an aircraft has relative to its drag, the faster it can dive. Diving away to escape enemies if a fight was not going well was a useful tactic. The P-47, which was extremely heavy, but comparatively well streamlined, could easily out-dive the FW-190A and Bf-109G/K. In general though, designers tried every possible trick to reduce aircraft weight. Early in the war, stressed-skin monocoque designs began to take over from the fabric-covered, built-up tube designs. The old-style construction of the Hawker Hurricane. It's a shit plane. Stressed-skin construction of the Spitfire, with a much better strength to weight ratio. But as the war dragged on, designers tried even more creative ways to reduce weight. This went so far as reducing the weight of the rivets holding the aircraft together, stripping the aircraft of any unnecessary paint, and even removing or downgrading some of the guns. An RAF Brewster Buffalo in the Pacific theater. The British downgraded the .50 caliber machine guns to .303 weapons in order to reduce weight. In some cases, however, older construction techniques were used at the war's end due to materials shortages or for cost reasons. The German TA-152, for instance, used a large amount of wooden construction with steel reinforcement in the rear fuselage and tail in order to conserve aluminum. This was not as light or as strong as aluminum, but beggars can't be choosers. Extensive use of (now rotten) wood in the rear fuselage of the TA-152 Generally speaking, aircraft get heavier with each variant. The Bf-109C of the late 1930s weighed 1,600 kg, but the Bf-109G of the second half of WWII had ballooned to over 2,200 kg. One notable exception was the Soviet YAK-3: The YAK-3, which was originally designated YAK-1M, was a demonstration of what designers could accomplish if they had the discipline to keep aircraft weight as low as possible. Originally, it had been intended that The YAK-1 (which had somewhat mediocre performance vs. German fighters) would be improved by installing a new engine with more power. But all of the new and more powerful engines proved to be troublesome and unreliable. Without any immediate prospect of more engine power, the Yakovlev engineers instead improved performance by reducing weight. The YAK-3 ended up weighing nearly 300 kg less than the YAK-1, and the difference in performance was startling. At low altitude the YAK-3 had a tighter turn radius than anything the Luftwaffe had. Thrust Thrust is the force propelling the aircraft forwards. It is generally considered a good thing. Thrust was one area where engineers could and did make improvements with very few other compromises. The art of high-output piston engine design was refined during WWII to a precise science, only to be immediately rendered obsolete by the development of jet engines. Piston engined aircraft convert engine horsepower into thrust airflow via a propeller. Thrust was increased during WWII primarily by making the engines more powerful, although there were also some improvements in propeller design and efficiency. A tertiary source of thrust was the addition of jet thrust from the exhaust of the piston engines and from Merideth Effect radiators. The power output of WWII fighter engines was improved in two ways; first by making the engines larger, and second by making the engines more powerful relative to their weight. Neither process was particularly straightforward or easy, but nonetheless drastic improvements were made from the war's beginning to the war's end. The Pratt and Whitney Twin Wasp R-1830-1 of the late 1930s could manage about 750-800 horsepower. By mid-war, the R-1830-43 was putting out 1200 horsepower out of the same displacement. Careful engineering, gradual improvements, and the use of fuel with a higher and more consistent octane level allowed for this kind of improvement. The R-1830 Twin Wasp However, there's no replacement for displacement. By the beginning of 1943, Japanese aircraft were being massacred with mechanical regularity by a new US Navy fighter, the F6F Hellcat, which was powered by a brand new Pratt and Whitney engine, the R-2800 Double Wasp. The one true piston engine As you can see from the cross-section above, the R-2800 has two banks of cylinders. This is significant to fighter performance because even though it had 53% more engine displacement than the Twin Wasp (For US engines, the numerical designation indicated engine displacement in square inches), the Double Wasp had only about 21% more frontal area. This meant that a fighter with the R-2800 was enjoying an increase in power that was not proportionate with the increase in drag. Early R-2800-1 models could produce 1800 horsepower, but by war's end the best models could make 2100 horsepower. That meant a 45% increase in horsepower relative to the frontal area of the engine. Power to weight ratios for the latest model R-1830 and R-2800 were similar, while power to displacement improved by about 14%. By war's end Pratt and Whitney had the monstrous R-4360 in production: This gigantic engine had four rows of radially-arranged pistons. Compared to the R-2800 it produced about 50% more power for less than 10% more frontal area. Again, power to weight and power to displacement showed more modest improvements. The greatest gains were from increasing thrust with very little increase in drag. All of this was very hard for the engineers, who had to figure out how to make crankshafts and reduction gear that could handle that much power without breaking, and also how to get enough cooling air through a giant stack of cylinders. Attempts at boosting the thrust of fighters with auxiliary power sources like rockets and ramjets were tried, but were not successful. Yes, that is a biplane with retractable landing gear and auxiliary ramjets under the wings. Cocaine is a hell of a drug. A secondary source of improvement in thrust came from the development of better propellers. Most of the improvement came just before WWII broke out, and by the time the war broke out, most aircraft had constant-speed propellers. For optimal performance, the angle of attack of the propeller blades must be matched to the ratio of the forward speed of the aircraft to the circular velocity of the propeller tips. To cope with the changing requirements, constant speed or variable pitch propellers were invented that could adjust the angle of attack of the propeller blades relative to the hub. There was also improvement in using exhaust from the engine and the waste heat from the engine to increase thrust. Fairly early on, designers learned that the enormous amount of exhaust produced by the engine could be directed backwards to generate thrust. Exhaust stacks were designed to work as nozzles to harvest this small source of additional thrust: The exhaust stacks of the Merlin engine in a Spitfire act like jet nozzles A few aircraft also used the waste heat being rejected by the radiator to produce a small amount of additional thrust. The Meredith Effect radiator on the P-51 is the best-known example: Excess heat from the engine was radiated into the moving airstream that flowed through the radiator. The heat would expand the air, and the radiator was designed to use this expansion and turn it into acceleration. In essence, the radiator of the P-51 worked like a very weak ramjet. By the most optimistic projections the additional thrust from the radiator would cancel out the drag of the radiator at maximum velocity. So, it may not have provided net thrust, but it did still provide thrust, and every bit of thrust mattered. For the most part, achieving specific design objectives in WWII fighters was a function of minimizing weight, maximizing lift, minimizing drag and maximizing thrust. But doing this in a satisfactory way usually meant emphasizing certain performance goals at the expense of others. Top Speed, Dive Speed and Acceleration During the 1920s and 1930s, the lack of any serious air to air combat allowed a number of crank theories on fighter design to develop and flourish. These included the turreted fighter: The heavy fighter: And fighters that placed far too much emphasis on turn rate at the expense of everything else: But it quickly became clear, from combat in the Spanish Civil War, China, and early WWII, that going fast was where it was at. In a fight between an aircraft that was fast and an aircraft that was maneuverable, the maneuverable aircraft could twist and pirouette in order to force the situation to their advantage, while the fast aircraft could just GTFO the second that the situation started to sour. In fact, this situation would prevail until the early jet age when the massive increase in drag from supersonic flight made going faster difficult, and the development of heat-seeking missiles made it dangerous to run from a fight with jet nozzles pointed towards the enemy. The top speed of an aircraft is the speed at which drag and thrust balance each other out, and the aircraft stops accelerating. Maximizing top speed means minimizing drag and maximizing thrust. The heavy fighters had a major, inherent disadvantage in terms of top speed. This is because twin engined prop fighters have three big lumps contributing to frontal area; two engines and the fuselage. A single engine fighter only has the engine, with the rest of the fuselage tucked neatly behind it. The turret fighter isn't as bad; the turret contributes some additional drag, but not as much as the twin-engine design does. It does, however, add quite a bit of weight, which cripples acceleration even if it has a smaller effect on top speed. Early-war Japanese and Italian fighters were designed with dogfight performance above all other considerations, which meant that they had large wings to generate large turning forces, and often had open cockpits for the best possible visibility. Both of these features added drag, and left these aircraft too slow to compete against aircraft that sacrificed some maneuverability for pure speed. Drag force rises roughly as a square function of airspeed (throw this formula out the window when you reach speeds near the speed of sound). Power is equal to force times distance over time, or force times velocity. So, power consumed by drag will be equal to drag coefficient times frontal area times airspeed squared times airspeed. So, the power required for a given maximum airspeed will be a roughly cubic function. And that is assuming that the efficiency of the propeller remains constant! Acceleration is (thrust-drag)/weight. It is possible to have an aircraft that has a high maximum speed, but quite poor acceleration and vice versa. Indeed, the A6M5 zero had a somewhat better power to weight ratio than the F6F5 Hellcat, but a considerably lower top speed. In a drag race the A6M5 would initially pull ahead, but it would be gradually overtaken by the Hellcat, which would eventually get to speeds that the zero simply could not match. Maximum dive speed is also a function of drag and thrust, but it's a bit different because the weight of the aircraft times the sine of the dive angle also counts towards thrust. In general this meant that large fighters dove better. Drag scales with the frontal area, which is a square function of size. Weight scales with volume (assuming constant density), which is a cubic function of size. Big American fighters like the P-47 and F4U dove much faster than their Axis opponents, and could pick up speed that their opponents could not hope to match in a dive. A number of US fighters dove so quickly that they had problems with localized supersonic airflow. Supersonic airflow was very poorly understood at the time, and many pilots died before somewhat improvisational solutions like dive brakes were added. Ranking US ace Richard Bong takes a look at the dive brakes of a P-38 Acceleration, top speed and dive speed are all improved by reducing drag, so every conceivable trick for reducing parasitic drag was tried. The Lockheed P-38 used flush rivets on most surfaces as well as extensive butt welds to produce the smoothest possible flight surfaces. This did reduce drag, but it also contributed to the great cost of the P-38. The Bf 109 was experimentally flown with a V-tail to reduce drag. V-tails have lower interference drag than conventional tails, but the modification was found to compromise handling during takeoff and landing too much and was not deemed worth the small amount of additional speed. The YAK-3 was coated with a layer of hard wax to smooth out the wooden surface and reduce drag. This simple improvement actually increased top speed by a small, but measurable amount! In addition, the largely wooden structure of the aircraft had few rivets, which meant even less drag. The Donier DO-335 was a novel approach to solving the problem of drag in twin-engine fighters. The two engines were placed at the front and rear of the aircraft, driving a pusher and a tractor propeller. This unconventional configuration led to some interesting problems, and the war ended before these could be solved. The J2M Raiden had a long engine cowling that extended several feet forward in front of the engine. This tapered engine cowling housed an engine-driven fan for cooling air as well as a long extension shaft of the engine to drive the propeller. This did reduce drag, but at the expense of lengthening the nose and so reducing pilot visibility, and also moving the center of gravity rearward relative to the center of lift. Designers were already stuffing the most powerful engines coming out of factories into aircraft, provided that they were reasonably reliable (and sometimes not even then). After that, the most expedient solution to improve speed was to sacrifice lift to reduce drag and make the wings smaller. The reduction in agility at low speeds was generally worth it, and at higher speeds relatively small wings could produce satisfactory maneuverability since lift is a square function of velocity. Alternatively, so-called laminar flow airfoils (they weren't actually laminar flow) were substituted, which produced less drag but also less lift. The Bell P-63 had very similar aerodynamics to the P-39 and nearly the same engine, but was some 80 KPH faster thanks to the new laminar flow airfoils. However, the landing speed also increased by about 40 KPH, largely sacrificing the benevolent landing characteristics that P-39 pilots loved. The biggest problem with reducing the lift of the wings to increase speed was that it made takeoff and landing difficult. Aircraft with less lift need to get to higher speeds to generate enough lift to take off, and need to land at higher speeds as well. As the war progressed, fighter aircraft generally became trickier to fly, and the butcher's bill of pilots lost in accidents and training was enormous. Turn Rate Sometimes things didn't go as planned. A fighter might be ambushed, or an ambush could go wrong, and the fighter would need to turn, turn, turn. It might need to turn to get into a position to attack, or it might need to turn to evade an attack. Aircraft in combat turn with their wings, not their rudders. This is because the wings are way, way bigger, and therefore much more effective at turning the aircraft. The rudder is just there to make the nose do what the pilot wants it to. The pilot rolls the aircraft until it's oriented correctly, and then begins the turn by pulling the nose up. Pulling the nose up increases the angle of attack, which increases the lift produced by the wings. This produces centripetal force which pulls the plane into the turn. Since WWII aircraft don't have the benefit of computer-run fly-by-wire flight control systems, the pilot would also make small corrections with rudder and ailerons during the turn. But, as we saw above, making more lift means making more drag. Therefore, when aircraft turn they tend to slow down unless the pilot guns the throttle. Long after WWII, Col. John Boyd (PBUH) codified the relationship between drag, thrust, lift and weight as it relates to aircraft turning performance into an elegant mathematical model called energy-maneuverability theory, which also allowed for charts that depict these relationships. Normally, I would gush about how wonderful E-M theory is, but as it turns out there's an actual aerospace engineer named John Golan who has already written a much better explanation than I would likely manage, so I'll just link that. And steal his diagram: E-M charts are often called "doghouse plots" because of the shape they trace out. An E-M chart specifies the turning maneuverability of a given aircraft with a given amount of fuel and weapons at a particular altitude. Turn rate is on the Y axis and airspeed is on the X axis. The aircraft is capable of flying in any condition within the dotted line, although not necessarily continuously. The aircraft is capable of flying continuously anywhere within the dotted line and under the solid line until it runs out of fuel. The aircraft cannot fly to the left of the doghouse because it cannot produce enough lift at such a slow speed to stay in the air. Eventually it will run out of sky and hit the ground. The curved, right-side "roof" of the doghouse is actually a continuous quadratic curve that represents centrifugal force. The aircraft cannot fly outside of this curve or it or the pilot will break from G forces. Finally, the rightmost, vertical side of the doghouse is the maximum speed that the aircraft can fly at; either it doesn't have the thrust to fly faster, or something breaks if the pilot should try. The peak of the "roof" of the doghouse represents the aircraft's ideal airspeed for maximum turn rate. This is usually called the "corner velocity" of the aircraft. So, let's look at some actual (ish) EM charts: Now, these are taken from a flight simulator, but they're accurate enough to illustrate the point. They're also a little busier than the example above, but still easy enough to understand. The gray plot overlaid on the chart consists of G-force (the curves) and turn radius (the straight lines radiating from the graph origin). The green doghouse shows the aircraft's performance with flaps. The red curve shows the maximum sustained turn rate. You may notice that the red line terminates on the X axis at a surprisingly low top speed; that's because these charts were made for a very low altitude confrontation, and their maximum level top could only be achieved at higher altitudes. These aircraft could fly faster than the limits of the red line show, but only if they picked up extra speed from a dive. These charts could also be overlaid on each other for comparison, but in this case that would be like a graphic designer vomiting all over the screen, or a Studio Killers music video. From these charts, we can conclude that at low altitude the P-51D enjoys many advantages over the Bf 109G-6. It has a higher top speed at this altitude, 350-something vs 320-something MPH. However, the P-51 has a lower corner speed. In general, the P-51's flight envelope at this altitude is just bigger. But that doesn't mean that the Bf 109 doesn't have a few tricks. As you can see, it enjoys a better sustained turn rate from about 175 to 325 MPH. Between those speed bands, the 109 will be able to hold on to its energy better than the pony provided it uses only moderate turns. During turning flight, our old problem induced drag comes back to haunt fighter designers. The induced drag equation is Cdi = (Cl^2) / (pi * AR * e). Where Cdi is the induced drag coefficient, Cl is the lift coefficient, pi is the irrational constant pi, AR is aspect ratio, or wingspan squared divided by wing area, and e is not the irrational constant e but an efficiency factor. There are a few things of interest here. For starters, induced drag increases with the square of the lift coefficient. Lift coefficient increases more or less linearly (see above) with angle of attack. There are various tricks for increasing wing lift nonlinearly, as well as various tricks for generating lift with surfaces other than the wings, but in WWII, designers really didn't use these much. So, for all intents and purposes, the induced drag coefficient will increase with the square of angle of attack, and for a given airspeed, induced drag will increase with the square of the number of Gs the aircraft is pulling. Since this is a square function, it can outrun other, linear functions easily, so minimizing the effect of induced drag is a major consideration in improving the sustained turn performance of a fighter. To maximize turn rate in a fighter, designers needed to make the fighter as light as possible, make the engine as powerful as possible, make the wings have as much area as possible, make the wings as long and skinny as possible, and to use the most efficient possible wing shape. You probably noticed that two of these requirements, make the plane as light as possible and make the wings as large as possible, directly contradict the requirements of good dive performance. There is simply no way to reconcile them; the designers either needed to choose one, the other, or come to an intermediate compromise. There was no way to have both great turning performance and great diving performance. Since the designers could generally be assumed to have reduced weight to the maximum possible extent and put the most powerful engine available into the aircraft, that left the design of the wings. The larger the wings, the more lift they generate at a given angle of attack. The lower the angle of attack, the less induced drag. The bigger wings would add more drag in level flight and reduce top speed, but they would actually reduce drag during maneuvering flight and improve sustained turn rate. A rough estimate of the turning performance of the aircraft can be made by dividing the weight of the aircraft over its wing area. This is called wing loading, and people who ought to know better put far too much emphasis on it. If you have E-M charts, you don't need wing loading. However, E-M charts require quite a bit of aerodynamic data to calculate, while wing loading is much simpler. Giving the wings a higher aspect ratio would also improve turn performance, but the designers hands were somewhat tied in this respect. The wings usually stored the landing gear and often the armament of the fighter. In addition the wings generated the lift, and making the wings too long and skinny would make them too structurally flimsy to support the aircraft in maneuvering flight. That is, unless they were extensively reinforced, which would add weight and completely defeat the purpose. So, designers were practically limited in how much they could vary the aspect ratio of fighter wings. The wing planform has significant effect on the efficiency factor e. The ideal shape to reduce induced drag is the "elliptical" (actually two half ellipses) wing shape used on the Supermarine spitfire. This wing shape was, however, difficult to manufacture. By the end of the war, engineers had come up with several wing planforms that were nearly as efficient as the elliptical wing, but were much easier to manufacture. Another way to reduce induced drag is to slightly twist the wings of the aircraft so that the wing tips point down. This is called washout. The main purpose of washout was to improve the responsiveness of the ailerons during hard maneuvering, but it could give small efficiency improvements as well. Washout obviously complicates the manufacture of the wing, and thus it wasn't that common in WWII, although the TA-152 notably did have three degrees of tip washout. The Bf 109 had leading edge slats that would deploy automatically at high angles of attack. Again, the main intent of these devices was to improve the control of the aircraft during takeoff and landing and hard maneuvering, but they did slightly improve the maximum angle of attack the wing could be flown at, and therefore the maximum instantaneous turn rate of the aircraft. The downside of the slats was that they weakened the wing structure and precluded the placement of guns inside the wing. leading edge slats of a Bf 109 in the extended position One way to attempt to reconcile the conflicting requirements of high speed and good turning capability was the "butterfly" flaps seen on Japanese Nakajima fighters. This model of a Ki-43 shows the location of the butterfly flaps; on the underside of the wings, near the roots These flaps would extend during combat, in the case of later Nakajima fighters, automatically, to increase wing area and lift. During level and high speed flight they would retract to reduce drag. Again, this would mainly improve handling on the left hand side of the doghouse, and would improve instantaneous turn rate but do very little for sustained turn rate. In general, turn performance was sacrificed in WWII for more speed, as the two were difficult to reconcile. There were a small number of tricks known to engineers at the time that could improve instantaneous turn rate on fast aircraft with high wing loading, but these tricks were inadequate to the task of designing an aircraft that was very fast and also very maneuverable. Designers tended to settle for as fast as possible while still possessing decent turning performance. Climb Rate Climb rate was most important for interceptor aircraft tasked with quickly getting to the level of intruding enemy aircraft. When an aircraft climbs it gains potential energy, which means it needs spare available power. The specific excess power of an aircraft is equal to V/W(T-D) where V is airspeed, W is weight, T is thrust and D is drag. Note that lift isn't anywhere in this equation! Provided that the plane has adequate lift to stay in the air and its wings are reasonably efficient at generating lift so that the D term doesn't get too high, a plane with stubby wings can be quite the climber! The Mitsubishi J2M Raiden is an excellent example of what a fighter optimized for climb rate looked like. A captured J2M in the US during testing The J2M had a very aerodynamically clean design, somewhat at the expense of pilot visibility and decidedly at the expense of turn rate. The airframe was comparatively light, somewhat at the expense of firepower and at great expense to fuel capacity. Surprisingly for a Japanese aircraft, there was some pilot armor. The engine was, naturally, the most powerful available at the time. The wings, in addition to being somewhat small by Japanese standards, had laminar-flow airfoils that sacrificed maximum lift for lower drag. The end result was an aircraft that was the polar opposite of the comparatively slow, long-ranged and agile A6M zero-sen fighters that IJN pilots were used to! But it certainly worked. The J2M was one of the fastest-climbing piston engine aircraft of the war, comparable to the F8F Bearcat. The design requirements for climb rate were practically the same as the design requirements for acceleration, and could generally be reconciled with the design requirements for dive performance and top speed. The design requirements for turn rate were very difficult to reconcile with the design requirements for climb rate. Roll Rate In maneuvering combat aircraft roll to the desired orientation and then pitch. The ability to roll quickly allows the fighter to transition between turns faster, giving it an edge in maneuvering combat. Aircraft roll with their ailerons by making one wing generate more lift while the other wing generates less lift. The physics from there are the same for any other rotating object. Rolling acceleration is a function of the amount of torque that the ailerons can provide divided by the moment of inertia of the aircraft about the roll axis. So, to improve roll rate, a fighter needs the lowest possible moment of inertia and the highest possible torque from its ailerons. The FW-190A was the fighter best optimized for roll rate. Kurt Tank's design team did everything right when it came to maximizing roll rate. The FW-190 could out-roll nearly every other piston fighter The FW-190 has the majority of its mass near the center of the aircraft. The fuel is all stored in the fuselage and the guns are located either above the engine or in the roots of the wings. Later versions added more guns, but these were placed just outside of the propeller arc. Twin engined fighters suffered badly in roll rate in part because the engines had to be placed far from the centerline of the aircraft. Fighters with armament far out in the wings also suffered. The ailerons were very large relative to the size of the wing. This meant that they could generate a lot of torque. Normally, large ailerons were a problem for pilots to deflect. Most World War Two fighters did not have any hydraulic assistance; controls needed to be deflected with muscle power alone, and large controls could encounter too much wind resistance for the pilots to muscle through at high speed. The FW-190 overcame this in two ways. The first was that, compared to the Bf 109, the cockpit was decently roomy. Not as roomy as a P-47, of course, but still a vast improvement. Cockpit space in World War Two fighters wasn't just a matter of comfort. The pilots needed elbow room in the cockpit in order to wrestle with the control stick. The FW-190 also used controls that were actuated by solid rods rather than by cables. This meant that there was less give in the system, since cables aren't completely rigid. Additionally, the FW-190 used Frise ailerons, which have a protruding tip that bites into the wind and reduces the necessary control forces: Several US Navy fighters, like later models of F6F and F4U used spring-loaded aileron tabs, which accomplished something similar by different means: In these designs a spring would assist in pulling the aileron one way, and a small tab on the aileron the opposite way in order to aerodynamically move the aileron. This helped reduce the force necessary to move the ailerons at high speeds. Another, somewhat less obvious requirement for good roll rate in fighters was that the wings be as rigid as possible. At high speeds, the force of the ailerons deflecting would tend to twist the wings of the aircraft in the opposite direction. Essentially, the ailerons began to act like servo tabs. This meant that the roll rate would begin to suffer at high speeds, and at very high speeds the aircraft might actually roll in the opposite direction of the pilot's input. The FW-190s wings were extremely rigid. Wing rigidity is a function of aspect ratio and construction. The FW-190 had wings that had a fairly low aspect ratio, and were somewhat overbuilt. Additionally, the wings were built as a single piece, which was a very strong and robust approach. This had the downside that damaged wings had to be replaced as a unit, however. Some spitfires were modified by changing the wings from the original elliptical shape to a "clipped" planform that ended abruptly at a somewhat shorter span. This sacrificed some turning performance, but it made the wings much stiffer and therefore improved roll rate. Finally, most aircraft at the beginning of the war had fabric-skinned ailerons, including many that had metal-skinned wings. Fabric-skinned ailerons were cheaper and less prone to vibration problems than metal ones, but at high speed the shellacked surface of the fabric just wasn't air-tight enough, and a significant amount of airflow would begin going into and through the aileron. This degraded their effectiveness greatly, and the substitution of metal surfaces helped greatly. Stability and Safety World War Two fighters were a handful. The pressures of war meant that planes were often rushed into service without thorough testing, and there were often nasty surprises lurking in unexplored corners of the flight envelope. This is the P-51H. Even though the P-51D had been in mass production for years, it still had some lingering stability issues. The P-51H solved these by enlarging the tail. Performance was improved by a comprehensive program of drag reduction and weight reduction through the use of thinner aluminum skin. The Bf 109 had a poor safety record in large part because of the narrow landing gear. This design kept the mass well centralized, but it made landing far too difficult for inexpert pilots. The ammunition for the massive 37mm cannon in the P-39 and P-63 was located in the nose, and located far forward enough that depleting the ammunition significantly affected the aircraft's stability. Once the ammunition was expended, it was much more likely that the aircraft could enter dangerous spins. The cockpit of the FW-190, while roomier than the Bf 109, had terrible forward visibility. The pilot could see to the sides and rear well enough, but a combination of a relatively wide radial engine and a hump on top of the engine cowling to house the synchronized machine guns meant that the pilot could see very little. This could be dangerous while taxiing on the ground.
  3. Syrian conflict.

    More rumors that the Chinese have deployed forces to Syria. However, this has been reported before, and the Chinese have maintained that it is fake news. Makes you shake your head and laugh about this headline though.
  4. Alright, we've got documents threads in aerospace and tanks, we need some for small arms now too. Small arms technology lags other fields by decades, by here at Sturgeon's House, it only lags by months! General Design Theory Treatises: First up is a link to George M Chinn's The Machine Gun. This is the premier English-language book on automatic weapon design theory. Also, because it was a US Government publication, it is legally available for free. The book is mainly focused on the design of autocannons, but the theory is applicable to smaller systems as well. If you read this book and understand it, you are ahead of 90% of the people in the industry. Next is this US Army document on small arms design hosted at Forgotten Weapons. The theoretical information in this is largely taken from Chinn, but it adds a lot of notes from experience on what does and does not work. It also has an excellent quantitative discussion of recoil, and some notes on various concepts the US Army was playing with at the time. More Specific Documents: Extractor Lift in the AR-15 series. This interesting series of tests disproves the rationale behind "improved" "lobstertail" AR-15 extractors. In addition, it shows just how much residual blowback pressure there is in the M4 (it's more than you'd think). Why Telescoped Ammunition Sucks. It really sucks. Jim Schatz on caseless ammunition. Very interesting read from a guy who was there when it happened.
  5. He'll just bully the Republican Party into giving him the nomination, regardless of any other facts or people in his way. You know, exactly what he did in 2016. And I'll probably laugh, just like I did back then.
  6. Bash the F-35 thred.

    I know that the early tranches of Eurofighters were basically pure air to air machines, but because a lot of the strike-role avionics weren't ready yet. What's wrong with the current tranches in the A2G role? The Tornado is well-designed for low altitude, high speed flight because it has very high wing loading. One of the major concerns when flying at low altitude are unpredictable gusts of wind that shake the aircraft and crew. By simply having less wing area relative to its mass, the Tornado was made a lot harder to shake. You can see a similar approach in a lot of other low-altitude strike aircraft, like the F-104G, F-105 and TSR.2. But these days there are supposed to be computer-controlled active gust suppression systems built into the flight control software. I'm not sure how well this works relative to having high wing loading. That said, there is no reason to think that the F-35 would be any worse at low altitude flight than any of the eurocanards, since those all have extremely low wing loading. All of these aircraft would be relying on computer compensation for gusts. That said, I think that with the proliferation of look down shoot down radars, low altitude penetration is a lot less useful than it was in the 1970s. Target flyaway cost for the F-35A is $85 million as of a year ago. This article claims a 70 million pound price per 'phoon ten years ago. So, flyaway costs are within the margin of uncertainty to each other. Long-term costs (which end up being the far larger concern) are another matter entirely, and I have no insight into that. F-35 is supposed to have lots of tricks to keep operating costs down, but how well these work is uncertain now.
  7. So, I'm snowbound in a little motel in Rawlins, WY. It's a dinky, creaky old place with no internet, no running water, and it's built on an old Indian burial ground. Anyway, I was thinking about music. I listened to The Pierce's Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge on the way down here, end to end. Holy crap, this is a superb album. Allison and Catherine Pierce are both excellent singers with some really excellent harmonies (but not so often it gets dull). Instrumentation and melodies are varied too, but not so much it feels thrown together. And wow, the lyrics. The probity of the album's concept is immaculate. It oozes jealousy, loss, lust and toxic sexuality worthy of an opera. A taste:
  8. Oddballs

    Barn owls look quite odd without feathers: When they have their feathers on, barn owls prefer to avoid flying and instead use a variety of energy-saving devices to get around: Sometimes they ride larger owls: They like to pretend that apple blossoms are cherry blossoms and that they are at the Hanami festival, because barn owls are fucking weebs: Also, they have tridactyl feet, which is strange for an owl.
  9. Bash the F-35 thred.

    To build on what @Khand-e said... There's a recognizable life cycle to all mass movements. They start with a core of intellectuals who reach out to other intellectuals. And those people reach out, and so on. Various things, usually social upheaval, but sometimes sudden demographic changes (as in the US in the late 1960s and early 1970s) can cause these movements to become mass movements. Mass movements attract people mainly because they are trendy and fast ways to get social standing, and sometimes money and power. This process inevitably waters down the original intellectual core of the movement, and accumulates all sorts of dubious hangers-on. Pierre Sprey is one of those hangers-on. The original proponents of military reform in the US were upright and respectable men with at least a few good ideas. The subsequent disaster of the Vietnam War, however, was the upheaval necessary to turn the Military Reform movement into a mass movement. Soon it wasn't just fighter pilots, engineers and mathematicians (you know, people whose opinions would actually matter) coming up with bright ideas on how to improve the US military machine, there were all sorts of armchair experts and that most objectionable group, journalists. If you know a little about aerospace engineering (and I do... know a little), and you read Pierre Sprey's work it becomes immediately obvious that the man both has no idea what he's talking about, and that he's dishonest. A good example is his monograph from the 1980s on fighter aircraft design. He completely ignores the elegant Energy Maneuverability Theory that Boyd came up with, and instead focuses on absurdly simplified metrics for fighter maneuverability like plotting wing loading against thrust to weight ratio. The entire point of Energy Maneuverability Theory is that it uses the drag polar and acceleration of an aircraft to create a continuous curve that shows all possible specific excess power conditions in the combat maneuvering envelope. By going to single-point performance criteria Sprey was going backwards, to the very sort of limited performance metrics that Boyd had made obsolete before! He's very good at coming up with fake explanations about weapons systems that resonate with non-experts because he is himself a non-expert. In his fighter design monograph he decries the new generation of low-bypass turbofan engines then coming into service (GE F404 and P&W F100) as the playthings of "technologists." He takes particular umbrage at the use of the new mono-crystal nickel alloys used in the high pressure turbine blades themselves, on the grounds that they are expensive and difficult to produce (they are). But where he goes completely off the deep end is when he claims that the fancy alloys don't do anything, and the old engines were just as good as the new ones. Seriously, he says that, on page 151. This is fucking contrary to thermodynamics. The entire point of the high pressure ratios and turbine inlet temperatures is that they improve the efficiency and power density of the Brayton Cycle. But Sprey thinks that Pratt and Whitney and GE threw hundreds of millions developing new engines for yucks. So what evidence does he have to support this idea? That's where he gets dishonest. He cites, for instance, DACT exercises between F-15As and F-5Es where the F-15 had notably worse combat endurance, and that the F100 engine doesn't have dramatically better performance than the old J85 in the F-5E. Only he doesn't mention why. It turns out that the early F-15As had fidgety engines that weren't totally debugged. They would stall sometimes, wore out more quickly than anticipated, and the ignition on the afterburners wasn't very reliable. As a temporary expedient while Pratt and Whitney could work out permanent solutions, the engines were de-rated and lost about 20% of the thrust they were originally speced for, and in air combat exercises the pilots would frequently just leave the afterburners on at the lowest setting all the time to avoid the re-light problems. I stumbled upon this full explanation in a book by Mike Spick. How could Sprey have known about these anecdotes but omitted the explanation? I don't think he could have. He was clearly omitting facts to deliberately further his own (stupid) ideas. He's a waste of space.
  10. StuG III Thread (and also other German vehicles I guess)

    Wasn't the panther supposed to have significant labor-saving shortcuts in the design? To the point where some sources claim it actually required fewer man-hours to make than a Pz IV? I wonder if those shortcuts ended up making it more wasteful to manufacture somehow.
  11. Trade-offs in WWII Fighter Design

    The piece you're looking at is called the "spinner," and yes, it is aerodynamically important. There were various attempts to improve the streamlining of the spinner on radial engines. The most radical approach was the ducted spinner used on the FW-190 prototype: Something similar was tried on some experimental Tempests, although those had in-line engines: I don't know specifically why the spinner was so small on most R-2800s, but I suspect that it had to do with cooling. The R-2800 had some pretty formidable cooling requirements. When it was first developed it had one of the highest horsepower to cylinder count ratios of any engine in the world. It was also the first engine from P&W with machined cooling fins. Previously, it had sufficed to forge or cast the cooling fins surrounding the cylinders. On the R2800, Pratt and Whitney had to finely machine each fin so they could make them as thin and densely packed as possible, for maximum cooling surface area. Obviously, this is expensive and an enormous pain in the ass, so it gives you an idea of how hard it was to cool the monster. I think ducted spinners, like V-tails did reduce drag by a measureable amount, but introduced so many other problems (the FW-190 prototype had engine cooling issues) that the juice was not worth the squeeze.
  12. Tank Layout

    Walter dug up these diagrams, I know not where from: Very interesting, and you can see how much space the Soviet trick of turning the engine sideways saves.
  13. Tank Layout

    I am posting this here so I don't derail the ammunition thread. How exactly are tracks more efficient weight-wise? Tracks are quite heavy; usually 10% of the total mass of a tracked vehicle while the suspension for another 10% at least. Surely that's lighter than wheels in almost all cases. The advantage of tracks is lower ground pressure, and less intrusion into the hull.
  14. Syrian conflict.

    In a shocking development, it turns out that a UK nonprofit operating (among other places) in Idlibistan... helps jihadis!
  15. I've been meditating a lot lately on humans that I hate. I would say "people I hate," but once I take to hating a someone enough I de-classify them as a person. I've been focusing on hate more because I've realized that there is no point in marinating in negative emotions. What I had mistaken for righteous indignation was really jealousy. I'm not angry at the fraudulent because I hate fraud; I'm angry because they're talentless hacks and I could do a far better job. But I'm lazy, so you, my talented reader, you must do a better job, and become a more ravenous, vicious, and unstoppable leech than ever these mediocre reprobates could dream. I got the idea when I was reading the latest drivel from our favorite poly sci majors, and I realized that the authors are fundamentally parasitic con artists, and, more to the point, half-assed ones. The article is only worth reading if you want to heckle it. It has no factual content. The funniest part is probably where they're talking up the threat of firearms made on 3D printers, and then bring up the Ghost Gunner, which isn't a 3D printer. It's a fucking mill. You know, an example of that old-fashioned subtractive manufacture that's supposed to be obsolete now. This is as intellectually honest as hyping the threat of being stung to death by zebras in the streets, and pointing out that tapirs will bite your fucking arm off as evidence of the severity of the threat. I am, of course, heartened to see that these worms have doubled down on their claim that 3D printing is somehow applicable to clandestine manufacture of nuclear weapons, and are, as before, aggressively misunderstanding fundamental facts about isotope enrichment. If there's anything that these scum are good at, it's ignoring basic fucking nuclear physics. But other than that, it's not a particularly slick attempt to sew panic and profit thereby. The best possible result from this sort of scaremongering is that some useless government regulatory agency will be set up to strangle 3D printing with useless regulations. This useless agency will have some number of jobs that will be filled with poly sci majors and other unemployable refuse. Anyone employed in this hypothetical useless agency would work nine to five in a cubicle, watching whatever their favorite deviant sort of porn is, calling in sick about a third of the time, and occasionally writing internal correspondence that will be beautifully devoid of meaning. Is this sort of soul-raping mediocrity anyone's idea of a big steal? Because if getting a fake job at a fake agency to police a fake threat is your notion of making it, please enclose yourself in a running incinerator. You have some sort of pathogen that causes you to aspire to being a moderate nuisance, and that sort of plague needs to stop now. The problem with these people is that their lies are small. As we all know, big lies are better than little ones. Don't stretch the truth; snap it right the fuck off. The only thing standing between you and gigantic yachts made of cocaine is a sentimental attachment to the truth. The lord of this world will only reward you fully if you embrace him fully. Highly successful liars don't embroider the truth, they dispense with it entirely. Consummate your marriage to darkness and falsity, and receive glorious rewards. Don't say that the Eisenhower administration should have been more aggressive in defense spending and research. Say that the Soviets have more bombers and more missiles. You'll get to be president of Camelot, fuck Marilyn Monroe and will be spared the indignity of old age. Don't say that 3D printing could change the way nuclear weapons are made in the future. Claim that the Iranians and North Koreans, and hell, that the South Africans all made their nuclear weapons by using 3D printers. When asked for evidence of your nonsense, point to the South African invasion of Sudan. Say so with absolute arrogance and an unshakable air of moral superiority. If you are loud and persistent enough, and lie outrageously enough, Satan will come through. Don't shill for big coal companies by claiming that coal gasification technology will improve atmospheric conditions. That's only stretching the truth. You've got to go all the way, and just burn regular coal that you painted with Elmer's glue. Your enemies will end up under review, and you'll get millions in tax credits. Satan delivers. Praise Satan. But you have to be willing to go all the way with Satan. Satan despises spineless, cowering wretches who sin a little to get ahead but still consider themselves fundamentally decent people. Satan came through for the solar roadways bastards. Satan came through for Leroy Jenkins. Trust in Satan, and you will excel. Don't you trust Satan? Do you think that Satan is ignorant of your duplicity? You cannot serve two masters. Drink deep or taste not.
  16. I suppose you could look at as a straightforward checkmark in a box on a list of campaign promises. Thing is, Trump has a certain... comedic timing in how he does these things. Setup: Try to pass restrictions on immigration from several predominantly Muslim countries. Eventually get Supreme Court to approve these restrictions. Punchline: As soon at pundits are raving about how this is unfair and discriminatory and Muslims have a long history of integrating into the USA just fine, do something that is guaranteed to spark Muslim anger, and for reasons that the majority of Americans will not be able to empathize with.
  17. Deceive the Credulous; Become Fabulously Wealthy

    Which theory of cancer do you find more compelling? There's a whole website with more of this idiocy.
  18. Wins Above Replacement

    So, given that, what would a reasonable quantitative metric for the strategic effectiveness of generals be? Oh, and please word your explanation in such a way that someone who is largely ignorant of sabermetrics can understand it, but also in such a way that it loses no technical precision so I don't walk away with any dumb misconceptions, because if I do acquire any of those I'll blame you. Also, make your explanation so compelling that I immediately start using it myself without crediting you and even begin to think of your idea as my own as I instinctively act on the programming you put in my head. (I'm trying to train you to be a killer lobbyist)
  19. Tanks guns and ammunition.

    That is an accurate paraphrase, yes. There is some merit to the AC+ATGM configuration for a light tank. I am not quite sure what you mean by a "tandem AC," though. AC+ATGM certainly allows a lot more flexibility in vehicle design, and in particular it allows the turret to be a lot smaller since it doesn't need to handle the enormous gun breech. IMO, ATGMs from such a vehicle should be fired vertically and then thrust vector towards the target. Swingfire ATGM had this capability (or close to it) decades ago, and electronics have only gotten better and cheaper since then. Also, I think there's a case to be made for having this sort of vertically-launched ATGM be a general-issue weapon, not just a specialized item for light tanks. That would mean that an ATGM crew could get away with exposing only the spotter and guidance module (if SACLOS or beam-riding) while the ATGM tube is hidden behind cover. MBT caliber guns are attractive for anything that's expected to fight MBTs. It's a lot harder to counter APFSDS than it is to counter ATGMs. Also, gun ammunition is usually smaller for the same ballistic capability than missiles until very extreme velocities. Using a gun barrel simply as a tube to fling a rocket out of seems silly, however, unless it's a rocket-assisted, gun-fired projectile, which has some interesting potential efficiency advantages for kinetic energy penetrators. Gun ammunition will tend to be lighter or smaller for a given number of shots than rockets as a general rule though, and I think that can't be overlooked for expeditionary units, which may be in a precarious logistical situation. Gun ammunition will tend to be cheaper as well, but I don't think that's an enormous consideration for many expeditionary force scenarios. Presumably expeditionary forces are being rushed to the scene of an international political disaster in small numbers because getting a force to the scene quickly is the overriding consideration. If their ammo is expensive, it's not a big deal.
  20. Tanks guns and ammunition.

    I have been thinking about this a bit. Here are my thoughts: For the NATO 120mm, GLATGMs of any sort don't seem to make much sense if they use pure rocket propulsion. They are very space inefficient because the 120mm cartridge case is strongly bottlenecked: All of the volume inside the ammunition rack occupying the difference between the case diameter and the gun caliber is wasted when using GLATGMs. This isn't so bad with the 125mm and 105mm guns, because they are not as strongly bottlenecked as the 120mm. Really, the 120mm NATO smoothbore was designed to do one thing and do it really well, and that is fire the meanest APFSDS rounds on the battlefield so it can kill Soviet frying pan tanks dead. It's a bit less efficient at everything else, but killing Ivan's endless sea of tanks was understandably prioritized. Wasting volume is an important consideration because volume costs mass. Every cubic centimeter inside a tank has to be protected by some amount of armor, and armor costs weight. So wasting any of that space is an inefficiency that adds up surprisingly quickly. So this gun-launched guided projectile is an improvement over GLATGMs, efficiency-wise because none of the volume of the projectile is wasted by being a rocket motor. The projectile can, in principle, extend from the maximum overall length of the projectile to nearly the rear inside wall of the case head like M829A3 with all the necessary propellant packed around it. The only problem is that all the electronics and fin actuators and whatnot in the guided projectile need to be hardened to withstand acceleration inside the gun tube, which is quite a bit higher than the gentler acceleration of a rocket motor. But that still leaves the question of why you would want this in the ammo rack instead of another round of HEAT-MP or APFSDS. In my opinion, indirect fires are best left to dedicated artillery. And if the MBTs are out on the prowl without artillery or air support, someone has some explaining to do. The place where I see this sort of round being very useful is on one of those light-medium "expeditionary tanks" that are periodically popular, or even on something like a Centauro. Those sorts of vehicles are supposed to be light enough that they can be easily deployed internationally to sudden crises in lighter transport aircraft than proper MBTs require. In that sort of situation, it seems a lot more likely that the expeditionary force won't have proper artillery support, since SPGs have become just as big and almost as heavy as MBTs and will likely be left at home.
  21. So, Trump has done gone and pissed of Erdogan. Why has he done this? I think we shouldn't rule out the possibility that Trump did this just because watching Erdogan froth impotently is funny. This is a perfectly respectable reason to do anything, and I would consider this decision a sound one if that's all Trump stood to gain from his decision. But Trump tends to behave in a very transactional way. He seemed to flip-flop a lot on Twitter in how he addressed Xi Jinping when North Korea was causing trouble. It seems likely that if Trump does something nice publicly, it's part of a quid pro quo that was agreed on behind closed doors. So, what do the Israelis have that Trump wants? Information on their Saudi partners? Some sort of concessions on Syria?
  22. WoT v WT effort-thread

    On TS we concluded that they need to add a Canadian tree. Top of the tree will be one of those Canadian Leo 1s with the add-on armor, LRF and other goodies. So the game will have an amazing, super-upgraded Leo 1 that can give a T-64A a run for its money... but not on the German tree.
  23. Let's Talk Dark Souls

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