Jump to content
Sturgeon's House

Recommended Posts

I realized that we have a thread for transmissions and final drives, but not for engines.

I'll start with this post about the Japanese 10 ZF engine from the Type 74 tank.  As far as I know, not much has been published in English about this engine.  It's a rather interesting one in that it's an air-cooled 2 stroke diesel.  

10-zf-engine-image.jpg?w=650&h=824

10-zf-engine-text.jpg?w=656&h=1152

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Why buy a whole new engine that produces the same power as the old one? If you're investing that much capital then you should hope to get more margin for future weight growth; maybe they just really really want to squeeze a bigger APU in there?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The design should be able to be scaled larger than 1500hp if it was desired. But the desire is unified logistics and lower operating costs.

Edited by Ramlaen

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been looking at very similar / related concepts for quite some time for similar reasons.

 

Really with modern FEA and sim capabilities along with our new manufacturing tricks there's whole rafts of engine concepts which previously failed that would actually totally kickass now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Regarding rafts of engine concepts, a vehicle with electric motors and an empty engine bay could offer a myriad of possibilities. Just add electricity.

 

Xoon mentioned free piston linear generators. A few of these, and whatever you want to feed them in the tank, and you can go do your thing. Additionally, if the vehicle were to take a hit, as long as some FPLGs remain operational, you do too (I think).

 

A group of students from Eindhoven built a formic acid fuelled range extender trolley to hang behind an electric city bus. If the contents of the trolley could be made to fit, that would be a pretty sweet means of electricity generation. It produces far less waste heat and noise than a combustion powered generator. Unlike petroleum-based fuels formic acid isn't flammable, and when you do it right it has no carbon footprint. But it's a big if. This approach assumes a rather high efficiency compared to fossil fuel systems.

Some links:

http://www.teamfast.nl/

https://www.tue.nl/en/university/news-and-press/news/07-07-2017-how-to-power-a-bus-on-formic-acid/

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsenergylett.6b00574

 

These two articles suggest other compounds as hydrogen carriers, most interestingly carbohydrates. The latter article suggests as much as 10 MJ of H2 power from 1 kg of carbs, about twice as much as formic acid's 5.22 MJ/kg. But then again, I've seen the formic acid trolley on TV, but no sugar car so far. Maybe it's a good next step after you've bought your formic acid powered tanks. They have electric motors already.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v495/n7439/full/nature11891.html?foxtrotcallback=true

http://bioenergycenter.org/besc/publications/zhang_renewable_carbohydrate.pdf



 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, W. Murderface said:

Regarding rafts of engine concepts, a vehicle with electric motors and an empty engine bay could offer a myriad of possibilities. Just add electricity.

 

Xoon mentioned free piston linear generators. A few of these, and whatever you want to feed them in the tank, and you can go do your thing. Additionally, if the vehicle were to take a hit, as long as some FPLGs remain operational, you do too (I think).

 

A group of students from Eindhoven built a formic acid fuelled range extender trolley to hang behind an electric city bus. If the contents of the trolley could be made to fit, that would be a pretty sweet means of electricity generation. It produces far less waste heat and noise than a combustion powered generator. Unlike petroleum-based fuels formic acid isn't flammable, and when you do it right it has no carbon footprint. But it's a big if. This approach assumes a rather high efficiency compared to fossil fuel systems.

Some links:

http://www.teamfast.nl/

https://www.tue.nl/en/university/news-and-press/news/07-07-2017-how-to-power-a-bus-on-formic-acid/

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsenergylett.6b00574

 

These two articles suggest other compounds as hydrogen carriers, most interestingly carbohydrates. The latter article suggests as much as 10 MJ of H2 power from 1 kg of carbs, about twice as much as formic acid's 5.22 MJ/kg. But then again, I've seen the formic acid trolley on TV, but no sugar car so far. Maybe it's a good next step after you've bought your formic acid powered tanks. They have electric motors already.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v495/n7439/full/nature11891.html?foxtrotcallback=true

http://bioenergycenter.org/besc/publications/zhang_renewable_carbohydrate.pdf



 

 

 

Welcome to SH Bill Murderface.  

 

Building on your point, the space penalty for a tank with non collocated engine and drive sprockets is lower if it has an electric drivetrain.  That said, I think that current AFV engine compartments tend to be closely wrapped around their powerplants.  The proposed diesel Abrams all had enlarged engine decks.  So I don't think that putting exotic new powerplants in tanks is primarily constrained by transmission compatibility.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, W. Murderface said:

Regarding rafts of engine concepts, a vehicle with electric motors and an empty engine bay could offer a myriad of possibilities. Just add electricity.

 

Xoon mentioned free piston linear generators. A few of these, and whatever you want to feed them in the tank, and you can go do your thing. Additionally, if the vehicle were to take a hit, as long as some FPLGs remain operational, you do too (I think).

 

A group of students from Eindhoven built a formic acid fuelled range extender trolley to hang behind an electric city bus. If the contents of the trolley could be made to fit, that would be a pretty sweet means of electricity generation. It produces far less waste heat and noise than a combustion powered generator. Unlike petroleum-based fuels formic acid isn't flammable, and when you do it right it has no carbon footprint. But it's a big if. This approach assumes a rather high efficiency compared to fossil fuel systems.

Some links:

http://www.teamfast.nl/

https://www.tue.nl/en/university/news-and-press/news/07-07-2017-how-to-power-a-bus-on-formic-acid/

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acsenergylett.6b00574

 

These two articles suggest other compounds as hydrogen carriers, most interestingly carbohydrates. The latter article suggests as much as 10 MJ of H2 power from 1 kg of carbs, about twice as much as formic acid's 5.22 MJ/kg. But then again, I've seen the formic acid trolley on TV, but no sugar car so far. Maybe it's a good next step after you've bought your formic acid powered tanks. They have electric motors already.

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v495/n7439/full/nature11891.html?foxtrotcallback=true

http://bioenergycenter.org/besc/publications/zhang_renewable_carbohydrate.pdf



 

 

Welcome to SH~!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Collimatrix said:

 

Welcome to SH Bill Murderface.  

 

Building on your point, the space penalty for a tank with non collocated engine and drive sprockets is lower if it has an electric drivetrain.  That said, I think that current AFV engine compartments tend to be closely wrapped around their powerplants.  The proposed diesel Abrams all had enlarged engine decks.  So I don't think that putting exotic new powerplants in tanks is primarily constrained by transmission compatibility.

 

For wheeled vehicles at least, I think there's the possibility to increase the protected volume by moving the motors away from the hull and into the wheels. As for tracked stuff, I'm not sure putting your primary sources of locomotion on the relatively stickie-outtie top rear corners of the hull is a smart move. You could bury them deeper, but that'll cost you at least some of your hard won protected volume. Either way, I think there's a case to be made for copper or aluminium wires for drive trains.

 

Not necessarily engine related, but: having a huge generator on board opens up windows to directed energy weapons, and further down the line maybe even rail guns. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, W. Murderface said:

 

For wheeled vehicles at least, I think there's the possibility to increase the protected volume by moving the motors away from the hull and into the wheels. As for tracked stuff, I'm not sure putting your primary sources of locomotion on the relatively stickie-outtie top rear corners of the hull is a smart move. You could bury them deeper, but that'll cost you at least some of your hard won protected volume. Either way, I think there's a case to be made for copper or aluminium wires for drive trains.

 

Not necessarily engine related, but: having a huge generator on board opens up windows to directed energy weapons, and further down the line maybe even rail guns. 

Only places I find aluminum useful would be for the motor casings and the cables between the Generator, battery, and controller. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, Xoon said:

Only places I find aluminum useful would be for the motor casings and the cables between the Generator, battery, and controller. 

Why not connect the motors with aluminium cables as well?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, W. Murderface said:

Why not connect the motors with aluminium cables as well?

Because optimally, the VSD (speed controller) should be right next to the motor or a part of the motor housing. 

This leaves no space for cables. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, W. Murderface said:

 

For wheeled vehicles at least, I think there's the possibility to increase the protected volume by moving the motors away from the hull and into the wheels. As for tracked stuff, I'm not sure putting your primary sources of locomotion on the relatively stickie-outtie top rear corners of the hull is a smart move. You could bury them deeper, but that'll cost you at least some of your hard won protected volume. Either way, I think there's a case to be made for copper or aluminium wires for drive trains.

 

Not necessarily engine related, but: having a huge generator on board opens up windows to directed energy weapons, and further down the line maybe even rail guns. 


The power pack on a modern MBT doesn't really stick out into the top rear corners.

The engine bay only fills the center and rear of the hull:

z7C0eWM.jpg

 

The hull sponsons don't contain anything essential to the function of the engine.

Furthermore, if you look at the powerpack:

QxKHlxQ.png

The portion in the raised section of the engine deck is the cooling system.

The part of the powerpack that's essential to the immediate ability of the tank to move is fairly well buried.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm currently trying to do a little research on how conventional tank design could evolve, as well as the future of the Merkava family (due to their frontally placed engine), when hybrid or purely electric engines become the norm.

 

Can anyone make a simplified comparison of the required volume for each type as well as purchase cost and maintenance costs.

 

i.e if certain type of engine would take a little more volume, or much more volume. And if it would cost just a little more or a lot more. 

 

I believe that if there is a substantial difference in the parameters of volume and cost, and not just performance, then this could cause a pretty serious shift in the way tanks are designed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Quickly:

-Four Stroke, liquid-cooled turbodiesels are the engines of choice for most tanks (e.g. T-90, Leo 2, export Leclercs, K2).  These have very good efficiency, and there is a lot of industry experience in getting them to work.  They have the lowest power to volume ratio, but that has improved significantly in recent years.  That said, the more power you squeeze out of an engine the more chance there is of problems.  Problems include relatively slow throttle response, a high amount of particulate in the exhaust which scatters IR radiation and makes them more visible on thermals, usually a lack of multi-fuel capability, high vibration, and a relatively high requirement for maintenance.

-Gas turbines in current tanks (M1, T-80) are several generations older than the cutting edge in gas turbine technology and are poor representatives of the state of the art.  Overall pressure ratio has nearly tripled and turbine inlet temperatures have increased as well.  State of the art turbine material technology is two generations better than what the AGT-1500 has.  State of the art gas turbines also have a significantly better power to volume ratio than AGT-1500-level engines, mainly due to improvements in compressor compactness.  The problem is that all the advanced materials that make these advances possible are very expensive, and it's not clear if it's cost-effective to use cutting edge gas turbine technology in anything less than an airliner or fighter.  Gas turbines are multi-fuel, offer unparalleled power to volume, are easier to start in extremely cold climates than diesels, have extremely long periods between overhauls, and create very little vibration or exhaust particulates.  Gas turbines do not require radiators, they are almost entirely self-cooling.  Even with the latest improvements gas turbines still suffer inferior fuel economy to turbodiesels, although the gap is closing.  Notably, the fuel consumption of a turbine when it is idling is not much lower than when it is at full power.  Efficiency can be improved by adding a recuperator, but recuperators are bulky and sacrifice a lot of the compactness.  On the other hand, recuperators have no moving parts and also reduce thermal signature.  The M1 has one, the T-80 does not.  Gas turbines require a large mass flow rate of very well-filtered air, which basically offsets the advantage of not needing a radiator.  Very few companies in the world can design and produce cutting-edge gas turbines.

-Two stroke diesels have better power to volume than four strokes, but not as good as turbines.  They're fidgety and in the past haven't worked well, although supposedly Kharkov in Ukraine has got a marvelous design used in the Oplot-BM.  Pros and cons are otherwise similar to four stroke diesels.

-Diesel wankels are an interesting possibility, but so far three companies have tried and failed to make them actually work.  If they could be made to work they would be a halfway house between a four stroke and a turbine.  Like a turbine it would have low vibration and better power to volume than a four stroke diesel.  Efficiency would probably fall between the two.  Due to the high ratio of surface area inside the combustion chamber to volume, heat leakage would be higher and this would necessitate larger radiators for a given output than a four stroke diesel.  A diesel wankel would not be multi-fuel.  Like the turbine but unlike the four stroke diesel the engine could run at its maximum rated power for long periods of time without breaking, since it produces power by rotation rather than reciprocation.  Maintenance of the rotor tip seals would likely be an issue.

-Air cooled four stroke diesels have basically the same pros and cons as liquid-cooled ones except that the bulk of the radiator system is built into the engine and can't be moved somewhere more convenient.  On the flip side, it has fewer moving parts and no vulnerable radiator.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
47 minutes ago, Collimatrix said:

Quickly:

-Four Stroke, liquid-cooled turbodiesels are the engines of choice for most tanks (e.g. T-90, Leo 2, export Leclercs, K2).  These have very good efficiency, and there is a lot of industry experience in getting them to work.  They have the lowest power to volume ratio, but that has improved significantly in recent years.  That said, the more power you squeeze out of an engine the more chance there is of problems.  Problems include relatively slow throttle response, a high amount of particulate in the exhaust which scatters IR radiation and makes them more visible on thermals, usually a lack of multi-fuel capability, high vibration, and a relatively high requirement for maintenance.

-Gas turbines in current tanks (M1, T-80) are several generations older than the cutting edge in gas turbine technology and are poor representatives of the state of the art.  Overall pressure ratio has nearly tripled and turbine inlet temperatures have increased as well.  State of the art turbine material technology is two generations better than what the AGT-1500 has.  State of the art gas turbines also have a significantly better power to volume ratio than AGT-1500-level engines, mainly due to improvements in compressor compactness.  The problem is that all the advanced materials that make these advances possible are very expensive, and it's not clear if it's cost-effective to use cutting edge gas turbine technology in anything less than an airliner or fighter.  Gas turbines are multi-fuel, offer unparalleled power to volume, are easier to start in extremely cold climates than diesels, have extremely long periods between overhauls, and create very little vibration or exhaust particulates.  Gas turbines do not require radiators, they are almost entirely self-cooling.  Even with the latest improvements gas turbines still suffer inferior fuel economy to turbodiesels, although the gap is closing.  Notably, the fuel consumption of a turbine when it is idling is not much lower than when it is at full power.  Efficiency can be improved by adding a recuperator, but recuperators are bulky and sacrifice a lot of the compactness.  On the other hand, recuperators have no moving parts and also reduce thermal signature.  The M1 has one, the T-80 does not.  Gas turbines require a large mass flow rate of very well-filtered air, which basically offsets the advantage of not needing a radiator.  Very few companies in the world can design and produce cutting-edge gas turbines.

-Two stroke diesels have better power to volume than four strokes, but not as good as turbines.  They're fidgety and in the past haven't worked well, although supposedly Kharkov in Ukraine has got a marvelous design used in the Oplot-BM.  Pros and cons are otherwise similar to four stroke diesels.

-Diesel wankels are an interesting possibility, but so far three companies have tried and failed to make them actually work.  If they could be made to work they would be a halfway house between a four stroke and a turbine.  Like a turbine it would have low vibration and better power to volume than a four stroke diesel.  Efficiency would probably fall between the two.  Due to the high ratio of surface area inside the combustion chamber to volume, heat leakage would be higher and this would necessitate larger radiators for a given output than a four stroke diesel.  A diesel wankel would not be multi-fuel.  Like the turbine but unlike the four stroke diesel the engine could run at its maximum rated power for long periods of time without breaking, since it produces power by rotation rather than reciprocation.  Maintenance of the rotor tip seals would likely be an issue.

-Air cooled four stroke diesels have basically the same pros and cons as liquid-cooled ones except that the bulk of the radiator system is built into the engine and can't be moved somewhere more convenient.  On the flip side, it has fewer moving parts and no vulnerable radiator.

First of all, thank you for the explanation. But I'd like to know if any of them could be coupled with an electric engine to serve as a backup. In 2020 the Mark 4 'Barak' should enter service, and it's said it would have a hybrid-electric engine with some form of diesel generator without any further elaboration. Basically what I wanted to know is whether to expect the whole thing to take up less space, more space, or about the same. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Mighty_Zuk said:

I'm currently trying to do a little research on how conventional tank design could evolve, as well as the future of the Merkava family (due to their frontally placed engine), when hybrid or purely electric motors become the norm.

 

Can anyone make a simplified comparison of the required volume for each type as well as purchase cost and maintenance costs.

 

i.e if certain type of engine would take a little more volume, or much more volume. And if it would cost just a little more or a lot more. 

 

I believe that if there is a substantial difference in the parameters of volume and cost, and not just performance, then this could cause a pretty serious shift in the way tanks are designed.

I guess I can add my two cents about electric and hybrid systems, going from soft hybrid-electric to fully electric. 

 

Soft hybrid-electric:
bpEYvpg.png

 

A soft hybrid electric vehicle is about as bare-bone as possible for the most amount of advantages. To take a example from the car world: The ICE would still power the wheels though a gearbox like usual, but the electric motor starter is replaced with a more powerful motor which can power the vehicle on it's own, though mostly for added power and better torque characteristics in sprints or slow driving.  The motor is lighter and uses usually a 48V system, with a small battery, requiring minimally extra space and changes. The motor serves also as a engine starter, generator and regenerative break, giving the car all the advantages of a full fledged HEV. This system is also often combined with a electric supercharger which spools up the turbocharger for close to zero turbo lag, and it can also harvest excess kinetic power from the turbo which charges the battery and can be used later by the electric motor. Modern vehicles also include a heat scavenger system, which creates electricity out of the hot exhaust, which in turn can power the electric motor. 

The flowchart above is purely for the soft hybrid system, not the best in the world, but I sadly lack the software for better. 

 

 

Parallel hybrid:

A parallel hybrid is built up in much the same way as soft hybrid with a few changes. Usually the power is split between the ICE and the electric motor, meaning the electric motor usually provides 30-70% of the power. This requires a much bigger battery, but usually the range is only big enough for short trips, like to and from the store. Also here the motor runs commonly on around 400V, which is unique for the motor and inverter. Most modern parallel hybrids are also Plug-in battery hybrids, meaning that they can charge their battery with a charger, instead of using the ICE.  This system is usually easy to retrofit into conventional layouts, provided there is enough space. This system takes up more volume and is heavier than a pure ICE and loses out in terms of fuel efficiency over long marches, but easily beats it in short trips, frequent start stops, and sprints. 

 

Series hybrid:
eSKujwA.png

In a series hybrid, the ICE powers a generator. Because of this, it is set to its optimal RPM, this also causes the frequency and the voltage to stay stable. The load can either be variable or locked, were the ICE charges the battery in tune with the power the motor consumes, or the ICE goes at max load until the battery is full, and engages again when the battery is low on charge.  This setup usually provides better acceleration because of the electric motors torque curve and instant throttle response. It also provides the most amount of regenerative breaking, since it is equal to the motors power output.  Like the parallel setup, this setup requires a large battery, which gives it enough range for short trips of silence. The downsides is that this setup is the heaviest and takes the most volume, however. You can chose where the ICE is and the electric motors are, no driveshaft needed. 

 

 

Series-Hybrid:
A series hybrid is a like a weird combination of them both. Simply take a parallel hybrid and add one or two electric motors after the gearbox. This way the starter/generator/motor can be used as a generator to power the other electric motors. Koningegg uses this system:

 

 

 

Range extended battery electric vehicles:

A range extended electric vehicle looks a lot like a series hybrid vehicle, only the in a opposite relationship.  Here the vehicle is usually built in a electric vehicle architecture, usually not designed to run at full power with the range extender. Imagine a electric car with a generator in the trunk, which provides roughly 50-80% the power the electric motors do, charging the vehicle, giving it extra range.

 

 

 

Linear generator series hybrid electric vehicle:
Skipping the crankshaft and drive shaft, and uses the motion of the pistons directly to charge the battery:

 

 

In general, you can see a trend that the harder the hybrid, the heavier the vehicle becomes, until you are fully electric. It usually takes more volume too, however new technologies are closing the gap. 

 

This is about as much as I care to write today, and can fill in more with electric vehicles and motor technology later. 

 

I am reposting a 84 page report on hybrid technology in military vehicles too:
http://www.ffi.no/no/Rapporter/08-01220.pdf

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, Mighty_Zuk said:

First of all, thank you for the explanation. But I'd like to know if any of them could be coupled with an electric engine to serve as a backup. In 2020 the Mark 4 'Barak' should enter service, and it's said it would have a hybrid-electric engine with some form of diesel generator without any further elaboration. Basically what I wanted to know is whether to expect the whole thing to take up less space, more space, or about the same. 

 

Any engine can be connected to a generator that is connected to an electric motor in lieu of a mechanical transmission, or you can have the intermediate hybrid systems @Xoon described.  But whether that's preferable a question about tank transmissions, not powerplants.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

5TDF, the engine in the T-64:

IuBIUlk.jpg

 

An engine that was notorious for only being capable being built at Kharkov, which was not surprising since it couldn't even be produced at Kharkov for a few years. Meanwhile in Buzuluk, where they know what they are doing, we got the UTD-30, a short stroke design that was meant to be 15/15, a engine with 150mm stroke and 150 cylinder. But because of an arbitrary height requirement set by Morozov it was canned.

p578kLt.jpg

If that looks small its because it's 1350mm long 940mm wide 775 tall

 

 

ChKZ decided it was a cool idea to transversely mount a 1000hp engine so made the DTN-10. 10 clyinder engine and in a Soviet first ChKZ used exhaust gas in the supercharger:

8twl5eh.png

xxumQLC.jpg

Note engine placement

7r9vYHQ.png

The backup engine was even smaller. It's the super charged variant of the UTD-30.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Similar Content

    • By Walter_Sobchak
      I realized that we don't actually have a thread about the British Chieftain tank.  
       
      I posted a bunch of Chieftain related stuff on my site today for anyone who is interested.  The items include:
       
      Magazine Articles
       
      1970 article from ARMOR
      1970 article from IDR  - Chieftain-Main Battle tank for the 1970s
      1976 article from IDR - The Combat-Improved Chieftain – First Impressions
      1976 article from IDR - Improved Chieftain for Iran
       
      Government reports
       
      WO 194-495 Assessment of Weapon System in Chieftain
      WO 341-108 Automotive Branch Report on Chieftain Modifications
      DEFE 15-1183 – L11 Brochure 
      WO 194-463 – Demonstration of Chieftain Gun 
       
      WO 194-1323 – Feasibility study on Burlington Chieftain
    • By LoooSeR
      BM "Oplot"
       

       

      Ukrainian designers managed to make biggest panoramic sight i ever saw - overall weight of it is reaching 500 kg.
       
       
             Oplot-M, or BM "Oplot" after addoption to service in Ukrainian army, is Ukrainian MBT based on another Ukrainian MBT - T-84 "Oplot", which is Soviet-designed T-80UD with some modifications. BM Oplot was designed by Morozov Kharkiv Machine Building Design Bureau and produced by Malyshev factory. Chief designer of BM Oplot - Mikhail Dem'yanovich Borisuk (he was born in 1934, BTW).
       
       
             It have several features, separating it from T-80UD, T-90A and T-84. Engine is new 6 cylinder 6TD-2E 1200 HP diesel with lowered smokiness and exhaust toxicity (wich is a problem for Kharkov engines) in new engine-transmission compartment (which is 2 part - lower is for engine itself and upper part is for big airfilters, which are needed because of how much air 6TD "eats"), new sort-of automatical transmission. Tank is equipped with new navigation systems, FCS, panoramic sight for commander with day and night (thermal imager) capabilities, new remotely controlled KT-12.7 12.7 mm HMG for commander, new gunner sights, which bring it to modern level of how tank should be equipped. A lot of that equipment is made not in Ukraine.
       
       
      From the side BM Oplot looks different from Soviet T-64-like MBTs.
       
            Main gun is not really different from 2A46 125 mm guns of T-72/ T-80/T-90 series of tanks, 125 mm KBA-3 L48 gun with autoloader for 28 shots (46 in total is carried). Main gun can fire HE, HEAT, APFSDS, GL-ATGMs (Ukrainian "Kombat" missiles). AFAIK part of ammunition is carried outside of the tank, in turret "basket", mounted to the rear part of it. Nothing really fancy here, 5 km range with ATGMs, up to 2.5-2.8 km effective range with APFSDS, which is standart for late Soviet and current Russian MBTs like T-72B3, T-80UE and different models of the T-90. 
       
           Vehicle is also equipped with Ukrainian version/local variant of Shtora system - "Varta", with additional laser-warning sensors on the turret sides. 

       
       
           BM-Oplot use somewhat unusual type of ERA (which is most interesting feature of that tank) - ~layered ERA named "Duplet". It is rumored that it can defeat tandem HEAT warheads like PG-7VR and PG-29V. Vehicle sides are also covered by Duplet ERA. 
       


            Note that the hull UFP is covered by differently shaped blocks of ERA (long and narrow). How much it is effective is unknown, but designers claim that it can defeat tandem HEAT warheads, EFP and APFSDS projectiles.  
       
      Upper frontal hull armor layout:
       
      Side ERA modules:
       
            Overall, BM Oplot is tank with better perfomance than T-80UD thanks to improvements in electronics and FCS, engine, transmission, driver controls, new ERA and better side armor, and in some areas this vehicle can be superioir to T-72B3 (latest Russian serial produced modification of the T-72 MBT, although it wasn't best proposed modification for it).
            But..., there is always "but" -  it is vehicle that Ukraine can not produce in any serious numbers, as their one and only contract with Thai army showed - out of 95 BM Oplot ordered in 2011 only 5-6 were delivered to this day. During trials in Thailand Kombat GL-ATGMs also showed not very good results - AFAIK out of 5 test firings, 2 missiles exploded before reaching targets. Another interesting fact about that tank is that no BM Oplot MBTs are presented on battlefields of Eastern Ukraine - T-64 and T-72s are primary tanks of the VSU. Seems to me Ukraine is either can't service them, or simply can't produce them in a first place.
       
      Oplot-BM on trials in Pakistan. No accurate information on results, rumors say that Chinese VT-4 won that competition.
       
      Oplot-BMs for Thai army on prooving ground.
       

    • By Collimatrix
      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.


       
    • By Collimatrix
      Piston engines have been doing a good job of converting chemical energy into mechanical work for about a century and a half now, but this hasn't stopped various people from trying to seal a pressure-bearing volume that isn't cylindrical.  So far only Felix Wankel and Mazda have really pulled it off, but there will always be dreamers:
       

       
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7R9xXPfIio
       
      And then there's this thing, which I guess has pistons but the pistons spin in a circle:
       

×