Plane Elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; F-14 Tomcat

The Grumman F-14 Tomcat. One of the most iconic fighter jets out there. While many fighters can be mixed together at a first glance, the Tomcat can’t be mistaken with its twin-engine and variable-sweep wings combined with mostly unique silhouette. Its main missions have always been air superiority and fleet air defence with a touch of precision strikes against ground targets in any weather.

Despite its age, the Tomcat was one of the most potent interceptors in the world before its retirement in 2006. In a non-stealth fight, the Tomcat would still be a considerable threat. It can attack its targets anywhere between few meters away to 160km, and with flight altitude upper limit being somewhere around 18km, the F-14 Tomcat is a beast.

I really like the Tomcat if you can’t tell. It’s one of the earliest fighter jets I can remember having an awesome effect. It’s not just me, but the popular culture before F-22’s arrival knew that the fighter that represented American fighter superiority was the F-14. The plane is well known from movies such as The Final Countdown and the Top Gun. Most people associate the Tomcat with the Fighter Squadron 84, also known as the Jolly Rogers. These factors has made the fighter to be associated with yellow, black and grey very well, and Macross’ / Robotech’s Skull Squadron made this asociation even stronger in this matter both in Japan and US in the minds of the children. Pretty much any and every fighter game in the 80’s and at least early 90’s had a Tomcat prominently in there somewhere, and perhaps one of the most famous examples is SEGA’s After Burner series. Hell, the fighter has its own damn pinball machine!

The Tomcat saw most action in the 1980’s and 1990’s, having its first kill in the Gulf of Sidra incident. The Tomcat saw action during Operation Desert Storm and one of its variants, the variant F-14B got nicknamed as the Bombcat due to its role as an accurate bomber in Bosnia in 1995. Iran has been the only other country that has employed Tomcats thanks to Nixon, who offered the last Shah of Iran to gain access to the latest American fighter technology.

But what of the TSF? you ask.

F-14 Tomcat
Original and the lacking image board version

There’s not much to discuss the Grunnan F-14 Tomcat. The TSF doesn’t reflect the real fighter all too well. The F-14 was the first variable geometry carrier-borne aircraft to step into service, whereas its TSF counterpart merely employs these in the Jump Unit. The TSF’s big grandeur seems to be in its AIM-54 Phoenix long-range missile system, it’s two-seat control unit and overall normal stuff you get with more advanced TSF tech. I admit that my lack of enthusiasm for this TSF stems from the design feeling very sparse, weak and uninspiring compared to what the actual fighter plane could’ve offered. Perhaps it’s partially because the core TSF designs don’t accommodate F-14’s general silhouette too well, or it could be that whoever was in charge of these designs was too busy fapping over Russian fighters during production of Total Eclipse’ mechas.

The TSF Tomcat stays true to the American doctrine of fighting; shoot it until it’s dead. Add the Phoenix missiles in, and you don’t even need to be at visual range to do it. It’s nothing new or exciting. In Altverse, the Tomcat didn’t stay silent when it was being replaced by the F/A-18/F Super Hornet as US Navy’s main fighter.

The F-14Ex Super Tomcat is based on a real idea to produce Super Tomcat 21, a sort of overhaul update to give the base F-14 high-end navigation systems, targeting pods, ground attack modes and new weaponry options as well as physical changes to accommodate better control surfaces and enlarged leading edge root extensions for more fuel. Add digital controls with possibility of thrust vectoring with a single piece windscreen, and you possibly had a winner. I don’t know the F-14Ex managed to add shit on top of the sleek prototype model, but the TSF Super Tomcat is a failed design in this regard. Add another injury to the F-14’s TSF treatment, the F-14AN3 Mindseeer is a mess visually speaking, and the it is recognized as such in-universe as well. The less said about it the better.

The operational history of the TSF does reflect the real life fighter to some extent, but that’s not what these posts are about.

All in all, from TSF like Su-47 you recognize the plane well enough  or with the TSA A-10. I didn’t realise what the F-14 TSF was suppose to be before seeing the name Tomcat with it. It’s a too generic TSF look for this particular model.

Well, we’re all humming it already, so here it is.

Observable rules in TSF design Part 2; Early consistency

When discussing Tactical Surface Fighters designs both in and out of universe perspective, we have two points that we have to notice that absolutely breaks the previously discussed basis for the core ideas of TSF designs. These two points are the early first generation TSFs and late third generation TSFs. We’ll concentrate on first generation TSFs and direct descendants of the F-4 lines that share similar design points this time and return to late Third generation and F-5 line at a later date.

The first mass produced Tactical Surface Fighter, the F-4 Phantom, is an awesome, heavy piece of shit that set the standard in which its immediate predecessors would follow. This is due to TSF being mainly one line of design that branches off to multiple directions rather than multiple lines of designs you see e.g. in Mobile Suit Gundam with its Zakus and GMs. That’s where the argument that TSFs look the same falls short and has some basis at the same time, as the TSF tech tree is more comparable to GM or Zaku tech tree than the whole variety of designs from multiple points.

The relevant units for this post. The F-5 lines has been dropped and the MiG-23 has been left in to show how much Soviet's managed to move their designs forward after MiG-21
The relevant units for this post. The F-5 lines has been dropped and the MiG-23 has been left in to show how much Soviet’s managed to move their designs forward after MiG-21

The early TSFs mirror this very well. The F-4 is a basis the rest 1st Generation Surface Fighters simply modify. The Soviet Union MiG-21 Balalaika and Japanese Type-82/F-4 Modified Zuikaku are good examples how the basic design of the F-4 was taken a step further while still basically using the same core frame and design. This is also why, to certain degree, the discussed observable rules of TSF design does not apply to them fully. The exceptions here are F-5 Freedom Fighter and the line it gives birth to. This is to give a consistent line of evolution to the tech tree. We are ignoring plane elements in this post, as the focus is set how all and any early First generation designs we may get in the future has to adhere to certain things F-4 has laid down, except if it follows the F-5 line.

While the F-4 essentially has a whole family of variants that look different only in weapon loadout and paint on the chassis, the Soviet’s spun their versions, the F-4R , into development of MiG-21. In real world the fighter was only nicknamed Balalaika, but here it seems to hold as its official name for whatever reason. Anyway, the MiG-21’s design stands very close to the progenitor F-4 while streamlining some components. The MiG-21 was designed to enter and exit combat at higher speeds than the F-4 as well as engage in melee combat. As such, the MiG-21 follows multirole ideology for a surface fighter rather than just sticking the American doctrine to shoot or nuke everything that moves from afar.

Needless to say, it tickles some funnybone I have to think how Russian and Chinese TSFs have direct elements from F-4 because of all this.

While the silhouettes between F-4 and MiG-21 are similar, the key differences are in the aforementioned smoother design. The head has seen mostly changed from chin up. The grooved sides have been replaced with much more low-key sides, whereas the top has an additional communications antennae. MiG-21PF has a different antennae found in the forehead and a smaller rudder-like at the back of the head. This versions was produced in more limited numbers and was designed to function where heavy metal clouds would interfere with communication. We’ll be seeing some of this unit in Schwarzesmarken.

F-4 - MiG-21
F-4, the American pride, and MiG-21, the Soviet working force

The torso and shoulder units between F-4 and MiG-21 govern both Surface Fighter’s to a large extent and the two are basically the exact same. The only difference the arms have is the change in the angle of the knife housing, the so-called Blade Sheaths. Outside that the two could be switched without anyone noticing the difference outside paint application.

Legs are the point where you can see designers dropping the first heavy armouring the F-4 has. The smoother and more streamlined legs also mean that the weight has been distributed higher in the Surface Fighter, a trend that would continue with most mainline designs, at least visually. There’s few interesting points going on with the F-4’s feet with those additional support pieces both sides of the calves, something that no other new design that wasn’t a direct F-4 variant didn’t use. We can assume that this is both a slight remnant of YSF4H-1, the prototypical test piece that was developed into F-4. That, and the fact that F-4 was most likely heavy enough to warrant these pieces to need additional weight distribution.

J-8 uses the MiG-21 line Jump Units, unsurprisingly. Notice the head and the yellow lines of interest high in the legs
J-8 uses the MiG-21 line Jump Units, unsurprisingly. Notice the head and the yellow lines of interest high in the legs

J-8 being a MiG-21 variant shares the same body, it just has a new head. The J-8 was also optimised for close combat and thus the Type-77 Close Combat Battle Halberd was born. The J-8 doesn’t strike as a close combat unit, but combined with the Type-77’s heavy topped cleaver it could easily strike down even a Fort-Class. Whereas the Type-74 PB Blade Japanese use should be mainly used with two hands as per the whole katana thing it has going on, the Type-77 CRBH’s heaviness allows a good striking power with just one hand. The recovery time is worse thou due to the very same reason, but it is a preference between power and balance. I can see a J-8 doing TSF kung-fu and doing precise strikes to take down any and all BETA with one large swing. Then again, the the Type-74 PB Blade is depicted to go through BETA like knife through hot butter, so we can assume Type-77 CRBH does that, just better with heavier swings.

Chinese Type-77 Close Range Battle Halberd above with Japanese Type-74 PB Blade below it

The MiG-23 spun the MiG line to its own unique direction with elements fusing elements from the F-4’s line, especially from F-18 Hornet and F-15 Eagle, leaving Zuikaku as the last unit that uses clear elements of the F-4 line. Whenever we get to Su-37 Terminator in the TSF comparisons, we’ll have to take account similarities with the F-15.

However, let’s return to Zuikaku for now. TSF Type-82 Zuikaku is essentially a variant of F-4J Gekishin, a variant of F-4 Phantom itself. As such, Zuikaku is essentially just a modified piece of a modified piece and it shows. Zuikaku’s design follows the F-4 nicely with new twists. The head unit is still the same with additional rudder shoved at top back of its head and rabbit ear winglets at the sides.

Unlike with the J-8, Zuikaku doesn't do anything to me. It looks more or less like a knock-off, which it essentially is
Unlike with the J-8, Zuikaku doesn’t do anything to me. It looks more or less like a knock-off, which it essentially is

The torso is overall the same, with the hole replaced with a line on its chest. I haven’t seen any explanations what these are, but seeing how TSF cockpits are closed with no windows, they’re most likely just interesting pieces of design to break the monotony on the chest. Zuikaku also has additional intakes just below and before its armpits.

Zuikaku’s shoulders overall follow the F-4 line. However, there’s some extra armouring to hold thrusters. Outside that, the overall design is the same. The energy indicators are of different design, but that’s a small change. Arms still use the stock F-4 pieces with slightly elongated Blade Sheaths, but then again they are the lightest and most effective pieces F-4 had. It’s interesting to notice that Second generation TSF have relatively lightly designed arms, and the Third generation then returns to the heavy handed designs.

The F-4 line always had thunder thighs for legs, and Zuikaku follows the suit. While the Zuikaku strips some bells and whistles off from the F-4, the most important change is with the lack of extra supports in the calves. This would signify to us that Zuikaku is lighter than the rest of the F-4 line. This is due to Japanese being unable to realize their own original design and had to opt to take combat data from European Fronts from the late 70’s, and modify existing units to emphasize close combat similar to J-8. Naturally, the output was also higher, allowing the Zuikaku follow the set Japanese doctrine of hack n’ slash with some shooting in there. However, despite it being a good upgrade over the base F-4, it still suffers from being based on that heavy frame. Shiranui and Fubuki are early Third Generation TSFs, and it took Japanese that long to realize their own design that would serve them as they saw fit. During that time the Americans and Soviets had produced their own designs by large loads, while Europe mostly opting to importing those and making modifications to those as needed.

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; Dass-Ault Rafale

Here’s the original as per usual and the image board version

With the rather recent news of India and Qatar purchasing Rafales from Dassault Aviation to bolster their airforces, and the more recent new of Schwarzesmarken getting animated later this year, it’s pretty good time to celebrate the more obscure side of Muv-Luv a little bit, if obscure even is a thing when it comes to this franchise.

Rafale, the fighter, is pretty damn neat. It’s a multi-role fighter to some extent, able to do both short and long range missions, dogfight, attack land and sea targets and if necessary, enact a nuclear strike. It’s a fighter bred and born in France, developed by major French defence contractors. There is something French in the shape of the fuselage, with all the slight curves one would want to caress with interesting details to explore. It should be noted that prior to Rafale’s development, French Air Force and French Navy had a need for a proper next generation fighter. Due to this fact, it was chosen to combine the two projects into one, which would explain why Rafale is Duke’s wet dream coming true, able to fight in the land, sea and air. Still, the original project fell through due to multiple nations being part of the project, which is without the doubt why French took it to themselves to tackle the project. Nevertheless, the Rafale is a successful result despite all this and essentially has been replacing numerous different fighters the French forces have been using, including classics like F-8P Crusader.

The Tactical Surface Fighter mirrors the real life fighter in this nature. France was part of a multi-national project to replace Second and earlier generations TSF, that could not meet the need to tackle BETA to the needed extent. The European Front is different from America and even from Japan. It’s more akin to Kamchatka we saw in Total Eclipse, with constant threat from BETA from everywhere. There’s not much water to use in the middle of the continent, whereas Japan is a set of islands that can make use of Navy when needed. The rivers and lakes aren’t the best place to bring your naval support. Just like in real world, French dropped from the multi- national project because there was a disagreement on the engines of the Jump Units.

The Rafale and EF-2000 Typhoon share a lot same elements, as they were built from the same set of data and all that. The Rafale as a TSF has curved surfaces to it than the Typhoon, though the two have comparable performance in how they slay BETA. Indeed, both of them were built to kill them invaders by the dozen, and combined with the A-10C Thunderbolt II squadrons, both Rafale and Typhoon are pretty damn effective in their intended role of kicking ass and taking names. Their high-mobility design puts them well on par with the rest of the third generation machines and a good Surface Pilot could do whatever insane stuff is needed to weave through the enemy lines.

However, as Rafale is designed to fight the BETA, it lacks any notion of stealth. Stealth is useless against BETA, but against human targets it offers good leverage. I could see a future where Semi-fourth generation and actual Fourth generation European TSFs would employ stealth as one of their secondary capabilities just to counter the the possible battles they would have against the US forces. Knowing how much the US wants to fuck with the rest of the world for their own ends, there’s very little doubt that at some point after Alternative we would get at least minor wars between human fronts using TSFs.

Outside what reads on the chart, there’s not much to say about Rafale’s design. Its groin guard lacks the fighter’s nose, but outside that it incorporates all the elements the archetypical TSF takes from the planes. I would argue that the torso the design has should be more shaped to looks similar to the plane. While the EF-2000 Typhoon is related to the Rafale in visual concepts, the torsos are far too similar and making Rafale smoother with curved surfaces would’ve made a larger impact on the viewer. The geometry is more complex to create, but that would’ve been a small price to pay.  It also lacks the flight refuelling probe, but there wasn’t much they could done with it with the TSFs, and as it is removable, it was dropped.

There’s few things I’d like to put out there. I aim to use illustrations from the books as much as possible as not all TSFs or TSAs have sprites. In case of Rafale I could have used some of the sprites, but for uniform look I’ll stick with scanned illustrations, if possible. Secondly, despite I wanted to to write about the Falcate Sword the Rafale works, but that’s just slightly out of topic. There will be a post or two about TSF weapons at some point, as they could make a decent post on whether or not they are actually practical. For Falcate Sword, I’ll just say that’s it’s pretty damn retarded weapon, and that scythes don’t do too well on the battlefield due to obvious reasons.

Next time in TSF comparisons we’re going back in time to check out either MiG-21 or branch off to TSAs and check out what sort of elements the A-10 Thunderbold II has.

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; F-22A

Time for some FREEDOM.

F-22A Raptor_2
Original here and here’s the image board version

There’s some few interesting points overall with the Raptor. The knees’ sides for one carry a similar V-cut than what the YF-23 had. Another is that much like the Berkut, the Raptor is far more inspired by the plane than outright transformation. This can be seen in the frequent use of diamonds, triangles, hexagons and saw edges all around the body. This seems to be a thing with the 3rd Generation TSFs.  Another is that it tends to be surprisingly smooth and jagged at the same time, and this juxtaposition is not the easiest one to design.

Another thing is that a lot of the plane’s elements are sharpened, whereas the thrusters on the shoulders get a hexagon shape instead. The shoulder units can be understood very well, as it needs to go with the rest of the design of the unit. The Jump units are the best example how things have made sharper, best seen in the wings and fins.

The fighter itself has become iconic to large extend because of this, and that it poisons its crew due to materials used in it. The TSF similarly has become somewhat infamous in the Muv-Luv fandom for being designed to fight other TSFs with properly functioning stealth and heavy emphasize on ranged fighting as opposed to the general TSF battle doctrine, where ranged and close quarters combat are balanced to a large extend. Japan is somewhat an exception with its emphasize on direct sword fighting, and as a special case of the SU-47 Berkut’s knife dance. As such, the TSF fails is to deliver the idea of stealth. While it doesn’t have too much bulk in TSF terms, it has far too much grooves and protruding surfaces to give the visual cues of a vanishing trooper.

I admit that some bits are a bit far fetched. The fighter’s nose is practically nowhere to be found in the TSF without allowing some loose reading. The nose could be seen on the groin guard, but it’s far too flat nature to be the nose. The chest on the other hand can be seen using the overall shape of the nose, just with far more harder lines and changed tip. The change can be understood, as the whole TSF is more about angles than sleek sleek surfaces.

Because of all the aforementioned, the Raptor doesn’t have any clear hardpoints to poke the BETA with. The knee is clearly a one, but those knee points also house the battle knives.

The page 95 of Integral Works has some other stuff too, but this is where we need to turn our eyes on for now
The page 95 of Integral Works has some other stuff too, but this is where we need to turn our eyes on for now

The knees could work on piledriver principle. However, as the tip is rather flat, I doubt it would as a hardpoint. Then again, blunt damage is still damage. Unlike most of its contemporaries, the Raptor’s arms are completely free of any weapons. The guards are there to protect from the TSF close quarters weapons, not to add more lethality of the unit. The knife itself reflects this with its switchblade nature. The CIWS-1B is without any doubt the worst TSF combat knife,  CIWS-1A and Type-65 PB Knife being far superior in design and form. Switchblades are mostly good for generic working as replacement tools when you don’t have an access to a proper blade, which seems to again reflect the ranged fighting the US army favours.

Ultimately, there’s not much to the Raptor. It follow similar ideology with the Su-47 Berkut in that only a number of elements to inspire their looks rather than actually adapting the plane itself. As such, neither of them are actually good examples of TSF core idea. Next time we’re going to go full baguette with the Dass-Ault’s Rafale with all of its curves.

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; SU-47 Berkut

A personal favourite; the Russian Golden Eagle.

Here’s the first one and the original

The SU-47 Berkut is a bit peculiar Tactical Surface Fighter in that it lacks most of the normal TSF/plane element crossover. It can almost be said, that the only thing taken from the plane itself are the Forward Swept Wings (FSW). However, unlike the plane, the TSF itself is rather busy and filled with more or less useless visuals. For example, what the hell are those red boxy things on its shoulders? Why does it have an angry looking glowing duck bill as its chest? It’s also funny to notice that the Jump Units basically cut the nose and cockpit off, giving them slightly evil look. Overall, it should be said that the TSF SU-47’s most common points with the plane are the wings colour. The overall impression is removed from the actual plane’s smooth surface. The bottom of the plane went more or less unused in making the TSF, not even the intakes were used anywhere.

It has to be said, that the Berkut does seemingly use parts and sections from past Soviet TSFs, similarly how the real life SU-47 had a forward fuselage,  landing gear and vertical tails from SU-27 and its derivatives. The asymmetrical tail booms are also mirrored in the Jump Units.

Anyways, I’m a fan of the real life SU-47. While the plane itself was/is just a testbed plane and only one was produced as far as I know, it was a pretty little thing. The FSW, canards and twin outward-canted vertical stabilisers create a nice tandem triplane configuration. While some people diss the FSW design overall as weak and useless, the Berkut would’ve been a beast of a machine in a straight up dogfight with its higher angles of attack in post-stall maneouvres. This was because the FSW allowed the machine to gain better lift closer to the fuselage, which also made the ailerons have more control. The inboard lift that the configuration wasn’t restricted by wingtip stall, or at least to the same extent than the other wing configurations. The thing what made the Berkut a nightmare to design and produce was that the FSW is a geometry that causes wing twisting under load, thus putting more stress on the wings. This was countered with a solution where the wings twist when they bend. The SU-47 had some level of stealth with the surface being coated with radar absorbing material. The downside in all this is that scratches, loose screws and slightly misaligned panels cause the RAM coating’s effectiveness. Knowing Russian industries and their lacking quality control in places, combined with their economy, the Berkut was a plane that was too expensive and hard to produce in any sensible way.

Still, the SU-47 Berkut would’ve been one helluva machine in dogfighting. The TSF reflects this with chainsaws stored in its arms, multiple hardpoints all over its body and KNIVES in its legs. Why knives, you ask? Well, modern fighter pilots have described dogfighting akin to a knife fight in a tight space. The Berkut was made to fight close and fight mean. Total Eclipse TV showcased some of this, but most of it was Newtype power crap. Hell, you have a scene where the Berkut crosses its chainsaw blade with a Type-74 PB Blade. The chainsaw would’ve been unusable after that, but I’m sure the dead psychic ghost in the back prevented it. While the SU-47 would carry the standard TSF armament otherwise, it’s speciality is to get close and personal with either the enemy TSF or BETA, and then enact the goddamn tropak with knives glued to your legs while wielding two mini-chainsaws. It can even poke your eyes out with the hardpoints in its fingers. Hell, it’ll headbutt your skull in two with its horn.

This, of course goes against the ideology of FREEDOM!, where you’re free to shoot every living target behind stealth and far, far away. The F-22A Raptor, both in real life and in TSF form, are all about fighting the ranged fight at Beyond Visual Range. In real life, the Berkut would have a hard time getting close to something that’s already shooting it beyond the horizon, but I’d imagine it would give the Raptor one helluva ride for its money if it ever got to close in.

The SU-47 isn’t dead and forgotten. Colonel General Viktor Bondarev claims that the research and development on the Berkut or similar FSW fighters is still ongoing, and we might just see new prototypes of its nature. Fingers crossed. Then again, perhaps that money could be used to develop Russian industry and help to build a better society to live in.