Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; F-16 Fighting Falcon

The F-16 Fighting Falcon has proven itself to be highly manoeuvrable air-to-air and air-to-surface fighter that during its reveal was nothing less than a quantum leap in fighter design. After all, it was the first fly-by-wire electric combat aircraft. F-16 is a low-cost and high-performance machine that for a reason became a classic on its own rights and was imported to numerous other nations like Belgium.

F-16A saw its first flight in late 1976, and stepped into United States Air Force’s service in 1979. F-16B was a two-seat variant of the machine and engineered the path for F-16s to have built-in structural and wiring provisions and systems architecture that would allow expansions in multiple roles since 1981. These expansions vary from precision strike ability to night attacks and beyond-visual-range interception missions. This lead into F-16C and D variants that are single- and two-seat variants of the aforementioned while incorporating new technology. All current USAF units are converted to these models, while Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve still holds some A and B variants.

In comparison to its contemporary fighter aircrafts, the F-16 is a serious threat to the point F-35 losing to it in a direct dog fight. The comparison between the two is not as apt as it would seem. F-35 is mainly a stealth fighter meant to destroy the enemy before it is even spotted. Discussion whether or not manned fighters are the future with the advent of cutting edge drone technology is another discussion that we should have one of these days. Nevertheless, the F-16 is a beast that with an operation radius that exceeds many other fighters and is an all-weather fighter. In an air-to-ground missions the F-16 can fly more than 860km, deliver a pin-point strike to the object and return to base, visual or not. It’s weight, small size and well designed fuselage allows it to fly 2 125km/h with its afterburning F100-PW-100 turbofan engine and can take up 9Gs, which is helluva lot of thrust. It’s dryweight is 6 607kg, and maximum take-off peaks around 14 968kg, allowing it to carry numerous weapons with its nine hard points.  Internally, the F-16 has a M61 A1 20mm gatling gun system, which had some installation difficulties at first.

Rather than going on about the F-16, I recommend checking the F-16.net for a full coverage on the fighter, including full listing of its armaments, variants and its operational history in the Persian Gulf War and in Operation Desert Storm.

In Muv-Luv‘s BETAverse, the F-16 mirrors the real world fighter in that it’s a lightweight Tactical Surface Fighter with superior mobility and range, operating in junction to its weightier siblings F-14 and F-15. Similarly how the fighter has a long-range of operation in multitude of roles, the TSF has a long operation time on the field, derived from the Lightweight Tactical Surface Fighter competition, which aimed to create highly manoeuvrable and cost-effective unit to change tactics against the BETA. This cost effectiveness allowed the US to produce more units, as they could not completely replace their ageing first generation TSFs with the two aforementioned heavier models.

Just like in real world, the F-16 TSF was imported to numerous other countries, replacing their F-4Es and F-5s. The Benelux union has its own variant as a result of import, the F-16AM, which more or less has the usual mid-life upgrade with overall technological improvements. The same applies to F-16C, mostly used by the US and UN, with improvement Jump Units.

Due to F-16s being everywhere, they were seen in action in numerous places like Yukon base, Battle of Rhodes and during Operation Cherry Blossom in Muv-Luv Alternative. TSFs don’t tend to vary in armament a whole lot, and F-16 is not really an exception. WS-16 Assault Cannon has been TSF bread and butter since F-4 Phantom, thou later F-16 were updated to handle the AMWS-21. CIWS-1 Close Combat Knife is the choice F-14’s for combat, a good choice for a TSF that should excel in close combat. F-14 is also capable carrying MGM-140 ATACMS missile containers, which reflects the real world fighter’s multirole function.

Historically and in idea, the TSF hits close to the fighter, but the design is more derived from the in-universe sources. This is best seen in the idea that most of the TSF’s design is that of angles rather than smooth curves like with the fighter. This is because almost none of the TSFs have what could be called smooth lines. That in mind, common points between the TSF and the fighter can be made, e.g. the intake in the TSFs abdomen is the same as the fighter’s, just more angular.

As usual, here's the original imageboard version
As usual, here’s the original imageboard version

After you get use to the idea of looking at certain aspects in the F-16 TSF, you end up noticing common points. It seems like the gatling gun and loads of sections on the fuselage’s back made some of the TSF’s detailing. It’s interesting to note that the thighs didn’t see any additional details, while otherwise you see a lot of red dots downwards. Shoulders are interesting, to say the least, as they incorporate F-16 rising parabola silhouette, just with wings cut off. The arms follow this idea to some extent, but are surprisingly clean of any needles detail

The groin guard on the other hand is a flip of the coin; either it is inspired by that parabola silhouette, or was thrown in there just because. While I’m not a fan of the knees American TSFs have, they have their function in housing the CIWS-1.

Happy to see they're free of this switch blade bullshit
Happy to see they’re free of this switch blade bullshit

The knees however do make the TSF look a bit cumbersome. Despite the F-16 being the lightweight unit, it doesn’t really look like it. The shoulders look far too ornate for that, and shaving down the skirt’s and kneeguard’s sizes would’ve done good. Maybe even take elements of the shoes too. It does resemble the fighter while not really pushing those elements forwards enough. A slimmer version of the this design would’ve probably been the best middle-ground in tying it down to the TSF tech tree while pushing the idea of these being in-universe versions of the fighters.

And on top of all that, it has a face on back of its head.

face
I WILL DEVOUR YOUR SOUL

And while we’re discussing things from âge, today’s the 27th of August. Happy birthday, Hayase Mitsuki.

Plane Elements in Tactical Surface Attackers; A-10 Thunderbolt II

The Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II, also known by its nickname Warthog, is an iconic piece of aviation. It entered service in 1976, it is still the US Air Force’s primary low-altitude close air support aircraft. It was designed to counter enemy (i.e. Soviet) armoured units and artillery, nothing less and nothing more. Its core design was to allow it to fly low, take hits and litter the battlefield with bullets. Its high-lift wings have large control surfaces, making the A-10 very manoeuvrable during its flight. It also helps the A-10 has a short take-off and landing allows it to function near the frontlines in rougher environment. These wings also cover the craft’s engines from down below, adding an extra layer of protection. Its ease of control allows pilots to do night missions with just a pair of night-vision goggles.

These engines are General Electric TF34-GE-100 turbofans with 4 115kg of thrust. Turbofans were selected over conventional jet engines due to the fact that they gives off less heat, thus making them less vulnerable to heat-seeking weaponry. Their high position gives them an extra layer of protection from ground fire.

In addition, the A-10 was designed to be largely symmetrical. Many of the parts are interchangeable between sides, including the engines and main landing gear, making it easy to be operated from austere bases with limited facilities.

A-10’s primary weapon is the GAU-8 Avenger, a 30mm gatling gun that takes most of its internal space. Somebody once told me they designed a cannon awesome and big enough that they needed to bolt an aircraft around it. It is the largest cannon ever fitted to an aircraft, and uses both depleted uranium armour-piercing and high explosive incendiary rounds, firing either one 35 rounds per second. In addition, the A-10 can carry a large range of general bombs, cluster bombs, rockets and missiles, including the Maverick anti-armour and Sidewinder anti-aircraft missiles. It can carry up to respectable 7 264kg of additional weapons weight.

 

This BRRRRRRRRRRRT is a well spread meme

Essentially, the Thunderbolt II flies in, shoots the ever-living shit out of everything, makes the battlefield radioactive with depleted uranium and leaves metal wreckage in its wake, possibly with a distinct smell of napalm.

A-10 Thunderbolt II saw numerous little upgrades to it over the years, like the Pave Penny laser receiver pod in 1978, inertial navigation system in 1980 and the like. GPS systems were installed in 1999, and in 2005 the A-10 fleet began to receive the Precision Engagement upgrades to improve it to the new electronic warfare. This included better fire controlling system, electronic countermeasures, digital stores management, LITENING, Sniper advanced targeting pod integration SADL, VMF, GPS-guided weapons and upgraded to DC power among other upgrades. Now, the A-10 fleet carriers the A-10C designation.

The main difference between a Tactical Surface Fighter and Attacker is their role. Whereas TSFs are all about mobility and Hive infiltration, the TSAs are all about ranged combat with overwhelming fire power. They are, without a doubt, the shield to TSFs’ sword. The A-6 Intruder proved itself in beach landing operations, but due to the lack of Jump Units their role would always be limited. The answer to this was the A-10 Thunderbolt II, designed to litter the field with bullets like its real world counterpart.

The A-10 is essentially designed on F-4’s frame, and it shares its problems with increased bulk and weight. The A-10 balances these out adding even more armour (some optional!), superior Jump Units and sheer amount of fire power it carries. On its shoulders the A-10 carries two GAU-8 Avenger gatling guns in addition whatever weapon they can carry in their arms, like the WS-16 Assault Gun. It doesn’t have any Mount Pylons, but it needs none. In addition, the A-10 has Javelin CIDS Mk. 1 system installed all over its body. These are essentially explosive spikes that can be shot out in an explosive manner to get Tank-Class BETA off its surface.

 

The additional armour makes it look like it's hiding from its sempai. Just add blushing lines in there
The additional armour makes it look like it’s hiding from its sempai. Just add blushing lines in there

The role A-10 serves on the field is simple; massive crowd control. Its main role is to keep the smaller BETA strain under control, mainly the Tank-Class, while the TSFs can concentrate on the larger strains. The two comp each other, as A-10 is not terribly good against the larger strains due to its lack of mobility and melee weapons. Their main moment of glory was in late 1983, when Attack Squadron Pit Masters defended Hamburg from BETA invasion. Despite 50% losses, the invasion was halted, and the German civilians gave the craft an affectionate nickname Kanonenvogel after the Ju-87 Bomber.

Much like the real world version, the TSA A-10 gained some upgrades throughout the tears, mainly upgraded to use Operation by Light controls, newer and lighter armour plating as well as access to the Mk.57 Squad Support Gun and AMWS-21 Assault Gun. Much like with the real life version, the TSA has overall better performance after the upgrades.

A-10
The only officially coloured lineart of A-10 can be found in Muv-Luv Alternative Total Eclipse World Guidance’s upgraded tech tree in a very miniscule size. There’s a fan render out there that’s using wrong colours too. Technically, the one used here is a A-10C, but the two share the same lineart

This TSA has the least of lines out of any piece I’ve done thus far. The main reason for this is the same as with MiG-21; it adheres to the in-universe logic that F-4 was the starting point and directly ascending it or using its frame use its main form. The TSA A-10 follows more the idea of field littering support unit than the form of the craft. This is applied to the armouring as well. Even the Jump Units are unique in that they replicate only the latter part of the craft and one of the sides.

There is very little A-10 in A-10 in terms of clear visual cues. The additional armour gives it more curved surface resembling the aircraft, but outside that it’s very stripped down. I would have preferred to see a more direct adoption of sleek curves from the plane itself instead of opting to follow the F-4 TSFs. At least the legs could’ve used some elements from the landing gears.

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; MiG-27 Alligator

Let’s point out that the English name of this TSF can be disputed. In Japanese, the name is アリゲートル, Arigeetoru. The little Russian I know, it should be written as Аллигаторы, or Alligatory. Seeing how no other TSF name is plural, I’m going to use my own head here and assume my ass out that its name was supposed to be Alligator, Аллигатор. It’s not uncommon to see âge misspelling names, like Schwarzesmarken or Valkylies.

The MiG-27 inherited the same basic airframe the MiG-23 had, but got a revised nose. It was first introduced to the service as MiG-23B as the ground attack variant of MiG-23, and after initial runs it saw some additional changes. Flogger-D, as NATO designated it, serves as battlefield  attacker and thus these changes accommodated its role. Both sides of the cockpit are protected from small arms fire and frontal view was increased. New terrain-avoidance radar and nav/attack systems were installed to give the pilot the edge they’d need.

MiG-23 and MiG-27 were one of the first swing-wing fighters with three sweep settings; 16-degrees for take-off, 45-degrees for cruising and 72-degrees for high performance flight. Sukhoi would continue using swing-wing in its fighters down the line. Sadly, it would seem this variable geometry configuration is more or less obsolete nowadays now that relaxed stability flight controls systems have negated most of the disadvantages the fixed platform fighter had. That, and it takes much fewer resources to designs and maintain solid fighters with no variable control surfaces.

The Tumanksy R-29B-300 turbojet engine the MiG-29 uses gives it a respectable thrust of 11 500kg. The fighters’ empty weight is 11 300kg with a maximum take-off weight at 20 300kg. The armaments are respectable, having one 30mm cannon in the belly pod with seven pylons for missiles and rockets up to 4000kg, including nuclear carry capability. Nevertheless, MiG-27 was in production almost three decades until 1997 with  around 4000 units build. It is a potent fighter with ceiling of 14 008m, range of 1080km and climb rate of 12 007m per minute, the MiG-27 can be still found serving different airforces around the world due to Soviets and Russians importing it to countries like Cuba, Iraq, Afghanistan and India.

Overall, a classic fighter, but I’m still partial for MiG-21.

Aligatori_2
Original here

I’m always surprised how tightly knit MiG variants are, but ultimately that showcases how it’s not feasible to have a fighter that would excel in all roles. As such, I’ve noticed how TSFs are either shooty or knify, but the ones trying to do both don’t really stand out at all. TSAs on the other hand stand apart from their TSF brethren just fine.

While the MiG-27 is variant of MiG-23, it’s TSF version is more or less an upgraded standalone version, and its performance and changes made to the frame were supposedly significant enough to give it a separate designation. The two look pretty much the same, having only one or two actually important changes, like on the arms and in certain details here and there, like on the knees and on the holes of the shoulder armours neat the head.

WhY mY ShOuLdErS hUrT?
An argument for all TSFs looking the same, unless you recognize how the real fighters look almost the same as well

The Alligator uses nicely surfaces and elements from the MiG-27 fighter. It’s more inspired than some other TSFs and has instantly recognizable, boxy look to it. The groin guard is a relatively unique in that it encompasses more elements than just the fighter’s nose. The head isn’t anything special, but I would argue the shapes on top of the head are inspired by the point where the variable wings are attached to the fuselage. The shoulders and arms should’ve been just a tad slimmer to follow the surprising thin nature of MiG-27, but overall there’s a healthy amount of plane elements in there, especially in the line language, mixed with TSF original materials, notably in the legs.

It would appear that close-combat focused TSFs function as equivalents for ground attack fighters. As such, the Alligator has a larger Soviet Army Combat Knife for better BETA cutting power. I’m not sure how this translates as better close combat capabilities, as the Alligator doesn’t have any more sharp points on its armour than its predecessor, Cheburashka. It’s got the WS-16 Assault Cannon and the same DS-3 MPSA shield MiG-21’s use. I guess it’s just quicker and more nimble than its predecessor, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into better performance at close range. That translates into better performance overall.

Much like the real life MiG-27, the Alligator is supposedly still in action during the events of Alternative, making  about 40% of Soviet Surface Fighter forces. It’s a competent, basic TSF that doesn’t do anything too fancy, but has the basics down just fine for a Second Generation TSF. It’s direct descendant MiG-29 Ласточка/Lastochka/Swallow and MiG-29OVT Fulcrum do everything the Alligator did and then some more while still staying in the range if Second Generation TSFs.

Of course, Su-37 and Su-47 would totally eclipse the MiG-27 in their time in terms of performance, close combat capabilities and fire power.

I just wanted to throw this in here
I just wanted to throw this in here

Remember to check the Tactical Surface Fighter tag I have for all the previous posts with TSF/plane comparisons.

Plane elements in Tactical Surface Fighters; Su-37 Terminator

The Flanker series of Sukhoi fighters have always been competent fighters. In Muv-Luv Alternative’s BETAverse, the base Su-37 most likely exists somewhere, but is never seen anywhere, not even on the TSF tech trees. As such, this comparison will be a bit weird in that I am using a base version of Su-37 to Su-37m2. This is the single seat variant that Fikatsia “Mama Bear” Latrova and 221 Batal’on Zhar used in Total Eclipse. The TSF Su-37’s don’t have outside differences par painting scheme, so either could’ve been used. If this bothers you, too bad.

A modified version of Su-27 with canards first flew in 1985 and was the prototype from which the Su-35 would be based on. The first true Su-35, called Su-27M at the time, flew in June 1988. It was a single seat fighter with moving canards, improved engines, digital fly-by-wire system that had quadruple redundancy to prevent mishaps. The prototype was made to be an aggressive fighter with great control. Because of the redundancy systems, Su-37M could fight and take hits without losing control. Probably. The Su-35 was a beast on paper, but Su-37 would improve the fighter further.

Su-37  was an experimental fighter with many names. NATO calls it Flanker-F, Sukhoi themselves calls it the Terminator. A loved child has many names. For a multi-role fighter first flown in 1996, the Su-37 was super maneuverable and able to utilise two dimensional thrust vectoring with its moving nozzles. All things considered, it had  great weight-to-thrust ratio with its Lyulka AL-37FU engines providing 12 500kg thrust to a fighter weighting 17 000kg empty. 2500km/h is nothing to scoff at either, especially for its time. With fly-by-wire, the Su-37 could do very impressive vertical acrobatics that impressed attendants at airshows in 1996 and 1997.

For its armaments, the Su-37 had one 30mm cannon and 14 hardpoints to carry a range of missiles and bombs up to 6000kg. The maximum take-off weight for the fighter was 34 000kg. Later Lyulka-Saturn developed AL-31Fp thrust control engines that were able to move in both horizontally and vertically. Some Su-37 were installed with these for tests and were named Super Flankers, but the engine is more associated with Su-30 Multi-Role Flanker. In December 2002, a Su-37 crashed during a ferry flight, ending the program. The plane series never entered production, and it seems Russian air forces are emphasizing Sukhoi PAK FA as a sort of response to US’ F-22A and F-35 Lighting II.

In Muv-Luv Alternative Su-37 saw larger production and was one of the main stepping stone towards Soviet Union’s 3rd Generation TSFs, namely the Su-47 Berkut.

F-14 Tomcat
Had to use these models, never found a good coloured back image

The Terminator, as its known here, is a single-seat front line TSF. It has a brother version in Su-37UB, which was used by the Scarlet Twins Inia Sestina and Cryska Barchenowa. Anyway, the Terminator was a 2.5th generation TSF with an emphasize on Close-Combat. Sure, it carrier the usual A-97 Assault Gun, but much like its little brother, the Terminator carries Arm Blade Motors ie. Chainsaws in its arms and basically has enough Spike and Blade Vanes to give a modeller bleeding hands. It lacks proper knives to do the Knife Dance, sadly.

One thing that needs to be separately mentioned is that both Su-37 and Su-47 are very similar to each other. There are clear differences for sure, but designers at âge clearly intend to reflect the fact that Su-47 used the same tandem-tripple layout with canards and tailplanes that Su-37 would use. This leads to other interesting things like the Jump Units having two tailpods instead of one found on the real plane. Furthermore, the torsos between the two are extremely similar if not identical, which harkens back to the fact that Su-47 was originally knows as Su-37. Russians have a tendency to re-use definitions with their fighters, which honestly has caused me more than a little headache when it comes to writing this entry. While Su-47 came first in the real world, it’s very clear that Su-37 came first in BETAverse. The Terminator also is a bit poor example of fighter elements in TSFs.

One interesting thing with the Terminator is that its skirt armour has forwards pointing thrusters, which most likely adds to its maneuverability. While the Terminator was not all that impressive in Total Eclipse VN or the television series, it’s safe to say that for its time it reflects the real world counterpart in how agile beast it is. The differences between 3rd and 2.5th generation TSFs is not all that big, so it would be safe to say that the Terminator could give early 3rd gen TSFs run for their money. That is, if the US surface pilots aren’t dicks and stay in stealth mode, shooting from miles away.

I also need to revise these charts at one point from ground up.