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Depends on your definition of "aircraft"

The X-15 can do mach 6.72 and put you on the fringes of space @ about 328,000 feet.
 

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Then no, we don't. The F-22 and F-15 have "service ceilings" of about 65K feet. Both are capable of more, but sustaining that altitude gets tough when their top speed is mach ~2.5. The SR-71 is only capable of the altitude because of its speed, and vice versa. Nothing else has ever been designed to fly at 80,000 feet and take pictures of a golf ball. The U-2 can fly at 70,000 feet, but it is more dependent on the surface area of its wings. And due to the density of the air at that altitude, it has to maintain its speed carefully, because it is balanced between stalling and breaking the sound barrier.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Then no, we don't. The F-22 and F-15 have "service ceilings" of about 65K feet. Both are capable of more, but sustaining that altitude gets tough when their top speed is mach ~2.5. The SR-71 is only capable of the altitude because of its speed, and vice versa. Nothing else has ever been designed to fly at 80,000 feet and take pictures of a golf ball. The U-2 can fly at 70,000 feet, but it is more dependent on the surface area of its wings. And due to the density of the air at that altitude, it has to maintain its speed carefully, because it is balanced between stalling and breaking the sound barrier.
The F-35 might have the potential for the 80,000+ ceiling, but it's operational ceiling and climb rate are still classified.


There is also rumor (or myth) that has been going around for a while about "Aurora". Hard to say given the lack of information, though.

It seems to me that such a fast and high flying plane could be used for roles other than strictly recon.
 

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I doubt the F-35 will have a ceiling/speed much higher than the F-22 or F-15 simply because it is supposed to be so versatile. It'll likely have a Mach 1.8-2.0 speed, and a 60,000ft service ceiling.

The aurora is one of the planes that has been rumored about for years, supposedly using scramjets. I guess it is possible, and if so it would have speed/altitude numbers to rival the x-15. But I don't see it being a usefull part of the everyday military.
 

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I doubt the F-35 will have a ceiling/speed much higher than the F-22 or F-15 simply because it is supposed to be so versatile. It'll likely have a Mach 1.8-2.0 speed, and a 60,000ft service ceiling.

The aurora is one of the planes that has been rumored about for years, supposedly using scramjets. I guess it is possible, and if so it would have speed/altitude numbers to rival the x-15. But I don't see it being a usefull part of the everyday military.


The F-35 has a speed of Mach 1.6. At least, that is what the current reports say. Like you said, though... probably not much for a ceiling on it. Especially considering the F-35B is designed as a Short takeoff/Vertical landing aircraft.

If the Aurora exists, and is using scramjet engines, I would assume it would definitely be FAR superior to the SR-71.
 

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I'll wait for the shakedowns before I trust the numbers they're publishing. We're likely to see a little difference between the AF and USMC variants which could have a significant impact on speed/ceiling. Whose bright idea was it to use the same plane for everything? Vote them out.
 

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Case in point...the A-10. It can loiter around the battlefield for 45 minutes killing everything in sight, fly back missing half a wing, an engine, the better part of the horizontal stabilizer, etc...and the pilot still makes it to the bar in time to celebrate.

Send in an F-16, it burns half its fuel getting there, drops 1 (maybe 2) laser designated bombs, burns the rest of its fuel on egress and leaves the troops on the ground on their own. If I was a grunt, I'd pray to see an A-10 or Apache.
 

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With the development of imaging settelites there isnt much of a need for anything with the SR71's capabilites. Aurora has been talked about for way too long, always being the "next" thing. Now its sounding like it wont have a pilot. Can you call drones planes? Did the X15 have a pilot?

Dont be so quick to knock down the JSF. A10 is a great plane, but lets face it, it has about the same chance against an enemy fighter as a C130. Still, if the A10 is to be retired, it does need an equivalen replacement, perhaps based on a cargo aircraft platform. But for actual fighter/attack duties JSF is pretty damn good, and having the same plane offers economies of scale savings for production (if we can keep people from cutting the scales) and enormous savings in logistics.
 

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The X-15 is a piloted craft, yes.

And the A-10 has a very high survivability rate, plus awesome maneuverability. So it does its job very well, and close air support will always be a factor in conflict. Let's not forget about "spooky" the AC-130 Spectre. That along with the A-10 make for a deadly package. Thrown in a couple F-15's or -22's for air cover and you're set.
 

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Its seriously depends on the mission. The package you are describing is great for a conventional battle (except of course, the f35 can do the job of the f22 for less cost).
A few things to consider:
As awesome as A10 and spectre are, they need air support. They will be torn to shreds without it. In fact, all our ground forces, as awesome as they are, require, and depend on not only air support, but complete air dominance. Without it.. well lets just say they wouldnt be as awesome.
F22 is a great air superiority fighter, no qualms there. The F15 is good, but aging. The later versions would be in a fair fight against a MIG35 or a SU34, while the earlier would have a hard time. Besides, they are starting to show their age in certain highly publicized incidents.
But what about other types of missions. Like a strike on a certain somoenes "civilian" nuclear fascilities? There is a mission in which the F35 would excell.

Edit: Niether the MIG35 nor The SU34 are in service. But they will be. Thats the point.
 

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Yeah, I understand your point, and there are many strike missions where an F-35 would do very well. Just as there are currently many strike missions where the F-16 and F/A-18 and even F-15E all do just fine while still maintaining the capability to engage air targets. But there are some missions that are always going to be better carried out by planes like the Warthog/Spectre. We haven't reached a point where we can make a multirole aircraft that can excel at both roles.

The Mig-35 (or Mig-29 OVT), Su-34, Su-33, Su-35 and a slew of other Russian aircraft have very unique capabilities that American aircraft do not. One example: Pugachev's Cobra. A maneuver that no current American aircraft can perform. Also the 360 in forward flight. But realistically, those maneuvers are practically useless because they leave the aircraft in a very bad position: slow flight, which makes it an easy target. So if they pull a high-alpha maneuver to pop off a missile, they better hope that it hits its target, and that the target is alone.

That being said, the Russians have come up with some really great aircraft, and ones that I wouldn't want to meet up with if I was in an F-15A or E. I think a good pilot in an F-15C would have a fair shot. F-22 and F-35 would probably come out on top...barely.
 

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I think the real problem with russian aircraft (manufacturers) is lack of industrial capacity. There are some great concepts being shown (or at least they look great), but do they have the capacity to manufacture hundreds or thouthands of those aircrafts, on any sort of schedule? Making a one off prototype is one thing, equiping an air force (even a small with 2 dozen planes) and having the logistics to keep them air worthy is something else entirely.
 

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Russians have always had a problem when it came down to actually maintaining their aircraft. I think that they are really beefing up their military capabilities now, so it wouldn't surprise me to see at least one of their current concepts become a front-line aircraft by 2012 if not sooner.

I can't understand why they still fly the Tu-95's all over the place like they're really intimidating anybody. Granted, they are the same age as the B-52, but they're still prop driven. I think they need to send out their Tu-160s or even the Tu-22's if they want to be taken seriously.
 

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"Beefing up"? I think its abit more like "Attempting to salvage whats left of" Russian military didnt do so well at the end of the cold war, with the airforce taking the harshest hit. Lack of funding not only prohibited the development of new planes, but severly limited training flights for the pilots, resulting in an underqualified force. Russia went on a number of oddball ventures to raise money for jet fuel, notably flying rich tourists.

As for reason for flights, it seems fairly simple to me. Putin convinced the russian people that freedoms result in weakness and they should give that up to regain their former glory (russians are big on the whole glory thing). Now he has to show something for it, and a symbolic threat to the worlds last superpower is just the thing. Plus it lets the pilots get some practice.

On another note, russia's military export market traditionally sells equipment independant of training and maintanance packages (as opposed to the way US does buisness). A great many of russia's clients (who almost always end up being someone we wish didnt have weapons) tend to skip out on the extra payments, resulting in underutilized equipment. Which is why israel can bomb nuclear sites in syria with impunity.
 

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Maybe we should send the Israelis up to take care of North Korea. They don't mess around when there's a job that needs done.

I know that after the cold war, the bulk of Russia's military aircraft (and probably everything else) were put into mothballs or just left to rust out on the tarmac. And I'm surprised they have 54 year-old planes that can still make the trip to Guam and back.
It's obviously just an exercise in flexing muscles as it always has been. The Russians seem to enjoy making other countries scramble thier fighters. During the cold war, it was pretty routine for our jets to intercept the Tu-95's, which is why there are so many pictures of our fighters next to their bombers.

Out of curiousity, Vash, what was your take on the joint exercises between the Ruskies and Chinese in the Urals last year?
 

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Been a while since then. I seemed to remember that china had a lot more to gain from the whole thing that russia. Seemed abit like a power grab.
There was also something about the exercise (but maybe not the same one) that seemed like it was a simulation for the invasion of taiwan. That would be a show of strength against the US, but I wouldnt consider it much sabre rattling. Both china and the US stand to loose way too much by going to war with each other, and taiwan isnt worth it. More likely, it reflects a power struggle withing china, the conservative military is trying to make a show of force against the pro-capitalist (relativly) reformers. Any aggressive more by the US plays into the hands of the conservatives as far as that internal power struggle is conserned. Not completely dissimular from how the progress in iraq affects the internal power struggle here in the states. Then again, it might not have been the same exercise. I need to read up on it.
 

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Wether in modern or historical context, it seems that foreign policy seems to be more of a result of internal power struggles than actual relations between countries...


Or maybe its just that any foreign conflict can be interpreted through internal power struggle....
 
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