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Adventures in Engineering
The wanderings of a modern ronin.

Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2006-06-16 22:48
  Subject:   Twilight for the F-14 Tomcat
Public


Hundreds of former Grumman employees and aviation buffs paid their last respects yesterday to a soon-to-retire jet that, for decades, defined Long Island industry. "Pound for pound, it is the best aircraft that the United States ever had," said John Lampasone, who worked at Grumman for 24 years. "And it's a shame that they're taking it out of service."

http://www.newsday.com/news/local/longisland/ny-bzgrumm16,0,5658213.story



No insult to F-14's replacement, the F-22, which is an amazing aircraft. But I think ol' swing-wings will always be my favorite fighter jet.
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Coinneach Fitzpatrick: Shine
  User: scarybaldguy
  Date: 2006-06-16 23:23 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Keyword:Shine
*moment of silence*

Fare ye well, Tomcat.
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  User: nickhalfasleep
  Date: 2006-06-17 00:12 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
I remember biking along the beach in Cali and watching a pair cruise along the coast at about 500'. The RIO in the back seat of the lead aircraft was using their Ruskie-spotting binoculars to check out for bikini's.
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  User: (Anonymous)
  Date: 2006-06-17 00:29 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Personally, I've always preferred the F-15.

-J
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2006-06-17 00:31 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
The F-15 is pretty damn cool... but still, no swing-wings.
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MegaZone
  User: zonereyrie
  Date: 2006-06-17 01:42 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
I really liked the F-111 Aardvark. Wings tucked in, flying nap-of-the-earth at high speed. Looked damn cool doing it. And the EF-111 Sparkvark, er, Raven.

The B-1 can do pretty much the same, but it doesn't have the same cool factor.
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2006-06-17 02:08 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Visually speaking, I really like that dual rear stabilizer design. The Aardvark lacks it and ends up looking too generic to my eye. Almost like a MiG.
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osmium_ocelot: Priss
  User: osmium_ocelot
  Date: 2006-06-17 01:29 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Keyword:Priss
"But I think ol' swing-wings will always be my favorite fighter jet."

How much of that sentiment do you speculate might be because the Robotech Valkyrie is essentially an F-14?
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2006-06-17 01:33 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Lots. (G)

JetFire was one of my favorite transformers, and he was a Valk.
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MegaZone
  User: zonereyrie
  Date: 2006-06-17 01:41 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
It is sad to see the F-14 go, but, honestly, it is time. They haven't built a new Tomcat in many years, unlike the F-15, which is still in production. The airframes are getting worn out and the electronics are out of date, even with updates over time. The maintanence bills are getting too large to warrant keeping them in service. The F-14 was designed to defend the fleet from a wave of Russian missiles and bombers, and it is really a pair with the AIM-54 Phoenix. Threats have changed, the F-14 is complex, big, and expensive to keep running. The new Super Horner takes a fraction of the man hours per each flight hour, and the new AESA radars are even better than the legendary AWG-9 in the Tomcat in many ways. Better at picking up sea-skimming missiles, SAR modes, tracking multiple targets, etc.

It would've been nice if Grumman's proposals for a 'Tomcat 21' had been accepted. That would've seen a refreshed Tomcat produced, in the same way the F-15E Strike Eagle was evolved from the basic F-15. And the F-15E has served as the basis for subsequent versions used for export, like the F-15K for Korea. But, at the time, the Navy was working on the A-12 Flying Dorito and they had the F/A-18 Hornet of course. So they saw a Tomcat refresh as too expensive. So the Tomcat only got minor improvements - like updates to software to give it basic ground attack capabilities - the 'Bombcat' update.

The really sad part is that the F-22 isn't the F-14's replacement. The F-22 is the F-15's replacement. The Navy isn't getting F-22s, they aren't carrier capable. The F-14's replacement in service is the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Not a bad aircraft, but not quite the same. The Super Hornet will assume the Tomcat's role in CAP, recon, etc. And the F-35C JSF will replace the F/A-18A/B/C/D Hornet in ground attack and lower-tier air-to-air. The EF-18G Growler will be replacing the EA-6B Prowler.

Lockheed Martin proposed a navalized version of the F-22, and their published concept had swing wings, but it was never seriously pursued. Since the F-22 is so expensive, and numbers have been slashed all the way down to about 180 now, that'll probably never happen. Northrop Grumman also proposed a navalized F-23, which didn't look much different, but when the YF-23 lost to the YF-22, that dead ended. Unlike the YF-16 and YF-17, the Navy didn't have the money to pick up the other design and bring it to production. (The YF-17, of course, evolved into the F/A-18.)
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
MegaZone
  User: zonereyrie
  Date: 2006-06-17 20:38 (UTC)
  Subject:   Re: I'm not sure
Actually the primary engine for the F-35 is the Pratt & Whitney F135, which is an evolution of the F119 used in the F-22. They've been running into some problems with it in development - a little heavy, and thrust is a little low for the STOVL variant. And the hot section is running ~150 degrees hot right now (story in a recent AvWeek) and they're working on that.

GE & Rolls-Royce are teamed up on the F35 Alternate Engine Program, which is the F136. The F136 is evolved from the F120 engine design GE submitted for the F-22. While it certainly draws from their commercial experience, I don't believe there is a direct connection with a commercial core. The Pentagon tried to kill the F136 program a couple of months ago as a 'cost saving measure'. Basically the F136 is a #3-4 Billion program, but the tradeoff is that over the expected 3,000+ JSF's engine competition will save money and competition drives improvements. Plus having engine options means if there is a problem with one engine the JSF can switch to the other. Congress force-fed the USAF money tagged for use in sustaining the F136 program, so it is continuing for now.

The F136 has other, indirect benefits.
- The F136 is designed to come online a couple of years after the F135. The F135 is the pimary engine and the design had to be frozen so they could time development to be ready for first flight. The F136 design isn't frozen yet and they're only now building the first engineering and development engines, which will fire up next year. So the F136 gets the benefit of a couple more years of R&D and technology change. It is already looking like the F136 will be lighter and have noticably more power.
- While Rolls-Royce does contribute to the F135 (and they have the lift-fan which is the same on all STOVL models), they are a major partner on the F136. The UK is the only Tier 1 partner on the JSF and RR's future revenue from the F136 is a HUGE issue for them. They went ballistic when the F136 program was threatened. MTU from Germany is also a major partner on the F136 and they weren't happy either. Since the UK is the other major STOVL customer they're looking at the F136's higher power as a way to improve that variant.
- Killing the F136 would mean killing the only advanced military jet program at GE. That would signifcantly risk the industrial base for future programs and could mean turning P&W into a de facto monopoly. While GE still makes the F110 (F-15, F-16), F404/414 (Hornet/Super Hornet), etc, they are old designs. P&W is already sole-source on the F-22 and the F-35 is the only other advanced military jet expected for decades. The F136 engine has been tapped for several nominal designs like the FB-22 concept, because it will be the most advanced engine available if completed.

The GEnx is in early development right now for the 787 and the 747-8, and it is evolve from the GE90 core. It may be used on the A350 - but Airbus is redesigning that, again, because the 787 is kicking it's ass in the market and large customers have openly slammed the A350 design as weak. So they've gone back to the drawing board and the A350 may grow and therefor need a larger engine, some speculation is that it will use a variant of the GP7200 that the A380 uses. The GP7200 is built by Engine Alliance, a joint venture of GE & P&W.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
MegaZone
  User: zonereyrie
  Date: 2006-06-17 22:30 (UTC)
  Subject:   Re: I'm not sure
P&W has taken the lion's share of military engines and they're focused more on business jets, etc. GE has dominated the commercial sector.

P&W made some bad decisions. A while back they were offered a chance to design a new mid-sized engine for an evolution of a Boeing design, and they turned it down. That design was the revised 737, the -300/400/500. Of course, GE partnered with Snecma to form CFM and produce the CFM56. That engine became the sole engine to power the 737, and evolutions continue to power the 737NG (-600/700/800/900). The 737 is the best selling airliner of all time, and the CFM56 is the best selling commercial jet engine of all time.

On top of that, when Airbus designed a family to compete with the B737, the A320 family (A318/319/320/321), they needed an engine in the same class - so they adopted the CFM56. Airbus decided not to sole-source, so they also picked up the International Aereo Engines IAE2500. This time P&W was smart and is one of the companies behind IAE - but the CFM56 is still the top seller even for Airbus, so the IAE2500 has a small fraction of the market. And on the A318, which there is no IAE variant for, P&W offers the PW6000 - but the original design was bad and it ended up being several years late, running way over budget, so the CFM56 took most of thsoe sales too as customers couldn't wait.

On the B777 P&W offered a variant of an established engine, the PW4000. Trent offered the Trent 800, a new design based on their three-spool tech, and GE developed the new GE90. The PW4000 was at a disadvantage to the newer designs, and when Boeing grew the 777 for the 777-200LR/300ER it really came down to GE or RR. Boeing insisted on the engine provider being a risk-sharing partner - RR balked, so GE got the sole-source. Now that looks prescient - the 777-200LR/200F/300ER dominate new 777 sales, all powered by GE. This also gave GE funding to evolve the GE90 core - and now that core is at the heart of the GP7200 and the GEnx.

But, even more, Boeing originally meant to size the 787 to not overlap with the 777. However, due to immense customer pressure for the efficiencies of the 787, they're going to be launching a 787-10 - a stretch beyond the 787-9, in a couple of years. (Already scheduled.) This will directly compete with the base model 777-200/200ER/300 offering similar seating capacity at much lower operating costs.

And the only engine options? GE's GEnx and RR's Trent 1000. P&W is locked out of all 787 sales.

On top of that, Boeing's 747-8 (the 747-i you mentioned) is sole source - a GE GEnx variant. P&W was out of the running anyway, Boeing was set on using 787 engines, and they don't feel the market is big enough for two options so GE got it. No new Boeing design uses P&W.

Going over the history:
717 - never did, RR BR715 engines. (Older DC/MD ancestors did.) No longer produced.
727 - P&W JT8D, no longer produced.
737 - -100/200 were P&W JT8D, then they gave the market to GE
747 - P&W was an option through the -400 (JT9D then PW4000), dropped on the -8.
757 - P&W 2000 was one of two options, but the B757 is no longer produced. (The PW2000 is aka the F117 and it powers the C-17.)
767 - PW4000 is an option, but the B767 is being phased out for the B787.
777 - PW4000 an option on earlier versions, now GE exclusive (as above)
787 - GE GEnx and RR Trent 1000 - P&W locked out.

At Airbus:
A300 - JT9D/PW4000 options, but production ceasing in 2007
A310 - JT9D/PW4000 options, but production ceasing in 2007
A320 - as above, dominated by CFM56. IAE2500 option on 319/320/321, PW6000 option on A318.
A330 - PW4000 option, A330 to be replaced by A350
A340 - CFM56 on the -200/300, RR Trent 500 on the -500/600. No P&W. A340 sales are in the tank, the B777 is hammering it. May also be replaced by A350.
A350 - In flux, but all designs to date have been based on GE GEnx and RR Trent 1700. No P&W.
A380 - RR Trent 700 and Engine Alliance GP7200. P&W is a partner, with GE, in Engine Alliance.

...to be continued...
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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
MegaZone
  User: zonereyrie
  Date: 2006-06-17 22:31 (UTC)
  Subject:   Re: I'm not sure
So, yeah, P&W went from dominating the commercial jet market to being a marginal player and the future is bleak. If they're lucky the A350 redesign may use the GP7200. P&W is working on mid-range designs, hoping to be ready for the next wave of new designs - single aisle replacements. Boeing's next effort will be to replace the B737 with a new design, and Airbus is expected to follow with an A320 replacement. That'll be the next opportunity to land a design.


I know it is kind of silly, but I've taken a bit of glee out of watching Airbus screw themselves over. The A380 delays, well, that happens - but they're up to a year+ of delays now! (The new 6 months is on top of a previous 6 month slip.) And the A350 saga is just slapstick.

First they snootily denounced the B787 and said a simple refresh of the A330 would be more than enough. When it became obvious that was wrong, they did a half-assed update and called it the A350. Then it was obvious it was half-assed, so they did a more major redesign, still the A350. But it still has a LOT of legacy A330/340 in it - including the fuselage diameter (they wanted to keep it the same to reuse the production line), and other bits. That's had tepid sales, while the B787 is selling like hotcakes, and major customers have openly slammed it as a weak response. So now they're being forced to actually design a new plane. All the delays and bad PR is money in the bank to Boeing. They're looking at adding a second B787 line early in production, demand is so high. The problem is finding suppliers to feed production!
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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
Ohmi
  User: ohmisunao
  Date: 2006-06-17 04:30 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
The F-14 is my favorite also.. but I'd admit that it's been obsolete for quite a while. I'm not sure if fighter jets are really that necessary these days anyway. In any case the F/A-18 Super Hornet is a worthy replacement.. and still looks badass. ^^;
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Ben Cantrick
  User: mackys
  Date: 2006-06-17 04:36 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
I'm not sure if fighter jets are really that necessary these days anyway.

I think you're right. It'll be at least two decades before the Chinese will be able to threaten the USA in the skys. For the moment, fighter jets are pretty much overpowered toys.

That, I think, is why I like them. (G)
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  User: (Anonymous)
  Date: 2006-06-17 10:32 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Well, fighters are still the way to maintain air superiority over a given area and it affects surface theaters also. Air superiority means that ground troops can count on air strikes to soften surface targets as well as knowing that they are less vulnerable to strikes from enemy aircraft.

As for being overpowered toys, I've always thought that was the point. Warfare isn't a sport. You don't want things to be competitive between two or more forces. You want to, thoroughly, outclass the opposition to minimize your casualties and maximize your impact on the enemy. I don't think any government or their military said, "Hey, this new technology gives us way too much of an advantage. Let's not pursue/refine it."


-J
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
MegaZone
  User: zonereyrie
  Date: 2006-06-17 21:11 (UTC)
  Subject:   Re: Yep
Remember the Navy tried to get their own stealth fighter - the A-12 Flying Dorito program was a miserable failure. It was too aggressive - a stealthy flying wing that also had the design stability for a carrier? And this was started in the 70s - today it could probably work, but computers (both for design and in the aircraft itself) are just a wee bit more powerful. They incorporated some radar signature reduction on the Super Hornet, but they are keenly interested in the stealth qualities of the F-35.

The new ships, like the DD-21, are also being designed to be stealthy. (Subs, of course, are all about stealth. The Navy was the first stealth service.)
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Alex Belits
  User: abelits
  Date: 2006-06-17 15:55 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Not to jump in with my usual "US is full of arrogant assholes" but this "we will fight all future wars by launching a lot of missiles at our inferior enemies" talk is getting on my nerves.
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MegaZone
  User: zonereyrie
  Date: 2006-06-17 21:07 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
The MiG-29 is most directly comparable to the F/A-18 Hornet. It is a good design, but generally not considered to be on the same level as newer aircraft like the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Eurofighter Typhoon, Saab Gripen, or Dassault Rafale. The Su-27 family (variants up the the Su-37 now) is more of a comparison to the F-15 or F-14. All of them are '4th generation' aircraft, with the F-22, F-35, Typhoon, etc, considered '5th generation'. Sukhoi is working on the PAK FA program to produce a 5th generation fighter for the Russian Air Force, as well as export, but money has been tight and the program is proceeding at a glacial pace.

It looked like MiG had been shut out, losing the PAK FA program to Sukhoi, but now it looks like they may be tapped to build a new 'low' fighter to match Sukhoi's 'high' design - for the classic high-low mix, as in the F-15/F-15 or Su-27/MiG-29. Of course, money is still a problem. Both MiG and Sukhoi currently get most of their revenue from exports, mainly to India and China. And the export market has been heating up with not only traditional competitors such as the F-15, F-16, and F/A-18, but the Typhoon, Gripen, and Rafale are being pushed, aggressively, around the world. And the F-35 is hanging over a lot of deals as a potential spoiler, India has been warming to western aircraft, but they still have joint-ventures with Russia. China, which is basically a closed market to the west due to political issues, remains their best market. But China is aggressively developing indiginous fighter designs. And, ironically, now exporting them to other countries, like Pakistan, taking traditionally Russian sales.
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Alex Belits
  User: abelits
  Date: 2006-06-17 21:26 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
That particular video was of MiG-29 OVT, a version with all-direction moving nozzles and other improvements over the original design. Regardless of the situation with the international weapons trade or assignment of airplane designs to "generations" it shows a continuing development in a direction that should be relevant to the real-life use of those fighters in potential conflicts.
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MegaZone
  User: zonereyrie
  Date: 2006-06-17 21:39 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
I know, I'd seen it before. There have also been F/A-18s and F-15s fitted with thrust vectoring. The Su-37 has it as well.

Both MiG and Sukhoi have created some interesting variants of their designs, but most of them never enter production because of finances. Designs like the MiG-29K being sold to India for their carrier are certainly different from the initial 29, but the F-16E (aka Block 60) is also radically different from the F-16A, almost a new aircraft. (The Super Hornet really *is* a new aircraft, I really don't think it should be the F/A-18 anymore at all, that was purely political. The Navy couldn't get a 'new' plane, but they could slip a new *version* past Congress.) But it is still an evolution of an existing design and at some point you need to start over. MiG has been trying to do that since he 90s, but they haven't had the funds for it. They've produced some nice concepts, hopefully they'll get to build one.
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Alex Belits
  User: abelits
  Date: 2006-06-17 23:05 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
That depends on politics. Most likely US is going to place their bases close to the Russian borders and sell weapons to new NATO members, so Russian government may shift their priorities from export to modernizing their own Air Force just to prevent "intimidation diplomacy" that they expect from US.

For now, export matters more because diplomacy is calm, but if US will make threats/promises to support their new allies in "defending" Crimea, Abkhazia, Transnistria and other not-exactly-calm regions blamed on Russian influence, I would expect some saber-rattling from both sides.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand
Pacchi
  User: pacchi
  Date: 2006-06-17 06:19 (UTC)
  Subject:   Sexy Thang
Maybe it's all the pro-US media influence from my childhood in Taiwan (Neener china, the US carrier and it's pretty planes will protect us) and also liking "Top Gun" before I saw more of Mr.First Otak...er... Last Samurai Cruise and realized he was a dickhead; but the F14 has always been a sexy bird in my mind. Even if Zonereyrie has all the technical infor to back up it's grounding. *pout*

Of course, just to be annoyingly unAmerican, I have to point out that the Sukhoi Flankers, while having a suspiciously similar shape, has very attractive sweeps and curves to it. (SU- 27, 30, 35, 37, but the "front wings" are kind of silly on the ones that have them).

Also, much annoyance at the Australian Military for replacing F-111 Aardvarks. The long range, below radar-flight, and capability to deliver big ship killers is basically all the deterrent they need to protect Australia the Oversized Carrier. The larger scale swing-wings tend to stress-fatigue, and cost much in terms of maintenance, but as Australia is the main force flying the darn things, I wish they'd just buy a licence to make them here already. Instead they're buying second hand Abrams and have recently realized that they need to buy new ships to fit the darn things in for transport to anywhere.

- P
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MegaZone
  User: zonereyrie
  Date: 2006-06-17 20:55 (UTC)
  Subject:   Re: Sexy Thang
The F-111 is even older than the F-14. :-) In fact, the F-14 grew out of a failed F-111 variant.

Back in the 60's the Air Force was looking for a new fighter-bomber and the Navy was looking for a new air defense fighter. The 'brilliant' SecDef at the time, Robert MacNamara, looked at the two requirements and thought they were simmilar enough that the USAF and USN should combine their programs and produce one aircraft that could do both. This resulted in a compromise aircraft - the F-111. Boeing had submitted what most consider the best TFX (program name) design for the Air Force, but it wouldn't have been that good for the Navy. So the General Dynamics design was selected as the best compromose.

So the F-111A was built for the USAF and the F-111B for the Navy. The F-111A worked out resonably well. The F-111B was a miserable failure.

First of all the nose of the A was too long for the carrier's elevators. So the B had a snubbed nose. It also had a complete different radar - the AF was looking for NOE flight and ground attack, the Navy for air defense. So the 111B had the AWG-9 and Phoenix missiles - later inherited by the F-14. The TF30 engines were notorious - underpowered and unreliable. (The F-14A inherited those too, unfortunately. The later F-14s got the F110, a much better engine.) This was worse on the F-111B because it was overweight, almost too heavy to land on a carrier. And the cockpit design had no rearward visbility - not what you want in air defense.

So they built a handful of F-111Bs, proved that they were terrible in testing, and scrapped the Naval variant. Then they went back to the drswing board and Grumman designed the F-14, using some of the F-111Bs systems - radar, armament, engines, and some others, and the general swing-wing design.

The F-111 has been out of production much longer than the F-14, and the only two operators were the USAF and Australia. The USAF retired their fleet. In fact, Australia acquired a lot of parts as well as airframes from the US to keep their fleet flying. But those are running out and the airframes are just worn out - and the tooling and such was destroyed years ago.

The USAF replaced the F-111 with the F-15E Strike Eagle, which is a great aircraft in its own right.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
MegaZone
  User: zonereyrie
  Date: 2006-06-17 20:46 (UTC)
  Subject:   (no subject)
Actually:
F-35A = CTOL
F-35B = STOVL
F-35C = Naval

There has been on-again, off-again talk of producing a hybrid of the A & C - the lighter CTOL structure with the larger Naval wing. (Not hard to do, the JSF is modular and designed so all three can be produced on one production line.) This would sacrifice some agility for extended range.
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