Saturday, 25 June 2011

We Can But Dream - Nimrod

I'm not going to rehash the Nimrod MRA4 saga except to say that the aircraft was flawed (but repairable, given an additional few layers of £50 notes epoxyed to the aiframes) and its lifetime costs unrealistic - which company would tool-up to support only nine aircraft for forty years and not think kerrr-chingggg!

The opportunity ought to have been taken in the 1990's to design and build an entirely new, purpose-designed aircraft for the roles required. If Portillo, the Defence Minister wot signed the contract, had taken an interest in aircraft instead of choo-choos, he would have known that every scheme cooked up by Air Force and manufacturers the world over to "modify" an existing type in order to save money, doesn't. Redesign leads to retooling leads to a creeping realisation that for an extra x lbs of airframe, y capabaility is possible. And of course, x lb airframe costs £ z000. The end result is about 95% different but which will still become obsolete at about the same time the manufacturer's order book tapers off.

My dream would have been to start with a clean sheet of paper or monitor screen. Add to that the requirements of the roles such as: full-spectrum sensor suite, long range, capacious weapons bay, roomy cabin for sensor operators and we have the beginnings of an aircraft.

But why bother with the conventional fuselage, wing and tail layout? Wouldn't a blended wing body design  offer more room, greater structural strength, less drag? Imagine the Avro Vulcan or Armstrong Whitworth AW52 and bring them sixty years up to date as something like the Boeing X-48.

Look at the internal volume offered by a blended wing aircraft:

(With acknowledgement to Flight International)

Plenty of space for even the Nimrod's famous old 48'6" long weapons bay ( because the underfuselage trough fairing fitted to streamline the nose mounted search radar to the rotation point where the rear fuselage tapers upwards was long enough, that's why) that usually carried two sets of Lindholme ASR gear and sometimes a mail pannier. How often Nimrods actually carried nine Stingray torpedoes and twenty-four Mark XI depth charges is moot and as they were only certified to carry four thousand-pounders during Operation Corporate, I wonder what the maximum 20,000lb payload would consist of.  As a long range bomber, the new aircraft could also accommodate Storm Shadows and Paveways internally with AAMs on external pylons for self defence.

One additional advantage of the BWB design would be that each crew member could be provided with an ejection seat with exit through roof hatches.

The aircraft structure would be composite and the engines, radars, ESM and avionics would be as per Nimrod MRA4.

1 comment:

Thud said...

That x48 is a beautiful bit of kit as are all flying wings,ucav taranis etc.