Airliner derived Common Support Aircraft

Joined: August 11th, 2015, 4:45 pm

August 10th, 2018, 2:10 am #1

Over the years various studies have been done regarding the conversion of various commercial aircraft for the COD role, such as a DC9, 727, and Fokker F28 derived aircraft.

http://www.airlinereporter.com/2014/05/ ... er-oh-yes/

Despite showing promise, none ever really got beyond re-engineering studies and basic experiments, which showed that there were no engineering showstoppers other than the USN simply not wanting them at the time. Back then there was a whole new design of aircraft optimized for every role and cold-war money to support it.  Today the idea still shows promise as a relatively low risk common support aircraft so I was curious as to the potential for a fictional modern equivalent.

Modern analogues would be something like Gulfstream, Embraer, or Bombardier derived aircraft - smaller than

1. Long range COD
2. AEW&C: (See EMB-145H Erieye, or Gulfstream G550 derived AEW&C)
3. JSTARS Role (See: ASTOR Sentinel) for both over land and maritime based activities
4. Standoff Electronic Warfare and ELINT (Regional jamming at safer standoff ranges where performance isn't as crucial, the Growler can still do it's local strike package escort and SEAD/DEAD). Also ELINT / Compass Call Tasks
5. Light Tanker:  Can refuel two aircraft simultaneously and carry more fuel than the F-18 in buddy tanking config
6. Long Range Maritime Patrol and Anti-Sub (Mini P-8 Poseidon, fuselage modified in a similar manner for carriage of ordnance)
7. Bomb Truck for COIN / Low Intensity Conflict: Long loiter time and low operating costs for when high performance isn't as important (Long missions over Afghanistan, etc)
8. Airborne Laser: Hypothetical aircraft with nose mounted Naval Laser https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_Weapon_System
This would position itself between the carriers and expected threats and nail incoming supersonic sea skimmers from standoff ranges
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Joined: March 5th, 2018, 2:38 pm

August 10th, 2018, 2:16 am #2

This article is from 2014, before the V-22 COD was selected. It is worth wondering if a DC-9 or B-727 would have been successful.


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Joined: April 12th, 2009, 6:07 pm

August 10th, 2018, 12:50 pm #3

Modification of a midsize turboprop? B1900 or equivalent? (Yes lots of structural mods needed for landing with a hook, but were talking theoretical)

The wingspan of a 727 is 108', 30' more than an E-2C/COD but less than a C-130 (132'). The C-130 trial required clearing most of the deck, a 727 probably wouldn't be much better?
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.
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Joined: August 11th, 2015, 4:45 pm

August 11th, 2018, 12:04 am #4

I was curious about that as well.  While some of the other aircraft (F-28 / DC-9) would have featured wing folding, they're also quite a bit smaller than the 727. 

I can only assume the 727 would have been for long range COD only and not to "stay" as part of the ship's aircraft complement, as that surely would have required the deck cleared of other operations for safety.  I don't imagine it was seriously considered.
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XV
Joined: June 29th, 2014, 4:33 am

August 11th, 2018, 7:01 pm #5

Burncycle wrote:Over the years various studies have been done regarding the conversion of various commercial aircraft for the COD role, such as a DC9, 727, and Fokker F28 derived aircraft.
Despite showing promise, none ever really got beyond re-engineering studies and basic experiments, which showed that there were no engineering showstoppers other than the USN simply not wanting them at the time.
Modern analogues would be something like Gulfstream, Embraer, or Bombardier derived aircraft - smaller than...
A lot of issues. For one, while some airliners can potentially land on carriers, they require the entire deck to be cleared to do so.

The process isn't easy, and there's even less room for error than with landing a real carrier plane. The 727 is a severely outdated plane that's not worth basing anything on. Things got worse since the 727 era - not only modern airliners, but also modern bizjets are almost universally approach category C, requiring a balanced field length of 1,500+ meters. True STOL that can perform a rejected takeoff or a go-around on a 1,500 ft runway are few and far between.

The low-wing, underwing engine design of modern airliners is less suited to carrier operations. Low wings produce strong ground effect, so a plane has to flare and slow down to defeat its tendency to float. This is not good if you have to abort a landing over a runway you'll pass in just 5 seconds - and the ground effect ends where the runway does. It's not even enough time to spool up a turbofan.

For a transport plane to land on a carrier, you'd want to base it on something along the lines of the An-74 - high-wing, high-engine, durable, and on the upper end of the size for a carrier. You'd prefer variable pitch propfans to its turbofans, but that's not the real problem. You can guess what the irredeemable problem is.

Out of acceptable options, the closest thing is the Japanese US-2 - and its amphibious capability is a worthwhile enough safety bonus that you wouldn't even design it out. Also about as a large as a carrier could handle without suspending all other operations. Unlike the An-74, though, it's anything but cheap, and in the same price bracket as V-22 and F-22 (I'd be the last person to criticize military hardware prices, but when you pay more per ton of a cargo hauler than per ton of a stealth fighter, no "doing it right" sticker for you). So while the choice made was hardly the optimal one, it's also difficult to slam given the alternatives - none of which is an airliner.
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Joined: March 5th, 2018, 2:38 pm

August 11th, 2018, 7:06 pm #6

I wonder if the BAE 146 could be made to work. Smaller than a B-727.


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Joined: March 1st, 2005, 3:53 pm

August 12th, 2018, 6:58 am #7

bill1980 wrote: I wonder if the BAE 146 could be made to work.  Smaller than a B-727.

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1. Long out of production, reconstituting the parts manufacture/supply chain would be very expensive and time-consuming, even if the assembly jigs were still existing (much less the manufacturing jigs for the component parts of the airframe).

2. As they are retired from feeder-airline service (many of them in Africa & similar areas) they are being converted to fire-bombers, to replace the P-2 Neptunes/P-3 Orions/etc that are getting nearly impossible to keep in safe flying condition. So no "surplus" airframes for conversion.


Go back to 1981*-2000 and maybe something could be done before the production line was shut down in 2001.

* First flight 3 September 1981.
There it is... the District of Columbia! You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.
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Joined: March 5th, 2018, 2:38 pm

August 12th, 2018, 2:16 pm #8

bager1968 wrote:
bill1980 wrote: I wonder if the BAE 146 could be made to work.  Smaller than a B-727.

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1. Long out of production, reconstituting the parts manufacture/supply chain would be very expensive and time-consuming, even if the assembly jigs were still existing (much less the manufacturing jigs for the component parts of the airframe).

2. As they are retired from feeder-airline service (many of them in Africa & similar areas) they are being converted to fire-bombers, to replace the P-2 Neptunes/P-3 Orions/etc that are getting nearly impossible to keep in safe flying condition. So no "surplus" airframes for conversion.


Go back to 1981*-2000 and maybe something could be done before the production line was shut down in 2001.

* First flight 3 September 1981.
I should have specified “made to work” in the time frame of the original post article.


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