Now to something entirely different. I recently rediscovered a few old pencil drawings of more or less absurd planes I made up during my school and university time. This is one of them, a mid-1980s vintage F/A-18 equivalent. Being no engineer and having no clue whatsoever of aerodynamics, I would ask the better qualified among you (which is probably just about anyone) to inform me if the design is flawed in any way, especially compared with the fictional performance I made up.
Anyway, here it is: The SCI TT-C Siolpaire multirole combat aircraft, standard equipment of the Thiarian Naval Aviation and Air Force and eight other air forces.
The design dates back to the late 1970s when Thiaria experienced a huge economic boom due to the oil crisis which suddenly increased the nation's oil revenue by 300%. The Thiarian military was in pathetic shape in the early 1980s, and the decision was made in 1980 to increase the Navy's capabilities by ordering two 50.000 ton carriers - which in turn would need adequate airplanes. Although the original specification of 1980 fit the then upcoming F/A-18 like a glove, Thiaria, whose relations with the USA had hit rock-bottom during the mid-1960s after a failed CIA attempt to intervene in Thiarian elections, was not willing to buy American for reasons of principle. Since at that time there was no feasible alternative - Sea Jaguar and a navalized Tornado being both at least part-british, which was even worse for Thiarian national pride - the Thiarian firm SCI (Scata Cath-Innealtoireacht - Defence engineering group) launched a domestic programme in 1981, which eventually became the first indigenous Thiarian fighter since the second world war. Development was thorough, and the first prototype had its maiden flight in 1984, when the F/A-18 was already in service. It was smaller and more compact than the Hornet, with a single tail and double delta wings allowing for excellent maneuverability and slightly higher speed (Mach 2,0 at optimal altitude). The plane was powered by two SCI RT8S turbofans rated at 50 kN without and 80 kN with afterburner; they were thoroughly modern designs with somewhat better fuel efficiency than the Hornet's F401 engines. Although internal fuel capacity of the Thiarian airplane was less than the Hornet's (in absolute terms; compared with the plane's dry weight and internal volume, the percentage devoted to fuel tanks was higher), range was roughly the same (2.000 kilometers ferry range, 500 - 850 kilometers combat radius depending on armament). The radar and electronics suite gave full air to air and air to ground capability; the plane could employ Matra Super 530 AAMs and the upcoming SCI-Matra ANL supersonic sea-skimming ASM. Combat load was however considerably lower at only 5.500 kilograms, and there were only three main hardpoints (one under the fuselage and two under the wings), plus four more which were only suitable for AAMs or electronics pods. Test performance was however impressive enough for an initial order of 80 units, and the type with the factory designation TT-C (Trodai Tacticiuil C - Tactical Fighter Type C) was officially christened Siolpaire (Vampire) in 1986. Six prototypes were tested intensely between 1984 and 1987, and the first series aircraft were delivered in 1988. The initial production run was complete in 1990; the first squadron achieved FOC late in 1989 and deployed to the Persian Gulf aboard the then brand-new carrier LT Treighdin to participate in Operation Desert Shield, where the 18 operational Siolpaires gave an excellent account of themselves, claiming a MiG-29 and a Mig-21 against no own losses. At that time, a rather spectacular initial export order was won, with 64 machines being ordered by Finland (mainly by virtue of their lower cost compared with the F/A-18 which was favoured by the Finnish military, but disfavoured by the strong dollar at that time; they also had the advantage of coming from a non-aligned country, since Finland at that time still had to be conscious not to piss off the still existing Soviet Union too badly). During 1990, the Thiarian Navy placed a follow-on order for 64 additional Siolpaires, and continuing production was ensured till 1995. Argentina - which was actually too broke to afford a plane of this quality - was bribed into ordering 20 units in 1993 (they were delivered till 1997, but were fully paid as late as 2008), and South Africa replaced her worn-out Mirage F1s with 24 Siolpaires on a 1-for-2 basis from 1995 onwards. Finally, the Thiarian Air Force selected the type to replace their fleet of early 1970s vintage Mirage G8 swing-wing tactical strike-fighters in 1997 and ordered another 120; by 2000, a total of 400 Siolpaires were on order or delivered, and the design was on the verge of becoming profitable. In the 2000s, fewer orders came in; Mexico bought 24 in 2001, Ecuador bought 12 in 2002, 12 were sold at very benign conditions to the Republic of Ireland in 2003, and a repeat order of 48 was placed by the Thiarian Air Force in 2005. The late 2000s saw two final coups, with 48 machines being ordered by Poland in 2006 against strong competition from the F-16 and 64 by Taiwan in 2009 after the US had refused the delivery of F-35s under Chinese pressure. Finally, Argentina ordered another 20 Siolpaires in 2011, these being refurbished former Thiarian Navy machines. Bulgaria, Mexico and Croatia have already expressed interest in buying second-hand Siolpaires as well. Production is complete by 2013 at a total of 608 units; her replacement for the Thiarian Navy is already flying, a totally new 5th generation fighter with a canard configuration.
Typical weapons loadouts as of 2013:
Interceptor version with 8 SCI-MBDA Super Mica ER AAMs and 3 1.200 liter fuel tanks
Maritime Strike version with 2 SCI ANL supersonic sea-skimming ASMs, 2 SCI-MBDA Super Mica ER AAMs, 2 Jammer pods and 1 1.200 liter fuel tank
Ground Strike version with 6 400-kilogram LGBs, 2 SCI-MBDA Super Mica ER AAMs, 2 Designator pods and 1 1.200 liter fuel tank