The next revamp of an old pencil drawing, a crude attempt of mine at a 5th generation fighter:
SCI TT-F Asarlai (Warlock)
In 1998, the Thiarian Air Force's Mirage 4000s were in service since 15 years. Their designed service life was 30 years, and when one considered the time necessary to nurture a modern fighter design (the F-22 had its first flight in 1990 and was still way shy of production readiness), it was about time to launch a successor project. The Thiarian Navy also was seeking a replacement for their TT-C Siolpaire, whose service life was calculated at only 25 years due to the strain of carrier operations they performed. Both services wanted a full-fledged 5th generation fighter with complete stealth capability, super-maneuvrability and supercruise, arguing that any compromise in terms of performance to save cost would render the entire project a complete waste of money. The navy also stated tight maximum size and weight figures to enable the new plane to operate from the existing carriers LT Treighdin and LT Oirion, which were designed for a service life of 50 years; the new fighter thus would have to mirror the F-22s performance at considerably less weight and size. To avoid speed up development, the land version without carrier operation capability would be developed first, with the carrier version to follow later. SCI, being the only Thiarian company with the necessary technology, secured a development contract in 1999, but warned the government early on that development cost of such a plane would amount to $30 billion at least, plus production expenses; the envisaged fly-away cost of no more than $ 100 million per unit could only be achieved if at least 600 planes were produced. This considerably exceeded Thiaria's needs; in 2000, the Air Force operated some 300 combat aircraft and the Navy 120, and the Air Force's Siolpaires were still fairly new and would not need replacement anytime soon. Despite these warnings, development was launched in 2000. When a first prototype was rolled out in 2007 - at that time the project had already eaten up $ 5 billion - it roused great international interest. It was not quite an F-22 equivalent, but came close enough to the F-35A at much shorter development time and project cost. It featured a delta-winged shape with canards and thrust-vector control, providing supreme maneuvrability; it was not quite as stealthy as the F-22 due to its more conventional engine exhausts, but more stealthy than anything else including the F-35. Range was less than the F-22's (radius of action 900 km) and speed about the same (Mach 1,8 top and Mach 1,4 supercruise). Air-to-Air capability (AESA radar and internal space for up to six Super Mica BVRAAMs) was state of the art, but there was no significant air-to-ground capability. Three stealthy multipurpose pods can be carried; each can hold up to two Mica or Meteor BVRAAMs (or additional fuel, or photo and radar recce gear). At that time, the Eurofighter Typhoon programme had run into trouble due to delays, cost overruns and reliability issues (all of them direct results of attempts to cut cost which had resulted in the exact opposite); especially Germany wanted to terminate further procurement sooner rather than later. With their Tornadoes nearing the end of their service life, Germany's decision to cut Typhoon procurement to 140 would have reduced their air force to fourth-rate status by 2020, but joining the SCI TT-F programme offered a plausible replacement option for the Tornado and a good excuse to push expenses for new airplanes ten years forward on the time-scale. With the Spaniards facing a similar problem with their F/A-18As, both countries announced they would join the TT-F project in 2007, providing vital funding without which the project might well have died. They based their specification upon the land-based version, however required modifications for their primarily air-to ground and recce mission requirements; full BVR air-to-air capability was dropped, and stealthier exhausts without thrust-vector control were added. With EADS on the boat, the project gained credibility, and other potential customers emerged. Finland showed interest in a dedicated interceptor version, Poland in a specialized strike airplane (like the Germans and Spaniards). Both countries had already purchased the TT-C Siolpaire and trusted SCI to provide a worthy successor (the Finns for the Siolpaire itself, Poland for both the MiG-29 and the Su-22). When the Thiarian Air Force finally decided to replace their Siolpaire strike-fighters as well from 2022 with at least 120 additional planes, series production of 600 planes (300 for Thiaria, 120 for Germany, 80 for Spain, 50 for Finland and 50 for Poland) in a 15-year period between 2012 and 2027 was finally secured. Although the Spaniards are hard pressed by the Euro-crisis and fly-away cost per unit has risen to $ 135 million (remarkably, still less than the badly mismanaged Typhoon), they have not yet opted out of the project; neither have the Poles although they really can't afford such an expensive plane (the Thiarian government will probably aid them, as they have done to secure the Siolpaire deal too). On the other hand, Australia and Canada are reconsidering the F-35 since 2012 due to delays and cost overruns and are seriously considering the TT-F as an alternative; Taiwan also showed interest. In 2013, South Korea announced that the TT-F is best suited to their needs under the KF-X programme and entered negotiations to gain a production license. Meanwhile, flight testing of the Thiarian Air Force version proceeded between 2008 and 2011; in 2010, a pre-series of four single-seaters and eight twin-seaters was ordered, which were delivered from 2012 through 2013 and assigned to an active Interceptor squadron. A flight of four machines reported to have reached IOC late in 2013, although at that time they were neither cleared for aerial refueling nor for the use of BVRAAMs. Full series production for the Air force commenced in 2013, with the first series machines to be delivered in 2014; it is expected the first refitted squadron will achieve FOC somewhere during 2015. These dates will be considerably pushed forward if Canada, Australia or Taiwan purchase the TT-F, because planes for such customers would likely be diverted from production for Thiaria in order to ensure quick delivery (before the customers think twice about the deal). The Thiarian Navy is currently performing carrier trials with their prototypes; as soon as they are complete in 2015, series production will commence, with the first squadron to become operational in 2017 or 2018. The carrier version features strengthened structure, modified stealthy weapons pods (these can hold not only AAMs, but alternatively two 250kg or one 1.000kg guided bomb each) and the possibility to carry two ANL supersonic sea-skimming ASMs externally. The EADS version for Germany and Spain - it will be assembled in Germany, marketed under the name Spectre and provide the basis for the Polish order, with the Finnish machines to be built in Thiaria - had its first flight early in 2013, with the test programme scheduled to start in 2015 and series production in 2020. That machine features new exhausts (reducing noise and IR-signature to the lowest level of any military airplane in existence, but also reducing maneuvrability and cutting supercruise speed from Mach 1,4 to Mach 1,2) and a fully capable air-to-ground weapon system including four instead of two underwing weapons stations for one KEPD-350 Taurus ASM each (the stealthy weapons pods of the Thiarian naval version can also be used). Total cost of the programme has reached $ 20 billion in 2013; the fly away cost of the Thiarian air force interceptors currently stands at $ 135 million, the naval multirole fighters will cost $ 180 million apiece and the bomber version probably $ 150 million - if numbers are not cut.
SCI TT-F Asarlai single seat prototype (2007)
SCI TT-F Asarlai double seat prototype (2008)
SCI TT-F Asarlai naval multirole version, for the Thiarian Navy (2015)
SCI TT-F Asarlai interceptor version, for the Thiarian Air Force (2012), Finland (2022) and (likely) South Korea (not before 2018); possible Canadian and Australian multirole machines will likely be based upon this version with upgrades to ensure full air-to-ground capabilities
SCI-EADS Spectre strike-fighter version, for the Thiarian Air Force (2022), Germany (not before 2020), Spain (ditto) and Poland (2024)