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VSTOL Revisted
AUTHOR Major Joseph J. Krejmas, Jr., USMC
CSC 1989
SUBJECT AREA - Aviation
                       EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
TITLE:  VSTOL REVISITED
I.      Purpose:  To analyze the history of VSTOL aircraft in
the  Marine Corps and define future applications of the VSOL
concept.
II.     Problem:  The United States Marine Corps has expended
a  considerable  amount  of  time and effort promoting VSTOL
aircraft.  Critics  have charged the AV-8B is ineffective on
the  battlefield.   A resolution of the facts is necessary to
allow for future growth in the VSTOL concept.
III.  Data:    As  the  AV-8B  Harrier replaces the A-4M and
AV-8A,  it becomes the only light attack fixed wing aircraft
in  the  Marine  Corps.  During  this replacement the pilots
flying  the  aircraft  have been assessing this new aircraft
and  its  capabilities.  The AV-8B is more effective because
of   improved  reliability and maintainability. Moreover, the
AV-8B   VSTOL  capabilities are superior when compared to the
AV8-A.  However, in terms of survivability in the air-to-air
arena  and  accuracy  in  its  air-to-ground capability, the
AV-8B  is  equal  at best when compared to its predecessors.
During  its  early  years,  the  VSTOL concept faced a great
deal  of   criticism.   This   criticism was largely due to the
expected   limitations   that  VSTOL  technology  would  bring
forth.
IV.    Conclusion:  The Harrier's success and future of VSTOL
for  all  the  services  depends  upon the commitment of the
Marine  Corps  to  support  this  advanced  technology.  The
Marine  Corps  has  been  steadfast  in  its  commitment  to
promote   VSTOL.   The  AV-8B  is  providing  the  necessary
operational  experience  to  allow the future development of
third  generation  VSTOL  fighter/attack  aircraft that will
serve the Marine Corps needs from the year 2000 and beyond.
V.     Recommendation:  The Marine Corps continue to develop
operational  experience  using  current VSTOL aircraft. Gain
further   operational  experience  using  second  generation
VSTOL  aircraft  to enable the Marine Corps to develop third
generation VSTOL aircraft.
                       VSTOL REVISITED
                           OUTLINE
Thesis Statement: With planned improvements to the engine,
airframe, weapons system, and pilot training, the AV-8B
Harrier will continue to provide the Marine Corps with the
Offensive Air Support (OAS) necessary to win on today's
modern battlefield. In addition and perhaps more
significantly it will provide the operational experience
necessary to develope third generation VSTOL fighter/attack
aircraft for the year 2000 and beyond.
I.   VSTOL History
         A.  Historical Overview
         B.  VSTOL Development
         C.  First Generation VSTOL
         D.  Second Generation VSTOL
             1.  Replacement of USMC A-4 and AV-8A/C
             2.  Second Generation Performance
II.  AV-8B Equipment
         A.  STOL vs VTOL
             1.  Enhancements
         B.  Air-to-air Survivability
             1.  Deficiencies
         C.  Air-to-ground Capabilities
             1.  Deficiencies
         D.  Future Battlefield Performance
III. VSTOL Flexibility
         A.  Historical Overview
         B.  VSTOL Growth
         C.  VSTOL Tactical Applications
IV. VSTOL Advancements
         A.  Advancements in engine technology
         B.  Advancements in airframe technology
                    VSTOL REVISITED
     When  Marine  pilots received their first combat experi-
ence  in  France  during World War I, the first Marine avia-
tor,  Alfred  A  Cunningham  remarked,   "The only excuse for
aviation  in  any  service  is  its  usefulness is assisting
troops  on the ground to successfully carry out their opera-
tlons ."1  From  that  moment  on,  the  Marine  Aviator  has
provided  the  Ground Commander a potent combat arm that has
become  a  keystone  in  determining the outcome of numerous
battles.  The techniques learned in Nicaragua from 1927-1933
formed  the  basis of what we now call the "air-ground" team
in  the  Marine  Corps.  As  developments continued and time
elapsed  the Marine Corps task organized its Aviation Combat
Element  to  more  efficiently  do   its job. These develop-
ments,  once  formalized, resulted in defining the six func-
tions of Marine Corps aviation as we know them today.
     The  United States Marine Corps needs light attack avia-
tion   to  support amphibious and ground forces wherever con-
flict    occurs  in the world. Therefore, Offensive Air Sup-
port,  one  of the six functions of Marine Air/VSTOL (Verti-
cal  and  short takeoff and land) applications will become a
primary  focus of this discussion as it relates to the AV-8B
Harrier VSTOL aircraft. To accomplish a portion
of its Offensive Air Support, namely Close Air Support, the
Marine   Corps  has  chosen  the AV-8B Harrier as its premier
Close  Air Support (CAS) aircraft. With planned improvements
to the engine,  airframe, weapons system and pilot training,
the  AV-8B Harrier will continue to provide the Marine Corps
with  the  Offensive  Air  Support (OAS) necessary to win on
today's  modern  battlefield.  In  addition and perhaps more
significantly,  it  will  provide the operational experience
necessary  to develope third generation VSTOL fighter/attack
aircraft  for the  year 2000 and beyond. The capabilities and
limitations  of  the Harrier asset are not well known within
the  Marine  Corps  and  are  less  understood by our sister
services  and allies. A thorough understanding of this asset
and  developing  technology  will  assist the Ground, Naval,
and Theater Commanders in the proper procurement and employ-
ment of this valuable combat asset.
     The  events of World War II determined the parameters by
which  future  wars  would  be fought. The importance of air
operations  and  the need for secure airbases was emphasized
by  the  German  invasion of Europe and the determination by
which  the German forces sought to capture or destroy oppos-
ing  forces  airfields. The Japanese followed a similar path
during  the  early  portion of the Pacific War  with attacks
that  focused  on  air  facilities located on the islands of
Wake  and  Midway.  Similarly,  a  major  planning factor in
Operation  Overlord,  the  invasion  of Europe, included the
availability  of  air  bases.2 These factors initiated coun-
teraction that form the basis of aircraft design and employ-
ment  today.  The  use of highways for runways, camouflaging
airfields,  hardening  airfield support facilities, dispers-
ing  aircraft  around  airfields, and VSTOL applications re-
sulted  from the use of logical deduction and some trial and
error, all of which achieved the desired result.
     As  a  result of experiences during World War II and the
Korean  conflict,  the  Marine  Corps recognized air support
needed  to  be  more flexible when airborne and while on the
ground.  Technological  advances in aircraft performance and
capabilities  increased  with  a  resulting  requirement for
increased  basing  support.    The  necessary  basing  support
increased  so  rapidly  for  fixed wing jet aircraft that it
limited  the  flexibility  and  operational utility of those
assets.  No   longer  could   the  Marine Corps operate off of
roads  or  grass strips. Instead, an increasingly large run-
way  was  necessary to  operate safely and within the design
specifications  of  the  aircraft.  Compromises  with runway
length  resulted  in  undesirable reduced gross weight take-
offs  or  a loss in safety. Other attempts to construct air-
fields  of aluminum planking proved successful. However, the
bulk  of  material  required  and the fact that it had to be
moved and installed made it impractical.:
     The  Marine Corps solution to this problem was stated in
1957  by  General Randolph McC. Pate USMC, the residing Com-
mandant   of the Marine Corps. Col R.A. Gustafson USMC in his
1981  Advisory  Group  For  Aerospace Research & Development
(AGARD)  conference  proceedings entitled "Ten years of U.S.
Marine  Corps Harrier Operations" summarized General Pate as
follows:
          The obvious solution to the problem was
          to obtain aircraft which could operate
          independently of large prepared airfields
          Additionally, such an aircraft would
          conceivably increase the number of ships
          from which tactical aircraft could
          operate, further increasing depletable
          and operational flexibility. The Marine
          Corps, therefore, has made a commitment to
          VSTOL tactical aircraft because of their
          perceived potential to combine the speed and
          firepower of modern jet aircraft with a
          unique  basing flexibility.. .4
Commandant Pate's letter to the Chief of Naval Operations
formalized  the  Marine Corps requirement for VSTOL aircraft
by  saying:  "Vertical  takeoff and land characteristics are
an  ultimate  requirement for all Marine aircraft in support
of  amphibious  operations  in  the  future...  Obtaining  a
STOL/VTOL  capability  is  vital  to  Marine  Aviation. "5 By
1963  the  needed technological advances made it appear that
the  concept  of  VSTOL  aircraft  could be competitive with
conventional  aircraft.  Therefore,  that  year  the  Marine
Mid-Range  Objective  Plan stated: "VSTOL capability will be
included  in the requirement for any aircraft if it provides
a  worthwhile improvement in operational effectiveness with-
out  unacceptably  degrading  flight  performance  or unduly
increasing overall support and maintenance."6
     In 1971 the Marine Corps received its first AV-8A Harri-
er.  These  aircraft,  for  all practical purposes, could be
considered  a  prototype  first  generation  VSTOL aircraft.
Like  first generation helicopters and fighters of the past,
the  AV-8A  performed in a limited capacity by today's stan-
dards  of  airspeed, combat ceiling, maneuverability, range,
and  endurance  while  carrying  a combat load. However, the
importance  of its introduction should not be underrated. In
fact,  the AV-8A Harrier exceeded all expectations including
aircraft  accident  rate  which critics charged was signifi-
cantly  higher than Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL)
aircraft.  The  AV8-A  has not had an  accident rate that is
exceptional  when  compared to the initial accident rates of
high  performance  CTOL  aircraft.7  As  a  first generation
VSTOL  aircraft,  the  AV-8A served the Marine Corps well by
gaining  the operational experience necessary to enhance the
introduction of a second generation VSTOL aircraft.
     In  1984  the  Marine Corps second generation VSTOL, the
AV-8B,  was  introduced to the fleet. The AV-8B replaces the
AV-8A/C  and  the A-4  to become the only light attack fixed
wing  aircraft in the Marine Corps. The AV-8B offers consid-
erable  improvements  over  the AV-8A. Due to design changes
that  incorporated  a  stronger, larger graphite epoxy wing,
the  AV-8B has twice the payload or radius capability of the
AV-8A.  In  the vertical takeoff mode, the AV-8B can carry a
payload  of  6000  pounds  of  fuel  and  munitions.8 With a
short  takeoff  roll  (STO),  the  AV-8B  payload can be in-
creased  to  17000  pounds.9  In  this mode, using a takeoff
roll  well    under 1500 feet, the AV-8B is advertised to be
able  to  fly a hi-lo-hi-mission profile over a range of 615
nautical  miles  while  carrying  seven  Mk  82  (500 pound)
bombs.10  These  figures demonstrate a considerable improve-
ment  from first generation VSTOL. Other improvements in the
area  of  avionics,  weapons  systems, engines, and airframe
improvements  combine  to  make the AV-8B a state-of-the-art
VSTOL aircraft.
     VSTOL  aircraft  have had their share of critics through
the years. Despite the overwhelming need for more flexibili-
ty  on  the battlefield, VSTOL aircraft have not been widely
recognized  as  a  future  application  of  air-to-ground or
air-to-air  combat.  The  Marine  Corps  has recognized this
opinion  but  has  remained  steadfast  in its commitment to
introduce  follow-on  second generation VSTOL aircraft. Most
early  objection  to  VSTOL technology and applications have
been  quelled  with  the  introduction  of second generation
VSTOL.  One of the reasons VSTOL technology has been accept-
ed  so slowly is the perception that combat aircraft have to
take  off  and  land  vertically.  The resulting payload and
range  performance  make  VTOL aircraft look quite unattrac-
tive by today's CTOL standards. VTOL technology is consider-
ably  behind  STOL technology and should be considered sepa-
rately  when  discussing  take  off and range performance of
aircraft.  AV-8B VTOL performance was improved substantially
when  compared  to  the AV-8A. However, the biggest improve-
ment  for  the  AV-8B  over  the  the  AV-8A  is in the STOL
mode.11  The  improvement in STOL performance can be direct-
ly  related  to  the  improvement  in  VTOL capability which
postulates  that  the two performances are somewhat interre-
lated.  There  have  been numerous VSTOL technology develop-
ments  in  the  past few years to warrant continued emphasis
on  STOL  technology.  Near term, the Marine Corps must uti-
lize  its  operational  experience  in  second    generation
VSTOL  aircraft  to  reinforce  current/future  applications
with emphasis on STOL advancements. A corresponding advance-
ment  in  VTOL  performance,  like that experienced with the
AV-8B,  should result from advanced STOL technology applica-
tions.  The  utility  of this performance to support  modern
battlefield  situations should not be overlooked with regard
to future applications.
     Another  reason  VSTOL  technology  has been accepted so
slowly  is  the  perception  that the AV-8B is an end all in
VSTOL  technology  advances.  This could not be further from
the  truth.  In  fact, limitations of this second generation
VSTOL  aircraft  will  have  to  be  resolved before a third
generation VSTOL aircraft can fly.
     In  terms  of survivability in the air-to-air arena, and
accuracy  in its air-to-ground capability, the Harrier is at
the  very  best,  equal when compared to the aircraft it re-
places.  With  the  assigned  tactical missions of Close Air
Support  (CAS) , Deep Air Support (DAS) , Armed Reconnaissance
(ArmRecce) ,  Helicopter  Escort  (HE) ,  and Anti-Air Warfare
(AAW)  the Harrier can expect to fly several of its tactical
missions  on  one sortie. Given the Marine Corps has adopted
Maneuver  Warfare  as  its  official doctrine, the Harrier's
use  on  the modern battlefield will be increased to support
multiple  maneuver  elements that are envisioned. The modern
battlefield will consist of large numbers of troops support-
ed  by  assault  helicopters  or  VTOL  aircraft such as the
MV-22.  It  is  easy to conceive that the battlefield in the
years  2000 and beyond will be fluid and anything but linear
in  nature.  It is also easy to imagine that attack aircraft
will  have  to  penetrate  enemy airspace to perform all its
assigned  missions.  The  added  requirement  for  increased
support  in CAS, HE, and AAW will make it necessary to oper-
ate  the  Harrier  forward  for  longer  periods of time. In
these  scenarios,  the  use  of Harriers for AAW missions is
almost  certain  because  of  their forward location and the
requirement  for  self  protection. The vulnerability of the
Harrier  and the aircraft it would be escorting on a typical
HE mission becomes more evident when you realize the limita-
tions  of  the  Harrier  as  it is presently configured. The
lack   of  radar  makes  the  Harrier  vulnerable  to  enemy
anti-air aircraft on all assigned missions.
     It  has been argued that the Harriers primary mission is
CAS  and  therefore  does  not  need radar. Although this is
true,  the  fact  remains  that  all  aircraft have multiple
missions.  The  Marine  Corps  can not afford to buy an air-
craft  with  only  one  use. In the case of the Harrier, its
primary  use  is  CAS.  However, its other missions are also
vital  in  assisting  the  ground commander in accomplishing
assigned  missions.  Additionally,  CAS with air superiority
will,  at  best, become a temporary phenomenon on the modern
battlefield.  The  expected  nonlinear nature of the battle-
field  further  amplifies  the  thought  that  in future CAS
missions, the aircraft will not enjoy air superiority.
     The  Harrier must be responsive day and night and in bad
weather.  It  must be survivable, and possess the capability
to  deliver  all  types  of  ordnance  which can destroy all
kinds  of targets. In future conflicts, Marine attack pilots
will enjoy momentary periods of air superiority. The remain-
der  of the time will consist of occasional, if not routine,
excursions  of friendly airspace by enemy attack and fighter
aircraft.  Whether  the  mission is finding or shooting down
enemy  aircraft  before  they  bomb  friendly  troops (AAW)
destroying  enemy  follow-on  forces or supplies before they
reinforce  the  enemy  (ArmRecce) ,  or  providing  close air
support  (CAS) ,  Marine light attack aircraft must possess a
state-of-the-art  radar  capability  to exploit its position
on  the  battlefield.  The  ability  of  the attack pilot to
detect  and react to the enemy is tantamount to survivabili-
ty.
       History  has shown us that technology is sometimes the
mother  of  invention. Regarding warfare, history is full of
examples  where  military  technology  enjoyed  some  of its
greatest  success  when  employed  in a manner that differed
from  its original design. Aircraft carriers were originally
conceived  as  an  improved scouting force for the fleet but
became  a  major  offensive power. The P47 was designed as a
high  altitude  escort  fighter  but  found its niche in low
altitude  interdiction  missions.  The helicopter is perhaps
the  best example of this. Originally developed during World
War  II  as  a  concept, the helicopter became useful during
the  Korean conflict as a medical evacuation asset. Later it
operated  in  Vietnam  as  an assault support aircraft. This
function  was  not  envisioned  in  its original design. The
Harrier  may  become this type of aircraft. A Close Air Sup-
port  attack  aircraft  by  design, it may become better em-
ployed  as  a helicopter escort aircraft. With the introduc-
tion  of  the MV-22, the use of the Cobra for escort will be
impractical  given  the  airspeed  differential  between the
MV-22  and  the  Cobra. The only logical replacement for the
Cobra is the Harrier.
     The  one factor that is common to all these examples has
been  operational  experience.  The  experience  is  usually
obtained  under  combat  conditions  where cost is no factor
and  innovative  techniques  and  employment are encouraged.
However,  the atmosphere during times of limited budgets and
peacetime  rules-of-engagement  tend  to squelch innovation.
The  Marine  Corps  introduction  of  the AV-8A as its first
operational  VSTOL  aircraft  is an example of this phenome-
non.  As  a result, VSTOL technology has not been considered
a  contender  for  fulfilling  military missions. To date in
the  United  States,  the  Marine  Corps is the only service
that  has  tested  VSTOL  capabilities  on  an   operational
playing  field   Thus, VSTOL technology has not been allowed
to mature as rapidly as it could have.
     The  United  States Marine Corps is a specialized fight-
ing  force  that  uses Close Air Support as a principle sup-
porting  arm.  In  areas  of the world such as Norway, Close
Air  Support  is the Ground Commanders long range artillery.
Because  of  the topographical relief and the rugged terrain
of  Norway,  the  Harrier  may be the Ground Commanders only
form  of  long  range fire support. This condition exists in
Europe,  Korea,  and other parts of the world as well. It is
this  capability  that  the  Ground Commander possesses that
makes  him  unique  to all the combat services of the world.
Exploitation  of  the  capability now can and will mean suc-
cess on tomorrows modern battlefield.
     Experience  has  taught  us  that  targets are extremely
time-sensitive.  In the future, this factor will only become
more  critical with the invention of more mobile enemy forc-
es.  Therefore,  targets tnust be taken under fire as soon as
possible  or the opportunity may be lost. The alternative is
to  allow  the  enemy to advance, dig in, and camouflage his
position.  In  this  scenario,  the detection and successful
destruction of these enemy positions is difficult. Converse-
ly,  the  timely  detection  and  engagement of enemy forces
while  he  is  on  the  move  displays the most potential to
attaining  successful  destruction of the enemy forces. STOL
and  VTOL  aircraft  can  provide a quick response to a call
for  fire. The alternative is CTOL aircraft that must loiter
near  the  battlefield and wait on target identification and
a  call  for  Close  Air Support. The cost of this loiter in
terms  of  fuel  is  unacceptable STOL and VSTOL aircraft of
the  future  will  have  to  employ a forward basing concept
with enough fuel and ordnance to influence the battle.
     Advances  in  engine  technology over the last few years
have made such significant progress to suggest third genera-
tion  VSTOL aircraft will possess increased thrust capabili-
ty.  These  advancements  have  resulted from decades of re-
search  to find material that can withstand the temperatures
necessary  to provide the great amount of thrust required to
operate  in  the  VSTOL  mode  of  flight. The engine design
industry  has reached a point where no new metallic superal-
loys  have  been  developed that are capable of withstanding
the  heat  and  load  requirements of the next generation of
engines.12  However,  there  is  promise in two new types of
nonmetallic  materials,  carbon and ceramics. Both materials
possess  properties  that  have  tested positively under in-
creasingly  high  temperatures  and  loads.  The  results of
recent  testing  suggests that higher operating temperatures
of  2500 degrees Fahrenheit compared to 1900 degrees Fahren-
heit   for  metal  components  is  possible.13  This  break-
through  in material development, if properly applied, could
lead  to  the  materials  necessary  for  the development of
third  generation  VSTOL aircraft engines. Future VSTOL air-
craft  will  have to be developed in a manner to take advan-
tage  of  new technologies in airframe improvements as well.
Some  of  the  improvements  now being considered for future
VSTOL  aircraft  include  reducing  size,  masking infra red
sources,  improving electronic countermeasures, and increas-
ing  maneuverability  with  the  use  of vectored thrust. Of
these  enhancements,  the use of vectored thrust to increase
maneuverability appears to be most promising. These advance-
ments,  coupled  with the improved air-to-air missiles, will
make  future VSTOL aircraft quite capable of self-protection
and performing AAW missions.
     The  AV-8B  Harrier  will continue to provide the Marine
Corps  with  the  Offensive  Air Support necessary to win on
today's  and tomorrows battlefields. The operational experi-
ence  gained  by  the  Marine  Corps commitment to the first
generation  VSTOL  provided necessary exposure to the opera-
tional   fleet.  This  allowed  for  improvements in the air-
craft,   engine,  and  more importantly the VSTOL concept it-
self. With improvements incorporated into the second genera-
tion  AV-8B,  the fleet is provided with a much more capable
aircraft  than  would  have  been  designed  had no previous
VSTOL  experience  been gained. The AV-8B Harrier is provid-
ing  the  necessary  operational experience to allow the fu-
ture  development  of  third generation VSTOL fighter/attack
aircraft  that  will  serve  the Marine Corps needs from the
year 2000 and beyond.
                              END NOTES
   1MCDEC,   USMC,    Marine  Aviation.  FMFM  5-1,(Quantico,
1979) p. 1.
   2B.H.  Lindle  Hart,  History  of  the  Second World War,
(New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons) , 1970, p. 59, 227-29.
   3R.A.  Gustafson,  Col,  USMC,"Ten  Years  of  US  Marine
Corps Harrier Operations," (HQMC, Defense Technical Informa-
tion  Center,  (AGARD)  Conference  Proceedings  313) , 1981,
p.4.
   4Ibid p.4.
   5Ibid p.4.
   6Ibid p.4.
   7P.T. Bingham, Lt Col, USAF, "Improving Force Flexibil-
ity  Through  V/STOL,"  Air University Review,
(January-February, 1985).
                        AIRCRAFT LOSSES
   AIRCRAFT TYPE   FIRST 90000 HOURS    FIRST 213000 HOURS
        AV-8A              25                  50 (Includes
        A-4                37                  64 RAF)
        A-7                37                  73
        F-8                44                  79
        A-6                16                  33
        F-4                17                  44
        F-100              39                  78
        F-102              27                  38
        F-104              43                  88
        F-105              31                  47
        F-106              15                  26
        A-10               08                  17
        F-15               04                  15
        F-16               10                  30
   8Ibid p.77.
   9Ibid p.77.
   10Ibid p.77.
   11J.M.  Byrnes  et  al., " Views on VSTOL Tactical Fight-
er  Aircraft:  Technology  Needs  and  Relationships  to the
Runway  Denial  Problem",  (HQMC, Defense Technical Informa-
tion  Center,  (AGARD)  Conference  Proceedings  313), 1981,
p.8.
   12G.M.   Holloway  and  R.W.  Meade,  "Advanced  Aircraft
Engine  Exhaust  Nozzel Development", The Leading Edge, Win-
ter 1988/1989, p.10.
   13Ibid p.l5.
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