The Assessment and Evaluation of Combat Performance Improvements,
DEUTSCHE FORSCHUNGSANSTALT FUER LUFT- UND RAUMFAHRT E V BRUNSWICK (GERMANY F R) INST FUER FLUGMECHANIK
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Aircraft performance improvements, for combat or any other operational role, are becoming increasingly difficult to achieve. The dramatic year-by-year advances of the forties and fifties are long gone. Aerodynamicists have a much better understanding of the physical properties of the atmosphere and the shapes which can best be propelled through it. The relationships between the energy in fuel, and the conversion process into thrust are well developed. Structural engineers understand the mechanical properties of materials needed to build engines and airframes. All these factors have been exploited, and further improvements do not come cheaply. Only in the area of avionics can it be said that large benefits in the weightcostperformance trade-off can be expected. Nevertheless, the call for improvements in combat performance is as strong as ever. Designers continue to find a few percent here and a few percent there. There was little doubt in the fifties that doubling the range, or adding 50 knots to the top speed of a projected aircraft was beneficial, in terms of operational performance. Now, a small improvement in maximum lift, or a small reduction in supersonic drag, may be insignificant in one operational scenario, and may be the key to success in another.