Un projet annulé: le A-12 Avenger II successeur de l’A-6 Intruder

Posted on 02/09/2016





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A Lost Gamble for Range,
Payload, and Survivability:
The A-12
In 1984 Naval Air Systems Command began
setting aside money to develop a new variant
of the Grumman A-6 design. Integrating the
new F404 engines designed for the F/A-18
Hornet, the Intruder II would have the very
latest in sensors, weapons, and onboard
computers to integrate it all together. The
AN/APQ-173 radar promised better imaging
capabilities at longer ranges as well as new
targeting modes. The radar was to be integrated
into a digital avionics suite based on
lessons learned from the Hornet’s development,
as well as recent upgrades to the F-14
Tomcat. The new avionics would feed five
displays inside the aircraft: two for the pilot
and three for the naval flight officer, providing
both with state of the art “heads up” awareness.
With regard to weapons, Grumman
added two new wing stations that could carry
the AIM-9L Sidewinder and AIM-120 advanced
medium range air to air missile (AMRAAM) for
self-defense without decreasing the number of
bombs the aircraft could carry. The new avionics
suite, with its digital interfaces, ensured
that the aircraft could deploy the very latest in
precision strike weapons.79
The upgraded design met resistance from many
circles. The A-6 was increasingly vulnerable to
radar-guided gun and missile fire, mostly due to
its large radar cross section. While its combat
range and large payload capacity continued to
draw support, analysts looked to a future where
increasingly dense anti-air defense networks
dominated and felt that it was time to move on
to a design that leveraged new stealth technologies
that had emerged out of the second offset
investments of the late 1970s. It can be said
that it was at this point that low observability,
or “stealth,” joined mass, range, and payload
capacity as a key characteristic desired by naval
aviation. Grumman made one final attempt at
retaining its niche in the naval attack market by
“stealthying” an A-6, but even Grumman fan
Lehman had to inform company officials that
time had moved on and that the Navy would be
looking for a new design within the advanced
tactical aircraft (ATA) program. To their credit,
the engineers at Grumman looked at the
requirements laid out for the ATA and stated
that the aircraft could not be built for the price
requested.80 They proved to be prescient.
On August 21, 1980, after years of secret
development in partnership with industry, the
Department of Defense announced that it was
developing a new technology that promised to
change the balance of power: stealth. Deputy
Secretary of Defense Paul Thayer, a former
Navy fighter pilot in World War II and later the
CEO of an aerospace company, thought that
a new type of aircraft could be designed for
the same price as it would cost to upgrade the
existing A-6: $800 million. Analysts within the
Pentagon’s Program Analysis and Evaluation
office pushed back hard, suggesting that a
new aircraft would cost several billion dollars to
develop and, given the costs associated with
stealth, each aircraft’s unit costs would be very
high. The Navy in turn pushed back, estimating
ATA unit costs as 20 percent above remanufactured