FR-02 Armed Recce Aircraft
A new type of military craft for the US Armed Services
The FR-02 (Fighter-Recconaissance) was dreamed up in Spanish, of all places. I have become quite tired of modifying the Rapier airframe (although I do enjoy the aircraft a lot, I think the whole project turned out very succesful) and I wanted to make an aircraft other than a fighter. I wanted a very small, compact aircraft that had excellent handling characteristics and was agile enough to evade or even engage in air to air combat with larger, faster aircraft. The only thing "armed" about the FR-02 is a single M61-A2 cannon on the right side of the craft sporting 700 rounds of 20mm ammunition. It is a last-resort weapon, only to be used if completely necessary, as the primary role of the FR-02 is to be a low altitude "tank spotter." Spy satelites are extremely expensive and if the military wants ground images they have to wait until one of the satelites orbits pass over the desired locations, and then they only get a clear view for about an hour or so, as then the satelite goes out of line-of-site because of the earth's curvature. I wanted to create an aircraft that commanders could send out quickly and stealthily to survey territory for enemy activities. What I got was the FR-02.
The aircraft came out looking like a cross between BOTH the current JSF candiates, with the stubby, compactness of the Boeing JSF, and the sleek, F-22ishness of the Locheed JSF. The fuselage itself contributes a great deal of lift, and the aircraft is unusually manueverable at low speeds and its corner velocity is around 300knots. It can land at speeds lower than 120knots and rotates around 100knots. Its a pretty amazing aircraft. Camera and real-time transmission equipment is housed in the large, oversized nose. Fuel is held behind the cockpit on the "hump" of the aircraft. RAM (radar-absorbant-material) and lack of 90 degree surfaces give the aircraft a very small RCS. Also, the RJ-84 Turbofan is of new design. With a series of integral baffling and sound-absorbent structures FORWARD of the after-burning system, the engine is unusually quiet, perfect for silent passes over enemy targets. Unfortunately, the afterburner is also unusually loud, which makes it only useful in emergency situations in enemy territory, high-altitude flight and takeoffs.
The primary role of the FR-02 is low-altitude recconaissance platform for high-speed or silent passes over targets. It posses quick-handling and good pull-up qualities that are esential for ultra-low flying. The lack of navigation lights and non-reflective paint make it almost invisible at night. Getting to the prospective area is the interesting part. Conventionally, this aircraft takes off and lands wonderfully on a paved, concrete runway. I have also done trials on smaller dirt and grass runways and the wide-spaced gear and light-airframe handle this well. On the more exotic level....
If the target is too far away for the FR-02, there are a few methods that can be used. Specially modified B-52s can "drop" the FR-02 near the target and the FR-02 can then be flown to either an offshore aircraft carrier or even a small dirt strip close to enemy territory. This greatly increases the range of the small aircraft, which is already quite large because of greatly increased engine efficiency.
The FR-02 is designed for versatility. The pilot workload is greatly decreased by the extensive use of onboard computers and datalink transmission. On most recce flights the pilot will only fly the aircraft to the target, and do a predetermined orbit around the zone, while data-link trasmissions allows either technicians onboard an AWACs aircraft or in mobile ground stations to control the cameras and interpret the data.
As this photograph shows the FR-02's cockpit is very simple, with mostly glass controls. The aircraft has a small radar in the nose that can track aircraft up to 35 miles. De-icing equipment in the wings allows for all weather operations, as poor weather conditions is when the aircraft will probably be needed the most, as most satelites aren't able to pentrate cloud layers.
The FR-02 is a technological masterpiece, a true gem among aircraft. Its usefulness will be determined quite admirably in the next large-scale conflict, where its type of aircraft will be extrememly useful.
Mach 2.2 @35,000 ft
Ceiling: 60,000 ft
Empty Weight: 10,241 lbs
Fuel Load: 13,000lbs