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Vought VB-100 'Blitzfighter'

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© 2012 - 2020 BlacktailFA
The VB-100 was a design concept created by the LTV Vought Company, to meet the specifications of a proposed Light Attacker for the USAF. There were several other variations of the design, but the VB-100 seems to have been the best one.

Now, you're probably looking at this thing (or it's stats below) and wondering, "Why?". Specifically, what does the USAF need this thing for, when it has the A-10 and all those really fast jets with Maverick missiles?

The short answer is, the USAF "leadership" HATED the A-10 with a passion (they still do), and pulled every stop to try to get rid of them all ASAP. And those fast jets with $100000 missiles? They don't work. Yes, I say that in the PRESENT TENSE, and it's as true today as it was in the early 1980s --- read about the 100's of tanks that NATO claimed to have destroyed in Kosovo, that were soon after revealed to be only 14.

The long answer is, the Blitzfighter (sometimes referred to erroneously as the “Mudfighter”) was conceived as a solution to two rather daunting problems. The first was that all of it's new-fangled jets --- intended to perform 24-hour, all-weather "Interdiction" missions at extraordinary speeds, altitudes, and ranges, while costing an extraordinary amount of money to buy, maintain, operate, and arm --- were in fact *weakening* the USAF. The USAF was also further divorcing itself (through these aircraft) from it's decades-old promise to provide the US Army with Close Air Support.
Part of the legacy of this was that the Army developed the AH-64 Apache, to do their *own* Close Air Support. This threw the USAF into a panic, because a new program authorized for one service means that another service loses the money that goes into this new program there was no fooling anyone as to which of the services was going to have their budget cut to pay for the Apaches.
This resulted in the USAF suddenly reversing their decades-long policy of denying effective CAS for the Army, in the form of the sudden new "A-X" requirement, which resulted in the A-10 Thunderbolt II. In other words, the A-10 came to be ONLY as one of many of "The Games Generals Play", to wrestle money away from the Army, and get one over on them at the same time. Now you know why they've been trying to get rid of it ever since --- it outlived it's "usefulness".

That said, here's the scoop on the guy who devised this thing.

The Blitzfighter concept itself was pioneered by maverick Colonel James G. Burton (remember him from "The Pentagon Wars"? He spent a half a decade battling the Army to force them to perform the Full-Up Live Fire Testing on the M2 Bradley that they had previously PROMISED to do --- under a legally-biding contract, no less!). Burton was a student of Colonel John Boyd, whose book "Aerial Attack Study" was LITERALLY the basis of *every* fighter combat tactic used since the 1960s, re-designed the F-X project's objectives into those that spawned the F-15 Eagle, co-designed the "Energy-Maneuverability" Theory alongside a mathematician, and whose associates --- Pierre Sprey, Winslow Wheeler, Col. Everest Riccioni --- devised the requirements that resulted both the LWF and A-X... which resulted in the F-16 and the A-10.
This was to pool of imagination and ideas from which Burton drew his inspiration for the Blitzfighter.

The problem the USAF faced as follows --- in Burton's own words, from his book "The Pentagon Wars: Reformers Challenge the Old Guard";
"...the intelligence community was claiming that the Soviets had adopted the German blitzkrieg tactics from World War II and would swiftly and easily "blitz" western Europe if war broke out. (It is no coincidence that the intelligence community began using the term blitzkrieg after Boyd's briefing became popular.) The Soviets, according to intelligence reports, had a tremendous advantage in numbers of tanks and infantrymen at their disposal. When these superior numbers were combined with blitzkrieg tactics, the Soviets were portrayed as being almost unbeatable. Exaggerating a threat to justify new wonder weapons was, and still is, a common practice.
The Air Force's answer to this bloated Soviet threat was a new fighter-bomber called the Enhanced Tactical Fighter, a proposed night all-weather interdiction aircraft. In the view of the Air Force, the word enhanced referred to the new technologies planned for the plane. In my view, it referred to the costs. This plane was being designed to destroy Soviet tanks deep behind enemy lines and destroy them before they could get to the front and exploit any breakthroughs that would occur (night, all-weather interdiction). The price was a mere $50 million per airplane.
As it happened, I was putting together my proposal for a new airplane at that time (March 1978). My proposal was exactly the opposite of the $50 million plane. I prepared an advocacy briefing that called for the development of a small, simple, lethal, and relatively cheap airplane that would be designed solely for close support of the ground troops who would be engaged with Soviet tanks and armor. Because the intelligence community was making such a big deal about how difficult it would be to stop the Soviet blitzkrieg, I named this airplane the "Blitzfighter". Rather catchy, I thought.
Everything about my proposal, including the plane that would be used, was diametrically opposed to the prevailing philosophy relating to the new wonder weapons of the Air Force. I wanted an airplane in the 5,000- to10,000-pound class (one-tenth the weight of the Enhanced Tactical Fighter), one smaller than any combat airplane in the inventory (one-fourth the size of the A-10), and one that cost less than $2 million. At this price, we could flood the battlefield with swarms of airplanes."

Starting to see the genius behind this design? There's more...

"The airplane would be designed around a four-barrel version of the same cannon that was in production on the A-10, which used a seven-barreled cannon that fired shells costing only $13 apiece. This was a far cry from the guided missiles on the Enhanced Tactical Fighter that cost several hundred thousand apiece. The Blitzfighter would have no high-tech bells and whistles and no wonder weapons. Essentially, it would contain the engine (an existing commercial one), a pilot, a titanium-armored bathtub for the pilot to sit in, a few flight instruments, a radio for the pilot to talk to the ground troops, and a cannon for killing tanks. Nothing more - no radars, infrared sensors, guided missiles, or any of that high-prided junk being installed on every other airplane - was needed.
With the ability to operate from grass fields, the Blitzfighter did not demand fixed, expensive airfields that would probably cease to exist ten minutes after a war started. Squadrons of Blitzfighters would pack up, move from pasture to pasture overnight and follow the flow of battle. Pilots would receive only verbal orders that identified the main points of their effort and left the details of execution to them, a notion that was consistent with Boyd's theories. The plan was in direct contrast to the standard practice of using excruciatingly detailed orders published by higher headquarters for each mission. The orders dictated how much fuel went on board, which weapons were loaded on which wing, the exact route that would be flown to the exact target that had been assigned, and even when the pilot would be allowed to relieve himself. Such rigid orders did not always match up to what was happening in a fast-moving situation.
Finally, the Blitzfighter would be operated at treetop level so that pilots could use their eyeballs to find tanks that were trying to hide. To survive at this level, the plane had to be extremely agile and dart, twist, turn, accelerate, and decelerate far better than any airplane we had."

Then-Lt. Col. Burton got into a heated argument with USAF General Toomay (who believed that only the most complex and expensive technology would prevail) over this proposal, but Toomay actually gave Burton permission to make a formal request for the USAF's Design Bureau at Wright Patterson to evaluate the concept. Their reply was that it would work.
The USAF brass, however, didn't like the Blitzfighter at all, and they poured all their malice into suppressing it. Burton was undaunted, however, and John Boyd encouraged him to in his own words, "Make them work for it".

In June of 1978, Burton sure as hell did "Make them work for it". He was present during a briefing in which Brig. Gen. Richard "Dick" Phillips (and he IS a dick, as you'll soon see) tried to sell the Enhanced Tactical Fighter to Dr. Jack Martin, the Air Force Assistant Secretary for Research, Development. Brig. Gen. Phillips and his associates presented *deliberately* falsified numbers on the ETF to Dr. Martin, and Col. Burton called him on it. Dr. Martin made a few phone calls on the spot to check the numbers, and verified that Col. Burton's numbers were correct --- and that Brig. Gen. Phillip's numbers were a lie.
Afterwards, Phillips met with Burton in the Pentagon hallway outside Dr. Martin's office, and congratulated him for his good stewardship of the US taxpayer's dollars;
"Needless to say, General Phillips was not happy with me. I was soon braced up against the wall of the "E" ring. With his forefinger pounding my breastbone like a jackhammer, and his nose about one inch from mine, he let me know that I was dog mean and that several other generals would have a feast when I came back into the "blue suit" Air Force.
Then, the paranoia surfaced: "You're not going to ram that F___ing Blitzfighter down our throats like your friends did the F-16!" They were still smarting over that coup.

The dick named General Phillips had even more vitriol to pour over the Blitzfighter over the following years, as you can see on Page 571 of the 25 August 1979 issue of Flight International;

The Blitzfighter kept popping-up again and again throughout the early 1980s, and every time it did, the (Br)asshats freaked-out all over the place. Though predictably, the Blitzfighter was never even prototyped, and the ETF project was resurrected by the (Br)asshats and eventually put into service.
The result was the $100 Million F-15E Strike Eagle that costs $44000 per flight hour, drops $50000 guided bombs and launches $1000000 Maverick missiles onto targets that don't affect the flow of the battle, in the "Interdiction" role --- which has never had any effect whatsoever on the outcome of any war it was ever used in. It was also the only variant of the F-15 Eagle to ever sustain losses in battle.
The ammunition the $2 Million Blitzfighter would have fired costs only $17/round.

The rest of the Blitzfighter story is here, in Col. James G. Burton's own words (to go straight to the excerpts from Burton's book, enter "Colonel James G. Burton USAF, on the Blitzfighter" into the Find command. There schematics for the other Blitzfighter proposals here as well);

Finally, here are the specs on the Blitzfighter.

===== VB-100 Blitzfighter Data =====

Role: Attacker
Unit Price: $2 Million
Crew: 1
Size(LxWxH): 34.4x27x14.8ft
Wing Area: 169ft2
Empty Weight: 5578lbs
Internal Fuel: 1700lbs
Payload: ~525lbs
Max. T/O Weight: 8368lbs
Wing Loading (at Max. T/O Weight): 49.58
T/W Ratio: 0.90
Fuel Fraction: 30%
Range: ~300 miles
Ceiling: ~30000ft
Cruise Speed: ~300mph
Top Speed: ~500mph
Climb Rate: ~8500ft/min
Initial Turn Rate: ~25 degrees/sec
Continuous Turn Rate: ~15 degrees/sec
Max. G-Load: +7/-3
Sensors: None
Scan Range: N/A
Look Down: No
Shoot Down: No
Propulsion: 1x Garrett ATF 3-6 Turbofan w/ 5050lbs Military Thrust
Fuel Consumption: 0.44lbs/hour/hour of thrust
Thrust Vectoring: None
Weapon Stations: 1x GAU-13/A 30mm autocannon w/350rds
ECMs: None
FBW: None
RCS: ~15ft3
Stealth: No
Tailhook: None
Catapult Hitch: None
Drag Chute: None
AAR: None
Other: Ballistic Glass Bubble Canopy proofed against 23mm shells, Zero-Zero Ejection Seat, Armored Fuselage, Armored Cockpit, Armored Self-Sealing Fuel Cells, Spall Liners, Hardened and Redundant Control Surfaces, Landing Gear auto-releases upon Hydraulic Failure, STOL Capability, Rough Runway Capability
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anonymous's avatar
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RichardAK's avatar
I realize I'm coming late to this discussion, for which I apologize, but I just wanted to say that James Burton was (is?  Is he still alive?) a great American.  The A-10 is the best ground-attack aircraft certainly of modern times, and maybe of all time.  It is probably one of the greatest military aircraft overall of all time.  That being said, I have no doubt that the Blitzfighter, if it had been developed according to Burton's conception, would have, at the very least, given it a real run for its money.  Now that the Air Force is talking about a new close-air support fighter to replace the A-10, and is looking at the AT-6 and the A-29, why not also have a look at reviving the Blitzfighter?  Anyway, thanks for posting this.
BlacktailFA's avatar
As for the USAF's pursuit of small "COIN" (Counter Insurgency) attack aircraft like the AT-6 and A-29 as an A-10 replacement, this is something that's been done before. It's important to realize that the USAF (Br)asshats want *neither* of these aircraft, and the oldest trick in the book is to get rid of one or both by playing them against each other. Look-up the article on the Piper Enforcer on Medium (I tried to post the link here, but DA's comment system said it was "spam").

The USAF also viciously despised the F-16 as well, as it was an unwanted competitor for F-15 funding (despite the fact that all the funding in the world couldn't have built more than about 1000 at most, to replace several-thousand F-4s, F-100s, etc.). When the Air National Guard began agitating for buying brand-new F-20 Tigersharks (which the USAF hated even more than the F-16), the (Br)asshats countered by suddenly giving about half of their still-new F-16s to the NG. That killed two birds with one stone; it made a US purchase of the F-20 basically impossible, and "purified" the inventory of unwanted aircraft.

When the A-10B N/AWS threatened to extend the production and development of the A-10 past 800 aircraft, and LTV began developing the YA7F Strikefighter (the USAF feared being stuck with another "saltwater" aircraft, and were still smarting over being forced to adopt the US Navy's F-4 Phantom II), they suddenly started pitching the F-16 as a CAS (Close Air Support) aircraft, even going so far as to have the FA-16 variant developed specifically for CAS. The FA-16 effectively poisoned the well for the A-10B and YA-7F, but immediately after it's disastrous showing in Operation Desert Storm (to say nothing of being so heavily overshadowed by the A-10 that hardly anyone ever noticed the FA-16's very existence), They suddenly dropped the FA-16 program and converted them all back into F-16Cs.
RichardAK's avatar
Burton wrote a lot about the development of the F-16 and about Boyd's Lightweight Fighter Mafia in The Pentagon Wars, but I didn't know about the Piper Enforcer.  I shall be sure to look for that article.  Thank you for letting me know about that.  Sadly, you have described the way the Pentagon operates all too well.  
BlacktailFA's avatar
I've learned a few more things about Col. James G. Burton recently that I hadn't been aware of, even after reading The Pentagon Wars (which Burton wrote) and The Pentagon Paradox (which mentions him on several occasions). As a Major, Burton was one of Col. John Boyd's "acolytes" in the Lightweight Fighter Mafia, and he was instrumental in getting the USAF to adopt the ACF program --- whose end result was the F-16. He was also the one member of the Lightweight Fighter Mafia that the rest were most reluctant to recruit, as up until then, Burton was more or less part of the USAF's elite, having been a graduate of the first ever Air Force Academy class (along with a few thousand others, including something like only 2-3 other men from his home state of Illinois). I'd say that makes him an exceptional officer, all things considered.

Burton was also still shaking-up things in the USAF well into the mid-1980s, notably a study he published titled "Letting Combat Results Shape the Next Air-to-Air Missile", which triggered more than a few meltdowns among the senior brass. I haven't been able to find a copy of that study, but it's heavily referenced in these articles;

Picard578's avatar
Do you have anything about VB200?
Skoshi8's avatar
Skoshi8Hobbyist Photographer
Basically a latter day IL-2 "Sturmovik".
zeraful's avatar
Simply perfect! :)
BlacktailFA's avatar
That's pretty much the idea, but the Blitzfighter was even more focused --- it uses a single gun to hunt it's prey, and nothing else at all.

The GAU-13 would have been every bit as effective against aircraft, structures, and "soft targets" as well, because the bigger GAU-8 Avenger that fires the same ammo has demonstrated such utility in combat --- in Desert Storm, A-10s shot down 2 Iraqi helicopters with 30mm shells, and they've been used against the other aforementioned targets on an almost daily basis in Iraq and Afghanistan.
zeraful's avatar
I swear I didn't see it coming :|, the idea of a cheap, fast, agile attack plane that could "swarm over the battlefield",pop out right in the middle of a raging ocean full of complex, expensive design. Couldn't see it coming:|
BlacktailFA's avatar
Most of my designs are very complex (and WOULD be very expensive), but this design is elegant and brilliant in it's simplicity.

I *had* to create a schematic of it! :-)
zeraful's avatar
I remember that you used to abhor the Blitzfighter for being a replacement for the A-10 though :)
BlacktailFA's avatar
Are you sure it was me? I only just learned about this aircraft a year ago, and found concept art a few months ago --- and I've always been impressed by the design.
zeraful's avatar
I do remember you comment something about the Blizt when I stated that the US Army's about to decommissioned over 200 A-10s :(
BlacktailFA's avatar
If the US Army used A-10s, most of the production run would still be in service --- instead, the USAF uses them, and they're always using every dirty trick under the sun to try to get rid of them all.

The Army can't use A-10s either, unless they dissolve the Key West Agreement of 1948 (part of which stipulates that the US Army would not use fixed-wing combat aircraft weighing over 10000lbs). They won't do this either, because it's politically inconvenient for them.

I've commented on the issue in the Murdoc Online forum; [link]
zeraful's avatar
Most people still consider the US Army to represent all of US military :).
anonymous's avatar
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