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VEF-121 'Eclipse' Variable Environment Fighter

by Justin Kugler
Grade 12
Texas Academy of Mathematics and Science

Design Specifications - VEF-121 'Eclipse' variable environment fighter United States Air Force United States Space Forces Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

Overview: The VEF-121 is designed for stealth, maneuverability, and multi-capability in is operations. It is intended to conduct classified, highly-sensitive missions against targets from any angle and with mission sensitive weaponry.

Propulsion: An entirely original engine design was created for the VEF-121. It uses a hybrid system that is equally capable in air, space or sea. The main intakes direct either air or water to the four engines. Two P&W 1200B turboSCRAMJet engines are used in air and space operations. For sub-hypersonic speeds, the P&W 1200B operates using the nuclear-powered supercruising turbofan. Once it approaches hypersonic speeds, the intakes activate their louvers that assist in air compression until the Venturi (compresses air at high velocity by using the shape of the engine itself) takes over and the SCRAMJet activates, accelerating the VEF-121 to hypersonic speeds. Once the atmosphere is too thin to provide adequate oxygen, the louvers close the intakes completely and the SCRAMJet operates as a rocket, using hydrogen and oxygen from electrolytic fuel cells. Sea-based operations require the use of two GE 1000C "caterpillar" magnetohydrodynamic AquaJet engines. The VEF-121 accelerates to approximately 10 knots using the P&W 1200B, then the pilot switches to sea mode and submerges the fighter. The GE 1000C AquaJets then are able to propel the VEF-121 underwater similarly to the way the Venturi SCRAMJet does above the surface. The GE1000C will operate at any speed (as long as it does not exceed the maximum) underwater, and can be stopped and restarted. The initial splashdown is only to make sure the GE 1000C engines run at peak performance (i.e. any air/gases are flushed out). While underwater, internal louvers direct water so that the P&W 1200B engines are not awash. These same louvers cover the GE 1000C AquaJets during flight so that all air is directed to the turboSCRAMJets.

Design: The VEF-121 resembles a reversed manta ray in appearance. The wing tips curve downwards at a slight angle, and the blended fuselage is only broken by the canards just behind the cockpit and the inward canted vertical stabilizers. All weapons are carried internally. The bay doors open into the fuselage so to add as little to the radar cross-section (RCS) as possible. The four engines are blended into the dorsal fuselage, hiding the intakes from ground sensors. The cockpit affords a 360 degree field of view for the pilot, while not interfering with the organic flow of the design or the stealthy characteristics of the VEF-121.

Technologies: Several innovative technologies are included in the Eclipse's design. The internal weapons bays use a modular rotary system that allows many different types of ordinance to be carried in the same bay, facilitating an efficient use of weapons resources. Only the guns are not carried in the weapons bays, they are within the structure of the fighter. An electronic stealth system adds to the airframe's low RCS by its ability to passively or actively interfere with threat sensors by using electronic countermeasures, electrochromic panels for visual stealth that change the hue and appearance of the airframe skin (matching the sky above or ground below depending on altitude, speed, and position of light sensors), infrared jammers, communications scramblers, and a small laser turret that blinds sensors using a high-energy short pulse on incoming aircraft and missiles. The pilot has his own advanced systems. An Advanced Neural Transfer And Response System II(ANTARES II) actually links the pilot's brain with the fighter's computer using nanomachines that rewire the pilot's neural connections while connected, allowing the pilot to make decisions and execute commands in fractions of a second. The fighter can be operated without ANTARES II, but its use essentially makes the craft thought-controlled and capable of outfighting any opponent, excluding a superior pilot using ANTARES II also. The ANTARES II also incorporates a specially-designed pilot's seat that automatically adjusts itself to react to excess G-forces (positive or negative) and is filled with a gel that absorbs kinetic energy. The flight suit is also designed to work with ANTARES II and the "gee seat". The helmet is designed to facilitate ANTARES II use (it doesn't get in the way of the connection hardware), and the upper and lower torsos have an inner layer of the same gel used in the "gee seat". With ANTARES II, the pilot and the 'Eclipse' almost become one. The fighter's sensors (radar, infrared, cameras) and battle management computer systems become a part of the pilot's senses, just like touch and sight. (NOTE: ANTARES II is based on the ANTARES from Dale Brown's novel, Day of the Cheetah. I have only modified the system slightly to include the use of nanomachines, rather than drugs and theta-level brain activity, to connect with the computer. The ANTARES II is an "upgrade" of sorts, my personal take on the idea.)

Conclusion: The VEF-121 is capable of attack from any direction and at any angle, a true multi-role fighter. Nothing short of a fuel-air explosive, nuclear device, or another VEF-121 with a better pilot could destroy the fighter. Its one limitation is its inability to carry large numbers of heavy weaponry like that on a bomber, the maximum number of AGM-136 Advanced (stealthy) Cruise missiles the 'Eclipse' can carry is two! Also, if the engines are somehow damaged during the transition from atmospheric to sub-orbital flight, an abort may be necessary. Also, the fighter may be forced to crash land/scuttle if an emergency occurs during the transition from seaborne to airborne travel and vice versa.

Personal Thoughts: I decided to design this craft for a very good reason, and no, it is not because I am insane! I have always been interested in both aerospace and naval design. I also follow trends in military technology as a hobby. Right now, the military is trying to get more bang for its buck. Why not develop a true multi-role, multi-environment fighter? Such a craft, combined with technologies that add versatility in mission operations, would revolutionize the way we defend our nation. And the enemy would be scared out of their minds. The psychological value of being able to keep the enemy guessing (Air? Sea? SPACE?!?!? ALL THREE?!?!?) as to where you will come from is immense. Of course, these advanced military hardware systems come at a price. One, only an elite group of pilots would be allowed to fly these things because of the cost involved to build, maintain, and keep these craft secret (element of surprise and the technological edge - how can the enemy defend against a weapon it doesn't know exists?). Two, what if a pilot became "addicted" to ANTARES II? The power and super-human abilities that come from such a system could get to a person. And that doesn't even cover the potential hardware development and deployment problems that will inevitably arise! But even so, it still is a cool idea in my humble opinion. Wouldn't it be wild if we could actually get this thing to fly?


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