The main purpose of the aircraft is to provide a large Air Force at relatively low cost. While the newest models have many expensive systems, the base airframe is still very cost effective, and an emphasis on low maintenance design results in low life time costs. The primary missions of the fighter are air defense and anti-ship strikes.
In the 1990's, the proud Miklanian Air Force had only a few aging fighters. The primary cause was determined to be the old philosophy that emphasized having the greatest fighter in the world, at any cost. While admirable, the goal resulted in large, heavy, and most importantly, expensive fighters, that could only be acquired in small numbers. With design philosophies, technology, and manufacturing capability changing, however, these fighters were not useful against modern threats. It was determined that newer designs, using fly-by-wire, relaxed stability, and advanced sensors, combined with new manufacturing techniques, could allow for a small, lightweight, highly agile and versatile fighter that could be acquired at low cost, while still being able to rival larger fighters. The Air Force was not convinced at first, but after some serious lobbying by General Miklanian engineers, in 1991, a Request for Proposals was issued for a modern lightweight, multi-role fighter.
The challenge was met by General Miklanian, Boering, and Madesia. The companies were instructed to design an aircraft that was light, agile, super sonic, capable of ground/ship attack, dogfighting, and long range patrolling. How they accomplished this was left up to the engineers, although the favorite design was a single engine fighter. GM went with a tailless delta with close coupled canards and side intakes, the same as the Gripen. Boering's submission had a single engine, but large delta wings and a unique top-mounted intake. The Madesia design strayed from the norm set by the other two companies and designed a fighter with two small engines, and a conventional layout, with wings and horizontal stabilizers and side mounted intakes. The Madesia fighter was plagued with many problems, including massive failures of the engine. Despite the best efforts of the engineers, even the small engines were too heavy, and the fighter was cut from the program in the first round. The GM and Boering designs were the only two that met the requirements, and went ahead to the prototype stage.
The GM design was considered the safest bet, as it was based on an existing design with a combat record, but for the same reasons the media tore it apart. It was too foreign for a country that prided itself on its domestic arms industry. Only after guarantees that the design was mostly redone did the public stop attacking the program. Thus the Boering design, officially the YFM6, got some well needed publicity. The GM design, now designated YFM5, however, had the head start, as engineers, led by Kennith Beitel, had been working on the concept for years before the competition, while Boering scoffed at the idea, assuming that the Air Force would never go along with the light weight fighter concept. The Boering design, therefore, was hastily thrown together. Utilizing an experimental top intake was seen as a good way to reduce weight, but in flight testing it was found to provide too little air to the engine at high angles of attack, a serious flaw that led to the crash of the first prototype. After this, the Boering submission was thoroughly mocked, its ugly shape and terrible performance taking the brunt of the abuse.
The YFM5 now had a clear shot at the contract. The prototype was working perfectly, and progress was being made at record speed. The only problem was the range. A fighter that small was unable to meet the frankly unrealistic requirement set by the Air Force. The Air Force realized this, and brought the requirement down to a more realistic goal. But by 1994 the YFM6 design was essentially axed, leaving the YFM5 alone at the top. In 1995 the second prototype, in the hands of GM chief test-pilot Archer Filipek, conducted it's first ordnance tests at Kecskemet AFB. In 1996, it was selected as the winner of the competition, and received its new name, FM5 Seraphim. The first production model, rolled off the assembly line on September 9, 1997.
The FM5-5 is the next step in the evolution of the aircraft. The original was designed with some limited plan-form alignment, RAM, and other stealth features in mind, but the Dash 5 adds more to the platform, with meticulous attention to the shape of the smallest panels, all for reducing the radar cross section as much as possible. The skin has had many openings removed, eliminating potential radar amplification. The Dash 5 features more composites, which are inherently radar absorbing, although RAM application has been increased as newer, maintenance free technologies are available. The Dash 5 also focuses on decreasing the IR signature of the fighter, through more advanced materials that lower friction, improved engine nozzle design, and improved cooling systems.
The latest development of the Seraphim is the FM5-6, a navalized version of the Dash 5. The Seraphim's landing gear is already strong enough for carrier operations, as it was designed to allow the conventional version to tale off from small, unprepared runways and even roads. The only modifications required, therefore, are the addition of equipment to the forward landing leg to allow for connection to the catapult, the addition of a real tailhook, and the augmentation of the landing and takeoff systems to permit easy operations off of a carrier as well as off of land. Jamaar, Polar Svalbard, and Norstham operate these aircraft.
A concept for the navalized Seraphim, the FM5-6.
The GM engineers never lost sight of the fact that the aircraft they were working on would in the end need to be easy to manufacture. Whenever possible, the attractions of advanced manufacturing processes such as chemical milling and exotic materials like titanium where eschewed. While based on an existing airframe, all of the components were designed from scratch, partly to meet the specific requirements of the Miklanian Air Force, and partly from a desire to make the aircraft as domestic as possible. The fuselage is made of very simple, easy to build sections. The wings are fairly large deltas, which provide lots of lift for a better payload and performance. The wings also house large fuel tanks, good for the long stretches of ocean in the Western Isles. Other tanks are stored in the center fuselage, behind the pilot and in between and around the air intakes. The Dash 5 has had the landing gear moved under the wing roots to allow for additional internal tanks next to the engine. The cockpit structure was fairly orthodox with the Dash 1/2 and Dash 3/4 models. The Dash 5/6 model has a bubble canopy. The pilot's seat is reclined at 27* to increase G force tolerance.
The Seraphim is a high performance aircraft with an advanced aerodynamic design, but the engineers eschewed sophisticated constructional techniques wherever possible. The Air Force needed a cost effective fighter, and the fancier technologies and materials would drive up costs. The engineers instead focused on perfecting existing, more conventional technologies. Therefor 80 per cent of the structure was manufactured from aluminum-lithium alloy. The first prototype had some issues with this material, but the problems were rectified later with the development of better welding techniques. The only parts made of composites in the first generation Dash 1/2 models were the wing skins and the radome. The aircraft's structural make up would be changed only a few years later with the Dash 3/4 models, which added composites to the entire wing and tail, in addition to other improvements. The Dash 5 model, now entering service, is a radical departure from the original design, with over 50 per cent being a composite. Advances in manufacturing available to the industry today now allow this while reducing, not increasing, costs. The fuselage, while still made of aluminum, now benefits from improved welding and computer aided design, and has only gotten lighter, stronger, and cheaper. Other metal and composite components are being 3D printed, a process that permits incredible complex geometries to be created very simply. This allows parts to be stiffer and lighter.
Another design element the Air Force insisted on was low maintenance time and costs. The GM engineers achieved this by automating most of the aircraft's systems, all of which are monitored by an on-board diagnostics computer. This allows the maintainers to spend less time checking systems. When maintainers do need to access the aircraft, their lives are made considerably easier by the 230 access panels that cover the airframe. These allowed easy access to the efficiently laid out internal systems. Many of the panels are interchangeable from side to side, reducing the number of panels that the Air Force needed to buy to provide maintenance for the fighter. The use of simple, modular avionics bays and the new MSTO standard connections made changing avionics systems a simple, easy process. The engine, designed specifically for the Seraphim, was similarly laid out to place all of the parts that needed regular checking conveniently under the main access panels. It is also deigned to be removed easily from the airframe. As a result of this simplified design, only a handful of maintainers, including one technician and five to six quickly trained Airmen, are theoretically required to prepare the aircraft for combat.
Kennith Beitel's concept called for lots of excess power to provide as high a thrust-to-weight ratio as possible. The only engine that made the cut was General Miklanian's own F210-GM-100 turbofan. The F200 was already being developed for the AF-X, the fighter the FM5 was replacing, which meant that the development budget would be spared slightly. The Air Force cancelled the AF-X in 1994, giving GM the freedom to optimize the engine for the FM5. The design was, like the rest of the aircraft, an example of perfected conventional technology, not a radical advancement that would have cost more, taken more time to develop, and suffer from more problems. It featured two low pressure and one high pressure compression stages. The compressor features two spools, three fans, and 7 high pressure stages. The combustors are conventional annular designs. The engine weighs approximately 2,400 pounds. The F210-GM-100, used in the Dash 1/2 models, produced 21,500 foot pounds of thrust. The F210-GM-139, used in the Dash 3/4 models, produces 22,200 pounds of thrust. The F240-GM-100, used on the newest Dash 5/6 models, is General Miklanian's greatest accomplishment to date, producing 25,700 pounds of thrust while weighing 340 pounds less, consuming 25 percent less fuel, and featuring longer lasting parts than the F210. The F240 also produces higher levels of thrust at military power, allowing easier supercruise.
This massive improvement is due to the use of a variable bypass system, which allows the engine to operate efficiently at any combination of speed, altitude, or attitude. Unlike other turbofan engines, which can only have one bypass ratio (the amount of air direceted around the compressor to be added back after combustion), the F240 can change the bypass to permit better efficiency. At supersonic speeds for example, low or zero bypass, like a turbojet, is more efficient than a turbofan (a turbofan has bypass while a turbojet doesn't.), but at sub sonic speeds, higher bypass levels are significantly better. With the majority of a fighters time being spent subsonic, most are equipped with turbofans. But with the development of more powerful engines and lighter weight materials, supercruise, or the ability to fly at supersonic speeds without afterburner, has become a reality. With fighters, like the FM5-5, able to operate at supersonic speeds more often, the need for increased efficiency at various speeds became necessary, resulting in the variable-bypass engine. In practice, the range of the aircraft can be increased from 20-30 percent with this technology, finally allowing the Seraphim to reach its original range specification. This technology was only a theory at the time of the FM5's initial development. It was determined that using it then would have delayed the program at least a decade and would have resulted in huge cost increases. The maturity of the technology was also questioned. Even if achieved, the engine would have been significantly less reliable than today. At the time, it wasn't even being seriously considered. None the less, GM carried on with experiments as a separate private venture. The engine was ready by early 2014, and it was decided to implement it on the FM5-5. This had always been GM's plan, but the Air Force had originally been skeptical about the technology, and had originally asked for a simple improvement over the older engine family. They were so impressed by the performance and potential for the platform that they decided to go ahead with it on board the fighter. Even the competing Boering FM4-4 Super Shark naval fighter is using a slightly larger version in the latest "Dash 4" model.
The Seraphim was designed with a mechanical radar in mind, but during the prototype stage it was determined to change to a domestic design by Kevinsson. This radar, the APG-995 Raptor, was a more advanced AESA unit, with significantly expanded capabilities. The Air Force was sufficiently pleased with its improved performance and capabilities to permit the slight increase in cost. The AESA unit has greater range than older arrays, the ability to act as a jammer, a high resolution synthetic imaging ground mapping mode, greater multi-target tracking and lock abilities that allow one aircraft to simultaneously engage up to four targets, and low probability of intercept technology. This radar was coupled with what was a state of the art computer, allowing a massive amount of simultaneous tracking. The radar has three modes: navigation, air to air, and air to ground. The Dash 5 model uses the APG-997 Raptor, a more advanced model that uses the newer processors and increased power capacity of the Dash 5 to boost performance. Other improvements in radar design further improve the resolution, tracking, jamming, and mapping modes. The radar array is at an offset, on a rotating mount that gives it side look capabilities without the traditional mechanical mount, which is heavier, slower, and impacts the RCS.
The Dash 5 also adds the Horus IRST system to the platform. The IRST is housed in a bulge set in front and to the side of the canopy. The IRST is a passive system, and unlike radar, does not emit tell tale radiation. The system can track fighter sized targets up to 90 miles away in average conditions. The IRST "eye" can be slaved to the radar, which has a longer range and detection area. The benefit of doing this is that while the radar can track targets with low chance of the target detecting it, locking would always set off RWR warnings. The IRST can lock without alerting the enemy's sensors.
The Dash 5 also adds another feature, a 360* UV/IR missile approach warning system. This can detect launches and incoming missiles that may be tracking the aircraft. While it cannot warn you of a lock, it does allow the pilot to know if an otherwise silent heat-seeking missile is being fired at him. The system alerts the pilot whit audio cues, including the systems best guess at what type of missile is inbound. The system will automatically deploy countermeasures at the most opportune time to defeat the missile, although the pilot can still manually deploy countermeasures. The system also allows for 360* target tracking at close range.
The on-board computers are classified proprietary designs, developed by GM with a few other technology partners. The Dash 1/2 and Dash 3/4 models were confirmed to have architecture based off of Pentium, but there are no confirmed reports of what powers the Dash 5, although GM spokesmen have said that it is a "next generation processor". The quick change avionics compartments allow for quick removal and installation, which means the equipment types can be changed out as needed. Further upgrades will be easily swapped out as needs and technology evolve.
The cockpit of the FM5-5 features a three color multi-functional displays, a wide angle HUD, a dedicated mono-chrome LCD display for communications information, and center mounted HOTAS controls. The cockpit systems still uses buttons and switches, as Miklanian pilots have stated that they prefer them over "newfangled" touchscreen only cockpits. The left display shows aircraft systems status, and includes a digital instrument cluster. It can also display targeting pod or satellite imagery. The center includes a moving map, with plain and topographical backgrounds, that shows the locations, vectors, and sensor coverage areas of all aircraft, ground, and sea targets available through the plane's own sensors or the datalink. The system color codes friendly, enemy, and unknown targets. The right display shows RWR, radar, and passive sensor suites. The display has graphs that display the three-dimensional locations and movement vectors of tracked targets. All models have featured a helmet mounted cueing system, but the Dash 5 adds a true HMD, the GM Scorpion II, to the mix. It uses the 360* sensor array to find and track threats, marking them for the pilots. This gives a massive boost to situational awareness in a dogfight. Other critical information (speed altitude, G's, etc.) are displayed when ever the pilot's head looks out of the area covered by the HUD (this is to avoid annoying overlap).
An automated landing system and very close terrain following modes are included on all models.
The Dash 5 also features an improved counter measures suite. These systems are offered as an option to customers, but are usually ordered, as the fighters, though relatively cheap, are still very expensive machines to lose. The system is linked to the 360* sensor array, and can choose what counter measure to deploy, and when, to have the highest chance of defeating the threat. The main flare launchers are located in the fuselage, right below the airbrakes. Secondary dispensers are located on the inboard wing pylons, the high capacity BOL flare dispensers also have chaff on the opposite side of the pylon. The flares used in the Seraphim utilize a highly advanced (and classified) compound that is significantly better at distracting modern IR seekers than conventional flares. The tail fin houses two towed infrared decoys. These can be deployed from what appears to be the engine, and when combined with high G turns, this can be a very effective way to defeat even the most sophisticated IR missiles. The wingtip launch rails have a bulge on the inside rear edge, this houses the towed radar decoys. The radar decoys give off a strong radar signal that looks like the return of a fighter. This signal is more powerful than the actual radar reflection of the fighter, so any incoming radar guided missiles are drawn towards it, and not the fighter itself. The Dash 5 also features a highly sophisticated, yet simple, ECM solution. Instead of developing an external pod, like most other fighters of its generation use, it uses the increased processing power of the central computer to wield the AESA radar and a set of antennas in the skin and tail to effectively jam enemy sensors and missiles.
Seraphim Operators (Image: Polar Svalbard)
Miklanian Air Force
Ostehaar Air Force
Polar Svalbard Navy
Miklania - 134 (FM5E)
Polar Svalbard - 100 (FM5Fp)
Ostehaar - 60 (FM5Eo "Lightning")
Athara Magarat - 5 (FM5Aa)
Norstham - 34 (FM5En); 30 (FM5Fn)
Dormill and Stiura - 40 (FM5Ed); 6 (FM5Fd)
For export information, Telegram Miklania.
Length: 50 feet (15.24 meters)
Wingspan: 30 feet 7 inches (9.33 meters)
Height:14 feet 9 inches (6.02 meters)
Weight (Empty): 17,560 lbs (7,965 kg)
Standard Weight: 25,200 lbs (11,430 kg)
Weight (Max Take-off): 39,000 lbs (17,690 kg)
Internal Fuel Capacity: 7,600 lbs (3,447 kg)
Engine: 1x F240-GM-100 VB Turbofan
Thrust: 25,700 ft/lbs (34.8 kn) Afterburner; 15,000 lb/lbs (20 kn) Dry
Internal Weapons: 1x 27mm revolver cannon (240 rounds)
Maximum Speed: Mach 2.2
Supercruise: Mach 1.25
Combat Radius (Internal Fuel): 506 nmi (937.11 km)
Combat Radius (External Fuel): 795 nmi (1472.3 km)
Ferry Range: 2,170 nmi (4018.8 km)
Service Ceiling: 50,000 feet (Maximum 60,000 feet)
Wing Loading: 57.9 lb/ft^2
Thrust to Weight Ratio: 1.02 Wet; 1.21 50% Fuel
Maximum G Load: 9+