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Old 11-18-2017, 08:54 PM
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Time Travel - how far back could you send a modern jet fighter before its useless?

Just something I was mulling over today, for the purposes of the hypothetical a modern jet fighter* is sent back in time to somewhere in Western Europe, how far back can it be sent before it gradually loses its usefulness? Assume its fully fuelled and armed but with no manuals or other operating instructions.

People of the WW2 era could probably figure out how to fly it but the more complex systems would be a lot more difficult to understand. What if it was sent to the 1970's, would it just give a boost to the aerospace industry of the era?

Send it back to the medieval period and they would probably realise it was a vehicle of some kind (it has a seat and wheels after all) but how much more could they discern?

Thanks in advance!

*something like the Eurofighter Typhoon: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/...52_964x673.jpg

Last edited by Atomic Alex; 11-18-2017 at 08:57 PM.
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Old 11-18-2017, 09:14 PM
Andy L Andy L is offline
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There's a story ("Hawk among the Sparrows" by Dean McLaughlin) about the problems that arise when a jetfighter is transported (with its pilot) to WWI. I think we've discussed this story on the list before.

Last edited by Andy L; 11-18-2017 at 09:16 PM.
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Old 11-18-2017, 09:21 PM
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There's a story ("Hawk among the Sparrows" by Dean McLaughlin) about the problems that arise when a jetfighter is transported (with its pilot) to WWI. I think we've discussed this story on the list before.
Actually yes I've read that one, forgot about it though!

And on re-reading my OP I think the 'no manuals' rule isn't necessary, at a certain point it would be indecipherable anyway, "OK 'activate the radar'...what is 'radar'?!?"
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Old 11-18-2017, 09:29 PM
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Without the maintenance infrastructure, a couple of flights and it is a lump of aluminum and exotic alloys - probably in a crater.
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Old 11-18-2017, 09:31 PM
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The real value is to the aerospace industry. I'd say at any point after the development of aviation, it would be useful. Marginally useful in the few years before the Wright Brothers. The reason is that while scientists and engineers of those eras would not be able to duplicate it exactly, there is an immense amount they could learn.

Nobody is ever going to be able to fly one, not with one load of fuel and weapons. It takes just too much training and almost certain if someone tried, they'd crash. Even with manuals. Even if you had a trained pilot who went back with the aircraft, you wouldn't be able to use the fighter to end ww2 by going and killing hitler - for one thing, unless it's armed with a nuke, a 2000 lb bomb or so isn't going to break through the bunker he is hiding in, and the Allies wouldn't know his location. (even if they did, with no GPS it would be hard to find the exact building from the air ) Similarly, if the Germans got it, there is no single person they could kill to end the Allied cause.

So in all cases, the only gain to the faction that gets the fighter is the knowledge. Knowledge about jet turbine construction, metallurgy, digital computers, aerodynamics, plastics - tons and tons of things. It could be used to advance industry by decades over the original timeline, since it's a lot easier to fund a project into something if you already have strong evidence that what you are trying to do could work.

For instance, we kind of think a general AI or nanotech assembler is possible, but our governments are not spending trillions of dollars annually to try to get one. What if an example of one were discovered, sent back in time and working long enough to prove that the idea is possible? It would trigger an arms race.

Last edited by SamuelA; 11-18-2017 at 09:32 PM.
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Old 11-19-2017, 05:56 AM
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We did a similar thread some time ago about sending an M1 Abrams back to WWII, what would its effect on the war be?

Conclusion: some extremely small positive number/percentage greater than zero.

A single tank (plane) doesn't carry sufficient munitions to be a strategic game-changer; at best, you get one spectacular single-use tactical advantage; played smartly, that could cause a positive strategic shift for the side using it.

After that, the high-tech munitions are depleted and the tech-base of the time cannot replenish.
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Old 11-19-2017, 06:22 AM
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At what point in history would a runway or runway-like structure exist? You could know everything you needed to know about operating the aircraft, but if there's not a place to get it off the ground, it's kinda useless.
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Old 11-19-2017, 08:15 AM
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Without the maintenance infrastructure, a couple of flights and it is a lump of aluminum and exotic alloys - probably in a crater.
This. And no one would be able to fly it. A WWII pilot/ground crew might figure out how to start the engine/s.

Many of todays commercial airline pilots are from the military. But I wonder if a modern commercial pilot that did not get training in the military could fly say an F-15? No instruction beyond "there it is". I really, really doubt it.
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Old 11-19-2017, 10:12 AM
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IMO ...

Sorta. Jets is jets at some level. For most jet pilots if you can figure out how to get it started you can get it into the air and probably back down again in one piece. On a nice sunny day.

After that, absent some knowledge about similar-era weapons systems, the only way to use it to hurt somebody else is to crash it into them. That's where your non-military jet driver would (almost certainly) be lost with no clue.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 11-19-2017 at 10:12 AM.
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Old 11-19-2017, 10:35 AM
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IMO ...

Sorta. Jets is jets at some level. For most jet pilots if you can figure out how to get it started you can get it into the air and probably back down again in one piece. On a nice sunny day.

After that, absent some knowledge about similar-era weapons systems, the only way to use it to hurt somebody else is to crash it into them. That's where your non-military jet driver would (almost certainly) be lost with no clue.
LSLguy, you're a guy who flies jets, even. If you have no manual, how do you even know what RPM the turbine wants to run at? Sure, a modern jet has automated engine management, but where's the switch to enable that? What do all these acronyms in the options menus mean? Say you're sitting on the ground, tabbing through the various MFDs...what happens when you drain the aircraft's batteries? How do people in ww2 even figure out you need a start cart?
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Old 11-19-2017, 02:55 PM
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I was answering enipla just above. His question was what if we put somebody like Llama Llagophile who has flown RJ airliners & now flies bizjets but has never flown fighters into the cockpit of an F-whatever. For something like an F-18 and earlier IMO he'll figure it out. I truly don't know enough about later stuff to opine with much confidence.

How to steal a fighter: Move the throttles & look for and feel for a mechanical lock or detent between off & idle. Ensure you're in off but know how to move to idle & back. Find a switch labeled "battery" which is probably lever-locking. Turn it on and see some electrical stuff start to happen. Find the switch labeled "APU start" or "engine start" and flip it to Start or On. etc. for a couple more steps.

Eventually you'll get the engine(s) rotating and once the cranking RPM stops increasing, put the throttle to idle. If it lights off it'll settle down at whatever RPM it thinks is idle soon enough. I don't know the number and I don't care.

Figure out where the gear and flap controls are. If the flaps are even pilot controllable. Waggle the controls and make sure all the wing & tail feathers move as you expect.

Find the parking brake knob or switch, release it, find a runway, and shove the throttle up to full blast. You're flying 20 seconds later. Take note of what speed it wants to lift off at. Plan to fly approach 10-15 knots below that.

The key thing is that at least up through that era of fighters, 99% of controlling the airplane systems is through more or less conventional switches and conventional controls. Every airplane is just a variant of the same overarching theme.

Conversely, all the weapons & radar and ECM & ... stuff is totally in the computers / MFDs / HUD / magic helmet, etc. And, as I said, good friggin' luck to anyone, even somebody like me after 30ish years, figuring any of that out any time soon. With the engine running you'll have normal electricity so you can play with thebuttons for awhile, but there's a couple hours worth of fiddling to begin to start to make sense of the easy parts. Why bother? At least for enipla's question.

Somebody like LLama or myself could use it to go joyriding on a sunny day. And probably live to tell the tail at least once. But we couldn't use it as a weapon, even against cooperative targets.

Would some P-51/Spitfire pilot in 1943 be able to figure even this much out and go joyriding? Almost certainly not.
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Old 11-19-2017, 03:05 PM
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I just spent a bit more time googling around. The F-22 looks to be not that different from the earlier era in terms of switchology for getting it running. The F-35 cockpit looks a lot more minimalist, implying pretty much everything is onscreen.

Which might be more difficult to figure out, or it might have the big "EASY" button. At least for the process of getting the airplane started. Which is really the only hard part if you just want to go joyriding.
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Old 11-19-2017, 03:21 PM
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Sounds like someone seen the Philadelphia experiment two

the Philadelphia experiment two (really low budget) apparently someone did the experiment again and managed to send a b-2 type of plane back to the third reich (and incidentally pulled the hero who was in the first movie along with it )

which they used to win ww2 by bombing Washington dc Well one of their designers claimed it as his but when he couldn't fix it or make another he killed himself in disgrace They couldn't even find bombs for it

when in the reich dominated future resistance figured out what happened they sent the hero back in time to destroy it he went back in the past and blew it and where they were doing the experiment up and restored time to what it was supposed to be

Last edited by nightshadea; 11-19-2017 at 03:25 PM.
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Old 11-19-2017, 11:38 PM
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Old 11-20-2017, 10:55 AM
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I can establish a physics-based bright line.

Before Earth's Great Oxygenation Event, the atmosphere would lack the oxygen needed to sustain any air-breathing engine. The engines of a jet or prop plane would flame out or sputter to a stop if the aircraft were magically time-teleported into the early Palęoproterozoic Era.

So, no farther back than 2.5 billion years.

Last edited by gnoitall; 11-20-2017 at 10:56 AM.
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Old 11-20-2017, 01:16 PM
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I can establish a physics-based bright line.

Before Earth's Great Oxygenation Event, the atmosphere would lack the oxygen needed to sustain any air-breathing engine. The engines of a jet or prop plane would flame out or sputter to a stop if the aircraft were magically time-teleported into the early Palęoproterozoic Era.

So, no farther back than 2.5 billion years.
Heh. In the Carboniferous era (350million - 300 million years ago), the atmospheric oxygen content was 50% higher than it is now. Might make burning that JP5 a bit... energetic.

Last edited by mlees; 11-20-2017 at 01:17 PM.
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Old 11-20-2017, 01:36 PM
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Do you want a span when it'd be continuously useful, or the earliest time it'd be useful, period? A medieval king would have use for it whatsoever, but a paleolithic man would find the cockpit to be an excellent shelter, far surpassing any of his other options.
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Old 11-20-2017, 03:19 PM
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Fuelwise you aren't going back further than mid-19th century or so. Assuming your plane will burn kerosene.

And electrics will be impossible pre-Tesla.
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Old 11-20-2017, 04:48 PM
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Do you want a span when it'd be continuously useful, or the earliest time it'd be useful, period? A medieval king would have use for it whatsoever, but a paleolithic man would find the cockpit to be an excellent shelter, far surpassing any of his other options.
I was thinking about that as well. The utility of it would change from era to era. I'm skeptical that a medieval king would find no use for it (I'm guessing there's a typo in that sentence). It could be a marvelous work of art, it could advance science, it could provide rare materials such as ultra-hard steel or aluminum (I obviously have no idea what modern fighter jets are made from), it could just provide excellent wheels for the king's carriage if they're hacked off and bolted on.

More than a couple of decades back, and I suspect that it'd be useless as a flying conveyance; but humans are endlessly inventive, and I suspect that in any era, a sufficiently creative human could figure out some excellent use for a fighter jet.
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Old 11-20-2017, 05:03 PM
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I seem to recall F-15's need Hydrazine for their APU's, so that is a two edged limit. One, you need it to start, Two, it's hazmat.
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Old 11-20-2017, 05:04 PM
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At what point in history would a runway or runway-like structure exist? You could know everything you needed to know about operating the aircraft, but if there's not a place to get it off the ground, it's kinda useless.
Thats something I never even considered!

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Do you want a span when it'd be continuously useful, or the earliest time it'd be useful, period? A medieval king would have use for it whatsoever, but a paleolithic man would find the cockpit to be an excellent shelter, far surpassing any of his other options.
Either is fine, and the paleolithic man might be in trouble if he accidentally closes the cockpit, the clear canopy would be pretty confusing in itself I imagine.

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Sounds like someone seen the Philadelphia experiment two
People can have ideas independently you know (seriously every time I start one of these kind of threads someone seems to think it was inspired by a movie!)

Thanks for the answers everyone, some really interesting ideas!
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Old 11-20-2017, 05:05 PM
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Time Travel - how far back could you send a modern jet fighter before its useless?

Before its useless -- weapons? Fuel? Its useless what? And what about its useless item are you wondering about?
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Old 11-20-2017, 06:07 PM
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Do you want a span when it'd be continuously useful, or the earliest time it'd be useful, period? A medieval king would have use for it whatsoever, but a paleolithic man would find the cockpit to be an excellent shelter, far surpassing any of his other options.
As I understand it, the F-22 & F-35 cockpits are best used only as shelters from weather; using them as workstations to pilot the actual aircraft is a far less tenable option.
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Old 11-20-2017, 07:25 PM
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I seem to recall F-15's need Hydrazine for their APU's, so that is a two edged limit. One, you need it to start, Two, it's hazmat.
Some confusion here.

F-16s use hydrazine to power the Emergency Power Unit = EPU. Which is only used for inflight electrical / hydraulic / engine failures. It has nothing to do with normal engine start.

A single charge of hydrazine lasts the life of an airplane. Unless the EPU fires by malfunction or in emergency and the airplane comes home intact. The operating history is most firings are due to engine failures and the vast majority of those end with ejection and the unpiloted jet crashing. So no need to recharge the hydrazine.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 11-20-2017 at 07:27 PM.
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Old 11-20-2017, 08:47 PM
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Some confusion here.

F-16s use hydrazine to power the Emergency Power Unit = EPU. Which is only used for inflight electrical / hydraulic / engine failures. It has nothing to do with normal engine start.

A single charge of hydrazine lasts the life of an airplane. Unless the EPU fires by malfunction or in emergency and the airplane comes home intact. The operating history is most firings are due to engine failures and the vast majority of those end with ejection and the unpiloted jet crashing. So no need to recharge the hydrazine.
Knew it was one of them--Otis AFB on Cape Cod was contaminated by many things, one of which was hydrazine. Knew they had F-15s

At least it wasn't FOOF. Google THAT and back away carefully...
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Old 11-20-2017, 09:22 PM
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Just something I was mulling over today, for the purposes of the hypothetical a modern jet fighter* is sent back in time to somewhere in Western Europe, how far back can it be sent before it gradually loses its usefulness? Assume its fully fuelled and armed but with no manuals or other operating instructions.

People of the WW2 era could probably figure out how to fly it but the more complex systems would be a lot more difficult to understand. What if it was sent to the 1970's, would it just give a boost to the aerospace industry of the era?

Send it back to the medieval period and they would probably realise it was a vehicle of some kind (it has a seat and wheels after all) but how much more could they discern?

Thanks in advance!

*something like the Eurofighter Typhoon: http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/...52_964x673.jpg
I like Harry Turtledove's alien invasion during WWII series for this. Basically, it depends on what you mean by 'useful'. I doubt anyone before the 50's could even figure out how to start it, let alone fly it without some sort of manual. Certainly before the 50's you wouldn't have crews capable of really servicing it. After the 50's they could probably take one apart and at least see how the components of the engines worked, and most likely puzzle out the fly by wires actuators, if not figure out how the electronics really worked. They would at least know and understand that, somehow, all that silicon was acting like small vacuum tubes and generally how it worked. I think they could puzzle out some of the radar are well, though they couldn't duplicate it. If you sent one back to the 70's then they would be a lot further ahead on some of the materials at least with the Eurofighter. Gods know what they would make of an F-22 or F-35.

WWII or earlier I doubt they would get much out of it, except the fact that, in the future jets are obviously important. If it happened between the wars, say in the 30's it's possible that it would at least spur jet development by just being an example of what jets could be. It also might spark the development of miniaturization of radar quicker than historically happened. Perhaps the gun on an F-35 might spur some development along those lines as well.
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Old 11-20-2017, 09:32 PM
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Knew it was one of them--Otis AFB on Cape Cod was contaminated by many things, one of which was hydrazine. Knew they had F-15s

At least it wasn't FOOF. Google THAT and back away carefully...
I've always enjoyed this blog post: http://blogs.sciencemag.org/pipeline...gen_difluoride

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Old 11-21-2017, 08:43 AM
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I would posit that receiving the plane in the 1935ish timeline would give that side a sizable advantage in the fighters that they would build in preparation for the coming war, no?

Whle computerized components, HUD, radar, etc would be useless I would think the knowledge gained in avionics, aerodynamics, turbines and even weaponry would allow (say the allies) to build a vastly improved variant of the P-51 right out of the gate!
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Old 11-21-2017, 09:18 AM
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At what point in history would a runway or runway-like structure exist? You could know everything you needed to know about operating the aircraft, but if there's not a place to get it off the ground, it's kinda useless.
How smooth does the runway have to be? We've been building long straight roads for a long time - I don't know if they would support the weight of a bomber, but I'd guess an old Roman road would work for a fighter?
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Old 11-22-2017, 12:35 AM
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I'd guess an old Roman road would work for a fighter?
FOD ingestion could happen.
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Old 11-22-2017, 08:25 AM
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Just something I was mulling over today, for the purposes of the hypothetical a modern jet fighter* is sent back in time to somewhere in Western Europe, how far back can it be sent before it gradually loses its usefulness? Assume its fully fuelled and armed but with no manuals or other operating instructions.
No instructions? my guess is that if you send it back to before the jet age, anybody trying to fly it will grossly underestimate the required takeoff speed (and probably also the required runway length).

For the WW2-era Supermarine Spitfire, the takeoff speed is about 75 knots; for the Eurofighter, it's more like 170 knots.

The disparity is even greater if you go farther back in time: the WW1-era Sopwith Camel has a takeoff speed of around 40 knots. If you're a veteran Camel pilot, you'd have to be suicidal to be willing to accelerate a Eurofighter to 4X that speed before lifting off. Especially since you're sealed into the cockpit, with no obvious way to evacuate if there's trouble (would a Camel pilot know that the ejection system would open the canopy for him, and that his chute would deploy automatically?).

Last edited by Machine Elf; 11-22-2017 at 08:26 AM.
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Old 02-08-2019, 04:37 PM
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Actually yes I've read that one, forgot about it though!

And on re-reading my OP I think the 'no manuals' rule isn't necessary, at a certain point it would be indecipherable anyway, "OK 'activate the radar'...what is 'radar'?!?"
I'd think the recipients would be screwed on both fronts. In addition to "What's a HUD?" (much less 'Why is it all capitalized?') but the human tendency to repurpose terms could increase the confusion: Button, canopy, nose, engine, and throttle are familiar-enough terms to the medieval man, but mean very different things today. And this is just assuming we're writing the same language -- and orthography wasn't standardized until the mid-1800's!


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I would posit that receiving the plane in the 1935ish timeline would give that side a sizable advantage in the fighters that they would build in preparation for the coming war, no?

While computerized components, HUD, radar, etc would be useless I would think the knowledge gained in avionics, aerodynamics, turbines and even weaponry would allow (say the allies) to build a vastly improved variant of the P-51 right out of the gate!
I could imagine it would actually irrevocably hamper the recipients' progress. Yeah, they'd recognize the machine as something related to the Bristol/Fokker/Camel they previously used and they'd understand it was super-advanced. But leaping to "Wow! You make the wings this shape and put the propulsion system here" would lead them to putting gasoline engines into a body of the wrong shape and then crashing all over the place (or trying to mount jet engines into Piper/Cessna type bodies and, again, crashing all over the place). And then they'd be focussing on material science and jet/body design to fit the unfamiliar body/engine configuration. By the time they got that synchonized (effectively trying to skip over the Zero/Stuka/Spitfire era) their side would have been defeated.

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How smooth does the runway have to be? We've been building long straight roads for a long time - I don't know if they would support the weight of a bomber, but I'd guess an old Roman road would work for a fighter?
Understanding the tale of Oedipus as my Classics professor taught it, Roman roads were not only narrow, but deeply channelled by much use. Those channels (ruts) made it difficult for Oedipus or his father to get out of each other's way. They would also cause serious problems for the wheels of a jet plane. Furthermore, I'd wonder if two of the three wheels of a jet fighter would be able to fit on a roman road or if the pilot would have to settle for the nose wheel to run along the lane while the rear wheels straddled it. No matter what, that would be a rather bumpy surface to be traveling along at 170 knots! Would Medieval cobblestones be a whole lot better?

And then I keep thinking about the assumptions and unfamiliarity someone from too-long-ago might have. It seems to me someone is going to get sucked into a jet's air-intake the first time the recipients turn it on -- "Oh, sorry Gwendolyn! Hey, how did this giant garbage disposer get here, anyway?" And, of course, it'll be clogged and not work after that. Or someone's going to press the wrong button and either eject himself into the sky and break everything when he lands (the chute would fail to fully open at such low speed/altitude) or launch chaff and kill a handful of people back there who were standing around watching the experiments.


--G!

Last edited by Grestarian; 02-08-2019 at 04:39 PM.
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Old 02-08-2019, 04:54 PM
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If you sent one back to the 70's then they would be a lot further ahead on some of the materials at least with the Eurofighter. Gods know what they would make of an F-22 or F-35.
The Typhoon's first flight was 1994, and the project started in 1983, so I bet they'd have a better handle on it in the 1970s than we think.

Typically what it looks like happens is something gets developed in a lab somewhere, and then it becomes an actual viable product/weapon about a decade or two later.

So I'd imagine anything high-tech in a Typhoon was probably in the lab in the 1970s somewhere at the very worst. Some things were in use, but not widespread by then- carbon fiber composites and fly-by-wire was already in use on a number of planes as was relaxed stability.

If I had to guess, the single biggest thing in the 1970s would be the computing hardware from a mid-1990s aircraft (or later)- that would probably advance the state of that art quite a bit.

I'd think you might be able to take your Typhoon back to the 1970s and with a lot of effort, they'd be able to support it and provide spares, at least enough for them to do a lot of flight testing and reverse engineer things.
  #34  
Old 02-09-2019, 01:20 AM
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What if it were sent back to Kitty Hawk, NC, on December 17, 1903?
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Old 02-09-2019, 09:42 AM
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Thinking about it, sending it relatively far back to for example during the Renaissance-18th century time span would actually likely increase its long term usefulness. They wouldn't be able to actually use it, but it would serve as a potential inspiration for all sorts of advances with a lot of time for the inspirations to have an effect. The simple knowledge that a heavier than air vehicle is possible would spur advances.

And they'd have the right mindset to think of it as a machine to be investigated and not magic. The big danger would be them managing to wreck it.
  #36  
Old 02-09-2019, 10:14 AM
Johnny L.A. Johnny L.A. is online now
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I read a book many years ago, about modern ships being sent back to WWII. As I remember, there was a new weapon that was fired by a satellite, that could kill a specific target on the ground with some sort of energy weapon. EIther during a test, or in an actual operation, something went wrong and a task force was sent back in time and scattered about the world. Several ships were destroyed, and many survived with no way of returning to the present. The surviving brass decided to contribute to the war effort.

Since the aircraft carrier had an extensive library, plus flying examples of aircraft, they helped the Americans build reproductions of A-4 Skyhawks. Once those were developed, they built A-7 Corsair IIs. They may have built other aircraft, but I don't remember. (And some Marines used modern martial combat techniques after some temporal-spatial locals started a ruckus with them when Black Marines entered a bar in Hawaii.)

Given that jet aircraft existed in 1939 and the A-4 first flew in 1954, modern-ish jet aircraft (i.e., earlier types in use up into the '90s) could probably be produced and flown. F/A-18s, not so much. I don't think it's the airframes, as much as the systems.
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