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Clark Griswold

Trends in Air to Air Combat

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Wow I need to hurry up and get an engineering degree before the rest of my life becomes little more than mental masturbation on an interweb forum in blogospace....

Naa, I'm a E.E. and a fighter pilot, and it never gets better

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Wow I need to hurry up and get an engineering degree before the rest of my life becomes little more than mental masturbation on an interweb forum in blogospace....

Naa, I'm a E.E. and a fighter pilot, and it never gets better

Edited by Azimuth

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I guess in arguing against clean sheets that have everything and the kitchen sink.

Yep, the "I want 100% everything" thought process crushes us in the long run. I'm with you, we need the 80% solution now and can add tech as it comes, but because of the aforementioned group of thinkers, we have a bloated and long-winded program.

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There is still a lot of room for new innovation but as SurelySerious and dvlax40 said we (the military) don't necessarily have the best technology anymore but we can buy it just like anyone else but everyone else is usually concerned about money so they get it done faster, cheaper, better.

These two referenced articles are not explicitly related to a new trend / advancement in air to air warfare but these type of trends: advanced rapid prototyping and manufacture are the antidote to the stone tablet technology of our current requirements / procurement system

This Obscure Skunk Works Jet May Help Team Win New Stealth Bomber Bid

20,000 3D Printed Parts Are Currently Used on Boeing Aircraft as Patent Filing Reveals Further Plans

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Yep, the "I want 100% everything" thought process crushes us in the long run. I'm with you, we need the 80% solution now and can add tech as it comes, but because of the aforementioned group of thinkers, we have a bloated and long-winded program.

We have only very recently started learning that lesson.

Army and Marine Helicopter development programs have been a long list of terrible failures with a few notable decent jobs that look like unbelievable successes by comparison.

That's why we are still 3 years behind the D model with the E model Apache. Somebody was smart enough to say "no we are not making Comanche II out of this, we work with what we have right now."

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In the arena of air combat in general in the US, the R&D/Acquisitions process is a shame. The rapid development of UAVs demonstrates just how bad this problem has become. We've gone from the predator prototype in 1994, to the RQ-170 and X-47B in just 20 years. It took that long to go from the Statement of Operational Need for the Advanced Tactical Fighter progam, to the IOC of the jet.

(getting on my soapbox and clearing my throat)

We could go on and on about why this happens, but the fact of the matter is; UAVs were developed in smaller groups with less oversight and politics, and had budget and timelines that had to be met in order to meet current operational needs (GWOT). That's it. Much like the development pace of WWII era planes. In fact throughout the 60s and 70s it wasn't all that bad either. Just think about how fast the SR-71 and F-117 were developed. The Skunkworks of that era has very little in common with what we see today. But the teams kept growing, the politicians kept getting more involved, and money became more and more the whole point of the development. I'd say the B-1 was the beginning of the end. It had to have one part made in every damn congressional district in the entire country (exaggerating). Everyone started getting involved and had to have their voice heard in the design, and the mission changed over the years of it's development, snowballing the issues.

I know this isn't anything new, and has been mentioned before, but it's like the deplorable state of our school system; everyone knows the problems and has a lot to say but nobody does anything about it. We need to see more competition, smaller teams, fierce deadlines and strict budgets. If not, nothing's going to change. You can talk all you want, but if you don't actually do anything, next thing you know you end up with a program that's the poster child for how things are not supposed to go, even though the program was literally designed to be the solution for that very problem (the JSF program). Next thing you know it's 2015 and the average age of the AF fleet is 27 years old.

I'll end with this though; the F-35 (like the B-1 and F-22), is probably going to end up being a good and useful jet (hell at this point we need it), albeit after much heartache. Hate the program not the product.

(getting off the soapbox)

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and had budget and timelines that had to be met in order to meet current operational needs (GWOT)

"(Joint) Urgent Operational Need" - Unless you have that pinned next to a program/widget, there's no hope of even approaching "reasonable" when it comes to getting it, let alone getting it in a timely/decent cost context.

Hate the program not the product.

Shack.

Edited by brabus

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Every time I've been in an exercise where the red air went after a tanker they were successful. And the tanker usually didn't even know until after they had landed that they were shot down or even targeted.

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Every time I've been in an exercise where the red air went after a tanker they were successful. And the tanker usually didn't even know until after they had landed that they were shot down or even targeted.

Yep - never flew the mighty 135 in a Flag but I would imagine that without SA tools the chance of an effective tanker retrograde are zero.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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I flew the tanker in 2 different Red Flags and 1 ME. The first RF (~4 years ago) the tankers were completely support aircraft for the exercise and no one wanted us to play. The second there was an attempt, but tankers didn't want to or know how to play since they never had--got shot down and a point was made but not really taken to heart. ME was obviously different with a handful a tanker patches trying to convince the crews that they were in for more than a Vegas vacation. Also shot down a few times, lots of failure points, but I'm not sure if the crews could keep up with the comms/threats if a Slide/Scram had even been called.

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I flew the tanker in 2 different Red Flags and 1 ME. The first RF (~4 years ago) the tankers were completely support aircraft for the exercise and no one wanted us to play. The second there was an attempt, but tankers didn't want to or know how to play since they never had--got shot down and a point was made but not really taken to heart. ME was obviously different with a handful a tanker patches trying to convince the crews that they were in for more than a Vegas vacation. Also shot down a few times, lots of failure points, but I'm not sure if the crews could keep up with the comms/threats if a Slide/Scram had even been called.

I think the big issue was there never was a slide/scram call. We got briefed exercise trip numbers but not like we can TCAS tag the red air and have any SA, we are completely dependent on the AWACS giving us the threat call...which they never did. I don't remember the exact RF but it was the one with the Columbians, after day 2 our tanker detco got so tired of catching shit for us getting shot down he pushed for us to not be able to pass gas if we started taking losses. Needless to say that idea never got off the ground, since then the entire exercise would be wasted if the fighter guys couldn't get their gas (understandable but maybe they should start tasking some DCA to cover the HVAA guys).

Anywho, at least in Alaska there is a chance of us landing before the vol ends. Vegas they usually make us sit and orbit and recover last...annoying. I need to win my money back!

Edited by StoleIt

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In theory all the air to air comms of bandits/groups etc can be plotted and kept track of off the bullseye even in the tanker. And if it were real life, you bet your ass I'm keeping up and knowing what is getting close to my slide/scram trip numbers and who is or is not engaging so I know who is saving my ass. There is a training deficiency and a general malaise in the tanker community to understand air to air comms, and leaving my life and other's gas solely in the hands of the AWACS is not the best TTP. Obviously the better TTP would be dedicated CAPs for the HVAA. The authors the War on the Rocks article "Short Legs Can't Win Arms Races..." argues this point but as a means to get the gas in the threat environment since it is forever extending. Not sure this is a good idea (I'm sure there are much smarter opinions on the idea here), and neither is the author as he only says it needs deeper exploration.

One concept that needs deeper exploration is a High Value Asset Combat Air Patrol (HVACAP). Because a tanker cannot flee without risking the fuel starvation of forward fighters, the tankers will need to remain on-station. This may require fighter escorts flying dedicated protection patrols to intercept adversary aircraft that may penetrate a fighter sweep. Just as a HVACAP ensured an EA-6 could continue its electronic attack mission when forward fighters were in threat envelopes, so too will a High Value Airborne Asset Protection fighter escort can ensure that the tanker can loiter within a high-threat environment to provide limited range strike/fighters with fuel. Both the Air Force’s and Navy’s most advanced air warfare tactics institutions are beginning to wrestle with this dilemma.
Edited by FUEL
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A-10s didn't work a lot with AWACs and we were routinely left out of the big picture, getting very little warning regarding threats. So, I would send my wingman over to the frequency being used by blue air to give us a better picture. Sending him to the red air freq was even better.

  • Upvote 6

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In theory all the air to air comms of bandits/groups etc can be plotted and kept track of off the bullseye even in the tanker. And if it were real life, you bet your ass I'm keeping up and knowing what is getting close to my slide/scram trip numbers and who is or is not engaging so I know who is saving my ass. There is a training deficiency and a general malaise in the tanker community to understand air to air comms, and leaving my life and other's gas solely in the hands of the AWACS is not the best TTP. Obviously the better TTP would be dedicated CAPs for the HVAA. The authors the War on the Rocks article "Short Legs Can't Win Arms Races..." argues this point but as a means to get the gas in the threat environment since it is forever extending. Not sure this is a good idea (I'm sure there are much smarter opinions on the idea here), and neither is the author as he only says it needs deeper exploration.

There is a tremendous training deficiency in the tanker community regarding air to air comms, threat calls, etc. The malaise is starting to go away with the younger dudes, but some of the older guys are all about turning on the auto-pilot and going to sleep. Tanker dudes always went back and said "Well this isn't how it is downrange in OEF/OIF, blah, blah, blah." But we won't always operate in such a passive environment.

Starting around 2012, tankers started to get targeted in RF-A vuls, and the results were not surprising. "Losing" 1-2 tankers per vul was standard. The HVAA protection plans just weren't robust enough, or even part of the plan. It seems things may be improving.

The problem we face now with emerging threats is the threat rings are getting bigger and how do you balance risk vs. getting dudes their gas with a jet that is reliant on so many outside sources? Losing a tanker is a huge loss of capability, but what good is a tanker if a dude bingos out of a fight?

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Seems to me that you would need to kill off the things that make the threat ring so big, as a first step.

...basically, the air campaign would need to be at least partially sequential to ensure the high-value and low-density stuff doesn't get taken out.

Heck, even a bunch of LTs at ASBC figured that out in whatever wargame was being played back then.

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Seems to me that you would need to kill off the things that make the threat ring so big, as a first step.

...basically, the air campaign would need to be at least partially sequential to ensure the high-value and low-density stuff doesn't get taken out.

Heck, even a bunch of LTs at ASBC figured that out in whatever wargame was being played back then.

Don't knock down a cone with a red ball...duh!

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Seems to me that you would need to kill off the things that make the threat ring so big, as a first step.

...basically, the air campaign would need to be at least partially sequential to ensure the high-value and low-density stuff doesn't get taken out.

Heck, even a bunch of LTs at ASBC figured that out in whatever wargame was being played back then.

From the War on the Rocks article:

Weapons engagement zones (WEZ), the geometric sphere of airspace in which weapons can launch and hit their intended targets, have grown from a few miles to a distance so vast it may extend beyond the combat radii of many current tactical assets. Even if our strike and fighter aircraft are stealthy enough to individually trespass towards a target undetected, they may be forced to launch from distances that will challenge their ability simply to reach it... Presently, the estimated combat radius of our most advanced fighters , including the fifth generation we are set to buy, is just over 600 nautical miles. The problem is that the projected range of many of the new advanced threats to our basing options, ashore and afloat, far exceeds that distance, with current threats assessed at 800 nautical miles and projections of future capabilities in excess of 1,000 nautical miles. Without external aerial refueling options, staying outside the threat WEZ means our fighter aircraft cannot reach their intended targets.

The argument is the WEZ is getting larger than the range of the strike aircraft. He lists 5 options to counter this, but one he doesn't list is pushing the range closer via low altitude AR. Someone that is smarter on radar stop my ignorant babble and provide help on this convo. The ability to terrain mask, curve of the earth, and no emitters, etc. could push tankers in closer, no? I believe this is part of the SOAR (spec ops AR) concept, but the theories aren't discussed at the crew training level much, maybe at the WIC level? Is this trained to on the AFSOC AR side of the house (MC-130P and MC-130J)?

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You'd have to figure out the fuel burn at lower altitude vs range gained, etc. I'm sure you can find a tanker patch that's done lower altitude stuff with AFSOC. Look up a radar nomograph to see what the curve of the earth does.

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Give the 46 an ECM pod like the IAI ELL-8222.

http://www.iai.co.il/sip_storage/files/7/27537.pdf

There was mutual jamming support in Vietnam for raids against surface threats that worked well (B-52s in Linebacker II), tankers in close proximity during the retrograde could turn up the noise shrink the WEZ of a leaker to get more time and distance.

An ALE-50 might work too but the ECM pod seems more practical.

Edit: minor edit

Edited by Clark Griswold

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Too bad we're broke and our R&D/Acquisitions system is almost useless, cuz a KC-2 or similar LO tanker design would make extending the range into the WEZ pretty easy. I mean I get it the B-2 is a strike-capable aircraft itself, but on it's own it would have to go in there without escort.

Oh well, at this rate we're doing pretty well just to modify an existing airliner design to use as a tanker, and get it at only a slight delay and mild cost overruns.

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The situation is not that bleak, the 22 and 35 have pretty good unrefueled combat radius and the JASSM-ER has a 600+ NM range.

f-22_f-35_combat_radius.jpg

JASSM-ER costs about 700k each and I would estimate a S-300 or 400 missile costs 3 million a shot (PAC 3 missile comes in at 3.43 million so that's a WAG) and if we are talking the US vs Iran we can afford to lob more JASSM-ER or MALD-Js at them to destroy their SAM sites (eventually) or cause them to expend and deplete their munitions than they can afford to launch of their high end SAM missiles. Now, China or Russia, that's a different animal...

Saturation with decoys, long range standoff weapons, advanced jamming and a HVAA fleet capable of basic self protection and better retrograde by being on the datalink with the strikers, night 1 of the war will probably work out.

Edited by Clark Griswold

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The argument is the WEZ is getting larger than the range of the strike aircraft.

Yeah, there are alternate means. LO bombers, sub-launched TLAMs, Gen4 fighter/bomber + stand-off weapons.

Obviously it would be nice to be able to fly over and drop JDAMs to solve every problem, but I think a few patch wearers and smart Navy dudes could come up with a reasonable solution.

Talking WELL outside my lane...

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Good discussion between Prof. Farley and Brian Laslie, covers a large range of air power topics but for what might be a new trend in air to air is the increase in quality / quantity of Russian & Chinese training, specifically their versions of Red Flag

http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/34603

Articles on China's Red Flag like LFEs

http://www.wantchinatimes.com/news-subclass-cnt.aspx?id=20121216000088&cid=1101

http://www.wired.com/2013/02/china-mock-air-war/

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery

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