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Clark Griswold

On the principle of Mass...

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From WOR:

BENDING THE PRINCIPLE OF MASS: WHY THAT APPROACH NO LONGER WORKS FOR AIRPOWER

Worth a read IMO; if you accept the article's premise that facing potential foes, China namely, that will soon likely combine mass with peer / near peer capabilities that will inevitably attrite and confound asymmetric capabilities used in lieu of actual mass, we will have to add mass to offset this.  We have the quality per platform / person covered now we have to have more.

Groking a bit on this, does this mean mass in platforms, weapons, weapons/sensors delivered/carried per platform, etc...?  Probably some combination not in equal proportions and likely a platform/system(s) different than we have been gearing towards.  The exquisite and the few to the adequate and many.  

That can give some cushion but then what mission(s) do we wish to add mass for?  Air Superiority or Attack?  ISR or Mobility?

Everything costs money to design, build, operate, maintain and train with but could we or should we look for a new family of systems and the people to operate, fix and protect them that are:  Inexpensive enough in total ownership cost to buy in mass, Tasked with missions/roles that keep training costs reasonable, Distributed across multiple mission sets to augment with mass the entire AF effort in Joint Operations and Relevant to peer / near peer contingencies. 

If we were given another XX billions in appropriation to buy more iron, people, improve existing iron or infrastructure, what to choose? 

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Do you think you could even get mass to a fight like the Taiwan straits with our current air refueling and basing capabilities? Mass seems like a bit of a pipe dream. An expensive one, at that.

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I’ve got a few billion to spend to fight China?  Cyber gets most of it. 

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4 hours ago, brawnie said:

Do you think you could even get mass to a fight like the Taiwan straits with our current air refueling and basing capabilities? Mass seems like a bit of a pipe dream. An expensive one, at that.

Possibly.  Mass could be more of X-tens bigger platforms or capabilities with range versus X-hundreds of smaller platforms without long range capability.  I think we conceptualize mass as being always the small, cheap and limited capability when it could be a bit more than that.  Seems contradictory I know but it's a trade-off with a sweet spot somewhere.  Could even be different for different threats (Russia, China, Iran, NK, etc...) - China is deterred with a big wing arsenal platforms for stand off weapons barrage with range for the Pacific theatre, Russia by an expanded Cyber capability ref @nunya and Iran / NK kept in check with a drone / manned platform capability.

That is all in addition to what we have or already planning on acquiring. 

I asked at the beginning if we had XX billions extra, with future budgets likely being flat or slightly higher what would we be willing to trade to bulk up? 

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6 hours ago, brawnie said:

Do you think you could even get mass to a fight like the Taiwan straits with our current air refueling and basing capabilities? Mass seems like a bit of a pipe dream. An expensive one, at that.

Maybe, but how do you fight an enemy like China without mass?  What happens when they shoot down 5 of your 20 B-2s and 10 of your ~50 B-1s in the first week?  How do you continue to mass effects without the depth on the bench to replace those losses?  The F-22 is an awesome aircraft, but what happens when your 4-ship of F-22s encounters 32 J-10s?

At some point, you have to start planning to the idea that losses are going to happen, and you need to be able to launch the next day's ATO.  You can't do that if you only have a small handful of planes you're planning to task day after day.

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Maybe, but how do you fight an enemy like China without mass?  What happens when they shoot down 5 of your 20 B-2s and 10 of your ~50 B-1s in the first week?  How do you continue to mass effects without the depth on the bench to replace those losses?  The F-22 is an awesome aircraft, but what happens when your 4-ship of F-22s encounters 32 J-10s?
At some point, you have to start planning to the idea that losses are going to happen, and you need to be able to launch the next day's ATO.  You can't do that if you only have a small handful of planes you're planning to task day after day.


That won’t happen because all the tankers will be shot down night one.
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2 hours ago, pawnman said:

Maybe, but how do you fight an enemy like China without mass?  What happens when they shoot down 5 of your 20 B-2s and 10 of your ~50 B-1s in the first week?  How do you continue to mass effects without the depth on the bench to replace those losses?  The F-22 is an awesome aircraft, but what happens when your 4-ship of F-22s encounters 32 J-10s?

At some point, you have to start planning to the idea that losses are going to happen, and you need to be able to launch the next day's ATO.  You can't do that if you only have a small handful of planes you're planning to task day after day.

Back up to punt, using special weapons.

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4 hours ago, pawnman said:

Maybe, but how do you fight an enemy like China without mass?  What happens when they shoot down 5 of your 20 B-2s and 10 of your ~50 B-1s in the first week?  How do you continue to mass effects without the depth on the bench to replace those losses?  The F-22 is an awesome aircraft, but what happens when your 4-ship of F-22s encounters 32 J-10s?

At some point, you have to start planning to the idea that losses are going to happen, and you need to be able to launch the next day's ATO.  You can't do that if you only have a small handful of planes you're planning to task day after day.

Not sure if the report is still out there but a Confidential report discussing the defense of Taiwan with every F-22 we own got released online.  The report used Chinese basing options and aircraft availability vs US basing options which was minimal with tankers required.  When the balloon goes up and the fight starts, the report assumed 100% Pk (hardly likely) of US missiles and, guess what, you run out of missiles with hordes still inbound.  Admittedly, the US Navy was not included nor other fighter types but the report does a good job with the argument of quality vs quantity and confirms the old Soviet argument of "quantity has a quality of it's own."

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Added to the points above, you would be fighting an enemy (communist china) that cares even less about its people/troops than our country does. When you have no concern for your people, it's easy to send them en masse to their deaths.

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12 hours ago, GrndPndr said:

Back up to punt, using special weapons.

Disagree. 

Threatening to use special weapons in defense of the territorial sovereignty of allies or other non-existential interest is not a realistic threat / deterrent.  Our foes who also possess special weapons with the capability to strike with them intercontinentally know this, that we will not use them against them unless they already have or we truly believe they will use them on us our own homeland. 

We will have to use conventional means to deter or defeat them in potential conflicts against allies, control of global commons or other vital national interests, hence the percolating idea that we need a force that can take hits and come back on Night 2, 3, etc...

I've heard smart folks say resources don't drive requirements, ok maybe but they do shape the answers to those requirements or even if that requirement can be met.  So in answer to the requirement (assuming it's valid for this discussion) we might need to first start with a dollar amount or X percentage of the AF appropriation and work backwards from there on what it is we want and for what purpose. 

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9 hours ago, Clark Griswold said:

Disagree. 

Threatening to use special weapons in defense of the territorial sovereignty of allies or other non-existential interest is not a realistic threat / deterrent.  Our foes who also possess special weapons with the capability to strike with them intercontinentally know this, that we will not use them against them unless they already have or we truly believe they will use them on us our own homeland. 

We will have to use conventional means to deter or defeat them in potential conflicts against allies, control of global commons or other vital national interests, hence the percolating idea that we need a force that can take hits and come back on Night 2, 3, etc...

I've heard smart folks say resources don't drive requirements, ok maybe but they do shape the answers to those requirements or even if that requirement can be met.  So in answer to the requirement (assuming it's valid for this discussion) we might need to first start with a dollar amount or X percentage of the AF appropriation and work backwards from there on what it is we want and for what purpose. 

Thank goodness I was being sarcastic, eh?

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30 minutes ago, GrndPndr said:

Thank goodness I was being sarcastic, eh?

Alrighty then....

****** MSG ENDS ******

Not to drop into the weeds on this idea but I'll just drop into the weeds... could the US / DoD build a family of systems (just thinking Air but applicable to Naval assets as well) to provide mass at a large discount compared to the frontline systems now and coming online?  

A US built long range fighter / interceptor for $30-40 million per tail and FH cost under 7k?  An arsenal platform under $75 mil per tail and not overly complicated and years behind schedule, etc... as examples.

Mass to engage the enemy mass, mass to complicate the enemy's targeting problem and mass to stretch thin the defense of the enemy.  That is just my off the cuff concept of why we would look to this, which leads in my mind to an inexpensive (relatively) long range manned and unmanned platform team primarily for the China / Taiwan type fight but applicable elsewhere.

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Space missiles. Nothing nuclear, but enough punch and accuracy to take out a power substation. Build about a million of them. I suppose some sort of long range cruise missile can do it too. Build a million of those.

Then take out anything that generates power within 100 miles of their major cities. 

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Posted (edited)

An American MiG? 

Thought some more about this (mass) returning to the AF and the same idea is being discussed for the Russian AF to get cheaper fighters by going back to single engine light(er) fighters so continuing that idea, even with our higher design/production costs, propose building:

Low Cost, Modest Capability and Coverage should be what this platform would be designed for.  Cost to buy in numbers, capability to assist the 5th gens and defend themselves in the high end fight and coverage to bring weapons/sensors to meet long distances/large areas and large enemy numbers.

- Single engine jet, cheaper to buy and maintain.

- Fuel fraction of at least 45%, range is paramount for this platform.

- Preferred internally carried weapons (min of six AIM-260s) but semi-recessed conformally carried could work, range again. 

Simplify and lighten when possible with no growth in weight / cost in initial design allowed like the A-4 was when being built.  Modest radar/avionics but capable.

An approximation of what I think could be designed, built and operated in high numbers (500+) relatively inexpensively:

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Edited by Clark Griswold

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40 minutes ago, M2 said:

Putin GIFs | Tenor

Noted comrade 😉

Just a modern concept of what I think could be if the mind of the DoD switched to having some portion of the manned air platform force being good enough rather than gold plated.  Good enough to buy in numbers with confidence you will be able to afford the entire projected buy to avoid the only 195 Raptors built/bought problem.  

Not to derail the thread (too much) but a resurrection of the delta winged interceptor inspired by the 102/106 could fit the bill, if it is to be paid at all.

Delta wing for fuel capacity, high speed high altitude performance - this platform would spend (IMO) most of its vul time in the mid 40s looking from the high ground to shoot from a favorable position when cued by an LO asset or finding its own target.

Signature management vs LO for cost and developmental risk mitigation, range and speed valued over maneuverability, reliability valued over exquisite technical capabilities.  All of those trades are to a point, it would need to be relevant, useful and not a liability to the team in combat.

Interceptor, arsenal, sensor, jammer, etc... at an affordable cost and with a unique difference from the other team members, exceptional range, to minimally tap AR resources those platforms will require more of.

Conceptually, this platform is behind the LO on ingress, can provide info via link, fire the first volleys or decoy launches then retrograde to DCA for the HVAAs.

Less costly to develop than the unmanned loyal wingman and to compliment that platform.

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