How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 28 May 2018, 14:17
by michaelemouse
From the start of the Cold War, the main way to increase effectiveness and survivability to was to use an aircraft that flies high and fast. That was countered with heavy SAMs that can fly higher and faster than aircraft since missiles have an inherent advantage in terms of speed and altitude. Those were countered mainly by flying low to hide under the horizon, in clutter or with terrain masking.

If I understand correctly. that was partly countered with airborne early warning, either in dedicated aircraft like the E-2 and E-3 or aboard fighters. First, are there other tactics or technology to counter low-flying as a tactic?


More importantly, what are the most promising ways to defeat or at least disrupt airborne early warning?

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 28 May 2018, 14:33
by vilters
Simple :
Fly lower and slower then anybody expects.
Generally?
Below train traveling speeds you can get around the globe unseen..

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 28 May 2018, 22:19
by wrightwing
Use stealthy aircraft, EW/EA, decoys.

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 28 May 2018, 23:13
by juretrn
vilters wrote:Simple :
Fly lower and slower then anybody expects.
Generally?
Below train traveling speeds you can get around the globe unseen..

That reminds of a Tom Clancy novel (Debt Of Honor, I think).

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 29 May 2018, 02:23
by 35_aoa
vilters wrote:Simple :
Fly lower and slower then anybody expects.
Generally?
Below train traveling speeds you can get around the globe unseen..


Until you get shot down by some kid with a rifle :wink:

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 29 May 2018, 03:29
by popcorn
Shoot them out of the sky. :mrgreen:

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 29 May 2018, 06:39
by hornetfinn
michaelemouse wrote:From the start of the Cold War, the main way to increase effectiveness and survivability to was to use an aircraft that flies high and fast. That was countered with heavy SAMs that can fly higher and faster than aircraft since missiles have an inherent advantage in terms of speed and altitude. Those were countered mainly by flying low to hide under the horizon, in clutter or with terrain masking.

If I understand correctly. that was partly countered with airborne early warning, either in dedicated aircraft like the E-2 and E-3 or aboard fighters. First, are there other tactics or technology to counter low-flying as a tactic?

More importantly, what are the most promising ways to defeat or at least disrupt airborne early warning?


Low flying as a tactic works well against heavy SAMs and long range surveillance radars but there are a lot of systems that are very dangerous to low flying aircraft. Short and medium range SAMs, AAA systems (especially mobile and computer controlled ) and associated sensors are very effective against them. Only problem with ground based systems is the relatively short range due to radar/visual horizon and terrain masking. Putting sensors and systems on elevated ground can improve the range, although then the systems become more vulnerable also. Of course there are systems with elevated sensors like this with improved coverage and survivability:

Image

Airborne early warning can be affected/defeated by stealth, electronic warfare, other countermeasures and SEAD/DEAD just like ground based systems. The exact methods and weapons might differ a bit though due to different nature of systems involved.

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 29 May 2018, 11:58
by michaelemouse
wrightwing wrote:Use stealthy aircraft, EW/EA, decoys.

hornetfinn wrote: Airborne early warning can be affected/defeated by stealth, electronic warfare, other countermeasures and SEAD/DEAD just like ground based systems. The exact methods and weapons might differ a bit though due to different nature of systems involved.


How does airborne early warning differ from surface-based early warning aside from the fact that the AEW unit is constantly moving and can change its altitude?

Russia was looking at the KS-172 as an "AWACS killer". Does that hold much promise? Would the AEW be likely to detect it? If launched from 300-400km, it would take 5-10 minutes to get there which sounds like about the time a torpedo would take to reach its target ship.


hornetfinn wrote:Low flying as a tactic works well against heavy SAMs and long range surveillance radars but there are a lot of systems that are very dangerous to low flying aircraft. Short and medium range SAMs, AAA systems (especially mobile and computer controlled ) and associated sensors are very effective against them. Only problem with ground based systems is the relatively short range due to radar/visual horizon and terrain masking. Putting sensors and systems on elevated ground can improve the range, although then the systems become more vulnerable also. Of course there are systems with elevated sensors like this with improved coverage and survivability:


So, you plug the gaps in area defense with point-defense systems hidden in the nooks? That would be far less efficient than area defense though.

An extendable mast is a great idea; At low altitude, even a little height can make a big difference in horizon. As far as I know, not many surface-to-surface systems use that. The Canadian Coyote vehicle puts EO/IR and radar on such a mast but as far as I know, extendable masts are seldom used for sensors directed at the ground.

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 29 May 2018, 13:52
by vilters
All these "special" devices clutter out everything that is below railroad speeds.

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 29 May 2018, 14:11
by michaelemouse
vilters wrote:All these "special" devices clutter out everything that is below railroad speeds.


Trains must have quite different radar signature than aircraft, their routes are fixed and easy to map out and there are only so many trains running at any one time to blend in with.

If the number of ambiguous blips is small, it's possible to take a closer look at them and distinguish them. That's why tracking & identification is placed in-between detection and engagement in the kill chain.

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 30 May 2018, 03:25
by popcorn
Fancy flying

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 30 May 2018, 06:41
by hornetfinn
vilters wrote:All these "special" devices clutter out everything that is below railroad speeds.


Depends. I've personally tracked targets like cars, mopeds, hovering helicopters and mallards with AD system radars. It's definitely possible to detect and track such targets with right equipment and skills. You'd have to move like a sloth to not get detected by some sensor.

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 30 May 2018, 09:56
by michaelemouse
hornetfinn wrote:
vilters wrote:All these "special" devices clutter out everything that is below railroad speeds.


Depends. I've personally tracked targets like cars, mopeds, hovering helicopters and mallards with AD system radars. It's definitely possible to detect and track such targets with right equipment and skills. You'd have to move like a sloth to not get detected by some sensor.



How easily were you able to ID them? Could you hear/see their signature in much the same way a sonar technician can tell a submarine from a whale or different ship classes from each other? Is most of the signature comparison done by software today?


I was impressed by a 1962 US training video where even my untrained ear could tell there was a difference between the radar returns of infantry, jeeps, trucks and tanks: https://youtu.be/rEuoikap7j8?t=16m50s It sounds spooky, especially if you were a radar operator at the Fulda Gap in the 1960s.

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 30 May 2018, 11:12
by hornetfinn
michaelemouse wrote:
hornetfinn wrote:
vilters wrote:All these "special" devices clutter out everything that is below railroad speeds.


Depends. I've personally tracked targets like cars, mopeds, hovering helicopters and mallards with AD system radars. It's definitely possible to detect and track such targets with right equipment and skills. You'd have to move like a sloth to not get detected by some sensor.


How easily were you able to ID them? Could you hear/see their signature in much the same way a sonar technician can tell a submarine from a whale or different ship classes from each other? Is most of the signature comparison done by software today?


With totally manual operation it's possible to make pretty good guess about the general identity (like helicopter, fas jet or a bird) of the target. Each target type has pretty distict radar returns and can be seen on radar screen (depends on how raw radar video it displays) or heard (if converted to audio). Nobody is going to do really good NCTR manually though (like choose between F/A-18 or MiG-29). Computers can do that because they can compare actual radar signals to threat libraries etc. Today all that is done by signal processing systems using hardware and software for signal processing. They can do some real magic for target ID these days, especially with real sensor fusion (like F-35 and F-22).

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 30 May 2018, 11:35
by hornetfinn
michaelemouse wrote:
wrightwing wrote:Use stealthy aircraft, EW/EA, decoys.

hornetfinn wrote: Airborne early warning can be affected/defeated by stealth, electronic warfare, other countermeasures and SEAD/DEAD just like ground based systems. The exact methods and weapons might differ a bit though due to different nature of systems involved.


How does airborne early warning differ from surface-based early warning aside from the fact that the AEW unit is constantly moving and can change its altitude?

Russia was looking at the KS-172 as an "AWACS killer". Does that hold much promise? Would the AEW be likely to detect it? If launched from 300-400km, it would take 5-10 minutes to get there which sounds like about the time a torpedo would take to reach its target ship.


Those two things alone make it very different beast. Just like a fighter aircraft and SAM system differ from each other with each having pros and cons.

I'd say it's quite likely that a modern AEW would detect the launch of the missile and even the missile itself. The AEW could change course and altitude while activating ECM systems and such missile would have serious trouble in finding and hitting it. Enemy fighters would need to track the AEW with their radars to guide the missile to it and that would also likely be detected. Then those enemy fighters would need to deal with fighters protecting the AEW. There are serious problems associated with killing enemy AEW platforms and it would not be easy task. I'd say best bet would be using VLO stealth aircraft with regular AAMs. These could get close to AEW before firing a volley of MRAAMs.

michaelemouse wrote:
hornetfinn wrote:Low flying as a tactic works well against heavy SAMs and long range surveillance radars but there are a lot of systems that are very dangerous to low flying aircraft. Short and medium range SAMs, AAA systems (especially mobile and computer controlled ) and associated sensors are very effective against them. Only problem with ground based systems is the relatively short range due to radar/visual horizon and terrain masking. Putting sensors and systems on elevated ground can improve the range, although then the systems become more vulnerable also. Of course there are systems with elevated sensors like this with improved coverage and survivability:


So, you plug the gaps in area defense with point-defense systems hidden in the nooks? That would be far less efficient than area defense though.

An extendable mast is a great idea; At low altitude, even a little height can make a big difference in horizon. As far as I know, not many surface-to-surface systems use that. The Canadian Coyote vehicle puts EO/IR and radar on such a mast but as far as I know, extendable masts are seldom used for sensors directed at the ground.


Yes, plugging the gaps is needed if low level needs to be protected. Best systems for that are systems like NASAMS, Spyder or IRIS-T SLM/SLS. These are distributed and mobile systems which can cover rather wide area from ground to medium altitudes. That's the most efficient way to protect wide areas against low level attack. Long range area defenses can't do that as radar horizon will limit them just as much as smaller systems and high cost means there will be low numbers.

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 31 May 2018, 12:07
by michaelemouse
hornetfinn wrote:
Those two things alone make it very different beast. Just like a fighter aircraft and SAM system differ from each other with each having pros and cons.

I'd say it's quite likely that a modern AEW would detect the launch of the missile and even the missile itself. The AEW could change course and altitude while activating ECM systems and such missile would have serious trouble in finding and hitting it. Enemy fighters would need to track the AEW with their radars to guide the missile to it and that would also likely be detected. Then those enemy fighters would need to deal with fighters protecting the AEW. There are serious problems associated with killing enemy AEW platforms and it would not be easy task. I'd say best bet would be using VLO stealth aircraft with regular AAMs. These could get close to AEW before firing a volley of MRAAMs.


Good point about the SAM/fighter, that does make it quite different.

In a way, AEW reminds me of aircraft carriers in the Navy in being the modern-day equivalent of a capital ship/queen piece. So, if you had two comparably equipped AEW Groups facing each other, how might that go? What factors would govern which AEW Group prevails in that battle?


hornetfinn wrote:Yes, plugging the gaps is needed if low level needs to be protected. Best systems for that are systems like NASAMS, Spyder or IRIS-T SLM/SLS. These are distributed and mobile systems which can cover rather wide area from ground to medium altitudes. That's the most efficient way to protect wide areas against low level attack. Long range area defenses can't do that as radar horizon will limit them just as much as smaller systems and high cost means there will be low numbers.


Aside from AAA, you wouldn't even need to have missile launchers in every gap you want to cover, just the sensor/target designator. Although networked warfare could be difficult in rough terrain, you'd need a satellite or non-line-of-sight datalink.

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 01 Jun 2018, 09:27
by hornetfinn
michaelemouse wrote:
hornetfinn wrote:
Those two things alone make it very different beast. Just like a fighter aircraft and SAM system differ from each other with each having pros and cons.

I'd say it's quite likely that a modern AEW would detect the launch of the missile and even the missile itself. The AEW could change course and altitude while activating ECM systems and such missile would have serious trouble in finding and hitting it. Enemy fighters would need to track the AEW with their radars to guide the missile to it and that would also likely be detected. Then those enemy fighters would need to deal with fighters protecting the AEW. There are serious problems associated with killing enemy AEW platforms and it would not be easy task. I'd say best bet would be using VLO stealth aircraft with regular AAMs. These could get close to AEW before firing a volley of MRAAMs.


Good point about the SAM/fighter, that does make it quite different.

In a way, AEW reminds me of aircraft carriers in the Navy in being the modern-day equivalent of a capital ship/queen piece. So, if you had two comparably equipped AEW Groups facing each other, how might that go? What factors would govern which AEW Group prevails in that battle?


Of course then the biggest factors would be training, tactics and any possible advantage either side has (like geography, weather, reserves etc). Sure it would be somewhat like naval battles although much faster paced.

michaelemouse wrote:
hornetfinn wrote:Yes, plugging the gaps is needed if low level needs to be protected. Best systems for that are systems like NASAMS, Spyder or IRIS-T SLM/SLS. These are distributed and mobile systems which can cover rather wide area from ground to medium altitudes. That's the most efficient way to protect wide areas against low level attack. Long range area defenses can't do that as radar horizon will limit them just as much as smaller systems and high cost means there will be low numbers.


Aside from AAA, you wouldn't even need to have missile launchers in every gap you want to cover, just the sensor/target designator. Although networked warfare could be difficult in rough terrain, you'd need a satellite or non-line-of-sight datalink.


All that is true. There is really no need even for AAA to be dispersed everywhere. Even fairly thin defences can work wonders as the enemy can never be certain where all the AD systems really are and flying low over defended area would still be highly dangerous. There would be good chance that an aircraft would fly within kill zone of several AD system during a such mission.

Networked warfare in rough terrain would be more problematic, but not impossible. There are many ways to communicate between systems. In friendly areas copper and fiber optic cables are very usable. Radio relay stations are often used in rough terrain. One thing is that rough terrain can be challenge also for the low level flight of the aircraft and tends to channel their flight paths which makes them easier to predict. AD systems can also be positioned to high ground points for increased coverage.

Rough terrain would also be problematic for AEW system to detect and track low level aircraft. This happened many times in Kosovo and Iraq where even E-3 Sentries had sometimes trouble with combination of rough terrain and low level flight.

Re: How do you defeat airborne early warning?

Unread postPosted: 01 Jun 2018, 09:47
by popcorn
hornetfinn wrote:Rough terrain would also be problematic for AEW system to detect and track low level aircraft. This happened many times in Kosovo and Iraq where even E-3 Sentries had sometimes trouble with combination of rough terrain and low level flight.

One of the revelations during early Northern Flag LFEs featuring the F-22 was it's ability to operate in airspace denied to AWACS and peek behind mountains and down valleys to spot low flying aircraft using terrain masking.