With the proliferation of cruise missiles

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q4airpower

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Unread post29 Jul 2019, 19:51

Can airforces survive a sneak attack? For instance, for a country like Taiwan or Japan, would their air forces be viable if China decides to hit either island with a cruise missile/IRBM barrage? The US seemed to have little trouble hitting air bases in Syria, and even with working Russian air defenses, I don't see systems like the s-300/400 being able to handle a sufficiently large barrage of cruise missiles.

While I know that both countries have taken steps to make their airforces more survivable, the fact is that modern air forces have a rather large logistical footprint, and I can't see even the US air force's presence in Eastern Europe/Asia surviving first contact with Russia or China provided that they struck first.

Basically given a large regional power, would it make sense for a smaller country to invest in mobile cruise missiles as more of a retaliatory measure rather than an air force?
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sferrin

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Unread post29 Jul 2019, 23:13

You do realize this is no different than, oh, the past 40 years or so, right?
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marauder2048

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Unread post29 Jul 2019, 23:40

q4airpower wrote:
Basically given a large regional power, would it make sense for a smaller country to invest in mobile cruise missiles as more of a retaliatory measure rather than an air force?


The MTCR acts as a pretty large barrier for small countries in this regard unless < 500 kg @ < 300 km constitutes
a useful retaliatory capability.
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q4airpower

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Unread post30 Jul 2019, 00:24

The difference between now and the last 40 years, was that I think accurate cruise missiles were only available to a select few countries, whereas now I think it's within the realm of possibility that small regional powers can have them. As an example even during the Yom Kipper war, the Israeli's still needed to send a limited number of aircraft to take out Egyptian airfields, whereas now I think they could reasonably field a large enough force of cruise missiles that could destroy any regional air force on the ground.

A better way of thinking about this. If you gave the Iraqi's the same air force (F-16/F-15/AWACS) as the Coalition minus the ability to field cruise missiles in Desert Storm, the number of cruise missiles fired would probably have destroyed the bulk of their air force on the ground. So the question is for countries like Japan, is there even a point in fielding the JSF, or would they be better served investing in mobile missile launchers and going back to more of a mutually assured destruction posture.

And again as for countries like Japan, I don't think that the MTCR would provide much barrier for them. After all, they've shown the capability of getting into orbit.
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marauder2048

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Unread post30 Jul 2019, 04:12

Israel's attacks against Egyptian airfields in 1973 were a complete flop due to better hardening,
warning and defenses.

It's also unclear how vulnerable Iraqi airfields would have been in GWI with an F-16/F-15/AWACS force since
their ability to defeat cruise missiles improves dramatically with that force.

Unless kept continuously mobile, I'm not sure if mobile cruise missile launchers
(without elaborate peacetime basing modes) are any more survivable than aircraft in a surprise attack
since they can typically only disperse along roadways which would be vulnerable to closure by attacks
from cluster munitions.

Cruise missile launchers which could fire from shelters or were dispersed to tunnels
that a high-end adversary didn't have the opportunity or ability to pre-survey or monitor would
have a survivability advantage over manned aircraft.

But to realistically penetrate a high-end opponent's defenses, you still need a coordinated cruise missile raid
which gets tricky to achieve with the dispersed approach.
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weasel1962

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Unread post30 Jul 2019, 06:51

One example is North Korea which relies on a lot of artillery based near the DMZ as a deterrence. Its cheap. Its also aided by dummy decoys, many of them inflatable costing a few hundred $ to manufacture. That's a strategy for low budget nations.

Its a deterrence but in a shooting war, its questionable whether its effective. Cruise missiles are expensive. The longer the range, the more expensive. It would take a lot of cruise missiles to render sufficient damage to any enemy. A few scuds launched by Houthis against Saudi Arabia isn't really effective. Many countries utilize MLRS as a cheaper intermediate bridge between tube artillery and missiles. USMC's use of "shoot and scoot" Himars is an effective example of such use. An increasing inaccurately termed "70km sniper". Selling a few battalions of Himars (which are more effective than the MLRS the Taiwanese have) to Taiwan could be as effective as selling F-16s (and way cheaper!).

Counter missile technology is pervasive, more so than 40 years back. Today, there's land based CIWS/CRAM, iron dome and SAMs tasked to shoot down cruise missiles. So that lowers the effectiveness of cruise missiles.
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marauder2048

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Unread post30 Jul 2019, 08:57

weasel1962 wrote:Counter missile technology is pervasive, more so than 40 years back. Today, there's land based CIWS/CRAM, iron dome


Which doesn't make MLRS particularly compelling given that these systems have mainly destroyed large caliber
rockets and not cruise missiles.
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weasel1962

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Unread post30 Jul 2019, 10:07

Agreed in part with a number of provisos. Firstly, it depends on the threat. Americans are more likely to face cruise missiles, hence the systems are designed or modified to tackle these.

https://breakingdefense.com/2019/03/arm ... iron-dome/

Secondly, in the case of Taiwan, it really depends on how the MLRS are used e.g. Himars. Just a few batteries will cover the whole of Taiwan (The Taiwanese MLRS has shorter range and aren't as accurate). It doesn't cost a lot to have small teams armed with a designator along the coast, which are difficult to suppress. Their targets being LCTs or LCACs which aren't exactly armed with CRAMs and won't withstand 440lb bullets. With ATACMs designated by stealthy, survivable UAVs, the LHDs/LPDs are basically toast even if their air bases are completely suppressed.

$300+m for an 18 himar battalion that churns out 6 "bullets" each salvo. Well worth the costs.
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hornetfinn

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Unread post30 Jul 2019, 13:18

When it comes to Taiwan and Japan, both are pretty well equipped to detect large scale cruise missile attacks well before the missiles can hit their targets. Both have respectable number of E-2 AEW aircraft and in the case of Japan also much more powerful E-767 AEW (basically E-3 systems on different aircraft). I think both can have pretty good coverage with them if military and political tensions rise.

Both also have pretty good and reasonably numerous naval ships which could also be used as picket ships to detect cruise missiles well in advance.

I'd also bet that both countries have serious plans about protecting their aircraft and airfields and other assets. When tensions rise considerably (as they usually do before military operations), they'd likely start implementing them. I think it would be really difficult for China to hit hard enough with just cruise and ballistic missiles. That might be the first thing to do to soften up the defences, but not enough alone. Of course this depends on what the goal is for such an operation.

For smaller countries cruise missiles can be very useful for selected targets and missions, but are generally too expensive for large scale use. For example Taiwan would need really huge number of cruise missiles to do any significant damage to China. They currently have pretty impressive array of cruise missiles against both land and naval targets though and they likely can give Chinese forces some trouble. I think they give Taiwan pretty good retaliatory and pre-emptive measure against potential Chinese aggression.
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michaelemouse

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Unread post30 Jul 2019, 19:31

hornetfinn wrote: Both have respectable number of E-2 AEW aircraft and in the case of Japan also much more powerful E-767 AEW (basically E-3 systems on different aircraft)


How would their capabilities differ?



hornetfinn wrote:
For smaller countries cruise missiles can be very useful for selected targets and missions, but are generally too expensive for large scale use. For example Taiwan would need really huge number of cruise missiles to do any significant damage to China. They currently have pretty impressive array of cruise missiles against both land and naval targets though and they likely can give Chinese forces some trouble. I think they give Taiwan pretty good retaliatory and pre-emptive measure against potential Chinese aggression.


That's pretty much a given in situations where a huge country fights a small one. I may be speaking from ignorance but it seems unlikely that relying on cheap munitions and expensive platforms would end up having a lower average cost/target than expensive cruise missiles; Using a $100M fighter jet on a mission which comports a 1% probability of platform loss effectively costs a million dollars a mission and such a campaign could get expensive very quickly. It may be more efficient to acquire 100 $1M missiles for 100 targets than 1 $100M fighter for the same targets.

As you note, Taiwan could make a Chinese invasion pretty unpleasant to the Chinese and that may be sufficient for Taiwan's strategic needs which is to convince China that; "Yes, it's true that you can eat me but it won't be worth it to you."
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marauder2048

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Unread post30 Jul 2019, 22:54

weasel1962 wrote:Agreed in part with a number of provisos. Firstly, it depends on the threat. Americans are more likely to face cruise missiles, hence the systems are designed or modified to tackle these.

https://breakingdefense.com/2019/03/arm ... iron-dome/


To a first order approximation, the percentage of cruise missile targets successfully engaged
by Iron Dome or the Land-based Phalanx in combat is zero.


weasel1962 wrote:Secondly, in the case of Taiwan, it really depends on how the MLRS are used e.g. Himars. Just a few batteries will cover the whole of Taiwan (The Taiwanese MLRS has shorter range and aren't as accurate). It doesn't cost a lot to have small teams armed with a designator along the coast, which are difficult to suppress.


The environmental conditions in and around Taiwan make laser designation problematic which is why
Taiwan bought Hellfire Longbow. And forward observers are going to be an early casualty given the MLRS threat
the Chinese have massed against almost all but the southern most probable landing zones

weasel1962 wrote:Their targets being LCTs or LCACs which aren't exactly armed with CRAMs and won't withstand 440lb bullets.


Assuming we aren't taking about attacking LCACs when they are accompanied by their CIWS/C-RAM capable escorts:

LCACs have about a 5 minute window of vulnerability in their final end run;
the time of flight of MLRS from the sort of range it would have to displace to avoid preparatory
bombardment or CB is significant chunk of that window which in turn places huge and probably
unrealistic pressure on fire control and coordination.

Quick MLRS delivery of sensor fuzed weapons and scatterable mines is probably a better use
in the run-up.

Once ashore, it's probably better for Taiwan's artillery to be employed in suppression or containment
(again cluster munitions and mines) in order to allow Taiwan to bring to bear their advantage in direct fire weaponry
(attack helicopters, tanks, MGS, ATGMs etc).

weasel1962 wrote:With ATACMs designated by stealthy, survivable UAVs,


Taiwan should stay away from exquisite and fragile kill chains that need runway dependent assets
especially when most of the ASCMs that are available to them have autonomous search capability.

The current Taiwanese investment in land attack cruise missiles is useful if they can reasonably
suppress Chinese airfields, rockets or SRBMs. Or another use might be in delivering sensor fuzed weapons
against the slower landing craft.
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madrat

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Unread post31 Jul 2019, 02:10

In South Korea's case, where they still have older large caliber AA guns in their reserves inventory, it would almost make sense to upgrade these guns with electronics to handle North Korea artillery near the DMZ. Surely smart 76mm rounds, fired at more than 100 rounds per minute and equipped with KE or HE seekers, could be iron curtainesque. Something to handle NK saturation fire.
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marauder2048

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Unread post31 Jul 2019, 04:20

madrat wrote:In South Korea's case, where they still have older large caliber AA guns in their reserves inventory, it would almost make sense to upgrade these guns with electronics to handle North Korea artillery near the DMZ. Surely smart 76mm rounds, fired at more than 100 rounds per minute and equipped with KE or HE seekers, could be iron curtainesque. Something to handle NK saturation fire.


That's a great point. And here I was thinking about ground-based versions of 57mm naval artillery to take
advantage of MAD-FIRES or Alamo but heck..let's bring back Skysweeper.
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hornetfinn

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Unread post31 Jul 2019, 07:59

michaelemouse wrote:
hornetfinn wrote: Both have respectable number of E-2 AEW aircraft and in the case of Japan also much more powerful E-767 AEW (basically E-3 systems on different aircraft)


How would their capabilities differ?


Do you mean E-2 vs. E-767? E-767 is definitely more capable in almost everything as it has larger and more powerful radar, more computing power and more operators. Of course E-3 also has much longer range and endurance than E-2. So it can be on station a lot longer time and can handle complex situations easier and can likely see quite a bit further away than E-2. Of course E-2 is a lot cheaper which makes itf preferable for small countries.

michaelemouse wrote:
hornetfinn wrote:
For smaller countries cruise missiles can be very useful for selected targets and missions, but are generally too expensive for large scale use. For example Taiwan would need really huge number of cruise missiles to do any significant damage to China. They currently have pretty impressive array of cruise missiles against both land and naval targets though and they likely can give Chinese forces some trouble. I think they give Taiwan pretty good retaliatory and pre-emptive measure against potential Chinese aggression.


That's pretty much a given in situations where a huge country fights a small one. I may be speaking from ignorance but it seems unlikely that relying on cheap munitions and expensive platforms would end up having a lower average cost/target than expensive cruise missiles; Using a $100M fighter jet on a mission which comports a 1% probability of platform loss effectively costs a million dollars a mission and such a campaign could get expensive very quickly. It may be more efficient to acquire 100 $1M missiles for 100 targets than 1 $100M fighter for the same targets.

As you note, Taiwan could make a Chinese invasion pretty unpleasant to the Chinese and that may be sufficient for Taiwan's strategic needs which is to convince China that; "Yes, it's true that you can eat me but it won't be worth it to you."


Cruise missiles are definitely good solution for attacking fixed targets and also naval ships. But attacking mobile or semi-mobile targets with them is out of the question in most cases. So against targets like ground troops, SAM and radar systems, mobile missile (cruise and ballistic) launchers, artillery units etc requires other solutions like fighter jets or artillery/MLRS systems at shorter ranges. But for retaliatory capability, I agree that cruise missiles are a good solution for many reasons.

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