Strike more important than air-air combat in the future?

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armedupdate

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Unread post13 Apr 2017, 00:56

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The theory is with two nations both armed with strike weapons that can go beyond 100 km, and typical air-air combat will be at ranges under 100 km due to most AAMs lacking agility at those distances(with stealth probably under 50 km), it has become a "bomber will always get through scenario".

For example two sides with sides with 24 F-35s. They are armed with AMRAAMs and JAASM-ER, HARM-ER, SDB II, JSOW-ER. Each side launches one F-35 on CAP around borders at a range of 1000 km, while the rest of the force are busy maintain their aircraft. So every hour we have one F-35 on patrol. Both combat planes will not meet eachother in combat till probably under 50 km. One side can simply run back, and avoid pursuit Airbases can be quickly mapped out by patrols and SAR radars, and if one side order a huge chunk of the strike package to launch,(lets say a 8 ship formation), they can simply launch their strike weapons(JSOW, HARM ER , JAASM ER etc) at ranges beyond 200 km avoiding any direct contact. Soon the AMRAAMs be more vital in shooting down enemy munitions rather than attempting to kill enemy planes. Dispersing your planes to avoid a counter strike, having numerous planes in the air at the time to kill enemy munitions becomes more important than attempting to destroy the enemy force in air.

Any C:MANO players encounter this type of scenario?

The game has changed. Back then we have JDAMs dropping at some dozens of km. Now we have munitions that can go beyond that.
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popcorn

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Unread post13 Apr 2017, 01:36

,,,
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"When a fifth-generation fighter meets a fourth-generation fighter—the [latter] dies,”
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Unread post13 Apr 2017, 01:52

Current plans are based around "near peer" adversaries, not true peers. If it came to both sides have fifth gen air forces, then they will invest in countermeasures. One way that might play out is a network of IR sensors on the surface and in the air.
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Unread post14 Apr 2017, 00:10

popcorn wrote:,,,


And how much history would bombers make without air superiority? Yeah.
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arian

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Unread post14 Apr 2017, 03:21

I tend to agree. It's easier to take out the enemy air power on the ground, then shoot them out of the sky.

Even in near-peer or true-peer adversaries, the odds are stacked in the favor of the US when it comes to strike (as well as in air-to-air). Given the number of assets which can launch ground strikes deep into an enemy's territory, the types of weapons available these days, the quantity of weapons available (very important), the targeting capabilities available etc...stacked against the defensive capabilities of the adversary in relation to US assets...it doesn't look favorable for the adversary (whomever that might be).

When you have tens of thousands of long-range strike weapons available and deployable from so many assets, it would take a herculean effort on part of the defense to stop strikes on airfields or air-defense sites or radars of C4 sites etc.

Of course idiosyncratic country conditions matter. Russia is huge, for example, and the volume of space is itself a challenge and a "defense" for Russia. But even there, consider that the number of air-defense sites and aircraft is limited. So huge gaps exist in coverage, and with stealth aircraft or low-flying missiles, the gap becomes even more pronounced. It then becomes difficult to really deny US assets the ability to penetrate deep into your country.

Or China. Sure, there may be as many as 100 S-300/clones around. But they need to operate in groups of multiple batteries to provide overlapping coverage and 360deg coverage. Which means, only a limited number of spots can be provided with area defense. And then, this area defense is limited against 5th generation planes or low-flying missiles, providing lots of gaps which US airpower can exploit. Which makes them rather insufficient.

At that point, point-defense becomes the main means of preventing a strike on your airfields or critical targets. But there are a lot of critical targets. Which means, you need THOUSANDS of advanced point-defense systems. Generally there really aren't that many Tors or Pantsyrs or Tunguska's to go around. And even if there were, they can be overwhelmed by certain weapons (SDBs for example). A few hundred individual units of these, which need to be organized in batteries anyway to provide sufficient protection of any one target, aren't sufficient to cover a fraction of the critical targets needing defending (and many of those are assigned to army units to protect them, rather than AD sites or airfields etc.)

For the US, it is always cheaper, easier and more "sustainable" (in attrition sense) to wear down the enemy with ground strikes then it is for the defense to invest in thousands of advanced point-defense systems, and thousands of area defense systems, and thousands of modern aircraft...each of which hinges on critical nodes which are themselves vulnerable to strikes. Just as the Iraqi air defense network was picked off early in the war, at which point they couldn't coordinate or effectively fight.

And neither of those two counties, which realistically are the only ones remotely positioned to sustain a prolonged US strike, are likley going to be attacked by the US anytime soon without escalating to nuclear war.
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Unread post16 Apr 2017, 14:35

Actually, you can make a good case it might be the reverse.

Throw a large number of modern Chinese fighters into the South China Sea scenario (J-20's, J-31's, J-10B's, SU-35's etc.) and you're giving the US a good run for its money. You'll have a nice 4++ generation hi/low mix (Flankers and J-10B's), along with two 5th gens (J-31/J-20's).

Suddenly, gaining and keeping air superiority isn't a given. This is the direct result of "leadership" here truncating the F-22 buy to 187. But hey, that's what we're stuck with. They could conceivably have everything we have, and then some if the J-20/J-31 are built in significant numbers.

Put a very capable, looong range AAM on the J-20 and now your tankers, AWACS and other C3I aircraft are suddenly vulnerable and at risk. There goes your air battle plan, as tankers and AWACS are without question a big part of it. Everything we do, EVERY THING is predicated on air supremacy. We've had it for so long, we think its our right and a given. It may turn out taking that for granted was our downfall..

Secretary Gates really let this nation down. He should have his pension revoked or at least reduced, given he handed our near peer adversaries a lifeline in the battle for air supremacy...
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Unread post16 Apr 2017, 15:16

mixelflick wrote:Actually, you can make a good case it might be the reverse.

Throw a large number of modern Chinese fighters into the South China Sea scenario (J-20's, J-31's, J-10B's, SU-35's etc.) and you're giving the US a good run for its money. You'll have a nice 4++ generation hi/low mix (Flankers and J-10B's), along with two 5th gens (J-31/J-20's).

Suddenly, gaining and keeping air superiority isn't a given. This is the direct result of "leadership" here truncating the F-22 buy to 187. But hey, that's what we're stuck with. They could conceivably have everything we have, and then some if the J-20/J-31 are built in significant numbers.

Put a very capable, looong range AAM on the J-20 and now your tankers, AWACS and other C3I aircraft are suddenly vulnerable and at risk. There goes your air battle plan, as tankers and AWACS are without question a big part of it. Everything we do, EVERY THING is predicated on air supremacy. We've had it for so long, we think its our right and a given. It may turn out taking that for granted was our downfall..

Secretary Gates really let this nation down. He should have his pension revoked or at least reduced, given he handed our near peer adversaries a lifeline in the battle for air supremacy...

We'll have a large inventory of F-35s, before the Chinese have meaningful numbers of J-20/31s, along with F-22s, B-2s and AESA/IRST equipped F-15E, F-16, F-18s. In coming years, you can also add B-21s to the mix, along with stealthy tankers.
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Unread post16 Apr 2017, 18:45

The problem with constant air patrols is they are limited loiter time. Even with tankers, most fighters since they are maintence heavy can only stay in the air for around 6 hours or less. That means only a few fighters in the air at a given time. If the enemy launches a full force armed with 300 km+ weapons, your air superiority CAP force might be overwhelmed, and before you launch your force to meet, it will be very hard to detect them all until it is too late especially when AMRAAM effective ranges are less than 50 km. The best you could do is taxi your aircraft to civilian airfields, makeshift airfields before the cruise missiles and Air-surface missiles destroy your planes on the ground, plus hangars and airfields.

I expect the first days of war, entire swarms of squadrons to be launched, striking each other's airfields, attempting to take on each other's tankers and missiles launched.
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Unread post16 Apr 2017, 22:39

armedupdate wrote:If the enemy launches a full force armed with 300 km+ weapons, your air superiority CAP force might be overwhelmed, and before you launch your force to meet, it will be very hard to detect them all until it is too late especially when AMRAAM effective ranges are less than 50 km. The best you could do is taxi your aircraft to civilian airfields, makeshift airfields before the cruise missiles and Air-surface missiles destroy your planes on the ground, plus hangars and airfields.

I expect the first days of war, entire swarms of squadrons to be launched, striking each other's airfields, attempting to take on each other's tankers and missiles launched.

This has been discussed in length before, blindpilot (among other) made several excellent posts about why a surprise (swarm) attack is in essence a non-existing thing:

viewtopic.php?p=340922#p340922
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Unread post17 Apr 2017, 02:55

mixelflick wrote:Actually, you can make a good case it might be the reverse.

Throw a large number of modern Chinese fighters into the South China Sea scenario (J-20's, J-31's, J-10B's, SU-35's etc.) and you're giving the US a good run for its money. You'll have a nice 4++ generation hi/low mix (Flankers and J-10B's), along with two 5th gens (J-31/J-20's).

Suddenly, gaining and keeping air superiority isn't a given. This is the direct result of "leadership" here truncating the F-22 buy to 187. But hey, that's what we're stuck with. They could conceivably have everything we have, and then some if the J-20/J-31 are built in significant numbers.

Put a very capable, looong range AAM on the J-20 and now your tankers, AWACS and other C3I aircraft are suddenly vulnerable and at risk. There goes your air battle plan, as tankers and AWACS are without question a big part of it. Everything we do, EVERY THING is predicated on air supremacy. We've had it for so long, we think its our right and a given. It may turn out taking that for granted was our downfall..

Secretary Gates really let this nation down. He should have his pension revoked or at least reduced, given he handed our near peer adversaries a lifeline in the battle for air supremacy...


Yes but this is a lot of assumptions that don't correspond to reality.

1) "4++". What exactly makes Flankers and J-10s "4++"? Most of the Chinese Flankers are vanilla Su-27 export models with all the limitations that brings these days. Most J-10s are basically MiG-29 avionics and radars copied by the Chinese.

2) Large swarms. First off, China doesn't actually have a "large" number of aircraft in the first place. It has a reasonable number of aircraft; 400-500 modern 4th gen planes. This is hardly a sufficient force given the distances or dimensions of the battle space, or the fact that it is surrounded by numerous neighbors with even more aircraft and more advanced ones at that (not even counting the US). What does it take to launch "swarms" and maintain them in the area over prolonged periods of time? Especially given that the defense, in that case, would be flying over its own territory and at far shorter distances, being able to maintain much higher operational tempo (on top of actually having many more fighters and support assets than the Chinese would.)

Remember back in Operation Allied Force. The distances involved are about the same: ~500km. NATO started off with about 400 aircraft and ended up with over 1,000 aircraft committed to the campaign. What was the operational tempo NATO was able to keep up against Serbia? How many tanker and support assets were needed for all of that?

The assumption that somehow the Chinese will be able to launch "all" they got, all at once, and keep them out there several hundred km into the sea to prevent US/Allies at bay, is imaginary at best. At any given point in time, most planes will be on the ground.

A sortie rate of ~1/day per plane was about what the US has been able to maintain over prolonged periods of time. Sometimes more, sometimes less on average. But its around 1, given the distances involved are generally pretty great. This with all the support assets the US has.

3) Long-range AAMs. A lot of imaginary weapons and scenarios based on a single photo of a prototype missile. How do you detect and coordinate an attack against numerous AWACS assets flying hundreds of kms away, when you yourself don't have the same AWACS capability? Where are the US CAPs flying? What are they doing in the meantime? Where are the F-35s flying? Will they detect you long before and engage you long before then? If you can see the AWACS, the AWACS can see you, whether it be from your radar return or on-board ESM. Or ESM from other aircraft and F-35s etc. Who is likley to have the advantage in a case where F-35s are flying numerous CAPs, supported by numerous AWACS, against hypothetical J-20s flying out into the ocean with no or little support?

4) The US isn't making a trade-off between strike and air-superiority. The F-22 isn't the only air superiority asset around. The US has both far great air-superiority capabilities, and far greater strike capability. The question posed here is if air superiority will be the most important factor, or strike will be.

Given that fighters are going to be spending most of their time on the ground, and will need lots of support from ground-based assets, and eventually all fighters have to land somewhere...strike seems like a more sure and reliable way to knock an adversary out of the fight long-term than having to wait to shoot them out of the sky. It's been this way in every war of the last decades (other than the 1982 Bekaa Valley where Israel didn't strike Syrian airbases.)

This not to say that China isn't a formidable adversary. But...it's not the adversary these "mass swarm" scenarios make it out to be. It has a very long way to go.
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Unread post17 Apr 2017, 05:10

mixelflick wrote:Actually, you can make a good case it might be the reverse.

Throw a large number of modern Chinese fighters into the South China Sea scenario (J-20's, J-31's, J-10B's, SU-35's etc.) and you're giving the US a good run for its money. You'll have a nice 4++ generation hi/low mix (Flankers and J-10B's), along with two 5th gens (J-31/J-20's).

Suddenly, gaining and keeping air superiority isn't a given. This is the direct result of "leadership" here truncating the F-22 buy to 187. But hey, that's what we're stuck with. They could conceivably have everything we have, and then some if the J-20/J-31 are built in significant numbers.

Put a very capable, looong range AAM on the J-20 and now your tankers, AWACS and other C3I aircraft are suddenly vulnerable and at risk. There goes your air battle plan, as tankers and AWACS are without question a big part of it. Everything we do, EVERY THING is predicated on air supremacy. We've had it for so long, we think its our right and a given. It may turn out taking that for granted was our downfall..



Been hearing stuff like this for 30 years. Having an air force doesn't mean you can compete. Iraq learned this the hard way. Long range missiles don't nullify the big wings. First you Have to kill them, they not only will resist being killed but will direct fighters against their attackers. F-22s aren't th3 only aircraft that can fight other aircraft they are just the best at it.

China has to defend large sections of territory. Another way to think of it as how will China fair against the largest fleet of 5th gen fighters? What about hundreds of super bugs and Growlers? Not to mention the US training experinec3 and coordination. How will the little minimally trained hand picked party kids do in their knock off flankers? What makes us think red air doesn't make attacks on big wings during exercises anyway? Like maybe we practice that? Our whole strategy in the 1980s was absorbing large attacks, ironically against the same types of aircraft China is currently using

Here's another great question. think we would go to war with China and not restart Raptor production? I know it wouldn't happen overnight but we would finish with more than we started with I can promise you that.
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Unread post17 Apr 2017, 05:27

Put a very capable, looong range AAM on the J-20 and now your tankers, AWACS and other C3I aircraft are suddenly vulnerable and at risk. There goes your air battle plan, as tankers and AWACS are without question a big part of it. Everything we do, EVERY THING is predicated on air supremacy.


Strangely, we need AWACS and tankers, but the Chinese only need a J-20 and a "long range" AAM.

So why are we wasting time with AWACS and tankers and other support planes, if apparently, air superiority can be gained so easily with just a fighter and a long-range missile?

Everything that applies to the US, doesn't apply to China?
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Unread post17 Apr 2017, 07:34

Just wanted to highlight original post did not mention China.

Nothing new but AAMs are less needed if aircraft are destroyed on the ground. The pitch that Boeing and LM makes today are that the SDB and F-35 are just one combination out of many allowing a single aircraft to take out an airfield, cue F-15E + SDB or JDAMs, F-16 + LJDAMs etc. Not everyone has multiple ground targeting capability so even if a SU-30 can carry 28 bombs, an aircraft can only take out 1 target at a time per sortie/pass without multiple targeting capability. Not many non-NATO air forces have demonstrated a multiple ground targeting capability. That’s a big force multiplier even with legacy fighters. 40 aircraft can do what 800 aircraft can do if the 40 has multiple targeting (20 targets per pass) whereas the 800 strikes 1 target per pass (even if its 20 bombs on that 1 target). B-2 with 80 JDAMs, anyone?
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Unread post17 Apr 2017, 10:14

weasel1962 wrote:Just wanted to highlight original post did not mention China.


True. But in the absence of a near-peer adversary, the discussion is moot.

weasel1962 wrote:Nothing new but AAMs are less needed if aircraft are destroyed on the ground. The pitch that Boeing and LM makes today are that the SDB and F-35 are just one combination out of many allowing a single aircraft to take out an airfield, cue F-15E + SDB or JDAMs, F-16 + LJDAMs etc. Not everyone has multiple ground targeting capability so even if a SU-30 can carry 28 bombs, an aircraft can only take out 1 target at a time per sortie/pass without multiple targeting capability. Not many non-NATO air forces have demonstrated a multiple ground targeting capability. That’s a big force multiplier even with legacy fighters. 40 aircraft can do what 800 aircraft can do if the 40 has multiple targeting (20 targets per pass) whereas the 800 strikes 1 target per pass (even if its 20 bombs on that 1 target). B-2 with 80 JDAMs, anyone?


Those are all good points. And a capability that only really emerged in the mid 2000s.

I think the point isn't so much that there needs to be a trade-off between air vs. strike, but rather that the US advantage in strike is so much greater compared to any adversary, given the types and number of weapons and the types and numbers of delivery platforms, that it really gives the US an advantage where it can incapacitate an enemy before it has to deal with air to air as a primary means of taking an enemy out.

To defend against this sort of a threat, a near-peer adversary would need a far larger number of defensive systems then would be realistic.

And as experience has shown, the only real way to knock out an enemy airforce in a prolonged way is to destroy it on the ground (with some exceptions like 1982)
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Unread post17 Apr 2017, 14:25

Another thing worth mentioning, who do you think "owns" the south China Sea?

China with its 12 carriers and worlds most powerful navy? Oh no wait. That's the US

Chinese aircraft would be over "enemy territory" the entire time
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