High cost of survival in an air war with China

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element1loop

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Unread post14 Sep 2019, 08:02

The high cost of survival in an air war with China

13 September, 2019

SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com
BY: Garrett Reim Los Angeles

To gain the upper hand in air combat, it is often better to focus on the ground. That was the opinion of one early air power theorist; as General Giulio Douhet of the Italian army noted in 1921: "It is easier and more effective to destroy the enemy's aerial power by destroying his nests and eggs on the ground than to hunt his flying birds in the air." And for the better part of the past century, Douhet's maxim has shaped US Air Force (USAF) strategy, as its commanders have sought to make their air bases fortified and resilient against attack.

That philosophy prevailed until threats to US air bases all but disappeared with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Over the past three decades, the service has focused its efforts on seeking efficiencies through consolidating operations to fewer, larger airfields.

But the era of efficiencies might now be over. As China buys and builds new long-range fighters, bombers, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles – as well as far-sighted satellites and surveillance aircraft – the USA is revisiting the idea of the vulnerable air base. A string of US and Allied facilities in the Western Pacific, including areas as far from any homeland as Andersen AFB in Guam are now viewed as exposed to potential attack from Beijing.

According to an August 2019 report by United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia: "This growing arsenal of accurate long-range missiles poses a major threat to almost all American, allied and partner bases, airstrips, ports and military installations in the Western Pacific. "As these facilities could be rendered useless by precision strikes in the opening hours of a conflict, the [Chinese] missile threat challenges America's ability to freely operate its forces from forward locations throughout the region.

In response, the USAF is considering a new strategy known as distributed operations, a concept that calls for the service to operate from a greater number of more spread out air bases, of sizes small and large, so as to increase the number of targets an adversary would need to attack. In other words, the USAF has decided not to put all of its eggs in one basket.

BETTER ODDS

The distributed operations concept increases the odds of aircraft surviving or avoiding being attacked, according to a USAF-commissioned study by the RAND Corporation, which was released to the public in July 2019. "It's tough to defend, to defeat a… precision cruise missile with a big warhead," says RAND Corporation senior political scientist Alan Vick, one of the study's co-authors. "But then, it's very costly for them to have a weapon of that size and quality against every aircraft (and) location."

Distributed operations are also costly for the USA, however. As the report observes, more bases means more resources: anti-aircraft weapons, ammunition depots, communications equipment, fuel storage, aircraft hangars, maintenance personnel, soldiers to defend the airfield perimeter and headquarters staff. It could also mean a decentralised command and control structure, which could be complex and reliant on communications that are vulnerable to cyberattack.

To make such a strategy work, the USAF could use a mixture of three types of air bases: a stay-and-fight base, a drop-in facility and a fighter forward arming and refuelling point (FARP), says the RAND Corporation. The mixture of bases would have different strengths and weaknesses for various missions, given the available geography and resources the service has access to during a conflict.

A stay-and-fight base would likely be the furthest from combat zones and the most heavily fortified with active and passive defences. Active defences might include Patriot missiles for air defence and a THAAD high-altitude anti-ballistic missile defence system. Passive defence could include camouflage and concrete aircraft hangars, as well as dispersal of aircraft, fuel, and payloads across the airfield.

Drop-in and FARP facilities would have fewer defences. The former would only have enough strength to recover from an attack to evacuate aircraft. The latter would only be used for a few hours, enough time for a fighter to receive quick maintenance, fuel and ammunition, before an adversary would detect their location and launch an attack – effectively forcing the enemy to play whack-a-mole.

PRICE OF SURVIVAL ...

... The USAF has been thinking about some of these problems and practising distributed operations for about a decade. Since 2009, it has practised the FARP basing concept through a number of exercises, including "Rapid Raptor". In that exercise, the service lands at least four Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors and a C-17 Globemaster III strategic air transport loaded with support personnel, fuel and munitions on a remote airfield. The USAF claims it can arrange a rendezvous anywhere in the world within 24h.

Image

For take-off, an F-22 loaded with fuel and weapons needs a runway at least 1,830m (6,000ft) long. There are 258 such airstrips in the Western Pacific, according to a 2014 report in published Air & Space Power Journal, but such exercises are reliant on the USAF's limited airlift capacity, notes Vick.

MANIC MAINTENANCE ...

... To meet maintenance demands in distributed operations, Lockheed Martin and the USAF are experimenting with ways to train maintenance personnel across a large number of F-35 subsystems, allowing each crewmember to do a greater variety of work. Lockheed Martin's Nose-to-Tail initiative "has reduced the dedicated maintenance team to less than five personnel per aircraft, per shift – down from about 12", the company told FlightGlobal in May 2019. The USAF is running a similar programme called Blended Operational Lightning Technician. Still, the need for such resource intensive maintenance, such as stealth coating repair, might mean that fifth-generation fighters have to be constantly rotated away from the front lines, a complex juggling act, says Miranda Priebe, a RAND Corporation political scientist and another one of the report’s co-authors.

"You probably have a concept where fighters are moving forward into these distributed bases, and then probably have to go back further in the rear for certain kinds of maintenance," she says. "So, it is a more complicated problem and certainly different than the way we do things now. You're probably going to be accepting more risk in some of your maintenance decisions just to keep things moving."


More at link:
https://www.flightglobal.com/news/artic ... na-460409/
Accel + Alt + VLO + DAS + MDF + Radial Distance = LIFE . . . Always choose Stealth
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blain

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Unread post04 Oct 2019, 01:10

The farther away you can operate from the first island chain and the PRC, the survival for air power greatly increases. The one major disadvantage is the greater range at which fighters and bombers must operate and its impact the sortie generation rate. Tac air will require tankers, which will increase the footprint at a particular base. That is not necessarily the case with bombers.

In a future conflict, a flight of B-2s/B-21s flying from the United States could fly from the Untied States to the Taiwan Strait, launch a 80 JASSMs/LRASMs, and then recover on Palau. Another flight could also conduct a similar attack and recover at another location. C-17s could bring missile reloads on rotary launchers and a new crew would fly another sortie. Additional sorties could flown until it was time to relocate to the next FARP. This time maybe Australia.

Below is an excellent study on dispersing fighters in the Pacific.
https://www.airuniversity.af.edu/Portal ... -Davis.pdf
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element1loop

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Unread post04 Oct 2019, 12:11

Thinking along similar lines, bombers from the rear, dispersed Killer-Bees in close, A's (incl 22s) working with protected tankers and protected airbases to soften up with standoff. Navy moves in with C and SH to attack while relieving, supporting and re-supplying Bees, plus allies with A and B.

Eliminating regional targeting capabilities to sideline or degrade ballistic and cruise missile effectiveness is the key to getting the air power laid on early. That's where forward based KIller-Bees and several powerful GLCMs plus a large bomber force is key to suppressing the early barrages and enabling the rest of the F-35s to leverage that effort to get in and hit hard to enable 4th-gen effort in support.

It's going to need a big stockpile of cruise missiles, so the numbers don't run low for other contingencies as such a fight unfolds. Without that the whole thing slows as forces have to expose themselves more and get in a lot closer (with internal weapons only).

Going to read that this weekend.
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Unread post04 Oct 2019, 12:41

We’ve visited the idea around here before... download/file.php?id=19620.

When it was just a Marine idea, Bill Sweetman called it ‘flights of fancy’ or some such thing in a 2015 article which was later reprinted in 2017. Whatever happened to him? :shrug:

The Navy (which is fundamentally ‘distributed’ to begin with) has explored some broader ideas that marry operating domains in the maritime, and now the USAF has expanded its outlook with a funded RAND study. And of course, everyone has been talking about ‘multi-domain command control’ for a few years now. Funny how these things work, isn’t it?
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sferrin

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Unread post04 Oct 2019, 13:15

element1loop wrote:It's going to need a big stockpile of cruise missiles, so the numbers don't run low for other contingencies as such a fight unfolds. Without that the whole thing slows as forces have to expose themselves more and get in a lot closer (with internal weapons only).


Well there is news that the DoD is bumping JASSM buy:

"Notably, the Air Force also indicated it wants to more than double its purchases of Lockheed Martin’s Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile. After broadcasting its intent to grow the JASSM program from 4,900 to 7,200 weapons in the 2020 budget, the service said Sept. 27 it is growing the potential JASSM total to 10,000 missiles. It is eyeing exponential growth for the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, a JASSM variant, from a possible maximum of 110 to 400 as well.

The service is mulling ordering batches of up to 390 JASSM-Extended Range missiles starting in Lot 18, then up to 400 JASSM variants in Lot 19, topping out at as many as 550 per lot through Lot 30.

“This also includes 50 LRASM missiles in LRASM Lot 4, reaching a maximum rate of 96 per lot in subsequent lots, continuing through Lot 8,” the service said in a sources-sought notice. “This effort also includes sustainment efforts to include operational safety, suitability, and effectiveness.”

Forty JASSM-D units, formerly known as the JASSM-XR “extreme-range” version, would enter the production line as part of Lot 19. "


http://www.airforcemag.com/Features/Pag ... e-Buy.aspx
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Unread post04 Oct 2019, 17:12

sferrin wrote:
element1loop wrote:It's going to need a big stockpile of cruise missiles, so the numbers don't run low for other contingencies as such a fight unfolds. Without that the whole thing slows as forces have to expose themselves more and get in a lot closer (with internal weapons only).


Well there is news that the DoD is bumping JASSM buy:

"Notably, the Air Force also indicated it wants to more than double its purchases of Lockheed Martin’s Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile. After broadcasting its intent to grow the JASSM program from 4,900 to 7,200 weapons in the 2020 budget, the service said Sept. 27 it is growing the potential JASSM total to 10,000 missiles. It is eyeing exponential growth for the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile, a JASSM variant, from a possible maximum of 110 to 400 as well.

The service is mulling ordering batches of up to 390 JASSM-Extended Range missiles starting in Lot 18, then up to 400 JASSM variants in Lot 19, topping out at as many as 550 per lot through Lot 30.

“This also includes 50 LRASM missiles in LRASM Lot 4, reaching a maximum rate of 96 per lot in subsequent lots, continuing through Lot 8,” the service said in a sources-sought notice. “This effort also includes sustainment efforts to include operational safety, suitability, and effectiveness.”

Forty JASSM-D units, formerly known as the JASSM-XR “extreme-range” version, would enter the production line as part of Lot 19. "


http://www.airforcemag.com/Features/Pag ... e-Buy.aspx


As welcome as it is what still bothers me is US (and allied) forces can burn through a big chunk of that war-stock of advanced VLO missiles in a matter of a week or two in any real fight in Asia or even the ME. But the build-rate will remain relatively slow, and resistant to sudden acceleration to meet sudden demand.

Recovery of war stock numbers would take many years at such a build rate. This needs to not be so slow, nor as resistant to production acceleration to meet a sharp demand spike. It implies stockpiling thousands of the long-lead time components so that production can be accelerated to well above the planned annual rate if the need arises to refill war stocks much sooner than that. I hope that turns out to be a part of these JASSM developments within the ensuing program budget docs.
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blain

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Unread post08 Oct 2019, 05:14

element1loop wrote:Thinking along similar lines, bombers from the rear, dispersed Killer-Bees in close, A's (incl 22s) working with protected tankers and protected airbases to soften up with standoff. Navy moves in with C and SH to attack while relieving, supporting and re-supplying Bees, plus allies with A and B.

Eliminating regional targeting capabilities to sideline or degrade ballistic and cruise missile effectiveness is the key to getting the air power laid on early. That's where forward based KIller-Bees and several powerful GLCMs plus a large bomber force is key to suppressing the early barrages and enabling the rest of the F-35s to leverage that effort to get in and hit hard to enable 4th-gen effort in support.

It's going to need a big stockpile of cruise missiles, so the numbers don't run low for other contingencies as such a fight unfolds. Without that the whole thing slows as forces have to expose themselves more and get in a lot closer (with internal weapons only).

Going to read that this weekend.


The F-35Bs range limits it to finite combat radius. It will be difficult to extend its range with AR if it is operating within the enemy's engagement zone. We are basically talking about the Ryukyus and Japan because I don't think the Philippines or Vietnam will allow access. It will be very difficult for the F-35Bs to project power into the Straits in an operationally significant way. It's main value will likely be the defense of Japanese territory and our bases in Okinawa.
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Unread post08 Oct 2019, 06:06

A shooting war with China will lead to an expensive air war... for China.
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Unread post08 Oct 2019, 07:04

blain wrote:
element1loop wrote:Thinking along similar lines, bombers from the rear, dispersed Killer-Bees in close, A's (incl 22s) working with protected tankers and protected airbases to soften up with standoff. Navy moves in with C and SH to attack while relieving, supporting and re-supplying Bees, plus allies with A and B.

Eliminating regional targeting capabilities to sideline or degrade ballistic and cruise missile effectiveness is the key to getting the air power laid on early. That's where forward based KIller-Bees and several powerful GLCMs plus a large bomber force is key to suppressing the early barrages and enabling the rest of the F-35s to leverage that effort to get in and hit hard to enable 4th-gen effort in support.

It's going to need a big stockpile of cruise missiles, so the numbers don't run low for other contingencies as such a fight unfolds. Without that the whole thing slows as forces have to expose themselves more and get in a lot closer (with internal weapons only).

Going to read that this weekend.


The F-35Bs range limits it to finite combat radius. It will be difficult to extend its range with AR if it is operating within the enemy's engagement zone. We are basically talking about the Ryukyus and Japan because I don't think the Philippines or Vietnam will allow access. It will be very difficult for the F-35Bs to project power into the Straits in an operationally significant way. It's main value will likely be the defense of Japanese territory and our bases in Okinawa.


Ever hear of the Boeing MQ-25A Stealth Tanker......... :wink:

MQ25B.jpg
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Unread post08 Oct 2019, 07:08

madrat wrote:A shooting war with China will lead to an expensive air war... for China.



Which, is why China must start producing J-20's and J-31's in respectable numbers. This idea some are floating that China will only build them is very modest numbers is well "absurd".
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Unread post08 Oct 2019, 07:35

Expensive? Chinese planes are cheap. End result no change.

Too bad aren't facing the Indians. Don't do anything, they crash on their own. Fight them, they shoot down their own.

No need tanker. Below is a list of runways in the Ryukyus for F-35B ops which I compiled 7 years ago. Quite a lot of runways to suppress, and would be defended by Patriots and the JASDF. That explains why the Japanese are getting the killer Bees as well.

Spaz also asked for a visual map which I posted on one of the threads. Need to look for it.
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Unread post08 Oct 2019, 07:40

NICE! :D
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Unread post08 Oct 2019, 08:04

Can't find the link so just re-posting together with a range circle of a B from Okinawa.
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Unread post08 Oct 2019, 08:43

The US and her Allies need to acquire a lot more F-35B's and Ospreys! :wink:
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Unread post08 Oct 2019, 08:44

weasel1962 wrote:Can't find the link so just re-posting together with a range circle of a B from Okinawa.



Then you have Taiwan and maybe even northern Luzon!
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