Ngorno-Karabakh/Artaskh war

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icemaverick

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Unread post18 Nov 2020, 00:31

Thought it would be interesting to start a discussion on this conflict. The Armenians won handily back in the 90s but this time around, the Azeris got the upper hand. The general consensus seems to be that drones/loitering munitions made all the difference in this latest conflict. The Azeris were able to inflict heavy losses on the Armenians, who didn’t really have any answer.

Why weren’t the Armenians able to shoot down the drones? Is there any good defense against the Israeli loitering bombs? Would it have made a difference if the Armenians had a better Air Force? They have some Su-30s but they probably weren’t able to achieve any kind of air superiority. What should Armenia do in the future to improve their chances? What about the Azeris?
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madrat

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Unread post18 Nov 2020, 01:34

Obsolete Flankers vs modern F-16's. Enough said.
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mmm

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Unread post18 Nov 2020, 03:03

You'd think Tor-M, modernized OSA-M, along with the likes of Tunguska, Pantsir while not tailor made for the role, shouldn't exactly be incompetent against group 3,4 UAVs, you could even say in terms of flight characteristics they are some of the least challenging targets. Somehow drones are again and again used directly or indirectly against those supposed defenses against them with what appears to be pretty good effect, be it this war or in Syria. Also left me wonder if IM-SHORAD Stryker can perform differently as a fundamentally similar platform, even if under a different doctrine.

I don't see how traditional fighters are a cost effective answer or an answer at all. But in the future counter UAS equation could air to air drone play a part? You know the endurance is good, sufficiently cheap to be cost effective against a inherently cheap problem. Maybe to a degree runway independent so forward deployable, with enough mobility so it's not a complete passive defense like existing SHORAD? Say for starter a MQ-9 with AtA Stinger. Of course the side with an upper hand in EW could also be very decisive, when you harden comms and add enough automation it's probably no longer cheap.

Edit: Hmm, come to think of it Iraqi did have a case of success against MQ-1 with MIG-25, even one as adequately equipped for air to air as one could at the time. So I guess at purely technical level you can't say traditional tactical fighter is no answer after all.
Last edited by mmm on 18 Nov 2020, 08:56, edited 1 time in total.
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hythelday

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Unread post18 Nov 2020, 07:41

madrat wrote:Obsolete Flankers vs modern F-16's. Enough said.


Armenia has Su-30SM, far from obsolete. But they received them just last year, so probably not still not operational, so they most likely decided to withhold them in order not to lose yet another expensive asset. Which was sensible since having four fighters with limited stock of AA weapons and pilots of questionable proficiency go after aerial targets while having very poor aerial picture due to the EA and physical destruction of your radars is a bad idea.

Turkey took Pantsirs two poundtown both in Syria and in Libya, so it is not down to the fact that Armenia had "old" systems, it's because Russian-trained crews using Russian-manufactured ADS have trouble against modern aerial attack weapons. One S-300 site was also destroyed by (presumably) LORA missile, which is a kind of target S-300 is supposed to be able to intercept, unlike drones and loitering munitions. In case you didn't know Russians made a lot of stink about Dharhan incident after the Gulf War and Almaz-Antey pumped out press releases that they "ran intercept tests againts Scuds with S-300 and achieved 100% hit rate", making their system, of course, the bestest in the world.

It's hard to tell how big of a role EW played in the conflict, but I assume a pretty big one, because i don't believe that Russian systems are that bad.

IOT defend against the kind of aerial attack methods Azeris were using one needs to be able to scout drone C&C in order to cripple ISTAR and deny airspace to drones. Defending against loitering munitions using "classical" SHORADS is not effective, that's more of a C-RAM bussiness. Directed Energy will be keystone technology here since C-RAMs based on kinetic effect have their limitations and loitering munitions/suicide drones are only going to get cheaper/smaller/more numerous,
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mmm

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Unread post19 Nov 2020, 06:28

Apparently Azeris don't need your overrated enablers to break down IADS, according to reports they also neutralized a number of Armenian S-300 batteries with UAS that have next to zero survivability measures. No comprehensive blinding campaign needed, no need for advanced ISR. Penetrating platform? What's that? And they'll loiter well within (theoretical)threat envelope for extended duration to seek and ID, at propeller aircraft speed. And the result speaks for itself by all accounts they won the war, the only reason for not greater success appears to be the less effective ground campaign.

Neither do they need some AI enabled "swarm" level of quantity. after all they were only using manpower intensive remotely piloted types. But is that level of increase in number all you need? Who needs expensive high tech capabilities when you can do it with enough drones designed in the garage, as long they have adequate sensor and can fire guided weapons?
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hornetfinn

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Unread post20 Nov 2020, 09:29

These small stealthy and slow drones are actually surprisingly difficult targets for air defences. That makes them difficult to detect with sensors like radar and optical/thermal systems. Slow speed makes it difficult to filter them out from clutter and other interferences. I think it's entirely possible that the MTI (moving target indicator) in S-300 radars were set to reasonably high value to filter out clutter and other interference. Especially if these were earlier versions of that system with more limited processing power. Thus a small slow and stealthy drone might've easily slipped detection.
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icemaverick

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Unread post20 Nov 2020, 15:09

Most of these missiles are designed to hit faster, larger and higher flying targets so I can see how targeting and hitting a tiny, slow and low drone would be hard.

So the best solution is electronic warfare? It does seem like the Achilles heel of these drones. If you can disrupt their control signals or guidance systems they are probably toast. How expensive and complex are the systems that could accomplish this? Should every serious military be acquiring such systems?

The Russians claim to have downed 9 Bayraktars near their base in Armenia (https://eurasiantimes.com/russia-shot-d ... a-reports/). Of course this could just be propaganda to play down the poor performance of their air defense systems against Turkish drones in Ngorno-Karabakh, Libya and Syria.
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Unread post21 Nov 2020, 04:44

I think the exposed propeller has something to say about being slow, there's limited RCS reduction to be gained from reducing physical dimension, from my untrained eyes that's as far as their radar stealth go. I still can't see them as particularly survivable.

My theory is that the moderate increase in number compared to manned aircraft was all that was needed. Combined with not super sophisticated guided weapons they democratized the precision strike airpower for the lesser militaries. I'd wager the apparent successes were achieved not through exploiting technical shortcomings, but operational limitations. After all it's not realistic to keep air defense batteries on heightened alert 24/7, it might simply be they have the availability with drones to exploit the down time. The attritable nature afforded a greater number of (failed)attempts. The airframes lost don't seem to be that great, but probably more than anyone would want to risk with manned aircrafts in similar roles.

I probably also have taken Gulf War Baghdad as the norm, that kind of density is clearly more exception than norm. A normal amount of air defense at the forward edge is suppose to be this leaky I guess.

Speaking of countermeasures, as important as particular techniques is the need to proliferate them to lower level, everybody will have to carry out counter UAS in the future. Whether it is EW, 50mm airburst autocannon, or some MANPADS sized hard kill system, or laser(even blinding level of power can be effective against EO sensor). The less challenging flight characteristics opened the door to inexpensive multipurpose weapons like Hellfire. Also stealth on the ground seems to be a real thing. Just look at Rheinmetall Lynx and GD Griffin proposed for Army OMFV, you can tell the emphasis on signature reduction not seen before just from the appearance alone. There's apparently consensus on the other side as well from the Armata vehicle family. Also to be noted are the developments in ground robotic vehicles, just speak of things most directly related to interaction with drones, it's not inconceivable they can also act as distributed sensor/shooter in CUAS role, in large numbers.
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Unread post23 Nov 2020, 08:13

icemaverick wrote:Most of these missiles are designed to hit faster, larger and higher flying targets so I can see how targeting and hitting a tiny, slow and low drone would be hard.

So the best solution is electronic warfare? It does seem like the Achilles heel of these drones. If you can disrupt their control signals or guidance systems they are probably toast. How expensive and complex are the systems that could accomplish this? Should every serious military be acquiring such systems?

The Russians claim to have downed 9 Bayraktars near their base in Armenia (https://eurasiantimes.com/russia-shot-d ... a-reports/). Of course this could just be propaganda to play down the poor performance of their air defense systems against Turkish drones in Ngorno-Karabakh, Libya and Syria.

I believe this bears repeating: Eurasian Times is literally run by a bunch of semi-illiterate idiots who are incapable of even the most basic of fact checking.

Image

According to the former head of the Armenian Ministry of Defense’s Military Control Service, who is now under investigation for his comments, Russian-supplied EW kit was able to "neutralize" the TB2s for four days before they were able to defeat the Russian EW. https://www.overtdefense.com/2020/11/20 ... stigation/

hythelday wrote:
madrat wrote:Obsolete Flankers vs modern F-16's. Enough said.


Armenia has Su-30SM, far from obsolete. But they received them just last year, so probably not still not operational, so they most likely decided to withhold them in order not to lose yet another expensive asset. Which was sensible since having four fighters with limited stock of AA weapons and pilots of questionable proficiency go after aerial targets while having very poor aerial picture due to the EA and physical destruction of your radars is a bad idea.


4x Su-30SM * 50% availability rate = 2 Su-30SMs available at any time. As you said, no post-Soviet republic has the resources to invest in creating Grun Team-tier talent.

I'm skeptical of calling what was in Nagorno-Karabakh an integrated air defense system, since from what the propaganda videos suggest they weren't especially integrated even before air defense systems started getting whacked.
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Unread post23 Nov 2020, 14:38

mmm wrote:I think the exposed propeller has something to say about being slow, there's limited RCS reduction to be gained from reducing physical dimension, from my untrained eyes that's as far as their radar stealth go. I still can't see them as particularly survivable.

My theory is that the moderate increase in number compared to manned aircraft was all that was needed. Combined with not super sophisticated guided weapons they democratized the precision strike airpower for the lesser militaries. I'd wager the apparent successes were achieved not through exploiting technical shortcomings, but operational limitations. After all it's not realistic to keep air defense batteries on heightened alert 24/7, it might simply be they have the availability with drones to exploit the down time. The attritable nature afforded a greater number of (failed)attempts. The airframes lost don't seem to be that great, but probably more than anyone would want to risk with manned aircrafts in similar roles.


I think you are quite correct. According to IAI, their Harpy drone has RCS of <0.5m². https://www.iai.co.il/p/harpy
Same is said about Harop. https://www.iai.co.il/p/harop

So it's not VLO stealth, but still pretty difficult to detect especially given the slow speed. IMO, it's the combination of low speed, long endurance, relatively low cost, low RCS and ease of use that make thse so dangerous. It doesn't matter much if a handful are shot down as they are basically just expendable munitions and they are going after some of the most expensive and important systems the enemy has (radars, command centers).

Of course they have limitations but they are definitely getting more widespread as the technology matures and costs go down.
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Unread post25 Nov 2020, 03:59

mmm wrote: The less challenging flight characteristics opened the door to inexpensive multipurpose weapons like Hellfire.


I would not have called it that. APKWS is 1/4 the weight, 1/4 the cost, similar range (~75%), and has same laser targeting. Or small Griffin with 8 km range ground launched, 20 km air-launched.
Accel + Alt + VLO + DAS + MDF + Radial Distance = LIFE . . . Always choose Stealth
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mmm

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Unread post25 Nov 2020, 08:03

element1loop wrote:
mmm wrote: The less challenging flight characteristics opened the door to inexpensive multipurpose weapons like Hellfire.


I would not have called it that. APKWS is 1/4 the weight, 1/4 the cost, similar range (~75%), and has same laser targeting. Or small Griffin with 8 km range ground launched, 20 km air-launched.


AFAIK the ones for IM-SHORAD is the mmW Longbow Hellfire, or potentially in the future JAGM which is pretty much dual mode Hellfire. I think they either value the fire and forget nature, (very significant)secondary anti tank capability, or maybe the mmW seeker provides the best hit probability in this use case? There's also adequate level of agility as demonstrated on HOBS UAV launch.

It just don't seem SALH weapons are considered for CUAS much so far, but there might be interest in low cost imaging seeker?
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Unread post25 Nov 2020, 11:23

mmm wrote:
element1loop wrote:
mmm wrote: The less challenging flight characteristics opened the door to inexpensive multipurpose weapons like Hellfire.


I would not have called it that. APKWS is 1/4 the weight, 1/4 the cost, similar range (~75%), and has same laser targeting. Or small Griffin with 8 km range ground launched, 20 km air-launched.


It just don't seem SALH weapons are considered for CUAS much so far, but there might be interest in low cost imaging seeker?


Yes, that would be more attractive for sure. I'd love to see them used more as a cheap VTOL drone-based tube artillery replacement system too, in a slung-in container. Both seekers could do that job, as well as a multirole army 'battle drone' application against ISR drones and loiter munitions, etc.
Accel + Alt + VLO + DAS + MDF + Radial Distance = LIFE . . . Always choose Stealth

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