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US Anti Aircraft defences


LUCASWILLEN05

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Yes, the real U.S. air defense system is the Air Force, your milage may vary.....

 

Which is fine if the airforce controls the sky. Which has been the case in the last few wars the US has fought. But what happens when this is not he case?

 

One thing I have learned over the last few days is hat the US army mightbe in for a nasty shock if the USAF does not gain immediate or early air dominance. My impression is that this is a clear weakness of the US side. Maybe a couple of Ukranian systems would help :-)

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The odds of the US not being able to dominate the air battle are slim to none.  US air assets could preposition a lot quicker than US ground assets and unless Russia really wants to widen the war, they could do so with similar stance as Russian units, i.e. beyond the direct confines of the conflict.  Will they then be able to necessarily enforce that ability for close air support is a different question.  I expect operating aircraft by either side is going to be fraught with risk.  What it really comes down to is what the players select and how it conforms to their perception of the larger air war.  If they ignore it and the Russian side calls in lots of air support, the USA player is f**ked barring getting some UKR support.

 

Personally I am tending away from air support as simply a very inaccurate presentation of the likelihood of aircraft being able to function in this high threat environment.  Am also largely avoiding UAVs until we have better data on their survivability.  Indications in UKR are such that it appears UAVs have a hard time operating.  Ukr forces seem to have been fairly successful at downing the UAVs that are being used against them.  OSCE UAVs have pretty much been unable to monitor the separatists.  UAVs in CM seem to be much less vulnerable than their real life counterparts.

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Which is fine if the airforce controls the sky. Which has been the case in the last few wars the US has fought. But what happens when this is not he case?

 

If you had to rank the world's 10 most capable airforces, 1-4 or so would simply be the USAF, 5 would be the USN, then maybe France and the UK, followed by the USMC, then maybe Russia and then some of the lesser NATO countries.

 

There's simply no reasonable challenge to the US military's air control abilities.  Combined with IADS, and hostile fighters there's a chance to keep the various US aviation forces out of your backyard, but the possibility of getting a flight of SU-25s to the target is right up there with snowballs in sulfur lakes survival odds.  

 

 

 

 What it really comes down to is what the players select and how it conforms to their perception of the larger air war

 

This.  From my end of things I tend to exclude red aviation, or strongly limit it because I think it's doubtful it'll get on station, or if Russia surges to attain situational air parity, it's going to be for targets more interesting than a tank company or two.  Conversely the USAF in a three month sort of war against a near peer threat is going to focus on air superiority, SEAD, and what high value targets it can hit without going into Russia, before shuffling some of those strike assets to CAS.  So the June fighting would see almost no CAS, July a fighter or two here or there, before August being CAS being fairly common.  

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If WW2 was any indication of how things go down when peer air forces meet, you just don't see much in the way of CAS until well after one side's air force has been reduced to a non-factor. It's way too risky a job while an enemy can put fighters up in the air. Historically the US and RAF didn't really loose those P-47/Typhoon hordes on ground targets until it was obvious the Luftwaffe wasn't going to say much about it. 

 

Any operation in conduct of ground support already has enough to worry about in the form of anti-aircraft. It's downright impossible to do CAS while trying to dodge that *and* air cover at the same time. Not without very specialized frames like the F-117 or B-1. Those airplanes come with a host of their own limitations too. Like short loiter times or minimal payload. 

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CAS from both sides is a bit of a dodgy affair imo. US / NATO air superiority partly depends on successful SEAD operations. While there is a lot of experience with SEAD operations, Russia has a lot of effective AA systems, besides the SA-13 & Tunguska ingame, and probably thorough understanding of how effective they actually are vs NATO SEAD.

 

How costly would maintaining total air superiority above the CMBS frontline be for NATO? If downing a couple of ground hugging Frogfoots comes at the cost of some F15/16/18s, I'm not sure that's a good trade-off. 

 

Anyhow going back to the question, I'm sure the US Army would be very much eyeing to upgrade their tac AA capabilities from the Stinger systems if they were expecting a CMBS like conflict. Having the best 4 airforces in the world might affect prioritization, the lack of full spectrum conventional conflicts against states with a half decent airforce is probably the main reason as for why the US Army hasn't directed it's resources to this subject.

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If you had to rank the world's 10 most capable airforces, 1-4 or so would simply be the USAF, 5 would be the USN, then maybe France and the UK, followed by the USMC, then maybe Russia and then some of the lesser NATO countries.

 

There's simply no reasonable challenge to the US military's air control abilities.  Combined with IADS, and hostile fighters there's a chance to keep the various US aviation forces out of your backyard, but the possibility of getting a flight of SU-25s to the target is right up there with snowballs in sulfur lakes survival odds.  

 

 

This.  From my end of things I tend to exclude red aviation, or strongly limit it because I think it's doubtful it'll get on station, or if Russia surges to attain situational air parity, it's going to be for targets more interesting than a tank company or two.  Conversely the USAF in a three month sort of war against a near peer threat is going to focus on air superiority, SEAD, and what high value targets it can hit without going into Russia, before shuffling some of those strike assets to CAS.  So the June fighting would see almost no CAS, July a fighter or two here or there, before August being CAS being fairly common.  

 

It might take a while for the USAF to gain air dominance. It might be well into July 2017. In the meantime of course the ground pounders have a problem. . I could see some of those Ukanin Tunguskas being a rather useful attatchment to US units.

 

As Lethaface says the Russians also have effecttive air defence systems which will also be a high threat

 

From the fairly cursory online research there are developments in the pipeline for better US army air defence systems but they might not be in service in 2017. There used to be the M6 variant of the Bradley (Linebacker) armed with a quad stinger launcher but that is no longer in service. Maybe it would be rushed back into service in 2017. Not sure how easy this would be in practice however. But this kind of mobile air defence sysem would definately be a useful sysem to have filling a nast gap that could lead o significant losses in the early stages of the war.

 

Maybe the 1973 Yom Kippur War suggests a useful lesson here?

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It might take a while for the USAF to gain air dominance

 

Yes.  But it'd be because the Russian Air Force would need to be committed to holding off NATO almost to a plane.  Further the same complications that make heavy NATO CAS doubtful are equally strong, if not stronger against the Russians (given a smaller air force and less capable system for the Russians, robust long range ADA from NATO and more common, and better air defense fighters).  

 

It's not going to be a period in which Russia bombs more or less at will with the US vainly flailing at waves of Russian CAS before a turning of the tide with NATO taking air dominance, it's going to be a bloody messy initial fight in which it's hard for anyone to accomplish air strikes, with Russia not having the strength or capabilities to continue this struggle, followed by a general decline in Russian resistance and increase in NATO capabilities.

 

Russian air defense will make it hard for NATO to bomb Russian forces throughout, but in terms of pushing Russian air strikes onto NATO positions, the number of 2S6s is going to be less relevant than then number of AWACS or recent generation fighters NATO fields.  

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Still genuinely unfun for all parties.  

 

Russian helicopters have to expose themselves a fair bit more to actually engage ground targets, while Apache users and some of the other NATO CCA guys can engage very effectively from standoff, making a lot of the ADA disparity less important to who's helicopters fly where (or to further illustrate, there's less shooting back at the Russians at the short-range realm, but the Russian short range ADA assets have a lot less to shoot at).  While hunting helicopters with fixed wing assets as proven tricky historically, at the same time, you're looking chiefly at the question of the helicopter being killed by fixed wing.  On the other hand the fixed wing just has to be dangerous enough to make the rotary wing be evasive to achieve a sort of mission kill vs actually shooting the helicopter down.

 

It's also worth noting that the Hind flight profile given the size, speed and altitudes employed will put that airframe at much greater risk to air intercept compared to MI-28/KA-52 platforms.  Further unlike Russian fixed wing, barring extraordinary measures such as replacing ordinance with fuel Russian rotary wing will have to deploy forward from the kind of locations NATO would be able to attack without going onto Russian soil.  This is equally true for NATO rotary wing, but NATO for reasons stated earlier is more likely to be able to get bombs on those targets.  

 

There's not many scenarios that put Russian aviation as something US ground forces would have to be deeply concerned with on a regular basis.  On occasion yes, and scenarios with some redair are legitimate (representing a lucky Russian mission, the results of a Russian surge to achieve air parity, etc) but SU-24s stacked up to 30,000 feet and a half dozen HINDs swooping in are very dubious.  

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There's not many scenarios that put Russian aviation as something US ground forces would have to be deeply concerned with on a regular basis.  On occasion yes, and scenarios with some redair are legitimate (representing a lucky Russian mission, the results of a Russian surge to achieve air parity, etc) but SU-24s stacked up to 30,000 feet and a half dozen HINDs swooping in are very dubious.  

 

See our discussion here about the "Objective Delta" mission.  The Russian Su-25s are free to wreak havoc on US ground forces equipped with nothing more than a Stinger team.  This level of Red air superiority (possibly even air supremacy) with so little in the way of Blue AD seems profoundly unrealistic to me.  I am glad it's the exception rather than the rule when it comes to the balance of air power and AD in missions.

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Still genuinely unfun for all parties.  

 

Russian helicopters have to expose themselves a fair bit more to actually engage ground targets, while Apache users and some of the other NATO CCA guys can engage very effectively from standoff, making a lot of the ADA disparity less important to who's helicopters fly where (or to further illustrate, there's less shooting back at the Russians at the short-range realm, but the Russian short range ADA assets have a lot less to shoot at).  While hunting helicopters with fixed wing assets as proven tricky historically, at the same time, you're looking chiefly at the question of the helicopter being killed by fixed wing.  On the other hand the fixed wing just has to be dangerous enough to make the rotary wing be evasive to achieve a sort of mission kill vs actually shooting the helicopter down.

 

It's also worth noting that the Hind flight profile given the size, speed and altitudes employed will put that airframe at much greater risk to air intercept compared to MI-28/KA-52 platforms.  Further unlike Russian fixed wing, barring extraordinary measures such as replacing ordinance with fuel Russian rotary wing will have to deploy forward from the kind of locations NATO would be able to attack without going onto Russian soil.  This is equally true for NATO rotary wing, but NATO for reasons stated earlier is more likely to be able to get bombs on those targets.  

 

There's not many scenarios that put Russian aviation as something US ground forces would have to be deeply concerned with on a regular basis.  On occasion yes, and scenarios with some redair are legitimate (representing a lucky Russian mission, the results of a Russian surge to achieve air parity, etc) but SU-24s stacked up to 30,000 feet and a half dozen HINDs swooping in are very dubious.  

 

All true and fair enough. For a specific scenario a certainlevel of air superiority or contesed air space might be ssumed. To be fair the US army has not had this problem in a real war for decades and perhaps this has made them lax. A mistake that could prove costly in a real war. It is highly lkely that, after the first few weeks the USAF will indeed gain air dminance but, in the meantime, significant casualties and even some early defeats on the ground couldd be the consequences of e neglect of tactical air defece systems pre war. Many of the scenarios could take place during the early prt of the conflic before the air war is won.

 

Event then of course the airforce has to contend with the Russan SAM capability which, of course is another problem. Looking at what happened to the IF in 1973 could be a useful object lesson in what can go wrong. Altough no doubt ways would be found to defeat this Russan capability later in the conflict.

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All true and fair enough. For a specific scenario a certainlevel of air superiority or contesed air space might be ssumed. To be fair the US army has not had this problem in a real war for decades and perhaps this has made them lax. A mistake that could prove costly in a real war. It is highly lkely that, after the first few weeks the USAF will indeed gain air dminance but, in the meantime, significant casualties and even some early defeats on the ground couldd be the consequences of e neglect of tactical air defece systems pre war. Many of the scenarios could take place during the early prt of the conflic before the air war is won.

 

Event then of course the airforce has to contend with the Russan SAM capability which, of course is another problem. Looking at what happened to the IF in 1973 could be a useful object lesson in what can go wrong. Altough no doubt ways would be found to defeat this Russan capability later in the conflict.

 

Again, I will emphasize, a lack of US air control is not defacto Russian air control.  There are many forward bases available, many with their own NATO aligned air wings.  The USAF for all its faults can surge into theater pretty quickly, and odds are Russian strike fighters will have a life expectancy that makes the old cold war A-10 life expectancy seem like practically dying of old age.  

 

The USAF simply is a better trained, equipped, and more ready force.  If there's a US ABCT in the Ukraine, there's already going to be fixed wing augmentation in theater.  The most pragmatic, and realistic situation is the Russian resistance is such to force the USAF to focus on eliminating the Russian air defense threat, but the question is how long it'll take before those defenses crack, not by any rational observer if the Russians will be able to fly meaningful strike missions.

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Again, I will emphasize, a lack of US air control is not defacto Russian air control.  There are many forward bases available, many with their own NATO aligned air wings.  The USAF for all its faults can surge into theater pretty quickly, and odds are Russian strike fighters will have a life expectancy that makes the old cold war A-10 life expectancy seem like practically dying of old age.  

 

The USAF simply is a better trained, equipped, and more ready force.  If there's a US ABCT in the Ukraine, there's already going to be fixed wing augmentation in theater.  The most pragmatic, and realistic situation is the Russian resistance is such to force the USAF to focus on eliminating the Russian air defense threat, but the question is how long it'll take before those defenses crack, not by any rational observer if the Russians will be able to fly meaningful strike missions.

 

Agreed. It is likely to mean contested ar control in the early days ansd week which means Russian air strikes are going to get through fairly often. Maybe it would be reasonable to suggest the US gets air supremacy/dominance in a month or so taking into account deployment of aircraft to theatre and win he air war. This is not going to be like Desert Strm where the US had months to plan and prepare the air campaign and won it on the first night. Nor is  it ging to be like the Kossovo campaign where the air battle, such as it was was won in the first couple of days. The Russians are a very different prospect from the Serbian "B Team" And even the Serbs had some tricks up their sleeves if you remember.

 

Once the ai to air battle is won the USAF still has t duel with the Russian air defence system.

 

Sure, the US will more than likely win these fights. But it is going to take some time and, unlike the C Team Iraqis or the B Team Serbs the US will be playing against the A Team Russians.

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Russians are B team.  

 

The mental image I find more useful for this is trench warfare.  With Russian, and then the US/Ukrainian assets, the airspace on either side of the frontline is going to be supremely dangerous.  The US and Russians will at the start of the campaign be largely able to defend their airspace, but will have difficulty penetrating each other's air space.  The ability for aviation to mass rapidly, both for defense, and offense, and the ability for sensors to detect offensives at range all make again, some sort of truly contested situation where both sides are getting in a fair number of strikes to be very unlikely.   The reality is both Russian and USAF forces will be almost entirely committed to either making the skies safe enough for operation, or denying skies to same.  Until the defenses on one side are sufficiently reduced it's going to be difficult to suicidal to operate especially with the Russian generation of strike fighters.  

 

So again, contested doesn't mean the sky is shared, it means its a battlezone where it's dangerous to everyone.  And reasonably speaking given the lethality of fighting, the life expectancy of the Russian airforce as a solvent threat is pretty short.  Achieving air superiority/dominance over the Russian side of the fence will take a while, but that's because SEAD is tricky, and Russia has a lot to SEAD/DEAD.  Reasonably it'll be fairly safe for Blueforces to operate behind the various PATRIOT/CAP/other SAM networks, and it's doubtful that NATO would be on the offensive until the Russian forces were fairly well mauled.

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So again, contested doesn't mean the sky is shared, it means its a battlezone where it's dangerous to everyone.

And is most dangerous to fixed wing aircraft attempting to execute CAS missions. So nobody will be running those missions until they've won the Air-to-Air fight. And Russia won't win that fight, so won't be in a position to be running CAS for its ground-based elements. Except for some very rare and probably secondary situations (where the Russkies surge to get temporary control over airspace to hit something strategic, and have a few spare GA platforms for side jobs).

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And is most dangerous to fixed wing aircraft attempting to execute CAS missions. So nobody will be running those missions until they've won the Air-to-Air fight. And Russia won't win that fight, so won't be in a position to be running CAS for its ground-based elements. Except for some very rare and probably secondary situations (where the Russkies surge to get temporary control over airspace to hit something strategic, and have a few spare GA platforms for side jobs). 

 

Said it better than I was saying it.

 

 

 

I see people talk about jets a lot. What about helicopters? What if Russia decides to use a lot of helicopters?

 

See my Reply 13# in this thread.  BLUFF is it'd be harder than it looks, and you're still looking at them being infrequent visitors.  

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LUCASWILLEN05,

 

Things are, bluntly put, awful, but would be much better if the US bought what several of its allies already have--NASAM National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System). I deem it outrageous that the US, with its whopping defense budget, doesn't provide its ground combat troops anything more potent than Stinger before reaching way up the line to the Patriot, yet the Netherlands do, to which I might add Norway and Finland (which also has SA-11/Buk M1).  I've said it before, and I'll say it again. The US military has no real experience of being under serious air attack of its ground forces since Tunisia in very late 1942. Were there other air attacks later? Sure. But Tunisia (started mid November 1942) was where the US last felt the real lash of ground attack aircraft.

 

The Russians were under German air attack throughout WW I and clear to the end of WW II. In fact, the last known Luftwaffe combat footage was of a Ju-87G tankbuster going into action at the Oder! The Russians have also seen the devastation US air power inflicted in Korea, Vietnam, GWs I and II, also Kosovo, which wasn't, as they say, our best performance, plus Iraq post OIF and Afghanistan.The Russians had not just observers, but military advisors, military-technical experts, POW interrogators and even combat pilots and troops in both Korea and Vietnam, to name but two. They've also kept a keen eye on the 1967 War, the Yom Kippur War, Bekaa Valley and many other things in the Middle East.  Air power is a threat to them every bit as credible as a loaded pistol aimed right into their faces, and they treat it accordingly, meeting the threat at every level from AK fire on up through mobile systems capable of dealing with everything clear up to a Trident SLBM. The US military lacks the institutional memory the Russian military does,which to this day deeply studies WW II and its lessons. The US ground forces desperately need a highly capable tactical SAM to deal with a multiplicity of threats.

 

Regards,

 

John Kettler

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