|Last Updated: Fri Mar 29 10:48:39 UTC 2013|
SERBIA - The Allied Force Campaign
First published in Australian Aviation
1999 - September 1999
Unpublished Draft Part 3 October 1999
1999 - 2005 Carlo Kopp
The Strategic Context
This year has witnessed an air campaign of a ferocity not seen since the Desert Storm campaign of 1991. To the air power community, Desert Storm was the irrefutable validation of the Douhet-Mitchell doctrinal model for strategic air war. Alas, the 3 day contribution of land warfare assets was argued by detractors of air power to have been the decisive campaign asset. Since Desert Storm incorporated a land warfare component, it was not an analytically "sterile" test case and therefore left analytically dubious but nevertheless extant holes for air warfare detractors to argue the case against the primacy of air power in modern war.
Indeed, the incessant bleating which emanated from many commentators in the surface warfare community served to most effectively obscure the obvious: air power is the decisive tool in modern warfare.
Allied Force was conceived in a political context where NATO bodybags could have rapidly sunk the campaign in a cacophony of media and political criticism, therefore air power had to stand alone and by default the conditions for a "sterile" single component war became not only present, indeed they became a basic constraint to operations.
After 10 weeks of systematic air attack, Serbia was well and truly been bombed back into the preindustrial age. Arguably it will take the country two to three decades to recover its previous economic and military potential, regardless of the long term political outcome.
The Allied Force campaign has shown many strengths and weaknesses of existing Western air forces as tools for power projection and the imposition of conditions upon an uncooperative "rogue" state. Therefore there is considerable value in exploring the political, strategic, operational, tactical and technical aspects of the campaign.
The Political and Strategic Context
The byzantine ethnic and religious politics of the Balkans well and truly date back many centuries, and are a worthy subject of study within themself. Yugoslavia as an entity came into existence after the Great War, when the Balkan fragments of the AustroHungarian Empire, essentially Roman Catholic with Serbian and Muslim Slavic and Turkish minorities, were merged with the Serbian Orthodox kingdom of Serbia. Kosovo was a rural Southern province of Serbia, mainly populated with ethnic Albanian Muslims.
The Second World War saw Yugoslavia fragment, with Catholic Croatia and Slovenia, and the Muslim minorities aligning with the Third Reich, and Orthodox Serbia fighting a desperate insurgency against the Italian and later German occupiers. So great was the level of mutual animosity that a number of Waffen SS divisions were formed from Yugoslav minorities, units which fought both on the Eastern Front and in counter-insurgency operations against the Serbian nationalist/monarchist and Tito's communist partisans. A little known statistic is that by the end of WW2 57% (!) of the Waffen SS combat units comprised non-German nationals, mostly from Soviet and other European minorities, including the two partly Albanian Muslim Waffen SS divisions, Handshar and Kama, and Croatian Waffen SS divisions. These were the dedicated shock troops of the Third Reich, Himmler's cannon fodder.
This sorry tale of religious and ethnic retribution did not end with the collapse of the Third Reich, upon which German POWs were mostly killed. Also tens if not hundreds of thousands of Yugoslav minority "collaborators" and POWs were "liquidated", and in turn Tito's communists disposed of very large numbers of Serbian nationalists/monarchists who were dealt with in a similar manner. The new socialist Yugoslavia was built upon a foundation of blood drenched soil.
Tito established his own style of Stalinist regime and remained the absolute ruler until his death, ruthlessly disposing of any nationalists, be they minority or Serbian in ethnicity. The Yugoslav of the Tito era was to be a Yugoslav, and ethnicity was not to be even contemplated as an issue. In practical terms, the intense blood feuds between the three religions/cultures were pushed below the surface and denied. Thus no reconciliation could be effected, either politically or culturally.
Yugoslavia was thus a latent powderkeg, and with the death of Tito the close federation of Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Montenegro quickly began to fragment under the divergent pressures of the various ethnic groups seeking their own independence. The problem was that after centuries of cohabitation under Turkish, AustroHungarian, and later Tito's rule, there were no clear geographical boundaries between groups. Villages and cities, especially in Bosnia, comprised very frequently areas, suburbs and sections where all three religions and nationalities coexisted.
At this time Slobodan Milosevich rose to prominence in Serbia on a platform of Serbian nationalism, making his first mark with a famous speech in Kosovo, where he declared his intent to protect the local Serbian minority against the "intolerance" of the Albanian majority. The autonomy of the Albanians, tediously gained under Tito's rule, was largely revoked. The Albanians did not react well to this escalation and thus a guerilla movement, centred on the KLA, was organised to confront the Serbian police and Serbian dominated federal Vojska Jugoslavije (VJ - Army). While the bitter war raged in Bosnia, the situation in Kosovo continued to fester, moreso with the collapse of neighbouring Albania and influx of Albanian refugees from the South. Needless to say many Albanians had agendas of their own, seeking the amalgamation of traditional Albanian areas in the Balkans into a large Albanian homeland.
By the late nineties, after the successful NATO intervention in Bosnia, the Federal Yugoslav republic was but a shadow of its former self, comprising only Serbia, Montenegro and the disputed province of Kosovo, by this time in the throws of a full scale insurgency. The largely rural province with a 90% majority Albanian population was the ideal environment for a rural insurgency patterned on the Maoist or VC model, and the KLA grew in strength as the Serbian MUP (Interior Ministry Troops) and VJ conducted frequently brutal counter-insurgency and retaliatory attacks. Kosovo became in effect Serbia's Vietnam. In 7 years following the 1991 loss of autonomy, the KLA mounted 90 attacks on Serbian police targets and 20 attacks on civilians, in the first 8 months of 1998 this escalated to 616 incidents involving police, and 510 involving Serbian civilians. Western sources indicate that 74 Serbian police were KIA, 282 wounded, and 81 civilians killed.
As is frequently the case in such insurgencies, heavy handed police and military tactics in the pursuit of the insurgents merely accelerated the spiral dive into full scale civil war. With cca 70% unemployment in the backward agrarian economy of the province, there was no shortage of disaffected locals to recruit.
Milosevich as absolute ruler of the "rump Federal Republic" was himself in an increasingly weak political position, under UN sanctions and pressure from a growing Serbian democracy movement. Thus to maintain control, he required the means of producing more nationalist fervour, no differently than the generals in Buenos Aires in 1982. Kosovo was a genuine issue for the very nationalistic Serbs, since the lost battle of Kosovo Polye, South of Pristina, in 1389 AD, to the Muslim Turks, was their equivalent of our Gallipolli. Ceding Kosovo and its Serbian minority to the Albanians would be politically suicidal for Milosevich.
Outmanoeuvred by the KLA in the Rambouillet and Paris negotiations, very likely encouraged by Russian hardliners to take an intransigent position, and facing political collapse at home should he be seen to be weak on the issue, Milosevich decided to take a hard line against the KLA and destroy its power base by driving the Albanian population out. In effect they had fallen into the same trap the Axis had fallen into during their WW2 occupation of Serbia, using retribution against the civilian population as a means of breaking the local insurgency.
NATO itself was running out of political options, with the collapse of negotiations, since it was not wishing to see a repeat of the Bosnian war, with its ugly ethnic cleansing and deluge of traumatised refugees to be absorbed. Another geopolitical factor was that Western credibility in the Muslim world, earned at considerable cost in the 1991 Desert Storm campaign, was seriously damaged by the post Rabin breakdown in Israeli-Palestinian relations, and the ongoing war of attrition against Saddam Hussein. With the UN deadlocked by Russia and the PRC, the former seeking further IMF loans, the latter trade concessions, there was no prospect of the UN acting. NATO was thus in the position where not acting would damage its political credibility at home, and possibly unravel a decade of expensive political and military effort in the Muslim world. Indeed, the world's two economic and military superpowers, the US and EU, were confronted with a potential political disaster of major proportions, in terms of maintaining the political integrity of NATO and relations with the Muslim world, should they not act.
The role of Russian hardliners in this political quagmire, who clearly sought to embarrass Russian moderates and induce anti-NATO hysteria in Russia, is yet to be fully explored and documented. A good case can be made that their play to split NATO over the issue with nuclear sabre-rattling may have been part of a larger strategy, in which Milosevich was an unwitting pawn, to be sacrificed if the play failed. The play indeed failed, mostly due to Russia's virtual impotence in conventional warfighting forces, and defacto bankruptcy. The result has been the alienation of most CIS republics (it would appear that some Muslim republics actually offered the KLA volunteers !), driving them further into the NATO sphere of political influence, and a politically unified NATO, both outcomes which will serve to further accelerate the political and military decline of the last remnant of the Soviet and Tsarist Empires.
The Vojska Jugoslavije Orbat
The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia evolved a variant of the Warsaw Pact force structure and doctrine during the Tito decades, designed largely to discourage a Warsaw Pact invasion of the ilk seen in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, in 1956 and 1968 respectively. Comprehensive national service and an ongoing reserve scheme were developed, and strong mechanised land forces, patterned on the Warpac model, were built up. A large network of underground tunnels, bunkers and munitions caches were developed, exploiting the cavernous sedimentary geology of much of the region. Were the FRY to be invaded by the Warpac, its forces would vanish into heavily wooded areas and into various bunkers and tunnels, and wage a protracted war of attrition aimed at inflicting a maximum of casualties. Unlike flat Hungary, or heavily urbanised Czechoslovakia, the mountainous and largely rural FRY would subject the Warpac to a much more intensive repeat of the doctrine developed to fight the Axis during WW2. The strength of the VJ is small unit mechanised and infantry warfare, a doctrine and force structure which proved to be mostly very effective during the Bosnian and Croatian wars, until confronted with superior NATO air power, which broke the logistical support system and attrited the heavy weapons which provided such a decisive advantage against the lightly armed Croatian and Bosnian forces.
Based upon the Warpac model, the Yugoslav air defence system was built around the model of SAM systems, and interceptor aircraft, directed from a network of central GCI / Early Warning radars. Unlike Warpac doctrine, where SAM site mobility was not a central consideration, the FRY IADS developed a doctrine which emphasised movement and concealment. This doctrine evolved largely in response to the overwhelming defeat by NATO air power during the Bosnian war. SAM systems and radars would be used intermittently, sniping at aircraft only when conditions were clearly favourable for a kill. The deluge of HARMs fired in early engagements quickly taught the FRY IADS the value of EMCON, mobility and passive targeting, unlike the Iraqis who after almost a decade of exposure to Western electronic combat doctrine have only now begun to learn the game.
The FRY IADS is operated by the VJ in part, and the JRViPO or air defence forces. The former are equipped with the mobile SA-6 and SA-9, the latter mostly with the SA-3 and SA-6. An extensive network of hilltop microwave links, and optical fibre and copper cable links were built up to provide a highly redundant C3 infrastructure to support the IADS.
Western sources attributed a total of 17 ZRK Kub/Kvadrat 9M9/SA-6b batteries to the FRY, each typically with one Straight Flush mobile engagement radar, and four three round TELs. Six batteries were claimed to be deployed in Kosovo. A battery or group of batteries will be supported by a P-15 Flat Face semimobile acquisition radar, and possibly P-15M Squat Eye mast mounted variant.
The FRY SA-6 was not the original Soviet built item, with many units reported to be fitted with indigenously developed TV optical trackers to defeat jamming of the Straight Flush radar, and with a new CW illuminator design, additional radar modes, digital MTI hardware, improved warheads and fuses. So much improved, that NATO required custom emitter libraries for RWRs and DECM equipment. Some units may have been also fitted with thermal imagers, boresighted with a laser rangefinder and TV camera. Providing this is complemented with an active beacon on the missile, the aircraft under attack is provided only with the missile command uplink, inherent difficult to jam, as the only means of threat warning.
The FRY S-125 Pechora / SA-3 force was also reported to be formidable, with 15 batteries deployed, each typically with four quad semimobile launchers. Many of the Low Blow engagement radars may have also been fitted with TV and/or thermal imaging optical sights. Like the SA-6, digital MTI hardware was claimed to have been added indigenously.
Eight batteries of the obsolescent S-75 Dvina / SA-2F may or may not have been operational at the onset of hostilities. There is some evidence that these may have also been fitted with a digital MTI processor and improved receiver hardware for the Fan Song engagement radar.
The area defence SAMs were reported to be supplemented with a number of mobile 9M33 Osa /SA-8 command link guided point defence SAM systems, 130 heatseeking 9K31 Strela 1 / SA-9 systems, and a large inventory of SPAAGs and mobile AAA batteries. These are supplemented by several hundred rounds of improved SA-7B, SA-14 and SA-16 heatseeking MANPADS. The most commonly used SPAAGs are the BOV-3, with three 20 mm guns, and the sixties design Czechoslovakian Praga, with a pair of 30 mm guns. These are supplemented by a range of truck or trailer mounted AAA guns, typically of Warpac 23 mm, 37 mm and 57 mm calibres. The total count of AAA pieces cited by the US DoD was 1,850 units.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that small numbers of SA-11, SA-15 and possibly early model S-300P / SA-10A may have been deployed, although there has been little evidence of any of these systems being engaged or even encountered during operations. Indeed, for any such systems to have a major impact they must be deployed in substantial numbers.
The VJ air assets were much more modest in comparison with the SAM and AAA assets, and included about fifteen early model MiG-29 Fulcrums, some proportion of the original 300 strong FRY MiG-21 Fishbed force, and about 100 locally designed, Macchi class, Soko Super Galeb G4s. What proportion of the original FRY force of 100 older single seat Jastrebs, and dual Galebs, remained in service is unclear from available material. Around 100 SOKO/CIAR-93 Orao light strike fighters were originally in service, again the state of the force at the onset of hostilities was unclear. After many years of UN sanctions it was likely that many of these aircraft were of dubious serviceability by early this year. Pilot currency and readiness would also be a serious issue, given the high cost in fuel and manhours to operate jet aircraft. US DoD sources cited the total combat aircraft inventory at 240 airframes.
The only credible aircraft in the FRY inventory was the MiG-29 Fulcrum, of which only a very small number were available. A consignment of additional MiG-29 aircraft being smuggled from the CIS earlier this year were impounded enroute.
The Jastreb (Hawk), Galeb (Dove), Super Galeb and Orao (Eagle) could have been arguably useful in counter insurgency ground attack operations but have zero survivability if challenged by modern teen series fighters. The MiG-21 with its rudimentary radar and missile capability is simply AIM-120 fodder.
At the time of writing most of the MiG-29s had been destroyed either in aerial engagements, or by counter-air strikes, and a considerable number of other aircraft under similar conditions.
In summary, the FRY had at the onset of hostilities a respectable force of area defence SAMs, technologically in many respects very competitive against newer designs by virtue of various very recent local upgrades. The very large inventory of point defence heatseeking SAMs, MANPADS, SPAAGs and towed or truck mounted manually aimed AAA guns produced a genuine high threat environment for low flying aircraft, and slow movers.
In terms of land warfare assets, the FRY had a total of 1,270 tanks, including some relatively modern T-72s, T-74s, many obsolescent T-55s and M-84s, 825 armored fighting vehicles of various types, and 1,400 artillery pieces of various calibres. US DoD sources credited the deployed VJ force elements in Kosovo with 96 tanks in the field, and 30 garrisoned in the province.
Due to the continual flux in numbers of deployed NATO assets in theatre, a comprehensive discussion of the Orbat will be difficult until detailed figures are published and collated against dates. Therefore we will primarily focus upon the types of asset deployed.
The primary all weather heavy bombing asset was the B-2A, armed with either 16 2,000 lb GPS/inertially guided GBU-31 JDAMs (Mk.84/BLU-109) or GBU-36 GAMs (Mk.84), and optionally with up to eight 5,000 lb GBU-37 GAM (BLU-113) bunker busters. Using its APQ-181 LPI attack radar it can attack up to 16 separate aimpoints in a single pass, typically sortiing with AAR support from Whiteman AFB in the ConUS.
All weather strikes by the B-2 were supplemented by AGM-86C CALCM attacks by UK based B-52 aircraft. The CALCMs are formerly nuclear armed AGM-86Bs, with the warhead bay filled with a high energy explosive and ball bearing liner and a current technology GPS receiver fitted. With a 3,000 lb launch weight, it is likely that substantial incendiary effect is produced with residual fuel.
A number of B-52s wired for the AGM-142 SOW (currently being integrated on the RAAF F-111C AUP) were deployed to the UK in late April but no operational launches have been reported.
B-52 cruise missile attacks were modest in number, in comparison with the naval AGM-109 Tomahawk strikes from USN ships and submarines, and the RN HMS Splendid, in the Adriatic. Post strike television footage suggests that at the ranges in question the Tomahawks also provided substantial incendiary effect with unused fuel.
Battlefield heavy bombing support was provided by several B-1B aircraft deployed to the UK, capable of delivering GBU-31 JDAMs, Mk.84 and Mk.82 dumb bombs, and various cluster munition types.
The workhorse of the fighter bomber fleet was the F-15E Beagle, equipped with the Lantirn pod set, and capable of delivering the GBU-10 and -24 2,000 lb, GBU-12 and -22 500 lb, GBU-28 5,000 lb (BLU-113) laser guided bombs, and the AGM-130 rocket boosted derivative of the GBU-15 2,000 lb cruciform wing glidebomb. The AGM-130 employs GPS/inertial midcourse guidance and a two way datalink for a nose mounted TV or thermal imaging camera and command link for operator in the loop precision terminal guidance. The AGM-130 has been widely used for both bridge busting, and destroying IADS assets, and provides a genuine all weather capability by virtue of its GPS receiver.
The F-117A Nighthawk, weather limited by its thermal imaging and laser based IRADS targeting system, was used extensively to deliver the GBU-27 laser guided bomb with either Mk.84 or BLU-109 warheads. It was also reported to be the delivery aircraft for the CBU-94 carbon fibre bombs, based upon the SUU-66 cluster weapon and the BLU-114/B submunition. The BLU-114/B is a parachute retarded can containing a spool of carbon fibre thread, which is ejected by a small charge. This weapon was used to cripple the electrical grid.
Carrier based Lantirn equipped F-14 Bombcats were employed for precision strategic strikes using the GBU-10 and -24 2,000 lb weapons, together with USN F/A-18Cs shooting variants of the AGM-84E SLAM and dropping a range of laser guided bombs.
The Tornado IDS was employed by the RAF and Italian AF, the former carrying the UK TIALD pod. Tornado ECR aircraft provided by the FRG and Italy supplemented the USAF's deployment of F-16CJ/ASQ-213 as HARM shooters providing SEAD support for penetrating bombers. The jointly USN/USAF crewed and USN operated EA-6B Prowlers have provided both support jamming of IADS assets, and fired HARMs at IADS targets. These assets were supported by the RC-135 Rivet Joint and RAF E-3D AWACS providing wide area ESM coverage of VJ IADS emitters.
Battlefield strike sorties have been flown primarily by the USAF's Lantirn equipped F-16CG and RAF Harrier GR.7 aircraft, dropping typically laser guided or cluster munitions, and later the USAF A-10A and OA-10A tankbusters. The F-16CG has also been widely used for strategic strikes. The French Navy performed battlefield strikes primarily with the Super Etendard carrier based fighter.
Battlefield FAC support has been provided mostly by OA/A-10 Warthogs, with pilots frequently using binoculars to identify targets, due to the absence of electro-optical targeting equipment. Numerous UAVs were provided and reports suggest that SAS ground observers have been deployed inside Kosovo.
Some close in fire support near the Albanian border was perfomed by USAF AC-130 Spectre gunships.
Long range synthetic aperture and GMTI surface target surveillance and tracking was performed by several E-8 JSTARS aircraft deployed by the USAF. These were later supplemented by the ASARS equipped U-2S.
Fighter CAP has been performed mostly by USAF F-15Cs and Dutch F-16 aircraft, using mostly the AIM-120 AMRAAM, under E-3 AWACS control.
The lion's share of strategic strike operations have been performed by USAF and USN assets, and to a lesser degree by RAF assets, since no other NATO countries have equipped with precision guided weapons and supporting equipment.
A contingent of 24 US Army AH-64A Apaches were deployed to Albania, to provide close in anti-armour and anti-personnel attacks inside Kosovo. These however were not deployed during the campaign, ostensibly since the long ranges to be covered and high elevation did not mix well. Additional A-10s were deployed to fill the gap.
In Part 2 of this feature we will analyse the NATO campaign strategy and the Serbian defensive strategy, and the performance of many of the systems deployed.
Part 2Strategic Analysis of the Air Campaign
The Allied Force campaign has come under much criticism both during its conduct and after the cessation of hostilities. Critics have argued that the air campaign was conducted ineptly, that air power was unable to achieve the desired result, and during the campaign they argued that air power could never succeed.
Much of this criticism is itself inept, insofar as it stems from a fundamental lack of understanding of the campaign strategy, which was actually quite well thought out and very cleverly crafted to function within political constraints which would have sunk more established strategies for conducting air campaigns.
The political constraints imposed upon the campaign were from the outset aimed at minimising NATO casualties and Serbian civilian casualties. This introduced two principal constraints: attacks would be mostly performed from above the effective altitude of AAA and MANPADS, and strategic strikes would be performed only with guided munitions. This is without direct historical precedent for an air campaign of this scale, and has curiously enough produced amongst lay observers an impression of a "lightweight" campaign in comparison with the 1991 effort.
Nothing could be further from the truth, since in 1991 80-90% of the real damage was inflicted by the 10% of drops which involved guided rather than dumb munitions. For much of the 1991 campaign, this was being mostly performed by the F-117A equipped 37th TFW, and the F-111F/Pave Tack equipped 48th TFW. The total strength of this contingent was about 130 aircraft, later supplemented by a pair of TIALD prototype equipped Tornados, and several geriatric Pave Spike equipped Buccaneers.
In the Allied Force campaign, most of the aircraft performing strike sorties had a precision weapons capability, therefore any daily strike sortie count of comparable size to the daily sortie counts of the 48th and 37th in 1991 would produce a similar damage effect in terms of targets killed. With about 50% of the total Allied force sortie counts being HARM shooters, jammers, tankers and other supporting assets, the daily damage effects during the Allied Force campaign very quickly ramped up to similar levels to those seen in 1991.
This has important implications, since Serbia and Kosovo represented at the outset of the campaign a much smaller total target set than Iraq and Kuwait in 1991. The rate of cumulative damage, especially to strategic targets, during Allied Force, has been in relative terms much greater than that seen in 1991.
The Serbian IADS, despite its much higher technological refinement, much better redundancy, and vastly more disciplined and operationally competent operators, in comparison with Iraq, achieved significantly lower Allied aircraft attrition in comparison with the Iraqis in 1991. For all practical purposes, NATO refinements in electronic combat tactics and equipment rendered the Serbian IADS utterly impotent.
At the end of Week 5 of the Allied Force campaign, only two aircraft had been confirmed as losses to air defence fire, these being a single F-117A lost early int he campaign, and an F-16CG. The cause of the former has yet to be revealed, and speculation has varied widely as to the reasons behind its loss. It is fair to speculate that whatever the immediate cause of the aircraft's loss, ducking below the cloudbase for an IRADS laser shot would have been the cause of its exposure to Serbian fire.
The loss of two aircraft to enemy fire in 5 weeks of intensive, several hundred sortie a day operations, is without historical precedent and sets a new benchmark for a level of IADS impotence under attack. Clearly large scale use of stealthy aircraft, and comprehensive support jamming / HARM shooter escort for non-stealthy aircraft, has created a situation where the IADS cannot inflict attrition without suffering overwhelming attrition itself. Some reports suggest a number of blind ballistic shots having been fired on a number of occasions, a desperation tactic last seen in Linebacker II by the VNA SAM battalions.
NATO's strategy of "decapitating" the IADS by taking out the early warning, GCI and regimental acquisition radars as early as possible, with as many supporting microwave and landline C3 links and nodes, clearly yielded a big dividend operationally, since SAM batteries will not attempt to use engagement radars in a HARM shooter rich environment. Regardless of whether the effects of support jamming or the deterrent value of HARM shooters predominate, the final effect is the same: an IADS with quite good equipment, decent numbers and very crafty operators has been unable to stop the massive daily destruction of high value strategic targets. The fact that the rate of IADS SAM battery destruction was very modest merely reflects the difficulty in locating any mobile and well camouflaged target.
Whether a more aggressive strategy by the FRY IADS operators would have made a big difference is a moot point, in that exposure by emission results in most instances in the immediate loss of the battery acquisition radar by HARM or AGM-130 attack. Engage and die quickly, hide and get killed off slowly, either way achieving little or no effect. NATO owned medium and high altitude airspace from day one of the campaign. The political requirement to minimise aircraft losses meant however that low altitude tactical strikes against VJ and MUP forces in the field were effectively deterred by the high density of MANPADS and AAA.
Much has been said about the post 1991 Iraqi style philosophy of "husbanding the IADS" and trying to ensure its survival, as if such a strategy had important merits to it. A very curious argument, insofar as the purpose of an IADS is to prevent the wholesale destruction of defended assets. If the IADS survives and the targets are killed, what is its purpose ? Surviving an initial assault, and presenting an ongoing air defence threat merely means that additional SEAD/DEAD aircraft accompany any strike package, reducing the "profitability" of the strike by biting into its "economics". Given however the highly destructive and focussed effect of precision weapon deliveries, despatching additional defence suppression aircraft is not a "no go" hindrance to air operations, indeed the "economics" of the air operation still strongly favour the attacking side, in comparisons with past campaigns where dumb bombs predominated.
Combat SAR operations by NATO were highly effective, with two pilots snatched from under the noses of VJ troops within hours of the aircraft loss, with no losses reported to CSAR assets.
The general NATO campaign strategy was a graduated response model, based upon the idea of ramping up pressure by continuously increasing the rate at which damage is inflicted by increasing the sortie count, incrementally. This would appear to have been designed to progressively increase the pressure upon the Belgrade to fold. The underlying rationale is that at some point the aggregate value of infrastructure and military asset losses, and consequent loss of political credibility, becomes such that it is cheaper to concede than to continue the daily haemorrhage. Thus the aim of the strategy is coercion rather than a conventional military defeat. This has not been understood by many observers of the campaign.
However, the decision point of the targeted leader in such a strategy is contingent about the value which he places upon the maintenance of his position vs the value of the incurred losses. In the instance of Milosevich, he was clearly prepared to accept seeing his country reduced into a pre-industrial economy, which happened by about week 5 of the campaign. As the local tinpot dictator, he clearly considered that the political loss of credibility inherent in concession was far more important than seeing the country reduced to impotence possibly for decades to come.
The basic strategic rationale for the graduated response model actually owes more to fundamental Marx-Leninist doctrine for the disruption of nation states, rather than classical bombardment strategy. The Marx-Leninist doctrine described originally in the "State and the Revolution" revolves around the idea of destroying the credibility of a government in the eyes of its populace by making it appear to be impotent, while concurrently attacking its power base, such as its police, military and industrial base. The Marxist model envisages that this be done by guerilla warfare, sabotage and subversion.
Allied Force will be historically important since it is the first time this game has been played using air power as the means of disruption and destabilisation of the target government.
The last weeks of the campaign saw growing public unrest in Serbia, as the population came to grips with the reality that their leader was content to stand by while the economy which kept them fed was being reduced to rubble. Faced with the prospect of a popular revolt, Milosevich and his leadership accepted the primary Western demands and after some haggling to save face, essentially conceded all. Indeed the terms of the ceasefire went well beyond the conditions demanded prior to the conflict.
We have yet to see the final fallout from the campaign inside Serbia, at the time of writing a number of mass demonstrations were being reported. This is indeed direct proof of the destabilising effect of a carefully focussed air campaign upon a target nation state. Whether the Milosevich regime survives Allied Force in the longer term remains to be seen.
This issue is likely to become a major item for future strategic debate - rogue states governed by local dictators, examples being Saddam or Milosevich, will frequently exhibit highly irrational strategic behaviour and be prepared to accept disproportionate losses providing that their internal power structures survive. The answer to this is of course to focus future air campaigns in a manner which most directly threatens what is of value to the local dictator - his power base and credibility in the eyes of the populace.
The NATO strategy developed a stronger focus on the core power structures supporting the government when it appeared that the strategic campaign was not yielding the desired response early enough. However we should consider that any campaign based upon the attrition of an opponent will take time to produce a response which is visible and measurable.
In terms of targeting strategy, the model used drew on established doctrine. POL, military industrial complex and supporting industry, and main communication chokepoints, ie road and rail bridges, were priority targets from the beginning of the campaign.
Concurrently fielded forces in Kosovo were attacked, either directly or via their supporting logistical system.
The lay media have made much mileage from the issue of "airpower being unable to stop ethnic cleansing inside Kosovo". This is only partly true, insofar as the high mobility of the units in question, who employ personnel carriers and supporting armour, becomes significantly reduced with marauding strike fighters overhead and a limited fuel supply available.
By the same token, low density target sets such as small groups of vehicles, interspersed between massive columns of fleeing refugees, and hostile troops on foot, have traditionally been amongst the most difficult targets for aircraft to locate, identify and cleanly kill. The mere expectation that a hastily cobbled air armada can produce instant large scale effects in such a context is ridiculous. Ultimately, the mass killing of civilian non-combatants can be be performed by troops on foot with hand weapons, even if less efficiently than with armour and artillery support.
However, the use of ground forces against a highly motivated if not fanatical opponent, heavily militarised, well trained, with substantial combat experience, local knowledge of terrain, and well refined small unit infantry tactics, is always a costly proposition. In effect, such an opponent must be burned out of each and every foxhole, not unlike the Japanese Army and German Waffen SS troops in the latter phase of WW2. Indeed the whole VJ doctrine for deterring Warpac invasion was predicated upon exactly this paradigm, with the knowledge that the Warpac would have been stretched to deliver the required firepower and manpower to succeed whilst maintaining their force balance against NATO.
Sound military planning requires that should a surface assault be conducted, extensive battlefield preparation by air is required, and overwhelming numbers of ground assets be used to quickly crush opposing forces and mop up units which disperse into the countryside to continue the fight, before they can regroup properly and do ongoing damage. Even so, thousands of ground troops could be lost.
In the context of the Kosovo campaign, the arguments for ground force use to stop ethnic cleansing, espoused by some US and European politicians, some analysts, and widely promoted by much of the lay media, lack serious credibility. The historical experience of WW2 was that the Japanese accelerated the slaughter of POWs and civilians, as the Nazis accelerated the slaughter of concentration camp inmates, when Allied forces closed in for the final kill. The threat of impending land assault typically resulted in an immediate frenzy of killing. In this instance the outcome would have differed very little, in terms of civilians killed.
Therefore NATO had very limited choices in terms of how to conduct the campaign, and air power was the only tool available at short notice which offered any hope of success with a modest or low NATO bodybag count, a defacto political brick wall for NATO.
Is the "inability" of air power to deal with such scenarios inherent ? The answer is no, since what difficulties were encountered were primarily the result of using sensors and weapons which are optimised for killing concentrated land warfare assets such as mechanised infantry / armour formations and artillery.
The basic technology exists to hunt down dispersed small unit land forces, but it requires much further development to bring it up to a deployable combat capability. Examples of such technology are DIAL Lidar sensors, capable of picking up chemical traces of parts per million, hyperspectral infrared imaging sensors, arrays of air dropped seismic and acoustic sensors, microwave seismic sensors, foliage penetrating radar, sensor fusion algorithms which can blend the outputs of many sensors. There is much remote sensing technology which can be applied to this task should the political will exist to make the investment.
In terms of weapons technology, the low collateral hard kill against armour and vehicles can be achieved by simple kinetic energy weapons, such as inert guided bombs, which however do require much better CEP performance than current seekers provide. With such technologies it becomes entirely feasible to push down the size of the smallest detectable target worth engagement, by a decent margin over existing technology, and engage such targets despite the use of "human shields".
One of the consequences we can expect from this campaign is that rogue states will reshape their doctrine to emphasise the dispersion of assets, be they armour, personnel, fuel, munitions and all other items required for the conduct of war. We can expect a further to colocate military and civilian assets, to improve the "human shield" effect. Any asset which is concentrated in time and space is highly vulnerable to air power, which they are unable to challenge directly. Therefore our existing base of reconnaissance and surveillance tools will need to be improved to defeat this change in paradigm. The hiding of the Serbian IADS and dispersal of armour inside Kosovo is a key indicator that the paradigm is under way already.
Probably the biggest lesson we have learned from this campaign is that the limitations of air power at this time lie primarily in sensor and weapons technology, and this we will explore further in Part 3 of this series.
Lessons from the Campaign
The Allied Force campaign was by any measure a milestone in the conduct of air warfare, seeing the first large scale use of guided weapons as the primary munition delivered. Two areas of current technology performed above expectations - these were GPS guided weapons and stealthy bombers.
In this final part of this series we will discuss these weapons, and lessons for the ADF.
The Ascendancy of GPS
The biggest winner in the Allied Force campaign was the GPS guided weapon. The combination of intensive low altitude air defence fire and frequently very poor weather resulted in a situation where laser guided weapons became very frequently unusable, with aircraft returning from sorties with unexpended weapons.
Only two assets were capable of unrestricted all weather guided weapon deliveries, the F-15E Beagle and the much maligned Northrop B-2A Stealth Bomber. Both of these aircraft are equipped with excellent high resolution synthetic aperture radars, and both delivered weapons with GPS/inertial guidance, allowing targets to be accurately hit from well above a solid overcast.
The weight of fire delivered by these two assets was heavily supplemented in the early days of the campaign by B-52 launched AGM-86C CALCMs and naval BGM-109 Tomahawks, both weapons employing GPS/inertial guidance.
The F-15E employed the AGM-130 for such attacks, relying upon the GPS/inertial guidance of the weapon to get it close enough for the nose seeker to be locked onto the final aimpoint, with the confidence that should a lock not be achieved, the GPS accuracy would be adequate for most targets.
The stunning success of the B-2 is a big win for the Northrop engineering team, who under John Cashen's leadership during the early nineties pioneered the GPS guided bomb concept and developed the GAM/GATS GPS based targeting system for the aircraft. They rightfully argued, against much opposition, that the great benefit of stealth is mostly eroded if the aircraft has to drop to very low level to deliver a laser guided weapon in inclement weather. As the loss of the F-117A early in the campaign proved, this argument was entirely correct.
Curiously, the proposed F-117B upgrade was to have seen the aircraft fitted with an LPI radar and using GPS guided bombs. As this upgrade was cancelled, the aircraft is limited to laser guided weapons with all of the weather related tactical and operational encumbrances that entails.
The USAF refined their operational doctrine for the use of GPS. The accuracy of a GPS position fix can vary quite strongly due to the Geometrical Dilution of Precision (GDOP) effect, whereby a geometrically unfavourable combination of satellite positions results in an increase in the error resulting from solving the set of four pseudorange equations. Mindful of this, the USAF produced a computer program which calculated the GDOP error in time, over Serbia and Kosovo, to determine apriori those times when the GDOP error was greatest every day. This information was in turn distributed to operational planners and units, to ensure that planned weapon times on target were selected for those times when the GDOP error in the area was the lowest. In this manner the best possible accuracy was extracted from the GPS guided weapons in use.
GDOP based planning will remain a useful technique for most of the coming decade, until all weapons are modified to employ the planned WAGE wide area differential GPS scheme, which is accurate down to tens of centimetres.
The growing reliance of the USAF upon the JDAM dropping B-2 very quickly bit into the modest weapon stocks built up, and the USAF one week into the campaign instructed Boeing to double the JDAM production rate, later triple it, and then increase it tenfold. The expectation was that by June this year the production rate would exceed the operational demand for the weapon.
The AGM-130 production line had been stopped, in anticipation of the new JASSM entering service. It is now to be restarted, and a large number of guidance kits delivered also as cheaper, unpowered Improved GBU-15 glidebomb kits.
The AGM-86C CALCM stocks were largely depleted in the first fortnight of the campaign, and the USAF instructed Boeing to accelerate the delivery rate on outstanding orders for the conversion of older AGM-86B airframes into this configuration. There is serious speculation at this time that the USAF will opt for new build AGM-86C airframes, in preference to a stretched JASSM, using contemporary production technology to make a much cheaper and purely conventional weapon. The subtype used mostly in the campaign was the Block I weapon (200 conversions), with a second generation GPS receiver, and a higher energy explosive in the warhead. It is unclear from published accounts whether any of the weapons used were of the newer Block IA configuration (163 conversions planned by 2001), with WAGE provisions, a high performance anti-jam GPS receiver and software for terminal dive attacks. The AGM-86D Block II variant is to employ a penetration warhead, using either the UK 1000 lb BROACH, or the LMC AUP-3M hardened casing penetrator, with increased range due to the more compact new technology guidance package.
The attraction in new build Block II/III CALCMs is that the R&D and clearance testing overheads of a well proven airframe are trivial in comparison with re-engineering the low observable JASSM to achieve the required stretch / fuel capacity increase. The superlative range performance of the CALCM, much better than the Tomahawk, and it ability to penetrate most existing air defences, other than SA-10 batteries with mast mounted Clam Shell and Flap Lid radars, a rare and expensive commodity, mean that for most campaigns it is likely to be a much cheaper and more effective weapon than the Tomahawk. At 3,250 lb launch weight it would be limited to the B-52 and B-1B, but this is an incidental issue since the standard JASSM is to be used by tactical fighters.
A weapon which has seen considerable use, albeit little publicised, is the USN's SLAM and its variants, a land attack Harpoon variant using GPS midcourse and thermal imaging / datalink terminal guidance. Fired by the F/A-18C/D, this weapon is essentially an miniature short range cruciform wing cruise missile.
The Raytheon AGM-154 JSOW was blooded in the Desert Fox campaign, and is a gliding submunition dispenser, using GPS/inertial guidance. There are some reports of its use in the Allied Force campaign.
The GBU-22/24 Enhanced Paveway III, with a GPS receiver added to the proportional navigation laser seeker, is another emerging GPS guided weapon. The GPS output is used to provide an optimal trajectory for best possible range or impact energy, while also providing the weapon with high accuracy even should the laser illumination be interrupted or denied. During the campaign there was much speculation as to whether delivery schedules for the first of these weapons, planned for Q3 this year, would be accelerated to see first use in the campaign. This did not eventuate.
There is overwhelming evidence now that GPS is supplanting the more conventional forms of guidance. The ubiquitous laser guided bomb is now becoming a niche fair weather weapon to be used mostly for battlefield interdiction against low unit value moving targets, and strategic targets where higher accuracy than provided by the baseline JDAM is required. The embarrassment incurred in the early phase of the Allied Force campaign, where media publicly criticised NATO air forces over their inability to drop LGBs through weather, will see the rate of conversion to GPS accelerate.
The Primacy of Stealth
The other big winner from the Allied Force campaign is stealth. The tenacity of the FRY IADS, which through concealment, passive targeting techniques and clever tactics resisted annihilation in the first three days of the campaign, created a situation where every non-stealthy strike package penetrating FRY air space required support jammer and HARM shooter support. Up to 60% of sorties in this campaign involved supporting assets, of which a large proportion were EA-6Bs and F-16CJs.
This situation will not improve, since the Russians are now widely marketing technology upgrade packages for the SA-2 and SA-3 SAMs, using components from newer systems such as the SA-10. Equipped with a package of Flap Lid, Clam Shell and Tin Shield radars, and using modern digital command link technologies, the geriatric Guideline and Goa SAMs become a serious proposition again. While they may lack the superlative kinematic performance of the SA-10 and SA-12, they make up for this in sheer numbers deployed worldwide. With SA-11 components being marketed as upgrades for the no less ubiquitous SA-6 mobile SAM, this means that much of the established electronic combat advantages held by the West over older generation Soviet SAM designs will be progressively eroded over coming years.
In such an environment, where sustained high intensity operations are required, stealth aircraft dropping GPS guided bombs produce an economic advantage which very quickly offsets any price differentials in a volume purchase situation. Indeed a USAF briefing in the 5th week of the campaign pointed out that the operating costs per flying hour of the B-2A were very close to that of the F-15E, by virtue of the aircraft's superb fuel efficiency and reliable avionics. Dropping $20,000 JDAMs instead of quarter of a million dollar AGM-130s, to achieve similar effect, also contributes enormously to the bang per buck equation.
The B-2 is anomalous in costs only because the planned buy of 132 aircraft was chopped down to 21 airframes, thereby dumping a USD 30B R&D overhead for basic technology on to a handful of airframes (this is indeed also the crux of the ongoing spat between Congress and the USAF over F-22 production funding - lay observers seem unable to grasp this issue). In general, at equal production volumes, a stealth aircraft costs about 25-40% more than a conventional competitor. However, if you are deploying twice as many conventional aircraft to do exactly the same job, by virtue of HARM shooter and jammer overheads, then that 25-40% cost disadvantage vanishes very quickly indeed. The alternative of shooting USD 1M cruise missiles with tiny 750 lb warheads, becomes equally uneconomical if you must bombard your opponent for several weeks if not months.
The tactical and operational model of the B-2, penetrating above 30,000 ft in any weather, dropping multiple GPS guided bombs in a single pass, with no supporting HARM shooters, no jammers, no fighter escort CAPs, is the paradigm of the future. Its success in this campaign clearly vindicates the USAF's commitment to the F-22 and JSF, both stealth aircraft.
The issue of the lost F-117A is worth examination here - it has provided much fodder for opponents of stealth. The aircraft was lost after it sustained unspecified damage by Serbian air defence fire. Given that the aircraft has a negligible radar cross section in the 10 GHz band where both the SA-3 Low Blow, and SA-6B Straight Flush operate, the hit on the aircraft could have only been via optical/laser tracking, or blind barrage AAA or SAM fire. Any of these factors, combined with the need to descend below the cloud to laser paint the aimpoint, clearly indicate that the aircraft was being operated within the "trash fire" low altitude envelope. Therefore it was by operational employment placed in an environment where its stealth could not protect it.
Being invisible to radar guided weapons is of no relevance if you fly the aircraft into barrage AAA fire or close enough for an optically guided system to see it. So opponents of stealth, sorry, but this is a very lame case to argue !
Readers interested in further strategic analysis of the campaign are advised to read Dr Alan Stephens' excellent paper, entitled "Kosovo, or the Future of War" (RAAF APSC WP77, August 1999).
Lessons for the ADF
The lessons for the ADF from this campaign are clear. The first is that the RAAF's strategy of using precision guided munitions for most tasks has been proven now beyond the faintest shadow of a doubt to be correct, and optimal for a small strike force. The RAAF force of 72 PGM capable F/A-18s, and 35 ultimately PGM capable F-111s, provides in total a similar amount of iron delivery punch to that used in the early weeks of the Allied Force campaign. This is in both wider regional and absolute terms a credible capability and with robust tanker support for both types, brings the RAAF into the league of a serious player.
The second important lesson is that GPS guided weapons are a robust and economical means of precision or accurate delivery which is now mature enough for wide scale combat use. The AIR 5409 Bomb Improvement Program is essential, and should not be delayed. The sooner every RAAF Hornet and Pig can carry the JDAM, the better. The longer the ADF is wedded to laser guided weapons alone, the more vulnerable it is to a situation where it may have to expose its numerically modest assets to barrage AAA and MANPADS, should the weather be unfavourable.
In this context the "precision weaponisation" of the F-111G under AIR 5404 should be expedited, and should incorporate the weapons chosen under AIR 5409.
The third important lesson is that the economics of sustained air campaigns strongly favour the combination of stealthy aircraft and low cost (~$20k/round) GPS guided munitions, against the "established" model of non-stealthy aircraft and expensive $1M standoff munitions. Sustainability of bombardment is compromised with the increasing cost per guided munition. While cruise missiles and standoff missiles have an important role to play, they cannot compete with a stealthy bomber and a GPS guided bomb if the duration of the bombardment runs beyond a few weeks. The USAF's experience with the defacto exhaustion of AGM-86C CALCM stocks toward the end of the first month of the Balkans campaign should be lesson to our home grown cruise missile lobby. Stealth and cheap munitions is without doubt a cheaper strategy should operations extend beyond a fortnight to month.
The fourth important lesson, one which the RAAF is painfully aware of, but which seems to be lost on many in the defence establishment not wearing blue uniforms, is that electronic combat capability can be the decisive factor in the success or failure of a major campaign. The unprecedented low loss rate of the Allied Force campaign is a direct result of NATO's overwhelming numerical and technological superiority over the FRY IADS, despite its use of heavily upgraded Soviet technology. Without current and rapidly adaptable countermeasures, non-stealthy aircraft survivability is seriously impaired.
In this context, the delays seen in the F-111 component of the Echidna program are of serious concern, and the planned interim podded capability is arguably a non-solution to the problem. In hindsight the decision to amalgamate the F-111 EW upgrade with the transport and helicopter upgrades was clearly a strategic blunder, and should be a serious lesson for our policy making bureaucrats in the folly of trying to bundle too many diverse requirements into a single package. The historically proven result of such strategies is requirement "bloat", which in turn results in often large increases in engineering overheads, costs and delays to deployment, as has been the case in this instance. With the ALQ-165 (F-14, F/A-18C/D, EA-6B, F-16C) and IDECM (F/A-18E/F and B-1B) both in the pipeline for various USN F/A-18 variants, amalgamating the F/A-18 and F-111 DECM upgrades would have worked better, happened faster, and be much cheaper in the long run.
Another aspect of the electronic combat game which is becoming increasingly clear is that proper support jamming will continue to be essential in the absence of stealthy strike aircraft. Where an opponent is clever and avoids prolonged emission, the choice of killing him with a HARM shot may not arise, and "soft kill" via a standoff support jamming aircraft becomes essential. While onboard trackbreaking ECM on strike aircraft may do a good job of confusing engagement radars and missile seekers, it is simply not designed to jam GCI, early warning, and battery acquisition radars, typically operating well below the 10 GHz band. The RAAF has never had a support jamming capability against GCI, early warning, and battery acquisition radars and this continues to be a serious hole in our nation's capabilities.
Can this be remedied ? With 30 USAF EF-111A Ravens now collecting dust in the boneyard, retired only last year, the acquisition of half a dozen of these aircraft at bargain basement price, and introduction into the 82 WG Orbat, is entirely within the ADF's budgetary reach (refer July 1999, Australian Aviation, "Ravens for the RAAF ?").
To convince the sceptics, a good case can be made for bringing a pair of EF-111As to Amberley, borrowing a pair of USAF EF-111A qualified EWOs, taking out a short term support contract with the ALQ-99E maker, and trialling the aircraft in the next major air defence exercise or two.
The fourth important lesson is that prestrike reconnaissance and post strike bomb damage assessment are now pretty much the limiting constraint in the achievable targeting cycle, and thus operational tempo which can be sustained. However accurate PGMs may be, without targeting intelligence of high quality, much of their potential cannot be exploited. As noted in last year's F-111 upgrade series, this is a serious weakness in the RAAF's current force structure.
NATO scraped through the Allied Force campaign by virtue of the US' capable and diverse inventory of high resolution imaging satellites, SAR equipped E-8 JSTARS and U-2 aircraft, and the excellent human knowledge base of FRY assets, available in the region. No such assets are directly available to the ADF, and only in coalition operations with the US would be accessible.
Deployment of a couple of flights of the massive RQ-4A Global Hawk UAV, each with a 24 hour on station endurance at 3,000 NMI would go a long way toward solving the pre/post strike recce problem. But a "robot U-2" has its own limitations, and is not an asset which can be flown into contested airspace defended by SA-10 batteries and Su-27/30 fighters and be expected to survive. With a combination of high resolution SAR and imaging sensors, it can be a very potent tool. But long range high altitude SAR and optical sensor operation is limited by terrain shadowing at shallow slant angles, and a low cloudbase can blind optical sensors just like those of a satellite. UAVs like Global Hawk are therefore extremely useful, but not a panacea. In many situations a fast jet will still be required to sneak in under the cloud and around elevated terrain to bring home the pictures.
The notion that only four strike recce F-111s can produce the volume of pre and post strike imaging reconnaissance required to support the whole SRG, and the TFG, in sustained high tempo operations, stretches the credulity of any modestly knowledgeable observer, let alone an expert. The existing number of 4 recce birds to support the whole force is a legacy of the period of blind radar bomb deliveries, where multiple sorties were required to achieve serious damage effects.
With the emerging technology of GPS guided bombs with high energy explosives, and single pass multiple aimpoint capability, a single F-111 can deliver the effect of several sorties using LGBs, or many sorties using dumb bombs. This means, in the simplest of terms, that a prestrike and poststrike recce sortie may be required to support one or two strike sorties against a given package of aimpoints. Thus the ratio of required recce sorties to strike sorties may be as high as 2:1, and could be expected to be frequently about 1:1. For sustained high tempo operations, using the SRG to provide recce support for the SRG, on average 50% or more of sorties must be dedicated to prestrike and poststrike recce. Using a Global Hawk for some proportion of prestrike and poststrike recce merely adjusts this percentage, by covering those targets not deep inside defended airspace.
Whether the sensor is a high resolution synthetic aperture radar, or an infrared or visible band LOROP camera, the problem is still the same - conservatively at least half of the SRG must have some useful recce capability, if recce is not to become the bottleneck in operational tempo. This is indeed where the issue of "Knowledge Edge" bites. Without the knowledge provided by prestrike and poststrike recce, much of the capability of the force cannot be exploited. With very fussy media, public and political expectations of low collateral damage, there is little room to manoeuvre here, moreso given the binding legal commitments we have made to LOAC.
What is the cheapest and most effective strategy for implementing this ? There are no trivial answers. Putting a high resolution SAR attack radar in the nose of half of if not every one of the SRG F-111C/G aircraft would alleviate much of this problem, but does not resolve issues with targets which are hard to identify and assess damage upon using SAR. Fitting a number of aircraft with LOROP imaging systems fills this gap, but is weather limited, and expensive. Upgrading the Pave Tack pods with a very high quality modern technology FLIR provides a useful capability, but is again weather limited. It would seem that the best strategy would be some combination of Global Hawk and all three F-111 modification measures. Whichever way the problem is cut, we are ultimately up against the basic issue of needing several times the recce capability which was adequate in times past.
For proponents of small UAVs, it should be noted that all of the above applies. Indeed unless the UAV can transit and penetrate contested airspace at 550 KT, then even larger numbers of UAVs may be required, in comparison with recce capable F-111s. Alternately, UAVs capable of survivably loitering for long periods in contested airspace may be necessary. The issue of providing the required datalink bandwidth to support such UAVs remains unresolved, and whilst excellent technological solutions do exist, none are as yet operationally deployed.
With the distinct possibility of Indonesia suffering Balkanisation in coming years, and the ongoing political one-upmanship and arms race between the PRC and India causing problems throughout the wider region over the next two decades, having the ability to see what is happening will be vital if our political leadership is to be usefully in the loop. Should the ADF need to conduct combat operations, then the previously stated applies.
In summary, the Allied Force campaign tells us nothing we have not known for some time now, but it does provide irrefutable proof of this for those naysayers and air power sceptics who choose to ignore reality. Australia's air power is its best military asset, but requires ongoing investment and effort to maintain its relative capability in an increasingly unstable and militarised part of the world.
For the RAAF this means that should we choose to remain competitive, we need to expedite most current programs and move ahead into the brave new world of knowledge intensive strike warfare, electronic combat and stealth.
|Artwork and text © 2004 Carlo Kopp|
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