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Air to Ground Combat Tactics: Use of PGM on night and poor visibility


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Dec 29, 2005
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The following article was published on the April 1990 edition of Aviatsia i Kosmomavtika, the service journal of the Soviet Air Force. It deals with the use of the precission guided munitions on poor weather and night, while it doesn't mentions /explicitely/ the Su-24M and MiG-27K/Su-17M4, from the description is pretty obvious..

"Combat Training: Viewpoints, Suggestions," by Military Pilot 1st Class Col V. Bragin, candidate of military sciences, docent: "In More Complex Conditions"]

Modern bombers, fighter-bombers, and ground-attack aircraft are armed with guided weapons in various modifications, with laser and TV seekers, and particu¬larly guided missiles and "smart" bombs. When these weapons are used, strike aircraft have considerably greater capabilities to destroy enemy targets.

The experience of local wars and armed conflicts indi¬cates, however, that guided weapons of this category have been employed for the most part during daylight in VFR conditions, extremely rarely at night with target illumination, and they have been employed practically not at all in conditions of limited visibility. In the two latter instances this has been due to difficulty in visual target search and tracking with the laser and TV target engagement system's video monitoring device, as well as very frequently the impossibility of strike delivery due to target detection after passing the "smart" bomb release point or missile launch point. For this reason the search for tactics and modes of actions involving the employ¬ment of guided weapons in conditions of limited visi¬bility and poor light conditions constitutes an urgent problem for frontal aviation strike aircraft.

Combined employment by aircrews of targeting radar (RPO), sighting optics (PPV), and laser and TV weapon sights can be considered one focal area in the develop¬ment of tactics, while combined operations by aircraft elements of different types can be considered a focal area in development of modes of actions. The former pre¬sumes that when aiming, the RPO, PPV, and LTPS crosshair reticles are placed on the same point. Superim-position error should not exceed 4 minutes of angle. Then, after "referencing" with the RPO or PPV and switching on the optical laser (OKG), the laser beam is directed to the target and the LTPS will "illuminate" it, following the target with sighting reticle and operating either in "program-corrected" tracking (PKS) or auto¬matic correction tracking (AKS) mode. This enables the crew to effect guided weapon launch (release) with target engagement by RPO (PPV) until the target is detected with the LTPS, or without a target image on the VKU display with an inadequate light level.

Employment of guided weapons with target engagement by RPO is possible if the aircraft remains within the target engagement system search sector right up to guid¬ance termination. Analysis of RPO and LTPS zones of visibility and areas of possible missile launch and guided bomb release (see Figure 1 in following article) indicates that missile guidance and launch is not assured at low altitudes and at close range. Optimal conditions are range in excess of 5.5 km and altitude from 200 to 1,500 meters. "Smart" bomb guidance, however, is performed throughout the range of release heights. The seeker should lock on the laser spot no later than 10-11 seconds before burst.

Tactics have been devised in conformity with the above-stated possibilities of combined employment of targeting and target engagement systems, for delivery of strikes by frontal-aviation bombers delivering "smart" bombs, when the target is detected with the LTPS following bomb release using the RPO. When striking an airfield, for example, when the strike aircraft approaches to a distance of 20-25 km, it climbs to bomb release height, aims to the runway (or to an aiming-off point) by radar, releases the bomb and simultaneously switches on the optical laser (see Figure 2 in following article). The LTPS operates in PKS or AKS mode. When the target appears on the VKU, the systems operator, with the MUP [expansion unknown], places the crosshair reticle on the target and holds it there, continuing bomb guidance right up to the moment of burst.

If strike target light level and contrast are insufficient for detection with the LTPS, particularly at night, the bomber crew can employ missiles with laser seeker, aiming only with RPO (see Figure 3 in following article). In this case missiles are launched from a shallow dive at long range and from a height of 2,500-3,000 meters, with LTPS switched on. The RPO crosshair reticle is held precisely on the target until detonation, while guidance is by optical laser, but with an accuracy determined by aiming system alignment error.

Guided bombs, however, cannot be employed in these conditions or when released from within or above clouds from a single aircraft, since at a certain moment the target leaves the RPO field of view, and LTPS target tracking breaks. Illumination of the target with an optical laser carried by another aircraft is a solution to the problem, however (see AVIATSIYA I KOSMONAVTIKA, No 2, 1990). The other aircraft should reach the laser switch-on point 10-11 seconds before bomb deto¬nation.
With this strike delivery variation, the lead aircraft drops the guided bomb, while the wingman illuminates the target. Both aircraft employ radar aiming. In order to reach the optical-laser switch-on point at the proper time, the wingman follows behind the leader at a dis¬tance of deltaD, holding this distance using the RSBN-6S [local radio navigation system] in intercept mode. The distance is calculated as follows: deltaD=VwiTgb+Drmin-A+2sd rsbn, where Vwi—airspeed of wingman; Tgb and A—guided bomb time of fall and carry; Drmin— minimum range at which target is visible to wingman in radar bombsight (Np+1 km); sd rsbn—error in main¬taining distance between aircraft with RSBN-6S.
The wingman should proceed on final target heading under cloud cover. Cloud bases should not be below 800-900 meters in order to ensure bomb guidance in the terminal phase, during the last 10-11 seconds before burst.

Fighter-bombers and ground-attack aircraft which are not equipped with radar target engagement systems employ guided weapons at night principally on illumi¬nated targets. Figuring that intensity of illumination should be not less than 2,000 lux, even with visibility of 10 km and more it will be necessary to drop up to 30-50 illumination flares. They form a masking background, however, in conditions of obscuring dust and smoke, making visual detection of the target difficult and at times impossible.

Capabilities to employ guided weapons are significantly enhanced if they carry a passive TV correlation seeker. Under these conditions guided bombs can be employed with a terrain illumination level of not less than 40-50 lux. This level is present at dusk, while during hours of darkness sufficient intensity of illumination can be pro¬duced with from 10 to 12 parachute flares (with visibility (meteorological) of 10 km), which will require two or three illumination aircraft. Targets marked in advance with aircraft-dropped parachute signal flares can also be hit with guided bombs with a correlation-type seeker. For this it will be necessary to establish in the target area a cluster consisting of at least three points of illumina¬tion, taking into consideration the specific operating features of the guidance system.

If the level of illumination at dusk and at night is sufficient or if the target is illuminated, one can employ guided missiles with laser seeker against it, with an optical target engagement system. Following visual detection of the target, the pilot places the crosshair reticle on it and "references the target"; he then keeps the aiming mark on it. When the optical laser is switched on, the laser beam will illuminate the target and guide the missile, but with an error determined by optical sight and LTPS adjustment accuracy. A strike using this method will require an illumination aircraft and a strike aircraft at night, and strike aircraft alone at dusk.

Employment of guided weapons by aircraft from dif¬ferent frontal-aviation components is also possible in combined missions. Bombers equipped with the most accurate integrated targeting and navigation system should fly as mission leaders for the other strike ele¬ments, marking or illuminating specified targets with RPO target engagement, as well as providing guided weapons guidance with LTPS. The fighter-bombers and ground-attack aircraft will release (launch) their guided weapons at the leaders' command at an illuminated or marked target. Depending on the situation, bombers can function both as leaders and can concomitantly carry out their primary mission.

Figure 4 (see following article) shows a variation of strike on an enemy airfield by multiple-component forces. The bomber elements are headed for assigned targets located at operational depth, but they are routed across the fighter-bombers' target. All elements in a common for¬mation maintain visual contact and are escorted by jammer aircraft and fighters. Upon approaching the target airfield, the bomber flight climbs to 3,000 meters and opens up to lateral spacings of 600-800 meters. The fighter-bombers attach to their leaders in pairs. The bomber-leaders place their radar aiming point on the runway and give the command to the other aircraft to release their guided bombs. After this the fighter-bombers descend to low level and return to base, while the bombers continue on to their target area.

The second flight of bombers, trailing the first flight by distance deltaD, maintained by RSBN-6S or visually, also place their radar aiming point on the runway and, with switched-on optical laser, guide the bombs released by the fighter-bombers. Four target damage areas form on the runway, and the airfield is knocked out of operation. At the moment of bomb burst the bombers break from the target and proceed to their own targets. This procedure of delivering a strike by multiple-component forces makes it possible for fighter-bombers to employ guided weapons with limited visibility and illumination. In addition, the force of supporting aircraft is reduced, and when elements fly in a common forma¬tion, favorable conditions are ensured for air defense penetration.

Depending on range of launch (release), probable error can increase by a factor of 1.5 to 2 in comparison with standard errors for an LTPS. In any case, however, they remain smaller by a factor of 5 to 10 than in the case of unguided weapons. Nevertheless all sighting systems should be aligned as accurately as possible.

In order to confirm the above, calculations were made to determine the required forces to destroy a river crossing facility in a night strike. Frontal-aviation bombers employ guided missiles (LTPS, RPO, and LTPS target engagement) or high explosive fragmentation bombs (RPO aiming), while the fighter-bombers drop bombs (optical bombsight aiming only).

Based on results, effectiveness of strike aircraft actions with guided weapons delivery and combined employ¬ment of sighting systems proves to be half that when direct LTPS target engagement is employed, but effec¬tiveness is five to nine times that achieved with gravity bombs. It is therefore advisable to test the proposed tactics and modes of frontal-aviation actions during limited visibility and at night by means of an in-air experiment, to refine and detail the manner and proce¬dure of execution, and extensively to adopt these tactics in the practical combat training of Air Force line units.

Figure 1. Boundaries of Zones of Visibility With RPO and LTPS, Guided Missile Launch Range and Guided Bomb
Release Range Envelopes.

Key: 1. Boundary of aircraft location at moment of guided bomb detonation 2. Commencement of guidance 3. From LTPS 4. Boundary of zone of visibility with RPO 5. Guided bomb carry path, no-wind conditions 6. Guided bomb release range envelope 7. Guided missile launch range envelope 8. Required for guided bomb release with LTPS 9. LTPS switch-on point for guided missile.

Hope you enjoyed! :D


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Jan 26, 2006
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Pit, you have returned me in the early 1990s, when I was under 20 and bough every issue of Aviatsia i Kosmonavtika. The really interesting ones were these from 1991-93, when there were many features on topics previously deemed as secret .
So, these were quite intersing these times, but now, a lot of pilot stories are available how they actually used this stuff in combat.


ACCESS: Confidential
Dec 29, 2005
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Hi Airsande!

Indeed, I have every Aviatsia i Kosmonavtika issue of 1990-1992 (only one of 1993, January), plus nearly 90% of those coming from 1981 to 1990...

I understand pretty well your position, about how much "they talked against how much they used this", how do you understand this exact case in the usage of PGM weapons?...

From what I know, PGMs were reserved on most Su-24M regiments to the 1th Air Squadron's pilots , some times the 2nd and 3rd Squadron's staff also were qualified to use them, but most of the time they were conventional bomb release and visual recce quailified. Info came from discussions on Su-24 in avia.ru forum by "LAMM" user...how much I would like to bring some questions to him :'(...my russian is not good enough.

Viktor Markovsky wrote on Su-24M actions on Afghanistan war, the problems they have with Kaira-24 in the high-altitude usage...I don't know if tactics could be infered from that text, but will study it and see what can I get.

Thanks for your contributions to this section :D


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Dec 29, 2005
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Related to the use of KAB-500L and KAB-500Kr plus laser/TV guided missiles (specially Kh-29L and Kh-59/59M) Sergey Burdin wrote this:

Pilots recall, that as a result of the high accuracy with the launches of rockets X-29L appeared even the curious cases. So on the range “Polesian” in the territory of Belorussia crew Su-24M fell into the tank by rocket, and it (tank) rejected from the center of the purposeful circle by 5 meters. The following crew visited to the purpose, and in it the problem arose: to aim on to center circle or on the tank, which now was dragged along in the side. Indeed the accuracy of the entry of each crew was evaluated and estimation was "excellently" advanced only if deviation was less or equally to 5 m.

The corrected aerial bombs occupy special position in the combat employment.
As a result of the high cost of the corrected aircraft bombs (KAB), the flights to their combat employment so began from the special collections. As in the case with the rockets pilots in the course of several days conducted theoretical preparation. Then crews carried out flight for the aiming. During this flight the pilot performed all operations on the aiming with exception of bomb release. After obtaining test on this exercise, crews were allowed to the flight to the bombing KAB.

The characteristics of laser and television self-homing heads originally limited the application of bombs by two regimes of – by level bombing and from the dive. Angle of dives could reach on more than 20°, the height of the introduction of 1800-3500m and the speed range of introduction 600-700 m/h.

This calculation five together decided to manage the task.

However, the range of the application KAB was possible to somewhat enlarge thus in the course of time, after increasing their combat capabilities. Bombing could be produced from the level flight, from the pitching and from the dive.

First of all crews mastered the application KAB from the level flight. This stage concluded with the detailed selection of flights, on which especially thoroughly were investigated the actions of the air crews above the range.

The crews, which worked out bombing KAB from the level flight, were allowed to the dive bombing. The release of corrected bombs from the level flight was carried out at the heights of 1000-5000m at the flight speeds of 750-1000km/h without the accomplishment of maneuver. Since during the application OF KAB is required the release altitude of more than 1000m, this does not make it possible to use them with lower boundary of cloudiness of less than 1000m. bombing with the illumination of purpose from the aircraft of slave it makes it possible to accomplish its their guidance with lower boundary of cloudiness not less than 400m. this tactical method made it possible so to deliver impacts on ground targets when strong unsuppressed objective PVO of enemy is present. In this case the lead crew achieved a target approach at the height of 100-200m and at the calculated distance (4-6 km to the purpose) carried out hill with the angle of 10-20º and produced discharge KAB in the climb.

In 80s the regiments, which was armed with Su-24M and MiG-27K, steels to master bombing in the climb regime by aircraft bombs KAB-500L. in this case the bombing was necessary to carry out with the following conditions:
• the height of the introduction of – is 100-200 m
• the speed of the entry of – 800-1000 km/h
• the angle of the pitchup – of 10-20°.
After separation from aircraft the aircraft bomb carried out ballistic trajectory flight. On leaving from the clouds the self-homing head of bomb accomplished a target of lock-on, illuminated by laser beam from its or from another aircraft, and carried out the guidance of aircraft bomb to the target.

The application KAB and rockets with the television self-homing heads a little otherwise appeared. In this category special position occupies KAB-500Kr, which makes it possible to realize in practice principle “launch&forget”. Actually the work of television self-homing head does not require tracking by the aircraft of bomb. GSN “after memorizing” purpose itself it retains it in the field of the sight of the coordinator of head. However, during the application of this bomb it appeared so many problems, that the crews greatly did not love to use it. The fact is that TV GSN is very sensitive to the high-contrast image of locality. This means that into the bright sunny day, the rare clouds, which swim on the sky, the running shadow is created on the earth. The image of purpose becomes “spotty” and this to a considerable degree hampers the target of lock-on GSN. Problems during the guidance OF TV GSN created lattice frames. Old bus stood on one of the ranges as the target. After the first crew by precise impact overturned its sideways, the second crew no longer could accomplishing a target of lock-on TV GSN – it interfere withd contrast between the earth and the broken windows of bus.

Certainly, no and it cannot be ultimate weapon. But the majority of pilots notes that TV GSN were nevertheless excessively capricious.

As the corona of the creation of high-precision weapon for the front aviation it is today acknowledged to count the unique system of rocket weapon “Ovod”. The system of rocket weapon “Ovo” includes rockets X -59 and system of television-command guidance “Tekon-1”. The guided missile X-59 is intended for the defeat under the day conditions of the durable pinpoint ground-based and above-water targets, whose coordinates are known before the launching. System “Tekon-1” is intended for the guidance of rockets X-59 to the target.
The task of defeat by the assigned to purpose rocket X-59 is subdivided into the following stages:
• the establishment of two-way plane-to-plane communication and rocket along the television and radio-command channels;
• the output of rocket to one of the march heights: 15, 100, 200, 600 or 1000 m;
• the output of rocket into the target area by autonomous or autonomous- navigational method;
• target detection and the guidance of rocket to the target.

The operating principle of complex is based on the transfer of the television image of locality, located in the field sight of the tele-coordinator of the released rocket X -59 onboard the aircraft, and its mapping on the television monitoring system VKU of navigator. Observing the image of locality on VKU, navigator reveals and identifies purpose, is accomplished the guidance to it of missile X-59 with the aid of the special control knob (of type “joystick”) on the right instrument panel at the work site of navigator. Control of rocket is accomplished by the transfer of management teams on the command radio link onboard X-59. The uniqueness of rocket consisted in the fact that its launching was produced at the range to target of the equal to 40km in this case aircraft carrier after launching it could carry out maneuver and return to its airfield, whereas navigator continued to govern rocket. In the middle of the 80th of years appeared even the more terrible version of rocket X-59m with the sustainer turbojet engine on the pylon under the fuselage. This version of rocket made it possible to produce impacts on purposes with that finding from the boundary of launching on the distances to 115 km rocket even in the autonomous regime it flies so far to the target area, and further navigator must see this purpose in VKU, and further direct rocket at the purpose with the aid of the knob on the right panel.

They hung up, fastened by tightening screws, connected joint. I simultaneously note that all work on suspension APS is produced on the de-energized aircraft with the closed cab (in which there is no one). You see, stepladder lies.

To this place everything is obtained very beautifully. However, give let us place itself on the place of navigator. It on the screen VKU sees, the fact that “sees” the head of rocket, and the angle of the field of its sight is sufficiently narrow. In order to clearly visualize the work of navigator let us represent that we will go in the train and look into the window of sleeping compartment at passing nature. Train moves with a speed of approximately 90 km an hour, i.e., approximately 10 times of less than the speed of rocket. Thus, the locality, which sees the navigator through the head of rocket, will flicker in it before the eyes as locality after the window of train at the removal from the railroad car into 10 meters. This speed of image drift will be on the screen VKU, if rocket does fly at the maximum altitude (1000 m), and if it does fly at the lower altitude?:. but this we presented, as is moved the image of locality, and now let us represent as the field-of-view angle it has navigator for the guidance of this rocket to the target. For this must forgive another amusing experience. Roll up any periodical into the small tube, which has the inside diameter of centimeters 10-15. Arise in the middle of your drawing room, shut one eye, and by the second eye you look at the floor through your “optical instrument”. Your task consists in leaving the room, without having caught furniture. They tried?!. But do not forget, that you were trained in the accomodation, through which you walk each day many years and speed your was considerably less. But now represent that to navigator it is necessary to detect purpose and to bring rocket to it. In order to have time to detect purpose and to direct the rocket it is necessary of 10-20 seconds to it. To navigator it is necessary in this case to be included in control at removal from the purpose 10-15 km furthermore, one must take into account, that in the flight time of rocket in the autonomous regime will be accumulated the errors (the longer flies the rocket, the greater they are). Rocket will leave into the target area, but it can prove to be beside it. This good if to the purpose conducts railway line, and what is to be done, if below sea or forest… For conducting official tests of rocket in the Akhtubinsk steppes it was necessary to plough by plow long fissure so that the navigator Su-24M could bring rocket to the purpose. There is a large doubt about the presence of a similar possibility with conducting of war shooting.


Some special features of operation and combat employment of aircraft bombs and rockets of class “air–earth” in the front aviation OF THE USSR

Link to the Article in original Russian is provided by Overscan in dedicated section in this forum

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