Asymetrical Warfare, COIN and the use of Technology

Firefly 2

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30 June 2009
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Something has been bugging me for the last four years or so, and even more since browsing this forum.

Over the last five decades aerospace technology has leaped from strength to strength on a wave Cold War funds, trying to achieve technological superiority over " the main adversary" ( this applies to both sides). In the wake of that wave of innovation, we saw costs searing, now seaminlgly out of control because... Well, to a certain degree, having technologically advanced aircraft has become too costly, unnecessary and redundant.

F16's, F15's and other multi-role aircraft used in COIN roles... Ill suited.
F22- and F35-programs being revised due to searing costs, downsized to a degree where they will no longer cover the needs of the military.

The needs have changed, the Transformation that is so often quoted by strategists... A legacy from the bad old days, much like a lot the hardware currently in service. The Tranformation theory is based on a reality that has been gone for years, probably ( oh dear...) since the mid 90's and the beginning of the rise of a terrorist threat that is now culminating.

This form of Legacy Thinking, so to speak, is ill suited to the reality on the field, and so is the hardware being developed along with it. It seems so clear... Then why isn't the industry reverting to simpler designs, projects...
The way things are going now it seems like the industry is actually in denial. Unable to asses reality as it poses itself in the field. Unable to cope with the ramifications that are imposed by asymetrical warfare, the industry just rolls on as if nothing is happening... Even the one project that adresses these ( the A-67 COIN aircraft) seems like a stop gap option, or just something to shut up all the critics so that they can go on... Business as usual.

Am I losing it a bit here, or has anybody made the same observations?
"F16's, F15's and other multi-role aircraft used in COIN roles."

The number of military aircraft types, designed for just one role is dwindling, and that's
a tendency for many years. Figthers have to double as bombers, recce aircraft, close-
support, in some cases (F-18E/F) as EW aircraft and as tankers. IIRC, some years before
a derivative of the Flanker was proposed as ASW aircraft, so this tendency isn't limited
to the US or western airforces. In Afghanistan and Iraq the B-52 was used in the close-
support role, the BAe Nimrod as an overland recce aircraft. Why not ? Especially in the
asymmetric warfare, there's seldom an air-to-air threat to be faced. The great all-out
conflict with a comparable enemy is (hopefully) a thing of the past. I remember an article
in Air International about future fighter design. The result was, that in some years it should
be possible, to arm an AEW aircraft with highly agile AAMs to counter all possible airborne
threats. Yes, I can hear all fighter jocks screaming, but the dedicated fighter may well be a
thing of the past in the quite near future. And other mission designed aircraft, too ...maybe !
Just take something like a standard airliner, add a powerful radar and other sensors, maybe
packaged, and the weapons needed for the mission, air-to-air or air-to-ground or ASW or ASUW,
and that's all. A large aircraft with a long loiter time and a large weapons load, why do you need
a fighter or a COIN aircraft then ? The basic aircraft probably would be cheaper then nowadays
figthers and if not used in an armed mission, you could use it as a transport or tanker. And you
would need just one type ! One type aircraft, one type of engine, one type of pilot rating !
Boring for us aviation minded freaks, surely, but maybe better for the taxpayer .. in theory!
Not to mix up this with Sandy Duncans statement, that the missile will do all jobs. There still would be
an aircraft to brings its weapons to bear, but for killing a number of Talibans, you not necessarily
have to go in at below 60 feet !
So, when the industry don't design new mission specific aircraft, but is just improving "multi role
capabilities", it may well be not the end, but the beginning of a new thinking.
A debate that will continue unending I suspect. Your question appears to be focused on more affluent countries (perhaps one in particular) so I will give you my 'two cents worth' from that perspective. I can only speak as a former member of the U.S. Army who has spent some time in the military concept development arena, and has written a bit on Transformation.

The difficulty is of course how to meet all of the potential requirements out there without investing to much in one possible area. So while A-67's and "Attack-Turcano" seem to be perfect for current circumstances, their utility might be somewhat less in a more conventional conflict, which have a bad habit of showing up now and again. Whereas an aircraft like an A-10, while more expensive, is expected to survive longer in more varied combat environments. The durability of the A-10 and the amount of ordnance it brings to the fight has made it one of the best liked aircraft to the American infantry leader. Also, while it is not widely known, current fighters (F-15E, 16, 18, etc.) have been doing a pretty good job putting steal on target. The advent of better communications and designation capability by ground elements has streamlined the targeting process dramatically. If you really want to talk transformation, one could argue that the USAF has indeed fielded a turboprop attack aircraft capable of long loiter times with a pretty decent payload. The fact that there is no pilot or gun on board the MQ-9 Reaper becomes the discussion point.

Another aspect of the discussion has to be how much of the traditional mission set does the Attack Helicopter now perform. While they do not have the loiter time or ordnance loads of an A-10, their ability to get in close and work with the ground soldier at a direct level mitigates some of the other aspects of close air support. Interestingly enough, in the mission (and thus dollars) conscious US military, while the Title 10 (roles and responsibilities) mission of CAS is an Air Force mission, the US Army conducts Close Combat Attack missions with its attack and reconnaissance helicopters. With the deployment of tactical UAV with laser designation capability the junior ground commander will be able to very accurately identify targets for attack helicopters to put guided explosives on. When less lethality is needed there are rockets and very effective guns to be used as well.

From my point of view as an Army fellow, it really does not matter what aircraft type the Air Force sends if I have to wait for an Air Force controller to show up so that a bomb can be dropped. It seems rather silly to have senior field grade officers looking up at loitering aircraft, but he cannot coordinate CAS until the enlisted tactical air controller shows up to the fight. At least with Army attack helicopters the ground commander has immediate access to air delivered precision attack. The real transformation is not necessarily the aircraft, but in the improved implementation of communication and information that allow more effective use of ordnance in combat.
Sorry for the tardive reply. I was involved in the preparation of the " Local Beers Fest" in the local youthhouse and it was a gargantuan task to get it done. Leaving me no PC time whatsoever... Beers where nice though.

So, to the man in the field it doesn't matter what platform actually delivers a live round just as long as it does.

From an operational point of view, multi role airplanes are just... Incredibly handy. So in fact my view that new and more dedicated designs are needed for new or relatively new mission profiles is negated by sheer operational facts.
USAF light trainer/COIN pre-sollicitation out

We have so many COIN threads, it's hard to figure out where to post this. Anyway, I just saw a pre-sollicitation that just came out for a light trainer/recce/strike aircraft for Afghanistan. Funny, the last I had heard interest in the subject had waned...

Light Air Support (LAS) Aircraft

INTRODUCTION: The Air Force is planning to acquire a Light Air Support (LAS) aircraft for use by the Afghanistan National Army Air Corps (ANAAC) and other future customers. The fixed-wing platform will be used for conducting advanced flight training, aerial reconnaissance and light attack operations. This is NOT an Invitation for Bid (IFB) or a Request for Proposal (RFP). Aeronautical Systems Center (ASC) previously conducted a market research assessment of production-ready, weapons-certified, fixed-wing platforms available for a cost-effective acquisition program. The responses received by ASC to the October 30, 2009, Sources Sought Synopsis, FA8615-10-R-ZZ01, for the ANAAC Advanced Flight Trainer / Light Attack Aircraft (AFT/LAA) assisted in determining the planned acquisition strategy for the LAS aircraft.
It appears the Air Force actually has awarded a contract for LAS -- 20 Embraer Super Tucanos (via Sierra Nevada Corporation).

But of course Hawker Beechcraft is already suing over the exclusion of the AT-6 from the bidding.
Yes, there is a lot of legacy thinking- F-35, anyone? However, UAVs now are in the stage that aircraft were in WWI, and aircraft carriers were in the early 20s. The military is now trying to figure out what they can do, and what they should do. As people from the Desert Storm and Afgan generation move up in rank, you will see Billy Mitchells and Admiral Moffats of the 21st century gaining authority and influence.
TomS said:
The Air Force has issued a stop work order on LAS while a suit by Hawker Beechcraft is resolved. It looks as though GAO already ruled against Hawker on the substance of the protest; this suit is about procedural issues.

This, it appears, to have solidified into the normal process for the Unitied States. The lawyers will have to have their day.
yasotay said:
So while A-67's and "Attack-Turcano" seem to be perfect for current circumstances, their utility might be somewhat less in a more conventional conflict, which have a bad habit of showing up now and again. Whereas an aircraft like an A-10, while more expensive, is expected to survive longer in more varied combat environments.

I couldn't help thinking that we're talking about 1.5 minutes in the Fulda instead of 15 minutes.... (estimated survival time for the A-10).
And back to square one:

Afghan LAS contest to start from scratch after failed US selection
TomS said:
And back to square one:

Afghan LAS contest to start from scratch after failed US selection
Thanks. I could have sworn there was a URL in there, but I guess i killed it while trying to get the text formatted.
Is it long since time for something like Boeing's old ABC bomber concept to be employed?​


[Image courtsey of Skybolt; Found over in the Boeing Advanced Bomber Studies thread.]​

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