Falklands and Carriers

Roland55

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Just giving the Argentinians more Exocets and working dumb bombs greatly increases the challenge to the British forces. All it takes is one missile to hit Invincible, plus a few more escorts would have been sunk.

The Tornado JP233 attacks against the Iraqi airfields where actually quite succesfull in that only one JP233 carrying Tornado was actually lost (CFT after dropping its load). That said yes airfields are notoriously hard to put out of action. I think the Iraqis ended up using the taxiways as runways.
If the Argentines had this, the British would have been finished as it was:

View attachment 672180

Mk 82 Snake eye retarded bombs would have finished at least 3 to 5 additional vessels, and their loss would likely have led to additional losses.
The Mk.82 were in fact used by argentine forces, but only by the COAN and their A-4Qs, who are known for sinking HMS Ardent with those bombs.


13043335_1177744718902237_8947390568352806839_n.jpg


As for what the Air Force had...well, a mix of Mk.17s, Spanish BK-BR, some indiegenous ones..but all parachute reatarded. All with weird combinations of multiple fuzes in effort to achieve detonation at such low altitudes.

Interestingly, the spanish made BK/BR-250 were the ones that had better results regarding proper detonation, since those were used to sink HMS Coventry, HMS Ardent, RFA Sir Galahad & Tristam. But this is more complex than just the bomb type itself.
 

Desertfox

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Five minutes is plenty of time. The Libyans in MiG-23s were outmatched in skill but also in airframes, but initiated a combat with a pair of Tomcats at 11:58 which was resolved at 12:03 with the Tomcats killing both MiGs with missiles. The Argies, at the end of the day, only wanted for one of these. They simply didn't have the experience, skill, or sense needed to conduct a serious CAP or pose an air to air threat.

Which is why they were obsessed with hitting the carriers...

If the Argies were better pilots they probably would have won since they had air superiority fighters and the British had a glorified bomber. The Argies were just blundering around like a WW2 air force while the British, who were much better pilots, were racking up kills while suffering with short range IR missiles, driving helicopteresque dump trucks, and having no long-range weapons al a AIM-7.

Had the British had F-4s instead of SHARs I don't think the Argentinian air forces would have mattered at all honestly though, but that would be the sort of "fair fight" you're looking for I guess. Both Mirage III or Dagger and Phantom are roughly equivalent in weapons capabilities and general role i.e. they are air superiority fighters with BVR missiles. It would hardly be "fair" in that the Argies win, of course, because they were simply lesser pilots and this would be hugely amplified, but it would definitely remove the arm the British had tied behind their back with SHAR's otherwise lackluster air to air capability.

The British merely wanted for better planes, which is how the Argentinians, in their great mediocrity, were able to inflict any damage at all on the task force in the first place. The Argentinians despite having superior aircraft, weapons, and advanced experience in "hitting things on the ground", didn't do so hot when the ground shot back.
I would have loved to see a Dagger try to use a BVR missile... Only the Mirage IIIs could even use the R530 and thats not exactly a good missile. In fact in the Falklands there was but one true "dogfight" where the Mirages engaged the Harriers on the Harriers preferred altitude, with inferior weapons.

Also there's a 0% chance the British would have used nukes against Argentina.
 

Archibald

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Just giving the Argentinians more Exocets and working dumb bombs greatly increases the challenge to the British forces. All it takes is one missile to hit Invincible, plus a few more escorts would have been sunk.

The Tornado JP233 attacks against the Iraqi airfields where actually quite succesfull in that only one JP233 carrying Tornado was actually lost (CFT after dropping its load). That said yes airfields are notoriously hard to put out of action. I think the Iraqis ended up using the taxiways as runways.

You know what ? put a goddam JP233 on a Black Buck Vulcan. At least they won't do the harrowing trip for nothing.

Alternative: Could a Vulcan carry Durandal runway-cratering bombs ?

"There must be an answer... let it be !" "Fly long and crater" (runs for cover)
 

Fluff

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Just giving the Argentinians more Exocets and working dumb bombs greatly increases the challenge to the British forces. All it takes is one missile to hit Invincible, plus a few more escorts would have been sunk.

The Tornado JP233 attacks against the Iraqi airfields where actually quite succesfull in that only one JP233 carrying Tornado was actually lost (CFT after dropping its load). That said yes airfields are notoriously hard to put out of action. I think the Iraqis ended up using the taxiways as runways.

You know what ? put a goddam JP233 on a Black Buck Vulcan. At least they won't do the harrowing trip for nothing.

Alternative: Could a Vulcan carry Durandal runway-cratering bombs ?

"There must be an answer... let it be !" "Fly long and crater" (runs for cover)
Plenty of Vulcan airframes, how about a pilotless vulcan, even if it has to be accompanied by a crewed Vulcan vulcan, plus fuel plus 21,000 of bombs, that should close the runway, on kudos alone.
 

EwenS

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Just giving the Argentinians more Exocets and working dumb bombs greatly increases the challenge to the British forces. All it takes is one missile to hit Invincible, plus a few more escorts would have been sunk.

The Tornado JP233 attacks against the Iraqi airfields where actually quite succesfull in that only one JP233 carrying Tornado was actually lost (CFT after dropping its load). That said yes airfields are notoriously hard to put out of action. I think the Iraqis ended up using the taxiways as runways.

You know what ? put a goddam JP233 on a Black Buck Vulcan. At least they won't do the harrowing trip for nothing.

Alternative: Could a Vulcan carry Durandal runway-cratering bombs ?

"There must be an answer... let it be !" "Fly long and crater" (runs for cover)
Now to rain on your parade.

JP233 was still in development in 1982. Service entry was April 1985.

Durandal was around in 1982 but was designed for “low level” drops (min 200ft). Vulcans were bombing from 10,000ft to avoid the defences at Stanley. Not exactly “low level”!
 

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The more interesting scenario is fielding Blue Eric (Sky Shadow in a ADEN gun pod) and Shrike on modified Harriers.

This could perform SEAD/DEAD and open the way to lower level bombing.

Another wildcard is modified Buccaneers with extended oil supply. Though that flight would be... an endurance test.
 

Kat Tsun

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Five minutes is plenty of time. The Libyans in MiG-23s were outmatched in skill but also in airframes, but initiated a combat with a pair of Tomcats at 11:58 which was resolved at 12:03 with the Tomcats killing both MiGs with missiles. The Argies, at the end of the day, only wanted for one of these. They simply didn't have the experience, skill, or sense needed to conduct a serious CAP or pose an air to air threat.

Which is why they were obsessed with hitting the carriers...

If the Argies were better pilots they probably would have won since they had air superiority fighters and the British had a glorified bomber. The Argies were just blundering around like a WW2 air force while the British, who were much better pilots, were racking up kills while suffering with short range IR missiles, driving helicopteresque dump trucks, and having no long-range weapons al a AIM-7.

Had the British had F-4s instead of SHARs I don't think the Argentinian air forces would have mattered at all honestly though, but that would be the sort of "fair fight" you're looking for I guess. Both Mirage III or Dagger and Phantom are roughly equivalent in weapons capabilities and general role i.e. they are air superiority fighters with BVR missiles. It would hardly be "fair" in that the Argies win, of course, because they were simply lesser pilots and this would be hugely amplified, but it would definitely remove the arm the British had tied behind their back with SHAR's otherwise lackluster air to air capability.

The British merely wanted for better planes, which is how the Argentinians, in their great mediocrity, were able to inflict any damage at all on the task force in the first place. The Argentinians despite having superior aircraft, weapons, and advanced experience in "hitting things on the ground", didn't do so hot when the ground shot back.
I would have loved to see a Dagger try to use a BVR missile... Only the Mirage IIIs could even use the R530 and thats not exactly a good missile. In fact in the Falklands there was but one true "dogfight" where the Mirages engaged the Harriers on the Harriers preferred altitude, with inferior weapons.

Also there's a 0% chance the British would have used nukes against Argentina.

Yes, we know the Argentinians were bad at air to air combat and poorly trained for the job. They also knew this, which is why they didn't do it. Nothing can change that unless it's literally not Argentina at that point. Which is why "flying CAP" out of Stanley is completely the opposite of what a good air commander would do.

re: BVR use it's not really important, since the Daggers and such were better than the Harriers in air combat given decent pilots, but the Argies had no decent pilots. The SHAR at the end of the day was a Skyhawk that could take off like a helicopter. Not exactly stunning in its kinematics, really, but the pilots knew how to fly them and were good at their jobs. The same could be said of the Argentinians, but their jobs were also much simpler.

I suppose the Mirages IIIs and Vs had inferior weapons, but that's somewhat less relevant if you're doing a combat air patrol and necessarily flying at high altitude, since the SHARs would need to come up to you and you can simply dive on them. Not that the Argies would be able to manage surprising the SHAR pilots, so it's a worthless endeavor to try.

It's also rather hard to have a superior weapon to AIM-9L in 1982 which had just seen its combat debut the year prior where it swatted a pair of MiG-23s. Especially for guys of Argentina's caliber, who probably only trained to evade missiles comparable to AIM-9B or something equally outdated at the time, hence the use of hard turns and jinking to evade missiles rather than actual countermeasures.

Yes, there's a zero percent chance the British would have nuked Argentina: they never did. There's also a zero percent chance the Argentinians had the skills to shoot down SHAR pilots: they never did; and a zero percent chance that the Argentinians could have done significant damage to the landing forces: they never did, aside from Atlantic Conveyor (and all that meant was Tommy had to walk).

But this is a discussion of what-ifs, not what actually happened. Nuclear weapons and their use on Buenos Aires, several airbases in Argentina, and a few other areas of interest (submarines) were discussed by Maggie's cabinet and the Royal Navy, and their use was considered, as the task force had several of them readily available. They could very well have been used had things gone differently, because they were there, and Maggie was interested enough to ask the question regarding multiple scenarios.

A WE.177 would be far preferential to eliminating the Super E threat than an entire SAS squadron, far easier to organize, and far less costly in men, machines, and money. Incidentally doubling or tripling up the number of Rolands on the Falklands would have been better than trying to engage the RAF with aircraft. It certainly would have netted more Harriers.
 
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timmymagic

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To think they had Polaris (just kidding) and Buccaneers with LGBs and pods...

Vulcan trials with LGB's were almost complete when the surrender came. Paveway II's dropped from 30,000 ft with Pave Spike guidance would have closed the runway with 1 sortie.

If the Argies were better pilots they probably would have won since they had air superiority fighters and the British had a glorified bomber.

I don't think you understand the capability of Sea Harrier. It had enormous amounts of thrust and acceleration by any standards of the day. It could outclimb a Phantom to 30,000ft.....They were pretty much annihilating anything in DACT prior to the Falklands....and when they got Blue Vixen with Amraam they were categorically the most capable fighter in Europe. Only US F-15's, F-14's and a small number of US F-16's had similar capability. It was that good.

combat interceptors with advanced radars like Blue Vixen

It was Blue Fox on FRS.1, Blue Vixen arrived later on F/A.2

There’s some interesting comments on PPrune about this. The JP233 runway cratering munitions didn’t make such big holes as hoped because they were optimised for runways built on moist loam/clay as they are in Europe;- these runways were on bedrock and sand.

I recall some American's who were deployed to an Iraqi airbase that had been visited by Tornado saying this. They also said the larger numbers of HB-876 mines were truly evil......saying that the SG357 would have worked as advertised on Stanley, very similar geology to West Freugh where it was trialled.
 

Kat Tsun

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Yes the radar was exceptional but that doesn't matter in 1982 because it didn't have anything that could make use of it. Without Skyflash or something it's just a strobe light. Yes, only the entire USAF's tactical air force of 1994, given the Phantoms and F-111s were long gone by then, could match the SHAR's combat system. That says more about European air forces in 1994 than it does the Harrier's capabilities in all seriousness. Outclimbing an F-4 isn't a stupendous feat considering the Phantom is from 1958 and the SHAR is from like 1974 or whatever when the RN ordered it. It'd be more impressive if it outclimbed an F-15, but it didn't, because the F-15 was the F-4 of 1974.

Harrier has stubby little wings and SHAR inherits this somewhat since it's, at the end of the day, a low altitude subsonic bomber with a fairly high wing loading and thus bad sustained turn rates. That's the main advantage that Kfir and Mirage III and all those other French planes has over the SHAR. Which is kind of a duh moment as this can be discerned simply by looking at the two planes: Mirages have big massive wings and tiny bodies, while SHARs have stubby fat bodies and tiny wings.

Kfirs and Daggers could probably have outturned the SHARs if their pilots were good at the job of "fighting other planes" and they had decent air warning controllers and capabilities to direct combat ACI. But the Argentines had zero experience in this and didn't want to risk learning when they were much much better at hitting things with iron bombs and firing missiles on warships they lock up from 20 nautical miles away before turning tail and fleeing.

It's also why the Argies stuck around at low altitude instead of loitering near the edge of the task force air defense zone and luring the SHARs up to higher altitudes where their stubby wings would be bad and the delta wing would perform best. Which is what you would actually do if you were doing a attrition-based CAP. But the Argies had neither the training, nor the capability, much less the aircraft numbers, to do this. That requires tons of airplanes to sustain, an airborne command and control facility, and really good pilots. Only the United States had this.

You don't play to your weaknesses and hope you get stronger. You play to your strengths and hope you don't get weaker.

Argentina isn't dumb so they didn't bother trying to fight the British in the air. Simple as. The British could probably have gone to war with Sea Vixen and Venoms and still won, because the only thing the Brits trained to do was kill other aircraft, and it might even have been a bit of a fairer fight for the silly little Scooters the Argies were running around with.
 
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H_K

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@timmymagic Yes there was a short period of time (1994-1997) when the Sea Harrier was very competitive, because it got a Fox 3 missile before other European air forces got their F-16MLUs and Mirage 2000-5s… but I wouldn’t necessarily extrapolate from that.

As noted by @Kat Tsun, the Harrier had mediocre overall performance due to high drag and a small wing. It couldn’t out turn the opposition and it couldn’t out accelerate or dive away. It did have good thrust-to-weight though so it could climb pretty well at low altitudes until the Pegasus ran out of oomph (due to its bypass ratio)… but in normal DACT at 15-20K ft I’m not sure it ever was that competitive.
 

Desertfox

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Saying the Argentinian pilots were bad at A2A is just a cop out. We have but one single data point of direct fighter vs fighter combat during the Falkland Wars. The vast majority of A2A combat in the Falklands was interceptor vs bomber. The Daggers where not supposed to conduct A2A, they where bombers and thats how they where used and how their pilots where trained. The Mirage IIIs where the only air superiority aircraft the Argentinians had and they where mainly kept back to defend Buenos Aires from Black Buck raids. They also had two major issues with lack of range and subpar missiles. Has the Falklands had an airstrip capable of handling Mirage IIIs, I'm sure the war would have gone alot differently and the Harriers might have ended with a negative kill ratio.
 

timmymagic

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Yes the radar was exceptional but that doesn't matter in 1982 because it didn't have anything that could make use of it.
The radar was not exceptional in 1982....it was Blue Fox radar in 82....not Blue Vixen....
 

timmymagic

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The Mirage IIIs where the only air superiority aircraft the Argentinians had and they where mainly kept back to defend Buenos Aires from Black Buck raids.

Thats not true. It's an old fallacy. Mirage III were moved north to free up space on the southern airfields (which were small regional airports in reality, with little disperal, hangarage or hardstanding) for attack assets, although some were deployed at Comodoro Rivadavia for the duration of the conflict to protect the airbases against potential British raids.
 

Dilandu

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It's also why the Argies stuck around at low altitude
If I recall correctly, the main reason was simpler; the Sea Dart SAM, which was... quite good in downing high-altitude targets. Engaging in air battle just to have telephone pole sized ramjet missile homing on you... not practical.
 

Kat Tsun

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It's also rather hard to have a superior weapon to AIM-9L in 1982

Wanna bet? R-60M)

Of which Argentina had none. So as I said, it was rather hard.

It's also why the Argies stuck around at low altitude
If I recall correctly, the main reason was simpler; the Sea Dart SAM, which was... quite good in downing high-altitude targets. Engaging in air battle just to have telephone pole sized ramjet missile homing on you... not practical.

Missiles aren't a particularly effective weapon the higher the plane flies. This is as true for Sea Dart as anything else, but Sea Dart is rather substantially poor at certain classes of air targets that are predominantly considered "low altitude fighters and cruise missiles", at least from aspects that don't involve "flying right down the firing arc of a launcher".

Sea Dart was not a particularly good missile unless the target never maneuvered, this is especially true given ramjet missiles (such as the Odin) suffered from major lateral acceleration problems. I'm not entirely sure if the Argies could have taken advantage of this, because it didn't seem to help them as they don't appear to have done much evasive maneuvers against Sea Dart, but that's probably because they had poor training.

Low altitude was used because the British had rather poor AEW, the British could not vector interceptors until they broke horizon, and more than likely simply because the Argentinians were using outdated tactics.

As they found out the Sea Dart was quite effective at engaging low altitude targets. Had they been moving perpendicular to the incoming missiles it's likely they would have been able to evade but that would require abilities beyond them. Sea Dart's rather notorious poor performance against crossing targets wasn't widespread knowledge in 1982.

Naturally this is why I said in the first place that giving Argentina a dozen missiles instead of Exocet, and attacking from two directions instead of one, might have actually injured Invincible in a potential raid. Sea Dart only hit the rocket because it was more or less zeroed in on Exeter and locked onto Andromeda. Had another missile come barreling down perpendicular to that one, or high off axis, it's highly probable the Sea Darts would have missed because they had bad performance against crossing targets at medium (10-15 km) range.

This is exactly the issue the British faced with Sea Dart Mark 2 and why it was ultimately replaced with Aster 15, after all!

But as I said that was relatively unknown at the time, perhaps even to the British, so the Argies definitely wouldn't have the sense to do such a thing as they wouldn't be aware of Sea Dart's weakness, but it would be the optimal method of attack to hit from two or more directions vectored on Invincible.

Yes the radar was exceptional but that doesn't matter in 1982 because it didn't have anything that could make use of it.
The radar was not exceptional in 1982....it was Blue Fox radar in 82....not Blue Vixen....

Fair, though it could still pickup ships at pretty impressive ranges in surface search mode, at least for such a tiny plane.

Saying the Argentinian pilots were bad at A2A is just a cop out.

It is not. It is demonstrated. A mere statement of fact, actually.

We have but one single data point of direct fighter vs fighter combat during the Falkland Wars.

Going by this we don't know how any air force rates I suppose, and perhaps they all must be terrible, as the performance in wars like Desert Storm, Falklands, Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, Iraq, and anything else are essentially statistical noise. Lol.

I guess had Desert Storm gone on long enough then the Iraqis would have pulled out a win rather than losing 72 hours into a fight.

The vast majority of A2A combat in the Falklands was interceptor vs bomber.

Yeah, the bombers generally won though.

The Daggers where not supposed to conduct A2A, they where bombers and thats how they where used and how their pilots where trained.

Yeah that's probably why they were bad at killing planes: they weren't trained for it. Good thing they never tried, otherwise they would have had their clocks cleaned more than they already were.

They also had two major issues with lack of range and subpar missiles.

Technological failings are among the least important factors in air to air combat, as the British demonstrated by using a VTO A-4 to kill a bunch of delta-wing multiroles and fighter-bombers for no losses, while relying on crummy GCI from rather limited surface ship airborne radars. The human element is the most important component, as history repeatedly shows, good pilots are rather rare, realistic training matters, and a lot of factors that can look good on paper demonstrably don't translate to high performance in combat.

If the Argentinians had wanted to operate combat air patrols they could have done so with air refueling and stationing within the zone of exclusion at medium to high altitudes, where the performance of their delta wings would be best, and where the threat of interception by aircraft would be minimal. By flying perpendicular to incoming SAMs they could easily present a crossing target that is far too difficult for the rather crummy lateral acceleration of the Mark 1 Sea Dart to hit. This would be stupid, of course, and the Argentinians weren't stupid, but they had absolutely every resource available to do this.

Because what flying around at 15-25,000 feet would do for a Mirage loaded with a pair of Magics against a predominant amphibious shipping force is debatable but it certainly wouldn't interfere with British landing operations, nor would it particularly protect bomber troops as they attack the shipping. And if they attempted to dive on the SHARs conducting an attack, they've wasted all their advantages by going into the teeth of the British air defense.

Since they lacked AEW and airborne command and control capability, organizing any DCA effort would be futile away from the range of the airbase radars that dot the Argentinian coast and their attendant surface to air missiles. Falklands neither had the infrastructure nor Argentina the training to do it. Which is why they didn't do it. Simple as.

Has the Falklands had an airstrip capable of handling Mirage IIIs, I'm sure the war would have gone alot differently

Yeah the entire Argentinian air force would be annihilated faster than it already was.

The British never had a chance to conduct substantial OCA because Argentina proper was not targeted, and not using Stanley was smarter than using it, in terms of losses inflicted on both sides. The Argentinians were not exactly ace pilots and the RAF trained almost exclusively to kill other aircraft. OTOH without needing to be burdened by the need to defend their airbases the Argentinians jobs were substantially easier. They merely had to fly out, find some British ships, and bomb them.

This is trivial compared to organizing a DCA operation against a much better equipped, better trained, and better armed air force while lacking good AEW or airborne command and control facilities.

Which would be an absolute requirement to operate from Stanley, as the British were rather intent on attacking and taking it.
 
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Dilandu

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Of which Argentina had none. So as I said, it was rather hard.
Actually USSR toyed with the idea of providing Argentina with weapons during the war. Not that we liked Junta much, but it fits well into anti-colonial narrative (and also it would be a good annoyance to Tatcher, who we didn't like either)
 

Archibald

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they could have done so with air refueling
What tankers ? they only had too few KC-130s which were already overstretched refueling Skyhawks and S.E.
The Mirage III were not capable of aerial refueling, can't remember if the Israeli types had that capability.

Another problem with the Mirage III fleet: too short range, and they run into a conundrum.
- they could be supersonic only at high altitude and with the afterburner
- Yet, distance was such: they could make it to the Falklands only at high altitude with no afterburner.
- if they went low and / or used the afterburner / to go supersonic and outrun a SHAR: game over, they would not return to the mainland.

The Daggers had slightly better range (the Israelis had improved that, first step from their IIIC toward the final Kfir) - but they were used only for attack.

I think the reason they retired the Mirage III fleet was that
- not aerial refuelable
- can't use their A.B, range too short
- can't go at low altitude, range too short
- can't use their supersonic dash capability against SHAR's to outrun them, range too short.

That made them simply useless for the air war over the Falklands - better to use the Daggers and Skyhawks that could at least make the trip with some bombs.

Also on the first day of the war the Mirage III pilots (painfully aware of the above mentioned limits) came at high altitude; and waited for the SHARs there. They hoped to used their supersonic dash capability or afterburner to dominate a high altitude fight, one way or another.
The Britishs however were no fools, and simply refused such fight - they stuck BARCAP-ing at low altitude.
Their reasoning
- After all those high altitude Mirages were no threat to the fleet
- And sooner rather than later (considering their range problem !) they would have to go down
a ) either to bomb the ships
b) or pick a fight with the SHARs
- Yet the SHARs could afford to wait, because Invincible and Hermes decks nearby
- the Mirages had no such luxury: mainland or die.
And the British logic paid.
The Mirages reluctantly went low to pick a fight, and there the SHARs kicked their asses, as everybody was subsonic there: plus AIM-9L and agility dominated old deltas with AIM-9Bs and not-much-better Magic-1s (Magic 2 might have been a different story but even for the French it was still in the future by some years).

After that the Mirages were found useless and retired (just like the antiquated Canberra bombers).

The reasoning: what mattered most was not killing SHARs but bombing the heck out of the RN invasion fleet; and there, Daggers and Skyhawks were far more useful in that role.

And since the southern airfields were so limited in capabilities... the useless Mirages had to go away.
 
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Kat Tsun

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they could have done so with air refueling
What tankers ? they only had too few KC-130s which were already overstretched refueling Skyhawks and S.E.
The Mirage III were not capable of aerial refueling, can't remember if the Israeli types had that capability.

Another problem with the Mirage III fleet: too short range.
- they could make it to the Falklands at high altitude with no afterburner
- if they went low and / or used the afterburner: game over, they would not return.

The Daggers had slightly better range (the Israelis had improved that, first step from their IIIC toward the final Kfir) but they were used for attack.

I think the reason they retired the Mirage III fleet was that
- not aerial refuelable
- can't use their A.B, range too short
- can't go at alow altitude, range too short

That made simply useless for the air war over the Falklands - better to use the Daggers and Skyhawks that could at least make the trip with some bombs.

Also on the first day of the war the Mirage III (aware of the above mentioned limits) came at high altitude, supersonic; and waited for the SHARs there. The Britishs were no fools, and refused such fight - waiting at low altitude.
- After all those high altitude Mirages were no threat to the fleet
- And sooner rather than later, they would have to go down, either to bomb the ships or pick a fight with the SHARs
- the SHARs could afford to wait, because Invincible and Hermes nearby
- the Mirages had no such luxury.
And the British logic paid. The Mirages went low to pick a fight, and there the SHARs kicked their asses, as everybody was subsonic there.

After that the Mirages were found useless and retired: what mattered most was not killing SHARs but bombing the heck out of the RN; Daggers and Skyhawks were far more useful in that role, and since the southern airfields were so limited in capabilities...
The Mirages went away.

You do realize that I said all this, right?

Missiles aren't a particularly effective weapon the higher the plane flies.
[F. G. Powers has entered chat]

And? Most anti aircraft kills have been by guns, even in the age of missiles, and most missiles that have achieved kills have killed at low altitudes.

This is because surprise, reaction time, and the human factors of individual aircraft and their production lots is vastly more important than things like ramjets or laser beamriding or fighter kinematics or whatever. The lower the altitude the airplane is attacked, the less time it has to react because the pilot is going to be surprised, and because the missile is very fast at getting to altitude it has a much lower flight time. This translates to killing more pilots because they're still getting over that initial surprise.

The higher the altitude the less a chance a missile has hitting an airplane because it can very easily fire a counter-weapon, jam, or simply turn away and leave the NEZ during missile flight. This is how Scott O'Grady got shot down: a Buk surprised him at low altitude and swatted him out of the sky because he didn't evade or attempt to counter the radar with jamming.

It's sort of axiomatic, missiles are rather like cannons, since they are the ground shooting at the sky and the same general rules apply. Sure the Flak gun might kill a plane at 15,000 feet, but that's going to be much rarer than the Flak gun killing the plane at 500 feet.

It's sort of like the airplane equivalent of "the guy who shoots first wins the tank fight".

The lower the plane flies, the more likely it will be killed as it nears the target.
 
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Archibald

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they could have done so with air refueling
What tankers ? they only had too few KC-130s which were already overstretched refueling Skyhawks and S.E.
The Mirage III were not capable of aerial refueling, can't remember if the Israeli types had that capability.

Another problem with the Mirage III fleet: too short range.
- they could make it to the Falklands at high altitude with no afterburner
- if they went low and / or used the afterburner: game over, they would not return.

The Daggers had slightly better range (the Israelis had improved that, first step from their IIIC toward the final Kfir) but they were used for attack.

I think the reason they retired the Mirage III fleet was that
- not aerial refuelable
- can't use their A.B, range too short
- can't go at alow altitude, range too short

That made simply useless for the air war over the Falklands - better to use the Daggers and Skyhawks that could at least make the trip with some bombs.

Also on the first day of the war the Mirage III (aware of the above mentioned limits) came at high altitude, supersonic; and waited for the SHARs there. The Britishs were no fools, and refused such fight - waiting at low altitude.
- After all those high altitude Mirages were no threat to the fleet
- And sooner rather than later, they would have to go down, either to bomb the ships or pick a fight with the SHARs
- the SHARs could afford to wait, because Invincible and Hermes nearby
- the Mirages had no such luxury.
And the British logic paid. The Mirages went low to pick a fight, and there the SHARs kicked their asses, as everybody was subsonic there.

After that the Mirages were found useless and retired: what mattered most was not killing SHARs but bombing the heck out of the RN; Daggers and Skyhawks were far more useful in that role, and since the southern airfields were so limited in capabilities...
The Mirages went away.

You do realize that I said all this, right?

You do realize that you are a jerk there, right ?
 

Kat Tsun

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they could have done so with air refueling
What tankers ? they only had too few KC-130s which were already overstretched refueling Skyhawks and S.E.
The Mirage III were not capable of aerial refueling, can't remember if the Israeli types had that capability.

Another problem with the Mirage III fleet: too short range.
- they could make it to the Falklands at high altitude with no afterburner
- if they went low and / or used the afterburner: game over, they would not return.

The Daggers had slightly better range (the Israelis had improved that, first step from their IIIC toward the final Kfir) but they were used for attack.

I think the reason they retired the Mirage III fleet was that
- not aerial refuelable
- can't use their A.B, range too short
- can't go at alow altitude, range too short

That made simply useless for the air war over the Falklands - better to use the Daggers and Skyhawks that could at least make the trip with some bombs.

Also on the first day of the war the Mirage III (aware of the above mentioned limits) came at high altitude, supersonic; and waited for the SHARs there. The Britishs were no fools, and refused such fight - waiting at low altitude.
- After all those high altitude Mirages were no threat to the fleet
- And sooner rather than later, they would have to go down, either to bomb the ships or pick a fight with the SHARs
- the SHARs could afford to wait, because Invincible and Hermes nearby
- the Mirages had no such luxury.
And the British logic paid. The Mirages went low to pick a fight, and there the SHARs kicked their asses, as everybody was subsonic there.

After that the Mirages were found useless and retired: what mattered most was not killing SHARs but bombing the heck out of the RN; Daggers and Skyhawks were far more useful in that role, and since the southern airfields were so limited in capabilities...
The Mirages went away.

You do realize that I said all this, right?

You do realize that you are a jerk there, right ?

My apologies, that wasn't meant to come off as flippant; I thought you were addressing me, given you quoted me, and had misread my argument or something.

You're basically correct. The Mirages had little use in practice and had they been used for CAP out of Stanley, or worse, the Super Es like I think someone originally suggested, it would have simply meant that the Argies either spend their time dodging Sea Darts or getting killed by Sea Darts, and not engaging strikers unless they came down to low altitude.

tl;dr The entire British DCA effort was highly defensive, and breaking it requires attacking, which makes forward basing CAPs or something of any variety out of Stanley a bad idea. The Argies needed more bombs and missiles, not more airbases, to do more harm to the British. Had the British needed to launch an OCA against the Argentinian Air Force it would have been even worse for the Argies since they had none of the infrastructure in place, nor in inventory, to do anything about that.
 

Dilandu

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The higher the altitude the less a chance a missile has hitting an airplane because it can very easily fire a counter-weapon, jam, or simply turn away and leave the NEZ during missile flight. This is how Scott O'Grady got shot down: a Buk surprised him at low altitude and swatted him out of the sky because he didn't evade or attempt to counter the radar with jamming.

...Actually the missiles were exactly the reason why planes started to fly low since Vietnam. It became sorta obvious, that high-flying bombers would be massacred by SAM's.

it can very easily fire a counter-weapon,
What counter-weapon? As far as I know, nobody yet came with viable aircraft hard-kill defenses.

A lot of missiles could home on jammers.

or simply turn away and leave the NEZ during missile flight.
If they are just grazing the outer border of the SAM envelope, then yes. If they are within it - then no, because missile is much faster and more maneuverable.

I also should point that if plane run from missile, then it essentially abort its mission, and therefore missile won.
 

Dilandu

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It's sort of axiomatic, missiles are rather like cannons, since they are the ground shooting at the sky and the same general rules apply. Sure the Flak gun might kill a plane at 15,000 feet, but that's going to be much rarer than the Flak gun killing the plane at 500 feet.
No they aren't. You assumption is all wrong.

The flak efficiency decreased with altitude, because shell velocity is decreasing, its flight became less stable due to wind and difference in atmosphere pressure, and inevitable inaccuracies of initial shot started to increase dispersion.

The missile efficiency is not decreased with altitude. Missile is accelerating after the launch, so the velocity is more or less constant. It's flight is artificially stabilized and guided toward target, so wind and all other problems are insignificant.

To put it simply, altitude is NOT important. B-750 missile of S-75 Dvina have a max velocity of about Mach 3, or circa 1 km/s. Its max altitude is 25 km, max range is 30 km. So after booster is burned away (5 seconds) it would took less than 30 seconds to intercept target. The difference in time is simply not significant enough for the target to make a difference.
 

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The higher the altitude the less a chance a missile has hitting an airplane because it can very easily fire a counter-weapon, jam, or simply turn away and leave the NEZ during missile flight. This is how Scott O'Grady got shot down: a Buk surprised him at low altitude and swatted him out of the sky because he didn't evade or attempt to counter the radar with jamming.

...Actually the missiles were exactly the reason why planes started to fly low since Vietnam. It became sorta obvious, that high-flying bombers would be massacred by SAM's.

This is because 1960's computers and models were bad at modeling proper survivability, rather than anything to do with high flying itself. People have a bad habit of inflating the lethality and danger of missile weapons. It's not entirely clear why this is the case as SAMs have never performed to the extent that they deserve such a reputation, even in the worst possible case.

The IAF was still doing attack runs the entirety of the Yom Kippur War. SA-6 didn't stop them it just made them slow down a bit.

it can very easily fire a counter-weapon,
What counter-weapon? As far as I know, nobody yet came with viable aircraft hard-kill defenses.

An ARM or or flares or chaff. None of which the Argies had, but they are rather useful for evading guided missiles of any stripe.

A lot of missiles could home on jammers.

A lot don't for a lot of reasons.

or simply turn away and leave the NEZ during missile flight.
If they are just grazing the outer border of the SAM envelope, then yes. If they are within it - then no, because missile is much faster and more maneuverable.

I also should point that if plane run from missile, then it essentially abort its mission, and therefore missile won.

The US Air Force in 1991 flew directly over SA-2 sites with F-16As from the NC National Guard and managed to hit them with iron bombs. No losses despite a lack of Wild Weasel protection and only relatively minimal jamming support since the Guardsmen were rather poorly supported due to the somewhat haphazard nature of the air planning.

It's one thing to compare what a missile should do. It's another entirely to look how they actually perform.

As they work in practice, SAMs are left extremely wanting.

They do not produce effective anti-aircraft bastions. They do not defend against air raids in particular. The much vaunted 1973 performance was not a particularly rough time for air forces, it merely increased losses somewhat fractionally, I believe the Israeli losses went from something like 1-2 airframes damaged per 100 sorties to closer to 3-4. You might be doubling its capability but the performance is still rubbish per missiles fired.

As it appears, SAMs only function reliably against pilots caught unawares. Pilots moving into a combat zone with a known SAM threat, or suspected, are generally alert enough that SAMs fired do no damage and are for all intents and purposes smoke and mirrors.

I suspect that SAMs real purpose in the air war is causing aircraft to dump their stores and abort, but this is rather useless without any effective air force to attack the enemy. Which has never really occurred in the history of either the RAF or the USAF. Not even in WW2 was attacks on aircraft particularly destructive during the height of the Blitz and the performance of enemy air forces has been declining ever since.

It's sort of axiomatic, missiles are rather like cannons, since they are the ground shooting at the sky and the same general rules apply. Sure the Flak gun might kill a plane at 15,000 feet, but that's going to be much rarer than the Flak gun killing the plane at 500 feet.
No they aren't. You assumption is all wrong.

The flak efficiency decreased with altitude, because shell velocity is decreasing, its flight became less stable due to wind and difference in atmosphere pressure, and inevitable inaccuracies of initial shot started to increase dispersion.

The missile efficiency is not decreased with altitude. Missile is accelerating after the launch, so the velocity is more or less constant. It's flight is artificially stabilized and guided toward target, so wind and all other problems are insignificant.

Again it has nothing to do with technical characteristics. Not sure why all of that is important, because it isn't.

Flying high up puts you in the engagement ranges of fewer weapons in general. Flying lower makes you more likely to be hit by things, whether it's a deck gun or guy with a rifle, or a strategic SAM or division level air defense weapon, or a Stinger missile, or Sea Dart.

It pretty much has everything to do with reaction times for the crew and everything else is so minor it's more or less washed away by this. Humans aren't robots and generally well trained pilots avoid being shot down by having more time to take evasive actions because their reaction times are going to vary, but more importantly more reaction time means missiles will miss more likely. Low altitude flying reduces this time available, which results in more pilots killed. Provided the crew of the aircraft is able to perform some measure of defensive jinking, divert course, operate a countermeasure of some kind, they will generally avoid a SAM.

SAMs are not particularly good at killing planes per missile fired. They are okay-ish at making bombers abort. Kind of.

Even in the Package Q strike, when F-16s flew over Baghdad minus the Weasel cover and the SAMs were firing with full radar guidance, they were still consistently missing. At one point an F-16 pilot dodged nearly 10 SA-2s, because he was aware of them and alert and able to jink and operate his countermeasures.The same cannot be said for Scott O'Grady, flying a very similar plane, who did not spot the missile or use any countermeasures, so he was shot down.

SAMs are usually behind the curve of ECM except in two major incidents (Vietnam and 1973) where aircraft and SAMs were mismatched in SAM's favor, and a few smaller ones (individual engagements in other wars or combat zones such as Bosnia's various shootdowns) where pilot lapse or poor planning occurred. Those two major incidents weren't huge disasters for air forces. They did not lead to a total rout or destruction of the air forces involved, nor did they particularly prevent air forces from striking targets.

By the measure of providing a zone of control SAMs are rather horrendous at the job. They do not do a job at killing planes. They do not keep planes out of your airspace, and they do not really not stop air planners from hitting targets. This was as true in Falklands as most other wars, despite the Argies being otherwise mediocre they were still quite effective at employing their weapons.

The true reasons they flew at low altitude is simply because they knew the British had bad AEW, and likely didn't want them to be spotted coming in on approach to hit with bombs. This is less fear of SAMs and more fear of being intercepted by SHARs or simply maintaining tactical surprise. By kill counts, the Argies would be afraid of SHAR, but by practical considerations they simply wanted to surprise the British.

Had the British had excellent AEW from some sort of airplane or large helicopter that could cover the low altitudes around the task force they probably would have approached from medium to high altitudes to maximize potential defensive options for their pilots and make the SHAR's jobs harder because they'd need to come up to meet with the Argies. Perhaps multiple layers with A-4s or Daggers at low altitude with iron bombs and Super Es with missiles at medium-high altitude, would be done. That would make sense.

Missiles don't care about launch altitudes too much while CCIP definitely does.

While SAMs aren't useless, the planning factors that tend to lead to low altitude versus high altitude flight is rather more different than "SAMs". While I'm sure they're quite high up, they're not the main reason why low altitude flight tended to be done. I'd imagine had more to do with fear of being intercepted by manned jets and using the horizon as cover against GCI sectors than anything, since look-down AEW was rare when low altitude flying was the norm.

This is no longer the case except for people who cannot employ INS guided weapons like JDAM of course. Those that still rely on CCIP/CCRP have no recourse but to fly low into the teeth of the air defense. SAMs haven't kept F-35, F-22, or F-16 from flying high up over Syria, but they're still absolutely lethal against low altitude aircraft like helicopters.

Perhaps this means the ultimate surface to air missile flies at hypersonic or faster speeds to reach things at medium to high altitudes in a literal blink of an eye, but that hasn't been made yet.
 
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Dilandu

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People have a bad habit of inflating the lethality and danger of missile weapons.
They have even worse habit to dismiss the lethality and danger of missile weapons.

The IAF was still doing attack runs the entirety of the Yom Kippur War. SA-6 didn't stop them it just made them slow down a bit.
Yes, because air defense assumed to be the second echelon behind the fighter aircraft, not the sole defense.

An ARM or or flares or chaff. None of which the Argies had, but they are rather useful for evading guided missiles of any stripe.
Most SAM's could discriminate chaff, infrared guidance is usually used only on MANPAD's, and ARM's aren't panacea either.

The US Air Force in 1991 flew directly over SA-2 sites
Yeah, yeah, over legacy missile systems, not even of the latest models.

Should I remind you how F-117 was downed by S-125 in Serbia?

You might be doubling its capability but the performance is still rubbish per missiles fired.
Since the missiles are much cheaper than planes and pilots, the results are still that missile wins.

The much vaunted 1973 performance was not a particularly rough time for air forces, it merely increased losses somewhat fractionally, I believe the Israeli losses went from something like 1-2 airframes damaged per 100 sorties to closer to 3-4.
Considering that SAM's efficiently precluded Israel planes from doing their job, I could only cite myself again:

I also should point that if plane run from missile, then it essentially abort its mission, and therefore missile won.
If the fear for the planes would force the enemy to hold its air force on ground, the losses would be zero, and thus theoretically SAM's would have zero efficiency. :)
 

Archibald

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they could have done so with air refueling
What tankers ? they only had too few KC-130s which were already overstretched refueling Skyhawks and S.E.
The Mirage III were not capable of aerial refueling, can't remember if the Israeli types had that capability.

Another problem with the Mirage III fleet: too short range.
- they could make it to the Falklands at high altitude with no afterburner
- if they went low and / or used the afterburner: game over, they would not return.

The Daggers had slightly better range (the Israelis had improved that, first step from their IIIC toward the final Kfir) but they were used for attack.

I think the reason they retired the Mirage III fleet was that
- not aerial refuelable
- can't use their A.B, range too short
- can't go at alow altitude, range too short

That made simply useless for the air war over the Falklands - better to use the Daggers and Skyhawks that could at least make the trip with some bombs.

Also on the first day of the war the Mirage III (aware of the above mentioned limits) came at high altitude, supersonic; and waited for the SHARs there. The Britishs were no fools, and refused such fight - waiting at low altitude.
- After all those high altitude Mirages were no threat to the fleet
- And sooner rather than later, they would have to go down, either to bomb the ships or pick a fight with the SHARs
- the SHARs could afford to wait, because Invincible and Hermes nearby
- the Mirages had no such luxury.
And the British logic paid. The Mirages went low to pick a fight, and there the SHARs kicked their asses, as everybody was subsonic there.

After that the Mirages were found useless and retired: what mattered most was not killing SHARs but bombing the heck out of the RN; Daggers and Skyhawks were far more useful in that role, and since the southern airfields were so limited in capabilities...
The Mirages went away.

You do realize that I said all this, right?

You do realize that you are a jerk there, right ?

My apologies, that wasn't meant to come off as flippant; I thought you were addressing me, given you quoted me, and had misread my argument or something.

You're basically correct. The Mirages had little use in practice and had they been used for CAP out of Stanley, or worse, the Super Es like I think someone originally suggested, it would have simply meant that the Argies either spend their time dodging Sea Darts or getting killed by Sea Darts, and not engaging strikers unless they came down to low altitude.

tl;dr The entire British DCA effort was highly defensive, and breaking it requires attacking, which makes forward basing CAPs or something of any variety out of Stanley a bad idea. The Argies needed more bombs and missiles, not more airbases, to do more harm to the British. Had the British needed to launch an OCA against the Argentinian Air Force it would have been even worse for the Argies since they had none of the infrastructure in place, nor in inventory, to do anything about that.

Sorry too, I overreacted.
 

Kat Tsun

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People have a bad habit of inflating the lethality and danger of missile weapons.
They have even worse habit to dismiss the lethality and danger of missile weapons.

When those missiles were new and the planes were old (Vietnam, 1973), it didn't change much.

The IAF was still doing attack runs the entirety of the Yom Kippur War. SA-6 didn't stop them it just made them slow down a bit.
Yes, because air defense assumed to be the second echelon behind the fighter aircraft, not the sole defense.

That isn't what you're saying, though, unless you mean to append a qualification to your statements I guess. I would say this is obvious, in theory, though reality never really conforms to theories.

But this is rarely how it works out in practice. Air forces usually tend to liquidate one or the other on contact. It's the exception, not the rule, that air forces fight for protracted periods of air parity. Falklands, Iran-Iraq, and the Great Patriotic War are the only places that come to mind where this was truly shown. One of these is because OCA was never done, one is because OCA was generally beyond the capability of either side, and the last one may be because other considerations outstripped OCA. Most other wars involving large usage of aviation since the beginning of WW2 and the rise of strategic bombing tended to be rather one-sided affairs.

In some cases, such as the South African intervention in Angola, air power was neutralized with extremely long range howitzers, although you could argue this is merely another form of airpower's most fundamental aspect, rapid delivery of weapons at extreme ranges with high accuracy, in another guise.

In general I think protracted air duels says more about the state of the two sides in their experience and understanding of the fundamentals. The Soviets never achieved the same level of air supremacy as the Americans and British did, despite fighting the same diminishing enemy, and absolutely had the capacity to engage them.

Whether that's due to some bottleneck on the Soviet side or the Germans having preferentially allocated close air support to their Ostfront troops, is probably up for debate. OTOH the Soviets had a respectable strategic bombing force so it's plausible that a relative inexperience or naivety in air planning may have been the issue. Certainly the Germans would be far more guilty of this than anyone as they might be the first and last air force to think that close air support integration is the raison-d'etre of airplanes.

Supposedly, some big Soviet general of the air forces visited Helsiniki after the war and was astonished to find that it had survived due to blackout, and the bulk of strategic bombing raids simply missed the city, but that may be apocryphal.

Regardless, there hasn't been a case where SAMs have negated airpower to the same extent as airpower has killed itself. Not 1973, not Vietnam, not Falklands, which might be the single top three of surface to air missile wars where the SAMs were decently good at killing stuff on a statistical level.

Anyway yes it's true that air forces have higher primacy than SAMs. But it's equally true that air forces can operate and fully defend themselves without any SAMs or AAA. The inverse cannot be said, which is why I don't think killing planes is something SAMs are meant to do.

An ARM or or flares or chaff. None of which the Argies had, but they are rather useful for evading guided missiles of any stripe.
Most SAM's could discriminate chaff, infrared guidance is usually used only on MANPAD's, and ARM's aren't panacea either.

This is why low altitude missiles like Stinger are probably the most dangerous threats for aviation honestly. No warning. You just see a puff of smoke, and if you don't catch it visually (or you're lucky enough to have a computer MAWS), you might soon be dead without ever realizing it.

The US Air Force in 1991 flew directly over SA-2 sites
Yeah, yeah, over legacy missile systems, not even of the latest models.

Should I remind you how F-117 was downed by S-125 in Serbia?

Yes. At low altitude. From short range. Against a pilot not expecting to be attacked.

The perfect SAM engagement? Possibly. It says everything about SAMs and their lethality to aircraft.

Had the F-117 been equipped with JDAMs and flying at high altitude nothing would have had happened. This was true for the B-2s.

You might be doubling its capability but the performance is still rubbish per missiles fired.
Since the missiles are much cheaper than planes and pilots, the results are still that missile wins.

Missiles have a rate of kill rate of around 0.01-0.03 on the best of days, based on Vietnam experience. So the exchange is either equivalent or weighted slightly in favor of the aircraft most of the time. Sometimes it's weighed slightly in favor of the SAM but this is very rare, and regardless it has never stopped an air attack.

Anti-tank guns have stopped tank attacks, though, so it isn't clear what the purpose of high altitude SAMs really is. They are not some anti-plane defense, clearly, because they have never performed this adequately. All they do is tend to do is make air planners annoyed, take very little effort in avoiding them, and never really manage to stop them. Neither permanently nor temporarily.

There has never been an aircraft equivalent of Kursk where an air force has been so fully destabilized by a mass raid on some protected bastion covered by AAA and SAMs (the aerial equivalent of mines and AT guns, at least that outdated models of aircraft survivability might have you believe), that it simply never recovers, and I'm not sure that it is possible anyway. SAMs seem to be simply too expensive in their economic exchanges to be able to sustain that.

The analogy between SAMs and shore defense batteries is far more apt I think. Much like battleships, planes have won pretty much every time. Maybe the Cenepa War, like Wake Island, is more or less the only time SAMs have kept airplanes away.

The much vaunted 1973 performance was not a particularly rough time for air forces, it merely increased losses somewhat fractionally, I believe the Israeli losses went from something like 1-2 airframes damaged per 100 sorties to closer to 3-4.
Considering that SAM's efficiently precluded Israel planes from doing their job,

They didn't. This is rather well documented.

Israeli pilots were conducting strike sorties literally every day of the war against the Egyptians' frontline forces. The SA-6 didn't stop them. They simply stopped hitting the SA-6s because the tank forces moved so far ahead.

I also should point that if plane run from missile, then it essentially abort its mission, and therefore missile won.
If the fear for the planes would force the enemy to hold its air force on ground, the losses would be zero, and thus theoretically SAM's would have zero efficiency. :)

That's...not true. SAMs would have infinite efficiency if they could keep planes grounded by merely existing because they would win air supremacy for you without ever doing anything. But they don't.

SAMs are not effective if they never fire. This much is true. SAMs are equally not effective, unless they can inflict substantial enough losses on an air force to cause it to stop attacking. This much is also true. Either they are bad at killing planes, which is literally true, or their job is something besides killing planes.

So far the only thing that stops air forces from attacking is other air forces. What role SAMs play is highly questionable but they seem to be not very good without an air force. Whether the money that goes to SAMs would be better put into more planes is an extremely tendentious argument, but what shape the SAM takes is also highly debatable. It is clear without a functional air force that SAMs are nothing more than a nuisance at best, and the only thing that the USAF feared in the 1960's was the PVO Strany's fleet of interceptors and the high costs of super high altitude bombers like XB-70.

Conversely SR-71, a very similar aircraft to XB-70, was never successfully engaged by SA-5 or SA-2 despite being fired on by both, to the extent that it was ever stopped or had to abort its mission. I think in one instance a plane was damaged by Libyan SAMs, but it still took its pictures AIUI, so it was irrelevant.

S-400 is probably fine for defending single targets, such as airfields or strategic command posts, against particular forms of attack. Ballistic missiles come to mind. SAMs have an extremely good track record of destroying munitions, however brief it has been (both Tor and Iron Dome are notable killers of PGM), after all, which makes sense: bombs and rockets don't move much.

But SAMs are not an immutable shield against air attack. They do not keep planes from operating in their zones of operation. Planes often penetrate and bomb things within the SAM's missile range, attracting their ire to little effect, that can be demonstrated, or they are merely lit up by tracking radars and the SAM operators do not fire.

When they do fire they often miss, due to factors beyond the missile operator or missile designer's control, and generally relating to actions taken by a pilot.

The most effective place to be when firing a surface to air missile is at an airplane that is not expecting to be attacked, at as short a range a possible to minimize potential detection of the launch, and with as little potential warning (do not radiate microwave emitter at 3 AM).

The most important factors for a successful surface-to-air missile shot are warning to the enemy pilot, the potential evasive manvuers an enemy pilot can take (this means if he's flying high enough, he can dodge your missile completely), and being aware of his presence in the first place. To some extent this mirrors the ideal air to air engagement: be aware of your enemy, be able to surprise him, and do so quickly. But SAMs have the struggle bus because the truck that carries them can't fly, so they're often attacking things that are moving at near supersonic speeds and might even be aware of their presence, at least in the classical "bastion" manner.

Future SAMs most important features will be low probability of detection (in all aspects, both during and after missile launch, and during transit of the TEL and radar vehicle), low speed to target, and difficulty in identification of launch sites.

This bodes poorly for the viability of high visibility targets like MIM-104C or S-300P in air combat, against manned aircraft, that maneuver extremely capably in atmosphere.

On the other the future seems quite bright for anti-PGM systems like Tor or Vityaz and PAC-3 and S-400 which can intercept munitions deployed by aircraft. Even if you don't kill the plane, you can stop it from hitting what it's aiming at.

While SAMs are hardly useless, but they don't do what you seem to be saying they do. They do not kill planes. They merely stop things from being bombed. These are two different things. The only thing that kills planes is another plane. Preferably it kills them on the ground. A SAM might cause a plane to abort, it might even kill one plane out of a flight, but they're going to come back tomorrow and do it again.

To put it another way: the attrition rate for SAMs is far too low for it to be an effective plane killer. It does something else. B-52s may have flew low because they were scared of SA-5, or maybe they didn't as they seemed to do well enough against SA-2 in Vietnam over Hanoi, but SA-5 never stopped an SR-71 and it seems about as likely to stop a XB-70 with a bomb load full of SRAMs or some other INS guided high offset weapon. Which is what you initially implied by saying that the USAF's moving from XB-70 high altitude bombers to B-52D low altitude attack was. That's a common, but flawed, historical conception. There's a picture on this very forum showing the engagement times and ranges that a SA-2 would have against a non-maneuvering SR-71 with no ECM.

Surely even if a large engagement window (which does cut both ways, but SAMs rarely have the benefit since they are looking up and planes are looking down) starts with a sedate crew, they would rapidly be awoken by beeps, boops, and whistles meant to catch their attention. Unless they weren't, in which case I suppose it's curtains. Which is why low altitude flight is so dangerous.

This seems to be the real purpose of SAMs: virtual attrition on air planners who need to assume that munitions are not going to arrive on target, either because bombers have aborted due to evading missile launches, or because the munition itself was killed mid-flight, or because the B-52D carrying the atom bomb was slapped out of the sky by a SA-2 was it was lining up the bombsight. That last one statistically would happen but it would hardly be the biggest killer. Swatting planes is just a nice bonus, at the end of the day.

Anyway...

Which is sort of what the Argies were trying to do when they tried to attack Invincible with Exocet and iron bombs, but in a sort of mopey way that has a lot in the way of cajones but not much in brains.

Sea Dart was a rather mediocre SAM against crossing targets trying to penetrate a defense zone, and I think a two-axis attack on Invincible would have succeeded provided the axes were around 60-70 degrees or so and involved 3-4 missiles, and a flight of A-4s for each axis. This would put Invincible and her close escorts in an unenviable position of being abeam one pair of rockets and astern the other. I doubt such a plan would work without divine intervention given the sheer density of warships and rather paltry number of rockets fired (maybe Andromeda or something is hit) but it would be far more sensible and have a greater chance than "basically zero" of hitting Invincible proper.

It would require half again or double the number of aircraft being available though.
 
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Fluff

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I wonder if we can get refunds on all those TFRs....
It seems the RAF et al, got it wrong for so many years.......

I'd suggest every conflict is different, terrain, distance, what aircraft you have, what defences the enemy has, how much money each has, pilot training, etc etc. The benefit of low flying is that you are not detected. therefore not engaged. Fly high, and the enemy can plot your objective, and you will find a big wing of spitfires waiting for you, just as you are lining up on the target. In asymmetrical warfare, so the last 20 years, the west flies high, as it has the time, the aircraft, limited opposition, the money to fly a long way, loiter all day, and go home, without hitting anything.
 

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@Kat Tsun You’ve made several glaring misstatements of fact* which lead me to infer that you have not read up on how the Argentines conducted the air war from their side.

I suggest a little more humility and more research may be useful rather than using hyperbole and assumptions to cover for your lack of knowledge.

*The Mirages couldn’t be refueled for one. And the Argentines had proper GCI from their Falklands radar, which was able to effectively vector fighters against the Harrier CAPs on May 1 and help other aircraft avoid the CAP.
 

Kat Tsun

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@Kat Tsun You’ve made several glaring misstatements of fact* which lead me to infer that you have not read up on how the Argentines conducted the air war from their side.

I suggest a little more humility and more research may be useful rather than using hyperbole and assumptions to cover for your lack of knowledge.

*The Mirages couldn’t be refueled for one. And the Argentines had proper GCI from their Falklands radar, which was able to effectively vector fighters against the Harrier CAPs on May 1 and help other aircraft avoid the CAP.

Yes I was mistaken about a plane ending in V instead of III, built of the same series, and using the same engines. I'm not mistaken about the basics, though. I also don't give a wooden nickel about Mirages' refueling capabilities.

I offered Mirage as CAP as an example of what could be done: It had long range missiles and radars to use them. This is something every other aircraft in theater lacked, including my mistaken assumption about the Dagger being a MIII rather than MV and having the BVR French missiles. Not that it matters much as evidently the Argentinians weren't good enough to maneuver against the British given the limits they had to work with. BVR missiles would only help them since they require a certain lack of maneuvering and positioning to work well. You sort of just fly really high and point your nose at stuff far away.

I also don't think the fuel mattered much aside from the number of simultaneous CAPs and their radii, as the air to air engagements probably didn't last five minutes at any point in the war.

The Gulf of Sidra engagements took about that long and they were rather sedate BVR-transitioning-to-WVR engagements with a very strict ROE and constant communication and confirmation between pilots and AEW controllers. Conversely I'd doubt the Argentinian pilots lasted thirty seconds in the gunsights of a SHAR driver. No one needed to ask permission to pull the trigger on an AIM-9L or Sea Dart, ditto Roland and Oerlikons for the Argentinians.

A few more planes just means a few more kills for the British and nothing else changes except how fast Argentina surrenders.

Now back to the basics...

I’ve said for a long time the unrecognised hero of the Falklands War was the civil engineer that sited the island’s only hard runway airfield on an (almost) island near Port Stanley. The problem was that due to geological issues it couldn’t be expanded without enormous effort and certainly not possible in the three to four week window of opportunity before hostilities. Whoever it was also made sure its length in 82 was below that required for any practical Mirage operations…. brilliant strategic thinking.
Very true. This is another problem that IMHO could have been solved by more Super Etendards… with its better runway performance and light fighter heritage I’ve always wondered what could have been achieved if enough SuEs had been available for some to fly CAP from Port Stanley.

...such as this rather bizarre suggestion.

Suffice to say this is a bad idea, unless your goal is to kill the Super E force on day one (or earlier, given the Black Buck raids), in which case it's an extremely good idea! What's even the end goal there? You never discuss that, you merely say that "Super Es would shoot down all the SHARs" in so many words. That's dubious, to say the least.

I don't think the British themselves, even with Zimbabwean ground crews, could manage to shoot down enough Harriers with all the ammo a couple Hercs would bring in guided solely by a tiny rural airport's highly exposed and singularly emitting radar for GCI.

The Argies inflicted more material, monetary, and manpower losses on the British by using five rockets than they ever could with four or six or eight more planes in a dogfight they had no chance of winning in the first place. However, GCI is bad, lack of jamming and lack of airborne command and control is also bad. Both makes for a DCA operation against two British carriers with multiple squadrons of attack aircraft impossible.

These are the historic means needed to win air battles in 1960, as the United States demonstrated in Vietnam with the EC-121 Warning Star AEW flights, and later with its post-war development of the E-3. Much less in 1980 when such things were actively discussed by all air forces. The fact that neither side had such things in sufficient quantity was a massive boon for the Argentinians at the end of it all, as otherwise things like the Super Es would be killed immediately by DLI SHARs vectored to intercept rather than loitering a few miles away.

The only reason the Falklands War lasted as long as it did is because the Argentinians kept their aircraft back behind an impenetrable screen of defense called "the zone of exclusion's border" and the British never bothered to attack them at their home bases. The British were fighting with a hand tied behind their back and the Argentinians took full advantage of this and did about as well as could ever be expected, perhaps better than even.

Putting the most valuable and dangerous air-shipping aircraft on the frontlines is a good way for Argentina to not just shoot itself in its foot, but to saw off the rest of the leg to boot, and makes the British job of locating and destroying the most dangerous anti-shipping threat utterly trivial.

Argentina did not want for more CAPs or more AEW. The British never attacked them aside from Stanley. Which was a tiny airstrip used for Pucaras and whatever. They wanted for more missiles and better bombs. Nothing else. You need weapons if you're attacking and Argentina didn't have enough weapons to keep attacking the British with, which is why it never stopped the landing forces.

More Super Es might have been useful, but in literally the opposite manner you suggest, i.e. as offensive rather than defensive weapons. More Exocets would have been many times better, and Exocets are probably easier to ship since they are smaller.
 
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Archibald

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Yes I was mistaken about a plane ending in V instead of III, built of the same series, and using the same engines. I'm not mistaken about the basics, though. I also don't give a wooden nickel about Mirages' refueling capabilities.

Well... you should. Mirage III are not Neshers, which are not Mirage V either... range is nt the same, bombload is not the same.

And yes, that's "basics" so you are kind of mistaken.
 
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H_K

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@Kat Tsun Of course more Exocets would have been helpful. I don’t think it’s as simple as “more offense” though.

Something would have had to be done to challenge British air superiority, which was a tremendous advantage. It drastically reduced resupply to the islands, forced attacking aircraft down into the weeds, caused the loss of ~20% of Argentina’s strike power and overall really impeded Argentine chances of success.

Short of mission killing the aircraft carriers, I was simply suggesting that the RN’s Achilles heel was the limited number of Sea Harriers at its disposal. With only 20 Sea Harriers initially, it wouldn’t have taken much attrition to severely reduce the CAP effectiveness… each Sea Harrier being individually almost as valuable as a frigate. I was positing that 6 fighters at Port Stanley on May 1 (and some attrition replacements from the mainland later on), might achieve that with 1:1 or 2:1 loss rates… and that the Super Etendard, if available in greater numbers, would have been the aircraft for the job.
 
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Archibald

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Argentina's air force badly lacked enough transport aircraft and tankers - too few C-130s for both jobs.

And France expressly blocked deliveries of Exocets beyond number five.
 

timmymagic

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After that the Mirages were found useless and retired (just like the antiquated Canberra bombers).
Another reason was the Argentinian's had a critically low number of Mirage III supersonic drop tanks. In the May 1st engagement what the SHAR pilots thought were missile launches were actually the Mirage III dumping their tanks ready to fight (the fuel vapours escaping looked like missile exhaust plumes). Losing those tanks meant that had a real issue even sortieing the Mirage over the Falklands as a threat (which would have been militarily useful).

Wanna bet? R-60M)

R60M arrived later in 82. But even then the AA-8 Aphid was in no way comparable to 9L, it lacked a full all-aspect capability and its range was so low that its utility in any real combat would have been questionable. There was a good reason the Soviets developed the AA-11....

Remember AA-8 went up against AIM-9L in the Bekaa Valley....it didn't go well for the Syrian's....


Think some people really, really need to read 'Airpower in the Falklands Conflict' to bust a lot of the myths that keep on being repeated here....
 

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Interesting, the drop tanks. I suppose the Daggers, being offsprings of Mirage V, had big subsonic ones... for strike, at low level.
Back to square one... a critical lack of range.
 

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@Kat Tsun Of course more Exocets would have been helpful. I don’t think it’s as simple as “more offense” though.

Of course it is? As Clausewitz said, everything in war is simple.

Exoceting the carriers would help and is the only meaningful way the Argentinian Air Force could inflict material losses to the British beyond their ability to handle.

Nothing else approaches knocking out Hermes and Invincible in strategic importance. Getting 10 Exocets instead of 5 from France might have genuinely changed significantly the course of the war for some escorts like Exeter or Andromeda, in addition to all other losses, but would be unable to change the general trend much.

There's a very obvious goal: destroy the British ability to generate air power in the vicinity of the Falklands.

How you would go about this when the Royal Navy has instituted a blockade using nuclear submarines and two attack carriers is beyond me but the actual performance of the Argentinian Air Forces is beyond much reproach in their methodology. They correctly identified the problem, correctly allocated forces to address it, and found that lacking. There's not much else that a healthy dose of chutzpah and common sense can do when you're short about a dozen bombers and some 20 or 30 missiles.
 
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Zoo Tycoon

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This is as true for Sea Dart as anything else, but Sea Dart is rather substantially poor at certain classes of air targets that are predominantly considered "low altitude fighters and cruise missiles".

Sea Dart was not a particularly good missile unless the target never maneuvered, this is especially true given ramjet missiles (such as the Odin) suffered from major lateral acceleration problems. I'm not entirely sure if the Argies could have taken advantage of this, because it didn't seem to help them as they don't appear to have done much evasive maneuvers against Sea Dart, but that's probably because they had poor training.

As they found out the Sea Dart was quite effective at engaging low altitude targets. Had they been moving perpendicular to the incoming missiles it's likely they would have been able to evade but that would require abilities beyond them. Sea Dart's rather notorious poor performance against crossing targets wasn't widespread knowledge in 1982.

Sea Dart only hit the rocket because it was more or less zeroed in on Exeter and locked onto Andromeda. Had another missile come barreling down perpendicular to that one, or high off axis, it's highly probable the Sea Darts would have missed because they had bad performance against crossing targets at medium (10-15 km) range.

This is exactly the issue the British faced with Sea Dart Mark 2 and why it was ultimately replaced with Aster 15, after all!

But as I said that was relatively unknown at the time, perhaps even to the British, so the Argies definitely wouldn't have the sense to do such a thing as they wouldn't be aware of Sea Dart's weakness, but it would be the optimal method of attack to hit from two or more directions vectored on Invincible.

By flying perpendicular to incoming SAMs they could easily present a crossing target that is far too difficult for the rather crummy lateral acceleration of the Mark 1 Sea Dart to hit.

Your knowledge of Sea Dart is pure fiction, way off the mark or poorly researched irrelevant projections from other systems;- .

Fiction - Sea Dart had poor low level performance, against manoeuvring and against crossing targets, Argentine pilots didn’t manoeuvre
Fact 1 - The Sea Dart kill of Skyhawk C301 on 30 May, destroyed at 9-10 miles, at 100ft altitude while in a hard turn. ref Falkland The Air war
Fact 2 - Sea Dart engagement attempt on Exocet which was crossing HMS Exeter bow at 5 miles at 30-50ft, again on 30 May, Successfully track achieved, missile launch and it guided. Results not observed either visually or by radar as the Exocet dropped below the radar horizon a few seconds prior to engagement completion. Ref HMS Exeter Operations Log. The Sea Dart is not credited with the kill although the Exocet didn’t complete its expected flight range.
Fact 3 - Sea Darts specification NSR 6502 Issue 4 required no degradation in missile performance for targets crossing at up to 70 deg, including receding targets.
i- The Sea Wolf had a crossing target problem because only one of its engagement mode would allow it, ie CLOS using the TV camera on the launcher.
ii- Argentine A4’s mostly lacked RHWR’s (All Navy, and a high percentage of AF)

Fiction - Sea Darts Odin suffered from major lateral acceleration problems.
Fact - Sea Darts intake is axis symmetrical so fundamentally could not have a problem only in the lateral (or horizontal) plane. The Odin was the flame tube which was supplied with air via a meter and a bit long tube so it always processed very straight flowing air. Ref - simple examination The Thor on the Bloodhound initially suffered from flow disruption shed from the forebody (fuselage) while pitching ;- terminal accuracy was significantly improved by late interception phase control de-restriction. The axis symmetrical intake was selected in the next generation because it inherently avoided this problem.

Fiction - relatively unknown at the time, perhaps even to the British, so the Argies definitely wouldn't have the sense …..they wouldn't be aware of Sea Dart's weakness
Fact - The Argentine Navy operated Sea Dart, used the same tactical engagement doctrine and had jointly trained with the Royal Navy.

Fiction - Sea Dart 2 was cancelled due to poor target crossing performance
Fact - Limited U.K. funding in 1978 meant there was a simple choice;- 34 additional Sea Harriers or Sea Dart 2;- The choice was extra Sea Harriers so the Sea Dart mk2 was cancelled. Subsequently the Sea Dart mk 1 was upgraded with a bunch of mods including mid course guidance, frag warheads and IR prox fuses (some of which came from the mk2 study)… BTW I worked on Sea Dart Mod1 upgrade between 84-86 and while I remember quite a few issues, poor crossing target performance wasn’t amongst them. And then in1991 a Sea Dart destroyed a Silkworm that was a crossing target.

Concerning the claim in another post about the superior turning performance of the Mirage/Dagger. Ah no, pure delta’s have terrible turning because of the tiny pitching moment which can be generated by the elevons;- they’re just too close to the cp.This is particularly true of the Dagger which had no LE slats, which tends to move the cp forward thus increasing the moment arm. Pure delta’s were intended as interceptor as they were unsuited to ACM. This is the reason there’s no more pure delta’s;- they all have canards to provide pitching moments and hence turning performance.

If you wish to dispute the above, please provide reference documents for all your Sea Dart claims.
 
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alejandrogrossi

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Yes I was mistaken about a plane ending in V instead of III, built of the same series, and using the same engines. I'm not mistaken about the basics, though. I also don't give a wooden nickel about Mirages' refueling capabilities.

Well... you should. Mirage III are not Neshers, which are not Mirage V either... range is nt the same, bombload is not the same.

And yes, that's "basics" so you are kind of mistaken.
Archibald
its important to say that the Dagger use almost the same rute to the islands in every mission, because fuel issues (tipical. 3x1300 lts drop tanks and 2 x 250kgs bomb)
All Mirage III and the dagger, have a maximum of 5 mnutes over the Islands.
And as your say we have only 2 KC130, that can not refuel the Mirage/ Dagger (if you asume IFR capabilities), because stall velocity issues on the deltas
sorry for the quality.
A photo of the titpical load of a Dagger in de war
You can see the 3 1300 lt drop tank and the 2 bombs
1642294412606.png
another
you see the tail of the bomb near the central drop tank
1642294606558.png
 
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