Air defence strategy (in the Australian context)

This thread is to start a realistic discussion on what would or wouldn't work as possible "upgrades" to the current RAAF posture around Australia.

In particular I'd like to hear thoughts on the following ideas:

- Hardened Aircraft Shelters
In Western defence planning these have not normally been used. USAF in particular seems to be comfortable with dispersal areas as a primary defence measure. Soviet, Chinese and North Korean airfields have long had some "hardened elements" in their designs. Other countries currently using such measures include Singapore, Saudi Arabia, UAE, just to name a few I've actually seen.

The argument "against" these type of structures generally seems to centre around the first Gulf War and the apparent ease with which they were destroyed by the Coalition. They are also expensive to build and don't guarantee protection, a larger bomb or cruise missile can always be used. I would imagine they would also mainly be useful in the opening stages of a conflict, because once destroyed the would be hard to rebuild and the conflict may have moved to another location.

The argument "for" would be that a larger bomb or cruise missile has to be used to guarantee destruction of the facility and the aircraft inside. This leads to the need to use heavy bombers or precludes a surprise attack by submarine launched cruise missiles (because the warheads are too small to penetrate the structure). The smaller countries mentioned (Singapore etc) also are extremely vulnerable (in my opinion) to a surprise, short range attack destroying most of their aircraft on the ground. Another "for" argument I believe has come out of the conflict in Syria, the use of drones. The Russian bases came under attack from drone swarms multiple times, again having an aircraft in even a medium strength structure would preclude these attacks.

So in the Australian context, I see the threats coming from having a small, highly professional air force not being able to sustain even small losses on the ground. In particular a base such as RAAF Tindal would be vulnerable to special forces assault from a distance with man portable drones. Also the risk of submarine launched cruise missile attack from the Timor Sea. Given the size of Australia, its almost impossible to monitor the entire area. I guess the previous actions of the British SAS in North Africa against the Germans describes the style of threat for the RAAF.

Can anyone else provide any thoughts for upgrading at least Tindal to include this sort of protection? In the medium term I would expect similar facilities would be build at the bare bases, in particular Curtin and Learmonth.


- Logistics upgrades
In almost all the military history I've read, wars are won or lost on logistical support. Yes the weapons come into it, but the greatest gun in the world is useless without ammunition. So in the Australian context (of air defence) I find it hard to understand we built this great network of "bare bases" with no thoughts on how to resupply them. RAAF Scherger is a great example, until last year a large majority of the Peninsular Development Road was unsealed. Even now around 200km of the road remains unsealed and potentially impassable for months at a time (for heavy vehicles anyway).

On this topic I have a few thoughts.
- All weather roads capable of handling 53.5 metre road trains should be a minimum. In the example of RAAF Scherger, this would open up great opportunities for the people living on the Cape as well as Weipa. (link below shows what has been completed late last year)

Cape York Region Package | Department of Transport and Main Roads (tmr.qld.gov.au)

- Rail spur or pipeline to a rail depot for RAAF Tindal. The local government even proposed a joint civil/defence cargo depot for Katherine. This was rejected by the defence department. Given the future planned upgrades to Tindal, accessibility of fuel (and other materiel) should be of high importance, especially if able to be combined to provide benefits to the civil side.

Rail link to Tindal shot down by Defence | Katherine Times | Katherine, NT
New train station to be built in Katherine to cater for freight hub plans | Katherine Times | Katherine, NT

- Turning the Tanami Highway into an all weather road (for those of you unfamiliar it links Alice Springs with Halls Creek). This provides an alternate all weather route to northern WA. It also removes the risk (in my opinion) posed by the Victoria River bridge. If this bridge was damaged, heavy vehicles would be all but blocked from moving between the NT and northern WA. Again provides a civil benefit (although limited compared to the Scherger upgrades)

Floodwaters close Victoria Highway in Top End, stranding travellers - ABC News (even in the wet season the new bridge can be submerged for days)

There are other ideas I have thought would provide a dual civil/military benefit but in my opinion these provide the greatest benefit.


Air Force Reserve Force

I'm aware that for a relatively short period after WW2 Australia had a civil reserve air force that actually flew jet fighters. I've also tried researching how the Air National Guard works in the USA. There seems to be limited numbers of countries that run a part time reserve force for air combat.

As far as I see it there are significant issues with this idea:
- part time training means unable to be used in combat without significant training anyway
- additional cost when money is already restricted in defence budgets

However I believe some of the benefits outweigh the significant downsides:
- more airframes available when conflict starts
- a larger pool of personnel that can be trained to standard significantly faster than starting from scratch
- potential to retain talent. If full time personnel want to leave, the skill set can be transferred to the reserve forces and be kept current (albeit at a lower skill level)

Coming from a background in civil aviation, I know who many sets of crew would be required to "surge" the capacity of even the KC-30 tankers or even E-7A/P-8. This would quickly exhaust the RAAF crews and having a pool of part time KC-30 or E-7A crews would be a good starting point for an RAAF flying reserve. Considering the number of qualified pilots within Australia on the A330 and B737, I'd imagine this would be a relatively easy task to achieve.

Later on, perhaps reserve fighter squadrons could be formed out of later stage "washouts" from the RAAF fast jet training. I'd imagine a candidate who fails the training at a late stage (Hawk or F-35) could potentially still be useful as a fighter pilot with some additional training or practice provided by a reserve force. Additionally pilots and WSO's could be retained within the RAAF by allowing early "retirement" to the reserves for those pilots who seek employment in the civil world.


General Tactics:

My background is in civil aviation with a longstanding interest in history (especially military). So my knowledge of "how things work" regarding general tactics is very limited.

Given the range of ground and air threats faced by an airfield under combat conditions, I'd love to know how some of the above mentioned topics would tie in to improving Australia's air defence capabilities. Particular the following questions:

- are fighters generally "on alert" during a wartime scenario?
- are combat air patrols used for airfield defence? (or does this use a lot of resources)
- how is ground defence tackled? (RAAF airfield defence guards)
 

Boagrius

Well-Known Member
I like the thinking behind this as it is a topic that I also find interesting. To my mind I think it is going to be important to establish a credible IAMD capability, and we seem to be roughly on track to this end. The primary threats that I can see going forward are IRBMs delivered to our north-western assets (Darwin, Tindal etc) along with ALCM in much the same area. In the longer term a larger fleet of PLAN SSNs could introduce the issue of SLCM's which would broaden the number of our assets that could be targeted considerably. In the interim, the direction indicated in last year's strategic update suggests to me that a GBAD setup based around something like MEADS/Patriot, possibly coupled to THAAD will be explored. The latter may sound ambitious on cost grounds, but if the whispers about a future THAAD-ER as an anti-hyper weapon bear fruit, it could prove to be a very solid and future proof investment. After all, it is probably only a matter of time before the DF-26 or similar switches from a MaRV based warhead to an HGV. I imagine there will need to be a corresponding enhancement to our ISR apparatus so that all the new toys can find what they are supposed to shoot at. Not an easy problem to solve by any means.
 
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  • #3
I like the thinking behind this as it is a topic that I also find interesting. To my mind I think it is going to be important to establish a credible IAMD capability, and we seem to be roughly on track to this end. The primary threats that I can see going forward are IRBMs delivered to our north-western assets (Darwin, Tindal etc) along with ALCM in much the same area. In the longer term a larger fleet of PLAN SSNs could introduce the issue of SLCM's which would broaden the number of our assets that could be targeted considerably. In the interim, the direction indicated in last year's strategic update suggests to me that a GBAD setup based around something like MEADS/Patriot, possibly coupled to THAAD will be explored. The latter may sound ambitious on cost grounds, but if the whispers about a future THAAD-ER as an anti-hyper weapon bear fruit, it could prove to be a very solid and future proof investment. After all, it is probably only a matter of time before the DF-26 or similar switches from a MaRV based warhead to an HGV. I imagine there will need to be a corresponding enhancement to our ISR apparatus so that all the new toys can find what they are supposed to shoot at. Not an easy problem to solve by any means.
Plan Jericho and AIR 6500 definitely seem to be moving in this direction. Something like the THAAD system would help protect our (and US) assets from IRBM's to the north. If the USA considers it more of a threat they may even base their own systems in the Top End (just like they do in the Middle East).

"For medium to high altitude threats, the UAE operates nine PATRIOT system batteries distributed alongside major population centres and critical infrastructure sites. In addition to the UAE batteries, the US has deployed another two."

All you need to know about the UAE’s missile defense and Houthi attack propaganda | Al Arabiya English


Integrating all the new equipment and sensors will take the RAAF most of the 20's I would assume. I'm more concerned about the "basics" that have been largely overlooked for years. I think the 2016 White Paper was the only one so far to address some of the logistics gaps within the Defence Force. As I mentioned, a lot of these projects could be sold on the civil benefits alone, but would provide significant support for Defence in case of future conflict.
 

Boagrius

Well-Known Member
Yes, I mention THAAD also because - in the event of a crisis - there would probably be an abundance of more pressing IRBM targets than the top end (Guam for example), so a handful of THAAD batteries could make the use of IRBMs against us entirely unattractive. The US has also been working on integration between Patriot and THAAD, and I imagine the pairing of Patriot with the AN/TPY-2 radar would make it all the more potent in the ABM role as well.
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
I think that the FVEY and other western nations have forgotten about IADS after the end of Cold War 1.0 and rerouted that funding into other areas. Even Gulf War 1 didn't show them the benefits of an IADS and Iraq had probably the best in the world then. The US and its allies had to develop new technologies and tactics to best the Iraqi IADS which they successfully did. But after that they sat back on their arses and rested on their laurels. Meanwhile those countries that are hostile to the US and the west watched the destruction of the Iraqi IADS and then worked on ways to counteract the new tactics.

In the last 30 years technologies have changed and whilst there has been significant improvements in the western naval air defence systems, the same cannot be said about GBAD systems. For example the US Army is now realising that it has neglected that aspect so much, and is attempting to rectify it. 18 years of fighting COIN wars has lead to a reduction of the peer on peer conflict capability skills management and upkeep.

Now we have a probable enemy in the region who will have a fully modernised IADS which will be hard to crack regardless of LO aircraft and weapons or not. They also have long range strike capabilities that Australia, at present ,would have considerable difficulties defending against. Be it THAAD, AEGIS Ashore, or whatever other system that Australia decides to use.

One option could be to take the CEA radar and AEGIS system from the Hunter Class ashore along with SM-3. It would be something that would have to be thoroughly investigated and determined whether or not was a viable option. The only problem with fixed ground based systems is that they're at a known location so can be easily targeted.
 

Boagrius

Well-Known Member
GBAD has certainly been neglected in the west since the Cold War ended, but I don't think we need to despair necessarily. Between systems like THAAD, Patriot (with LTAMDS and new effectors like PAC3 MSE and Stunner), and NASAMS, there is some superb technology out there waiting to be turned into a true IADS. Even the VSHORAD space looks promising for us with 30mm Skyranger or an AS21 based Biho II potentially in the mix.

This is of course without mentioning the naval AAW stuff, whose development didn't really atrophy in the same way vis a vis GBAD. I've argued the merits of adapting them to GBAD use here before, but that depends on whether anybody is willing to front up the cash to make it happen. My suspicion is that a fixed asset like Aegis Ashore won't be survivable enough in a peer threat environment, but a mobile evolution of it should work.

On SM3, my understanding is that it is a strictly midcourse phase interceptor, so is it even capable of point defence or does it need to be forward deployed to catch a BM salvo en route to the target? Not much use if it needs to be stationed in Indonesia to protect Darwin. Perhaps this is where THAAD and/or SM6 could come into play, as they are designed to intercept their targets in the later stages of flight/terminal phase.
 
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buffy9

Active Member
According to the FSP 2020, the following projects may have merit in terms of active GBAD:

- Joint Air Battle Management System ($1.8-$2.8b AUD) ~2023 to ~2032
- Medium Range Ground Based Air Defence ($4.3-$7.3b AUD) ~2024 to ~2033
- Deployed Ballistic & High-Speed Missile Defence ($15.8-$23.7b AUD) ~2025 to 2040+.
(re. bottom of p.57, 2020 FSP)

"The proliferation of ballistic and very high-speed missiles means our
deployed forces require enhanced deployable air and anti-missile defence
when on operations. In addition to investment in defensive systems,
the Government will continue to work closely with the United States on
countering ballistic missile threats." (5.16)

The three projects overlap fairly closely with one another, particularly in regards to MRGBAD and the JABMS. RAAF could be seeking to allign these efforts with the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS), which has already demonstrated some fairly unique and potentially useful capabilities over the past year or so - including in ballistic and high-speed missile defence.




THAAD, in conjunction with MRGBAD and JABMS, would definitely make sense when the need for a deployable capability is sought. That said, the project cost seems high for what may be desired. Based on the stated cost of the Saudi Arabia buy ("It includes a whopping 44 launchers, 360 interceptors, 16 fire control and communications stations, and no less than seven AN/TPY-2 radars. Training, support, tools, facilities construction, and even 43 "Prime Mover" transporter trucks are included in the wide spanning, so called "end-to-end" weapons deal.") and the numbers (seven radars implies seven batteries), then Australia would be buying roughly two regiments if based on the three sub-units per unit rule.

This seems high for Australian requirements (I could be wrong) and would imply that perhaps a series of systems is preferred, or alternatively a system is sought that can be continously upgraded and enhanced as ballistic missile/hypersonic weapon technology no doubt advances. If two batteries are sought, then it could be possible to allocate one regiment to the defence of the Top-End (including RAAF Tindal as a potential bomber base) and one to forces deployed anywhere in the immediate region or even further north in the First Island Chain. Still it seems excessive for Australia to be buying a similar number of systems to that of Saudi Arabia, especially when Australia will almost be certainly operating in conjunction with the US' own ballistic missile defence umbrella.

The project cost may also take into consideration other efforts by the US to develop ballistic missile defences, as noted in links above. If laser or railgun technology proves more apt in dealing with ballistic weapons as well as hypersonic weapons, then the high cost may be to cover for these technologies once they are developed or ready. That may also explain the high-cost - perhaps a small number of deployable THAAD batteries (in conjunction with MRGBAD and JABMS) may initially be sought, with money and time left over to invest in additional technologies that prove themselves in the role?


In terms of passive defence, it doesn't seem to be a priority? Understandably a rail line can come under attack just as well as an airbase or road network (it may also be more difficult to repair if a rural area is targeted) by any long-ranged missile, just as well as any hardened hangar can be destroyed by any missile large enough (I'm not familiar with how hardened, but I'd hazard a guess an IRBM would certainly do the job of destroying it). Any hardened facility will inevitably come under attack just as any unhardened facility would - and will be destroyed if enough attention is payed to it, which certainly would be if the intent is to destroy systems which can later be used against the firing side.

Someone else would have to answer but the thinking appears to be that anything struck can just be repaired in a timely manner if the resources are given to do so. Roads, bridges, hangars and runways to my knowledge can be repaired fairly quickly - or at least quick enough to continue supporting logistics in a useful manner. Compared to the destruction of deployed units, it may be less of an issue. With regards to RAAF Scherger, it appears (barring a few particular contingencies) that RAAF Townsville and RAAF Darwin can facilitate RAAF operations in North Australia and North of Australia, should it be needed. Forward posting a handful of surveillance or patrol aircraft to RAAF Scherger is not going to strain the road network as badly as fighters or bombers in combat operations.


So it may be estimated that strikes can be taken on the back in the event of a conflict? At least when compared to more pressing threats to forces forward in the heat of it. The number of tools that can be used to target infrastructure in NT from China or the South China Sea are limited to cyber attacks, bombers (with cruise or ballistic missiles) and a variety of surface based missiles. As @Boagrius also notes, there are far more pressing targets for China if it is the one launching such attacks. As well as Guam you've got the Andaman Islands, where India may be mounting operations that could deny it access to the Indian Ocean, something it still needs access to for resources in the immediate future. If it is cut off from such resources then any hope of sustaining conflict becomes a lot harder. There may be an advantage in targeting RAAF Tindal to deny the immediate use of bombers in a counter attack or counter offensive, but if the runway and other infrastructure can be repaired in a timely manner it is only a delaying action - one probably not worth the cost of attacking in the first place.
 

Boagrius

Well-Known Member
I suppose the difficulty is that we are catching the western GBAD market just as it enters a state of flux. Threat HGVs in particular will require new technology to counter them. While I am not yet convinced that railguns or lasers will provide a solution in the near term, the adaptation of existing systems just might (THAAD-ER; SM6).

Also noteworthy is the fact that there is potentially some overlap between the canvassed MRGBAD and BMD systems. Patriot, for example, (with all the new bells and whistles) would cover both areas, although given the amount of money set aside for the latter I have to wonder if something more substantial might also be on the cards. I say this even given that it will likely involve the acquisition of SM6 for the RAN.
 
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ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
@buffy9 Don't presume that you will be able to utilise a US Indo Pacific GBAD or BMD. Apart from USN assets, they don't have enough in the region to cover their own requirements. Also the understanding at the Pentagon, the JCS, and within the individual services, is that the Defence budgets will be smaller than what they have been in recent years.

Secondly, the intention is to change how the budget is shared between the services, with the Navy, Army and Air Force usually getting equal 1/3 shares. The intention from the next budget is for the Navy to receive a significantly larger share of the budget in order for it to fund it's shipbuilding program. Hence the Army is going to have to prioritise its funding and it has lots of priorities to fund, such as FVL, Bradley IFV replacement, M1A2 Abrams replacement etc.

Thirdly, the current political and social situation in the US has quite a bearing on future US DOD planning. Last weeks insurrection has exacerbated significant problems within the country, especially when there were serving military and law enforcement personnel amongst the Insurrectionists. That creates problems for those organisations because how many of their personnel have been radicalised and are seditious and supportive of the insurrection.

Fourthly, I would argue that the US is as close to civil war than it has been at any other time since 1865. If a US Civil War 2.0 does break out, you will not be able to rely on any US military capabilities in the region, because they will be a tad busy with a civil war at home. I hope and pray that it never comes to pass, but I am not hopeful.

Therefore what I am suggesting is that assumptions that were valid four years ago, or even one year ago, can no longer be trusted. All of that has been thrown out the window because of recent events. Hence we are in a new very uncertain era where your main ally is possibly temporarily incompis mentis, for an undetermined period of time, whilst its population is throwing a political and social tanty, which may or may not shake the foundations of its society and political system. That's what we have to factor in now until there is clear evidence in what direction the US heading. So we all need Plans B, C & probably D until we get that evidence.
 

buffy9

Active Member
I suppose the difficulty is that we are catching the western GBAD market just as it enters a state of flux. Threat HGVs in particular will require new technology to counter them. While I am not yet convinced that railguns or lasers will provide a solution in the near term, the adaptation of existing systems just might (THAAD-ER; SM6).

Also noteworthy is the fact that there is potentially some overlap between the canvassed MRGBAD and BMD systems. Patriot, for example, (with all the new bells and whistles) would cover both areas, although given the amount of money set aside for the latter I have to wonder if something more substantial might also be on the cards. I say this even given that it will likely involve the acquisition of SM6 for the RAN.
I'm unfortunately unfamiliar with the differences between many of the individual systems. With regards to the terminal phase of flight, is there any particular difference between the SM-6 (in AEGIS SBT), PAC-3 and THAAD? At the moment it seems to be an integrated effort involving the deployment of many assets to the terminal target area, but is there any difference in their intended targets? Related is whether a shore-based, mobile AEGIS equipped with SM-6 can provide the same capabilities as THAAD/THAAD-ER or Patriot PAC-3?

Regardless, if the intent is to be able to work with allies (as opposed to relying on them) then it is likely similar platforms will be looked at. So it becomes a case of what are other relevant countries in the region using or planning to use. It just so happens all three tend to be used - if not by the host country then certainly by established US forces. Maybe that's why the project has been allocated so much time and money - we've fallen behind and now we're investing in the full triad.

@buffy9 Don't presume that you will be able to utilise a US Indo Pacific GBAD or BMD. Apart from USN assets, they don't have enough in the region to cover their own requirements. Also the understanding at the Pentagon, the JCS, and within the individual services, is that the Defence budgets will be smaller than what they have been in recent years.

Secondly, the intention is to change how the budget is shared between the services, with the Navy, Army and Air Force usually getting equal 1/3 shares. The intention from the next budget is for the Navy to receive a significantly larger share of the budget in order for it to fund it's shipbuilding program. Hence the Army is going to have to prioritise its funding and it has lots of priorities to fund, such as FVL, Bradley IFV replacement, M1A2 Abrams replacement etc.

Thirdly, the current political and social situation in the US has quite a bearing on future US DOD planning. Last weeks insurrection has exacerbated significant problems within the country, especially when there were serving military and law enforcement personnel amongst the Insurrectionists. That creates problems for those organisations because how many of their personnel have been radicalised and are seditious and supportive of the insurrection.

Fourthly, I would argue that the US is as close to civil war than it has been at any other time since 1865. If a US Civil War 2.0 does break out, you will not be able to rely on any US military capabilities in the region, because they will be a tad busy with a civil war at home. I hope and pray that it never comes to pass, but I am not hopeful.

Therefore what I am suggesting is that assumptions that were valid four years ago, or even one year ago, can no longer be trusted. All of that has been thrown out the window because of recent events. Hence we are in a new very uncertain era where your main ally is possibly temporarily incompis mentis, for an undetermined period of time, whilst its population is throwing a political and social tanty, which may or may not shake the foundations of its society and political system. That's what we have to factor in now until there is clear evidence in what direction the US heading. So we all need Plans B, C & probably D until we get that evidence.
A very dynamic and uncertain decade it seems.

My assumption of how wide an area the GBAD/BMD network was is a bit overblown it seems. My presumption was based on operating in the First Island Chain where the number of possible targets (i.e. the Ryukyus, Guam, SCS, etc) is relatively limited when compared to areas in the Baltics or Gulf. If in the event of conflict with China regarding Taiwan, the Ryukyu Islands or the South China Sea then the number of operationally relevant islands may be limited enough to where current systems may be able to provide enough coverage (SAG + Patriot BTY + THAAD BTY).

With that in mind, and with regards to the thread topic (air defence strategy), then how can Australia look to achieve ballistic or high-speed air defence for it's deployed forces without US assistance? There will need to be a look at how dispersed or distributed a deployed JTF is when operating in the immediate region and just how much China is capable of slinging out when it doesn't need to be as concerned with the US. There should also be a look at how airfields or airbases can be best used by CTOL aircraft to provide CAP for said deployed forces - built up airbases are likely to serve as alluring targets even with effective BMD (if effective BMD even exists). The key question in your scenario (probably for another thread) is how China may seek to exploit that lull in activity - what is most likely and what is most dangerous.

Of course if the plan is to return to continental defence, then many of the recomendations made by @aviation_enthus would make sense. Increasing infrastructure, reserves and logistics would increase redundancy in the event of a major strike on your facilities - which if given enough time, could allow you to make repairs and continue defending. Of courses losses would gradually build up in platforms and pilots, if not in munitions and fuel. If the enemy is attacking your airbases then they are likely also to be attacking your shipping (i.e. fuel), and there are no shortage of submarines in the region. It would be defending a vast area and suffering gradual attrition without much ability to influence the enemy's planning and actions - unless you were to adopt continental based long-range strike in conjunction with subs. But that goes beyond air defence.

So assuming the DSU is adhered to and a focus on influencing the 'immediate region' is maintained, then the need becomes the ability to deploy and maintain your assets within said immediate region. In addition to influencing the planning and thinking of all nations within the immediate region, being able to deploy here also influences the thinking of countries on the periphery of said immediate region. Assuming you have been given access (a big assumption and scenario based), you now have the ability to influence the opposition via the ability to attack them. But now you must also defend these forces to lose that influence and relative advantage.

So enters air defence systems and how they are used, as well as how you use your more traditional air force elements in terms of tactics and distribution. With CTOL fighters then the need to rapidly distribute and reposition becomes necessary - again any airbase is likely to be targeted and the key way to disrupt this is through not allowing your targets to get. You can harden them, but again a large enough strike will get through this and with closer proximity this becomes achievable. AAR refueling further afield but not as far as the continent gives you increased depth whilst still allowing you to conduct the strikes necessary in order to influence the enemy (via shaping, deterring or responding).

If the need to operate forward like this is necessary then strengthening your position in these areas becomes more vital. Combined with the need for access in the first place and you have a need to engage with potential or likely partners. Singapore may be a good example if its own interests are threatened, although this may not necessarily be the case. India in the Andaman Islands is also good; as are countries further afield in NE Asia, though they possess significantly less proximity to the immediate region. If the opposition happens to by China, this may by a moot behind as long-range strike (combined with adequate infrastructure, base facilities and local air defences to contribute to) can still be facilitated.

Apologies if it is ranty and somewhat off-topic, but hopefully it is a half decent look at air defence in the context of the DSU and forward presence. Having a deployable series of systems able to be rapidly moved would be favoured as any concentrated strike can overwhelm them, at least without the support of partners and allies. Really the best air defence strategy for Australia is having the ability to defend forward forces able to influence the enemy's actions - through platforms integrated with one another and through methods that complicate the enemy's targeting. Without the ability to influence the enemy, then air defence becomes subject to attrition from an enemy you can no longer influence.


 
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John Fedup

The Bunker Group
@buffy9 Don't presume that you will be able to utilise a US Indo Pacific GBAD or BMD. Apart from USN assets, they don't have enough in the region to cover their own requirements. Also the understanding at the Pentagon, the JCS, and within the individual services, is that the Defence budgets will be smaller than what they have been in recent years.

Secondly, the intention is to change how the budget is shared between the services, with the Navy, Army and Air Force usually getting equal 1/3 shares. The intention from the next budget is for the Navy to receive a significantly larger share of the budget in order for it to fund it's shipbuilding program. Hence the Army is going to have to prioritise its funding and it has lots of priorities to fund, such as FVL, Bradley IFV replacement, M1A2 Abrams replacement etc.

Thirdly, the current political and social situation in the US has quite a bearing on future US DOD planning. Last weeks insurrection has exacerbated significant problems within the country, especially when there were serving military and law enforcement personnel amongst the Insurrectionists. That creates problems for those organisations because how many of their personnel have been radicalised and are seditious and supportive of the insurrection.

Fourthly, I would argue that the US is as close to civil war than it has been at any other time since 1865. If a US Civil War 2.0 does break out, you will not be able to rely on any US military capabilities in the region, because they will be a tad busy with a civil war at home. I hope and pray that it never comes to pass, but I am not hopeful.

Therefore what I am suggesting is that assumptions that were valid four years ago, or even one year ago, can no longer be trusted. All of that has been thrown out the window because of recent events. Hence we are in a new very uncertain era where your main ally is possibly temporarily incompis mentis, for an undetermined period of time, whilst its population is throwing a political and social tanty, which may or may not shake the foundations of its society and political system. That's what we have to factor in now until there is clear evidence in what direction the US heading. So we all need Plans B, C & probably D until we get that evidence.
So maybe junior will replace our frigate program with a big fence (he wouldn’t want to offend by calling it a wall:p). On a serious note, extra funding for the army might be necessary for border security against wackjob militants if things “go south”.
 
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  • #13
THAAD, in conjunction with MRGBAD and JABMS, would definitely make sense when the need for a deployable capability is sought. That said, the project cost seems high for what may be desired. Based on the stated cost of the Saudi Arabia buy ("It includes a whopping 44 launchers, 360 interceptors, 16 fire control and communications stations, and no less than seven AN/TPY-2 radars. Training, support, tools, facilities construction, and even 43 "Prime Mover" transporter trucks are included in the wide spanning, so called "end-to-end" weapons deal.") and the numbers (seven radars implies seven batteries), then Australia would be buying roughly two regiments if based on the three sub-units per unit rule.

This seems high for Australian requirements (I could be wrong) and would imply that perhaps a series of systems is preferred, or alternatively a system is sought that can be continously upgraded and enhanced as ballistic missile/hypersonic weapon technology no doubt advances. If two batteries are sought, then it could be possible to allocate one regiment to the defence of the Top-End (including RAAF Tindal as a potential bomber base) and one to forces deployed anywhere in the immediate region or even further north in the First Island Chain. Still it seems excessive for Australia to be buying a similar number of systems to that of Saudi Arabia, especially when Australia will almost be certainly operating in conjunction with the US' own ballistic missile defence umbrella.
Two key differences with any Saudi system versus Australia would simply be the size of the country. More systems required to cover a much larger area. I also believe the plan allows for "city defence" type operations, especially the capitals on the east coast. Or the extra cost could just include sustainment, a lot of recent defence purchases seem to include this as well.



In terms of passive defence, it doesn't seem to be a priority? Understandably a rail line can come under attack just as well as an airbase or road network (it may also be more difficult to repair if a rural area is targeted) by any long-ranged missile, just as well as any hardened hangar can be destroyed by any missile large enough (I'm not familiar with how hardened, but I'd hazard a guess an IRBM would certainly do the job of destroying it). Any hardened facility will inevitably come under attack just as any unhardened facility would - and will be destroyed if enough attention is payed to it, which certainly would be if the intent is to destroy systems which can later be used against the firing side.
As far as I see it, the point of hardened shelters is to lessen the effect of surprise/short notice attacks or to defeat lighter munitions. In effect it "raises the cost" to the enemy to destroy your air capabilities. Iraq was a good example of this in the 90's, the coalition had to spend a lot of time and effort to destroy hundreds of shelters, some of which required two hits from 2000lbs bombs to crack. I believe large numbers of the USAF F-111's were used for this task.

In the Australian context, an outbreak of war within Asia would see a wide range of targets under threat. Most of the close USAF bases would be hit first (Guam, Japan, Korea) because they are closest and pose the greatest immediate threat. If this was combined with SLCM attacks on unprotected aircraft at RAAF Tindal and Darwin, Australia would be effectively "out" before a shot is even fired. I'm sure being a close ally of the USA, we will be on the list of potential threats in any wider conflict. So this is where some for of hardened shelters could come into play. Even just being able to defeat a SLCM, "raises the cost" to a IRBM or ALCM. Both of which could potentially be picked up by JORN (or any future IADS/BMD) and hopefully engaged. Either way there are only so many IRBM's/bombers to go around, so I'd imagine the "destroyable" targets would go first.


Someone else would have to answer but the thinking appears to be that anything struck can just be repaired in a timely manner if the resources are given to do so. Roads, bridges, hangars and runways to my knowledge can be repaired fairly quickly - or at least quick enough to continue supporting logistics in a useful manner. Compared to the destruction of deployed units, it may be less of an issue. With regards to RAAF Scherger, it appears (barring a few particular contingencies) that RAAF Townsville and RAAF Darwin can facilitate RAAF operations in North Australia and North of Australia, should it be needed. Forward posting a handful of surveillance or patrol aircraft to RAAF Scherger is not going to strain the road network as badly as fighters or bombers in combat operations.
RAAF Townsville was developed in WW2 because it was "not to far, not to close, it's just right" from the conflict to the north. So yes it could be used to support operations in North QLD, but its still a long way south of the "tip" (over a 1000km in a straight line). This is why Scherger was built. In WW2 there were bases throughout the Cape, most of the civil airfields today are what's left (Bamaga, Horn Island, Lockhart River, Cooktown).

Even 1 Squadron of Hornet/F-35's will use a reasonable amount of fuel in combat operations. Your average road train can move around 120T of fuel, an F-35 has internal storage for 8T. So effectively you'll need two 120T road tankers (both over 50 metres long), just for one sortie. That sort of traffic will quickly destroy a dirt road, and in the wet season may be impossible to move at all. That's all assuming there's no opposing forces capable of destroying the road convoys over a 7-800km journey. Hence my reasoning behind "reasonable" infrastructure upgrades that also have a significant civil benefit as well. After all, what's the point of building Scherger if the supply lines are useless?

I'll concede your point that roads, bridges, etc can be repaired reasonably quickly, but some of these links barely exist in peacetime, let alone during a conflict.
 
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I think that the FVEY and other western nations have forgotten about IADS after the end of Cold War 1.0 and rerouted that funding into other areas. Even Gulf War 1 didn't show them the benefits of an IADS and Iraq had probably the best in the world then. The US and its allies had to develop new technologies and tactics to best the Iraqi IADS which they successfully did. But after that they sat back on their arses and rested on their laurels. Meanwhile those countries that are hostile to the US and the west watched the destruction of the Iraqi IADS and then worked on ways to counteract the new tactics.
Even previous conflicts going all the way back to WW2, the west hasn't faced any significant threat from the air. Vietnam, Iraq I/II, Afghanistan, etc have all been largely fought on "opposing soil", I don't believe any American/coalition airfields were ever attacked. I think this shows in the relative weakness of base defences throughout Asia (Guam, Korea, Okinawa etc). There's significant aircraft in these bases at risk of IRBM attack and almost no protection, some even give only limited dispersal options.

Also, the conflicts where Israel encountered reasonable opposing air forces were a long time ago now.

Any future conflict in Asia will truly be a "peer on peer" conflict. "If" for example China extended its reach into the western Pacific and US bases in Guam, Korea and Okinawa came under attack, there would be an effective "no go zone" from the southern end of Japan, all the way to the South China Sea (first island chain I guess). We could quickly find ourselves much closer to any conflict than we may have anticipated. I don't for a second see this happening any time soon, however given the rapid arms build up to our north, I think we are beginning to enter the "10 year warning" time that was always envisaged in Australian defence planning. Any of the suggestions being discussed here will take 5-10 years to reach FOC. We need to be able to operate independently of any Allied force to at least provide a "sting" to any aggressor.

"In a world where big fish eat the small fish, and the small fish eat shrimps, Singapore must become a poison shrimp"
- Lee Kuan Yew (I believe)

Australia must become a "poison cane toad" ;):p
 

Boagrius

Well-Known Member
I'm unfortunately unfamiliar with the differences between many of the individual systems. With regards to the terminal phase of flight, is there any particular difference between the SM-6 (in AEGIS SBT), PAC-3 and THAAD? At the moment it seems to be an integrated effort involving the deployment of many assets to the terminal target area, but is there any difference in their intended targets? Related is whether a shore-based, mobile AEGIS equipped with SM-6 can provide the same capabilities as THAAD/THAAD-ER or Patriot PAC-3?
In a nutshell:

THAAD: A hypersonic weapon in its own right, uses hit to kill technology to knock out its targets. Designed from the outset to handle a wide array of BMs and has been successfully tested against IRBM targets. Only drawback is that it must do so above about ~40km in altitude. That said, this also makes its THAAD-ER iteration a plausible C-HGV candidate, as this is roughly the region where HGVs tend to operate.

SM6: Essentially the centrepiece of the USNs counter ASBM efforts. Has also been tested against IRBM targets. Uses a conventional warhead to hit BMs at roughly 40km altitude and below. Strangely, this could make it an ideal complement to the land based THAAD.

PAC3: Has by far the shortest reach of the 3 systems, HTK like THAAD. AFAIK has only been tested against BMs up to MRBM class. Technologically still a superb system, especially in its MSE iteration (albeit an expensive one). Paired with David's Sling/Stunner and TPY-2, could plausibly provide a last-ditch point defence layer against BMs and broader protection against LACM attacks. Roughly occupies the space filled by ESSM/SM2 on naval vessels.
 
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ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
I believe that the first item on the agenda, so to speak, has to be what you are going to protect, define your CONOPS. Then choose your sensor systems, C3 / C4, and your CMS. Once that is determined you can look at enablers etc. It has to be a logical progression otherwise you will end up with a flawed system unfit for purpose.
 

Boagrius

Well-Known Member
I believe that the first item on the agenda, so to speak, has to be what you are going to protect, define your CONOPS. Then choose your sensor systems, C3 / C4, and your CMS. Once that is determined you can look at enablers etc. It has to be a logical progression otherwise you will end up with a flawed system unfit for purpose.
A very salient point. There a lot of directions we could take with this but I suspect what we will end up with is an IAMD set up centred on the US IBCS framework using Patriot and possibly THAAD for GBAD, alongside SM6 for the RAN.
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
A very salient point. There a lot of directions we could take with this but I suspect what we will end up with is an IAMD set up centred on the US IBCS framework using Patriot and possibly THAAD for GBAD, alongside SM6 for the RAN.
Maybe, but there are to many unknowns at the moment and you discount two important Aussie features that the Americans don't have; JORN and CEA radars. To that I would add the RAAF approach to 5th Gen capabilities and operating in that environment. The ADF is not as mired in traditional thinking and as hidebound as the US military.
 

Boagrius

Well-Known Member
Maybe, but there are to many unknowns at the moment and you discount two important Aussie features that the Americans don't have; JORN and CEA radars. To that I would add the RAAF approach to 5th Gen capabilities and operating in that environment. The ADF is not as mired in traditional thinking and as hidebound as the US military.
True, I have been assuming that the ADF will want a MOTS solution to get it up and running ASAP, but this may not have been a safe assumption. I have no doubt CEA could cook up something compelling if given the nod.
 

ngatimozart

Super Moderator
Staff member
Verified Defense Pro
True, I have been assuming that the ADF will want a MOTS solution to get it up and running ASAP, but this may not have been a safe assumption. I have no doubt CEA could cook up something compelling if given the nod.
What I am getting at is don't make assumptions especially at the moment.
 
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