IADS and SEAD discussion

Big_Zucchini

Well-Known Member
If a ground based AD network relying largely on 1970’s/1980’s Soviet designed stuff was “effective” in 1999 against NATO with all its resources; something would have been very very fundamentally wrong.
The Serbs only managed to down 2 planes (a few were damaged) and never managed (nor were they expected) to deny NATO the ability to operate where it wanted but until the very last day of the campaign it was a source of major concern for NATO and despite NATO’s best efforts the bulk of the Serbian air defence systems survived.
If you want, I can prove to you why they would not have been effective even with 1999 tech. But I fear this would be too off-topic so if you want, reply that you want an explanation in a more relevant thread.

What is relevant for this thread, is the general concept of IAMD vs air power.
  • Air defenses will always be a concern for planners.
  • But so long as they can be suppressed, and the mission can be fulfilled, they're irrelevant.
  • That's why it's called SEAD - Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses.
As soon as the mission was completed, Serbian air defenses were no longer a concern. And you can see for example that the IAF conducts airstrikes in Syria and Iraq fairly frequently, but it avoids destroying air defenses unless they fire directly on the aircraft.

As for a protracted air campaign; never mind the sheer distance; a number of other factors also determines why the IDF can’t and won’t conducted a protracted campaign. It will be a few ‘surgical’ strikes; how effective they are remains to be seen - there are many targets which are dispersed and hardened: plus the Iranians are expecting strikes.

A profound difference between hitting targets in Iraq and Syria and actually mounting long range strikes on Iran resulting in tangible benefits for Israel.
There are many tools at hand for the IDF - not only fighter aircraft.

What’s for sure is that the Iranians will retaliate (who wouldn’t?).
And if and when a strike occurrs, it will be done knowing Iran will retaliate. You're not adding any new information here.

Israeli planning from the very onset was catered on the fact that the U.S. would soon be dragged in and would accomplish what Israel is unable to do.
I'm sorry, I didn't know you had access to GHQ level IDF plans. Considering these are top secret, I advise you to not speak about them any further.

Also bear in mind that Israel has been going on about the Iranian nuke threat for years now. On a number of occasions in the past we’ve heard about how close the Iranians supposedly were to making a bomb.
Of course. And that's the beauty of intelligence ops - you don't just deny future progress, you utilize an enemy's progress against it, and aim to completely reverse it in whatever vector possible.
The highest profile attack was Stuxnet, which set them back several years.
The more recent reported blasts in Iran, in nuclear facilities, also have tremendous value but it's not known exactly how long it sets them back.
I have no doubt that the IDF has long had plans to strike Iran and constantly refines those plans but I’m also sure that Israel will only move if left with no other choice (nobody actually desires a major war in an already tense region) but that all these constant talks about strikes are mainly intended to pressure the U.S. into maintaining its current U.S. policy.
That's one possibility. There are more.

Irrespective of how much material or other support the Palestinians actually receive from Iran and whether Iranian concern/assistance is actually ’pseudo-humanitarian’; the key fact remains that Iranian support for the Palestinians and criticism of Israel over its policies has long been a consistent theme; as I mentioned in a reply to Vivendi.
Of course it is. They want to receive more support from the Palestinians and have the PIJ overthrow Hamas. That way they can assume total control over the Palestinians like they have over the Lebanese via Hezbollah.

Imagine an Ayatollah saying right now Iran is and has been the most LGBT-friendly country in the region, maybe the world. It doesn't take a genius to know that's BS, but they can make it a consistent theme.
 
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OPSSG

Super Moderator
Staff member
What is relevant for this thread, is the general concept of IAMD vs air power.
  • Air defenses will always be a concern for planners.
  • But so long as they can be suppressed, and the mission can be fulfilled, they're irrelevant.
  • That's why it's called SEAD - Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses.
As soon as the mission was completed, Serbian air defenses were no longer a concern. And you can see for example that the IAF conducts airstrikes in Syria and Iraq fairly frequently, but it avoids destroying air defenses unless they fire directly on the aircraft.
I am very interested and will create a IADS, SEAD and loitering munitions thread (see post #7 below) to further this discussion. There is no need to rush and you can think thorough how it can be discussed taking OPSEC in mind; and I will clean up the formatting and even offer editorial support, if you do desire to make it eye candy.
 
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STURM

Well-Known Member
I will not comment further on this specific topic, but you will have to present some evidence if you say it's a fact.
Yes it’s my opinion that the IDF’s main means of actually destroying Iranian facilities is air power; not its only means, it main means ... No I can’t provide evidence but since you brought up the issue of evidence; show me evidence to prove what I said was false/wrong. Or are you unwilling to because this is a public forum?

Iran's retaliation will come in the form of a coordinated Hezbollah, PIJ, and Hamas attack on Israel, plus whatever militias it has in Syria, as the basis of an attack. Any other additional forces are up to speculation.

The US has not intervened in any of Israel's past wars with said groups. What makes you think the US will definitely intervene in this one?
Because in this situation Israel has struck Iranian facilities on Iranian soil. Iran will mostly likely respond by an attack on Israel itself; with missiles.

In response to the assassination of a IRFC official by the U.S. on Iraqi soil: Iran lobbed missiles at a U.S. base in Iraq; yet you’re convinced that an Israeli attack on Iran will ‘come in the form of a coordinated Hezbollah, PIJ, and Hamas attack on Israel’.

Maybe you’re right.
 
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Vivendi

Member
Yes it’s my opinion that the IDF’s main means of actually destroying Iranian facilities is air power; not its only means, it main means ... No I can’t provide evidence but since you brought up the issue of evidence; show me evidence to prove what I said was false/wrong. Or are you unwilling to because this is a public forum?
Israel has very advanced cruise missile and ballistic missile technologies.

I would be very surprised if they have not developed and produced a large number of ground based missiles capable of reaching Iran. Apart from the ballistic Jericho 2 and Jericho 3 missiles (see below) I have not found evidence of the existence of such missiles, however I am speculating that they most likely still exist. It seems the obvious thing to do, given the threat Israel is facing.

Jericho 2 | Missile Threat (csis.org)
Jericho 3 | Missile Threat (csis.org)
Delilah | Missile Threat (csis.org)
 

STURM

Well-Known Member
Vivendi,

Yes I’m aware of that. I didn’t suggest that air strikes were Israel’s only means to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities.

I merely stated that manned aircraft carrying ordnance were Israel’s main means. If anyone can prove or show me otherwise; how other means; whether sea launched missiles or Jericho with a conventional payload can inflict the desired damage; I’d welcome it.
 
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Big_Zucchini

Well-Known Member
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #6
I am very interested and will create a IADS, SEAD and loitering munitions thread, tomorrow to further this discussion. There is no need to rush and you can think thorough how it can be discussed taking OPSEC in mind; and I will clean up the formatting and even offer editorial support, if you do desire to make it eye candy.
Thank you very much. My answers are always very concept oriented, so I don't know whether and how much they'll satisfy people, but I'm eager to talk about this subject because those are very complex and hard to develop and operate systems.

Yes it’s my opinion that the IDF’s main means of actually destroying Iranian facilities is air power; not its only means, it main means ... No I can’t provide evidence but since you brought up the issue of evidence; show me evidence to prove what I said was false/wrong. Or are you unwilling to because this is a public forum?
So it's an opinion. I just had a problem with you saying it's a fact, but poor phrasing is something I'm often guilty of as well, so let's move on, shall we?
Anyway, it is indeed something I cannot comment on specifically, and indeed because it's a public forum.
But I can provide my analysis.

IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi publicly talked about plans to strike in Iran, in a nod to past talks specifically about an aerial campaign.


However, the IDF officials do not talk publicly about operative plans. Especially not the Chief of Staff. So what happened? This is a standard threat, IMO.
Until now, and for the forseeable future, intelligence operations against Iran have been and are at the forefront of efforts against the nuclear program.
It is entirely possible to pursue a covert and multi-step solution to the nuclear program instead of an overt and single step solution.

An airstrike might simply shake up Iran too much and simultaneously have it hunker down, ruining years, even decades of covert operations ready to go on day 1 of a total war or significant milestone like reaching first nuke.

Some intelligence ops seek to acquire intel on a target. Some are defensive. Some are offensive (sabotage), and the latter is what's most relevant for this debate. What enables it in the first place, however, is many years of continuously flowing intel.

In peacetime, an enemy is not very attentive to it, and is not wasting many resources, therefore it is rather dormant and focused on a linear buildup rather than being truly dynamic. And you want to keep it that way, while your ops are building up, to inflict maximum damage.

When you shake it up, it starts looking everywhere, changing things on which existing ops relied (every intelligence gathering operation takes years to bear fruit from the moment of conception), and the strategic balance turns away from you.

I'll give an OPSEC friendly example.
Stuxnet - it was a virus embedded in Windows NT operating computers, focused on centrifuge operations. Had it not been discovered, it could have been kept hidden for many years, and then destroyed a maximum amount of centrifuges when at peak working capacity. Say, ruin 10 years of progress when combined with other ops, and have additional computers infected for additional limited future ops.
And, again, if not detected, it would have been a reusable capability.

Had an airstrike been conducted, it would have held it back for 15 years, but Iran would have started buying new stuff from other suppliers, this time with an organized shopping list of things Israel would have a significantly degraded ability to infect and compromise, and the total time to first nuke would be greatly reduced because now they're going full speed, deeper underground.

If sufficiently compromised, Israel could keep delaying the program for a very long time.

Also, if a strike was really the desired course of action, it would have been done in 2010. That is considered to have been the optimal point for such a strike, but it was blocked by the then Chief of Staff. It's simply talked about for too long.
 
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OPSSG

Super Moderator
Staff member
Consolidated thread for IADS and SEAD discussion

1. This is a new thread for a discussion on how an integrated air defense system (IADS) can be rendered ineffective by the conduct of a Suppression of Enemy Air Defence (SEAD) mission, by using aircraft, long range rocket artillery, like the 150km ranged ER GMLRS that can be fired from HIMARS vehicle, or the ASTROS II SS-80 rocket (80 km in range) or even longer ranged surface-to-surface missiles like the LORA, with a 280km range, or the Precision Strike Missile (PrSM), with a 500km range, and SEAD-optimised longer ranged loitering munitions.

2. An IADS puts all anti-aircraft sensors, all anti-aircraft weapons under under a common system of Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I), which is often connected by a fibre optic network (to enable the C4I system to perform its assigned mission reliably, even under threat of enemy interference using soft or hard kill options). The three basic requirements of an IADS are as follows:

(a) find enemy targets (like fighter and ISR aircraft, UAVs, ballistic and cruise missiles) using long-range surveillance radars; to use Target Acquisition Radars (TARs) to enable the enemy aircraft or missiles to be located with enough accuracy to allow it to be fired on;​

(b) taking the data from long-range surveillance radars and/or TARs, and using the C4I to direct your defensive platforms to attack enemy targets and at this stage, it is not uncommon to use a type of radar system called a Fire Control System (FCS), or sometimes called an illuminator, to direct radar guided surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) towards enemy aircraft, cruise or ballistic missiles. These defensive platforms include fighters conducting DCA missions, SAMs of various ranges and AAA; and​

(c) do not let the defensive platforms attack your own forces. Therefore, de-confliction is a key aspect of an IADS (or avoidance of fratricide). Think of IADS as a series of concentric defensive circles; the outermost might be assigned to fighters on DCA; next SAMs of various ranges; and finally AAA. The C4I system must not only provide the defenders with a common operating picture, it must also provide both blue force tracking and airspace management (so the the air and naval bases being defended can continue to launch fighters or reload/resupply the naval vessels).​

3. By way of background:
(a) in the post-Vietnam War era the development of High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARMs) and electronic warfare assets to enhance SEAD capabilities. As a corollary, IADS also improved their capabilities and resilience to counter HARMs and electronic attacks.​
(b) The neutralisation of the Iraqi IADS during the Gulf War 1991 was a classic example of joint operations—the US-led coalition used air, land, Special Forces and naval forces to degrade, destroy and suppress the enemy’s air defence systems using a variety of weapons and effects.​
(c) Even though the Iraqi air defences were intimidating, in the decades after 1991, modern IADS have become formidable. The availability of sophisticated technology such as advanced communications and computing capabilities, and advances in cyber and space domains will contribute to increasing the complexity and asymmetry of future battlefields.​
(d) Based on the above, it can be said that SEAD operations can be accomplished through destructive or disruptive means.​

4. Destructive means seek the destruction of the target system or operating personnel. These include direct or indirect fire on enemy air defenses using HARM for SEAD, long range rocket artillery, surface-to-surface missiles (including SEAD-optimised loitering munitions that have a range above 50km), naval gun fire, or the launch of small-diameter-bombs (SDBs) and other such other PGMs by LO platforms like the B-2, the F-22 and the F-35. In some cases, destructive means include direct action by special forces.

5. Disruptive means seek the deny, degrade, deceive, delay, or neutralize IADS to increase aircraft survivability. This include the use of EA-18G Growlers, or miniature air-launched decoys (with decoy and radar jammer variants) and other imitative tools. The conduct of a SEAD mission is not an end in and of itself but a subset of counter air operations which aim to create favorable conditions for air operations.

6. For discussions on short ranged loitering munitions (below 25km in range) and mortars, see also: Support Weapons for Infantry
 
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Terran

Active Member
Just a minor comment on @OPSSG ‘s comment in particular #4 and #5.
SEAD capabilities emerged around the time of the 3rd Generation of Jet fighter aircraft. And didn’t much change through the 4th generation. With the 5th generation and development of the AESA radar system as well as porting and retro integration of that technology into Legacy 4th Gen platforms creating the so called 4.5 Gen a degree of SEAD has begun to be baked into fighters. These new radar systems have degrees of Jamming capabilities intrinsic to the design. Where previous 3rd and 4th had to have pods. Radar receiver models bolted into place. Wiring added to the fighter. It was such in the older generations that one basically created a new specialized variant for SEAD.
But today, Fighters like Rafale and Grippen of the 4.5 Gen come right at basic with most of the EW suite from the factory.
F22 and F35 are loaded with a fully integrated EW system as part of their stealth.They use it to safely remain at the edges of enemy radars in penetration of enemy airspace. This capability was lacking in F117 leading in part to the shoot down incident. It was also lacking in B2 for a long time. Of course it’s not perfect. It generally has limits based off the size of the antennas. Primarily focused on X band attack radars.
 
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OPSSG

Super Moderator
Staff member
If you want, I can prove to you why they would not have been effective even with 1999 tech. But I fear this would be too off-topic so if you want, reply that you want an explanation in a more relevant thread.
Could you explain, from your perspective, why a ground based air defence network is ineffective (or can be made more ineffective via SEAD)?

In your reply, keep in mind my low knowledge base on Israeli efforts in Syria and hence do not understand the action, reaction dynamics of the SAM systems there. Please bear with my lack of background knowledge in this area — and would need to be educated by you on the IDF perspective.

Let me share some counter points, to explain why I am confused by your statement (and would appreciate clarification, if that reply by you can be set within a context of Syria/Iran’s IADS or then then Serbian IADS, whichever example you prefer).

1. In Operation Allied Force, NATO was not fully prepared for asymmetric warfare, and that it’s air planners had initially assumed that Serbia would aggressively employ its air defenses and use its radars at a high level of activity – making major land-based air defenses easy to target; and NATO eventually faced a difficult set of targets due to Serbian deception efforts.

2. The former Yugoslavia had long practiced tactics based on wars of attrition and “riding out” a Soviet-Warsaw Pact attack by not actively employing air defense assets. Serbia had had ample time to learn the lessons of the Gulf War, and had good access to Iraq’s experience during the post Gulf War period – including the lessons of Desert Fox.

3. While Serbia did not have a modern air defense system, or extensive modern assets, it did have large numbers of assets that it could disperse efficiently and which were extremely difficult to target unless they emitted radar signals long enough to be targeted by anti radiation missiles.
 
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Big_Zucchini

Well-Known Member
  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #10
Could you explain, from your perspective, why a ground based air defence network is ineffective (or can be made more ineffective via SEAD)?

In your reply, keep in mind my low knowledge base on Israeli efforts in Syria and hence do not understand the action, reaction dynamics of the SAM systems there. Please bear with my lack of background knowledge in this area — and would need to be educated by you on the IDF perspective.
My area of expertise is not related to air defense systems and aerial or mixed domain combat, rather limited to intelligence gathering and some aspects spec ops (which is a very broad topic in itself).

I also prefer concepts over specifics because solutions need to be structural, systematic.

To make things clear, I do not believe IAMD (there are many names for it, so I will use IAMD - Integrated Air and Missile Defense from now on) is ineffective. To the contrary - it is an essential and irreplaceable component of the mixed domain battlefield.
However, what I am saying, is that when non-equal opponents clash, e.g Israel vs Syria, and there is a situation of an air force conducting missions against an opponent with only air defenses and no air force of its own, the air force will always triumph.

There are multiple reasons:
1. Aerial assets are augmenting air defenses - In even the smallest countries with densest IAMD, there will be blind spots. With numerous planes always patrolling the borders, aircraft can fill in the blindspots, and are especially suitable for very complex threats such as cruise missiles, that are best countered when observed from above.
The best example IMO is Saudi Arabia's use of fighter aircraft to down drones and cruise missiles:
So without an air force, the IAMD array is incomplete and becomes much easier to exploit.

2. IAMD augments aerial assets - By providing extra detection capabilities and extra firepower, aerial assets can often operate from within umbrellas that provide them a thick layer of protection.
So in engagements between bordering enemies, e.g Russia and Ukraine, Azerbaijan vs Armenia, Turkey vs Syria etc, an IAMD allows the defending side to dedicate fewer platforms than the attacker does, by a significant margin.
Therefore by merely buying IAMD and investing in it, but not investing in an aerial fleet, one is not fulfilling the true potential an IAMD has to offer, and risking it.

3. The mobility advantage - in an environment of air power vs IAMD, it is clear air power is the more dynamic and mobile. This gives air power in inherent advantage in initiative as well.

4. The kinetic advantage - an aircraft has a speed and altitude advantage, therefore will use smaller, more agile, and cheaper munitions to defeat its ground opponents, compared to what an IAMD will have to use.
So air power can more easily adapt itself to fire further and outrange any ground element.

All in all, in an environment of air power vs IAMD, the air power has a massive inherent advantage, and so in examples like Serbia, Iraq, Syria etc, IAMD is either relegated to other functionalities that do not include kinetic engagement of aircraft, or is used to delay attacks as a one time use functionality.

And indeed, Serbian air defenses disturbed American operations, but American airpower fulfilled its missions nonetheless.

In Operation Allied Force, NATO was not fully prepared for asymmetric warfare, and that it’s air planners had initially assumed that Serbia would aggressively employ its air defenses and use its radars at a high level of activity – making major land-based air defenses easy to target; and NATO eventually faced a difficult set of targets due to Serbian deception efforts.
Yes, the suddenly popping and equally suddenly disappearing radars, have been a challenge, and today are a challenge (there are already technological solutions for that though). They have required the employment of more aircraft and munitions, but nonetheless the equation remained the same:
Serbian air defenses were hunted, and American airpower were the hunters.

The former Yugoslavia had long practiced tactics based on wars of attrition and “riding out” a Soviet-Warsaw Pact attack by not actively employing air defense assets. Serbia had had ample time to learn the lessons of the Gulf War, and had good access to Iraq’s experience during the post Gulf War period – including the lessons of Desert Fox.
Every armed force should anticipate its enemy to be as competent as possible, including dispersal and concealment. These are vital aspects of battle since the invention of ranged weapons.
So what? More challenges, but the equation doesn't change.

While Serbia did not have a modern air defense system, or extensive modern assets, it did have large numbers of assets that it could disperse efficiently and which were extremely difficult to target unless they emitted radar signals long enough to be targeted by anti radiation missiles.
Back to the technological solution I was talking about. The Harpy which was sold to Azerbaijan, has the option to hunt radars.
A radar hunting sensor is not very expensive, and when fitted to a loitering munition, can be a deadly hunter. Similar loitering munitions are widely available.
 

Feanor

Super Moderator
Staff member
To make things clear, I do not believe IAMD (there are many names for it, so I will use IAMD - Integrated Air and Missile Defense from now on) is ineffective. To the contrary - it is an essential and irreplaceable component of the mixed domain battlefield.
However, what I am saying, is that when non-equal opponents clash, e.g Israel vs Syria, and there is a situation of an air force conducting missions against an opponent with only air defenses and no air force of its own, the air force will always triumph.
One has to assume that there is a level of asymmetry in resources, sophistication, etc. at which an airforce won't triumph over pure GBAD simply because it's too primitive. For example the Ukrainian airforce over the Donbass that got effective shot out of the sky over a period of ~2 weeks after the downing of the Malaysian airliner caused Russia to remove all of the bigger SAMs from rebel hands, and instead bring in line Russian Land Forces and VVS SHORAD, and RTR listening posts. The effectively ceased all offensive air operations because they were losing too many aircraft too quickly. Do you think these are extreme outliers, or is it possible we will see more of this sort of asymmetry as time continues? And in such a case, where one side perhaps has an overwhelming advantage but political reasons preventing them from using their own aircraft, how should the airforce proceed? I think the Ukrainian example is particularly interesting because they had (and have) a number of 4th generation aircraft, and a decent stockpile of Soviet-era munitions, but huge deficiencies in EW, AEW, ELINT/SIGINT, and PGMs of all types. This might seem like a very rare situation, but perhaps not. Consider Khaftar's forces in Libya. They also have received some relatively sophisticated aircraft (MiG-29s and Su-24s) but at the same time have huge gaps in capabilities (they're also very small) and are facing GBAD deployed by the Turks around Tripoli (mostly Hawk SAMs and SHORAD but also the Turkish frigates off the coast). While Turkey could conceivably deployed friendly aircraft to Libya, so far they have refrained from doing so.

In the example you provided, Israel vs. Syria, no Syrian airforce conceivable today or in the forseeable future would ever be able to defeat Israel in the sky. It's far from clear that someone like Russia could do it (presumably they could but it would require mobilizing an effort that dwarfs all of Russia's post Soviet wars, and deploying tens of thousands of troops to Syria to support the hundreds of aircraft and dozens of SAM regiments this would require). So while in principle I think you are correct, in the example of Syria, what do you think would be the most cost-efficient way for them to mitigate or reduce damage from Israeli air strikes? Considering realistic options given budgetary and political considerations, and leaving out political things like severing ties with Iran.
 

Big_Zucchini

Well-Known Member
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  • #12
Context to IAF airstrikes in Syria

1. Of course there are extreme cases. I think it would be futile to analyze each and every one of them.

2. For Syria, there is no technological solution I can think of. But they don't necessarily need one. Syria needs not fear Israel because Israel has no ambitions regarding Syria. If Assad wants to retake the Golan with military force then that's a whole other military challenge.

First let's understand what Israel strikes in Syria. At least the majority of the targets aren't Syrian - they are Iranian, or Iran-related. So Syria can solve this politically with Iran.​

Second let's understand whether it's even worth the attempts. I personally think not, unless to save face and expend some outdated missiles. Because in the end they're shielding Iran, not themselves.​

3. In the current state they can at best try to ambush Israeli aircraft, but they are at such a huge intelligence disadvantage that it's very unlikely to work, and so may not be worth the resources.
  • What they should invest in, is an improved early warning array, and passive surveillance systems.
  • If they're so keen on downing munitions for their allies, they should invest in optically guided systems like those Russia currently invests in.
4. I mean, Syria's army is, pardon my language, so fucked up, that I really don't think they'd have any capacity to stand up to a high tech neighbor in the next several decades.

5. Reinvesting in non-strategic capabilities should be a priority for now, and big investments in military education.
 
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Feanor

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Staff member
Of course there are extreme cases. I think it would be futile to analyze each and every one of them.
If they are common then analyzing them as a whole becomes relevant and if they are rare then dissecting these few outliers shouldn't be particularly labor-intensive and may yield some interesting information. Many concepts can be tested by looking at the margins.

In the case of Ukraine, Russian use of GBAD had an immediate and devastating impact on their air operations. And given the proliferation of proxy wars and semi-state level involvement or involvement below the level of actual hostilities between states (UAE and Russian GBAD attempting to limit the impact of Turkish UAV operations in Libya, for example) I have a suspicion that we will see attempts to use primarily or even exclusively ground-based solutions to deal with certain kinds of air threats, lending extra credibility to the scenario. The situation is exacerbated by the use of things like Iran's 358 SAM which shows a surprisingly robust anti-air capability in a small package. All of this adds up, at least in my opinion, to more scenarios of either poorly trained/unsophisticated operators or simply poor and badly outdated airforces facing robust air defenses. This doesn't necessarily change the equation for major powers operating at the state level but it could change the outcome of entire conflicts where involvement is not open enough or major enough to allow that kind of commitment, or where direct involvement from major powers is absent.

Hell, consider the Turkish potshot at a Russian Su-24M over Idlib last spring. They used an outdated MANPADS and missed, receiving an SRBM strike in retaliation but had they more sophisticated air defenses and in greater quantities and it could have significantly changed not just the outcome of that encounter, but possibly the outcome of the entire campaign around the M-4 and M-5 highways.

2. For Syria, there is no technological solution I can think of. But they don't necessarily need one.Syria needs not fear Israel because Israel has no ambitions regarding Syria. If Assad wants to retake the Golan with military force then that's a whole other military challenge.
First let's understand what Israel strikes in Syria.At least the majority of the targets aren't Syrian - they are Iranian, or Iran-related. So Syria can solve this politically with Iran.​

Second let's understand whether it's even worth the attempts.I personally think not, unless to save face and expend some outdated missiles. Because in the end they're shielding Iran, not themselves.​

3. In the current state they can at best try to ambush Israeli aircraft, but they are at such a huge intelligence disadvantage that it's very unlikely to work, and so may not be worth the resources.
  • What they should invest in, is an improved early warning array, and passive surveillance systems.
  • If they're so keen on downing munitions for their allies, they should invest in optically guided systems like those Russia currently invests in.
4. I mean, Syria's army is, pardon my language, so fucked up, that I really don't think they'd have any capacity to stand up to a high tech neighbor in the next several decades.

5. Reinvesting in non-strategic capabilities should be a priority for now, and big investments in military education.
So in your opinion the only military means the Syrians could take would be to invest in optically guided SHORAD to down a few more munitions, and invest in early-warning? In your opinion, would Israel allow the Syrians to operate AEW? Or would those kinds of assets also become targets? I know Russia doesn't currently offer any meaningful AEW, but a hypothetical purchase of something smaller then the gigantic A-50 or its A-100 successor? Something more akin to the E-2 or the Saab 340? It could escape some of the limitations of ground-based systems and at least potentially would be able to see Syrian jets taking off, nevermind actually entering Syrian airspace or launching munitions.
 
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OPSSG

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Post 1 of 2: Use of Turkish and Chinese UAVs

Feanor said:
...So in your opinion the only military means the Syrians could take would be to invest in optically guided SHORAD to down a few more munitions, and invest in early-warning? In your opinion, would Israel allow the Syrians to operate AEW? Or would those kinds of assets also become targets? I know Russia doesn't currently offer any meaningful AEW...
1. @Feanor, to keep this discussion productive, let us:

(i) not over-rate Iran's 358 SAM; it seems to be a helicopter and UAV killer — it’s effectiveness against 4.5 gen fast jets with modern targeting pods is doubtful; and​

(ii) avoid discussing Russia AEW (non-factor) and also avoid discussing Syrian Air Force acquiring AWACS (as it’s not going to happen realistically).​

2. A real test of the Pantsir S1 system against large scale UAV operations came in 2020 during the battle between Russia and Turkey and their respective proxies over Idlib. Throughout the conflict, Turkish UAVs in tandem with Electronic Warfare (EW) overmatched Syrian air defenders with minimal air losses over Northern Syria. It is possible that Turkey used the Koral EW system to jam, deceive or paralyze the Pantsir’s radar. An electronic attack could explain how the drones managed to get within firing range even when the air defenses were up and running. Although there is debate over the final tally, targeting footage released by Turkey showed at least one Pantsir among the scores of Syrian vehicles neutralized by Turkish UAVs. Optically guided SHORADs is a logical upgrade for Syria. Building anything more complex is out of Syrian air defender’s reach to maintain.

Feanor said:
And given the proliferation of proxy wars and semi-state level involvement or involvement below the level of actual hostilities between states (UAE and Russian GBAD attempting to limit the impact of Turkish UAV operations in Libya, for example) I have a suspicion that we will see attempts to use primarily or even exclusively ground-based solutions to deal with certain kinds of air threats, lending extra credibility to the scenario. The situation is exacerbated by the use of things like Iran's 358 SAM which shows a surprisingly robust anti-air capability in a small package. All of this adds up, at least in my opinion, to more scenarios of either poorly trained/unsophisticated operators or simply poor and badly outdated airforces facing robust air defenses.
3. Along with a limited amount of troops, Erdogan sent Turkish-made Bayraktar TB2 to fight in Libya (a MALE UAV that is typically used to support brigade level ISTAR operations). The Turkish military intervention in the Second Libyan Civil War was done via the insertion of intelligence operatives and special forces to support a local faction. Government of National Accord (GNA) Prime Minister Sarraj announced Operation Peace Storm with Turkish UAVs and intelligence operatives providing significant backing to the attack.

4. IMO, Turkish UAV operations in support of the GNA in Libya is also over-rated as these are tactical UAVs, typically for brigade and below operations. Turkey is rapidly maturing their capability to operate small MALE UAVs (with a good loss tolerance) but Turkey’s UAV use does not advance the IADS and SEAD action reaction dynamics discussion, for a modern Air Force. Keeping in mind that a rebel group having SAMs or GBAD is not the same as discussing a full blown IADS, with fighter cover.

(a) Turkey played a decisive role as military advisors to GNA forces (and it is not their Bayraktar TB2 UAVs that made a difference). While Bayraktar TB2 UAVs played an important role, their munitions weren't effective enough against defensive positions. Further, Turkey’s use of UAVs is less sophisticated than the UAE and Chinese methods of employment of UAVs in a hostile zone. In a few years, China could become the UAV supplier of choice for the 3rd World and the Middle East — eventually beating Israel, as a supplier of choice.​
(b) The arrival of Chinese-made Wing Loong UAVs in 2016 made a significant difference to the military capabilities of Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA), which is also known as the Libyan Arab Armed Forces (LAAF). The long ranged Chinese Wing Loong, operated by the UAE, is a true division support ISR asset that enables a capable air force to support small UAE special forces teams search and destroy the enemy. First used in the battle for Derna in eastern Libya (from 7 May 2018 until 12 Feb 2019). Wing Loong UAVs have had a decisive impact on the outcome as forces loyal to Haftar battled fighters from the Shura Council of Mujahideen in a brutal confrontation for the city.​
(c) The UAE operates a military airbase in eastern Libya, supplies weapons and ammunition to the LAAF, and its warplanes and armed drones have operated in support of the LAAF. Foreign fighters from Sudan and Chad and Russian fighters from a private security company reportedly support the armed group. Syrian fighters backed by Russia also reportedly support the group in Libya.​
(d) In May 2020, GNA forces captured the LAAF held Watiya Air Base (WAB) in western Libya; and are now ready to retake northwestern Libya (Tripolitania), the country’s most populous region. After the May 2020 fighting, chief of the LAAF’s air wing, Saqr Al-Jaroushi, vowed to unleash the “largest aerial campaign in Libyan history” with all Turkish positions now “legitimate targets for our airforce.” The GNA’s Minister of Interior Fathi Bashagha said at least six MiG-29s (Fulcrum) and two Su-24s (Fencer) have flown into eastern Libya from Russia’s 55th Hmeimim Airbase in Syria, to bolster the LAAF’s offensive capabilities.​
(e) The UAE’s contact with the Sudanese armed groups in Libya, bypassing LAAF forces, is seen by some experts as a sign of the country’s appetite for a more hands-on role in the conflict and of growing mistrust of the renegade general. “I think there’s an argument to be made that they distrust Haftar’s battlefield competence. Many outside backers have [distrusted it], including the Russians,” said Frederic Wehrey, a senior fellow in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.​
(f) Sudanese fighters have a long history in Libya. “They’ve been used as pawns in the Libyan conflict since 2011,” said Wehrey of the Carnegie Endowment. It’s estimated that former Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi recruited as many as 10,000 fighters from Sudan, Chad, Mali, and Niger to fight on his behalf before he was ousted and killed in the wake of the Arab Spring protests in 2011.​
(g) In Nov 2020, Human Rights Watch reported that an Emirati security company, Black Shield Security Services, had recruited more than 390 Sudanese men on the pretense of working as security guards in the UAE, before transferring them to Ras Lanuf in oil-rich eastern Libya, controlled by Haftar. Several men interviewed by Human Rights Watch said they lived alongside Haftar’s forces and were expected to guard oil facilities in the region.​

5. Chinese-made UAVs — operated by pilots from the UAE and flown out of the Al Khadim airbase in the east – have a combat radius of 1,500km (932 miles), meaning they can deliver precision-guided missiles and bombs, striking anywhere in Libya. UAE was also the launch customer for Wing Loong II in 2017; an upgraded variant, with provisions for up to twelve air-to-surface missiles, like the Blue Arrow series of missiles. More importantly, these Chinese UAVs can carry EO/IR/laser, SAR / GMTI & MPR, COMINT/DF, COMINT GSM, COMMJAM, ELINT, and EW payloads, to give UAE a robust ISR capability that is immune from a MANPAD threat.
 
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OPSSG

Super Moderator
Staff member
Post 2 of 2: End of the era of the dedicated Attack Aircraft

6. The Pantsir S1’s performance in Libya has been poor. Analysis of open source data has estimated that up to 9 Pantsir units were lost in quick succession to UAV strikes during May 2020, with footage of the strikes going viral on social media. As the recent fighting in Libya and Syria has demonstrated, the acquisition and operation of a modern integrated air defense system is a challenging military enterprise. Even technically, effective weapons can and have been defeated.

(a) To add insult to injury, a tenth Pantsir system was dramatically captured by GNA forces, and to great fanfare paraded through Tripoli as a war trophy. In Syria, Turkey destroyed Pantsir S1 and Buk-M1 medium-range SAM systems operated by the Assad Regime. Attempts to limit the impact of Turkish UAV operations in Libya or Syria using MANPADs or Buk-M1s are not very successful; and MANPADs will not work against higher flying Wing Loong UAVs operated by UAE.​

(b) If we remain sceptical of Russian propaganda, we have to look at the context of number of MANPAD missiles fired vs successful shoot downs of MALE UAVs, like the Bayraktar TB2 or Wing Loong UAVs; and contrast this ratio to the effective use of the limited stock of these valuable MANPADs by rebel groups against helicopters.​
Feanor said:
Hell, consider the Turkish potshot at a Russian Su-24M over Idlib last spring. They used an outdated MANPADS and missed, receiving an SRBM strike in retaliation but had they more sophisticated air defenses and in greater quantities and it could have significantly changed not just the outcome of that encounter, but possibly the outcome of the entire campaign around the M-4 and M-5 highways.
7. What we are seeing in Libya and Syria are limited wars, with small scale interventions — the SAMs and Pantsir systems deployed is not a useful template to understand SEAD and the conduct of air warfare — partly because I don’t buy the propaganda put out from these conflicts. As part of a US government foreign assistance-funded project, RAND has examined open source reporting that highlights how Syrian personnel operating newly-acquired advanced Russian air defense systems lack the training time that is needed to effectively operate these complex systems. The repeated success of forces using UAVs and low-flying missiles to destroy or suppress multiple air defense systems on the battlefield is a cautionary note about the effectiveness of these systems against modern air threats.

8. Like the A-10, Mi-8/17 and attack helicopters, the Russian Su-24M by itself cannot survive against a modern surface-to-air missile threat, like the French VL MICA (with a range of 20km and a Flight altitude 9,000m) or the comparable Israeli Spyder.
(a) The Su-24M employ various techniques to try and defeat SAMs attacks. The simplest technique is to defeat an incoming missile through manoeuvring the aircraft such that either the missile cannot reach it with the energy it has remaining, or the missile seeker cannot acquire the target or loses a lock that it already has.​
(b) If a missile is fired from outside its NEZ, such a manoeuvre can be as simple as turning around and flying in the opposite direction from the attacking aircraft – leaving the missile with insufficient energy to catch up. Alternatively, rapid changes in heading and/or altitude – especially at high speeds – can force incoming missiles to make sharp, energy-sapping turns to maintain an intercept course for the point where it and the target’s predicted flight paths meet. Since most missiles gain their energy from the launch aircraft’s speed and altitude at launch, plus their initial rocket burn, forcing a missile to make rapid changes in heading and altitude after its motor burn has finished can rapidly deplete its energy below that of the target aircraft, which has constant power from its engines. Modern missiles have improved predictive algorithms and can receive mid-course guidance via datalinks which make them less susceptible to such tactics, but they remain a core part of fighter pilot training and tactics nonetheless.​
(c) What makes it worse is that the Su-24M lacks a modern targeting pod, which often puts it in range of a MANPAD, like the 358 SAM, during a bomb run. If a modern MANPAD/SAM like the RBS 70 NG (with a range of 9km and a Flight altitude 5,000m) had been fired, the beam-rider missile would have taken down a low flying Russian jet. Turkish forces and their supported rebel groups continue to fire Stinger missiles (with a range of 4.8km and a Flight altitude 3,800m) at Russian jets in an attempt to limit Russian tactics —but MANPADs without support from radars to provide an unified air picture do not work well against fast jets, as the engagement window is too fleeting.​

9. The employment of fighters and attack helicopters is also a contest of situational awareness. It is also fundamentally a team activity, with the smallest tactical formation being a pair (of aircraft), but ‘four-ship’ formations operating as part of larger complex air operations being the norm. The side which can locate and identify the other first has a huge advantage: being able to manoeuvre to either avoid or initiate a subsequent combat engagement under the best possible circumstances.

10. The probability of kill (Pk) for those SAMs against attack helicopters and MALE UAVs (capable of manned-unmanned teaming), determines the number of targets that can be successfully attacked by a SAM. Pk varies depending on:
  • the range between the SAM and the aircraft; the speed and altitude of the aircraft;
  • the aspect of the target (is it flying towards, at a right angle to or away from the SAM);
  • the capabilities of the missile itself; and
  • the countermeasures likely to be employed by the target after launch.
Therefore, the TTP for modern attack helicopters includes using manned-unmanned teaming. This is used to address pop-up threats like the 358 SAM or the RBS 70 NG, after a route has been cleared of enemy radars.
 
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STURM

Well-Known Member
Excerpts from an article - “Like many 1980s systems, a lot of computing is predetermined by hardware layout, and reprogramming requires an extensive refit of the entire system, which the Armenians had not done. These systems are also incapable of plot-fusion: accumulating and combining raw radar echoes from different radars into one aggregated situation report. Plot-fusion is essential to detecting small and low-observable targets such as advanced drones or stealth aircraft. None of the export versions of Russia’s air-defence systems that it has sold to Syria, Turkey, North Korea, and Iran are capable of plot-fusion. (In the latter two cases, these are disguised as ‘indigenous’ systems like the Raad or Bavar 373.) There is therefore a huge difference in performance between Russian air-defence systems protecting Russian bases in Armenia and Syria and those Russian air-defence systems exported to Armenia and Syria


I was under the impression that plot-fusion was only possible if a radar (whether a dedicated surveillance/search one or one part of an air defence missile/gun system) was possible if was networked to other sensors via a data link; all sharing a common picture.
 
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Feanor

Super Moderator
Staff member
Excerpts from an article - “Like many 1980s systems, a lot of computing is predetermined by hardware layout, and reprogramming requires an extensive refit of the entire system, which the Armenians had not done. These systems are also incapable of plot-fusion: accumulating and combining raw radar echoes from different radars into one aggregated situation report. Plot-fusion is essential to detecting small and low-observable targets such as advanced drones or stealth aircraft. None of the export versions of Russia’s air-defence systems that it has sold to Syria, Turkey, North Korea, and Iran are capable of plot-fusion. (In the latter two cases, these are disguised as ‘indigenous’ systems like the Raad or Bavar 373.) There is therefore a huge difference in performance between Russian air-defence systems protecting Russian bases in Armenia and Syria and those Russian air-defence systems exported to Armenia and Syria


I was under the impression that plot-fusion was only possible if a radar (whether a dedicated surveillance/search one or one part of an air defence missile/gun system) was possible if was networked to other sensors via a data link; all sharing a common picture.
Unfortunately my knowledge here is insufficient. I would have thought the same, and I would assume that the Pantsyr-S1 delivered to Syria, and Tor-2MKM delivered to Armenia are capable of this. Now both are SHORAD and both received very small quantities allowing the enemy to plan around them. Armenia was also very hesitant to employ theirs.
 

STURM

Well-Known Member
Feanor,

Would you agree that apart from the possible “plot-fission” capability mentioned by the writer; there are various differences between Russian AD systems operated by the Russian armed forces and those which are exported?

Also; would it be generally correct to say that the performance of Russian AD systems in Syria, Libya and Nargano-Karabakh are not a indication of actual capabilities due to various factors including the level of training; systems not deployed the way they should be; the wrong systems being used against the wrong targets; etc?
 

south

Active Member
Excerpts from an article - “Like many 1980s systems, a lot of computing is predetermined by hardware layout, and reprogramming requires an extensive refit of the entire system, which the Armenians had not done. These systems are also incapable of plot-fusion: accumulating and combining raw radar echoes from different radars into one aggregated situation report. Plot-fusion is essential to detecting small and low-observable targets such as advanced drones or stealth aircraft. None of the export versions of Russia’s air-defence systems that it has sold to Syria, Turkey, North Korea, and Iran are capable of plot-fusion. (In the latter two cases, these are disguised as ‘indigenous’ systems like the Raad or Bavar 373.) There is therefore a huge difference in performance between Russian air-defence systems protecting Russian bases in Armenia and Syria and those Russian air-defence systems exported to Armenia and Syria


I was under the impression that plot-fusion was only possible if a radar (whether a dedicated surveillance/search one or one part of an air defence missile/gun system) was possible if was networked to other sensors via a data link; all sharing a common picture.
The common operating picture (Recognised Air Picture) is a result of plot fusion, where inputs from multiple sources contribute, and at subsequently fused (if appropriate). As you mention they need to be linked for this to occur.
 

Feanor

Super Moderator
Staff member
Feanor,

Would you agree that apart from the possible “plot-fission” capability mentioned by the writer; there are various differences between Russian AD systems operated by the Russian armed forces and those which are exported?
Yes, in some cases but not in others. It depends on the particulars of the system. In some cases the exports literally come from Russian stockpiles (see Belarus, Kazakstan S-300 transfers).

Also; would it be generally correct to say that the performance of Russian AD systems in Syria, Libya and Nargano-Karabakh are not a indication of actual capabilities due to various factors including the level of training; systems not deployed the way they should be; the wrong systems being used against the wrong targets; etc?
I mean... the NKR war is a great example of the capabilities (or rather limitations) of the Osa, a system that is still quite common in Russian Land Forces. Russian variants aren't likely to do much better against UAS. On the other hand the use of Pantsyrs in Syria and Libya is wildly out of line with Russian employment of the type. In Russian ORBAT they're almost exclusively companion-SHORAD for S-300/400s. The use of Tors, limited as it was, in the NKR war isn't that different in principle from the role it plays in Russian Land Forces though I suspect the outcome would be a little different given Russian RTR and EW capabilities, as well as greater densities of Tor vs older Osa. In my opinion the biggest difference would come in the use of EW/SIGINT/ELINT to identify and suppress UAV control and comms, as well as recon-strike and recon-fire complexes to attack UAV controllers. In Syria when Khmeimeem was hit by a mass UAV raid, they responded by striking the controllers with guided arty shells. This is where I think the biggest difference would come in. Russian air defenses in general certainly are more capable, but the biggest impact on the outcome will be the fact that Russia has means to reach out and touch things far more proactively then Syrians, Libyans, or Armenians (they used their SRBMs to bombard cities, without changing their fire positions, losing many of them in the process and achieving almost nothing of military significance).
 
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