Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rolling In Hot

Breaking Defense website has a report on a Close Air Support (CAS) summit sponsored by the Air Force (1).  There were a few nuggets of information that reveal just how little interest the AF has in CAS.

"Carlisle [ed. Gen. Hawk Carlisle, head of Air Force Air Combat Command] told us “gaps” were spotted in training and to, some degree, in future equipment.

The biggest gap in Close Air Support right now, Carlisle told reporters, is the training CAS pilots currently have to operate in what the Air Force nicely calls “contested environments” — places where the enemy has a decent chance of shooting you down."

"Pilots have operated in uncontested environments over the last 13 years and haven’t had time to train for high-end operations, the general said."

The biggest gap in AF CAS is training for contested environments!?  Isn’t that kind of what CAS is all about – providing direct air support to ground forces at the front edge of the battlefield in what is, almost by definition, a contested environment?  That the AF is not providing that training pretty well indicates their level of commitment, or lack thereof, to CAS.  However, beating up on the AF about their lack of commitment to CAS, which has been a poorly kept secret for many years, is not the point of this post.  We’ll move on.

"... the three versions of the F-35 will, Carlisle noted, be the main CAS weapons operating in hot environments."

The F-35 is not even remotely an optimal platform for CAS.  That’s not even a debatable point and, again, that’s not the point of this post. 

Instead, for the sake of discussion, let’s accept the use of the F-35 in the CAS role.  What I want to look at is the F-35’s ability to provide gun support in CAS. 

What we currently have, in the A-10, is the GAU-8 30 mm Avenger rotary gun which carries and fires up to 1350 rounds of depleted uranium armor piercing shells at a rate of 3900 rounds per minute.  The gun is installed at a slight downward angle to assist in strafing runs.  Contrast that to the F-35’s gun system, the 25 mm, four barrel, 3300 round per minute, rotary GAU-22/A.

The A-10 projectiles weigh 13.3-14.0 oz, depending on type.  The F-35 projectiles weigh 6.5-7.5 oz.

The A-10 carries up to 1350 rounds compared to the F-35A which carries 182 rounds.  The F-35B/C do not have an internal gun.  They carry the gun in an external pod with a capacity of 220 rounds.  Of course, the external pod impacts the aircraft’s stealth.

So, we see that the A-10 has a larger gun with around 5 times the ammo capacity, firing depleted uranium shells that are twice the weight, from a gun that is mounted and optimized for ground attack, compared to the F-35 whose gun is, literally, an afterthought add-on for the Marines and Navy.  Anyone claiming that the F-35 is capable of performing the CAS role is playing loose with the facts.  The F-35 is capable of performing the gun support portion of the CAS role only in the sense that it has a gun that can be pointed at the ground.  In no other way is it capable or effective.  A man shooting a handgun from a glider can be claimed to perform CAS, too, I guess.

Of course, there is much, much more to CAS than just the ability to fire a gun at the ground.  There is also much more to it than just the characteristics of the CAS platform.  Training is paramount.  The understanding of ground force strategy and tactics, the understanding of where, when, and how to best support ground forces, the ability to effectively interface with ground controllers, knowledge of the local terrain, understanding of enemy forces and their movement, and so on are as important or more so than the weapon characteristics of a given platform.  There are also many more CAS weapons than just a gun and we won’t examine those today.

Today’s post simply points out the inadequacy of the F-35 gun system when used for CAS when compared to the A-10.  Combine that with the AF’s acknowledged lack of training and it’s obvious that anyone claiming the F-35 will adequately fill the CAS role is kidding themselves and their audience.


 (1) Breaking Defense, "Close Air Support Summit Sparks Nod To Textron’s Scorpion", Colin Clark,  March 09, 2015,

78 comments:

  1. CNO, i'm calling "BS" on this post.

    The AF has bent over backwards to provide CAS in current environments. If you don't realize that, you need to do more homework.

    What they are saying is, just like Army, AF units have spent far too much time fighting insurgents who have little to no air defenses, and not enough time training for major conflicts.

    PLEASE educate yourself on how CAS is ACTUALLY performed today, and what it takes, before spouting nonsense about gun calibers and ammo loadouts. Yes, strafing is nice to have, but hardly an end-all-be-all. Modern aircraft have many precision weapons to choose from that make guns even less of a factor, ESPECIALLY in contested environments.

    Get that book i mentioned in an earlier thread. Also, read through this series of posts at Elements of Power,

    http://elementsofpower.blogspot.com/2011/07/debunking-close-air-support-myths-part.html

    Here is some additional reading material,

    http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2005/RAND_MG301.pdf

    Please stop buying into the fallacy that A-10 = CAS.



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Upon review, your call has been overturned and you have been assessed a BS penalty on your reply!

      You failed to note the last two paragraphs of the post where I specifically acknowledge that there is much more to CAS than the platform or just a gun. Here is one relevant sentence from the post,

      "There are also many more CAS weapons than just a gun and we won’t examine those today."

      So, this post examined only the gun aspect. Nothing in the post claimed that guns were the only, or even preferred, weapon of choice for CAS work. The post was strictly a comparison of the F-35 gun and the A-10 gun. Nothing more, nothing less.

      You seem to have a tendency to conflate strikes with CAS. A B-X dropping a bomb in the same hemisphere as ground troops is not automatically CAS. A B-X dropping a bomb in direct support of closely engaged ground troops would be CAS but there have been few examples of that.

      The AF provides CAS like the Navy provides gun support - reluctantly and poorly (A-10 notwithstanding).

      I do not believe that A-10 = CAS. Nor, do I believe that F-35 = CAS. As reader GAB put it so well, CAS is support of ground troop objectives and movement via understanding of troop tactics, objectives, terrain, enemy tactics, enemy location, surveillance, and troop guidance. Weapons are one of the tools used to provide CAS. That said, the A-10 pilots are the only ones who train exclusively for that role. Therefore, the A-10 DOES correlate to CAS but it's because of their training not because of the platform.

      That said, a sniper can use any rifle but some rifles are clearly designed and optimized to maximize the sniper's effectiveness. Similarly, the A-10 is designed and optimized to maximize CAS effectiveness.

      To the best of my knowledge, no aspect of the F-35 was designed with CAS in mind but I may be overlooking something. Do you know of any aspect or feature of the F-35 that is designed or optimized for CAS?

      Finally, you seem to want to equate how we do things today with rightness. Just because we do something doesn't make it right. This blog devotes a great deal of print to examining how we do things and why they AREN'T right. The mere fact that the AF attempts to shoehorn a B-X into a CAS role doesn't make it right any more than the Navy trying to shoehorn an undersized AMDR onto an overcrowded and underequipped Burke makes that a wise design decision.

      Delete
    2. From original post:

      Incorrect Assertion #1 - The AF has little interest in providing CAS because they have not performed sufficent CAS training in contested environments.

      Truth - The AF (in addition to the Navy and USMC) has spent the past 14 years providing high-quality CAS in low-threat environments. As a result of these current conflicts, the AF admits they have neglected CAS training in high-threat environments. However the lack of "high-threat training" has also been expressed by the other services. This is not an AF-unique problem. All service have optimized training for the current conflicts.

      Incorrect Assertion #2 - The F-35 is "not even remotely an optimal platform for CAS" because has a smaller gun, with fewer rounds carried.

      Truth - The aircraft cannon's value has been waning for decades. The majority of CAS is done with PGMs now. Even the vaunted AC-130 is shedding guns in favor of small PGMs like Viper Strike and SDB. Guns incur a lot of weight and space for less and less value. In a high-threat environment, making gun runs on enemy forces is suicide. All F-35 variants recognize this, but retain a gun either integrated or optional due to its continuing utility in some situations.

      From your response above:

      Incorrect Assertion #3 - There have been few instance of B-Xs providing CAS to troops in contact.

      Truth - Do the reading. B-Xs in may cases are the ONLY aircraft available to provide CAS to troops in contact due to their range and endurance. There is now a significant history of B-Xs providing CAS for troops in contact.

      B-Xs are in many cases, perfectly suited to CAS. They have tremendous endurance and payloads and have larger crews who can handle more things simultaneously than a single pilot in a fighter or A-10.

      Incorrect Assertion #4 - The AF provides CAS like the Navy provides gun support - reluctantly and poorly.

      Truth - The AF has an off-and-on history with emphasizing CAS, but in the past 14 years, it has "come to Jesus" and has provided, by most accounts, excellent CAS. Again, do the reading. Don't make assertions based on decades old problems that have long since been resolved.

      Incorrect Assertion #5 - The F-35 is not optimized for CAS.

      Truth - CAS requires a wide variety of capabilities and effects. It is best served by a range of platforms, from fast jets (including the A-10), to bombers, to long-endurance UAVs. The A-10 is a "more optimal" platform for CAS than the F-35 (or other fighters) in some ways, but not as "optimal" in others.

      People may argue that one caliber of rifle is "more optimal" for deer hunting than another, but in the grand scheme of things, the skill of the hunter matters far more than the caliber chosen. Same goes for CAS.


      Finally

      The services have spent a lot of time optimizing CAS in the current conflicts and have made huge strides. There are still issues. However aircraft cannon caliber and ammo count on the F-35 is fairly far down the list (other than to the Gun Cultists).

      Delete
    3. 2 points:

      1. The USAF seems to have decided that the gun is still important, and decided to reemphasize with the new AC-130Js.
      http://breakingdefense.com/2015/01/ghostriders-big-gun-ac-130j-gets-105-asap-laser-later/

      2. As a platoon leader in Eastern Afghanistan, most of our CAS came from F-15s and F-16s, with A-10s only twice (because they were based in Kandahar at the time). I do remember one particular occasion where we got support from a B-1, but there was a low cloud deck over the valley, so they couldn't safely go below the ceiling to get visual observation, and Apaches and Shadows instead provided grids and designation to them for GBU-38s and 54s (Laser JDAMs), respectively.

      Delete
    4. Tierce,

      Did you have an embedded TACP or JTAC in your platoon? Or was your CAS coordinated at a higher level?

      How would you characterize the CAS you received? Anything in particular stand out (good or bad)?

      Delete
    5. Smitty, you're being very selective in choosing and reading your references. The elements of power blog series is simply a blog written by one person. It has no more or less inherent "authority" than this blog. It's one man's opinion. You've ascribed a level of authority to it because you agree with it. In fact, the series is an interpretation of history with some suspect interpretations.

      The RAND report is not a CAS study. It's an air support for ground forces examination with the bulk being strike support rather than CAS. I read it fairly quickly so I may have missed something specific but it made no attempt to compare the A-10 and F-35. In fact, it addressed CAS only in general terms. It offered nothing to support your views (or mine!).

      Delete
    6. The RAND report focuses very little on the strategic strike mission. It is nearly entirely about the "air-ground" partnership, which includes CAS as well as interdiction, both as a part of ground shaping operations and interdiction on its own.

      It also provides a brief history of the air-ground partnership during OAF, OEF and OIF.

      In fact, it mentions CAS 178 times in 216 pages.

      It talks about using bombers as CAS plaforms.

      It talks about Terminal Attack Controller Parties and the problems they face.

      Here's the summary,

      "Recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have reawakened interest in counterland operations. One battle in particular, Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, sparked a heated debate between the Air Force and the Army about the conduct of close air support (CAS) and led to new efforts to improve the integration of air power and ground power prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Although these efforts were quite successful, there is growing recognition by both airmen and soldiers that air-ground cooperation is increasingly important and that additional steps must be taken.

      This report seeks to help the Air Force engage the Army in a
      constructive dialogue on this issue. In particular, it addresses three policy questions: (1) How should air attack and ground maneuver be integrated? (2) How should the CAS terminal control function be executed? (3) How should ground maneuver/fires and air attack be deconflicted?"


      Sounds pretty CAS-centric to me.

      Delete
  2. Does the F-35 have any IR signature reduction? Or is that F-135 a big hot beacon?

    While I agree with this, and am VERY frustrated with the AF/USMC and their role in this, The F-35 has tons of momentum and an insanely wide base of industrial support. At this point its a multi-billion dollar jobs program.

    I'm afraid I think everyone is just going to have to make the best of whatever number they get.

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  3. Why don't we ask the experts - the CAS pilots - what makes a good CAS platform?

    Where are the notes where CAS pilots A-10, F-16, and whatever else you want to call a CAS platform gave input to the requirements and design teams for the F-35?

    Instead we have an AF General calling it treason to talk to Congress about the A-10.

    A listing of the inputs from the expert users will put this issue to bed.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    2. Are the experts CAS pilots? Or the JTACs who have called in strikes and seen the effects, have worked with a variety of aircraft, and have to satisfy the needs of the ground commanders?

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    3. Well being a retired Marine I can tell you that it does take both parts for missions. For example in Naval Gunfire Support the FO is certainly important, BUT the Naval Gun and Naval Gun Crew folks have more important inputs.

      The FO will want something that is instantaneous and kills everything in front of him/her. The Gun and Gun Crew provide the this is what will fit and this what is safe to operate and here is the most bang we can give you.

      So add the JTACs to the mix and show where they gave input for the F-35 CAS mission requirements.

      Delete
  4. Comparing the guns is, to quote, "Two bald men fighting over a comb"

    Even when the A10 was new, its gun wasnt that important.
    Its main weapon against a competent enemy would be the Maverick Missile.

    CAS in the future will be guided missiles and guided bombs, and thats it



    The gun serves little purpose even today, it can only be used to strafe poorly equipped forces who stupidly politely line up the open.
    Well equipped forces can shoot first and more accurately
    Poorly equipped forces will hide behind civillians, where the guns wide CEP rules out its use.


    "Why don't we ask the experts - the CAS pilots - what makes a good CAS platform?"
    Because people who do a job are experts only in how *they* do a job *now*, not experts in how a job should be done, or all the ways a job could be done.

    The entire concept of CAS is an abomination

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    1. "The entire concept of CAS is an abomination."

      That would be a 100% unsupported opinion among ground forces!

      Delete
    2. To follow the logic that CAS is not needed or an abomination - because missiles will rule everything.

      Then why build tanks or fighting vehicles? They will just be destroyed the minute they light up or move.
      Why build fighters why not just build missile launcher platforms? Any airplane will be destroyed the minute it is spotted because the missiles will have a Pk of 1.00

      I have heard this before after each great technological age and it always falls on its face in the next war/engagement.

      How well are those missile attacks in Yemen and against ISIS working? I believe there are still Taliban in Afghanistan.

      CAS is relevant whenever you have boots on the ground!

      Delete
  5. News this morning is that we are sending over a Squadron of A-10s to fight against ISIS. Why A-10s?

    1. The troops on the ground want something that works.

    2. Where are those expensive do everything F-35s?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 1. A-10s were sent because they were in the rotation.

      2. The F-35 has not reached IOC, let alone full capability. Wait a few more years.

      Delete
  6. I think you might have tailored the argument a little here CNO ;)

    The A-10 is undoubtedly great at what it does. But is a bit long in the tooth now.

    In a contested environment in a peer war surely you don’t think the A-10 is going to cope as well as back in the 80’s ?

    The F-35 sensor suit alone will allow it to offer a better all-weather CAS platform. Particularly against concealed forces.

    Forward staging by F-35B specifically offers massive advantages. The UK operated Harrier in this mode for decades for CAS and anti-tank against the feared armoured advance of the USSR across Europe.

    Communications and the nature of network centric warfare also offer many advantages. See ;
    http://airsoc.com/articles/view/id/5536bd2231394451208b4569/rockwell-collins-firestorm-targeting-system-certified-for-use-with-f-35-lightning-ii

    At least the gun for the B and C has more rounds than the A, a weird choice I thought, and its sensor driven and computer controlled nature does promise a good deal more accuracy. I have never subscribed to the “enough lead (uranium) in the air … etc etc etc” philosophy, particularly relating to CAS. Better the right rounds in the right place… right ?

    Finally “Swing Role” is very popular right now. F-35’s ability to offer CAS whilst air superiority is not assured puts it along way ahead of A-10 or Apache in a Peer to Peer situation.

    Beno

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "The F-35 sensor suit alone will allow it to offer a better all-weather CAS platform. Particularly against concealed forces. "

      How? I've read nothing about the F-35 sensor suite that indicates it is particularly suited for CAS work. What aspect of the sensor makes it better able to "see" an enemy mortar team, track enemy troop movements, detect friendly locations, etc.? I'm sincere about asking this. Do you know of any aspect of the F-35 that makes it more suited than the A-10 or any other aircraft?

      Delete
    2. "In a contested environment in a peer war surely you don’t think the A-10 is going to cope as well as back in the 80’s ?"

      Are you asking whether any existing platform is as optimized today as the day it first entered service? Of course not! If that's your criteria for eliminating a platform (and, to be fair, you didn't say that) then we would eliminate every platform that's more than a day old.

      Consider the use we've gotten from the B-52 or the Enterprise despite their age, as just a couple of examples. Consider the 0.50 cal MG - when was that developed.

      The A-10 can remain as relevant and effective as we wish it to be through upgrades, maintenance, and, most importantly, training of the pilots.

      Delete
    3. "Forward staging by F-35B specifically offers massive advantages."

      Equine droppings! Can you cite any instance of the Marines operating the Harrier from an austere forward base? It's a theoretical paper capability that has never happened and never will. Consider Desert Storm - that was the time to do it and the Marines didn't.

      The F-35B will need incredible sophisticated maintenance facilities, not some austere forward base.

      Delete
    4. "Finally “Swing Role” is very popular right now. F-35’s ability to offer CAS whilst air superiority is not assured puts it along way ahead of A-10 or Apache in a Peer to Peer situation."

      Bovine puckey! The F-35 is not some kind of magical aircraft that can switch its loadout in mid-flight. If it's configured for CAS, it won't have the weapons for A2A and vice versa. In addition, carrying external ordnance (like a gun or extra bombs) renders it unsuited for contested A2A due to having its stealth negated. You get ONE mission per flight. Sure, you could hypothesize a single Sidewinder kill on the way to an A2G mission (as happened once in Desert Storm) but that's hardly fighting your way through a peer air defense and then conducting A2G.

      Have you thought about the A2G/CAS weapon load? The internal load is too small to be useful in CAS and if you load external weapons and guns you give up your stealth. Bit of a Catch-22, there, huh?

      There's nothing wrong with liking the F-35 but don't give it magical properties.

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    6. I'm going to include some input from the air force times.
      http://www.airforcetimes.com/story/military/2015/04/15/f35-close-air-support-shortfalls/25811203/


      "The F-35 sensor suit alone will allow it to offer a better all-weather CAS platform. Particularly against concealed forces. "
      “Communications and the nature of network centric warfare also offer many advantages. See ;
      http://airsoc.com/articles/view/id/5536bd2231394451208b4569/rockwell-collins-firestorm-targeting-system-certified-for-use-with-f-35-lightning-ii”

      --> Apparently not for some time. If they get it all the code to work:
      Service and program officers admit that the block 2B and 3I versions of the F-35 will be limited in their ability to do close air support. Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon's head of test and evaluation, testified that the difference between the block 2B's ability and that of the A-10 is dramatic:
      **Because the F-35's software is limited in its ability to identify targets, the pilot would have to be in constant voice contact with a forward air controller. An A-10 could autonomously acquire and identify targets, and pass along information digitally.**

      The F-35's ability to receive a "nine line" – the critical targeting information sent by a joint terminal attack controller to a pilot – has so far been inaccurate. The A-10, along with the AV-8B Harrier and F-16, receive digital nine line codes.

      ******************************************************************

      “Forward staging by F-35B specifically offers massive advantages. The UK operated Harrier in this mode for decades for CAS and anti-tank against the feared armoured advance of the USSR across Europe.”

      --> Can it overcome the decreased efficiency of the F-35?
      An F-35B, assuming a 250-mile flight into a close air support mission, would have just 20 to 30 minutes time on station to provide close air support, and would only **be able to employ two air-to-surface weapons while in a standoff position outside of an engagement zone**. By comparison, an A-10 would have 90 minutes in an engagement zone and could employ four air-to-surface weapons, along with its internal gun.
      …The F-35's fuel burn is about 180 percent faster than the A-10 and 60 percent higher than the F-16. This means mission planners would need more tanker support for an F-35 to stay on the target longer.

      *************************************************************************


      “Finally “Swing Role” is very popular right now. F-35’s ability to offer CAS whilst air superiority is not assured puts it along way ahead of A-10 or Apache in a Peer to Peer situation.”

      --> For a lot of reasons, I really question the ability of the F-35 to deliver on the air superiority role. It just wasn’t built for it.

      http://theaviationist.com/2014/02/04/f-35-needs-f-22-acc-says/

      “If I do not keep that F-22 fleet viable, the F-35 fleet frankly will be irrelevant. The F-35 is not built as an air superiority platform. It needs the F-22,” says Hostage to Air Force Times.

      Delete
    7. "In a contested environment in a peer war surely you don’t think the A-10 is going to cope as well as back in the 80’s ?"

      And you have a valid point. Will the A10 last as well? Maybe not. Maybe if its updated, it has more of a chance than if its not, but certainly the threat environment has increased.

      But I know some MANPAD's are infrared. And I still don't know if the F-35 has any infrared stealth measures. I wonder because though it does do some things like using its fuel as a heat sink, the F-135 reportedly runs *very* hot.

      Delete
    8. The key to beating MANPADs, and the rest of the "trashfire" AAA, is just to fly above them. Most top out at 10-12kft altitude.

      Delete
    9. WOW, so many responses, thank guys. It could take days to respond to all the points.

      Let’s do the austere basing first. I can’t get an example for USMC sorry. But I have some UK wartime example here.

      http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/04/harrier-forward-operating-base-falkland-islands/

      In this case the basing is significantly closer than 250 miles from the front line. (I have to admit I wouldn’t consider 250 miles away “forward basing” in this example?). Maintenance of course in conducted at a main facility ( or in the case above on the carriers ) .

      Will the USMC do this ? I have no idea, they say so, but if they want to its possible and offers some good advantages.

      On another point, I’m not sure I said that F35 can perform air superiority whilst doing CAS ? I meant to imply that it can operate better in an environment where air-superiority is not assured. As compared to the other greats of CAS which I would consider to be the A10 and the Apache.

      I don’t really subscribe to the idea that the minute you hang a couple wing pylons off the plane it goes from being invisible to the largest radar blip you have ever seen with a big red flag stuck out the top saying shoot me. This just implies a lack of understanding of LO …. or maybe just a bit of a dislike of the plane ? ;)

      I'm really not saying that F35 can do CAS the same way as either an A10 or an Apache. But both of them operate in very different ways. As a previous experienced commentator stated much of CAS is now done by F-16 and the like, so are we really that far away ?

      Of course it remains to be seen if its any good or a disaster, but it has the potential to be competent in its own niche.

      Beno

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    10. Sensors.
      I’m kinda surprised you asked about this ?

      The A-10 has no radar. Never mind AESA with SAR capabilities and moving target indicator tech. No good for mortar teams but F’ing brilliant for MBT, APC, fixed artillery etc etc. CAS isn’t just about tacking concealed Taliban you know, In a Peer situation ( let’s just read Russia for now can we ) Close Air Support means anti-armour as much as anti personnel.

      As far as the Mortar teams go. F35 has had a problem with false positives when detecting artillery fire ( and interpreting it as a sam launch ) highlighting to the pilot from its continuous 360 by 360 IR. Seeing and targeting in the dark or very bad weather. From you helmet, through the plane if necessary is going to help.

      With sensor fusion the ability for the plane to detect and highlight artillery fire behind you automatically, swing around 90 degrees and have the plane automatically identify and lock weapons to a completely concealed armillary piece in dense jungle from 10’s of miles away, put its somewhat ahead of the A-10.

      ( again will it do this like advertised, I DON’T KNOW, but I have seen evidence that it is do-able and is close at least )

      Its not magical, similar systems already exist. (IRST, AESA SAR and MTI etc) They just haven’t been taken this far or been on 1 platform or been fused before

      Now I love the A-10, I think it’s brilliant. And if the Cash were available I think a new “A-10” is defiantly the way to go. The A-10 the US could build today would be awesome. I mean TRULY AWSOME !

      But …

      Beno

      Delete
    11. Ben, I've seen nothing that demonstrates that the F-35 sensor suite can pick technicals (truck with a gun) out of a civilian environment, ID enemy combatants from civilians, find tanks hidden in urban settings or jungle, detect enemy troop movement under cover, or any of the other things that a CAS mission would require. Be careful that you're not getting sucked in by manf's claims that aren't realistic or don't match the likely combat environments.

      In short, I've seen nothing that indicates the F-35 sensors have any special ability to perform CAS.

      Consider the main use of CAS - to support friendly ground movement and ID enemy ground movement. That often requires low and slow eyeballs. A B-2 at 50,000 ft can't do that. An F-35 passing by at 700 kts can't do that.

      Consider one specific example - the IRST. Nice for targeting an aircraft exhaust up in the cold, empty sky. Can it target hidden vehicles and personnel? I don't know but I seriously doubt it. Even if it could, could the pilot ID the targets, get a count, identify movement patterns, and discriminate comingled enemy and neutrals in the one second he has on scene as he passes by at 700 kts while he's scanning furiously for SAMs?

      Delete
    12. "Let’s do the austere basing first. I can’t get an example for USMC sorry. But I have some UK wartime example here."

      If you believe this, you're going to have to explain how the USMC will maintain the most sophisticated aircraft in the world at a base with no computer facilities, minimal parts depot, and no pool of highly skilled military and tech rep maintainers. These are what the F-22 has and it still has a horrible readiness rate.

      So, if you buy into the austere basing concept, you'll have to explain how the USMC will pull off a maintenance miracle that the AF can't achieve with F-22s on large bases with all the assets and personnel they need.

      Delete
    13. "As a previous experienced commentator stated much of CAS is now done by F-16 ..."

      Does the fact that it's done make it right? Does the fact that we're building 52 LCSs make it a good ship?

      When we have overwhelming numbers of F-16s in the area and we're up against a third world foe, sure, we can probably get by with F-16s doing CAS. Of course, under those circumstances, we could do CAS with a Piper Cub and a guy leaning out the window shooting a handgun.

      Because it's done, doesn't make it right. This blog is devoted to pointing out all the things we do which aren't right. Don't fall for the "because we do it" argument! You're better than that. Like the F-16 for CAS, if you want, but do so because of sound capabilities that the F-16 brings to a contested CAS environment, if you think it does.

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    14. CNO said, "Consider the main use of CAS - to support friendly ground movement and ID enemy ground movement. That often requires low and slow eyeballs. "

      No, it really doesn't.

      Low and slow Mk1 eyeballs in a tactical aircraft are too busy looking for MANPADs trails and AAA to look for friendly and enemy ground movement. EO/IR sensor and GMTI radars from 20+k is the way to go.

      Either that or let UAVs go low and slow.

      Well camouflaged enemies in complex terrain are a challenge to pick out from the air, no matter what.


      Delete
    15. CNO said, "When we have overwhelming numbers of F-16s in the area and we're up against a third world foe, sure, we can probably get by with F-16s doing CAS. Of course, under those circumstances, we could do CAS with a Piper Cub and a guy leaning out the window shooting a handgun.

      Because it's done, doesn't make it right.
      "

      Doesn't make it wrong either.

      Delete
    16. "The key to beating MANPADs, and the rest of the "trashfire" AAA, is just to fly above them. Most top out at 10-12kft altitude."

      How would this high (on a relative basis) altitude CAS observe enemy positions, strength, and movement especially intermingled with civilians? How would we spot mortar fire/locations? How would we direct friendly ground force movements? And so on.

      Sure, we can fly at 10K ft or 50K ft and drop laser guided bombs if the ground troops happen to have the designators and can actually spot their targets but what happens when the troops are receiving fire from unknown locations, have only a fragmented picture of the situation, don't know where enemy forces are or are moving, and yet they desperately need help?

      I have a problem with the concept of risk avoidance above all else. If we really don't want to lose an aircraft we should leave them parked at their base. Effective CAS requires a degree of risk.

      Delete
    17. "How would this high (on a relative basis) altitude CAS observe enemy positions, strength, and movement especially intermingled with civilians? How would we spot mortar fire/locations? How would we direct friendly ground force movements? And so on."

      EO/IR sensors. GMTI/SAR radars. In the future, FOPEN radars for seeing through foliage canopies.

      This is how it's done now. Not "how would they do it".

      Sniper XR pod video,

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yi9d8bstWsE

      Note the resolution at 10 miles distant and 25,000 ft.

      MTS-B video from a Reaper,

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ba9I3_dK2Eo


      There are systems that are even better.

      Delete
    18. The Sniper pod is impressive. Of course, so was the video of the LCS' 57mm gun during testing prior to finding out that it doesn't actually work. If someone can demonstrate in combat that a single pilot can operate the pod and effectively conduct CAS then I'll be willing to endorse its use - on the A-10!

      Future and developmental technologies don't impress me at all since few of them ever pan out. Ask the LCS' NLOS.

      Delete
    19. @ Smitty,

      You seem to strongly suggest that all CAS should be flown from 20k ft and above.

      Just to make sure, you do realize that the majority of Russia and China's serious SAMs are optimized for 15,000 ft and higher, with even their low-end capable of hitting that?

      Every dug-in Russian or Chinese location would be able to peg-off an F-35 at 20k ft, even when under unfriendly skies, so what's the point of CAS then?
      I say this because it's 'common knowledge' ([sarc] thank you, Wikileaks [/sarc]) that the Air Force is highly concerned with the Accuracy of Russia's recent MANPADS seeker-systems, with some even going so far as to insist that F-22s are vulnerable. Russia's recent Medium-SAMs, which they are deploying in much greater numbers now, have all been upgraded with this or superior (considering that the MANPADS in question is /last generation/).

      If CAS cannot be used to defeat dug-in locations against a prepared peer (probably with several dozen low-frequency radar sites at any given location pounding away at the skies specifically hunting for Mid-to-High Altitude Stealth Bombers, of which the F-35 makes a poor one even under optimum circumstances), instead only being capable of service in secured locations against insurgents or against third-world militaries equipped with MANPADS that are only a few steps up from Spit-Balls, then we're barking up the wrong tree here trying to talk about CAS planes when we should instead be talking about Self Propelled Artillery, Self Propelled Mortars, or Heavy Tanks with High-Angle shot capabilities.
      ...Which also paints a grim picture for the navy, considering that Naval Air Strikes would become completely useless under the same circumstances.

      Now, I'm not trying to harp at you or anything, just trying to understand the logic. Maybe you know something on the subject that I don't.

      Of course, I have my own (veritably insane) ideas as to what would make a better CAS plane, but that's something that would probably have both sides of this debate after me, so I'll refrain unless someone asks.

      - Ray D.

      Delete
    20. Ray D,

      Check out this chart,

      http://www.f-111.net/CarloKopp/pgm0c.gif

      Staying high certainly doesn't work against every system, however the high-end stuff and VLO-detecting EW radars have to emit to be effective and thus are a high priority SEAD/DEAD targets. Until those are taken out, you'll be in a world of hurt if you aren't very stealthy or standing off rather far. No amount of titanium bathtubs or redundant controls will help.

      Most battlefield IADS systems (e.g. AAA, MANPADS, Crotale, Rolland, SA-15, SA-19) top out well below 20kft. They are often on mobile platforms that can shoot and scoot quickly. They often have optical tracking options, so they don't have to emit. These are the ones we don't have a good defense against, other than just staying outside their threat envelope.

      Glide munitions like SDB and JSOW can be launched outside the envelope of medium to long range SAM systems like SA-10B, Hawk, Patriot, or SA-17.

      If the enemy decides to move up long-ranged SAM systems or VLO-detecting radars, we hit them with ATACMS, JASSM or glide munitions.

      Once those are rolled back, we can regain the relative safety of altitude and/or standoff range.

      Delete
    21. @Smitty,

      I mostly agree with you and see your point, but there is a point of concern that I want to raise.

      First off, I want to point out that this is mostly hearsay, so it could most certainly be wrong, but I haven't been able to disprove it through my own (limited) research, so it's something I'd keep on the table to be concerned about.

      Are you familiar with the AA Strategy of 'Dupe Aiming'?
      ...Although, the name of this tactic varies wildly by area/field and I'm not sure what the USAF would call it, so I'm pretty much going to have to explain it.

      Basically, you have your Radar Transmission Center hidden away in their little bunker (they also have point defense weapons, just in case) and they blare away specifically trying to draw the attention of anti-radar units, because about 50 miles down range they have a Radar Receiver Station with the full array of SAMs hunkered down and hiding, patiently waiting to catch signals bounced off targets by the Radar Transmission Center. In other words, with the exception of the longest ranged strikes, they can intercept any attack before they can get in launch range.
      Now consider that each Transmission center may have numerous Receiver Stations at various ranges both closer and farther. This also has the advantage of virtually increasing the range that the radars work by catching the signal earlier, and of course the sites are all hard-wired linked together transmitting data in real time so they can instantly compare their images and drastically reduce the number of false positives.

      ...Now (from what I've heard) multiply this by about 50 and you have Russia's 'single area' ADA, multiply that by 9 and you have Russia's European Wall or roughly by 3 and you have Russia's Pacific Wall (which I think is a little silly).

      From what I heard, this was Russia's response to our Wild Weasels/SEAD tactics after Vietnam, meaning it's never been tested.
      Of course, this is assuming that they actually manage to rebuild their cold-war level ADA grid (again, what I heard), but considering the way things are going over there, I wouldn't take the possibility off the table just yet.

      And, all that being said, there's only 2 real ways to counter that strategy.
      First is via Armored (Ground) Invasion, where we WOULD have crushed them in the Cold War, but now I'm not so certain. But that's digressing even farther off the point of this blog than speaking of CAS, so I'll hush on that.
      Second is... well, Pork Chop Hill. Throw bodies and planes at the Wall until it comes down long enough to bomb the radar bases to ashes leaving a semi-permanent hole in the wall and making a 'safe' corridor to pass through. I suspect that maybe 3,000 planes may be enough unless we just mass rush the wall (in which we may get by with only a few hundred losses), but that estimate is a little bit on the intentionally grim side because war is an inherently pessimistic affair.

      That's one of the reasons why I think a Nap-of-the-Earth Super-Sonic CAS system capable of high-agility when flying ~250ft or less off the ground, using on-board targeting systems to launch/drop PGMs well inside the enemy's minimum engagement range, while also being capable of High-Altitude Strike Bombing for the majority of missions would be an optimum CAS aircraft... because the war would essentially be over by the time we've secured air superiority.

      Basically, to make a gross-over-simplification; I want a smaller, more agile, stealthy, fixed-wing, TU-22M Backfire with F-22 style thrust-vectoring and on-board CAS equipment.
      But at this point, that's like saying 'I want the world'.

      - Ray D.

      Delete
    22. "Most battlefield IADS systems (e.g. AAA, MANPADS, Crotale, Rolland, SA-15, SA-19) top out well below 20kft. They are often on mobile platforms that can shoot and scoot quickly."

      Smitty, so many people want to discuss CAS/A-10 in the context of a one-on-one battle between the A-10 and fill-in-the-blank, the world's deadliest, longest ranged anti-air system. That's not even remotely how it works. The world's deadliest, longest ranged SAM system is going to be installed as a fairly immobile system protecting high value fixed locations. Dueling with those is not the A-10/CAS mission. That's someone else's job.

      Whether you intended to or not, you've correctly identified that much smaller, less capable, shorter range anti-air systems are what the CAS aircraft will encounter. I assume that was your point, so well recognized and well said!

      Delete
    23. CNO,

      I did intend to say that, so thanks! :) From a planning standpoint, it is always a case of our strike system vs their integrated air defense system. Platform vs platform is tactical.

      However those shorter-ranged systems are still rather deadly if you fly into their envelope. So performing a low-altitude gun run, on a predictable path, into their envelope makes for an easy target.

      These V/SHORADS are also rather difficult to find and SEAD/DEAD due to their greater numbers, use of passive sensors, and ability to shoot-n-scoot.

      So once you've dealt with the high-end threats, a CAS system's best bet is to just stay out of range of the V/SHORADS using standoff sensors and munitions.

      Delete
    24. Ray,

      It sounds like what you're describing is called a multi-static radar. I haven't seen any mobile multi-static radars, but they may be coming. The one's I've seen are fixed/semi-fixed. These aren't really appropriate for covering mobile ground forces, for obvious reasons. The Russian Barrier E is an example. Note this system is placed on tall towers, which gives it greater low-altitude visibility. Numerous newer Russian SAM systems have tower-based components, which reduces the viability of the low-altitude penetration corridor.

      MANPADS, VSHORADS and AAA make this corridor extremely dangerous, unless you completely avoid overflying enemy troops (a difficult proposition). A few guys in pickups with cell phones and MANPADS can make a low-altitude approach very risky, especially for a large supersonic aircraft. A Backfire-sized aircraft flying a supersonic NOE approach has a large turn radius, and will have a huge IR, visible and acoustic signature.

      JASSM-ER has a range of over 500nm. We can use it to hit early warning radars and other fixed/semi-fixed components. Mobile systems have to be dealt with as we find them. The SA-10+ systems are becoming more mobile, but they are still rather large and have a teardown time of at least 5-10 min, IIRC. This still provides time for reactive SEAD/DEAD, if assets are nearby.

      Delete
    25. @Smitty,

      Yeah, the arrays that I was thinking of were virtually immobile.
      I think it may actually have been using the Barrier E system you mentioned, or derivatives/ancestors thereof, because that looks very similar to what I heard about.
      The net was a static defense system for stopping western air-power from getting into Russian controlled air-space, purely defensive and centered (at great range) around their own strategic points of interest (our counter-force targets).
      Of course, we have to project power over their mainlands if we want to beat them in a full out war, they're not like the US in that someone can beat us by merely playing politics, so we pretty much HAVE to play the aggressors throughout the conflict.

      The problem was that the Passive systems were practically invisible unless forced to go active, the only one that we could 'see' would be the guy way in the back screaming.
      If you're saying that we'd just hit the guy in the back with a JASSM-ER; well yeah, probably, but then the next guy in the row would light up or worse, meaning all hell would break loose in less than a matter of moments... and Bombers are not cut out for Wild-Weasel activities (I don't think they traditionally carry ARMs when doing CAS, not sure).
      Thus, to the best of my knowledge, we're forced into either making low-altitude SEAD/DEAD attacks on the various passive arrays or moving in with forces on the ground to seek out these sites and either call in long-range bombing or destroy the site themselves (I can't help it, my entire military ancestry was army, so I weigh strongly towards land-based intervention).

      Keep in mind that a reactive army/plane/ship is a dead army/plane/ship.
      Even in the scenario you outlined, SEAD/DEAD attacking the passive arrays, that S-300 (SA-10) you're sending weasels after probably just killed the plane and possibly the pilot it shot at, so you're still throwing planes (and pilots) at the wall.

      Add to this that the S-300s (SA-10) are obsolete anyway, Russia has been producing S-400s (SA-21) since 2007 and are rolling them out like hotcakes (the missiles, at least).
      The launchers are mobile and they take 5 minutes to set up, 30 seconds to shoot when set up including a half-second targeting time, and can begin to scoot within 30 seconds after the missiles leave the tubes, or so I've heard.
      Apparently, the launchers can move with the tubes still up and the radar unit never actually needs setting up beyond balancing feet (which takes time to set up but can be torn down fast), the computers take care of packing up the rest while in transit.
      So, I'd consider them highly mobile, but it doesn't stop there.
      They're anti-stealth setups in and of themselves, capable of detecting and hitting everything from B-2s down to low-observable cruise missiles (including the JASSM-ER); AND each individual missile only costs ~$700k, so they're cheaper than our missiles to boot. Of course, they use state factories, which muddles the costs quite a bit, but still.
      Thus, they have protecting their mobile forces from most threats kinda covered, except that S-400s are optimized for mid-to-high altitudes, leaving the low-altitude coverage to trash-fire.
      I don't know about you, but I'd rather tango with somewhat predictable trash-fire than up to 16 9M96E2s from just one launcher, when there could be 4+ more of them in range (possibly even behind me lying in wait).

      And even those are already obsolete, the S-500 series is set to roll off the line later this year (though that is mainly a missile based upgrade, and not a launcher based upgrade).

      Also note that I called for a SMALLER Backfire.
      Basically the bastardized child/mutant/pet/thing of a TU-22M Backfire, a B-1 Lancer, an F-22 Raptor, AND an F-35A Lightning II.

      - Ray D.

      Delete
    26. Fixed sites can be located via IMINT or SIGINT ahead of time. We can just hit all of them simultaneously, regardless of if they are emitting at that moment.

      In any case, fixed sites don't have much bearing on CAS, since they aren't used to protect forces in the field.

      S-400s have been built for Russia, and an agreement is in the works with China, but otherwise, there have been no exports, to my knowledge.

      There are varying reports as to its cost, but some peg it as high as $500 million per battalion.

      If so, then it won't see widespread use. It will be bought just to protect high value targets. Limited numbers will make them easier to SEAD/DEAD.

      Trashfire is hardly predictable, that's the problem. There's no way to tell where MANPADS are. Two guys in a truck can shoot down an expensive bomber flying NOE.

      Every enemy ground force unit will have numerous trashfire systems, from MANPADS to V/SHORADS missiles, to AAA. All can kill any aircraft flying low.

      A Soviet-era MRR had up to 30 MANPADS launchersm, 4 AAA and 4 V/SHORADS systems. And it will be protected by higher echelon

      A Soviet-era MRD had 120 MANPADS, 16 AAA, 16 V/SHORADS, and 20 medium-ranged SAM systems.

      So lots of trashfire systems, not nearly as many medium-to-high altitude systems.

      Delete
  7. instead of repeating again the tired CAS discussion , focus on this

    "Pilots have operated in uncontested environments over the last 13 years and haven’t had time to train for high-end operations, the general said."

    When the last time any pilot ever encounter formidable air defence while doing their CAS ? ODS ? according Gen Horner, the A10 , cannot perform their mission on modern battlefield without taking too much casualties / damage. and the famous AC130 Spectre gunship also got shotdown by MANPADS because it loitered past it's survivable time..

    think and stop for moment, what will happen to american CAS in afghanistan , if the insurgents have ample supply of modern MANPADS like what US supplied to the muj against soviets ?

    remember the 'rear scanner' in AC130 during their foray into Steel Tiger (ho chin minh trail) ? that guy hang half out of the gunship to spot incoming AAA rounds from the rear quadrant.. Do anyone ever realized the iron will and fighting spirit of enemy like the north vietnamese ? where they never buckled even when bombed by the greatest air power in the world ?

    General Franks during desert storm said, the american tanker's training won the ground war , let the iraqi have abrams and the american have the T72, the result will be the same..

    it is the people in the machine that counts , not the machine itself..

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wonder how this would have worked out with a F35?

    http://thehill.com/policy/defense/239942-a-10-suffers-catastrophic-engine-failure-in-iraq

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Considering the F-35 has had a history of engine troubles, it's a good question to be asking.

      I suspect that an aircraft like the F-35 (partly because it's single engine), should it encounter a similar situation, would likely mean the loss of the aircraft.

      Best possible outcome: Pilot is somehow able to glide back (not likely unless very near airfield)

      Most likely outcome: Loss of plane; pilot manages to eject

      Worst outcome: Lose both pilot, plane, and possibly people on the ground too


      I should note that the Harriers that the USMC uses have been nicknamed the Widowmaker. It's probable that the F-35B will have similar issues.

      Delete
    2. I was alluding not just to the engine problem but also the repairs. Sounds to me that this was done in the middle of nowhere with not a lot of support, kind of hard to see how, at this time, the services could do this with a F35. With no power and no internet, can you get ALICE to even run?!?

      Delete
    3. Real world reliability of the JSF will not be anywhere near what the advocates are saying it will be.

      It will not be able to go into the front into poorly prepared air fields or anything along those lines - plus it's probably too expensive to risk out front where enemy attacks could occur.

      Delete
  9. I'm a pretty big fan of CAS.

    I'm of the opinion that retiring the A-10 right now is a serious mistake. So far the critics have offered nothing but more high altitude bombing, which is not a substitute for CAS. Plus the A-10 is one of the cheapest aircraft and you wouldn't get many bombers even if the A-10 were retired.

    What's really needed is a replacement:
    - Smaller
    - Thrust to weight ratio needs to be better
    - More agile (as to be able to better avoid flak and MANPADs - the slow turn rate according to the original A-10 advocates was regarded as one of its most serious weaknesses); the thing I have noticed about a lot of critics is they argue speed and altitude are the only way to dodge enemy fire - not so; agility can be effective too

    The gun too could use an upgrade. The problem with the electric Gatling gun is that burst fire is not good in the first critical fractions of a second and the high speed videos in the Cold War era tests showed that was what did a lot of the real killing.

    These were the original tests from the Cold War:
    http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/a522397.pdf

    Gas operated Gatling guns (which the Russians use) don't have that flaw.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AltandMain, "
      -Smaller
      - Thrust to weight ratio needs to be better
      - More agile
      "

      Aside from the gun, we already have this,

      http://www.aerospaceweb.org/aircraft/fighter/f16/f16_11.jpg

      Delete
    2. No we don't.

      We don't have a CAS aircraft that can conduct low speed maneuvers with any agility.

      The fuel consumption makes the F-16 a terrible aircraft too for CAS. Too short loiter. Response time would be unacceptably high.

      It's only use will be bombing - not very good for CAS.

      It also lacks a worthy gun.

      Delete
    3. AltandMain, that wouldn't quite be my list of characteristics for a new CAS aircraft. In no particular order, I'd go with

      -loiter (endurance)
      -range
      -large weapons load
      -good ground comm suite
      -two seat?
      -reasonable all aspect stealth
      -dual engine
      -redundant controls
      -effective ground sensors (whatever those might be)
      -simplicity of construction and maintenance
      -low cost (we'll lose some)
      -30mm(?) gun with large ammo supply

      What I wouldn't include is

      -speed
      -advanced aerial radar
      -magic sensor fusing and telepathic helmet (yeah, I'm looking at your F-35)
      -internal weapons carriage

      To paraphrase Smitty, we already largely have this aircraft - it's the A-10!

      Delete
    4. A-10 is not a perfect CAS aircraft though.

      - Agility could be better.
      - Could use a 2nd person in the rear (HUGE in CAS where you need a spotter)
      - The gun spin up is not as good as it could be (need more rounds in first 0.25s)
      - The original designer complained it was too large and vulnerable in that regard

      But yes, the A-10 is the best available.

      The other problem I'd be worried about with the sensor fusion is that the risk of it being jammed or hacked somehow.

      Delete
    5. AltandMain said,

      "We don't have a CAS aircraft that can conduct low speed maneuvers with any agility. "

      That's because we don't need one.

      "The fuel consumption makes the F-16 a terrible aircraft too for CAS. Too short loiter. Response time would be unacceptably high."

      We could increase loiter time with CFTs and 600 gallon wing tanks.

      "It's only use will be bombing - not very good for CAS. "

      Baloney.

      "It also lacks a worthy gun."

      Baloney

      Delete
    6. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    7. We're doing OK but let's keep reminding ourselves to argue the idea not the person and to use data and logic!

      Delete
    8. "We could increase loiter time with CFTs and 600 gallon wing tanks."

      Of course wing tanks would reduce the weapons load, I assume, which would be unfortunate for a CAS aircraft.

      Delete
    9. F-16s routinely carry two 370-gallon tanks on the inner wing stations to increase range and endurance. CFTs would allow them to carry 450 gallons more without taking up those two internal stations with less drag and weight.

      The Israelis added the ability to carry larger 600 gallon tanks instead of the 370s, for even greater range and endurance.

      I proposed wiring the outermost A2A wing stations for light A2G stores (e.g. APKWS or Zuni pods, JAGM/Brimstone missiles.

      A long-range CAS mission could then carry the following:

      - 2 x AMRAAM on the tips
      - 14 x APKWS on the outer stations
      - 4 x 500lb JDAM/LGBs or 8 SDBs on the mid stations
      - 2 x 600 gallon tanks on the inners
      - 1 x 300 gallon tank on the centerline
      - 2 x CFTs

      Around 20,000lbs of fuel total (7,000lbs internal, plus 13,000lbs external). Or around 7,000lbs more than typical F-16s carry today.


      Delete
    10. Correction: Around 6,200lbs more gas than a typical F-16 carries today.

      Delete
  10. I wonder why we can't take all these cool sensors that let you see everything and auto target it.... and put them on an A-10?

    ReplyDelete
  11. @B Smitty

    Historically, PGMs have not lived up to the lofty expectations the defense industry and USAF have promised.

    As for the F-16, all it has is the 20mm Vulcan - not great for CAS (there has even been one case of a pilot flying into the ground in Afghanistan while attempting to strafe).

    It isn't even a good gun for air to air.


    "We could increase loiter time with CFTs and 600 gallon wing tanks."

    Not by much. You need at least 4 hours of loiter time near the front for it to matter. Ideally more.

    Plus it's not clear the F-16 would be able to land at poorly prepared air fields near the front.



    You seem to have bought into the USAF propaganda. The USAF simply does not care about CAS. That's the problem. They're ideologically wedded to ultra expensive aircraft that are worthless for CAS.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Historically? Of what history are you speaking? PGMs have performed brilliantly for the past 25 years.

      AltandMain said, "Not by much. You need at least 4 hours of loiter time near the front for it to matter. Ideally more."

      Where did this number come from? And what's your definition of "not by much"? An extra 6,200 lbs of gas adds a lot of radius/time-on-station.

      Both the A-10 and F-16 can air refuel, so extra gas mostly gets you fewer trips to the tanker. Pilots are limited to 7-10 hours per mission, regardless.

      AltandMain said, "You seem to have bought into the USAF propaganda. The USAF simply does not care about CAS. That's the problem. They're ideologically wedded to ultra expensive aircraft that are worthless for CAS."

      I suggest you read up on recent conflicts. These statements are utterly false.

      Delete
    2. "AltandMain said, "You seem to have bought into the USAF propaganda. The USAF simply does not care about CAS. That's the problem. They're ideologically wedded to ultra expensive aircraft that are worthless for CAS."

      "I suggest you read up on recent conflicts. These statements are utterly false."

      If one reads AF reports, one gets the sense that CAS is fully supported and, possibly, the number one priority. However, there are LOTS of after action reports and informal reports and accounts of ground units that are unable to obtain CAS at all, can't depend on timely CAS, are restricted in their ability (real or perceived) to call on CAS, received CAS that was ineffective, received CAS that was too short lived on scene to be effective, or otherwise failed to support the ground troops. So, statements suggesting a lack of focus by the AF on CAS are not without documented support and should not be summarily dismissed.

      To be fair, the CAS problems are not wholly due to the AF. Ground units seem all too often to be ill-prepared with regards to equipment, training, tactics, and co-ordination to call and use CAS effectively. Still, the reports and accounts clearly indicate that the AF is not wholly committed to CAS, is not optimally equipped for the mission, and, in general, is ill-trained for the mission.

      Delete
    3. Can you post some of these reports so we can review together? The more official, the better.

      There are many reasons why CAS isn't timely or effective. Nobody is saying the current system is perfect. Far from it. There is a genuine lack of qualified TACPs. It requires a certain degree of training to become proficient initially and retain proficiency that currently outstrips the system's ability to produce.

      All too often, systems that should be interoperable between service and easy to use aren't.

      All services are still refining TTPs.

      The USAF's support for CAS has certainly waxed and waned over the decades, but in the past few decades, CAS has received considerable attention.

      Delete
    4. From the OIF 3rd ID After Action Report,

      http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/2003/3id-aar-jul03.pdf

      "Chapter 14
      Close Air Support (CAS)
      Introduction

      Throughout Operation IRAQI FREEDOM (OIF), close air support (CAS) played a significant role in the success of Third Infantry Division (Mechanized) (3ID [M) on the battlefield. CAS successes ranged the full spectrum of combat operations and CAS was used for missions including shaping, armed recce, counterfire, and troops in contact. A total of 925 CAS sorties were flown in support of 3ID (M) resulting in 656 enemy combat systems destroyed and 89 enemy facilities destroyed. Corps shaping accounted for an additional 3324 sorties destroying an estimated 2400 enemy targets.

      Two contributing factors to the success of CAS were its responsiveness and lethality. The following lessons learned highlight both CAS successes and shortfalls:

      Lessons Learned

      • CAS is a great combat multiplier. Integration and relationships between fire support elements (FSE) and the tactical air control party (TACP) are a must.
      • CAS stacks and push CAS facilitate quick response and greater on station time for aircraft.
      • Precision-guided munitions bring lethality to the battlefield. Insure planning is done in advance to insure ordnance is included in the air tasking order (ATO)
      • For counterfire, use CAS only if acquisitions are outside the range of organic indirect fire systems or if rules of engagement (ROE) dictates precision munitions be used.
      • Address CAS counterfire in the special instructions (SPINS). Insure that Q-36/Q-37 is classified as a positive identification source.
      • Field a better vehicle and communications suite to provide the tactical command post (TACP) the ability to fight on the move.
      • Coalition Forces Air Component Commander (CFACC) and corps need to push target sets and intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) assets down to division level for engagement.
      • Division forward boundary (DFB) or the equivalent needs to be established before line of departure (LD). This will ensure that there are no questions as to who owns battlespace.
      "

      Sounds like the 3rd ID had rather positive views on their CAS support in Iraq.

      There is more in the document.

      Delete
    5. The report you cite is a self-congratulatory piece much like the Navy's official reports about the incredible success of the LCS. The nature of the report is revealed by the use of CAS destruction counts reminiscent of Viet Nam era body counts where we congratulated ourselves right up to the end. 656 "enemy combat systems" destroyed? What are those? Setting that aside, look at the numbers - 745 "things" destroyed in 925 sorties - less than one "thing" per sortie. Granted, a CAS sortie can be highly successful without destroying anything but this does not sound like a major success story if you read between the self-congratulatory lines.

      Consider, "CAS responsiveness, search time, and positive identification (PID) problems greatly reduced CAS effectiveness in a counterfire role."

      In short, the report is short on specifics, long on congratulation, and highly suspect. I suspect a report authored by the low level guys on the ground would read somewhat differently.

      By the way, what are you arguing for or against? That CAS can be effective? We all think that. That the AF can provide CAS support from time to time? No one disagrees? That the AF's CAS needs work? You stated that yourself. So, what are you arguing for or against?

      Delete
    6. The AF CAS efforts are much like the Navy's gun support efforts. The Navy wrote at great length about how wonderful their gun support was and they even coerced the Marines into publicly endorsing it but it was non-existent on a practical basis. Even building a couple of Zumwalts doesn't change the situation, it only makes for even better self-congratulatory reports.

      The AF's attitude towards CAS is pretty clear from their actions. They assign the aircraft they just happen to extra of laying around, the F-16. They don't particularly train for it and absolutely not in contested environments (their own words). They want to retire the best CAS platform we have. They provide CAS when there are not higher priority missions to do (from the report you cited). This is not indicative of an AF that sees CAS as a primary mission any more than the Navy sees gun support as a primary mission.

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    7. This is an Army division's overall AAR. It did not come from the USAF. No AF bias.

      The 3rd ID was the primary Army heavy division used in the drive to Baghdad, so as close to major combat operations as we've seen recently.

      It attempts to assess what went well and what needs improvement, as AARs usually do.

      My argument is that by-and-large the CAS system is working and is providing results. Even the Army recognizes this. The tired line about "the USAF doesn't want or care to do CAS" is complete BS. It may have been true, to lesser or greater degree, throughout the Air Force's history, but it's not true now and hasn't been for a long time. It's not "sometimes" or "from time to time". The USAF is dedicated to providing CAS.

      My argument is that, "only the A-10 can provide good CAS" line is also tired and unsupported by combat experiences. Many aircraft provide CAS and many do it well. Each has pros and cons.

      Do you have counter-examples? Hopefully actual AARs or Lesson's Learned from combat units.

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    8. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/05/05/in-pitched-afghan-battle-insurgents-wanted-to-take-u-s-troops-hostage/?tid=pm_pop_b

      Temple responded by directing F-16 fighter jets to launch strafing gun runs, his citations adds. They were “danger close,” meaning he and other coalition troops were in close proximity to the targets.

      “With two observation posts in danger of being overrun by insurgents with 40 meters of their position, Sergeant Greiner focused all efforts on halting the enemy advance,” his citation states. “He immediately destroyed two compounds housing an insurgent machine gun position and enemy strongpoints, one danger close to friendly positions, with four 500-pound bombs from a pair of F-16s.”

      Wait a second, I thought F-16's were terrible at CAS and can't effectively strafe!??

      Delete
  12. The comedy seems to continue with the F-35.

    Apparently more engine problems:
    http://www.businessinsider.com.au/f-35-engine-problems-2015-4

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  13. UG! :(
    http://breakingdefense.com/2015/04/dodig-slams-pratts-work-on-f135-engine-report-accurate-but-doesnt-tell-whole-story-say-jpo-pratt/

    F136 program restart would be good. Weird that the A and C are worse than the B ?

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  14. Plenty of Western powers thought that their forces were 100% viable in 1913 based upon their performance in colonial wars - by September 1914 this myth was absolutely debunked.

    If you believe that American airpower will be able to conduct ground attacks from 25,000 feet AGL against the Russian, Chinese, or North Korean armies then the "everything is awesome" point of view is valid.

    If you think that the Russian, Chinese, or North Koreans will not conduct effect attacks against American airfields with ballistic missiles and their own air power, then the "everything is awesome" point of view is valid.

    If you believe that American airpower has sufficient reserves of PGMs and that their bunkers are immune to destruction by Russian, Chinese, or North Koreans then the "everything is awesome" point of view is valid.

    If you believe that PGMS will continue to work with near perfect reliability against a sophisticated ECM and "counter optical spectrum; then the "everything is awesome" point of view is valid.

    If you believe that American airpower can out generate sorties against Russian, Chinese, or North Korean armies, even when operating from dirt fields or highways, with maintenance supported from the back of a truck, then the "everything is awesome" point of view is valid.

    If you have doubts about any of these points then you need to reconsider the way we intend to fight, the aircraft and weapons we buy,and how we train our pilots and ground crews.

    GAB


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    Replies
    1. As usual, GAB blasts us with the shotgun of reality. Well said and thanks!

      Once again, this reminds us of the folly of discussing platforms and systems in isolation, divorced from the larger joint tactical action.

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    2. There's good reason to believe that a strike against China would not be as easy as many in the West make it sound.

      China has plenty of underground airbases and are pretty widely dispersed throughout the nation for example. Originally designed for the Cold War, they are still around.


      See here:
      http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-2011-01.html

      I would imagine Russia does as well.

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  15. "The F-35 sensor suit alone will allow it to offer a better all-weather CAS platform. Particularly against concealed forces. "

    One must wonder if the commenter understands what "close air
    support" means... Even as a tax paying "civilian" I know well
    that means flying CLOSE TO TERRAIN near the line of contact
    and SEEING the enemy and shooting at him/her...with weapons
    like a gun. This also means in an airframe hardened enough to
    survive the hail of AAA coming back. To think the F35 will do
    any of this is utterly laughable....

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    Replies
    1. Close Air Support covers a multitude of functions, one of which happens to be weapons delivery. CAS, in more general terms, provides support to the ground force by understanding its objectives and capabilities, the enemy's objectives, locations, movement, and capabilities, provides an aerial assessment to the ground force and guides their movements, and provides weapons delivery as needed.

      Weapons can, under appropriate circumstances, be delivered from 30,000 ft with laser guided bombs. The popular conception of CAS as an aircraft flying low and slow is just one possible manifestation of the mission.

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