Monday, August 13, 2018

Marine Ground Based Air Defense

With decades of assured United States aerial dominance, ground force anti-air warfare (AAW) has atrophied nearly to the point of abandonment. 

Fairly recently, in fact, there were calls for removal of short range air defense (SHORAD) from the Marines.

“In the quest to transform into the Joint force of the future, many have advocated the removal of Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD)1 systems from the Marine Corps. The belief that USMC forces have never utilized Stinger2 in anger against an enemy, that the US will always possess air supremacy, and that a network of sensors will allow the engagement of all targets in the battle space have led to a perception that man portable short range air defense is no longer required in the USMC.” (1)

“In August 2006, the USMC recommended the termination of the CLAWS [Complementary Low-Altitude Weapon System] program as part of cuts to spending on air defence capabilities.” (2)

Even Congress is aware of the air defense shortcomings.

“[House Armed Services] Committee Chairman Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio, asked what the Marines Corps is doing about its air defense vulnerability: “We are aware that the Marine ground units are almost wholly without an effective organic air defense system.” (5)

Very recently, there has been some renewed interest from the Marines as the realization that we can no longer count on uncontested aerial supremacy sinks in.  Low end UAVs over the battlefield have also spurred some renewed interest.  Let’s take a closer look at the Marine’s anti-air situation.

Current Capabilities

It is difficult to find current information on Marine Corps air defense capabilities but that appears to be, in large measure, because there aren’t many capabilities.  If I've missed an active capability, let me know in the comments.  That said, it seems that there are only two dedicated air defense units:

  • 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion (2nd LAAD)
  • 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion (3rd LAAD)
2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion (2nd LAAD) is an air defense unit that is part of Marine Air Control Group 28 (MACG-28) and the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW), II MEF, and is currently based at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. The Battalion is composed of one Headquarters and Support Battery and two Firing Batteries (Alpha and Bravo).

- 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (2nd MAW)
- Marine Air Control Group 28 (MACG-28)
- 2nd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion (2nd LAAD)

3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion (3rd LAAD) is an air defense unit that is part of Marine Air Control Group 38 (MACG-38) and the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW) , I MEF, and is currently based at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California.

- 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (3rd MAW)
- Marine Air Control Group 38 (MACG-38)
- 3rd Low Altitude Air Defense Battalion (3rd LAAD)

III MEF appears not to have a dedicated LAAD but uses detachments from other groups.

- 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (1st MAW)
- Marine Air Control Group 18 (MACG-18)
- Low Altitude Air Defense Detachments

Even the LAADs are limited in capability.  They appear to operate only three weapons: Stinger missiles, 7.62 mm MG, and 0.50 cal MG (9) and only the Stinger is a credible, if short ranged, anti-air weapon.  The weapons can be operated singly or mounted on an HMMWV which is then optimistically referred to as an Advanced Man-Portable Air Defense System (A-MANPADS).  The addition of a single channel radio, a GPS, and a laptop apparently makes the HMMWV a “system”.

The LAAD is, essentially, a gunner with a Stinger on his shoulder.

Currently, there are no active armored mobile air defense vehicles in the Marines and no effective ability to engage cruise missiles.

The Marine’s entire air defense consists of Stinger missiles.  The Marines are going to take on Chinese artillery, rockets, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, aircraft, helos, and UAVs with just Stinger missiles.  Yes, we fight jointly and the Marines will hope (desperately, frantically hope!) for support from the Navy and Air Force but, in a peer war, those forces will be fully engaged with their own concerns and anti-air support for the Marines will be sporadic and ineffectual, at best.

Reference Note:  FIM-92 Stinger - man portable, surface-to-air, shoulder fired, supersonic missile designed to counter high-speed, low-level ground attack aircraft. It is capable of all aspect engagement. The current BLOCK I version is capable of destroying fixed and rotary wing aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. Stinger missiles are five feet long and weigh thirty five pounds fully armed.  Range is around 4 miles.

LAAD - Stinger Surface to Air Missile

Historical Context

How did we get to this point?  Obviously, the lack of threats, until recently, influenced procurement and organizational decisions in a negative way.  The war on terror has had a serious deleterious impact on military preparedness and force structure and we are only just beginning to climb out of the hole we’ve created – in fact, we’re only just beginning to even recognize that we’ve created a hole and stepped fully into it!  The military lost sight of its main responsibility, peer warfare, in its zeal to use the war on terror to increase budgets.

Beyond the war on terror and lack of immediate threats, one of the relatively recent air defense concepts that heavily influenced procurement decisions was Sea Shield (part of the transformational plan along with Sea Base and Sea Strike).  Sea Shield was envisioned to provide an air defense umbrella over the entire forward battlespace and littoral areas.

“Sea Shield extends precise and persistent naval defensive capabilities deep overland to protect joint forces and allies ashore.” (7)

Sea Shield was envisioned to utilize ship (Aegis), sea base, and aerial (Hawkeye, primarily, at the time) radars to establish comprehensive radar coverage and, thus, defensive capability.  Implicit in this assumption was that the US would have absolute aerial dominance so that, for example, E-2 Hawkeyes could operate close to the battlespace and provide close, extensive coverage.  This is yet another example of the military having lost sight of its main responsibility in favor of low end anti-terrorism and nation building operations.  Now, given the likelihood that we’ll be hard pressed to establish even aerial parity in a peer war, high value aviation assets like Hawkeyes will have to operate well back from the active battlespace.  UAVs will be shot down with regularity and will provide only sporadic coverage.

A further problem is that “fixed” radars cannot provide comprehensive coverage against low level threats and this has long been recognized.  From a 2004 USMC paper,

“Radar horizon and terrain shadowing will also degrade these sensors because they are not designed to move with the maneuver forces. Consequently, maneuver forces will require an organic air defense capability for local protection from immediate, pop up, low-level air threats. This organic air defense capability is the Stinger missile system.” (1)

Curvature of the Earth further limits the coverage.  Even elevation of the radar sensor cannot completely compensate for the various limits.  As one example,

“225’ high Sea Based sensors will not be able to detect targets below 5,539 feet at a range of 110nm.” (1)

And this assumes no significant topographical rises like hills or mountains.

We see, then, that various short-sighted decisions, flawed beliefs, and loss of focus led to the current situation.  It is obvious that ground forces need a mobile, local air defense capability.  This need has been further emphasized by the recent boom in low altitude UAV operations and capabilities.

The irony is that as the air threats to ground forces have grown, the Marine’s air defenses have declined.

Near Future Developments

Ground Based Air Defense Future Weapon System (GBADFWS) – is currently being developed as a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) mounted system.  The system uses Stinger missiles and an electronic warfare capability.  Future plans include a laser variant. (3)

TPS-80 G/ATOR (Ground / Air Task Oriented Radar) – offers counterfire targeting and general situational awareness but, while air-sensing capable, is not currently linked to any anti-air weapon.  It is a short to medium range, air-cooled, phased array radar that is intended to replace five current radar systems and augment the AN/TPS-59 long-range radar. A total of 45-57 G/ATOR systems are planned for procurement, depending on what source one reads.  The system is claimed to be capable of detecting low observable targets.

The system consists of three major assemblies: (4)

  1. Trailer mounted and towed radar; towed by Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR)
  2. Communications module mounted on a JLTV or equivalent
  3. Power module mounted on a Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR)

G/ATOR is being developed and delivered in three blocks. (4)

  • Block 1 develops the basic hardware and provides Air Defense/Surveillance Radar (AD/SR) capability. It replaces the AN/UPS-3, AN/MPQ-62, and AN/TPS-63 radar systems.
  • Block 2 adds a ground counterbattery/counter-fire mission capability and replaces the AN/TPQ-46 radar system.
  • Block 3 was a series of enhancements, including Identification Friend or Foe Mode 5/S, that are instead being incorporated into other blocks. The term Block 3 is no longer used.
  • Block 4 replaces the AN/TPS-73 radar system for air traffic control capability, which will be a future development effort.
G/ATOR Radar

Status Summary

For the moment, the Marines are focused on short range AAW.

“Walsh [Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, deputy commandant for combat development and integration] said that the Marine Corps has been focused on countering threats from unmanned aerial systems -- a preferred weapon of extremists in the Middle East -- but is now starting to shift focus to longer-range threats such as aircraft and cruise missiles.” (3)

This is symptomatic of the Corps’ focus on very low end combat where UAVs are, indeed, a significant concern.  When high level combat comes, however, the Corps will quickly learn that ballistic and cruise missiles, MLRS-type rocket barrages, and artillery barrages will be far more lethal and concerning than the presence of UAVs, though, admittedly, UAVs can lead to other types of attacks if allowed to collect targeting data.

The longest range anti-air weapon the Corps has is the Stinger missile and it is mounted on unprotected, glorified jeeps.  In combat, those vehicles will be non-survivable.  The Corps lacks any type of armored, mobile, anti-air vehicle.

The Corps is not only shedding armor and artillery but, lacking any type of counter-rocket/artillery/missile (C-RAM) weapon, is extremely vulnerable to enemy artillery.

With all these needs and gaps, how do the Marines expect to conduct successful assaults against peer opponents?


As noted, the range of threats encompasses much more than just UAVs and includes,

  • Anti-rocket
  • Anti-artillery
  • Anti-helo
  • Anti-cruise missile
  • Anti-ballistic missile
  • Anti-UAV
  • Anti-naval shell (artillery?)

The Marines are aggressively pursuing down-sized, down-armored, down-firepowered units that are predicated on battlefield mobility using aviation and light “jeeps”.  This kind of unprotected, non-survivable force depends all the more on highly effective anti-air protection. 

Consider just the artillery issue.  Our light infantry forces will be decimated in a fight against an enemy with artillery unless we can employ extensive and effective C-RAM.  Thus, the movement towards mobile, light, unprotected infantry ought to have triggered a concomitant development of a mobile, C-RAM vehicle and yet, illogically, it hasn’t.

Cruise and ballistic missiles have become a major threat.  The Navy will attempt to provide protection via the Aegis system but, as the Marines move inland, the coverage umbrella will get progressively more porous especially against low flying cruise missiles.  The Marine’s very mobility works against them as far as anti-air protection and, thus, demands a mobile, organic, anti-air system.

The Marine Corps is becoming a light infantry force despite claims of being a middle weight force and with little armor, no armored personnel carrier, no infantry fighting vehicles, and a heavy dependence on highly vulnerable “jeeps”, the infantry forces desperately need survivable (armored), organic, mobile anti-air protection.

Reference Note - Recent Terminated Systems

MIM-23 Hawk – medium range surface to air missile; semi-active radar homing; range 45-50 km; speed Mach 2.4;  depending on version, a typical system consisted of a triple missile, towed launcher with associated radars and 36 reloads; terminated in 2002 in favor of Stinger systems

CLAWS (Complementary Low-Altitude Weapon System) – surface launched AMRAAM, fire and forget, surface to air missile; 4-5 missile launcher mounted on HMMWV; successfully demonstrated in 2005-6 and terminated in May 2006

LAV-AD – retired (8);  combines a high-rate-of-fire 25 mm Gatling gun and short-range, infrared Stinger fire-and-forget missile (16 total, 8 ready); primary sensor is FLIR optical tracking although a Thales TRS 2630P radar capability is also being developed; the last of 17 systems was delivered in January 1999 (6); provides air defence for the light armored vehicle battalion, with a secondary ground defense role;  vehicles are assigned to the light armored reconnaissance battalions


The Marines had credible anti-air systems but, unwisely, terminated them for various reasons, none good.


(1)DTIC, United States Marine Corps,School of Advanced Warfighting, Marine Corps University, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, “The Loss of USMC Man Portable Air Defense Capability”, Major Stephen G. Conroy, 2004,

(3) website, “Marines Developing JLTV Air-Defense System Armed with Laser Weapon”, Matthew Cox, 21-Mar-2018,

(4)DOT&E FY 2017 Annual Report, Jan 2018

(5)Marine Times website, “Marines add Stinger missiles, lasers to vehicles to make up for lagging air defense”, Todd South, 23-Apr-2018,

(6)Army Technology website,

(7)Dept. of the Navy, “Naval Transformation Roadmap, Power and Access…From the Sea, Sea Strike, Sea Shield, Sea Basing”, 2003?

(8)g2mil website, “Vital Amtrack Variants”, Carlton Meyer, 2017

(9)Marines website, “Low Altitude Air Defense (LAAD) Gunner’s Handbook”, MCRP 3-25.10A, 2011,


  1. They should soup up their 50cal RCWS to defeat drones at 0...3,000 ft altitude.

    There's no motivation to get real about air defence against platforms for peer wars. To get that right with state of the art (not 'leap ahead') tech is really expensive (especially the radars and most missiles) and the outcome would be very diverse and comprehensive. It's too enticing to simply rely on friendly air power.

    The Army could provide island air defence in a Pacific War
    scenario, for there would be little else to do for them.

    1. As you well know, there is little air forces can do to stop GLCM and BMs in the first days of a major peer vs peer war.

      A cheap low altitude anti-drone system would be to use M255E1/A1 flechette warhead on a 70mm rocket modified for ground to air launch (likely different propellant and nozzle configuration).


  2. The LAV-AD was retired after just 7 years of service because the recoil from the gun caused unsustainable cracks in the hull.

    Good luck convincing the Marines to acquire a less shitty AFV than the LAV, though. If Bellau Wood, Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Iwo Jima, the Mayaguez incident, Eagle Claw, the Grenada helicopter assault, Mogadishu and Fallujah have taught us anything, its that the Marines WANT to suffer unnecessary casualties.

    Disasters and bloodbaths are just what the USMC's culture is made of.

    1. "The LAV-AD was retired after just 7 years of service because the recoil from the gun caused unsustainable cracks in the hull."

      I've never heard that. Do you have a reference for it?

    2. Actually, it was retired after 4 years of service, and only 17 (of a planned 125) were bought.

      While there is no DIRECT evidence that stress cracking was why they were retired, its the most logical explanation.

      The LAV/Piranha chassis simply isn't designed for carrying such a heavy weaponry. Witness the failure of another USMC program, the LAV-105. It was abandoned when the Marines found out its hull couldn't sustain the recoil of the Waverleit XM-35, a low-recoil-force weapon. The GAU-12 Equalizer probably has around the same amount of recoil, just distributed in a longer time of firing.

      And finally, stress cracking in the LAV serie has been a documented issue for years :

    3. And that was Tanguy Pluchet replying. I screwed up the comment id process...

  3. The best the US has done with the mobile AA systems is the LAV-AD, a Hummer with a .50 turret and Stingers, and a Bradley with Stingers in place of the TOW missiles. Oh and they did use the 20mm Vulcan cannon and ground launched Sidewinder but I think they were never sure that would actually work in battle.

    Why we never bought the German Gepard AA turrets and stuck them on an Abrams hull I'll never know. Probably the 'not invented here' issue.

    That the US didn't buy a ground launched version of the AIM-120 is pathetic. The Norwegians have been selling the system for over a decade now. That's what the CLAWS system was I think. There are systems all over the world we could buy and get a mobile, medium range AA for the ground force. Like the Israeli SPYDER.

    Its pathetic.

    1. The 'Avenger with AIM-9X' proposal is a quite promising and survivable one. It's no full spectrum solution, but better battlefield AD against platforms than anything U.S.armed forces ever had.

    2. "Why we never bought the German Gepard AA turrets and stuck them on an Abrams hull I'll never know. Probably the 'not invented here' issue."

      I believe the Gepard cost 3x as much as a regular tank.
      The US had its own SPAAGs, they're just not that useful.
      What do you get rid of to make room?
      Even if you dropped all 120mm gunned tanks in favour of 2x40mm auto cannon & 8x stinger, its a pretty minor anti air capability.

    3. The LAV -AD turret has the 25mm gatling gun - GAU-12 Equalizer , as used in the Harrier II attack jet. Only the turret with the 25mm chain gun has the M240 machine gun as well.

  4. The Army is in the same boat for the same reasons and have taken a few steps forward in this area. First, as an interim solution, the Army is fielding Strykers with a turret armed with 4 Stingers, 2 Hellfire missiles, and a 30mm cannon. Second, the Army is a developing a Multi Mission Launcher, mounted on a 6 x 6 truck, capable of firing Sidewinders, Hellfires, and other missiles. The Army is also looking a new missile called the Expanded Mission Area Missile to counter mortars, artillery, rockets, drones, and similar threats.

    Hopefully, the Marines are involved with all of this.

    1. My confused understanding on state of the Army Indirect Fire Protection Capability Increment 2 Program to address rockets, artillery and mortar threats, C-RAM, Army Extended Area Protection and Survivability (EAPS) program, given high priority after Russian artillery attack of three minutes July 2014 when elements of four Ukrainian brigades only 9 km from border were devastated by Russian BM-21 Grad MLRS using dual purpose improved conventional munitions, air dropped mines, top down anti-tank sub-muntions and thermobaric fuel/air explosives, but now the Army has decided to prioritize the development of a cruise missile defense capability.

      Now under the EMAM? contract, Raytheon proposing a fully U.S compliant version of the Israeli Iron Dome Tamir missile, called SkyHunter. Lockheed Martin stated it has a few solutions that it has offered to the Army for consideration for the interim capability but for competitive reasons preferred not to elaborate on what has been pitched.

      Per original IFPC inc. 2 ?
      Army plans to fire the MHTK or another choice from their new MML, Multi-Mission Launcher that can launch Raytheon's AI3 interceptor (a variant of AIM-9M), AIM-9X, Hellfire, MHTK & Stinger, The MML is capable of 360° rotation and 0-90° elevation. Consisting of 15 tubes, the MHTK can be quad packed to take a total of 60 MHTK missiles.

      The new LM MHTK under development IFPC, Indirect Fire Protection Capability / C-RAM, counter-artillery, rocket and mortar threats and UAVs. The LM MHTK, Miniature Hit to Kill, no warhead, directly destroy enemy targets through kinetic energy. MHTK range >3km, 27 inches length, 1.6 inches dia., 5 lbs, cost target $16,000 per missile in 2006 dollars at specified quantities, ~ 25% inflation to 2018 say $20,000, very low cost in missile prices. Rocket solid propellant motor with four small wings located at the front of the weapon provide guidance and stability during the flight and the rear section also features four tail fins for increased maneuverability.Semi-active radar guidance, lock-on at the acquisition point with an AESA radar 45° field of view in elevation angle and can cover a scan angle of up to 90°.

      Then there is Army’s Interim Maneuver-Short-Range Air Defense system to fill an urgent capability gap in Europe they are planning, not as yet funded, to order 144 IM-SHORAD systems mounted on the Stryker for a total of four battalions by fiscal 2022. Leonardo DRS with its partner Moog’s Reconfigurable Integrated weapons platform using the Raytheon MANPADS 8 km Stinger IR missile won contract beating Boeing-GDLS, Rafael’s Iron Dome and South Korean defense firm Hanwha’s Flying Tiger.

      The Army choose DRS to provide the mission equipment package because of the flexibility of its reconfigurable turret, to allow for growth opportunities should the threat changes that requires a new interceptor or another capability. GDLS will fully integrate the SHORAD prototype by April 2019. The final prototypes will be delivered to the service by the first quarter of fiscal 2020. It will include Raytheon’s new digital Stinger vehicle missile launcher and DRS using the Israeli RADA Multi-Mission Hemispheric Radar (MHR) S-band, pulse doppler, software-defined, AESA antenna, extremely high elevation coverage, non-rotating, solid state, digital beam forming, receivers and pulse compression. The MHR will work while on the move, which as far as I know is a first on a land vehicle in the SHORAD mode?

  5. "MIM-23 Hawk – medium range surface to air missile; semi-active radar homing; range 45-50 km; speed Mach 2.4;  depending on version, a typical system consisted of a triple missile, towed launcher with associated radars and 36 reloads; terminated in 2002 in favor of Stinger systems."

    The Army deactivated their Hawk batteries after Desert Storm leaving the Marine Corp as the sole user.  The Hawk was long in the tooth in 2002 and should have been replaced.

  6. To be fair even the US army was not so serious about short and medium ground air defenses even during the Cold War.
    You cannot compare the I-HAWK to the SA-17 , or the Chaparral to the SA-19, so even in the 80ties US systems of this type were dated.

    So what to do now, if you wanna play smart and on a budget just buy something from Israel and Europe and license build it to fill in those gaps.

    1. Spyder and Barak8 missile systems from Israel and NASAMS II from norway are a now brainer.

  7. BTW Russia has the most modern MANPADS right now, better than Stinger.

    1. "BTW Russia has the most modern MANPADS right now, better than Stinger."

      What is superior about the Russian SA-25 as opposed to the Stinger?

      I discourage unsupported statements of this nature. Cite some specific aspects and data that lead you to conclude/believe that the SA-25 is superior to the Stinger and make this a strong, informative comment.

  8. It has a tri-band seeker, and a maximum attitude of 4.5km that alone makes it better, and it is better networked.

    Here is a link in Russian, you can use Google translate for the technical data

    Oh, and if you want a western system better than Stinger

    1. Your Jane's link says ceiling is +3.5 km, which is utterly underwhelming (as with all such missiles).
      What's the 3rd seeker? Jane's claims it's passive, so no mMW.

      BTW, Ford Aerospace had a ManPADS called "Saber" around 1983; LBR guidance, HEDP warhead.

      And about RBS70NG being better than Stinger; it's but the launcher. The newest missile is Bolide, which is eerily similar to the original competitor of Stinger (the competing design was a laser beam rider).

      LBR is very difficult to counter, but less likely than Stinger's IR guidance to score a hit on targets that don't employ IRCM.

    2. Stinger has two seekers, a UV and an IR. Number of seekers, alone, is not the indicator of superiority - it's the software that uses the seeker data and interprets it. Better software may well produce a better target discrimination from one less seeker and, based on weapon system history, I'm strongly inclined to credit US software with much better effectiveness. Russian systems tend to try to compensate for individual component and software weakness by increasing component numbers. That may be the case here.

      The Stinger has a reported max altitude of 3.8 km versus the 3.5-4.5 of the SA-25 so those are comparable with possibly a slight edge to the SA-25, if the higher number is accurate. I note, though, that the Jane's link you provided cites a max altitude of 3.5 km, essentially the same as Stinger or ever so slightly less.

      Stinger's warhead is around 6.5 lbs versus the SA-25 of 3.3 so that's a plus for the Stinger.

      Depending on which numbers you use, Stinger seems to have a bit better horizontal range.

      The conclusion seems to be that the two are comparable with, perhaps, slight range and lethality edge to Stinger. Target discrimination advantage is unknown.

    3. A side note about a short ranged protected system that I think would be quick to integrate would be the rbs70 or even better the rbs90 mounted on a protected carrier.

      The rbs90 system is/was mounted on a Bv206 (radar) and all crew and equipment would travel with this unit. Then the unit stops and the dual launcher tube (that is the difference to rbs70) would then be deployed. The operator would then control the system from within the bv206. no more sitting outside north of the polar circle freezing the ass off as done with the rbs70 system...

      The system would be easy to mount on another carrier and the launcher could be a fixed installation on the roof, much like the 9k35 strela 10. It would then have 2-4 missiles ready and could fire 1-2 missiles independently depending on manpower requirements inside.

      Also to enhance the system, instead of a person controlling the missile the person locks the target and then you have a computer keeping the target in sight until impact.


    4. I know very little about the RBS90 system but it seems to be in the Stinger-ish family (with more range?). Stingers have been vehicle mounted so there's no reason an RBSxx couldn't also. In fact, my understanding is that the RBS90 is a vehicle mounted system along with a radar unit?

    5. CNO, the answer to that question is, partly. here is a picture of the system:
      top left is "gunner" and radar operator
      bottom left is the missile and optical unit, stand alone so if the missile unit is killed the crew is supposed to live and fight another day. does not make sense since the radar is placed on the vehicle.
      all mounted in this case on a unarmored bv206.
      the site is in Swedish but provides some more information.
      Adding this to an protected vehicle would be problem.
      After some more google-fu i found this updated version that could be placed on a protected carrier instead of a jeep.


    6. And then missing a word can change everything allot.
      "Adding this to an protected vehicle would be problem."
      should be a "no problem"...

  9. Wide Area Air Defence
    The Soviet Unions air defence force was its third most important service, behind the Army and ICBM force.
    It never saw combat

    Soviet Proxies in Korea, Vietnam and the Midddle East tried it with limited success, Egypt in the Yom Kippur War, briefly?

    Simpy impractical on the battlefield with the possible exclusion of defence of high value very rear line targets like airfields, that may be hit by special forces using mortars or ATGMS

    Israels Iron Dome is a technological marvel, but the Palestinians can bypass it at will.
    The massed attacks in 2012 and 2014 were tests, to work out exactly how much concentrated fire it took to punch through.

    1. "Israels Iron Dome is a technological marvel, but the Palestinians can bypass it at will."

      That would not seem to be true. Your reference seems to suggest markedly lower death/injury rates after 2011 which is when Iron Dome was first deployed.

      More, here's a statement from the Wiki Iron Dome article,

      "In the 2006 war with Hezbollah, prior to Iron Dome's development, during 34 days of fighting, 4,000 rockets landed and 53 Israelis were killed. However, in the 2014 war with Gaza, the 50-day conflict and 3,360 rockets resulted in just two rocket-related deaths."

      Success rate claims vary widely, ranging from 75% to 90%+. I take all such claims with a huge grain of salt but the injury data seems fairly conclusive.

      Given enough resources, a mass attack can overwhelm any system. However, the price to do so is quite high.

      All in all, Iron Dome seems to be quite successful, if not perfect.

      As far as C-RAM, there is absolutely no reason it cannot be practical on the battlefield and, indeed, is already being fielded in various forms. Russia, China, and the US, for example, all have various forms of local, mobile, anti-air (which is what C-RAM is in a generic sense) vehicles and weapons.

      The US Army has used the truck mounted Centurion C-RAM (Phalanx CIWS) and claimed that it is effective. I wouldn't think it would take much effort to mount something similar on an armored vehicle. The old SPAAG's would make the basis of a C-RAM system with the addition of suitable radar fire control.

      In short, I see no reason why C-RAM would not be practical on the battlefield and, in fact, all evidence suggests it would. What evidence/reasoning do you have to believe otherwise?

    2. The main issue with C-RAM is the ammo capacity: the gun will quickly shoot itself dry in several bursts, and then you're going to need time to reload it. The short range of the gun also works against it: 2~km is well within the effective range of many air to surface guided weapons.

      That said, theoretically conceptualising and going for as much COTS as possible, I'd argue to expand C-RAM some more - have the trailer carry not just the gun, but also a RAM launcher or two. Sure, 8~km of effective range still isn't all that great, but you get 42 point defense missiles to protect your high value asset (or 22 missiles if you go for the SeaRAM launcher, which admittedly increase the cost, since you now have 3 sensor domes on the trailer, but you do get some additional margin of reliability).

      I realise this now sounds a lot like truck-mounted Pantsir, but then the Russians have always been a lot more serious on air defense than the US has - IMO there's nothing wrong with following their lead on this.

      That's just for the truck-mounted system (which would, I envision, be more for point defense of Patriot batteries and HQ positions). A mobile SPAAG platform for the US would definitely need to be a clean sheet design, perhaps on the Bradley chassis, given the US Army's attempts (with a fair degree of sucess) to use the Bradley as a universal tracked chassis.

    3. Derp - I mistyped. What I meant is that CIWS' 2km range means it's outside the range of shitloads of air to surface guided weapons - even Hellfire, which has a range of 8km. What more JDAM or LGBs or air to ground missiles!

    4. "What I meant is that CIWS' 2km range means it's outside the range of shitloads of air to surface guided weapons "

      No, it's not! It's within range of every weapon fired at it - even thousand mile cruise missiles. Every weapon has to, eventually, enter the CIWS range in order to hit whatever target/area the CIWS is guarding.

      What's true is that CIWS does not have the range to hit the launch platforms but, in a C-RAM scenario, that's not the C-RAM's job. It's job is to stop whatever enters its protective area.

    5. i really need more coffee: what i was trying to say was that the short range of CIWS means anybody with guided weapons is outside the engagement envelope of CIWS. So, not only can they attack with impunity, but it's also quite possible for an attacking strike package to be able to overwhelm CIWS with weapons to intercept. That's why any potential point defense system adopted by the US needs missiles of its own: RAM for starters, and moving on to other missiles in the future.

      A proper GBADS should look a lot like the russian setup. IMO thhere's no shame in copying people who've spent the last 60 years thinking about GBADS.

    6. "anybody with guided weapons is outside the engagement envelope of CIWS. So, not only can they attack with impunity"

      You need to slow down, drink some coffee and think this through!

      First, CIWS is not a land anti-air system! It's ship board only. There is a C-RAM system, which is based on CIWS, but it's only task is counter rocket/artillery/mortar, not anti-air. We have other systems whose job is anti-air - well, we kind of do but not many and not good ones! That was the point of the post - to highlight the existence of Stinger anti-air defenses and point out the lack of other systems.

      So, to address your comment about strike packages, there is no CIWS and it's not the job of C-RAM to counter aerial strike packages. That's the job of Stinger and ????

      Also, continually bear in mind that we fight jointly. Where and when possible, the Navy and Air Force will contribute aircraft, Aegis/Standard/ESSM missiles, ECM, etc. to the land anti-air effort.

      I'm not sure why you've latched onto CIWS. Perhaps you mean C-RAM but, if so, you've got to keep its mission in mind.

      The Marines have the short range Stinger. What they lack is a medium range anti-air defense.

      Load up on some coffee and give the situation some more thought.

    7. I'm not talking about C-RAM and just intercepting mortars, I'm talking about moving to a more serious point defense capability. In short, American Pantsir.

      My reading of your posts is that the Marines lack legit air defense (I agree) and that air defense in general has atrophied in the US military (absolutely!) Also I was kinda piggybacking off your earlier remarks here:

      "The US Army has used the truck mounted Centurion C-RAM (Phalanx CIWS) and claimed that it is effective. I wouldn't think it would take much effort to mount something similar on an armored vehicle. The old SPAAG's would make the basis of a C-RAM system with the addition of suitable radar fire control."

      Although now that I reread that bit again I realise now we're talking at cross purposes: you're talking about taking older SPAAGs in US inventory and giving them sensors so that your maneuver elements have organic counter artillery/mortar assets that move with them, I thought you were theorycrafting about improving organic AA capability within the USMC and US military as a whole and using CIWS as a starting point. (Also about the only difference between CIWS and C-RAM is that one is ship mounted and the other is truck mounted: otherwise, they're literally the same platform).

      I think the problem for the USMC is that because they're deploying everything from LHDs and LSDs and LPDs, they're quite limited in what they can bring along. If we look at Patriot, at the srsface Russian medium-range and long-range SAM setups, there's a lot of logistical footprint needed to bring those assets to the table. So sure, you could hit the beach with a srsface SAM battery, but it's either bring the SAM battery or bring your artillery and tanks (and this would have been a decision made months before the ships set sail). That, or bringing in more transports to carry the SAM battery and its assorted radars.

      Meanwhile, as an alternative to developing a new medium range air defense asset, I'm partial to just buying more NASAMS from Kongsberg and Raytheon. If it's good enough to protect the White House, it's good enough to protect Marines hitting the beach.

    8. "they're quite limited in what they can bring along."

      That's absolutely correct. They simply can't transport and land giant truck mounted SAM systems. What they can do is develop armored vehicles with medium range SAMs. A Stinger+ or ESSM- size system would work. It has to be mobile, armored, and organic to the Marine ground combat element of the MEU. The SPAAG is a conceptual starting point, not for the gun portion but for the vehicle and mounting portion. This applies to both C-RAM and short/medium anti-air.

      Long range SAM will have to be handled, initially, by the Navy/Aegis and, eventually, by follow on Army SAM units.

      The Marines need to recognize that the major threat to them is artillery. Cruise missiles and aircraft can be a nuisance but artillery can wipe out entire large units in a heartbeat as the Russians demonstrated in Ukraine. C-RAM and counterbattery are mandatory needs that the Marines utterly lack in the initial assault.

  10. A few thoughts a year on:

    The Stryker Mobile SHORAD seems to be step toward restoring some mobile short range AA.

    I wounder in the Marines could retrofit the system onto their amphibious APCs.

    Although not quite a front line fast armored vehicle, The Norwegian - Kongsberg (and Raytheon) NASAMS mobile systems using either the AMRAAM - ER or ESSM seems like a capability the US does not have now. A layer under the Patriot that is relatively inexpensive and can network with the Patriot.


Comments will be moderated for posts older than 7 days in order to reduce spam.