Monday, May 24, 2021

Missile Boat Battles – Latakia and Baltim

There is great debate among naval observers about what a future naval battle will look like and opinions range all over the map.  As always, let’s take a look at history to see if we can get a glimpse of the future.


The 1973 Yom Kippur War took place during October of that year between Israel and several Arab states, notably Egypt and Syria.  During the war, two missile boat battles occurred in the brief span between 7-Oct and 9-Oct.  These offer us the possibility of observing a modern naval battle (from the past!) and learning lessons applicable to today.



Battle of Latakia


The first of the two battles occurred on 7-Oct-1973 between  four Israeli Sa’ar 3 and one Sa’ar 4 missile boats and Syrian boats consisting of two Komar and one Osa missile boats plus a minesweeper and a torpedo boat.  The Israelis were armed with short range (12 miles) Gabriel anti-ship missiles and the Syrians were armed with the SS-N-2 Styx anti-ship missile which had twice the range (25 miles) of the Gabriel.(1)


The Israeli plan was to lure the Syrian missile boats out and engage them at the maximum range of their Styx missiles, which the Israelis hoped to defeat through the chaff and electronic countermeasures (ECM). (1)


On their approach to the operations area, the Israelis detected a Syrian torpedo boat by radar at 4 miles, visually identified it, and engaged with 76 mm gunfire to save a missile.  The gunfire from multiple Israeli boats, at ranges out to 10 miles, proved inefficient with many misses, though ultimately it was successful and sank the torpedo boat.


[Israeli commander] Barkai had to assume that the Syrian torpedo boat had reported the Israeli presence. He now abandoned the carefully rehearsed Israeli plan of an attack from the north and fighting at optimum distance in favor of an immediate descent on Latakia from the west. (2)


As the Israelis headed west, they detected a Syrian minesweeper at 15 miles and fired a Gabriel missile at extreme range which the minesweeper was able to outdistance, causing the missile to fall short.  Additional missiles were fired at closer range which damaged the vessel and a combination of missiles and gunfire sank the ship.(2)


Soon after, the Israelis detected the Syrian missile boats which fired first, at long range (45 km/28 miles), but the Israeli electronic countermeasures (chaff and jamming) prevented any hits.  Some Syrian boats attempted to fire missiles while docked in the port of Latakia but the missiles malfunctioned and two nearby merchant ships were hit by mistake.


As the Israelis closed the range and got their chance to launch missiles, an equipment malfunction prevented on Israeli boat from launching.


At this critical juncture, a short circuit on the Reshef prevented a missile launch. (2)


The Israeli missile salvos from the remaining vessels sank two Syrian missile boats immediately and the remaining boat, damaged, opted to run aground.  An Israeli boat engaged it with gunfire and destroyed it.


Osa I

The Israelis are reported to have used 9 Gabriel missiles which sank a minesweeper, one Komar, one Osa, and damaged another Osa.  Israeli 76 mm guns were used to sink a Syrian torpedo boat and the damaged Osa which had run aground.

Sa'ar 3


Summary – On paper, the Syrians had every advantage:  longer range missiles, first salvo, home waters, and land based support.  Despite this, the Syrian force was wiped out.  Israeli EW/ECM allowed their boats to pass through the Syrain engagement zone unharmed and reach their own engagement range.  The Israeli Gabriel missiles proved devastatingly effective while the Syrian Styx missiles were complete failures.



Battle of Baltim


The second battle took place just north of Baltim, in Egypt, on 8-9-Oct-1973, the day after the Latakia battle.  This one involved 6 Israeli Sa’ar missile boats (2x Sa’ar 4, 2x Sa’ar 3, 1x Sa’ar 2, 1x Sa’ar 1) and 4 Egyptian Osa class missile boats. 


The Israeli boats shelled coastal targets to try to draw out the Egyptian boats.  Initially, the Israelis detected targets to their west and pursued at high speed, however, after 30 minutes they realized that the targets were just false electronic ‘ghosts’.  Because of the high speed pursuit, several Israeli boats ran short of fuel and had to retire but enough were left to continue the mission.


Shortly after, 4 Osas were detected to the east, coming out of the port of Alexandria.  Unable to maintain contact, the Israelis fired chaff clouds, hoping to deceive the Egyptians into firing and this tactic succeeded.  The four Egyptian boats launched multiple missile salvos over the course of several minutes, many (all?) targeted on the Israeli chaff clouds.  After the last salvo, the Egyptians reversed course and headed back towards Alexandria.  The Israelis pursued for 25 minutes before reaching firing range.  Three of the Egyptian boats were hit by missiles, damaged, and further engaged with 76 mm gunfire.  The remaining Osa escaped when a pursuing Israeli boat suffered a malfunction and was unable to launch missiles.  At this point, the Israeli force withdrew.



Note:  Any attempt to study these battles is somewhat limited by the lack of information from the Syrian side.  Their objectives, intent, and actions are unknown or known only as reported through Israeli sources.  Nevertheless, the battle offers a good view of a modern naval missile battle.




So, as harbingers of modern naval combat, what lessons can we learn from these battles?



Targeting – As ComNavOps has repeatedly pointed out, missiles (no matter how fearsome, deadly, and long ranged) are useless without valid targeting.  The Egyptian misidentification of chaff clouds as actionable targets provided graphic demonstration of this phenomenon.  By launching at non-existent targets, the Egyptians forfeited any possibility of success.  They violated the axiom, ‘fire effectively, first’.  Firing at a misidentified, non-existent target is not firing effectively.  This also gives lie to the reliability of radar.  Targets will still be misidentified or missed no matter how modern and effective the radar is – or is claimed to be.  Recall the recent misadventure of the Burke destroyer launching several missiles against likely non-existent attacking missiles.


EW/ECM – Chaff and jamming allowed the Israeli boats, with shorter range missiles, to reach firing range safely.  ECM has, historically, proven highly effective at defending against missiles, far more so than active defensive weapons.  Hughes presents the data on this in his fleet tactics book.


Reliability in Combat – Systems will fail in combat as the Israelis encountered at least twice.  As long as Murphy roams the battlefield, this will be a guaranteed truth.  The fix for this, to the extent possible, is rigorous testing during peacetime, redundancy, and a ship and weapon system design that acknowledges such failure and allows for it with practices such as backups, local control, rapid repairability, and simplicity of design.


Manufacturer Claims versus Actual Performance – The much hyped Styx missile failed utterly while the relatively unknown Gabriel performed nearly flawlessly.  More generally, the Soviet Osas failed as a weapon system despite manufacturer claims.  With near 100% certainty, weapon systems will fail to live up to their claims and, generally, by a wide margin.  The antidote to this is rigorous, realistic testing during peacetime – a practice the US Navy abhors.


Mindset –The willingness to accept risks allowed the Israelis to close to effective engagement range.


Squadrons – The Israeli operation of small vessels as squadrons allowed for massing of weapons and resilience in combat when several boats ran low on fuel and had to retire leaving a still effective group behind.  It also allowed the Israeli commander to dispatch individual boats to perform side actions while still retaining a useful mass of force.


Missile Range – As noted in the post, the Syrian Styx missiles had twice the range of the Israeli Gabriel and yet were utterly ineffective.  This reinforces, with a hammer to the forehead, ComNavOps’ oft repeated warning that missile range is useless without valid targeting and a missile that can actually perform at least somewhat as advertised.  In fact, missile range is almost a minor attribute compared to other missile characteristics!  The obsession with missile range that so many naval observers have is based on a misdirected emphasis on a single attribute and the complete disregard for the missile’s other characteristics and the kill chain, in general.  For all practical purposes, the effective Styx missile range was zero.  This is also true of the hugely overhyped Chinese DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile whose effective range is also zero due to the complete absence of commensurate targeting capability.


Ship Range – Missile boats are strictly a short range, home waters asset and even under these conditions fuel became an issue and forced several Israeli boats to retire prematurely at Baltim.  Range is a priceless commodity and should not be ignored as has happened in modern US Navy ship designs.


Fog of War – Israeli boats at Baltim pursued electronic ghosts.  Egyptian boats targeted chaff clouds.  One Egyptian boat ran aground (whether intentionally or not is unknown – reports differ).  The carefully planned Israeli battle plan for Latakia was quickly abandoned after the initial engagement with the Syrian torpedo boat.  The fog of war is a constant of combat and all the modern sensors and electronics won’t change that reality.


Distributed Lethality – The Syrian torpedo boat at Latakia is a prime example of the folly of using distributed, isolated vessels which is what distributed lethality is.  This leads, inevitably, to defeat in detail, as happened to the torpedo boat.  Only in the most extremely positive set of circumstances can the concept have even a chance of succeeding and reality rarely provides the most extremely positive set of circumstances!


Detection – Syrian boats were detected by Israeli radar at horizon ranges or shorter.  It is noteworthy that the Syrian torpedo boat at Latakia was not detected until around 4 miles.  This should give pause to those who believe that radar is some kind of all-seeing, omniscient, miracle sensor.  The Syrian minesweeper at Latakia was detected by Israeli radar at 15 miles.  Syrian detection ranges of Israeli boats are unknown but, given the extreme ranges that they launched their missiles, they were presumably 20+ miles – with the caveat that the target identifications were suspect.


Soviet Weapon Performance – This was yet another in an almost endless string of Soviet weapon system failures.  Whether it was Soviet SAM performance in Vietnam, Styx missiles, or Soviet aircraft and tanks in Desert Storm, the simple fact is that Soviet weapons have failed spectacularly throughout post-WWII history.  This history should offer us some perspective as we contemplate whatever the latest claimed Russian wonder weapon is.  Soviet/Russian claims far exceed their actual performance.


Damage Control – Israeli boats twice suffered malfunctions that prevented missile launches, in one case allowing an Egyptian vessel to escape.  Battle damage, and simple breakdowns/malfunctions, will always occur and the ability to implement repairs on board, during a battle, is crucial.  US ship designs have forgotten this lesson by instituting minimal manning with no on-board repair capability and embracing overly complex systems that cannot be repaired on board.






Missile Comparison


Following is a brief comparison of the Gabriel and Styx missiles:



The Israeli Gabriel anti-ship missile used a joystick tracking system requiring that the operator keep it on target by radar. It had never been fired in actual combat. (1)


Meanwhile, the Soviet SS-N-2 Styx fire-and-forget (meaning that it does not require human tracing once fired) missile employed by the Syrians was combat-proven. (1)






SS-N-2 Styx

Gabriel Mk1

Length, ft



Warhead, lb



Range, miles



Speed, mach




inertial guidance, active radar homing (fire and forget)

semi-active radar, joystick guidance








These missile boat battles offer many lessons but do they offer guidance for future battles?  The answer is yes but it all depends on the particulars.  Huh?  What I mean is that the individual lessons are manifestly informative and telling but their impact on future battles depends on how they are combined and what individual ship/weapon/sensor characteristics and battle plans/objectives one has.  For example, the seemingly simple question of whether to radiate or not is not an absolute. It depends on whether one has a defensive system that they believe can handle the enemy’s attack that will result from broadcasting one’s own position. 


Well, that’s not very satisfying for those hoping to read about how a future naval battle will play out.  Okay, I’ll offer my general conclusions which are, as I intimated, subject to modification depending on specific circumstances.


  • Barring an anticipated mismatch in missile/defense capabilities such as the Israelis had, EMCON is mandatory until the missiles start flying.  This suggests a much greater role for passive sensors than the US Navy is currently committed to.
  • Active missile defenses will be only marginally effective and electronic countermeasures will be far more important and effective.  Again, this is something that the US Navy is largely ignoring.
  • Confusion will reign supreme and all the networks in the world won’t change that.
  • Massing of ships equals flexibility, resilience, survivability, effective firepower, and victory.
  • Battles will be won or lost during peacetime testing.
  • Short range defenses will be the most valuable and yet are woefully lacking on US Navy ships.



From that you should be able to pretty well visualize what a future naval battle will look like.




Interesting thought:


The Israeli use of radar for target detection is interesting considering the flip side of radar use which is that it gives away the user’s position.  It is unknown whether the Syrians detected the Israeli radar emissions but, presumably, they did.  Given the Israeli intent to concede the first missile salvo to the Syrians, the use of radar and its revealing of the Israeli position was immaterial but if the electronic countermeasures hadn’t worked, the Israelis would have been decimated.  Alternatively, the Israelis could have opted to attempt a clandestine EMCON approach, similar to a WWII PT boat, and rely on visual detection but this would have run the risk of missing the Syrian targets.  The decision to use, or not use, radar is always a double sided coin of risk/benefit and is one of the major considerations in an anticipated naval battle.  To radiate or not?





(1)Naval Post website, “Battle of Latakia: An operation changed the character of Naval Warfare”, Raymond McConoly, 11-May-2021


(2)Weapons and Warfare website, posted 9-Jun-2018,


  1. Distributed lethality doesn't mean isolation. It can mean redundancy and the ability to put the appropriate resource in the correct place and time. That's what the Israeli's were able to do in the end. Some ships ran out of gas, but others could finish the mission. I think its another means of not putting all your eggs in one basket. Similarly, one has hard and soft kill defenses to layer defense. Should one system be defeated or proven ineffective, maybe others will still be effective.

    1. "Distributed lethality doesn't mean isolation."

      As the US Navy envisions it, yes, it does mean isolation. They envision individual LCSes lurking about small islands and springing forth to rain death and destruction on the hapless Chinese.

      The Navy envisions lots of individual, isolated, widely dispersed ships that will confuse, confound, and complicate the enemy's tactical and (somehow) strategic situation, rendering the enemy helpless, babbling, incoherent, quivering masses of paralyzed indecision. This is almost a verbatim quote from various naval spokesmen!

      The Israeli fuel situation was the opposite of distributed lethality - it was massed lethality. The massed squadrons were able to absorb the loss of several vessels and continue on because they retained sufficient mass for the mission. They Syrians, on the other hand, exemplified the kind of distributed lethality the Navy wants to emulate … and it failed badly.

  2. I believe that EMCON will be rigidly enforced within 24 hours of first shots fired (with scores of cell phones also being tossed overboard).

    After that happens it would seem that detection ranges between ships will drop precipitously.

    Combined with the fog of war, I think that naval combat will be much more likely to be a chaotic bar room brawl rather than the organized, ordered beyond visual range precision exchange currently envisioned.

    For that give me Des Moines class cruisers with armor, EW/ECM, VLS cells, naval artillery, and festooned with CIWS.


    1. "naval combat will be much more likely to be a chaotic bar room brawl rather than the organized, ordered beyond visual range precision exchange currently envisioned."

      You're correct. The way to achieve a BVR engagement is with multitudes of small UAVs as I've posted and commented on many times. Expendable UAVs ought to be the new scout planes.

    2. CNO, I have a couple of questions about the UAV's.

      What method of detection would they use, would they be passive?

      Also, how would they convey information back to the ships and receive commands without giving away their positions?


    3. "questions about the UAV's."

      To answer your questions, it is necessary to understand the CONOPS for the UAVs. They would NOT be like Predators or some such in that they would not be expected to be survivable or supremely capable. Thus, they would be simple and cheap which means expendable. With that in mind …

      They would use a variety of sensors but mostly passive optical and IR. Radar UAVs would be limited to target confirmation or other special cases.

      The cheapness of the UAVs means they could be employed in large numbers thus compensating for the lack of sensor coverage of any individual UAV. In other words, they would be employed as sensor swarms to provide the needed coverage.

      As far as control, there normally wouldn't be any. They would be out to a waypoint and back. No control.

      Communications are the weak point of any UAV. I'm not a comm expert so I can't give you an exact answer. However, I've outlined the general concept in multiple posts and comments. Instead of the real time, full color, high definition imaging that current UAVs and militaries are so fond of, these UAVs would simply use their on-board sensors and computing to spot 'something'. Depending on the sensor and image quality, they might be able to assign a tentative classification like 'ship' or 'aircraft' or 'big' or 'small'. That minimal result, 'big ship', along with the location and course/speed would be all that is transmitted back to the host ship. Just that momentary microburst transmission and nothing more. If the UAV can make it back home, the sensor data can be examined in greater detail. Regardless, that little blip of data is enough to establish the beginning of situational awareness and tell the host ship where to send additional and, if warranted, more capable sensor assets to further define the potential target. Given the intelligence of the latest anti-ship cruise missiles, just that momentary blip of data might be enough to launch on with the assumption that the missile can sort out its own targets once it reaches the target area. That's risk, in the sense of potentially wasting expensive missiles on sketchy data but it might be worth it if you had reason to believe (other data sources or information) the data was real and actionable.

      The exact comm ranges and specific piece of comm equipment, I don't know but I would assume we can transmit microbursts across a couple hundred miles which is the limit of such a UAV's range.

      Hopefully, that answers your questions?

    4. Thanks for a great answer.

      Not having navy experience, I struggle to conceptualize how necessary communication happens when under EMCON. But I also believe that EMCON is essential to survivability, I suspect it is more important than stealth.


    5. "I struggle to conceptualize how necessary communication happens when under EMCON"

      Remember that in this case, ONLY the UAV would transmit and that only a microburst. The host ship would remain under EMCON (if that was, indeed, their tactical condition). It is highly unlikely that a microburst transmission could be detected and localized. This is one of the key points of departure between myself and the US Navy. The Navy wants full color, holographic, 3D, full spectrum, super high resolution, continuous, real time video and imaging of everything. For starters, that's almost impossible just from a communications bandwidth perspective and, further, it guarantees that the enemy will know your location and all your asset's locations.

    6. "The Navy wants full color, holographic, 3D, full spectrum, super high resolution, continuous, real time video and imaging of everything."

      But it would give a tremendous view of the incoming missiles, so there is that...


    7. Unless it's a noisy EM space, even a microburst can be detected unless it's highly directional. It may not be targetable, but it can be detected.

      Of course the problem with one-way communication is ensuring that the signal is received correctly and needs to be resent. In this case, the UAV would either have to fly out to a predetermined point and send a signal, or send the signal when a specific set of conditions are met.

      Since the navy wants to push decision making up the chain of command, my suspicion is that the commander will not be satisfied with a brief glimpse of the target and will want more info or will ignore unexpected data as spurious, especially if it violates their pre-conceived notions of the battlespace. Clancy has a good example of this in Red Storm Rising where the TF commander ignores data indicating he's been suckered because it doesn't agree with his expectations.

    8. I'm not a comms expert but I highly doubt that a single microsecond comm burst against the background of the entire EM sepctrum is going to be detected. Recall that our CONOPS for this application requires only a single microburst transmission.

      Absolute worst case, even if the comm was detected, it would be the UAV, not the host ship and UAVs, such as described here, are expendable.

    9. Agreed. My thinking is that the target could be alerted to the fact it had been detected. And if the target is under EMCOM and have peer capable ESM, they would be looking for the microburst and be able to classify it.

      And the signal, unless directional, would be as detectable by the target as by the host ship. They may not know what it says, who is listening or where the listener is located, but if they know what to look for, they would be able to detect it and know they have been observed.

  3. "the hugely overhyped Chinese DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile whose effective range is also zero due to the complete absence of commensurate targeting capability”.

    Remember the hugely overhyped US Marines fleeing from hastily-assembled Chinese volunteers who lacked air cover, artillery, and modern communications equipment?

    Now remember that China–which leads the world in math and engineering–has the densest and most layered detection and targeting system on earth. It begins on the sea bed, passes upwards to conventional submarines, then to its enormous merchant/fishing marine, its always-more-numerous surface combatants, to its shoreside targeting management platforms, then up to its enormous drone fleet and on to its cloud of satellites.

    Along the way, this gear is manned by more intelligent, and much better educated personnel than ours–and who are twice as eager to fight us as we are to fight them.

    Realistically, no admiral wants to emulate First Sea Lord Sir Dudley Pound, Admiral Sir Tom Phillips, and Rear Admiral Arthur Palliser by sending carriers within 2,000 miles of China's coast.

    1. I'm sorry but you simply have no idea how surveillance will play out in war. The US fleet will be hundreds to a thousand miles beyond the first island chain. That alone eliminates most Chinese surveillance assets. Whatever might be left (almost nothing) would have to fight and survive through layers of carrier defenses to find a target.

      Within the first island chain, and during peacetime, China does have a dense surveillance system which is exactly why US forces won't operate there, initially (except for the Marine's idiotic plan, I guess).

    2. Given the amount of investment the chinese are pouring into satellite kill vehicles, seabed sonar, BVR anti AWACS systems, etc. The chinese surveillance systems just need to be dense enough to out last ours.

      I don't have confidence in us being able to fight "blind."

    3. "satellite kill vehicles, seabed sonar, BVR anti AWACS systems, etc."

      Just to be clear, the systems you list are NOT anti-ship ballistic missile targeting systems. Rather, they are defensive, fairly local systems intended mainly for A2/AD work and denying US surveillance.

      That said, I agree with you that our ability to fight with degraded surveillance systems is highly suspect. We need to be training regularly under degraded conditions and yet we simply refuse to do so.

    4. "Just to be clear, the systems you list are NOT anti-ship ballistic missile targeting systems. Rather, they are defensive, fairly local systems intended mainly for A2/AD work and denying US surveillance."

      It's a compounding issue, not totally focused on ASBMs, thou having adequate surveillance and communication will be vital to preventing successful use by the Chinese of ASBMs and long range weapons systems in general, by eliminating their screening and reconnaissance elements in timely manner.

    5. As I know, Pentagon does think that China has a working locating and tracking system for DF-21D and DF-26. They try hard to find out but China tries hard to conceal it. This is why China has conducted very limited numbers of test in open sea. Previously, China tested in desert and a large bay totally belong to China.

      According to media from Chinese statement, DF-26's tracking system is more advanced than DF-21D. This coincident with Pentagon report that China adds more DF-26 while stopped production of DF-21D.

      Before Soviet Union's collapse, it did this kind of development but planned to use nuclear warhead. It actually did a test in open sea and the ballistic missile hit the target ship. Sadly, Russia has no money to continue this development.

      Find, locate, and track a large ship far away is possible. For instance, E-2 can find and track it to guide LRASM to attack. Problem is that E-2 cannot fly freely close to another superpower's fleet. Satellites can only give approximate location while fly over.

      It is competition on technology, not people's wishful thinking, not even their patriotisms, nor their "value".

  4. US Navy doesn't use small missile boats.

    As China is becoming another superpower navy, it has stopped production of small missile boats. Take example of her type 022 missile boats. It started production in 2004 but ended in 7 years as I read. Now, Chinese even talk selling them but found difficult to sell.

    Unlike 70-80s, today's anti ship missiles have much longer range. This means that you need means to find and precise locate enemy's ships before firing a missile. After that, you need provide guidance until the missile is close enough to the ship, at that time, the missile's small radar can take over. Other issues include:

    Small boats cannot fire missiles under high wave. They have limited self sustainability. In really bad weather. they cannot even sail.

    Nations build small missile boats because - first, they cannot afford large ones; second, their only mission is coastal defense.

    Why is China's type 022 difficult to sell? They have to work in a complicated next work. There must be extensive land and air based radar system to detect and track enemy ships. After fire a missile, these land and air based radars need to provide guidance. This means a complicated radar and network system - require both hardware and software expertise. Currently, most China's customers are either very poor (cannot afford) or too rich to even think this partially functional coastal defense only system (UAE, Saudi, etc.).

    You can read in media as China builds type 056 corvettes (~1400 ton) to replace them.

    1. Ignoring some of your questionable statements, you're just making extremely basic statements. Do you have any point to make?

    2. Given type 22 and type 56 have very different missions I've felt this version of events a somewhat convenient part of their own desire to shape events. Wasn't it a type 22 scaring the Philippines away a few weeks ago? I think the trick with type 22 is that its small for even a modern missile boat. My guess is most anyone else shopping wants a patrol boat and if a missile boat, then bigger. 200+ feet and over 500 tons seems more the direction aside from Norway's Skjold.

    3. My point is that small missile boats have fatal weakness to a 7/24 offensive force. At best, they can be a costal defense force if the nation has extensive land and air (E-8) based radar network. However, nations can afford this kind of radar network has money to buy large ships.

    4. 022's scaring Philippines away is more a police than military action. It is because the Philippines' navy is simply too weak. However, to use 022 as police boat, China needs first to remove its 8 YJ-83 missiles which slow down the boat(reduce load). Its AK630 gun fires too fast for police action (ammunition could be gone fast).

      China's original design of 022 was to carry missiles offshore. Once land based radar network finds an enemy ship, they guide YJ-83 fire from 022 to attack. AK630 provided basic air defense (not good enough today). There is no way that 022 can install a long range radar. Its fire control radar is only good for AK630's range.

  5. With enemies all around them and a history of fighting for their existence, Israel doesn’t take short cuts in testing new weapons. Their success with their Iron Dome, soon to be on their new Sa'ar 6 corvettes, speaks for itself.

    1. An excellent point. Similarly, the US Navy was far more combat ready during the Cold War years because they honestly believed they might have to fight. Today, the Navy doesn't even slightly believe they might have to fight so they focus on budgets and social issues instead of testing and combat readiness.

      I wish I had thought to bring this up in the post!

      Excellent comment!

    2. Washington keeps demanding the armed forces be ready to fight, WITHOUT doing anything to help. I'm not just talking about money, I'm also talking about preparations for personnel and material shortages that fighting will cause- preparations like implementing conscription ("the Draft") and rationing. I see no sign our government leaders are willing to risk angry parents voting them out of office, due to their bad decisions getting us into an unwinnable war- to say nothing of facing assassination attempts, such as those their Vietnam War-era predecessors faced.

      The US will lose any and all future wars, unless Washington takes off the damn blindfold it tied around itself. As you repeatedly stated, war against an opponent who's serious, will be expensive and time-consuming. Washington cannot hope to simply launch a decapitation strike and then expect a friendly government to replace the hostile one.

    3. Thanks for the kind words!

      The IDF is, by most standards, pretty progressive in their own right. Women served in militias prior to their 1948 War of Independence. Today, they have several mixed gender infantry battalions and some all-female tank crews. And, women are part of their conscription pool.

      In 1993, the IDF formally opened the draft to all, regardless of sexual orientation. Back then, it was Don't Ask, Don't Tell for us. And, the IDF doesn't consider gender dysphoria to be a disqualifying condition and they pay for treatment, surgery, and counseling.

      Maybe size matters here. Being a much smaller country and under constant threat of annihilation, the IDF has a singular focus that most everyone shares and supports. We're obviously more diverse with more voices having a say on military matters.

      The GWOT has taken a toll on the country and on the military budget, as well. And, it hasn't helped that we've misspent billions on failed programa like LCS, Zumwalt, Future Combat Systems, and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, to name a few.

    4. "The IDF is, by most standards, pretty progressive in their own right. Women served in militias prior to their 1948 War of Independence. Today, they have several mixed gender infantry battalions and some all-female tank crews. And, women are part of their conscription pool."

      I'm curious as what standard of physical fitness the females are required to maintain compared to the US military.

  6. Range is pointless if you fire at maximum range too like the Syrians did (well actually they fired outside their normal range). It means the missile lacks fuel to make any adjustments and it gives the target ample opportunity to escape or deploy counter measures.

    The applies to western weapons as well - an a Harpoon or AMRAAM's chances of success wither if the weapon is launched at maximum possible range.

    There are also other more conventional factors at play here too:

    1. Tactics and command initiative - the Israeli plans might have been thwarted but they adjusted quickly and deploy tactics that neutralised whatever advantage the Syrians and Egyptians had.

    2. Effective manoeuvre - the Syrians were boxed in with nowhere to go. The Egyptians too were coming out of an expected area and couldn't perform effective maneouvres which would have helped avoid detention, split Israeli attention etc etc.

    3. The value of offensive action over defensive. In both cases Israel was on the offensive and was looking to actively destroy enemy ships. The Syrians and Egyptians were acting reactively and defensively.

    You could have had the Israelis operate the Styx and the Syrians/Egyptians operate the Gabriel/ECM combo and the result would have been the same.

    As for failure of Soviet weapons, not really. The Egyptian and Syrians were poor quality militaries. Iraq was even worse given Saddam's tendency to regularly purge it.

    Note all Arab forces operated British and French equipment and still lost - Egyptian and Syrians had mainly western weapons in 1956, Jordanians were exclusively equipped with western weapons and Saddam's force was a mix bag be it in 1967, 1973, 1980-88 or 1991. Saddam's AD system in 1991 was French as were his most modern fighters (Mirage F1s), AT helos (Gazelles) and a chunk of his SHORADS (Roland).

    The Soviets really did export severely downgraded versions of everything. Indeed an export MiG-23MS carried poorer avionics than your average Soviet MiG-21.

    Note your average Iranian unit in 1980-88 or these days Saudi units is well equipped with modern western tech yet performs poorly. Iraqis smashed a number of Iranian tank offensives despite their T-55s and T-62s being poorer quality than Iran's M-60s and Chieftains. And then NATO partner Turkey getting treated roughly by ISIS including losing dozens of Leopard 2s.

    The Vietnamese did very well against the US with their MiG-17/-19 and extremely early version MiG-21s.

    It's down to military culture and tactical doctrine. An Israeli pilot flying a MiG-21 will probably defeat an Egyptian or Syrian flying an F-15 much like Israeli's did much better with their captured T-55s than the Syrians or Egyptians did.

  7. I think we ought to be careful in basing our expectations of how modern warfare among peer state competitors will play out on the basis of "lessons from the past'. This is especially true when we are attempting to analyze the effectiveness of modern air and naval tactics.

    "Active missile defenses will be only marginally effective and electronic countermeasures will be far more important and effective."

    How did you conclude this? I think it's a bit problematic to use historical SAM missile efficacy data in past conflicts as somehow indicative of, say, modern AEGIS hit-to-kill ratios. The battle of Latakia can't really tell us anything on this matter precisely because the surface combatants involved didn't have much in the way of active defense (except for some Israeli corvettes armed with CIWS I think). Further, data from historical conflicts like the Falklands War are going to skew matters in favour of the ASuW offense, as the active defenses of that war (i.e. sea cat, sea dart) were ineffective against sea-skimming missiles or limited in number (i.e. sea wolf).

    "Again, this is something that the US Navy is largely ignoring"

    Assuming you mean EW, I don't see how this can be the case. I would go so far as to say that the US navy has some of the most formidable EW capability in the world, when compared navy to navy. Sticking just to the realm of surface warfare, a modern Arleigh Burke class destroyer comes equipped with a sophisticated array of electronic defenses and decoys. It is capable of distracting and seducing missiles in the terminal phase with SRBOC chaff and flares. It also carries decoys in the form of airborne NULKA's and floating inflatable devices (mk59 decoys) that can persist for longer, along with a modern jamming suite (SLQ-32). These jamming suites are being continuously modernized and upgraded, such that a SLQ-32 that was carried on a past version of the Oliver-hazard Perry class frigate, is no more comparable to a current version employed on a modern day Burke than an AIM-9X is to the first Sidewinders fired in the Vietnam war (hint: massive difference).

    I certainly agree that the US navy can do more in this domain (e.g. buy more growlers), but to claim that they are 'largely ignoring' this realm makes it seem like no progress has been made since the 1980's. Ask any naval EW operator, and I am sure that they will tell you that the difference between a modern growler's capabilities and a 1980's Prowler is night and day.

    Finally, there is a great deal of research going on in the classified realm which we are not privy to. For example, I have heard reports (e.g. in the form of quotes from a military spokesman) of advanced decoys being developed, such as floating periscopes which mimic the radar/optical signature of a photonic mast, or concepts like a massive number of mk59-like decoys being airdropped to clutter the radar landscape. There is also some effort being undertaken to provide optical/infrared concealment in the form of an airborne haze/smoke that would shield taskforces from visual/IR satellite detection.

    Much of this could be hot smoke of course, but this uncertainty cuts both ways. One can't make the claim that the US navy is ignorant of/not taking seriously this domain, because in the absence of classified information we simply don't know enough.

  8. "This is also true of the hugely overhyped Chinese DF-21 anti-ship ballistic missile whose effective range is also zero due to the complete absence of commensurate targeting capability"

    Again, I would say that we simply haven't been presented with enough information to be able to stand by such a claim with some confidence. We simply don't know enough about the DF-21D's warhead maneuvering and targeting capabilities to say something definite. For instance, whether its active radar seeker is capable on its own of hitting a target in a 10 x 5 mile box; or whether it needs a far more precise targeting picture. Also, can it can effectively operate in a modern clutter-rich environment in the presence of jamming etc...?

    I would point out that the maneuvering problem was largely solved in the 1980's (see: Pershing II), and we've obviously come a long way since then. In any case, it would be silly, I think, to dismiss this possibility out of hand. China continues to improve this capability and even if we think it's incapable of surmounting the kill chain today, are we so confident that this will be the case 10-15 years from now?

    As for targeting, China has SAR and optical/IR satellites, specifically designed for the naval tactical domain. The pacific ocean is vast of course, and we all know that visual/IR satellite cameras have notoriously narrow fields of view. However, SIGINT satellites will help narrow down the search space (even the commander who employs the most restrictive EMCON will surely want to have at least an E-2 emitting some 50-100 miles from the carrier). Again, we can't say whether satellite tracking is enough on its own to complete the kill chain because we don't know enough about the DF-21's capacity to deal with targeting uncertainties.

    Satellites can be shot down of course, but it's not simply a matter of an Aegis cruiser shooting down any nearby satellite that happens to target it. Unless the satellite happens to pass almost directly overhead the task force, it's unlikely our SM-3 missiles will have the energy to intercept outside of a narrow targeting band (this is starting to change with the introduction of the SM-3 blk IIA however). Also, every satellite that is shot down depletes scarce reserves of SM-3 missiles that are needed for the land-based BMD mission. There is also the risk of Kessler syndrome and retaliatory strikes (the US is far more reliant on satellites than China is).

    But China also has other assets in the form of submarines and long range stealth fighters like the J-20, as well as hypersonic naval reconnaissance drones like the WZ-8. As has already been emphasized, we (or at least I) don't know enough about the real-time targeting and datalink capabilities of assets like the J-20 and WZ-8 to determine whether they can even provide real-time tactical updating, or if the DF-21D is capable of launching on a single, time-dependent datum point collected by say a submarine (even if it is accurate to within ~0.1 nm). A launch conducted on such a datum point might yet be feasible if the active radar seeker is built to deal with enough targeting uncertainty, and also depending on the speed of the naval ships being targeted and how far they are downrange.

    Lastly, there is also the possibility that these weapons are built with the first strike mission in mind. If wartime targeting capability is unrealistic, nothing stops China from employing these assets in a peace-time role. The US navy is hardly going to shoot down a drone that is innocently loitering 40 miles from the carrier group, or sink Chinese auxiliary intelligence-gathering ships that are waiting for the USS Ronald Reagan outside Yokosuka port in international waters. Thus, these assets may be primarily built with the one-shot first strike in mind. Such an ambush has the potential to be devastatingly effective. In any case, we should not be so quick to dismiss the impact of these weapons.

    1. The debris generated when a satellite is shot at, can easily damage other satellites- including those belonging to the shooter. This risk helps to deter use of antisatellite weapons.

    2. " I think it's a bit problematic to use historical SAM missile efficacy data in past conflicts as somehow indicative of, say, modern AEGIS hit-to-kill ratios."

      One of the severe problems in the current military mindset is to dismiss all historical data and performances with the assumption that the new -fill in the blank- system will be a world beater. The reality is that EVERY new system ever introduced made that claim about itself and yet almost every new system ever introduced has failed significantly to live up to its claims. The reality is that the next system is no more going to reshape the world than the system that came before it.

      I've done posts on the history of surface to air missile performance, including land and naval based units. NONE, repeat NONE has performed at anything remotely approaching their claims and the average performance is around 2% to, at best, 25% success rates.

      You can dismiss and rationalize away all the actual data, if you wish, but that's just burying your head in the sand.

      While there is limited data available, Aegis has performed shockingly poorly in the only example I'm aware of. Add to that the shocking fleet wide degradation of the Aegis system and it's clear that there is no reason to expect suddenly miraculous performance in the future.

      You might want to read the post "Yemen Missile Attacks"

      The only positive indicator for modern naval air defenses is the Australian ESSM tests and those were staged, scripted, carefully prepared exercises so I give them little credence.

    3. "As for targeting, China has SAR and optical/IR satellites,"

      You seem to think that satellites have a near-magical ability to see everything! An optical satellite, for example, may be able to 'see' a ship but that single image would be among thousands of other images of ships, land, waves, debris, clouds, etc. Someone (or some computer) has to scan the images and make as assessment as to which possible images are valid targets and which are not. That takes time. You also seem to think that the satellite with its near-magical imaging, is somehow directly linked to the firing button of a missile and that a micro-second after 'seeing' a target the missile is launched. That's simply not how the kill chain works. Setting aside the time required to process a satellite's data and determine the existence of a valid target, the target will be inserted into a queue of thousands of other targets in a war and some headquarters staff will have to determine where it fits in the overall priorities and whether a missile can be justified. If it can, then orders will be sent out down the chain of command to eventually reach a missile battery which will, after additional delays, eventually launch. By then hours to days will have gone by and the original target will have moved significantly far in an unknown direction.

      You also seem to think that the US will, obligingly, sit and wait passively for Chinese surveillance assets to find them. A Chinese aircraft or UAV, even if it could fly a thousand miles out and back (no manned aircraft has that range) would have to penetrate layers of active defenses to find targets. This is simply not plausible.

      You also seem to think China has an ocean going submarine force. It does not. It will someday but not in the moderate future. China's subs are just barely beginning to dip their toes in the open ocean. In a war, they're not going to be operating far out in the Pacific. Instead, they'll be operating in direct support of whatever objective China is after (Taiwan, among others).

      In short, your view of ballistic missile targeting is optimistic in the extreme. No, we should not ignore the threat (feel free to provide the quote where I stated that!) because someday in the future it may become real but we should also not allow fear of a currently non-existent threat alter our operations.

    4. This isn't how sat recon works. They don't just wake up one day and say, "let's go find the carrier".

      It starts when the task force leaves port. Orbits of satellites notice this. This constrains the rough search radius equal to the best possible speed of the task force times the length of time from it leaving port. Radar satellites can search this are for the group of ships. ELINT can listen for radar and comms emissions. If the search area is large enough per pass, and passes are frequent enough, they can keep a good track on the task force. Imaging satellites can identify targets to ensure they're following the right group of ships.

      And there aren't just a bunch of humans looking at endless photos of water either. Image processing can quickly find and classify targets of interest. A group of ships with a carrier profile in the middle should be pretty easy to pick out.

      So ELIT and radar can cue. Imagery can identify. This is an iterative process that starts well before the launch of weapons.

      The Chinese will have to have worked out the communications of targeting to launchers. This isn't done by carrier pigeon or snail mail. It can be near instantaneous. At worst, minutes.

      Given enough satellites of the right types, they should be able to have a decent idea of where a carrier task force is almost constantly, and target quality track opportunities periodically.

    5. No country shares its satellite carrier tracking capabilities publicly so know one really knows. However, all the bits and pieces of evidence paint a radically different picture than what you suggest.

      For example, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 which disappeared without a trace in 2014 provides evidence of the limitations of modern surveillance systems. Despite being one of the most intensely monitored bodies of water on Earth, the airline vanished without a trace and no satellite, radar, IR, optical, or other sensor was able to find/track it. That area is crisscrossed by satellites and despite knowing where to start looking, no satellite data could find and track it.

      The Soviets were never able to track US carrier groups with their RORSATs.

      And so on.

      It's not the easy task you believe it to be. Toss in the effects of war, deception, weather, higher priorities, and satellite destruction and it becomes even more difficult.

      Believing that anyone can create a targeting-firing link of minutes is pure fantasy. We can't even do that on a single ship. It's human nature. We're slow to react, slower to analyze, even slower to decide, and hesitant to act. Satellites aren't direct linked to missile launchers, especially not ballistic missiles whose flight paths mimic nuclear attacks. No country is going to direct link such a capability. If/when a targeting opportunity arises, the political leadership will have to think and debate long and hard about throwing what might be seen as nuclear missiles in the air.

      You're welcome to your belief but it's not reality.

    6. CNO... Im not well versed in satellite surveillance and such, but with the now obvious "competition", and potential future conflict, wouldnt both sides be, or planning to start placing more satellites in order to have more intelligence capability in the SCS area?? Whatever the cost, it would be worth every penny to a BG commander sailing west to have very good coverage. If I was running NSA, Space Force, or whoever makes those decisions, Id be carpeting the region with satellites in preparation for the future...

    7. Tracking an airplane moving at 500kts from space is vastly different from tracking a surface ship moving at 20-30kts. The Chinese system is designed to detect and track ships, not aircraft.

      Comparing RORSAT to the Chinese system is like comparing a rotary phone to an iPhone 12, literally. Soviet electronics and sensors in the 60s-80s were primitive even by the standards of that time, let alone today.

      In wartime, the kill chain will be short circuited. The order will be pre-approved fire on the carrier battle group, once they have accurate targeting.

      We could do this in the 60s in peacetime with nuclear missile launches. To assume the Chinese can't today during a war is ridiculous.

    8. "wouldnt both sides be, or planning to start placing more satellites"

      They likely are, however, both sides are also undoubtedly planning to destroy the other's satellites!

    9. Tracking an airplane should be no problem. We can zoom in on a playing card so an airliner is gigantic by comparison. Plus, according to you, computers will flawlessly spot every object on or over the ocean in seconds.

      To make matters worse, the airliner was squawking and we still couldn't track it!

      Face it, your vision of satellites does not match reality.

      Have the last say, if you wish. I'm moving on!

    10. IMINT satellites designed to take high resolution pictures of static ground sites are different from maritime IMINT satellites, which need to have enough resolution to distinguish a vessel but also have to have a wide enough field of view to have an effective search swath. There's a tradeoff.

      And these satellites can only see things when they're overhead. Given the number of maritime imaging satellites the Chinese have, this could be several times per day at any one location. The Malasian flight was only, presumably, a couple hours long. So there's a decent chance no IMINT satellites were even overhead at the time, let alone looking at the right spot.

      Maritime SAR satellites have low resolution, measured in meters, and SAR requires the passage of time to build up a picture, so a fast moving aircraft may not even register.

      Their ELINT satellites might've picked up the aircraft's beacon, assuming they were overhead at the time and were listening on the right beacon frequencies. But again, there may or may not have been one overhead.

      Lastly, the Chinese WEREN'T LOOKING for one commercial aircraft out of thousands in that region. These particular satellites aren't even looking for aircraft!

      They MOST CERTAINLY ARE looking for our naval vessels. Their 40+ maritime surveillance satellites are designed to do just that. As I said before, they can take their time to find our ships. Once they find them, it's much easier to keep track of them.

    11. ComNavOps,

      I am not going to get into the topic of modern AEGIS SAM effectiveness since I don't have the time. Needless to say, I completely disagree with your assessment that modern naval SAM's will be almost completely ineffective in a future/modern naval war (the logical conclusion from your claim that the US is largely ignoring EW, and also that nevertheless EW will vastly supersede naval SAM's in kill efficacy).

      My post regarding the DF-21D was meant to highlight the fact that there are a great deal of uncertainties regarding the targeting abilities of these ASBM's. Since you were the one who made the claim that these missiles constitute no present threat (what I mistakenly termed "ignoring the threat"); it follows that I must simply show that the targeting uncertainties allow for the possibility of a threat in order to disprove this.

      No I did not claim that China has the satellite targeting capability to launch ASBM's over the horizon (as I said, we don't know enough); what I said is that this is very much a possibility. I will get into this later however.

      The important point is to realize that China could, if it wanted to, develop a reliable and sophisticated targeting systems for its DF-21D ASBM's. One prospect is a network fusion capable J-20 which could provide real-time targeting capability via low probability of intercept datalink (a Chinese version of the network-fused F-35). A J-20 has the capability to penetrate close enough to a carrier group, and could probably do so some 500-750 miles from shore depending on weapons load, EFT's etc..

      We also know that China has developed stealth tech as well as long range drones (e.g. EA-03). It's hardly a stretch to say that they have combined these two technologies and have developed/are developing a long range stealth ISR drone similar to our RQ-180, which can provide targeting out to thousands of miles.

      The point is that we don't know enough to say whether this is really the case. A prudent observer would observe that China has the capability to do so if they wished, and so it would be foolish to assume that their ASBM's are paper tigers.

      I notice you also completely ignored my point regarding the first strike use. The US navy can hardly shoot down a Chinese drone, or sink auxiliary ships prepping an ambush while in peacetime. In peacetime there is no need to penetrate the carrier task force defenses.

      This is enough to do away with the notion that Chinese ASBM's are mere paper tigers (at present); since you made this claim it is up to you to demonstrate that such possibilities are outside the bounds of reasonable speculation.

      Specifically, I showed:
      A) China doesn't even need sophisticated wartime targeting capabilities for its ASBM force (see: first strike)
      B) China has the capability, if it wished or has not done so already, to develop a long range penetrating ISR asset, as well as exploit current assets for targeting.
      C) Given the fact that China has developed a sizeable ASBM force, it would be silly to assume that they didn't develop/aren't planning on developing some kind of reliable tracking capability for their force, given that they are capable of doing so (B).

      I will cover the topic of satellites in a separate post.

    12. Lastly, going back now to the topic of satellite targeting capabilities and their tactical usefulness. I think your conception of how naval tracking satellite technology works is rather outdated. Also your arguments as to why modern naval satellite tracking can't be near real-time (i.e. the disappearance of the Malaysian flight) are based on some rather bad speculation in my opinion. There is a vast difference between have the ability to provide real-time targeting satellite tracking in a small area on the planet (e.g. the place where I expect the carrier to be based on where it was last seen etc...), and being able to have 24/7 real-time coverage of most of the populated globe (as would be required to ensure a reliable capture of the Malaysian air flight).

      I don't have time to get into the whole history of the shift from the strategic to the tactical real-time role that satellites have undertaken, but this is a trend that has gradually taken place since the 1980's. Note that in the 1980's we had the capability to provide a real-time tactical picture for over the horizon long-range tomahawk ASM fires, although this ability was not exploited (see: p.94).

      A great primer on the use of satellites in naval warfare, and the historical transition from strategic satellite capability to a more modern "net-centric" one capable of near-real time targeting can be found here:
      (Note: this was written in 2000).

      Modern day satellite tracking is a far more sophisticated process than what you described, involving neural network AI processing, and near real-time targeting. The US army for example has over 600 satellites in LEO with near real-time tactical targeting capability. Here is an article explaining how this process works:

      The entire process is said to take seconds. Regarding China, the real limiting factor will be presence and not the length of the information chain. Meaning they simply don't have enough satellites to provide such constant real-time targeting capacity, but note that even a limited satellite presence can be dangerous.

      In any case, it is the opinion of the USCC (which quotes Chinese military authors) that china's naval ISR satellite system is capable of providing real time tracking and targeting: "These satellites would be tasked with collecting intelligence used by the
      PLA to build and update lists of Taiwanese and U.S. targets, monitor and target U.S. ships and
      planes within 3,000 kilometers" (p.17)

      Make of that what you will. Like I said, we don't enough to determine whether China can actually provide real-time targeting for its ASBM force, but it is certainly capable of doing so if it wished (if not through satellite then through other means).

  9. The US Navy is unable to sail through the most well travelled water routes in the world, with the best known rules, without running into huge radar target ships.

    It is absolutely fine for female officers to be in bitch fights se severe that the CIC and bridge crews are unable to exchange information.

    I suspect the role of Syria will be played by the US, and China=Israel

  10. "Short range defenses will be the most valuable and yet are woefully lacking on US Navy ships."

    Soft kill, one bright spot Navy is funding the new gen ESM/EA SLQ-32(V)7 - SEWIP Block 3 which adds a major new jamming capability, what is disappointing is that Navy only planning fitting to 50 ships. Have not seen similar emphasis on funding a high power microwave to burn out unprotected missile seeker, presuming Nulka decoys are still effective.

    Hard kill, the Navy is investing big money on lasers which yet to achieve the power levels required to handle significant threats, the new low power 60-150kW laser, Helios, under test is only designed for short range to take out UAVs, requires dwell time to burn thru before moving on to next target and unable to operate in adverse atmospheric conditions eg penetrate clouds.

    Question is how effective the soft and hard kill systems will be in defending against anti-ship missiles especially multiple missiles at the same time at close range if more than one leaker survives after evading ESSM and RAM missiles when the remainder of the salvos of anti-ship missiles attack arrive coordinated with simultaneous time on target (STOT).

    Another problem, the Navy found in defending against the Kamikaze was due to their kinetic energy, the 20mm and 40mm guns even though hitting the a/c did not have enough explosive power to deflect it off course before impacting on ship, required the heavier shells from the 5" guns, would expect the same level of fire power required at short range to deflect a BrahMos missile from impacting.

  11. I think this post makes valid points, despite the examples age. While tech has advanced, the details of the successes, and failures, translate well to possible current, and future scenarios. One key thing noted in previous comments is the mindset and determination of the Israelis. They've always been surrounded and outnumbered by their enemies, and they clearly believe in "the best defense is a good offense". Even when encountering problems and force reductions, they pressed forward. I've been there, and seen women in business suits going to work, casually carrying weapons. That mindset of always being ready is ingrained in their culture. They've created many a warrior through necessity. Contrast that with our military, which is being forced to make social trends a priority, and back-burner its main purpose of warfighting. While weapons, ranges etc were the focus of the post, it also highlights the growing problem and question of whether, when the time comes, we will have warriors in control of those systems...(??)

  12. ". . . the simple fact is that Soviet weapons have failed spectacularly throughout post-WWII history."

    The Russians were known to export less capable versions of military weapons they used themselves. In some cases, the training, maintainance, and tactics used by these export countries might explain the poor performance. But, let's also remember that an F-117 Nighthawk was shot down by a 1960's era SA-3 Goa SAM in 1999.

    1. That's a single example versus many thousands of the failures.

    2. ComNavOps, look at aerial combat in Vietnam where US lost many jets to North Vietnamese air defence and fighters. Now note the NVAF was much smaller than the US and also at least a decade behind US technologically.

      Note this is also last time the US faced a capable and determined opponent in the peer spectrum. North Vietnam kept its airforce and air defences in the fight unlike say Serbia or Iraq. It managed to build its army up sufficiently to smash through South Vietnam and then invade Cambodia a mere 4 years later.

      Also note Iran-Iraq war where neither western nor eastern weapons really shone or current war in Yemen where many M1 Abrams have fallen easily to more tactically sound Houthis and where one of the world's most sophisticated AD systems is unable to stop Houthi drone and rocket attacks.

      Soviet equipment actually has far more successes than you give them credit to including at times against western equipped forces.

      Indeed the humble AK-47, RPG (as well as some Japanese built Toyotas and cheap mobile phones) were used to defeat the US in Afghanistan and Iraq.

      Simple Soviet weapons like the AK, SKS, RPG, DShK and later T-55, PT-76, MiG-17 and MiG-21 defeated the French, the Americans and then the American equipped South Vietnamese.

      The Arabs managed to do a number on the Israelis in 1973. If it wasn't for US aerial resupply the story would have been far different (obviously Israelis were close to the nuclear option). And note both Syrian and Egyptian militaries have massive issues in terms of class differences between officers and enlisted men which create all manner of dysfunctions (and this is the case today).

      And to be 100% honest, I suspect right now the USN would probably trounce PLAN in any combat outside the second island chain. The Chinese Navy lacks the power to push past the Philippine Sea. It gets more difficult in the China seas due to Chinese combined arms - large number of surface combatants and submarines, large littoral force all backed up by long range land based air power (H-6 but also J-11, J-16 and Su-30), land based missiles and a massive over the horizon radar network (Project 2319 Skywave) with a range of up to 4,000 km.

      To use that tried and tested innuendo, "it's about how you use it."

    3. There have been some moments of success but, by and large, the Soviet weapon systems have failed when put against Western systems.

      Soviet aircraft were dominated in Korea. The Soviet SAM system failed miserably in Vietnam. The entire Soviet system and weapons failed utterly in Desert Storm. The Soviet systems have generally failed badly against the Israelis.

      Here's a good link to an analysis of the Vietnam air war results:

      The best Soviet weapons have been the AK-47 and the ZSU family which are simple, mechanical weapons (a lesson for Western militaries!).

      The evidence is clear. The Soviet systems generally failed. I stand by my statement.

      "it's about how you use it."

      Of course!

  13. What about the Israeli destroyer sunk by Egyptian patrol boat missiles?

  14. US Navy has gone "astray" largely from victory of the Cold War.

    After the 90-91 Gulf War followed by Soviet Union's collapse. Pentagon thought that US Navy will not fight another super power over sea any more. Their major role has become support land invasions. Under this, we saw heaps of now consider bazar ships and weapons. However, because many regional powers do have fast missile boats play important roles in their coastal defense, Pentagon does have means to knock out these missile boats before they cause any problem. At that time, a top naval general even mocked Chinese naval ships as ones in museum, after saw many guns in a then major Chinese naval ship.

    Arrogance doesn't bring security nor dignity. Suddenly, they find this used to "backward" "primitive" Chinese Navy becomes ... well, just google the web, you can find each year, with ~1/3 budgets, China launches more tonnage, actually, a lot more than US. Worse, they are modern high tech ones than these old full of guns ship.

    It is technology. US and China are competing on high tech R&D.


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