Cold War Relics

How do you get a  job where you can talk about anything you like with absolutely no regard whatsoever for reality.

This article in the Telegraph from our old friend Con Coughlin caught my eye, it looked pretty promising until I started to read.

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It starts with a similar thought to what I posted yesterday, that is Nick Harvey is obviously trying to defend forthcoming cuts as agility and adaptability, that one of the reason for our failures in Iraq and Afghanistan is not because have a lack of agility or adaptability but because we have a lack of numbers.

So far so good.

In fact it is very perceptive and normally I would say, bloody brilliant article there Mr Coughlin

But then it veers off into the same tired old drivel spouted by people who really should know better, about Typhoon or CVF.

This is what he said

Thus the RAF has spent billions of pounds on its new Typhoon Eurofighter, which is brilliant at intercepting any Russian aircraft that attempts to breach British airspace, but useless when it comes to Afghanistan, because the Taliban has no air force to intercept, and the Typhoon has no ground-attack capability.

What utter utter drivel

Not missing a chance to get a cheap dig in by calling it Typhoon Eurofighter he spectacularly misses the point that Typhoon is a brilliant swing role fighter that can guarantee air dominance and thus freedom of movement for ground or naval forces it can also provide excellent strike and close air support. it does this is a moire economic fashion than any aircraft the RAF has ever had. In fact, if you discuss this with anyone in the air land integration world (i.e. CAS teams) they will tell you that Typhoon is the best CAS aircraft they have ever worked with. The reason it is not in Afghanistan and another ‘Cold War Relic’ is, is because the Government decided to sell production slots of the Typhoon overseas, thus meaning there isn’t any spare to go to Afghanistan. Instead, another Euro project, the Tornado is providing valuable Close Air Support and ISR.

On the subject of CVF

The desire to project Britain’s military prowess across the world has led the Senior Service to dupe the Government into building two state-of-the-art aircraft carriers. But in their haste to steer the contracts through Whitehall, they overlooked vital details, such as making sure the landing deck can accommodate American fighter aircraft.

The decks have been built to accommodate the Joint Strike Fighter, the preferred option to fulfil the Joint Combat Aircraft requirement.  They haven’t overlooked anything and the JSF is made by a company called Lockheed Martin, American when I last looked and the JSF will be replacing a large number of ‘American fighter aircraft’

What he perhaps means is that it will not be equipped with cats and traps so it can accommodate certain types of American naval fighter aircraft but to characterise it as an oversight is patently absurd.

On the Army

Meanwhile, the Army has shown a marked reluctance to dispense with all the heavy armour – tanks, artillery etc – that it acquired during the Cold War, most of which is now mothballed in Germany

Some of that heavy armour is in fact in Afghanistan and proved pivotal in many recent conflicts from the Balkans to Iraq so one might have some sympathy with the Army for not wanting to get rid of something that has been used in many operations to such great effect.

I really do despair at the quality of journalism in this area, one doesn’t even need to be an expert but even the most basic level of research would allow an argument that as it’s heart, is spot on, become much more potent.

Instead, let’s just talk about Cold War Relics

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July 9, 2010 12:08 pm

I commented on the article earlier this morning, Con does produce some truly stupendous drivel.

July 9, 2010 12:55 pm

You make good points in defence of the Typhoon and the new carriers. Your common sense is much appreciated…

..but, please, could write a little more concisely! Quite a few of your articles are excellent, but nearly all of them are too long. Sadly we live in an age of diminishing attention spans, not least because some of us have other work that must be done!

Sven Ortmann
July 9, 2010 1:09 pm

Typhoon (and not all Typhoon are the same – early batches are really disappointing 90’s fighters!) has one serious capability gap:
It’s not good against mobile ground targets.

Imagine a hostile supply convoy consisting of 20 8×8 15t trucks on a road. They didn’t even boher to disperse or drive on secondary roads.
What would a Typhoon do against this target? None of its weapons is really suitable (and available in sufficient quantities) for the exploitation of such an opportunity. It could – under certain circumstances – blow up two or three trucks, but that’s it. That would be the whole effect of one sorties (and every sortie requires on average 1.5 sorties in support) and the expense of very expensive ammunitions.

An A-10A could have slaughtered the whole convoy without using a single exernally mounted weapon/munition. Even a Su-25 would have had little trouble crashing almost the whole convoy.

Interdiction missions have been reduced to bridge & railway bombing during the European Cold War (hence Tornado IDS), while other examples (Ho Chi Minh trail trucks, WW2 especially Western Front ’44/’45) showed the importance of the interdiction of trucks.

The German divisions weren’t able to manoeuvre in Normandy because movement by day was prohibitively dangerous. This slowed down everything and halved the logistical throughput.

A modern army corps commander would love the option of asking the AF to inhibit movements along a certain axis in a 50×100 km corridor for six hours.
The effect on ground manoeuvre would be phenomenal.

Yet, looking at Rafale, Typhoon and Lightning II, we seem to have given up this option. The reason is not technology – it’s the problem that our aircraft have become too expensive. No matter what ammunition you use; a 100 million aircraft is simply too expensive for such a road/railway interdiction mission. We can do it in a small war (Kosovo) when we have no scarcity of assets, but not in a great (=important) war.

The failure of aircraft development (budget sufficed only for few types) has forced Europe to adopt standardised strike fighter air forces instead of balanced air forces with specialised aircraft.

I think we’re soon going to miss a Su-25 equivalent badly.

July 9, 2010 1:55 pm

A Typhoon could carry as many as 18 Brimstones, which I believe can be set to attack certain types of targets. So a single Typhoon could put a salvo down the road and kill <70% of the convoy from stand-off range.

Even with a sub-optimal loadout it can carry 6x 2000lb bombs which can be GPS or laser guided (or both). The thing about 2000lb bombs is that they don't have to be that close in order to destroy a truck. A pattern of bombs at set points (easy enough if the convoy is travelling at a constant speed) would do severe damage.

In another scenario, the A10 is hopelessly outclassed when operating in a non-permissive air environment (hostile fighters with look-down shoot-down radar, MANPADS etc), whereas Typhoon remains functional.

Sven Ortmann
July 9, 2010 2:55 pm

Brimstone is an AT missile. The program cost was iirc about one bilion £ for about 6,200 missiles. That’s about 150,000 £ per missile – more than most truck targets cost. Not every missiles scores a hit, of course. 75% would be a decent guesstimate.
Add the effort spent on the enablers (60% of sorties in strike packages are NOT bombers) and operation/maintenance costs into the picture.

Loadouts such as 6x 2000 lbs or 16 Brimstones are theory and simply don’t happen regularly in wartime except on heavily pre-planned short range sorties.

The lethal radius of a 2,000 lbs bomb against vehicles is very disappointing (it adds some blast, yet almost no frag effect radius over 500 lbs bombs. Lethal radius of a 2,000 lbs bomb against trucks is much less than 100m). It would be very difficult to scratch more han one truck in a typical scenario (military trucks are supposed to keep a spacing of 50-100 m on the march and disciplined+competent troops do it).

Typhoons wouldn’t go on truck hunts if the airspace is still contested or infested with battlefield ShorADS. They would have difficulties to spot and identify (!) any targets from beyond ManPADS range anyway (remember the bombing of a refugee column with agricultural tractors in Kosovo?).

The theory may seem promising to some, but a more realistic assessment of Typhoon as a srike fighter shows that it would play no role in operational interdiction of truck convoys.
Well, that’s my opinion at least.

July 9, 2010 4:00 pm

Javelins are AT missiles that cost about £60,000 per missile. Hellfires are AT missiles that cost £46,000 each. ATACMS are theatre ballistic missiles costing £500,000. These have all been used against battlefield targets as small as one person. Cost/benefit can be useful but is so often mis-applied that you should be wary of using it as justification. For the sake of example, one of those trucks could be carrying several dozen £10,000+ ATGW, plus the cost to replace the two trained soldiers in the cab. This is before the cost effect on the unit that truck was supposed to supply can be factored into account.

The point of the Typhoon in a Swing role is that it can tangle with hostile fighters as well as perform ground attack in the same mission. 6 bombs (smaller than 2000lb, most likely) can be carried in addition to an AtoA loadout. It can perform at least some of its own enabling missions.

Plus, this scenario is playing mix-and-match with warfighting scenarios to come up with the most difficult combination for Typhoon to fulfill. You have high-intensity warfare target density and importance coupled with COIN targetting restrictions.

Would A10/SU25 go truck hunting in high-threat environments? You’ve got them tooling about with short-range, line-of-sight weapons within line of sight and well within range of any ShorADS out there. One A10 might be able to mess up a column of trucks, but you’ll probably lose one every go, while the Typhoon is out of effective range of anything but large and powerful SAMs or enemy fighter (which can also pick on the A10 too).

July 9, 2010 5:45 pm

“I really do despair at the quality of journalism in this area”

I think most people would agree with that I know I certainly do hence why I no longer really bother to read the rubbish in the mainstream press.

The discussion in the comments is good but a bit pointless either would be fine but if one wants to whack a convoy you need to find it first. Ideally this would be done by a Sentinel R1 or a UAV flying really high and then tasked to any suitable assets to deal with including your A10’s or Eurofighters. Another advantage Eurofighter will have in future is the fact that it should be able to use its AESA radar to find and identify its own targets in most weather conditions as well as at night. However admin made the best argument in my opinion toward achieving a mission kill rather than actually physically destroying the convoy of trucks or whatever the target is.

Sven Ortmann
July 9, 2010 5:46 pm

I know. Small wars distort people’s perspectives badly. A Hellfre on a single person is an anecdote of no relevance in a great war.

You didn’t get me right. I was not writing about the attrition of the enemy’s truck inventory. It’s about the restricting factor on enemy movement. Typhoons are not prepared to achieve more than a bit harrassment against a moving brigade, even in significant quantities (dozens of sorties on this specific mission).
Corps commanders could make great use of an air power capability that forces the enemy to pause movements by daylight (hence my disrespect for 24/7 attack capability) and restrict himself to the 1/3 to 1/2 of the day with poor visibility.
It would also be of great value if he knew almost for sure that for example a hostile reserve brigade won’t complete a 100 km march in less than six hours.

The slowing down and restricting of hostile operational movements has many advantages. It offers new manoeuvre opportunities, it improves security and it can compensate for certain own shortcomings.

Bombing bridges, bottlenecks and such won’t suffice in many scenarios. Attack helicopters lack the mission radius, speed and maneuverability in many scenarios.

NATO air forces have a shortcoming in this area that’s hidden by peace and wars against 4th rate forces on open terrain, compensated for with superior quantity (instead of quality) and very old U.S. A-10 aircraft.

The Typhoon is a fighter that got guided weapons integrated in order to replace dedicated air/ground aircraft (Tornado IDS, Jaguar). That guided weaponry is mostly oriented at high-value targets (bunkers, bridges, tanks).

July 9, 2010 6:14 pm

So killing 50%+ (probably 70%+, but the lower figure stands) of any convoy modern aircraft engage isn’t going to curtail truck movement? I might bet on a horse with those odds, but I wouldn’t want to take a truck out with it.

Hellfire vs one person may not count in large scale wars (though I bet that it would happen) but then the need to positively ID hostile forces also goes away. If you’ve got a motorised brigade on the move then it’s going to be pretty obvious and you’ll attack from standoff range with what you have that’s designed to take out multiple vehicles from standoff range. In the case of the RAF, that’s Brimstone. Underwing ordnance is more or less equal weights for both A10 and Typhoon

Doing some sums on the A10 shredding the column with guns only, it has ammunition for 15-16 seconds of firing. It’s not likely to score 100% kills with less than a second per vehicle.

Finally, there is more to cost than aquisition cost. For every plane in the air, you need the same cost in terms of airfield defence, fuel, maintenance crews etc. While the A10 may cost something like 1/5th that of a Typhoon, if you have 5 more of them then you have 5 times the operating cost (if not more)

Sven Ortmann
July 9, 2010 6:33 pm

The A-10 has actually very low operating costs because it hasn’t much avionics that can break.

Your info on the GAU/8 is incorrect, for gatlings have a much reduced rate of fire in the first half second. The GAU/8 could fire enough .5-1 second bursts for the job.

Where is your 50% figure coming from? A single Typhoon would probably carry 12 Brimstone (more likely six plus two bombs). I’d expect at most ten hits, more likely eight. 70% is virtually impossible with such a loadout (18 Brimstone would not allow for the two important drop tanks) and 55% is the maximum.

A quick reaction by the truck drivers (such as driving into cover behind buildings or trees) could easily ruin Brimstone’s chances, as would driving in hilly terrain or through forests. An A-10 with a DIRCM upgrade could hunt much better in daylight than a Typhoon at any time.
Brimstone would also have a tough time discerning already hit targets from fresh targets, especially if launched from standoff range.

All that high tech stuff is expensive and unreliable, missiles never achieve the same lethality in wartime as in peacetime tests (example Stinger estimate before Afghanistan war: 90% probability of kill, observed results in Afghanistan: 60% hits). This is especially problematic with autonomous lock on after launch (one Brimstone mode).

And one problem remains;
Brimstone is a 24/7 munition and Typhoons avionics suite is supposedly capable of 24/7 A/G as well. There’s no reason to limit yourself to night movements only if you’re not safe at night.

I could swear I wrote about this particular problem of the “all weather and night” avionics in my blog once, but the search engine fails me.

Sven Ortmann
July 9, 2010 7:43 pm

Wait, you think the A-10 isn’t survivable enough, but Apaches would be great in the same scenario? That doesn’t work. The dispersion of unguided rockets is too bad for targets of that kind at long range. And the Apache is less survivable than an A-10 within 30mm range.

Modern armies have furthermore ditched the idea of infiltrating with combat helicopters over a modern conventional battlefield since ta U.S. Apache regiment got beaten up by obsolete Iraqi AAA (all but one Apache damaged and not operational for a while, the only other one was shot down – the “Iraqi farmer shot down U.S. helicopter with shotgun” story).

So no, Apaches would not regularly fly 50-100 km over hostile terrain to interdict truck convoys.

A 20-truck convoy would at best have ManPADS (and that would be the smaller part of its total precautions regarding the air threat). Most ManPADS are to date at an effectiveness ebb because of modern countermeasures (DIRCM). The only exceptions are the laser beam rider ManPADS (UK, Sweden).
An A-10 could be protected with a modern DIRCM, there’s no doubt about that.

– – – –

Back to the greater picture; the Typhoon is better suited to other missions that truck convoy busting, so it would most likely treat them at most as a target of opportunity on the way back.
This means that an important part of operational air war would not be covered, with subsequent adverse effects on the operational level of ground war (corps level).
We created a capability gap by limiting us ever more to few high-end strike fighters. The 2020’s NATO air forces will use F-22, F-35, Typhoon, Rafale and Gripen. None of them would cover certain missions that were self-evident just a decade or two before.
We’re going to lack the capabilities represented in Europe by Tornado IDS, Jaguar, AMX and Corsair II.

July 9, 2010 7:49 pm

Gentlemen, the discussion is somewhat moot, both A10 and Typhoon are “cold war relics” and yet both are still highly relevant in varous scenarios, because modern avionics make modern combat aircraft highly flexible.

Don’t forget the A10 was designed to operate against the highly integrated air defence environment of the Soviet Union / Warsaw Pact.

As for Typhoon, it’s what we’ve got, we ain’t getting anything else in this economy and that’s life, so we better get used to it.

As for the standard of journalism, it’s right up there with the standard of our politicos :-(

July 9, 2010 7:55 pm

The General Purpose Flechette will do one hell of a lot more than shred tyres. At 20g and fired from a km/s rocket, it carries considerably more energy than a .50 calibre bullet and will penetrate over an inch and a half of RHA. It will shred a column of BMPs, let alone a column of trucks.

The A10 may have simple avionics while those of the Typhoon are complex, but the Typhoon is designed for ease of maintenance. Something like a quarter of the requirement of Jaguar on the mechanical systems as well. Granted you could design a modern A10 for ease of maintenance, but you’ve still got five versus one and the five need battle damage fixed.

As for target evasion, that works as well (or better) against the A10. He’s closer so the angular velocity of anything he is looking at is faster. Plus he’s much bigger, easier to see and slower.

Pkill is often overstated with modern missiles, but they are getting better. 80% is a reasonable assumption except in severe countermeasure or weather environment. Plus Typhoon can carry up to 24 Brimstone, plus AtoA weapons.

Sven Ortmann
July 9, 2010 8:16 pm

.50 BMG: Vo 900m/s, 45 g projectile. I doubt that those flechettes beat that.

A Typhoon needs to fly at about 3,000 ft to 15,000 ft in order to spot small mobile targets. That in combination with the need to focus on the ground (most are one-seaters) is not actually the description of a survivable behaviour in face of modern area AD, therefore I have strong reservations about the “Typhoon is more survivable than A-10 in A/G” argument.

The use of unguided rockets from an Apache at low altitude will not yield good hit ratios at more than 2 km range. Even a small angular dispersion becomes a problem at that range – especially against moving targets. The pods aren’t even movable iirc.

That is, if you can see your target from that position at all. Not every region looks is as empty as Arabian deserts are.
Less than 2 km range would be 30mm range, and there’s no reason for the assumption of superior Apache survivability at that distance. That’s basically the same as I said before, of course.

And why did you imply that I was wrong about Apaches not going to infiltrate deep into contested or hostile territory?
That’s been the development post-2003 if not post-1999. Sure, that Apache regiment was in a difficult situation over Iraq, but it got beaten up. There are many ways of beating them up over a European battlefield if they fly ahead of friendly forces. Flying low is no safe bet either, and it’s entirely pointless over all but concealed terrain (forests). Flying high (above machine gun reach) is an invitation for VShorAD.

July 9, 2010 9:29 pm

The difference is that the flechettes are travelling at over 1km/s at a distance of 1km. I mis-spoke earlier. At impact at range, the flechettes have more energy, rather than comparing it to the .50 at the muzzle. the flechettes have a better ballistic coefficient than a spitzer bullet and carry their velocity (and hence energy) better. Plus, being long-rods, they are more effective at perforating things

The rockets are area weapons, more so than the gun on the A10 and are meant to be fired in salvos (80 flechettes per rocket, up to 19 rockets per pod, often 2 pods carried for a theoretical maximum of 3040 flechettes) You aren’t trying to hit with a single rocket but with the spread of flechettes. In a similar fashion, the A10 fires sustained bursts to get its hits.

I wouldn’t say that attack helicopters are the best way of interdicting supply convoys, or even that Typhoon are, but neither are as hopeless as depicted, nor is the A10 as good.

July 10, 2010 2:11 am

A10 is certainly the at the pinnacle of largely irrelevant cold war relics… the purpose it was created for is long gone and it’s a largely inflexible design and you cannot justify it’s upkeep on the chance of such whimsical scenario of air forces encountering a massive unprotected convoy of lightly armoured/unamoured vehicles which are almost as easily decimated by other assets that may be at hand (Typhoon, artillery, rotary platforms, whatever)

paul g
July 10, 2010 12:32 pm

well let’s throw crv-7pg into the “debate” and see what the chaps come up with.

The PG version, for “precision guided”, adds a seeker developed by Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace to the front of any version of an otherwise unmodified CRV7. The seeker uses a simple inertial guidance system though the midcourse, and homes during the terminal approach using a laser designator. Other versions offer anti-radiation seeking, or GPS guidance. Combining the laser seeker with the FAT warhead produces a capable long-range anti-tank missile that is faster and much less expensive than traditional platforms like the AGM-114 Hellfire.

A version of the CRV7-PG was also developed for special forces use, fired from a single tube mounted on a 6 x 6. In use, the weapon would be driven into the field and fired from behind cover, aiming at a designated location from a forward team.

oh and this

The Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS) is a developmental program to provide a laser guided missile which is compatible with existing Hydra 70 unguided rocket systems in service.

Where possible the system utilizes existing Hydra 70 components such as launchers, rocket motors, warheads and fuzes. The weapon bridges the gap between the Hydra 70 and AGM-114 Hellfire systems and provides a cost-effective method of engaging lightly-armoured point targets.

seems there is indeed many ways to precisely skin that cat!!

Sven Ortmann
July 10, 2010 3:26 pm

APKWS and similar systems have serious limitations, and even more important: I have yet to see a single report about such a guidance section actually being introduced into a force.
All I’ve seen for more than a decade are reports about development activities.

paul g
July 10, 2010 8:13 pm

us navy low level production ordered in april 2010, scored well in tests

July 10, 2010 8:46 pm

Sven, Even if they are only in development still, it’d still be a lot cheaper to simply finish them and bring them into production than attempt to design and build an entire new class of aircraft for what must now be either a rare scenario or one that, as many have pointed out, can easily be dealt with by other assets.

Sven Ortmann
July 10, 2010 10:54 pm

You shouldn’t look at the problem from such a technical angle. Warfare is about people first.

Granted, people are unpredictable.
On the other hand; how likely is it that an air war HQ would send those high end dogfighters full of high tech avionics out to hunt for simple trucks?
That HQ would bother about hostile fighters, hostile bombers, air defence components, bridges, bunkers, HQs and exposed combat formations. Truck convoys are a very unattractive target for high end aircraft in most terrains – especially if you assume some smart, disciplined behaviour and an intact hostile air threat warning system.

I say HQs wouldn’t send Typhoons, Gripens and Rafales on truck hunts regularly. That part of the air war repertoire would be neglected if there’s any kind of air war resource shortage (and we can bet there’s one in a defensive war).

The composition of the air forces guides the HQs to such a behaviour. The optimal behaviour under these circumstances would partially fall short of the capabilities of the Western Allies in 1944.

July 11, 2010 2:15 pm

44/45 turkey shoots were only possible because the germans hadnt developed mobile air defences and the Luftwaffe had been exhausted, and we’d been running a war economy for 6 years.

Werent most of the aircraft in tactical airforces retirees from the strategic / those just not good enough anyway?

Its just not sensible to target enemy trucks until you’ve broken their airforce and any othere higher value targets, and if they’ve still got a valid interceptor force, its suicidal to try.

Sven Ortmann
July 11, 2010 5:34 pm

Well, the German air force did it over France in 1940, had higher losses than its adversaries and is still credited with having contributed much to the extremely successful campaign.
Likewise, historians keep criticising the Allies for not bombing the traffic jam of German armoured divisions in the Ardennes in early/mid May 1940, the earliest days of the campaign when the Germans had established air superiority in that region.

The Gulf War 1991 demonstrated to everyone how an air force can defeat the opposing air force, proceed to soften up the opposing army and finally slaughter that army’s retreat. That’s an exception, not a universal model, though.

There was also the Cold War with all those “two-week-war” expectations and air forces thoroughly confused what they were expected to do, in what order and what prioritisation.

Air and ground exercises are rarely well-combined, so the air forces are mostly unopposed when they claim that they need to defeat the enemy fighters and air defences first.
Army commanders can disagree – especially as the ultimate air superiority weapon is known to be a tank on the hostile airfield. Today’s fully motorised forces could advance hundreds of kilometres per day after breaking initial resistance. Which air force expects to get weeks for an air war and softening up campaign under such circumstances?

This reminds me of the artillery branches which got so occupied with its counter-artillery fight (~air superiority) that the infantry branches became worried and stressed the importance of mortars because arty was no reliable support anymore, stuck in its own arty_vs_arty battle.