In the interests of the US Air Force are developing new aviation means of destruction that can carry out group work, exchange data and make certain decisions. Until recently, similar weapon developed as part of the Gray Wolf program, but so far it has been replaced by a new Golden Horde project. As planned by the customer, the Golden Horde should combine new technologies and existing ammunition.
The first information about the Golden Horde project appeared about a year ago. It became known that the Air Force Research Laboratory (ARFL), together with the California-based Scientific Applications Research Associates, plan to conduct research work and establish the possibilities of creating a new combat control system. They were going to allocate $ 100 million for work. No further details were provided.
In June, Air Force Magazine published excerpts from an interview with Brigadier General Anthony Genatempo, who oversees the development of the Air Force’s weapons. The general first revealed the goals and details of the Golden Horde project. Its main task is to increase the combat qualities of TSA by creating a new universal control system. In fact, we are talking about devices that can assemble several missiles or bombs into a "flock" for collaboration.
E. Genatempo revealed the approximate principles of the future complex and named its main advantages. In addition, he listed the existing types of ammunition with which new equipment could be used. It was alleged that the first demonstrations of Golden Horde's capabilities will take place in about a year - not earlier than mid-2020.
On February 28, aviation journalist Pat Host posted an interesting video shown at a Pentagon event. The advertising cartoon clearly showed the principles of the Horde. In this video, B-2 bombers dropped guided bombs, half of which were destroyed by enemy air defenses. However, those remaining successfully hit priority goals with Golden Horde.
Architecture and principles
It is reported that the Golden Horde will be a special module for installation on existing TSA. It will be compatible with bombs and missiles of different models. The announced list of future carriers shows that new devices should be lightweight and compact. Otherwise, they will not be able to fit into the overall and weight restrictions of available items.
New devices must exchange data, as well as collect and process information - incl. joint, by several TSA forces. Due to this, several bombs or missiles will be able to work together in the form of a "flock" that can recognize the situation, respond to threats and plan a strike literally on the go.
The approximate algorithm of the Horde is known. Prior to being dropped from a carrier aircraft, TSA should receive all necessary target data. After that, their task becomes an independent exit to the target area. During the flight, the products exchange data and distribute targets among themselves. In the event of failure of one or more members of the “pack”, those remaining must again redistribute the targets, taking into account their priority and their strike capabilities.
So, in a demo cartoon, the enemy was able to shoot 4 bombs out of 8 dropped. The remaining ammunition contacted each other and in the last section of the flight changed the plan of attack. The retargeting was successful and the targets were destroyed.
Horde vs. Wolf
According to the terms of reference, the Golden Horde system should be compatible with a wide range of modern aviation weapons. Some potential carriers are already known. Last year, the GBU-39 / B SDB bombs, as well as the AGM-158 JASSM and AGM-160 MALD missiles, were called in this capacity. It is possible that in the future the “Horde” will receive other modern aviation weapons.
The Golden Hord complex was originally created taking into account compatibility with various TSA used by the US Air Force. This gives the new development significant advantages over the previous Gray Wolf project. As part of the Gray Wolf, a full-fledged cruise missile with the ability to work in a "flock" was developed. The creation of such a project was considered inappropriate and preferred a system of a different architecture. The latter provides a number of obvious advantages of a combat and operational nature.
The benefits of a "flock"
The main advantage of the Golden Horde system should be versatility, which simplifies and reduces the cost of operation. The introduction of such a system will only be associated with the production and installation of new equipment on existing TSA. Assembly of completely new products, as in the Gray Wolf project, is not required.
Depending on the features of the current mission, the Air Force will be able to use TSA in the original configuration or with the Golden Horde installed. In addition, the system does not impose special requirements on carrier aircraft, but should increase the efficiency of their combat work.
Another expected benefit is flexibility. In certain situations, strokes with the use of different TSA retrofitted with new equipment are possible. Probably, the joint work of bombs and missiles of various types will be ensured, which will be an additional plus. Combined shots can be highly effective.
Combat effectiveness can increase due to the combat stability of the "flock." The loss of individual TSA does not reduce the effect of the entire strike, since the remaining ones can take on their combat missions. The ability to redistribute goals will be useful even in the absence of losses. So, if the main target is hit with the first bomb / missile, the remaining ones will not attack it again and will go to other objects. This will lead to an increase in the number of targets hit and / or to a reduction in the cost of the strike.
"Horde" in the distance
Work on the Golden Horde project began almost a year ago. The current status of the project is not entirely clear, but approximate plans for the future are known. In June 2019, it was claimed that the first demonstrations of new technologies would take place in a year - i.e. in the middle of 2020. Thus, new interesting messages about a promising project will arrive no earlier than in a few months.
After the demonstration, development work on a full-fledged complex should start. They are expected to be completed by the end of the 2021 calendar year. Only then will the air force be able to count on getting real systems for upgrading existing weapons.
In the meantime, the main achievement of the Pentagon and related organizations is a demonstration cartoon, colorfully showing the features and principles of the promising complex. It allows you to evaluate the basic concept of the Golden Horde and consider its strengths and weaknesses, but nothing more. Further conclusions can be drawn only after the demonstration of new equipment and after the project has entered new stages. However, the Pentagon is ready to wait, and new opportunities are worth it.