Recently, there has been an opinion in our country that a fighter built on the basis of old mastered technologies will have a good chance in the fight against the enemy's high-tech equipment. It is argued that the technological gap between the 4th generation aircraft in our service and the 5th generation foreign fighters is insignificant and unprincipled. Much attention is paid to ground-based air defense systems, and Russian air defense systems are presented as an insurmountable barrier for the most modern aviation... The doctrine of the combined use of fighter aircraft and air defense systems, which appeared in the 1960s in the USSR, has been adopted. This doctrine was applied in the confrontation with the United States, where, on the contrary, aviation was viewed as an independent force for gaining air supremacy, and little attention was paid to ground air defense systems.
In our opinion, the Soviet theory, although it was relevant for some time, is outdated today. With the development of digital technologies that increased the capabilities of offensive weapons, the role of ground-based air defense has significantly decreased, while the importance of aviation, on the contrary, has increased. Aviation has become the primary means of warfare: technical superiority in this area provides a country with a critical advantage. If in WWII the outcome of battles was decided tank "Wedges", today the function of a "battering ram" in the advanced armies is performed by aviation, and the ground forces, including air defense, play a secondary role. The lag of aviation technology by one generation is now unacceptable and is tantamount to defeat in a conflict with a technologically superior enemy.
We will try to argue our position on the example of the confrontation between the fighters of the USSR and the USA. The time period will be considered from the beginning of the digital revolution in the 1960s, when the explosive growth of military aviation began thanks to the introduction of modern electronics and other advanced technologies, and until the early 1980s, when it became a decisive factor on the battlefield with the introduction of digital processors.
Airborne radar and air-to-air missiles in the 1960s
The combat capabilities of fighters are largely influenced by the capabilities of the radar and weapon systems. The first generation fighters used pulsed radar. Their design can be very simplified as an antenna to which a transmitter and a receiver are connected via a switch. The radar, when scanning space, sends a pulse, and then turns off the transmitter and turns on the receiver to receive the returned signal. This process is repeated cyclically. The main problem with early pulsed radars was ground noise, which prevented them from "seeing" objects at low altitudes or between the radar and the earth's surface. The screen displayed only a "sea of noise". The solution was pulse-Doppler pulse synchronization, which filters the earth's surface from objects in the air and on the ground. This is how the pulse-Doppler radar station appeared, operating on the principle of the Doppler effect.
One of the first "Doppler" radars was the American APG-59. It was a station of a modern type with a mechanical rotation of the antenna to increase the scanned sector. Its fundamental difference from modern airborne radars was primitive computers. In an airborne radar, computers perform many important functions. The main ones are: noise filtering, electronic beam control, as well as process automation (automatic target acquisition, etc.).
Post-war radar initially had light bulbs as an element base. Their computers were also analog and "tube" computers. With the development of electronics, unreliable lamps were gradually replaced by transistors, and in the late 70s, full-fledged processors with digital signal processing would appear. Radars will become programmable with software. All of the above fully applied to missiles with seeker, which had the same evolution to solid-state electronics, and then to digital processors. The first missiles with a seeker (IR and RLGSN) were still "stupid" and unreliable.
Part 1. “Phantoms and MiGs in Vietnam in 1966-73. The golden age of Soviet aviation
The Vietnam War was a great success for Soviet fighters. Simple fighters with primitive electronics were able to withstand expensive and technically complex American aircraft. The main antagonists in the air war were the F-4 Phantom II and MiG-21 fighters, and we will try to find the reason for the success of Soviet technology by comparing these two aircraft and analyzing the practice of their use.
The MiG-21 was a light fighter with an extremely simple and utilitarian design. In contrast, the F-4 was twice as heavy and much more technologically advanced (30 electrical parts and more than 000 km of electrical wiring). The F-20 was a 4rd generation fighter. could use weapons outside visual contact (Beyond visual range, hereinafter BVR). The MiG-3 did not have such an opportunity during the Vietnam War and should formally belong to the 21nd generation, but these nuances are insignificant for the reasons that we will outline below. It is generally accepted to attribute the MiG-2 to the 21rd generation.
We will not go into the numbers of fighters shot down from both sides, because this is not the purpose of this article. It is very difficult to isolate the number of F-4s shot down in aerial battles, and not ground air defense. You can accept the statistics of the US Air Force, according to which for 2 MiGs shot down in air battles they paid with one American fighter, or Vietnamese with about the same ratio of victories, only in their favor. Given the technological gap between the equipment of the parties and the numerical superiority of the Americans, any of these options is unacceptable to them. The modern equivalent of the defeat of American aircraft in Vietnam would be Iraq's repulse of a coalition air offensive during Desert Storm in 1991. To understand how this result became possible, let's compare the capabilities of these fighters.
Comparison of radar
It is always difficult to compare the capabilities of fighter airborne radars. For example, performance characteristics in terms of detection range can be relied on very conditionally. For many radars, the data is classified or made publicly available incorrectly for a low probability of detection (for example, 50 instead of 80+ percent) and when scanning only in a narrow sector. The parameters of the detection range of fighter airborne radars are published only for the "look up" mode (scanning mode of the upper hemisphere), since the range in the "look down" mode (scanning the lower hemisphere) is always shorter due to interference. As a rule, this information is not advertised for on-board radars, since it is this parameter that plays an important role in air combat. If in Vietnam MiGs could attack American aircraft from the bottom up, hiding behind interference from the ground, then with the advent of advanced radar systems capable of "looking down", this became impossible. During Desert Storm, a large number of Iraqi aircraft were shot down on takeoff: the advantage was lost. In this respect, the Vietnam War is rather an exception, since a large amount of materials have been declassified on it and the situation is quite transparent for both Soviet and American technology.
F-4 and MiG-21 entered service almost simultaneously (1959-1960) and both were equipped with the latest radar for their countries. The MiG-21 was initially delivered to Vietnam in two modifications: F-13 and PF. On the F-13 there was no radar, but there was only a semi-active radio rangefinder "Quant", coupled with an optical sight. On the PF was the first Soviet impulse radar "Sapphire-21", which made it possible to detect a fighter-type target at a distance of 13 km and "capture" it at a distance of 7 km. Naturally, we give these parameters for the “look up” mode, because this radar did not have the opportunity to “look down”. Let's make a reservation right away that here are real, and not passport data on the range, according to the application in Vietnam. Performance characteristics in terms of maximum detection ranges for fighter radars do not mean at all that in a combat situation at such a distance a target can be detected. According to the passport, the "Sapphire-21" had a detection range of 20 km.
The F-4 was equipped with a much more advanced, almost entirely solid-state electronics, APG-59 radar, which we already mentioned above. She, in addition to the usual pulse, had a pulse-Doppler mode with the ability to detect low-altitude targets. In the "look up" mode, she could detect the "fighter" at a distance of 26 km. This is a light fighter similar to the MiG-21. According to the passport, the F-4 could detect the MiG-25 heavy fighter at high altitude from a distance of almost 90 km with an 85 percent probability.
Obviously, the parameters of the radar of both fighters are not impressive, and they needed to be aimed at the target using ground-based radars. Having received information from them about the distance to the target and the height, the F-4 could detect it in a combat situation no longer 26, but 46 km away. The radar scanning sector is limited and the possibility of detection at long distances appears only if the ground radar or the AWACS aircraft indicate the correct vector for scanning. In fact, Vietnamese fighters were detected by the Americans mainly from ground-based radars or pilots visually (only 97% of cases). Vietnamese fighters, taking into account the capabilities of their radar, could not be used successfully without information from ground stations.
The American radar was significantly superior to the Soviet one in detection range, including against the background of the earth, although the APG-59 was not without flaws: computers ("filters") of the 50s did not allow filtering out noise and fully working on targets at altitudes below 1300 m , and at an altitude of 300 m APG-59 was "blind". A full-fledged opportunity to "look down" was not realized on it. The MiG-21 radar was already useless below 1 m. When flying at low altitudes, the pilot pressed the "Protect R-300L from the ground" button and the radar switched to the scanning mode of only the upper hemisphere or "looked up". The F-2 engines were smoking heavily (this drawback was eliminated belatedly) and this compensated for the weakness of the MiG's onboard equipment, making it easy to find the enemy.
Comparison of air-to-air missiles
Armament is also superior to the F-4. For close combat, both aircraft were equipped with a Sidewinder missile (in the Soviet version, the P-3C based on AIM-9B, and the Americans have AIM-9D) with IKGSN. The maximum launch range was small, for Soviet missiles in practice it was up to 2.5 km, for American missiles up to 5. The advantage of the AIM-9D was the cooling of the seeker, and, accordingly, the better sensitivity and launch range. The weakness of the Soviet missile was the target acquisition time - infinite 22 seconds, twice as long as even the original AIM-9B. The Soviet rocket had a number of limitations: on launch at overloads above 2g and launches at low altitudes due to interference with the IR seeker from the earth's surface (this drawback was common with the AIM-9D). Both missiles could only be launched from the ZPS (rear hemisphere of the target) so that they could "catch" on the jet exhaust. The overload of the intercepted target from the Soviet missile, unlike the American one, was limited, it was not suitable for firing at maneuvering aircraft. Both missiles were "warm tube" and unreliable. Under certain types of overloads, the lamps tended to fail. As a result, the efficiency of the AIM-9D in Vietnam was 0.18, while that of the P-3C was 0.12.
As you can see, the American Sidewinder had a number of limitations, and the US Air Force pilots in close combat often (40 percent of the time) used their "long arm": the Sparrow AIM-7C radar-equipped missile. The range of this missile exceeded 36 km, that is, it could theoretically hit BVR targets. The rocket had a semi-active seeker. The plane that launched the rocket was then supposed to illuminate the attacked target with its radar, and the rocket was guided along the rays reflected from the target. This was done to save money: without a heavy active seeker, the rocket was cheaper and lighter.
In practice, it turned out to be extremely difficult to use. weapon: It was difficult to highlight the nimble MiGs. In order for the missile to capture the target, it took 5 seconds + 10-20 seconds for the missile to reach the enemy aircraft when launched in close combat (up to 36 km). In total, at least 15-25 seconds of illumination is required, despite the fact that as a result of the experience gained, the US Air Force introduced the "9 second rule", longer than which the aircraft should not fly in one direction in battle, without risking being shot down. IKGSN AIM-9D also needed 5 seconds to lock the target, but it was a fire-and-forget weapon and did not require further guidance.
American pilots used Sparrow "not for a good life." It weighed 250 kg (versus 80 kg Sidewinder) and had a length of 3,6 m, which reduced the maneuverability of the aircraft that carried such missiles. But the Americans still shot them, because Sparrow allowed to fire on a collision course. The F-4 pilots fired a salvo of two missiles at the approaching MiGs in the hope of an easy victory, but the probability of hitting was only 0.08-0.10. Premature detonation of warheads and other problems constantly occurred. The pilots were advised to launch them in pairs (with the Sidewinder this was not possible: the second missile could "capture" the first). But Sparrow still benefits the Americans, because the MiGs did not have missiles to launch from the PPS (front hemisphere), except for the R-21US missiles delivered to Vietnam at the end of the war with the MiG-2PFM with a semi-active (with all the consequences) seeker ( option P-3C). R-2US had a launch range of up to 3,5 km and low efficiency: the MiG-21 radar, due to its placement in the air intake, had a narrow scanning sector, 60x40 degrees, and the capture of a maneuvering target was a problem. The P-2US, like the P-3C, unlike the Sparrow, could not be launched on a steep bend.
The key indicators that affect the capabilities of a fighter in maneuverable combat are thrust-to-weight ratio (the ratio of thrust to weight) and wing loading (the ratio of the fighter's mass to the area of the bearing surface). The higher the thrust-to-weight ratio and the lower the wing loading, the higher the maneuverability. In combat with early modifications, the MiG-21 F-4 was more maneuverable: it had a better thrust-to-weight ratio (0.86 versus 0.71) with an identical wing load. The appearance at the end of the war of the MiG-21MF modification with the new R-13 engine improved the situation. Formally, its thrust-to-weight ratio increased only to 0.73, but when the "emergency engine mode" was turned on, it became possible to maneuver the F-4.
The Vietnamese rarely engaged in protracted air battles and tried to inflict losses on the Americans from one approach, and then immediately left (the MiG gun had a small ammo, which allowed no more than 4,2 seconds of continuous fire). They often attacked F-4s with a bomb load or without fuel for air combat. MiGs took off with a small supply of fuel and with outboard tanks, which were dropped before the battle: this made it possible to partially neutralize the difference in thrust-to-weight ratio.
Despite a number of shortcomings, the MiG-21 in Vietnam had the ability to impose close combat on the F-4 and neutralize the enemy's technical superiority. This happened due to the fact that the American pilots had to visually identify the target as an "alien" before the attack, which reduced the combat distance to several kilometers. This trend will continue for a long time, and will continue everywhere: the pilots were afraid to shoot down their planes and did not rely on the "friend or foe" identification system, which had low reliability, as well as a short range. The radars were also not yet perfect enough to detect the enemy in advance and fight outside of visual contact (during the entire war, 2 aircraft were shot down in this way). They, in fact, were needed only to determine the distance to the target and missile guidance. Therefore, the superiority of the American airborne radar gave a minimal advantage in battle. Considering the close detection distances when approaching the MiG-21 on a collision course, there were not many chances to have time to launch the Sparrow. The effectiveness of these missiles was low, and almost nonexistent at low altitudes. Interference from the earth's surface blinded the radar: it was not possible to "shoot down" (launch missiles at targets against the background of the earth).
As a result, in the inevitable close combat, the Americans did not have effective weapons to fight MiGs. The designers of the F-4, who believed in the Sparrow miracle weapon (which showed an efficiency of up to 0.6 on tests), did not equip it with a cannon (it will appear on later modifications). This caused numerous losses due to the fact that the accuracy of firing from a cannon in a hanging container left much to be desired (efficiency 0.26). The F-4 was generally designed to intercept non-maneuvering targets (bombers) with missiles, and the events in Vietnam were a revelation for its creators. The subsonic cannon fights practiced there were considered a thing of the past an anachronism, but in parallel with the Vietnam War, in the Six Day War (1967), the Israelis shot down 80% of Arab aircraft with cannons, confirming the trend. Israeli pilots refused to put Sparrow missiles on aircraft, relying on cannons. The Americans, on the other hand, did not want to tempt fate with suspended containers, and only 15% of Vietnamese aircraft were shot down from cannons, and the rest were half-and-half missiles with IR and RLGSN.
The MiG-21 had a much shorter range than the F-4, and it was used only as an air defense fighter (and in conjunction with ground air defense, which was the main means of fighting enemy aircraft), and the F-4 was very often used for inflicting bomb strikes, for which in the 1960s aircraft were forced to approach ground targets. This made them vulnerable to ground-based air defense. The use of conventional "inaccurate" bombs forced, as in WWII, to carry out a huge number of sorties to destroy targets. A good example of this is the famous Dragon's Mouth Bridge, which the Americans were unable to destroy with conventional bombs after nearly 900 sorties and the loss of 11 aircraft. As a result, it was destroyed by the KAB in one raid of 14 aircraft (then it was restored and finally finished off by two more raids), but it was 1972 and the war was already lost. This operation was the first "bell" for the air defense system, questioning their effectiveness in the context of the use of precision weapons. Now attack aircraft could, without approaching a ground target, attack it from a distance. In this situation, the air defense systems found themselves in the position of extras with the advent of new tactics, when the "strikers", hiding behind the radio horizon, fly up unnoticed at a low altitude at a distance of launching corrected bombs. Then they gain altitude for a short period of time, drop bombs and again go beyond the radio horizon, where, against the background of the ground, the seeker of ground-based air defense missiles has no chance of detecting them.
Ground-based radars are beginning to give way to AWACS aircraft, which in the digital era have become an obligatory attribute of war and gravediggers of Soviet tactics, since in terms of their maximum possible detection range they are twice as high as ground-based radars (due to the curvature of the earth's surface) and, unlike them, can " look "beyond the radio horizon.
Conclusions on the Vietnam War
As a result, the superiority of the American airborne radar was insufficient to give the F-4 an overwhelming advantage in battle, and the unreliable missile weapons let down even more. The first round of confrontation remained with the Soviet fighter, and the Americans failed to realize the numerical superiority in technology. The full implementation and testing by the Americans of the use of modern aircraft weapons in Vietnam were late. The reliable, all-solid-state AIM-9H rocket appeared years earlier, and things could have gone differently in the air. The same can be said about the AIM-7F and a number of other systems.
The F-4 was an excellent all-round tool, fighter-bomber, and the MiG-21 was also successful, but only a highly specialized fighter-interceptor. Unsuitable for air supremacy. In the USSR, they understood the shortcomings of this machine and, even during the Vietnam War, adopted their own "phantom" MiG-23. The Americans drew their conclusions from the battles in Vietnam and created the F-15 and F-16 designed for maneuverable air combat. These aircraft will be the main participants in the largest battle in stories jet aircraft, which we will talk about next.
Part 2. Air battle in Lebanon in 1982
The Lebanese War (it would be more correct to call it the First Lebanese War, but for brevity we will abbreviate the name) is extremely interesting from the point of view of assessing the evolution of aviation technology. Eight years after the Vietnam War, American and Soviet aircraft again converged in the air in a large-scale battle involving hundreds of aircraft (up to 8-150 aircraft simultaneously). We will consider the use of aviation in this conflict, and also supplement for clarity with examples from the parallel Iran-Iraq war.
The Israeli Air Force was equipped with the new American F-15A / B and F-16A / B fighters, which played a key role in this conflict. The Syrian Air Force was represented by both the MiG-21, already well-known in Vietnam, and the MiG-23 and MiG-25. The USSR took an unprecedented step and for the first time supplied its most modern weapons to a third world country.
The situation for Soviet technology worsened by 1982. In Vietnam, the third generation MiG-3 fighter was opposed to the F-21 fighter of the same generation, while in Lebanon the gap widened. Soviet cars of the 4rd generation met with the 3th generation of Americans. The downside of the new technology was the high price. The F-4A cost 15 times more than the F-4E, and many doubted whether it was so much superior to the previous generation to justify such a high price. It was reminiscent of the debate over the cost of 4th generation fighters in modern times. But, as we will see later, the cost was quite reasonable.
The F-15A / V and F-16A / B were created specifically for mobile combat. In terms of thrust-to-weight ratio and wing load, they were superior to the Soviet MiG-21 and MiG-23 in service in Syria, possessing a thrust-to-weight ratio of 1.19 and 1.02 versus 0.73-0.79 (for different modifications) and 0.87, respectively, with a slightly lower wing load for American fighters. This gave significant superiority in maneuvering combat.
Due to the excessive load on the wing, the MiG-25 was unsuitable for maneuverable air combat and could only be used as a reconnaissance aircraft or air defense interceptor fighter. The famous video with the fall of the downed MiG-25 in Lebanon, which flew around the world in 1982, caused great damage to the reputation of Soviet military equipment, and there was almost no benefit from the use of this "hyped" machine. The MiG-23 and MiG-25 were created to intercept bombers from carriers of nuclear weapons and were not suitable for other purposes. Bombers with nuclear weapons did not arrive, and these vehicles predictably failed in local conflicts. The same can be said about the F-4, but it was saved by its great adaptability. Bombers, vulnerable to air defense, with the advent of precision weapons that could be used by fighters, became an endangered species.
The main participants in the air battle in Lebanon were the MiG-21, which was believed to be outdated, and the MiG-23, on which the main stake was made. At the same time, the Syrian pilots did not like the MiG-23 and believed that it was inferior to the MiG-21. In relation to the MiG-21bis supplied to Syria with a new engine with a thrust-to-weight ratio of 1.11 “extraordinary afterburner”, this was certainly true. Moreover, taking into account the greater load on the wing of the MiG-23 (by 40 kg per sq. M).
Comparison of radar and airborne equipment
The main force in the air battles in Israel was supposed to be the F-1976A / B air superiority fighter with the APG-15 pulse-Doppler radar, which was put into service in the United States in 63, with the ability to detect a "fighter" -type target at a distance of more than 90 km (the data is still classified - we give the value by analogy with the French radar of the same generation RDM). The detection range capabilities have been increased through the use of new computers. It was not yet a digital radar, but a kind of transitional type from analog to digital. Its next version (on the F-15S, 1979) will be completely digital, with a PSP (Programmable signal processor or programmable signal processor), and from it the modern period of development of an on-board radar with digital processors and software will begin. For some reason, in our country PSP has been called "open architecture", although besides the possibility of introducing new types of weapons through software updates, PSPs have many other advantages. The main problem of analogue radars was the insufficient detection range in the “look down” mode, including in the synthetic aperture mode (obtaining a radar image of the earth's surface, hereinafter SAR), but this is only the tip of the iceberg. A digital computer can process much more information and perform more operations: track and fire more targets at the same time, correct the trajectory of more missiles, and much more. For example, predict the trajectory of a maneuvering target and tell the pilot where it will be in the future. Analog technology is not capable of such a number of operations. The best American analogue radar AWG-9 had a power twice as much as the APG-63 of the 1976 model and could detect targets much further in the "look up" mode, but in the "look down" mode it lost (while weighing 2,5 , 63 times more). And with each new and "more digital" version of the APG-XNUMX, the gap widened, the digital radar was overgrown with new capabilities. Software and high-speed processors made it possible to obtain SAR images with a much higher resolution: fighters became full-fledged strike aircraft.
The APG-63 was one of the first radar stations with a full look-down capability. To the extent that she could hijack and drive cars on the highway. There is no reliable information on its capabilities (the moment of declassification has not yet come), but by analogy with the French RDM, it can be argued that the detection range in the "look down" mode of the 1976 modification was at least 40 km. For its time, it was a technological breakthrough. Also, the F-15A / V was equipped with a head-up display on the headlight (HUD) and HOTAS buttons on the RUS and throttle controls, which allowed the pilot to control the aircraft without being distracted by the instrument panel and without removing his hands from the grips. On the F-15A, an electronic warfare system integrated into an airborne radar and an electronic warfare countermeasure system were implemented.
On the eve of the Lebanese war, Syria had the MiG-23 in several modifications, the most perfect of which was the MF (on the network you can find "hunting stories" about the participation of the MiG-23ML in this battle, but in reality these machines were delivered to Syria later, as and F-15S Israel), equipped with a pulse-Doppler analog radar "Sapphire-23D-III", which, thanks to 40 analog filters, could track targets against the background of the earth, but transmitted information to the ASP-23D sight only in the form of echo signals ("there is something then it flies "). The target detection distance against the background of the earth did not exceed 10 km. This radar had a limited ability to "look down" without the ability to "shoot down". A target of the "fighter" type in the "look up" mode according to the passport could be detected at a distance of up to 45 km, and with such characteristics the MiG-23 was completely dependent on the support of ground-based radars. "Sapphire-23D-III" had large dimensions and weighed 650 kg. This is 400 kg heavier than the APG-63 F-15A. Due to the lag in technology, the aircraft received an additional load on the wing of 800 kg (the additional mass of the radar had to be balanced with the fuel tank). At the same time, the "Sapphire-23D-III" could accompany one target against eight at the APG-63: the F-15A / V pilot could "save" up to 7 targets displayed on the HUD while the radar continued scanning. The principle of tracking targets during the survey (TWS or Track while scanning) was implemented.
Comparison of explosive missiles
As we have seen earlier, the capabilities of the radar do not matter if there are no good missiles, and the Israelis have them: a new version of the Sparrow AIM-7F (with a range of up to 70 km, better reliability and a limited ability to "shoot down") and , most importantly, new missiles with IKGSN Sidewinder 9L and Python 3.
The entire guidance system of the AIM-9L worked on semiconductors. The sensitivity of the seeker has significantly increased compared to the AIM-9D used in Vietnam. The rocket was equipped with a laser fuse (the rocket was all-aspect, with the possibility of launching at a target from any angle), which was much more effective than passive IR fuses (they could only be triggered when in contact with the jet from the engine). The AIM-9L had a practical launch range of 3-6 km (target acquisition range of the seeker), depending on the launch angle (from the ZPS further) and could fly in a straight line up to 18 km (there was a good margin for pursuing a target). In 1982, the Israelis achieved an efficiency of 0.8 from these missiles (this figure was confirmed by the British in the Falklands War). An important advantage of the American fighters was that the AIM-9L could be launched without aligning the target with the sight (in the "Sight" mode), with a deviation of up to 50 degrees. It was a kind of analogue of a helmet-mounted sight.
After Vietnam, the MiGs received a new rocket with the IKGSN R-60. The missile had a high starting overload and, unlike the R-3S, could be used in maneuverable combat, but a completely insufficient warhead weighing 3 kg, with the possibility of hitting a target only with a direct hit. The practical range of application was up to 2 km (there was no reserve for pursuing a target). The GOS did not allow launching a missile on a collision course, unlike the AIM-9L and Python 3, which also had a much larger warhead. The IKGOS had no cooling, which indicates low sensitivity, but at a distance of 2 km this was not critical.
The MiG-23 could also use a heavy VV R-23 missile with an IR or RLGSN with a passport range of 25 and 35 km, respectively. Reviews about this rocket were bad: the main disadvantage was low maneuverability and easy target loss. This is a recall of the Iranians who bought this missile: according to their statements, it was significantly inferior to the AIM-7E that was in service with them (the Sparrow version improved following the results of Vietnam). The Iranians quickly removed the P-24 (an improved version of the P-23) from service (within a year). There, the P-24 was rated as the equivalent of the early Sparrow, which they also had. Not a single source mentions the R-23 missiles when describing the battles; only the R-60 appears in the stories. Apparently, the Syrians avoided using them, as the Israelis did before the early ineffective Sparrow.
In Lebanon, the Syrians (with the participation of advisers from the USSR), according to Vietnam's recipes, prepared a ground air defense position area, which was supposed to interact with fighters. The tactics were tested and honed: they worked in Vietnam and in the Yom Kippur War of 1973, where the Soviet air defense system created huge problems for Israel's aviation. After this war, voices began to be heard in the world that Western fighter aircraft could not achieve air supremacy in the context of the use of layered air defense.
Despite this, Israel in 1982 acted offensively and sought to seize the initiative with the help of new fighters, drones and AWACS aircraft. The Israelis immediately broke all the plans of the Arabs, starting with the defeat of the ground air defense. This became possible due to seemingly insignificant innovations: the emergence of AWACS aircraft with radar with SAR mode, which made it possible to obtain radar images of the earth's surface, and UAVs. Israeli AWACS aircraft continuously monitored the deployment of the Syrian air defense in Lebanon, and based on the images they received from the Mastiff and Scout UAVs, they carried out scanning using OLS and additional reconnaissance of targets, respectively. The Israelis had complete information about both stationary and mobile air defense systems. The Syrians could do nothing with this: AWACS aircraft flew over the sea beyond the missile launch capability, and UAVs made of composites were a difficult target for air defense systems of that time (as they are today), although some of them, of course, were shot down by the Syrians. It was the new level of detection and communication means that ensured Israel's victory. Yes, the new AGM-78D anti-radar missiles (anti-radar missiles), unlike the "tube" AGM-45, which failed in 1973, "remembered" the position of the radar and were able to overcome the protection mode of the Soviet air defense systems (radar on / off), and also appeared improved KAB, but accurate information about the enemy was the key factor. The Israelis chose how and when they would destroy the Syrian air defense: some of the targets were simply shot by artillery.
The Syrian air defense was first suppressed by the PRLR (including ground launch), and then the KAB, UR (UAVs illuminated targets) and conventional bombs from aircraft that broke through at low altitudes were struck, and Israeli aircraft approached the ground targets of the Syrian air defense infrastructure, hiding behind the radio horizon, using the terrain. You can find information that the IDF Air Force used KAB and SD from distances up to 60-80 km, but this is not true. The technology of that time did not have such capabilities: the carriers had to approach the targets by about 10-20 km. This was quite enough to evade the fire of the Shilka ZSU air defense systems covering the air defense system, which proved to be so successful in 1973.
As a result, long-range Soviet air defense systems turned out to be useless, and there were no effective means of engaging low-altitude targets. Even if the Syrians had AWACS aircraft capable of "looking down" and directing fighters to low-flying Israeli aircraft, then there were no fighters with the ability to "look and shoot down". Knowing this, the Israelis did not even cover their "shock workers". Iraq will have the same problem of low-altitude penetrations of Iranian F-4s, which will not be solved until the end of the war. MANPADS and anti-aircraft artillery became the only antidotes of any kind, the number of units of which during the war was increased from 1200 to 4000. Note that the Iranians also did not cope well with Iraqi raids at low altitudes. During the "Desert Storm" at least 45% of the losses of American aircraft fell on MANPADS and anti-aircraft artillery. For the rest of the losses, there is simply no accurate information, often a surface-to-air missile is simply indicated as a means of destruction, but these could also be MANPADS. Hundreds of anti-aircraft missile systems in Iraq did not show themselves in any way.
If in Vietnam air defense systems were the main trump card against American aviation, then by the early 1980s they ceased to exist not only as a decisive, but as a significant factor. NATO analysts regarded as a threat to their aviation only short-range air defense systems, which could fight low-flying targets. In the USSR, this problem was completely unaware of and one of the conclusions after the 1982 war was made for themselves the need to create even more long-range air defense systems to destroy AWACS aircraft. The conclusion, to put it mildly, is not obvious in the presence of the experience of unsuccessful attacks on the E-2S, when the radar of aircraft much more powerful than the radar of missiles were jammed. Subsequently, the S-200 air defense system will be transferred to Syria, and then the S-300, but the IDF air force will still operate unhindered on Lebanese territory and strike at Syrian territory, and the Syrian air force and air defense will not be able to get there since 1982. Long-range air defense systems make sense only if there are AWACS aircraft capable of directing their missiles beyond the radio horizon (similar to modern E-2D).
After the destruction of the ground air defense, the Syrian aviation had to fight one-on-one with the IDF air force. The result of such a battle was the complete defeat of the Arabs (the Syrians were also helped by the Jordanians and Iraqis) after trying to give a decisive battle. The Arabs used aircraft massively, sought to destroy the Israelis' AWACS aircraft and seize the initiative, but all their efforts failed. It was all over within 3 days. This was affected by the presence of a large number of advisers from the USSR, because the Iraqis and Iranians during their war were unable to independently organize a massive coordinated use of aviation. After the failures of the start of the war, the ayatollahs had to release the pilots of the ousted shah from the prisons and things went better, but no one even dreamed of any large-scale battles.
There are many versions about the losses of the parties in the Lebanese war (including the Israeli "84-0", which in some sources reaches "100-0"), but one thing is clear: the losses of the Syrians were staggering. We are talking about the loss of dozens of aircraft with minimal losses from the enemy. The most reliable version seems to us to be the version about 73 Arab planes shot down by Israeli fighters (some were shot down by ground-based air defense), of which 54 missiles with IKGSN and a small number of cannon fire and Sparrow missiles (the Syrians admitted the loss of 60 planes). Israel did not acknowledge the loss of fighter aircraft. If they were, then they were minimal. In 1973 Israel admitted losses of 102 fighters and several helicopters. 97 pilots were killed or captured; in 1982 in Lebanon we see nothing of the kind.
With the destruction of the ground infrastructure in Lebanon, the chances of success against the IDF air force disappeared, but, contrary to logic, the Arabs threw aviation into battle (before the start of the battle, the Arabs planted all fighters so as not to interfere with the air defense system), when the Israelis were still finishing off the air defense system (suppression of most of the air defense system took several tens of minutes). Without ground-based radars and communications equipment in Lebanon, Soviet fighters were doomed. The Israelis jammed communications and control was completely lost. Arab pilots flew to where the enemy had not been for a long time, and the Israelis approached them from the side and shot down with all-aspect missiles. The surprise factor, which played into the hands of the MiGs in Vietnam, was lost due to the AOI Air Force AWACS and new airborne radars of fighters - the attack from the ground no longer took place.
This is how the IDF representatives described the air battles in official interviews, but in other sources (Soviet and American) you can also find information about predominantly maneuverable battles with the defeat of aircraft with an approach from the ZPS. American sources were confident that the Israelis were visually identifying "friend or foe" and were seeking to launch from a ZPS, for sure. In what proportion these two scenarios correlated is unclear. Probably, if it was not possible to shoot down the MiGs using a simple scheme, a maneuverable battle began, in which, of the Syrian fighters, only the MiG-21bis could oppose something to Israeli planes (on the second afterburner), but for a long time it would “dance” like that with American 4th generation fighters he could not. And even if the Syrians were able to launch from the ZPS, the R-60 missiles were ineffective. There are no exact statistics on them, but a colossal gap with new-generation missiles with an efficiency of up to 0.8 is obvious. The P-60 had a limited flight range and had little chance of catching up with such a thrust-armed fighter such as the F-15. Moreover, it was equipped with an IR warning system and fired off heat traps. Israel's small losses are associated, including with the light warhead of the R-60 missile. There were hits, but the planes did not go astray. Some of the damaged cars could then be written off and it is impossible to obtain accurate data on their number.
The battles were practically only close-range, there were no BVR shootings (according to official statements by the IDF), but the new radars of Israeli aircraft were not useless. They could "see" the Syrian planes against the background of the earth and jammed the radar of the Syrians, who did not have such capabilities. Syrian pilots depended on information from ground-based radars, having lost which as a result of the use of electronic warfare, they were lost and could not act effectively. The obsolete electronics of the Soviet communication systems could not provide control of aviation in the conditions of the enemy's electronic warfare. When approaching Israeli aircraft, MiGs lost communication. The counter-attempts of the Syrians to "jam communications" ran into the jam-resistant radio stations of American aircraft. Foreign military observers in Lebanon watched in amazement as the Syrian planes "twisted the eights" in one place, trying to detect enemy aircraft visually.
The Israelis organized effective control of fighter aircraft using AWACS aircraft, which are becoming an indispensable tool in air warfare. They also used the F-15 AWACS in the role of aircraft to close the gaps in the E-2S coverage. The Iranians, not having AWACS aircraft, used the F-14 in this role with its powerful radar in the war with Iraq to combat low-altitude Iraqi penetrations. Often, the F-14 radar did not yet "see" the Iraqi aircraft, but only activated the PDF with its impulses, and this was enough to make them "run away". The F-14 in terms of scanning capabilities could not even closely compare with the "standard" AWACS aircraft E-2S, used in the Lebanese war, but the tendency to increase the capabilities of fighter airborne radars is remarkable. The growth of the power and quality of signal processing on the radar gives them more and more opportunities. In the Lebanese war, the absence of AWACS aircraft among the Syrians greatly influenced the course of the battle.
By 1982, the air defense missile systems could no longer effectively resist modern aviation and compensate for the increasing technical backwardness of the USSR fighters. Together with MiGs in Lebanon, the Soviet theory of the combined use of air defense systems and aviation burned down. At the same time, the doctrine of using fighters with the support of AWACS received a "start in life". The lagging behind of the USSR took place both at the technological level and at the level of military thought: air defense echelon no longer worked. In Vietnam (for example, in Operation Linebacker II), the Americans allocated a detachment of forces of up to 2 fighters and bombers against 300 fighters and 100 "batteries" of the Vietnamese air defense systems, and in Lebanon, Israel defeated many large Syrian forces, using no more than 14 fighters (only half of which 200th generation). Superiority in aviation technology for one generation is insurmountable and is not offset by a large number of low-tech weapons.
One can object to this by citing arguments that the IDF has AWACS aircraft and a much more trained personnel than the Syrians. That is, to put all the blame on the Arabs. Here our conclusions are confirmed by the statistics of losses in the Iran-Iraq war, where the Iraqis used an aircraft fleet almost identical to the Syrian one, against which the Iranians used the F-14A and F-4 (modifications D and E) with Sparrow and Phoenix missiles. The score in favor of Iran came out if not identical to the Israeli in Lebanon, but still devastating. Iran, unlike Israel, did not have AWACS and there was a "pure" confrontation of fighters. Only the nature of the hostilities was somewhat different: there were no major air battles and the Iranians were actively firing long-range missiles from the radar missile system. In these fights, the MiG-23 (including the MiG-23ML) invariably lost: approx. 45 units against 3 shot down F-14 and F-4. It is difficult here to blame the disastrous results on the level of Arab training. The level of personnel among Iranians and Iraqis differed uncritically.
In 1982, the problems of Soviet military aviation were systemic. Since 1979, a new F-15S with an improved APG-63 radar with PSP went into production in the USA, the first full-fledged fighter of the 4th generation (a highly maneuverable fighter with a full-fledged "look and shoot down" capability) with an VV missile with an active AIM 120. By analogy with the improved RDM radar, it can be argued that the detection range for its radar when looking downward was at least 90 km. Aviation technology has entered the era of onboard systems with software and small-sized computers on missiles, but we will talk about this next time.