An analysis of the outcome of military conflicts at the turn of the XX – XXI centuries with the participation of the United States and NATO shows that their air force and navy suffered little damage. The losses of airplanes and helicopters never exceeded four percent of the original composition of the group.
Based on these indicators, a number of military experts argue that countries with few air-defense and naval forces equipped with obsolete models of weapons are unable to withstand such a high-tech and powerful adversary.
Not so smooth
However, a more detailed assessment of the course of hostilities in Iraq (1991 and 2003), Yugoslavia (1999) and Libya (2011) shows that despite the absolute superiority over the small and technically poorly equipped adversary, the Air Force and Navy groups of the United States, NATO and their allies it was not always possible to successfully solve all the tasks already set in the first days.
This forced the command to proceed to the conduct of air campaigns, consisting of several air operations and systematic hostilities. But this did not always help.
For example, in Yugoslavia and Libya, the combined groups of aviation and fleets did not manage to fully suppress the air defense system, which means that the task of gaining air superiority cannot be considered successfully accomplished.
They could not effectively support ground actions. So, despite the systematic attacks, the grouping of the ground forces of the Yugoslav People’s Army in Kosovo suffered insignificant losses, which practically did not affect its combat capability.
NATO aircraft failed to demoralize and defeat government forces in Libya, which threatened the very possibility of eliminating the Gadhafi regime and forced an airborne landing operation involving sufficiently large contingents of special forces and marines of the United States, some of the North Atlantic alliance and their allies from the Arab world.
At the same time, direct economic losses from the cost of air warfare, political and moral-psychological losses were enormous, approaching in scale to a critical threshold, reaching which they probably would have been forced to abandon further aggression and go to peace talks on compromise terms .
In this regard, it is extremely interesting to analyze exactly what actions led to such a serious decrease in the capabilities of aviation groups and fleet USA and NATO. This will help to develop a set of measures that will effectively counter their air power and, under favorable conditions, force the aggressor to refuse to continue the military conflict.
Criteria for evaluation
First of all, we should refer to the criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of the use of forces and means of the Navy, Air Force and Air Defense, opposing the air force and fleet groups of the United States and the North Atlantic Alliance.
It is obvious that such a factor as the number of destroyed aircraft and helicopters, UAVs and cruise missiles, although important, is clearly insufficient, since it does not fully reflect the real result of the hostilities.
According to modern theory, the assessment of actions to repel strikes against concealed objects should be based on the criteria of averted damage, that is, to what extent the strength and means of defense could reduce the effectiveness of enemy attacks.
In turn, the capabilities of the strike groups of the air force and the naval forces to defeat specified targets can be characterized by the amount of air attack weapons used, the depth of impact on the enemy and the effectiveness of their impact on designated targets. These indicators can be both absolute and relative.
Combat effect of likely response
The study from the point of view of the specified criteria for the course of military operations in the air-naval sphere over the past twenty years shows that in the matter of reducing the combat effectiveness of the use of air force and navy groupings, the key role was played not by fire damage but by the threat of the enemy as well as disinformation.
Large-scale operational camouflage measures allowed Iraqi troops (up to seven thousand combat equipment models) to prevent the defeat of their air force, and retain the bulk of mobile air defense systems and armored vehicles during the first air offensive operation.
Such actions of the Yugoslav People's Army, together with the creation of a complex jamming environment and the use of new methods of using anti-aircraft missile systems (SAM) —the air defense ambush and the maneuver of the formations and units made it possible to actually thwart the achievement of the initial goals of the aggressor. The threat from the mobile medium-range and short-range air defense systems, the anti-aircraft artillery of the air defense, which remained almost until the end of the military operations, forced the alliance's aircraft to limit the height of flights to medium and high altitudes. This seriously reduced the ability of the Air Force to defeat mobile objects, and also forced to allocate significant support forces to cover the attack groups from the possible impact of undetected air defense systems. As a result, the aviation resource, which was allocated for solving shock tasks, was significantly reduced.
A similar situation exists in Libya. Here, government anti-aircraft defense forces forced the command of the NATO Air Force to spend up to 60 – 70 a percent of the resource on supporting tasks. This fact, combined with other restrictions dictated by the characteristics of the theater and the nature of warfare, did not actually solve the task of overthrowing the Gaddafi regime only with reliance on the air-sea grouping and insurgents, forcing ground forces into operation - special operations forces and marines.
Evaluation from this point of view of the experience of reflecting the strikes of the Air Force and Naval Forces groups makes it possible to single out some of the most effective methods that significantly reduce the effectiveness of their actions.
Microwave for aviation
One of them is to support the threat of an air force from the medium-range and long-range air defense systems and fighter aircraft. In past wars and armed conflicts, the use of this method was not specifically planned. It arose spontaneously as a result of the desire of the command of countries subjected to massive strikes by powerful aviation groups to preserve their air defense assets from immediate destruction.
Such a threat can be created by limiting the use of part of anti-aircraft missile systems, maneuvering them to withdraw from enemy strikes, enter into combat a limited composition of fighter aircraft, locate airplanes on airfields in well-protected shelters, and widely use means of operational masking of fighter-based airfields. aviation, creating a distributed-based system using for this a significant number of small field airfields and sections of the highway.
The presence of such a danger would force the aggressor to include in the strike groups of aviation a sufficient number of support aircraft to suppress the air defense system, which may hinder the actions of the attack forces, and repel possible fighter aircraft attacks.
It can be assumed that the share of additionally allocated support aircraft in the strike groups will range from 10 – 15 to 25 – 30 percent or more. That is, the number of support aircraft can increase from 25 – 30 to 50 – 60 percent or more.
In addition, the presence of mobile air defense missile systems and fighter aviation, which have retained their combat effectiveness, will force the command of the offensive group to take additional measures to find and destroy them.
As a result, the total aviation resource that will need to be allocated for solving combat support tasks may increase from 35 – 40 to 60 – 80 percent or more, which will significantly reduce the possibility of grouping the Air Force to solve ground targets.
The maintenance of such threats to an aviation grouping is possible subject to the availability of a sufficient number of mobile air defense systems, effective means of imitating their operation and ensuring the distributed base of aviation.
To this end, within the framework of the military-technical policy of countries that may be subject to aggression, it is advisable to provide for the development of a mobile component in the grouping of the air defense missile system, to ensure the formation of a distributed-based aviation system, as well as to create sufficient stocks of effective means of simulating the operation of ground-based air defense systems.
Another way to significantly reduce the possibility of grouping aviation is the large-scale use of simulation tools and other operational camouflage measures. Even the use of the simplest imitators of the work of electronic air defense systems - microwave ovens (used by Serbs in 1999) used to divert some of the forces and means of the Alliance's air force intended to suppress the air defense system of the Yugoslav People's Army.
The large-scale use of such means will force the air enemy to expend a significant resource of its grouping, in particular anti-radar missiles and high-precision weapon, on their destruction, and also will provide maintenance of a condition of constant threat of aircraft from ZRK.
The use of effective means of hiding and imitating other types of military equipment and weapons, objects of military and government control systems will lead to the inefficient use of high-precision ammunition and aviation group resource.
The use of an update of the radar map of the terrain, for example, corner reflectors, will lead to an increase in the deflection of long-range cruise missiles "Tomahawk" and other means of destruction, which use correlation methods for targeting.
Smoke area of the object's location, the creation of distorting his contrasting picture in the optical range contributes to large misses or prohibiting the use of precision weapons systems that use television guidance channels.
Such actions will lead to a significant waste of precision weapons, which, according to the experience of military conflicts, can be up to 150 – 200 percent of the original planned composition. The complex use of effective measures of operational camouflage, in particular, imitation means, will allow the enemy to increase the consumption of precision weapons 2,5 – 3 and more.
And this means not only large additional expenses, which, given the significant cost of such weapons, can reach several billion dollars, but also the threat of failure of the entire operation. Since it is impossible to quickly replenish stocks of high-precision weapons, a situation will arise in case of cost overruns when it is simply not enough for further military operations.
Keep in suspense
In order to substantially reduce the combat capabilities of the naval force grouping, first of all, a constant air and underwater threat to the enemy's carrier forces should be maintained. This will force him to deploy a full-fledged anti-aircraft and anti-submarine defense system, which will require a significant resource of carrier-based aviation.
In addition to tactical aviation and its own shipborne anti-aircraft fire weapons, the combat air patrol consisting of at least two to four fighters and at least one radar patrol aircraft in the air, as well as to the fighter link in position on duty on the deck, is used to accomplish the air defense tasks of the carrier strike group. And to provide anti-submarine defense, you will need to have at least one or two more deck-based anti-submarine aircraft.
To support such an aviation grouping, it is necessary to make from 20 – 30 to 45 – 60 daily sorties. In normal combat mode, the aircraft carrier is able to ensure the execution of 100 – 150 sorties per day. Short-term (for no more than two days) in a busy mode, he is able to realize up to 250 sorties. Thus, only the fact of a possible air or underwater attack on a carrier group makes it necessary to allocate from 10 – 15 to 20 – 25 percent of the resource with the limit or from 15 – 30 to 40 – 60 percent with the normal combat use of deck-based aircraft.
Airborne threat to ship fleets is created by the enemy’s aircraft in the enemy’s air force, capable of striking anti-ship missiles, preventing their destruction from the outbreak of hostilities, periodic flights of single or groups of aircraft to demonstrate the presence of combat-ready units.
The underwater threat is ensured by the presence in the fleet of the country - the victims of the aggression of modern types of submarines, preventing their destruction at the bases with the start of hostilities and demonstration of their presence at sea, for which various means of imitation can be used.
Accordingly, to create an effective air and underwater threat, it is advisable to have in the Air Force at least 20 – 30 aircraft capable of using anti-ship missiles, two to four modern-type submarines, and a sufficient number of simulators of various physical fields.
At the same time, with the onset of military operations, underwater and air forces can solve their inherent tasks, which are not necessarily associated with actions on the sea direction. By the very fact of their existence, they will create a threat to fleet formations.
Another important countermeasure is the maintenance of a constant missile and mine threat to enemy naval groups in the coastal zone.
The presence of a sufficient number of coast-based anti-ship missile systems will force the Navy command to keep their ships out of their reach until the threat is eliminated or neutralized. Depending on the firing range, which can be more than 300 kilometers, the depth of impact of carrier-based aviation on coastal objects can be reduced by 25 – 35 percent or more.
The mine threat will also force ship groups to leave the coastal zones before it is eliminated, at least in certain areas. A long time of maneuvering of naval formations in limited areas of combat missions makes it possible to create such a danger even at insignificant densities of minefields.
Depending on the characteristics of used mine weapons and underwater terrain in coastal zones, this threat, formed by a state with a moderate length of the coastline, can be extended to almost the entire coastal zone from several kilometers to one and a half to two hundred kilometers in depth.
In addition to the methods considered, it is permissible to use others depending on the conditions of the situation in a particular military conflict. All of them do not cancel traditional methods of repelling aggression, but only complement and make them more effective.
Comprehensive use of all methods to combat the air-naval power of the United States and NATO will significantly prolong the war or armed conflict and inflict considerable material damage on the enemy in the form of costly, expensive, high-precision and anti-radar weapons, a common aviation group resource. As a result, a situation may arise when the losses from the conduct of hostilities — material, political, moral and psychological, and others — exceed the potential gain and the aggressor goes to peace negotiations. This has happened more than once. The victim country can take effective measures to reduce the threshold of allowable losses. But this is a topic for another article.