The Pentagon’s new plans are reported in the American edition of Vice News in its article “How New Invisible Flying Gas Will Restrain Russia” by Ryan Fate, published by February 5. The author learned about the current work on the new military budget and revealed some details of the existing plans.
Currently, Vice News reminds, the Pentagon leadership, led by Minister Ashton Carter, is working on a new military budget for the next fiscal year. According to current plans, 2017 billion dollars will be spent on defense in 582,7. Among other things, it is planned to launch several new projects aimed at the further development of armaments and military equipment. In his recent statements, E. Carter mentioned several previously secret projects that will be implemented in the foreseeable future.
According to R. Feith, of particular interest are the two projects mentioned by the head of the American military department. To a certain extent they are opposites, but they are nevertheless worthy of special mention. In addition, a careful study of these programs allows us to imagine how the Pentagon sees future wars in the air.
The first promising program involves the creation of a new "aircraft-arsenal." About the appearance of such plans E. Carter reported a few days ago. The second project, which has not yet received full approval from the military leadership, is associated with the development and construction of inconspicuous unmanned tanker aircraft.
According to reports, the "arsenal aircraft" will be used to attack remote targets of the enemy, including from outside the range of his air defense. It is assumed that the size and weight of the new strike aircraft will surpass the existing B-1B and even B-52 bombers. Such a flying "arsenal" will receive a set of various radio-electronic equipment, as well as be able to carry a variety of strike weapons, primarily air-to-surface missiles. Through the use of guided missiles, including long-range, the "arsenal plane" will be able to attack the enemy, staying at a safe distance. The range of such a shock system can reach thousands of miles.
The concept of such a strike aircraft appeared in the seventies of the last century. At that time such a project was considered as a reasonable and relatively cheap alternative to full-fledged strategic bombers. The use of an “arsenal plane” made it possible to deliver missiles with nuclear warheads to the launch area without using expensive and sophisticated specialized bombers. The new project of the flying "arsenal" is markedly different from the old one. Thus, it is proposed to use a promising strike aircraft in conjunction with the existing F-35 fighter jets. It is assumed that subtle tactical aircraft will fly over enemy territory and search for targets. Then they will give target designation to the “arsenal”, which will be able to strike at the set targets with the aid of long-range missile weapons.
The second program, which has been actively discussed recently, involves the development of an unmanned stealth refueling aircraft. Here R. Faith asks the question: “why are the military going to develop an unmanned tanker instead of an attack drone?” and immediately answers it. The fact is that such a technique is an important element of the combat aviation, which allows other aircraft and UAVs to successfully solve the tasks.
Currently, the US naval forces are actively working on the UCLASS project, whose goal is to create a reconnaissance and drone deck-based drone. Despite all the successes achieved, this project is still far from full-fledged operation in the army. For further development of the UCLASS project, it is proposed to develop a similar unmanned vehicle with the possibility of refueling vehicles in flight. It is expected that in the very near future E. Carter will confirm the beginning of the full-fledged development of the CBARS project (Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System - “Deck System for In-Flight Refueling”). The emergence of such technology will provide important experience, as well as contribute to the further development of the main project of UCLASS.
The CBARS project will be developed to solve two main tasks. The first is the development of new technologies and other issues of unification with other projects. The second task is fully related to ensuring the correct combat work of other equipment. Existing air refueling complexes have some drawbacks. For example, they can be used only at a safe distance from the combat zone, and the so-called. buddy tanking (refueling from the same type of aircraft) seriously limits the amount of fuel transferred.
The appearance of the stealth drone with the functions of a tanker will allow other unobtrusive aircraft to receive fuel directly above enemy territory during patrols. Due to this, in particular, the F-35 fighter jets, searching for targets for an “arsenal plane”, will be able to remain in the search zone for a long time. In addition, refueling drones can be included in the communications and control system, thanks to which they will also be used for data transmission and targeting.
With the emergence of two promising aircraft the US Air Force will have to learn new tactics for the use of combat aircraft. “Arsenal aircraft” will have to be at a safe distance from the enemy’s air defense assets, carrying on duty and, if necessary, carrying out an attack of targets with the use of long-range missiles. At the same time, the inconspicuous UAVs with the fuel on board will be directly above the enemy’s territory, performing auxiliary tasks: refueling the aircraft and providing communications. Thus, two promising projects have completely different tasks, but the finished equipment will complement each other during the battles.
The author of the publication Vice News recalls that the war is in a sense reduced to the concentration and distribution of forces. If you properly concentrate all your strike potential on the right direction, then you will successfully overcome all lines of enemy defenses. In defense, in turn, distribution is a key element. When you distribute your forces over a large area, the “bad guys” find it harder to find them and attempt to destroy them. In addition, when detecting certain objects, in the case of distribution, only a small fraction of the forces are under attack.
The proposed projects of new aviation technology to a certain extent correspond to this concept of concentration and distribution. Thus, flying "arsenals" become a means of concentrating the shock power in the right direction, and in addition, they implement the principle of distribution, since they do not need to be constantly in dangerous proximity to the enemy.
According to R. Feith, the emergence of new ideas underlying the two promising projects is the result of two main “technologists” who have been actively used in the conflicts of recent decades. These are precision strikes from long range and stealth. The author recalls that the "old" tactics involved the involvement of a large number of aircraft for various purposes, which, in the course of working with the distribution of tasks, carried out strikes at the desired objects, etc. The use of so-called stealth technology, in turn, allows the strike aircraft to break into the enemy’s airspace independently and without outside help, stay there for some time and attack designated targets. However, stealth planes are a big, expensive and difficult problem.
The long range of weapons launches, the author recalls, makes it possible to hit targets at a considerable distance and makes it possible not to use a large number of aircraft in the operation, which must fly a long distance and literally drop a large number of bombs on the target. However, such advantages are associated with the disadvantage of the high cost of “smart” ammunition. In addition, they require the use of appropriate intelligence tools to find out where the target is and how it should be attacked, and then record the results of the attack. Thus, it turns out a double problem.
It is obvious that the possession of both tactical "technologies" (stealth and precision weapons) provides a very high strike potential. Possession of them allows you to strike at the remote objects of the "bad guys" before they know that they were attacked. R. Faith admits that it is just great when you can perform such operations. However, if the enemy also owns such technologies and the necessary material part - this is much worse. In particular, this means that areas previously considered safe can no longer be protected.
In the final part of his publication, the author of the publication Vice News draws attention to foreign countries that may be considered potential opponents of the United States. In his opinion, it is now clearly visible that Russia is actively engaged in the development of promising areas and is doing everything possible to master the technologies of stealth and long-range precision strike. Thus, the Pentagon should already understand that its monopoly in this area is passing, and now it has to take into account the successes of other countries.
Projects and successes of third countries may be an additional reason that the leadership of the US Department of Defense is currently publicly discussing promising projects of strike aircraft and unmanned tankers and does not hide such plans. It is quite possible that the Pentagon is doing this to “impress” potential adversaries: Russia and China should in no case think that the United States, after the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, has forgotten how to deal with a high-tech adversary.
Currently, the Pentagon is actively preparing for "fights" in Congress for a new military budget. In a few months, military experts will have to explain to congressmen the need for one or other expenses included in the draft budget for the 2017 fiscal year. How successful this process will be, time will tell, but the experience of previous years says that the Defense Ministry leaders will have to face a serious test with lengthy disputes over each item of the budget project.
The reason for separate disputes will be the projects for the development of promising aviation equipment that will be developed: an attack “airplane-arsenal” and an unmanned unobtrusive tanker. The most interesting information about these proposals has not yet been disclosed, but it can be assumed that the development of such projects will be associated with large expenditures of finance and time. Thus, the legislative bodies will certainly find opponents of the new proposal, who will try to do everything to exclude such expensive projects from the military budget for the next fiscal year.
Due to the small amount of information disclosed, it is difficult to assess the prospects of the two proposed projects in terms of obtaining the approval of Congress. Nevertheless, now there is an opportunity to consider the proposed equipment, as well as try to predict its combat potential.
The proposal to create an “arsenal plane” looks very interesting and promising, although it may be the subject of controversy. For decades, the US Air Force has been in service with planes that directly support troops, so-called. ganships whose task is to deliver artillery or missile strikes against ground targets at target designation from land or other sources. The flying “arsenal” turns out to be a peculiar development of this idea with an increase in the main characteristics, first of all, the range of weapons use. One of the most interesting ideas of such a project is the possibility of a long patrol in a safe area without losing the strike potential, which is planned to be achieved with the help of long-range guided missiles.
Also, the proposed concept of an “aircraft-arsenal” can be considered as bringing to the logical end the idea of using long-range guided weapons. At present, it is believed that tactical aviation weapons should allow attacking targets without entering the enemy's air defense zone. Arsenal, in turn, in theory, will allow attacking targets without the risk of defeating by means of air defense not only short and medium, but also long range.
The proposal to develop a drone tanker using stealth technology is also of particular interest. It should be noted that the emergence of such a technique, or at least the concept itself, was exclusively a matter of technique. UAVs have already mastered a lot of "specialties", but have not yet managed to become full-fueled tankers. In the foreseeable future, this situation may change.
Also interesting is the proposal to use stealth technologies in the design of an unmanned tanker, which, allegedly, will help it to solve the tasks posed not only in safe areas, but also over enemy territory. In the proposed form, such a concept looks promising, but only practice can show all its perspectives. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the idea of building stealth tankers to service subtle fighters or attack aircraft in potentially dangerous areas is interesting in itself.
It is noteworthy that in the article “How America’s New Invisible Flying Gas Stations Could Keep Russia in Check” Russia is mentioned only twice: in the title and in the final part. At the same time, the American author recognizes Russia's recent successes in the development of the armed forces, and also notes some of the consequences of this. In particular, he argues that Russia (and also China) should not think that the United States, in the course of recent local conflicts, has forgotten how to deal with a developed adversary with high-tech weapons and equipment.
With all its positive features, the two proposed projects that can start as soon as possible will be very expensive and complex. Congress has traditionally fought to cut spending on various items, which could lead to appropriate adjustments to the military budget. In particular, the planned costs of promising projects, including the “arsenal plane” and the drone tanker, may fall under the cuts. How Congress will react to these proposals - we will find out in the foreseeable future. In the next few months, budget discussions for the next fiscal year should begin.
The article "How America's New Invisible Flying Gas Stations Could Keep Russia in Check":