posted on Jul, 26 2005 @ 07:29 AM
Following my not-so-successful 'Greatest Tank - Ever?' and 'Greatest Fighter
Aircraft - Ever?', I thought I'd ask you the following question:
You are a member of a squad or platoon - dug in on the forward slope of a long valley.
Infantry do not face armor alone. Because the Armor, especially /mech/ armor will either sweep round to envelope and defilade the gunline or employ
helicopter escorts to do so. Presupposing they don't just preemptively splatter engage the target with airburst and cannister artillery.
This is not _RSR_ where the Sov's fight stupid but something rather more akin to _OMG_ where they 'debus' only to take specific objectives with
MASSIVE superiority of fires.
Below you, you can see enemy tanks and APCs. You estimate the enemy are about 120 strong - roughly a reinforced motor rifle company and they are
dismounting to sweep both sides of the valley.
Why the hell would I want to be stuck with a platoon or even squad sized operation when I can sit in a dune buggy or RSTV Shadow or even atop an ATV,
2-10km further back and call it in based on what I see by remote UGS or UAV?
Again, /we/ are not stupid either and would almost certainly have preset channelized (mined) approach lanes to whatever objective we _Could Not_
keep with such a small force. Indeed, especially if you are fighting in a FIBUA or otherwise collaterals messy objective, you DO NOT want to be
trading direct fire over the heads of innocents. Before, Behind or Beside you. The Germans tried that already with their 'Festung' approach in
WWII and it only ended up clustering mega-massacres in small areas.
You have no artillery of any kind, not even mortars. What you do have, is a pair of ground support aircraft, loitering not more than 10 minutes
Do I get Javelin? WAAM or similar ORM? How about remote call on Tomahawks in a holding pen or ATACMS or extended range MLRS? It doesn't really
matter I suppose because the first thing the Sovs are going to do is saturate my position with white smoke (IR invisible) which just makes it all the
more important to have _lateralized_ (and in-depth) observation posts that can either didimau on out on their own. Or are landlined back to a remote
microwave linear network.
I'm _certainly_ not going to try and kick these morons in the teeth from a freakin' FIXED AND OBVIOUS fighting position!
Not least because I am going to lose this objective regardless if I don't have a helluva lot more combined arms support than you suggest.
Christ, who waits till they start to initiate a mech inf attack to begin preattriting them anyway?
Certainly not with friendly air **TEN MINUTES** out.
My question is: Given the option of calling in Fighter-bombers, what type of aircraft would you call in and why?
In many ways the obvious answer is going to be 'it depends'. Mostly on the ordnance and about 30% on the targeting.
The Marines faced a problem not entirely unlike this during OIF and simply called in a BUFF with SFW in a WCMD can. The 52 dropped about 8 miles away
and the cluster footprint killed about 20-30 vehicles in-column (road march, not battle wedge) including multiple command vehicles. The resulting
shock, confusion and blockage of the advance artery then causing the rest of the 'demoralized' gumby's to decide it was time to run-not-walk the
The A-10 could theoretically carry this munition (at least in the C model) and would do far better to /try/ and do so (Comet pods on max, pray for
rain) than making any moronic direct attack.
Not least because it's blind as a bat without the LITENING pod and that pod costs it a Maverick station to gain kills on threat ADV escorts.
The normal load of 350-750 rounds is also inadequate to task if the enemy has already deployed into combat spacing with MANPADS overwatch probably
air-enveloped to surrounding hilltops. Because it will likely never get to use it (70rds = 10 kills), even in a 'double' popup to gun bunt.
'High altitude' (above 10,000, below 15) gives you /some/ options but again, you'd better hope the division commander doesn't think this advance
is worth an SA-8 or 13.
My personal choice would be the A10 Thunderbolt. Agile, well armoured, packs a far meatier punch than any other ground attack a/c and they would be
backed up by the Su-25 Frogfoot.
No. For the above reasons but also because you don't want to mix operational methodologies in an unproven teaming. JAAT may not make a whole
helluva lot of sense for it's unwieldiness but it is at least a /practiced/ doctrine.
A-10 direct CAS, whether from the overhead or an offset/parallel approach out of a GFAC controlled IP lane is just too stupid for words without a LOT
of suppression fires that just aren't going to be there.
In this, you also have to acknowledge the fact that the Su-25 performs more or less like an A-6 in terms of 400 knot sortie cycling back to a
reasonable base radius distance. The A-10, well, maybe a King Air. It also has lousy altitude performance (the Frogfoot is fair) and only about four
pylons (the inboards IIRR) are 1760 rated for brilliant munitions.
Myself, I prefer to look at things by cost per airframe and flight hour.
The A-10, though originally a 7-10 million dollar platform can now fairly be described as irreplaceable. It is also getting on towards 'expensive'
to operate, even with the Hog Up structural mods. It has not combat rated external tanks and it's slow airspeed and miserable climbout performance
in hot and high makes it a long, hard, process to get up to a tanker.
If you look at the F-16CG or the F-18D(NA) you are getting up towards 30-35 million per airframe but they can sling 'both pylons today I tellya!'
worth of targeting pod smart delivered ordnance (GBU-12 or GBU-38 for a choice, if cluster weapons are not permitted) _well_ above most trashfire. Of
course their loiter is pretty much pathetic but it should be noted that, in AfG, forces in contact liked the Marine system of compass point
mini-stacks and fast in/out smart bombing VASTLY more than they did the USAF method of visual CAS. The problem here is that, while you can trade
pylons for fast tanker calls (if you know the problem is coming) to up the ordnance counts and loiter. You are still looking at about 3,600-5,000
dollars per flight hour on the LGPOS and about 12,000 for the Bug.
My personal preference is instead for a pair of A-45 UCAVs which can each carry 8 GBU-39 SDB 'light attack bombs' (intelligent radar fuzing for a
lateral air burst) and have the endurance and low drag/decent thrust as well as VLO to remain on high hold for 10-12hrs at 200nm radius (which is
about as far as you /dare/ go with conventional CAS). They run about 1,200 dollars per flight hour and will have /excellent/ (EOTS and XTRA with
about 10cm of resolution error at 10km) sensor installations that do not require munitions trades to achieve point accuracies.
In terms of munitions, internal weapons bays continue to pose a problem for rail-fire (forward) ordnance but decent alternatives to an AMSTE steered
GBU-39/40 could include the JCM or the LOCAAS minimissiles. Which themselves are typically packed 4 per SUU-66 or 2 per LAU-145. For as many as 16
loitering kills internally and 8 direct attack (multisensor so that smoke and jamming don't work and laser-marking can cue) externally from two
The reason I go drone most of the time is because THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT FACTOR inherent to CAS is in fact 'COP'.
Continuous Overhead Presence.
If you have to wait anywhere from 26 minutes to 17hrs for the USAF to arrive and 'figure out the DMPIs' you are screwed in any kind of (obvious)
But if your team has a UCAV section assigned, 24:7:365 because sortie logistics will support that kind of approach, you have a much farther-afield
(sentry tower) and flexible maneuver (just beyond LOS) ability to see the threat using THEIR sensors. Or unattended ground sensors (even old-hat
REMBASS would at least cue you to 'which valley they were in' without having to be there on the ground to see it).
And this allows you to be the hunter not the screaming for help victim.
On a secondary basis, it also gives the guy on the ground /something to do/ because he can lase a preestablished (painted stick in the ground) set of
offsets to call up a digital terrain map on a PDA type portable GPS/EPLRS capable radio. And then put a neat little PPI 'dartboard' template over
that image (matching visually what he sees in 3D to the 2D map) before calling down the lightning to attack specific targets. Whether they be heavy
tubes or mortar carriers capable of interrupting his decamp from that position. Or a line of bounding infantry running up the hill at him
HE then serves as an on-site sanity check to the munitions, optimizing their targeting as a function of fixed location impact or (VT) fuzing. If you
have a really smart networking system using JTRS with Gold Strike or whatever; you can even have the drone come back with _It's View_ of the
battlespace saying "Okay, I see these contrasts as target aimpoints, are they the ones you want?". The ETAC/TACP guy gives consent and now, even if
the enemy MOVES, the drone can use AMSTE (differential GPS steering) to correct a GBU-39 flight path back onto target.
All with a few swipes upon the ruggedized touchscreen.
The military is all about keeping the 'man in the loop'. Principally because, by doing so, they serve their own institutional needs to preserve an
'expert exponent' justification of peace time existence.
Rather than any real absolute of military efficiency (political power derives from manpower on a billeted mission, budgeted $u$tainment, basis _in
My system gets you towards that capability while still taking the dumb out of dumbfire systems like the A-10. An asset utterly worthless for attacks
on Day-1/Raid-1 targets (which the UCAV can penetration manage with roughly the same aplomb as an F-117).
P.S. Using the 20mm on an AC-130 to crack tanks is a good way to lose the asset. Even the 25mm and Bofors are more or less threatfloor/slant
compromised. As such, the AC-130U fleet at least is shifting towards a pair of Mk.44 30mm cannon to replace both with a round roughly the ballistic
equal of the GAU-8's PGU-13/14 and a lot more _slow ROF_ pintel pointable accuracy.
That said, I still think the only realistic (survivable) weapons system on the aircraft (at night or over clouds) is the 105.
Indeed, my personal opinion is that the heavy gunship is worthless on a 'never there' basis of most-wanted-least-seen availability at X cost per
As well as on a -common- threat overmatch one.
Until we put the ATL in a CC-130J (25km laser slant) and back it up with a CABS level of (30-40 GBU-39 dumped out a hole in the cargo ramp in back,
8-16 JCM on the wing pylons) of suppression ordnance and at least MTS+Lynx level 'forward sensorization' on an OOB fixing (throwaway) Predator, we
might as well stop wasting money on the worthless pigs.