Air Defense: August 10, 1999

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Electronic Warfare(EW) Resurgence?: EW may be put on equal footing with Stealth if the recommendations of a still to be released by Rand are followed. The rational is that since a stealthy F-117 was shot down there is a clear needfor more effective EW. This move has been long in coming. The Air Force jettisoned it's best EW asset , the F-111 Aardvark, leaving the US with only one type of EW offensive support aircraft; the EA-6B. No other plane can support the jets that are actually carrying the fight to the enemy. But the limited pool of planes, and pilots, is being strained to the limit. With the problems the services have been having retaining pilots this situation could quickly get out of hand, leading to higher plane losses in future conflicts. --Tom Trinko

SA-10(S-300MP) in Serbia?: There is a report that these extremely sophisticated missiles, but not their launchers or radars, were smuggled into the country shortly before the air attack began. Specialists who've analyzed the tapes of the EW war say there's nothing unusual. The Defense Intelligence Agency also denies that there is any evidence of such a sale. --Tom Trinko

THAAD 2 for 2!: After a long string of failures the Theater High Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) system scored it's second successive hit. This hit was significant because it occurred outside the atmosphere and it was against a warhead which had separated from the rocket booster. This has caused some to speak of accelerating the acquisition of the defensive system. --Tom Trinko

NMD funding cuts?: The Pentagon is thinking about taking money from the National Missile Defense(NMD) program to pay for cost overruns in other missile defense products. This could be as much as $505 million over the period of 2001 to 2005. The Pentagon has previously removed $230 million to pay for the Wye River Accord between Israel and the Palestinians. Supporters of missile defense in Congress are not happy. Given that the intelligence community has just recently significantly increased their predictions of potential missile threats to theUS and the imminent missile launch by North Korea these cuts have to be based on the principle of shutting down critical services whenever there's a budget cut with the expectation that congress will restore funding. This is a standard bureaucratic response, which is much more palatable than actually trimming costs. It can backfire however as is being seen with the Congress's reduction in F-22 funding. --Tom Trinko

SEAD, Suppression of Enemy Air Defense, is getting tougher. Threats are getting better integrated and less dependent upon active emissions. Electro-Optical sensors are becoming more active. Locating and identifying passive sensors sites, much less determining who they're looking at and/or tracking, is much more complex than sensing active radar emissions. Russia s export of the S-300PMU2 SAM also increases the challenge. While it's possible to jam radars and the terminal homing IR-heat-seekers it's very hard to jam a TV camera on the ground. EO(Electro-Optical)sensors are just really good TV cameras with great telescopic optics. They allow ground sites to passively track airplanes with no signatures that are visible to the plane, hence no warning and no obvious counter measures. While the pilots can still seethe missiles he won't get an automatic warning. This is important when a single pilot is simultaneously trying to bomb a target-without hitting a nearby hospital, fly a high performance jet at the edge of its performance envelope, and evade threat missiles. Even the best pilot can get overloaded and miss one of the missiles coming up to get him. --Tom Trinko

 


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