Military

AV-8B Super Harrier:  Separating Myth From Reality
AUTHOR Major F. S. Durtcne
CSC 1988
SUBJECT AREA Aviaton
                        EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
TITLE:  AV-8B SUPER HARRIER:  SEPARATING MYTH FROM REALITY
I. Purpose:  To analyze and identify existing deficiencies of
the AV-8B aircraft in its air-to-ground, air-to-air, and
survival capabilities in today's and tomorrow's tactical
battlefield.
II. Problem:  No existing aircraft - in use by any nation - has
had more written about its tactical use and capabilities than
the AV-8B. In some cases, rising from these books, articles, and
Journalistic interviews have come inflated and even mythical
capabilities attributed to AV-8B in the attack and fighter
regimes.
III.  Data:  During the next three years the AV-8B, labeled by
many as the "Super Harrier", will replace the AV-8A and the A-4M
aircraft, becoming the Marine Corps' only light attack fixed
wind asset.  The operational and tactical missions required of
AV-8B aircraft include:  close-air-support (CAS), deep-air
support (DAS), helicopter escort (HE), armed reconnaissance
(ARMRECCE), and limited antiair-warfare (AAW).  The first four
missions require that the aircraft possess a state of the art
bombing system with precision accuracy, operating equally as
well day or night.  The AV-8B aircraft is equipped with the ARBS
delivery system.  This same system is currently in use by the
A-4M aircraft; an aircraft considered in need of replacement.
The ARBS system is primarily for clear day weather utilization,
possessing a limited night capability.  No mythical capability
of the AV-8B aircraft created by publication has been more dis-
torted than the aircraft's performance in the air-to-air
regime.  Unfortunately, when addressing the AV-8B aircraft's
capabilities, nothing could be further from the truth.  A com-
parison with "real" fighter aircraft shows the AV-8B suffers in
its speed capability, sustained turning performance, and
sustained excess power available at all altitudes.  Addition-
ally, the AV-8B incorporates no air-to-air radar, making it
blind in today's high technology fighter environment.
IV.   Conclusions:  The AV-8B suffers from significant defic-
iencies in its bombing system, aerodynamic performance, and
survival capabilities that will prevent it from accomplishing
the CAS and DAS missions.  The AV-8B suffers from severe def-
iciencies that make its own survivability questionable; let
alone its active use being considered in the AAW mission.
V.  Recommendations:  Funding should be allocated to incor-
porate the needed changes to the AV-8B aircraft.  The changes
should include a state of the art air-to-ground/air-to-air
radar, integration with the LANTRIN system, and a new engine
with greater thrust.
AV-8B SUPER HARRIER: SEPARATING MYTH FROM REALITY
                                    OUTLINE
Thesis Statement:     The United States Marine Corps
                      became so mesmerized by the V/STOL capability of the
                      AV-8B aircraft that it acquired an aircraft deficient
                      in its mission performance.  This paper will address
                      the deficiencies of the aircraft in conducting its
                      assigned missions in today's battlefield and the
                      required changes needed to be incorporated.
I.        The AV-8B Aircraft and Marine Corps Acquisition
          A. Replaces AV-8A and A-4M Aircraft
          B. Inflated Capabilities Built by Publication
          C. Can Not Do Its Assigned Missions
II.       FMFM 5-4 Offensive Air Support
          A. Tasks Assigned to The AV-8B Aircraft
          B. Capabilities Needed to Perform Missions
III.      Angle Rate Bombing System (ARBS)
          A. Technology of the System
          B. Deficiencies of ARBS for Day and Night Use
          C. Survivability Adequacy of AV-8B in Today's
             Battlefield Environment.
IV.       FMFM 5-5 AntiAir Warfare
          A. Requirements to Perform Mission
          B. Deficiencies of AV-8B
          C. Doctrinal Use of AV-8B:  Logistical
             Supportability
V.        Required Improvements
          A. Air-to-Ground
          B. Air-to-Air
          C. Doctrine Rewrite
               AV-8B SUPER HARRIER: SEPARATING MYTH FROM REALITY
        During the next three years the United States Marine
Corps  will  complete  acquisition  and  integration  of the
AV-8B  aircraft  into  its  active  inventory.    The AV-8B,
labeled  by  many  as  the "Super Harrier", will replace the
AV-8A  and  the  A-4M  aircraft,  becoming the Marine Corps'
only  light attack fixed-wing asset.  No existing aircraft -
in  use  by  any  nation  -  has  had more written about its
tactical  use  and  capabilities  than  the  AV-8B.  In some
cases,  rising  from these books, articles, and journalistic
interviews    have   come   inflated   and   even   mythical
capabilities  attributed  to AV-8B in the attack and fighter
regimes.  In  somecases,  the  only  factual information
provided in  these sources is that the AV-8B aircraft will
be  providing  close-air-support  (CAS)  to the Marine Corps
well  into  the  21st century.  There is no arguing that the
mythical  AV-8B  aircraft  created  by these publications is
fully  capable  of accomplishing all missions.  But myth and
reality  being  something  different,  the question becomes:
Can the real AV-8B aircraft do its assigned missions?
       The operational and tactical missions required of the
AV-8B    aircraft    include:    close-air-support    (CAS),
Deep-Air-Support (DAS), helicopter escort (HE), armed
reconnaissance' (ARMRECCE) ,  and  limited  anti-air-warfare
(AAW).1  The  first  four missions require that the aircraft
possess  a  state  of  the art bombing system with precision
accuracy,  operating equally  as  well  day  or night.  The
aircraft   must    also  possess  the  ability  to  precisely
navigate  to  the  intended  target  while  eluding the ever
increasing  enemy's  sophisticated  anti-air-artillery (AAA)
and surface-to-air-missiles systems (SAMS)
          The  mythical  AV-8B  aircraft  created  by  these
publications  is believed to possess unequaled air-to-ground
capabilites.2  In  reality  the  AV-8B  aircraft is equipped
with  the  Angle  Rate  Bombing  System  (ARBS).   This same
system  is  currently  in  use  by  the  A-4M  aircraft;  an
aircraft  considered in need of replacement by the US Marine
Corps.    While  the  AV-8B does interface the ARBS with its
inertial  navigational  system  (INS) providing for slightly
better  weapon  delivery Accuracy than the A-4M; it is still
an   antiquated   system  at  best.    Development  of  ARBS
technology  commenced  in  1957  at the Naval Weapons Center
located  at China Lake, California.  The current ARBS system
is  primarily  for clear day weather utilization, possessing
a  limited  night  capability.  When used during the day the
pilot  is required to devote critical time during the attack
phase   achieving  a  television designation of the target or
target  area  with the systems dual mode tracker (DMT).  The
system  computer  can  not process a weapon release solution
without  a  DMT  designation.    Once the DMT designation is
accomplished  the  computer  will  then process angular rate
changes  and  ranges  to  display  bombing  symbology to the
pilot  for weapon delivery.  The ARBS DMT is also restricted
vertically  and  laterally  by  gimbal  limits.    After DMT
designation,  should the pilot need to aggressively maneuver
the  aircraft  to  evade  enemy  threat  systems  during the
attack  phase  reaching  the gimbal limits, a DMT break lock
will  occur.   This will result in a loss of weapon delivery
symbology   to  the  pilot  on  the  heads-up-display  (HUD)
system.    The  modern  day  battlefield will be obscured at
best.    Flying  dust  and  smoke  will  be rampant over the
forward  edge  of  the  battle  area  (FEBA) .   Dust will be
created  by  maneuvering  mechanized  units of both opposing
ground  forces,  by weapons employed by both opposing ground
forces,  and  by  the  weapons  used  to supress the enemy's
surface  to air defenses (SEAD) .  Smoke will be used by both
opposing  ground  forces  to conceal their courses of action
from  each other.  The target and target area will be barely
visable  to  the  pilot  with the naked eye; but not by much
else.      Unfortunately,  this  obscured  battlefield will
greatly  lessen  - if not eliminate - the contrast needed by
the  ARBS   DMT in achieving a target designation.  This will
force  the  AV-8B  pilot  to use a standby system for weapon
employment,   resulting   in  tremendously  reduced  bombing
accuracy.    Night  utilization  of  the  ARBS  is even more
restrictive.    The DMT requires the target to be designated
by  a  ground or an airborne laser.  Unfortunately, if there
is  no  laser  designation of the target the ARBS can not be
utilized.    Assuming  the target is illuminated by a lasing
device,  the  AV-8B  aircraft  employment  manuals point out
that  there  is  little chance that the target can be found;
let  alone attacked.3  This  results  from a combination of
the  aircraft's  inertial  navigational system (INS) and the
limited  field  of view on the heads-up-display (HUD) system
given  to  the pilot.  The INS of the AV-8B aircraft is good
and  on  an  attack  mission will no doubt lead the pilot to
the  general target area.  Unfortunately, at night - because
the  aircraft  lacks  any terrain following capability - the
AV-8B  pilot  must  fly  at much higher altitudes than those
that  are  achieveable during day operations. This will make
the  aircraft  a "sitting duck" to the enemy's sophisticated
air  defense   systems.    Assuming the aircraft survives and
arrives  in  the  target  area at night the INS will have to
navigate  the  aircraft precisely to the target on precisely
the  right  heading.    The limited field of view of the HUD
requires  this otherwise the laser designation of the target
is   outside   the   pilot's   viewing  range;  thus  making
acquisition and attacking of the target impossible.
       The tactical use of the AV-8B aircraft requires it be
able to operate in close proximity to the stongest portion
of  the  enemy's surface to air defense systems and survive.
Survivability  in today's and tomorrow's battlefields is and
will  continue to measured by "not getting hit".  The United
States  Air  Force's view on survival and success in the CAS
and  BAI environments requires an attack aircraft to possess
maneuverability,   speed,   bombing   accuracy,   and   high
aerodynamic   preformance  capabilites.4  Survivability  of
an  aircraft in the target area can now be measured in a few
seconds.    Reduced  time  in  the target area means reduced
time  exposed to the enemy's lethal weapons systems.  In the
attack  phase  an  aircraft  must  be  able  to  go in fast,
Possessing  the  ability to retain speed and maneuverability
throughout  its  mission profile.  Only these capabilities -
combined  with  sound  tactics  -  will  assure  a favorable
chance  of reaching, destroying, and eggressing successfully
from  the target.  Unfortunately, the AV-8B- aircraft suffers
in  both  of  these  areas because of its aerodynamic design
and  engine  thrust capacity.    The aircraft's aerodynamic
design  limits  its maximum attainable speed and its lack of
engine  thrust  prohibits  the aircraft's ability to replace
energy  dissipated  while  aggressively  maneuvering  in the
target  area.    These  factors  combined  will increase the
AV-8B   aircraft's  exposure  time  to  the  enemy' s  lethal
surface  to  air defense systems.  Defense analyst engineers
use  even  more criteria to judge the survivability adequacy
of  an aircraft in the tactical battlefield.  Unfortunately,
the  AV-8B suffers deficiencies in these areas too.  Most of
the  Soviet's  surface  to  air  defense  systems  employ an
acquisition   and   target   tracking  radar  to  engage  an
aircraft.5    The  sooner  a  target  can  be  designated  on
radar,  the  sooner  it  can  be  engaged by the air defense
weapons.   Each aircraft has a radar cross section signature
which   is   based  on  its  aerodynamic  design  and  other
classified  factors  which can not be expounded upon further
here.    When  put  through  this analysis testing the AV-8B
aircraft  is  considered  to  have  a  very signifcant radar
cross  section  signature for an aircraft of its size.  This
will  make  it  easier  to  find  and  easier to kill by the
enemy.    Even  though  the  best  way  to  survive  in the
battlefield  arena  is  by  not "getting hit" by the enemy's
air  defense  weapons;   reality would seem to indicate that
some  aircraft  will feel the "sting" of these weapons.  How
vulnerable  an  aircraft's  systems  and  subsystems  are to
these  impacts  directly  effects  its  survivability.   Not
having  self-sealing  fuel  tanks  and being a single engine
aircraft  makes the AV-8B aircraft less capable of surviving
a  weapon  impact.    Assuming the aircraft does not explode
after  receiving  a  weapon  impact  in  its fuel tanks, its
remaining  flight time will certainly be short.  The results
of  receiving  a  weapon  impact in a single engine aircraft
can  be  many  and  varied  but  none of them are good.  The
reality  is  that  the  survivability  adequacy of the AV-8B
aircraft  in  the tactical battlefield is not what it should
be  for  an  aircraft  designed  to  spend  much of its time
operating  there.    In  the end, the AV-8B aircraft suffers
from   significant   deficiencies  in  its  bombing  system,
aerodynamic  performance,  and  survival  capabilities  that
will   prevent   it   from  successfully  accomplishng  the
offensive-air-support  (OAS)  mission  for the United States
Marine Corps.
       The United States Marine Corps' concept of utilization
of  the  AV-8B aircraft will often find it as the only fixed
wing   asset   available   for  the  anti-air-warfare  (AAW)
mission.    No  mythical  capability  of  the AV-8B aircraft
created  by  publication  has  been  more distorted than the
aircraft's   performance  in  the  air-to-air  regime.    An
example  of  this  is no better illustrated than reading the
foreward  by  Major General Homer S. Hill USMC (Ret.) to the
book Good Friday; he writes:
     I was one of the principle American generals during
     the period of 1970-1972 to push through the procure-
     ment of the AV-8A-one of the most remarkable weapons
     in the arsenal of the United States.
          This is the first novel of which I am aware,
     that reveals the great versatility of this marvel-
     ous piece of technology.  As the reader will learn,
     the AV-8B (the most recent version) can outmaneuver
     any fighter in the world.6
This  myth  is  further  supported  by  the  belief that the
British'  "Sea  Harrier"  preformed  outstand inably in  the
Falklands  War.    The reality is that most of the Argentine
aircraft  were  destroyed  either  on  the  ground or by the
British  surface-to-air-defense  systems.7  Those  Argentine
aircraft  that  were engaged and destroyed in the air by the
"Sea  Harrier"  had already dropped their weapons on British
shipping  and were operating at their maximum combat radius.
The  aircraft  could  not  afford  to  engage  in  defending
themselves  and  waste  precious  fuel  needed  to reach the
mainland; effectively they were defenseless.
         Unfortunateiy, when addressing the AV-8B aircraft's
superior  air-to-air  capabilities;  you  quickly  find that
nothing  could  be  further  from  the  truth.    The design
capabilities  and  requirements  desired  of  an aircraft to
optimumly  perform  in  the  air-to-air  arena  include:  an
aggressive   pilot,   supersonic  speed,  sustained  turning
performance,   air-to-air   radar,   and   radar/IR  missile
capability.8  The  AV-8B  aircraft  will not suffer for lack
of   an  aggressive  pilot  that  wants  to  accomplish  the
mission,  but  aggressiveness  alone  will  not overcome the
severe   deficiencies  the  aircraft  suffers in other areas.
When  a  comparative analysis of the AV-8B is done to "real"
fighter  aircraft  -  such  as the F-15,F-16,F-18,SU-27, and
MIG-29   -   the   aircraft  is  severely  deficient.    The
comparison  shows  the  AV-8B  aircraft suffers in its speed
capability,  sustained  turning  performance,  and sustained
excess  power  available  at  all  altitudes.9  Additionally,
the   AV-8B   aircraft  incorporates  no  air-to-air  radar,
effectively  making  it  blind  in  today's  high technology
fighter  environment.    While other United States' aircraft
can  see  60NM  ahead  and  track  multiple  enemy aircraft,
planning  their  attacks; the AV-8B aircraft pilot must wait
until  the  bogey   is   within  his  visual  range.  This, of
course,  assumes   that  the  pilot  is  looking in the right
direction  at  the  right  time    and  is  in a clear weather
situation.    It  goes  without   saying that at night and in
obscured    weather  conditions   he  is  effecetively  blind;
making  the  aircraft etremely vulnerable to the enemy.  Not
having  the  radar  also  means the aircraft is incapable of
carrying   and   launching   radar  guided  missiles,  which
tremendously  reduces  its  engagement  "killing zone".  The
simple  fact  is  the  probability  of  the AV-8B  aircraft
surviving     against   fighter  aircraft  employing  missiles
launched   outside  its  visual   range is doubtful.  One only
needs  to  note the tremendous success the Israeli' F-15 and
F-16  aircraft  had  against  the Syrian's - a kill ratio of
80:1  - , to realize how vulnerable the AV-8B aircraft is in
the  air-to-air  arena.10    In  the  end,  the reality is the
AV-8B  aircraft  suffers  from severe deficiencies that make
its  own  survivability  questionable;  let alone its active
use  being  considered  in the active anti -air-warfare (AAW)
mission
          The  final  myth  created about the AV-8B aircraft
concerns     its  doctrinal   utilization  and  logistical
supportability  in  combat.   The general belief is that the
AV-8B  aircraft  will be able to supply continuous offensive
air  support for the ground conbat element (GCE) wherever it
may  maneuver  ashore.   FMFM 5-4, the Offensive Air Support
Manual,  indicates  this will be done in three phases; Phase
I:   Operation  from  Sea Bases, Phase II: Initial Operations
Ashore,  and  Phase  III:  Full  Operations  Ashore.  In all
phases  the effort is to base the AV-8B aircraft as close to
the supported units as possible.  FMFM 5-4 states:
      Idealy, fuel and ordnance would be staged at forward
      sites close to the forward edge of the battle area
      (FEBA) , thereby allowing aircraft to refuel and rearm
     without returping to the main base or amphibious
     shipping.11 
The  definition of a forward site is a location ashore which
is  suitable for takeoff and landing of V/STOL aircraft.  It
will  be austere, located in a secure area (nominal distance
of  20NM  from  the  FEBA) , and vary from a road to a grass
field.    This forward basing concept is more of a disadvan-
tage  than  an  advantage.   An example is that six harriers
forward  based  flying 24 sorties a day will require 100,000
lbs  of  ordnance  and 100,000 lbs of fuel.12  Assuming we're
capable  of  doing  it,  it  doesn't take long to figure out
that  the  majority of logistical and combat service support
would  have to be dedicated to this aviation element.  These
daily  requirements  will adversely affect the ground combat
element  force  and require significant use of its assets to
protect  these  forward  base sites.  I would submit that on
the  modern  battlefield  it  is  going  to  be tremendously
difficult  to  definitively  draw  the  FEBA.  Additionally,
that  the  basing  of  V/STOL  aircraft  20NM from the FEBA,
giving  an enemy soldier with a AK-47 the chance of shooting
the  aircraft  on  the ground is tactical "unsound" at best.
Proponents  indicate  that  the  extra  logistical  support,
transportation,  and  security  needed will be well worth it
because  of  the  rapid  air support response for the ground
commander.    In his article, The Falklands Crisis: Emerging
Lessons   for  Power  Projection  and  Force  Planning,  Mr.
Anthony  H.  Cordesman  comes  to a different conclusion; he
states:
     The F-18 aircraft at 150NM radius can deliver twice
     as many MK-82SE/MK-20 bombs as the AV-8B can operat-
     ing under short takeoff conditions and have more time
     on station.  At 200NM radius, the F-18 aircraft main-
     tans its payload advantage ever the AV-8B and can
     remain on station three times longer.13
The  bottom  line  is  that its not how close you are to the
FEBA  that  counts,  as  much as, how fast you can get there
with  large  quantities of ordnance and remain on station to
use  it.    I would also submit that the chances of aircraft
like  the F-15E, F-16C, and F/A-18C/D to fight their way in,
survive,  and  fight  their  way out is significantly better
than the AV-8B aircraft.
     How did it happen?  How could the United States Marine
Corps  acquire  an aircraft that when it entered service was
already  deficient  in  accomplishing its assigned missions?
Unfortunately,  the  Marine Corps began to believe the myth;
eventually,  becoming  so  mesmerized  by the V/STOL concept
that  it  lost  sight  of  what  the  aircraft  had to do to
accomplish  the  mission.    Opponents of the aircraft - and
there  were  many - indicated the AV-8B would not be able to
provide  the needed timely, reliable, and accurate close-air
-support  to  the ground combat element.  The same opponents
indicated  the  doctrinal use postulated by the Marine Corps
of  the  AV-8B made little tactical sense; let alone that it
was not supportable logistically.
        What can the United States Marine Corps do to correct
the  deficiencies of the AV-8B aircraft?  Unfortunately, the
DOD  budget  constraints  may  not  allow for anything to be
done.   The Secretary of Defense, Mr. Frank Carlucci recent-
ly  reported  that  the Department of Defense could expect a
$300  billion shortfall in funding over the next five years.
Still   the  most  important  thing is for the United States
Marine  Corps  to  first  recognize  the deficiencies of the
AV-8B   aircraft.    Once  doing  so, it should aggressively
pursue  the  necessary  funding  to  incorporate  the needed
changes.    The  changes  should  include a state of the art
air-to-ground/air-to-air  combination radar - such as in the
F-16    aircraft  -  to    correct  the  deficiencies  noted
previously.    Integration  with the low-altitude-navigation
-and-targeting-infrared-night  (LANTRIN) system, to give the
AV-8B  aircraft a true night attack capability.  Also, a new
engine  with   greater  thrust  capability  to  help  sustain
energy  while  maneuvering in the attack and fighter arenas.
Finally,  a  doctrine  rewrite  should be done for the AV-88
aircraft  that  is  realistic  in its   tactical viability and
logistical  supportability.    Only   then  will  the AV-8B
aircraft  be  able   to  provide  the   timely,  reliable, and
accurate  close-air-support that the  ground combat element )
requires  and  has   come  to  expect   from  Marine Aviation.
                                  FOOTNOTES
     1U.S. Marine Corps, FMFM 5-1, Marine Aviation, p. 36.
     2Major J .L. Lehman, "Here Comes the AV-8! " Marine Corps
Gazette (May 1984), p. 64.
     3AV-8B Aircraft, Tactical Manuals, Vol I and II.
     4Mr. J.W. Canan, "More Flak in the AirLand Battle.  Air
Force Magazine (February 1988) , p. 76.
     5Mr. J.W. Taylor, "Gallery of Soviet Weapons." Air Force
Magazine (March 1988), p. 75.
     6Major General H.S. Hill, USMC (Ret.), Foreward to Good
Friday, by Mr. R.L. Holt.
      7Mr. A.H. Cordesman, "The Falklands: the Air War and
Missle Conflict." Armed Forces Journal Intl . (September 1982),
p.  50.
     8Mr. Dick Pawloski, "Fighter Weapons Symposium" 12th
Edition Booklet.
     9Ibid.
     10Cordesman, p. 55.
     11FMFM 5-4, Offensive Air Support, p. 112.
     12FMFM 5-4, p.  115.
     13Mr. A.H. Cordesman, "The Falklands Crisis: Emerging
Lessons for Power Projection and Force Planning." Armed Forces
Journal Intl . (September 1982) , p. 55.
                         BIBLIOGRAPHY
1.  Canan, James W.,  "More Flak in the AirLand Battle." Air
    Force Magazine (February 1988) , 76.
2.  Coredesman, A.H. "The Falklands Crisis: Emerging Lessions
    for Power Projection and Force Planning. " Armed Forces
    Journal Intl . (September 1983) , p . 55
3.  Coredesman, A.H. "The Falklands: the Air War and Missle
    Conflict. " Armed Forces Journal Intl. (September 1983)
    p. 50.
4.  Department of the Navy, AV-8B Aircraft, Tactical Manuals
    Vols I and II.
5.  Holt, R.L., Good Friday.  Blue Ridge Summit: TAB book Inc,
    1987.
6.  Lehman, J.R. Maj, USMC. "Here Comes the AV-8!"  Marine Corps
    Gazette (May 1984) , 64.
7.  Mason, F.K. Harrier. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1983
8.  Myles, B. Jump Jet.  San Rafael: Presidio Press, 1979.
9.  McCalla, J.C., Maj, USMC.  "AV-8B: Two Meanings to Air
    Support."  Marine Corps Gazette (May 1987), 72.
10. Pawloski, Dick.  "Fighter Weapons Symposium" 12th Edition
    Booklet.
11. Taylor, J.W.,  "Gallery of Soviet Weapons."  Air Force
    Magazine (March 1988) , 75.
12. U.S. Marine Corps. Combat Service Support, FMFM 4-1.
13. U.S. Marine Corps. Offensive Air Support, FMFM 5-4.
14. U.S. Marine Corps. AntiAir Warfare, FMFM 5-5.



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