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This lesson does not specifically relate to any enlisted or officer tasks, but provides general information on the history of ADA and the Soviet air threat.


Use only this lesson material to complete the examination.


You must attain a grade of 70 percent or more on the examination to receive credit for this subcourse.


The following references are sources for additional information.  You do not need them to complete this lesson.

FM 44-1
FM 44-2
FM 44-3
FM 44-15
FM 44-15-1
FM 44-90
FM 44-90-1


Learning Event 1:

The AD Mission Defined

The mission of AD, according to the cartoon in Figure 1, may have been to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of airborne predators; thereby supporting the primary tribal functions of conducting prompt and sustained land operations.



As airborne predators have become more complex, so have the AD weapons required for their engagement.  However, the basic mission of AD and its primary objectives have changed only slightly--to nullify or reduce the effectiveness of attack or surveillance by hostile aircraft or missiles after they are airborne--thereby supporting the primary Army functions of conducting prompt and sustained land warfare operations.

But more directly, AD must seek as its primary objective the limitation of the effectiveness of the enemy offensive air effort to a level permitting freedom of action to friendly forces of all types.  Specifically, the objective is to protect US forces in the field and to ensure them freedom of maneuver.


Unless you are prepared to meet high-performance threat aircraft with your supply of sharp rocks, a working knowledge of AD is critical to your survival and to that of others of the unit to which you are assigned.


Learning Event 2:

Pre-World War I

During the American Civil War you might have been able to meet the air threat with a barrage of well-thrown rocks.  The Confederates, however, chose a rifled 6-pound cannon to counter the Union's observation balloon, Intrepid (Figure 2), in August 1861.  Although no hits were scored, the balloon was hauled down and neither side thereafter pursued any large-scale military use of that type of aerial threat.



During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, balloons were used not only as a means of observation, but also for movements in and out of besieged Paris.  This led to the development of the Krupp balloon gun, a 75-millimeter weapon which fired a 12-pound shell to an altitude of about 20,000 feet.

World War I

World War I witnessed the birth of a new method of warfare--that of attack from the air.  This, in turn, required those on the receiving end of such attack to combat the new threat with airplanes and antiaircraft guns.  The cycle continued, and attackers had to change tactics and techniques to offset the defense.

By today's standards, World War I AD materiel and operations were primitive in nature, but they set patterns and isolated problems which remain with us today.  Thus, the First Great War is more noteworthy for establishing trends in weapons and tactics than for producing statistics as to bombs dropped and planes destroyed.

The 1919-1939 Period

The period between World War I and World War II was one of development in air offensive and defensive weapons.  The United States, Great Britain, Germany, and Japan (all to be major air war combatants in WW II) made tremendous advances in aircraft design and performance, but only limited improvements in aircraft tactics.  Thus, there were no startling developments in the military use of aircraft over those introduced in World War I.

In general, air offensive forces in 1939 enjoyed an advantage over defensive forces.  This situation resulted primarily from two factors.  First, Germany and Japan had decided upon offensive military operations, to include air operations, as national strategy.  Logically, priority of weapon development was given to bombers and their tactical use.  In both countries, little effort was devoted to AD weapon systems or AD operations.  Second, the airplane had enjoyed commercial and military application.  Private industry had contributed immeasurably to improved aircraft performance and capabilities in an effort to benefit commercially in competitive business.  By contrast, antiaircraft guns and related equipment had military application only.  Development usually resulted slowly from stated military requirements and from availability of military funds for such purposes.

The War in Europe

The United States entered World War II with basically the same weapons that we had at the end of World War I.  It was not long, however, before American air defenders realized the need for better antiaircraft equipment to combat the vastly improved air threat.

The British met the WW II air threat with new radar and electronic IFF equipment.  The use of that equipment, beginning with the Battle of Britain, provided a distinct advantage over the German Luftwaffe.

During the early part of the war, Germany developed and used ballistic missiles and cruise-guided missiles.  They also developed the first jet fighter aircraft and the V-2 rocket, neither of which were employed by Germany in time to significantly affect the outcome of the war.

The War in the Pacific

Although the evolution of AD in the Pacific was similar to that in Europe, there were several unique lessons learned.  The early American disasters of Pearl Harbor and the Philippines emphasized the importance of adequate early warning, aircraft identification, uniform command and control procedures, and close coordination between all AD capable forces.  The eventual defeat of the Japanese Empire emphasizes the importance of AD to a force not having air supremacy.

While adequate early warning and aircraft identification procedures might not have prevented the Japanese attack on Hawaii, the fact that an American radar unit detected the initial waves of Japanese aircraft and mistakenly dismissed them as a friendly flight of American bombers, contributed greatly to subsequent damage to the Pacific Fleet and to the island-based Army Air Corps.

Even after hostilities were initiated, a lack of early warning and passive AD measures in the Philippines caused the destruction of over one-half of the American Air Corps located in the Far East.  Perhaps the most important lesson learned from these early defeats was that an effective AD organization must be available, trained, and ready to fight before it is needed--not after.

In analyzing the relative balance between the offense and defense throughout the Pacific, many factors should be considered.  The Japanese had invested heavily before the war in developing superior offensive forces with which they expected to overwhelm the limited forces that opposed them; however, they failed to prepare for, or visualize, the requirements for strong defensive forces.

Japanese antiaircraft general officers interrogated at the end of the war expressed the belief that the inadequacy of their AD was one of the chief factors contributing to their early defeat.  This belief is supported by a study of the losses that Japanese AD inflicted on American bombers.  In the Pacific, American heavy bombers suffered a total loss due to known hostile AD action of less than 0.5 percent.


The early part of the war saw each adversary testing the other's capabilities.  The Germans were convinced that tactical air warfare, which had been successful in the conquest of continental Europe, would also provide adequate AD support of the war.  AD was recognized but not centrally planned or coordinated.  The United States and the United Kingdom both adhered to the concept of strategic air operations by heavy bombers in addition to tactical operations by lighter aircraft.

The ultimate strategic use of air power by the United States against the Japanese Empire, resulting in the early termination of that conflict, would change the primary role of AD for decades to come.

Postwar Strategic Defense

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the possibility of a Soviet-manned bomber attack against the United States emerged.  This brought about a resurgence in AD activity.

The threat was perceived to be one or more manned bombers carrying nuclear weapons and flying at extremely high altitudes.  This prompted the US to eliminate heavy AA gun systems in favor of more effective AD missile systems.

When nuclear ICBM capabilities increased, the manned bomber threat against CONUS decreased.  AD research and development soared into the antimissile arena.  The projected cost of an arms race contributed to the decisions by both the United States and the Soviet Union to enter into strategic arms limitations agreements.

AD in Korea and Vietnam

The US had complete air superiority during both the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts.  This meant that ADA units did not have many occasions to engage aerial targets.  The role of antiaircraft weapons became primarily one of ground fire support.

The principal AD lesson learned from the Vietnamese conflict concerned the losses suffered by Air Force and Navy aircraft and Army helicopters from enemy SHORAD and small arms weapons.


Learning Event 3:

Soviet Aviation

Soviet tactical aviation has been the focus of comprehensive modernization and reorganization programs emphasizing offensive capabilities.  Changes over the last five years in the areas of equipment, training, tactics, and organization have not occurred spontaneously.  They are the results of careful, long-range planning to increase tactical aviation capabilities against NATO.  Since 1978, the Soviets have introduced two new fighters and three new versions of reconnaissance and ground attack aircraft.  These aircraft have increased ranges, improved avionics, better altitude and all-weather capabilities than previous Soviet models.

Training and Tactics.  There have also been significant changes in training and tactics that are less visible than equipment improvements, but which have a potentially far greater effect on tactical aviation effectiveness.  Soviet doctrine places great emphasis on achieving air superiority from the outset.  To implement this doctrine, the Soviets have recently made significant changes in their combat air tactics and training programs.  Pilot independence and initiative are now stressed, a significant departure from previous procedures requiring positive ground control of air operations.  Continued technological upgrading of equipment and increasing proficiency in combat employment of that equipment have greatly increased Soviet aviation capabilities to strike the NATO rear area.

Improved tactics and training are aimed at maximizing performance of a new generation of Soviet aircraft that will have better penetration capabilities.  Also, recent major reorganizations of the command and control structure for Soviet air and AD forces have greatly improved Soviet air combat capabilities.  Their new structure now provides the Soviets with a peacetime organization that closely approximates their anticipated wartime structure for the employment of air power.  This will allow a more rapid transition to a wartime posture and will enhance operational flexibility and coordination through centralized control of air assets at front and theater levels.

The Soviets and Warsaw Pact nations will continue to have an aircraft quantity advantage over NATO and are rapidly closing the qualitative capabilities gap.  They have, and must be expected to use, these capabilities to attack our maneuver forces and their supporting elements, as well as striking corps and theater targets to destroy NATO deep strike assets.

The Nature of the Air Battle

In any future conflict the air battle will be characterized by the following:

  • Sudden attack by a large number of aircraft on multiple targets, with many of the aircraft using a variety of terrain following techniques.

  • Surprise; no one is ever fully prepared for an air attack or its shock effect.

  • Delivery of many types of munitions, to include gravity bombs, rockets, PGMs, ARMs, and projectiles.

  • An airspace congested by many users including friendly air, enemy air, field artillery projectiles and missiles, and ADA on both sides, to mention a few.

  • Use of short-range ballistic missiles by the threat to attack and destroy friendly "deep strike" assets.

  • An urgency for rapid reaction response.  Little time will be available for deliberation; action must be automatic.

  • Dense electromagnetic conflict.

Mission Types

Soviet forces recognize that part of their air support is initially required to obtain local air superiority.  Fighter units of the air army have the dual mission of providing AD and CAS for their ground forces.  Attack and bomber units are used to engage targets beyond the range of artillery and to reinforce artillery fires on selected targets and targets of opportunity.  A combined bombardment by bombers and ground attack aircraft is coordinated with artillery preparatory fires.  After the ground attack has begun, tactical air will provide CAS for ground elements in contact.  Priority tasks for enemy tactical air are the destruction or neutralization of hostile nuclear delivery means and other targets beyond artillery range.

Ground Attack.  Soviet forces consider air strikes an extension of field artillery.  They place great emphasis on tactical air support of ground operations.  Attacks are made against preplanned targets to neutralize support and reserves within the tactical operational area.  Soviet air forces usually do not use high-performance aircraft to provide CAS along the line of contact where artillery can be employed.  Armed helicopters are the primary air threat along the forward line of troops.

Bombing Missions.  The primary responsibility of Soviet bombers is to maintain a strategic force capable of conducting strikes against military and industrial targets.  Although ballistic missiles have an increased role in destruction of deep targets, the Soviets will retain a sizeable bomber force for many years to come.  Bombers have certain advantages over ballistic missiles.  Bombers are used for non-nuclear as well as nuclear warfare, and can seek out and strike small and mobile targets.  Additionally, they can be recalled or retargeted after launch.  They can also conduct poststrike reconnaissance and have a restrike capability.

Aerial Reconnaissance.  Tactical aerial reconnaissance is a method of gathering intelligence concerning the enemy.  It employs airborne collection devices ranging from aircrew eyes to the most advanced sensory devices.  The Soviets will use reconnaissance aircraft equipped with sensors capable of monitoring US operations in daylight, darkness, and inclement weather.  Reconnaissance aircraft can operate singly or in pairs.

ECM.  Soviet aviation has several organic support squadrons with aircraft equipped to conduct ECM missions.  These units can conduct ECM against enemy radar and electronic guidance and communications systems.  The most common air ECM operations are spot or barrage jamming and dispensing chaff.  ECM are directed against enemy AD early warning and fire control radars.  Soviet bombing operations will be protected or camouflaged by aircraft using ECM in either a standoff or escort role.  Jamming equipment, with an effective range of up to 200 kilometers and covering frequencies of NATO AD radars, is installed in these ECM aircraft.  They may also eject chaff to achieve deception and camouflage.  Other individual aircraft may carry self-screening jammers and chaff dispensers.

Tactical Airlift.  The Soviets consider tactical airlift operations critical in both the conventional and nuclear areas.  Tactical airlift operations include logistics operations, airborne drops, and assault landings.

Air Superiority.  Fighter aircraft are normally given the mission of destroying enemy aircraft on approaches, flanks, and beyond the maximum range of the ground-based AD systems within a zone.  For example, the integration of fighter and SAM systems within a zone is by geographical area, altitude layering, time separation, or by specific target allocation within a particular area.  It should be understood that while aircraft may be hostile, not all aircraft are priority threats to AD.  A fighter interceptor poses little or no threat to a defended asset when compared to CAS aircraft.

Heliborne Assaults.  Soviet forces have placed increasing emphasis on air assault operations in recent years.  The mobility of helicopters allows Soviet commanders--

  • To assist attacking forces by rapidly surmounting obstacles and large areas of NBC contamination.

  • To prevent enemy forces from closing gaps created by nuclear strikes.

  • To seize and hold important objectives in the rear operations area until the arrival of advancing troops.

  • To conduct raids to destroy control points, radar posts, and signal centers.

  • To assist maneuver units by providing a highly mobile antitank capability.

Soviet doctrine stresses maintaining the momentum of the attack.  Heavy use of air assault missions is one way to do this.  Their leadership believes that air assault missions are especially useful after a nuclear strike.  Using this type of assault as soon as possible after a nuclear strike maximizes the gains made from the strike and minimizes the risk to air assault forces.  Tactical air support, including assault helicopters, is often used to create a fly-through zone in enemy lines.  Tactical air support generally continues until the air assault forces have landed and deployed.

In the past, Soviet forces have used helicopters to transport small numbers of specially trained airborne troops on air assault missions.  Recently, however, emphasis has been placed on using motorized rifle battalions for these missions.  Soviet leadership believes that these forces can be used effectively with a minimum of training.  The threat presented by a motorized rifle battalion being airlifted behind our lines should not be underestimated.

Airborne Assaults.  Airborne assaults are conducted with aircraft from military air transport forces.  The mission of airborne forces is strategic, operational, or tactical.

Strategic missions are usually conducted in division strength.  The purpose of this type of mission is to establish a new battle front within a theater of operations.  Operational missions are conducted in support of armies or fronts.  Units conducting these operations are usually of regimental size or smaller and are dropped from 200 to 1,000 kilometers in the rear.  Tactical missions are conducted up to 200 kilometers in the rear.  Normal objectives are seizing bridgeheads and critical road or rail junctions, destroying airfields, and disrupting rear areas.  In a nuclear environment, tactical missions are most often used to exploit a nuclear strike.

Although airborne operations can be conducted at almost any time, Soviet forces generally conduct them at night.  Airborne drops are generally preceded by an increase in reconnaissance of the drop area.  Reconnaissance can be conducted by air, clandestine agents, long-range patrols, or airdropped reconnaissance teams.

Recently, Soviet emphasis on tactical airborne missions has decreased.  Helicopter assaults are taking their place; however, airborne forces will still be used for operational and strategic missions.


Learning Event 4:

Soviet forces have been particularly effective in integrating older aircraft and newer, more modern aircraft into a formidable fighting force.  These aircraft can be classified by the role for which they are used or by their type.  All data presented are representative of the operational use of these aircraft rather than maximum design capabilities.  Additional information on Soviet aircraft is in FM 44-1, Appendix D, and in FM 44-30.

Fixed-Wing Aircraft

The primary air threat facing our forces, and the one for which the Patriot system was designed to counter, is the fixed-wing threat.  These aircraft operate in all areas over the battlefield and make up the vast majority of Soviet air forces.

Bombers.  Medium bombers (Figure 3) will be used during the first phase of the air battle to strike targets critical to the theater in conducting and sustaining war efforts.  These targets include air bases, nuclear storage sites, and military and industrial complexes.  Medium bombers likely to be encountered are the Tu-16 Badger, Tu-22 Blinder, and the Tu-22M Backfire.  These aircraft pose a unique threat to NATO units.  Because of their extended range, they can be used in "end-around" tactics to attack NATO rear areas from the flanks and rear.



Fighter-Bombers.  The early MiG-series aircraft (MiG-15, 17, 19, and 21) were all designed primarily as interceptors for use in the counterair role.  Early MiGs could carry only two bombs or rocket pods on wing pylons normally used to carry external fuel pods.  Because of this restricted ordnance carrying capability, their ability to attack ground targets was limited.  Newer models of these aircraft are significantly improved in their ability to attack ground targets.  The Su-17 Fitter C and D and the export variant Su-20 Fitter are typical of these improved, older generation aircraft.  Two newer aircraft, in particular, have greatly increased the ground attack capability of Soviet forces.  The MiG-27 Flogger D is designed specifically for ground attack.  It is capable of carrying most new ordnance currently under development.  To supplement this ground attack capability, the Su-24 Fencer has become operational.  The Fencer is a deep penetration strike aircraft believed equivalent to our FB-111.  Using an improved terrain avoidance radar, it may be able to underfly friendly radar defenses while conducting deep penetrations.  Additionally, a new ground support fighter, the Su-25 Frogfoot, is designed to fly high-performance missions and is capable of carrying a wide variety of munitions (Figure 4).



Fighters.  Despite the fact that fighters are defensive in nature, Patriot units will encounter fighters escorting strike aircraft penetrating friendly air defenses.  The Soviets are also modernizing their forces of fighters.  The early MiG- and Su-series aircraft have been improved in their air-to-air role.  The second generation fighter currently in service is the MiG-23 Flogger B.  It also has a secondary ground attack capability greater than the Fishbed or Fitter.

Reconnaissance Aircraft.  Tactical aerial reconnaissance is one method of gathering intelligence concerning the enemy.  The Soviets use reconnaissance aircraft (Figure 5) equipped with photographic and electronic sensors.  This equipment is capable of detecting, locating, and monitoring US operations in daylight, darkness, and inclement weather.  Reconnaissance aircraft can operate singly, but probably will operate jointly with ground attack aircraft.  Soviet aircraft used most often for reconnaissance today are the Fitter, Fishbed, Flogger, and Foxbat.



ECM Support Aircraft

Generally, there are two roles for ECM support aircraft involved in support of offensive air operations.  These two roles are SOJs and ESJs.  These aircraft serve as airborne platforms for electronic jamming equipment, which is primarily directed against radar but may also be directed against communications.

The Soviets have modified transports, fighters, bombers, and helicopters to provide both standoff and escort jamming of enemy radars and communications equipment by using chaff and electronic jammers.  Cub, Coot, and Badger aircraft were extensively modified to give these aircraft primary roles of standoff jamming while remaining outside the range of our HIMAD and defensive fighter aircraft.  Other Russian bombers and fighters also had ECM equipment installed to provide self-defense escort jamming on missions across the FEBA.  The Brewer and the Mi-4 Hound helicopter were modified to provide jamming of enemy communications in the forward area in support of ground operations (Figure 6).



Drone Aircraft

Drones are remotely piloted aircraft.  They receive guidance from accompanying manned aircraft, ground control stations, or on-board, programmable navigation systems.

Drones are classified as either RRA or true drones.  They are obsolete, retired fighter or reconnaissance aircraft withdrawn from frontline duty, such as the Yak-25 Mandrake and the MiG-19 Farmer.  The Soviets have used both of these aircraft as SAM target drones for years.  True drones are those designed and built as pilotless aircraft, such the LA17.

Drones may be used in the initial stages of air operations against NATO and may continue to be used until stocks are depleted.  Both RRA and true drones can deliver a wide variety of ordnance.  Additionally, drones can be used effectively as reconnaissance platforms.

The most significant advantage of drones is the elimination of pilot loss.  An especially effective use of this advantage is to reconnoiter NBC contaminated areas.  On the other hand, the lack of on-board human control limits the drone's maneuver capabilities.  Other uses of drones are to reconnoiter fire unit positions and force HIMAD missile expenditure.

Rotary-Wing Aircraft

Helicopters have some distinct advantages over fixed-wing aircraft which enable them to be deployed in large numbers in forward areas.  They do not require large airfields or costly runways from which to operate.  They are suitable for conducting reconnaissance of the enemy's forward forces.  They are highly mobile and can fly in weather that grounds fixed-wing aircraft.  Helicopters can carry a wide variety of weapons including cannons, machine guns, ATGMs, free-flight rockets, and grenade launchers.  They can also be used as EW platforms and to transport small, light units for air assault operations.

Attack Helicopters.  The Soviets have the most heavily armed helicopters in the world today.  They will employ them in the CFA, in the MBA, and in air assaults against rear area targets.  The attack helicopter achieves maximum utility in a war of movement when employed in ambush or assault actions.

Using speed, mobility, surprise, and an impressive array of weapons, it can harass, delay, and destroy advancing columns and armor thrusts.

A new version of the Mi-8 Hip, called Hip E, has been introduced as being equipped with "the heaviest firepower seen on any helicopter in the world." Rocket and missile launching racks are now included on most Mi-8 Hip helicopters.  The Soviets have fielded a new attack helicopter which is a dedicated gunship.  This new aircraft is the Mi-28 Havoc.  The Havoc carries no contingent of troops, but it is a formidable antitank weapon system capable of engaging other helicopters in air-to-air combat (Figure 7).



ECM Helicopters.  These aircraft operate to reduce the effectiveness of our communications.  Specifically, the Mi-4 Hound C is designed as an ECM emitter of noise and chaff.

Utility Helicopters.  The Mi-8 Hip is the main utility helicopter for Soviet forces and is replacing the Mi-4 Hound as the standard troop carrier for air assault operations.

Other helicopters which may be targets for ADA systems are the Mi-2 Hoplite which will act as a spotting aircraft for attack helicopters and the Mi-6 Hook.  Helicopters may be targets for the Patriot system when deep airmobile assaults are conducted or when helicopters conduct deep reconnaissance missions.


Learning Event 5:

Threat Munitions

The Soviets have a full spectrum of munitions capable of being airdropped and which are nearly as effective as those of our own Air Force.  A new series of advanced munitions is in development and is expected to be deployed during Patriot fielding in NATO.

Bombs.  Freefall bombs have been in the Soviet inventory for years.  Guided bombs, similar to those developed by the NATO forces, are new additions to their ordnance inventory.  Equipped with these new munitions, a single aircraft can now destroy a target that only a few years ago would have required attacks by large formations.  Bombs may have HE, chemical, or nuclear warheads.

CBUs.  A CBU consists of many small bomblets in one package.  These can be carried in large numbers on any aircraft.  CBUs are dropped at high speeds and low altitudes to cover a wide area, such as Hawk or Patriot unit positions.

Rockets.  Rockets are loaded into pods or clusters which allow for a high rate of fire.  These rockets are ballistic and are normally used against soft targets.

Napalm.  Napalm is a jellied fuel mixture which is used against virtually all types of targets.  The fuel mixture ignites on impact, burns the target, and forces personnel out of vehicles and shelters.

Cannons.  In addition to employing specialized munitions, Soviet aircraft are equipped with cannons for use in strafing targets.  Normally, these cannons are 23- or 30-millimeter guns.  Fighters also carry cannons for self-defense.

ASMs.  To improve capabilities against point targets, such as bridges and radar sites, the Soviets have deployed new ASMs with improved guidance systems.  These ASMs are either command-guided, passive-homing, or active-homing missiles.  Command-guided ASMs are flown into the target by the pilot or EW officer in the launching aircraft.  The controller must see the target or have a remote TV pickup in the missile.  Active homing is characterized by having an electromagnetic transmitter in the missile which illuminates the target.  The missile then homes on the reflected energy.  In passive homing, the missile homes on the target's own emissions, or on reflected energy when the target is illuminated from a source other than the missile.

Some of the earlier version ASMs are nearly the size of small aircraft and can be launched only from medium and heavy bombers.  Tactical ASMs are delivered by fighter-bomber aircraft and represent the greatest threat in the tactical operations area.  To radars, an especially dangerous type of ASM is the ARM which passively homes in on the targeted radar's emissions.  These ARMs may be carried by bombers or fighter-bombers.  Some can be launched outside the lethal kill envelope of Patriot, reducing the danger to the launching aircraft.  ASMs may carry HE, nuclear, or chemical warheads.

Attack Techniques

High-performance, fixed-wing aircraft rely on speed and ECM for surprise and survival.  Fixed-wing aircraft can attack ground targets in a variety of ways.  The actual attack techniques depend on the type of target, aircraft, ordnance available, terrain, and weather.  These techniques include--

  • Gravity drop-bombing.

  • Dive-bombing.

  • Toss-bombing.

  • Standoff.

  • Pop-up.

  • Lay-down.

The attack variations illustration (Figure 8) shows examples of attack techniques, ordnance, and targets.



Gravity Drop-Bombing.  Aircraft using gravity drop-bombing approach a predetermined drop-point.  The ordnance is then delivered by free-fall gravity drop.  The ordnance will fall forward toward the target due to the inertia of the aircraft.  This distance is determined for planning purposes based on the speed and altitude of the aircraft.  Normally, gravity drop-bombing is used by bombers at medium and high altitudes, but it may also be used by fighter-bombers at lower altitudes.  This technique can be used to deliver nuclear as well as conventional ordnance.

Dive-Bombing.  Aircraft using this attack technique start the attack run at medium altitude and dive directly at the target.  Ordnance release will occur at low-to-medium altitudes.  After delivering the ordnance, the aircraft will execute an evasive maneuver.  As in gravity drop-bombing, the ordnance falls forward, usually less than 1 kilometer.

Toss-Bombing.  Aircraft using this attack technique usually enter at a low-to-medium altitude.  At a predetermined point, the aircraft goes into a steep climb.  The aircraft then releases its ordnance and reverses its direction.  The ordnance can be thrown forward as far as 18.3 kilometers, but the accuracy of ordnance delivery is poor.

Standoff.  Aircraft equipped with ASMs and PGMs can, with a few types of specialized ordnance, stand off beyond the effective range of ADA systems and release ordnance against the defended asset.  The ordnance itself then becomes the threat.  ASMs have ranges up to 500 kilometers.  There is no fixed altitude required for ASM release.

Pop-up.  Aircraft using the pop-up technique begin a low-level run-in about 10 to 20 kilometers from the target.  When reaching a pull-up point about 3 to 8 kilometers offset from the target, the aircraft will climb to its attack height.  This height will vary from 300 to 2,000 meters, depending on the terrain and type of ordnance used.  Air speed will also vary, but it will generally be between 200 and 250 meters per second.  The pilot begins to look for the target as soon as possible after pull-up.  He has only a few seconds to find the target if minimum exposure time is to be achieved.  The aircraft will then dive at the target and release its ordnance 500 to 1,500 meters from the target.  It then escapes the target area at high speed and low altitude.

Lay-down.  Aircraft using the lay-down technique fly at altitudes below 200 meters and at speeds from 150 to 250 meters per second.  High speed and low altitude increase aircraft survival and mission success.  The speed of ordnance fall is reduced by ordnance retardation devices, such as drogue chutes or retarding fins.  This allows the aircraft to escape the target area before the ordnance detonates.  Runway cratering bombs are frequently delivered by this method.


Learning Event 6:

The Future Air Battle

The study of recent conflicts and current threat analysis provides clear insights into the nature of the future air battle.  The next air battle will be a large numbers game played by both sides in terms of aircraft and ADA systems.  The Soviets will bring together air attacks from multiple, dispersed air bases in an attempt to gain air superiority.  At the same time, they will be playing the AD game to protect their own forces.

Friendly forces can expect that enemy air will initially outnumber friendly air.  In any event, it must not be assumed that US forces will have air superiority, except perhaps in limited areas for short periods of time.  This leads to the concept of two distinct phases to the air battle.

First Phase of the Air Battle

The first phase of the air battle will consist of high-risk operations designed to gain air superiority and to neutralize theater nuclear forces.  Soviet forces will dedicate all available assets to this effort, including strategic aviation, naval aviation, tactical aviation, and the strategic rocket forces.  Their air forces will attempt to punch holes or lanes through our forward HIMAD units.  Successive waves of aircraft will use these lanes to attack our bases, command and control facilities, key logistics installations, and theater nuclear forces.  If this initial air operation is successful, our retaliatory capability will be greatly reduced and the ability to sustain ground forces greatly degraded.

In the first-phase air battle (Figure 9), Soviet aircraft will be loaded with munitions optimized to knock out our ADA units and to kill aircraft on air bases and in the air.  While the air superiority phase will continue as long as conflict exists, it is the first attack which will be critical.  As with the other combat arms, ADA must win the first battle.  Our success will determine--

  • The size of initial and subsequent attacks on our ground forces.

  • The amount of CAS available to our ground forces.

  • Our freedom of maneuver despite enemy air actions.

  • The survivability of our logistics support systems.



Second-Phase of the Air Battle

After the initial waves of air superiority attacks, the Soviets will shift their emphasis to CAS of maneuver forces.  The second phase of the air battle will be the attack of maneuver forces and their support elements.  If they fail to achieve air superiority, the second phase may be delayed and continued attacks could be directed against our ADA forces.

In the second phase (Figure 10), Soviet aircraft will attack forward maneuver elements, as well as command and control, fire support, and logistic assets in brigade and division areas.  Enemy flights will approach the forward edge of the main battle area at low altitudes to avoid HIMAD weapons.  Most attacks on ground targets will be at altitudes below 1,000 meters and at speeds less than 250 meters per second.  Flights will probably be composed of two to four aircraft.  As they near their targets, these flights may divide into two separate elements.  The aircraft may execute a pop-up maneuver when approaching the target area.  The first element will attack, deliver its ordnance, and then escape the target area.  The second element will follow almost immediately.  Elements may make a second attack on the target if they have unexpended ordnance.




Learning Event 7:

As long as an aircraft in the Soviet inventory has the utility for combat, it is not scrapped because of obsolescence.  Older aircraft are modified to support new missions.  In many cases, when older equipment is replaced in the active threat air force, it is transferred to reserve elements or passed on to allies.  In recent years, the mission of the threat air force has been expanded.  Missions now include destroying friendly nuclear reserves and tactical air forces and providing tactical air support of ground forces.  Through the 1960s, and with increasing tempo through the 1970s and 1980s, threat air forces have received new aircraft and munitions with greatly improved offensive capabilities.

The threat aircraft inventory was dominated during the early 70s by comparatively unsophisticated aircraft.  These were almost entirely replaced or augmented over the course of the last decade by dual-role warplanes offering double the tactical radius and triple the ordnance potential.  With good LO-LO-LO penetration, flight profile capabilities, and relatively sophisticated avionics, the threat has an all-weather capability for the first time.  Threat aircraft carry a varied assortment of air-to-surface ordnance.  These range from laser-guided bombs and electro-optical and laser-guided missiles to cluster munitions and specialized airfield attack weapons.

A review of the threat's air inventories shows that its air forces can and will employ a wide range of aircraft.

Multirole Aircraft

Multirole aircraft are designed to perform both air-to-air combat missions and ground attack missions.  Threat assets within this category include the MiG-17, -19, -21, -23, and 27; the Yak-28; and the Su-24.

These aircraft will be targets for both HIMAD and SHORAD systems and will be seen in large numbers by both.  SHORAD systems operating with units near the FEBA will mostly observe the aircraft as they pass through the forward area on their way to strike deeper targets, or while they provide AD protection for other aircraft.  SHORAD systems operating to the rear of the FEBA will engage these aircraft as they attack targets (Figure 11).



Reconnaissance Aircraft

The threat uses reconnaissance aircraft equipped with photographic and electronic sensors.  This equipment is capable of detecting our operations in daylight, darkness, and inclement weather.  Reconnaissance aircraft may operate alone, but probably will operate jointly with ground attack aircraft.  Used in this manner, reconnaissance aircraft (Figure 12) detect targets of opportunity for the ground attack aircraft.  Reconnaissance versions of MiG-21 and -25 aircraft perform deep penetration missions and also provide reconnaissance coverage nearer the FEBA.  Other aircraft available for reconnaissance missions include the Yak-28 Brewer and the II-28R Beagle.

Reconnaissance missions will normally be flown at higher altitudes outside the range of SHORAD systems.



Ground Attack Aircraft

Later models of dedicated ground attack aircraft provide threat forces with effective LO-LO-LO strike and interdiction capabilities at night and in adverse weather.  The Fitter C, developed from the Fitter A, carries almost twice the ordnance of its predecessor.

The Su-25 Frogfoot ground support fighter is a specifically designed ground attack aircraft like the USAF A-10.  The Frogfoot is reported to carry a 30-millimeter cannon, based on the Gatling gun principle.  This aircraft is designed to fly high-performance missions and is capable of carrying a wide variety of munitions (Figure 13).




The primary mission of the threat strategic bomber force is to strike peripheral and intercontinental targets with nuclear or conventional weapons.  It is also responsible for performing long-range reconnaissance in support of other force components.  The Soviet bomber aircraft include the Backfire B, Bison, Badger A, Blinder A, and the Bear.  These aircraft provide the Soviets with a strong and effective bomber force.  They normally operate at altitudes beyond SHORAD capability (Figure 14).



Long-Range Aviation

The threat to the rear area consists of both LRA and tactical aviation.  It is intended primarily for use against strategic targets.  However, it may also be employed against targets that are found in the theater area.

The threat inventory currently consists of forces of approximately 800 aircraft.  This does not include long-range reconnaissance and in-flight refueling tankers.

The primary air threat to CONUS is from the long-range Bear and Bison force.  The newer bomber, the Backfire, is also assigned to the LRA contingent.  When operating with aerial tankers, the Backfire can achieve considerable ranges.

Penetration to the target will be made either by flying at extremely low altitudes or by flying at high altitudes.  Bombers may also be preceded by aircraft which are equipped with ECM devices and decoys to confuse our defenses.  Others will be equipped with antiradiation missiles to suppress our radars.


Learning Event 8:

Bomber aircraft can fly in zones of low risk and high risk where HIMAD defenses are thick.  For example, a bomber may fly high on a HI-LO-HI flight mission profile against a target in the deep rear to evade a HIMAD belt.  It would make a final low run as it approaches the target and then make its escape at a higher altitude.  In the LO-LO-LO profile, the bomber approaches the target flying at low altitude, bombs the target, and then makes its escape while still flying at low altitude.  This profile requires the aircraft to have a forward-looking, terrain-avoidance radar to avoid terrain obstruction.  The LO-LO-HI attack mission profile allows the bomber to fly in low on the bomb run, attack the target, and escape by flying away at high altitude (Figures 15 and 16).









Transport Aircraft

Soviet transport aviation is basically a support.  It has the mission of providing airlift services for the Soviet armed forces and the national government.  In wartime, the most important function will include providing airlift support for airborne operations and movement of troops and materiel.  The aircraft involved in Soviet transportation include the An-12 Cub, An-22 Cock, I1-76 Candid, with new additions being the An-72 Coaler and the long-range heavy transport.  The Soviet transport aircraft also have a responsibility for providing wartime airborne ECM support for their own airlift and airdrop operations.


Learning Event 9:

As stated in Learning Event 7, threat forces have some of the most heavily armed helicopters in the world.  These helicopters may be employed both in the overwatch near the FEBA and in air assaults against rear areas.

As previously indicated, helicopters have advantages over fixed-wing aircraft which enable them to be deployed in large numbers in forward areas.  They do not require large airfields or costly runways.  They are suitable for conducting reconnaissance of the enemy's forward forces.  They are highly mobile and can fly in weather that would ground fixed-wing aircraft.  Finally, they can carry a wide variety of weapons including cannons, machine guns, ATGMs, free-flight rockets, and grenade launchers.

These valuable characteristics are offset by the helicopter's vulnerability to SHORAD weapons.  The attack helicopter achieves maximum utility in a war of movement when employed in an ambush or assault.  Using speed, mobility, surprise, and an impressive array of weapons, it can harass, delay, and destroy advancing armor and mechanized columns and support the ground attacks with firepower.  Attack helicopters can be used to lay mines, destroy bridges, and create other obstacles to stall the movement of ground forces.

The Mi-24 Hind is the first threat helicopter specifically designed for attack missions.  However, it is capable of landing a squad behind enemy lines.  There are currently five versions of the Hind.  The first three, Hind A, B, and C, differ basically in the ordnance they carry.  The fourth version, the Hind D, features a completely redesigned front fuselage.  The Hind D's armament capabilities exceed those of the Hind A.  The Hind D has a four-barrel Gatling gun instead of the single-barrel machine gun of the Hind A and four launch racks for the At-2 Swatter or At-3 Sagger ATGM.  Another later version is the Hind E, which is basically the same as the Hind D, except it is equipped with AT-6/Spiral ATGMs on launch tubes under each of its wings.

Other helicopters which may be targets for ADA systems are the Mi-2 Hoplite, which acts as a spotter for attack helicopters, and the Mi-6 Hook helicopter.  Helicopters are the primary target for SHORAD systems in the forward area and may be targets for other SHORAD and HIMAD systems during deep airmobile assaults or reconnaissance missions.  Characteristics of threat helicopters are shown in Figure 17.






Drones and RPVs

Drones and RPVs receive guidance from one of the following sources:

  • Accompanying manned aircraft.

  • Ground control stations.

  • On board, programmable navigation systems.

Drones and RPVs may be used in the initial stages of air operations.  Their use will continue throughout the conflict.  These vehicles are used for reconnaissance, ordnance delivery, and ECM.  They are also used to deplete AD ammunition stocks without the loss of pilots or aircraft.


Learning Event 10:

The picture should now be relatively clear.  The enemy is quantitatively superior to friendly forces in aircraft, and the first fight--for air superiority--can be won only if ground-based AD weapons can help meet Phase I attacks.  The attacker, regardless of his Phase I success, must enter into Phase II, when the battle is joined by ground forces, and a combination of aircraft and ground-based systems is again required for friendly success.  ADA forces must then be prepared to meet the first attacks, and they must exact a heavy toll.  Possibly more important is the fact that significant numbers of AD weapons must survive Phase I to participate in Phase II.  Then they must again be successful if we are to win the first battle.

Is AD necessary? The answer should be apparent.  United States ground forces have been fortunate, because more than 30 years have passed since they have actually faced a significant air threat on the battlefield; but that luxury has now been exhausted.  The next time we find ourselves engaged in combat, our opposition will have and will project a serious air threat into the conflict.  A combined arms team minus AD assets will not win.

It should also be apparent that a combination of aircraft and ground-based AD systems will be required to counter any future air threat.  Before looking at how the US will employ its Army AD systems, consider the ground-based AD weapons that may be employed by the enemy.

The Soviet requirement for the AD of their mobile formations has been met by saturating the airspace from low-to-high altitudes, using integrated systems of conventional weapons and SAMs.  Field formations rely on vehicle-mounted SAMs and mobile guns to protect their fast-moving tank and motorized rifle units.  This mix of guns and missiles provides a mobile umbrella that accompanies each echelon, including forward-deployed battalions.  As new AD systems are introduced into their forces, the older systems are still retained in the active weapon inventory.

To offset or reduce an opposing air force's combat power effectiveness, Soviet doctrine advocates saturation of the airspace, from low-to-high altitudes, using an integrated system of conventional AA guns and SAMs.  These weapons are augmented by interceptor aircraft and ECM.

Soviet air defenses are established to provide both area and point protection for troops and objectives.  Area coverage is provided by SAM systems, and point protection is provided by divisional and regimental light AD weapons.  Normally, division commanders personally direct the placement of AD weapons, the laying down of fire support coordination lines, and the establishment of priorities and procedures for supply and technical support during the planning phase of an operation.  The divisional AD commander then plans deployment of his assets based on the division commander's instructions, the air situation, and the demands for command and control (Figure 18).



Practice Exercise

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Page last modified: 27-04-2005 07:23:05 Zulu