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BVR combat analysis

Discussion in 'The Americas' started by Picard, Jul 8, 2012.

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  1. Picard

    Picard Lt. Colonel RESEARCHER

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    Introduction

    Idea behind BVR combat is kill enemy from beyond visual range, before he has chance to respond in a kind. It was developed during Cold War, and fits perfectly with US tendencies towards ever fewer, and ever more expensive and complicated combat systems.
    These tendencies are exemlified in the most expensive fighter aircraft in history of military – US F22 Raptor, and its far less capable and almost-as-costly cousin F35 Joint Strike Fighter. F22 itself carries six radar-guided missiles designed to be used from beyond visual range and only two IR missiles for within visual range combat. So, are BVR missiles waste of space and money? And consequently, are stealth aircraft waste of money?

    BVR theory

    BVR theory had genesis at the end of the Second World War; conflict which saw widespread usage of radar on Western Front as well as several radar-equipped night fighters, such as British Mosquito, which used radar and guns. It also saw introduction of radar warning technology by the Japanese, which has shown to be very effective in night combat during Pacific War. Primary US BVR missile in Cold War was Sparrow, developed by US Navy starting in 1946.

    Modern – Cold War and later – BVR theory entails a technologically sophisticated fighter using radar-guided missiles to destroy targets at beyond visual range. Visual range itself depends on visual acuitiy, visual enhancements (binoculars or long-range imaging devices), light conditions, target aspect and size.

    Colonel James Burton selected five miles distance as BVR limit; however this is only rough approximation, since BVR limit can be defined as either:
    a) distance at which target is spotted
    b) distance at which target is identified

    As far as spotting is concerned, F5 is visible at four nautic miles, F16 at 6,25 nm, while F14 and F15 are visible at 6,8 nm.

    Powerful radar called-for by BVR theory extends detection range far beyond visual limit, thus justifying increase in aircraft size – or at least that's the theory. History, however, disagrees.

    BVR implementation

    Cold-war era BVR fighters started with century-series of fighters, which were significantly larger, more complex, faster when clean and more expensive than their predecessors. US Navy pursued F6D Missileer, complex and slow-cruising aircraft designed to defeat enemy targets with large Eagle missiles. F4H1 Phantom II was second aircraft, designed to carry radar-guided Sparrow missile; it was also adopted by the Navy.

    Later, other BVR fighters followed – tri-service, tri-mission F111, which turned out to be failure in everything it was supposed to do (except maybe in bombing); F14, and F15. USSR responded with Yak-28, Tu-28, MiG-25 and, later, Su-27.

    All of these fighters required two engines to overcome their excessive weight and drag, both caused by carrying large radar dish in the nose. They were also expensive: F15s per-hour operating costs and unit flyaway costs are almost double of F15s; far worse situation was with BVR-oriented F4 and WVR-only F5: F4Es per-hour operating costs are almost triple those of F5.

    In 1999 USD, F-15C was costing $8000 per flight hour versus $5000 for an F-4E. Similarly, F22s per flight our operating costs are now $61000 versus $30000 for F15C.

    Main problem with BVR combat, however, is reliable identification; neither radar or IRST offer any ID data on detected aircraft, and IFF system in itself is unreliable.


    BVR in practice

    Cold War

    During the Cold War, there were eight conflicts in which 407 air-to-air missile kills were made, and only four of these (two stages of Vietnam War, Yom Kippur War and Beka Valley) saw any use of radar-guided missiles designed to achieve BVR kills. In total, 73 kills (14%) were made by radar missiles, 308 (58%) by infrared missiles and 144 (27%) by guns. There is a visible and constant tendency of increase in share of IR missiles in total kills, while guns and radar missiles percentages are moving up-down in a zig-zag pattern.

    Moreover, 69 out of 73 radar-guided missile kills were scored within visual range. Out of 61 BVR shots actually taken, only 4 were successful – moreover, all four shots (two by USAF in Vietnam, two by F104s in Vietnam) were carefully staged outside the confusion of combat to prove BVRs combat worthiness – and one of kills in Vietnam was actually US F4, mistakenly identified as MiG-21. As for Israeli kills, only reason they went after them was US diplomatic pressure to establish BVR doctrine.

    Major shortfalls of Sparrow were its unreliability, requirement to keep target "illuminated" and requirement to use active sensor thus alerting enemy. In Vietnam, Sparrow had Pk of 0,08, as opposed to advertised Pk of 0,7.

    Majority of said 407 kills were made against mostly unaware targets, from the rear; very few targets tried to evade shots, and there were no head-on shots due to high speeds of aircraft closing.

    Desert Storm

    In Desert Storm, USAF made 41 air-to-air kills, with 16 kills that may not have been visually identified. However, GWAPS states that "16 kills involved missiles that were fired BVR", and that "more than 40% of engagements that resulted in kills involved BVR shots", leaving it unclear wether shots actually hit, or missed with targets being destroyed WVR. However, there are five certain BVR victories: one at 16 nm (and at night), one at 8.5 nm (night) and three at 13 nm.

    Two kills were made by guns - specifically, A10s destroying helicopters; 10 by heat-seeking and 24 by radar-guided missile. Out of 88 radar-guided missile shots, 59 at most were taken at BVR.

    During conflict, F15s fired 12 Sidewinders for Pk of 0,67, and 67 Sparrows for Pk of 0,34. Each Desert Storm Sparrow has cost $225 700, as opposed to $70 600 for Sidewinders.

    Reasons for this success are multiple. First, there was persistent AWACS avaliability, while F15s were equipped with NCTR (non-cooperative target recognition), giving commanders sufficient confidence to permit BVR shots. Positive ID was still required to ensure targets were hostile and that there were no friendlies in the area. Moreover, Iraqi pilots took no evasive action once missile lock occured, indicating either training or equipment failure, or both; also, no countermeasures were detected. All these factors (relatively ordered war, persistent AWACS avaliability, Iraqi equipent/pilot failures) served to improve BVR score, but were not envisioned by original BVR theory.

    Post-Desert Storm

    During operation Deny Flight, F16s scored three victories with AIM-9 and one with AIM-120; since four enemy aircraft were simultaneously attacked with Sidewinders, it is unlikely AIM-120 shot was BVR. F16s also weren't equipped with NCTR, making AWACS approval unlikely.

    During Operation Southern Watch in 1992 and 1993, two kills were made by using AMRAAMs from unknown range. In 1999, two MiG-25s were attacked with three AIM-7 Sparrows and one AIM-120 AMRAAM from F15s and after that by two AIM-54 Phoenix missiles from F14s. All missiles missed, and MiG-25s escaped.


    In short, BVR success required assistance of AWACS, NCTR and an incompetent enemy.

    BVR vs WVR

    Whereas in Desert Storm, F16 fired 36 Sidewinders and scored zero kills, at least 20 of these launches were accidental due to bad joystick ergonomics, and F16 itself is twice the weight of original WVR dogfighter envisioned by Fighter Mafia. Other lightweight fighter grew into F18, which also performed poorly – Navy and Marines fired 21 Sparrow and 38 Sidewinders, scoring one kill with Sparrow (Pk=4,76%) and two with Sidewinders (Pk=5,26%).

    Meanwhile, while US fighters achieved Pk of 0,34 against non-evading enemy with no countermeasures with BVR missiles, and 0,67 with WVR missiles, British Harriers achieved Pk of 0,704 with WVR missiles in same conditions during Falklands war (non-evading enemy with no countermeasures).

    Since 1991, 20 of 61 kills were BVR; USAF has recorded 10 AIM-120 kills; four were not from beyond visual range; 13 missiles were fired to achieve 6 BVR kills against targets that were not maneuvering, did not use countermeasures and, at least in Serbian case, radar; did not have combarable BVR weapon (radar missile, ARM), and all fights involved numerical parity or US numerical superiority.

    Thus, it is clear that BVR works best – or indeed, works at all – in conditions where it is needed least: against incompetent, outteched and outnumbered opponent with no countermeasures such as jammers and anti-radiation missiles.

    Unlike BVR, WVR allows for reliable target identification and damage assessment.
    WVR missiles had far better performance: Pk was 0,15 in Vietnam, 0,73 in Falklands (AIM-9L) but dropped to 0,23 in Desert Storm (although, see above) with deployment of flares, despite flare rejection circuits.

    Moreover, simple anti-radiation missiles can force everyone to turn off radars – and all US fighter radars transmit at frequencies around 10 000 Mhz in order to get all-weather capability. As such, enemy can either use radars in lower or higher frequencies or not use radar at all so as to get IFF capability without need for IFF transponder. This was confirmed by 1969 tests, which lead to USAF abandoning anti-air ARMs. Russians, however, have ARMs such as Vympel R27P.


    Conclusion

    Given everything above, it is clear that BVR combat is impractical in real shooting war. As such, US focus on extremely expensive missile trucks in form of F22 and F35 may easily come to bite them in the backside if US ever fights a technologically comparable opponent.
     
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  2. Death.By.Chocolate

    Death.By.Chocolate 2nd Lieutant FULL MEMBER

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    You plagiarized the work of Lt Col Patrick Higby and presented it as your own "analysis".

    Here is a link to the original research paper written by Lt Col Higby.

    http://pogoarchives.org/labyrinth/09/06.pdf

    For the OP, read up on the latest IFF Mark XII Mode 5 NATO standard. Unlike IFF systems of the past today IFF transmits GPS coordinates along with extended data(altitude, speed, heading and more) this information eliminates any ambiguity regarding the identify of a military aircraft during times of war.

    Today airborne radar can develop a real time image of moving target using inverse synthetic aperture (ISAR) imaging capability. ID'ing an aircraft is trivial it is now possible to identify the armaments (bombs / missiles) hanging off the wing at extended range. Hell we can read tail markings with radar. NCTI (Non cooperating target identification) is not a problem.

    The launching platform is no longer required for mid-course updates, the RWR cannot be relied upon to provide sufficient warning. The bearing of the actual missile attack will only be known to the pilot a few seconds before end game. Then there is LPI, contrary to your uninformed views on the subject LPI really works.

    Your knowledge on the subject is outdated ,do us all a favor and stop force feeding us your ignorance.
     
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  3. Picard

    Picard Lt. Colonel RESEARCHER

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    I haven't plagiarized his work. Lot of data is from his work but also from work of Jeffrey L Ethil, as well as RAND presentation.

    And you ignore everything said about anti-radiation missiles and BVR missiles themselves.

    As for ISAR:
    Forget it. It can't work in combat.
     
  4. Averageamerican

    Averageamerican Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    Lot of this material is misleading, In the Iraq war allmost all kills were by missiles, missiles dont care if your in visual range or not. Most of the kills were in visual range because of the need to ID the enemy air craft because there were so many US allies the US could not be sure whom they were shooting at. Allies get real fussie when you shoot down their planes. BVR and Missiles are not a one shot one kill any more then its one bullet per plane. Guns are on planes now day for the same reason infantry carry bayonets as a matter of last defense and possible ground attack. There is also the fact that electronic technology has doubled more the five times since 2001 and missile upgrades and advances have kept up with the technology at least in the USA. With todays technology it is estimated six kills per 13 missile at BVR ranges. According to Picard that would mean BVR does not work, but missiles are a lot cheaper then planes or pliots.
     
  5. Picard

    Picard Lt. Colonel RESEARCHER

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    So according to you, USAF should just shoot at everything that flies, friendly fire be damned?
     
  6. Death.By.Chocolate

    Death.By.Chocolate 2nd Lieutant FULL MEMBER

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    Why because you say so? Do you have any real word current experience on ISAR to dismiss it as irrelevant? You base your opinion on a wiki article that references an ISAR research paper produced in 1985. A lot has changed since 1985, the biggest change is that computer processing required for complex ISAR calculations that renders a 2D ISAR image now fits on an airplane.

    Did you know NATO maintains a NCTI signatures database of all aircraft? Did you know the compressor blades on aircraft engines produces a unique unmistakable radar echo? This is called JEM spectra signature and NATO has it for almost every known aircraft type both military and civilian.

    Identification is no longer as difficult as it was during the first gulf war or Vietnam.
     
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  7. Picard

    Picard Lt. Colonel RESEARCHER

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    Then why IAF has these cases of friendly fire AverageAmerican likes to mention?

    And you forget that IFF is far from only problem with BVR.
     
  8. Scorpion82

    Scorpion82 Captain FULL MEMBER

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    You'll never advance Picard will you? As long as you can't accept that technology is progressing and as long as you try to sell decades old results as representative for today these discussions are useless.
     
  9. Averageamerican

    Averageamerican Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    I just went ahead and put him on ignore, did not realize I could do that until today.
     
  10. Picard

    Picard Lt. Colonel RESEARCHER

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    And you don't understand that technology progress works both ways? Missiles improve, but so do countermeasures. And assymetric response is always possibility.

    As for identification... I'll believe when I see proof it can work in combat.
     
  11. satya

    satya Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    Picard, ARM will be least effective against multiple LPIs in air.
     
  12. BMD

    BMD Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    I think missiles are definitely better than they used to be but I would argue with the assertion that the actual bearing of the missile attack won't be known until seconds before impact. If an F-35 can track a rocket launch from 800 miles away, then surely a BVR missile launch from say 50km can be picked up.



    There is no doubt that BVR missiles are improving but there is some question as to whether they will offer satisfactory Pk from stealth ranges (in actual combat), from which a 5th gen fighter is invisible to radar and IR tracking and whether the launch will give away the launch aircraft's position. BVR missile performance and detection will be the biggest determining factor in the success of stealth aircraft wrt air combat.
     
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