• Monday, November 18, 2019

Avoiding detection in aerial combat

Discussion in 'Pakistan Air Force' started by GriffinsRule, Aug 19, 2019.

  1. GriffinsRule

    GriffinsRule FULL MEMBER

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    The art of avoiding detection

    By Air Marshal (ret’d) Greg Bagwell CB CBE
    Airforces Monthly, Sept 2019

    The idea of stealth aircraft is now firmly set in the public imagination. Yet, we are still some way off from the Harry Potter-like ‘cloak of invisibility’. Firstly, stealth capability today is about reducing radar signature in relatively narrow bands of the spectrum; rather than making aircraft totally undetectable. But, invariably they are able to reduce detection ranges to such a degree that a stealthy aircraft can either fly through the now larger gaps created in radar coverage, or get close enough to target the very thing trying to detect them.

    But even stealth aircraft have Achilles’ heels. Noise, heat, visual signature and even certain angles or aircraft configuration allow some chance of detection. Moreover, modern surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems and even airborne radars are looking at new slices of the electronic spectrum to use frequencies that render current stealth designs less effective or even defunct. So, the evolution of the airborne cat-and-mouse game continues. But, while we have seen major air powers each pursue their own versions of stealth aircraft, the greatest advances have perhaps been in the development of detection and interception technologies, so maybe aircraft are losing this ‘arms race’.

    Of course, stealth aircraft still only form a fraction of even very modern and wealthy air forces, so what are the other tools and tactics available to crews in today’s battlespace? Well quite simply, the rules of the game are rather straightforward and involve a combination of physics and cunning. Let’s start with the technical bit first – the physics boils down to three simple techniques: stay outside detection range, blank out the other side’s detection capability or deceive it to look elsewhere.

    Staying outside detection range is what stealth characteristics aim to achieve. By reducing detection range, you can actually decrease standoff and, in extremis, penetrate an enemy’s defence system. It goes without saying, that knowing where systems are is a vital element in staying out of detection range, and long-term surveillance is aimed at gathering both system locations and electronic signatures to enable this. Of course, even more critical are missile flyout and engagement ranges – respectively, the weapon’s ‘legs’, before it loses kinetic energy, and the practical envelope at which it can shoot down a target. Historically, these have been much lower than the detection ranges, but new systems are increasingly able to shoot over the horizon and this is forcing strategic assets such as surveillance platforms further away from the front line.

    Jamming and spoofing

    Standoff or even self-protection ‘noise’ jamming is the next simple technique that aims to deny or at least disrupt detection; it does this by swamping hostile equipment – creating so much ‘electronic noise’ within an operating system that its users have to de-tune it to such an extent that detection ranges drop dramatically, or are even totally shut down. However, this technique has a few drawbacks in that it requires significant power for an air platform to overcome a ground-based system with greater generation capacity; moreover, it can actually act as a beacon for enemy sensors able to home in on a jamming signal. Finally, it needs to be able to match the operating frequency of the targeted hardware, and today’s air defence systems are increasingly able to hop frequency incredibly quickly, which needs an equally agile jamming signal or ‘barrage’ jamming of a wide spectrum band, which again demands significant power.

    And so, the final technique is one of deception rather than avoidance, and this requires an electronic signal that can decoy, distract or divert detection methods. These are more prevalent in modern systems and can include the use of standoff, supporting or deployable decoys. Indeed, much of the recent hype about swarming drones hints towards this use for cheaper, expendable platforms that can act as a diversion for other more valuable platforms.

    I have, of course, grossly oversimplified some rather sophisticated physics and technologies, but the basic principles hold good for radar-guided systems. Of the other detection measures, increased performance in sensors and processors is making the broader spectrum (visual, infrared and noise) increasingly exposed and cannot be discounted as a growing vulnerability in the coming years.

    Clever tactics

    So much for the science, what about the art form known as cunning. There is an old fighter pilot adage that ‘if you’re not cheating, you’re not trying’, and nowhere is this more true than in the tactics employed to avoid detection. SAM battery operators are trained to spot patterns or assume certain behaviours. There have been numerous recent examples, in relatively benign circumstances, where air defence weapon systems have engaged friendly aircraft that either weren’t exhibiting certain behaviours or became confused with nearby platforms that were hostile. Saturating a defensive system or creating a complex or conflicting picture can buy precious time to decrease detection or at the very least decrease reaction time to engage; and in this case anything goes to try to create maximum confusion. The rest, my friend, is classified, but let your imagination run wild, the less predictable the better.

    I hope I have painted a rather more nuanced picture of a battle to reduce detection times to such an extent that any reaction is too slow to carry out a successful interception. Rarely will this result in a totally one-way fight. The history of air power is littered with surprising shoot-downs of platforms that were considered immune to attack, and these will not be the last. Control of the air remains a key foundation of air power doctrine, but what was once largely a battle between aircraft is now a far more complex equation, but one where ‘he who sees first wins’ still holds as valid today as it did over the battlefields of World War One.
     
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  2. The SC

    The SC ELITE MEMBER

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    I think timely firing air to air or air to ground missiles with flares filled warheads from let's say 100, then 80, then 60, 40 and 20 km with fighters in an in-line formation (one behind the other) will do the trick of avoiding detection against any air-defence system..
     
  3. GriffinsRule

    GriffinsRule FULL MEMBER

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    Head on aspect only?
     
  4. gambit

    gambit PROFESSIONAL

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    No, you cannot. Most countries import their arms so what you are saying is not practical because the quantity of what is imported is limited and must be carefully allocated. This is also one major reason why the US can overwhelm most defenses -- by sheer numerical superiority in attack.
     
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  5. Yaseen1

    Yaseen1 SENIOR MEMBER

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    I think after spy satellites which provide live information of every part of earth and AI software used to detect fighter jets from the information provided by satellites it will become difficult to evade radar even for stealth aircraft
     
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  6. seven0seven

    seven0seven BANNED

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    :disagree::disagree: You forget that Satellites traveling to fast too track fighter jets continuously, may be geostationary satellite could track fighter jets, but there are no spy satellites in geostationary orbit, mostly scientific/weather/earth observing satellites in geostationary orbits, spy always in the much lower orbit then geostationary satellites @Yaseen1 :disagree::disagree::disagree:
     
  7. The SC

    The SC ELITE MEMBER

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    Most countries..maybe.. but take the case of Pakistan and you can see that the idea is feasible with the JF-17 and its home made munitions..

    Yes, at least to gain distance while avoiding detection..
     
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  8. Syed1.

    Syed1. BANNED

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    The Mitsubishi technology demonstrator (Shin Shin, Japanese 5th gen prototype) uses something called active stealth where the entire external skin of the plane is like a get circuit board and any radar signal touching it is actively cancelled so that it appears invisible on the enemy radar. I wonder if that system actually works or its just on paper.
     
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  9. GriffinsRule

    GriffinsRule FULL MEMBER

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    I asked because it would not work in reality. Aerial warfare happens in a three dimensional space. The threat (radar) you are trying to spoof can be below, above, ahead, to the sides or even behind you. So your line formation will not work at all.
    As a side note, flares or chaff offer a very small window to confuse incoming missiles for eg. Why would you release them periodically and exhaust them all (only a certain number can be carried) instead of using them as intended when the need arises?

    Anyways, just wanted to post the article here as it sums up LO concepts in very plain terms for people like myself to understand.
     
  10. Foxtrot Delta

    Foxtrot Delta SENIOR MEMBER

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    Fire EMP creating missiles would be best.
     
  11. The SC

    The SC ELITE MEMBER

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    The idea was to be applied when the radar location was already known.. that goes without saying.. and for the flares, I pointed out missiles armed with chaff not the same flares that are used for the fighter planes protection.. I was mainly talking about aluminum chaff. radar countermeasures...

    https://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/systems/chaff.htm
     
  12. Signalian

    Signalian PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    video game tactics.
     
  13. Itachi

    Itachi BANNED

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    EMP fries your own computers and other avionics too.....which is why they're not used that much.

    Plus, there's no such thing as "EMP creating missile".....any missile creating EMP will destroy itself first. :D

    Pluses of EMP can be made yes but those too act as a beacon. The thing is to use these as decoys and keep them cheap.
     
  14. The SC

    The SC ELITE MEMBER

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    It was just an idea to be discussed and see what might come of it..It was intended for professionals..
     
  15. Signalian

    Signalian PDF THINK TANK: ANALYST

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    I concur with the only professional who replied you
     
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