Yesterday I posted about the fact that non-stealthy Israeli aircraft apparently had no problems striking deep in Syria and that the Syrian air defenses could do nothing about it. I also noted that this wasn’t the first time that Syrian had been shown to be virtually impotent against Israeli aircraft.
Today, I’ve got what basically amounts to a guest post by two regular commenters on MO, Dfens and James. I’ve pulled large parts of what they’ve got to say on the subject. Very slight editing only.
At the time when we were facing the Warsaw Pact, the problem of penetrating enemy airspace was not the individual systems but the multiple overlapping dense placement of differing types of air defenses. Basically, we had a problem of two many enemy radar sets operating on different frequencies from multiple source points. Our jamming systems were incapable of suppressing the threats with a reasonable loss rate. Basically, every war game had us going nuclear within 7-10 days with most of air forces strike assets being rendered ineffective within 5 days. It was really grim. That lead to the development of stealth, the heavy investment in cruise missiles, anti-radiation munitions and some specialized space assets.
Syria has nothing like the defenses East Germany had. So you can bypass and neutralize the air defenses by attacking a few key choke points. By disrupting the communication systems, you force each site to operate on its own. Since the local radars are relatively short ranged, their effective reaction time will be limited and if you disrupt command and control, its very probable that the site will be unable to act effectively. If you know the location, frequency, operator habits, command and control lines associated with missile site, its pretty easy to suppress the site. The Russia missile systems specs and operating protocols are well known, and can be countered.
More, and a pic of our current attack aircraft, below.
Syria has nothing like the defenses East Germany had, so you can bypass and neutralize the air defenses by attacking a few key choke points. By disrupting the communication systems, you force each site to operate on its own. Since the local radars are relatively short ranged, their effective reaction time will be limited and if you disrupt command and control, it’s very probable that the site will be unable to act effectively. If you know the location, frequency, operator habits, and command and control lines associated with missile site, it’s pretty easy to suppress the site. The Russian missile systems specs and operating protocols are well known and can be countered.
In the absence of massive interconnected defenses with multiple ranks of redundancies, your non-stealth craft can penetrate most air spaces. The reason we built the F-117’s was to have them penetrate the East German air defense and be able to take out the key nodes that would render the system vulnerable to the non-stealth aircraft.
IMO Stealth aircraft are a great force multiplier, but you give up a lot of capability and have to spend a lot of money to achieve stealth. Once the air defenses are down, the stealth premium is no longer needed. So why in heavens name would you want an all stealth air force?
The stealth cost is, for the most part, an industry lie. Stealth does not demand that aircraft be made from composites, especially when it comes to small fighter airplanes. The composites are a performance item, and their value there is controversial. They certainly detract from maintainability and survivability when compared to aluminum and titanium. Stealth coatings are expensive, but not all that expensive in the grand scheme of things that make these airplanes cost a lot, and they add less to the stealthiness of an airplane than shaping.
Given that shaping is the most important aspect of stealth, and that stealth shaping in the post F-117 era is not incompatible with good aerodynamics, there is really no reason why stealth aircraft should be significantly more expensive than non-stealth aircraft. The cost would be more noticeable with a transport or bomber because you’re holding tighter tolerances, etc., but for a fighter it’s pretty close to a wash. In fact, I cannot see any good reason not to incorporate at least some degree of signature reducing shaping into every current generation US fighter. It would be inexcusable not to, in my opinion.
Here is the current lineup of attack aircraft:
Korean and US Air Force (USAF) Commanders are given the opportunity to view static displays of the USAF F-117A Nighthawk (foreground), USAF F-16C Fighting Falcon, USAF F-15E Strike Eagle, and an UASF A-10 Warthog (rear) at Osan Air Base, Korea. Camera Operator: SSGT SUZANNE M. JENKINS, USAF Date Shot: 17 Mar 2003
Since this was taken, the F-22A Raptor has, of course, entered service and will presumably be taking on some of the stealth strike missions currently handled by the F-117A.