05 October 2015

Stealth, or "low observation" technologies and the ramifications for other types of technology

Deckard left this comment which deserves more serious discussion.
The F35 is the biggest scam in the history of mankind.It takes a certain kind of chutzpah to offer a plane that is inferior to a fifties MIG 21 in flight characteristics and charge 300 mil usd for it.The whole F117 "stealth" program was ended by a 1961 S-125 Neva SAM and it was common knowledge even among Warsaw pact armies that the 1959 Oborona P-14 Tall King could easily track that aircraft. But then again the best marketers in the world are in the US and Lockheed has a long history of bribes and failed aircraft. F104 Starfighter flying coffin lost badly to the MIG21 in air to air combat
Not so much about the flight performance, but about the older Soviet radars being able to track the Nighthawk.

The "Holy Grail" of stealth technology has been the ability to be equally concealed in all portions of the spectrum. The problem is, that just ain't happening.

Older Soviet ADA radars used longer (lower) wavelengths than newer, higher resolution higher frequency RADARs used in aircraft for targeting. This means a Nighthawk can be "stealth" against another aircraft and not stealth against a ground RADAR tuned to different frequencies.

Even when we talk about "stealth" we have to talk about "what frequency, and what angle" in order to determine anything useful. Most "radar signatures" are calculated using the "head on" profile assuming that there will be an aircraft to aircraft detection. For pilots looking to engage other aircraft this makes sense. For ADA RADARs, this does not make sense. This is why the F117 Nighthawk got so much Electronic Attack support in Desert Storm.

Secondly this brings up another aspect of modern warfare, information sharing. If you can block the information from the ground RADAR station from getting to the enemy aircraft, you have nullified that aircraft from having any effect on your "stealth" aircraft. This is why I predict that AWACs are going to be the number one priority target for any future air battles (or war games).

The ability to use a broad range of frequencies requires a bigger antenna (which may be another blog post if anyone is interested), so AWACs, big, slow, and not stealthy at all, might be the only thing flying that can actually "see" an enemy stealth aircraft, which means the information from the AWACs needs to get to the friendly "swarm" of stealth aircraft to provide an effective intercept. If you can block the AWACs from getting that message out, you can support the insertion of the aircraft that will attack the AWACs. We'll come back to this in a bit.

But if this doesn't make you start going, AHAH! That's why the Navy has been buying Growlers like they are going out of style! Although keeping the production lines open is another good reason for the Navy, there just wasn't much affordable performance growth left for the EA-6B platform.

And this brings us to the proliferation of counter stealth technologies.

Does anyone remember the big selling points for the F-35 included the extensive EW and networking capabilities as part of the sales pitch?

Back in 2013 BAE started working on new EW algorithms for ECM/ECCM in aircraft. http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2013/09/19/BAE-developing-new-EW-algorithm-suite/UPI-43151379609142/?st_rec=43151379609142

Now in 2015 BAE got the contract to upgrade the EW systems for the F-15.

Will the new EW Suite have the new algorithms in it as a core capability? Or will that be added in later as a software upgrade? Don't know, the answer is probably classified.

In other news, the venerable Tornado is getting an ECM upgrade:
http://www.finmeccanica.co.uk/-/rf-jamming And the F/A-18 Super Hornet family is getting a sensor suite and networking upgrade.http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Harris_enhancing_targeting_capabilities_Navy_aircraft_999.html

What is seems like is the "Generation 4+, 4++ and 4.5" fighter aircraft are steadily being upgraded.

And, because the proliferation of "stealth" is on the way, expect a huge explosion of IRST systems to get mounted on legacy airframes.

What it boils down to is that the "stealth" 5th Gen fighters are going to need a non-stealthy platform to keep them informed, otherwise they'll emit RF which will give away their location. And once they emit, they have such small airframes that the frequencies they can effectively receive on so they can be spoofed. So expect AWACS hardening to be the "next big thing" for the USAF, and expect peer threats to develop jammers to specifically target AWACS capabilities. The transition to "network centric warfare" in the sky has been going on as long as I've been paying attention, so expect more targets to cut the lines of communication between nodes.

Maybe the next big thing will be a dispersed "radar array" with a headless network architecture so that the tactical aircraft don't have to rely on an AWACs. Who knows?

Comments are open.

04 October 2015

Looking back at the Stryker and the similarities and differences to the F-35

There are a number of similarities between critics of the Stryker program (and wheeled brigade concept in general) and the F-35.

Mike Sparks and Victor O'Reilly are huge fans of the M113 and MTLV respectively as "cost effective, combat proven" alternatives to the Stryker. Mike Sparks has never let it go, despite the Stryker doing as well in combat as the M113, and I've emailed Victor O'Reilly about his 2003 paper criticizing the Stryker program to see if his opinions have changed with 12 years of operational history to review. Between the US and Canada, both countries are moving away from M113/MTLV now and more towards wheeled medium brigades.

Criticism #1, it's a dog. The Stryker and F-35 were both heavily criticized as not being survivable in the complex battlefield of the future because of performance concerns. The Stryker went on to serve well in Iraq and Afghanistan in the COIN fight, the F-35 remains untested in any sort of actual combat.

Criticism #2, it's expensive. The Stryker was more costly to procure than the M113 or MTLV which already had established industry base for manufacture. The M113 has since been completely scheduled for replacement by the AMPV based on the Bradley family.

Criticism #3, it's part of a corrupt procurement practice. The Stryker was manufactured almost solely under the LRIP process, something that the F-35 has done as well (so far). The allegations of corruption for the Stryker never really went anywhere as they were generally directed at GEN Shinseki. Once Shinseki was out of the driver's seat, most of the allegations of corruption ended too. The F-35 is now embroiled in a new corruption story in South Korea.

Criticism #4, you can't quantify "how you fight the system" as part of effectiveness. Many of the critics of the Stryker platform correctly noted that it absolutely sucks when you use them in the role of Abrams and Bradleys. They ignored the fact that they are not Abrams and Bradleys and would not be employed like Abrams and Bradleys, and many of the critics still make the same argument. One on one the F-35 loses to an F-16, but 4 F-35s verses 9 F-16s goes the other way. The truth is that war is a team sport, so bring all your friends.

Criticism #5, it's not deployable enough. The Stryker platform did not meet the 1000 mile C-130 deployment, although it did make 850 miles. Victor O'Reilly called this a "tactically insignificant distance" despite being 85% of objective. The F-35 is requiring way more support, meaning that it is not "deployable" without a much larger infrastructure to support it.

Criticism #6, we already have a platform that does this. The M113 and A-10/F-15/F-16/F-22 respectively. This is true, but an M113 wouldn't be able to do a road march from Estonia to Bavaria either because you don't ruin European highways with tracks in peacetime. So the Stryker has demonstrated a unique capability, and the F-35 has yet to demonstrate any unique capability.

Now the differences.

The Stryker was first an allied system, the F-35 is a completely new system.

The Stryker was procured to fill a capabilities gap for the "Savage Wars of Peace" and Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) and allow commanders MORE flexible force deployment options, the F-35 is designed to fill existing capabilities serviced by existing aircraft.

The Stryker was not adopted to provide a technological edge. The F-35 is promising to deliver a technological edge.

The Stryker needed to be cheaper to operate than existing vehicles (it is on road, it breaks even off road compared to the M113 or MTLV), the F-35 is not based on hourly flying costs compared to the planes it will replace.

The Stryker was adopted and then upgraded based on operational feedback. The F-35 is being upgraded because it has been in development for so long parts are already becoming obsolete.

Now the F-35 could surprise all of us, after all the Stryker surprised a lot of folks. But the Stryker still has critics who are both loud and consistent on message despite having history against them. The F-35 has been sold on a lot of hype, mostly on "next gen" capabilities. By the time they get it fielded, the F-35 will be "current gen" capabilities compared to Russia and China which will be fielding their Fifth Gen fighters in force not too far behind the US. At best the world will go back into a military stalemate of a cold war.

03 October 2015

Arguing versus Debating

The difference between debating and arguing is that if it is done right, debate leads to deeper understanding of an issue and can be persuasive without anger. Arguing doesn't do that. People want to win arguments to feel like a winner. People debate because they believe in the merits of their position (sometimes ironically called an argument).

The "rules" for debating are formal for debate clubs, and a bit more informal outside that setting. A well crafted presentation includes sound logic and open data, and only points out the weaknesses in the opposing view for logic or data.

Arguing on the other hand, is about dominating the conversation and "winning" so that the person gets a feeling of superiority. And you can tell that someone is not engaged in debate by these handy dandy items.

Logical fallacies, these are the linguistic equivalents to military sneak attacks and feints. If the position requires a logical fallacy then the person is not engaging in a debate from reason and logic, they are arguing. Learn to spot a logical fallacy, and call people out when they commit them. Bonus points if you can spot them all in this phrase, "Only an idiot wouldn't already acknowledge that I'm correct. I just don't have time to look up every reference you link so you'll just have to use the common definition of the words as I've already provided."

The rest of the list are just specific examples of logical fallacies.

Expanding the issues (red herring fallacy), this is the linguistic equivalent to a military broad frontal assault looking for a weak spot in the defenses to break through and exploit. Instead of staying on focus, such as whether a light bullet at high speed or a heavy bullet at moderate speed is a better choice for hunting game between 80 and 160 kilos, they try to bring up your mother, political party, or other details that are contentious. If you aren't hearing inside your head, "What you want to talk about THAT?!?!?! How about the time you did X or Y?!?!?!?!" from someone in your past, I didn't explain this one good enough.

Refusing to acknowledge a shared reality (variation on begging the question). This is the linguistic equivalent of "broken diplomacy." Just google the phrase "It's not about the nail" and watch "refusing to admit to a shared reality" in action. If someone won't engage with you until you accept their version of reality, just don't engage with them no matter how much you love them. It's not worth it to let crazy people define your reality, and anyone who won't work with you to define the space you want to communicate in is someone who will be utterly toxic to your well being.

Refusing to share the floor (argumentum ad naseum). This is the linguistic equivalent to "shock and awe" or "strategic bombing" and is used in politics as a filibuster to actually stop debate or votes. When someone refuses to lay off the attack, it means they have no defense for the position they took and are trying to "win at any cost." This is a clear sign that they don't want to debate, they just want to "win." This is a naked sign that you are not having effective communication.

Ridicule, it is a bit of a variation of an ad hominem, but can be against the statement instead of the person. This is the classic "troll" action that is the military equivalent of psychological operations. At this point there is no actual position or statement, it is just an attempt to get the other person to abandon their rational position (if they had one) and sling it out where the snarkiest "wins." As a side note, when someone says something that I find absolutely no merit in, I instinctively reach for "ridicule" as my response.

Irrationally emotional response. This is a variation on the "appeal to emotion" fallacy. With the latest school shooting you'll see this every time an activist lobbies to "do something" to "stop this insanity." The words may be strung together in a factual manner, but without the emotional appeal be a very weak position. Hence the reasons why people use this tactic after school shootings when people are emotional and not thinking rationally. Think of something like, "I think that the Space Marines should have planetary assets in common with the Army and interplanetary assets in common with the Space Force and Space Navy." is met with a response like: "THAT'S A NEGATIVE! HOW CAN YOU BELIEVE SUCH CRAP?!?!?!" which is a pretty good example of an irrationally emotional response.

Now, this is the internet, so you can bet you'll run into way more than I've listed. Generally if someone is "arguing" at me, I'll just do my best to make sure they have a bad day. When someone is unreasonable, it is impossible to reason with them. So don't bother, either indulge your inner demon and just ruin their day, or let them be.

02 October 2015

Seaworthy Stryker Program

The USMC just got an option to have a huge logistics commonality with the Army.


The Stryker is about the same weight as a fully kitted out JLTV, but holds 11 bodies instead of 4, and it is being offered in an amphibious variant (the JLTV isn't). Since the JLTV is mainly a "patrolling" vehicle, and so is the Stryker, I think that HQ USMC has some good options on the table for the ACV program.

Combine that with the 30mm cannon program the Army has going and the USMC could field a "medium weight" fighting force that would give the ground force commander mobility and firepower even when the weather grounds the air wing.

Now my bias is that I'm a fan of smart logistics (for example we use the same engines in Strykers and MTV trucks, the same Bradley hulls on Paladins, and the Bradley drive train on the USMC AAV) so I think that if all else is equal, the Seaworthy Stryker should get bonus points for having parts commonality with the Army Stryker fleet, especially in the era of declining budgets.

What do you think?

Ebola update, September 2015 Recap.

Remember that phrase "slow burn" I've used in the past to describe the current ebola outbreak? Odds are it will continue. Last week only two confirmed cases in West Africa.

Numbers continue to fluctuate at a low level with breaks in time where there are no detections. In the last month the low week detection has been zero, and the high five but immediately followed by another week of zero. These weeks without detections are both scary and encouraging.

Scary because they are evidence of survivors continuing to be infectious is mounting as cases trace infection chains back to a survivor as the most likely disease vector. This possibility throws the "we are three weeks away from the epidemic being over" assumption right out the window if proven true. We do know that survivors are going blind, and because of how the eyes have immune isolation carry the live virus even after the bloodstream tests clear.

Encouraging because it shows that tracking data is working and transmission prevention measures have a measure of effect.


01 October 2015

Blogger Disqus Disconnect Causing Comment Confusion

I've been having sync issues between Blogger and Disqus.

So to the gentleman who left this:
Wow, stirring the pot with masturbatory twaddle? That sort of undisguised polemic mouthed by imaginary protagonists went out of style in the 15th century. Pshaw. You can do better than this. Hell, your NCOs can do better than this.
Please know that I got your message. Of course I take my fiction very seriously so I totally welcome your helpful and insightful feedback with the many suggestions for improvement. Please continue to let the butthurt flow through you and have a nice day!

Was that better?

Interesting News

Excalibur Precision Guided Munition adapted into Naval 5" guns. Triple the range of conventional warheads means even greater "over the horizon" fire support. This capability would add some more teeth to the "Littoral" missions, including the USMC's amphibious mission, so I hope it is adopted.

Latvia joins Estonia and Finland as Sentinel Air Defense RADAR users:
Lithuania is already a Sentinel operator https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Defence_Battalion_(Lithuania)

This means that information sharing of RADAR detections across the eastern flank of NATO (please note that Finland is not a NATO member) will get much easier with technical systems commonality. The numbers right now are a bit on the low side, but it illustrates the Baltics are serious about building commonality and interoperability between their military forces. Since RADARs are purely a non-lethal capability, this may intentionally be a message towards Russia designed to show strategic resolve without being tactically provocative.

150 M1A1 Tanks are being sold off through Foreign Military Sales. The performance of the Abrams under Saudi Arabian military control makes this an interesting development. It also makes for interesting speculation on the reasons for proliferation of "modern armor" around the world. You don't buy tanks without a use in mind, and tanks haven't been strategically decisive in the brushfire wars and COIN fights of the recent past, even though they can really dominate a fight if used properly in the Combined Arms team.  http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2015/09/30/US-Army-awards-General-Dynamics-358-million-for-tank-upgrades/4181443642102/?spt=slh&or=1

Comments are open.