Warcraft (Stealth Paper 2)
First published: 7th July 2011 | Dr. Alexander Clarke
3.1. Scenario Outline
3.3. The Attack Concept
3.4. The Battle
“Warfare is the art of the deceit”
If what is said above is true, stealth technology is perhaps the ultimate deceit. In the last couple of decades this new component has been mainly added to the air threat, and the stealth plane has almost obtained the status of a ‘must have component’ for any nation which feels it should be taken seriously. However, many people’s appreciation of stealth technology differ. For instance, the views expressed in the media vary from treating it as some sort of black magic against whom there is no defence, to a condescending appreciation of “it just a passing evolution and soon countermeasures will be widespread”. The opinion of the authors is that as always in appreciating new technology the threat has been both overblown and underestimated. And, as far as naval forces are concerned, has never been appreciated in full. It is thus time, in the light of progressing technology and the debate about air defence of large task forces, to try to assess the realities of the situation. It is also the nature of this work, and this report specifically to build upon the other report within its series, “Smoke and Mirrors”, and specifically the next section ‘The Nature of the Threat’ which is a discussion shared between both papers.
First of all Stealth is not a sort of cloaking technology imported from a well-known science fiction series or Harry Potter. Stealth aircraft do not suddenly and magically disappear. For that matter neither do stealth ships. Stealth technology is the art of reducing the radar reflection of a given target (air, ground or sea based) to a level that it can be confused with the background reflections; rather like submarines use their differing method of movement through the sea to reduce their exposure to detection. Land, birds, sometime even clouds reflect radar emission with a variable level of intensity. With the increase of sensitivity of radar receivers, more and more of those unwanted signals are received and displayed. To reduce the ‘false’ alarms these could generate, computed and special software are incorporated into the radar units to reduce the clutter and filter unwanted reflections and thus relieve some of the pressure from the operators. To do all this the Software had to have criteria, so for example in earlier systems smaller reflections were completely filtered out, threshold detection levels were introduced (they were based on both the dimension of the radar reflection, the Radar Cross Section (RCS) of a given object and speed).
To both counter and take advantage of these new radars’ technologies various ideas were considered. The primary effort has been directed in reducing the chances of a successful detection. That has resulted in ‘stealth’ technology which is designed with the aim of reducing the RCS of an object until it is ignored by the radar themselves. and thus probably never even shown to the operator. Usually it works on two principles: dispersion of the radar signal away from the receiver and absorption of the radar signal to reduce the reflection strength. Both approaches use a combination of radar absorbing materials and angled or curved surfaces to accomplish their objective. Older platforms, like the now retired F-117A were using mainly the first principle, creating a distinctive angled look. Follow up projects, such as the B-2, F-22, F-35 and X-47 UCAV opted for emphasizing the second with completely different results.
One important fact is that stealth designs tend to emphasize the reduction of frontal RCS with less effective protection on the side. Also RCS is dependent on the position and range of the radar emitter relative to the target. Thus different radars will have different RCS returns from the same target and with q decrease in range the radar will have a corresponding increase in returns. There is also the operating frequency of the radar to consider in detection range of stealth aircraft and of course when evaluating modern military forces there is the problem of data linkage and combination. For example, one Type 45 Daring class might be transmitting, but another one, perhaps more, could have their receiver active, thus quantifiably increasing the capability of detection.
Another feature of stealth technology is the fact that, to reduce the likelihood of reflection, ordnance has to be carried internally in order to reduce the number of angles presented to radar signal. The more missiles, bombs and other equipment that are carried externally, the less a given plane is really stealthy. Even if the weapons themselves are deemed stealthy their simple presence creates an increase in the RCS.
From the surface ship’s point of view, the preferred reality is, of course, not a one on one or even a single ship against multiple threats scenario as is found in “Smoke and Mirrors”, but one where the attackers find a well prepared Task Force with multiple layers of defence. This is the preferred, and most successful, naval scenario for dealing with all threats, sub-surface, surface and airborne. However, in such a scenario the stealth capability of both the attackers and defenders is more complex. Its use and utility become far more mission dependent. It also involves the use of several different platforms on both sides. Platforms for which the word ‘stealth’ can have very different connotations.
In this scenario we see a Task Force composed of a Carrier Battle Group (CBG) and Amphibious Task Group (ATG). Its composition to be outlined in greater detail in 3.2. The CBG will enter the area first with the aim of drawing some of the enemy’s force and dispatching it. However, it will also have to protect the ATG from attacks when that enters the region. The scenario will cover the time from entry into theatre of the CBG to when the land forces are declared independent of the ATG commander or Change of Operational Command (the ChOP) occurs. To explain the previous sentence properly it needs to be understood that during the transport and assault phase of any amphibious operation, the Naval Officer is both the commander of the ships and the combined force of ships and land forces. Responsibility for planning, however, is shared equally, and the decision for when the CHoP occurs rests largely with the Land Force Commander. This, though, is moving beyond the scenario.
For the purposes of this scenario it is presumed that the recommended naval force strength and capabilities as advised in the other Phoenix Think Tank works has been adopted, and the Royal Navy total escort strength would be at least 6 T45s, 12 T45B2s (produced to a DDG form) and at least 28 C2 vessels and that the Royal Navy has been equipped with 8 Astute Class SSNs and 8 Brave Class SSKs Furthermore, that the Royal Navy has been maintained at 3 carriers, with 3 Queen Elizabethclass in CATOBAR configuration and also supplied with 2 LHDs as OceanReplacements and 2 more Bulwark class vessels LPDs to form the core of any Amphibious Task Group. In addition to this it is presumed that, along the lines of current government plans, a Carrier air group of 18 F-35C, 18 X-47 UCAV (for the purposes of the scenario given an operational designation of AQ-47, A for attack and Q for unmanned), 4 Merlin Airborne Early Warning (AEW), 4 Merlin Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), 4 Merlin Commando Transport (CT) and 6 A160 Hummingbird Rotary UAVs.
This proposed contest will be with a peer opponent of invention, who will be armed with the most capable forces available – although these forces will also include asymmetric units which feature in the wider scenario. However, whilst invention can be used to create the enemy, in order to make the scenario as realistic as possible in terms of geography it has been given a location. The opponent therefore is the Enlightened Brotherhood of Freed African Unionists (EBFAU); who in a half putsch/half election took power in Madagascar in 2017.
Since achieving power they pursued a dual policy of aggressive diplomatic power plays and significant military build up in order to secure their position for the Brotherhood’s next aim; the bringing together of continent of Africa under their ‘enlightened’ leadership. At 23:00hrs on the 25th of December 2024, they grew frustrated with the pace of success, and activated long imbedded sleeper cells in almost every sub-equatorial African nation, whilst simultaneously launching a massive strike against military facilities throughout the region. Their stealth aircraft, cruise missiles and IRBMs penetrating and laying waste to even the relatively advanced air defence network of South Africa. To add to all this, hackers unleashed viruses, disabled firewalls and stole sensitive information which was promptly published; leading to disarray and disaffection in the target nation’s chains of command – as well as the resignation of the Premiers of the two nations closest to Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania. The latter nation is in by far the worst state and without quick reinforcement could well fall very suddenly to the combination of rebels (whose army includes a large number of freed criminals) and EBFAU forces landed to aid them.
With America unwilling to get involved in what looked to many Senators as “another bl**dy Afghanistan” with Russia and China quickly selling weapons to both sides. The EU declared it’s neutrality due to French lobbying, and other nations feeling that it was better to look the other way than to look impotent. The Commonwealth Nations looked to Britain for aid and their only chance of survival. The Prime Minister responded promptly, dispatching HMS Ark Royal, the newest of the Queen Elizabeth Class carriers (and thanking his stars he overruled the naysayers and had her built) with a battle group to the area. This was quickly followed by the dispatch of a Amphibious Task Group centred on the first of the ‘Ocean Replacements’, the LHD HMS Fearless (named appropriately for the Flagship of the Falklands Amphibious Task group), loaded with a very enhanced 3rd Commando Brigade. The mission of this force was to retake the key town of Dar Es Salaam from rebel/EBFAU forces and so prevent the further resupply and reinforcement of those forces. It was hoped that this would enable the troops of the African Union to begin the wider mission of liberating the territories captured by the forces under the leadership of the EBFAU. In addition to this, and due to the devastation of the region’s airfields (not that there had been many to begin with), the nearest to the operational area left intact was Faya airport in the city/town of Faya-Largeau, Chad), the British Prime Minister ordered HMS Prince of Wales to be readied as quickly as possible, unfortunately HMS Queen Elizabeth, the namesake of the class, was unavailable due to having been rammed by a French destroyer in an incident reminiscent of when two Strategic Deterrent Submarines ‘bumped’ into each other. This was to enable the Task Force to have both greater firepower itself and also to be able to provide more support for the African Union troops.
EBFAU, whilst possessing no nuclear submarines (SSNs), have amassed a collection of 12 diesel boats (SSKs), 6 Pakistani Type 214 and 6 Chinese Type 039. These submarines were deployed in three belts stretching from the African coast, with the 1st level at the Cape, the 2nd starting roughly at Durban, and the 3rd in the Madagascar Straits and of the southern and western seaboards of Madagascar. This was done to provide warning of the approach of the British Task Force with special emphasis on the Amphibious Components. When the Ark Royal Battle Group under Rear Admiral Duncan Collingwood (a career naval fighter pilot, who had also commanded a UCAV unit) entered theatre it engaged the first line, these were mainly Type 039s, one was sunk by HMS Ambuscade an Astute class SSN. The two which had formed the wings of the line were withdrawn to reinforce the 3rd line. The 4th was sunk by one of the Battle Group’s C2 small frigates – more accurately by its Merlin helicopter. This vessel had been charged with watching for tailing vessels, and had detected the 039 as it had sprinted with its trailing sonar; the prompt dispatch of the helicopter and an A160 hummingbird UAV fitted with ‘dipping sonar’ dealt with the problem very quickly. However, things were starting to heat up and this was when Vice Admiral Michael Saunders, his flagship HMS London (a T45B2), the Amphibious Task Group, and the extra escort vessels arrived and where we join the scenario.
Vice Admiral Saunders was not considered a slouch by anyone, when the Prime Minister met him before despatching him he had known that in the finest traditions of the Royal Navy he was despatching a thoroughly professional and reliably inventive officer. Saunders had had a varied career, he had flown helicopters, commanded minesweepers, frigates, destroyers, an Invincible class carrier, and the Amphibious Task Group. He had even done a few weeks aboard a submarine thanks to a friend in the USN. In Rear Admiral Collingwood, and the Amphibious Task Group commanders Commodore Sarah Ramsey and Brigadier Arthur Jacobs, he knew he had 3 good subordinates, but as he was facing an unyielding and exceedingly well equipped opposition he determined to deploy the assets he had to take the fullest advantage of their capabilities.
The EBFAU had not had the time to build up a deep sea navy, but they have added 1 destroyer, the submarines as already mentioned and about 2 score Chinese made attack vessels to the small mainly light amphibious focused pre-EBFAU Madagascan navy. However, their army and their air force are different matters. The army as well as having numerous hit and run mortar units, has large quantities of armour and artillery. Should this make it to the mainland then even the capture of Dar El-Salaam will most likely not be enough and far more troops and forces will have to be brought in. It is also of note that the army started the war with many IRBMs with chemical and possibly biological warheads, though no nuclear. However, most have been used in the initial fighting. Their air force is the greatest threat though. Whilst it may lack reconnaissance assets other than 4 P8 Poseidon Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft (LRMP), 3 A3F AWACs and some very old Global Hawk and Predator UAVs, it does have a squadron of 10 F-22 Raptors, a squadron of 24 H6 Heavy Bombers, 3 squadrons of 16 Sukhoi SU-30MK3 and finally 3 squadrons of 16 Dassault Mirage 2000-5MK2s.
Knowing all this Admiral Saunders decided upon five actions:
1. He would take the Task Force wide into the Indian ocean so as to have more freedom for manoeuvre. But as the Madagascar straits are only 250 miles wide, with enemy on both sides, such a move would take longer than a direct passage but still offer a good chance of killing a large number of the ‘Ships Taken Up From Trade’ (STUFT). Varying from virtually unarmed to unarmed these merchant vessels were being called upon to make up for the lack of ships available to transport military equipment, a lot of which was for the resupply of African Union forces.
2. To operate the force on the minimal of emissions, only 1 Merlin AEW and 1 Forester Adapted equipped A160 being allowed to be active at any time – and these so that the CAP could be directed and that any prowling enemy aircraft could be spotted. In addition to this the 18 F-35C would be maxed out with 3 CAP patrols of 2 F35 each aloft. One over the pickets, one 100nm up threat of the CBG, and the third will be over the ATG. The carrier will also be maintaining 4 more F-35 at deck alert of +5 with as many other aircraft as possible ready to be moved up and launched.
3. To split his force into four groups, the task force pickets, a pair of T45B2s(HMS Edinburgh and HMS York) and HMS Ambush (an AstuteClass SSN) under the command of Captain Norman ‘Fishy’ Ford would be placed closest to the threat. Directly east from them would be Collingwood with the CBG (the carrier, 1 T45, 2 T45B2, 4 C2, and HMSAmbuscade + Auxiliaries). Slightly north and further east would be Ramsey with the ATG (the amphibious ships, 1 T45, 2 T45B2, 4 C2 and HMS Battle – a Battle class SSK), and south of that would be Saunders himself with the STUFT ships and any auxiliaries (the escort being HMSLondon, 1 T45, 8 C2 and HMS Astute) that were not immediately required by the either the CBG or ATG.
4. As much as possible to maintain at least one AQ-47 over the works proceeding at Waterkloof to assist with security and hopefully allow the airbase to be brought back online ahead of expectations.
5. The remaining AQ-47s would nightly launch a constant stream of attacks on low-priority targets; this was aimed for three effects. Firstly, the inability of the EBFAU leadership to stop these attacks would hopefully make them look weak after their claims of invincibility. Secondly, it would provide data on their defences which were in many ways an unknown quantity. Finally, it would force their air defence pilots, who had been in combat operations for over 6 weeks already, to be on operational readiness every night disrupting their sleep patterns – in contrast to the Royal Navy pilots in the Task Force, for whom the distance would provide a constant routine and a chance to stockpile sleep for the coming battles.
The passage went well and moving forward at a steady 16kts the Task Force avoided completely the second line of submarines. In fact despite the exhortations of Mervin Kane, the leader of EBFAU, and the diligence of Air Marshal Harry Lambert, the Chief of Staff, at no point up until they reached the Seychelles 15 days after passing Cape Town did the EBFAU have more than the roughest of ideas as to the whereabouts of the Task Force. Although a steady loss of UAVs and one P8 Poseidon had provided them a rather large circle of possibility. Even when they lacked information they had not been inactive, the surviving two 039s from the first submarine line had been paired with two Type 214s and then been redeployed to cover the west and north of Madagascar, up to Dar Es Salaam. Furthermore, three Type 214s were withdrawn from the 2ndline the moment EBFAU received the information on the Task Force’s whereabouts from their operatives on the Seychelles.
The information they received though was slightly inaccurate. More importantly it was compiled inaccurately. EBFAU were told that a Sampson Radar (the British equivalent of the AEGIS system) had been detected. This was true. They knew from press reports that the Task Force was split into three, with pickets somewhere. They knew there were 14 ships (the 13 Destroyers and the Carrier) with that radar in the Task Force. They presumed though that the radar detected belonged to a ship in the CBG or the Pickets; after all the other task groups were defenceless. They therefore presumed as it carried on further north before turning west that they had at least 10 days before any operations could be launched. EBFAU were wrong. The radar that was turned on…belonged to HMS London, the Task Force flagship. Saunders had split the Task Force at the Seychelles, with the CBG passing to the south of the Seychelles at 18kts aiming for a point 300nm south west of Dar Es Salaam; a position which they should reach in under 2 days. The ATG turning west once past the Seychelles and aiming for the Msasani Peninsular (chosen by Ramsey and Jacobs for the landings) at 17kts, whilst Sunders had taken the STUFT Group north at a leisurely 14kts, returned to 16kts when, 18hours after passing the Seychelles, he turned it west aiming for a point about 300nm north west of Dar Es Salaam. The pickets had never even reached anywhere near the Seychelles before they were then heading as fast as they could (so fast that an Auxiliary would have to be dispatched to refuel them once the CBG was in position – a risk Saunders and Captain ‘Fishy’ Ford were willing to take) for the Northern entrance of the Madagascar Straits. For the purposes of this movement, whilst a Merlin AEW (150nm down threat of the CBG) and two A160s (one 200 miles East of the CBG and one over the Picket) would be kept in the air at all times, Saunders and Collingwood agreed none would activate their radars. Therefore the Royal Navy task force went completely electronically silent apart from the loan radar on HMSLondon, and other than this reliant upon passive means for detection of any enemy strike. This was a risk, and for 24hrs it paid off.
With the CBG half way and the pickets almost in position they started running into EBFAU forces. The CAP orbiting the pickets took out another nosy P8. At about the same time both the pickets and the CBG bumped into submarines, and whilst these vessels (two214s and a 039) were made short work of their “I’m dead’ beacons broadcast the truth. The game was up. The EBFAU leadership ordered the remaining P8’s, UAVs and AWACs up with an escort of 4 F-22s and a squadron of Mirages to find and destroy the Task Force. Added to this mission the P8s and UAVs were all loaded with AGM-84 Harpoon Anti-Ship missiles to operate as armed recon planes; if they found the task force their role was to launch an immediate attack hoping to inflict some damage. Saunders, Collingwood and Ramsey quickly conferred by Satellite link, they knew that if EBFAU managed to sink even one of the troop laden ships of the ATG it would have an enormous political effect and that it would be over a day before the ATG reached its point of disembarkation. However, even with this in mind, Vice Admiral Saunders concluded that one risk had paid off, why not try another? So within 20 minutes of the attacks and 5 minutes of hearing the tower take off communications, a 4th pair of F-35Cs were in the air, and the Electronic picture of the Task Force changed once again.
The pickets separated, till they were 20nm apart. Then HMS Edinburgh the vessel closest to the Mozambique coast turned on its radar. Simultaneously HMS Ark Royal also turned on her radar, as did the two A160s turn on their Foresters and of course the Merlin AEW went active taking control of the forward CAPs. Whilst this took place 4 AQ-47’s loaded with internal tanks and enhanced jamming units were launched, flown up to maximum height and one instructed to orbit each group. They were left inactive though so as not to alert the EBFAU to the Task Force commander’s plan of action. Followed by 4 more AQ-47 loaded with HARMs and sent out in a line towards the coast of Madagascar at wave top height. Then came a 5th and 6th pair of F-35s which took up position behind the HARM AQ-47s. These were followed by the remaining 10 AQ-47s, 4 fitted as tankers and 6 with runway busting bombs. The first group took up a holding position just north of the CBG, whilst the others headed for the Eastern side of Madagascar. From a situation of having just a single radar broadcasting far to the North, the EBFAU forces were now faced with three surface and three airborne radars. It was another attempt to buy precious time for the ATG. The longer it was uninterrupted, the greater chance of success, and now, with a wall of radiation between it and the main threat axis, any attempt to disrupt it was only going to be achieved at a cost.
Attacking the ATG though, was exactly the aim of the EBFAU forces. Killing these, by necessity, large vessels loaded with 1,000s of Royal Marines (and as traditional legacy of the Cold War with British ships relatively under-armed) as well as tons of equipment would provide a huge and very dramatic political victory. It was felt that such an occurrence would be enough to force a withdrawal of the Task Force. So even as the reconnaissance aircraft were launched the Sukhoi’s, the H6s, the remaining Mirages and F-22s were being loaded and warmed up. The Sukhoi’s armed with Kh-59MK2 anti-ship missile. The Mirages and H6s were armed with C-803 anti-ship missiles. The plan was simple, first locate the ATG, then the Sukhoi’s, Mirages with the F-22 to protect against any CAP, would launch on the most direct route to it. The H6s would go out to the west and circling to the north would aim to come from ‘behind’…if timed properly it was proposed that this would overwhelm the defences leading to the destruction of the key Task Force vessels.
Should this fail though, then the EBFAU leaders have another fall back plan. Should any landings be attempted they will immediately respond by launching their IRBMs at it – even if this means sacrificing their own troops within that area. It is a cost they are prepared to accept to smash the beach head and as many vessels as possible.
40 minutes later, Collingwood, who is exercising command of the air battle, sees what he was looking for, the HARM equipped AQ-47s have sniffed out the line of P8s and AWACs as they approach with their radars on searching for the ATG. With a single order and couple of clicks of a keyboard, they are dispatched as each one has three HARM missiles aimed at it from 4 black holes, none escape. Their Mirage escorts immediately go radar active to find the attacker which is what provides the F-35s behind the AQ-47s with all the data they need to launch their AIM-120d AMRAAMs at maximum range. Only 2 Mirages managed to escape. The F-35s then returned to the Ark Royal to rearm and reload, even as more F-35s were being launched – to bring the total airborne up to 14. With 2 hanging back between the ATG and the STUFT – Collingwood had 12 or 66% of his fighter force airborne to meet whatever would come.
Meanwhile the F-22s showed more restraint than their colleagues. They realise a stealth on stealth fight goes the way of the side with outside support and it is pretty obvious the F-35s have that, so, instead, they decide to attack the Task Force’s airborne radars. With a single transmission from their commander they descend in a pre-planned operation to wave top height and split up, 1 for each A160 and 2 to take out the Merlin. At super-cruise it took minutes to reach their targets. Whilst the attendant CAP tries to protect it, the Merlin AEW is just too bulky and to un-manoeuvrable to stand much of a chance. Besides which it has 4 missiles inbound on it at speeds way more than double it could ever achieve.
It does not go all the way of the attackers and one of the attacking F-22s is caught on the IR of an F-35, it too goes down as its friend leaves it in a 2 on 1 fight with angry British naval fighter pilots. The A160 over the pickets fares better, on detecting the missiles it drops its radar and cuts power. Descending to wave top height almost immediately, with a short burst of power it manages to land on the flight deck of HMS York. The F-22 sent to attack it had not realised it was maintaining position over a silent ship – missiles burst out of the MK41 launcher in the foredeck of HMS York, hoisted into the sky at where the F-22 was turning side on to her, two ASTER 15 missiles later the F-22 pilot ejects before destruction. The final F-22 has further to go, and the operator of the A160 has ordered it to drop its radar and dive for the sea before it gets there. However, this F-22 has some luck, it picks up some ASW radio chatter, as another submarine is destroyed, to the north but not as far as the first surface radar contact. This F-22 has found the ATG. The secret is out.
The EBFAU’s two strike groups are already in the air, when they receive this information they go to radio silence and begin an attack run at wave top height hoping to minimise their exposure to the surface radars. Three more A160s and two more Merlin AEWs are launched almost as soon as the others have gone down. One A160 will take up position over the STUFT, one over the Pickets, and one over the ATG; whilst the two Merlins will take up positions 100nm to the south and to east respectively of the CBG.
The EBFAU had added to their force, and whilst none of their subs carried missiles, Harry Lambert ordered 6 of the small missile craft off convoy duty to join the general attack. This meant that the Task Force would have to deal with missiles coming from the South-West, the South and South-East at roughly the same time. Principally these missiles would be the Chinese made C803s, however the fragmentation of the fighter strike group caused by the more northerly basing of the SU-30MK3s meant that they would reach engagement range first – something the EBFAU leadership considered a benefit, as their missiles, the Kh-59MK2 were focused on destroying radar…they like the HARMs used earlier by the AQ-47s are designed to home in on emissions, with the apparent loss of the Task Force’s airborne radar the loss of emitting surface radar would ‘cripple’ the defences. This would then be followed by a mass strike of C803s, but what takes place is not quite according to the EBFAU leadership’s plan.
In fact the battle begins in two places almost simultaneously. The AEW is up and working again, Saunders and Collingwood knowing how important it was had made sure the replacement aircraft had been ready to go, within less than 15 minutes AEW had been re-established and the Sukhois were spotted. At the same time the commander of the missile boats decided that that getting close to the RN Task Force might lead to promotion, but the not the kind he wished for. There was another option, he had a target –HMS Edinburgh’s radar was still on and going strong after all – so at a range of 150nm they let fly, each of the 6 boats unleashing 8 of the C803s, for a total of 48 missiles in the air. Whilst these missiles were being launched by EBFAU, the Task Force was not out of the action. The Sukhoi’s had been spotted, and without ever turning on their own radars 6 F-35s engaged at almost minimal range with AIM-120 AMRAAMs; this was where the Sukhois got into trouble, they were fighting an enemy they could not see, missiles they did not know about till too late and to make matters worse if they turned round and went home they would certainly be killed by political masters anxious to ‘encourage’ others in their service. This meant that they did die, the F-35Cs were fitted with 8 AMRAAMs each, 48 missiles and 48 targets. 36 of the Sukhois went down to the first wave, the others soon followed to the shorter range Sidewinders and even cannon fire in what had been a text book demonstration of how stealth aircraft should be handled, and should be supported.
The 48 missiles inbound to HMS Edinburgh were another matter, Captain ‘Fishy’ Ford knew that if he had bothered to ask any air force man he would have been told he was dead., but ‘Fishy’ had been a diver, he reckoned with some evidence that he knew more than most what it took to sink a ship, and he was not worried. ‘Fishy’ Ford knew that in a Type 45 B2 he had a ship built to be a picket. The original Type 45s had been designed like the original Aegis cruisers – to defend a task group from attack, any missiles, any aircraft, anything which gets through the CAP they were supposed to deal with, they were the central defenders of the team. The T45B2s had been developed because it was noticed that whilst the RN had the central defenders, it had attackers with its carrier based air power and SSNs, in the Type 23 Duke class and their successors the C2s, it had the wingers and the off centre defenders. It did not have any midfield though. It had no units which could move from defence to offence. Thus the T45B2s had been built, slightly longer and broader than the original Type 45s, they actually had a smaller crew, but a lot more fire-power. 3 not 2 Phalanx Close-in-Weapon-Systems (CIWS), as well as 3 BAE MK110 double 57mm mountings gave them enough fire power in close quarters that even without the missiles they had forward of the Phalanx in front of the Bridge they would have stood a chance against the incoming ‘vampires’. Their greater length and beam had allowed them to stock far more than the 48 missiles of the Type 45, they had space for 72 in their MK41 VLS (as well as 16 Harpoons in their own launchers), itself an enhancement. They could carry Tomahawk cruise missiles, SM-3 Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence Missiles, ASROC and of course the ASTER missiles. On top of that already great package they were able to accommodate 2 EH101 Merlin medium helicopters and 4 A160s in their hangar or in the case of HMS London have half the hangar converted into an extra communications facility to support Vice Admiral Saunders in his role as Task Force Commander. All this though this did not make them really that new, because their profile from the 4.5in gun on the front to the slant of stern was to all intense and purposes that of the original 6, just slight larger – in a similar way to the way the Type 42 Batch 3s had differed from the first two batches. It was this which had also made them cheap in comparison, with almost no development costs they had just been churned out by yards anxious to keep work going through a recession & recovery.
When the missile launches had been detected, Captain Ford ordered his pair of ships to turn towards the threat, and increase to maximum speed. York’s radar activated as well, joining her sisters in the search for the incoming missiles, and those units which had launched them. The computers and the operators did not have to search for long for the former, and as they came in range they were analysed processed, and then it started a seemingly endless ‘whoosh’ from the fore deck as missile after missile was launched. All the time Phalanx’s and the 110s waited for any leakers – there were of course one or two, but they did not last long as mostly they had at least 4 of the close quarters weapons of each ship (and in one case both ships) engage. Once this was over ‘Fishy’ Ford decided that he should reply in kind, and seeing that Saunder’s had given him permission to run his own part of the battle, he decided to make use of the part of the Type 45 B2’s offensive armoury. Mounted behind the tall radar mast, 4 quad Harpoon launchers stood pointing out to either side on each ship. With 6 targets though, it would have been wasteful to fire all 32 missiles, so each ship took 3 targets and launched 12 missiles…the EBFAU craft were not equipped with much defensive firepower, and fast though they were, they were not fast enough. The missile boats though were not the only EBFAU forces wishing they were faster.
The inbound Mirages were now approaching where they had heard their Sukhoi colleagues go down. They were slightly reassured by the presence of the F-22s, though not by much. This fact may have been even less reassuring if they had known that the 6 aircraft which had destroyed the Sukhois had been reinforced by six more, which were now taking the lead as the RN fighters closed on the 32 Mirages. Once again the AIM120s flew thanks to data received from the airborne radar, and whilst a few of the Mirages survived, one of the 6 F-22s escorting them got hit. The battle closes again, and now Sidewinders (famous for the victories earlier versions provided RN Sea Harriers with during the Falklands War) are even more important – by far the best method of dealing with stealth as they home in on Infra Red emissions, something which stealth cannot really cover in these circumstances. However, some of the F-22s tried to repeat the earlier success, 3 diving off from the battle with the aim of engaging the Merlin AEW. Unfortunately for these F-22s they discovered how quickly a Queen Elizabeth class carrier could turn around fighters. The 4 F-35s which had caused such havoc with the Mirages covering the reconnaissance flight were already airborne and looking for revenge. The fact that the other F-22s had slipped past them earlier and destroyed a Merlin was not something that settled well with the RN pilot’s view of themselves. These three F-22s therefore ran into four F-35s with something to prove. In something more like an engagement from the Second perhaps even the First World War than what is expected in ‘modern conflict’ these 7 aircraft, looking so alike, duelled with cannon and once again Sidewinders. The 3 F-22s went down hard, but they went down – a sort of grim satisfaction being registered silently by their opponents. However, the battle was moving away from the south.
Blaring out of the Eastern Sky like vampires racing a sunrise roared the 24 H-6 bombers, each carrying 4 C803 missiles. This would be another text book occasion and the day was not even light yet. The Task Force CAP was far away, even the pair of F-35s providing CAP by loitering between the STUFT and the ATG had been edging south towards the sounds of battle. Thus when at 210nm out the H-6 bombers climbed out of the wave tops, and upon reaching launch altitude each rippled of their 4 missiles and made a course for home as fast they could, it came as something of a surprise. This meant that 96 missiles were now inbound in the general direction of the ATG. The loitering F-35s accelerated to engage, and launched their own missiles, but they had only 24 missiles (AIM 120s & Sidewinders) between them and there were not many more left on the other F-35s. The AQ-47 jammer aircraft which had up till now just been holding position, were activated – filling the sky with electronic noise. Noise that a small missile radar finds problematic, but noise that a powerful ships radar could just about ‘burn’ through. This though, as was said earlier, was the type of situation for which the T45 had been designed for, and the capabilities which the T45B2 had capitalised on. As the missiles bore in 2 Type 45s, HMS Daringand HMS Diamond, and 2 more Type 45B2s (this was in addition to HMS London), HMS Truro and HMS Glasgow, turned on and began cycling through the firing sequence. Whilst the C2s, the little frigates moved to be closer to the big ships that they were charged with shielding, with their weapons and themselves if necessary. It was like the pickets earlier, only more so as the 5 ships, the 3 midfielders and the 2 central defenders began knocking down the incoming missiles. In days gone by they would have formed a line and fired broadsides. For this battle they merely orientated the ship so the missiles had to do minimal post launch manoeuvring. Slowly the inbounds drop off the screen as one by one they got taken out. The couple which leaked through the outer defences falling to point defence missiles from the C2s assigned to that mission. However, the question that needs now to be answered what were the strikers doing whilst this was all going on?
The 6 AQ-47s loaded with runway busters had certainly not been idle, they followed a pre-planned course, using internal guidance systems to minimise their electronic signature. With the ‘war’ taking place over the straits and to the north, they had flown wide to the south eastern shore of Madagascar. The shore was crossed with no fan-fare, and they split up into 3 pairs, each pair heading for one runway. With the precision of binary, they flew straight down the runway’s putting a zig-zag of 8 holes along their length. There would be no landing for the bombers or any other EBFAU fixed wing aircraft. It was a play for which there was no counter. Possibly it might be asked why it had not been done before, except that if it had there would have been no victory for the allies to celebrate – just a bombing mission. Saunders and his officers had known they would need something special to be able to make the wider mission work, and this battle established a moral ascendency over the enemy – something which in war can be more crucial than anything tangible. With EBFAU air defences down, the 42 Tomahawk cruise missiles carried aboard the 7 Type 45 B2s were launched, targeting key command and logistics hubs located by the electronic intelligence gathering which had been conducted on during the earlier phases of the conflict…
This is where the scenario for our purposes ends. There is no need to speak of the constant searching of the AQ-47s for the EBFAU’s IRBM launchers, of the successful firing of two of those weapons. Interestingly enough, just after the Royal Marines had landed on the Msasani peninsular and were advancing towards Dar Es Salaam proper, the EBFAU forces were ordered to withdraw leaving just the Rebels. There is no requirement to point out that this left the least capable forces facing a very capable enemy, and that the ballistic missiles which were supposed to arrive and give the EBFAU victory, never made it past HMS York and her SM-3s. It is certainly not worth mentioning that less than 3 days after what became known as the battle of Comoros (a little island in the northern part of the straits) there was an internal coup in EBFAU and the new ‘grand keeper of the enlightened’ Harry Lambert sued for peace.
This may not be the scenario most often discussed, but it is certainly among the most likely to occur. A small number of stealth aircraft, combined with a larger number of battlefield “hotrod’s” – that is upgraded 3rd & 4th generation aircraft armed with the latest missiles. Furthermore, it is wrong to universally apply ‘our’ or rather ‘western’ morals to actions of others. Whilst it was not included in this scenario (apart from in the most oblique references) it is very unlikely that Admiral Saunders would not have also had to contend with a constant barrage of political commands, and political targeting (i.e. you cannot hit that base, it’s close to a school. This compared to perhaps the view that it is highly unlikely anyone is going to school next door to such a base during a war, and besides the weapons are so accurate that they should hit the base) – in the Falklands war the local task group commanders felt keenly the absence of a Task Force Commander. He, of course, existed but he was back in Britain. This is what caused a lot of the trouble between commanders, as the CBG is a very different organism from the ATG or the Landing Force and requires different things. Furthermore, without the Task Force commander down south the politicians demanded direct links to the senior officers in command, even when they had better and more important things to do than to discuss the Deputy under Secretary of the Treasury’s latest views on the politics of the situation.
As can be seen in this scenario, the fact is the Su-30MK3s, the Mirages and even the H6s were all a far larger threat to the Task Force than the stealth F-22s. That accepted, the F-22 is in this scenario principally an air-to-air platform and if perhaps there had been more of them, and there had been more reconnaissance assets, then they would have had greater success against the AEW and greater success against the CAP – and if enough had been available some could have been used as part of the strike package. The trouble is though, stealth works best when it can hide in clutter, and at sea the only radar clutter is surface clutter. This means the aircraft have to be low, very low – and this affects their range of operation in a negative way – it reduces sensor range and increases fuel consumption as well as being more taxing on the pilot. This means the aircraft if they keep at the low height have to get close, and the closer the more they are disadvantaged. The ship has more and better sensors, the ship has better survivability. A warship can most often take multiple weapon hits to sink and/or disable it. Using the Eurofighter Typhoon as an example; it is so dependent upon its computer to fly, that should that be disabled it will fall from the sky. This is the modern reality. Aircraft in many ways are becoming the Battlecruisers of the modern age. They have exchanged armour for speed, firepower for range, fly-ability for manoeuvrability; the difficulty comes becomes it is never ending loop of needs needing more speed, more range and more manoeuvrability – because the missiles, sensors and other weapons facing them are also getting faster, more manoeuvrable, and of greater range… It must be wondered whether the system which will be the Aircraft Carrier to the plane’s Battlecruiser has already arrived, and whether they, like the Battlecruiser, will be content with returning to the more supporting role from which they first evolved.
Further to all this, it should be noted that in this work it was decided to stick with focusing on stealth, rather than perhaps put in other concepts put forward for consideration by the PTT…i.e. Arsenal Ships; including one of these vessels would have again changed the dynamic of the scenario – a massed cruise missile strike could well have been used to cripple various EBFAU targets, it could have been used to wipe out their air defences and push them into retreat – but that would have then been an examination of how an Arsenal ship could be employed in such a conflict, rather than an examination of stealth. In reality if an arsenal ship it probably would have been something in between the scenario outlined over the previous pages, and the one in the previous sentence; Aircraft Carriers and Arsenal ships are not mutually exclusive items, if ever employed they will be best employed together where their mutual capabilities will serve as an enhancement and multiplier for each other.
Of course the third scenario is hypothetical, but it showcases the real capabilities in a way the authors felt would make it most understandable to those without vast amounts of previous knowledge. The questions of this report though are real. What is stealth? What purpose does stealth serve?
It is important to be able to grasp the concept behind modern technology in order to avoid being overwhelmed by it and its prophets. Too often in the past a technical solution has been believed to be also a strategic, operational or tactical solution. History had demonstrated that it is not always so.
Military operations are complex. There is nothing simple about putting a bomb on a target or a platoon into a landing zone. For the former the target must be located, identified and tracked, the appropriate type of ammunition has to be selected and then delivered. For the latter, then it will often take days of preparation and planning, building upon years of training to make it successful. Often, every role is better fulfilled by specialised aircraft, and specialised units – but in general war the very specialism’s which make it so good for one thing can make it very bad at another. Warfare is a game of “hide and seek” in which identifying the other side before they can identify you is now the primary goal of forces. Doing that often requires multiple units to do it for those which will actually mount the attack.
The analogy of the two men in a dark alley armed with shotguns and torches comes to mind when describing stealth in modern warfare, although it simplifies the problem of course to a degree, it is still appropriate. Neither man wants to use his torch and give away his position. Under such circumstances they must approach until they can distinguish a shadow in the dark, and hope that the shadow is the target. If there is more than one man on each side in the alley, it will be a truly deadly game. One man might use the torch illuminating the alley for the one with the shotgun. But this in turn exposes him to the opposition so any move has to both cover them and allow an offensive action. The more illuminators and the more shotguns involved the more complicated it gets.
There is also another inherent danger in believing technology is the ultimate solution. Counter technologies are constantly developing. Technology advantages are fleeting. Often they are effective only for one or two uses, then other nations want a counter and offer the necessary cash and it is developed. Phased array and multi frequency radars have been developed to detect stealth planes at longer ranges. Techniques to maximise chances of detection have been refined.
Some would in fact say that technology is just a chimera. Of course not, it is just less a game changer than people want to believe. Even when counters are developed, technologies are still useful, but then they become part of a multi-layered approach. From ancient times the right answer to military problems has been combined arms. Combining different platforms to exploit strength and compensate weaknesses is the key of being successful in warfare – it always has been. Relying on miracle weapons is never really plausible.
The big advantage of the British Task Force in the scenario against the “brotherhood” had been the fact that they were relying on a full array of platforms. Defending the Task Force only with surface ships, submarines or F35C would have ended in defeat. The enemy instead relied heavily on just the air force to deliver victory. Had the enemy also used more sophisticated submarines and warships the odds would have been much more balanced. An improbable but possible streak of luck in the missile attacks would have increased damage, and luck is always a factor. Still there is another element in that equation, training. Training increases morale. Everything else being equal training will be the deciding outcome, not technology.
In the end stealth aircraft are important. No one denies that, but they are also part of a complete and combined arms approach. In the recent times stealth capability has been trumpeted as the final solution to every military problem. This stems more from ignorance than competence. It is also worth noting that stealth technology had been developed not to attack small moving targets, but to destroy large fixed installations deep behind enemy lines. Subsequently, it has been expanded to improve chances in air to air engagement. But stealth is also a defensive measure and to achieve success offensive measures have to be taken, thus reducing the effectiveness of the stealth. Also, despite the claims to the contrary, stealth is not revolutionary, it is just an evolution of already known concepts – a modern equivalent of the Trojan Horse. It is just the latest section in a race which is as old as war. The race between hiding and seeking: where each side gains fleeting advantages, but ultimately, usually, ties.
This leads us to another analogy. Warfare can be equated to an unfair game of cards. Both sides want to have a stacked deck. In such a case the role of a country is to provide its military with a deck stacked as strongly as possible. In the case of the defence of a task force against high technology air attack this translates into the need to improve the following areas:
• The Carriers are a very necessary core; a 3rd carrier is a massive force enabler and cannot be overstated in importance. Whilst 4 would spectacular, 3 would in all honesty provide Britain with indispensable adequate force for the vast majority of circumstances likely to occur.
• A proper organic AEW capability, both land and sea based.
• Britain has to be independently capable or it might as well close up shop now – this does not mean it has to be capable of doing everything on its own, but it does mean that it has to remember that its interests are its own and there is no security in relying upon the goodwill of others, no matter how good the ally, they have their own national interests and their own security issues which they will quite rightly put first as the first duty of any government is to protect its own citizenry and they interests…not those of another nation.
• Most importantly stealth is not a magic fix. It is a tool whose application gets best results when applied in concert with others.
 The recent revelation that the USA had been watching Osama Bin Laden’s hideout by means of a high level stealthy RQ-170 Sentinel drone without the Pakistani’s knowledge could well be considered an omen of likely future uses for stealth technology.
 In fact one of the biggest problems for the 1982 Falklands Task Force from a radar perspective was that their units were designed to operate in the middle of the North Atlantic, not close inshore as they had to with the amphibious task group.
 It is worth noting at this point that flat surfaces at 90 degree from the signal direction and right angles generate far more reflection than curved surfaces or smaller angles. In fact even platforms not classified as stealth but presenting a rounder and sleeker appearance, were exploiting (often unknowingly) stealth principles. As an example, the relatively older American B1-B bomber, due to its design, presented a much smaller RCS than its contemporary Soviet counterpart, the Tu-22M.
 This is something which would be very simple to do if the ships were built to take the Mk41 VLS, and, just as a cost measure, were given the A50 Sylver VLS instead. By just building ships with the MK41, the vessels would be able to operate Tomahawk cruise missiles, SM-3 Theatre Ballistic Defence Missiles, even ASROC (rocket assisted torpedoes) – as outlined in http://www.phoenixthinktank.org/?p=798.
 This recommendation was based upon the idea of sea-basing future interventions and long term stabilisation programs, with the continual capability to deploy and support a Land Force of Enhanced Brigade Strength (around 8,000 troops).
 Please note this piece was actually drafted prior to the 2010 SDSR and other recent international agreements being made. It was held up through the need to focus editing and fact checking on other more time urgent reports.
 Some other Senators noted that the EBFAU were Christian fundamentalists with a history of supporting the war against Al-Qaeda and other such organisations; this support perhaps explains their inventory of American equipment.
 An LHD is a vessel which is part helicopter carrier, part traditional naval assault ship, and in many examples is also part strike carrier with a small contingent of fighter aircraft.
 Unfortunately HMS Queen Elizabeth the namesake of the class was completely unavailable, having been rammed by a French destroyer whilst on a port visit to Dunkirk. This caused extensive damage and wrote off the French destroyer. Both the Minister of the Defence and Foreign Secretary fretted over her projected 18months to 2 years absence from the active lists and once again were glad to have supported the Prime Minister when he had requested a third carrier be built.
 This had to approach from the south as the Egyptians would not allow the Royal Navy the use of the Suez Canal. Reportedly, Vice Admiral Saunders, the officer in charge of the Task Force, declared “thank heavens we don’t have to use that mouse trap”.
 For more information, please take a look here.
 Unfortunately the RN never possessed enough submarines for this to become standard practice for its officers.
 These have been especially problematic for the efforts to rebuild Waterkloof Airforce Base, in Centurion (just south of Pretoria) South Africa. This base was the least damaged in South Africa, but with the current level of air strikes, hit and run raids, as well as sabotage, the best estimates were two, maybe three, weeks till it would be operational.
 The Sukhois were purchased from China, the Mirage’s from India, Bombers from China; they had also purchased missiles from these sources, Russia and France.
 The Forester radar as currently designed looks through 4 layers of rainforest canopy (http://www.afcea.org/signal/articles/templates/Signal_Article_Template.asp?articleid=1323&zoneid=209), however Britain has a long tradition of technological excellence and can surely produce something from it which could allow for it to provide AEW work to be carried out.
 Due to the design of British SSNs, and their lacking a VLS, so having to choose between Tomahawk Cruise Missiles or Torpedoes…for this mission, with the Type 45B2s each loading 6 Tomahawks, it was decided the SSNs needed to take a full load of Torpedoes.
 Characteristics of the Harpoon: Specifications: Weight; 1,144–1,385 lb (519–628 kg) depending on launch platform, Length; 15.4 ft (4.7 m),Diameter; 1.1 ft (0.34 m), Warhead; 487 pounds (221 kg) , Engine;Teledyne Teledyne J402 turbojet, solid fuel booster (surface and submarine launched versions), Wingspan; 3 ft (0.91 m), Operational range; 58–196 mi (93–315 km) depending on launch platform, Flight altitude; Sea-skimming, Speed; 537 miles per hour (864 km/h)(240 m/s),Guidance system; Active radar, Launch platform; multi-platform (although its name changes) RGM-84A surface-launched, AGM-84A air-launched, UGM-84A submarine-launched.
 Characteristics of the Kh-59MK2: Specifications: Weight; 930 kg (2,050 lb), Length; 570 cm (220 in), Diameter; 38.0 cm (15.0 in), Warhead; Cluster or shaped-charge fragmentation, Warhead; weight 320 kg (705 lb), Engine; rocket then turbofan, Wingspan; 130 cm (51.2 in),Operational Range; 150 nm, Speed; Mach 0.72-0.88, Guidance system; inertial, then TV-guided, Launch Platform; airplane- Su-30MK, Su-24M, MiG-27, Su-17M3/22M4, Su-25 and Su-30.
 Characteristics of the C-803: Specifications: Weight; 715 kg, Length; 6.392 m, Diameter; 36 cm, Warhead; 165 kg time-delayed semi-armour-piercing high-explosive, Engine; turbojet engine, Wingspan; 1.22 m (unfolded); 0.72 m (folded), Operational range; 190+nm, Flight altitude; 3-5 m (attacking) & 5-7 m (cruising), Speed; Mach 1.6 (attacking) & Mach 0.9 (cruising), Guidance system; Inertial and terminal active radar,Launch platform; ground-based vehicles, naval ships, fixed-wing aircraft.
 These weapons are mounted as follows, one Phalanx on raised platform in front of the bridge, with a 110 on either side, set further back at main deck level. The over 110 sits on top of the hangar, with the Phalanx’s being lower, just back from the corner of the hangar on either side. This meant that whichever angle they were attacked from a minimum of 3 sometimes as many as 5 of these weapons could be brought to bear on the attacker.
 Something which is examined in more detail in other paper in this series…
 The fact is that it does not necessarily need to be F-35C, with the X or AQ-47UCAV for the stealth, then most likely F/A-18 Super Hornets could well have done the role just as well, and some E/A-18G Super Growlers would have had a really positive impact…this can be said because whilst stealth is a great asset it is lost if the aircraft has to activate its active sensors for any reason, and it becomes moot once the enemy air defences are down…that being said it is a very useful force multiplier for D-Day strikes.
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Clapp, M. (2010, February 19). It’s the bitter truth: We couldn’t send a task force to the Falklands today. Retrieved February 19, 2010, from Mail Online: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1252149/Its-bitter-truth-We-send-task-force-Falklands-today.html#ixzz0fyB0Vv7o
Clapp, M., & Southby-Tailyour, E. (1997). Amphibious Assault Falklands, The Battle of San Carlos Water. London: Orion Books.
Clarke, A. (2009, November 01). In Defence of the General Purpose Destroyer. Warship International.
Grinning, P. (2009). The Outer Air Battle. Harpoon Naval Review , pp. 34-39.
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Smith, J. T. (1994). Rolling Thunder, The Strategic Bombing Campaign North Vietnam 1965-68. Walton on Thames: Air Research Publications.
SPG Media Limited. (2009). Type 45 Daring Class Anti-Air Warfare Destroyers, United Kingdom. Retrieved May 18, 2009, from Naval Technology: http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/horizon/
Woods, N. (Ed.). (1996). Explaining International Relations Since 1945.Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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