SOURCE: PARSHU RAM / FOR MY TAKE / IDRW.ORG
24th February, 2022, the fateful day when the 1st Russian-origin Artillery Shell fell on the land of Ukraine. More than 100 days have passed since then but the war is still raging-on. As a result, it has completely revealed the barebone reality of the once considered “Mighty” Russian Armed Forces.
Hundreds of Russian APCs, IFVs & MBTs have been reduced to rubble through weapons of UK, US, French & even Ukrainian origin. What was called the “Pride of Russian Black-Sea Fleet”, The Moskova, is now resting peacefully deep beneath the ocean. As a result, the credibility of war-strategy is shifting from the East towards the West. In this essay, we will try to decipher the Western-strategy of warfighting and what India can learn from it.
Ground Force V/s Naval & Air Force :
The Russian doctrine was primarily focused on their behemoth Land Army along with cheap Ground-based SAMs & Missiles. Less emphasis was put on a sophisticated Air Force capable of striking precisely from stand-off distances while themselves being undetected. The result of this can be clearly seen through the horrible performance of the Russia throughout the war.
The Western-doctrine was always focused on a strong Airforce & Navy to carry the battle deep into the enemy territory, be it anywhere in the world. A Western CBG would always strike the Enemy Navy first with a barrage of Harpoons-1C, Exocet, SCALP-EG or LRASMs carried by it’s Carrier’s Fighter-wing, while keeping their ships away from the range of the Ship-based AShMs carried by the enemy. A typical US Supercarrier will usually carry around 65 Fighter-jets & 3-4 AEW&CS. Assuming 20 of these fighters would be F-35s for Escort Jamming cum A2A Combat & rest of the 45 F/A-18s would carry 4 Harpoon-1C each, that would mean 180 AShMs in just a single volley. After launching their payload, they would return to their mother, re-load & launch a fresh volley of 90 AShMs once again. For intercepting as many as 270 AShMs, at least 300-350 SAMs are needed at all costs. Even if they enemy somehow survives such a huge swarm, it would be left with hardly any AD Missiles to spare. In the meantime, 2 Ticons & 3 Brukes (50), 2 Virginia-class SSNs (80) & 1 Ohio-class SSGN (154) would also launch close to 284 Tomahawk Block-5Bs in addition to 5 B2 Spirits launching 80 JASSM-ERs to hunt down as many Land-based AShM Batteries as they can. After a good chunk of Land-based AShMs have been destroyed, the CBG would rapidly close-in, defending the enemy’s Ship-based & limited number of Land-based AShMs, eventually launching its own Ship-based volley of 100 Tomahawk Block-5B/AGM-158C AshMs, sinking the virtually defenseless Enemy Fleet to the bottom of the ocean. The CBG would then port at a friendly Naval Base, replenish it’s warships & re-arm it’s Fighter-fleet with JASSM-ER, AGM-88 HARM, SDB, JSOW & JDAMs to perform SEAD/DEAD missions and completely break the backbone of the enemy.
Failure of the Russian tactic means that India would better be putting more focus on Air & Naval power, and it has already taken it’s first steps in this direction through cutting-off the size of its Army.
Supersonic V/s Subsonic Missiles :
Since it’s independence, India has historically relied much on USSR weaponry, and since Supersonic Missiles were the prime offensive weapon of the USSR Navy, it trickled down the Indian Navy as well. Most of the Indians believe that BrahMos is a force to be reckoned with because of it’s brute speed which will give a warship drastically lesser time to engage it compared to its Subsonic counterpart. The reality, however, is something different.
Supersonic Missiles are inherently bigger and heavier than their Subsonic cousins. So a warship can carry lesser amount of the former right from the get-go. Then there’s the factor of detection. Latest generation of Subsonic Missiles like the NSM & AGM-158C make extensive use of stealth technology [Geometric Stealth & RAM Coating] to have a VLO RF & IR signature, thus significantly delaying their detection. So a warship would end-up having the same amount of response time to a Stealth Subsonic Missile as against a Supersonic Missile, if not lower.
Furthermore, having an IIR Seeker & AI embedded into these missiles mean they can analyse the best possible spot to hit on a warship and attack in swarm without emitting any signal of their own. The Indian Navy thus must realise the advantages of Stealth Subsonic Missiles & field them as soon as possible.
Fixed VLS V/s Swappable VLS :
Supersonic Missiles being larger than Subsonic Missiles brought in another folly in the Indian Warships – The lack of UVLS or Universal Vertical Launch System. Supersonic AShMs were so much bigger than Naval SAMs that they simply needed another type of VLS altogether, which meant fixed options in terms of weapon-load. This wasn’t the case with smaller Subsonic Missiles that were identical in size compared to various Naval SAMs, thus easily packable in a single type of cell with Naval SAMs in any proportion.
Now, the situation changed rapidly with the advent of Hypersonic Missiles, which were globally seen as a force-multiplier. Hypersonic Missiles being as big as Supersonic Missiles, left no option but to install a separate type of VLS.
The USN solved this problem by conceptualising a Swappable VLS module. In this system, one or several blocks of the Smaller VLS will be easily swapped with a Bigger VLS whenever the mission demands a rapid strike. The Indian Navy needs to examine & implement this design in it’s future series of Corvettes, Frigates and Cruisers to be flexible & future ready.
Common Datalink & CEC :
On 13th September, 2016, A USN F-35B detected an OTH [Over-the-Horizon] Threat and sent the data to a Ground Station, designed to simulate a warship, which was connected to the AEGIS Combat System. The incoming threat was successfully engaged and destroyed by an SM-6 LRSAM.
The live fire drill was designed to test the USN’s new air warfare concept, called NIFC-CA [Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air]. NIFC-CA is now a part of the US Navy’s new distributed lethality naval surface warfighting. The September 13 test confirmed the compatibility of the 2 separate weapon systems, with the F-35B acting as a broad area sensor and thereby complementing & greatly increasing the AEGIS Combat System’s capability to detect, track and destroy targets.
NIFC-CA relies on the use of datalinks to provide every Aircraft and Warship with a picture of the entire battlespace. Aircrafts deploying weapons may not need to control missiles after releasing them, as an E-2D would guide them by a data-stream to the target. Other Fighter Aircrafts would also be capable of guiding missiles fired from other Fighter Aircrafts to any potential target within range. E-2Ds would act as the central node of NIFC-CA to connect the Friendly Airborne Assets with the CBG through the High-Bandwidth, Low-Latency TTNT [Tactical Targeting Network Technology], but every aircraft would also be connected to all others through their own Link-16 datalinks. Since the whole system runs on Link-16, USAF or other Non-US NATO assets can be linked into the system with very little effort.
Coming to the Indian Armed Forces, it has, in recent times, taken some serious strides in the domain of Network Centric Warfare. Indian Navy’s CMS and Indian Air Force’s AFNet are the best examples. However, due to the lack of coordination, a comprehensive joint effort was never taken & all 3 of the forces went their own seperate ways. The IN procured BEL’s SDR-Tac while the IAF went ahead with Rafael’s BNET-AR. The IA meanwhile is in the midst of a tender for procuring an indigenous SDR under the Make-II IDDM category. These different SDRs can’t form a direct encrypted communication link with each other to share high-quality voice and targetting data.
It is to be noted that IA, IN & IAF can still communicate & share data with each other securely through the usage of Ground Stations and Satellites. This becomes possible because Ground Stations have ample amount of space and processing power to house all 3 types of SDRs inside them. Thus for example, if an individual IAF platform transfers it’s encrypted data to an IAF Ground Station through BNET-AR, the Ground Station would decrypt and channel that data to SDR-TAC, which in turn will encrypt it again, and transmit it to a Naval Warship directly or through a Satellite.
This type of “Jugaad” may seem to be an easy fix, but can cause major troubles in the future. During war, these big central nodes themselves will become the first target of the enemy, the destruction of which could potentially cripple the Tri-Service’s Net-centric Warfare capability. Thus, a Common Datalink for all 3 of the services, whose efficiency would decrease, but would still continue working even without the help of any a central node, is an absolute necessity of the hour.
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