Tag Archives: Tomahawk

F-22 will provide targeting for submarine based Tomahawk cruise missiles

In an interview General Hawk Carlisle gave to Breaking Defense, the PACAF commander provided several interesting examples of how Pacific Defense is reshaping around capabilities becoming available across the different services.

One of them, sees 5th generation aircraft to provide forward target identification for strike missiles launched from a surface warship or submerged submarine.

Indeed, Carlisle “described the ability of advanced aircraft, in this case the F-22, to provide forward targeting through its sensors for submarine based T-LAMS (cruise missiles) as both a more effective use of the current force and a building block for the emergence of the F-35 fleet in the Pacific.”

Leveraging cross-domain sinergy, Air Force and joint assets can provide greater capability within a “distributed strike package” that would see the multi-role stealthy Raptors as “electronic warfare enabled sensor-rich aircraft” that will have to fulfill several different tasks. Including, targeting and information gathering.

The current focus is on exploiting advanced war tech to get a better picture of the target (and hit it surgically) as well as moving assets in place as quickly as possible: the U.S. Air Force has already developed a new Rapid Raptor deployment concept to deploy a package of four F-22s (hardly trackable because of the small footprint) within 24 hours of deploying orders with the aim to have them where needed while preventing adversaries from knowing from which airbases they will be launched.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

 

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U.S. Navy successfully launched a surveillance drone from a submerged submarine

The U.S. Navy has successfully launched an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) from a submerged submarine, the first step to “providing mission intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to the U.S. Navy’s submarine force.”

The all-electric, fuel cell-powered XFC UAS was launched from a “Sea Robin” launch vehicle deployed from the submerged “Los Angeles class USS Providence (SSN 719) submarine. The drone, developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), is first fired from the sub’s torped tube using the launch vehicle system designed to fit an empty Tomahawk launch canister (TLC) from the submerged submarine.

Then the Sea Robin launch vehicle with integrated XFC reaches to the ocean surface where it appears as a spar buoy.

Upon command of the submarine, it is then vertically launched from Sea Robin to a marginal altitude where it assumes horizontal/conventional flight configuration thanks to the its X-wing airfoil autonomously deployed by the folding-wing XFC.

During the first launch, the drone flew for several hour mission “demonstrating live video capabilities streamed back to Providence, surface support vessels and Norfolk before landing at the Naval Sea Systems Command Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), Andros, Bahamas.”

The XFC is a fully autonomous, all electric fuel cell powered folding wing UAS with an endurance of greater than six hours. The non-hybridized power plant supports the propulsion system and payload for a flight endurance that enables relatively low cost, low altitude, ISR missions. The XFC UAS uses an electrically assisted take off system which lifts the plane vertically out of its container and therefore, enables a very small footprint launch such as from a pickup truck or small surface vessel.

Image credit: U.S. Navy

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Should the US get involved in Syria it will be a cruise missiles and stealth bombers-only air war

Forget F-15E Strike Eagles and F/A-18E Super Hornets carrying PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions).

Should Washington really get involved in Syria, it will probably be a limited air war, mainly made of cruise missiles, most (if not all) shot by warships or submarines and almost no involvement of “tacair” (tactical airplanes).

Indeed, there is no sign of imminent deployment of squadrons of F-15s, F-16s or F-18s and, even if one might believe some assets could already be in place (in the U.S. bases in the Persian Gulf, as Al Dhafra) nor is there any sign of tanker build up in the Turkish or Greek airbases, used to support the air war in Libya back in 2011.

Another clear sign that no traditional air campaign is going to be launched over Syria is that there is no U.S. supercarrier in the Mediterranean Sea.

The USS Truman passed through Suez just a few days ago, and it is quite unlikely it would launch strike missions from the Red Sea.

That said, most probably, the Syrian Air War will be made of three phases:

  1. Build-up & intelligence gathering phase
  2. Rain of cruise missiles
  3. Limited strategic bomber strikes

Phase 1 means moving required assets in place and collect the data needed for proper targeting. This phase started several months ago. Satellites and spy drones have already been watching Syria; if they really decide to strike, such intelligence activity will only be intensified, to support identification of targets to be hit in the first stages of the air war.

What will be hit?

As usual, first of all, some Syrian regime C3 commands, the remaining Air Defense batteries (those that might be a threat to the assets involved in the air war) and, obviously, the Chemical Weapons facilities, including depots of rockets used to carry CWs.

Washington will probably opt for a fast campaign, and will not completely wipe out the Syrian military in order to reduce the risk of being involved in a long, time – resources consuming war. They will only hit the CW arsenal and the most important installations Damascus could use for a retaliatory attack in the region.

The attack would be conducted by the four destroyers in the Sixth fleet area of operations (USS Gravely, USS Barry, USS Mahan and USS Ramage), each theoretically capable to launch up to 90 Tomahawks Tactical Cruise Missiles (actually less, because these warships usually carry a mix of attack and air defense missiles).

Some more missiles could be deployed by allied units (UK submarines) as well as U.S. strategic bombers that would perform some global reach, round trip missions from the US (as well as from Diego Garcia) to attack specific targets once the bulk of the Syrian air defense was destroyed: few B-2 Spirit stealth sorties to be followed by some more B-1 and possibly B-52 ones.

High flying Global Hawk drones flying from Incirlik, Sigonella or Al Dhafra, will perform the post-strike BDA (Battle Damage Assessment). Some sorties will also be flown by U-2s.

Once there will be evidence that the capability of Damascus to deliver deadly CWs was cancelled, the U.S. will quit their involvement in Syria.

 

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U.S. amphibious assault ship to be moved into position to support Noncombatant Evacuation Operation in Libya?

“Where are the carriers?” is believed to be the first question a U.S. President asks his closer advisors each time America has to deal with a crisis.

In this case, the attack on the Benghazi consulate, that cost the life of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three others, has compelled the Pentagon to send a Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST), an expeditionary group of skilled and very well equipped Marines capable to reinforce U.S. security forces at embassies and other key installations around the world.

Along with the FAST team, reportedly moving from Rota, Spain, drones, and the USS Laboon and USS McFaul destroyers, equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles, sailing towards the Libyan coasts, it is quite likely that even an amphibious ship with a MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit), capable to perform NEOs (Noncombatant Evacuation Operations), will be dispatched in the Mediterranean sea in preparation for the possible evacuation of the U.S. diplomatic mission.

Image credit: U.S. Marine Corps

A MEU is made of 2,200 Marines and sailors deployed as a Marine air-ground task force (MAGTF) that includes a Marine infantry battalion equipped with tanks, amphibious assault vehicles, light artillery as well as Mv-22B Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft, AV-8B Harrier combat planes, UH-1N Huey and AH-1Y Cobra helicopters.

The nearest such MEUs is the 24th Marine Expeditionary unit, with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 261 operating on board the LHD-7 “Iwo Jima” a Wasp-class amphibious assault ship.

Although the “big deck amphibious warfare ships” is deployed as “a theater reserve force for U.S. Central Command and is providing support for maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet area of responsibility” the Iwo Jima is probably already moving into position.

Operation Unified Protector (was Odyssey Dawn) explained (Day 81 – 104)

Previous debriefings: Archive

With the air campaign in Libya in progress for more than 100 days, I think it’s better to give the blog’s reader an extremely quick recap of the main political and military updates (just to recall the latest developments that can be found on mainstream media) and then focus a bit more on the many “Other interesting things, information and thoughts” section of my Debriefs.

On Jun. 27, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued an arrest warrant on suspicion of crimes against humanity for Libyan leader Gaddafi along with his closest aides: his son Saif al-Islam and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi. Libya dismissed the ICC warrant, rejecting the authority of the tribunal.

In the meanwhile, with the air support of NATO, rebels are continuing their advance towards Tripoli: their forces are now within 50 miles from the capital. They have recently seized some Libyan arms depots located 25 km south of Zenten and collected many weapons left on the field by the retreating Gaddafi’s troops. Actually, they have also been supplied with large amounts of rocket launchers, assault rifles, machine guns and anti-tank missiles, into the Jebel Nafusa region by France, Le Figaro newspaper reported on Jun. 28 (citing an undisclosed source). These “humanitarian drops” gave the anti-Government forces the impetus to push towards the capital and to protect undefended civilians that were threatened by loyalists. For sure such air drops could not be done without a prior coordination with NATO, required for planes deconfliction; however, as important as informing partners of such mission was a prior coordination with liaison officers on the ground (like those I talked about on my last report) who could ensure that the dropped “goods” did not go in the wrong hands.

Anyway, NATO and partners’ air and sea activities have contributed to bring some stabilization in certain parts of Libya as Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, Commander of the Operation Unified Protector, explained in Jun. 28 Press Briefing. Benghazi is now seeing signs of normalcy, while Brega and Ajdabiya continue to stabilize, even if “a significant size force in the Brega area” is still under the regime control.

Further to the west, in the Misratah area, the population has been able to move forward from the port while in the area between Zlitan and Dafiniyah the regime forces have placed around 300 civilians to shield themselves against any operations.

In the west, Nalut area is still under shelling by artillery pieces while fighting in the town of Yafran and Zlitan have stopped. “In Tripoli, the situation remains very tense. We have reports that the population has tried at some places to show some demonstrations against the regime. But these demonstrations have been very severely put down by a very repressive security force” Bouchard said.

Noteworthy, during the Press Briefing NATO showed reconnaissance imagery showing the words “TNX NATO” or “Thank you” written on a road next to a check point or on a roof top to be seen from above: a sign of appreciation for what NATO is doing in Libya from local population.

Dealing with figures of NATO air campaign, since the beginning of Unified Protector (Mar. 31, 08.00GMT) a total of 13.035 sorties, including 4.908 strike sorties, have been conducted.

Above: air strike sorties trend since Mar.31 (courtesy of @88simon88)

Few days earlier, on Jun.10, outgoing US Defense SecretaryRobert Gates had lashed out US European allies complaining that the poorly effective air campaign in Libya was pushing NATO towards  “collective military irrelevance.”

US SECDEF condemned European nations for years of shrinking defense budgets that have forced the US to play, once again, a major role in the NATO operation. With frustration, he said:

“The mightiest military alliance in history is only 11 weeks into an operation against a poorly armed regime in a sparsely populated country,  yet many allies are beginning to run short of munitions, requiring the U.S., once more, to make up the difference.”

However “a NATO with reduced capabilities is still better than no NATO at all”, he said.

Under a political point of view, another interesting news is that Germany will supply bombs and other ordnance components to help NATO in Libya in spite of Berlin’s opposition not only to join air strikes but also to flying support missions (you’ll remember the decision to remove their crews from NATO AWACS operating in Libya). It looks like the decision came after a request from NATO Maintenance and Supply Agency (NAMSA).

On Jun. 14 Tunisian AF F-5s & reconnaissance helicopters flew along the Tunisia-Libya bordar after Libyan troops fired rockets (thanks to @Marguer_D for the heads up). Tunisian planes had been reported flying along the border as “show of force” even on May 17, after pro-Gaddafi forces had fired shells to retake the border crossing near the small Tunisian town of Dehiba.

Other interesting information, things and thoughts:

1) On Jun. 19 NATO acknowledged that a missile had destroyed a civilian home in Tripoli, saying it may have killed civilians. Although NATO’s bombs had already hit rebels in the past months, it was the first such admission of collateral damages involving civilians in the three-month-long air campaign of airstrikes in Libya.

2) On Jun. 21, a US Navy unmanned helicopter MQ-8B Fire Scout, flying a reconnaissance mission over Libya, crashed at 07.20 AM LT. The only information disclosed by both NATO and USN is that the aircraft crashed on the coast so it is still unknown whether the UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System) lost control or was attacked and from where it was being controlled (even if it must have been a US ship in the area). It would be extremely interesting to know if the drone suffered communication link loss like the example lost on Aug. 2, 2010 when the little remotely-piloted helo, departed from NAS Patuxent River, because of a software glitch flew towards Washington DC and entered restricted airspace before another ground control station was able to regain command of the UAS and directed it to Webster Field, MD.

We already knew that, along with armed US Predators, unarmed US Global Hawks were flying reconnaissance missions in Libya in support of Unified Protector and that these could be soon joined by recently acquired (unarmed) Italian Air Force Predator B (MQ-9 Reaper) based in Amendola, that Italy could use over Libya by mid July. Now we know that also smaller drones flying from ships have been conducting ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) missions.

3) On Jun. 10, the Dutch Government decided to extend the RNlAF contribution to the NATO operation in Libya until September 2011. The six F-16s deployed to Decimomannu airbase will not change their role and will not take part in air strikes.

However, in the same days, the Netherlands were asked to help replenish the RDAF stock because, having flown 346 sorties dropping 565 PGMs to date,  Danish F-16s deployed to Sigonella have almost ran out of bombs.

On Jun 9, the Norwegian government decided to keep contributing to Unified Protector with a reduced contingent of 4 (instead of 6) F-16s until Aug. 1. On Jun. 14 Aksel Magdahl provided the following tally of the RNoAF effort in Libya: 198 missions, 445 sorties, 409 bombs dropped. An interesting 6 mins movie about Norwegian missions from Souda Bay can be found here: http://forsvaret.no/aktuelt/publisert/nyheter/Sider/Rundet–2000-flytimer.aspx

Swedish parliament voted 230-18 in support of 3 month extension of SwLm JAS-39 Gripen mission in Libya on Jun. 17. As of Jun. 29, Swedish recce Gripens have conducted 248 missions shooting 130K images (@GripenNews).

4) Canadian air sorties as of 2359Z Jun. 27: CF-188: 461; CC-150: 138; CC-130: 46; CP-140: 82. Dealing with the 2 CP-140s, an interesting article published on the Canada National Defense website, explains that the “Aurora”, originally designed for anti-submarine warfare is being used also in ISR (intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) missions.

Here’s an excerpt:

Throughout thosee early maritime surveillance missions, the Auroras showed their top-class form. Not only fast — they can do 400 knots, as fast as the CT-114 Tutor jets the Snowbirds fly — Auroras have plenty of stamina, staying aloft for up to 12 hours. They carry an array of sensors to gather and record the precise, reliable intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data required to create a clear picture of the situation at ground level or at sea. With this unique combination of capabilities, the Auroras were a natural choice for inland ISR missions, and they now provide ISR data on Libya’s coastline, highways and command and control centres.

“This is a new role for us,” said Captain Stephanie Hale, the Air Combat Systems Officer and Operations Officer on Roto 0 of the Sigonella detachment. “The new mission suite systems, including electro-optic infrared and overland equipment, have changed what we’re able to provide, and changed where we’re able to work.”

For what concerns the CF-188s, on the Canadian Combat Camera website I’ve found a nice picture of a Hornet being washed (on Apr. 20) on arrival to Trapani from Iceland. Interestingly, it’s using the same “showers” used in the past by the 82° CSAR HH-3F of the ItAF based in Trapani as the picture below on the right (taken in 2008) shows.

According to what a senior Canadian official told AFP on condition of anonymity, the Canadian Air Force has decided to pull out of the NATO AWACS program to trim costs and eliminate budget deficit.

5) The recent Paris Air Show 2011, at Le Bourget, gave both Eurofighter and Dassault the opportunity to showcase their now combat-proven fighters, shortlisted for the Indian MMRCA tender. Hence, Typhoon and Rafale fought virtually with a series of  press briefings and war stories aimed at showing aircraft advantages on competitor hiding its flaws.

The “omnirole” Rafale can claim to have been the first aircraft to enter to Libyan airspace on Mar. 19 (even though I’ve already explained this happened in the Benghazi area where the risk of SAM and AAA fire was low) thanks to the Spectra integrated defensive aids suite developed by Thales. For sure although it can’t be considered as multirole as to be capable to perform a typical SEAD strike as an F-16CJ or a Tornado ECR, the French plane has the possibility to combine its sensors (such as the Spectra) and the AASM (Armement Air-Sol Modulaire  – Air-to-Ground Modular Weapon) PGM to identify, designate and hit ground targets. Furthermore, during Unified Protector, the AASM demonstrated to be effective against a tank at a range of 57 km.

The Rafale will also be the first European combat plane to use an electronic scanning radar; with “Tranche 4”, expected to be handed over from 2013, the 60 French upgraded Rafales will carry an AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) RBE2 radar (compatible with long range METEOR air-to-air missiles) whose beam can be pointed from one area to another one quickly, in all weather and in a jammed environment, and that can be used in air-to-air and air-to-ground modes at the same time, with an enhanced detection capability.

Image: French MoD

RAF 11 Sqn’s Squadron Leader Rupert Joel, just returned from Gioia del Colle, met the press at Le Bourget to talk about Typhoon’s sorties in Libya. He explained that Tornado GR4s are flying joint sorties with Eurofighter Typhoons as happened during Desert Storm, when Buccaneers accompanied Tornados in Iraq. Mixed pairs have been useful because “Tonka” navigators have assisted Typhoon pilots with laser targeting although GPS-guide has been preferred in many cases.

A typical sortie lasts 5.5 hours requiring three air-to-air refuellings. Some missions lasted up to 9 hrs. Typhoon usually carry four Enhanced Paveway II GPS/laser-guided bombs, a Litening III targeting pod, and AIM-120 air-to-air missiles (as picture below, released by Eurofighter, shows).

Slightly Off Topic

So, who’s gonna win in India? Difficult to say. Surely, Rafale is a more mature plane, capable of performing a wide variety of missions, from SEAD(-lite) to reconnaissance, and it is already available in navalised version for aircraft carrier ops. BTW for all Rafale news, info, configurations, etc, I suggest you to visit the Rafale News blog.

However, Eurofighter already has export customers that Rafale lacks, and it has an attractive user community that could give stronger strategic ties with 4 European nations. Furthermore, the Typhoon has a more powerful engine, a better BVR capability and is able to pull max G-load while launcing its weapons and carrying three external fuel tanks. It has also an extensive air-to-air missile load and can perform supersonic launching while supercruising with a large missile load. The Typhoon has a very lightweight operational bifocal Helmet Mounted Display, which in combination with the IRIS-T or ASRAAM High Off Boresight Missiles provides the F-2000 with superior dogfight capabilities. So, it’s a lethal weapon in the air-to-air scenario, and it has a potential still to be developed to become a real multirole. Finally, Eurofighter is working on a navalised Typhoon too….

6) Times Of Malta website has a video showing the last French emergency landing in Malta international airport in the night between Jun.30 and Jul. 1. It’s the second to involve Rafales. Although Times Of Malta says it is the first time, another Rafale diversion took place on Jun.8, 2011.

7) Again slightly off topic.

On Jun 22, Alenia Aeronautica, announced that it is evaluating the feasibility of an aircraft for the Italian Air Force to support National Special Forces Operations.

“The Italian Defence has decided to launch the so called Pretorian Programme, as a special version of the C-27J, in order to analyse potential technical solutions for providing weapons and integrated weapon systems, Communications Intelligence (COMINT), EO/IR Sensor (Electro optical/Infra-red) to the C-27J Aircraft, as existing platform”.

It would be interesting to know whether this aircraft is intended to replace or to support the only Italian G-222VS (currently used in Libya under NATO command).

8) More ItAF updates? Check its official website or the Italian MoD one once a week.