High cost of survival in an air war with China

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element1loop

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Unread post17 Oct 2019, 04:05

A conformal tank upgrade (or even a sleek low-drag and fairly low capacity ferry tank on inner pylons) and fuel-economy improvements from an engine-core update, could allow the F-35A and F-35C to cross the western 2/5th of the Pacific basin (from Wake Island and Kwajalein longitudes, to the westwards) without tanker support at all.

This would take pressure right off the tactical tanker support fleet, and would deliver much more tanking capacity available more often, in forward areas, to increase sustained strike tempo.

This would also enable F-35A and F-35C to return unsupported to more rear areas for deeper level maintenance, then to return again to the combat area with minimal tanker support needs - a huge plus!

It also enables F-35C to fly ahead of the fleet and join the attack from air bases, a week or two before the carriers plus their MQ-25 arrive to leverage the F-35C further.

This would be a very important advantage to develop IMO. It makes it easier to sustain early strikes and the inevitable increasing maintenance and repair needs for 5th-gens, while the enemy is still struggling to get much past the first Island chain because of the larger swarm of F-35s in the forward areas that can be quickly reinforced.

And the more F-35A and F-35C you can get forwards fast, without much tanker support needed, the less availability issues will impact forward operations. There will be a larger number of forward F-35s available earlier to perform key Strike, SEAD and OCA missions. More suppression earlier in general.

Wake Island Route
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Kwajalein Atoll Route
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The US Military Is Pouring Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars Into Tiny Wake Island

By Kirstin Downey / Oct 16th, 2019

... Lt. Col. Rebecca Corbin, commander of the Alaska-based 611th Civil Engineering Squadron, acknowledged in an email that a military buildup is underway at Wake. “The increased activity in recent times is not an illusion,” she wrote. “There are indeed a lot of changes happening on that small atoll.” The Pacific Air Force Regional Support Center is “pouring a lot of investment into the infrastructure and the contracted support to that location,” she wrote, including a new contract that will manage airfield operations, accommodations for workers and public works projects.

The spending includes more than $200 million for facilities operations in the past seven years to an Alaska-based firm called Chugach Federal Solutions for what was labeled “Phase-In Wake Island,” according to USASpending.gov, a federal website that tracks government spending. In September, another Alaska-based corporation announced it had received a $470 million, 12-year contract for airfield support at three military bases, including Wake Island. In February, a firm called Aecom was awarded an $87 million contract for work at Wake Island. ...

In the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017, the U.S. committed $11.7 million for construction of a test support facility at Wake, at the same time it committed $86 million for a ballistic missile defense site at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, about 700 miles from Wake. The contract on Wake appears to have been awarded to a construction company based on Guam to construct a metal building that would provide work space for 60 deployed personnel during Missile Defense Agency test events. That same year, the federal government also committed $27 million for an upgraded electrical distribution system, according to a press release. The work on both projects was expected to be completed by early 2019.

In Washington on Monday, Navy Vice Adm. Jon Hill delivered a public presentation on the effectiveness of a March 25 missile defense test over the Pacific, where an intercontinental ballistic missile was launched from Kwajalein, tracked by what Hill called “two powerful radars,” including one at Wake Island. Two ground-based interceptors in California were launched soon after, and both successfully collided with the ICBM target and destroyed it, Hill said. Hillʻs presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, posted on a Defense Department website, suggests that Wake is being revitalized as a center of military operations in the Pacific as part of what is called a “layered missile defense system.”

Hill said it was important for the U.S. to beef up its missile defense capabilities because of what he called “near-peer competitors” who are designing and fielding advanced missiles that are harder to track. The U.S. is facing a number of new challenges in the Pacific, including continuing tensions with North Korea and increasingly militarism from China and an ongoing trade war. China has established numerous military installations on islands in the South China Sea, including airfields, missile, radar and helicopter infrastructure.

... Corbin said in the email that U.S. buildup has been going on for awhile. “Huge projects have been underway in the last two to three years,” she said, including the removal of scrap metal and tons of solid waste material. She said that the U.S. government has committed $120 million for infrastructure there, as well as repairing a taxiway and aircraft parking ramp for $87 million. A solar power system was also constructed, she said. “Wake Island has always been a geographically important location for military activities, including refueling,” she wrote. “The re-investments done of late are not to increase activity or capacity but rather replace aged infrastructure. After waiting years for investment dollars, the advocacy and planning of the Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center is finally paying off.” ...

... He said the real significance of Wake is its runway because it provides a unique place in the Pacific where jets can be diverted to land safely if they develop mechanical problems in the air. But he said that U.S. interest in the Pacific has increased in the past three years as China has developed its own military presence in the area. ... “Operations have escalated in the past six years with missile tests and displays by North Korea and Russia in 2013 and 2014, and China’s new ICBM on display in the parade last week,” Gilbert wrote in an email. ...

https://www.civilbeat.org/2019/10/the-u ... ke-island/
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Unread post17 Oct 2019, 08:54

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Unread post17 Oct 2019, 11:36

….but...but... I thought the consensus on f-16.net, other than apparently myself, is that the F-35A can go 3000nm on internal fuel alone.....why would they need CFTs esp on just less than 2200nm ferry rides...lol.

On a more serious note, might not need CFTs. 2 x 600 gal tanks may take the range beyond 2000nm. No issue for the F-22s which can carry 4x 600 gal tanks.
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Unread post17 Oct 2019, 14:41

weasel1962 wrote:No issue for the F-22s which can carry 4x 600 gal tanks.


No, it can't. It was designed to but they never flew it in that condition in testing. When China published pictures of the J-20 with four tanks it was a bit of a thumb in the eye.
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Unread post17 Oct 2019, 14:54

weasel1962 wrote:….but...but... I thought the consensus on f-16.net, other than apparently myself, is that the F-35A can go 3000nm on internal fuel alone.....why would they need CFTs esp on just less than 2200nm ferry rides...lol.

On a more serious note, might not need CFTs. 2 x 600 gal tanks may take the range beyond 2000nm. No issue for the F-22s which can carry 4x 600 gal tanks.


I'm sure they can go a long way but there needs to be margins to reverse a course on those long legs, and the combat range is of course very conservative for such contingencies. Depending on seasons a westward track even at FL450 could still run into a significant head-wind at that level. There's probably enough margin for coming back eastwards faster, at say FL400.

Not sure of the correct SG but 1,200 US Gal of Jet-A SG is ~7,860 lb or 26,110 lb of total fuel load. That should provide plenty of margin. A smaller tank with lower diameter but longer would probably suffice as well.

A low drag VLO CFT would definitely be preferable (as long as VLO was not compromised by it) given the fully combat loaded payload margins and the potential for more thrust and better fuel efficiency to come. Definitely preferable at that time. Not aware if F-35A/C were ever tested with bags, never read of it or saw images of it so I suppose we can presume it does have a lot of over-water range without them.

The tanker locations are of course not just for F-22A and F-35A, specifically, but needed for any number of other aircraft in transit and support. If that sort of dependable tanker presence can be put in place in those mid-points and kept there protected indefinitely, that changes the whole tactical air power dynamics in a western Pacific fight, along with the FARP-ing.

If I was a CHICOM facing that sort of enabling potential for 5th-gens (and everything else) I'd be a lot more flexible and better behaved, that's for sure.
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Unread post17 Oct 2019, 15:18

Probably still bring a tanker along for emergencies but I think the tanker fuel requirements would drop significantly with external tanks.
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Unread post19 Oct 2019, 06:00

Mobility Guardian Builds an Efficient Five Eyes Force

(Source: Australian Department of Defence; issued Oct 03, 2019)

The Royal Australian Air Force’s biggest airlifters and key personnel have returned home after dominating air mobility goals over Washington for Exercise Mobility Guardian in the United States. More than 110 personnel from both Air Force and Army were tested from September 8-28 in mass casualty, natural disaster response, crucial airdrops, air-to-air refuelling and austere environment operations as part of the training to enhance joint interoperability. Air Force’s C-17A Globemaster and KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport aircraft completed missions out of Fairchild Air Force Base outside Spokane in Washington, alongside more than 300 international personnel from nine other nations.

The exercise tested interoperability in air-to-air refuelling of the KC-30A, the sharing of the Five Eyes nation’s aeromedical equipment and knowledge, and large-scale formation air drops out of the C-17A, partner C-130 Hercules models and C-5 Galaxy aircraft. The contingent was also comprised of aircrew, engineers, logisticians and supporting roles, as well as air drop riggers from Army’s No. 176 Air Dispatch Squadron. Combat Support Group also played a key role, with deployment of No. 383 Contingency Response Squadron to Travis Air Force Base in California where they projected to two other austere airfields to provide operational support.

“Mobility Guardian has enabled us to blend our capabilities together by teaching and using the same, or similar, processes.” Wing Commander Sarah Stalker, RAAF Mobility Guardian Detachment Commander and Commanding Officer No. 33 Squadron ... “Following this training and standardisation with our counterparts, we can now select resources from anywhere around the world and bring together an international and efficient team with the appropriate level of support to complete short-notice coalition tasks. ” ...

... “Mobility Guardian has enabled us to blend our capabilities together by teaching and using the same, or similar, processes and agreed TTPs (tactics, techniques and procedures) ,” Squadron Leader White said. “As the geopolitical landscape shifts in the Indo Pacific, it is paramount that the Australian Defence Force and NZDF are supported by the right allies, people and skills to secure our region.”

https://www.defense-aerospace.com/artic ... force.html
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Unread post19 Oct 2019, 06:18

USAF looks for expeditionary precision landing system for Pacific

18 October, 2019

SOURCE: FlightGlobal.com BY: Garrett Reim Los Angeles

The US Air Force (USAF) is looking for a precision approach landing system to enable its aircraft to land at expeditionary air strips on islands in the Pacific Ocean. The service is asking military contractors to submit white papers that outline component-level designs and trade-off analyses to determine the right mix of requirements necessary for a Small Footprint Precision Approach and Landing Capability (SF-PALC) system, it says in an online notice on 17 October.

The USAF would use information from the white papers to set requirements for a separate contract to fund development of prototypes from one or more manufacturers. A production contract could follow the prototyping phase, says the service. The expeditionary precision approach landing system is needed to help the USAF carry out its Agile Combat Employment (ACE) strategy in the Pacific Ocean. The strategy is a response to China’s precision, long-range missiles, which could hit US aircraft parked on the tarmac. To avoid losses on the ground, the USAF plans to fly from a greater number of air bases, of sizes small and large, so as to increase the number of targets an adversary would need to attack.

However, the agile-basing plan requires the service to constantly keep its aircraft on the move, so that the Chinese military doesn’t have time to spot and attack US jets. “The ACE concept is basically having a jet land [at a remote location], then a team of maintainers re-arms and refuels the jet, and sends it back into the fight as quickly as possible,” says Master Sargent Edmund Nicholson of 67th aircraft maintenance unit, which is based at Kadena air base in Japan. He explained the concept via an USAF media release about an agile combat exercise at Fort Greely, Alaska in August 2019.

In order for a jet to land at a remote island air strip – a runway without the usual navigation and air traffic control infrastructure – the USAF needs portable equipment. The service wants its SF-PALC system to be small enough to fit onto one 463L pallet, which would be airlifted inside one Lockheed Martin C-130H cargo transport. The system must also be able to be setup and operated in a GPS-denied environment, says the USAF. The SF-PALC system requirement comes after the US Navy awarded Raytheon a $235 million contract for 23 Joint Precision Approach and Landing Systems (JPALS) in May 2019. JPALS is a differential, GPS-based precision landing system that guides aircraft to a landing spot, typically on an aircraft carrier deck, though a land-based expeditionary unit is in development as well.

The navigation equipment is integrated into the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II and will be installed on the in-development Boeing MQ-25A Stingray unmanned in-flight refuelling vehicle. Raytheon has said it plans to demonstrate expeditionary versions of JPALS to the USAF.

https://www.flightglobal.com/news/artic ... te-461599/


463L pallet (with 7,710 lb of 4 x BLU-109)
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Unread post19 Oct 2019, 23:39

weasel1962 wrote:Probably still bring a tanker along for emergencies but I think the tanker fuel requirements would drop significantly with external tanks.


Do you really want to carve up scarce payload/volume onboard the transport aircraft for CFT or EFT handling equipment?

At some point, it probably makes more sense to develop a roll-on/roll-off JASSM-XR launcher for the C-17 and C-130
and compatible pylons/hardpoints for the KC-46. The opening part of the campaign, where the agile concept is
being pitched, is going to be focused on the existing target list which is probably going to be mostly
fixed in nature anyway.

I do like the agile concept for OCA/DCA since it allows fighter cover to show up in unexpected places;
if the Air Force got serious about air-launched BMD that would be a plus.

But looked at programmatically, the agile concept is attractive to the Air Force because it doesn't require them
to spend any real money; hardening and active defenses are expensive and would siphon off money from
other programs.
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Unread post20 Oct 2019, 02:12

I meant the dedicated tankers e.g kc-46s or kc-10s of which fewer can now support more. As to transports which can double up as tankers, those handling equipment are already procured, form part of the inventory and its use is well practiced. Not new.

There are/will be enough jassm shooters at the frontline without needing transports to take on that role.
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Unread post20 Oct 2019, 02:42

marauder2048 wrote:At some point, it probably makes more sense to develop a roll-on/roll-off JASSM-XR launcher for the C-17 and C-130 and compatible pylons/hardpoints for the KC-46.


As with LRASM unless a missile is bought in high volumes the price will remain very high. It'll be interesting to see how much the price of LRASM drops with an increase in numbers produced (or is the annual rate still too low to drop the price much anyway, meaning an investment would need to be made in extra annual production volume in order to drop LRASM unit price much).

At present JASSM-XR is for only 40 air-delivered weapons, so until JASSM-XR turns into an Army and/or Marines GLCM program for a thousand or more rapidly acquired missiles, the predictable high-price is going to look prohibitive and will probably be deferred a few years.

An argument will need to be made that higher rates of production, for a larger number of JASSM-XR, will dramatically lower missile unit price, and add much more capability to defeat A2D2, plus adds a very strong deterrent value that is difficult to defeat for those dollars. I can see Japan and Australia being very interested in such a weapon if the price is right for the capability.

Obtaining JASSM-XR in large numbers will take a while as legacy cruise missiles are going to hang around for years as money is sunk into a range of non-stealth hypersonic-gliders. It was confirmed last week that 3 out of 4 MDA kinetic defensive missiles proposed to defeat hypersonic-gliders will be hit-to-kill. The 4th missile proposal (by Boeing) is most likely hit-to-kill as well. But hopefully it's realized that as soon as the Chinese master hit-to-kill technology, US hypersonic-gliders would become targets and JASSM-XR will be seen as the missile that's needed in larger numbers, fast.

Personally I'm hoping JASSM-XR turns out to have a long-range booster which throws it out much higher on a theater ballistic arc before coming down like a VLO BM warhead to deploy wings at say 90 K feet, then fast-glide into a high-altitude transonic efficient turbine-powered VLO cruise phase. That should get it out as far as 5,000 km (2,700 nm) thus covering all of western China from a GLCM launcher within the first Island chain (and/or from the expanded SSGN capability, as Tomahawk is replaced).
Last edited by element1loop on 20 Oct 2019, 03:38, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread post20 Oct 2019, 03:23

I looked for other existing paths for F-35A/C to get from Hawaii to Japan without using AAR tankers.

Midway route:
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https://i.ibb.co/5jxk4Wm/Midway-Route-1366.png

Southern route:
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https://i.ibb.co/4sWcxQS/Southern-Route ... pdated.png

This southern route has 6 legs but all are within existing range limits, and with some diplomatic persuasion and fuel bladder deliveries this sort of option exists now. The "7,200ft runways" all plot as being ~2.2km long when zoomed-in, and measured. I checked their published lengths below, all were shorter than indicated, but as I understand it all are listed as tarmac IFR International runways.

USA Hawaii
Hickam AFB

Kirabati Ronton Is.
Cassidy Rway 6,900 ft

Kiribati Kanton Is.
Tebaronga Rway 6,230 ft

Kiribati - South Tarawa Is.
Bonriki Rway 6,598 ft

Fed-States Micronesia - Palikir Is.
Pohnpei Rway 6,001

Fed-States Micronesia - Colonia Is.
Yap Rway 6,000 ft

Japan Okinawa
Kadena AFB

--

There are other viable paths across besides these, which don't require AAR support, with a bit of runway investment and diplomacy. At present the Chinese are angling to cut-off these paths via diplomacy and soft-loans to gain leases of Pacific islands from broke and poorly-developed Pacific states. The CHICOMS will subvert them with promises of copious tourism money flowing from new runways and deep water ports, on soft-credit loans for long-term island leases (and are doing so).

If these Islands can be defended from missile attacks, continuous 24/7 AAR tanking would only be essential in between USA's mainland and Hawaii (where they're easiest to defend and hardest to attack) in order to get VLO strike-power quickly from USA to the eastern Pacific basin's viable FARP sites.

EDIT1: checked published runway lengths and corrected them.
EDIT2: Southern route's runway lengths updated with published numbers, within the graphic.
Last edited by element1loop on 20 Oct 2019, 07:22, edited 2 times in total.
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Unread post20 Oct 2019, 05:13

weasel1962 wrote:I meant the dedicated tankers e.g kc-46s or kc-10s of which fewer can now support more. As to transports which can double up as tankers, those handling equipment are already procured, form part of the inventory and its use is well practiced. Not new.


You have to be able to remove/reattach/move the EFTs and CFTs when you get to your FARP;
that equipment will physically displace something else aboard the transport.

weasel1962 wrote:There are/will be enough jassm shooters at the frontline without needing transports to take on that role.


Which is why RAND et al have been projecting a JASSM shooter shortage for years; hypersonics and the
large penetrators are going to displace a large quantity of JASSM capacity from the bomber fleet
which will have its own availability rate issues.

It makes no sense to tanker chain a fighter with large, draggy stores across the expanse of the Pacific;
offloading JASSM onto the transport aircraft for FARP will require the larger munitions handling
equipment which is heavy and bulky.

It does make sense to tanker chain the F-35 with SiAW since the presence of stealthy SEAD
aircraft greatly complicates defense against cruise missile and hypersonic weapons.
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Unread post20 Oct 2019, 11:00

marauder2048 wrote:You have to be able to remove/reattach/move the EFTs and CFTs when you get to your FARP;
that equipment will physically displace something else aboard the transport.


Not really, the EFTs will just be left at the FARP. Why is there a need to shift it anywhere else, esp when EFTs are technically disposable. CFTs, although removable, tend to stay on.

marauder2048 wrote:Which is why RAND et al have been projecting a JASSM shooter shortage for years; hypersonics and the
large penetrators are going to displace a large quantity of JASSM capacity from the bomber fleet
which will have its own availability rate issues.


That would be surprising since they've made almost every single fighter, bar F-22 & A-10s to be a jassm shooter. That includes Polish F-16s and Australian F-18s. Having a shooter shortage would literally mean a fighter shortage at the front.

marauder2048 wrote:It makes no sense to tanker chain a fighter with large, draggy stores across the expanse of the Pacific;
offloading JASSM onto the transport aircraft for FARP will require the larger munitions handling
equipment which is heavy and bulky.


What the KC-46s could carry is also a whole bunch of AIM-120s, SDBs and JSOWs. Enough to conduct attrition. There is no need to be able to take out the entire chinese air force, navy and army in a single blow. The key is a logistical train to meet sortie rates.
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Unread post21 Oct 2019, 02:28

weasel1962 wrote:
Not really, the EFTs will just be left at the FARP. Why is there a need to shift it anywhere else, esp when EFTs are technically disposable. CFTs, although removable, tend to stay on.


Unless you are suggesting the entire flight is going to jettison the tanks on the way in you are going
to need the equipment to remove and move them. Same with the CFTs since a malfunction in one tank
means the loss of 25% of your combat power.



weasel1962 wrote:That would be surprising since they've made almost every single fighter, bar F-22 & A-10s to be a jassm shooter. That includes Polish F-16s and Australian F-18s. Having a shooter shortage would literally mean a fighter shortage at the front.


If they were confident in their ability to mass a large number of fighters at the front (esp.
with heavy armament like JASSM ) they wouldn't need the Agile/mobility approach in the first place.


weasel1962 wrote:What the KC-46s could carry is also a whole bunch of AIM-120s, SDBs and JSOWs. Enough to conduct attrition. There is no need to be able to take out the entire chinese air force, navy and army in a single blow. The key is a logistical train to meet sortie rates.


Only mass raids (esp. cruise missile) are likely going to convince the defense to unmask.

Are you talking about the KC-46 launching JSOW-ER? I can't see anyone bringing a
widebody commercial aircraft to within SDB range in the Pacific and

Sortie rates will collapse under the Agile/Mobility scheme relative to the surge spec KPP at a MOB/FOB.
That's an explicitly stated and accepted drawback.
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