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Re: High cost of survival in an air war with China

Unread postPosted: 07 Nov 2019, 07:19
by marauder2048
weasel1962 wrote:On political access, is that really a barrier?

In was repeatedly highlighted as a constraint in the paper you cited. Feel free to defend it.

weasel1962 wrote:The 163 bases cited by Davis is an overestimation. Once one takes out bases in SE Asia and those outside of the likely war zone outside of 800nm, the number of 6000 ft runways will be significantly reduced. Notionally, the F-35B is still the ideal weapon to take advantage of distributed ops, not the USAF. My opinion on this still stands.

With the F-35B you aren't really at the mercy of a runway blockade due to ballistic missile delivered runway penetrators.
The enemy can't really pin you In hardened shelters to be destroyed by cruise missiles or prevent you from
recovering back to the base due to UXO in inconvenient places.

So distributed isn't buying you what it does for the non-STOVL force.
Various CSAFs have talked about acquiring the F-35B over the years. Definitely time to revisit that thinking.

Re: High cost of survival in an air war with China

Unread postPosted: 07 Nov 2019, 09:16
by element1loop
weasel1962 wrote:With due respect, that's not how a FARP works. What is critical is that FARPs are the key feature of distributed operations. Its to avoid permanent bases that can be targeted. Downplaying FARPs for the USAF is basically saying distributed ops don't work in their context. FARPs, including fighter FARPs are thus not meant to be permanent bases. They are meant to be temporary runways for use from hours to days max.

I know what a temporary FARP is and what it is meant to do.

weasel1962 wrote: As forward points, they are closer to the target i.e. no air tankers required. The set-up of a FARP may require transports but these are transient. They land, offload and take off. Not parked at the base. Otherwise, no permanent basing of support aircraft either...

Maybe I wasn't clear enough. The RAND document you've linked says this:

" ... Since the concepts for distributed air operations are still emerging [published in 2019], this report is necessarily exploratory and conceptual. We synthesize and expand on existing concepts for distributed operations in order to identify possible capabilities for distributed operations as a starting point for identifying implications for force presentation. We focus in this study on presenting forward deployed fighter forces. ..." (page 20)

In other words, there's no right or wrong way to do this laid out in technical formality, it's a developing concept of operating and what makes the best practical, tactical and achievable sense is what will be done, to enable the most effective survivable FARPing with the available geography. Adaptation to what works will be the rule, and nothing will be unchanging in a fight.

So firstly, your initial linked document from 2013 cites using a C-17A as the refueling source for a flight of 4 x F-22A on the ground, so tanking is involved in FARPing, the only question is where and when does it take place? And that ground refuel consumes more time on the ground. Which as I think you said earlier can be as long as 60 minutes. The reaction and flight time of a BM to a FARP is shorter than that, so the main benefit of FARPing is lost if it takes approximately 1 hour to get everything back into the air due to fueling jets on the ground.

Tanking is involved in getting to the FARP Island (at least one refuel). It is involved again on the return to a base, from the FARP strikes.

The 2013 document cites F-22A, with JDAM bombs - not with JSM or JASSM-ER standoff margins added. So Raptors must fly to the Chinese mainland and perhaps over it for a distance before it drops JDAMs. Meaning it would need close coordination with an escorted tanker waiting for it on the way out. Look at the distance involved. You can't do this without considerable tanking support.

To thus shorten the time on the ground, and exposure to BM strikes you could just refuel the four F-35s after they takeoff from the FARP strip, prior to the strike leg, via using a tanker. The tanker has 2 F-35A escorts protecting it, and also detecting any threats to the FARP, while aircraft are on the ground, and providing real time warning data to the ground.

That makes FARPing much more viable as only 4 x F-35 need hot-reload of weapons on the ground and no fuel. But you would not fly all the way to a FARP and perform just one strike. The key benefit of FARPing is to be closer to the action, to enable more strikes per day, not just one of them. FARPs are not usually operated from the very beginning of a conflict. But in this case it would be hoped they can begin early and continue through out the conflict.

But you'd want to get in at least two strikes per FARP mission before the fighters head back to a base further to the west, say to Guam, or perhaps as far as Wake Island. While most of the tankers must head further eastward to Midway or Hickam to survive on the ground.

This is how I see it occurring: 6 x F-35A takeoff from Guam and head west towards China, 4 of them carry long-range strike weapons, two of them carry A2A weapons (escorts). They meet up with a tanker between Guam and China and tank. The two A2A F-35A stay with the tanker and protect it, the 4 x F-35A with strike weapons attack Chinese targets with Cruise weapons, then return to a FARP Island for a reload. Meanwhile the tanker and its escorts move towards this FARP Island, just as the 4 x F-35A have reloaded with strike weapons and are now ready to launch from the FARP runway. They launch and meet up with the Tanker and escorts near to the FARP Island and refuel, then again attack Chinese targets. The two escorts stay with the tanker and refuel off it as needed. Once the 4 strike F-35A return eastwards, they meet up with the escorted tanker and top-off their tanks, and all 6 x F-35A return to Guam, then the Tanker continues on to Midway, to a more survivable parking area. It's easier for the F-35As to operate and park survivably on Guam (off base). Else they can refuel in Guam, and head for Wake Island before staging from there for the next double-strike FARP attack.

i.e. one FARP double-strike attack every two days (the reason is made clear below).

The closer a FARP Island is to the Chinese mainland the shorter Chinese weapon flight times, and the more important it is to refuel the jets in the air, after reload and launching off the FARP Island, refueling from the escorted tanker.

If you do that you don't need a C-17A involved on the ground to operate a FARP, as the weapons for the second strike's hot-reload can be delivered by over-flight and GPS/INS-guided parachute drop, days in advance of the attack.

This sort of double-strike with a FARP reload in between, would be a fairly standard way to do it (perhaps a triple strike is possible) and may require two tankers to deliver at least two full loads of fuel plus a contingency margin to 6 x F-35A.

weasel1962 wrote:I can understand the resistance expressed from the USAF support communities. Do so much work to set up something that's gone in a few hours or days. Is that really efficient or effective use of resources? I think the appeal to the USMC who have expeditionary ingrained cultural thinking and resources are a bit different.

And with equal respect I don't think you're taking the point on board. Are tankers going to come from San Francisco each mission? Of course not. They will be mostly located on Hawaii and West of Hawaii. And not only tankers. I mentioned several larger aircraft types but presume I refer to every large aircraft type used in the theater. They must be parked somewhere and it will be as close as survivably possible to the battle zone.

Can you imagine flying a fighter or a heavy half way across the Pacific, into battle and back each day? It's not possible without constantly rotating in fresh crews. For example; it's 9,700 nm from Hickam to Kadena and return. At 450 knots (ignoring winds) that's 20.8 hours flying to support each FARP double-strike, not including the time for the strikes, plus the time on the ground, before and after the flight.

So each FARP-supporting refuel flight is at least 24 hours of aircrew duty, i.e. you need 2 crews on each FARP tanker to do it, then crew recovery time after the mission. The FARPs predictably must happen at night and with these constraints it implies 1 tanker can probably support one half of a 6-ship FARP attack, only once every two days, if operating from Hickam or Midway for survivability reasons.

And frankly, the heavy loaded FARP tanker must also receive AAR support to the FARP. So this requires at least two tankers per 6-ship FARP double-strike. And that's without contingency needs. So it will probably require at least 3 tankers to launch a 6-ship FARP strike, if large aircraft (i.e. of all types) have to park at Hickam just to survive the first weeks of the fight.

And yes, there are more Islands with >6,000 ft runways in the mid-western Pacific region but these are still very sparse, and parking is still going to be heavily concentrated at those.

So given those numbers the support aircraft are going to be parked closer to the action, i.e. mostly west of Hawaii and closer to PLAAF bomber weapons and PLA BM artillery. As will be everything else that needs to be close to the fight. To get the effects sooner a higher risk of losses must be taken, Distributed Operations paradigm, or not.

The potential will exist for significant support aircraft losses on the ground.

Thus bombers become the platform of choice to pour in strikes when fighters are being held back for a time by the anti-access/area denial implications. Once PLAAF bombers and tankers are dealt with the situation relaxes, and parked aircraft less vulnerable, if Patriot and Aegis can deal with the BMs and hyperbole-weapons.

Thus using a logistics type, as a supplemental 'bomber' (ramp-shooter), to speed up taking out PLAAF bombers and C4 sooner, means support aircraft and FARPs can operate much more efficiently thereafter.

Re: High cost of survival in an air war with China

Unread postPosted: 07 Nov 2019, 13:20
by madrat
With F-35B the dispersal is not a problem. Battlespace management is the big picture problem.

You can drop bladders and do all sorts of rapid deployment accommodations to scatter forces. There are quite a few short haul V/STOL options for getting F-35B near an enemy. What you cannot afford to do is over-extend beyond the limits of communications, datalinks, and intelligence gathering.

Re: High cost of survival in an air war with China

Unread postPosted: 08 Nov 2019, 00:58
by element1loop
madrat wrote:Battlespace management is the big picture problem. ... What you cannot afford to do is over-extend beyond the limits of communications, datalinks, and intelligence gathering.

Another reason support aircraft have to remain as far forward as possible (with the risk of losing them in large numbers). The sooner PLAAF bombers, tankers, C4 and targeting data are degraded, the sooner you can get information dominance and air superiority in place, well into the Chinese hinterland, supported by comms-relay aircraft, such as MQ-4, tanker, AWAC, etc., to provide the real-time area SA and enable battlespace management.

HALE MQ-4 and RQ-4 (plus MALE types) have the range, endurance and landing options elsewhere to overcome the anti-access effect, and provide continuous data-relay services. While tankers and AWAC/C2 provide same by their presence. But tankers and AWAC crews are going to have to do a lot of flying to get to and from their station.

Which makes clear why PLAAF put the emphasis on A2A J-20 to disrupt data relays and tankers, rather than VLO strike (which is coming with their long-range VLO bomber development). They would love to have F-35B in this situation, their bases are facing the same OCA problem, it's just they have so many more bases and off-base operating options to compensate.

The biggest problem with being forced into Distributed-Ops by anti-access is this large drop in efficiency and the rising cost, complexity, coordination management and resources, to develop a much enfeebled strike-capability every 24 hours. And that's without considering the effects of Chinese counter-air strikes.

Bombers are so much more attractive (B-21 as C4ISR plus OCA/Strike platform) but it makes clear why an all new very long-range and fast Penetrating Counter-Air aircraft is essential in future (like now!).

In the meantime we really would be screwed without US and Allied F-35B and the ability to seed the whole western Pacific region's Islands with them, and on LHD (or light carriers).

Re: High cost of survival in an air war with China

Unread postPosted: 08 Nov 2019, 05:33
by element1loop
I've identified most air bases in the West Pacific region US air forces have Joint access to (including South Korea). There are some further air bases on Okinawa that I've not bothered to list here (given within the link below). The unrefuelled coverage of China by US F-35A and F-35C using a VLO cruise weapon like JASSM-ER is daunting for Chinese air bases, C4, and IADS. Most fighter and bomber bases can be readily reached and could be repeatedly hit (even if F-35s operate away from such bases). There's not much that makes a difference which can't be hit by F-35s without using a tanker. A lot of strikefighter pressure can be applied parallel to USAF bomber strikes, even if FARPing were stymied during the first week or perhaps first two.

US Bases in Japan:


I see no reason why USAF F-35A and USN F-35C could not operate from Japan, even if these airbases were hit. It's not just the F-35B that can beat-back the horde in such a fight. And this serves to make the inability to FARP in the early stages a bit "meh". And represents a variation on the 'Distributed-Ops' theme of operating from more locations to enhance options and survival.

Once naval air forces arrive in greater numbers in the western Pacific and higher-tempo FARP triple-strikes get rolling the pile-on of airpower would break the back of PLAAF and PLAN. As that occurs tankers can move into Japan and apply air dominance over China.

Distributed-Ops may be an ideal concept in a contested western Pacific but geography is going to interfere with the degree to which the paradigm can be applied. It will be more effective in areas with geography and diplomatic access more suitable for it. It would be easy to utilize the concept if regional political support was widely available, but much harder to make use if political support isn't forthcoming. Distributed-OPs can help with survivability and keep China off balance, from more directions, if able to be fully implemented, but it's not a real game-changer, it's just a survivability aid that leads to time imposts, costs and necessary inefficiencies. But frankly, anti-access weaponry has made those imparted inefficiencies unavoidable anyway.

VLO bombers, VLO strikefighters and modern VLO weapons with a secure comms relay network through support aircraft will be the game-changer in that fight, when combined with a comprehensive missile defense and protection of support-aircraft and naval units. Comms-relay and tanker support aircraft are the soft underbelly, sure to be high-priority item for SLCM attack throughout a fight.

Re: High cost of survival in an air war with China

Unread postPosted: 10 Nov 2019, 00:41
by element1loop
Non-refueled strike radius operating from surrounding countries.


Re: High cost of survival in an air war with China

Unread postPosted: 27 Dec 2019, 16:43
by mixelflick
These unrefueled F-35 plus JASSM-ER perimeter diagrams speak to an almost strategic range. It's going to be one difficult jet to find, and it's going to punch way above its weight.

Throw the F-35B in the mix and I wouldn't want to be the Chinese, playing whack a mole while dodging JASSM-ER's.

Re: High cost of survival in an air war with China

Unread postPosted: 26 Feb 2020, 01:16
by weasel1962
USMC has got FARP ops down to a T...TAGRS that is...

Article: USMC refuels F-35B in under ten minutes ... n-minutes/

The US Marine Corps has refuelled F-35B Lightning II aircraft in five minutes using the tactical aviation ground refueling system (TAGRS).

The refueling was carried out at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma as part of a forward arming and refuelling point operation (FARP). A FARP is set up by a support squadron and can have one or several distributive fuel points across a landing zone that enable aircraft to land and obtain both fuel and ordnance during a mission.

The TAGRS includes all refueling components in one compact system allowing for rapid setup and breakdown to support expeditionary advanced base operations in austere environments.The system can pump fuel faster than the helicopter expedient refueling system, and has four filter separators to filter out water and sediment, along with two points and two fire extinguishers. As a result, a FARP can be established using a single TAGRS and a fuel source. The system also requires half the manpower to operate than it normally would to conduct a FARP operation.

In this operation, the TAGRS team succeeded in reducing a one-point FARP establishment time by 90 percent and the total refueling time by 50 percent, with refueling of each F-35B Lightning II reduced to under ten minutes.

The system and its operators are capable of being air-inserted making the asset expeditionary. It effectively eliminates the complications of embarkation and transportation of gear to the landing zone.

Sgt Steve Anderson, bulk fuel specialist with Marine Wing Support Squadron 371, said: ‘What makes this system so unique is its mobility. We can pack the entire system in the back of a trailer and tow it into MV-22 Ospreys, CH-53 Super Stallions or KC-130J Super Hercules, and drop it into an austere environment to extend the area of operations for aircraft so that they can attack further inland or pierce directly into the heart of the enemy.’

‘We’re able to employ the entire system, maintain good radio communication –with not just the pilots but internally within the TAGRS team as well, provide limited security, and sustain the entire FARP operation.’

The ol' HERS was refueling at ~100-150GPM which would have required 15 min to refuel the 2000 gal F-35B. The new system appears to be capable of 300-600GPM. Hot pit turnaround is going to be faster.

Re: High cost of survival in an air war with China

Unread postPosted: 26 Feb 2020, 01:40
by weasel1962
I suspect the whole FARP team can also be inserted by sub. Another benefit to USMC being part of the navy.

Re: High cost of survival in an air war with China

Unread postPosted: 26 Feb 2020, 04:29
by weasel1962
Guess what, F-15Cs want in... ... s-futenma/

Agile Combat Employment: A Leaner, Meaner Force
By Senior Airman Rhett Isbell | 18th Wing Public Affairs | Feb. 24, 2020 ... ner-force/

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Airmen from Kadena Air Base, Japan, executed a training exercise on Marine Corps Air Station Futenma Feb. 21, 2020, in cooperation with Airmen from the 317th Airlift Wing from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, and MCAS Futenma Marines to sharpen 18th Wing Airmen’s force generation capabilities by training in the Agile Combat Employment concept.

Team Kadena Airmen flew to MCAS Futenma with minimal manning and equipment to demonstrate their ability to land in an austere environment without an established support network and refuel, rearm, and relaunch F-15C Eagles within 12 hours.

“In order to provide a lean, agile, lethal force here we utilize ACE training to be able to turn operational- level movements into smaller, tactical level initiatives,” said Lt. Col. Brian Knauf, deputy director of the 18th Wing ACE agency. “We now have a capability to find a location outside of Kadena, create a force to go into that location, set up a base, do a forward area rearm and refuel and get back into the fight. We’re bringing all of our normal capabilities, but with a much smaller footprint.

Seven aircraft and over 50 Airmen demonstrated their ability to project airpower from remote locations in a constantly changing wartime environment. Executing the core of this operation were the Airmen, on land, who quick-turned the F-15C Eagles after arriving only a few hours prior. The implementation of this ACE concept allows aircraft to rearm and refuel to get back into the fight quickly and efficiently.

“It was great being able to fully test what we were capable of in regard to how quickly we could get the F-15s back out in the fight,” said Master Sgt. Michael Bell, 44th Aircraft Maintenance Unit production superintendent. “We went with minimal crew and cargo and were still able to accomplish the mission we were given.”

Swiftly transporting this efficiently-manned and -equipped team required the expertise of loadmasters knowledgeable in their career field and experienced in operating remotely. Happy to show their proficiency in both aspects, loadmasters from Dyess AFB, volunteered to take part in the exercise to showcase their ability to further the ACE mission.

“We were responsible for ensuring all of the cargo and people required for this mission were brought to and from Futenma as quickly and safely as possible,” said Staff Sgt. Jacob Snider, 40th Airlift Squadron instructor loadmaster. “The ACE concept is constantly evolving and exercises like this allow us to not only accomplish the mission, but improve it as well.”

With the aid of Snider and his team, Kadena Airmen were able to successfully accomplish the ACE mission within a single day. An operation that would typically take up to five or six days. Knauf finds himself excited to see the ACE concept further improve the capabilities of Kadena Air Base and the U.S. Air Force as a whole.

“I think we get a lot of good training out of it,” Knauf said. “I would like to see more scaled-down events like this in the future. We need to know how to pick up and move our forces if the situation requires because it’s always good to be less of a target.”

Re: High cost of survival in an air war with China

Unread postPosted: 27 Feb 2020, 14:00
by sferrin
For this conversation consider the DoD is developing an even longer ranged JASSM. (1,000 nm.)

Re: High cost of survival in an air war with China

Unread postPosted: 28 Feb 2020, 22:49
by marauder2048
sferrin wrote:For this conversation consider the DoD is developing an even longer ranged JASSM. (1,000 nm.)

I don't think the current XR (a wing replacement/chine enhancement) is related to Lockheed's previous
proposals which were all fuselage stretches* to accommodate more fuel. So that range estimate from the
earlier efforts is probably not accurate.

* they also had a proposal that was weight reduced (smaller warhead) + more fuel efficient turbofan