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Can an outnumbered air force be dangerous?

Unread postPosted: 08 Nov 2014, 00:18
by rpg83
How do you see the position of an outnumbered air force in air-to-air combat? If the enemy has 150 fighters, does having 20 fighters do you any good?

Let's assume there is no technological advantage on either side (i.e. both forces operate the same fighter jet). Support assets are the same level too. There is no major difference in skill levels either. As you might have already guessed, the larger force is the aggressor. The smaller air force is only defending their homeland so I guess they may have a little home advantage, and I don't mean the psychological one.

Can the smaller air force produce losses to the larger air force with a reasonable kill-ratio? If not, how many fighters would the outnumbered party need to have a kill-ratio closer to 1?

Re: Can an outnumbered air force be dangerous?

Unread postPosted: 08 Nov 2014, 11:00
by lookieloo
rpg83 wrote:How do you see the position of an outnumbered air force in air-to-air combat? If the enemy has 150 fighters, does having 20 fighters do you any good?

Let's assume there is no technological advantage on either side (i.e. both forces operate the same fighter jet). Support assets are the same level too. There is no major difference in skill levels either. As you might have already guessed, the larger force is the aggressor. The smaller air force is only defending their homeland so I guess they may have a little home advantage, and I don't mean the psychological one.

Can the smaller air force produce losses to the larger air force with a reasonable kill-ratio? If not, how many fighters would the outnumbered party need to have a kill-ratio closer to 1?
The mohamedian air-forces surrounding Israel have repeatedly had their a$$es handed to them on a plate despite superior numbers. Sometimes as aggressor, sometimes not.

Re: Can an outnumbered air force be dangerous?

Unread postPosted: 08 Nov 2014, 13:57
by basher54321
rpg83 wrote:How do you see the position of an outnumbered air force in air-to-air combat? If the enemy has 150 fighters, does having 20 fighters do you any good?

Let's assume there is no technological advantage on either side (i.e. both forces operate the same fighter jet). Support assets are the same level too. There is no major difference in skill levels either. As you might have already guessed, the larger force is the aggressor. The smaller air force is only defending their homeland so I guess they may have a little home advantage, and I don't mean the psychological one.

Can the smaller air force produce losses to the larger air force with a reasonable kill-ratio? If not, how many fighters would the outnumbered party need to have a kill-ratio closer to 1?



Assume that is 20 /150 jets only? - so there will be a lot less in the air at any one time.

In this case the force with superior tactics could prevail - e.g the home defending force likely has an IADS with SAMS and AAA (See VPAF in SEA) so combined with good tactics could even things out.

Re: Can an outnumbered air force be dangerous?

Unread postPosted: 08 Nov 2014, 14:52
by joost
Look what happened in 1967 and 1973 in the middle east, count the numbers and you'll see. But in an attrition war the one with less assets is likely to run into trouble.

Re: Can an outnumbered air force be dangerous?

Unread postPosted: 08 Nov 2014, 19:28
by thenonflyingdutchman
Let's take the Dutch Airforce as example in the 2020-2030 timeframe. That means 37 F-35A's from 2023 on, and zero F-16's. They say history repeats itself, so let's take three possible enemies.

NL vs Germany (~100 Eurofighters + maybe some Tornado's)
NL vs France (~150 Rafales + maybe some Mirage2000's)
NL vs United Kingdom/England (~80 F-35A/B and about 100 or so Eurofighters)

Against Germany and France they could inflict serious losses to the first wave of attackers i guess, maybe again in the the second wave, but you can't be in the air all the time and you'll get thrashed when you're on the ground.
Against UK with it's mixed fleet, don't even bother; wave the white flag.

I''ve said it before, 37 aircraft is not much of an airforce, even if it's a superior fighter. Quantity has a quality all its own. Numbers do count.

Re: Can an outnumbered air force be dangerous?

Unread postPosted: 08 Nov 2014, 20:07
by rpg83
I don't know how well the Arab-Israeli conflicts can be applied to this issue. Surely you can counter a larger force by performing a pre-emptive strike but that's not always a possibility. A small and politically meaningless country might not be able to take the risk of being seen as the aggressor. When it comes to the Yom Kippur War, IAF was outnumbered only 2:1, not over 7:1 like in my example.

I'm sure as hell that no sane pilot wants to get into a furball with seven bandits. How about BVR combat, how much do the numbers matter there? Anyway, Basher54321 made a valid point in mentioning IADS and SAMs. Luring your enemy into a trap by SAMs, priceless!

The reason I started this thread in the first place was that I was wondering if a smaller force can have a deterrent value. Surely it will lose in the long run but being able to make your enemy pay for the attack discourages the enemy from attacking.

Re: Can an outnumbered air force be dangerous?

Unread postPosted: 08 Nov 2014, 20:25
by newmanfrigan
thenonflyingdutchman wrote:Let's take the Dutch Airforce as example in the 2020-2030 timeframe. That means 37 F-35A's from 2023 on, and zero F-16's. They say history repeats itself, so let's take three possible enemies.

NL vs Germany (~100 Eurofighters + maybe some Tornado's)
NL vs France (~150 Rafales + maybe some Mirage2000's)
NL vs United Kingdom/England (~80 F-35A/B and about 100 or so Eurofighters)

Against Germany and France they could inflict serious losses to the first wave of attackers i guess, maybe again in the the second wave, but you can't be in the air all the time and you'll get thrashed when you're on the ground.
Against UK with it's mixed fleet, don't even bother; wave the white flag.

I''ve said it before, 37 aircraft is not much of an airforce, even if it's a superior fighter. Quantity has a quality all its own. Numbers do count.


You'll kill more of the enemy fighters with 40 F-35 than with 60 F-16. The problem is the budget, not the fighter, as 75 F-16s still don't stand a strong chance against those neighbors superior numbers.

Best plan for the future is to not get in a war with Germany or France.

Re: Can an outnumbered air force be dangerous?

Unread postPosted: 09 Nov 2014, 00:19
by basher54321
rpg83 wrote:The reason I started this thread in the first place was that I was wondering if a smaller force can have a deterrent value. Surely it will lose in the long run but being able to make your enemy pay for the attack discourages the enemy from attacking.



Looking at a few numbers by themselves is always to dismiss a lot of other factors.

In 1982 it was initially ~20 * Sea Harriers Vs ~150 * Mirage III/V and A-4/Super Etendards.

The M2.2 Mirage III/V had cleaned up in Israeli hands - and now was up against a slow subsonic, range limited Harrier with only 2 A-A missiles. (there are a ton of reasons why the Harrier ended up with a 20 - 0 A-A kill score!)


The current deterrent on the Falkland Islands vs the entire FAA is about 4 * Typhoons (previously 4 * Tornado ADV / F-4M/K). (again other factors to consider)

Re: Can an outnumbered air force be dangerous?

Unread postPosted: 09 Nov 2014, 12:13
by vilters
The small number air forces.
The Netherlands, Belgium and others.

They will buy 37 or 35 Aircraft.

In normal operations:

- 2-to 3 aircraft will be in phased inspections
- 2 to 3 aircraft will be in for modifications/ upgrades (certainly the first years)
- 3 to 4 aircraft will be in 100, 200, or 300 inspections
- leaves you with about 24-25 aircraft to play with.

Each Aircraft needs about 2 manhrs after each flight. (standard turn around times)
About half of the aircraft will need some repair / maintenance after each flight.

Conclusion?

If you want 24 hr a day airborne cover?

You can have a flight of maximum of 4 aircraft airborne at any given time.

If you want a 9 to 5 airforce? You can field 8 A/C at any given time. ( And repair at night )

Only sheer luck would bring that number up to 12.

On a bad day, you"d have to say; "Hey please do not attack, my airplane is not ready yet."

Re: Can an outnumbered air force be dangerous?

Unread postPosted: 09 Nov 2014, 12:24
by vilters
Denmark, The Netherlands and Belgium should have a combined Air-Force. (Include Luxemburg)

After all?
Does each individual country ( 300x 200 km in surface ) need such small numbers of hi-tech supersonic Jets?

A Combined Air Force would make far more sense, reduce maintenance costs, and increase servicability.

Re: Can an outnumbered air force be dangerous?

Unread postPosted: 09 Nov 2014, 17:08
by joost
I have another example for You. Look into the numbers of the Finnish-Russian war of 1939. There an outnumbered air force was quite dangerous.

Re: Can an outnumbered air force be dangerous?

Unread postPosted: 10 Nov 2014, 05:37
by thepointblank
vilters wrote:Denmark, The Netherlands and Belgium should have a combined Air-Force. (Include Luxemburg)

After all?
Does each individual country ( 300x 200 km in surface ) need such small numbers of hi-tech supersonic Jets?

A Combined Air Force would make far more sense, reduce maintenance costs, and increase servicability.

The Dutch, Luxembourg, and Belgians have a joint force agreement. They already cooperate extensively. If the Dutch and Belgians were to deploy their F-16's, they operate together in one unit; a Belgian mechanic can work on a Dutch F-16, and vice versa.

Re: Can an outnumbered air force be dangerous?

Unread postPosted: 10 Nov 2014, 07:09
by weasel1962
Faith, Hope and Charity - the story of Malta at its finest hour. By the way, they succeeded in keeping their independence.

Re: Can an outnumbered air force be dangerous?

Unread postPosted: 10 Nov 2014, 07:28
by Corsair1963
thenonflyingdutchman wrote:Let's take the Dutch Airforce as example in the 2020-2030 timeframe. That means 37 F-35A's from 2023 on, and zero F-16's. They say history repeats itself, so let's take three possible enemies.

NL vs Germany (~100 Eurofighters + maybe some Tornado's)
NL vs France (~150 Rafales + maybe some Mirage2000's)
NL vs United Kingdom/England (~80 F-35A/B and about 100 or so Eurofighters)

Against Germany and France they could inflict serious losses to the first wave of attackers i guess, maybe again in the the second wave, but you can't be in the air all the time and you'll get thrashed when you're on the ground.
Against UK with it's mixed fleet, don't even bother; wave the white flag.

I''ve said it before, 37 aircraft is not much of an airforce, even if it's a superior fighter. Quantity has a quality all its own. Numbers do count.



The Netherlands is not going to get into a conflict with Germany, France, or the United Kingdom. :doh:

Honestly, the two most likely scenarios would either be a major conflict with Russia or small conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan. In either case the F-35 is the ideal solution. As it is the most capable and can easily intergrade with the majority of it NATO and European Partners.

Re: Can an outnumbered air force be dangerous?

Unread postPosted: 10 Nov 2014, 10:10
by hornetfinn
joost wrote:I have another example for You. Look into the numbers of the Finnish-Russian war of 1939. There an outnumbered air force was quite dangerous.


This. And you can also look into the numbers of Finnish-Soviet Continuation war of 1940-1944 where FAF managed to keep Soviet Air Force at bay and managed a very lopsided score against them. Finnish Air Force was probably better trained, but was not much better technologically and in many cases had significantly inferior equipment. Of course FAF was also significantly inferior in numbers (outnumbered by about 3:1 to 10:1 depending on exact date). There were a lot of factors why the end result was what it was, but the main reasons were better training and skill, better tactics, better employment, home field advantage due to better knowledge of geography and weather conditions and having better communications systems (especially ground control system).

I'm sure a smaller air force can be extremely dangerous even with similar equipment and skills, if it has some other advantages like FAF had during 1939-1944. Usually the larger country can not afford to use all of their forces against one small enemy, but has to use only part of it and thus making things more equal. Also the defender aircraft usually have to fly shorter distances and their defending fighters can fly more sorties thus making forces more equal.