Opinion INDIAN ARMY AVIATION: A CASE FOR FIXED WING CLOSE AIR SUPPORT

Hellfire

Hellfire
Professional
Nov 30, 2017
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- Falcon

Introduction

The recent India-Pakistan stand-off in the aftermath of the Balakote Strike has brought to fore the need for the Government of India to support the Indian Armed Forces’ quest for creating operational & doctrinal flexibility, developing a plethora of military options in order to present to the Government of the day to respond to future incidents of the kind, as also modernization of the armed forces in order to effectively adapt to the rapidly changing future battlefields.

The introduction of Integrated Battle Groups, a formation that shall amalgamate the various arms and services of the army to create groups capable of carrying out sustained operations on short notice for a certain time interval in order to provide flexibility and effectiveness in military effort, has necessitated a relook at what remains one of the most important aspects of the modern day battlefield – that of Close Air Support (CAS).

Air & Land Power: The Relationship in the Modern Battlefield

In any war, depending upon the military situation, either the air power shall have the dominant role to play, or the land power. Their relationship is likely to shift over the course of a campaign, at times, even over a matter of few minutes to hours. At one extreme, the air power may dominate the battle space by augmenting the firepower of the army, obviating the need for artillery in some cases, while on the other, air power might coerce an opponent or destroy his/her military forces without a need for conduct of any ground operations.

One will not be wrong in saying that the air power’s greatest contribution is in weakening and impeding enemy forces before they can close with friendly troops. From the perspective of an air-force commander, the land power’s greatest contribution is in flushing and fixing enemy forces so that they can be destroyed by an air attack executed appropriately. The relationship has instances of pre-dominance of one power over other cyclically, but depends on a partnership to be effective.

Partnership does not, of course, imply having shared command between the respective commanders for the same operation, thus violating unity of command. It advocates an allocation of authority that maximizes the contributions of each partner toward a common endeavour, while working to employ the forces in a manner to maximize the benefit derived. Within the range of a land force formation’s organic weapons (normally 30 to 40 kilometers; may extend upto 100 kms for MBRLs), the land-force commander rightly expects to control air attacks. Indeed, he must have such control in order to integrate direct fires, artillery, rockets, attack helicopters, and fixed-wing aviation, so that synergistic operations that potentiate the employment of platforms, are ensured. Beyond that range, an air force commander should control air attacks, but with a view to assuring successful maneuver of land forces.

CAS: Analysis of Two Wars

An analysis of the air campaign conducted by NATO forces in Kosovo between Mar - Jun 1999 had interesting insights that underlined the importance of a partnership between the land and air components in a war. In the absence of a credible threat from NATO land forces, it was found that the Serb forces were free to disperse and hide in terrain that offered plenty of cover and concealment. For the number of sorties and the tempo of operations (ignoring the costs of same), the casualties inflicted on the Serb forces were quite light. As a result, it can be said that the air attacks against them were not effective. Indeed, Serb forces drove hundreds of thousands of Kosovar civilians from their homes during the NATO bombing at little cost to themselves.

In contrast, during Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-2014), the presence of a land power (Northern Alliance) effectively localized and contained the enemy (Taliban) allowing an effective employment of air power to degrade the fighting capability of Taliban which ensured the immense success of the operation in the initial stages.

The ‘partnership’ in operations is percolating to ever lower levels in the command channel. As India increasingly relies in deployment of small teams of special forces to achieve its military objectives, the requirement of effective land-air operations at micro level cannot be stressed enough.

CAS in Indian Armed Forces

A review of open source literature on Indian Armed Forces brings forth the reliance of Indian Army (IA) on Indian Air Force (IAF) for CAS. If the same literature is analysed for the composition of the Army Aviation, apart from few Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Mk IV Weapons System Integrated (WSI) or Rudra and retrofitted Cheetah as Lancer, the Army Aviation has no platform that can effectively carry out CAS in a conventional setting.


hawk-new-upgaded.jpg

Photo credit: Marina Lystseva

While certain defence analysts and experts have limited Indian Army’s requirement of a platform for CAS to merely rotary wing (RW) platforms, calling induction of sufficient numbers of ALH Mk IV (WSI) ‘Rudra’ , AH-64E Longbow and yet to be inducted Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) as more than enough to meet India’s CAS requirements, the modern day battlefield, coupled to the lessons learnt from the Feb 27th Indo-Pak aerial engagements, necessitate a relook at this myopic view.

lch.png

HAL Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) (Credit The Economic Times)

The primary objectives of the Indian Air Force in the initial 24 to 48 hours of any conventional operation necessitated out of political directives issued shall be to degrade the enemy’s air force and C3I capability, locate and destroy the various missile TELs/Silos and undermine the ability of the enemy to deploy his non-conventional weapons. With the limitation in the number of platforms that IAF can effectively employ against an adversary such as Pakistan (while maintaining a minimal dissuasive posturing against traditional ally China), there shall be a severe shortage in both the priority and the ability of IAF to meet the CAS requirements of the IBGs that are expected to spearhead an Indian response in a very short time. It can easily be gauged that even on the transport front, the IAF’s super carriers like C-17s, IL-76s and An-32s will be employed to quickly move stores and equipment of the IAF as it picks up it’s own tempo of operations, leaving virtually no platform for employment of Special Forces in an effective strength to conduct operations in depth, let alone in support of the Army IBGs.

From above, one can rationally conclude that for the first 48 hours, the Indian Army shall have to make do with it’s own complement of limited RW combat platforms and shall be expected to make sufficient progress in order to enable the Government of India to negotiate from a position of strength on the battlefield. While it is not an impossible target to achieve in face of the constraints, it shall, however, be both costly and difficult, sans a major augmentation of the Army Aviation in terms of platforms, both RW and Fixed Wing (FW).


lancer1.jpg

An Indian Army Aviation 'Lancer'

While the Indian Army should be credited for having come up with the idea that resulted in Rudra, it still did not address the Army’s requirement to be able to concentrate aerial platforms in sufficient numbers or with sufficient payloads in a dynamic battlefield. A RW platform is excellent for operations at low levels, operating in an airspace that is protected by army’s integrated air defence units, both short and medium range, but suffers from the handicap that the enemy may not necessarily always be within range of own air defence coverage, nor be devoid of his own air defence elements that can easily target a slow moving, low level platform. For a contested air space, as is expected till IAF can establish an air superiority, with both the threat and the altitude being held constant, a FW aircraft not only provides greater speed and payload, but also a longer reach in comparison to a RW, with increased survivability and possibility of undertaking deeper interdiction missions in order to potentiate a ground offense. Potentially, a platform like HAL Hawk-I, operating in Army Aviation as a dedicated CAS platform, allows the Army to conduct deeper interdiction operations/CAS at a higher tempo than possible only with RW platforms.It was due to this important fact that both the IAF and IN have looked at possibility of using their Hawks in CAS roles, with the latter having extensively trained to employ them for same in various amphibious exercises.

The establishment of Aviation Brigades, as being discussed in the public domain, with a Fixed Wing component, essentially allows the IAF to free up all its assets to achieve its own operational directives - that of establishment of air superiority and denial of aerospace access to the enemy, while affording the Army the capability to employ air power for CAS/interdiction of enemy troops and armour in order to enhance the effectiveness of own operations by IBGs and achieve early gains in order to strengthen Indian position at the time of negotiations.

Views & opinions are strictly of the author.




-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

@nair @Ashwin @randomradio @_Anonymous_ et al

Just add on. Random thoughts typed for a topic that needs some concrete discussion and views to be made into an opinion actually.
 

_Anonymous_

Senior Member
Dec 4, 2017
19,262
15,414
Mumbai
Bravo! @Falcon

You should be penning more such articles on military doctrines and other geostrategic aspects of our national security, time permitting. In fact, with your experience & Felicity with words, I think you ought to commence a second career in the media as a defense analyst. Just my two cents.
 

lcafanboy

Senior member
Dec 22, 2017
2,937
3,241
Bangalore
- Falcon

Introduction

The recent India-Pakistan stand-off in the aftermath of the Balakote Strike has brought to fore the need for the Government of India to support the Indian Armed Forces’ quest for creating operational & doctrinal flexibility, developing a plethora of military options in order to present to the Government of the day to respond to future incidents of the kind, as also modernization of the armed forces in order to effectively adapt to the rapidly changing future battlefields.

The introduction of Integrated Battle Groups, a formation that shall amalgamate the various arms and services of the army to create groups capable of carrying out sustained operations on short notice for a certain time interval in order to provide flexibility and effectiveness in military effort, has necessitated a relook at what remains one of the most important aspects of the modern day battlefield – that of Close Air Support (CAS).

Air & Land Power: The Relationship in the Modern Battlefield

In any war, depending upon the military situation, either the air power shall have the dominant role to play, or the land power. Their relationship is likely to shift over the course of a campaign, at times, even over a matter of few minutes to hours. At one extreme, the air power may dominate the battle space by augmenting the firepower of the army, obviating the need for artillery in some cases, while on the other, air power might coerce an opponent or destroy his/her military forces without a need for conduct of any ground operations.

One will not be wrong in saying that the air power’s greatest contribution is in weakening and impeding enemy forces before they can close with friendly troops. From the perspective of an air-force commander, the land power’s greatest contribution is in flushing and fixing enemy forces so that they can be destroyed by an air attack executed appropriately. The relationship has instances of pre-dominance of one power over other cyclically, but depends on a partnership to be effective.

Partnership does not, of course, imply having shared command between the respective commanders for the same operation, thus violating unity of command. It advocates an allocation of authority that maximizes the contributions of each partner toward a common endeavour, while working to employ the forces in a manner to maximize the benefit derived. Within the range of a land force formation’s organic weapons (normally 30 to 40 kilometers; may extend upto 100 kms for MBRLs), the land-force commander rightly expects to control air attacks. Indeed, he must have such control in order to integrate direct fires, artillery, rockets, attack helicopters, and fixed-wing aviation, so that synergistic operations that potentiate the employment of platforms, are ensured. Beyond that range, an air force commander should control air attacks, but with a view to assuring successful maneuver of land forces.

CAS: Analysis of Two Wars

An analysis of the air campaign conducted by NATO forces in Kosovo between Mar - Jun 1999 had interesting insights that underlined the importance of a partnership between the land and air components in a war. In the absence of a credible threat from NATO land forces, it was found that the Serb forces were free to disperse and hide in terrain that offered plenty of cover and concealment. For the number of sorties and the tempo of operations (ignoring the costs of same), the casualties inflicted on the Serb forces were quite light. As a result, it can be said that the air attacks against them were not effective. Indeed, Serb forces drove hundreds of thousands of Kosovar civilians from their homes during the NATO bombing at little cost to themselves.

In contrast, during Operation Enduring Freedom (2001-2014), the presence of a land power (Northern Alliance) effectively localized and contained the enemy (Taliban) allowing an effective employment of air power to degrade the fighting capability of Taliban which ensured the immense success of the operation in the initial stages.

The ‘partnership’ in operations is percolating to ever lower levels in the command channel. As India increasingly relies in deployment of small teams of special forces to achieve its military objectives, the requirement of effective land-air operations at micro level cannot be stressed enough.

CAS in Indian Armed Forces

A review of open source literature on Indian Armed Forces brings forth the reliance of Indian Army (IA) on Indian Air Force (IAF) for CAS. If the same literature is analysed for the composition of the Army Aviation, apart from few Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Mk IV Weapons System Integrated (WSI) or Rudra and retrofitted Cheetah as Lancer, the Army Aviation has no platform that can effectively carry out CAS in a conventional setting.


View attachment 10310
Photo credit: Marina Lystseva

While certain defence analysts and experts have limited Indian Army’s requirement of a platform for CAS to merely rotary wing (RW) platforms, calling induction of sufficient numbers of ALH Mk IV (WSI) ‘Rudra’ , AH-64E Longbow and yet to be inducted Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) as more than enough to meet India’s CAS requirements, the modern day battlefield, coupled to the lessons learnt from the Feb 27th Indo-Pak aerial engagements, necessitate a relook at this myopic view.

View attachment 10312
HAL Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) (Credit The Economic Times)

The primary objectives of the Indian Air Force in the initial 24 to 48 hours of any conventional operation necessitated out of political directives issued shall be to degrade the enemy’s air force and C3I capability, locate and destroy the various missile TELs/Silos and undermine the ability of the enemy to deploy his non-conventional weapons. With the limitation in the number of platforms that IAF can effectively employ against an adversary such as Pakistan (while maintaining a minimal dissuasive posturing against traditional ally China), there shall be a severe shortage in both the priority and the ability of IAF to meet the CAS requirements of the IBGs that are expected to spearhead an Indian response in a very short time. It can easily be gauged that even on the transport front, the IAF’s super carriers like C-17s, IL-76s and An-32s will be employed to quickly move stores and equipment of the IAF as it picks up it’s own tempo of operations, leaving virtually no platform for employment of Special Forces in an effective strength to conduct operations in depth, let alone in support of the Army IBGs.

From above, one can rationally conclude that for the first 48 hours, the Indian Army shall have to make do with it’s own complement of limited RW combat platforms and shall be expected to make sufficient progress in order to enable the Government of India to negotiate from a position of strength on the battlefield. While it is not an impossible target to achieve in face of the constraints, it shall, however, be both costly and difficult, sans a major augmentation of the Army Aviation in terms of platforms, both RW and Fixed Wing (FW).


View attachment 10311
An Indian Army Aviation 'Lancer'

While the Indian Army should be credited for having come up with the idea that resulted in Rudra, it still did not address the Army’s requirement to be able to concentrate aerial platforms in sufficient numbers or with sufficient payloads in a dynamic battlefield. A RW platform is excellent for operations at low levels, operating in an airspace that is protected by army’s integrated air defence units, both short and medium range, but suffers from the handicap that the enemy may not necessarily always be within range of own air defence coverage, nor be devoid of his own air defence elements that can easily target a slow moving, low level platform. For a contested air space, as is expected till IAF can establish an air superiority, with both the threat and the altitude being held constant, a FW aircraft not only provides greater speed and payload, but also a longer reach in comparison to a RW, with increased survivability and possibility of undertaking deeper interdiction missions in order to potentiate a ground offense. Potentially, a platform like HAL Hawk-I, operating in Army Aviation as a dedicated CAS platform, allows the Army to conduct deeper interdiction operations/CAS at a higher tempo than possible only with RW platforms.It was due to this important fact that both the IAF and IN have looked at possibility of using their Hawks in CAS roles, with the latter having extensively trained to employ them for same in various amphibious exercises.

The establishment of Aviation Brigades, as being discussed in the public domain, with a Fixed Wing component, essentially allows the IAF to free up all its assets to achieve its own operational directives - that of establishment of air superiority and denial of aerospace access to the enemy, while affording the Army the capability to employ air power for CAS/interdiction of enemy troops and armour in order to enhance the effectiveness of own operations by IBGs and achieve early gains in order to strengthen Indian position at the time of negotiations.

Views & opinions are strictly of the author.




-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

@nair @Ashwin @randomradio @_Anonymous_ et al

Just add on. Random thoughts typed for a topic that needs some concrete discussion and views to be made into an opinion actually.
Indian Army Air Force is the need of hour and not a luxury for Army. This thought has to go into the minds of MoD, babus, NSA Ajit Doval and PM Modi. At least 10 sqdns of fighters (jaguars, Mirage &mig29s after 2025 should be shifted to army Air force) and 20 sqdns of attack helicopters are necessary to provide close air support.

Further Indian Navy too needs a full fledged Indian Naval Air Force to completely take care of coastal air defence and offensive role relieving IAF from both will make them concentrate on offensive role against both Pakistan and China which will augment India's war fighting capabilities....
 

STEPHEN COHEN

Senior member
Dec 4, 2017
7,547
4,637
@Falcon

Sir I hope that you DO REALIZE
that Hawks and Helicopters will be Targeted
By the Large JF 17 fleet with their SD 10
And PL 15 Air to Air missiles
 

Hellfire

Hellfire
Professional
Nov 30, 2017
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@Falcon

Sir I hope that you DO REALIZE
that Hawks and Helicopters will be Targeted
By the Large JF 17 fleet with their SD 10
And PL 15 Air to Air missiles

I hope you realize that for that the PAF will have to first disengage with IAF. Read carefully. I have advocated a dedicated FW component with IA Aviation Corps for carrying out interdiction and CAS within 100-150 kms of the Corps battle front, thereby leaving IAF to concentrate solely on their mission of air superiority. If IAF is free to undertake tasks for establishment of air superiority, will the JF-17s come travelling up the road?
 
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Jaymax

Senior member
Apr 1, 2019
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I hope you realize that for that the PAF will have to first disengage with IAF. Read carefully. I have advocated a dedicated FW component with IA Aviation Corps for carrying out interdiction and CAS within 100-150 kms of the Corps battle front, thereby leaving IAF to concentrate solely on their mission of air superiority. If IAF is free to undertake tasks for establishment of air superiority, will the JF-17s come travelling up the road?

Thats Falcon. Answers questions before I can post them !!
 

Ginvincible

Well-Known member
Dec 5, 2017
567
560
Ohio
Because the CAS platform you are advocating for is shorter in range (within 100-150km of the frontlines) why couldn't artillery/cruise missiles take the role instead? Discounting Brahmos and Nirbhay cruise missies, the Indian Army already employs Pinaka MBRL systems and are making developments to make them more precise with a longer range (into the ranges you are advocating for). Precision munitions will be easier to field & maintain (logistically) and will be less susceptible to manpads and other forms of AA fire. They are also already inducted into the IA so expanding upon their roles wouldn't be much of a challenge?

If persistency over a wide area is what is required then wouldn't drones be a better candidate? They would be less costly to acquire and maintain and would give a boost to local defense manufacturers. On top of that, MALE drones could be used in combat roles or as forward attack controllers for the aforementioned artillery/missile support. The loss of a drone would also be much more acceptable compared to the loss of a manned craft.
 

randomradio

Senior Member
Nov 30, 2017
19,308
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India
I hope you realize that for that the PAF will have to first disengage with IAF. Read carefully. I have advocated a dedicated FW component with IA Aviation Corps for carrying out interdiction and CAS within 100-150 kms of the Corps battle front, thereby leaving IAF to concentrate solely on their mission of air superiority. If IAF is free to undertake tasks for establishment of air superiority, will the JF-17s come travelling up the road?

I have a question though. What is the IA's thought process when it comes to survivability of fixed wing assets when it comes to CAS? The Russians experimented with the Yak-130, called it the Yak-131. But they decided it cannot protect the pilot.

In your article you brought up the Hawk, but it's going to face the same problem as the Yak, with respect to pilot protection.

Even the A-10 and Su-25 are no longer deemed survivable. That's actually one of the reasons why the USAF is willing to give up on the A-10. And back in 2012 the Russians announced that they will be developing a next gen version for CAS that will replace the Su-25. We obviously know that's not going anywhere because of their finances. As a replacement, the USAF plan to use F-35 for CAS.

Another problem is the lack of enough air bases. CAS demands a high sortie rate, so the Hawks are going to end up hogging the runway, which will become a problem for the IAF who need the runway to conduct their own high-tempo operations. So the army may end up having to build and operate their own air bases, with the complete array of protection required to keep an air base functioning, including the stationing of a few IAF fighter jets for air defence. There's no way the IA can afford this.

Also due to upcoming defences on armoured vehicles and support vehicles and the fact that SPAAGs are only getting better and better, a CAS aircraft will need to be a much larger aircraft with a radar and radar-guided PGM capability, and naturally a capable self-protection suite. This will allow the aircraft to perform CAS from a much higher altitude, out of range/altitude of SPAAGs, but still being capable of operating against armoured vehicles. So, when you think about it, you need aircraft like the Rafale and MWF for CAS, Hawk lacks a radar. And we know that's not going to be realistic for the army.

I can provide an alternate suggestion, but it would be great to know what the IA wants out of this CAS aircraft first, whether the alternate suggestion will actually work out. With the Hawk, all the PA has to do is spend a bit on a modern SPAAG like the PGZ95 or PGZ09 and it's toast.
 
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STEPHEN COHEN

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Dec 4, 2017
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In My View there is Only One Plane that gives us More Combat Ability or Combat Power at the lowest cost

It is the MiG 29

50 Odd MiG 29s exclusively for Close Air Support

The present MiG 29 is a Low Cost Multi Role Aircraft

It will drive away JF 17 and drop bombs as well

We can use ASTRA missile for reducing costs of the Air to Air engagements

For Pakistan Victory will be defined as FOILING Indian Army and Indian Air force from making any substantial gains

We will have only 5 DAYS to make a Difference , Before UN and OIC start crying

Therefore any conflict will be Firepower Intensive

Pakistan will also try to Grab Territory

We can use LCA , And HAWKS to hit them when they come close to Our Territory

For Crossing the Border and also for staying
In the Air for a Long time , We need planes
With LONG legs and Loiter time
 

randomradio

Senior Member
Nov 30, 2017
19,308
14,039
India
In My View there is Only One Plane that gives us More Combat Ability or Combat Power at the lowest cost

It is the MiG 29

50 Odd MiG 29s exclusively for Close Air Support

The present MiG 29 is a Low Cost Multi Role Aircraft

It will drive away JF 17 and drop bombs as well

We can use ASTRA missile for reducing costs of the Air to Air engagements

For Pakistan Victory will be defined as FOILING Indian Army and Indian Air force from making any substantial gains

We will have only 5 DAYS to make a Difference , Before UN and OIC start crying

Therefore any conflict will be Firepower Intensive

Pakistan will also try to Grab Territory

We can use LCA , And HAWKS to hit them when they come close to Our Territory

For Crossing the Border and also for staying
In the Air for a Long time , We need planes
With LONG legs and Loiter time

Mig-29 is fine for standoff and light strike roles. It's not suitable for CAS at all.
 
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STEPHEN COHEN

Senior member
Dec 4, 2017
7,547
4,637
Mig-29 is fine for standoff and light strike roles. It's not suitable for CAS at all.

Russia can give us additional airframes quickly

That is why we are again buying them

Secondly you need a Multirole Fighter plane to Drive away the JF 17s

More Rafales and Sukhois will not come soon
 

randomradio

Senior Member
Nov 30, 2017
19,308
14,039
India
Russia can give us additional airframes quickly

That is why we are again buying them

Secondly you need a Multirole Fighter plane to Drive away the JF 17s

More Rafales and Sukhois will not come soon

So what you're saying is the IA should operate Mig-29?
 

STEPHEN COHEN

Senior member
Dec 4, 2017
7,547
4,637
So what you're saying is the IA should operate Mig-29?

No , IAF should acquire More MiG 29s for meeting the Squadron Shortage

Army can only operate Helicopters and Drones , Not even Hawks

See let us understand what will be the Conflict Dynamics

BEFORE any success on the Ground we will
Have to Achieve Air Superiority

Therefore we need More Fighter planes and More AAMs

PAF will create a Barrier in the Sky with JF 17s and F7s and F 16s

MiG 29 can Fight and Bomb the ground targets as well

It also has a Good Range which is lacking in LCAs
 

Hellfire

Hellfire
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Nov 30, 2017
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Because the CAS platform you are advocating for is shorter in range (within 100-150km of the frontlines) why couldn't artillery/cruise missiles take the role instead?

Firstly, let us just understand what exactly constitutes an 'air domain'.

An Air Domain consists of all the atmosphere from the surface of the earth right up to an altitude where the operations cease to be effectively carried out. In the modern battlefield, where there is an emphasis on maintaining own C3I2 and disrupting the enemy's C3I2, this space virtually includes everything inclusive of space based platforms.

Now, the IAF is tasked with dominating this 'Air Domain'. As such, the task of IAF today is to control the air space and prevent enemy air and missile threats from effectively interfering with operations of friendly air, land, maritime, space, cyberspace, and special operations forces (SOF), while at the same time, facilitating freedom of action and movement.

India's modern wars will not be fought over a prolonged period of time due to the inherent need to undertake effective operations to 'respond' to terror attacks with own punitive actions, control the conflict thereby relegating it to 'short/limited war' domain and effectively withstanding international diplomatic and internal political pressures till as such time the operational directives are met. All these leave a very small time period for the forces to operate. With such political, diplomatic constraints being additive to the economic and resource crunch already existent, the IAF simply does not have the platforms necessary to be able to provide a CAS on demand in different theaters. That is why, FW assets for CAS with IA Aviation Corps was an idea I floated around for views.

Specific to your point above, the IBG/Corps will be expected to engage decisively with troops within the range as mentioned above. Beyond this, neither the military logistics, nor the deployment of enemy troops, support own operations. The figure I have given is inclusive of the main defensive/offensive enemy troop body along with it's logistics and supply chain. While you are right that artillery/cruise missiles can be used, the pertinent point remains that even the artillery shall be expected to provide close in Defensive Fire at times and yet, at the same time, interdiction missions need to be carried out to cut off reinforcements coming in for an enemy attack. Use of cruise missiles on a dynamic battlefield against moving targets makes little sense, it is costly and waste of precious resources (US exhausted it's Tomahawk Cruise missile stocks to lowest levels in initial phase of Operation Enduring Freedom while targeting Taliban in Afghanistan). A RW is ideally suited in an 'Air-Cavalry' operation, wherein a RW platform provides incremental kill capability to own armour and mechanized formations within a small envelope (10-12 kms), are covered by the integral AD Assets of Armoured Formations, and are effective tank killers. However, to move beyond this envelope to interdict reinforcements, the RW is a comparatively slow moving target and may easily be targeted. On the other hand, a FW is fast, carries a greater load, and has operational flexibility to carry armament suited for it's role. Be it anti-armour/anti-personnel cluster munitions (like CBU-105) or 500/1000 lbs LGBs/dumb bombs or even A2A, A2G missiles.

There was a contention of calling FW as an obsolete concept as UAVs and UCAVs have increasingly been inducted. But these rely on remote piloting, are comparatively slower and prone to jamming. It is still very difficult to 'jam' a pilot.

Discounting Brahmos and Nirbhay cruise missies, the Indian Army already employs Pinaka MBRL systems and are making developments to make them more precise with a longer range (into the ranges you are advocating for). Precision munitions will be easier to field & maintain (logistically) and will be less susceptible to manpads and other forms of AA fire. They are also already inducted into the IA so expanding upon their roles wouldn't be much of a challenge?

Again, FW will potentiate. As explained earlier, artillery (inclusive of MBRLs) may not always be free to provide both defensive fire and interdiction. The operational flexibility in terms of targeting is not as dynamic as with a FW.

If persistency over a wide area is what is required then wouldn't drones be a better candidate? They would be less costly to acquire and maintain and would give a boost to local defense manufacturers. On top of that, MALE drones could be used in combat roles or as forward attack controllers for the aforementioned artillery/missile support. The loss of a drone would also be much more acceptable compared to the loss of a manned craft.


As explained above.
 

STEPHEN COHEN

Senior member
Dec 4, 2017
7,547
4,637
Firstly, let us just understand what exactly constitutes an 'air domain'.

An Air Domain consists of all the atmosphere from the surface of the earth right up to an altitude where the operations cease to be effectively carried out. In the modern battlefield, where there is an emphasis on maintaining own C3I2 and disrupting the enemy's C3I2, this space virtually includes everything inclusive of space based platforms.

Now, the IAF is tasked with dominating this 'Air Domain'. As such, the task of IAF today is to control the air space and prevent enemy air and missile threats from effectively interfering with operations of friendly air, land, maritime, space, cyberspace, and special operations forces (SOF), while at the same time, facilitating freedom of action and movement.

India's modern wars will not be fought over a prolonged period of time due to the inherent need to undertake effective operations to 'respond' to terror attacks with own punitive actions, control the conflict thereby relegating it to 'short/limited war' domain and effectively withstanding international diplomatic and internal political pressures till as such time the operational directives are met. All these leave a very small time period for the forces to operate. With such political, diplomatic constraints being additive to the economic and resource crunch already existent, the IAF simply does not have the platforms necessary to be able to provide a CAS on demand in different theaters. That is why, FW assets for CAS with IA Aviation Corps was an idea I floated around for views.

Specific to your point above, the IBG/Corps will be expected to engage decisively with troops within the range as mentioned above. Beyond this, neither the military logistics, nor the deployment of enemy troops, support own operations. The figure I have given is inclusive of the main defensive/offensive enemy troop body along with it's logistics and supply chain. While you are right that artillery/cruise missiles can be used, the pertinent point remains that even the artillery shall be expected to provide close in Defensive Fire at times and yet, at the same time, interdiction missions need to be carried out to cut off reinforcements coming in for an enemy attack. Use of cruise missiles on a dynamic battlefield against moving targets makes little sense, it is costly and waste of precious resources (US exhausted it's Tomahawk Cruise missile stocks to lowest levels in initial phase of Operation Enduring Freedom while targeting Taliban in Afghanistan). A RW is ideally suited in an 'Air-Cavalry' operation, wherein a RW platform provides incremental kill capability to own armour and mechanized formations within a small envelope (10-12 kms), are covered by the integral AD Assets of Armoured Formations, and are effective tank killers. However, to move beyond this envelope to interdict reinforcements, the RW is a comparatively slow moving target and may easily be targeted. On the other hand, a FW is fast, carries a greater load, and has operational flexibility to carry armament suited for it's role. Be it anti-armour/anti-personnel cluster munitions (like CBU-105) or 500/1000 lbs LGBs/dumb bombs or even A2A, A2G missiles.

There was a contention of calling FW as an obsolete concept as UAVs and UCAVs have increasingly been inducted. But these rely on remote piloting, are comparatively slower and prone to jamming. It is still very difficult to 'jam' a pilot.



Again, FW will potentiate. As explained earlier, artillery (inclusive of MBRLs) may not always be free to provide both defensive fire and interdiction. The operational flexibility in terms of targeting is not as dynamic as with a FW.




As explained above.

What will happen when a JF 17 Locks onto A Hawk or Apache from a Distance of 50 KM
 

Hellfire

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I have a question though. What is the IA's thought process when it comes to survivability of fixed wing assets when it comes to CAS? The Russians experimented with the Yak-130, called it the Yak-131. But they decided it cannot protect the pilot.

IA still has not evolved into considering a FW as a platform in CAS role. Over twitter too, couple of senior retired officers have commented on the movement towards UAVs and UCAVs as opposed to FWs for CAS and emphasised RW for armour. While their insights are valid, their views are, perhaps, strengthened by 'lessons' of employment of Aerial Platforms by US. If you notice the wars that US has fought from 90s till date, where ever the US has not put 'feet on ground' the results have been less than commensurate with the effort and costs put in. Similarly, the profile of the enemy being engaged is Yugoslavia, a rudimentary air force, Iraq - airforce was grounded and not in air, Taliban - no air force. Now compare this with an enemy we face. Technologically enabled, viable air forces, trained to operate in an integrated environment and able to effectively employ troops in conventional operations.

In your article you brought up the Hawk, but it's going to face the same problem as the Yak, with respect to pilot protection.

Pilot protection is an important issue, but my idea is of IAF being able to dominate the theater thereby denying enemy AFs a chance to engage these FWs operating as CAS and interdiction mission some distance away and behind own IAF aircrafts providing a screen/airspace denial.


Even the A-10 and Su-25 are no longer deemed survivable. That's actually one of the reasons why the USAF is willing to give up on the A-10.

USAF is a different ballgame, it too is evolving. USMC has had V-22s being escorted by USAF A-10s, A-10s are being upgraded under the common fleet initiative. However, Hawk-i was an example. FW is what I want to stress on. Since we do not have large enemy air forces to contend with, nor have we ever planned for expeditionary forces, I am merely basing my comments on the present Indian security scenario.


And back in 2012 the Russians announced that they will be developing a next gen version for CAS that will replace the Su-25. We obviously know that's not going anywhere because of their finances. As a replacement, the USAF plan to use F-35 for CAS.

Answered earlier. A-10s are around till 2030s.



Another problem is the lack of enough air bases. CAS demands a high sortie rate, so the Hawks are going to end up hogging the runway, which will become a problem for the IAF who need the runway to conduct their own high-tempo operations.

Again, yes and no. Civil airports are anyways dual use airports. Also, existing air bases can under go capacity enhancements.

So the army may end up having to build and operate their own air bases, with the complete array of protection required to keep an air base functioning, including the stationing of a few IAF fighter jets for air defence. There's no way the IA can afford this.

Not so. Here the partnership comes into play. The platforms can be co-located, the ACs be under command of the land force commanders with deeper interdiction missions carried out under the overall command of IAF. This is already happening as we speak, in J&K. The IAF has the primary control of airspace over J&K with weapons free all over. IA Aviation sorties are undertaken only after clearance from IAF.

Also due to upcoming defences on armoured vehicles and support vehicles and the fact that SPAAGs are only getting better and better, a CAS aircraft will need to be a much larger aircraft with a radar and radar-guided PGM capability, and naturally a capable self-protection suite. This will allow the aircraft to perform CAS from a much higher altitude, out of range/altitude of SPAAGs, but still being capable of operating against armoured vehicles. So, when you think about it, you need aircraft like the Rafale and MWF for CAS, Hawk lacks a radar. And we know that's not going to be realistic for the army.

Armored vehicles will be frontline troops for enemy too. I am talking of interdiction and CAS in depth. What are our tanks for?
 
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Hellfire

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What will happen when a JF 17 Locks onto A Hawk or Apache from a Distance of 50 KM


What will happen if fuel is not of good quality?
What will happen if there is a short circuit in aircraft engine?
What will happen if a flight of bird hits?
What will happen if the pilot suffers a heart attack?
What will happen if pilot has epileptic seizure?


Please at least read and understand what is being talked about. Have clearly written that IAF will be much ahead from these aircrafts. :rolleyes:
 

nair

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What will happen if fuel is not of good quality?
What will happen if there is a short circuit in aircraft engine?
What will happen if a flight of bird hits?
What will happen if the pilot suffers a heart attack?
What will happen if pilot has epileptic seizure?


Please at least read and understand what is being talked about. Have clearly written that IAF will be much ahead from these aircrafts. :rolleyes:
But don't you think 100-150 Km will be a very large envelope for the intended objective? Especially considering the scenario of an Indo-pak..... <100 km should be the right choice.... Beyond that should be big birds from IAF...... Correct me if I am wrong...