Addendum to previous post about missiles and sensor aircraft

I should add that there are comparable developments of what can be done in the naval and air power realms.

Anti-ship cruise missiles of long range (such as RGM/UGM-109B) proved to be impractical because of too long duration of flight; target vectors were obsolete upon arrival. Cruise missiles with data downlink can solve this to the degree of making it unnecessary to launch anti-ship munitions from the aircraft that senses the target.

Another parallel is in anti-submarine warfare. A stand-off anti-sub rocket such as Klub 91RE2 can replace the lightweight torpedoes carried by ASW helicopters, thus improving their endurance a lot. This was as far as I know the idea behind the ultimately cancelled ASW-SOW Lance long ago.

An air war equivalent would be if fighters uploaded target info and surface-to-air missile firing units launch autonomous missiles (no semi-active seeker, no exclusive command control). That's certainly an option for a large air force that doesn't trust its ability to keep AEW aircraft on station and expects to be at least occasionally on the defensive. The biggest charm of this example is that a usually saturating attack wave would become almost impractical because the defender doesn't depend on the quantity of air2air missiles onboard of fighters in position. Surface2air missiles can be kept on station (on the ground) almost indefinitely.

Elsewhere you may read about quite the same stuff under the keyword "net-centric warfare" or similar. My intent here is to point out that while there's much talk about net-centric stuff, few people seem to go all the way and consider the former "sensor and munition" platforms now predominantly as "sensor" platforms. I have so far not seen any discussion outside of this blog that points at the desirability of ATACMS- or Iskander-like munitions in air force inventories, for example.

Such schemes depend on the reliability and availability of adequately ranged radio communications, of course. This degrades the approach to a nice-to-have thing in addition to a robust conventional approach, even if the latter is may become reduced to a backup. Kind of how carrier aircraft schemes replaced battleship into backups.

S Ortmann


  1. Logistics? Missiles seem to require more weight to deliver the same payload than the combination of bomb with aircraft, fuel, repairshop and so on. And they take more time to arrive on place than the munitions from the observing aircrafts or have even more weight per payload delivered.
    I have no doubt that this is the way forward. We could solve the combined speed-time-range-mass problem with reduced friction, either very high up near space or within an induced low pressure bubble.
    But as long as we struggle with the current transport chain to act on information, it sounds slightly futuristic?

    1. Missile artillery is logistically less efficient than gun artillery, but it beats air power logistical efficiency easily in many scenarios.

      A wing of 30 aircraft can easily have a total personnel strength of 1,400 and consume € 150 million a year in peacetime (both figures with wide variations between aircraft types and countries).