RAND Air Combat Report | Navy Matters Blog


The RAND Aug 2008 air combat report briefing … highlights:

  • Effective air power requires close, secure bases in order to generate sufficient sorties. Sortie rates decline rapidly with distance from the operating area. This will prove to be a severe problem in a Chinese conflict. Further, given the existence of 1000+ mile range ballistic missiles, base security, even at great distances from the operating area, may be compromised…
  • …USAF fighter ops are most efficient when bases are within 500 miles of the battle area and then noted that China has 27 airbases within 500 miles of Taiwan while the US has 1.
  • …Historical air-to-air missile kill probabilities, Pk… pre-combat expectations versus actual combat experience.
    • AIM-7 Sparrow pre-war Pk estimate of 0.70… Combat experience demonstrated a Pk of 0.08
    • AIM-9 Sidewinder had an anticipated Pk of 0.65 prior to Vietnam but demonstrated a 0.15 Pk in combat.
    • AIM-9L as used by Harriers in the Falklands war achieved a Pk of 0.73.
    • In Desert Storm, the US fired 48 AIM-9M and achieved 11 kills for a Pk of 0.23.
    • AIM-120 AMRAAM has demonstrated a Pk of 0.59 but that’s based on only 17 missile firings and none of the targets were maneuvering or using ECM – hardly representative of air-to-air combat.

How will the US Navy and US Air Force adapt air power to the A2AD environment? Compare the carrier vessel wings between 1983 and 2013, and think of where we are going with the F-35 JSF.

  • 1983
    24 F-14
    24 F/A-18
    6 A-6
    4 KA-6D
    4 EA-6B
    4 E-2
    10 S-3
    6 SH-3B
    1 EA-3B
    2 C-2
    85 aircraft

  • 2013
    24 F/A-18C
    24 F/A-18E/F
    5 EA-18G
    4 E-2
    ~5 MH-60R
    ~6 MH-60S
    2 C-2
    70 aircraft

    Notice that the 2013 CVW has no long-range interceptor (F-14), ASW (S-3), heavy bomber (A-6), tanking (KA-6) nor dedicated ELINT (ES-3). We’ve given up numbers AND capability.



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