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Last Updated: Mon Jan 27 11:18:09 UTC 2014

The Air Force Association 

Threats to Air Supremacy


Air Power Australia - Australia's Independent Defence Think Tank

Air Power Australia NOTAM

   16th May, 2008

WgCdr Chris Mills, RAAF (Retd)

Contacts: Peter Goon
Carlo Kopp

Mob: 0419-806-476 Mob: 0437-478-224

A short time ago, the US Air Force Association posted a highly significant assessment of trends in global air combat capabilities.  This is an important statement – it concludes that United States forces face the imminent threat of losing air supremacy in locations that matter to Australia – on the Pacific rim – which is Australia's front yard.

Threats to Air Supremacy:

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The assessment is measured and based on hard data and hard facts.  It is not based on hope, or specious arguments that it does not matter how good Russian equipment is, because "we will always out-fly / out-operate them on the day".
The capabilities of modern SAMs to protect airspace and territory are explored well, although some modern developments such as networking of VHF AESA radars and emitter locating systems are not included.  These developments only extend the extant capability of modern SAMs.  Some of the air-to-air missile capabilities are understated – for instance, the R-77M, the RVV-AE-PD, the R-37 all have a much longer range than the R-77/AA-12 shown, and the matter of seeker diversity is not addressed.  Also recent Russian developments such as the Irbis E hybrid ESA, the Zhuk AE and ASE AESA radars are understated. Again, the Air Force Association assessment underestimates these risks in this area of air combat.
Notwithstanding, this Air Force Association argument is exactly aligned to the arguments which APA and other independent Australian observers have been putting to various forums over the last decade.
Of particular interest is the USAF doctrine of ‘First Look – First Shot – First Kill’.  The Air Force Association now assess that this advantage will go to an adversary operating weapons such as the Su-35BM armed with longer range missiles such as the R-172 or R-77M and using DRFM-based electronic warfare equipment. Australia needs to reconsider the suitability of the F/A-18F and the F-35 JSF,  to achieve an air combat advantage and attain regional air dominance.
The Air Force Association analysis extends into the realm of the next generation of the Russian and Chinese fighters – the stealthy PAK-FA and the JF-12 / J-XX.  Given the glacial pace of the F-35 SDD, it is almost certain that the PAK-FA will be on the international market before the F-35 – and at much lower cost.

On behalf of Air Power Australia I am pleased to offer my congratulations to the Air Force Association on an excellent piece of analysis presented at a critical time.

Air Power Australia Website - http://www.ausairpower.net/
Air Power Australia Research and Analysis - http://www.ausairpower.net/research.html

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