Jag-YOU-ar

We’ve long admired a great many British aircraft, and disdained oh so many French aircraft. Which puts us in a bind, because we want to really like the Jaguar, but it’s half British, and half French.  By the 1960s, the costs of developing a tactical aircraft were so high that smaller nations struggling to maintain a realistic aviation industry decided to partner up with other nations in bilateral and joint projects. There’s a long, long, long list of projects that failed, for technical reasons, budgetary reasons, inability to decide on work share, and diverging tactical requirements. But a few programs have actually worked out pretty well. The Panavia Tornado comes to mind, as well as its successor the Typho0n. Among the earliest successful joint programs was a partnership between BAC and Breguet to form SEPECAT, a joint company that designed and built the Jaguar, a supersonic light strike/ground attack aircraft that served Britain and France from the early 1970s through well into the 21st Century.

The Jag is a single seat* twin engine supersonic low/medium altitude jet that was used primarily in three roles:

  1. Nuclear strike
  2. Close Air Support
  3. Tactical Reconnaissance

In spite of its sleek lines, what the Jag wasn’t was a fighter. While it could carry Sidewinder (or similar) short range air to air missiles, that was more a matter of self defense. It didn’t even have radar. Instead, it had a respectable (for its day) navigation/attack system to guide it to its target.

And to be honest, it really wasn’t supersonic, either. That is, with no external stores, and given time and altitude, sure, it could break the sound barrier. But down low, and carrying its normal war load, no way. But it was pretty fast down low, which was the whole point.

There are four wing stations for external store under the wings. There are also two wing stations over the  wing, rather unusually, where the Sidewinders were carried. There is also a centerline station. Typically, the Jag would carry two drop tanks under the wings, a chaff dispenser on one wing and a jammer pod on the other, and a couple of 1000lb bombs on the centerline.

In addition to service with the RAF and the French AF, the Jag has had respectable overseas sales, especially in India, but also in Oman, Ecuador, and Nigeria.

Grab a cup of coffee. This is a fairly interesting look at life in an RAF Jag squadron. At around the 15 minute mark, there’s some spectacular low level flying in what I suspect is Star Wars Canyon in Oman.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yX3l6i6BKfM]

The French Navy also looked at a carrier capable version, but the word is that it was somewhat awful around the boat.
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9TJuWLXIPc]

*There are also two-seat operational trainer variants that retain combat capability.

Falkland Islands defence review after military deal between Russia and Argentina | UK | News | Daily Express

The aircraft, which Moscow will swap for beef and wheat, would be able to mount air patrols over Port Stanley.

Ministry of Defence officials fear Buenos Aires would take delivery of the planes well before the deployment in 2020 of the Navy’s 65,000-tonne aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth and its F-35B fighters, leaving a “real window of vulnerability”.

Defence cuts have left the Falklands with just four RAF Typhoon fighters, Rapier surface-to-air missiles and fewer than 1,200 troops, supported by a naval warship that visits throughout the year.

http://www.airforceworld.com/attacker/gfx/su24/su24_2.jpg

President Putin’s visit to Argentina in July laid the groundwork for exchanging Russian military hardware for wheat, beef and other goods Moscow needs due to EU food embargoes.

The deal involves a lease/lend of 12 Sukhoi Su-24 supersonic, all-weather attack aircraft.

They are ageing but Nato still regards what it codenames “Fencers” as “super-fighters”, with their 2,000-mile range and laser-guided missiles.

via Falkland Islands defence review after military deal between Russia and Argentina | UK | News | Daily Express.

NATO hardly considers the Su-24 a “superfighter” but it does consider it a very respectable long range strike platform.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e0/Sukhoi_Su-24_inflight_Mishin-2.jpg

We’ve opined that Argentina’s only chance to seize the Falklands again lies in a coup de main attack that renders the runways of the Falklands unservicable for a considerable length of time.

The Su-24 is quite capable of such a mission. It has the range and payload capacity to fly, approach under the radar, and strike with very little warning.

Further, depending on what munitions Russia includes with the transfer of the bombers, it could also pose a very significant threat to the destroyer or frigate that the Royal Navy keeps on station.

Whether Argentina will attempt such an attack is hard to tell. Mustering public support would be difficult. And any such attack would have to include large scale landings to actually control the islands. The land forces now stationed in the Falklands are very much more capable than the two platoons of Royal Marines that were there in 1982. At the same time, Argentina’s ability to conduct large scale landings has greatly diminished.

Further, there’s a much greater likelihood that this time around, Great Britain would resorts to strikes against the Argentinian mainland. One would hardly be surprised if Britain’s response to Argentinian aggression included a sub launched Tomahawk through the front door of Casa Rosada, the Argentinian presidential mansion.

Finally, it is hard to see this as anything less than Putin responding to Western support for Ukraine and Baltic states. You play in my back yard, I’ll play in yours.

H/T to Spill for pointing out the article to me.

Brimstone

We’ve all heard of the Hellfire missile, the primary weapon of the AH-64D Apache helicopter. Goodness knows, we’ve showed enough videos here of Hellfires landing on the heads of jihadis in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Britain liked the Hellfire. They have used them for years on their own fleet of Apaches. In fact, they liked it so much, they wanted to adapt it to be used from their fast jet fleet. But Britain also wanted to get away from the Hellfire’s semi-active laser seeker, and instead use a “fire and forget” millimeter-wavelength radar seeker.

Eventually, the redesigned missile, now known as Brimstone (which, yeah, the next logical name after hellfire), entered service in 2005. But it also became apparent that the positive control of a semi-active laser seeker was a handy feature. Accordingly, the Brits cleverly designed a “dual mode” seeker, allowing the shooter to fire in either millimeter-wave mode, or laser mode.  In radar mode, it can be ripple fired to engage multiple targets.  In fact, our Navy is looking closely at Brimstone to counter swarming boat attacks.

The British used Brimstone with good results throughout the campaign in Libya.

H/T to Dave at The Aviationist.

Top War Movies

Maybe a bit odd at Christmas time, but most involve a theme of sacrifice for a greater good, so there’s that.

My first really successful post here, waaaay back in July 2008, was a Top Ten list of war movies. The Moron Horde from AoSHQ invaded, and shared their thoughts.

Our cousins across the pond at Think Defence are posting their Top 20 list. A movie a day:

Chosen not on their artistic merit, historical accuracy or 100% Britishness but just because I think they are great and well worth a watch.

Seems a pretty good metric to me.

Today’s entry, The Way Ahead, released in an edited form here as The Immortal Battalion.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDMZOvFe3Pc&w=448&h=252&hd=1]

The Falklands v2.0- Getting There

Pretty quickly in doing research on the recently increased tensions between Argentina and Great Britain, I realized one of the biggest problems Argentina would have in any notional conflict would simply be getting to the islands.  Getting ashore would just be the first problem. Defeating the current defenses would be another.

Let’s take a look at the current Order of Battle for both sides.

[scribd id=123291888 key=key-a41g9nnkx02g526x0s9 mode=scroll]

Given the vast increases in British defense resources in the Falklands since 1982, any Argentine attempt to seize the islands would have to take a much different approach than the 1982 amphibious invasion, and would be a much wider scale operation, with much greater risks.

Argentina no longer has a credible ability to deploy more than a single battalion of expeditionary forces. Facing a reinforced rifle company in the defense with such a small force is just within the realm of feasibility, but facing one with air superiority over its own territory would be futile.

Argentina could land a token force of special operations somewhere in the Falklands to “show the flag” for domestic political consumption. Such a force could be landed by fishing vessel, or conceivably by Argentine submarine. Such a force would likely not be able to maintain station on the islands for more than 48 hours before British forces hunted them down. Since such a mission would be strictly for domestic purposes, the capture or destruction of such a team would be highly counterproductive, and great pains would be taken to plan for the retrieval of the team.

Other options short of an outright invasion are open to Argentina. Harassment of fishing vessels in Falklands waters, denial of landing rights to civil aviation from the Falklands (or even Great Britain), denial of port entry to ships making landfall in the Falklands are all options.  Other than being about 300 miles from Argentina, the Falklands are in the middle of nowhere, and some level of outside trade is critical. Actions by Argentina that are short of outright combat can persuade some commercial interests that it isn’t worth it to trade with the remote outpost.  We can expect Argentina to continue to do as much as possible to make the Falklands as expensive an outpost of Great Britain as they can, in hopes of reducing British support for the Falklanders continual claim to be under the protection of the Crown.

Should Argentina seriously try to seize actual control of the islands, they would first have to seize control of the air. The only way to do this would be to attack RAF Mt. Pleasant, and render its runways inoperative, at least for a few days. With any strategic warning at all, Great Britain could reinforce the standing force of four fighters with fairly large numbers of fighters, strike aircraft, and tankers.  With that in mind, Argentina would have to strike “out of the blue.”  A mass raid by as much of the A-4AR fleet as can be made operational would have a fair chance of success of damaging both runways. But if RAF Mt. Pleasant has as little as five minutes warning of the incoming raid, Argentine losses would be very heavy, both from ready alert Typhoons and Rapier surface to air missiles.

Let’s assume that such an Argentine raid has been successful. While denying Great Britain use of its airpower (at least temporarily) is a condition for any chance of success, such a raid would certainly alert ground forces to a possible landing.  Rehearsed plans to defeat any Argentine landings would be initiated. Whether Britain would attempt to defeat such a landing on the beaches or inland is an open question.

Any Argentine landing would have as its prime objective to seize RAF Mt. Pleasant. Failure to do so would give Britain time to repair any damage, and potentially allow reinforcements to flow in via an air bridge.  To defeat the British Army garrison quickly, the Argentines would need to land more than one battalion of their own Marines. But they lack the amphibious shipping to do so. They would have to press into service merchant vessels, themselves ill suited to serve as troopships. Worse, this procurement would have to take place prior to any hostilities. Such an action could very easily come to the attention of Britain, and serve as strategic warning of an impending attack.  Indeed, an large scale preparations by the ARA to ready more than a usual number of ships for sea is likely to attract British attention, and lead to reinforcing the islands.

But let’s assume, for the purpose of our discussion, that Argentina somehow manages to both suppress RAF Mt. Pleasant, land two or more battalions on the Falklands, and seize RAF Mt. Pleasant, and destroy or capture the garrison.  What could Britain do in return?

Much as Argentina would need to change its approach, with the absence of sea base airpower, and with a much smaller navy (and RAF, and army) Britain too would have to resort to different methods.

We’ll take a look at some possible courses of action in our next installment.

Falkland Islands in the news again

Argentina, struggling to keep its socialist economy afloat, has once again turned to an external distraction to keep the masses from looking too closely at the regime’s domestic record. For the last year or so, the government of Christina Kirchner has made noises about regaining control of the Falklands. For the most part, it’s just more political posturing. There will forever be a certain segment of the population there that will agitate for the Argentine flag to fly over the Falklands, no matter how little the inhabitants of the islands may wish it.

But the discovery of possible oil and gas reserves in the waters around the islands has also made future earnings in the area tempting to Argentina.

Britain has for the most part downplayed the tensions Argentina has attempted to incite. But the British are becoming annoyed, as, from their view, the matter was conclusively settled in 1982. Mind you, Britain has no great desire to hold onto the islands, even with potential energy reserves there. It is a net drain for them to support the islands and maintain a garrison there. But having spent fortune and shed blood to regain the islands, the very last thing Britain will do is succumb to Argentine diplomatic pressure to cede the islands.

The islands will shortly hold another referendum on British rule, in which they will almost certainly reiterate their loyalty to the Crown. As a matter of international law and the UN charter, that should be that. And as a practical matter, of course, Argentina’s failure to maintain control after seizing them means their claim is illegitimate. Your territorial integrity claims are only as legitimate as you can enforce them.

I’ve written a bit about the naval aspect of the Falklands War of 1982 here on the blog (a kindle version of the series is available HERE for the low price of $0.99) and the challenges both Argentina and Britain faced in that battle.

Should the Argentinians attempt to again seize the Falklands by force of arms, the scenario for both sides would be radically different. For one thing, Britain no longer has any Harriers to deploy aboard carriers, and as such securing air superiority would be a much greater challenge. On the other hand, Britain has a much more robust land attack capability at sea these days via Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles. And should Argentina attack again, I think Britain would be wise to make its opening salvo in reply an attack on the Argentine mainland, specifically, sending a TLAM through the front door of the Casa Rosada.

If there’s a bit of interest, I can describe some possible courses of action both sides might take should it come to a shooting war again.

Why are we here?

More than one US Army soldier in the Cold War looked at his map of Western Europe and wondered why the US Army, the anchor of the Nato Alliance, was stationed at one of the least likely invasion routes. The geography in the north of Germany is generally flat or low rolling hills, quite suitable to armored forces attacking from Poland and East Germany, where the bulk of the Soviet army was stationed.

In the south, the terrain was far more mountainous, with numerous chokepoints where attacking forces could be blocked, trapped, and destroyed. The primary Warsaw Pact Forces there were the Czech Army.

Given the importance of this terrain, why was the vast majority of the US Army in Europe stationed in the south, rather than in the north where the heaviest attack could be expected? The answer is a historical accident from 1940, and shows the tyranny of logistics over tactics.

In the summer of 1940, Nazi Germany was triumpant. They had conquered all of Western Europe from the Baltic to the Mediterrenian Sea. The only countries not under the Nazi thumb were a compliant Spain and tiny Portugal, both neutral countries, and that defiant lion, The United Kingdom. Following the fall of France in June 1940, the British Army was forced to retreat at Dunkirk and return to England. The British evacuation there will long live in the annals of history as a magnificent feat, but it was still a defeat.

The remains of the British Army were in bad shape. Most of their equipment had been abandoned in France. Just twenty miles away lay the victorious Wehrmacht. Already the German Army was laying plans for an autumn invasion of England. The British Army quickly moved to the southeast of England to defend against this planned invasion.

The Battle of Britain, where the Luftwaffe and the Royal Air Force fought a desparate struggle for command of the skies, took place over that summer and fall of 1940. The Germans knew that air superiortiy was needed for a successful invasion. They failed to achieve it. Still, the British were obliged to maintain a defense in southeast England lest the Germans try. While here, they began the process of re-equipping and rebuilding.

After the entry of the United States into the war in December 1941, Churchill and Franklin (and more importantly, their military staffs) both agreed that eventually, there would have to be an invasion of France across the English Channel. The US began moving forces into England. Since the southeast of England was full of British troops, most US forces were based in the west.

When the time for the invasion came, the decision was made to land in Normandy. Here is where the tyranny of logistics raised its ugly head.  Looking at the map below, we see that the US forces, stationed in the west, would be forced to land on the western side of the Cotentin Peninsula. The size of the invasion fleet was just too large to swap positions while at sea. The British would land in the east and the US to the west. When they broke out of the beachhead and wheeled to head east, that would place the British to the north and the US to the south.

After the invasion of Normandy, further US and French forces would invade southern France near Marseille, reinforcing the US position in the south.

While military planners would have preferred the heavier, larger, and more mobile US forces to attack across the north of Europe, while the smaller, less mobile British Armies made a supporting attack in the south, the delay, cost and confusion of trying to switch their positions made this impossible. Moving the forces might have been just barely possible, but there was no way to even attempt to move their huge logistical tails. The die was cast and the stage was set in stone. The disposition of forces would remain all the way across Europe to the defeat of Nazi Germany in May of 1945.

With the defeat of the Nazis, the vast majority of the Allied armies were demobilized and went home. Because so much of the German society had collapsed, however, significant occupation forces had to remain. Germany was divided into zones of occupation, with zones for the Russians, British, Americans, and French. Mostly these zones were where the forces had halted at the end of the war.

When the Iron Curtain fell across Europe in 1947, the Western Allies began to reinforce their positions in Europe, eventually forming NATO in 1949 (the Warsaw Pact wasn’t formed until 1955). By this time, it was too late to shift major forces to better suit the terrain, again primarily because of logistics. There was a political factor here though. If the US had tried to reposition major forces outside the US zone, the Soviets would have been able to protest that we were not abiding by the terms of the agreement. In fact, they could have argued that they should be able to move outside their zone as well, perhaps into the British or US zones. We certainly didn’t want that. Even after West Germany regained its sovereignity in 1955, it was logistically impossible to switch the positions of the major forces.

It is a fair guess that more than one US general, looking at the defense of Western Europe during the Cold War, cursed the fates that places the Allies in the positions they held. In fact, a large part of the development of AirLand Battle Doctrine was about flipping this geographical disadvantage on its head, and finding a way to use manuever to hide behind the terrain of southern Germany and strike into the flank of any Soviet attack to the north.