Battle Network Competitions and competitive regime shifts

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z42

Senior Airman
649
422
Jan 9, 2023
I stumbled upon this report: https://csbaonline.org/uploads/documents/What-it-Takes-to-Win.pdf

An interesting read, although it seems a bit myopic at times. It defines "battle networks" as sensors, target acquisition systems, communications systems allowing sensors and weapons platforms to be far separated etc. It then argues this leads to competitive regimes where adversaries try to outdo each other in a particular set of technologies, until one of them manages to out-innovate the other in an increasingly fast cycle of innovation and counter-measure, or an out of the box innovation shifts the competition to an entirely new regime. Or "saved by the bell", where the conflict ends.

Wrt to air power in particular, it describes the WWII and cold war regime of radars, electronic navigation aids vs jamming in the domain of strike aircraft vs air defense systems, and this shifted to a new regime only with the development of stealth technology in the 1980'ies. Which makes sense given the focus on EM technologies in the report, but OTOH it seems strange to call the introduction of jets and missiles as just more of the same and not a similar shift to a new competitive regime?

Now back to WWII aviation, what could have been similar major paradigm shifts that would have given one side a significant advantage?
 
Air to air refueling.

Radar-assisted gun sights come to the mind.
Anti-radiation missiles too.

Good points both. My list, a bit boring perhaps, but still:

  1. Jet power. Not only for fighters, but for bombers too. I always find it amazing that only a few years after the end of WWII, we had jet bombers (say, the UK Canberra and V bombers, and the US B-52) that had cruise speeds in the high subsonic range (450-500kn), more than three times faster than the WWII heavy bombers that lumbered along at a pedestrian 160 kn or so.
  2. For the Axis powers, SAM's. Germany had some early prototypes, but had they doubled down on that path I don't think it's infeasible they could have come up with something like the Soviet SA-2 a few years later. Perhaps not much of a threat to a highly maneuverable fighter, but ought to have been more than good enough to hit bombers.
  3. Guided bombs to hit point targets. Like the Fritz-X and HS 293.
  4. Missiles like the V-1 and V-2 for hitting cities. We can argue about the military effectiveness and morality of bombing civilians, but it seems such systems can be in principle made relatively cheaply, and doesn't put aircrews at risk. And in particular it seems the V-1 was very cost-effective in the sense of requiring the Allies to put a lot of effort into stopping them.
 
Good points both. My list, a bit boring perhaps, but still:

  1. Jet power. Not only for fighters, but for bombers too. I always find it amazing that only a few years after the end of WWII, we had jet bombers (say, the UK Canberra and V bombers, and the US B-52) that had cruise speeds in the high subsonic range (450-500kn), more than three times faster than the WWII heavy bombers that lumbered along at a pedestrian 160 kn or so.
  2. For the Axis powers, SAM's. Germany had some early prototypes, but had they doubled down on that path I don't think it's infeasible they could have come up with something like the Soviet SA-2 a few years later. Perhaps not much of a threat to a highly maneuverable fighter, but ought to have been more than good enough to hit bombers.
  3. Guided bombs to hit point targets. Like the Fritz-X and HS 293.
  4. Missiles like the V-1 and V-2 for hitting cities. We can argue about the military effectiveness and morality of bombing civilians, but it seems such systems can be in principle made relatively cheaply, and doesn't put aircrews at risk. And in particular it seems the V-1 was very cost-effective in the sense of requiring the Allies to put a lot of effort into stopping them.
For the feasibility of this just see what was going on from around 1945-1955.

The idea is there, the implementation was not and not for lack of trying. Things slowed down in 1946-47-48 but after the Soviets did the Berlin blockade and then exploded an atomic bomb in 1949 there was a crap load of work being done on aircraft, missiles of all types. The 1950s missiles were adopted with a lot more fanfare than substance. They got them to work in test ranges but in actual service?

The Bullpup was the modern Fritz-X and that took from 1953 to 1959 get into service and while it actually worked, It had NOT solved some of the fundamental problems.
It still had to be "flown" by an operator using a joy stick and comparing the missiles location to the target using flares on the missile and the MK I eyeball through the windscreen, which meant the plane had to follow the missile at bit higher up and further back but it was not turn away. Plane had to fly into the defensive AA envelope.

It took a lot of years to actually get weapons that could reliably do what was claimed. Wire guided AT missiles got to the 3rd generation before they really became effective. Doesn't matter if they will penetrate hundreds of mm of armor if you need to fire over a score of missiles to get one hit in combat.
 
For the feasibility of this just see what was going on from around 1945-1955.

The idea is there, the implementation was not and not for lack of trying. Things slowed down in 1946-47-48 but after the Soviets did the Berlin blockade and then exploded an atomic bomb in 1949 there was a crap load of work being done on aircraft, missiles of all types. The 1950s missiles were adopted with a lot more fanfare than substance. They got them to work in test ranges but in actual service?

The Bullpup was the modern Fritz-X and that took from 1953 to 1959 get into service and while it actually worked, It had NOT solved some of the fundamental problems.
It still had to be "flown" by an operator using a joy stick and comparing the missiles location to the target using flares on the missile and the MK I eyeball through the windscreen, which meant the plane had to follow the missile at bit higher up and further back but it was not turn away. Plane had to fly into the defensive AA envelope.

It took a lot of years to actually get weapons that could reliably do what was claimed. Wire guided AT missiles got to the 3rd generation before they really became effective. Doesn't matter if they will penetrate hundreds of mm of armor if you need to fire over a score of missiles to get one hit in combat.
Yes, as I'm sure we're all well aware, first generation guided missiles were crap in all kinds of ways. But they don't need to be as good as guided weapons anno 2024, they just need to be enough better than the unguided systems they would replace/complement to be worth the extra cost.

Take the SAM; it needs to be more cost effective than heavy AA, it doesn't need to achieve anything close to "one shot one kill". German heavy flak apparently needed around 16000 shells for every heavy bomber they shot down, an astounding number when you think about it. And not only the shells, that's quite a few barrels worn out as well per kill, a huge amount of manpower to crew them etc. Even if the SAM's would achieve no better than a 10% hit probability it would still be a huge improvement. Heck even with a 1-in-50 hit rate it would probably still be cost effective compared to heavy AA.

And similarly for the guided bombs, the comparison is to dive bombing which got increasingly suicidal as the war progressed. Or then just dropping a huge amount of ordnance to achieve a hit? How many Tallboys did they need to drop before they hit the Tirpitz?

Of course a deployment of guided weapons by any combatant would lead to an arms race with jamming and jamming resistance, which would likely significantly degrade the hit rate. I recall the Allies managed to jam the Fritz-X quite soon after it was introduced.
 
Yes, as I'm sure we're all well aware, first generation guided missiles were crap in all kinds of ways. But they don't need to be as good as guided weapons anno 2024, they just need to be enough better than the unguided systems they would replace/complement to be worth the extra cost.

Take the SAM; it needs to be more cost effective than heavy AA, it doesn't need to achieve anything close to "one shot one kill". German heavy flak apparently needed around 16000 shells for every heavy bomber they shot down, an astounding number when you think about it. And not only the shells, that's quite a few barrels worn out as well per kill, a huge amount of manpower to crew them etc. Even if the SAM's would achieve no better than a 10% hit probability it would still be a huge improvement. Heck even with a 1-in-50 hit rate it would probably still be cost effective compared to heavy AA.

And similarly for the guided bombs, the comparison is to dive bombing which got increasingly suicidal as the war progressed. Or then just dropping a huge amount of ordnance to achieve a hit? How many Tallboys did they need to drop before they hit the Tirpitz?

Of course a deployment of guided weapons by any combatant would lead to an arms race with jamming and jamming resistance, which would likely significantly degrade the hit rate. I recall the Allies managed to jam the Fritz-X quite soon after it was introduced.
Context.
 
Yes, as I'm sure we're all well aware, first generation guided missiles were crap in all kinds of ways. But they don't need to be as good as guided weapons anno 2024, they just need to be enough better than the unguided systems they would replace/complement to be worth the extra cost.
Never said they had to as good as the weapons of 2024. I said and bolded 1955 for a reason (or several), it is 10 years after the end of WW II. It is within about 2 years (give or take) of many guided missiles systems actually being deployed. Not tested or even field tested, large scale deployment. And for AA missiles over 1/2 of the ten period was under the threat of atomic weapons which put more urgency into development compared to the 3-4 years post WW II.
Take the SAM; it needs to be more cost effective than heavy AA, it doesn't need to achieve anything close to "one shot one kill". German heavy flak apparently needed around 16000 shells for every heavy bomber they shot down, an astounding number when you think about it. And not only the shells, that's quite a few barrels worn out as well per kill, a huge amount of manpower to crew them etc. Even if the SAM's would achieve no better than a 10% hit probability it would still be a huge improvement. Heck even with a 1-in-50 hit rate it would probably still be cost effective compared to heavy AA.
The number 16,000 is often quoted but it is a bit disingenuous. I am not referring to you but by the people writing some of the articles/papers. An 88mm shell weighed 20.7lbs and used 5.3lbs of propellent.
German Wasserfall weighed 8200lbs and weight of propellent (different) was????
Soviet SA-2 weighed 5200lbs and propellent was ???
SA-2 consumed about 200 times the resources of an 88mm round (a little fast a loose here, a lot of steel vs some aluminum and so on) The Wasserfull was worse.
The Wasserfall guidance "system" well and truly sucked. As with many German wonder weapons, an improved guidance system (like one that could be used at night or one that could be used in a slightly cloudy daytime sky) was "under development".

SA-2s achieved kill rates of between 1 in 10 to 1 in 25 (?) depending on conditions (ECM status and others) using nor only radar far in advance of WW II but also propulsion technology and computer technology (analog) far in excess of WW II. Ten 5000lb missiles = 1920 88mm shells. Still better but not the disparity many writers claim.
Figure in the support systems, like the number of radars/radios and the analog computers to make the system work.
The AA missile was a better deal, but it took a huge amount of work to get it to be effective (even for 1 hit in 10), when did the regime change happen? In WW II the AA missile was marks blazed on trees showing the way forward but there were a lot of cold camps and missed meals before home was reached.
 

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