Low flying

#1
I took a kicking here some while back when querying the value of low flying aircraft in actual combat/active operations. I had not posted anything to back this up.
I've now, accidentally, come across one of the items that was in my mind at the time so I've come back for Round Two.
Low-flying and security posture: Examining the historical and current contexts of NATO military low-flying and its future prospects
by Alan H. Bloomgarden

There are two major reasons to question the necessity for continued extensive low-level flight training by Canada and its allies. The first, and more important of these, relates to the role of low-flying in overall security policy. The military capabilities developed through low-flying training form a constituent component of national security postures, which in turn help define the NATO alliance's own posture.

The first section of this paper will make the case that the capabilities developed by low-flying adversely affect the overall stance of these security postures, emphasizing offensive capabilities at the expense of more stable, mutually secure defence postures. Insofar as recent events and current trends point toward the need for improved systems of security that promote and ensure the common security of all parties, offensive military capabilities should be minimized, and the offensive capabilities served by certain kinds of low-flying training should be constrained. In the specific case of NATO, current and future demands of UN- or internationally-sanctioned peace support operations also require greater attention to more sophisticated, multi-national, and multi-service military training.

The second major reason to question extensive low-level flight training concerns its continuing usefulness (from a military perspective) as a tactic. Low-flying proved a costly enterprise in the Gulf War, one which was of indeterminate value in the circumstances. The early abandoning of low-flying in the defence environment most often portrayed by air planners as the one in which it could be most useful calls into question the suitability of such missions for future scenarios involving strong air defences. Less threatening scenarios might not demand an intensive radar-evasion effort at all.

Military alternatives to low-flying existed for air forces before the Gulf War, were used effectively by other Coalition air forces during the war and also (less effectively) by air forces trained mainly for low-level missions, and continue to be developed at the tactical and technological levels as a direct result of lessons learned in the war. Too many questions concerning the continuing need for such radar evasion and bombing tactics remain for current training policy to proceed without a fundamental reassessment of inherent military threats and potential conflict scenarios.
Yes I know it is Canadian oriented but one assumes they have the same experience as we did?
Source - http://www.ploughshares.ca/libraries/WorkingPapers/WP942.html
 
#2
You are dead right. Low flying is a cheap and dangerous alternative to proper SEAD. Our own dear RAF is addicted to low flying because it is FUN, and will not accept that spending money on SEAD is a better alternative - they would have fewer bona jets to practise bombing and strafe in and would be restricted to flying at sensible altitudes. The horror.

Jet jockeys, look into your hearts and tell me I am wrong
 
#3
#5
Nothing beats lowflying fast air or helis.

When your in a heli on task flying low and jinking all over the place its fooking great!!

Nothing like Fastair coming in low and fast to up the morale either.
 
#6
Well call me a stick in the mud but all the fast air I have seen on operations has been at medium level and to come down from that only invites a patriot up the tail pipe, though i did get an F18 to come down to 10,000 in a benign Bosnia as a demonstration. Did lots CAS and AI on Telic at ML, the only thing I saw at LL was the USMC Cobras and our beloved Lynx. But LL is definitely more fun than ML. JFACTSU will no doubt shoot me down in flames for this herasy.
 
#7
Retd_crab said:
Well call me a stick in the mud but all the fast air I have seen on operations has been at medium level and to come down from that only invites a patriot up the tail pipe, though i did get an F18 to come down to 10,000 in a benign Bosnia as a demonstration. Did lots CAS and AI on Telic at ML, the only thing I saw at LL was the USMC Cobras and our beloved Lynx. But LL is definitely more fun than ML. JFACTSU will no doubt shoot me down in flames for this herasy.
well most low level stuff will be deep in to air space controlled by the nasty people, the whole reason for the low level is to get in to this airspace with out getting detected

as most squaddies wont be in areas deep in nasty places then they wont see it......

during telic the air defences were not up to much so there was not the need to be low level alot of the time, how ever it still has to be practised for time when there is substainle air defences such as GW1 or any furture conflicts

plus yes it is good fun and its dam good training
 
#8
The second major reason to question extensive low-level flight training concerns its continuing usefulness (from a military perspective) as a tactic. Low-flying proved a costly enterprise in the Gulf War, one which was of indeterminate value in the circumstances. The early abandoning of low-flying in the defence environment most often portrayed by air planners as the one in which it could be most useful calls into question the suitability of such missions for future scenarios involving strong air defences. Less threatening scenarios might not demand an intensive radar-evasion effort at all.
Well if one is talking about Operation Desert storm and the fiasco involving the RAF Tornadoes overflying Iraqi airfields with Hunting JP233 dispensor pods

http://www.search.com/reference/JP233

The problem here was not with the low flying, it was the tactical concept of creating the proverbial ducks in a shooting gallery, in that ECM/IR Countermeasures is of course utterly useless against heavy machine guns and light rapid fire cannon with optical sighting in clear skies daylight condtions and whilst the muntions dispensor idea concept is valid, it should have occurred to the powers that be, that even a third rate enemy might well be able to provide heavy machine gun and light rapid canon anti-aircraft defence of his airfields and that what was required was a pop-up and shoot stand off munitions dispensor with a fire and forget targeting system and a onboard propulsion system or sufficent aerodynamic/inertia qualties to allow it to make its own way to the target from some distance. The requirement for low flying is not dispensed with in that it may still be invaluable for approach to and egress from the specific target.

Saludos Amigos
Zapata
 
#9
I think it's an evolving battlefield. Without a doubt there are airborne radar systems that can look down and spot the low-mover. However, not every country has this capability and as long as there could be a perceived need for it (for evading ground based systems), then why not practice it?
 
#10
As far as army aviation is concerned, low level is the way to go - or at least it was when I was in. Much safer to hide behind trees, pop up and bite some tank on the bum and then retire without the Red Forces seeing whodunnit
 
#11
Mover said:
I think it's an evolving battlefield. Without a doubt there are airborne radar systems that can look down and spot the low-mover. However, not every country has this capability and as long as there could be a perceived need for it (for evading ground based systems), then why not practice it?
Mover you are right about it being an evolving battle field and whilst airborne radar be it aboard an air defence fighter or specifically designated large aircraft early warning radar platform ie AWACS is an established presence, that does not neutralize the requirement for low level flight. For a start, by flying low a surveilance/targeting radar be it on the ground or in a fighter or AWACS will have to be able to differentiate between ground radar returns and the intruding aircraft. Of course there is proven technology to do this but it imposes costs on the defendor's radar systems which maywell be significant when such radar systems are airborne in that such capabilities to supply such discrimination may increase payload and electrical power consumption and or cooling requirements. Furthermore by flying low which of course will pose problems in many instances to ground based radar systems because radar operates on line of sight principles and therby causing the defendor to shift a greater radar effort to airborne patforms, this weakens the defendor's position in the context that air-defence aircraft and AWACS through their use of radar illustrate their locations and make themselves vulnerable to attack by both disclosing their positions, where they can be attacked by conventional means for example a Sparrow radar guided missile or sidwinder IR missile launched from a fighter or even a surface to air or air to air development of the HARM anti-radar missile concept that could home in on the air-defence fighter's or AWACS' radar emmissions.

http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/smart/agm-88.htm

Saludos Amigos
Zapata
 
#12
Vasco said:
You are dead right. Low flying is a cheap and dangerous alternative to proper SEAD. Our own dear RAF is addicted to low flying because it is FUN, and will not accept that spending money on SEAD is a better alternative - they would have fewer bona jets to practise bombing and strafe in and would be restricted to flying at sensible altitudes. The horror.

Jet jockeys, look into your hearts and tell me I am wrong
Sorry, what is SEAD?
 
#13
WhiteHorse said:
Vasco said:
You are dead right. Low flying is a cheap and dangerous alternative to proper SEAD. Our own dear RAF is addicted to low flying because it is FUN, and will not accept that spending money on SEAD is a better alternative - they would have fewer bona jets to practise bombing and strafe in and would be restricted to flying at sensible altitudes. The horror.

Jet jockeys, look into your hearts and tell me I am wrong
Sorry, what is SEAD?
SEAD
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

AGM-88 HARM missile on a US Navy aircraftSEAD (pronounced: see-add or seed), or Suppression of Enemy Air Defences, also know by the name "Wild Weasels", operations are military actions to suppress enemy surface-based air defences, (SAMs and AAA) primarily in, but not limited to, the first hours of an attack.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SEAD

I know the concept Suppression of Enemy Air Defences but I wasn't familar with it being expressed as "SEAD", WhiteHorse.

Saludos Amigos
Zapata
 
#16
spike7451 said:
As my old CO at RAF Bruggen used to say...
"Low flying is how we reminding the jerries who won the war!"
I take it your CO wasn't an English native-speaker then? :D :D :D

MsG
 
#17
If my memory for GW1 is correct, there was considerable effort put into destroying Iraq Air and Iraq AA without involving ll flights. Didn't General de Billiare (sorry if spelling is mong) have our low level operations stopped when the cas rate went up?
I've got off lightly this time from the Tally Ho crowd so let's push things a bit further.
I assume that low level is at the later stages of a pilot's training? If so, given out problems in Afghanistan, could we not shift low level training out there. Launch the plane fully loaded with all the munitions it has and they can practice low level plus be on hand as support for ground troops.
 
#18
Training tends to take place before operations. It is a bit 'linear' like that.

GW1 was still JP233 times - a rather silly concept as a weapon and no doubt.
 
#19
The 'cunning plan' for LL was (funny old thing) designed for the Central Front, since Ivan had quite a lot of SAMs. Theory was that at low level, detection time would be reduced, and the aircraft, travelling at high speed, would usually - but not always - be out of the way before AAA/MANPADs operators had time to respond effectively. Wouldn't always work, but it would allow an element of surprise and survivability.

One of the side-effects of this was that JP233 was a low-level only weapon. When time came for the GR1s to go 'sausage side' in GW1, they had to operate at low level to deliver the weapon. As the link in Zapata's post notes, Despite a lot of guff in the press, only one of the 6 GR1s lost was flying a JP233 profile.

Iraqi airfields were, as I believe the technical term has it 'king enormous, and it became clear that closing them with JP233 would be a tall order. Also, since the IqAF largely wasn't flying (and those elements that were gave the F-15s something to play with), the need to shut runways was greatly lessened.

Given that the SEAD campaign was working well and that the amount of low-level AAA was substantial, the RAF switched the GR1 to medium level ops, since there was less risk there. The Jaguar force operated at round about medium level from the outset after taking all the J2 info about the opposition into account.

There was, though, a problem. The Tornado's weapons system was designed for low level ops, and the aircraft 'took to the medium level role like a duck to accountancy' (Paul Jackson) until PGMs were employed to restore accuracy.

However, while medium level is generally better these days, low level Armed Recce/NTISR flights were of considerable value during TELIC 1; a small number of GR4s was employed for this. Although LL is not as necessary as it was when 3rd Shock Army was enjoying its extended holiday in Germany, it does still have relevance in certain circumstances, which is why the light blue chaps practice it still.

By the by, the RAF would love to do SEAD beyond having some GR4s and a few F3s with ALARM, but the funding simply hasn't been there.
 
#20
Vasco said:
Our own dear RAF is addicted to low flying because it is FUN,
IIRC a couple of our Tornados on the run up to GW1 flew low enough to interfere with terrain in a bad way. Don't get me wrong, it looks great fun and I'd be first in the queue to give it a go, but a bit selfish on the wife and kids when it goes wrong.

Lt Col Holland and his 30ft flypast in a B52 are used as the classic case when discussing pilot's desire to go ever lower. Google and you'll find video flypast and of his final flight.
 

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