2
Operational Environment

As the United States Air Force considers the capabilities it will need to successfully complete the tasks it will be assigned in the years ahead, a critical review of potential scenarios and their projected threat environments must be accomplished. In selecting appropriate scenarios, the National Defense Strategy, published in March 2005,1 and the Quadrennial Defense Review Report (QDR),2 published in February 2006, provide a solid foundation for understanding the types of missions, the likely locations, and the kinds of threats that U.S. forces will probably face.

THREATS AND NEEDED CAPABILITIES

To implement the National Defense Strategy, the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) senior civilian and military leaders identified four priority areas in the QDR for examination:3

  1. Defeating terrorist networks,

  2. Defending the homeland in depth,4

1

National Defense Strategy of the United States of America, U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., March 2005.

2

Quadrennial Defense Review Report, U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., February 6, 2006 (hereafter cited as QDR, 2006).

3

QDR, 2006, p. 19.

4

The committee did not consider this area to be a focus of this report.



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Future Air Force Needs for Survivability 2 Operational Environment As the United States Air Force considers the capabilities it will need to successfully complete the tasks it will be assigned in the years ahead, a critical review of potential scenarios and their projected threat environments must be accomplished. In selecting appropriate scenarios, the National Defense Strategy, published in March 2005,1 and the Quadrennial Defense Review Report (QDR),2 published in February 2006, provide a solid foundation for understanding the types of missions, the likely locations, and the kinds of threats that U.S. forces will probably face. THREATS AND NEEDED CAPABILITIES To implement the National Defense Strategy, the Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) senior civilian and military leaders identified four priority areas in the QDR for examination:3 Defeating terrorist networks, Defending the homeland in depth,4 1 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America, U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., March 2005. 2 Quadrennial Defense Review Report, U.S. Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., February 6, 2006 (hereafter cited as QDR, 2006). 3 QDR, 2006, p. 19. 4 The committee did not consider this area to be a focus of this report.

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Future Air Force Needs for Survivability Shaping the choices of countries at strategic crossroads, and Preventing hostile states and nonstate actors from acquiring or using weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). These threats evolve at different rates: peer and/or competitor states with high-technology capabilities continue to improve their already highly capable integrated air defense systems (IADSs), while the best current systems may become available to hostile underdeveloped countries or nonstate actors through international arms markets within a couple of decades. Three of the four priority areas listed above (1, 3, and 4) require force-projection capabilities into hostile environments; this study will concentrate on scenarios related to these three priority areas. In defeating terrorist networks, “the enemies we face are not traditional, conventional military forces, but rather distributed, multinational and multiethnic networks of terrorists.”5 Clearly, the nation with its allies, coalition members, and other partners will need to use all of the tools of national power in defeating terrorist networks. To gather intelligence, it will be necessary to establish persistent surveillance over an area of interest and then be able to rapidly strike a terrorist cell or node that might be fleeting in nature. New threats associated with the engagement of unconventional forces in the global war on terror may place greater emphasis on the capability to persist in the battlespace for extended periods of time. The QDR states: “Shaping the choices of major and emerging powers requires a balanced approach, one that seeks cooperation, but also creates prudent hedges.”6 With that in mind, critical national capabilities7 required are “persistent surveillance, including systems that can penetrate and loiter in denied or contested areas” as well as “prompt and high volume global strike to deter aggression or coercion, and if deterrence fails, to provide a broader range of conventional response options.” In preventing the acquisition or use of WMDs, “the United States must be prepared to: deter attacks; locate, tag, and track WMD materials; act in cases where a state that possesses WMD loses control of its weapons, especially nuclear devices; detect WMD across all domains….” Further, “if prevention efforts fail, the United States must be prepared to respond.” “This will require growth in capability to locate, characterize, secure, disable 5 QDR, 2006, p. 20. 6 QDR, 2006, p. 30. 7 QDR, 2006, p. 31.

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Future Air Force Needs for Survivability and/or destroy a state or non-state actor’s WMD capabilities and programs in a hostile or uncertain environment.”8 After assessing the DOD’s performance in the above priority areas, the QDR states that “joint air capabilities must be re-oriented to favor, where appropriate, systems that have far greater range and persistence; larger and more flexible payloads for surveillance or strike; and the ability to penetrate and sustain operations in denied areas. The future force will place a premium on capabilities that are responsive and survivable. It will be able to destroy moving targets around the clock in all weather conditions, exploit non-traditional intelligence, and conduct next generation electronic warfare.”9 In consideration of the above QDR guidance, the committee believes that the U.S. Air Force needs the overarching capability to achieve precise effects on a global basis, at will, and with impunity. In order to fulfill that overarching capability, the Air Force needs the capability to achieve global situation awareness, to make decisions rapidly, and to deliver weapons rapidly, with precision guidance. Further, those systems contributing to the overarching capability that are intended to be reusable must also have survivability and those systems not intended to be reusable must have survivability until they have achieved their intended missions. ASPECTS OF AIR VEHICLE SURVIVABILITY For this study, as stated in Chapter 1, survivability is defined as the capability to avoid or withstand a hostile man-made environment.10 The primary characteristics of a system’s survivability are its susceptibility and its vulnerability. This study deals primarily with the susceptibility aspect of survivability. It does not address broader measures of mission effectiveness in detail, such as the delivery of precision weapons onto the target, though such measures are discussed qualitatively in Appendix C. 8 QDR, 2006, p. 34. 9 QDR, 2006, p. 45. 10 Robert E. Ball, The Fundamentals of Aircraft Combat Survivability Analysis and Design, Second Edition, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Education Series, 2003.

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Future Air Force Needs for Survivability SURVIVABILITY AGAINST INTEGRATED AIR DEFENSE SYSTEMS In planning to execute a tasked mission in an adversary’s airspace, it is useful to consider the adversary’s IADS in the context of a kill chain. By convention, a kill chain comprises four links, as listed below. Surveillance Search Detect Track Classify Track/fire control Extract targets Develop fire-control solution Launch missile Missile fly-out and guidance Air vehicle kinematics Midcourse guidance Target acquisition Terminal homing End game Fuze detection Detonation An IADS is a complex network of hierarchically structured, often geographically separated radar, communications, automated information management, fire control, and weapons systems that control and direct an aircraft interceptor or missile system against intruding threats. In order to complete the kill chain successfully, the IADS’s connectivity, processes, and exchange of information must be able to respond in a synchronized and rapid fashion; therefore, as one considers how best to defeat an IADS structure, one must be aware of the time dimension with which an adversary deals in executing the individual, but interconnected, defensive tasks and processes. In many modeling and simulation activities, there is a tendency to portray an adversary’s capability against a friendly system from a parametric perspective in a one-on-one scenario. This committee, in its review of the various analyses published in the past several years (see Chapter 4), also

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Future Air Force Needs for Survivability considered the realities of a many-on-many scenario. The committee also considered the implications of the “fog of war” associated with presenting the enemy with parallel actions. Based on the committee’s experience, it determined that the Air Force can improve its modeling and simulation techniques in the area of the human cognitive processes or time delays associated with the effect on an adversary of parallel actions and the “fog of war.” In future analyses of alternatives and trade-off studies and prior to beginning an integrated capability development for a next-generation strike system, these improvements should be included. In addition to using sophisticated cyber and information operations techniques, the committee finds that the ability to decrease a weapon system’s susceptibility in an adversary’s airspace is a result of achieving the right balance of speed and signature reduction. The contribution of both to survivability is synergistically enhanced by situation awareness. Additionally, countermeasures (including electronic attack, information warfare, and offensive weapons) and tactics provide flexibility, relatively rapid response to adversary measures, and improvements to the first-order characteristics (speed and stealth). From mission planning through mission execution, gaining and maintaining situation awareness will provide the weapons system operator an advantage in battlespace understanding that contributes to lethality as well as survivability. By decreasing the weapon system’s signature, the adversary’s detection range—and hence the reaction time—available to the adversary for executing the kill chain can be dramatically reduced. Low observability affects the surveillance, acquisition and tracking, and fire-control functions, whether located on the ground or on airborne platforms. Similarly, reduced signature reduces the space and time available for surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) or air-to-air missiles (AAMs) to acquire their target, perform guided flight to the target, and then fuze and detonate successfully. Further, in some cases and in some situations, appropriate signature reductions may prevent the adversary from being able to complete all elements of the kill chain. For example, a weapon system can be designed to reduce the adversary’s detection range and hence the time available to transfer control from the detection radar to the tracking radar and then to the fire-control radar before a missile can be launched. The use of appropriate countermeasures at the right time may conceal, disguise, deceive, confuse, or disrupt the adversary during certain phases of the kill chain. When used in conjunction with signature-reduction techniques, they can greatly enhance the effectiveness of those signature-

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Future Air Force Needs for Survivability reduction efforts and provide a means in future years to respond to unanticipated improvements or changes in the threat IADS. Clearly, when trying to shrink an adversary’s reaction time, increasing the weapon system’s speed for the same signature can reduce its exposure time in the adversary’s weapons engagement zone. From the Radar Range Equation one can derive the approximate ratio that increasing the speed by a factor of 10 is equivalent to decreasing the frontal radar cross section (RCS) by a factor of 40,000 to provide the same exposure time. Note, however, that increased speed also creates increased demands on precise onboard sensors and vehicle control systems. Increased speed can also contribute to increasing the strike radius of action during any given period of time; this contributes to providing options for attacking more targets and/or engaging fleeting and time-sensitive targets of importance. Finally, increasing speed provides more possibilities for the employment of tactics and maneuver profiles during engagements with an IADS. As the committee explores the right balance of speed, signature, situation awareness, countermeasures, and tactics, it is important to remember that the history of warfare is populated with a multitude of “action-reaction” or “measure-countermeasure” cycles in which new capabilities are envisioned, invented, developed, and employed to gain an advantage in the battlespace. The longbow, gunpowder, Gatling gun, submarine, tank, airplane, radar, nuclear weapons, air-to-air refueling, and precision weapons are all examples of leap-ahead capabilities that have redefined the battlespace and forced those without the latest capability to both catch up and expend significant resources to counter their adversary’s new capability. Occasionally, a special capability is developed that resets the action-reaction chain and gives the innovator a quantum advantage in capability for a significant period of time. The stealth capability fielded in the early 1980s has proven to be an example of a “special capability.” Nonetheless, it is clear that potential U.S. adversaries are acquiring or improving their IADS capabilities and attempting to develop what they think would be counter-low-observable capabilities. Thus, choosing the right balance among speed, signature reduction, situation awareness, countermeasures, and tactics enables the United States to present its adversaries with the largest number of challenges in the shortest period of time. In developing the right balance of speed, signature reduction, situation awareness, countermeasures, and tactics, a careful analysis of the potential adversary’s integrated air defense system is essential, along with the

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Future Air Force Needs for Survivability knowledge of how the adversary uses each part of that system to accomplish the kill chain. In this study, however, the command-and-control links and the end-game systems will not be assessed. The committee looked at trends in elements of IADS in assessing Air Force future needs for survivability, including ground-based surveillance radars, aircraft radars, infrared surveillance and tracking sensitivity trends, AAM seeker sensitivity trends, and SAM performance and improvement trends. From a global perspective, over several decades there have been gradual improvements in all of these capabilities. Significant improvements in ground-based radars, airborne surveillance radar systems, and fighter aircraft radars have been developed over the past several decades in terms of the minimum detectable RCS. Improvements have also been made in infrared sensor technologies for surveillance and tracking as well as missile guidance for SAMs and AAMs. The utility of infrared (IR) surveillance sensors combined with radars in an IADS needs further detailed analysis using engagement simulation and modeling. Employment of IR seekers in missiles is much better understood, particularly for AAMs, since IR has been used in short-range AAMs for 50 years. Since the U.S. Missile Defense Agency and the Air Force are developing the airborne laser, which is a fully integrated detection, tracking, fire-control, and speed-of-light interception system, the development of future survivable air vehicles should assess whether such lasers might appear as a future threat and include appropriate countermeasures. The committee reviewed an adversary’s kill chain for employing various types of SAMs and concluded that there is continuing potential for signature reduction to degrade the range at which adversaries can detect, track, fire, and guide missiles to penetrating weapon systems. Additionally, the committee projected the capability of potential U.S. adversaries to evolve and improve SAM performance against low-observable systems in the years ahead. In summary then, and after viewing the continuing improvements to contemporary surface-to-air missile systems along with the continuing development of next-generation air defense and air superiority aircraft, the committee believes (1) that the future threat will consist of robust IADSs populated primarily with radio-frequency-based detection, acquisition, fire-control, and guidance systems; and (2) that those systems will continue to improve in their ability to engage air vehicles with reduced signature. Lastly, the committee believes that it is imperative to continue to guard

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Future Air Force Needs for Survivability against potential asymmetric advances on an adversary’s ability to detect airborne objects. U.S. AIR FORCE CONCEPTS OF OPERATIONS To prepare for the missions that it will be asked to perform, the U.S. Air Force has formulated a capabilities-based analysis process known as the Capabilities Review and Risk Assessment (CRRA). This process captures most of the USAF’s operational capabilities in seven concepts of operation (CONOPS) that have become the foundation for conducting the CRRA, as follows: Global Strike; Global Persistent Attack; Nuclear Response; Homeland Security; Global Mobility; Space and Command, Control, Communications, and Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR); and Agile Combat Support. These CONOPS are used to define the tasks and objectives inherent in each of those seven capability areas and then to detail the way that the USAF intends to accomplish those tasks and achieve its objectives. The CRRA process takes a time-definite, scenario-based approach to accomplishing the tasks defined in the CONOPS with the current and projected weapons systems that will be available during that time frame in order to fully understand the overlaps, gaps, and deficiencies in the Air Force’s capabilities with regard to those defined tasks and objectives. In addressing the statement of task in the context of QDR results, the committee reviewed the right balance of speed, signature reduction, countermeasures, situation awareness, and tactics for the Space and C4ISR, Global Strike, and Global Persistent Attack CONOPS.

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Future Air Force Needs for Survivability Space and C4ISR Concept of Operations Quoting from the Space and C4ISR CONOPS: The family of joint concepts aims to achieve the National Military Strategy (NMS)-directed overarching goal of full spectrum dominance—the defeat of any adversary in any situation across the full range of military operations. Full spectrum dominance, in turn, is based on the enabling effect of full spectrum decision superiority—the ability to sense, understand, decide, and act faster than any adversary in any situation. The S&C4ISR CONOPS articulates how the Air Force creates effects through capabilities that underpin full spectrum decision superiority. These effects and capabilities allow joint commanders to see first, understand first, and act first.11 For any scenario in which the United States may have to become engaged, it will need to have the highest degree of battlespace awareness. Whether it be in finding cells of global or regional terrorists, WMD production and/or storage facilities, or high-value targets on the move in either permissive or denied airspace, establishing persistent surveillance over any area of interest is necessary if the United States is to be able to develop global situation awareness in order to conduct rapid decision making, rapid delivery so that it can achieve precise effects on a global basis, at will and with impunity. The Space and C4ISR CONOPS seeks to achieve three high-level effects: full-spectrum battlespace awareness, information superiority, and space superiority. As General T. Michael Moseley, Air Force Chief of Staff, stated in that CONOPS document: We are responsible, unique from the Navy or the Army, for being able to locate targets on a global scale, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, day or night, good weather or bad. We’re tasked to be able to find things on the surface on a global scale…. From the vantage of being in the air or in space, Airmen have a unique perspective.12 In reviewing the Space and C4ISR CONOPS, the committee focused primarily on the full-spectrum battlespace awareness effect. As delineated in the CONOPS, achieving full-spectrum battlespace awareness will require a networked and interactive “system of systems” approach. As shown in Figure 2-1, space, air, and terrestrial systems will all be required to be able 11 U.S. Air Force Space and C4ISR CONOPS, Final, December 19, 2005, p. 6. 12 U.S. Air Force Space and C4ISR CONOPS, Final, December 19, 2005, p. 7.

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Future Air Force Needs for Survivability FIGURE 2-1 The Space and C4ISR Concept of Operations’ operational view. Information gathered from space, in the air, and on land is combined to give commanders an integrated, full-spectrum view of the battlespace. NOTE: S&R, surveillance and reconnaissance; PNT, position, navigation, and timing; BMC2, battle management command and control; GIG, Global Information Grid; FSBA, full-spectrum battlespace awareness; CAOC, Combined Air and Space Operations Center; DCGS, distributed common ground system. SOURCE: U.S. Air Force Space and C4ISR CONOPS, Final, December 19, 2005, p. 5. to present battlespace commanders with the information they will need to achieve full-spectrum decision superiority. Although both standoff and penetrating airborne platforms are needed for full-spectrum battlespace awareness, this committee confined its review to the penetrating systems. The committee believes that such platforms must be able to penetrate, perhaps long distances, into denied airspace and loiter for long periods of time, thereby increasing their susceptibility to enemy ground and air threats. Thus, the key attributes for airborne, penetrating systems executing Space and C4ISR tasks are long range, loiter, stealth, and persistence coupled with the appropriate payload capacity to carry the requisite sensor systems.

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Future Air Force Needs for Survivability Global Strike Concept of Operations As detailed in the Global Strike CONOPS,13 there are two desired capabilities for effects on the battlespace: Rapid Strike to achieve national objectives: Quickly neutralize the adversary’s key high-value targets throughout the depth of any battlespace, at any time. Gain Access for persistent joint forces: Gain and maintain battlespace access. Project forces in antiaccess environments, and create conditions for persistent follow-on forces to operate with acceptable risk. Although in some cases the rapid strike construct may require a one-time, single-target attack, similar to the U.S. Strategic Command’s prompt global strike scenario, in which case a conventional ICBM might suffice, this committee considered the QDR language that U.S. forces be able to “conduct prompt and high volume global strike to deter aggression or coercion …” as necessitating the use of airborne systems. The committee reviewed survivability analyses for aircraft with various levels of stealth, speed, and altitude while they are conducting the Global Strike CONOPS. For a hypothetical region with typical defense sites and targets, the size of the threat-defended areas is reduced by the combination of stealth, speed, and altitude of the attacking aircraft. As a result, employing an optimum combination of these characteristics, the attacking aircraft that can be developed before 2018 have much greater scope for operating without concern about being engaged by enemy air defenses. Strike aircraft may be required to remain in the battlespace for some time to attack multiple targets. The Global Strike CONOPS envisions a capability to attack a limited number of targets in a highly defended region or to be able to open up a region or appropriate corridors (i.e., “kick down the door”) to enable the follow-on forces. The committee believes the characteristics most beneficial to achieving this CONOPS are long range, speed, stealth, persistence,14 and payload. 13 In a presentation to the committee by Mr. David N. Garten, AF/XOX-CONOPS, November 29, 2005. 14 In the GS context, persistence refers to the capability to hold potential targets at risk. This might be accomplished either by loitering in the threat area, standing off at a safe

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Future Air Force Needs for Survivability Global Persistent Attack Concept of Operations The primary objective of the Global Persistent Attack CONOPS is to prevent a potential adversary’s ability to do the following: Conduct major combat operations; Seek sanctuary; Disappear within the population or in complex terrain; Relocate their leadership and operational capabilities to other states; Produce, weaponize, store, and deliver chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons and/or agents; Conduct insurgency operations; Conduct space operations or deny joint and coalition forces the same; Conduct ISR against the joint and coalition forces; Conduct denial and deception; Develop and employ disruptive innovative technologies; Employ antiaccess capabilities; Maneuver to threaten friendly and/or neutral forces or ethnic populations; Create humanitarian and/or environmental crises; Protect leadership and strategic resources; and Command, control, and communicate with their own forces and allies. Clearly, the forces required to conduct such operations will need to provide “24/7” coverage in both permissive and denied airspace and will probably require enough assets to “blanket” the enemy airspace in order to complete the multitude of envisioned tasks. From its review of the Global Persistent Attack mission and the technologies that can be inserted in the next-generation long-range strike aircraft, the committee believes that multiple attacking forces can have the capability to engage a variety of enemy targets and will have the ability to persist and loiter in the battlespace for extended periods and to attack moving or time-sensitive targets. distance and attacking with high-speed missiles, or by standing off at a distance and repeatedly dashing into the battlespace to attack.

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Future Air Force Needs for Survivability The Global Persistent Attack CONOPS envisions a force that can penetrate into enemy airspace after the “door has been kicked down” and persist with mass in a way that blankets an adversary’s airspace and denies the adversary freedom of maneuver and freedom of action as long as required. The committee believes that the characteristics most beneficial to achieving this CONOPS are long range, loiter, and persistence. In summary, the Air Force has considered some of the most demanding tasks to which it has been assigned, most recently reinforced by the QDR, and has chosen the CONOPS-based approach. After a review of the USAF’s seven CONOPS, this committee believes that the Space and C4ISR, Global Strike, and Global Persistent Attack CONOPS require weapons systems designed with careful balance of the attributes of signature reduction, speed, countermeasures, situation awareness, and tactics. The goal should be to reduce the weapon system’s susceptibility without reducing its ability to accomplish the mission, recognizing the constraints of technological and economic feasibility. That balance must exploit continued evolution of U.S. stealth technologies while considering the projected improvements in counter-low-observable capabilities of potential adversaries. In reviewing the three applicable CONOPS for this study, the committee found that each CONOPS benefited from different combinations of attributes on the weapons systems needed to accomplish their respective tasks. The Global Strike CONOPS benefited most from the long-range, signature-reduction, speed, persistence, and payload attributes, while the Space and C4ISR and Global Persistent Attack CONOPS benefited most from the long-range, loiter, and persistence attributes. With this chapter providing the operational backdrop, Chapters 3 and 4 discuss generally the requirements and the technical feasibilities of achieving certain speed and signature reductions. The committee also recognized and considered at the same time that countermeasures, situation awareness, and tactics can be used to enhance the survivability of the weapon system. This committee believes that the basic weapon system should be designed with the capability to complete its assigned mission without relying upon countermeasures, to the maximum extent possible. In other words, although countermeasure systems can significantly enhance the survivability of a weapon, they should be hedges against future threat evolution and improvement and not a requirement for the baseline. The same holds for situation awareness and tactics.