The Art of War was written in the 5th century BC and consists of thirteen chapters. This is more of a scribble in comparison.
It is important to note that many of the following statements are heavily biased towards provoking thought rather that delivering true accuracy.
So, we’re defending our home. We lock our doors and shut the windows. Then what? We can be surrounded and starved out. We can have a JCB driven through our living room window.
So we make sure we have supplies and steel reinforced concrete walls. But that’s not going to stop a mortar, a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG), a tank round or artillery shell.
We dig in further, going underground. With a tunnel for access with gates at either end. A defended chamber that everyone has to pass through to get to us. We can still be starved out… eventually. Either that or a thermobaric blast will steal the oxygen from the local vicinity and cause us to asphyxiate.
At some point we absolutely must repel borders. We must attack the enemy. This consists of three phases: detection, identification and engagement.
Detection is simply the notion of finding the enemy, preferably before they find us but certainly before they are in range to do us any harm. There are two main types of detector: passive or active.
We can use passive sensors such as the “mark one eyeball”, magnetic field detection, night vision goggles, infra-red cameras or we can simply listen for their emitted noise (both sound and radio).
We can also use active sensors such as sonar or radar but as you’ve probably already figured, they create the same noise that the enemy can use to detect and probably locate us.
There is a balance to be struck between looking for the blink of their torch and shining our own torch to illuminate them. If they don’t see us using our torch everything is okay. Also, if by using our torch we get an immediate bearing and range which can be used to identify and engage the enemy then it might be worth it.
Once we have a contact we need to determine if it is friend or foe. We can’t just attack any blip we see on our radar or any flash of fabric we see with our torch. We need to make sure it’s not our own aircraft or the postman.
We might also need to track the contact to see if it behaves in a threatening way. It could be a civilian jet just flying past at 500 knots or it could be a 500 knot cruise missile heading straight for us.
Once we know the contact is a threat we need to engage it. Again, there are generally two approaches: soft-kill and hard-kill.
Soft kill is more akin to deception; luring the threat away either by spoofing their sensors or simply using our torch from the inflatable house we put next door. Soft kill can also simply mean moving out of the way.
Hard kill is the complex bit…
Shooting the Arrow
Modern warfare sees only a handful of “arrows”: bullets, shells, bombs, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, mines and torpedoes.
Most of these would be detected and identified by either radar or sonar. The main reason for this is that we can reasonably be “active” if a) there is no threat, or b) we have already been detected. The latter is by no means a good thing, but once detected by the enemy we may as well go all out to find them. The flip-side of this is that without active sensors we are quite unlikely to see the arrow coming.
Bullets are not really something we would expect to shoot, we would simply protect ourselves from them with armour. Shells can be defeated with a Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) such as Phalanx. Bombs can barely be defeated at all so we will have to shoot the archer. Bombers however will be almost directly overhead, in range of most Surface to Air Missiles (SAMs).
Cruise missiles tend to pop-up on the horizon with little warning but can be defeated with CIWS or SAMs but ballistic missiles require high-velocity SAMs.
A CIWS is not great for dealing with a saturation attack and neither are semi-active radar seeking SAMs that require a dedicated illumination radar. It is therefore SAMs with their own active guidance system that protect us from the majority of threats from the air.
Mines can be detonated or just avoided, and torpedoes are best defeated with soft-kill measures or by shooting the archer, in this case, usually a submarine.
Shooting the Archer
Modern warfare also sees only a handful of “archers”: planes, copters, wheels and tracks, buildings, people, boats, ships and submarines. Some of these might be very elusive and require a whole host of tactics both passive and active to detect and track.
Copters can be defeated with SAMs or jet fighters.
Wheels and tracks can be defeated with a better armoured formation of wheels and tracks and/or strike aircraft. Buildings can be taken out by artillery, cruise missiles, armoured formations, or air attack, and people can be shot, burned, bombed, suffocated, etc.
Small boats can be shot to pieces from a warship or attacked from the air. Warships can be defeated with a submarine launched torpedo or a saturation attack of cruise missiles. Submarines can be defeated with better subs, or mines, depth charges and torpedoes from surface ships and copters.
This leaves planes…
As can be seen from the above air power is essential. It is however, not quite the panacea as immediately hoped. Air power is complementary to surface forces and generally causes the enemy to run for cover or change their focus to preserving their own life rather than taking ours.
Our enemy may well have similar SAMs networked to radar stations in an Integrated Air Defence System (IADS). This is a threat to our own aircraft which means we need to undertake Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) as part of our Offensive Counter Air (OCA) campaign.
OCA can also be non-aircraft based: an example is the birth of the SAS who were dropped behind enemy lines to sabotage enemy aircraft whilst on the ground.
Ultimately, we need to penetrate enemy air defences which will be defended by radars, SAMs and fighter jets. We’re starting to see a stalemate where we are trying to get through the same types of defences we’ve just highlighted that we need to protect ourselves. Whichever way we cut it we always end up needing to get as close as possible without being seen.
One way to achieve this is to make use of the curvature of the earth and hide below the horizon. Using this strategy allows us to get to within about 50km of a radar without being detected. However, it is only 50km if the enemy didn’t put their radar on a hill. We may therefore need anti-radar missiles that can lock onto the source and destroy them from hundreds of miles away.
Another strategy for getting close without being seen is stealth or more accurately “low observability”. We can still hide below the horizon but by designing an aircraft to be more difficult to see, we can approach much closer and launch more numerous, smaller and cheaper weapons to achieve a similar effect as our larger, longer-ranged, more expensive missiles.
F35 Lightning II with Spear 3 will be a game changer in this regard. An F35 with non-stand-off weapons such as the 1000lb JDAM or 500lb Paveway IV bombs is however rather pointless.
Lastly we need to engage the aircraft the enemy use to escort their bombers, or the aircraft they use to engage us as we escort our own strike aircraft. This requires jet fighters that carry sophisticated radars, missiles, countermeasures, situational awareness and communications systems. Once the stalemate between missiles and countermeasures has been exhausted we need to revert to legacy tactics by getting on their six and pulling the gun trigger. This requires speed, acceleration, and agility – something the F35 has little of but something Eurofighter Typhoon delivers in buckets.
The Germans showed us how effective a panzer division’s blitzkrieg could be by cooperation and close coordination of different military assets into what is now called “combined arms”. A Panzer division consisted of reconnaissance, tank, infantry, artillery, engineering, communication and support assets.
If we add air power to the above mix we end up with no distinction between the Royal Air Force and the British Army. We just have a Royal Army that has an innate understanding of the components that it is built from, and the communication necessary to allow each asset to leverage the capabilities that other units bring. The command hierarchy is flattened allowing faster more efficient communication.
The version of this Royal Army that floats around the world consist of carrier strike with the Fleet Air Arm and an amphibious assault group with the Royal Marines. Again, all of these components should be united under the single combined naval arms banner of the Royal Navy.