The Russian Philosophy of Beyond Visual Range Air Combat Technical Report APA-TR-2008-0301 by Dr Carlo Kopp, AFAIAA, SMIEEE, PEng 25th March, 2008 Updated August, 2009 Updated April, 2012© 2008 - 2012 Carlo Kopp Su-35 demonstrator #709 displays a mix of R-27 Alamo and R-77 Adder BVR missiles (KnAAPO). Background Russian BVR Combat Philosophy Russian BVR Missile Technology Russian BVR Missiles - Technology Growth Russian BVR Missiles - Size Comparison Vympel R-27 / AA-10 Alamo Vympel R-77 / RVV-AE / RVV-SD / AA-12 Adder Vympel R-77-ZRK and RVV-AE-PD Vympel R-37 / R-37M / RVV-BD / AA-13 Arrow Novator RVV-L / R-172 / K-100 Endnotes References [paste:font size="5"]AIM-120 AMRAAM, the principal Western BVR fighter weapon. The AIM-120A AMRAAM was introduced at the end of the Cold War to provide a "fire and forget" active radar guided weapon with a midcourse inertial guidance system and datalink support provided by the radar on the launch aircraft, allowing multiple concurrent shots. The AIM-120A was followed by the incrementally improved B-model, and then by the "short span" AIM-120C-3 sized to fit the F-22A weapon bay. The AIM-120C-4 has better kinematic performance introducing a larger rocket motor and shorter control section, and a better warhead, while the AIM-120C-6 introduced a better fuse. The latest AIM-120D introduces a redesigned seeker built for better durability in high vibration carriage environments, a two way datalink, GPS to supplement inertial guidance, incrementally improved kinematics, and better seeker performance against high off-boresight targets. Most AIM-120 AMRAAM kills to date have involved 1980s export variants of the MiG-29 Fulcrum, with mediocre electronic warfare fit and often inoperative systems. These are not representative targets in the current Pacific Rim environment. The performance of the AIM-120A/B/C models in combat to date has not been spectacular. Test range trials have resulted in stated kill probabilities of 85 percent out of 214 launches for the AIM-120C variant. Combat statistics for all three variants are less stellar, amounting to, according to US sources, ten kills (including a friendly fire incident against a UH-60) of which six were genuine BVR shots, for the expenditure of just over a dozen AIM-120 rounds. The important parameter is that every single target was not equipped with a modern defensive electronic warfare package and therefore not representative of a state-of-the-art Flanker in a modern BVR engagement. Against such "soft" targets the AIM-120 has displayed a kill probability of less than 50 percent . It is an open question whether the AIM-120D when challenged with a modern DRFM (Digital RF Memory) based monopulse trackbreaking jammer will be able to significantly exceed the 50 percent order of magnitude kill probability of prior combat launches, let alone replicate the 85 percent performance achieved in ideal test range conditions . AIM-120 COMBAT SUCCESS (US DoD) Date Target Shooter Missile Location 27 Dec 92 MiG-25 F-16 AIM-120A Iraq 17 Jan 93 MiG-23 F-16 AIM-120A Iraq 28 Feb 94 Galeb F-16 AIM-120A Bosnia 24 Mar 99 MiG-29 F-16* AIM-120B Kosovo (RNeAF) 24 Mar 99 MiG-29 F-15 AIM-120C Kosovo 24 Mar 99 MiG-29 F-15 AIM-120C Kosovo 26 Mar 99 MiG-29 F-15 AIM-120C Kosovo 26 Mar 99 MiG-29 F-15 AIM-120C Kosovo 4 May 99 MiG-29 F-16 AIM-120A Kosovo Where does this leave Western air forces equipped with the AIM-120 when confronting Flankers armed with up to three times the number of BVR missiles? Illustrative examples are the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and F-35 JSF, the latter armed in an air superiority configuration with two, the former with up to six AIM-120s . Assuming the Flanker driver does not exploit his superior missile kinematic range and shoot first - an optimistic assumption - then the best case kill probability for the AIM-120 shooter firing two to four rounds is better than 90 percent. However, if we assume that hostile jamming and manoeuvre degrade the kill probability to around 50 percent - a reasonably optimistic statistical baseline here - then the total kill probability for a two round salvo is optimistically around 75 percent, and for a four round salvo over 90 percent. Arguably good odds for the four round salvo, only if the missile kill probability sits at 50 percent, but the F/A-18E/F or F-35 JSF will have expended all or most of its warload of AIM-120s and be unable to continue in BVR combat. In a "many versus many" engagement, the low speed of both types leaves them unable to disengage and will see both types subsequently killed by another Flanker. This best case "many versus many" engagement scenario sees the F/A-18E/F or F-35 JSF being traded one for one with Su-30MK/Su-35BM Flankers in BVR combat, which is the general assumption made for WVR combat between like opponents, and representative of many historical attrition air campaign statistics. To achieve this best case "many versus many" outcome of trading F/A-18E/F or F-35 JSF one for one, we have stacked a series of assumptions against the Flanker - dumb Flanker pilots not exploiting a missile kinematic range advantage, dumb Flanker pilots not exploiting a firepower advantage, Russian BVR missile seekers no better than the AIM-120, and Russian DRFM monopulse jammers achieving a less than 50 percent degradation of AIM-120 kill probability . A competent Flanker driver gets the first shot with three or four round salvo of long burn R-27 variants, with mixed seekers, leaving one or two remaining salvoes of BVR missiles on his rails, and the same Flanker driver will have modern DRFM monopulse jammers capable of causing likely much more than a 50 percent degradation of AIM-120 kill probability. With a thrust vectoring engine capability (TVC), the Flanker driver has the option of making himself into a very difficult endgame target for the AIM-120 regardless of the capability of his jamming equipment. Since all of the AIM-120s fired are identical in kinematic performance and seeker jam resistance, any measure applied by the Flanker driver which is effective against one AIM-120 round in the salvo is apt to produce the same effect against all AIM-120 rounds - a problem the Flanker driver does not have due to diversity in seeker types and missile kinematics. Currently classified capabilities such as the use of the APG-79 or APG-81 AESA radar as an X-band high power jammer against the Russian BARS or Irbis E radar are not a panacea, and may actually hasten the demise of the F/A-18E/F or F-35 JSF in a BVR shootout. This is for the simple reason that to jam the Russian radar, the APG-79 or APG-81 AESA radar must jam the frequencies being used by the Russian radar, and this then turns the APG-79 or APG-81 AESA radar into a wholly electronically predictable X-band high power beacon for an anti-radiation seeker equipped Russian BVR missile such as the R-27EP or R-77P. The act of jamming the Russian radar effectively surrenders the frequency hopping agility in the emissions of the APG-79 or APG-81 AESA radar, denying it the only defence it has against the anti-radiation missile. A smart Russian radar software designer will include a "seduction mode" to this effect, with narrowband emissions to make it very easy even for an early model 9B-1032 anti-radiation seeker. The flipside of the electronic combat game is no better. The F-14A/B/D included the AAS-42 Infrared Search and Track set which allowed a target to be tracked despite hostile jamming of the AWG-9/APG-71 radar. It is clear that the addition of the podded AAS-42 to the Super Hornet and "air to air" use of the JSF EOTS are intended for much the same purpose. While this may permit the continuing use of the AESA radar to datalink midcourse guidance commands to the AIM-120s, it does nothing to deny the Flanker its own BVR shot. The notion that the defensive jamming equipment and infrared decoys will be highly effective against late model Russian digital missile seekers can only be regarded to be optimistic. In electronic warfare terms neither side has a decisive advantage, but the Flanker does have a decisive advantage in aircraft and missile kinematics and in having up to six times the payload of BVR missiles to expend. The simple conclusion to be drawn is that operators of the F/A-18E/F or F-35 JSF should make every effort to avoid Beyond Visual Range combat with late model Flankers, as the best case outcome is parity in exchange rates, and the worst case outcome a decisive exchange ratio advantage to the Flanker. Given the evident design choices the Russians have made, this is not an accident, but rather a consequence of well thought through operational analysis of capabilities and limitations of contemporary BVR weapon systems.