Some readers may have wondered why I have been ranting on and off about the SEAD capabilities of our future Finnish Air Force Fighter. This is because even though Finalnd is quite long but narrow, the Russian S-400 on S-300 missile systems Can cover most of Finland’s land mass from within Russian borders. This will lead into problems in Air Force air combat abilities. Because whenever planes take off they will sooner or later be in radar screen.
Of course radar waves will travel line of sight ie in a straight line. (Some radar waves curve in atmosphere, but they are different wavelengths, so we do not have to discuss them here.)
and they do not follow the curvature of Earth. S-400 systems radar is on a height of about 5m, so it’s horizon is in about 10-15km out. At extreme range of about 350 km there is about an kilometre room under the radar beam. Of course radar beam does not penetrate hills and such, so there will be radar cover available even closer the radar. So one can still fly low, at the coast of fuel economy, and manage to penetrate the radar cover. Just like the Dambusters did in May 1943.
AS the AF will have to fly in this environment, they will need a dedicated SEAD platform, to jam and to facilitate other air missions. This is why I feel and we’ll need to have some amount of dedicated suppression of enemy air defenses platforms. It is almost the same if the platform is Boeing EA-18 Growler or SAABs JAS Gripen G(rowlers). Both will be tailor made for what Air Force needs. Both can, or will, carry ALQ-99 pods, or equvalent for jamming, and thus accomplish broad band jamming of enemy systems.
The situation is in real life much more complicated than just lopping HARM missiles into enemy radar installations. This can be done by almost every HX-program contender. But you have to be able to jam the enemy radar in order to punch through a and come close enough in order to shoot the HARM missiles at radars. This will require a dedicated jamming platform. Althought sales people SAY EF-2000 and Rafale can jam radars, they have very limited power and transmitters to do this. It is also question of electrical power and number of transmitters.
One has to take into account that airplane systems have to rely on quite limited electrical power and that is why a wind driven generator is put on the nose of ALQ-99 jamming pod. It is quite easy to provide enough power to radar on the ground, but quite another to provide it in flying aeroplane. This kind of EW will quite simply depend of difference in radars power and power of the jamming device.(usually a quite formidable 6,8 kW. Normal local radio station has usually transmitting power of about 1 kW.)
Example of this kind of approach might be a EA-6 prowler which usually had one internal jamming system and that was usually equipped with 4 more in the wings so that it could provide Broadband jamming of enemy air defenses. Also it carried 3 EW-officers so it also had the brainpower to work against enemy air defences. The sole EW officer in Growler and JAS G will have his/her hands full.
Suppression of enemy air defenses is so important that in modern air war you expect to fly 30% just suppression missions in the beginning of the war and all together during the war about 20% will be suppression of enemy air defenses missions. Although I do not propose the making bold bombing strikes against deep threats inside Russian territory the St. petersburg area Air Force needs to have a cabability to be able to operate within our own borders so that the Army doesn’t have to fight without some kind of an aircover.
Close range air defense missiles are all fine and good but they still lack that range and threat to neutralize a high-flying targets that is not going to come within striking distance of army units on the ground. In fact a great portion of the hitss and kills in the modern air war is now a days down with these shoulder-launched missiles and less and less by automatic anti aircraft cannons. Still much of the fighting in this of this close and personal environment is targeted with mark I eyeball. AA cannons are still quite viable threat in low altitudes. There was an interesting article in the “war is boring” last week.
This is why I think one of the most important features of the HX program will be the aqusition of electronic warfare airplanes.