Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Air Power Australia, Flanker Analysis Examined

Unless you have stumbled across this blog by complete accident and are looking for financial commentary or a V8 page you’ve probably heard of Dr Carlo Kopp. Indeed he is perhaps the most famous, or infamous, analyst within the wider Australian defence community. The “good Dr” contributes to many respectable publications such as Defence Today Magazine on a regular basis, and often reports on a number of defence related issues which are in my opinion usually genuine and thoughtful articles. However his rather uncontroversial additions to various defence media are probably not the reason why you have heard of Dr Kopp. His most controversial articles and analysis all stem from the debate over the RAAF’s choice of combat aircraft and its viability when facing advanced Russian Flanker derivatives. His website “Air Power Australia” has flooded the internet with articles which invariably end with the conclusion on the outright inferiority of all western alternatives apart from the F-22A when facing the Super Flanker threat.

While the government went about considering tenders for an eventual replacement of the F/A-18C/D’s and F-111 fleet Dr Kopp and other associates (a Mr Goon included) lodged a submission to the DoD. Under Kopp’s plan the RAAF would acquire ~50 F-22A’s and retain 24 ‘upgraded’ F-111S’s. When this option was not chosen by the RAAF (the F-35 was chosen and then the F/A-18F as an interim solution) the Dr launched his PR campaign, arguing that only the F-22A could provide the RAAF with the necessary level of air dominance when facing the advanced Flanker threat. Soon the internet was flooded by APA PDF’s and his various pages on the APA site with long and seemingly comprehensive arguments illustrating the dire mistake the RAAF had made, and the inferiority of the chosen designs. To the layman (or even someone with a casual interest in air power) his arguments are very persuasive; indeed a younger, more impressionable Ozzy was swayed by the doctor’s conviction and apparent technical mastery. Debates on many forums included Kopp’s arguments, many of which had apparently not appeared before, it seemed that this Australian defence journalist had swayed thousands all over the world to his view of the contemporary battle space.

However after time, careful thought, significant discussion and a good dose of listening, reading and learning a slightly older, more sceptical Ozzy began to question the “good Dr’s” arguments and conclusions. Indeed it soon became apparent that Carlo Kopp’s work on contemporary air combat is, for the most part, an exercise in lobbying. After close examination it’s apparent that the vast majority of Dr Kopp’s arguments are based on mistruths, bogus analysis and conclusions drawn after only examining beneficial considerations. Below is the first section of a PDF authored by Dr Kopp available at his website, It is in many ways a typical piece of Kopp’s work which is why I decided to critically examine it. There was more to the piece but I could have gone on for ever; this two page article exemplifies Kopp’s major arguments and clearly illustrates the tactics and devices he uses to put together a persuasive and seemingly sound argument. Below I have outlined 16 major misrepresentations of fact, omissions, oversimplifications and deliberately partial analysis Kopp made on this 2 page journey in order to arrive at the damning conclusion that the F-35A or F/A-18F could at best, only hope to achieve parity when facing an advanced Flanker threat.

I have not altered the good doctor’s work outlined in blue below. The article full can be found here:

Russian BVR Combat Philosophy

The Russian paradigm of BVR combat has its origins in the Cold War period, when Soviet operational analysis indicated that the low kill probability of missile seekers and airframes, especially if degraded by countermeasures, would be a major impediment to success. By the 1970s the standard Soviet technique in a BVR missile launch was to salvo two rounds, a semiactive radar homing weapon and a heatseeking weapon. To this effect some Soviet fighters even included a weapons select mode which automatically sequenced the launch of two rounds for optimal separation.

The mathematics of multiple round missile engagements are unambiguous - the size of a missile salvo launched is a stronger driver of success than the actual kill probability of the individual missiles. If the missiles are wholly identical by type, then the following curves may be optimistic, insofar as a factor degrading the kill probability of one missile is apt to have a similar effect on its siblings in a salvo. However, where the missiles differ by seeker type and guidance control laws, then the assumption of statistically independent missile shots is very much stronger.

A question often asked is why are Sukhoi Flanker variants equipped to carry between eight and twelve BVR missiles? The answer is a simple one - so they can fire more than one three or four round BVR missile salvo during the opening phases of an engagement. In this fashion the aircraft being targeted has a difficult problem as it must jam, decoy and/or outmanoeuvre three or four tightly spaced inbound missiles. Even if we assume a mediocre per round kill probability of 30 percent, a four round salvo still exceeds a total kill probability of 75 percent.

1) This all assumes the engagement occurs within the Flanker/R-27’s No Escape Zone/Volume which is unrealistic in most scenarios. The NEZ for an R-27ER vs. an F/A-18F with detection at launch would probably sit somewhere in the 30~40nm range mark, just over half of the stated maximum range of the R-27 and well under half of the AIM-120D’s maximum range. If the launch occurs outside this range then multiple launches will have no additional effect on the engagement, i.e. if the target can outrun one incoming then he can outrun 10.

A critical question which must be asked when assessing the effectiveness of Russian BVR tactics is that of Western tactics and the effectiveness of the 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.

2) Kopp conveniently forgets to mention that the AIM-120D’s “multi burn” rocket motor has extended its maximum range to 100nm, 30nm greater reach than the R-27ER long burn. Additionally every stage in the AIM-120’s evolution has systematically improved its ECCM package, and even the AIM-120B included a home on jam feature rendering noise jamming (the type most widely used in the 90’s) obsolete.

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 [1]. 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 [2].

3) Here Dr Kopp mistakes average PK with an individual missile shot’s PK which is what is meant to be discussed here. An individual missile shot’s PK is utterly dependant on the details of the missile launch. These include range to target, altitude relative to target, energy state, target energy state, target bearing/angle of track, target ECM and the individual missiles ECCM. What this means in real terms is if an AIM-120D was fired at a supersonic MiG-21 at 90nm when the launch platform was in a low energy state and the target was fleeing the PK would be less than 5%. According to Kopp’s line of reason the AIM-120D must have a PK under 20%. Thus taking the total number of AIM-120 combat shots and taking the % of successes and then attempting to use those numbers as some sort of evidence for a particular missile shots probability of success is a fundamentally flawed line of logic in my opinion. In sub surface naval engagements, a low PK torpedo shot may be taken in order to facilitate a response from the enemy, such as to force him to come shallow or disrupt the enemies firing solution by compelling them to manoeuvre. The same stands for A2A engagements. Many A2A engagements in the 90’s occurred with western fighters defending strike packages, and escorting fighters may have made shots that had a low probability of success in order to defend the package. In short PK is not an arbitrary number, it’s wholly dependant on the circumstances of the launch. While some forms of SJP may have effected the PK of individual shots is not clear by any means that non state of the art SPJ’s would have had a significant effect considering the AMRAAM’s HOJ and ECCM package.

4) The AIM-120D has the most advanced ECCM package available on the BVR missile market to date. Modern DRFM deception jammers work by analysing the seekers pulse frequencies and then transmitting a similar signal in order to deceive the missile or reduce the seekers/FCR’s range through active cancellation. There are two fundamental vulnerabilities with this kind of technology. One is if you don’t understand the algorithms that govern the threat seekers actions and ECCM capability it may well be that the seeker will see the EM source attempting to jam it. The second is if that occurs then the SPJ acts like a beacon as the seeker just follows the EM source to the target. Thus deception jamming is extremely intel dependant, because if you don’t understand how the threat seeker works or how its “brain” thinks SPJ’s of this type can, in fact, be counter productive. The reality is even though this technology can be quite effective if it is more advanced than the seeker technology opposing it; it is far from the “panacea” portrayed by Kopp.

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 [3]. 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 [4].

5) First let me address a clear misrepresentation of fact. The F/A-18F has 8 AMRAAM capable hard points. Additionally is has a dual rail launcher allowing the 6 underwing hard points to carry two each. Theoretically the platform could carry 14 AIM-120’s and 2 AIM-9X’s for a grand total of 16 missiles, significantly more than the SU-30. In real terms the two inboard hard points would likely be taken up by external fuel carriage, reducing the AMRAAM load to 10. 12 AAM’s is a realistic war load for the super hornet, though 10 is more typical (identical to a Flanker). At IOC the F-35A will be able to launch with 10 AMRAAM’s on 10 internal and external hard points if need be, and currently a dual rail, internal AMRAAM launcher is being developed under LM’s spiral development program which will allow 12; again comparable or better to a Flanker. In real terms there is no real advantage in a Flankers war load, and the Hornet/Lightning will be carrying weapons a full generation more advanced then their Russian adversaries.

Left and Right: F/A-18F with a 10 AAM missile load displaying the dual rail launcher, note that the outboard under-wing hard-points are not equipped with the dual rail launcher. Additionally the inboard under-wing hard-points are available for external fuel carriage making this an operational configuration.

6) The ability to achieve first shot is not dominated by kinematical performance in the vast majority of cases; information is the critical asset in this instance. The F/A-18F has significant RCS reduction in the frontal aspect, reducing its clean RCS to<.5m2 (likely .1m2). Even when carrying weapons the Rhino’s frontal RCS would be far smaller than a Flanker’s (SU-30’s frontal RCS is an estimated 4m2 + weapons). In real terms this will significantly reduce the flanker’s detection radius (although not to the level of VLO). Furthermore the F/A-18F is equipped with the AN/APG-79, LPI AESA radar. The exact detection and track performance of Irbis/BARS PESA and the APG-79 AESA radars are classified, but considering the generic performance bonuses AESA systems enjoy it is probable the AN/APG-79 provides better D&T performance. Additionally the LPI AESA’s random frequency modulation makes it extremely difficult to effectively jam; the system should enjoy much better ECCM performance than its Russian peers.

But even if the generationally inferior Russian radars enjoy comparable D&T performance the Rhino’s reduced RCS means it will detect the Flanker first. Furthermore the massive power output and single frequency use of the Russian super PESA’s means they will be detectable by the Rhino’s fully digital AN/ALR-67(v)3 RWR well outside said radars detection footprint. The combination of ESM/RWR detection, superior radar performance and smaller RCS ensures that in the vast majority of scenarios the Rhino will detect the Flanker first. First look is critical to enabling first shot (hence the term first look, first shot, first kill). Once you detect the threat without being counter detected the pilot can take the positional advantage or disengage at will, by achieving first look the Rhino enjoys the ability to prosecute the engagement on his own terms. Attaining positional advantage significantly increases the chances of a successful engagement; engaging the enemy while remaining undetected (outside of the threats radar footprint i.e. anywhere but in front of it) while in a high energy state and possibly from higher altitude will have devastating effects on the target.

Delaying the detection of the missile shot as long as possible increases the NEZ dramatically, gives the pilot less time to react and keeps end game energy high through lack of target evasion. First look has nothing to do with kinematical performance and everything to do with information dominance, the high ground in contemporary warfare and the dominating factor in modern BVR engagements. Considering the Super Hornet will most likely enjoy first look, and is equipped with BVR missiles that provide a 30% larger engagement envelope I think its reasonable to assume in most occasions the F/A-18F will achieve first shot, and again kinematic performance has little to do with it.

7) Flanker’s missiles are INFERIOR in terms of range performance. Longest ranging Russian missile equipping the flanker series in the foreseeable future is the R-27 Long Burn. This missile has a range maximum engagement envelope of 70nm (source Carlo Kopp). The F/A-18F on the other hand is equipped with the AIM-120D. That missile has a maximum engagement envelope of >100nm.

8) The F-35 is an LO platform with an RCS smaller than .001m2 (comparable to a golf ball or insect). Throughout the Flankers operational lifespan (and the foreseeable future) BVR engagements will be dominated by X band radars, just like those equipping the Flanker. Thus the Flanker will likely not have the ability to engage the F-35 in the BVR regime full stop, let alone achieve 1 for 1 kill rates in the 100km+ range (the F-35’s likely AIM-120D launch radius).

9) The R-77 is the Flankers primary active radar homing missile developed in the early 90’s, along with the R-27ER/EA which is in effect an R-27 missile body equipped with a long burn motor and the R-77’s seeker. The R-27ER/EA is the most potent missile in the Flankers inventory; however it enjoys identical seeker performance to the R-77. As we all know the driving force behind Russian weapons development in the post Cold War era has been the export market. Clearly the Russian arms manufactures have abandoned their previous qualms on exporting degraded or inferior Russian equipment. This is illustrated by the fact that the most capable Russian built fighters operational anywhere are flown by the Indian air force, and the export of top line Russian ASCM’s such as the “Sunburn”. Therefore it would be atypical for Russian manufacturers to have more advanced seeker technology in production and it not to be available on the open arms market. The R-77E (export model) has been available for export for over a decade, and according to Janes the seeker has had no major upgrades during that time, which would infer that the seeker technology used in the R-77E (and hence R-27ER/EA) is in fact 1990’s technology (comparable to the AIM-120A/B). The AIM-120’s seeker package has been upgraded 6 times in that timeframe, and the D model introduces features like a 2 way data-link which can transmit seeker generated data back to the launch platform. The seeker hardware must be significantly more sophisticated to allow this to occur. Thus it is clearly a reasonable assumption to state that the AIM-120D provides a more advanced seeker than the R-77E or R-27ER/EA.

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.

10) As discussed earlier the Flanker is unlikely to get the first shot considering the advantages the Rhino enjoys in terms of information dominance. Kinematical performance will not enable first shot if the Rhino remains undetected by the Flanker. In any case a “first shot” is unlikely to be inside the NEZ and thus the 4 round salvo would not increase the PK.

11) The assumption that DRFM deception jamming technology will reduce an AIM-120D’s PK to less than 50% has no real world evidence or even balanced logic behind it. The previous discussion on PK was on average PK not specific missile shot PK and has nothing to do with determining a specific shot’s chances. Thus the below 50% PK on an AIM-120D is an imaginary number. Considering the generic disadvantages this technology has (unless you know the seeker hardware and software that govern the missile it is extremely difficult to effectively fool an advanced active seeker, and them the EM source will itself guide the missile) in most occasions 50% PK reduction is optimistic in my opinion. Even if that is the case the significantly inferior R-77E’s seeker must provide a far inferior PK.

12) TVC will have no positive effect on a platform’s chances of survival with an inbound BVR missile. TVC improves instantaneous turn rates which has a positive impact on WVR engagements, however when dodging a missile the system becomes counter-productive. TVC allows higher instantaneous turn rates (moves the nose around quicker) by diverting thrust; however this has the effect of bleeding airspeed and kinematic energy through increased drag and decreased thrust through axis of movement. Slowing down and thus putting yourself in a low energy state is effectively suicide when facing an incoming, 50g+ rated, BVR missile in a high energy state. It’s impossible to out turn a missile, TVC or not. The missiles Achilles heal is the fact that after the motor burns out (usually after a few dozen seconds) its bleeding energy, and if you can bleed enough energy out of the missile by keeping in a high energy state it is feasible to, in fact, make it impossible for the incoming to maintain the intercept track. The key is to reduce the missiles energy state as early and as much as possible, and TVC only hurts this process. In this situation TVC is a liability simply because it robes you of your greatest asset, energy. However “bleeding” incoming missiles is becoming less and less effective; Meteor and AIM-120D use motors that provide thrust throughout the flight profile (through Ramjet or multi-stage burn rocket motor) equating to high end game energy states.

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.

13) The number game of missile exchange applies to AMRAAM’s in the same manner it does to Russian missiles. If an AMRAAM has a PK of 50% within the NEZ, 2 AIM-120’s will increase the PK to 75%. The superior seeker performance and ECCM more than makes up for the mixed bag of seekers employed in Russian doctrine (western fighters are also equipped with effective IRCM). Just because a DRFM SPJ is successful in fooling one missile does not increase its chances of repeating that success with the second. Realistically if a platform’s IRCM are as effective as its ECM and the process of employing both is relatively automated, and are not missile specific, mixed seeker incomings should not have any additional effect in terms of countermeasures. Kinematical difference is negligible considering in this scenario (within the NEZ) both of the incoming will be in a much higher energy state and can turn much tighter than the target (Russian or western), thus any difference is academic. In any case the Boeing Joint Dual Role Air Dominance Missile or JDRADM is the intended to replace the AIM-120D as the US’s primary BVR weapon. The JDRADM will incorporate IIR and Active Radar seeker technology providing a mixed seeker on every missile (enabling precision strike capability), the system should be operational within the next 5 to 10 years and deployed on F/A-18F’s and F-35’s.

Currently classified capabilities such as the use of the APG-79 or APG-81 AESA radar as an Xband 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.

14) The extremely narrow and focused EM beam coupled with excellent side lobe performance that allow 3rd gen AESA’s to be used as stand off jammers also mean that if the anti radiation missile is not within the boundaries of the beam itself it will likely not be able to detect the EM source (unlike DRFM deception SPJ’s which do not transmit on a single bearing). Thus unless the radar is attempting to jam the missile itself its range will be reduced dramatically. Contemporary BVR missiles achieve current range performance through using semi-ballistic flight profiles. Due to the limitations of line of sight, the AR AAM will have to behave like a beam rider, achieving comparable range performance to early, beam riding, variants of the AIM-7 (comparable in terms of size) thus leading to a maximum effective range in the 20~30nm ballpark. The exact effective range 3rd gen AESA’s can effectively apply EA effects remains classified, however the USN stated that its effective range was “tactically significant” inferring comparable or greater range to a BVR missile max engagement envelope, or ~100nm. Thus in real terms the AR variant of the R-27 will have no effect on EA capability employed by the F/A-18F or F-35 unless said platforms are in near WVR. In real terms the capability is useless in the vast majority of the BVR regime.

Even within this “effective range” all the transmitting platform has to do is stop jamming the target for a matter of seconds and the incoming missile will lose lock. Once the missile looses the track it will not be able to manoeuvre with the target and when transmission resumes the missile will be out of its acquisition “basket” (i.e. the beam). The F/A-18F can then continue to apply EA effects on the target at will, disrupting comms and degrading radar performance. The only way AR variants of the R-77 or R-27 will be effective is if the transmitting platforms continue to jam the target right up until missile impact, indeed even if the missile is within a km or two and the target stops transmitting the shot is rendered useless. Against a fighter this weapons system has almost no chance of a kill due to the speed and manoeuvrability of the target and fleeting nature of the EM source. The best one can hope for is compelling the threat to cease applying EA on you for a matter of seconds.

15) Currently Russian designers have yet to produce a digital IIR missile seeker for the R-73 missile, which still relies on analogue rotating reticule technology last seen in the west on the AIM-9L/M. Due to the lack of international interest there is, to my knowledge, no major drive for digital IIR seekers on Russian BVR or WRV weapon system’s.

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.

16) The ability to apply EA effects at stand off range is currently an ability that the Flanker does not enjoy, and will not, ever (the last production Flanker, the SU-35BM, is equipped with the Irbis PESA radar and its likely that the first Russian platform to field an advanced AESA capable of EA will be the T-50 PAK FA), the F/A-18F and F-35A do however. Additionally the ECCM employed by 3rd gen AESA’s are significantly more advanced then their Russian peers. The random frequency modulation employed by LPI AESA’s make them virtually impossible to jam through active cancellation and deception simply because it is impossible to predict the next frequency the AESA will use on any number of its beams (i.e. its random). In order to effectively jam the LPI AESA with deception or active cancellation techniques the SPJ or EA source would have to transmit on as many as a thousand specific frequencies which have ben chosen at random by the Radar, i.e. basically impossible. The only form of ECM that has any effect on 3rd gen AESA’s is 80’s vintage noise jamming, because it transmits loudly on all frequencies throughout the band. This form of ECM has virtually been rendered obsolete by the increased D&T performance of FCR’s (increased burn-through capability) and the HOJ capability provided by many contemporary BVR weapons. The AN/ALR-679(v)3 is a fully digital RWR currently deployed on the F/A-18F, it’s half a generation ahead of current gen (analogue) Flanker RWR. Presently Russian digital RWR technology is still in the developmental stage. Clearly in every area of EW, ECM, ECCM & ELINT the F/A-18F & F-35A hold a distinct advantage.

This conclusion is typical of the tactics, techniques and devices Kopp uses to argue his case. The premises of many of the conclusions stated on the final paragraph are built on arguments made previously under false logic (such as using average PK to determine specific PK) or flat out falsification (such as the inferior war load). Using the faulty or misleading arguments outlined in previous paragraphs, each sprinkled with real capability and fact to increase the feeling of legitimacy, to arrive at the desired conclusion can be very convincing. Hence we must examine the whole article in order to dismantle the conclusion.

How did Dr Kopp reach the conclusions of a best case parity exchange ratio without examining the effect of information dominance and networking on the engagement? The primacy of ISR capability and information distribution has been clearly illustrated in every high intensity conflict fought by the west in the post cold war era. Surely the impact of VLO should be considered before making such damning conclusions? Rendering threat radar performance practically irrelevant should be worth consideration shouldn’t it, particularly considering X band radars dominate BVR engagements? Not once was the effect of RCS reduction addressed in the whole article. On three or four occasions Kopp examines an engagement that is clearly 4th gen platforms manoeuvring within the others radar footprint, and then lumps the F-35 in the conclusion even though VLO renders the previous comparison utterly moot.

In fact how is a Flanker going to achieve a 1 to 1 exchange ratio with an F-35 when it lacks the ability to effectively engage or track the platform with its primary sensor at BVR? Oh, that’s right the IRST! Yet another conclusion drawn from a previous argument based on misleading information and half truths. Not even western designers have achieved performance even close to AESA radars with IIR technology, and even Dr Kopp admits the Russians are yet to field systems as advanced as operational western designs (the developmental OLS on the MiG-35 is the only Russian system comparable to current gen western technology like PIRATE). The critical factor with IRST technology is it can not effectively search a large volume in the same manner as a Radar, its akin to searching for an aircraft in the sky with a pair of binoculars when you don’t know its there and you cant hear it. Even if technically an IRST can detect an afterburning F-35 at 50 or 100km, without another sensor cueing the IRST (like if you heard the aircraft or someone else told you to look with your binoculars) its chances are one in a million. Even if the IRST does acquire the F-35 it can not effectively track the target (IRST’s can not generate range information and thus a track) and relies on a laser range finder. The only feasible way for an IRST to track a VLO target is if it is cued by an RWR/ESM, which is difficult considering all F-35’s comms and active sensors are LPI, and in combat many will have stringent EMCON procedures applied (i.e. probably EM Cold receiving sensor information from other platforms). In short the F-35 equipped force will have a near clear picture of the battle space, and the Flanker equipped force will have nothing of the sort i.e. wont be able to detect or track the threat platforms with supporting ISR platforms or fighter Fire Control Radars. Anyone who has an objective viewpoint and has examined the effect on information dominance on modern air campaigns (including desert storm) should come to the conclusion that a 1 for 1 exchange ratio is extremely optimistic for the Flanker equipped force.

Over and over again Kopp presents opinion as fact and the authority the average reader grants the writer allows him to effectively do so, often without question. He continually uses prior conclusions as evidence, however those prior conclusions are invariably built on analysis that either deliberately omits vital elements or blatantly falsifies information. In effect Kopp has constructed a house of cards with specious analysis and conclusion using prior specious analysis and falsehood as its foundation, which like any house of cards collapses if one critically examines the assumptions and claims that hold the entire argument together. Someone who continually needs to resort to such tactics to argue his case must have a serious personal interest in being seen to be correct (even if in reality he is not) that goes far beyond pride or patriotic interest. Indeed the systematic way Dr Kopp builds artificial conclusions on spurious analysis and distortion indicates a malicious intention to mislead the reader rather than stimulate thought and genuine debate.