Stealth Fighters; Affirming the Consequent Fallacy

17-May 2021: EOL (End Of Life) for the F-22A has surfaced. We published "Affirming the Consequent" in April 2021, almost a month before F-22 retirement came to light.   

US-Navy E-2D with all new UHF-band AN/APY-9 radar to find/track LO aircraft.

"All I could do was scream out on the guard frequency (frequency 243.0) “Eagles engaged, King… knock it off, knock it off, knock it off. Friendlies. Knock it off.”  

The history is air combat shows that most air combat victories occurred when the pilot shot down never saw his attacker. So it makes sense the USAF would attempt to leverage this 'element of surprise' by investing in stealth fighters. The problem is the USAF never bothered to look at (neglects) the other necessary element required - IFF (Identification Friend or Foe). 

In all these unseen aerial victories, the attacker had clearly identified an opponent as an enemy aircraft in WVR (Within Visual Range). But with the advent of longer-range missiles, everything changed. Now verifying whom precisely you are intending to shoot at with a missile in a BVR (Beyond Visual Range) engagement - becomes (and remains) a serious and systemic technological problem.

Radar operators inside USN E-2C Hawkeye

The universal argument made by stealth fighter proponents is that stealth fighters will win any aerial engagement due to their advanced sensors, weapons, and small radar-cross-section invisibility, which allows them "First Look, First Shoot, and First Kill." 

Listening carefully to their argument - they also attempt to restrict any discussion to the notion of BVR only. This is because this is the scenario where stealth fighters and their LPI (Low Probability of Intercept) radar are said to have the greatest hypothetical/theoretical advantage. However, in real life under actual combat conditions, stealth fighters will rarely (or more likely never) be able to engage in BVR air-to-air combat due to IFF/fratricide risks. Not only that but ROE/ATO (Rules Of Engagement/Air Tasking Orders) restrictions can hamstring or even take BVR engagements completely off the table. Without BVR, stealth fighters lose their stealth and become traditional aircraft.  

So what stealth fighter proponents are doing by limiting the discussion to only BVR scenarios, is committing the Formal Fallacy of Affirming the Consequent. 

Affirming the Consequent form:

If A, then B; B, therefore A

A = radar contacts are bandits

B = stealth fighter BVR will win.

So we get this: 

If radar contacts are bandits, then stealth fighter BVR will win; stealth fighter BVR will win, therefore radar contacts are bandits.

CIC of the USS Vincennes

The Formal Fallacy here is that not all radar contacts are 'bandits.'  Any IFF transponder that does not transmit after interrogation - read: does not squawk, cannot be designated as a hostile. For a variety of reasons, a friendly military aircraft or civilian aircraft may not squawk. We only need to remember the USS Vincennes shootdown of Iran Air Flight 655 killing all 290 passengers and crew - to illustrate all manner of IFF risks in BVR. So a within visual range ID verification is required.

Iran Air Flight 655 Airbus A300B2 was shot down by the USS Vincennes on July 3, 1988, in a beyond visual range missile engagement, killing all 290 aboard.

In a real sense, IFF is a misnomer. Today, IFF really only can affirm Identification of Friend. And no IFF response should never be automatically assigned as a foe.

But...

"... At the tail end of the hostilities, we had a section of VF-2 Tomcats flying TARPS reconnaissance in eastern Iraq. The profile was for them to hit the tanker around Baghdad and then fly low towards Basra, take their pictures, and head back to the USS Ranger in the northern Persian Gulf. Flying above them was a section of VF-1 Tomcats.  I was flying in the ACO seat during the mission, casually watching and listening to the E-3 AWACs control a section of capping F-15s. I start hearing its controller spouting out:

“Bogey, Bullseye south, 50 miles”

Me: “Bulldog, King. Negative. Positive Mode 2 (Military IFF). Coalition aircraft.”

AWACS: “Roger, friendly” followed by an affirmative by the Eagles.

Two minutes later:

AWACS: “Bogey, northwest bullseye, 60 miles heading south.”

Me: “Negative Bulldog. I’ve got positive ID. Navy Hornets.”  

AWACS: “Roger, friendly.”

Every time the controller called bogey, the Eagles got spooled up. It probably happened five or six times. I looked over at my CICO, Bob Roth, and chuckled “WTF is up with these guys? Bogies all over the place.” 

"I couldn’t get the comment out when I heard “bandits, east bullseye 40 miles. Flight of two flying low heading south!” Shit! The Eagles turned on a dime and started calling their sorts, determining which F-15 would shoot which target. Dash 1 had the lead F-14 and his wingman had targeted the second Tomcat. In combat terms, “bandit” meant confirmed bad guy. Shoot first, ask questions later. And the frequency got jammed between the E-3 calling out the “bandits” and the Eagles sorting their targets. 

All I could do was scream out on the guard frequency (frequency 243.0) “Eagles engaged, King… knock it off, knock it off, knock it off. Friendlies. Knock it off.”  

"Thankfully, the F-15s heard the calls and immediately disengaged. A few minutes later the voice from the E-3 changed as a new controller took over.  I think someone got their ass chewed."

E-3 Sentry AWACS

"What was funny is that the TARPS F-14s never knew what was happening. They were on a different frequency talking to the RO in my aircraft. It wasn’t until we were back on the ship when I asked one of them “hey, did you guys get some tones?” “Yeah, briefly. Came and went, quick.” We told them the story, and everyone laughed. “Holy Shit! Really?” Nobody thought anything of it, but someone overheard us talking. From there it made the Admiral’s briefing and got elevated further to General Schwarzkopf who put out a “let’s not go crazy” message to the entire theater. I got a “good job” from above, which made me feel good."

Interior of the E-3 Sentry

"On the flip side, a week or so previous the quick thinking of AWACS crew prevented a Navy blue-on-blue when an F-14 mistakenly identified an A-6 as hostile."

US Navy Hawkeye

This was an excerpt from "Confessions Of An E-2C Hawkeye Radar Operator"

Here is another excerpt:

"As an example, during our transit to Desert Storm, our CAG (the Carrier Air Wing Commander) became obsessed that coded Mode 4 IFF (Identify Friend or Foe) transponder worked in every airplane for every mission.  If we were going to fly combat, he wanted to ensure no friendly-on-friendly engagements occurred. To prove his point, any aircraft that launched without operable Mode 4 was sent to the “penalty box”—an area 20,000 feet directly above the carrier—and forced to hold in a pattern until the end of the cycle. Usually 90 minutes or so.  It sucked and the crews hated it. After each airplane launched, its IFF was interrogated by the ship looking for positive Mode 4 response.  If it was “sweet,” the aircraft could proceed to its mission. If “sour,” to the “box” they went."

"Of particular importance were ROE (Rules of Engagement). As the “eyes in the sky” and battlefield commanders, we were expected to know the complicated ROE cold! Again, we spent hours discussing it and working through hundreds of scenarios. We knew our shit and became the air wing experts. It was our job to be just that. At one point I was sent to Saudi Arabia to fly with an E-3 Sentry AWACS crew with the goal of understanding how the E-3 operated. The night I got there, there was a USAF General discussing ROE and the crews didn’t know it nearly as well as us. It wasn’t necessarily their fault. The USAF had been on station for several months and were highly tasked. Highly tasked meant little time to do anything but fly. Seeing that I did know the ROE, the General made me do an hour training session and then asked me why I knew it so well. My response was simple:  “If we’re not flying, we’re training.”  

E-3 Sentry

Even during a WVR (Within Visual Range) engagement, wrestling with IFF risk remains ever-present.

"As I came off this bandit I saw Kluso high and to my left. I saw another fighter bout 5 miles off his nose and called it out as a bandit because J.B. and Willie had already egressed the area. At the same time, Kluso got an Autoguns radar lock on the guy that was in a very offensive position on him Kluso was not real comfortable with who this guys was because it looked a lot like an Eagle or a Tomcat with its size and two tails. It definitely had a large burner plume coming out the back so Kluso asked whether or not anybody was in burner. When nobody answered he launched an AIM-9 followed by an AIM-7." 

Above is an excerpt from "... And Kill MIGs: Air to Air Combat from Vietnam to the Gulf War"

American fighters in 1991 featured some NCTR (Non-Cooperative Target Recognition) capacity but the technology is still far from perfect so ATO/ROE and AWACS/AEW support is required. Today, NCTR still cannot be used in isolation for aerial BVR target ID under actual combat conditions. 


More from Lou Drendel:

"Because of the differential turns, I ended up about a half a mile in front of Rico, and I locked up the second guy right away. He was in a lazy right turn around the fireball that had been his leader! As I locked him up in 'Auto guns' he breaks back hard left into me. I am down around 8,000 feet and he is at about 10,000 feet. All of a sudden I get a friendly indication on my IFF and my heart drops into my boots. I think we have waded into a couple of F-15s and shot one of them down."

Radio spectrum NCTR (Non-Cooperative Target Recognition) could also face increasing challenges because of the proliferation of high-speed DRFM (Digital Radio Frequency Memory) countermeasure. And that's just the start. DRFM can also occupy the L, S, and C, bands where it could potentially cause complete mayhem.

Suffice it to say stealth fighter proponents not only engage in Formal Fallacy - but operate in a world of assumed premises and conditional claims. 

These include: 

1. Robust IFF capacity.

2. Clear and advantageous Rules Of Engagement and Air Tasking Orders.

3. No defender DRFM/ECM/Expendables.

4. No defender Doppler Turn/Beam Turn.

5. No weapons malfunctions.

6. Better than 50 percent historical missile-hit probabilities.

7. Unfettered access and use of friendly AWACS and air tankers.

8. No high closure rates and compressed timeframes of jet combat.

9. No friendly midcourse update data transmission sequence detection by the defender.

10. No defender RWR detection of LPI

Friendly high-value assets like E-3 AWACS, E-2 AEW, U-2 'Hydra' aircraft, as well as aerial inflight refueling tankers, will be primary targets (in the air and on the ground) in any future peer or near-peer confrontation, and LPI radar warning receivers are already commercially available. See here: https://www.indracompany.com/sites/default/files/indra_alr-400_rwr.pdf 

There is a fundamental problem with using exercises as an authentic predictor of real aerial combat outcomes. Exercises by definition cannot (and do not)  replicate key aspects of real combat - in particular - weapons behavior.

Indeed the most recent American aerial engagement that involved the air-to-air shootdown by an American manned fighter of another manned aircraft occurred over Syria on 18-June 2017 - and simply underscores the point. 

It is the first US aerial victory in 18 years and involves non-stealth aircraft, is WVR (Within Visual Range), sees defender using countermeasure expendables, sees weapons malfunctions, (the vaunted hi-tech AIM-9X combat debut fails to kill the target from 6'oclock at point-blank range), and sees no greater than 50 percent missile hit probabilities. All elements we have been discussing at length for some time. 

During 1991 Desert Storm which many deem an unqualified technological success; according to Air War College research published in 2005 - of the 41 claimed American air-to-air victories over Iraqi aircraft, only 5 of these are deemed high confidence BVR (Beyond Visual Range) kills. This means the remaining ~ 36 Iraqi aircraft are WVR (Within Visual Range) victories. This works out to ~ 87.8 percent (nearly 90  percent) of the kills are in WVR - and not in BVR. 

These American 2005 findings certainly do not support funding of exotic BVR-dependent manned stealth platforms for air combat use. 

And then things get worse. 

In 1991 the Americans employ 88 AIM-7 rounds and some 12 to 24 AIM-9 rounds at Iraqi aircraft. This totals to between 100 to 112 missile rounds for 34 kills (41 minus 2 cannon kills by A-10 thunderbolts, and 5 Iraqi aircraft claimed by the US "as crashed" not due to aerial kinetic weapon contact). This gives you a missile hit probability figure between 34.0 and 30.5 percent - for all reasons. 

That is a lot (a lot) of air-to-air missile employment - not hitting stuff. 

It's no wonder ~ 87.8 percent of the 41 American air-to-air kill claims in 1991 - are WVR. 

Any BVR focused dependency - is not a valid military doctrine.

Indeed the 2005 Air War College study writes:

“Developed throughout the Cold War, BVR capabilities fit the US force structure framework which favored quality over quantity. This framework envisioned a highly-trained force (US or US client) equipped with advanced weapons defeating a numerically superior enemy (USSR or Soviet client). Unfortunately, the pursuit of costly BVR capabilities during the Cold War was not justified by actual BVR performance."

"As shown in Table 4, there were only four documented BVR air-to-air kills in the entire history of aerial warfare up until Operation Desert Storm. This revelation is astonishing because, throughout the Cold War era, radar-guided missile platforms were touted as a transformation that would fundamentally change aerial warfare."

Sound familiar? The Air War College study continues:

Although aerial victory data is available for selected post-Desert Storm conflicts such as Operation Deny Flight, Operation Allied Force, and Operation Southern Watch, this data does not include the number of shots taken or the engagement range. During Operation Deny Flight, for example, there were four aerial victories scored by two USAF F-16Cs on February 28th, 1994: three kills were with AIM-9s and one kill with an AIM120 AMRAAM (a much improved replacement for the AIM-7).xxiii It is unlikely the AMRAAM shot was BVR, since the four enemy aircraft were simultaneously attacked with visual-range Sidewinders. Additionally, F-16Cs are not equipped with NCTR to augment the legacy IFF system, making BVR approval from AWACS very unlikely. There were also two kills as part of Operation Southern Watch in 1992 and 1993 by F16s using AMRAAMs. Again, what is not given is the number of shots taken or the range.

 A more recent Operation Southern Watch engagement occurred on January 5th, 1999 when two Iraqi MiG-25s violating the southern “no-fly” zone illuminated two F15Cs with their BVR radar.xxiv The F-15s responded by firing three AIM-7 Sparrows and one AIM-120 AMRAAM. All missiles missed. Subsequently, two Navy F-14s fired two AIM-54 Phoenix missiles at the two MiG-25s. Despite the Phoenix being the most expensive—and supposedly most capable—air-to-air radar-guided missile ever made, both missed. The violating MiG-25s escaped to fight another day. 

Thus it would appear radar-guided missiles are continuing on their dismal track record established during the Vietnam War, especially for BVR situations."

Though the numbers may suggest some improvement, the main issue with the data post-Desert Storm to 18-June 2017 in Syria - is that it is incomplete.

Even when Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) data is examined that ended 3 years before the 1991 Gulf War. Assuming total kill claimes by Iran of ~ 165 Iraqi aircraft destroyed and assuming all Sparrow/Phoneix kill claims were BVR (which they are not) then we get ~ 44.2 percent BVR vs ~55.8 percent WVR. Even here the actual ratio is lower for BVR/higher for WVR.

Exercises are woefully inadequate in capturing weapons issues that will occur under actual combat conditions.

With their small weapon magazines and high costs, stealth fighters are both ill-suited and superfluous for kinetic air combat against other manned aircraft. In a very real sense, actual BVR performance has become the great equalizer for both stealth and non-stealth fighters. 

Under actual combat conditions, the utility of stealth fighters for air-to-air combat is actually quite limited. Anyone still attempting to promote exotically expensive stealth fighters as omnipotent force-multipliers that unseen, surgically sweep the sky of enemy fighters from BVR distances - is either an industry mouthpiece or grossly uninformed about aerial warfare mechanics - or both. 

Whatever the case, best to ignore these voices.


Your thoughts?


Works cited

Cilliers, Jacques √Čtienne. "Information Theoretic Limits on Non-Cooperative Airborne Target Recognition by Means of Radar Sensors", University College London, 2018, discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10049414/1/Cilliers_ID_thesis.pdf.

Drendel, Lou. ... and Kill MIGs: Air to Air Combat from Vietnam to the Gulf War. N.p.: Squadron Signal Publ., 1997. Print.

Higby, Lt Col Patrick. Promise and Reality: Beyond Visual Range (BVR) Air-To-Air Combat. Air War College / Air University, 30 Mar. 2005, http://pogoarchives.org/labyrinth/09/06.pdf?fbclid=IwAR19KwgfKJPlxPz5eBWYQrCFs5SUi0x34DFoz0pSqxDXiTkJ2PaI4fcRveg.

Majumdar, Dave. “Why America’s Mighty Military Doesn’t Always Dominate the Battlefield.” The National Interest, 26 June 2017, https://nationalinterest.org/blog/the-buzz/why-americas-mighty-military-dont-always-dominate-the-21315

"Non Cooperative Target Recognition Information Technology Essay." ukessays.com. 11 2018. UKEssays. 05 2021 https://www.ukessays.com/essays/information-technology/non-cooperative-target-recognition-information-technology-essay.php.

Rogoway, Craig Picken and Tyler. “Confessions Of An E-2C Hawkeye Radar Operator.” The Drive, The Drive, 19 Dec. 2018, www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/25572/confessions-of-an-e-2c-hawkeye-radar-operator.

- All media found here is for scholarly and research purposes and protected under U.S. Internet ‘Fair Use’ Law -

Comments

  1. Original publish date 17-April 2021

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  2. What about Link 16? Does that help?

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    1. Thanks for writing.
      This is unclear. Presumably a battle network would help disseminate all radar contact destination information. But no IFF squawk means that too goes on the network - and then still needs WVR confirmation regardless.

      During 1991 AWACS were able to designate Iraqi aircraft as hostile earlier because AWACS could see Iraqis launching from known Iraqi Air Bases.

      In a future hypothetical confrontation with peer or near peer adversary, AWACS and air-tanker support will be disrupted or unable to be leveraged (both these high value assets will be prime targets on the ground and in the air) so things are not going to get any easier.

      - Boresight

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  3. How do radar warning receivers work? How do they reject clutter from random radar sources and not reject LPI radar signals as clutter? What LPI modes can these over-the-shelf RWRs can detect, if you can detect one LPI mode can you detect all of them?

    If 'LPI proof' RWRs can be sold over the counter, can high-end versions be used to generalize the direction of a threat from a fighter using an LPI mode? How do the people issuing fighter design requirements be totally unaware of these improved RWRs?

    In the event that stealth fighters are abandoned and air superiority drones/robots adopted would it be even easier to counter these threats than the classic manned fighter?

    Gurney_

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    1. Anyone that build LPI radar will have some visibility into a LPI warning receiver. Presumably the F-22 and F-35 have sophisticated RWRs to detect hostile LPI. Otherwise they would just a vulnerable and anything else. LPI air-intercept can be put in a 4th gen fighter just as easily as 5th gen.

      "How do radar warning receivers work?" Huge subject. Radar is simply a radio signal.

      "How do they reject clutter from random radar sources and not reject LPI radar signals as clutter?"
      They can't . You need to process the signal coming and look for pseudo-radon patterns, not a trivial affair.

      "What LPI modes can these over-the-shelf RWRs can detect, if you can detect one LPI mode can you detect all of them?" Unknown what the manufacture means. All LPI radar have different patterns.

      "If 'LPI proof' RWRs can be sold over the counter, can high-end versions be used to generalize the direction of a threat from a fighter using an LPI mode? How do the people issuing fighter design requirements be totally unaware of these improved RWRs?" They are not unaware. All modern fighter likely have or will have some LPI-RWR capacity.

      In the event that stealth fighters are abandoned and air superiority drones/robots adopted would it be even easier to counter these threats than the classic manned fighter? 5th gen isn't more useful in air-to-air combat. Just use 4th gen. Dones/robot are disposable so it not really an issue if we lose some.

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    2. Modern RWRs can intercept LPI radar emissions just fine, to an extent. While some incomprehensibly complex mathematical schemes exist, there is also a much simper (even if less reliable) method - simple memory.
      While noise could be considered "random" and an LPI radar would want to appear as that noise, in order to distinguish its own signal, it needs to transmit at high enough power to be able to distinguish its own return from that noise. That means it's exactly the same as another radars in regard of signal-to-noise ratios and signal propagation. So it needs to transmit something, at discernibly higher power than the background appears to be. It might be changing the frequency, or even modulation or whatnot.
      But if you have an RWR capable of receiving signals through its whole frequency band at all times or frequently enough (a cheap amateur SDR can do that), and it also has direction-finding capability (RWRs usually do), then all it needs to do is, to iterate signal strenght over several "snapshots"(saved in memory), adding them together, revealing spots in space emitting visibly stronger signals.
      It's exactly the same mechanism that is for example used by smartphones to photograph dark skies - they add luminosity information from multiple photos together (trying to match each pixel with one from the previous shot), thus revealing the stars during the night sky that are normally impossible to photograph.

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    3. I've had a suspicion for a long time that LPI is not "low power" because of the exact issue you cite - it can't hear is own echo returns. Stealth fighter proponents are not interested in truth, just in squandering tax dollars and lies. Instructions for first responders-firefighters warn responders to stay well away from the AN/APG-77 in the F-22, because of extremely high microwave danger. So it very high power not low power. besides you'd need high power to try and employ some form of NCTR. So just more BS from stealth fighter folks

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    4. LPI as a term is just a marketing gimmick. At best, it could be described as "frequency hopping radar", only more advanced and capable of changing more parameters than transmitter frequency. But frequency hopping radars were in service since 1950's (or even a bit earlier), so LPI radars were not really some revolutionary improvement. Only that fast enough computers and more advanced signal generators allowed them to have variable transmission parameters - from different frequency, through different pulse repetition timings, variable power between pulses up to variable modulation schemes (applies only to some of them). But all of those principles have been used in service long before the term "LPI" was used by LM as a marketing term for the F-22.
      And yes, they are not low power. Their power requirements are exactly the same as for "non-LPI" radars, simply because they are bound by the same physics as any other radar, more specifically, they need to transmit strong enough signal to allow them to distinguish the return from background noise.
      So it doesn't work as advertised in regards to being "unseen".
      However, what it does best, is to prevent the RWR from identifying what type of radar it is listening to, as practically, all LPI radars in the theater might appear to transmit the same, essentially random, signals. So the RWR will end up with categorizing the threats only by their emission bands (X-band radars that move would be simply assumed to be fighters, L and S band to be SAMs, non-moving X-band as small SAM tracking radars and so on).
      In essence, LPI radars make detection harder for unprepared RWRs, but otherwise they make only identification harder for prepared ones.
      With a bit of cryptography, one can solve even identification, but with the presence of DRFM systems, it can backfire rather spectacularly (those not within range of the friendly guy, might assume the jammer to be a reliable friendly signal - with obvious "oh crap" immediately following).

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    5. Hi Cacus,
      I never considered that DRFM could cause havoc for long-range NCTR as well (?) Logically it should.

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    6. Why wouldn't it? NTCR expects recognizable signature of its target. All you need to do is to interfere with it and it won't recognize the target. For example, one of the approaches often mentioned, is to "count" the number of compressor blades while looking into the engine. It counts the number of "returns" from individual blades. Just add few more returns and it gets confused. That's not that hard to do.
      But NTCR is still not considered to be perfect so it's not taken as proof of identity. Yes, it can reliably distinguish between a 747 and a Flanker, but otherwise? Meh. VID is still the only reliable way yo do that. Even if you take a camera, zoom in and display the image to a human, you will inevitably get better results than any computerized automatic recognition.
      Not even modern AI is really reliable enough to stake your life on its ability to recognize who is who. If someone does, then he'd better stay away from me.

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    7. I agree. Radio spectrum NTCR is an interesting idea but DRFM will cause too many problems. As far as AI goes - I wrote a paper about how AI has huge problems just trying to get a binocular robot to fold a pile of laundry. So I wouldn't worry about AI.

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    8. What fascinates me about AI is that it can relatively quickly find the best solution to a given test (not even a problem). Alter the inputs a little bit and it might even completely fail.
      I consider modern AI proponents to be pushing a hype. Yes, it's a very good tool, but simple image recognition is often too much for it.
      And there is a simple explanation:
      My own brain is a purposely-built supercomputer for optimizing neural connections. It has billions of computing units that can't do maths, but can "train AI". Our modern, very fast, digital computers can do maths very quickly, but they are not even remotely as suited for the AI training task as my brain is. Even the most powerful supercomputer we've ever built is not even remotely as good as my or your brain. We've got somewhere around simulating a bee. That's not bad in any way, but far from any adult human brain.
      And my brain has been running ever since I was born and one of its usual tasks it has been training ever since, is image recognition. That's decades of trained AI-like algorithms, running on several orders of magnitude more powerful hardware than any known machine, training image recognition. And add to that, it has been fed with two, very good optical sensors (eyeball Mk.1).
      Sow how could one expect a computer to be better in recognizing images than I am?
      That's how far the AI has to go. Several decades of training on much faster computers than we have. Until then, our computers will be only as good at identifying anything as algorithms we can write ourselves, not using any learning algorithms.
      In essence - humans should think and computers should compute. Star Trek was not as backwards when it imagined Data to be something special even in the 24th century.

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  4. hi Cactus, fascinating. I too what thinking how DRFM woud navigate high-speed frequency hopping radio signals. If i was a DRFM designer is would use initial measured RF-power of unknown signal to estabile a baseline of "proximity to my jet" and then use increasing or decreasing received RF-power to make retransmit decisions. Can you elaborate your "backfire" scenario? That friendly DRFM can fool nearby friendly radar? Certainly it would. My understanding is DRFM remains quiet and retransmits only for a fraction of a second as an active ARH missile seeker approaches? That would be a safest useage DRFM model?

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    1. DRFM jammers/EW suites usually consist of more than one device (at least there are two receivers, even if there is just one transmitter). They often share these receivers with RWRs (they are the same thing from hardware standpoint).
      This gives them the capability of determining direction of incoming signals, or even triangulating its position. Signal strength is not a good way of determining range, as most modern transmitters (from your phone to F-35's radar) usually don't transmit on full blast all the time.
      Furthermore, they can (this applies to RWRs mainly) find even LPI radars by plotting the location of transmitter over multiple "snapshots" of their surrounding area. If there is a signal (even if it changes frequency) coming from a certain place, they will recognize it - it's exactly the same principle as your phone uses to photo very dark scenes.
      Then comes signal recognition (is it a search radar, is it tracking me, or does it look sort-of like WiFi and thus is a datalink?). That's a bit more complicated, but how certain sytems operate has been known science ever since RWRs exist.
      I will leave the most obvious DRFM uses to another post.

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    2. Hi Cactus, Ah I see. Makes sense.

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  5. Any DRFM jammer has three basic uses. First one is not actually for jamming, but for extending range of some friendly system. Let's say you have guys on the ground who you can't contact with your usual means, because for some reason, they are out of radio range. You can send a DRFM equipped Rafale for example, and it uses the jammer to repeat comms signals in both ways. How nice isn't it? I'd bet they have at least software package for that eventuality.
    Then, there is the missile/radar spoofing role. That's a simple principle - you create a false target for it and it misses. That's what you have mentioned. It's basically called a "replay attack".
    But, there is even a more nefarious use for them, and that's what I suggested.
    Imagine being a part of a SEAD package flying towards some AD system. They can see you and you can see them. At a certain point, they get nervous and send a "challenge" to interrogate you about your identity. You don't know the correct response. But, there is someone else 100nm to the south that knows it (an enemy) and he is behind the AD's radio horizon but not behind yours. So what you do? You retransmit the challenge towards him and he sends you the correct response. And you simply retransmit it to the "challenger". It's called "man in the middle attack".
    Now, you just assume someone else's identity and press on, buying time for you to get closer. Even if the AD guys suspect something is up, they won't shoot against someone who is responding correctly, would they? That's a positive friendly response.
    The difference between hacking Wi-Fi using man in the middle attack and IFF is, that in computer networks, you can simply ignore the man if you suspect he is not genuine and drop the connection or block him, cutting away even the genuine guy. OK, lost connection, but safe. You can afford to lose the real person (most of the times). You kill the man, so he becomes "dead".
    But if you do that within your IFF system, you need to drop the whole system. You can't afford to shoot your friendlies and you suddenly don't know who is real and who is just pretending. And now the "dead" man can still kill you. And in the meantime, your SEAD package got into range of its missiles and it's too late for the AD guys. They'd better shoot incoming missiles and not your own plane. And your "replay attack" might still protect your missiles to an extent.
    And MITM attack beats even cryptography, so it won't protect you from MITM attack. Against a replay attack, it might work (not always).

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    1. God Lord. Everything in the radio spectrum becomes a scrambled confusing mess. DRFM and capture almost any radio spectrum transmission. This includes L-band GPS? I has thinking it could replicate radio communication too, to give false (old ) repeat instructions to flights of aircraft. Yeah everything is going to need to be VID. What a nightmare.

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    2. It's not limited to one band. One can jam in any reasonable band. I'd guess X-band is potentially full of jammers (at least military aircraft EW suites will almost all operate there) and L,S and C bands have at least some dedicated jammers, since they serve IFF and a lot of SAM radars operate there too.
      Especially GPS is a known target, there have been many complains about Russian (and Iranian) habit of messing with it. No matter how they do it, it's a solved problem.
      Wrong order/command transmission is probably out of the question. Datalinks and voice links have been encrypted for decades, so unless the encryption is easily broken (virtually impossible unless someone messes up in a great way), the jammer can't create packets that could be regarded as genuine.
      That includes repeating old orders over and over again. Even WiFi can solve bad packet retransmissions.
      But in any case, the primary role of any jammer is to make the genuine system unreliable enough. The jammer wins at the moment the genuine system cannot be reliably trusted. That's why any IFF system is a very good target for jamming.
      Making a mess is good enough, especially for the defender or the side that wants to remove enemy's BVR advantage.
      If one succeeds, then it's all about VID and in the case of aerial warfare, dogfight (albeit with missiles).
      That simply proves your often repeated point about Russians still believing in it. Coincidentally, they've been investing in electronic warfare probably more than anyone else. Or perhaps, that's not just a coincidence?

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    3. I agree. DRFM operating in the L,S and C bands could really cause mayhem. imagine IFF interrogation and valid IFF responses being collected by opponent DRFM. Not only could the interrogation be retransmitted, but also the collected responses. The last time I checked the Su-35 has "L-band radar/IFF" in its leading edge slats. If its a radar then its also an L-band transmitter/receiver - by definition - also. I think DRFM is effectivally a game changer and will make most of the radio spectrum an unuseable mess.

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    4. It's not a gamechanger per se. It's only the classic offense vs defense fight doing its usual. It merely restores the order.
      Every serious fight eventually resorts to people fighting with their fists or knives. Bayonets are still issued after all.
      No matter how sophisticated technology you have, the other side will eventually find a counter and you are back to the basics.
      DRFM is simply an answer to highly flexible modern radios.
      And, as you have stated, every aerial war will eventually resort to what WW1 aerial war looked like - the dogfight, simply because every new technology can be countered at least to some extent. Fist fight, bayonets, dogfights.
      And the war will be lost by those who lose the basics.
      Let us believe that war will not happen.
      Simply because it might end up being a war when everyone loses.

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    5. Yes, I write in "Some Thoughts and Discussion" that war is a terrible way to solve problems. DRFM as you say - simply resets everything back to how things were. In 1991 at least 88 AIM-7s and at least 12 AIM-9s (actually more likely x3 that number) were fired at Iraqi aircraft for a claimed US total of 41 kills. We are awaiting new information research that may show only 25 US air kills in 1991 - not 41. We also question at least one of the two BVR kills of 17 January 1991 by F/A-18s from VFA-81 of Iraqi MiG-21s - as at least one being a WVR kill - not a BVR kill. The impulse to designate as many kills as possible in 1991 as "BVR" is to propel the notion of US hegemony in the eyes of the public and for and Pentagon myth making purposes.

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    6. It is also easier to claim a BVR kill, as you can reasonably explain how you didn't see it happen because it was beyond your visual range.

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    7. Hi Cactus,
      Agreed. also true.

      In addition some BVR proponents could make the claim that engagements that started in BVR should be designated as BVR kills. Obviously this is false as what is relevant here is - at what range does the missile hit the target? This is because one must take into account the aggregate of all factors listed (1 thru 10 or more) being in play.

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    8. I think most BVR hits are actually a team effort, especially in these modern times. Very rarely would a lone fighter detect, observe, decide and kill a target.
      It can easily happen, but most often does not.
      So, if we want to keep some sort of "score", a BVR kill should perhaps be recorded as team effort?
      I don't know, really.
      A kill is a kill, a mission kill is a kill too.
      I don't particularly dwell on individual numbers.
      Especially in modern times, a flight leader might have 3 aces in his wing, without ever shooting a single missile. Or not even the flight leader. A guy sitting in an E-3.
      Let's imagine a situation: a guy sitting in an AWACS might identify a bogey. He asks a drone operator who has a drone nearby by accident, to send him an image. It happens to be a type only used by the enemy, so they designate him as a bandit. As by chance, there is a SPAMRAAM platform (an F-15EX) withing range, so the E-3 guy asks him to launch one missile. Then, the E-3 provides mid-course updates to the missile, then missile goes active and kills the target.
      Now. Who gets the kill?
      The F-15 guy who was kind enough to launch a missile against a target he was not even aware of? What about the radar operator, who did the actual work and the drone guy sitting 8,000 miles away who was kind enough to pan and zoom his camera to where a strange voice from some remote airplane asked him?

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    9. I agree. The thrust of my writing here is that planners simply need to not assume all these helpful assets will be in place - and you may (will) need to VID the target with your shooter (your F-15EX). The USS Vincennes vividly illustrated what happens if you just shoot at stuff that you can't VID. If Anglo-American history is any indication - the E-3, the drone and the F-15 will all claim a kill. So the tally will be 3 (three) enemy aircraft downed ;) - while in reality it was only 1.

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    10. Are they not supposed to "share" the kill?
      Otherwise it's easy to score 100 kills against a 50-plane airforce.
      There are shared kills and half-kills in statistics.
      But that practice would explain some of the discrepancies in historical records, where one side claimed more kills than the other recorded losses.

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    11. Yes exactly. There is plenty of historical information of inflated combat victories because more than one person was shooting at the same target. The Falklands War was a more recent example. British claims of Argentine aircraft destroyed initially by own system X or Y was far too high. Patriot vs Scud in 1991 is another example of ludicrous kill claims and fairytale combat effectiveness of Patriot.

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    12. As an irony, I don't regard the endlessly downgraded reports of Patriot effectiveness as an evidence of a crap system. It's seriously not that bad system.
      SCUD is not an easy target for a system designed to shoot down subsonic and supersonic aircraft. Patriot was not really designed to be reliable against targets like that. The capability was only claimed afterwards and after some improvements.
      The design was always sound, however its first live trial revealed many glitches that should have been spotted long ago.
      Much later (Syrian Civil War) Israelis found its performance was not that bad, perhaps on par with earlier Soviet systems - you might argue this is very bad, but if you consider Soviet designed systems have fired orders of magnitude more missiles in anger, the results are in line with disparity of experience.
      And then to Saudo Arabia, where Patriots faced an enemy they were not designed for - slow flying drones. Would the S-300 be more successful? Hardly so. These drones were always targets for EW guys or Tunguskas (and Saudis don't have those). Not for the same people who hunt ballistic missiles.
      I kinda point at one obvious conclusion - people who believe they are going to be attacked usually don't buy Patriots.
      I wonder what Erdogan might be thinking...

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    13. Yes, well I wasn't pointing finger at the Patriot per se - just the impulse to make overkill claims can be rather pervasive. The Korean War the Americans made wild overkill claims of 10-1 in favor of the F-86 for decades - their while keeping B-29 losses to MiGs rather quiet. As far as the patriot after seeing this footage I would not buy the patriot either.
      Please see link:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YS4i2InVB-Y

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    14. The Patriot just came up and it is a good example of what I call "the Fulcrum effect". A weapon's reputation is often destroyed by a war it could barely fight in or was completely mismatched against it.
      Essentially, all wartime propaganda tries to invoke this, hence the Sabre vs Fagot kill ratios. These were revised many times, not in Sabre's advantage.
      We also remember how USAF supposedly neutralized Vietnamese aces flying Fishbeds in Vietnam, but in real life, almost insignificant number of MiG-21s outfought a much bigger force.
      Patriot might be an American example of the same thing.
      I would still not buy it, especially if I could get something like the S-400 from somewhere else.
      On the other hand, I would trust Patriot in successfully defending an army battalion more than I would trust in an Arleigh Burke defending itself against more than one supersonic anti-ship missile.

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  6. After reading this, I realised what everyone has been missing about the Su57 L band sensors. Perhaps detecting stealth is the L band sensors secondary role. Maybe its primary role is to spoff/mask as friendly IFF.

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    1. It is a possibility. The one thing I've learned is the Russian might be a lot of things - but stupid isn't one of them.

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    2. There are actually conflicting reports about Su-57's L-band capabilities.
      Some say, it is just IFF/passive sensor and some say it is an actual L-band radar.
      As a radar, it would be somewhat limited, but perhaps good enough to slave the main X-band radar to its contacts.
      But who knows, really.
      Let's see if their new creation also uses it, it will give us some more answers.

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    3. The confusion derives from the fact that Su-57 has a version of the Su-35 L band IFF in the Levcons but it also has 2 (maybe 4) L band radar arrays in the flaps. Oleg Butowsky clarified this some time ago.

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    4. Thank you for your input! Ok interesting. If one has a "radar" (a radio spectrum receiver/transmitter) then DRFM by definition could theoretically be leveraged was my thought. However this is conjecture. I will look for and Oleg Butowsky material on Su-57. Thank you Millennium 7! You're YouTube material is simply outstanding.

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    5. Anyone who has not been this Millennium 7 video on IFF/NCTR I strongly urge everyone to do so!! Here is the link:
      https://youtu.be/hwUXFDEHtQw

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    6. Millennium 7, I think there are more sources of confusion here.
      Conflicting reports are one thing, but there have also been another news over time.
      One, at some point, the Su-57 got substantially cheaper for no apparent reason. There are multiple explanations, ranging from accountant magic (as UAC is state owned, it can be reimbursed by other means - for example tax exemptions for production) to simplifying some systems.
      Also, as the engine is not ready, there is also a system upgrade ongoing in typical Soviet/Russian fashion - the first version of everything is usually "not very good". So whatever they found out, they might be dealing with it.
      We will really know only after the final version is in service, because I believe the final configuration is still not finalized (it's possible Sukhoi guys won't really know themselves until there is an order for some specific configuration - there are obviously more viable ones).
      But if there is an L-band radar, the antennas will most certainly be at least in both wings and optionally one or two more elsewhere.
      This would also give it at least some capability to do radar interferometry, improving resolution. It's a long shot as interferometry works best with larger distances between detectors, but perhaps it could be enough for getting a missile on target?

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