Attrition in Fifth-Generation Air Forces during #highintensitywar

Attrition in Fifth-Generation Air Forces during #highintensitywar

By Rex Harrison

Editorial Note: From February to April 2018, The Central Blue and From Balloons to Drones, will be publishing a series of articles that examine the requirements of high-intensity warfare in the 21st Century. These articles provide the intellectual underpinnings to a seminar on high-intensity warfare being held on 22 March by the Williams Foundation in Canberra, Australia. In this article, Rex Harrison discusses the challenge of attrition during high-intensity conflicts and its implications for fifth-generation air forces.

Technology has continued to advance in both disruptive and surprising ways. It is consequently difficult to forecast the exact way fifth-generation air power will be applied in 2035, nor the precise character of future high-intensity conflict. With the benefit of hindsight, however, history proposes broad themes and continuities in the nature of war. One such example is the persistence of attrition of the force once committed to battle.

While Western air forces have been able to somewhat control their level of exposure to adversary action since the 1991 Gulf war, this may not always be the case. This level of control has been achieved through conducting operations beyond the engagement range of adversaries and behind a shield of (generally unchallenged) air defences. This technique has enabled air power to inflict significant losses without absorbing such losses themselves.

This happy circumstance has been the exception rather than the rule in human history. This is particularly the case when considering the history of air power, where few combatants have had the luxury of picking and choosing the intensity and duration of the conflict. No matter how successful fifth-generation air power is in enhancing its lethality and minimising risk to the force, it is doubtful that a combat exchange in high-intensity combat will result in a ‘0’ in the ledger of either side.

This being the case, I believe that success in high-intensity conflict will require a fifth-generation air force to ensure it can absorb and recover from the attrition of its forces. While it will be difficult to predict the outcomes of future air combat or the mix of technology and tactics that will provide the necessary advantage, history does provide a guide that may better inform our preparations for the future.

Historical Examples

Yom_Kipur_war
An Israeli pilot, Shimshon Rozen, climbing into a McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II during the Yom Kippur War, c. 1973. (Source: Wikimedia)

The significant impact of attrition is demonstrated by the experiences of the Israeli Air Force (IAF) in the Yom Kippur War of October 1973. In this example, Israel was surprised by the new-found technical prowess of the Arab armies led by Egypt and Syria. The IAF was required to expend a sizable portion of its fighting strength to provide time for mobilisation. Surprised by the technical mastery of their opponents, in a matter of days, 102 aircraft were lost (roughly 25% of available combat aircraft), along with 53 aircrew. The crisis was only resolved by the rapid shipment of replacement aircraft from the US inventory under Operation Nickel Grass.

While certainly an example of high-intensity conflict, the requirement for Australia to fight for its existence as Israel did is unlikely or would be, at the very least, preceded by warnings such that the nation could be mobilised and prepared for such a conflict. It is partially through Australia’s preferred method of warfare, the controlled commitment of forces in expeditionary wars, that such attrition has been avoided.

A more pertinent example for Australian forces is the experience of No. 77 Squadron during the Korean War (a perhaps timely example given ongoing tensions on the Peninsula). The deployment of a single fighter squadron in June 1950 would seem at face value to match the characteristics of more recent Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) commitments; the level of attrition, however, was not comparable. Over a three-year commitment, 41 pilots died, and six were captured. At the peak of fighting the squadron replaced 25% the pilot force over an eighteen-month period. Finding the Second World War era North American P-51 Mustang to be outmatched after losing 13 aircraft, No. 77 Squadron was re-equipped in May 1951 with the Gloster Meteor. Of the 94 Meteors acquired by Australia, 30 were subsequently lost to enemy action, delivering a significant portion of the 54-aircraft lost in total over Korea and Japan.[1] The consequence of this action was that No. 77 Squadron, in effect, replaced all of its aircraft at least once, and in a handful of years, expending the bulk of the entire RAAF fleet.

JK0901A
Squadron Leader Ross Glassop and Flight Lieutenant Sainer Rees, pilots, serving with No. 77 Squadron RAAF chat with the crew of No. 36 Squadron RAAF which had flown from Japan with supplies of rockets and aircraft spares. (Source: Australian War Memorial)

One should hope that future deployments would avoid committing forces in obsolete aircraft. However, it should be noted that the Australian government maintained the force commitment in Korea despite these and other subsequent losses.

What Does This Mean?

In preparing for future conflict, any fifth-generation air force must ensure access to both the physical (hardware) and human resources required to replace those lost.

The procurement of aircraft and their associated supporting hardware may be the most straightforward requirement to meet, assuming access to global markets. While contemporary production rates are much lower than those of the Second World War, they are still significant for those aircraft in full production. While the Israeli losses in 1973 were substantial, production of the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, the mainstay multi-role aircraft of the period, averaged 19 aircraft per month, over the life of production.  Israel’s losses of this aircraft type (32 of the 102 total), while critical to the IAF, were only the equivalent of less than two months production out of the Fort Worth factory.

The replacement of human resources, specifically aircrew, will be determined by a combination of the resources allocated to training (rather than fighting), and the desired quality of the resulting product. Given our resource-constrained environment, it may well be that ‘great’ is the enemy of ‘good enough’. In this context, a fifth-generation air force will need to accept that its workforce may not have not quite mastered the full spectrum of fifth-generation fighting techniques; however, it will need to employ them regardless.

A fifth-generation air force will also need to incorporate these replacements within the chosen operational approach. Concerning hardware, it will be rare that the exact aircraft lost from the inventory will be in production. With platforms potentially being fielded for decades, it is to be expected that subsequent variants will be produced, or entirely new platforms created in the decades following acquisitions. As such, while a replacement platform may be found, the capabilities are unlikely to be identical to that it replaces.

More critically to the networked fifth-generation force, it is unlikely that replacement assets will be fitted with the exquisitely detailed set of combat data and information exchange systems specified as part of the fifth-generation force structure. This will particularly be the case if the preferred supplier of our platforms is otherwise occupied. Returning to the example of No. 77 Squadron, when the Mustang was determined to be unsuitable for the Korean conflict, the RAAF initially sought the North American F-86 Sabre from the United States, however, as production was already committed to US customers, the British Meteor was chosen instead. While this aircraft was first flown in 1944 and was far from the cutting edge of technology, the war marched on, and Australia could not wait until it was ready to fight on its terms.[2]

Conclusion

While the aim of the technologically and professionally-advanced fifth-generation force is admirable, planning and foresight cannot overcome the uncertain nature of war, precisely the inevitability of loss. At its heart, a fifth-generation force requires flexibility to adapt to any environment. In this context, the squadron must become less of an exquisite implementation tool, and more a delivery mechanism through which aircraft and aircrew are ground against the enemy at the point of friction. In such a situation, ‘good enough’ may quickly become the new normal.

Rex Harrison is an Air Combat Officer in Royal Australian Air Force officer. He can be found on Twitter at @spacecadetrex. The views expressed are the author’s and do not reflect the official position of the Royal Australian Air Force, the Australian Department of Defence, or the Australian Government.

Header Image: An Israeli Air Force F-4E Phantom II at Tel Nof, c. 2013. This type of aircraft was used by the IAF during the Yom Kippur War. (Source: Wikimedia)

[1] Alan Stephens, Going Solo: The Royal Australian Air Force, 1946-1971 (Canberra: AGPS Press, 1995), p. 241.

[2] Ibid, p. 240.

#highintensitywar – A Series Introduction

#highintensitywar – A Series Introduction

By the editors of The Central Blue and From Balloons to Drones

During 2017, a major war on the Korean Peninsula became a distinct possibility. As the rhetoric over North Korea’s nuclear program heated up, the preparedness of Western militaries to engage in a major war, and the likely cost of such a conflict became regular features in the news cycle. This has had the effect of transforming discussions of a major state-on-state war in Asia away from abstract, Thucydides-inspired notions of a China-United States conflict, to the uncomfortably realistic prospect of a preventative strike against North Korea precipitating full-scale war.

The discussion and analysis that has occurred in the media in light of these growing tensions have raised public awareness of the potential costs of a modern state-on-state conflict. The West’s experience of conflict since the end of the Cold War has created unrealistic expectations within the general population as to the realities of modern conventional high-intensity warfare. This is not to trivialise the deaths that have occurred in these low-intensity conflicts, every death in war is a tragedy; however, the level of attrition that the West should expect from a modern state-on-state conflict in Europe, the Middle East, or Asia will likely be on a scale unseen since the Second World War. Concerning the prospect of war on the Korean peninsula, General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has remarked that:

Many people have talked about military options with words like ‘unimaginable’ […] I would probably shift that slightly and say it would be horrific, and it would be a loss of life unlike any we have experienced in our lifetimes, and I mean anyone who’s been alive since World War II has never seen the loss of life that could occur if there’s a conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

The requirements for engaging in a high-intensity conflict against a capable and committed state actor will challenge Western militaries. For airmen, in particular, assuring the use of the air domain – an air force’s prime responsibility – has not been seriously challenged since the Vietnam War. However, there is a realisation that circumstances are changing, and, as Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Hillier, Chief of the Air Staff of the Royal Air Force, pointed out in 2017:

[t]he long-expected – by airmen at least – challenge has arrived to the air power supremacy we have enjoyed for the last couple of decades. We will now have to fight – and fight hard – to achieve and maintain control of the air and space.

The need for airmen to re-engage conceptually with the possibilities and requirements of high-intensity warfare has led the Sir Richard Williams Foundation to run a seminar on ‘The Requirements for High-Intensity Warfare’ on 22 March 2018 in Canberra, Australia. The seminar will draw together senior officers from around the world, as well as leading academics, to discuss the past, present, and future of high-intensity warfare. Although it is likely the presenters will raise more questions than they will answer, the presence of so many senior leaders at the podium and in the audience will hopefully give impetus to the intellectual, conceptual, and organisational changes that the possibility of high-intensity warfare requires.

Unfortunately, not everyone will be able to attend the seminar, and summaries can never fully capture the presentations or the follow-up discussions that occur during the breaks. Moreover, not every topic of interest can be covered in a single day. Accordingly, in the lead-up to the seminar, The Central Blue and From Balloons to Drones are publishing a series of articles that will bring the discussion of the requirements of high-intensity warfare to a broader audience. By running this as a collaborative series, we hope to engage a broader audience in this debate that must be had. However, more importantly, this collaboration has allowed us to diversify the perspectives that can be brought to bear on the issue. This diversity of perspective has been made possible by contributors from around the world and from different backgrounds putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards) to provide their views. Moreover, these views matter.

Although the seminar will bring together a number of high power individuals, they do not have the monopoly on ideas. High-intensity warfare is a complex challenge for militaries irrespective of their size and operational experience. By contributing to the discussions, the contributors to this series are an essential addition to the seminar.

Twice a week over the next six weeks (possibly more as more potential contributors become engaged in the discussion) The Central Blue and From Balloons to Drones will simultaneously run posts that explore different aspects of the topic of high-intensity warfare. Topics will include:

  • Historical examples of high-intensity air warfare
  • The future of war
  • Training and education for a changing paradigm
  • Cultural change in light of a changing operational focus
  • Organisational requirements for high-intensity operations
  • Logistics support to high-intensity operations
  • Use of fiction to frame the future battlespace

As with the seminar itself, we expect that our contributors will raise more questions than they answer. However, unlike the seminar, it is the nature of our articles to encourage ongoing debate and discussion. As such, we ask our readers to be engaged, challenge our contributors, test their assumptions and take their arguments further. Through comments and additional contributions (see here on how to contribute) it is the hope of the editors of both The Central Blue and From Balloons to Drones that this series will support and encourage a deeper and more nuanced understanding of what high-intensity warfare will mean for modern military forces and how we can best prepare for its challenges.

To reinforce the relevance of the topic to which we now shift our focus, it is worth quoting from a recent (27 January 2018) special report from The Economist:

[p]owerful, long-term shifts in geopolitics and the proliferation of new technologies are eroding the extraordinary military dominance that America and its allies have enjoyed. Conflict on a scale and intensity not seen since the second world war is once again plausible. The world is not prepared.

Header Image: An RAF Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 during Exercise GRIFFIN STRIKE, c. 2016. (Source: UK MoD Defence Imagery)

Contested Skies: Australia’s Uncertain Air Superiority Future

Contested Skies: Australia’s Uncertain Air Superiority Future

By Dr Peter Layton

In war, there’s a constant to and fro. At times defence dominates, at other times offence. Technologies arise and fall. Disruption rules. This is noticeably so in today’s arcane world of air superiority. While much investment has gone into the ADF’s air superiority capabilities—with more coming with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—the operational environment is not standing still.

KC-30 Tanker Test fuel transfer to F-35A
An RAAF KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport conducted refuelling trials with a US Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighter at Edwards Air Force Base in California. (Source: Department of Defence, Australian Government)

The skies are increasingly contested. Emerging threats are making Australia’s tanker, and AEW&C (airborne early warning and control) aircraft more vulnerable and advanced surface-to-air missiles, stealth-fighter technology, long-range ballistic and cruise missiles and even hobbyist drones are proliferating. The US Air Force (USAF) recently studied what all this means in practice and determined that its ‘projected force structure in 2030 is not capable of fighting and winning against [the expected] array of potential adversary capabilities’. If the USAF’s force structure is becoming stretched so, surely, is ours.

Some warn that the 2030 date may mislead, asserting that ‘Integrated Air Defence Systems covering areas in the Western Pacific … may now be able to deny access to all but the stealthiest of aircraft’. The ‘stealthiest of aircraft’ refers to the flying wing B-2 Spirit stealth bombers and forthcoming B-21 Raiders. It seems that F-35s with their vertical tails have some vulnerabilities to emerging multiband digital radars. A RAND study echoes these concerns about current and growing air-superiority shortcomings.

Even so, 2030 isn’t far away in defence terms. It is only seven years after Australia’s F-35 fleet will have—hopefully—reached final (or full) operational status. That is not long in the planned 25- to 30-year life of the aircraft.

Australia has committed to its major air superiority investments, which makes them a good starting point to discuss the strategic impacts of known and emerging changes in the air superiority operational environment. In my new paper published by ASPI titled Contested Skies, I use current air superiority force structure plans to develop three practical strategic options to address these changes.

Two of these options require modifying the current plans. That may worry some, but strategic ‘ends’ can’t be determined independently of the capability ‘means’. The two are interdependent. When the means are fixed, it makes sense to discuss alternative ‘ways’ that might reasonably bring strategic ends into alignment.

The three options are:

  • Continuing present plans. Maintaining our current operational plans and future equipment programmes means lowering our national ambitions to simply the defence of Australia. This ‘back to the future’ approach implies abandoning Southeast Asian nations to do the best they can as China rises and its sphere of influence expands. Strategically, this shifts the burden of conducting offensive air operations onto our American ally. While we could contribute by providing a safe base area in any conflict in which the skies were seriously contested, this level of involvement would not give us much influence on overall allied strategy or in any war-termination negotiations. Our current air superiority plans doom us to being a bit player.
  • Going ‘air defence heavy’. This option changes our current capability development plans to stress air defence. A start would include acquiring significant numbers of advanced SAMs and sensors for integrated air and missile defence, changing present F-35 upgrade plans and focussing on making airbases more resilient. Strategically, the ‘air defence heavy’ approach would allow Australia to remain deeply engaged in Southeast Asia and make a meaningful—perhaps decisive—contribution in times of serious conflict. Because this approach is less reliant on US support, it would allow us to mount independent operations in an area critical to our future. This has some echoes with the Pacific War’s later stages, when the US relied on Australian forces to conduct operations in Borneo while it focused on the Philippines and beyond.
  • Rebuilding our strike capability. This option entails adjusting our current plans to focus on reconfiguring our strike capability to be effective in contested airspace beyond 2030. We would also need to make a limited investment in integrated air and missile defence. The USAF study mentioned earlier foresees the F-35 losing its strike role at the end of the next decade and then becoming an air defence fighter—taking the ‘strike’ out of ‘Joint Strike Fighter’. This applies to all of the elements that comprise the ADF’s strike capabilities, not just to the F-35. If we want to maintain a genuine strike capability into the future, we need to take positive steps to do so. However, this will not be easy or low cost—or maybe even doable.
20170221raaf8207218_002
Two F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters conduct the first ever trans-Pacific flight from the US to RAAF Base Amberley, Australia to be displayed for the first time at the Australian International Air Show at Avalon, Victoria.(Source: Department of Defence, Australian Government)

In broad terms, the status quo ‘defence of Australia’ option implies burden-shifting onto the US, the ‘air defence heavy’ approach implies a reduced dependency on the US—perhaps lessening America’s burdens—while the rebuilding of our strike capability implies continuing to share the burden with the US in major ‘must-win’ wars past 2030.

Air superiority may seem narrowly technical, but it can have a significant impact on the range of strategies that can realistically be considered. It is time for a big air-superiority rethink.

This post was originally published by The Strategist, the commentary and analysis site of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, an independent, non-partisan think tank based in Canberra.

Dr Peter Layton is a Visiting Fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University. He has extensive defence experience including teaching grand strategy at the Eisenhower College, US National Defence University. He has a doctorate from the University of New South Wales on the subject of grand strategy and undertook a Fellowship at the European University Institute. His research interests include grand strategy, national security policies particularly relating to middle powers, defence force structure concepts, and armed non-state actors.

Header Image: On 29 September 2014, an Australian F-35A Lightning II aircraft took off from Fort Worth, Texas, USA. It was the maiden flight for the Australian F-35A, which was flown by Alan Norman of Lockheed Martin, lasting approximately two hours. (Source: Department of Defence, Australian Government)

“For you the war is (not) over”: Active Disruption in the Barbed Wire Battleground

“For you the war is (not) over”: Active Disruption in the Barbed Wire Battleground

By Kristen Alexander[1]

The popular perception of the prisoner of war is that, once captured, he was out of the battle. Rather than compliantly accepting a status of hors de combat, however, many captive allied airmen in Europe during the Second World War continued to be potent military operatives in a new theatre of conflict—the barbed wire battleground. Indeed, the airmen adopted a stance as prison camp combatants. To facilitate this, they actively managed their lives to demonstrate individual and collective agency. They strenuously mitigated the ill-effects of their circumstances by embarking on a program of active disruption. Importantly, they did not give in to, what at least one man termed, ‘the futility of existence’.[2]

Drawing on personal records in private and public collections, as well as official reports, this article provides a brief overview of some of the ways in which Australians and their fellow prisoners in Stalag Luft III, a Luftwaffe prisoner of war camp, established, maintained and promoted themselves as active airmen, on duty, in the barbed wire battleground.

1
‘Vacation at Stalag’, Cyril Borsht’s wartime log book, courtesy of the late Cyril Borsht (Source: Private Collection).

Many downed airmen spoke of the ‘shock’ of captivity and the shame they felt on capture.[3] These feelings were a common response to being taken from battle.[4] The airmen’s sense of disgrace was exacerbated when they heard the ‘usual taunt’, ‘für sie der Krieg is beendet’—‘for you the war is over’.[5] The realisation after their unwilling departure from the aerial arena that they had become prisoners of war was a serious blow to self-esteem and service pride.[6] However, rather than accept a situation defined by passivity and docility, they rejected it.[7] The war was not over for them. Moreover, so, they remained on active service as prison camp combatants.

2
‘I wanted wings’, Ronald Baines’ wartime log book, courtesy of the Baines family (Source: Private Collection)

However, before they re-attained operational readiness, they had to regain their fighting spirit. Humour was a significant means to that end as well as an almost universal morale booster.[8] Many, for instance, depicted their new accommodation as a holiday camp or sanatorium,[9] and tongues were firmly in cheek when they poked fun of the ignominious exits that landed them there.[10] Many illustrated themselves as Donald Duck behind bars.[11] ‘Winglessness’, like that of ‘Downed Donald’, was a shared state and the men gained strength through ridiculing their common plight.[12]

The armed forces have a long tradition of using language to distance themselves from the emotions associated with military action and death in service.[13] The men of Stalag Luft III were no different, and so, they too gained strength through language. While they were initially bemused at being called Terrorflieger, Luftgangster, and Terrorbomber, many filled their wartime logbooks with clippings from German newspapers that promoted Allied airmen as the Second World War version of terrorists.[14] In doing so, the downed airmen recognised that the propagandised terms highlighted their success. Consequently, they ignored the intended insults and willingly accepted—as tributes to their military prowess—their new designations.[15]

3
‘Escape’, Cyril Borsht’s wartime log book, courtesy of the late Cyril Borsht. (Source: Private Collection)

The airmen were not, however, so keen to be known as Kriegsgefangener—war prisonerbecause of the negative and shameful connotations surrounding the word ‘prisoner’ and its associated trappings, such as POW number, fingerprinting, and identification discs.[16] Accordingly, they spurned ‘prisoner of war’. In a canny example of linguistic reframing, they adopted the easier-to-pronounce and linguistically distancing abbreviation of ‘kriegie’—even those who were captured in the later months of the war.[17] Derived from the first syllable—the German word for ‘war’—it subconsciously indicated that they were still men of war with a fine fighting spirit and distanced them from the stigma of captivity. ‘Kriegie’ removed the sense of derogation surrounding captivity and turned an affront—and assault to their dignity—into a linguistic badge of inclusiveness and pride. ‘Kriegie’ declared that they were still men of war on operational service. It also became ‘a fun word’ to describe them.[18] Ultimately, their prison camp patois—terrorflieger, Luftgangster, kriegie and so on—became a language of agency and defiance.

4
‘Cutting from a Reich paper of a ‘typical’ ‘terrorflieger’ or ‘luftgangster”, Cyril Borsht’s wartime log book, courtesy of the late Cyril Borsht. (Source: Private Collection).

With self-esteem restored, confidence reasserted, and fighting spirit reinvigorated, the airmen turned to discipline and their strong sense of service duty to help negotiate captivity. Demonstrating collective agency, the kriegies institutionalised air force discipline in the camp.[19] They acknowledged that running Stalag Luft III along RAF station lines was best for the community—for the camp commonweal—and it was generally agreed that the senior officers ‘did an excellent job’.[20] As well as maintaining ‘a high degree of morale and discipline’,[21] there was much security in adhering to the familiar aspects of their former service lives.[22] Moreover, it afforded the airmen the support they needed to wage war as prison camp combatants.

One aspect of that war was the duty of active resistance. All new arrivals were interviewed by the Senior British Officer or, in the NCO compound, the Man of Confidence, who reminded the kriegie new boys of their continuing obligations as servicemen.[23] Importantly, they warned them not to comply with any German order ‘beyond what was necessary’.[24] The airmen welcomed their new responsibility of active resistance and defiance. Exemplifying personal and group agency they were deliberately disruptive.[25] They misbehaved during roll call.[26] They purloined German supplies.[27] They bribed guards.[28] Their favourite sport became goon-baiting.[29] Many embarked on covert operations. Some became code writers and sent secret messages to MI-9.[30] A major aspect of active resistance was escape, and the airmen embraced their moral right[31] and duty[32] to break out of the prison camp. If they were not on the exit list for a particular attempt, or not personally eager—or even physically or psychologically capable—they supported those who were by participating in the communal effort.

5

Active resistance, disruption, defiance, and escape work epitomised individual and collective agency. Significantly, they reinforced the airmen’s continuing identity as combatants. For many, such concerted agency ameliorated the mortification of becoming prisoners of war. Moreover, so, the escape or ‘X’ organisation became the overriding feature of life in Stalag Luft III.[33]

Each compound had its version of the ‘X’ organisation and Australians participated in almost every aspect of its work. ‘X’ rosters were drawn up disguised as participant lists for sports days, and sporty types created diversions.[34] The carpentry department commandeered bed boards to shore up the tunnels and other purposes and built cabinets and hidey holes to stow secret equipment.[35] Some men did metal work, made dummy rifles, and meticulously constructed compasses.[36] Scroungers obtained ink, radio parts and essential supplies.[37] Photographers took passport photographs.[38] Forgers replicated passes and identification papers.[39] Tunnellers dug, others carted dirt away, and gardeners disposed of it. Meanwhile, the majority joined the army of ‘watchers’ known as ‘stooges’, who kept a lookout for any sign of the Germans. So industrious were the tunnellers that, in East Compound alone, between 60 and 70 tunnels were started during the first six months.[40]

Despite such diligent ‘X’ work and prolific excavation, East Compound’s only successful getaway was that of October 1943—dubbed ‘the Wooden Horse’—where three men made a ‘home run’. The culmination of North Compound’s ‘X’ work was the mass breakout of March 1944. While seventy-six succeeded in fleeing the camp, only three made it home. Seventy-three were recaptured. Fifty were executed, five of whom were Australian.

The men regretted the tragic outcome, but not their part in it. Nor their determined demonstration of collective agency as prison camp combatants. They believed their large-scale resistance work had been worthwhile, not just because of the sustaining effect on morale, but because of the cost to the Germans in tying up resources during the ensuing Großfahndung which they considered ‘biggest manhunt of the war’.[41]

6

After the war, Paul Brickhill, an Australian journalist and former Stalag Luft III kriegie, was invited to write a book about the March 1944 escape.[42] That book proved influential in how captivity in Stalag Luft III has been portrayed. The mass breakout, for example, was not known as the ‘Great Escape’ until the publication of Brickhill’s The Great Escape in 1951.[43] From that time, the book’s title entered the lexicon as participants, bystanders and the public all appropriated it to describe an event that still resonates. So powerful is the book’s theme of triumph over the enemy through a communal agency, so exciting is the narrative, that most commercially published accounts of life in Second World War German POW camps—and Stalag Luft III in particular—feature the exciting high adventure and derring-do of major escapes.

7

While many of the former airmen were impressed with Brickhill’s book, many were not overly pleased with John Sturges’ 1963 film. They begrudge it the Americans, the motorbike, a truly appalling Australian accent, and other factual inaccuracies inserted in the interests of ‘good cinema’.[44] Despite their distaste, the film, along with Brickhill’s book, has left a substantial legacy which they, their descendants and popular culture have embraced.

They frame captivity in Stalag Luft III as an action-packed success story. They reinforce the kriegies’ personal and collective agency as active airmen, on operational service, in the barbed wire battleground. They deny any perception of passive, docile, humiliated prisoners of war. Just as the airmen themselves had done when they refused to accept that the war, for them, was over.

Kristen Alexander is a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales, Canberra, researching the responses to captivity of Australian airmen prisoners of Stalag Luft III and their families. Specialising in Australian aviation history, she is published in Australia, Great Britain and Japan. She won the non-fiction category of the 2015 ACT Writing and Publishing Award and was highly commended in the 2014 and 2017 awards. Her books were included on the RAAF Chief of Air Force’s 2010 and 2015 reading lists. Her military essays won the Military Historical Society of Australia’s 2012 and 2013 Sabretache Writers Prizes. Her website can be found here and she is on Twitter as @kristenauthor.

Header Image: Australians of North Compound, 25 April 1943, courtesy of Ian Fraser. (Source: Private Collection)

[1] This article is based on a paper presented at the Don’t Drown Post Graduate Conference, UNSW Canberra, 4 October 2017, which was a shorter version of that given at Aviation Cultures Mark III Conference, University of Sydney, 27–29 April 2017.

[2] Shrine of Remembrance, James Catanach Collection, 2013. CAT050: Catanach, letter to William Alan Catanach, 28 March 1943.

[3] Private collection: Bruce Lumsden, letter, 24 June 1986, ‘The Complete Tour: Letters of Jaime Bradbeer and Bruce Lumsden, April 1985–October 1990’, unpublished manuscript; Calton Younger, No Flight From the Cage: The Compelling Memoir of a Bomber Command Prisoner of War during the Second World War ([No place]: Fighting High, 2013), p. 40; Rex Austin, Australians at War Film Archive (AAWFA) interview No. 0382, 5 June 2003; Alec Arnel, author’s interview, 29 October 2015.

[4] Aaron Pegram, ‘Bold Bids for Freedom: Escape and Australian Prisoners of Germany, 1916–18’ in Joan Beaumont, Lachlan Grant, and Aaron Pegram (eds.), Beyond Surrender: Australian Prisoners of War in the Twentieth Century (Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 2015), p. 25; Kate Ariotti, ‘Coping with Captivity: Australian POWs of the Turks and the Impact of Imprisonment during the First World War’ (PhD Thesis, The University of Queensland, 2014), pp. 55–57; Karl James, ‘“I hope you are not too ashamed of me”: Prisoners in the siege of Tobruk’, in Beaumont, Grant, and Pegram (eds.), Beyond Surrender, pp. 101–102; Adrian Gilbert, POW: Allied Prisoners in Europe 1939–1945 (London: John Murray, 2007), p. 41.

[5] ‘Usual taunt’, Private collection: Bruce Lumsden, letter, 24 June 1986, ‘The Complete Tour’, unpublished manuscript. Midge Gillies noted that it was a phrase the Germans favoured. Midge Gillies, The Barbed-Wire University: The Real Lives of Allied Prisoners of War in the Second World War (London: Aurum Press, 2011), p. 13. Examples of those who heard the phrase: Private collection: Ronald Baines, wartime log book, p. 8; Younger, No Flight From the Cage, p. 37; Geoffrey Cornish, AAWFA interview No. 1388, 2 July 2004; Kenneth Gaulton, AAWFA interview No. 1276, 3 February 2004; Private collection: Bruce Lumsden, letter, 24 June 1986, ‘The Complete Tour’ unpublished manuscript; Cyril Borsht, ‘A Life Well Lived. A Memoir’, unpublished manuscript, p. 18; Irwin John Dack, So you Wanted Wings, Hey!: An Autobiography – Part One (Moorabbin: the author, 1993), p. 74; ‘Tom Wood Diary’, unpublished manuscript, p. 26; Les Harvey, ‘Over, Down and Out: Recollections of an Airman Captured by the Germans in 1942’, unpublished manuscript, p. 6; Charles R. Lark, A Lark on the Wing: Memoirs World War II and 460 Squadron [No publication details], p. 64. Non-Australians also recorded the phrase. For example, B.A. (Jimmy) James, Moonless Night: The World War Two Escape Epic (Barnsley: Pen & Sword Military), 2008, p. 17; Jack Rae, Kiwi Spitfire Ace: A Gripping World War II Story of Action, Captivity and Freedom (London: Grub Street, 2001), p. 116; Ken Rees, (with Arrandale, Karen), Lie in the Dark and Listen: The Remarkable Exploits of a WWII Bomber Pilot and Great Escaper (London: Grub Street, 2006), p. 111. Rees entitled the chapter dealing with his earliest captivity experiences, ‘“For you the war is over”’.

[6] Private collection: Bruce Lumsden, letter, 24 June 1986, ‘The Complete Tour’, unpublished manuscript.

[7] Stephen Garton, The Cost of War: Australians Return (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), p. 211.

[8] Eric Stephenson, ‘Experiences of a Prisoner of a War: World War 2 in Germany’, Journal of Military and Veterans’ Health, 18:2 (2010), p. 34 (reprinted from Australian Military Medicine, 9:1 (2000), pp. 42–50); Karen Horn, ‘“Stalag Happy”: South African Prisoners of War during World War Two (1939–1945) and their Experiences and Use of Humour’, South African Historical Journal, 63:4 (2011), p. 537.

[9] Australian War Memorial (AWM) PR03211: Peter Kingsford-Smith, wartime log book, pp. 37, 54–55; Andrew R.B. Simpson research collection: Arthur Schrock, wartime log book, p. 1; private collection, Horace ‘Bill’ Fordyce, wartime log book, unpaginated section; private collection: Cyril Borsht, wartime log book, p. 5

[10] AWM PR03211: Peter Kingsford-Smith, wartime logbook, pp. 43 and 37; AWM PR88/160: James McCleery, wartime logbook, unpaginated particulars page (name/POW number/camp/compound) and p. 1.

[11] <https://australiansinsliii.blogspot.com.au/2017/12/i-wanted-wings-donald-duck-prisoner-of.html&gt; (accessed 14 December 2017); <http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/6728-stalag-luft-iii-i-wanted-wings/&gt;; Art and Lee Beltrone, A Wartime Log. (Charlottesville: Howell Press, 1994), pp. 60–61; <http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/6728-stalag-luft-iii-i-wanted-wings/>(accessed 14 December 2017); <http://blog.modernmechanix.com/wwii-pows-get-a-disney-designed-logo/&gt; (accessed 14 December 2017); AWM PR88/160: James McCleery, wartime log book, p. 58; AWM PR03211: Peter Kingsford-Smith, wartime log book, p. 25; AWM PR00506: John Morschel, wartime log book, unpaginated; private collection: Cyril Borsht, wartime log book, p. 3; private collection: Eric Johnston, wartime log book, p. 1; private collection: Ronald Baines, wartime log book, p. 93; Andrew R.B. Simpson research collection: Arthur Schrock, wartime log book, p. 11; Dack, So you Wanted Wings, Hey!, p. i; Rae, Kiwi Spitfire Ace, unpaginated photo block.

[12] Alexander Watson, Enduring the Great War. Combat, Morale and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914–1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), p. 90.

[13] Eric Partridge, A Dictionary of RAF Slang (London: Michael Joseph, 1945), pp. 25, 10, 25, and 52; Joanna Bourke, An Intimate History of Killing: Face-to-face Killing in Twentieth Century Warfare (London: Granta Books, 1999), pp. 231–232.

[14] AWM PR90/035: Torres Ferres, wartime log book, p. 41; AWM PR03211: Peter Kingsford-Smith, wartime log book, pp. 46–47; private collection: Cyril Borsht, wartime log book, pp. 55 and 68; Cyril Borsht, author’s interview, 28 January 2016; private collection: Horace ‘Bill’ Fordyce, wartime log book, pp. 100–101; private collection: William Kenneth Todd, wartime log book, unpaginated section; Richard Winn, AAWFA interview No. 1508, 4 March 2004.

[15] Cyril Borsht, author’s interview, 28 January 2016.

[16] Kate Ariotti, ‘Coping with Captivity’, p. 56; Annette Becker, ‘Art, Material Life, and Disaster: Civilian and Military Prisoners of War,’ in Nicholas J. Saunders (ed.), Matters of Conflict: Material Culture, Memory, and the First World War (Abingdon: Routledge, 2004), p. 28, 88; Joan Beaumont, Gull Force: Survival and Leadership in Captivity, 1941–1945 (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1988), p. 2.

[17] AWM PR05675: Guy Grey-Smith, diary, 26 January 1942; H.R. Train, ‘A Barbed-Wire World. The Diary of a Prisoner of War in Germany 1942–1945’, unpublished manuscript, 17 June 1942, pp. 9, 12; Colin Burgess research collection: Robert Mills, wartime log book, p. 31; H. Homer Ashmann, ‘Kriegie Talk’, American Speech, 23:3/4 (1948), pp. 218–219; Paul Brickhill and Conrad Norton, Escape to Danger (London: Faber and Faber, 1954).

[18] Alec Arnel, author’s interview, 29 January 2015.

[19] Ronald Baines, AWM 54, 779/3/129 Parts 1–30: [Prisoners of War and Internees—Examinations and Interrogations:] Statements by repatriated or released Prisoners of War (RAAF) taken at No 11 PDRC, Brighton, England, 1945; Robert Nightingale, AWM 54, 779/3/129; Alan Righetti, AAWFA interview No. 0984, 16 September 2003.

[20] Robert Nightingale, AWM 54, 779/3/129.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Walter A. Lunden, ‘Captivity Psychoses Among Prisoners of War’, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 39:6 (1949), p. 722.

[23] Private collection: William Kenneth Todd, wartime log book, p.11; AWM PR90/035, Ferres, ‘A POW in Germany’: Beecroft Probus talk, 3 February 1989; Private collection: Bruce Lumsden, letter, 8 April 1988, ‘The Complete Tour’, unpublished manuscript; Andrew R.B. Simpson, ‘OPS’ Victory at all Costs: On Operations over Hitler’s Reich with the Crews of Bomber Command. Their War – Their Words (Pulborough: Tattered Flag Press, 2012), p. 342.

[24] Private collection: Bruce Lumsden, letter, 8 April 1988, ‘The Complete Tour’, unpublished manuscript.

[25] Alec Arnel, author’s interview, 9 October 2014.

[26] Calton ‘Cal’ Younger, Imperial War Museum Sound Archive (IWMSA) interview, No. 23329, [no day] November 2002.

[27] Richard Winn, AAWFA interview No. 1508, 4 March 2004; Younger, IWMSA interview, No. 23329, [no day] November 2002; National Library of Australia (NLA) Justin O’Byrne, John Meredith folklore collection, 31 October 1986.

[28] Justin O’Byrne, ‘Mercury Radio Roundsman’ segment, Radio 7LA, Launceston, undated, [c. July 1947]; Horace ‘Bill’ Fordyce, AAWFA interview No. 0523, 19 June 2003; Geoffrey Cornish, AAWFA No. 1388, 2 July 2004; Royle, IWMSA interview, No. 26605, 2 December 2012.

[29] NLA Justin O’Byrne, John Meredith folklore collection, 31 October 1986.

[30] The National Archives (TNA) (UK), WO 208/3283: Camp History of Stalag Luft III (Sagan) Air Force Personnel, April 1942–January 1945, Part I East (Officers) Compound, pp. 67, 69.

[31] John Herington, Australia in the War of 1939–1945. Series Three. Air. Volume IV: Air Power Over Europe, 1944–1945 (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1963), p. 485.

[32] Air Publication 1548, Instructions and Guide to All Officers and Airmen of the Royal Air Force regarding Precautions to be Taken in the Event of Falling into the Hands of an Enemy, ([no publication details], 2nd Edition, June 1941). The duty was rescinded after the Great Escape but was still implied. Air Publication 1548, The Responsibilities of a Prisoner of War, (3rd Edition, April 1944), <http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/UN/UK/RAF/POW-RAF/&gt; (accessed 14 December 2017). British and Australian soldiers had a similar, formal, obligation to escape. James, ‘“I hope you are not too ashamed of me” in Beaumont, Grant, and Pegram (eds.), Beyond Surrender, p. 110.

[33] NLA Justin O’Byrne, John Meredith folklore collection, 31 October 1986.

[34] Justin O’Byrne, ‘Mercury Radio Roundsman’, [c. July 1947]; Robert J. Laplander, The True Story of the Wooden Horse (Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2014).

[35] Private collection: Horace ‘Bill’ Fordyce, wartime log book, p. 140; TNA, WO 208/3283: Camp History of Stalag Luft III (Sagan) Air Force Personnel, March 1943–January 1945, Part III North (Officers) Compound, pp. 9, 25, 31; AWM ART34781.019: Albert Comber, drawing, ‘Flight Lieutenants (Mac) Jones and (Rusty) Kierath, RAAF at work, Stalag Luft III, Germany’; Justin O’Byrne, ‘Mercury Radio Roundsman’, [c. July 1947]; H.P. Clark, Wirebound World: Stalag Luft III (London: Alfred H. Cooper & Sons Ltd, 1946), p. 8; private collection: Bruce Lumsden, letter, 10 June 1988, ‘The Complete Tour’, unpublished manuscript.

[36] Stalag Luft III: An Official History of the ‘Great Escape’ POW Camp (Barnsley: Frontline Books, 2016), pp. 30–32; <https://australiansinsliii.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/australian-compass-makers.html&gt; (accessed 14 December 2017).

[37] TNA, WO 208/3283: Camp History of Stalag Luft III (Sagan) Air Force Personnel, March 1943–January 1945, Part III North (Officers) Compound, pp. 23–24, 36; Geoffrey Cornish, AAWFA interview No. 1388, 2 July 2004.

[38] Geoffrey Cornish, AAWFA interview No. 1388, 2 July 2004.

[39] Ibid; Justin O’Byrne, ‘Mercury Radio Roundsman’, [c. July 1947].

[40] TNA, WO 208/3283: Camp History of Stalag Luft III (Sagan) Air Force Personnel, April 1942–January 1945, Part 1 East (Officers) Compound, p. 36; private collection: George Archer, 1942 Diary, 5, 21 and 24 August 1942.

[41] Justin O’Byrne, ‘Mercury Radio Roundsman’, [c. July 1947].

[42] Paul Brickhill, The Great Escape (London: Faber and Faber, 1951). A section on the mass escape was included in the earlier publication, Brickhill and Norton, Escape to Danger.

[43] Stephen Dando-Collins, The Hero Maker: A Biography of Paul Brickhill (North Sydney: Penguin Random House Australia, 2016), p. 198.

[44] Cath McNamara, author’s interview, 18 July 2016; NLA ‘Reminiscential conversations between the Hon. Justin O’Byrne and the Hon. Clyde Cameron’, 29 August 1983–28 July 1984; Alan Righetti, AAWFA No. 0984, 16 September 2003.

A Forgotten Revolution? RAF Army Co-operation Command and Artillery Co-operation

A Forgotten Revolution? RAF Army Co-operation Command and Artillery Co-operation

By Dr Matthew Powell[1]

Jonathan Bailey wrote that the First World War was the time of a true revolution in military affairs about the development of artillery firing.[2] One of the first significant developments that took place was the creation and refinement of the ‘clock code’ system.[3] Using this system, a pilot of the Royal Flying Corps, the forerunner to the Royal Air Force (RAF), was able to correct the fall of shot of the artillery by passing to the artillery battery commander details of how far from the target the guns were. The pilot would correct the shooting of the artillery by pointing out how far away and in what direction the shells of the guns had landed. The distance would be passed on using numbers and the direction using the picture of a clock face. The target was placed in the middle of the clock face and shells that fell beyond the target and on a straight line to the target would be corrected with a call of twelve, if it fell short on the same line the call would be six, at ninety degrees left of the target nine and ninety degrees right three. Any other direction would be corrected by using the hour on the clock with which it corresponded. This system would prove to function perfectly well throughout the whole of the First World War and was the system with which the RAF went to war in 1939.

The system of correcting artillery fire remained unchanged until 1938. The Air Council were against making alterations to the clock code system as they felt that it was adequate to meet the needs that the army would face in future conflicts. They felt that light aircraft could not be kept in action close to artillery units, as had been the case in the First World War.[4] The Air Council were also fearful of introducing a new, untried, and unfamiliar system with the growing tensions in Europe at this time. The War Office was unimpressed with the Air Councils attitude and pushed for more to be done. The Air Ministry agreed to trials between the Air Officer Commanding No. 22 (Army Co-operation) Group and the Commandant of the School of Artillery in December 1938.[5] The results of these trials and further trials conducted to test aircraft as well as procedure. The results were that light aircraft over the battlefield could observe fire with the ‘clock code’ system.[6] Spitfires conducted mock attacks on the aircraft and the Taylorcraft light aircraft observing the artillery fire had a good chance of dodging the fire of a modern fighter.[7] There was, however, no training for pilots in registering targets for the artillery. If an artillery officer required an appraisal of a prospective target, the request would have to be sent along the command chain via an air liaison officer. When the artillery battery received the information, it was usually out of date.[8] There was also pressure from within the War Office to establish a Flying Observation Post (Flying OP) and to begin plans to train Gunner Officers to fly. A Flying OP was to work in conjunction with Ground Observation Post (Ground OP) in establishing targets to be engaged and operating deep behind their lines to be afforded the protection of friendly anti-aircraft guns.

H 27983
A Taylorcraft Auster Mark III of No. 655 Squadron dropping a message bag to a Royal Artillery wireless truck on the airfield at Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire, during Exercise SPARTAN. (Source:  © IWM (H 27983))

The first of these Flying OPs was established in February 1940.[9] This force was established to:

[d]etermine in the light of practical experience obtained under war conditions the possibilities and limitations of the Flying OP, the most suitable type of aircraft and the most suitable organization [sic].[10]

The tests were to be conducted in three parts. The first was an initial training period. The second a practical training with the French, and a final test in the French Army area in conditions of actual warfare including shoots against German targets it was at this time that the term Air Observation Post (Air OP) was adopted.[11] The flight was sent to France on 19 April 1940.[12] The first of the three tests were conducted after the flight had moved to the continent. The final of the three tests was due to be carried out in early May, and the forces were established ready to conduct the tests on 9 May 1940.[13] The following day the Germans began to implement Fall Gelb (Case Yellow): the invasion of France and the Low Countries.[14] The artillery designated for the tests were forced to move back to their formations leaving the Air OP Flight (D Flight) waiting for the campaign to stabilise when it was clear that this would not happen D Flight was recalled to England.[15]

One of the first official moves at changing artillery co-operation policy was a letter regarding the subject sent from the Director of Military Co-operation Air Commodore Victor Goddard to Barratt at Army Co-operation Command. In this letter, Goddard states that the Air Staff were against the formation of:

[s]pecial air units for artillery observation or reconnaissance, unless it can be clearly shown that there is an urgent requirement for such units which cannot be met by Army Co-operations squadrons.[16]

The School of Artillery recommended that a certain number of aircraft should specialise in artillery work and should be trained by the School of Artillery so that they had the same tactical knowledge and the same the understanding of gunnery as an artillery officer.[17] This was just one aspect of an idea by the School of Artillery to allow aircraft to have tactical control over the fire of artillery batteries. To facilitate this, the school further recommended that a multi-seater aircraft should be employed in this work to allow an artillery officer to conduct the shoot according to artillery methods without the need for the artillery officer learning to fly. Artillery officers were also to be seconded to army co-operation squadrons specifically for artillery work.[18] The co-operation between the School of Artillery and Army Co-operation Command is evident and is surprising given the general relations that existed between the army and RAF in the wake of the Battle of France and the fall out that it had caused between the two services.[19]

Barratt, in a letter to the Under-Secretary of State for Air, wrote that:

I consider that in order to get a true and undistorted picture of this problem, it is first desirable to set out the problem as the Army [sic] sees it, and to show in this picture what they conceive to be their requirements.[20]

Again the desire to see the problem from a view that would almost certainly be contradictory to the RAF shows that Barratt and his command were willing to adopt a different approach and attitude in co-operating with at least one part of the army. Barratt also voiced his concerns regarding the ability of the Air OP to operate in the face of enemy action. It was felt that ‘the Air OP must be entirely vulnerable to any enemy fighters which cares to shoot it down’.[21] Barratt’s concern over the safety of his pilots who may be conducting shoots using the Air OP system was to be a recurring issue in the development of artillery reconnaissance.

TR 242
Air Marshal Sir Arthur Barratt in battledress and flying gear beside a Hawker Hurricane. He often flew this aircraft when visiting airfields of RAF Army Co-operation Command, which he commanded at the time of this picture. (Source: © IWM (TR 242))

Barratt’s response to the trials was one of scepticism, and he considered ‘that body of experience gained in the late war and since has all pointed to the advantages of the ‘Clock Code’ system’.[22] Barratt’s belief in the ‘clock code’ system stemmed more from the fear of false conclusions being drawn from brief experiments than from any sense of conservatism about changing the system used for artillery reconnaissance.[23] This became a realisation when Barratt was forced to explain to the Under Secretary of State for Air about the lack of efficiency regarding artillery co-operation in Army Co-operation Squadrons. Barratt wrote that:

I feel that much of the falling off in efficiency in this part of the Army Co-operation Squadron task has been due to the propagation of rumour as to other and better methods than those shown in AP 1176.[24]

Further trials were conducted using the artillery method during April 1941, and the conclusions reached were similar to those seen previously. These were that the artillery methods of ranging by corrections to line and range are simpler, quicker, and more efficient than any method based on the ‘clock code’.

The failures of the ‘clock code’ system in France combined with further problems faced in the fighting in Libya led to a loss of confidence in the system in the army.[25] Barratt responded that the ‘clock code’ system was not at fault in these operations but that the aircraft employed in it were operating in the face of intense enemy opposition. He was concerned that the trials had been too few and were skewed in favour of a positive result by the School of Artillery.[26] While these concerns may be interpreted as merely blocking a new development that had been shown to work to preserve the autonomy of the RAF while conducting army co-operation work. The evidence of co-operation between Army Co-operation Command and the School of Artillery, shown above, leads more to the conclusion that Barratt felt that the procedure could not be successfully carried out, and wished to see more trials conducted before it would receive his approval.

The procedure for artillery reconnaissance first developed during the First World War was only suitable for the conditions of that war. The lack of fluidity and almost stable front lines allowed a system to develop, quickly, this system, however, was only suited to those conditions. This was very quickly discovered during the first major test of this procedure against the quicker and more mobile warfare of the German Wehrmacht in 1940. The attitudes of both the British Army and the RAF to co-operation during the inter-war period, in Britain at least, did little to improve the situation before the British Expeditionary Force was stationed in France. This left those charged with the responsibility of modifying the existing procedure with only the experience of the First World War to guide them and on which to base their expectations. Much co-operation between the School of Artillery and Nos. 70 and 71 Groups of Army Co-operation Command occurred, despite the general feeling of animosity still felt by both services in Britain.[27] This co-operation was the most that had been seen between the army and RAF since the formation of the RAF as an independent force in 1918. Barratt’s move to block the adoption of the new procedure that was being trialled during 1941 can be interpreted in several ways. His reasoning for doing so, however, appears to be that of confirming the results already achieved through more rigorous and testing trials to confirm the results. Through further testing at a higher level the procedure, as well as those responsible for carrying it out, would be exposed to more stress and so a greater degree of authenticity could be achieved. Trials of this nature would also confirm if the procedure could be implemented with ease by the majority of pilots whose responsibility would be increased from observing the fall of shot to conducting shoots, potentially in the face of enemy opposition. Barratt’s major concern with the new system appears to be its increased complexity, and he was rightly concerned after his experiences in France that pilots would be unable to conduct the shoot if they had to keep a lookout for enemy fighter activity continually.

Dr Matthew Powell is a Teaching Fellow at Portsmouth Business School at the Royal Air Force College, Cranwell. He holds a PhD in Modern History from the University of Birmingham. His thesis investigated the development of tactical air power in Britain during the Second World War through a study of the RAF’s Army Co-operation Command. His first book, based on the PhD, The Development of British Tactical Air Power, 1940-1943: A History of Army Co-operation Command was published in 2016 by Palgrave Macmillan. He has also published in Canadian Military History, Air Power Review and the British Journal for Military History. He is currently researching the relationship between the British aviation industry and the Air Ministry during the inter-war period. He can be found on Twitter at @tac_air_power.

Header Image: An Auster Mark IV of an Air Observation Post squadron undergoes servicing at its base after being damaged by anti-aircraft fire while flying over the 8th Army Front in northern Italy. (Source: © IWM (CNA 3341))

[1] A longer version of this article can be found in Canadian Military History, 23:1 (2014), pp. 71-88.

[2] Jonathan Bailey, ‘Deep Battle 1914-1941: The Birth of the Modern Style of War,’ Field Artillery Journal, (1998), pp. 21-7.

[3] Ralph Barker, A Brief History of the Royal Flying Corps in World War I (London: Constable & Co., 2002), p. 63.

[4] H.J. Parham and E.M.G. Belfield, Unarmed into Battle: The Story of the Air Observation Post, Second Edition (Chippenham: Picton Publishing, 1986), p.14.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid

[8] Darrell Knight, Artillery Flyers at War: A History of the 664, 665, and 666 ‘Air Observation Post’ Squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force (Bennington, VT: Merriam Press, 2010), p. 27.

[9] Parham and Belfield, Unarmed into Battle, p.15.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., p.16.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Karl-Heinz Freiser, The Blitzkrieg Legend: The 1940 Campaign in the West (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2005), p. 79.

[15] Parham and Belfield, Unarmed into Battle, 16.

[16] The National Archives (TNA), AIR 39/47, Letter from Air Commodore Goddard, Director of Military Co-operation to Barratt regarding Artillery Co-operation Policy, 8 December 1940.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] For more information on the army’s reaction to the Battle of France, see: TNA, CAB 106/220, Bartholomew Committee Final Report.

[20] TNA, AIR 39/47, Letter from Barratt to Under-Secretary of State for Air regarding co-operation with the Royal Artillery, 29 January 1941.

[21] Ibid., Appendix A, 29 January 1941.

[22] Ibid., Letter from Headquarters Army Co-operation Command to Headquarters No. 70 Group, Artillery Reconnaissance Trials, 12 April 1941.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Ibid., Letter from Barratt to Under Secretary of State for Air, 14 April 1941.

[25] Ibid., Letter from CGS on Artillery Reconnaissance, 5 May 1941.

[26] Ibid., Letter from Barratt to Major-General Otto Lund, GHQ Home Forces, in response from letter from CGS on Artillery Reconnaissance, 10 May 1941.

[27] For example, see: David Ian Hall, Strategy for Victory: The Development of British Tactical Air Power, 1919-1943 (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008), pp. 89-103.

 

The Kh-101 and Syria: Maturing the Long-Range Precision-Strike Capabilities of Russia’s Aerospace Forces

The Kh-101 and Syria: Maturing the Long-Range Precision-Strike Capabilities of Russia’s Aerospace Forces

By Guy Plopsky

On September 26, 2017, modernised Tupolev Tu-95MS bombers of the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) Long-Range Aviation Command executed another strike with Kh-101 air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) against targets in Syria. According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, the missiles targeted ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra ‘command posts, hardware and manpower concentration areas as well as ammunition depot.’[1] As with previous Russian ALCM strikes during the conflict, the heavily publicised September 2017 strike was intended to serve yet another reminder to the United States and NATO (as well as to other potential adversaries) of the Russian Aerospace Forces’ growing long-range precision-strike capabilities.

Lineup_of_Tu-95_at_Engels_Air_Base
A line up of Tupolev Tu-95MS’ at Engels Air Base c. 2005 (Source: Wikimedia)

Designed by MKB Raduga, the Kh-101 is an advanced conventionally-armed cruise missile with low observable characteristics. The missile has a reported operational range of 4,500km (2,800 miles),[2] and features a guidance package that includes an inertial navigation system (INS), a terrain contour matching (TERCOM) system, a digital scene-matching area correlation (DSMAC) system, and a GPS/GLONASS receiver.[3] Compared with the older, conventionally-armed Kh-555 ALCM, the Kh-101 features significantly improved accuracy and a larger payload, making it suitable for use against hardened targets.[4] Drone footage of Kh-101 strikes from Syria, including the September 2017 strike, appears to attest to the missile’s high-accuracy (though the impact of only several missiles is shown).[5]

Russian bombers first utilised Kh-101s in combat on 17 November 2015, when Tu-160 bombers delivered the new cruise missiles against targets in Syria.[6] The strike, which also included Tu-95MS bombers armed with older Kh-555 ALCMs, marked the combat debut of both the Kh-555 and Kh-101 as well as the Tu-160 and Tu-95MS. Exactly one year later, on November 17, 2016, modernised Tu-95MS bombers executed their first strike with Kh-101 cruise missiles.[7] Before the integration of the Kh-555 and Kh-101 on the Tu-95MS and the Tu-160, and their subsequent employment in Syria, the two bombers were utilised solely for the nuclear deterrence role and did not participate in conventional conflicts.

The only Russian bomber currently in service with the Long-Range Aviation Command to have seen combat before Syria is the Tu-22M3, which flew sorties in the Soviet-Afghan War, the First Chechen War and, more recently, the 2008 Five Day War with Georgia. In all three conflicts, the Tu-22M3 was used exclusively for delivering unguided (or ‘dumb’) bombs – a mission which it continues to fulfil in Syria.[8] Given that bombers delivering unguided munitions are likely to find themselves within range of enemy fighter aircraft and surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), such an approach is only viable for low-intensity conflicts in which the adversary lacks credible air defences. Even then, multiple sorties against a single target may be required, and excessive collateral damage may be caused due to the poor accuracy of unguided bombs. Russia witnessed the difficulty of operating its bombers in a contested airspace first hand in August 2008, when one of its Tu-22M3s was shot down by a Georgian SAM during a strike sortie against a Georgian military base.[9]

The introduction of the Kh-555 and Kh-101, therefore, represents a crucial new capability for Russia’s Long-Range Aviation Command, one which allows it to partially compensate for the lack of a long-range very low observable platform. Unlike the USAF, which operates the B-2A stealth bomber, the VKS does not currently field a long-range very low observable platform capable of penetrating modern integrated air defence systems (IADS) and won’t be fielding one until at least the end of the next decade.[10] Hence, to avoid being targeted by adversary fighter aircraft and ground-based air defences in the event of a conflict, Russian bombers will need to launch long-range conventionally-armed ALCMs from stand-off ranges. This is particularly true for the cumbersome turboprop-powered Tu-95MS – the backbone of Russia’s Long-Range Aviation Command, – which, unlike the Tu-160 and Tu-22M3, is not capable of operating at supersonic speeds.

SU-30SM_escortant_un_Tu-160_qui_lance_un_missile_de_croisière
A Tupolev Tu-160 launching an Kh-101 against a target in Syria, c. 20 November 2015 (Source: Wikimedia)

In this regard, the integration of the Kh-101 on the Tu-95MS dramatically expands the legacy bomber’s conventional strike capability, which until recently, was limited to dropping unguided bombs, transforming it into a formidable long-range precision-strike platform capable of accurately engaging hardened targets in heavily defended areas. At present, Russia is also outfitting its Tu-95MS bombers with SVP systems (developed by ZAO Gefest i T), which will enable Russian bomber crews to retarget their missiles before launch.[11] This will further enhance mission flexibility, allowing modernised Tu-95MS bombers to strike not only fixed but also relocatable targets. The ability of the Kh-101 to cover very large distances also reduces the Tu-95MS (and Tu-160’s) need to rely on in-flight refuelling for long distance missions. This, as several analysts have noted, makes the Kh-101 a particularly valuable asset given Russia’s relatively small fleet of aerial-refuelling tankers and limited overseas basing options.[12] A modernised Tu-95MS can carry up to eight Kh-101 ALCMs on four externally-mounted two-station pylons, while a Tu-160 can carry up to 12 such missiles on two internally-mounted six-station rotary launchers.

Considering that neither ISIS, nor the other factions with whom Russia is presently engaged in active combat with field capable air defenses, the Long-Range Aviation Command’s use of modernized Tu-95MS and Tu-160 bombers with Kh-101 ALCMs in Syria stems from Moscow’s desire to test both the reliability of its new air-launched weapon and its carrier platforms as well as the proficiency of Russian bomber crews under real combat conditions. As with the occasional use of conventionally-armed Kalibr sea-launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) in the Syrian conflict, the employment of Kh-101s is likewise intended to convey a strong signal to Russia’s potential adversaries and reflects Moscow’s desire to place greater emphasis on conventional deterrence. The need to expand precision-strike capabilities and increase reliance on conventional weapons for deterrence has been highlighted in Russia’s 2014 Military Doctrine and has been voiced by Russian military officials.[13] As Russian Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, noted in February 2017, though:

[t]he development of strategic nuclear forces remains an absolute priority for us […] the role of nuclear weapons in deterring a potential aggressor will decrease first of all due to development of high-precision weapons.’[14]

For the United States and NATO, Russia’s growing emphasis on conventional long-range precision-strike weapons such as the Kh-101 represents an increasingly pressing need to bolster missile defences.

Guy Plopsky holds an MA in International Affairs and Strategic Studies from Tamkang University, Taiwan. He specialises in air power, Russian military affairs and Asia-Pacific security. You can follow him on Twitter.

Header Image: A Russian Tupolev Tu-160 ‘Blackjack’ in flight over Russia. (Source: Wikimedia)

[1] For a description, see: Russian Ministry of Defense, ‘Нанесение авиаударов Ту-95МС крылатыми ракетами Х-101 по объектам ИГИЛ в Сирии [Tu-95MS Airstrikes with Kh-101 Cruise Missiles Against ISIS Objects in Syria],’ YouTube video, 3:01. Posted September 2017. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaI0QuvgKJA.

[2] ‘Министр обороны России генерал армии Сергей Шойгу провел военно-техническую конференцию [Russian Defense Minister Army General Sergei Shoigu held a Military-technical Conference],’ Russian Ministry of Defense, October 6, 2016

[3] Piotr Butowski, ‘All missiles great and small: Russia seeks out every niche,’ Jane’s International Defense Review, October 2014, pp. 48-9.

[4] Anton Lavrov, ‘Russia’s GLONASS Satellite Constellation,’ Moscow Defense Brief, 60:4 (2017).

[5] For example, see the video footage from September 2017 strike in fn1.

[6] David Cenciotti, ‘Russian MoD Video Shows Tu-160, Tu-95 and Tu-22 Bombers (with Su-27 Escort) Bomb ISIS in Syria,’ The Aviationist, November 17, 2015.

[7] ‘РФ впервые применила в Сирии новые ракетоносцы Ту-95МСМ с крылатыми ракетами Х-101 [Russian Federation Employed new Tu-95MSM Missile Carrier with Kh-101 Missiles in Syria for the First Time],’ TASS, November 17, 2016.

[8] For example, see: Russian Ministry of Defense, ‘Боевой вылет дальних бомбардировщиков Ту-22М3 с территории РФ по объектам террористов в Сирии [Combat Sortie of Long-range Tu-22M3 Bombers from the Territory of the Russian Federation Against Terrorist Targets in Syria],’ YouTube video, 2:10. Posted January 25, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55ni9KbpSv4.

[9] Anton Lavrov, ‘Russian Air Losses in the Five-Day War Against Georgia,’ in Ruslan Pskov (ed.), The Tanks of August (Moscow: Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, 2010), p. 100.

[10] ‘PAK DA: Russian Defense Ministry Reveals When New Bomber Will Fly,’ Sputnik, April 27, 2017.

[11] Dave Majumdar, ‘One of Russia’s Most Deadly Bombers Now Has a Scary New Capability,’ The National Interest, July 5, 2017.

[12] For example, see: James Bosbotinis, ‘Russian Long-Range Aviation and Conventional Strategic Strike,’ Defense IQ, March 5, 2015.

[13] For an English translation of Russia’s 2014 Military Doctrine see https://www.offiziere.ch/wp-content/uploads-001/2015/08/Russia-s-2014-Military-Doctrine.pdf.

[14] ‘Russian Shield: Nukes Priority, but High-Precision Weapons to Play Greater Role,’ Sputnik, February 21, 2017.

Unseating the Lancer: North Korean Challenges in Intercepting a B-1B

Unseating the Lancer: North Korean Challenges in Intercepting a B-1B

By Andy Zhao and Justin Pyke

Introduction

When North Korea threatened to shoot down a B-1B Lancer in response to a September 23rd flight operating off its east coast, a reasonable amount of discussion centred around if the North Koreans have the capability to carry out their threat.[1] This article outlines some of the challenges faced by North Korea if it attempts to shoot down a B-1B operating off the coast in international airspace. Any scenario where United States (US) or South Korean aircraft attempt to penetrate the airspace of North Korea is outside the scope of this discussion.

North Korean Equipment

DN-SN-83-06768
An East German SA-2 ‘Guideline’ similar to that currently operated by the KPAF. (Source: Wikimedia)

North Korea’s primary air defence is provided by the Korean People’s Army Air Force (KPAF). It operates a wide assortment of Soviet/Russian and Chinese equipment, consisting of everything from Chinese J-5s (a MiG-17 ‘Fresco’ derived aircraft) to the Russian MiG-29 9.13s ‘Fulcrum.’ Due to the secretive nature of the KPAF, it is hard to determine the true readiness of these aircraft in inventory. Many KPAF aircraft originate from the 1960s and are likely reaching their maximum airframe flight hours and/or are suffering from a lack of spare parts as indicated by the decreasing numbers of operational aircraft visible on airfields. This appears to be a major concern of the KPAF as in 2013 they attempted to import equipment and spare parts from Cuba. Numerous other problems plague the KPAF, from poor pilot training to the possibility of a largely expired inventory of air-to-air (A2A) missiles (i.e. R-60MKs (AA-8 ‘Aphid’) and R-27Rs (AA-10 ‘Alamo’) were received in 1987).

The KPAF also operates larger ground-based air defence platforms, such as:

North Korea also possesses a formidable array of short-range air defence systems. These are not relevant to the discussion as their range is too limited to pose a threat to a B-1B operating in international airspace.

Understanding the Kill Chain[4]

The process required to intercept an aircraft can be broken down into various steps:

  1. Detect and identify the target;
  2. Acquire the target with fire control;
  3. Identify range and the target direction/angles, paint/illuminate (literally lit up with radar waves) the target for the missile;
  4. Launch the missile;
  5. Guide the missile onto the target;
  6. The missile detonates/impacts near the target;
  7. Observe the target, repeat chain if necessary.

For the target to be intercepted, every aspect of the chain must be followed and must be successful. It is a delicate process, and if any step is interrupted, the target is unlikely to be successfully engaged. The kill chain will be similar regardless of the method used to conduct the interception.

Intercepting the B-1B using S-200 Angara (SA-5 ‘Gammon’) for Interception

S-200 Battery
North Korean S-200 Battery (Onggodok) located on the East Coast [39°19’03” N , 127°20’04” E] – Dated May 25, 2015

We will now take a closer look at the possible engagement of a B-1B by an S-200 surface-to-air missile (SAM) battery. This was the only SAM system likely to be in range of the B-1B flight on September 23rd, though even that is in doubt. For the sake of argument, we will assume a B-1B and its fighter escort stray into this outer layer of North Korea’s air defence. Firing an S-200 would be North Korea’s best shot at a successful engagement against a B-1B, as fighter interception would take more time and have to contend with a US and/or South Korean fighter escort of vastly superior quality. An S-200 SAM battery consists of several components:

An S-200 SAM battery consists of several components:

  • 5N62 (‘Square Pair’) Engagement Radar;
  • SM-106 5P73 Launchers;
  • V-601P 5V28 (S-200) Surface-to-Air Missile.

However, this is not an exhaustive list as the S-200 can also draw on higher assets, such as early warning/intercept radars (ex. P-14 ‘Tall King’ or ST-68 ‘Tin Shield’), or share information along with an integrated air defence network. It must be noted that the S-200 was developed in the 1950s through 1960s with the intention of engaging high-altitude bombers like the B-52 Stratofortress. The heavy missile is not ideal for engaging smaller and more manoeuvrable targets, particularly near its maximum range. The S-200 battery requires a constant feed of range and azimuth data to guide the missile onto the target and uses the 5N62 Engagement Radar to accomplish this task. Once the B-1B has been painted, the SAM battery can attempt to engage it.[5]

US aircraft are equipped with radar warning receivers (RWR), such as the ALQ-161A on the B-1B, that can detect radar emissions and alert the pilot. The pilot can then perform various actions (‘defending’) to attempt to break the lock. The most obvious of these is taking evasive action, but countermeasures such as chaff (small pieces of plastic and fibre with a conductive coating), jamming (providing false signals at the specific frequency used by the radar), and towed decoys (mimics the appearance of the parent aircraft) can also be employed.

Additionally, the S-200 has a poor record of target interceptions. On March 24th, 1986, Libya fired at least four S-200 missiles against two F-14 Tomcats when they were 40km off the Libyan coast. All of them missed their targets, and the engagement radar was destroyed by an AGM-88A High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile, rendering the S-200 battery inoperable. In March 2017, Israeli aircraft launched airstrikes in Syria and were targeted by an S-200 battery, escaping unscathed.[6] In fact, the authors were unable to find a single example of a successful S-200 interception in a combat environment. In summary, the chance of an S-200 successfully downing a B-1B or its fighter escort is very low. The system was simply never designed to engage these types of aircraft effectively.

On September 23rd, the kill chain did not proceed past the first stage. According to Yonhap, the South Korean National Intelligence Service claimed that ‘North Korea did not take any immediate action in response to US’s strategic bombers’ flight.’ A member of the US intelligence community (IC) reached out to the authors and stated that the North Koreans picked up the flight on their early warning radars, but not engagement radars and that seemingly no alerts were sent to any airfields or SAM batteries. The source was unsure of the reason why the North Koreans did not send out alerts, and suggested possibilities varying from confusion/incompetence to a willful decision not to notify air defence assets. Ultimately, the North Koreans were either unable to acquire the B-1B flight with their engagement radars, or decided not to escalate the situation further by doing so.

As an aside, it is worth noting that the eastern S-200 battery’s (Onggodok) engagement radar was no longer present on the newest Google Earth imagery (October 19th, 2015), and was still missing as of May 5th, 2017. The US IC source stated it was likely just routine relocation training, and that there is another S-200 battery located on the east coast. Unfortunately, the authors could not confirm if the new site has the engagement radar, or if the battery was even operational during the September 23rd flight.

Intercepting the B1B using MiG-29 9.13s ‘Fulcrum’ for Interception

KPAF Mig-29
A KPAF MiG-29 unit being visited by Kim Jong-Un. (Source: Unknown)

The same Yonhap article notes that North Korea has moved additional aircraft to the coast, and CNN claims that they are MiG-29s. A ‘best case’ example of MiG-29 9.13s equipped with R-60MKs and R-27Rs will be used as this is the most capable A2A combat system in the KPAF inventory. North Korea only has around six of these MiG-29 models.[7] If the MiG-29s are fully combat loaded, they only have a 180km combat radius. This can be extended to ~276km with the use of a drop tank. Additional drop tanks can be fitted, but the MiG-29 9.13s would have to forgo the R-27R medium-range A2A missiles that would be critical to a successful interception.[8] Given the locations of North Korean airfields in the eastern part of the country, the MiG-29s would have only slightly more reach than the S-200 battery at best, and would just have one brief shot at the interception before needing to return to base. Additionally, the intercepting MiG-29s would likely not have time to engage with the US and/or South Korean fighter escort. For the sake of argument, the assumption will again be made that a B-1B flight comes within range of fighter interception.

Using aircraft to intercept the B-1B would follow the same general kill chain as mentioned for the S-200. First, the B-1B would need to be detected. This could be done with early warning radar before scrambling the MiG-29s to intercept. KPAF fighters could also be assigned to patrol the airspace around-the-clock, with ground radar assisting the aircraft in attempting to detect the B-1B. The latter is an unlikely option given the limited range of the MiG-29 and is demanding on the aircraft as well as the pilots. There may also be a significant delay between detection of the B-1B and the scrambling of aircraft. The MiG-29s would likely be detected by US or South Korean early warning assets in the region, which would communicate an advanced warning to the B-1B. It could use this time to leave the area, putting an end to the interception. However, if the B-1B is identified and does not leave the area, the MiG-29s still need to acquire it visually to engage with infrared missiles (R-60MKs) or on the radar to engage with radar-guided missiles (R-27Rs). Once again, countermeasures could be deployed, and evasive manoeuvres could be taken to defeat the missiles.

landscape-1504206649-36755613416-05fc74a29d-k
US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II stealth fighters assigned to the Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, fly alongside 2 US Air Force B-1B Lancers assigned to the 37th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, deployed from Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, over waters near Kyushu, Japan, Aug. 30, 2017, and 2 Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) F-15J fighters. Source: US Pacific Command)

If fighters are escorting the B-1B, as was the case on September 23rd, they could intercept the MiG-29s. This would put the escorting fighters at risk. However, it must be made clear that even if the interception were conducted by the best KPAF fighters available (MiG-29 9.13s) using the best KPAF A2A missiles available (R-60MKs and R-27Rs), they would still be at a large disadvantage against US and South Korean aircraft. The countermeasures and missiles are both inferior at the least. For example, the R-27R relies on semi-active guidance, meaning the parent aircraft must keep its nose pointed at the target and maintain a lock with the onboard radar until impact.[9] By contrast, the AIM-120 AMRAAM used by US and South Korean fighters can be fired at an extended range, and course corrected using data from the parent aircraft without the need to keep the MiG-29 painted with radar. The pilot of the MiG-29 would not be alerted by their RWR that a missile was inbound until the AIM-120 reaches its terminal phase, providing little warning of its approach. This gives the US, or South Korean pilots added tactical flexibility over their North Korean counterparts. Any lesser aircraft in the KPAF inventory, such as MiG-23MLs ‘Flogger,’ would be even further disadvantaged.

Conclusion

The possibility of a successful interception of a B-1B operating in international airspace off the coast of North Korea cannot be disregarded entirely. However, the limited reach of North Korea’s air defence, the advanced age and limited capabilities of the systems theoretically in range, and the array of defensive options available to the air forces of the US and South Korea would pose a nearly insurmountable challenge. The high chance of failure (and by extension embarrassment), the possibility of instigating a regime-ending war, and negligible benefits of successfully downing a B-1B leads to the conclusion that North Korea is unlikely to carry out this threat. This is particularly true when North Korea has much more reliable and effective means of provocation, such as continued ballistic missile and nuclear tests.

Justin Pyke obtained his MA in Military and Intelligence History from the University of Calgary in 2016. His main research interests include the Asia-Pacific War, military and politics of Imperial Japan, and the development of air and naval power in the inter-war period. He can be found on Twitter at @CBI_PTO_History.

Header Image: A B-1 Lancer performing a fly-by during a firepower demonstration, c. 2004. (Source: Wikimedia)

[1] Special thanks to Samuel Stadem, air power enthusiast and current chemistry graduate student at the University of Minnesota Duluth, for providing assistance with the finer points of modern military aviation.

[2] Tony Cullen and Christopher Foss (ed.), Jane’s Land-based Air Defence, 5th ed. (Surrey: Jane’s Information Group, 1992), pp. 261-62, 264.

[3] Richard D. Fisher Jr., ‘North Korean KN-06 Test Confirms Similarity to Chinese and Russian Fourth-Generation SAMs,’ IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, 53:22 (2016).

[4] Robert H.M. Macfadzean, Surface-Based Air Defense System Analysis (Norwood: Artech House, 1992), pp. 39-63.

[5] Cullen and Foss, Jane’s Land-based Air Defence, pp. 263-64.

[6] The Syrians claimed that they shot down one aircraft and damaged another. However, no evidence has been presented and the burden of proof lies with Syria.

[7] Yefim Gordon and Dmitriy Komissarov, Soviet and Russian Military Aircraft in Asia (Manchester: Hikoki Publications, 2014), pp. 265-89.

[8] Yefim Gordon, Mikoyan MiG-29, trans. Dmitriy Komissarov (Hinckley: Midland Publishing, 2006), pp. 341, 377. The drop tank combat radius was extrapolated from the given range and combat radius values. The internal fuel capacity gives a 900km range and 180km combat radius, providing a ratio of 5. The given range on one drop tank is 1,380km. Dividing this by 5 results in a 276km combat radius.

[9] Gordon, Mikoyan MiG-29, pp. 364-65, 487-88.