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Posts Tagged ‘OODA loop’

Another consequence of very high flight to maintenance ratios in aircraft – vulnerability to disasters

Posted by altandmain on October 15, 2018

This article discusses how flight to maintenance ratios can leave air forces exposed to the unexpected, including natural disasters.

A high flight to maintenance ratio is one of the big issues in fighter aircraft that are complex. It is often an issue that does not go acknowledged during the procurement stage of military spending, but has immense consequences. Lower is better in this case, because it means less maintenance is needed per hour of flight.

Flight to maintenance ratio, roughly means that for every hour of flight, how many man maintenance hours does one need on average to keep the aircraft operational? A high flight to maintenance ratio means that more man hours are needed for every hour of flight.

The B2 stealth bomber, for example has the worst flight to maintenance ratio, and as a result seldom flies.

Hurricanes and other losses

Recently, a hurricane struck the United States. What occurred is that the hurricane, Hurricane Michael, took a sudden turn that was not expected and changed course towards the Florida Panhandle, where Tyndall Air Base is located. Tyndall Air Force Base is a major US Air Force base, where many F-22 stealth fighters are stationed.

There were 55 F-22 aircraft stationed there, but only 33 were moved out and the status of the remaining 22 are not known. It would seem that some were destroyed by the hurricane.

It is likely based on the comments that the USAF could simply not evacuate them quickly enough.

Air Force officials have not disclosed the whereabouts of the remaining 22 planes, other than to say that a number of aircraft were left at the base because of maintenance or safety reasons.

An Air Force spokeswoman, Maj. Malinda Singleton, would not confirm that any of the aircraft left behind were F-22s.

But photos and video from the wreckage of the base showed the distinctive contours of the F-22’s squared tail fins and angled vertical stabilizers amid a jumble of rubble in the base’s largest building, Hangar 5. Another photo shows the distinctive jet in a smaller hangar that had its doors and a wall ripped off by wind.

All of the hangars at the base were damaged, Major Singleton said Friday. “We anticipate the aircraft parked inside may be damaged as well,” she said, “but we won’t know the extent until our crews can safely enter those hangars and make an assessment.”

It is likely based on the comments that the USAF could simply not evacuate them quickly enough. The extent of the damage, if you read the full article, is not yet known, but appears to be extremely extensive.

The reason why aircraft like the F-22 are going to be affected by this is because stealth aircraft have a set of unique characteristics that make them vulnerable:

  1. A very high flight to maintenance ratio means that they simply cannot take off quickly enough. They are down for maintenance when they need to move most urgently.
  2. There are fewer of them (since there are less than 200 F-22s due to the costs to manufacture them and because the program was terminated early), so any losses will be a larger percentage of total fleet losses.
  3. Where they can evacuate to is limited. Stealth aircraft like the F-22 or B2 need special climate controlled hangars and have a lengthy supply chain.
  4. The sheer complexity means that there will be unexpected downtown of these aircraft. From the article below:

The high-tech F-22 is notoriously finicky and not always flight-worthy. An Air Force report this year found that on average, only about 49 percent of F-22s were mission ready at any given time — the lowest rate of any fighter in the Air Force. The total value of the 22 fighters that may remain at Tyndall is about $7.5 billion.

This is inherently exposed in not just a war against a competent enemy, but also in peacetime against natural disasters.

A brutal reality of this world is that disasters that occur suddenly will happen. Whether they be hurricane/typhoons, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires, or any other disaster, a smaller fleet with a high flight to maintenance ratio means that the entire fleet of aircraft is far more vulnerable to being caught by surprise by these events.

The F-35 would also be affected

The F-35 JSF is significant in that it will be replacing the majority of aircraft in not just the USAF fleet, but also several NATO allies.

The F-35 also suffers from a high flight to maintenance ratio.

Four years into their operational career, F-35 fighters are expected to require between 41.75 and 50.1 maintenance man-hours (MMH) per flight hours, or about three times as many as most fighter aircraft currently operated by Western air forces.

Considering both the F-35 and F-22 are in this situation, this will leave the fleets of Western air forces far more vulnerable, not just to enemies in a war, but also to natural disasters and other unexpected events.

What would be the solution?

The solution is to procure cheaper aircraft (so that more aircraft can be procured and losses would be a small percentage of the fleet). These aircraft would be more widely dispersed, so that they are harder to destroy, either by an enemy, or in this case by a natural disaster.

Picard’s FLX proposals are a good step forward to protecting the Western air forces against losses like this one.

The existing aircraft would be retired. This is not without historical precedent. The F-14 was retired in part due to its unfavorable flight to maintenance ratio.

The decision to incorporate the Super Hornet and decommission the F-14 is mainly due to high amount of maintenance required to keep the Tomcats operational. On average, an F-14 requires nearly 50 maintenance hours for every flight hour, while the Super Hornet requires five to 10 maintenance hours for every flight hour.

Not only does a more complex aircraft mean fewer aircraft due to the expensive unit costs, but it also means fewer sorties per aircraft because they will be down for maintenance. This is on top of the greater vulnerability to natural disasters.

A historical perspective

Natural disasters, in the history of war, have played a key role in swinging the outcomes of many wars in the past. It would be extremely inadvisable to think that modern armies are immune to the effects of unexpected natural disasters and other weather events.

Furthermore, if we consider the effects of a natural disaster on these aircraft, what could the effects of a surprise attack be from a competent enemy? With so few aircraft concentrated in a handful of bases, and with such a high flight to maintenance ratio, the losses could be quite bad indeed. These aircraft would be in known locations on the ground. Forget for a moment about being radar stealthy in the air and worry about being exposed on the ground. Prudence would demand that we reduce our vulnerability to such events.

In a way, the OODA loop is much slower with these aircraft. Since it takes so long to maintain each aircraft, the ability for an air for with a large percentage of its total aircraft with high flight to maintenance ratios to react to a changing battlefield. It would take more time for example, for intelligence to be relayed and then a sortie generated in response to that intelligence. There are fewer aircraft, concentrated in a handful of locations, and they need more time before going to a sortie to prepare.

Clearly the solution is to procure more aircraft that are less complex, cheaper, and easier to maintain. This will not only mean fewer losses due to unexpected events, but also a much faster OODA loop.

This is an extremely costly lesson to learn, but fortunately one that was learned in peacetime and not in a war.

On a final note, I wish the best of luck to everyone affected by Hurricane Michael.

 

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Posted in weapons | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Applyig John Boyd’s Patterns of Conflict on War in Afghanistan

Posted by Picard578 on February 2, 2013

Main point of Boyd’s presentation is following:

One should operate at faster tempo than opponent and get inside his OODA loop, causing confunsion

This can be achieved through generation of rapidly changing environment and distorting adversary’s observation of it. Guerrilla warfare is basically based around it, denying opponent knowledge of where guerrilla forces are, as well as where and how will they strike. That can be partly denied to them through usage of manned aircraft, UAVs, and satellites in surveillance capability. However, due to the fluid nature of anti-guerrilla warfare, friction must be reduced to minimum; ideally, infantry platoons would be deployed individually, and each would have its own surveillance system under direct operational control of platoon itself. Platoons would also call in air support as required.

Further, Boyd makes a point that one should deny adversary capacity for independent action as well as opportunity to survive on his own terms – or at all. This is one thing that NATO forces in Afghanistan are failling to do: while NATO controls the cities, Taliban have near-free rein in the countryside. But Taliban, like any other classic guerilla movement, are dependant on support of people from countryside, which NATO does not control. Thus, NATO is making a fundamental strategic mistake by not restricting opponent’s capacity for independent action; infantry platoons should be moved from (in this situation, strategically irrelevant) cities, and into the countryside; especially since 75% of Afghanistan’s population lives in the countryside. Instead of few large troop concentrations, troops should establish numerous smaller posts and garrisons – Taliban usually move in platoon-sized formations or smaller, so these would not be in danger of being overrun. Light troops should be used to mount hit-and-run attacks against Taliban targets; troops in question can be light infantry, bycicle or light helicopter troops, depending on situation. This also ties in Boyd’s observation of superior mobility as an important asset.

Attacking enemy’s plans should be paramount; as guerrilla, as stated before, relies on support of local populace – not only for supplies, but also for intelligence and similar – action should be taken to alienate populace from Taliban. First, drones should not be used for assasinations, as such usage regularly claims disproportionate number of civilian casualties. This is especially devastating in the rural areas, as families there tend to be large and coherent. If there is need to kill off Taliban official, mission should be carried out by sniper teams. Second, soldiers should establish rapport with local populace. One way to do that is to make soldiers actually help civilians with everyday duties, help them to better organize their lives, and generally become a part of the local community – which includes soldiers simply talking to them. Talking, as in easy conversations you have in bars. (You can find a good blog article on that here). Local populace is usually a recruiting ground for guerilla, but if done correctly, it can also be of great help for Coalition forces in the area – providing information on terrain, terrorist’s movements and other forms of intelligence. Third, guerilla itself should be infiltarted to gain intelligence. And in guerilla warfare, importance of intelligence cannot be overstated: it is very easy to hit wrong target, or to receive incorrect or incomplete information, thus jeopardizing entire OODA loop. This is also way to unmask Taliban’s operations. Taliban don’t stand a chance against regular military in direct confrontations, so they have to be drawn out in the open. Further, special forces teams should use guerilla’s own tactics against them: there is precendent for that from World War II, where German elite Brandenburg division used guerilla tactics against Partisans in Yugoslavia. According to the Partisans themselves, only reason it did not manage to inflict serious, or crippling, damage was its lack of personnell.

Communications with outside world should be cut, so guerilla has no way of getting required supplies, and possibly reinforcements.

Due to the nature of terrain and warfare, troops should only carry bare minimum of needed supplies with them, leaving anything not needed in base, much like Brandenburg special forces division, as well as 7th and 13-th SS mountain divisions did in WW2. On command level, low-level commanders should be given only absolutely required instructions.

But in the end, most important thing to do in countering the Taliban is to deny them the recruiting grounds. As such, political and economic effort should be made in stabilizing not only Afghanistan, but the region as well. Boyd also notes importance of propaganda; as discussed above, troops should be encouraged to tie in with community. Aside from procuring valuable intelligence, it is even more important so that locals accept foreign troops as a friendly – or at least not hostile – element. Further, local troops should be traied, but trained well; half-trained, unmotivated militia can easily prove detrimental to the effort. Troops fighting against guerilla should keep on the offensive, to deny enemy chance to establish itself.

However, as success of any guerilla depends on them identifying with people – and vice-versa – socioeconomic situation should be improved to deny guerilla recruiting ground. Government should be competent and have minds of its people first and foremost on its mind (an impossibility if government is neoliberal). Corruption should be punished, and Government should provide a visible care for the people, to destroy any moral high ground guerilla could claim. Without doing that, there can be no victory, since guerilla war is in essence a moral conflict. Clear goal of rebuilding the Afghanistan should be set, and pursued, for only a stable society can guarantee peace; and that means US will have to abandon neoliberal philosophy.

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Why the West should revert to the KISS principle

Posted by Picard578 on January 12, 2013

Western way of doing things is usually to go for highly advanced technology. However, is that a good thing? I don’t think it is, for reasons I will explain.

When we take a look at any war, we see that there are always certain realities at work:
People are required to get job done.
Technology is required so people can do their jobs.
Numbers are required so as to be able to absorb unavoidable losses, to establish relevant combat presence and to overload opponent’s capacity to process information.
Reliability is required so as to train personnell and deploy sufficient force presence, and for technology not to fail in combat

Consequently, weapon has to be cheap and simple enough to be procured in large numbers while leaving enough resources for training the pilots, reliable enough to be used often and not require too much maintenance, but also capable enough to get the job done.

Training

While simulators exist, they are limited in how well they can simulate reality. As such, weapon’s operator will have to actually use the real weapon, and use it often, to get familiar with it and how it will handle in real combat. This is of particular importance to fighter pilots, where ground facilities cannot simulate changing G forces that pilot has to withstand during fighting. Cheaper to maintain weapons also mean more money left for training.

History has shown that in combat, training trumps other factors – with only exception being extremely large numerical disparity. Top Gun instructors got 40 to 60 hours of CFM per month, and always beat students who got 14 to 20 hours. It is no different in any other area – during World War 2, Tiger tanks’ tank crews’ superiority in training often led to their utter dominance over technologically superior IS2 tanks.

Training allows weapons to be used more effectively, as well for force to more effectively break opponent’s OODA loop – a prerequisite for gaining the positional advantage over the opponent. Yet in US, F-22 pilots get 17-20 hours per month, and pilots of other fighters are not far behind – nor is situation much better in Europe.

Numbers

What has to be understood in numbers game is that twice as complex weapon will often provide not half of combat presence, but around quarter of it – each weapon will be not only twice as expensive, but will also require twice as much maintenance. And while this is not a hard rule, more complex weapons always require more maintenance than less complex ones of same age and production quality.

As such, even if twice as complex weapon is twice as capable – which it often isn’t – it is going to face more than twice its own number in simpler weapons. Worse, due to the Lanchester Square law, weapon outnumbered 2:1 has to be four times as capable to offset for numerical disparity – but 4:1 qualitative advantage also usually requires four times costlier weapon. And this is all assuming that twice as costly weapon will really be twice as capable. It should be noted, however, that this is only true close to its entirety for air combat, due to the far smaller force-space constraints. In ground combat, twice as costly weapon will “only” have to be thrice as capable.

Furthermore, no matter how “capable” weapon is, one weapon can only ever be deployed to one place at the time. Defense of its own and disruption of opponent’s supply lines is easily one of most important tasks any military faces, and it requires sufficient, and often large, number of individual units.

Reliability in combat

More complex system is more prone to failure in stressfull combat environment. This does not only apply to weapons, but also other systems – such as those required for BVR IFF capability. In fact, in 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom misidentified US aircraft were repeatedly lost to BVR fire. Compared to passive sensors, active sensors also have far more complex detection and targeting process, which is therefore more prone not only to internal failures, but also to interference by the opponent.

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