Air Superiority



 Overview: Air Superiority is one of the primary roles of aerospace power and includes all missions whose objectives are designed to gain and maintain control of the air. This Air Superiority Mission Area Plan (MAP) examines the air-to-air, Theater Missile Defense (TMD), and the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) portions of offensive and defensive counterair operations. Other counterair tasks, such as neutralizing command and control and neutralizing aircraft on the ground and their support facilities are covered in other MAPs. The Air Superiority MAP also recognizes critical contributions of functional areas (command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence (C4I); logistics; human factors; etc.). However, this MAP only addresses elements of those areas that offer solutions or support to solutions specific to Air Superiority shortfalls.

 Mission Area Assessment: The Strategy-to-Task (STT) process is used to conduct a Mission Area Assessment (MAA) to identify Counterair and TMD tasks. National military strategy dictates projection and sustainment of U.S. power to credibly deter and, if required, decisively defeat aggression. To support national strategy, the theater Joint Force Air Component Commander (JFACC) employs aerospace forces to establish aerospace supremacy of the combat environment, thereby permitting aerospace and surface forces to operate more effectively and denying these advantages to the enemy, and to counter Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). Aerospace forces can be employed to support either a conventional conflict or Operations Other Than War (OOTW).

 Counterair: The Counterair force structure is composed of fighter aircraft and their associated armament (air-to-air missiles and guns) and various support assets. The operational objective of these counterair units is to conduct offensive counterair (OCA) and defensive counterair (DCA) missions, to defeat the air forces of the adversary. These units must maintain constant readiness to deploy on a moments notice and then sustain operations as long as required. The primary operational task is to neutralize (prevent from employing weapons or conducting operations against friendly forces through any means available) enemy aircraft (fighters, bombers, helicopters, and other support aircraft) and cruise missiles (CMs; air-to-surface missiles (ASMs) are considered a subset of CMs) inflight. To accomplish this task fighters must detect and identify (ID) airborne enemy threats, employ their fire control systems to attack the targets, ensure their air-to-air weapons destroy or neutralize the threat and survive against threat weapons, all in the presence of countermeasures.

 TMD: The TMD force structure is composed of fighter and bomber aircraft and their associated armament and various support assets. In addition, space based assets also contribute significantly toward the successful accomplishment of the TMD mission, which is a subset of counterair. The operational objective of these TMD units is to conduct OCA and DCA TMD missions to reduce sortie generation and prevent WMD proliferation. The primary operational tasks are to neutralize ballistic missiles (BMs) inflight and on the ground and to neutralize WMD production and storage. To accomplish this task TMD assets must detect, track, and ID enemy BM threats, task the appropriate shooter asset, attack and kill the target (either in an offensive or defensive posture), and assess and report the level of success against a particular threat. NOTE: The Air Force also relies on sister Services to provide forces which complement the layered or multi-tiered defensive scheme of TMD.

 SEAD: The SEAD force structure is composed of fighter aircraft and their associated armament, support jammers and various other support assets, including off-board targeting systems. The operational objective of SEAD is to neutralize air defense forces through lethal and non-lethal means. The primary operational tasks are to defeat fixed and mobile surface-to-air threats. Lethal SEAD platforms must be capable of both reactive suppression and preemptive destruction of an enemy's Integrated Air Defense System (IADS). Reactive suppression requires fighters to detect and identify (ID) and locate surface-to-air threats, employ weapons in a time critical environment to protect friendly forces from hostile engagement. The preemptive destruction mission allows more flexibility in targeting (off-board targeting is possible) with the objective being to locate and destroy mobile and fixed targets in advance of a strike package at a time of our choosing. Non-lethal SEAD platforms assist attack force assets in accomplishing mission by employing ECM against radars and communications (voice/datalink) systems, IFF, ATC systems, AWACS and navigation systems to allow the lethal SEAD and attack assets to marshal, penetrate, and egress selected target areas, thereby increasing their survivability. Specifically the operational tasks consist of radar jamming by EF-111A/EA-6B aircraft and counter C2 by EC-130 Compass Call aircraft.

 Support: There are various supplemental and logistics capabilities required to support the primary combat-oriented tasks. These include collecting and disseminating intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and other information; allocating and controlling forces; generating aircraft sorties and repairing/resupplying aircraft involved; and establishing, defending, and repairing contingency operating locations for aerospace forces.

 Mission Needs Analysis: Task-to-Need (TTN) is used to conduct a Mission Needs Analysis (MNA) - a comparison of mission needs with current doctrine and tactics, coupled with weapon system performance against the current and future threats to determine capability shortfalls.

 Counterair: The MNA has highlighted shortfalls in meeting several needs that impact counterair operations. Its is becoming increasingly difficult to logistically support the F-15 and F-16. Major aircraft systems/subsystems are experiencing poor reliability (Low Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF)), significant airlift support is required for deployment, there is a lack of standardization across weapon system and subsystems, and the cost of ownership of these aircraft is steadily increasing. The lack of secure data link and dependable identification systems degrade the combat capability of current fighters. The Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) is losing its advantage against the improving threat and the AIM-9M is at a significant disadvantage within visual range. Air combat training system assets necessary to maximize pilot familiarity and proficiency with aircraft systems and weapons have several deficiencies. Currently available threat systems can't replicate a realistic threat environment, not all participants in RED/GREEN flag exercises are fully instrumented to gain the most benefit from that training, and there is little or no flexibility in scenario development.

 TMD: There are also shortfalls in meeting TMD needs. We have a limited capability to detect, locate, and track Theater Missile (TM) targets inflight and on the ground. Once targets are located, it is very difficult to effectively retask or divert forces in real time in response to TM targets detected on the ground (OCA/attack operations) or in boost or ascent phases of flight (DCA/active defense). Airborne weapon systems have limited ability to strike ground targets, or re-task sensors to acquire them, within the timelines following a TM launch and prior to the launcher moving to a hide site. Finally there is a limited ability to assess the results of each TMD mission.

 SEAD: The primary lethal SEAD platform, the F-16 employing AGM-88 High Speed Anti-radiation Missiles (HARM) has several shortfalls. It is becoming increasingly difficult to logistically support the F-16 and the HARM. SEAD forces have limited automated mission planning capability. It is very difficult to stimulate, decoy, and saturate enemy threat radars without putting friendly forces in harm's way, and the ability to reactively target surface-to-air threats is limited. The ability to employ off-board targeting sources is limited in the timeliness and accuracy required for the preemptive destruction mission. Though offboard sources may find mobile targets, there is a limited capability to pass required information in real time so fighters can reactively or preemptively target mobile surface-to-air threats. There is no on-board capability to preemptively target mobile surface-to-air threat systems. Current SEAD weapons all depend on RF homing for guidance and are vulnerable to emission control (EMCON) countertactics. There is also limited capability to perform real-time battle damage assessment (BDA). On the non-lethal side, there is limited capability to suppress RF threats and C2 systems.

 Mission Solution Analysis: The Mission Solution Analysis (MSA) evaluates the ability of potential solutions to meet the needs and the cost of those solutions. The results of the MSA provide an investment strategy for the programming, requirements, laboratory technology planning/execution, and independent research and development (IR&D) processes that support the acquisition/modification of weapon systems used to conduct air-to-air, TMD, and SEAD missions, thereby ensuring our forces have the necessary tools to accomplish those missions.

 Counterair: The F-22 is the next-generation air-to-air fighter. It will incorporate stealth, supercruise, an integrated sensor suite, and built-in supportability. However, major F-15 avionics improvements are needed to retain viability until the F-22 achieves Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in FY04. These include combat ID technologies, APG-63V1 radar upgrade, Improved Head-up Display (IHUD), Tactical Electronic Warfare Suite (TEWS) upgrades, fighter data link, Helmet Mounted Cueing System (HMCS), and Global Positioning System (GPS). Supportability upgrades are planned to reduce aircraft turn times and increase the number of available sorties. Major avionics improvements for the F-16 include: Combined Interrogator Transponder (CIT), ALR-56M Radar Warning Receiver (RWR) processor upgrade, and Multi-Mission Computer (MMC) (Block 40/50). Operational Flight Profile (OFP) updates will optimize avionics software for both the F-15 and F-16. As the replacement for the F-16, the Joint Strike Fighter will bring significant improvements in affordability, lethality, survivability, and supportability. Weapon modernization programs include the AIM-9X, AMRAAM Preplanned Product Improvement, and PGU-28 (20mm ammunition). Air Combat Training Systems are being upgraded to handle more aircraft and improve reliability. The Air Force Mission Support System (AFMSS) is being fielded to enhance mission planning.

 TMD: To effectively prosecute TMD targets on the ground and in the air, improvements are planned for Intelligence Preparation of the Battlespace, TMD communications, both surveillance and shooter sensors, weapons, and battle management systems. The extremely short timelines associated with both ballistic and cruise missiles require highly automated detection systems, offboard cueing, information throughput and highly accurate, lethal weapons. Initial analysis has shown that automatic target cueing (ATC) and automatic target recognition (ATR) mated with optical, infrared, and/or radar sensor(s) are the correct course of action to locate and identify TMs. Further analyses of all these system capabilities will result in down selection to and demonstration of the most promising systems. Demonstration results will guide the procurement process. The Air Force is pursuing the Airborne Laser (ABL) as a solution to the Boost Phase Intercept (BPI) problem. ABL will provide very high payoff in Theater Missile Defense by destroying theater ballistic missiles in the boost phase over the enemy's homeland. It will provide a speed-of-light, catastrophic kill of theater ballistic missiles in the boost phase hundreds of kilometers away while engaging them from the relative safety of friendly territory. The ability to destroy a missile during boost phase ensures the missile does not release submunitions and provides a very high probability that warhead and debris will fall on enemy territory. The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) has shown interest in kinetic energy concepts which address the BPI problem. The Air Force supports BMDO's alternative solution to BPI, however, the BMDO BPI line has been zeroed and Air Force funding constraints prevent pursuit of both alternatives at the same time.

 SEAD: New systems and/or improvements to existing systems are required to ensure successful accomplishment of the lethal SEAD mission. In the near term, an upgrade to Harm Targeting System (HTS) will be fielded in 1999. Eventual augmentation or replacement of the HTS with an improved emitter targeting and passive identification system will provide expanded frequency coverage, more precise target location information and unambiguous emitter identification capability. Multi-ship targeting will provide great improvements in targeting accuracy and timeliness. It will require data link capability for real-time targeting of both reactive and preemptive target sets. The Harm Block V software upgrade will field in 1999 and will incorporate tighter control of missile flight path to reduce the risk of fratricide and increase Pk. A preemptive destruction SEAD weapon (LOCAAS), capable of autonomous search in the terminal phase, will be developed. An advanced reactive SEAD weapon will be developed to increase speed and lethality and provide a silent kill (ability to guide on a non-emitting radar) capability. The Miniature Air Launched Decoy (MALD) is being developed to stimulate, decoy, and saturate air defense units by other than friendly manned aircraft. SEAD capability may be incorporated on the F-22 and JSF and to an increasing extent, on UAVs. Non-lethal SEAD upgrades will address deficiencies in the current receiver suites as well as providing Effective Radiated Power (ERP) enhancements and signal interference cancellation techniques. Upgrades focus on improved reprogrammability, better direction (location) accuracy, improved situation awareness, expanded frequency range, and capabilities against Blue/Gray and hybrid air defense C2 systems.

 Critical Enabling Technologies: Critical enabling technologies must be developed to correct remaining deficiencies and meet far-term needs. To ease the logistics burden, aircraft systems/subsystems will need to be more reliable, maintainable, supportable, and affordable, with reduced support equipment requirements. Engines should achieve better performance and reliability for the cost of today's engines. Airframe structures should be lighter, yet stronger to enhance overall performance and reduce aircraft signature. Integrated avionics, combining improved sensors with off-board information, are required to enhance situational awareness, critical to lethality and survivability. Continued improvements are needed for weapon's seekers, propulsion, and kill mechanisms, to provide a true "launch and leave" capability, and capability against SEAD targets using EMCON. Upgrades to life support systems will ensure aircrew performance keeps pace with aircraft improvements. Distributed interactive simulation can provide the deployability, flexibility, and fidelity required for future training systems.

Long Range Plan End States: This MAP covers two End States: Ballistic and Cruise Missile Defense and UAVs for SEAD

 Ballistic Missile and Cruise Missile Defense: This end state reads as follows: provide capabilities that emphasize warning, attack operations, and boost-phase intercept of ballistic and cruise missiles. Intelligence forces will be able to predict TMD target locations with better accuracy, and improvements to existing sensors will increase warning time of TMD activity. Communications enhancements will provide target information to TMD forces in a timely manner, and attack platforms will be able to detect, locate and ID actual targets with greater accuracy. ABL will provide a capability to intercept ballistic missiles in the boost phase.

 UAVs for SEAD: The UAV SEAD end state is as follows: Deploy a capability to perform SEAD (lethal and non-lethal) from UAVs. The initial UAV lethal SEAD role will likely be as an emitter location and targeting platform, employing intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance (ISR) UAVs such as Global Hawk. Eventually, unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAV) will be able to deliver weapons against threat systems. Studies will be undertaken to determine the best force structure mix and evaluate potential UAV configurations.

 Bottom line impact: Planned aircraft and weapons improvements will correct many existing deficiencies, but we must continue to push technology to ensure counterair weapon systems are able to gain and maintain air superiority in any situation. As we migrate into low observable platforms, the need for SEAD against older systems will decrease, but anticipated deployment of new or upgraded surface-to-air systems continues to threaten our ability to maintain air superiority. We must continue to take the fight to the enemy by engaging and destroying these threats. In addition, weapons of mass destruction will continue to proliferate. The Air Force must pursue technologies which increase US capability to destroy TMs (BMs, CMs, and ASMs). which might carry WMD--as early in their life cycle as possible. Failure to acquire BPI weapons systems will place undue stress on Army and Navy terminal defenses due to the possibility of threat weapon fractionation.


Last Updated: 25 September 1998