This chapter outlines the new global air and missile threats facing US forces. To counter the threat, it is first necessary to understand it. By focusing on an enemy's capabilities and methods of operations, air defense commanders can best employ their resources to protect the force and selected geopolitical assets.


Dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the fall of the Soviet Union have resulted in changes to the worldwide geopolitical structure. The US no longer faces a communist block that poses a major threat to its security. The focus on internal political and economic reconfiguration in the former Soviet Union and the elimination of the Soviet troop presence in central Europe have reduced the likelihood of a super power confrontation. However, the world is now even more unstable due to increased nationalism and religious fundamentalism along with changing political affiliations. Regional conflicts and the proliferation of modern military technology mean that the Army must be prepared to face the full range of threat capabilities anywhere in the world with little notice. Potential force-projection missions range from operations other than war to full combat operations. Lack of a single, concrete threat doctrine and structure require an Army with operational flexibility and versatility.

It is difficult to determine which regional situations will require US force intervention. Rational and clearly recognized national goals and objectives are no longer the primary sources of conflict between nations. In addition, potential threat capabilities differ greatly in training, organization, and equipment.

These new threats in regional conflicts will pose a serious challenge to US military planners and intelligence personnel. We can expect to see future adversaries armed with the full spectrum of military hardware from pre-World War II vintage equipment to the most technologically advanced systems. Future adversaries will also differ in their dedication, competence, and ability to employ their weapons effectively. In the face of unpredictable and varied threats, a versatile, deployable, and lethal Army remains essential.

The air defense commander and staff must consider the broad spectrum of potential air and missile threats to successfully protect the force and geopolitical assets. The future air threat has changed greatly since the demise of the Warsaw Pact. Though still potentially dangerous, the manned fixed-wing aircraft is no longer the only threat to US ground forces.

Air defense commanders will no longer consider fixed-wing aircraft to be the principal threat to ground forces because US, allied, or coalition air forces will protect the force from most of the fixed-wing aircraft threat. However, there are a variety of other air and missile systems that can perform a wide range of missions against the joint force.


Many countries worldwide are employing reconnaissance, intelligence, surveillance, and target acquisition (RISTA) systems for the detection and location of ground targets. These RISTA systems include imagery, signal, human, and measurement and signature intelligence sensors. RISTA is an essential combat-support function. Timely, accurate intelligence on the disposition and location of forces is a prerequisite for success in any military operation.

Conflicts in regions such as the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the Far East, Africa, Latin America, and South Central Asia represent potential threats to US interests. Countries in these areas have a wide range of RISTA capabilities. However, even with limited RISTA resources, most nations present a significant RISTA threat to US and allied or coalition forces.

All ground maneuver forces require protection from enemy ground, air, and naval attack. Successful counterreconnaissance operations prevent the targeting and attack of friendly forces. Threat reconnaissance efforts will be directed toward specific targets that reveal information on US force operations and intentions. This information, when passed to fire support systems, enables the threat commander to accurately engage high-value US targets and inflict heavy casualties.

Threat reconnaissance systems include unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, and satellites. Each of these systems will operate against particular type targets. Helicopters equipped for optical reconnaissance will operate against corps and division forces. UAVs will conduct RISTA against tactical and operational targets throughout the theater. These systems will provide rapid downlink of collected information to artillery and TBM fire control centers and maneuver forces. Fixed-wing reconnaissance aircraft will normally operate against corps or theater targets. The information they collect may take much longer to process and disseminate and will normally support targeting of deep attack assets, such as airfields or missile sites. Satellites can collect information on theater and strategic targets. Threat nations will use the information collected by satellites for national planning and strategic targeting. Denial of the enemy's RISTA efforts is essential for force protection.


The versatility and survivability of helicopters make them ideal air assets for use in division and corps areas. There is great potential for their use in certain regions of the world. They were among the first platforms used by Iraq in its invasion of Kuwait.

Today, it is difficult to predict the helicopter tactics peculiar to a region or country. However, tactics employed will depend upon pilot training and the capability of the platform. Adequately trained, these forces can employ tactics that will make them very difficult to engage. Specifically, low-flying helicopters are difficult to acquire and target. Air defenders can usually expect enemy helicopters to attack in pairs, taking advantage of terrain-masking techniques. As system capabilities and doctrine change, air defenders can expect corresponding changes in tactics.

The armed utility helicopter offers a cheaper but very effective alternative to the attack helicopter. Armed utility and attack helicopters will probably serve as the principal close air support weapon system for most potential threat countries. They will pose a major threat to combat arms units in close operations.

Additionally, many potential threat countries actively train to conduct helicopter operations in support of national or military objectives. Frequently, helicopters will insert special operations forces in enemy rear areas to disrupt command and control, and attack high-value targets. These troops are usually highly trained, extremely motivated, and highly survivable once on the ground. Therefore, it is advantageous to engage these forces before they land.


UAVs include powered and unpowered aerodynamic vehicles such as remotely piloted vehicles and drones. Comparatively, they are inexpensive, easily procured or manufactured, and extremely versatile. They have emerged as a new multifaceted threat. Their small size and radar cross-section and ability to fly low and slowly make them difficult to detect and track. The air defense focus on the UAV threat is increasing for several reasons. First, UAV technology is readily available to many countries.

Second, countries can procure them in large numbers. This is because UAV systems cost less than alternate systems with similar capabilities. Third, UAV systems are versatile and can perform multiple missions for the operational commander. UAVs can accomplish RISTA, attack, and deception or electronic attack missions. Fourth, UAV operators require much less training than pilots of manned aircraft, and a UAV's use does not place a pilot's life at risk. This is particularly important in cross-FLOT operations.


RISTA UAV technological advancements will allow basing of RISTA UAVs to support the tactical and operational commanders. They can satisfy many of the commander's real-time collection requirements. UAVs give the enemy commander the ability to look over the next hill and see the adversary like few other intelligence collection systems. This can be done without risk to human life or high-value assets. Their varying operational altitudes and small size make them difficult to acquire and target. Information collected, if data linked to a fire control capability, can be used to conduct deep strikes by using long-range artillery and TBMs. UAVs are readily deployable and can effectively support the lowest levels of command. Properly employed, UAVs can pose a critical threat to US forces throughout the theater of operations.

Flight profiles for UAVs collecting information for RISTA purposes vary according to the mission. For example, surveillance missions require that the UAV remain on station for extended periods that require the use of figure eight or racetrack flight profiles. Deep reconnaissance and battle damage assessment missions require coverage over a specific area beyond the forward area. A jinking flight path is usually flown for this mission. Operators can modify the flight paths at their discretion.


Threat forces may use attack UAVs to fulfill many important tactical requirements. They can provide the threat commander the ability to conduct deep penetration and accurate attacks against well-defended targets without placing a pilot and a more expensive aircraft at risk. These systems are very survivable. Their small size, construction, and methods of propulsion all work together to make them difficult to detect and engage. Besides their ability to rapidly deploy, their low production, operations, and maintenance costs make them ideal for many nations. Attack UAVs are efficient, low-cost systems that can provide any nation with a cheap, state-of-the-art attack air force.

Several nations are developing and fielding antiradiation UAVs with the primary mission of attacking battlefield emitters. These platforms have many launch options and are usually fire-and-forget systems. Although they can perform many other missions, a primary function will be to attack enemy radars. Other UAV attack systems under development are infrared attack systems designed to kill vehicles and systems to replace attack aircraft for close air support or interdiction.

Attack UAVs fly at different altitudes and profiles according to the mission. They usually fly a straight path until they get to the target area. Then they will go into a programmable search or loiter mode to look for targets. Once the UAV detects the target, it will go into a terminal dive to destroy it. However, the UAV could use a reconnaissance flight path as a deception technique.


Deception UAVs have proven their worth and utility in combat. These UAVs can simulate combat formations and lure surface-to-air missiles away from attacking aircraft. Glider decoys can also trick air defense units into revealing their positions, making radars easy targets for air or antiradiation missile attacks. The ability to use decoy UAVs in support of aircraft and missile attack is becoming an attractive option for many threat commanders. The emergence of low observable technologies and advances in sensor, system control, and dispenser technology all contribute to the trend toward greater use of decoy-based countermeasures.

Another option for the operational use of UAVs is as electronic attack jammers. Some countries have produced communications jammer payloads for their UAVs. These electronic attack jammers combine the benefits of aerial electronic attack operations with the low cost and high survivability of UAVs.


Operation Desert Storm offers important lessons for both the US and potential adversaries. The dismal performance of Iraqi-manned aircraft in the face of US and coalition airpower, combined with the successful use of tactical ballistic missiles and land-attack cruise missiles mark a major shift in the nature of future air threats to US operatins. Theater missiles, in the form of tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and tactical air-to-surface missiles have become the major threats to US forces during all phases of force-projection operations.


Cruise missiles are unmanned, powered, typically self-guided vehicles that fly at one or more predetermined constant (cruise) altitudes and carry a lethal payload. Cruise missiles present a formidable challenge to the air defender. They may be ground-, ship-, or air-launched; fly at low attitudes and provide high accuracy at long range. Their small radar cross-section and low infrared signature make them difficult to acquire and track. These attributes can provide the threat commander with more options to vary launch locations.

Cruise missiles come in a wide assortment of sizes and shapes with ranges varying from 50 to over 2,500 kilometers. To date, the shorter range antiship variants have proliferated extensively. Several countries are now developing land attack cruise missiles that employ new guidance technologies such as imaging infrared, millimeter wavelength, and global positioning satellite. Future development of cruise missile technology will increase ranges, improve accuracy, and make them less expensive and more attractive to developing countries. These systems would most likely be used in a ground role against high-payoff, fixed, strategic, and theater targets.


Tactical air-to-surface missiles (TASMs) are closely related to cruise missiles. They are air-launched, and usually have a range of less than 150 kilometers. They employ command to line-of-sight, semiactive laser, electro-optical, and antiradiation homing seeker options. Because of their high speed and low radar cross-section, they also will be difficult to detect, track, and engage.

The antiradiation missile (ARM) TASM poses a significant threat to the air defender as an ARM can attack a radar from beyond the lethal range of the ADA system. ARMs are especially lethal when employed with decoy UAVs used to activate radars under attack.

Aircraft delivering laser type TASMs are particularly vulnerable because these missiles are very short-range, and the launch aircraft must continue its dive toward the target until missile impact. The electro-optically guided systems provide better aircraft survivability because this type of missile possesses significantly greater range, and consequently provides a greater standoff capability to the launch aircraft. The use of any of the TASMs requires some degree of air superiority of the airspace over the battlefield.


The Persian Gulf War brought home the threat of missile proliferation with the use, by Iraq, of ballistic missiles. These systems forced the theater commander to dedicate considerable resources to counter this threat. High costs associated with fixed-wing aircraft and high-attrition rates against Western air forces make acquisition of ballistic missiles highly attractive to potential threat countries. By targeting population centers and using unconventional payloads, missiles can inflict unacceptable levels of damage on friendly countries. Ballistic missiles can be used as first strike assets or for retaliatory attack. Their speed of delivery and versatility of launch make them suitable weapons for surprise attacks. In addition, the expanding use of submunition warheads and intentional or unintentional penetration aids make them difficult targets for antiballistic missile systems to counter.

The primary motivations for a country to acquire ballistic missile technology are to change the regional balance of power and to increase the prestige of the country's armed forces. Development of ballistic missiles is an indicator of technological advancement of a nation's military industry. Acquisition of even a few missiles with mass destruction payloads commands the recognition of other countries in world affairs. The capability to inflict massive damage on neighboring countries could lead to regional instability, even if the intention to initiate conflict is absent.


Strategic ballistic missiles are intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). These weapon systems represent a threat to the continental US.

Despite the end of the cold war, there still exists the threat of accidental, unauthorized, or limited strategic strikes against the United States. These systems may carry a multitude of warheads: nuclear, biological, chemical (NBC); high explosive (HE), or submunitions. They can employ a variety of penetration aids, and their long ranges make them difficult to defeat.

Currently, the only producers of ICBMs are the United States, Russia, and China. Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan still have an ICBM capability leftover after the breakup of the union. These former Soviet Union states could potentially incorporate ICBMs into their own arsenals or make them available to other nations. Fixed ICBM launch facilities are easily targetable, but hard to destroy. Once launched, ICBMs are difficult to stop. They will target strategic political, civilian, or military assets, and will most likely carry unconventional warheads.

SLBMs are currently produced by the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China. The mobility of the submarine provides the commander launch location options unavailable to ICBM forces, which makes detection difficult. Targeting priority for SLBMs will be the same as for ICBMs.


The psychological effect of tactical ballistic missiles (TBMs) was proven during Operation Desert Storm. Despite the inaccuracy of the Iraqi versions of the Scud missile, they caused the theater commander to divert limited air defense resources to defense of civilian targets in allied countries.

TBMs lack the range of ICBMs or IRBMs and the launch options of SLBMs. Yet they give many countries the ability to conduct military operations on a scale previously only engaged in by the super powers. With TBMs, countries can apply military force far beyond their national borders. These factors have caused TBMs to be the most proliferated air threat system.

The potential expansion of the battlefield by use of TBMs will compound planning and execution problems for the friendly commander. Due to the TBM's capability to hit targets far removed from the front, the commander must consider the security of widely dispersed assets. He may be hard pressed to offer adequate protection in all areas. Current enemy targeting capability limitations may not support the targeting of all mobile targets. However, fixed installations such as airfields, seaports, logistics sites, and battle command facilities are vulnerable to attack. Some threat nations can coordinate TBM attacks by conducting simultaneous, multiple launches against one or more targets. Most threat nations with TBMs also possess weapons of mass destruction. TBM development and fielding continue to produce faster, more accurate delivery systems.

TBM launchers are highly survivable, especially if used during periods of darkness or low visibility. Highly mobile launchers can move to hide positions within minutes of missile launch, making them extremely difficult to target by deep attack assets. The survivability of TBM launchers means most threat nations can sustain TBM attacks throughout the duration of US military operations in spite of joint operations to neutralize the threat.


The categories of threat aircraft include bombers, such as the Backfire; fighters, such as the Fulcrum and the Mirage III; fighter-bombers, such as the Fencer and the Flogger; ground attack fighters, such as the Frogfoot; and reconnaissance aircraft, such as the Brewer. The trend among potential threat nations is toward smaller air forces and multirole aircraft due to escalating costs of fixed-wing aircraft. Multirole aircraft, such as the improved Flanker, Mirage F-1, and F/A-18 Hornet, will eventually replace many single-mission aircraft that are currently in operation. Missions can include strategic attack, air interdiction, close air support, electronic combat, and reconnaissance.

Air defenders can expect threat fixed-wing aircraft to attack high-payoff targets, such as seaports, airports, troop concentrations, ADA units, battle command nodes, and logistics sites. They will also attack targets of opportunity.

In most of the major regional contingency operations in which US forces are likely to participate in the near future, US forces can expect to find fewer threat aircraft dedicated to support ground attack and reconnaissance operations. This does not mean that the manned fixed-wing threat is gone. The threat may be able to peak in the beginning of a conflict, especially in conjunction with a preemptive strike. The enemy probably will not maintain that level of operations very long because of US and alliance or coalition counterair operations. However, US Army forces can expect to see a few aircraft that will survive US and allied or coalition offensive counterair operations. These aircraft would then become targets for air defense artillery.


A potential adversary can use electronic warfare (EW) as we do; that is, as an essential component of command and control warfare (C2W). As part of C2, EW can be used in conjunction with the enemy's counterintelligence to protect their C2 while attacking ours. Effective use of enemy EW as a decisive element of combat power requires coordination and integration of EW operations with the enemy commander's scheme of maneuver and fire support plan. The integrated use of EW throughout the battlefield can support the synergy needed to locate, identify, damage, and possibly destroy our C2 structure.

EW is an overarching term that includes three major components: electronic attack (EA), electronic warfare support (ES), and electronic protection (EP). The following paragraphs discuss each in more detail.


Electronic attack focuses on offensive use of electromagnetic or directed energy to attack friendly combat capability. It combines nondestructive actions to degrade or neutralize, such as electromagnetic interference, electromagnetic intrusion, electromagnetic jamming, electromagnetic deception, and nondestructive directed energy, with the destructive capabilities of antiradiation missiles and directed-energy weapon systems.


Electronic warfare support focuses on surveillance of the electromagnetic spectrum that directly supports a commander's electromagnetic information needs. This, in turn, supports immediate decision making for employment of EA, EP, targeting, or other actions such as threat avoidance, targeting, or homing. The commander could be the theater commander using EW data provided by national collection resources or an ADA commander responding to a tactical ARM launch warning.


Electronic protection focuses on protection of friendly forces against enemy employment of EW and against any undesirable effects of friendly employment of EW. This includes the protection of personnel, facilities, and equipment from destructive and nondestructive effects of electromagnetic and directed-energy warfare systems.


Any nation with the will and resources can turn their legitimate nuclear, medical, and chemical industries to weapons production. This threat exists in all regions of the world, from states with long-established programs to those with emerging capabilities. Despite the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, the downfall of communism in the former Soviet Union, and extensive efforts to negotiate treaties that would reduce the number of nuclear weapons and eliminate chemical and biological weapons from military arsenals, the number of countries pursuing NBC weapons programs continues to increase.

Russia and China currently possess nuclear weapons and there are many other nations of nuclear proliferation concern. As many as 26 countries are developing, or are suspected of developing, chemical weapons.

The principal doctrine for chemical weapons use by threat nations is to maintain the momentum of an attack and to degrade their enemy's capability to fight. Chemical and biological agents can be delivered to target areas virtually anywhere in a theater of operation. Delivery means include TBMs, aircraft bombs or rockets and spray, multiple rocket launchers, mortars, conventional artillery, CMs, UAVs, and or special forces.

Nuclear weapons cause casualties and materiel damage through the effects of blast, thermal radiation, and nuclear radiation. Biological agents, consisting of pathogens and toxins, produce diseases in soldiers, thereby reducing their ability to accomplish their missions. These agents are primarily an inhalation threat. Enemy forces will employ chemical agents to expose soldiers to a respiratory and a percutaneous agent threat by attacking with nonpersistent and persistent agents. Persistent agents will also be used to contaminate personal clothing, equipment, and materiel. This will mandate the diversion of resources to decontaminate personnel and equipment.

Insurgent or terrorist groups could manufacture or acquire chemical and biological weapons to attack ADA and other high-payoff targets. Small laboratories, such as school labs, or the drug labs used for processing cocaine, can produce some chemical and biological warfare agents.

Threat nations will employ NBC weapons to incapacitate or kill personnel. In addition, unit effectiveness decreases while operating in a contaminated environment due to fear, the requirement to wear protective clothing, and the need to decontaminate personnel and equipment. ADA units throughout the theater will be high-priority targets for NBC attack. The air defense commander and staff must, therefore, train their soldiers and units for operations in an NBC environment.


Space has become the new high ground for operations. Historically, military operations have focused on controlling key pieces of terrain, usually high ground. From this key terrain, one force could observe the other. In addition, the force occupying the high ground can use heavy weapons to destroy or disrupt enemy forces operating below them. The value of such high ground becomes critical not only to a tactical battle, but to the operational and eventually the strategic level of warfighting.

The use of satellites has become a major combat multiplier for any potential threat that has access to such systems. Many countries already have well established space programs to support their military forces. Several nations have taken steps to sell or share military and civil satellite capabilities to other nations. This means that many potential threat nations will have organic space assets to support operations. They may be able to acquire intelligence information or rent satellite space to enhance operations. Satellite operations will normally support threat theater and strategic level planning and operations.


ADA units can also expect to face a significant ground threat that can influence operations. Divisional ADA units can expect to face the same levels of threat that the rest of the division will face from direct and indirect fire. However, air defenders operating in the forward area can also expect to face the enemy's attempt to deliberately suppress his operations with indirect fire in conjunction with air operations. Corps and theater air defense artillery assets, especially radars, are high-value targets for special operations forces and insurgent groups. These groups will attempt to conduct operations against air defense artillery units primarily to limit or shut down operations, or make a political statement. Characteristics of special operations forces and insurgent groups will differ from theater-to-theater or country-to-country. The air defense artillery unit commander must understand the ground force threat to the unit and tailor the plans and security to reduce the impact of this threat.


During specific phases of US operations, different air threat weapons will be used against various US echelons and targets (see the Threat Laydown illustration). This air threat employment will vary from country-to-country and by operation, driven by threat equipment, capability, organizational structure, and military-political goals. By understanding air threat proliferation and equipment, we can make assumptions on how a threat may employ air assets to interdict US operations.


During entry operations, threat forces will conduct reconnaissance operations to monitor US force buildup and conduct target planning. Usually, threat forces will use fixed-wing assets due to the distance involved to the targeted area. Threat forces may also employ UAV systems, depending upon target distance and equipment inventory and capability.

Threat forces may launch an air campaign during this phase. Their primary objectives will be to slow the flow of US personnel and equipment into the area of operations and cause enough casualties to influence US public opinion. TBMs, fixed-wing aircraft, TASMs, long-range RISTA UAVs, and cruise missiles will attack known high-value targets, such as airports, seaports, logistics sites, ADA units, utilities, and political targets.

Fixed-wing operations could peak during this phase especially if threat forces launch a preemptive strike. Although the joint forces will protect the lodgment from air attack, small numbers of fixed-wing aircraft will continue to threaten the force throughout this phase. Suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) aircraft escorting attack packages will attempt to suppress ADA units with TASMs. Whenever possible, attacking aircraft will launch TASMs before entering the engagement envelope of the ADA systems they are attacking.

Cruise missile attacks, if conducted, will be limited but very exacting. These systems will attack airports and seaports, and other fixed assets. They may employ weapons of mass destruction, but will usually conduct precision attacks against high-payoff targets using conventional munitions. TBMs will probably be the weapon system of choice during this phase. Their high survivability, range, penetration, and warhead options make them ideal during this phase of the operation. Their improving accuracy allows them to attack population centers and to close airports and seaports.

Figure 2-1. Threat Laydown


The same weapon systems that were active in the initial entry phase will also be active during expansion and buildup. Their target types will expand to include assembly areas and choke points. NBC weapons can disrupt and delay the expansion phase. Threat use of UAVs conducting RISTA operations will expand during this phase. Threat forces will be attempting to determine US intentions and use the information gathered by these sensors to interdict those operations. These RISTA missions will primarily target divisions and corps.


Threat air operations during this phase will continue as in the earlier phases and will include the use of helicopters. Helicopters will conduct air assault operations and close air support. The bulk of the threat manned and UAV air assets will operate primarily in the division and corps areas.


Most threat air assets will probably be unavailable by this phase. Further use of attack air systems will only reinitiate a decisive operations phase. Threat forces will still be interested in collecting intelligence on US forces. Any air reconnaissance assets left may continue operations during this phase.