In the recent war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the devastating use of drones highlights the evolution of modern aerial threats such as drones in recent years.
For the US military, this is a special problem. After the Cold War, the U.S. military reduced its air defense arsenal and is now trying to rebuild it in response to emerging threats.
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The recent six-week war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the disputed Karabakh region killed nearly 6,000 soldiers and civilians on both sides and destroyed hundreds of military equipment.
The Azeri drone caused most of the damage. Hours of drone footage showed devastating precision strikes on Armenian targets and reignited debate about the future of tanks.
The US military is not part of the conflict, but it reminds the unit of an inconvenient fact that the unit has known for at least a decade: its severe lack of air defense (AA) defense capabilities.
Air defense arsenal
The disintegration of the Soviet Union weakened the prospect of great power wars. Due to the lack of serious air threats, the Army got rid of many air defense forces and transferred its resources to other locations.
As a result, its air defense arsenal, especially ground air defense platforms such as the Short Range Air Defense (SHORAD) system, is now much smaller.
Between 1991 and 1998, the Army’s three main ground air defense systems MIM-23 Hawk, MIM-72 Chaparral and M163 VADS were decommissioned. From 2004 to 2018, the US Army reduced the number of SHORAD battalions from 26 to 9.
In 2004, the last armored air defense system M6 Linebacker was eliminated. Today, the Army’s only air defense system is the shoulder-mounted Stinger portable air defense (MANPAD) system, the AN/TWQ-1 Avenger, MIM-104 Patriot, and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system.
Stinger and Avenger-The Avenger is just a wheeled launch system with eight stingers-designed to engage with aircraft up to 10,000 feet tall. The Patriot and THAAD are designed to intercept Patriot aircraft and missiles up to 73,000 feet, and THAAD up to 93 miles.
The threat of faster and cheaper
The mission of the U.S. Air Force fighters is to eliminate threats that the system cannot strike, especially other enemy fighters and bombers. They have performed well against inferior air forces in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yugoslavia, but the threat is changing.
“In general, our ability to fight enemy aircraft is very good.” Senior adviser to the Center for Strategic and International Studies and former Marine Corps Colonel Mark Cancian told insiders.
However, the biggest air threat in the future is not enemy bombers. Kansian said: “The two biggest are drones and cruise missiles.” He added that there are “very real concerns” about these threats.
In January, Iran launched a dozen cruise missiles at two Iraqi bases that house American personnel. None of the missiles was shot down or intercepted, and the impact caused more than 100 soldiers to suffer mild head injuries.
That was one of several missile and unmanned attacks in the Middle East in recent years.
UAVs and cruise missiles are smaller, cheaper and operate at lower altitudes than jets, which makes it easier for opponents to use them in large numbers. They can also be very fast, especially cruise missiles, which makes intercepting them with Air Force fighter jets not only difficult, but also economically unsustainable.
Like the Air Force, the Army is unwilling to use more advanced anti-aircraft weapons against such small, inexpensive and often difficult-to-reach targets. Army officials said that using the $3 million Patriot missile for drones worth several hundred dollars is not a “good economic exchange rate.”
“The problem with drones is that they are often cheap,” Kansian said. “There is no point in launching a $100,000 missile with a $1,000 drone.” “You really need other things.”
Although the United States has been reducing the level of its ground-based air defense defense, its competitors have been investing heavily, mainly due to the United States’ superiority in air power.
In addition to large systems such as S-300 and S-400, Russia also has many tracked and wheeled AA platforms-the most famous are the Buk and Tor missile systems, 2K22 Tunguska and Pantsir S-1. In addition to missiles, Tunguska and Pantsir both have 30mm automatic cannons that can hit low-flying targets. Together, these systems constitute a layered defense.
Russia is also developing a new AA artillery system, the Derivatsiya-PVO. The system is designed for shooting down UAVs and cruise missiles and is equipped with a 57mm main gun capable of launching ammunition that can explode in flight.
Russia claims that after its air defense system suffered its first attack in 2018, it has repelled dozens of drone attacks on its Syrian base this year. Russia’s air defense system does not always defeat UAVs and missiles, but Moscow’s continued investment in its systems has advantages.
China also has many ground-based air defense defense systems, the most notable being the HQ-9 medium and long-range air defense system, and the Type 95 and Type 09 self-propelled air defense artillery systems.
This is not to say that the US Army has not addressed the so-called “modern missile gap.” In fact, the situation is quite the opposite.
The Army’s asymmetric warfare team began to develop anti-UAV training, technology and tactics to deal with ISIS’s use of small drones. After the AWG is deactivated, air defense and missile defense are the Army’s top priorities in 2020 and are expected to Keep so for the next four years.
The Army has begun to deploy a new temporary system IM-SHORAD Stryker to meet its immediate air defense needs. The Indirect Fire Fighting Capability (IFPC) system equipped with the latest AIM-9X Sidewinder missile is also expected to be put into use in the next few years. Soldiers in Texas are testing the Israeli Iron Dome system developed with American technology as a temporary cruise missile defense system.
The Army is also looking for long-term solutions, such as railguns, directed energy weapons and jamming technology. These will take longer to develop and deploy, but it is clear that the Army is prioritizing air defense and missile defense and intends to respond to future air threats through various systems.
“This is not a single technology or a single set of technologies to be applied.” Cancun said. “This will be a series of technologies.”
These systems will have to work together to prevent what the Army sees from coming.
The Army’s highest officer, Gen. James McConville, told members of Congress in March: “The Army’s goal is layered defense.” “We want to be able to associate every sensor with the shooter.”
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