Tag Archives: EW

Deception and the Backfire Bomber: Part Four

The following article is part of our cross-posting partnership with Information Dissemination’s Jon Solomon. It is republished here with the author’s permission. Read it in its original form here.

Read part one, part two, and part three of this series. 

By Jon Solomon

Ingredients of Counter-Deception

How could a U.S. Navy battle force then—or now—avoid defeats at the hands of a highly capable adversary’s deceptions? The first necessary ingredient is distributing multi-phenomenology sensors in a defense’s outer layers. Continuing with the battleforce air defense example, many F-14s were equipped during the 1980s with the AN/AXX-1 Television Camera System (TCS), which enabled daytime visual classification of air contacts from a distance. The Navy’s F-14D inventory later received the AN/AAS-42 Infrared Search and Track system to provide a nighttime standoff-range classification capability that complemented AN/AXX-1. Cued by an AEW aircraft or an Aegis surface combatant, F-14s equipped with these sensors could silently examine bomber-sized radar contacts from 40-60 miles away as meteorologically possible. As it would be virtually impossible for a targeted aircraft to know it was being remotely observed unless it was supported by AEW of its own, and as the targeted aircraft’s only means for visually obscuring itself was to take advantage of weather phenomena as available, F-14s used in this outer layer visual identification role could help determine whether inbound radar contacts were decoys or actual aircraft. If the latter, the sensors could also help the F-14 crews determine whether the foe was carrying ordnance on external hardpoints. This information could then be used by a carrier group’s Air Warfare Commander to decide where and how to employ available CAP resources.

It follows that future U.S. Navy outer layer air defenses would benefit greatly from having aircraft equipped with these kinds of sensors distributed to cover likely threat axes at extended ranges from a battle force’s warships. Such aircraft could report their findings to their tactical controllers using highly-directional line-of-sight communications pathways in order to prevent disclosure of the battle force’s location and disposition. Given that the future air threat will not only include maritime bombers but also strike fighters and small unmanned aircraft, it would be enormously useful if each manned aircraft performing the outer layer visual identification role could also control multiple unmanned aircraft in order to extend their collective sensing reach as well as covered volume. This way, the outer layer would be able to investigate widely-dispersed aircraft approaching on multiple axes well before the latter’s sensors and weapons could be employed against the battle force. The same physics that would allow the U.S. Navy to disrupt or exploit an adversary’s multi-phenomenology maritime surveillance and reconnaissance sensors could be wielded by the adversary against a U.S. Navy battleforce’s outer layer sensors, however, so the side that found a way to scout effectively first would likely be the one to attack effectively first.

A purely sensor-centric solution, though, is not enough. Recall Tokarev’s comment about making actual attack groups seem to be “easily recognizable decoys.” This could be implemented in many ways, one of which might be to launch readily-discriminated decoys towards a defended battle force from one axis while vectoring a demonstration group to approach from another axis. Upon identifying the decoys, a defender might orient the bulk of his available fighters to confront the demonstration group. This would be a fatal mistake, though, if the main attack group was actually approaching on the first axis from some distance behind the decoys. If there was enough spatial and temporal separation between the two axes, and if fighter resources were firmly committed towards the demonstration group at the time it became apparent that the actual attack would come from the first axis, it might not be possible for the fighters to do much about it. An attacker might alternatively use advanced EW technologies to make the main attack group appear to be decoys, especially when meteorological conditions prevented the CAP’s effective use of electro-optical or infrared sensors.

This leads to the second necessary ingredient: conditioning crews psychologically and tactically for the possibility of deception. During peacetime, tactical competence is often viewed as a ‘checklist’ skill set in that crews are expected to quickly execute various immediate actions by rote when they encounter certain tactical stimuli. There’s something to be said for standardized immediate actions, as some simply must be performed instinctively if a unit or group is to avoid taking a hit. Examples of this include setting General Quarters, adjusting a combat system’s configuration and authorized automaticity, launching alert aircraft, making quick situation reports to other units or higher command echelons, and employing evasive maneuvers or certain EW countermeasures. Yet, some discretion may be necessary lest a unit salvo too many defensive missiles against decoys or be enticed to prematurely reveal its location to an attacker. The line separating a fatal delay to act from a delayed yet effective action varies from circumstance to circumstance. A human’s ability to avoid the former is an art built upon his or her deep foundational understanding of naval science and the conditioning effects of regular, intense training. Only through routine exposure to the chaos of combat through training, and only when that training includes the simulated adversary’s use of deception, can crews gradually mentally harden themselves against the disorienting ambiguity or shock that would result from an actual adversary’s use of deception. Likewise, only from experience gained through realistic training can these crews develop tactics that help them and other friendly forces reduce their likelihoods of succumbing to deception, or otherwise increase the possibilities that even if they initially are deceived they can quickly mitigate the effects.

It follows that our third ingredient is possessing deep defensive ordnance inventories. A battle force needs to have enough ordnance available—and properly positioned—so that it can fall for a deception and still have some chance at recovering. It is important to point out this ordnance does not just include guns and missiles, but also EW systems and techniques. During the Cold War, a battle force’s defensive reserves consisted of alert fighters waiting on carrier decks to augment the CAP as well as surface combatants’ own interceptor missiles and EW systems. These might be augmented in the future by high-energy lasers used as warship point defense weapon systems, though it is too early to say whether their main ‘kill’ mechanism would be causing an inbound threat’s structural failure or neutralizing its terminal homing sensors. If effective, lasers would be particularly useful for defense against unmanned aircraft swarms or perhaps anti-ship missile types that trade away advanced capabilities for sheer numbers. Regardless of its available defensive ordnance reserves, a battle force’s ability to receive defensive support from other battle forces or even land-based Joint or Combined forces can also be quite helpful.

The final ingredients for countering an adversary’s deception efforts are embracing tactical flexibility and seizing the tactical initiative. Using Tokarev’s observations as an example, this can be as simple as constantly changing CAP and AEW cycle duration, refueling periods, station positions, and tactical behaviors. A would-be deceiver needs to understand his target’s doctrine and tactics in order to create a ‘story’ that meshes with the latter’s predispositions while exploiting available vulnerabilities. By increasing the prospective deceiver’s uncertainty regarding what kinds of story elements are necessary to achieve the desired effects, or where vulnerabilities lie that are likely to be available at the time of the planned tactical action, it becomes less likely that a deception attempt will be ‘complete’ enough to work as intended. A more aggressive defensive measure might be to use offensive counter-air sweeps well ahead of a battle force to locate and neutralize the adversary’s scouts and inbound raiders, much as what was envisioned by the U.S. Navy’s 1980s Outer Air Battle concept. The method offering the greatest potential payoff, and not coincidentally the hardest to orchestrate, would be to entice the adversary to waste precious ordnance against a decoy group or expose his raiders to ambush by friendly fighters. All of these concepts force the adversary to react, with the latter two stealing the tactical initiative—and the first effective blow in a battle—from the adversary.

In the series finale, we will address some concluding thoughts. 

Read the series finale here.

Jon Solomon is a Senior Systems and Technology Analyst at Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. in Alexandria, VA. He can be reached at jfsolo107@gmail.com. The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity on his own initiative. They do not reflect the official positions of Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. and to the author’s knowledge do not reflect the policies or positions of the U.S. Department of Defense, any U.S. armed service, or any other U.S. Government agency. These views have not been coordinated with, and are not offered in the interest of, Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. or any of its customers.

Deception and the Backfire Bomber: Part Three

The following article is part of our cross-posting partnership with Information Dissemination’s Jon Solomon. It is republished here with the author’s permission. It can be read it in its original form here.

Read part one and part two of this series. 

By Jon Solomon

The Great Equalizer: Backfire Raiders’ Own Use of Deception

The key to improving a Soviet maritime bomber raid’s odds of success appears to have been its own use of EW and tactical deception. Tokarev observes that SNAF doctrine developers closely monitored U.S. Navy carriers’ Combat Air Patrol (CAP) tactics and operational patterns, with particular interest on patrol cycle durations and aerial refueling periods, to identify possible windows of vulnerability that could be exploited in a large-scale attack (Tokarev, Pg. 69). He further observes that SNAF doctrine developers concluded U.S. Navy CAP crews were “quite dependent” upon direction by tactical controllers embarked in area air defense-capable surface combatants or E-2 Hawkeye Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft. This meant

“…the task of the attackers could be boiled down to finding a way to fool those officers—either to overload their sensors or, to some degree, relax their sense of danger by posing what were to their minds easily recognizable decoys, which were in reality full, combat-ready strikes. By doing so the planners expected to slow the reactions of the whole air-defense system, directly producing the “golden time” needed to launch the missiles.” (Tokarev, Pg 75)

In practice, this entailed extensive use of chaff to clutter and confuse the E-2s’ and surface combatants’ radar pictures, not to mention to create ‘corridors’ for shielding inbound raiders from radar detection. This probably also involved using elements of the sacrificial reconnaissance-attack group mentioned earlier to draw attention away from the other penetrating pathfinders. Most interestingly, Tokarev mentions that the raid’s main attack group included a “demonstration group.” When combined with his statement that only seventy to eighty of the bombers in an air division-strength raid would be carrying missiles, this suggests some of the bombers might have been specifically intended to attract their opponent’s attention and then withdraw from contact—the very definition of a deceptive demonstration (Tokarev, Pg 73, 77). As a Backfire raid would be conducted from perhaps two or three attack axes, a demonstration group could hypothetically cause a significant portion of available CAP resources—not to mention the carrier group’s overall tactical attention—to be focused towards one sector while the main attack would actually come from other sectors. Any missiles launched by the CAP against the demonstration group (or the reconnaissance-attack group for that matter) would obviously no longer be available when the main attack group arrived on scene. In this way, enough of the main group might survive long enough to actually launch their missiles, and maybe longer still to escape homeward.

The reconnaissance-attack and demonstration groups might also have been used to induce the carrier group to break out of restrictive EMCON and thereby help clarify the situational picture for the rest of the bombers. Enticing warships to light off their air search radars—and for the pre-Aegis combatants, missile-directing radars—would have provided some high confidence indications of which contacts were surface combatants and which were not. A similar effect might result if the Soviet tactics resulted in U.S. and NATO warships ceasing radio-silence as the carrier group oriented itself to defend against the perceived inbound threat. Still, as the carrier and any carrier-simulating decoy ships present might refrain from radiating telltale radars or engaging in telltale radio communications even under these conditions, the raid’s deceptions would not necessarily help pinpoint the carrier. They would, though, reduce the number of contacts requiring direct visual identification by pathfinders—perhaps dramatically. They would also likely help the raid’s air defense suppression group designate targets for jamming or anti-radar missile attack.

None of this should be surprising to those who have read Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising. The novel’s famous first battle at sea begins with a Badger group lobbing target drones towards a NATO carrier task force from far outside the latter’s AEW radar coverage. Equipped with ‘radar blip enhancers’ that allow them to simulate bombers, the drones present themselves using a formation and flight profile that easily convinces the task force’s air defenses they are facing an actual raid. The resultant ruse fools the task force’s F-14 fighters into wasting their AIM-54 Phoenix long-range air-to-air missiles against these decoys, essentially denuding the task force of its outer defensive layer. This is readily exploited by a Backfire group approaching from a different axis, with disastrous consequences for the task force’s warships.

Nor should any of this be surprising to students of the first Gulf War. While U.S. Air Force F-117’s were rightly heralded as having penetrated all the way to Baghdad with impunity on Operation Desert Storm’s opening night, their ease in doing so was paved by a joint U.S. Air Force and Navy deception titled SCATHE MEAN. In this little-known mission that closely emulated Clancy’s fictional scenario, the two services launched BQM-74 target drones and ADM-141 Tactical Air Launched Decoys to distract Iraqi Very High Frequency surveillance radar operators from detecting the inbound F-117s, seduce the Iraqis into expending precious Surface to Air Missiles against the bait, and induce these SAM sites into exposing their search and fire control radars to U.S. anti-radar missile attacks.

In Part Four, the ingredients for countering such deceptions.

Jon Solomon is a Senior Systems and Technology Analyst at Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. in Alexandria, VA. He can be reached at jfsolo107@gmail.com. The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity on his own initiative. They do not reflect the official positions of Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. and to the author’s knowledge do not reflect the policies or positions of the U.S. Department of Defense, any U.S. armed service, or any other U.S. Government agency. These views have not been coordinated with, and are not offered in the interest of, Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. or any of its customers.

Deception and the Backfire Bomber: Part Two

The following article is part of our cross-posting partnership with Information Dissemination‘s Jon Solomon. It is republished here with the author’s permission. It can be read it in its original form here.

Read part one of this series here.

By Jon Solomon

Was U.S. Navy Tactical Deception Effective?

Since Backfire needed pathfinder support, the U.S. Navy’s key to disrupting if not decapitating a raid by the former was to defeat the latter. As part of my thesis research, I came across much circumstantial evidence that the U.S. Navy’s combination of strict Emission Control (EMCON) discipline, decentralized command and control doctrine, occasional use of lower campaign-value warships to simulate high campaign-value warships, and perhaps even occasional use of electronic jamming gave SOSS controllers and Soviet reconnaissance assets fits during real-world operations. Still, I did not come across any authoritative Russian perspectives on whether or how these U.S. Navy counter-targeting efforts affected Soviet doctrine, tactics, or confidence. That’s what makes the following comment from Tokarev so interesting:

“Moreover, knowing the position of the carrier task force is not the same as knowing the position of the carrier itself. There were at least two cases when in the center of the formation there was, instead of the carrier, a large fleet oiler or replenishment vessel with an enhanced radar signature (making it look as large on the Backfires’ radar screens as a carrier) and a radiating tactical air navigation system. The carrier itself, contrary to routine procedures, was steaming completely alone, not even trailing the formation. To know for sure the carrier’s position, it was desirable to observe it visually.”(Tokarev, Pg. 77)

He goes on to describe a special reconnaissance-attack group of sacrificial bombers that might be detached from an inbound raid to penetrate a naval formation and visually identify the primary targets. Only with positive target designations from these pathfinders, or perhaps from TU-95RT Bear-D reconnaissance aircraft preceding the raid, could Backfire crews have any confidence the single missile they each carried was aimed at a valid and valuable target (Tokarev, Pg. 72, 77). Even then, he observes that “Contrary to widespread opinion, no considerable belief was placed in the ability of launched missiles to resist ECM efforts” (Tokarev, Pg. 75), indicating recognition that the countertargeting battle hardly ended with missile launch.

The one exception to the above contact classification and identification problems would have been a war-opening first salvo attack, in which targeting-quality cues could have been provided to Backfires or other anti-ship missile-carrying assets by any tattletale ships following a carrier closely. While noting the tattletale tactic’s high potential efficacy, Tokarev makes clear it could only be used in peacetime and would never again be possible following hostilities’ outbreak:

“Despite the existence of air reconnaissance systems such as Uspekh, satellite systems like Legenda, and other forms of intelligence and observation, the most reliable source of targeting of carriers at sea was the direct-tracking ship. Indeed, if you see a carrier in plain sight, the only problem to solve is how to radio reliably the reports and targeting data against the U.S. electronic countermeasures. Ironically, since the time lag of Soviet military communication systems compared to the NATO ones is quite clear, the old Morse wireless telegraph used by the Soviet ships was the long-established way to solve that problem. With properly trained operators, Morse keying is the only method able to resist active jamming in the HF band… But the direct tracker was definitely no more than another kind of kamikaze. It was extremely clear that if a war started, these ships would be sent to the bottom immediately. Given that, the commanding officer of each had orders to behave like a rat caught in a corner: at the moment of war declaration or when specifically ordered, after sending the carrier’s position by radio, he would shell the carrier’s flight deck with gunfire, just to break up the takeoff of prepared strikes, fresh CAP patrols, or anything else.” (Tokarev, Pg. 80)

Preventing a tattletale from maintaining track on a carrier accordingly reduced the chances for successfully striking that carrier. Additionally, since not all carriers would be operating forward at the time of the first salvo, those withheld in areas tattletales could not readily access would be more or less immune from large-scale attacks. This would leave the Backfires overwhelmingly dependent upon pathfinders in any later raid attempt.

It should be obvious that EW (and its contemporary cousin, cyber warfare) or tactical deception capabilities on their own are not going to deter an adversary from embarking upon some form of conventional aggression. The adversary’s decision to seek war will always be politically-driven, and the possibility of aggression out of desperation vice opportunism cannot be discounted. To the extent that political and military leaders’ latent psychological perceptions of their forces’ strengths and weaknesses influence their war making calculus, though, efforts to erode an opponent’s confidence in his most doctrinally important military capabilities can induce him to raise his political threshold for resorting to war. Tokarev’s observations therefore imply that Soviet commanders understood the likely cost in their crews’ lives that would be necessary just to provide a raid a chance at success, and that complicating variables such as the U.S. Navy’s demonstrated counter-targeting competencies only made the whole endeavor seem more uncertain and costly. The impact upon general deterrence, while immeasurable in any real sense, obviously was not insignificant.

In part three of the series, an examination of the deception tactics that might have been employed by Backfire raids.

Jon Solomon is a Senior Systems and Technology Analyst at Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. in Alexandria, VA. He can be reached at jfsolo107@gmail.com. The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity on his own initiative. They do not reflect the official positions of Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. and to the author’s knowledge do not reflect the policies or positions of the U.S. Department of Defense, any U.S. armed service, or any other U.S. Government agency. These views have not been coordinated with, and are not offered in the interest of, Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. or any of its customers.

Deception and the Backfire Bomber: Part One

The following article is part of our cross-posting series with Information Dissemination‘s Jon Solomon. It is republished here with the author’s permission. It can be read in its original form here.

By Jon Solomon

Last winter’s Naval War College Review contained a must-read article on the Soviet Navy’s doctrine from the 1980s for employing its TU-22M Backfire series of bombers against U.S. Navy carrier groups. In “Kamikazes: the Soviet Legacy,” former Soviet Navy officer Maksim Y. Tokarev reveals many details regarding Backfire capabilities and tactics that, to my knowledge at least, have not been previously disclosed within English-language open sources.

As part of my 2011 master’s thesis, I conducted a case study examination of how the U.S. Navy used Electronic Warfare (EW) and tactical deception to counter Soviet long-range maritime strike capabilities such as Backfire during the Cold War. I found that while a considerable amount of information is now publicly (though not necessarily widely) known about the two sides’ tactics, technologies, and real-world operational experiences from the late 1950s through mid-1970s, relatively few details regarding the competition’s late-1970s through early-1990s peak have been declassified by the U.S. or Russian governments. Tokarev’s article sheds a remarkable amount of light on the latter period from the Russian perspective. In doing so, he also underlines timeless maritime targeting challenges that technology can partially ameliorate but never fully eliminate. He additionally paints an intriguing picture of how an advanced attacker might use tactical deception in an attempt to score a lopsided win in a battle at sea. In my posts this week, I will point out the most fascinating of the new details provided by Tokarev and then examine their historical significance as well as contemporary implications.

What Kind of Reconnaissance Support did Backfire Need?

One of the key historical questions regarding Backfire involves the reconnaissance support the bombers’ crews needed to effectively employ their missiles. The earlier TU-16 Badger series of Soviet maritime bombers depended upon targeting cues provided by scout aircraft. These so-called ‘pathfinders’ penetrated an enemy’s battleforce ahead of a raid in order to locate and positively identify aircraft carriers or other high-priority target ships. This was necessary because a standoff bomber like Badger simply could not tell whether a large contact held by its onboard radar was an aircraft carrier, a surface combatant or other ship configured to simulate a carrier, an artificial decoy, or a large and perhaps neutral-flagged merchant vessel. Even if a surface contact of interest made ‘telltale’ radio frequency emissions, the vessel’s type could not be determined with high confidence because of the possibility that the emissions were deceptive. Visual-range verification of contacts’ types (if not identities) was consequently a prerequisite for the Badgers to be able to aim their missiles with confidence. Yet, because the Soviet pathfinder aircraft necessarily had to expose themselves to the entirety of a battle force’s layered defenses in order to do their jobs, they represented single-points-of-failure that could easily doom a raid if neutralized before they located, classified, and identified desired targets.

In the mid-1970s, the Soviets began launching Radar Ocean Reconnaissance and Electronic intelligence Ocean Reconnaissance Satellites (RORSAT and EORSAT) into low earth orbit. RORSAT and EORSAT were primarily intended to expand the maritime areas covered by the Soviet Ocean Surveillance System (SOSS), a networked ‘system of systems’ that fused data from a wide variety of remote sensors to locate, identify, track, and target U.S. Navy forces at sea. In theory, Soviet standoff bombers might not have needed the support of pathfinder scouts if SOSS operators were able to provide a raid with high confidence, targeting-quality tactical pictures derived from RORSAT, EORSAT, and perhaps other remote sensor sources.

Backfire made its Soviet Naval Air Force (SNAF) debut in 1976. Unlike the subsonic Badger, Backfire could make its final approach to its firing position—and then its subsequent escape attempt—at supersonic speed. The SNAF’s Backfire-C variant, which reached Initial Operational Capability in 1981, carried enough fuel to make an indirect approach against a targeted naval force operating well beyond 2000 nautical miles from the Soviet coast. Defending against a Backfire raid was therefore an order of magnitude more complicated than defending against a Badger raid. The tactical dilemma facing a U.S. Navy battleforce would have been further exacerbated—potentially decisively—if a Backfire raid received its targeting data directly from SOSS instead of from pathfinders. Some later Backfire-Cs were even equipped with a communication system that allowed them to download RORSATs’ and EORSATs’ tactical pictures as those satellites passed overhead.

From a purely technical perspective, though, it seemed quite unlikely Backfire could completely do away with reliance upon pathfinders or other visual-range scouts. As I detailed in my thesis, RORSAT suffered from the same contact classification challenges that inherently plague any radar. In fact, RORSAT’s shortcomings were even worse: its sensitivity was apparently so poor that it could only detect large ships, and even then not reliably when the area it was searching contained inclement weather. EORSAT was completely dependent upon ships complacently radiating telltale radiofrequency emissions, and as a result could not compensate for RORSAT. Lastly, as neither RORSAT nor EORSAT could report their data in ‘real time,’ their contact pictures generally suffered from tactically-significant lateness. Nevertheless, other than anecdotes from U.S. Navy veterans of the 1980s who directly observed SNAF operations when their carrier groups steamed into the “Bear’s Den,” and beyond some open source scholarly interpretations of Soviet doctrine dating to the early 1990s, until Tokarev there has been virtually no authoritatively-sourced evidence available to the public confirming or refuting Backfire’s dependence upon pathfinders.

On that note, Tokarev first relates that SNAF bomber forces:

“…always tried to use reconnaissance and targeting data provided by air assets, which was also most desired by their own command structure. Targeting data on the current position of the carrier sent by surface ships performing “direct tracking” (a ship, typically a destroyer or frigate, sailing within sight of the carrier formation to send targeting data to attack assets—what the Americans called a “tattletale”), were a secondary and less preferable source. No great trust was placed in reports from other sources (naval radio reconnaissance, satellites, etc.). Lieutenant General Sokerin, once an operational officer on the Northern Fleet NAF staff, always asked the fleet staff’s admirals just to assign him a target, not to define the time of the attack force’s departure; that could depend on many factors, such as the reliability of targeting data or the weather, that generate little attention in nonaviation naval staff work.”(Tokarev, Pg. 73)

He later amplifies this, noting that Backfire crews

“…had the targeting data that had been available at the moment of takeoff and kept the receivers of the targeting apparatus ready to get detailed targeting, either from the air reconnaissance by voice radio or from surface ships or submarines. The latter targeting came by high-frequency (HF) radio, a channel known as KTS Chayka (the Seagull short-message targeting communication system) that was usually filled with targeting data from the MRSC Uspekh (the Success maritime reconnaissance targeting system), built around the efforts of Tu-95RC reconnaissance planes. The Legenda (Legend) satellite targeting system receiver was turned on also, though not all planes had this device.” (Tokarev, Pg. 74)

These statements tell us two things. First, while Backfires could use direct satellite-based cueing, they relied heavily upon—and in fact placed greater trust in—targeting provided by scout aircraft. Second, a Backfire (or any Soviet maritime bomber) sortie depended upon raid planners being told approximately where a U.S. or NATO naval group was operating. If SOSS or any other surveillance or reconnaissance capabilities supporting this general cueing was disrupted or deceived, a raid might be dispatched to the wrong location, might be wasted against a decoy group, might be exposed to an ambush, might be held back until too late, or might never be launched at all.

We must keep in mind that launching a SNAF raid was no small undertaking. Per Tokarev, an entire air division—up to a hundred bombers—might be hurled against a single carrier’s battle group. Furthermore, doctrine called for the Soviet Northern and Pacific Fleets to be equipped with three air divisions each in order to counter multi-carrier battle groups. Tokarev also mentions that the bomber attrition rate for a single raid was expected to be as high as 50% regardless of whether or not the objective U.S. or NATO warships were successfully struck (Tokarev, Pg. 73, 78). With a finite number of bombers, missiles, and trained crews, it is reasonable to think Soviet commanders would have been somewhat hesitant to dispatch such irreplaceable forces into battle unless they had some degree of confidence in their situational picture’s accuracy; the operational-strategic penalties that would be incurred if they ‘got it wrong’ simply seem too high for this not to have been the case. Accordingly, it will be extremely interesting to someday learn the criteria that had to be satisfied for SNAF commanders to order a raid.  

In part two of the series, just how effective was U.S. Navy counter-targeting?

Jon Solomon is a Senior Systems and Technology Analyst at Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. in Alexandria, VA. He can be reached at jfsolo107@gmail.com. The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity on his own initiative. They do not reflect the official positions of Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. and to the author’s knowledge do not reflect the policies or positions of the U.S. Department of Defense, any U.S. armed service, or any other U.S. Government agency. These views have not been coordinated with, and are not offered in the interest of, Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. or any of its customers.