Tag Archives: EW

Winning the Invisible War: Gaining an Enduring Advantage in the EMS

The following article is adapted from a new report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), Winning the Invisible War: Gaining an Enduring U.S. Advantage in the Electromagnetic Spectrum.

By Bryan Clark, Whitney M. McNamara, and Timothy A. Walton

The explosion of mobile communications and emerging Internet of Things are turning the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) into an increasingly crowded place. The advent of 5G, which needs wide swaths of spectrum in multiple frequency ranges to achieve high data rates, will only intensify this trend and create more conflicts between commercial and government users. The challenge of spectrum management and control will be acute for militaries, which depend almost entirely on the EMS for sensing and communications.

The American military is particularly affected by a congested EMS. U.S. forces deploy the most advanced networks of sensors and precision-guided munitions, relying on them for almost all operations. Adversaries like China and Russia have exploited this dependence during the last decade by developing and fielding a comprehensive array of electronic warfare (EW) systems to contest the spectrum.

The U.S. military, however, did not address the challenge posed by its competitors and numerous assessments now argue the U.S. military is unprepared for competition or conflict in the EMS. The problem was not a lack of funding, as defense spending for EMS operations grew steadily since 2015. DoD’s EMS shortfalls arose because the additional dollars were not spent implementing a coherent strategy and instead were used to upgrade legacy systems and fill various capability gaps. Regaining EMS superiority against Chinese and Russian forces at the current pace will take one or two decades – assuming America’s adversaries do not continue to improve.

DoD should accelerate its efforts to regain an advantage in the spectrum, but likely budget constraints will preclude simply throwing more money at the problem. Instead of perpetuating the current move-countermove competition by attempting to fill every EMS capability gap, DoD can adopt a new approach to EMS operations focused on asymme­tries between U.S and opposing militaries. An EMS strategy designed to undermine enemy strengths and exploit adversary vulnerabilities may leave some capability gaps intact but could be the only way for the U.S. military to achieve EMS superiority in time to forestall opportunistic aggression by one of America’s military competitors.

Exploiting Asymmetries

The most important asymmetry between U.S. and opposing militaries is the adversary’s “home team” advantage and how it impacts EMS operations. For example, Chinese and Russian forces can exploit their proximity to likely conflicts by employing sensor techniques that rely on multiple stationary arrays such as passive radio frequency (RF) detection or geolocation and long-range high frequency radars. As an expeditionary force, the U.S. military is less able to employ these techniques and often relies on active, monostatic radars for situational awareness and defense, exposing U.S. units to enemy detection and geolocation.

Their home team advantage also allows China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the Russian Armed Forces to place EW and sensor systems on their own territory, where they can rely on wired communications, or in nearby sea or airspace, where line-of-sight RF communications can be reliable and difficult to jam. The relatively uncluttered spectrum near their territory also permits Chinese and Russian militaries to pre-plan their spectrum use. As an expeditionary force, the U.S. military must manage spectrum dynamically.

The proximity of U.S. competitors to likely areas of conflict creates additional asymmetries in force design and command and control (C2) between U.S. and competing militaries. For example, because the PLA understands where conflict is likely to occur, the Chinese forces to be employed, and the likely variety of enemy dispositions and tactics, the PLA can employ pre-architected systems of systems and tactics. This approach, which Chinese military strategists call System Destruction Warfare, prioritizes attacks on perceived enemy vulnerabilities, such as U.S. forces’ dependence on the EMS. Although it also uses pre-architected systems and focuses contesting adversary information operations, the Russian military’s C2 approach delegates subordinates more authority to improvise tactics. Similar to PLA leaders, however, Russian commanders are expected to use modeling and cybernetics to scientifically lead forces and antici­pate combat outcomes.

The worldwide commitments of the U.S. military require a more expeditionary and self-contained force design than those needed by Chinese or Russia forces. Today, U.S. forces center on large multimission platforms and troop formations, which are efficient but constrain the force’s flexibility. U.S. forces also need a more adaptable C2 process than the Chinese or Russian militaries to accommodate more contested communications, changing force packages, and the variety of local conditions. The U.S. military employs “mission command” to rely on a junior leader’s judgment and ability to follow the commander’s intent if communications are lost. A lack of planning and management tools available to junior commanders currently hinders their ability to innovate, however, making their actions more predictable to an adversary.  

A Return to Maneuver Warfare

To regain EMS superiority, DoD should focus on exploiting asymme­tries in ways that could undermine adversary strengths or exploit enemy vulnerabilities. Most prominently, the home team advantage of U.S. adversaries could be turned into a weakness if DoD adopts new warfighting approaches that emphasize maneuver and complexity. For instance, the PLA’s reliance on pre-planned, static systems of systems and tactics could be a disadvantage against highly dynamic and unpredictable U.S. force postures and capabilities. Furthermore, complex U.S. operations in the EMS could be especially effective against Chinese and Russian operational concepts that center on defeating U.S. C2, communications, and sensors.

To fully exploit the potential of maneuver warfare, the U.S. military should replace some of its self-contained multimission units that result in highly predictable force packages and tactics with cheaper and less multifunctional units to create a disaggregated and recomposable force. This would enable greater adaptability in U.S. force packages while imposing considerable complexity on adversaries. A disaggregated force would better enable the U.S. military to conduct EMS operations that would be challenging for an enemy to detect and counter, including passive and multistatic sensing, distributed EW, and decoy operations.

A disaggregated force will be difficult to manage, however, in a contested communications environment. Instead of DoD’s current trend toward centralized staffs and resilient wide-area communications for distributed operations, the U.S. military should address this challenge by adopting context-centric C2 and communications (C3). In this approach, C2 relationships are based on communications availability, rather trying to build a communications architecture to support a pre-determined C2 hierarchy. An essential element of context-centric C3 is planning tools that enable junior leaders at to creatively plan, adapt, and recompose their forces and operations. These tools are already being developed and fielded by DoD labs and industry.

U.S. forces will also need to dramatically change how they operate in the EMS to impose complexity and uncertainty on an adversary. Most importantly, the U.S. military’s over-reliance on active monostatic radars can enable adversaries to understand U.S. dispositions and tactics because radars can be detected, classified, and geolocated relatively easily. To more fully support maneuver and adaptability, U.S. forces should use more passive or multistatic sensing, complemented by LPI/LPD communications and electronic countermeasures.

To support passive and multistatic sensing, every U.S. EMS system should also incorporate passive RF detection, or electronic support (ES), functionality. ES capabilities would also help achieve LPI/LPD characteristics by monitoring friendly emissions; improve the effectiveness of EW actions by sensing adversary EMS actions; and enable coordination of EMS operations with minimal communications by detecting EMS operations of collaborating units. Introducing multifunction EMS systems to U.S. forces that can communicate, sense, jam, and decoy, would increase the variety of locations from which sensing or effects be delivered and provide greater adaptability to U.S. forces.

Fully exploiting networked and multifunction capabilities to operate at machine speed will require operators to yield some deci­sion-making to the EMSO system. Today, adaptive algorithms that can react to adversary actions are reaching EW systems in operating forces. These programs should be accelerated, along with efforts to establish testing processes and data governance procedures for future cognitive EMS systems. The most significant impediments to networked EMSO and EMBM are creating interoperable data transmission standards and the varied security levels at which different EMSO systems operate.

EMS maneuver and superiority only have meaning if DoD treats the EMS as an operational domain. Today’s approach to EMS operations treats the EMS as a utility, in which actions such as electronic attack (EA), ES, electronic protection (EP), communications, and sensing are distinct operations. In a domain construct, these actions would be considered as interrelated operations that can be employed in concert to accomplish the commander’s intent and tasking through maneuver in the EMS.

Implementing a New EMS strategy

A more disaggregated and recomposable force has significant impli­cations for how DoD identifies and develops new capabilities. For example, requirements will be harder to determine if the configuration of force packages is not known in advance. Therefore, DoD could adopt an opportunity-based, rather than requirements-based, approach to capability development. New systems would be assessed based on their ability to improve mission outcomes in a range of scenarios and force packages, rather than engineering a point solution based on assumptions regarding future forces and operations. DoD’s new Middle Tier Acquisition Process reflects this approach.   

One tool for assessing the potential benefits of new technologies or systems is experimentation. DoD’s EMS training ranges are unable to provide realistic modern operational environments, but operational security concerns would prevent U.S. forces from recouping the significant investment needed to upgrading live open-air facilities. DoD should shift its emphasis for EMS operations training to virtual and constructive facilities, which would enable concept development, tactics innovation, and training against the most challenging threats at all security levels. Live EMS training to practice safe operations could focus on less-modern threats or employ closed-loop radar, communication, and EW systems.

An Imperative to Change 

DoD cannot continue attempting to gain EMS superiority by incrementally filling capability gaps. This approach is too unfocused, will take too long to reach fruition, is potentially unaffordable, and cedes the initiative to America’s great power competitors. Instead of reacting to adversary moves with its own countermoves, DoD should move in a new direction and focus EW and EMSO capability development on implementing concepts for maneuver warfare that create adaptability for U.S. forces and complexity for adversaries.

If the DoD does not mount a new more strategic and proactive approach to fighting in the EMS and developing the requisite capabilities, adversaries could be emboldened to continue their efforts to gain territory and influence at the expense of U.S. allies and partners. Demonstrating the ability to survive and fight in a contested EMS could help U.S. forces slow Chinese and Russian activities and deter or dissuade these adversaries from more aggressive approaches to their objectives.

Bryan Clark is a Senior Fellow at CSBA.

Timothy Walton is a Research Fellow at CSBA.

Whitney M. McNamara is a Senior Analyst at CSBA.

Featured Image: PHILIPPINE SEA (Nov. 13, 2019) Lt. j. g. Louis Wohletz, from Minneapolis, center, is observed by Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force officers as he stands watch as a surface warfare coordinator during a maritime strike operation exercise in the combat information center of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) during Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX) 19. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

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.