Soviet Airforces combat tactics in the 80s

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Can someone point to sources esp english books that deal with the tactics of soviet airforces

e.g is a post by a member on another forum, is there any truth in it ?

Quote:
When it came to tactics, the Soviet concept was to try and get an unseen shooter into the conflict. They preferred the furball because they knew as was shown by the AIMVAL/ACEVAL Test, reguardless of the quality difference between one side versus the other.
In these test the F-15A beat the F-5 64-0 in 1V1. As the number of aircraft increased the kill ratio came down so by the time you get thirty-two or more aircraft on each side the F-15A had a kill ratio over the F-5 of only 2:1!! The unseen shooters were making the kills.

If you study the incident between the Libyan MiG.-23 and the USN F-14A's in January 1989, it is a very good example of Soviet tactics versus NATO style tactics of the late Cold War period.
The F-14's approached the fight in a line-abreast formation. The Libyan used the Soviet "trail" formation, in which one aircraft follows another at a different altitude. The idea was that the Western radars would detect the first aircraft but, not the second aircraft trailing.
The F-14 pilots knew the MiG.-23's could not look down into "sea clutter" well. That is why as the F-14's approached the MiG's they continued to lose altitude. By the time the two groups were twenty-seven miles apart, the F-14's were at 5,000ft and descending, the lead MiG at 9,000ft and, the trailing MiG. at 13,000ft a few miles behind his leader. The F-14's had been locked-up five times but, once at 5,000ft or lower the F-14's were not locked-up by the MiG's again.
After the FSU developed the MiG.-29 and Su-27, the desired tactic was to use MiG.-21's or 23's to engage the US aircraft. Get the Western aircraft into a furball reducing their energy then, have the MiG.-29's and/or Su-27's enter the fight at a higher energy state and prevail. To lose a MiG.-21, MiG.-23 (or two/three) for the loss of an F-14 or F-15 while greatly reducing the losses of the MiG.-29's and Su-27's is a good exchange. This would prevent the West from getting an aerial war from gaining anything better than air parity.

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In these test the F-15A beat the F-5 64-0 in 1V1. As the number of aircraft increased the kill ratio came down so by the time you get thirty-two or more aircraft on each side the F-15A had a kill ratio over the F-5 of only 2:1!! The unseen shooters were making the kills.

Surely it should be 16 F-5s versus 32 F-15s? Half of the F-5s (or MiG-21s) should have already been blown out of the sky by the F-15s' BVR weapons, Sparrow, amraam, etc?:confused:

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Can someone point to sources esp english books that deal with the tactics of soviet airforces

e.g is a post by a member on another forum, is there any truth in it ?

That is a typical biased analysis, the Soviets had MiG-31s that would had helped the MiG-23Ps , a different situation, the Libyans did not use MiG-31 to guide them, and despite they say the Libyans had MiG-23ML in that incident the pictures do not show clearly they were carrying AA-7s.
Iraq is said to have shot down F-14s too

see this video shows a MiG-23MS
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jV87-7-4EyY

The MiG-31 radar would had eliminated any shortcoming of the MiG-23 radar, by 1989 they soviets had MiG-29s and Su-27s.
The Soviets analized each aircraft in order to applied tactics, you can see that in the analysis of the MiG-23MLD in combat where they do not recommened a MiG-23MLD pilot to doghfight with F-16s and F-15s.

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Surely it should be 16 F-5s versus 32 F-15s? Half of the F-5s (or MiG-21s) should have already been blown out of the sky by the F-15s' BVR weapons, Sparrow, amraam, etc?:confused:

The AIM-120 began deployment by the end of 1991, so it wasnt available. The Sparrow BVR shot would have been countered using Floggers equiped with the AA-7 'Apex'.

Cheers

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That is a typical biased analysis, the Soviets had MiG-31s that would had helped the MiG-23Ps , a different situation, the Libyans did not use MiG-31 to guide them, and despite they say the Libyans had MiG-23ML in that incident the pictures do not show clearly they were carrying AA-7s.
Iraq is said to have shot down F-14s too

see this video shows a MiG-23MS
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jV87-7-4EyY

The MiG-31 radar would had eliminated any shortcoming of the MiG-23 radar, by 1989 they soviets had MiG-29s and Su-27s.
The Soviets analized each aircraft in order to applied tactics, you can see that in the analysis of the MiG-23MLD in combat where they do not recommened a MiG-23MLD pilot to doghfight with F-16s and F-15s.

The Mig-31 wanst available to the frontal aviation units, it was a PVO "only" bird. At least in the first phases of a shooting war there wasnt much chance of a "31" crossing paths with eagles and vipers (well, with the possible exception of the odd Norwegian flyer).

Cheers

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Well, actually, there were 15 of them in the 61st Recon Regiment at Wittenburg.

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Judging by that quote in the OP it really sounded like the Soviet strategy was basically sacrificing pilots and planes in order to take out NATO planes.

I don't know the validity of the source, but that does NOT sound like a viable option for any air to air doctrine.

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Add on the aggressive counter air role over enemy territory its a no-brainer where it leads.

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The particular appraisal in question is inappropriate to apply to Soviet tactical and strategic doctrines.
Whilst it is true Libyan pilots were trained to some extent by Soviet instructors and inherently use some elements of Soviet sourced air combat tactics, this doesn't mean it has any relevance to Soviet doctrine using Soviet-only equipment.

Authoritive sources (such as global security org) repeatedly publish the Libyan MiGs in that incident were 23MS Flogger-E which are comprehensively downgraded and effectively more like an updated MiG-21 than a Soviet or Warsaw Pact Flogger. Their line formation was probably more related to their 10-20km radar track range and the need to limit BVR vulnerability than it is to standing aerial doctrine. Also even the Soviet-only 23ML and MLD would have trouble locking up a target at 27 miles, the MS non-Soviet export version has exactly zero chance. To lock up Tomcats, flying even slightly lower altitude the Flogger-E would need to be at something like 5km and a Flogger-G would have trouble past 20km. Those early sapphire sets were analogue J-band with barely more than a simple signal interpretation projected to the HUD, vulnerable to ECM and range halved on lookdown/shootdown, the best they had at the time. The Jaybird in the Flogger-E, dude it's from the fifties, barely more than a gun ranger and not real good at that.

What is likely is that Soviet instructors provided tactics which were suited to the Libyans and other export operators, but not in practise by the VVS/PVO/AV-MF themselves.

Soviet air combat tactics are defensive, contrary to popular western thought, and designed to work within EWR networks, GCI coverage or datalinked to fleet command ships. The idea is they flock a border with everything, move ground forces forward, move up air forces.
Also yes the GCI digital-nav system was only fitted to PVO aircraft (MiG-23P version of the MiG-23ML, Su-27P as opposed to Su-27S, etc.), but Frontal Aviation still uses datalinks for the EWR network, which would work with PVO interceptor/controllers (MiG-31, Su-30) or Russian AWACS. It is true however that opening hostilities and border conflicts would rarely see PVO aircraft unless there is a strategic threat.

If the Soviets were going to actually invade NATO-style with an aerial blitzkreig, the smartest move would be using PVO controllers, like was suggested. They'd do it too, being this is a strategic objective (invading enemy nation) and thus comes under the command structure PVO, not VVS or Army.

They wouldn't do that though. They'd do it like Afghanistan. Flock the border. Move in ground forces. Bring up air.

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The particular appraisal in question is inappropriate to apply to Soviet tactical and strategic doctrines.
Whilst it is true Libyan pilots were trained to some extent by Soviet instructors and inherently use some elements of Soviet sourced air combat tactics, this doesn't mean it has any relevance to Soviet doctrine using Soviet-only equipment.

Authoritive sources (such as global security org) repeatedly publish the Libyan MiGs in that incident were 23MS Flogger-E which are comprehensively downgraded and effectively more like an updated MiG-21 than a Soviet or Warsaw Pact Flogger. Their line formation was probably more related to their 10-20km radar track range and the need to limit BVR vulnerability than it is to standing aerial doctrine. Also even the Soviet-only 23ML and MLD would have trouble locking up a target at 27 miles, the MS non-Soviet export version has exactly zero chance. To lock up Tomcats, flying even slightly lower altitude the Flogger-E would need to be at something like 5km and a Flogger-G would have trouble past 20km. Those early sapphire sets were analogue J-band with barely more than a simple signal interpretation projected to the HUD, vulnerable to ECM and range halved on lookdown/shootdown, the best they had at the time. The Jaybird in the Flogger-E, dude it's from the fifties, barely more than a gun ranger and not real good at that.

What is likely is that Soviet instructors provided tactics which were suited to the Libyans and other export operators, but not in practise by the VVS/PVO/AV-MF themselves.

Soviet air combat tactics are defensive, contrary to popular western thought, and designed to work within EWR networks, GCI coverage or datalinked to fleet command ships. The idea is they flock a border with everything, move ground forces forward, move up air forces.
Also yes the GCI digital-nav system was only fitted to PVO aircraft (MiG-23P version of the MiG-23ML, Su-27P as opposed to Su-27S, etc.), but Frontal Aviation still uses datalinks for the EWR network, which would work with PVO interceptor/controllers (MiG-31, Su-30) or Russian AWACS. It is true however that opening hostilities and border conflicts would rarely see PVO aircraft unless there is a strategic threat.

If the Soviets were going to actually invade NATO-style with an aerial blitzkreig, the smartest move would be using PVO controllers, like was suggested. They'd do it too, being this is a strategic objective (invading enemy nation) and thus comes under the command structure PVO, not VVS or Army.

They wouldn't do that though. They'd do it like Afghanistan. Flock the border. Move in ground forces. Bring up air.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjQeOER5I_8

here is the original pictures of the MiG-23 shot down that day.

I agree with your assesment

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The AIM-120 began deployment by the end of 1991, so it wasnt available. The Sparrow BVR shot would have been countered using Floggers equiped with the AA-7 'Apex'.

Cheers


aim-120 development began in the 80s.
In 1991 it was operational.

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There was no intention to win air-superiority by air-battles. The SU fighters had a limited role in their commands only. They were a support force for the deciding ground forces only. "Operational Air Concepts" define and qualify the boundaries of the "Force" required to accomplish the mission with a high propability of success.
The main task was to protect the own forces from the hostile strikers or fly escorts for the own strikers.
When Western fighters fight through the escorts the Russians used "monkey assests" to distract the escorts, when their quality assests wait in ambush avoiding needless exposure awaiting the moment to attack the strikers. That freedom of action is limited to a single task and area for the tactical airforce units. The PVO fighters were "manned" AAM carrier for hit and run attacks only.
One main problem not solved in the former WP was the use of fighters in air-space tasked for the protection by SAMs, when on the Western side that problem was limited to the two main SAM-belts only.

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If true and coming from real documents this could be very interesting, when it would disclose in which airspace the WarPac wanted to fight such battles.

Would they intend to sent large fighter forces over the FEB and fight those furballs over NATO territory, would they try to fight them over the FEB or would they anticipate to fight them over their territory.

I would rule out option 1, as the limited endurance of the MiGs and the limited GCI coverage would mean that their own fighters would be at a huge disadvantage in such battles. Especially if we believe that they need to form such attack groups, which would be detected by E-3s which would negate the element of surprise.

The other 2 options seem equally likely to me. But considering their basic tactic, which focussed on the Air Force supporting the deciding push of the ground forces, it would distract precious fighters from defending against nATO strikers and from escorting their own strikers.

Which leaves option 3. If NATO F-15s would operate over WarPac frontline troops they would keep the WarPac Air Forces from carrying out their main role according to WarPac doctrine. In that case such tactics to reduce the number of F-15s would start to make sense.

However that would mean that they would expect to loose control of the airspace over the FEB.

A clarification from the original source would be highly welcome.

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^ unfortunately I do not have the original source.Rather I would be very interested to find any books esp devoted to soviet air combat doctrine in the later cold war yrs.

The numbers clearly favor such a tactic since USSR had huge numbers of obsolete fighters and relatively small number of 4th generation fighters by 1988.

The PVO fighters were "manned" AAM carrier for hit and run attacks only.

This could be a problem for NATO strike packages, esp since a good number of PVO interceptors would be really hard to track down and kill ( like mig-25/31) even by 4th generation western fighters in the pre-AMRAAM era.

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If true and coming from real documents this could be very interesting, when it would disclose in which airspace the WarPac wanted to fight such battles.

Would they intend to sent large fighter forces over the FEB and fight those furballs over NATO territory, would they try to fight them over the FEB or would they anticipate to fight them over their territory.

I would rule out option 1, as the limited endurance of the MiGs and the limited GCI coverage would mean that their own fighters would be at a huge disadvantage in such battles. Especially if we believe that they need to form such attack groups, which would be detected by E-3s which would negate the element of surprise.

The other 2 options seem equally likely to me. But considering their basic tactic, which focussed on the Air Force supporting the deciding push of the ground forces, it would distract precious fighters from defending against nATO strikers and from escorting their own strikers.

Which leaves option 3. If NATO F-15s would operate over WarPac frontline troops they would keep the WarPac Air Forces from carrying out their main role according to WarPac doctrine. In that case such tactics to reduce the number of F-15s would start to make sense.

However that would mean that they would expect to loose control of the airspace over the FEB.

A clarification from the original source would be highly welcome.

The main task of the WP airforces was to protect the area of operations of the ground-forces. They operated in echolons and were in a constant need of pushing supplies. 2/3 of the fighters were tasked with that when just 1/3 were tasked to go after NATO ABs or support the advancing troops.
On the NATO side it was the other way around. Just 1/3 of the fighters were tasked to seal the gaps in the two main SAM-belts, when the other 2/3 were tasked with interdiction missions at first or lend some fire-power to the hard pressed ground troops.
Both sides were aware such a high density conventional war has to be decided within the first two weeks or it will escalate into an atomic one with no winner at all. From the experiences in the Middle East the WP knew that its present forces were not enough to ensure that. To start a real attack much more forces had to be send into the Central Europe TVDs, which could not be achieved unnoticed. Since the mid 80s most members had their own internal problems and the SU was distracted by Afghanistan. At the moment the 4th generation fighters entered service in numbers the WP and the SU has crumbled already. The higher commands kept from politics still planned such kind of warfare with the new weapons at hand, when that option was gone and replaced by the Vienna CFE Negotiations.

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Cold war propoganda depicted the soviet pilots as untrained robots rigidly tied to GCI which would be easy meat for maverick NATO pilots in their hot new 4th generation fighters

How much of that is fiction and how much is reality

Considering that the purpose of soviet airforces was primarly to defeat western strike planes and protect their ground forces, was the extensive of GCI for soviet fighters really such a liability ?

And to what extent did the NATO fighters rely on AWACS to increase their situational awareness ? if you are on the defensive like soviets isnt the GCI kind of like having AWACS support ?

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Cold war propoganda depicted the soviet pilots as untrained robots rigidly tied to GCI which would be easy meat for maverick NATO pilots in their hot new 4th generation fighters

How much of that is fiction and how much is reality

Considering that the purpose of soviet airforces was primarly to defeat western strike planes and protect their ground forces, was the extensive of GCI for soviet fighters really such a liability ?

And to what extent did the NATO fighters rely on AWACS to increase their situational awareness ? if you are on the defensive like soviets isnt the GCI kind of like having AWACS support ?

Propaganda exists everywhere and at any moment in History, also as you can have even in this forum people favours their personal point of view, official propaganda always will depict my side is good and the other is evil.

In my childhood i had Soviet magazines that claimed the West was the agressor, always forcing the peace loving Soviet union to follow in the arms race.

Of course now i know that is pure propaganda, but the same was in the West, the idea the West was free was even expressed in the idea the Soviets were rigid pilots that lacked even freedom of action and so on you can see that in movies like Rocky where a Soviet boxer is portraited even as a Robot however if you have ever watched a Soviet film that idea was totally made up in the west, Soviet movies had a highly idealistic philosophy that contrasted with the portrait western propagandists tried to show about the Soviet mentality.

Aircraft like the Su-30 and MiG-31 that acted as AWACs show that pilots did have a degree of freedom from ground control and pilots of Mirage IIIs and F-104 would have had the same dependance on ground control as a MiG-21.

As technology evolved dependance on ground control was released in both sides, AWACs allowed some tactical command in both sides too.

Now if you send MiG-21s or MiG-23s against F-15s it is obvious the F-15 has more freedom from ground control because it has a longer range radar, the same will be the F-14 versus the MiG-23 as your original example was, the F-14 has more freedon of action due to a longer range radar.
Aircraft like the MiG-25 were not dogfighters, so were more dependant upon ground control as they were interceptors.

Aircraft designed in the 1980s in the Soviet Union had the same degree of flexibility their western counterparts had, the MiG-29M, MiG-31M and Su-27M were basicly aircraft that offered more independance from ground control.

The MiG-31 as it acted as interceptors sweeping in groups of 4 vast areas of the Soviet Union did need some degree of flexibility as they linked the whole radar sets into a single tactical image that presented an image of the theater of operations as an AWACs had presented.

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Ooh I've been wanting to weigh in on the whole "Soviet pilots are automatons" propaganda thing for a little while. nastle asks how much of this is fiction and how much is reality, well it is all fiction but has an element of truth for both PVO and US Air National Guard regiments.

Home defence interceptors of the 50s-60s design on both sides of the Iron Curtain had evolved to a GCI datalinked nav-system (remote flight control), tied to the EWR network and control was given to the pilot within weapons range of the target. He took the controls, fired his weapons and then went back to sleep.

This is just as true for the Delta Dart/Dagger avionics and FCS in the US as it is for the P-series MiGs for use by the PVO (P-interceptor, ie. fitted with the GCI nav system).

From about 1958-75 at the height of the Cold War the big boobies of the Soviet threat was considered the Foxbat, before that the MiG-21P which are PVO interceptors and so most US fighter pilots became familiar as it turned out with the home defence interceptor flight doctrine and simply assumed this was general Soviet culture.

This is as much a cultural proxy for developing morale than it is an honest mistake. The automated nature of GCI doctrine at that time (65-80s) was also really due to technological limitations, the lack of complex digital flight computers to multitask complex fire control/weapons systems with navigation and general pilot tasks, in a single seat interceptor (for lightweight and high climb rates), the weapons system of the Foxbat and Delta series, whilst basic tech now were pretty complicated then and required full pilot attention.
The radar in a Delta Dart has its own joystick and requires the pilot to stick his face into a CRT shroud. The Foxbat requires full attention for signal control, it is very powerful and piggy-backs multiple frequencies to defeat ECM. On top of this interception vectoring is directed by the EWR and GCI networks anyway.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union there has been much more open contact with Soviet era combat pilots, and they say pretty much exactly the same thing which is true for US military pilots. There is a fairly strict OP standard and doctrine on paper, which in practise most pilots just joke about and ignore, so long as the paperwork looks good and the mission is successful nobody cares.
By all accounts Frontal Aviation pilots have always operated with just as much independence and individuality as NATO regular air forces pilots.

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Addressing kiwinopal's post, he makes a good point and there are some differences in comparative avionics between Soviet/US models particularly in the 70s which lends to a difference in operational doctrine between them.

The 70s radar set for the USSR is really the sapphire which is J-band with limited lookdown/shootdown and too easy signal overload, doppler was a new thing and it had a lot of coverage gaps. Where US radar sets were becoming the familiar x-band multimodes with high data processing capabilities.

This didn't bother the Soviets so much because the focus of the Cold War was the Balkans and East Germany, the Iron Curtain running down the middle of central Europe. In a tactical confrontation the battlefield would be here, so the Russians funded an EWR network along the border and would use the standing tactic of moving large number forces step by step like a rolling thunderstorm. I talked about this in another thread, flock the border, move in massive ground forces, bring up air. This way Frontal Aviation is always operating within an EWR network and protected by SAM coverage, the relatively low tech radar sets on individual aircraft don't matter so much because they're only being used when you actually lock a target, all the search/acquisition/tracking functions are handled by EWR datalink.

In this sense Frontal Aviation pilots must work in coordination with ground units (and Air Armies are attached directly to military district commands), but this is just the Soviet version of the NATO AWACS doctrine. Limited skirmishes aside, in major conflicts mixed groups of Eagles and Phantom/F-5/F-111/A-10 function in the combat environment under AWACS direction.

In this sense large force conflicts use similar doctrines, but the Soviet one is defensive and the US one offensive. Again individual pilot independence isn't really muted by the technological need to work in coordinated units.

Where it breaks down is in small force skirmishes or limited engagements where it would be politically unsound to move up large scale support infrastructure, and fighter/attack aircraft operate largely independently. Here is where US comparative avionics give a clear superiority, but the Russians don't work like that.
And where that hurts them is the export market, small force nations need aircraft which operate independently, without EWR or AWACS or even genuine force coordination. Here a US contemporary is just better than a Soviet one.

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aim-120 development began in the 80s.
In 1991 it was operational.

Read again what i´ve wrote.
"Deployement by the end of 1991".
The first production rounds went to test in Eglin by the end of 1988, but the IOC was in 1991 (September if i remember correctly), so that particular weapon wasnt available for a mass confrontation with the Warsaw pact.

Cheers

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Read again what i´ve wrote.
"Deployement by the end of 1991".
Cheers

Oh, sorry, you're right, I read 'began development'.