‘If it flies, it dies.” This is the unofficial motto of US Army antiaircraft missile crews in Western Europe. It is laudable in what it reveals about those crews’ morale and deadly purpose. But it also casts a shadow should combat come.
What it means is that US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) aircrews may find it as difficult to come home safely as to penetrate Warsaw Pact air defenses in the first place.
A USAFE F-16 gets shot up on an interdiction sortie over East Germany. Its pilot needs to get to the first friendly airfield he knows about and as fast as his crippled aircraft will take him there.
So he makes a beeline.
He has, however, a very big problem, an ironic one. While he has made it, barely, through the enemy belts of SAMs and radar-guided antiaircraft guns, looming ahead is yet another such belt – this one of I-HAWK missiles manned by US Army crews.
The F-16 contains an identification, friend or foe (IFF) system that is supposed to respond, when queried electronically by such crews, with an electronic countersign that will give the F-16 safe passage back through NATO territory. The system is not very reliable, however.
Gingerly nursing his aircraft along, the F-16 pilot knows that the only way he can be reasonably sure of identifying his aircraft as a friendly is to fly It inside a certain “safe haven” corridor at a certain altitude that will denote it as such.
The corridor is well out of his way. His aircraft could fall out from under him any minute. He has not time. The hell with it – he’ll take his change.
On the ground, near the border, and beneath his flight path are the remains of a US Army I-HAWK battery. It had been attacked by Soviet air. Its surviving crews are shook-up and very skittish. They are going to shoot at any aircraft that does not respond to their IFF query or that is on a wayward flight path – such as the one now showing up as a track on their radar – and ask questions later.
They signal the oncoming aircraft but get no response. They have less than two minutes to shoot, and they do. Finishing the job that a Soviet SAM had begun over East Germany, an American I-HAWK shoots down a US F-16.
Of all the many pressing needs of USAFE and its brother air forces and antiaircraft units in Allied Command Europe (ACE), an improved, common, electronic IFF system is probably uppermost.
Lacking it, such situations as the foregoing are almost inevitable, and many others, just as dire, can be forecast.
For example, without a sure-fire “technical” IFF system, in contrast to the often unworkable and time-consuming “procedural” system, USAFE’s and NATO’s air-superiority fighters would be sorely constrained in combat. They would not be able to use their beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missiles against aircraft because they might be friendly, even though they had not identified themselves as such.
This takes the edge off tactics built around the BVR missiles, most notably around the Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) that USAFE covets for its F-15 Eagles and for the F-16C and F-16D Fighting Falcon variants the command is destined to receive.
Absent a standard, reliable IFF system for all NATO aircraft, AMRAAMs – and even the Sparrow radar missiles now aboard USAFE air-superiority fighters – would have limited utility in clear-sky engagements and even less in combat at night or in weather.
All too often, unless radar tracks were positively identified as targets, USAFE’s fighters would lose their best advantage. They would have to hold their fire at ranges out of harm’s way for themselves and best suited for easy kills.
Nontechnical IFF methods based on airspace control require a relatively settled air scenario. This is highly unlikely in the melee that can be expected during the first day or two of an air war over Europe.
Thus, the IFF deficiency could be fatal at precisely the time when the very first order of business for USAFE and all ACE fighter forces is to establish air superiority.
“We desperately need a common IFF within NATO.” Declared Maj. Gen. William L. Kirk, USAFE’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations. “We need to be able to shoot beyond visual range, at night and in any weather, with our airplanes.”
No Airtight Solution
Shortly before he retired as USAFE Commander in Chief last August 13, Gen. Billy M. Minter told Air Force Magazine that he was “not looking for an airtight solution” to the IFF problem.
“If I have ninety percent confidence that we could positively identify eighty-five percent of the air-planes up there, that would be a very good IFF system,” General Minter declared. “We’re looking for something that will enable us to do a better job of managing airspace and give us reasonable assurance that we have air targets sorted out.”
Acknowledging his “frustration” with the drawn-out IFF dilemma, General Minter declared: “In this day and age, we ought to be able to come up with a technical solution.”
NATO is involved in an eighteen-month study of IFF that is scheduled for completion early next year. Aimed at a consensus on a common frequency for IFF, the study has involved much debate on which wave band should be used in a new “question-and-answer” NATO Identification System (NIS).
For example, the US and France favor a D-band operating frequency, the one both now use. It characterizes the US Mark XII IFF system and also a follow-on system, the Mark XV, that has been developed.
West Germany, however, prefers the E/F band, which it now uses. Along with the United Kingdom, it has criticized the US for moving ahead with design of the Mark XV before the IFF issue is resolved.
The UK also uses the E/F band and has been undecided about keeping it or switching to the D-band.
The stakes in this are high from a budgetary as well as a military standpoint. Switching to another wave band would cost any NATO nation big dollars, and the US would be hurt the most.
It has been estimated that the US would have to shell out more than $3 billion to procure and install the electronic gear for an E/F wave band IFF system in its European ground stations and in its aircraft deployed in, or destined as reinforcements for, NATO.
Susceptibility to electronic countermeasures is another important consideration in the debate. All parties agree that an E/F band system is inherently more conducive to resisting ECM. But the US claims that an improved D-band system, such as the US Mark XV, will do the trick.
NE-3A Relieves Problem
For the time being, the NE-3A AWACS aircraft in the fast-growing NATO Airborne Early Warning Force (NEAWF) provide a large measure of relief. They greatly enhance the execution of NATO’s Airspace Control Plan for “indirect” IFF, and much of their electronic and signal equipment was devised for just that purpose.
Some military leaders in Europe question, however, whether even the highly capable NE-3As would be up to the job of discriminating among the swarms of fighters in the donnybrook that is anticipated for the early days of an air war over the Continent. Their problem would be compounded by the high-density jamming environment and the MiGs they would undoubtedly encounter.
The Soviets practice jamming on a daily basis as a premier part of their air-to-air and air-to-ground fighter tactics and have become disquietingly adept at it, USAFE officers say.
Unconstrained by environmental or political considerations, Soviet combat aircrews also routinely practice firing their missiles over Warsaw Pact territory. USAFE crews cannot do this over NATO territory.
USAFE is now working out an arrangement with the Navy to launch missiles against Navy drones over the Mediterranean, but until this comes to pass, US European-based aircrews will have to continue to come back to the States for such realistic training.
USAFE officers also see signs that the Soviets – who are increasingly equipped with sophisticated combat aircraft and C3I – are moving away from hidebound, centrally controlled tactics. They are giving their units in the air more leeway to improvise in accordance with situations.
This could complicate things for USAFE, which has enough problems already.
Such problems include, to name a few, big shortfalls of air-to-air and standoff air-to-ground munitions, a dearth of storage space for all kinds of supplies, badly congested parking for reinforcing aircraft, not enough intertheater and intratheater airlift, lack of ability to fight at night, questionable survivability for air bases, and a highly restrictive ceiling on numbers of US personnel in Europe.
All such problems are being earnestly addressed, but the going is slow on many.
As General Minter put it just prior to his retirement: “Our requirements far exceed our ability to meet them all.”
Even so, USAFE, now commanded by Gen. Charles L. Donnelly, Jr., (see box on the opposite page) gets better all the time and is, f not cocky, confident of its crews and their machines.
Its F-16s, recently arrived in Germany and Spain and with many more to come to the Continent, make a big difference in its ability to interdict enemy rear echelons in keeping with the new NATO Follow-On Forces Attack (FOFA) concept (see “NATO on the Upbeat,” Air Force Magazine, p. 134, September ’84 issue).
Moreover, USAFE’s F-15s in Germany and the Netherlands are inarguably the best air-superiority fighters in existence, and they would get plenty of help in that mission from the Sidewinder-armed F-16s and from USAFE’s much-improved F-4s as well.
There are many other examples of steady progress in the command.
Training is more intense all the time and is producing highly gratifying results. Aircraft maintenance capability has improved dramatically from the shockingly low level of just a few years ago. The electronic-battlefield Warrior Preparation Center at Einsiedlerhof AS- near USAFE headquarters at Ramstein AB, Germany – is doing wonders for Air Force-Army interplay in the planning and execution of combined tactics and should lead to more of the same among all NATO air and ground forces.
No one doubts that USAFE will give a very good account of itself, its problems notwithstanding, if it is called upon to fight.
What happens if it is
Wit the exception of two units, all USAFE forces – seventeen wings with about 790 aircraft – are in place and will be able to go to war in less than twelve hours.
USAFE’s A-10s would perform strictly in the close air support role. But all the rest of USAFE’s tactical aircraft would be devoted, at the outset of combat, to the counterair role – to gaining and maintaining air superiority. This means defensive counterair against enemy airfields, and suppression of enemy air defenses.
Once air superiority has been established, some of the fighters can be used to help the A-10s and Army attack helicopters support ground forces at the forward edge of the battle area (FEBA) and to carry out deep interdiction.
Thus, it is easy to see why USAFE craves the F-15E dual-role fighter and wants the F-16Cs and F-16Ds that will be wired for, and armed with, AMRAAMs.
The earlier models of F-16s at Hahn AB, Germany, and in Spain have already demonstrated not only a remarkable proficiency at precision interdiction (“They may still be dropping dumb bombs, but they make up for it by being very smart airplanes,” says one USAFE officer) but also a great talent in air-to-air combat with their short-range, heat-seeking Sidewinders.
“We can absolutely roll the F-16s into the air defense role,” General Minter asserted. “They are very, very capable airplanes.”
Their versatility, which will increase when the C and D variants come along, is a very big plus for an outnumbered Air Force in Europe. Add the dual-role F-15Es, the USAFE F-111s now positioned in the UK, and the Tornado aircraft coming into the German, Italian, and British air forces, and the sum is formidable firepower, air-to-air and air-to-ground, in Europe.
Then there are the F-4 Phantoms. USAFE is phasing them out. For example, the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing at Ramstein will convert from F-4Es to F-16s in 1986.
But the Phantoms, their avionics greatly upgraded, still hold a high place in USAFE’s battle plans. They stand with the F-16s as USAFE’s air-to-ground mainstays. In addition, USAFE’s lethal defense suppression efforts are now centered on the F-4E/G Wild Weasel aircraft, which, it is hoped, will be armed with HARM missiles as soon as possible.
In general, electronic combat (EC) capability is on the rise. Even EC suites on USAFE’s newer airframes, such as the A-10s, the F-15s, and the F-16s, are being upgraded.
Moreover, USAFE is in the process of deploying two new EC assets – the EC-130H Compass Call and the EF-111 Raven aircraft. The mission of the Compass Call aircraft is to jam enemy voice and data link communications; of the Ravens, to locate and jam enemy radars – the eyes of their C3 system.
Training for EC has always been a problem in Europe. USAFE is meeting it by expanding its EC ranges and making them more sophisticated.
In sum, says one USAFE briefer, while the EC threat from the Warsaw pact is “dynamic – always improving,” USAFE’s EC readiness “is higher today than at any point in USAFE’s history.”
USAFE’s EC tacticians have no intention of destroying the enemy’s entire C3 system, even should that be possible. “It is to our advantage, in fact, to ensure that certain modes of an enemy’s C3 net remain operable,” another briefer says.
The reason: “One of the inherent weaknesses of a C3 system, as with any electronic means of transmission, is its susceptibility to exploitation through interception and intrusion.
“There are many bits and pieces of both written and electronic communications that, when put together by intelligence experts, add up to significant amounts of valuable information.
“By intercepting and injecting false inputs back into any enemy’s C3 system, we may be able to add confusion and degrade operations more than if we destroyed the entire net.”
Recce capability is also on the rise. Out of Zweibrücken AB, Germany, and RAF Alconbury, UK, RF-4Cs equipped with the Pave Tack imaging infrared/laser target-designating pod provide SAFE with primary, all-weather, day-night reconnaissance. They also carry TEREC, an electronic intelligence system that, according to one USAFE briefer, “takes full advantage of the versatility and flexibility of the fighter airframe.”
The RF-4Cs will receive an all-weather side-looking radar as well. It is being field-tested by USAFE, and “our experiences with it will help us take full advantage of the more advance TR-1 radar downstream,” a USAFE briefer says.
The TR-1s are destined to carry an advanced, synthetic-aperture, side-looking radar and the Precision Location Strike System (PLSS) for picking out targets and coordinating fire against them well behind enemy lines. Nearly half again as large as the U-2 spy aircraft from which they are descended, the TR-1s can cruise at 430 mph at altitudes exceeding 70,000 feet. They have a range of more than 3,000 miles.
Flight-testing of PLSS in conjunction with TR-1 avionics began last December. It has been highly successful, bearing out the claim that it will be able to detect and fix the location of targets in a matter of seconds and then direct strike aircraft to precisely computed points for the release of free-fall or guided weaponry against those targets.
Out of RAF Alconbury under the control of the Strategic Air Command, one squadron of TR-1As is now flying more than twenty sorties a month over the Continent. RAF Alconbury is also the home of the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing’s one squadron of RF-4Cs and one squadron of F-5Es.
What all this means is that USAFE is much better off than it was five, or even two, years ago. Its modern weapon systems are much more effective tan their predecessors.
Its training is also much more realistic, heavily involving the exercising of “dissimilar” air combat tactics against various other NATO aircraft. This has been made possible, in large measure, by stepped-up funding for flying hours.
USAFE crews flew 223,847 hours in 1983, in contrast to 184,892 hours in 1979. They are expected to approach 235,000 hours this year. Their “mission-capable” rate has improved by fourteen percent since 1979.
USAFE still cannot fight at night as confidently as it would like. With the Pave Tack system, it has taken a big step forward. What it needs and urgently – in order to go all the way, its officials claim, are the Low-Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) system, the Imaging Infrared (IIR) Maverick air-to-ground standoff missile, and the F-15E dual-role fighter.
At Hq. USAFE and throughout the three numbered Air Forces at its command – the Third Air Force at RAF Mildenhall, the Sixteenth Air Force at Torrejon AB, Spain, and the Seventeenth Air Force at Sembach AB, Germany – another urgent call is for more effective munitions all across the board.
The command is “critically short,” says one officer, of both short-range and BVR air-to-air missiles. It badly needs AMRAAM and the Advanced Short-Range Air-to-Air Missile (ASRAAM) now being developed by Germany and the UK.
It also needs, for defense suppression, the High-Speed Anti-radiation Missile (HARM) and such weapons as the GBU-15 glide bomb, the Low-Level Laser-Guided Bomb (LLLGB), the Gator mine, and the Combined Effects Munition (CEM), as specified by its weapons experts.
“We are deficient in air-to-air missiles, antiradiation missiles, and offensive counterair weapons [for airfield denial],” one USAFE officer says. “We don’t have standoff weapons worth a damn, and we won’t for some time. We’re just now getting around to launch-and-leave air-to-surface munitions that will enable our aircraft to stay back about fifty miles. Even if we get that up to one hundred miles, we’re still vulnerable. The Pact has SAM systems that can go out 140 to 150 miles.
“We’re getting great airplanes, but we’ve got to have better stuff to hang on them. We’re much better off than we were five years ago because we have greater quantities of munitions. But too may of them can be spooked, or aren’t ‘smart.’”
“I think we can meet the threat with what we have. We are close to meeting the thirty days’ [of war] requirement. The problem is we’d have to deliver a whole lot of ordnance on the targets, and that exposes our aircrews. It also forces us into a big [munitions] storage problem.”
USAFE is in a box. Unless it can quickly establish air superiority right out of the starting block through defensive counterair, offensive counterair, and defense suppression operations, its reinforcements cannot hope to arrive – or to arrive anywhere near intact – from CONUS.
USAFE’s goal is to “close” all of its reinforcing fighter squadrons in less than two weeks. This is in keeping with the NATO Rapid Reinforcements Plan promulgated under the direction of US Army Gen. Bernard W. Rogers, the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR).
What it means for the US is the rapid deployment from CONUS of six Army divisions and at least sixty USAF squadrons.
It return, as part of the “long-term defense program” that NATO allies agreed to in 1976, those allies provide host-nation support of the US reinforcements in the form of collocated operating bases and forward storage sites.
In keeping with SACEUR’s priorities, air-superiority fighters, most notably F-15s, are number one on the lengthy list of weapons that must be rushed to Europe and into combat. Complementing them are intratheater airlifters, such as USAF’s C-130s.
There is a severe hitch in all this. The fighters would arrive in Europe on time. But they would not have adequate support, and their parking problems on USAFE’s main and collocated operating bases would rival those in downtown Manhattan during rush hour.
As described by USAFE officials, here is the situation:
Although USAFE has enough munitions to sustain operations for thirty days, much is malpositioned. Munitions are stockpiled in three central storage facilities – in Italy, the UK, and “Central Europe” – and must be transported to the bases that would need them. USAFE officials know full well that the Warsaw Pact has pegged these facilities as prime targets.
Until munitions can be much more widely dispersed to minimum essential facilities (MEFs) – storage facilities for seven days’ worth of fuel and munitions, plus dispersed parking for aircraft – on collocated operating bases, USAFE must have much greater capability to airlift large quantities within the theater.
Although host-nation support efforts in this regard will be of some help, “they can’t help much,” says one USAFE briefer, “when we consider the enormous tonnage that must be moved – for example, from Italy to other [NATO] Southern Region bases, or from England to the Northern Region.”
USAFE has an aggregate storage space shortfall of more than 2,200,000 square feet for sortie-generating assets. It needs more than 1,000 storage igloos, yet would be hard pressed to find space for them.
So if war comes, says one official; “We are going to have a massive, a tremendous, problem. We can’t fight a war for very long with the airplanes we’ve got here now. We can get the additional airplanes into the theater, but we may not be able to refuel them, and we may not have anything to hang on them.”
The problem has still another facet. Many of USAF’s big airlifters and tankers, the C-5s and the KC-10s, are unable to land at many main operating bases (MOBs) and COBs. This means that the equipment they carry will have to be transferred to intratheater airlifters at the large military and civilian airfields where they can land and that the supplies will have to be flown once again to the tactical airfields from which the fighters fly.
This is why USAFE is pushing hard for quick and big production of the C-17 transport aircraft, which could double as a strategic airlifter and an intratheater airlifter.
The deployment of reinforcing and resupplying aircraft from CONUS would raise the risk of congestive chaos within USAFE, the way thins stand now.
The picture is not entirely bleak.
USAFE is vigorously pursuing its Prepositioning Procurement Package (PPP) program to alleviate the massive resupply problem. PPP is the Air Force version of the Army’s POMCUS program for positioning equipment and supplies in Europe to support units arriving from Stateside.
The PPP program could not possibly accommodate every single item that the reinforcing tactical air squadrons would need. Nevertheless, it is expected to provide enough supplies for eighteen fighter squadrons – and every little bit helps.
Flight-line support equipment and vehicles procured in the program will be stored and maintained at eighty-five European locations. Quantities of supplies covered by the program would fill 703 C-141B stretched StarLifters.
This translates into a tremendous boon for US wartime logistics.
More than ninety percent of all PPP equipment has been requisitioned. Such equipment began arriving Europe in February 1983, and keeps coming at a steady rate.
USAFE also takes heart from the C-5B and KC-10 production programs and fro the reengining of KC-135 tankers. All this “will significantly increase our capability to reinforce and resupply NATO,” one official notes.
European Distribution System
USAFE’s capability for forward stockage and distribution of critical fighter aircraft spares, including entire engines is on the rise, too. The reason: USAF’s new European Distribution System (EDS) (see also “Gaining on the ‘Gotchas’” on p. 52 of this issue).
EDS has three elements: logistics command control and communication for requesting, searching out and allocating spares; three warehouses for storing them; and organic airlift in the form of eighteen turboprop cargo aircraft to be at USAFE’s beck and call.
As of now, USAFE has no direct control of any intratheater airlifters for any purpose. All are at the disposal of Allied Command Europe and are allocated at the CINCEUR level.
On March 2, USAF awarded a $54 million contract to Short Brothers of Northern Ireland for the eighteen C-23 EDS aircraft, each capable of transporting a fully assembled fighter engine. The first two C-23s are to be delivered to Zweibrücken AB on October 26 of this year. All are scheduled for delivery over the next twelve moths.
Operational Next June
The Logistics C3 element of EDS will be in operation next June. It will interconnect and integrate logistics communications among all USAFE MOBs, arrange inventories in computers, and permit quick-time search of, and selection from, those automated files.
The first of the three EDS warehouses, at RAF Kemble in the UK, will be ready for business this coming December. The other two, at Zweibrücken and at Torrejon AB, will be built and stocked up in short order thereafter.
USAFE’s Collocation Operating Base program is coming around as well. “It is today very dynamic, and the pace of its development is picking up,” says a USAFE briefer.
USAFE gains access to Allied airfields for use of COBs through binational Memoranda of Understanding (MOU). Nine such agreements have established the COB program in nine European nations, where more than seventy bases, large and small, are now available to USAF aircraft.
Storage space is a bugbear everywhere in Europe. USAFE officials are fascinated by the potential for easing that problem through the substitution of insensitive high explosives (IHEs) for existing, touchier types.
Conventional weapons now embody high-explosive (HE) Tritonal fillers. Stocks of them blow up at the blink of an eye when attacked. IHE fillers are vastly less sensitive. This is an important consideration when it comes to their intratheater transportation as well.
It is estimated that IHE fillers would cost only about sixty cents a pound apiece – less than half the cost of HE fillers.
If USAFE could switch to IHE fillers for its munitions, it could greatly reduce its requirement for additional storage igloos, its officials claim.
Why Given their relative insensitivity, IHE munitions can be stored to the full capacity of a storage structure, whereas storage space requirements for HE munitions are based not on their bulk but on what their detonation would do to their environs.
For example, an igloo containing 500,000 pounds of HE munitions must be 4,000 feet from the nearest inhabited building. With the IHE munitions, that distance can be cut to 635 feet.
As part of its Airbase Survivability Program (ASP), USAFE is also procuring precast concrete slabs to provide parking space at cramped COBs.
Such reinforced slabs are now being considered, and will probably be used, for rapid repair of USAFE runways. The Soviets have used concrete slabs to build and repair their runways for many years. So have the Swiss.
USAFE’s Stateside units destined for Europe in wartime regularly deploy to, and exercise from USAFE’s COBs. There have been nearly fifty such deployments, including exercises under Tactical Air Command’s Checkered Flag program and Military Airlift Command’s new Volant Partner program. More than twenty such excises are scheduled for 1985.
The communications links between USAFE and its collocated operating bases leave a lot to be desired. Without such links, USAFE would be hard put to provide operational tasking and logistics and administrative support to its Stateside augmentation forces.
Here again, things are looking a little rosier. USAFE has received funding for communications at fifty-two COBs and has set up communications at sixteen of them. Funding for networks to keep in touch with an additional twenty-one COBs is being requested in USAF’s FY 1987-91 Program objectives Memorandum (POM).
Moreover, a new initiative, the NATO Airbase Satellite Communications program, will enhance the reliability and survivability of all such communications assets. The first satellite terminals to ensue from that program are scheduled for installation at some COBs in late 1988.
Throughout USAFE, and indeed Allied Command Europe, the upgrading and hardening of C3 assets is getting major attention. Sensors and C3 facilities that worked just fine and that were secure in previous years are now highly vulnerable to the threat from the Pact air arm and intermediate-range missiles.
To counter this, NATO’s Air Command and Control System (ACCS) team, heavily involving USAFE C3 specialists, is looking hard at remedial measures for existing C3 specialists, is looking hard at remedial measures for existing C3 facilities and equipment. It is also designing a new, fully integrated command and control system for the year 2000 and beyond.
As part of the ACCS program, USAFE has undertaken the following endeavors:
• Hardening Central Region Allied Tactical Operations Centers (ATOCs) at Semback and Kalkar.
• Increasing its ability to process and pass information without danger of enemy exploitation. A major part of this is the incorporation of secure voice and data systems such as Parkhill and the Joint Tactical Information Distribution System (JTIDS).
•Expanding EIFEL-1, the primary Automatic Data Processing (ADP) system at the ATOC level for NATO command and control of Central Region offensive air units.
EIFEL-1 evolved as the West German Air Force command and control system, starting in 1970. USAFE began incorporating the system at the Sembach ATOC in 1980, and the UK, Belgium, and the Netherlands picked up on it – for the ATOC at Maastricht – a year later.
All five nations came to a formal agreement last December for a multinational EIFEL-1 management structure, including a center at Birkenfeld, Germany, for a configuration control board and software development. Much more is happening.
Crucial to the functions of air tasking and reporting, EIFEL-1 is being expanded through connections between all four ATOCs and all main operating bases, standby bases, fixed and mobile operations centers, and logistics/intelligence support centers.
The two German ATOCs at Kalkar and Messtetten have hooked up with about eighty-five percent of their bases and centers; the UK Belgium-Netherlands ATOC at Maaastricht, with about fifty-five percent; and USAFE’s ATOC at Sembach, with about half.
Lowering the Vulnerability
Meantime, USAFE is intent on lowering the vulnerability of its on-base communications. It is installing digital switches in semihardened facilities for its European Telephone System (ETS) lines and is providing a second communications cable from each of its bases to the commercial telephone systems of their host nations.
Those backup cables take a different direction from the primary cables and are hooked up to a different commercial exchange. Thus, an attack would have to knock out both cables to disrupt communications.
Aircraft shelters are being equipped with a special-purpose communications setup, including a telephone launch-control system, a public-address system. Radar operations shelters and airfield surveillance radar electronics shelters are being hardened.
USAFE already has two fully hardened avionics shelters at RAF Lakenheath and RAF Upper Heyford. A third one is under construction at Bitburg AB, Germany, the home of F-15s, and others are under design for Hahn AB and Ramstein AB, the present and future homes of F-16s. Design of other hardened avionics shelters will begin at Spangdahlem AB and at Zweibrücken AB late this year.
With NATO funding in store, comparable programs will take place in the near future at eight additional air bases in Denmark, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and Turkey.
USAFE’s electronic countermeasures maintenance and repair shops will be situated in all such hardened facilities. For now, however, some such shops are being moved right into the hardened TAB-V (Theater Air Base Vulnerability) aircraft shelters on the fighter bases.
Maintenance Much Better
Of all the improvements that are newly noticeable or being planned within USAFE, none stands out more than the success of the command’s hard-nosed moves to improve its maintenance of aircraft and missiles, which is what sortie generation in all about.
Two years ago, the USAFE command set out to find out just how good its maintenance personnel were and how much training was needed to improve tem. The answers: terrible, and a whole lot.
An appalling number of maintenance men simply did not know how to fix aircraft or missiles, even though they were supposed to be specialists in such fixing. They did not even know where certain parts were supposed to go on the weapons. Even worse, many of the people who were supervising them, or in charge of training them, didn’t know either.
“It was criminal,” says one USAFE official. “The results were disastrous. So we came up with what we called the Aircraft Maintenance Qualification Program – the AMQP – where we actually took the people and put them in classrooms, and then put them on airplanes with dedicated instructors, to ensure that they had been properly taught how to do particular tasks and had learned their lessons.
“And then we did evaluations on them, we audited them, we made sure.
“The results were good. On our first visits to seven bases when we started our initial inspection, the average pass rate for those bases was somewhere in the thirty percent category. When we went back a year later, after the training program, we found the pass rates were running as high as eighty percent. You can’t really ask for a helluva lot more than that. You can ask for 100 percent, but you’ll never get it.”
USAFE officials give several reasons for the sad state of their maintenance personnel as discovered in 1982. One was the attrition of “middle management” – senior staff sergeants and technical sergeants – during prior years. Another was the steady drawdown of operations and maintenance (O&M) funding for the Air Force and all the services in the mid to late 1970s, and even into the early 1980s.
USAFE officials regard O&M funding as the lifeblood of their command. The figures bear them out, and also bear watching.
The Austere Years
In the austere years of FY ’78 through FY ’80, USAFE’s backlog of maintenance and repair projects grew by $28 million, or seventy-four percent. Flying programs were cut back. USAFE squadrons did not even have the wherewithal to participate in US Red Flag or NATO squadron exchanges.
European inflation stood at twenty to thirty percent, yet USAFE was funded at inflation rates that were, as calculated by the Office of Management and Budget, much lower than either the European or the actual US rates.
Amid such fudging by Washington on actual buying power for USAFE, the command had no money for upkeeping of its bases and quality of life for its personnel.
In FY ’81, a dramatic two-year upswing of O&M funding began. All scheduled flying training was accomplished during that period, and the backlog of maintenance and repair was cut by $30 million, to a level of $53 million. Bases were spruced up. Personnel got prouder and better.
Now there may be a danger sign. O&M funding growth was relatively small in FY ’83 and has leveled off in the current fiscal year. Even so, all scheduled aircrew training is being accomplished, and all new tasks have been fully funded.
Notable among such missions are the deployment of the TR-1As and the EF-111s in the UK and the deployment of the ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCMs) at USAFE bases in the UK, Italy, and Germany.
The maintenance and repair backlog also keeps dwindling. But if Congress or the Pentagon or both revert to the old ways of sacrificing O&M funding to accomplish a slower rate of growth in total defense spending, the day may come again when USAFE’s mechanics don’t know how to fix airplanes, and the airplanes won’t fly as often as they should.
There is another angle to all this, USAFE officials are very pleased with advances in simulators for training aircrews. They take advantage of them. They worry a little, however, that their success with simulation may be seized upon by budget-cutters as a way out of providing them sufficient funds for actual flying hours – for which, when you’re facing the Russians, there is really no substitute.
“I fervently hope we never get into a box where we do everything in simulators because we can’t afford to fly our airplanes anymore,” asserts on USAFE colonel.
Right now, USAFE is taking a beating from the congressionally imposed ceiling on US troop strength in Europe. This yea’s USAF posture statement calls it “the most serious near-term problem faced by our Air Force in Europe.”
It means that in juggling manpower slots to make room for its fledgling TR-1A and EF-111 units, USAFE has had to cancel slots for its RED HORSE Squadron in the Southern Region and for its two squadrons of OV-10s in the 601st Tactical Control Wing at Sembach AB.
The transfer of those squadrons back to CONUS was completed on October 1. The OV-10s were responsible for forward air control of USAFE and other NATO aircraft involved in offensive and defensive air operations in central Europe. Ironically, their departure detracts from the workability of NATO’s Airspace Control Plan, and thus of procedural IFF.
Protecting the Bases
Even as USAFE moves a bit to protect and disperse sortie-generating assets on its bases, it also sees more daylight ahead in the protection of those bases.
Such point air defense systems as the Vulcan guns and Chapparal missiles may be adequate but inspire no great confidence. Now, after years of negotiations, Germany has agreed to join with USAFE in the addition of Roland and Patriot air defense fire units – the Roland for point defense, the Patriot for area defense in replacement of old Nike missiles. In addition, the Rapier system will provide point air defense at seven USAFE bases in the UK.
Defense against chemical weapons, which the Soviets possess in abundance, train constantly with, and have shown they are not above using, is also improving bit by bit. Flight-line crews and other personnel on USAFE bases train earnestly in defending against chemical attack.
USAFE officials wish, however, that the US Congress could see its way clear to approve the Reagan Administration’s long-running request for an up-to-date arsenal of US binary chemical offensive weapons. Those weapons are regarded by the US commanders in Europe as the best possible deterrent to a decision by the other side to wage chemical warfare in an offensive counterair operation.
“The Soviets pose a significant chemical threat to our air bases, and our lack of progress in improving our chemical retaliatory forces will encourage Soviet first-use of chemical weapons,” one USAFE briefing paper says flatly.
Working with the Army
Obviously, waging and winning a war in Europe would not be a function of airpower alone. But because Allied Command Europe forces would be out numbered, and because the enemy would choose the time and place of attack, the flexibility of airpower could well be the key to deterring such an attack, or to defeating it.
This is why USAFE and the US Army I Europe, which has two corps on the line in West Germany, are working together as never before under the auspices of US European Command (EUCOM). Headed by General Rogers, EUCOM’s day-to-day operations are supervised by USAF Gen. Richard L. Lawson, its Deputy CINC, at Stuttgart.
“The idea, always, is to have the two services resolve their differences for the sake of ensuring the effective use of our theater air resources,” one EUCOM official explains.
Both are heavily engaged in working up tactics in keeping with SACEUR’s Follow-On Forces Attack concept – to defeat the enemy in his rear before he can reinforce his front-line assault formations.
USAFE buys the concept. “We believe the FOFA concept as envisioned by General Rogers would help win the war,” a USAFE briefer flatly states.
Notes a USAFE document: “We are doing our interdiction mission very ell in support of Army ground-gaining forces. [But] developing the joint Army and Air Force capability to stop an attack as far forward as possible, while simultaneously engaging enemy forces in depth, will require careful exploitation of our latest technological advances in order to provide the architecture for striking deep.
“We demonstrate proficiency in attacking follow-on forces n our annual exercises. However, there is always room for improvement, and we will continue to refine joint NATO procedures.”
Warrior Preparation Center
A great place for doing this is the new Warrior Preparation Center, a combined Army-Air Force facility at Einsiedlerhof AS just outside Hq. USAFE at Ramstein AB.
The brainchild of USAFE’s General Kirk and Col. Richard (Moody) Suter (who was also instrumental in devising USAF’s Aggressor and Red Flag programs), the Center consists of a fully computerized – and rapidly expanding – electronic battlefield and threat-training facility.
The electronic battlefield setup combines air-war and ground-war computer models with a newly created electronic intelligence model. What it adds up to is the very first Airland Battle computer model.
Last May, commanders from the Army’s VII Corps at Stuttgart and from USAFE’s ATOC at Sembach joined forces in a week-long full-scale command-post tactical exercise – the Center’s first – called Joint Warrior 84-1. The main players were Maj. Gen. Harry A. Goodall, Commander of Seventeenth Air Force and of the ATOC at Sembach (now Lieutenant General Goodall, Deputy CINC of USREDCOM at MacDill AFB, Fla.) and VII Corps Commander Lt. Gen. John R. Galvin.
Alongside them for one full day were the Corps’s division commanders and the Seventeenth Air Force’s wing commanders. Afterward, General Galvin was quoted as describing it as “perhaps the best day I’ve had as a Corps commander – nothing can be more important to the capability of the armed forces than the interoperability of the Army and Air Force. We learned volumes.”
In such exercises, all manner of tactical situations are literally sprung on USAFE and Army battle commanders, taking shape on computer screens in the form of, for example, three MiG-25E Foxbats taking out after an NE-3A AWACS aircraft, or a Soviet armored column moving up to reinforce the line.
“With computer simulation,” said Colonel Suter, “we can do just about anything the players need us to do to enhance their capabilities to prosecute any future war in Europe.”
Training at All Levels
The electronic battlefield at the Center can conduct training exercises at all tactical-unit levels, from squadrons and companies up through corps and wings to major NATO commands.
Officers of allied nations are taking part as well. Joint Warrior 84-1 involved German, Canadian, and UK air and land officers, and, as far as USAFE is concerned, the more the merrier.
Air Force Systems Command’s Electronic Systems Division (ESD) pitched in to help bring USAF’s electronic battlefield into being. ESD-Europe’s program office for this effort was set up during the Center’s early development stage. It installed compute equipment and programs together with the graphic displays that simulate air ad land battle arenas.
Says USAF Maj. Larry Simmons, director of the ESD-Europe program office: “During exercises, we stress the importance of the players cooperating with and complementing each other. We hope to help them make better use of combat weapons available to carry out their duties.
“If they want to back up and try it again, using a different strategy, they can.”
USAFE Improvements in Quality of Maintenance Training
|Unit||1982 Pass Rate||1984 Pass Rate|
|20th Tactical Fighter Wing||44.3%||86.1%|
|36th Tactical Fighter Wing||28.9%||76.5%|
|48th Tactical Fighter Wing||59.1%||61.7%|
|50th Tactical Fighter Wing||58.0%||75.8%|
|52d Tactical Fighter Wing||48.7%||51.8%|
|81st Tactical Fighter Wing||58.1%||66.0%|
|86th Tactical Fighter Wing||75.9%||81.7%|
|10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing||48.8%||77.1%|
|26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing||51.1%||86.3%|
|406th Tactical Fighter Training Wing||54.0%||63.5%|
|601st Tactical Air Support Group||46.4%||84.2%|
This table shows the great improvement in aircraft and missile maintenance capability and training in eleven USAFE units over the past two years. The low marks in 1982 are attributed largely to prior attrition of top-notch maintenance NCOs. The average pass rate for 1982 was 53.5%; for 1984 the rate was up to 71.1%.