A piece by Alexander Shishkin, shipbuilding engineer and author of navy-korabel.livejournal.com, related to our previous discussions in this thread and with solid information about OTH targeting, naval strike and employment of naval aviation in VMF vs. USN scenarios:
Are Russian missiles capable of hitting an American aircraft carrier?
18 November 2019, 18:10
The tactical anti-ship cruise missiles (OTN anti-ship missiles) 3M55, 3M45 and 3M70 of the Onyx, Granit and Vulkan missile systems are rightfully considered the pride of the Russian Navy. However, there is an opinion that their outstanding flight range (500-700 km) is not provided with reliable target designation, and therefore is useless in practice.
In other words, it is generally accepted that the means of destruction available to Russia (which the media call nothing other than "aircraft carrier killers") are almost meaningless in modern conditions. And all due to the fact that the Navy does not have the tools necessary to guide long-range missiles. They say that the Tu-95RTs reconnaissance and target designation aircraft and the space group, which in Soviet times solved this problem, no longer exist, and the new system has not been created. This means that in a real confrontation with the US Navy, Russian sailors will fire missiles at aircraft carriers "with their eyes closed" (without seeing the target). Needless to say, in such circumstances, there can be no question of any successful attacks and targeted hits.
Is it really? Let's try to figure it out. Let's leave behind the scenes the A-50 / A-100 radar patrol and guidance aircraft (RLDN) and the Sunflower over-the-horizon radar station tied to the shore. Let us consider only those means that make it possible to counter the most dangerous surface enemy of the Russian Navy - the American aircraft carrier strike groups (AUG) in the open ocean.
At present, a grouping of spacecraft (SC) of the newest system of maritime space reconnaissance and target designation (MCRTs) "Liana" is being formed in near-earth orbit. Its predecessor ("Legend"), despite the chronic understaffing, for 33 years regularly provided intelligence to the main headquarters of the Navy, the headquarters of the fleets and directly ships - carriers of anti-ship missiles.
According to open information, the Liana should include two Pion-NKS radar reconnaissance spacecraft (RLR) and two Lotos-S radio-technical reconnaissance (RTR) spacecraft. Two regular "Lotos" are already in their orbits (launched in 2017–2018). The launch of the Peonies is expected in 2019–2020. Satellites of two different types are needed to make the intelligence more reliable.
A constellation of four spacecraft operating in sun-synchronous orbits with an altitude of 900 km is capable of providing a daily (once every 24 hours) survey of any point on the planet, if the swath of each spacecraft is equal to the turn-to-turn interval at the equator with a small (10%) overlap , i.e. about 800 km.
This value and even its doubling (up to 1600 km) can be considered easily achievable taking into account the fact that: 1) the small Russian RLR satellite "Condor" with a mass of 1150 kg has a swath of 1000 km (500 km each to the left and to the right of the flight path); 2) the swath of the radar of the outdated American Lacrosse spacecraft is estimated at 2 × 1000 = 2000 km; 3) the reconnaissance band of the US Air Force RTR satellites "Ferret" was already in the 1980s about 6000 km. Moreover, taking into account the approximately threefold superiority of passive (radio-technical) spacecraft over active (radar) spacecraft in width of view, it can be assumed that four Liana satellites will be able to cover a strip with a total width of 12800 km (2 × 1600 RLR and 2 × 4800 RTR).
This means that the number of flights of the spacecraft of the new ICRC system over the same point of the World Ocean in one day can reach four, and the time interval between flights can reach six hours. During this time, the US Navy AUG can travel only 120 miles (220 km) on an economic run. Theoretically - in any direction, but in wartime - without changing the combat course (for example, for rapprochement with the enemy's naval strike group, the coordinates of which were obtained from their space forces). Thus, the six-hour data obsolescence should not critically affect the results of missile firing of the naval strike group (KUG) of the Russian Navy.
In addition, if necessary, the position of the spacecraft orbital plane can be corrected using low-thrust engines, namely, it can be shifted in the direction of the Earth's rotation (from west to east). Then at each new loop the satellite will catch up with the AUG leaving from under it and, in fact, "hang" over the enemy ships (pass over them once every 103 minutes).
It is clear that in the event of a major war, the orbital groupings of the belligerent parties will be quickly destroyed, and the data received from them will be hopelessly outdated within a day.
To restore the efficiency of space reconnaissance and target designation, it will be necessary to launch backup spacecraft. You can forget about cosmodromes (priority targets for a nuclear missile strike). The best approach would be intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of launching a payload of the order of 3300/3800 kg (the mass of the US-P / US-A spacecraft of the Legend system).
Unfortunately, the least vulnerable (mobile) missile systems (ICBMs) Topol-M, Yars and Bulava have a throw-weight of less than 1200-1400 kg (for Sineva 2000/2800 kg). The heavy "Voevoda" and "Sarmat" with 10 warheads are the "sacred cows" of the Strategic Missile Forces, the main weapon of retaliation, and are unlikely to be used for other purposes. The most suitable candidates for the role of a hot reserve, perhaps, can be considered the silo launch rockets Strela (based on the UR-100N UTTKh ICBM) and Dnepr (based on Voevoda), but with light RLR spacecraft of the Kondor type ...
Above the water
It is generally accepted that even in the absence of space target designation, the US Navy's AUG has phenomenal combat capabilities - sometimes we are talking about a depth of defense of 1500 km (this is the opinion of the former commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, Admiral Komoedov). In fact, the carrier-based aircraft RLDN (AWACS) E-2C / D "Hawkeye", loitering at a "typical" distance from the aircraft carrier of 320 km (200 statute miles) at an altitude of 9400-11 300 m, is capable of confidently (when the onboard radar is active mode) to detect targets of the "missile cruiser pr. 1164" type at the range of the radio horizon. In other words, 410-450 km from the patrol line or 730-770 km from the center of the order of the aircraft carrier group.
In the passive mode (radio direction-finding), the detection range is approximately doubled, but the information received loses in reliability. This unreliability can be exacerbated by enemy countermeasures, including limiting the operation of radio-electronic equipment for radiation and distorting radio-technical portraits of ships.
Theoretically, "Hawkeye" can detect the operating RES at a distance of 1200 km from the AUG. In this case, after additional reconnaissance of targets by the Growlers (EA-18G), the strikes by the Harpoons from the Super Hornets (F / A-18E / F) will follow - wave after wave, which will not be so easy to reflect. At the same time, the aircraft carrier strike group, maneuvering accordingly, may simply not allow the Russian KUG, which is moving under continuous attacks from carrier-based aircraft, to reduce the distance and approach the rocket firing range.
However, being an excellent means of long-range reconnaissance, the Hawkeye also acts as an unmasking feature of the AUG. Radiation from the powerful E-2 airborne radar will be immediately detected by the radio-technical means of the KUG of the Russian Navy. After the discovery of a carrier-based RLDN aircraft, patrolling tacks 160 km (100 st. Miles) perpendicular to the course of the aircraft carrier group, it will be possible to determine the bearing on the AUG and the distance to it. Further advancement of the anti-aircraft KUG in the radar silence mode (using from time to time only short intra-squadron communication) will give it a chance to covertly approach the anti-ship missile launch line.
Additional opportunities to counter the AUG of the Russian Navy will receive after the adoption of the anti-ship missile system 3M55M ( Onyx-M ) with a range of 800 km and the completion of the repair of the Admiral Kuznetsov.
The Su-33s based on Kuznetsov are, among other things, capable of: 1) performing the functions of a combat air patrol (BVP), patrolling for two hours at a distance of 250 km from the shipborne aircraft carrier group; 2) using the N001 airborne radar (SUV " Sword "), to detect aircraft carriers at a distance of 350 km, fighters - at a distance of 150 km; 3) attack air targets with R-27P missiles from a distance of 110 km.
The practical application of the Su-33 in the initial phase of an aircraft carrier battle can be represented as follows. Having received a warning about radiation from the "Hawkeye" from the L-150 "Pastel" station , the patrol fighter calls a pair on duty for additional reconnaissance and destruction of the RLDN aircraft and "Hornets" BVP, followed by the identification of the location and course of the AUG, after which the first of the two rises from the aircraft carrier shock squadrons MiG-29K (accompanied by the Su-33) for a missile attack.
As for reconnaissance ships, due to their low combat stability, they are not very suitable for operational target designation in wartime, but they are indispensable for compiling a database of radio technical portraits of potential enemy ships. Without such portraits, the work of passive intelligence means is impossible.
The main advantage of the submarine forces is stealth, which makes the submarine a priority means of dealing with the AUG. In the event of the outbreak of global hostilities, the task of updating the space target designation data received by the atomic submarine cruisers (APCR) pr. 949A and 885 deployed in the ocean during the threatened period will require the use of an onboard sonar system.
The detection range of surface ships by modern high-power SACs in the noise direction finding mode is kept in strict confidence. It can only be argued that it is not lower than that of MGK-540 Skat-3, which is twice as powerful as its predecessor in terms of energy potential (MGK-500 Skat, 230 km).
It turns out that even the APCR pr. 949A with the "Granit" SCRC can independently detect the enemy's AUG at a distance commensurate with the firing range of their anti-ship missiles (460 and 500 km, respectively). At the same time, submarine cruisers patrolling at low noise speeds (5-10 knots) on the target movement route identified by the ICRC will remain outside the detection and destruction zone of multipurpose nuclear submarines that provide anti-submarine defense of the AUG, being ahead of the order at a distance of about 100 nautical miles (185 km) ...
The fact that the submarine, forced to move at the same (much noisier) speed as the aircraft carrier formation it covers (20 knots), will inevitably be detected first, and the range of its weapons (MK 48 torpedoes) does not exceed 50 km.
A new big war at sea, for which one must prepare in order to avoid it (si vis pacem, para bellum), of course, will not be reduced only to battles between aircraft carrier and anti-aircraft forces. In all naval theaters of operations, clashes will occur between naval formations that do not have RLDN aircraft. Their duties will have to be taken over by deck helicopters.
Using shipborne helicopters for additional reconnaissance of the AUG is not only useless, but also harmful.
Even the modernized Ka-27M can detect enemy surface ships at a distance of no more than 250 km, and fighter-type air targets - 70 km (Ka-27M) and 100-150 km (Ka-31), being at an altitude of 3500 m. 200 km from their carriers. This is much worse than the capabilities of the Hawkeye. In other words, a patrol helicopter loitering at the front line in front of the KUG will only contribute to its earlier detection by the enemy.
It's another matter if the KUG is opposing a similar naval grouping of the navies of the NATO countries, consisting of destroyers and frigates. In this case, the Ka-27M will be able to provide target designation for firing anti-ship missiles of the Onyx (albeit not at full range), Caliber (3M54 anti-ship missiles), Uranus and Moskit complexes. Instead of deck helicopters or together with them (for a preliminary control center), radar systems of the Monument type can be used with a passive channel with a surface target detection range of at least 450 - 500 km.
Even diesel-electric submarines of the previous generation (project 636.3) with MGK-400M "Rubicon-M" are capable of attacking enemy ships at over-the-horizon ranges from under the water . The export version of this complex in the noise direction finding mode can detect NK at a distance of 100 km. Taking into account that this parameter should be noticeably higher for its own fleet (125-150 km), the detection range of the newest SJSC Lira (NNS project 677) with large-area noise direction-finding antennas may well reach 250-300 km.
It would be strange if the ammunition (in our case, the rocket) was developed by itself, and not in conjunction with the weapon control system, which ensures its use for a given range. This article certainly contains some inaccuracies and even errors caused by a lack of reliable source information. However, the picture as a whole is as follows - accurate target designation for firing operational-tactical anti-ship missiles of the Russian Navy at the maximum (over-the-horizon) range is possible and is ensured in practice.