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Thread: SAM / Fighter Network-Centric Warfare?

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    SAM / Fighter Network-Centric Warfare?

    I'm wondering if it's possible to launch a very long-ranged SAM to follow fighters on a sortie. The SAM would network with the fighters, and once the fighters encountered an opponent the SAM would be provided with the targeting information to hit its target. The advantage of networked SAMs over just loading it onto the fighter would be that the networked SAMs wouldn't add weight onto the fighter, and missile launch wouldn't give away the location of the fighter, increasing its stealth.

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    NUS
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    SAM speed is usually much higher (about 3-7M). Missile size and fuel use put severe limits on flight time.

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    But... the B-1R idea is kind of what you are talking about

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    This is an intriguing idea.

    But there are some problems that would have to be overcome to make it work.

    1. Bad Cost-Benefit. SAMs are expensive, especially long-range ones. The R&D it would take to design, build, and test this weapon would be huge, and it honestly doesn't offer much in return. An F-35 can do the same job and a lot of other ones for a competitive price.
    2. Low chance of seeing action. Most fighter sorties and CAPs never encounter the enemy, so a SAM flying along with them is unlikely to see action. Many fighter pilots, even those who have seen combat go their whole careers without seeing or shooting at an enemy plane. So you fire this thing off an a one-way trip, and its very likely your multi-million dollar flying bomb isn't going to even see the enemy.
    3. No recovery. SAMs are one-way. Seems very expensive to shoot off a missile without even knowing if you'll have a target.
    4. EW Threat. If the data links go down, this thing is mission killed very, very quickly.
    5. Range. Most SAMs are fairly short-ranged, with flight times of minutes. Modern fighter sorties can last for hours and often require mid-air refueling. Somehow, I can't see this thing taking its turn at a KC-135. It seems to me that it's going to be desperately under-ranged unless you make the airframe very large, in which case you start compromising the speed and agility you need in a missile. You're trying to put a lot of demands (range, speed, agility, avionics) on an airframe that I don't think can do them all.
    6. Tactics. A fair amount of doctrine would have to be rewritten to include these babies. While this is not impossible, it certainly means a lot of extra work to accommodate a very limited and specialized platform.
    7. Friendly fire. Even the best systems fail at times. Having one of these SAMs suddenly go rogue and try to go and kill its F-15 wingman could result in dead pilots and a severe loss of confidence in the weapon.
    8. Culture. The "fighter mafia" isn't always particularly enthusiastic about UAVs, and I can see generals who where ex-fighter pilots fighting this project.
    9. Speed. As has been noted earlier, missile fly faster than planes. By the time you slow this thing up, you're looking at a major redesign and probably an end product that looks a lot like an unmanned, one-way kamikaze F-16.

    Honestly, a better value for cost would be to pack a large aircraft (like a Boeing or and Airbus) with long-range missiles as a standoff Air to Air platform.
    Intelligent armed UAVs flying with the strike package/CAP might also be able to perform a similar role as far as cutting back on weight and protecting stealth.

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