In the recent incident in Kazakhstan, the military operations of the Russian army under the framework of the “CSTO” were impressive. It is worth noting that the success of the Russian military’s military operations is very dependent on the strategic premise of the strategic air force – if the Russian Aerospace Forces did not quickly mobilize more than 70 strategic transport aircraft of various types to carry out the campaign delivery of personnel and equipment, it would be hard to imagine. Such action is feasible. Interestingly, the Chinese military recently announced that the Chinese Air Force has entered the threshold of the strategic air force. Then, with the performance of the Russian military in the Kazakhstan Incident as a reference, how to evaluate the capability value of the strategic air force? This is interesting.
The Kazakh incident began to get out of control on January 3, 2022. The Kazakh government asked the CSTO for help on January 4, and the troops arrived on January 7, which quickly stabilized the situation. Due to proper handling, the Central Asian hinterland between China and Russia has avoided falling into the quagmire of war… In fact, Russia’s peacekeeping operation relies on a powerful strategic airlift force. This is a vivid manifestation of the value of strategic air force capabilities.
One of Strategic Air Force Capability Values: Strategic Power Projection Capability
Strategic power projection is a distinctive feature of the strategic air force, and it is also the core capability of the strategic air force. Air strategic delivery has the advantages of being fast, efficient and long-range, and it is a multiplier of combat power. Some data show that every time the delivery capability is doubled, the combat effectiveness index of the troops can increase by 2 to 3 times. For example, in the Fourth Middle East War in 1973, codenamed “Operation Five Cents”, the U.S. Air Force provided Israel with a large-scale intercontinental airlift of supplies. USAF Military Airlift Command mobilized hundreds of C-141 and C-5 strategic transport aircraft to transport food, medicine, ammunition and even M60A1 main battle tanks during those 32 days of despair in the fall of 1973. Thousands of tons of supplies were shipped across the ocean to Israel. The move is seen as one of the important factors that allowed Israel to turn a defeat into a victory, and it is also believed to have saved the United States’ global influence. At that time, the situation in Israel was already shaky, and in the early days of the war, weapons supplied by the Soviet side to the Arab states dealt a heavy blow to Israeli planes and tanks. The Israel Defense Forces are running out of shells, and the IAF has warned that its ability to fight continuously will be exhausted within a week.
In this case, the then US President Nixon ordered – “Send everything that can fly.” As a result, the USAF Military Airlift Command fleet of 268 C-141s and 77 C-5As lived up to expectations, with “3 C-141s every 2 hours and 4 C-5As every 4 hours. ” shipping mode, continuously transporting military supplies from Europe and the United States to Lud Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel. According to statistics, from October 14, 1973 to November 15, 1973, the US Air Force shipped a total of 22,395 tons of materials, of which C-5 “Galaxy” transport aircraft performed 145 missions, C-141 “transportation” Star” transport aircraft flew 422 missions. Of the total freight tonnage, a total of 2,264.5 tons of “oversized” supplies and equipment can only be transported by C-5 transport aircraft. Among these so-called “oversized” supplies and equipment include M60 main battle tanks, 155mm howitzers, ground radar systems, heavy cargo trucks, CH-53 helicopters, and components of A-4E attack aircraft.
It is these materials that have reinvigorated the dried-up blood vessels of the Israeli army, especially the vitality of the Israeli armored forces and air force. Speaking in Washington three weeks after the armistice, Mrs. Meir said: “For generations, Israelis will be told about the miracles of those great American planes – they brought supplies to our people that meant they could survive. .”
Strategic Air Force Capability Value 2: Capability Gains for Special Mission Large Aircraft
Long-distance, large-scale air power projection relies on “large aircraft”, which are the basic aviation platforms for large early warning aircraft, tankers, electronic warfare aircraft, etc., which are also essential capabilities of the strategic air force constituent elements. For example, whether it is a fight or a war, the most basic elements are always the same – at least you have to see where the enemy is first, otherwise you will only be beaten. The Air Force must rely on large-caliber, high-power radar to detect the enemy at a long distance; for the army with a small territory and only want to watch the home, detection, early warning and command can be satisfied by the ground radar air defense system and command center. For those countries with large territories (it is impossible to densely cover ground radar systems in all directions), or countries that have the intention and ability to carry out military intervention outside the country, they must have large electronic early warning aircraft, and move large radars and command centers to the country. heaven. Only in this way can we reliably detect changes in the air situation in the front theater, and issue accurate and reliable command orders to dispatch the fighters ahead to participate in the battle. This function is completely irreplaceable for small and medium-sized early warning aircraft. For another example, tactical aircraft such as fighter jets are constrained by various factors such as tonnage, shape, and engine, and are actually very limited in terms of airborne time and range – especially after the wartime is full of weapons and ammunition. Once you encounter a large formation for long-range combat, you will inevitably encounter a lot of problems: you have to wait for other aircraft to fly over to meet, and you have to stay on standby and wait for the higher-level combat instructions. Without the support of aerial tankers, many aircraft with low internal fuel load, high fuel consumption, and early take-off would have to return before they could even wait for action. Large tankers allow combat aircraft to take off with excess ammunition but reduced fuel, and then refuel in the air to restore range. Tankers not only increase the range of combat aircraft, but also increase the air time. Away from base, having twice as much time in the theater can be equivalent to having more than twice the number of fighters available for combat. For a quasi-war state where existence is victory, increasing the clearance time of target airspace is even more important. This is fully reflected in the combat use of the US Air Force in recent decades.
In fact, as a typical strategic air force, the ratio of combat aircraft such as fighter jets and attack aircraft to large aircraft has reached a level of 3.76:1, that is, less than 4 combat aircraft correspond to a 100-ton or more aircraft. big aeroplane. In total, 5,584 US Air Force aircraft correspond to 582 large aircraft, and basically nine of all other types of aircraft correspond to one large aircraft over 100 tons.
Strategic Air Force Capability Value No. 3: Strategic Strike Capability and Deterrence
Another important feature of the strategic air force is the strategic strike capability and the deterrence behind it. Because it can overcome all obstacles and maneuver quickly in atmospheric space, and the continuous development of technology supports the increasing weight of aircraft, it is easy to understand the “air force” as an air fleet with strategic strike capabilities.
Although in the practice of World War II, there were doubts about the effectiveness of the strategic bombing of the British and American air forces and was widely criticized for the heavy losses. But we must also see that, after all, it was the Royal Air Force’s bombers as a means of strategic strike that became the main force for launching a counterattack against Nazi Germany early in the war. The RAF night bombing of Berlin largely forced the Luftwaffe to change its plans from eliminating RAF fighter jets to bombing urban targets such as London, ultimately becoming a turning point in the Battle of Britain. After two months of uninterrupted bombing of the German oil industry, Speer once again explained to Hitler: “If we can’t produce enough fuel, even if we have tanks, we won’t be able to use it.” This war experience This is an important reason for the US government to pull out the Army Air Force to form the Air Force separately after the war, and it is also the main reason for the separate establishment of the Strategic Air Force Command.
In contrast, in World War II, since the air forces of Japan, Germany and the Soviet Union were not built according to the concept of independent and strategic services, they were unable to undertake independent campaigns and strategic directions, and tried to use tactical air forces to achieve strategic goals. Attempts to target were never successful – the Luftwaffe’s 1940 defeat in the Battle of Britain, and the 1941-43 attack on the industrial areas east of the Ural Mountains illustrate this point. As the most important summary of the experience of the Second World War, the two superpowers after the war, the United States and the Soviet Union, rebuilt their air forces in accordance with the requirements of the strategic military services, and achieved their own success. For example, since 2015, the strategic bombers of the Russian Aerospace Forces have been frequently dispatched to carry out intercontinental air strikes on targets in Syria far away from the mainland. More than once, the Tu-160, which participated in the air strike, took off from Severomorsk, passed through the Barents Sea, the Atlantic Ocean, Gibraltar, the Mediterranean Sea, etc., and flew around the whole of Europe, and then launched Caliber cruise missiles in the sea and air near Cyprus , After accurately hitting the positions of the Syrian opposition forces, it returned to southern Russia through the Black Sea. The whole journey is more than 12,000 kilometers, and the political information conveyed far exceeds the target itself on the Syrian battlefield to be hit. The deterrence displayed is self-evident. In this regard, Putin simply and bluntly said: “10,000 diplomatic protests are not as good as the wings of a strategic bomber flapping once.”
The essence of the strategic military services is the ability of the military services that directly determines the outcome of wars. That is to say, it is the deep essence of modern strategic air force to have the ability to independently launch and win wars and to maintain national interests to the greatest extent. This is a systematic force composition and capability utilization, and is the most advanced form of the modern air force. Starting from this fundamental, the specific aircraft, missiles, and space vehicles to be equipped with are secondary. Equipment is important, but the positioning of the air force determines the equipment, not the nature of the air force. This is the origin of the interpretation of the strategic air force in the modern context. It is also the starting point of the Kazakhstan Incident in early 2022. Action should grasp the key point.