Thursday, March 24, 2011

Media amusement

According to US Army (R) Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, who was just spotted on FOXNews while flipping through the channels on the TV, TLAM is a term meant to describe "putting iron on target". Seriously? He just described TLAMs and Tomahawks being used "to strike 20 targets" in Libya. For those of you who aren't familiar with the term, TLAM is Tomahawk Land Attack Missile. Translation: it's a Tomahawk used to target ground targets, as opposed to the UGM-109B TASM, or Tomahawk Anti-Ship Missile. It's not a big deal, but I did find it funny. Maybe next time it'd be a good idea to ask someone more likely to have a clue what they're talking about to deal with current operations. What a terrorism expert can offer about direct action between nation states is beyond me, and in this case it was very little. The best part is that not five minutes later a reporter accurately referred to TLAM Tomahawks!

So, the lesson for today is to take whatever you hear from an "expert" with a grain of salt. I'm not removing myself from that category either; if you found me describing something outside my own fields of study, I'd expect to be treated the same way.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Other Updates

Here's a few other relevant updates:

1. For the time being, Libyan SAM systems will remain in the SAM Site Overview file. Yes, most of them have probably been obliterated by now. But, my policy has always been to base the file on available overhead imagery, not speculation. As newer post-strike imagery filters into Google Earth, Terra Server, and other online sources, I'll adjust the sites in the file accordingly. Given Google's quick release of GeoEye imagery relating to the crisis in Japan, that may happen sooner rather than later.

2. Here are the forthcoming topics for the April issue of the I&A PDF:

Current Events: undecided at this point. Will not deal with Libya as the issue has been dealt with extensively here, and frankly it won't be truly current by the mid-April release date anymore.
Air Defense: The S-300P/S-400 This is an expanded, updated version of this feature.
Historical Perspective: SAM Modernization in China A chronological look at the modernization of China's SAM network as newer systems became available through import or native development.
Strategic Warfare: War of the Weird Presenting a look at two thoroughly different development paths intended to field a survivable cruise missile during the latter stages of the Cold War. This will compare and contrast the US SENIOR PROM and the USSR's Meteorit.
Reading List: Military Classics Self-explanatory, really. I'll be providing an overview of selected military classics such as Clausewitz's On War, Guderian's Achtung! Panzer, and others.

The obligatory Links, Sources, and What Is It? features will also appear. If you wish to subscribe:

-Send an e-mail to imintandanalysis AT
-Enter Subscribe PDF in the subject line
-Non-US readers may subscribe, but bear in mind that the product will be produced in the English language.

3. What's missing from the last time I posted subsription info? US .gov and .mil e-mail addresses may now subscribe to the service. In order to do this, enter Subscribe PDF MIL in the subject line of your e-mail. I'm going to try this out by keeping a separate mailing list. One of the reasons these addresses were initially "banned" was because I used to have one! Often e-mail links were deleted and certain websites could not be acessed, potentially preventing a subscriber from a) receiving the download link or b) accessing the download site. By keeping them separate, I can try this out and then manage a separate distribution system should it be required (currently Google Documents is used, and I have no clue if a .gov or .mil user would be able to access the site). Plus, by doing this now, the major influx of initial subscriber e-mails has already been processed, saving me the trouble of having to sift through hundreds of e-mails.

Lastly, welcome to all of the new readers here. As various media outlets and websites linked to the Libyan analysis pieces, site traffic has exploded over the last four days, resulting in a month's worth of traffic since Friday. Even more amusing is the #1 search result for Libyan NFZ in Google!

Libyan Update

Following the initial cruise missile strikes on 19 March, the Pentagon released a document illustrating the general areas where targets were attacked. As expected for an attack on Libyan IADS architecture, the strike locations corresponded to regions with deployed EW assets and S-75, S-125, and S-200 missile batteries.

The graphic below illustrates the post-strike state of the Libyan IADS, presuming that all SAM systems were disabled in regions targeted by cruise missile strikes.
While the Qaddafi regime is no longer assessed to control operational strategic SAM batteries in the NFZ region, numerous EW facilities still remain. These facilities allow the regime to maintain a degree of situational awareness, provided they are not under constant electronic attack. Furthermore, no effort was made to strike S-75 or S-125 batteries deep inland. Sabha is still defended by an S-75 and S-125 battery, and contains a garrison facility which could be used to reconstitute SAM units damaged or destroyed in the March 19th attacks.

If the coalition is unwilling to strike targets outside the established NFZ, the Qaddafi regime may be able to transport SAM components to its periphery. This would theoretically enable targets operating in the southern portions of the NFZ to be engaged, creating an interesting scenario where the coalition would have to either restrict flight in sections of the NFZ or attack targets outside of the NFZ to maintain its integrity. Such a course of action could potentially see increased protest from nations such as China and India, bringing into question the continued value and effectiveness of the NFZ as a whole. Also, Western nations attacking targets outside of the NFZ could result in a significant loss of support from the Arab League.

If there is a lesson to be learned from the March 19th decapitation strikes on Qaddafi's IADS, it is that nations relying on Soviet-era SAM systems no longer pose a significant threat to a modern, well-equipped military arm. While current-generation Russian-made SAM systems rank among the most sophisticated and capable in the world, the era in which nations could rely on elderly Soviet-era systems such as the S-75 or S-200 to provide a credible degree of air defense capability has decisively ended. Claims by the Pentagon that Libya possessed a high-threat IADS network were technologically unfounded, in much the same way that the same claims made about iraq in 1991 were also proven to be extreme exaggerations.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Libya Update; Graphing

As we are all aware by now, UN-backed military action is being taken against Libya. As predicted earlier, the opening salvo consisted primarily of cruise missile strikes against the air defense network, opening the door for allied aircraft to operate over Libya in a lower threat environment.

In an amusing development, here's CNN's John King saying pretty much the exact same thing I did once he gets around to talking about the air defenses: VIDEO Readers have already noted that the range rings and color schemes used to identify Libyan SAM sites are the same ones I used in the SAM Site Overview! It appears that my SAM Site Overview file is now a CNN media source, they even used the native system designators that I do rather than the more common Westernised names usually found in the Western press and media when dealing with Soviet-era systems. My attempts to control the world are clearly moving ahead as planned. Seriously, if anyone else notices something like this, let me know. I do track stuff like this, in part to make my resume more amusing and in part because it adds credibility when I am asked to provide organizations with information.

In an unrelated note, who knows of a good graphing program? I want to make a graph showing SAM system engagement envelopes similar to the HQ-2 graph done here that I used a while back:
What I want to do (ignoring the text bits) is show the engagement zone as an area graph, but be able to overlay multiple zones on top of each other. Picture the blue part of the above HQ-2 zone overlaid on top of a different colored HQ-9 zone, for instance, showing the disparity in capabilities. Using a graphing or charting application will allow me to do this in much less time than having to draw the entire thing manually, which is what I did for the HQ-2 graph. Either MS Excel is not cooperating, or I have no clue what I'm doing. Either one is possible. So if you have an idea of a program that I can use to graph areas like that, with set minimum and mazimum values in the X (range) and Y (altitude) axes, let me know. Just don't bring up gnuplot; I tried that one and it made my programming-illiterate brain hurt.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Libyan NFZ: The SAM Threat


On 17 March 2011 the UNSC voted to enforce a No-Fly Zone (NFZ) over Libya, in response to the conflict between Qaddafi's regime and separatist forces. The Libyan military operates numerous Soviet-era strategic SAM systems which represent the most likely threat to allied aircraft enforcing the NFZ. Libyan SAM systems include the S-75 (SA-2 GUIDELINE), S-125 (SA-3 GOA), and S-200 (SA-5 GAMMON). Numerous AAA, MANPADS', and tactical SAM systems are also operated, but represent a considerably reduced threat given their limited effectiveness above 20,000 feet.


The graphic presented below illustrates the pre-conflict state of Libyan strategic air defenses. Major military airfields, active EW radar sites, and operational strategic SAM coverage zones are marked. It should be noted that the graphics presented here depict identified dedicated EW facilities. Many SAM batteries possess their own organic EW elements; simply targeting the known EW facilities does not necessarily prevent the SAM force from receiving the target track data necessary to prosecute an engagement.
The majority of contested territory is along the northern coastline of Libya, shown in the graphic below. This is advantageous to any allied aircraft entering the theater of operations, as they do not have to travel deep into Libya to enforce the NFZ in support of separatist forces. Furthermore, ISR and support aircraft can be operated offshore under the protection of CAPs and naval air defense systems.
Separatist forces are concentrated along the eastern coastline of the nation from Benghazi to Tobruk and the Egyptian border. As the air defense forces in these regions are likely no longer under Qaddafi's control, the graphic below indicates the likely pro-Qaddafi SAM threat picture facing NFZ operations.
Numerous SAM garrisons and unoccupied, prepared strategic SAM sites present an opportunity for pro-Qaddafi forces to reinforce their positions prior to the start of NFZ operations. Reinforcing the strategic SAM network in this fashion will present an increased SAM threat to allied aircraft and offer increased overlapping coverage zones around key military installations. A potential reinforced pro-Qaddafi SAM network is illustrated in the graphic below.
The majority of the command and control facilities for the pro-Qaddafi regime, as well as the seat of power, are consolidated in and around the capital of Tripoli. The following two graphics depict the current operational SAM network around Tripoli, as well as a potentially reinforced network employing currently inactive positions.

The true nature of the SAM threat to NFZ operations will become apparent when operations commence. Should allied forces choose to enforce the NFZ over the entire region, it is likely that SEAD or DEAD operations will commence against the bulk of identified pro-Qaddafi SAM sites. However, should NFZ enforcement be limited initially to protecting separatist-controlled areas in the eastern portion of the nation, it is possible that few of the pro-Qaddafi SAM sites would be targeted as they would be unable to engage allied aircraft.

The exception to the latter scenario is the S-200. The S-200 enjoys a 250 km range against cooperative targets such as ISR and support aircraft. Given that allied aircraft will likely be based out of European territories or operate from USN CVNs, heavy use of inflight refueling should be expected. Eliminating pro-Qaddafi S-200 batteries would enable allied ISR and support aircraft to operate much closer to the Libyan coastline.

Should allied forces choose to enforce the NFZ over the entire nation and consequently engage active S-75 and S-125 SAM batteries, the capability of the pro-Qaddafi SAM network could be significantly degraded with a relatively small number of sorties. The Libyan SAM inventory is constrained by the reliance on Soviet-era systems. The S-75, S-125, and S-200 are limited by the fact that each engagement radar can only prosecute a single target. S-200 batteries are often bolstered by multiple 5N62 (SQUARE PAIR) engagement radars to allow the battery to engage multiple targets, but the single-target limitation significantly reduces the effectiveness of the network as a whole. Furthermore, over-reliance on aging technology places the network at significant risk for electronic warfare interference. The US military, for example, has faced the S-75 and S-125 over Iraq and the former Yugoslavia and is well-versed on countertactics and electronic attack procedures to mitigate the threat posed by such systems. While measures may have been taken to allow the S-75 and S-125 to remain viable in Libyan service, at this point they do not present significant risks to a modern military force. That is not to suggest that they present no risk whatsoever, but rather that they are no longer considered to be high-threat systems based on their age and known technical performance.

Aerial attacks against separatist positions appear to have been curtailed in favor of ground assault and artillery bombardment. In this light, the provision of the NFZ calling for protection of civillian under threat from pro-Qaddafi forces could allow operations over regime-controlled areas. A potential military campaign could begin with strikes against SAM positions and EW facilities, followed by strikes against pro-Qaddafi forces threatening or engaged with separatist forces, particularly those near Benghazi. Given the limited number of SAM sites located in territory held by the Qaddafi regime, it is likely that the capability of the strategic SAM network to prosecute targets could be significantly curtailed within 24 hours. Cruise missiles could be employed to strike identified SAM sites, forgoing the expense of a significant SEAD or DEAD operation and allowing combat aircraft to be tasked to protect separatist forces.


With the decision to enact a NFZ over Libya, the strategic SAM network represents the most significant threat to allied aircraft tasked with its enforcement. However, due to the single-target engagement capability of Libyan S-75 and S-125 batteries, the network is far less capable than it appears at first glance. Libya negotiated for the purchase of S-300PMU-2 (SA-20B GARGOYLE) advanced SAM systems from Russia in 2010 but at this date no sale has been completed and no deliveries have been reported. Had Libya moved to upgrade its air defense network in recent years, the issue of allied aircraft enforcing a NFZ could have become a far more complicated task. Once again, a nation relying on an aged air defense network will potentially be at risk in large part because it failed to upgrade its capability. As an interesting footnote, it will be important to monitor Iran following the cessation of action against Qaddafi's regime. Perhaps the destruction of yet another aging air defense network will be the final catalyst pushing Iran to modernize it's own defenses.


Positional information derived from Google Earth. Range data used to create engagement zones sourced from Jane's Land-Based Air Defence. Graphics created using GIMP 2.0.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Libyan No-Fly Zone

Apparently, I seem to have once again been useful. Back in 2010, I wrote about Libya's SAM Network. Over the past week or so media outlets all over the world have picked it up as a source regarding the then-potential UN No-FLy Zone. One reader even noticed it mentioned live on the air on Al Jazeera. In light of the fact that there aren't any other significant references out there yet, I'm working on something which will be posted here later Friday (much later, it's almost 2AM right now...expecting to see something in two hours will result in disappointment) dealing with the potential impact of Libya's SAM systems on a NFZ.

This is taking a little bit longer as I am generating all of my own amusing images for this one from scratch. As a preview, here's an example:
Check back later on today (maybe late tonight/early Saturday, I teach Friday evenings) to see what I can come up with.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Type 094 in PLAN NSF

A recent Google Earth imagery update indicates that the Chinese Type 094 SSBN may have reached operational service with the North Sea Fleet of the PLAN. The imagery, captured in August of 2010, decpicts a Type 094 SSBN dockside at Jianggezhuang Submarine Base near Qingdao. Previously, the sole operational Type 094 hull was reportedly based at a submarine facility on Hainan Island with the PLAN's South Sea Fleet.

At least three Type 094 hulls have been constructed, with one based at Hainan and two others remaining pierside at Huludao in imagery dated March of 2010. A Type 094 SSBN has been sighted in imagery at Xiaopingdao SLBM test facility as recently as April of 2009, likely in conjunction with JL-2 SLBM trials.

The presence of a Type 094 hull at Jianggezhuang rather than Xiaopingdao indicates that the hull is operational with the North Sea Fleet. The bulk of China's nuclear submarine force, including the sole Type 092 SSBN, resides at Jianggezhuang. The Type 092 was recently noted in imagery to be undergoing refit or repair using the installation's drydock, occupying the drydock between 2005 and 2007.


-Imagery courtesy of Google Earth

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I&A March 2011

The March 2011 issue of the I&A PDF has now been released to subscribers. Following on the request of numerous people joining the mailing list following the release of the first issue, both issues are available for download. The previous issues will always be available for download each month, until the new calendar year when Volume 2 begins. So, if you sign up late, you won't ever have to worry about missing anything! Well, until the end of the year. At that point I will compile the entire year's worth of issues into a separate volume and release it to the global community rather than the subscribers.

Here are the features found in the March issue:

-Current Events: The Latakia Port Facility
-Air Defense: China's Hybrid SAM Sites
-Historical Perspective: OTH-SW Deployment in China
-Strategic Warfare: Iranian SSM Facilities
-Software: Facility Drawings in GIMP
-Reading List: High-Tech Warfare
-March 2011 Links, Source List, and What Is It?

Also, a supplementary KML file is being sent with the download link to allow readers to view the locations discussed in the March issue. This will be a standard feature from now on.

Lastly, yes, I am still going to update the SAM Site Overview file. Preparing the Chinese Hybrid SAM Sites article actually led me to discover some errors that needed to be corrected, apart from the usual adding of new sites. I've got the file compiled, it will be uploaded tomorrow morning here, along with the update information. And now that I have the whole PDF thing sorted out, you'll start to see some more content here as well. My intent was never to get rid of this site entirely, just to change things up a bit!