Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR March2013 Contents 26 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter MARCH 2013
arfare in or from the air has changed
dramatically in the last 100 years.
The images of World War One
devil-may-care pilots in helmet and
goggles, scarves waving in the slipstream, taking pot
shots at one another from open biplane cockpits or
optimistically dropping small bombs on targets below,
rapidly evolved into bitter machine gun dogfights of
World War Two and dropping massive tonnages of
bombs in saturation raids. The two atomic bombs
detonated on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the
ultimate climax in killing innocent civilians.
Korea and Vietnam were not greatly different in that
bombing continued on hoped for legitimate targets,
without much regard for the civilian population. Iraq
and Afghanistan have brought a change in that the
Coalition have enjoyed complete air superiority and
been able to conduct intelligence-led raids on targets
with great concern to avoid killing or seriously injuring
civilians. New generations of missiles have created
the opportunity to deliver guided munitions much
more precisely. The advent of drones, able to take out
pin-point targets accurately with minimal collateral (=
civilian) damage, has also changed the equation by
creating deniable attacks.
Now, the challenge for air superiority among nations
and the ability to deliver munitions in the face of
markedly improved anti-air defences, has meant that
air forces are increasingly relying on stand-off missiles
which can be fired from an aircraft below the target’s
defensive radar horizon, then head flat out from harm’s
way before counter-fire reaches them.
The RAAF has introduced force multipliers with their
E-7A Wedgetail airborne early warning and control
(AEW&C) aircraft and KC-30A tankers which greatly
increase the operational range of F/A-18A/B Hornet
and F/A-18F Super Hornet fighter bombers. When
the F-35A Joint Strike Fighters come into service the
E-7A and KC-30A will give the same multiplier effect.
What progress have the RAAF made in introducing
stand-off missiles into service with their classic
Hornets and Super Hornets?
CLASSIC HORNET AND SUPER
HORNET WEAPON LOADS
Both types of aircraft have an M61 20mm nose-
mounted cannon for strafing surface targets.
Each can carry AIM-9 Sidewinder infra-red homing
short range missiles for air-to-air combat. Boeing won
a contract in 2010 to support Sidewinder operations
until at least 2055, by which time it will have been
in service for over 100 years! AIM-132 ASRAAM
missiles released for RAAF service in 2004 do have
advantages over the AIM-9 .
AIM-7 Sparrow radar guided missiles have been
the principal beyond-visual-range missile for the RAAF
Hornets, but they are being supplemented by the
more advanced AIM-120 AMRAAM.
Harpoon precision-guided missiles have been
the primary anti-shipping weapon for the classic
Hornet, Super Hornet and AP-3C. Sea-skimming and
with radar guided homing, they remain very potent
Will they be replaced by more recent stand-off
missiles like the JASSM, JDAM-ER and JSOW which
can be launched from the Hornets? The RAAF now
has all these types introduced into service, although
there has been controversy and ministerial concern in
getting to this stage.
The Hornets also have conventional bombs which
can be tossed and laser guided onto targets.
Will these missiles still be useful when the F-35A
Joint Strike Fighter comes into the RAAF fleet later
The F-35A is seen as a fifth generation fighter
bomber which will be used as a ground attack
platform, required to despatch bombs and stand-off
missiles. The aircraft has two centre bays and six
external pylons, three under each wing. Each centre
bay can hold three AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles,
while the external pylons can take JASSM, JDAM,
AIM-120 and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, as well as
AIM-9 SIDEWINDER / AIM-132
With a short range of up to 35 km, the Sidewinder
infra-red homing missile travels at Mach 2.5 and is
deadly in aerial combat. Relatively old and inexpensive,
it is claimed to have an estimated 270 aircraft kills
which would make it the most successful air-to-air
Sidewinder is the most widely used missile in
Western air forces and is likely to remain in RAAF
service in the future.
However, Project AIR 5400 acquired AIM-132
Advanced Short Range Air-to-Air (ASRAAM) missiles
for within visual range (WVR) combat. This missile
MISSILES – FIRE AND
FORGET? GEOFF SLOCOMBE // CANBERRA
No. 77 Squadron F/A-18 aircraft A21-7 carrying the JASSM
Credit: CoA / Scott Woodward
21/02/13 5:59 PM
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