RamaY wrote:Since it is already clear that war is imminent, why cant we takeout such formations using few Brahmos missiles (when we have these fields with-in range)?
Would it constitute as an escalation of war?
This is something we might as well discuss in this thread. I was asked by some folks some time back on how the air war with China is expected to play out. I thought I might share some of my opinions that I gave them, to fill the gap between Shankar's scenario.
The question of how an air war between China and India will fare when talking about "feet dry" Ops is an open question. a physical boundary joins the two sides. These are not naval task forces trying to outmaneuver their foes. This is a slugging match. So how will it play out?CONOPs:
It depends on the intensity and level of preparedness, at both the mental and physical levels, and depends on the path to war. A war could be initiated after months of hostility or following none. It could be surprise attack on us or our preemptive attack on them. Or both sides could 'bump' into a war that neither side wanted but is handed nonetheless. It is this last one that turns out to be as damaging as a surprise strike in terms of attrition as a result of restricted engagement Concept of Operations or CONOPs. The bumping war:
In this special case, neither side can be expected to have deployed the infrastructure required for predicted, step-by-step "escalatory" air operations, but the material for all out war is available and not so difficult to materialize. So in a bumping situation, what constitutes "all out war" in a scenario where everybody is scrambling to diffuse the situation. What constitutes an "act of war" if accepting that as such could quite simply throw all acts of diffusing the situation out of the window?
Air strikes by default have been considered as "act of war" throughout history for the precision damage they cause to the other side's war-fighting capabilities, economies and national morale. Compare that to the bumping of a few infantry patrols or Company level engagements at the border and you see why the above set of criteria do not apply for the grunts on the ground. The level of apathy towards the nation's soldiers allows for such delineation of "escalatory responses" and "non-escalatory responses". If someone has to die, then the dying of a Jawan is not the point for the declaration of war but if a civilian was to die in a major city, or if a military C3I node was destroyed as a result of enemy action, then the latter would be cause for "total war." And the only way to do that would be through BMs, CMs or aircraft. It is therefore easy to see why these three weapons are considered escalations but standard artillery capable of killing only that poor unknown soldier at the front lines is not escalation in today's world.
Take the above after accounting the requirement for the Chinese to prevent loss of face in front of their own people (standard requirements for dictatorships) and you will see why any act of using air-power is going to be taken as "act of war".
But the above does not mean that the application of air-power is restricted. Just that doing the same is likely to result in an indiscriminate tidal wave of enemy response on your own infrastructure (economic, political and military) that you might not be prepared to adequately defend to begin with.
This is what brings us to the concept of what I like to call: 'war in stages'. Basically speaking, the Indian side needs to fight the air war with the one advantage it maintains over the enemy: flexibility. The focus of the war will (and must) change and can be characterized as different 'stages' and whose onset will be almost completely defined by the Chinese (90% probability on this guess), simply on the basis of the rotation of the massive war gears. Our gears have to do complete revolutions for every one of the Chinese...War in stages
A war in which both sides 'bump' into each other along the vast northern border will be tilted in the IAF's favor for the initial and first stage as far as aerial density and reaction time is concerned. The presence of airbases close to the border and just south of the Himalayas at sea level allow for long ranges/heavy loads/high endurance inside Tibetan airspace. The PLAAF would be hard pressed to counter as quickly given the location of their fighter airbases. The ones in Tibet are incapable of extended fighter ops (refer War in Tibet thread).
To counter this the Chinese air defense system currently is more potent that ours with S-300 series systems being a high mobility, long range air defense network that will almost certainly be used to counter the lack of manned assets guarding the airspace during this first stage of the war. The dominance of the IAF in this first stage of the war depends highly on how quickly this air defense infrastructure on the Chinese side can be dismantled. If it can be achieved quickly, the PLAAF will be denied the time required to begin inflicting losses on the IAF to reduce the latter's overall effectiveness over the skies. There is only a thin time gap where the PLA air defence systems and the PLAAF will be seperated in the strategic sense if you follow what I mean. As time goes by, and if both remain present on the aerial battlefield, the IAF will be hard pressed to conduct highly complicated combined DCA/SEAD/CAS/EW/OCA operations, and the almost definite losses will be heavy (Not to mention the infrasturcture and assets to do the above are not even a fraction of what would be required).
So the game play has to be to separate the Chinese air defense network and the AEW/fighter combination and destroy them one at a time to minimize losses. This plays on the IAF fleet numbers in that role concentration can be used to overcome lack of numbers in this crucial period. SU-30s can help with SEAD operations in conjunctions with Jaguars and CM strikes, armed dominantly for the SEAD/EW role. Later on when the Chinese ground defences have been suppressed (note: suppressed, not destroyed, which is impossible in the given time), then the roles can change to OCA and then after suppressing the PLAAF in the air, back again to help suppress the new systems that the Chinese might bring in to replace previous losses.
You might argue that the SU-27s can fly over the battlefield from the PLAAF northern airbases within a matter of hours, so where does this strategic gap exist? The answer is that it doesn't. But we are not talking absolute numbers, but rather what can be referred to as 'aerial density', and helps define the mental appreciation of the presence of a given air force over the battlefield. To put it simply, a smaller air force can make its presence felt over the battlefield in a magnitude that is much larger than its size by having a quick turnaround time at the airbase and if the airbase are close to the border. Conversely, an air force with much larger numbers can feel as a much smaller air force if its airbases are far to the rear and maintenance and turnaround is sloppy. This latter case with regard to far off airbases applies to the PLAAF while the IAF has that advantage, at least initially before the PLA/PLAAF missile strikes start removing IAF airbases off the board as the war drags on. It allows the IAF to devote a vast majority of its prime assets to a certain job while a minor part control the airspace and fend off the PLAAF fighters who would have to be supported by aerial tankers and thus the latter would be their choke point in terms of numbers.
That brings us to the first time overlap with Stage Two of the air war. Note:
will continue if you guys want. -Vivek