Warsaw Pact Air Power:
Concepts for Conventional Air Operations Against NATO
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Comment* on the tact ond judgment contained ir ihb report ihould be forwarded through appropriate channels to lhe Director of Strategic Retcorch, CIA Headquarters,.
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY Directorate of Intelligence2
Warsaw Pact Air Power: Concepts for Conventional Air Operations Against N.
The tactical air forces of the Warsaw Pact are designed in accordance with Soviet doctrinein the Fifties thatar in Europe as nuclear from the outset. Soviet views have now changed to include the possibility of an initial period of conventional war. The air forces, however, whichajor responsibility in either circumstance, have changed little in terms ofto reflect the new view.
During the period of conventional conflict, Pact air forces would be the principal means for destroying critical targets throughout the theater. Pact planners have had to develop conceots andfor attacking with conventional weapons targets which in earlier planning they hadfor nuclear attack. This problem wasby the small conventional payloads of Pact tactical aircraft and by the greater vulnerability to air defenses of the bombers which would have to assume the primary strike role-
J coordinated plan referred to in this report as the Air Operation" is intended to enable the Warsaw Pact air forces to carryission for which they were not originally intended and for which they are not now well suited.
Note: This report uaa prepared bu the Office of Strategic Research and coordinated uithin CIA.
The primary objective of Pact air forces during the conventional phase is to destroy the NATO nuclear-capable air forces in order to limit NATO'sto escalate the conflict to nuclear war. The attainment of air superiorityrerequisite, however, because the Pact is forced to rely onarmed medium bombers as its main striking force against NATO targets. The greater range and payload capabilities of medium bombers are required, in turn, to compensate for the deficiencies of Frontal Aviation aircraft.
Soviet medium bombers handle poorly at the low altitudes characteristic of operationseavy air defense environment, and at higher altitudes are easily detected and vulnerable to missiles and interceptors. The need to use the bombers and the performance limitations of these aircraft probably were tho primary influences in the development of the Air Operation plan, which assigns Frontal Aviation units to protect the more vulnerable bombers byor temporarily suppressing air defenses.
Under the Air Operation plan the Frontaland Long Range Aviation forces would bein three-wave attacks. The first wave, consisting of aboutercent of available Frontal Aviation aircraft, would be responsible for clearing corridors through the NATO forward air defense belt. The second wave, aboutercent of tho Frontal Aviation aircraft, would pass through theseand spread out to attack air defenses and airfields as far asautical miles beyond the frontier. The third wave, comprised of LRA medium bombers, would attack targets throughout the theater.
Decause the conventional phase is considered to be transitory. Pact planners stress theofortion of the Frontal Aviation and LRA medium bomber forces ready to
ATO nuclear attack or to deliverattacks. Theseone-quarter of Frontal Aviation and an estimated one-third of the LRA mediumbe withheld from the Air Operation.
The Air Operation plan introduces significant changes to previous estimates as to how Pact planners intend to commit their air forcesonventional war in Europe. Frontal Aviation, subordinate to the various ground force fronts, was previously believed to be under the control of the front commanders. Under that arrangement, aircraft subordinate to second-echelon fronts required to move forward from the USSR might not be committed until their fronts were engaged.
Under the Air Operation plan, however, Frontal Aviation from all fronts opposite NATO'seserve for nuclearapparently would be committed to the attack from the outset. aximum effort would be made tothe NATO air forces in the first few days. This is consistent with overall Pact doctrine whichaximum efforthort war with little force structuring to allowrolonged conflict, unlike the ground forces, which would move forward in two echelons, all Frontalexcept for the nuclearbe committed in the initial action.
The immediate commitment of mostigh-intensity air war would reduce the capabilities of the air forces to engage inactivity. In the Pact's view, however, the Air Operation apparently is more important thanintact air units solely for tho support of the second-echelon fronts. esult. Pact frontal ground operations in the subsequent stagesar ijn Europe could--depending on the success of the Air Operation--be hamperedack of air support.
The requirements of the Airfor forces and for closechanges in Pact procedure for the control of air forces. Under the.Air Operationeadquarters under the Soviet General Staff or the Soviet Air Forces probably would be established, replacing the control of the front commanders and given fullof the participating Frontal Aviation and LRA forces. Even after the Air Operation was terminated, this higher headquarters probably would retaincontrol of Pact air forces.
The requirements of the Air Operation would take precedence over the air support needs of the fronts. Ground units would be forced to rely mainly on their own firepower and air defense during the Airand possibly during subsequent phases of the war, if Pact air forces incurred significant losses in the initial battle for air superiority. Recognition of this factor may, in part, have prompted the increases in divisional artillery and improvements inair defense which have been noted over the past five years.
The Air Operation plan appears to make maximum use of the capabilities of currently available forces by using medium bombers as the main striking force. The limitations on range and payload of Frontal Aviation are offset by using most of these aircraft to suppress air defenses with cannon and rocket fire. The potential advantages of the Air Operation to the Warsaw Pact can be gained only through speed andbecause of tho requirement to engage rather than avoid NATO air defenses in the executionthe corridor plan. The Pact advantage would be sharply reduced if NATO quickly identified thecorridors and moved effectively toits defenses in those areas.
* * * *
Background: The Conventional-Phase Concept
Role of Warsaw Pact Air Forces in
The Air Operation Concept
Target Priorities for the Conventional
Medium Bombers: The Main Striking Force .on NATO Air Defenses:
Readiness for Nuclear Contingencies
The Air Operation
The First Wave: Breaching the Air
The second Wave: Frontal Aviation
Attacks in Depth
The Third Wave: The Main Striking Force .
Subsequent Frontal Aviation Assaults
The Nuclear Strike Force
Ground Force Support of the Air
Frontal Aviation Tactics for the
Control of the Air
The Forces Available
Frontal Aviation in the Forward Area
Air Forces in the Western
Medium Bomber Forces
National Air Defense Interceptors
Requirements for One
Warsaw Pact Frontal Aviation Regiments Opposite Central Region of .
Comparison of Warsaw Pact Planning for Air Operations in Nuclear and Conventional War - . 11
Warsaw Pact Targeting of NATO Installations
The First Assault of the Air
The First Sortie of the Air
Subsequent Frontal Aviation Sorties
Allocation of Frontal Aviation Aircraft . . . 39
Combat Aircraft in WarsawAviation
Soviet Medium Bombers Available for the
Background: The Conventional-Phase Concept
In the late Fifties and early Sixties, Warsaw Pact concepts for air operations were based on the Soviet doctrine that armed conflict with NATO would either begin with or immediately escalate to nuclear war. Tactical air doctrine was formulated in the context of an integrated combined-arms strategy for nuclear war in the European theater.
nuclear strikes would be made throughout the depth
of the theater at the outsetar, destroying NATO's nuclear capabilities, disorganizing itsand enabling highly mobile ground forces to overrun Western Europe rapidly. Later evidence indicated that most of the nuclear strikes were to be delivered by Soviet strategic peripheraland IRBMs in the western USSR and medium bombers of Long Range Aviation. elatively small portion of the nuclearprimarily those in the more immediate battlefieldto be made by the tactical missile and rocket forces and by tactical aviation subordinate to the fronts.
The offensive role envisioned for tacticalhad boon considerably diminished in comparison with that of the period immediately following World War II, when the Soviots had larger nonnuclearair forces. The developing nuclear concept of the early Sixties influenced the reconfiguration of Frontal Aviation* andeneral decline in total capabilities for conventional bombing.
in the mid-Sixties Soviet planners, reacting to the NATO doctrine of "flexibleecognized
* Frontal Aviation (Frontooayc aviatsiya) is the Soviet term denoting tactical air forces uhieh ar assigned to the fronts.
that war with NATO could begin without the immediate use of nuclear weapons and that nonnuclear conflict might continue for some time. They concluded that war in Europe could begin with an attack by NATO conventional forces. Pact strategists evidently still consider thishase of an escalating conflict which is likely to go nuclearew days. Nevertheless, they apparently concluded that the action taking place during this conventional phase would play an important role in determining theof the war. Pact planners stress the importance of using the conventional phase to improve the Pact's nuclear position relative to that of NATO.
During the period of conventional conflict Pact air forces would be the principal means forcritical targets throughout the theater. Pact planners have had to develop concepts andfor attacking with conventional air weapons targets to which they had allocated nuclear weapons in earlier planning. The problem was exacerbated by the small conventional payloads of tactical aircraft which had been designed primarily for nuclear war.
Role of Warsaw Pact Air Forces in Conventional War
The Air Operation Concept
The Pact's Air Operation would consisteries of massive air attacks by tactical aircraft and medium bombers at the outset of conventional conflict. These attacks would be compressed into the shortest possible time. The immediatewould be to achieve air superiority over the battlefield area und reduce NATO nuclear capabilities.
Nearly all tactical air units available for early commitment against NATO and most* of the medium bombers from Long Range Aviation in the western USSR would be committed to the Air Operation during the first day or so of combat. The Air Operation is separate and distinct from air force action in direct support of ground units. It is planned for support of strategic theater objectives rather than specific front operations* For this reason, itsleast for the initial period of conventionalprecedence over those for direct support of ground operations of the front.
Target Priorities for the Conventional Air Operation
The priorities assigned to NATO targets are based on their capacity to cause losses among Pact troops. The most critical targets for the Air Operation in the following order of importance would be:
of the NATO strategic airin Europe, These may include thebombers andll bombers based in the UK,
air forces in the forwardthose capable of delivering
for nuclear weapons,
The priority assigned to reducing NATO nuclear capabilities during the conventional Air Operation reflects the Soviet conviction that conventional conflict will onlyreludeuclear war-Pact expectations as to the duration of thephase are imprecise. In most exercise
scenarios, the conflict oscalates after about three days, although some high-level Pact officersbelieve that conventional operations could lastoays. The escalation to nuclear war is regarded as virtually inevitable, however,the length of the conventional phase.
One reason NATO air forces are regarded as the most critical targets in the conventional phase is the Pact expoctationajor portion of NATO nuclear strikes would be delivered by aircraft. There probably are other reasons for assigningto NATO air force resources which are directly responsive to requirements for the conductonventional conflict. Pact planners probably identify NATO air strength as the most immediate threat to their own air forces and nuclear resourcesonventional conflict. Remembering theof7 Arab-Israeli war, thoy hold that the initial achievement of air superiority byenemy aircraft on the ground can quickly decide the outcomeonventional war. Tactical missiles, on the other hand, areritical factor in conventional warfare, and attacks on them would be secondary in importance to attacks on NATO air forces.
A decision not to use nuclear weapons would place on Pact air forces the burden of attacking airfields as well as tactical missilo systems. Under such circumstances, Pact planners would be forced to establish priorities for the use of their limited resources. The heavy demands on Pact air forces probably are the reason these forces would not engage in conventional attacks on such large-area targets as harbors and industrial andcenters.
Another reason for assigning air facilitiesover tactical missile systems is the target acquisition problem presented by the mobile NATOmssiles. The success of reconnaissance to aid in locating missile sites would bo dependent on the achievementegree of local air superiority.
Comparison of Warsaw Pact Planning for Air Operations in Nuclear and Conventional War
argets, including airfields, nuclear-capable missiles and delivery systems, nuclear depots, air defenses, troop concentrations, ports andcenters, and command andfacilities.
About halt the number of targetsunder the nuclear war plan. Airfields, command and control centers, and nuclear depots aretargets, but suppression orol air defensesarge-area targets are deferred until nuclear stage.)
uclearercent delivered by IRBMs. MRBMs. and LRAercent by tactical missiles and rocketsto front commanders and byrontal Aviation aircraft.
onventionally armed medium bombers provide the main striking force, supported byrontal Aviation aircraft toair defenses. (About one-third ol medium bombers and one quarter ol Frontal Aviation aircraft are kepi readiness lor transition io nuclear wat.l
andontrolled by the Soviet highFrontal Aviation is subordinate to front commanders.
Frontal Aviation and LRA medium bombers cornmitied to the Airprobably are controlled at theater-level headquarters. After the Operation. Frontal Aviation would be allocated to from commanders.
Aviation is used ai lheof the tront commanders for close air support, air defense, and
During the Air Operation about one-ihird of Frontal Aviation sorties would be allocated to frontThe Air Operation would take precedence. Ground forces would have greater rcsponsibilily for theirelense and dresuppori.
Medium Hombcr3: The Main Striking Force
In addition to expanding tha required scope of air forceecision not to use nucloar weapons considerably reduces the destructive power of the individual aircraft. The use ofbombs instead of nuclear warheads requires that targets be attacked repeatedly by largerof aircraft, with greater accuracy. Even then the destructive effect of nuclear weapons is seldom achieved.
This problem is exacerbated by tho limited payload capacities of Pact tactical aircraft. The Soviets apparently did not originally anticipate that tho offensive roles of Frontal Aviation in nuclearnuclear strikes and close support with conventionalrequire aircraft with large payload capacities. Emphasis was placed instead on fast, relatively lightwhich could be deployed in large numbers and could operate from dispersed airfields to enhance survivaluclear attack. Effectivebombing by Pact tactical aircraft of such large targets as airfields would require unattainably high sortie rates, considering the limitations imposed by loqistics and support systems and the characteristics of the aircraft. Apparently this has led Pact planners to assign the primary strike role in the conventional Air Operation to the medium bombers of tho lra.
Soviet medium bombers handle poorly at the low altitudes characteristic of operationseavy air defense environment. At higher altitudes,such bombers are more easily detected and more vulnerable to missiles and interceptors.
Attacks on NATO Airrerequisite
During the Air Operation, Frontal Aviation units are assigned to protect the more vulnerable bombers by-destroying or temporarily suppressing air defenses.
During the conventional phase, the Pact would have to commit air forces against relatively intact defense systems. Under the earlier conceptar in Europe would be fought with nuclear weapons from the outset, NATO air defenses were to be destroyed orby initial Soviet nuclear missile strikes. Pact aircraft were not expected to destroy or pass through significant, intact NATO air defenses. In conventional war, however, most of the tacticalin Frontal Aviation would have to be committed immediately to operations to destroy or suppress NATO air defense systems before attacks on other targets could begin. Air superiority in at least selected areas is to be achieved before the main strike force of LRA bombers is employed.
Readiness for Nuclear Contingencies Maintained'
The need to maintain readiness for delivering nuclear strikes in the event of escalation to nuclear war conflicts with the demands on Frontal Aviation and LRA forces for conventional bombing. Some LRA bombers and nuclear-armed Frontal Aviation aircraft would be withheld from the conventional air action in readiness to deliver nuclear strikes either on the first indicationATO intention to launch nuclear strikes or in retaliation for NATO strikes.
The Air Operation Plan
Particulars of the Air Operation are discussed in this section. Force requirements for the Air Operationomparison of these requirements with the estimated forces available to the Pact are discussed in subsequent sections.
The Air Operation consists of mass assaults, each involving at least two waves of attacking aircraft, followed by smaller, concentrated at-
Warsaw Pact Targeting of NATO Installations and Air Defenses
viation jonc of options
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tacks on isolated targets. Frontal Aviation and the LRA would not be the only forces in tlie Warsaw Pact national air defense forces and such ground force elements as artillery,batteries, and electronic countermeasures units would also participate.
The depth of the area involved is governed by the targets assigned by the Warsaw Pact high command The duration of the operation is determined by the targets assigned as well as by the time allowable for their destruction and the forces committed to the task. The Air Operation probably would last two to four days, including the initial mass strikes and subsequent smaller, concentrated strikes.
The First Wave: Breaching the Air Defenses
The initial wave of air strikes would be launched by Frontal Aviation forces to clear corridors through NATO forward air defenses. One or two corridors would be established opposite each front. The forces in position for early commitment against NATO would consist of three fronts, hence some three to six corridors would have to be cleared during the first wave. Pact plannersypical corridor as aboutoiles wide andoiles deep containing Hawk batteriesm antiaircraft gun batteries. Rather than attacking the missile launchers and gun batteries directly, the tactical air forces will attempt to put them out of action by destroying their radars.
Not only fighter-bombers but also frontal air defense fighters would be assigned to the first wave and committed to help clear the corridors. These fighters would be tasked with protecting the
Tho First Assault of the Air Operation Missions and Operating Areas ol the First Three Waves
Fiontil Aviation ton* ol opr'atiom
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Ceded.itorofte Oaooli-eul io lOSnm
ground attack aircraft and preventing NATOfrom operating in the corridors to make up for the loss of the destroyed ground-based air defenses.
Tho initial Frontal Aviation attackers are to be preceded by tactical aircraft equipped forcountermeasures (ECM) to jam radars and In addition, many of the attacking aircraft are to be equipped for jamming as well as for attack missions, and the ground forces opposite the corridors would also jam NATO air defense radars and communications. Pact planners also wouldto disguise the locations of the corridors by concealing the concentrations of air units, by launching diversionary thrusts, and by electronic jamming in other areas.
Tie First Sortie of (he Air Operation
ftolreifc*e providM over NATO icnllory by bem AWaifc-iWiiua VKIItr"gi| By tutorial fcr Detenu mil
Thirdlong Range j. .in:-
fril fionltl Aititiun1 LRA"i*
he emphasis on jamming was demonstrated in8 Czechoslovak intervention.
planners probably realize that they do not haveresources for effective jamming of the NATO air defense radars and communications along the entire border and that jamming will only beif thereaximum concentration of both ground and airborne jamming equipmentew narrow sectors.
The planning for the first wave appears to set unrealistic goals. Only five minutes are allocated toorridor which may be as largequare miles and which may contain as many as ir defense targets.
The Second Wave: Frontal Aviation Attacks in Depth
The second-strike groups are also to be comprised of tactical aircraft from the frontal air armies. These are to pass through the corridors five minutes after the first wave.
Second-strike groups are not intended to engage the ground-based air defense sites in the immediate border areas. Rather, these aircraft would pass through the corridors where defenses would be at least suppressed by the first wave. The second wave would then spread out and attack NATO air forces and air defense installations behind the forward defenses.
The priority targets for these strikes are the NATO tacticalthose with interceptors--and air defense command and control centers. These strikes, like those of the first wave, appear to be directed toward suppressing NATO air defenses in preparation for the LRA strikes which follow. The Frontal Aviation aircraft in the second wave are also intended to defend from NATO interceptors the LRA bombers which follow. Rather than actually escorting the bomberthe Frontal Aviation fighters apparently are intended to seek out NATO fighters for air-to-air combat and to establish blocking positions on either side of the bomber flight paths.
The Third Wave: The Main Striking Force
LRA medium bombers from the Soviet Northwest and Southwest Bomber Commands would follow the second wave of Frontal Aviation fighter-bombers by someoinutes. This force would consist ofadgers andlinders. If theof the second wave went according to plan, the first LRA units would cross the border and enter the corridors just as the second wave of fighter bombers was completing its missions.
The LRA bombers are intended to destroy NATO air attack capabilities by concentrating on tactical and strategic airfields. Air forces intended for nuclear deliveries are the primary targets of the LRA bombersthe primary objective of the Air Operation. In addition to airfields, nuclear weapons storage depots and command and control centers would be struck.
Attempts will be made to maximize the capabilities of currently available forces by using the medium bombers as the main striking force. The range and payload limitations of Frontal Aviation are minimized by using most of these aircraft to suppress airwith cannon and rocket fire. The majorof the Air Operation is theof the use of theengage rather than avoid air defenses in the execution of the corridor plan. This enables the Pact to concentrate its efforts, but could afford the same benefit to the NATO air defenses.
Subsequent Frontal Aviation Assaults
The three-wavo assault would represent thePact offensive air activity of the war and would involve one sortie for each of the aircraft involved. Frontal Aviation aircraft would be committedecond sortie on the same day, as part of the Air Operation. This second assault would be similar to the three-wave assault, but the Frontal Aviation forces would not be followedave of LRA bombers as in the first case. diagram, nvxt pago.)
The first group of Frontal Aviation aircraft in the second assault apparently would again attack targets within the corridors, and the second group would penetrate the corridors and attack targets behind the air defense belt. Because many of the air defense targets within the corridors presumably would be destroyed during tha initial attack, more aircraft probably would be assigned to targets behind the air defense belt on the second assault. Once through the corridors their mission would be to
Subsequent Frontal Aviation Sorties
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strike targets that had been missed in earlierto prevent repairs at previously struck targets, and probably to defend the LRA bombers returning from strikes conducted as part of the first assault.
Frontal Aviation aircraft probably are capable of flying about three sorties per day during the first few days of hostilities. Whereas the first two sorties would be assigned to the Air Operation, the remaining sortie would be allocated to the front commander's use for air defense, ground support, and reconnaissance in support of front objectives.
The timing and coordination of the Frontal Aviation and LRA activity are critically important. After the first mass assaults, maintenance of fighter cover over NATO territory to protect the bombers
would require that Frontal Aviation aircraft beand rearmed quickly and returned to combat. The planned timing of these later sorties probably would be distorted by NATO air attacks on Frontal Aviation recovery fields.
The Nuclear Strike Force
Because Warsaw Pact planners believe thephase would be transitory, they consider it most important toeadiness to deliver nuclear strikes. oncept similar to NATO's quick reaction alert (QRA) policy, about one-quarter of the Frontal Aviation fighter-bombers would be held out of the Air Operation during tho conventional period. ortion of the LRA medium bombers in the westernaboutalso be withheld. Thesethe tactical and strategic missilebo in the highest state of alert, prepared to preempt, or at least to react in accordance with, the anticipated NATO transition to nucloar weapons.
Although some LRA bombers may be used forstrikes following the initial Aira number of LRA bombers that participated in the conventional strikes probably would be added to the nuclear force. One indication of such planning occurred in the Soviet "Exercise Yug" in
The scenario of Exercise Yug apparentlyescalation to nuclear war late on the fourth day. During the first three days of the exercise, LRA medium bombers flew moreorties,simulating the initial Air Operation. ew sorties were flown during the day preceding the first simulated Soviet nuclear strikes, however, which suggests that theretanddown in LRA conventional bombing before the nucloar strikes were launched. Following the missile striken, bomber sorties increased, probably simulating nuclear attacks.
The spectereduction of their nuclear strike force through excessive lossos of bombers' in conventional operations could cause the Soviets to stop using the bombers for deep penetration flights after the initial masstwo sorties. Heavy losses could be incurred beyond the protective umbrella of the Frontal Aviation aircraft,if the bombers were committed against targets in Prance, the Benelux countries, and the UK. Medium bombers have adequate range for operations against these areas and could take indirect routes and other evasive actions. Nevertheless, the defenses located within these areas probably would be intact and not disorganized by Frontal Aviation strikes. the Air Operation docs not preclude LRA
bomber attacks over the Baltic or North Sea approaches as well.
Ground Force Support the Air operation
In addition to providing ECM support, the ground forces would contribute directly to the corridor attacks. Some air defense targets in the corridors would be destroyed by artillery fire. These targets would be located within aboutiles of the border, as this is the maximum depth which could be reached by Pact artillery from its initial firing positions.
The locations of such fixed targets as airfields, depots, and permanent surface-to-air missile sites probably are determined by strategicEvidently only mobile NATO tactical nuclear missiles arearget acquisition problem.
Pact planners realize, however, that NATO air units probably would disperse if warned, and that locating them for attack would require further Aerial reconnaissance to relocate dispersed NATO aircraft would be conducted during and after the initial strikes against forward NATO air defense positions. ontinuous reconnaissance effort apparently is planned after the initiation of hostilities, first to locate dispersed NATO air units and later to locate mobile launchers.
Frontal Aviation Tactics for theperation-
The characteristics of the Air Operation have brought certain changes in the traditional tactics and functions of Pact frontal air units. These changes will, to some extent, require the ground forces to rely almost solely on their own efforts for fire support and air defense. Pact planners apparently rationalize that, although the temporary reduction of direct air support to the fronts during the Air Operation is regrettable, the achievement of air superiority is the best means of insuring success in the ground war.
Under nuclear warfare concepts the fighter-bomber forces were intended to operate in small groups, using conventional weapons in directof ground forces and nuclear weapons against mobile missiles, defensive strongpoints, and enemy reserves. Only in isolated cases were fighter-bomber units to take part in large coordinated strikes, rn the Air Operation, however, the bulk of Frontal Aviation ground-attack aircraft would be used in such strikes in the initial phase of combat.
Frontal Aviation fighter units, according to earlier Soviet concepts, were to bo responsible primarily for air defense in direct response to the requirements of the front. According toew concept, however. Frontal Aviation fighter units would protect the medium bombers and fighter-bombers in their flights over Pact territory and through NATO air defenses during the Air Operation.
Similarly, the ground-attack support available to the ground forces would be sharply reduced during the Air Operation. As noted earlier, only about one-third of the ground-attack sorties would be in direct support of front operations while the Air Operation was in progress. This would force Pact commanders to rely more heavily on fieldduring the period of the Air Operation. Even some of the artillery, however, would be used to support the Air Operation. And, in any case, the range limitations of artillery are such that it cannot reach the deeper targets which fighter-bombers normally would attack.
Some measures have boon undertaken to improve the capabilities of the ground forces to provide their own fire support and air defonse. The field artillery of most Soviet ground divisions has been increased by as much asercent during the past few years. Ground force antiaircraft resources have been improved with the issuance of self-propelled guns, the
'i andobile missiles, and the SA-7missile. Furthermore, ground forceswithin their home territories will bofrom air attack to some extent by the national strategic air defense elements.
- 24 -
Control of tho Air Operation
The coordination and control problems imposed by the complexity and the multiforce composition of the Air Operation necessitate an air headquartersevel superior to the front headquarters. The Air Operation requires closely coordinated action by diverse forces which would otherwise be subordinate to each of the five front commanders, to two LRA commanders, and to two or three national airarmies.
Participation of frontal air armies in the Air Operation apparently is governed by Soviet Marshal of Aviation Kutakhov, who would provide generalfor assigning units participating in the Air Operation, the type of targets to be hit, and the timing of the strikes. Kutakhov probably wouldcommand of all Frontal Aviation forces of the Pact to facilitate their integration into the Air Operation.
The organ of control of Pact air forces,during the Air Operation, probably wouldheater-level air headquarters staffed by the Soviet General Staff or the Soviet Air Forces. ermanent theater-level headquarters has not been identified, but the concept apparently was tested in an exercise in February
Even after the Air Operation had been terminated, the Soviet General Staff, through the theater-level air command, probably would retain control of Pact air forces, allocating air units to the individual front commanders to support front objectives. Frontal Aviation, though fulfilling its traditional mission of supporting the ground forces, could be readily shifted within the theater, assigned to theater objectives, or committedubsequent Air Operation.
The command structure for the control of the Pact air forces opposite the NATO Central Region necessarily would be complex and would cross national political boundaries. etailed analysis of the wartime command and control structure of the Warsaw Pact is not within the scope of this report.)
Tho more detailed planning of the Air Operation probably would be left to the various staffs of the participating LRA, Frontal Aviation, and national air defense forces. It is probably at this level that the specific targets to be hit, the order of their destruction, and the allocation of forces would be determined.
The LRA flight route would be determined by the commander of the LRA army or bomber command inwith the missions laid down by Kutakhov. The selected LRA routes apparently form the basis for detailed planning of Frontal Aviation activity in accordance with tho overall Air Operation plan.
The Forces Available
Frontal Aviation in the Forward Area
In peacetime, the Soviet tactical air armies in East Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia areto compriseombat aircraft. The Polish and Czechoslovak tactical air armies addircraft,otal ofactical combat aircraft in the forward area opposite the NATO Central Region. (Sec table and map at rlcjht.) This force--aside fromeconnaissanceis about evenly divided between tactical air defense fighters on one hand and fighter-bombers and light bombers on Lhe other.
Air Forces in the Western USSR
Warsaw Pact exercises indicate that Sovietair forces in the Bolorussian, Baltic, and Carpathian Military Districts are intended for oarly reinforcement against tho NATO Central Region. The Frontal Aviation air armies in these districtsotal ofightor-bombers and light bombers,aircraft. (Smm photographs and pages
The Sovietseriod of tension before hostilities, during which preparations would be made by both sides. They plan to deploy some Frontal Aviation units to the forward area from the USSR during this period of tension.
Soviet air units from the western USSR probably would begin arriving in Czechoslovakia almostafter mobilization was ordered. These air units would be dependent on Czechoslovak ground-support resources until their own logistics units and supplies could arrive from the USSRoays later. Soviet sortie rate capabilities probably would be reduced from threo to about one and one-half sorties per day if hostilities began before their support organization and supplies
After mobilization, two Soviet fronts from the Belorussian and Carpathian Military Districts would be employedecond echelon following the three fronts already in Eastern Europe. Althoughair armies traditionally have been regarded as responsive only to their respective front commanders.
the Delorussian and Carpathian air armies probably would participate in an Air Operation even though the ground forces in their two fronts were not engaged in combat.
The imroediato commitment of roostigh-intensity air war would reduce the capabilities of the Pact air forces to engage in subsequent conventional or nuclear attacks. The Air Operation apparently is more important, however, than maintaining intact air units solely for the support of the second-echelon fronts. Thus, frontal ground operations in the subsequent stagesar in Europeon the success of the Airhamperedack of air support. With the increased destructive power of the nuclear weapons which the Pact believes would eventually be employed, however, large numbers of aircraft would not be deemed necessary to destroy the remaining targets. Moreover, Pact planners hope to destroy the nuclear-capable air forces of NATO during the Air Operation and alleviate the need for large numbers of aircraft to defend the ground forces during the nuclear phase.
Aside from aircraft held in readinens forstrikes, there is no evidence that the Pact plans toignificant number of Frontalaircraft in reserve. On the contrary, the importance of the initial airthe shockwill argue for using all available aircraft. For the initial Air Operation, then, the Pact would have five frontal air armies for operations against the NATO Central Region. These air armies currently totalighters, fighter-bombers, light bombers, and reconnaissance aircraft.
Combat Aircraft tn Warsaw Pact Frontal Aviation
Perftxmjnc* chaxaaerittics of tighten and fkjhiei-bombers are calculatedaximum bomb load allowing for external fuel, in high-tow-high and low-low-lo* mission 'light profiles.
Entered service 3
Internal gum mm or 3fuelb bomb
deployed as an air defense
interceptor. Fighter -bomber hat limited range and payload.
service Internal guns Payload Radius Comment
2lud tanks.2SS0-lbm Poor low-level capabilities.
service Internal guns Payload Radius Comment
bsbsm Age of these subsonic light bombers probably has reduced payload and low-level capabilities.
Comparison with US aircraft
service Intei nai gum Payload Radius Comment
None (Guns can be mountedbsxternal fuelm General-purpose lighter canbs ol bombs and fourm) without external fuel.
gun* None (Can bc filledenter line gun pod)
1 fuelai' defense fighter in Frontal
Aviation units of Warsaw Pact.
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defense, fighter with ground attack
capabilities improved over earlier
armer Fighter Enured service S
Internal guns mmmm
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n Frontal Aviation
air defense units.
Medium Bomber Forcob
During the conventional phase, the primary striking force available to the Pact in terms of range and payload would be the LRA medium bombers of the Northwest and Southwest Bomber Commands. There areadgerslinders in these two commands. (Se& photographs at right.) The number of bombers available would be reduced by the requirement for nuclearas well as by the number configured forand by operational factors, such asneeds, to. Aboutf these probably would be supersonic Blinders, and thoBadgers.
Tha LRA medium bombers probably would not deploy to tho forward area before or during hostilities. Operating from the western USSR the bombers would have sufficient range to attack any target in Europe and return to base. Moreover, forward deployment of these bombers would bring their bases within range of NATO fightor-bombers.
National Air Defense Interceptors
Tho morenterceptors in the national air defense forces of Poland, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany wouldupporting role in the Air Operation. Those aircraft would be tasked with protecting the LRA bombers overflying Pact territory. They also would assume much of tlie responsibility for defending the ground forces in friendly territory, to free Frontal Aviation fighters for the Airover enemy territory.
Tho primary mission of the national air defense interceptors continues to be the protection of Pact territory. Pact planners expect NATO air forces also to launch mas3 air attacks, once hostilities
adger Medium Bomber
Entered serviceSOCVlb bomb load
nm at optimum altitude*
with poor low-altitude
Radiut would De reduced hi proportion to Ibe pert ol Ibe motion flown it low eliitvde. It Ihe entire minion wet* llown ml low attitude Ibe 'n/itn would be /educed< twolhii/t. In rtaHty, however, ooty the portion ol the matron llown Orer heat NATO oi' Oefeniet would be at low attitude.
9eea.ii-.Mi S'/ir ic-'t
begin, against Pact airfields, air defense command and control centers, troopand supply linos. The Air Operation probably would result in an expansion offor the national air defense forces andignificant change in tactics or missions.
Rather than flying close escort for thebombers, the national air defense interceptors probably would defend thethe groundengaging any NATO aircraft that are operating over Pact territory. Although the national air defense forces normally arefor defending only targets in Pact territory, the interceptors probably would engage enemy targets at distant approaches, operating to some extent over NATO territory.
The Forces Required
The First Wave
The critical factor for Pact planners is the number of corridors to be cleared through the NATO forward air defenses. This probably will beby several variables including the requirements of the LRA commanders, the Frontal Aviation forces available, the density of targets opposite each front, and the degree of destruction intended for each corridor.
Requirements for One Corridor
oircraftrighter-bombers probably would be allocated, in conjunction with ground artillery, to destroy the targets within each corridor zone. Because surpriserimary factor, all of the intended corridors would besimultaneously. This would prevent use of tho same units to open more than one corridor in the initial attacks.
There would be one or two corridors opposite each frontal zone. Analysis of highly reliableindicates that three Warsaw Pact fronts are expected to be engaged initially opposite the NATO Central Region. These would require the clearingotal of three to six corridors and theof as manyhe first wave of the Air Operation. Only aboutercent of tlie available tactical aircraft would be used in the initial assault because of thefor subsequent attacks and for standby aircraft for possible nuclear strikes.
Pact planners probably recognize that theair forces are likely to be less than the requirement posed by Lhe concept. Although
the complete destruction of the air defense targets within the corridors is the most desirablethere may not be sufficient air forces avail-aLIi '. acliii'VP thla. , they probab'ly estimate that the suppression of air defensesminute period to protect incomingand for one hour to protect returningcould be accomplished using only about one-half the aircraft and artillery required to destroy the targets completely.
percent of the total available to the fivewouldthe first wave of the air assault. Theof aircraft allocated to each corridor would depend on the number of corridors and the degree of destruction intended for each.
The Pact planners probably would not consider each of the targets opposite the first-echelon fronts to be of equal importance. They might vary the strength of attacks according to the target, tho criticality of tha particular front zone or corridor, and the attack forces available. Within the constraints of the Air Operation the total forces available to tho Pact could attempt to destroy the targets in three corridors,silence six corridors, or execute aof example, destroying targets in two corridors and suppressing those in two.
The Second Wave
Aboutercent of the available Frontalforces probably would be allocated to the second wave to penetrate the corridors and attack targets behind the air defense belt. Thus,ircraft would comprise the second wavo of tho Air Operation. In the individual corridors the strength of this second wave probably would depend on the criticality of tho targets beyond the air defense belt and on the numbersLRA bombers to be escorted through the frontal zone.
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The ground-attack requiroments of the first and second waves of the Air Operation and thefor nuclear readiness aircraft would far exceed the numbers of ground attack units available to Frontal Aviation in the forward area. For example, if total available Frontal Aviation forces were committed to three equally Important corridors,ircraft would bo allocated to each front zone for the first and second waves and to satisfy the requirements for nuclear readiness forces. About half would be tactical air defense fighters.
The total air defense mission for the assault opposite each front probably would require lessir defense fighters, however, and the total requirement for ground attack and nuclear readiness could not be filled by the available ground attack aircraft. At least for the initial stages of the overall Air Operation, some air defense regiments would have to be utilized in ground-attack missions. Because their training and equipment are notoriented toward ground-attack missions, air defense units would be less effective in this role than would regular ground-attack units. Some of the later modelighters, however,etter ground-attack capability than earlier model fighters.
In allocating the fighter-bombers between the first and second waves, the first wave probably would get preference. The ground-attack mission in the corridors is characterized by attacks against smallerof which arewhat probably would be an intensive air defense Fighter-bomber regiments which have had more training than air defense regiments in this type of attack would probably be assigned this role.
Air defense units probably could best bein the second wave of the Frontal Aviation attacks against targets behind the forward airbelt. These are larger, fixed targots and would not be as difficult to attack as the forward air defense sites assigned to the first wave. Be-
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SF c/ ET
cause these units are equipped with fighters and trained in air-to-air combat, they would be better prepared to cope with the greater NATO interceptor threat in their operating area. Frontal Aviation fighters are also intended to fly fighter sweeps against NATO aircraft in this zone and escort the LRA bombers.
The Third Wave
There is no evidence as to howedium bombers estimated to be available for the Airwould be allocated. Nor is there any evidence as to the numbers of bombers required to hit specific targets.
The bombers would be escorted over friendly territory by national air defense fighters and over NATO territory by Frontal Aviation fighters. In addition to attempting to destroy NATO aircraft on the ground, Frontal Aviation fighters in the second wave apparently would fly defensive patrols along the LRA flight paths to defend against NATO interceptors in the frontal zone.
The portion of the second wave that would be assigned these escort duties, as opposed to ground-attack missions, is not known. The Air Operation, however, emphasizes the destruction of NATOon the ground, and probably not more than two regiments would be assigned to bomber escort missions in each flight corridor.
Nuclear Readiness Forces
One of the primary responsibilities of the air forces during the conventional stagear in Europe would be to maintain forces capable ofto, or possibly preempting, theNATO nuclear strike. Aboutercent of the Frontal Aviation aircraft and an estimated one-third of the LRA bombers would be withheld from con-
ventional air attacks to participate in the first Pact nuclear strikes.
Total nuclear readiness forces probably would, beedium bombers androntal Aviation aircraft.
The Frontal Aviation forces withhold probably would comprise primarily fighter-bomber and light bomber units which have had training in theof nuclear weapons.
Other Air Activity
Tho allocation figuresfor the nuclear readinessonly one sortie per day for each aircraft. LRA bombers are capable of only one sortie per day, and this is assigned to the Air Operation. Frontal Aviation fighters and fighter-bombers, on the other hand, can conduct as many as three sorties per day in the initial stagesonflict. One Frontal Aviation sortie would be assigned to the three-wave assault as outlined; one sortio would be partwo-wave Frontal Aviation assault similar to the three-wave assault but without the LRA bombers; and the third sortie would be allocated to the respective front commanders for the traditional roles of air defense and ground support.
The Warsaw Pact has sufficient availableto fulfill the requirements for the Air However, the Air Operation depends upon the immediate use of the reinforcing aircraft from the western USSR.
Allocation of Frontal Aviation Aircraft
Trie Pact apparently plant io have sufficient Frontal Aviation aircraft to destroy the air defemei in three corridor* on the Urn sortie and stilleserve (or nuclear attack. The strength of the attacks and the number ol corridors would depend on the density of air defenses within the corridors and the criticality ol the targets behind the air defense belt. The air defensesorridor could be suppressed uiing only half the number of aircraft required for total destruction. Rather than destroying three corridors or suppressing six. Pact forces probably wouldombination of these, such as two corridors destroyed and two suppressed. The chart below represents the estimated numbers of Frontal Aviation aircraft and sorties that could be applied in these operations. Losses sustained are not considered on the chart.
First sortie per day, with LRA bombers First
for nuclear readiness
sortie per day, without LRA bombers
During the second sortie, Frontal Aviation would asain be committed in wave attacks but thein each wave it not known. Presumably, without the need to protect bombers more air-crali could be freed from the task ol clearing ihc corridor and be used lor attacks behind the air defense belt.
Aircraft withheld lor thereadiness requirement would not be active during the Air Operation. The figure with-held would remain constant.
sortie per day
One-third of the Frontal Aviation sorties would be allocalcd to the front commanders for tike traditional missions of air defense, ground attack, arid reconnaissancesupport of the Iron!.