A Swarm Of Swarms: Toward Aerospace Warfare Model Of The 21st Century

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Written and produced by SF Team: J.Hawk, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson

While the phrase “system of systems” has entered relatively common usage some years ago as a reflection of the need to field systems and assets with complementary capabilities that will operate as part of a synergistic whole in their respective domain of warfare, in the realm of aerospace combat the United States is moving in the direction of the “swarm” as the key organizing principle of its combat paradigm. The US Air Force Future Operating Concept which attempts to envision USAF operations in the year 2035 places “interconnectedness” high on the list of buzzwords, and promotes such goals as “Global Integrated Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance” and “Global Precision Strike”, all being controlled from “Multi-Domain Operations Centers” whose ability to manage a wide variety of interconnected systems and assets would guarantee getting inside the adversary’s “Observe, Orient, Decide, Act” (OODA) Loop, a long-standing Holy Grail among US airmen ever since USAF Colonel John Boyd formulated the concept as a result of his Korean War experiences.

Advances in communications, sensors, and artificial intelligence have meant that munitions have progressed greatly beyond being little more than bullets, launched at a specific target and then guided to it by either its on-board sensors perceiving some aspect of the electromagnetic spectrum emanated by the target, or by an autopilot navigating it and its lethal payload to its destination.

The swarm approach apparently became attractive to the US military following the cruise missile strikes against targets in Syria, during which the slow-moving trickle of subsonic, non-maneuverable, but very expensive Tomahawk SLCMs was combed out of the sky by a variety of modern air defense systems. Evidently even the current sophisticated Tomahawk mission planning software is incapable of delivering the “time on target” response necessary to overcome local air defenses. On the other hand, an AI-enhanced swarm of smaller, cheaper munitions might succeed where the by now dated Tomahawk had failed.

In response, the US military had embraced the “swarm” idea with a vengeance, hoping that interconnectedness and AI will deliver the sort of technological overmatch of any and all adversaries that currently does not exist.

US Air Force and the US Navy have been enormously resistant to the idea of heavy unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) for much of the last decade. Many earlier experiments involving flying wing-style UCAVs such as the X-47 have failed to result in a deployed combat system. This hesitancy was driven by two factors. The first was the “fighter mafia” that rules the USAF and the naval aviation component of the USN, which is jealously guarding its elite status and which is not interested in “fighter jocks” being displaced by a bunch of kids with video game consoles controlling UCAVs. The second was the belief that the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter would live up to Lockheed-Martin propaganda and be that technological “silver bullet” in both air-to-air and air-to-ground applications, thanks to its stealth, advanced sensors, and the ability to share tactical information in real time. In actuality, however, the incredibly protracted F-35 development allowed for countermeasures to be developed, and secondly the fighter itself was found to have enough shortcomings to practically relegate it to a “niche” weapon system, a sort of second-generation F-117, rather than a workhorse to replace the vast fleet of F-16 fighters in US and allied use.

With the F-35’s flaws now in plain view, the UCAV has been given a second lease on life as a means of rescuing the most expensive combat aircraft program in history from failure. Remarkably enough, the first air force to recognize these problems was Australia’s, which launched the “loyal wingman” project for which Boeing, a competitor to Lockheed Martin, is already building prototypes. The US equivalent is the considerably more ambitious Skyborg which is still in the conceptual stage, but which also is pursuing the same aim that is close to being achieved in Russia with the Su-57—Okhotnik UCAV combination. While the information about Skyborg is still scarce, once operational it will be procured in large numbers to ensure each F-35 could take at least one into combat by its side.

USAF’s swarm principle is unlikely to stop there, and will also extend into munitions. The service awarded several contracts in the past couple of years to further the development of stand-off munitions that would be cheaper, longer-ranged, equipped with sensors, and interlinked, in order to facilitate their cooperation while in flight.

The US “space swarm” so far is the least developed of the three, but its rudiments are already visible. The SpaceX Starlink constellation of small satellites that was advertised as a means of providing the entire world with access to wireless internet has also been revealed to have direct military applications. The US Air Force has acknowledged it will rely on it for broadband access for its combat aircraft. Moreover, if combined with powerful enough signal processing capabilities, Starlink offers the prospect of a global aircraft detection system, possibly even capable of tracking large moving objects on the surface of the planet, such as aircraft carriers. It’s difficult to imagine USAF and USSF would forgot attempting to develop a technology which was demonstrated for the first time with the downing of the F-117 over Serbia in 1999.

Given the US military’s interest in reusable space-launch vehicles and developing the ability to surge launches whenever needed, it’s doubtful the Starlink will remain the only US application of the swarm concept in space. G_5 (A) – Done.  Sooner or later they will be supplemented by combat vehicles, likely based on the X-37 unmanned and reusable space shuttle that has logged an impressive number of hours in space, and whose payloads and activities remain a closely guarded secret. The recent tests of an anti-drone combat laser aboard a US warship suggest that such a weapon could eventually be deployed aboard X-37-derived combat spacecraft. While the small size of the X-37 means accommodating necessary power supplies to make the lasers effective would be a daunting task indeed, the absence of an atmosphere in low Earth orbit and the fragility of most satellites mean that a space-borne laser would be a more effective anti-satellite than anti-missile weapon.

The dream of interconnected aerospace swarms extending from the Earth’s surface into low Earth orbit and beyond will encounter major obstacles along the way, to the point that perhaps it will remain yet another US utopian technological project aiming at obtaining permanent military supremacy.

The first is the existence of the US Space Force, which will fight tooth and nail for organizational turf and control over space-capable assets. Ironically, the establishment of the USSF may undermine the drive toward integrated aerospace operations the same way as the creation of the US Air Force as an independent service led to the promotion of the idea of airpower winning wars entirely on its own, without collaboration with other services. While strategic airpower was a favorite among the US Army Air Corps leadership in part because, in the absence of a large land theater of operations against Germany, the bombers were the only means of bringing the war to Germany, the subordination to the Army meant tactical air could not be ignored. Once that independence from the Army was won, time and again tactical air support capabilities had to be engineered into various combat aircraft only after they became operational. One still remembers “not a pound for air to ground” that accompanied the creation of the F-15 Eagle.

By the same token, the creation of the USSF means the existence of an organization about as interested in watching USAF develop its space capabilities, which it seems very interested in doing, as USAF is in the US Army having its own fixed-wing combat aircraft. And just as USAF prioritized air superiority and strategic warfare over tactical air support, so is the USSF liable to lose sight of the fact the most important aspect of its mission is the support of combat operations in the atmosphere and on the Earth’s surface.

The sheer complexity of the goal of building a global swarm of swarms that links all the aerial and space platforms and munitions will also be a major challenge. It should be noted that many of the problems of the F-35 are actually software-based, for example the failed ALIS centralized maintenance monitoring system which USAF finally gave up on and decided to commission an entirely different system. Since US software development do not appear to be on a part with US military’s ambitions, there is no guarantee the US military will be able to achieve its end objective.

This is not the first time the US military has bet on a technological advance to provide a “game changer” that would give it an irresistible advantage. The Norden bombsight, the nuclear weapon, guided munitions, were all supposed to deliver a similar objective. None of them really delivered what they promised because other powers responded in kind, and the technological capabilities themselves fell short of what was advertised.

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  • Tommy Jensen

    Exactly as I predicted it. US Space and US Swarm will wipe all America’s adversaries off the map.
    Kill them wherever they are on earth or in space………………………LOL!

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    • Justin

      int his video 1 or 2 things are happening.
      Mother nature (earth quake vibrations?)
      OR
      Space weapons
      i SERIOUSLY doubt its a space weapon…. but what if it is?
      Because if it is…..GAME OVER!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjIEI7WwHOI&list=WL&index=23&t=0s

      LOW AND HIGH PITCHED VIBRATIONS COMIGN FROM SPACE?

      lol. You have to entertain all scenarios!
      Floods and Hurricanes in China? Now these sounds with earth quakes?
      SPACE FORCE!

  • cechas vodobenikov

    http://www.sott.net/article/437690

    USA is farcical….if they tried this stupidity every US base and city would be turned to dust

    • Justin

      And….. SU-57 is now half price!
      GRAND SALE, GRAND SALE, failed engines and poor stealth…. new plane going for cheap price! GRAND SALE!

      Lets be real! Did Russia TRY to make stealth? did they try to make Drones? Are they not following in the same footsteps? Dont be a hypocrit!

      Some weapons are lemons and some are amazing! u dont find out until u hit the battle field! Russia made very bad Tanks until they finally made one that changed the tied on the battle field! Thank God they made the T-34 right?

      USA made a terrible Tank (sherman) but they made so many it worked lol!

      You dont know what works and what doesnt until u try it!

      in the end, the USA is the empire that won and the Soviets lost!

      and u are still butt hurt over this!
      THATS THE REALITY! THATS THE TRUTH! AND U LIVE THIS EVERY DAY OF YOUR $800 salary per month life! you lost! deal with it!

      • rightiswrong rightiswrong

        Russia is so butt hurt that it sanctions nations who buy military gear from another power, rotfl.

        The T34 was introduced in 1940, 20 years after tanks were first built, and yes the Sherman was shit, as is most US trinkets.
        You pricks in the US should tell us all, what war is it you claim to have won?

        • Justin

          T-34, US designed.
          The tracks, the sloped armour, all from the US.
          Rejected by the USA ( i agree they are stupid for rejecting it)
          But still it was a US design! Russians designed the Turret!
          Before the T-34 Germans were only a few miles away from Moscow.

          US makes some good stuff and some bad stuff!
          Same as Russia dude!
          Russia makes good stuff and bad stuff! Id just like people on this site to admit to blunders when blunders rear their ugly heads! The SU-57 is a BLUNDER! Lets just admit it (the crashes, the engines and the halving of its price tag). Obvious failed design! Lets keep it real!

          • cechas vodobenikov

            —u know zero about Russia or the unbreakable alliance w China—blunder =f35….your stupidity is typical for your species…”amerika requires a stupefied population”. Christopher Lasch
            “the amerikan ethos is that my ignorance is as good as your knowledge” I Asimov
            continue the self humiliation

          • rightiswrong rightiswrong

            T34 is a Russian design, that not even the Germans knew about it, while it was in first production, but you think the people who supplied Hitler with finance, fuel and transport were Yanks!

            What drugs are you on boy, your Nazi propaganda shite is just that, shite.

            You go fuck yourself with you Langley bollox about the Su57 and US designed T34, what a wanker you are.

          • Justin

            lol, Russian media admitted it was a US design!
            Russia Today!
            A US design that was rejected by the USA!
            The designer went to Russia, Russia desperately needed a new tank!
            Russia bought the design!

            look it up!
            Christie suspension wasnt the only thing he made on the T-34 he designed everything except the Turret! Russia designed the Turret!

            Russia Today made an English documentary on it themselves!
            its also been stated by Tank Historians!

            Come on dude, Germans were knocking on Moscow’s doors! u were being SMASHED, this tank saved u! Hard to swallow huh?

            Yes i admit Bush was scum and was a NAZI himself! Totally agree to this!
            Can u agree to the T-34 being 80% american Design?

            i bet u cant!
            just like u cant explain why a 5th Gen SU-57 is 42 million compared to the SU-35 being 85million

            u cant explain it because u cant admit they fucked up!

            This is the reason why u change subjects! because u feel like u are losing so u need to jump into something u think u can win! u are a coward!
            YES bush was a Nazi! 100% agree!
            SU-57 is a lemon!
            T-34 is 80% American design!

            u are a fucking coward!

            and i am not American!

          • rightiswrong rightiswrong

            No they didn’t, more Nazi lies from you.

            I heard your Mom passed the virus to you, which makes you say crazy things that Goebbels taught you.

          • Justin

            Yes they did! They say it was Russian made but the design came from the USA who rejected it!

            Dude it was on RUSSIA TODAY!

            Lol I’m gonna send it to you! You will be so upset when u hear it!

          • rightiswrong rightiswrong

            So send it then Justin, to my home address, you cocksucker.

          • Justin

            Why did the SU-57 drop from 85 million to 42 million?

            Explain it!

            It happened after the engine failure and crash in Decemeber last year!

            EXPLAIN IT YOU COWARD!

            118 SU-35’s made and many more being made! it is also fro export! (85 million)

            11 SU-57 made (maybe 70 on order) not for export (dropped to 42 million)

            EXPLAIN IT!!!!!!

            YOU CANT, U WONT BECAUSE U ARE A COWARD!

          • rightiswrong rightiswrong

            The price has dropped, as it is not a profit making concern, but a firm who builds defence products for its nation, not shareholders you moron.

            The Su57 was first shown in 2014 you prick, it is still being developed to its full capacity, as Russia does not intend to attack small nations to rob their resources, as the US does.

            Now fuck off you Nazi cunt, your Mom is a whore for the USMC.

          • Justin

            1. Why did it drop from 85million to 42 million after the crash?

            2. Why is the SU-35 85million?

            You can’t explain it. An inconvenient truth!

          • rightiswrong rightiswrong

            Explain it then, cocksucker.

            An inconvenient moment, for your Mom. I hear she sucks off whole shopping centres of BLM people.

      • Removil Pedro Mata

        No they aren´t following in the same footsteps and every new engine got to have is period of development, not the same as F35 but some aniway. Russia doesn´t nead stealth because they have air superiority, because of that they didn´t entered a weapons race that would destroy their economy. They rader developed counter mesures like radar´s and missiles that could detect them and by the way, in this same news you can find that F35 is a flop so why are you braging about it?

        • Justin

          Russia doesnt need anything because they have nukes!
          Thats the truth!
          Plus they have a Veto vote at the UN.
          However they did try! no harm in trying right?
          Dont worry, i know Russia has awesome SAM’s and Subs. i give full credit there. But lets not get butt hurt over the SU-57, lets just admit it failed and move on shall we?

      • Removil Pedro Mata

        The U.S won what? China and Russia are there and Russia is the new boss around and you have Syria to prove it.

        • Justin

          Come on dude!
          You’ve made improvements but still a long way to go!
          China will be dealt with and Russia will become a US ally within 2 years! Laugh at it all u like, this is something i know is going to happen.
          When China attacks Taiwan (soon) Russia will not help China against the USA and its allies!
          Trust me on that! Deep down do you really think Russia likes china?
          Think about this really hard without bias!

          • cechas vodobenikov

            nobody trusts stupid amerikans!
            “amerikan children lie to their parents; amerikan parents lie to their children—it’s expected”. Geoffrey Gorer
            “amerikans have been liars and braggarts for 3 centuries”. Daniel Boorstin
            “the men amerikans most admire tell them the most extravagant lies; the men they most despise try to tell them the truth”. HL Menkhen
            “the least reproach offends amerikans–the slightest sharp sting of truth turns them fierce” Tocqueville
            “obama’s job is to lie to a nation of liars”. Prof Kiese Laymon

            u people have always been comprised of the lowest most incompetent classes from other nations—‘white Trash: The 400 Untold Story of Class in Amerika’ N Isenberg
            so incompetent 1/3 cannot read above the 5th grade level and 69% of your university grads r NOY English proficient per the most recent randomized study of 25,000 by US dept of Ed—Asians then blacks the most and improving—whites, Latinos the least and declining….u cannot speak your own language. LOL

          • Justin

            “amerikan children lie to their parents; amerikan parents lie to their children—it’s expected”

            They trust Putin
            They trust Trump!

            You live in the past where i would have agreed with you!

            Did u hear about Russia is now at a war of words with China?
            Russian embassy and China!
            Russia and China are tweeting and arguing over Vladisvostok!
            WHY?
            Why would Chinese officials and the Russian embassy be doing this?

            i told you, Russia and the USA are going to be allies!

            Russia is going to FUCK China is the ass!
            you should be happy and u should start being nice to Americans who will help you!

            Im not American!

            China wants Vladisvostok Back! Just like they want Taiwan back!
            This was stated officially by Chinese diplomats to the Russian Embassy!
            u can read this yourself!

            NOW TELL me, do u like China?

          • Justin

            look!

            https://twitter.com/shen_shiwei/status/1278599157305847808?s=20

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4b302331a78f1d809398b8c58e72f50206acb6ee5b03984d7407d4896212b5e8.png

            China wants to take back Vladivostok!
            Russia has been playing China!
            Russia supports India and is planning to attack China when the USA attacks China!
            This all starts soon! China is going to try and grab both Taiwan and Vladivostok!
            Russia KNOWS!

            Russia and the USA are actually allies!

      • cechas vodobenikov

        your delusions are quite remarkable—while u worship money and u r jealous, I care less although I possess far more than I care to mention…obviously Russian weapons are far superior to amerikan—your typical amerikan insecurity always amuses—obviously u have defeated yourself—your empire is on the verge of collapse while Russia and China are ascending…r u stupid? kaneshna…..Galtung has employed 15 mathematical indices to predict your demise in less than 10 ys…LOL—SU 57–far superior to any f35, admitted by your own military—another self uglified amerikan
        “amerikans cannot think except by means of slogans—they identify garbage as quality. the stupidity and ignorance of amerikans has long been a topic of hilarity in Europe”. Paul Fussell
        now run along–u r tiresome

        • Justin

          Wow, you are so blinded by being butt hurt that u think im American!
          Maybe i am neutral!
          maybe i love Russian hardware!
          Maybe i dont suck one sides dick and hate the other side!
          i appreciate anything thats good!
          CAN YOU?

          The SU-57 is failed and flawed and its obvious!
          MAYBE the F-35 is too however, israel has been fairly successful right under the Nose of Russia!

          So thats doesnt look so good now does it?
          We all know the S-300 cant beat it thats for sure!
          However the S-400 can either see it and track it OR Russia is allowing Israel to bomb Syria right within Striking distance! And that makes Russia look bad!

        • Justin

          SU-57’s true adversary is the F-22
          However your stealth needs to work!
          your engines need to work
          and u need more than 11
          and if your price just halved to 42million per unit, then your plane is crap!
          u dont halve the price of a 5th Gen aircraft even with an order of 70 when u have a 4++ version that u also export, have made 118 so far and its double the price!

          none of it makes sense and it all occurred after the crash!

          You know u cant explain it!
          u cant, u wont!

          and u cant admit when your own country fucked something up!
          u just cant do it!
          and thats how nations lose wars!
          PRIDE comes before the Fall!

          Total stupidity and wilfully ignorant!

  • rightiswrong rightiswrong

    Prompt Global Strike, what a joke.

    So prompt, that 20 years after they introduced it, that it still hasn’t seen the light of day.

    The US couldn’t do a Prompt Defensive Strike-Back against the real Prompt Strike weapons that Iran unloaded on them, with the chicken shit US preferring to ignore that bombardment, lol.