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Subject: Ballistic Missiles
AThousandYoung    6/10/2010 8:30:26 PM
Is it possible for a nation to build up a ballistic missile and cruise missile arsenal such that it could dispense with an offensive air force? Nazi Germany with it's V-1 and V-2 and Hussein's Scuds suggest not but those were powers that could not afford to really do it right. China is.
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earlm       6/10/2010 10:57:25 PM
Yes but it is not cost effective.  A good missile might deliver a ton.  Once enemy AD is beaten down planes can be loaded down with many tons.  The ideal system is a reconnaissance strike complex with UCAV's.  Wait 20 years.
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AThousandYoung       6/10/2010 11:20:55 PM
My thinking is that rivals of NATO will need to be able to do without air or naval exploitation units due to enemy air superiority.  Drones can be shot down.
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WarNerd       6/11/2010 4:16:21 PM

I will assume that this discussion only applies to ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges greater than 400 nm. / 700 km.
Actually China seems to only be using [non-nuclear] long ballistic missiles as a first strike weapon, not a bombardment weapon.  Conventional ballistic missiles may have reached the limits of their success due to the fielding of ABM systems by the USA, Russia, China, and Israel, which will make saturation attacks necessary.  This could potentially increase the number of missiles/cost required for a guaranteed success of a large scale first strike by 2x to 3x, and individually targeted strikes on high value/defended targets by up to 20x.
Cruise missiles are a disposable attack UAV.  Good for well defended high value targets, but too expensive for everyday use.  And useless against mobile and opportunity targets unless you can supply a secure high capacity communications link.
The real problems with relying exclusively on missiles over aircraft is that:
1.  While there are targets that are just to well defended to risk aircraft against, these targets represent <1% of the targets that need to be serviced.  Most of these 'lesser' targets are also mobile making targeting by long range missiles difficult, sometimes impossible.  It is cheaper, and frequently more effective, to use aircraft to engage the majority of these 'lesser' targets than long range missiles.  Examples would be the Iraqi Army in Kuwait and the SCUD missiles in western Iraq during Desert Storm.
2.  The use of an aircraft as a '1st stage' for air launched missiles can produce equal or better performance to their larger ground launched cousins while allowing the launch aircraft to stay out of the engagement range of fixed defenses around high value targets.
3.  Aircraft are more flexible.  Aircraft can form a strike package with attached tankers and electronic warfare assets can penetrate most defenses, fake such an attack to distract an enemy, or displace over long distance to strike from an unexpected direction.  Missiles cannot do this.
The best solution is to use a mix of manned aircraft, unmanned drones, cruise missiles, and ballistic missiles.  What the best proportion of each is the subject of much debate and changes continuously with each incremental advancement in the underlying technologies, tactics, and tartget sets.
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