Western Air Power. An Operations Analysis of Air to Ground Combat in Case of War in North East Europe


  • Robert Dalsjö

Publish date: 2019-12-04

Report number: FOI-R--4798--SE

Pages: 38

Written in: Swedish


  • long-range strike forces
  • ground attack aircraft
  • fighter aircraft
  • air operation
  • air bases
  • ground-based air defence
  • the Baltic region
  • Kaliningrad
  • brigade
  • battalion combat team
  • precision-guided munitions
  • cruise missile
  • capacity
  • effects


Russia currently has a decided advantage over NATO in terms of mechanised ground forces in Eastern and Central Europe. However, NATO has an advantage over Russia in terms of air power, raising the question whether NATO's weakness on the ground could be compensated by stronger air power. This study attempts to approach this issue by the creation and application of a simple analytic model, proceeding in two stages. In the first stage, the long-range strike assets that might be available in Europe in case of a limited war in the Baltic region are listed, including the payloads they could deliver. After setting forces aside for air defence etc, some 350 sorties per 24 hours could be used over time for strikes against ground targets. The second stage deals with the effects of the application of this airpower against attacking manoeuvre units and also against strategic air defence missiles in Kaliningrad. The result is that a saturation attack on the air defence batteries could very well succeed, while the results against manoeuvre units varies with the probability of target identification and of successful prosecution. But even under pessimistic assumptions, Western air forces might destroy seven battalion combat teams every 24 hours.