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Yale 62

Thoughts on Our May ’24 Coffee Hour

By Bob Breault

During our Coffee Hour on May 2, 2024, I had a few thoughts that I chose not to voice at the meeting that was going so well. I now submit them to our class website. I have carefully chosen my words. There is serious meaning behind some.

1. Comparing the cost of shooting down one incoming missile is not a million-dollar missile for a $100,000 difference comparison. It is elementary thinking pushed on us by the multimedia folks who want to be journalists. If the $100,000 missile is aimed at a multi-million dollar factory, oil depot, nuclear power plant, hospital with multi-million dollar pieces of equipment and people in it, then shoot it down. That is a million dollars wisely spent. A 50-caliber bullet costs just $3 but if it is aimed at a target, then maybe having a police force show up en masse to prevent it from killing someone is also worth it. I am sure you get the picture.

2. The following is a Different Military Thinking Topic that missed the press. The news was headlines but this is what I sensed was missing — a huge piece that will have every one of our adversaries working overtime. We did not blow all our abilities but we did something they can’t and now they know some of it.

Some straight military thinking on the Mid-East conflict. If the reporting on the conflict so far is accurate on the recent attack by Iran, reflect on the complexity of orchestrating and coordinating a multi-national/multi-service Rules of Engagement (ROE) at night between airborne and ground defenses with reportedly F-35s, F-15s and F-16s and likely Navy F-18s of multiple countries to prevent chaos and fratricide — a massive undertaking. Who was in control? Who designated sectors? What was ROE? How much advanced time did they actually have to plan and brief? How were frequencies divided and who was on what freqs? What countries and aircraft actually took part? What were confirmed results? Early reports said “some” ballistic missiles got through to hit an Israeli airfield? That is not good news when Iran seems on the verge of nukes. What lessons can be learned to get “all” of the ballistic missiles in the future? We are always studying these events as warfare has changed and will continue to change.

3. The following made the press. I made some edits on the general CNN coverage.

How Israel and allied defenses intercepted more than 300 Iranian missiles and drones
What follows is based on CNN coverage by Brad Lendon, April 14, 2024.

Almost all the ballistic missiles and drones Iran launched at Israel in an unprecedented attack late Saturday were intercepted and failed to meet their mark, according to Israeli and American officials, highlighting the formidable, and multi-layered missile defense deployed by the two allied partners. Most of the more than 300 Iranian munitions, the majority of which are believed to have been launched from inside of Iran’s territory during a five-hour attack, were intercepted before they got to Israel, more than 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometers) from their launch points. Israel’s military said Sunday that “99%” of projectiles fired by Iran were intercepted by Israel and its partners, with only “a small number” of ballistic missiles reaching Israel. In total, around 170 drones, more than 30 cruise missiles and more than 120 ballistic missiles were launched at Israel by Iran overnight Saturday, the military said. In a call Sunday, US President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that constituted a win for Israel as nothing of “value” was hit, a senior US administration official told CNN. US officials said more than 70 drones and three ballistic missiles were intercepted by US Navy ships and military aircraft, without giving details of exactly what defenses were used to bring down the projectiles. The US Navy shot down at least three ballistic missiles using the Aegis missile defense system aboard two guided-missiles destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean, officials told CNN’s Oren Liebermann at the Pentagon. US warplanes also shot down Iranian ordnance, Liebermann reported. While it was not revealed from where those US jets operated, there are US Navy aircraft carriers and land-based aircraft well within range of the region. Biden said in a statement the US was well-prepared to help defend Israel against the Iranian attack. “To support the defense of Israel, the US military moved aircraft and ballistic missile defense destroyers to the region over the course of the past week,” the US president said in a statement. “Thanks to these deployments and the extraordinary skill of our service members, we helped Israel take down nearly all of the incoming drones and missiles,” Biden said. Britain said it was also prepared to intervene using Royal Air Force aircraft it has in the region. “These UK jets will intercept any airborne attacks within range of our existing missions, as required,” a Defense Ministry statement said. An Israeli military spokesperson also said France was involved in blocking the Iranian attacks. “We are working closely with the US, UK and France who acted tonight. This partnership has always been close, but tonight it manifested itself in an unusual way,” the spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, Israel operates a range of systems to block attacks from everything from ballistic missiles with trajectories that take them above the atmosphere to low-flying cruise missiles and rockets. Israel’s Iron Dome system has been in the headlines often since the country began its military offensive in Gaza in response to the October 7 Hamas attacks inside Israel that sparked the current hostilities in the region. The Iron Dome is the bottom layer of Israel’s missile defense, according to the country’s Missile Defense Organization (IMDO). There are at least 10 Iron Dome batteries in Israel, each equipped with a radar that detects rockets and then uses a command-and-control system that quickly calculates whether an incoming projectile poses a threat or is likely to hit an unpopulated area. If the rocket does pose a threat, the Iron Dome fires missiles from the ground to destroy it in the air.

Just Saying…

Your Military Bob Breault YALE62 CLASSMATE, and sincere peacekeeper — as people who know me well, know that my opinion is that I would rather walk and talk with an adversary than go to war. There have been those times it is necessary.

PS I do have ideas good for all that just maybe Putin might accept. I’m working on it with others.

PPS The Ukrainians have always forgiven the people who have committed terrible atrocities on them. There is a peaceful solution that does not involve surrender again.

We welcome your comments below.

2 comments to Thoughts on Our May ’24 Coffee Hour

  • Larry Price

    Bob Breault has raised one of my favorite topics, namely the gold plating of America’s arsenal. In preview, I disagree with Bob.

    By way of example, I relate a story. I was a Navy type in a meeting of mostly Air Force types. The meeting was to discuss the F-22 which costs $95-150 Million a copy. It was pointed out that the F-22 was the BEST fighter in the world; in any plane to plane confrontation, the other plane was going down. I pointed out that for the cost of one F-22, I could buy a very large squadron of MIG-29’s, and in any confrontation between a F-22 and a squadron of MIG-29’s, the F-22 was going down. At the conclusion of my remarks, there was total silence. I was not invited back.

    Bob properly argues that the correct calculation is not the cost of the interceptor weapon against the cost of the incoming weapon, but rather should be the cost of the interceptor weapon against the damage that the incoming weapon would cause. But even the correct calculation does not allow carte blanche as to weapons costs. Case in point is the repulse of the Iranian attack on Israel. Unquestionably a technological and organizational tour de force. It cost $1.5 billion to repulse an attack that cost the Iranians no more than $50 million. Even so, a few Iranian missiles got through but caused negligible damage. If we had shown a less vigorous (and cheaper) defense, would the increased damage been a $1 billion. Unlikely.

    And doing things on the cheap gives greater stamina to your efforts. We did a marvelous job on the first wave. How about the second wave? Or the third? Or the fourth?.. The Iranians can keep this up forever. I doubt that we can.

  • peter cassar torreggiani

    It’s the right moment to air your approach in more detail if possible on the Putin agreement with Ukraine. Thanks for what is going into the generation of the underlying approach. I feel inspired by what you have stated so far especially about this line

    ” The Ukrainians have always forgiven the people who have committed terrible atrocities on them. There is a peaceful solution that does not involve surrender again.”