Shoot at the cables…Recently Romania took delivery of ex-Dutch Improved Hawk air defense system, shipped in late October from Netherlands to Romania on board of merchant ship. The eight batteries of Hawk with total 48 launchers and 16 High Power Illuminator fire control radars, previously belonged to No 801, 802, 803 and 804 Squadrons of Royal Netherlands Air Force in the de Pel airbase, where they formed so-called “triad units” with two Improved Hawk and a single Patriot battery in every squadron. Romania will field the system probably for airbases and other vital objects defense, thought the details of the organization of the future Romanian Hawk units are still unknown.
This remind me a story from Poland, from 1986. I was a pilot at 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing in Miroslawiec, which used badly obsolete Lim-6M aircraft – a Polish attack version of Soviet MiG-17. The aircraft was based on ex-radar equipped Lim-5P (MiG-17PF) and had bulbous nose, housing some ballast in place of removed radar. It was armed with three NR-23 guns of 23 mm caliber and two rocket pods for 16 S-5 rockets of 57 mm caliber. Theoretically it could also carry two 250 kg bombs in place of drop tanks, but could not fly anywhere with such load so we normally carried the tanks on every mission. The aircraft did not have any EW suite except for simple RWR protecting only rear hemisphere against attacking fighters. But we were also tasked to attack air defense means positioned not farther than 150 km from the front line of own forces, since the aircraft could not fly any farther on low altitude. The biggest challenge was the Improved Hawk system, since Patriot just started to enter service two years earlier and was not widely deployed, and we did not know yet much about Patriot. Nike Hercules we did not care, since we used to make jokes that fully loaded Lim-6M cannot reach the altitude of 1500 m, which is the lowest altitude on which Nike Hercules can engage an air target. But Improved Hawk was a challenge.
Somebody organized us (pilots from Miroslawiec) a common exercise with Kub air defense regiment (SA-6), somewhat similar to Improved Hawk, at least it was the semi-active short to medium range air defense system. And we looked for an advise from air defense guys, how to evade such an air defense system. The GBAD [ground-based air defense --ED] guys were not much cooperative and stated proudly that they sweep away from the sky any aircraft, if its pilot would be stupid enough to get close to their missile engagement zone. “Any aircraft” was to include wide range of supersonic and subsonic fighters, transport or helicopters, and even such a piece of scrap like Lim-6M, thought they would worry of expending their beautiful missile for it. Finally we had a common party so some initial ice was broken, but they still told us that there is no chance to evade modern air defense system without adequate EW system and anti-radar missiles, which would make the thing slightly better.
We had with us a young second-lieutenant, a political officer, inexperienced and stupid more than average among the political officers. And he started to explore the matter of countering Improved Hawk system, starting from the point that Kub is highly effective since it was developed in Soviet Union, but the Improved Hawk developed by those bloodsucking capitalists MUST have certain shortcomings. So the GBAD guys told him to buy a drink to every of them, and then they would tell him the proper way of Hawk suppressing, in a secret. His wallet became sleeker, the air defense men got drunk, but the officer was happy to learn the secret. Pilots were curious what was that. And he repeated what the GBAD guys told him: “all the elements of the Improved Hawk are separated by 50-150 m, but they are all connected by cables. Those cables are highly vulnerable. Shot at them and you get it…”
Some years later, when we got Su-22M4 and SPS-141 system along with Kh-25MP anti-radar missiles (which was actually never fired in Poland), we showed the Kub guys how the thing can be done. Then they were asking us, how to deal with all of this stuff. And our answer was equally smart. We told them: “our aircraft are extremely vulnerable for ingesting any foreign objects to the air intake. Release a lots of meteo [weather --ED] balloons, when we fly across your battery…”.