Why no Airliner Missile Launchers?

Something that comes up from time to time the suggestion that a modified airliner be fitted out with missiles, either big AAMs like the Phoenix or air launched Sea Dart or cruise missiles and used as a long endurance mobile missile battery.

On the face of it this appears to have merit it but has never been done in practice, why is that?
 
Something that comes up from time to time the suggestion that a modified airliner be fitted out with missiles, either big AAMs like the Phoenix or air launched Sea Dart or cruise missiles and used as a long endurance mobile missile battery.

On the face of it this appears to have merit it but has never been done in practice, why is that?
Airliners lack any kind of stealth.

I would think that using one of those would make any airliners open targets

And the cost is most likely not as cheap as it sounds .
 
Something that comes up from time to time the suggestion that a modified airliner be fitted out with missiles, either big AAMs like the Phoenix or air launched Sea Dart or cruise missiles and used as a long endurance mobile missile battery.

On the face of it this appears to have merit it but has never been done in practice, why is that?
At his point, it would probably be cheaper and easier to modify/refit a B-52 Stratofortress which is used and produced by the USA and possess stealth and jamming equipment or at least a Tu-95 (if you are not in good term with the USA). Both can more easily be modified to carry AAM then a civilian airliner designed first and foremost for civilian and fret transport, since they were designed with a bomb bay.
 
Something that comes up from time to time the suggestion that a modified airliner be fitted out with missiles, either big AAMs like the Phoenix or air launched Sea Dart or cruise missiles and used as a long endurance mobile missile battery.

On the face of it this appears to have merit it but has never been done in practice, why is that?

My personal take on it from the ALCM carrier perspective eg B747

Possibly because like the ALCM carrying bombers, their runways (air bases) can/would be taken out negating any possible benefits that they offer.

At least a mobile ALCM launcher such as was based in the UK at Greenham Common, Molesworth etc can be move quite quickly and based far away from the base itself to stop it being taken out. ALCM carrying aircraft are limited to the number of runways and such are easily targeted and taken out.

Much obliged!
 
In the case of ALCMs I think they lacked the range to allow comprehensive target coverage from outside the Soviet Union's borders, so at least some penetration is needed. If this is the case then a converted 747 isn't as good as a B52 which can fly tactical profiles as needed.
 
My personal take on it from the ALCM carrier perspective eg B747

Possibly because like the ALCM carrying bombers, their runways (air bases) can/would be taken out negating any possible benefits that they offer.

At least a mobile ALCM launcher such as was based in the UK at Greenham Common, Molesworth etc can be move quite quickly and based far away from the base itself to stop it being taken out. ALCM carrying aircraft are limited to the number of runways and such are easily targeted and taken out.

Much obliged!
One of the advantage of flying ALCM carrier over ground launcher is capacity to strike everywhere around the globe by maintaining a flying presence at all time, like what the USA were doing with their nuclear armed B-52 with the "armed patrols". The bombing of runway prevent further strike or refueling but any attack could be met by an immediate strike by re-directing close by plane on target.
Obviously this is very costly and taxing on pilot and hardware but is a permanent risk for potential foes.
 
I recall seeing this idea of using B1-B's and just filling them with AMRAAM's or longer ranged missiles and having the weapons be data uplinked from an AWACS so if they saw a hostile group of fighters inbound then its macross missile spam.
 
Ok,

This wont work as you describe, lets take your concept.

What happens when your airliner arsenal plane meets opposing fighter aircraft?

It will end up very dead as it doesn't have the speed to cut and run away, it doesn't have the manoeuvrability to deal with any enemy fighters that gets within visual range, oh and its a huge RCS , therefore its going to be seen at the longest ranges by enemy sensors. And the counter point that the arsenal aircraft will engage every target before it gets close doesn't work, its never worked in the history of air warfare, look at the YB-17 Gunships from WW2 for example.

The second reason that this is a bad idea, if you buy one arsenal bird to replace for example 5 medium ranged SAM batteries lets say Patriot/SA-10 type systems, the enemy has 1 target to strike not 5, 5 Sam batteries can cover a larger volume of airspace than a single arsenal aircraft, sure the arsenal aircraft can move quicker than SAMs but the volume of airspace covered is still constantly a 5th of the airspace 5 SAM batteries cover.

This is further exacerbated by the fact that the enemy only needs to counter 1 technology airborne interceptors, where as an integrated AD system comprising of interceptors and SAMs in layers complicates the enemies offensive actions by making sure that the enemy has to have counter air and SEAD assets available as part of a strike package.

There's also the issue of putting all your eggs in one basket in two senses, if you have arsenal aircraft and there's a technological break through next year that nullifies that aircraft and leaves you defenceless, and secondly in a tactical sense, if you put a huge number of AMRAAMS or Phoenix onto one aircraft that's no other fighting ability, if a stealthy 5th Gen type knocks it down then you have lost a huge amount of your missiles in one fell swoop.

This idea works great in fiction and looks attractive on paper but in the real world it doesn't work am afraid. Even the USAF is buying the F15EX with the capibilty of carrying I think 16 AMRAAMS and using it as a missile magazine to provide magazine depth to 5th Gen fighters but it can still fight all but the most capable opponents.

Regards

Butch
 
Modern military aircraft are expensive and are expected to be versatile
An airliner modified to carry AAMs would be an expensive one-trick pony.
It would also be a one-trick pony that could be taken out by a much cheaper fighter.
 
One of the advantage of flying ALCM carrier over ground launcher is capacity to strike everywhere around the globe by maintaining a flying presence at all time, like what the USA were doing with their nuclear armed B-52 with the "armed patrols". The bombing of runway prevent further strike or refueling but any attack could be met by an immediate strike by re-directing close by plane on target.
Obviously this is very costly and taxing on pilot and hardware but is a permanent risk for potential foes.
The only thing is that was a valid concern prior to the maturing of ICBM/SLBMs , when they became available as survivable second strike weapons in the case of SLBMs and as launch on warning capable in the case of the ICBM and of course the reliable space based warning systems , the need or desire for continuous airborne alert died a death.
 
Modern military aircraft are expensive and are expected to be versatile
An airliner modified to carry AAMs would be an expensive one-trick pony.
It would also be a one-trick pony that could be taken out by a much cheaper fighter.
I vaguely recall reading of presumably somewhat serious proposals in the late cold war era period for converted airliners carrying cruise missiles. I also seem to recall reading comments about the potential need to build more nuclear weapons production facilities in order to build enough warheads for the thousands of extra cruise missiles that some of proponents were advocating building. Even at the time I thought some of these proposals were a bit of a stretch.
 
What is the cost of acquiring and converting an airliner to be a missile carrier, compared to a military airplane designed or converted to being a missile carrier? Is the operational cost that much different?

An airliner converted to be a long range SAM carrier would need to be refitted with the long range radar and associated electronics to target and control the missiles. One airliner fitted with the F-106 or F-15 electronics, for example. It would have a crew of three or four (pilot, copilot, radar operator, and maybe a flight engineer). It could carry the long range missile battery of several fighters. How many airliners would be needed to give the same coverage as an interceptor squadron? The airliner does have greater endurance, but is slower and can't climb as fast (if needed).
 
The only thing is that was a valid concern prior to the maturing of ICBM/SLBMs , when they became available as survivable second strike weapons in the case of SLBMs and as launch on warning capable in the case of the ICBM and of course the reliable space based warning systems , the need or desire for continuous airborne alert died a death.
Of course, but we cant use a ICBM for tactical strikes as they would immediately be interpreted as a nuclear strike and cause a massive risk of retaliation. In another hand, a plane armed with cruise missile armed with conventional warhead is much less a threat and have a much larger strategical use.
I am not saying that the USA should keep and "armed patrol" air wing around "potential risk zone" but that compared to ground battery, the planes have a much greater versatility, on the strategic side.
 
I recall seeing this idea of using B1-B's and just filling them with AMRAAM's or longer ranged missiles and having the weapons be data uplinked from an AWACS so if they saw a hostile group of fighters inbound then its macross missile spam.

Like this

13892-fsx-tupolev-tu-128-fiddlerzip-54-thumbnail.jpg


The Tupolev Tu-128 Fiddler . . . wasn't this based on a bomber?

Much obliged!
 
Something that comes up from time to time the suggestion that a modified airliner be fitted out with missiles, either big AAMs like the Phoenix or air launched Sea Dart or cruise missiles and used as a long endurance mobile missile battery.

On the face of it this appears to have merit it but has never been done in practice, why is that?
If Jimmy Carter thought it was a good idea... (See all previous specific reasons and then add in flight missile fraticide and own launch platform shootdown by a circular run. ^^^) then it is a dumb idea.
 
About the only advantage of an airliner AAM carrier over SAM batteries would be look down shoot down capability and radar horizon.
 
Of course, but we cant use a ICBM for tactical strikes as they would immediately be interpreted as a nuclear strike and cause a massive risk of retaliation. In another hand, a plane armed with cruise missile armed with conventional warhead is much less a threat and have a much larger strategical use.
I am not saying that the USA should keep and "armed patrol" air wing around "potential risk zone" but that compared to ground battery, the planes have a much greater versatility, on the strategic side.
Sorry am slightly confused , I may have picked you up incorrectly I thought the you meant keeping aircraft on station with nuclear armed cruise missiles ala the ALCM proposals of the 1970s in order to hold targets at risk in the Soviet Union, that's what the B52s were used for.

Interesting that you should say that ICBMs cant be used for tactical strikes, perhaps that is the case, however the US and UK have moved to arm their SLBMs with lower yield warheads for precisely the use in tactical strikes where the higher hundreds of kiloton warheads would be overkill. If you envisage a "demonstration of intent" type strike, like retaliating against a North Korean attack on Seoul with nuclear weapons say, then a SLBM or ICBM is possible, infact potentially preferable to a nuclear cruise missile. Perhaps time a time sensitive leadership target that requires a prompt nuclear response, that would favour a ballistic missile over a cruise missile. on two counts, speed of response and higher chance of penetrating air defences compared to CM. I am aware some peer nations have a ABM capability , but that's a different scenario to the one I outlined. If your talking about a wider theatre nuclear conflict then nuclear ALCMs are useful but they are not great against certain hardened targets, C3M bunkers or missile silos for example.

Now if your talking about conventional cruise missiles that's a different proposition, Im not sure I understand what you mean when you say greater versatility on the strategic side, do you mean they could be used for other taskings such as CAS ect when not required to be flying attack sorties with ALCMs? If so ,it still suffers from the vulnerability to enemy defences and whilst cruise missiles are long ranged the brochure range has to be cut by a fair margin ( weaponeers dont fly ALCMs directly to the target, they are routed around defences ect so you either risk the ALCM carrier and its loss to the enemy or there are targets that cannot be reached by it ie in Russia for example.


Regards

Butch
 
The only thing is that was a valid concern prior to the maturing of ICBM/SLBMs , when they became available as survivable second strike weapons in the case of SLBMs and as launch on warning capable in the case of the ICBM and of course the reliable space based warning systems , the need or desire for continuous airborne alert died a death.
Not really. Launch on warning is not a panacea because of the turnaround time needed to detect the enemy launch, verify the launch, communicate that to appropriate command authorities, and then communicate launch authorization to the actual launch personnel. This is just about feasible in an ICBM-on-ICBM scenario, but it would be quite possible to undermine this through various approaches. The one that was most acute by the end of the Cold War was the possibility of an SLBM launch on a depressed trajectory from relatively close offshore; the flight time of the missiles in that case would be short enough that ICBMs in silos would be hit before they could reasonably launch.

The Air Force expended a considerable amount of time and energy on this problem, though it ended up not going anywhere because the end of the Cold War meant that no one worried about it any more. The actually selected solution was to build a mobile missile system, either Peacekeeper rail garrison or Midgetman, only ground-based instead of air-based. But various air-based systems were studied and it is not impossible that one could have been selected as preferable to either of those approaches or other Peacekeeper basing proposals.
 
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