Russia’s defenses could shut out the US Air Force in a war — here’s how the US plans to win anyway

A US Army self-propelled howitzer.

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A US Army self-propelled howitzer.
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Daniel Brown/Business Insider

  • Russia has the US and NATO outgunned in eastern Europe, but US Army generals came up with a plan to counter it.
  • Instead of risking planes over Russia’s fierce air defenses, the US will pivot to developing and deploying long-range artillery and missile systems to knock out defenses from afar.
  • With the changes recommended, the generals said the US would be able to fight Russia for weeks without even using air power.

The US military and NATO have been significantly outgunned by Russia in eastern Europe for some time, but US Army generals recently laid out a plan to close the gap.

As it stands, Russia has more tanks, aircraft, better air defenses, and more long range weapons systems than the US and NATO have in eastern Europe.

The US has known for some time that its air superiority, something the US has held over enemies for 70 years, has come under serious threat, but now they’re working on an answer.

“Because of the power and the range and the lethality of these Russian air defenses, it’s going to make all forms of air support much more difficult, and the ground forces are going to feel the effects,” Gen. Robert Brown, who commands the US Army in the Pacific, recently said, according to Military.com.

He said the answer was to “push the maximum range of all systems under development for close, deep and strategic” strikes, and that the US has “got to outgun the enemy.”

Instead of risking US planes and pilots in covering US forces as they fight with Russia, the US should pivot to increasing the range of its rockets, artillery, and missiles, according to Brown. Then, using those systems, the US can knock out Russian defenses and keep its troops at bay, potentially fighting without air support for weeks, he said.

Brown was speaking at the Association of the United States Army’s Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

Russia has “got a range advantage over us in a number of different areas, particularly cannons,” John Gordon IV, a senior policy researcher at Rand Corp, said at the event. “Typically, modern Russian cannons have got 50 percent to 100 percent greater range than the current generation of US cannons.”

The US Army's Army Tactical Missile System.

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The US Army’s Army Tactical Missile System.
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Wikimedia Commons

Brown also said the US needs to extend the range of its current systems and those in development to meet the threat, specifically by bumping up the range of the Army Tactical Missile System to 499 kilometers, just under the 500 kilometer range limit the US is bound to by an arms control agreement.

Brig. Gen. Stephen Maranian, commandant of the Army’s Field Artillery School, said the new missiles would have “the ability to hit a ship at sea, the ability to hit moving targets on the land domain, the ability to have sub-munitions that attack heavy armored targets and have effects … and the ability to use sensors to hone in on targets. Those are all aspects of future spirals of this missile that the base Precision Strike Missile will provide,” Military.com noted.

Additionally, the US is working on a new self-propelled howitzer that would increase the range out to 40 kilometers, and increase the rate of fire.