POV: Dragons live in an island group, referred to as Io's Blood. While there's still some tension between its resident clans, they managed to come together under The Council of Wyrms, which acts as their version of the EU. The Council has an alliance with a mysterious paramilitary group, known as The Foundation.

The Foundation's FOUNAD (Foundation Aerospace Defense Command, pronounce: fun-ad ) branch is responsible for ensuring that dragons can't leave the perimeter of the island group without being noticed and that flying dragons are safe from long-range air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles that could come from beyond FOUNAD's AO.

There are quite a few dragons, they all love flying, they can get to altitudes of 4.5 km, and are roughly horse-sized.

The Foundation is supposed to be a low-resources, high-technology organization, so if there is an experimental aircraft-detection tech, they already have the perfected version, even if not many of it.

What kind of detection and aerial defense system should FOUNAD use? Assume they want to be able to counter everything that can be thrown at flying dragons from a rather long-range.

The tech level is the same as modern-day Earth, though the Foundation might be more advanced.

  • $\begingroup$ What is the tech-level? Is satellite surveillance an option? $\endgroup$ – G0BLiN Dec 31 '20 at 21:51

Radar, IFF, and Jammers

Modern day radar and a civil IFF system would work fine for keeping track of them, assuming none of them are actively trying to evade detection. And if they are devious and turn off the IFF, modern radar can easily detect (and engage if linked to a SAM) something the size of a horse. It has to do with the aircraft's (dragoncraft?) radar cross-section, or RCS, but more on that in a moment.

Put a radar site on the highest point of the island group (or of each island, depending on how distant they are from each other) and rig up a collar/bracelet/vest or whatever to carry the IFF package (Raytheon claims to have the world's most compact version) and some sort of battery/power source.

As for defending them from less-than-friendly AAM's and SAM's, a high-end, high-power jamming system would be my suggestion. Once again it comes down to the dragon's RCS. Note on that site that the average human has an RCS of 1 meters squared, a bird of 0.01, and an insect of 0.001. Meanwhile an F-16C (developed in 1984) only has an RCS of 1.2 and the stealth platforms are much smaller (take the numbers for the stealth aircraft with a glass of salt, as all those numbers are still classified).

So back to defense, shooting down a missile with another missile is a last resort. There are systems designed to do exactly that, and they do it well (CIWS), but they're all ground or ship based and usually require the missile to be headed right for them. Put those on all of your islands, near whatever counts as a population center for the dragons.

And so a jammer, use electronic warfare to counter any errant radar-guided missiles. It wouldn't do anything from heat-seeking IR missiles, but those are short range and your radar system would generally be able to see the launch platform well before it could become a threat. I would have your FOUNAD group operate a jammer fleet out of a dedicated airfield in the island group (along with a few interceptors).

That would pretty much cover most long range anti-air missile threats against the dragons themselves. Just be aware that countering an actively aggressive hostile nation-state (if that becomes a thing) would be a whole different issue. Anyone dedicated enough, or at least with enough reason to do so, and a standing military, would steamroll a PMC such as the Foundation sounds like (advanced tech or not).

Edit: Like Demigan mentioned, I neglected to add the Patriot and S-400/SA-21 systems to the list. THAAD isn't really a contender as it's a ABM system, but the other two are outright nasty against aircraft and cruise missiles. Not sure how or if they could do against a small AAM, but a PAC could hit an S-400 (supposedly) and vice-versa (supposedly). Not sure either has ever been tried. Pop a few PAC-3 or S-400 systems (or PAC-4/S-500 if you want to get some future tech, both are in development at the moment) down on each island for a true layered defense.

  • $\begingroup$ Shouldnt you look at things like Patriot, S400 and THAAD systems? THAAD for example is meant to deal with a variety of incoming threads in their terminal phase up to about 200km distance. S400 is basically the Patriot and THAAD in one with multi-directional functionality, and as far as I'm aware these two are (tauted as) the best currently available. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Dec 31 '20 at 23:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Demigan, I did actually think about those, as the SAM weapons that they would have to defend against. But as an intercept system, against AAM's and SAM's,I don't think they'd be as effective. That 200km distance is going after a ballistic target (ICBM's,SLBM's, MRBM's, and such). At that point, if you have someone targeting them with CBRN weapons, the issue would be pointless. Plus, the OP only specifically mentioned SAM's and AAM's which would have a much lower altitude and pretty much never be in the ideal envelope for a anti-missile shot. Also much smaller targets. I also ruled (continued) $\endgroup$ – Teak Jan 1 at 1:17
  • $\begingroup$ Ruled out optical weapons due to the severe negative impact weather can have on them. Attack during a storm or fog and the effective range is cut by a significant amount. I don't have any hard numbers for that but that is how lasers generally work (line-of-sight), though if someone knows better please let me know, because a laser CIWS sounds awesome. $\endgroup$ – Teak Jan 1 at 1:22
  • $\begingroup$ Considering the foundation is going to need range and accuracy, not to mention your missiles need to avoid your own jamming systems, I would simply throw everything and the kitchen sink into it. You dont want to fail due to weather, but you dont want to fail due to not having an option available that you needed. $\endgroup$ – Demigan Jan 1 at 10:52
  • $\begingroup$ You'd want a primary radar + interrogator setup anyway so that you could control air traffic in your area (basically, standing up your own Flight Information Region for your island, so that you can ensure nobody runs into nobody else -- I'd hate to see the results of one of your dragons slamming into a jumbo jet at speed) $\endgroup$ – Shalvenay Jan 31 at 17:57

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