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Archive for November, 2012

Are stealth aircraft really required for dealing with air defenses

Posted by picard578 on November 24, 2012

While it is indeed correct that, as many stealth proponents point out, air defense networks are becoming more advanced, it does not mean that stealth is necessary.

For the past years, development and proliferation of IRST and long-wavelength radars has continued. QWIP IRST, like one on Eurofighter Typhoon, can detect subsonic aircraft from 90 kilometers head-on. Long-wavelength (VHF, HF) radars can detect VLO aircraft from same distance as non-LO ones. In particular, Russians are selling Nebo VHF radars.

Modern VHF radars have resolution good enough to engage intruding aircraft, and even older ones can be used to successfully guide SAMs equipped with IR seekers close enough for them to engage stealth aircraft.

Moreover, SAM networks have never proven very effective against enemy aircraft, with missile Pk regularly being below 0,5%. Thus, it is wrong to suggest that “only”stealth aircraft can survive against advanced SAMs. In fact, during Kosovo war and intervention in Bosnia, non-stealth F-16s have proven more survivable in face of SAMs than stealthy F-117s – one F-16 was shot down by SAM out of 4 500 sorties, as opposed to 1 F-117 shot down and 1 F-117 mission killed out of 1 300 sorties – both F-117 losses happened due to a single SAM battery using low frequency signals to detect F-117s and guide IR SAMs until missiles IR seeker could take over. In Gulf War I, F-117 flew only at night; neither night-flyingF-117s or two A-10 squadrons that also flew only at night suffered any casualties.

Against VHF or HF radars, both legacy and stealth aircraft will have to use same tactics and have support of same assets to get the job done, thus removing only possible advantage of stealth. While B-2 may be large enough to avoid detection against VHF radars, it is easily detected by IR sensors, and reports have surfaced that suggest it is nowhere as stealthy as USAF says. It is also too expensive and maintenance internsive (1,14 billion USD flyaway, 3,36 billion USD unit procurement, 93 400 USD per hour of flight – all values in 2012 USD). Additionally, radar it uses for low-level flying can be easily detected by enemy passive sensors, and its stealth coating is vulnerable to rain. It carries only four times more payload than F-16, and entire 21-ship B-2 fleet was able to deliver one sortie per day during Kosovo war.

As such, jammer+limited LO+airframe performance combination has been proven superior to far more expensive all-aspect LO/VLO option. That is especially true as modern QWIP IRST can detect VLO aircraft from ranges upwards of 80 kilometers, even from front. Such sensors are already mounted on aircraft such as Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale, and possibly PAK FA, J-20 and J-10.

As far as defense against enemy fighters is concerned, non-VLO fighters are superior in that aspect too, due to better airframe performance (not compromised by stealth requirements), higher numbers, higher sortie rates, easier maintainability and larger payload of missiles.

In future, due to proliferation of two-way fighter-missile datalinks, anti-radiation missiles and passive sensors, fighter radars are likely to stay passive, with fighters using IRST and ambient EM noise to detect each other. In such environment, stealth fighters will be as detectable as next thing in the sky. If they choose to use radar, they will be giving up their position at far greater range than they can detect a legacy fighter even if they use LPI mode.

To conculde, advanced 4-th generation aircraft with all characteristics of 5-th generation aircraft with exception of radar VLO are best choice for air defense, and are also no worse than stealth aircraft for offense operations against advanced enemies.

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On AviationIntel F-22 vs Typhoon article

Posted by picard578 on November 24, 2012


While author is indeed correct that training sorties do not necessarily mean that one type of aircraft is superior, multiple sorties can, when analyzed properly and assuming that setup is known, provide some information about respective fighter’s capabilities.

Huge control surfaces and thrust vectoring are useful for high-altitude and low-speed maneuvers, not in types of maneuvers required for close-in combat (transsonic low-altitude maneuvers). In fact, thrust vectoring is dangerous as it bleeds off energy, leaving fighter defenseless if it does not manage to get a kill immediately upon using it Secondly, German Typhoons in the exercise had no helmet-mounted sights, and as such had to point nose at F-22s to get a lock.

Modern radar warners, such as those carried by the Typhoons, are very capable of detecting even newest LPI radars. In any scenario where IRST-less Typhoon and F-22 went against each other with no AWACS support, both sides would be limited to visual detection.

In the end, visual-range combat is more likely than not to be decisive between fully equipped 4,5-th/5-th generation aircraft. As such, while F-22 is a capable dogfighter, it cannot be counted on to have a major impact in a war due to high cost and low sortie rate.

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Al-Quaeda now a US ally in Syria

Posted by picard578 on November 24, 2012

(article follows)

While we reflect on the 11th anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks on American soil, there is a blinding light that may obscure our view: this sworn enemy now fights hand in hand with the US against the Syrian regime.

The historic State of the Union address by US president George W. Bush on September 20, 2001 is loaded with morals and principles about good and evil.

The president’s ultimatum was clear: either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.

In Syria, there is mounting evidence that Al Qaeda and its allies are actively deploying terror tactics and suicide bombers to overthrow the Assad regime.

Syrian citizens who prefer the secular and stable state to the prospect of an Iraqi-style sectarian state may well be turning this same question around to the US government: are you with us, or with the terrorists?

This week, head of the Salafi jihad and close ally of al Qaeda, Abu Sayyaf, pledged ”deadly attacks” against Syria as ”our fighters are coming to get you” because ”crimes” by the regime ”prompts us to jihad”.

Bush referred to al Qaeda as the enemies of freedom: ”the terrorists’ directive commands them to kill Christians and Jews”. But Sheikh Muhammad al Zughbey proclaimed that ”your jihad against this infidel criminal and his people is a religious duty … Alawites are more infidel than the Jews and Christians”. Because the new jihad targets Alawites rather than Jews and Christians, does this render them better bed fellows?

By his own admission, Bush stated that al Qaeda was ”linked to many other organisations in different countries … They are recruited from their own nations … where they are trained in the tactics of terror … They are sent back to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil and destruction”.

Yet this is precisely how the foreign jihadists in Syria have been described by reporters. They are funded and armed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. And they collaborate with the Free Syrian Army which is aided and abetted by the US.

Bush condemned the Taliban regime because they were ”sponsoring and sheltering and supplying terrorists. By aiding and abetting murder, the Taliban regime is committing murder”. Eleven years later, the parallels produce an uncomfortable truth.

If only the Syrian uprising was as simple as the Arab Spring narrative where citizens seek democracy and freedom. But those unarmed protests have long since been hijacked by a cocktail of agendas which have little to do with Syrian democracy, and more to do with a proxy war to create a sectarian Sunni state that weakens Shi’te Iran’s main partner in the region.

Bush was correct in claiming that al Qaeda ”want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan” – who were all US-Israel allies at that time.

But his list stopped short of mentioning Syria or Iraq, the real targets of al Qaeda. Why does overthrowing Syria, using the same terror tactics, fail to attract the same degree of outrage?

Bush continues: ”We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism.”

This pledge appears to have fallen on its own sword, given the funding of the jihadists in Syria. The terrorists have bred and spread across borders, which is the opposite of Bush’s prophecy.

The US administration must come clean about its financial aid. It cannot use one hand to sign a blank cheque to the rebels, and the other hand to cover its eyes to their immoral and illegal tactics. It cannot hide behind ”the end justifies the means” as there are too many innocent lives at stake.

Bush rode off on his high horse: ”We are in a fight for our principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them … may God grant us wisdom”.

If the principles and morality are to be taken seriously, then they need to be applied consistently.

The US regime should be actively and publicly distancing itself from the foreign terrorists and Salafist jihadists that are proliferating within sovereign Syria.

It should be condemning al Qaeda for its militant intervention. It should be condemning the Saudi sheikhs who issue fatwas for an Alawite holocaust.

The wisdom that we see is grief over the al Qaeda crime 11 years ago, yet covert collaboration with this sworn enemy today.

Perhaps the US is applying another principle that they may have learned from their pragmatic Arab allies – the enemy of my enemy is my friend.

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Cleaning up Red Flag Alaska F-22 vs Typhoon debate (2)

Posted by picard578 on November 17, 2012

Author claims quite a few false things in the article linked above. I’ll counter them one by one.

  1. Exercises were 1 on 1 WVR BFM sorties. There was no need for AWACS or AIM-120D, and F-22 had to use radar to try and achieve a lock on Typhoon.
  2. Thrust vectoring is effective at speeds below 150 knots and above Mach 1. In entire envelope between these two speeds, TVC-equipped aircraft is no more agile than non-TVC one – and it is precisely there that 90% of air engagements happen.
  3. Neither aircraft did or could have used decoys, chaff or flares to “spoof” the missiles as these were completely simulated. Same goes for MAWS.
  4. At least some F-22s did use TVC in attempts to get nose on Typhoons and, thus, a simulated missile shots; this left them lacking in energy and thus vulnerable to Typhoons.
  5. Single engagements are most representative of individual qualities of the aircraft; as number of aircraft on both sides increases, coordination and quality thereof becomes more and more important.
  6. F-22 is inferior to Typhoon in medium- to high- -subsonic and transsonic agility, situational awareness (no IRST), cost, sortie rate, maintenance demands and gun quality.
  7. Typhoon’s pilots comments were referring to the training exercises where both Typhoon and F-22 were on the blue force, and while it is true that F-22 is peerless at BVR, unrealistic missile Pk and numerical difference assumptions call value of that superiority in question
  8. Air combat between peer opponents has historically been fought at visual range, and proliferation of advanced jammers, along with anti-radiation missiles, and long-range IR missiles coupled with cueing by launch platform, make it tactically prudent to remain completely passive
  9. Meteor BVR missile about to be used by Typhoon is shorter-ranged but offers far greater no-escape zone than AIM-120D, thus making it more effective – wether it will turn around dismal performance of BVR missiles remains to be seen.
  10. F-22 cannot escape detection, as it has to radiate in order to penetrate jamming; and even LPI radars can be detected by advanced RWRs at far longer distance than they themselves can detect target. Typhoon’s PIRATE IRST can detect subsonic fighters from 90 km head-on
  11. BVR missiles, when used against targets that were similar in numbers and capability to launch platforms, never went above Pk of 10%. It is not prudent to assume that it will change.
  12. F-22 weights 24 579 kg with 50% fuel, 2 Sidewinder and 4 AMRAAM, and has 31 751 kgf of thrust on afterburner, giving it TWR of 1,29. In same configuration, Typhoon weights 14 427 kg and has 18 144 kgf of thrust on afterburner, giving it TWR of 1,26. Thus, while F-22 has TWR advantage, it is not as large as author claims, and is not enough to offset its disadvantage in wing loading. Nor will thrust vectoring help it evade missiles, for energy loss is too great and leaves it vulnerable to further attacks even if first missile is evaded.
  13. While F-22 has reduced temperture of exhaust – a very useful thing – it did come at cost of performance, and it did nothing to adress the IR signature of aircraft as a whole.
  14. While weapons advance over time, so do countermeasures, and new weapons and technologies very quickly cease to give a noticeable advantage. As such, visual-range dogfights being thing of the past is not a reliable assumption.
  15. In visual range, F-22 provides neither numerical nor qualitative performance required for securing a victory, or coming close to securing it. F-35, on the other hand, is a sitting duck in a visual range fight, leaving F-22s to fend for themselves once F-16s and F-15s numbers are reduced sufficiently.
  16. F-22 is 19 meters long, has a wing span of 13,4 meters and weights almost 20 tons when empty. Closest-sized aircraft it may face one day, Su-35, is 22 meters long, has 15,3 meter-wingspan, but weights little less than 18,5 tons when empty. Versus Typhoon, a smaller aircraft with lower wing loading, F-22 is at disadvantage as it takes longer to transit from one maneuver to another, and cannot turn as tightly as Typhoon can. While F-22’s superior TWR will provide it with slight energy advantage as fight drags on, assuming it does not use thrust vectoring, Typhoon’s lower wing loading, smaller size and superior aerodynamics will make a victory for F-22 far from guaranteed even in a prolonged fight.
  17. BVR IFF system is yet to prove reliable, and F-22 has neither advanced IRST or optical suite that may make reliable BVR ID possible.
  18. PAK FA, with its wide lifting body, low drag, IRST, and thrust-to-weight ratio only slightly worse than F-22s, will prove a dangerous opponent to F-22, assuming these two aircraft ever go face-to-face – a highly unlikely scenario.

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JSF issues

Posted by picard578 on November 17, 2012

From Eric Palmer’s blog:

JSF issues

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US looking to a new generation fighter

Posted by picard578 on November 10, 2012

Despite F-22 choking its pilots – issue that may not have been solved even now – and F-35 having more problems than all European armaments programmes put together, US Department of Defense has decided that work should begin on a new stealth aircraft. It is easy to understand why – with F-22 out of production, and F-35 facing massive cuts in orders, US military aviation giants – Lockheed Martin, and Boeing – are desperate to find a new cow to milk. Ever since General Dynamics and Northrop Grumann have stopped producing fighter aircraft, these two firms have had free rein of US aviation industry. That situation has resulted in averagely effective and cripplingly expensive F-22, and utterly ineffective but almost-as-expensive F-35.

That decision comes in face of proposed budgetary cuts, and may indeed be a way for armaments industry to make cuts irrelevant, by inducing cost overruns that will have to be paid by taxpayers. While it certainly is useful for keeping industry going, it is hard to see why next platform has to be LO or VLO, as neither F-22 or F-35 are more advanced or more useful than their European counterparts.

Contrary to the claims in the article, F-35 is anything but high-performance aircraft. It is low-performance fighter/bomber/AWACS mix that does many things, but none well. However, as F-35 has harmed defense industry of US alleged allies – in reality, occupied countries – only high-performance fighters in production in these countries are French Dassault Rafale and multinational Eurofighter Typhoon, latter of whom is suffering cuts due to budgetary reductions as well as US diplomatic pressure aimed at making room for low-performance gold-plated F-35 bomber.

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On F-35 export “success”

Posted by picard578 on November 3, 2012

I have often seen F-35’s export successes being used as a proof of aircraft’s quality. Is it really so? I decided to check situation.

It is known that United States have often used diplomatic pressure – even threats of military invasion – to secure arms contracts. That also seems to be case here. And it is not only a matter of US politicians and generals – who themselves are often led by political concerns – praising F-35.

US State Department memos have revealed that Norway has been persuaded through diplomatic channels to buy F-35. In 2010, Canada has announced decision to buy 65 F-35s for 9 billion USD. In fact, influence of Military-Industrial Complex in United States are such that US embassies lobby for F-35.

In Norway’s case, diplomatic notes have been revealed (excerpts brought by
“We needed to avoid any appearance of undue pressuring … but we couldn’t let stand the view that the choice didn’t matter for the relationship,”
While public US position was that buying F-35 would “maximise” Norway’s relations with United States
“In private, we were much more forceful,”
When F-35s sale to Norway was in danger of being cancelled, US diplomats in Norway have warned that
“High-level Washington advocacy on this issue is needed to help reverse this trend,”

On September 22, 2008, US Embassy in Norway has asked United States to warn Norway that future US-Norway relations may be harmed if Norway does not select F-35.

After winning Norwegian deal, same memo has praised US diplomatic involvement.

While official Canadian position was that F-35 has been chosen due to its capabilities, that must be brought into question, since after Norwegian success, United States have compiled a list of lessons that can be used to help secure future F-35 exports:
 active involvement of local US embassy, including Ambassador
 co-ordinating sales strategy with Lockheed Martin
 creating opportunities to praise aircraft – meetings by people of importance, often on lunches organized by US Embassy in respective country.

Even more damning, US diplomat – Kevin Johnson – who pushed F-35 on Norway is now based in Canada. His name also appears on document which lists lessons mentioned in paragraph above. In the same document, it was noted that SAAB has offered superior benefits for Norwegian industry compared to F-35, and price tag half of F-35s. Moreover, Gripen was also far better choice politically, playing on card of Norwegian neutrality and being a national corporation based in Norway’s neighbour, Sweden. Explaining decision, Norway has scorned Gripen’s performance, something never done by, and in opposing experiences of, other operators of the aircraft.

Later, it has been revealed that pressure has also been made by delaying export lincense for Gripen’s radar until after Norwegian decision.

Canadian politicians have engaged themselves in promoting the F-35. Canadian Department of National Defense has spent over 130 000 USD on tour designed to improve F-35s public image, and Industry Canada additional 55 000. (figures for 2011). There have also been visits by US politicians, as well as attempts to influence public opinion by articles – one, “The truth about those jets”, being written by retired General Paul Manson – also an ex-president of Lockheed Martin Canada. Canadian decision was, officially, based on competition held between 1997 and 2001. While it is true, competition in question was US 2001 competition which determined company to build F-35s. F-35 was also chosen before Canadian military has defined its requirements.

Many Canadian officials responsible for Canada’s decision to join Joint Strike Fighter programme are now lobbysts for Lockheed Martin. Also, over 70 Canadian firms have contracts signed with Lockheed Martin – and Lockheed Martin has said that it will not deal with these firms in future unless Canada buys F-35.

Canada needs to replace F-18s by 2016, yet F-35 will only be finishing its development phase that year.

Japan and Korea, meanwhile, have very strong political and military ties to the United States, and depend on US support in case of invasion by China. Korea has also been subject to pressure by United States: its request for upgrading F-16s radar has been denied.

While Korea has budgeted 120 million USD per aircraft, Air Force version of F-35 now costs at least 199 million USD in flyaway cost; cost difference will be covered by US taxpayers, and later presumably paid by increased maintenance costs.

Japan, meanwhile, has selected F-35 despite Eurofighter offering far better terms – 95 % of work was to be done in Japan, compared to 20 % for Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and 80 % for Boeing’s Super Hornet.

Wikileaks documents have shown that pressure by US diplomacy was important in securing F-35 deals in Turkey and Italy.

That hardly reveales decisions brought purely on basis of military concerns. Actually, since all F-35s export customers have close ties to United States (especially Israel), and many are not likely to see any situation where they might need it, not a single F-35 export order was made on basis of performance.

However, even traditional US allies – such as Japan and Korea – are saying that they might cancel F-35 order if costs rise further. F-35’s export costs are, as seen before, actually already below its actual flyaway cost, with difference being covered by US taxpayers. Even then, cost might turn out to be too high for Korea. Canada and Netherlands are also thinking about cancelling F-35 buys, and UK is looking at Naval Typhoon for their carrier, an aircraft that will be superior to F-35 by all possible measures.

As for F-35’s performance, it is nothing to praise. It is large, heavy, has high wing loading and low thrust-to-weight ratio – and that despite its huge engine. A such, it is sluggish in both turn and acceleration, and very easily spotted by modern-day IRSTs such as PIRATE, at distances of 100 kilometers or larger – even from front, where its IR signature will be smallest.

Decade into programme, only 21 percent of developmental testing has been completed – and even in full testing plan, many factors will remain untested. Ben Freeman has rightly called the Joint Strike Fighter programme a “phenomenal idiocy”. Even now, F-35s built are basically prototypes. Only 4 % of systems required to run airplane are a final version; and depending on wether F-35’s issues with helmet mounted display are solved, and what is causing them, it might end up without high off-bore capability; a sitting duck for almost any other fighter out there.

Low cost promise – an utter oxymoron when it comes to stealth aircraft – has relied on large US orders. United States, however, will be forced to reduce their order due to mounting costs. If US reduce quantity substantially – they already have and they will reduce it even more in future – per-aircraft costs are going to increase, calling in question export orders.

Only good thing for the West that may have come from programme is that Typhoons and Rafales will have easy time dealing with at least some Chinese aircraft, as Chinese stealth fighters will have similar problems as US stealth aircraft: large size, high weight, high cost and low sortie rate, as well as limited payload.

It isn’t just F-35 exports that are being pushed via threats. In 2003, Poland chose US F-16 deal over Eurofighter and BAE bids due to US threats of blocking Poland’s participation in NATO, EU and its relations with US.

(expansion of original article follows)

Reasons for situation described above are multifold. First, large F-35 exports will harm competition, particularly European firms (Eurofighter, Dassault, SAAB) which are offering cheaper and more capable aircraft. Second is, as already explained, long-term profit; while F-35 sales will cause a short-term losses to US (but not to Lockheed Martin) due to US Government subsidizing cost difference, in long term it will provide profits – United States are unwilling to share detailed knowledge of the system required for maintaining it, which means that aircraft have to be shipped to United States for upgrades and maintenance.

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