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Archive for April, 2013

Usefulness of BVR combat

Posted by picard578 on April 27, 2013

United States, as well as many of its allies, have always looked towards increasing range of combat as much as possible. Just as often, it failed, especially in the air, where technologists’ dream of destroying enemy air force before it reaches visual range remains unfulfilled to this day. Main reason for it is that BVR combat is, conceptually, operationally and technologically, massively complex affair. Exact extent of visual range depends on size of aircraft – while maximum visual detection range for MiG-21 is 8,5 kilometers, it is 15,37 kilometers for F-14. Smoke can extend that range by over 5,6 kilometers; while by other info, definition of BVR combat considers “BVR” to be anything beyond 37 kilometers. Optical devices such as IRST or TV cameras can extend range of visual identification of aircraft – PIRATE can identify enemy aircraft at 40 kilometers in ideal conditions.

BVR theory states that future air combat will be comprised of large “missile truck” aircraft flying at supersonic speeds, launching radar-guided missiles at targets that are way too far to be identified visually. This has resulted in development of aircraft that are very heavy (most weight little less or more than 15 metric tons empty – for example, Tornado ADV weights 14,5 metric tons, and F-22 weights 19,7 metric tons), carry large amounts of missiles, and are far more expensive and much less reliable than aircraft with bias towards visual-range combat. Yet BVR combat still has not taken lead role in air-to-air combat.

We can in fact draw paralels between modern air-to-air combat and modern infantry combat. While infantry has access to sniper rifles that allow ranges of around two kilometers, and old battle rifles had ranges of 500-1000 meters, most combat happens at ranges no greater than 100 meters, and never involves single shooters. In Vietnam, M-14 proved basically useless as basic infantry weapon when compared to AK-47. Reason for this is that, while large battle rifles were useful in static warfare of World War I, World War II and later wars saw mobile warfare develop with combat happening at low ranges, thus requiring lighter, faster-firing weapons. Result was development of sub-machine guns, as well as first assault rifles (such as German MP-44, renamed StG-44, which was world’s first assault rifle and provided inspiration for very successful AK-47; both were used by Vietcong).

In air-to-air combat, BVR missiles fill the niche of old battle rifles and modern sniper rifles, WVR missiles fill the niche of modern assault rifles, while gun fills niche of combat knife. While gun is most versatile weapon of the lot – it can be used for air-to-air work, close air support, firing warning shots towards aircraft violating forbidden airspace – it is not often used in air-to-air combat and is treated purely as fallback weapon in case missiles have been expended.

It is often forgotten is that g forces in tracking turn are a square of speed. Thus, in WVR combat, if missile travels at Mach 3 and fighter aircraft travels at Mach 0,6 (corner speed of many modern fighters) and can pull 9 g maneuvers, then missile needs to pull 225 g to match turn radius, or 100 g if fighter is travelling at Mach 0,9. If missile is fired outside ideal position, it has to maneuver in order to point its nose towards the target, thus lowering probability of kill; there is also a danger of targeted aircraft simply flying out of missile’s field of view. This danger is also present with active-seeker BVR missiles. In BVR, AIM-120 travels at Mach 4, and can pull 30 g within its NEZ, yet it would need 400 Gs to reliably hit a modern fighter which is maneuvering at corner speed of Mach 0,6, or 178 Gs if target is still at standard cruise speed of Mach 0,9.

Further, even though BVR missiles have maximum range of over 100 kilometers, their effective range against aircraft in attack is 1/5 of that – around 20 kilometers – and target beyond 40 kilometers can feel free to maneuver without even taking any possible missile shots into account, as only way these would hit is luck. One of reasons is that BVR missiles follow ballistic trajectories – AIM-120C-5 allegedly has motor burn time of 8 seconds, which gives range of around 10 kilometers before motor burns out. At ranges greater than 8 kilometers, attacking fighter can still choose wether to outmaneuver or outrun the BVR missile; at distances less than that is missile’s no-escape zone, where aircraft cannot outrun the missile, it has to outmaneuver it, but such distances automatically mean that combat is not longer beyond visual range. Ranges stated are also only true at high altitude against aircraft in attack; at low altitude, effective range of BVR missile is reduced to 25% of its range at high altitude, and range against aircraft in flight is 1/4 of that against aircraft in attack.

Missiles in fact can achieve either maximum range or maximum maneuvering capability – missile that pulls 40 g at sea level will only pull 13 g at 10.000 meters and 2,85 g at 20.000 meters, unless 40 g is a structural limit. AIM-9 for example can pull 40 g at SL and at 10.000 ft, and 35 g at 20.000 ft. Thus, it can be expected to pull single-digit number of g’s at 40.000 ft.  Meanwhile, F-16 for example can sustain 8,5 g at 15.000 ft, and Rafale can sustain 9 g at 40.000 ft.

Proximity fuses on missiles can trigger explosion of missile if anything (like a bird) flies nearby. Warhead itself has lethal radius of 10-12 meters for late AIM-120 variants.

Missiles are not the only problem with BVR combat. There are also questions of reliable IFF, penalties for using active sensors in combat, weight, cost and complexity penalties on weapons systems caused by systems required for BVR combat, as well as training penalties caused by aforementioned penalties on weapons system.

Training penalties are probably most damaging. In 1940, Germans – outnumbered 1,5 to 1, and using inferior tanks – overran France in three weeks because they had superior personnell – both commanders and soldiers. On the Eastern Front, German Panther and Tiger I tanks achieved favorable exchange ratios against more numerous – and in many aspects superior – Soviet T-34-85, IS-I and IS-II tanks, and General Guderian favored increased production of Panzer IV equipped with long cannon over production of more capable, but more expensive, less reliable and less strategically mobile Panther (for each Panther, Germany could have produced two Panzer IVs; for Tiger I, ratio was four Panzer IVs for each Tiger). After Gulf War I, General Schwarzkopf said that the outcome of Gulf War I would have been the same if the U.S. and Iraqi armies had exchanged weapons, a statement similar to one given by IAF General Mordecai Hod after 1973 war, in which he stated that IAFs 80-1 victory against Arabs would have remained the same if both sides had exchanged the weapons. Yet BVR-oriented aircraft, low in number and hugely complex, cannot be used for training often enough. While technologists typically counter this argument by pointing to increased ability of simulators, that argument is not realistic: simulation is never perfect, as quality of the end result is never better – and is often lot worse – than quality of data used to compute it. Simulators often misinterpret reality, and support tactics that would get pilots killed in real combat. Further, simulators cannot prepare pilot for handling of shifting g forces encountered during both dogfight and BVR combat maneuvering.

Meanwhile, using active sensors is outright suicidal in combat. Aircraft using active sensors will be quickly detected and targeted by modern defense and EW suites, and unique radar footprint may allow for BVR IFF identification. This can allow passive aircraft to launch BVR infrared or anti-radiation missile, and/or to use data acquired to achieve optimal starting position and speed for following dogfight. Only countermeasure is to turn radar off and rely solely on passive sensors. IRST is especially useful here, as while air temperature at 11 000 meters is -56 degrees Celzius, airframe temperature due to air friction can reach 54,4 degrees Celzius at Mach 1,6 and 116,8 degrees Celzius at Mach 2. It is also very difficult to impossible to jam, and offers greater angular resolution than radar. Result is that flying from cloud to cloud is still a viable combat tactic; but it is not perfect either, as clouds are not always present and may not be close enough for aircraft to avoid detection in the mean time.

As for IFF issue, only reliable IFF method is visual one, especially since pilots often turn IFF transponders off to avoid being tracked. Visual IFF, unless assisted by optical sensors (be it camera or IRST), usually requires two aircraft to approach within one mile or less (sometimes as close as 400 meters), whereas minimum range of AIM-120D is 900 meters. But even when assisted by visual sensors, it may not always be reliable, as opponent may be using fighters of same type or at least of very similar visual signature.

Aircraft designed for BVR combat are significantly more complex and costlier than aircraft designed for WVR combat; I will demonstrate this on examples. F-15 was designed for BVR, and F-16 for WVR, but with similar technology; F-15C costs 126 million USD whereas F-16A costs 30 million USD, a 4:1 difference. F-15s successor, and currently most capable BVR platform in the world is F-22, whereas Gripen C is F-16s successor (in idea and aerodynamics, not in lineage), though with far more BVR capability. F-22A costs 262 million USD, compared to Gripen C’s 44 million USD, or 6:1 cost difference (all costs are unit flyaway costs in FY-2013 USD). Aside from smaller number of units bought, increased complexity means that these units fly less often: F-22s maintenance downtime is 45 MHPFH, compared to Gripen’s 10. Thus for 1 billion USD, one will have 3 F-22s flying 11 hours per week, or 22 Gripens flying 336 hours per week. Even Gripen’s cost per flight hour is 1/13 of F-22s, 4 700 USD vs 61 000 USD. Older fighters also follow this outline, with F-5E costing 940 FY1980 USD per hour compared to F-4Es cost of 2 733 FY1980 USD per hour, a 3:1 difference. Weapons are more expensive too: while AIM-120D costs 1 470 000 USD per missile, IRIS-T costs 270 000 USD, a 5:1 difference.

Weight difference is also significant. Gripen C weights 6 622 kg empty, compared to 19 700 kg empty for F-22; F-16A weights 7 076 kg compared to 12 700 kg for F-15C. It can be seen that WVR fighters are significantly smaller and lighter than contemporary BVR fighters. And with cost of 6 645 USD per kg, Gripen C is significantly cheaper per unit of weight than F-22 which costs 13 300 USD per kg, whereas F-16A costs 4 240 USD per kg, which when compared to F-15Cs 9 921 USD per kg gives similar ratio to F-22/Gripen one.

Even if previous shortcomings are disregarded, BVR combat is not always possible. If fighters are tied in defending a fixed point, or if enemy attack is not noticed on time (distance between air fields is too low, enemy manages to sneak up by using the terrain) only option is engaging in visual-range combat.

Past air-to-air combat experience also suggests that days of BVR combat being primary form of air-to-air combat are still far away, if they ever come. First BVR craze happened in 1950s, when USAF procured the “century series” fighters, and USN bought F-6D Missileer and F-4H-1 Phantom II, latter of which carried Sparrow missile; former used huge Eagle missile, similar to F-14 with its Phoenix missile. Phantom was also adapted into USAF as F-4C Phantom II. Soon, other BVR fighters – F-111, F-14, F-15 – followed. Soviets, in an arms race that was actually more about prestige than about military capability, decided to counter this development with BVR fighters of their own: Yak-28, Tu-28 and MiG-25 as counters to 3rd generation BVR fighters, with F-15 being countered by Su-27.

These fighters all followed logic of “bigger is better”. Bigger radar – focus of the logic – required bigger airframe, which in turn required bigger engines. Both weight and complexity spiralled upwards, creating fighters that were costly, flew very few sorties and had maneuvering capabilities more typical of strategic bombers than of fighter aircraft – logic being that they will not have to maneuver, as they will destroy the enemy far before it comes to the merge. Exception to this as far as US fighters are concerned are F-15 and F-22, but even that was only due to influence of Boyd’s Fighter Mafia; Su-27, being designed to counter F-15 and built with same requirement of high BVR capability and high maneuverability, also follows basic logic of large but very agile aircraft with large radar. All aircraft mentioned as being agile were developed after Vietnam War, in which failure of BVR-only logic was aptly demonstrated; yet they all relied on using superior range and technology to defeat superior numbers of “less capable” WVR fighters.

But in practice, BVR promise fell short. During the entire Cold War, 407 kills were made with missiles in eight conflicts, with reliable data for ninth conflict, Iran-Iraq war, not being avaliable. Only four saw use of radar-guided BVR missiles: Rolling Thunder and Linebacker in Vietnam, Yom Kippur War, and conflict over Bekaa Valley. In total, 144 kills were made with guns, 308 with heat-seeking missiles and 73 with radar-guided missiles. What is interesting to notice is that, while percentage of gun kills in the latest conflict, Bekaa Valley, was lower than in any other, it also held second-lowest percentage of radar-guided missile kills, and highest percentage of IR missile kills. Out of 73 radar-guided missile kills, 69 were scored within visual range, with remaining four being carefully staged outside combat. Out of these kills, two were made by Israel under intense US diplomatic pressure to establish BVR doctrine, and two were made by US in Vietnam, with one of US kills being a freindly-fire incident, a F-4 mistakenly identified as MiG-21. As there were 61 BVR shots during entire Cold War, this results in Pk of 6,6%, compared to 15% for IR missiles, and to promised BVR missile Pk of 80-90%. Even though majority of BVR missile shots in Vietnam were made from visual range, Pk was still 9,6%. While F-4 and F-105 did score numerous aerial victories in Vietnam, all except two mentioned BVR kills were made within visual range, and of these, many were achieved by gun after Top Gun course was established, securing USAF an unquestionable pilot superiority. In fact, F-4 consistently underperformed until it was given gun and pilots were taught how to dogfight, and Navy F-8, with its far lower wing loading and mass, performed far better against MiGs. And even today, missile tests are carried out against drones with limited maneuvering capability, as these are usually rebuilt old aircraft (for example, QF-4 which is a rebuilt F-4).

Further, in these 407 kills, most targets were unaware and fired at from the rear, and there were almost no head-on BVR shots due to high closing speeds of aircraft involved. This shows that good rearward visibility from cockpit is still important despite all technological advancements.

Two post-Cold War wars in Iraq are offered as examples that BVR theory has finally reached maturity and that BVR combat now is prevalent form of aerial combat. Out of 41 kills in Desert Storm, 16 involved use of BVR shots, but only five kills are known to have been made at BVR. Even then, longest-ranged kill of these five certain BVR kills was made at distance of 29,6 kilometers, and one of remaining BVR shots was made at night from what would have been visual range in daytime. Desert Storm was first conflict where more kills were made by radar-guided missiles than by IR missiles – 24 vs 10. While 24 radar-guided missile kills out of 88 shots gives Pk of 27%, F-15s killed 23 targets in 67 shots with AIM-7 (Pk 0,34), while Sidewinder launches from F-15 resulted in 8 kills from 12 shots (Pk 0,67). While F-16s launched 36 Sidewinders and scored 0 kills, at least 20 launches were accidental due to poor control stick ergonomy; F-16s in question themselves were overweight F-16Cs, so-called “more capable” variant equipped with BVR capability and tons of electronics. Iraqi Freedom was likely similar in this aspect. AIM-120, meanwhile, demonstrated BVR Pk of 0,46 in Iraqi Freedom and Allied Force (6 kills out of 13 shots). It also achieved the longest ranged air-to-air combat kill ever, when a Dutch F-16 shot down a (malfunctioning and nonmaneuvering) Serb MiG-29 at 34,8 km.

Navy and USMC themselves achieved 21 Sparrows and 38 Sidewinders in the Desert Storm, achieving one kill with Sparrow (Pk=4,76%) and two with Sidewinders (Pk=5,26%). Reasons for such low Pk are unclear, though given F-16s problems it is possible that most launches from F-18 were accidental.

Claim that USAFs combat record proves maturity of BVR combat or even missiles in general is misleading, however. Targets that were fired at were in vast majority of cases unaware they were being fired at and thus did not take any evasive action; no targets had electronic countermeasures, support from stand-off jammers, nor comparable BVR weapon (be it radar-guided, IR or anti-radiation BVR missile). When targets were aware they were targeted and thus did take evasive action – such as when two Iraqi MiG-25s illuminated two F-15Cs with BVR radar in 1999 – BVR shots were ineffective (in example cited, US fighters made 6 BVR shots to no effect). There was also constant AWACS avaliability in both Gulf Wars, and in all wars US/Coalition aircraft had numerical superiority. Iraqi pilots also were badly trained, and most Iraqi jets did not have bubble canopy like F-16, but one that did not provide rearward visibility and was in many cases heavily framed, limiting pilot’s ability to acquire missile visually in addition to total lack of warning devices.

I will also note here a report by Air Power Australia group, found here. Some assumptions have to be fixed: missiles have demonstrated 0,34 – 0,46 Pk against non-maneuvering opponents with no ECM; 0,46 figure is for AIM-120 and is one I will use here. Thus 54% miss value is attributed to factors that have no connection to ECM or maneuvering. Out of remaining 46%, there is 93% for chance of miss. Thus BVR missile Pk against aware, maneuvering opponent using modern ECM suite is around 3%. Considering that most opponents shot at by BVR missiles during Cold War had no ECM, and some at least did not notice a missile, thus failing to take evasive action, this can be considered to be in line with demonstrated Pk.

Latest BVR craze has resulted in F-22 and F-35, both of which are utterly expensive and maintenance intensive, and latter of which is in its major characteristics more similar to century series than modern fighter aircraft. F-35 in itself is utterly incapable of handling itself in close combat due to large weight, high drag, high wing loading and low thrust to weight ratio. It can also carry at most 4 BVR missiles in internal bays. With this in mind, claims by manufacturer that F-35 is 4 times as effective in air-to-air combat as next best fighter in the air would require probability of kill for BVR missiles of 80-90%, and opponent’s complete inability to engage F-35 itself at BVR range. Track record of BVR missiles to date as well as development of infrared BVR missiles and long range QWIP IRST sensors mean that any such assumptions are nothing more than wishful thinking on part of sales department and high technology addicts.

Result is that eye remains most important sensor on the aircraft, and pilot who looses sight of the opponent during maneuvers is likely to be quickly shot down. Secondary are onboard passive sensors such as IRST and RWR, followed by offboard sensors – both passive and active – whereas onboard active sensors take last place. Human factors still trump technology, and higher cost does not mean more capability in a real world combat scenario – even with missiles, both BVR and WVR, pilot has to know how to achieve ideal firing solution, and more electronics means more weight, which hurts airframe performance.

Considering that BVR missiles generally cost 2-5 times as much as IR WVR missiles, yet are 44% as effective, it is easy to calculate that they are only 8,8-22% as cost-effective as IR missiles, while in most cases not offering noticeable advantage in engagement range, and at same time incurring cost and capability penalties on aircraft designed to use them.

For end, I will adress an argument that is obviously invalid but very often does come up anyway: one of exercises in which F-22 “dominates” against “legacy” fighters, with kill ratios between 10:1 and 30:1. But these exercises are bogus, as they depend on incorrect assumptions about air combat to produce results. In them, most kills are achieved at BVR as BVR missiles are assigned Pk of 90%, despite never achieving such performance; enemy anti-radar measures such as anti-radiation missiles or missile cueing with RWRs are not allowed; most F-22s opponents went without avionics upgrade for a very long time and thus likely don’t have ability to jam AESA radar; Red Force simply charges in, from known vector; and real fleet cost and fleet readiness are not represented, which means that F-22 doesn’t face force ratios it would face in real world. Due to that, exercises are only useful as a propaganda tool, having no connection to reality of air combat, and using them to argue for usefulness of stealth and BVR combat is nothing more than a circular logic.

EDIT 5. 5. 2013.:

There are more details about Serb MiG-29s:

“even if from around 1996 they started suffering from a latent lack of spares, which severely impacted the capability of the service to maintain them.”

MiG-29s were badly maintained.

“Eventually, the cancellation of the development of Novi Avion resulted in MiG-29s remaining in service with the JRViPVO until the late 1990s, and well past their resources. To make matters worse, the corrupt regime of the Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic was more concerned with own survival and to reinforce riot-police and similar services, or finance the aggression war in Bosnia but with the maintenance of MiGs. Consequently, when Serbia found itself confronted with the NATO, in 1998, the condition of the MiGs with the 127.LAE was very poor, and its pilots were flying barely 20 hours annually.”

Pilots were not experienced in flying the aircraft.

“As only few aircraft were considered operational (they were actually merely flyable)”

Aircraft merely flyable, AKA not in condition for combat.

“Maj. Ljubisa Kulacin evaded several missiles fired at him while fighting to bring his malfunctioning systems back in working order”

Kulacin evaded several missiles despite equipment malfunction.

“Kulacin’s experience was not much different to that of his three other colleagues, all of which experienced immense problems with weapons and navigational systems on their aircraft: on the 18112, flown by Maj. Arizanov, both the radio and SPO-15 malfunctioned; on 18104, flown by Maj. Ilic, the radar failed; on 18111, flown by Maj. Nikolic, both the radar and the SN-29 missile guidance systems were inoperative, and apparently the
SPO-15 also did not function properly.”

At least 4 MiG-29s had equipment malfunctions, two cases of radar malfunction and two cases of RWR malfunction.

“The fifth and last MiG-29 to get airborne on that night was 18106, flown by Maj. Predrag Milutinovic. Immediately after take-off his radar failed and even the electrical generator malfunctioned. Shortly after, he was warned by SPO-15 of being acquired, but he evaded the opponent by several evasive manoeuvres. Attempting to evade further encounters and searching for an airfield where a landing was possible, he finally ended over Ribarska Banja, when his RWR warned him of acquisition by a ground-based radar. Seconds afterward the aircraft was hit and Milutinovic forced to eject. ”

Radar failure, electric generator malfunction. Evaded several enemy missiles and was shot down by friendly SAM.

“Once there, the GCI advised them that both were detected by the NATO aircraft, but would not indicate the kind of a threat. This was a tragic mistake: Maj. Peric led his wingman into a climb, and straight into three AIM-120 missiles fired by two USAF F-15Cs that were on a patrol over Tuzla. Two missiles hit home, destroying both MiGs: after evading one AIM-120, Maj. Peric’s aircraft was hit and he ejected safely, but Capt. Radosavljevic was killed.”

Apparently no missile or radar warner.

No quotes indicate existence of countermeasures, and many of MiGs had no radar warners either. At least two MiG-29 kills happened at visual range, too, as photos exist.

“The JG73 has also retained a number of former East German MiG-29 pilots who have had to tailor their knowledge of the airplane to fit western style tactics. Most of the Fulcrum pilots have less than 300 hours in the aircraft. Only a few have over 400 hours. No one in the unit, including former East German pilots, has over 500 hours in the MiG29.”

Even Eastern German pilots had less than 500 hours in the MiG-29 by 1995.

“”The Fulcrum doesn’t have the crisp movements of an F-16,” Sparrow continued. ‘You need to be an octopus in the MiG29 to work the avionics. Those German pilots have it tough. Just to get a simple lock on and fire a missile may take a half dozen hands-off switches or so. We can do the same with a flick of the thumb while we are looking at the HUD. F-16 pilots also have a significant sight advantage. A couple of hundred feet advantage can make a difference in air-to-air combat; the actual difference is more significant than that. MiG29 pilots have a tough time checking their six o’clock. Their canopy rail is higher. They can lose sight of us even when flying BFM.””

MiG-29 has cockpit that is not user friendly and is great distraction from fighting, and does not have good out-of-cockpit view.

“”Besides visibility, I expected better turning performance,” McCoy continued. “The MiG29 is not a continuous nine-g machine like the F-16. I tried to do some things I normally do in an F-16. For example, I tried a high-AOA guns jink. I got the Fulcrum down to about 180 knots and pulled ninety degrees of bank and pulling heavy g’s I then went to idle and added a little rudder to get the jet to roll with ailerons. The pilot took control away from me in the middle of these maneuvers because the airplane was about to: snap. I use the F-16’s quick roll rate like this all the time with no problem.”

Bad turn rate, bad roll rate, design not tolerant to maneuvers.

“The aircraft was not built for close-in dog fighting, though it is aerodynamically capable of it,” Prunk continued. “The East Germans flew it as a point defense interceptor, like a MiG-21. They were not allowed to max perform the airplane, to explore its capabilities or their own capabilities. Sorties lasted about thirty minutes. The airplane was designed to scramble, jettison the tank, go supersonic, shoot its missiles, and go home.”

Not a maneuvering fighter.

EDIT 26. 7. 2014.:

When the 1973 war is compared to the Vietnam war, it clearly shows impact of training on missile Pk. While US fighters achieved radar missile Pk of 10,9% (276 shots / 30 kills) against NVAF fighters in a 1971-1973 period, in the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Israeli fighters achieved radar missile Pk of 41,7%, far closer to the 1991 Gulf War. This shows that opponent’s competence was a primary factor in missile performance. As a matter of fact, there was very little if any technological disparity between two sides in the Yom Kippur war, with Israel using F-4 Phantom jets against Arab MiG-21s and MiG-25s.


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Posted by picard578 on April 27, 2013


Range v/s subsonic fighter aircraft: 80 km from front, 130 km from rear (20.000 ft), 110 km from rear at low altitude

Visual camera

Range v/s fighter aircraft: 45 km

Laser ranger

Range: 33 km

IRST ID range may be 40 km.

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Consequences of the Depleted Uranium use

Posted by picard578 on April 20, 2013

Were there weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in 2003? Answer is yes – but they came in with and were used by US and UK militaries, not by Iraqi forces, and consequently their presence was ignored by corporate-controlled press. Weapons in question were not nuclear, chemical or biological according to classical definition of these weapons, yet their effects were both nuclear and chemical in nature. Our mystery weapon? Depleted uranium, used by US military in Iraq in both 1991 and 2003, in Afghanistan, Libya and in Kosovo, would be classified as “omnicidal maniac”, if only weapons were liable for psychoanalysis. In Libya at least, sites targeted also included civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Depleted uranium is a leftover of enrichment process that creates highly radioactive U-235 used for nuclear weapons and power generation, and is over 99% U-238. United States alone have over 5 million tons of DU stored, and due to its long half-life, it has been decided that it is cheaper to use it for weapons than keep it in storage. DU weapons were first developed by US Navy in 1968 and used by Israel in 1973 Yom Kippur War; next use was in 1991 Gulf War, when US broke international prohibition, namely 1907 Hague Convention, which prohibits “poison or poisoned weapons” use, and 1925 Geneva Convention, which states the same thing. DU is being offered for free to military contractors, who then create weapons from it.

While highly energetic alpha particles it creates cannot pass by more than few centimeters of air, and are easily stopped by thin sheat of paper or dead skin layer, it is not so for beta and gamma radiation – beta particles penetrate to depth of 2 centimeters, whereas gamma radiation creates beta particles on its way through the body. When set on fire DU creates large numbers of nano-particles of duranium oxide, which is just as dangerous as “pure” uranium, that then float through the air and are inhaled by people, contaminate water and food supplies and generally settle everywhere they shouldn’t; they can also attach themselves to sand particles and use them for “travel”. These are then taken in with water and food, entering food chain (as has happened in Iraq) and being inside body, even alpha particles suddenly gain very real potential to cause trouble, penetrating to about 30 microns from source.

Particles in question can be deposed by wind hundred, maybe even thousand, kilometers from the place they were released at. There is no way to filter them – they pass through gas mask as if it isn’t there – and once they come in contact with body, they immediately start to alter DNA. They are also toxic in classic biological definition of the word. While it is possible to (mostly) clean up vehicles from them, they become embedded in clothing and are impossible to remove. However, even decontamination of vehicles is impossible during the war.

Reason depleted uranium is so useful as a weapon is that it is densest metal avaliable, sharpens itself during penetration, and it also pyrophoric. Due to that, tank shells using DU are classified as API – armor piercing incidientary, and when such shell strikes enemy tank, nose of shell fragments, exposing DU core which ignites (producing temperatures of 3 000 to 6 000 degrees Celzius), penetrates the armor, and then explodes, burning everything inside the tank (same effect is used in bunker buster bombs). This also results in massive amounts of microscopic particles mentioned above being created – DU weapons are, by all measures, dirty bombs, as 18 to 70% of DU content (usually around 40%) vaporizes into fine, radioactive uranium oxide dust when shell hits a target – dirty bomb by any measure. These particles can then be carried by the wind for very large distances – in 9 days, uranium dust traveled from Iraq to England, and Europe’s atmospheric radiation levels quadrupled. Non-vaporized part of penetrator remains lying on the battlefield unless picked up. Aside from tank shells, it is used in 30 mm armor-piercing ammo, bunker buster bombs and as both ballast and warhead in cruise missiles, and ballast in aircraft – after 9/11 attacks, DU dust from destroyed aircraft caused elevated radiation levels up to 7 miles from points of impact. DU rounds are used by M1 Abrams MBT, Bradley IFV, A-10 CAS aircraft,

And “depleted uranium” is far from depleted – it emits 70% as much of Alpha, 87% as much Beta and just as much Gamma radiation as natural uranium; only way DU is “depleted” in is that most of fissile U-235 isotope has been removed, rendering it useless for atomic weapons. Depleted uranium is also more concentrated than natural uranium, which means that it releases far more radiation than uranium ore. It was, in fact, calculated that one ton of DU used on the battlefield releases amount of radioactive particles comparable to one hundred bombs dropped on Hiroshima. United States have used 1 000 tons of DU in Gulf War I, 800 in Kosovo, 800 in Afghanistan, and 2 200 in Gulf War II, with combined radioactive particle release being ten times as large as all nuclear tests in history. Up to 3 000 tons more could have been used during occupation of Iraq that followed Iraqi Freedom. UK has, in Gulf War I, used 800 tons of DU, and NATO has used large amounts of depleted uranium in Libya. Israel may have used DU weapons in Lebanon in 2006. Each 120 mm tank shell contains 4,5 kg of Depleted Uranium, and 30 mm shell contains 280 g; bunker busting GBU-28 and GBU-37 bombs can have 1 000 to 2 000 kilograms of DU each, as can AGM-130 air to ground missile, whereas cruise missiles contain DU as ballast and in some cases in head, making it between 3 and 400 kilos of DU. Prototypes of DU-capped bombs and missiles were tested in Kosovo and in Afghanistan. US Navy also used DU ammunition in Phalanx CIWS system, but eventually switched to tungsten once dangers of DU use were realized.

But while US military maintains that DU is not harmful – some US military briefers even stated that it is safe enough to eat (can I have little depleted uranium with my chicken burger, thank you?) – out of 580 000 US soldiers that served in Iraq in 1991, 221 000 were on medical disability pensions by 2002, and 519 000 by mid 2004, which can be compared to 5% disability rate of two World Wars and 10% rate of Vietnam. By 2006, 11 000 have died, compared to 114 that were killed in combat. After 2003 war, 40% of soldiers in one unit were diagnosed with tumors within 16 months after returning from a year-and-few-months-long tour of duty in Iraq; and in Iraq and Afghan wars of 2001 and 2003, over 1,3 million US veterans served tour of duty. Military admitted that DU was found in soldiers’ semen, contaminating their sexual partners. In fact, research done has shown that, out of 251 soldiers in control group who had normal babies before the war, 67% of their post-war babies were born with severe birth defects – they had missing limbs, organs, or severe immune system and blood diseases, which is result of Alpha-particles’ ability to massively mess with genetics; as a result, many soldiers that served in Iraq had decided not to have children. Some soldiers had 2500 micrograms of uranium excreted per day for long time after conflict – US military regulations state that any level above 15 micrograms warrants immediate medical testing, and 250 micrograms results in constant medical care. Many were never put under medical care, or were put years after the event.

DU weapons contain still-radioactive U-238, leftover U-235 (around 1/4 of starting amount), and are further contaminated with uranium 236, technitium 99, neptunium and americium, all radioactive materials. Another contaminant is plutonium 239, which is far more radioactive and million times as toxic as uranium, to an extent that single particle of plutonium entering the body can cause fatal consequences. 7 000 tons of DU used in Iraq is enough to kill entire populace of Iraq several times over if inhaled or ingested. UK Atomic Energy Authority has estimated that 50 tons of DU dust released in First Gulf War could have lead to 500 000 cancer deaths between 1991 and 2000. By these numbers, amount of DU used in Iraq, which would have released 2 000 – 5 000 tons of dust, could lead to 20 000 000 – 50 000 000 cancer deaths. 3 000 000 or more of these will happen in Iraq. DU contaminated soil should be scraped and containerized as a nuclear waste, but considering spread of DU contamination, costs for actually doing that will be enormous, into tens of billions of USD. To get you a further idea of a massive amount of radiation released by DU weapons, even an official number of 1 800 tons of DU used would equalize 250 000 Nagasaki bombs in leftover radiation; real number would thus be 950 000 Nagasaki bombs. In fact, Depleted Uranium bombardment was a fallback plan in 1945 in case that atomic bombs did not work, but it was not until Ronald Reagan in 1980s that weapons were actually introduced into arsenal. Fun fact: Reagan’s popular nickname was Ronnie Ray-guns.

In May 2003, Scott Petterson (a writer with US newspaper CSM) examined radioactivity levels next to DU bullets near Baghdad, and found that they were over 1900 times greater than background radiation. Shell holes in vehicles destroyed by DU ammunition in 1991 showed 1 000 times the normal background radiation level eleven years after the war. Evidence also exists that US have used pure natural uranium in Iraq and Afghanistan, as it is significantly cheaper than depleted uranium.

Many DU particles are small enough to be inhaled, far smaller and thus far more harmful than particles of natural uranium. While particles smaller than 10 microns can be inhaled, over half of DU particles created this way are smaller than 5 microns, and 30% is one-tenth of a micron or smaller, with amount of respirable particles reaching 96% in some cases. With larger missiles and bombs, mostly all particles created are of micron size or smaller, and can thus be inhaled regardless of wether person is wearing gas masks, which stop only particles that are 10 microns large or larger. When inhaled, many get stuck in lungs but some get transferred all over the body. DU particles in nanometer range can freely pass through cell membrane, and into its nucleus, affecting both DNA and RNA through its radiological and chemical properties – due to this, nano-particles of any chemical element are far more harmful than micro-particles of the same element; they also easily pass through olfactory bulb and directly into the brain. Between 52 and 83 % of DU particles left over from weapons fire is also water-insoluble, which means that it stays in body far longer than normal – while natural uranium is wholly excreted by body within 24 hours, DU particles stay in body for decades. It also deposits in bones, where it can stay for up to 25 years, increasing risk from leuchemia and destroying monocyte stem cells in bone marrow, which are responsible for production of lymphocites and erythrocites as well as recyclation of iron from dead erythrocites, thus both destroying reaction capacity of immune systems and to anemia. While water-soluble uranium is primarly toxic danger, water-insoluble uranium is primarly radiological hazard.

As Uranium 238 decays inside the body, it transfers into far more radioactive isotope – Thorium 234, which decays into Proactinium 234. Thorium 234 has half-life of 24,1 days, while Proactinium 234 has half-life of 6,75 hours. Proactinium 234 transfers into more stable Uranium 234 which has half-life of 247 000 years. While chemical binding energy inside human cell is 10 eV, one alpha particle from U-238 releases 4 million eV, basically nuking the cells. In fact, single alpha particle can, under right conditions, start cancer – and one gram of DU releases 12 000 of these particles per second. Low-level radiation risk is also 100 to 1000 times greater than International Comittee on Radiation Protection estimates.

Lot of equipment used when dealing with DU is defective – and soldiers are told it can be fixed with duct tape. Many are not even equipped with gloves and gas masks when working with depleted uranium (not that it would help in case of gas masks, which are completely ineffective in protecting against uranium dust). Fact also remains that most of US casualties in the first Gulf War were result of the friendly fire.

In Basra, whose farmlands were site of tank battles and were thus contaminated by DU, a marked increase in number of cancers has happened since the Gulf War. Cases of double and triple cancers – a never seen before phenomenon – have been reported, and number of cancer cases corresponds to levels of background radiation.

In Fallujah, also a site of heavy fighting, every week an average of five children are born with major deformities – heart defects, cleft lip, limb defects, Down’s syndrome and eye deformities. Children were born with two heads, no heads, single eye in their foreheads. There are also half a dozen stillborn babies every day, many of them also with deformities. During fighting in 2004, several insurgent compounds that were impenetrable by artillery were destroyed by DU-tipped bunker buster bombs, and it is possible that tanks may have used DU rounds too. After the battle, debris was bulldozed into nearby Euphrates river, which serves as a source of drinking water for nearby inhabitants. Ratio of boys to girls at birth, which is normally 1050 to 1000 – and was that way in Fallujah until 2004 – fell to 860 boys for each 1000 girls. Out of 170 children born in Fallujah in September 2010, 24% died. Of babies born, three quarters exhibited obvious deformities. For comparision, in August 2002, 530 children were born, and of these only 6 died and one was deformed. In 2006, 45% of pregnancies ended in miscarriage, compared to 10% before fighting. Since then, it has stabilized at 17%.

Between 1993 and 2010, childhood leukemia rates in Bashraq, Iraq have doubled, and in 2011 number of birth defects was 11 times the world’s average. Between 1991 and 2005, birth defects in Iraq as a whole have increased 2-6 times, and 3-12 times as many children have developed cancer and leukemia. Between 1991 and 2001, number of leukemia cases has grown by more than 600 per cent. Leukemia is problematic especially in bone marrow, as stem cells – which become cells that replace cells that die (except for nervous system, almost no cell in human body is older than few years) are manufactured. If these are mutated, new cells will malfunction. Compared to situation between wars, by 2004 number of cancer cases was 7-10 times larger, and number of deformities was 4-6 times as large. Result is that women in affected areas are now afraid of giving birth to children. This obvious genocide by US has encouraged resistance. Neither it is unusual for woman to have a breast cancer in her 20s.

Between 2003 and 2006, US invasion of Iraq had led to 655 000 extra deaths. In central Iraq province of Babil, reported cancer cases rose from 500 in 2004 to 7 000 in 2008.

Number of immune system defect cases have also increased: whereas between late 1990s and 2003, Fallujah General Hospital received three patients with such problems per year, it has increased to three per week by 2010.

During 2003, a hospital in southern Iraq was treating more than 600 children per day, many of whom suffered symptoms of radiation poisoning. Children are especially vulnerable as they tend to play on destroyed tanks, or pick up fragments of contaminated materials or DU penetrators.

Phenomena such as several members of one family having cancer, one patient having several types of cancer, outbreaks of infectious deseases due to reduced immunity have been noticed. There is also massive increase in cancers in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

In Vranje, Serbia, number of children born with genetic defects has tripled between 1998 and 2008 – from 21 to 73 – despite number of overall births remaining constant at 800 – 1 000 children per year. Between 2000 and 2006, number of newly registered cancer cases went from 185 to 398. In Kosovo, signs of radiation poisoning on children – herpes on the mouth and skin rashes at ankles and back – have been observed. Number of leukemia cases in Northern Kosovo has increased by 200 per cent since NATOs air campaigns, and number of children born with deformities has also increased. And countries that border with ex-Yugoslavian area are also in danger. Some 1800 Balkan peacekeepers also suffer from health problems connected to DU as of 2001. Of 5 000 refugees from Hadzici, only 600 were still alive by 2001.

In Sarajevo, also hit by US bombs, leukemia rate tripled between 1996 and 2001.

In healthy, grown person, DU exposure can result in any of following (this is not a full list):

  • reactive airway disease
  • neurological abnormalities
  • kidney dysfunction
  • rashes
  • vision degradation and night vision loss
  • gum tissue problems
  • lymphomia
  • every known type of cancer
  • morphological disorders
  • neuro-psychological disorders
  • uranium in semen
  • sexual dysfunction
  • birth defects in offspring
  • brittle bones and teeth
  • aplastic anemia
  • lung damage
  • bloody stools
  • extreme fatigue
  • joint pain
  • unsteady gait
  • memory loss
  • brain tumor
  • loss of bowel and bladder control
  • mental deterioration
  • testicle pain
  • diarrhea
  • depression
  • bone pains
  • chest pain
  • pain in the cervical column, upper shoulders and base of skull
  • pain in lower back
  • kidney pain
  • disorientation
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Hodgkin’s disease
  • immune system failures
  • uranium nephritis
  • disorders of proteine and carbohydrate metabolism
  • pulmonary fibrosis
  • pneumoconiosis
  • gastro-intestinal tract damage
  • ephysema
  • fibrosis
  • mood disturbances
  • skin ruptures

It is important to note that some of symtoms – gum tissue problems, cancers and birth defects – are known to be caused by radiation. Brittle bones and teeth are caused as uranium replaces calcium that is normally composing these parts of the body. Children are even more vulnerable, as their organisms are still developing, and they also tend to play in polluted areas.

Chemical toxicity is the first effect that is noticeable. Kidney filters blood and cotrols levels of electrolytes in the blood. Uranium, when absorbed, damages this function. Depleted Uranium is even more dangerous for soldiers than for civilians, as soldiers’ immune system is typically still reeling from multiple doses of, often experimental, vaccines.

Experiments on dogs have resulted in 84% of dogs exposed to inhaled uranium dying of cancer to the lungs. To humans, one millionth of a gram of DU accumulating in the body would be lethal, and there are no known methods of treatment.

And it won’t be limited just to Iraq and Serbia. Sand from Sahara sometimes reaches Britain – and even United States – and radiation from Chernobyl reached Wales. In United States, lung cancer rates are skyrocketing – and lungs are one of organs most affected by DU dust. In fact, DU dust particle’s range is effectivelly unlimited. Radioactive particles will last for millions of years, possibly killing millions or billions if humanity doesn’t exterminate itself, or get exterminated by something, first – and it will take between 28 and 45 billion years for depleted uranium to stop being danger. Genetic defects are also permanent, and research with rats has shown that DU is transmitted through placenta to the offspring. Current obesity epidemic in the United States could, aside from very bad food, be partly explained through radiation damage. One of 12 children in the United States is disabled. Number of new lung cancer cases per year has jumped from 175 000 to around 1 million by 2006. It takes 2-6 years for lung cancer to develop after person has been exposed to DU particles – invasion of Afghanistan was in 2001 and of Iraq in 2003.

Depleted uranium, being very heavy, also sinks in the ground and contaminates underground water sources; and area once contaminated by depleted uranium cannot be decontaminated. In fact, after 1943, US military has researched Depleted Uranium as a permanent terrain contaminant, which could destroy populations by permanently contaminating land with radioactive dust. Employees handling uranium in US DU production or decontamination facilities have reported health problems similar to Gulf War Syndrome, and DU remains inside the food chain.

Neither United States or United Kingdom have briefed their troops on dangers od DU use.

US and UK’s denial – UK opposed EU’s initiative for banning DU weapons twice, and US basically forced UN bodies – WHO and UNEP – into lying about DU dangers (for example, Greenpeace was not allowed to participate in 2000 NATO/UNEP mission to Kosovo) – must be viewed in light of DU munitions’ effectiveness. In fact, US colonel wrote in a memo that “There continues to be concern regarding the impact of DU on the environment. If no one makes the case for the effectiveness of DU in battle, DU rounds may become politically unacceptable and be deleted from the arsenal.”. His memo ends with the following: “I believe that we should keep this sensitive issue in mind when “after action” reports are written.”. Doctor Doug Rokke, 35-year veteran of US Army, was working on project by US Army that was trying to understand effects of depleted uranium on health. After years of research, in 1996 he concluded that usage of DU weapons should be banned immediately. Conclusion cost him career, and caused him to be put under surveillance. Yet United States routinely bury vehicles that were damaged or destroyed by DU friendly fire, and “dispose” of DU munitions by dumping them into ocean or burning them like ordinary garbage. Further, HIPAA act of 1996 prevents doctors from discussing DU effects with public, threatening them with prospect of discharge or imprisonment for disclosing health information to another person, even a family member. Pentagon also routinely pressures newspapers into not publishing articles that contradict Pentagon’s official views on the Depleted Uranium. Dr Asaf Durakovic, who conducted before-mentioned experiments on dogs, was asked to lie about its danger to humans. After he began working on exposing dangers of Depleted Uranium use, he was warned to stop his work, fired from his position, had his house ransacked and started receiveing death threats. Doctors treating soldiers returning from wars in which DU was used were threatened with 10 000 USD fines and jail if they spoke. US military knows that DU is dangerous, and routinely buries contaminated vehicles. Its toxic effects were in fact known since 1943, and usage of depleted uranium instead of atomic bombs was considered, yet when in 1991 a fire broke out in DU munitions depot in Doha, US Army did not even treat is as a toxic hazard, despite the fact that it was known that DU particles release alpha radiation. United States have also refused demands of some of its allies to disclose chemical and metallic properties of its munitions.

On Pohakuloa Training Area in Hawaii, 450 kilos of DU were left from mortair rounds. In US, Fort Hood, Fort Benning, Fort Campbell, Fort Knox, Fort Lewis, Fort Riley, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Fort Dix, Makua Military Reservation, China Lake AWC, Eglin AFB, Nellis AFB, Davis-Monthan AFB, Kirtland AFB, White Sands Missile Range, Ethan Allen Firing Range and New Mexico Institute for Mining and Technology are contaminated by DU rounds. In Fort Knox, lung cancer rate is 105 – 127 per 100 000 in 2001-2005 period, compared to US rate of 54,4. Lung cancer rates are similarly increased in vicinity of Ft. Lewis.

DU munitions are radioactive even before being fired (logically), irradiating soldiers who are handling them.

To add jaywalking after arson and murder, DU weapons are also illegal under humanitarian law. This law states that weapons may only be used on legal field of battle, may only be used for duration of the armed conflict, cannot be unduly inhumane, and cannot have unduly negative effect on natural environment. DU weapons fail on all four criteria. Further, people in Iraq and Pakistan are aware of the effects of Depleted Uranium, having felt them on their own skins; there is no lying to them, and continued use of DU weapons harms NATO and US cause in the Middle East – unless that cause is complete extermination of all forms of complex life there.

After the Kosovo campaign, official documents have stated only that “KFOR troops and expatriate civillians” might be at risk, implying that to NATO, domestic populations simply do not matter.

Results of DU use are worse than genocide – it is ecocide, destruction of both structure of affected societies as well as entire affected ecosystem.

Are there alternatives? Yes. Tungsten is another element used for kinetic penetrators. Main reasons US favor DU over tungsten are that DU is pyrohoric, easier to manufacture (melting point of 1132 degrees Celsius compared to 3422 degrees for Tungsten), and far cheaper, as DU is literally a waste – by 2004, US had 10 million tons of DU just lying around. Tungsten, while 1,75 times harder than Uranium, also does not self-sharpen like uranium does and does not burn; as a result, it is about 10% less effective than DU. While it is poisonous, it is nowhere as dangerous as DU, and is not radioactive. But due to its high cost compared to depleted uranium, prevalent Western capitalistic/materialistic psyche prevents its replacing of DU.

But as long as people continue to live in a comfortable delusion that “it is over there, so it is not important for me and I don’t have to do anything about it”, nothing will change. Modern humans are lazy; too lazy to research, too lazy to think, too lazy to do something. They wait for corporate media – like CNN, New York Times and The Washington Post in the US; HRT, Slobodna Dalmacija, Vecernji List i Jutarnji List in Croatia – to tell them what corporations want them to hear; they wait for politicians they did not elect (even though they believe they did) to solve their troubles. As long as this waiting continues, however, situation will only get worse.


The Daughter of Babylon, The Queen of the Nations

Isaiah 47
1 “Come down and sit in the dust,
O virgin daughter of Babylon;
Sit on the ground without a throne,
O daughter of the Chaldeans!
For you shall no more be called
Tender and delicate.
2 Take the millstones and grind meal.
Remove your veil,
Take off the skirt,
Uncover the thigh,
Pass through the rivers.
3 Your nakedness shall be uncovered,
Yes, your shame will be seen;
I will take vengeance,
And I will not arbitrate with a man.”
4 As for our Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is His name,
The Holy One of Israel.
5 “ Sit in silence, and go into darkness,
O daughter of the Chaldeans;
For you shall no longer be called
The Lady of Kingdoms.
6 I was angry with My people;
I have profaned My inheritance,
And given them into your hand.
You showed them no mercy;
On the elderly you laid your yoke very heavily.
7 And you said, ‘I shall be a lady forever,’
So that you did not take these things to heart,
Nor remember the latter end of them.
8 “ Therefore hear this now, you who are given to pleasures,
Who dwell securely,
Who say in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me;
I shall not sit as a widow,
Nor shall I know the loss of children’;
9 But these two things shall come to you
In a moment, in one day

EDIT: As DU weapons have been used in Australia, and there are uranium sources there, it is possible that uranium contamination had to do with development of cancer in Tasmanian Devils, with their low diversity helping its spread.

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Usefulness of thrust vectoring

Posted by picard578 on April 13, 2013

With introduction of thrust-vectoring F-22 and Su-35, many claims have appeared, such as that thrust vectoring aircraft are most maneuverable in the world and that addition of thrust vectoring alone guarantees that fighter in question will be unrivalled in maneuverability, excepting of course other thrust vectoring aircraft. These claims hold that addition of thrust vectoring by itself is enough to turn otherwise-sluggish fighter aircraft into supreme air-to-air machine. Things are more complex than that, however; effectiveness of thrust vectoring depends on aircraft’s aerodynamic configuration, speed and altitude.

To discuss thrust vectoring, we must first know how non-TVC aircraft behave. Major parameters that impact aircraft’s performance are:

  1. weight
  2. lift, which can be approximated through wing loading
  3. excess thrust, determined by thrust to weight ratio
  4. drag

One of advantages of thrust vectoring is allowing aircraft to enter and recover from a controlled flat spin, yawing aircraft without worrying about rudder, which looses effectiveness at high angles of attack. However, aircraft using close coupled canards instead of thrust vectoring have also demonstrated flat spin recovery capability, example being Saab Gripen. But while thrust vectoring reduces drag during level flight, thus increasing the range, close-coupled canards add drag and decrease lift unless aircraft is turning, thus improving the range.

But to see what impact thrust vectoring has on combat performance, we have to take a look at parameters I have defined above. Mass of aircraft determines inertia – thus, heavier the aircraft is, longer it takes to switch from one maneuver to another quickly. This results in slower transients, making it harder for pilot to get inside opponent’s OODA loop – in fact, mass is defined as a quantitative measure of an object’s resistance to acceleration (to clear common mistake in terminology, acceleration can be in any direction – in fact, what is commonly called “deceleration” is mathematically defined as “acceleration”). But to actually turn, aircraft relies on lift. Lift is what allows aircraft to remain in the air, and when turning, aircraft uses control surfaces to change direction in which lift is acting, resulting in aircraft turning around imaginary point. It can be approximated by wing loading. But turning leads to increase in angle between air flow around the aircraft and the aircraft itself (this angle is called Angle of Attack), which results in increased drag. Increasing drag means that aircraft looses energy faster, and once fighter’s level of energy decays below that of his opponent, he is fighting at disadvantage. Loss in energy can be mitigated by excess thrust, which can also be used (usually in combination with gravity, aka downwards flight) to recover lost energy. All of this leads to expression “out of ideas, energy and altitude”, which basically means “I’m in trouble and have no way out”. Nose pointing allows aircraft to gain a shot at opponent with gun, and was crucial for gaining a shot at opponent with missiles before advent of High Off Bore capability, which shifted requirements more in direction of ability to sustain maneuvers at or near corner speed (minimum speed at which aircraft can achieve maximum g loading; it is usually around M 0,6 – 0,9). It must be noted that, while lift and excess thrust of aircraft can be approximated by wing loading and thrust to weight ratio, heavier aircraft will require higher thrust to weight and lift to weight ratios to achieve same turn rates as lighter aircraft.

Thrust vectoring, as its name says, results in shifting of the thrust. Due to modern fighter aircraft’s center of gravity and center of lift never being behind its nozzles, shift in thrust results in aircraft rotating around its center of gravity, resulting in massive increase in Angle of Attack. Thus, comparision non-TVC aircraft turning and TVC-equipped aircraft turning would look like this:


This is result of forces described above acting on aircraft. In this model, assumption is that aircraft can reach angle of attack required for maximum lift both with and without thrust vectoring, which is true for all close-coupled-canard aircraft, but not necessarily for tailed and long-arm canard arrangements.

Thus, forces impacting turn ability of non-TVC and TVC aircraft would look like this:


It can be seen that thrust vectoring increases angle of attack, and thus drag (as entire airframe at high AoA drags far more than just control surfaces plus airframe at far lower AoA), while reducing thrust avaliable to counter the drag – and, in case of very high AoA values, lift avaliable to pull aircraft around. While TVC can improve turn rate even at combat speeds, it happens only if aircraft is unable to achieve angle of attack that is required for maximum lift, one example being F-16, which requires 32 degrees AoA for maximum lift but is restricted to 25,5 degrees by FCS due to departure concerns. Angles of attack in excess of 35 degrees are unsustainable, however, due to massive drag they cause, resulting in very large energy loss, turning fighter into a deadweight in very short order. “Benefit” of extreme AoA values is also not unique to thrust vectoring aircraft: while TVC-equipped X-31 achieved maximum controllable angles of attack of 70 degrees (compare to 60 degrees for another TVC design, F-22), whereas close-coupled-canard delta-wing Rafale and Gripen are able to achieve controllable Angles of Attack that exceed 100 degrees, with Gripen being able to sustain Angle of Attack of 70 – 80 degrees. Further, X-31 without TVC was unable to achieve more than 30 degrees of alpha, even momentarily, whereas without TVC F-22 is limited to 26 degrees, though not due to issues of lift but rather controllability. As such, TVC actually improved instanteneous (and possibly sustained) turn rates of both aircraft by allowing them to reach angle of attack required for maximum lift, which is between 30 and 40 degrees of AoA. Aircraft that use TVC during combat to achieve angles of attack beyond lifting capability of wing actually sink in the air, as opposed to turning, but if they are unable to achieve maximum lift capability without TVC, then TVC does indeed improve their turn capability. Close-coupled canard configuration, on the other hand, drags less in turning than TVC one as it achieves same lift at lower angle of attack, resulting in far lower fuel consumption. This is important as in visual-range fight, most kills have been historically made when one of aircraft fighting ran out of fuel; thus aircraft with less fuel consumption per unit of weight is (assuming similar fuel fraction) more likely to win the fight. Specifically, maximum lift for close-coupled canard is greater than that for just wing at any AoA past 10 degrees AoA; in configuration analyzed in this thesis, lift is greater than baseline value by 3,4% at 10 degrees AoA, 34% at 22 degrees AoA, 9,4% at 34 degrees AoA, 7,2% at 40 degrees AoA and 18,3% at 48 degrees AoA. Thus aircraft does not need to achieve as high AoA for same lift to weight and lift to drag values, consequently allowing pilot a choice (assuming other values are similar) wether to achieve same turn rate as opponent and outlast it due to using up fuel far slower than it is case with fuel-hungry thrust vectoring maneuvers or try to outmaneuver it with higher turn rate.

Neither is main “benefit” of thrust vectoring, post stall maneuverability, anything new. Aside from close-coupled canard designs, which have extensive post-stall maneuverability, Russian Su-27 has demonstrated stall recovery capability and post-stall maneuverability. It is also important to note that John Boyd was able to do Cobra in F-100, and other pilots did it in J-35 Draken. While TVC certainly improves post-stall capability, capability by itself is useless in multi-bogey scenario, as it bleeds energy very fast. As such, thrust vectoring is tactically useless for most fighter aircraft, especially in age of high-off bore missiles, as usage of thrust vectoring would leave then slow-moving aircraft very vulnerable. Further, Cobra – one of main “poster maneuvers” for TVC – is easy to see in advance, and if done, leaves fighter without energy and at opponent’s mercy; so while usage of TVC may surprise pilots that do not know what it allows, it is suicide agains pilots that are aware of it.

TVC does not necessarily increase security either, as resistance to departure and superstall which it provides are inherent advantages of close-coupled canard designs. However, it does allow non-close coupled canard configurations to recover from these conditions.

Using TVC for maneuvering is beneficial for tailed aircraft, however, at two regimes: at velocities well below corner speed, and during supersonic flight at high altitudes. Simple reason for that is that in these two regimes, flight surfaces are not very effective. At very low speeds (150 knots – M 0,23 – and below), large control surfaces’ deflections are required for turning due to weak air flow, thus increasing drag – and even when surfaces are fully deflected, aircraft responds comparatively slowly. This also includes takeoff and landing; as result, aircraft with thrust vectoring can take off and land at lower speeds and in shorter distance than same aircraft without thrust vectoring; this capability can be useful if parts of air strip have been bombed (though it is always smarter not to require air strip at all). During supersonic flight, tail finds itself in wake behind the wing, which reduces its effectiveness. Thus thrust vectoring can be used to compensate for this effect. Further, at high altitudes (12 000 to 15 000 meters) aerodynamic control surfaces are less effective, and there is less drag, which means that thrust vectoring provides greater benefits and less penalties. As dogfights happen at altitudes of 1 500 to 10 000 meters, and speeds that start in transonic range, thrust vectoring is obviously not effective for WVR – and, therefore, real world combat.

In level flight, thrust vectoring allows for trimming, thus increasing range due to reduced drag. 3D TVC nozzles can also reduce drag by optimising their shape. Further, thrust vectoring can add STOL capability to otherwise-CTOL aircraft, but it is always better to look at simpler, lighter and cheaper options. If aircraft lacks roll authority, TVC can be used for pitch, freeing up tail control surfaces to improve roll rate – examples of this are F-22 and Eurofighter Typhoon.

TVC (especially of 3D variety) can also provide ability to quickly point nose in a certain direction, but this is only useful in one-on-one gun-only dogfights (which do not happen in real world) as it leaves aircraft with seriously depleted energy and thus vulnerable to opponent’s wingman, and/or its target if attack was not successful. This is especially problematic in age when HOB capability is becoming increasingly common. But even in such unrealistic dogfights, TVC does not garantee victory. In upper set of images, F-22 is seen from Rafale, pulling a turn; OSF is clearly visible, showing that Rafale’s nose is pointed towards the F-22 (allegedly, Rafale won 2 out of 7 engagements; further, while IRST does have high off-bore capability, video camera is fixed):

rafale F22

F-22 does have major advantage in thrust-to-weight ratio over Rafale, however, allowing it to recover some of energy lost through TVC usage simply by flying straight and level for short time. But against aircraft with higher thrust-to-weight ratio, TVC usage will be even more problematic.

As for air shows, in this video, at 0:50, MiG-29 can be seen doing Cobra:

At 1:54 and later, several S-35 Drakens can be seen doing Cobra:

Reason is simple: while TVC-aircraft relies on TVC to provide both lift and forward motion, close coupled canards allow for lift production beyond 100 degrees of alpha, while forward motion is provided by inertia. Energy loss is high, but so it is with thrust vectoring, and neither version of Cobra has any real tactical application.

Edit 19. 6. 2013.

Here is link to a video recording of DACT from which upper row of screenshots in image comes (thanks to Jeneso):

Another one (just recording):

Edit 22. 8. 2013.


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CDI: Defense Budget Tutorial #1: What is the actual size of the 2006 defense budget?

Posted by picard578 on April 6, 2013

Straus Military Reform Project

January 19, 2006


On Dec. 21, 2005, Congress passed a defense appropriations bill, which according to the press releases of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, and many news articles subsequently written, funded “defense spending” for the United States for the current fiscal year, 2006. The impression made by the press releases and the news articles was that the $453 billion advertised in the bill, H.R. 2863, constitutes America’s defense budget for 2006.[1] That would be quite incorrect. In fact, the total amount to be spent for the Department of Defense in 2006 is $13 billion to $63 billion more, the latter figure assuming full funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you also count, non-DOD “national defense” costs, add another $21 billion, and, if you count defense related security costs, such as homeland security, the congressional press release numbers are more than $200 billion wrong.

Having observed, and in past years participated in, the obscuration of just how much the United States actually spends for defense, this author believes it would assist the debate over the defense budget in this country by identifying its actual size.


The “defense spending” bill enacted in December had the title, “Making appropriations to the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2006 and for other purposes.” It was a little heavy on those “other purposes” [2] and it did not comprise all the money the Defense Department received and will receive for 2006.

To peer through the opaqueness of congressional defense appropriations, it is necessary to run through the numbers; all the numbers.

The first step is to understand the “defense spending” bill, H.R. 2863, as enacted:

• Division A of the bill appropriated $453.3 billion, but not all of it for DOD. $522 million went to the CIA for unclassified “intelligence community management” and to the Coast Guard. This makes the DOD total in Division A $452.8 billion.[3]

• Division B, Title I, Chapter 1 of the bill adds to DOD $4.4 billion for its expenses to rescue and relieve civilians and to undo damage to DOD contractors from Hurricane Katrina.

• Chapter 7 of Division B adds another $1.4 billion to rebuild DOD facilities damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

• Division B, Title II, Chapter 2 adds $130 million for DOD work for protection from the threat of the Avian Flu pandemic.

• Division B, Title III, Chapter 2 cuts the DOD budget by $80 million in rescissions (cancelled spending). More importantly, Chapter 8 in this title cuts DOD, and all other federal spending, except the Department of Veterans Affairs and “emergency” spending, by one percent “across the board.” The cut is mandated to occur in every single program of the affected accounts, nothing is exempted. The reduction to DOD is $4.0 billion.


The actual total for DOD in the bill is $454.8 billion, over a billion more than what the appropriations committees implied.

But that’s not all for the Defense Department’s budget. Add $12.2 billion for military construction.

For reasons of politics and jurisdiction, Congress appropriates money for the Defense Department in two separate bills: the Department of Defense Appropriations bill and the Military Construction Appropriations bill — which these days is also wrapped in with other spending, such as the Department of Veterans Affairs. The “MilCon” bill funds military bases in the states and districts of almost every member of Congress. A major Capitol Hill activity is writing press releases for local newspapers about the goodies the senators and representatives add for their military facilities back home. They also write press releases about the goodies they add in the DOD appropriations bill. (Having two bills to write press releases about is better than one.)

So, that gets DOD spending for 2006 to $466.7 billion. That’s all, right?


Nope. Add about another $50 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There is already $50 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan in the $466.7 billion appropriated in H.R. 2863. However, war spending in 2005 was over $100 billion, and most expect 2006 to cost at least as much. Nonetheless, Congress decided to provide just $50 billion for ongoing military operations, about enough money for the first six months of the fiscal year. It will run out in about March 2006. Before then, Congress and the president will need to add more, up to another $50 billion. It is that amount that Pentagon and congressional officials privately say they anticipate will be added in a “supplemental” appropriations request in early 2006.[4]

OK, that gets the total to $516.7 billion. Done now, right?


Nope. There are other defense activities in the Department of Energy to keep America’s nuclear arsenal reliable and effective and to develop new nuclear weapons. Add another $16.4 billion.

There are also defense related costs in the Selective Service, the National Defense Stockpile, parts of the General Services Administration, and other miscellany. Add still another $4.7 billion.

That gets the total to $537.8 billion. This figure constitutes the “National Defense” budget function (known to budget geeks as budget function “050”) in presidential budget requests and congressional budget resolutions.


You may also want to count even more spending, such as the costs of the Department of Homeland Security, which is certainly national defense in a generic sense. Add about $41 billion. [5] You might also want to consider some of the human consequences of current and previous wars; add about $68 billion for Veterans Affairs. Also, consider adding the costs of reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan which counts in the State Department’s budget, plus all the other costs for international security, diplomacy, and foreign aid, as administered by Condoleezza Rice; add about $23 billion.

If you count all these costs, the total is $669.8 billion.

This amount easily outdoes the rest of the world. In fact, if you count just the costs of the National Defense budget function, the approximate $538 billion we spend is $29 billion more than the $509 billion the entire rest of the world spends. [6]


Pick the number you believe to be most appropriate for “defense spending” in 2006. Presumably, you will not be using the $453 billion widely advertised by Congress and the press. Now, there can be an accurate debate on whether this budget is too large or too small. Please proceed.

Confused by this welter of numbers? Not surprising; below are the important parts in table form.


U.S. Defense and Security Spending

Fiscal Year 2006

Funding Source $Billions Purpose

H.R. 2863 454.5 Grand total for the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, but not all Congress has appropriated to DOD

H.R. 2528 12.2 Military Construction Appropriations

DOD and MilCon Appropriations bills 466.7 Total appropriated to date to DOD

Likely 2006 Supplemental 50.0 Possible amount to complete Iraq/Afghanistan war costs for 2006

Likely Total for DOD for 2006 516.7 Includes probable $50 billion in 2006 Supplemental for Iraq/Afghanistan

Department of Energy/Defense Activities

Appropriations 16.4 Funds nuclear weapons activities

Other non-DOD defense activities 4.7 Funds Selective Service, National Defense Stockpile, etc.

Total for “National Defense” 537.8 Constitutes the National Defense Budget Function (Budget Function 050) in presidential budgets

Homeland Security 1- Approximate amount for non-DOD Homeland Security costs

Veterans Affairs 68- Approximate amount for VA costs

International Security 23- Approximate amount for reconstruction aid, foreign arms sales, development assistance, etc.

Total for non-defense but security related costs 132-


Grand Total 669.8 Total for all international security and defense costs

# # #

[1] See Dec. 17, 2005, U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, “Conferees Approve FY 2006 Defense Spending Bill.” See first sentence in addition to the press release’s title.

[2] The bill was passed by Congress on Dec. 21, 2005, and it was signed into law by the president on Dec. 30, 2005. It is now Public Law 109-148.

[3] To be entirely correct, significant amounts of the funds ostensibly appropriated to DOD are actually for the various U.S. intelligence agencies, some of them outside DOD. Last year, a defense official accidentally told the press the classified intelligence budget amounted to about $40 billion. The appropriations for intelligence agencies are buried in various parts of the DOD bill. For example, the account, “Other Research and Development,” for the Air Force might have a few billion for CIA or NSA programs. The details of these intelligence appropriations are available only to members of Congress and a very small number of staffers. The paperwork resides in a secure vault in the Capitol building for those cleared members and staff to read; very few do.

[4] As this is written, the press is reporting DOD and OMB to be considering a supplemental of not $50 billion to finish out war funding in 2005 but $80 billion to $100 billion. Insiders report that the press has this wrong; it is more likely that DOD and OMB will ask for about $50 billion more for 2006 and a “down payment” for 2007 war costs of $40 billion to $50 billion.

[5] This number and those below for the VA and international security are not from congressional budget data but from “The Military Balance 2005-2006,” International Institute for Strategic Studies, Routledge, 2005, p. 42 . The final actuals for these agencies in 2006, including not just appropriations but also “mandatory” or “entitlement” spending, is not available and likely will not be for a few weeks, as of this date.

[6] “SIPRI Yearbook 2005; Armaments, Disarmament and International Security,” Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 310.


Author(s): Winslow Wheeler

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CDI: Chitchat with Leon and Hillary on the Defense Budget

Posted by picard578 on April 6, 2013

Winslow T Wheeler

The invitation came to me from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s Public Affairs Office to attend a “conversation” with Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the prestigious National War College in Washington. Although I knew it wasn’t me they wanted to talk to, I sat in the audience to hear Panetta and Clinton in action, especially on the subject of my prime interest: the defense budget.

The “conversation,” it turns out, was with Frank Sesno, the former CNN personality and currently the Director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. Sesno took the “conversation” assignment seriously; although he boldly said that it was important to “ask the tough questions” — just like a journalist — he did no such thing. Lofting over shallow dinner-talk queries, Sesno chummed it up with Panetta and Clinton and permitted them to say anything they wanted without fear of challenge.

Clinton tended toward impromptu speeches on whatever she was asked about — well articulated and forceful, much like she did as a senator at hearings where, rather than conduct oversight asking informed questions and following up, she would express her political points and neither seek nor reveal any new or deeper information.

Panetta was more subtle and single-minded. Although he comes from the same political background — White House insider and Congress — his answers were shorter and more softly stated, but they were directed at one and only one objective: defending the Pentagon’s budget.

Sesno started the “discussion” asking about budget cuts beyond the $350 billion the Pentagon has already committed to over the next ten years — saying “What’s really at stake?” Panetta whacked the softball question hard: “Very simply, it would result in hollowing out the force,” and “it would break faith with the troops and with their families,” and finally “it would literally undercut our ability to provide for the national defense.”

The bureaucrat moguls at the Pentagon, who currently preside over the largest defense or non-defense agency budget since the end of World War II, must have been delighted. After four years of sometimes tough guy Robert Gates, who fired senior officials for not toeing his line, DOD’s high spenders must be elated to have at the top someone who has leaped so quickly and with such eagerness to defending their agenda.

The $850 billion cut that Sesno was referring to does sound like a lot — if you are ignorant about the background and budget history. He offered no pushback and did nothing to probe Panetta’s budget preserving agenda, to question Panetta’s assumptions, and or even seek the data behind them.

Things didn’t get any better when Sesno allowed the audience a grand total of one question on DOD budget issues. The individual Sesno selected asked about funding for foreign language training. Panetta dutifully said it was important and that he wanted to look for “creative ways” to protect it. Clinton gave a speech about it, and the remaining 99.9 percent of the national security budget went unaddressed.

Instead of this feather-stroking chitchat, consider the following:

If the Pentagon’s “base” (non-war) budget were to be cut $850 billion, or so, over ten years, it would go down to about $472 billion annually, the approximate level of the base DOD budget in 2007. (This, not coincidently, is about the same level of a new round of defense budget cutting hysteria circulating in Washington in response to a just released memo from OMB Director Jack Lew.)

Using the Pentagon’s “constant” dollars that adjust for the effects of inflation, that $472 billion level would be more than $70 billion higher than DOD spending was in 2000, just before the wars. Over ten years, base Defense Department spending would be almost three quarters of a trillion dollars above the levels extant in 2000. And, none of the additional monies to be spent on the wars would be eliminated.

At $472 billion per year, the Pentagon budget would be almost $40 billion more than we averaged, in inflation adjusted “constant” dollars, during the Cold War when we faced an intimidating super-power, the Soviet Union, its Warsaw Pact allies and a hostile, dogmatically communist China.

At the 2007 $472 billion level our defense budget would remain more than twice the defense spending of China, Russia, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Cuba and any other potential adversary — combined.

The problem is not money. Under this so-called worse case scenario, the Pentagon would be left quite flush with money, plenty of it in historical terms.

The problem is that the Pentagon, as it exists under its current leadership, is incapable of surviving with less money. They quite literally do not understand how to face a future where the DOD budget exceeds any and all potential enemies by a multiple of only two.

Many — including Obama’s bipartisan 2010 National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, a separate task force put together by congressmen Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX), yet another commission headed by former budget leaders Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM) and OMB Director Alice Rivlin, and two alternative budget proposals from Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) — have itemized how to save about $900 billion from the National Defense budget. The political landscape is littered with competent recommendations to remove many of the thick layers of hydrogenated fat from the Pentagon.

These proposals hit on many of the same soft spots in the DOD budget, such as the unaffordable, underperforming, years behind schedule F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The implied consensus on such ideas and on the approximate amount (roughly $900 billion) suggest that the slightly lesser $850 billion in Pentagon savings is not “doomsday” (Panetta’s word) but quite endurable — and would actually leave DOD quite flush with money.

But, it is unthinkable to Secretary Panetta, as it is to those who perform the enabling chitchat.

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