New Russian air-to-air missile has advantage in speed and reach
BY: Reuben F. Johnson
July 9, 2018 10:40 am
KIEV, Ukraine—Russia’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced that a new weapon is very near completion of its test validation trials and will soon be placed into service.
If reports of its operational performance are accurate, it will threaten the survivability of every U.S. combat aircraft currently in service—particularly the newest U.S. fighter, the Lockheed Martin F-35.
The weapon is the Vympel R-37M air-to-air missile. Launched from a fighter aircraft, it is designed to hit targets at ranges of up to 188 miles, its warhead section contains 132 lbs of explosive material, and it is reported to be capable of speeds of up to Mach 6.
This missile gives Russian aircraft an advantage over U.S. combat aircraft in both speed and reach. The most advanced versions of the US-made Raytheon AIM-120 air-to-air missile top out at about Mach 4 and have a range of only about 110 miles.
Defense planners are alarmed at the number of fighters Russia plans to fit with this weapon.
The missiles that preceded the R-37M had been exclusive to the weapons fit for the Mikoyan MiG-31 aircraft. The MiG-31 mission was almost entirely dedicated to shooting down U.S. strategic bombers and other large aircraft that might pose a threat to Russian air space, so these missiles were typically not often seen outside of Russian territory.
However, according to MoD sources, the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKO) are planning for Sukhoi model aircraft Su-30, Su-35, and Su-57 to all operate with the R-37M, in addition to the MiG-31. The missile will therefore be capable of being fired at almost any U.S. military aircraft in numerous theaters of operation worldwide and not just within Moscow’s territorial airspace.
The announcement has elicited nervous reactions from defense ministries and air staff commands from Poland to America’s allies in Asia. The only missile in the western arsenal that comes close to matching the Russian R-37M in speed and range is the ramjet motor-powered Meteor produced by the European consortium MBDA, which is not deployed on any U.S. aircraft.
There are also no missiles currently in the U.S. arsenal that match this Russian weapon’s performance. This has several nations asking if they should look at a purchase of the Swedish Saab JAS-39 Gripen fighter, which has Meteor already integrated into its fire control system.
Su-30SM and Su-35 model aircraft are operated by Russia’s military along the borders with NATO. Su-30 aircraft have buzzed U.S. warships and aircraft in both the Black Sea and in the Baltics, both aircraft were sold and are operated by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in China, and the VKO have also based them at the Russian military aerodrome in Latakia, Syria—where they are frequently in close proximity to U.S. forces. There have been rumors for years of an impending sale of either Su-30SM or Su-35 or both to Iran in large numbers.
Defense experts are concerned about how soon the R-37M will be in service with the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. Chinese Su-35 aircraft have been seen recently transiting Novosibirsk while flying back to Russian flight test facilities further to the West. Speculation is that some of the aircraft are returning to evaluate having this new weapon added to their Su-35s.
Russian sources describe the guidance system on the R-37Ms as being equipped with a high technology “brain” that is “immune to jamming from electronic warfare systems.”
The F-35 is one of the aircraft most vulnerable to this new weapon, an air combat specialist told the Washington Free Beacon. “The aircraft does not supercruise and does not have the ‘acceleration to escape speed’ that other aircraft are capable of. The F-35’s stealth characteristics have also been designed to contend with an increasingly older generation of threats, which means the aircraft is more detectable to newer sensors and weapon systems.”
This is a serious concern for the future of America’s allies. Japan and South Korea are both F-35 customers and both have to contend with China’s PLAAF on a regular basis. The F-35 is also being marketed to nations directly threatened by Russia such as Finland and Poland.
A former MBDA official told the Free Beacon that plans are in the works to try to even the score by integrating the Meteor missile on the F-35, but not until 2024 or later.
Source: Washington Free Beacon “Russia, China Could Soon Outmatch U.S. in Combat Aviation”
Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
At the press conference titled “China’s 10 star weapons 2017” on January 14, Chinese military expert Wang Yanan said that though very few technical details about China’s J-20 stealth fighter jet have been disclosed, judging by its large weapon bays, J-20 has much greater fire power than any of US fighter jets in service.
As F-35 is no match to J-20, US plan to surround China with F-35 stealth fighters has been frustrated. It now has to consider sales of F-22 to China’s neighbors. However, F-22 was developed more than a decade ago. It has to be greatly upgraded to include recently developed technologies such as networks-centered warfare, information and intelligence support, etc. However, if J-20 is able to coordinate with China’s satellites, AEW&C aircrafts and advanced drones, it will be a formidable weapon.
Source: mil.huanqiu.com “J-20, homegrown aircraft carrier elected as star weapons 2017: Expert explain” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)
Recently CCTV showed the footage on a special theme titled “‘China’s magic weapons’ for export: Secret in seeing hundreds of miles away”, focusing on description of many types of new radar developed by the 14th Research Institute of China Electronics Technology Group Corporation. The functions of its radar include those for aircraft fire control, AEW&C, air and missile defense and detection of artillery location, etc. used on China’s homegrown aircraft carriers, Chinese Aegis warships, anti-stealth radar, etc. Some of their export versions have sustained the tests of real war abroad.
It first describes the KLJ-7A active phased array radar used on FC-1/JF-17 fighter jet with a range of 170km.
According to a military expert who would rather remains anonymous, the radar is in the main equivalent to that used by F-35.
All new Chinese fighter jets including J-10, J-11, J-16, J-20, etc. will be equipped with such radar.
China’s SLC-7 anti-stealth radar is better in function than Israel’s EL/M-2080S multifunction phased array radar. It is able to tract more than 300km a ballistic target of 0.01 square meter radar cross section (RCS) and 450km, a ballistic target of 0.05 square meter RCS. Its maximum track altitude exceeds 30,000 meters. The radar’s high maneuverability enables it to move to a new site within 15 minutes.
According to Jane’s, the Institute has promoted for a few years its YLC-8B medium- and high-altitude three coordinates surveillance radar able to move on road and railway and at sea within 30 minutes. The radar has a range of 550km to detect and track conventional multifunction fighter jets and 350km, targets of low visibility. It is one of the best anti-stealth radar in the world.
The Institute’s SLC-2 artillery detection radar has proved its wonderful performance in real wars abroad. The radar can calculate the coordinates of artillery before its shell falls on the ground to enable suppress and destroy of enemy artillery. It can also help adjust the targeting of artillery to enable accurate hits.
China’s Type 052C/D Aegis destroyers use “Star of Sea” radar developed by the institute. It is a warship-based multifunction active phased array radar a generation more advanced than America’s SPY-1 radar.
Source: Global Times “‘China’s magic weapons’ for export: Secret in seeing hundreds of miles away” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)
October 14, 2017
Ever since the development of stealth technology for aircraft, many different systems have been advertised as “stealth killing.” One of the more innovative solutions is the Russian Struna-1/Barrier-E bistatic radar system developed by NNIIRT, a division of the Almaz-Antey Joint Stock Company. Almaz-Antey is the premier air-defense and radar manufacturer in Russia; they make the Tor, Buk and S-400 anti-aircraft systems, as well as their respective search radars. The Struna-1 was originally developed in 1999. A further evolution of Struna-1, the Barrier-E system was later showcased for export at MAKS 2007. While it is not part of Almaz-Antey’s online catalog, it was shown alongside other radars at MAKS 2017. The system is rumored to be deployed around Moscow.
The Struna-1 is different than most radars in that it is a bistatic radar, meaning it relies on the receiver and transmitter of the radar to be in two different locations as opposed to conventional radar technology where the receiver and transmitter are located in the same location. Normal radar systems are limited by the inverse fourth power law. As the radar target goes further away from the transmission source, the strength of the radar signal decays as per the regular inverse square law. However, radar detection works by receiving reflections of the radar signal. With a conventional radar, this results in the received signal being four times weaker than that put out. Stealth works because at a distance, an aircraft can mitigate its radar returns to be small by scattering them and absorbing them using radiation-absorbent materials. This degrades the quality of the radar track so it is harder to distinguish precise information about an aircraft.
The Struna-1 solves this problem by positioning the transmitter in a different location than the receiver. The link between the transmitter and receiver has increased power relative to a conventional radar, as it falls off according to the inverse square law as opposed to the inverse fourth power law. This allows the radar to be more sensitive, as it is effectively acting as a radar tripwire. According to Russian sources, this setup increases the effective radar cross section (RCS) of a target by nearly threefold, and ignores any anti-radar coatings that can scatter the radio waves. This allows the detection of not only stealth aircraft, but other objects with low RCS such as hang gliders and cruise missiles. As many of ten receiver/transmitter tower pairs—each tower is called Priyomno-Peredayushchiy Post (PPP) in Russian publications—can be placed. Sources vary in potential configurations of the towers, but the maximum span between two single towers is 50km. This leads to a maximum theoretical perimeter of 500km.
These individual towers have relatively low power consumption, and they do not emit as much energy as traditional radars, making them less vulnerable to anti-radiation weapons. The towers are mobile, allowing for forward deployment in times of conflict. They rely on microwave data links to communicate with each other and a centralized monitoring station, which can be located at a significant distance from the system. The distributed nature also allows the system to keep operating if one node goes down, albeit with less precision. The low height of the transmitter and receiver towers (only 25m off the ground) make Struna-1 very good at detecting low altitude targets, a target set that conventional radars often have trouble with.
Limitations of the Struna-1 include a low detection altitude. The nature of the system results in the detection range being a rough biased parabola between the receiver and transmitter. This limits the detection altitude to around 7km at the tallest point, with the maximum detection range going down as one gets closer to the transmitter/receiver towers. The transverse size of the detection zone is likewise limited, being around 1.5km close to the towers to 12km at the optimal point between the towers. The small size of the detection zone limits the use of the Struna-1 system as a tripwire, it cannot replace traditional radars as an overall search mechanism. However with its high precision tracks of stealthy aircraft, it would serve as a good counterpart to other longer-band radar systems such as Sunflower, which provide less precise tracks of planes. The Struna-1 cannot act as a targeting radar due to its inability to provide constant radar illumination tracking a target, so it cannot be used to guide in semi-active surface-to-air missiles.
While the Struna-1 bistatic radar is not a be-all end-all detection solution for stealth aircraft, it could pose a significant threat to stealth NATO aircraft in a future conflict. Strike aircraft with stealth features are particularly vulnerable, the strike role tends to favor flight profiles that might cause aircraft to fly into the Struna-1’s detection range. In tandem with other modern “stealth-defeating” radar systems, the Struna-1 could provide critical information to an adversary on the position and movement of stealth aircraft.
Source: National Interest “How Russia Is Trying to Make America’s F-22 and F-35 as Obsolete as Battleships”
Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.
Quite a few high-ranking officers, politicians and military experts give me the impression that when they make comparison between the weapons of similar kind developed by different nations, they regard the weapons as toys instead of what a country relies on for its national security.
When the US designed its F-22 and F-35, it assumes that others have no stealth fighter so that its stealth fighter jet may shoot down enemy fighter jet with missile before the enemy is even able to detect its stealth fighter. Therefore, more attention was paid to stealth than the fighter jet’s maneuverability in dogfight.
Moreover, US military strategy focuses on break enemy’s anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) as the US regards attacking and subduing its enemy as the key to its national security. As a result, US stealth fighter jets shall be capable of penetrating enemy air defense and be equipped with air-to-ground weapons.
China, however, develops its stealth fighter J-20 to resist enemy attack so that it regards as the key J-20’s capability to grab air supremacy from others’ stealth fighters. If a J-20 and its enemy flies at the speed Mach 2, it has only 2.3 minutes before the two meet suppose that their radar is good enough to discover enemy stealth fighter 150 km away. Suppose J-20’s missiles go at Mach 4, it takes 1.5 minutes for the pilots to find that their missiles fail to hit. Then they have only 0.8 minutes left not enough for a second missile attack. Therefore, J-20 must have better dogfight capabilities than F-22 and F-35 as of all the countries in the world only the US F-22 and F-35 are designed with the capabilities to break other countries’ A2/AD and to attack their homeland.
That is why China is satisfied with its J-20 in spite of the radar visibility from its back and its lack of the capability to penetrate enemy air defense. Analysts may be happy that J-20 is inferior to F-22 and F-35 in those respects but neglect J-20’s capabilities in grabbing air supremacy.
However, US military is not so carried away by their analysis as to risk attacking China with F-22 and F-35. They want to develop B-21 to attack China.
Now, there is news that new J-20s use better engines with radar invisibility from their back and greater vector thrust. The analysts shall not be unhappy as J-20 is utterly incapable of attacking US homeland even if it is capable of penetrating enemy air defense.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
Some people boast F-35’s network function to share information with other F-35s and believe F-35s can penetrate China’s air defense by J-20 that is designed to dominate Chinese airspace. I have pointed out in my previous post that for J-20 network with its ground command center is much more important as there is China’s supercomputer there to analyze information not only from J-20s but also China’s ground and navy’s air defense system and give instruction to J-20s to hit F-35s before F-35s have enough time to analyze the information from their network.
F-35’s computer is but a child’s toy compared with the supercomputer in China’s ground command center.
Now, US military expert Bill Gertz’s article “Chinese supercomputers threaten U.S. security” on May 3, not only confirms my opinion but even quotes a recent report of joint National Security Agency-Energy Department study as saying, “China is eclipsing the United States in developing high-speed supercomputers used to build advanced weapons, and the loss of American leadership in the field poses a threat to U.S. national security.”
Now, its Chinese supercomputers that threaten the US instead F-35s threatening China!
“Supercomputers play a ‘vital role’ in the design, development and analysis of almost all modern weapons systems, including nuclear weapons, cyberwarfare capabilities, ships, aircraft, communications security, missile defense, precision-strike capabilities and hypersonic weapons, the report said.”
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Washington Times’ report, full text of which can be viewed at http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/may/3/china-supercomputers-threaten-us-security/.
According to a vice chairman of Russia’s State Duma, Russia has already delivered to China first batch of S-400 air defense missile systems.
S-400 is Russia’s best air defense system, which due to confidentiality is allowed to be sold only to countries very close to Russia. India and Turkey are queuing for purchase of the system.
This blogger’s comment: Russia has contract obligation to begin delivery of S-400 by 2018. The earlier delivery perhaps aims at helping China deal with US F-35s that are being deployed in East Asia. S-400 has a range of 150 km to hit stealth aircraft.
Source: Interfax “Russia high official: First batch of S400 air defense missile system has been delivered to China” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chinese)