Russia, China Could Soon Outmatch U.S. in Combat Aviation


R-37M / Photo by Reuben F. Johnson

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.

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Iran Vital to China’s Trade Lifelines to Europe, Africa, Middle East


In my post “The US Is Pushing Iran into China’s, Russia’s Arms” the day before yesterday, I asked: Does the US really need so many enemies?

According to my judgment, US President Trump wants to be China’s and Russia’s friends. He wants to exploit the friendship with them for US interests. So far his friendship with China has worked well. China has helped him solve the North Korean problem and promised to reduce US trade deficit by USD70 billion through purchase of more US goods.

Other US politicians and US media do not think so. They want Trump to be very hard on China as they regard China as America’s no. 1 enemy, an enemy trying to replace the US as the dominant world hegemon.

Trump’s withdraw from Iran nuclear deal aims at warning North Korea that if it fails to perform the agreement it has signed, he will take hard measures on it. Iran is his example for North Korea.

It is strange that US politicians and media are so arrogant that they advocate enmity against not only China but also Russia and Iran. Do they believe that the US is now strong enough to deal with the alliance of China, Russia and Iran.

The troubles that the US has in Ukraine, Syria and the South China Sea due to their the de facto alliance between China and Russia have not wakened up them from their arrogant dream.

Now, China will be much benefited by its close ties with Iran due to US pressure on Iran.

On June 10 Bloomberg published Hal Brands’ demonizing article “China’s Master Plan: A Global Military Threat” that shows how deep some Americans have fallen deep into Thucydides Trap. Brands says in the article “Chinese strategists have become acutely aware of the ‘Malacca Dilemma’ — the prospect that the U.S. could severely constrain China’s imports of oil and other critical commodities by interdicting shipping at a few crucial maritime chokepoints.

China’s Belt and Road initiative aims first of all at secure connection to Europe, Africa and especially the Middle East. China has set up rail links with the Middle East and Europe, but the rail transport is of small capacity and much more expensive.

China’s China-Pakistan Economic Corridor provides link with Iran. The pipelines between China’s west and Iran through Pakistan will be a shortcut to replace the shipping from Iran to China’s east through Malacca Strait.

However the shipping from Pakistani port to the Middle East, Europe and Africa may be cut by US Navy. China needs Iran’s air force to protect the shipping. As Iran also needs the smooth shipping for its trade to Europe and Africa and as it regards the US as its dead enemy, Iran will gladly protect Chinese shipping along its coast and through the Suez. China will provide Iran with advanced weapons. Russia will also do so as it has common interests with Iran in the Middle East.

With the Russia, China and Iran iron triangle that the US has helped to establish, there will be no “Malacca dilemma” for China.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Bloomberg’s article, full text of which can be viewed at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2149991/xi-jinping-vladimir-putin-hail-all-time-high-ties-sign.


No New Cold War due to Lack of a West Camp to Counter East Camp


I have talked much in my previous posts about the new Cold War between the East Camp centered on China and Russia and the West Camp led by the US. Now according to SCMP’s report “Xi Jinping sends unity message at regional security summit in China after G7 disarray”, the West Camp is in disarray after the G7 meeting.

Due to the rift between the US and Europe due to their conflicts of interests, there will simply be no West Camp to counter the East Camp. As it takes two to tango, there will be no new Cold War like the old one.

The East Camp has the opportunity to exploit the rift to ally with Europe in dealing with the US and ally with the US to deal with Europe. As a result, the East Camp will prevail to prove the prediction that the 21st century is Asian century.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be viewed at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2150117/xi-jinping-sends-unity-message-regional-security-summit.


Russia to Build China Nuclear Power Units Worth $3.6 Billion


That is what Reuters says in its report “Rosatom deal to build China power units worth $3.6 billion: China National Nuclear” yesterday, full text of which is reblogged below:

Reuters Staff June 10, 2018

BEIJING (Reuters) – China National Nuclear Power Co Ltd said on Sunday that two deals signed with Russian state nuclear company Rosatom for the construction of four nuclear power units in China were worth a combined $3.62 billion.

Rosatom said on Friday it would construct two units each at the Xudabao and Tianwan nuclear plants.

All four units will feature Russia’s latest Gen3+ VVER-1200 reactors. The reactors and all other necessary equipment will be developed and supplied by Russia. Rosatom did not provide an estimate of the cost.

China National Nuclear Power said in a filing to Shanghai Stock Exchange that the framework contracts will go into effect after approval from both Chinese and Russian authorities.

The four units were expected to be equipped with China-made nuclear steam turbine generators, it said.

Reporting by Hallie Gu and Tony Munroe; editing by Richard Pullin

Source: “Rosatom deal to build China power units worth $3.6 billion: China National Nuclear”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


The US Is Pushing Iran into China’s, Russia’s Arms


Previously I had a few posts on the US pushing China into Russia’s arms by interference with China’s disputes with its neighbors in the South China Sea and pushing Russia into China’s arms by sanctions over the Ukrainian issue.

Now, SCMP’s report “Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin hail ‘all-time high’ in ties, sign US$3 billion of nuclear deals” describes the close de facto alliance between China and Russia.

What does “all-time high” mean? Is there an alliance between Russia and China?

It means Russia-China tie is closer than alliance. Why? Because it is “all-time high”! The highest point must be in the 1950s when China and Russia’s predecessor the Soviet Union concluded the Sino-Soviet Treaty of Friendship, Alliance and Mutual Assistance to establish an alliance between the two. Now, there has been no treaty of alliance, but the two are closer than they were treaty allies in the 1950s.

As mentioned above, the two have to thank the US for the alliance, which make them strong enough to openly challenge the US.

Russia challenged the West led by the US by sending troops into Ukraine to annex Crimea and split Ukraine. The US and EU have imposed sanctions on Russia to punish it. However, with China’s support, sanctions do not work. Russia has become more aggressive and even sent troops into Syria.

US former president Obama adopted the policy of pivot to Asia to interfere with China’s maritime territorial disputes with its neighbors in the South China Sea in order to contain China. China responded by building seven artificial islands with three long airstrips on them in the South China Sea. The US failed to stop China promptly as it was distracted by Russia in Europe. Now with the artificial islands, China has de facto turned the South China Sea into its lake.

The US responds with a few freedom of navigation operations a year in the South China Sea. It will be joined by Britain and France that will also send navy to carry out similar operations there.

China says that it will never hinder freedom of navigation there but such operations shall not be the excuses for violating China’s sovereignty by entering China’s territorial waters.

China has turned the sea into its lake in order to exploit the rich fish and energy resources there. The US and EU know that well but do they dare to interfere with China’s exploitation of resources there?

The above is Obama’s contributions to China and Russia.

Now, it’s US President Trump’s turn. He is pushing Iran into China and Russia’s arms by unilateral withdrawal from the Iranian Nuclear Deal. Iran needs Chinese and Russian help to deal with US sanctions. SCMP says in the above-mentioned report, “Xi and Putin also vowed to make ‘all possible efforts’ to preserve the 2015 international accord on Iran’s nuclear programme that Trump abandoned last month.”

The Russia- and China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has just become an organization of significance after recruiting India and Pakistan as its new members. Now, Iranian president has come to China to attend SCO summit and may very likely make real efforts for SCO membership.

The US is driving Iron to Russia’s and China’s side to enable them to form an Asian iron triangle to counter the US.

Does the US really need so many enemies?

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2149991/xi-jinping-vladimir-putin-hail-all-time-high-ties-sign.


Serious Nuclear Arms Race between the US, China, Russia


SCMP says in its report “China steps up pace in new nuclear arms race with US and Russia as experts warn of rising risk of conflict” yesterday that China conducted 200 laboratory experiments that simulate nuclear blasts to develop smaller nuclear warheads that cause less damage and radioactive pollution so that they will be next-generation of strategic nuclear weapons with less disastrous effect or even be used as tactical weapons.

The report says that “In comparison, the US carried out only 50 such tests between 2012 and 2017”.

Though having less tests, SCMP says, “Pentagon officials have said the US wants its enemies to believe it might actually use its new-generation weapons, such as smaller, smarter tactical warheads designed to limit damage by destroying only specific targets.”

That proves that China’s tests are but a response of self defense. As the US has more than 1,000 live tests of nuclear explosion since 1945 while China has only 45, China needs to carry out more laboratory tests to collect data for development of next-generation of nuclear weapons. I don’t think that China can surpass the US with so many laboratory tests as live tests provide much better data than laboratory ones.

Moreover, China’s efforts are also its response to Russia’s intensive development of nuclear weapons. SCMP says in the report, “The Russian government under Vladimir Putin has in recent years revealed a series of new nuclear weapon programmes, including smaller weapons, as well as a super torpedo capable of wiping out coastal cities.” China shall develop capabilities to counter that in spite of its de facto alliance with Russia. Situation may change. There is the saying: “There is no eternal friend or enemy.”

China’s nuclear arms remain defensive as China has promised not to be the first to use nuclear weapons.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/society/article/2147304/china-steps-pace-new-nuclear-arms-race-us-and-russia-experts-warn


America’s JASSM Missile Has One Goal: Crush Russia and China’s A2/AD Weapons


Sebastien Roblin
April 22, 2018
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Early in the morning of April 14, 2018, two sinister black jets took off from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar. The huge B-1B Lancer bombers, nicknamed “Bones,” were distinguished by the sinuous profile of their fuselage, designed in the 1970s to reduce observability on radar. However, the B-1’s stealth characteristics rapidly proved obsolescent due to advancements in radar technology. Indeed, a lone Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler jet joined the two-ship element of the Thirty-Fourth Bomber Squadron, likely to provide radar-jamming support.

The four-engine jets streaked towards the Syrian capital of Damascus, over a thousand miles northwest, dispatched by Washington to punish the Syrian government for an apparent chemical-weapon attack on a rebel-held community on April 4. However, Syrian airspace is protected by an extensive integrated air defense network of radars and surface-to-air missile batteries. Just two months earlier, on February 10, a Syrian S-200 (SA-6) missile shot down an Israeli F-16 fighter. Furthermore, the Russian military had deployed more sophisticated and longer-range Russian S-400 and S-300V4 surface-to-air missiles that could potentially intervene.

Even with their modestly reduced radar cross-section and jamming support, the Bones were at risk of being detected if they got too close, so the bombers’ four-person crews instead used a different ploy. Likely around two hundred miles away from their target, the B-1s released nineteen AGM-158A Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSM) from their bomb bays. (Earlier claims that these were the AGM-185B Extended-Range variant are reportedly incorrect.)

As the weapons plummeted to the earth, their eight-foot-wide wings flipped out and turbojet engines sputtered to life. The four-meter-long missiles leveled off a few dozen meters above the ground and streaked towards their target at roughly the speed of a typical jetliner, following a flight path programmed to loop around elevated terrain and enemy radars, while using a jam-resistant GPS and an inertial navigation system to avoid straying off course. As they made their final approach on the target, an integrated infrared seeker matched the building’s profile to its onboard 3D model and adjusted the missiles’ trajectory—giving them the accuracy to land within a three-meter radius more than half the time.

In the space of two minutes, starting at 4:00 a.m., all nineteen 2,250-pound missiles struck the Barzeh Research and Development Center, just outside the heavily defended airspace of Damascus, their thousand-pound WDU-42 penetrator/fragmentation warheads piercing through roofs of the target buildings before detonating. An additional fifty-seven Tomahawk cruise missiles launched by surface warships and the Virginia-class submarine John Warner contributed to the onslaught.

Syrian air defenses finally opened fire after most of the cruise missiles had hit, reportedly blindly shooting about forty surface-to-air-missiles into the night sky at nothing in particular.

Western intelligence agencies had identified the center as one used by the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center for the development and production of chemical weapons. The Syrian government claims otherwise, citing a November 2017 inspection by the OPCW that did not note the presence of chemical weapons.

The three buildings that made up the center were obliterated, as you can see in these photos and video. Indeed, the dozens of missiles were likely overkill, intended to inflate the size of the strike compared to the 2017 attack to signal escalating resolve. No lives were reported lost, however, as the building had been evacuated in anticipation of a possible attack.

Even if the firepower employed was excessive, the strike remains notable for being the first combat employment of the JASSM, a system intended play a key role in U.S. military strategy in coming decades.

The Antiaccess/Area-Denial Problem

China and Russia have both begun deploying long-range missiles that can threaten access to huge swathes of air space or large spans of international waters. Such antiaccess/area-denial weapons include the Chinese DF-21D antiship ballistic missile—a ground-based weapon that can threaten aircraft carriers at a greater distance than the combat radius of the carrier’s onboard attack jets—and the S-400 surface-to-air missile system, which can shoot long-range 40N6 missiles at targets up to 250 miles away. The Russian S-400 battery deployed in Latakia, Syria can theoretically threaten the airspace directly above the British airbase in Akrotiri, Cyprus and the U.S. base in Incirlik, Turkey.

While stealth aircraft can potentially infiltrate an air-defense system and attempt to take out such weapons, they are still at risk of eventual detection by low-bandwidth radars, infrared sensors, and even high-bandwidth engagement radars at short distances. Therefore, it is desirable finding a means to strike at such antiaccess systems from standoff range—beyond the adversary’s ability to retaliate.

Since the 1990s, the United States has made extensive use of Tomahawk cruise missiles, which can strike targets up to hundreds of miles away—but the Tomahawk is more observable on radar and can be shot down. Though Syrian air defenses do not appear to have had much success shooting down Tomahawks in both U.S. strikes in 2017 and 2018—grandiose claims of shooting down seventy-six missiles to the contrary!—a more capable adversary might do better.
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Cruise Missiles with Stealth Technology

Back in the 1990s, the Air Force decided it wanted a standoff stealth cruise missile with a reduced radar cross-section. Lockheed Martin’s AGM-158 prototype was selected in a 1998 competition, but the program experienced numerous failures in the subsequent decade. Finally, in 2009 a revised design succeeded in fifteen out of sixteen tests, and the weapon finally began production. Over three thousand of more than 4,900 JASSMs on order have been produced for the U.S. Air Force (the Navy dropped out of its share), and the latest version of the missile is being certified for a variety of platforms.
The basic AGM-158A model deployed in Syria uses a J402 turbojet engine and has a range of 230 miles. However, the AGM-158B JASSM-Extended Range model, though identical in dimensions and 70 percent of the components, more than doubles its reach to 620 miles thanks to a more fuel-efficient F107 turbofan engine and additional fuel storage. The upgrade increases the price from $800,000 to over $1.3 million, however. Lockheed Martin is also developing a six-meter-long XR-model with a thousand-mile range and modified wings, as well as a smaller -SR model that can fit in the weapon bays of a stealth fighter. Range might also be cheaply extended by simply reducing the weight of the warhead.

A maximum of twenty-four JASSMs can be mounted in internal rotary launchers on a single B-1B, sixteen inside a B-2 stealth bomber, and twelve or twenty on a B-52H. Smaller F-15E, F-16 and FA-18 fighter jets can carry one or two, and it is expected that the F-35 Lightning II will be certified to carry them externally (though it won’t be especially stealthy when doing so). The missile is also in service with Finland and Australia (mounted on FA-18 Hornets), and Poland (carried by F-16s). The Navy is also deploying a modified AGM-158C antiship version known as the LR-ASM, which may finally replace the aging Harpoon missile on surface warships and Super Hornet fighters.

The JASSM allows the U.S. military to deliver highly precise surprise attacks against targets already well protected by enemy air defenses. Indeed, enemy air-defense radars and missile batteries would likely be one of their chief targets in the opening phases of conflict, paving the way for additional attacks by more vulnerable fourth-generation jets using cheaper, shorter-range weapons. AGM-158s also might be used for strikes on well-defended high-value targets, such as headquarters, missile silos, power and communications centers, and fuel and weapons depots.
The Air Force is also looking to exploit the JASSM-ER’s stealthy, long-endurance characteristics for other roles. For example, another approach to disabling air defenses is to use bursts of microwaves to fry their electronics—a concept implemented in a prototype system called the CHAMP, which can reportedly take one hundred “shots.” However, CHAMP needs a stealthy, high-endurance platform to get close enough and loiter long enough to do its thing. In 2015, the Air Force announced it was looking to miniaturize CHAMP for mounting on the JASSM-ER missile.

As formidable long-range antiaircraft and antiship missiles capable of threatening entire regions proliferate across the globe, the JASSM would serve as an opening gambit to help U.S. aircraft defang those threats from a safe distance.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

Source: National Interest “America’s JASSM Missile Has One Goal: Crush Russia and China’s A2/AD Weapons”

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.