Thursday, November 30, 2017

China's Advances into the World of Stealth Fighters

According to the Ministry of National Defense of the People's Republic of China, China's military air capabilities have taken a very significant turn with the Chengdu J-20 fighter officially entering service as shown here:

The J-20 is China's latest multi-role stealth fighter, a fourth-generation medium- and long-range fighter which made its debut flight in 2011.   It is a very significant addition to the People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and sets itself apart as the most advanced fighter in the Asia - Pacific region, giving China a significant advantage over the Japanese, Indian and Korean air forces.  While the jet is not currently fully operational, it represents a direct threat to America's fifth generation fighters such F-35, and is likely to be fully operational by 2019.  The J029 will provide the PLAAF with both offensive and defensive capabilities, stepping beyond its current function as a territorial air force.

Here is the J-20's debut at the Zhuhai Airshow in late 2016:

According to China Power, the J-20 is likely equipped with stealth and highly integrated avionics technology and capabilities including supersonic cruising speeds that meet the international standards for a fifth generation aircraft.

Here is a table showing the five generations of both international and Chinese fighter aircraft:

Here is a diagram from China Power comparing the J-20, F-22 and Russia's T-50 PAK FA:

The J-20 is equipped with two Russian AL-31 engines, however, it appears that China will update the higher with Chinese made WS-15 engines which will give it the ability for sustained supersonic travel.  The single-seater, two engine J-20 is also equipped with a passive detection system that will provide the pilot with 360 degree spherical coverage around the aircraft and a chin-mounted search and track sensor.  The J-20 is equipped with two bays that are designed to hold small air-to-air missiles and a larger bay located on the underside of the fuselage that can hold a variety of weaponry, including both short- and long-range missiles.

Cost estimate (flyaway costs) for the J-20 range from $30 to $120 million compared to less than $100 million for Russia's T50, $143 million for America's F-22 and between $94 and $122 million for the F-35 (current costs) which is well below the cost of the early F-35s produced by Lockheed Martin.

According to RAND, the J-20's combination of forward stealth and extended range could hold United States Navy surface assets at risk, a particular concern given the ongoing issues involving the South China Sea.  As well, other analysts feel that the J-20's abilities as a long-range fighter make it well suited to penetrate the air defences of other nations, allowing China to destroy high value military infrastructure.

China is also developing an additional stealth fighter; the Shenyang FC-31 also known as the J-31, a smaller multirole stealth fighter that could be commercially exported to other nations.  The J-31 is roughly the same size as the American F-35 and has a range of 7755 miles and a top speed of Mach 1.8.  Some analysts feel that it will be well suited as an aircraft for China's new aircraft carrier.  Here is a video showing a demonstration of the J-3 in 2014:

China, which for so many years lagged behind the rest of the world's superpowers when it came to development of highly advanced materiel is proving itself to be a "player" in the world of supersonic, stealth aircraft.  The further development and adoption of these aircraft by the People's Liberation Army Airforce will make the nation less vulnerable to threats from the United States and India when it comes to its stance on the South China Sea and other territorial boundary disputes.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

How Russia is Preparing for War

At the recent Sochi meeting between Vladimir Putin and his senior Defense Ministry officials, officials from Russia's defense industry as well as the heads of various ministries and regions, Mr. Putin made a series of very interesting comments about Russia's readiness for war following the Zapad-2017 military exercise that received relatively little coverage in the mainstream Western media.  While this lack of coverage is not terribly surprising given the anti-all things Russian sentiment that has taken root in the Western media since 2014, it is rather negligent given the importance of the comments and the fact that the world seems to be heading into the Cold War Part 2.

As background, between September 14 and 20, 2017, Russia conducted one of its largest military exercises since the end of the Cold War.  Zapad-2017 tested Russia's plans for a full-scale conflict with NATO with the drills taking place along the border between Belarus/Russia/Kalinigrad and the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  Here is a map from the European Council on Foreign Relations showing the locations of the exercises:

Prior to the exercises, some Western analysts postulated that Zapad-2017 was a springboard for Russia to invade and occupy Lithuania, Poland and or Ukraine. 

According to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Zapad-2017 involved the following:

Here is a video showing Vladimir Putin arriving at and observing the Zapad-2017 war games:

With that background, let's start with Mr. Putin's comment as released by the Kremlin regarding the state of Russia's military defences made on November 20, 2017 at the opening of the tenth cycle of meetings on military matters with senior officials of Russia's Defense Ministry and the nation's defense industry held in Sochi:

"The development of a new State Armament Programme is nearing completion. Its implementation will largely determine the combat capability of the service arms and branches for the coming decade and in the long run. We need to carefully check all our plans.

Our Army and Navy must possess the most advanced weapons, military and special equipment, which take into account, among other things, potential changes in the strategy and tactics of warfare in the future and are on a par or, better yet, superior to their foreign counterparts. If we want to be in front and win, we must be better.

The key indicators of the programme should, above all, ensure guaranteed strategic deterrence and, in the event of a potential external threat, its effective neutralisation.

Of course, the implementation of the State Armament Programme will depend on capabilities of defence enterprises, scientific and research centres. However, it is important not only to develop in a timely manner advanced technology or weapon samples that meet the requirements of the Defence Ministry, but also to be ready to launch them into mass production without any delays or disruptions." (my bold)

Here are additional comments made by Mr. Putin on November 21, 2017 at the Sochi series of meetings in which he focuses on the fulfillment of Russia's state defense order:

"As part of the fulfilled tasks, the armed forces have received over 3,400 items of advanced and upgraded hardware, including 16 combat vessels, 190 modern aircraft and helicopters, 800 tanks and armoured combat vehicles, 170 missile defence systems, and 1,950 multipurpose vehicles.

Defence industry experts have carried out regular maintenance of the main arms and equipment right in the field.

In general, these measures allow increasing the overall share of modern arms and equipment models at the armed forces’ disposal up to 60 percent by the end of this year.

Let me note that many arms samples were tested in action against terrorists in the Syrian Arab Republic. The tests in actual combat conditions confirmed the high quality of the Russian weapons. Their traditional advantages are simple operation and reliability.

A number of our international partners, including the new ones, have already shown interest in buying Russian arms and equipment and expanding military technical cooperation with Russia.

We have to closely study and use the practical experience of putting our armament systems to use. We also have to encourage positive tendencies in planning, placing and fulfilling the state defence order to make all elements of this interconnected system work effectively together." (my bold)

Now, lets look at Mr. Putin's final comments regarding the Zapad-2017 war games to his colleagues at the Sochi meetings on November 22, 2017:

"I propose that we discuss a key event on our training schedule, the Zapad-2017 strategic military exercise, primarily its civilian aspects as the exercise involved many civilian departments and regions.

Attending this meeting are the heads of ministries and the governors who contributed to the organisation of this exercise. I would like them to speak about their conclusions and proposals regarding the issues that occurred and the aspects that still need to be addressed.

It should be said that several important goals have been attained at the exercise. First, we checked our mobilisation readiness and ability to use local resources to meet the troops’ requirements. Reservists were called up for this exercise, and we also tested the ability of civilian companies to transfer their vehicles and equipment to the armed forces and provide technical protection to transport communications.

We also assessed the provision of transport and logistics services, as well as foods and medicines to the army. We need to review once again the defence companies’ ability to quickly increase output.

The exercise has exposed certain shortcomings. We must analyse them so as to propose additional measures to enhance mobilisation readiness.

I want to say that the economic ability to increase the production of defence products and services quickly is a vital element of military security. All strategic and simply large companies, regardless of the type of ownership, must be able to do this.

We held detailed discussions on this topic in 2015 and 2016. Instructions were issued to modernise production, to create a reserve of material and technical resources, and to ensure the transportation of military personnel. The ministries and agencies are working on this in close cooperation with the Defence Ministry under the guidance of the Board of the Military Industrial Commission. I would like you to make short reports on this work at our meeting today and to say which shortcomings of the past few years have been settled and which are still to be dealt with.

Let us talk about all of this in detail and draw conclusions for the future." (my bold)

To put all of this into perspective, Russia is the world's third largest spender when it comes to its military.  According to SIPRI, in 2016, the United States spent $611.12 billion (in 2015 U.S. dollars) on defense, China spent $215.18 billion and the Russian Federation spent $69.25 billion.  While Russia spends roughly one-ninth of what the United States spends on its military, it has the capability to produce materiel that should cause the United States to think twice before escalating tensions to the point of outright hostilities.  As we can see from Mr. Putin's comments, the Russian Federation is "in it to win it" in the event of an all-out war and is certainly preparing for this eventuality by modernizing its forces and preparing its civilian industries to convert to a war production footing.

On the upside, the military-industrial-intelligence complex in America will be very happy!