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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Is the Dragon's Roar worse than its bite? Part I China's Nuclear Capabilities

Recently the media/news has been showing China's increased militarization. At the current rate of growth The People's Republic of China will become a powerful military adversary. But at the moment how powerful are China's armed forces?


Intro (video clip)
This video clip is from an excellent documentary about the development of nuclear weapons called Trinity and Beyond. This particular segment shows China's first nuclear test in 1964.

China possesses a myriad of nuclear missiles. However, most of these missiles are short range and theater range ballistic missiles. China fields 990-1070 SRBMs (short range ballistic missile). China's SRBMs such as the CCS-6 and CCS-7 have ranges of 300-600km and have low yield warheads. Most of these missiles are designed to hit targets across the Taiwan strait.

China also deploys around 300 of the more powerful IRBMs (intermediate range ballistic missile). These missiles can hit targets 1,700-3,000km away and pose a significant threat to U.S bases in Korea, Japan, Guam, and in the Pacific. China posses a large number of these missiles and continues to expand its IRBM missile programs. This reflects China's defense strategy. At the moment and for at least several years China will not have significant power projection capabilities hence its status as a Great Power not a Super Power like the United States. China is mainly interested in keeping foreign powers out of the area in a potential conflict over Taiwan. IRBMs would play a critical role in keeping regional control. The most alarming type of IRBM that is currently being developed by the PRC is the ASBM or anti-ship ballistic missiles from modified CCS-5 IRBMs. China is researching mobile retry vehicles (MRV) which would allow them to target U.S fleets within 1,700km of China. To counter U.S fleets would employ the Aegis missile defense systems from Ticonderoga class cruisers.

China has developed a few kinds of ICBMs that are capable of hitting the United States such as the DF-5. China owns 20 DF-5 missiles each are fitted with a single massive warhead with a yield of 4 to 5 megatons. The major problem with the DF-5 is because its liquid fueled its takes 30-60 minutes to prepare for launch while solid fuel rockets take less than 5. Additionally because accuracy of the missile is bad (can be off by 1km or 3,300ft) it has to be fitted with a single large warhead to compensate. This means that China can only hit a total of 20 targets with its entire stock pile of DF-5 missiles. China is also starting to field more advanced solid fuel ICBMs in limited numbers. The DF-31 and its upgraded variant the DF-31A are a significant improvement over the DF-5. It is unknown if the DF-31 will feature a single large warhead or multiple smaller reentry vehicles with greater accuracy. U.S Air Force Intelligence has determined that fewer than 15 DF-31s exist of each variant. The DF-31 is a silo based version of the JL-2 SLBM developed for the Type 94 SLBM submarines. The Type 94 submarine is China's latest SLBM submarine. A total of 5 are planed to be built and each Type 94 can fire 12 JL-2 missiles.

Total Nuclear Arsenal

PRC SRBM force: 990-1,070 missiles
PRC IRBM force: ~300 missiles
ICBM and SLBM force: ~100 missiles

Nuclear Arsenal capable of targeting continental United States
Total Peoples Republic of China ICBM and SLBM nuclear arsenal yield: ~160 megatons
~100 warheads

PRC DF-5A force 20 warheads = 80 megatons
PRC Type 94 submarine fleet 60 JL-2 missiles ~60 warheads = 60 megatons
PRC DF-31 >15 missile force >15 warheads = >15 megatons
PRC DF-31A >15 missile force >15 warheads = >15 megatons

Compared with United States of America ICBM and SLBM force

U.S Ohio-class submarine fleet 336 Trident II SLMB equipped w/ 1,344 warheads total (capacity for 2,688 warheads but SORT Treaty only allows 4 warheads per Trident II SLBM missile although 8 can be fitted): 944 W86 each 100kt and 400 W88 each 475kt MRV warheads = 284.4 megatons (capacity for 568.8 megatons w/out SORT treaty)

U.S Minute Man III ICBM force 450 W87 warheads, SORT treaty only allows one warhead per ICBM (Minute Man III can hold up to 3 warheads) = 213.75 megatons (capacity for 641.25 megatons w/out SORT Treaty)

Total United States ICBM and SLBM nuclear arsenal yield : 498.15 megatons, 1,794 warheads. (1.21 gigatons w/out SORT)

China is expanding its territorial influence but in terms of power projection and targeting the continental United States specifically, The Peoples Republic of China is limited. It can only strike 100 targets in the continental U.S while America can hit 1,794 targets in China.

1.) ANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS Military Power of the People’s Republic of China 2008

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Is the Dragon's Roar worse than its Bite? A millitary evalutation of The People's Republic of China

This upcoming series of articles will assess China's current and future military strength in the fields of: Air Power, Naval Warfare, Land Warfare, Nuclear Systems, and Cyber Warfare. I am currently compiling information and the articles will appear shortly.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Are 4.5 Generation Fighers feasible?

Terminology used

4th generation fighters - fighters produced around 1970-1990s. Extensive use of BVR (beyond visual range) missiles, high powered radars, maneuverability, and are designed to achieve air superiority. Examples of 4th gen. fighters: F-15C, F-16, Su-27, Mig 29, Mirage 2000

5th generation fighters - 2005 to present. In order to qualify as a 5th generation fighter the aircraft MUST be stealth and usually features high powered radar like AESA radar, supermanuverability i.e. thrust vectoring, supercruise, and helmet mounted displays. Examples of 5th gen. fighters: F-22A Raptor, F-35 lightning II, Sukhoi PAK FA T-50

4.5 generation fighters - fighters produced 1990s to present. Aircraft that blend 4th and 5th generation technology such as AESA radar, thrust vectoring, helmet mounted displays, and feature a REDUCED radar cross section. This makes them significantly harder to detect with older 3rd and 4th generation fighters but they are still detectable with modern radars used in other 4.5 generation and 5th generation fighters. Examples of 4.5 gen. fighters: Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, F/A-18E Super Hornet, Su-35, JAS 39 Gripen, J-10

Are 4.5 Generation Fighters feasible?

"In this modern era of stealth combat, there are two kinds of fighters. Stealth fighters and targets." - Eric R. Branyan VP F-35 mission systems

Many nations around the world are in pursuit of 5th generation fighters. However, due to the enormous funds needed to produce 5th generation fighters and the use of advanced stealth technology many nations cannot develop 5th generation fighters. Thus, many countries have taken a "more balanced" approach by fielding 4.5 generation fighters which are designed to blend the best aspects of 4th and 5th generation fighters at a reasonable cost. The fundamental problem of 4.5 generation fighters are they will become obsolete within 5 to 10 years.

Many countries still purchase 4.5 generation fighters without any long term goal of acquiring 5th generation fighters. This will become problematic for many nations including Germany, France, Austria, and Spain. Within 5 to 10 years both the F-35 and T-50 will be in mass production and available to nations around the world which will make 4.5 generation fighters obsolete. At ranges of over 100 miles the 5th generation fighters will be able to gain missile lock on 4.5 generation fighters and destroy them without the 4.5 gen. fighters even knowing an enemy presence was in the area.

Many countries who are capable of gaining 5th generation fighters such as Germany continue to ignore the realization that 4.5 generation fighters will become obsolete. Germany could easily purchase F-35s but chooses to field the 4.5 generation Eurofighter Typhoon. The Eurofighter has an rcs (radar cross section) around 1m^2 compared to a normal fighter such as the F-15C which has an rcs of 5m^2. This may seem good comparatively but in reality against 5th generation fighters this is still detectable and large enough for advanced air to air missiles like the AIM-120D and R-77 Vympel to gain lock. The F-22A features an rcs of .0001-.0002m^2 (F-35 rcs is .0015m^2). No missile in the world could even come close to gaining lock on such as small target. This essentially means that 5th generation fighters will be able to engage 4.5 and 4th gen. fighters with impunity.

Many critics say that the high cost of 5th generation fighters make them unfeasible. Yet many 4.5 generation fighters cost almost as much or even more than the American F-35. For example, the Eurofighter costs 91.2 million dollars (63 million Euros exchange rate fluctuates keep that in mind) vs. the F-35 which will cost 83 million. The F-35 is a economical and exceptionally lethal strike aircraft. Current simulations show that the F-35 is at least 4 times more effective than existing 4th and 4.5 generation fighters in air to air combat. It doesn't make any sense to purchase 4.5 generation fighters if you can get a hold of 5th generation fighters which are significantly more effective and are in some cases cheaper. Unless of course you are some country like South Africa and have no neighbors that would have 5th generation technology any time soon.

Related Reading:
The Future of 4th Generation Aircraft in the 21st Century

1. Dogfights of the Future . 2008. History Channel

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Worth 150 million Dollars?

Recently the media has tried to convey the large sums of money "wasted" on the F-22A Raptor. Political cartoonists have shown the government throwing piles of money on the Raptor. Why? Well it turns out that the government has reason to do so.

The F-22A is the finest air superiority platform ever built. It has the smallest radar cross section of any fighter aircraft in the world (.0001-.0002m^2). It has supermaneuverability, internal weapon bays, AESA radar, F-119 engines capable of supercrusise at mach 1.8 and full after burner at mach 2.25, it is thermally shielded against heat seeking missiles, and will soon feature an H.M.D by 2011. In combat simulations Raptor pilots fight 5 or more F-15C's, the current air to air fighter of the USAF, on a regular basis. During the Red Flag training exercise the Raptors preformed brilliantly. There is no doubt that the raptor is the best air superiority fighter ever built. However, how practical is it to have F-22s?

Fighter aircraft have become more and more expensive throughout the decades. Back in Vietnam the F-4 Phantoms costed 2.4 million dollars. The F-15 which succeeded the Phantom costed 29 million dollars. And the raptor 1 million dollars. The main concern is even the U.S cannot afford to pay for 700 F-22 raptors (originally planed). Currently, the plan is to build a total of 187 F-22As. The USAF protested Congresses decision to eliminate the Raptor program. The USAF argues that if it was able to maintain 300 raptors it could provide air supremacy over the continental United States. RAND, a prominent think tank, issued a report to Congress about restarting F-22A production. Should Congress reverse its decision, RAND calculated the cost of restarting Raptor production and building 75 Raptors would make the fly away cost of each Raptor 225 million. (150 million before production stops) Honestly If Congress had the guts to keep the Raptor program going costs would have continued to drop as mass production ensued.

However the most important contribution of the F-22 was the technology used in the F-35 its cheaper more cost effective cousin, was refined on the F-22. The F-22 allowed for the progression of new technology. The F-35 features a more durable cheaper radar absorbing coating and the same platform alignment stealth features of the F-22. So in the end Raptor was an important project as it allowed for the more practical cheaper F-35 to be produced. However, by no means is the JSF equal to the Raptor as a dogfighter. History will tell if the F-35 can stand up against future 5th generation threats. Betting that the JSF will be able to establish air superiority for the next 30 years is somewhat of a risk. The F-22A is a much safer choice. The Raptor uses the very best American technology and its design features no compromises. The F-22A was built from the ground up to be the very best air superiority fighter possible.

In conclusion, I believe Congress should have diverted additional funds for Raptor production even if it means taking the funding from the JSF. Congress should have given the USAF their 300 Raptors. These Raptors would provide a safe guard against future 5th generation threats from Russia and China. Additionally, the F-22A would be given the role of penetrating enemy airspace and taking out radar stations so the less stealthy F-35 could go on through with reduced risk. The American F-35 is stealthy enough to penetrate CURRENT radar systems. In terms of long term viability, the F-22 is once again the safer choice; it has an rcs 10 to 15 times smaller than the JSF. But in the end, 187 Raptors is a formidable force. I do think the JSF will be able to handle most threats the United States will face for the next 3 decades. I just think its better to have some kind of insurance.