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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Updates for the New Year

2013 has been a fantastic year for the American Innovation Blog, our viewership in the United States, Asia, and Western Europe has been particularly strong this year.  I will continue to publish articles in 2014 and I'm looking for new ideas. If you would like me to write on a topic, feel free to ask. I am in the process of writing the following articles:

Miscalculation: The Need For a New US Fighter Export Strategy in the Global Fighter Market

China's Anti-Access Strategy: Submarines - Part II

The Uncertain Future of America's Raptors

The State of the NATO Alliance

If you would like to offer improvements or suggestions going into the new year, please let me know. I"m always looking for ways to improve my own writing. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

China's Anti Access Strategy: Submarine Force - Part I

Image 1: First and second island chains. Image Credit: DOD

Author's Note: As promised here is the greatly belated article I promised to you (from the poll), merry Christmas.

As a result of its continuing economic development, China's military is in the process of a major military modernization effort across all its armed services. The short term goal of this modernization program, up until 2020, to acquire the capability to deny access to the Western-Pacific up to the second island chain: Guam, Ogasawara island chain, and Indonesia. It is widely recognized that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) can already effectively conduct operations within the first island chain: Taiwan, Okinawa Prefecture, and the Philippines (O'Rourke, 2013). The People's Army Liberation Navy (PLAN) is arguably the center piece of China's island chain strategy and has consequently been a major beneficiary of increased PLA spending. Between 1995 and 2012, the PRC domestically produced 39 submarines and purchased 12 Kilo class diesel electric submarines from the Russian Federation. In total, the PLAN operates 53 diesel electric attack submarines, six nuclear powered attack submarines, and three nuclear powered ballistic missile submarines (Office of Naval Intelligence, 2009). ONI estimates within 10 to 15 years the PLAN submarine fleet will reach 75 boats. This trend is a concern for the United States as its own fleet of attack submarines is scheduled to drop to as low as 40 boats in the early 2030s and the US Navy maintains the position it needs at least 48 attack submarines to meet its current objectives (Rep. Forbes & Rep. Courtney, 2013). Chinese analysts have taken a keen interest in the "decline" of the USN:

"Chinese discussions of the American submarine force focus heavily on the continuing decline in its size. As one article from a People’s Republic of China (PRC) naval interest publication states, 'The decline of U.S. submarine strength is inevitable'...Rear Admiral Yang Yi, writing in 2006 on the future size of the American submarine force, quoted one American analysis as follows: 'China already exceeds [U.S. submarine production] five times over. . . . 18 [USN] submarines against 75 or more Chinese navy submarines is obviously not encouraging [from the U.S. perspective].'” - Gabriel Collins, Andrew Erickson, Lyle Goldstein, & William Murray, 2008.

This article will examine the objectives of the PLAN submarine force, its current composition and capabilities, and probable future trends within the PLAN with regards to its submarine force.

Strategic Objectives

Image 2: The main Chinese sea lines of communication (SLOC). Image credit: ONI, 2009.  

"Observers believe that China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is increasingly oriented toward pursuing additional goals, such as asserting or defending China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and East China Sea; enforcing China’s view—a minority view among world nations—that it has the right to regulate foreign military activities in its 200- mile maritime exclusive economic zone (EEZ); protecting China’s sea lines of communications; protecting and evacuating Chinese nationals in foreign countries; displacing U.S. influence in the Pacific; and asserting China’s status as a major world power." - Ronald O'Rourke, 2013

While, the primary mission of the PLAN is to deny the US power projection within the first and second island chains, the PLAN has been tasked with other objectives in recent years such as protecting Chinese economic interests e.g. sea lines of communication (SLOC) and enforcing territorial disputes. SLOCs in particular represent a critical strategic vulnerability for China. For example,  82% of all China's seaborne oil imports cross through a single SLOC, the strait of Malacca (Department of Defense, 2012).

"It is along these strategic routes that the overwhelming majority of China's foreign trade-over 90 percent by volume and over 80 percent by value-is transported."  - Office of Naval Intelligence, 2009

In recent years China has become more assertive in its territorial disputes with its neighbors particularly with the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan.

Image 3: Disputed territories in the Western Pacific. Image Credit: DOD

Due to their limited range, PLAN diesel electric submarines would be used to patrol major sea lanes and SLOCS within the first island chain in wartime. China's few nuclear attack submarines would most likely be used as intelligence surveillance reconnaissance platforms for areas beyond the first island chain given their superior range and endurance (Office of Naval Intelligence, 2009). The type 093 and the yet to be fielded type 095 attack submarines grant China a credible power projection capability beyond the first island chain.

Composition - Diesel Electric 

The PLAN submarine force is composed of mostly diesel electric attack submarines with varying degrees of technological sophistication e.g. the Ming class boats were originally designed in the 1950s. Despite the limited endurance (how long the submarine can sustain operations) and limited range of diesel electric submarines, they are considerably cheaper and technologically less demanding than nuclear powered submarines. The domestically produced Yuan and Russian Kilo class submarines are likely the PLAN's most capable diesel electric attack submarines. The Kilo class submarine has been widely exported and is operated by the Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian, Polish, Iranian, and Algerian navies. The PLAN operates four 877 models and eight upgraded 636 type Kilos. The 636 type Kilo is significantly stealthier and has a greater maximum range than the 877 type Kilo (Global Security, 2013). The 636 type Kilo is also capable of launching the SS-N-27 anti-ship cruise missile (Department of Defense, 2012). However, the effectiveness of the SS-N-27 is questionable.

Image 4: Kilo class submarine

The Russian imported Kilo class "inspired" many aspects of the subsequent Yuan (Type 041) class design. The Yuan will form the backbone of the PLAN diesel electric submarine force and is expected to be built in large numbers.

"The Yuan class has a tail with diving planes similar to those of the Type 039G, and a Kilo-style teardrop shaped hull with a raised hump on top. The Yuan has the raised decking/casing of the Kilo, the high freeboard and reserve bouyancy, a similarly-shaped bow (and torpedo tube disposition), but with the sail, propeller layout and stern section of the Song. It has also been suggested that the new submarine may be comparable to the improved variant of the Russian Kilo class (Project 636) in terms of size and general performance." - Global Security, 2013

Image 5: Yuan class submarine (Type 041)

Despite the US-European arms embargo put in place after the 1989 Tiananmen square protests, both the Yuan and Song class submarines feature 396 SE84 series diesel electric engines provided by MTU Friedrichshafen GmbH of Friedrichshafen (Lague, 2013). In addition to a reliable German engine, the Yuan is rumored to have air-independent-propulsion (AIP) capability as well (Global Security, 2013). As discussed in the "Implications of the Potential Russia-China Arms Deal" article, One of the inherent disadvantages to diesel electric submarines is the engine requires air for the engine to function meaning the submarine has to surface intermittently for air. While at the surface, the submarine is vulnerable to detection. The solution in older diesel submarines was to incorporate large lead batteries that could be charged by the engine; the use of these batteries would permit the submarine to function for a few hours without having to surface for air. Snorkels could also be used to feed the engine air while remaining under water but the submarine still had to remain fairly close to the surface. The next generation of diesel electric submarines incorporate greatly enhanced AIP capability which enables them to remain underwater for much longer periods of time (Whitman, 2001). AIP is most often achieved in modern diesel electric submarines with the addition of fuel cells (e.g. hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells). Depending upon the speed at which the submarine is traveling while AIP is activated, the AIP equipped submarine could remain submerged for more than a week as opposed to hours. As an added benefit, the use of fuel cells greatly reduces the noise generated by boat as the engine is not used for propulsion while AIP is activated.

Composition - Nuclear 

Image 6: Chinese type 094 ballistic missile submarines operating from the massive Yulin Naval Base located at Hainan island 

The PLAN currently operates four nuclear powered submarine designs, two attack submarine designs and two ballistic missile submarine designs. Of the two ballistic missile submarines, the type 094 Jin-class is significantly more capable than its predecessor, the Xia-class. The Xia is generally regarded as being "not a genuine deterrent capability" due to its large acoustic signature, primitive missiles, and poor performance (Erickson & Goldstein, 2006). Similarly, the type 091 Han-class attack submarine is largely obsolete compared to the type 093 Shang-class.   

Image 7 & 8: Relative acoustic signatures of Russian and Chinese diesel electric and nuclear submarines. The green area indicates submarines that would be relatively easy for the Navy to detect vs. red which would be difficult to detect. (Image Credit: Office of Naval Intelligence, 2009).

Generally speaking, Chinese nuclear submarines are significantly louder and less capable than their American and Russian counterparts.

"the 093’s noise level has been reduced to that of the Russian Akula-class submarine at 110 decibels. He states that the 094’s acoustic signature has been reduced to 120 decibels. According to this report, this is definitely not equal to that of the Ohio class, but is on a par with the Los Angeles. There is no additional information given to evaluate concerning the origins or comparability of these 'data.'" - Andrew S. Erickson & Lyle J. Goldstein, 2006.

As a reminder, a decibel is: "a unit used to measure the intensity of a sound or the power level of an electrical signal by comparing it with a given level on a logarithmic scale" - American English in Oxford dictionary, 2013.

Decibels do not scale linearly. A 3db change is signifies a doubling power and a change of 10 db signifies the power increasing by a factor of ten.  Therefore, the 636 Kilo class with an acoustic signature of 105 decibels is 10 times as loud as the 95 decibel acoustic signature of the Virginia class submarine.

To provide a point of reference, the following acoustic signatures are from "Chinese Evaluations of the U.S. Navy Submarine Force" and "CHINA’S FUTURE NUCLEAR SUBMARINE FORCE"

Ocean background noise - 90 decibels
Seawolf-class - 95 decibels
Virginia-class - 95 decibels
636 Kilo class - 105 decibels
Akula-class - 110 decibels
Type 093 - 110 decibels
Type 094 - 120 decibels

The Shang has an acoustic signature similar to the original Russian Akula class boats or roughly equivalent to the original Los-Angles class submarine, not the 688I (improved Los-Angles class). Judging from acoustic signatures, the most modern Chinese nuclear submarines are comparabile to 1970s and 1980s US and Soviet designs shown on the chart below.

Image 9: US and Soviet/ Russian submarine acoustic signatures. Image Credit: Federation of American Scientists

The PLAN is expected to acquire a total of six Shang-class nuclear submarines to replace the ageing Han-class. The four type 093's under construction can be expected to include enhancements over the original model (O'Rourke, 2013). For type 095, see part II under future trends. 

Future trends of the PLAN submarine force and the recommended US and allied response can be expected in Part II. 


  1. Fast Attack Submarines, Chief of Naval Operations Submarine Warfare Division, 2013.
  2. Run Silent, Run Deep, Federation of American Scientists, 1998. 
  4. ASW Sensors, Global Security, 2013.
  5. SOSUS, Edward C. Whitman, 2013
  7. Battle of the Submarines: Akula versus Virginia, Naval Technology, 2012.       
  8. Estimates of Submarine Detection Ranges, Eugene Miasnikov, 1998.
  9. How Capable is the 094, Jeffry Lewis, 2007.   
  10. Deputy SecDef: 4th submarine to be deployed to Guam, Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno, 2013.
  11. China Naval Modernization: Implications for   U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and   Issues for Congress, Ronald O'Rourke, 2013.                            
  12. The Chinese military machine’s secret to success: European engineering, David Lague, 2013.
  13. Yuan Type 039A / Type 041, Global Security, 2013.
  14. Project 877 Paltus Project 636 Varshavyanka Kilo class Diesel-Electric Torpedo Submarine, Global Security, 2013.                                     
  15. Kilo Class, Global Security, 2013.         
  16. Submarines: China Buys Some New Ideas, Strategy Page, 2013.
  17. Type 39 / Song Class Attack Submarine, Naval Technology, 2013.                     
  18. SSK Kilo Class (Type 877EKM), Naval Technology, 2013.                               
  19. Chinese Evaluations of the U.S. Navy Submarine Force, Gabriel Collins, Andrew Erickson, Lyle Goldstein, & William Murray, 2008.
  20. CHINA’S FUTURE NUCLEAR SUBMARINE FORCE - Insights from Chinese Writings, Andrew S. Erickson & Lyle J. Goldstein, 2006.
  21. ANNUAL REPORT TO CONGRESS Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China , Department of Defense, 2011. 
  22. AIR-INDEPENDENT PROPULSION, Edward C. Whitman, 2001. 
  23. People's Liberation Army Navy, Office of Naval Intelligence, 2009. 
  24. Save Our Subs: Prioritizing The Attack Submarine, Rep. Forbes & Rep. Courtney, 2013.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Links of the Week

U.S. Asia-Pacific Strategic Considerations Related to PLA Naval Forces Modernization  House Armed Services Committee  Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces

Four of arguably the most knowledgeable US experts on China including Dr. Andrew Erickson testify before Congress on China's Naval modernization. Some of Erickson's testimony:  

"Washington must be careful not to compete with Beijing in excessively expensive and ultimately ineffective arms competitions. It should not counter China’s A2/AD weapons by attempting to acquire a more sophisticated, expensive counter in each and every instance...Instead, as China works to deny U.S. forces an ability to operate close to the mainland, the U.S. aim at a minimum should be to deny China the ability to resolve territorial and maritime disputes by the use of force. To resolve disputes conclusively, China would have seize and hold territory and also resupply its forces. This is inherently difficult on small islands, where geography imposes vulnerability. To demonstrate that China cannot achieve this, and thereby deter it from ever trying, the U.S. and its allies should maximize disruption capabilities—their own form of A2/AD....U.S. submarines can oppose any Chinese naval forces engaged in invasion, resupply, and protection. Long-range air or missile delivery can blow any lodgment off disputed islands or rocks. To be sure, both U.S. SSNs and LRASMs and Chinese A2/AD forces could achieve denial effects. Long-range surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and air-to-air missiles from both sides might hold operations in the air over the features in question at risk, prevent continuous operations, or even fully create a 'No Man’s Land'. U.S. forces, other than SSNs, might not be able to operate without assuming great risk, and hence be denied unfettered access. But Chinese forces would also not have access, and would also be denied their objective of seizing and holding disputed territory. It might not be necessary to defeat China militarily; preventing it from achieving its objectives would suffice. Demonstrating this to China would be an effective deterrent: Beijing could not afford to risk the likelihood of not achieving its objective." - Dr. Andrew Erickson, 2013 

- video name U.S. Asia-Pacific Strategic Considerations Related to P.L.A. Naval Forces Modernization (Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces) 12/11/13

While conducting surveillance of the Liaoning in international waters, the guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens was ordered to stop by Chinese naval vessels. As the Cowpens was in international waters, US sailors ignored PLAN demands. A PLAN vessel abruptly moved in front of the Cowpens resulting in a near collision.

A detailed examination of why Russia is willing to sell some of its most advanced weaponry to China despite the risk of reverse engineering. 

A detailed look at how Jang Song Thaek, the former second highest ranking North Korean official, was likely ousted from power and subsequently executed. 

New Russian Air-to-Air Missiles Will Field Almost Perfect Accuracy - By Ankit Panda

“An active phased array antenna consists of a large number of cone-shaped cells installed under a transparent-to-radio-waves cap on the nose of the missile. Each cell receives only a part of the signal, but once digitally processed, the information from all cells is summarized into a ‘full picture,’ enabling the K-77M missile to immediately respond to sharp turns of the target, making interception practically inevitable.”

With no disrespect to my Russian colleges, this seems like a pipe dream and this is certainly not an actual revolutionary capability.  In order to successfully complete an air-to-air intercept, the missile must first successfully find and the desired target. Secondly, the missile kinetically intercept it. Nearly all methods of defeating a air-to-air missile involve disrupting the two aforementioned processes e.g. maneuvering and chaff or a towed decoy system like the AN/ALE-55. Missiles have become increasingly adept at the kinetic intercept aspect with the addition of thrust vectoring nozzles (e.g. jet vane control AIM-9X) but the guidance area is where missiles can still be routinely defeated. My understanding of the K-77M is it is more adept at the kinetic intercept aspect but just as vulnerable to failure if the Missile is jammed with an AESA or the aircraft uses a towed decoy, etc.

On a not so serious note: While China may have just landed a rover on the moon, the US has them beat by about half a century. Some sweet footage from Apollo 16...MURICA. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Quick Thoughts: China's AIDZ

Image Credit: Defense News

Author's Note: Sorry for the lack of content as of late. As I am a man of my word, I've been writing the long awaited "China's Anti Access Strategy: Submarine Force" article I promised several months ago. Hopefully it will be published in the near future.

In a baffling display of ill-conceived foreign policy, China's new air defense identification zone (AIDZ) has managed to draw the ire of nearly every country within the intimidate vicinity of China, most notably Japan and South Korea. As one geopolitical analyst reporting to Breaking Defense phrased it, "This ancient civilization, which has thousands of years of diplomatic experience and gave us Sun Tzu and all his subtlety, has given us some ham-handed diplomacy for the last few years".

Some have called upon the USAF and USN to make daily runs into the AIDZ to demonstrate US commitment to the region (in addition to the recent trip undertaken by a pair of US B-52 aircraft). Japanese and South Korean military aircraft have also violated the zone. As Defense News reported, the response by Chinese media outlets to these violations was largely hawkish, especially toward Japan.  However, the Chinese media has expressed a more measured tone in its rhetoric toward the United States when compared to Japan. The following is from the Global Times newspaper which is widely recognized to be an outlet for the Chinese Communist Party: "We should carry out timely countermeasures without hesitation against Japan when it challenges China's newly declared ADIZ. If Tokyo flies its aircraft over the zone, we will be bound to send our plane to its ADIZ...We are willing to engage in a protracted confrontation with Japan...If the US does not go too far, we will not target it in safeguarding our air defense zone"

China emphatically maintains it has the right to create an AIDZ and US and Japanese criticism is unjust as both countries maintain AIDZ of their own. In principle, China certainly has the right to create an AIDZ  judging from a historical precedent set by the United States and other countries (the US has had AIDZs since World War II). However, China's existing AIDZ as outlined by its Ministry of Defense does not clearly qualify as to what is internationally recognized as an AIDZ in many respects.

China's establishment of an AIDZ represents an opportunity for the United States to expand upon its influence in the region if certain measures are taken. China is already widely perceived to be a regional bully, recent events will almost certainly solidify existing perceptions within South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines. The creation of China's AIDZ in conjunction with its disaster relief response to the Philippines, or its lack of a substantial initial response, has certainly reduced Chinese soft power in the region. Meanwhile, US soft power in the region has been on the rise and the deployment of B-52 aircraft in addition to the ongoing massive naval exercises between the US 7th Fleet and the Japanese Navy reaffirm Washington's strong commitment to the region.

US 7th Fleet lead by the USS George Washington at the AnnualEx 2013 exercise.

Vice President Joe Biden is met with President Xi Jinping on Wednesday over a private dinner and two hour long bilateral meeting. According to the former US ambassador to China, Jon Huntsman, the amount of time President Xi afforded  Biden was irregular in its generosity. While the two reportedly have a cordial relationship, Biden clearly expressed the United States does not recognize China's AIDZ.  Clearly the US must express its solidarity with Japan and South Korea but, in terms of rhetoric, it would not be prudent to to push china too far on its AIDZ. It is highly improbable that China will recant its previously expressed statements as it would severely damage to the prestige of the current Chinese leadership. However, China could choose to effectively not enforce the zone. This would likely be the most plausible solution to reduce tensions without causing total embarrassment for the Chinese leadership and the US could continue its operations in the area, provided the US does not communicate publicly about how often it violates the zone e.g. routine surveillance flights (as to not embarrass the Chinese leadership on a continual basis). Some US analysts already doubt China could enforce its zone even if it tried:

“Let China run itself crazy trying to enforce this...I just can’t see how China will sustain the enforcement. Too much traffic goes through there. If no country recognizes it, [and] don’t respond to China’s IFF [identification friend or foe] interrogation or VID [visual identification], then this new ADIZ is meaningless.”

On a related note, A White House source reporting to Reuters expressed that negotiating a deal with Iran is "the top item on his foreign agenda for the rest of his term."  While President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry's efforts in negotiating an preliminary agreement with Iran is certainly commendable, China's creation of its AIDZ serves as a blunt reminder that the United States must maintain its focus on the Asia-Pacific. The pivot strategy is arguably the wisest foreign policy action made by the Obama Administration and recent events have made it abundantly clear that more US resources must be allocated to the Asia-Pacific region. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Benefits of Stealth and Situational Awareness

Image 1: F-22 canopy

Robin Olds, an American triple ace who served in both World War II and Vietnam said, "The guy you don't see will kill you". One of the many conclusions made by the Red Baron project, an evaluation of the of the US air-to-air performance failures in Vietnam, reported the majority of American airmen who were shot down did not see their adversary until it was too late (Laslie, 2013). The principle that the enemy fighter pilot you do not see is often the most dangerous predates stealth technology, but stealth enables pilots of both the F-22 and F-35 to take advantage of this principle on a consistent basis.

While the F-22 is widely regarded as the most formidable fighter aircraft in service worldwide and Raptor pilots can clearly substantiate their claims with a 30:1 kill ratio in combat exercises, claims made by Lockheed Martin regarding the F-35's air-to-air capabilities often deemed to be illegitimate by critics (Trimble, 2012). A common technique among analysts in evaluating the effectiveness of a new proposed policy or system is to look to past historical examples that are in some way relevant or similar to the currently evaluated policy or system. In the case of the F-35, the F-22 is the most similar analogue in service. However, a number significant  issues arise when comparing the F-22 and F-35. Both aircraft were designed with very different objectives in mind, the F-22 was created first and foremost as an air-superiority fighter while the F-35 is a multi-mission capable strike fighter (Gertler, 2013). Many of the design features that distinguish the F-22 and F-35 from one another are attributable to either their different roles or the technology gap between the periods in which the aircraft were developed. Caveats aside, the comparison should still provide some insight as to the potential effectiveness of the F-35 as long as instances where the Raptor's superior maneuverability served as the deciding factor in engagements are acknowledged and accounted for. Two of the most important characteristics to the F-35's future success in the air-to-air role are shared with the Raptor, heightened situational awareness and stealth. Many accounts by pilots who have flown either against Raptors or in Raptors indicates the relevance of stealth and situational awareness in modern air-to-air combat (maneuverability will be subsequently be addressed).

In testimony before the Australian Parliament, RAAF Air Marshal Geoff Brown responded to maneuverability concerns raised by MP Dennis Jensen. Brown explained why the combination of stealth and heightened situational awareness were more relevant to future air to air engagements based upon his experience at Red Air against F-22's:

"In any practice engagement I have had in the last 20 years where I have turned with another aeroplane in a bigger picture environment – rather than the static one by ones, two by twos or four by fours – every time I have tried to do that I have ended up being shot by somebody else who actually is not in the fight. As soon as you enter a turning fight, your situational awareness actually shrinks down because the only thing you can be operating with is the aeroplane you are turning with. The person who has the advantage is the person who can stand off, watch the engagement and just pick you off at the time…the ability to actually have that data fusion that the aeroplane has makes an incredible difference to how you perform in combat. I saw it first hand on a Red Flag mission in an F-15D against a series of fifth-generation F-22s. We were actually in the red air. In five engagements we never knew who had hit us and we never even saw the other aeroplane…

After that particular mission I went back and had a look at the tapes on the F-22, and the difference in the situational awareness in our two cockpits was just so fundamentally different. That is the key to fifth-generation. That is where I have trouble with the APA analysis….To me that is key: it is not only stealth; it is the combination of the EOS and the radar to be able to build a comprehensive picture. In that engagement I talked about at Nellis, in Red Flag, the ability to be in a cockpit with a God’s-eye view of what is going on in the world was such an advantage over a fourth-generation fighter – and arguably one of the best fourth-generation fighters in existence, the F-15. But even with a DRFM jamming pipe, we still had no chance in those particular engagements. And at no time did any of the performance characteristics that you are talking about have any relevance to those five engagements.”

Image 2: F-22 and F-15 in vertical climb (Image Credit: USAF).

An earlier account from an Australian pilot flying with the 65th Aggressor Squadron:

"'I can’t see the [expletive deleted] thing,' said RAAF Squadron Leader Stephen Chappell, exchange F-15 pilot in the 65th Aggressor Squadron. 'It won’t let me put a weapons system on it, even when I can see it visually through the canopy. [Flying against the F-22] annoys the hell out of me.'” - Defense Industry Daily, 2007

For those who question the F-22's applicability outside of training exercises, a recent incident near Iran between an F-22 and an Iranian F-4 highlights many of the same points raised by Air Marshall Brown:

"Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh on Tuesday sketched out a dramatic tale of a lone F-22 Raptor chasing off Iranian fighter jets over the Arabian Gulf...In March, an Iranian F-4 flew within 16 miles of an MQ-1 Predator flying off the coast of Iran until a previously undisclosed aircraft escorted the Predator to safety. It turns out that aircraft was an F-22, the Air Force's fifth generation fighter...'This is the guy that warned them off,' he said. He flew under their aircraft to check out their weapons load without them knowing that he was there, and then pulled up on their left wing and then called them and said ‘you really ought to go home.''"

Image 3: The United States deploys 6 F-22's to Al Dhafra airbase in the UAE on a rotational basis (five of which are pictured above, the plane on the far left in an F-15). Raptors from both the 49th Fighter Wing and the 3rd Fighter Wing have been deployed to Al Dhafra (Cenciotti, 2012). At mach 2, Raptors from Al Dhafra would reach Iranian airspace within six minutes.


Image 4: F-22A rear

It can be difficult to clearly differentiate accounts where maneuverability as opposed to stealth and situational awareness served as the deciding factor(s) in the engagement. The rules of engagement, which dictate the terms of the dogfight, are not always released to the public as well as stealth is maintained to some degree even at visual range where maneuverability becomes more important. In combat exercises against French Rafles in 2009,  the variable of stealth is attempted to be controlled for. Radar reflected panels were fitted to the Raptor to degrade its stealth performance in addition to mounting external fuel tanks.

"For these training missions, the F-22As flew only within visual range 1 vs 1 BFM (Basic Fighter Maneuvering) sorties, and did so carrying under-wing fuel tanks, and with radar reflectors fitted, preventing opponents from seeing how ‘stealthy’ the F-22 is in operational configuration, or from experiencing the F-22’s AN/APG-77 radar and highly advanced AN/ALR-94 passive receiver system."

If these claims are true, the results of the exercises with the French give the closest result of the effectiveness of supermanuverability and situational awareness without the stealth variable. However, its worth noting that some have disputed the authenticity of these claims. The only publicly available footage from the exercises that I have managed to come across, from the perspective of one French Rafale, does not show any fuel tanks being fitted on the Raptor although the radar reflectors might have still been attached (also this is only one of the reportedly six engagements conducted against the Raptor by Rafales). It is entirely plausible that the USAF would be cautious of showing the true capabilities of the Raptor to the French. I mean no disrespect to my French colleagues, but instances of French industrial espionage in the field of aerospace are well documented.

Engagement starts at 2:15

As the footage seen in the footage, the French pilot manages to gain positioning for a IR missile shot. Some aspects of the engagements are disputed. Of the six 1 vs 1 engagements, four to five were deemed inconclusive/ a draw as a result of a lack of fuel, or the altitude limits for the terms of engagements was exceeded. The disputed claim is either one or two of the engagements resulted in the Raptor pilot(s) achieving a gun kill on the Rafale. However, both but both Flight Global and Arabian Aerospace report no Raptors were shot down in the exercise and USAF pilots claim the Raptor was "undefeated" throughout the exercise. Thus, it can be determined that the simulated IR missile shot in the video above did not result in a kill given the overall results of the exercise.  Even though the Rafale did not achieve any kills against the Raptor, the fact that a French pilot managed to position himself for an IR missile shot shows the Raptor is not invulnerable in a close in maneuvering fight. The few instances in which F-15 and F-16 pilots have manged to down Raptors in close maneuvering fights substantiates testimony given by Air Marshall Brown. General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle explains how F-16 and F-15 pilots have managed to score a few kills against the Raptor in combat exercises:

"They [the F-22s] always start defensive as you might imagine because anything else is kind of a waste of gas. So the F-22 always start defensive. On rare occasions the F-22 guy — first of all, the [F-15] Eagle guy, you have to fly a perfect lag fight (flight?). You have to have AIM-9X and JHMCS [joint helmet mounted cueing system] to get an off-boresight IR [infrared] capability. And the F-22 guy has to put up his power a nanosecond too early and not use his countermeasures and you may get a fleeting, one nanosecond AIM-9X shot, and that’s about it.”

In summary, the results of training exercises indicate the Raptor is highly capable in close range maneuvering fights but it is clearly not invincible. The results of close in maneuvering fights indicates supermaneuverability alone is not responsible for the Raptor's success, stealth and heightened situational awareness have contributed immensely to the Raptor's overall combat effectiveness exercises. All instances of Raptors being shot down, with the possible exception of a case where an AIM-120 missile kill was achieved by a EA-18G, occurred at visual range in close in maneuvering fights. The F-35 shares stealth and heightened situational awareness with the Raptor and, given all the information that has been publicly released, there is no credible reason to conclude the F-35 is incapable of preforming similar "stand-off kills" utilizing stealth and situational awareness as described by Brown. If I may be frank for a moment, while the F-35 is certainly not as maneuverable as the F-22, it still preforms favorably relative to its peers in some maneuverability performance based metrics (e.g. good subsonic acceleration, decent thrust-to weight ratio, and commendable angle of attack performance). Oftentimes the descriptions of the F-35's maneuverability characteristics made by staunch critics are more applicable to an An-225 strategic airlift cargo aircraft than the F-35.

As an enviable consequence of engineering and funding, trade-offs are made between key aircraft characteristics in the design process. Air-to-air missions are only one aspect of the F-35's mission and as a result, it should not be assumed the F-35 would be as capable in this respect as the F-22. However, claims that suggest that the F-35 is completely incapable in the air-to-air role should be met with suspicion given the F-35's stealth and situational awareness. With regards to the F-35's maneuverability, every aircraft has strengths and weakness and it is the job of pilots to exploit those strengths while minimizing their aircraft's weaknesses.

"Know and use all the capabilities in your airplane. If you don't, sooner or later, some guy who does use them all will kick your ass." - Lieutenant Dave "Preacher" Pace, USN

Image 5: F-35 flown by the 422nd TES

The initial process of exploiting the F-35's strongest maneuverability characteristics in conjunction with its other strengths has likely already begun. F-35 aircraft have been delivered to the 422nd test and evaluation squadron. The 422nd preforms the critical function of developing new tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) for new weapons and systems, including the F-35 (Stewart, 2013). The 422nd TES will also seek to improve interoperability and mixed force tactics between F-35's, F-22's, F-15's and F-16's.

"...the 422nd TES is also responsible for the development and testing of new tactics for the USAF, Kensick said. The squadron develops new tactics to employ weapons systems in combat as part of its operational testing role. Additionally, the unit also works on developing new tactics to counter emerging threat weapons systems as intelligence becomes available. When developing new tactics, the 422nd TES works 'side by side with the Weapons School. We talk to representatives from the Weapons School and we get their input', Kensick said. However, ultimately, the 422nd TES is responsible for the development and testing of all new tactics for every CAF fighter Mission Design Series (MDS), Kensick emphasized." - Dave Majumdar, 2009

F-35 pilots will eventually be able to apply these tactics in a host of realistic combat exercises such as Red Flag against well trained aggressor pilots. Aggressor squadrons fly specially modified F-15, F-16, F-5, T-38, and F/A-18 aircraft to replicate the tactics and flight qualities of Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and North Korean aircraft (Hoffman, 2009). Aggressor pilots are often chosen for their prowess in the air and are thoroughly briefed on enemy tactics and doctrines by the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the NSA (Bender, 2013). The combination of stealth, situational awareness, tactics developed by the 422nd (along with other test and evaluation squadrons) and the real world experience given to pilots by the Red Flag exercises ensures that even at visual range, future F-35 pilots will be more than prepared for the fight.


  1. Air Force F-22 Fighter Program, Jeremiah Gertler, 2013.
  2. Welsh: F-22 Flew to Drone's Rescue off Iran Coast, Matthew Cox, 2013.
  3. Photographer captures six F-22 Raptor fighter jets trailing three tankers over the Mediterranean Sea, David Cenciotti, 2013.                                     
  4. Raptor Rules The Desert Roost, Arabian Aerospace, 2010.
  5. UAE missile demands and more Rafale v. Raptor rumors, Stephen Trimble, 2010.
  6. Rare video shows F-22 Raptor shot down by the French Rafale in mock air-to-air combat, David Cenciotti, 2013.                                                                       
  7. Top USAF general explains EXACTLY how to kill an F-22, Stephen Trimble, 2012.
  9. The USAF Weapons School in the age of sequestration, Dave Majumdar, 2013.
  10. Air Force reopens Raptor Weapons School, Dave Majumdar, 2012.
  11. The makings of a warrior: Training pilots to fly America's next generation fighters. Part 1, Dave Majumdar, 2009.                                                                     
  12. The makings of a warrior: The F-22 Weapons School. Part 3, Dave Majumdar, 2009.
  13. The 422nd Test and Evaluation Squadron: The cutting edge of airpower, Dave Majumdar, 2009.
  14. Nellis Plans for F-35’s Opportunities, Challenges, Donna Miles, 2009.
  15. Weapons School Rising, Adam J. Hebert, 2008.
  16. How does the F-16 perform against its adversaries in dogfight, David Centoti, 2012.
  18. Beyond Blue Four  The Past and Future Transformation of Red Flag, Maj Alexander Berger, 2005.
  19. The F-22 Raptor: Program & Events, Defense Industry Daily, 2013.
  20. Plymouth native emulates enemy in Air Force war games, Bryan Bender, 2013.
  21. Aggressor pilots: Paid to play the villain, Michael Hoffman, 2009.
  22. 422ND JOINT TACTICS SQUADRON, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, 2013.
  23. F-35 Enters Operational Testing at Edwards and Nellis Air Force Bases, Defense Update, 2013.
  24. First F-35A sporting 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron lettering and "OT" tail code, spotted at NAS Forth Worth JRB, David Centoti, 2012.
  25. Red Flag, Walter J. Boyne, 2000.
  26. The F-35′s Air-to-Air Capability Controversy, Defense Industry Daily, 2013.
  27. F-22s Parked Less Than Six-Minute Flight from Iran, Marcus Weisgerber, 2013.
  28. Fighter Combat Tactics and Manuvering, Shaw, 1985.
  29. F-35 Integrated Sensor Suite: Lethal Combination, Avionics Today, 2005.
  30. U.S. Deploys F-22 Fighter Jets to UAE: Officials, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 2012.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Interesting Articles of the Week

Author's Note: I aught to have more time to work on the blog since my midterms are almost over. In the meantime, I recommend you take a look at one or two of these if you have the time.

India Concerned About Fifth-Gen Fighter Work Share With Russia - By Jay Menon

"Indian government officials are expressing concern over the country’s work share in its Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) collaboration with Russia...India’s work share in FGFA research and development and other aspects of the multi-billion dollar project at the moment is only around 15%, even though New Delhi is bearing 50% of the cost. The total program is expected to cost India about 1.5 trillion rupees ($25 billion)." 

"The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, will deliver 'superhuman strength with greater ballistic protection' by providing a powered exoskeleton to haul heavier equipment, liquid armor capable of stopping bullets, built-in computers and night vision, as well as the ability to monitor vital signs and apply wound-sealing foam. Put together, the capabilities would make the already elite Special Operation Forces nearly invincible in the field, says the Army."

China’s Arms Industry Makes Global Inroads  - Edward Wong and Nicola Clark 

"In the past, Chinese companies have been known mainly as suppliers of small arms, but that is changing quickly. From drones to frigates to fighter jets, the companies are aggressively pushing foreign sales of high-tech hardware, mostly in the developing world. Russian companies are feeling the greatest pressure, but American and other Western companies are also increasingly running into the Chinese."

"When the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) puts to sea later this year, it will be different from any other ship in the Navy's fleet in many ways. The $3.5 billon ship is designed for stealth, survivability, and firepower, and it's packed with advanced technology. And at the heart of its operations is a virtual data center powered by off-the-shelf server hardware, various flavors of Linux, and over 6 million lines of software code."

"The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) last week notified Congress of another massive sale to Gulf countries by American companies. Saudi Arabia is buying air-launched weapons worth $6.8 billion for its new F-15SA Strike Eagles; the UAE is buying air-launched weapons worth $4 billion for its F-16s."

"Lockheed Martin and Boeing, the two largest defense companies in the world, are teaming up on the next-generation bomber...The team would combine Boeing’s bomber experience, including maintenance and upkeep, with Lockheed’s stealth experience. Even so, Northrop may still be in the lead position, given its experience with the stealthy B-2 Spirit and an early, aggressive campaign that included a three-story tall poster at this year’s Air Force Association conference in National Harbor, Md."

Can You See Me Now? - Code One, photo by Paul Kelly

"A US Air Force F-22 Raptor serves as a Red Force aircraft during a detect-to-engage training exercise over the guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG-88) on 24 September 2013. Preble is on patrol with the USS George Washington (CVN-73) Carrier Strike Group in the US 7th Fleet area of responsibility supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. The Raptor pilot is assigned to the 27th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and is currently deployed from Langley AFB, Virginia."

Unfortunately, Code One does not elaborate on any more details and I was unable to find much else on the training exercise in terms of specifics. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Divergent Thinking: How Best to Employ Fighter Aircraft - The American Approach Part I

Image 1: F-35 with F-22

Author's note: Because viewers have expressed a desire not to be overwhelming with content all at once, this article will be broken into two parts. 


Part II of the Divergent Thinking: How Best to Employ Fighter Aircraft series will examine the American model of fighter employment. As explained in part I, the fighter employment doctrine of any country is typically dictated by the following factors:
  1. National security objectives: regional vs. global power projection, countering anti-access (A2) threats, etc.
  2. Strengths and weakness of its defense industry - specialization, experience of aerospace firms, access to intellectual capital, etc. 
  3. Constraints to military budget and existing support infrastructure for assets and personnel 
The purpose of this series of articles is to account for the divergent reasoning behind the employment of aircraft within different countries, specifically the United States and Russia. In particular, this article's goal is to explain why the United States opted for the mass deployment of the fifth generation F-35 over 4th generation alternatives.  As established in part one, any comparison between the F-35 and its probable competitors must account for other factors aside from performance based specifications. While performance based specification have a critical role in any evaluation, without understanding how the aircraft was intended to be used in conjunction with understanding the training of American pilots receive, one cannot draw meaningful conclusions regarding the potential combat effectiveness of the F-35.  The mass deployment of the F-35 is a procurement strategy that is best tailored to the specific the national security objectives of the United States given the constraints of its defense industry, and budget. As with the Russian model, It is difficult to understand the American method of fighter procurement and employment without first understanding the broader strategic challenges the United States will face over the next two to three decades.

National Security Objectives

The threats posed by rogue nation states and non-state actors, such as terrorist groups, will likely persist over the next two three decades (Clapper, 2013). However, the growing economic and military development within the People's Republic of China is beginning to take priority over the aforementioned threats in terms of dictating the overarching national security strategy for the United States. Since the end of the Gulf War in 1991, China's military has sought to acquire a range of anti-access of capabilities to deny a foreign power, namely the United States, from intervening in a regional conflict. The following are all examples of anti-access weapons: short range ballistic missiles, long range cruise missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles, sea mines, diesel electric attack submarines, GPS jamming systems, and surface to air missile systems.

China's efforts to develop anti-access capabilities gained momentum after the third Taiwan Strait Crisis (1995-1996) and Operation Allied Force in Kosovo (1999). During the third Taiwan Strait Crisis, the United States sent two carrier strike groups into the Taiwanese strait in support of Taiwan. In Kosovo, the Chinese embassy was an unintended target of the US bombing campaign against Yugoslavia. In both of these events, the Chinese military concluded it lacked any viable options to respond to US military actions (Erickson, 2013). The current Chinese strategy of employing anti-access weaponry is largely the result of the Chinese military establishment's aim to produce a set of viable military options to the PRC leadership in the event of hostilities with the United States.

Image 2: The three main components of ASB's design. (Image Credit: Department of Defense, 2013)

As a result of China's growing anti-access capabilities, power projection into the Western Pacific is much more difficult for the US and its allies. In response to China's growing anti-access capabilities, the United States formed the Air-Sea Battle(ASB) operational concept. ASB is not a "war plan" in the event of hostilities with china, rather the ASB concept provides a framework that enables US forces to effectively operate even in highly contested anti-access environments, such as the Western Pacific. In effect, this enables the United States to maintain a credible military deterrent against nations employing extensive anti-access strategies and equipment. Mark Gunzinger and Chris Dougherty from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments provide a good summary of the US Air-Sea Battle concept:

"Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has enjoyed an unprecedented ability to project military power with few constraints to its freedom of action in all domains—air, sea, undersea, land, space, and cyberspace. Today, the diffusion of advanced military technologies to potential adversaries, particularly the proliferation of precision-guided munitions and nuclear weapons, combined with the adoption of novel concepts of operation, has enormous implications for America’s future ability to project power abroad.

Air-Sea Battle: A Point-of-Departure Operational Concept, a report released by CSBA in 2010, offered a diagnosis of the problem specific to the Western Pacific and proposed a candidate operational concept for projecting military forces to the region despite China’s possession of a robust A2/AD battle network. AirSea Battle recommended that a U.S. military operational concept designed to 'set the conditions at the operational level to sustain a stable, favorable conventional military balance throughout the Western Pacific' should account for the region’s specific geographic and geostrategic features, including the strengths and weaknesses of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the capabilities of America’s allies and partners." - Mark Gunzinger and Chris Dougherty, 2011

Image 3: US air bases in the Pacific (Image Credit: Washington Post)

The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) 2010 report, an authoritative DOD review of US strategy, recommended the deployment of 10-11 theatre strike wings to the pacific (720-792 aircraft) alongside 6 dedicated air superiority wings (432 aircraft). The F-35 will comprise a substantial portion of these deployed aircraft over the next decade. Both the USAF and USMC will give the Pacific stationed units priority in the deployment of the F-35. Gen. Herbert J. "Hawk" Carlisle, commander of Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), announced the F-35 will be stationed from four of the most important Pacific air bases: Misawa (J), Kadena (J), Kunsan (SK), and Osan (SK). Carlisle also indicated that the USAF sought to increase its presence in Australia with the addition of a rotational force of bombers, tankers, and fighter aircraft (Defense News, 2013). The presence of F-35 aircraft at these bases would significantly increase the US military's deterrent in the region. Numerous high value PLA military facilities are within the unrefuled combat radius of the F-35 from both Osan and Kunsan including targets within the Beijing and Shenyang military regions.

Unrefueled combat radius of F-35A = 593 nautical miles (nm) or 1,093 km
Kunsan to Beijing = 527.5 nm (976 km)
Osan to Beijing = 537 nm (994 km)

Budget & Strength's of Defense Industry

The national security concerns of the United States and the framework in which it employs its military, Air-Sea Battle, dictates how its financial resources and defense industry are best utilized to fulfill its needs. Despite the doom and gloom discussions regarding sequestration, American military spending currently accounts for nearly 40% of the global total at $682 billion dollars (Time, 2013). The entirety of funding provided to the USAF alone, $140 billion dollars in 2013, is larger than the official PLA budget for its entire military or more than twice as large as the current budget of Russia's military. As far as the constraints of military funding are concerned, the United States military is afforded an unparalleled level of flexibility in terms of procurement options. This level of procurement flexibility has tangibly altered how the US aerospace industry designs military aircraft. 

Rather than opting for a specialization in low-cost fighter aircraft with high production figures, the US defense industry has been able to invest more money into the individual aircraft while also producing the aircraft in large numbers as a consequence of the US military's considerable budget. While the current $103-$98 million dollar price for the F-35 is likely to significantly decrease as production rises, even the most optimistic projections do not indicate the unit production cost of the F-35 will be as inexpensive as current Russian 4.5 generation aircraft (Defense News, 2013). However, the large military budget of the United States enables it to procure the more expensive F-35 on a large scale despite the higher unit cost. As a consequence of this fact, the USAF plans to field a largely 5th generation fighter force over the next two decades unlike the Russian air force. The financial resources and intellectual capital required to design and produce stealth aircraft in significant quantities is a trait that is largely unique to the United States. In total, the US Military plans to procure 2,243 F-35 aircraft by 2037 for a cost $396 billion dollars (Selected Acquisition Report, 2012). 

Image 4: F-35 production line 

In many methods of evaluation, the US defense industry maintains a significant advantage over its Russian, Chinese, and European counterparts in the areas of stealth technology, avionics, sensors, and software. While this statement is likely to be initially perceived as a thoughtless expression of American nationalism, this assertion is both empirical and objective in nature. The current technological edge attributable to the higher level of funding available to research and development within the United States. Defense Department research in development (R&D) composes more than half of all publicly funded R&D spending in the United States or $70 billion dollars in 2013 (Sargent, 2013). Several historical examples exist that corroborate the impact of American R&D spending in regards to its technological advantage. The development of Actively Scanned Electronic Array (AESA) radars by the United States is a relevant case study: 

"The US DoD recognized the need for a better antenna technology more than two decades ago. A new technology, using the phased array concept but with a miniature transmitter and receiver in each antenna element, was seen to be the answer to the limitations of existing technologies. Known as active phased arrays or AESAs, these antennas became the holy grail in the radar community...The enabling technology for AESAs is the Gallium Arsenide Microwave Monolithic Integrated Circuit (GaAs MMIC) or microwave circuit on a single chip. GaAs MMICs would permit the low cost mass production of AESAs, with high reliability and repeatability.  Gallium Arsenide is however a finicky material to make chips from and it took almost two decades for the fabrication technology to move from expensive botique manufacture to industrial strength mass production...At this time the US are leading the pack by a large margin in AESA technology, with the EU and Israelis trailing." - Kopp, 2012

Comparison of Russian Zhuk ME to US AESAs: 

"The first observation any Western radar engineer will make is that the Zhuk ME with 652 TR channels has between 50% and 70% of the TR channels of a comparably sized US radar, which is typically in the 900 to 1200 single TR channel module count class. This is a byproduct of the packaging technology available to Russian industry, which is a generation behind the US and EU in this area. That is no accident insofar as the US invested vast sums into the development of high density packaging techniques suitable for the thermally challenging environment of the AESA antenna." - Kopp, 2012

Image 5: Advances made in US transmit receiver module designs in the late 1980s

As a result of substantial early R&D investment into AESA radars, the United States currently maintains a significant lead over its major competitors. The first mass produced fighter deployed AESA radar by the United States, the Northrup Grumman AN/APG-77, entered service in 2003. In comparison, the first European mounted AESA, the Thales RBE2, entered service with French Rafales in 2013. The Russian Zhuk-AE will be the first operational Russian AESA with the deployment of the Mig-35 in 2016 1 No reputable source has confirmed the deployment of a Chinese fighter mounted AESA radar as of October 2013. 

Despite the recent Russian, European, Chinese, and Israeli advances in AESA technology, the United States will likely continue its advantage in radar technology as a result of its substantial advantage in R&D. The United States is already years ahead of its competitors in the next significant development in radar technology, Gallium nitride Microwave Monolithic Integrated Circuits (Defense News, 2013). 

"GaN-based MMICs is unsurpassed — revolutionizing the design of radars by creating not only higher performance but also lower system cost. With over 5 W/mm of power density, GaN RF amplifiers can provide more than 5X the power per element of GaAs in the same footprint." - Raytheon, 2010

In summary, the resources allocated to US Defense R&D over time exceeds that of most nation's military spending in their entirety let alone foreign military R&D, it would be an unexpected result if the United States was not technologically ahead in these aforementioned technology areas. As part II will examine, The modern American fighter employment model favors low observability and heightened situational awareness over supermaneuverability. This philosophy is not only evident within the F-35 design but also within the F-15 silent eagle and Super Hornet Block III. These 4.5 generation designs feature improved avionics and a heavily reduced radar cross section but neither has been upgraded with supermaneuverability traits such as thrust vectoring engines in contrast with Russian 4.5 generation designs. As a result of the proficiency of US firms in the aforementioned technological areas, it is natural that the US military's current method of fighter employment attempts to capitalize on its technological advantage in the areas of stealth, avionics, sensors, and software through low observability and heightened situational awareness.



1 Despite the fact that the first Russian AESA was unveiled in 2008, Russia has yet to be physically install an AESA into operational Russian fighter squadrons as of 2013. Russia plans to deploy the 5th generation PAK FA in 2016 as well, although this estimate was judged by the author to be overly optimistic