Total Pageviews

Search This Blog

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Interesting Articles of the Week

I'm working on the next installment of the How Best to Employ Fighter Aircraft series, The American Perspective. In the meantime, here are a few of the more interesting articles I've read over the past week, I'd recommend you give a few of them a quick look over if you have the time.

(1) ANALYSIS: Industry concerned about US Navy UCLASS requirements - By Dave Majumdar

"Concerns are being raised within industry about the new direction mandated by the Pentagon for the US Navy’s unmanned carrier-launched surveillance and strike (UCLASS) aircraft programme.  The reason for the concern is because the Pentagon’s Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC) has fundamentally altered the requirements for the UCLASS from a long-range penetrating strike platform to something akin to a modestly stealthy carrier-based Predator."

At present, UCLASS would essentially be a somewhat stealthy predator drone that would be reserved for only nighttime operations when manned aircraft activity is considerably lower. UCLASS was originally intended to play a vital role in Air-Sea Battle alongside other carrier assets such as the F-35C and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. The recent changes made to the UCLASS program are in part due to funding constraints imposed by sequestration and safety concerns stemming from operating large numbers of manned and unmanned aircraft from a carrier flight deck simultaneously. Despite the recent setback, a number of influential individuals are trying to restore the UCLASS program to its original aims. Congressman Mike McIntyre and Congressman J Randy Forbes  from the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces recently wrote a letter to the secretary of the Navy outlining their concerns over the recent UCLASS developments. Furthermore, MIT researchers are exploring how better to safely coordinate manned and unmanned assets on a carrier flight deck.

(2) China Says J-31 Fighter Will Compete With F-35 for Sales - By Zachary Keck

"Admiral Zhang Zhaozhong told the People’s Daily this week that the J-31 was never built with China’s military in mind, and it was highly unlikely that the PLA would ever operate J-31s off of its aircraft carriers. Instead, the J-31 was designed for export to China’s strategic partners and allies, particularly those that couldn’t purchase the F-35...With so little known about the J-31, it’s hard to gauge how credible China’s claims are that the J-31 is a low-cost alternative to the F-35. In a report in Defense News last August, shortly after the first few images of the plane surfaced, Project 2049 Institute’s Robert Cliff dismissed the notion that the J-31 would pose a serious threat to the F-35 in terms of overseas sales. 'India won’t buy it. Russia won’t buy it,' Cliff noted, adding: 'That pretty much leaves countries like Pakistan, Brazil, some Middle East countries, none of whom [the U.S. is] likely to sell the F-35 to anytime this decade or next.'"

The claim made by the People's Daily, "Experts predict that the J-31 will make rapid inroads in the international market in the future, and will undoubtedly steal the limelight from the F-35" is categorically false in every sense possible. As Cliff's argued, its likely that the J-31 will not hinder F-35 export sales. Arms sales are often heavily dependent upon political ties, which greatly favors the United States over all other arms exporters. China has very few regional allies aside from Pakistan and possibly the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Burma) and North Korea. In comparison, the United States has strong national security ties with a multitude of Asian, European, and Middle-Eastern governments. The importance of political ties to arms exports is substantiated by the fact that Chinese aerospace firms have yet to make major gains against competing against European, Russian and American firms in the global fighter aircraft market. The only exception is the sale of JF-17 aircraft to Pakistan, an allied or at least "friendly" country to China.

(3) Gunboat Diplomacy Prevails in Syria - By Galrahn, Information Dissemination blog

Many, including myself, believed the US Navy had an Ohio class nuclear submarine armed with conventional cruise missiles to support of American destroyers near Cyprus while the Obama Administration deliberated military action against Syria. Apparently that was not the case:

"...the prevailing assumption in open source was that the submarines has been operating off the coast of Syria.  Apparently not...Having a SSGN off Syria is, in my mind, the prerequisite for the American way of war when applied to the proposed Syrian military strike. Everyone assumed the SSGN was there. I wouldn't be surprised if even the Russians assumed the SSGN was there. What the picture at the top of this post tells us is that since the crew swap, USS Georgia (SSGN 729) has stayed in 5th Fleet, and has not at any time since the August 21 chemical attack been in the Mediterranean Sea. That means only two things, the President of the United States was bluffing on military strikes all along, and the decline of the US Navy is so astute right now the 6th Fleet is an empty shell and was never prepared for the war it was being asked to conduct."

(4) Six Planes Industry Wants DoD (and Other Militaries) to Buy - By Marcus Weisgerber

T-50 trainer

Even in the midst of sequestration, the USAF has high hopes for its T-X program. The current T-38 Talon trainers have been in service for half a century. The T-38 has proved to be an immensely valuable and versatile trainer and aggressor aircraft but its age is becoming apparent. Saab and Boeing will potentially offer the Gripen for the T-X program but they will face stiff competition from KAI & Lockheed Martin's T-50 trainer as well as BAE's Hawk trainer.

"In a time of constrained budgets, new military aircraft programs are rare. But that hasn't stopped defense industry design teams from coming up with new ideas for military aircraft. Below are six aircraft models that were on display this week at the annual Air Force Association convention in National Harbor, Md.

Some of the planes are candidates for the Air Force’s T-X program, an effort to replace the Northrop T-38 Talon jet trainer (It’s the plane student pilots fly before getting in the cockpit of a fighter jet.) The Air Force has been unable to find money in its budget for the T-X program, despite it being a top priority for service brass."

(5) Special Report: Hezbollah gambles all in Syria - By Samia Nakhoul

The Iranian backed paramilitary terrorist organization, Hezbollah, is largely responsible for changing the momentum of the civil war in Assad's favor. However, the cost of maintaining Hezbollah's offensive is considerable to Iran especially given the crippling international sanctions. I'd wager the recent change of tone from the Iranian leadership regarding its nuclear program is partially due to the combination of the sanctions and the strain of supporting Assad under the aforementioned sanctions.

"The war is imposing huge costs on both Hezbollah and Iran, which is already under crippling international sanctions because of its nuclear ambitions.  A regional security official with access to current intelligence assessments put Hezbollah's annual income at between $800 million and $1 billion, with 70-90 percent coming from Iran, the amount partly depending on the price of oil."

If my assessment is correct, Drezner's Syria policy seems to be paying major dividends for the United States.

(6) USAF Eyes T-X, New JStars Projects - By Amy Butler

"Is there hope for a program's future if it is not in the sacred Top Three priorities of the U.S. Air Force—the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the KC-46 aerial refueler and the long-range bomber?...Aside from his Top Three, Welsh says he would like to start projects to replace the aging E-8C ground-surveillance and T-38 fast-jet trainer fleets. Industry is already prepared for both—with primes and subs pairing off to pursue these projects. But first, Congress must provide a funding profile that will support them, Welsh notes."  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Korea Rejects the Silent Eagle

Image 1: F-15K

South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has decided to restart the F-X III competition rather than accepting Boeing's F-15SE proposal. The decision of the DAPA to restart the F-X III program is likely the result of both the heavy lobbying efforts made by the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) leadership and by the less than satisfactory outcome of the competition overall. Essentially the F-15SE would have won by default had the process not been restarted as the Lockheed bid was over the $7.4 billion dollar limit and the EADS bid was faulted by the DAPA on technical unilateral contract changes.

If I may be frank for a moment, from the onset it was clear that the ROKAF was set on acquiring the F-35. Although the ROKAF and DAPA would certainly not admit to it, the addition of the Eurofighter and the F-15SE was only intended to serve as a means of lowering the F-35's price by increasing the competitiveness of the bid. This is not an uncommon tactic employed by governments in multi-billion dollar aircraft negotiations. Even the United States Government has used this tactic to its advantage, it was clear in the KC-X tanker program that the Airbus proposal would not be able to overcome Boeing's bid, nor was its admission into the program intended to. This technique can be effective but is often prone to backfire, especially when the procurement program is poorly managed.

The decision by the DAPA to restart the F-X III is attributable to the DAPA's own incompetence rather than the fault of any of the aerospace firms involved in the competition. The failure of the DAPA to succeed on its first attempt will leave it with few desirable options. Its certainly possible that both Boeing and EADS will protest the decision of the DAPA and not enter subsequent bids now that there is little doubt that the F-35 is the preferred option. This would leave a uncompetitive environment that would greatly benefit Lockheed Martin. Given the requests of the DAPA to raise the program's budget past $7.4 billion have failed, the most plausible alternative would be to purchase fewer aircraft. The delay will allow the South Korean Government to capitalize on the steady F-35 production cost reductions but even with these reductions, it is unlikely South Korea will be able to acquire the originally proposed 60 F-35's within the $7.4 billion dollar budget in the intimidate future.

To clarify, the F-35 is certainly the superior choice over the F-15SE given South Korea's unique security needs. The F-15SE would be able to sufficiently counter North Korean threats but its utility against China is much more limited. Furthermore, the F-35 will be heavily upgraded over the next two to three decades by virtue of its role in the USAF, USN, and USMC regardless of any foreign purchases. The F-15SE airframe is not guaranteed to receive the same level of capability/system growth via upgrades as the F-35 over the same period.



Saturday, September 14, 2013

Divergent Thinking: How Best to Employ Fighter Aircraft

Image 1: F-35B, Image Credit: Lockheed Martin 

An enormous disparity exists between vocal critics and staunch supporters of the F-35, some of it is attributable to how the two parties assess the aircraft. As Bill Sweetman explains, there are several different schools of thought with regards to how best to employ fighter aircraft and which capabilities are most important to securing air superiority. A key issue that is not present in discussions that either praise or criticize the F-35 is pilot training and the air combat doctrines of the nation deploying the aircraft.

Many of the most vocal critics of the F-35 such as David Axe and Karlo Kopp do not adequately take into account pilot training and fighter deployment doctrines which effect the overall combat performance of the F-35; these critics focus solely upon performance based metrics and specifications. A typical critique of the F-35 from David Axe:

"...the F-35 is an inferior combatant, seriously outclassed by even older Russian and Chinese jets that can fly faster and farther and maneuver better. In a fast-moving aerial battle, the JSF 'is a dog … overweight and underpowered,' according to Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Project on Government Oversight in Washington, D.C. And future enemy planes, designed strictly with air combat in mind, could prove even deadlier to the compromised JSF."

Both praise and condemnation of the F-35 are inherently limited in scope when the discussion is limited to only certain performance based metrics vs. other performance based metrics e.g. sustained radius turn ability vs. thrust to weight ratio. A lot of research exists in the area of comparing F-35 performance specifications with those of other advanced aircraft, including my own. While these performance based metric comparisons certainly have value, without understanding how the F-35 is meant to be used as part of a broader integrated combined arms approach, one simply is not able to draw substantive conclusions as to the potential combat effectiveness of the F-35 and other models of fighter aircraft in general. The level of training and combat doctrines of the pilots operating the aircraft is largely inseparable from the performance based capabilities of the aircraft in terms of dictating actual operational effectiveness of a fighter force.

As Sweetman notes, there are multiple contradictory views as to best employ fighter aircraft among the prominent global military powers. A country's solution to how to best employ fighter aircraft varies significantly from country to country but is largely dependent upon the following three factors:
  1. Strengths and weakness of its defense industry - specialization, experience of aerospace firms, access to intellectual capital, etc. 
  2. Constraints to military budget and existing support infrastructure for assets and personnel
  3. National security objectives: regional vs. global power projection, countering anti-access threats, etc. 
This article will examine both the Russian and American solutions to maximize the effectiveness of their respective air forces given the variables listed above. From comparing these models, it becomes clear that each approach is uniquely tailored to the host country and calls to eliminate the JSF in favor of mass producing 4.5 generation aircraft, like the Russian model advocates, will be extremely detrimental to maintaining the technological and qualitative edge the USAF currently maintains over many of its competitors. A measure to replace the F-35 with existing 4.5 generation aircraft will not meet current American national security objectives, ignores the strengths and weakness of the American defense industry, and does not account for the robust pilot training programs and initiatives of the United States. Once pilot training, combat philosophies, and the broader combined arms approach is factored in, it becomes apparent that much of the criticism regarding the F-35 is unfounded.

The Russian Approach 

Image 2: The Su-30 is a typical example of modern Russian fighter technology and is currently fielded by 13 air forces worldwide.

It is difficult to understand the Russian approach to fighter deployment without first understanding Russia's broader strategic situation. Without going into too much detail, the Russian model of fighter employment is tailored to the unique strengths and the weaknesses of the Russian defense industry and its national security objectives.

“Russian military programs are driven largely by Moscow's perception that the United States and NATO are Russia's principal strategic challenges and greatest potential threat. Russia's nuclear forces support deterrence and enhance Moscow's geopolitical clout. Its still-significant conventional military capabilities, oriented toward Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Far East, are intended to defend Russia's influence in these regions and serve as a 'safety belt' from where Russian forces can stage a defense of Russian territory...Moscow's wariness of the potential for Western involvement on its periphery, concern   about conflicts and their escalation, and military disadvantages exacerbated by a drawn out crisis or conflict place a premium on quick and decisive action." - Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, 2011

Since 2008, the Russian military has undergone a massive series of reforms in an effort to produce a smaller, more mobile and better trained fighter force (Clapper, 2011). These reforms have been accelerated under Vladimir Putin who raised Russian defense spending by 60% since to 2010 to a total of $66.3 billion dollars in 2013 (Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2013). Despite the recent increase in defense spending, there remains many key obstacles to implementing reform.

"Threats to the success of the State Armament Program include armaments orders that are mismatched to mission requirements; mismanagement, inefficiency, and technological backwardness in the defense industrial sector that causes failures in developing and delivering weapons; corruption; inflation in procurement prices; and the uncertainty of economic growth and sufficient budgets, as mentioned above. For instance, technological backwardness has stymied efforts to modernize command and control, according to many observers." - Jim Nichol, 2011

Image 3: Sukhoi PAK FA

The new gains in Russian military spending are parceled out between the competing services of its military. Even with the billions of dollars in PAK FA developmental assistance provided by India, the Russian Air Force cannot feasibly equip a pure 5th generation fighter force without sacrificing other key capabilities from the Russian Navy, Army, and strategic nuclear forces. The Russian Air Force's ambition to acquire 5th generation aircraft is met or exceeded by the ambitious procurement plans of the other armed services. The Russian Navy plans to restore much of its former maritime power with the addition of dozens of multibillion dollar nuclear attack submarines, destroyers, helicopter landing docks, etc. Investments pertaining to upgrading and maintain Russia's nuclear deterrent consumes a large portion of the defense budget e.g. RS-24 Yars ICBMs,  Borei-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines, RSM-56 Bulava missiles, etc. As a result of other service purchases, the Russian Air Force plans to acquire only 250 fifth generation PAK FA aircraft, the vast majority of its fighter force will be comprised of much cheaper 4.5 generation aircraft such as the Su-30SM, Su-35S, and Mig-35 for the next two decades (Markov and Hull, 2010).

The decision of the Russian Air Force to opt for a largely 4.5 generation fighter force is not the result of a lack of faith in stealth technology as some have argued. Rather, it is a combination of the traditional evolutionary/incremental approach to new technology procurement, which Russia favors over the revolutionary approach of Western militaries, and the aforementioned financial restrictions (Zahainov, 2000). Budgeting priorities are often an indicator of what technologies/capabilities militaries deem to be important.   Given the $10 billion dollars pledged to developing the PAK FA in conjunction with a number of other initiatives meant to develop "counter-stealth technologies" such as very high frequency (VHF) radars, improved IRST, and wing-mounted AESA radars (such as the Tikhomirov NIIP L-band radar) clearly indicates the Russian military takes stealth technology very seriously. However, as a result of the aforementioned financial restrictions, the Russian Air Force is limited to procuring mostly 4th generation fighter aircraft that maximize the combat effectiveness of their aircraft force given the cost, moderate to high level of technological sophistication, and moderate to poor quality of the Russian pilot training infrastructure.

The Russian aerospace industry specializes in producing low cost fighter aircraft in large numbers. The bulk of Russia's future fighter force is composed of 4.5 generation aircraft that cost between $35-$65 million dollars (Defense Industry Daily, 2013). The rough equivalent to Russian aircraft like the Su-35S within the US armed forces, the F/A-18E Super Hornet, costs the US Government $79.43 million dollars per unit (Department of Defense, 2012). The Russian Air Force takes full advantage of its aerospace industry's specialization in low cost aircraft and consequently fields a disproportionately large fighter force relative to its budget. The Russian military fields a total of 1,372 combat aircraft which is impressive since their budget is roughly one tenth of the US military which has 2,851 combat aircraft (Flightglobal, 2013). However, the aforementioned reform efforts have fallen short of their intended goals with regards to improving the quality of personnel within the air force.

Image 4: Su-34 production line

The current Russian model of fighter employment places an increased emphasis on procuring large numbers of fighter aircraft with the quality of each individual Russian pilot being comparatively less skilled than many Western air forces. One of the many indicators of pilot experience is the number of flight hours each pilot is allowed to fly each year. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the quality of Russian fighter pilot training suffered immensely and most pilots in training only received 40 to 50 hours of flight time before graduation (Lindberg, 2006).

"During 1992 - 1994 of the 234 students who graduated from the VVAUL [basic training] 130 had not flown at all after having reported to their assigned air force units (27). In addition, the average flying time per cadet during training had dropped to 40 - 50 flying hours, which facilitates only the elementary pilot skills (26)...The reduction of the personnel and other resources has affected heavily the students. In 1998, 693 officers left pilot schools before they learned to fly, due to the shortage of kerosene...The stress and nature of work, bad conditions in training bases, like living accomodations in Yeisk, employment in Marinovsky and problems with food virtually everywhere, and poor chances to career advancement mean that the morale among flying instructors giving basic pilot training and respect towards them has dropped very low." - Jarmo Lindberg, 2006

Russian fighter pilot training has improved since the late 1990s as a consequence of increased funding but current Russian fighter pilots still only fly 100 hours per year (Dronov, 2012). This is compared to American fighter pilots who must log over 100 hours in jet trainers prior to graduation and fly between 250-300 hours per year once in active service (Source 15, Source 17).

Image 5: The Su-35S shown above is a typical example of the Russian approach to fighter design. The aircraft can carry a maximum of 12 high performance R-77 radar guided air to air missiles, is equipped with a high power ESA radar & IRST, and delivers excellent maneuverability performance at a relatively low cost of $65 million dollars. 

In order to most effectively leverage the strengths of the Russian aerospace industry and minimize the shortcomings of its pilot training programs, most 4.5 generation Russian fighter aircraft have significant missile stores, powerful long range radar capabilities, IRST, electronic countermeasures, and excellent maneuverability. These capabilities maximize the effectiveness of a fighter force when the pilot training and support infrastructure of the nation operating fighter aircraft is less mature or comparatively weaker than many Western countries.

For example, a Su-35S is equipped with a powerful Tikhomirov NIIP IRBIS-E radar which has a maximum range of 400 km, it can track up to 30 targets, and engage eight targets simultaneously (Defense News, 2013). When coupled with a full load of a dozen 50 nautical mile range plus R-77 missiles, the Su-35S allows each comparatively less skilled Russian pilot to be disproportionately effective at long range missile exchanges when compared to more extensively trained Western pilots equipped with 4th generation aircraft. Even a skilled pilot in an aircraft equipped with electronic countermeasures (ECM) will have immense difficulty dodging a salvo of three to four missiles.

Image 6: Su-30 launching R-77 radar guided missile

"The Russian paradigm of BVR combat has its origins in the Cold War period, when  Soviet operational analysis indicated that the low kill probability of missile seekers and airframes, especially if degraded by countermeasures, would be a major impediment to success. By the 1970s the standard Soviet technique in a BVR missile launch was to salvo two rounds...why are Sukhoi Flanker variants equipped to carry between eight and twelve BVR missiles? The answer is a simple one - so they can fire  more than one three or four round  BVR missile salvo during the opening phases of an engagement. In this fashion the aircraft being targeted has a difficult problem as it must jam, decoy and/or outmanoeuvre three or four tightly spaced inbound missiles. Even if we assume a mediocre per round kill probability of 30 percent, a four round salvo still exceeds a total kill probability of 75 percent." - Kopp, 2012

Image 7: PK aircraft probability vs missile salvo size; APA Image. To give a point of reference, the standard AIM-120 has a demonstrated probability kill (pk) of 46% meaning it would be similar to the 50% green curve on the graph above (RAND, 2008).

The combination of high maneuverability, IRST, and ECM gives the Russian pilot some degree of protection in evading radar guided missile shots from afar but life expectancy for the individual pilot is low in an engagement against an adversary launching large missile salvos (as illustrated on the graph above). Russian fighters that manage to reach visual range against an enemy force would rely upon their superior maneuverability to better position themselves for an IR missile shot or gun kill.

"Russian tacticians also foresee complex long-range engagements—but as Bogdan pointed out at Paris , they also see combats decaying into low-speed knife fights where super-maneuverability may decide who gets the first shot." - Bill Sweetman, 2013

However, this theory is hampered by the limitations of Russian pilot training and experience. Overall, the Russian approach is an intelligent solution to maximize the effectiveness of the Russian Air Force given the constraints of their aerospace industry, size of  their military budget, and their national security objectives. The Russian approach invests less into the training and fielding of each individual pilot and aircraft, but more pilots and more aircraft are capable of being fielded as a result on a lower budget.  In essence, the Russian fighter doctrine is still an attrition tactic designed to inflict the maximum number of enemy casualties given a large but comparatively less well trained fighting force.

The American approach will be examined next week in Part II


  1. Russia Plans 60% Increase in Defense Budget by 2013, Center for Strategic and International Studies - Oliver Bloom, 2013.
  2. Bomber Su-34 recognized non-combat, Alexei Mikhailov, Dmitry Balburov, 2012.
  3. U.S. Defense Cuts Lead to First Drop in Global Arms Spending in 15 Years, Time - Vivienne Walt, 2013.
  4. How does the F-16 perform against its adversaries in dogfight, David Centoti, 2012.
  5. The Russian Philosophy  of  Beyond Visual Range Air Combat, Karlo Kopp, 2013.
  7. Beyond Blue Four  The Past and Future Transformation of Red Flag, Maj Alexander Berger, 2005.
  8. The F-22 Raptor: Program & Events, Defense Industry Daily, 2013.
  9. Plymouth native emulates enemy in Air Force war games, Bryan Bender, 2013.
  10. Aggressor pilots: Paid to play the villain, Michael Hoffman, 2009.
  11. 422ND JOINT TACTICS SQUADRON, U.S. Air Force Expeditionary Center, 2013.
  12. F-35 Enters Operational Testing at Edwards and Nellis Air Force Bases, Defense Update, 2013.
  13. First F-35A sporting 31st Test and Evaluation Squadron lettering and "OT" tail code, spotted at NAS Forth Worth JRB, David Centoti, 2012.
  14. Russian Military Politics and Russia's 2010 Defense Doctrine, Stephen J. Blank, 2010.
  15. Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training, 2012.
  17. F-16 Fighting Falcon Service Life, Global Security, 2012.
  18. F’d: How the U.S. and Its Allies Got Stuck with the World’s Worst New Warplane, David Axe, 2013.
  19. PROGRAM ACQUISITION   COSTS BY   WEAPON SYSTEM, Department of Defense, 2012.
  20. Russia’s SU-35 Super-Flanker: Mystery Fighter No More, Defense Industry Daily, 2013.
  21. MiG-29 Misery Continues, James Dunnigan, 2010.   
  22. Russian Military Reform and Defense Policy, Jim Nichol, 2011.
  23. Russia Delays Opening Yeisk Carrier Training Facility, 2013.
  24. WORLD AIR FORCES 2013 - Flightglobal
  25. China's New Jet, Radar Complicate US Posture, Wendell Minnick, 2013.
  26. Flanker Radars in Beyond Visual Range Air Combat, Karlo Kopp, 2013.
  27. Statement for the Record on the   Worldwide Threat Assessment of the   U.S. Intelligence Community for the   House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, James Clapper, 2010.
  28. Russian Air Force - Summary, Jim Nichol, 2011.                                     
  29. Russian Air Force, Chapter 3 - CURRENT STATE OF THE RUSSIAN AIR FORCE, Jim Nichol, 2011.
  30. Su-30, Federation of American Scientists, 2000.                                 
  32. India to develop 25% of fifth generation fighter, Ajai Shukla, 2010.                 
  33. Assessing the Tikhomirov NIIP L-Band Active Electronically Steered Array, Karlo Kopp, 2013.
  34. Red Flag, Walter J. Boyne, 2000.
  35. RAND, Air Power Past Present and Future, 2009. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

September Updates & Quick Thoughts on Super Hornet Block III

I did a poll not so long ago to decide which new blog article I was going to write and the winner was: China's Anti-Access Strategy: Submarines. I have not forgotten my promise and I'm working on it. The second most popular choice, the uncertain future of America's Raptors, will likely be posted sometime after the submarine article. However, I did just start my junior year at college so I don't have as much time for blogging as I did over the summer. I might not be able to publish articles as frequently for you guys depending on my work load, which is considerable at the moment. I"m an econ major with a planned computer science and politics double minor. I will still post articles on a regular basis but there will likely be a greater ratio of shorter opinion pieces to thorough research pieces such as the Pivot series of articles. Thank you for your continued patience.  

Quick Thoughts on Super Hornet Block III

As many of you know, Boeing's Block III Super Hornet demonstrator has been getting a lot of attention in the aviation community as of late. The Block III promises increased radar reduction measures, new more power engines, conformal fuel tanks, upgraded cockpit and displays, a laser missile warning system, and an internal IRST system. As you might expect, it did not take long for arguments calling for the elimination of the F-35C to surface (again) and supporters of the F-35C to rallied to its defense.

Frankly, I don't see the Super Hornet and F-35C as being mutually exclusive aircraft, neither does the US Navy. The US Navy is scheduled to order 290 F-35C aircraft which will serve alongside nearly 550 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets. The reality is, BOTH aircraft have their relative merits and the US Navy is more capable as a result of both aircraft being fielded. I'll go through my reasoning in the next segment of The Pivot series which is concerned with increasing naval capabilities in the Pacific. In the meantime, I recommend you give the Boeing media brief a quick look over: