Category Archives: Chengdu Aircraft

A Chinese Stealth Challenge? Beginning of Stealth Arms Race

Several experts said the prototype's body appeared to borrow from the F-22 and other U.S. stealth aircraft, but they couldn't tell from the photographs how advanced it was in terms of avionics, composite materials or other key aspects of stealth technology.

I am little busy these days so please hold on a next post in series “Nuclear Power Dilemma” will be up soon. Meanwhile, read the following two pieces appeared in New Scientist and The Wall Street Journal, both making same excuses, and seems to be in highly nervous. China’s J-20, stealth aircraft, is it really stealth or just looked stealthy? One of my posts last year I referenced to one Chinese military source citing the revelation of stealth aircraft and aircraft carrier by China. Though the quoted time I put was around 10 years according to Chinese authorities, but this I don’t really think is applicable. From my opinion, China is still far away in stealth arms race, however, I really do hope that J-20 is in real a handy stealth aircraft and waiting anxiously for more on the issue. Anyway, have a read, I will soon update the blog with my recent post.

Has China’s new jet launched a stealth arms race?

New Scientist

China’s first flight test of its new high-tech J-20 stealth military jet on 11 January has drawn a lot of attention, particularly because it came during the visit of US defense secretary Robert Gates. What it means is another question, and the answers are complex. Military analysts had known China was developing a combat plane in the class of the US F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, but they had not expected it to make its first appearance in December, Aviation Week and Space Technology reported. Several high-speed ground tests, in which the craft’s front wheel rose off the ground, preceded the first flight.

China has released videos of the new jet on the ground, taking off, and landing at Chengdu. The New York Times quoted a Hong Kong analyst as saying the plane flew for 15 minutes over the airfield. With two distinctive angled tail fins like those of the F-22, it’s clearly intended to be stealthy. The Times also reports it is intended carry missiles and fly long distances when refueled in the air. The demonstration worries some analysts because it’s the first aircraft to challenge the performance of the F-22, the top of the US air force’s fleet. “We have become accustomed to a world where our air power is dominant,” Rand Corporation analyst Roger Cliff told Newsweek. “But that dominance is now in question.” Once the J-20 is deployed, in that scenario, US top guns would lose their high-performance stealth advantage and no longer rule the skies. o so fast, says Aviation Week. New, more powerful radars using active electronically scaled arrays can pick up fainter and fainter targets, and are fast catching up to stealth technology. “Anti-stealth will bring into question all stealth designs,” it says, hinting that the US may already have airborne radars able to spot stealth aircraft.

Moreover, perfecting stealth technology takes time. The US started its F-22 programme in the 1980s. To an experienced eye, the stealthy look of the Chinese jet “is just sort of cobbled together,” Teal group analyst Richard Aboulafia told The Wall Street Journal . He thinks China may be able to deploy the new aircraft in a decade, but by then the US should have better technology.

That sounds eerily familiar. We used to call it an arms race.

Actual Article

China’s J-20 Fighter: Stealthy or Just Stealthy-Looking?

The Wall Street Journal

When the First grainy images of China’s J-20 fighter appeared online, they seemed to confirm the fears of some China watchers: Beijing appeared to be on track to develop a “fifth generation” aircraft that featured the radar-eluding properties of advanced U.S. aircraft like the F-22 Raptor. But exactly how stealthy is the J-20? And does it mean that China can challenge the U.S. for control of the skies? In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst with the Teal Group, an aerospace and defense consulting firm, said China is still years away from perfecting stealth aircraft. “It’s certainly stealthy-looking,” Mr. Aboulafia said. It looks like it’s got some of the faceting and some of the shaping that characterizes the front of the F-22, for example. “But then you look the details and you realize this thing is just sort of cobbled together,” he added. Take, for instance, the canards: forewings close to the nose of the aircraft that provide maneuverability. According to Mr. Aboulafia, “There’s no better way of guaranteeing a radar reflection and compromise of stealth” than adding canards to the aircraft. The same goes for the engine nozzles, which Mr. Aboulafia said were clearly not designed to be stealthy, as well the large overall size of the aircraft. Still, appearance of the J-20 prototype was a dramatic prelude to Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington this week. But Mr. Aboulafia said that China still lacks the command-and-control networks, aerial refueling capabilities and other systems that allow the U.S. to project air power around the globe. What China does seem to be on track to produce, Mr. Aboulafia said, were aircraft that may eventually be on par with fighters like the F-22, which was designed by the U.S. in the 1980s. “It’s quite possible that in 10 years they have a functioning equivalent of the F-22, but by then, the West will have moved on to something far more impressive,” he said.

Actual Article

China’s New Stealth Race

And off-course don’t forget to hit a review of China’s New Stealth Race, first published after appearance of J-20 on TV on Wall Street Journal U.S. officials played down Chinese advances on the plane, which American intelligence agencies believe will likely be operational around 2018. “We are aware that the Chinese have recently been conducting taxi tests and there are photos of it,” said Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan. “We know they are working on a fifth-generation fighter but progress appears to be uneven.” China has made rapid progress in developing a capability to produce advanced weapons, also including unmanned aerial vehicles, after decades of importing and reverse engineering Russian arms. The photographs throw a fresh spotlight on the sensitive issue of China’s military modernization just as Washington and Beijing try to improve relations following a series of public disputes in 2010. The Chinese prototype looks like it has “the potential to be a competitor with the F-22 and to be decisively superior to the F-35,” said Mr. Fisher. The J-20 has two engines, like the F-22, and is about the same size, while the F-35 is smaller and has only one engine. China’s stealth-fighter program has implications also for Japan, which is considering buying F-35s, and for India, which last month firmed up a deal with Russia to jointly develop and manufacture a stealth fighter.

Wrap Up

The J-20 currently has two prototypes for test flight. One use the Russian AL-31 engines, and the other use the Chinese WS-10G engines, which are newer and provide more thrust. The Chinese counterpart of the X-37B, named “Shenlong”, did make the maiden flight in 2010. The program is very secretive and rarely known to the outside world. The entire J-20 project were created to defeat the F-22, and chances are, if a common analyst can think of a problem, real aerospace engineers would have thought of it too, and then found a solution. America had a head start, with post war German technology and brainpower transfer taking a large portion of the credit, however head start will only give you the lead for a while, its the smarter ones that’ll lead int he long run. As Professor Keith Hayward, Head of Research, Royal Aeronautical Society, notes in an upcoming analysis of the Chinese aerospace industry for the February issue of Aerospace International magazine: “China’s wider commercial relationships with developing world states are also providing useful leverage in forging deals.” China, then wants to move from just producing aircraft for its own domestic consumption, and a red-hot product like the J-20 could help it achieve this, far more than any slightly overweight A320 lookalike like the C919. Furthermore, with ‘Western-equivalent’ Chinese AAMs missiles to ‘bundle’ it with, any nation buying a J-20 would get an extremely capable weapon system – that will be ‘good enough’ for the majority of air forces and cheap enough to buy in siginficant numbers. Engines, too, are as of the moment an unknown. Previously reliant on Russia for engines any, development in powerplants would signify a greater leap forward than the pure airframe and some analysts have suggested a new Chinese engine, the Shenyang WS 15 may power the J-20. However, notably the J-20 also uses a divertless supersonic intake (DSI) and is only the third aircraft to sport this feature after the F-35 and Pakistan Air Force’s JF-17, suggesting that Chinese experience with this technology has been successful so far and it has brought benefits. armament China is now making great strides in guided weapons of all types. Its AMRAAM-type AAM, the PL-12, reportedly outranges the original US weapon. A short-range dogfight missile, the PL-ASR has been described as ‘very scary’ by one western missile expert. Meanwhile China is reported to be working on a long-range ramjet powered missile – the PL-13 comparable to Europe’s MBDA Meteor which, if introduced today, would outrange anything in the (white) US inventory. In short, Western missile experts in private are noticeably rattled by this progress and maintain that any gap in quality between western and Chinese air-to-air weaponry is fast closing.I sincerely hope best for J-20, by no means argue with Chinese abilities to compete in stealth race.

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China: A Military Force to Reckon with in the Western Pacific

China-United States: Two states that never intend harm can begin to perceive each other as growing threats

What’s going in Pacific these days is very interesting, America’s concerns about rising Iran and China’s defences within a region is one rise. How should America respond to that? The collapse of the Soviet Union had persuaded China’s leaders that an arms race with the world’s only superpower could squander enough money to pose a threat to the party’s grip. To challenge America head on made no sense. Instead China put its efforts into affordable “asymmetric” weapons. Earlier December, Economist published an extensive REPORT on rising China, with oulining the options US have in western pacific. China is becoming a military force to reckon with in the western Pacific. How should America respond? According to this report Three areas of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) modernisation stand out. Before I comment of these, have a look:

First, China has created what the Pentagon calls “the most active land-based ballistic- and cruise-missile programme in the world”. The Second Artillery ( is the strategic missile forces of the PLA) has about 1,100 short-range ballistic missiles facing Taiwan and has been extending their range and improving their accuracy and payload. The Second Artillery is also improving its medium-range ballistic missiles, able to carry either conventional or nuclear warheads. PLA is developing the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile, fitted with a manoeuvrable re-entry vehicle for added menace.

Second, China has transformed and enlarged its submarine fleet, which can now berth in the newly completed base on Hainan Island. In the eight years to 2002 China bought 12 Russian Kilo-class submarines, a big improvement on its own Ming and Romeo class boats. Since then the PLA navy has been introducing longer-range and stealthier Chinese designs, including the nuclear-powered Jin class, which carries ballistic missiles, and the Shang class, a nuclear-powered attack submarine. China has about 66 submarines against America’s 71, though the American boats are superior. By 2030, according to the Kokoda Foundation, an Australian think-tank, China could have 85-100 submarines.

Finally, China has concentrated on what it calls “informatisation”, a tongue-twister that Jiang Zemin coined in 2002 to describe how the PLA needs to function as one force, using sensors, communications and electronic and cyber-warfare. China now has a good idea of what is going on far into the Pacific, thanks to a combination of satellites, over-the-horizon radar, medium-range surface-wave radars, reconnaissance drones and underwater-sensor arrays.

What does this amount to? Military experts in America, Australia and Japan think China’s new arsenals are a greater threat than its higher-profile plans to launch aircraft-carriers in the next decade or so. According to the Centre for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), an American research institute, Chinese firepower threatens America’s Asian bases, which until now have been safe from all but nuclear attack. The Second Artillery’s missiles could swamp the bases’ defences and destroy runways as well as large numbers of fighters and ships. Japan is already within range of Chinese missiles, many of them currently pointing at Taiwan.

PLA’s Modernisation

The U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed the existence of the DF-21D land-based ASBM system, which is the world’s first and only of its kind. By combining manoeuvrable re-entry vehicles (MaRVs) with a terminal guidance system, the DF-21C is capable of targeting a slow-moving aircraft carrier battle group from a land-based mobile launcher. The maximum range of the missile was said to be 3,000km, possibly achieved by carrying a smaller payload.

Considering the first modernisation: Currently China is developing a land based DF-21D (Nato reporting name CSS-5 Mod-4) Anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). DF-21D ASBM is based on DF-21 (see above) is a two-stage, solid-propellant, single-warhead medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM). Its beauty is being High Hypersonic (capable of cruising at Mach 10). It has a range of 3,000 km (1,900 miles). This extends the range of DF-21 upto Malacca, Strait (Refer to the figure taken from Economist):

China’s submarines, missiles and anti-ship cruise missiles threaten America’s aircraft-carrier strike groups within 1,000 to 1,600 nautical miles of the Chinese coast

DF-21D ASBM – would be the world’s first and only ASBM and the world’s first weapons system capable of targeting a moving aircraft carrier strike group from long-range, land-based mobile launchers. It is evident today China can project power out from its coastline well beyond the 12-mile (19km) limit that the Americans once approached without a second thought. These would combine maneuverable reentry vehicles (MaRVs) with some kind of terminal guidance system. Launch of the Jianbing-5/YaoGan-1 (shown below) and Jianbing-6/YaoGan-2 satellites would give the Chinese targeting information from SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) and visual imaging respectively.

Jianbing-5/YaoGan-1

The upgrades would greatly enhance China’s ability to conduct sea-denial operations to prevent US carriers from intervention in the Taiwan Strait. DF-21D highlights the fact that the U.S. can no longer assume naval supremacy. China has recently launched a series of satellites to support its ASBM efforts. This range includes: Yaogan-VII electro-optical satellite (December 2009), Yaogan-VIII synthetic aperture radar satellite (December 2009) and Yaogan-IX Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS) constellation (3 satellites in formation) (March 2010).

DF-21A MRBM System in service with the PLA Second Artillery Corps (Chinese Internet)

Furthermore, The DF-21 has also been developed into space launcher and anti-satellite/anti-missile weapon carrier named Kaituozhe 1 Space Launch Vehicle. KT-1 (see below) is a four-stage, solid-propellant space launcher based on the DF-21 design. It is capable of placing up to 50kg payload into 600km Low Earth Orbits (LEO). The launcher made its maiden flight in September 2002 and then a second flight in September 2003, none of which was fully successful. CASIC also developed a larger KT-1A, which is capable of sending 300kg payload into the Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) and polar orbit, and the KT-1B with even greater payload capability (400kg and up to three separate payloads). None of the two designs has ever been launched.

A larger size KT-2A (later renamed KT-1B) was designed for polar orbits missions with greater payload capability (~400kg and up to three separate payloads)

According to a report by Aviation Weeks and Space Technology on 17 January 2007, U.S. intelligence agencies believed that China carried out a successful anti-satellite (ASAT) weapon test on 11 January, destroying the retired FengYun-1C meteorological satellite with a kinetic kill vehicle launched onboard a modified intermediate-range ballistic missile. The launch vehicle used during the test was speculated to be the KT-409, a derivation of the KT-1 solid-propellant space launch vehicle. The report suggested that the FengYun-1C satellite (launched in 1999) was attacked by an ASAT system launched from an unknown location near Xichang Satellite Launch Centre (XSLC) as the satellite at 530 miles (853km) altitude 4 degree west of Xichang. The attack occurred at about 17:28 EST on 11 January 2007 (22:28 GMT, 06:28 on 12 January local time).

Originally developed for strategic purposes, the DF-21’s later variants were designed for both nuclear and conventional missions. As well as a nuclear warhead of around 300kt, it is thought that high explosive, submunition and chemical warheads are also available. Final in the DF-21 class is SC-19 Kinetic Kill Vehicle Carrier. The launch vehicle for the kinetic kill vehicle (KKV) used during China’s first ASAT weapon test in January 2007 was reported to be SC-19, a modified variant of the DF-21 or KT-1.

Pacific in name only

Comming back to the Economist report, the article concludes that cold warriors are suffering from a bad case of “enemy-deprivation syndrome”. For all the uncertainties in this debate, three things are beyond dispute. These are:

First, China has already forced American ships to think about how and when they approach the Chinese coast. The closer American vessels come, the more missiles and submarines they face and the less time they would have to react to a strike. To deny America possession of seas it has dominated for decades, China does not need to control its own coastal waters; it just has to be able to threaten American ships there.

Second, China’s ability to project power is improving. Its submarines, fighter aircraft, missiles, and cyber- and electronic warfare, once poor, now pose a threat. China’s weapons will continue to improve, and its forces will gather experience. Provided that the economy does not fall over, budgets will grow, too, absolutely and possibly as a share of GDP. Other things being equal, China can project power into its backyard more easily than America can project power across the Pacific Ocean.

Third, although the United States is able to respond to China, it will have to overcome some obstacles first. America’s military spending in Asia is overshadowed by the need to cut overall government spending and by other military priorities, such as Afghanistan.

All this points to an important principle. Military planning is framed differently from diplomacy. Diplomats are interested in what they think states intend to do, but military planners have to work with what they think states can do. Intentions change and states can mislead. If you are charged with defending your country, you need to be able to meet even improbable threats.If you do not arm, you leave yourself open to attack. If you do, you threaten the other country.

Sources: A special report on China’s place in the world [The Economist, 2 December 2010]. Sino-Defence.com [4th June 2010]

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Russia Sells; China Clones

Today, Russia's military bonanza is over, and China's is just beginning.

China and America are bound to be rivals, but they do not have to be antagonists, Is that really the case? In many ways China has made efforts to try to reassure an anxious world. Leaving politics aside, the rise of chinese millitary power is obvious to all, not only millitary, china is making its way in Civil aviation market as well. But what is interesting in all is, a “Cloning Factor”. After decades of importing and reverse-engineering Russian arms, China has reached a tipping point: It now can produce many of its own advanced weapons—including high-tech fighter jets like the Su-27—and is on the verge of building an aircraft carrier. Not only have Chinese engineers cloned the prized Su-27’s avionics and radar but they are fitting it with the last piece in the technological puzzle, a Chinese jet engine.

At Zhuhai 2010 one thing was clear: China is starting to export much of this weaponry, undercutting Russia in the developing world, and potentially altering the military balance in several of the world’s flash points. China, here laid on its biggest commercial display of military technology—almost all based on Russian know-how. The star guests were the “Sherdils,” a Pakistani aerobatic team flying fighter jets that are Russian in origin but are now being produced by Pakistan and China. Russia’s predicament mirrors that of many foreign companies as China starts to compete in global markets with advanced trains, power-generating equipment and other civilian products based on technology obtained from the West. This is not all, there is an additional security dimension, however: China is developing weapons systems, including aircraft carriers and carrier-based fighters, that could threaten Taiwan and test U.S. control of the Western Pacific. According to West, Chinese exports of fighters and other advanced weapons also “threaten” to alter the military balance in South Asia, Sudan and Iran. But if I am sitting in Iran or Pakistan, the story is otherway round. Interestingly China accounted for 2% of global arms transfers between 2005-2009, putting it in ninth place among exporters, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). But no other Asian country has sought to project military power—and had the indigenous capability to do so—since Japan’s defeat in 1945.

As the Chinese leaders’ history lesson will have told them, the relationship that determines whether the world is at peace or at war is that between pairs of great powers. Sometimes, as with Britain and America, it goes well. Sometimes, as between Britain and Germany, it does not. There are also implications for U.S. weapons programs. Last year the Pentagon decided to cut funding for the F-22—currently the most advanced fighter deployed in the world—partly on the grounds that China wouldn’t have many similar aircraft for at least 15 years. But then Gen. He Weirong, deputy head of China’s Air Force, announced that Chinese versions of such jets were about to undergo test flights, and would be deployed in “eight or 10 years.” The Defense Intelligence Agency now says it will take China “about 10 years” to deploy stealth fighters in “meaningful numbers.”

J-11: many aviation experts believe AVIC is having problems developing an indigenous engine for the J-11B with the same thrust and durability as the original Russian ones.

Few things illustrate this more clearly than the J-11B (shown below), a Chinese fighter that Russian officials allege is a direct copy of the Su-27, a one-seat fighter that was developed by the Soviets through the 1970s and 1980s as a match for the U.S. F-15 and F-16. Before the early 1990s, Moscow hadn’t provided major arms to Beijing since an ideological split in 1956, which led to a brief border clash in 1969. In 1992 (after collapse of Soviet Union), China became the first country outside the former Soviet Union to buy the Su-27, paying $1 billion for 24. Beijing’s breakthrough came in 1996, when it paid Russia $2.5 billion for a license to assemble another 200 Su-27s at the Shenyang Aircraft Company. The agreement stipulated that the aircraft—to be called the J-11—would include imported Russian avionics, radars and engines and couldn’t be exported. The J-11B looked almost identical to the Su-27, but China said it was 90% indigenous and included more advanced Chinese avionics and radars. Only the engine was still Russian, China said.

Sukhoi 27: The J-11B looked almost identical to the Su-27, but China said it was 90% indigenous and included more advanced Chinese avionics and radars. Only the engine was still Russian

The J-11B presented Russia with a stark choice—to continue selling China weapons, and risk having them cloned, too, or to stop, and miss out on its still lucrative market.many aviation experts believe AVIC is having problems developing an indigenous engine for the J-11B with the same thrust and durability as the original Russian ones. Photographs published recently on Chinese military websites appear to show engines fitted on the J-11B and a modified version—called the J-15—for use on aircraft carriers. The birth of J-15 can be read on my previous post Here Its not just Su-27 that concerns Russians, but also Su-33, a more advanced version of Su-27. The J-11B is expected to be used by the Chinese navy as its frontline fighter, capable of sustained combat over the entire East China Sea and South China Sea. Aircraft carriers and J-15 fighters would further enhance its ability to stop the U.S. intervening in a conflict over Taiwan, and test its control of the Western Pacific. China’s arms exports could have repercussions on regions in conflict around the world. Pakistan inducted its first squadron of Chinese-made fighter jets in February, potentially altering the military balance with India.The potential customer of greatest concern to the U.S. for JF-17 sale, is Iran, which purchased about $260 million of weapons from China between 2002-2009, according to Russia’s Centre for Analysis of the Global Arms Trade. Economist cites, that China and America have one advantage over history’s great-power pairings: they saw the 20th century go disastrously wrong. It is up to them to ensure that the 21st is different.

Detail about china’s rise and Russian arm deal, can be read on this extensive report published in Wall Street Journal, HERE

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Between Threats and War – Living in a World Addicted to UAVs

The New America Foundation and Terror Free Tomorrow have conducted the first comprehensive public opinion SURVEY covering sensitive political issues in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. According to these polls people in tribal areas strongly oppose the US military pursuing al-Queda and Taliban fighters based in their region; American drone attacks deeply unpopular. The report concludes that nearly nine out every ten people in FATA oppose the U.S. military pursuing al-Qaeda and the Taliban in their region. Nearly 70 percent of FATA residents instead want the Pakistani military alone to fight Taliban and al- Qaeda militants in the tribal areas. This strongly suggests the high intensity opposition to the U.S military operations. For civilian officials, the military’s ability to find and destroy things from a safe distance never ceases to amaze. The CIA’s ongoing drone strike campaign is a particularly redoubtable example, with drone operators in the United States taking out targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

UAV – A New Way to Wage War

UAV – Unmanned Arial Vehicle, will only exist if they offer advantage compared with manned aircraft. Contrary to advantages, disadvantages are obvious to some of us as we see and hear every day. An old military adage (which also applies to civilian use) links the use of UAVs to roles which are dull, dirty or dangerous (DDD). To DDD add covert, diplomatic, research and environmentally critical roles.
Recently (as per 27 Oct 2010) Raytheon – major American defence contractor and industrial corporation with core manufacturing concentrations in defence systems and defence and commercial electronics, who has tested a new UAV weapon Small Tactical Munitions (STM) (0.6m-long (2ft), 13lb (5.9kg) bomb) at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona. The dual-mode, semi-active laser seeker and GPS inertial navigation system enable it to engage fixed and moving targets in all weather conditions.

With US army moving its concentration from Iraq to Afghanistan and continuous use of UAVs in Pakistan tribal areas by USA the demand for small unmanned air vehicles is moving into higher gear as well. US Army plans to buy 3,000 Raven small UAVs with already 2,000 in hand.

From the CIA’s silent war in Pakistan – two UAVs extensively used, the Predator and the Reaper, both made by General Atomics, a San Diego defence contractor. The Predator is the older of the two; the first one was delivered to the Air Force in 1994. By the end of the 1990s, the CIA was using it to track bin Laden. Capable of flying for up to 40 hours without refuelling, the drone was a “brilliant intelligence tool,” recalls Hank Crumpton, then the CIA’s top covert-operations man in Afghanistan. Although the CIA was keen to weaponize the drone early on, the Air Force resisted the idea until 2000. Even then, firing the weapons was another matter. The Predator’s firepower is limited, but the Reaper can deliver laser-guided 500-lb. bombs like those commonly found on the F-16 jet, together with Hellfire missiles. Marc Herold, in looking at casualties in Afghanistan, quotes an ‘effective casualty radius’ for the Mk82 of 200 feet: this is radius inside which 50% of those exposed will die. Quite often the target is taking cover or lying down and the effect is reduced, but if you can catch people standing up or running then the full effective casualty radius will apply.

But why use UAV; Times (CNN) published a report in June 2009, The CIA’s Silent War in Pakistan saying:

“If we were sending F-16s into FATA–American pilots in Pakistani airspace–they might have felt very differently,” says James Currie, a military historian at the U.S.’s National Defence University.

“The basic problem with all aerial reconnaissance is that it’s subject to error,” says George Friedman, who heads the security firm Stratfor. “But in a place like Pakistan, errors have enormous political consequences.”

Critics of the drones ask if it makes sense for the U.S. to use them when every strike inflames Pakistani public opinion against a pro-U.S. government that is at the point of collapse. And yet Pakistani leaders like army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Kayani seem to have concluded that using drones to kill terrorists in FATA is generally a good thing. This is a major change in direction; although former President Pervez Musharraf allowed drones to operate, he placed severe limits on where and when they could strike. After Musharraf resigned last summer, the shackles came off. The U.S. struck a tacit bargain with the new administration in Islamabad: Zardari and Kayani would quietly enable more drone operations while publicly criticizing the U.S. after each strike. The arrangement has worked well for the U.S.

PlayStation Mentality

We are now more facinated with War Games then before, even COD now includes Karachi and Kabul in their Missions

Warning that the technology is making target killings much easier and more frequent, a report issued by New York Times raised concerns that drone operators based more than thousand miles away from the battlefield, risk developing a PlayStation mentality towards killing. Target killing outside the war zone, never likely to be legal but US administration argues their legality after September 11-2001. Inaccurate and unprofessional attitude by military drone operators from remote locations, do indeed led to civilian killings. CIA so far has carried out more than 80 drone attacks in 2010 alone, according to The Long War Journal, which tracks these strikes. Surprisingly of vast majority of the attacks involved firing multiple missiles or bombs.

Pakistan’s Latest Military Gadgets

Pakistani officials were fortunate to be greeted with a fresh offer of military hardware – possibly totalling as much as $2 billion over the next five years. This latest gear includes (likely to include) night vision goggles, and helicopter spare parts. This is not new for Pakistanis, since 9/11 Pakistan’s gotten lots of big-ticket items from the U.S. military. According to the Congressional Research Service’s tally, that includes eight P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft; six C-130 cargo planes; over 5000 TOW anti-armor missiles; 100 Harpoon anti-ship missiles; and even an Oliver Hazard Perry-class missile frigate. And by next year, Pakistan will receive 18 new F-16 combat jets from the U.S. — fighters capable of carrying a nuclear payload. Considering the latest gear what options does Pakistan have? According the Spencer Ackerman of Wired MAGAZINE

“Unless al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban have developed an armor corps and a submarine-heavy Navy while no one was looking, these weapons have more utility against the Indians than the terrorists.”

This gear is either a treat from US for Pakistan to use against terrorists or U.S. military seeks to prevent a deepening erosion of a relationship that US can’t live with. This especially true after recent wikileaks suggesting a strong ties between Pakistan and Insurgents. WikiLeaks has freaked out the White House, though, by clearly raising questions about whether Pakistani aid to the Afghan insurgency is far deeper than typically acknowledged. How much truth is in it, I think it will be too early to say anything. However, it’s not a surprising news that the Pakistani ISI has ties to the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami. How much of this money or gear will go to Afgan pockets no one knows, it is only a time who will show a true motivation behind these large spendings on US non-NATO ally. But Is there a silver lining to Pakistan’s relationship with the insurgents? Not known, at least to me. Are things still Koran, Kalashnikov and laptop or do I have to add heat seeker missiles to it as well? I am not so sure.

A Silent War in Waziristan

The wilds of Waziristan, an unlikely showcase for the future of warfare

The Council on Foreign Relations has just released a new report on U.S. policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan, the report is based on the study conducted by former national security advisor and former Deputy Secretary of State. As far as Pakistan is concerned, the report broadly endorses U.S. policy of trying to build a long-term partnership, while also aiming to persuade it to turn convincingly against all militant groups. It reiterates a U.S. complaint that while Pakistan is ready to act against militants that threaten the Pakistani state. Reuters cited, that the report’s endorsement of U.S. support for Pakistan comes with a hard edge, warning that failure to achieve results, or an attack on the United States traced back to Pakistan-based militants, could lead to a much more aggressive U.S. policy:

“There are several strategic options available to the United States if the administration concludes that the current strategy is not working. In Pakistan, Washington could turn away from its present emphasis on rewarding and encouraging long-term bilateral cooperation. Instead, it could undertake increasingly aggressive, unilateral U.S. military strikes against Pakistan-based terrorists deeper into Pakistani territory, coercive diplomacy and sanctions, or a range of financial, diplomatic, and legal restrictions to control the flow of people, money, goods, and information to and from Pakistan. This strategy of containment and coercion could be coupled with a distinct diplomatic ’tilt’ toward India, with New Delhi serving as Washington’s main strategic and counterterror partner in the region.”

Almost week after the report was published US showed its interest to expand the operations for drone within Pakistan up to Quetta, which Pakistan has rejected, with an agreement to practise more modest measures. US intend to expand the boundaries where CIA drones can fly. The unmanned aircraft may patrol designated flight boxes over the country’s tribal belt but not other provinces such as Baluchistan. In reference to the arguments put forward by both countries, it is evident that the disagreement over the scope of drone programme underscores broader tensions between the US and Pakistan, who are increasingly pointing fingers at one another over the rising level of insurgent violence on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Pakistan officials stressed that Quetta is densely populated city where strike is more likely to result in civilian causalities, however US officials have long suspected that there are other reasons for Pakistan’s aversion including the surveillance of Pakistan nuclear facilities based in Baluchistan.

The subject is quite intrinsic and needs a historical background to understand and reach the root cause. But to take the current situation only in account, in my opinion this is a reaction to the US Obama-Led administrations cohesive gesture and voices of triumphs for India, has shunned the Pakistan’s political and military regimes expectations as Pakistani’s are engaged in a large scale war on terror in alliance with the United States.

On the very other side, it may be taken into account the tribesmen residing on the western borders of Pakistan, have been so badly hit by their own army in alliance with the foreign intervention that the Pakistani military and government is now thinking of changing their footprints towards a dialogue to settle the area down, which indeed is a good option not good for the United States to continue with its military voyage to hunt down the terrorists.

Now when NATO summit concludes that the foreign forces shall handover the military command of Afghanistan to the National Afghan Army, they plan to flee this place till 2014. I also wonder role played by the Pakistani intelligence by supporting the pro-Pakistani Taliban likewise the silent war fought against the USSR 3 decades back.

This may be taken into consideration that the public opinion against the American intrusion has crossed the limits, and the Pakistani- Government now fear that this may not burst up and may not be end of its times.

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The Buzz on China’s Drones

Chinease Ajain - Dark Sword

Since UAV (or Drones, as known to Asia Pacific) are very much in main-stream these days. So, I had to dedicate some more space within my blog to these unmannes vehicles. In an ongoing Chinease 8th International Airshow – Zhuhai 2010, Chinese commercial and defense aviation companies are exhibiting more than 25 UAV models. That is a record number of UAVs, according to show officials, and continuing evidence of China’s growing interest in unmanned technology. So Chinease are not only competing western industry for civilian or military jets, but UAVs also, as the show reveals. Some of the UAVs will serve as combat and battlefield reconnaissance roles. In one video, a UAV locates a U.S. aircraft carrier and relays the information for a follow-on attack by Chinese anti-ship missiles. Three Chinese companies – ASN Technology Group, China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp. (CASIC), and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) produced most of the UAVs on display.

ASN Technology is the largest UAV production company in China, with a history of developing unmanned aerial platforms, including drones, since 1958, said a company press release. The primary customer is the Chinese military and the company controls more than 90 percent of the UAV market in China. ASN showed off 10 different UAVs, including the new ASN-211 Flapping Wing Aircraft System, which simulates a bird in flight. The prototype on display has a take-off weight of only 220 grams with a maximum speed of six-to-10 meters a second and an altitude ranging from 20-200 meters, primarily for low-altitude reconnaissance missions.

The largest UAV on display by the company was the ASN-229A Reconnaissance and Precise Attack UAV. Equipped with a satellite data link, it can perform aerial reconnaissance, battlefield surveys, target location and artillery fire adjustment during the day or night. It has a take-off weight of 800 kilograms and a cruising speed of 160-180 kilometers per hour with an endurance of 20 hours. Weighing in at 800 kg, ASN’s largest system was the armed ASN-229A Reconnaissance and Precise Attack UAV, which is still under development. Able to cruise at 180 km/h, the 5.5 m-long ASN-229A can perform reconnaissance, target location or artillery observation missions via a satellite data-link. Also among the 600 exhibitors were China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC) and China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). Both state-owned companies showcased sophisticated missile-armed UAVs. CASC displayed the CH-3 carrying two air-to-ground missiles akin to the AGM-114 Hellfire. This 640 kg medium-range craft with 220 km/h cruising speed is optimised for reconnaissance, intelligence gathering, artillery fire adjustment and electronic warfare, as well as the depicted attack platform.

CASC displayed the CH-3 multipurpose medium-range UAV system suitable for battlefield reconnaissance, artillery fire adjustment, data relay and electronic warfare. A company official said the CH-3 could be modified as an attack platform carrying small precision-guided weapons. Weapons outfitted on the display included two air-to-ground missiles similar in configuration to the U.S.-built Hellfire. CASIC took the prize for UAVs capable of intimidating the U.S. military. These included the jet-powered WJ-600. Aerospace Science and Industry Group, according to the material, WJ-600 can be mounted opto-electronic reconnaissance, synthetic aperture radar, electronic surveillance and other mission equipment, with fast response, and strong penetration ability, and can all-time effect of all-weather reconnaissance and damage assessmenttask, you can also load other types of equipment to achieve the task of ground attack, electronic warfare, information relay, and target simulation and other military tasks. Moreover, this means that WJ-600 drone is capable of trabelling faster than both U.S Predator and Reaper, currently opnerational in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The general speed of the UAV flying only about 30 m/s (58.3 knots), while the WJ-600 can be up to 200 m/s (389 knots – about 100knots greater than U.S MQ-9 Reaper who is equipped with turboprop engine), better on the flight altitude, up to ten thousand meters altitude – thanks to its jet engine. At this stage the project look rather ambitious

Other UAVs displays included a little-known company called Zhuhai X.Y. Aviation, which exhibited two new reconnaissance platforms, the 200-kilogram Blue Arrow (UR-J1-001) and 40 kilogram Sky Eyes (UR-C2-008). A company spokesperson said there were three prototypes of the Blue Arrow now being test-flown and that the prop-driven engine was from an unidentified “German company.”

Closing the UAV Gap

The recent display of 25 UAVs at the Zhuhai was not only the surprise for westeran but also flet by Japan, North and South Korea, and the Taiwanese officials.Drone technology, thus far, has been led by the U.S. and Israel. China now has UAVs that are comparable, although not equal, to the American Predator and Global Hawk. most of the ASN models in use by the Chinese military are older, more like the 1990s technology found in the U.S. Army Shadow 200 (now being replaced by the Predator-like, 1.2 ton Gray Eagle). One of the most numerous Chinese army models, the ASN-206/207, is a 222 kg (488 pound) aircraft, with a 50 kg (110 pound) payload. The 207 model has a max endurance of eight hours, but more common is an endurance of four hours. Max range from the control van is 150 kilometers and cruising speed is about 180 kilometers an hour. A UAV unit consists of one control van and 6-10 trucks, each carrying a UAV and its catapult launch equipment. The UAV lands via parachute, so the aircraft get banged up a lot. A UAV battalion, with ten aircraft, would not be able to provide round the clock surveillance for more than a week, at best. But Chinese planners believe this is adequate.

Sources suggests that many of the Chinese UAVs demonstrate an American influence, some appear to be using Israeli technology. That’s no accident, as four years ago, Israeli UAV manufacturer EMIT got busted after it was caught shipping UAV technology to China. EMIT was not a major player in the UAV industry, having only three models; the 450 kg Butterfly, 182 kg (400 pound) Blue Horizon, the 48 kg (hundred pound) Sparrow. The twenty year old firm has been scrambling to stay in business. The Chinese helped set up a phony cooperative deal in a Southeast Asian country, to provide cover for the transfer of EMIT UAV technology to China. Most of EMIT’s production is for export, but Israel has agreed to consult with the United States about transfers of technology to China. This is because Israel has been caught exporting military equipment, containing American technology, to China (in violation of agreements with the United States.) China tends to get technology wherever, and whenever, it can.

Chinease Xianglong

Two years ago, China revealed that it was developing a new UAV, similar to the U.S. RQ-4 Global Hawk. Called Xianglong (Soaring Dragon – shown above), it is about half the size of the Global Hawk (shown below), at 7.5 tons, with a 14.5 meter (45 foot) wingspan and a .65 ton payload. Max altitude will be 18.4 kilometers (57,000 feet) and range will be 7,000 kilometers. It has a faster cruising speed (750 kilometers an hour) than the RQ-4. The Chinese Xianglong is intended for maritime patrol, as is a U.S. Navy model of the RQ-4. The shorter range of the Xianglong is apparently attributable to the lower capabilities of the Chinese aircraft engine industry.

U.S Global Hawk

Interestingly, This year’s models in Zhuhai included several designed to fire missiles, and one powered by a jet engine, meaning it could in theory fly faster than the propeller-powered Predator and Reaper drones that the U.S. has used in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The large number of UAVs on display illustrates clearly that China is investing considerable time and money to develop drone technology, not only that the equation is equally balanced by promoting these products to international market. The implications of this is not only China’s internal security, also this is also an opportunity for nations alike China or Pakistan who have sought in vain to acquire drones either for military purposes or for police surveillance and antiterrorist operations. However, this is of particular concern to the U.S. and Israel, whose drones are unrivalled in the world today, and could worry China’s neighbors. A further details about Chinease buzz on drone technology can be read at the Wall Street Journal who has recently published a detailed resarch about the Chinease catch-up to U.S and Israel.

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Sino-Pakistani Ties: JF-17 to carry Chinese missiles SD-10

Domestic SD-10 medium-range air-intercept missile

Further signs of deepen military cooperation between Islamabad and Beijing was seen today, when recently Pakistan Air Force decided to buy air-to-air SD-10 (shown above) – (said to be a variant of Italian Aspide missiles supplied to China in late 80s) missiles and avionics to arm its 250 JF-17 Thunder fighter fleet from China. Air Chief Marshal also revealed that his country may also opt to acquire other advanced defence missile systems including Chinese Surface to Air Missiles (SAM) systems. Pakistan has opted to go in for full Chinese armament systems for the jointly developed fighters, furthermore, SD-10 (mid-range missile) will become the standard Beyond Visual Range (BVR) weapon of the JF-17. This clearly seems that Pakistan Air Force has no plans to install wetern devices on its recently built combat aircraft. The first 50 JF-17s entering Pakistan Air Force service will most likely incorporate only Chinese avionics and other systems, however this may only be temporary. Once JF-17 enters full production, retractable in-flight refueling probes will be added and avionics from other sources may be integrated. Like other partnerships between two nations, it is obviously very impressive but “so called” chinease replicas do not sound appealing to me, what concerns me here is SD-10s’ life span compared to fifth generation amrs out there. However, I do hope they have long enough shelf life.

JF-17 can be armed with up to 3,629 kg (8,000 lb) of air-to-air and air-to-ground ordnance, as well as other equipment, mounted externally on the aircraft’s seven hardpoints. One hardpoint is located under the fuselage between the main landing gear, two are underneath each wing and one at each wing-tip. Internal armament comprises one 23 mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrel cannon mounted under the port side air intake, which can be replaced with a 30 mm GSh-30-2 twin-barrel cannon. The PAF is also seeking to arm the JF-17 with a modern fifth generation close-combat missile such as the IRIS-T or A-darter. These will be integrated with the helmet mounted sights/display (HMS/D) as well as the radar for targeting.

JF-17 Thunder

Global Times quoting unnamed sources claimed that the French consortium has withdrawn from a reported 1.2 billion euro contract to supply radars and missiles for the first wave of 50 JF-17 fighters, after pressure from India. French sources had reported that a joint bid had been made by French aeronautic company ATE along with Thales Group and MBDA. The Pakistan Air Force Chief is currently on a visit to China to attend the Zhuhai Air Show now underway in southern China, where the JF-17s were a major attraction.

Nov. 16 (China Military News cited from APP): Air Chief Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman, Chief of Air Staff, pakistan Air Force (PAF), said on Tuesday that pakistan-China joint production JF-17 Thunder fighter jet has bright prospects in the international aviation market. It has many added features which make it much more attractive than any other fighter aircraft of its category, said the Air Chief. A low price tag and much less maintenance and operational cost compared to the other planes of its class make it attractive for the buyers, he said. Pakistan, having the second biggest fleet of aircraft after host China, is participating for the first time in this exhibition. As many as ten K-8 trainer aircraft and three JF-17 fighters are taking part in the show that demonstrates the all-weather and time-tested friendship between the two countries. To a question regarding further expansion of cooperation between Pakistan Air Force and China, Rao Qamar Suleman replied that the two brotherly neighboring countries have a long history of cooperation in all fields particularly defence. He expressed the confidence that with the passage of time these bonds of friendsip would further consolidate.

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Zhuhai 2010: What is there for Pakistan Air Force

Airshow China 2010, held from 16 – 21 November in Zhuhai will showcase the importance of the country to the international aerospace industry, with a slew of indigenous aircraft produced by Chinese companies reflecting their ambitions. Here is a glimpse of Pakistan Air Force presance at Zhuhai. Other than JF-17, Pakistan eyed on J-10, who will be joinging their fleet in near future. Chinese officials indicated that it would also develop new versions of the type. A B-model aircraft has already been proposed, with this to have a thrust-vectoring engine and an active electronically scanned array radar. Moreover, China is likely to accelerate the modernisation of its fighter fleet over the next decade, and is looking to induct additional indigenous aircraft and order new types from Russia. A naval version of the J-10 is also on the cards, with sources saying that China hopes to get its aircraft carrier programme up and running in the next decade. But with an indigenous naval fighter expected to take too long to develop, China is reportedly negotiating with Russia’s Rosoboronexport arms agency for an interim batch of 48 Sukhoi Su-33 fighters. Pakistan Air Force has sent their aerobatic team “Sherdils” to fly with K-8 trainers and JF-17 Thunder fighter aircrafts at the airshow.

Static JF-17 at Air Show China - Zhuhai 2010

The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) is to send three JF-17 (shown above) Thunder fighters to Airshow China 2010 at Zhuhai. Following the type’s international debut at this year’s Farnborough International Airshow in July when two aircraft attended the static display, the PAF is to send an additional aircraft to Zhuhai to take part in the flying display.

Pakistan acrobatic teamSherdils used K-8 advanced trainers, were bought to replace the Sherdils’s aging T-37 trainers.

Other highlights of the show includes the display of BP-12A (shown below) long-range, GPS guided rocket, This new BP-12A VLS rocket system has a module warhead design that can fit different munitions in accordance to different mission profiles. Its SY400 based motor propels it to a range up to 400 KM, making it one of the longest, non-Ballistic, rockets available today.

In recent years several aircraft have caught the eye of Western observers. In addition to the J-11B, which is reportedly comparable with classic Boeing F-15s, the fighter receiving the most attention is the Chengdu J-10 (shown below), said to be similar to the F-16. Bitzinger believes that China will eventually induct around 300 J-10s and 300 J-11s.

JF-17’s Potential in Market

Furthermore, China is in discussions about selling the Chengdu Aircraft/Pakistan Aeronautical Complex JF-17 Thunder fighter to up to eight countries.The third-generation, single-engine fighter, which was jointly developed by Pakistan and China, is being pitched as a replacement for several existing types. These include the RSK MiG-21, Dassault Mirage 5, Northrop F-5 and Chinese models, such as the Nanchang A-5 and Chengdu F-7. Three Pakistan air force JF-17s, along with a number of other Pakistani aircraft, are in Zhuhai and a JF-17 participated in the flying display. There were also around 170 officials from the service at the show.

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