Saudi missile defenses failed to stop a Houthi strike - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Saudi missile defenses failed to stop a Houthi strike

Saudi Arabia’s missile interceptors may have “failed catastrophically” in their attempts to shoot down several missiles headed toward Riyadh over the weekend of March 24, 2018, according to one expert.


Seven ballistic missiles launched from the Yemeni Houthi rebel group were intercepted on March 25, 2018, according to the Saudi Press Agency. The National, an English news outlet based in the United Arab Emirates, reported that one person died and two others were injured by shrapnel over Riyadh.

Jeffrey Lewis, the director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said on Twitter that in video footage released of the missiles, it appeared one defense system “failed catastrophically” while another “pulled a u-turn” and exploded over Riyadh.

Lewis said it was “entirely possible” that the defense-system failure rather than the missiles themselves led to any casualties or injuries.

Also read: The Saudis want their longtime adversary’s missile defenses

“Will have to see where debris fell, impact points, and where people were killed/injured before we can make educated guesses,” Lewis tweeted.

The militant group has been protesting Saudi Arabia’s role in Yemen’s bloody civil war and has engaged in an increasingly violent border conflict with the kingdom since 2015. Experts say the March 25 barrage could be the largest number of ballistic missiles fired at once by the rebel group since the war escalated four years ago.

The Houthis have launched dozens of missiles in recent months, including one in November 2017 at Riyadh’s King Khalid International Airport. Saudi Arabia has said it downed that missile, while the Houthis say it reached its target.

Related: Saudi Arabia is paying $15 billion for this advanced anti-missile system

The latest strikes coincided with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to the US, signaling that they may have been a display of disapproval by the Iran-backed rebels.

On March 22, 2018, US Defense Secretary James Mattis urged the crown prince to pursue “urgent efforts” for a peaceful solution to Yemen’s civil war.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Everything you need to know about China’s air force

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force of China and its sister branch, the PLA Naval Air Force, operate a huge fleet of around 1,700 combat aircraft — defined here as fighters, bombers, and attack planes. This force is exceeded only by the 3,400 active combat aircraft of the U.S. military. Moreover, China operates a lot of different aircraft types that are not well known in the West.


However, most Chinese military aircraft are inspired by or copied from Russian or American designs, so it’s not too hard to grasp their capabilities if you know their origins.

The Soviet-Era Clones

Saudi missile defenses failed to stop a Houthi strike
Q-5 in Military Museum of the Chinese People’s Revolution. (Image from Wikipedia Commons)

The Soviet Union and Communist China were best buddies during the 1950s, so Moscow transferred plenty of technology, including tanks and jet fighters. One of the early Chinese-manufactured types was the J-6, a clone of the supersonic MiG-19, which has a jet intake in the nose. Though China built thousands of J-6s, all but a few have been retired. However, about 150 of a pointy-nosed ground-attack version, the Nanchang Q-5, remain in service, upgraded to employ precision-guided munitions.

Sino-Soviet friendship ended in an ugly breakup around 1960. But in 1962, the Soviets offered China a dozen hot, new MiG-21 fighters as part of a peace overture. Beijing rejected the overture, but kept the fighters, which were reverse-engineered into the sturdier (but heavier) Chengdu J-7. Production began slowly due to the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, but between 1978 and 2013 Chinese factories turned out thousands of the pencil-fuselage jet fighters in dozens of variants. Nearly four hundred still serve in the PLAAF and PLANAF.

The J-7 is a 1950s-era hot rod in terms of maneuverability and speed — it can keep up with an F-16 at Mach 2 — but it cannot carry much fuel or armament, and it has a weak radar in its tiny nose cone. Still, China has worked to keep the J-7 relevant. The J-7G, introduced in 2004, includes an Israeli doppler radar (detection range: thirty-seven miles) and improved missiles for beyond-visual range capabilities, as well as a digital “glass cockpit.”

These aircraft would struggle against modern, fourth-generation fighters that can detect and engage adversaries at much greater ranges, though hypothetically mass formations could attempt to overwhelm defenders with swarm attacks. Still, the J-7s allow China to maintain a larger force of trained pilots and support personnel until new designs come into service.

China’s B-52

Saudi missile defenses failed to stop a Houthi strike
Xian H-6 Badger, the Chinese copy of the Tu-16 Badger. (YouTube screenshot)

Another Soviet-era clone is the Xi’an H-6, a twin-engine strategic bomber based on the early-1950s era Tu-16 Badger. Though less capable than the U.S. B-52  or Russian Tu-95 Bear bombers, the air-refuelable H-6K remains relevant because it could lug heavy long-range cruise-missiles and hit naval or ground targets as far as four thousand miles from China without entering the range of air defenses. The H-6 was originally tasked with dropping nuclear weapons, but the PLAAF no longer seems interested in this role. Xi’an is reportedly developing a new H-20 strategic bomber, though there’s little information available so far.

Domestic Innovations

Saudi missile defenses failed to stop a Houthi strike

In the mid-1960s, China began working on genuinely home-designed combat jets, leading to the Shenyang J-8 debuting in 1979. A large twin-turbojet supersonic interceptor that could attain Mach 2.2 and resembled a cross between the MiG-21 and the larger Su-15 , the J-8 lacked modern avionics and maneuverability. However, the succeeding J-8II variant (about 150 currently serving) improved on the former with an Israeli radar in a new pointy-nose cone, making it a fast but heavy weapons platform a bit like the F-4 Phantom. Around 150 are still operational.

The two-hundred-plus Xi’an JH-7 Flying Leopards, which entered service in 1992, are beefy two-seat naval-attack fighter-bombers that can lug up to twenty thousand pounds of missiles and have a top speed of Mach 1.75. Though they wouldn’t want to get in a dogfight with opposing contemporary fighters, they may not have to if they can capitalize on long-range anti-ship missiles.

The Chengdu J-10 Vigorous Dragon, by contrast, is basically China’s F-16 Fighting Falcon, a highly maneuverable, lightweight multi-role fighter leaning on fly-by-wire avionics to compensate for its aerodynamically unstable airframe. Currently dependent on Russian AL-31F turbofans, and coming several decades after the F-16 debuted, the J-10 may not seem earthshaking, but the J-10B model comes out of the box with twenty-first-century avionics such as advanced infrared search-and-track systems and a cutting-edge Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, which cannot be said for all F-16 types. However, the fleet of 250 J-10s has suffered several deadly accidents possibly related to difficulties in the fly-by-wire system.

The Flanker Comes to China—And Stays There

Saudi missile defenses failed to stop a Houthi strike
An armed Chinese fighter jet flies near a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon patrol aircraft over the South China Sea about 135 miles east of Hainan Island in international airspace. (U.S. Navy Photo)

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a Russia starved for cash and no longer concerned about ideological disputes was happy to oblige when Beijing came knocking at the door asking to buy then state-of-the-art Sukhoi Su-27 fighters, a highly maneuverable twin-engine jet comparable to the F-15 Eagle with excellent range and payload. This proved a fateful decision: today a sprawling family of aircraft derived from the Su-27 form the core of China’s modern fighter force.

After importing the initial batch of Su-27s, Beijing purchased a license to domestically build their own copy, the Shenyang J-11 — but to Russia’s dismay, began independently building more advanced models, the J-11B and D.

Moscow felt burned, but still sold seventy-six modernized ground- and naval-attack variants of the Flanker, the Su-30MKK and Su-30MK2 respectively, which parallel the F-15E Strike Eagle. Chinese designers also churned out their own derivative of the Su-30: the Shenyang J-16 Red Eagle, boasting an AESA radar, and the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, a carrier-based fighter based on a Russian Su-33 acquired from Ukraine. Around twenty now serve on China’s Type 001 aircraft carrier Liaoning. There’s even the J-16D, a jamming pod-equipped electronic-warfare fighter styled after the U.S. Navy’s EA-18 Growler.

The Chinese Sukhoi derivatives are theoretically on par with the fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 and F-16. However, they are saddled with domestic WS-10 turbofan engines, which have had terrible maintenance problems and difficulty producing enough thrust. Jet-engine tech remains the chief limitation of Chinese combat aircraft today. Indeed, in 2016 China purchased twenty-four Su-35s, the most sophisticated and maneuverable variant of the Flanker so far — likely to obtain their AL-41F turbofans engines.

The Stealth Fighters

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Flypast of the Chengdu J-20 during the opening of Airshow China in Zhuhai. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Alert5)

In a remarkably short timeframe, China developed two distinct stealth fighter designs. Twenty Chengdu J-20s entered PLAAF service in 2017. Unlike the F-22 Raptor, designed to be the ultimate air superiority fighter, or the single-engine multirole F-35 Lightning, the J-20 is a huge twin-engine beast optimized for speed, range, and heavy weapons loads at the expense of maneuverability.

The J-20 might be suitable for surprise raids on land or sea targets — though its larger rear-aspect radar cross section could be problematic — or to sneak past enemy fighters to take out vulnerable support tankers or AWACs radar planes. Special-mission stealth fighters make sense for a country that is only just getting into the business of operating such technically demanding aircraft.

Meanwhile, the smaller, privately developed Shenyang J-31 Gyrfalcon (or FC-31) is basically a twin-engine remodeling of the F-35 Lightning — quite possibly using schematics hacked off Lockheed computers. Chinese designers may have developed an aerodynamically superior airframe by ditching elements supporting vertical-takeoff-or-landing engines. However, the J-31 probably won’t boast the fancy sensors and data fusion capabilities of the Lightning.

Currently, the J-31 appears intended for service on upcoming Type 002 aircraft carriers, and for export as a cut-price F-35 alternative. However, while there are flying Gyrfalcon prototypes with Russian engines, the type may only begin production when sufficiently reliable Chinese WS-13 turbofans are perfected.

Towards the Future

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The crew of a Chinese navy patrol plane. (Photo from People’s Liberation Army)

Roughly 33 percent of the PLAAF and PLANAF’s combat aircraft are old second-generation fighters of limited combat value against peer opponents, save perhaps in swarming attacks. Another 28 percent include strategic bombers and more capable but dated third-generation designs. Finally, 38 percent are fourth-generation fighters that can theoretically hold their own against peers like the F-15 and F-16. Stealth fighters account for 1 percent.

However, the technical capabilities of aircraft are just half the story; at least as important are training, organizational doctrine, and supporting assets, ranging from satellite recon to air-refueling tankers, ground-based radars, and airborne command posts.

For example, China has the intel resources, aircraft, and missiles to hunt aircraft carriers. However, the doctrine and experience to link these elements together to form a kill chain is no simple matter. A 2016 Rand report alleges Chinese aviation units are scrambling to reverse a lack of training under realistic conditions and develop experience in joint operations with ground and naval forces.

At any rate, Beijing seems in no rush to replace all its older jets with new ones. Major new acquisitions may wait until the Chinese aviation industry has smoothed out the kinks in its fourth-generation and stealth aircraft.

Articles

The Pentagon is worried about the missile threat from these countries

The North Korean ballistic missile threat has been receiving significant attention in recent weeks, but missile threats are surging worldwide, a new Pentagon report suggests.


North Korea has made significant strides in developing its weapons program in recent months, successfully testing multiple new ballistic missile systems, but other countries, such as Iran, Russia, and China, are also rapidly advancing their missile capabilities. “Many countries view ballistic and cruise missile systems as cost-effective weapons and symbols of national power,” defense intelligence agencies said in a report viewed in advance by Bloomberg News.

“China continues to have the most active and diverse ballistic missile development program in the world,” the Pentagon assessed.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, which oversees China’s land-based nuclear and conventional missiles, has received much more attention as China pursues an extensive military modernization program putting greater emphasis on technological strength rather than manpower.

Saudi missile defenses failed to stop a Houthi strike
The HQ-9 is a Chinese medium- to long-range, active radar homing surface-to-air missile.

China tested a new intercontinental ballistic missile — the DF-5C — with 10 warheads in January, and there have been rumors that another developmental Chinese ICBM has already been deployed. China conducted its seventh successful test of the DF-41 with two inert warheads last spring. The Chinese armed forces are expected to substantially increase the number of warheads on the ICBMs capable of threatening the continental US over the next few years, the new Pentagon report suggests.

The Chinese military has also deployed new and improved DF-16s, highly-accurate, mobile medium-range ballistic missiles, to further threaten Taiwan. The precision missiles could also be used to target US bases located along the “first island chain.” At the same time, China can field DF-21D anti-ship missiles and the DF-26, which could be used against US forces in Guam, according to the Pentagon’s China Military Power report.

Russia, which has more deployed nuclear warheads than the US, is “expected to retain the largest force of strategic ballistic missiles outside the United States,” according to the new defense report.

Saudi missile defenses failed to stop a Houthi strike
A Russian Topol M mobile nuclear missile. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Both China and Russia are also working to develop hypersonic glide vehicle technology. “HGVS are maneuverable vehicles that travel at hypersonic (greater than Mach 5) speed and spend most of their flight at much lower altitudes than a typical ballistic missile,” defense agencies revealed.

High speed, maneuverability, and low-altitude flight make missile interception via missile defense systems significantly more difficult. Russia is believed to be moving closer to fielding a hypersonic cruise missile — the Zircon — that can threaten enemy ships. Some observers, however, suspect Chinese and Russian claims regarding their various achievements in this area are exaggerated.

Iran has extended the range and effectiveness of its mid-range Shabab-3, a weapon based on a North Korean model, and the Pentagon is under the impression that Iran, much like North Korea, ultimately intends to develop an ICBM.

“Tehran’s desire to have a strategic counter to the United States could drive it to field an ICBM. Progress in Iran’s space program could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space launch vehicles (SLV) use inherently similar technologies,” the report explained.

Saudi missile defenses failed to stop a Houthi strike
Photo from Tasnim News Agency.

Iran has also been working to advance its Fateh-110 missiles, which it tested in March. Iran launched missiles into Syria last week, firing off a mid-range weapon in combat for the first time in three decades.

Expert analysts have noted significant cooperation between Iran and North Korea in recent years.

North Korea has, this year alone, tested new short-, medium-, and intermediate-range ballistic missiles, experimenting with different fuels and engines. The North has also been testing new transporter erector launchers, which offer greater mobility and survivability. Similar developments are being seen in other countries.

Saudi missile defenses failed to stop a Houthi strike
North Korean Missile. (Associated Press image via NewsEdge)

North Korea has repeatedly threatened that an ICBM test is not far off, and while the regime will most likely test a liquid-fueled ICBM, such as the KN-08 revealed a few years ago, the North has also presented two canister-launched ICBMs in military parades resembling two foreign missiles, specifically the Chinese DF-31 and the Russian Topol.

MIGHTY TRENDING

US Navy is ‘under cyber siege’ from Chinese hackers; hemorrhaging national secrets

An internal US Navy review concluded that the service and its various industry partners are “under cyber siege” from Chinese hackers who are building Beijing’s military capabilities while eroding the US’s advantage, The Wall Street Journal reported March 12, 2019.

Chinese hackers have repeatedly hit the Navy, defense contractors, and even universities that partner with the service.

“We are under siege,” a senior Navy official told The Journal. “People think it’s much like a deadly virus — if we don’t do anything, we could die.”


Are Cyber Attacks Acts of War?

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Breaches have been “numerous,” according to the review. While China is identified as the primary threat, hackers from Russia and Iran have also been causing their share of trouble.

Saudi missile defenses failed to stop a Houthi strike

Sailors stand watch in the Fleet Operations Center at the headquarters of US Fleet Cyber Command/US 10th Fleet, Dec. 14, 2017.

(US Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Samuel Souvannason)

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer launched the recently concluded review in October 2018, warning that “attacks on our networks are not new, but attempts to steal critical information are increasing in both severity and sophistication.”

“We must act decisively to fully understand both the nature of these attacks and how to prevent further loss of vital military information,” he added.

In one high-profile incident lin 2018, Chinese government hackers stole important data on US Navy undersea-warfare programs from an unidentified contractor. Among the stolen information were plans for a new supersonic anti-ship missile, The Washington Post reported in June 2018, citing US officials.

That and a second breach led Navy leadership to order the review.

The Journal described the findings of the internal Navy cybersecurity review as “dire,” adding that the report “depicts a branch of the armed forces under relentless cyberattack by foreign adversaries and struggling in its response to the scale and sophistication of the problem.”

The Navy and the Pentagon reportedly “have only a limited understanding of the actual totality of losses that are occurring,” meaning the situation could be even worse than the Navy fears.

Last week, The Journal reported that Chinese hackers have targeted more than two dozen universities in the US and elsewhere in an attempt to steal military secrets, particularly those related to maritime technology.

Saudi missile defenses failed to stop a Houthi strike

(US Navy Photo)

The Navy is not the only US military service branch in China’s crosshairs.

Adm. Philip Davidson, head of US Indo-Pacific Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in April 2018 that Beijing is snatching anything not nailed down — “stealing technology in just about every domain and trying to use it to their advantage,” Stars and Stripes reported.

A US defense official previously told The Journal that China was targeting America’s “weak underbelly,” saying that cybersecurity breaches are “an asymmetric way to engage the United States without ever having to fire a round.”

China has repeatedly denied engaging in cyberattacks against the US or other countries.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Despite last minute reprieve, US and Iran still on the brink of war

President Donald Trump called off airstrikes last minute against Iran, but the reprieve is likely only temporary from a clash that has brought the US and Iran to the brink of war.

Iran’s economy is sputtering under mounting US sanctions that it’s called “economic war” and said it will start enriching uranium and increasing its stockpile beyond the limits set by the nuclear treaty, which the Trump administration walked away from a little over a year ago.

Experts largely believe Iran’s military and its proxy forces, which Tehran supplies and trains, will continue to seek confrontations against the US and its allies across the region due to the sanctions that are damaging Iran’s economy.


“The enemy (Iran) believes it’s acting defensively in light of economic strangulation, which it views as an act of war,” Brett McGurk, the former special envoy to the coalition to defeat ISIS, wrote on Twitter. “That doesn’t justify its acts but makes deterrence via one-off strikes harder perhaps counter-productive.”

Last week, two oil tankers were attacked in the Gulf of Oman, which the US has blamed on Iran. The incident prompted anxiety from the UN and US allies, who’ve all preached restraint.

Iran has denied striking the tankers, in the face of a US military video showing what appears to be an Iranian patrol boat retrieving an unexploded limpet mine, and claims the downing of the US RQ-4 Global Hawk drone came after warnings it had entered Iranian airspace.

The Iranian attacks aim to raise the political costs of Trump’s maximum pressure strategy against Iran, and Randa Slim of the Middle East Institute previously told INSIDER she expected Iran to “up the ante” against the US, even by kidnapping Americans in the region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has reportedly told Iran that the US will respond with military force if Iran kills any Americans, and so it is unclear how the US would respond to a kidnapping.

Saudi missile defenses failed to stop a Houthi strike

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

(Photo by Mark Taylor)

With the US taking no action against Iran for the drone attack other than condemnation, and possibly added sanctions, many experts think Iran has little reason to abandon its attacks.

“Unfortunately it sends a dangerous signal to Iran,” Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy wrote on Twitter. “US aversion to escalation doesn’t deter Tehran from escalating. And they have every incentive to continue until they get what they want: sanctions relief.”

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” Ned Price, former senior director of the National Security Council under President Obama, told INSIDER.

Jon Wolfsthal, who served as the nuclear expert for the National Security Council under the Obama administration, told INSIDER, “Conflict between Iran and US can erupt at any time.”

Wolfsthal said he’s not aware of any new guidance given to military officials to “de-engage or avoid possible actions that could lead to provocations.”

“In fact, I expect drones are flying the same course today,” Wolfsthal added.

Meanwhile, the prospect of a diplomatic resolution to hostilities remains elusive.

Trump warned Iran of the impending, and ultimately halted, military strike via Oman on June 20, 2019, Reuters reported. The president also extended yet another offer to hold talks with Tehran.

An Iranian official told Reuters that a decision on whether to speak to the US would be made by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has so far rebuffed Trump’s proposals to hold talks.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

ISIS claims suicide attack that killed 34

The Islamic State (IS) extremist group has claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in a Shi’ite area of Kabul on Aug. 15, 2018.

Earlier on Aug. 16, 2018, Afghan authorities revised the death toll from the attack to 34 killed from their earlier reports of 48 dead.

Health Ministry spokesman Wahid Majroh said that 56 people were wounded in the bombing in the neighborhood of Dasht-e Barchi when the bomber walked into a building where high-school graduates were preparing for university entrance exams and blew himself up.


Authorities a day earlier had said 67 people were wounded.

Most of the victims were young men and women studying together at a private education center in the western Kabul neighborhood.

Fifteen of the victims’ bodies were taken to an ethnic Hazara community compound in Kabul where a mass funeral service was being held on Aug. 16, 2018.

Other victims were being taken to their villages near Kabul to be buried there.

IS extremists have carried out similar attacks in the past, hitting Shi’ite mosques, schools, and cultural centers.

Jawad Ghawari, a member of the city’s Shi’ite clerical council, said there were at least 13 attacks on the Shi’ite community in the past two years in Kabul alone.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Trump says he’s sending troops to guard the US-Mexico border

President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on April 3, 2018, that he would dispatch US troops to the US-Mexico border.

“Until we can have a wall and proper security we’re going to be guarding our border with the military,” he said, according to Reuters correspondent Phil Stewart. “That’s a big step.”


Trump said he had spoken with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis about “guarding our border with the military … until we have a wall,” according to David Nakamura of The Washington Post. “We really haven’t done that before, or certainly so much before.”

Trump’s comments come after several days of comments about an annual “caravan” of mostly Central American migrants started a trip from the southwest corner of Mexico aiming to reach the US border, where many would seek asylum.

Trump inveighed against the group, against what he perceived as Mexico’s failure to stop them, and against what he sees as weak US immigration policy that has led to such migration. Mexican immigration officials moved to break up the group on April 2, 2018, but Trump again commented on the caravan’s movement on April 3, 2018.

“If it reaches our border, our laws are so weak and so pathetic … it’s like we have no border,” Trump said on April 3, 2018. “They did it because you really have to do it,” he added, referring to Mexico’s decision to halt the movement.

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A National Guard Soldier from the 29th Brigade Combat Team, assisting the U.S. Border Patrol, stands watch on a ridge above Nogales, Ariz., at the Mexico border.
(Photo by Sgt. Jim Greenhill)

“The caravan doesn’t irritate me,” Trump said. “The caravan makes me very sad that this could happen to the United States.”

“President Obama made changes that basically created no border,” he said.

Trump has reference the military in discussions of border security and immigration enforcement before.

A few weeks after taking office, Trump described the removal of authorized immigration by his administration as “a military operation,” a comment that contrasted with other officials in his administration, who stressed that deportations would not be pursued en masse or in the style of a military operation. Sean Spicer, then the White House press secretary, later clarified that Trump was using the term “as an adjective.”

In late March 2018, Trump floated the idea of redirecting funds from the defense budget toward funding the wall he has promised to build on the frontier. The project is currently under the purview of the Homeland Security Department.

The Pentagon said Trump had discussed the matter with Mattis, however Pentagon and Congressional officials both said it would take an act of Congress to shift those funds. During a trip to Mexico in September 2017, Mattis highlighted the US and Mexico’s close cooperation and mutual concerns, and, when asked about the border wall, said the US military had no role in enforcing the border.

A Pentagon official was not immediately available to comment on Trump’s latest remarks.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia sent its most advanced fighter to Syria

Videos on social media appear to show Russia’s Su-57, a prototype of a new, fifth-generation fighter jet, operating in Syria — and it could be a direct threat to US stealth aircraft like the F-22.


Justin Bronk, a combat aircraft expert at the Royal United Services Institute, told Business Insider that initial attempts to geolocate Su-57s shown in the video indicated the deployment may be authentic.

He also said any deployment could be a cynical move to boost Russia’s military sales while gaining valuable intelligence on the F-22.

“Russia has deployed pretty much everything in its arsenal in Syria, whether they’re prototypes or heavy strategic bombers in absurdly inefficient strike paths all around Western Europe and through the Mediterranean” to strike targets in Syria, Bronk said.

Indeed, Russia often uses Syria as a showroom for its military exports.

It has deployed advanced, complicated systems like submarine-launched cruise missiles, which are designed for high-end naval warfighting, against unsophisticated, basically defenseless targets in Syria.

On more regular bomb runs, Russia simply drops unguided munitions from Cold War-era fighter jets, which are frequently accused of killing civilians in places like hospitals.

Bronk assessed that Russia wanted to boost its position in the export market and that by deploying the Su-57, a prototype without its proper engines or stealth configuration, it could advertise the platform as “combat-proven.”

Also read: Russia’s new stealth planes will be nuclear strike aircraft

Though Bronk said the Su-57 was “certainly not combat-proven in the sense of showing it can take on Western fighters,” which is its intended purpose, the plane technically will have participated in combat.

But while the Su-57 poses no real air-to-air threat to Western fighters in its current, unrefined state, it has a diverse array of powerful radars Russia could use to perfect anti-stealth techniques and battle plans against the US’s F-22.

The Su-57 can’t yet fight, but it can spy

According to Bronk, one of the main challenges for the Su-57 is integrating the plane’s “really quite innovative radar arrangement.” He said it would be a great opportunity to test the configuration in Syria, where a large number of F-22 stealth jets operate.

Saudi missile defenses failed to stop a Houthi strike
An F-22 Raptor. (U.S. Air National Guard photo/Senior Master Sgt. Ralph Branson)

“The skies over Iraq and specifically Syria have really just been a treasure trove for them to see how we operate,” Lt. Gen. VeraLinn “Dash” Jamieson said at an Air Force Association briefing hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies in January 2018.

Related: Russia’s new Su-57 ‘stealth’ fighter hasn’t even been delivered yet — and it’s already a disappointment

“Our adversaries are watching us — they’re learning from us,” Jamieson said. With the apparent deployment of the Su-57, Russia may be teaching its best pilots in its newest plane how to stalk and fight F-22s, which would rely on stealth as their major advantage in combat with more maneuverable Russian jets.

But Bronk said deploying Su-57s in Syria would be a “double-edged sword” for Russia. That, Bronk said, is because not only would Russia be able to scope out the US’s stealth fighters, but their presence in Syria would “give the US a chance to see how the F-22s respond” to Russia’s new jet and “allow Western aircraft time to collect signals intelligence on what those radars are doings.”

Marketing ploy for a prestige plane?

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(Photo by Alex Beltyukov)

Overall, if Russia does have Su-57s in Syria, it’s most likely a marketing ploy to increase exports as Russia’s economy flags under weak oil prices. Though Russia often hypes the Su-57, it has ordered only 12 of them for its own use and “desperately” needs an investment from India to bump up production, Bronk said.

“They’re ordering 12 of them,” Bronk said. “How can you sustain a genuine program when your order book is so tiny? In a state that has huge budget problems and a massive military bill,” the Su-57 functions as a prestige item, Bronk said.

So while the Syrian civil war rages on, and hundreds of civilians fall victim to airstrikes from the Russian-allied Syrian government, Moscow may be using the opportunity to show off shiny new hardware and gain a military edge against its US competitor.

MIGHTY TRENDING

South Korea’s special ops wants to kill Kim Jong Un with suicide drones

South Korea is planning to arm its newly-formed special forces unit, known as the “decapitation unit,” with suicide drones and other lethal weapons to take out North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to the Korea Herald.


The South Korean Defense Ministry announced on Dec. 6 that the decapitation unit was allocated $310,000 for weapons and equipment, and an anonymous Defense Ministry official told the Herald that the unit will receive $24 million altogether.

The “equipment includes suicide drones, surveillance drones, and grenade machine guns,” the defense ministry official told the Herald.

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Concept imagery of a weaponized drone. (Image: YouTube)

The decapitation unit is an army brigade consisting of 1,000 special operators. It was established on Dec. 1 with the aim of assassinating Kim and his top leaders.

It’s expected to be modeled off SEAL Team 6, but it’s not yet operational as it requires more equipment, such as low-flying aircraft to take the operators into North Korea, the Herald reported.

South Korean officials have been openly discussing the formation of the unit since summer 2015. It’s considered strange for a government to freely talk about assassinating world leaders.

Read Also: Future Marine mega-drone may carry same weapons as F-35

But the New York Times reported in September that the South is doing so in the hopes of scaring Kim Jong Un back to the negotiating table.

“The best deterrence we can have, next to having our own nukes, is to make Kim Jong Un fear for his life,” Shin Won-sik, a retired South Korean three-star general, told the Times.

The South’s allocation of $310,000 to the unit is part of the its nearly $40 billion defense budget for 2018, which has increased 7% since 2016 and is the highest since 2009, according to Newsweek.

Articles

Army mulls $3 billion multi-year Apache buy

Saudi missile defenses failed to stop a Houthi strike
Photo: US Army Sgt. Stephen Proctor


The Defense Department and Boeing Co. are negotiating a $3.3 billion, multi-year contract for 275 AH-64E Apache helicopters, according to news reports.

Negotiations began after the Office of the Secretary of Defense last month approved the Army‘s proposed procurement plan, Col. Jeffrey Hager, the Army’s Apache program manager, told Inside Defense on Monday at the annual Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, D.C.

A signed agreement between Boeing and the Army is expected sometime in early 2017, barring legislative hiccups.

Both the House and Senate versions of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act have accepted a multi-year proposal, but a single bill — with the president’s seal of approval — has not yet been approved.

Lawmakers are increasingly reviewing multi-year deals to ensure they produce savings on procurement and production programs.

The Apache proposal, for example, was approved by Shay Assad, the director of defense pricing in the Pentagon’s acquisition directorate, Inside Defense said. Thanks to a profile in Politico in April, Assad earned a reputation as a Robin Hood of sorts after identifying hundreds of millions of dollars in savings by more closely scrutinizing costs charged by contractors.

Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright told the news outlet that Assad led contract negotiations for multi-year deals on the Apache helicopter, C-17 Globemaster transport plane and F/A-18 fighter jet “that returned in excess of $500M to the taxpayers.”

If given the green light, a multi-year Apache contract could save $1 billion over five years, according to a House Armed Services Committee fact sheet.

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SECNAV orders Marines to remove ‘man’ from job titles

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Lance Cpl. Jessica Craver carries a .50-caliber machine gun receiving group for mounting onto an MK48 Logistics Vehicle System | US Marine Corps


Two separate memos from Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to the Marine Corps ordered the Marine Corps to fully gender-integrate training for entry-level Marines, as well as making job titles less gender specific.

“No later than January, 15, 2016, submit to my office a detailed implementation plan that addresses the gender integration of officer and enlisted basic training,” Mabus wrote in the memo.

In the past, the Marine Corps expressed that some roles should remain closed to women.

“As we achieve full integration of the force … this is an opportunity to update the position titles and descriptions themselves to demonstrate through this language that women are included in these MOSs (Military Occupation Specialties),” Mabus wrote in a second memo.

“Please review the position titles throughout the Marine Corps and ensure that they are gender-integrated as well, removing ‘man’ from the titles and provide a report to me as soon as is practicable and no later than April 1, 2016.”

This step may seem a huge change, that would alter age-old axioms like “Every marine is a rifleman first,” but only certain titles will be changed.

A Navy official told the Marine Times that only titles where the word “man” appears as a separate word will be changed. Therefore, titles like “infantryman” and “rifleman” will go unchanged.

Whereas, “reconnaissance man” or “field artillery sensor support man” will simply have the word “man” removed.

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The actor who played “Scotty” on ‘Star Trek’ was shot six times on D-Day

Today I found out the actor who played “Scotty” on Star Trek, James Doohan, was shot six times storming Juno beach on D-Day.


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Photo: Wikipedia

Doohan, a Canadian, after leading his men through a mine field on Juno beach and personally taking out two German snipers in the process, eventually took four rounds in one of his legs; one in his hand, which ultimately resulted in him losing his middle finger; and one in the chest.  The shot to the chest likely would have been fatal except that he had a silver cigarette case there, given to him by his brother, which deflected the bullet.  He would later give up smoking, but at least he could say that being a smoker actually saved his life.

Ironically, the shots he took were not fired by the enemy, but rather by an overzealous Canadian gunman.  After his unit was secured in their position for the night, Doohan was crossing between command posts, when a Canadian gunman spotted him and opened fire.

Doohan originally joined the Canadian Forces at the age of 19, eventually being commissioned a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Artillery.  D-Day was the first and last action he saw in the war.  After recovering from his injuries, he became a pilot in the Canadian Air Force, but never saw action.  Despite not ever flying in combat, he was once called “the craziest pilot in the Canadian Air Force” when he flew a plane through two telegraph poles after “slaloming” down a mountainside, just to prove it could be done.  This act was not looked upon highly by his superiors, but earned him a reputation among the pilots of the Canadian Air Force.

Bonus Facts:

  • As mentioned, contrary to what many people think, Doohan was not Scottish.  He was Canadian.  When he was auditioning for the role of the ship’s engineer, he went over various accents for Gene Roddenberry for the character.  After he finished, Roddenberry asked him which he liked best and he responded: “Well, if you want an engineer, he better be a Scotsman because, in my experience, all the world’s best engineers have been Scottish.”
  • Although he wasn’t Scottish, Doohan described the character of Scotty as: “99% James Doohan and 1% accent.”  “It was a natural. When I opened my mouth, there was Scotty.  Scotty is the closest to Jimmy Doohan that I’ve ever done.”
  • The name Montgomery Scott was chosen because Montgomery was Doohan’s middle name and the character was portrayed as Scottish.
  • Both the Klingon language and the Vulcan language were initially very crudely developed by Doohan.  Later, these languages were expanded and refined by professional linguists, primarily by Marc Okrand.
  • While great pains were taken in Star Trek to conceal the fact the Doohan was missing a middle finger, there are several episodes where this can be observed.  These include: Cat’s Paw; Day of the Dove; and The Lights of Zetar.  This can also be observed in a scene in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.  In the former, it can be observed when he hands McCoy parts for the Transwarp Drive and in the latter when he’s holding a plastic bag dinner which was given to him by Lt. Uhura.
  • Doohan not only played the character Scotty in Star Trek, but also did the voice for many different parts including: The M-5 from The Ultimate Computer and Sargon from Return to Tomorrow, among many others.
  • Before landing the role as Scotty, Doohan did over 4000 radio shows and 400 TV shows in Canada and was particularly noted for his great versatility in voice acting.
  • Shortly before his death, Doohan was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, lung fibrosis, Alzheimer’s, and, eventually, pneumonia.  His official cause of death was listed as pneumonia and Alzheimer’s.
  • Doohan was married three times in his life and fathered four children.  He met his final wife, Wende Braunberger, when she was just 17 and he was 54, marrying her very shortly after their first meeting.  The two had three children, the last in 2000, and remained married for 31 years until Doohan’s death in 2005 at the age of 85.
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Pentagon approves new tanker for production

The U.S. Defense Department has approved the Air Force’s new KC-46A Pegasus refueling tanker for initial production despite recent technical challenges that resulted in program delays.


The service late last week announced that Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, approved the Boeing Co.-made aircraft based on the 767 airliner for low-rate initial production, known in acquisition parlance as Milestone C.

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Secretary of Defense Ash Carter receives a tour of a Boeing KC-46 at at the Boeing facilities in Seattle, March 3, 2016. | US Navy photo by Tim D. Godbee

“I commend the team for diligently working through some difficult technical challenges,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, said in a statement.

Earlier in the week, she suggested Kendall’s decision might not come until later in the month and that failure by Congress to approve a budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 would hurt the acquisition effort.

Under a continuing resolution, “KC-46 production would be capped at 12 aircraft,” not the 15 as proposed in the fiscal 2017 budget, and the result would be to “delay operational fielding of this platform,” James said.

Parts of the plane that required reworking included the boom used to refuel Air Force planes (hoses extend from the body and wings to refuel Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, as well as those from allies); the fuel system (which was overhauled after workers loaded a mislabeled chemical into it); and wiring and software.

Boeing has reportedly spent more than $1.2 billion on the repairs, including installing hydraulic pressure relief valves to alleviate “higher than expected axial loads in the boom” discovered in tests to refuel the C-17 Globemaster III, according to the Air Force statement.

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Concept image | Boeing

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said he was confident “the KC-46 is ready to take the next step.”

Meanwhile, Darlene Costello, an acquisition executive with the service, said, “I appreciate Boeing’s continued focus as they work to finish development prior to first aircraft delivery.”

Boeing plans to deliver the first 18 KC-46As to the service by January 2018, a date that was previously scheduled for August 2017.

The Air Force within the next month will award the Chicago-based aerospace giant two contracts with a combined value of $2.8 billion for 19 aircraft.

The service plans to spend $48 billion to develop and build 179 of the planes to replace its aging fleet of KC-135s, according to Pentagon budget documents. Boeing forecasts an $80 billion global market for the new tankers, the website Trading Alpha has reported.

The Air Force has selected as preferred bases for the aircraft Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, McConnell Air Force Base in Kansas, and Pease Air National Guard Base in New Hampshire.

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