27 February 2007

History of AEW: Project Cadillac II (Part One)


21 February 1945. Bismarck Sea (CVE 95) is sunk by kamikaze attack off Iwo Jima. In the same action, USS Saratoga (CV-3) was removed from action for what would be the remainder of the war and USS Enterprise suffered significant damage.

April-May 1945. Kamikazes are extracting a heavy price during the invasion of Okinawa. On the 16th of April, a massed-wave of 350 kamikazes hit the fleet; 20 alone attacked the destroyer USS Laffey and the heavy carrier, Franklin was severely damaged – only by the heroic efforts of her crew was the Franklin able to remain afloat, but the ship would be out of action for a long time. On subsequent days Enterprise suffered more damage, along with Hancock, Bunker Hill, Intrepid and a number of picket destroyers. As the run-up to the invasion of the Japanese homelands approached, leaders in theater and back in Washington were growing increasingly concerned over the threat kamikazes were presenting and what it portended for DOWNFALL. On the West Coast, USS Ranger was preparing to embark an airwing with several innovations, including the first operational TBM-3Ws in order to provide an organic AEW capability.

As revolutionary as the TBM-3Ws were though, there were limitations to their capabilities. Chief amongst these was the fact that the -3W was not much more than an airborne radar antenna, relaying data back to the ship where targets were plotted and interceptors dispatched. Having that capability in an airborne platform would reduce time delays and reliance on what could be a problematic video link. In 1944, BuAer began examining candidates for this capability and narrowed the list down to three candidates – the B-24, C-54 and B-17. All were in production and available in sufficient numbers for use as a land-based platform.

Because the plan was to use the same configuration as the TBM-3W (to save development time), the B-24 was the first eliminated from consideration because of its high-mounted wing and low ground clearance. The C-54 was considered a strong possibility because of the space its fuselage offered as a cargo aircraft along with a faster cruise speed than the B-17, but with the projected area of operations being a combat zone, the battle proven B-17 was the platform of choice.

Cadillac II

With two distinct branches – Cadillac I for the carrier-based AEW and Cadillac II for the shore-based variant, the Navy pressed ahead with the procurement of PB-1s (Navy designation for the B-17). Beginning with twenty license-built Douglas B-17s (1), originally planned for the Army Air Force, the PB-1s were sent to the Naval Aircraft Modification Unit, located at Johnsville, PA (2). There the conversion to the AEW variant would take place. The modifications began in late 1945 with the first operations in February 1946 (3). PB-1Ws were configured to one of two versions – a CIC version and a reconnaissance version. Both versions had an AN/APS-20 radar mounted in the sealed off bomb bay with the TBM-3Ws dome. The CIC version added installation of a CIC aft of the bomb bay that had three ground-stabilized radar consoles with 12 –inch displays, a vertical plotting and other status boards and communications and radio/navigation equipment (VHF/HF/LF comms, IFF, DF equipment, LORAN). The reconnaissance version was long-range replica of the TBM-3W with just two radar consoles. The cockpit saw a reconfigured instrument panel that provided dual sets of flight instruments and improved lighting. Early PB-1s also retained much of their original armament, though the top and chin turrets were disabled or removed. Provisions were made for carrying two x 300-gal drop tanks for ferry flights. The early PB-1Ws were left in a natural finish as it was thought this would help their range without the added weight of paint. As the aircraft went back through re-work they would be painted in the now-familiar dark-blue paint scheme.

A few airframes were modified to move the radar antenna to the top of the fuselage to evaluate using the airframe to blank out large clutter discretes in the vicinity of the aircraft: These clutter discretes were the result of the position of the radar antenna and large returns generated by either ground- or sea-return along the aircraft’s flight path. This is particularly important when adding moving target indicators (MTI). MTI or Airborne MTI (AMTI) cancels this clutter, enabling the detection of airborne moving targets. In the case of the Cadillac radar, this clutter was severe enough to obscure aircraft at ranges out to 30-50 nm. The Cadillac AMTI-system was described in a 1946 National Defense Research Committee technical paper as follows:

The Cadillac system was an S-band system that utilized a pulsed coherent Doppler principle for AMTI processing (ed: see diagram above). The transmitted r-f pulse form the magnetron beats with a stable local oscillator (STALO) and starts up the 30-mc coherent oscillator in a phase which depends upon the combination of the STALO and r-f phases. The returning echo beats with the STALO and produces an intermediate frequency (i-f) whose phase depends on the combination of the phases of STALO, r-f and phase due to the range of the target.

If the target remains at a fixed range, then the phase of the i-f bears a fixed relationship with respect to the COHO. When the i-f and the COHO are combined in the detector, the resulting video signal will be up or down, and its amplitude from pulse to pulse will be fixed. The phase, caused by moving targets will change from pulse to pulse, and the video will show amplitude modulation. For the airborne system the fixed targets are also moving and their motions can be cancelled out by introducing the proper phase shift in the starting phase of the COHO from pulse to pulse. This is accomplished in the computer box, where by an ingenuous system of high frequency carriers and single-sideband amplifiers and detectors, the COHO, at 30 mc, is mixed with an audio frequency fθ of from 0 to 3500 c to produce a new frequency equal to 30 mc ± fθ. A block diagram of the phase shifter portion of the computer box is provided below.

Altogether a fairly sophisticated system even by today's standards. The same core principles carry over to such noteworthy AEW platforms as the E-3 AWACS and E-2C Hawkeye although the techniques are quite a bit more complex givent he robust environments they operate within.

It was not enough, however, to merely develop the platform and hand it over to the fleet - training, tactics and procedures had to be developed and the system itself evaluated. In the post-war environment a fairly robust evaluation program was undertaken by the Navy's OPTEVFOR (Operational Test and Evaluation Force) to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the system and what applications it might best be used for. The gist of that report forms the basis for Part Two of the Cadillac II series.

to be continued


End notes:
(1) In actuality, the PB-1 designation was probably in error. Although the B-17 was originally a Boeing designed and built product, other manufacturers were producing the bomber by this point in the war, most notably Douglas and Lockheed-Vega. The PB-1 designation had already been used for a Boeing built Naval Aircraft Factory flying boat, built in 1925. If properly designated, it should have been P4D-1W for the 4th Douglas design, first variant patrol aircraft accepted for Navy service, equipped for AEW. (B-17 In Blue, Thompson, p.8)

(2) The NAMU was a part of Mustin NAF, on the grounds of the Philadelphia Naval Station.

(3) Recall that planning at the time, exclusive of success of the atomic bomb, was for the invasion of the southern Japanese homeland to begin in November 45 and to be followed by Coronet (the main plain) sometime in the spring of ’46, by which point the first of the PB-1Ws would be deployed for operations.

26 February 2007

Iran's Space Launch: Did They or Didn't They?

(earlier report on Iran's space launcher acivity here)

Much reporting since yesterday regarding Iran's claims to have launched an object into space. To set the record right, Mohsen Bahrami, the head of Iran's aerospace research centre, told state television that "The first space rocket has been successfully launched into space," without disclosing its range or the date of the launch. He went on to state that "The rocket was carrying material intended for research created by the ministries of science and defence." Subsequent reports from the FARS News Agency says the rocket was really a 'sounding rocket' carrying scientific experiments to an altitude of only 150 km.

YHS has ample reason and evidence to suspect that even that did not take place. However, on the off chance that a sounding rocket was in fact launched, the kind of technology and engineering required for a sounding rocket is not extraordinary and well within the current capabilities of Iran to develop from the SRBMs they already have. One example of a sounding rocket in wide use in the West is the Black Brant which typically carries payloads of 70-850 kg up to altitudes of 150 - 1500 km (payload dependant) and provides up to 20 minutes of useful time for experiments in micro-gravity, upper atmospheric research and the like.

We'll certainly keep an eye on this evenmt and see what develops, but YHS is more concerned re. ongoing MR/IRBM development and what that portends, especially in light of Ahmadinejad's remarks over the weekend.


A Black Brant being launched from White Sands Missile Range.

25 February 2007

Postcards: 14 January 1990

A feature wherein YHS dips into his photo-locker of some 40+ years.

TFOA: Things Falling Off Aircraft

Spend enough time in aviation and sooner or later you are going to lose something -- a refueling access panel, landing gear door, maybe a drop tank or MER. Other than the odd TWA (Trailing Wire Antenna) drogue that could not be retracted (a design that was anathema to E-2 aircrew and AT's alike), YHS had been pretty TFOA-lite. Until...

Date/time: 1400L/14 January 1990.
Scenario: Two-plane flight to NAS Brunswick for T-LAM shoot support.

(on squadron common)

"600, 602 -- hey Scoop, you're missing a tail"
"Al, don't yank my chain"
"No, really Scoop, you're missing a tail"
"@$#%&&" <-- over ICS
Scoop, our CAPC (Carrier Plane Commander and flying left seat) called back to YHS (who was CICO) and asked for me to take a look. Dropping the window cover it was immediately apparent something was not right with the starboard inboard stabilizer, which was laying over at a 60 degree angle from the vertical. An immediate return to Norfolk was executed with close attention paid to the flight hydraulic system in case there was a hydraulic leak from damage or loss to the flight control surfaces.

Back on deck with the plane pulled into the hangar, there was lots of head scratching as no one could remember something like this happening before. The rudder assembly was gone and the remaining stub of vertical stabilizer was almost gone too. Fortunately it later appeared that the missing rudder probably landed in either the Chesapeake Bay or one of the many wetlands that surrounded it.

Cause? Apparently the bolts holding the stabilizer in place had corroded and that combined with the vibrations the E-2's tail is subject to, led to failure of the structure. No injuries, no property damage or loss -- still and all, not the kind of phonecall one wanted to place to the CO on a Sunday afternoon...

23 February 2007

Flightdeck Friday: Early Guided Weapons Edition

Before JSOW and JDAM, before Harpoon, SLAM-ER, and Walleye, there was the Pelican, BAT, and Kingfisher/Petrel. All of these saw development that started around 1942 and some even saw action before the end of the war. As we have seen in the development of AEW radar, there was a surprising degree of technological sophistication and innovation present in the US during this time that our modern arrogance tends to too readily dismiss. For our new readers, that is one of the intents behind Flightdeck Fridays - to bring to light the extraordinary (and the occasional odd) creations brought about by the cooperative efforts of the engineers and scientists in public and private industry and Naval Aviation’s best air- and ground crew. Let’s start with the Pelican…

SWOD Mk 7 Pelican

In the spring of 1942, the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) (1) turned to further examination of guided weapons, this time using radar. Earlier attempts with a 2/3 scale prototype of a TV-guided system (Project Dryden or Dragon – a 2,000lb glide-bomb) had demonstrated the immaturity of TV for this requirement. Using a semi-active radar homing device mated to a wooden airframe that would carry the bomb, the CONOPS for the Pelican would have the carrier aircraft (specially modified versions of the PV-1P Harpoon using the AN/APS-2 radar) illuminate the target and the Pelican would home in on the reflected radar signals. The Pelican could carry either a 1,000 or 1,500 lb bomb and the PV-1P would carry up to two of the former and one of the latter. Designated the SWOD (Special Weapons Ordnance Device) Mk 7, the Pelican underwent drop tests beginning in December 1942. The good news was the weapon worked and the tests were evidently successful. The bad news was though that range was too short, requiring the PV-1 to close to too perilous a distance to release and keep the target illuminated while the Pelican homed on its prey, proving a truism of the problem with weapons systems based on semi-active radars. Eventually the project was terminated, but the effort was not for naught.

PV-1P Ventura - Note the Peleican's under the wings and the extended radome for the AN/APS-2 aft of the bomb bay.

Drop test of a Pelican from an SB2C Helldiver. Below: PB-1 with 2 x Pelicans abreast the bomb bay. Note the extended radome for the AN/APS-2 where the ball turret would normally have been. (ed: We'll be seeing more of the PB-1 series in a forthcoming issue of Flightdeck Friday in the very near future...)

SWOD Mk9/ASM-N-2 Bat

Building on the experience gained from the Pelican, the Navy, via the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) (2) sought to develop a standoff weapon that had a “fire and forget” feature to it. At the time, that meant an active radar seeker that was integrated with an airframe and warhead. Using a similar airframe as the Pelican and incorporating a 1000 lb bomb, the Bat (so-named because like its erstwhile mammalian cousin, this Bat would also home on signals bounced back from a target that it alone had generated) began operational tests in 1944 and in January 1945 it was declared operational and deployed in combat in the Pacific theater. The Bat was deployed on the much larger PB4Y-2 Privateer (the Navy’s long-range patrol bomber derived from the Consolidated B-24 Liberator) against Japanese shipping for the remainder of the war. Success was mixed at best – several Japanese ships, including a destroyer, were sunk off Borneo, but the radar worked all to well at picking up targets – and clutter from nearby islands, other ships, etc. It was easily mis-directed and thus subject to countermeasures. Attempts by the Navy after the war to improve the Bat (by this time redesignated the ASM-N-2, or Air-to-Surface Missile, Navy, 2) were unsuccessful and it was retired from the inventory.

Above: Contemporary cutaway view of the Bat. Below: Guidance section for the Bat's active radar seeker.

Above: Early radar mod to PB4Y Privateer for Bat OPS. Later models (see below) used a more conventional radome (seen here aft of the nosewheel and retracted )

Data for ASM-N-2:
Length: 3.63 m (11 ft 11 in)
Wingspan: 3.05 m (10 ft)
Weight: 850 kg (1880 lb)
Speed: 480 km/h (300 mph)
Ceiling (max. launch): 8000 m (5 miles)
Range: 32 km (20 miles)
Propulsion: none
Warhead: 450 kg (1000 lb) general-purpose bomb

Fairchild AUM-N-4/AQM-41 Petrel

The Petrel traces its lineage back to a family of standoff weapons that began development under the Kingfisher name in 1944. Building on the experience gained from the Pelican and Bat projects (the latter well underway at this point), the Navy’s Bureau of Ordnance sought a jet-powered, standoff torpedo for use against surface and subsurface targets. The design underwent many variations, but the final configuration began testing in 1951. The final configuration consisted of an Mk 21 torpedo as the core with an attached Fairchild J44 turbojet, aerodynamic nose cap and wings and tail made out of wood. The carrying aircraft was the P2V-6B variant of Lockheed’s venerable P2V Neptune. After launch it descended to an altitude of about 200 ft for the fly-in at Mach 0.5. Guidance was via semi-active radar homing until the Petrel was within about 2 nm of the target. At that point, the engine was stopped and the wing and tail shed, dropping the torpedo into the water at which point it began self-guiding. That was the theory – practice proved altogether more problematic, especially where a submerged sub was the target. With a prolonged development and spotty operational record, by 1959 the Petrel was withdrawn from active service and placed with the Reserves. After a brief stint where it was used as a drogue, the Petrel was finally withdrawn from the inventory altogether in the early 60’s.

Above and beow: Petrel as carried by P2V-6B Neptune.

Data for AUM-N-2 (AQM-41A):
Length: 7.31 m (24 ft)
Wingspan: 4.06 m (13 ft 2 in)
Diameter: 61 cm (24 in)
Weight: 1700 kg (3800 lb)
Speed: 600 km/h (325 kts)
Range: 32 km (20 miles)
Propulsion: Fairchild J44 turbojet; 4.4 kN (1000 lb)
Warhead: AUM-N-2: MK 21 homing torpedo; 900 kg (2000 lb)

These were but a few of what was a very robust precision weapons development program within both the Navy and Army Air Forces during WW2. So what happened you may ask? The technology was still immature, especially where target discrimination and clutter/ counter-measure rejection were concerned, and the development of nuclear weapons, especially the “smaller” nukes sized for delivery by ship- and shore-based tactical aircraft effectively sidelined concerted efforts on development of conventional PGMs. Efforts in this area, with the exception of air-to-air and surface-to-air guided weapons, would be placed on the back burner until the Vietnam War. But that's another story for another time...


Bat head: http://biomicro.sdstate.edu/pederses/asmbat.html

Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles - Appendix 1: Early Missiles and Drones: http://www.designation-systems.net/dusrm/app1/asm-n-2.html

(1) The NDRC was created in 1940 under the Council of National Defense (itself created in 1916) to coordinate industry and resources for national security purposes. Vannevar Bush, head of the Carnegie Institute was tapped as the head of the committee. The original members of the NDRC included the presidents of MIT, Harvard, National Academy of Sciences and Bell Telephone Laboratories, Commissioner of Patents, Chief of the Bureau of Engineering (representing the Navy Department) and Chief of Army Intelligence, among other notable engineers and scientists serving. The NDRC created new laboratories, including the Radiation Lab at MIT and the Underwater Sound Laboratory at San Diego. Besides radar, sonar, rocket-propelled armor-piercing weapons and the proximity fuze (to name but a very few), the NDRC was also the seed for what would eventually become the Manhattan Project.

(2) The National Bureau of Standards was established by Congress in 1901. Its name was changed to the National Institute of Standards and Technology in 1988 as part of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act. At the same time, Congress expanded NIST's mission by establishing the Advanced Technology Program and the Manufacturing Extension Partnership. Chartered by the U.S. Congress on March 3, 1901, it was the first physical science research laboratory of the federal government, established at about the same time as the nation’s first commercial laboratory. As part of this mission, NIST scientists and engineers continually refine the science of measurement, making possible the ultra precise engineering and manufacturing required for today’s most advanced technologies. They also are directly involved in standards development and testing done by the private sector and government agencies. NBS had a direct role in the development of the proximity fuze; work on nuclear fission, synthetic rubber and of course, the Bat.

22 February 2007

Defense news: Interceptor - Unmanned Surface Vessel Unveiled

Well, 'twas only a matter of time -- UAV's are expanding in numbers, scope and capabilities (though the FAA isn't happy about one recent test) and now comes news of the surface equivalent:

The Interceptor unmanned surface vessel (USV) is developed under cooperation between AAI, and two U.S. - Marine Robotic Vessels International (MRVI) and Sea Robotics Company (SRC). Interceptor is designed for security and public service applications such as anti-piracy patrol, harbor security and oil rig surveillance. It began sea trials in September 2006. (more...)

Plan B for LCS perhaps? Waiting to hear what the Phibian, eagle1, and a couple of others have to say...

20 February 2007

The New Russian Minister of Defense: Putin's "Whizkid" or Just a Useful Fool?

In the wake of President Putin’s appointment of a private-sector businessman as Minister of Defense, there appears to be wide-spread disbelief and outspoken criticism bordering on contempt. At issue is the portfolio of former Tax Service Chief Anatoliy Serdyukov. Serdyukov, a 1984 graduate of the Leningrad Institute of Soviet Trade (with a degree in economics) spent the better part of his early professional years in furniture, eventually entering government service in 2000 as Deputy Chief of Inspection – Russian Ministry of Taxes and Collections. In 2001 he graduated from the St. Petersburg State Institute with a law degree and returned to the Ministry of Taxes and Collections as Deputy Director Chief and Director Chief (for St. Petersburg). In 2004 he was promoted to Deputy Minister and followed in that year as Acting Minister and then Chief of the Russian Federal Tax Service. He did serve for 1.5 years in the army when he was drafted immediately after college.

OK, here’s where it gets interesting. The Russian pundits (yes, they have them too and yes, they have blogs) are fit to be tied. Many fail to see any validity between Putin’s challenge to the West (specifically America) in his Munich speech last week and the appointment of a novice to the position of Defense Minister. A quick sample of some of the comments – blogs and traditional press follows:

  • Viktor Alksnis, a retired Colonel and Russian ultra-nationalist, remarked in his blog that Putin's declared itinerary for challenging the US as the sole world power "can only be based on the rebirth of Russian military might." This is impossible, Alksnis opined, under a "defense minister-furniture salesman," whose appointment "spits in the face of Russian military officers and generals, who believed in Putin and hoped that now the Russian military rebirth would begin".
  • A young, former lieutenant who served in the Moscow-based ABM force noted that "The defense minister's post is now occupied by an incidental person, a get-rich-quick type from the 1990s, a furniture salesman, who found his way into power ... However, the military is not a furniture store, it is a world in itself, which needs to be learned from the inside." He added that as with the appointment of military novice Sergey Ivanov, "they spat on the military once again," because he could not imagine how Serdyukov could do anything positive for the armed forces.
  • Ekho Moskvy radio, often critical of the government, reported comments from nationalist pundit Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, who said that the military "was spat on ... and is now in mourning," adding that they should be thankful that Putin appointed a human as defense minister and "not his Labrador."
To be fair, one could well imagine what the reaction of bloggers on this side of the pond would have been if current IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson had been appointed to take Secretary Rumsfeld’s spot when he resigned.

And yet, there are some interesting twists to this scenario. Consider – perhaps no one in the Russian government has a better idea of where the money is coming from (and more importantly, going to) than the chief of collections and taxations. In the current oligarchic climate he would stand to assume a position of some (albeit, quiet) importance within the Putin administration (talk about Nixon and his “enemies list” – imagine what the head of taxation could do for Putin…). Where this becomes important is when viewed within the context of Putin’s announced 8-yr, $189B (US) military re-armament plan. Bringing in someone who is familiar with “modern” business practices and cash flow and not influenced by a parochial background would seem to be a prescient move on Putin’s part. As we in the US have had occasion to see thogh, it doesn’t always work.

On the other hand, putting someone in place who basically becomes an acquisition czar with little oversight of the operational strategic, theater and tactical employment of the forces strengthens the hands of the Russian General Staff, an interesting scenario whose subtleties appear lost on those decrying the appointment as spitting on the military. Finally, as in the US at present, the appointment must also be viewed in the context of Russian politics and the upcoming presidential elections. In other words, by appointing Serdyukov to the Defense Minister position, is Putin sending a signal that this is his intended/desired successor in spite of earlier statements that he would not do so? If yes, what does it say about Serdyukov’s background that Putin, who has led a resurgence of the state security organization (the FSB) and placed it in a very central role, by tapping someone from outside that environment? And what of Sergi Ivanov (for whom there apparently is little love lost by said pundits as well...)? Is there more here than meets the eye? Lots of questions to be sure, all of which will bear further watching…


18 February 2007

"All I asked for was a chance to win..."

"...I didn't ask for a win..."

Kevin Harvick beats mark Martin by .02 secs at the 2007 Daytona 500

"That's what I love about this sport — it's hard," Martin said. "It's what's driven me for over 30 years. That's what I love about it and that's why I'm here. I had the choice of whether or not I wanted to race the Daytona 500. I wanted a chance. I wanted a shot at it, and these guys gave me a shot."
Almost Mark...almost. Heck of a race you ran and consumate class in the post race interviews. Mark Martin is a double entry in the dictionary -- under "class" and "racer"


17 February 2007

Cold Peace? Russia and the INF Treaty

“In connection with this I would like to recall that in the 1980s the USSR and the United States signed an agreement on destroying a whole range of small- and medium-range missiles but these documents do not have a universal character. Today many other countries have these missiles, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Republic of Korea, India, Iran, Pakistan and Israel. Many countries are working on these systems and plan to incorporate them as part of their weapons arsenals. And only the United States and Russia bear the responsibility to not create such weapons systems.”

“It is obvious that in these conditions we must think about ensuring our own security”

With that statement, given in the context of the speech last week that criticized the US for unilateral action it would appear that Russia is preparing to unilaterally disengage from the INF (Intermediate Nuclear Forces) treaty. Several commentators and analysts began to focus on this potential action late in the week, some with undiluted condemnation of the Bush Administration and dark warnings of a new Cold War.

To be sure, these pages do not and will not give a clean pass to Russia. Under President Putin we have seen a consolidation of power in a few organs of the national government, a willingness to provide support for known proliferators and agents provocateurs who seek to acquire nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them and regain hegemony through the use of the oil weapon. Critics of these moves often find themselves the subject of extreme harassment or, increasingly so it seems, the target of an assassin. In the matter of the INF treaty though, one needs to stop and review the bidding before casting stones.

Historical Context

The INF Treaty was a signatory event – the first nuclear arms treaty that not only prohibited an entire class of weapon, but established the kind of intrusive inspection régime that was later instituted for the START accords. Nuclear configured intermediate range forces, especially missiles, were a major part of the heating up of the Cold War in the 1980’s. By the mid-1970’s, the Soviets had begun replacing older silo-based SS-4 and -5 IRBM/MRBMs with the road-mobile SS-20. The SS-20 was a substantial leap in capability and represented a significant increase in the threat posed by Soviet forces and the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact against Western Europe. Derived from the first two stages of the SS-16 (one of the early attempts by the Soviets to develop a road mobile ICBM), the SS-20’s significantly increased throw-weight allowed it carry up to three multiple independently targeted warheads (MIRV) of 150 kilotons apiece. CEP was also markedly improved – from 5,000 meters (Soviet sources) for the SS-4 to less than 450 meters for the SS-20. With exceptional range (5,000-7500 km), allowing full coverage of Europe from deep within Russia and being road-mobile (easy concealment), the SS-20 was a counterforce weapon that had preemptive strike written all over it. When viewed in the context of the strategic nuclear parity achieved by the Soviets earlier in the 70’s, the deployment of the SS-20 threatened the umbrella of nuclear deterrence provided by US forces – the critical component of NATO. By threatening this guarantee, the Soviets hoped to “de-couple” Europe from its partner across the Atlantic. Given the state of US forces at the time, this was not altogether a path of questionable success.

Arrayed against the improved Soviet intermediate forces (they were also deploying the Backfire and SS-21) were a mixture of NATO MRBM’s and SLBM’s (to include the Pershing I and Polaris/Poseidon) and dual-use aircraft (F-111, F-4, A-6, Buccaneer, etc.). The bulk of these forces were US or had US dual-key control (as was the case with Pershing I’s under West German control). Lacking a definitive system (or systems) to directly counter the SS-20 deployment, the first step attempted to redress this imbalance was the consideration of deploying the Enhanced Radiation Weapon, aka the Neutron Bomb. However, in one of the most egregious decisions by President Carter and his administration, the US opted not to deploy the weapon (leaving it instead in “deployment ready” status in the US) which left Allied leadership (which had expended political capitol supporting this unpopular deployment) out on a limb. It seemed the goals of the Soviet plan to de-couple Europe from the US might indeed succeed.

On 12 Nov 79, after a two-year study, NATO ministers unanimously adopted a "dual track" strategy to counter Soviet SS-20 deployments. One track called for arms control negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union to reduce INF forces to the lowest possible level; the second track called for deployment in Western Europe, beginning in December 1983, of 464 single-warhead U.S. ground-launched cruise (GLCM) missiles and 108 Pershing II ballistic missiles. With strong leadership in place in Washington, London, Bonn and Rome following elections in the early 80’s, a united front was established and the Soviets walked out of the first round of negotiations in November, 1983. Deployment began the following month in spite of extensive protests in Europe and the US. Over the course of the next few years, the US and Soviet Union engaged in a series of proposals/counter-proposals and eventually, in July 87, the Soviets, under Gorbachev, agreed to a “double zero” proposal that would eliminate intermediate- and shorter-range missiles of the US and Soviet Union only, thereby not including the national forces of France and Britain. The treaty was signed 28 May 88 and entered into force 1 Jun 88. In late April and early May 91, the United States eliminated its last ground-launched cruise missile and ground-launched ballistic missile covered under the INF Treaty. The last declared Soviet SS-20 was eliminated on 11 May 91. A total of 2,692 missiles were eliminated after the Treaty's entry-into-force.

Today’s Ballistic Missile Environment and INF

In the intervening 16 years since the last US and Soviet intermediate range missile was destroyed, the world has seen a literal explosion in the development and/or deployment of medium- and intermediate range missiles by nations that were not party to the INF treaty. Chief among these nations are (or were) China, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and India. Indeed, it was the 1998 launch of a Taep’o-dong 1 ICBM/space launch vehicle prototype that prompted the Rumsfeld study and subsequent re-invigoration of the US ballistic missile defense program. In order to undertake that effort, the US, under the current administration, delivered notification to Russia that it was stepping away from the 1972 ABM Treaty, citing its need to develop defenses against limited attacks from states other than Russia or by a rogue entity. Note carefully the justification – we will see it again…

So we come to the speech, presented to a gathering of ministers of defense at a conference on security in Munich. Getting much play, early on after the conference was the calling out of the US’ actions as a hyper-power, not given to be constrained under the norms of international law (as if…) and making up some rather odd pairings in an effort to show superiority over US GDP (I mean, come on now – the BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China?). Buried in the text was the quote that started this article and only picked up by some commentators later in the week. Truth be told, YHS is not in the least surprised and had been expecting this for some few years. On the one hand, it is not the first time that Russia has raised the prospect. There were some indications as early as 1999 and as recently as March of 2005, with some in the Russian press attributing it to Rumsfeld as a twisted way for the US to resume nuclear testing.

Be that as it may, as soon as the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty, YHS’ internal clock started on Russia’s withdrawal from INF. That would be one reason. In the context of the speech last week, note that Putin ascribes Russian motives to being surrounded by nations with intermediate- and shorter range missiles (lifting the phrase directly from the treaty) including even, horrors, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. There are a few of us who note, somewhat wryly, that this is the result of so many (proliferated) chickens coming home to roost. A look at the “threatening” countries is a veritable “Who’s Who” of former Soviet- and current Russian arms clients for anything up to and including – ballistic missiles. A third reason is cash – cold, hard arms sales cash. The market for proven, reliable ballistic missiles is far from sated. Credit the Russians with building lethal, reliable and proven ballistic missiles of all stripes (save the occasional, well, maybe more than occasional Bulava failure). Being able to market MRBMs and IRBMs that were derived from a proven ICBM like the SS-25 – a road mobile, solid fuel missile, could prove to be an irresistible draw in the current market. If it complicates the hated American missile defense system, especially in light of plans for a third site based in Europe, then all the better. Of course there is the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) which is a voluntary effort to stem the spread of technologies associated with the design, development and production of ballistic missiles. MTCR controls have worked exceptionally well, especially in the cases of North Korea, India, Pakistan and Iran, for example, and China too (especially in the case of transfer of guidance control improvements from US commercial interests). As the fact sheet from the Arms Control Association puts it:

“Because the regime is voluntary and the decision to export is the sole responsibility of each member, the MTCR has no penalties for transfers of controlled items. However, U.S. law mandates that Washington sanction entities-individuals, companies, or governments (whether they are MTCR members or not)-exporting MTCR-controlled items to certain countries identified as proliferators or potential threats to U.S. security. Sanctions may also be levied if the United States judges the transfer contrary to the MTCR. Typically, Washington prohibits the charged entity from signing contracts, receiving aid, or buying arms from the U.S. government for a period of two years. Sometimes the penalties can be imposed for longer lengths of time or extended to commercial imports and exports as well.”

Yes, well one can see how if Russia decided to enter the ballistic missile market with new/improved missiles that they would be grievously put off by US sanctions. To those who would argue that how could Russia export such weapons and the danger they pose to her own self-interest, YHS would simply respond that were that the case we would not be seeing such a cozy nuclear relationship that is a-budding between Russia and Iran.

If that weren’t enough, another deadline lurks in the near future – the expiration of START I in 2009. Russia has already made it clear their intention to develop MIRV capabilities for the road-mobile SS-25 and the silo-based variant, SS-27. Combined with Russia’s re-assertiveness fueled by arms and petroleum sales abroad, consolidation of power at home and hand-picked heirs that will likely continue these policies, Russian withdrawal from the INF treaty will bear close scrutiny for the real, vice stated rational and purpose and what that portends for future relations with the US. May be not a return to the days of the Cold War, but instead a Cold Peace…


16 February 2007

Flightdeck Friday - Jetski Edition (Convair XF2Y-1 Sea Dart)


The concept of seaplane fighters was neither new nor novel – several examples had been put to desultory effect during WW2 and even combining floats with jets (like the British SR.A.1) still failed to overcome the shortcomings of the type. The problem lay in a combination of weight and drag – ruthless enemies where fighters are concerned as both weighed mightily against maneuverability and speed. Drag usually factored large because of either the fixed floats (configured in either a single centerline with smaller wing floats or twin floats) or the effects of a flying boat hull (see the previous FF account of the P6M SeaMariner).

By the early 1950s though, there was thought that retractable skis, called hydroskis, would solve the drag problem and more powerful, afterburning engines allay, if not overcome the weight issue. The advent of jet engines removed the issue of propeller location/clearance that had plagued previous hydroski designs – unlike a float plane, a hydroski plane rests on its hull until sufficient speed is built up to raise it on the skis. Of note, the use of hydroskis was not scalable. In other words, as aircraft size and weight grew hydroskis were not an option; therefore they remained viable only with small airframes.

In 1950, Convair had embarked on a design study that yielded a series of swept wing, shallow, blended hull, jet-powered seaplanes, one of which was a fighter design (the Skate). While Convair was working on developing a good hydronamic shape, the NACA (predecessor to NASA) was working in the opposite direction – take a good aircraft and adapt it to seaborne operations through the use of hydroskis. .

Parallel to Convair’s studies, BuAer (predecessor to NAVAIR) was investigating the feasibility of long-range strike and fighter aircraft that could be sea-based, complimenting the carrier-based aircraft by expanding the basing options and building on several decades of experience in operating sea-based patrol aircraft. This dovetailed with Convair’s ongoing development efforts through a formal Operational Requirements issuance (OR) on 30 Nov 1949 (OR CA 05501A). The OR called for an advanced seaplane fighter capable of operating from forward bases in all weather conditions. Convair would continue refining the Skate, but also investigate the use of hydroskis. As research results showed increasing promise in the use of hydroskis, the Navy revised its performance requirements upward.


Over in another part of Convair, a radical aircraft was taking shape for the Air Force. Based on the XF-92A, the YF-102 was taking shape – a delta wing, afterburner fighter designed for the interceptor mission. Using the lessons learned from the XF-92 and YF-102 development, the Y2-2 began to emerge as a twin-engine, delta wing fighter that would rely on a 2-hydroski arrangement. On 19 Jan 1951, BuAer issued a Letter of Intent for Contract (51-527) for two Y2-2 airframes for R&D purposes necessary for a seaplane-class of fighters. Westinghouse J-46-WE-2 engines (2) would provide the thrust. The pressurized cockpit used two panes of class that formed a sharp-V, similar to the YF-102. For the prototypes only, there would be no additional canopy – production model aircraft would have a more conventional arrangement.

Designated the XF2Y-1 Sea Dart (BuNo 137634), the first prototype was launched into San Diego Bay on 16 Dec 1952. Problems developed with the twin-ski arrangement and a phenomenon called “ski-pounding.” At about 50 KIAS, a thundering vibration set in that was aggravated with greater wave heights. As the skis flexed, the buffeting was resonated throughout the airframe, reaching the point where the pilot was unable to read the instruments. Several minor mods were made and the second prototype was configured with a single ski in an attempt to counter the pounding. It would only be after many high speed taxi runs and several months before the Sea Dart would take to the air on 9 April 1953.

Once in the air, the Sea Dart experienced the same problems so many other jets of that period encountered – engines that underperformed and top speeds that fell well short of the design mark. In the case of the Sea Dart, optimistic engineers had predicted Mach 1.5 in level flight (the OR specified M1.25) – yet it only reached Mach .99. Engine inlet problems with airflow induced by the location of the ducts atop the fuselage aggravated the already poor performing J46’s and unknown to Convair’s engineers at the time; the Sea Dart was suffering from the same aerodynamic issues that would plague the YF-102. Eventually, Convair solved the problem for the YF-102 by implementing an area-rule fuselage and that, along with a more powerful single engine, was planned for a follow-on production model.

Armed with 4 x 20mm cannon and 44 x 2.75 in folding fin rockets in retractable pods in the forward fuselage, guided by an AN/APQ-50 radar tied into the Aero 13E weapons system, the Sea Dart would provide forward air defense from amphibious ships, submarines, or coastal bases. In fact, the Marines conducted a 1954 study on the uses of the Sea Dart as part of what it was calling the “seadrome” (think – “Sea Base”). In essence, this base would be rapidly deployed to support amphibious operations, providing immediate air cover. The seadrome would consist of all the equipment needed for daily operations and required by the Sea Dart – maintenance, fueling, re-armament, etc. The Sea Dart itself was designed with at sea maintenance in mind. Everything was placed to facilitate access from above either directly or through access points.

Unfortunately, the seadrome required development of entirely new support and logistic equipment for a limited mission – and the Sea Dart would in turn utilize but only a small part of that. Tied as it was to close/inshore locals, the seadrome would be more vulnerable to attack than a carrier farther out to sea and with the advent of the super carrier as epitomized by the Forrestal, those capabilities would be significantly strengthened. Then there remained the issue of the Sea Dart’s ability to operate under poor sea states owing to the still unresolved ski-pounding issue.

With the end of the Korean War came mounting concerns over whether the capabilities offered by the Sea Dart offset it’s growing costs, support requirements and questions over resolving the ski-pounding and top end speed were justified. The Sea Dart had exceeded Mach 1, but in a shallow dive. Prototype 2 was destroyed in a high speed pass, killing the pilot, C.E. Richbourg. The cause of the break-up was again, a phenomenon common to the early trans-/supersonic aircraft, pitch divergent oscillations. Pitch divergence was encountered at transonic speeds in low level flight and the hydraulically-boosted flight controls of the day were inadequate to cope with the induced oscillations, causing a rapid build-up of aerodynamic pressures on the airframe leading to in-flight breakup. The Sea Dart would not fly any more high speed profiles. As post-war funding levels for conventional forces started to be scaled back, the Navy determined that the costs did not offset perceived benefits and by the end of 1954, the program was terminated after 5 prototypes had been built.

Today there are four remaining examples with the original XF2Y-1 being held by the Smithsonian for future restoration and others in San Diego, Willow Grove, PA and Lakeland, FLA.

General characteristics

Crew: 1
Length: 52 ft 7 in (16 m)
Wingspan: 33 ft 8 in (10.3 m)
Height: 16 ft 2 in (4.9 m)
Wing area: 568 ft² (53 m²)
Empty weight: 12,625 lb (5,730 kg)
Loaded weight: 16,500 lb (7,480 kg)
Max takeoff weight: 21,500 lb (9,750 kg)
Powerplant: 2× Westinghouse J46-WE-2 turbojets, 12,000 lbf (53 kN) each

Performance (estimated)
Maximum speed: 695 mph (604 knots, 1,120 km/h)
Range: 513 mi (446 nm, 826 km)
Service ceiling: 54,800 ft (16,700 m)
Rate of climb: 17,100 ft/min (86.7 m/s)
Wing loading: 29.0 lb/ft² (142 kg/m²)
Thrust/weight: 1.45

Armament (planned)
Guns: 4× 20 mm (0.787 in) cannon
Rockets: Unguided rockets


Pioneers & Prototypes: Convair F2Y Sea Dart. International Air Power Review. Vol 12
Gunston, Bill. Fighters of the Fifties. Osceola, WI: Specialty Press. 1981

15 February 2007

Of Memes and FNGs...

Comes the missive from Curt over at CSA that I have been tagged with the notorious “Six Weird Things” meme wherein:

“Each player starts with the 6 weird things about you. People who get tagged should write something of their own and state the rules clearly. In the end, you should choose 6 people to be tagged, and list their names. Leave a comment that says you are tagged in their comments, and tell them to read your blog.”

First thought was:

But on further reflection (and lack of a ready topic for today), relented. So, presented here without further ado, my 6:

1. I was (am) a space nerd – to the extent that while growing up not only could I name every manned mission through Apollo, I could recall crew names, mission objectives and launchers. How bad was it? How many 7th graders do you know who could have told you in 1967 what the fuel was for the Titan II missile used to loft the Gemini astronauts, or had his cast signed by Pete Conrad (who remarked at the time he had signed a lot of things, but no casts until now). Oh, and for the record, the Titan fuel is a hypergolic mix of A-50 Aerozine (50/50 mix of hydrazine and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH)) and dinitrogen tetroxide (the oxidizer) – just thought you’d like to know.

2. I was an inveterate model builder and reached critical mass where all my shelves as well as my ceiling were populated with a collection of 1/72 and 1/48 scale aircraft that would put any museum to shame (were they of the full-size variety). Alas, my modeling is somewhat more restrained these days and lies mainly in collecting out of production Topping/Precise models.

3. My first flight was at age 2 in a Cessna 170. The bit, as they say, was set from that point on. Soloed before I had my learner’s permit – kind of odd having to be driven to the airport by your parents so you could launch on a cross country that would last the better part of a day and stretch over three states…

4. While today’s CGI-dominated sci-fi movies are fun, my favorites run in the 50’s and 60’s (original War of the Worlds, Fantastic Planet, When Worlds Collide, and of course topping the list, 2001). There are several other movies from the same time period I enjoy far more than today’s, including Twelve O’clock High, Seven Days in May, Dr. Strangelove, Casablanca, To Kill A Mockingbird, etc. TV programs included Twelve O’clock High, Combat, The FBI, The Invaders, … hmm, I sense a pattern…

5. Books. We have books. Lots of books. A mover’s nightmare of books (moving up here from Tidewater 5 years ago, the movers were pretty upbeat about the load out – until they reached the library…). Recently have started downsizing anticipating smaller quarters when the scriblets move on - one local public library has a foreign policy section to die for now…

6. Computers – became immersed in the first micro-computer wave while at Monterey in the early 80’s. A heady time it was with Apple II’s (and the occasional Lisa – but only the nuke guys could afford it w/their bonus), TRS-80s, Kaypro's, Osborne's, Heathkits, Epson's, and homebrews. 300 bd dial up modems, several flavors of DOS in use and programs to match and copywrites? *cough*… Today the Scribe household is residence to no less than 5 laptops, a couple of desktop/fileservers and of course, all networked together, with the occasional Apple when yon furry-headed eldest son comes a calling.

Now the rules say to tag 6 others and being as how I’m the FNG (relatively speaking) and naturally got tagged late, most of the others I’d thought about have either already been so tagged or we risk visions of things best left unvisualized with others - hello Skippy-san ;)
So, we’ll just confer it thusly:

... and yes, "it" is frozen over...
(ed: yes, I get a kick out of Gustav Dore' as well...)

14 February 2007

Wednesday's Child...

OK guys, sound familiar?

Chronicles of Naval Aviation: Tailcodes

Writing in the latest edition of The Hook (what, you're not a member? Right this way then -- and there's associate memberships available for those who support tailhook aviation but haven't experienced it first hand...yet), Boom Powell ("From the Catwalk") relays a contributor's lament about squadron tailcodes and callsigns, citing as examples VMA-255's tail code of "WI" which, of course in true kind and gentle NAVAIR tradition was morphed into "Wandering Idiots." The story continues (you really should read it) and Boom, after alluding to an unfortunate nickname for his Vigi squadron (RVAH-6) asks of any other known combinations, unfortunate or otherwise. (Background: Navy aircraft carry a single or double alpha-numeric code (e.g., AG, F, 6F, PR, etc.) on the tail to identify their parent organization (e.g., AG = CVW-7, F = TRAWING 6, etc.). Established by CNO following WW2, the system has remained pretty well intact since, with minor mods along the way. Read more about it here courtesy the Navy History Center.)

Hmm, well, yes, YHS can think of at least one example (naturally). Jumping in the way back machine, we travel back some 30-odd years to the east coast and the E-2C FRS, RVAW-120 as it was known then, whose tailcode was "GE" -- an appropriate moniker one would think given the radar parts the company by the same name provided for the mighty war Hummer's main battery. Alas, with the consolidation of the east coast FRS' under TACWINGSLANT, RVAW-120 became VAW-120 and lost the GE code (which was "owned" by Carrier Airborne Early Warning Wing Twelve) and replaced it with "AD," and one, albeit small, peice of VAW lore was history, or so we thought. For, you see, some number of years later there was a squadron in search of a tailcode... VAW-122, one of the last survivors of the CVW-6/FID team and bearer of CVW-6's tailcode of AE found to their chagrin that with the disestablishment of CAG 6, the AE code had to go, leaving them with, well, a naked tail.

Now, it being neither fitting 'nor proper for a squadron, even one bereft of a carrier and airwing they could call home, to be gallivanting about the skies sans tailcode. Like Rudolf and how his infamous nose isolated him from the other reindeer, checking in to center with a vanilla "Navy 602" left one open to all sorts of jibes from the other reindeer, um, naval aircraft. Even the C-9's had tailcodes, for pity's sake...

Whilst pondering this scenario one day, YHS in his position as Steeljaw One had a revelation. Since the squadron was now beholden to CAEWW-12 (aka "The Wing," and they made d*mn sure we never forgot) and The Wing at one time held "GE" as a tailcode, why not resurrect it for the Steeljaws use? Quick checks of the standing regs and a call back to The Wing (for the Steeljaws were on yet another deployment to fight druggies) confirmed all the above and GE returned to the skies on the tails of E-2s again.

Alas, the budgetary axe eventually fell on both the Steeljaws ('96) and Wing 12 ('05) so it would appear that would be the last time GE will fly on a Hawkeye...

P.S. Hey Boom -- SH is taken by VMFAT-101...

13 February 2007

Tuesday's Roll-up of Missile News and Notes

Missile and other news and notes from around the ‘sphere:

MANPADs vs Helos

Lots of concern/interest in countering the MANPAD (MAN Portable Air Defense) missiles in the wake of increased helo loses these past couple of weeks. While the CH-46 loss that has gained so much coverage appears to have been mechanical in nature (Update: DoD confirmed on 14 Feb that the CH-46 was in fact, shot down and did not crash due to mechanical failure), open press reporting speculates others have succumbed to a variety of weapons up to and including MANPADs. Most likely what we are seeing are newer missile variants starting to appear in theater. Small arms and RPG fire, while potentially lethal in certain restricted confines, are less likely to be the source in a more open scenario, and doubly so when considering armored attack helos like the Apache.

Older missiles used a proximity fuze for detonation in the vicinity of the target aircraft, a reflection of the relatively lower degree of sophistication and discrimination capabilities (clutter rejection, counter-counter measures, etc.) OTOH, newer missiles use discrimination features that not only are contact fuzed, but seek to impart the most damage in the most vulnerable areas – to the point they can discern between single/multi-engine aircraft and helos and target the vulnerable areas accordingly. The warheads themselves are increasingly complex and lethal, such as sending a dense stream of high-speed projectiles into the target and having secondary fuzing to detonate any fuel cloud resulting from the initial hit.

Yeah, pretty nasty stuff, and all the more reason to hold helo folks who are working/flying down in the weeds in greater esteem.

What would be the insurgent’s CONOPS in stepping up the campaign against helos? Couple of points – recall the morale boost it gave the Afghans to have something they could effectively employ against the Soviet’s Hind helos (aka “Devil’s Chariot”). It forced the Soviets to change their operating procedures and flight heights. A similar effect in the ongoing battle for Baghdad and other urban areas would force (in the insurgent’s eyes) the US to operate its helos in a more circumspective manner and thereby give back the urban roof top environs to the insurgents. Of course that is a pretty simplistic CONOPS and ignores other variables such as persistent ISR from UAVs operating above MANPAD ceilings, deployment of more effective countermeasures and changes in tactics and employment. Bottom-line – while we haven’t seen the last of these losses, my money is still on our helos and their crews prevailing.

Oh, and for reference, the defenses being currently explored for civilian airliner defense are only up to base-Stinger level – technology that is 20+years old…

North Korean Nuclear Agreement?

The United States and four other nations reached a tentative agreement to provide North Korea with roughly $400 million in fuel oil and aid, in return for the North’s starting to disable its nuclear facilities and allowing nuclear inspectors back into the country, according to American officials who have reviewed the proposed text. While the accord sets a 60-day deadline for North Korea to accomplish those first steps toward disarmament, it leaves until an undefined moment in the future — and to another negotiation — the actual removal of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and the fuel that it has manufactured to produce them. Bush administration officials said they believed that the other nations participating in the talks … would consent to the tentative agreement as soon as Tuesday. … In essence, if the North agrees to the deal, a country that only four months ago conducted its first nuclear test will have traded away its ability to produce new nuclear fuel in return for immediate energy and other aid. It would still hold on to, for now, an arsenal that American intelligence officials believe contains more than a half-dozen nuclear weapons or the fuel that is their essential ingredient. The accord also leaves unaddressed the fate of a second and still-unacknowledged nuclear weapons program that the United States accused North Korea of buying from the Pakistani nuclear engineer Abdul Qadeer Khan in the late 1990s … Negotiations had appeared near collapse on Sunday over North Korea’s demands for huge shipments of fuel oil and electricity. … (source: New York Times, February 13, 2007)

No More Chinese ASAT Tests?

In the wake of the firestorm of protest over last month’s test comes this item:

China's National Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan says there won't be a repeat of the Jan. 11 anti-satellite weapon test that scattered more than 900 trackable pieces of debris across the most heavily used satellite orbits in space. (ed: that number continues to grow – some now say over 1140 pieces) Fukushiro Nukaga, the former Japanese minister of state for defense, told reporters in Tokyo that during a meeting in Beijing Cao also repeated past Chinese denials that the test was a hostile act. … (source: Aerospace Daily & Defense Report, February 13, 2007) (ed: Also have to wonder how much internal, um, recalibration has been applied to the armed forces in what appears to have been a test carried out without fully informing senior civilian leadership…)

Upcoming Nupitals...

No, not for the Scribe or his clan, but for Pinch and his intended Nova Scotian bride-to-be. Drop by and pass along your best wishes!

12 February 2007

Hawkeyes... (NOT Univ of Iowa)

Have a couple of irons in the fire -- hopefully at least one will be out later this week. Space/missile roll-up tomorrow/Wednesday. In the meantime, a couple of Hawkeye clips for your viewing pleasure...

From the '06 show at Oceana (look close, you'll see some 'vapes). This Hawkeye has the new props -- while there is a significant improvement in performance and maintainability, it just doesn't sound like the mighty war hummer of yore...


09 February 2007

Things That Make You Go Hmmm....

In the face of rising inflation (78% over the past 4 years) nationalization of the country's largest electric company and the disappearance of staples from store shelves in reaction to government imposed price controls, comes this report on Venezuela's ongoing military build-up. The Su-30s are kind of old news, but growing bonds with a radical Iranian government in terms of arms and an apparent willingness to host Hezbollah should give one pause to ponder. Add in the ongoing de-construction of the Venezuelan constitution and associated freedoms - well, you decide...

Venezuela Strengthens Territorial Defense
Source: O Estado de Sao Paulo 05 Feb 07
[Report by Roberto Godoy: "Venezuela Expands Its Military Power."]

By 2012 the Venezuelan Navy will have the biggest and most powerful fleet of conventional submarines in Latin America. There will be 11 vessels, nine of them high-technology models and the other two modernized. Investment in the program is estimated at $3 billion. According to Navy Commander Admiral Armando Laguna, "they will all have the capability of operating in stealth mode for at least two months without receiving supplies from the outside during that period." In an official Navy communique, Laguna says that "as part of its aspiration to have fourth-generation submarines, the command has received offers from Germany, France, and Russia."

The Venezuelan Government is engaged in a vast reequipment program for its Armed Forces. The past 10 days have seen the announcement of three important undertakings involving the Russian Tor-M1 antiaircraft missile at $290 million, the modernization of from 12 to 16 American F-5 fighters by Iran, which will receive $70 million for the job, and the purchase of nine submarines. The result is military spending of $3.37 billion negotiated for the long term in one go.

The Hugo Chavez administration's main partner in the undertaking is the Russian Government. So far about $3.4 billion has been spent to acquire 24 Sukhoi-30 fighters, about 35 helicopters, and 100,000 Kalashnikov AK-47 rifles. A special line of credit for financing military equipment was released by President Vladimir Putin two years ago. The submarines that Venezuela is interested in will have a displacement in the neighborhood of 1,750 metric tons and will incorporate sound-reducing technologies. The Navy is considering three possibilities: the German IKL-214 -- the same model as that chosen by Brazil for expanding its fleet to six units -- the French Scorpene, similar to the vessels of that class acquired by Chile, and the Russian Amur, the favorite in the negotiations. The export version fires four light cruise missiles with a range of 300 km and up to 10 tactical or antiaircraft missiles. It also carries 18 533-mm heavy torpedoes and a crew of 35. The hull is covered by a synthetic mantle to confuse underwater detection sonar signals.

In an official communique, Admiral Laguna emphasizes that "the objective is to possess diesel-electric submarines ensuring the defense of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which is larger than the country's continental territory." Venezuela extends its limits based on its ocean island territory. As a result, the EEZ line defended by Caracas overlaps the maritime limits of Guyana, France, Holland, the United States, and the Antilles. The Navy employs two German IKL-209's that are over 30 years old. Both are being modernized at Dianca D&A, the local shipyard.

The Venezuelan Air Force has selected its main weapon for the impressive Su-30's. The first two aircraft out of a total of 24 were delivered in July of last year. The supersonic fighter jets will carry the most modern version of the Russian R-77 Adder missile. It has a range of 100 km and an ideal radius of 80 km. The missile weighs 175 kg. During the same speech in which he announced the choice of the R-77, Minister of Defense Raul Baduel revealed that the arrangement to be adopted in the modernization of the 12 American CF-5A fighters by Iran had not been decided. The Iranian aircraft industry has developed a project virtually resulting in a new supersonic jet based on the structure of the F-5 and characterized by a double tail assembly. Even the name -- Sae'gheh (Lightning) -- is new. The Venezuelan CF-5A's were produced in Canada under license during the 1970's. Little is known about the Sae'gheh. Besides the two rudders, which considerably increase maneuverability and agility, a new nose was created to hold the improved N019-ME radar, which can cover 80 km in surveillance mode and 40 km for detecting 10 targets. The fighter carries 5.5 metric tons of external loads: missiles, smart bombs, and extra fuel tanks.

Friday's Roll-up of Air/Missile Items

A couple of interesting news notes picked up whilst culling international lists (one of the nicer aspects of YHS' current job):

First item -- problems continue apace for the sublaunched variant of the Topol-M, the Bulava ("Mace"). Prior to this latest test (failure) there had been a number of statements in what passes for the open press in Russia indicating anything less than a successful shot would see "management changes."

Russia Faces Problems With Bulava Missile

Russia’s new submarine-launched Bulava missile has failed in its last three test flights, raising questions about the weapon’s development, United Press International reported Friday (Global Security Newswire, 5 Feb 2007)

The Bulava is based on the Topol-M ICBM. It received sufficient funding and had three successful tests. The missile then failed three times in a row during testing, most recently on Dec. 24. “These three test failures, and only three successes, are worrisome. So the test program has been temporarily suspended,” according to analyst James Dunnigan. Russian Federal Space Agency chief Anatoly Perminov told the Kommersant newspaper that 12 to 14 tests would be needed before the Bulava could be deployed.

“Given that Bulava blasts off two or three times a year, Russia’s armed forces will hardly get it sooner than two or three years,” according to Kommersant. “So, three failures of Bulava in a row may easily disrupt the country’s program of nuclear rearmament.”

Plans to deploy the missile on the submarine Yury Dolgoruky this year are unlikely to reach fruition, UPI reported. Two special commissions have been organized to investigate the December test failure. One will study the incident itself, while the other looks for the person who leaked news of the failure to the media, Kommersant reported.

The troubles with the Bulava exist in comparison to the reliability of the silo-based Topol-M. That might indicate that the problem lies in engineering the submarine launch tube for the missile, or that unforeseen problems arose while the missile was being adapted for submarine launches (Martin Sieff, United Press International/Spacewar.com, Feb. 2).

Next up -- India continues her path between the US and Russia; purchasing another 40 Su-30s while pursuing procurement of a new multi-role combat aircraft which has seen intense competiton between the US (F/A-18 E/F & F-16), Europe (Rafael & Grippen) and Russia (MiG-29:

India Air Force To Get 40 Sukhoi-30 Jets, Hercules Tankers, Choppers From Russia
CNN-IBN (Internet Version-WWW) in English 08 Feb 07 - New Delhi -- The Indian
Air Force [IAF] is all set to acquire more wings and ground force.

Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi said on Thursday that the IAF will acquire 40 Sukhoi-30 jet aircraft, six Hercules tankers and a large number of helicopters. Tyagi said the all the procurements will be ordered from Russia and will be finalised by March 2007. The jets will be in addition to 130 Sukhois already ordered.

On Wednesday, Defence Minister A K Antony also announced that India will also buy 126 multi-role fighter jets worth over $5 billion.

"The procedure (for acquiring the jets) is almost in the final stages. I can assure you that a decision will be taken very quickly," Antony said after inaugurating the sixth Aero India show in Bangalore.

Companies vying to bag the lucrative contract are France's Dassault (Rafale), Russia's RAC-MiG (MiG-29M2), Sweden's Saab (JAS-39 Gripen) and Lockheed Martin (F-16) and Boeing (F-18) of the US, some of which participated in the flight displays also. On the development of a fifth generation jet for the IAF, Antony said India would jointly produce the aircraft with Russia's fighter plane manufacturer, Sukhoi. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and DRDO [Defense Research and Development Organization] would also be involved in the process, he added.

Antony also informed that a proposal for an aerospace command has been sent by the IAF but no decision has been taken on the issue. "It has to be a tri-service command. Discussions are going on but there are several issues. I cannot give a time limit," Antony said.

On the light combat aircraft (LCA) project, Antony said that it has not been put on the backburner. "The LCA is very much on track. Initially there were some problems, but it is on the right track now. There is no question of abandoning it," he informed. The next five years of the 11th Plan period would see India procuring defence equipment worth $8 to $10 billion. "For that, procedures are already taking shape," he said.

Earlier, inaugurating the air show, Antony said India was fully committed to maintaining peace and stability with its neighbours. "In the global context, we wish to achieve this objective through effective diplomacy backed by credible military deterrence."

The country has initiated several confidence-building measures with its neighbours including Pakistan and China.

"But we cannot remain complacent and there is a need for eternal vigil. We have to modernise our armed forces backed by a strong deterrent to prevent a war," Antony said.

And of course, how could the week not be complete but for the announcement by the Iranians of another wargame exercise, this time testing anti-ship and their newly acquired S-300 missiles

Iran To Conduct Missile War Games
Tehran Fars News Agency in English 0830 GMT 07 Feb 07

TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Iran plans to stage missile war games during a two-day period beginning Wednesday. The war games will be carried out in southern waters of the country in the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman.

The military exercises to be carried out by the air and naval forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are aimed at testing the IRGC's missile capability, an IRGC statement said. The maneuvers will include placement, launch and tracking operations.

The statement also mentioned that the maneuvers have been designed to retest the achievements gained during earlier war games of the country codenamed 'Great Prophet 1 and 2'. The war games to be staged by the IRGC air force has been named as 'Ra'd' (thunder) and the one by IRGC naval forces has been called as 'Sa'eqeh' (lightening), the statement concluded.

S-300 video:

ed: YHS has video of the cruise missile launch - may be the w/end before it can be added though...he's working it ;)