Monthly Archives: March 2013

Fact or Fiction? Russian Arm’s Sale to China

In response to a 25 March Chinese CCTV News Agency and People’s Daily report announcing a major arm’s deal between Moscow and Beijing, Russia’s ITAR-TASS News Agency published a denial the same day claiming no such deal was made. The denial was first announced by DefenseNews. The Chinese news media reports claim that an agreement was signed just prior to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s weekend visit to Russia. The reported deal would provide China with 24 Sukhoi Su-35 fighters and four Amur-class diesel submarines. An agreement of this magnitude, if confirmed, would represent the first major arm’s deal between Moscow and Beijing in more than ten years.

The ITAR-TASS news story, as reported by DefenseNews, insists that Moscow and Beijing did not engage in any discussions related to military hardware, weapon’s transfers, or technology cooperation immediately prior to or during President Jinping’s weekend visit.

The Sukhoi Su-35 (codenamed the Flanker-B by NATO) is a highly-maneuverable twin-engine, single-seat, multirole fighter aircraft. China and Russia have engaged in several discussions since the 1990s regarding a possible sale of Su-35s. Since 1998, several reports have surfaced announcing sales of Su-35s to China, deals that never materialized. Reports announcing the sale of Tupolev Tu-22M bombers were also met by immediate Russian denials in January 2013.

Some well-placed analysts believe Russian officials are reluctant to execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Moscow and Beijing signed in December 2012 laying the foundation for negotiations that might eventually culminate in a firm deal for the submarines and the Su-35s.
It is widely believed that previous negotiations were scuttled due to concerns within Russia’s ruling hierarchy that, given Beijing’s track record for reverse-engineering vital technology, China would use the Su-35 as a model to construct a new Chinese aircraft in violation of Russia’s International Property Rights (IPRs).

Concerns have also been voiced in some circles that Beijing hopes to gain access to the Saturn AL-1175 engines used to power the Su-35 to be used as a model for a domestically-produced copy. The AL-1175 also powers Russia’s T-50 prototype for its fifth-generation stealth fighter, the Sukhoi PAK FA.

Russian officials have long claimed that Beijing used a 1995 production-licensing agreement to build 200 Sukhoi Su-27SK air superiority fighters to secretly create an indigenous aircraft, the Shenyang J-11B, in violation of IPR requirements. Russia cancelled the agreement in 2006 after 95 aircraft had been produced insisting that the J-11B represented a reverse-engineered copy of the Su-27SK equipped with Chinese avionics and engines.

Some analysts speculate that Russia is also reluctant to go ahead with the sale of the Amur-class diesel submarines as fears abound that Beijing will also attempt to secretly reverse-engineer the boats in an effort to manufacture an indigenous Chinese copy.

The Amur-class is one of Russia’s latest designs, often called an export example of the Lada-class, and is advertised as being a modernized version of the Kilo-class submarines. The Russians claim the Amurs feature advanced combat capabilities, innovative acoustics that enhance stealth operations, and an optional Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP) system.

According to some experts, China’s prospects for reverse-engineering the Amur subs or the Su-35s are not as promising as they may appear. With the Su-27SK, Beijing took advantage of favorable technological exchanges with the Ukraine to obtain the data required to overcome engineering challenges. Now, the Ukraine has no access to the latest, more advanced Russian aircraft or naval designs and no secrets to trade with the Chinese.

Given the rapid technological advances China has demonstrated in recent years, not all analysts believe Beijing is bent on reverse-engineering entire systems. Some argue that any future copying would likely be limited to adapting separate components for inclusion in new indigenous models.
The Russian newspaper Kommersant claims the deal, if consummated, would be worth approximately $2 billion. A deal of this nature would be a major boost to China’s military posture. Weapons like the Su-35 and the Amur-class subs would give Beijing a significant edge in its continuing territorial disputes with its Pacific neighbors.

With its domestic stealth aircraft still being tested and not yet in production, the Su-35 represents a significant strengthening of China’s airborne combat force that is certain to create concern in the minds of China’s Pacific adversaries.

With Japan scheduled to receive its first batch of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (JSF) in late 2016 and China’s highly-touted J-20 and J-31 stealth fighters are not likely to become operational until sometime in 2017 at the earliest, acquisition of the Su-35 would help Beijing fill a perceived gap in its ability to defend its territorial airspace.

As for the Amur submarines, it seems logical that Russian officials would be well-disposed to making a deal with China. Since this model is not a vessel of strategic value, equipping China with these boats would make America’s “Pivot to the Pacific” a more challenging endeavor and might go far in helping Russia keep the United States off-balance.

We can only speculate as to the validity of the Chinese claims that the deal was signed and will soon become a reality. It is uncertain if the Russian denial is a firm fact, a temporary postponement, or a ruse designed to mislead for unknown reasons.

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Washington Steps Up Warning: Sending Two Stealth Bombers over South Korea

Following North Korean escalating tension with the South,  Washington is stepping up warning. Today the Air Forces’ Strategic Command said it is sending two B-2 Spirit strategic bombers over the peninsula. Amid tensions over the North’s third nuclear test last month and ensuing United Nations sanctions, North Korea had already shut down Red Cross hot lines with South Korea and a communication line with the American military command in South Korea. Yesterday, Pyongyang terminated the last remaining link with the South, accusing the South’ new President Park Geun-hye of pursuing the same hard-line policy of her predecessor that the North blamed for a prolonged chill in inter-Korean relations. “Under the situation where a war may break out any moment, there is no need to keep North-South military communications,” the North said on Wednesday.

U.S. Strategic Command officials sent two B-2 Spirit bombers for a long-duration, round-trip training mission from Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., to South Korea March 28 as part of the ongoing bilateral Foal Eagle training exercise. The stealth bomber’s mission followed two deployment of B-52H missions over South Korea last week, which drew fierce response from North Korea. “The United States is steadfast in its alliance commitment to the defense of South Korea, to deterring aggression, and to ensuring peace and stability in the region. The B-2 bomber is an important element of America’s enduring and robust extended deterrence capability in the Asia-Pacific region.” United States Forces Korea communique responded.

This mission by two B-2 Spirit bombers assigned to 509th Bomb Wing, which demonstrates the United States’ ability to conduct long range, precision strikes quickly and at will, involved flying more than 6,500 miles to the Korean Peninsula, dropping inert munitions on the Jik Do Range, and returning to the continental U.S. in a single, continuous mission. ”Exercise Foal Eagle demonstrates the commitment of the United States and its capability to defend South Korea and to provide extended deterrence to our allies in the Asia-Pacific region.”

North Korea announced yesterday it is planning substantial military actions, including pre-emptive nuclear strikes against the United States and South Korea. Pyongyang also claimed it is targeting US territories in Guam and Hawaii, however, despite the clear threat, North Korea does not currently have the means to carry out such threat.

Northrop Grumman B-2B 'Spirit' stealth bomber operational with the US Air Force Strategic Command. Photo: US Air Force

Northrop Grumman B-2 ‘Spirit’ stealth bomber operational with the US Air Force Strategic Command. Photo: US Air Force

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EAPS Miniature Missile Successful in the First Guided Flight

Miniature Hit-To-Kill (MHTK) interceptor launched on an EAPS test flight - May 2012. Photo: Lockheed Martin

Miniature Hit-To-Kill (MHTK) interceptor launched on an EAPS test flight – May 2012. Photo: Lockheed Martin

On March 22, 2013 Lockheed Martin completed the first successful flight test of the Miniature Hit-To-Kill missile, part of the Extended Area Protection and Survivability (EAPS) systems. The flight provided data about the weapon’s seeker, guidance, navigation and control system performance. This very small and agile interceptor is designed to defeat Rocket, Artillery and Mortar (RAM) targets at ranges greatly exceeding those of current systems. This test is another milestone in a series of technically challenging events completed under the EAPS Integrated Demonstration Science and Technology program.

The test closely replicated a tactical situation in which an enemy launches a mortar at an area protected by the MHTK intercept system. A radar successfully detected and tracked the threat in flight. The tactically configured MHTK interceptor launched vertically and flew a trajectory positioning it to detect energy from a ground illuminator reflected off the mortar target. Responding to the reflected energy, the MHTK interceptor maneuvered to fly very close to the target and gather data through its seeker as it passed the mortar in flight. Intercepting the target was not an objective of this flight test. In addition to gathering data to characterize the interceptor’s performance, this test integrated and exercised the entire intercept system for the first time. The data collected will support an intercept flight test planned for later this year.

At less than 1 meter long, less than 50 millimeters in diameter and less than 3 kilograms mass at launch, the MHTK is extremely compact and very agile in flight. Photo: Lockheed martin

At less than 1 meter long, less than 50 millimeters in diameter and less than 3 kilograms mass at launch, the MHTK is extremely compact and very agile in flight. Photo: Lockheed martin

At less than 1 meter long, less than 50 millimeters in diameter and less than 3 kilograms mass at launch, the MHTK is extremely compact and very agile in flight. Paired with a fire control sensor capable of providing illumination, the MHTK provides robust defeat of RAM targets through body-to-body impact at tactically significant ranges, greatly increasing the protected volume in which our soldiers operate and offering commanders more flexibility than legacy and interim systems.

The test was conducted at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., in collaboration with the U.S. Army Research Development & Engineering Command/Aviation Missile Research Development & Engineering Center (RDECOM/AMRDEC). “We are very pleased with the initial review of the test data” Loretta Painter, AMRDEC EAPS Program Director said, noting the collected data will be used to reduce risks and improve the system prior to the next flight.

The Lockheed Martin MHTK interceptor is on track to meet the AMRDEC Average Unit Production Cost goal of $16,000 per interceptor in 2006 dollars at specified quantities, making it much more affordable than systems such as the counter-rocket ‘Centurion’ gun it will replace.

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China’s Mighty Dragon Grows Teeth


Chengdu J-20 ‘Mighty Dragon’ seen on a test flight March 13, 2013 carrying a dummy missile.

Recent photos of the second ‘Technology Demonstrator” Fifth Generation Chengdu J20 ‘Mighty Dragon’ stealth fighter depict a recent flight testing what seems to be an R-77 missile dummy carried on the starboard (right side) weapons bay.

An open canopy of the first J20 prototypes shows some details of the HUD.

An open canopy of the first J20 prototypes shows some details of the HUD.

From the photos published on several Chinese websites it isn’t clear whether the aircraft flew the entire flight with an open bay, as all photos, including the one showing the J-20 in flight show the missile in the extracted position.

The J-20 uses two side-mounted weapon bays carrying four missiles, in addition to a large belly weapon bay carrying additional, larger air/air missiles. It is assumed the J-20 will also be able to carry the PL-10, PL-12 and PL-21 air/air missiles.

Chinese Military Review

J20 preparing to a flight test carrying a dummy missile in its starboard weapon bay.

J20 preparing to a flight test carrying a dummy missile in its starboard weapon bay.

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US Navy to Review Four Designs for UCLASS; Plans Fielding Within 3-6 Years

Northrop Grumman X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System selected by the US Navy to demonstrate carrier operations of an unmanned aircraft. Photo: Northrop Grumman

Northrop Grumman X-47B Unmanned Combat Air System selected by the US Navy to demonstrate carrier operations of an unmanned aircraft. Photo: Northrop Grumman

The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) intends to issue four firm-fixed-price contracts for Preliminary Design Reviews (PDR) for the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) Air Vehicle. The contracts are expected to be issued by the summer of 2013, supporting up to two years of work. This new unmanned combat unmanned aerial vehicle (UCAV) system will provide the US Navy persistent unmanned semi-autonomous, carrier-based, Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance and Targeting, and strike capability to support 24/7 carrier operational coverage.The system to be reviews include three principal elements – the unmanned aerial vehicle (platform), datalink for communications and control and the carrier-based segment, including the handling and operation on-board the carrier, which will also provide the human interface of the entire system. Each of the four contracts will cover two years work (2013-15) and will include funding for post-PDR design maturation and follow-on engineering efforts to advance the designs.

Contracts are expected to be awarded to four companies – the Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. and Lockheed Martin, the four companies are expected to be ready for PDR-level NAVAIR evaluation by the third quarter of FY14. Based on this review the Navy plans to select a single proposal for full scale development, anticipating the UCLASS capability could be fielded within three to six years.

All four companies have solid plans for a carrier-based UCLASS type system. Boeing and Lockheed Martin have concept designs of stealth UAVs designed for carrier operation and General Atomics have flown the jet-powered stealthy Predator C (Avenger) that could assume that role. Only Northrop Grumman has a flying vehicle designed to operate on board aircraft carriers – the X-47B, scheduled for carrier testing next year.

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PT DI Beralih ke Produksi Helikoopter EC-725 Cougar

27 Maret 2013

Produksi helikopter Super Puma di PT DI (photo : audrey)

Tinggalkan Super Puma, PT DI Buat Helikopter Berteknologi Tinggi

Langkawi – PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PT DI) tidak lagi memproduksi helikopter mewah dan canggih Super Puma NAS332C1. BUMN ini sedang memproduksi helikopter berteknologi tinggi dan lebih canggih yakni EC-725-Cougar.

“Kita tidak lagi produksi Super Puma, kita tinggalkan itu. Memang Super Puma ini saja helikopternya canggih, sekelas Mercy kalau di merek mobil,” ucap Direktur Utama PT DI Budi Santoso ditemui di 12th Langkawi International Maritime & Exhibition 2013 (LIMA ’13), Malaysia, Selasa (26/3/2013).

Dikatakan Budi, saat ini sudah ada helikopter bertekonolgi yang lebih baru lagi yakni Helikopter Cougar yang jauh lebih canggih.

“Kita sekarang memproduksi Cougar EC-725, tekonologi dan peralatannya jauh lebih bagus dibandingkan Super Puma. Ya seperti mobil kijang, kan dari kapsul makin tahun ada pembaruan. Nah Cougar ini generasi terbaru helikopter di kelas heavy,” ungkap Budi.

Diakui Budi, helikopter Cougar ini memang tidak 100% buatan PT DI sendiri. “Justru Cougar ini lisensinya dan desainnya punya EuroCopter, sama seperti Super Puma yang punya Eurocopter, tapi dari desain menuju produksi kami yang melakukan, seperti pembuatan hampir seluruh bagian badan helikopter seperti fuselage and tail boom,” terangnya.

Saat ini PT DI sedang mengerjakan 6 helikopter Cougar pesanan TNI yang rencananya akan selesai dikerjakan pada 2014.


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Brazilian and Embraer Conclude Critical Design Review of the KC-390 Project

By on Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

The Brazilian Air Force (FAB) and Embraer Defense & Security have successfully concluded the Critical Design Review (CDR) of the KC-390 military transport aircraft. The contract event, which is one of the main landmarks of the program, took place at Embraer’s facilities in the Eugênio de Melo district of the city of São José dos Campos, from March 11 to 22.

During the CDR, the definitive aerodynamic and structural configurations, as well as the architecture and systems installations were confirmed, and meaning that the design is sufficiently mature to begin the detailed project and manufacture the prototypes of the aircraft.

“It was two intense weeks of presentations and discussions, and we were very happy with the solutions presented by Embraer,” said Engineer Colonel Sergio Carneiro, Manager of the FAB’s KC-X Project. “We came out of these discussions convinced that the building of the prototypes can begin.”

Participating in the closing of the CDR were members of the Brazilian Air Force High Command, with special mention of Air Force Lieutenant General Aprígio Eduardo de Moura Azevedo, Air Force Chief of Staff. The FAB delegation got a close look at the tools and models used in developing the KC-390, such as an engineering simulator and a life-size model of the cockpit.

“We have concluded an important stage of the KC-390 Program and, therefore, we gave an accounting to the FAB of the work done. We will now begin the production phase of the prototypes,” said Luiz Carlos Aguiar, President and CEO of Embraer Defense & Security.

“This is a great program landmark, and we are proud of the result of our efforts to demonstrate the maturity of the project to the FAB,” said Paulo Gastão Silva, Director of the KC-390 Program at Embraer. “We are certain that the KC-390 will be another big success of the proven combination of the well-defined FAB requirements and the solutions developed by Embraer to meet them.”

The manufacture of the first pieces of the prototype will soon begin and all of the activities of the project are focused on taking the first flight in the second half of 2014. The KC-390 is the largest airplane ever conceived and built by the Brazilian aeronautics industry and will establish a new standard for medium-sized military transport aircraft, in terms of performance and payload, as well as advance mission and flight systems.

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