* Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace The Bad Old Days

Get out your white suit, your tap shoes and tails
Let’s go backwards when forward fails
And movie stars you thought were alone then
Now are framed beside your bed

Don’t throw the pa-ast away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again

– Peter Allen, ‘Everything Old is New Again

There was a point, a decade or so ago (OK, maybe two decades back), when I thought some of my bete noirs, like medium- and intermediate range ballistic missiles and long-range cruise missile-armed supersonic bombers were going to go skulking off into that not-so-gentle night.  Alas, it appears not so:

A move by Russia to sell its production line of Tu-22M3 long-range bombers to China for US$1.5 billion to China was confirmed by the US-based US-China Economic and Security Review Commission two years ago and the bomber’s name will be changed to the Hong-10, reports the state-run China News Service  … The Hong-10, whose components will all be produced in China with the exception of the engine, is expected to fly in the second half of next year, and the country will produce 36 aircraft in the first batch to be delivered to the air force. One of world’s fastest long-range bombers which can also carry atomic weapons, the plane can cover the South China Sea, East China Sea and even the western Pacific.  Sources here and here.

So now, along with pondering MRBMs that may be the Pershing II re-incarnated, alongside bulked up Badgers, we have the prospect of the Backfire being introduced into the increasingly volatile mix that constitutes the Far East Theater.  Mah-velous.  Previously rebuffed in the late 80’s/early 90’s by the Russians who didn’t want to upset the balance of forces in theater, the Chinese evidently closed the deal in 2010 to domestically produce up to 36 Tu-22M3 Backfires (Domestic designation: H-10) with the engines to be supplied by Russia – an agreement all the more curious because of the very real anger the Russians have (had?) over the Chinese knock-off production of the Su-27SK that formed the basis of the J-11 family and the navalized J-15 without paying the attending license-fees.

While it is easy to wave the “game changer” flag, the appearance of the H-10 in the region, especially in terms of coverage in the SCS and as a possible LACM platform for strikes against Guam, will be cause for more concern and an additional complication in the “Pacific pivot.”  Already, H-6’s and H-6K’s running around the region with a variety of sub- and supersonic cruise missiles are cause for concern, and now, just as in the ‘Good/Bad Old Days’ the appearance of the Backfire on the stage once again places a premium on our ability to reach out and touch at long ranges, the archer before he has the option to shoot his arrows – rebuilding the Outer Air Battle as it were, but in an updated form to handle an updated threat and under conditions we didn’t necessarily have to face in the Cold War.   It also means stepping up our training and putting renewed emphasis on countering the reconnaissance-strike complex that would support the H-6/H-10 (and ASBMs for that matter) – time to get serious about OPDEC, EMCON and a host of other TTPs we became very practiced with during the 80’s but have let atrophy over the years.  Oh, and did I mention the need for some really, really good AEW? 😉

And do-on’t throw the past away
You might need it some other rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again
When everything old i-is new-ew a-again


  1. Charley A.

    The Navy should seriously rethink its timetable for the NGAD – F/A-XX. The F-35C (as well as the SB) is not going to have the performance to intercept these ASM platforms.

  2. Triletter

    What goes around, comes around. Oh, they shall miss those Turkey’s when deployed in West Pac. I don’t think the Super Bee’s have the range (platform or missile) to really do too much about this threat. Then, it’s been almost 20 yrs, so what the h@#$ do I know. Hummers are going to be the critical node for this.

  3. virgil xenophon

    Apparently we’ve learned nothing from former Carter SECDEF Harold Brown whose come-to-Jesus revelation was when he finally exasperatedly observed about the SU that: “I don’t understand it. When we build, they build; when we don’t build they STILL build.” Too bad such Communist proclivities are seen by Obama, et al as a “stabilizing” and “natural” feature–not a bug–insofar as limiting our ability to exercise military projection in WesPac is concerned..

  4. virgil xenophon

    PS: I came back because I really should have mentioned for the historical record that Brown’s comment is so pertinent because he was a classic example/proponent of the school of thought that the Cold War “arms race” was naught but an exercise in upward spiraling reactive quadratic equations and that if the US would but break the momentum by “building down” the SU would surely follow.
    Harold Brown, PhD.: Credentialed fool..

  5. Old IS1

    Triletter has a good point. It should be kept in mind that at the price of significantly reduced (but still impressive) radius, the TU-22M can maintain M1.5. It’s really hard for an interceptor (or even an AEGIS cruiser) to engage targets capable of maintaining and changing course at that speed.

Comments are closed.