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This Week on MIDRATS: “Let’s Talk Missiles” – UPDATED

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Join us for Midrats this Sunday, 22 July 2012 on blogtalk radio, where the topic is missiles – ballistic and cruise; and your humble scribe is the guest.  Seven months into this year and we have seen much on this front.  Pick a theater and you will find ballistic and cruise missiles are at or near the top of the various COCOM’s top 5 concerns.  A report released by DoD a few weeks back states in part:

Iran continues to develop ballistic missiles that can range regional adversaries, Israel, and Eastern Europe, including an extended-range variant of the Shahab-3 and a 2,000-krn medium-range ballistic missile, the Ashura. Beyond steady growth in its missile and rocket inventories, Iran has boosted the lethality and effectiveness of existing systems by improving accuracy and developing new sub-munition payloads. – Annual Report on the Military Strength of Iran

At the same time, Iran has also been working at developing forces and tactics that will be used in an anti-access campaign to close the Strait of Hormuz and threaten regional naval and land forces should it decide to retaliate against growing sanctions over its nuclear program.

In the Pacific, besides the world’s largest and most robust program in developing and deploying a range of ballistic missiles from short- to inter-continental, they are likewise building a range of cruise missiles for land-attack and anti-ship that are both formidable in number and capability:

The PLA is acquiring large numbers of highly accurate, domestically built cruise missiles, and has previously acquired large numbers of Russian ones. These include the domestically produced, ground- launched CJ-10 land-attack cruise missile (LACM); the domestically produced ground- and ship-launched YJ-62 anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM); the Russian SS-N-22/SUNBURN supersonic ASCM, which is fitted on China’s SOVREMENNY-class guided missile destroyers; and the Russian SS-N-27B/SIZZLER supersonic ASCM on China’s Russian-built KILO-class diesel-powered attack submarines. - Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, May 2012

If past practice is prologue, we can expect to see domestic variants of the Russian-sourced cruise missiles in the near future (witness the SU-27 v. J-11).  Again, all part of a larger Advanced-A2/AD strategy being put into play as we in turn conduct the “Pacific pivot”.  And need we mention Syria, with its inventory of missiles and extensive chemical weapons arsenal, teetering on the brink of chaos and their  practice of passing missiles to Hezbollah?

Joint ventures of the sort between Russia and India that yielded the BrahMOS ASCM/LACM will increasingly become more common.  And with a world increasingly awash in growing numbers of ballistic and cruise missiles, how long before a non-state actor obtains, and uses, these sophisticated, technical weapons systems?  Oh wait – that’s already happened.  Just ask the Israeli navy

Oh, and did I mention hypersonics too?

Today’s warfighters find themselves in a complex, multi-layered and highly nuanced threat environment – one that parallels the multi-polar world that has emerged in the past two decades.  Successfully operating in this environment will require that we open the aperture on kinetic and non-kinetic solutions and take an integrated approach to air and missile defense.

Just some of the things we’ll be talking about Sunday afternoon.  Why don’t you join us?


UPDATE:
Here’s today’s transcript:

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

 

P.S.  A little read-ahead if you’d like for background:

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Everything Old is New Again*

* 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

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The Missiles of Spring: 2012 Edition

Stick around any job long enough and pretty soon you’ll find a pattern of repetition or cycles will emerge.  When on active duty, it was inexorably tied to the CVW turnaround training cycle.  This year we are now on the threshold of the 3rd North Korean space launch vehicle (SLV) attempt since 2006 and the 4th overall since 1998 and my third participation in one form or another thereof (for the record, they are batting .000 with an Oh-for-3 record since 1998 – kind of like how the Red Sox and Yankees started the year, eh?).  At least this time they had the good grace not to screw with a 4-day holiday weekend.  Given this Northeast Asian 21st century meme, I thought we might take a moment and breakdown aspects of the launch and the SLV as it will provide a basis for comparison with the next in the series on the Atlas – our first ICBM and workhorse SLV from almost a half-century ago.

Continue Reading…

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Flightdeck Friday: A BMD Primer

Every now and then I get a chance to reach escape velocity from my day job and do something really fun or different.  Recently that entailed presenting a BMD overview to a couple of classes that were part of the Naval War College’s Non-Resident Seminar program (of which YHS is a graduate).  And like any good presenter these days, one needs a brief – so, ecce:
…actually, I’d planned on part II of the Atlas story, but got re-tasked this week, so – Plan B(MD).
Oh, and yes, I do my own graphics – here’s a sample from Part II of the Atlas story:

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What We’re Reading – And Why

The Current "Stack of Shame"

A quick look at the sidebar will reveal a variety and number of books read over the course of the past year, oft times engendering discussions off-site as to selections and purpose.  Looking at the current working stack on my desk, I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk to why these particular selections.

My first read of Kissinger’s book got me thinking about deterrence theories that emerged during the Cold War, how they were put on the shelf 20 years ago when the Soviet Union disappeared and now, how some folks think we can just pull them off the shelf and apply them to China.  Problem is, not only do I think those theories may not apply, they may in fact, carry us down avenues with results quite different than we intended.  Part of my studies and work on theater nuclear forces was grounded in a better understanding of Russian culture as applied to Soviet deterrence practices across a range of operations, theaters and levels of war.  That I ended up disagreeing with the prevailing (at the time) school of thought shouldn’t come as a surprise to readers here – and neither should my initial thoughts laid out above vis-a-vis China.  This isn’t just in the nuclear arena, but even more so conventional as we look at the array of advanced anti-access/area denial forces being fielded by China, employable outside of a conflict over Taiwan.  So – I’m taking a historical perspective/approach looking at China’s actions in a conventional realm versus near peer (conventional) powers and major nuclear power.  There is a pattern that points to an offensive deterrence that, during a confrontation, has led to fairly aggressive actions that incurred substantive losses on the other party’s account, followed by a rapid withdrawal from overrun territory by Chinese forces to show occupation wasn’t their intent.  A noteworthy element of these actions though, and one that must be factored into the analysis is that these case histories stem from Mao’s reign and a PLA that was short on technology and long on manpower (ground forces) which runs counter to the decade-long modernization and overhaul in doctrine and operations (epitomized, for example, by the development and wide deployment of a range of conventional ballistic missiles).  Additionally, while most of the Party leadership were veterans of the Long March and Korea and as such, had experience with military operations, today’s Party leadership has at best, passing acquaintance with military operations and requirements.  In such a scenario, will there be more deference given plan and COAs sourced from the military — IOW, a tendency to accept at face value n the part of Party leadership?  As I delve into this issue, these are some of the questions I am asking myself and which form the entering argument with the publications above.

  • Russia, NATO BMD and the INF Treaty:
Nervov, RSVN (Strategic Missile Troops) Missile Complexes Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty; Text and Annexes National Defense University, Case Studies: U.S. Withdrawal from the Antiballistic Missile Treaty Podvig, Russian Strategic Nuclear Forces Stav, The Threat of Ballistic Missiles in the Middle East

When the US withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002, there was a varied response from Russia, ranging from Putin’s non-committal “do what you must” to statements from the Defense Minister and Chief of Staff that Russia would investigate dropping out of the INF Treaty.  In the intervening years since, this threat was rolled out on various occasions when the Russians wanted to highlight their concern over various aspects of the US efforts to develop and deploy ballistic missile defense.  Since the initial announcement of the European Initiative in 2007  (basing 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland, supported by an X-band radar in the Czech Republic) it has become a recurring theme, in concert with “other military-technical means.”  This begs a couple of questions – namely, what are the real motivations behind the rhetoric, what real benefits would Russia accrue in stepping away from the first bi-lateral nuclear treaty that banned an entire class of weapons and set the stage for the START treaties on strategic nuclear forces and, in an age of growing numbers of ballistic missiles, nuclear and conventional, inhabiting the 500-5500km range (essentially longer ranged SRBM, MRBM and IRBMs as well as ground-launched cruise missiles), is the INF Treaty still relevant?  Part of the investigation includes a deep dive into the developmental history of Russian ballistic missiles with particular attention being paid to one of my old haunts — the period 1976-1987 and the impetus behind the development and deployment behind the SS-20/Pioneer IRBM.  As noteworthy as the political, military and engineering decision-making behind Pioneer’s development and controversial deployment was, there were two other programs – Skorost (“Speed”) and Kuryer (“Courier”) which bear investigation.  Each program was the result of a deliberate decision to respond to the Pershing II/GLCM deployment (itself a response to the SS-20 deployment) with new ballistic missile systems (or in the Russian vernacular, missile complexes), derived from (then) new mobile strategic systems like the SS-25 and aimed specifically at the systems the US was deploying to strengthen the nuclear guarantee to NATO.  The impetus behind this is to see if there are parallels between then and now that may predict or explain certain behaviors and statements from Russian leadership in the current dispute over the US-led European Phased Adaptive Approach to ballistic missile defense against the Iranian ballistic missile threat.

It is popular to talk about the “global economy” in referential terms as if it is a late-20th Century/21st Century phenomena.  In actuality, beginning with the return of Columbus from the 1492 expedition, profound ecological and economic wheels were put into motion – almost all of which had unforeseen consequences.  Mann’s work is a masterful, scientific review of the “Colombian Exchange” and later, the impact the founding of Manila some 80 years later by the Spanish explorer Legazpi would have on not only Europe, but the American and African continents that stretch into today.  Economist Miller (author of “War Plan Orange”) turns to recently declassified documents to take another look at attempts by the US to dissuade Japan from its aggression in China in the run-up to Pearl Harbor.  Building on his experience in international trade while working for a major mining company, he brings new perspectives on the role international finance had in influencing Japanese decision-making and actions — and in the process spurred a branches & sequels process that led to the Pacific war.  While far from finished with Bankrupting the Enemy, I think those who would argue for a trade war/currency war today with China would be well advised to consider Miller’s work and a look at the unintended consequences (as well as what a bureaucracy can do to thwart Presidential initiatives) that may result.  Both authors have a compelling writing style that addresses head on, complex ideas and concepts, placing them in a thoroughly comprehensible context – something, unfortunately, that cannot be said about some the preceding texts which can verge on the turgidly pedagogical….

And finally, there is reading just for the simple pleasure of a story well told, even if it is of an event that has been as widely dissected and told as that of Midway.  One of the vehicles used under such conditions is historical fiction and a new entry in that genre is Vengeance Strikes the Blow, written by G. Alvin Simons and published by Cripple Creek Press:

 Excerpt from the book:


    Kusaka staggered a few steps as Akagi turned toward the approaching enemy aircraft presenting a smaller target. He watched as three of the battered, tattered medium bombers continued winging toward the carriers intent on launching their torpedoes. Frantic Zeroes, having retreated earlier from the tremendous volume of friendly gunfire belching forth from the screening vessels, now ignored the threat. They dove in, blasting away at the deadly intruders.

    The deep Pacific waters already littered with destroyed enemy aircraft, Kusaka wondered at the Americans’ tenacity. We slaughter them with ease, yet still they come, he thought. Seemingly oblivious to the certain death awaiting them. Almost contemptuous in their disregard for our defense. Are they arrogant? Stubborn? Fools? What kind of men are these?

The lead aircraft closed to within a thousand meters before releasing its torpedo. It splashed down and disappeared from view, running toward its intended target. The unburdened plane skittered away across the wave tops with enraged Zeroes hounding its tail. Kusaka’s eyesight remained locked in place, waiting for the weapon to reappear when it neared Akagi.
    The huge ship made another hard turn, veering away from the oncoming torpedo. Kusaka lurched sideways into Genda, releasing a groan of pain from the young officer. The torpedo chugged past, missing the carrier and leaving a trail of bubbles in its wake. Cheers and clapping drifted on the combat-torn wind, falling silent as the second enemy plane bore in. The defensive gunfire increased in volume. A mountain of shot and steel sought to destroy the attacking aircraft. Amidst the panicked frenzy and close quarters, friendly fire struck neighboring vessels. Kusaka winced at the number of stray rounds zipping between the ships. This is utter madness, he thought. We could be wounded or killed at the hands of our fellow countrymen.

Haven’t had much of a chance to get too far in, but what I have read so far I like and it is getting good reviews in important venues like the Battle of Midway Roundtable; definitely a recommended buy (available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions).

So that’s were the end of 2011 and the (near) start to 2012 finds us — some of the research will find its way here, but the bulk is for other venues.  I will be interested to see what is in the offering for the new year (book-wise) and am interested in what you are reading as well as why – let’s hear what’s on your Stack of Shame!

w/r, SJS

Re-enter The DF-21D ASBM

A Reminder – Pandas May Be Cute, But They Have Sharp Teeth and Claws…

The DF-21D Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) is in play again in the press and implicitly linked in comments by the Vice Chairman of the Joint Staff that cancellation of at least one of the Ford-class carriers and retirement of some number of others is being considered by DoD ( would note, however, that to draw a straight line between the two is a little simplistic).  Surfacing this discussion was the publication of an article in the Taipei Times (14 July edition)  last week that led to a good bit of churn on this side of the Pacific:

“People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Chief of General Staff Chen Bingde confirmed earlier this week that China was developing the Dong Feng 21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM), the first Chinese official to publicly state that the missile is in development. His comments came as the English-language China Daily reported that the DF-21D had a range of 2,700km (ed. or about 1460 nm -SJS), well beyond assessments by the Office of Naval Intelligence last year, which put it at about 1,500km. The missile, which is capable of hitting moving targets at sea and is seen as a potential threat to aircraft carrier battle groups, would represent a powerful deterrent to the US Navy in the Pacific.”

One of the arguments about the very existence of the DF-21D was that while there is a surprising amount of information in scientific and technical journals hinting broadly at such a capability for the PLA, publicly, at least until now, there hadn’t been anything forthcoming from the PLA officially recognizing the existence of the program or stating a requirement.  In fact, one of my erstwhile colleagues in my day job claims it is all maskirovka, in no small part, I am sure just to aggravate me, I think.

Well, no more. The PLA CoS’ very explicit comment, coming on the heels of  ADM Mullen’s visit, ripped that bandage off, confirming that indeed, China was working to develop an anti-ship ballistic missile and that it was aimed primarily at deterring the use of US aircraft carriers in the Pacific. The joker in the deck, however, was the mention of the 2700 km range – well beyond the previous estimates of “in excess of 1500 km” in open sources such as the annual DoD report to Congress on China’s Military Power.  As recent as late last year, ADM Willard, current CDRPACOM likewise indicated such when declaring his thought that the DF-21D had reached initial operational capability (IOC). In turn, this has left a number of Western analysts scratching their heads.

Figure 1. Comparative ranges of a 1500km DF-21D vs 2700km DF-21D

From a notional GEOLOC in the Guangdong province, the implications of Figure 1 ought to be pretty clear – a 2700km range would force carriers to operate outside not only the first island chain, but at or outside the second chain and thereby effectively nullify any operational employment in the contested area until the ASBM threat is neutralized. By extending that virtual umbrella of protective fire against the most versatile, flexible operational unit for wide area sea control, the aircraft carrier, the PLAN and PLA-AF would gain a greater degree of freedom to operate in critical areas such as the South and East China Seas with the greatest threat coming from US and allied subs – no mean threat, but more manageable without having to deal with carrier-based air.  Presumably land-based air forces would be dissuaded or suppressed by the very large conventional ballistic missile striking force the Chinese are acquiring and deploying.  One interesting possibility stemming from this condition is that China also gains a greater margin to operate its embryonic carrier force in a more effective manner against regional actors.

But few capabilities, if any, are ever so neatly packaged, and on closer examination there are some flies in the ointment. Further in the same article, Chen notes:

“…the DF-21D, which can be fired from mobile land-based launchers, was still in the research, development and testing stage, adding that such high-tech devices were difficult to bring to maturity.  ‘The missile is still undergoing experimental testing and it will be used as a defensive weapon when it is successfully developed, not an offensive one,’ Chen told reporters. Its development ‘requires funding inputs, advanced technology and high-quality talented personnel … these are all fundamental factors constraining its development’ Xinhua news agency quoted Chen as saying, in comments that were ostensibly intended for a domestic audience.” (emphasis added)

There is a considerable level of effort to translate plans and parts associated with the now decommissioned Pershing II, ostensibly the basis of the DF-15 and land attack variants of the DF-21 family (see Fig. 2), into a system that marries sensors, C2 and “shooter” (aka missile) designed to take out a mobile platform in the broad ocean area. Recall that the Pershing II added a MaRV that married a 5-80kt warhead (with an earth penetrating option) with terrain-scene matching radar to give this relatively low yield weapon a remarkable hard-kill capability owing to a CEP inside of 30 meters. From bases in West Germany, the flight time of the Pershing II to Moscow was on the order 10-14 minutes – and drove the Soviets to the brink as they considered it a first strike weapon in a larger strategic exchange with the US. The fact that its deployment was a reaction to their own deployment of the game-changing road-mobile SS-20 and in all likelihood, was targeted against the operational and support elements for that missile system was conveniently overlooked. It is, however, instructive for our purposes here to note that the manner in which the Pershing II’s range and payload were upgraded and enhanced – through a lighter structure, enhanced propellants and advanced onboard flight and terminal guidance, would likewise be applicable to the DF-21 family. It is altogether conceivable and in keeping with the Chinese design, development and deployment of a range of missile families and capabilities that a similar process was followed to reach the DF-21D.

Figure 2.  (l to r) Pershing II, DF-15/CSS-6 with MaRV, DF-21/CSS-5

However, color me skeptical about the 2700 km claim. Time and again more than one nation – ours included, has learned that you just can’t keep scaling up on a “Tim Allen” design basis (“more power”) and expect everything to work. As range increases, the loads (aerodynamic heating, gravity, etc) on the reentry vehicle correspondingly grow, but not at a 1:1 pace. For example, at 200,000 ft (the point at which re-entry begins) thermal loading on an ICBM-class RV will cause the tip to experience temperatures in excess of 3,500 deg.F – the most minute differentiation in the rate of ablation near the tip will cause the RV to at best, modify its ballistic flight profile, affecting accuracy or at worse, adjust so dramatically that airframe body breakup is incurred. To avoid this occurrence, RVs are spin stabilized before re-entry to ensure uniform ablation, but that incurs another series of events to be dealt with, and so on. This, in large part, is one reason why the leap from a space launch vehicle (SLV) to IR/ICBM class weapon is not as clear or fast as the reverse (IR/ICBM → SLV), and should give pause to assessments over the alleged development of ICBM capabilities by some countries.

The Pershing II was classified with a 1,770 km range. A reading of the development of the MaRV for the Pershing II in William Yengst’s monograph, “Lightning Bolts: First Maneuvering Reentry Vehicles” is instructive in the challenges presented by the flight, re-entry and post re-entry aerodynamic loading on the airframe, developing a nose cone that was sufficiently ablative to withstand reentry yet transparent electromagnetically enough for the terrain scene matching radar and developing a guidance and maneuvering system that would survive reentry and be robust enough for terminal maneuvers approaching 8-gs in the target area. No small leap for 1978 and similarly today when looking at an alleged 2700km missile. An alternate explanation would be either a deliberate falsification as part of a larger strategic communications ploy (surprise) or just a simple transpose of a “2″ where a “1″ for a 1700 km vice 2700 km missile would be much more believable. To be sure, an extra 1,000km range would open up a wide range of possibilities for the PLA, not least of which would be greater strategic depth to afford protection against future counter-ballistic missile threats (either ascent-phase interceptors – still very much the stuff of PPT dreams or VLO/UCAV-Ns, less PPT, but years away from a notional weapons capability) while maintaining coverage out to the first island chain and expanding its fleet of open ocean sensors and platforms feeding the reconnaissance-strike complex supporting the DF-21D.

The simple fact of the matter is that DF-21D is out there and constitutes some quantifiable level of threat to our deployed carrier force.  That in turn has engendered a certain degree of hand-wringing, but simply cancelling programs and cutting force structure on the basis of a weapon itself and its supporting C2ISR infrastructure allegedly still in the throes of development would seem a bit hasty.  To be sure, fiscal prudence demands close scrutiny – of all programs, especially in the  current and near-future fiscal climate.  Yet there is a strategic imperative at play and it goes to what form our forces will take after we have disengaged from protracted conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Increasingly there is talk of “off-shore balancing” and while that is still a somewhat amorphous form, what is clear is that under such a concept, expeditionary forces supported by naval and air forces will be more relevant than those configured for long-term engagement in continental land-wars and nation building.  Prudence, again, dictates a thoughtful examination of the configuration of those naval forces, the flexibility inherent in well designed, time-tested platforms (like the CVN and DDGs) but ensuring there is capacity for growth and adaption to mission changes.  There is a school of thought that is quick to draw parallels between the emergence of the carrier and demise of the battleship as highlighted at Pearl Harbor, but I would point out that was as much to do with the inherent lack of adaptability of the ships on Battleship Row that Sunday morning in December as the added dimension to naval warfare demonstrated by the Kido Butai.  I would also note, that the same capability brought to bear against the BBs was also applied at Coral Sea, Midway and Santa Cruz, but there were no calls for ceasing production of CVs after Lexington, Yorktown, Hornet and Wasp were lost to air- and submarine attacks.  Indeed the carriers showed their adaptability and flexibility in the utility of their main battery, carrier-based air wings that were composited based on mission, in flexing from sea control to war at sea, to strike support and long-range AAW.  And when a new weapon, the kamikaze appeared later in the war we changed tactics, adapted current and emerging technologies (networked fires, improved C2, long-range CAP, attack operations, airborne- and distant surface radar pickets) and even began looking at the potential of emerging technologies like surface to air missiles as a solution set.  To be sure, we were still taking grievous losses (witness Okinawa and the beating the DDRs and USS Franklin endured), and the emergence of atomic weapons again proved a challenge.  My intent isn’t to rehash the long history of carrier aviation and its adaptability in the face of emerging threats, that has been done much more ably elsewhere.  It is rather, to thoughtfully consider the challenge presented, examine all avenues of countering, realizing that frankly, while the DF-21D presents a very high profile threat, the reality of the tactical scenario is that there are a great many more sub- and supersonic cruise missiles, launched from a variety of platforms that are increasingly proliferating around the world and present a far greater threat to all naval platforms.

And that demands a degree of perspective be employed by force planners and naval leaders.

IAMD Acquisition Updates: E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and SM-3 Blk IIB

Couple of developments in the last week with regards to major systems in our Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) plans for the coming decades:

Item: The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) has awarded concept definition contracts to three teams competing for the SM-3 Block IIB advanced interceptor (aka: Next Generation Aegis Missile (NGAM)). Designed to intercept longer range IR and ICBMs, the SM-3 Blk IIB will be deployed from Aegis Ashore sites, first as part of the European Phase Adaptive Approach (EPAA), Phase IV and eventually from Aegis BMD configured CGs and DDGs. Boeing, Lockheed and Raytheon were the awardees for this phase which will define and assess viable and affordable missile configurations, conduct trade studies, and define an executable development plan for the new missile. Work will be performed through Dec 2013 with deployment at decade’s end.

The E-2D Advanced Hawkeye assigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 20 (VX-20) catches the arresting wire aboard the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) during carrier qualifications testing.    (Photo via Northrop Grumman)

Item: Funding approved for an additional 10 E-2D aircraft:

BETHPAGE, N.Y., April 14, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Following a successful Defense Acquisition Board review, funding for an additional 10 E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft has been authorized. The authorization comes just a short time after the Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC)-built E-2D made its first carrier landing, aboard the USS Harry S. Truman. An Acquisition Decision Memorandum, signed by Dr. Ashton Carter, undersecretary of defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, validates that the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye program is continuing to successfully execute all cost and schedule requirements and is on track to enter Initial Operational Test and Evaluation later this year.

“This is a significant milestone for the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye program,” said Jim Culmo, vice president, airborne early warning and battle management command and control programs, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems sector. “The entire Advanced Hawkeye team continues to work tirelessly to meet the commitments we’ve made to our U.S. Navy customer. Delivering this advanced capability, on time and on cost, continues a legacy that began more than 50 years ago and ushers in a new era in airborne early warning and battle management command and control.”

“The E-2D continues the Navy’s integrated warfighting legacy by providing broad area coverage resulting in increased range capabilities,” said Capt. Shane Gahagan, Hawkeye-Greyhound program manager, U.S. Navy. “With the E-2D’s enhanced ability to work in the littoral areas and over land, the platform provides a critical capability to protect our nation’s interests.”

The Navy’s program of record is for a total of 75 aircraft, with deliveries through 2021.

“As the Navy celebrates its Centennial of Navy Aviation, Northrop Grumman continues to be committed to providing this critical first line of defense well into the 21st century,” said Culmo.

To date, Northrop Grumman has delivered five E-2D aircraft to the Navy and production on the 10th aircraft recently began at Northrop Grumman’s East Coast Manufacturing and Flight Test Center in St. Augustine, Fla.

Sea-Based BMD — Another Successful Test

USS O'Kane (DDG 77) launches an SM-3 Blk 1A for FTM-15 (source: www.mda.mil)

 

Another test of the SM-3 Blk 1A was successfully completed last night with the intercept of an IRBM-class target:

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA), U.S. Navy sailors aboard the Aegis destroyer USS O’KANE (DDG 77), and Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command operating from the 613th Air and Space Operations Center at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, successfully conducted a flight test of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) element of the nation’s Ballistic Missile Defense System, resulting in the intercept of a separating ballistic missile target over the Pacific Ocean. This successful test demonstrated the capability of the first phase of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) announced by the President in September, 2009.

At 2:52 a.m. EDT (6:52 p.m. April 15 Marshall Island Time), an intermediate-range ballistic missile target was launched from the Reagan Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, approximately 2,300 miles southwest of Hawaii. The target flew in a northeasterly direction towards a broad ocean area in the Pacific Ocean. Following target launch, a forward-based AN/TPY-2 X-band transportable radar, located on Wake Island, detected and tracked the threat missile. The radar sent trajectory information to the Command, Control, Battle Management, and Communications (C2BMC) system, which processed and transmitted remote target data to the USS O’KANE. The destroyer, located to the west of Hawaii, used the data to develop a fire control solution and launch the SM-3 Block IA missile approximately 11 minutes after the target was launched.

As the IRBM target continued along its trajectory, the firing ship’s AN/SPY-1 radar detected and acquired the ballistic missile target. The firing ship’s Aegis BMD weapon system uplinked target track information to the SM-3 Block IA missile. The SM-3 maneuvered to a point in space as designated by the fire control solution and released its kinetic warhead. The kinetic warhead acquired the target, diverted into its path, and, using only force of a direct impact, destroyed the threat in a “hit-to-kill” intercept.

During the test the C2BMC system, operated by Soldiers from the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command, received data from all assets and provided situational awareness of the engagement to U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command.

The two demonstration Space Tracking and Surveillance Satellites (STSS), launched by MDA in 2009, successfully acquired the target missile, providing stereo “birth to death” tracking of the target.

Today’s event, designated Flight Test Standard Missile-15 (FTM-15), was the most challenging test to date, as it was the first Aegis BMD version 3.6.1 intercept against an intermediate-range target (range 1,864 to 3,418 miles) and the first Aegis BMD 3.6.1 engagement relying on remote tracking data. The ability to use remote radar data to engage a threat ballistic missile greatly increases the battle space and defended area of the SM-3 missile.

Initial indications are that all components performed as designed. Program officials will spend the next several months conducting an extensive assessment and evaluation of system performance based upon telemetry and other data obtained during the test.

FTM-15 is the 21st successful intercept, in 25 attempts, for the Aegis BMD program since flight testing began in 2002. Across all BMDS elements, this is the 45th successful hit-to-kill intercept in 58 flight tests since 2001.

Aegis BMD is the sea-based midcourse component of the MDA’s Ballistic Missile Defense System and is designed to intercept and destroy short to intermediate-range ballistic missile threats. MDA and the U.S. Navy cooperatively manage the Aegis BMD Program.

This test in essence replicates what Phase I of the European Phased Adaptive Approach will be capable of in final form — a sea-based SM-3 Blk 1A intercept of MRBM/IRBM class missiles with cueing from a forward-based sensor (here the TPY-2).  The lead element of Phase I, the sea-based element, is already deployed with the scheduled deployment of the USS Monterey (CG 61) earlier this year on BMD patrol.  Worth emphasizing is that while deployed on BMD patrol, Monterey is nonetheless still capable of multiple missions, of which BMD is one, demonstrating the flexibility of these mobile, sea-based units.

USS O'Kane (DDG 77) (via www.navy.mil)

Russia to Proceed with Supersonic Cruise Missile Sale to Syria

Russia has evidently opted to proceed with sales of the SS-NX-26/Yakhont ASCM to the Syrians. The intent was voiced by Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov over the weekend.

“The contract,” he told journalists in Vladivostok, “is in progress.” The minister added his country was also bent on carrying through on promises to deliver several Bastion anti-ship missile systems to Syria.

SS-NX-26/Yakhont Ranges (Syria - red) (Lebanon - yellow)

SSC-5 Bastion CDCM launcher

Anti-ship ballistic missiles may be the newest, sexy thing on the anti-access/area denial (A2AD) block, but the simple fact of the matter is that ASCMs far outnumber ASBMs and constitute a significant challenge to all surface ships.  The SS-NX-26 is part of a new generation of fast, smart ASCMs designed to penetrate the latest air defense systems. Designed for launch from air- (above with the Su-33), surface and subsurface platforms, the SS-NX-26 can fly a hi-lo profile for max range (300 km) or a lo-lo profile (120km), also supersonically (2.5 Mach), to avoid detection by the target, maximizing surprise in delivering its 300 kg warhead.  It also is used in the SSC-5 Bastion coastal defense cruise missile system, reportedly also part of the deal.

The Israelis – and the Israeli Navy in particular (no stranger to ASCM threats) have not surprisingly demurred on Russia’s offering to regional stability:

Security officials warned that the Russian cruise missiles “are potentially dangerous weapons and they may come fall into the hands of Hezbollah, just as other weapons systems came from Syria.”

Not like they haven’t seen the Syrians do this with other systems.  Still, all indications would seem to point to Syria retaining control of the missiles, especially as they would have the necessary over-the-horizon targeting capability to employ the missiles at their full range (e.g., drones, MARPAT, etc.). In light of their experience with (presumably) Iranian-supplied C-802 cruise missiles off the Lebanese coast are that the Israeli navy’s freedom of operation will be further limited while ratcheting up the demand signal for detection and intercept assets — and another spiral in the region’s on-going arms race

Worth noting is that the SS-NX-26/Yakhont forms the basis of the joint Russo-India BrahMOS cruise missile – which is also being developed by the Indians in a LACM (land attack cruise missile) version.   And nothing good could come of that if Syria goes down that path…

BrahMOS LACM


Commander: “IRGC Mass-Producing Anti-Ship Ballistic Missiles”

What they want you to think:

“The IRGC’s smart ballistic missiles are now in mass-production and this type of missiles can hit and destroy targets with high-precision,” Jafari told reporters in a news conference here in Tehran on Monday.
“These new missiles enjoys supersonic speed and cannot be tracked or intercepted by enemy,” the commander said, adding that missiles can hit targets 300km away with high-precision.
He added that the IRGC will provide the media with the footages of the new missile, named “The Persian Gulf”, in coming days.

The awful reality:

The DF-21, it ain’t.

As my mom used to say “Talk’s cheap…”

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