All posts in “cruise missiles”

Let’s Talk Integrated Air and Missile Defense

Come join us this Sunday, 13 Jun 2010 @ 1700 EDT as we talk about a variety of topics under that subject line via ‘Phib’s and Eagle1’s invitation to discuss the same on this week’s edition of blog talk radio. What will we discuss?  It’s a pretty wide-open field, covering such topics as the threat posed by cruise missile proliferation, BMD, the near-term arrival of the E-2D (and somewhat later arrival of the F-35C), to name but a few.

Here’s the link for tomorrow’s broadcast:

See you then!

The Problem With Proliferation: Cruise Missile Edition

March 2011.   The still of the pre-dawn darkness is only slightly disturbed by the passage of a container ship.   Like the many thousands of others like her plying the ocean’s ways, this one’s cargo is neatly stacked on the deck — ISO shipping containers in a multitude of colors and shippers markings.   As the fog bank thickens, a radar scope is closely scrutinized on the bridge.   Out here, off the shipping lanes no other merchant traffic is expected and, it would appear, neither were there any signs of fishing craft or more troubling, naval or coast guard ships.   Earlier in the night a code had been passed via an internet podcast and confirmed via a secure webpage.   Soon, very soon, part of the ship’s cargo would complete the long journey begun in Sverdlovsk.

Up forward, locks are removed on two of the containers and a pair of shadowy figures enter each container.   A series of muffled noises from the interior of the boxes is rapidly followed by their tops falling to one side and a brace of four tubes quickly rise to the vertical.   A minute or two passes and the quiet is shattered by a series of   explosions.   From each tube a long, slender figure emerges atop a cloud of gases.   Bright flames suddenly appear and the forms race off to the far horizon, away from the sun, still hours away from rising.

NAVSTA Norfolk has been home to US naval aviation ever since Eugene Ely   first flew his fragile, kite-like aircraft off a makeshift platform mounted on the anchored USS Birmingham.   From her roadsted, flattops of the Essex, Midway, Forrestal, Enterprise and now the Nimitz class sortied to distant spots on the globe to carry out the missions assigned — presence, deterrence, and when necessary, the fury unleashed from their decks and the holds of their escorts reinforced the determination of a free people to remain free.

On this early morning, Pier 12 is brightly lit in floodlights as the two Nimitz-class carriers, USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75) and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 72) complete preparations for an emergency sortie on the tide.   Both had pulled into Norfolk one day prior with their full airwing complement on board to take on one final round of provisions and the remainder of their embarked airwing personnel and equipment.   Tensions have dramatically risen in the Gulf over the past few weeks following Iran’s declaration of nuclear capability.   There had been no detonation, and some were saying it was just a boast – that the Iranians were still years away from really having the capability for even a couple of weapons.   Still, Israel had attempted a long-range strike only to recall it when the US threatened to expose the mission.   A show of force was in order and to reinforce the two carrier presence in the Gulf (Eisenhower and Washington were already there) the Vinson was being turned back from a Hong Kong port visit and TR with Truman would join her outside the Straits of Hormuz.

After launch, the boosters on the eight 3M54TE1 missiles quickly burnout, fall off and quieter turbojets take over.   Guided by GPS coordinates they sped along at little over 50 ft above the ocean’s surface, their terminal homing radar units quiet for now.   Back on the container ship, a new course is plotted, away from the launch scene. As the ship steadies up on an easterly heading, a series of explosions rip through her keel and below the waterline.   The ship breaks in two, the stern section quickly sliding beneath the waves.   As containers break free and plunge into the sea, the bow slowly rolls over and begins a long slow descent to the bottom.   An oil slick, some debris and a few containers supported by trapped pockets of air are all that is left.   There are no life boats.

Farther to the west, in the operations center of NORTHCOM/NORAD a watch officer notes a disturbance and places a report.

“Watch supe, DSP1.   I have a multiple IR event, western Atlantic off the North Carolina coast.   Position 36-21 north by 74-24 west.”

“OK…initial analysis?”

“It looks like a possible series of explosions, but there isn’t anything else – whatever it was happened fast.”

“Roger – initiating conference call”   Reaching for the intercom panel, punches up a series of buttons.

“All stations, NMCC, this is NORTHCOM watch with a multiple IR event report.   At 0807Z DSP1 reported a multiple IR event position 36-21 north and 074-24 west – request by station report”

“STRATCOM with negative space or missile event”

“FAA – no air traffic that area”

“Fleet Forces with a negative report on Navy units that area”

“Homeland Defense — Coast Guard reports no known surface traffic, scrambling alert C-130 SAR from Elizabeth City”

“NORTHCOM, this is Rear Admiral Odin, NMCC — anything from FACSFAC VACAPES?”

Looking towards the FAA rep, the NORAD watch officer catches her shaking her head

“NMCC, FACSFAC reporting no contacts”

“OK NORTHCOM, report when USCG C-130 airborne and ETA area of concern.   Pass to FAA to re-route traffic to keep area clear – Navy have anything that can get out there fast for a quick look?”

“Fleet forces — negative, most of our fast flyers are already loaded and Oceana is limited ops due to fog”
“NMCC copies all — call me back in five minutes with an update and COAs”

Crossing the coastline, the missile’s radar altimeters make a quick check and cruising altitudes are adjusted accordingly.   Cruising at .8M the eight missiles quickly cross over Lynnhaven inlet, passing NAS Oceana to the left and the empty piers of Little Creek Amphib base to the right.   A waypoint is reached and 2 pair of missiles pitch up and all 8 terminal seekers turn on.

A pair of Hawkeye maintainers from VAW-120 on their way out to the flight-line for launch preps stop, startled at first by the sound then the sight of dark forms whistling by in the gloom.   Moments later the sky to their right erupts in flame, followed by a series of concussive thunderclaps rolling across the ramp, shattering glass and setting off car alarms in the parking lot.   Successive explosions follow as the remaining missiles complete their dives.

The waterfront is a horror of flame, smoke and twisted metal, the likes of which haven’t been seen in almost three-quarters of a century.   Roosevelt is ripped apart above the hangar deck level, an inferno of flames where her island and midships should have been.   One missile had struck the base of the island, another had penetrated to the hangar bay through the open bay doors, exploding amidst   pack of aircraft.   A third had completed its dive in the vicinity of where the six-pack should have been.   Across the pier, Truman was similarly damaged and at a nearby pier, two other missiles had found their mark in the USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51) and USS Ramage (DDG 61).   Explosions from burning aircraft and from deep inside the mortally wounded ships continued to rain fire and shrapnel around the harbor area.   The tail section of an F/A-18E was embedded in the superstructure of the USS Hue City (CG 66), her mast bent and broken by the nearby hits on the two destroyers, her decks filled with flaming debris.

Later that day, a C-130 from Elizabeth City CGAS flies over a sea speckled by the color of floating containers.   No sign is found of the ship carrying them, nor of any survivors from that ship.

Fiction you say?   Perhaps — for now.   However, given long-running trends and recent events, the threat to deployed forces, afloat and ashore, has continued to grow in size and capabilities.   And now, the nightmare of many a defense analyst is coming to the light of day — the ability to conduct an attack on the homeland in a manner that is directly unattributable to one or more nations . . . for you see, the Russian arms manufacturer, Novator, through a front company, is offering the Club-K system, a four-tube launcher, plus all support facilities, inside a standard ISO shipping container:

And customers?   Yes — they’ve got a client list.   Such is the post-Cold War world and the state of cruise missile proliferation that an ostensibly ‘private’ company can offer for sale the latest cruise missile packaged in a manner that enables state and non-state actors to carry out surreptitious campaigns that subvert the norms of international behavior and the laws of war.

I.   Beginnings

The cruise missile debuted in the aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war when SS-1 Styxx anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) were used to sink the Israeli destroyer, Eilat off Port Suez in October.   Since then ASCMs have seen use around the world.   During the Falklands war, the Royal Navy lost the HMS Sheffield and container ship Atlantic Conveyor and suffered heavy damage to the HMS Glamorgan due to French built Exocets used by the Argentinians.   Iraq reportedly launched over 200 Exocets against a variety of targets, mostly commercial shipping, during the Iran-Iraq War.   When US forces began escorting re-flagged tankers in 1986, the USS Stark was hit and nearly sunk by an Iraqi Exocet.   US forces in turn, used Harpoons in actions against Libyan and Iranian surface ships to good effect.   Additionally, the US deployed and used conventional versions of the nuclear Tomahawk land-attack cruise missile (LACM) in ever increasing numbers from surface ships and submarines in a variety of actions and combat.   Versions of the Harpoon, modified for attacking land targets have also been employed.    The effectiveness of the cruise missile in leveling the playing field between he haves and have-nots was under-scored in 2006 when an Israeli patrol boat, the Hanit, was struck by a cruise missile fired by Lebanese Hezbollah forces near Beirut.

HMS Sheffield Atlantic Conveyor
USS Stark INS Hanit

Today, there are literally tens of thousands of cruise missiles of all types and capabilities in the service of nations on every continent.   They range from the now primitive first generation missiles that were little more than scaled down drone aircraft with rudimentary autopilots and terminal radar, to sophisticated third generation missiles that can fly at over three times the speed of sound and use complex features to defeat counter-measures.

In concert with the proliferation of air-, sea- and shore-launched anti-ship cruise missiles is a more troubling trend — the development and deployment of long-range land attack cruise missiles (LACM).   Whereas a mere ten to fifteen years ago, principally only the US and Soviet Union had built and deployed LACMs, chiefly because they were the only nations with the resources enabling the development and production of complex terrain mapping guidance systems and super efficient, small and light turbo-jet motors.   Today, however,  we see the list has added several more nations, like France, and China in spite of these supposed technological hurdles.    Many of these nations are also notorious proliferators, ensuring that eventually these weapons will find their way to a growing number of state and potentially, non-state actors as well.   How had this proliferation come about and what can be done?

II. Roots of Proliferation

As we have seen with ballistic missiles, the explosion of dual-use technology, much of it stemming from the digital information revolution, has enabled an atmosphere conducive to the spread of these weapons.   Whereas before, it took the resources of the US, from satellites to high-power computers to synthesize digital radar maps for TERCOM radar guidance, today GPS, GPS-based maps, Google-Earth and the latest generations of commercial-off-the-shelf computers can provide similar capabilities for an integration cost of between $50,000 – $150,000.   Small, efficient turbojets may likewise be purchased on the open market.   Targeting comes via the web, updates by cellphone or embedded in podcasts.   Nations, or state-supported business enterprises compete for overseas sales in a market awash in petro-dollars and high demand from a variety of shadowy sources.     Purchasers are not necessarily the end users.   The net effect is that paralleling trends in the ballistic missile field, cruise missile numbers continue to grow in numbers and capabilities — and availability for use with WMD.   In fact, a LACM is a superior delivery system in many respects for chemical or biological agents instead of a ballistic missile due to its slower flight and potential area of dispersal.

Chinese LACMs
DH-10 Prototype DH-10 (artist’s concept) CJ-10 (derived from Russian KH-55/AS-15)

Anti-proliferation regimes have been established with the intent of if not curtailing, at least severely limiting   horizontal (spread to other countries) and vertical (capability growth) proliferation.   Still, in spite of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the US-led Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and the Wassenar Arrangement on Dual-Use Export Controls, the problems grow.   Non-proliferation schemes will not stop or dissuade a nation determined to expand its arsenal at any cost.   Willing participants will be found, such as when the Chinese illegaly obtained former Russian AS-15/Kh-55 LACMs from Ukraine, and then moved to reverse-engineer them for the CJ-/DH-10 missile.   The poster child for proliferation, Iran,   in the past decade of proliferation regimes and trade sanctions, has been able to indigenously build and deploy (a) a space launch vehicle, (b) field increasingly longer-ranged MRBMs, approaching IRBM range in the process, and (c) acquire 2nd generation cruise missiles (C802) from China (for the timeline, see here: C802-Documents and scroll down to the third page) and reverse-engineer others (like the Chinese C-704) despite these limiting factor  in place:

Iranian NASRI ASCM (L)   and Chinese C-704 (R)

III. Beyond Counter-Proliferation

Understand, proliferation controls should not be done away with.   They do serve a useful, if limited role in slowing progress, but as an all-inclusive method for stemming the tide, they have clearly failed.   When proliferation controls fail to prevent the spread of weapons, the prudent state, or alliance of states, undertakes to build defenses.   As was the case with BMD, cruise missile defense rests on the the three-legged stool consisting of attack options, passive and active defenses.   Having covered these before in our discussion of BMD, identification of these elements should suffice for our purposes today.

Unlike BMD, the major effort for CMD has been focused on defending high-value targets, typically naval- and merchant shipping, since the vast majority of the world’s cruise missiles today are ASCMs.   To that degree, significant effort has been devoted, especially in the active defense realm.

Now, like BMD and in concert with it, CMD must be extended ashore to protect deployed forces, Allies, friends and partners overseas and back in the States, the homeland and all US territories.   This is a much more complex undertaking than BMD given the threat, it’s ability to be concelaed until close to its intended target and where stealth or low observable technologies have been utilized, particularly difficult for defenses to detect and track, especially in high clutter areas like overland and at the land/sea interface.   Warning times, flight times and hence, available time for defenses to react will necessarily be compressed.   Sorting from not just terrain clutter, but the sizeable complex of friendly or neutral targets in the areas of concern will also greatly complicate establishing and operating an effective defense.

IV.   Towards  An Effective Defense

In designing an effective CMD, there are three broad criteria to be met:

  1. It must be militarily effective across a range of circumstances;
  2. It must be robust in all plausible environments; and
  3. It must be cost effective to the degree that an attacker cannot scale his way out of the defensive challenge (e.g., overwhelm with numbers of “cheap” cruise missiles)

The first two criteria are readily met with many of the current systems deployed afloat and ashore — it’s getting past the last that is an issue (similar to that faced by BMD).   While it is true that the relative cost of cruise missiles compared to the defense is in favor of the offense, it is the larger costs, of the loss of   high-value units or property/lives in the case of homeland defense, that mandates the necessity of developing and deploying defenses.

Like BMD, CMD has four basic elements from which measures of effectiveness may be drawn:

  1. Capability to detect/track cruise missiles after launch;
  2. Interceptors to destroy the cruise missile;
  3. A battle-management and C2  architecture to that ties the two elements above together, providing for seamless, real-time engagements; and
  4. Effective and predictive consequence management processes for post-attack.

As a greying AEW professional, I will note that the most difficult — and intuitively most important challenge to be met in CMD is detection.   Early detection buys trade-space for positioning of interceptors and coordination across lines of defense and between AORs (if need be).   Where the possibility of one or more WMD equipped cruise missiles are concerned, early detection and by extension, early intercept may mitigate post attack consequence management concerns by placing debris outside of critical/defended areas (e.g., population centers).   While no one sensor is free of all limitations, the best for detecting cruise missiles will be airborne sensors netted with ground- and space-based sensors.     Airborne sensors are less constrained by the likes of terrain, curvature of the earth (limiting radar horizon) and weather, but do come up against limits of onstation time and presence.   AEW systems also tend towards the expensive side, are limited in number and require expensive supporting   infrastructure.

Lockheed WV-2 & USS Sellstrom (DER-255) 1957 ZPG-3W AEW blimp (US Navy) 1960

Some number of decades ago we went through this drill — back when the concern was Soviet bombers coming over the pole and across the broad ocean area to attack the US.   To counter this, the US established a layered network of distant (“Contiguous Barrier”) and near shore (“Insore barrier”)  AEW barriers manned by WV-2/EC-121 Super Connies, deployed radar picket destroyers,   and coastal radars.   The largest non-rigid airships ever built, the ZPG-3W AEW blimp (four) were used to fill gaps.   Two experimental radar platforms were built and maned at sea (“Texas Towers) by the Air Force, but after one was lost in a storm, the effort was abandoned.   Batteries of Nike Hercules surface-to-air missiles ringed the major cities providing air defense for leakers that got through the ADC fighters.   All of this was managed and directed via the revolutionary (for  its time)  SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment)  system.

Even as that system was reaching a mature stage, the threat of ICBMs and a shift in deterrence philosophy and defense spending priorities led to the closeout of the barrier patrol by the mid-60’s.   With the exception of ICBMs (and a nasty little experience with IR- and MRBMs on a certain Caribbean island), it was generally felt that the distance of the oceans provided protection from other threats to the homeland, that any conventional or random (read: small) WMD attacker would be dissuaded because of the tyranny of distance and the US nuclear arsenal.

Unfortunately, some groups failed to get the memo.

In light of that and subsequent events, hostile actors are looking for new ways to bring the fight back to our shores, and now, looking at the proliferation of cruise missiles, they have access to the articles of war once reserved for the major nation-states — and we must be ready to defend ourselves.

It begins with collective action among the nations who must come to understand the extant and growing threat €“ not just from ASCMs but also from the proliferation of LACMs.   Re-doubling efforts under current proliferation schemes may be fine, but in the case of a company that builds for export systems like €œClub-in-a-box € there may need to be stiff, targeted action that places a steep price on that company, and by extension, the state that supports such action by turning a blind eye to its efforts.

Passive defense and preemptive efforts continue through enhanced surveillance and where necessary, covert action to dissuade and if necessary, disarm actors from obtaining and employing these type of assets.   In scenarios where legitimate arms acquisitions are at work, theater and regional cooperative security arrangements may help slow the spread of the more destabilizing offensive weapons.   Those efforts, however commendable, are not enough though and eventually an active defense €“ forward and at home, will be required.

E-2D Advanced Hawkeye JLENS Deployment Concept High Altitude Airship (Artist’s Concept)

The good news is this need not be a zero-based effort as many of the systems, sensors, command and control networks already employed overseas and on mobile platforms could be adapted for use in homeland CMD.   New systems like the E-2D, JLENS, the High Altitude Airship and elements of the Phased Adaptive Approach undertaken for overseas ballistic missile defense may be adapted and integrated with existing systems, like Aegis and PATRIOT for home.   The challenge will come in the scale of deployment, given the extensive coastlines of the US and proximity to those coasts of a sizeable portion of our population and critical infrastructure, and the strong demand signal from the several geographic combatant commanders for those same forces ad capabilities to meet theater and regional threat requirements.

V.   Conclusion

The opening scenario could just have easily had a major petroleum refinery, one or more nuclear plants, and the financial district of one or more coastal cities or some other major piece of infrastructure or population center as its target.   The warheads could have been carrying a biologic agent as readily as conventional explosives.   And while the good people at Novator provided a real world example courtesy their €œinnovative € thinking, it could just as well have been a modified ASCM or, worse, a short- or medium-range solid fueled ballistic missile, the likes of which we are seeing increasingly enter the inventory of hostile nations and which may too, find their way into the possession of shadowy figures and organizations, buried behind layers of legitimate front organizations.

To be sure, and to avoid being overly sensationalist, the threat is greater, for now, overseas to our deployed forces and to our allies, friends and partners.   But as the events of that September day nine years ago proved, eventually it will find a way to extend its reach.   We can begin, now, with putting elements into place and gradually scale upwards as capacity improves.   We can work with willing partners to lessen the development and productive capacities at the source.   We can do all that, but in turn, we must acknowledge that status quo is no longer a viable option.   We must plan, prepare and execute for the common defense.

The Subcontinent’s Missile Race

SS-20_Pershing-II_NASM-displayA quick history lesson.   A quarter of a century ago, the US (and NATO) were engaged in an unprecedented nuclear arms build-up in Europe that was initiated with the deployment of the SS-20 Sabre (NATO)/RT-21M Pioneer (Russia) IRBM in 1976.   Unlike the much older SS-4 and SS-5 IRBMs, employed in 1959 and 1961, the SS-20 was a modern, road-mobile, MIRV’d missile with a CEP of 150m.   In a word – it was a game changer when all 405 were ddeployed by 1986.   The most significant and troublesome aspect of the SS-20 was that it was clearly a first strike weapon, meant for a swift strike against NATO leadership and theater nuclear forces, or TNF which mostly consisted of short- and medium range aircraft and Pershing I missiles.

The primary puropse of NATO’s TNF was to serve as a gap filler betweenUS GLCMconventional forces already ddeployed in Europe and arrayed against a numerically superior Warsaw Pact.   In the nuclear calculus of the time, the survivability and hence, credibility of the TNF deterrent to a Warsaw pact invasion was now markedly reduced.   The Carter Administration, after much public angst,   first promised and then withdrew an offer of deployment of the Enhanced Radiation Warhead (the so-called “neutron bomb”) which did nothing to aid the perception of a weakening US commitment to NATO.   Finally, in following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, the Carter Administration agreed to the deployment of 572 missiles (100 Pershing II’s and 472 GLCMs) while working on a treaty to ban said weapons.   The Reagan Administration pressed ahead and ddeployed the missiles in 1984 despite massive anti-nuclear rallies in Europe and at home in the US.   Still, between the Reagan Administration and Mikhail Gorbachev on the Soviet side, a landmark treaty was signed on December 8, 1987.   A signatory feature of the treaty was the elimination of an entire class of weapon and prohibition on future development of the same.

Unfortunately, that prohibition didnot extend to other countries, nor to “collaborative” efforts.

brahmosFast forward to today.   Relatively unnoticed by the rest of the world (save a handful of defense -centric specialty e-zines) a full blown missile race is underway on the Asian subcontinent between India and Pakistan, the latest iteration of which features development and deployment of nuclear capable land-attack cruise missiles, one layer of which was revealed today in a failed BrahMos LACM (land attack cruise missile) test:

NEW DELHI: The Army’s endeavour to induct the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile as “a precision-strike weapon” took a hit on Tuesday, with the missile failing to achieve laid-down parameters in a test.

This comes at a time when the Pakistan Army is galloping ahead in inducting its nuclear-capable Babur land-attack cruise missile (LACM) – developed with China’s help to have a strike range of over 500 km – in large numbers into its arsenal. (The Economic  Times)


The BrahMos is a joint Indian-Russian venture to build a family of supersonic cruise missiles able to be launched from sea or shore.   Following the model previously established by the 5 recognized nuclear powers (US, Russia, France, Britain, China), India is pursuing a nuclear variant as the primary version of the LACM.   This effort is in parallel with ongoing work on the Agni family of MRBM/IRBMs with the latest, the Agni III ranging far enough to strike almost any target in China,  Pakistan and the Middle East or Russia.

baburcruiseFor its part, Pakistan is busy with the road-mobile Ghauri (1500 km, single stage, liquid-fueled) and Shaheen II (2500 km, 2-stage, solid fueled) MRBMs and the LACM known as the Babur (“Lion”), which is being developed with their Chinese partners and bears a more than passing resemblance to the Tomahawk cruise missile in both physical appearance and attributes such as its navigation package.   The same, incidentally, may be said of China’s DongHai-10 (DH-10) LACM and given the number of Tomahawks fired in the Middle East and in Bosnia, it wouldn’t be surprising  if components hadn’t made their way back to China for re-engineering.   Nevertheless, the 2007 surprise test of the nuclear variant of the Babur caught India by surprise and has had the effect of speeding up the BrahMos program.

he upshot of this sub-continental arms race is a host of potentially bad news for the US.   There are all sorts of lines of intersection between US interests int he region, whether it be the tribal regions along the Pakistani-Afghani border, technology and/or arms proliferation to Iran, the US-Indian nuclear reactor deal, growing Chinese presence along the Silk Road into the ‘stans and proximity to Indian territorial claims, and not least of which is the fact these two countries have twice inside the last half-century engaged in fierce, bloody warfare.   Leavening that frightful mix with the yeast of nuclear missile arms race is daunting at best.

Facing an already overwhelming foreign policy agenda, one wonders if the new Administration and its new Secretary of State will notice, much less take an active interest in working to stem this race.   Building on the INF model, if taken, is only a partial solution as the proliferation of weapons  on the margins of- and in this category is any indicator.    In any event, absent significant technological setbacks or exceptional diplomatic effort, the region appears to be well on its way to seeing significant operational forces deployed within a few years, adding another un-needed strand of complication to a region already binding itself into a Gordian knot.


Flightdeck Friday – Fleet Air Arm Edition: Blackburn Buccaneer

August 1977.  Nellis Range – Nevada. The flight lead of a section of F-4E’s is searching in vain for the intruders. Flying CAP, their mission is to intercept ingressing strike aircraft as part of the large scale exercise known as ‘Red Flag.’  Normally an exceptionally challenging environment, meant to replicate the skies over Central Europe, today finds the Phantom lead especially vexed because they can’t find the ingressing bandits.  A disturbance on the desert floor below catches the lead’s eyes, a dust devil perhaps?  No — there, at an impossibly low altitude were two of the raiders screaming along in the sanctuary of extreme low altitude.  Were these some new top secret designs from up around”Dreamland” come down to play in the exercise?  Nope – bounding along the desert floor, kicking up dust and occasionally scraping a wingtip was a twenty-something year old design with the roundels of the RAF marking the nation of origin – the Blackburn Buccaneer, and this was its first Red Flag.

S.Mk.1In 1953, the US and UK were looking to the future and a growing conventional and nuclear threat as embodied by the armed forces of the Soviet Union.  At the time, nuclear weapons technology had reached the stage where each country’s labs were able to design and deliver the first generation of so-called “tactical” nuclear weapons which tac nukemade it possible to break the hammerlock the big, land-based bombers had held, to that point, on the nuclear mission.  On the west side of the Atlantic, the US Navy was well on its way to developing and deploying a credible nuclear strike capability from the big decks of the Forrestal-class super carriers, the first of which was set for commissioning in 1956.  From her decks would fly either the Douglas A3D Skywarrior (aka ‘Whale’) and the A4D Skyhawk – which, like their carrier, were designed with the nuclear mission foremost in mind.


bucsOn the other side of the Atlantic, smilar steps were in motion.  Also in 1953, a new Naval Requirement was let (NA.39) which called for an ambitious new aircraft – one designed to fly well under enemy radar, carrying conventional and nuclear ordnance, at speeds in excess of 550kts.  This aircraft would operate from Royal Navy carriers like the Eagle and would replace the Scimitar and Sea Vixen.  The proposal was shopped out to several manufacturers, including DeHavilland and others with extensive experience in building carrier-based aircraft.  Interestingly enough, it was a more obscure manufacturer, Blackburn, that received the nod.


Now Blackburn was no stranger to manufacturing aircraft, including aircraft for the FAA.  Indeed, it got the nod to build a (then) radically different, all metal/enclosed cockpit torpedo bomber as the replacement for the long-in-the-tooth Fairey Swordfish.  Named the Skua, it had a checkered record of mixed success, eventually suffering grievous losses in the face of heavy AAA and enemy aircraft – not unlike it’s American contemporary, the Devastator.  Still, at this point in production history, Blackburn was only producing a four-engine transport.

It was clear that the demands of the mission – high speeds, low altitude and a complex weapons system would demand the services of a second crewman.  Additionally, being carrier-based would demand cetain concessions as far as size and ability to work in confined spaces.  And in the case of the Eagle, for example, it was aggravated by the use of a center line elevator to move aircraft to and from the hangar bay (unlike the Forrestal class which planned to use deck edge elevators).  Among the new design ideas and technology that Blackburn would employ was a concept called Boundary Layer Control, which used blown flaps and leading edge slats to improve lift, especially critical in the high-α environment of the carrier approach.  Additional features included Martin-Baker “0-0” ejection seats, an area-rule fuselage and a simple, fixed in-flight refueling probe.  Powered by a pair of de Havilland Gyron Junior turbojets producing 7,100 pounds of thrust, the first prototype flew in 1958 with sea-trials starting in 1960.  Delivery to the fleet of the production model S.Mk.1 began shortly thereafter.   One thing that became immediately evident was that the trbojets were seriously underpowered and fairly thirsty.  Fortunately a solution was at hand via the new turbofan engine (Rolls Royce Spey) developed for the BAC Tri-star passenger jet.  With modifications to the inlets and internally to support the larger engine, the S.Mk.2 began to outfit the fleet in 1964 and soon became the definitive version of the Buccaneer.


Operationally, the Buccaneer flew with the FAA in both conventional and nuclear missions until 1978 when the last of the conventional carriers, the HMS Ark Royal, was decommissioned.  From then, they were transferred ashore for service with the RAF which had been left in the lurch with first the cancellation of the TSRadvanced strike fighter, and then the F-111K which was supposed to be the fill-in replacement.  Upgrades continued to the weapons suite with the addition of laser-designation and increased range.  In addition to service with the FAA and RAF, the Buccaneer would also be flown by the South African air force until 1991.  Eventually, the Buccaneer would see combat, in the first Gulf War, but time was fast running out.  Despite exceptional performance in the Gulf, the last Buccaneer was withdrawn from service in 1994 after thirty-plus years of service.  Today many examples can be found in museums, and one, Buccaneer S.Mk2B XX885, is being returned to a flight status.



Specifications (Buccaneer S.2)

Data from: The Observer’s Book of Aircraft

Orthographic projection of the Blackburn Buccaneer

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 63 ft 5 in (19.33 m)
  • Wingspan: 44 ft (13.41 m)
  • Height: 16 ft 3 in (4.97 m)
  • Wing area: 514.7 ft² (47.82 m²)
  • Empty weight: 30,000 lb (14,000 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 62,000 lb (28,000 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2× Rolls-Royce Spey Mk 101 turbofans, 11,100 lbf (49 kN) each



  • Up to 12,000 lb (5,400 kg) of ordnance carried in the internal bomb bay and on four underwing hardpoints

Six Test Firings = Zero Hits: Indian Navy Refuses Sub Delivery

In 2001 India signed a contract with Russia to upgrade 10 Kilo class submarines to enable them to employ the Klub land attack cruise missile,  The first of these subs, the INS Sindhuvijay, recently conducted pre-delivery tests with an Indian crew which included six test firings of the Klub.  All six tests were considered failures with the Indian Navy saying they had failed to perform up to parameters.  As a result, the Indian Navy has refused delivery of the sub and is demanding the Russians rectify the situation.  Export variants of the anti-ship versions of the Klub, sent to India in 2006,  were found to have severe accuracy problems.  Repeated misses led Indian Navy experts to trace the problem to the Russian-made gyros in the subs, leading the navy to contract with the French for a new gyro.  This, of course, also comes on the heels of the standoff between Russia and India over the cost- and schedule overruns on the refitment of the ex-Russian carrier Gorshkov with Russia demanding an additional $1.5B US to complete the work.  According to a 9 January statement by Russia’s Defense Minister Antony, there remains no resolution.

With the competition for the MRCA well underway as well as other modernization efforts within the Indian armed forces, it is clear India is looking outside tradtional (read: Russian)  sources.  Whether the very open campaign one sees in the Indian press over Russian arms failures represents the beginning of a clear break with their traditional supplier or merely an attempt to bring some very public heat to gain leverage remains to be seen.  What is clear is that the near future on the Asian subcontinent will be very interesting in this arena.


According to the 16 Jan edition of Ria Novosti, delivery will be delayed by up to 6 months whil the sub awiats further misile tests in the White Sea in the July-August ’08 timeframe.

"The submarine has passed all its sea trials and was ready in November 2007, but the delivery had to be delayed due to problems with the Club-S system," a Zvyozdochka spokesman said.


Wednesday Roll-up of Missile News

Continuing the themes from yesterday’s post:

a. India plans aerospace military command to oversee space-based assets: In yet more fallout from China’s ASAT test comes the announcement from India that they intend to “create an aerospace command to control and protect satellites and spacecraft orbiting the Earth.” Air Chief Marshal Shashi Tyagi said India was an aerospace power with “transoceanic reach” and it was important for it to be able to exploit outer space. “As the reach of the Indian Air Force is expanding it has become extremely important that we exploit space, and for it you need space assets.” Tyagi’s comments follow a Chinese anti-satellite weapons test on Jan. 11 in which it used a missile to shoot down an old weather satellite. Additionally comes word of India working on development of missile shield for satellites. (from IRNA, New Delhi, Jan 23) Fearing that its satellites could be under threat from missiles, India is working on development of a shield for which it is in talks with Russia and other countries having such technology. … China has recently tested one such missile, but the official underlined that India’s desire to develop the shield was not prompted by that development. … He said India has been talking to “close friend” Russia and other countries having such technology “for our interest.” Besides Russia and China, the technology is available only to the US.

b. Russia Condemns European-based Missile Defense Plans: Russia continues to bang the drum over its extreme displeasure at the prospect of certain elements of the ground-based ballistic missile defense system being installed in Europe, especially in the area formerly known as Eastern Europe and part of the “Near Beyond” about which the Russians have historically been concerned. At issue is location of a ground-based radar site and interceptor field that would provide intercept coverage of US- and European-bound ICBM’s launched from the Middle East (presumably Iran). The current system lacks that capability with the preponderance of its fixed-base radars located in/around the Pacific and interceptors based in Alaska. This current, limited capability is geared against a threat originating from North Korea. Location of a radar site in the Czech Republic and a missile field in Poland by 2012 would go a substantial distance to mitigating the emerging threat from South West Asia. The system continues to grow and evolve – but per force, will always be several steps in capability and numbers behind the kind of offensive nuclear strike capability present in the Russian nuclear inventory, as well as the growing inventory and capability of China. Therefore arguments by Russian defense and foreign ministry officials that this represents an offensive threat or ratcheting up of the arms race are specious at best. The real issue is the view, perceived or real, of loss of influence in areas where once they held sway. Estonia’s recent law to remove Soviet-era war memorials (viewed more as emblematic of Soviet occupation than liberation), for example, invoked similar sharp responses, near hysteric rhetoric from Russian officials and the Russian parliament.

c. Shack – Successful THAAD test:, January 27, 2007. The Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency shot down a dummy target missile over the southern Pacific Ocean during a test of the U.S. missile defense shield early Saturday … First, a dummy ballistic missile was fired from a U.S. mobile launch platform in the Pacific Ocean in a simulated attack. Moments later, an interceptor missile was fired from the agency’s missile range facility on Hawaii’s Kauai Island and struck the dummy warhead over the Pacific Ocean, military footage showed. The mobile, ground-based system is designed to protect the United States from short to intermediate-range high altitude ballistic missile attacks in the North American region, agency spokeswoman Pam Rogers said. The system “intercepts missiles that are shorter range and at the end of their flight trajectory. It is part of the ballistic missile defense system, a layered system that is designed to intercept all types of missiles in all phases of flights,” Rogers said. This particular short to intermediate-range interceptor system has been tested four times a year since 2005. “This was our first test since we moved equipment in October from the White Sands missile range in New Mexico … everything went exceedingly well,” Rogers said. (ed: Continued strong comeback for the once sorely troubled THAAD program following a thorough restructuring).

d. Central Command Nominee Cites Naval, Missile Defense (Aerospace Daily & Defense Report, January 31, 2007): U.S. Navy Adm. William Fallon, head of Pacific Command, would emphasize greater missile defense, as well as naval and air superiority in the Persian Gulf and Middle East if he becomes head of Central Command, according to sentiments expressed at his Jan. 30 nomination hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Fallon told senators there was no doubt that North Korea and Iran were exchanging ballistic missile technology and that Iran appears to be shaping its military to deny U.S. aircraft carriers, precision strike and submarine capabilities in the Gulf, or at least to keep them at a distance. The country also is attempting to boost its power through asymmetric means, such as supporting international terrorism and pursuing nuclear weapons, he further said in prepared answers to advance congressional questions. … Fallon, who would be the first admiral to lead CENTCOM, said he figured his nomination stemmed in part from an effort to manage the Middle East “neighborhood” around Iran while Iraq operations will be largely left to Army Gen. David Petraeus.

Flightdeck Friday – The Regulus I and II

It’s May 1947 and you, as a senior service see that the new upstart service has taken over an Army order for a turbojet powered, unmanned missile that will be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. What do you do? You go out and place a similar order with a competitor.

Welcome to Flightdeck Friday and the story of the Regulus I and II. This being kind of a missile week already with previous postings, it figures this would be a fitting topic.

In October 1943, Chance Vought signed a study contract for a 300-mile range pilotless missile that carried a 4,000-pound warhead. But little transpired until the soon-to-be-separated AAF provided the impetus for the Navy Program. In May 1947, the Army awarded Martin a contract for a turbojet-powered subsonic missile which became the Matador. The Navy saw this as a threat to its role in guided missiles and, within days, ordered BuAer to start a similar Navy missile that could be launched from a submarine, using the same engine as the Matador (J33) and components on hand. By August 1947, the project had gained both a name (Regulus) and performance requirements. The Navy wanted the missile to carry a 3,000-pound warhead to a maximum range of 500 nm at Mach .85 with a CEP of .5 percent of the range. The vehicle would be 30 feet in length, 10 feet in span, 4 feet in diameter, and would weigh between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds.

A parallel arc on Navy’s side was the advocacy and development of pilotless drones under the leadership of Captain Fahrney. Widely regarded as the father of the Navy’s guided missile program, during WW2 he had developed and tested a pilotless torpedo drone, the TDR-1 under Project Option, successfully demonstrating a remotely launched torpedo attack against the USS Aaron Ward (ed: In a footnote, the TDR was built by the Wurlitzer Musical Instrument Company – yes that one, of piano and organ fame. If you have to make a lot of something out of wood and to exacting precision, who better than a piano firm in the early-mid 1940’s?). While the TDR was overcome by progress in the Pacific, the skills and capabilities demonstrated by the crews flying the drones from accompanying Avengers would come in handy later, as the reader shall see.

CONOPS for Regulus I called for launches from either surfaced submarines (for an exceptional background story on the development of this capability starting with the Loon, head over to EagleSpeak’s 21 Jan article ( or launched from carriers or cruisers. Guidance was via radio control, exercised from either up to two submarines along the flight path or via accompanying aircraft (at first the F6F Hellcat, later the TV-2 and FJ were used). Guidance could not, however, be passed from one surface platform to another – from a submarine say to a cruiser.

Before the Regulus even flew though, it had to run a gauntlet raised by the new Department of Defense which took a dim view of two similar weapons being developed by different services. Forced to justify the Regulus in light of the Matador’s lead in development, the Navy emphasized the inherent operational flexibility (Regulus needed only two control points vs. the Matador’s three and it could be stored with it’s boosters attached vice the Matador’s requirement to have the booster added after it was on the launcher) coupled with procurement of recoverable training missiles as proof of overall system economy. Allowed to proceed with development, the first Regulus I flew in March 1951 and was followed by the first launch from a submarine, the USS Tunny in July 1953. Continued problems with the guidance section and radio controls, among other things, delayed the operational introduction of the Regulus until 1955.

While the Regulus I patrols began, work was already underway on its replacement — the Regulus II. Concern that the Regulus I had too many vulnerabilities (speed, reliance on external guidance, time spent on the surface by the sub, etc.) led to Navy signing C-V to build a supersonic variant, one that would fly at 60,000 ft and Mach 2+. Following the model of the Regulus I program, C-V over-engineered the structural strength of the Reg II and started with most of the first production batch as recoverable drones. The Reg II would be guided by the (then) new inertial guidance system and would be launched from a new class of submarine, led by the Growler. First flight of the Reg II was barely 1 year after the Reg I went operational, May 1956 and on Sept 15, 1958 the first operational test launch took place off the Grayback. Control was picked up by the chase plane, a TV-2/T-33 and it headed towards its destination at Edwards AFB. Along the way, control was passed off to Pt. Mugu then finally Edwards itself. The flight was successful until the final moments after landing when it burst into flame after having to make a wheels up landing when the gea would not extend. By the endof the year a total of 48 successful flights had been accomplished including launches from a converted LST. In December 1958, however, inspite of the successful threshold the Reg II stood upon, Thomas Gates, SecNav, cancelled the program (a move ADM Zumwalt would later call one of the worst decisions he had seen). The reason was the Polaris SLBM program was stunningly successful and represented a quantum leap ahead in capability and survivability — the Reg II had been the ace-in-the-hole in case Polaris did not pan out. The Regulus finished its days as a target drone with the last of the program closing down in 1968. Despite the promise shown by the Regulus family, it would be decades later before the Navy was back in the cruise missile business again, this time with Harpoon and Tomahawk.

General Specifications
Fuselage Diameter: 56.5 in (1.4 m)

Fuselage Length: 386 in (9.8 m)

Wingspan: 252 in (6.4 m) extended, 118.5 in (3.0 m) folded

Wing Depth: 76 in (1.9 m)

Overall Height: 92.3 in (2.3 m)

Overall Length: 498.7 in (12.7 m)

Warhead: 3000 lb (1,360 kg) such as the W5 warhead or the W27 warhead

Weight at launch: 13,685 lb (6,207 kg)