Monthly Archives: March 2012

New China's J-20 fifth generation stealth fighter prototype spotted at Chengdu

New images of the Chengdu J-20 fifth generation stealth fighter often appear on the Chinese Internet.

Those published in this post were taken in the last few days at Chengdu airport and uploaded on one of the most interesting  Chinese military forums.

It looks like a new prototype (fourth, based on the 2004 code of an image someone thinks may have been photoshopped…) could soon fly along the first one, coded 2001, that has been involved in the testing activities since Jan. 11, 2011.

Here’s the image allegedly showing the J-20 coded 2004.

Hard to say whether it is a fake or not. However, what can be said is that, unless it was given a new color scheme and markings, a new J-20 may really be ready for flight.

Image below shows a partially hidden plane (above), whose star on the tail appears on a slightly different position (a bit higher) than that seen on the prototype coded 2001 seen so far (below).

The following picture shows the new prototype from another perspective. The code can’t be seen though.

Image credit: Chinese Internet

Analysis: This could be the airfield in Azerbaijan used by the Israeli Air Force to attack Iran

Even if it is not easy to identify the Azeri airbases the Israeli Air Force would use in case of attack on Iran I thought that it might be interesting to select the one that I would pick if I had to plan a complex strike operation.

I consider quite unlikely the possibility that the IAF will use one of the available airfields in Azerbaijan to launch the first strike for the political/diplomatic consequences as well as the risk that any weird activity spotted there would be a clear sign of an imminent strike. Furthermore, the first strike will involve the largest packages and the creation of a sort-of forward operating base from where first attack sorties could be launched would require a prior air bridge, much support personnel, weapons: something difficult, still not impossible, to hide.

Hence, I will select an airport that could be an used as an intermediate stopover on the return leg from the raid and to launch another strike thereafter; let’s consider it as divert field the Israeli fighters could use for refueling or to get technical assistance. In this case, they would not need much things over there: fuel, support personnel and some technical equipment needed to perform maintenance activities on the planes experiencing (minor) failures.

The same airport could be used to host KC-130s for aerial refueling, as well as Combat SAR assets, even though I would base the latter elsewhere, not far from the border and on an improvised airfield (no need for runway, aprons, taxiways, and so on).

I’ve checked all airports in Azerbaijan using Google Earth. Provided the Israeli were given the clearance to use the Azeri airspace and airports, any runway long enough, could be suitable in case of failure with the airbases equipped with arresting cables and safelands obviously preferred.

Some of the Azeri airports considered in the analysis (all screen dumps taken with Google Earth)

Baku Kala

Many reports have pointed to Baku Kala, near the capital, on the Caspian Sea, 330 miles from Tehran. The base hosts Azeri combat choppers and transport aircraft. Bringing cargo planes over there in anticipation of an air strike would disclose the imminent attack. Unlikely.

Baku Kala airbase

Lankaran

Lankaran, in the South, 34 km from the Iranian border, would be the “most obvious” airbase and for this reason any activity on the small runway would be immediately noticed. Unlikely.

Khankendi

Khankendi in the southwest part looks like abandoned. It is located far from any large town under the control of the de facto control of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, has a few aprons and a taxiway (seemingly in very bad conditions) and a runway about 2,000 mt in length. It was due to be opened to commercial traffic but the opening date of the airport was postponed. Provided the security of the air operations could be ensured in the disputed area (de jure recongnized as part of Azerbaijan) this is one of the airfields I’d consider for a special operations/CSAR force also because of the limited implications for Baku.

Another similar airport (with grass runway) is Tanrykulular in the north part of the country (a bit too far from Iran).

Khankendi

Dollyar

Dollyar airbase is among those I consider suitable, the farthest from Tehran (465 miles). However it is a functional airbase, with empty shelters (some of which destroyed…), taxiways, aprons. A lonely Mig-25 can be spotted using Google Earth. Although a bit distant from Iran, it is also quite isolated. The presence of a Mig makes it an active airbase where movements of planes would not be too suspicious. I think this is one of the likely “places”.

Dollyar

Aghstafa

Aghstafa has just a runway (in poor conditions), it’s far from Iran and relatively next to a village (and to the border with Georgia): I think this airport can be removed from the “list” of suitable airfields.

Gyanzdah

Gyanzdah seems to have the proper infrastructures but it is reported to be also a civilian airport opened to the general air traffic. Indeed the main apron has a mini-terminal: the arrival of foreign military cargos would not be unnoticed. I think it’s quite unlikely it would be considered as a suitable airfield.

Continua a leggere

Azerbaijan to host Israeli Air Force planes in case of attack on Iran?

Several news agencies have been running a news story, that appeared first on the Foreign Policy website, according to which Israel has secured the use of at least one of four former Soviet era airbases in Azerbaijan. Something that was often speculated in the last weeks.

At what first appears an unlikely alliance is anything but. Even Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev described his country’s relationship with Israel as an iceberg: “Nine-tenths of it below the surface” in a leaked memo by Wikileaks during 2009.

Azerbaijan and Israel signed a $1.6 billion arms deal for drones and missile defense systems as recently as February. Israel is also Azerbaijan’s largest oil customer so once all of this is pieced together the bigger picture starts to become apparent, even if no one really knows the full extent of the military links between the new allies.

Foreign Policy mentions that one former CIA analyst doubted that Israel will actually launch strikes from Azerbaijan describing it as “too chancy” politically and Azeri officials have already denied the possibility that IAF was granted access to local airbases.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

Indeed, the likely scenario is that the strike jets will not launch from the Caucasus but that they could  recover to the airbases in Azerbaijan after the strikes on the nuclear facilities in Iran and could either return home or launch follow up strikes thereafter.

What makes this scenario favoured is also that the main airbases in Azerbaijan are supposed to be closely monitored by Iranian observers and, unless the Israeli plans to use improvised airfields, any deployment of Israeli planes before the attack would be a clear sign of an imminent kick-off of the strike.

On the other hand, having an airbase close to Iran would also the IDF the opportunity to deploy and eventually launch ELINT or SIGINT sorties prior to the strike as well as Combat Search And Rescue (CSAR) missions should the need arise.

Continua a leggere

Video: F-22 Raptor in action during Red Flag 12-3

As reported by Wired’s Danger Room, the F-22 Raptor has finally achieved the full combat readiness.

The latest (software) upgrade (Block 3.1) has brought the capability to find and engage ground targets using the Synthetic Aperture Radar mapping and eight GBU-39 SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs) to the troubled stealthy fighter that remained grounded for several months in 2011 following “hypoxia-like” symptoms experienced by Raptors pilots in 12 incidents since 2008.

Since the first modified planes were delivered to the 3rd Wing at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Alaska, those that took part to the Red Flag 12-3 at Nellis AFB, Nevada , belonging to the 27th FS from Langley AFB, Virginia, did not feature the Increment 3.1 and could only play the air-to-air role.

The following interesting HD video shows the 1st FW planes at work during the most recent Flag.

Boeing P-8A next generation anti-submarine warfare and maritime patrol aircraft introduced. While test flights (that you can track on the Internet) continue

On Mar. 28, US Navy VP-30 at NAS Jacksonville took formally delivery of the first Boeing P-8A Poseidon. The next generation maritime multi-mission aircraft, whichwill eventually replace the P-3 Orion, will be used for aircrew training purposes, operating side-by-side with its predecessor.

The Poseidon serialled 168428/428, delivered to the Navy on Mar. 4, is the first of 13 P-8A of the low-rate initial production (LRIP) contract awarded to Boeing; the service plans to purchase 117 Poseidons to perform long-range anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, and ISR (Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaisance) in maritime and littoral operations. The aircraft will also co-operate with the BAMS (Broad Area Maritime Surveillance) UAV based on the Global Hawk drone.

Image credit: Boeing, U.S. Navy

Based on the fuselage of the 737-800 and equipped with next generation surveillance radar and SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) systems, the aircraft can carry a wide variety of weapons, from depth charges to Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

Two test planes, operated by the VX-20 from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, have already surpassed 1,000 flight-test hours. Since they used the ADS-B system, the VX-20 P-8As can be occasionally tracked during test sorties out of “Pax River” using Planefinder.net website.

Continua a leggere