Category Archives: Rogue States

Myanmar to Buy Six Sukhoi Su-30 “Generation 4+” Combat Aircraft from Russia

Multirole Sukhoi to Become Primary Combat Aircraft of Myanmar Air Force.

Myanmar has confirmed its commitment to purchase six new Russian-built Sukhoi Su-30 multi-role advanced tactical aircraft. Russian news agency TASS quoted the Russian Deputy Defense Minister, Lt. Gen Alexander Fomin, as saying the new Su-30s will, “become the main fighter aircraft of Myanmar’s air force”.

Myanmar, bordered by China, India, Laos, Thailand and Bangladesh, currently operates a significant number of MiG-29 aircraft, quoted as being around 39 aircraft with little reliable information about how many are combat-ready. According to reports from several Asian and western media outlets including FlightGlobal.com, Myanmar also may have orders for 16 Chengdu/Pakistan Aeronautical Complex JF-17 fighters.

Although no detail about the Sukhoi Su-30 variant that Myanmar will operate has been made public, some sources believe it will probably be a version closely related to the Su-30SME  unveiled at the Singapore Airshow in 2016. When the Su-30SME export version for Singapore was announced at the Singapore Airshow, Irkut Corporation President Oleg Demchenko was quoted by Jane’s Defense as saying, “The Su-30SME is an upgraded modern platform based on Russian equipment. As the basic Russian Su-30SM version develops, the capabilities of the export Su-30SME will also expand.” This claimed modular expandability is a feature of the U.S. F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and is attractive to potential buyers since it provides an open-source, modular approach to keeping tactical aircraft current in technology and capabilities.

According to data published by Jane’s Defense, the Sukhoi Su-30SME export version, likely similar to the version that will go to Myanmar, will have a normal take-off weight of 26,090 kg. and a max take-off of 34,000 kg. Interestingly, the quoted thrust in Jane’s Defense was 25,000 kg, putting the thrust-to-weight ratio of the Su-30SME below 1:1. Operational range is quoted as 1,280 km and top speed is said to be Mach 1.75.

Jane’s Defense tells us the Su-30SME uses two AL-31FP afterburning jet engines with thrust vectoring nozzles for enhanced directional control. The combination of two of these powerplants on the SU-30SME give the aircraft a combat payload of up to 8,000 kg spread among 12 external hardpoints on the fuselage and wings.

If there is one area the Su-30SME and related versions may be down-speced relative to western counterparts it may be avionics connectivity, or the ability to share data gathered by the aircraft’s sensors with other aircraft and weapons systems. As described, the avionics suite of the Su-30SME sounds like an essentially “closed loop” system without mention of datalink capability, a potential force-multiplier. The Su-30SME can carry externally mounted infrared and laser targeting pods for ground target acquisition and terminal precision weapon guidance. The fire control radar can acquire and track 15 targets simultaneously in air-to-air mode while being able to manage four attacks simultaneously. Passive, non-emitting sensors on the Su-30SME include an electro-optical targeting sensor combined with a laser inertial navigation system. There is also a helmet-mounted target designator, and satellite GPS navigation system compatible with the GLONASS and NAVSTAR formats. It is likely, however, that if a datalink system in not already available among the avionics suite for the Su-30SME and related versions, that capability will likely be developed soon.

A Sukhoi Su-30 on display at the MAKS airshow. (Photo: Sukhoi)

Anyway, whatever the version Myanmar will get, the sale of these six Su-30s is significant not only because of the country’s history and role in the region, which is somewhat volatile; more significantly it continues a significant run of sales successes for the Russian aircraft industry.

But while the Russians have seen unit sale growth in their military aircraft exports, their “ticket average” or cost per aircraft unit sale still trails the U.S. Those lower ticket averages per aircraft may be a part of their success. Russia has been able to offer highly capable tactical aircraft to countries that cannot participate in most western defense consortiums for both economic and political reasons. As the air forces of some African and Asian countries have become obsolete and degraded by age the new Russian military empire formed after the collapse of the Soviet Union has moved in to fill the supply vacuum of military aircraft.

However, the dollar volumes (if not unit numbers) worldwide still favor the United States aircraft suppliers. Five of the top six arms producing companies in gross sales as reported in 2006 were US-headquartered companies. All were primarily aerospace. Those companies were Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics. That trend has continued after 2010 with the introduction of massive programs like the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, often quoted as the most expensive defense project in history.

There was no mention of the date of delivery for the six aircraft to Myanmar or if there would be a potential for follow-on acquisition of more aircraft. An interesting mention in the Myanmar Times on Jan. 23, 2018 said that the aircraft will be, among the others, “suitable for Myanmar’s counter-insurgency operations.” That may hint at some of the aircraft’s tasking in the region, even though the Yak-130 advanced jet trainer/light attack aircraft that Myanmar Air Force already flies (six out of 12 examples have already been delivered) is probably more suitable to undertake that kind of mission.

Top image credit: TASS

12 U.S. Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt II Deployed To Afghanistan To Join Air Campaign Against Taliban

After 3 years, the “Warthog” returns to Afghanistan.

A dozen A-10C Thunderbolt II ground attack aircraft have arrived at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, on Jan. 19 to bolster (USFOR-A) and Afghan National Defense and Security Force’s (ANDSF) air campaign against the Taliban.

The aircraft belong to the 303rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and arrived in Afghanistan via Al Udeid, Qatar. The aircraft were originally headed for Incirlik, in Turkey, to join the fight on ISIS, but the Pentagon decided to “divert” the A-10s to Afghanistan, to support the increased need for close air support and precision strike capacity against Taliban and their revenue sources.

According to an official release, “the arrival of these aircraft follows a recent decision by U.S. Air Forces Central Command to realign aircraft, airmen, and assets already in the U.S. Central Command AOR to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, to support increased airpower requirements of ANDSF and USFOR-A to implement South Asia Policy under Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Along with a detachment of KC-135 Stratotankers that have operated from Kandahar since September, the A-10s, MQ-9s and HH-60G will complement F-16s, C-130J, EC-130H and other aircraft supporting these operations from Bagram Airfield.

These increased assets will assist with the ongoing ANDSF strategic air campaign that targets Taliban revenue sources of which are aimed at aggressively taking the fight to the Taliban.”

Along with the Thunderbolt squadron, additional aircraft will be moved to Kandahar Airfield, including MQ-9 Reapers that provide armed over-watch and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance of the battlefield, and HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters, to conduct personnel recovery and search and rescue.

Commonly known as the Warthog, the A-10 will be launched in air strikes against Taliban narcotics production facility. According to the U.S. Air Force, since November, 30 strikes conducted against Taliban narcotics production facilities resulted more than $20 million in total impact on Taliban revenue.

With a relatively low-cost platform much closer to these targets than the Raptors supporting Operation Inherent Resolve from the Persian Gulf, such anti-drug air strikes will also be more cost-effective: on Nov. 20, F-22 Raptors forward deployed to at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, and supported by KC-10 Extender from the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron, also based at Al Dhafra Air Base, launched their first air strikes in Afghanistan employing small diameter bombs to hit plantations of poppy (processed into illegal opiate drugs such as heroin) in Helmand Province.

Under the authorities granted in the South Asia Policy, precision strikes with A-10s will hit the Taliban where they are most vulnerable: their revenue streams and profits from developing and selling illegal narcotics.

“The A-10 provides planners even more options given its ability to deliver a wide variety of precision munitions and devastating firepower from its 30mm cannon,” said U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Lance Bunch, chief, Future Operations, CJ35. “In the coming weeks, the A-10’s operations will be integrated into our combined U.S. and Afghan air campaign to deliver destructive precision firepower that sends a strong impactful message to the Taliban.”

By the way, whereas it continues to rely on the A-10 to perform CAS in Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force is letting the Thunderbolt die by shelving plans to replace the remaining wings on the rest of its A-10C fleet.

The U.S. A-10s will be complemented by the Afghan Air Force (AAF) assets, that will more than double their fleet of aircraft over the next seven years: besides the introduction of A-29 ground attack aircraft, C-208 and C-130 mobility aircraft, MD-530, and Mi-17 helicopters last year, plans include the introduction of AC-208 attack aircraft and UH- 60 Black Hawk assault helicopters, as well as additional A-29 attack aircraft and MD- 530 attack helicopters.

“The growing Afghan Air Force is vital to the success of ANDSF on the battlefield,” said Major General Mohammad Shoaib, commander, AAF. “Dedicated pilots and crews provide resupply, close air attack, casualty evacuation, and air assault capabilities to their brothers on the ground. The success of the Air Force is key to tipping the battlefield in favor of ANDSF. The Afghan Air Force is successfully fighting and growing at the same time increasing attack capabilities while delivering daily blows to the Taliban.”

If you are interested in the A-10, don’t miss our “BRRTTTT….deployments, war chronicles and stories of the last A-10 Warthogs” available both in ebook format and paperback version from Amazon.

 

The Belgian Air Force Has Released Footage Of The Russian Tu-160 Blackjack Intercepted Over The North Sea

Here’s one of the two Tu-160s as seen through the pilot’s JHMCS (Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System).

On Jan. 15, two Belgian Air Force F-16s intercepted two Russian Air Force Tu-160 bombers over the North Sea.

At around 11.51 LT, the two Belgian F-16s in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) reached the two Blackjack bombers off the Netherlands, in international airspace, carried out a VID (visual identification) and shadowed the Russian aircraft until these were handed over to the British Eurofighter Typhoons.

Here’s the route followed by the two Russian bombers:

On Jan. 17, the Belgian MoD released an interesting footage filmed through the pilots JHMCS that projects flight parameters (heading, speed, altitude, etc) and aiming data onto the helmet visor (in other words, in air-to-air role, pilots can cue onboard weapons against enemy aircraft merely by pointing their heads at the targets). For this reason, the short clip below provides some details about the altitude FL270 (27,000 feet) and speed (317 knots) of the Tu-160 during the intercept.

Enjoy.

Turkish Blackhawk Kill Claimed by Kurds on YouTube, Turks “Counterattack” on Twitter.

The Social Media Battlefield: Fighting a Confusing War on Twitter, Youtube and Facebook.

It is the new battlefield, the great equalizer, delivered at the speed of light and impervious to bullets, missiles and armor. It is social media. Increasingly social media is being used as a weapons delivery platform in the information war. It is an equalizer between conventional militaries and insurgent forces, providing a sometimes-terrifying mouthpiece for guerillas and freedom fighters.

Weaponized Social Media (WSM for short) is also a source of misinformation and deception, one wielded effectively whether you are showing video of a U.S. Air Force B-2 stealth bomber strike, or an ISIL insurgent IED suicide attack. Every combatant on the YouTube battlefield is the same size, 800 x 600. For only a few thousand dollars an insurgency can terrorize the world via YouTube. It is the textbook manifestation of Sun Tzu’s axiom on terrorism in his masterwork, “The Art of War”. Sun Tzu wrote, “Kill one, terrorize a thousand”. The damage radius is limited only by the speed of your internet connection and the size of your monitor.

But there are at least two sides to every story, and often many more. During the last 24 hours, a fascinating textbook example of using Weaponized Social Media surfaced on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

The country of Turkey is in conflict with the covertly U.S.-backed Kurdish People Protection Units, known as the “YPG”. There is also spill-over tacit U.S. support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, the free-Syrians not under Bashar al-Assad. Bashar al-Assad, as you know, is the Syrian President backed by Russia. As with most relationships played out on social media, it’s complicated.

The gray-area support from the U.S. government of the Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG) started during the administration of former President Barack Obama, and continues under President Donald Trump. Trump is a rough-talking gangster of a politician to Obama’s polished attorney voice.

Under Trump’s administration the SDF forces are now 50,000 strong according to reports- they fight Assad’s regular army Syrian units for control and in combat with their common enemy, ISIL. The authoritative publication “Foreign Policy” described the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and their same-side alliance with the Kurdish People Protection Units (YPG) as, “The most capable anti-Islamic State force in northern Syria.” While Russia may not agree with that assessment, there is no doubt the SDF and YPG guerilla forces amount to more than a series of acronyms formed by a Scrabble game gone wrong.

Get out your notebook because it gets more complicated. Enter the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by several states and organizations including NATO. The short story is, SDF and YPG are aligned with the PKK in the fight against ISIL, but not liked by the TAF, the Turkish Armed Forces. You can also call the TAF the “Türk Silahlı Kuvvetleri, or “TSK” if you prefer. The TAF, or TSK if you prefer, are the military forces of the Republic of Turkey. So, the PKK, the SDF and the YPG, backed by the USA, are at odds with the TAF, or TSK if you like.

Before you ask, “WTF?”, just think of it this way for our purposes; The guys in the Blackhawk helicopter in these photos and videos are fighting the guys who launch the rocket at them from the bottom of the mountain.

One video shows the rocket launch from the perspective of the guys firing it. It seems to weave and bob the way rockets do, on its way to the top of the ridge, where a Turkish S-70A helicopter appears. The Turkish Blackhawk dips below the ridge just as the PKK ATGM explodes. The inference is that the guys firing the ATGM hit the Blackhawk.

Click over to the video of the guys up on the ridge with the Blackhawk, being resupplied, it would appear. The wire-guided missile fired from the bottom of the ridge by the first guys videoing, explodes over the heads of the guys on top of the ridge, also videoing. An instant after the rocket explodes the Blackhawk successfully escapes. The point? The one video from the bottom of the ridge suggests the S-70A was hit, a huge victory for those lads. The other video shows the Turkish helicopter flying away, “proof” that it is not a victory, just a near miss and one for the highlight reel on YouTube.

The entire episode is proof of another Sun Tzu principle from “The Art of War”:

“All warfare is based on deception.”

Six B-52 Strategic Bombers Deploying To Guam To Replace Six B-1s And Join Three B-2Mes Already There

The U.S. Air Force bomber trio (B-52, B-2 and B-1) currently deployed to Guam: it’s the second time since August 2016.

Six B-52H bombers and approximately 300 Airmen from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, are deploying to Andersen AFB, Guam, in support of U.S. Pacific Command’s Continuous Bomber Presence mission. Two Stratofortresses have arrived in Guam on Jan. 15; the rest are expected to deploy in the next hours. They join six B-1s and three B-2s already in Guam.

The iconic B-52 bombers will relieve the B-1B Lancers that deployed from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, on Aug. 6, 2016, as part of their first CBP deployment in support of the U.S. Pacific Command’s (USPACOM) deterrence efforts in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region in 10 years.

During their deployment, the 37th EBS conducted a variety of joint and bilateral training missions with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, Japan Air Self-Defense Force, South Korean air force and Royal Australian Air Force, including some symbolic shows of force against North Korea alongside the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B forward based in Japan.

The bomber trio at Guam in August 2016.

Noteworthy, at the beginning of their tour of duty in the Pacific in 2016, the B-1s replaced another B-52 detachment: the 69th EBS from Minot AFB, ND. Before the Stratofortress bombers started returning home, three B-2s arrived in Guam for a “short-term deployment”: exploiting the presence of the three bomber types on the very same forward operating base, on Aug. 17, 2016, the U.S. Air Force conducted the first coordinated operation in the U.S Pacific Command AOR (Area Of Operations) launching three aircraft (1x B-2, 1x B-52 and 1x B-1) in sequence from Andersen Air Force Base to conduct simultaneous operations in the South China Sea and Northeast Asia.

Considered the presence of B-52s, B-2s and B-1s once again together at the same time in Guam will give the U.S. Air Force the opportunity to launch again the trio in an integrated bomber operation in the Pacific similar to the one carried out in the Summer of 2016.

“The B-52H’s return to the Pacific will provide USPACOM and its regional allies and partners with a credible, strategic power projection platform, while bringing years of repeated operational experience. The B-52 is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet (15,166.6 meters) and can carry nuclear or precision guided conventional ordnance with worldwide precision navigation capability. This forward-deployed presence demonstrates the continued commitment of the U.S.to allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region,” says the U.S. Air Force official release.

The B-52 deployment in support of the CBP missions brings again a constant (at least until the next rotation) nuclear bomber capability within striking distance of North Korea.

Meanwhile, four B-52H Stratofortress aircraft have arrived in the UK for theatre integration and training at RAF Fairford. The aircraft are from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, and will conduct theatre integration and training in Europe.

Many “Buffs” deployed across the globe!