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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Implications of the Potential Russia-China Arms Deal

Author's Note: This article is a direct response to an audience member's request. Defeating China's Anti-Access (A2) Strategy: The US Perspective Part II will be out by next week. The poll results gave a plurality to China's Anti Access Strategy: Submarine Force with 6/13 votes. I'll start work on it shortly. I might use future polls just to see what you guys think on certain issues for the sake of my own curiosity. 

Russia and China are in the process of negotiating the sale of 24 advanced Sukhoi Su-35 air superiority fighters, four advanced air independent propulsion (AIP) equipped Lada class diesel electric attack submarines, and an unknown quantity of formidable S-400 (SA-21 Growler) surface to air missile systems (SAM).  Each weapon system will be discussed in detail and its potential impact on the region will be assessed.

S-400


The S-400 or SA-21 "Growler" is arguably the most formidable surface to air missile system in the world. The S-400 is an evolution of the S-300 system and employs modern X-band active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars and four types of missiles. The 92N2E Grave Stone AESA radar is powerful enough to pose a problem for some low observable aircraft and non-stealthy aircraft don't stand a chance at evading detection without proper electronic and cyber warfare support.

"The 92N6E Grave Stone will automatically prioritize targets, compute Launch Acceptable Regions for missile launches, launch missiles, capture missiles, and provide midcourse guidance commands to missiles while tracking the target and missile. Missile guidance modes include pure command link, semi-active homing, and Track via Missile (TVM) / Seeker Aided Ground Guidance (SAGG), where missile semi-active seeker outputs are downlinked to the Grave Stone to support the computation of missile uplink steering commands. The radar can track 100 targets in Track While Scan mode, and perform precision tracking of six targets concurrently for missile engagements. data exchanges between the 92N6E Grave Stone and 30K6E battle management system are fully automatic." - Kopp, 2012



APA image

The deployment of the S-400 would be problematic for the United States as 4th generation aircraft would be unable to safely operate near China (which is already the case but to a lesser extent with the S-300 PMU2 and HQ-9) but the USAF maintains the capability to overcome the S-400 with stealth aircraft. The LSR-B, B-2, F-22, and F-35 should all be stealthy enough to destroy S-400 sites if equipped with the right munitions. For example, the F-35 is cited to have a frontal radar cross section around .0015m^2 and a rear of .01m^2 (Global Security, 2011). Thus, the F-35 would be able to approach the 92N2E Grave Stone without being detected until 40 nautical miles (after weapons release the F-35 will have to turn around exposing the larger rear rcs hence 40 nm not 20 nm). If the F-35 is equipped with the GBU-39/B small diameter bombs (SDB) which have a stand-off range in excess of 60 nautical miles (Boeing, 2013), the F-35 is more than capable of getting the job done. However, the F-35 would be unable to use JDAMs to destroy S-400 sites as the stand-off range is insufficient. The Raptor is considerably stealthier than the F-35 with a frontal radar cross section of .0001m^2 with a side and rear of between .01-.001m^2 (Air Power Australia, 2011). Thus, the Raptor might be able to employ JDAM's against S-400 sites if it drops the 1,000 pound JDAM's from altitude and at maximum supercruise speed of mach 1.5-1.8 which gives a standoff range of at least 24 nautical miles (Hanlon, 2006). However, using SDB's would likely be preferred as it gives a much greater margin of safety for F-22 pilots.  

However, the Taiwanese Air Force (ROCAF) will be severely effected by the deployment of the S-400:

"At present, China’s land-based mobile air defense missile systems, HQ-9 and S-300, can reach only a small sliver of northwestern Taiwan. Though a clear advantage during a war over control of the middle line of the Taiwan Strait, it is not complete air dominance of the island itself.  However, with the planned purchase of the 400-kilometer-range Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile (SAM) system, China will for the first time have complete air defense coverage of Taiwan.  Ongoing negotiations with the Chinese on S-400 were confirmed by Russian officials last year, said Vasily Kashin, a researcher with Moscow’s Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies." - Defense News, 2013 



Image retrieved via Air Power Australia

The S-400 SAM system utilizes four missiles that are employed at different ranges. The longest range missile, the 40N6 missile, has a maximum range of 215 nautical miles (400 km) and it employs both an active and semi-active radar seeker. However, these missiles are typically reserved for intercepting high value AWACS, JSTARS, and electronic jammer assets rather than fighter aircraft (Kopp, 2012). The mainstay of the S-400 system is the Fakel 48N6E3/48N6DM missile which has a range of 130 nautical miles and is illustrated above. The other two missile types employed by the S-400 are shorter range missiles are the 9M96E and 9M96E2 which are designed to hit low and medium altitude aircraft. The 96M6E is equivalent to the PAC-3 with a range of 21.6 nautical miles while the 9M96E2 has a range of 64.8 nautical miles (Kopp, 2012). Due to the backlog in Russian orders, Fakel could deliver S-400 systems to China by 2017 at the earliest (Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2013). Its likely China would forward deploy any S-400 batteries it acquires to the 31st Army Group, Xiamen, Fujian province, in the Nanjing military region if its deployment of S-300 PMU2 batteries are any indication (Defense News, 2013). Fujian province contains the closest Chinese territory relative to Taiwan as seen on the DOD image below.



List of Taiwanese air bases relative to distance from Xiamen SAM sites (Current S-300PMU2 sites located near 31st Army group depicted in green on DOD image). Note: not all Taiwanese air base locations listed but all are within 215 nautical miles (400 km) of Xiamen.

Xiamen - Chiayi 140 nautical miles (261 km)
Xiamen - Hsinchu 160 nautical miles (294 km)
Xiamen - Taoyuan 176 nautical miles miless (328 km)
Xiamen - Taipei  192 nautical miles (356 km)
Xiamen - Hualien  193 nautical miles (358 km)
Xiamen - Taitung 196 nautical miles (361 km)

Taiwanese AWACS aircraft will not be safe from 40N6 missiles even if they operate from the farthest available ROCAF airbases. Fighter aircraft such as the F-CK-1 and F-16A/B Block 20 should be relatively safe as it is unlikely People's Liberation Army (PLA) forces would waste their limited number of expensive 40N6 missiles on comparatively lower value targets. A standard S-400 battery is equipped with a total of 32 missiles and it is likely that the bulk of these missiles are the 48N6E3/48N6DM, 9M96E, and 9M96E2. However, it is worth noting that the 92N2E Grave Stone radar is powerful enough to track the positions of ROCAF fighters as they fly over Taiwan and relay the information to other PLA or People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) assets.




Su-35S

Su-35

The Su-35 is the latest evolution of the venerable Su-27 Flanker series of aircraft. The combination of a reduced radar cross section, supermaneuverability, IRST, off-bore sight weapon capability, and a powerful Irbis-E passively scanned electronic scanned array radar makes the "Flanker-E" (NATO designation) the most formidable non-Western fighter aircraft currently in production. The sale of Su-35 aircraft will most severely impact the Taiwanese Air Force (ROCAF). If the deal goes through, the actual deliveries of Su-35 aircraft to China coincides with the retirement of nearly 70% of the Taiwanese air force (Kan, 2012).

"Though 24 to 48 fighters are not a significant threat to US forces, they pose a problem for Taiwan as it retires 56 Mirage 2000 fighters and roughly 50 F-5s...there has been a significant push by Taiwan to procure 66 F-16C/D fighters to counter reductions. Effective lobbying by China within the US government has blocked new F-16 sales to Taiwan." - Defense News, 2012

Furthermore, from a quality perspective, the Su-35 outclasses both of the most advanced fighter aircraft of the Taiwanese Air Force: the F-CK-1 Ching-kuo and F-16A Block 20. The $5.3 billion dollar upgrade package for Taiwan's existing 145 F-16A aircraft will mitigate recent acquisitions of the PLAAF to some extent but not fully equalize the balance of power. If policy makers in Washington desire to off-set both the quantitative and qualitative decline of the ROCAF relative to the PLAAF, the sale of either new F-16C/D Block 50/52+ or F/A-18E/F Super Hornets is required. Defense Industry Daily notes the current upgrade package which is seen as a compromise has the potential of being the worst possible solution.

"They attempted to thread the needle by offering more advanced technology than the equipment in F-16 Block 52s, which have been sold to countries like China’s ally, Pakistan. The question is whether this is actually a worst-of-all-possible worlds outcome: showing weakness abroad on Taiwan, failing to extend the F-16 production line and American jobs at home, and offering cutting-edge technology that risks falling into the hands of Chinese intelligence."

However, the sale of new aircraft to Taiwan is not necessarily recommended by the author as it has the potential to be highly detrimental to current PRC-USA relations.


Taiwanese  F-CK-1 Ching-kuo aircraft

Although most observers agree the immediate strategic impact of a singular new Chinese fighter squadron is limited for the United States, the sale will allow Chinese engineers to inspect some of the most recent advancements in Russian engine technology. Despite the numerous reliability and performance based problems with existing reverse engineered copies of Russian Flanker systems, Chinese aerospace engineers gained invaluable insight into Russian systems from the last sale of Flankers to the PLAAF in the 1990s. The lessons learned from the original Russian Flankers was applied to indigenous fighter development programs like the J-10, J-11B, and J-15 to at least a moderate degree of success.

"In September 2010, for instance, Reuben Johnson reported in Jane’s Defense Weekly that PLAAF Overhaul Plant Number 5719 had developed an upgrade for the AL-31F that extended its service life from 900 to 1,500 flight hours. Russian specialists viewed this achievement as 'another example of how the technology sold to the Chinese during the 1990s has now been fully assimilated by them. It is only a matter of time before the engines that China produces will be as good as or better than anything designed here in Russia.'” - Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, 2012

The engine of the Su-35, the AL-41FA1 in particular is sought by China. Many observers note that an engine of the AL-41FA1 caliber is necessary to power the heavy J-20 airframe. Some note that even if the J-20 is equipped with twin 32,000 pound afterburning AL-41FA1 engines, the J-20 will not meet its full potential.

"It’s not obvious from the grainy photos of the J-20 what engines the plane currently uses, but it’s probably safe to assume they’re Russian AL-31Fs — still the best engines China reliably has access to. However, the AL-31F is clearly inadequate for the apparently heavy J-20. Even the up-rated 117S version of the AL-31F 'would likely not be sufficient to extract the full performance potential of this advanced airframe,' Kopp and Goon wrote. To perform at its best, the J-20 will probably need purpose-designed motors. And developing those could take a long, long time." - David Axe, 2011

Given China's current problems with the WS-10 engine (domestic copy of ALF-31), its unlikely they will be able to fully reverse engineer the 117S in the near future. However, obtaining 117S engines would at the very least accelerate the progress of domestic engine development programs.

"China’s current pursuit of an Su-35 purchase agreement with Russia primarily reflects a desire to gain access to the NPO Saturn/Lyulka117S engine, a next-generation follow-on to the Su-27’s AL-31F engine, to try to reduce development time for Chinese engine programs."  - Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, 2012

If China gains momentum in its domestic jet engine development programs, the implications have the potential to be significant for the USAF. US and allied forces in the region enjoy a significant advantage in terms of both the reliability and performance of their turbofan engines. Even if Chinese engineers produce a final product that inferior to the 117S, domestically produced Chinese engines will close the gap with Western and Russian manufactures by a considerable margin.


J-20 from the rear


Lada Class Attack Submarines


The sale of Lada class submarines would give Chinese submarine manufactures a glimpse at Russian air independent propulsion technology (AIP). The addition of AIP to China's domestic submarine force would be very problematic for US and allied nations in the region.

Why AIP is important:

One of the inherent disadvantages to diesel electric submarines is the engine requires air for the engine to function meaning the submarine has to surface intermittently for air. While at the surface, the submarine is vulnerable to detection. The solution in older diesel submarines was to incorporate large lead batteries that could be charged by the engine; the use of these batteries would permit the submarine to function for a few hours without having to surface for air. Snorkels could also be used to feed the engine air while remaining under water but the submarine still had to remain fairly close to the surface. The next generation of diesel electric submarines incorporate greatly enhanced AIP capability which enables them to remain underwater for much longer periods of time (Whitman, 2001). AIP is most often achieved in modern diesel electric submarines with the addition of fuel cells (e.g. hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells). Depending upon the speed at which the submarine is traveling while AIP is activated, the AIP equipped submarine could remain submerged for more than a week as opposed to hours. As an added benefit, the use of fuel cells greatly reduces the noise generated by boat as the engine is not used for propulsion while AIP is activated.

The addition of Lada class submarine is the most recent example of China's Navy modernization program.

"In the 1990s, the PLA(N) began to acquire a variety of advanced aircraft, submarines and surface ships, as well as associated modern weapons, sensors and combat systems. Using a combination of imported technology, reverse engineering, and indigenous development, the PRC rapidly narrowed the technology and capability gaps between the PLA(N) and modern navies...Currently, the submarine force consists of six nuclear attack submarines, three nuclear ballistic missile submarines, and 53 diesel attack submarines. Over the next 10 to 15 years, primarily due to the introduction of new diesel-electric and air independent power (AlP) submarines, the force is expected to increase incrementally in size to approximately 75 submarines." - Office of Naval Intelligence, 2009

While China has been aggressively expanding the capabilities of its submarine force, the Taiwanese Navy has technologically stagnated in comparison. Taiwan's most modern submarine, the Hai Lung-class, are based off of the US Barbel-class submarine which was originally designed in the 1950s (the last diesel electric submarines produced by the United States). The other two submarines operated by the Taiwanese Navy are one Trench class submarine (upgraded to Guppy II standard) and an upgraded Balao-class submarine produced during World War II.  Taiwan's need for capable diesel electric attack submarines is arguably more pressing than its need for new F-16C/D Block 50/52+ aircraft due to the deployment of PAC-2, PAC-3, Skybow II, and Skybow III missiles batteries.

"Shuai Hua-ming, a key legislator in the LY’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee, visited Washington on February 10-11, and reaffirmed Taiwan’s need for subs. In an address to the United States on May 12, 2011, President Ma reiterated Taiwan’s need to buy F- 16C/D fighters and submarines, primarily for leverage in political negotiations with Beijing. Some, such as former Pentagon official Mark Stokes, have cited submarines for Taiwan’s survival, credible deterrence and asymmetrical advantages. In January 2013, President Ma said that Taiwan’s aging submarines need replacements, when he met with a congressional delegation led by Representatives Ed Royce and Eliot Engel, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who saw one of Taiwan’s two 1940s-era ex-U.S. Guppy II class subs at a naval base a day earlier." - Shirley A. Kan - Congressional Research Service, 2013

A capable submarine force would tremendously bolster Taiwan's chances of delaying or crippling a PRC maritime invasion force.

"Submarines are capable of either destroying efforts to cross the strait, or strangling Chinese trade as it moves through Southeast Asia’s key choke points. Modern missiles give them vastly longer offensive reach, and modern submarines are very difficult to find and target once they put to sea. For a nation like Taiwan, they’re the ultimate conventional deterrent against invasion." -  Defense Industry Daily, 2013

Taiwan is the most negatively affected by the Chinese purchase of new Russian arms. However, purchase of this magnitude might be able to convenience the United States Congress to approve of further weapon sales. However, the sale of new submarines to Taiwan would be difficult as the United States no longer manufactures diesel electric submarines and no country aside from the United States has dared to sell weapons to Taiwan within the last decade. 

Sources


  1. China Purchasing Russian Jets and Subs? Harry Kazianis - The Diplomat, 2013. http://thediplomat.com/china-power/china-purchasing-russian-jets-and-subs/
  2. China to buy Lada-class subs, Su-35 fighters from Russia, Choi Chi-yuk, 2013. http://www.scmp.com/news/china/article/1199448/china-buy-russian-fighters-submarines
  3. China's New Jet, Radar Complicate US Posture, WENDELL MINNICK - Defense News, 2013. http://www.defensenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013307060004
  4. China Tries To Expand Control as Taiwan Resists: Report, WENDELL MINNICK - Defense News, 2012. http://www.defensenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012308280011
  5. CRS Report Reviews Taiwan Security, U.S. Relations, WENDELL MINNICK - Defense News, 2012. http://www.defensenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012305240003
  6. Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990, Shirly A. Khan - Congressional Reserach Service, 2012. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/row/RL30957.pdf
  7. Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990, Shirly A. Khan - Congressional Reserach Service, 2013. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/RL30957.pdf
  8. Import or Die: Taiwan’s (Un?)Stalled Force Modernization, Defense Industry Daily, 2013. http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/taiwans-unstalled-force-modernization-04250/
  9. Raytheon Looks At Options For Long-Range AIM-9, Bill Sweetman - Aviation Week, 2013. http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/awx_06_19_2013_p0-589808.xml
  10. AIM-9X Block III to Become a BVR Missile, Defense Update, 2013. http://defense-update.com/20130722_aim-9x-block-iii-to-become-a-bvr-missile.html
  11. U.S. Navy Follows U.K. Lead On Infrared Systems, Bill Sweetman - Aviation Week, 2013. http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/AW_07_08_2013_p26-593339.xml&p=1
  12. 6 Weapons That Love the New Pentagon Budget, Spencer Ackerman, 2013. http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/04/six-weapons-budget/?pid=1833&viewall=true
  13. Taiwan Gives Up On Partial F-16C/D Release, WENDELL MINNICK - Defense News, 2013. http://www.defensenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013303200022
  14. Lockheed Awarded Taiwan F-16 Upgrade, WENDELL MINNICK - Defense News, 2013. http://www.defensenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012310030001
  15. Still-Vigorous Asian Budgets Focus on Naval, Air Forces. WENDELL MINNICK - Defense News, 2013. http://www.defensenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012310240003
  16. Time Running Out for Taiwan if Russia Releases S-400 SAM, WENDELL MINNICK - Defense News, 2013. http://www.defensenews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2013305270012
  17. F-16 Fighting Falcon, General Dynamics. http://www.fighter-planes.com/info/f16.htm
  18. Russia’s SU-35 Super-Flanker: Mystery Fighter No More, Defense Industry Daily, 2013. http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/Russias-SU-35-Mystery-Fighter-No-More-04969/
  19. The “Long Pole in the Tent”: China’s Military Jet Engines, Andrew Erickson and Gabe Collins, 2012.  http://thediplomat.com/2012/12/09/the-long-pole-in-the-tent-chinas-military-jet-engines/?all=true
  20. Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks: Taiwan’s F-16 Upgrade, James Hardy, 2012.  http://thediplomat.com/2012/11/26/taiwans-f-16-upgrade-creeps-forward-slowly/?all=true
  21. China’s Jet Fighter Surprise, David Axe, 2013. https://medium.com/war-is-boring/e7dd4741d89f
  22. Chengdu J-XX [J-20] Stealth Fighter Prototype A Preliminary Assessment, Carlo Kopp & Peter Goon, 2011. http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-J-XX-Prototype.html
  23. F-35 Design, Global Security, 2011. www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/aircraft/f-35-design.htm‎
  24. http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2013/03/25/after-a-decade-long-wait-china-and-russia-ink-super-jet-military-deal/
  25. Nanjing Military Region, Global Security, 2013. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/china/nanjing-mr.htm
  26. F-22 scores direct hit in supersonic, high-altitude JDAM drop, Mike Hanlon, 2006.
  27. http://www.gizmag.com/go/5721/
  28. Russia’s PAK-FA versus the F-22 and F-35, Peter Goon & Carlo Kopp, 2009. http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-NOTAM-300309-1.html
  29. Almaz-Antey 40R6 / S-400 Triumf  Self Propelled Air Defence System / SA-21, Carlo Kopp, 2012. http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-S-400-Triumf.html
  30. Small Diameter Bomb, Boeing, 2013. http://www.boeing.com/boeing/defense-space/missiles/sdb/
  31. AIR-INDEPENDENT PROPULSION, Edward C. Whitman, 2001.  http://www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/n87/usw/issue_13/propulsion.htm

18 comments:

  1. The Connolly Amendment attached to the NDAA passed the House. This amendment directs the sale of sixty six F-16 C/D's.

    http://connolly.house.gov/news/connolly-amendment-to-sell-f16-aircraft-to-taiwan-passes-house/

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    1. That's good to hear but I doubt that provision will survive the Senate; the House often passes legislation it knows will be blocked or heavily altered in the Senate. Gotta love Congress!

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  2. Matt another Great Job, thanks for doing the Article. :-) Well done!

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  3. If you have time have a look at this matt. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=en_tqlaOeqw

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    1. Thanks stone30 for the reference, Andrew Erickson is a always great resource. I'll probably end up citing this as a source in my current article, Defeating China's Anti-Access Strategy: The US Perspective Part II - Increasing US Force Survivability. I've been doing a lot of research of the DF-21D and fleet defense systems in particular as of late. Man that sucks all the good sources are in Chinese! Too bad I recently switched to German in college instead of continuing Chinese from high school (I took 3 years). If you come across anything else interesting, let me know I'd love to see it.

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  4. If China really does get their hands on the new S-400 along with its existing S-300 SAM batteries, I think that something similar like the Raytheon's MALD (Miniature Air-Launched Decoy) would benefit Taiwan favorably in disrupting the PLA's Integrated Air Defense systems to some extent while the ROC Air Force would locate and destroy the PLA's air defense nodes with joint stand-off weapons and anti-radiation missiles as soon the MALD is deployed to confuse the PLA's IADS.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0acJ3xyhaJo
    http://www.raytheon.com/capabilities/products/mald/

    I don't know how well the upgraded F-16A/Bs would fare against the Su-35, but since China is only going to buy about 24 of the Su-35s as opposed to Taiwan's 145 upgraded F-16A/Bs backed by a number of upgraded IDF Fighters and Mirage 2000-5s, I don't think the Su-35s would be a game-changer entirely in PLA's favor. But if things really do get out of hand, then the U.S should definitely purpose the sale of 66 upgraded F-16C/D Block 50/52s to Taiwan.

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    1. MALD would be an interesting addition to the Taiwanese armed forces but its principally an offensive weapon while the mission of the Taiwanese armed forces is inherently defensive. It would make sense in a scenario where Taiwan needed to disable long range SAM sites in mainland China, e.g. to protect Taiwanese AWACS aircraft from the S-400 or the HQ-19 (the Chinese equivalent under development: http://news.usni.org/2014/06/09/chinese-weapons-worry-pentagon)

      It hard to gauge how many Taiwanese aircraft would be available to preform offensive strikes against targets in mainland China while Taiwan is under attack. As for the Su-35, I think your right. Its not a game changer in limited numbers though on an individual performance basis the Su-35 is in another league when compared to the proposed upgraded F-16A/B force. Particularly the Irbis-E radar & R-37M or K-77M combination would grant the Su-35 with a major stand off range against the Taiwanese force armed with only AIM-120C-7 rather than the AIM-120D (which has 50% increased range but is banned for export). I would also agree that the sale of 66 F-16C/Ds would be great but it looks like its politically not going to happen. Frankly numbers are the great disparity for Taiwan as it can't get the highest grade quality equipment like F-22s.

      I don't know how much you read with respect to politics but you might like Hillary Clinton, she has a reputation for being a China hawk (which has the Chinese concerned for 2016): http://thediplomat.com/2014/07/imagining-u-s-china-relations-under-president-hillary-clinton/

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    2. I'd reckon that even a limited number of MALD would still serve Taiwan's defensive role despite being offensive with respect to the MALD in order to confuse and then take out most of the mainland's SAMs (The S-400 being the top priority) and radar sites as well as their air base and Command and Control nodes for that exact reason as you pointed out, to protect its most critical assets like the E-2 Hawkeyes, C-130 transport planes, P-3 Maritime Anti-Submarine Planes, Aerial-Fuel Tankers etc. so that Taiwan could still maintain some control in the air. Perhaps Taiwan could possibly make their own version of the MALD if the U.S doesn't sell them some.

      Assuming the ROC Air Force are well-prepared to defend their air base and save as much aircrafts being protected by hardened underground hangers from the PLA's second artillery units and air force pounding them with everything they have. I think that a considerable number of ROC's upgraded F-16A/B and the IDF Fighters would still enter the fight, even if some would probably get damaged or destroyed. A fleet of Su-35, and the J-20 & J-31 would indeed be a major headache for Taiwan, but again, the question is can the PLA really afford to have a considerable amount of them and then marshal those advanced fighters into combat fast enough? Aside from the new SABR AESA radar being retrofitted on the F-16A/Bs, ROC Air Force could sure really benefit to outfit their F-16A/Bs and possibly their IDF Fighters with IRST pods, improved radar warning receivers, and electronic jamming and countermeasure equipment in order to really keep up with the PLA's most advanced fighters (Su-35, J-20 & J-31, etc.).

      With respect to Hillary Clinton, she is an interesting one.. Bill Clinton did after all sent in its Carrier Strike Group near the Taiwan Strait to sent a strong signal to the mainland China once. So perhaps if she did run for President in 2016, she might just give the Communist Party of China a major headache and some boost of morale not only to ROC Taiwan, but also to Japan, Philippines, etc. Maybe Clinton might even seriously considered proposing a possible sale of 66 upgraded F-16C/D Block50/52's to Taiwan finally? Who knows, unless an incident like the Senkaku Islands were to break out between China and Japan. Or even the CCP's handling of the pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong that suddenly goes seriously wrong similar to what happened in 1989 Tianammen Square Massacre, with strong sanctions coming into play.

      Delete
  5. With respect to the MALD being an offensive weapon, I think that it would still serve its defensive role for Taiwan in limited numbers in order to confuse and then take out most of the mainland's SAMs (The S-400 being the top priority) and radar sites as well as their air base and Command and Control nodes for that exact reason as you pointed out, to protect its most critical assets like the E-2 Hawkeyes, C-130 transport planes, P-3 Maritime Anti-Submarine Planes, Aerial-Fuel Tankers etc. so that Taiwan could still maintain some control in the air. Perhaps Taiwan could possibly make their own version of the MALD if the U.S doesn't sell them some.

    Assuming the ROC Air Force are well-prepared to defend their air base and save as much aircrafts being protected by hardened underground hangers from the PLA's second artillery units and air force pounding them with everything they have. I think that a considerable number of ROC's upgraded F-16A/B and the IDF Fighters would still enter the fight, even if some would probably get damaged or destroyed. A fleet of Su-35, and the J-20 & J-31 would indeed be a major headache for Taiwan, but again, the question is can the PLA really afford to have a considerable amount of them and then marshal those advanced fighters into combat fast enough? Aside from the new SABR AESA radar being retrofitted on the F-16A/Bs, ROC Air Force could sure outfit their F-16A/Bs and possibly their IDF Fighters with IRST pods, improved radar warning receivers, and electronic jamming and countermeasure equipment in order to really keep up with the PLA's most advanced fighters (Su-35, J-20 & J-31, etc.) at this point. I'm curious, does the 66 F-16C/D that Taiwan is trying to get will also include the features found in the V-variant such as the AESA Radar, new mission computers, cockpit displays and so fourth or just simply the regular block 50/52?

    With respect to Hillary Clinton, she is an interesting one.. Bill Clinton did after all sent in its Carrier Strike Group near the Taiwan Strait to sent a strong signal to the mainland China once. So perhaps if she did run for President in 2016, she might just give the Communist Party of China a major headache and some boost of morale not only to ROC Taiwan, but also to Japan, Philippines, etc. Maybe Clinton might even seriously considered proposing a possible sale of 66 upgraded F-16C/D Block50/52's to Taiwan finally? Who knows, unless an incident like the Senkaku Islands were to break out between China and Japan. Or even the CCP's handling of the pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong that suddenly goes seriously wrong similar to what happened in 1989 Tianammen Square Massacre, with strong sanctions coming into play.

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    1. I'll have a more substantial comment shortly (I've just had a lot school work as of late) but I thought you might enjoy this article about hardened Taiwanese command and control facilities: http://thediplomat.com/2014/09/taiwan-asias-secret-air-power/

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    2. Yup, an interesting article just to show you how much potential Taiwan has and how strategically important it is for the U.S and its allies in the region to deter against the PLA threat.

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    3. As for the ability of the PLAAF and PLANAF to acquire advanced aircraft, I'd say the will given the steady rates of growth in the military budget. Over the next ten years there are no credible major reasons they cannot modernize at the pace they have over the last decade, which as been tremendous. Not only have the platforms employed by the PLAAF improved e.g. Su-27, J-10, J-11 relative to the J-7 (Chinese Mig-21 knock off) which comprised most of its fighter fleet a decade ago but also the training of its pilots.

      "Chinese pilots now average well over 100 hours of flight time per year, and the pilots of the most-advanced fighters are believed to receive close to 200 hours per year...

      The improvement in training and systems within the PLAAF and a series of recommendations to the USAF and Taiwan is detailed in the RAND report quoted above: http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monographs/2011/RAND_MG915.pdf


      My understanding is the proposed 66 F-16 sale are the Block 50/52+ variant. The actual ongoing upgrade for Taiwan's existing F-16A Block 20 fleet will be upgraded to the V standard: http://www.janes.com/article/42231/f-16v-radar-integration-clears-way-for-taiwan-upgrade

      I honestly think Lockheed Martin should upgrade the F-16 beyond the V status as I detail here:

      http://manglermuldoon.blogspot.com/2014/01/miscalculation-need-for-new-us-fighter_13.html

      If Taiwan had F-16s similar to the upgrades that I proposed, which are well within Lockheed Martin's abilities and cost, then I think they would be much better suited to address the disparity in numbers. Heavily upgraded F-16s are about the best short of the F-35 that Taiwan is going to be able to acquire.

      The democratic demonstrations in Hong Kong will be interesting to watch, but I doubt they realistically have much hope in terms of establishing a liberal democracy with autonomy.

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    4. While the heavily upgraded F-16 sounds like and all as you implied it to be for Taiwan, I don't think that it's likely for Lockheed Martin to invest such upgrades for the F-16 beyond the V-variant. Plus there's an issue on whether or not the U.S will be selling these new aircrafts to the ROC Air Force anytime soon unless something big happens in the near future such as the Senkaku incident or the CCP's aggressive behavior in handling the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement, etc.

      Though I'm quite curious about Taiwan is that rather than getting the Block 50/52 versions, why didn't they thought about getting the more advanced F-16E/F Block 61s instead? It's got an AESA Radar, IRST pods and conformal-fuel tanks which gives it the ability to out-range and allow it to better track multiple targets compared to the older F-16 models. In addition, it should be similar enough to the current F-16As in Taiwanese inventory to not be a major new venture in the logistics train.

      However, I would absolutely love to see Taiwan get their hands on the French Rafale with most of the upgrades featured which meets Taiwan's requirement to defend its airspace and threats from the PLA including it's latest J-20 & J-31 and possible the Su-35. Considering that Taiwanese have had trouble getting support/upgrades for US made equipment, the fact that the French are willing to support their customers no matter what they've done or who they've allied with is a major plus. So support/upgrades for the Rafale should be easier to obtain from the French than the F-16 from the U.S. It also has twin-engines which allows it to have some redundancy for long-range strikes. It also has a great ground/anti-shipping strike capability from what I can tell.

      As for Hong Kong's struggle for freedom and democracy, sadly I don't think that it's going to end well for these people. :( Hopefully tougher actions from the international community against China would come into play if the CCP government thinks it could get away with the mess they've created like they did in Tianammen Square Massacre in 1989.

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  6. The reason why I think the MALD (Miniature Air Launched Decoy) would best suit Taiwan's Inventory just as much in case China were to get their hands on the S-400 and Su-35 as well as having their J-20 and J-31 operational is basically what they're designed to do, to fool the enemy and have doubts on them. How affordable MALD would be at low-cost as oppose to purchasing new expensive fighters and could really help out the R.O.C's AWACS and other critical assets.

    Let's say China does indeed get the Su-35, while the R.O.C Air Force has launched their MALD decoys, the Su-35 pilot has to fly within visual range to determine whether or not it is a decoy. The decoy doesn't give a shit. So his Su-35 flies into visual (and well into radar range) of the decoy and radios something along the lines of "Nope, don't shoot it is just a decoy" Right as about half a dozen of newly upgraded F-16V Vipers armed with AIM-120C7 air to air missiles locks onto the Su-35 and turns him into the fastest flying stir-fry on the planet because he no longer is fighting in friendly skies, he is out, on his own (or with his other Su-35 squadrons being baited) against an entire attack force of F-16V Vipers and SAMs). That is why decoys work. You have to put a human being in a very expensive jet into harm's way to not waste SAMs. If you aren't going to rely on radar, you have to have your pilot eyeball the target, which is practically impossible in adverse weather (it is easy to risk drones in fog, they aren't that expensive) or at night, where detection without afterburner plume is nearly impossible. MALD could also give the ROC Air Force some edge against the PLAAF numerical fighters into baiting them at the range to fire off its BVR missiles.

    I don't know exactly how effective the MALD would be against the S-400, but I guess it all boils down to the crews on whether or not they would fire off their expensive SAMs at it. Decoys are much more sinister than just a distraction, they make the enemy doubt. You want to ignore it? That is a choice, but you have to know that somewhere you might be wrong.

    By the way, when are you going to make that new article relating to how the US Can Realistically Improve Taiwan's Military Posture? I'd be looking forward to see some analysis soon.

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    1. The Su-35 is equipped with a OLS-35 IRST which has a maximum range of 80-90 km might be able to differentiate a MALD decoy vs. a F-16 but the use of MALD decoys would certainly mitigate the capabilities of the Irbis-E radar. Chinese J-10A, J-11B, and SU-27SK aircraft also feature IRST systems but they are much less powerful than the OLS-35. To the best of my knowledge, the PLAAF has adopted a similar strategy as Russia with respect to utilizing its 4th generation fighter force which basically turns each fighter aircraft into a missile truck to offset the relative quantitative inferiority of PLAAF pilots. Given the numerical superiority, and with each Chinese fighter carrying 6+ beyond visual range radar guided missiles, PLAAF pilots would be undoubtedly inclined to not take any chances and fire volleys of missiles at potential targets. But once again, the MALD would mitigate the disproportionate advantage of the PLAAF working in conjunction with land based S-400 systems but it wouldn't be the singular "solution" to the ROCAF's problems. Although, I’d certainly agree with you that the ROCAF could benefit immensely from acquiring the MALD.
      As part of my research on the J-31, I’ve been reading about Chinese fighter radars and right now American radar systems such as the APG-81 in the F-16V are leaps and bounds ahead of domestic Chinese produced systems, that are known to the public, and Russian systems received during the late 1990s and early 2000s. For example, the N001 Myech equipped on Su-27SK aircraft has a maximum range of 100 km (53.9 nm) and can track 10 targets while engaging one at a time. The APG-81 has a detection range of 165 km + against 5m^2 targets (roughly the size of 4th generation fighter aircraft though the F-16 has a smaller rcs) and the tracked number and engage numbers are classified but I suspect the track number is between 20-30 targets. The AESA on the J-10B and J-20 has the potential to change the radar imbalance but as of now Taiwan is has a huge advantage with the current APG-68 series.
      Haha, I know it’s been a while and I appologize. Unfortunately, grad school applications, studying for the GRE, my thesis prospectus, etc. have taken up most of my spare time. I will likely write the Taiwan article after I finish the J-31 article.

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  7. So now that China has confirmed to acquire the S-400 in their inventory, what are the odds now for Taiwan to acquire some new defense equipment from the US such as newer F-16Vs and MALD decoys to confuse the SAM operators as mentioned earlier before? Of course, the Chinese would be pretty pissed about it unsurprisingly. But don't you think that building new upgraded F-16s to Taiwan would help create new jobs in America with dire needs despite those pressures from the CCP?

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    1. There is a growing shift in Washington towards a more adversarial approach toward China but I doubt new arms sales will occur until another Administration takes over, this is a gradual shift. Before then the chances are slim to none. Pro-China US officials have recently retired and Ashton Carter has been fairly hawkish toward China.

      http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/jun/10/inside-the-ring-ashton-carters-china-remarks-signa/

      Despite the economic benefit to Lockheed and the Fort Worth area from new F-16's there would be a substantial opportunity cost given China's retaliation. I would guess that in Washington's view, the greatest "bang per buck" approach is to shore up Japan, the Philippines, and non-traditional partners such as Vietnam as a means to retain a West Pacific presence rather than Taiwan given the high costs.

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