2025 is Here Early


Ed Timperlake Comments on Air Power Australia’s latest article on “FD-2000/HQ-9 SAM –  China’s Strategic ‘Game Changer’

Peer competition is there

Secretary Gates has basically said by his actions the US has no peer competitors in Generation 5 Fighters. This assumption rests on having no threats which require the capabilities of stealth and the radar and sensor capabilities which the F-22 has now and the F-35 will have in the mid-term.

The F-22’s unique capabilities — super-cruise, stealth and sensors — have been considered by critics as an “expensive investment” which is not necessary to deal with near term problems or threats.  And, de facto, these critics have lumped the F-35 and F-22 into the same capability basic.  The F-35 is a potentially a very capable attack/fighter, although slipping its IOC, but it is not designed for pure Air Dominance as was the F-22.

The F-22’s “super-cruise” capability is an important contributor to air dominance, now and in the future, and makes it truly a unique air asset.  It was always fun to watch the late Col. John Boyd in meetings at the Pentagon railing at individuals who never were in an air-to-air engagement. Col. Boyd was a true force of nature insisting on the best possible fighter for his beloved Air Force. He loved the F-86 bubble canopy, so one just has to look at the F-16 to see his influence.

He also was the strongest possible advocate of “cruise mach”; now called “super cruise.” He was also a firm believer of a significant measure of merit (mom) that captures a fighter’s maneuverability. That measurement of “energy maneuverability” was called P sub s and using that mom the F-22 defeats the flight envelope of the F-35 across the board.

In commenting on the Senate vote killing any further production of the F-22 past 187 Raptors, actually 186 since one was lost in a crash, President Obama’s supporting his Secretary of Defense used a very inappropriate word.  The President said the F-22 was “outdated.”

The President could have used many words to declare victory. However, to state the best Fighter in the history of aviation is seen by the Commander-in -Chief as being “outdated” is really the opposite of “The Right Stuff”—it was “the wrong stuff.”

“The Right Stuff” is the greatest book ever written about US Military Pilots. The book actually evolved from a visit the author Tom Wolf made to an Aircraft Carrier on Yankee Station during the Vietnam War. He penned one of the greatest articles to come out of the Vietnam War—“The Truest Sport: Jousting with Sam and Charlie.”

A Navy F-4, Phantom Crew goes “feet dry” on a mission over North Vietnam and is bagged by a Russian surface to air missile. Often the image of a Fighter engagement is air-to-air. Tom Wolfe brings the reader into the other element—“human skeet” going up against SAMs.

Not only does the air battle depend on Air Dominance against all other Fighters but also the surface-to-air threat has to be negated. And here the US and its allies clearly have peer competitors.

Air Power Australia

“You emit you die”

Now thanks to two articles in Air Power Australia, the Air Forces of the world are being put on notice the PLA has arrived with significantly advanced SAM capability.

WGCDR Chris Mills RAAF has written “FD-2000/ HQ-9 SAM-China’s Strategic ‘Game Changer’ “ and Dr Carlo Kopp and John Wise have added a technical note “HQ-9 and HQ-12 SAM Battery Radar’s” both articles paint a very important and disturbing trend of significant technological prowess by the PLA.

The PRC has a nasty history of stealing weapon systems or “buying” them and then stealing their capability using reverse engineering to exploit any military technology they think important. They then proliferate the weapon to their customers -e.g.Iran.

Remember the US Navy, Marine and Air Force Pilots flying against a third world advisory, North Vietnam, were shot down by technology developed by a peer competitor the USSR.

So if the PLA forces now have announced an advanced radar/SAM system it should be taken very seriously. During the investigations of the influence of Chinese money into the American political system in the Clinton years it became very obvious the PRC had acquired significant American military technology. The Cox/Dicks Congressional Investigation nails that point.

Consequently, it would be fair to say because of stealing from America through espionage and also open purchase from the Russians the center of knowledge about the technology of all things military may now rest in China. One can be thankful that so far that PRC quality assurance in the development of advanced weapons may still be their weakness.

However, the important points made by the Australians are to take the CHICOMs very seriously. Consequently, one must respect their analysis, especially since the PLA also believes in the military principle of Mass. Until proven other wise and technological counter measures are developed the world needs to be very concerned.

For a 21st Century Air Campaign the rule must always be —go up against American Air Forces—  “you emit you die.” The Australian team has highlighted something very important.

The US has only one smart move and to use a polite euphemism  “buy” or even stated more bluntly steal the PLA system and see what it is capable of accomplishing. Also a good mission for offensive “Cyber” is to get as much as possible—after all turn about is fair play.

The test will simply be by looking at the hardware and software can the US figure out how the system can be defeated. The USAF must be capable of focusing on a kill shot using a HARM, or spoofing by electronic counter measures both of which could be the F-35’s forte.

So far the USAF also hopefully has an advantage with a fighter and bomber capable of flying in a flight envelope that can’t be touched- advantage to B-2 and F-22. The F-35’s capabilities will come into play as the aircraft is introduced in numbers.

However it is important that DNI should get one, after all he was previously an Admiral defending the Pacific, and look at it. The Defense Intelligence Agency can be very capable and one hopes even with cut backs their scientists and engineers hands-on the system can resolve a lot of issues. However, with absolutely no personal knowledge of any acquisition/exploitation effort, one could hope that the US may already have the complete system.


***Posted December 12th, 2009