How can China handle US stealth fighters like the F-22 and F-35?

Once the F-22s are airborne, there isn’t anything in the PRC’s military arsenal that can touch them. The F-22 has no peer in air to air combat and F-22s flying from their air bases close to China can shut down any airspace they can cover with their range and munitions.

There’s talk about China’s development of the J-20 and J-31 and how they can go toe to toe with the F-22 but this is incorrect in my opinion: These aircraft were not designed to fight other stealth fighters like the F-22. They were built to use their stealth to engage support aircraft like AWACs, Air refuellers, Recon aircraft and non-stealth combat aircraft using their long range missiles and with their stealth being used to hide them from counter retaliation from F-22s and F-35s in the area as much as possible.

In effect, the J-20 and J-31 are stealth so they can operate in the same airspace as a hostile F-22 with their stealth as a protective measure from the F-22’s radar.

The Chinese media and public may offer up certain military capabilities to assure the nation that they have assets comparable to the F-22 for domestic political consumption, but the Chinese military understands well that there is nothing in their arsenal that can threaten an F-22 once it’s airborne. Any non-stealth assets they have will be shot down before they even get close and the stealth assets are too valuable to be thrown against F-22s, they are better used being preserved for missions against the support infrastructure that surrounds the F-22. With the understanding that the performance of the F-22 would degrade overall if too many support aircraft fall victim to long range missiles from PLAAF stealth fighters.

This doesn’t mean that the PRC has nothing in it’s arsenal to go against the F-22. What they do have is just not the PLAAF, it’s the PRC rocket force.

I have been writing about this subject a bit in the past, so I’ll quote from an older answer here:

However, the US lead in stealth has some major problems that should be addressed. The problem is the basing of these stealth fighters. The US has 6 major bases in Japan and 1 in Guam. The USAF does not use the 80–90 airbases that the Japanese air force uses, and this might be because of how the US wants to control access to it’s stealth fighters but also because it has to equip its bases with perform the complex maintenance that it’s stealth fighters require.

So in theory, there’s only 7 total major bases you can place your stealth fighters at where you can control access to them and also do the whole fancy maintenance they require like re-applying coating etc.

That is…not good, because it means the Chinese don’t have to worry about shooting down these stealth fighters. They just need to concentrate their ballistic missile bombardment on those 7 bases with stealth fighters to knock those bases out or at least interdict operations out of them.

The USAF has realized this problem and are trying to see if they can spread the fighters out a bit more to the 90 bases the Japanese operate but it’s still a work in progress.

There is one other thing: There’s something called the “German Disease” where you get trapped in the idea that as long as you make a VERY high quality platform, it’s gonna be worth 10 of the enemy’s platforms and that’s better than matching the enemy head to head. This is very seductive thinking for a wealthier, more technically advanced power. But it means you are fighting a war with platforms you aren’t willing to lose which is not a good proposition.

The F-22 is a bit of a German Disease for the USAF because there’s only like 170 of them left and they aren’t making any more of them. Each F-22 lost is a permanent loss for the USAF and if a war against China drags on and attrition becomes a factor, a lot of these very high quality assets that the USAF isn’t willing to lose will need to be pulled from the theater after a while once their losses reach 33% per squadron. Now, no one has ever fought the US in a conventional war since Vietnam and managed to drag it out.

But if that does happen, and the US is losing say 2 F-22s a day on average from ballistic missile strikes on bases, losses due to accidents, very rare occasions when an F-22 is show down by the Chinese, this kind of loss rate might start to hurt a month into the conflict. And the USAF would have to withdraw the F-22s at some point so they still have some left in reserve and put the 4.5+ Gens into the missions the F-22s were doing. Very rare a war would last that long with China and for that high a loss rate, but you never know. The F-22s would primarily suffer more from being forced away from their 7 bases in the first island chain and being forced to operate at their max ranges from second island chain bases, but the loss rate from conflict as well in a long war cant be ignored.

Usama Ahmad’s answer to How does the US military currently compare against the Chinese military?

The US may be planning for a short war with China given their preference for Shock and Awe tactics using their overwhelming conventional strength, but as the old axiom goes: Those who plan for short wars tend to lose long ones.

The current concentration of F-22s (and possible F-35s) in seven major basis is not just a threat to the platforms themselves though but the pilots as well.

Recall that the Iranian bombardment of US military bases was done in a way that they deliberately avoided targeting areas where US troops were housed to avoid escalation but they still fired in the proximity of the base to send a message.

This bombardment led to major health issues in US troops stationed on those bases:

A total of 50 U.S. service members suffered traumatic brain injury from this month’s Iranian missile attack on Iraqi bases hosting U.S. troops, the Defense Department said Tuesday.

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, can include concussions. Of the 50 patients, 31 were treated in Iraq and have returned to duty, Army Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said in a statement.

More U.S. service members diagnosed with brain injury from Iran missile attack

F-22 pilots aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, and they are pretty much elite pilots of whom a limited pool exists. The impact on their physical health from being stationed on seven bases under intense ballistic missile bombardment leads to the question of pilot attrition rather than F-22 attrition: That is, can the Chinese cause enough physical degradation in the health of F-22 pilots with constant missile bombardment to the point that there aren’t enough pilots in forward positions left to carry out a large enough number of sorties to make a difference in combat. Say you are into week 2 of the war and approximately 40% of your pilots have suffered brain injuries from the bombardment (if not killed outright). You might have to drop your F-22 sortie rate from say 100 a week to 40 a week to conserve your pilots and your aircraft assets (i’m not even taking into account sorties reduced due to airbase disruptions from the missile strikes).

This has the effect of reducing the effectiveness and presence of the F-22 to make a meaningful difference in the overall war without actually having to shoot down the F-22.

The solution, as mentioned above is to distribute your stealth fighters across the 90 bases the Japanese have and hope this dilutes the effectiveness of Chinese missile strikes but with a significant increase in your resources spent equipping all these bases to carry out the complex maintenance an F-22 requires (the stealth coating itself is a hassle), making sure the bases are secured from PRC spies trying to get close to F-22s and that all of these bases are capable of withstanding a PRC rocket force barrage.


There is of course the option of trying to knock out PRC missile bases on the mainland to reduce the barrage. But for the most part, even with all the US’s recon and surveillance capabilities, I doubt they can stop the movement and operations of these in a meaningful manner:

The PRC ballistic missile force’s primary goal is to make US bases unusable. The short range missiles are aimed at the US bases in Okinawa while the more medium range missiles are designed to disrupt operations from bases in Japan.

And the DF-26 is designed to make even operations from bases like Guam risky if not maybe as disrupted as the other bases.

The PRC ballistic missile threat is in part inspired by the US military’s failure to effectively hunt and destroy SCUDs in Iraq during the first Gulf War. Which leads the PRC to believe that if they have mobile, solid fueled missile systems, they would not be as prone to destruction from US military forces and pose a considerable threat for the duration of any war with the US. These kinds of missiles are hard to hunt, can quickly break from cover, set up and fire before the enemy can fire back at them.

With a mobile missile system like the SCUD, you have a 15 minute window to detect and destroy it once it breaks from cover. This is currently not within the capability of the US military.

Source: Usama Ahmad’s answer to How does the US military currently compare against the Chinese military?

My current feeling is that, for the most part, Japanese and US bases will see a constant stream of attacks from the Chinese Strategic Rocket force that will disrupt and hinder operations for the duration of the war (or till the Chinese run out of missiles).

There are unseen variables here. How well the US changes up their base designs, how well they integrate their airforce elements with Japanese airbases to withstand missile bombardment (particularly after reflecting on the lessons of the Iranian missile strike).

There are also unseen variables on the side of the Chinese: What’s the state of their strategic Rocket Force? The current reports coming out of China are that the Strategic Rocket Force (BTW I think their new name is Strategic Support Force) are the worst in terms of mental and physical health among all the armed forces. They spend long amounts of time underground away from sunlight, exposed to chemicals in the air from rocket fuel which is above the health and safety limit. The morale isn’t exactly peak and unit readiness obviously has to be called into question.

The Chinese are trying to improve this through a number of fronts: Increasing the rotation of troops so they spend less time underground due to shorter stints, more VR based training to help them deal with the stress of war when their positions are being bombed and they are constantly hunted when out on mobile launchers, increased access to mental health facilities.

People often forget that war is at the end of the day fought by people, not just platforms. The same way the Traumatic brain injuries of an F-22 pilot can determine the war, the mental health and lung damage of a PRC Rocket force soldier can also determine it.


The PLAAF has done it’s own bit of upgrading and modernizing their force structures. They have broken down from the soviet era brigade structures to smaller structures called flights (similar to squadrons in the west). They have increased the level of pilot participation in flight planning, increased the pilot autonomy in the air and moved away from ground based interception tactics. They have their own Red vs Blue exercises and VR training programs as well.

However, my guess is that these won’t make difference in preparing the PLAAF for fighting against F-22s for the simple reason that even USAF pilots in F-15s and F-16s who are veterans are unable to beat F-22s in air combat. The tech gap is simply too large.

The only benefit of these modernizations I see is that the J-20 pilots whose job it is to skim around the F-22s, using their stealth to protect themselves from the F-22’s missiles, can carry out more effective missions hunting the support aircraft that support the F-22s.


There are some last issues that could impact how China’s fight against American American stealth fighters will play out:

  1. American Production Lines
  2. American Joint operations with allies

On the issue of production lines:

The F-35 production line right now is 15 aircraft a month at peak production. This is considered low by some standards but to be honest, considering that it’s a very advanced fighter it doesn’t seem to matter much. The problem however, is that this is under the assumption that every single F-35 produced will be deployed against China which is not true because the US has to manage multiple theaters (Russia-Europe, Home Air Bases etc.).

Also, the F-35 is a multi national project, so those 15 F-35s being made every month have to shared between 12 Airforces, 1 Marine Corp and 2 Navies across the planet. Further reducing the number of stealth fighters the US can deploy against China.

Source: Usama Ahmad’s answer to How does the US military currently compare against the Chinese military?

At the moment the US has built around 600 F-35s but not all of them have been deployed against the PRC in the Pacific theater. A good chunk of these have gone to allied forces who might not participate in a war against China or to squadrons the US might not redeploy to the Pacific. The 15 a month production line means it will be some time till the US can field the same hundreds of F-15s/F16s/F-18s that they fielded against Iraq or deployed around Iran.

The F-22 has no production lines anymore so every F-22 lost is a permanent loss.

The PRC on the other hand gets to field every single stealth fighter they build to the Pacific theater and don’t have to share the production lines with allied forces.

But as discussed above, this might be a bit of a moot point since the PRC could deploy their J-20s or J-31s to missions that don’t bring much chance of air to air combat against other stealth fighters.

The second is that the US has to coordinate military activities with allies like Japan and Taiwan. NATO and the US-South Korean militaries are heavily integrated already at the moment but it’s unclear how well the US and Japanese militaries or the US and Taiwanese militaries will work together. The Pentagon bureaucracy is appallingly bad while the US works with militaries world wide, actively integrating them into the overall command structure led by the US for a war against China is a bit of a new thing for them to do.

The PRC, being a single entity, does not face this problem.


Missile Defense and Missile Defeat

The US has begun to understand the lethality of the Chinese missile arsenal and the threat it poses to US naval and airpower assets in the Pacific which is why they have begun to invest in the idea of 2 forms of counter missile operations:

  1. Missile Defense
  2. Missile Defeat

The missile defense aspect is the idea that you have platforms capable of shooting down enemy missiles in a way that moves away from the kinetic interceptor technology of today.

The current interceptor technology of Patriots and THAADs are incredibly expensive which is why you can only deploy them in a low density manner to counter isolated missile launches such as ICBMs from North Korea.

The cost of individual interceptors is so high that you would bankrupt yourself making enough of them to shoot down missiles that cost a fraction of the interceptor’s cost. If you are building 2 $50 million dollar interceptors to shoot down 1 $10 million dollar missile, you are bankrupting yourself.

The only cost effective way to shoot down swarms of Chinese missiles is using energy based weapons but that is not something that’s deployable today as the technology is still being developed.

Missile Defeat is the second form of defense: Where you saturate your conflict zone with sensors so that you can have longer early warnings of missile launches and be able to target them and defeat the missile launches before they actually launch. So basically, solve the problem of the 15 minute window that the US faced when scud hunting in the Iraqi desert.

This is currently being developed as well and is not in a finalized solution.

And of course, the Chinese aren’t sitting around either and will come up with ways to counter energy based missile defense and sensor networks attempting to defeat missile launches.


At the end of the day, the US military is no joke and the F-22 is probably the single most deadliest fighter ever created, probably even more so than the F-35 which funnily enough is crippling the US economy in peacetime with it’s $30–50,000 dollar per hour maintenance cost.

Stealth fighters are great to have in a war but terrible to have in a peace and at a time when US social unrest is at an all time high due to economic inequalities, perhaps the greatest threat to F-22s are congressional budget hearings rather than any weapon in the Chinese arsenal.

Nevertheless, the PRC has been investing heavily in denial weapons that would deny free air and sea access to the US military operating close to the Chinese seaboard (and keep them away from Taiwan).

One potential scenario is that assuming the US doesn’t rebase the F-22s to the 90 Japanese air-fields but keeps them concentrated in the current 8 or so bases they have:

The F-22s would probably not face that many losses from missile strikes but pilot rotation would have be high due to high churn over because of mental/physical strain from constant Chinese missile bombardments on F-22 airfields. F-22s would be more at risk of malfunction due to disruptions in their maintenance routines because of missile strikes. They would probably also fly lower numbers of sorties than optimal because of constant bombardment and these would normally be air defense or air escort sorties for aircraft trying to get closer to the Chinese sea board for recon or to disrupt Chinese air support for any potential invasion of Taiwan. They could also be used for strike missions on the mainland on high value military targets that non-stealth fighters would not be able to reach.

Edit: Thanks to Walter Tak in the comments pointing out that a fully loaded F-22 might only be restricted to hitting coastal targets rather than anything deep inside Chinese territory due to range limitations.

The F-22s would have to face several situations where they were operating at the edge of their combat radius because of the constant threat to air refuellers from Chinese stealth aircraft that would utilize their stealth to hunt for USAF/Japanese AWACS, EW, Recon and Refueling platforms in contested airspace. The F-22s would also be paired with a drone UCAV wingman that the F-22 would control remotely when operating in high-danger environments where the F-22 can’t be risked and a remotely piloted wingman from the invisible F-22 would take on the risk instead (assuming stable links can be maintained in the face of Chinese EW). If such comm links are disrupted, the UCAV would have to operate autonomously using onboard AI.

The longer the war drags on however, the worse it is for the F-22s as the US would have to begin pulling F-22 pilots from squadrons not based in the Pacific as the problem they would face is pilot shortages rather than F-22 shortages. A small but significant number of F-22s might be lost due to destruction on the ground or air crashes due to maintenance disruptions (more so the latter than the former). But the primary issue the USAF would face is that their F-22 pilots on the 8 air bases facing constant missile bombardment would begin to face serious mental and physical health problems due to concussions/mental strain/shell shock. They would need to be rotated out of combat in tours as short as a few days given how intense a US-China open conflict would be. The sortie rate could be maintained as long as pilots are able to recover and cognitively function once returned to combat after their tour. If they don’t and their mental/physical injuries are more permanent or long duration, the F-22 fleet would have to drastically reduce sorties correspondingly.

This strain isn’t a one way thing either: Chinese Rocket Force troops who are in underground silos, launching hundreds of missiles a day, breathing in toxic fumes from rocket fuel and facing constant bombardment of their own from US assets would face similar strains and have to be rotated constantly.

As mentioned earlier, in war we sometimes focus too much on the platform aspect and forget that it’s real human beings fighting it. And the question of the F-22 in the Pacific might ultimately boil down to which side has enough soldiers standing and in fighting condition at the end of the day: A tale as old as war itself


Edit: Thanks to JL Shin for the correction: the Strategic Rocket Force is still separate from the Strategic Support Force and both exist as separate entities so the ballistic missile force referred to in this answer would be the Strategic Rocket force.

How the Navy could be torpedoing Trump’s chances in 2020

When it comes time to defend his red wall along the Great Lakes, President Trump is going to come face to face with the consequences of his Pentagon leadership’s failure to implement his oft-promised 355-ship Navy (up from 290 today).

Pennsylvania workers make many of the essentials that go into ships, including shafts manufactured in Erie and cooling systems in York. Every time the Navy awards a contract for a new ship, the president or vice president should be at one of these facilities talking about the jobs the contracts will provide. But the Navy hasn’t been issuing those contracts, so the president can’t make those announcements.

The Navy could have gone big — still could still go big — in Philadelphia. To extend the life of the existing fleet, a person familiar with the planning tells me, the Navy must perform roughly 100 more ship dockings in the next decade than current dock space can accommodate. Philly Shipyard has the capability to build floating dry docks to make up for this shortfall. Why isn’t Trump announcing a plan to expand the Navy’s dry-dock infrastructure while standing in Philly Shipyard?

Wisconsin benefits from Navy shipbuilding in two ways. First, there is the shipyard in Marinette that creates jobs in both Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Fincantieri Marine Group is a bidder on the new 20-ship Navy FFG(X) guided-missile frigate program, but politics cannot take precedence over ship design, so the contract is not guaranteed to land lakeside in Wisconsin. The least Trump could do, though, is insist that the Navy pick up the pace of its dreadfully slow design competition.

The Fincantieri Marinette Marine is already under contract to build four Multi-Mission Surface Combatant ships for Saudi Arabia. More work would be sent Wisconsin’s way if the Trump administration could persuade the Saudis to increase their order or bring other countries, such as Israel, on board.

Incredibly, Michigan ranks near the bottom of all the states when defense spending is calculated as a percentage of a state’s GDP — 47th out of 50 in fiscal year 2017 for what was once the arsenal of democracy. Per-resident defense spending in Michigan that year was a paltry $386, compared with $1,554 in Oklahoma.

When the Air Force decided in 2017 not to base F-35A fighter aircraft at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan, it missed an easy way to achieve some equity in the distribution of defense-industry dollars in the states. Trump could direct the Pentagon to reverse that decision.

The Navy’s plans for a new “large unmanned surface vessel” calls for a ship which could be built at a Great Lakes facility; near Detroit makes sense, if only out of fairness to a state that has been largely ignored in the Trump military rebuild. Given the likely long-term need for many of these ships in the future, a new facility could be planted and grown along with the program. It pains this Buckeye to say so, but somewhere along the Michigan coast next door to Ohio would be equitable.

A focus on Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin need not be limited to the Defense Department. Recently, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) pushed successfully for the planned relocation of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management to Grand Junction, Colo., in a brilliant move to bring bureaucrats closer to the citizens they regulate and whom they are supposed to serve. Sending large parts of the Environmental Protection Agency to Flint, Mich., or nearby locations would drive home the same message.

Trump has the chance to drain the swamp while making government agencies much more attuned to the people in flyover country. But he must act soon.

Yet, it is really the Navy’s utter failure to deliver even a bare-bones plan to realize the president’s promise of a 355-ship Navy that ought to rankle the commander in chief. A new chief of naval operations will arrive soon. The president ought to have waiting on his desk copies of the speeches in which he promised, and then promised again, a 355-ship Navy, along with the slogan famously used by Winston Churchill scrawled with the black Sharpie that Trump likes to use: “Action this day!”

The New Iron Curtain: Russian Missile Defense Challenges U.S. Air Power

The S-400 antiaircraft system hasn’t been tested in battle, but its growing deployment threatens America’s aerial dominance

North from Syria, along the borders of Eastern Europe and rounding the Arctic Circle to the east, Russia has built a ring of air defenses that threaten the reach of the U.S. military, forcing Washington to rethink its place as the world’s undisputed air power.

Russia’s S-400 antiaircraft missile system, a nettlesome and potentially deadly aerial shield, is changing the calculus of the U.S. and its allies in potential hot spots, beginning with its deployment in Syria.

Radar employed by the S-400, which Russia claims can detect the latest stealth aircraft, casts a net around western Syria that stretches from Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea to Israel.

Proliferation of the S-400 system demonstrates how Russia is also investing heavily in traditional military firepower.

.. “We have to understand that the period of U.S. absolute dominance of the air is over,” said Elbridge Colby, the director of the defense program at the Center for a New American Security, a nonpartisan defense think tank.

The Pentagon acknowledged that S-400 batteries in Syria have forced adjustments to coalition air operations, but it contended the U.S. in general still maintains freedom of movement in the air. “We can continue to operate where we need to be,” a U.S. defense official said.

.. Russia is “fielding military capabilities designed to deny America access in times of crisis and to contest our ability to operate freely,” a report said. “They are contesting our geopolitical advantages.”

A bipartisan commission established by Congress to evaluate President Trump’s defense strategy echoed those fears in a paper released in November. Russia, the commission concluded, was “seeking regional hegemony and the means to project power globally.”

.. Moscow isn’t eager to confront U.S. forces head-on: Russia has a military budget about a 10th the size of the Pentagon’s. Despite Russia’s intervention in Syria and invasion of Crimea, its air force and navy capabilities fall far short of the U.S. and China’s military.

In Syria, more Russian army personnel have been killed in plane crashes than enemy fire, according to official data. Russia’s sole aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is being overhauled. In October, a crane fell on the vessel, causing serious, possibly irreparable damage to the carrier.

The S-400’s guided missiles are intended to give Russian President Vladimir Putin a lethal threat against Western military intervention should a crisis erupt on Russia’s European borders, in the Middle East or North Korea.

The presence of the S-400 in Syria has been an effective sales tool, drawing interest among both American foes and allies. Purchases by China and India, as well as prospective deals with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have raised alarms among officials in Washington and at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

By selling the S-400 to other countries, Russia spreads the cost of limiting U.S. forces.

Russia doesn’t want military superiority, but it has ended the superiority of the West or the U.S.,” said Sergey Karaganov, a foreign-policy adviser to Mr. Putin. “Now, the West can no longer use force indiscriminately.

.. The Pentagon said Russian measures have yet to change America’s position.

The U.S. remains the pre-eminent military power in the world and continues to strengthen relationships with NATO allies and partners to maintain our strategic advantage,” said Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman. “The U.S. and our allies have quite a few measures at our disposal to ensure the balances of power remain in our favor.

.. Following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. used its air superiority against foreign governments considered a threat. Afghanistan, Iraq and then Libya fell into the crosshairs.

In 2010, Mr. Putin announced a plan in to modernize Russia’s military, saying his nation would spend the equivalent of $650 billion over a decade. The plan included replacement and upgrades of aging Soviet antiaircraft and antiship defenses.

.. Russia’s preoccupation with defense is a product of its history, spanning past invasions by Napoleon Bonaparte’s army in the War of 1812 to Nazi troops during World War II.

The Russian military is configured very differently from expeditionary powers like the United States,” said Michael Kofman, a research scientist at CNA, a nonprofit research group in Arlington, Va. “It’s not meant to mirror powers like the United States, it’s meant to counter them.”

Buyers of the S-400 face possible U.S. sanctions under a 2017 law that penalizes allies that do business with the Russian defense industry.

China received an S-400 shipment last year, and its Equipment Development Department, which oversaw the purchase, was sanctioned in September.

India agreed in October to a $5 billion-plus deal for the S-400 antiaircraft system. It hopes to evade sanctions, saying that as a U.S. security partner it can counterbalance China’s growing power. It is unclear whether Saudi Arabia’s deal with Russia will be completed because of likely U.S. pressure.

The Pentagon has objected to Turkey’s planned S-400 purchase, saying it would give Russia too close a view of NATO operations. Antiaircraft missile systems typically receive data from satellites as well as aircraft to detect attacks. Integration of the S-400 system on Turkish bases also would give Russia insight into radar-evading F-35 combat jets, U.S. officials said.

.. The S-400 hasn’t been tested in battle but on paper it outperforms the comparable U.S.-made Patriot system. Sales to China and India, along with prospective deals with Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have raised alarms in the West.

.. Turkish officials said they need the antiaircraft system to shield the southern border with Syria. Washington installed U.S.-operated Patriot missiles in southern Turkey in 2013, after Syrian armed forces shot down a Turkish jet fighter killing two. The systems were removed in 2015 when the U.S. saw the threat from Syria fading.

The U.S. has since offered to sell Turkey its Patriot missile defense systems, and an American delegation was in Ankara last week to hash out the details. Still, Turkey said, it had no intentions of giving up the S-400 purchase.

.. The basic S-400 unit has four launchers carried on a wheeled transport vehicle. It takes about eight minutes to push the 33-foot launching tubes into a vertical position, initiate tracking radar and lock onto targets.

.. The bulk of Russia’s S-400s are deployed along the country’s western border; S-400 divisions also defend the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea, which Moscow seized from Ukraine in 2014.

Several divisions are positioned on four of Russia’s Arctic territories. As polar ice gives way to global warming, both Washington and Moscow see the far north as a new frontier for Arctic sea travel, potentially connecting Asia and Europe, as well as a spot for energy exploration.

Washington accuses Moscow of violating the Cold War-era Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, saying the Russian 9M729 missile could fly at a range prohibited by the agreement. Russia says the missile doesn’t violate the agreement.

.. Looking ahead, Almaz-Antey, the Russian arms maker that builds the antiaircraft defense systems, is designing a more advanced S-500 model to counter next-generation hypersonic and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The West Must Face Reality in Turkey

Turkey’s currency crisis and standoff with the United States over the imprisonment of an American pastor have exposed the crumbling edifice of the two countries’ Cold War-era partnership. Rather than hold out hope that Turkey will return to the Western fold, US and European policymakers must consider a new policy toward the country.

..  Moreover, tariffs allow Erdoğan to blame his country’s economic woes on America, rather than on his own government’s incompetence.
.. It is still possible that the Turkish government will find a way to release Brunson, and that US President Donald Trump, anxious to demonstrate fealty to the evangelicals who form a core part of his base, will rescind the tariffs.
.. But even if the immediate crisis is resolved, the structural crisis in US-Turkish relations – and Western-Turkish relations generally – will remain.
We are witnessing the gradual but steady demise of a relationship that is already an alliance in name only. Though the Trump administration is right to have confronted Turkey, it chose not only the wrong response, but also the wrong issue.
The relationship between Turkey and the West has long been predicated on two principles, neither of which obtains any longer.
  1. The first is that Turkey is a part of the West, which implies that it is a liberal democracy.
    • Yet Turkey is neither liberal nor a democracy. It has effectively been subjected to one-party rule under the Justice and Development Party (AKP), and power has become concentrated in the hands of Erdoğan, who is also the AKP’s leader.
    • Under Erdoğan, checks and balances have largely been eliminated from the Turkish political system, and the president controls the media, the bureaucracy, and the courts.
  2.  The second principle underlying Turkey’s “Western” status is alignment on foreign policy. Turkey recently bought more than 100 advanced F-35 fighter jets from the US. Yet, in recent years, Turkey has also supported jihadist groups in Syria, moved closer to Iran, and contracted to purchase S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia.

.. The Turks were not happy with the US decision to withdraw medium-range missiles from Turkey as part of the deal that ended the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

.. Turkey refused to give US military forces access to Incirlik Air Base during the Iraq war in 2003.

.. the Turkish government has been infuriated by America’s refusal to extradite the Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom Erdoğan believes masterminded the 2016 coup attempt.

..  The anti-Soviet glue that kept the two countries close during the Cold War is long gone.

.. The problem is that the NATO treaty provides no mechanism for divorce.

.. Turkey can withdraw from the alliance, but it cannot be forced out.

  1. .. First, policymakers should criticize Turkish policy when warranted.
    •  they must also reduce their reliance on access to Turkish bases such as Incirlik,
    • deny Turkey access to advanced military hardware like F-35s, and
    • reconsider the policy of basing nuclear weapons in Turkey.
    • Moreover, the US should not extradite Gülen unless Turkey can prove his involvement in the coup with evidence that would stand up in a US court and satisfy the provisions of the 1981 mutual extradition treaty.
    • Nor should the US abandon the Kurds, given their invaluable role in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).
  2.  Second, the US and Europe should wait until the Erdoğan era is over, and then approach Turkey’s new leadership with a grand bargain.
    • The offer should be Western support in exchange for a Turkish commitment to liberal democracy and to a foreign policy focused on fighting terrorism and pushing back against Russia.

 

Trump Arms an Adversary

Barack Obama tried to embrace him early on as a model for Muslim democracy, a policy that proved to be nearly as fruitless as the Russia Reset.

.. Trump, who has yet to appoint an ambassador to Turkey, has gone further, fulsomely calling Erdogan “a friend of mine” who gets “very high marks” for his leadership.

.. Trump seems never to have met a thug he doesn’t want to imitate and flatter. What’s inexplicable is why the administration, led by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, would go ahead with the F-35 deliveries after Republican and Democratic senators tried to block the delivery until Turkey releases Pastor Brunson, drops its bid to buy Russian missiles, and improves its overall behavior.

The F-35 was leverage. We just squandered it

.. Worse, we did it just days before the election, handing Erdogan a political prize that he can wield as evidence that the United States doesn’t dare to oppose him and that he can continue to behave as he pleases.

In the meantime, a country now moving into Russia’s orbit will acquire one of the most sophisticated pieces of military hardware ever made.

.. If and when Erdogan goes fully anti-American — he’s already nine-tenths of the way there — what’s to keep him from allowing Russian technicians to take a closer look, so they might gain a better idea of how to shoot it down? Or from using it against American allies in the region, including Israel? If Obama were making this delivery today, Republicans would call it treason.

.. Should that happen, history will record that the United States did nothing to help, and much to hinder, the forces of freedom.

Are modern fighter jets too sophisticated for warfare? Answer Request

An F-35 can trash half a dozen 80’s-era planes without difficulty and fly back unharmed. What it can’t do is fight 200 P-51 Mustangs.

.. Swarms of cheap unmanned planes are a different matter: you can construct a military-grade drone capable of carrying a grenade-sized warhead for $1500, so the choice is between one F-35 or  a swarm of 100,000 drones.

.. Now, the swarm can’t beat the F-35 in air-to-air combat – it’s way too slow – but the F-35 does not dare getting close to what is in effect a flying minefield of lethal kamikaze obstacles all eager to collide with it.  And thanks to solar power, the small drones have long range and endurance, and can simply form a killer cloud around airfields, waiting for anything to emerge so they can blow it up on the tarmac.

The Navy is already building its first drone swarms in a project called LOCUST:

.. The Chinese or Russians may be the first to take advantage of the new technology.

The Most Expensive Weapon Ever Built

according to French intelligence sources the strikes had unquestionably been carried out by a pair of F-35s: not only that, but one of them had gone on to buzz Assad’s palace in a fuck-you show of force.

.. Israel is very proud of its machines. Four thousand people were invited to see the two F-35s arrive at Nevatim air base in the Negev on 12 December

.. Netanyahu gave a rousing speech celebrating the ‘long arm’ of Israel’s defence equipment. ‘This long arm was just made longer and mightier today,’

.. Israel is the only country that has been allowed to make significant modifications to the F-35: its variant, nicknamed the Adir (‘the mighty one’), includes a few extra computer systems of Israel’s own devising. There’s a picture of Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s defence minister, sitting in the cockpit of an F-35 during a visit last summer to Lockheed’s Fort Worth facility: he’s grinning like a little boy. Israel is now down to purchase fifty F-35s, at a total cost of $7 billion.

.. Obama and Netanyahu signed a new Memorandum of Understanding, according to which Israel is promised $38 billion of military aid over the next decade. Twenty per cent of that money is going to F-35 procurement: a nice subvention of American taxpayer dollars to an American company

.. Donald Trump, then still president-elect, tweeted: ‘The F-35 program and cost is out of control. Billions of dollars can and will be saved on military (and other) purchases after January 20th.’

.. Over the lifetime of the project the US is expected to have spent $1.5 trillion designing, building and maintaining 2500 planes

.. It would also have to be able to bomb targets on the ground five hundred miles away from base – an impressive range, for a fighter – and operate from the deck of a heaving warship at night and, if push really came to shove, hover and land like a helicopter.

.. But the expense was largely the point. An enormous project brings an enormous number of jobs, and Lockheed sensibly ensured that everyone and his neighbour was invested in keeping it from going belly-up. The joke term for this is ‘political engineering

.. the F-35 programme now involves more than 1200 suppliers in 45 US states, accounting for forty thousand jobs in Texas alone.

.. McCain is a leading representative of a dissident American military tradition that prefers light and agile to massive and lumbering, but it may not be insignificant that his home state, Arizona, is one of the few where Lockheed has recently shed jobs

.. F-35 customers now include Turkey, Italy, Canada, Norway, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands and Denmark.

.. This means that every F-35 sale is a boost to the coffers of Britain’s own largest arms company. (BAE has also been allowed to do the foldy bits at the end of the wings.) And the opportunities are everywhere. There are aluminium sheets from Milton Keynes, electronic modules from Billingstad, circuit boards from Ankara, hydraulics from Melbourne, wiring systems from Rotterdam, manifolds from Adelaide, wing parts from Turin and actuators from New York. So when Trump threatened to slash the cost of the F-35 programme, or divert some of the custom to cheaper competitors, it wasn’t only American defence contractors who were in the firing line. Everyone had something to lose.

.. The ‘military-industrial complex’ turns out to be very simple: the juggernaut has its own momentum. Once it’s rolling it can’t be stopped, even if you’re Donald Trump, something he finally came to acknowledge on 16 March, when his budget plan for the next fiscal year allowed for the ramping-up of F-35 production as part of a proposed 10 per cent increase in overall military spending.

.. Thanks to its stealth requirements, with its weapons all stored internally to stop them alerting enemy radar, it’s an ugly, fat-bellied thing

.. But it flies well.

.. it achieved a kill ratio of 20:1, meaning that for every twenty enemy aircraft downed, only one F-35 was lost.

.. One of the gizmos that comes as standard with every F-35 is a carbon-fibre helmet

.. Each has to be custom-fitted to an individual pilot’s head using a bit of 3D modelling. They cost $400,000 apiece: another figure to snort at, perhaps, but then each AMRAAM missile costs $400,000 too

.. the F-35 helmet beams in the pictures gathered by six infrared cameras mounted on the outside of the airframe. This means that just by turning his head the wearer can see what’s above him, behind him and even below the aircraft’s floor.

.. Picture of enemy airfield not clear? Click. The active radar array will scan a high-resolution image of the area of interest. Then all the pilot needs to do is touch a point on the map and the selected weapon will take it out in seconds. Click.

.. Friendly aircraft are indicated in green on the radar screen, potential threats are yellow and enemies red. Unless you’re colour-blind, it all makes operating a deadly aircraft so very simple: what’s not to like?

.. no one is in a position to get into dogfights with the US any more

.. The last American fighter jet to be recorded lost to an enemy aircraft was an F/A-18, shot down by an Iraqi MiG in 1991.

.. The man in the pilot’s seat has become just another node in the network, through whom information is filtered: he’s already an anachronism. Even before we have drone swarms of lightweight autonomous vehicles performing air interdiction with the help of artificial intelligence, it isn’t clear how much future there is in piloted warplanes.

.. The combined marketing muscle of all the Lockheeds, Boeings and Raytheons in the world has failed to come up with any definition of what a ‘sixth generation’ fighter would be. This, it appears, is the end of the line.