Petraeus Lauds B-1B

The general in line to take over coalition operations in Afghanistan had words of praise Tuesday for the B-1B bomber and its contributions to the counterinsurgency in that nation.
“It is a great platform in at least two respects, maybe more,” Army Gen. David Petraeus told Senate Armed Services Committee members during his nomination hearing to become commander of US Forces-Afghanistan.
He is currently US Central Command boss. Petraeus said, for one, the B-1 “carries a heck of a lot of bombs, substantial ordnance.”
Is also “has some very good” intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance capabilities like the Sniper targeting pod. “It is almost like having another unmanned aerial vehicle, in terms of full-motion video,” when the B-1 is overhead, he said.
Further, Petraeus said the B-1 “can loiter for a good time.” Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) asked Petraeus about the B-1. The 28th Bomb Wing operates 28 B-1s at Ellsworth Air Force Base in Thune’s state. Last week the Daily Report reported that the Air Force was considering eliminating the entire B-1 fleet as a cost-savings measure.

More than 300 motorcycle riders in a line stretching two miles long helped escort the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall into Grand Island Wednesday afternoon. The escort started in Omaha with about 75 riders and picked up participants in Lincoln, York and Grand Island.

Patriot Guard Riders led the way and said that supporters lined the entire route. “Lots of patriotism all the way,” said Patriot Guard Rider Pat Smith, an Air Force vet from Omaha who rode in honor of his brother, Staff Sgt. Johnathan R. Smith, who also served in the Air Force and died in November 2008.

“On I-80, people were hanging flags and banners on the overpasses,” Smith said. The convoy exited Interstate 80 at the Phillips exit where Grand Island Police Sgt. Dale Hilderbrand led the group into Grand Island. “There were 20 riders waiting at the interstate and then we picked up people all the way,” Hilderbrand said. “It was over two miles long.”

Hilderbrand said people stood along the highway and along city streets as the wall passed. “It was all the way from the interstate,” he said. “It was unbelievable — flags and banners across underpasses and overpasses — everywhere,” said Alexandria St. Louis of Grand Island, who traveled to Omaha to ride the whole route with her husband, Gene, who is a Vietnam vet.

“As we got to Grand Island, the support flourished,” she said. “There were parents and children parked and cars pulling over for us. It made us so proud to be from Grand Island.”..]

Improvement plan realigns acquisition wings as directorates

Air Force officials will implement a new organizational construct for weapon systems acquisition that includes designating directorates, divisions and branches in place of some current wings, groups and squadrons.

Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley and Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz announced the changes in a recent service-wide memo. The memo makes clear that realigning organizations under a directorate/division/branch structure is driven by one of five goals from the Acquisition Improvement Plan the secretary and chief announced in May.

Command implements re-structuring plan

Air Force Materiel Command Public Affairs Report

6/30/2010 – WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio — Air Force Materiel Command officials started implementing the command’s re-structuring plan June 30, officially moving most AFMC acquisition organizations from wings, groups and squadrons to directorates, divisions and branches.

The move follows an Air Force senior leadership decision to standardize the size of wings, groups and squadrons across the Air Force. Wings now must contain 1,000 or more members; groups, 400; and squadrons, 35. As a result, many wings, groups, and squadrons at AFMC Centers were inactivated, and replaced by new directorates, divisions and branches, which do not have mandatory minimum manning thresholds.

Along with changing from wings to directorates, Air Force officials also created several new program executive officer slots. PEOs, senior officials responsible for acquisition program execution, will be leading many of the directorates at AFMC product centers.

With this reorganization, most of AFMC’s centers will see some changes. AFMC planners say the realignment is “manpower neutral,” meaning no net gain or loss of jobs will occur.

Related Links

Command moves forward with restructuring plan

Improvement plan realigns acquisition wings as directorates

U.S. Air Force Considers B-1 Bomber Fleet’s Retirement

TIME (Via Yahoo) – By MARK THOMPSON Mark Thompson

Nixon launched it, Carter killed it and Reagan resurrected it. In its infancy, the Air Force’s B-1 bomber was a quick and dirty military metaphor – Republicans wanted to buy weapons to defend the nation from the Soviet Union, and Democrats didn’t. Now it could become a different kind of symbol: the Air Force is thinking of retiring its total 66-plane B-1 fleet to hit budget targets set by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Top Air Force officials met behind closed doors late last week to determine if permanently grounding the B-1 fleet makes sense.

No decision has yet been announced, and there’s always a chance the service is bluffing. After all, news of the B-1 early retirement first cropped up in a blog maintained by Air Force magazine, an independent publication whose interests still tend to be pretty much in sync with those of the Air Force itself.

But the fact that the topic is even up for discussion is significant for three reasons. First of all, the idea that the B-1’s future is in doubt highlights just how tight Air Force leaders believe military budgets are going to get. “The gusher [of post 9/11 defense spending] has been turned off,” Gates warned last month, “and will stay off for a good period of time.” Secondly, the Air Force seems to be trying to take the initiative in resetting budget priorities, instead of having them imposed from above by Gates or the White House. Finally, the notion that the B-1’s fate is in play suggests just how quickly air warfare is changing.

The history of the B-1 Lancer (pilots prefer to call it the “Bone,” supposedly stemming from a long-ago typo that left the hyphen out of “B-One”) since it went operational in 1986 captures air warfare in a nutshell. It was designed for nuclear war with the Soviet Union, but that mission evaporated with the Cold War’s end…

Hypersonic Power Projection

Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies – By Richard P. Hallion

“Hypersonic flight at levels of Mach 6 was first raised as a possibility in the 1920s and 1930s. Promising research programs in the 1960s made it seem as though routine hypersonic flight was just around the corner. That promise was not fulfilled.

Today, a casual observer could be excused for thinking that very little progress has been made. There’s no sleek fleet ferrying passengers from New York to Tokyo in two hours, as has at times been postulated. The quest for a practical, operational, air-breathing hypersonic aircraft feels like aviation’s unrequited dream.

With this paper, Dr. Richard P. Hallion, a former Chief Historian of the Air Force, takes readers on a tour of the milestones in the history of hypersonics and makes a compelling case for his belief that recent developments bode well for continued work toward Mach 6 and beyond.

As soon as airmen developed high-speed flight, they itched to break the sound barrier, and did, in October 1947. Next up was supersonic flight at multiple Mach numbers. As Hallion points out, it didn’t take long for development of the X-15 to push past that barrier. SR-71 Blackbird crews made Mach 2 and Mach 3 a routine occurrence. “In October 1967, not quite two decades after Yeager’s pioneering flight, Maj. William “Pete” Knight reached Mach 6.70,” Hallion writes.

Nearly half a century later, however, the trajectory of hypersonics remains uncertain, and its difficulties perplexing. Of course, there are several hundred Americans for whom hypersonic speed became quite routine. Astronauts on moon trips or shuttle missions experienced acceleration at speeds of Mach 24. Those craft used rockets with huge tanks mixing in liquid oxygen to achieve their velocity.

Yet the current quest for hypersonics is both more modest and more complex. It centers on building an engine that can be housed in an aerospace craft with multiple uses. Given the aerospace prowess of the United States, it is odd that this dream has not yet come to fruition. The question is, why?

In this paper, Hallion tackles this issue square on. His first point is that hypersonics remains an important national security capability. As he writes: “Modern hypersonics technology offers clear opportunities for joint service power projection in general and for United States Air Force power projection in particular.”

Research here and abroad remains active. “Hypersonics is a mature and weaponizable technology, being actively pursued not only in the United States but also in quite a few nations. Russia, China, Iran, France, Germany, Australia, India, and Japan all have robust programs in hypersonic missile, and missile-related, activities,” notes Hallion.

However, Hallion does not shrink from acknowledging that hypersonics sometimes has suffered from a bad reputation. One common quip says that hypersonics is the future of airpower … and always will be. Hypersonics have been just 10 to 20 years away from fulfillment for so long that the act of budgeting for research has turned into a leap of faith.

As Hallion puts it: “The hope of hypersonics … became inextricably caught up in what might be termed a hypersonic hype. This led, over time, to a cycle of fits and starts that has largely worked to discredit the potential of the field and taint it with an image of waste and futility. Typically, a program has begun with great fanfare and promise, increased in complexity, and when realistic performance, schedule, and cost estimates are derived, its appeal quickly fades.”

To Hallion, who has long observed test programs, the reasons for underwhelming progress to date in hypersonics range from a lack of focus to the specific tribulations of various “X” programs. He traces the fortunes of programs such as Dyna-Soar and the National Aerospace Plane, along with earlier experiments. Hallion also revisits the Air Force’s stewardship of hypersonics and the gradual build up of doubt about the value of the technology. At a low point in 2000, USAF established a special study to debate whether “hypersonics actually constituted a worthwhile investment area for continued Air Force research and development.”

The answer was yes, but it took several low-key efforts over the past decade to bring hypersonics research back to the mainstream. Now, the fortunes of hypersonic technology may be about to change.

A case in point is the recent, successful beginning of flight tests with the X-51 WaveRider. The sustained engine burn with a mix of JP7 fuel and supersonic compressed air—the elusive scramjet—achieved important goals in a truly practical demonstration. “This engine can be considered the next step in aviation,” commented the Air Force Research Lab’s X-51 program manager shortly after the first flight test on May 26, 2010. Another promising path may be the development of hypersonic missiles. “The engine technology exists today to produce an air-, surface-, and/or subsurface launched hypersonic missile that could reach out to 1,000 miles or beyond,” concludes Hallion.

Above it all is the continued operational value of hypersonics in the application of airpower. Hallion cites the “tyranny of time” as well as enemy defenses as a limiting factor for conventional airpower. “The United States faces a future in which a troubling synergy of distance to target, weapon time of flight, and defense strength all combine to frustrate the intent of theater commanders and national command authorities, preventing the achievement of American security objectives in a timely and ‘least cost’ fashion,” Hallion says.

Those geopolitical realities make hypersonics more compelling than ever. The relatively modest investment in research opens the possibility of an economical new way to wield the power of Mach.

“Hypersonics is a game-changer, and the price of it being in hostile hands is the loss of air dominance and the ability of our various joint task forces to operate on the surface,” Hallion concludes. As a result, he says: “Hypersonics should be one race the United States does not lose.”

Rebecca Grant, Director
Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies
June 2010

Read Full Report: Hypersonic Power Projection

The Night Beat: Obama Borrows the Military Back

The Atlantic – Marc Ambinder

First, though a lot of officers who hitched their careers to McChrystal are indeed quite angry, no one has resigned, the CIA’s station chief remains in place (though he’s quite close to McChrystal) and McRaven isn’t going anywhere. Second, it is meaningful and endearing that so many people are loyal to McChrystal. They revere the man. Third, such behavior, while in one context explicable, is precisely an argument in favor of President Obama’s decision to remove McChrystal. The war is about more than one man.

No deviations from the mission are acceptable. There is politics in war, and there are now numerous ways to complain; there is no question that after eight years doing God knows what in service to the country, frustrations had built up. But for those who talked to Rolling Stone, no matter how well-intentioned they were, no matter what they’ve done, their decision to open up to the magazine suggests that they had not learned, or had forgotten, the cardinal rule: your power is a trust that has been established by civilian politicians accountable to voters, and it is maintained by these politicians. No matter how well you’ve done, you will, at the end of the day, be held accountable to those who are held accountable to the republic itself.

It’s also worth remembering what McChrystal is and was, according to the President, an American hero, someone who contributed immeasurably to our national security and who simply made a bad mistake. And McChrystal recognized his mistake. As Jake Tapper noted, it was McChrystal who made the argument to the White House that he had compromised the mission…

More about McChrystal: Why was his nickname “The Pope?” The Pope is a nickname that special operations forces and their admirers bestow on the commander of JSOC because Janet Reno once complained about the futility of trying to pry information out of JSOC units. They were like the Vatican, she grumbled, to which people responded, “Hell yeah.” Hence the name. People who served under mcChrystal when he was CJSOC still call him the Pope. The current Pope, by right, is McRaven. But he’s just a weeny Navy guy, or so tease the Army guys, half seriously. One of the reasons the name stuck was because JSOC was unleashed by the Bush administration. McChrystal knows where the bodies are buried. I do not mean this metaphorically. He literally knows. He knows because he buried them.

Even more about McChrystal: now it can be told. The story about him voting for Obama is not contrived. He is a political liberal. He is a social liberal. He banned Fox News from the television sets in his headquarters. Yes, really. This puts to rest another false rumor: that McChrystal deliberately precipitated his firing because he wants to run for President…

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, The Pentagon, Friday, June 25, 2010

Good morning, and thank you all for coming.

I would like to start by welcoming Secretary Rumsfeld’s family back to the Pentagon –his wife Joyce, their children, Valerie, Nick and Marcy and their families.

It is no surprise that today’s event has brought together a truly extraordinary gathering of distinguished guests – men and women who’ve served at the highest levels of public life in the military, the executive branch, and the Congress.  I know the Rumsfeld family is honored and grateful for your presence, as am I.

A tradition has developed in the building that at the unveiling of a former defense secretary’s portrait, the sitting Secretary says a few words about his predecessor’s accomplishments.  It is an important tradition – one that reflects the fact that even as administrations change, there is a degree of continuity in the experience of the men who have held this post:

  • The challenges we face;
  • The obstacles we have to overcome within this building and across the river;
  • The changes we pursue to better protect this country and do right by its men and women in uniform.

I often joke about having failed retirement from public life.  Well, Don Rumsfeld – who served as both 13th and 21st Secretary of Defense – has me more than beat on that account.  At least I returned to Washington to take a different job than the one I retired from.

Secretary Rumsfeld came to this institution with a mandate to transform the U.S. defense establishment from its Cold War posture, attitudes and moorings to a force ready to confront the threats of the 21st Century.  On a bright Tuesday morning in September, eight months into President Bush’s first term, a decade of slumber in a holiday from history came to a crashing halt.  This country and this military learned how dangerous and unpredictable this new era could be, and saw in the starkest terms how necessary was the task of transforming this department to meet these challenges.

On that dark day, and in the weeks and months that followed, Secretary Rumsfeld simultaneously inspired, educated and often charmed a wounded nation – including millions who were not even yet born at the time he was last in government.  They saw:

  • A defense secretary put his own safety at risk by rushing to the scene of the Pentagon 9/11 attack to help with the wounded;
  • They saw straight talk from the podium about how yes, we were really going to “kill” America’s enemies who had so grievously harmed our country – jarring stuff for a country grown accustomed to euphemisms and political correctness; and
  • They saw the rapid removal of two odious regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As the U.S. military took on the arduous task to bring stability and a decent future in two traumatized countries, Secretary Rumsfeld simultaneously pursued an agenda of institutional transformation and reform – grappling with inertia and vested interests like the champion wrestler he once was.  The result is an American military that has become more agile, lethal, and prepared to deal with the full spectrum of conflict.  Consider just a few of the historic changes launched under Secretary Rumsfeld:

  • The Navy’s Fleet Response Plan nearly doubled the number of strike carrier groups that could be surged in the initial stages of a crisis;
  • America’s Special Operations Forces saw vast increases in budget, personnel, authorities – and most importantly, in capabilities;
  • The number of unmanned aerial vehicles grew some 40-fold to more than 6,000 by the end of the Bush administration;
  • Cold War basing arrangements in Germany, Korea, and Japan were modernized and sized to better reflect the security requirements of this century;
  • The Army underwent its most significant restructuring in more than two generations, moving from a division-based to a modular brigade-based force;
  • And much, much more.

On a personal note, I was struck upon taking this job of just how much more deployable and expeditionary the U.S. military had become compared to when I left government in 1993.  Without these institutional changes set in motion by Secretary Rumsfeld, we would not have been able to surge five army brigades into Iraq on short notice, or have the quality and quantity of UAVs that have made such a difference on the battlefield.

We are in debt to Secretary Rumsfeld on numerous counts, but I would add a personal one: the front office staff and senior appointees I inherited from him in December 2006. They are people of superb capability and strong character, a reflection of the talented man who selected them.  And reflecting Secretary Rumsfeld’s own sense of duty and patriotism, when I asked them all to continue serving, they did so.

Of course, Secretary Rumsfeld famously brought his own unique and bracing style of personal management to the Pentagon bureaucracy – which soon discovered that snowflakes really could fall in the middle of August.

Self described as “genetically impatient,” he did not brook much nonsense or suffer fools gladly – as many an unprepared briefer would find out the hard way.  He insisted that defense officials speak and write real English instead of burying the lead in a cluster of acronyms and power point, noting (quite accurately, as I can attest) that it seemed to be a second language in large parts of this building.  (I’m afraid I have allowed some unfortunate backsliding in this area).

Despite his fierce reputation, those who knew and worked with Secretary Rumsfeld could attest to his personal kindness and generosity, especially when it came to our wounded warriors – generosity that remains mostly unknown to the public at his own insistence.

That soft side – if anyone dare call it that – was more often than not brought out in the presence of Joyce, though her grace and kindness was matched by a formidable will and arch wit.  I’m told that the Secretary’s staff always looked forward to Joyce’s presence on trips as that assured a happier – and thus less demanding – boss.  With the extraordinary demands and sacrifices of this job in a time of war, in a city quick to praise and condemn without much reflection, I know Joyce – as she has been doing for more than five decades – kept his chin up and feet firmly planted through some trying times.

Teddy Roosevelt’s phrase, the “man in the arena”, has become so overused it has become something of a cliché, a description wearing like a cheap suit on those on whom it is too frequently bestowed.  So I’d like to close with a lesser-known portion of the same famous speech by Roosevelt, which was called “Citizenship in a Republic” – given in Paris, of all places.  I quote:

“Among the free peoples who govern themselves there is but a small field of usefulness open for the men of cloistered life who shrink from contact with their fellows. Still less room is there for those who deride … what is done by those who actually bear the brunt of the day … [who] know nothing of great and generous emotion, of the high pride, the stern belief, the lofty enthusiasm, of the men who quell the storm and ride the thunder.”

For more than a half century Don Rumsfeld has “quelled the storm and ridden the thunder” – for the causes he believed in, the men and women he led, for the country he loves.

Related: Did Gates diss Rumsfeld?

Army: Checking each Arlington grave must wait

Army Times – By William H. McMichael

The Army is making “steady progress” toward resolving the myriad problems at Arlington National Cemetery, but it will not examine all of the 330,000-plus gravesites for improper markings and other issues uncovered by a recent investigation until graves records are completely automated, the service’s top civilian said Wednesday.

And talk of progress has not assuaged lawmakers’ anger over the mismanagement issues that led to the removal of the cemetery’s top two officials earlier in June, a separate investigation into millions of dollars spent to procure a yet-to-be-seen system to automate cemetery records and operations, and a flood of concern from upset family members worried about the integrity of their loved ones’ final resting places.

“I am angry, period,” said Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., in opening a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the results of an Army Inspector General investigation. “I am just downright angry.

“Arlington Cemetery is our nation’s most hallowed ground,” said Skelton, chairman of the committee. “It is reserved as the final resting place of our heroic warriors. Management ineptitude and neglect have resulted in a web of errors. How in the world could this tragedy be allowed to happen?”

The ranking Republican on the committee echoed those concerns. “The recent revelations about the mismanagement and systemic failures at Arlington National Cemetery are both profoundly shocking and heart-wrenching,” said Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif. “To now learn that the Army was aware of some of these problems for nearly 20 years and took no corrective action is extremely disappointing.”

A somber Army Secretary John McHugh said he shares those concerns. “For all the anger you and members of this committee feel, I share it,” he told the committee.

McHugh said investigators continue to work to “find out everything that is possible behind the who, why and what” of what went wrong at Arlington.

Skelton expressed a concern made evident in the reports — that the 211 irregularities, which included improper internment, trans-internment of remains, remains in graves listed as empty, unmarked gravesites, improperly marked graves and improper handling of cremains — “may only be a fraction of the problem.”

McHugh sought to assure Skelton that every grave would be examined, although he did not specify the technical means that the Army will employ.

But an examination of every gravesite at Arlington, McHugh said, will “take a better system of record-keeping” than the stacks of 3×5 paper index cards now used to record decedents’ names, dates of interment and section and grave number, and paper burial maps.

McHugh said the Army also is “exploring the possibility of assistance from the outside” despite certain prohibitions on the acceptance of outside gifts.

Once the system is automated, McHugh said, the Army “will check every gravesite.”

Superpower No More?

Air Force  Magazine – By Robert S. Dudney, Editor in Chief

The new watchword seems to be use of soft power to help protect and preserve vital US interests.

Most Americans don’t know it, but the US has a new national security strategy. It is set down in a 52-page White House paper, dated May 27, which lists US interests and ways to protect them. Unfortunately, the thing instantly calls to mind Dr. Samuel Johnson’s words about the epic Paradise Lost: “None ever wished it longer than it is.”

The paper has a leaden style, composed, according to one critic, of “platitudes, wishful thinking, and self-delusion.” What Mark Twain once said of a certain religious book—”It is chloroform in print”—applies here, too.

The bromides and clichés, however, do not totally obscure the paper’s worrisome substance, which sums up the basic worldview of President Obama and his Administration. The principal theme—possibly unintended—appears clear enough: America is no longer a superpower, exactly.

The strategy paper is at pains to note—over and over—that American power is circumscribed, that any international US action requires lots of helpers, that we are stretched thin, that we must focus on internal problems. In short, we will just have to learn to live within our limits.

“The burdens of a young century cannot fall on American shoulders alone,” Obama writes in the paper’s introduction.

In place of reliance on military might, the Administration’s strategy emphasizes stronger global cooperation, more and deeper security “partnerships,” and helping other nations provide for their own defense as best they can.

The new watchword seems to be soft power—the use of economic levers, diplomacy, international law, cultural relationships, and so on—to help protect and preserve vital US interests…

Another basic belief concerns the value of talk and treaties in containing the world nuclear threat. By seeking nuclear arms cuts with Russia, Obama has gotten back on a well-worn liberal track, as he has also done by pushing nonproliferation schemes.

The strategy puts great store in talking to rogue regimes such as North Korea and Iran. It says Washington “will pursue engagement with hostile nations to test their intentions, give their governments the opportunity to change course, reach out to their people, and mobilize international coalitions.”

Another emphasis is on multilateralism. America must construct “a new international architecture,” it claims, so as to “modernize the infrastructure for international cooperation.”

None of these principles is really objectionable; some are even laudable. The problem is what is missing from Obama’s manifesto…

When it comes to terrorism, the strategy builds on the past but departs from it in important ways. There is a pledge to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates.” However, the terrorist role played by Iran is barely mentioned. Terms such as “jihadism” or “radical Islam” do not appear.

At this stage in the Obama Administration, there really shouldn’t be any major surprises. The paper, in fact, mostly rehashes policies that the President has advocated since before his election campaign…

White House Paper: National Security Strategy (PDF)

China Air Force Steps it Up

US assumptions about China’s air power look outdated. It’s building a force that will be without rival in the Asia-Pacific.

The Diplomat – By Carlo Kopp

The formal retirement ceremony this June for the last People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) Shenyang J-6 / MiG-19 Farmer fighter marks an important milestone for China’s air power, as it transitions from a Cold War era, Soviet-style force to a modern and technologically sophisticated air force with a fleet of high performance aircraft.

Sadly, far too many analysts and senior bureaucrats in the United States remain tethered to the idea that the PLA fighter force still comprises fleets of thousands of cloned 1955 Soviet technology MiG-19 fighters, and is thus incapable of protecting China’s areas of interest from regional or US military forces. Yet although this perception remains appealing in Washington, it ceased to be true almost a decade ago, and today reflects more than anything what Huxley described as ‘vincible ignorance’—not knowing because you don’t want to.

For those that are interested though, a more accurate picture can be gleaned from the fact that about 5 years ago, China planned to field well in excess of 500 Russian designed Sukhoi Flanker fighters, a size comparable to the now declining United States Air Force fleet of around 600 Boeing F-15 Eagle fighters. The Flanker was designed to be a direct equivalent (in some respects superior) to the F-15, which is also the backbone of the Japanese and Singaporean fighter fleets…

… In strategic terms, China’s Flanker fleet is its regional ‘big stick.’ These aircraft have a combat radius without aerial refuelling of up to 900 nautical miles, robustly covering the ‘First Island Chain.’ With heavier weapon loads operating radius is reduced, with aerial refuelling it is further extended. Importantly, the Flanker is a credible modern air combat fighter which matches or exceeds key performance and capabilities of the US built Boeing F-15C/E, F-15CJ/DJ and F-15SG operated by the United States, Japan and Singapore, while the indigenous Chinese PL-12/SD-10A air to air missile is a credible equivalent to the US built AIM-120 AMRAAM. Meanwhile, the large fuel and missile load carried by the Flanker provides it with superior combat persistence, compared to most F-15 variants…

The legacy fleet of lightweight Cold War era J-6 Farmer and J-7 Fishbed fighters is being replaced by newly built indigenous Chengdu J-10 ‘Sino-canard’ fighters, modelled on the European canard fighters, and a direct competitor to US built F-16 Falcon fighters operated across Asia. While many US observers have described the J-10 as a clone of the US-funded and later cancelled Israeli Lavi fighter, this isn’t actually the case. The design of the J-10 is uniquely Chinese, and the ‘double delta’ wing design is clearly based on the earlier Chinese Chengdu J-7G design. The J-10B is designed to carry an advanced electronically steered radar antenna, and employs an engine inlet design modelled on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

And in terms of basing? PLAAF and PLANAF tactical fighters continue to operate from the extensive network of around 200 Cold War era fighter bases. Modelled on period Warsaw Pact semi-hardened base designs, these typically employ fully dispersed service areas protected by berms. Thirteen of these bases qualify as ‘superhardened’ with deep underground hangars tunnelled into hill sides, while a number of other bases have been equipped with Hardened Aircraft Shelters to resist smart bomb attacks. The PLA’s tactical fighter basing system is a strategic asset in its own right, providing the means for rapid redeployment, dispersal and offering inherent strategic depth unavailable to any other nation in Asia…

Related Previous Posts:

Fighter Delays, Cost Increases, And A New Tanker RFP

Obama’s War (Afghanistan): Challenges And Opportunities

Sino American Dreams: Like Sharing The Cave with A Dragon?

DARPA: Thinking Outside the Box And Mining The Far Side!

“Sign of the Times” USA No Longer A Superpower In The Aircraft Industry?

Related Links:

PJ Media: The War Between Obama and McChrystal Is Over — Obama Lost

Army Times: McChrystal to retire with 4 stars

SF Gate: Russian warship makes rare S.F. appearance

SP: Another Skipper Gets Tossed

The Economist: Peril on the sea

Jamestown: Reorientation of China’s Armed Forces: Implications for the Future Promotions of PLA Generals