Posts Tagged ‘F-16’

Cost of Taiwan’s ageing Mirage jets in spotlight again as fighter goes missing

November 9, 2017

Island struggling to maintain more expensive French aircraft amid budget squeeze, observers say

By Minnie Chan
South China Morning Post

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 November, 2017, 10:16pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 November, 2017, 9:48am

Taiwan’s air force grounded all of its Mirage jets after a single-seat Mirage 2000 disappeared from the radar 34 minutes after take-off on Tuesday night from a base in Hsinchu across the Taiwan Strait from Fujian province during a routine training exercise, air force deputy commander Lieutenant General Chang Che-ping said on Wednesday.

“The military will continue searching day and night until the pilot is safely rescued. There is no so-called golden 72-hour limit,” Chang said, referring to the window for finding a pilot alive.

The pilot, Ho Tzu-yu, joined the air force more than a decade ago and had 227 hours of flight time in Mirages, but there was no indication Ho had ejected, the Central News Agency reported.

It is the sixth major accident involving Mirages since Taiwan bought 60 of the aircraft from France two decades ago. In that time, 10 per cent of the jets have crashed.

Military analysts said a lack of maintenance on the aircraft might be a major cause of the crashes, as more of the island’s shrinking defence budget was earmarked for US weapons.

Beijing-based military observer Zhou Chengming said the accident exposed Taipei’s focus on US systems at the expense of the more costly French jets.

“It is sacrificing the higher cost of upgrading and maintaining Mirage fighters because of its limited military budget,” Zhou said.

 The French jets are reportedly more expensive to maintain than US and Taiwanese equivalents. Photo: AP

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force also considered buying some of the jets in the 1980s but abandoned the idea after realising that it did not have the capacity to transfer French technology to make them itself at the time, Zhou said.

Beijing later opted for Soviet technology and developed its own versions of Moscow’s MiG-29 and Su-27.

Taiwan also developed its own F-CK-1 indigenous defence fighters in the 1980s with the help of the United States but shelved the project after it bought more advanced US F-16s and the Mirage fighters.

But calls have grown over the past decade for Taipei to decommission the Mirages because they are expensive to maintain and need to be replaced.

Taipei will spend nearly NT$13 billion (US$430 million) upgrading its 144 F-16s in the next five years, but a squeeze on the defence budget means nothing has been set aside for Mirage upgrades. In all, the island’s defence budget is equivalent to just 1.84 per cent of the island’s GDP, the lowest proportion in four years.

 Taiwan bought 60 of the Mirage jets in the 1990s. Photo: EPA

In December, Taiwan’s then deputy defence minister Lee Hsi-ming dismissed suggestions that the Mirages should be decommissioned but acknowledged that the parts and supplies needed to maintain them were more expensive than those needed for the indigenous aircraft and the F-16s.

Earlier, Andrei Chang, editor-in-chief of the Canada-based Kanwa Asian Defence, cited a Taiwanese air force source as saying that the cost of Mirage spare parts was on average at least double that for the F-16.

And Mirage 2000-5 fighters used up to 1.5 times as much fuel as F-16s, he said.

Former Taiwanese defence minister Andrew Yang Nien-dzu said Taiwan’s security strategy was defensive rather than offensive and it had the aircraft it needed.

“The mainland has more warplanes in both quantity and quality than Taipei, but Taiwan’s air force has never wanted to compete with the PLA Air Force,” Yang said. “Taiwan is small and the number of warplanes it has now is enough to safeguard our territory in case of attack.”

Australia Suspends Air Strikes in Syria: Government — Escalation of Hostilities — Russia and U.S. in Ugly Debate Over Airspace Management

June 20, 2017

SYDNEY — Australia said on Tuesday it was suspending air strikes into Syria following the U.S. downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday and Russia’s subsequent threat against U.S.-led coalition aircraft.

“As a precautionary measure, Australian Defence Force (ADF) strike operations into Syria have temporarily ceased,” Australia’s Department of Defence said in a statement.

Russia said on Monday it would treat U.S.-led coalition aircraft flying west of the River Euphrates in Syria as potential targets and track them with missile systems and military aircraft, but stopped short of saying it would shoot them down.

Russia made clear it was changing its military posture in response to the U.S. downing of a Syrian military jet on Sunday, something Damascus said was the first such incident since the start of the country’s conflict in 2011.

(Reporting by James Regan; Editing by Nick Macfie)


© ROYAL AUSTRALIAN AIR FORCE/AFP/File | Royal Australian Air Force F/A-18A Hornets fly in formation after refuelling from a KC-30A on a mission over Syria. Australia has temporarily halted air missions following the shooting down of a Syrian jet by US forces


Credit Vadim Savitsky/Russian Defence, via European Pressphoto Agency

WASHINGTON — Long-running tensions between the United States and Russia erupted publicly on Monday as Moscow condemned the American military’s downing of a Syrian warplane and threatened to target aircraft flown by the United States and its allies west of the Euphrates.

The Russians also said they had suspended their use of a hotline that the American and Russian militaries used to avoid collisions of their aircraft in Syrian airspace.

The episode was the first time the United States downed a Syrian plane since the civil war began there in 2011 and came after the SU-22 jet dropped bombs on Sunday near American-backed fighters combating the Islamic State. It followed another major American military action against the Syrian government: a cruise missile strike to punish a nerve gas attack that killed civilians in April.

The latest escalation comes as competing forces converge on ungoverned swaths of Syria amid the country’s six-year civil war. Syrian forces and Iranian-backed militias that support them are extending their reach east closer to American-backed fighters, including forces that the Pentagon hopes will pursue the militants into the Euphrates River valley after they take the Islamic State’s self-declared capital of Raqqa. The collision of the disparate forces has, in effect, created a war within a war.

 Image may contain: airplane


“The escalation of hostilities among the many factions that are operating in this region doesn’t help anybody,” Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Monday. President Trump has allowed military commanders more say in conducting operations against the Islamic State, urging them to surround the militants in their strongholds and “annihilate” them.

Russia’s warnings could turn out to be posturing. The Russian military has threatened to halt its use of the hotline in the past — notably after Mr. Trump ordered April’s missile launch — only to continue and even expand its contacts with the United States military. But in the complicated and quickly unfolding situation in Syria, even bluster can risk an unintended showdown.

“Anytime we have multiple armed forces working in the same battle space without de-confliction, there is a dangerous risk of things spinning out of control,” said Douglas E. Lute, a retired three-star Army general who was the United States representative to NATO until January. “Tactical incidents on the ground or in the air over Syria can be misunderstood and lead to miscalculation.”

American military officials rushed to de-escalate the situation, saying they hoped Russia could be persuaded to keep using the hotline.

“This is a delicate couple of hours,” Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday afternoon. He added that the United States would work both diplomatically and militarily “to re-establish de-confliction.”

But the latest statement from Russia’s Defense Ministry was particularly stark. “All flying objects, including planes and drones of the international coalition, detected west of the Euphrates, will be followed by Russian air defense systems as targets,” said the Defense Ministry statement, which stopped short of declaring that the targets would be shot down.

The Pentagon also vowed to continue airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria.

The downing of the Syrian SU-22 on Sunday, the first time the American military had shot down an enemy plane since an F-16 took down a Soviet-era MIG-29 during the 1999 conflict over Kosovo, was the latest in a series of confrontations between the United States and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.

One previously undisclosed confrontation followed a drone attack on June 8 on American-supported Syrians patrolling alongside their coalition advisers. The weapon was a Shahed 129 drone made by Iran, though American officials said they do not know who directed it.

Read the rest:

Obama’s $5 Trillion Dollar Gift to China: The South China Sea? — America’s position in Asia is quite grim

December 7, 2015


In this screen capture from U.S. Navy-released video, sailors conduct flight operations aboard a Navy P-8A Poseidon over the South China Sea on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. SCREEN CAPTURE FROM U.S. NAVY-RELEASED VIDEO

In this screen capture from U.S. Navy-released video, sailors conduct flight operations aboard a Navy P-8A Poseidon over the South China Sea on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. SCREEN CAPTURE FROM U.S. NAVY-RELEASED VIDEO

ByHarry J. Kazianis
The National Interest

Yes, President Obama should surely be congratulated for “doing something” in the South China Sea. But those somethings, a strategically confusing freedom of navigation operation (or maybe innocent passage?) near Subi Reef and now a B-52 flight near the Spratly Islands, is proof positive of how bungled the so-called “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia has become. In the end, while Washington’s challenge to Beijing’s adventurism in the South China Sea is surely needed, such actions may be too little, too confusing and too late.

The facts are obvious—America’s position in Asia is quite grim. Short of kinetic conflict (think war), and if current trends are not altered—by say a Chinese economic collapse or somehow American policy in Asia changing dramatically in the next few months—Washington will not be able to stop Beijing from eventually dominating the South China Sea. Put bluntly: there is no good way to put the proverbial slices back on the salami. And almost all of the blame rests on President Obama’s shoulders.

Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Chinese People’s Liberation Army-Navy Jiangkai-class frigate Linyi (FFG 547) moors alongside the Luhu-class destroyer Qingdao during a port visit associated with the last RIMPAC Exercis

Obama, The “Pivot” and the Makings of a Disaster

It never had to be this way. The Obama administration’s so-called “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia was suppose to be the start of a welcomed reboot of U.S. foreign policy—a move away from the black hole of national security nightmares known as the Middle East and towards the economic opportunities and challenges of the future in the Asia-Pacific and wider Indo-Pacific region. And for all the promise, all the photo-ops, all the speeches, the pivot has fallen flat—while China is now poised to gain mastery of the South China Sea, a waterway that moves over $5 trillion dollars of seaborne trade ($1 trillion of which is U.S. goods) per year.

Where Did It Go Wrong? Enter Scarborough Shoal

If the pivot to Asia was to achieve one thing, and one thing only, it would be to support and reinforce existing alliance structures while at the same time help shape China’s peaceful rise—and restrain any ideas of altering the status quo. If the pivot were truly conceptualized in this way, at least in theory, anytime Beijing undertook an aggressive action, especially an action that could alter the status quo, Washington would ensure that China’s coercive moves were restrained in some way. So if we are to pick a starting point where the pivot went from grandiose words to meaningless slogans it was Washington’s failure to stop Chinese actions at Scarborough Shoal, well within the Philippines’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). As Ely Ratner, now a senior adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, explained in these very pages back in 2013:

After weeks of discussions, demarches and negotiations, U.S. officials in mid-June brokered what they thought was a deal for a mutual withdrawal. Exhausted, outnumbered and lacking viable alternatives, Manila withdrew its remaining ships under the facing-saving auspices of an oncoming typhoon. China, on the other hand, failed to comply with the agreed-upon deadline and retained its maritime vessels at the shoal, where they remain today on near-constant patrol.”

Ratner goes on to conclude:

“Scarborough Reef was a tactical victory for China, but it also revealed Beijing’s formula of exploiting weaker states, dividing multilateral institutions and keeping the United States on the sidelines. To stem the dangerous trend of mounting Chinese assertiveness in its near seas, Washington should focus on building partner capacity, strengthening regional institutions and ultimately making clear to Beijing that the “Scarborough Model” will no longer be cost-free.”

Sadly, we did not take Mr. Ratner’s advice.

Admiral Wu Shengli

How Does America Regain the Initiative?

There is no way to undo the damage that has been done from the Obama Administration’s failure to at least attempt to restrain China’s aggressive actions over the last several years. Such actions—Beijing essentially declaring the South China Sea sovereign territory on various occasions, an ADIZ in the East China Sea, oil rigs off of Vietnam’s coast, island building in the South China Sea that could limit the time honored tradition of freedom of navigation and the militarization of these islands etc.—are slowly undoing the status quo in Asia. As Dean Cheng from the Heritage Foundation noted in a recent op-ed, Washington seems to be retreating in the South China Sea and indeed sending a message that America essentially accepts Chinese actions.

While things look grim, there are ways to limit the damage and get Beijing to think twice about further actions going forward. It’s time to make clear to China that if they are hell-bent on changing the status quo, America does not have to respect its so-called “core interests” either. As I wrote back in May on RealClearWorld:

“If Beijing wants to raise the stakes in the South China Sea, it should know its actions will have repercussions across the region—even in the areas it holds most dear…

For example, if Taiwan wishes to enhance its own military with progress toward new conventional submarines, or by purchasing updated F-16 or even F-35 aircraft, Washington should help. America could even float the possibility of large arms sales agreements with Vietnam and the Philippines as a way to level the playing field. Washington could also speak out to a much greater extent on human rights abuses in China – specifically in Tibet and Xinjiang. Regular invitations to the White House for the Dali Lama and Chinese human rights activists would certainly get Beijing’s attention.”

America clearly has many tools at its disposal when it comes to raising the costs of Chinese coercive actions in Asia that could work as a restraint, but will this administration use any of them before it’s too late?

Harry Kazianis is the outgoing Executive Editor of The National Interest. Mr. Kazianis also serves as Senior Fellow (non-resident) for Defense Policy at theCenter for the National Interest, Senior Fellow (non-resident) at the China Policy Institute as well as a Fellow for National Security Affairs at The Potomac Foundation. He previously served as Editor of The Diplomat and as a WSD Handa Fellow at Pacific Forum: CSIS. All views are his own. You can follow him on Twitter: @GrecianFormula.


 (Contains links to several previous articles)


Putin Calls Turkey’s Shoot Down of Russian Jet A ‘Stab In The Back’

November 24, 2015


Smoke billows from the spot where the Su-24 warplane crashed in Hatay

MOSCOW (AFP) – President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday branded the downing by Turkey of a Russian warplane on the Syrian border a “stab in the back” committed by “accomplices of terrorists”.The shooting down of the fighter plane was “a stab in the back committed by accomplices of terrorists”, Putin said at a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II. “I cannot call what happened today anything else.”

Putin insisted the plane did not pose any threat to Turkey. “Our plane was shot down over the territory of Syria by an air-to-air missile from a Turkish F-16 jet. It fell in Syrian territory four kilometres from the border with Turkey,” Putin said in televised comments.

“Our pilots and our plane did not in any way threaten Turkey.”

But Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Ankara has a duty to act against anyone violating its borders.

“Everyone must know that it is our international right and national duty to take any measure against whoever violates our air or land borders,” Davutoglu said.

Russia says one of its jets (like the one pictured) was shot down by Turkey — inside Syrian airspace. Russia condemned the downing as “a very serious incident.” Photo credit Norwegian Air Force/AFP


Turkish fighter jets shoot down an aircraft near Turkey-Syria border

November 24, 2015


Turkish fighter jets have shot down a warplane near the Syrian border after it violated Turkey’s airspace, a Turkish military official says, but the nationality of the downed aircraft is not immediately clear.

Turkish F16s warned the jet over the airspace violations before shooting it down, a military official said.

Footage from private broadcaster Haberturk TV showed a warplane going down in flames in a woodland area, a long plume of smoke trailing behind it.

The plane went down in area known by Turks as Turkmen Mountain in northern Syria near the Turkish border, Haberturk said.

Separate footage from Turkey’s Anadolu Agency showed two pilots parachuting out of the jet before it crashed.

Russia has repeatedly carried out air strikes in Syria in defence of president Bashar al-Assad. Russia’s defence ministry was not immediately available for comment.

Turkey called this week for a UN Security Council meeting to discuss attacks on Turkmens in neighbouring Syria, and last week Ankara summoned the Russian ambassador to protest the bombing of their villages.

Ankara has traditionally expressed solidarity with Syrian Turkmens, who are Syrians of Turkish descent.

Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu has spoken with the chief of military staff and the foreign minister about the developments on the Syrian border, the prime minister’s office said in a statement, without mentioning the downed jet.

He has ordered the foreign ministry to consult with NATO, the United Nations and related countries on the latest developments, his office said.


Indonesia Set For Weapons Build Up To Counter South China Sea Disputes

September 7, 2015


By Nani Afrida, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta | Headlines | Mon, September 07 2015

Indonesia will strengthen its weaponry systems on Natuna Island in order to anticipate future threats from the South China Sea dispute.

Natuna, located 550 kilometers east of Batam Island, borders Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia. The island is on the border of Indonesia that is nearest to the South China Sea.

“We will equip Natuna with a port and extend its military air base runway. The runway should be enough to accommodate four jet fighters,” Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu told journalists.

He added that more jet fighters would be stationed at the Ranai military air base in Natuna.

The defense minister has made a list of weapons systems needed for borders, saying having proper weapons systems along the borders was necessary to prevent possible threats to Indonesia’s territory.

“We are not in a war situation, but the South China Sea is very close to us. We have to be prepared. Our weaponry systems are good, but we need to add more [weapons], so that we don’t need to worry all the time,” he said.

The South China Sea is a semi-enclosed sea bordering China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Due to its proximity to so many nations, complicated, often sensitive questions over jurisdiction are common. In recent years, a series of disputes over islands have rocked relations between China and other countries.

Previously, Indonesia had upgraded a naval base (Lanal) in Pontianak, West Kalimantan, to become the Main Naval Base (Lantamal), also to anticipate similar risks of disputes erupting in the sea.

“[We should] maintain security and stability in the South China Sea, especially with the recently increasing intensity of threats,” Navy chief of staff Adm. Ade Supandi said last week.

Adm. Ade Supandi

Besides allocating more weapons systems to Natuna, the Defense Ministry is starting to inspect the preparedness of weapons systems in all battalions of the Navy, Army and Air Force. The inspection was directly ordered by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to discover the condition of the weapons systems.

“We should know from the soldiers which weapons should be replaced or repaired,” Minister Ryamizard said after conducting inspections in three military units: the Army’s Special Forces (Kopassus), Cavalry Battalion Yonkav 1/1 Kostrad and Infantry Batallion Yudha Jaya in Jakarta.

Ryamizard said that he had also reported the audit of the weaponry systems to President Jokowi and so far the response was quite good.

“The most important thing is to maintain the weapons systems [that we have bought]. Our weapons are brand new and the maintenance should be done seriously,” he said.

Indonesia is now working to strengthen its minimum essential force (MEF). It was reported that Indonesia met 38 percent of the MEF in 2014 and aimed to reach 100 percent by 2019. The country has allocated Rp 100 trillion (US$7.07 billion) to meet the MEF.

After a long discussion, including a comparison of five different types of jet fighters, the ministry also decided to procure Russian-made Sukhoi SU-35s to replace the retiring F-5 Tiger jet fighters.

The Sukhoi purchase will be carried out in stages depending on the government’s financial capacity.

“We wanted to buy one squadron, but we are aware of the current [financial] situation so maybe [we will buy] around eight [units]. The jets will be all brand new and have complete weapons,” Ryamizard said.

The current price of a Sukhoi Su-35 is estimated to be $65 million.

It was reported that before being selected, the Sukhoi SU-35 had to compete against four other types; the American-made F-16 Block 60, the Swedish-made JAS-39 Gripen, the Eurofighter Typhoon, a collaboration between Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, and the French-made Rafale jet fighter.

Ryamizard said that besides purchasing the Sukhoi Su-35s, Indonesia also planned to procure Boeing aircraft and Chinook helicopters from the US. – See more at: .


Indonesian Navy Kri Makassar

Secretary of State John Kerry is in Cairo for security talks

August 1, 2015


US Secretary of State John Kerry testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the Iran nuclear agreement in Washington, DC on July 28, 2015 (AFP Photo/Mandel Ngan)


CAIRO (AP) — Secretary of State John Kerry is in Cairo for security talks with Egyptian officials before heading to Qatar to try to ease Arab concerns about the Iran nuclear deal.

Kerry arrived in the Egyptian capital on Saturday and on Sunday will resume a U.S.-Egypt strategic dialogue that was suspended in 2009 due to political unrest.

Despite continuing human rights concerns, the Obama administration is increasing military assistance to Egypt as it confronts growing threats from extremists, particularly on the Sinai peninsula. On Friday, the U.S. delivered eight F-16 warplanes to Egypt, part of a military support package.

Sinai-based militants have been launching increasingly sophisticated attacks in recent months that have killed dozens of Egyptian soldiers and police. The latest wave of violence began after the military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi two years ago.

U.S. military assistance to Egypt had been on hold until earlier this year due to human rights and democracy concerns in the wake of the coup, but was resumed by the administration for national security reasons.

Some lawmakers and numerous advocacy groups are urging Kerry to raise human rights issues with Egyptian authorities, including the arrests of dissidents and journalists, mass trials, and sentencings of Morsi supporters. U.S. officials said those concerns would be raised at all of Kerry’s meetings in Cairo and noted that the State Department’s top diplomat for human rights and democracy would be accompanying him.

Ahead of his trip, Kerry met on Thursday in Washington with Egyptian-American Mohammed Soltan, who had been sentenced to life in prison in Egypt for financing an anti-government sit-in and spreading “false news.” One of thousands imprisoned after the 2013 military overthrow of Morsi, Soltan had been on a hunger strike for more than a year before being freed in May after repeated U.S. requests. He is the son of a prominent member of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

The State Department said Kerry and Soltan discussed his experience in prison and “the importance of distinguishing between peaceful dissent and violent extremism in the fight against terrorism.” In the meeting, Kerry “reaffirmed America’s commitment to promoting respect for human rights and space for civil society as part of our engagement with Egypt,” the department said.

Broadening U.S.-Egyptian trade and economic ties will also be on the table during Kerry’s visit, which comes just days before Egypt inaugurates a second, parallel waterway to allow two-way traffic on the Suez Canal. Egyptian officials are hoping the opening will boost a flagging economy.

From Cairo, Kerry will travel on Sunday to Doha, Qatar, for talks with Gulf Arab foreign ministers whose countries are wary of the nuclear deal with Iran.

Officials say the Doha discussions are primarily designed to follow-up on a May meeting that President Barack Obama hosted for Arab leaders at Camp David, at which the U.S. promised enhanced security cooperation and expedited defense sales to guard against a potential Iranian threat. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss Kerry’s trip publicly, said the talks in Qatar would take stock of progress made on those goals, particularly since the Iran deal was signed.

One U.S. official said Kerry would use the meeting with the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council to “try to respond to any remaining questions they might have, hopefully satisfy them and ensure that they are supporting our effort going forward.”

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq in a similar tour earlier this week to talk to his counterparts about the Iran deal.

Saudi Arabia is the largest and most influential member of the council and has been publicly supportive of the Iran deal, albeit with reservations. Just this week, the State Department authorized the sale to Saudi Arabia of $5.4 billion in Patriot missiles and related equipment along with $500 million in ammunition.

In addition to Iran, Kerry and the Arab ministers are expected to look closely at the situation in Syria and Iraq, which continue to be ravaged by conflict and the spread of the Islamic State extremist group, the officials said. Kerry will also meet separately in Doha with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss Syria, Iran and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Despite the focus on Iran, Kerry’s itinerary does not include Israel, America’s foremost Mideast ally and the primary foreign opponent of the Iran agreement.

U.S. officials rejected suggestions that bypassing Israel signaled that the Obama administration had given up trying to convince Israeli leaders of the merits of the Iran deal. They noted that Defense Secretary Ash Carter had visited the Jewish state in mid-July and say that contacts with Israeli officials continue to be robust.

The last time Kerry spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on July 16, two days after the Iran deal was sealed.

China’s New Power projection Tool: Su-35 fighter jets

June 20, 2015

Zachary Keck
June 19, 2015


Russia appears intent on selling China its most advanced fighter jet by the end of the year, a move that will greatly enhance Beijing’s ability to project military power in the South China Sea.

Speaking to reporters at the Paris Air Show this week, Yuri Slyusar, chairman of United Aircraft Corp, a Russian civilian and military jet manufacturer, said his company is aiming to ink a deal with China to sell Beijing 24 Su-35 fighter jets.

“Our position is that we still believe that we will sign the contract to sell 24 aircraft this year,” Yuri said, according to multiple Western defense news outlets. He added that the decision would have to be approved by the “federal service on military cooperation.”

China and Russia have been in negotiations for years over the potential sale of the Su-35, which Moscow refers to as a 4++ generation multi-role fighter jet. The talks have bogged down over Russia’s fears that China will reverse engineer the plane in order to produce a domestically-built version, something that China has done with previous Russian aircraft like the Su-27.

(Recommended: The Chinese Air Force’s Super Weapon: Beware the J-11D Fighter)

There have also been reports that Moscow is concerned Beijing only wants to buy a small number of Su-35s in order to reverse engineer the jet’s NIIP Irbis-E passive electronically scanned array radar and 117S engine, which China could then use on domestically-produced planes.

As such, Russia has long held that China must purchase a large batch of the planes in any initial sale, so Moscow can receive enough financial compensation to make the deal worthwhile even if China steals the jet or its technology.

However, last year, as tensions between Russia and the West increased over Ukraine, Moscow softened its position. In November 2014, IHS Jane’s reported, citing Russian defense industry sources, that Moscow was only asking Beijing to purchase 24 Su-35s, not the 48 jets it had previously demanded.

(Recommended: Why China and India Want Russia’s New Armata Battle Tank)

At that time, the Russian side indicated that the sale of the Su-35s was imminent. One Russian industry source told Jane’s “I think that the contract will be signed at the end of 2014 or at the beginning of 2015. There are no obvious political or technical reasons hindering the signing of the contract. The only thing to be done is the elaborate consideration of some details and technical issues.”

He added: “I am convinced that if everything is carried out in the proper way, Chinese pilots will be conducting flight demonstrations in 2016.”

It’s unclear why talks seemed to stall again. One possibility is that last month China conducted the first flight test of an upgraded J-11B fighter jet. Although the J-11 is a copy of Russia’s Su-27, the upgraded version—called the J-11D—features advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. As such, some analysts compared the J-11D to the Su-35.

Still, as The National Interest noted at the time, the J-11D is unlikely to stop China from buying the Su-35. For one thing, the Su-35 is believed to be capable of defeating fourth-generation fighter jets like the F-16 and F-15 Eagle.

As Air Force Technology has noted the Su-35 “has high manoeuvrability (+9g) with a high angle of attack, and is equipped with high-capability weapon systems that contribute to the new aircraft’s exceptional dogfighting capability. The maximum level speed is 2,390km/h or Mach 2.25.”

Equally important from China’s perspective is that the Su-35’s high fuel capacity and long range would greatly enhance China’s ability to enforce its claims in the South China Sea. Currently, Beijing has trouble maintaining a regular presence over the enormous waters, which are roughly 1.4 million square miles (2.25 million square kilometers).

As Peter Wood has written in The Diplomat:

Currently, land-based PLAAF fighters, can conduct limited patrols of the sea’s southern areas, but their fuel capacity severely restricts the time they can spend on patrol. Enforcing claims far from the mainland in times of crisis requires the type of range and speed that the Su-35 possesses. The Su-35 is likely meant to help enforce China’s territorial claims, further deter regional claimants, and provide additional layers of protection in the case of escalation.

Wood notes that the “key to this is fuel,” and the Su-35 offers a number of advantages over the Su-27 in this regard.

“One important improvement of the Su-35 over the Su-27/J-11B is the ability to carry external fuel tanks, be a major factor limiting the Su-27, which does not have aerial refueling capability. This is in addition to a 20 percent increase in fuel capacity over the Su-27 and air refueling capability. This later capability is another important part of China’s strategy of increasing loiter times and distances,” Wood wrote.

The Su-35 also compares favorably with the J-11D in terms of internal fuel capacity. Whereas the J-11D can only carry 9 tons of fuel, the Su-35’s internal capacity is around 11.5 tons.

Zachary Keck is managing editor of The National Interest. You can find him on Twitter: @ZacharyKeck.

Image: Flickr/joseluiscel/CC by-nc-sa 2.0

Putin orders ‘mass surprise drill’ of 12,000 soldiers in response to Nato’s two-week ‘Arctic Challenge’ as tensions over Ukraine increase

May 26, 2015
  • Moscow launched a four-day drill featuring 12,000 soldiers and 250 aircraft
  • Just the latest huge show of Russian military strength over the past year
  • Drill began on the same day as Nato and its allies launched a massive ‘reassurance’ operation in the Arctic 
  • West sent 100 aircraft and 4,000 servicemen to join in aviation exercises

Russia has launched a massive ‘surprise’ military drill featuring 12,000 soldiers and 250 aircraft in response to two weeks of Nato exercises in the Arctic, as tensions in Europe continue to escalate.

The Russian manoeuvres – which began in the Ural mountains and western Siberia yesterday – are intended to help the military prepare for an even larger drill in September, called Tsentr-2015.

This week’s drills began on the same day as Nato launched its own long-planned military exercises in the Arctic, where 100 aircraft and 4,000 servicemen from Germany, Britain, France, Netherlands and the U.S., are taking part in a Norway-led aviation exercise described as the ‘largest of its kind’.

Non-Nato allies Finland, Sweden and Switzerland have also joined the so-called ‘Arctic Challenge’.

Scroll down for video 

Patrol: Norwegian Air Force F-16 fighter jets flies over Lithuania during exercises last week. Moscow responded to Nato's actions with a a massive 'surprise' military drill featuring 12,000 soldiers and 250 aircraft

Patrol: Norwegian Air Force F-16 fighter jets flies over Lithuania during exercises last week. Moscow responded to Nato’s actions with a a massive ‘surprise’ military drill featuring 12,000 soldiers and 250 aircraft

Protection: An Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon fighter flies over Zokniai air base near Siauliai, Lithuania earlier this week as part of a Nato air policing mission in the Baltics

Protection: An Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon fighter flies over Zokniai air base near Siauliai, Lithuania earlier this week as part of a Nato air policing mission in the Baltics

Concern: Nato officials meet in Brussels to discuss military policy, including growing tensions with Russia

Concern: Nato officials meet in Brussels to discuss military policy, including growing tensions with Russia

The Russian military (red) is slightly smaller  the United States (blue) but still dwarfs that of the UK (green)

The Russian military (red) is slightly smaller the United States (blue) but still dwarfs that of the UK (green)

After its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014, Russia has held numerous large-scale military drills checking combat readiness.

The focus of the drills is on developing a command system in field conditions as well as setting up all-round aviation security measures in new base areas.

The drills in the Central Military District have been reinforced by units from the Western and Southern military districts, the ministry added, as well as long-range aircraft.

However this week’s huge show of strength has been widely interpreted as a direct response to Nato’s exercises in the Arctic, which Moscow has roundly condemned as antagonistic.

For its part, Nato has insisted its own exercises do nothing more than provide reassurance to its eastern member states and non-Nato allies – including several former Soviet republics who have expressed fears that Russia may attempt to invade their territory.

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Not happy: This week's huge show of strength has been widely interpreted as a direct response to Nato's exercises in the Arctic, which Vladimir Putin (pictured this morning) has condemned as antagonistic

Not happy: This week’s huge show of strength has been widely interpreted as a direct response to Nato’s exercises in the Arctic, which Vladimir Putin (pictured this morning) has condemned as antagonistic

Russian serviceman march during the Victory Day parade, on a day when Russia showcased its new military hardware

Show of strength: Russian servicemen march during the Victory Day parade in Moscow earlier this month. Russian used the day as an excuse to showcase its new military hardware

Soviet SU-100 tank destroyers drive during the Victory Day parade - Russia used the event to highlight its formidable military defence

Powerful: Soviet SU-100 tank destroyers drive through central Moscow during the Victory Day parade earlier this month. Russia used the event to highlight its formidable military defence

A Russian strategic ballistic missile RS-24 Yars launching vehicle is watched on by serviceman as it moves through Red Square

A Russian strategic ballistic missile RS-24 Yars launching vehicle is watched on by serviceman as it moves through Red Square during the Victory Day anniversary celebrations earlier this month

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About 100 U.S., European jets join Arctic exercise near Russia

May 25, 2015



About 100 fighter jets from the United States and eight European nations began an Arctic training exercise in the Nordic nations on Monday, a region worried by increased Russian military activity.

The exercise, based in the north of Norway, Sweden and Finland with 4,000 personnel, is meant to test cooperation among Arctic nations near Russia. It was planned before Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region last year raised regional tensions.

“The aim is to exercise and train units in the orchestration and conduct of complex air operations, in close relations to NATO partners,” Norwegian brigadier general Jan Ove Rygg, heading the exercise, said in a statement.

The exercise, lasting from May 25 to June 5, is one of the biggest fighter jet exercises in Europe this year and the second of its type after one in 2013. Plans are for exercises every second year, testing everything from shooting down airborne targets to mid-air refueling.

NATO members involved were the United States, Germany, Britain, France, the Netherlands and Norway, as well as non-members Sweden, Finland and Switzerland, which are linked to the alliance via NATO’s partnership for peace.

Russia has stepped up military activity around the Nordic and Baltic region. Incursions into airspace have especially rattled the Baltic states and Sweden last year hunted in vain for a suspected submarine in its waters.

(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Andrew Heavens)


Arctic Challenge Exercise 2015

In 2015 one of Europe’s largest fighter jet exercise is to take place in the Nordic countries, more than 4000 persons participating, with Norway as lead nation.

​Norway is lead nation as nearly a hundred fighter jets from nine nations gather for ajoint training exercise from 25 May to 5 June.

Arctic Challenge Exercise 2015 (ACE 2015) evolved from a Swedish exercise, Nordic Air Meet, and cross border training between the Nordic neighbours Sweden and Finland, back in 2009. The training exercise will take place in the High North, with the activity being divided between Bodø in Norway, Rovaniemi in Finland, and Kallax in Sweden.

One of the largest of its k​ind

“This is the second time the multinational training exercise is carried out, the first being in 2013. The plan forward is to continue every other year. Even though Norway, Sweden and Finland are the host nations, all of the participating countries contribute to the planning, which helps build our national and allied capability to lead air operations,” says Brigadier General Jan Ove Rygg, head of RNoAF’s National Air Operations Center (NAOC), and ACE 2015 exercise director.

He continues, “The aim is to exercise and train units in the orchestration and conduct of complex air operations, in close relations to NATO partners. The unique cross border air space makes ACE 2015 a one of a kind training ground for increasing interoperability and skills in all parts of the chain.”


Colorful Jet Stream

“We are getting great operational take-backs with such large scenarios and tactical training,” says Major Trond Ertsgaard at Bodø Main Air Station.

Together with neighbors, allies and NAOC, he is now fully focused on planning the substantial exercise.

In addition to the well-known F-16, Nordic air space will be filled with F-18, Hawk T1, Tornado GR4, Mirage 2000, Eurofighter Typhoon, and Jas 39 Gripen, among others. Furthermore, a number of NATO AWACS jets, transportation jets and tankers, and DA-20 Jet Falcons will all have supporting roles.

Large Operational Are​as

The exercise consists of a wide range of scenario drills and cooperation between the three host bases, with large operational areas available both in Norway and surrounding the other main bases.

“There is going to be two flight periods per day. The first one will focus on training with units stationed at the same base, with flights taking place in the surrounding air space,” Ertsgaard explains.

This includes everything from weapon delivery, both against grounded and airborne targets, and combating simulated anti-air artillery, to low-level flying and mid-air refueling.

“The second period comprises of composite air operations where all aircraft meet, mainly in Swedish air space, for a vast setup.”​​​