Anatomy of War

Anatomy of War: Turkey Looks to Go Hi-Tech

Lately, it seems as if every nation on Earth is working on a fifth/sixth generation fighter. So many projects are in the offing that we wouldn’t be surprised if several third world countries jumped on the band wagon, claiming they too have the ability to develop and field an aircraft that can hold its own against either the F-22 or F-35. Frankly, its hard to take some would-be candidates seriously, among them Iran’s supposed IAIO Qaher-313 “Conqueror”, which was shown taxiing around an airfield a couple of year’s back, with no real attempt to take off.

The latest nation to unveil efforts to deploy a stealth aircraft is Turkey, who, at the recent Paris Air Show, showed off conceptual drawings and a CGI-rendered video of their TF-X program, which looks remarkably similar to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Apart from sporting two engines as opposed to one, it might be difficult to tell the two aircraft apart, no doubt paying homage to an aircraft they were supposed to purchase but were denied approval because they were pandering to Russia.

Developed in response to the US refusal to sell Turkey the F-35 stealth fighter because they chose to purchase S-400 missiles from Russia instead of a NATO-aligned nation, the TF-X is currently scheduled to enter service in 2028, provided it can overcome a myriad of hurdles associated with building a true fifth generation fighter. In fact, Turkey has little experience building an indigenous aircraft, its aging fleet of US-built F-16 Falcons representing its last foray into acquiring a cutting edge aircraft. Amazingly, the nimble F-16 is still serving as its front line fighter, and will likely do so well into the 2030s. Frankly, its hard to take Turkish Aerospace and the Turkish government seriously with its proposed TF-X program when other nations — with far more experience building aircraft and deeper pockets to fund them — are already looking towards building a sixth generation fighter that could outclass the TF-X before it can even be deployed.

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Anatomy of War: The Air Force Drones On

Kratos XQ-58A Valkyrie Experimental Combat Drone

A week after Boeing and the RAAF unveiled their “Loyal Wingman” UCAV, designed as a strike package force multiplier, the USAF did them one better by introducing their own autonomous UCAV, dubbed the XQ-58A Valkyrie Experimental Combat Drone. According to a USAF press release, “The XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned air vehicle completed its inaugural flight March 5, 2019 at Yuma Proving Grounds, Arizona. The Air Force Research Laboratory partnered with Kratos Unmanned Aerial Systems to develop the XQ-58A.

This joint effort falls within the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) portfolio, which has the objective to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft. The objectives of the LCAAT initiative include designing and building UAS faster by developing better design tools, and maturing and leveraging commercial manufacturing processes to reduce build time and cost.

Developed for runway independence, the aircraft behaved as expected and completed 76 minutes of flight time. The time to first flight took a little over 2.5 years from contract award. The XQ-58A has a total of five planned test flights in two phases with objectives that include evaluating system functionality, aerodynamic performance, and launch and recovery systems.

“XQ-58A is the first example of a class of UAV that is defined by low procurement and operating costs while providing game changing combat capability,” said Doug Szczublewski, AFRL’s XQ-58A Program Manager.

For more information on the Valkyrie, we recommend you pay a visit to The Drive.

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Anatomy of War: When is an Aircraft Too Old to Fight?

By now, most of us have heard that fighting has erupted between India and Pakistan near the embattled Kashmir region. What is surprising is that the Indian Air Force employed aircraft that are decades old, famous for last seeing combat in the 60s and 70s during the Vietnam War.

According to sources, India has steadily been upgrading its fleet of 110 MiG 21 fighters, so that it no longer resembles the MiG 21 of old. The MiG 21 “Bison”, as it is now called, was radically upgraded in 2006, and have been equipped with powerful multi-mode radar, better avionics and communications systems. The pilots have even been given helmet-mounted sights capable of providing all-aspect acquisition and targeting of enemy aircraft. That said, it is now plausible that an upgraded MiG 21 could have indeed shot down a Pakistani F-16 in air-to-air combat, which, on the surface, is infinitely more capable than the MiG 21. For more information on the engagement and background information on the MiG 21 “Bison”, we recommend you visit NDTV.

Update: Indian military authorities, responding to questions regarding the employment of the MiG 21 in this week’s engagement between the Indian and Pakistani Air Force, have cited the need to press the MiG 21s into service despite their age. Earlier that day a pair of Indian Air Force MiG 29s were rotated off of combat air patrol along the contested border to rest the pilots as well as refuel the aircraft. As a result, the MiG 21s were used to temporarily spell the MiG 29s but were nevertheless caught up in the ensuing conflict.

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Anatomy of War: Introducing the “Loyal Wingman”

No longer the stuff of drawing boards and conjecture, today’s military is placing greater emphasis on integrating unmanned combat systems into their front line units. Interestingly, Australia seems to be taking the first step forward by now wedding unmanned aircraft together with manned aircraft to create the ultimate airborne weapons system.

According to The Drive, Boeing will today unveil the “Loyal Wingman” UCAV, an unmanned combat air vehicle that will fly alongside such aircraft as the F-15 and newly delivered F-35 to beef up the capabilities of the combined strike package. The UCAV will carry improved sensor suites and other electronics along with a full array of ordnance, although its not clear if the weapons will be carried internally, like the F-35, or be slung under the wings, which defeat’s the aircraft’s stealthy characteristics.

It isn’t certain if other air forces plan on employing unmanned combat air vehicles alongside their front line aircraft, so its a good bet that the Australian Air Force will be used as a test bed for further technological development. For more information on the aircraft, visit The Drive.

Boeing, working in conjunction with the Australian military, released this short video showing a computer rendered image of the “Loyal Wingman” flying alongside a F-15 and then again with an Early Warning aircraft. The video is relatively short and intentionally sidesteps some of the onboard capabilities the unmanned aircraft will sport. It would appear though, that the aircraft can and will likely be flown in swarms, intended to overwhelm its target from multiple vantage points and with multiple threats. Moreover, it would seem as if the manned aircraft will serve as a command and control aircraft for the UCAV package, perhaps controlling the UCAVs from a safer stand-off position outside the range of enemy targets while the UCAVs carry out their intended mission.

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Anatomy of War: Down to the Sea in Drones?

For years, submarine warfare has remained one of the most dangerous forms of warfare, claiming man and machine at an alarming rate even when a conflict has ended and everyone else has gone home to lick their wounds. Grappling with the many perils faced with the conduct of undersea warfare has long been a contentious issue for all the world’s navies, even when the potential rewards of lurking in the ocean’s depths seem to far outweigh their incredible risk.

The US Navy, obviously looking to reduce costs and lessen the risk associated with underwater combat yet still carry out undersea operations, recently decided to purchase a fleet of four Extra-Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (XLUUVs) from Boeing. So valuable are these undersea drones that, according to Popular Mechanics, “(they) will be capable of crossing entire oceans and fulfilling a variety of missions, from hunting mines to sinking submarines.”

“The Orca is based on the Echo Voyager technology demonstration sub. That boat is an unmanned diesel electric submarine launched and recovered from a pier. It has a range of 6,500 nautical miles and can run completely alone for months at a time. It measures 51 by 8.5 by 8.5 feet and has a weight “in the air” of 50 tons.”

Designed in part to deal with a myriad of underwater threats, “the unmanned submarines will be able to undertake missions from scouting to sinking ships at very long ranges. Drone ships like the Orca will revolutionize war at sea, providing inexpensive, semi-disposable weapon systems that can fill the gaps in the front line—or simply go where it’s too dangerous for manned ships to go.”

For more information on the Orcas, and the likely impact they will have on naval combat in the 21st Century, visit the Popular Mechanics web site.

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Anatomy of War: Is this the Newest Member in the International Stealth Club?

For years, the Russian military claimed that their Sukhoi Su-57 aircraft was a fifth generation stealth fighter, capable of meeting and possibly exceeding the attributes of the F-22 and F-35 in the air superiority role. Yet, even with that lofty billing, it was never made clear how Sukhoi planned to mask the heat signature put out by the aircraft’s two huge NPO Saturn engines slung behind the aircraft and whether or not they had mastered the art of making, maintaining and repairing the radar absorbent material needed to coat the aircraft’s exterior surfaces.

Be that as it may, Sukhoi seems to be making another stab at the stealth aircraft market by rolling out preliminary images of its Okhotnik-B – an unmanned strike aircraft that purportedly seems to have mastered the art of operating within the demanding conditions of low observable flight. At this point, little is known about the aircraft, although the Russians like to show off their military wares under development well ahead of their actual deployment as a means of keeping the West on their toes. The aircraft looks very similar to Northrop Grumman’s X-47B and Boeing’s X-45C Phantom Ray, sporting a beefy undercarriage, hidden internal weapons bay, and forward mounted sensor suite that likely mounts both an active and passive radar array to detect enemy threats. Its entirely possible that Russia may integrate the aircraft into its upcoming Victory Day Parade, held annually on May 9th, which oftentimes serves as their principal venue for unveiling new hardware. As a guess, the Okhotnik-B will likely carry the Russian hypersonic missile as its principal armament, which, because of its Mach 7+ speed is designed to out run any missiles fielded by the west aimed at intercepting its flight.

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Anatomy of War: When Stealth Takes a Back Seat to Firepower

Boeing’s F-15X, which many consider to be an F-15 on steroids, features updates avionics, greater range, and most importantly, a greater payload, picking up where the F-22 or F-35 left off

In a monumental move that could have a telling effect on the USAF’s own procurement-making process for acquiring new aircraft, Israel has selected the F-15X (F-15IA) to complement its growing fleet of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. According to the National Interest, “… the F-15X is a new variant of the venerable jet [that] offers more modern flight controls, cockpit displays, and radar,” Weisgerber wrote, citing military and industry sources. He added that it would also pack more firepower, including two dozen air-to-air missiles.”

By doing so, Israeli war planners feel confident that once the F-35’s have carried out their mission of clearing the skies of enemy aircraft, the F-15IS could then be used to either defeat any remaining adversarial targets the F-35s were incapable of engaging or begin the arduous process of eliminating any ground-based threats that could hinder or impede their progress both in the air or on the ground.  For more information on the announcement, visit Defence Blog.

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Anatomy of War: When the US Army War Games

Every so often we get blown away by an interesting read. One such article surfaced earlier today that we thought we’d share with everyone since it could have a major impact on the hobby we enjoy.

According to FoxNews, the US Army is currently looking to develop a line of table top miniatures designed to emulate current and potentially near-future conflicts between Red and Blue forces from across the globe. Its not clear which systems they plan to portray, although its a good bet that the current Order of Battle (OOB) for the US, Russian and ChiCom forces will serve as the basis for teaching commanders how to deal with the vagaries of combat on today’s battlefields. It is also likely they will add-on systems destined for operational deployment within the next several years in an effort to stay current with developments both on and off the battlefield.

Its not clear at what scale they plan to model the table top battlefield and whether or not a commercial off-shoot will be created to potentially defray some of the development costs associated with portraying so many different land, air and sea combat systems currently in use around the world. Still, this could be exciting news for military collectors, many of whom have been asking for certain types of models not hitherto available as pre-assembled models.

For more information regarding this development, visit this FoXNews link.

For more information, visit this link:

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Anatomy of War: The UK’s Next Generation Fighter is Called the Tempest

In a bit of a surprise, the United Kingdom’s Defense Ministry announced that it was rolling out a brand new sixth generation fighter called Tempest. A twin-engine aircraft, the Tempest will fly in tandem with the RAF’s F-35 fighter, much like the US Air Force’s doctrine of pairing the F-22 with the F-35. At the press conference, little was discussed regarding the aircraft’s capabilities, but it likely rivals the USAF’s F-22 Raptor, meaning it will boast a minimal radar cross section, internal weapons bay, and integrated avionics suite as well as demonstrate supercruise flight characteristics. Other features being touted include cyber-resiliency and optional human piloting, meaning some versions may be designed with autonomy in mind and perhaps slaved to a control aircraft. Interestingly, the announcement comes just days after Russia announced that it was abandoning further work on the Suhkoi Su-57 and on the day of the Trump-Putin summit held in Helsinki, Finland. 

For more information on the announcement, visit UKDJ.

The Generational Divide: The Tempest, shown at the bottom of this three aircraft stack, flying alongside the RAF’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Eurofighter

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Anatomy of War: Return of the Tank Destroyer and Death of the Su-57

Ever since the closing days of WWII, nations have eschewed the tank destroyer concept in favor of deploying fleets of main battle tanks that are designed to meet most military requirements on the modern battlefield. It was felt that the tank destroyer concept could just as easily be managed by battle tanks equipped with traversable turrets, thereby making them more versatile and less cumbersome to operate. And with the introduction of low-flying attack helicopters, the need for a dedicated tank destroyer was dubious at best.

Russia, however, sees things differently and plans to soon deploy a purpose-built tank hunter designed from the ground up to deal with two of the most feared pieces of armor in the western inventory – the M1 Abrams and Leopard 2 tanks. According to Defence Blog, “Since 2013, the KBP Instrument Design Bureau is developing a new long-range anti-tank missile system called the Kornet-D1. The Russian tank hunter is based on tracked chassis of the BMD-4M airborne combat vehicle.

Is expected that in 2018 the Russian Airborne Troops to receive first Kornet-D1 tank hunter to increase their ability to combat modern tanks on the battlefield.

The new tank hunter will able to destroy advanced and modern tanks fitted with explosive reactive armour, light-armoured vehicles, and fortifications. It is a simple and low-cost anti-tank missile system which has a range a range of up to 10 km.

Kornet-D1 is a laser-beam-riding system with a ‘fire-and-forget’ (*according to a press release of the KBP Instrument Design Bureau)capability that can penetrate explosive reactive armour and then penetrate 1,100-1,300 mm of conventional armour.”

Recently, Russia deployed their unmanned drone tank, the Uran-9, to Syria, to gauge its effectiveness in close quarter battles. The results were disappointing at best, oftentimes breaking down or maneuvering out-of-range of its handler, and many defense experts believe the vehicle was sent packing and is now undergoing further field testing before it can be deployed as a feasible weapons system.

In other news, Russia confirmed today that their Suhkoi Su-57 fighter — billed as a fifth-generation stealth fighter intended to take on the F-22 and F-35 — will not enter mass production as originally planned. Incorporating cutting edge radar technology that could be retrofitted onto other existing aircraft, military analysts believe that the Su-57 was a stealth fighter in name only, unable to overcome several design flaws to make it a match for either the F-22 or F-35. Twelve aircraft have been produced to date, and despite undergoing testing over the skies of Syria earlier this year, it never saw combat against a likely air-to-air opponent. India was supposed to accept the fighter into their own inventory but declined to do so recently and refused to pay for further testing and aircraft procurement. Without an export market and unable to compete with other fifth generation aircraft, the Su-57 was essentially doomed leaving Russia in the lurch and without an aircraft capable of staying apace with the West.

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