Tag Archives: navy

Armed Forces

27 Oct

Taken from DefenseTalk.

The armed forces of a state are its government sponsored defense and fighting forces and organizations. They exist to further the foreign and domestic policies of their governing body. In some countries paramilitary forces are included in a nations armed forces. Armed force is the use of armed forces to achieve political objectives.

The study of the use of Armed Forces is called military science. Broadly speaking, this involves considering offense and defense at three “levels”: strategy, operational art, and tactics. All of these areas study the application of the use of force in order to achieve a desired objective.

Organization
Armed forces may be organized as standing forces (e.g. regular army), which describes a professional army that is engaged in no other profession than preparing for and engaging in warfare. In contrast, there is the citizen army. A citizen army (also known as a militia or reserve army) is only mobilised as needed. Its advantage lies in the fact that it is dramatically less expensive (in terms of wealth, manpower, and opportunity cost) for the organizing society to support. The disadvantage is that such a “citizen’s army” is less well trained and organized.

A compromise between the two has a small cadre of professional NCOs (non-commissioned officers) and officers who act as a skeleton for a much larger force. When war comes, this skeleton is filled out with conscripts or reservists (former full-time soldiers who volunteer for a small stipend to occasionally train with the cadre to keep their military skills intact), who form the wartime unit. This balances the pros and cons of each basic organization, and allows the formation of huge armies (in terms of millions of combatants), necessary in modern large scale warfare.

CONTINUED

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The End of the Aircraft Carrier

17 Oct

Since WW2, aircraft carriers have been the premier method of projecting power away from friendly shores. Bristling with weapons and boasting more planes than some countries have in their entire air forces, aircraft carriers can cost up to $15 billion to build and operate and are essentially massive floating fortresses. For decades the carrier has reigned as the undisputed master of the seas but now there are many factors that threaten it’s supremacy.

The first issue is the global financial crisis. Even though it seems like the worst is over, there is still a long recovery ahead before the world’s economic growth picks up. With austerity measures being put into place in several countries, defense spending is often the first expenditure on the chopping block. Carrier construction is a massive undertaking that is enough to bankrupt most countries and developed nations like the US, France, and the UK may soon have to decide between operating an expensive capital ship or paying bills.

The second issue is that no one country rules the seas anymore. The days of post-Cold War American dominance of the seas are almost at an end and new challengers are appearing. China, India, Russia, Brazil and others are in the process of constructing capable blue water navies, often employing advanced submarine fleets and missile ships, that may pose a serious danger to a lumbering carrier.

Another problem is that more effective counter-measures are being developed for the express purpose of limiting the effectiveness of carriers. The most notable counter-measure being China’s DF-21 missiles that can travel at low altitudes at supersonic speeds and can strike targets up to 900 miles away. This weapon was designed specifically for the purpose of checkmating American carrier groups in and around the East and South China Seas. As of now, there has yet be an effective way of combating the DF-21 and the US is check-mated for the time being. A $15 billion ship can be crippled or possibly even sunk by a missile that costs maybe $10 million at most.

What alternatives are there to hulking carriers? Simple. Less expensive helicopter carriers if you expect  a need for amphibious operations. A small carrier loaded up with cheaper helicopter gunships could prove devastating in engagements that allow short range aircraft. Combat drones have also proven their effectiveness on the battlefield. Mid-sized mother ships that dispense endless waves of attack drones seem much more frightening and practical than a carrier loaded with  a few dozen $120 million fighters. Sometimes sea-based aircraft aren’t even necessary. Look at Libya. Much of the naval force deployed was in the form of cruise missiles fired by submarines while sorties were flown from regional airbases with no real need for a carrier to be involved.

One could argue that the time of the carrier is not yet passed and that the numerous threats arising are just little bumps in the road. I agree that there will always be a need for a mobile platform that is able to provide an effective moving base of operations for aircraft but the risks of deploying these huge ships to unfriendly waters may soon outweigh the benefits. Unless counter-measures are found and implemented quickly and reliably as the new threats emerge then the fate of these titans of the sea remains murky.

McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle

14 Oct

The F-15 is a twin engine tactical fighter capable of operating in any kind of weather conditions and was designed by the renowned McDonnell Douglas. Their design was selected in 1967 to give the US military a dominant air-superiority fighter, which would become one of the most successful fighters in modern times with over 100 aerial combat victories and no air-to-air losses. The F-15’s first flight was in July 1972. It went through rigorous trials and entered service in 1976 and is expected to remain in service with the US military until 2025. Since it’s production, the Eagle has also entered service with the armed forces of Saudi Arabia, Japan and Israel. Originally envisioned as a pure dogfighter, the F-15 has been further developed into 2 upgraded models. The F-15E Strike Eagle which is equipped with more advanced avionics and electronic warfare capabilities. The F-15SE is a stealthy version, complete with internal weapons bays and radar-absorbent materials.

The F-15 was developed in the F-X program of the late 1960’s in response to fears that the Soviet MiG-25 Foxbat could outclass current American fighters. McDonnell Douglas beat out heavy hitters like General Dynamics, Fairchild Republic and North American Rockwell to snatch up the lucrative fighter contract. The Eagle’s design incorporated the best aspects of older combat jet aircraft like the F-4 Phantom and combined it with the best in new technology and advanced designs like the “look down/shoot down” radar that could distinguish low-flying targets from ground clutter, a new canopy that provided unparalleled visibility, and all-new avionics and computer information systems.

Being the first strictly air-superiority fighter developed by the US since the F-86 Sabre from the late 1940’s, the production of the F-15 also required an overhaul in the design of advanced air-t0-air weaponry. The revolutionary canopy and heads up display allowed the single pilot to conduct air combat and fly the plane as safely and effectively as possible. It can be outfitted with several types of missiles including the Sparrow, AMRAAM, or Sidewinder. It also features an internal M61A1 20 mm Gatling gun under the right wing.

The Eagle has seen extensive combat use, mostly by Middle-Eastern militaries in regional conflicts. The first air-to-air kill was scored by an Israeli Air Force ace in 1979 and during Israeli raids into Lebanon in 1979-81, F-15As shot down 13 Syrian MiG-21 Fishbeds and 2 Syrian MiG-25 Foxbats. F-15s served in the 1982 Lebanon War where they shot down 40 enemy planes, 23 Syrian MiG-21 Fishbeds, 17 MiG-23 Floggers and 1 Syrian SA.342L Gazelle helicopter. In 1984, Saudi F-15C pilots shot down 2 Iranian F-4E Phantoms. In 1985, F-15s were used in a ground attack role to bomb a PLO headquarters in Tunisia. Saudi pilots shot down 2 Iraqi Mirage F1s during the Gulf War. The Eagle is also capable of being equipped with a satellite killer missile and has performed numerous successful tests. The USAF deployed F-15C, D, and E models to participate in the First Gulf War where they accounted for 36 of the 39 aerial victories. As of 2008, the aerial combat record for the F-15 from all operators stands at 104 kills and 0 air combat losses.

Number built: 1,198

Unit Cost: F-15A/B: $27,900,000. F-15C/D: $29,900,000

General characteristics

  • Crew: 1: pilot
  • Length: 63 ft 9 in (19.43 m)
  • Wingspan: 42 ft 10 in (13.05 m)
  • Height: 18 ft 6 in (5.63 m)
  • Wing area: 608 ft² (56.5 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 64A006.6 root, NACA 64A203 tip
  • Empty weight: 28,000 lb (12,700 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 44,500 lb (20,200 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 68,000 lb (30,845 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney F100-100 or −220 afterburning turbofans
    • Dry thrust: 17,450 lbf (77.62 kN) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 25,000 lbf for −220 (111.2 kN for −220) each
  • Fuel capacity: 13,455 lb (6,100 kg) internal

Performance

  • Maximum speed:
    • High altitude: Mach 2.5+ (1,650+ mph, 2,660+ km/h)
    • Low altitude: Mach 1.2 (900 mph, 1,450 km/h)
  • Combat radius: 1,061 nmi (1,222 mi, 1,967 km) for interdiction mission
  • Ferry range: 3,450 mi (3,000 nmi, 5,550 km) with conformal fuel tanks and three external fuel tanks
  • Service ceiling: 65,000 ft (20,000 m)
  • Rate of climb: >50,000 ft/min (254 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 73.1 lb/ft² (358 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 1.12 (−220)

China’s Impenetrable Island Fortress

12 Sep

In recent years, a secret military base operated primarily by the People’s Liberation Army Navy has been discovered by Western intelligence on Hainan Island near the city of Sanya, on the island’s southern point. The entire fortress complex is essentially one massive cavern capable of hiding up to 20 nuclear submarines while the harbor outside supports nuclear ballistic missile submarines and jetties long enough to moor an aircraft carrier. The only ways into the base are through the heavily defended submarine entrance or through 11 massive 60 ft high blast doors. It has been suggested that the base may be capable of withstanding multiple nuclear strikes.

The base is a mile stone for China’s mission of building up it’s ability to project force abroad. Current estimates by the US government have determined that China will have 5 Type-094 nuclear submarines by the beginning of 2011, each able to carry a payload of 12 intercontinental ballistic nuclear missiles. The harbor has two 950 meter piers and 3 smaller ones capable of accommodating 2 carrier strike groups or amphibious assault ships.  There is also a demagnetization facility to remove the residual electronic fields from a submarine before it’s deployment. This interesting revelation may explain why Chinese subs have been able to occasionally avoid the radar and sonar systems of American vessels in the last few years.

The location of the base, near territory that is disputed with several other countries, has sparked tensions and raised fears about China’s growing assertiveness with its claims. Suspicion of Chinese motives on the part of other countries is well founded. The base is within easy striking distance of the Strait of Malacca, Straight of Sunda and Lombok Strait. These three locations see roughly 50% of all the world’s shipping. A blockade by a capable naval force could be crippling for East Asia, Oceania, and even the Americas.

While already large by military standards, the base is expected to go through a period of expansion as China is believed to be planning on building an additional 6 aircraft carriers and add to its submarine fleet. The Hainan region was chosen specifically for it’s proximity to regional flashpoints, but also due to the deep water just off the coast that exceeds 5,000 meters in  depth in some places, which greatly increases the difficulty in finding and tracking a submarine’s movements.

While China’s wish to defend its interests abroad and assert itself more aggressively is understandable in light of its recent success, its actions have already started a regional arms race with surrounding countries, most notably India. Both are competing to develop more advanced ICBMs and counter measures against each other’s missiles in order to maintain some semblance of a military balance. One thing is for sure, Hainan’s base will have an important role to play should any regional conflict break out. 

Grumman F-14 Tomcat

30 Aug

Back in the 1950’s, the US needed a  long range, high endurance interceptor to protect it’s carrier battle groups against anti-ship missiles. The specifications they set forward were a Fleet Air Defense aircraft with more powerful radar and longer range missiles than the F-4 Phantom II to intercept bombers as well as missiles. Both the navy and air force were involved in the design and testing process, often fighting over what specifications were needed and what weren’t which resulted in the heavy and lackluster F-111B put forward for the Tactical Fighter Experimental (TFX) program.

General Dynamics, the producer of the F-111 teamed up with Grumman to find ways to improve the aircraft and were eventually sidelined. Due to difficulties in making a “one size fits all” fighter, Congress allowed the Navy to pursue their own designs. Grumman gave the design better radar, more reliable and powerful engines, ground attack capabilities and improved missiles among other things.

Introduced in 1974 after extensive modifications and testing, the Tomcat was the premier air superiority fighter of its time with a 2 seat cockpit and bubble canopy that offered much better visibility than its predecessor, the F4. It was also eqipped with the revolutionary geometry wing design where the wings would sweep back for high-speed intercept but swing forward for lower speed flight to offer greater stability. Avionics and anti-aircraft armament were all top of the line and pushed the technological barriers of the early 1970’s.

The Tomcat served as America’s premier air superiority and tactical reconnaissance aircraft from 1972-2006 and with Iran’s air forces from 1978 to present. The fighter didn’t see actual combat until the Gulf of Sidra incident in 1981 when 2 F-14’s engaged 2 Su-22’s and destroyed them easily. While never participating in large aerial battles, the Tomcat boasts a modest combat record with 135 air to air kills, most of which are from the Iran-Iraq War, 4 air to air losses, and 4 losses due to ground fire.

Although it has been retired by the US, it’s still in service with the Iranian air force. But due to numerous sanctions they are unable to import replacement parts leaving them with 60 (allegedly) Tomcats left, most of which are probably unfit for combat.

Number Built: 712

Unit Cost: $38,000,000 (1998)

                                                                            

General characteristics:

  • Crew: 2 (Pilot and Radar Intercept Officer)
  • Length: 62 ft 9 in (19.1 m)
  • Wingspan:
    • Spread: 64 ft (19.55 m)
    • Swept: 38 ft (11.58 m)
  • Height: 16 ft (4.88 m)
  • Wing area: 565 ft² (54.5 m²)
  • Airfoil: NACA 64A209.65 mod root, 64A208.91 mod tip
  • Empty weight: 43,735 lb (19,838 kg)
  • Loaded weight: 61,000 lb (27,700 kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 74,350 lb (33,720 kg)
  • Powerplant: 2 × General Electric F110-GE-400 afterburning turbofans
    • Dry thrust: 13,810 lbf (61.4 kN) each
    • Thrust with afterburner: 27,800 lbf (123.7 kN) each
  • Maximum fuel capacity: 16,200 lb internal; 20,000 lb with 2x 267 gallon external tanks

Performance

  • Maximum speed: Mach 2.34 (1,544 mph, 2,485 km/h) at high altitude
  • Combat radius: 500 nmi (575 mi, 926 km)
  • Ferry range: 1,600 nmi (1,840 mi, 2,960 km)
  • Service ceiling: 50,000 ft (15,200 m)
  • Rate of climb: >45,000 ft/min (229 m/s)
  • Wing loading: 113.4 lb/ft² (553.9 kg/m²)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.91