Home » Balance of Power

From the category archives:

Balance of Power

Earlier this week we ran a poll asking readers what they think China’s J-20 stealth fighter will be used for.

Nearly half of those who responded think it will be used as both a high-speed interceptor capable of taking out fighters, AWACS and tankers and as a long-range weapons truck designed to penetrate an enemy’s air defenses to attack its bases or aircraft carriers.

One interesting point against the carrier/base killer argument came from aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia a while back when he said the following to DT:

If real, [J-20] would fall under Secretary Gates “exquisite” category. Why not invest the enormous platform-related resources into better long-range stealth missile technology? That sounds like much better bang for the buck, especially since they could try to overwhelm US defenses with larger numbers that way. Also, how does it explain those radar signature-producing canards on the J-20? Still, you can’t discount the possibility.

Now, we want to ask you how effective you think the jet will be in combat against air forces equipped with jets like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, F-22 Raptor or even the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA.

While advanced tech details of the plane are unknown, production versions of the jet are allegedly going to have WS-10 thrust vectoring engines or WS-15 engines that will also allow the jet to super-cruise. As for sensors, the plane may be equipped with an Active electronically scanned array radar and a host of electro-optical sensors that would feed into a modern glass cockpit. With regard to low-observable tech, the bird appears fairly stealthy head on but the big canards up front and the aft section isn’t too stealthy.

Here’s a recap of things the big jet will need if it is to take on air forces equipped with fifth-gen fighters and advanced air defenses.

Anyway, tell us what you think in the poll after jump.

[Continue reading…]

Enjoy these videos (below the jump) showing the interior of the Airbus A340 jet that served as Gadhafi’s personal plane. I wonder how much space in the cargo hold was taken up by the colonel’s infamous tent?

[Continue reading…]

Here’s some J-20 stealth fighter porn to start your short workweek. Enjoy these photo-montages of the the big fighter rolling and banking hard as its test pilots expand the plane’s flight envelope. Meanwhile, take the poll below the jump and tell us what missions you think China’s stealth jet will be used for.


[Continue reading…]

Here are some thoughts on the significance of China’s new aircraft carrier that Andrew Erickson, an expert on the PLAN at the U.S. Naval War College, passed on to Defense Tech. While China’s “starter carrier” may not compare to one of the U.S. Navy’s Nimitz class supercarriers, it will make waves with China’s neighbors in the Western Pacific. Enjoy.

China’s Navy has finally realized its longtime dream of obtaining an aircraft carrier and putting it to sea. It has been a long road from the Guomindang’s 1929 rejection of naval commander Chen Shaokuan’s proposal for building a Chinese aircraft carrier to the acquisition and refitting of the former Ukrainian carrier Varyag in Dalian Naval Shipyard, a task essentially as complex as building a carrier from scratch.

On August 10, 82 years after Adm. Chen’s proposal, China’s first carrier disappeared into the fog under tight security at 0540 local time from Dalian Harbour’s Xianglujiao Port in northeast Liaoning Province to begin sea trials. Liaoning Maritime Safety Authority has declared a temporary exclusion zone in a rectangular sea area nearby.

A newly-wed couple wants a ‘starter home,’ a new great power wants a ‘starter carrier.’ China’s ‘starter carrier’ is of very limited military utility, and will serve primarily to confer prestige though naval diplomacy, to help master basic operational procedures, and to project a bit of power—perhaps especially vis-à-vis smaller neighbours in the South China Sea. Having avoided the winds and waves recently sent to the Yellow Sea by Typhoon Muifa, the carrier will subject China to even more diplomatic turbulence as its neighbors react to the reality that their giant neighbour now has a basically-functioning carrier. …

Erickson also tells DT that we may have be wrong in thinking the ex-Varyag is going to be commissioned as the Shi Lang (a Chinese admiral who first conquored Taiwan). Instead, the ship may well be named after the Chinese city of Tianjin in keeping with PLAN tradition.

[Continue reading…]

Not all of the Libyan rebels’ weaponry was jerry-rigged DIY gear put together from whatever arms (or toys) the militia could find. For the first time we’re seeing that the rebels used a thoroughly 21st Century tool of war; the UAV.

The Scout micro UAV, made by the Canadian firm Aeryon Labs, was used by the rebels to gain intelligence on Gadhafi’s troops. As you’ll see in the video (after the jump), the rebels were able to use the three-pound, VTOL aircraft after only a day and a half of training. Check out the Scout’s thermal camera video of a Libyan artillery position firing at night at the 59-second mark.

The little battery-powered quad-rotor, yes, quad-rotor can fly for 25 minutes up to 13,000 feet and operate in temperatures up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Aeryon. It uses GPS for navigation and has a range of just under two miles, likely due to its WiFi-based comms system.

While likely not “exquisite”, to use Pentagonese, this weapon was obviously durable, portable and really easy to use. Rebel pilots controlled it using a “map-based touch screen interface” (almost an auto pilot) rather than a traditional joystick and video camera and watched as the intel was fed to their computers.

Another Canadian firm, Zariba Security Corporation, was tasked with getting the drone to the rebels and training them how to use it.

[Continue reading…]