May 21, 2018

Chinese Bomber(s) Land on South China Sea Island: US Feigns Surprise


China has gone one more step in indicating it can deploy bomber power, in a theatrical way, deep into the South China Sea. This puts some more Western ships and Southeast Asian capitals, like Manila and Hanoi, into range of the cruise missiles Chinese H-6K bombers can carry. These capitals were already in range of more easily disguised land based, surface ship based and submarine based Chinese cruise missiles, not to mention IRBMs.

Like the much larger B-52s (in service 1955) the H-6Ks (airframe in service as the Russian Tu-16 in 1954) derive from very old airframes. But it is electronic countermeasures frequently updated in the B-52 and H-6K as well as their reliance on standoff cruise missiles that reduced their vulnerabilities. Their missiles keep them relevant in warfare against moderately armed enemies and they can also drop free fall bombs on less well armed insurgents or "terrorists".


Hong Kong's South China Morning Post reported May 19, 2018:

"China angers US after landing warplanes, including H-6K bomber, on South China Sea reef
Pentagon condemns military activity as ‘raising tensions and destabilising the region’

A Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Air Force strategic bomber landed for the first time on [Woody Island] in the South China Sea.

...The Chinese air force said in a statement on its website that several bombers, including the H-6K, its most advanced [but deployed by Russia 60 years ago!], had conducted take-off and landing training on an island reef, though it did not specify which one.

Hong Kong-based military observer Song Zhongping [who is really a semi-official spokesman and graduate of the PLA's Second Artillery Engineering University, no less] said the aircraft landed on Woody Island – or Yongxing in Mandarin – the largest of the Paracel group and southernmost of the islands claimed by Beijing in the disputed waterway.

The aim of the exercise was to strengthen China’s military presence in the region, after the US air force flew B-52 bombers there during a so-called routine training mission in April [2018], which Beijing described as “provocative move”, Song said.

The [Chinese] air force said the latest exercise had elevated its abilities of “reaching its full territory, assaulting in full time and space, and striking in full scope”. 

Song...said the next mission for the long-range H-6K strategic bomber, which is reported to have a combat range of up to 3,500km, might be to land on China’s furthest outlying artificial islands.

 “To boost China’s military presence and give the PLA better control in the region, it’s possible the H-6K will fly further in the future, to the airstrips on Fiery Cross, Subi and Mischief reefs [in the Spratly Islands],” [Song] said.

Each of the three reefs features an airstrip, high-frequency radar and other monitoring equipment, and lighthouses.

“In the future, the air force will conduct regular landings on Woody and the man-made islands, although they are not yet developed enough to be permanent military bases,” Song said..."


Woody Island with its now extended bomber capable airport (Photo courtesy AMTI.CSIS.ORG via CNN Philippines)

The H-6K has a claimed combat radius of 3,500 km (2,200 miles) and can carry up  to six YJ-12 anti-ship missiles and 6 or 7 CJ-10 nuclear or conventional warhead land attack cruise missiles


In this part unrelated Chinese propaganda video the H-6K appears at:
-  5 secs    taking off possibly from Woody Island airport
-  17s        two H-6Ks flying close
-  25s        H-6K dropping flares as decoys against heat seeking anti-aircraft missiles
-  47s        H-6K flying with J-11s?
-  53s        flying towards Mischief Reef (?) but then perhaps landing on Woody Island(?)

Tomorrow I'll write how the "Woody bomber" ties into China's wider power projection geography. 


May 18, 2018

Chinese Navy's New J-15Ds Can Shoot Down US & Australian Aircraft

The photo at top may be the J-15D Chinese carrier aircraft or the very similar J-16D Chinese airforce aircraft. These perform electronic attack or jamming an art first perfected by the UK and then US (Photo courtesy China's Daily Express


Just as the or electronic attack EA-18G "Growler" provides electronic warfare/jamming support to  enhance the stealth capabilities of US aircraft China is also developing the J-15D and J-16D EA fast jets to obscure not yet fully developed Chinese J-20 and J-31 stealth fighters.

China's EA aircraft are just two examples of China using the world's second highest defense budget (SIPRI estimates US$228 Billion for 2017) to build the essential military backup capabilities for a formidable defence force. In contrast Russia conventional defence posture may be more threat and propaganda because Russia only has a $66 Billion budget. 

There are many synonyms for Electronic Attack including 
-  Electronic Countermeasures (ECM)
-  Electronic Warfare (EW)
-  "Jamming" and "Electronic Decoys" and "Window or Chaff" may be the oldest
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a term becoming more popular.


The information below mainly draws from China's Daily Express article of April 24, 2018, on the  new EA J-15D:

A New Carrier Aircraft With Electronic Attack Capabilities Appears

The Chinese navy (PLAN) has acquired a new type of carrier aircraft, the J-15D. The J-15D is a carrier-based aircraft that mounts electronic attack pods on the tips of its wings, underwings and perhaps centerline. The Chinese navy J-15D is similar to the Chinese Airforce J-16D (introduced in 2015). 

The J-15Ds and J-16Ds serve the same purpose as the EA-18G Growler electronic fighter now deployed in the US and Australian defence forces.  

[Pete Comment: For other Western countries to get full value out of their F-35s they may well need to purchase equally high priced Growlers!]

[Pete comment: The main difference between the naval carrier J-15D and the airforce J-16D is the 
J-15D would have a tail arrestor hook, stronger shock absorbers and some airframe hardening for the "controlled crash" arrested recovery operations. The naval variant J-15D would have also been developed due to commonalities of parts, systems and regular upgrades with China's common carrier jet the J-15.]

The J-15D is a two-seater (pilot and EW officer) fast jet. It carries a variety of new types of pods for reconnaissance, attack/interference and self-defense and can carry Eagle-Strike YJ-91
anti-radiation missiles ARMs. These new pods provide powerful EW capabilities for land based and carrier fighter squadrons.


The J-15D with wingtip and underwing electronic pods shown above. Also an underwing Eagle-Strike YJ-91 anti-radiation missile (ARM) is probably displayed. The YJ-91 would certainly have an air-to-surface capability. The YJ-91, or similar ARMs, have an air-to-air capability against large slow aircraft putting out emissions. This would enable J-15D's using YJ-91s to hit Western Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft at long range (100+ km) (eg. E-2s, E-3s,  Australian E-7A Wedgetails and surveillance aircraft like Australian AP-3C Orions). (Photo from China's Daily Express ) 

Israel has also developed an effective electronic attack capability. Submarine Matters' recounted Israel's 2007 use of Suter Electronic Jamming for Israel's successful Operation Orchid/Out of the Box airstrike against a Syrian nuclear reactor site - see


May 17, 2018

The S-80 Plus to Be the 1st 3,000+ tonne EuroSub Launched

Artwork of the future S-80 Plus courtesy Estimated range/speed 10,000nm at 10 knots snorting. Has 6 x 533 mm torpedo tubes with total of 20? HWT DM2A4 torpedoes, Harpoon missiles, mines. Crew/Complement 32 (+ 8 Special Forces depending on mission)

In the early-mid 1990s France and Spain jointly undertook a Scorpene S-80 Program. However events and different requirements led to a split between established submarine partners France and Spain.

The end of the Cold War cost cutting ("peace dividend") ended French interest in buying a high specs Scorpene S-80 for French Navy use. Instead France developed and successfully marketed an export Scorpene to Chile, Malaysia, Brazil and India. France relied soley on SSNs (Rubis class and soon the Barracudas) as its attack submarine arm.

Meanwhile Spain relied on its Agosta S-70 SSKs. By the late 1990s-early 2000s Spain wanted a much larger higher specs, second generation AIP, S-80 submarine for Spanish Navy use.

In 2010-2012 Submarine Matters' sitemeter picked up substantial Australian Government interest in considering the future S-80 for Australia's Future Submarine. But then, in May 2013, Navantia announced that a serious weight imbalance design flaw had been identified in the S-80 (under development) which would delay the delivery of the first S-80 submarine Isaac Peral 
(S-81) for the Spanish Navy until possibly 2017.

More specifically S-80 program management inadequacies did fully not take into account an extra 75 to 100 tonnes which prevented the simulated S-80 resurfacing after diving. The extra weight may have mainly been in the Lockheed Martin integrated combat system (sensors, databases and especially weapons (torpedo tubes and about 20 HWT torpedos / missiles).

In June 2013 Spain's Navantia hired US nuclear submarine builder General Dynamics Electric Boat to help solve the S-80's excess weight problem. The solution was that  S-80 needed to be substantially enlarged to achieve buoyancy:

-   from 71m long, and 2,200 tonnes surfaced (see "S-80" diagram above)

-   to 81m long, 3,200 tonnes (surfaced), 3,426 tonnes (submerged) (see "S-80 Plus" diagram above)

With these mistakes and uncertainty Navantia S-80 was excluded from the competition for Australia's Future Submarine (decided in April 2016). But the S-80 now has many characteristics worthy of technology transfer.

Now that the US and Spain have sunk considerable effort in making the S-80 the most modern large SSK approaching launch it may be useful for Naval Group to negotiate a substantial technology transfer from the S-80 to Australia's Future Submarine program. Australia's Future Submarine will need to be larger, of course, sufficient for a crew of 60 + 8 Special Forces. 

A useful source on Scorpene-S-80 history is page 5 of The Market for Submarines Product Code #F673 A Special Focused Market Segment Analysis by: Forecast International (2010?) at


May 16, 2018

Naval Group Info Gathering to Reduce Delays in Aus Future Sub

I see the Shortfin Barracuda / Australian Future Submarine (AFS) as being delayed by 2 years. That is, the design phase might extend until first cutting of steel in 2024. The main reason is the delay in launching and testing of the partial baseline Barracuda/Suffren SSN.

To reduce the likely 2 year delay French Government majority owned Naval Group can still pursue the strategies mentioned yesterday:

In terms of technology transfer - cooperative or otherwise economic:

A.  Spain's Navantia may be willing to sell technical innovations and test data involving the now
      enlarged S-80 Plus (see English and Spanish wiki). Such information is especially valuable
      as the S-80 Plus evolved from Spain's early involvement with France in the Scorpene program in
      the 1990s. Since then Navantia has made many technical improvements. The S-80 Plus is also of
      interest because it is the first 3,000+ tonne, very modern European submarine, to be near
      launch stage.

B.   Naval Group is not the only major contractor involved in the Australian Future Submarine.
      Lockheed Martin (LM) is the Australian Future Submarine's Combat System Integrator doing
      30% - 40% of the work.

      LM is also the S-80 Plus's Combat System Integrator. This makes the Combat System solutions
      LM has developed for the S-80 Plus highly relevant to the Australian Future Submarine. In LM's
      solutions further Combat System similarities include the Harpoon missiles the S-80 Plus and
      Australian Future Submarine both deploy and both have expressed a future interest in being
      capable of torpedo tube launching Tomahawk land attack and long range anti-ship missiles. See
      more tomorrow on the S-80 Plus.

Naval Group, assisted by the French Government, can also gather information about other 3,000+ tonne SSK's from other nations/companies, including:

C.  TKMS' new design for 3,000+ tonne SSKs in response to South Korea's 3,000 tonne KSS-III
      request and Israel's (probably 3,000+) three Dolphin 3s that are on order.

D.  Japan's current and future 3,000+ tonne Soryus are also worthy of close study and perhaps
      negotiation especially concerning their Kawasaki diesels and future Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs)

E.  Innovations in Sweden's future 2,000 tonne A26s would also be of interest.

F.  Russia and China are also developing SSKs with some features of interest.

All this can feed French computer databases and be useful for ongoing and future simulations involving the Australian Future Submarine. The simulations are part of an information loop that throw up further Naval Group requirements for foreign submarine information. Information gathering is also useful for future large SSK competitions that Naval Group is eyeing.


May 15, 2018

Naval Group Steps to Reduce 2 Year Australian Shortfin Project Delay

So, as things stand it is likely that the serious delay in Naval Group's Barracuda / Suffren class Project has added at least 2 years to Australia's Future Submarine Naval Group Shortfin Barracuda Project (see previous articles here and here). Although in any case there are major differences (including speed, range, center of gravity and hotel load etc) between the nuclear propelled Barracuda and Australia's future conventional diesel electric Shortfin.

The other Naval Group submarine on which Shortfin is based is the Scorpene. Scorpene is an old design and less than half the size of Shortfin. This means that Shortfin will have many differences - especially internal - compared to Scorpene.

The realities are an old Scorpene design and the Suffren, first of class Barracuda, has not yet been launched, let alone commissioned in the planned 2017. So what can Naval Group do to further the Shortfin design phase? This should include:

-  Computer simulations of Shortfin performance (already ongoing)

-  Development and study of major components, especially deisels (eg. MAN working with 
   Kawasaki or perhaps MTU 396 or 4000. Comparison of LAB and LIB battery advances, and

-  Technology transfer from certain, more modern, closer to launch or not yet launced SSK projects,
    any ideas? Revealed tomorrow.