Tag: Missiles

Who Cares, There is Money to Be Made

US System

Russian Kinzhal

A new report suggests that hypersonic weapons do not add any meaningful military capabilities. (Original paper)

This is not a surprise.

The Skybolt air launched ballistic missile showed how a conventional missile can achieve what they are attempting now in the 1960s,  the Pershing II missile demonstrated a maneuverable reentry vehicle and reached deployment in the 1980s.

This does not matter. 

The defense contractors get their vig, and retired generals get their comfortable sinecures, so it’s good for everyone ……… except the taxpayer, and the people who are told that there is no money to supply a basic social safety net:

Military experts call hypersonic warheads the next big thing in intercontinental warfare. They see the emerging arms, which can deliver nuclear or conventional munitions, as zipping along at up to five miles a second while zigzagging through the atmosphere to outwit early-warning satellites and some interceptors. The superfast weapons, experts say, lend themselves to surprise attacks.


Now, independent experts have studied the technical performance of the planned weapon and concluded that its advertised features are more illusory than real. Their analysis is to be published this week in Science & Global Security.

In an interview, David Wright, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an author of the new analysis, called the superweapon a mirage.

“There’re lots of claims and not many numbers,” he said. “If you put in the numbers, you find that the claims are nonsense.”

Military officials called the paper insubstantial, saying it was based on outdated data. But they declined to disclose new findings.

“Due to the classified nature of hypersonics technologies, we are not at liberty to publicly discuss current capabilities,” Jared Adams, chief spokesman for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, said in an email.

Of course they are.  They want their money. 

Claiming that it’s sooper sekrit knowledge has been a dodge used by the military-industrial complex since Truman was in the White House.


By definition, hypersonic vehicles fly at more than five times the speed of sound — or up to dozens of times faster than jetliners. The warheads rise into space atop a traditional long-range missile but then descend quickly into the atmosphere to bank, careen and otherwise maneuver. They’re basically stubby gliders. The curved upper surfaces of their wedge-shaped bodies give them some of the lifting power of an airplane wing.

Dr. Wright and Dr. Tracy based their analysis on the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 — an experimental warhead developed by the Air Force and Darpa. Their findings, they say, also apply to other American prototypes, as well as devices being developed by China, Russia and other countries.

The computer simulations drew on the physics of moving bodies and public disclosures about the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 in order to model its most plausible flight paths. The team zeroed in on signature phases of hypersonic flight — when the vehicle zooms through the atmosphere and then plunges to hit a target.

The two experts say their computer modeling fills in public gaps on the weapon’s overall performance as well as its potential interactions with existing military systems for detecting and defeating weapons launched from distant sites.

In their paper, they see the weapon as essentially failing to outwit early-warning satellites and interceptors. For instance, current generations of space-based sensors, they report, will be able to track the weapon’s fiery twists and turns during most of its flight through the atmosphere.

And surprisingly, given the weapon’s speedy reputation, they say their analysis shows it will fly intercontinental distances more slowly than ballistic missiles and warheads fired on low flight paths known as depressed trajectories. In war, such tactics are seen as a good way for attackers to evade interceptors and lessen warning time.

Dr. Wright and Dr. Tracy conclude that the envisioned new weapon is, at best, “evolutionary — not revolutionary.”

Note that their criticisms are based on some pretty elementary physics, specifically that the lift/drag ratios of hyper-sonic bodies are pretty pathetic.

The Russian Systems, like the Kinzhal, and Chinese systems like the DF-21, are not the wedge shaped lifting bodies, they are simply missiles with improved guidance systems allowing for improved targeting and evasion of defenses.

What’s more, they are already in service in limited numbers.

The US system is more complex, more technically challenging, and doesn’t gain a whole bunch more.

Once again, the US is pursuing “dominance” at an unsustainable cost and a time frame of decades.

To quote Ike, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”

Remember Skybolt?

I am referring, of course, to the GAM-87 Skybolt air-launched ballistic missile, which was developed by the United States in the early 1960s as a was to penetrate increasingly capable Soviet air defense systems.

It was canceled when the Polaris SLBM was determined to better fit the needs.

We now have evidence that the People’s Republic of China is developing a very similar system, though it will likely not be used as a strategic system.

It appears to be a derived from the mobile land base DF-21 of the It will be used to target aircraft carriers, and the air launched capabilities will force carrier groups even further from China, particularly since the platform China’s upgraded Badger the H-6N, is designed with air to air refueling capabilities:

A centrefold graphic recently flourished intimate details of a Chinese bomber carrying a stark new weapon. State-controlled media has since gone into cover-up mode. But military analysts think Beijing may have been caught with its pants down.

The government produced Modern Ships magazine has splashed high-resolution computer-generated images of China’s most recent addition to its strategic bomber line-up – the H-6N – over the front and feature pages.

But that’s not what drew the eye of the world’s defence thinkers.

The graphics showed the new bomber carrying a huge ballistic missile slung under its fuselage. And that missile looks a lot like one of a family of ballistic weapons deployed by China’s People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF) as aircraft carrier killers.

I do not think that this is an unintentional release of information.

After all, how can you deter a CVBG if they do not know about the threat.

The carrier aircraft is extensively modified as well:

Defence enthusiasts noted several strange things about the latest N variant of China’s Xian H-6 series of strategic bombers when it was unveiled to the public at the 70th National Day parade in October.

The state-controlled Xinhua news service simply said it was a “homemade strategic bomber capable of air refuelling and long-range strike”.

But when a flight of three of the bombers flew over Beijing, military experts saw it doesn’t have bomb-bay doors. Instead, it has what appears to be new heavyweight attachment points in a recess along the centre-line of its fuselage.

Also noted was its modified, extended nose-cone and an air-to-air refuelling nozzle.

Assuming that the system can be made to work reliably, and this would include a multitude of sensors and cuing systems, it would be a formidable areal denial system.

The INF Treaty Was Already a Dead Letter

The real kicker here is the Mk-41 launcher.

Russia has said for years that those deployed in Europe could launch Tomahawks, and therefore violate INF. US denied it.

16 days after the INF Treaty died, what does the US do?

Launch a Tomahawk from a ground-based Mk-41 launcher. https://t.co/7KAxO78hVD

— Matt Korda (@mattkorda) August 19, 2019

A week ago, the US test-launched a ground launched Tomahawk cruise missile.

In doing so, they validated Russian claims that the US installation of BMD systems in Europe were actually in violation of the INF treaty:

Arms Control Twitter has been abuzz since yesterday’s announcement that the United States had conducted a surprise launch of a Tomahawk missile on Sunday afternoon.

This wasn’t just your regular missile launch, however. It was a Tomahawk cruise missile launched from a ground-based Mark-41 Vertical Launch System (VLS), traveling to a distance of “more than 500 kilometers,” according to the Department of Defense.

In other words: a violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty––if the treaty still existed. It officially died on August 2nd, six months after both the United States and Russia announced suspensions of their respective treaty obligations. But the launch is an important walk-back of US security policy which for 32 years sought to curtail such weapons and instead, as we have written for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, makes the United States needlessly complicit in the INF’s demise and frees Russia from both the responsibility and pressure to return to compliance.


Why is everyone so worked up about the launcher?

This is where things get really interesting. The Mk-41 VLS launcher that was used to launch the Tomahawk is the same type of launcher that would be used to launch SM-3 interceptors from Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense stations in Romania and Poland, once the latter station is completed.

For years, Russia has said that the US deployment of these ground-based Mk-41 VLS launchers to Europe constitutes an INF violation, because they could theoretically be used to launch Tomahawks over 500 kilometers. Legally speaking, this doesn’t hold water––Article VII, paragraph 7 of the INF Treaty states that in order for a launcher to be considered in violation of the treaty, it must actually conduct a ground launch of a prohibited missile. Since this never happened while the INF Treaty was in force, the Mk-41 VLS launchers weren’t in violation.

What’s more, the United States has consistently stated that although Mk-41s can launch Tomahawks, the ones deployed in Romania and Poland cannot. In December 2017, the State Department announced that “The Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System does not have an offensive ground-launched ballistic or cruise missile capability. Specifically, the system lacks the software, fire control hardware, support equipment, and other infrastructure needed to launch offensive ballistic or cruise missiles such as the Tomahawk.”

Perhaps this is true, perhaps it isn’t. But absent some kind of US transparency measure that offers visibility into the Aegis Ashore systems, Russia is forced to rely solely on an American promise. And for Putin, that’s simply not going to cut it. That being said, it’s also possible that no amount of transparency would ever have satisfied Putin, as his primary concern over Aegis Ashore appears to be directed at the general deployment of missile defenses in Europe, rather than their offensive potential.

I actually did work involving these sorts of launchers on naval vessels, specifically on power supplies that could be controlled by software to allow for a wide variety of missile types.

The software could be contained on a memory stick, the hardware is basically a terminal (If that), and the logistical support for a GLCM, which is shipped and deployed as a “ready round”, is minimal.

Once the “Aegis Ashore” launcher is installed, a breakout from the INF treaty could be (and in fact was) executed in a matter of days.

S-400 Begins to Arrive in Turkey

There are a number of reasons for Turkey to prefer the S-400 to the US Patriot system: It’s more capable, it’s about half the price, and it gives Erdoğan yet another opportunity to play the Turkish nationalism card to his advangage.

The US defense establishment has completely lost their sh%$ over this, claiming that it is a security issue, though there is nothing about the F-35 that an S-400 in Istambul could get that an S-400 in Kaliningrad would not.

My conclusion has always been that the Pentagon and its web of contractors are upset because they cannot get their fingers into these pies.

It’s not even the first NATO nation to use a Russian SAM system, Greece has been operating the S-300 for over a decade.

So the US has been threatening sanctions, including withdrawal of F-35 sales to Turkey, while Turkey has insisted that it would take shipment of the systems.

Well, Turkey has now begun to receive the shipments of the system, so, as the saying goes, “It is on.”

I do not see either side backing down:

Turkey has begun taking delivery of Russia’s S-400 air defense system, the Turkish Defense Ministry said Friday, completing a deal that has threatened its standing in NATO and is likely to trigger sanctions from the United States.

The first components for the system arrived Friday at Murted Air Base in Ankara, the Turkish capital, the ministry said in a statement. Turkish television stations broadcast footage of the delivery throughout the morning as Russian cargo planes arrived at the base and equipment was off­loaded.

The purchase underscored President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s increasing willingness to coordinate with Russia and risked a new crisis in relations between Turkey and the United States. Although U.S. law mandates sanctions against countries making “significant” deals with the Russian defense industry, the Trump administration has given mixed signals about how exactly it might respond if Turkey went through with the purchase.

A basket of measures listed under legislation passed in 2017 — from which the administration is required to select at least five — includes economic sanctions, revocation of visas and prohibition of all Turkish procurement of U.S. defense equipment.

It will be interesting to see how all of this plays out.

Well, This is a Big Old F%$# You

I have been writing for some time about how Turkey’s purchase of the top of the line Russian S-400 surface to air missile (SAM) system has the US military industrial complex freaking out over the loss of sales.

The US claims that Turkey operating the system would allow the Russians unique insights into the characteristics of the F-35, but this is complete crap.

The Russians would be able to determing things like radar cross section from installations in Syria and Russia. (It is an extraordinarily long range system)

In response to threats to cancel F-35 sales to Turkey, Turkey is not in negotiations with Russia to set up a production line for the S-500, the even more capable system due to succeed the S-400:

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that the purchase of S-400 defense systems from Russia was a done deal, adding that Ankara would also jointly produce S-500 defense systems with Moscow.

U.S. officials have called Turkey’s planned purchase of the S-400 missile defense system “deeply problematic,” saying it would risk Ankara’s partnership in the joint strike fighter F-35 program because it would compromise the jets, made by Lockheed Martin Corp.

I don’t speak Turkish, but I’m pretty sure that this is an invitation for the Pentagon, and Lockheed Martin, to go Cheney themselves.

What You’ve Just Said Was One of the Most Insanely Idiotic Things I Have Ever Heard

and May God Have Mercy on Your Soul

The above Billy Madison quote is directed at Katie Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.

She is a part of the Pentagon freakout over Turkey buying S-400 SAMs from Russia.

As I have noted before, this butt-hurt is about US defense contractors not geting their vigorish, and then not distributing a cut to Pentagon Generals through post-retirement sinecures.

There are claims of security issues, but given that US allies in NATO are currently operating the nearly as capable S-300 system, Bulgaria, Greece, and Slovakia, I’m calling bullsh%$.

Katie, however, turned the knobs on stupidity and hypocrisy up to eleven with when she said this:

“The S-400 is a computer. The F-35 is a computer. You don’t hook your computer to your adversary’s computer and that’s basically what we would be doing,” Katie Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told Reuters.

Undoubtedly the S-400 has ESM capabilities, and as such it could read emissions from the F-35 (as could more extensive installations in Russia) but the idea that somehow, because they both have chips in them, the S-400 could hack into the F-35 is beyond brain dead.

I have it on good authority that you can tell when Katie Wheelbarger has been using your computer, because there is Wite-Out® on the screen.

Teaching an Old Plane New Tricks

Two versions of the MiG-31, one carrying the Kinzhal missile, top, and the other carrying what might be an updated version of the Kontact for anti-satellite use. Credit: Piotr Butowski

Specifically, the MiG 31 Foxhound, which looks to be leveraging its high speed and high altitude performance to perform as a satellite launcher and ASAT platform:

The Mikoyan MiG-31 interceptor has found a second life—in fact, more than one. Not only has the aircraft known to NATO as the Foxhound been extensively upgraded, but it has also taken on new tasks: as an air-launcher for the Kinzhal ground-strike system and as an aerospace missile system to deliver small satellites to orbit or fight enemy satellites.

In September, at the Russian aviation industry’s test center in Zhukovsky near Moscow, an experimental MiG-31, No. 81, performed its first flight with an extremely large unknown missile suspended on the centerline pylon. The first high-speed taxiing of this coupling was done several months earlier.

The current program is supposed to be a follow-on of the 30P6 Kontakt (Contact) satellite intercept program of 1984-95, under which the MiG-31D aircraft using the Fakel 79M6 missile was made, and the improved MiG-31DM with the Fakel 95M6 missile was being designed.


The advantage of an airborne anti-satellite system over a ground-based one is longer range: The MiG-31 can deliver a missile over a distance of up to 1,000 km (621 mi.) before launch. The characteristics of the current system remain unknown. But they are probably similar to those of the previous Kontakt system, which was intended to destroy nonmaneuvering or maneuvering satellites in low orbits.

The 79M6 missile, weighing 4,550 kg (10,000 lb.), was launched by a MiG-31D flying at a speed of Mach 2.55 and altitude of 22 km. Its target was at an altitude of 120-600 km, depending on the distance. The missile flight time was 100-380 sec. The satellite was to be destroyed by a direct hit or detonation of a small, 20-kg explosive charge. The target was designated for the MiG-31 by the ground-based 45Zh6 Krona (Crown) system, consisting of a large decameter and centimeter-wavelength electronic-scanning radar and optical-laser locator and rangefinder. The Krona system was overhauled and upgraded in 2009-10.


The Russians have offered several systems for launching commercial satellites using the MiG-31 platform, but none of the designs has materialized. In 2001, Russia Aircraft Corp. (RSK) MiG MiG unveiled the MiG-31S project, a platform for two vehicles developed by the Astra Research Centre at the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI): the Micron rocket and Aerospace Rally System (ARS) rocket plane. The Micron was to be able to launch a 200-kg satellite to an altitude of 100 km, or 50 kg to 300 km. The ARS was to be a three-seat vehicle for suborbital flights (to an altitude of 130 km), intended for astronaut training in weightlessness conditions (up to 3 min.), research of the upper layers of the atmosphere and tourist and advertising flights.

This is contrasted with the US aviation forces, where the closest they come to reusing old airframes is converting them to target drones.

Missile Deal is Signed

Turkey has officially signed a deal with Russia to buy S-400 Triumf surface to air missiles:

Turkey has finalized a deal with Russia to purchase the S-400 Triumph (SA-21 Growler) missile defense system, in a move that is likely to irritate NATO allies. The deal was signed by Ankara on Friday, Dec. 29. ………

NATO in general, and the US military in particular are freaking out over this, because, as I have noted before, the Pentagon sees NATO as a sales vehicle for American weapons.

The Russian system is more capable, and cheaper, and given its origin, it is probably easier to maintain, but none of this matters to NATO leadership, because it doesn’t support the western arms manufacturers.

So basically, you have the military industrial complex on one side, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the other.

I’m just hoping that there is a way that they can both lose.

Thanks, Hillary*

8000 Miles from Pyonyang

It was inevitable once Qaddafi was overthrown in Libya.

His dismantling of his WMD program, followed shortly by an overthrow led by the US, made it clear to anyone on the world stage that the US cannot be trusted to keep its international agreements

“We came, we saw, he died,” and now the DPRK has successfully flown a missile with sufficient range to strike all of the United States:

North Korea claimed the entire United States mainland was within reach after “successfully” testing a new kind of intercontinental ballistic missile, which it called the Hwasong-15, and said could carry a “super large heavy warhead.”

While Pyongyang is prone to exaggeration, its boast of having all of the United States in range is in line with experts’ calculations that the missile launched Wednesday, which flew 10 times higher than the International Space Station, could theoretically reach Washington, D.C.

“With this system, we can load the heaviest warhead and strike anywhere in the mainland United States,” North Korea’s most famous newsreader, Ri Chun Hee, said in a special live broadcast on state television. “This missile is far more technologically advanced than July’s Hwasong-14. This signifies that our rocket development process has been completed.”


The missile logged a longer flight time than any of its predecessors and went farther into the atmosphere than ever before, reaching a height of 2,800 miles. The International Space Station, by comparison, is 240 miles above the Earth.


If the missile had flown on a standard trajectory designed to maximize its reach, it would have a range of more than 8,100 miles, said David Wright, co-director of the global security program at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The leadership of the DPRK believes that we intend the same for them that we did for Libya.

Given our record, it’s not a completely crazy opinion to hold, and nuclear deterrence of the US is a sensible and sane strategy given this world view.

I would note that if they have 50 kg or so to spare in the warhead, it’s likely that they could put decoys and other penetration aides (penaids) in the missile, which would greatly complicate mid-course interception.

We’re in a fine mess.

*Hillary Clinton was the strongest advocate of the overthrow of Libya, which Obama, at least, had the self awareness to describe as his worst mistake.
Yes, I am quoting an article from a web site called American Conservative, whose author works for the Cato Institute. What can I say? A stopped clock is right wtice a day.

Our Friends in the Ukraine

There are now indications that the Ukraine is a major contributor to the recent rapid advancement in the North Korean ICBM program.

The only question is whether the technology transfer id the result of corruption or espionage.

My money is on the latter:

Pyongyang’s rogue missile-firing has evoked a commotion among its neighbours. But the anger has turned into threats after Kim Jong-un’s regime astounded the world on July 4 – Independence Day in the United States – with its first intercontinental ballistic missile, which flew almost 1,000 kilometers after being launched.

The Hwasong-14, which means ‘fire star’ in Korean, reached an altitude of 2,802 km and traveled 933 kilometers east into the Sea of Japan after a 39-minute flight.


The international community had previously been told that it could take more than 10 years before Pyongyang could come up with an ICBM prototype that might pose a substantial threat – until Hwasong-14 skirted across the airspace of northern Japan.


The Russian Defence Ministry initially believed the missile was merely one of the many makeshift “toys” that the Kim regime liked to parade, but the Pentagon confirmed shortly after that it was the real deal.

Russian missile experts who examined photos of Hwasong-14 were quoted as saying the North Korean ICBMs may be copycat versions of long-range missiles made by the Soviet Union, such as the SS-18 Satan, capable of carrying multiple warheads with independently targetable reentry vehicles, Kanwa Defense Review has said.

The Hwasong missiles bear all the hallmarks of the SS-18, and one telling indicator is its strikingly similar fairings.

An initial analysis of the known trajectory and payload of the Hwasong family has lent fresh evidence to conjecture that Pyongyang may have obtained key ICBM technology from the Ukraine-based Yuzhnoye Design Office, which was once a Soviet Union bastion for rockets and advanced weaponry research and development, but is now allegedly laden with debt.


North Korea’s ability to “skip grades” in missile technology, notably in regard to composite materials, solid fuels, and warhead thermo-protection, has spooked analysts, who now suspect the regime may have taken lessons from outside, given that Pyongyang is hard pressed to even feed its own population.

“Since 2000, Pyongyang has been sending spies to Ukraine, sometimes via Moscow, forcing the latter of tip-off Kiev to intercept [them]. But it appears that the strained ties between Moscow and Kiev are now playing into Pyongyang’s hand,” an observer said.

Or they are just paying money.

Even if Pyongyang got the plans for the rocket, getting the necessary manufacturing and systems expertise to make sense of those plans a non trivial endeavor.  (It’s probably more difficult for spies to get the latter)

That’s why my guess is that someone at the Yuzhnoye Design Office got paid for the information.

Of Course Heads Are Exploding, Their Post Retirement Sinecures Are at Risk

Turkey is in serious discussions with the Russians over procuring their very long range SAM systems, and the US military is having a major sh%$ fit over this:

The Pentagon on Monday criticized Turkey’s plans to purchase a Russian air-defense system instead of investing in NATO technology.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in talks to get Russia to supply Ankara with its latest S-400 surface-to-air missile system.

Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis said the Pentagon had concerns over its NATO ally’s purchase of the Russian technology because it might not work with other equipment used by the 29-nation alliance.


The S-400 system has a range of about 400 kilometers (250 miles) and is designed to shoot down enemy aircraft.

The Patriot has a range of about 160 km (200 miles), significantly less than the S-400, and unlike the Patriot system, it was designed from the start to be a part of an IADS (integrated air defense system), which means that integrating it with (Russian) short range missiles and AAA is easier and more straightforward.

Incorporating NATO standard IFF (identify friend or foe) into this system is not rocket science.  (Pun not intended)

US and NATO doctrine has always been about air superiority being the primary way to protect the troops on the ground, the Russians, and the Soviets before them, relied far more on an IADS, and so have applied more resources to these systems.

Because of this, their systems are more capable than western systems.

The Pentagon is freaking out because some of the generals are worried that a comfortable retirement as a consultant at Raytheon are jeopardized.

A Foreseeable Consequence of 23 Years of Bad Foreign Policy

For the past 23 years, the US has:

  • Refused to talk directly with the DPRK (North Korea).
  • Overthrew a despot who terminated his WMD Program (Gadaffi).
  • Not followed the Agreed Framework of 1994 with the DPRK.  (They did for a few years)
  • Refused recognition of the government of the DPRK.
  • Overthrew another despot on false pretenses (Saddam Hussein).  
  • Started a proxy war to overthrow another despot (Assad). 
  • Refused to end the Korean war (Really, it’s still going on).

Are we surprised then, that they develop nuclear weapons and have now developed an ICBM that can likely strike the west coast of the mainland United States?

They are neither crazy nor stupid, and every move we have made since Bill Clinton lacked the guts to follow his 1992 1994 agreement with the DPRK.

It really is the most logical course of action for them to take, because nuclear weapons work as a deterrent from us:

North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile on Friday that, for the first time, appeared capable of reaching the West Coast of the United States, according to experts — a milestone that American presidents have long declared the United States could not tolerate.

The launch, the second of an intercontinental missile in 24 days, did not answer the question of whether the North has mastered all the technologies necessary to deliver a nuclear weapon to targets in the lower 48 states. But just a few days ago, the Defense Intelligence Agency warned the Trump administration that the North would probably be able to do so within a year, and Friday’s test left little doubt that Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, is speeding toward that goal.

The missile launched on Friday remained aloft for roughly 47 minutes, according to American, South Korean and Japanese officials, following a steep trajectory that took it roughly 2,300 miles into space. It then turned and arced sharply down into the sea near the northernmost Japanese island, Hokkaido.

If that trajectory had been flattened out — a step the North may have avoided for fear of provoking an American military response — the missile could have put a number of major American cities at risk, experts say. The Pentagon was quick to declare that the “North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) determined the missile launch from North Korea did not pose a threat to North America.” That statement, while true, ignored the potential long-term implications of the launch.

“Depending on how heavy a warhead it carries, this latest North Korean missile would easily reach the West Coast of the United States with a range of 9,000 to 10,000 kilometers,” or 5,600 to 6,200 miles, said Kim Dong-yub, a defense analyst at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul. “With this missile, North Korea leaves no doubt that its missile has a range that covers most of the United States.”

Accept reality and deal directly with Pyongyang before they have a missile that can strike Washington, DC.

We already know that the DPRK is working on a boosted fission warhead, which is an essential part of the warhead miniaturization process, and we know that they will literally starve their people to death to develop this capability, because they believe that they are facing an existential threat from the United States.

Just talk to them, and while you are at it, end the f%$#ing Korean war.  It’s absurd that we are still under a temporary truce after 75 years.

Chinese Appear to Have Very Long Range AAM in Test

On a Chinese Flanker Derivative

The background appears deliberately obscured


Probable flight profile

We are now seeing reports, and pictures of a Chinese Su-27 derivative carrying what appears to be an enormous air to air missile: (Paid Subscription Required)

Last year, the U.S. Air Force was worried about the PL-15, a long-ranging Chinese missile that could reach U.S. fighters too far away to shoot back. Now the appearance of an even farther-flying Chinese weapon must be forcing the air force to wonder about the vulnerability of vital tankers and surveillance aircraft flying behind its fighters.

The latest Chinese weapon is comparable to a long-range surface-to-air missile in size and appearance and so can probably reach well over 200 km (120 mi.). With no aerodynamic surfaces except small tail fins to help turn its hefty bulk, it does not look suited for attacking a fighter that can maneuver sharply to avoid a hit. Instead, it seems far more likely to climb high on a ballistic trajectory and drop onto a big and sluggish target that can hardly do anything to get out of the way, such an airborne-early-warning (AEW) aircraft.

As an aside here, while maneuverability at the far extents of its range is probably limited, at slightly shorter ranges, say 30-50 km less than maximum range, it should still be at a high speed, at which point the control surfaces and body lift should generate significant maneuverability for an intercept.

Note that the aerodynamics appear to be similar to the (much smaller) ASRAAM, which is known to sustain something in excess of 50G.

If that is the mission, then the system is probably a supplement to—perhaps a backup for—the Avic Chengdu J-20, a big fighter that looks designed to penetrate an enemy fighter barrier with stealth and high speed to knock out support aircraft in the rear (AW&ST Nov. 7-20, p. 24). The same job could be attempted with a powerful but nonstealthy aircraft that lobbed weapons over the fighter barrier. Such an aircraft could be an Avic Shenyang J-16, a Chinese Flanker—such as the one in recent photographs revealing the weapon’s existence (see photo).

An anonymous user of a Chinese microblog service published the photos in November. There is always a chance of fakery—analysts have been tricked before by phony Chinese pictures—but the images not only look genuine, they also depict a weapon that makes sense for the Chinese air force. Just clear enough for good estimates of dimensions by reference to the J-16, the pictures were almost certainly released by the air force or, on its behalf, by the missile- or fighter-maker. This is the Chinese military’s idea of a press release.


Assuming equally energetic propellant, equally efficient trajectories and a modern, dual-pulse rocket motor or ramjet, PL-15 should greatly outrange the 3.7-m long, 178-mm thick Raytheon AIM-120 Amraam, prompting Carlisle to call for development of a longer-ranging U.S. weapon. The new Chinese missile seen on the J-16 is about 5.8 m long and 320 mm thick, and therefore about six times bigger than the Amraam.

It’s also a a lot bigger than the last US VLR AAM, the AIM-54 Phoenix:

 AIM-54 Phoenix  Chinese VLRAAM
 Diameter  380 mm (15 in)  320 mm (13 in)
 Length  4 m (13 ft)  5.8 m (19½ ft)
 Wing Span  910mm (36 in)  ~650mm (26 in)
 Weight  450 kg (1000 lb)  ~700 kg (1550 lb)
 Range  200 km (120 mi)  300 km (180 mi) (guess)
 Speed  4700 km/h (3000 mph)  4700 km/h (3000 mph)

I am not sure if the missile would need advanced propulsion to achieve very long ranges.

The missile is likely intended to be launched at high speed and altitude, which means that simply using a slow and long burning motor may get the performance desired, though this would compromise short range (less than 20 km) performance.

The likely profile would have the the J-16 launching the missile in a climb at supersonic speeds at about 15 km.  The missile would them climb to 30-40 km, where air drag is less, and accelerating to around Mach 5.

It would then dive on the target, with an active seeker used for terminal guidance. (See picture)

This could be an effective deterrent, but it would have limited application:  The AIM-54 was used something less than 10 times in actual combat, with an 0% success rate.

I do agree that the primary targets would be tankers and AWACS type aircraft, so the use of some sort of very long range sensors for cuing would need to be a part of its effective deployment.