Sponsored by Exensor
27 Mar 20. Japan favors home-grown design for next-generation fighter after rejecting foreign plans: sources. Japan wants to develop a stealth fighter domestically, rejecting designs from Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co in the United States and Britain’s BAE Systems PLC, three sources with knowledge of the program told Reuters.
That would put Japan’s leading defense contractor, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, in the lead for a military contract worth more than $40bn. The company has not submitted a design for the next-generation fighter, but developed Japan’s stealth fighter technology demonstrator, the X-2, in 2016.
“Japan’s stealth designs have performed well in tests so far,” said one of the sources, who has knowledge of discussion about the new proposed plane, referred to as the F-3 or F-X.
A spokesman for Mitsubishi Heavy said the company would work with the government on whatever policy it decided to follow.
“We understand the Japanese government will lead the development program,” a Mitsubishi Heavy spokesman said.
Japan’s Air Self Defense Force flies about 200 Boeing F-15 jets and is replacing squadrons of decades-old F-4 fighters with Lockheed Martin F-35s. The F-3 will succeed the F-2, a derivative of the F-16 Fighting Falcon jointly developed by Mitsubishi Heavy and Lockheed Martin more than two decades ago.
Proposals from Lockheed, Boeing and BAE “were judged not to have met our needs,” said an official at the Japanese defense ministry’s Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency (ATLA). “No decision has yet been reached on the airframe,” he added.
After settling on the airframe – the aircraft itself without the systems that make it fly – Japan’s government will select suppliers for the engine, flight systems, sensors and other components that will give the proposed jet its advanced capabilities, the sources said.
All three spoke on condition of anonymity because the were not authorized to speak to the media.
For many of the systems, Tokyo will need help from foreign companies to reduce development costs and time, ensuring it can deploy the fighter in the next decade to counter Chinese expansion in East Asia.
U.S companies, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrop Grumman, are still potential partners, the sources said.
“Lockheed Martin is encouraged by the ongoing dialogue between the U.S. Government and Government of Japan regarding Japan’s F-2 replacement plans, and is looking forward to detailed discussions with Japanese industry,” Lockheed Martin said in an email. It had proposed an aircraft combining elements of its F-22 and F-35 stealth jets.
“Boeing is committed to partnering with Japan to support development of a Japan-led, next-generation future fighter,” said a spokesman from Boeing, which had offered Japan a design based on its F-18 Super Hornet jet.
Northrop Grumman is “engaged in frequent dialogue with Japan’s Ministry of Defense and Japanese industry in support of the F-X program,” a company spokesman said. Northrop Grumman did not submit an airframe proposal.
The United States, which has about 50,000 troops in Japan, including as an aircraft carrier strike group, remains the cornerstone of Tokyo’s defense policy. U.S. President Donald Trump wants Japan to pay more for that protection and reduce its trade surplus with the United States.
Japan is seeking deeper security ties elsewhere, including with Britain, which is courting Japan as a possible partner on its proposed next-generation jet, the Tempest. If built, it would deploy in the 2030s.
The leading defense contractor in that project, BAE, which offered Japan a design based on the Eurofighter Typhoon jet, could stand to benefit.
BAE and other companies involved in Tempest proposal “continue to support the UK in its discussions with Japan to consider more deeply how the two nations can collaborate on their combined combat air requirements,” a BAE spokesman said.
Japan wants to decide on the international partners for the F-3 by the end of the year, the ATLA official said. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Reuters)
25 Mar 20. Sudanese defense minister dies of heart attack, say officials. Sudan’s defense minister, Gen. Gamal al-Din Omar, died Wednesday of a heart attack while on an official visit to neighboring South Sudan, Sudanese military and government officials said Wednesday. He was 60.
Omar was in South Sudan’s capital of Juba taking part in peace talks between his country’s transitional government and rebel groups, the officials said. He attended meetings that stretched into late Tuesday, and he died early Wednesday, the officials said. The was no further information.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
Born in January 1960, Omar was a member of Sudan’s Sovereign Council, which took power last year under a 39-month power-sharing deal between the country’s military and the pro-democracy movement that led the uprising against former autocratic President Omar al-Bashir.
In a statement released later Wednesday, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, who heads the Sovereign Council, said he mourned the death of Omar “who died while struggling for the stability of Sudan” — a reference to talks with rebels to end Sudan’s yearslong civil wars.
Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok mourned Omar as one of Sudan’s “loyal sons” who had played “an effective role” in the talks with the rebels.
The state-run SUNA news agency said a funeral prayer was held for him in Juba, before his body was to be transported later Wednesday to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, for burial.
Mohammed Hassan al-Taishi, a spokesman for the Sudanese government’s delegation to the talks with the rebels, said the negotiations would be suspended for a week because of Omar’s death, starting Wednesday.
Sudan’s transitional government has been engaging in peace talks with rebel groups since October. Juba, the South Sudanese capital, is hosting those negotiations which aim to stabilize the country and help its fragile path to democracy survive following the military’s overthrow last April of al-Bashir, who held on to power for nearly three decades.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in fighting in Sudan’s multiple insurgencies, including in the restive western Darfur region. That’s where al-Bashir brutally repressed an uprising in the early 2000s. Since then, the International Criminal Court has sought al-Bashir on charges of war crimes and genocide. Reaching a peace deal with the rebels is crucial to Sudan’s transitional government as it seeks to rehabilitate the country’s battered economy, attract much-needed foreign aid and deliver the democracy it promised. (Source: Defense News)
25 Mar 20. Putin orders Russian military drills to increase coronavirus capabilities. Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the army to carry out drills designed to increase its readiness to fight the novel coronavirus if necessary, the Defence Ministry said on Wednesday. The number of recorded coronavirus cases in Russia reached 658 on Wednesday, a day after the mayor of Moscow told Putin that the real scale of the problem in the capital far exceeded the official figures. The Defence Ministry said in a statement that the drills, to be carried out from March 25-28, would include specialist medical units and nuclear, biological and chemical protection troops. (Source: Reuters)
23 Mar 20. Strategic policy expert calls for expanded air defence interceptor capability. Dr Malcolm Davis of ASPI has called for greater Australian and allied consideration for the development of a highly capable air defence interceptor to counter the increasingly capable air combat, stand-off and long-range strike capability of the Chinese air force. Throughout history, military operations have favoured those who occupy the high ground. Command of the skies empowers both offensive and defensive operations, while also providing powerful deterrence options as part of the broader implementation of power projection and national security doctrines. Air dominance reflects the pinnacle of the high ground, where both a qualitative and quantitative edge in doctrine, equipment and personnel support the unrivalled conduct of offensive or defensive air combat operations.
The concept of air dominance proved influential as a tactical and strategic operating concept, with the use of tactical fighters providing air dominance, close air support and strategic bomber escort essential to the Allied triumph in the Second World War.
Designed to establish and maintain air superiority or air dominance, fighter aircraft have evolved from relatively simple wood and canvas airframes during the First World War to the highly manoeuvrable, long-range aircraft that dominated the skies of Europe and the Pacific during the Second World War; the latest two generations of fighters are the pinnacle of these earlier designs.
Indo-Pacific Asia’s fighter fleets are made up of fighter aircraft ranging from third to fifth-generation aircraft, each with unique capabilities and roles within the regional balance of power.
Prior to diving into the concept of the ‘high-low’ fighter mix, it is critical to understand the differences between the generations of aircraft operating in the Indo-Pacific.
Fighter aircraft, like every facet of military technology, are rapidly evolving. The current global and regional transition from fourth to fifth-generation fighter aircraft, like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter platforms, is reshaping the role of fighter fleets and the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific region.
The growing success of Russian and Chinese fifth-generation fighter aircraft like the Su-57, J-20 and JF-31 – combined with reports of Russia offering the Su-57 for export to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) is threatening to serve as a repeat of the air combat battles over Vietnam that saw dedicated Soviet-designed and built air superiority fighter aircraft severely challenge US air superiority despite the advances in air-to-air missiles promising the “end of traditional dog fights”.
Further compounding these issues, China’s development of the next-generation J/H-XX is further limiting the responses available to Australia, the US, Japan and other key regional and global allies.
Recognising this, Dr Malcolm Davis of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI)min his piece titled ‘The return of the interceptor’, has provided a detailed analysis of the rising challenges presenting themselves, while breathing life into a Cold War-era concept; the air defence interceptor.
Dr Davis explains the developments facing Australia and the questions it raises, “The IISS’s [International Institute for Strategic Studies] sober analysis of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force’s stealthy new fifth-generation J/H-XX jet adds substance to what had been only educated guesswork in a number of forums. So, what does the development of this sophisticated aircraft mean for Australian operations risks in the 2020s?”
A blast from the past
Dr Davis draws on detailed analysis conducted by the IISS as part of the The Military Balance 2020, which conducts breakdowns and detailed assessments of the defence developments of nations like China, Russia, the US and the rising challenges associated with great power competition.
As part of this, both IISS and Dr Davis articulate the growing challenges of long-range strike and stand-off weapons capabilities emerging in China and the threat they pose to key defence infrastructure and assets, particularly in northern Australia and allied naval task forces operating in the Indo-Pacific.
“The IISS notes that the J/H-XX is a fighter bomber, an old term for multirole combat aircraft, but what stands out is that it’s capable of carrying long-range air-to-air missiles,” Dr Davis explains.
“It suggests the platform is connected to the PL-15 beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile, or BVRAAM, and potentially an even longer range ramjet-powered hypersonic PL-21 missile. Sources suggest the PL-15 is already in service with a range of 200 kilometres, while the longer range PL-21 is still in development and may have a range up to 400 kilometres.
“The function of these weapons, whether launched from a J/H-XX or the J-20 already in service, is to attack vital platforms such as airborne early warning and control aircraft and air-to-air refuellers.
“For example, in attacking a carrier battlegroup as part of an anti-access/area-denial operation, a key goal would be to destroy E-2C Hawkeye early warning aircraft. That would force the carrier taskforce to use ship-based radar in active mode, allowing long-range anti-ship missiles, both ballistic and cruise, to target it more easily.”
For Dr Davis, China’s development of the J/H-XX in particular serves as a powerful challenge to Australia’s existing and planned air power assets and long-term strategic planning as the introduction of such a platform will dramatically impact the tactical and strategic mobility of not only the RAAF, but also the broader ADF.
“The J/H-XX should be a concern to RAAF planners. A 2018 report in The Diplomat discussed both the H-20, a new strategic bomber in development for the PLA Air Force, and the ‘regional fighter bomber’ — the J/H-XX,” he adds.
“It noted that the first information on the J/H-XX emerged in 2013 in the form of a model of a new combat aircraft . It was presumed to have supersonic performance with a combat radius of up to 2,000 kilometres and to be able to carry BVRAAMs within side weapons bays. It appeared to be designed to be stealthy, with a design reminiscent of the US YF-23 Black Widow fighter. The article suggested that:
“Such an aircraft would leverage a combination of stealth, speed, [and] onboard electronic warfare capabilities, to penetrate well monitored and defended airspace to target high value targets … Potential targets may include anything from carrier strike groups … to well defended airbases and radar sites … The aircraft’s large internal payload capacity and side BVRAAM bays may also hint at a secondary long range, high persistence interceptor role.”
The growing capabilities of potential peer competitors and the importance of air combat capabilities is of growing importance within Australia’s broader force structure and capability development equations.
Responding to the challenges
Recognising these factors, combined with the ever-shrinking reality of Australia’s long vaunted strategic moat in the ‘sea-air gap’, renowned Australian strategic policy thinker Hugh White presented an idea for a significantly enhanced Royal Australian Air Force to meet these challenges.
White’s premise, along with the potential for a doubling of the nation’s defence budget, is for the acquisition of some 200 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters armed with the latest in long-range stand-off weapons systems to dictate and dominate the terms of engagement throughout Australia’s northern approaches, combining the fifth-generation capabilities of the F-35 with other key platforms like the E-7A Wedgetail, KC-30A Tankers and future submarines to severely blunt a potential adversary’s hostile intent towards the Australian mainland.
White has used his position of prominence to advocate for a range of force structure, acquisition, modernisation and capability restructuring and developments, shifting from the major acquisition programs identified as priorities of the Australian government’s record $200bn investment in capability, including:
- Scrapping the $35bn Hunter Class program – selling the Hobart and Canberra Class vessels;
- Increasing the acquisition plans of the Attack Class submarines from 12 to 36;
- An increase in Australia’s purchase of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and long-range strike capabilities; and
- A consideration of Australia developing or acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities.
While this represents a quick summary of White’s proposal, it perfectly encapsulates his modus operandi – that is the path of least resistance and a belief that Australia is incapable of affecting its own future.
White’s primary focus builds on the Cold War-era Defence of Australia policy to focus on “controlling” the sea-air gap by hindering the potential for any adversary to get close to the Australian mainland while exercising a degree of rudimentary sea control and limiting the nation’s offensive capabilities.
This focus on sea control, in particular, is expanded upon by Richard Dunley in his recent ASPI piece, ‘Is sea denial without sea control a viable strategy for Australia?’.
Dunley dissects White’s premise for “limited sea control” to focus on “defensive sea denial”, which he defines as “trying to use the sea as a barrier to enemy aggression. In contrast to limited sea denial, defensive sea denial requires a very high level of sea control. For the strategy to work, the denying force needs to be stronger than its enemy everywhere (within the region of operations) all of the time”.
Further reinforcing the complexity of dominating the sea-air gap and White’s proposal to focus solely on becoming a “strategic echidna” is commentary by Andrew Davies in his piece for ASPI, ‘What the Battle of Britain can teach us about defending Australia’, which seeks to focus on the limitations and challenges facing the air force proposed by White, namely the focus on a massive expansion of the RAAF’s fast jet force.
Davies writes, “Hugh White’s ‘Battle of Australia’ scenario in which 200 frontline aircraft form a bulwark against a hostile power. The lessons from 1940 mostly apply, with the exception of the rapid production of replacement aircraft, given that the lag time for a new strike fighter is well over a year.” (Source: Defence Connect)
20 Mar 20. PLA Daily: Japan Seeks to Break Military Restriction Through New Fighter Jet. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) plans to deploy the “new-generation fighter jet” in the mid-2030s. Tokyo will seek cooperation with the US in jointly developing the warplane, and is willing to bear most of the R&D expenses to maintain its dominance in the process, indicating Japan’s intention to break the military restriction on it.
The new-generation fighter jet, named F-X, is set to replace the F-2 Support Fighter that is scheduled to be decommissioned in the 2030s. As the first combat jet co-developed by the US and Japan, F-2 is mainly deployed in maritime vessel attacks and ground-to-air combat and responsible for regular homeland air defense. However, not satisfied with F-2, Japan has been waiting for an opportunity to develop a type of advanced fighter jet that can meet its combat requirements to significantly enhance its aviation and space industry. Therefore, a lot of hope is placed on the new-generation fighter jet.
The problem is Japan, under America’s military control all these years, may once again be blockaded by the US away from any core technology, like with the development of F-35, if they are to work together on developing the new fighter jet. That would make the F-X development meaningless for Japan. Besides, independent development of a fighter jet that meets the combat and technical requirements would be extremely difficult and expensive due to policy pressure from the US.
Japan kicked off the FS-X program in as early as the 1980s to improve its air-to-ground assault capability, but unable to develop the high-performance fighter engine that met FS-X’s combat requirements. So, Japan had no choice but to seek help from the US, which then asked it to buy America-made fighter jets instead or produce American-designed products by license.
After WWII, Japan is restricted in the military buildup and has been trying to seize dominance in the cooperation with the US, in hopes of breaking the restriction one day. Japan’s Mid-Term Defense Program (MTDP) released at the end of 2018 specifically stated that “we will seek international cooperation and begin Japan-dominated development as soon as possible”.
The document also drew up a multi-trillion-yen development plan focused on the defense industry. The development expenses are already listed in Tokyo’s 2020 annual budget and the plan is in motion. Now the Japanese government takes a further step by declaring its attempt to seize dominance in co-developing the new-generation fighter jet, which reveals its intention of breaking the military restriction and pursuing defense normalization in due course.
It’s worth noting that the Japanese Ministry of Defense gave top priority to free modification in its concept plan for the new fighter released at the end of last year, and the government has rejected the earlier US proposal of simply upgrading the existing fighter. Japan is willing to bear most of the R&D expenses because for this Asian country, the freedom to improve fighter jet is not only relevant to the potential of upgrading weapon performance in preparation for future warfare, but also a big step in shaking off the defense restriction and America’s control. Japan has never stopped making military preparations so as to take the initiative when it deems necessary.
Besides, the current US-Japan defense cost-sharing agreement will expire in March next year, and it’s hard for the financially strained Japan to substantially increase the current quota. Expressing its willingness to bear more expenses in the statement regarding the new fighter development is partly to remind the US not to ask too much in the following budget negotiations.
Yet Tokyo still needs a nod from Washington to truly take the lead in the fighter development cooperation, and their alliance appears even more fragile under the flag of “America first”. After all, there was a time when Japan was planned to lead the program but couldn’t access the core technologies of the F-2 fighter jet due to escalated trade frictions with the US. (Source: defense-aerospace.com/China Military Online)
Founded in 1987, Exensor Technology is a world leading supplier of Networked Unattended Ground Sensor (UGS) Systems providing tailored sensor solutions to customers all over the world. From our Headquarters in Lund Sweden, our centre of expertise in Network Communications at Communications Research Lab in Kalmar Sweden and our Production site outside of Basingstoke UK, we design, develop and produce latest state of the art rugged UGS solutions at the highest quality to meet the most stringent demands of our customers. Our systems are in operation and used in a wide number of Military as well as Homeland Security applications worldwide. The modular nature of the system ensures any external sensor can be integrated, providing the user with a fully meshed “silent” network capable of self-healing. Exensor Technology will continue to lead the field in UGS technology, provide our customers with excellent customer service and a bespoke package able to meet every need. A CNIM Group Company