Take A Trip Through The Milky Way

•October 16, 2013 • 1 Comment

Latest Zumwalt Photos

•October 16, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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A Few More Photos For Australia’s First F-35

•October 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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AU-1 Mate Ceremony

I can think of a few bloggers, and self proclaimed ‘defense analysts’ that this specific F-35 is driving crazy.

F-35 Photo Of The Day

•October 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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Photo by Carl Richards

AF-35, a USAF F-35A taking its first flight on 7 Oct.

Syria Happenings..

•October 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Today, the large task of destroying and rendering inert Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal began in earnest. Under the supervision of a joint team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations, Syrian forces using cutting torches and grinders began destroying chemical weapons capable missile warheads, and air dropped munitions. Mixing and filling equipment, designed to mix chemical weapons for transfer to munitions, are also being destroyed.

Despite this welcome development, Syria remains a nation gripped by violence. Many see the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile as the fix needed, and one that will bring violence in Syria to an end. That, sadly, couldn’t be further from the truth. No longer is Syria a government vs rebel conflict. Now, its more of a rebel vs rebel vs rebel vs government style conflict. Since this bloodiest chapter of the Arab Spring began nearly three years ago, over one hundred thousand people have died. A small fraction of that total number came from the use of chemical weapons.

Long story short; this mess won’t be ending anytime soon. Its likely the death-toll in Syria will climb much higher. Combine this with the unrest seen across the Middle East and Africa, and you have a recipe for a less than tasty meal.

Pak-Fa Troubles?

•October 6, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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The partnership between Russia and India, as it applies to the Sukhoi designed Pak-Fa, may be in trouble. India’s commitmerouble. India’s commitment of R&D funds, totaling 5.5 billion, is seen as a necessary investment to fully develop Pak-Fa, and bring the design into service in both the Russian and Indian Air Forces. While draft contracts for the proposed R&D joint venture have been exchanged, the overall contract has not progressed beyond the draft stage at this point.

Several snags have cropped up, that could potentially scuttle the joint venture altogether. India reportedly wants access to all technical data, and to be more than just a monetary contributor, by directly contributing to the overall R&D effort. Technology exchange is a factor seen in several other Indian defense procurement deals, so it should come as no surprise that it is an Indian desire for this partnership. In an effort to further their own defense industry, Indian technology exchange demands make sense.

India is also reportedly seeking a prohibition on sales of the aircraft to countries other than Russia, and India. Due to heavy reliance on export orders by the Russian defense industry, this could be problematic for the deal as a whole. Lack of widespread export could easily lead to upwardly spiraling airframe costs, due to a lack of economies of scale.

The head of the Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Browne, has stated that the FGFA, as Pak-Fa is known in India, is on hold for now. Browne went on to state that the R&D contract would require another year, and until such time as technical details are provided, financial terms could not be discussed.

From India’s standpoint, I can see the reasoning behind the path they are taking. To put it mildly, Russia burned India on INS Vikramaditya, in terms of overall cost, and schedule. That situation left India feeling a bit like a cash machine, being repeatedly abused.

Lacking a cash infusion into the Pak-Fa program from India, it is possible the program will become financially untenable for Russia. Compound this with India’s desire to prohibit export orders, and the financial sense Pak-Fa offers falters even more. Its very possible India is facing a choice, between the partially developed Sukhoi, or the already developed Rafale. Defense dollars need to be invested wisely, and in Indian defense circles, the Sukhoi may not be seen as a sound investment.

Will Pak-Fa go the way of many other aircraft to emerge from Russia, that never went beyond the prototype stage? Its too soon to tell. The fact that hardware for the Pak-Fa, such as radar, have been developed and shown to the world, points towards a large Russian commitment to the aircraft. Lacking an Indian investment, and commitment for airframes, the Pak-Fa might never see service within the Russian Air Force in large numbers, or with many envisioned capabilities.

The moral of this story is developing modern aircraft is an expensive proposition, made affordable and possible by international partnerships. For those who would point to the Chinese J-20 as an example against this, I would remind them of the J-20’s use of Russian engines, and the possibility of the J-20 design coming from the abandoned MiG 1.44 program.

VFA-101 Rollout Ceremony For F-35C

•October 5, 2013 • Leave a Comment

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On Tuesday, the official rollout ceremony for VFA-101 and the F-35C took place at Eglin Air Force Base. This event marks a milestone for the Navy’s ramping up of integration of the F-35C into naval aviation.

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Admiral Bill Gortney, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, spoke on the importance of the F-35C.

“Today, we formally recognize the next generation of Naval Aviation – the F-35C,” said Gortney. “The most important revolution is fusing these weapons systems with the rest of the weapon system. Our cruisers, destroyers, P-8s, Tritons, and operational and tactical headquarters – the decision makers.”

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Vice Admiral David Buss, Commander, Naval Air Forces, also spoke.

“Our Navy needs aircraft capable of overcoming a variety of threats – surface-to-air missiles, air-to-air missiles, and tactical aircraft. The F-35C brings stealth capability to the ultimate sea base – the flight deck of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier – for the first time in our history.”

“The F-35C mixed with the capabilities of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, E-2D Hawkeye, MH-60R/S helicopters will provide carrier-based Naval Aviation the ability to fulfill these requirements well into the future,”

Certain critics of the F-35 loving claiming, sometimes at great length, that the Navy is uninterested in the F-35C, and is looking for an exit ramp. When you point out the flawed thinking these critics are operating under, they often plug their ears, and attempt to ignore away facts. Based on the comments made by both Adm. Gortney, and Vice Adm. Buss, it is clear that the Navy is committed to the F-35C, and the capabilities this aircraft will bring to the Navy.