Monday, December 9, 2013

Deja Vu?

Tensions are rising in the East China Sea with China having laid claim to an air defense zone covering much of the area.

The Navy is deploying several P-8A Poseidon aircraft to Japan.

Hmmm ... 

Do you recall the April 2001 incident in which the Chinese forced down an American EP-3 aircraft?  To refresh your memory, the EP-3 was operating around 70 miles from Hainan when it was intercepted by Chinese J-8 fighters.  One of the fighters collided with the EP-3, damaging it to the point where it had to make an emergency landing on Hainan.  The EP-3 and its crew were held until the US issued a vague statement of apology at which point the crew was released.  The Chinese kept the EP-3 aircraft as a souvenir, stripping it of parts and disassembling it.  The remains of the aircraft were returned a few months later after the Chinese had gotten everything they wanted from it.

We’re sending our latest, brand new aircraft to patrol the East China Sea.  Does anyone see a possibility of a repeat performance?  I’m sure the Chinese would love to capture a P-8 and further humiliate the US while emphasizing that they mean business about their air defense zone.  This seems like an incredibly obvious opportunity for China.  Unlike the first incident, I hope the US military has learned to provide fighter protection for unarmed surveillance aircraft that it sends into the region.

8 comments:

  1. I think the EP-3 incident was a a fluke as a result of the PLAA pilot trying to play chicken.

    The B-52 was probably selected for the ADIZ overflight because it is a big, rugged plane - not easy to physically push around by a fighter.

    Likewis a P-8 is a really large aircraft, and likely immune to attempts to physically push around.

    GAB

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    1. GAB, the actual collision may or may not have been a fluke. More importantly, though, the violation of flight procedures in international air space was not a fluke. The subsequent seizure and stripping of the aircraft was not a fluke. The pattern of harassing US ships and aircraft is not a fluke. The post is a suggestion that the pattern of harassment will likely continue and the likelihood of a similar incident is, thus, high. Hopefully, we're better prepared with combat support next time or we'll be watching the Chinese strip a brand new P-8 while we fire off strongly worded protests.

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    2. ComNavOps,

      I agree!

      GAB

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  2. The problem with the EP-3 was that it was too heavy and slow to run from an interceptor. The P-8A is quite a bit faster than EP-3 and has a much higher service ceiling.

    I am not saying a P-8A can win a tail-chase with a supersonic fighter -- but given sufficient warning, it has a much greater probability of escaping to friendly air cover.

    Matt

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    1. GAB,

      EP-3 and P-8A are about the same size. And air combat -- even of the 'chicken' variety -- is really more about nimbleness than mass.

      The Hainan Island incident speaks very strongly as to why we need long-dwell UAS. A BAMS or Global Hawk is a lot less riskier than using a P-8A (9-10 crew) or an EP-3 (20+ crew).

      Matt

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    2. "EP-3 and P-8A are about the same size."
      xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
      Wrong.

      A P-8 is a much larger aircraft.

      Empty a P-8 is almost twice the weight of a P-3. Loaded:

      EP-3 has a max. takeoff weight of 142,000 lb (64,400 kg)

      A P-8 has a max. takeoff weight of 189,200 lb (85,820 kg)

      Pretty big difference.

      And the Chinese version of chicken includes contact.
      Since you are not going to outmanuever a fighter in a patrol aircraft, mass matters.

      GAB

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    3. GAB,

      Everything I've read about the Hainan Island incident indicates that it was a 'hot dog' fighter pilot who played a little too close.

      We've (probably) been flying similar airborne ISR missions for the last decade plus and there's no record of a similar collision. One can surmise that ramming is probably not PLA intercept doctrine.

      Regardless - causing an intentional collision between two aircraft is a lot harder than you might imagine. Particularly if the one aircraft doesn't want to be hit. The EP-3 was not particularly well know for its nimbleness or acceleration. The P-8A is.

      Matt

      PS- Comparing size based on maximum gross weights of the P-8A and EP-3 is erroneous. P-8A max includes weapons and stores which aren't typically carried on an ISR mission.

      Delete
  3. An inappropriate comment was removed. Discuss the idea, not the person.

    ReplyDelete