Thursday, June 29, 2017

Russian Middle East Live Fire Exercise

The US has a recent history of jumping into every little conflict that comes along.  Setting aside the moral or geopolitical strategic considerations, one military benefit of doing so is that the US military has had opportunities to field test many of its weapon systems in what amounts to live fire exercises.  How many Tomahawks has the US launched over the last few decades?  How many F-18 Hornet strikes have occurred?  US submarines have had the opportunity to conduct submerged cruise missile launches.  Out carriers are constantly conducting strikes.  And so on.

In fact, the US military is, arguably, the most “exercised” military in the world (the Israelis would be another well exercised military), to the point that the military is worn out and desperately in need of an extended period of disengagement to conduct maintenance and restock, repair, retrain, and, generally, reset. 

In contrast, the Russians and Chinese have had little opportunity to exercise many of their weapon systems.  The Russians, and their navy, in particular, has had no opportunity to try out their cruise missiles, carrier aviation, naval anti-air warfare systems, etc.  The Chinese have had even less opportunity.  If the Chinese or Russian have to go to war, they will do so with untried systems and many unknowns.

Now, however, the Russians have expanded into the Middle East.  Again, setting aside morals and geopolitical strategy, the opportunity has allowed the Russians to conduct live fire exercises and relearn naval combat operations.  Their frigates have launched cruise missiles, their carrier has conducted air operations (and lost aircraft), they’ve conducted land and naval strikes with aircraft, and they’ve dropped various types of aircraft munitions.  In short, their Middle East ventures have allowed them the opportunity to try out weapon systems, identify the bugs, map out the limits and constraints of operational weapons use, and see what works and what doesn’t.

This could have the added benefit of enhancing Russia's prospects of foreign arms sales if the various weapons are demonstrated to be successful.

The Russians are realizing a number of benefits from their Middle East actions in addition to their geopolitical goals.


  1. Offtopics and ideas for new posts on you blog:

    1-lets comment on the unique engineering of the QE aircraft carrier.
    At a displacement of close to 70.000 tons does not have a catapult compared to the French carrier witch is 30.000 lighter and has a catapult and a carries a similar number of aircraft , but thanks to the catapult it is able to launch even E-2Ds witch are a huge advantage over the UK heliborne AWACS.
    And another great British design , the overhyped Type-45 destroyer - having the same displacement as a Burke destroyer but only having 48 VLS cells just for surface to air missiles , hehehe

    2- The more important but overlooked naval news is the launching of the new Chinese destroyer at a displacement of 10.000 tons and around 120 VLS cels

    1. I'm not a Royal Navy expert so I can't really comment on their aircraft carrier. My vague understanding is that the choice launch system was budget driven rather than operation or combat needs driven - a mistake.

      I'm monitoring the Chinese destroyer and new cruiser programs. When I have something of value to add to the bare news facts I'll jump in. I do not, at the moment. Perhaps you have some value-added observations?

    2. 10,000 tons is empty displacement. Full load displacement of Type 055 is likely around 12-13,000 tons.

      As for value-added observations suitable for this blog, how about a controversial assertion: that China's new 055 is basically the large surface combatant that USN *should've* introduced about five years ago.

    3. The 055 is a somewhat larger Ticonderoga in terms of combat capability and exceeds the Tico only in stealth shaping of the hull and superstructure. This is not what we should have built five years ago - we already had it in the Tico.

      I'm on record, in previous posts and comments, about what we should have been building and this isn't it. Something like this would be a moderately nice evolutionary upgrade to the Ticos.

      Ironically, by copying the US Navy design philosophies, the Chinese have committed to many of the same failings and mistakes that US Navy ship design has made.

    4. Well, here is a picture gallery on BMPD ( a interesting Russian blog by the way )
      Google translate :
      Today at the Shanghai shipyard "Jiangnan-Changxing" solemn ceremony was held on the launch of the very first Chinese destroyer pr.055. According to rumors, the displacement of these destroyers can reach about 12,000 tons, they are officially called the destroyers of the "10,000-ton" class. As far as we know, three more ships of this project are under construction in Shanghai and Dalian.

      It is reported that the ship is equipped with antiaircraft, anti-missile, anti-ship and antisubmarine weapons. I hope soon there will be shots on top of the ship, so that you can accurately estimate the number of cells of universal vertical launchers for various missiles. Earlier there was information that there could be a total of about 112-128 such yachkas.

      Ceremony before launching

    5. The right way to look at 055 is as an Arleigh Burke Flight III but arriving several years earlier, with a more refined design (i.e. lower RCS), and with the future growth margins that platform lacks.

      With the arrival of 055s in PLAN from 2019 or so, USN will be behind the curve and will remain so at least until the arrival of the future surface combatant -- late 2020s at the very earliest.

    6. "1-lets comment on the unique engineering of the QE aircraft carrier.
      At a displacement of close to 70.000 tons does not have a catapult compared to the French carrier witch is 30.000 lighter and has a catapult and a carries a similar number of aircraft , but thanks to the catapult it is able to launch even E-2Ds witch are a huge advantage over the UK heliborne AWACS."

      The CdG (and other none US catapult carriers) are effectively inoperable.
      Carrier Landings are simply too difficult and take too long to learn, and without constant repetition, relearn.

      The Russians lost two of the twelve fixed wing aircraft embarked on the Kuznetsov in December to failed landings. They landed their aircraft in Syria and sent the Carrier home.

    7. Without a steam turbine main power units the QE2 class ruled out out steam catapults ( CdG & Nimitz class are nuclear steam turbine driven). The UK looked at Emals but ran screaming from the room.
      As the UK had sucessfully operated VTOSL carriers for decades, to continue to do so was a reasonable choice with the F35B

      carrier landings are certainly difficult , but not impossible as the aircrew has to re qualify every time theres a deployment. A couple of times a year an carrier is used for new aircrew to qualify using the little T45 trainer. Its obviously a progression from a small easily handled planes to larger and faster planes to the hardest of all night landings. Doesnt make sense that no one else can do it, maybe not 'as well' as the US navy.

    8. CdG has been out of service for 15 months for its first refuel, and is currently out of service, for 18 months, for its 2ns refuel and a a major upgrade.

      Once its back in service, they'll have to start from scratch.
      Pilots, Trainers, Cadets, all will have to learn, 6 months, a year?

      USNAviators have an 8 year service. In a single Carrier Navy a quarter of that could be lost to no carrier time.

      In contrast, a third of the airwing the UK deployed in the Falklands War were RAF VSTOL pilots who learnt carrier ops on the way down, or in theatre in some cases.

      There is "doing it", which, yes, anyone can do, and "doing it usefully", which, as of now, only the US has managed to maintain.

  2. Russian propaganda footage of their activities in Syria is mildly disconcerting, as it closely resembles footage that, until now, has previously been the exclusive realm of "the good guys", i.e. ships launching cruise missiles, PGM strikes, etc.

    Relatedly, Russian cold-launch looks better than US hot launch because you can actually see what is going on:

    Propagandists take note.

  3. Russias real "live fire excercises" have been in Ukraine.
    Their combined use of drones and artillery has been utterly terrifying, effectively allowing a FLOT/FLET without OwnTroops. A few artillery batteries, a couple of hundred special forces and a few thousand local militias carved out a statelet.

    1. Quite right about the live fire in Ukraine. I'm referring specifically to naval live fire operations which have not occurred in Ukraine, as far as I know. Regardless, Russia is now gaining valuable military experience.

      The aspect to this is that Russia, like the US, is operating against non-peer enemies so the success of the weapon systems has to be carefully evaluated against the lack of peer-level resistance.

  4. Our historic training cycles for real naval bluewater operations for AAW, ASW, ASUW have been seriously diminished since the early 1990's yet we continue to train more than everyone else keeping us in the "lead". That's a good thing but IMO, being first amongst clowns isn't what we want or is optimum. We want hyper-capability like the Romans enjoyed not just numerical or technical advantage. However, how do you explain that to those who didn't experience the US Navy's readiness 30 years ago and think they have all the right answers based on who/what they consider the threat to be today? You cant they don't listen.

    Back to the Rooskies- they can't help but improve by use in Syria, I agree. Historically however they don't fare well outside Mother Russia. Ex- Afghanistan and other events they played in like west Africa, etc didn't pan out for them too well. Neither did their military equipment they exported during the Cold War. In Desert Storm we went through their "stuff" like a hot knife through butter...

    Off topic but same with China with a different bent. The PRC/historic China has never left their continent of Asia- even during the Khan dynasties. However, they are learning fast and actually following the USA's lead along the lines of our own history and development to extend their political, economic and military influence. That is both a good and a bad thing. While they have no military bases on other continents yet they are setting up port facilities and earning goodwill via big $$/investment around all the worlds oceans. Methinks their view of manifest destiny is will rival ours someday...

    This is older link but hits the high points better re what we've lost in 30 years but could be regained back if we start today:


    1. In defense of the Iraqis, they were sold subpar, export versions. Models, the Russians themselves, called junk.

    2. The Russians had Afghanistan, we had Vietnam so I'm not sure we can fault them too much for a lack of success.

      As far as weapons, I do believe the Soviet/Russian weapon systems were/are inferior to ours but it is also important to recognize that the systems were being operated by subpar militaries. Similarly, we've given tons of weapons to the Iranians and they've had little success. My point is that we haven't seen Russian equipment perform when operated by Russians so we need to be careful in our assessments of their weapons. The closest we've seen, recently, of Russians operating Russian systems is Ukraine and their systems have been impressively effective - against second tier resistance.

    3. Generally, their weapon systems are inferior to our standards. Thou they were designed to be operated and maintained by Conscripts. If we operated under that assumption, I'm willing to bet we would have similar weapon systems. Different doctrines and needs.

      The equipment we have the Iranians did help them survive, we cutting off supplies for maintenance and ammunition prevented them from winning.

      Like wise, we too have only faced second-tier opponents.
      Thou your correct, we should be wary of any opponents hardware and capabilities until we can better understand their strengths and weaknesses.
      This is not a comment snipe, this is me just stating some of my observations.

  5. I'm guessing Chinese do launch missiles from airborne/surface/subsurface platforms against bull-eyes thousands of miles inland of its western desert (or vise versa, from desert air/surface to targets at Bohai Sea), and done so statistically significant enough to be relevant in weapon evaluation.

    1. Please don't be naive and absurd. Testing is fine but until a weapon is used in actual combat, no one knows how it will really perform. I'm not even going to bother to list all the systems that performed acceptably in testing and failed in combat. If you've studied weapon development history you know this to be true. If you haven't studied weapon development history then you're commenting about something you lack sufficient knowledge about to offer a valid opinion.

    2. Missile/Rocketry (do you consider dual-usage validations?)

      In peaceful usage:
      They put a rover on the moon, established a constellation of GPS SATs, hooked up couple space stations.

      In non-so-peaceful usage:
      They holed Hanit and Swift, knocked down a LEO SAT, fireballed T-72s in Yugoslavia/Syria, droned Jihadist pickups in Iraq, and downed a Iranian drone from a Paki JF-17.

      The samples were not many, but they were across the board, from space to ground.

    3. Isolated successes do not guarantee success in combat. Your examples of Hanit, Swift, and satellite were unknowing, unresisting targets. How a missile does in combat against resisting targets is the issue.

      The point is that staged tests are meaningless. This is not even a point of worthwhile discussion. Don't waste my time with this.

      As a point of interest, in the case of Hanit, two missiles (at least) were fired and only one hit its target and that was only a glancing blow against a railing, as I recall. The other missile missed and wound up hitting a fishing boat or something many miles downrange - a complete failure.

      There are many things worth discussing. This is not one of them.

  6. French Exocet (few & unproven until Falkland) had Royal Navy sweating for a while. 35-years on, while USN is magnitude greater than RN, I believe so is China's variety/veracity/quantity of its missile corp vs. then Exocet. Anyway, nobody had ever launched (or defended) against saturation missile attack. Still, I believe A2/AD and anti-A2/AD is the only worthwhile discussion. Chinese aspiration of blue water fleet (be its new fangle carrier/ddg/cg) will not amount to challenge US fleet at the high sea; only in our head as mind game (because PLAN's totality of quantity&quality to match USN is simply not there for decades to come).

    1. We said that about them developing a stealth fighter, ''decades till they can make one.''

      It's never wise to underestimate a potential opponents capability, but it can be fatal to overestimate ones own's.

  7. Andrew, I'm going to side-step a bit to address an observation of mine, which will then bring back to this topic on hand.

    Traditionally, a nation's statecraft normally follows the steps of goal->strategy->tactic->man&machinery. That is, to have a goal first, then devise so on and forth, until the last step of 'man&machinery' (or capability and capacity). But the recent history, of empires US and Russia/USSR, from which both derived their sense of 'manifest destiny' were actually anomalies. Both were 'accidental empires' because both were attacked, forced to defend themselves, as result, conquered their respective area of operation. US/USSR didn't set goals as empires and so on&forth; their man&machinery born such result from forced-upon situations. And both latched onto bigger/better man&machinery on one end of statecraft spectrum, and simplify/ignore the other end of strategic thinking, because the goals were already achieved. In 1990, USSR couldn't keep up and fold their cards, and the US kept on this 'sophisticated man&machinery and simple strategic' empire statecraft (noticed since 1945, the US have 'won' every conflict on 'man&machinery and warfighting', and screwed up most of them strategically).

    On China (1980 to future), for it to achieve its goal (China rejuvenation)- it has to start out with sophisticated strategic thinking and then forward to 'tactic and man&machinery'. If the US uses its yard stick of 'man&machinery' to back calculate China's strategic thinking and assume China is another US/USSR, you're risking a mistake.

    China's main 'strategy & tactic' is Belt&Road, because most likely it will be economic powerful before it is mil-powerful. A2/AD (missile dominated) is its insurance & deterrence to prevent accidents & incidents. Its 'stealth fighter and blue water ship' can be tools to empty the US treasure by scaring up our public imagination of 1-to-1 proximity in capability (such msg shouldn't work on you uniformed warfighters, but probably will on lay persons who magnified 'PLA' than reality).

    1. Good points, but both the us and ussr had empire aspirations.

      China I do believe, has developed their strategic goals and are implementing the means to achieve it, while we seem to have skipped straight to the man and machinery aspect.

      It will take a while for China to reach naval parity with us, but in a very short time, they have managed to eliminate most of are advantages, except in submarines. It's only a matter of time before they start to chip at that.

  8. The idea of a dedicated ASW frigate makes sense. Perhaps UAV technology can one day extend the range of the ship's sensors. Are there submersible detection platforms that can be programmed to aid in detection and then return to the ship ?
    Eliminating the helicopter would save space on the frigate. Also the frigate could be paired with ships having ASW helicopter platforms.

  9. Okay CNO, I'm putting this an an older post as I know you see everything that gets posted, but its an off topic question that's been bothering me for some time in terms of ship design and I don't want to hijack another thread.

    I see on other blogs all the talk about offensive weaponry, and to some extent I'm wondering if despite all the technological terrors we've build we aren't still closer to a WWII level of lethality than we care to admit.

    I'm talking of targeting.

    People go on and on about the DF-21; the Sunburn, Shipwreck, etc. But when their launch platforms can't reliably target beyond the curvature of the earth does it matter? And if that's the case, at least in Blue Water doesn't that make the Carrier with its air wing still king?

    If I'm the Skipper of a Russian or Chinese task force, how am I going to get close enough to a CVN to blow it up with my fancy missiles? Sure, I might launch a helo but that's not super reliable. And the Radar equipped Bears aren't around much anymore.

    Even in an A2/AD environment it seems like the strength of anything resides in the strike aircraft sitting in the islands, with their ranges. What am I missing? Can they target based on emissions?

    Submarines are a whole different beast, and they scare the hell out of me. The whole 'Navy doesn't see them as a threat' dumbfounds me.

    I mean, the Brahmos, etc. are powerful, scary missiles. If they can find you and hit you.

    It seems like in a logical world it would be the US building the super missiles because you could have DDG's, CG's, and even maybe an arsenal ship in a task group that threw fast long range missiles up to be guided by an E2's target information. For ships that are going to be sailing on their own, I'd want missiles or guns that can hit their targets *quickly* within the limited targeting range; so I'd be concentrating on major caliber guns, armor to withstand hits, and sensor packages that can detect and download targeting information to the weapons as fast as I can.

    But we are in what seems to be backwards world. We have slow, (relatively) short ranged missiles and all the targeting ability, and our adversaries have super fast long ranged missiles with limited ability to point them in the right direction.

    Again, what am I missing?

    1. You're not missing much. Weapon range without targeting is useless, as you've noted. The Navy's focus should be on achieving long range surveillance/targeting. Our current options (P-8/Triton, satellites, F-35, UAVs, submarines, etc.) all have severe limitations.

      Our targeting ability against a peer is highly suspect. For example, an E-2D Hawkeye sounds good until you realize that the Chinese are developing very long range air to air missiles designed to find and destroy large, non-stealthy, radiating aircraft which is exactly what a Hawkeye is. Thus, we'll quickly learn that we'll have to pull our Hawkeyes well back in order to protect them which will greatly reduce our surveillance/targeting range. The entire BAMS concept is even more vulnerable. And so on.

      Perhaps, instead of building stealthy F-35s we should be building semi-stealthy Hawkeyes that have some high subsonic speed?

  10. Something. Something that can get us targets for our missiles. I don't know if you can have something like an E2 with a LPI Radar, but maybe that too.

    The whole paradigm is just weird. The USN, the Chinese, and the Russians all build massive, expensive missiles that have range they can't easily use, or use at all.

    It would be more rational to me to spend some money on a missile like that in the hope you can target it once and awhile, but spend most of your money on missiles that can fly to the edge of your targeting range *VERY* fast. Maybe a smaller, cheaper, but fast missile, or large caliber naval guns again.

    That way you have a balanced ship design that can take out anything it can detect quickly when it identifies it.


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