Saturday, May 19, 2018

Chinese H-6K and AKD-20 ALCM

China Defense Blog has published a report with pictures of a Chinese bomber and Su-35 escort fighter conducting patrols out and around Taiwan (1).  The interesting aspect of this is the photo of the bomber carrying an AKD20 Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM). 

The AKD20 ALCM is derived from the CJ-10 land based cruise missile and the new air launched variant is reported to have a range of 930 – 1550 miles (1500 – 2500 km), depending on its payload. (4)

The bomber was the H-6K which is an updated version of the H-6 which is, itself, a license built version of the Soviet Tu-16 Badger.  Upgrades include new engines, new radome, improved ECM and defensive measures, EO/IR sensors, datalinks, composite materials of construction and improved avionics and a glass cockpit, search and attack radar, navigation, and fire control.  The bomb bay was eliminated to provide additional fuel capacity for longer range. (2)(3)  The bomber carries air launched cruise missiles on 6 wing hardpoints and is reported to have a combat radius of 2170 miles (3500 km). (3)

H-6K Bomber with AKD20 ALCM and Su-35 Fighter Escort (1)

Given that the bomber has a combat radius of 2170 miles and can carry the AKD20 ALCM with a range of up to 1550 miles, that gives the aircraft a strike range of 3720 miles.  Guam is 1952 miles (3148 km) from Fujian Province on the east coast of China, just across from Taiwan.  That puts Guam within easy unrefueled, ALCM strike range.

If the US hopes to use Guam as a significant forward base in the war with China, we need to greatly increase our defenses.  It is obvious that Guam will be a major Day-1 target.  The question is what will be left of Guam on Day-2?  

We need to start preparing for major Day-1 defensive combat.  We have not had to fight to defend an airbase since the very early days of WWII and we have not only forgotten how but we have forgotten even the necessity.

We need to quickly learn how to defend against modern cruise and ballistic missile threats. We not only need to defend but we need to learn how to mitigate damage.  No defense will be perfect and we need to learn how to take hits and come out of an attack with a still functioning base.  We need to figure out how to protect the aircraft and facilities that are hit so that something functional is left.  We also need to give some intense thought to how to construct easily repaired bases as opposed to the exquisitely constructed bases we currently have.  We need to disburse fuel, spare parts, power sources, computer facilities, etc.  We need to construct hardened shelters for aircraft and facilities.  No amount of hardening can totally prevent damage but sufficient hardening can mitigate damage and make the enemy's task much more difficult.

It's time to wake up and begin serious defensive preparations.


(1)China Defense Blog, “Routine patrol with AKD20 ALCM”, 13-May-2018,

(2)Military Today website,

(3)The National Interest website, “China's H-6 Bomber: Everything You Want to Know about Beijing's 'B-52' Circling Taiwan”, Sebastien Roblin, 18-Dec-2016,

(4)Defence Bog, “China H-6M carrying two AKD20 missiles”, Dylan Malyasov, 10-Feb-2015,


  1. It's a tough spot for sure only thing I can think of is dispersed assets to different island chains because no matter how well the defense works some are bound to get through and it only takes one or two to disable Guam if they got in the right place course that goes about the same for every island base we could do the same to their bases

    1. "we could do the same to their bases"

      No, we can't, actually. We have only one significant base in the Pacific within range of China and that's Guam. Lose it and we lose the ability to engage China.

      Conversely, China has hundreds of bases, most hardened, and all with overlapping protection from other bases and assets. I'm not talking about their artificial island bases but, rather, their mainland bases.

      We lack any conventional ballistic missiles and our cruiser missiles are somewhat limited in range and bordering obsolete - the Navy's are, anyway. We do not have the ability to do to their bases what they can do to ours. They can focus their entire effort on Guam whereas we would have to spread our effort over hundreds of bases.

    2. Was thinking of Tomahawk and the Jasm series for sure but your right we are in a real tight spot only thing I could think of is start building bases around some islands ourselves where ever they are but we sure do need some sort of action plan whatever it is

    3. "start building bases around some islands ourselves"

      The problem is that we don't own any islands. All the islands are already owned by someone else. There's nowhere to build!

      It would be nice to have a base agreement in the Philippines but we're not on exactly friendly terms with them, at the moment.

      Our bases in Japan are being pressured by locals to leave and we are, indeed, slowly leaving.

      Do you know of any place we could build a base?

      This illustrates just how few options we have and how very important extreme range is in any aircraft or ship we build. That makes the short ranged LCS and F-35 nearly useless although the F-35 might be useful for base defense at Guam but not for offensive operations. The F-35 is just plain ill-suited for a war with China.

      Guam is 2000 miles from the Chinese coast. The 1000 mile Tomahawk doesn't even come close! We would need to transport (Burke) the Tomahawk 1000 miles to even begin to be in range. The air launched JASSM-ER is similarly short ranged and would need to be transported much closer.

      We need 1000-3000 mile conventional ballistic missiles and SSGNs (which we're retiring without replacement).

    4. Indeed we do need some longer ranges missiles but are we not limited by treaty to a 500 mile range? Also I don't know the geography that well but would Vietnam offer some kind of basing options I know we are a lot friendlier than we were and one more possible place is India though that may out of the region or the old Burma region also again I am really not familiar with the geography

    5. As to ship range would range not be a very important consideration in the jovial FFGX selection if it is than the LCS spinoffs should not even be considered

    6. "are we not limited by treaty to a 500 mile range? "

      I assume you are referring to the INF treaty. It bans land launched cruise missiles with ranges of 300-3000 miles (I've rounded the numbers slightly). However, the treaty was between the US and the Soviet Union. China was not a signatory. We have no treaty restrictions with regards to China. Further, the Soviet Union no longer exists which makes the INF null and void. We have opted to continue observing the terms of the INF with Russia as a matter of convenience, however, Russia has been routinely violating the treaty, further nullifying it.

      So, my non-legal opinion is that we are in no way bound by the treaty at this point.

    7. So a conventional Pershing II type or the old land launched cruise missiles might be in play in the Pacific then? And thank you by the way

  2. The conventional view is that Russia assumed the treaty obligations of the USSR and were happy to do so. While China didnt sign the INF the US did so and is still bound by its terms. The treaty wasnt just restricted to say Europe which was where the land launched missiles, both winged and ballistic, were withdrawn from but would have covered world wide deployment.
    With these treatys its best to look at the wording plus the diplomatic side notes which cover definitions and explanations.

    Interesting is this part.
    Article XV

    1. This Treaty shall be of unlimited duration.

    2. Each Party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty, have the right to withdraw from this Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests.

    1. "The conventional view is that Russia assumed the treaty obligations of the USSR"

      No. The treaty was a bilateral (two parties) agreement. There was nothing in the treaty about the collapse of one of the parties and nothing about successor states assuming the responsibilities of the treaty.

      By its very nature as a bilateral treaty, successor states could not assume the responsibilities as that would convert the treaty to a multi-lateral one.

      As with any contract, if one of the signatories dies, the contract is null and void.

      What happened, as I explained, is that the US and Russia agreed informally to continue observing the treaty. Further, the US attempted, with varying degrees of success, to persuade the successor states to also observe the treaty conditions. The limited, partial success of that effort further clarifies the void nature of the original agreement.

      From Wiki, "On 10 February 2007, Russian president Vladimir Putin declared that the INF Treaty no longer served Russia's interests."

      Russia has violated the treaty conditions in multiple ways as documented by various US govt reports.

      In short, there is no legally binding treaty. At best, there is an informal agreement to abide by the conditions of the original treaty and even that has been nullified by Russia's actions.

      Regarding Article XV/1, what is left unstated is that the treaty is of unlimited duration, AS LONG AS BOTH PARTIES EXIST. They do not and the treaty has been legally rendered null and void.

      Some more relevant information:

      "While the United States negotiated with Russia,
      Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine to conclude the
      1992 Lisbon Protocol to the Strategic Arms Limitation
      Treaty, under which those four countries legally
      assumed the Soviet Union’s START I obligations,
      there was no parallel push for a comparable protocol
      for the INF Treaty."

      Thus, the INF Treaty has no ongoing legally binding basis.


      "Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Ukraine agreed
      to continue to observe the treaty and participate in
      its Special Verification Commission, and a memorandum
      was signed formalizing that arrangement."

      Thus, there are MOU's but no formally ratified treaty.

      Further, two of the successor states have chosen not to participate. Thus, even if one chose to view the INF as valid and incumbent on the successor states, not all the successor states have agreed. In essence, this says that some of the former Soviet Union is bound by the treaty and some is not which, again, voides the original treaty.

      INF does not legally exist.

    2. "This publication lists treaties and other international agreements of the United States on record in the
      Department of State on January 1, 2018, which had not expired by their own terms or which had not been
      denounced by the parties, replaced, superseded by other agreements, or otherwise definitely terminated."

      We can all be caught by confirmation bias, where we want things a certain way but the reality can be different.
      As for when people die, their estate carries their rights obligations after death and in effect becomes the successor legal person ( subject to various laws of course)

    3. From the State Dept website,

      "Following the December 25, 1991, dissolution of the Soviet Union, the United States sought to secure continuation of full implementation of the INF Treaty regime and to multilateralize the INF Treaty with twelve former Soviet republics which the United States considers INF Treaty successors.2 Of the twelve successor states, six -- Belarus, Kazakstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan -- have inspectable INF facilities on their territory. Of these six, four -- Belarus, Kazakstan, Russia, and Ukraine -- are active participants in the process of implementing the Treaty. With the agreement of the other Parties, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, each with only one inspectable site on its territory, while participants, have assumed a less active role, foregoing attendance at sessions of the SVC and participation in inspections."

      It is clear that the US recognized that the treaty was void else there would have been no need for "the United States sought to secure continuation of full implementation of the INF Treaty regime".

      Further, two of the successor states have foregone active participation which, again, voids the treaty.

      The multilateralizing of what was previously a bilateral U.S.-Soviet INF Treaty required establishing agreements between the United States and the governments of the relevant Soviet successor states on numerous issues. In the SVC and through diplomatic contacts with the actively participating successor states, the United States worked to secure agreements to ensure continuation of the viability of the Treaty regime ..."

      You'll note,

      "the United States worked to secure agreements to ensure continuation of the viability of the Treaty regime"

      Again, this clearly indicates that the US understood that the treaty was void or else they would not have had to "secure agreements to ensure continuation of the viability of the Treaty". If the treaty were still valid, nothing would have had to be done.

      Securing agreements is just that - agreements, not treaties. That we have opted to continue to observe the treaty is a matter of convenience not law.

      Russia has violated the treaty in recent years according the US. This, too, voids the treaty.

      Regarding estate law, their is actual, specific law on the subject as opposed to the INF treaty which has no law specific to it. Further, estate law establishes that the estate is the legal entity of the deceased for tax and distribution purposes but no individual is a mandatory successor to the deceased. Successors may voluntarily take on the obligations of the deceased but are not required to do so. Thus, your example is actually supports my contention. The Soviet Union had no "estate" and its successors had no obligation to abide by the treaty as, indeed, some have chosen not to.

      I'm not going to pursue further discussion of this as it's a question for international legal scholars.

      The State Dept list, by the way, contains far more than just treaties. It contains MOU and various other agreements which are not treaties so, merely being listed does not constitute an enforceable treaty existence.

      The relevant aspect for us is that the US needs to formally recognize the invalidity of the treaty since China is not a signatory and Russia has violated it and it no longer serves the interests of the US.

    4. You have overlooked the State Department listing the INF among "its treaties in force " - their wording.
      It was signed by both parties and ratified by the Senate ( so its not an MOU) There is no provision for 'voiding' as you claim. The remedy for the US or Russia is to 'withdraw' which neither has done. If there are breaches , then there is a special Verification Commission (SVC) for resolving them ( inspection could only occur for the first 13 years)
      Its always advisable to be guided by official text and declarations of official sources.

  3. Since Guam is a small island, you would need a layered network of several missile systems to defend it.

    The problem is that the US currently lacks medium and short range SAM systems in sufficient quantity and type ( i.e. not having systems like Pantsir and Tor ).

    So in addition to THAAD and Patriots you would need also several NASAMS II batteries and a land based version of the RIM-116 for example, or a lot of these:

    1. In concept, you're correct but there is much more to it. A layered defense would also include long range interceptor aircraft, subs to interdict Chinese SSGNs, ships to provide Aegis/Standard defense, extensive AWACS support, air and ground based electronic warfare and countermeasures, extensive passive decoy systems, etc.

      I am quite troubled by the Patriot missile system. The system performance, to date, has been marginal, at best, and there is some suggestion that it has never executed a successful real world intercept despite extensive claims!

      I would have much more faith in an Aegis Ashore installation.

      The other missing component is the medium range (20 miles or so) ESSM-type defense.

    2. ESSM is easy because NASAMS can fire those.

      However one thing i do not get is why did they choose to make Aegis Ashore totally static i mean during high end war its a target begging to get hit !

      And its not like they could not make it at least semi-mobile.

    3. PS, about Patriot look at the Saudi experience, they always fire more than two ( in one instance they fired five! ) against a Scud missile derivate witch is basically 60 tech !

      The Islander ballistic missile has terminal maneuverability i would imagine Chinese ballistic missile would have similar maneuverability

    4. I'm not a ground combat expert. Has NASAMS actually been fielded by the US Army/Marines? That aside, the challenge with any vehicle mounted AAW weapon in a base defense scenario is that we will need hundreds of ESSMs available simultaneously. Depending on the configuration of the AAW vehicle, they would likely carry 6-12 missiles so we would need many dozens of them. Reloads are possible but in a useful time frame during the course of an attack.

      Consider that the US has demonstrated Tomahawk attacks of 30-70 or so missiles for relatively small bases. A Chinese cruise missile attack on Guam would likely involve a few hundred cruise/ballistic missiles, at least. That would require several hundred ESSMs to defend (neglecting any Standard, Patriot, etc. contribution).

    5. America's Capitol Is Guarded By Norwegian Surface-To-Air Missiles

    6. "base defense scenario is that we will need hundreds of ESSMs available "

      Not only ESSM's that's what i've noted above, you would also need a ground based SeaRam, that would make up for the margin.

    7. Yep, we have badly neglected our ground based AAW capabilities under the assumption of complete aerial dominance. We now need to wake up and face the reality of having to fight for airspace and bases. There are lots of gaps in our ground AAW, to put it mildly!

  4. So systems like the Israeli layers of Arrow David's Sling and Iron dome is what your talking about we already have THAAD and Patriot(not a fan) So we would need a iron dome type

    1. I don't know enough about the Israeli systems to be sure but my understanding is that they are intended to be short range, anti-rocket systems as opposed to anti-cruise/ballistic missile systems. Whether they could be effective in the latter role, I don't know.

    2. You are correct the Israeli Arrow system is quite similar to THAAD David's Sling is actually being considered for Patriot PAAC 4 upgrade and we all have heard about the Iron Dome I was suggesting a layered system like that not the actual systems themselves

    3. Did some reading on the Stunner missile from David's doing its specifically designed to take out the Iskander and Chinese DF5 range 160km and Raytheon is marketing to the U.S. army as a replacement for the PAAC 3 MSE

  5. If we were serious we could easily and relatively cheaply create six to eight hardened airfields in the Marianas. Three on Guam, Two each on Tinian and Rota and one on Saipan. Lengthen and add second runways to the existing civilian fields, and reopen old fields on Tinian and Guam. Add hardened shelters, munitions bunkers and Fuel systems to each. I doubt it would cost as much as a Burke.

    1. Yes, although they would have the same drawbacks, mainly distance, as Guam. Dispersal, though, would be potentially advantageous.

      I believe I recall some maintenance being done on some of those runways in the last several years.

      It's well worth considering.

      Good thought.

  6. What about South Korea or Brunei as bases?

    1. We do have basing rights, to some extent, in South Korea today. The problems with both, Brunei in particular, is that there would be no guarantee that we would be allowed to actually use the bases in a time of war. Brunei would likely opt to remain neutral. SKorea might or might not take an active role in a war with China.

  7. The other gambit we might try is a stable alliance with Vietnam, with basing rights along the coast from Cam Ranh Bay to Danang. It would take some doing, but might be possible and would benefit both countries siginificantly. Not as useful as the Philippines but probably the best second best.

    1. What do you think the odds are that Vietnam would enter a war against China as opposed to staying neutral?

      No base is worth it if it can't be utilized in war. We've kind of found that out with some of our supposed allies over the years. For example, the French refusal to allow us to overfly their airspace during the attack on Libya's Gaddafi.

    2. Remember though China actually invaded Vietnam back in 70s or 80s,as I recall can't remember why but it didn't last to long

  8. I think it depends on the nature of the war, and whether the Vietnamese see a viable coaltion willing and able to contain China. An uncontained China is a nightmare for Vietnam, and I doubt they believe they would be able to duck and cover.

    The fact is, we need to build that coaltion, regardless of who is in it. And building that coalition is going to involve both us and the local powers being willing to create facts on the ground. There is no question that the coalition could fall apart once war commences. But if we want to fight this war from the first Island chain, we'd better start building the political and military infrastructure that gives us the best chance of holding on. Fighting the war from the second island chain is going to be pretty hopeless.

  9. A possible solution is to take a leaf from the CCP handbook. The US can build a string of islands and make them military bases.

    China has so far not directly attacked the US. It's not strong enough. Start making islands, and it'll be tricky for them- directly confront the US ships, and then US bases and risk directly attacking, or take some of their own medicine.

    No, I have no idea of the money or logistics of doing that. But it's obviously doable.


    1. I like your thinking. Sadly, the US seems to have no stomach for that degree of confrontation.

  10. Ok I mentioned earlier that Sino Vietnamese war actually was in 79 but skirmishes continued through the 80s and a naval battle actually was fought over the Sprattly islands there just may be some chance there for cooperation after all

    1. "there just may be some chance there for cooperation after all"

      There may well and Vietnam might join in a war against China. The problem is that they might not. We don't want to build a base, develop war plans based on using it, and then find out that we can't use it when the time comes.

    2. There in lies another problem what if say we sign an agreement with these nations and they get into a war with China and we have bases there also,don't we stand a chance And risk getting drawn into the war also,I tell ya there ain't no easy solution to these problems

    3. "no easy solution to these problems"

      Well, you've summed up conventional wisdom quite succinctly!

      Now, here's the ComNavOps unconventional wisdom. WE NEED TO PLAN TO GO IT ALONE. We need to build the force structure and size that will allow us to defeat China without any external assistance. If any help materializes, that'd be great but we can't plan on it.

      That means we need to acknowledge the vast distances and figure out how to operate over those distances. Obviously, assets like the LCS, F-35, Zumwalt, and Hornet do not fit well into that type of conflict.

      We need to develop a specific military strategy taht takes into account the geographical and political realities and then we need to radically overhaul our force structure to execute that strategy.

      Here's just a few things we need:
      -massive increase in Air Force heavy bombers
      -Tomahawk replacement
      -very long range carrier based air superiority fighter
      -more subs
      -ASW corvettes
      -massive hardening of Guam facilities and defenses
      -intermediate range conventional ballistic missiles

      That's just a few things but they would constitute a good start.

    4. What about establishing bases in Palau? I believe we have basing rights. The islands are approximately 800-1,000 miles from the South China Sea.

    5. "Palau"

      I have no idea. It is an independent nation with some form of association by treaty with the US. We appear to have some degree of military access but how much, I don't know. I also don't know whether we would be allowed access in the event of a war that didn't involve them.

      Let us know if you find out any more about it.

  11. Actually, our rights are pretty extensive in case of war. Yap might actually be a better site for a base--flatter and better water access.

    1. Do you have a link to a document describing our military rights?


      It covers Micronesia ( inc Yap), Marshal Is and Palau.
      "The COFA allows the United States to operate armed forces in Compact areas, to demand land for operating bases (subject to negotiation), and excludes the militaries of other countries without U.S. permission. The U.S. in turn becomes responsible for protecting its affiliate countries .... etc etc


Comments will be moderated for posts older than 7 days in order to reduce spam.