Monday, February 27, 2023

Rebuilding the Soviet Union

The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and splintered into 15 (14 + Russia) independent countries.  Putin seems determined to reassemble the Soviet Union, by force where necessary, although some say that he’s trying to reform the empire of Peter the Great rather than the Soviet Union.  In any event, I decided to do a quick check on the status of the erstwhile components of the Soviet Union.  The status is described in the table below. 
ü = NATO/EU/Independent
ü = Mixed leanings
ü = Russian occupied or leaning 

Status of Former Soviet States



Close military ties with Russia



Russian troops occupy portions of Moldova;  leaning towards the EU but 100% dependent on Russian gas supplies



NATO / EU 2004



NATO / EU 2004



NATO / EU 2004



Invaded by Russia in 2008 and now partially occupied by Russia



Mixed relations; Russian military ties



Strong historical, cultural, military, and economic ties with Russia



Strongly pro-Russian and hosts Russian military forces



Despite periodic spats, Belarus is a solid Russian ally and has offered to assist in the Ukraine invasion



Seeks relations with Russia and the West



Independent while seeking Russian trade arrangements



Russia invaded and seized Crimea in 2014 and invaded the rest of Ukraine in 2022



Strong relations with Russia now strained by Russian invasion of Ukraine

It would appear that of the 14 former Soviet entities, 3 are never rejoining Russia other than by military occupation, 3 are strongly pro-Russia, and the remaining 8 are somewhere in the middle.  Putin has his work cut out for him if he hopes to reform the empire!
Note:  This is by no means a comprehensive assessment of the state of relations between Russia and the former Soviet states.  It’s just a quick and dirty ‘scorecard’.  Don’t read more into it than it is.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Forgotten Purpose

I try very hard to avoid politics on this blog and for good reason.  However, from time to time the politics intrudes on military/Navy matters and must be discussed.
Here’s a quote from a Department of Defense (DoD) tweet, as noted by Redstate website:
Diversity is a strategic imperative critical to mission readiness and accomplishment.[1]
Here is Elon Musk’s reply to that tweet:
Your strategic imperative is defending the United States.[1]
Musk sees what the DoD does not.  The job of the military is not social equality, diversity, gender sensitivity, ecology, or any of the other social pursuits that plague our country.  The job of the military is to protect the United States.  We accomplish that by killing the enemy and destroying everything they have.  That’s the basic, ugly truth of the matter.
The Biden administration has lost its military way in pursuit of social objectives.  That’s not a political statement, it’s a simple and dangerous - bordering on treasonous - fact.
[1]Redstate website, “Biden's Department of Defense Gets Schooled by Elon Musk On Its 'Strategic Imperative'”, Brandon Morse, 20-Feb-2023,

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

F-35C Ramp Strike Lesson

The investigation of the Jan 2022 ramp strike by an F-35C has become public and is presented in a USNI News website article.[1]  I’d like to draw a lesson from it that the Navy won’t and yet it’s the most important one.

To summarize the incident, a pilot was attempting to perform an abbreviated landing procedure, wound up with too low an approach speed, couldn’t recover, and suffered a ramp strike.  The Navy’s investigation determined that the cause was pilot error for failing to switch on two automated landing aids which control approach speed (glide slope) and angle of attack.  From the article/report, 
The junior officer had performed a specialized landing approach to Vinson for the first time, but he did not realize a built-in aid that helped control the plane’s power during landing was switched off.[1] 
… the [pilot] remained in manual mode when he should have been (and thought he was) in an automated command mode designed to reduce pilot workload during landings.[1] 
After the turn, the pilot didn’t engage the two landing assist tools on the fighter, the Approach Power Compensation Mode (APC) and the Delta Flight Path (DFP), which automate some of the pilot’s necessary tasks for landing on an aircraft carrier. When activated, DFP automatically adjusts the throttle to keep the aircraft on correct glide scope to land on a carrier, while the APC maintains the fighter’s angle of attack.
The Navy’s simplistic conclusion was pilot error.  While technically true, it completely ignores the larger error and the more important lesson to be learned from it.
The larger error was the pilot’s dependence on automation.  The automated landing aids, designed to increase the safety of landings, actually make landings less safe by decreasing the pilot’s skills due to dependence on automated aids.  This is analogous to our lost map reading and ground/ship navigation skills due to dependence on GPS. 
Note that when I use the term ‘dependence’, I mean it in the context of drug use dependency where the user becomes unable to function without the dependency.  The user is addicted.  Our pilots/soldiers/sailors have become addicted to automated aids and are unable to perform basic functions without their electronic aids.
What is the proper lesson from this incident?  It’s that we should either eliminate automated landing aids (and GPS and other dependencies!) from aircraft or restrict their use to emergency or extreme hazardous weather conditions. 
Dependence on automation should not be the normal condition.
Instead of this vital lesson, what did the Navy investigators recommend? 
… investigators recommended that aviators stop performing Sierra Hotel Breaks, that policy require F-35C pilots to always use Approach Power Compensation Mode (APC)/Delta Flight Path (DFP) throttle assists and that heads-up displays include indicator lights showing when flight aids are activated.[1] 
This is just increasing our dependence on automated aids.  What will future pilots do when the automated aid won’t work due to electrical failure or combat damage?  How will they land, having never learned/practiced manual landings or never been forced to maintain a level of expertise?  By increasing dependency on automation, we’re ensuring that pilots will become less capable and less skilled and will have more mishaps, not less.

We are dependent and addicted to technology and are losing our ability to function normally.

Note:  We see this in society, in general, too.  For example, the routine use of calculators in school has produced a generation of students who have no mathematical ability.  They are unable to calculate change at a register without aids.  They are unable to estimate large number manipulations (exponential manipulations and order of magnitude manipulations).  They don’t know multiplication tables.  In short, they’re mathematically ignorant.  I see it every day.
[1]USNI News website, “Pilot Error After ‘Sierra Hotel Break’ Resulted in South China Sea F-35C Crash, Investigation Says”, Sam LaGrone, 21-Feb-2023,

Monday, February 20, 2023

Wrong Focus

USNI News website has an article describing the Marine’s efforts to establish battlefield networks that … you know … work.  The article, meant to laud the Marine’s efforts instead reveals one of the fundamental flaws in the US military approach to problem solving.  The US military believes, unwisely and incorrectly, that every problem has a technical/equipment solution rather than a ‘people’ (training, maintenance, etc.) solution.  Here’s a statement from Col. James Lively, I Marine Expeditionary Force assistant chief of staff, which amply illustrates the fundamental problem.
“How do we pick winners faster and put equipment in the hands of warfighters?” he said. “That’s our challenge at hand, for sure.”[1]
Every one of us has experienced, repeatedly, at home and/or work, the phenomenon of barely beginning to learn one new technology only to find it’s been quickly replaced by another and our learning process starts all over again, never to finish or even reach a minimal level of competence, far less a level of expert competence.
What Col. Lively fails to grasp is that putting equipment/technology into the hands of soldiers faster just guarantees that our soldiers will fall further and further behind the competency curve, never learning one system before the next one – the next flavor of the month - takes its place.

Recall the recent Burke collisions which were due, in large part, to the bridge crew's lack of familiarity with the navigation displays/equipment?  We're putting equipment into the field faster than we're able (or willing) to train to a level of competency on it.  

Of course, the inability to train is a conscious decision we've made to prioritize other activities over combat training.  We're finding all the time we need for sensitivity, ecological, wokeness, gender training  ...  but not combat training.
Our focus in problem solving needs to be on people as the solution, not technology/equipment.
[1]USNI News website, “Marines Testing Battlefield Networks for Future Conflicts”, Gidget Fuentes, 15-Feb-2023,

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Europe Redux

In previous posts, ComNavOps has called for the US to leave Europe, militarily.  In fact, I’ve stated that it is long past time to allow and, indeed, require Europe to stand on its own.  That position was met with less than total agreement due to unreasonable fears of Russia attacking and conquering Europe. With the ‘data point’ of the Ukraine conflict, it’s time to re-examine the belief that Europe can’t stand on its own.
To begin, review this post, “Europe– Why?”
Now, with the evidence of Russian inability to defeat a single country the size of Texas which had little in the way of a military before the Russian invasion, let’s again ask ourselves why we’re maintaining a major military presence in Europe?
If Ukraine can successfully stand against Russia, surely the combined might of Europe can do so without any US presence.
For those of you who can’t comprehend what you read, a reduced military presence in Europe does not mean zero military interaction with Europe.  We can certainly maintain relations and military basing/leasing arrangements in the event of need.  We can even maintain some small military presence if there’s a specific reason to do so - direct support of the Middle East, for example.  Removal of our military forces does not mean cutting off all cultural, financial, and trade relationships.  Those would continue as before.
Withdrawing from Europe would force Europe to step up and take responsibility for their own defense.  It would also free up huge resources for the US to focus on China.
I’m not going to belabor this any further.  The only previous reason for not withdrawing from Europe was the pathological fear that Russia would instantly conquer all of Europe.  That’s been emphatically shown to be pure fear-fantasy. 
There is no longer any reason for the US to maintain a significant military presence in Europe.  The US should withdraw from Europe, immediately.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Atlas Elektronik SeaFox

ComNavOps has long criticized the Navy for its utterly misguided philosophical approach to mine countermeasures (MCM) as well as its incompetent execution thereof.  It’s the philosophy that I want to look at today.


To review, there are two broad categories of MCM:


Leisurely Clearance – This is the removal of mines with no special time constraints and no threat of combat while doing so.  Examples would be mine removal after a conflict or mine removal from an area that has been bypassed by war and is no longer a critical task.  The clearance effort can be conducted at a leisurely pace and the goal is 100% clearance.


Combat Clearance – This is the removal of mines with immediate combat implications and severe time constraints.  Examples would be mine removal from the beach approach lanes during an amphibious assault or mine removal from a navigational chokepoint in support of fleet combat movements.  The clearance effort must be conducted at a very fast rate and likely under enemy fire.



For unfathomable reasons, the Navy seems totally fixated only on the former, the leisurely clearance option.  Almost every Navy MCM platform and piece of equipment is designed for slow, leisurely clearance and the numbers of MCM platforms is woefully small and shrinking every day.  In fact, the Navy’s only formal MCM force will be the LCS once the two dozen or so decrepit MH-53 helos [2] complete their long overdue retirement and the final Avenger class MCM vessels complete their on-going retirement.


Emphasizing the Navy’s leisurely MCM approach is the lack of numbers of MCM platforms.  There are currently only 8 Avenger MCM vessels (and all are scheduled for near term retirement), two dozen flyable MH-53E helos, and 6 deployable (I use that term loosely) LCS MCM ships although the Navy is retiring the Freedom variant so the LCS MCM responsibility may fall to the three deployable Independence variant MCM vessels.


As an example of the Navy’s leisurely approach to mine hunting, let’s consider the Seafox drone.  Seafox is a small underwater drone that is controlled from the host ships via a fiber optic cable.  The Navy has just issued a contract for maintenance support for the drone ASQ-232A Seafox Mine Neutralization System (for a video description, see ‘Seafox’).


Seafox Launching from its Cradle


Atlas North America LLC, Yorktown, Virginia, is awarded an $8,619,126 firm-fixed-priced, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity requirements contract for depot level support and maintenance for the Seafox Mine Neutralization System. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $35,887,986.[1]


SeaFox encapsulates everything that is wrong with our current MCM approach.  The SeaFox operational sequence is:


  • Detection of possible mines by the mine hunting host ship’s sonar which, by definition, puts the host ship in or close to the minefield.
  • SeaFox is prepared, launched from the host ship, travels to the suspect mine’s location, acquires the suspect object, and the shipboard operator visually identifies the object as a mine.
  • Seafox returns to the host ship and is recovered.
  • A ‘Combat SeaFox’ is prep’ed, launched, travels to target, and reacquires the mine.
  • Seafox is positioned and detonated
  • Repeat


A minimal time estimate to destroy a single mine is on the order of 2 hrs … likely much more.


As excruciatingly demonstrated in the product video, the mine hunting process is:


  • Far too long
  • Far too complex (too many steps)
  • Far too costly
  • Still too risky to host vessel


This is the approach the Navy is wedded to.  Yes, they claim to be working on a sweep system for the LCS but has anyone seen an operational sweep system?  Worse, they’ve decided to retire half the LCS vessels, leaving only a few Independence variants to conduct the entire fleet’s mine clearance.







[2]The Navy has been scavenging parts from retired Japanese MH-53 helos in order to keep its own helos flying. 

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Battle of Jutland Lessons

ComNavOps enjoys examining historical naval battles for lessons applicable to us, today.  One such battle is Jutland in WWI.  Jutland has been analyzed to death by a multitude of writers and historians and many of the lessons are obvious and repetitive.  Rather than repeat what’s already been thoroughly covered, I’d like to focus on just a couple lessons that may be less obvious.


To ever so briefly review, the WWI Battle of Jutland occurred between the Royal Navy Grand Fleet (Jellicoe) and the German Navy High Seas Fleet (Scheer).  As noted, the battle has been thoroughly described by many sources.  I won’t attempt to describe the battle other than as necessary to support the various points.  You can research the details of the battle for yourself, if you’re interested.


The Germans planned to break Britain’s blockade by enticing a portion of the Grand Fleet out, trapping it, and destroying it.  As it happened, both sides wound up luring sections of each other’s fleet into traps, generally unintentionally.  Thus, both sides wound up trying to execute the same plan!


In the end, the Royal Navy lost  

  • 3 battlecruisers
  • 3 armored cruisers
  • 8 destroyers

 The German’s lost 

  • 1 battlecruiser
  • 1 pre-dreadnought battleship
  • 4 light cruisers


Many other ships on both sides were damaged.


Following is a discussion of a few lessons that deserve special attention.



Submarines – The Germans attempted to lure the Royal Navy forces across a picket line of submarines.  However, poor timing, bad weather, and poor communications prevented the submarines from achieving much success.  In addition, British ASW efforts forced some subs out of their intended operating areas.


The obvious lesson is that submarines are very difficult (impossible) to communicate with and control in close combat and their limited sensor ranges make ad hoc independent operations by the submarines very difficult.  While some modern observers believe that submarines will instantly spot, identify, and target anything that moves, the reality is that submarines are still not able to be part of a ‘team’ combat effort.  Communication difficulties make friendly fire incidents highly likely or, best case, they paralyze the submarine due to uncertainty.


So many naval observers want to include submarines in naval battles but, in order to be effective, submarines must be deployed to areas with no friendly activity, leaving them free to maneuver and to assume that any contact is an enemy and that they can act accordingly.  Combat coordination between subs and surface ships is simply not feasible.



Confusion – This requires special attention because it is a constant of combat that the US seems to be ignoring.  Examples of confusion include,


  • Both sides had a plan (very similar plans, as it happened) and both side’s plans fell apart immediately. 
  • Beatty’s battlecruisers passed by the unprepared German submarine picket/trap line and showed up near the German ships long before the Germans expected them
  • The German submarines were not ready when the operation began.  German submarines reported British ship courses incorrectly (they reported a leg of a zig-zag rather than the base course).
  • The British 5th Battle Squadron battlecruisers failed to receive course change instructions and, having not operated with Beatty’s ships before, did not know to maintain formation on the flagship and the overall formation was seriously disrupted.
  • Groups from both sides appeared seemingly out of nowhere.
  • The German commander, Scheer, had no idea the British Grand Fleet was even at sea until they appeared in front of him.
  • The German fleet was sighted several times by Jellicoe’s screen while disengaging and escaping but the sighting reports were not received by the British.


The only clear winner was Murphy.  Confusion rules the battlefield.  All our vaunted and hyped networking won’t change that reality one iota when combat and Murphy come calling.


The terrain of the naval battlefield is confusion.  It’s what you hide in and it’s how you conceal yourself.


As has been said so many times, no plan survives contact with the enemy which emphasizes the importance of sound doctrine



Survivability – Survivability is paramount in battle.  So many British ships blew up so quickly.  If you can’t survive, you can’t contribute; you’re a waste of resources.  The US Navy has intentionally adopted unarmored, non-survivable warships – some of them designed to be abandoned after the first hit!


Related note:  You must exercise under realistic conditions (overheated steering gear jammed because no one stressed the gear during exercises).


HMS Queen Mary Exploding

Communications – German radio signals alerted the British that a major operation was happening and the British sailed before the Germans were ready.  It is a timeless lesson that communications are never as secure as believed.  Even today, our low probability of intercept, line of sight, encrypted, whatever communications are not nearly as secure as we’d like to believe.  The enemy doesn’t need to break our codes to discern our intentions.  Signals analysis (frequency of transmissions, locations of transmission sources, increase in comm traffic from HQ’s, departure from normal communications, etc.) will clearly tell at least the general concept of what’s about to happen and alert the enemy.  I’ve talked to current comms people and, while they won’t divulge any details, they assure me that communications are nowhere near as secure as believed.

An important aspect to note is our current habit of constant micromanaging which requires every level to continuously communicate with the levels one step above and below.  This verbal diarrhea cannot be concealed.  The sheer quantity assures that the enemy will detect it.  We must break ourselves of this habit and start practicing total communications silence.


The failure to train realistically and establish standardized doctrine resulted in communications issues even between ships of the same side.  For example, from Wikipedia,


… the battleships of the 5th Battle Squadron – which were too far behind to read his [Beatty’s] flags – found themselves passing the battlecruisers on an opposing course and heading directly toward the approaching main body of the High Seas Fleet.[1]


And, another example, a British ship-launched seaplane spotted German forces but was unable to relay the information to back to the ship.



Distances - Too many people today seem to think that ships will sail a hundred feet apart in combat.  On this blog, we’ve discussed the reality that a carrier group, for example, will be spread over a circular area 25-50 miles in radius.  Ships in combat will be miles apart, not a hundred feet.  At Jutland,


Beatty's ships were divided into three columns, with the two battlecruiser squadrons leading in parallel lines 3 mi (2.6 nmi; 4.8 km) apart. The 5th Battle Squadron was stationed 5 mi (4.3 nmi; 8.0 km) to the north-west … [1]


And this was before the advent of missiles with their much longer ranges.






As I said, this post touched on just a few lessons that bear added attention.  History is screaming lessons at us but our arrogance – and incompetence – prevents us from hearing them.


We have got to start preparing for high end naval combat – not the fantasy type of combat where everything we do works and nothing the enemy does works but real, confused, chaotic, up close, combat.  We’ve got to train for the kinds of things we think will never happen:  night combat, gun range combat, total chaos, loss of command and control, unanticipated enemy forces, and so on.


We need to start training without concern for stressing or damaging equipment.  We need to let our pilots apply maximum g’s and if the airframe can’t stand it then we need new, stronger airframes.  We need to maneuver our ships to the edge of their envelopes and if equipment fails we need better equipment.  While we can’t ignore safety, it can’t limit our training, either.  Accidents and deaths will happen and we have to accept that.  Our priority is not keeping everyone alive and healthy;  it’s preparing for high end combat where anything less than 100% preparedness is a guarantee of defeat and mass deaths.


We have got to either test our completely unfounded notion of secure communications and data transfer under realistic conditions and prove that it works or give it up as unworkable and learn to fight without constant communications.


We must start intentionally incorporating total confusion into our exercises.  Let’s, unannounced, ‘kill’ commanding officers and see what happens.  Let’s give intentionally incorrect orders and see who can adapt and overcome.  Let’s start providing intentionally false contact reports and see what happens.  And so on.  We must embrace confusion and chaos and learn to fight with them as our constant companions.  We must get familiar with them so that they no longer frighten or upset us.


We need the Van Riper’s of the world to humiliate us in realistic exercises and then thank them for doing so while we correct the identified problems.






Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Balloon Story Grows

Well, this story just gets better and better.  If – and I stress the ‘if’ part – we can believe

General Glen D. VanHerck (Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), the Chinese have floated balloons over the US multiple times … that we know of.


A senior U.S. general responsible for bringing down a Chinese spy balloon said on Monday the military had not detected previous spy balloons before the one that appeared on Jan. 28 over the United States and called it an "awareness gap."


The Pentagon said over the weekend that Chinese spy balloons had briefly flown over the United States at least three times during President Donald Trump's administration and one previously under President Joe Biden.


Air Force General Glen VanHerck, head of U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command and Northern Command, said the balloon was 200 feet tall and the payload under it weighed a couple thousand pounds.


"I will tell you that we did not detect those threats, and that's a domain awareness gap," VanHerck said.[1]


We are basing our entire military future and national security/existence on total battlefield awareness, data, surveillance, and networking and yet a simple balloon has eluded our detection at least four times … that we know of.  How many other times did it occur that we never became aware of?


Our very best surveillance equipment, networks, and software couldn’t see a balloon.


These were not tiny little children’s birthday party balloons.  As Gen. VanHerck stated, the balloons were 200 ft tall with slung payloads of a couple thousand pounds.  How do you not detect that?  How many people on this site have claimed that our various radar systems can spot aircraft and ships hundreds of miles away … and yet we can’t see a giant balloon?  Heck, we claim to be able to spot tiny submarine periscopes in the middle of the ocean with our all-knowing, all-seeing radar … but we can’t see a giant balloon.


How many people on this site have claimed that carriers are a thing of the past, just waiting to be sunk, because satellites will be able to track carrier groups anywhere in the ocean … and yet none of our satellites could see a giant balloon slowly drifting towards and across America for days on end?


Do you people who believe in the omniscience of our radars and detection systems see the ignorance of your claims?



Consider these previous examples of our vaunted systems being unable to see what’s in front of them:


Yemen Missile Attacks – Recall that the Navy claimed that the Burke class destroyer, USS Mason, was attacked multiple times by anti-ship missiles from Yemen.  In reality, despite all the sensors in the region, satellite surveillance, Aegis radar, etc., the Navy was unable to even decide whether an attack had occurred despite the ship launching several defensive missiles (see, “Yemen Missile Attacks").


Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 – This commercial aircraft disappeared without a trace in the middles of one of the most heavily monitored regions of the world.  Searchers had no clue where to even begin looking.


Balloons – Apparently, there were four previous balloons that entered US airspace undetected.


Destroyer Collisions – As you know, two Burke class destroyers collided with giant merchant ships during simple sailing.



If these examples of large objects, none of which were making any attempt to evade, couldn’t be detected, why are assuming we can detect enemy forces that are stealthy and making every effort to hide?  Our entire foundation of future warfare is invalid.






[1]Newsmax website, “General: US Failed to Detect Past Chinese Spy Balloons”, 6-Feb-2023,

Monday, February 6, 2023

Russian Bombers

It’s always a good idea to know your enemy’s capabilities.  Let’s take a look, today, at Russia’s bomber force.


As you know, during the Cold War the Soviet Union’s main counter to US carrier groups was long range bombers armed with long range cruise missiles.  The US and the Soviet Union played a continual cat and mouse game with the Soviet Union attempting to find US carriers and simulate attacks while the US carriers tried to hide and detect the Soviet bombers and intercept them far enough away to demonstrate that they could prevent an attack.


Today, much of the Russian bomber force has fallen into disrepair and most of what’s left is obsolete.  However, what exists is still a potential threat especially given our greatly reduced air wings and shorter ranged aircraft.


Wiki lists the current active bomber force as: (1)




Yrs Built




Tu-160 Blackjack




4000 nm

Tu-22M Backfire




1500 nm

Tu-95 Bear




9400 nm




As seen, the numbers of active aircraft are very small and likely overstated even at those reduced levels due to poor maintenance.  In a war, the aircraft would be a nuisance but not a serious, on-going threat.



Here’s some specs and features of the aircraft:


Tu-160 Blackjack


-       Speed = Mach 2

-       Combat radius 4000 nm

-       Produced 1984-1992

-       Built 27

-       Currently active qty=16

-       2x internal weapon bays;  2x rotary launchers each holding 6x AS-15 Kent subsonic cruise missiles with 1350 nm range

-       Payload = 88,000 lbs

-       Swing wing

-       Russian version of US B-1

-       Currently undergoing modest modernizations although industrial, financial, and quality issues are significantly impacting the effort.


Tu-160 Blackjack

Tu-22M Backfire


-       Speed = Mach 1.9

-       Combat radius = 1500 nm

-       Produced ‘70s-‘90s

-       Built 497

-       Currently active qty = 69

-       Internal weapons bay, fuselage and wing pylons

-       Payload = 53000 lbs

-       Major update to the Tu-22 Blinder

-       Swing wing


Tu-22M Backfire


Tu-95 Bear


-       Speed = 510 kts

-       Combat radius = 4000 nm

-       Produced 1952-1994

-       Built 500+

-       Currently active qty= 60

-       Wing pylons

-       Payload 33,000 lb    

-       4x propeller engines with dual contra-rotating props


Tu-95 Bear

Technology.  The bombers are all basically 1970’s era technology.  While some of the aircraft have undergone modernizations, the effectiveness of that effort is questionable.  For example, no amount of modernization can turn a large, non-stealthy aircraft into a stealthy, penetrating bomber (consider our own B-52!).  In addition, Russian quality control is notoriously poor and the Ukraine war has demonstrated that Russian systems have performed well below expectations.  There is no reason to believe that their aircraft upgrades have fared any better.


Weapons.  While the numbers of active aircraft are quite small, the weapons they carry are reasonably formidable and constitute a serious threat.


Kh-15 (AS-16 Kickback)  Mach 5, 160 nm, may be retired from service

Kh-22 (AS-4 Kitchen)  1960’s tech,  Mach 4.6, 320 nm

Kh-32  updated Kh-22, updated, anti-ship, long range

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal  hypersonic, long range, ?accuracy issues?


It should be noted, however, that most Russian cruise missiles are older generation and far less of a threat than current, state of the art missiles.  In addition, reports from Ukraine suggest that the Kinzhal may suffer from accuracy/guidance issues although any reports about the Ukraine conflict are suspect.






Threat to Carrier Groups – Carrier groups have a multi-layered defense and the furthest layer is long ranged aircraft which serve two purposes:  one, they shoot down bombers before they can launch their missiles and, two, they shoot down the targeting aircraft (Bear recon aircraft) to prevent the acquisition of targeting data.  The attacking aircraft+missile range is irrelevant without targeting data.  This outer layer aerial defense was the exact mission of the F-14 Tomcat.  It is a staggering dereliction of duty on the part of Navy leadership to have allowed the Tomcat to pass without replacement.


Beyond targeting, Russian bombers are large and non-stealthy (by today’s standards, at any rate) and cannot be considered penetrating aircraft.  Their ability to penetrate a carrier groups layered defense is nearly non-existent.


All things considered the threat to US carrier groups has to be considered very low.


Fleet Status – Due to age, maintenance, quality, and personnel issues, the Russian bomber fleet is likely barely able to assemble a handful of flightworthy aircraft at any given moment.  Thus, severely limited numbers, alone, make the bomber fleet a nuisance but not a serious threat.






The Russian bomber fleet is old, obsolete, poorly maintained, suffers from quality issues, and is operated and maintained by poorly trained and ill-equipped personnel.  The vast majority of the fleet is not flightworthy, notwithstanding the occasional publicity stunt of a few aircraft flying a photo op mission.  The days of Russian bomber regiments are over.


With the usual caveats, the Ukraine conflict seems to be clearly demonstrating all the worst qualities and characteristics of the Russian system, meaning, poor equipment, poorly maintained equipment, poorly trained personnel, unmotivated personnel, inadequate logistics, and so on.  The ultimate proof that this is true is the fact that Ukraine, a fraction of the size, population, and military of Russia is not only still fighting but may be winning.  That doesn’t happen to Russian forces unless the statements about their problems are true.  You don’t have major ships sunk, apparently without even defending themselves, unless the statements about their systemic problems are true.


While the Russian bomber fleet poses little threat to US carrier groups, we still desperately need a very long range air superiority fighter to effectively execute the carrier’s role of escort for the cruise missile shooters.  In short, we need a conceptual, longer ranged, naval F-22.






(1)Wiki, “List of active Russian military aircraft”, retrieved 26-Mar-2018,