Future Warfare: Russia’s Next Military Game Changer – Microwave Weapons?

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New drones and fighters could fry enemy hardware from a distance.

Russia will arm its sixth-generation combat drones with microwave weapons.

These weapons, which disable an aircraft’s electronic equipment, already exist today “and can hit targets within a radius of tens of kilometers,” said Vladimir Mikheev, a director of state-owned Russian electronics firm KRET, in an interview with TASS.

However, Mikheev suggested that microwave weapons can be as dangerous to the user as to the target. While Russia is developing manned and unmanned sixth-generation aircraft, which are predicted to first take flight in 2025, only the unmanned version will be armed with a microwave weapon. “The electromagnetic pulse fired by the microwave weapon is so powerful that it is extremely difficult to protect the pilot from his own weapons,” Mikheev said. “No matter how well we may shield the cabin, this electronic pulse will get through. And as a human is also, to some extent, a ‘device’ operating on the basis of receiving and transmitting electromagnetic signals, such weapons can cause heavy damage to the health of the pilot.”

“Protection is already in place today: shielding, special goggles and a glass canopy covered with gold plating to reduce radiation. However, it is so far impossible to ensure 100 percent protection.”

Echoing the same debates in the United States over manned versus unmanned combat aircraft, Mikheev said that only the unmanned version of Russia’s sixth-generation aircraft will have “full technical capabilities.” He predicted these drones will be hypersonic, with a speed of Mach 4 to 5, and will be capable of flight through near space (sixty-five thousand to 328,000 feet).

Mikheev also notes that that fifth-generation aircraft, such as the F-22, F-35 and Russia’s PAK FA, are characterized by supersonic cruising speed and stealth designs. But what will distinguish sixth-generation aircraft from their predecessors is the capability to work with drones. Mikheev offered a vision of Russian drone warfare that sounds much like its American counterpart. Like the United States, Russia is embracing manned-unmanned teaming, where piloted aircraft control packs of drones.

Also like American defense contractors, Russian companies say price shouldn’t be a barrier to capability. While drones are cheaper than manned aircraft, they will never be cheap. “They will come at a serious price, given that it will be a high-tech weapon—an aircraft combining hypersonic flight speed, low visibility, high security, artificial intelligence (in order to work in a group) and the most modern weapons, including electromagnetic. The sixth-generation arsenal will also include the latest weapon control systems, reconnaissance, electronic warfare, guidance, navigation and Identification Friend or Foe.”

The U.S. military is also grappling with what a sixth-generation combat aircraft will look like. Long range, stealth and supersonic cruising capabilities are likely to be features, as will be non-kinetic armament such as microwave or other electromagnetic weapons. It is a certainty that the next generation of manned aircraft will only be a component of a larger team, with the pilot the would-be master of a swarm of drones increasingly capable of autonomous flight.

The ultimate question: Will a sixth-generation aircraft even have a pilot?

Read the Original Article at National Interest

History of Terrorism: The Lessons From the Entebbe Raid Still Relevant 40 years Later

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July 4, 1976, was a special day for America, Israel and international terrorism.

In America, it was the bicentennial, the two hundredth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. For Israel, it was a day of redemption, after its commandos had rescued 102 hostages from pro-Palestinian hijackers at Entebbe airport, Uganda.

Alas for terrorists, July 4 was a black day. Now it was their turn to be terrorized. Every time they hijacked a plane, they would have to ask themselves: was there a commando team lurking in the darkness, waiting to storm the aircraft in a blaze of gunfire?

But on that Fourth of July in 1976, there was nothing for the terrorists to fear. Looking back forty years, it’s depressing how little things have changed. Today it is suicide bombers, but in the 1970s, the terror spectaculars were airliner hijackings. Wikipedia lists forty-four hijackings during that decade, committed by an assortment of Palestinians, European and Japanese radicals, African-American militants, Croatians, Kashmiris, Lithuanians, criminals, lunatics, and anyone else with a grievance, gun or grenade. Some hijackers surrendered; others found sanctuary in places like Cuba and Algeria. But rarely did police or soldiers attempt to storm the aircraft and rescue the hostages.

So when four terrorists—two Palestinians and two German leftists—hijacked Air France Flight 139 as it departed Athens on June 27, 1976, they had every reason to feel the odds were in their favor. First, they successfully took over the Airbus A300, which carried 246 passengers, many of them Israeli and non-Israeli Jews. The aircraft first landed in Libya, and then flew to to Entebbe airport in Uganda.

Better news awaited them there. Ugandan president Idi Amin—a living example of why syphilis and statesmanship don’t mix—allowed three more terrorists to join their comrades. He also deployed his troops around the airport to protect the terrorists rather than the hostages.

A planeful of Jewish passengers held hostage thousands of miles from Israel, and guarded by armed soldiers as well? What more could a terrorist ask for?

In the end, the terrorists didn’t get what they asked for, which was the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. But they got what they deserved. A hundred-strong Israeli rescue force, flying aboard four C-130 transports, flew 2,500 miles to Entebbe. They landed on the runway, neutralized the Ugandan soldiers, killed the terrorists, rescued the hostages and blew up Idi Amin’s MiG fighters so they couldn’t shoot down the unescorted C-130s. The cost was three hostages accidentally killed by Israeli fire (a seventy-five-year-old woman was later murdered by a vengeful Amin). The one Israeli soldier killed was Yoni Netanyahu (elder brother of the current Israeli prime minister), shot by a Ugandan guard. Tragic losses, to be sure, but the toll could have been much worse.

Entebbe is one of those textbook military operations that will be studied until the end of time. Not only has the rescue been the subject of multiple movies and books, but American planners kept Entebbe in mind when they devised the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May 2011.

Brilliant endeavors always look easy in hindsight. Detractors would later say that the Israelis were lucky to be fighting Ugandans led by a buffoon who fancied himself a king of Scotland and blamed his defeat on Israeli “nuclear hand grenades.” It is true that the Ugandan army wasn’t Hezbollah. It is also true that some of the rescue operations that Entebbe spawned haven’t worked out, notably America’s disastrous 1980 Iran hostage rescue, and a bloody Egyptian attempt to storm a hijacked airliner in Cyprus in 1978. Had the Israeli operation failed, it would have gone down as one of history’s most harebrained ideas.

I believe there are three big lessons from Entebbe. The first is that that brains are just as important as technology, something that the Pentagon (and today’s Israeli military) would do well to remember. Entebbe was a remarkably low-tech operation. No drones, GPS or soldiers dressed like Iron Man. The C-130s, jeeps and Uzi submachine guns had more in common with World War II–era equipment than digital twenty-first-century gear.

The second is that chutzpah pays. Israel in 1976 had a reputation for military skill, but it was not the high-tech military power it is today. Had the United States mounted such an operation, there might have been aircraft carriers and B-52s in support. If the Israeli operation went wrong—if a C-130 had crashed, or the commandos been pinned down by enemy fire—they would have been stranded in the African jungles 2,500 miles and an eternity away from help. Who would have expected little Israel to dare attempt such a coup?

But the biggest lesson involves fear. Terrorism is all about creating fear, or more accurately, helplessness. The message of terrorists is that they can strike us at our airports and supermarkets and concert halls, and there is nothing we can do about it. Therefore we must submit to their demands or submit, like a dog that has been kicked too much.

I think that Entebbe has been immortalized not just for its military brilliance, but also because it speaks to something more visceral. It reassures us that we’re not powerless.

Not that counterterror commando raids are the total solution: America, Israel, Britain, France and other nations have killed plenty of terrorists, and still the bombs go off.

And as today’s world reels under massacres in Paris, Orlando and Istanbul, it is too easy to feel helpless. Too easy succumb to the despair that suicide bombers and murderous gunmen, just like airplane hijackers in the 1970s, are a fact of life, to be accepted like the weather.

Entebbe is a reminder that the only people who can make us feel helpless are ourselves.

Read the Original Article at National Interest

Military History: 5 Soviet “Super Weapons” That Were Disastorous

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For nearly seven decades, the defense-industrial complex of the Soviet Union went toe-to-toe with the best firms that the West had to offer.

In some cases, it surprised the West with cheap, innovative, effective systems. In others, it could barely manage to put together aircraft that could remain in the air, and ships that could stay at sea.

No single weapon could have saved the Soviet Union, but several might have shifted the contours of its collapse. The relationship between technology and the “human” elements of war, including doctrine and organization, is complex. Decisions about isolated systems can have far reaching implications for how a nation defends itself.

Weapons are often cancelled for good reason. Events intercede in ways that focus a nation’s attention on its true interests and needs, rather than on the pursuit of glory and prestige. In the Soviet case, many of the “wonder weapons” remained safely in the realm of imagination, both for the enemies of the USSR, and the USSR itself.

‘Sovetsky Soyuz’ class battleship

During the interwar period, the Soviet Union explored a variety of options for revitalizing its decrepit fleet. Until the first decade of the 20th century, the czars had maintained a relatively modern, powerful navy.

After the Russo-Japanese War, however, Russian shipbuilding fell steadily behind the West, and the revolution disrupted both the industry and the navy itself.

By the late 1930s, the Soviet economy had recovered to the point that Stalin could seriously consider a program of naval construction. The Sovetsky Soyuz-class battleships spearheaded an ambitious acquisition plan, which also included battlecruisers and aircraft carriers.

Based loosely on the Italian Littorio class, the Sovetsky Soyuzs would displace approximately 60,000 tons, carry nine 16-inch guns, and make 28 knots.

This made them competitive in size with the most powerful battleships in the world, although inexperience and shoddy Soviet construction practice would likely have rendered them troublesome in battle.

The Soviet Union laid down four of the intended 16 battleships between 1938 and 1940, parceling out construction between Leningrad, Nikolayev (on the Black Sea) and Molotovsk (on the White Sea). One was cancelled in 1940 because of poor workmanship.

The other three were suspended on the arrival of war, although plans proceeded to complete one (in Leningrad) even after World War II ended. Wiser heads eventually prevailed, and the ships were broken up in place.

Construction of the ships required an enormous investment of Soviet state resources. Had construction begun earlier, the USSR would have wasted a fair chunk of national income on three ships that could not escape the Baltic and the Black Sea, respectively, and one that would have been limited to convoy escort in the Arctic.

Literally any use of materials and industrial capacity would have served the USSR better in war than these four ships.

 Read the Remainder at National Interest

Military News: China and Russia Field “Anti-Stealth” Drones

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Both China and Russia appear to be building unmanned aerial vehicles designed to negate America’s advantages in stealth aircraft.

Earlier this year, photos first emerged of a new High Altitude, Long Endurance (HALE) UAV termed the Divine Eagle that foreign observers believe is designed to detect and eliminate stealth enemy aircraft far from the Chinese mainland.

As Jeffrey Lin and P.W. Singer wrote back in May:

“[The Divine Eagle’s] long range anti-stealth capabilities can be used against both aircraft, like the B-2 bomber, and warships such as the DDG-1000 destroyer. Using the Divine Eagle as a picket, the Chinese air force could quickly intercept stealthy enemy aircraft, missiles and ships well before they come in range of the Mainland. Flying high, the Divine Eagle could also detect anti-ship missile trucks and air defenses on land, in preparation for offensive Chinese action.”

Russia appears to be designing a similar system, according to Flight Global.

While at the MAKS show in Moscow this week, Flight Global spoke with Vladimir Mikheev, the first deputy chief executive officer of the electronic systems producer KRET, about a new UAV being shown at the show, which KRET is a subcontractor on. During the interview, Mikheev said the new (thus far, unnamed UAV) is similar to China’s Divine Eagle in that it uses low frequency radars to detect low-observable stealth aircraft like the F-35, F-22 and B-2 bomber. Most stealth aircraft are created to evade high-frequency radar systems.

The Russian UAV goes a step further by integrating a sophisticated electronic warfare suite onto the aircraft. According to Flight Global, “Mikheev says KRET is providing a deeply-integrated electronic warfare system that not only provides a protective electromagnetic sphere around the aircraft to counter air-to-air missiles, but also cloaks it from radars.” Thus, if true, Russia’s new UAV would be able to detect America’s stealth aircraft without itself being detected. That could be a deadly combination.

Some in the U.S. military are already planning for a day in which stealth becomes mostly obsolete. As The National Interest previously noted, when discussing what America’s sixth generation fighter jet might look like back in February, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said that stealth may be overrated.

Read the Remainder at National Interest

One Big Reason America is Not Ready for World War III

I was on this hill as a battery commander with six 88-millimeter antitank guns, and the Americans kept sending tanks down the road and we kept knocking them out. Finally, we ran out of ammunition and the Americans didn’t run out of tanks.

[Nazi Artillery Commander, Battle of Salerno]

At the start of World War II, the combined economies of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were only half the size of the United States. If for no other reason than the sheer weight of its factories and work force, America thereby held the strategic high ground.

In fact, the statistical correspondence between economic power and military might in World War II is startlingly. While the United States could field over three hundred thousand military aircraft, a combined Germany and Japan had less than two hundred thousand.

In the Western Pacific, the United States had about 350 destroyers compared to Japan’s 63. Meanwhile, on the European continent, the United States had over seventy thousand tanks compared to less than forty-five thousand for Germany—Exhibit A, the Allied victory at the Battle of Salerno.

The broader Stalinesque “quantity has its own quality” point is simply this: While brave American soldiers and sailors and flyers at the frontlines ultimately won World War II, they had at their backs heartland factories that could churn out tanks and planes and ships at rates far greater than the enemy could destroy them—definitive proof of the winning ways of what the great Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz once aptly referred to as “war by algebra.”

Today, however, many of those heartland factories that won World War II for America have been shuttered and moved to cities with names like Chengdu, Chongqing and Shenzhen. And here’s the obvious strategic problem:

If World War III does indeed arrive—triggered by some trigger-happy PLA captain in the South China Sea or a nuclear strike by Pyongyang on Seoul or America coming to Japan’s defense over some “rocks in the sea”—the United States will no longer have mass on its side.

Read the Remainder at National Interest