Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why Not Buy the Chinese Version Just Like Wal-Mart Does?

A confidential Pentagon report leaked to the Washington Post accuses hackers of stealing the designs of many of America's most advanced weapons systems.

Experts warn that the electronic intrusions gave China access to advanced technology that could accelerate the development of its weapons systems and weaken the U.S. military advantage in a future conflict.
Some of the weapons form the backbone of the Pentagon’s regional missile defense for Asia, Europe and the Persian Gulf. The designs included those for the advanced Patriot missile system, known as PAC-3; an Army system for shooting down ballistic missiles, known as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD; and the Navy’s Aegis ballistic-missile defense system.

Also identified in the report are vital combat aircraft and ships, including the F/A-18 fighter jet, the V-22 Osprey, the Black Hawk helicopter and the Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ship, which is designed to patrol waters close to shore.

Also on the list is the most expensive weapons system ever built — the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is on track to cost about $1.4 trillion. The 2007 hack of that project was reported previously.

The confidential list of compromised weapons system designs and technologies represents the clearest look at what the Chinese are suspected of targeting. When the list was read to independent defense experts, they said they were shocked by the extent of the cyber-espionage and the potential for compromising U.S. defenses.

“That’s staggering,” said Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank that focuses on Asia security issues. “These are all very critical weapons systems, critical to our national security. When I hear this in totality, it’s breathtaking.”

The experts said the cybertheft creates three major problems. First, access to advanced U.S. designs gives China an immediate operational edge that could be exploited in a conflict. Second, it accelerates China’s acquisition of advanced military technology and saves billions in development costs. And third, the U.S. designs can be used to benefit China’s own defense industry. There are long-standing suspicions that China’s theft of designs for the F-35 fighter allowed Beijing to develop its version much faster.

So here's the deal, at least for Canada.  The justification for the F-35's sky high price tag is the airplane's, top secret, ultra high-tech electronic wizardry and limited stealth.   Take that key advantage away and you're left with a pretty mediocre warplane with marginal performance in all the traditional areas that make a fighter great - speed, climb rate, roll and turn rate, range and payload.  Because all three versions of the F-35 are based on the bloated, short take off and vertical landing design for the U.S. Marines, it's a single-engine aircraft that is incapable of supercruise.

The cost of this "way beyond state of the art" technology is supposed to be spread among the select group of nations allowed to buy the F-35 except that China, the country the F-35 is intended to target, helped itself to club privileges when no one was looking.   And they aren't kicking in a dime toward the shared costs either.

Worse yet, the Chinese knock-off doesn't have the single-engine limitation of the F-35.   And it could be operational at around the same time as the F-35 comes into service.   And it's bound to be a lot cheaper.  And did I mention theirs has twin engines?


Anonymous said...

F-35 was designed not for Chinese theater of war...

kootcoot said...

"F-35 was designed not for Chinese theater of war."

It certainly wasn't designed for Afghanistan, Yemen or Mali. It was designed for targets with modern anti air defenses, like Bejing, Shanghai, Moscow, Islamabad, etc.

It certainly wasn't designed to patrol and protect Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic or even the more southerly coastlines.

The Mound of Sound said...

Anon, Google "Operation Chimichanga" and see just how wrong you are. That, in case you can't find it, was the name of the USAF full dress rehearsal of a stealth first strike on China to take down its radars, communications and air defence batteries.

If it's more convenient, you can find my post on it from May of last year


Anonymous said...

The Mound...
The argument about Op. Chimichanga is not relevant.
Your next blog entry says that "F-35 is capable of supersonic flight for short distances"
I is not very difficult to fathom a theater of war where distances are really, really short...

The Mound of Sound said...

Yes there are circumstances where distances are really short, well within the range of the F-35. Those would be situations in which you have complete air superiority which allows you to have bases near the operating area. If you have that air superiority you don't need a stealth aircraft.

The purpose of the F-35's frontal-aspect only stealth capability is to allow it to penetrate heavily defended hostile airspace, transit to a target, drop its weapons, and then transit in a straight line back out again. Lockheed execs have admitted that.

The Chimichanga scenario is actually quite relevant. The exercise simulated the sort of Day-One combat role for which the F-35 is designed. That's a first strike mission supported by fighter escorts (F-22's), tankers, AWACS and other electronic wafare support aircraft.

Those support aircraft are the F-35's Achilles' Heel. They have to be kept far enough back that they're not simply brought down by the defender's fighters. That stretches the F-35's limited internal fuel load and range issues.

Where high speeds are of greatest importance to the F-35 is making good its escape after bombing some high-value target. The '35 is not stealthy from the sides or from behind. That leaves it very vulnerable to long-range, heavily armed, defenders like the Su-30 family fighters that do have supercruise. They can easily run down the F-35 and then either run it out of fuel in an afterburner chase or shoot it down.

You seem to have a weak grasp of the strengths and limitations of this aircraft, Anon.