Thursday, December 27, 2012
Friday, December 21, 2012
Inside China's Secret Arsenal
The Chinese government is rapidly building a bigger, more sophisticated military. Here’s what they have, what they want, and what it means for the U.S.
By Peter W. SingerPosted 12.20.2012 at 9:00 am19 Comments
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In a single generation, China has transformed itself from a largely agrarian country into a global manufacturing and trading powerhouse. China’s economy is 20 times bigger than it was two decades ago and is on track to surpass the United States’ as the world’s largest. But perhaps most startling has been the growth of China’s ambitious and increasingly powerful military.
Click to see the planes leading China's military innovation
Just 10 years ago, the budget for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) was roughly $20 billion. Today, that number is more like $100 billion. (Some analysts think it’s closer to $160 billion.) The PLA’s budget is only a sixth of what the U.S. devotes to defense annually, but defense dollars go much further in China, and in the years ahead, Chinese military spending will grow at the same rate as its economy. Meanwhile, Chinese president Hu Jintao has called for the PLA to carry out “new historic missions” in the 21st century—to move beyond the traditional goal of defending the nation’s sovereignty and develop the global military reach of a true world superpower. In some cases, China’s increasing international presence could lead to greater cooperation with the U.S., as it did in 2008 when China joined antipiracy patrols off Somalia. But if American and Chinese forces end up in the same place with different goals, the result could be a standoff between two of the best-equipped militaries in the world.
American officials aren’t just concerned about the amount of money the Chinese military is spending. They’re worried about the technology that money is buying. U.S. military hardware remains a generation ahead of any rival’s, but the Chinese have begun to close the gap. Consider China’s progress in building advanced warplanes. Until recently, American officials thought their F-22 and F-35 aircraft were the world’s only fifth-generation fighters (the name given to a class of stealthy fighter jets developed in the past decade, which are equipped with radar-evading features, high-performance engines and avionics, and networked computer systems). Then, on a 2011 trip to China, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates learned otherwise. While Gates met with Hu Jintao, his hosts “coincidentally” revealed the existence of an advanced new fighter, the J-20, by staging the inaugural public flight over the city of Chengdu.
The J-20 is far from China’s only new aircraft. The PLA is also aggressively upgrading its drone fleet. A decade ago, the army had almost no unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). At aviation trade shows today, Chinese contractors display scores of drones under development. Among the most notable: the Yilong (Pterodactyl I) and BZK-005, which greatly resemble the U.S. military’s Predator and Global Hawk, respectively. China’s future UAVs may also get a boost from American technology: Iran has reportedly given Chinese scientists access to the RQ-170 advanced spy drone that went down in its territory last year.
Additionally, China is investing heavily in its navy. Today, the U.S. is the only country that can send aircraft carriers loaded with fighter jets to any corner of the globe. The PLA would like to change that. The Chinese have spent the past few years retrofitting a 65,000-ton Soviet aircraft carrier (which the PLA acquired using a fake travel agency as a front) with new engines and weapons including Flying Leopard surface-to-air missile batteries and automated air defense machine-gun systems. The ship, called the Liaoning, can carry approximately 50 aircraft, including the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, a fighter jet that may be as capable as an F-18. China is also building stealthy 8,000-ton destroyers, along with nuclear submarines and amphibious assault ships. A new 36,000-ton cruise ship modified for military purposes, the Bahai Sea Green Pearl, can carry more than 2,000 soldiers and 300 vehicles. With its new naval muscle, China has dispatched troops and police to U.N. peacekeeping operations in places as far-flung as Africa and Latin America.
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In some ways, China’s rise echoes that of imperial Germany at the turn of the 20th century. At the time, Britain was the world’s undisputed economic and military superpower. When Germany decided to build battleships to match the Grand Fleet’s dreadnoughts, the two nations entered an arms race that helped set the stage for the first world war. But when war broke out, Britain didn’t lose a single battleship to Germany’s High Seas Fleet. German mines and submarines, on the other hand—new technologies that arrived unexpectedly and changed the rules of battle—sunk 13 British battleships.
Similarly, the PLA has more to gain by developing new technologies than by racing to match American sea and air power. China doesn’t have to amass a navy as powerful as the American fleet if it can make the seas too dangerous for U.S. ships to travel. To that end, the PLA is acquiring weapons such as mobile, truck-launched anti-ship ballistic missiles and radar-evading, ramjet-powered Sunburn cruise missiles, which tear toward their targets at Mach 2.5, giving defenses only seconds to respond.
China could also easily go after American vulnerabilities in space. More than 80 percent of U.S. government and military communications, which direct everything from soldiers in the field to precision missile strikes, travel over satellites. GPS satellites control the movement of 800,000 U.S. military receivers on everything from aircraft carriers to individual bombs and artillery shells. The system isn’t foolproof: In early 2010, a GPS “glitch” left almost 10,000 of these receivers unable to connect for days.
Meanwhile, China is also expanding its ability to knock things out of space. In addition to its proven satellite-killing missiles, the PLA is developing maneuverable microsatellites that would act like tiny space kamikazes, along with directed-energy (laser) devices that could blind or melt U.S. systems in space. In 2007, Senior Colonel Yao Yunzhu of the Chinese Academy of Military Science (the highest research institute in the PLA) announced that the U.S. wouldn’t be the world’s only “space superpower” for long. The Chinese plan to send more than 100 civilian and military satellites into orbit in the next decade, and the PLA is testing what appears to be an unmanned, reusable space plane.
China’s most potent new capability, though, might be what the PLA has called “informationized warfare,” or cyber war. Just as the U.S. military has created its own Cyber Command, the PLA has assigned more than 130,000 personnel to cyber warfare programs. And while Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has warned about a potential cyber Pearl Harbor, the greater threat might be the theft of U.S. government secrets and intellectual property. So far, operations thought to have originated in China have compromised sensitive networks in the State Department as well as computers involved in the F-35 joint strike fighter program.
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In the 1984 movie Red Dawn, one character explained why war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union seemed inevitable: “Two toughest kids on the block, I guess. Sooner or later, they’re gonna fight.” A few years ago, when Hollywood set out to remake the movie, the filmmakers updated the script by replacing the Soviet bad guys with the Chinese. Then real-world economics came into play. To avoid losing access to China’s multibillion-dollar film market, they digitally switched the adversary to North Korea in postproduction.
The episode underscores an important point: Unlike the U.S. and the Soviets, the U.S. and China are bound together by hundreds of billions of dollars in mutual trade and investments. War between the two countries would be mutually ruinous. Leaders on both sides know it. American and Chinese forces will eye each other suspiciously, and the relationship may become tense. But recall that the much feared war between the U.S. and Soviets—the issue that defined world politics for the second half of the 20th century—never did break out. With so much to lose, the two toughest kids decided it wasn’t worth it to fight.
Peter W. Singer is director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative and a senior fellow in foreign policy at the Brookings Institution. This article appeared in the January issue of Popular Science.
Posted by Pete Moss at 12/21/2012 10:06:00 AM
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Monday, December 10, 2012
Posted by Pete Moss at 12/10/2012 09:35:00 AM
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
Sunday, December 02, 2012
Monday, November 19, 2012
Thursday, November 15, 2012
Monday, November 12, 2012
Saturday, November 10, 2012
Friday, November 09, 2012
Thursday, November 08, 2012
Monday, November 05, 2012
Friday, November 02, 2012
Thursday, November 01, 2012
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Posted by Pete Moss at 10/28/2012 12:53:00 PM
Saturday, October 27, 2012
Saturday, October 20, 2012
Friday, October 19, 2012
Declassified: US Air Force's Flying Saucer Schematics
Check out the schematics for "Project 1794," a could-have-been flying saucer from the '50s.
by Jon Fox
You read that right: sixty years ago, the US military was trying to build flying saucers. As in UFOs. A collection of recently declassified files discovered at the National Archives, including schematic diagrams and project development documents, show a disc-shaped aircraft remarkably similar in design to popular science fiction images from the same era.
Designated "Project 1794," the Air Force's flying saucer was supposed to be capable of vertical takeoff, reaching speeds between Mach 3 and Mach 4 and sustaining altitudes up to 100,000 feet. Sound dangerous? The authors of the Final Development Summary for the project disagreed:
"It is concluded that the stabilization and control of the aircraft in the manner proposed … is feasible, and the aircraft can be designed to have satisfactory handling through the whole flight range from ground cushion to supersonic flight at a very high altitude."
The 18- to 24-month cost estimate was just $3.2 million (about $26.6 million today); or, in US military terms, "chump change."
The documents offer no clear evidence that Project 1794 was carried to the prototype stage before the project lost funding in 1960. (We'll let the tin-foil hats and boring realists argue that one out in the comments). But if anyone wants to dig up the full schematics and 3D-print a scaled-down version of this thing, feel free to send a review unit to IGN.
Posted by Pete Moss at 10/19/2012 09:13:00 AM
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Friday, October 12, 2012
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Retired C-5 Galaxies and other out-of-service military aircraft sit in the Air Force's aircraft boneyard in the Arizona desert as the sun sets, Sept. 26, 2012. The boneyard, run by the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, is on the grounds of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson. (Air Force photo by Val Gempis) — with Rath R Robertson.
Posted by Pete Moss at 10/11/2012 05:29:00 PM
A journey like no other for the shuttle Endeavour -- a two-day, round-the-clock trek through the city streets of Los Angeles -- begins late Thursday night and continues along 12 miles of urban jungle through Saturday evening to the retired spaceship's new home at the California Science Center.
FULL STORY: http://spaceflightnow.com/shuttle/sts134/121010preview/
Posted by Pete Moss at 10/11/2012 11:33:00 AM
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Tuesday, October 09, 2012
UAVs position to autonomously refuel in flight during DARPA demo
Mon, 2012-10-08 09:17 AM
By: Mark Rockwell
Two modified RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles successfully demonstrated technology that allows unmanned vehicles to be automatically refueled in-flight, an important step in conducting surveillance and combat duties, said the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency on Oct. 5.
Currently global military aviation relies on a key enabler – aerial refueling. Fighters, bombers, reconnaissance and transport aircraft use “flying gas stations” to go the extra mile, it said. Increasingly, it said UAVs are conducting combat and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations, but the aircraft aren’t designed to be refueled in flight.
DARPA said it teamed up with NASA in 2007 to show high-performance aircraft can easily perform automated refueling from conventional tankers, but many unmanned aircraft can’t match the speed, altitude and performance of the current tanker fleet. The 2007 demonstration also required a pilot on board to set conditions and monitor safety during autonomous refueling operations, it said.
On Oct 5, DARPA’s two-year Autonomous High-Altitude Refueling (AHR) program, which concluded Sep. 30, explored the ability to safely conduct fully autonomous refueling of UAVs in challenging high-altitude flight conditions. During its final test flight, two modified Global Hawk aircraft flew in close formation, 100 feet or less between refueling probe and receiver drogue, for the majority of a 2.5-hour engagement at 44,800 feet, said the agency.
The manuever demonstrated for the first time that High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) class aircraft can safely and autonomously operate under in-flight refueling conditions, it said. The flight was the ninth test and the first time the aircraft flew close enough to measure the full aerodynamic and control interactions, it added. Flight data was analyzed over the past few months and fed back into simulations to verify system safety and performance through contact and fuel transfer–including the effects of turns and gusts up to 20 knots, it said.
According to the agency, since HALE aircraft are designed for endurance at the expense of control authority, the program started with the expectation that only one of six attempts would achieve positive contact (17 percent). The final analysis, however, showed 60 percetn of the attempts would achieve contact, it said. Multiple autonomous breakaway contingencies were successfully triggered well in advance of potentially hazardous conditions, it said. Fuel systems were also fully integrated and ground tested, demonstrating a novel “reverse-flow” approach with the tanker in trail, said DARPA, opening up valuable trade space for future developers to choose between various fixed and modular implementations of proven probe and drogue hardware.
“The goal of this demonstration was to create the expectation that future HALE aircraft will be refueled in flight,” said Jim McCormick, DARPA Program Manager. “Such designs should be more affordable to own and operate across a range of mission profiles than systems built to satisfy the most stressing case without refueling. The lessons from AHR certainly extend beyond the HALE flight regime, and insights into non-traditional tanker concepts may offer further operational advantages.”
Posted by Pete Moss at 10/09/2012 10:49:00 PM
Posted by Pete Moss at 10/09/2012 02:55:00 PM