Wednesday, July 10, 2013

NASIC 2013 Missile Threat

NASIC has released the 2013 edition of their highly amusing Ballistic and Cruise Missile Threat document!  This is something I've been waiting for since the middle of last year, given that they'd been putting one out every three years and the last one was 2009.

Press release containing a download link is here.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Jane's on Saudi, more info

My next Jane's Intelligence Review article is being published/posted to their web this week.  The topic:  Saudi Arabia's ballistic missile force.  Some of you will remember that I covered the topic here a few years ago.  That article has been removed for a while to maintain the exclusivity or whatever you want to call it (my decision, not theirs), but the new one is more than simply a re-write.  For one, there are different facilities examined.

The editors think there is a chance this goes over in a big way with some of the press for various reasons I don't want to spoil, but now that it's in the bag I'll actually get back to working on what I was supposed to be working on around here!

Given that the FSA appears to be committing revolution fail, the Syrian air defense piece is being shelved and will instead take its "normal" place inside an I&A issue.  The first thing to actually finish will be the S-300P history update, and then it's back into I&A and cleaning out the exploding Gmail inbox.

Incidentally, I'm looking for more interesting ways to monetize my existence.  If you know of anyone looking for imagery analysis work or something similar, send a note my way.  I'd also be amused to try my hand at the lecture circuit, for that matter, although how one breaks into such a thing is beyond me at this juncture.

Back to work!

Edit:  here's the online preview

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Current Events, Updates

Things have been a bit sporadic for the past few weeks, so I figured I'd explain why.  Basically, my Windows 7 laptop that was the tool for all of my amusing activities decided to develop a consistently recurring Blue Screen of Death problem.  After numerous system restores (and not the Windows kind, the delete and re-install everything kind), the problem has not gone away, so I'm now back on the old laptop.  No real problem, it just means I've had to save files, move stuff around, and re-install programs like Google Earth and GIMP on this thing.  So, things should be a bit more sane for now.  This thing is at least far more stable than the other one, apparently.  I'm told that it may have to do with this one's Intel processor vs. the other one's AMD chip, but that's so far beyond my computer brainpower that it's not even funny.  I was able to mess with this one to get it functioning a lot faster, so it's less irritating to have to go back to it now.  So, I can now work on finishing a lot of things I had thought I'd be finishing on the other one.

Projects still in the pipe include:

-A standalone document representing an updated and expanded I&A piece on the S-300P/400 SAM family
-A look at Syria's IADS, which may or may not be completed in a timely manner if it continues to look like nobody's going to do anything NFZ related.
-The still in progress Falcon missile history update

I also have a massive backlog of e-mail in my Gmail account.  If you've tried corresponding through that address recently, but have not gotten a reply, this is why.  I hope to begin clearing those out this weekend.

One other thing that will likely get posted this weekend is...well, basically a look at some open source data.  Some of you will find it amusing, but I bet a lot of you will think I've lost my mind, due to one of the focuses.  Well, no more hiding.  Time to publish and take my place alongside Those Guys, and try to beat the cold hard facts into the brains of the rest of you.

Now, some current events of amusement from the past week or so:

Arms Control:  the US has come up with an idea to reduce US and Russian nuclear arsenals again.  Russia is not pleased, citing ABM concerns.  China thinks it's a great idea.  Now, a lot of people have come out on both sides of this, and I find myself somewhere in the middle.  I support the presence, continued development, and potential use of nuclear weapons when required.  That being said, I would agree that the stockpile we currently maintain is both 1) old and in need of updating or replacing, and 2) numerically bloated given the actual threat picture.  So if we want to cut down again, I see no reason why not.  Russia's argument, however, holds zero water.  This is the same old "ABM systems nullify our deterrent" argument that's been around since we came up with the idea of European-based ABMs.  Well, sorry Russia, but you get zero credibility points.  Why?  Because they're developing their own upgraded and new-build ABM systems themselves!  Were Russia to stop such development (which in reality would be asinine from various standpoints), they'd then have an accurate argument.  But as long as BOTH SIDES can potentially intercept enemy ICBM RVs, then neither one gets to argue.

Snowden:  put him in jail.  Same with the Army guy and the alleged rapist.  The first two, simply put, violated non-disclosure agreements to which there are clear consequences.  The third guy?  At the very least an accessory to Army guy, and therefore also liable.  Which means he'll probably end up escaping London and get made an Admin at ATS or something equally ridiculous.

Monday, June 24, 2013


Over in the Recommended Downloads section, you might notice a new program called 2DZAP.  This is a missile trajectory simulator designed by Andrew Pavacic intended for pointing out significant errors in trajectory modeling and flight physics in flight simulators and the like.  It's an amusing program, and Andrew's upcoming AIAA article on the simulator demonstrates how he is able to get the same results as those published by NASA for various missiles, validating the effort he put into its design.

Download it, check it out, and be on the lookout for the AIAA article!

Monday, June 17, 2013

No NFZ for you!

A few interesting things regarding Syria lately.

First off, Russia says we're not allowed to use the F-16s and Patriot SAMs in Jordan to make an NFZ in Syria.  International law or something.  Which is of course a ridiculous argument.  Lets say the UN decided it was NFZ time (for the sake of debate, ignoring whether the UN does anything productive).  Jordan decides to play along.  Well, then all those nice toys stockpiled over there become fair game.  What Russia probably meant to say was that we can't do it unilaterally.  Or, that they don't want us to do it unilaterally, that's more accurate.  Then they have a point.  I'm curious to know if the Vipers are CGs or CJs, because the latter would make covert NFZ plans more credible for reasons that should be obvious.

Second, Russia is at the G8 complaining about Syria.  So are we, obviously.  My favorite part is when they argue that "our" evidence of sarin use by Assad is not up to standards, or whatever they mean.  Which is amusing, because where were the similar comments when France (and I think a UN arm?) made the same statements a short while ago?  Oh, but this time it's the US, so it has to be wrong.  A little consistency would be nice.  At least it'd make them appear actually concerned and not just out to be on whatever side we're not.

At this rate, my "idiocy is bipartisan" mantra may have to be altered to "idiocy transcends borders."

And really, Russia, come on.  If you're so gung-ho about Assad staying in charge (or at least keeping the US out of Syria (although that's already a fail)), plop an S-400 battery at your naval port.  Or one of the extant S-300PM batteries that the S-400s are displacing in Russia.  In fact an S-300PM could be a better idea, because then when everything cools off, you announce that by the way, the Syrians have been training for the past year and are keeping these.

Also, if I am off and on here in the next week or so, I'm having computer issues.  I've got a Windows 7 laptop that I've been using for a while now, and it's been doing this random blue screen thing that was really starting to get annoying.  So, system restore!  An easy process when you save everything to an external drive.  But if it starts up again, there may be further restoration/driving over it with my car.  So don't worry, I'm "back" regardless, there just may be technical difficulties from time to time until I get this completely sorted out.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Arming "rebels" is a great idea and never backfires!

So, now we're going to give more arms and support to Syria's "rebel" forces.  Somebody tell me just why this is a bright idea.  For one, this pretty much proves that whatever they're teaching in history class at a certain Ivy League school, they're leaving out the history of Al Qaeda bit.  You know, the part where "rebels" are given arms and support to overthrow an enemy, and then they later turn around and bite us in the ass.

I'm going to attribute this decision to a few different possible factors.

1.  We're going to fight a proxy war with Iran; we could care less about Syria, but what we want is to be able to engage Hezbollah inside of Syria.  Iran can't or won't do anything serious itself, so it relies on its Hezbollah proxy to fight for it, far enough away that it thinks we won't notice what's really going on.  Well, we see you, Iran, you and your photoshop missiles and hilarious "aircraft" designs.  We can't or won't do anything about Iran (and this is completely independent of the should we or shouldn't we argument so don't even start), so this will work instead.  Except that support and assistance has a way of turning into a massive debacle and sucking us in way too deep into something largely irrelevant, but I guess the plus side here is that Syria isn't covered in jungle?  Although why Hezbollah matters is another question, given that I haven't heard of them launching rockets across the Mexican border yet.

2.  It's Egypt all over again.  And no, not Egypt of a few years ago, Egypt of a few decades ago.  As in we're only picking this side because the "bad guys" (i.e. Russia and in Syria's case also China) are on the opposite side of the fence.  Which turned out to be such a stellar political decision back then. 

3.  We waited too long to do anything militarily productive.  I've been saying for a while now that relying on Soviet-era IADS components gets you bombed, apparently if you don't follow our rules.  See Iraq, Yugoslavia, and Libya.  Syria, with modern Chinese radars and modern Russian SAMs (even though Russia currently lacks the stones to just airlift S-300PMU-2 components using least I think they'd fit given that it could airlift Pioner), has moved away from the bombable model of air defense, which has given us pause.  Notice how a lot of the NFZ stuff disappeared with a quickness when all of the fun new toys started to be either delivered or reported in service, or it became obvious that Russia might eventually send the S-300PMU-2s that Syria ordered.  Which incidentially would mean the inclusion of Russian advisors and trainers, who might get bombed, and we don't want that...but aren't you supposed to want to bomb the "bad guys"?  Now I'm confused.

In reality, everyone should step back and let the situation play itself out.  Because I can't for the life of me see where this results in a "win" if we start trying to play nationbuilder again.  I understand that there is a certain need to play geopolitics and make it look like we're standing up to the "bad guys", but in reality none of us should be involved.  Why not engage Russia and China and get everyone to take a step back, because relations with those two are far more valuable and important in the long run than whatever happens to Syria.  If you want to look good to the international players, at least make yourself look good to the ones that actually matter.

Oh wait, I forgot...if they aren't the "bad guys", how can we justify billions of dollars for overpriced and unnecessary hardware like the F-35...

And before the inevitable question comes up, no, I am not necessarily against bombing things or sticking our nose into someone else's business when there's a definite endgame that will be to our benefit.  We have just as much right to act in our own national interest as anyone else does, despite what the rest of the world wants you to think.  But once again, someone really needs to explain to me how this one is in our national interest, because I'm just not seeing it.

...but there's also...

Nope.  Not going there.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Comments, Current Events

Comments are still OK, don't worry.  Just to reiterate a few old "rules" though:

1.  Say whatever you want.  I'm not a censor.  I'll even usually reply.  I bring this up because sometimes I get comments that do sit in the box for a day or two.  The reason behind that is usually because it's a piece of information that is interesting or relevant and I want to examine it, and the comment inbox is a safe place to store it so I don't forget where it was posted and then lose it.

2.  That being said, comments are still moderated.  This means I have to hit a button that says 'publish" for your comment to show up.  Why?  Because I get way too many spam comments.  Spam I will censor.  Pretty much anything else is fair game.

Here's a good spam comment that showed up right after I posted this:  "I'm impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog that's both educative and engaging, and let me tell you, you've hit the nail on the head. The problem is an issue that too few people are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy I came across this during my hunt for something relating to this. Also visit my blog legal amphetamines"

See what I mean?  There has to be some sort of comment generator these idiots are using, because I'll get the same one multiple times with the only difference being the website they want you to visit.  They're smart about it too, they only post on older articles, very rarely the most current feature.

Anyway, I assume nobody really wants legal amphetamines.  Although it'll be interesting to see what the words legal amphetamines do to my incoming traffic for the next few days.  I wonder if anyone monitors websites looking for the words legal amphetamines because I'm relatively certain spam comment websites are not really pointing you to legit legal amphetamines.  There might be a search engine designed to find the phrase legal amphetamines on websites to track people who are after said legal amphetamines.


Fun over, on to the news.

Well this should be self-explanatory.  The contract doesn't have to be fulfilled until about this time next year, so there's no rush.  You do have to wonder why Russia is still dragging their feet, though.  If you're trying to avoid the West going in and screwing up one of your export markets, why would you present them with what amounts to a "bomb by this date" ultimatum?  

This may be the result of Russia both wanting to finalize the deal, while at the same time giving the West time to think about what blowing up a Syrian S-300P series site would mean.  Because it'd probably be host to Russian advisors and trainers for 6 months or so after delivery, you know.  It could also be that Syrian crews just haven't started training or completed the training course yet.  In which case delivering the systems would make them amount to really expensive bombing targets.

Speaking of which, Israel is still barking about blowing the things up if they're delivered because of the threat.  I.E. the Syrian IADS would be credible for the first time since about, oh, 1986 or so.  What I still want to know is what happened to their countermeasures that they were so sure would defeat an S-300P series system?  If the system represents no real threat (and assuming they haven't drank whatever the Turks did in the 90s), why go to the effort of locating and striking them, especially if you're blatantly risking irritating Russia in the process by potentially killing Russian nationals?  Isn't it better to sit back and laugh as Assad spends himself into a hole?

Wait, I know.  Clearly Russia upgraded to Windows 8, rendering the Israeli electronic countermeasure and intrusion stuff irrelevant.

France claims that analysis proves that sarin gas, which is a chemical weapon and therefore a WMD, was used somewhere in Syria on more than one occasion.

And of course France isn't telling which side used the stuff...which was what I was going to say when the first report came out and they weren't talking.

Now, however, they're claiming that it was Assad's forces and/or regime supporters (diplomat speak for Hezbollah).  Said claims conveniently being made as I was in the process of typing here.  Stupid media.  If they're not blowing things way out of proportion, they're being inconveniently timely with their reporting.

Well, now we're really going to see what the "proper" interpretation of terms like "game changer" and "red line" is, aren't we?  Not that I do or don't think we should be bothering with the non-Assad guys (like I mentioned in another post, supporting such types has worked out so famously for us in the past...), but if I say there will be bombs if you do X, and you go and do X, then it can be argued that there should be bombs.  Otherwise why should anyone take me seriously?

Not that I'm sure anyone should in the first place.

Probably shouldn't take me seriously either.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Current Events

One of the things I'll be trying to do here on a more regular basis is to actually comment on some worldwide military developments or events which I find interesting, amusing, or both.  Some things are relevant even if they don't come with nice overheads!  So with that in mind, here are a few topics that have appeared over the last few days (or weeks, or months...):

Iraq:  mythically overrated by the media, massively bombed twice.  Syria, Libya, Iran, and the DPRK were all advised to take notice, given their reliance on the same supposedly mythical yet in reality old-technology weapon systems for air defense.  Looks like Syria is learning the lesson that Iran thinks can be solved by welding together oil cans.  Buk-M2E systems, Chinese JY-27 and Type 120 radars, and now, by 2014 apparently, some variant of the S-300.  Most likely the S-300PMU-2, the current production export model of the P series, although I could make an argument for the S-300VM for added ATBM capability against Israeli weapons.

This is the Russian government enacting a new type of "missile diplomacy", wherein they deploy their own or supply modern system components to someone else to ensure that the West stays out of some given situation/gets a message/etc.  And you know what?  Can't blame them for it.

The last time I checked, the S-300P was not a Kalashnikov or shoulder-fired SAM, and therefore not on the UN Arms Control Register.  Nor is it typically part of any sort of arms embargo, of which Syria is not under anyway.  And, despite ridiculous Turkish theories, the weapon is not a credible surface-to-surface threat.  So there is no reason for the sale not to proceed, unless of course the West really does have designs on entering Syria and sorting things out in the manner that it wants them sorted out.  

And if the EU can decide it's OK to sell weapons to the anti-Assad crowd in Syria, they've got no real leg to stand on when Russia actually conducts a formal, legal transaction on the state-to-state level.  Although in the EU's defense the idea of supporting a rebel force with light arms has never, ever blown up in anyone's face down the line.  

Oh, wait...

If you ask me, this will either 1) force the West to run in half-cocked without taking the time to think things through and end up creating a bigger mess in the long run (which we arguably did in Iraq despite having said time to think about it first), or 2) make everyone back off while the situation, uh...basically solves itself.

Harsh?  Yup.  But look at it this way.  Either the world wants/needs external actors to intervene in the internal affairs of states when things go awry, or it doesn't.  That's the question:  should we intervene because Assad is a bad guy?  Should we stay out of it because it's a situation precipitated internally by internal forces?  That's a whole different argument, which isn't the point here.

Or maybe Russia really does want us to intervene.  Because if the West does eventually go in there after the missiles are operational, Almaz-Antey will be able to sell them for a billion dollars per unit with all of the publicity they're going to get.  Or maybe this is all a really convoluted ploy to get Israel to bomb Syria again, claiming that sophisticated weapon systems that Hezbollah would not be able to operate or maintain in a million years are being...transferred to Hezbollah!

Really.  Buk-M2Es for Hezbollah?  That was the best argument they could come up with?


Now this is interesting.  Saudi Arabia procured the DF-3A in the mid-80s, and signed the NPT in 1988 to assure the US government that no, they weren't trying to go nuclear (although allegations of Pakistani and Iraqi nukes were made for years).  Now, with the Kingdom starting to be wary of Shi'a Iran's nuclear (alleged) ambitions, they might be reconsidering the world's most fatal mushrooms.  And replacing the DF-3A as the potential launch platform.  

The difference is that with the DF-3A, they had an inaccurate IRBM basically useful for nuclear warhead transport through the atmosphere.  The DF-21 is far more accurate, terminally guided in some versions, making it useable as a conventional strike weapon where the DF-3A is really not.  

The nuclear weapons acquisition is the best part of the story.  If they go this route, then they're breaching the NPT, provided they don't withdraw first.  If they don't withdraw, prepare for much hilarity as Iran and its supporters raise hell about the double standard.  Because you don't really think we'd actually sanction the almighty oil supplier, do you?

For more on Saudi, the DF-3A, and associated information, my next JIR article will be on this very topic.


Iran has a stealth fighter

Yeah, I'm not linking to that.  If you want a good laugh, go find the pictures yourself.  But this is why nobody takes Iran seriously:  they abuse the idea of deception to the point where all it does is make us laugh.  Plus, their supposedly legitimate programs are also either 1) abused by deception, or 2) just hilarious.  Remember the lawnmower engine powered "stealth" flying boat things?  The photoshopped missile launch salvoes?  The welded together oil cans allegedly holding SAMs inside?  This one beat all of them.  

Iran:  demonstrating a lack of aerodynamics, LO design, and cockpit ergonomics all at the same time!  Although, we really should've figured the first one out when their crowning aeronautical achievement was putting a second vertical fin on an F-5.


What I'm looking for this week:

-Where are Venezuela's S-300VM systems based?  Their Pechoras?

Azeri Favorit Located

In July of 2010, various media reports indicated that Russia was completing a sale of S-300PMU-2 Favorit (SA-20B GARGOYLE) SAM systems to Azerbaijan.  Something of an uproar ensued, with Russia and Azerbaijan denying the sale and Armenia expressing its displeasure.  Then, in June of 2011, two S-300PMU-2 TELs appeared in an Azeri military parade in Baku.  Clearly the sale had gone through, despite the denials from all parties involved.

Now, following an imagery update in May of 2013, the location of Azerbaijan's Favorit SAM systems can be disclosed.  Sited on the coastline northwest of Sumgait, the Favorit batteries appear sited to defend the capital area.  The 200 kilometer range of the Favorit's 48N6E2 (GARGOYLE mod 1) interceptor also provides the system with a degree of capability over western Azerbaijan, although the Nagorno-Karabakh region remains just out of reach.

Azerbaijan deploys two Favorit batteries and a single battle management complex.  Each battery possesses a 30N6E2 (TOMB STONE) engagement radar and a 96L6E acquisition radar, with four 5P85TE2 TELs.  The northern battery also possesses two 40V6 series mast assemblies adjacent to the two radar systems.  The central position employs the 64N6E2 (BIG BIRD D) battle management radar.

The southern site is emplaced on a reprofiled former S-75 (SA-2 GUIDELINE) position, with the northern site emplaced on a newly built semi-hardened position.  The site buildup suggests a permanent deployment location.  However, the mobility of the S-300PMU-2 allows it to redeploy in a very short period of time.

The S-300PMU-2 represents the most advanced SAM system in the region, and is easily the most capable air defense system in the Azerbaijani inventory.  The 200 kilometer engagement range is supported by 300 kilometer range surveillance and tracking capability from the associated 64N6E2 and 96L6E radars, systems capable of monitoring the bulk of both Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh.  The six target engagement capability of the system, effectively doubled by deploying two batteries, effectively negates any aerial threat posed by the Armenian military.  Furthermore, the ATBM capability of the system removes Soviet-era SCUD missiles from the threat picture.

With the deployment of the S-300PMU-2, Azerbaijan has taken a significant step to upgrading its air defense capability.  The ability of the Favorit, coupled with the state of the Armenian military, significantly reduces the threat of an armed conflict between the two nations in the future, or at the very least enables Azerbaijan to remove the Armenian air and missile threat from the equation.

Let's try this again...

So let's try this whole "restarting" thing again, shall we? The past six months or so has been busy, irritating, profitable, and a whole bunch of other adjectives I won't print here! However, life has finally calmed down and organized itself in such a fashion that I can give a lot more time to fun things like this (some of you may have noticed my lack of activity on various websites as well, same reasons apply). So, the current plan is as follows:

1. Figure out some way to re-work and re-launch I&A
2. Post anything I find amusing here
3. Try and locate the long-term consistency that has, so far, avoided me like the plague

A few current projects in various stages of completion:

1. An updated and expanded look at the S-300P/400 series, to be published as a separate PDF file (the old look was in a past I&A issue)
2. An update to my history of the Falcon missile family
3. An I&A special report covering Syria's air defense posture, with an assessment of what the S-300P (PMU-2?) procurement will mean going forward

Also note that the SAM Site Overview has been updated below.  Additionally, the past issues of I&A are still available.  Here are the download links for what I'm referring to as Volumes 1 (2011) and 2 (2012):

Volume 1:  Download
Volume 2:  Download

With all this in mind, I've still got a backlog of communications to get through regarding various things, so if you contacted me at one point and haven't heard back, I'll be getting to it. If you want to re-contact me, that's fine as well, it'll make sure you don't get lost in the shuffle.

So. Who do I want to irritate today?