Tag: china

F-35 Deliveries Halted As Chinese Alloy Was Found In Turbomachine Pumps

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F-35 Deliveries Halted As Chinese Alloy Was Found In Turbomachine Pumps
U.S Air Force Captain Kristin” BEO” Wolfe, F-35A Lightning II Demonstration Team Commander, flies throughout a demo at the Oregon International Airshow in McMinnville, Ore., Aug. 20, 2022. (U.S. Air National Guard image by Master Sgt. John Winn)The alloy is utilized by a professional to make magnets for Honeywell’s turbomachine pumps. The Pentagon has actually temporally quit F-35 distributions after authorities uncovered that an alloy made use of in magnets on the jet’s turbomachine pumps was created in China. The Defense Contract Management Agency initially informed the F-35 Joint Program Office concerning the possible trouble on August 19, prior to both accepted put on hold the

distributions on Aug. 31, 2022. The F-35 program workplace”momentarily stopped the approval of brand-new F-35 airplane to make sure the F-35 program’s conformity” with protection laws “referring to specialized steels,” stated Defense Department representative Russell Goemaere in a declaration. He additionally included the time out will not disrupt procedures of F-35s currently provided due to the fact that “the magnet does not send details or damage the stability of the airplane and also there are no efficiency, top quality, safety and security or safety and security threats related to this concern.”

The factor behind the requirement for the suspension is a U.S. legislation as well as a different Pentagon purchase guideline that restrict using particular specialized steels or alloys created by details nations detailed in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation collection, which are China, Iran, North Korea and also Russia. The alloy concerned is a cobalt as well as samarium alloy “lately figured out to be generated in individuals’s Republic of China” as well as allured in the United States, according to the F-35 JPO.

The alloy is utilized in a magnet included in a Honeywell turbomachine that incorporates the airplane’s supporting power system as well as an air cycle device right into a solitary tool, which that gives power for ground upkeep, primary engine start-up and also emergency situation power. The magnet was given by a “fifth-tier” subcontractor to the produced of the lube pump, which consequently provides it to Honeywell.

“Honeywell has actually quit working with the distributor offering alloy, and also a different U.S. resource is currently on order with expected shipment following month,” stated Lockheed Martin spokesperson Laura Siebert. every one of the even more than 825 F-35 competitor jets supplied Much include the magnet made with the restricted Chinese alloy. The element has actually been utilized in the 5th gen airplane considering that 2003.

The F-35 will certainly currently require a nationwide safety and security waiver from the Pentagon’s leading purchase authorities, William LaPlante, to return to distributions of currently put together airplane consisting of the banned alloy. Something comparable currently took place a years earlier, when the Pentagon gave a waiver to Honeywell to utilize Chinese magnets in various other F-35 parts to avoid brand-new hold-ups as well as expense overruns. The F-35 JPO does not prepare for changing the magnets in the airplane currently supplied.

About Stefano D’Urso Stefano D’Urso is a self-employed reporter and also factor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A grad in Industral Engineering he’s additionally researching to accomplish a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions as well as OSINT methods put on the globe of existing problems and also armed forces procedures are amongst his locations of proficiency.

U.S. B-2 Spirit Bombers Have Deployed To Australia

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A B-2 on the ground at RAAF Base Amberley, Australia (Image credit: USAF)

Four B-2A stealth bombers have deployed to RAAF Base Amberley, Australia in the last couple of days.

The largest deployment of U.S. Air Force B-2A in recent times is currently underway in Australia where two pairs of Spirit aircraft have landed on Jul. 10 and 12, 2022. Supported on their way by several KC-135 and KC-10 tankers, the U.S. Air Force stealth bombers belonging to the 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, have landed at RAAF Base Amberley to support a Pacific Air Forces Bomber Task Force (BTF) deployment.

According to a Pacific Air Forces press release, the rotational Bomber Task Force operates in support of the Enhanced Cooperation Initiative under the Force Posture Agreement between the United States and Australia. In such context, the B-2s will conduct training missions and strategic deterrence missions with allies, partners and joint forces in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Noteworthy, the last time the B-2s deployed to the INDOPACOM area of responsibility as part of a BTF was in August 2020.

“This deployment of the B-2 to Australia demonstrates and enhances the readiness and lethality of our long-range penetrating strike force,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Kousgaard, 393rd Expeditionary Bomb Squadron commander in the press release. “We look forward to training and enhancing our interoperability with our RAAF teammates, as well as partners and allies across the Indo-Pacific as we meet PACAF objectives.”

Bomber Task Force operations are carried out almost routinely by U.S. Strategic Command across the globe “as a demonstration of U.S. commitment to collective defense and to integrate with Geographic Combatant Command operations and activities.” Indeed, it is quite likely the aircraft will launch extended deterrence mission towards China and the Korean peninsula from Australia.

“This deployment is in line with the National Defense Strategy’s objectives of strategic predictability and operational unpredictability. The BTF enables different types of strategic bombers to operate forward in the Indo-Pacific region from a broad array of overseas and Continental U.S. locations with greater operational resilience.”

As already mentioned, this deployment is remarkable since it involves four stealth bombers (valuable assets that, normally, deploy in smaller numbers, usually 2 or 3 airframes at a time) and because the last time the B-2s deployed to the INDOPACOM area of responsibility as part of a BTF was little less than 2 years ago, in August 2020.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.

Engines Of Australian P-8 MPA Ingest Chaffs Released by Chinese J-16 During “Very Dangerous” Intercept

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Engines Of Australian P-8 MPA Ingest Chaffs Released by Chinese J-16 During "Very Dangerous" Intercept
A data picture of a RAAF P-8A Poseidon(Photo: Royal Australian Air Force). In package, a PLAAF J-16(Image credit rating

: Chinese Military)The Chinese boxer jet crossed the Poseidon’s trajectory while launching chaffs, several of which where consumed by the engines. The occasion took place in worldwide airspace. The Australian Ministry of Defence simply divulged that a Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft was associated with a dangerous obstruct by a People’s Liberation Army Air Force J-16 competitor jet on May 26, 2022. When the event occurred, the Poseidon was doing a regular maritime security task in worldwide airspace over the South China Sea. Protection Minister Richard Marles stated the competitor jet initially

flew near to the side of the Poseidon and also launched chaffs.”The J-16 after that reduced as well as sped up throughout the nose of the P-8, working out before the P-8 at extremely close range,”he included. While executing this maneuver, the J-16 launched” a package of chaff”, several of which were consumed by the engines of the Poseidon. The P-8 had the ability to go back to base securely after the event. “The obstruct caused a hazardous manoeuvre which presented a safety and security danger to the P-8 airplane and also its staff. The Australian Government has actually increased its issues regarding the case with the Chinese Government,”claimed journalism declaration.”We were running entirely within our civil liberties and also global legislation. Fairly certainly this is really hazardous.”FlightGlobal had the ability to give some even more information, discussing that trip monitoring information recommends the event happened much to the south of China and also simply west of the Philippines. According to their information, the Australian P-8 included births the enrollment A47-008as well as was running from Clark Air Base in the Philippines, while it is feasible the Chinese J-16 was running from among the air bases China has actually improved atolls in the South China Sea.”The task of the P-8 type component of maritime security task which has actually been taken on by Australia in the South China Sea for years– various other nations do the exact same”, stated the Defence Minister. “I intend to make it additionally really clear that this event will certainly not discourage Australia from remaining to participate in these tasks, which are within our legal rights and also global legislation, to make certain that there is liberty of navigating in the South China Sea since that is basically in our country’s rate of interest. ” File image of PLAAF J-16 boxer jets.(Photo: Chinese armed forces)Whatever, making use of chaff as well as flares is not typical in this type of close experiences we observe fairly regularly around the globe. As explained by RC-135 airplane leader and also nationwide protection chronicler Robert Hopkins, making use of these countermeasures can create a physical damages to the obstructed airplane. Chaff or flares. Regardless they trigger physical damages varying from cosmetic to deadly. This is not some”cowboy”misjudging a close pass yet a willful physical strike on a plane in worldwide airspace. https://t.co/SxvDn2veB3– Robert Hopkins(@CobraBall3) June 5, 2022 This event comes couple of months after an additional occurrence, throughout with a People Liberation Army Navy battleship lit up with a laser a RAAF P-8. The ship, a Luyang-class led rocket destroyer, was cruising eastern via Australia’s Exclusive Economic Zone, in the Arafura Sea, in between the Northern Territory and also Papua, in business with one more PLA-N ship, a Yuzhao-class aquatic transportation dock. It’s significantadditionally the timing with an additional case. A Canadian CP-140 Aurora Maritime Patrol Aircraft was obstructed, additionally on May 26, while flying a United Nations-sanctioned goal versus North Korea in global airspace. The Canadian airplane was obstructed numerous times in the month prior to this event, with pilots needing to promptly steer to raise splitting up and also prevent a prospective crash with the obstructing airplane. The Canadian site Global News reported some even more information:” Those jets are regularly flying as close as 20 to 100 feet from the Canadian airplane, resources claim– so close that Canadian pilots can make eye

call with the Chinese pilots, as well as often see them increasing their center fingers. “The Canadian CP-140 Aurora has actually lately participated in Operation Neon, component of UN initiatives to check assents versus North Korea as well as stop the rogue country’s advancement of tools of mass damage. The airplane was flown often by numerous turning staffs released at Kadena Air Base, Japan, from April 26 to May 26, 2022. Remarkably, while the Canadian Government recognized the case a couple of days later on, the Australian Government just recognized the information regarding the

case with public declarations as the details got here to reporters with various other resources and after that requested verification. On Saturday the Australian DOD released a composed public declaration recognizing a harmful obstruct and afterwards today (ET time )recommendation there were flares released.– Mercedes Stephenson(@MercedesGlobal )June 5, 2022 Both occurrences occurred as China is remaining to raise its existence in the Asia-Pacific area as well as specifically in the South China Sea near Taiwan. A couple of days after these events, China made the 2nd biggest attack right into Taiwan’s air support recognition area( ADIZ)this year, with apparently 30 jets going into the location. Given that the start of the year, Taiwan has actually reported 465 attacks, with regarding a 50 %boost contrasted to the very same duration in 2015. About Stefano D’Urso Stefano D’Urso is a self-employed reporter and also factor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A grad in Industral Engineering he’s likewise examining to attain a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Digital Warfare, Loitering Munitions and also OSINT strategies related to the globe of existing problems as well as armed forces procedures are amongst his locations of know-how.

Allow’s Talk About The Chinese Y-20 Delivering Weapons To Serbia Recently

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Allow's Talk About The Chinese Y-20 Delivering Weapons To Serbia Recently
One of the 6 Y-20s landed in Belgrade(Image by means of @ 寰亚SYHP from Weibo). In package: the airplane tracked on adsbexchange by Evergreen Intel( @vcdgf555). The 6 Y-20 freight airplane landed in Belgrade to supply FK-3 surface-to-air projectiles as the Serbian armed forces remains to rearm. Throughout the evening in between April 8 as well as 9, 2022, 6 People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF )Y-20 freight airplanes all of a sudden shown up on trip monitoring internet sites over Turkey as well as gone to Europe. As it ended up, the airplane were headed to Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla International Airport, Serbia, where they landed to provide FK-3 surface-to-air projectiles, the export version of the HQ-22″Red Banner”SAM system. The Y-20 were very first tracked with MLAT(multilateration)north of Istanbul, Turkey, where several of them relatively made a gas quit, while a few other showed up to have actually landed at Baku flight terminal, Azerbaijan. The trips instantly captured the interest of trip trackers as it was uncommon to see this numerous Y-20 in trip at the very same time. More trips apparently showed up in Serbia over the following 2 days. Likely not the only one. PLAAF Y-20A 20049 # 7A4287 landed at Baku, Azerbaijan too 3 hrs back.

stating that the distribution does not target any kind of 3rd parties and also has absolutely nothing to do with the present scenario. Fascinating locate by @Prova_61 … In truth I have actually never ever seen prior to this, what seems the hatch got rid of for the chaff & flare dispenser boxes.(Images using @ 铁马军戈战沙场 from Weibo )pic.twitter.com/3xBOrkMlmI– @Rupprecht_A(@RupprechtDeino )April 9, 2022 Round 2? https://t.co/9F2ezDYrto– Evergreen Intel(@vcdgf555) April 10, 2022 The Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić did not validate at first the shipment of the FK-3, just discussing that he would certainly quickly offer”the latest satisfaction”of the Serbian armed force. Pushed by the media records, he later on launched a declaration which without a doubt validated the distribution of the SAMs, stating that the freshly gotten FK-3 anti-aircraft projectile system would certainly be openly presented at Batajnica Air Base on April 30 along with the Russian-made Pantsir projectile system. The offer for the FK-3 purchase has actually remained in the making a minimum of for 2 years, as in 2020 records arised regarding Serbia taking into consideration the procurement of the export version of the HQ-22 and also the UnitedStates

Kadena F-15s Flew CAPs With Live Missiles Near Taiwan After China Held Drills In The Region

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Kadena F-15s Flew CAPs With Live Missiles Near Taiwan After China Held Drills In The Region
One of the Kadena abdominal muscle’s F-15Cs touchdown at the end of a 7-hour patrol goal near Taiwan (Reader’s entry) China sent off frigates, bombing planes and also boxer around Taiwan as U.S. legislators checked out the island to reveal assistance; F-15C detected flying with Live tools at Kadena abdominal, Japan, as stress in the area expand. Images handled the mid-day of Apr. 16, 2022, reveal F-15C Eagles coming from the 44th as well as 67th Fighter Squadrons, touchdown at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan, lugging real-time AIM-120C AMRAAM as well as AIM-9M Sidewinder rockets. Among them additionally lugged a Lockheed Martin’s AN/AAQ -33 SNIPER ATP (Advanced Targeting Pod), whereas none had the Legion Pod furnished (brand-new to the 44th and also 67th as well as still in the onset of training). The airplane were going back to their homebase from a 7-hour goal throughout which they were sustained by 2 KC-135 vessels. A resource that wants to continue to be confidential verified us that the airplane became part of a bigger trip entrusted with CAPs(Combat Air Patrols)near Taiwan where China carried out army drills complying with a”intriguing”journey of a U.S. Congressional delegation to the island. On Friday Apr. 14, 6 legislators got here at Taipei SongShan Airport for a two-day browse through. USAF C40C SPAR15 en path to #Taiwan from Kadena abdominal muscle. pic.twitter.com/E5Y2Qs0Huj– Manu Gómez (@GDarkconrad)April

The China Eastern 737 Crash

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March 22, 2022

FIRST THINGS FIRST, it’s important to employ my usual post-crash disclaimer: When planes go down, initial speculation is often misguided and wrong. Early clues that appear straightforward and revealing turn out to be complicated and unclear.

All we know for certain is that China Eastern flight 5735 was cruising at 29,000 feet when something went disastrously awry. The jetliner, with 132 people aboard, fell into a high-speed plunge. Radar reports show that it leveled off briefly at around 8,000 feet, began a brief climb, then fell into a second plunge from which it never recovered, disintegrating into hilly terrain near the city of Wuzhou. There were no survivors.

The severity of the plunges, which were tracked by air traffic control radar, together with harrowing security camera footage showing the stricken jet in a vertical dive, offer some of those clues that we need to be careful with. Whatever went wrong, it happened quickly and catastrophically. There was no distress call.

This tells us a lot, but also it tells us nothing. Any number of things is possible, from a bomb to a flight control system somehow gone haywire. One cause being thrown around is “structural failure.” Did some portion of the tail or a stabilizer separate from the aircraft? Perhaps. But if so, why? Design flaw, faulty repair, explosive decompression? There can be layers to these things.

That the descent was temporarily arrested is the most interesting part. It suggests the pilots were able to maintain or regain some semblance of control, at least briefly. This lessens the probability of certain scenarios — a bombing or major structural failure, for example, the results of which tend to be a more consistent sort of plummet. Yet nothing can be ruled out entirely. A friend of mine even came up with a pilot suicide hypothesis that, although extremely unlikely, is nonetheless plausible

The plane was a Boeing 737-800. The -800 is one of the “Next Generation” (NG) 737 variants. It first flew in 1997, and today is one of the most popular jetliners in the world.

The 737-800 is not equipped with the stall avoidance system that led to the 737 MAX crashes a few years ago, but the jet has had a few problems over the years:

In 2005, a group of former Boeing employees filed a lawsuit claiming that some Next Generation 737s had been manufactured with defective parts. These parts, it was contended, may have contributed to the fuselage breakups of a Turkish Airlines 737 outside Amsterdam in 2009, and the nonfatal runway overrun of an American Airlines 737 in Jamaica that same year. The ex-employees lost their case, as well as their appeal. Investigators, including the NTSB, found no link between faulty parts and structural failure.

In 2019, fatigue cracks were discovered in the wing-fuselage attachment sections of approximately five percent of the global 737NG fleet, leading to a series of mandated inspections and repairs. But this applies primarily to older -800s that have exceeded a particular number of flight hours and cycles (takeoffs and landings). The airplane that crashed in China was only seven years-old.

A rudder defect was blamed for at least two 737 disasters in the 1990s, plus a number of nonfatal incidents. These were earlier-generation variants, however, and the plane’s rudder servo system was redesigned.

You might also come across articles highlighting the high number of incidents and accidents involving 737s over the decades. Be wary of how these numbers are presented (usually as raw totals, without meaningful statistical context), keeping in mind that more 737s have been built than any other jet.

And so, there’s nothing at this point to suggest flight 5735 was brought down by a design flaw or potential negligence on the part of the manufacturer. And while I’ve never been much a fan of the 737, it’s not because I consider the plane unsafe. No matter, the wolves are out for Boeing, and have been since the MAX crashes. With the company’s reputation in tatters, this couldn’t have come at a worse time, regardless of who or what is to blame.

“Boeing Faces New Upheaval After Crash of Chinese Airliner,” read a headline in yesterday’s New York Times. “No fault has been found,” the article continues, “but the company, which has been trying to overcome a recent legacy of design and production troubles, is likely to get scrutinized.”

It certainly will be. But let’s maybe not go that route until the facts are in. We live in a time when everyone wants quick and concise answers, I know. But air crash investigations take months, sometimes years. Even then, we don’t always learn the whole story.


— China’s domestic airline market is roughly as large as that of the United States. Once much maligned, the country’s aviation safety record has improved considerably over the last two decades and is now considered among the safest. China’s last major accident was a decade ago.

— In the old days, China had only one airline: the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), which was second only to Aeroflot in size. And like Aeroflot, it was eventually broken up, splintering off dozens of smaller independent carriers. One of those was China Eastern. Based in Shanghai, China Eastern is today the country’s second-largest airline, just behind China Southern, with a fleet of some 600 aircraft and a route structure extending to Europe and North America.

— We can thank the security-industrial complex for these furtive glimpses of crashing planes we’d otherwise never see. Pentagon, etc. Now this one.

— Those puffs of smoke visible in the video look to me like engine compressor stalls. Jet engines will not function properly in a vertical dive, effectively hiccuping.

— One upon a time, a plane crash in a foreign country killing 132 people would have been a relatively minor news story. What happened is obviously tragic, but the amount of attention that crashes receive nowadays helps underscore how rare they’ve become.



Check Out This Cool New Video of Chinese Navy Carrier Ops the Week They Launched 3 New Warships

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A Chinese J-15 Flying Shark launches off the new Type 002 aircraft carrier Shandong- (Photo: CCTV via YouTube)

Chinese Navy on A Tear to Assert Global Reach with New Carriers and Warships.

While the Chinese military has been on a tear of introducing new weapons systems and platforms, this past week was remarkable even compared to their recent pace of rapid military expansion.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy, or “PLAN”, launched three newly commissioned warships and released a fascinating new video showcasing operations on their newest and first domestically produced aircraft carrier, the Shandong Type 002 this past week.

The big week in Chinese Naval expansion raised eyebrows of military observers around the world as China exerts and expands influence in their own regional waters and also continues an effort to project power in the seas off Africa’s east coast.

Chinese Navy
The three new Chinese naval vessels at their combined launch ceremony last week. (Photo: via China Update/Chinese State Media)

The three new ships launched last week by the Chinese Navy include the nuclear-powered fleet ballistic missile submarine “Changzheng-18”. The new Changzheng-18, a Type 094A Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile platform, is somewhat comparable to, although about 20% shorter than, the U.S. Navy’s current Ohio Class fleet ballistic missile submarine. The Changzheng-18 carries 12 of China’s highly capable JL-2 SLBMs (Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile). The JL-2 SLBM or “Giant Wave 2” is a second-generation intercontinental range nuclear missile with up to three independent warheads and a range of 7,200 kilometers.

Chinese state media covering the launch of the three new ships were careful to characterize the Changzheng-18 nuclear fleet ballistic missile submarine as a weapon meant for “second strike” in retaliation for an initial attack against China, not an offensive weapon for first-strike power projection. Conversely, the new Yussan-Class “Hainan” Type 075 amphibious assault ship is more specifically configured for power projection and, according to state media, is, “used to land on enemy territories”. This ship is roughly analogous the U.S. Navy’s “America” and “Wasp” class of amphibious assault ship or “gator freighter”.

Chinese Navy Submarine
The new Chinese fleet ballistic missile submarine Changzheng-18 at its launch ceremony last week. (Photo: via China Update/Chinese State Media)

The mission of this ship is interesting given China’s recent military adventures in Africa, including the establishment of a military base in Djibouti in 2017. The Chinese military mission on the African continent is stated as including, “anti-piracy, intelligence collection, peacekeeping operations, counterterrorism and non-combat evacuation operations”.

The Chinese international counterterrorism and non-combatant evacuation missions in Africa were showcased in real life, and in popular Chinese action cinema during the March, 2015 rescue missions in Yemen. The Chinese military successfully rescued over 620 Chinese citizens and 270 foreign citizens in a series of daring operations conducted over 12 days in Djibouti by Chinese special forces and naval assets. In all, civilians from 15 different countries received rescue and aid from the Chinese military.

The daring real-world 2015 Chinese special operations rescue mission from local insurgents in Africa was dramatized (and embellished) in the wildly popular 2018 Chinese-Hong Kong action movie, “Operation Red Sea”. The movie was a smash-hit in China, grossing over 3.36 billion yuan ($531 million) at the box office in its opening weeks. “Operation Red Sea” became the third highest grossing Chinese film ever, according to the Chinese film database and ticketing platform Maoyan.

The third ship launched by the Chinese Navy last week was the new “Dalian” Type 055 destroyer. The Type 055 destroyer, also known as the “Renhai-Class Cruiser” by NATO, is an advanced, low-observable guided missile and air defense destroyer meant to accompany a carrier battle group. The ship also includes a significant anti-submarine warfare capability. The new Dalian and the previous two, and planned five more Renhai-Class/Type 055 ships are heavily armed with a 112-cell vertical launch missile system distributed on the fore and aft decks. The ship also packs an updated H/PJ-38 130mm naval gun and a Close-In Weapons System (CIWS) for missile and aircraft defense among other weapons.

Chinese Navy
A Chinese H/PJ-38 130mm deck gun as seen on deck of a Renhai-Class Type 055 destroyer of the same type launched earlier this week. (Photo: Xianwen Lianbo via Twitter)

In addition to the three new ship launches, Chinese state media network CCTV released an excellent new video showing flight operations and an insider’s look at the beautiful new aircraft carrier Shandong. The Shandong, China’s first domestically-produced aircraft carrier, was launched on April 26, 2017. The ship’s design is updated from previous Chinese carriers that were acquired from Russia. Shandong, however, is greatly advanced over previous Chinese carriers.

The new video shows a well-drilled crew presenting the ship’s features and an interesting look at how clean and advanced the new vessel is. There is also some great video of flight operations with Chinese J-15 Flying Shark aircraft.

The new ship launches and media not only emphasize China’s more open attitude about showcasing their increasing military capabilities, they also give further reason for most western observers to reconsider underestimating Chinese military capabilities. The idea that China’s naval, air and land-based military assets are somehow second-rate to western peers has rapidly become outdated and ill-informed as China continues impressive growth of their global military capabilities.

Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on TheAviationist.com, TACAIRNET.com, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.

Chinese H-6 Bombers Heard On Radio Confirming Orders For Simulated Attack On U.S. Aircraft Carrier Near Taiwan

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An H-6 taking off during Aviadart 2019 in Russia (All images: Giovanni Colla)

Unsurprisingly, the package of 13 Chinese combat aircraft, (including eight H-6 bombers) entering Taiwan’s ADIZ last Saturday were carrying out a mock attack on USS Theodore Roosevelt.

As already reported in detail, a total of 28 aircraft, including as many as eight PLAAF (People’s Liberation Army Air Force) H-6 bombers, “intruded” into Taiwan’s ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) between Jan. 23 and 24, 2021.

In particular, we noticed that the mission on Saturday Jan. 23, was conducted as the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG), led by USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier entered the South China Sea (SCS) “to conduct routine operations”.

At this respect, here’s the comment this Author made in a previous story on the spike in PLA activity near Taiwan as the U.S. flattop entered the same area of operations: “The simultaneous presence of the Chinese Xian H-6K in the region as the TRSG entered the SCS is particularly interesting, if we consider the role of the PLAAF bomber. The H-6K is a highly modified variant from the original H-6 bomber (itself a Tu-16 derivative), designed for long-range/stand-off maritime or land strike capability with long-range anti-ship and land-attack cruise missiles. In short, it is capable of attacking U.S. carrier battle groups or other priority targets with up to six YJ-12 ASCM (Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles) and 6/7 KD-20 ALCMs.”

Dealing with the YJ-12, it has a range of 400 km, can reach speeds of up to Mach 3, and is capable of performing airborne evasive maneuvers approaching the target: these features make this ASCM (Anti-Ship Cruise Missile) difficult for Aegis Combat Systems and SM-2 surface-to-air missiles that protect U.S. carrier strike groups.

A confirmation that the mission flown on Jan. 23 was simulating an air strike on the U.S. aircraft carrier comes from the Financial Times, that on Jan. 29, 2020 reported: “People familiar with intelligence collected by the US and its allies said the bombers and some of the fighter aircraft involved were conducting an exercise that used a group of US Navy vessels led by the carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in the same area as a simulated target. Pilots of H-6 bombers could be heard in cockpit conversations confirming orders for the simulated targeting and release of anti-ship missiles against the carrier, the people said.”

While not reported to be part of the mission last week, it’s worth mentioning that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force‘s has also developed a further variant of the H-6K, designated H-6N which was specifically designed as a ballistic missile launcher. Its primary weapon should be the CH-AS-X-13, also known as DF-21D, the air launched version of the DF-21 “Carrier Killer” Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (AShBM), reportedly with a range of 1450 km (780 NM), Mach 6 speed (some sources state even Mach-10) and a 600 kg (about 1300 lbs) payload.

Here’s what we wrote about the DF-21 in a previous article:

“The first reports about the existence of the DF-21D in 2010 sparked some concerns as Pentagon officials stated that, if the claims about the missile’s capabilities are true, the United States may not have a defense against it, as the maneuverable re-entry vehicle (MaRV) and the high speed could complicate the interception by air defense weapons. This led the U.S. Navy to potentiate the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System aboard ships in the Pacific Ocean while new advanced systems are developed. China reportedly test-fired two AShBM in the South China Sea in late August, one of them being a DF-21D.”

PLAAF H-6K taking part in Aviadart 2019.

Along with the H-6K/N, the Su-30 (and according to some sources also the J-16) multirole aircraft are able to carry out maritime strike missions using the Kh-31P and the YJ-91A anti-ship missiles.

The YJ-91, in particular, is an indigenous development of the Russian Kh-31P anti-radar missile. The YJ-91A (one of the two variants of the missile, the other one being an anti-radiation missile for SEAD missions), with sea-skimming capability: it cruises at no more than 20 metre above sea level and drops to lower altitude (7 metre) at the terminal stage. This attack altitude can be further reduced to just 1.2 metre above sea level, when the sea state allows. Its estimated range is about 50 km (31 miles). According to the book “Modern Chinese Warplanes” by Andreas Rupprecht, as an alternative to the YJ-91, Naval Aviation uses also the Russian original Kh-31P, which was acquired as part of the Su-30MKK’s weapons package.

By the way, the missions like the one flown by the Chinese H-6s are done by Russia, U.S. and NATO forces, regularly. “Train as you fight, fight as you train”.

H/T Ryan Chan for the heads up!

Yes, U.S. RC-135s Have Used Bogus Hex Codes To Transmit A False Identity. But It’s Not To Fool China Or Other Enemies.

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File photo of an RC-135 Rivet Joint, assigned to the 763rd Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, flies over Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. William Greer)

On Sept. 7, 2020, a USAF RC-135W Rivet Joint, registration 62-4134/OF, from Kadena, Japan, as “RAINY 51” carried out an intelligence gathering mission over the South China Sea. During the mission the aircraft flew off Hainan island and came as close as 55 miles from mainland China. While the sortie was pretty routine (the Rivet Joints just like many other ISR – Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance – aircraft conduct daily missions near hotspots all around the world), the one earlier this month made the news because, at a certain point during the flight, the American spyplane changed its hex code.

The hex code is a unique ICAO 24-bit address (part of the aircraft’s Certificate of Registration) used to identify the aircraft and broadcast by its Mode-S transponder. Normally, the hex code is never changed, but the onboard transponders can be re-programmed.

On Sept. 7, the RC-135 changed its hex code from the usual AE01CE to 750548, a code in the range assigned to Malaysia. Indeed, each nation has its own range of assigned hex codes: Malaysia has the range 750000 to 750FFF; the U.S. has the range A00000 to AFFFFF.

The use of a bogus hex code does not mean the aircraft disappeared from radars or was automatically considered a Malaysian airliner by the Chinese Air Defense: the aircraft remained very well visible on all the radars in that area while transmitting a false identifier. By electronically impersonating a Malaysian aircraft, the RC-135 could hardly fool China (or any other radar operator in any part of the world). In fact, air defense radars simply do not rely on the information autonomously transmitted by the aircraft for identification. A more complex correlation that includes checking on the FPL (Flight Plan), Diplomatic Clearance (DCN) and “history” of the track is required to correctly declare a track either “friendly” or “hostile”. When some of the details are missing hence identification can’t be done or there are doubts information provided might be inaccurate or false, a visual identification by fighter jets in QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) can be required, especially if the “zombie” (as the unknown/hostile traffic is called in the fighter lingo) is approaching or operating next to the sovereign airspace. No aircraft is identified or worse, fired upon, because of what its Mode-S transponder transmits.

For this reason, any report stating that the aircraft was trying to “hide from” or “fool” Chinese Air Defense does not make sense. Rivet Joint as well as any other ISR platform can legally operate with their transponder turned off outside of controlled airspaces without spoofing their transponders hex codes. As we have often explained here at The Aviationist, spyplanes (and drones) usually operate in “due regard” with transponder switched off, with no radio comms with the ATC control, using the concept of “see and avoid” where the pilot flying is responsible for avoiding all traffic conflicts, much like a VFR flight plan without flight following.

In other words: they could continue operating as they have done for decades without using fake hex codes that would not help them hide from enemy radars.

At this point is also worth spending some time explaining that when the aircraft turns its transponder off it does not become stealth: it only passively bounces radio waves sent by the radar becoming a “non-cooperating” target in a primary surveillance radar (PSR) scenario. The pulse of radio energy sent out by the radar is reflected by the surface of the target plane back to the receiver providing the bearing of the aircraft from the ground station and its distance (calculated as the time taken by the pulse to reach the target surface and return). Since only a fraction of the interrogation pulse is reflected back to the ground radar, the reply signal has a reduced range and is subject to signal attenuation. Hence, it can be difficult to detect. But for sure, it’s not “invisible”.

Back to the RC-135 episode, it’s also worth highlighting that the episode, that has made the news after the South Sea Probing Initiative, a Chinese think tank whose advisory board includes serving officers of the People’s Liberation Army and Chinese Navy, first announced the “impersonation”, was not the first time a Rivet Joint changed its hex code during a mission.

The first recorded case we are aware of dates back to February 2019:

In that case the Rivet Joint was conducting a spy mission off Venezuela. Same behaviour and same effect, with the main difference that the event did not fuel any crazy conspiracy theory.

Many other similar occurrences have been recorded since then.

The one on Sept. 7, was neither the first not the last such episodes. Other U.S. aircraft have started using spoofed hex codes:

As we write this, an RC-135 is using a bogus hex code during an operational mission from Souda Bay, Crete:

So why?

We have asked former RC-135 aircraft commander and national security historian Robert Hopkins to give us his point of view on the use of fake Mode-S codes by the Rivet Joints. Robert has operational experience with the S, U, V, W, and X models of the RC-135 so there is probably no better qualified expert to comment on this.

“USAF RC-135s have indeed been squawking bogus Mode S codes, but they are RANDOM, not intentional. That’s important to note,” told us Hopkins in a message. “There was an instance where ONE Mode S code apparently fell within the range assigned to Malaysia, but not specifically assigned to an airliner —just any Malaysian aircraft. At the same time, USAF RC-135s in the Black Sea have used random Mode S codes. These clearly do not attempt to mimic Malaysian airliners.”

“There is ZERO operational advantage, repeat ZERO advantage in doing this. It affords no better proximity nor protection for the RC-135. PERIOD”, the experienced pilot says.

Therefore, considered that it does not obfuscate operations to the adversary, why do they use bogus hex codes?

“My assessment is that someone has determined that using these random Mode S codes will confuse amateur OSINT trackers/Flight Radar followers from tracking RC-135s on their legal missions in international airspace. Instead, serious trackers note this discrepancy and report it, spawning no end of stupid conspiracy theories and drawing needless attention to missions that have been going on without incident for decades. This is a terrible decision by some clever person that only serves to undermine a legitimate and safe operation in international airspace.”

We have also asked Steffan Watkins, a Canadian open source research consultant specializing in ship and plane movements, a comment about the hex codes spoofing story.

“I think someone wrote a standard operating procedure (SOP) at some point, and figured obfuscating things was safer than not obfuscating things; but they’re not at war, and it doesn’t protect their operations, it only continues to feed conspiracy theories about planes’ transponders being a vector of obfuscation or cyber-attack; especially Malaysian-aircraft conspiracy theories about MH370 or MH17,” Watkins told us.

“American C-17 flights into Libya, which seem to not be reported in the American press, use their real ICAO, so I can’t explain why they would fake it for reconnaissance immediately off the coast of China, Syria, or Crimea for that matter. We have evidence from all three using spoofed identifiers, for over a year.”

Big fail in coping with OPSEC failures?

We have been writing about the possible OPSEC implications of improper use of ADS-B/Mode-S since 2011. Back then, there were just a few flight tracking websites and just a handful of military aircraft could be tracked online as most turned off their Mode-S transponders when approaching the operational areas. But not always. During the opening stages of the Libya Air War in 2011 some of the combat aircraft involved in the air campaign forgot/failed to switch off their mode-S or ADS-B transponder, and were clearly trackable on FR.24 or PF.net. And despite pilots all around the world already knew the above mentioned flight tracking websites very well, transponders remained turned on during real operations, making their aircraft clearly visible to anyone with a browser and an Internet connection.

As a consequence, we have highlighted the the risk of Internet-based flight tracking of aircraft flying war missions for years.

In 2014 we discovered that a U.S. plane possibly supporting ground troops in Afghanistan acting as an advanced communication relay can be regularly tracked as it circled over the Ghazni Province. Back then we explained that the presence of the aircraft over a sensitive target alone could expose an imminent air strike, jeopardizing an entire operation. But, as more aircraft became visible online thanks to websites and apps that did not hide combat aircraft (such as the now famous ADSBExchange.com), the use of Mode-S transponders has clearly become a way to “show the flag”: since “standard” air defense radars would have been able to see them regardless to whether they had the transponder on or off, RC-135s and other strategic ISR platforms, including the Global Hawks, began to operate over highly sensitive regions, such as Ukraine or the Korean Peninsula, with the ADS-B and Mode-S turned on, so that even commercial off the shelf receivers (or public tracking websites) could monitor them.

This has been the case at least until 2019, when the first cases of bogus hex codes have been recorded. The purpose was probably to keep a low profile on certain operations and disappear from the public eye (not from the enemy radars). But the effect, in the end, was quite the contrary.

Satellite Image Shows Chinese J-20 Mock Up At Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue in North Carolina

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A Google Earth image of MCALF Bogue shows the J-20 mock-up. (Image credit: The Aviationist using Google Earth imagery)

In December 2018, we were the first to report about a somehow weird sighting: a Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon at an airport in Georgia, US. We were also sent some images that indeed showed a J-20 replica and we geo-located the photographs as being taken in front of the USAF Air Dominance Center at the Savannah-Hilton Head International Airport, where the U.S. Air Force and Air Force reserve operate a number of aircraft.

A few days later, we also got the confirmation from the Col. Emmanuel Haldopoulos, Commander of the Savannah Air Dominance Center, that the aircraft, was “a full scale replica and remained at the Air Dominance Center for a short period during the week of 4-6 Dec [2018]. The USMC is funding and directing the training objectives of this device […]  wrote us.

The specific role of the realistic, full scale mock-up was not completely clarified by official U. S. Marine Corps sources. A statement to Marine Corps Times from Marine Corps Training and Education Command, or TECOM, said the mock-up Chinese aircraft we had spotted was used for visual and sensor training.

The Corps’ operating forces collaborated with Marine Corps Range and Training Area Management Branch to identify various threat systems to replicate.

“The initial aircraft mock-up identified was a J-20 fighter to develop as a proof of concept, with a plan to develop additional threat aircraft and vehicles in the future,” TECOM explained.

“The prototype was built by a contractor in LaGrange, GA and was moved to Air Dominance Center (ADC) Savannah, Georgia to evaluate the assembly and dis-assembly process, heat and light signatures, and prepare for movement to the chosen training area in North Carolina,” TECOM said.

It’s pretty common for both the U.S. Marine Corps and the USAF and USN to use realistic peer rival aircraft for training purposes or even for realistic aggressive opposing forces training. For instance, in 2018, the U.S. Marine Corps Air Ground Task Force Training Command filed a solicitation for contractors to provide Russian-built Mi-24 Hind attack helicopter, equipped with electronic tracking pods for integration into simulated combat exercises at the MCAS Yuma Range and Training Area (RTA) to serve as accurate opposing forces threat simulation aircraft. The same is done by the other U.S. services, including the U.S. Air Force, that operates two Mi-24s at Davis-Monthan AFB for dissimilar aerial training with HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters (and also trains with some secretive Su-27 inside Area 51, as we reported in details back in 2017).

The photo we obtained from a photographer who asked to remain anonymous in December 2018.

Anyway, we did not get any additional detail until we were suggested by one of our readers to have a look at the satellite imagery of Marine Corps Auxiliary Landing Field Bogue, or “Bogue Field”, an airfield that serves as a Marine Corps’ East Coast site for Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) and carrier qualification. The airfield is periodically visited by MCAS Cherry Point’s AV-8B+ Harrier jump jets as well as teams of the F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force teams conducting tests with the F-35B STOVL (Short Take Off Vertical Landing) variant of the Lightning II stealth jet that can carry out vertical landing maneuvers in simulated expeditionary conditions on the airfield.

Indeed, a J-20 replica can be clearly seen parked on the left border of the northern apron of Bogue Field. The photo dates back to March 12, 2019, so it was taken after the mock up was spotted in Georgia. We don’t know what kind of visual or sensor training it is supposed to support over there: it may be some kind of night/day attack jet or helicopter pod usage or long-range targeting in a simulated attack on an enemy airfield. Who knows?

Needless to say, despite being realistic, the full-scale mock up also embeds some inaccuracies, which become pretty evident from close distance. Andreas Rupprecht, an expert on Chinese military aviation, responding to our questions about the replica J-20 back in 2018, was the first to observe that the aircraft’s control surfaces had not moved while parked in a static position. He also noted that the exhaust nozzles looked inaccurate and the landing gear was different from a real Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon, a two engine fifth generation stealth aircraft developed by Chengdu Aircraft Industry Group for the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF).

Comparison of the Savannah-Hilton Head training mock-up photo (bottom) with a file photo of the Chengdu J-20 from China’s Defense Force. (Photo: Anonymous and Chinese Media.)

Whatever, as commented when we were officially confirmed the J-20 mock-up was USMC-owned, it’s interesting to note that the U.S. is not only replicating the Russian threats but is taking the emergence of Chinese weapons system seriously. Let’s see if any other Chinese replica is introduced as part of the US forces realistic adversary training in the near future.