Category Archives: Technology and Security

Admiral Kuznetsov Fiasco

The Trials and Tribulations of the Admiral Kuznetsov: A Fiasco

Russia’s experience with aircraft carriers and on-deck fighter aircraft has been expensive, frustrating and has not really helped Russia project power. About the only thing so far demonstrated is the gullibility of the Western press in its alarmist stories.

READ THE WHOLE STORY ON BRYEN’S BLOG

http://www.bryensblog.com/trials-tribulations-admiral-kuznetsov-fiasco/#more-773

 

An American Solution to Cyber Insecurity

If Donald Trump wants to take one important, indeed, vital step he will create a well-funded new Cyber Security Agency that is free of NSA and other deeply compromised interests.

by Stephen Bryen

The possible solution to escalating cyber insecurity has been staring us in the face for a long time.  But the road has not been taken because most companies that manufacture electronics today build the stuff in Asia, primarily in China.  This has created an unprecedented risk, because China is not at all adverse to bugging just about any product they can get their hands on.  Consequently everything from computers, cameras, routers, flash memories and smart TVs are potential targets for the Chinese government to exploit.

But, as any half decent cyber expert can tell you, when you put a backdoor, or a bot, or just a hole in the code, once discovered it can be exploited by almost anyone smart enough to find it.

This is exactly what NSA has been doing for years, as leaks by Edward Snowden have shown in a conclusive manner, by presenting NSA’s Power Point presentation of how it has bugged just about everything.

But what may be good for the spying community is not good for national security. It leaves the entire critical infrastructure of the United States –power systems, communications, military, government, transportation, water and food supply– vulnerable to attack.  It is well known that foreign entities have been targeting the critical infrastructure, carrying out many “dry runs” and also stealing sensitive information of all kinds –personnel records, medical information, law enforcement data, designs for vital defense systems, nuclear secrets –the list has no end.

Because cyber policy is made by NSA and that is a big problem.  NSA cannot be the guarantor of security and insecurity at the same time.  If Donald Trump wants to take one important, indeed, vital step he will create a well-funded new Cyber Security Agency that is free of NSA and other deeply compromised interests.

So let’s say President Elect Trump agrees to support a new Cyber Security Agency.  What will it do?

Security is only possible with trusted systems; it is impossible if the systems are made up of commercial off the shelf products (COTS).

Starting in the mid-1980’s the Pentagon began shifting procurement wherever possible in favor of COTS.  There were immediate benefits: better technology, more rapid product evolution and lower procurement cost.  The US government followed the Pentagon model, and today virtually every department and agency, from the CIA to Agriculture, from Homeland Security to the Army, from Health and Human Services to Social Security, all use COTS.  That is why all of them have been targets for hackers.

The threat is in two major dimensions: the ability to shut down and kill systems, or fill them with false information; and the ability to steal just about all the information   the government holds, from tax returns to the design of stealth aircraft.

No one has yet been able to make any government or critical infrastructure system secure or safe.  In fact, all the evidence points exactly in the opposite direction: attacks on systems have grown exponentially and the time it takes to know a system has been compromised as grown from a few minutes to months, even years.  Thus the free bonanza of sensitive information and American technology is stolen with brazen ease.  In short, cyber security is a total failure.

The new Cyber Security Agency needs to change the paradigm to have any chance to fix the problem.

The first thing to know is that COTS cannot be the source of any solution.

COTS today is

  1. designed through a globalized process where the work can be done on any continent and by teams of designers who speak different languages and have different interests and pressures;
  2. even when developed on US soil, there is considerable risk because the employees are recruited from all over the world and many are here on special visas and are not citizens
  3. there is considerable use of so-called open source solutions because most of them are free; but open source is done by international groups with no accountability, one of the reasons the infamous heart bleed bug ravaged US systems
  4. hardware is manufactured abroad with a majority of the equipment and parts produced in China;
  5. even reliable Asian producers such as Taiwan, Japan and South Korea outsource much of their product manufacturing to China and use low-cost Chinese engineers and technicians for design work and production

A Cyber Security Agency needs to develop and support a new approach that would

  1.  Develop a new generation of product –hardware, firmware, software– for use by the US government, military and trusted parts of the critical infrastructure;
  2. Use only vetted Americans to execute the designs
  3. Manufacture only in the United States in secure facilities owned by Americans
  4. Build a system that works on recognized security principles, is compartmented, and is available to users only on a need to know basis (no Snowdens)
  5. Use multilayers encryption throughout the system and for all kinds of information, not just so-called classified or sensitive information
  6. Apply the new technology to computers, computer networks and SCADA controllers

Obviously the new systems would not use any open source code.  The system would be triple redundant to guard against any failure (today’s systems are generally not redundant).  The government will have to estimate the risk of using cloud-based computing and any cloud system authorized has to be under US government control and not shared with any cloud users who are not authorized  and not part of the government, military or critical infrastructure.

The above steps would move quickly so that in as little as 5 years the entire government and critical infrastructure cyber systems can be replaced.

The Cyber Security Agency will be responsible for creating the hardware, firmware and software.  Funding needed is anticipated to be in the $3 to $5 billion range (not counting procurement of new platforms and ancillary equipment by agencies).  The development cost is thought to be less than what today is being spent by the government on failed cyber security solutions.

The Cyber Security Agency will also be responsible to recommend to the President retaliation against malefactors at home and abroad.  In the case of hacking attempts in the United States, it is proposed that the criminal part of the law be substantially strengthened and the Justice Department and FBI encouraged to prosecute those attempting to hack US systems.  In every case, the charges against wrong doers would be Federal charges, and the punishment would be served in Federal prisons.

In regard to foreign-generated attacks on the government, military or critical infrastructure there are two important principles: (1) without exception the government of a foreign country where a cyber attack originates will be held responsible for the attack and the US will demand that the perpetrators be arrested and extradited to the United States; (2) where a foreign country refuses to cooperate, the full range of retaliation against the institutions of that government can be recommended by the Cyber Security Agency to the President.

This is superior to the current system which apparently relies on a Pentagon-created approach called Plan X.  There is little or no public evidence that Plan X has been useful or effective.  The Pentagon should certainly have the capability to execute orders to retaliate from the White House, but the recommendation should initially come from the Cyber Security Agency and be agreed by the National Security Council and the President.

__________________________________

VISIT BRYEN’S BLOG

We will soon be phasing out Technology and Security.  

Join us, instead, at Bryen’s Blog.

Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tagged , , ,

A Look at the Trump Victory

 “Social media turned out to be the cure for a rotten and corrupt media and replaced newspapers and TV to a large extent.”

 by Stephen Bryen

Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States totally vindicates his strategy and his understanding of the electorate which was far superior to his opponent.

There are two interesting factors in the election:

  1. Trump was not afraid of the media which he saw as deeply corrupt and biased against him –so much so that at virtually every rally he pointed an accusatory finger at the media in the hall or field where he was speaking.  This was truly revolutionary because conventional wisdom says attacking the media is a recipe for political disaster.  Trump proved otherwise.
  2. Trump also demonstrated that People in America no longer believe “conventional” news sources, where conventional is defined as reporters or elitist pundits writing stories and opinion that most Americans found offensive and intentionally misleading.

The truth is the American election was not driven by the media, neither print nor television.

Part of the story is surely in America’s newspapers that  supported Hillary Clinton and disparaged Donald Trump.  Even some Republican newspapers, such as the Washington Times, had trouble figuring out Trump and did not openly support him.

But it didn’t matter for the simple reason that people stopped reading newspapers.  One of the reasons that newspapers are in trouble in the United States is because people generally see them as unfriendly to their interests and unfair in their reporting.  It is no wonder, therefore, that top newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and New York Times are in serious financial difficulty.  If you want readership you need to speak the language of your readers.  In the case of the New York Times it has been a very costly decline, almost to the point of facing a liquidation.  Oddly, the New York Times election estimates were perhaps the best available in the country.  Too bad their readers have flown the coop.

The same is also true of TV.  The worst of the TV outlets was CNN but the others, excepting Fox New among the major outlets, were just as bad.  That is why people who wanted to hear what Trump had to say started tuning in Trump rallies on YouTube.  There they could get information first hand without media bias.

The polls were also wrong with two exceptions that the media heavily discounted.  This is what the polls predicted just before the voting started:

NBC/SM: Clinton +6
Ipsos: Clinton +4
NBC/WSJ: Clinton +4
ABC/WaPo: Clinton +4
Herald: Clinton +4
Bloomberg: Clinton +3

People did not believe the polls, and there is a strong probability that the polls did not measure the actual voters who voted or capture those who would not show up to vote or told the pollsters what they wanted to hear but not what the voter actually did when casting his or her ballot.

YouTube’s coverage of Trump rallies was very interesting and popular online even though Trump was typically an hour or more late arriving at his rallies.  The cameras clearly showed the massive attendance and enthusiasm for Trump that exceeded all expectations, even Trump’s.  Another most interesting feature of the YouTube available coverage is that the Twitter feed was shown on the right side of the screen as Trump spoke.  There were so many “Tweets” that it was hard to keep up with the volume, and almost all of it was strongly pro-Trump.  To me this was the first indication that Trump was dominating in the social media. Indeed, the social media turned out to be the cure for a rotten and corrupt media and replaced newspapers and TV to a large extent.

Ironically, Trump’s big win on social media, on Facebook and Twitter especially must have been an incredible slap in the face of the Silicon Valley boys who invented social media in the first place.  Google and Facebook, for example, spent millions pumping up Hillary Clinton’s campaign, but to no avail.  Google even shaped the news on its Google News outlet so that Trump looked like a loser.  It didn’t work.

One of the things the Democrats were hoping for was supplying illegals and ex-convicts to polling planes in key cities in order to swing the election.  California welcomed illegals voting; Virginia gave amnesties to criminals in exchange for their votes for Clinton, a patently illegal move that deserves a look by a new and reformed Justice Department. But it did not do the job because, in most cases the Democrats did not turn out.  There was little enthusiasm for Clinton.

Trump’s biggest problem going forward is not the Democrats but the establishment forces in his own party.  Most of the difficulty will be over economic issues, since on most other questions the way forward for Trump among Republicans will be easier.  As for foreign policy, President Putin has already opened the door for dialogue and it is likely that Trump will seek some sort of accommodation with Russia, mostly because right now the US is not in a position to get into a fist fight with the Russians.  Instead, America must focus on rebuilding the military and, perhaps getting rid of costly programs that are bankrupting us here in the United States.

 

 

 

 

Tagged , , , ,

Iran and MH370 Now on Bryen’s Blog

There is a strong circumstantial case that what happened with MH370 was covered up by Malaysian authorities who were being extorted by Iranian-backed terror organizations.

Likewise there is strong evidence to point to Iranian-backed terrorism as the cause of the crash of MH370.

To learn more, you can read the story here on Bryen’s Blog.

 

Tagged , ,

Visit Bryen’s Blog

I have a new blog and I invite you to visit it.

There you will find interesting articles –more than I can post on this site.

Although it was just introduced, Bryen’s Blog is getting a lot of attention.

bryensbloglogo2

I will continue to offer articles here, but much more will appear on my new blog.

Thank you for your participation and friendship.

Tagged ,

Iran Pulled the Trigger on the Mason and Ponce

by Stephen Bryen and Rear Admiral Norman Saunders (USCG, ret.)

Originally Published in American Thinker

A big question surrounding missile attacks against two U.S. ships — the USS Mason and USS Ponce— is whether it was the Yemeni rebel Houthis (also known as Ansar Allah) who did it? Or, instead, did Iran carry out the attacks? A related question is what were these U.S. ships doing near the Bab el-Mandab straits in the Red Sea? The Ponce is, admittedly, an at-sea forward staging base.

Iran has been harassing U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf for some time, and on each occasion the Iranians appear to have been bolder in what looks like a naval game of chicken. So much so that most recently Iranian fast boats equipped with missiles and torpedoes literally parked in front of the U.S. destroyer Nitze, forcing it to alter course to avoid a collision. But that is not nearly as serious the as events that unfolded starting on October 1st. Early in the morning the Houthis fired a C-802 missile that hit the HSV-2 Swift, a very fast and relatively large catamaran ship originally built by Incat in Australia. Acquired by the U.S. Navy in 2003, the Navy’s Sealift Command operated the vessel for ten years. Then it went out of service in 2013, replaced by another Incat-built catamaran. In an unusual move, in fact a strange one, the Sealift Command leased the Swift to a UAE organization called the National Marine Dredging Company. According to various news reports, the Swift was shuttling supplies and passengers between the UAE and Eritrea on the one hand and Aden on the other. So-called independent experts speaking on Iranian TV say that the Swift was moving troops from a training base in Eritrea to Aden, controlled by the Hadi government (Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi) backed by Saudi Arabia and its allies. According to Aden, the ship was evacuating wounded persons and bringing in humanitarian supplies.

The problem is that the Swift was nowhere near Aden. It was just off the coast of Houthi-controlled areas north of the Ban el-Mandab close to the Port of Mocha.

As acknowledged by the Houthis, they fired on the Swift and caused almost catastrophic damage. There is a video of the attack that appears to have been made from a small skiff. The video shows the missile launch and the missile hitting the target. The Swift is very close by. What follows is a terrific explosion and fire. The Swift did not sink, but it did burn. According to reports from some of the crew who survived the attack, another small boat fired at the survivors with a machine gun as they fled the Swift. The Houthis declared they used a C-802 missile to hit the Swift.

We do not know how many died or were wounded in the attack on the Swift. The Swift crew was working on a contract basis and many of them came from elsewhere (e.g., Ukraine, Poland, India). No one has said how many passengers it was carrying (it can hold more than one hundred).

The C-802 is a major threat to shipping in the Persian Gulf, in the Mediterranean, in the Red Sea and elsewhere. The C-802 is an evolved C-801, both produced in China. The C-802 has a very small radar cross section, is hard to jam, and has decent range. China has supplied these missiles to Iran, and the Iranians, in turn, supplied them to operators including Hizb’allah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen.

On 14 July 2006 the Israel ship, the INS Hanit, off the Lebanon coast, was struck by a C-802 missile. The Israelis said, afterwards, that the defense systems on the Hanit, a Saar V class fast boat, were turned off. One sailor was killed and three sailors were missing.

The warhead of the C-802 is designed to fragment to cause additional damage and is known as an explosively formed penetrator (EFP) warhead. Photos of the Swift hull, after the missile strike and fire, show a signature typical of an EFP round.

Why would the Houthis attack the Swift? One reason is that the Saudi coalition had carried out an air strike on a very large funeral in Sana’a, killing more than a hundred. The Saudi-led attack used U.S. Paveway II laser-guided bombs and Saudi and coalition planes hit the building where the funeral was held a number of times. No surrounding buildings were damaged. What was the Saudi objective: surely it was to decapitate a good part of the Houthi leadership. In fact, the Saudis have now admitted that they were trying to kill the Houthi leadership but had bad intelligence that the funeral was filled with women and children.

The Swift, an unarmed ship, was, in the eyes of the Houthis, engaged in military supply and support operations and its mission may have been to land specially trained forces to follow up on the funeral attack. So from a Houthi perspective, the target would appear as an appropriate response to the attack on the Sana’a funeral.

From what we can discern, the C-802 that hit the Swift was probably fired from a small patrol boat. That leads to the suspicion that the Iranians may have been involved, since the Iranians, not the Houthis, have patrol boats equipped with C-802 missiles. Those fast patrol boats belong to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy.

It is well known that Iran is engaged, up to its armpits or beyond, in supporting the Houthis. It is, for Iran, a double or triple proxy war. It is a war against Sunni infidels epitomized by the Arab Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia. The Houthis are Sh’ia, not Sunni, and so are the Iranians. It is a war to take control of Yemen and with it control over the entrance to both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. And it is a war against the all-around infidel, the United States and its allies.

From the Iranian point of view, and certainly that of the Revolutionary Guard, it is the United States that is blocking Iran from controlling the Persian Gulf and Red Sea commerce. In regard to Yemen and the coastline and Bab el-Mandab straits, the U.S. has been absolutely clear that the U.S. Navy mission is to keep them open for international shipping.

Thus the two or possibly three subsequent events, the firing of anti-ship missiles aimed at the USS Mason and USS Ponce, represents a qualitative escalation in the competition between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the U.S. Navy. The Houthis were quick to say that while they took credit for the Swift attack they did not attack the U.S. warships.

There were two sets of missiles fired on two different days coming from the Yemeni shoreline north of the Bab el-Mandab strait. In the first attack, aimed at the USS Mason, the Mason responded by trying to intercept the incoming missiles.To accomplish this the Mason fired two SM-2 Standard missiles and one Evolved Seasparrow missile. The Mason also launched a Nulka anti-ship missile decoy, designed to provide a false radar target to the incoming missiles. Whether any of these systems worked is not known. The first missile attack apparently fell short of the target, an odd result since the attacking missiles had plenty of range. A day later there was a second attack, thought to have targeted the Mason and the USS Ponce. Those missiles did not hit their targets either. After consultations with Washington, the president authorized a retaliatory Tomahawk cruise missile attack on the radar sites thought to be actively supporting the failed missile strikes. The U.S. knocked out three sites, according to the Pentagon. One or two were located at the Mokha port (which is where the Swift was operating near the shore) and the other further north at al-Hudaydah. While it is not completely certain, it appears that the missiles fired at the U.S. ships were Chinese-made Silkworms, known as the Hai Ying (Hy) CSSC-3. This is a good-sized missiles and carries a 325 kg shaped-charge armor-piercing warhead, making it very destructive. Many Hy-2 Silkworms have been delivered to Middle Eastern countries including Iran. Yemen never had them, meaning the missiles fired were almost certainly from Iranian stockpiles.

The Silkworm is less accurate than the C-802. It is claimed the U.S. ships were in international waters at the time of the attack, suggesting that the ships were at least 12 miles from the Yemeni shore. That is quite different from the attack on the Swift, which took place in very close quarters, perhaps no more than half a mile between the launch and the target. This may help explain in part why the shots missed. Or it could have been U.S. countermeasures. Or, perhaps they were never intended to hit the U.S. ships.

On Sunday, October 16, the USS Mason reported a possible third attack with multiple missiles, either from land bases or from the sea, and deployed countermeasures. But subsequent reports suggest this may have been a false alarm.

Until these attacks, Iran’s policy was to harass U.S. military ships and, wherever possible, embarrass them in front of both the Arabs and Iranians in the region. The U.S., to a degree, facilitated the Iranian scheme by extracting no price for the taunting, even when U.S. Navy sailors were captured and taken prisoner and forced into phony confessions.

So what would cause the Iranians to decide to shoot missiles at, or at least near, U.S. warships?

1.) The Saudi coalition funeral attack was seen by Iran (as it was by the Saudis) as a major attempt to decapitate the Houthi government. Iran would surely believe, watching U.S. drone attacks against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS, that the Houthis were in for the same treatment. With the risk that the Houthis insurgency would collapse, Iran would be the loser and America the winner. In addition, it would appear to the Iranians with the presence of the Ponce and the operations of the Swift, that the funeral bombing was going to be followed up by special operations forces going in to kill any remaining Houthi leaders. Thus, the Iranians would believe that they would have to act dramatically to thwart U.S. plans.

2.) By firing on U.S. warships from Houthi-controlled territory, the Iranians had plausible deniability that it was they who pulled the trigger. In this way the U.S. military would be pushed back with only a small risk to Iran. And, in fact, the U.S. response was so benign, knocking out some obsolete radar sites, that the Iranians would have to conclude that they pulled off quite a coup against the U.S. To add fat to the argument fire, the U.S. said it was convinced that all the attacks were Houthi. Nothing was said about Iranians, probably because the administration is still covering the Iranians for fear of losing the nuclear deal.

3.) Had a U.S. warship been hit by a missile, even a supine U.S. government would have to carry out a significantly more drastic retaliation. The entire scenario would be different and far more dangerous with an unpredictable outcome. This leads inexorably to the conclusion that the Iranians killed their own missiles before they would hit a U.S. warship, or at least made sure they were badly aimed and could not strike an American vessel. In other words, the game of chicken escalated, but not at a tipping point.

4.) To make clear that Iran was not going to stand by and let the U.S. roll up the Houthis, Iran also moved two of its ships — a frigate (the Alvand) that is equipped with C-802 missiles and torpedoes and a large auxiliary ship (the Bushehr) to the Yemen coast in waters where the U.S. was operating. While no match for U.S. ships, the aging Alvand demonstrated that Iran would stand by the Houthis.

Iran’s ploy paid off. The U.S. response to attacks on its ships was minimal. Iran was successful, at least so far, in protecting the Houthi regime and keeping the U.S. fleet at bay, at very low cost. As a result, the U.S. comes out the loser again.

Dr. Stephen Bryen is a former senior Defense Department official and author of Technology Security and National Power: Winners and Losers (Transaction Publications).

Rear Admiral Norman T. Saunders, USCG (Ret) is a veteran of 35 years of Coast Guard service. Norm consults on homeland security, homeland defense, border security, port and maritime security and maritime domain awareness.

A big question surrounding missile attacks against two U.S. ships ( the USS Mason and USS Ponce) is whether it was the Yemeni rebel Houthis (also known as Ansar Allah) who did it? Or, instead, did Iran carry out the attacks? A related question is what were these U.S. ships doing near the Bab el-Mandab straits in the Red Sea? The Ponce is, admittedly, an at-sea forward staging base.

Iran has been harassing U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf for some time, and on each occasion the Iranians appear to have been bolder in what looks like a naval game of chicken. So much so that most recently Iranian fast boats equipped with missiles and torpedoes literally parked in front of the U.S. destroyer Nitze, forcing it to alter course to avoid a collision. But that is not nearly as serious the as events that unfolded starting on October 1st. Early in the morning the Houthis fired a C-802 missile that hit the HSV-2 Swift, a very fast and relatively large catamaran ship originally built by Incat in Australia. Acquired by the U.S. Navy in 2003, the Navy’s Sealift Command operated the vessel for ten years. Then it went out of service in 2013, replaced by another Incat-built catamaran. In an unusual move, in fact a strange one, the Sealift Command leased the Swift to a UAE organization called the National Marine Dredging Company. According to various news reports, the Swift was shuttling supplies and passengers between the UAE and Eritrea on the one hand and Aden on the other. So-called independent experts speaking on Iranian TV say that the Swift was moving troops from a training base in Eritrea to Aden, controlled by the Hadi government (Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi) backed by Saudi Arabia and its allies. According to Aden, the ship was evacuating wounded persons and bringing in humanitarian supplies.

The problem is that the Swift was nowhere near Aden. It was just off the coast of Houthi-controlled areas north of the Ban el-Mandab close to the Port of Mocha.

As acknowledged by the Houthis, they fired on the Swift and caused almost catastrophic damage. There is a video of the attack that appears to have been made from a small skiff. The video shows the missile launch and the missile hitting the target. The Swift is very close by. What follows is a terrific explosion and fire. The Swift did not sink, but it did burn. According to reports from some of the crew who survived the attack, another small boat fired at the survivors with a machine gun as they fled the Swift. The Houthis declared they used a C-802 missile to hit the Swift.

swiftholes3

The burned out Swift after the attack

We do not know how many died or were wounded in the attack on the Swift. The Swift crew was working on a contract basis and many of them came from elsewhere (e.g., Ukraine, Poland, India). No one has said how many passengers it was carrying (it can hold more than one hundred).

The C-802 is a major threat to shipping in the Persian Gulf, in the Mediterranean, in the Red Sea and elsewhere. The C-802 is an evolved C-801, both produced in China. The C-802 has a very small radar cross section, is hard to jam, and has decent range. China has supplied these missiles to Iran, and the Iranians, in turn, supplied them to operators including Hizb’allah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen.

iranianc802

An Iranian C-802 fired from a mobile launcher

On 14 July 2006 the Israel ship, the INS Hanit, off the Lebanon coast, was struck by a C-802 missile. The Israelis said, afterwards, that the defense systems on the Hanit, a Saar V class fast boat, were turned off. One sailor was killed and three sailors were missing.

The warhead of the C-802 is designed to fragment to cause additional damage and is known as an explosively formed penetrator (EFP) warhead. Photos of the Swift hull, after the missile strike and fire, show a signature typical of an EFP round.

Why would the Houthis attack the Swift? One reason is that the Saudi coalition had carried out an air strike on a very large funeral in Sana’a, killing more than a hundred. The Saudi-led attack used U.S. Paveway II laser-guided bombs and Saudi and coalition planes hit the building where the funeral was held a number of times. No surrounding buildings were damaged. What was the Saudi objective: surely it was to decapitate a good part of the Houthi leadership. In fact, the Saudis have now admitted that they were trying to kill the Houthi leadership but had bad intelligence that the funeral was filled with women and children.

The Swift, an unarmed ship, was, in the eyes of the Houthis, engaged in military supply and support operations and its mission may have been to land specially trained forces to follow up on the funeral attack. So from a Houthi perspective, the target would appear as an appropriate response to the attack on the Sana’a funeral.

From what we can discern, the C-802 that hit the Swift was probably fired from a small patrol boat. That leads to the suspicion that the Iranians may have been involved, since the Iranians, not the Houthis, have patrol boats equipped with C-802 missiles. Those fast patrol boats belong to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy.

It is well known that Iran is engaged, up to its armpits or beyond, in supporting the Houthis. It is, for Iran, a double or triple proxy war. It is a war against Sunni infidels epitomized by the Arab Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia. The Houthis are Sh’ia, not Sunni, and so are the Iranians. It is a war to take control of Yemen and with it control over the entrance to both the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. And it is a war against the all-around infidel, the United States and its allies.

From the Iranian point of view, and certainly that of the Revolutionary Guard, it is the United States that is blocking Iran from controlling the Persian Gulf and Red Sea commerce. In regard to Yemen and the coastline and Bab el-Mandab straits, the U.S. has been absolutely clear that the U.S. Navy mission is to keep them open for international shipping.

ponce

USS PONCE (AFSB(I) 15) “Proud Lion”

Thus the two or possibly three subsequent events, the firing of anti-ship missiles aimed at the USS Mason and USS Ponce, represents a qualitative escalation in the competition between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and the U.S. Navy. The Houthis were quick to say that while they took credit for the Swift attack they did not attack the U.S. warships.

There were two sets of missiles fired on two different days coming from the Yemeni shoreline north of the Bab el-Mandab strait. In the first attack, aimed at the USS Mason, the Mason responded by trying to intercept the incoming missiles.To accomplish this the Mason fired two SM-2 Standard missiles and one Evolved Seasparrow missile. The Mason also launched a Nulka anti-ship missile decoy, designed to provide a false radar target to the incoming missiles. Whether any of these systems worked is not known. The first missile attack apparently fell short of the target, an odd result since the attacking missiles had plenty of range.

nulka-decoy-500-5

Nulka decoy (note antennas at the top of the decoy being launched)

silkworm-launched

A silkworm missile launched from a mobile vehicle.

A day later there was a second attack, thought to have targeted the Mason and the USS Ponce. Those missiles did not hit their targets either. After consultations with Washington, the president authorized a retaliatory Tomahawk cruise missile attack on the radar sites thought to be actively supporting the failed missile strikes. The U.S. knocked out three sites, according to the Pentagon. One or two were located at the Mokha port (which is where the Swift was operating near the shore) and the other further north at al-Hudaydah. While it is not completely certain, it appears that the missiles fired at the U.S. ships were Chinese-made Silkworms, known as the Hai Ying (Hy) CSSC-3. This is a good-sized missiles and carries a 325 kg shaped-charge armor-piercing warhead, making it very destructive. Many Hy-2 Silkworms have been delivered to Middle Eastern countries including Iran. Yemen never had them, meaning the missiles fired were almost certainly from Iranian stockpiles.

The Silkworm is less accurate than the C-802. It is claimed the U.S. ships were in international waters at the time of the attack, suggesting that the ships were at least 12 miles from the Yemeni shore. That is quite different from the attack on the Swift, which took place in very close quarters, perhaps no more than half a mile between the launch and the target. This may help explain in part why the shots missed. Or it could have been U.S. countermeasures. Or, perhaps they were never intended to hit the U.S. ships.

On Sunday, October 16, the USS Mason reported a possible third attack with multiple missiles, either from land bases or from the sea, and deployed countermeasures. But subsequent reports suggest this may have been a false alarm.

Until these attacks, Iran’s policy was to harass U.S. military ships and, wherever possible, embarrass them in front of both the Arabs and Iranians in the region. The U.S., to a degree, facilitated the Iranian scheme by extracting no price for the taunting, even when U.S. Navy sailors were captured and taken prisoner and forced into phony confessions.

So what would cause the Iranians to decide to shoot missiles at, or at least near, U.S. warships?

1.) The Saudi coalition funeral attack was seen by Iran (as it was by the Saudis) as a major attempt to decapitate the Houthi government. Iran would surely believe, watching U.S. drone attacks against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS, that the Houthis were in for the same treatment. With the risk that the Houthis insurgency would collapse, Iran would be the loser and America the winner. In addition, it would appear to the Iranians with the presence of the Ponce and the operations of the Swift, that the funeral bombing was going to be followed up by special operations forces going in to kill any remaining Houthi leaders. Thus, the Iranians would believe that they would have to act dramatically to thwart U.S. plans.

2.) By firing on U.S. warships from Houthi-controlled territory, the Iranians had plausible deniability that it was they who pulled the trigger. In this way the U.S. military would be pushed back with only a small risk to Iran. And, in fact, the U.S. response was so benign, knocking out some obsolete radar sites, that the Iranians would have to conclude that they pulled off quite a coup against the U.S. To add fat to the argument fire, the U.S. said it was convinced that all the attacks were Houthi. Nothing was said about Iranians, probably because the administration is still covering the Iranians for fear of losing the nuclear deal.

3.) Had a U.S. warship been hit by a missile, even a supine U.S. government would have to carry out a significantly more drastic retaliation. The entire scenario would be different and far more dangerous with an unpredictable outcome. This leads inexorably to the conclusion that the Iranians killed their own missiles before they would hit a U.S. warship, or at least made sure they were badly aimed and could not strike an American vessel. In other words, the game of chicken escalated, but not at a tipping point.

4.) To make clear that Iran was not going to stand by and let the U.S. roll up the Houthis, Iran also moved two of its ships — a frigate (the Alvand) that is equipped with C-802 missiles and torpedoes and a large auxiliary ship (the Bushehr) to the Yemen coast in waters where the U.S. was operating. While no match for U.S. ships, the aging Alvand demonstrated that Iran would stand by the Houthis.

Iran’s ploy paid off. The U.S. response to attacks on its ships was minimal. Iran was successful, at least so far, in protecting the Houthi regime and keeping the U.S. fleet at bay, at very low cost. As a result, the U.S. comes out the loser again.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Day the Swift Died

by Stephen Bryen

HSV-2 Swift is a very fast and relatively large catamaran ship originally built by Incat in Australia. Acquired by the US Navy in 2003, the Navy’s Sealift Command operated the vessel for ten years. Then it went out of service in 2013, replaced by another Incat-built catamaran. In an unusual move, in fact a strange one, the Sealift Command leased the Swift to a UAE organization called the National Marine Dredging Company. Before daylight on the first of October, the Swift was hit by a missile which caused a huge fire on the ship. We still lack an accounting of the dead and the survivors but at least three of them have told their story, surviving the incident.  Importantly in addition to the missile attack, a fast boat with machine guns was trying to kill the survivors.  It fired at them for the better part of half an hour after the missile attack.  The crew itself was international, including sailors from Ukraine, Poland and India.

We do not know whether the fast attack craft firing on the Swift survivors was Yemeni or Iranian.  Given this was a very well organized operation, including video cameras to record the event, a good guess is they were Iranian or supplied by the Iranians. This is backed up by reports that “spotter” boats were in the area directing the missile strikes.  These could only have been Iranian: Houthi tribesmen are simply not capable or trained to carry out sophisticated surveillance and target identification.

031104-N-000S-001

At sea with High Speed Vessel Two (HSV 2) Nov. 4, 2003 — High Speed Vessel Two (HSV 2) Swift is participating in the West African Training Cruise (WATC) 2004, a regularly scheduled exercise, conducted since 1978, consisting of a series of bilateral interactions between the United States and individual African nations. Host nation participants in this year’s WATC include Cameroon, Ghana, Gambia, Morocco, Senegal, Sierra Leone and South Africa. U.S. Navy photo. (RELEASED)

The Swift was hit in an attack claimed by the Yemeni Houthis (Ansar Allah), who fired the first C-802 missile.  [There is no claim on the second missile attack on the USS Mason. Clearly this would have to be either Houthis or Iranian.]

The C-802 is a major threat to shipping in the Persian Gulf, in the Mediterranean, in the Red Sea and elsewhere. The C-802 is an evolved C-801, both produced in China. The C-802 has a very small radar cross section, is hard to jam, and has decent range. China has supplied these missiles to Iran, and the Iranians, in turn, supplied them to operators including Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen.

iranian_c802

Iranian C-802 and ground launch truck.

On 14 July 2006 the Israel ship, the INS Hanit, off the Lebanon coast, was struck by a C-802 missile. The Israelis said, afterwards, that the defense systems on the Hanit, a Saar V class fast boat, were turned off. One sailor was killed and three disappeared, presumed dead from the C-802 attack. The ships was badly damaged but managed to return on its own power to Israel. Whether the story of the sensors being turned off is true or not, the fact is that the C-802 was proven to be effective.

hanit

From YNET: “The photos show that the fire that broke out on the Hanit naval ship, left much of it charred, including the command bridge. The deck of the ship also suffered great damage and the heavy metal was bent and burnt. The hole that the missile left in the soldiers’ sleeping quarters was especially deep and reached the bottom of the ship, causing much harm and casualties.”

Unlike the Hanit, which is made out of steel, the HSV-2 Swift is made out of aluminum. When the missile hit the Swift, it burned rapidly, a characteristic of aluminum-hulled ships.

The US is building Littoral Combat ships in two models. One is made of steel, built in Wisconsin, and is based on a high speed hull developed by Fincantieri in Italy (the Destriero high speed “yacht”). The other is a trimaran design based on designs that came from Australia. The first of the US LCS trimarans, the Independence, was manufactured by Austal in Mobile, Alabama. A report in 2010 by the Pentagon’s director of Operational Test and Evaluation found that neither design was expected to “be survivable in a hostile combat environment.”

There is video of the Swift being hit by the C-802 missile. Keep in mind that the Swift, while capable of carrying out both military and civilian missions, does not have any self defense systems. The video shows the missile being launched, the missile striking the ship, and the ship burning out of control. From the video it one can see that the distance involved from missile launch to target is less than one mile. As the video rolls, one sees flowing sea water around the camera, suggesting that the missile may have been launched from a land base near the shore or from a small craft. It is clear that the entire attack on the Swift was planned as a response to a Saudi coalition attack in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital city, where thousands of people had gathered for a funeral for Sheikh Ali al-Rawishan, the father of the rebel-appointed interior minister. Coalition aircraft hit the funeral four times, killing over 140 people and wounding over 500 on October 1st. News reports say that bomb fragments at the site of the massacre show the coalition aircraft used US MK-82 bombs (A Houthi spokesperson on Iran TV, speaking in English, claimed the bombs are GBU-12 Paveway 2, which is a laser guided bomb based on the MK-82.). These bombs may have been equipped with laser guidance kits.

hsv-2_swift_bow_damage

Damage to the Swift –both the Hull and the Superstructure burned

The Houthi rebels responded by launching a large Scud-type missile aimed at Saudi Arabia’s Taif air base, firing missiles at the USS Mason, a guided missile destroyer, located in the Bab al-Mandab strait and the attack on the Swift, which was covered by video cameras.

Was the presence of the USS Mason by coincidence, or was it providing cover for the Swift as it delivered supplies and picked up “passengers” from Yemen? In any case, either the Mason was outside of the range of the C-802, or the C-802s were set up to fall short of the target.  There was fear on board the Mason that the USS Ponce, a command and control ship that also serves as a staging base for special forces, was in danger and had been targeted.  (The Ponce is essentially a sitting duck in the Persian Gulf and must be defended by other ships. The author believes the risk of deploying the Ponce in a war zone as confined as the Gulf is a major strategic mistake.)

The Mason fired a number of air defense missiles after a second attack by Chinese missiles.  Indeed, one of the questions about current-day US and allied ship defenses is whether they are actually able to destroy incoming sea-skimming missiles especially the C-802.  The problem will grow worse when the sub-sonic C-802 missiles (powered by a ramjet) are replaced with supersonic sea skimming missiles, such as those China is developing.)

In a further response, the U.S. military launched cruise missile strikes on Thursday, October 13th aimed at knocking out three coastal radar sites in areas of Yemen controlled by Iran-aligned Houthi forces.  It is not known whether these coastal radar sites are what was used against the Swift, Mason and Ponce because there are coastal radar sites in Yemen that were installed as anti-piracy sensors in 2007.

The Iranians announced the deployment to Yemen of the Alvand, a warship listed as a frigate but actually sized as a corvette.  Manufactured in the UK in 1971 was a Mark V class warship (Vosper produced), it carries C-802 missiles, has a large gun (4.5 inch) and light torpedoes.  Iran also deployed a supply ship, the Bushehr to support the Alvand.  In effect the Iranians have now put themselves between Yemen and US warships.

Everything is speculation, but it appears that the Houthis were looking for an opportunity to knock off the Swift. The funeral incident gave them the needed excuse. The Mason was warned to stay away, and it did.  Whether the Ponce was ever a serious target remains an open question, but the fact such an attack would spawn an immediate war with the United States suggests the Ponce was not a real target.

The Swift is wrecked. According to news reports, the National Maritime Dredging Company had insurance and that the insurance covered this sort of an incident (somewhat incredible because insurance companies generally don’t cover acts of war). Thus, the US Navy will get paid back for the loss of the ship.

Are there lessons learned? For sure one of them is that aluminum-hulled ships are susceptible to fire and should not be used in combat-like situations. Unless the aluminum trimaran Littoral combat ships can kill incoming missiles before they hit, they are vulnerable to damage or destruction. Experts think the primary threat is from swarming boat attacks where the boats have missiles and some of them may be stuffed with explosives. A look at the defense systems currently on board the LCS (both models) is a cause for serious concern for their survivability.

fast-attack

One type of Iranian fast attack boat firing a missile. The Iranians have also acquired speedboat technology from Britain (via South Africa)

Another lesson is that Iran (with China’s assistance) is proliferating anti-ship missiles and putting them in the hands of terrorist organizations.

A key lesson that is not yet properly understood by US policy-makers is that Iran’s supply of these weapons makes Iran responsible for and clearly complicit in their use.  As the recent attacks confirm, it is likely that Iran actually manned the missile launchers and the spotters, and perhaps even supplied the fast boats with machine guns to shoot up the defenseless Swift crew abandoning ship (a tectic familiarly used by al-Qaeda, Palestinian terrorists and ISIS too).

The US response a few days later launching cruise missiles against radar sites in Yemen may have been more symbolic than real, since it is possible the US knocked out anti-piracy radars and not radars connected with the C-802.  The C-802 has mobile launchers that are hard to target with cruise missiles;  moreover it is not clear if the targeting was done by Iranian boats.  But in any case the administration deserves some credit for finally taking action other than passive behavior in the Gulf.

Finally the lesson is that to neutralize these kinds of attacks you cannot sit around and wait for the attack to happen. You have to knock out the enemy’s delivery systems, both at sea and on land. This means preemptive attacks are the only strategy that can give results.

The current US posture of waiting for something to happen is very dangerous to say the least.  Instead of the missiles “falling short,” the USS Mason could have been sent to the bottom.

Tagged , , , ,

Time for America to Adjust its Strategy

by Stephen Bryen

What is America’s strategic interest?  When does it make sense for the United States to use force?

The use of force by a democratic nation, even if a superpower, is a serious matter.  No matter how you look at it, the use of military power is abusive and destructive and costs innocent lives.

Even so, the United States has been involved in lots of wars since the end of World War II. Some of these wars have been acknowledged such as Korea or Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Others, in Asia, Africa and the Middle East are hidden wars where the American role is, to a degree, covert.  Others still are indirect, in the sense that allies or clients of the United States are the ones at war, getting material support from the United States.

The issue of strategic interest has risen most recently on the question of renewing America’s intervention in Iraq, in bombing ISIS in Syria, in supporting al-Nusra and other so-called “rebels” in Syria, and in threats to provide military help to the Ukraine.

Most of these recent interventions or threatened interventions differ a bit from past interventions as they do not involve what could be called America’s core strategic interests.

Of course it will be argued that ISIS poses a threat to the United States and America’s allies, so using force against ISIS is consistent with America’s national security needs.

Unfortunately the US while opposing ISIS is also supporting other radical Islamist factions such as al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda spin-off.

Thus the US is promoting a policy in the Middle East that is confusing and contradictory.  It can’t be that supporting al-Nusra is any more in our interest than bombing ISIS.  Why, if ISIS and al-Nusra are threats, don’t we go after them all?

The answer is that the US also has wanted regime change in Syria –in other words ending the minority Alawite regime of Bashar Assad in favor of a Sunni governance that will be made up of Islamic radicals.  How does that promote US strategic interests in the region?

One could argue that the US plunged into the mess with good intentions, starting with the Arab Spring in Egypt and Libya.  But supporting the Arab Spring has turned out not to have resulted in anything the US administration could have wanted.  Libya is a country in the midst of a civil war, made more confusing by tribal and ideological factions who are at each others’ throats. Where it will end is anyone’s guess, but the prognosis is not good.  Meanwhile Qaddafi’s large arsenal has been emptied and a good part of it was funneled off to Islamic radical organizations in Africa and in the Middle East, including Hamas in Gaza.  The US was closely involved in the siphoning off process, until it realized that MANPADS and other weapons could threaten US clients in Africa and in the Middle East.  Accordingly Israel had to destroy a waypoint warehouse in the Sudan to limit the damage.  Had Israel not done so, probably at the US suggestion (although this is speculative), it is unlikely that civil aircraft could operate in Africa and the Middle East, exposed as they are to surface to air portable missiles.

aleppo

Egypt has at least for now temporarily recovered from the Moslem Brotherhood which, the US supported foolishly, not grasping the ideological and radical implications.  Losing Egypt, after it was plucked from the Russians after the Yom Kippur War, would be a huge black eye for US foreign policy, and represent a major risk to Saudi Arabia, still economically important in the region.   While the US may portray itself as the Saudi Arabian savior, deals with Iran have conveyed to Saudi Arabia’s leaders that the US is not a reliable partner and cannot be counted on should an insurgency break out in the Kingdom.  For that reason the Saudis have taken the threat in Yemen, Saudi Arabia’s back door, very seriously.  There in Yemen there is a war between Saudi-led interests on the one hand and Iran on the other.  Egypt is helping the Saudis, as they have done in years past in Sudan.

Whatever good intentions, America has to take significant responsibility for jettisoning old alliances and for encouraging radicalization.  Now the US is hovering with troops and airplanes and bombing and intelligence support and threats to the Russians (not the Iranians or Hezbollah which are far worse than the Russians).  One day we are “negotiating” with the Russians about Aleppo where the Sunni Islamists (Aleppo is 85% Sunni) are fighting with weapons it has got either through the black market or from deliveries by the US and its regional friends, and on another day we are accusing the Russians of war crimes and genocide.  These threats ratchet up the chance for big power mistakes and engagement in a region where neither really should be in direct contention with the other.  Indirect competition there has been since the close of World War II.  But direct confrontations raise the spectre of broader warfare in a contest where neither side really has any core interests in play.
crimea

“Green men” (Russian) troops move into Crimea

Meanwhile, and with even less justification, the Congress, stimulated for sure by an administration hostile to Russia and very pro-Ukraine, is promoting direct military arms support to Ukraine. This follows US and European pressure on a roughly divided Ukraine to get Ukraine into the EU first and NATO after. No wonder the Russians saw this as confrontational and dangerous to Russian security.  The wrapping round of European Russia would almost be complete by integrating Ukraine into the EU; the Russians know what that means. What is surprising is that the Russian attack on Ukraine has been better tempered than their attack on Aleppo, which is to say they are employing salami tactics, warfare through proxies and political games.  All of this has made it hard to find a pathway to a peace deal, since this is one of those cases where Washington’s instinct, to demand regime change (in Russia?) is not in the play book.

The Russians take America seriously.  There is not any doubt that in their mind Washington is shifty, unreliable and dangerous.  So now, thoroughly alarmed, they practice evacuating millions of people in an “exercise” simulating a nuclear attack. Remember it was not America that was invaded by the Nazis and lost 20 million people.  Who in the midst of this attack moved their families across the Urals along with their industry, to keep the war effort going.  While it is many years since the Nazi catastrophe, Russians remember and still praise the resiliency and heroism of those days. And for them, as rotten a dictator as he was, and murderer that he was, Stalin still commands respect in Russia.
2013-12-12-churchilltrumanstalin1945ingermany

Churchill, Truman and Stalin 1945

What can we say then about American foreign policy and America’s strategic interests? We can, for sure, say that our leaders are making a mess and digging a hole that may be too deep to climb out of in future.

If anything the United States should know its limits and reduce its adventurist approach based on fictions and fantasies that have proven dead wrong.
Tagged , , ,

A Nuclear Deterrent for South Korea and Japan

by Stephen Bryen and Rachel Ehrenfeld, American Center for Democracy

Can the United States provide sufficient help to offset the growing North Korean and Chinese threat to the independence and security of South Korea and Japan? It can. It should put Pershing missiles in both countries.

How should the U.S. respond to North Korea?  Thus far the U.S. response has had little or no effect on the North Korean drive to test nuclear weapons, work on miniaturization of warheads, launch ballistic missiles in the Sea of Japan and move forward on a submarine-launched ballistic missile threat.

The U.S. has shown some determination by flying B-1B nuclear bombers over South Korea.  But they departed almost as soon as they arrived, and while a point was made it had no impact on North Korea’s programs. 

North Korea is increasingly on the brink of becoming a real nuclear power which it will be once it has demonstrated a nuclear delivery system that works.  When that happens, which could be soon South Korea and Japan will be in a very bad spot.  The North Koreans will then start making demands including reducing or removing America’s troop presence in both countries.  One can anticipate that leftist elements in both South Korea and Japan will come out of the woodwork in force, pushing their governments to accept North Korea’s demands.

The problem for Japan includes China too.  If the U.S. is asked to leave Japan, that country will be hostage not only to North Korean pressure but even more so to China.  Japan will shift from being a major U.S. ally, to a neutral country within the Chinese orbit.  The political, economic and strategic consequences of such a possible shift are immense.  For some time, as U.S. power in the Pacific dissipates and as China expands its influence, Asian countries grow extremely nervous.  A combination punch from both North Korea and China could be all that is needed for Japan to fall away from the United States.

South Korea is also in a very bad situation.  The South Koreans know that even without nuclear weapons and with only an outdated air force North Korea directly threatens much of the industrial heartland of South Korea.  Its long range artillery and missiles are strategically sited overlooking even the South Korean capital, Seoul.  With North Korea having deliverable nuclear weapons the existing threat mutates into one that is truly overbearing.

Is there an answer? Can the U.S. provide sufficient help to both countries to offset the growing threat to their independence and security?

In the early 1980’s the U.S. was faced with a similar problem in respect to Europe and particularly Germany.  By then the Soviet Union had moved SS-20 mobile, multi-warhead nuclear-tipped missiles in range of Germany.  As early as 1977 then German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt called for a deterrent to the SS-20s.  The Reagan administration responded by offering the Pershing II missile.  Unlike the SS-20, the Pershing II had only one nuclear warhead. Nevertheless, the presence of the missile was enough to deter the Soviets. Eventually –  by putting in place, a real offset to the SS-20 threat – Russia and the U.S. agreed to an arms deal that saw both the Russian and American missiles scrapped.

But, as we know, there was a big fight over the Pershing deployment in the early 1980’s.  A surging leftist movement in Europe, fed by the Communists, attempted through protests and political action to force the German government to refuse the missiles. Marvin Kalb, then a top reporter for NBC News, worried that the leftist movement was “becoming a major force in Europe.”  He thought the left would win and, indeed, had the left won the fight it is unlikely the NATO alliance could have survived the political backlash.

Today, the U.S. needs to deploy missile based deterrents like the Pershing II on both Japanese and South Korean soil.  This is the only sure way to show its determination to North Korea, and for them to understand that the U.S. intends to actively protect the security of both countries.  Not only will such a deployment protect our interests and theirs, but it will go a long way to avoid a strategic deterioration in Korea and Japan that could spark a nuclear conflict the US could not contain.

Without deploying a land-based deterrent, no amount of words from the U.S.  is likely to deter North Korea or avoid a much bigger future crisis.

north_korea_2016_purported_warhead

North Korea Miniature Warhead By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49896138

 

 

 

 

 

Tagged , , ,

Israel and the F-35

by Stephen Bryen and Rachel Ehrenfeld

Reprinted from American Center for Democracy

Like it or not, the increasingly aggressive Iranian posture toward Israel suggests that sooner or later their conflict will develop into a ground and air war. Actions by Iran and its surrogates in the area of the Golan Heights already caused some Israeli land and retaliatory air moves, and more provocations could set off broader fighting. Israel has little choice but to deter the Iranian and Syria armies, and Hezbollah, from creating a security nightmare.

a_hesa_saeqeh_of_iriaf

Hesa Sadegh. Where did the engines come from? By Shahram Sharifi – Own work, GFDL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24278303

Iran has around 265 front line combat fighter aircraft.  These consist of American F-14’s, F-4’s, F-5’s and 30 or more Hesa Saegeh locally made aircraft based on the F-5; Russian MIG 29’s; French Mirage F-1s, and Chinese F-7 Chengdu interceptors.  The F-7s and F-5s are not a significant factor of any kind today.  The F-14s and F-4s are old, but very capable, as are the Mirage and MiG planes.  The Iranian F-4s have been upgraded and have new, modern radars and avionics from China. The F-4s also have the new Qader cruise missile which may also be usable on the other planes.  The Hesa Saegeh F-5 knock off has engines that could have been smuggled into Iran from outside, no one is sure.

DN-SC-90-11927

A Fighter Squadron 211 (VF-211) F-14A Tomcat aircraft banks into a turn during a flight out of Naval Air Station, Miramar, Calif. The aircraft is carrying six AIM-54 Phoenix missiles. By Service Depicted: NavyCommand Shown: N0829 – EnWiki, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1138584

Of all these planes the most lethal is the F-14 because it carries Phoenix missiles.  The Phoenix missile was the first true beyond visual range air to air missile with a range exceeding 100 miles.  Such missiles were delivered to Iran under the Shah. But to assume they are not operational today would be a mistake because, in all likelihood, the Russians and Chinese have had their hands all over them. Can the Israelis knock such an improved Phoenix out? Possibly, if they use jamming. A better strategy would be to destroy the F-14s before they can do any damage. But this would depend on the quality of Iran’s air defenses, which have been improved lately by S-300 batteries that were delivered by Russia, and whether the Iranians can field an aircraft that can compete with Israel’s F-15s and F-16s. 

slovak_s-300

S-300 (Slovakia) By EllsworthSK – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7039037

Can the Israelis knock such an improved Phoenix out? Possibly, if they use jamming. A better strategy would be to destroy the F-14s before they can do any damage. But this would depend on the quality of Iran’s air defenses, which have been improved lately by S-300 batteries that were delivered by Russia, and whether the Iranians can field an aircraft that can compete with Israel’s F-15s and F-16s. 

Furthermore, the possibility of a Russian sale of an advanced 4th generation plus fighter, like the Su-35 to Iran, could introduce a major problem for Israel, a problem that would not be solved by the F-35, which has  such serious limitations and needs so many fixes that there is doubt it could be ever ready for combat.  Because the F-35 cannot dogfight, the Su-35 has the key advantage especially in the role of territorial defense.

Before the F-35 sale to Israel, there was strong Israeli Air Force interest in the Boeing F-15 Silent Eagle, an improved F-15 with stealth features and the same (or similar) advanced electronics as in the F-35.  However, Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of the F-35 conducted one of the best lobbying efforts in U.S. military history and convinced the government to pressure Boeing into halting the promotion of the Silent Eagle. So for the next 20 years, barring some drastic reversal there is no room for Boeing or anyone else but Lockheed, locking the US into a single, questionable solution.  If Lockheed fails, so does America.

According to Dr. Michael Gilmore, the Director of Operational Test & Evaluation of the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), “the F-35s will be non-combat-capable until at least 2023 and more likely 2024 or 2025.”

While a new U.S. Administration may be able to correct the F-35 problems, Israel does not have extra seven or nine years to find out whether the plane is battle ready.  Anyway, the Su-35 is combat ready now.

Faced with the need to overcome the F-35 limitations, Israel may consider equipping its F-15s with new long range air-to-air missiles, if it can get them, and lots of jammers, and pray.  

Tagged , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: