Tag Archives: hypersonic

Russian Aerospace Forces failing in Ukraine? UK military thinks otherwise

The range of the missiles used by Russian fighter jets is considered a dangerous challenge for their NATO rivals. This is particularly true when it comes to the unrivaled R-37M hypersonic air-to-air missile with its staggering maximum engagement range of 400km.

Drago Bosnic, independent geopolitical and military analyst

Even before the start of Moscow’s counteroffensive against NATO aggression in Europe, Russia and its military were often denigrated and underestimated by the mainstream propaganda machine. This decades-old (or should we say centuries) practice has escalated dramatically since February 24 last year. The Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) are particularly targeted, being presented as a supposed “failure” despite obliterating most of the Kiev regime’s air force in mere weeks. This is also illustrated by the Neo-Nazi junta’s desperate pleas and so-called “begmanding” to get fighter jets from NATO, including the US-made F-16, despite even the Ukrainian pilots themselves knowing they are vastly inferior to their own Soviet-era Su-27s.

Russian VKS dominates the skies over Ukraine with its state-of-the-art Su-35S and superfast, high-flying MiG-31. However, what caught the attention of NATO is the usage of Moscow’s next-generation Su-57, a platform that has essentially transcended the notion of so-called “fifth generation” aircraft. Being at the forefront of Russia’s investment in aviation technology, the jet is one of the world’s most advanced aircraft. Bristling with sensors, new advanced technologies and using the latest missiles and bombs, Su-57 can truly be defined as an “overkill” against the vastly outmatched Kiev regime’s air force. Its most important mission so far has been SEAD (suppression of enemy air defenses), most likely using Kh-59MK2 and Kh-31 cruise missiles, in addition to using its advanced electronic warfare capabilities.

However, it should be noted that aircraft such as the Su-25 attack/CAS (close air support), Su-30 multirole and Su-34 strike jets are the “bread and butter” of Russian VKS operations in Ukraine, conducting the vast majority of missions. These have been at the center of a targeted mainstream propaganda machine campaign, aiming to underestimate their performance and capabilities. And yet, the UK Ministry of Defense is rather unconvinced, as it has “expressed concern” with Moscow’s capabilities. Back in early January, the UK MoD confirmed the reports that Russian jets have managed to shoot down Kiev regime aircraft from ranges exceeding 200 kilometers, including with platforms such as the Su-57.

The “Felon’s” (NATO reporting name for Su-57) sensor suite of six AESA (active electronically scanned array) radars and advanced IRST (infrared search and track) systems allow it to simultaneously track more targets over extreme ranges than any other fighter jet in the world. And while the VKS operates only a dozen serial Su-57s, these have been a major force multiplier. The UK military is rather worried that “Felon’s” numbers have more than tripled since 2021 and are further expected to swell to 24 aircraft this year. Combined with the Su-35S and MiG-31, the Su-57 is a deadly challenge for NATO, according to the aforementioned January 2023 assessment by UK MoD that reported the fighters were “launching long-range air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles into Ukraine since at least June 2022”.

The range of the missiles used by the aforementioned Russian fighter jets is considered a dangerous challenge for their NATO rivals. This is particularly true when it comes to the unrivaled R-37M hypersonic air-to-air missile with its staggering maximum engagement range of 400km. It is precisely this missile that was most likely used in the record-breaking 217 km shoot-down, fired by either Su-35S or Su-57. Other UK outlets, such as The Conversation, have also reported that the UK military confirmed this in mid-February, stating that “the Russian MiG-31 and Su-57 operating the R-37M long-range hypersonic missile have engaged Ukrainian aircraft at a range of over 200 km from the safety of Russian airspace”, reluctantly admitting just how hopelessly outclassed the Kiev regime forces are.

The performance of the Su-57 is of particular concern for NATO. Its usage in Ukraine already made it the first and only next-generation fighter jet to engage in high-intensity operations. Of course, unless we count the decisive victory of the US Air Force F-22 “Raptor” over a Chinese weather balloon. However, in all seriousness, the USAF has operated fifth-generation aircraft for nearly 18 years, but it has never used them against advanced adversaries, as its aggression against the world is nearly always conducted against mostly helpless opponents. Although the Su-57 was also delayed for several years before it entered service, the Russian military used this time to ensure that the jet was as close to full readiness as it could possibly be, which is further reinforced by its combat use in Syria years before it was officially inducted.

Engaging and easily neutralizing formidable targets such as the Su-27, which, as previously mentioned, far exceeds the capabilities of US-made F-16 fighters, is a clear indicator of just how dangerous Russian jets are. In the case of Su-57, it also shows that the jet is not limited to an initial operating capability (IOC), despite its small numbers and having been inducted into service only 2 years ago. This stands in stark contrast to the best US/NATO jets, such as the F-22, which took years to reach IOC. This lasted for nearly five years before “Raptor” reached FOC (full operational capability). The case of the F-35 is even worse, as the troubled jet is yet to reach even IOC despite being in service for almost eight years now and nearly a quarter of a century since it made its first flight.

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Why is NATO alarmed by a single Russian frigate?

Drago Bosnic, independent geopolitical and military analyst

Thalassocratic dominance is of prime significance for the North Atlantic Alliance, as its most powerful members are basing their power on naval supremacy. This is particularly true for the United States and the United Kingdom, both of which formed their empires by controlling key global sea routes. Maintaining this status, preferably expanding it or at least preventing other powers from acquiring it is the primary goal of the political West, especially in regard to (Eur)Asian giants such as Russia and China. Although Moscow and Beijing are traditionally seen as land powers, their naval might should not be taken for granted, as both superpowers are investing significant resources in developing and building new advanced vessels.

The Russian Navy, although smaller in comparison to the Soviet era, is still one of the world’s largest and most powerful. Moscow operates the world’s second most potent nuclear submarine fleet with the capability of wiping out virtually any adversary, including the US. In the aftermath of the USSR’s dismantlement, Russia reduced its reliance on large surface combatants and focused on building smaller vessels with relatively comparable long-range capabilities. This was made possible primarily due to massive advances in missile propulsion technologies, an area in which Moscow retains a significant advantage over its geopolitical rivals, nearly all of whom rely on naval power projection.

Realizing that large surface ships have been made effectively obsolete by the deployment of advanced anti-ship missiles, both supersonic and hypersonic, the Russian Navy made a decision to build smaller vessels that would have the capability to deploy the aforementioned advanced missiles and thus jeopardize much larger hostile capital ships such as aircraft carriers. These are especially relied on by NATO, primarily the US, which operates approximately a dozen carrier groups across the globe. The US Navy has the world’s largest fleet of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (or more precisely, super-carriers), which are, as previously mentioned, essential for maintaining the political West’s global power projection.

Given NATO’s typical chest-thumping when it comes to its naval arm, it’s quite unusual that the belligerent alliance is alarmed by Russia’s recent deployment of a single frigate to the Atlantic. On January 4, an official ceremony was held before the Russian Navy’s “Admiral Gorshkov” frigate was sent from the Severomorsk port to the high seas. This is the surface combatant’s second long-distance voyage since it entered service in mid-2018. However, this deployment marks the first time in history that a ship is carrying officially operational hypersonic weapons. Equipped with up to 16 3M22 “Zircon” missiles, the Russian frigate is capable of wiping out an entire super-carrier strike group from a distance of 1000-1500 km.

“Admiral Gorshkov” is now reportedly sailing to join the Russian Navy’s operational group deployed in the Mediterranean, where it’s set to assume the role of a command vessel. According to various reports, after conducting the planned activities in the area, including docking in friendly ports such as Russia’s Tartus naval base in Syria, the frigate will proceed to the Red Sea and then into the Indian Ocean. With a displacement of 5,400 tons, the Project 22350 frigates (as per Russian naval nomenclature) are the first larger post-Soviet surface combatants designed and built for the Russian Navy, which currently operates two more vessels of this class, “Admiral Kasatonov” and “Admiral Golovko”.

The ships carry a plethora of multipurpose weapons, including the now legendary “Kalibr” cruise missiles, specifically the NK variant with a range of up to 4,500 km. However, the deployment of the 3M22 “Zircon” hypersonic cruise missile is what caused panic in NATO, as the scramjet-powered weapon is effectively in a league of its own, since no other navy in the world operates such missiles. “Zircon” has been fully operational at least since late 2022 and is set to be deployed on both surface ships and submarines. Numerous sea trials conducted by the Russian Navy in recent years have shown the weapon can reach a speed of Mach 9 (approximately 11,000 km/h or 3.1 km/s), although some claim it can go even faster. Various sources indicate that “Zircon” has a range of up to 2000 km, depending on the target.

To put its speed into perspective, when compared with the US-made “Tomahawk” subsonic cruise missile, “Zircon” is over twelve times faster, giving it a kinetic energy approximately 250 times greater than that of the American weapon. Reportedly, while “Admiral Gorshkov” deploys 16 “Zircon” missiles, newer ships of its class have been upgraded to carry 32. In addition, the Russian frigate is also armed with “Kalibr” cruise missiles, “Otvet” anti-submarine rockets, “Oniks” supersonic missiles, “Poliment-Redut” SAM (surface-to-air missile) system with 32 mid-range or 128 short-range missiles, “Paket-NK” torpedo system, 130 mm AK-192M “Armat” cannon and two “Palash” CIWS (close-in weapon system). The frigate also carries a single Ka-27PL ASW (anti-submarine warfare) helicopter.

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