Monday, March 17, 2014

Bring back the Cold War?

A model built when 15
So long as the big media of this country insists on portraying everything happening in Russia / Ukraine through the language and perspective of the Cold War, I thought it would be interesting to see what has been happening since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.  Yes, Russia's military budgets have been severely constricted and much of the USSR's Cold War arsenal has been allowed to rot.  But the question is, does Russia still pack a punch? I concentrated my search on the aerospace industries because I have been a nearly lifelong airplane enthusiast.  This enthusiasm has not been as intense as when I was a teenager, but it didn't take very long to get back up to speed.  I spent much of the afternoon going, "Oh Wow!"

Here in USA, the big story surrounds the F-35 fiasco.  This was the going to be the perfect fighter plane—ultra high-performance with the ability to hide from radar.  What has emerged is an expensive mess.  These planes first flew in 2006 yet in 2011, the Pentagon was complaining that:
  • The helmet-mounted display system does not work properly.
  • The fuel dump subsystem poses a fire hazard.
  • The Integrated Power Package is unreliable and difficult to service.
  • The F-35C's arresting hook does not work.
  • Classified "survivability issues", which have been speculated to be about stealth.[179]
  • The wing buffet is worse than previously reported.
  • The airframe is unlikely to last through the required lifespan.
  • The flight test program has yet to explore the most challenging areas.
  • The software development is behind schedule.
  • The aircraft is in danger of going overweight or, for the F-35B, not properly balanced for VTOL operations.
  • There are multiple thermal management problems. The air conditioner fails to keep the pilot and controls cool enough, the roll posts on the F-35B overheat, and using theafterburner damages the aircraft.
  • The automated logistics information system is partially developed.
  • The lightning protection on the F-35 is uncertified, with areas of concern.
In December 2011, the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin came to an agreement to assure funding and delivery for a fifth order of early F-35 aircraft of yet undefined type. On 22 February 2013, the fledgling F-35 fleet was grounded after a routine inspection of a F-35A at Edwards Air Force Base found a crack in an engine turbine blade.

There are other quite capable aircraft in the USA inventory including the F-22 and F-18 but the top-of-the-line fighter may never ever fly properly.

On the other hand, the Russians have not one but two fighters with a 35 designation already wowing the generals at the Paris Air Show.  The Sukhoi Su-35 can do maneuvers that seem aerodynamically impossible including the signature "Cobra" stunt where the nose of the aircraft doesn't seem to be pointed anywhere near the direction of flight.

My guess is that the arm-chair Cold Warriors who want to pick a fight with Russia would soon discover that even without an obscene defense budget, the Russians are as capable of defending themselves as they were when Napoleon and Hitler thought they would be easy pickings.

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