No F-15 For Egypt; How President Sadat Tricked His Generals Into a Bad Deal with the United States with Consequences Lasting to this Day
Africa and South America , Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft , Foreign Relations
24 June 2018
In the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War, Egypt’s new President Anwar Sadat undertook extensive efforts to shift his country's allegiance from the Cold War Soviet Bloc to the Western Bloc, ending a close partnership with the Soviet Union which had lasted two decades. While the USSR had equipped Egypt's armed forces with the most capable arms at its disposal, providing the country with a distinct technological advantage in most fields for its major wars with neighbouring Israel, a U.S. and Western defence client, a vast discrepancy in the training and planning of the Egyptian and Israeli armed forces favouring the latter had meant that the former had failed to achieve a single victory. The Soviet Union had even gone as far as to send its own military personnel to defend Egyptian territory, manning surface to air missile systems and flying fighter jets during the War of Attrition with far better results than their Egyptian counterparts. Soviet aligned communist states North Korea and Cuba had also committed their own personnel to Egypt’s defence. While the Egyptian military was largely content with its defence ties with the Soviet Union, receiving both protection and vast quantities of the cutting edge weapons at a fraction of their production cost, often in exchange for loans which were later forgiven, the country’s new President’s initiative to pivot westwards meant that the military would need to acquaint itself with European and American made weapons systems - the sales of which were considerably more restricted and the provision of which came at far greater costs.
While Egypt’s Soviet made battle tanks and warships had proven superior to their Israeli analogues, the country’s Soviet made fighter jets faced a slight capability disadvantage against the U.S. made F-4 Phantoms during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. This was amended soon afterwards with the Soviets delivering advanced twin engine MiG-23 fighters, the most capable of their time, in large numbers from 1974. The United States was however set to imminently induct a new generation of fighter aircraft, the fourth generation, which included the elite F-14 and F-15 heavy fighters, the successors of the F-4, and the lighter and less costly F-16, the successor of the F-5. With Israel set to induct F-15 air superiority fighters, one of just three countries which would ever be sold the elite platforms, the Egyptian military leadership was adamant that should they support President Sadat’s shift towards Western arms, they should be provided with the most advanced fighters available - the very same as those sold to Israel. Egypt’s Air Force generals were eager to ensure that they would not be exchanging their position as a first tier Soviet client for a position as a second or third tier Western client, and gaining permission to purchase the F-15 would symbolise their status as a first tier client equal to Israel.
While the United States was initially willing to provide Egypt only with F-5 light fighters, considerably less capable than the aircraft which made up the mainstay of the Egyptian fleet, U.S. negotiators would later offer both the F-4E and the F-16A for export. Neither of these fighters was considerably more capable than the MiG-23 Egypt already fielded. Though the F-16 was a next generation fighter, it was designed as a light single engine platform wholly incapable of matching the elite F-15 in the air. The fighter, much like the F-5 before it, was designed to be widely exported to America’s third world allies while the heavier F-15 was reserved only for first rate clients. Indeed, the F-16’s speed, operational altitude and payload were all considerably inferior to those of both the F-4 and the MiG-23, despite being a generation ahead of these fighters.
During negotiations with the United States Egyptian President Sadat, well aware of the position of the military leadership at home, insisted that his country had to be provided with the F-15 should his generals endorse Egypts’ pivot to the Western Bloc. U.S. officials argued that Egypt, despite operating the significantly more complex MiG-23, were not ready to absorb the F-15 due to its complexity and sophistication. The further noted that the fighter was considerably more expensive than the F-16, approximately double the price, and that pro Israeli forces in the U.S. congress would block the sale of the advanced fighters to Egypt to ensure a continuing Israeli technological advantage in the air. With the U.S. hardly willing to provide the same generous terms as the Soviets had, extreme discounts and payment in loans for the fighter jets, the Egyptian fleet was set to be considerably smaller operating American jets than it had been as a Soviet client. Nevertheless, acquisition of the F-15 appeared a non negotiable issue - not due primarily to the capabilities of the fighter itself but rather to what it would symbolise regarding Egypt’s position as a first tier Western partner.
Egypt would go on to become a major client for U.S. arms, fighter jets included, though the Air Force never received the F-15. The Egyptian President had instead reached a compromise wit the U.S. negotiators. The United States agreed ‘in principle’ to sell the F-15 to Egypt - but only on the condition that Sadat’s government pledge beforehand to decline the offer in favour of the cheaper and less capable F-16. The solution allowed the President to claim Egypt has secured a position as a first tier Western partner, and equality with Israel in its right to acquire the latest arms, when none of this was in fact true. Egypt’s Defence Minister, Kamal Hassan Ali, was thus quoted in 1980 proclaiming that the United States had agreed to arm the country with the F-15 - which was true only on paper. While the fact was widely reported, and was seen as a considerable Egyptian diplomatic triumph, it was in fact a meaningless statement. That following year, 1981, the Soviet Union would induct its first fourth generation heavy combat platform into service - the MiG-31 Foxhound interceptor. The platform was more than capable of engaging the F-15, and could do so at over six times the range of the American fighter operated by Israel. Had Egypt retained its partnership with the Soviet Union, it could have very likely been flying a sizeable Foxhound fleet at negligible cost by 1985 - providing it with not only parity but actual technological superiority in the air against the Israeli Air Force. This would further be compounded by induction of the Su-27 air superiority fighter, a heavy platform designed specifically to surpass the F-15 which entered service in 1985. As it was, Egypt’s air force would never induct an air superiority fighter analogous to the F-15 into service and continues to lack a similarly capable platform 40 years later. By deceiving his generals and pushing for a partnership with the United States regardless of the costs, President Sadat would ensure a continuing qualitative disadvantage for the Egyptian Air Force for decades to come - one which the country's new military government has only recently begun to take steps to amend.
Russia to Expand its Carrier Fleet with Two Advanced New Assault Ship Classes; Vertical Takeoff Aircraft Could Follow
Eastern Europe and Central Asia , Naval
24 June 2018
Since the late 2000s the Russian military has planned to develop helicopter carrying amphibious assault ships domestically under a program similar to the South Korean Dokdo Class and French Mistral Class. In August 2009, Chief of the Russian General Staff General Nikolai Makarov suggested that Russia enter a joint project with France to develop these warships, first purchasing one carrier from French builders and constructing three more in Russia itself. Makarov stated that while Russia would be able to undertake such a program and build these warships to a similar standard domestically, doing so would require a ten year delay to develop the necessary technologies - hence why a joint program was preferable to provide the carriers at an earlier date. Seeking to support its flagging domestic shipbuilding industry, French President Nicolas Sarkozy pressed for the first two warships to be built in France and the second two in Russia - both of which would make extensive use of Russian components. Two more would then be built in Russia under a joint venture, providing Russia with a fleet of four of the light carriers. These warships were French Mistral Class vessels, and the joint program was set to considerably strengthen Russia’s military shipbuilding capabilities - which following the collapse of the Soviet Union and loss of shipyards in Ukraine had flagged considerably.
France would go on to cancel the contract to provide Mistral Class warships to Russia after their completion, which came as a response to heightened tensions between Moscow and the Western Bloc due to a clash of interests in Ukraine in 2014. Russia has since worked to develop the capabilities to built light carrier warships domestically, and according to Navy Deputy Commander in Chief Viktor Bursuk the country is scheduled to begin construction of the first warship in 2020. The official indicated that two amphibious assault ship variants were planned, which he referred to as a “universal amphibious assault ship” and “large amphibious assault ship.” According to Deputy Defence Minister Yuri Borisov and a number of other Russian defence ministry sources, the first of the warships are set to enter service in the early 2020s. The decision to develop two carrier types in parallel closely mirrors the Japanese Navy’s approach, developing the Izumo Class and the lighter Hyuga Class and inducting two of each vessel into service.
Assuming a similar size to the Mistral Class vessels, Russia’s new carrier will be by far the largest surface warships the country’s navy has commissioned since the fragmentation of the Soviet Union. Russia has since focused heavily on expanding its attack and ballistic submarine fleets, and has yet to construct any surface vessels larger than a frigate for its fleet - relying heavily on modernising its large Soviet era destroyers. With only a limited number of destroyers available, Russia’s new carriers are likely to be heavily armed to reduce the need for a large escort fleet - much as the country’s Kuznetsov Class and the Soviet Kiev Class carriers were. It also remains a possibility, particularly for the ‘large amphibious assault ship’ referred to by the Deputy Commander in Chief, that Russia may well develop a new fixed wing aircraft to operate from its warships. With these ships potentially approaching the size of the Japanese Izumo Class or even the Untied States' own American Class carrier warships, this remains a considerable possibility. Much like the United States developed the F-35B with short takeoff vertical landing (STOVL) to operate from its own amphibious assault ships, so too did the Soviet Union before it develop Yak-38 Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) strike fighter to operate from its own Kiev Class vessels - which lacked runways entirely. These aircraft served until the year of the Soviet disintegration, when the more advanced Yakovlev 141 VTOL fighter was also cancelled with four prototypes built. The possibility of a resurrection of the Yak-141 program, or a derivative program making use of similar technologies, remains a considerable possibility for the Russian Navy to equip its new carriers - thus allowing it to field a larger force of fixed wing aircraft carrying warships without the costs of developing and operating a vessel the size of the Kuznetsov, Ulaynovsk or SHOTRM ships. Whether the development of new carriers for the Russian Navy will herald a renaissance in the country’s shipbuilding, and lead to the commissioning of destroyers and other large surface warships in future, remains to be seen.
Israel’s World Leading Rafael Trophy Active Protection System Outshines Western Competitors; Why the U.S. Turns to Israeli Technology to Enhance the Survivability of its Battle Tanks
Middle East , Ground
23 June 2018
Once considered invulnerable, U.S. M1 Abrams battle tanks have suffered heavy losses in recent years both in Saudi Arabian hands to lightly armed Yemeni insurgents and in Iraqi hands against a number of Islamist groups using relatively basic anti armour munitions. Much like the German Leopard II, the Abrams has seen a significantly undermining of its reputation as a result of performance shortcomings in recent Middle Eastern wars, and though it was a world leading platform shortly after entering service near the end of the Cold War the platform’s survivability has failed to keep up with recent developments both in anti tank weapons and in defensive systems.
Unlike Western made battle tanks, Israel’s own Merkava IV armoured platforms retains among the most capable defensive systems in the world - including Rafael’s Trophy active protection system. Designed based on Israel’s experience deploying battle tanks to numerous armed conflicts, first and foremost the country’s brief war with Hezbollah in 2006 which was widely considered the only defeat suffered in Israeli history and in which numerous tanks were destroyer by sophisticated missile attacks, Israeli ground forces quickly sought out a new protection system capable of enhancing the tank's already formidable survivability. This was particularly critical in light of the threat posed by Hezbollah forces, which was beyond comparison to the threats Western powers’ own armoured vehicles faced operating in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and other theatres over the past several decades. Hezbollah largely responsible for forcing the Israeli Defence Force to adopt higher standards than its Western counterparts, particularly as it was an enemy on the country’s very doorstep as opposed to a far off adversary operating on a distant continent as in the case of those the United States and its European allies so often faced in war.
Three years after the war with Hezbollah, Trophy active protection systems began to be integrated onto Israeli battle tanks to ensure a better performance in future conflicts. The defence system functions by intercepting and destroying incoming projectiles, including anti tank missiles and rockets, with a blast similar to that of a shotgun. The platform is far more sophisticated than any analogues developed by the United States or European powers, and includes an Elta EL/M-2133 fire control radar with four panel antennas mounted to give a 360 degree field of view and effectively detect incoming projectiles. The system also includes a powerful internal computer, which calculates the approach vector of incoming projectiles almost instantly as well as the optimal time and angle to fire a round to intercept it. No comparable system has been developed for U.S. or European battle tanks.
As a result both of the effectiveness of the Trophy system, combat tested highly successfully on numerous occasions against Palestinian militants, and the poor survivability of America’s armoured vehicles, which themselves face increasingly potent threats on the battlefield, the United States Army has sought to purchase the Trophy for integration onto its own armoured platforms. This marks an exceptional circumstance when the U.S. has sought to import a complete weapons system rather than manufacture it domestically - a testament to the Trophy’s exceptional capabilities. The Israeli defence system is estimated to cost an estimated $300,000 to arm a single battle tank, and could result in billions in export contracts should it be widely adopted by Western armoured units. With the platform able to protect armoured personnel carriers such as the Israeli Namer as well as heavier battle tanks, the Trophy could well be adopted by a number of other American armoured platforms alongside its Abrams tank. With U.S. adversaries retaining a considerable lead in their own tank protection capabilities, with Russia’s Afganit system designed for its T-14 Armata battle tank set to make the platform among the most survivable in the world, Western powers are increasingly in need of a system like the Trophy to protect their armoured units and retain parity in their survivability with that of near peer potential adversaries.
Deadly Hellducks; How the Su-34 Became the World Leading Strike Fighter Russian Adversaries Fear Today
Eastern Europe and Central Asia , Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft
23 June 2018
Entering service in 2014 alongside the supermaneouverable Su-35 air superiority fighter, the Su-34 elite strike fighter was the less prolific of the two new combat platforms but could well represent a more significant development for Russia’s armed forces. Both the Su-34 and the Su-35 are derived from the same Su-27 Flanker air superiority airframe, in service since 1985, and have been extensively modernised and modified to fulfil different roles. While the Su-35 follows on from the Su-30 in improving on the capabilities of the original Flanker, and has been dubbed a ‘4++ generation’ fighter designed primarily for export and to serve the Russian Air Force in the interim until the fifth generation Su-57 attains full operational capability, the Su-34 represents the first of an entirely new generation of Russian strike platforms. Following on from the third generation Su-22 which served alongside the MiG-23 in the 1970s and the fourth generation Su-24 which accompanied the Su-27 in long range offensive missions, the Su-34 is designed to fly with Russian fifth generation fighters and will remain the country’s foremost strike platform for many decades to come. With this in mind, the aircraft’s capabilities have been designed to be truly formidable while the airframe retains significant room for further modernisation.
While the Russian military is hardly alone in commissioning a strike fighter based on an air superiority platform, with China and the United States, the only other two developers of heavy air superiority aircraft, both commissioning the F-15E and J-16 strike aircraft based on the F-15C and J-11 respectively, the Su-34 represents the most radical modification. Dubbed ‘Hellduck’ by NATO, the strike fighter is the most visibly different of all flanker variants produced either by China or Russia, with its fuselage uniquely accommodating two pilots in side by side seats. Such seating eliminates the need for duplicate instruments. Other unique modifications made with a long range strike role in mind include a pressurisation system that allows operation up to 10km without oxygen masks and room for the fighter’s crew members to stand and move around the cabin - features normally found only on long range bombers which the Su-27 air superiority airframe has been modified to integrate. The Su-34 was based on the Su-27IB design which also incorporated a similarly unusual cockpit and was developed in the final days of the Soviet Union to replace the Su-24, though the collapse of the USSR led to the cancellation of this program. Upon entering service the Hellduck became the first Flanker variant to have been designed for a specialised air to ground strike role, with the six other major variants which entered service before it all specialising in air superiority. Unlike the Su-24, the platform retains formidable defensive air to air combat capabilities which reduces its reliance on a fighter escort - initially designed to defend the fighter from the Western Bloc’s F-15 heavy fighters and supporting F-16 light platforms deployed in Europe and near Russia’s Far East. This include a 30 mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-301 autocannon and pair of air to air missiles of a number of variants - including the R-27ER with a formidable engagement range of 130km. While they are not deployed in large numbers, the missiles are among the most lethal and longest ranged in the world, surpassing the 105km and 75km engagement ranges of the AIM-120C and B variants deployed by U.S. and European fighters, giving the Su-34 ample protection.
Alongside defensive armaments for air to air combat, the Su-34 also deploys advanced air to ground, anti radiation and anti ship munitions as well as highly sophisticated standoff weapons. While the Hellduck’s electronic warfare capabilities are formidable, and the aircraft’s high manoeuvrability, speed and operational altitude provide considerable survivability, the ability to deploy long range cruise missiles allow the aircraft to better carry out long range strikes in highly contested theatres where risks from enemy air defences and fighter jets remain high. These standoff capabilities can be key to launching a successful first strike to eliminate enemy air defences, which can be then be followed by further strikes using shorter ranged bombs and missiles once threats to friendly aircraft are neutralised. The Su-34 is capable of deploying a number of advanced cruise missile types, with the Kh-65Se and Kh-SD capable of striking targets at up to 600km away, well out of range of any air defence platform currently in service, making them ideal for neutralising such platforms in the early stages of a campaign. The heavy losses incurred by Russian aircraft to Georgian air defences during their brief war in 2008 is thought to have had a strong influence on the Russian Air Force’s emphasis on standoff capabilities for deployment in a war’s early stages.
Another highly capable cruise missile deployed by the Su-34, the Kh-38, was developed exclusively for Russia’s next generation aircraft including the Su-57, the MiG-35 and the Hellduck itself. The self guided missile can deploy cluster munitions, fragmentation warheads or armour piercing warheads and strikes targets at Mach 2.2. Other advanced standoff missiles specialised in anti ship operations, such as the Mach 3 Kh-41, the Mach 3.5 sea skimming Kh-31A and the 300km range Kh-35U and P-800. For short ranged engagements in theatres where threats to the aircraft are limited, or where electronic warfare systems and high altitude flights are deemed sufficient protection, fourteen different types of bomb, each specialised in a specific role, can be deployed by overflying Helducks. The integration of three state of the art electronic countermeasures systems, the Khibiny, SAP-14 and SAP-518, provide ample protection against most threats. These systems are key to suppressing radars on enemy surface to air missile systems and fighter jets and according to its manufacturers can even blind the massive radars carried by AWACS platforms such as the U.S. Air Force’s E-2 Hawkeye and E-3 Sentry. Russian sources claim that electronic warfare systems used by the Su-34 are so capable that jets would appear to “simply disappears from enemy radars” when these capabilities are activated - an invaluable asset occupying only a single hardpoint. Whether electronic warfare will fully live up to their manufacturers’ promises remains to be seen, but they should almost certainly be more than capable of countering basic threats to the Hellduck once enemy surface to air missile emplacements have been softened with long range standoff missiles.
The Su-34’s advanced capabilities and versatility make it perhaps the most advanced strike fighter in service today, with the Chinese J-16 and South Korean F-15K being close contenders. With a combat radius of over 1,100km, the aircraft is capable of striking deep into enemy territory. Hellducks deployed to Syria can strike targets across almost the entire Middle East, while those based in Russia's Kaliningrad will be well within their limits to neutralise enemy forces across Germany, the Baltic States, Scandinavia and much of France. Production of the Su-34 notably appears to have been prioritised over the Su-35, with approximately 120 Hellducks having entered service as of June 2018 where numbers of the air superiority platform which entered service the same year are only around 70. While the Su-35’s performance is comparable to its predecessor the Su-30, and is surpassed by the Su-57, the Su-34’s capabilities as a strike fighter remain without compare in the Russian military and no known future platforms are planned which will surpass it. This gives the Hellduck arguably a more critical role than the Su-35 for Russia's armed, and means it is highly likely to be produced in larger numbers than the air superiority platform which entered service alongside it. The Hellduck's considerably lower production cost than the supermaneuverable air superiority fighter is also a likely factor. The Russian Air Force is expected to deploy at least 300 of the strike fighters by 2025, and while the older Su-24 will continue to be modernised it is likely to be gradually phased out of frontline service. Twelve Su-34 strike fighters have been deployed to Syria for combat operations against Islamist insurgents in the country, and unlike the Su-24 and Su-25 which are also specialised in an air to ground role the Hellducks have suffered no losses. The aircraft have performed exceptionally during the Syrian conflict, and modifications have been applied based on combat experience.
U.S. Military Modifies C-130 Hercules Transports for 'Nuke Sniffing' Role as Iran Threatens Withdrawal from JCPOA Nuclear Deal
North America, Western Europe and Oceania , Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft
22 June 2018
First produced in 1954, the Lockheed C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft entered service in the aftermath of the Korean War and remains widely in service today, with over 2,500 of the aircraft having been built over 65 years. The Hercules remains key to the United States’ colossal military transport capabilities, essential to sustaining its vast network of military bases across the world and delivery men and materials for war to where they are most needed. The transport aircraft has been exported to more than 60 countries for military use, and over 10 modifications of the platform have been developed for specialised roles. The Hercules remains one of the oldest vehicle designs in service in the United States military.
The U.S. military has recently allocated several of its Hercules aircraft a new role - detecting atmospheric nuclear particles over enemy territory, or ‘nuke sniffing,’ to better respond to threats from existing or potential nuclear armed adversaries. While the WC-130, a weather reconnaissance aircraft which entered service in 1962, has long been allocated this task, perceptions of increasing nuclear threats from abroad have led to greater needs for ‘nuke sniffers’ - resulting in the modification of standard C-130 aircraft for this purpose. Air Force Chief of Staff General Dave Goldfein stated in a report to Congress that the WC-135 was far too small to meet the needs of the armed forces. “Our mission capable rates, and more importantly our aircraft availability rates to go do this mission, are much lower than not only the Secretary of Defence but the combatant commander’s requirements for that mission,” he reported. The Air Force has thus placed orders for Harvester Particulate Airborne Collection System kits which can be strapped onto a basic C-130 transport to collect microscopic nuclear solids - taking pressure off the WC-135 fleet.
The Harvester kit was reportedly tested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection MQ-9 Reaper drones before being procured by the Air Force. Each includes two sampling pods and a gamma radiation sensor which is key to guiding aircraft to radioactive zones for better sampling. Teams on the ground will also be provided with new radiation protection gear and equipment needed to analyse nuclear particles collected by the Hercules aircraft. While capable, the modified C-130 aircraft will not be able to match the capabilities of the specialised purpose built WC-130, with the latter capable of operating at extended ranges due to aerial refuelling and internal filtration, able to collect nuclear gasses alongside standard particles, and flying a 42% higher altitude which is key to retaining survivability near or over enemy airspace.
The U.S. Air Force’s newly modified ‘nuke hunting’ C-130 aircraft are set to prove an invaluable asset in light of a the vast nuclear capabilities fielded by a number of potential adversaries. With Iran set to restart uranium enrichment following the United States’ withdrawn from the JCPOA nuclear deal, and threatening to withdraw from the agreement altogether, aircraft able to monitor Tehran’s nuclear activities should the deal collapse entirely and IAEA inspectors be evicted from the country remains a highly prized asset. The Untied States is hardly the only country to invest in such capabilities or to modify existing aircraft for a ‘nuke sniffer’ role due to concerns regarding the activities of its potential adversaries. The Soviet Union for one was known to modify its MiG-25 high altitude interceptors to monitor Chinese nuclear testing across the border - and with Beijing’s arsenal at the time aimed squarely at the USSR this was considered a major threat worth monitoring closely. The resulting MiG-25RR flew regular sorties near and at times over Chinese territory to collect valuable data, providing Soviet planners with a critical understanding of developments in the Chinese nuclear program.
In the event of war with a nuclear power such as North Korea or Russia or an aspiring nuclear armed state, which Iran may well become in the near future, specialised aircraft and drones are set to to be be brought to the front to seek and neutralise enemy nuclear capabilities in a conflict’s early stages. Intelligence provided by ‘nuke sniffing’ C-130 and WC-130 aircraft could well become an invaluable asset for such a mission - which will be particularly difficult against established nuclear armed powers such as North Korea and Russia which rely on both highly mobile nuclear delivery systems and heavily fortified installations to retain survivability. Success in neutralising an enemy’s nuclear capabilities from the air assumes the United States military will retain air superiority, as so many of their capabilities do. In a war with Russia, China or North Korea their ability to do so remains highly questionable. Against softer potential nuclear armed adversaries such as Iran or Pakistan, claiming air superiority and providing safe passage for American aircraft over enemy airspace will be much less of an issue.
Iran's Ship Hunting Phantoms; The F-4's Service As a Maritime Strike Fighter
Middle East , Aircraft and Anti-Aircraft
22 June 2018
The most numerous combat aircraft fielded by the Iranian Air Force, the Vietnam War era F-4 Phantom heavy fighter is relied on to perform a number of roles for the Islamic Republic's defence today. The fighters are heavier, faster and can operate from higher altitudes than rival platforms such as the F-16 and F-18 fielded by the country's potential adversaries, and with extensive indigenous modernisations they present a credible threat. While the F-4E, the most widely serving variant of the Phantom, was designed primarily for air superiority, with Iran relying heavily on its F-14 and MiG-29 fleets and surface to air missiles batteries to protect its airspace from enemy aircraft the Phantoms in Iranian service have increasingly been allocated a strike role. This includes both conventional strikes on ground targets, as demonstrated by operations against Islamic State militants based in Iraq, as well as ship hunting missions in the Persian Gulf.
For the Iranian military, the ability to threaten hostile warships in the waters of the Persian Gulf, particularly the narrow but strategically critical Straits of Hormuz, remains a key capability. While Iran relies heavily on its ballistic missile arsenal to strike enemy military facilities across the Middle East, a different weapons systems have been developed to neutralise enemy war fleets and aircraft carriers and thus blunt the ability of potential adversaries to launch a strike on the the country. Having extensively studied the operations of the United States Navy's carrier strike groups in particular, the Iranian fleet of attack boats and diesel powered submarines, including state of the art Russian Kilo Class 'black hole' ships and a number of North Korean made platforms, are all key to keeping hostile warships at bay and thus deterring a Western attack on the country. The Iranian military has also relied heavily on assistance from its close defence partner, China's People's Liberation Army, to develop a number of cutting edge air launched anti ship missile systems. Chinese designed cruise missiles are built in considerable numbers by Iran under indigenous designations - much like the country has taken to renaming domestically manufactured North Korean ballistic missiles. The Nasr anti ship cruise missile, the most capable short range platform in the Iranian inventory, is a direct derivative appearing nearly identical to the Chinese C-704. With a range of 35km and the ability to approach enemy warships at low altitudes, the missile has been modified to be deployed from Iranian F-4 heavy fighters. As each Phantom can deploy multiple missiles, and can do so far from Iranian coasts due to the aircraft's long range, Phantoms armed for a maritime strike role can pose a significant threats to enemy warships.
Complementing the Nasr, a second anti ship missile has been indigenously manufactured for the Phantom based on an advanced Chinese design. The Qader medium range cruise missile, derived from the Chinese C-802 supersonic platform, is capable of striking hostile targets up to 200 kilometres away. Able to engage enemy targets at standoff range, the survivability of the Phantoms as well as the size of Iran's maritime anti access area denial zone are both significantly enhanced. Iran has reportedly modernised the anti jamming technologies of these two Chinese missiles to improve their effectiveness when operating against adversaries with advanced electronic warfare capabilities. The F-4 is the primary launch platform for the two cruise missiles, and travelling at high altitudes and at speeds of over Mach 2 the aircraft can impart considerable kinetic energy onto them when launching. The Phantoms also enjoy a considerable speed and altitude advantage over any Western carrier based fighters currently in service, improving their survivability when attacking enemy naval strike groups near its coasts. With dozens of Phantoms in service they are set to prove a highly effective complement to the country's other advanced maritime anti access area denial systems.
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- Russia to Expand its Carrier Fleet with Two Advanced New Assault Ship Classes; Vertical Takeoff Aircraft Could Follow
- Deadly Hellducks; How the Su-34 Became the World Leading Strike Fighter Russian Adversaries Fear Today
- Iran's Ship Hunting Phantoms; The F-4's Service As a Maritime Strike Fighter
- China’s Plan to Eliminate Taiwan’s Air Force; How Beijing is Gradually Wearing Taipei’s Ageing Fighters into Inoperability
- Kumsong-3; Why North Korea’s Adversaries Fear its Mobile New Coastal Defence Missile Batteries