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Faster, Smaller, Lighter Missiles: How Brahmos Leads The Way?

June 22, 2013 2 comments

Indo-Russian supersonic missile, Brahmos may see a new competitor – the French missile, ASMPA.

The past and future of Brahmos | Image source: www.rian.ru

The past and future of Brahmos | Image source: http://www.rian.ru

Exactly one year ago, on June 20th, 2012, the French Government reported the successful test for their new upgraded missile – the ASMPA (Air Sol Moyenne Porte Ameliore).

Competition For Brahmos

Except for the weight, the new ASMPA is a Yakhont-Brahmos missile clone – like Brahmos, the French missile is also ramjet powered, kerosene-fuelled; 200-500 kg payload; 250-500 km range .

After a decade of ignoring the existence of a Mach-3 missile with Russia and India, the successful test of the new French missile should have been announced with much fanfare. Varying reports confuse ASMPA, deceptively named after its predecessor, the ASMP, which too was not widely inducted or utilized. Curiously, even one year later, very little has come out in the open. After more than a decade of silence, such a giant leap should have made the French Defense industry shout from rooftops.

With the end of Cold War, France probably does not need the ASMPA missile right now? France may decide to produce the ASMPA if the threat profile to France changes? Due to MTCR, anyway France cannot sell many of these missiles?

Why produce a missile that France does not need and cannot sell?

Maybe, India with Pakistan and China as rivals, needs to keep a high profile on new developments!

ASMPA Firsts

The ASMPA is expected to be integrated with the Rafale – something that was not done till September 2012.

Considering that this is less than 1.0 ton in weight, (globalsecurity.org gives weight specs. as 860 kg), compared to the nearly 3.0 tons that the Brahmos weighs, the ASMPA is major leg up.

For India, the ASMPSA missile means it can be something that can be fitted on all the Su-30MKIs, the MiG-29s, maybe even the ancient MiG-21s. At one ton, the Su-30MKIs will not need the major modifications, which is under discussion with the Russian vendors for the last 18 months.

Logic and The Rationale

Therefore, the ASMPA is probably the one reason why India opted for the Rafale. Possibly, that is also the reason why the signing of the Rafale contract is being delayed. Do the French have a missile that they can sell? Is it vaporware? Announced, tested, prototyped – but not in production and yet to be inducted.

MTCR regulations create artificial limits – probably the range of Brahmos is more than 300-km and the ASMPA range is less than 300-km. By declaring the range of the ASMPA missile to 500-km, France can claim that MTCR regulations stop it from sale or transfer of missiles and missile technology.

India’s indigenous interceptor missiles already attain speeds of Mach3-Mach-4. So, Indian requirements is probably limited to weight-reduction – which France seems to have achieved.

The Global Matrix

It is also a matter of much curiosity, that the Americans and the British or the Germans could not crack this technology – but the French did? After all, the test-integration of ASMPA with Rafale took two years after its test firing from a Mirage-2000N.

While the French do have a long history of experimental ramjets and hypersonic engines, integration into production, induction of these technologies has been lagging. It is in the stabilization, production and induction of supersonic ramjets that Indo-Russian partnership has excelled.

Not surprisingly, after the ASMPA announcement, India and Russia promptly announced that the Brahmos will be upgraded from supersonic speeds (Mach2.5-Mach3) to hypersonic speeds (Mach5-Mach6).

Laser guided missiles are one of Russia’s weaknesses. To overcome this technology shortcoming, Russia has signed a deal with France for integrating a system using French components.

France and Russia have also been co-operating on ramjet and scram jet technologies. Was there technology or a component barter between the French and the Russians?

ON AUGUST 20th 1998 Bill Clinton ordered American warships in the Arabian Sea to fire a volley of more than 60 Tomahawk cruise missiles at suspected terrorist training camps near the town of Khost in eastern Afghanistan. The missiles, flying north at about 880kph (550mph), took two hours to reach their target. Several people were killed, but the main target of the attack, Osama bin Laden, left the area shortly before the missiles struck. American spies located the al-Qaeda leader on two other occasions as he moved around Afghanistan in September 2000. But the United States had no weapons able to reach him fast enough.

They have now pinned their hopes on an alternative approach: superfast or “hypersonic” unmanned vehicles that can strike quickly by flying through the atmosphere, and cannot be mistaken for a nuclear missile.

These hypersonic vehicles are not rockets, as ICBMs are, but work in a fundamentally different way. Rockets carry their own fuel, which includes the oxygen needed for combustion in airless space. This fuel is heavy, making rockets practical only for short, vertical flights into space. So engineers are trying to develop lightweight, “air breathing” hypersonic vehicles that can travel at rocket-like speeds while taking oxygen from the atmosphere, as a jet engine does, rather than having to carry it in the form of fuel oxidants.

The term hypersonic technically refers to speeds faster than five times the speed of sound, or Mach 5, equivalent to around 6,200kph at sea level and 5,300kph at high altitudes (where the colder, thinner air means the speed of sound is lower). Being able to sustain flight in the atmosphere at such speeds would have many benefits. Hypersonic vehicles would not be subject to existing treaties on ballistic-missile arsenals, for one thing. It is easier to manoeuvre in air than it is in space, making it more feasible to dodge interceptors or change trajectory if a target moves. And by cutting the cost of flying into the upper reaches of the atmosphere, the technology could also help reduce the expense of military and civilian access to space.

All this, however, requires a totally different design from the turbofan and turbojet engines that power airliners and fighter jets, few of which can operate beyond speeds of about Mach 2. At higher speeds the jet engines’ assemblies of spinning blades can no longer slow incoming air to the subsonic velocities needed for combustion. Faster propulsion relies instead on engines without moving parts. One type, called a ramjet, slows incoming air to subsonic speeds using a carefully shaped inlet to compress and thereby slow the airstream. Ramjets power France’s new, nuclear-tipped ASMPA missiles. Carried by Rafale and Mirage fighter jets, they are thought to be able to fly for about 500km at Mach 3, or around 3,700kph.

It’s not rocket science

But reaching hypersonic speeds of Mach 5 and above with an air-breathing engine means getting combustion to happen in a stream of supersonic air. Engines that do this are called supersonic-combustion ramjets, or scramjets. They also use a specially shaped inlet to slow the flow of incoming air, but it does not slow down enough to become subsonic. This leaves engineers with a big problem: injecting and igniting fuel in a supersonic airstream is like “lighting a match in a hurricane and keeping it lit,” says Russell Cummings, a hypersonic-propulsion expert at California Polytechnic State University.

One way to do it is to use fuel injectors that protrude, at an angle, into the supersonic airstream. They generate small shock waves that mix oxygen with fuel as soon as it is injected. This mixture can be ignited using the energy of bigger shock waves entering the combustion chamber. Another approach is being developed at the Australian Defence Force Academy. In a process known as “cascade ionisation”, laser blasts lasting just a few nanoseconds rip electrons off passing molecules, creating pockets of hot plasma in the combustion chamber that serve as sparks.

Scramjet fuel must also be kept away from the wall of the combustion chamber. Otherwise, it might “pre-ignite” before mixing properly, blowing up the vehicle, says Clinton Groth, an engineer at the University of Toronto who is currently doing research at Cambridge University in England (and who has consulted for Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce, two engine-makers). To complicate matters further, scramjets move too fast for their internal temperature and air pressure to be controlled mechanically by adjusting the air intake. Instead, as scramjets accelerate, they must ascend into thinner air at a precise rate to prevent rising heat and pressure from quickening the fuel burn and blowing up the combustion chamber.

In other words, igniting a scramjet is difficult, and keeping it going without exploding is harder still. Moreover scramjets, like ramjets, cannot begin flight on their own power. Because they need to be moving quickly to compress air for combustion, scramjets must first be accelerated by piggybacking on a jet plane or rocket. There are, in short, formidable obstacles to the construction of a scramjet vehicle.

A Chinese programme to convert a nuclear ballistic missile into an aircraft-carrier killer, by packing it with conventional explosives, had reached “initial operational capability”. The DF-21D, as it is called, is designed to descend from space at hypersonic speed and strike ships in the Western Pacific. Even though the accuracy of the DF-21D’s guidance system is unknown, the missile is already altering the balance of power within its range.

DARPA suggested, America will need “the new stealth” of hypersonic vehicles. Similarly, Russia’s deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, remarked last year that the design of hypersonic missiles had become a priority for the country.

via Hypersonic missiles: Speed is the new stealth | The Economist.

Onward, American Soldiers! Another million await death.

March 15, 2011 5 comments

Toppling USSR cost the US and Europe 4000 tons of gold. With a growing deficit of US$9t how far can Pax Americana go.

After millions killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Niall Ferguson wants war in Libya. With little to lose, Libyans may ensure that US loses its ‘empire’. (Cartoon by Steve Bell; cartoon courtesy – guim.co.uk). Click for larger image.

Bad history

Niall Ferguson, a popular, British historian, has been a cheer-leader for Pax Americana. On assignment to Harvard currently, he has been at the forefront of ‘persuading’ America to take the place of various European colonial powers. Instead of the USCAP-client states system, Niall Ferguson believes that US must revert to European-style colonialism.

Niall Ferguson starts-off by using two bad examples of revolutions. One is the American Independence and the other was a inconsequential bit of British history.

Was the American Revolution ‘completely organic’? Funny, I could have sworn those were French ships off Yorktown. What about Britain’s Glorious Revolution, the one that established parliamentary rule? Strange, I had this crazy idea that William III was a Dutchman.

Betcha

Yes! Niall is write about one thing!

French supplies of gunpowder were crucial to Washington & Co., as Britain had cornered gunpowder supplies from India.

For the success of the American War of Independence, gunpowder apart, the French and Spanish economic aid to the armies of George Washington, was essential.

But …

My bottom चवन्नी chav-aani says Ferguson’s history teacher never told him, that Britain gave up 13 American colonies. Due to wars in India, especially with Tipu Sultan. Rather than lose India, Britain thought it wiser to let go of these 13 American colonies.

Why does Niall Ferguson forget that Haiti threw out their slave-masters.

All by themselves.

Haiti, defeated British, French and Spanish colonial armies in a space of less than 10 years (1794-1804). As did Cuba. I wonder what were ‘foreign additives’ in Kenya, Malaysia, South Africa or in Poland.

Reload /Refresh

Why does Niall Ferguson remind me of a sputtering, slow internet connection. Refresh the page a number of times. After 8 years of war in Iraq, he has the brazenness to

think of the Marsh Arabs’ fate at the hands of Saddam Hussein. Such events tend to be remembered as massacres.

The lowest figure for civilian deaths in Iraq has crossed 1 lakh (100,000) people. Corroborated by multiple news reports, eyewitness accounts, death certificates, hospital records, morgue reports, Western sources, Iraqi official figures, US army figures. The 1 lakh (100,000) figure assumes, in the middle of a civil war, Iraqis will cease all activity, postpone the funeral, in case of a death, to complete documentation and update multiple databases for a Western body-count. The figure of 100,000 assumes that Iraqis share Western enthusiasm, (or is it relish?), for ‘body-count’.

Other less ‘rigorous’ procedures, using Iraqi families as source and base, have reported around 10 lakh (1 million) Iraqi deaths. Whether you accept, 100,000 deaths or 1,000,000, it is a lot more people who died due to US invasion, than due to Saddam’s ‘oppression’.

Ever since, Pax Americana started their unwelcome visit to Iraq.

Hundreds … or hundreds of thousands

We must hope that someone gives Obama a history lesson before thousands of Libyans share their fate.

I am sure 100s of people are killed by Gaddafi’s regime each year. Trouble is, the US will kill more. Many more.

Niall-anna, are you sure that the cost of US intervention will be less than thousands? Iraq’s death-toll is a lot more than thousands – in fact, it is hundreds of thousands. If you can guarantee a figure in hundreds, I am all for a US invasion.

Good upbringing shows

I have always wanted to know, who gave history lessons to Niall Ferguson?

Such hubris cost US billions in Iraq and Afghanista. The bill will up for payment soon. Wil Libya be the straw on the US backs? (Cartoon by Stavro Jabra). Click for larger image.

It will be tragic indeed if America concludes from the experience of overthrowing murderous tyrannies in Afghanistan and Iraq that the correct policy is to turn a blind eye to murder in Libya.

Why not, for a change, pay attention to the home-front.

With more than 2 million prisoners, the capital of State-mandated murders is surely USA.

The evil empire

You get ‘One’ chance. One guess is all that you will need, Niall-bhai. Which country has more per-capita prisoners – USA, erstwhile USSR /post-Soviet Russia. I will throw China as a bonus?

The Cold War ended not because the US achieved a military edge over the Soviet Union, but because the legitimacy of the Soviet system collapsed from within. The West’s role was to insist on the importance of those “human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Even if not all America’s allies in the Cold War always upheld them, the other side respected them less.

And no, the story of Soviet collapse, has nothing to do with “human rights and fundamental freedoms.” It was economic warfare.

In the 70s, with out-sized gains in oil, platinum and aluminum prices, Soviet economy became an economic powerhouse. Soviet Russia, one of the largest gold producers in the world, made windfall gains. Funding anti-US regimes across Africa, South America, Asia and the Middle East, Soviet Union was dubbed the Evil Empire by Ronald Reagan.

The expansion in subsidies by the USSR in the 1970-1990 period to its allies and sympathetic regimes, created a huge pressure on Soviet finances. A simultaneous drop in oil and gold prices in the 1985-1995 period severely dented Soviet export earnings, leading to the economic collapse of the Soviet Union. In USSR’s economy, after WW2, commodities like oil, natural gas, metals (like gold, platinum, uranium) and timber accounted for 65%-80% of Russian exports.

Toppling USSR cost the US and Europeans 4000 tons of gold – and other hidden costs. With a US$9t deficit, which is not going down, how long and how far can Pax Americana go? (Cartoon by Steve Sack; courtesy – sinteur.com.). Click for larger image.

Toppling USSR cost the US and Europeans 4000 tons of gold – and other hidden costs. With a US$9t deficit, which is not going down, how long and how far can Pax Americana go? (Cartoon by Steve Sack; courtesy – sinteur.com.). Click for larger image.

The Central Bank Gold Sales Agreement, further dented gold prices, 1995 onwards. Gordon Brown, the then British Chancellor of the Exchequer, has been under pressure to ‘reveal’ details of British gold sales during this period.

The interesting bit was where did the European Central Banks get so much gold from! Was it the various gold hoards, that had disappeared from 1900-200o, making a re-appearance! A lot of Nazi and Soviet gold came into the markets, it is surmised, during the 1999-2005 Central Bank Gold Sales agreement – which was put in place to depress gold prices. These depressed gold prices, that coincided with price declines in oil, platinum and other commodities, bankrupted the Soviet economy.

Toppling USSR cost the US and Europeans, 4000 tons of gold – and other hidden costs. With a US$9t deficit, which is not going down, how long and how far can Pax Americana go? With an Afghan War going nowhere, Pakistan waiting to implode, will Libya be the straw on the Pax Americana’s back. You must be careful of what you wish for. Your wishes may come true.

Pax Americana may come – and go.


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