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F-15 EX Jets: Why US’ F-15 EX Aircrafts Could Be A Disaster For The Indian Air Force – Experts

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F-15 EX Fighter Jets are set to enter the race for the Indian MMRCA contract. The American F-15 EX fighter aircraft will compete against the French Rafales, Russian SU-35s, American F/A 18 Super Hornets & F-21s besides the Swedish Gripen.  

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As EurAsian Times reported earlier, the F-15 EX made a comeback after the US Air Force (USAF) placed an order for eight which could go up to 72, will join the F/A 18 Super Hornet and the F 21 ( a variant of the F 16) that are already on offer.

Besides the French jets, American and Russian jets are head to head once again for the lucrative Indian defence tender. The two high-end heavyweight aircraft F-15EX and Su-35 represent the modernization of the cold war era aircraft. So how does the Su-35 compete against the F-15EX fighter aircraft?

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What is MMRCA tender?

Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) tender falls under India’s make in India initiative under which the country pursues to jointly manufacture 114 fighter aircraft and assist its Air Force expansion plans.

F-15EX and Su-35 are both in contest for India’s MMRCA tender. While the MMRCA initially stated that aircrafts should be of a light to medium weight, the Su-35 and F-15X stand out as the only two high-end heavyweight aircraft in the race, keeping the French Rafales out from the picture for now.

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Su-35 vs F-15EX Jets

Both the F-15EX and the Su-35 are twin-engine designs capable of functioning at high altitudes, and both have the long ranges needed to penetrate enemy airspace and deliver a wide range of munitions for both air to air and air to ground missions.

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The F-15EX certainly does have the advantage of higher speed as it can reach up to the speeds of Mach 2.5 while the Su-35 is restricted to speeds of around Mach 2.25. Both field radars which are similarly sophisticated – the Irbis-E and AN/APG-82 – although the Su-35’s radar is larger and believed to be more powerful.

The Irbis-E can identify most fighter-sized targets at ranges of over 400 kilometres,  and can track up to 30 airborne targets concurrently and engage up to eight. Stealth fighters with lower radar cross-sections can reportedly be detected at ranges of over 80km.

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The Su-35 does benefit from a number of advantages including beyond visual range engagements, including its radar cross-section reducing profile which leaves its radar cross-section at under one third that of the F-15.

Whereas the Su-35 is a lot stealthier than the original Su-27 – the F-15 has seen little change to its profile. Plans to similarly reduce the radar cross-section of the F-15 under the F-15SE program were cancelled, and have not been incorporated into the F-15EX design.

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Other advantages enjoyed by the Su-35 include its access to R-37M hypersonic air to air missiles – which have a long 400km range, high manoeuvrability, a Mach 6 speed and very powerful sensors.

American F-15s today rely on the ageing AIM-120C with a 105km range – although the F-15EX could be marketed with the AIM-120D with a longer 180km range. These missiles have less than half the range of the R-37 and are much slower – with a speed of around Mach 4.5.

The Su-35 will in the near future also have access to the K-77, which will make use of a revolutionary new APAA guidance system that will make it extremely difficult to evade. The missile will have a range of approximately 200km.

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While the F-15EX’s air to air missiles does suffer a quantitative disadvantage, the fighter is able to carry up to 22 of them where the Su-35 can carry just 14. The F-15’s engine thrust is considerably lower than that of the Su-35 however, which if combined with such a heavy weapons payload will seriously compromise manoeuvrability at all ranges and the fighter’s ability to evade missile attacks.

In visual range combat, the Su-35’s advantages are even more evident. The F-15EX has a much bulkier design with a much lower thrust/weight ratio, allowing the Su-35 to easily outmanoeuvre it even without relying on its thrust-vectoring engines. Three-dimensional thrust vectoring capabilities, however, will make the Su-35’s advantage bewildering at short ranges.

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While the Su-35 appears to be the more capable aircraft based on an assessment of its capabilities, its main attraction to India over the F-15EX is likely to be its compatibility with existing jets in the Indian Air Force’s fleet.

The Su-35 is closely related to the Su-30MKI and the Indian Air Force already operates over 250 and interoperability will provide a significant advantage that the F-15EX would lack.

Alongside the Su-30, India deploys a number of other Russian jets such as the MiG-29 and MiG-21Bisons which use modern Russian munitions such as the R-77 and R-27 air to air missiles – all of which are compatible with the Su-35.

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The similarities between the Su-35 and the Su-30MKI will also allow pilots to relatively easily transfer between operating the two classes – which with India already having several hundred trained Su-30 pilots is a major advantage.

By contrast, integrating the F-15EX into an already very diverse fleet – some would argue too diverse – could provide a logistics nightmare – particularly considering that India deploys no classes of American fighter and no American air to air missiles or maintenance equipment.

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Further increasing the attractiveness of the Su-35, the fighter has been offered for licence manufacturing in India alongside transfers of some technologies for its AL-41 engines and Irbis-E radars. A license manufacturing deal is reportedly being tied to a deal to modernize the Su-30MKI to a ‘4++ generation standard’ – allowing the Indian Air Force to upgrade existing fighters with Irbis-E radars and AL-41 engines which would revolutionize their performances.

This would also allow the older fighters to make use of new types of munitions such as the R-37M air to air missile. While the F-15EX is a very formidable fighter, it cannot be paired with an upgrade package for existing Indian fighters in any comparable way – which would only be possible if India already operated older classes of American fighter such as the F-15C.

Eventually, it remains uncertain whether India will opt for a heavyweight fighter under the MMRCA contract or whether it will stick to its original plan to acquire a lighter and lower maintenance jet such as the MiG-35 or French Rafale.

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While both the F-15EX and the Su-35 are somewhat similar, the Su-35’s advantages, especially in close range engagement, is noteworthy. The Su-35’s primary advantage over the F-15EX, however, is the difficulty of incorporating American aircraft into a service that already operates an overly diverse fleet and does not operate any classes of American fighters or air to air missiles.

This advantage is further cemented by the Su-35’s very high level of interoperability with the Su-30MKI, and the possibility of using Su-35 technologies obtained under the contract to upgrade the Su-30 to a comparable ‘4++ generation’ standard.

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Washington has applied immense political pressure including threats of economic sanctions on the country to stay away from Russian hardware. While the advantages of the Su-35 are overwhelming, opting for the American F-15Ex or other fighter jets including the F-21 or the F-18 Super Hornets as part of a politically motivated purchase remains a considerable possibility.

Military Watch Magazine & NTicku

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EurAsian Region

Russia Could Annex More Parts Of Ukraine Over ‘Crimean Dispute’: US Reports

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The lack of water in Crimea may lead to a new military aggression by Russia against Ukraine. Analysts he Jamestown Foundation believes that the water situation in Crimea has reached a critical level, which might prompt Moscow to seize more Ukrainian territories. 

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Goble writes – the Crimea has long endured water shortages now intensified by frequent winters with little-to-no rain or snow. According to officials in Moscow, Crimea has seen its reserves of freshwater slump by 60% and there could be no water by this August in the peninsula.

The situation poses a grave health crisis in Crimea and this could prompt Russia to seize more Ukrainian territories to gain access to freshwater supplies as Kiev has bluntly rejected selling water to Russia.

Until the Russian annexation of Crimea, 85% of the drinking water for the Crimean residents was supplied via the North Crimean Canal, from the Dnieper River. However, Ukraine abruptly terminated the supplies, forcing Moscow to rely on groundwater and reservoirs.

Ukrainian experts state that the water deficiency in Crimea is a direct result of the Russian invasion. If it ends (the Russian occupation) the water crisis will end too, which is also the official position of Ukraine,”

The groundwater levels in much of Crimea have decreased dramatically as the region faces the prospect of water shortages for both agriculture as well as the resident population.

Not only is Crimea running out of water, but experts claim that Russia has often played up this issue in order to pressurize Ukraine via Europe. Indeed, the expert notes, what Moscow says about water for Crimea has matched the Russin attempts to extend its control into other parts of Ukraine.

When Russia overran Ukrainian territory in 2014, they had planned to capture a much larger portion of the nation than they were able to, including the places from which Crimea had historically obtained its water. Will the current “hysteria” in Crimea about water shortage prompt the Russians to move against Ukraine?

Ukraine is unlikely to change its position on Crimea and Russian occupation. That is because there is a looming water shortage in Ukraine itself, and supplying water to the Russian occupation would only increase the matter, besides Kiev looks determined to stand its ground firm.

That raises the probability that Russia may use the military option and drive northward into Ukraine to seize full control of water for Crimea before a humanitarian disaster hits the region this summer.

he Jamestown Foundation

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EurAsian Region

From Syria To Libya, Turkish Drones Outsmarting Russian Air Defence Systems?

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Turkey and Russia have been at opposite ends in both Syria and Libya. Just like Syria where Turkish drones excelled against the Russian air defence systems, the situation in Libya looks almost similar. 

Turkish drones have yet again battered Russian air-defence systems. According to TRT World, the introduction of drones in Libya by Turkey has caused the tide of the war to swing in its favour.

To understand the Libyan war is not easy as different countries support different leaders and this has caused widespread chaos in the region. Much like Syria, Russia and Turkey are supporting different groups in Libya.

Moscow backs and supports Khalil Haftar of the Libyan National Army (LNA) based in Benghazi. Haftar also has allies in France, Saudi Arabia and Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. The LNA recruits from all over Africa and its aim are to wrest control of the capital, Tripoli, from the Government of National Accord (GNA) and rule over the African country.

The GNA is the internationally recognised government in Libya and the defence of the government lies in the hands of Turkey, Qatar and Italy and its army. The LNA, under Haftar, launched a military campaign in April 2019 to take control of Tripoli even though the UN Secretary-General had requested him not to do so.

A year on, Haftar’s self-styled LNA is on verge of defeat as Turkey’s drones have wreaked havoc on LNA controlled territories.

Turkish Drones – Changing the Tide

According to reports, Turkish drones started arriving in late 2019 and the Turkish Army assisted the GNA to familiarize Libyans with the new weapons.

Prior to the arrival of the drones, Haftar’s own air force, supported by the UAE, Egyptians and Russians had devastated the GNA forces resulting in heavy casualties.

However, the drones have proved to be the game-changer yet again. Using their experience from Idlib in Syria, Ankara mastered the use of sophisticated unmanned aerial warfare, hitting targets at distance and assisting ground troops.

Now using the same technology and experience, Turkish drones have been vital in assisting GNA claim nearly all of western Libya from Haftar’s forces. Since April, the GNA has captured numerous cities between Tripoli and the Tunisian border.

The latest feather in the GNA’s cap is the seizure of the Al-Vatiya, HQ of the LNA’s western operations, and the largest airbase across Western Libya. The Turks reported the destruction of two Russian anti-aircraft missile-cannon systems (ZRPK) “Pantsir-C1”.

This is the first time that the GNA has announced hitting the Russian air defence system since the start of the assault on Tripoli forces in April 2019.

Russia Wounded Yet Again?

For the Russian forces, the latest advance in Libya is a flashback of Syria. As reported by EurAsian Times in March, drones from Turkey had destroyed several Russian-made, Syrian-operated air defence vehicles. The Russian Ministry of Defence later confirmed that two Pantsir air-defence systems were destroyed in the Turkish onslaught.

In Libya, the air defence system has met the same fate and has now raised questions over its efficacy. The aerial offensive from Ankara has put Moscow on the backfoot. But like always, analysts agree that the Russian will not go out without a fight.

In an effort to counter GNA and its allies, Moscow has sent 6 MiG-29 fighter jets and 2 Su-24 attack planes to the LNA-controlled al Jufra airbase. The Russians did get some positive news as the LNA was able to destroy 4 Turkish drones last week. Haftar’s only hope to stem the GNA’s advance is to regain air superiority.

The Libyan war has been going on since 2011 and while the tide has now swung in the GNA’s favour, it does not mean the war will end anytime soon. Experts speaking to EurAsian Times believe that there is no military solution to Libya and Haftar must be removed from the scene in Tripoli.

Written by – Armaan Srivastava

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EurAsian Region

Is India Set To Export BrahMos Missiles To The Philippines, Indonesia & Vietnam?

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India-Philippines defence relations could get stronger as Manila plans to acquire BrahMos missile. “There are discussions going on a range of weapons systems between India and the Philippines. Once travel becomes possible, the joint committee that looks at defence logistics will meet discuss these things,” said India’s ambassador to the Philippines Jaideep Majumdar.

In 2017, during the visit to the Philippines, Prime Minister Narendra Modi signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Defense Industry and Logistics Cooperation (MoU). The MoU provides a framework for enhancing and strengthening cooperation in logistics support and services and in the development, production and procurement of defence materials.

India had offered $100 million a line of credit to the Philippines for defence purchases but Manila is considering the option to procure BrahMos missile with its own funds.

BrahMos Deals with other countries

ASEAN nations have earlier approached New Delhi exploring the idea to procure major defence and weapon systems, including the Akash and BrahMos missiles.

In the last few years, India has exported personal protective items or bulletproof gear and armour plating for military vehicles to the Philippines. New Delhi is now exploring the defence deals with Indonesia and Vietnam to sell its Indo-Russian missile, BrahMos.

India has earlier contracted to sell coastal defence radars and marine-grade steel to Indonesia and to service the Russian-made Su-30 combat jets flown by the Indonesian air force. “It is significant if India is offering the BrahMos missile to Indonesia. It enhances the relevance of India’s military profile as a credible exporter of cruise missile technology,” said Commodore (retired) C Uday Bhaskar.

This is a big push for PM Modi’s ‘Make in India’ campaign. “We are not a significant exporter of arms mainly because we have very little exportable military equipment,” Amit Cowshish, former Financial Advisor (Acquisition), Ministry of Defence stated.

BrahMos Missile

BrahMos is a cruise missile which means that it can be controlled towards a pre-determined land- or sea-based target. It is classified as a supersonic cruise missile which can achieve a speed 2.8 times the speed of sound.

The name comes with the amalgamation of rivers Brahmaputra and Moskva and was produced by a joint venture between Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Mashinostroyenia of Russia.

“India’s missile development programme has made sure that its missiles are upgraded and new systems are also developed. BrahMos has undergone development through the early 2000s till date. Its land-to-land, submarine-fired and now air-fired variants have been developed stage by stage. Each new version has something additional compared to the previous version,” said a DRDO scientist.

The Indian Navy indicted the missiles on its warships in 2005 while army began acquiring from 2007 after a series of tests. After the Indian Air Force (IAF) successfully air-launched a Mach 2.8 supersonic surface-attack missile of this category from a fighter jet, it became the first in the world to do so.

India has been in talks with the ASEAN nations for a long time over the export of BrahMos missiles and experts are predicting that New Delhi should be able to make inroads into the South-East Asian nations as pressure from China mounts.

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