Thursday, December 15, 2005

Polish radars – fifty years of development

First Polish radar - Nysa-A from 1952. Photo - RADWAR

Soon I will submit to eDefense a history of Polish military radars: ground surveillance, ground air defense fire-control, airborne surveillance (yes, “mini-AWACS”!) and naval. Among them are early and late 2D radars, radar altimeters, modern 3D radars, including phased array ones.
The first man who dealt with radar development in Poland was Prof. Janusz Groszkowski, who researched the electric phenomena in vacuum environment. In late 30s he developed a theory of EM generator stability conditions, which initially was not understood by the other scientists, but where latter used around the world.
The more serious works on radars started in Poland in 1948, at Warsaw Institute of Technology (WIT; Prof. P. Szulkin) and at newly created Przemyslowy Instytut Telekomunikacji (Industrial Telecommunication Institute) in Warsaw, headed by J. Groszkowski.
First experimental radar was built shortly afterwards, with the use of elements (vacuum tubes and other electric elements) collected from various sources. It had Yagi type of antenna, designed at WIT and most of the other electronic taken from German Freya radars, abandoned upon German withdrawal at the end of WWII. The experimental radar worked (or hardly worked) on about 200 MHz frequency.
After some experiments with antennas, it was decided to build a new radar, with the parabolic antenna, very much reassembling the design used on German Freya radar. In November 1951 Polish government issued a special secret decision, obliging the PIT to develop a surveillance radar for air defense units and the prototype was to be ready within a year, in November 1952. It was possible because in fact the works on such radar were quite advanced at PIT during this time. The radar was officially named Nysa-A (after a river, which formed new Polish-GDR border in its southern part, the “A” meant the first type of the Nysa family).
The new radar worked on 600 MHz frequency. The transmitter created pulses of 200 kW peak power (which was deemed too low, and the works were undertaken to increase it). The repetition frequency was 100 Hz. The radar’s antenna could rotate from 0.5 to 5 revolutions per minute, either by electrical engine, or manually, by crank inside the cabin. It was used especially for sector operations, when detection range increased considerably.
Interestingly Soviet Union provided almost none help, except for passing a quantity of American (!) 2C40 and 6AC7 vacuum tubes and some other elements. Such elements were used in US radars supplied to USSR on the provision of Land-Lease, together with large stocks of spare parts. Soviet Union started to field own radars after the war and the American radars were declared surplus and used rather for test purposes.
The vacuum tubes were not the only US elements in new Polish radar. Also the PIT designers managed to get multi-volume radar handbook published by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and commonly referred in PIT as “Radar bible”. The handbook was very helpful and later, when the next Nysa-C radar was exported to Indonesia, the Indonesian personnel said that the radar was built “like from a handbook”!
The radar was ready in 1952 and in the winter 1952/1953 it passed company’s and state’s trials, completed in April 1953. The measured range of the radar against MiG-15 fighter was 150 km, but it was achieved by company’s personnel, knowing all the “tricks”. Actual range was 100-120 km.
The radar was far from excellence, but it was accepted to service of Polish Air Force for airspace surveillance. During the 1953-1954 five Nysa-A radars were produced and passed to service. They were used till 60s, mainly for experimental purposes. Interestingly, the equipment was not warmly welcomed in the air force. The benefits of radars were not yet recognized. The radars were unreliable and demanded much tuning and maintenance. But soon air force get used for radars and they were appreciated. Much later Polish made radars were assessed as better than Soviet equivalents and during the whole Warsaw Pact period Polish Air Force used much more Polish made radars than Soviet made ones. The proportion was reversed in Polish Country Air Defense Force, which were integrated across the Warsaw Pact countries and the equipment was also much standardized, so more Soviet radars were used by this service.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Indian Akulas

It was reported on eDefense yesterday that Russia is about to lease two Akula-class nuclear subs to India.

According to Indian Navy sources, some 265 personnel, mostly from Vishakapatnam, were trained in Sosnovy Bor, west of St. Petersburg, for service anboard two Akula-class submarines (referred to as the Bars class in Russia) that India is negotiating to lease from Russia. Officially, Russia has yet to sign an agreement for the lease of two submarines, but the training of Indian Navy personnel suggests that such a deal between India and Russia has already been struck, the sources said, adding that India is also paying for the completion of two additional Akula-class submarines in Russia.

India has been known to be negotiating with Russia, since at least sometime last year, for the lease of two Akula-class submarines at an estimated cost of $36 million per year for each submarine. India is also negotiating for an option to purchase the two submarines, valued at some $550 million. The Akula subs will arrive in Vishakapatnam by next year said one Indian Navy official. They are to be armed with the BrahMos cruise missile, jointly developed by India and Russia (for more on the BrahMos and other anti-ship missiles, see "Cruiser and Destroyer Killers"), and will also be used to train the crew of the Advanced Technology Vessel (ATV), a nuclear submarine currently being developed by India. All of the major components of the ATV have been produced, and only integration work remains to be done. Thus, an option to buy the Akulas would only be exercised, sources said, if there are problems on the ATV project.

India previously leased a Skat-class (NATO: Charlie-I) nuclear-powered submarine, INS Chakra, from Russia from 1988 to 1991. However, Indian Navy personnel were denied access to information on some parts of the vessel.

It's yet another signal that we're at an interesting point in history.

With the collapse, more than a decade ago, of the Soviet Union, we saw the end of nearly half a century of Cold War -- really the first period that two superpowers faced off without a direct military confrontation. But that doesn't mean they weren't preparing to do so. As we all know, both the US and the USSR built up huge militaries.

But now the Cold War is over. The Soviet Union lost, and its successor, Russia, is hurting and simply can't maintain the military might that the USSR enjoyed. The answer? Sell it off. Even if Russia's armed forces can't afford to buy new weapon systems, there are plenty of buyers out there.

This should disturb not just the US, but any country with a regional rival. Russia is now passing, for instance, 100 Su-30MKK fighters off to China. do you like that, Taiwan? And 50 Su-30MKIs to India? Take that, Pakistan!

With the end of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union, we've entered a new era. Instead of the global Cold War that dominated the latter half of the 20th century, it's quite likely we're about to see regional cold wars spring up. Russia's more than happy to sell its military hardware abroad, and the US will have to counter these sales to maintain regional parity. Neither the US nor Russia desires the proxy wars that characterized the Cold War of the latter half of the 20th century, but both would, no doubt, be content to profit from miniature versions of their own experiences over the last half century.

Bombmaking, Algerian-style

Few people may need reminding, but the 1962 film "Battle for Algiers" nicely depicts how "insurgents," "rebels," "terrorists" -- whatever you want to call them -- have for a long time turned to bombing of civilians to challenge government authority.

Though this movie is from 40 years ago, it has a documentary style and a setting -- North Africa -- that might remind many viewers today of certain countries to the east of Algeria, including Iraq of course. A few scenes show bombmakers putting their bombs together, and hiding them in, among other things, ladies handbags. The women aiding the Algerian nationists are pretty and dress in Western-style clothes, and thus have an easier time getting through checkpoints and planting the bombs in cafes, airline offices, and other places French people hang out.

The technology depicted is simple, but the fact that simple bombs are still used today in many countries shows that what's simplest often works best. Regarding the improvised explosive devices in Iraq, the Pentagon recently posted a video "news" clip on the US DoD website about progress they claim is being made capturing bombmakers in Iraq. The US may well be arresting more bombmakers lately, but is it a sign of progress, or just that there are more people making bombs in Iraq and therefore more people to arrest?

For those planning to relax during the upcoming holidays, another movie worth seeing for its depiction of military technology and the context in which it is employed is "Thirteen Days," a film made in 2000 about the Cuban-missile crisis. Among other things, there are some good scenes of aerial reconnaissance over Cuba -- the Philippines serves as a stand-in, with Philippines Defense Department aircraft (and a few miniature model planes) standing in for the US military.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Nose Art Warning

It is being reported that Israel is going to let Iran's nuclear clock tick until the end of March. We'll see. But in the meantime, here's a blast from the past:

The Iraqi triangle on the nose of this Israeli Air Force F-16A is for the raid on the Osirak nuclear facility in 1981. I'm told that the Syrian roundel is for an air-to-air victory over the Bekka Valley in 1982. Interesting that Iraq and the Bekka are now both under new management.

I wonder if Iran's nuclear program is really going to make its regime more secure.

Photo by Remko van de Bunt. I've posted a larger version here, along with the same aircraft in profile.

UPDATE: It's looking increasingly likely that this is going to end badly.

Romania to Buy Ex-Israeli F-16s

The Romanian Air Force has decided to purchase (or perhaps lease) some 24 ex-Israeli F-16s, like the one seen here, to complement a planned procurement of new fighters, a tender for which is expected to be launched in 2006.
Photo by Remko van de Bunt

In eDefense Online, Michal Fiszer reports on one of the more interesting fighter deals of late. Romania is likely to buy ex-Israeli F-16A/Bs:

Romania has decided to purchase or lease some 24 ex-Israeli F-16A/B aircraft to replace some of its MiG-21 Lancers.

The F-16A/Bs involved were declared surplus after Israel decided to introduce the F-16I Sufa into service with its air force. All of the F-16s are to be carefully checked for fatigue damage and will be overhauled. In addition, Elbit Systems (Haifa, Israel) has offered a modernization package for the F-16A/B aircraft, aimed at improving the cockpit, adapting the aircraft to new weapon types, and bringing the fighters to full NATO compatibility. Elbit has already worked together in the past with Aerostar SA (Brasov, Romania) on the modernization of MiG-21M/MF/UM aircraft to the Lancer A/B/C standard.

Romanian Ministry of Defense spokesman Col. Cristinel Ghinea stated that no contract has been signed yet and only confirmed that Romania is “interested in replacing the MiG-21 Lancer fleet with new aircraft."

There is a plan that, in 2006, Romania will launch a tender for 48 new multirole combat aircraft. The recent decision to acquire F-16s from Israel is to supplement the eventual procurement of the new aircraft, not to replace it. The new multirole fighters (not yet selected) are to be delivered over the 2010-2012 timeframe, while the delivery of the ex-Israeli F-16A/Bs, if the contract is finally negotiated and signed, would start in 2007.

The Romanian Air Force currently operates six squadrons of Lancers from three air bases: Baza 86 Aeriana in Borcea-Fetesti (861 and 862 Squadron), Baza 95 Aeriana in Bacau (951 Squadron and 205 Squadron, with the latter being a training unit) and Baza 71 Aeriana in Câmpia Turzii (711 and 712 Squadrons). In all, 73 MiG-21M/MF aircraft were modernized to the Lancer A ground-attack version with the Elta EL/M-2001B radar rangefinder (prototype flown on Aug. 22, 1995), while 14 MiG-21UM two-seaters were modernized to the Lancer B standard, also with the EL/M-2001B (prototype flown on May 6, 1996), and 26 MiG-21M/MFs to the Lancer C air-superiority variant with the Elta EL/M-2032 multirole radar prototype flown on Nov. 6, 1996).

Each of these aircraft received the Elop (now Elta Systems) 921 head-up display (HUD), two 127x127-mm multifunction displays in the cockpit, hands-on throttle and stick (HOTAS) controls, the DASH helmet-mounted cueing system, a new mission computer, and MIL STD 1553B multiplex data buses. The Lancers were also outfitted with a new self-protection system that includes the Elisra (Bene Beraq, Israel) SPS-20 radar-warning receiver (RWR) and chaff/flare dispensers produced by IMI/TAAS (now part of Elbit Systems). Some of the Lancer As were also equipped with Rafael Litening targeting pods or Elbit/Aerostar Airborne Reconnaissance Pods. In terms of armaments, the Lancers were cleared to carry a mix of Russian and Israeli weapons: R-60, R-73, and Python 3 IR air-to-air missiles, as well as Israeli made laser-guided bombs.

The Lancers, however, are to be withdrawn by 2012 and replaced by new fighters. The new fighters, as well as the modernized F-16A/Bs, are to carry beyond-visual-range weapons and guided air-to-ground munitions, and they are to be fully compatible with NATO standards. Should the transaction between Israel and Romania be sealed, the F-16C/D multirole aircraft will likely emerge as the favorite in the planned tender in 2006.

Should a deal for F-16s from Israel go through, the Romanian Air Force would use the aircraft to replace some of its MiG-21 Lancers, two of which are seen here in formation with a Mirage 2000D (attack) and Mirage F1CR (reconnaissance) aircraft during a Romanian-French excercise in 2003.
Aerostar photo

It should be noted that the Israeli-Romanian MiG-21 Lancer program has not been particularly successful. While the MiG-21 remains a useful aircraft for some missions, and its low-radar cross section and agility potentially make it a difficult opponant even for front-line fighters, its small, aging airframe and limited radar and avionics upgrade options have been a drag on modernization efforts. For more on MiG modernization, see "Red Fighters Revised" and "MiG-29 Export Modernization Programs." See also "Indian Air Force Plans Fleet-Wide Overhaul."