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Why does the US buy Soviet-era combat aircraft from Russia?

Why does the US buy Soviet-era combat aircraft from Russia?

In a strategic maneuver reflecting geopolitical complexities, the United States has acquired a substantial cache of Soviet-era combat planes from Kazakhstan, a key ally of Russia.

Reports indicate that the acquisition encompasses 81 obsolete aircraft, including MiG-31 interceptors, MiG-27 bombers, MiG-29 fighters, and Su-24 bombers, with a sale value declared at $2.26 million, Which implies that each aircraft was $19,300.

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Kazakhstan, in its transition towards modernizing its military arsenal, has been phasing out outdated Soviet-era aircraft in favor of more advanced models like the Russian Su-30SM multi-role aircraft.

The decision to offload these aircraft, valued at one billion tenge (£1.8 million), underlines Kazakhstan’s pragmatic approach towards military modernization. The sale notice emphasized the unusable state of the aircraft, rendering their modernization economically unfeasible, and limiting their utility as sources of spare parts.

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While the rationale behind the US purchase remains undisclosed, speculation suggests potential implications for Ukraine’s Armed Forces (AFU), given that the acquired aircraft types are already in service there.

There are indications that these aircraft might eventually find their way to Kyiv, where they could serve various purposes such as disassembly for spare parts or deployment as decoys at airfields. This move underscores the evolving dynamics in the region, particularly amidst heightened tensions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Historically, Kazakhstan has maintained close ties with Russia, stemming from their shared Soviet legacy. However, recent geopolitical shifts, exacerbated by Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine, have prompted Kazakhstan to recalibrate its alliances, drawing closer to Western nations.

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Aerospace

Take First Glimpse of USAF B-21 Raider, Latest Nuclear Stealth Bomber

Take First Glimpse of USAF B-21 Raider, Latest Nuclear Stealth Bomber
Image:USAF

The United States Air Force (USAF) has unveiled the first photographs of the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider bomber in flight.

These images were captured during test flights conducted by the B-21 Combined Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base, marking a significant milestone in the development of this sixth-generation aircraft.

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Currently undergoing flight tests in California, the B-21 Raider represents the next generation of stealth bombers. With an estimated cost of around $700 million per aircraft, the B-21 Raider is poised to become a crucial component of the USAF’s arsenal for conventional Long Range Strike missions.

According to Air Force briefings, the B-21 Raider will form part of a comprehensive family of systems, encompassing Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance capabilities, electronic warfare, communication systems, and more. Notably, the bomber will be nuclear-capable and adaptable for both manned and unmanned operations.

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It boasts the flexibility to deploy a wide array of stand-off and direct-attack munitions, ensuring versatility in various combat scenarios. One of the B-21’s distinguishing features is its extensive integration of digital technology, as highlighted in discussions held during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Designed with an open systems architecture, the B-21 Raider is built to swiftly incorporate emerging technologies, ensuring its effectiveness against evolving threats over time. The B-21 Raider is slated to replace the aging B-1 Lancer and B-2 Spirit bombers, bolstering US national security objectives and providing reassurance to allies and partners worldwide.

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Defence

China Building World’s First ‘Dedicated’ Drone Carrier: Report

China Building World’s First ‘Dedicated’ Drone Carrier: Report

China has silently unveiled a groundbreaking development in naval technology: the world’s first dedicated drone carrier.

According to Naval News, this revelation comes as a result of satellite imagery analysis and insights from J Michael Dahm, an esteemed expert in aerospace and China studies. The clandestine construction of this aircraft carrier, undisclosed by Beijing, marks a significant stride in China’s military strategy, particularly in the utilization of drones in combat scenarios.

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Satellite images from the Jiangsu Dayang shipyard on the Yangtze River unveil the covert construction of this new carrier, specifically engineered to accommodate fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Distinguished by its unique features, this mystery vessel, launched in December 2022 but concealed until now, diverges from conventional US or Chinese aircraft carriers. Notably smaller in size, approximately one-third the length and half the width of its counterparts, it boasts an unconventional straight deck arrangement, preventing simultaneous takeoffs and landings.

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Despite its compact stature, the carrier possesses ample width to support aircraft or drones with a wingspan of up to 20 meters, slightly smaller than World War II escort carriers but wider. Its design incorporates a runway along one side and an island superstructure on the other, while the hull adopts a distinct catamaran configuration.

Crucially, the low flight deck suggests the absence of a hangar below, further indicating its specialized purpose for drone operations. Moreover, its expansive flight deck is estimated to accommodate drones with wingspans of up to 65 meters, akin to China’s rendition of the US Predator drone.

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Naval News also highlighted the shipyard’s history of constructing several high-tech target barges and two large drone motherships, which serve as opposing forces in training exercises, a role known as ‘Electronic Blue Force’. This history suggests that the new drone carrier could support similar missions.

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Aviation

Middle East Shifts Focus to Chinese 5th gen Fighter J-20 Fighter Amid US F-35 Disapproval

Middle East Shifts Focus to Chinese 5th gen Fighter J-20 Fighter Amid US F-35 Disapproval

Following the U.S. refusal to grant the United Arab Emirates access to the F-35 Lightning II, a cutting-edge fifth-generation fighter, the UAE appears to be exploring alternative options, potentially turning to China to fulfill its security requirements. The aircraft that has captured the UAE’s interest is China’s own fifth-generation stealth fighter, the J-20.

A significant factor behind the U.S. denial stems from Israel’s longstanding security strategy, which revolves around maintaining military superiority in the region. Israel has historically sought advanced military technology from the U.S. while discouraging its neighbors from acquiring similar capabilities. This strategy aims to uphold Israel’s dominant position in regional military affairs, with support from U.S. and European military equipment.

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The influence of the U.S. in the Palestine-Israel conflict significantly impacts defense exports in the region, leading many Asian and Middle Eastern countries to seek military equipment from alternative sources like Russia and China.

Recent engagements between the UAE and China indicate a growing partnership, potentially extending to military cooperation. With the UAE’s interest in Chinese aircraft like the J-20, following the setback with the F-35, there’s speculation that the UAE may increasingly turn to China for its defense needs. This shift is evident with the UAE’s acquisition of the Chinese Falcon L-15 advanced trainer aircraft.

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The UAE, home to around 1,000 U.S. companies, also serves as a strategic regional base for numerous enterprises operating across the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Asia. However, recent developments suggest a diversification of partnerships, with the UAE playing a pivotal role in facilitating business ties with the USA.

Comparing the American F-35 Lightning II with the Chinese Chengdu J-20 showcases two formidable fifth-generation fighter aircraft. The F-35, developed in the U.S., is a versatile single-engine aircraft designed for various combat roles, excelling in both air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. In contrast, the J-20, China’s response to fifth-generation fighters, boasts its own stealth capabilities.

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The J-20 surpasses the F-35 in terms of range, with its ability to undertake strategic air missions without frequent refueling. Powered by the domestically produced WS-15 after-burning turbofan engine, the J-20 achieves impressive speeds nearing Mach 2, along with a commendable range of approximately 700 miles.

Notably, the J-20’s ability to launch missiles from a distance and its extensive weapons payload exceed those of the F-35, while maintaining lower operating costs. However, the F-35 retains an advantage in avionics and sensor technology, as well as its vertical takeoff and landing capability, enabling diverse mission execution.

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Viewed as a rival to other fifth-generation fighters like the American F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II, as well as the Russian Su-57, the J-20 continues to undergo upgrades in avionics, sensors, and weaponry to ensure its competitiveness in modern aerial warfare. Equipped with advanced stealth technology, the J-20 enhances its ability to operate effectively in contested airspace.

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