China's hi-tech stealth-hunter technology revealed
The comforting assumption that the U.S. can rely on a technological advantage to counter China’s aggressive push in Asia may need some re-thinking. Popular Science presents pictures and descriptions of Divine Eagle, a high-altitude/low observable drone that serves as a platform for multiple radar and other detection systems that could identify and target the stealth aircraft that make up an essential component of American military strategy. Loitering at high altitudes for long periods of time, these aircraft could demolish the promise of stealth technology.
While the Divine Eagle reportedly first flew in February 2015, filtered photos of the UAV have only now emerged on the Chinese Internet (filtering photos to blur visual details is one way Chinese Internet denizens avoid censorship). The timing is notable. Coming shorty after the release of the first Chinese defense White Paper calling for Chinese military expeditionary capabilities and high profile Sino-Russian naval exercises, the Divine Eagle is a visual announcement that China's building unique technologies that could change the brewing arms race in the Asia Pacific.
The capabilities of the Divine Eagle are aimed at multiple aspects of U.S. power projection:
The Divine Eagle is planned to carry multiple Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars, of the AMTI, SAR and GMTI varities. Airborne Moving Target Indicator (AMTI) radar types are used to track airborne targets, like enemy fighters and cruise missiles. Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) provides high resolution of slow moving ground vehicles and enemy bases. Ground Moving Target Indicator (GMTI) radars are ideal for identifying and tracking ships, such as aircraft carriers. X/UHF band radars, which include the "F-22 killer" JY-26 that debuted at Zhuhai 2014, have raised concerns in the American military that they could track stealth aircraft like the F-35 fighter and B-2 bomber at long ranges.
As a High Altitude, Long Endurance (HALE) UAV, the Divine Eagle would prove incredibly useful in both offensive and defensive operations. Its long range anti-stealth capabilities can be used against both aircraft, like the B-2 bomber, and warships such as the DDG-1000 destroyer. Using the Divine Eagle as a picket, the Chinese air force could quickly intercept stealthy enemy aircraft, missiles and ships well before they come in range of the Mainland. Flying high, the Divine Eagle could also detect anti-ship missile trucks and air defenses on land, in preparation for offensive Chinese action.
The continuing defense draw-down and the passivity of the Obama admninstration in the face of aggression and failure to follow through on a proclaimed red-line warning have signaled the Chinese (and every other wannabe aggressor) that now is the time to press forward.
The world could look very different in the foreseeable future:
The Divine Eagle is part of a larger Chinese trend in building high technology, unique systems that respond to US plans for Air Sea Battle and "Offsets. They extend the reach of the PLA and meet the needs of the PLA to both break through the anti-access response plans of opponents, while also defending against hostile power projection. As a recent article by one of our team notes, as these capabilities become real, they could undercut key assumptions behind the entire US strategy of deference in the Pacific http://warontherocks.com/2015/05/short-legs-cant-win-arms-races-range-issues-new-threats-aerial-refueling/
Of course, technology is not a one-way street. But is the U.S. investing in the next generation to counter the Chinese advantages? Do you trust Obama to lead us aggressively in this direction? Does he even think it is fair for America to have an overhwelming technological advantage?
Hat tip: Dennis Sevakis