It seems rather fitting in October, as the baseball season is the playoffs headed for the World Series, to paraphrase the late, great, Yogi Berra, sometimes it seems like déjà vu all over again!
Such is the case these days with a nascent Cold War between the US and Russia, what looks to be proxy wars in places around the world in Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, etc. Not to mention China on the march building their sandcastles in the South China Sea, North Korea unveiling a modified ICBM that can maybe strike the US west coast whilst Iran tries out an MRBM reaching out 1,000 miles. Seems like the entire planet is off-kilter and headed toward World War III, either by deliberate plan or stupid accident.
Back when the US had real and effective leadership with President Reagan in the 1980s, the old Cold War had its similar challenges, and handled them very well compared to the addled minds in DC today. A report out today was a “déjà vu” reminder that we’ve been here before, as Russian Air Force Su-35 FLANKER E fighter aircraft were reported as exercising over the Kuril islands off the northeast coast of Japan, according to this 15 October 2015 Russian government press report:
New Russian Su-35 Jets Carry Out Drills Near Kuril Islands
Russia’s new Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jets carried out military exercises near the Kuril Islands in the west Pacific Ocean to drill air action, Eastern Military District’s spokesman Alexander Gordeyev said early Thursday.
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Gordeyev emphasized in a statement that combat training was pre-planned and complied with international regulations.
“During training flights pilots performed several elements of advances aerobatics, piloting at maximum and minimum heights and drilled above-the-water air action,” said the military spokesman of the Eastern District based in the Khabarovsk region.
Gordeyev emphasized in a statement that combat training was pre-planned and complied with international regulations.
The Su-35 fighter jet was first introduced to a foreign audience at the Paris Air Show in 2013. It is an upgraded version of the Su-27 multirole fighter.
Earlier this year, another Sputnik state media report mention activity by the Su-35 Flanker:
Russian Military Relocates Su-35s to Primorsky Territory for Drills
14:10 09.04.2015(updated 14:15 09.04.2015)
Sukhoi Su-35 (Flanker-E) supermaneuverable multirole fighters have been relocated from the Khabarovsk Territory to the Primorsky Territory to take part in the tactical flight training, involving fighter jets and assault aviation, Russia’s Ministry of Defense said.
The aircraft strengthened the air power of Su-27s and MiG-31s providing fighter cover to troops and ground facilities from “enemy” aircraft. Multifunctional Su-35 fighters equipped with medium-range missiles are used to gain air superiority by eliminating manned and unmanned flying vehicles.
On Wednesday, Su-27 and MiG-31 jets were scrambled to protect the airfield and the regiment during the first phase of the exercises.
“Su-27 (Flanker) multi-function jets and MiG-31 (Foxhound) interceptor jets participated in air combat attacks against Su-25 (Frogfoot) jets simulating enemy aircraft,” the Eastern Military District said in a statement.
After warding off the attack and performing advanced aerobatics the aircraft landed at a tactical airfield.
Approximately 500 servicemen and over 30 fighter jets are taking part in the drills, which will end on April 11. The Russian Defense Ministry has announced plans to conduct at least 4,000 military exercises throughout the country in 2015.
Back in the old Cold War (Cold War One?), the SU-35 FLANKER E’s predecessor, the Su-27 FLANKER B, was present in the Soviet Far East, operating from three bases on the mainland, according to old orders of battle:
1st Air Army (like an old Tactical Air Command numbered air force)
216th Fighter Aviation Regiment (Kalinovka (Kalinka or Blagodatnoye) ESE of Khabarovsk)
11th Air Defense Army (PVO, like old Air Defense Command numbered air force)
47th Fighter Aviation Regiment PVO (Zolotaya Dolina (Unashi), Primorskiy Kray)
60th Fighter Aviation Regiment PVO (Dzemgi (Komomolsk) in Khabarovsk Kray)
A typical Soviet fighter regiment had 45 aircraft designed, mostly single seat fighters with a few two-seaters for training purposes (but still combat capable).
One could expect the PVO units to provide a dedicated air defense of the Motherland, allowing the tactical aviation folks to stretch their legs against a prospective adversary. Depending on where all the aircraft ranges and flight paths connected, any operations up north had to contend with up to 135 Su-27 FLANKERs in the neighborhood. Do the math, with the 432TFW having about 50 Vipers on hand, or about 1 F-16 for each 2.7 Su-27’s back in the day there in the Far East. Not to mention any of the FOXHOUNDs or FLOGGERs, etc. present out there at various bases!
The good thing was these bad boys were spread out a bit, so the likelihood of encountering any huge concentration of FLANKERs at any particular point, given the vast distances of the Far East, was probably low.
But even in low dosage, a prospective Su-27 encounter could be considered a challenge, given its robust armament including AA-10 ALAMO radar-guided air-to-air missiles. Back in those Cold War days before the F-16 received the AIM-120 AMRAAM, Vipers might have had to rely on having some escort with a radar missile capability, avoidance, perhaps some electronic jamming or if pressed, smart tactical engagement for optimum employment opportunity of own AIM-9 SIDEWINDER infra-red air-to-air missiles – it was going to be sporting, to say the least.
We thought we had the better pilots, better tactics, but had to beware of the old Russian numerical advantage and remember that at some point, numbers make a difference, as Joseph Stalin said: “Quantity has a quality all its own.”
Hopefully current events won’t spill out into some unwanted chocolate mess. It sure seems like we’ve been through all this before. Doesn’t anybody learn anything from history?
Sputnik (news agency), Wikipedia page, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sputnik_%28news_agency%29
1st Air Army, Wikipedia page, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1st_Air_Army
11th Air Defense Army, Wikipedia page, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/11th_Air_Army
11th independent Red Banner Air Defence Army, at: http://www.ww2.dk/new/pvo/11oapvo.htm
47th Fighter Aviation Regiment PVO, at: http://www.ww2.dk/new/air%20force/regiment/iap/47iap.htm
60th Fighter Aviation Regiment PVO, at: http://www.ww2.dk/new/air%20force/regiment/iap/60iap.htm
Dzemgi Airport, Wikipedia page, at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dzemgi_Airport
Yogi Berra, at: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/40180621648934666/
Montana Viper and Flanker, at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:A_Su-27_escorted_by_an_F-16.jpg