31 December 2010

"J-20": A Chinese "Backfire"?

The aviation forums recently have been buzzing with discussion on the new Chinese "stealth fighter" recently spotted doing fast taxi runs.

In one of the discussions, the writer warned about the danger of "mirror-imaging", citing the incorrect evaluations of the Tu-22M "Backfire".

Now follows some slightly-educated guesses that may well be completely wrong.

I do not think, as Air Power Australia does, that J-20 is an F-35 rival. For five reasons:

1. It looks too large and too blocky for effective manoeuvrability in a situation where air-to-air combat is looking like going back into within-visual-range fights.

2. We still have no indication of the super-cruise capabilities of this thing, if it even has any.

3. Chinese missiles still aren't up to US standards. No-one is talking about any PLAAF missiles rivalling the AIM-9X/ASRAAM/IRIS-T weapons used by "Western" forces.

4. It doesn't really fit into believed and stated Chinese strategy. This talks about the defence of two "island chains", the second going out as far as Guam and the Northern Marianas.

5. There are plenty of capable Chinese SAM capabilities on the mainland and in their ships that will at least force F-35s to carry internal ordinance only. That's before we get to J-11 and J-15.


The classic scenario for a war involving China involves Taiwan. In this scenario, the defence of the Republic of China would be assisted by US carrier groups and air strikes from as far away as Guam, but more often from Japan or the Philippines.

It would be very useful for the PLA to attack land bases and the carriers directly. The propaganda potential of sinking a US carrier would be simply huge - and right now the Chinese lack the effective assets to do it.

DF-21D, which the US now evaluates as having achieved "Initial Operational Capability", lacks key elements in the "kill chain", such as the capability to locate a CVBG without being counter-detected and attacked. The US is rapidly improving AEGIS to cope with it as well.

The Chinese need an alternative strategy. Their other attack aircraft either have limited range (FB-7) and/or are vulnerable to AAM (Su-30/H-6).

Their planned carrier force will run into similar problems, particularly from the new US SSNs, as there is currently no "Chinese AEGIS" (or Russian one for that matter)

This is where the Chinese could do with a "stealth Backfire".

The Tu-22M "Backfire" turned out to be an aircraft designed for medium-range strikes with stand-off missiles against US carrier groups and land-based targets (e.g. Keflavik, which would play host to NATO maritime reconnaissance aircraft). Any "Backfire" raid against a US carrier group, though, would have had to get through the gauntlet of a rather capable CAP (Combat Air Patrol) made up of F-14s and F/A-18s. Even F-4s would have caused it severe problems. You either need luck a lot of "Backfires"; i.e. one hundred plus, or a fighter escort. It's a lot of resources involved.

However, with a stealth aircraft, you get a decent chance of avoiding said CAP and getting into sufficient range (say 20 kilometres) to launch a missile attack that is going to be difficult to defend against.

This also applies to strikes against land targets.


In conclusion, if this becomes operational, it will be a new and potent Chinese capability, but not because it can beat the F-35.

28 December 2010

Screenshot 1: Bots messing about in boats

Il-2 Sturmovik: Where taking off is difficult

I got Il-2 Sturmovik (the 1946 version) for Christmas and have had a go at it over the last couple of days.

I've completed one mission so far, as I've got a bit of a problem taking off. In what I discovered was actually the game simulating torque and not a problem with my joystick; I have a strong tendency to go left or right when taking off. Off the runway and in one case, taking off and hitting the control tower with my right wing.

I'll try and get some screenshots; plus some older ones from my earlier gaming time.

24 December 2010

Advent 5: The Holy Spirit

The final gift that God has given us, so far, is the Holy Spirit. This gift "overshadowed" Mary result in the Immaculate Conception, but later appeared after Jesus had gone up to heaven.

In Acts, tongues of fire descended on the apostles, who had been in hiding after the resurrection, waiting to see how the land lay and fearing persecution. The tongues of fire were the Holy Spirit, which not only gave them renewed confidence, but the ability to speak all the languages of a diverse crowd.

Since that day of Pentecost, the Church never looked back. Jesus' followers would take the good news all over the Roman Empire. Many would die for it and did so gladly. After all, it was only death - they would soon be with Jesus.

From a small sect to a global religion; that's what the Holy Spirit caused to happen to Christianity. It still acts in mysterious ways today; including, I would say, in my own life.

There is still one more gift to come; a new Heaven and a New Earth.
With that, I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

22 December 2010

Advent 4: Jesus

Probably God's greatest gift is his Son, Jesus Christ.

I'm currently watching The Nativity on BBC1. While it may be a bit twee, it's very biblical. Jesus' "father" was a humble carpenter. Mary was an ordinary young woman (the concept of "teenager" not quite existing back then). God chose them to provide the route where he could spread the Good News. He became a vulnerable baby, then a refugee. I wouldn't be surprised if he had problems making ends meet. He was viewed as mad by many and ultimately put to death for a non-existent crime by the Romans who were worried about his impact on their authority. I've mentioned a lot more about that last bit in my Holy Week series.

This is one of the best poems about it. Short, but worth reading.

Through all this, Jesus took the punishment for every sin that was ever committed or will be committed on himself. No need for animal sacrifices any more - we could now talk with God directly.

Jesus did not achieve a tremendous amount in his lifetime on Earth, but he set the stone rolling (literally on Easter Sunday). Three centuries later, even the Roman Empire, which had done so much to persecute Christians, became Christian. Even in our increasingly "Godless" society, people still have their children baptised and go for church weddings.

For all the problems that some in the Church has cause - Christianity has done a tremendous amount of good. From Jan Hus to William Booth to Mother Theresa, Jesus was God's ultimate present.

20 December 2010

North Korea apparently has some sense

I see that we haven't got a war in Korea.

Stuff like this over a disputed border is always prone to get out of hand. The side doing the exercise feels it has to show that has to freely operate in all of its "territory", the other side feels that it can't let the other get away with it. It's really a case of ego writ large - and sadly often writ in blood.

I still feel the Rubicon has been crossed here. Any further DPRK attack on South Korea is going to trigger something very large indeed. Probably best to not give the regime an "excuse" for a few months.
That is my 400th post. I'll do something bigger when I hit the big D.

16 December 2010

Advent 3: The Law

This is the third post in my series on the Gifts of God.
We move onto the third gift; the Law. By which I'm referring to the regulations in Leviticus.

Everybody focuses on the grain offerings and the stuff about being unclean, as well as the food rules. These rules certainly had a reason at the time; often to do with hygiene and health. I must admit I'm not entirely sure about all of them; I'm sure some Bible scholars could explain better.

The purpose of the law was more serious though; to give people rules and regulations to live in a just society. It was not to enslave them, but to ensure that all could live in decent conditions, free from violence and oppression.

Of course, we completely broke it either in letter or in spirit. The Pharisees at the time of Jesus were following the letter, but not the spirit; ensuring their own power and not protecting the interests of the poor.

Thus we needed Jesus, the next gift.

We are no longer subject to the Law, but are now free in Christ, the ultimate sacrifice. That is not a licence to sin freely, but to live to our fullest for God.

We can also eat pork.

Bob Ainsworth and drugs

Former minister calls for legislation of hard drugs.

I think this is a bad idea. Not only would those who had been deterred from doing drugs because of the illegality take it up; the prescription system would be prone to abuse, because addicts want more and more. They may well go through alternative means when refused. We already have tobacco smuggling problems in this country, where people will risk their health even more for cheaper cigarettes.

Narcotics kill people here and aboard; opium sales fund the Taliban and other terrorist groups. Addiction wrecks families. That wouldn't change.

We may not be winning the war on drugs, but that does not mean we should give up.

10 December 2010

Don't mind me, I'm just here for the tram crash

Northern-set soap opera Coronation Street celebrated its 50th anniversary yesterday with a live episode in a week that "started" with a rather over-the-top scene where an explosion brought down a viaduct and a tram then went down through the gap.

I don't usually watch soap operas; but I tuned in for this. I might start watching this a bit more often.

I'm the sort of guy who treats his television watching like he's Joel from Mystery Science Theatre 3000, only without the robots. I like to snark.

Corrie's got a lot to snark about: [spoiler]'s death yesterday, along with [spoiler]'s birth scene and [spoiler] and [spoiler]'s [spoiler] wedding. All were ultimately clichéd and corny.

My TV watching can't all be stuff like Mad Men and Downton Abbey; we all should have a bit of fast food every so often.

Advent 2: The Promised Land

A tad later than planned, this is my second of five Advent posts.

The story of the book of Exodus is probably fairly well known to most "Western" adults; it's even been the subject of a Disney film (Prince of Egypt).

In it, Moses leads his people out of pretty harsh slavery in Egypt with the help of a considerable amount of divine intervention from God. There's comedy and deep tragedy; when the first-born Egyptians all die.

After 40 years in the desert (a delay caused by their own disobedience to God's instructions), they arrive in Canaan, the Promised Land. It's the start of a long story involving Temples, exiles and a lot of idol worshipping (even Solomon ends up doing it).

Giving a dedicated area of the world to his "own" people is one of God's most noticeable gifts. The fact he didn't renege on it despite the number of times the Israelites annoyed him is a true testament to his mercy.

We will soon have a new Promised Land; the Kingdom of Heaven - and it will be open to anyone who believes.

09 December 2010

Bird-Brained and Pig-Headed

Maybe the Angry Birds Should Rethink Their Strategy.

I have Angry Birds on my phone; it's rather addictive.

Wikileaks, Anonymous and DDOS

I haven't actually made a comment on the Wikileaks affair here (I've limited my discussions elsewhere to the legal aspects around the rape allegations).

There's a place for whistle-blowing in journalism; I'm not sure that what Wikileaks is doing entirely qualifies. There's a fine line between exposing abuses and causing embarrassment. I know full well that I wouldn't like some of my private comments about people published over the Internet. Is the US government that different? I'll allow people to differ on that.

I make no comments on Mr. Assange's guilt or evidence; I just want a fair trial for him like anyone should have.

My ire today turns onto Anonymous. I'd seen some of them in Chicago two years ago protesting against Scientology; I wasn't fully aware of their hacking activities then.

To quote a member of this group: "As an organisation we have always taken a strong stance on censorship and freedom of expression on the internet and come out against those who seek to destroy it by any means".

Apparently, they don't want people to be able to exercise their freedom of expression in choosing to pay via Visa or Mastercard - many have no real choice to change at this time. Or tweet; Twitter being a great (if at times inane) tool for freedom of expression.

Anonymous may not like the Swedish prosecutors, but they have freedom of expression too.

04 December 2010

At last, something to make putting out the washing fun!

I found these mentioned on the SFX website.

They're hand-painted, which explains the price-tag and really rather adorable.

01 December 2010

Advent 1: The World

This is the first of five posts I'll be doing on the subject of Advent, as we approach Christmas 2010.

I won't be going on the traditional Advent Candle meanings, but focussing on five "presents" that the LORD has given to his people:
1. The World
2. The Promised Land
3. The Law
4. Jesus
5. The Holy Spirit

These may be a bit rambling; I'm just letting it flow.

I look out of my window at the latest batch of frozen water that has landed on my street and caused travel disruption. While it's easy to get annoyed, it does actually look rather nice.

Travelling around my home area, you can't go too far without running into a "rural area", even in central London, which has some wonderful parks. While these rural areas may at times be muddy and hard to navigate, they definitely look far more varied than the umpteen high streets round here with their samey cheap shops and pawnbrokers.

I don't know very much about trees and flowers, but I know what I like.

This green and blue world is one of God's greatest gifts - and his first. We were given it to look after (as talked about in Genesis). Shame we've rather failed on that over the years.

World AIDS Day

It's World AIDS Day today; focussing on the worst disease to hit this planet in the last half century.

I hope one day soon there's a vaccine for this. No-one deserves a disease like that, regardless of what they do - and many children in Africa didn't do anything.