Friday, March 17, 2023

Don't Fear the Reaper - by Julian Macfarlane - Maybe the US should


Should the world fear American military technology?

In my last article, I explored why the US cannot hope to win a war against Russia or China.

I mostly focused on China. But much of what I wrote applies to Russia as well—especially a style of thinking that is “existential”, focusing on practical realities, as opposed to the virtual reality bubble that Americans live in.

Russia that gave us Dostoevsky and the Underground Man; America gives us the Disney Channel and Desperate Housewives.

The Russians recently downed a Reaper Drone off Crimea. This much-in-the news, electronic bird is one of those overpriced, over-rated, examples of technological redundancy that the US is regards as a symbol of military superiority—the kind of much-ado-about-nothing wunderwaffethat is bankrupting the US economy.

When it went down, the drone was in a restricted area just 60 kilometers off Crimea with its transponder off. A transponder allows ground-based radars to identify intruders as friend or foe and, given the rules of engagement and their declaration that this area was off-limits, the Russians would have been justified in shooting the drone down.

The US has shot down civilian aircraft such as Iran Flight 655 with a lot less excuse.

However, instead, the Russians scrambled two Su27s to first identify it. The drone did go down but was not shot down.

Naturally, the Western media mob rushed to lynch the Russkies.

CNBC: Russian jet collides with, downs U.S. drone over Black Sea

Russian fighter jet forces down US drone over Black Sea

Russian Jet Dumps Fuel On US Drone, Then Collides With It Over Black Sea

The Su-27 rammed the American MQ-9 drone

How exactly did Russians bring the drone down?

While the Americans most likely have video of the entire incident, they haven’t released full footage, just a few seconds of one of the Su27s approaching in a climb from behind and appearing to jettison unneeded fuel - -which is standard military practice to lighten an aircraft before engagement.

This video is a segment and a teaser — pointedly repeated over and over again, apparently to get the mob excited and howling for blood.


The Media really like the image of desperate Russians ramming their Yak into a Heinkel.

Although the Russians did do some air-to-air ramming in WWII as the Japanese did, along with Brits and even Americans, this tactic often resulted in the loss of both aircraft and crew.

It is unlikely that an Su27 would attempt to “clip” the tail rotor of the drone since to do that it would have to use its nose, which is full of delicate electronics or wings which contain fuel. Either maneuver could result in the loss of a very expensive aircraft and its even more expensive pilot. You can rule ramming out.

Nor did the Su27 accidentally collide with the drone.

The Su27 was designed for supermaneuvrability.

Dumping fuel?

The Media have a thing about golden showers, as we saw with the Steele Dossier on Trump. And the Pentagon

Dumping fuel on an aerial opponent would be the military equivalent — a kind of kinky aviation fun—rarely dangerous.

It is not used in fighter-to-fighter combat as a tactic. As I have said that the Su27’s appears to be jettisoning fuel on approach, not to somehow damage the drone. In any case, the dump was well behind the drone and dissipates quickly— as you can see clearly from the video, Its purpose would be to improve their maneuverability in the case of a low speed target and enable a safe interception.

Although this drone can carry missiles and bombs for combat operations, its primary role is ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance). It is therefore designed for endurance, and loitering at long range. Obviously, there are tradeoffs for this performance profile — slow speed, long wings like a glider, a lot of fuel storage. The Reaper is not exactly a dogfight aircraft — and not built for hi-G maneuvers.

If the Reaper were carrying on-board ordinance, the Su27s would have been justified in shooting it down. But it wasn’t— and they didn’t.

Had it been a Russian drone with its transponder off doing ISR in an area that the Americans had designated as combat zone off limits to regular air traffic, and close to an important military base, the USAF would have destroyed it without nary a by-your-leave.

In this case, the Su27s first priority was to drive the drone off. f they could get rid of it by forcing it into maneuvers it wasn’t built for, all the better.

They therefore likely engaged the aircraft— getting into firing position behind or approaching head-on — and the operator of the drone tried to avoid and evade.

This is not something that drone operators practice. They are not pilots trained for air-to-air combat; they are video gamers.

Wedding parties in Afghanistan don’t fight back.

The Russians say the drone attempted a sharp maneuver and fell out of the sky—meaning it stalled and spun out.

Given the fact that the they now that Americans undoubtedly have a lot more video than the few seconds shown, there is no incentive for the Russians to lie. In fact, the Americans not releasing the full video supports not only Russian truthiness but the thesis that the Pentagon is egging the media mob on into Alex Jones mode.

Russian pilots are trained to a very high standard to exploit the full capabilities of their aircraft. And could easily get an inexperienced drone operator to over-react. I think the Russians knew what they were doing.

At the very least this was a very, very happy “accident”—for the Russians.

The US can no longer dictate the rules.

It is also— ipso facto— a warning to the Americans.

As a Judo and Combat Sambo expert, Putin understands strategic leverage very well.

In such martial arts, advantage comes from using your opponent’s weight and momentum against him. In other words, with a little help from your opponent, you render him helpless.

With the slo-mo destruction of the Zelensky regime, the failure of Western sanctions, a progressive military advantage in weaponry, committed public support at home intensified by attacks on Russian territory using American resources, and American economic failures, Russia now has the upper hand — or perhaps we should say, paw. It is saying: “Beware: this Bear can bite.”

Too expensive to use, too expensive to lose

In my last article, I pointed out that the US produces weaponry that is literally too expensive to lose.

This is a good example. You will see various costs for the Reaper Drone

The usually stated figure of $32 million is considered by many to be too much since it is at least twice as expensive as an F16.

In April 2021, the US defense department quoted the Australian government an estimated figure of $1.651 billion, when they enquired about buying 12 MQ-9 Reapers, along with the relevant equipment and supplies.

Ouch! $1.651 billion! How many wedding parties does that blow up?

Too expensive to lose indeed.

What the Russians have demonstrated is that ISR vehicles like the Reaper are useful only against enemies without resources. Yes, they can loiter for long hours at fairly high altitudes, but they are slow and easily detectable by radar. Yes, they can blow up kids — but a peer level adversary can take them down anytime.

With drone operators, quitting in droves, The RAF is reportedly recruiting video gamers as Reaper Operators. Get’m while they’re young.

The Independent

War for the US is a game. But a dehumanizing one. When virtual reality becomes real, it is a shock. For the Russians and Chinese, it is real from the start, which is why they do everything they can to avoid it.

Dumpster Diving in the Black Sea

As I have said, the Reaper drone is very expensive kit with all the latest add-ons.

So, if the Russians can salvage the drone, it’s a multi-million-dollar gift from Uncle Sam salvage the drone. Of course, it’s down at the bottom of the Black Sea. That’s going to require deeper diving than blowing up Nordstream.

Yes, that’s a bit like dumpster diving for computer parts that people throw away. The good stuff is always at the bottom covered by fish heads. But if you have incentive, you can get some goodies. How do you think I built this computer?

General Mark Milley, Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has gone on the record doubting that the Russians can retrieve anything. It’s 5000 feet down says Milley who was responsible for the US Afghan withdrawal debacle and is not the brightest bulb in the collection of dim bulbs that make up the Joint Chiefs. Trump went so far as to call him an idiot. Takes one to know one.

According to Russian sources which may or may not be correct— the Russians have already detected the drone in two pieces at a depth of 850 to 900 meters with a robosub.

For the Russians — it’s the nose section that matters. It’s a separate, one-piece unit housing those super-advanced electronics — normally well-sealed and insulated to withstand weather, stress, changes in atmospheric pressure, and …umm… birds, sharks and of course golden showers.

How to actually recover it in deep water? There are ways….

It should be noted that the ARS-600 submersible is designed for searching, examining and lifting various underwater objects from the seabed, sustaining life activity of crews in distressed submarines, as well as docking other rescue facilities with distressed submarines. The ARS-600 submersible has a double-hulled design and can be controlled from any of the hulls. Sonar systems are used for navigation and communication.

Even if the Russians don’t get what they want from the Black Sea, they are still ahead — just as they are in Ukraine and the larger war against the US and NATO.

Don’t fear the reaper?

Maybe the US should.

Update -