Putin warns Russia will deploy new indefensible Zircon hypersonic weapon against U.S., NATO navies if Pentagon puts new missiles in Europe

In a threat harkening back to the days of the Cold War, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Wednesday that he’ll order his military to aim its new hypersonic missiles at the United States if the Trump administration decides to deploy new intermediate-range missiles in eastern Europe.

Speaking to his country during the annual state of the nation address, Putin said the military’s new Zircon missiles, which he said can travel at nine times the speed of sound and have a range of 620 miles are part of the Kremlin’s effort to build up its defensive capabilities over what he says is an increasingly aggressive and hostile United States.

Putin’s announcement comes after the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from a key Cold War-era arms control pact banning the development and deployment of intermediate-range missiles, Fox News reported.

During his address, the Russian leader denounced the U.S. decision to quit the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty, which the Pentagon says Russia has been violated now for years. Putin said those accusations are false, but U.S. intelligence and State Department officials say the proof is irrefutable.

The Russian president repeated an earlier claim that Moscow wouldn’t be the first to deploy new intermediate-range missiles near Europe’s (and NATO’s) boundary. However, he warned that if the Pentagon puts missiles on the continent it would mean he will not only target host countries but also U.S. command-and-control centers and the American homeland.

Analysts say that Putin’s warning was clearly aimed at rattling Europe and NATO members who are considering U.S. missile deployment proposals.

Fox News reported further:

Speaking before lawmakers in the Russian capital, Putin added that the other weapons, which he announced last year, including the nuclear-powered Burevestnik cruise missile and the Poseidon nuclear-powered underwater drone, have been undergoing tests successfully.

Putin also focused on a range of social issues in the annual speech, promising to raise welfare payments, improve education and healthcare, as well as remove toxic dump sites from cities.

As for the Zircon, it is designated the 3M22 and it is listed as a scramjet-powered maneuvering anti-ship hypersonic cruise missile. If the missile’s specifications touted by Russia are accurate, it would mean that Zircon is capable of traveling about two miles per second, making all current state-of-the-art missile defense systems useless.

CNBC reports that Russia has conducted five tests of the Zircon, with the latest test occurring on December 10. The December test hit a top speed of Mach 8, or 6,138 miles an hour. A second report in December claimed that Russia has tested the Zircon 10 times.

It is reportedly compatible with surface warships, bombers, and can be submarine-launched as well.



‘Furious’ U.S. admiral sent Navy destroyer to Black Sea after Russian warship fired on Ukrainian vessel

A U.S. Navy destroyer has been dispatched to the Black Sea for naval exercises with Ukrainian warships in a show of “solidarity” following an exchange of fire with a Russian ship that infuriated an admiral.

“The whole episode in the Sea of Azov was extremely bothersome to me,” said Navy Adm. James Foggo, commander of U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa, in an interview with reporters on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference last weekend.

Reports noted that Russian ships opened fire on three Ukrainian navy vessels as they tried to transit the Kerch Strait, which is a narrow waterway connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. The Russians also arrested Ukrainian sailors after the incident last November.

It was the first public act of hostility by Russian forces against the Ukrainians since 2014 when “little green men” — disguised Russian troops — invaded Crimea and annexed the enclave for Moscow. Russia has used its control of land on both sides of the waterway to cut off access to a number of vital Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov, the Washington Examiner reported.

“We’re showing solidarity,” Foggo said, referencing the deployment of the USS Donald Cook (above) to the region from its homeport at Naval Station Rota, Spain.

Moscow says the three Ukrainian vessels were captured as they attempted to force their way through the strait in an unsafe manner.

“They were apprehended — even though some people have illusions about Crimea — they were apprehended at the place which was Russian territorial waters even before the referendum,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Saturday during the security conference, referencing the vote that Russia claims is underlying the basis for its claim to sovereignty over the Crimean side of the strait.

But that’s a false statement, U.S. officials and NATO member states noted. They say that the Ukrainian ships were taken in the Black Sea, on the international side of the Kerch Strait, making Moscow’s action illegal under international maritime law.

Foggo openly condemned the Russian action and jailing of 24 Ukrainian sailors on charges they illegally crossed a Russian border.

“Let me tell you, that irritates me to no end,” Foggo told reporters.

“They are uniformed Ukrainian sailors and officers and chiefs. They’re not criminals, and they are being charged under a criminal code,” he added.

“They should be protected under the Geneva Convention, which is why the United States and other NATO allies have come to the table and said ‘Release them immediately,’ and they still continue to hold them. That is just absolutely wrong, and it is not the kind of behavior that you would expect from a major power — which Russia wants to be.”

Foggo noted that Russian vessels track U.S. and NATO warships in the Black Sea region but they aren’t a match for American firepower.

“Let’s face it, the Russian carrier Kuznetsov doesn’t even come close to the Ford-class carrier or the Nimitz class carrier, and the surface navy is not an equivalent match for either the United States Navy or [other] NATO navies in the world,” Foggo said.

Russia to complete S-400 deliveries to Turkey by end of 2019, in defiance of U.S.: Report

Russia plans to complete its shipment of sophisticated S-400 anti-air, anti-missile systems to Turkey by the end of this year, according to Tass, which quoted CEO of Russia’s hi-tech corporation Rostec Sergei Chemezov at the 14th IDEX-2019 international defense show on Monday.

“We have signed the contract and we will complete the deliveries by the end of this year. We will deliver all the systems this year,” he said, according to the newswire.

The news comes as the United States continues to oppose the sale, even going so far as to warn Turkey — a NATO member — that going through with the purchase would have negative long-term consequences.

On Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence, speaking to attendees at the Munich Security Conference, said the Trump administration “will not stand by idly while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries.

“We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East,” he added.

The Trump administration established a Feb. 15 deadline for Ankara to indicate its intention to stop the sale, according to a U.S. military official who spoke to Military Times. If Turkey refuses to do so, a forthcoming sale of the U.S.-made Patriot missile defense system would be stopped.

“We have been clear with Turkey,” the U.S. official said. “The will not receive the Patriot if they purchase the S-400.”

If the Tass report is accurate, however, it appears as though Turkey is planning to go ahead with the purchase of S-400 systems.

“Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar earlier said that the deployment of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems would begin in October 2019,” Tass reported.

The S-400 reportedly has a range of about 250 miles and can strike targets up to 18.5 miles high.

The U.S. is concerned if it goes ahead with the Patriot missile sale that Turkey will allow PAC-3 technology to be accessed by Russian officials.

Pence: U.S. ‘will not stand idly by’ while Turkey buys Russian S-400 systems

Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday repeated earlier warnings that the United States would not look at all favorably on Turkey’s purchase of Russian-made S-400 air- and missile-defense systems a day after Ankara blew off the first of two deadlines to end the deal.

Speaking to attendees at the Munich Security Conference, the VP said the Trump administration “will not stand by idly while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries.

“We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East,” he added.

Pence’s comments come after Germany continues moving ahead with plans earlier this month to build the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia that the U.S. also opposes.

As for the S-400, Washington had established a Feb. 15 deadline for Ankara to indicate its intention to stop the sale, according to a U.S. military official who spoke to Military Times. If Turkey refuses to do so, a forthcoming sale of the U.S.-made Patriot missile defense system would be stopped.

“We have been clear with Turkey,” the U.S. official said. “The will not receive the Patriot if they purchase the S-400.”

The Patriot sale, valued at about $3.5 billion, covers the purchase of 80 Patriot MIM-104E Guidance Enhanced and 60 PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement missiles and associated gear.

In addition to ratcheting up tensions with the U.S. and NATO, to which Turkey is a long-standing member, the purchase of the S-400 would also likely endanger Ankara’s participation in the international development of the F-35, the fifth-generation Joint Strike Fighter program.

Turkey sources some parts for the fighter and its development could be hampered if the U.S. ditches Turkey as a partner.

As for the Nord Stream pipeline, some U.S. analysts believe that Germany is seeking to diversify its natural gas supplies and that it intends to also purchase U.S.-produced LNG at some point.

President Trump has criticized Germany’s partnership with Russia on the project, saying the deal makes it ludicrous for Washington to continue spending so much money on helping Germany itself and Europe against Moscow, which remains an adversary.

Still, as Reuters reports, Germany will consider changes laws governing the Nord Stream 2 in order to ensure that it complies with new European Union regulations, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Reuters on Friday.

“My assumption is that it can be built under the new conditions,” he said. “But there will clearly be some changes. One regarding the ownership of the pipeline, since European law requires ownership of pipeline and production to be separated.”

France renews its commitment to NATO and the U.S. with ‘nuclear warning shot’ to Russia

In what one analyst sees as a demonstration of commitment to the United States and NATO, as well as a warning to Russia, France publicly announced Tuesday that its military had recently conducted a nuclear strike exercise.

During an 11-hour sortie involving a Rafale fighter, the French air force test-launched an ASMP or ASMP-A medium-range cruise missile, which can be armed with a nuclear warhead in the range of 100 kilotons.

Tom Rogan, a national security expert writing at the Washington Examiner, noted that the timing of the test is as important — or more so — than the actual test itself.

The test “compliments the U.S. decision earlier this week to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty,” following “Russia’s breach of the INF treaty as part of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s broader effort to degrade NATO deterrent resolve,” he wrote.

The ASMP is designed for medium-range battlespaces, Rogan noted, so the French test serves as a direct shot across Russia’s bow, so to speak.

That the French chose to use an air-launch platform to conduct the test is noteworthy: “That choice fits with how U.S., British, and French air forces are advancing their effort to penetrate powerful Russian air defense bubbles in the event of a conflict,” he wrote.

The message is clear: France stands ready to deploy its nuclear capabilities against Russia should the need arise, as in, if Russia should use nuclear weapons in Europe or against France directly.

Some analysts may believe that France’s test was unnecessarily provocative but in reality, Rogan notes, it ought to decrease tensions. At present, Russia is doing all it can to undermine NATO’s mutual deterrent resolve, mostly via stepped-up military activities but also via diplomatic putsches into former Soviet bloc nations on NATO’s eastern flank — the Baltics, for example, including Serbia, Montenegro, and Macedonia.

Militarily, by cheating on the INF treaty and by other means including the development of hypersonic weapons, Putin has been working to undermine NATO’s resolve. However, if he understands that it wouldn’t just be the U.S. and Britain his forces would have to contend with, that is liable to keep his aggression in check.

“Remember,” writes Rogan, “Putin is an ambitious realist, not a psychopath. He knows that a full-scale nuclear war between Russia and NATO would mean Russia’s defeat.”

As such, it’s vital that he be reminded constantly that the alliance stands ready not only to resist Russian aggression but to take offensive actions to the next level if need be in order to ensure victory.

“Alongside France’s nuclear ballistic missile submarine fleet — Triomphant, Terrible, Téméraire, and Vigilant — America’s oldest ally is showing new commitment to confronting a shared challenge,” Rogan writes, adding ruefully that NATO would be better served if German Chancellor Angela Merkel would demonstrate similar resolve.


Russian defense head says military must develop game-changing ground-based cruise, hypersonic missiles by 2020

The head of Russia’s armed forces said Tuesday that it was imperative the country’s military develop ground-based cruise and hypersonic missiles by 2020 to counter rising threats from the U.S. and the West.

In particular, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said during a conference call, the military will be looking at developing a ground-based version of the sea-launched Kalibr missile within the next two years, a requirement ahead of creating a longer-range hypersonic missile system.

“The General Staff has submitted to the supreme commander-in-chief a list of measures, which he has approved. In 2019-2020, we need to develop the ground-based version of the sea-launched Kalibr system with the long-range cruise missile, which has proven its worth in Syria,” Shoigu said, according to TASS.

“Within the same time limits, we need to develop the ground-based system with the long-range hypersonic missile,” he added.

The development comes in response to the Trump administration’s decision to suspend the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty after the administration determined Russia has been cheating for years by developing missile systems with ranges that violate its terms, which Moscow has denied repeatedly.

“At the same time, they [the United States] are actively working on creating ground-based missiles with the range capability of over 500km (310 miles), which is outside the treaty-stipulated limitations. In this situation, the Russian president has set the task for the Defense Ministry to take tit-for-tat mirrored measures,” Shoigu said.

The defense minister noted further that “the use of sea-and air-borne missiles in their ground-based version will help considerably cut the time of manufacturing new missile weapons and the volume of their financing.”

“Besides, it is necessary to increase the firing range of ground-based missile systems being developed today,” he added.

Shoigu ordered Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko “to start the corresponding experimental design work within a short period of time within the appropriations allocated under the defense procurement plan for 2019 and for the planned period of 2020-2021 by re-distributing funds for the fulfillment of this work.”

Meanwhile, in a separate report by TASS, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed that U.S. deployments of anti-missile systems in Japan was also a violation of the INF Treaty.

As for the INF Treaty and the Kuril Islands, there is a certain link here, since the placement of the US global missile shield launchers on Japan’s soil is among the problems that exist in our relationship with our Japanese neighbors in the sphere of security,” Lavrov told an audience in a speech at the Russian-Tajik Slavic University.

“These launchers are similar to the systems that have already been deployed by the Americans in Romania and will be deployed in Poland, the so-called Mk-41 launcher,” Lavrov said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin alluded to the development of a hypersonic missile during a State of the State address about a year ago.

Since then, the Russian military has conducted successful tests of a hypersonic system including one in December, which could be ready for deployment by 2022.

The latest test of the device, which is known as dubbed “Tsirkon,” was conducted Dec. 10. The device achieved a top speed of Mach 8, or eight times the speed of sound — two miles per second.

“What we are seeing with this particular weapon is that the Russians designed it to have a dual-purpose capability, meaning, it can be used against a target on land as well as a vessel at sea,” one source told CNBC. “Last week’s successful test showed that the Russians were able to achieve sustained flight, a feat that is crucial in the development of hypersonic weapons.”

The U.S. and China are also developing hypersonic missiles, considered game changers by defense experts, though the United States is playing catch-up.

U.S. defense officials have said that no American anti-missile system is currently capable of interdicting a hypersonic missile. But that would also mean that, should the U.S. develop and field a successful hypersonic missile, adversaries likely would also not have the ability to defend against it.

That said, The National Interest reported that the U.S. is already working on hypersonic missile defense — using hypersonics.

“Proposers may also assume a range of velocities above Mach 5 and a range of altitudes up to 50 kilometers [31 miles]. Solutions could have applicability to small interceptors, such as projectiles shorter than one meter [3.2 feet or larger interceptors, such as missiles over 5 meters [16.4 feet] long,” says a research proposal published by the Missile Defense Agency.

Russia’s Poseidon unmanned underwater system could autonomously avoid U.S., NATO defenses

Russia’s new nuclear-powered Poseidon unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) system will be able to autonomously avoid enemy defenses on its stealthy way to targets, according to a report by TASS.

The oceanic multipurpose system is designed to skirt U.S. and NATO undersea detection networks while delivering conventional or even nuclear weapons to targets.

“On its way to a target, Poseidon will be able to avoid and overcome any antisubmarine barriers and other enemy defense systems due to the fully automated operation system,” a Russian defense source told the state-owned news agency.

The source added that the UUV’s operational depth will exceed 1 km and that “new technical solutions will ensure a maximum speed of 200 km/hr.”

“Altogether, the intellectual and performance characteristics of the vehicle will make it invulnerable and secure a guaranteed target destruction,” he noted further.

TASS noted further that the Poseidon, a system designed for many missions, will also include a special purpose nuclear submarine and unmanned underwater vehicles.

The source repeated that “the vehicle from the system is intended not just for strategic tasks, but for destruction, for example, of enemy carrier groups.”

The multi-purpose system Poseidon will include a special-purpose nuclear submarine and unmanned underwater vehicles on board. The source reiterated that “the vehicle from the system is intended not just for strategic tasks, but for destruction, for example, of enemy carrier groups.”

TASS said it could not independently verify the source’s information.

Still, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that a key testing stage for Poseidon was completed.

In December, a defense industry official told TASS that testing of the UUV’s nuclear power system was taking place as part of sea trials. The official said the nuclear reactor was mounted on the hull of the operating vehicle for testing.

In March 2018 during his State of the State Address, Putin said that the Poseidon systems will be equipped with conventional and nuclear payloads and will be capable of destroying an enemy’s carrier groups, ports, and other infrastructure.

Also known as “Status 6” and by the NATO code name Kanyon, Russian state TV has said that it may be able to deliver a thermonuclear cobalt bomb of up to 100 megatons against enemy naval ports and coastal cities.

The U.S. Nuclear Posture Review included information about the Poseidon, noting that Moscow is in the process of developing a “new intercontinental, nuclear-armed, nuclear-powered, undersea autonomous torpedo.”

New images surface of massive Russian stealth drone ‘Hunter’

Last summer, the world got its first glimpses of a massive, 20-ton stealth drone fighter being developed by Russia when defense industry sources passed them along to the Russian state-owned news outlet TASS.

Though the aircraft (shown above) “has not yet taken full shape, its main features are already known,” a defense official told the newswire.

Since TASS is completely run by the Kremlin, it’s safe to say that the images were ‘leaked’ on purpose.

The defense official noted further:

“First of all, it should be unmanned and capable of performing any combat task in an autonomous regime. In this sense, the stealth drone will become the prototype of the sixth generation fighter jet,’ the source said, adding that the drone will be able to “take off, fulfill its objectives and return to the airfield.”

“However, it will not receive the function of decision-making regarding the use of weapons – this will be decided by a human,” he said.

Now, as LiveJournal now reports, brand-new images of the first prototype of this sixth-gen unmanned reconnaissance-strike drone, nicknamed “Hunter,” have been taken at the airdrome of the Novosibirsk Aviation Plant.

Reports note that designers have been putting the model through testing at the plant since November 2018. Prototype flights have been scheduled for sometime this year.

A second defense expert told the Russian newswire the drone/jet has a top speed of about 621 miles per hour:

The Russian Defense Ministry and the Sukhoi Company signed a contract for developing the 20-ton Okhotnik (Hunter) heavy unmanned strike aircraft in 2011. The drone’s mock-up model was made in 2014. According to unconfirmed reports, composite materials and anti-radar coating were used to create the Okhotnik. The drone is equipped with a reaction-jet propulsion and is supposed to develop a speed of 1000 kilometers per hour, said TASS.

Sam Bendett, a researcher at the CNA Corporation and a member of CNA’s Center for Autonomy and AI, previously told Defense One, “Sounds like Russia wants everything to be included into the new design at once.In reality, they will probably have to compromise, selecting more realistic qualifications for the new aircraft.”

He added: “Most importantly, this will be an expensive endeavor, further pushing Russian designers and the Ministry of Defense to be more selective in approving the final aircraft specs. However, some qualifications, like optional manning, autonomy and some form of artificial intelligence will probably be included.”

In the end, Bendett says, Moscow’s objective may be to move away from manned aircraft altogether.

“Ohotnik is barely flying yet and some time will pass before it becomes an operational variant. Nonetheless, this unmanned aerial vehicle and Russia’s future combat aircraft plans offer a glimpse into Moscow’s thoughts on future warfare,” he noted.

The U.S. military is also testing unmanned drone aircraft.

For instance, the Navy recently selected the MQ-25 aircraft tanker/refuelling drone built by Boeing, which the service plans to use to refuel carrier-based planes at sea.

Also, the U.S. is looking at other designs, including the Kratos XQ-222 Valkyrie, a swarm drone platform for the Air Force, and the Lockheed TR-X, designed to replace the SR-71 spy plane.

The Chinese are also in the combat drone business, with its CH-7 — an apparent clone of a U.S. Navy design, the X-47B, which has since been discontinued.

The CH-7 could also be based on another U.S. design, however, as We Are The Mighty reported:

Some observers suggested the Chinese drone is a sort of copy of the famous Lockheed Martin RQ-170 Sentinel, the stealth drone captured by Iran in 2011 and then reverse-engineered by Tehran: according to the information circulating on the Chinese Defense forums, a group of 17 Chinese experts flew to Iran 4 days after…the Sentinel drone had crash landed in Iran during a spy mission, not only to inspect, but also to collect and bring back to China some key components of the RQ-170.

Russia reactivating heavy, long-range artillery that will outrange, decimate U.S.-NATO forces

As the United States military remains wedded to 155mm artillery, Russia’s military is employing heavier fires that, when combined with additional fire support systems, will be able to not only outrange American and NATO guns, but decimate formations.

In a column for the Association of the U.S. Army, Col. Liam Collins and Capt. Harrison “Brandon” Morgan note that the Russian army is reactivating “its heavy artillery forces, beginning with its 2S7 Pion, mounting an impressive 203 mm round with a maximum range of 37.5 km” (about 23 miles).

In addition, the Russians are currently in the process of reactivating the 2S4 Tyulpan heavy mortar, which fires a massive 240mm round — double the U.S. military’s heaviest 120mm mortar round — at a range of 9,650 meters, or nearly six miles.

The United States’ 155mm artillery pieces have a range of about 22 kilometers (13 miles), meanwhile, and are smaller than the Russian 2S7 Pion’s 203 mm rounds.

Why does this matter? Not only would the Russians have more range and firepower against U.S. and NATO forces, these systems — combined with multiple rocket launch platforms — would also give Moscow’s forces a huge psychological advantage once the shells began raining down on American and NATO formations.

Collins and Morgan use a real-world example from Ukraine in 2014:

On July 11, 2014, battalions from Ukraine’s 24th and 72nd Mechanized Brigades assembled outside of the town of Zelenopillya, located about 5 miles from the Russian border. Having achieved success against the Russian-led separatist forces in the breakaway oblasts of Donetsk and Luhansk (the Donbass) over the previous two months, they were assembling before what was planned to be a final push to the border to cut off the supply lines of the paramilitary forces from their Russian sponsors.

What started as a fairly normal day soon took an unexpected turn. It started with the buzzing of Russian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) overhead and cyberattacks against Ukrainian command, control and communications systems. The Russians then launched an attack consisting of short-range BM-21 Grad multiple launch rocket system rockets from across the border. The attack lasted only two or three minutes, but it was immensely destructive to the Ukrainian forces. The attack destroyed most of the armored vehicles, killed at least 30 soldiers and wounded hundreds more. The attack left the Ukrainian forces decimated and demoralized, and represented the high-water mark for the Ukrainian offensive.

“Russia’s investments in artillery have given them a tactical supremacy over the United States. Advantages in indirect fires can be broken down into three basic categories: firepower/range, responsiveness and culture,” the write.

American troops have been fighting since 2001 — but in theaters like Iraq and Afghanistan against low-tech foes with little more than small-caliber mortars and RPGs. Major power war against a foe like Russia or China, both of whom would deploy high-tech firepower in the form of advanced, highly lethal artillery, is something that American and NATO troops haven’t experienced.

Russian forces have, however. The Ukrainians, though outgunned by Moscow, have substantial artillery assets themselves, and have used them to ward off Russian-backed separatists. When the big rounds start going off on the battlefield, they can serve as game-changers, devastating nerves and the will to fight as well as formations.

Notes The National Interest in March 2018:

The newest American system is the 155mm M109A7, which is slated to slowly replace the M109A6 “Paladin” that forms the bulk of American self-propelled artillery. In the Russian Ground Forces, the Cold War vintage 152mm 2S3 is still in service, though it is flanked by the more modern 2S19 and its upgrades, the 2S19M1, 2S19M2 and 2S33. However, unlike the United States, Russia retains a significant light to medium self-propelled artillery component with the 122mm 2S1 and 120mm 2S34 systems.

Overall, the differences in these systems are significant. The M109A7 is an improvement over the earlier Paladin in that it uses an entirely new chasis and is able to fire up to four rounds per minute. But the Russian self-propelled heavy guns are much faster; employing a programmable autoloader, they can pump out up to 10 rounds per minute.

Also, the Russian Army fields light artillery pieces — self-propelled and towed — that American forces don’t possess at the battalion level. Collins and Morgan write:

While the U.S. maintains its artillery at the brigade level for centralized control, the Russian army is fielding its artillery directly to maneuver battalions, providing maximum responsiveness when short windows of opportunity present themselves on the dynamic multidomain battlefield. 

“Overall, the biggest differences between the howitzers comes down to rate of fire and battlefield integration,” The National Interest adds.

“The U.S. Army has a far better integrated howitzer, but it shoots slower. Russians seem to prioritize firepower, with fast howitzers and more deeply integrated artillery. Each philosophy has validity, but it’s always easier to install or refresh a set of electronic equipment than to reengineer a main cannon.”

Collins and Morgan conclude:

The U.S. Army must be prepared for the return of the King of Battle and to fight a near-peer threat with a sizable artillery capability. As usual, acquisition and technology have a role, but so do tactics, training, culture and doctrine. 

Crash of Russian Tu-22 ‘Backfire’ bomber indicates risks Moscow will take to prepare for war with U.S.

A video that surfaced earlier this month showing the fatal crash of a Russian Air Force Tu-22M3 “Backfire” bomber on or about Jan. 22 at a remote airfield in the Murmansk region appears to indicate the extreme risks Moscow is willing to take in order to prepare for war with the United States.

The Washington Free Beacon noted that the aircraft was on a training missing carrying an inert training round mock-up of the Raduga Kh-22 (NATO Codename AS-4 “Kitchen”), a long-range weapon designed to attack enemy surface warships launched by planes from the same region of Russia, in the North Atlantic.

In particular, the design of the Kh-22 and similar air-launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) carried by Tu-22M3 Backfires are specialized to destroy American aircraft carriers.

Analysts note that the crash this month of the Russian bomber, which carried the unit designation of “35 Red” and tail number RF-94159, occurred in horrible weather: Conditions were snowy and extremely foggy, indicating that the aircraft very likely should have been redirected to a different airfield. All but one of the four-person crew died in the crash:

As you can see around the 1:10 mark, the bomber is coming in for an approach very fast. As the runway nears, it becomes obvious that the pilot was not aware it was so close until it is too late. He lands the plane at a sink rate that is too high and it breaks apart into two pieces, bursting into flames.

But the fact that Russian Air Force officials were so willing to risk a valuable strike aircraft and crew shows the willingness of the Kremlin to push its forces in training for the next major conflict, which would likely involve launching strikes in such incliment weather.

Delivering carrier-killing Kh-22 missiles was always a primary mission of this aircraft. Because the plane could launch its payload from great distances is why the Pentagon developed and fielded the F-14 Tomcat, at the time the only American fighter capable of carrying an air-to-air missile with enough range to intercept Tu-22Ms before they could launch.

“What unnerves NATO military officials is that these kinds of training missions being conducted in such poor weather and other actions by the Russian air forces show Moscow is clearly still preparing for war against the U.S. Navy in a major military confrontation,” the Free Beacon noted.

The training mission and crash also come at a time when Russian fighters are increasingly harassing U.S. warships and aircraft flying in international waters.

But why? One Russian specialist who has reported on such incidents for years told the news site: “The Russian military does not realize that Barack Obama is no longer your president. They do not understand they are continuing to operate as before and that it is a far dangerous game to be playing with a more resolute person as the U.S. commander-in-chief.”

There have been four crashes of Tu-22M3 Backfires in the past four years, and while the Kremlin has upgraded some of them with new avionics and radar, the end of their useful service life is rapidly approaching.

What’s more, there isn’t a design in the works in Russia to replace the Backfires, which is giving the Russian Air Force a “use it or lose it” attitude about the planes and how they are operated.

“The Soviet military and political leadership of the Cold War was terrified of war—they had enough near-term memories of what WWII was like and would go to some lengths to avoid it,” said a former Pentagon official who spoke to the Free Beacon. “The people in charge in the Kremlin appear to have very little—if any—of this type of self-restraint.”