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The BEAST is back: Russia to resurrect the ‘Ekranoplan’ to defend its position in the Arctic

The Soviet era’s enigmatic wing-in-ground-effect (WIG) “Ekranoplan” is set to make a comeback according to various Russian media reports.

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During the Cold War, the Soviet Union considered building a fleet of missile-armed Lun-class wing-in-ground-effect vehicles, also known as the “Ekranoplan.”

Now, Russia says it has plans to revive this concept with a design tentatively known as “Orlan,” which could potentially offer the country a novel access and anti-access weapon in the increasingly contested Arctic region, as well as in more constrained waterways, such as the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.

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On July 30, 2018, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov announced that a combat-capable sea-skimming vehicle would be part of the State Armament Program for 2018-2027.

Since at least 2015, there have been reports that the Kremlin has been considering bringing back wing-in-ground-effect (WIG) designs, but primarily for transport and search and rescue duties.

“The [Orlan] prototype will be created as part of this armament program and it will carry missile armament,” Borisov said, according to Russian state outlet TASS. The deputy prime minister said that the vehicle would be able to help patrol Russia’s vast littoral regions, especially its maritime border along the Arctic and its claims in that region.

WIG designs are essentially a seaplane that flies very close to the surface of the water. In principle, the concept allows for an efficient, high-speed “water” craft that doesn’t suffer from the drag of actually sailing on the surface and from having a wing that can generate more significant lift.

The Soviets, and others who have experimented with these types of vehicles, looked into variants that could combine the Ekranoplan’s benefits with the ability to fly at higher altitudes.

A Soviet-era Project 904 Orlyonok Ekranoplan now on display.

Borisov did not offer any other specific details about the new Orlan and it’s not clear if this design will be in any way related to the Soviets’ Project 904 or “Orlyonok,” which means “eaglet” in Russian.

NATO had dubbed this craft, which has a maximum take-off weight of approximately 125 tons, as the “Orlan-class.” Of the five known examples, Russia scrapped two of them and turned the other three into non-functional monuments.

Still, in terms of its basic shape and performance, the established Orlyonok design might provide a good starting place for a new Ekranoplan missile craft.

It has a good payload capacity due to its original role as a transport and reportedly boasted a cruising speed of nearly 250 miles per hour over a range of more than 900 miles. The original type had a turret on top with a pair of 12.7mm machine guns and a simple navigational radar.

An old Soviet-era photo of one of the Orlan-class Ekranoplans, with the machine gun turret and mast-mounted radar visible at the front.

In order to arm the craft, Russian engineers could conceivably look to the larger Lun-class design and mount missile launchers on its upper spine of the fuselage on the existing Orlyonok.

The only Lun that the Soviets ever built, also known as MD-160, could carry six P-80 Zubr anti-ship cruise missiles, which NATO called the SS-N-22 Sunburn, in this configuration.

However, the existing Project 904 design features a large Kuznetsov NK-12MKturboprop engine, the same type found on Russia’s Tu-95 Bear bombers, at the top of the tail and firing missiles from the top of the craft might have some impact its function and, in turn, the ekranoplan’s performance.

The Orlan-class also had a pair of jet engines in the nose to propel the craft.

The Lun-class did not have a tail-mounted engine of any kind, using that space instead for a Puluchas search radar and other equipment. It’s hard to see where else missiles might easily go on the existing Orlyonok design, though engineers could potentially put them on top of its wings in water-tight canisters.

At the same time, it could be possible to position the launchers far enough forward for them not to have any negative effects on the NK-12. Similarly, a missile system semi-recessed in the fuselage that fires the weapons off to the sides instead could avoid the issue altogether.

The missiles Russia installs on the Ekranoplan might be small enough for it not to matter one way or another. Compared to the P-80, more recent Russian anti-ship missiles have become light and compact enough to make using a smaller Ekranoplan such as the Orlyonok feasible as a launch platform in the first place.

There are other designs that would fit Deputy Prime Minister Borisov’s basic description for the new Orlan, too. The 737-sized A-050 Chaika, or “Seagull,” is supposed to begin flight testing in 2022 and could serve as the basis for a missile-armed type. The firm responsible for this design, Alexeev’s Hydrofoil Design Bureau, has a number of other types that might work, as well.

An artist’s conception of the A-050 Seagull.

Borisov did not specify any particular type or manufacturer and did not say specifically what kind of weapons the new Orlan might carry, either. He did note, however, that it would be used to fill in for more traditional defenses in the sparsely populated Arcticaccording to TASS, but the most likely armament would be some type of anti-ship cruise missiles.

The deputy prime minister also noted the craft’s potential value in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea and the Kremlin could also potentially deploy them to the highly strategic Baltic Sea.

In a maritime patrol role, an Ekranoplan carrying a load of supersonic P-800 Oniks anti-ship cruise missiles could challenge the ability of potential opponents to move freely through a certain area or engage them rapidly during an actual skirmish.

The high speed of the vehicles combined with that missile’s over-the-horizon range could allow the crew to quickly get into position on short notice or readily move to another area to respond to the changing nature of the threat.

Multiple missile-armed WIGs might be able to threaten enemy surface ships from multiple directions, as well, limiting their ability to make the most of their defensive capabilities.

At the same time, Orlan’s low-altitude flight path and speed might make it harder to detect and engage, as well. Ekranoplans already have the benefit of being effectively impervious to torpedoes and naval mines.

The video below shows Russian land-based launchers firing P-800s during an exercise:

The ability to operate far from and independently of traditional naval and air bases would only make the vehicles more flexible operationally. This might give Russian Ekranoplan units equal ability to gain access to certain areas and deny opponents the ability to operate in those spaces.

Depending on how common the missile-armed variant is to other proposed transport types, the combat-capable versions might be able to serve as escorts for the others into hostile territory. The could give Russia the ability to rapidly deploy forces on sea and land into specific areas during a conflict.

It would likely take relatively little effort to turn a defensive missile armed Orlan into an offensive weapon armed with land-attack cruise missiles, such as Kalibr, to actively threaten enemy shore-based defenses and sites further inland, especially in the close-quarters environment of the Baltic Sea or the Black Sea.

Russia has also demonstrated that the P-800 has a limited land-attack capability itself, which could give the ekranoplans some multi-purpose functionality without necessarily needing to carry more than one type of weapon.

But, regardless, how viable a surface-skimming missile craft might actually be remains to be seen.

Ekranoplans have historically proven to be complicated to operate and maintenance intensive in general, with the Project 904 types reportedly suffering from serious corrosion issues, according to a 1993 edition of Combat Fleets of the World. That year the then recently independent Russia decided to retire the remaining Orlyonoks from active service.

The state of one of the three surviving Orlan Ekranoplans, on display near a Moscow airport.

Beyond that, it’s also unclear how committed Russia is to this project or whether it might end up shelved in favor of other defense priorities. The county has continually pushed back projects to build larger traditional ships in order to free up funding for other, high-profile programs, including a host of nuclear-armed strategic weapons developments.

Still, with the existing experience with the Lun and Orlan-classes, together with modern improvements in engine and airframe technology, the Russians may see Ekranoplans as a relatively low-risk and cost-effective investment. The country has already been spending a not insignificant amount of time and resources on systems specifically to support its Arctic operations, as well.

The Kremlin has said it wants to begin flight tests of cargo-carrying and search and rescue types by 2022 or 2023. The armed versions could easily follow afterward or go into development at the same time as a variant of those designs.

We will definitely be keeping our eyes open for the possible reappearance of missile-toting Russian Ekranoplans in the Arctic or elsewhere.

Via The Drive

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Logantiredofthemedialiestibetan cowboycolumSilviu Popescu Recent comment authors
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Logan
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Logan

A fair weather plane, there are unbelievable low tech ways to bring it down. Better used as a transport only.

tiredofthemedialies
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tiredofthemedialies

Ekranoplan couldn’t clear ice floes, because the wing in ground effect (WIG) is limited. Similarly it has problems with high waves. The only way to overcome the cruising height problem (around 2 metres in existing Ekranoplans) is to build a much bigger wing surface.

tibetan cowboy
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tibetan cowboy

Beautifully shaped aircraft they are. Credits to the Russian innovations in weaponry and technology, constantly showing us that the USA lost the arms race to Russia, and China too as it turns out. China already has deployed smaller, ocean – skimming cruise missiles that are nearly impossible to detect or shoot down. The Chinese are also very smart in that theirs are small but deadly because they can be launched in great masses targeting any ship. In these multiple layered assaults, the USA Navy has no defense – too many incoming targets for which no defense exists, except maybe get-lucky… Read more »

colum
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colum

How did I miss this report. A sleeping giant is stirring.

Silviu Popescu
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After I shared this article on FB, it deleted the post for next reason: SPAM

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EXPLOSIVE: Michael Cohen sentencing memo exposes serial liar with nothing to offer Mueller (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 38.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at the Michael Cohen sentencing memo which paints the picture of a man who was not as close to Trump as he made it out to be…a serial liar and cheat who leveraged his thin connections to the Trump organization for money and fame.

It was Cohen himself who proudly labelled himself as Trump’s “fixer”. The sentencing memo hints at the fact that even Mueller finds no value to Cohen in relation to the ongoing Trump-Russia witch hunt investigation.

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Via Axios

Special counsel Robert Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York have each submitted sentencing memos for President Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, after Cohen pleaded guilty in two different cases related to his work for Trump and the Trump Organization.

The big picture: The Southern District of New York recommended Cohen serve a range of 51 to 63 months for four crimes — “willful tax evasion, making false statements to a financial institution, illegal campaign contributions, and making false statements to Congress.” Mueller, meanwhile, did not take a position on the length of Cohen’s statement, but said he has made substantial efforts to assist the investigation.

Southern District of New York

Mueller investigation

Michael J. Stern, a federal prosecutor with the Justice Department for 25 years in Detroit and Los Angeles noted via USA Today

In support of their request that he serve no time in prison, Cohen’s attorneys offered a series of testimonials from friends who described the private Michael Cohen as a “truly caring” man with a “huge heart” who is not only “an upstanding, honorable, salt of the earth man” but also a “selfless caretaker.”

The choirboy portrayed by Cohen’s lawyers stands in sharp opposition to Cohen’s public persona as Trump’s legal bulldog, who once threatened a reporter with: “What I’m going to do to you is going to be f—ing disgusting. Do you understand me?”

Prosecutors focused their sentencing memo on Cohen as Mr. Hyde. Not only did they detail Cohen’s illegal activities, which include millions of dollars of fraud, they also recognized the public damage that stemmed from his political crimes — describing Cohen as “a man who knowingly sought to undermine core institutions of our democracy.”

Rebuffing efforts by Cohen’s attorneys to recast him as a good guy who made a few small mistakes, prosecutors cited texts, statements of witnesses, recordings, documents and other evidence that proved Cohen got ahead by employing a “pattern of deception that permeated his professional life.” The prosecutors attributed Cohen’s crimes to “personal greed,” an effort to “increase his power and influence,” and a desire to maintain his “opulent lifestyle.”

Perhaps the most damning reveal in the U.S. Attorney’s sentencing memo is that Cohen refused to fully cooperate. That’s despite his public relations campaign to convince us that he is a new man who will cooperate with any law enforcement authority, at any time, at any place.

As a former federal prosecutor who handled hundreds of plea deals like Cohen’s, I can say it is extremely rare for any credit to be recommended when a defendant decides not to sign a full cooperation deal. The only reason for a refusal would be to hide information. The prosecutors said as much in their sentencing memo: Cohen refused “to be debriefed on other uncharged criminal conduct, if any, in his past,” and “further declined” to discuss “other areas of investigative interest.”

 

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Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Huawei CFO Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


You do have to wonder about the political savvy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. The furious fallout from China over the arrest of a senior telecoms executive is going to do severe damage to Canadian national interests.

Trudeau’s fawning over American demands is already rebounding very badly for Canada’s economy and its international image.

The Canadian arrest – on behalf of Washington – of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, seems a blatant case of the Americans acting politically and vindictively. If the Americans are seen to be acting like bandits, then the Canadians are their flunkies.

Wanzhou was detained on December 1 by Canadian federal police as she was boarding a commercial airliner in Vancouver. She was reportedly handcuffed and led away in a humiliating manner which has shocked the Chinese government, media and public.

The business executive has since been released on a $7.4 million bail bond, pending further legal proceedings. She is effectively being kept under house arrest in Canada with electronic ankle tagging.

To add insult to injury, it is not even clear what Wanzhou is being prosecuted for. The US authorities have claimed that she is guilty of breaching American sanctions against Iran by conducting telecoms business with Tehran. It is presumed that the Canadians arrested Wanzhou at the request of the Americans. But so far a US extradition warrant has not been filed. That could take months. In the meantime, the Chinese businesswoman will be living under curfew, her freedom denied.

Canadian legal expert Christopher Black says there is no juridical case for Wanzhou’s detention. The issue of US sanctions on Iran is irrelevant and has no grounds in international law. It is simply the Americans applying their questionable national laws on a third party. Black contends that Canada has therefore no obligation whatsoever to impose those US laws regarding Iran in its territory, especially given that Ottawa and Beijing have their own separate bilateral diplomatic relations.

In any case, what the real issue is about is the Americans using legal mechanisms to intimidate and beat up commercial rivals. For months now, Washington has made it clear that it is targeting Chinese telecoms rivals as commercial competitors in a strategic sector. US claims about China using telecoms for “spying” and “infiltrating” American national security are bogus propaganda ruses to undermine these commercial rivals through foul means.

It also seems clear from US President Donald Trump’s unsubtle comments this week to Reuters, saying he would “personally intervene” in the Meng case “if it helped trade talks with China”, that the Huawei executive is being dangled like a bargaining chip. It was a tacit admission by Trump that the Americans really don’t have a legal case against her.

Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland bounced into damage limitation mode following Trump’s thuggish comments. She said that the case should not be “politicized” and that the legal proceedings should not be tampered with. How ironic is that?

The whole affair has been politicized from the very beginning. Meng’s arrest, or as Christopher Black calls it “hostage-taking”, is driven by Washington’s agenda of harassment against China for commercial reasons, under a legal pretext purportedly about Iranian sanctions.

When Trump revealed the cynical expediency of him “helping to free Wanzhou”, then the Canadians realized they were also being exposed for the flunkies that they are for American banditry. That’s why Freeland was obliged to quickly adopt the fastidious pretense of legal probity.

Canadian premier Justin Trudeau has claimed that he wasn’t aware of the American request for Wanzhou’s detention. Trudeau is being pseudo. For such a high-profile infringement against a senior Chinese business leader, Ottawa must have been fully briefed by the Americans. Christopher Black, the legal expert, believes that Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

What Trudeau and his government intended to get out of performing this sordid role for American thuggery is far from clear. Maybe after being verbally mauled by Trump as “weak and dishonest” at the G7 summit earlier this year, in June, Trudeau decided it was best to roll over and be a good little puppy for the Americans in their dirty deed against China.

But already it has since emerged that Canada is going to pay a very heavy price indeed for such dubious service to Washington. Beijing has warned that it will take retaliation against both Washington and Ottawa. And it is Ottawa that is more vulnerable to severe repercussions.

This week saw two Canadian citizens, one a former diplomat, detained in China on spying charges.

Canadian business analysts are also warning that Beijing can inflict harsh economic penalties on Ottawa. An incensed Chinese public have begun boycotting Canadian exports and sensitive Canadian investments in China are now at risk from being blocked by Beijing. A proposed free trade deal that was being negotiated between Ottawa and Beijing now looks dead in the water.

And if Trudeau’s government caves in to the excruciating economic pressure brought to bear by Beijing and then abides by China’s demand to immediately release Meng Wanzhou, Ottawa will look like a pathetic, gutless lackey to Washington. Canada’s reputation of being a liberal, independent state will be shredded. Even then the Chinese are unlikely to forget Trudeau’s treachery.

With comic irony, there’s a cringemaking personal dimension to this unseemly saga.

During the 197os when Trudeau’s mother Margaret was a thirty-something socialite heading for divorce from his father, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, she was often in the gossip media for indiscretions at nightclubs. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards claims in his autobiography that Margaret Trudeau was a groupie for the band, having flings with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood. Her racy escapades and louche lifestyle brought shame to many Canadians.

Poor Margaret Trudeau later wound up divorced, disgraced, financially broke and scraping a living from scribbling tell-all books.

Justin, her eldest son, is finding out that being a groupie for Washington’s banditry is also bringing disrepute for him and his country.

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US Commits To “Indefinite” Occupation Of Syria; Controls Region The Size Of Croatia

Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005.

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Via Zerohedge


“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation” — a Syrian resident in US-controlled Raqqa told Stars and Stripes military newspaper. This as the Washington Post noted this week that “U.S. troops will now stay in Syria indefinitely, controlling a third of the country and facing peril on many fronts.”

Like the “forever war” in Afghanistan, will we be having the same discussion over the indefinite occupation of Syria stretching two decades from now? A new unusually frank assessment in Stars and Stripes bluntly lays out the basic facts concerning the White House decision to “stay the course” until the war’s close:

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000

A prior New Yorker piece described the US-occupied area east of the Euphrates as “an area about the size of Croatia.” With no Congressional vote, no public debate, and not even so much as an official presidential address to the nation, the United States is settling in for another endless occupation of sovereign foreign soil while relying on the now very familiar post-911 AUMF fig leaf of “legality”.

Like the American public and even some Pentagon officials of late have been pointing out for years regarding Afghanistan, do US forces on the ground even know what the mission is? The mission may be undefined and remain ambiguously to “counter Iran”, yet the dangers and potential for major loss in blood and treasure loom larger than ever.

According to Stars and Stripes the dangerous cross-section of powder keg conflicts and geopolitical players means “a new war” is on the horizon:

The new mission raises new questions, about the role they will play and whether their presence will risk becoming a magnet for regional conflict and insurgency.

The area is surrounded by powers hostile both to the U.S. presence and the aspirations of the Kurds, who are governing the majority-Arab area in pursuit of a leftist ideology formulated by an imprisoned Turkish Kurdish leader. Signs that the Islamic State is starting to regroup and rumblings of discontent within the Arab community point to the threat of an insurgency.

Without the presence of U.S. troops, these dangers would almost certainly ignite a new war right away, said Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Self-Administration of North and East Syria, as the self-styled government of the area is called.

“They have to stay. If they leave and there isn’t a solution for Syria, it will be catastrophic,” she said.

But staying also heralds risk, and already the challenges are starting to mount.
So a US-backed local politician says the US can’t leave or there will be war, while American defense officials simultaneously recognize they are occupying the very center of an impending insurgency from hell — all of which fits the textbook definition of quagmire perfectly.

The New Yorker: “The United States has built a dozen or more bases from Manbij to Al-Hasakah, including four airfields, and American-backed forces now control all of Syria east of the Euphrates, an area about the size of Croatia.”

But in September the White House announced a realignment of its official priorities in Syria, namely to act “as a bulwark against Iran’s expanding influence.” This means the continued potential and likelihood of war with Syria, Iran, and Russia in the region is ever present, per Stripes:

Syrian government troops and Iranian proxy fighters are to the south and west. They have threatened to take the area back by force, in pursuit of President Bashar Assad’s pledge to bring all of Syria under government control.

Already signs of an Iraq-style insurgency targeting US forces in eastern Syria are beginning to emerge.

In Raqqa, the largest Syrian city at the heart of US occupation and reconstruction efforts, the Stripes report finds the following:

The anger on the streets is palpable. Some residents are openly hostile to foreign visitors, which is rare in other towns and cities freed from Islamic State control in Syria and Iraq. Even those who support the presence of the U.S. military and the SDF say they are resentful that the United States and its partners in the anti-ISIS coalition that bombed the city aren’t helping to rebuild.

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation,” said one man, a tailor, who didn’t want to give his name because he feared the consequences of speaking his mind. “I don’t know why they had to use such a huge number of weapons and destroy the city. Yes, ISIS was here, but we paid the price. They have a responsibility.”

Recent reports out of the Pentagon suggests defense officials simply want to throw more money into US efforts in Syria, which are further focused on training and supplying the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (or Kurdish/YPG-dominated SDF), which threatens confrontation with Turkey as its forces continue making preparations for a planned attack on Kurdish enclaves in Syria this week.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005:

Everyone says the streets are not safe now. Recent months have seen an uptick in assassinations and kidnappings, mostly targeting members of the security forces or people who work with the local council. But some critics of the authorities have been gunned down, too, and at night there are abductions and robberies.

As America settles in for yet another endless and “indefinite” occupation of a Middle East country, perhaps all that remains is for the president to land on an aircraft carrier with “Mission Accomplished” banners flying overhead?

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