Chinese media said that Washington flaunted its superiority by “using a buffalo scalpel to kill chicken” when an F-22 aircraft used an AIM-9X missile, which costs close to $400,000. However, analysts feel that the AIM-9X missile is the only one that is the best option for this purpose.
When the US ordered F-22 jets to launch AIM-9X missiles worth about $400,000 to bring down a Chinese balloon, analysts argue that the US overreacted.
The US action is analogous, in theory, to killing chicken with a buffalo scalpel. In addition to being an overreaction, it also shows a lack of practice, according to the Global Times, a Chinese publication.
On February 4, an AIM- 9X Sidewinder missile fired by a US F-22 stealth fighter downed a Chinese balloon over the ocean off South Carolina. China alleged that this balloon strayed into US territory while being utilized for meteorological research.
According to allegations made by the US Pentagon, the Chinese government used the balloon to spy on significant military facilities.
From the middle of last week, the US military began evaluating the possibility of shooting down the balloon, and two F-22 stealth aircraft were sent from the Nellis base, more than 1,100 kilometers from South Carolina, to be prepared for the mission.
The F-22 Raptor is a fighter with a high ceiling, which is why the US decided to employ it as a stealthy interceptor.
The F-22 is able to get nearer to the hot air balloon that was flying at a height of over 18 km thanks to having a higher ceiling than the F-15 and F-16.
Three armaments are carried by the F-22 stealth fighter during the anti-aircraft interception mission: the M61 gun, the AIM-9X Sidewinder short-range surface-to-air missile, and the AIM-120C/D AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missile.
According to military experts, the AIM-9X missile, which costs close to $400,000, is the most cost-effective way for the US to bring the balloon down.
“It’s difficult to shoot down balloons at such a great height. They create numerous issues for the missile’s guidance system, “explained Tyler Rogoway, a military analyst.
“The airship’s thermal signal and radar cross-section are quite modest.
essentially making it hard to track and lock on a target using conventional techniques. The radar reflectivity area of each balloon is comparable to that of a tiny bird “stated the report. reported by the US Air Force’s Air Force Research Institute (AFRI).
The Air Force Research Institute said that “the balloons are also traveling very slowly relative to their regular flying targets, rendering them frequently undetectable by current Doppler radars.”
Even if the fighter fired after locking on to the target, there was still a chance that the missile would pass through the balloon’s shell without exploding.
Due to this, it is challenging for the balloon to land and it may continue to float in the air, making the process of recovering the equipment it is carrying more challenging.
Instead of striking the target directly, the majority of current air-to-air missiles are equipped with a near-target fuse that detonates close to the target, generating a significant amount of metal shrapnel to destroy or seriously damage the adversary’s armament.
While the AIM-9X uses lasers for short-range attack, medium-range air-to-air missiles like the AIM-120 generally employ radar-activated near-target fuzes.
According to expert Rogoway, “the AIM-120 missile’s radar-activated near-target detonation may not function with a target with a radar reflection area as small as a balloon, causing the projectile to continue flying freely until it self-destructs or crashes to the ground.”
The F-22’s 20mm cannon is thought to be a considerably more affordable alternative to the AIM-9X missile, however it has a lot of drawbacks.
Since the M61 cannon’s effective range is just approximately 600 meters, the F-22 must pass quite near the balloon in order for it to hit the target.
The US fighter won’t be able to approach the target at the angle of the drop because the F-22 has a ceiling of 18 km and the airship operates at an altitude of roughly 18.3 km.
If the thin airship shell is struck by a solid object, such as the fuselage and engine of an airplane, the 20 mm cannon’s fragmentation mechanism) does not engage.
Although using training rounds devoid of explosives or armor-piercing rounds may lessen the danger, it does not ensure that the balloon can be shot down immediately.
At a height of less than 12 km, the CF-18 fighters of the Canadian Aviation Force fired more than 1,000 rounds of mm cannon at a weather balloon in 1998, however the balloon did not come down and instead moved for several days, disrupting air traffic over the Atlantic.
Expert Rogoway stated that destroying the gadget would put information gathering capabilities at risk once it was taken down. “Bombarding the equipment compartment underneath may cripple the airship, but would cause a lot of debris to fall along its course,” he added.
Not to mention that the balloon is Sarge-sized, but this chamber is somewhat smaller, which makes it challenging for pilots to aim precisely, according to expert Rogoway.
There is no way for the US military to employ an anti-aircraft missile to bring the balloon down because only the Patriot or THAAD systems can take out such high-altitude targets in the stratosphere.
However, because of the balloon’s extremely limited radar reflecting area, these systems’ reconnaissance and missile complexes will also experience issues.
As a result, it may be concluded that the use of AIM-9X missiles is the most practical and sensible course of action.