Necessary disclaimer: the author of this article does not consider himself an expert in the field of aviation, and everything that will be said below is his point of view, which, of course, may not be the ultimate truth.
So let's start with the title. It turns out that between the American F-15E and our Su-34 there is some kind of unspoken race. It must be remembered here that the first F-15E were transferred to the US Air Force in December 1988, deliveries were made before 2001, and the 236 aircraft of this type were built for the US Air Force.
In principle, the Su-34 could have been launched into a series in 1994, but the collapse of the Union and the subsequent chaos prevented the aircraft from taking the wing. But in 2000's, they still remembered him - on the eve of the massive write-off of the Su-24.
Of course, a lot of time has elapsed since Soviet times: it was necessary to adjust the production of components previously produced in the countries of the “near abroad”, the aircraft equipment also needed to be improved. Therefore, it is not surprising that the state tests of the Su-34 continued until 2011, and the aircraft entered service with the Russian Air Force only in 2014. In other words, today we have two cars, one of which is just starting its service, and the second on 2018, it has already reached 18-30 years from the moment it entered the wing and, in general, is already close to the end of its life cycle.
What race can there be between these two planes? We could talk about the race, if we put the Su-34 in operation in the 90-s of the last century. But if we put the aircraft into service after 26 years after its American counterpart, this is no longer a race, but rather a topic for a sad joke.
If it is not clear what the race is, then all the more it is not clear what its outcome might be: in the article, the distinguished author compares the capabilities of F-15E and Su-34 to date. I must say that such a comparison, despite the difference in the age of the American and domestic cars, is quite legitimate. The fact is that today the tactical bomber niche in the USAF is represented by F-15E, so that it and Su-34 have similar tasks that, if a military conflict happens, they will have to be solved without discounts on the age of the machines or the lack of equipment.
Where does the comparison of the Su-34 and F-15E begin? With the message that the F-15 has come into useweapon - tactical long-range cruise missile AGM-158B JASSM-ER (hereafter - quotes from the article by the respected E. Damantsev):
“Firstly, the acquisition of strategic strike qualities by all US Air Force squadrons equipped with Strike Eagle tactical fighters without exception.
Is this probably good? From the point of view of E. Damantsev, it’s even excellent, because US planes get a “long arm” that our planes do not seem to have. But the author of this article creeps in vague doubts, and the reason is this.
A tactical bomber (in our country this class of aircraft was called a front-line bomber) is an aircraft designed to launch air strikes against ground (surface) targets of the enemy in operational and tactical depth under the conditions of strong opposition from enemy air defenses. In other words, a tactical bomber has its own peculiar and very specific tasks on the battlefield.
Generally speaking, strategic tasks, which mean the defeat of strategic objectives on the territory of the enemy, should be solved by strategic aviation. To do this, she has specialized aircraft and the same weapons.
Can the F-15E, having received the AGM-158B JASSM-ER, effectively carry out the tasks of a strategic bomber? Let's get a look. E. Damantsev writes:
"With a mixed flight profile without refueling, the strike range of this missile from the F-15E will approach 2500 km (comparable to the strikes of the Tu-22М3 long-range bomber using airballistic missiles of the X-15 family)."
Well, let's try to figure it out. F-15E combat radius when flying on a mixed profile with PTB (outboard fuel tanks) is 1 270 km. The JASSM-ER range of the AGM-158B is usually indicated by the 1 300 km. The total strike range of the F-15E is 1 270 km + 1 300 km = 2 570 km. It seems to be - that's right, but there is one discrepancy - we do not know with what combat load an American aircraft is capable of flying the combat radius 1 270 km. Because quite often for fighter-bombers (and the F-15E is still very close to them), the maximum combat radius is indicated not for the shock, but for the anti-aircraft variant of the combat load, which is usually understood to be a pair of AMRAAM missiles (the mass of one such missile is of the order of 161 kg) and the same "Sidewinder" (91 kg), that is, a little more than nothing.
Now take the Tu-22M3M. Its combat radius is usually indicated by 2 410 km at subsonic speed and along a mixed profile - i.e. in conditions similar to those reported for F-15, but ... with a load of 12 tons. Considering the fact that the range of the X-15 airballistic missile is of the order of 285-300 km, the maximum impact range of the Tu-22М3М is indeed 2 695 - 2 710 km. True, the Tu-22М3М will “deliver” a lot more missiles than the F-15E to this distance, or else, if the ammunition load decreases, it can take additional fuel and increase its combat radius.
But another thing is strange: why does E. Damantsev accept for comparison X-15, and not X-32 with its range 800-1 000 km?
In this case, the strike range of the Tu-22М3М increases to 3210 – 3410 km, which is more in 1,25-1,33 than in F-15E. And how many AGM-158B JASSM-ER missiles can take on the ultimate combat radius of the F-15E, and how many X-32 - the Tu-22М3М?
Immediately there is another incomprehensible point. Dear author writes:
“Without refueling in the air, launches can be carried out at facilities in the Belgorod, Kaluga, Pskov and Leningrad regions (subject to take-off from AvB Leikhenhes). In the case of a single refueling of F-15E over the territory of Germany or Eastern Europe, the most important objects of the Kuban, Volga region and Western Urals will be within reach. ”
No, the question is not how to convince Angela Merkel to divide Germany again into two parts, so that F-15E can refuel over its western territory. God bless him, and with the Western Urals, but, for example, from the Russian-Latvian border to Perm in a straight line - 1685 km. And in order to launch a JASSM-ER with its maximum range of 1 300 km through this city, it is necessary to invade our airspace almost on 400 km. Is it really at this time that our air defenses and the VKS will peacefully slumber in the sun?
Again, here you can argue that the US Air Force in its combat power roughly corresponds to the Air Force of all other NATO countries plus the Russian Aerospace Forces combined, and that if they are given time to accumulate in Europe and they will need much, they will invade and we will not stop them. This, of course, is true, but the article compares the fighting qualities of the two aircraft. There is no doubt that the consideration “our plane is better because we have ten of them yours” is extremely weighty in a real conflict, but when comparing the performance characteristics it is hardly appropriate.
But back to our missile carriers. Tu-22М3, unlike the American plane, can go on cruising supersonic, but in this case its combat radius is reduced to 1 500 - 1 850 km, but the F-15 will have obvious problems with it: the plane for long flights to supersonic speeds not optimized.
Thus, the F-15E, neither in terms of strikes by the most modern cruise missiles, nor in the speed of strikes of these strikes, nor in the number of missiles “under the wings”, has the slightest advantage of the Tu-22М3М. But the Tu-22М3М is a non-strategic bomber, it is a cross between a full-fledged “strategist” and a tactical bomber. It’s even funny to compare the capabilities of the F-15 with a real strategic missile carrier, like the Tu-160. Tu-160 flying into the air above the airfield into the air and without flying will shoot out its cruise missiles twice (according to other sources, almost fourfold) further than the F-15E can do at the ultimate combat radius. In other words, F-15E, of course, can be used as a strategic bomber ... but it will be a very, very bad strategic bomber. And even the squadron F-15E smashes to one specialized aircraft of this class.
Does this mean that equipping the F-15E with AGM-158B JASSM-ER long-range missiles is a mistake? Of course not. The ability to suspend a new JASSM-ER under the wing of an American aircraft means that, in addition to its main tasks, F-15 can now hit targets located behind 1 300 km from the launch point. In some circumstances, this can be extremely useful.
However, the key to this phrase is “in addition to its main tasks”.
We have already said above that the task of a tactical bomber is to destroy enemy objects to the operational and tactical depth. And the ability of the F-15E to carry the AGM-158B does not add anything to the ability to solve this problem - for this, the long-range JASSM-ER is simply redundant. Again, a simple example - let's say someone in our ministry of defense took the equipment of the F-15E with long-range rockets to heart, issued the necessary TK, and the designers hung a X-34 or X-101 cruise missile on the Su-102, either 4 500 whether 5 500 km distance, or even more. The technical possibility for this exists, the rocket weighs less than 2,5 tons, which is more than available for Su-34. And yes, in this case, our plane ... eghkm ... the arm becomes obviously longer, but does this increase the capabilities of the Su-34 as a tactical bomber? In general, no, because the X-101 is intended entirely for other tasks.
In order to strike at targets deep in the enemy’s battle formations (or behind them), a tactical bomber must be as visible as possible to the enemy. He is not the "king of the air", and should avoid meeting with enemy fighters. It should be "invisible" for ground defense components, but it needs to be able to suppress and destroy these components. At the same time, the aircraft must be able to “work” in a difficult interfering environment, if necessary - to use interference, protecting itself from unnecessary “attention”. Therefore, the key technologies for a tactical bomber are:
1. Technologies to reduce radar visibility - "stealth".
2). Equipment that provides maximum opportunities for detecting and classifying enemy objects with passive, non-emitting means, such as, for example, an optical-electronic surveillance and sight system.
3. Perfect aiming systems to ensure the destruction of the target used by ammunition.
4. Electronic countermeasures and other means of protecting the aircraft.
So, oddly enough, but the article by E. Damantsev does not contain this analysis. He examines how well the F-15E and Su-34 can perform the functions of a strategic bomber, he examines the capabilities of these planes in aerial combat, comparing their radar, but he does not compare the capabilities of these machines at all when performing their tasks. destroy enemy ground objects in a difficult situation.
Instead, we read:
“If the state machine has JASSM-ER, which has a range of 1200 km, then our Su-34’s main long-range caliber is X-59МК2 Ovod-M” with a range of 285 km ... ... As a result, the maximum The “depth” of the Su-34 strike using the “Gadfly-M” is only 1415 km against 2500 km from the F-15E “Strke Eagle”.
Of course, measuring the length of ... hands is an interesting and fascinating exercise, but this does not determine the capabilities of a tactical bomber. And then, if we undertake to compare something, it would be nice to do it correctly. The “depth” of the strike E. Damantsev thinks so: 1 270 km of combat radius F-15 + 1 200 km of distance JASSM-ER = 2 470 km. The combat radius of the Su-34 is 1 130 km, the flight range of the Gadget is 285 km, 1 130 km + 285 km = 1 415 km.
Everything would be fine, but only for the Su-34 its combat radius is taken during low-altitude flight from the PTB, and for the F-15E it is taken with a mixed flight profile. But if you take comparable figures (for the low-altitude profile for both aircraft), then the combat radius will be 800 km from the American Eagle and 1 130 km = from the Su-34. Accordingly, it turns out that the impact depth of the F-15E is 2 100 km (taking into account the fact that the JASSM-ER still flies not on the 1 200, but on the 1 300 km), but on the Su-34 - 1 415 km. Well, when flying along a mixed profile (assuming that such a Su-34 is more than 1,41 times, i.e. as much as its combat radius is "at the ground"), we will get the depth of impact 2 078 km 2 570 m from the "American."
But that's not all. The fact is that the X-59MK2 “Ovod-M” range in 290 km is declared on “MAKS-2015”, and here we cannot exclude that this is an export version, limited in the 300 range, km, and for domestic VKS it maybe more. Although - may not be. The fact is that tactical bomber aviation is focused on "work" on the operational depth, i.e. 200, a maximum of 300 km from the front line, and the Ovod-M shoots it through. Where even more?
Next E. Damantsev talks about the advantages of the American AN / APG-82 (V) 1 radar, and this, of course, is the case - the American AFAR is more perfect. By the way, how much?
"Target detection range with 1 EF apt. m is APG-82 of order 145 km, which is 60% better than W-141 (B004) installed on Su-34! ”
Generally speaking, Raytheon is extremely reluctant to share information about its radars: for AN / APG-82 (V) 1, the author of this article came across such data - detection of a target with 3 EPR. m at a distance 170 km. For Su-34 - 120 km, which generally speaking gives superiority in 41,7%, and not in 60%. But the question is different - W-141E is integrated with television, thermal imaging and laser navigation and sighting systems, a complex of electronic reconnaissance, electronic countermeasures and active interference, but what about AN / APG-82 (V) 1? Previously, the same F-15E terrain rounding mode was possible only when using LANTIRN overhead containers, and now? By the way, for Ш-141 this is one of the regular modes of operation. Speaking of AN / APG-82 (V) 1, E. Damantsev writes:
"... separate groups of receiving and transmitting modules can be used for directing jamming in the direction of enemy radio equipment."
This is an excellent skill. As far as the author of this article knows, our radar systems are able to do the same, but perhaps the author is mistaken. But no mistake can be that the combat capability of the aircraft is determined not only by the radar, but by all its systems. The newest REP complexes (the same Khibins) put a number of electronic countermeasures of the Su-34 on a par with such electronic warfare monsters as the specialized American E / A-18G “Growler” aircraft, which certainly exceeds the similar capabilities of the F-15Е .
E. Damantsev scares us with the implementation of the LPI (“Low Probability of Intercept”) mode. The fact is that today the entire airspace of the planet is riddled with radio waves of one purpose or another - a huge number of radar stations, radio stations, repeaters, cellular communications and other sources of radio emission have long filled the reality around us and form a kind of “background radio noise”. Roughly speaking, the LPI mode consists in the fact that the radar of an aircraft generates a signal of very complex and constantly changing modulation and of such strength that it disguises it as “background noise” in power at the receiving station of the irradiated aircraft. The idea is that separate and not similar to each other signals that are not distinguished by power from the “white noise” will not be perceived as the irradiation of the enemy radar.
Without going into details, let us pay attention to E. Damantsev's other words:
“... to detect such a source of radiation can only specialized means of electronic intelligence, for example, the new ACT L-150" Pastel ".
But the fact is that Su-34 are armed, including SPO L-150 "Pastel". And then what is the advantage of the LPI mode on the F-15E?
Arguments about the capabilities of on-board radar stations of US and Russian tactical bombers are certainly interesting, but there is one not unimportant nuance. The fact is that a tactical bomber is usually used for the destruction of targets, the location of which was established earlier, by means of space, air, or other intelligence. Therefore, the task of a tactical bomber is to reach the target as imperceptibly as possible, to carry out additional exploration, using airborne sighting systems and destroy the target. Ideally, in the performance of a combat mission, a tactical bomber should not include its own radar at all - because the best way to tell the enemy: “I'm here, right now, I’ll do it!” In modern war, probably, does not exist.
Radar combat aircraft does not provide a circular review, it searches in a certain sector in the direction of its movement. At the same time, the radio electronic surveillance stations of the enemy (and ours, of course) are able to detect the radiation of enemy radars at much greater distances than onboard radar - to detect the target. On the other hand, a number of radar stations can work not only in active, but also in passive mode, being a good means of electronic reconnaissance, which would be very useful for a tactical bomber. Do AN / APG-82 (V) 1 and W-141E have such capabilities? Alas, from the article, we do not know.
Completing the radar analysis, E. Damantsev makes an excellent conclusion.
“Considering the higher resolution of the first one, the possible LPI mode, the ability to create directed interferences, as well as the ability to form“ dips ”in the directivity pattern at the source of the REB source, the total potential of the F-15E in air superiority tasks and distances over 50 km many times exceeds Su's capabilities -34.
It remains only to say that the task of "winning air superiority" was never put before a tactical bomber. The main tasks of the domestic bomber aviation are:
· The destruction of nuclear missiles;
· The defeat of airplanes (helicopters) and other objects on the airfields (sites);
· The defeat of command and control centers and ground elements of the hands;
· Defeat of manpower and military equipment (Tanks, artillery, air defense) of the enemy in operational depth;
· Destruction of railway stations, bridges, ferries and other objects;
· The defeat of airborne and amphibious assault forces in the areas of loading and disembarking.
Bombers may also be involved in aerial reconnaissance.
If we compare F-15E with Su-34, it would be nice to start with analytics on weapon guidance systems for ground targets. Su-34 and F-15E appear here as spokesmen for different concepts, because the American plane is focused on the container placement of similar systems, while at Su-34 it is integrated. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. So, for example, the container complex degrades the aerodynamics of the aircraft and increases its EPR, but on the other hand, if there are clusters of bombs and missiles under its wings, then a couple of containers do not particularly solve anything. On the other hand, it is easy to remove the container and install a new one, but the integrated guidance system is much more difficult to replace, if at all possible. The American F-15E at one time demonstrated high efficiency with the container system LANTIRN, and today, as far as the author knows, it is being replaced with an even more modern Sniper-XR system, which, by some parameters, is at times superior to the old system. At the same time, relatively recently, about the “Platan” Su-34 it was customary to be expressed solely on foul language. In the internet, the phrase of an unnamed "experienced aircraft engineer" wanders:
“It is impossible to compare the Platan sighting system installed on the Su-34 with the American Sniper-XR. It is the same as comparing the “hunchbacked” Zaporozhets with the brand-new Mercedes. But “humpbacked”, unlike “Platan,” sometimes works. ”
Maybe it certainly is, but only the Su-34 still showed excellent work in Syria, which is completely incompatible with idle sights. Does it mean that Platan does work sometimes? Or was some other complex installed on the Su-34? Does it have all-weather capability, can it be used at night?
Wanting to get relatively cheap precision weapons, the Americans took the old free-fall bomb and fastened a JPS navigator to it, getting a JDAM controlled one. We went the other way by inventing a sight, which allows us to repeatedly increase the accuracy of the bombing of conventional free-fall ammunition. Our path is cheaper and, perhaps, more correct. Of course, SVP-24 "Hephaestus" will not replace the adjustable bombs, because, although it significantly increases the accuracy of bombing, the free-fall ammunition will never be as accurate as the controlled one. But now our strike aircraft can use precision-guided munitions, or strike the adversary with conventional bombs with very high accuracy, while the F-15E has no second possibility. At the same time, the use of high-precision ammunition (even relatively cheap, like JDAM) is not always justified. But there is another point of view that the increased consumption of aerial bombs with a lower chance of hitting a point target makes the use of the SVP-24 “Hephaestus” comparable in cost to JDAM. Who is right?
That's what you want to know, starting to read the article, which compares the capabilities of the Su-34 and F-15E. But when, instead, you see arguments about who their “above-mentioned” airplanes are “cooler” in aerial combat, you feel a little deceived. Because declaring a “red threat” because F-15E surpassed Su-34 in terms of the possibilities of winning air supremacy is about the same thing as talking about the collapse of Samsung smartphone manufacturers, because Apple’s similar products are not like more convenient to open beer bottles.
But back to the article of the respected E. Damantsev:
"As for the use of the Su-34 in interception operations, in contrast to the Strike Eagle, the maximum speed with suspension in the 1,7M does not quite correspond to these tasks."
If we still undertake to argue about who flies better - whale or hedgehog, then let's pay attention to some nuances.
Without a doubt, the American aircraft is capable of developing 2,5 mach, and this is noticeably larger than the 1,8M Su-34. But ... it is known that, although the maximum take-off mass of the Su-34 and F-15E differs, it is not at all several times the 45 100 kg of the Su-34 and 36 741 kg of the Eagle. Su-34 is heavier than F-15E by 22,8%. But the capacity of the internal fuel tanks the difference between these planes is radically 5 942 kg in F-15E vs. 12 000 kg in Su-34. In this parameter, the Su-34 exceeds the American aircraft in 2,02 times! How does the American plane manage to have a combat radius that is more or less comparable to the Su-34?
The answer is very simple: the F-15E is equipped with conformal tanks. Unlike PTB, they do not hang under the wings, but are directly adjacent to the aircraft and cannot be dropped in the air. So - the capacity of these tanks in F-15E is 4 275 kg, bringing the total fuel to 10 217 kg, which, in fact, equalizes the combat radii of the Su-34 and F-15E. Of course, both aircraft can increase fuel reserves by using conventional PTB, but this is not the case now.
The fact is that conformal tanks, with all their advantages, are far from having the best effect on the aerodynamics of the aircraft. And the F-15E, “dressed” in them, loses sharply in speed - with conformal tanks it can develop ... 1,8М, i.e. exactly as much as the Russian Su-34. Thus, the F-15E, of course, can "work" and an interceptor, but only due to a sharp drop in the combat radius. You can, of course, abandon the conformal tanks, use conventional PTB (they hold 5 396 kg of fuel), but firstly, the radius will still be much inferior to Su-34 with PTB, and secondly - the speed of F-15E with PTB is limited 1,4M. So the only way for this aircraft to fight as a fighter at some distance from the home airfield is to take off and patrol PTB, and in case of anything, drop outboard fuel tanks with all the fuel that remained in them and join the battle .
And finally, the last (in order, but not least) aspect. It is known that in the initial period of the Second World War, the German tank forces were extremely successful, despite the fact that the German tanks, in their main performance characteristics (speed, caliber of guns, thickness of armor) were at best "middling" - in the forces of the anti-Hitler coalition much more powerful and / or heavily armored vehicles. Of course, in the successes of the “Pancerwaffe” there were many components, but among them not the last role was played by the fact that the German combat vehicles were extremely (for their time) convenient for their crews. In this regard, the Su-34 represents a big step forward for domestic aviation - here and landing pilots shoulder to shoulder, which facilitates interaction, and a toilet with a mini-kitchen for long-haul flights, and cabin “conditioning”, in which up to a height of 10 is thousands of meters. there is no need to wear oxygen masks ... Ergonomics, anyway, it means a lot, but, unfortunately, we will not see a comparison of the Su-34 and F-15E on this parameter in E. Damantseva. It's a pity.
What is the conclusion of the foregoing? He is very simple. The quality of military equipment is determined by its ability to perform the tasks for which this technique was created. Therefore, a comparison of the technical characteristics of military equipment should be carried out not "in general", but in relation to its specific tasks, and not every one, but characteristic of this class of military equipment. A two-handed sword gives its owner an overwhelming advantage against an enemy armed with a regular knife ... unless it is a fight of fighting swimmers at a depth of twenty meters.
Thank you for attention!