1. Scope of Tu-160
It is necessary to clearly distinguish between strategic aviation (SA) in nuclear and conventional wars.
1.1. The use of SA in nuclear conflicts
In 70-ies, during the start of the design of the Tu-160, the concept prevailed according to which the SA was to perform the role of a second retaliatory strike, since the first strike of the enemy could destroy our ICBMs in the mines. It was believed that the SA aircraft would have time to take off and be out of the zone of defeat of the first strike of the enemy. The SA as a component of the nuclear triad was used only in the USSR and the USA. Since then, mobile ICBM technologies have been developed that are covertly transported long distances. Today, mobile top-class ICBMs such as Topol-M and Yars, as well as the Barguzin railway complex (if it is adopted) are fully capable of solving the problem of a second nuclear retaliatory strike, even in the absence of an AS. In the US, it has long been calculated that it is ICBMs that pose the greatest threat to them, that is, the SA threat has faded into the background. As a result, the number of radars in the United States, intended to detect attacking bomber, began to decline.
The main argument against using SA as a component of the nuclear triad is that the amount of ICBM we have with a large margin is enough to cause unacceptable damage to the United States. The missile defense system of the American continent in the event of a massive raid will be able to hit no more than 1% of our 650 ICBMs. If 10% of our ICBMs are launched, the US will be completely crushed, as life will turn into complete chaos. Under these conditions, the addition of several dozen more strategic cruise missiles (TFR) cannot fundamentally change the overall picture. Naturally, we must not forget that the retaliatory strike by the United States will be no less powerful. The number of ICBMs is equal to ours, and the B-2 bombers can penetrate the air defense systems much better.
Nuclear strikes with the help of the TFR is also unprofitable because during a long flight (4-5 h) over enemy territory a significant part of them will be shot down. Our TFR type Ha-101 are similar in type to the American TFR Tomahawk. Both are easy targets for the air defense system, as they fly at subsonic speed and do not perform anti-missile maneuvers. The experience of the last Tomahawk raid on Syria clearly confirms this, that is, even outdated air defense systems easily knock down Tomahawk, if only it falls into their detection zone.
All TFR are designed to fly over land territory, where they can hide from detection by ground-based radar in the folds of the terrain. Attempts to launch them from airplanes flying over the ocean are especially inefficient. The coastline of the United States is so full of detection radar that the TFR is difficult to hide from them. Currently, to protect the coastline from the TFR, balloon radars are delivered with a detection range of low-altitude SKRs over 200 km. In peacetime, the early detection of aircraft is provided by over-the-horizon radar systems, which cannot work in wartime if the enemy suppresses them with interference. In the period of threat, the advanced detection line provided by AWACS AWACS is added to the coastal radar. The AWACS detection range of heavy bombers is 700-800 km, and TFR 100 km. It follows that the attack of North America using the TFR is possible only from the Arctic Ocean. Passage through the North Atlantic is excluded due to the presence of numerous NATO radars, and across the Pacific Ocean - due to interception of the TFR on the coastal defense lines. Consequently, in the nuclear triad, the TFR will play the most insignificant role, since the probability of bringing a nuclear charge to a target in the United States is much less than that of an ICBM. Moreover, 5-7 heavy ICBMs like Sarmat or Voyevoda will be able to deliver more warheads to targets than all of our 16 Tu-160, which carry 12 TFR. At the same time, the cost of the strike inflicted by the ICBM will be several times cheaper than the impact of the SA.
1.2. Using SA in conventional conflicts
It is known that CA should be used only to defeat the most significant goals. On land, these include command posts, communications centers, the most important energy facilities, and so on. In the ocean, carrier strike groups (AUG) and shipboard strike groups (TCG) are considered as targets. The original article showed that striking the United States is ineffective due to the presence of several air defense lines in Canada and target air defense within the United States. The percentage of conventional TFRs that have reached the target will be even lower than the TFR with nuclear warheads. This is explained by the fact that nuclear TFRs must overcome regional air defense and strike at dispersed targets. Conventional TFR should strike at particularly important objects, which in most cases are also protected by short-range air defense systems. The number of TFR affected at this stage will be particularly large, since when approaching the goal of the TFR, in most cases it falls into the detection zone of the air defense missile system. The damage will be insufficiently strong due to the fact that when the launch weight of the missile missile X-101 2300 kg its combat part is small - about 400 kg, which corresponds to a typical aerial bomb. To hit the AUG and the CUG with the help of TFR is not supposed, because the TFR is not designed to defeat mobile targets. For the destruction of ships used anti-ship missiles (RCC). To launch the anti-ship missiles, the SA aircraft must detect enemy ships using their own radar. When an AUG attack is done, in most cases it will not be possible due to the presence of a layered AUG air defense. Thus, the CBG remains the only serious goal, but it will also be difficult to attack them, since they are unlikely to be present in the area of the Arctic Ocean or the northern part of the Pacific Ocean accessible to our CA. For our SA, it is also undesirable to fly into the Bering Sea because of the large number of radar stations on the Aleutian Islands. Front-line aviation (FA) is much better suited for actions against enemy ships near Russian territory, since the survival rate of FA aircraft in the fight against enemy air defense is several times higher than that of the SA.
The Tu-160 aircraft are based at the Engels airfield and cannot operate in the Pacific. To provide them with such an opportunity, it is necessary to retrofit the Ukrainka airbase in the Amur Region, where Tu-95 aircraft are located, for the Tu-160 bases. However, from this base they can reach the US coast only if they use air refueling.
2. The benefits of stealth technology to increase aircraft survival
Typical long-range air defense systems work in the same way. The radar air defense system accompanies the target and determines its route, then the missile defense starts at the pre-empt point where, according to calculations, a missile attack will occur with the target. When approaching missiles with a view to a certain small distance, missiles are switched to using their own homing head (GOS). At the same time, the radar power should be sufficient for outputting missiles with the required accuracy even at the far edge of the zone of attack. The smaller the ESR of the target, the smaller the far boundary turns out to be, and when using the stealth technology, the launching range of the missile launcher can fall 2-3 times. The characteristics of the missile defense system itself are especially worsened, since its homing plane can no longer go on to homing at previous ranges. To bring the missile defense to the target at a smaller distance than before, it is required to increase the angular accuracy of the target tracking, that is, to increase the power of the signal reflected from the target. This will further reduce the launch range.
The US Air Force compared the performance of the conventional F-15 fighter and the F-22 stealth fighter. It turned out that in a duel battle, the probability of winning the F-22 from the F-15 is 15 times higher than vice versa. Considering that the characteristics of the F-15 and the Su-27-type aircraft lines are quite similar, it becomes clear how much the reduction of the EPR plays an important role.
3. On the possibilities of upgrading the aircraft Tu-160
The comments often formulated various proposals to improve the combat capabilities of the Tu-160. Of these, two main directions can be distinguished: hiding the Tu-160 from the enemy's radar by increasing the power of the electronic countermeasure complex (REB) and reducing the visibility (EPR) of the Tu-160 by applying different radio absorbing coatings. A detailed answer should be given to these two questions so that illusions are not preserved in the future.
3.1 Reduced ESR Tu-160
During the design process of B-1b, it was decided that it would be “almost subsonic.” In this connection, a lot of attention was paid to the reduction of its ESR compared to B-52. Especially carefully decreased the EPR of the main reflecting elements - air intakes. For the Tu-160, the maximum speed of 2200km / h was chosen, and it was thought that this would give him some opportunity to move away from the attacking fighters. To increase engine power, air intakes were expanded compared to the B-1b. At supersonic speeds, there were technological difficulties in coating and coatings were not applied. As a result, the EPR of the Tu-160 was several times higher than that of the B-1b. Unsuccessful attempts to apply coating during operation were undertaken several times. Whether I managed to hold these events now - I do not know. In terms of ESR, the Tu-160 is closer to the old B-52 and Tu-95 bomber than to the B-1b. As a result, enemy ground radars can detect it at all ranges, up to the radio horizon (400-500 km, depending on the height of the flight). The AWACS AWACS aircraft detects heavy bombers at distances 700-800 km.
In the comments, many authors have pointed out that this problem can be solved, since effective radio-absorbing coatings have now appeared. Unfortunately, in order for such coatings to work in a wide range of wavelengths, they must be “thick” with a gradual increase in the amount of absorption from the outer layer to the inner layer. The weight of such coatings is significant, and to ensure their integrity during operation is a difficult technological task. Such coatings are more widely used on ships where the coating weight is not so critical. Other authors report that electronically controlled coatings have already been developed, the property of which can be changed during the flight. It can be answered that such works began in the USSR and good results were obtained on experimental samples, but due to technological difficulties and high prices, these coatings have not been implemented.
Thus, we conclude that the plane's EPR should be reduced only in the process of design and pilot testing. Tu-160 and in its current state was the most expensive aviation development of the USSR. To work it out, new large buildings were built at the OKB Design Bureau. Tupolev and Aviation Systems Research Institute. At the present time, it is not necessary to expect that a huge amount of funding will be allocated to eliminate the shortcomings of the old glider and to carry out a full range of new flight tests.
The way out of this situation would be to build a new aircraft under the PAK DA program, albeit with reduced requirements for reducing visibility. If it is not possible to achieve in the near future the same results as the B-2 bomber, then reduce the EPR to the 0.1-0.3 square meters, realistically for traditional aircraft. The main thing is to ensure low visibility in the lower hemisphere, for which air intakes must be placed upstairs.
3.2. On the possibilities of increasing the energy potential (ES) of the REB complex
On strike aircraft, as a rule, it is not possible to place REB complexes with high EP. As a result, two types of REB complexes are used - individual protection (IZ) located on each plane of the group, and group protection (GP) placed on the jammers. For GZ in the US, specialized subsonic aircraft are used. In Russia, they gradually switched to specialized helicopters. This is explained by the fact that the enemy first of all seeks to hit just the jammers. Therefore, they act, as a rule, outside the zones of defeat of the air defense system and, possessing a high PI, should prevent the detection of strike aircraft. High EF values can be obtained only through the use of highly directional antennas based on HEADLIGHTS. To concentrate the radiated noise exactly on the enemy’s radar, the antenna size must be many times greater than the wavelength at which the radar operates. Therefore, to place such antennas on impact aircraft is not possible. In particular, on the Tu-160 free space is present only in the toes of the wing. Create complexes GZ to accompany the TU-160 tried in 90-s, but for this there was no suitable carrier. As a result, Tu-160 should cover each other only with IZ complexes. It is extremely difficult to create such complexes with small antennas placed in the toes of the wing. For example, the B-1b –ALQ-161 IZ aircraft complex, which masks the ESR several times smaller than that of the Tu-160, turned out to be the most expensive subsystem of this aircraft (about 10% of the total price). It will be even more difficult to create new FM systems for TU-160, since their power must be several times higher than the power of ALQ-161. The use of GZ complexes developed for other tasks on the Tu-160 is impossible due to the lack of space for their placement.
The current state of the air defense radar system has further complicated the task of REB complexes. Radar AFAR can form several receiving beams at once, each of which will accompany each interferer separately. As a result, the missile defense can be induced even in the case when the signal reflected from the target is still small, that is, the interference signal will serve as a beacon, according to which the range for determining the target bearing increases the more, the stronger the interference signal. If there are two radars, they can determine the gross range to the target by the triangulation method. Consequently, the decrease in the EPR of the aircraft is much more important than the increase in the EF of its REP complex.
3.3. Modernization of onboard equipment
Minoborny said that the modernization of the TU-160 to the model Tu-160М2 will increase its combat effectiveness by 60%. However, it was not explained at the expense of what funds it is supposed to provide this efficiency. A real improvement can be achieved only through the development of a new radar and a REB complex. Both of these developments are extremely expensive and will require more than 5 years. The rest of the announced modernization methods do not play a significant role. For example, the modernization of the navigation system is not so important, because with a working GLONASS system, the necessary accuracy is ensured without an expensive inertial navigation system. When GLONASS is suppressed by enemy interference, orientation is carried out according to the terrain map using radar. Above the ocean, they are guided by the astronavigation complex already used on Tu-160 or islands. The substitution of indicators for the cockpit of pilots also plays an auxiliary role, since it only reduces the intensity of the crew’s work. Whether the communication complex will be improved is also not reported.
4. On the tactics of using the Tu-160 in secondary theaters of war (theater)
The original article stated that the use of the Tu-160 in the Central European theater is impossible because of the high saturation of its air defense system. Some authors have stated that this is not a problem, since for the Tu-160 it is possible to cut through the corridors with the help of FA. It can be argued that no air defense commander will put all the means into action at the same time. If the strike group is able to hit several operating air defense missile systems, the others, who are in ambush, will wait for the most important targets to appear, and given the low maneuverability of the Tu-160, the SAM can be launched at a markedly longer range than by the FA aircraft.
The use of CA in Asian and African theaters is even more difficult, since in each case it will be necessary to obtain permission from transit countries for passage.
The use of SA in local wars is also of little justification, since the main use of heavy bombers is carpet bombing on areal targets with the help of unguided bombs. If you want to hit turned objects, the accuracy of the use of unguided bombs is determined by the height of their discharge. It is not safe to launch a Tu-160 at altitudes of equal units of kilometers, since enemy anti-aircraft installations can hit such a large-size and low-maneuver target. That is, in this case, the aircraft FA have an advantage.
It follows from the above that the Tu-160 aircraft belongs to the class of aviation of the last century. In modern conditions, it can not enter into combat contact with any means of enemy air defense. Modernization of the Tu-160 in order to reduce its ESR is impossible, since it is easier to build an airplane of subtle forms than to engage in the application of radio-absorbing coatings on the Tu-160. This aircraft is not able to perform the main tasks that are traditionally set before the SA, namely: to strike at the territory of the most powerful opponents and at the aircraft carrier groups. Front-line aviation is much better suited for use in local conflicts.
The cost of the Tu-160 aircraft is equivalent to the cost of the corvette for the Navy. The situation in our surface shipbuilding is deplorable. Those interested can familiarize themselves with author's article “Missile defense is breached, and what remains of ours the fleet? ”, Published on April 25.04.18, XNUMX. on the site of "Military Review".
As a result, we come to the conclusion that the distribution of finance in our defense-industrial complex is clearly distorted. A large part of the military budget is spent on maintaining a nuclear shield, which works so well. On conventional weapons ships, drones, etc. means are clearly not enough.