Ukrainian OTRK "Thunder-2": a bold name and dubious prospects
The history of the project "Thunder-2" is very curious and in a logical way continues the long-term epic with the creation of its own Ukrainian tactical missile system. Before 2013, Ukraine developed its own project of the Sapsan PTRC, but the lack of funding, limited industry capacity and the lack of real success led to a natural result. The state has stopped funding this project. However, soon the industry proposed a new project of the technology of the same class.
The first version of the project "Glow" appeared in the same year 2013. Subsequently, the project was brought and processed, and to date, customers are offered a complex called “Thunder-2”. From the very beginning, the projects of the “Thunder” family faced problems of a financial and organizational nature. In addition, the coup d'état of 2014 and its consequences negatively affected the entire defense industry. In particular, all of these factors led to a shift in testing time. Initially, the rocket and complex were planned to be tested in the winter of the 2015 of the year, but then this part of the schedule shifted to the end of the 2016.
The lead developer of the system "Thunder-2" is the design bureau Yuzhnoye (Dnepropetrovsk). In addition, the project attracted Pavlograd chemical plant. From a certain time in the works participated Kharkov Design Bureau for Machine Building them. A.A. Morozov and Kharkov factory of transport equipment. The joint work of the four main developers and a number of suppliers of the necessary components, as expected, should have led to the emergence of a full-fledged PTRC.
Mock rocket "Thunder". Wikimedia Commons Photos
Quickly enough, the Graeme project faced the same problems as its predecessor. The Armed Forces of Ukraine could not be viewed as a reliable potential customer, and therefore the project risked being left without funding. Fortunately, at the beginning of 2015, we managed to sign a contract with Saudi Arabia, which wanted to pay for the design work. And then buy a number of ready-made complexes. In accordance with that agreement, the finished products “Thunder-2” were to be sent to the customer in 2018 year.
According to known data, development work continued until the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017, and by that time the necessary documentation had been prepared. In addition, the construction of a mock-up launcher and the assembly of other components of the complex started. In January, 2017 from a Ukrainian source learned that Saudi Arabia had not financed a new phase of work involving the assembly and testing of prototypes. As a result, the contractor temporarily suspended the project “Thunder-2”. However, as further events showed, the issue of financing was resolved, and work on the new complex continued.
Launcher "Thunder" in the assembly shop. Photo Bmpd.livejournal.com
About a year ago, in May of the 2017, a previously unknown special machine was seen on one of the highways of the Kharkiv region. It soon became clear that this was a mockup model of a self-propelled launcher for the Thunder-2 OTRK. Probably, a few months earlier, it was this sample that appeared in an unfinished form in the official photograph from the assembly hall. The car was assembled and sent for testing. Aft launchers for protection from prying eyes covered with a tarpaulin.
At the very beginning of January, 2018, Yuzhnoye Design Bureau, published a number of interesting information on the progress of the Grim-2 project. In addition, the messages were accompanied by an interesting video with fragments of tests of individual components of this complex. As it turned out, to date, the OTRK developers have completed a series of inspections of various equipment and are now going to begin the next stage of work. In the near future it was planned to prepare for the upcoming acceptance tests of technology demonstrators.
The published video showed the full appearance of a self-propelled launcher without a masking tarpaulin, and also contained test shots of two experienced rocket engines. In addition, the results of various tests carried out as part of a common project were listed. As it turned out, over the past time, Ukrainian specialists, having received the required funding from a foreign country, were able to do a lot of work. However, it was not without problems.
The most interesting recent test is the testing of two experienced solid-fuel engines designed for the Thunder-2 rocket. Both test launches were held at a special stand of the Pavlograd Mechanical Plant. The first experimental product worked out normally. The second engine at the end of the required operating time created excessive pressure inside the hull and collapsed, scattering dying fuel over the landfill. It is alleged that the designers managed to find out the causes of the accident and take the necessary measures.
According to the information of the beginning of the current year, the ready OTRK was absent, but by that time some elements of the future rocket and launcher for it were assembled and tested. How long it will take to complete the current work and the construction of a full-fledged prototype, and when it will be possible to carry out tests and obtain the desired results - it remains only to guess. At the same time, there are considerable reasons for doubts about the possibility of completing the project in 2018, in accordance with the existing Ukrainian-Saudi contract.
According to known data, the project "Grim-2" provides for the creation of a self-propelled operational-tactical missile system with some special features. The complex should include the rocket itself with the required characteristics and several self-propelled means: a launcher, a transport-charging and transport vehicle, a command post, etc. At the moment, in the form of mock-ups, only some of these tools exist, and the timing of the appearance of the remaining products remains unknown.
One of the main elements of the complex "Thunder-2" - self-propelled launcher, a prototype of which appeared about a year ago. This car was built on the basis of a five-axle special chassis, probably designed specifically for the promising OTRK. This chassis is a special bonnetless machine with large units in the front of the frame. There are located the crew cabin, hardware compartment, etc. The back of the chassis is given for mounting the launcher of the launcher. During preparation for firing, a self-propelled machine must be hung on hydraulic jacks.
An interesting feature of the OTRK "Grom-2" is the ammunition launcher, including just two missiles. It is proposed to place two rectangular transport and launch containers for missiles on the swinging frame of the hydraulically driven installation. Before firing, both containers should be raised to a vertical position and installed on the ground with a pair of square support platforms. There is every reason to believe that on board the self-propelled machine there must be various instruments to prepare for firing and working with missiles.
The complex is proposed to equip a single-stage solid-fuel rocket. Finished products of this kind, apparently, are not yet available, but earlier layouts were shown at exhibitions. The project involves the manufacture of a rocket with a long head fairing formed by several conical surfaces. Behind it is a cylindrical body of the engine, on the tail of which are located aerodynamic control surfaces.
The rocket must be equipped with a solid-fuel engine with a body made of composite materials. The product with a length of 3,74 m and a mass of 3,14 t has a charge of weight 2735 kg. Polybutadiene with ring hydroxyl groups (HTPB in English terminology) is used as fuel. Reportedly, the engine has a nozzle unit with electric thrust vector control systems. Thus, the control of the rocket in the active area is carried out by aerodynamic control surfaces and a rolling nozzle.
Most likely, the rocket of the GRIM-2 complex should have an inertial control system ensuring the passage along a predetermined ballistic trajectory. The use of other systems, including those allowing a rocket to independently find a target and be aimed at it, is unlikely, but it should not be completely excluded yet.
According to the developer, the missile complex "Thunder-2" can carry combat units of different types, designed to solve different combat missions. Perhaps the use of high-explosive or penetrating high-explosive charge or cluster munition. The allowable weight of the warhead is 480 kg. It is assumed that the presence of several different combat units with different capabilities will allow the range of combat missions to be expanded.
Previously appeared information about the tactical and technical characteristics of the future rocket. According to open data, it was planned to develop a product with a firing range from 50 to 300 km, intended for deliveries to foreign customers. In the interests of its own army, Ukrainian industry could create a rocket with a maximum range of 500 km. Recently, some sources mention and discuss the possibility of creating another modification of the rocket, this time with a range of about 650 km.
The Yuzhnoye Design Bureau and other participants in the promising project have so far demonstrated only a limited number of components of the future rocket complex. Other means - even if they exist - have not yet appeared in official publications. In particular, it remains unknown the exact shape of transport and transport-charging machines, self-propelled battery command center and other products necessary for the correct use of missiles. Perhaps all of these developments will be presented soon.
Assessing the prospects of the PJSC “GRIM-2”, it is necessary to take into account several characteristic factors that determine the development of the Ukrainian defense industry over the years. First of all, it is not at all difficult to imagine the prospects of a new development in the context of the rearmament of the Ukrainian army. Rather, it is obvious that in this case the new project has almost no future.
It is worth remembering that the immediate predecessor of the "Thunder" was the project "Sapsan", which several years ago had to close due to lack of finance. If we take into account the recent events, it is hardly to be expected that in the foreseeable future Kiev will be able to find money for the purchase of new PTRCs in sufficient quantity. However, it is quite possible that the Ukrainian army will be able to acquire several new complexes, and will submit such a purchase as an outstanding achievement, bringing the country's defense capability to an unattainable level.
However, a more likely scenario is another scenario in which Ukraine, having developed a new missile system, will not be able to adopt it due to a banal lack of money. As a result, the “Thunder-2” risks becoming an exclusively export product, produced only on the order of third countries. At the same time, similar prospects for the missile complex do not look outstanding.
Interest in the Ukrainian “Thunder” has already shown Saudi Arabia. Moreover, this country even agreed to pay for the development work. This may indicate that Riyadh is seriously interested in purchasing new military equipment. However, as far as is known, no other country has so far shown any particular interest in prospective OTRK. Thus, the order from the Saudi military risks becoming the only one in the history of “Thunder”. Having released a certain number of serial complexes, Ukrainian enterprises will have to continue to search for new customers, and it is unlikely that they will succeed in this.
It is also necessary to take into account that before selling finished serial equipment, foreign customers need to complete design work, and then manufacture and test prototypes. To date, Yuzhnoye Design Bureau and related enterprises have prepared only mock-up samples of individual components of the complex, and the entire system is still not ready. At the same time, there is a problem with the timing. According to known data, Saudi Arabia wanted to receive the first OTRK in 2018 year. Only seven months left until the end of this period. Whether the developers will have time to complete the project and meet the deadlines is unknown.
At the moment, the project OTRK "GRIM-2", as well as its developers, as well as the entire defense industry of Ukraine, faces a number of serious problems. Enterprises suffer from a lack of funding, and the available technical and technological capabilities limit their industrial potential and hinder the solution of their design problems. Finally, the specific military-political situation in the country does not contribute to stable work with obtaining the desired results.
As a result, at the moment, the project of the operational-tactical missile complex Grom-2 may be of some technical interest, but it is still not worth overestimating it. There is reason to follow the news about this project and observe the new attempts of Ukrainian industry to master a rather complicated direction for it. However, it is hardly worth observing the situation with an optimistic view of the future. Ukraine and its enterprises have too many diverse problems to quickly and easily develop highly complex modern missile projects weapons. It is quite possible that in the foreseeable future, Saudi Arabia, seeing the real results of the work carried out at its expense, will be disappointed in the chosen partner, and the new project of the Ukrainian OTRK will again be left without funding.
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