The reason for writing this article was the dissemination of inaccurate information regarding issues of basing and maintenance aviation.
This happens periodically in all media. Moreover, in articles of completely different orientations, where to one degree or another the issues of the use of aviation (any) are raised, ranging from modeling battles at sea, comparing coastal infrastructure and aircraft carriers, and ending with the use of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria.
Part 1. Principles of aerodrome network organization
First of all, it is necessary to say right away that it is not entirely correct to talk about a separate airfield in isolation from the airfield network, of which it is a part. Just as there are various organs in the human body, a specific airfield also performs strictly defined functions assigned to it within the framework of the entire system.
The classification of aerodromes used in the USSR is quite voluminous. For the purposes of this article, I suggest using a simplified model in order to understand the principle itself. For simplicity, some terms may not exactly match the real ones.
Airfield home base
The basing airfield is a large airfield with a developed infrastructure, MTS points, housing for personnel and their families (it can be located in a nearby village). The number of aircraft located at the parking lots of such airfields can be measured in hundreds.
The runway of such airfields is capable of receiving heavy military transport aircraft, which expands the logistics capabilities of the entire system as a whole.
At such aerodromes it is possible to accumulate large stocks of material and technical means (fuel, ammunition, equipment).
Hangars are equipped and there is everything you need to carry out scheduled technical work, as well as aircraft repair.
Such aerodromes are the center of the aerodrome hub (1st level in the aerodrome network hierarchy). As a rule, they are located farther from the borders, which ensures their greater combat stability in wartime.
This role is assigned to smaller airfields (although not necessarily).
Their runway can be adapted for air supply with light and medium military transport aviation with a carrying capacity of up to 20 tons, as well as MI-8 and MI-26 helicopters.
They have much less monumental structures and infrastructure, permanent reserves.
However, during the planning phase, the potential for building aerodrome capabilities is being built. Places are envisaged for placing pre-fabricated housing, parking equipment, etc. Also, when planning the placement of aerodromes, transport accessibility is taken into account.
These are very small airfields and even landing sites. They are not suitable for permanent bases of aviation. However, in case of danger, it is possible to distribute aircraft over them and even make several sorties.
This is especially true for fighter aircraft - 800 meters of runway are enough for their operation.
Other components of the aerodrome network
The practice of co-located airfields is used throughout the world. So, for example, the F-16 of the Turkish Air Force, which shot down our Su-24 in Syria, flew on its mission from such an airfield.
The advantages of co-location are obvious: there is a powerful civil infrastructure that does not require money for its maintenance in peacetime, but, on the contrary, generates income.
There is also a guarded area where you can place additional. points. There are reserves to accommodate personnel.
There are about 60 large international airports and about 200 regional airports in Russia.
It should also be borne in mind that joint basing is necessary not only for the needs of the VKS, but also for other departments: the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the FSB, etc.
This implies the presence of zones with a special security regime inside the airport, because, for example, the plane of the head of state should not stand in a common parking lot.
Use of highways as temporary airfields
At the stage of planning, construction and modernization of roads, the possibilities of using their sections as temporary airfields are being considered without fail.
Such aerodromes can be located near railway stations to facilitate the delivery and storage of fuel and ammunition.
Also, in peacetime, the construction of field airfields and sites for the work of aviation (which is called "from the wheels") by the forces of special units is being worked out.
Part 2. Maintenance of aircraft during combat work
The first thing to understand is that the maintenance of equipment is uneven. It can be compared to servicing a car.
There are procedures that are performed every day - warm up the interior, inspect for external damage, clear snow, check error indicators on the on-board computer.
There are operations that are performed weekly - check in for a refueling (with a cup of coffee), check the oil level, fill the washer, pump up the tires if necessary.
Some actions are performed even less often and require even greater costs, a qualitatively different equipment and the availability of spare parts and consumables: changing the oil, filter, brake pads.
And so on. Up to engine overhaul.
Aviation works approximately on the same principle. Aircraft are delivered to the operational airfield, which are as ready for battle as possible, having passed all the planned technical procedures.
This reduces the load on local infrastructure and personnel to a minimum and dramatically increases the intensity of aviation from the airfield.
In fact, the personnel at the operational airfield only need to refuel and hang the BC.
After a certain raid, aircraft that need better service are driven to the rear, to the home airfields, and others are driven in their place. In order not to distract highly qualified pilots from combat work, younger and less qualified pilots can be used for these tasks.
Fueling is another important aspect of preparing an aircraft for departure.
In the modern world, there are many solutions for these needs: from cheap and small to high-performance and expensive.
A kind of "top" in this procedure is the centralized filling system.
Such a system begins with a railway unloading overpass: railway tanks are adjusted and fuel intake begins. The Sheremetyevo overpass is capable of simultaneously unloading fuel from 18-24 tanks (according to various sources).
First, the fuel enters a small intermediate tank from which samples are taken. And (assuming no complaints) it is pumped into the main storage tanks.
The main reservoirs can be different. At large airbases, RVS (vertical steel tank) are used. Such solutions have a capacity of tens of thousands of cubic meters.
Vertical fuel storage tanks. Photo: ruaviation.com
At smaller aerodromes, storage can be arranged at a lower volume.
There are hydrants in the airplane parks themselves, like firefighters. A special car drives up to them (or a stationary refueling station is installed at the service point) and refills with any amount of fuel, which is especially important in the case of large aircraft (YES, Military Transport Aviation).
Thus, the amount of necessary transport, traffic, and human resources is sharply reduced, and time is also saved.
To understand the "scale", it is necessary to mention some numbers.
The fuel reserves on an aircraft carrier (of the Nimitz type) are about 12 million liters, that is, about 10 million kg, which is equivalent to 166 tanks.
Such volume can be provided by fitting 2 freight trains to the airfield.
This stock will be enough for 840 Su-34 sorties with full tanks.
Fuel tank capacity:
Su-34, Su-35: 12 kg
Su-25: 3 kg
MiG-35: 6 kg
MiG-31: 17 kg
Tu-160: 150 kg
Remembering the good old cartoon about a baby elephant, a monkey and a boa constrictor, for convenience I suggest further measuring everything in the Su-34.
The standard 4-axle railway tank has a volume of 80 cubic meters and a carrying capacity of 60 tons. It will be enough for 5 full Su-34 gas stations.
The Il-78 air tanker can transfer 60 liters of fuel at a distance of 000 km. Or 1 liters at a distance of 800 km. Moreover, it has 30 performance modes: 000 liters per minute for small aircraft and 4 liters per minute for "strategists".
Thus, at a distance of up to 2 km, it can refuel 000 Su-4s, spending about 34 minutes for each pair with the approach and departure from the tanker (the plane is refueled not with empty tanks, but with a maximum of ⅔, but rather even ½) ...
Standard airfield refuellers have capacities from 20 to 60 cubic meters.
However, there were stories our aviation and exceptions (https://topwar.ru/130885-aerodromnyy-avtotoplivozapravschik-atz-90-8685c.htm).
Separately, I would like to mention the fueling of our strategists.
Tu-160 takes on board 150 tons of fuel, which is equal to 3 railway tanks or 3 large tankers.
The situation can be solved simply. Engels (the place where our strategists are based) is located in the same place as the Saratov oil refinery.
Considering the capacity of 2 liters per minute, the Tu-000 can be refueled in 160 hours. However, it should be borne in mind that this calculation was made based on refueling tankers through 1,5 port.
I didn’t manage to find out the real possibilities of the filling system on Engels. However, I do not think that we will be greatly mistaken if we focus on the numbers "from an hour to two".
Part 3. Equipment of the ASP
Along with refueling, another key aspect of the operational maintenance of aircraft before departure is its ASP equipment. Simply put, weapons or ammo replenishment.
In the comments to my previous articles (regarding the Tu-160), some readers mentioned that this aircraft requires high maintenance costs (in man-hours). And this fact is positioned by them exclusively as an aircraft problem.
In reality, the problem is much more complex and has a deep systemic character. To our great regret, in our country, traditionally, insufficient attention was paid to technical means of maintenance.
What could be called a modern and well-developed "culture of work" was missing.
At the same time, the local craftsmen (on whose shoulders it was the rolling of carts with "cast iron" on the airfield) did what they could. And, as best they could, they tried to optimize the process, including through crafts.
For example, such.
In the case of the Tu-160, it was a figure of 64 man-hours per 1 hour of flight. These figures are rooted at a time when new aircraft had just entered service and no one had experience in operating them. According to the engineers, at that time it took 3 days to get the plane ready for departure. All procedures were performed slowly, constantly consulted with the instructions and discussed with representatives of the design bureau. And if over time the deficit of "skills" and "knowledge" of the personnel was solved, and the time for servicing was reduced, then the problem of the almost complete absence of technically effective solutions for servicing the aircraft remained and could no longer be solved by "crafts". Since the wooden home-made carts no longer "took out" the equipment YES.
In Soviet times, we were already lagging behind the United States in terms of the culture of "ground handling". After the collapse of the USSR, our lag only increased, since in the United States all this time this industry has been developing by leaps and bounds, both technically and conceptually (which is even more important).
How is aircraft equipment carried out in the West?
From the warehouse, ASP are placed on special carts. Not one rocket or bomb at a time, but bundles all at once. Thus, one (maximum two) platforms are sufficient to equip one aircraft. It holds 10 medium-range explosive missiles.
This cart is wide and stable, which increases the safety of moving ammunition on it. It also has a reliable ammunition fixation system.
In addition, there is a working area on it - the ability to fix the tool, fixed compartments for storing consumables, etc. Basically, it is a mobile workstation for ammunition loading.
All manipulations are carried out using a specialized mechanized loader, which increases both the productivity of operations and dramatically reduces the workload for engineers, which is very important during long-term work. Tired people work slowly. In addition, fatigue is always injury, marriage and accidents.
But the fun begins when it comes to tactical aviation.
We have all seen how the Tu-22 M3 is being equipped - one bomb each.
Let's see what the Americans had in this regard back in Vietnam.
According to this principle, it is possible to hang 10 bombs on the Tu 22M 10 times faster.
Let's extrapolate the situation on the Su-34. In Syria, there were operations for which the Su-34 flew with 8 FAB-250 bombs. In theory, one could create a "clip" for 10 such bombs.
For comparison: preparation of the Su-34.
One manually lifts, the other controls. Moreover, these are two different people - unnecessary communication. Which can be difficult in conditions of noise and fatigue. For some reason, two people are standing next to the bomb and holding it with their hand, apparently helping. Morally. If the one who controls falls, then the moral support will be crushed by a bomb. Well, and nuts for fixing the bomb. It is clear that such a unit is as simple as possible to manufacture.
But it is much more convenient to operate like this.
And the most interesting thing is the real cherry on the cake. I won't even say anything. We look.
Conclusion 1. Aircraft at an operational airfield are capable of making a certain number of non-stop sorties. And all their maintenance at the same time will be reduced, by and large, to refueling and equipping the ASP (with routine checks and inspection procedures).
Conclusion 2. In the Russian Aerospace Forces, the situation is not ideal, but certain events inspire optimism. In particular, the construction of modern service points in Syria and at other airfields. (There is information about 40. But I don't know how true this is).
It is also worth mentioning the recent exercises, information on which is published on the website of the Ministry of Defense.
For reference. Everything that is in the video takes place on the section of the route under construction. Everything necessary for the functioning of the airfield, including refueling systems, is transferred there. Apparently, this is a section of the highway under construction south of Kazan (the village of "Mokrye Kurnali", to the right of it to the south there is a road under construction).
Conclusion 3. Despite the positive trends, one cannot fail to note a significant lag in aviation services. If the five of us continue to hang one bomb and equip the Tu-160 with one rocket each, and not with drums, then it will take not 64 man-hours, but 164.
Conclusion 4. When I was writing the article, it was strange that we are not talking about some stealth technologies, but about primitive things at first glance: about normal carts and forklifts. But it simplifies and speeds up the process so much. The lag in such an area is shocking. At least me. So, for example, we may not have ten aircraft carriers, but the officers could buy goggles and helmets for the guys. Or do the officers not understand that a person has only two eyes? And the head is needed not only to eat? And the very fact of being on the deck, on which multi-ton machines and mechanisms (cables,) move at high speed, is associated with the risk of injury? These are rather rhetorical questions.
In conclusion, it should be noted that our Western partners are also not always good in terms of intelligence. Natural selection is powerful. Even the most equipped army in the world cannot hide from it.