To whom is check, and to whom is checkmate? View from the other side
Passions in previous materials about the new prototype on our pages flared up serious. Unfortunately, many readers are not able to understand the difference between a test mock and a real aircraft. And ahead of time they began (as always, however) to celebrate the victory in a hurray-style. Although no one gave a reason for this. According to all statements from both Rostec and Rosoboronexport, the aircraft is aimed at a foreign buyer. This is hinted at by the English-language name.
So, the public was shown a prototype prototype of a promising single-engine fighter. Nothing has been said about the engine yet. It is not yet clear what the plane will fly on.
Naturally, experts and specialists around the world carefully sucked every byte of information they could find. This is normal. And, I must say, many of the preliminary calculations turned out to be quite correct.
OKB "Sukhoi" provided information on a number of characteristics of the prototype:
- the maximum take-off weight reaches 18 tons;
- maximum combat load - 7,4 tons;
- maximum speed - Mach 1,8;
- maximum ceiling - 16,5 km;
- range of action - 2 800 km;
- combat radius - 1 km.
The 16-ton thrust vectoring engine can provide a fairly short take-off on a runway of up to 400 meters.
All these figures are based on preliminary calculations. They do not yet have practical confirmation, as the aircraft does not have an engine.
But there are things that do not depend on calculations.
For example, at the request of the customer, the aircraft can be transformed into an unmanned aerial vehicle or a two-seater aircraft. Deck modification is possible.
Armament. The aircraft has three built-in armament bays, which can accommodate 5 air-to-air missiles (three medium-range and two short-range). The main bomb bay of the aircraft can carry various ammunition, including high-precision ammunition, plus the aircraft will have nodes for the external suspension of weapons.
The developers have so far refused to place the air cannon on the plane.
As for the configuration of electronic equipment, the aircraft will carry radar with an active phased antenna array, an onboard optical-electronic detection, recognition and measurement system 101KS and an integrated electronic warfare system.
The aircraft will cost about $ 25-30 million.
What else did the experts see. A non-return air intake (DSI) and rudders and elevators, located at an angle like the F-35, indicate a small radar signature. And a large wing for such a short fighter can mean either the possibility of a deck-based fighter, or a high ceiling. Or both.
A large wing increases vertical thrust and allows the aircraft to climb above a similar structure with a smaller wing. This is logical, this is aerodynamics. The downside is that the large wing slows down the aircraft somewhat and reduces the top speed.
The extra thrust is a clear plus for a naval fighter that takes off and lands on the deck of an aircraft carrier. Here you can consider the variant of the F-35 of the US Navy. The deck F-35C has a wing almost one and a half times larger than the ground-based F-35A. The large wing helps the F-35C take off with the carrier's steam catapults.
Well, yes, a fighter with a large wing takes off higher, sees farther, has advantages in terms of radar operation, range weapons... A high-flying fighter sees and fires further than a low-flying one.
It was not for nothing that Lockheed-Martin charged its F-22 fighter to operate "at an altitude of over 15 meters." The actual ceiling can be up to 200 meters.
It turns out that the "Sukhoi Mat", as the plane has already been nicknamed in the West, involves the use of the plane at high altitudes. By the way, flying at high altitudes gives an advantage in terms of flight range. Considering the frankly modest size of Mata Sukhoi, it can be assumed that the aircraft will have a small amount of fuel.
The Americans at The Drive noted that the initially leaked data and images were "accidentally leaked" while the prototype was still under wraps. And so many of these data and photographs were "leaked" that made it possible to draw conclusions about a well-organized PR campaign.
The War Zone generally openly congratulates Rostec and UAC on well-planned PR moves.
But the figure of $ 30 million seems overly optimistic to the Americans. They remember that when Lockheed Martin were able to bring the cost of their F-35 below $ 80 million, it was perceived as a kind of victory. How a better plane can be obtained for half the money is not understood in the United States.
The Americans also have doubts about the statements in the Russian press with the filing of the same Rostec regarding "artificial intelligence support for the pilot." Firstly, it is completely unclear how this will be implemented, and secondly, in general, it raises doubts that Russia has advanced so far. In the USA, work has been going on for a long time in the field of AI, such as “digital co-pilots,” but it is still very far from any significant result.
The Western media noted the aggressive attitude of Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov, who announced that significant research had been carried out on the Asian, African market and the interests of long-term partners of India and Vietnam, and the figure of 300 aircraft that Rostec plans to produce in 15 years, starting from 2026 years is a very real figure based on preliminary agreements.
Yes, the prototype design became the main topic of the MAKS air show, and it offers several very interesting and intriguing solutions, but among Western experts, many point to the main weak point of the prototype. In order to actually enter the market after real flights, Russia has no money. Therefore, the future of the prototype directly depends on whether Russia will find not potential, but real buyers who can use their money to become a practical aircraft for the project.
Russia really needs a rich customer who will help Mata Sukhoi take off with his money. If this does not happen, then the new prototype can easily repeat the more than dubious success of the Su-57, which is present in the Russian Aerospace Forces in the amount of one copy.
It is possible to flaunt the concluded contracts for the supply of the Su-57 for the Aerospace Forces, but it is worth talking about the place of the Russian fifth generation fighters only after the implementation of these contracts. Accordingly, if Russia can take the next step and carry out the first flight of the aircraft in 2023, then commercial success will be quite possible. If not, the project may not “take off”, because its place will be taken by potential competitors from China, Turkey, South Korea and other countries who would not give up their share in the world market for such aircraft.
In addition to the lack of money in the proper amount, the second problem in the West is the problem of the engine.
The power plant according to the plan should have a capacity of 14 to 16 tons. With such an engine, the new aircraft would really climb high in the world rankings. But there is no such engine in Russia at present. There is only the AL-41F1, which is temporarily used in the power plant of the Su-57 and is likely to be “temporarily” used in the design of the new aircraft.
"Product 30", which has been promised for so long in Russia, is still in the "indefinite" status. If this engine has exactly the characteristics that were voiced by Rostec, then the plane will be able to take off high enough. If not, the alignment may not be at all what Russia is counting on.
Also, information was not disclosed about what kind of active phased array radar the aircraft will be equipped with. There is no data on what electronic warfare systems will arm the aircraft.
It is clear that Rostec is counting on its rather bright PR campaign today and the low cost of the plane tomorrow. The strong point of Russian companies is a fairly well-functioning after-sales service system, which is also an additional factor in attracting potential customers.
Apparently, the simplicity of maintenance and operation, like that of Soviet and Russian fourth-generation aircraft, will be another positive bonus of the new aircraft.
So, the American, Chinese, British experts examined the layout of the new aircraft very well. And laid out all the poles and minuses.
- simplicity and reliability, which is generally inherent in Russian aircraft;
- theoretically very high performance characteristics;
- impressive bomb bay;
- the versatility and versatility of the design, the possibility of using it as a marine or unmanned aircraft;
- a good set of weapons.
- lack of an engine that will provide the declared performance characteristics;
- lack of money for revision and serial production;
- the lack of plans to put the aircraft into service in Russia, which will not have a positive effect on the promotion of the aircraft on the world market.
To date, the program is funded by the Russian budget, but since it was not officially announced that this aircraft will find its place in the Russian Air Force, an active search for investors is underway to launch production for export. The only thing that can positively affect the progress of the aircraft is several statements by Russian officials that it is possible to adopt an unmanned version of this aircraft into service.
In general, the shown layout theoretically has both positive and negative properties. It is difficult to say what will outweigh, in any case, it is worth returning to this topic after the model turns into a prototype and makes its first flight.
After all, it is then that it will become clear who is check and who is checkmate.
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