The company "Sukhoi" saved the Russian aviation industry
In the postwar years, a symbol of the Soviet military aviation there were fighters of the Mikoyan firm. MiGs gained deserved fame in the fires of the battles of the Korean and Vietnamese war. The Sukhoi aircraft were known mainly to military experts. The situation began to change only in the 80s of the last century, when the Su-25 attack aircraft appeared in the sky of Afghanistan and on the Iraq-Iran front. "Rook".
Eighteen years after the collapse of the USSR, any positive associations arising from the phrase “Russian aviation industry” are associated almost exclusively with the Sukhoi brand. The Su-27 / 30 family of fighters today make up the basis of the combat aircraft fleet of three BRIC countries (Russia, India and China), the three largest states of Southeast Asia (Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia) and, moreover, Algeria and Venezuela. Hopes for the future of military and commercial aviation are also associated with promising projects of the Sukhoi Design Bureau - Su-35 and T-50 fighters and regional Superjet 100 aircraft.
Already in Soviet times, the innovative potential of the Sukhov firm was in no way inferior to the capabilities of the more well-known design bureaus, and in terms of the revolutionary nature of technical solutions, the suhovets exceeded their colleagues in some ways. It is enough to remind you of the construction of the T-4 (100) long-range high-speed launch vehicle that was fantastically daring for its time, or the multi-mode strategic attack aircraft complex T-4MS ("200") designed on its basis. These projects were so ahead of their time that the country's leadership simply did not have enough imagination to bring them to life. It is said that influential Andrei Tupolev, who feared for his monopoly on the creation of heavy bombers, played a certain role in closing the programs.
Sukhoi’s enormous design potential was revealed to the full when the same strong political figures as Tupolev, Mikoyan and Yakovlev had appeared in the management of the company. Moreover, in the post-Soviet period, the leadership of “Sukhoi” managed better than others to adapt to new market conditions, when not only administrative resources became important, but also the ability for commercial calculation.
The first step towards the post-Soviet successes of Sukhoi was made back in the distant 1971 year, when the head of the company (then it was officially named Kulon Machine-Building Plant) Pavel Osipovich Sukhoi decided to participate in the Advanced Persian Fighter program. It was the project to create a fourth-generation Soviet fighter in response to the appearance of the newest F-15 aircraft in the United States. In addition to Sukhoi, the OKB Mikoyan and Yakovlev took part in the competition. Pavel Osipovich himself did not immediately agree to participate in the project. Firstly, it seemed to him that it was impossible to create an aircraft with the characteristics set by the USSR Air Force at the then existing level of development of electronic equipment. Secondly, the design bureau was already overloaded with work. A positive decision was made only under strong pressure from the USSR Ministry of Aviation Industry. The car, whose sales twenty years later brought the country more than 20 billion dollars and saved its aviation industry in troubled 90-ies, received the intra-company designation T-10 and the secret code of the Su-27 air force.
By 1979, it turned out that according to a number of key parameters, the plane did not fit the requirements of the Air Force. There was no confidence in the guaranteed superiority of the T-10 over the F-15. This happened, as Pavel Sukhoi feared, because of the excess weight of the equipment and the reduction in engine performance compared to the initially set. The chief designer of the aircraft, Mikhail Simonov, strongly opposed its launch into mass production and insisted on processing the entire project. The Ministry of Aviation Industry and Design Bureau of the Design Bureau Yevgeny Ivanov, who replaced the deceased Pavel Sukhoi in this post, held a cautious position, preferring to gradually adjust the aircraft to the required characteristics during its modernization. However, Simonov, supported by Deputy Minister of Aviation Industry Ivan Silaev, still insisted on his own.
In 1979, full-scale work began on the design of a virtually new aircraft, which received the designation T-10C. The designers managed to compensate for the Soviet lag in the field of equipment and, in part, of engine-building. The created aircraft became a real aerodynamic masterpiece with incredible maneuvering characteristics, a huge stock of internal fuel and, accordingly, a flight range.
The global market is dominated by sales of light and medium fighters. In Russia, the MiG-29 belongs to this class of vehicles. As for heavy fighters, such as the Russian Su-27 / 30 or the American F-15, it is believed that their market is limited to rich countries, usually with a large territory or water area. Powerful heavy fighters are more expensive than light ones, they are far from affordable for their operation and maintenance.
However, in the post-Soviet period, the real Russian weapons The bestseller was precisely the heavy Su-27 and Su-30. Thanks to their sales, Russia has been firmly held in the four world leaders in arms sales for the past eighteen years. Export of Sukhoi helped to survive not only the enterprise itself, but also the mass of companies of the second and lower levels of cooperation. First of all, these are engine-building plants, manufacturers of air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, developers and manufacturers of airborne equipment and radars. If the aircraft factories and design bureaus of the Sukhov system actually employed less than 30 thousand people, then, taking into account cooperation in the implementation of export contracts, about 100-120 thousand workers, engineers and designers were involved.
The first purchases of the Su-27 were made by Beijing, at the beginning of the 90's, began retooling the army. Own Chinese industry at that time was unable to supply PLA systems of the third and fourth generation. And European and American sources of weapons were closed for Beijing after the events on Tiananmen Square. The Soviet Union agreed to export to the PRC the best that was in the arsenal of the Soviet Air Force - Su-27 fighters. These Chinese and small Vietnamese contracts made it possible at least to maintain the work capacity of the Komsomol and Irkutsk aircraft factories and the design bureau proper at least at the minimum level.
But the real breakthrough was the signing of a license contract for the transfer of the production technology of the Su-27SK fighter to China; the launch of an ambitious program for the development, supply and licensed production of the Su-30MKI fighter for India; and the successful implementation of a series of contracts for the supply of a total of 128 Su-30MKK and Su-XNUMHUBK fighters to China.
Even after the start of deliveries to China, the Su-27 idea of transferring the production license to this country seemed too risky and met resistance from the Ministry of Defense. Nevertheless, Mikhail Simonov and Rosvooruzhenie managed to break through the contract with an estimated value of 2,5 billion dollars, which was signed in 1995 year. As a result, the design office received the necessary resources to create more advanced versions of the Su-30, and the plant in Komsomolsk before 2004 was provided with work to supply more 100 process kits for licensed Su-27 assembly to China. As for the fears about Chinese copies, they turned out to be greatly exaggerated. They created their own copy under the name J-11SB more than ten years after the signing of the license contract, but the mass production of this fighter has not yet been established due to the inability of the Chinese industry to copy the AL-31F engine, which is still being purchased in large quantities. at the Moscow "Salute". In fact, today China has learned only to build a glider built using 30 technology a year ago. Second time in stories Su-27 Mikhail Simonov took a big risk and won again.
However, by the end of the 90-s, the on-board equipment and the armament of the standard Su-27SK were already outdated and did not fully meet the needs of the PLA Air Force. Therefore, in August, 1999 of the year China ordered the development and supply of 38 upgraded fighters capable of not only fulfilling the task of obtaining air superiority, but also striking land and sea targets. Creating such a machine, designated Cy-30MKK, did not present much difficulty for the design bureau. The problem was that the deliveries were to begin in less than a year and a half from the moment of signing the contract. The production cycle of the new Su-30 family of fighters is just 16 — 18 months, and here it was necessary to push the development of the new machine into this period. Mikhail Pogosyan, who by this time replaced Mikhail Simonov as the chief designer of the OKB, later recalled that neither he nor his subordinates had ever worked with such intensity before. And in December 2000, the first ten Su-30MKKs were transferred to the customer. In 2001, the Chinese also bought 38 fighters, and then acquired the Su-24MK30 2 for their naval forces, which had an even wider range of weapons than the Su-30MKK.
The program of the Indian multipurpose fighter Su-30MKI was no less dramatic. At the beginning of the 90-s after the first Chinese purchases of the Su-27SK, Indians began to consider the possibility of acquiring 40 of the same standard machines. However, later this idea was transformed into the idea of creating a multi-purpose strike fighter with the latest on-board complex, capable of solving also the tasks of attacking land and naval targets. A major role in the birth of the program was played by the traditional ties of the Indian Air Force with the Irkutsk Aviation Plant, where fighters were to be produced. Earlier, the Irkutsk people supplied MiG-27 fighter-bombers to India, which were then produced in large quantities under license in this country. Apparently, the decision of the Indians was also influenced by the second Chinese order Su-27 and the contacts of the Vice-President Alexander Rutsky with the Pakistanis, to whom he offered to buy the very same Su-27.
As a result of a long and complex negotiation process, the Indian Air Force made very high technical requirements, among other things, including equipping the fighter with the latest Bars radar, which actually differed by a generation from the standard Su-27 radar and thrust vector control engine. Moreover, the Indians demanded to equip the car with systems of their own, Indian, as well as French and Israeli production. The integration of these navigation, sighting, and information systems required the extraordinary efforts of the Sukhoi programmers. Finally, 30 November 1996, the historic contract worth the allegedly 1,6 billion dollars for the supply of India 8 Su-30K and 32 Su-30KI was concluded.
The work was not without difficulties. In 1998 — 1999, project participants began to build two separate companies, the relationship between which was not always cloudless. The construction of the Irkut corporation began on the basis of the Irkutsk plant, which was the contract holder, and the Sukhoi design bureau and the Komsomol plant became the core of the future Sukhoi company. Apparently, during the development of the fighter, there was also the problem of a shortage of funds that were laid down in the contract specifically for research and development. It seems that then the situation, similar to the recent crisis around the financing of the construction of the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, was saved, oddly enough, by the default of 1998. The sharp fall in the ruble increased the profitability of the dollar-denominated contract and made it possible to complete R & D without increasing the value of the transaction. In 2002 — 2004, the Indian Air Force received all the X-NUMX Su-1996MKI ordered in 32.
But even earlier, in December of 2000, a license contract was concluded, which predetermined the place of the Su-30MKI program, which is exceptional in post-Soviet history. According to this agreement, 140 machines were to be built in India, and at the first stage almost fully assembled aircraft were delivered from Russia. But gradually the depth of Indian participation in the production of cars increased. As the program progressed, its success became increasingly apparent. In 2003, Malaysia ordered the 18 Su-30MKM fighter aircraft, which in many respects corresponded to the look of Indian cars. In 2006, a new success followed: Algeria bought the 28 Su-30MKI (A), and in March of this year, the Algerians bought more 16 fighters. Finally, the Indian Air Force was so pleased with the Su-30MKI that in 2007, they made an additional order for 58 machines, bringing the total number of aircraft purchased to 230 units. This is not the end of the Indian acquisitions program, and this year a contract is expected for another “drying” on 42.
Investment in the future
An important role in the fate of the company played a timely generational change in its leadership. Mikhail Simonov, who made an enormous contribution to the creation of the Su-27, also did a lot to sign the Chinese license agreement and to launch the Su-30MI program, as a manager was formed during the Soviet era. His undoubted advantages were civil courage, willingness to take political and technical risks, the magnitude of his plans. However, in the new market conditions it was necessary to learn how to count money and correlate plans with cash resources. In March, 1998 was headed by Sukhoi, Mikhail Pogosyan, who at that time was just 42. That he had to enter the company in the market. However, the company "Sukhoi" still had to create. At the end of the 90-ies, the enterprises of the Sukhovian system lived in the usual for that time situation of confrontation between production plants, the design office and the corporate center. Nevertheless, approximately by 2002, the holding was created, and externally, the creation of the Sukhoi company looked quite conflict-free. And, probably, only Mikhail Pogosyan himself and his closest employees have a complete idea of the incredibly powerful resistance of serial factories and regional elites for them to overcome.
In 2002, Sukhoi won the competition of the Russian Air Force for the creation of a fifth-generation fighter under the program “Promising Aviation Complex of Frontal Aviation”, or the PAK FA. This program has become one of the largest and most effectively implemented military-industrial projects in post-Soviet Russia. Initially, work was paid mainly from Sukhoi’s own funds, and from the middle of the decade large-scale financing was opened through the Ministry of Industry and Energy (today the Ministry of Industry and Trade). At the end of January 2010, the flight tests of the new fighter began, and already in 2013, the first deliveries of these vehicles to the troops are expected. Technical solutions successfully implemented during the development of the PAK FA (for example, on-board equipment and engines) found their use in another project - the Su-35 fighter, which represents the deepest modernization of the Su-27 using elements of the fifth generation technology. This machine must ensure the preservation of the company's competitiveness in the global market before the start of the mass production of the PAK FA, that is, in the next ten years. Moreover, after the start of mass production of the fifth-generation fighter Su-35 will serve as its complement as a cheaper and more mass fighter. In 2009, the Russian Air Force signed a contract for the purchase of 48 Su-35С, the first export contracts are expected in the near future.
In addition, Sukhoi is making efforts to diversify its activities. As part of this strategy, a project to create a SSJ100 100-seat aircraft for regional and short-haul lines is being implemented. In 2008, flight tests began on the machine, at the end of this year, the first deliveries to airlines are expected. So soon the firm, which has always been perceived as a military one, will also become a major supplier of commercial passenger aircraft.
The initial prerequisite for Sukhoi’s success in the post-Soviet era was the presence of the Su-27 fighter, competitive offer in demand on the foreign market, and the willingness of the Sukhoy management to invest their own funds both in the development of the main product, Su-27, and in completely new projects . The company had a timely change of generations in its leadership, and this helped it to organically fit into the new political and economic realities. Unlike many managers of the old formation, who, as a rule, are good production workers, engineers and designers, Mikhail Pogosyan has a comprehensive approach to all his projects. He creates new airplanes not just as technical objects, but as complex commercial, organizational, political programs. Unlike many managers of the new formation, the mercantile motivation is not typical of the current leaders of Sukhoi. First of all, they want to preserve the Russian aviation industry.