Stratospheric target search complex for the Russian army
Somehow, little by little, our media began to discuss one topic that did not leave anyone indifferent. They are discussing, and I must say, quite categorically, this topic: the Russian army will receive the latest high-altitude reconnaissance and strike aviation complex. They have already begun to create it, just a little bit - and that’s it, the enemy cannot hide from the all-seeing eye of the new HANDS.
We begin to understand.
Prerequisites to create
There really are prerequisites, and they are justified. In a military conflict, the faster information about the enemy’s location reaches those who must eliminate this enemy, the better it is. Therefore, for this it is worth using all the technical capabilities that are at your disposal.
Satellite constellation. Here, if it exists, then everything is pretty good. And when it is not there, when the army has information from a certain (small) number of satellites at its disposal, then this information is of little use. In general, a satellite in orbit has many weaknesses.
The satellite flies in its orbit and it is not so easy to direct it to the right place. Of course, there are possibilities for adjusting and changing the orbit, but they are not endless, but on the contrary, very finite. That’s why there should be a lot of satellites in space, so that theoretically it would be possible to “keep” the entire necessary area under vigilant control.
The second weakness is that the enemy can easily adjust his actions so that the satellite does not see anything. If you know the orbit and time of passage over the area, you can “close” it. And here is the problem: the satellite will not hover over the area, it will not be returned to the point. He will fly on and hello, until the next passage.
Aviation. In general, everything here has already been invented, and for a long time. There are aircraft such as AWACS that:
- fly outside the range of enemy air defense;
- can conduct reconnaissance and carry out target designation for any types of troops;
- have a very decent time in the air.
The only disadvantage of AWACS aircraft is the theoretical need to cover them from enemy aircraft if they are, for example, in the waters of the same Black Sea, that is, on neutral territory.
Of course, nothing shines for army reconnaissance aviation, alas, but the development of anti-aircraft missile systems today practically eliminates the work of reconnaissance aircraft in the area of the front line and behind it.
But they take on this job very well drones. Today, a drone is a lifesaver for a platoon commander, what can we say about higher levels. The successes of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were largely due to the fact that the Ukrainian side has an advantage in intelligence drones estimated at 10 to 1.
And there is also a class of strategic UAVs that can simply brilliantly perform the role of an AWACS aircraft at minimal cost. And they do it. But such devices also have their weaknesses - they are practically defenseless in the event of interception, and if the enemy detects the same RQ-4 “Global Hawk”, then the device will simply be destroyed by the interceptors, since the speed of the UAV will not give it the opportunity to escape from its pursuers.
Apparently, everything is so sad with our AWACS aircraft and there are no prospects in terms of creating strategic reconnaissance UAVs that, as always, somewhere we decided to go our own way.
Your path - where is it going?
He's in the stratosphere. If you believe the media, then the announced strike and reconnaissance complex being created in the interests of the Russian Armed Forces will be stratospheric. That is, fly at altitudes from 11 to 50 km.
Well, there is a certain rational grain in this. Somewhere in the region of 15 km and above, anti-aircraft missiles begin to “deflate” and are pulled towards the ground. Not all missiles from the same S-400, of course, fly above 20 km, but this is rather an exception. And the vast majority of foreign air defense systems will indeed have big problems reaching such heights.
What did you decide to do in Russia? If you believe the media, the new stratospheric strike and reconnaissance complex will consist of an aircraft, suspended containers with radars, electronic reconnaissance systems and optical-electronic stations. The new complex will be able to transmit target coordinates in real time to ground-based missile systems, artillery, naval and aviation ships.
In words everything looks good, in reality... But how is it in reality?
Today, Russia has only one aircraft capable of flying beyond 20 meters in altitude. This is still the same MiG-000, high-altitude interceptor, carrier of the Daggers, and so on. In general, the 31st can fly up to 31 meters; another question is how effectively this aircraft can be used as a reconnaissance aircraft.
Do not forget that the youngest MiG-31 aircraft available in the Russian Aerospace Forces were produced in 1994. That is, “only” 30 years ago. No one can cancel the life of the airframe, metal fatigue and other age-related problems. And using the remaining MiG-31s for reconnaissance does not seem to be a very good idea, although initially the aircraft had the ability to control and transmit target designation to other aircraft or ground control points.
Conclusion: if the MiG-31 is used as a reconnaissance aircraft, it is necessary to revive the production of these machines. That in the current state of JSC RSK MiG looks fantastic.
In addition, the reconnaissance officer must be... lighter than a forty-ton monster, which, in addition to everything else, also carries several tons of missiles. In general, the concept of a “reconnaissance-strike complex” itself is somewhat uneven. “Crossing a hedgehog and a snake” is possible, but is it necessary? A reconnaissance aircraft is unlikely to be able to deliver an impressive strike, and an attack aircraft is unlikely to be able to carry out full-fledged reconnaissance. Narrow specialization? Perhaps, but it makes common sense.
The MiG-31 can fly very fast and high. But it doesn't carry much weaponsto be a real strike aircraft in the air-to-surface sphere. The maximum load of four missiles is not for an attack aircraft (some part of the suspension units will need to be left for air-to-air missiles for self-defense), whatever one may say.
A good reconnaissance aircraft, but a bad attack aircraft, or vice versa - isn’t it easier to just make a good reconnaissance aircraft? For example, what the U-2 or the Blackbird was like until a certain time.
In general, of course, we have one more plane.
As our media sources said, “the new aircraft will have a modular configuration.” I hope that this will not happen. Suffice it to remember how the epic with modular ships ended: lost billions and worthless troughs in perpetual layup.
But why not replaceable equipment options? It’s just that hanging containers, which will be discussed below, and modular design are slightly different things. In our case we are talking about hanging containers.
So what are we going to hang these containers on if the MiG-31 is not quite suitable?
And we have another plane. Let's go to history, and there is discovered the creation of the Myasishchev Design Bureau, which made its first flight in 1982. Fanfare - on stage M-17 “Stratosphere” / M-55 “Geophysics”.
A total of 8 of these very unique aircraft were produced. Three M-17s and five M-55s. For forty years, oddly enough, one plane survived. Not the one that is on display in the museum in Monino, there is another one there, in a looted state, but the one that was at the disposal of the Myasishchev Design Bureau all this time.
And now this plane is actually flying today, with real containers, studying the question of how well equipment from containers will work at high altitudes.
Some hotheads have already stated that the M-55 is exactly the reconnaissance aircraft that is needed tomorrow. The only question is where to get it?
And the answer to this question must be sought... in Smolensk!
Strange as it may seem, within the walls of the Smolensk Aviation Plant, which has been operating since 1926, not only has everything necessary (drawings, technical documentation, equipment) for the production of the M-55 “Geophysics” been preserved, but over the past few years, work has been carried out to modify the aircraft , including work on a two-seater version.
A two-seater aircraft capable of climbing to a height of 21,5 km and flying there for some time (1 hour) and carrying a payload of 1 kg. At an altitude of 500 km, the plane can stay much longer, up to 17 hours. And, perhaps, this already looks like a scout.
In addition, the M-55 is significantly smaller and lighter than the MiG-31. Yes, the payload is not very large, but here you can already play with the engines. Initially, the M-17 had an RD-36-51V engine (OKB-36, now ODK Saturn) with a thrust of 6 kgf, and the M-000 was already equipped with two D-55-30V or D-10V-30 engines (OKB P.A. Solovyov, now UEC "Aviadvigatel") with a capacity of 12 kgf each.
Here is a question for the Perm Aviation Engine Plant, whether they will be able to organize the production of these products. Despite the fact that it seems to be a D-30, in fact the engines are D30-10V (for the M-55), D-30V (for the V-12 helicopter), D-30KP (for the Il-76), D-30F (for the MiG-31) - these engines are completely different, moreover, they often have nothing in common with each other.
In general, there seems to be a plane for equipment.
What does the scout have in his containers?
Naturally, equipment for obtaining various data. There is nothing particularly new there; the decision was made to use the developments from the Sych project.
“Sych” is a deep modernization (I would say practically the creation of a new product) based on the MRK-411 electronic intelligence complex. This complex was installed on such aircraft as the Tu-214R and Il-20R.
At one time, it was decided that, due to the development of the radio-electronic base, the size of the complex could be reduced and made container-based with subsequent use on Su-34 aircraft.
This is what “Sych” is - the M-411 side-view radio complex, maximally modernized by replacing the element base. Much was created anew, for example, the Pika-M radar with PFAR.
Since the Su-34 is much smaller in size than the Tu-214R, the decision to divide the equipment according to specialization suggested itself.
Option UKR-RT designed for electronic reconnaissance, UKR-OE for optical-electronic reconnaissance, UKR-RL for radar.
The UKR-RT container should be treated with a fair amount of skepticism, because its development began more than 20 years ago. Today it is difficult to say that UKR-RT is modern, but if with its help it is possible to detect and accurately determine the coordinates and technical characteristics of such targets as communication and information transmission systems, radars, and UAV control channels, this is useful.
Moreover, UKR-RT has already been tested in combat conditions on the Su-34.
Option UKR-RL - This is a radar reconnaissance module with the fourth generation Pika-M radar. The radar is two-way, low-element, with a passive phased array antenna. Resolution is about 0,3 m in SAR/ISAR mode, range is more than 300 km.
Option UKR-OE, optical-electronic, receives information by receiving and analyzing radiation in the ultraviolet, visible and infrared ranges that are created by reconnaissance objects.
In general, sets of equipment can really be changed depending on what task needs to be performed.
The idea of the Sych was simple: to compensate for the impossibility of using the Tu-214R in active combat areas, especially where our aircraft could be intercepted by enemy aircraft. The use of such equipment on board the Su-34 significantly reduces the possibility of such an interception and destruction of a reconnaissance aircraft, due to the combat equipment of the Su-34, which is capable of “breaking in” to almost any Western-style aircraft.
The completely unarmed Tu-214R will naturally require fighter escort.
Total. What do we end up with?
As a result, we have very strange “crutches”. On the one hand, it is clearly quite possible to start building two-seat M-55Us and hanging containers with various equipment under the fuselages. And launching these planes 20+ km into the stratosphere so that they there, from a height unattainable for missiles, use their equipment to find targets and direct missiles there is also possible.
But don’t you think that an AWACS aircraft will do the same thing when located 200 kilometers from the front line, and even to a greater depth and with greater accuracy? And there will be not just one operator packed into a chair, but a tactical crew of 10 people working under normal human conditions?
And the same applies to a device like the Global Hawk. The drone will fly quietly, and its operators will conduct surveillance while in absolute safety on the ground.
In general, the idea of a “newest stratospheric reconnaissance aircraft” looks very poor. The situation vaguely resembles the joke “Whatever the Russians can come up with, as long as they don’t build roads.”
It is clear that an airplane like the M-55 will not lift much equipment, and what it does lift will not look as far as we would like. That’s why they will drive him to a height, “suspending” him above the battlefield.
And instead of building normal aircraft, with normal equipment, the idea of an ersatz triumphs again. An ersatz reconnaissance aircraft instead of a normal AWACS aircraft, even instead of the same Tu-214R, of which as many as TWO were produced. Ersatz tank T-54 instead of T-90 and so on.
But the most unpleasant thing here is that you can’t even call it a cut: everything can really be done. Another question is: is this necessary? Maybe we can finally master the production of normal reconnaissance aircraft?
- Roman Skomorokhov
- aviaru.rf, smaz.ru, tsargrad.tv, militaryarms.ru
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