For more than a year, strikes on targets in Iraq have been carried out by US air forces. Combat sorties are carried out from the land bases of the region, as well as from aircraft carriers that regularly arrive in the nearby seas and ensure the operation of their aircraft. Since last fall, the French Air Force has been working in a similar way: part of the work was undertaken by the pilots of the "ground" formations, and in addition, they are supported by deck aircraft aviation. So, currently in the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea is the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, with the help of which a noticeable increase in the intensity of combat work is achieved. As for Russian military aviation, it, due to objective factors, works only with land airports in Syria and Russia.
The main base of the Russian Aerospace Forces involved in the current operation is the Khmeimim airfield in western Syria. In addition, aircraft from the Engels and Mozdok bases participated in previous attacks. At the same time, despite the theoretical possibility, the Russian armed forces have not yet involved deck aviation in the operation. It is known that in the middle of last fall, the only Russian aircraft cruiser Admiral fleet Soviet Union Kuznetsov ”performed combat training missions in the Mediterranean Sea. In this regard, it was suggested that a ship with an aviation group could be sent to the Syrian coast to participate in the operation.
However, until now, carrier-based aviation is not involved in the performance of combat missions in the context of a real conflict. The most obvious reason for this is the lack of need. Combat aircraft and helicopters of the Aerospace Forces cope well with the assigned tasks and, apparently, do not need the help of colleagues from deck aircraft. It can also be assumed that deck-based aircraft will not participate in strikes due to a certain loss in performance. The basis of the Admiral Kuznetsov Aviation Group is the Su-33 fighter jets, which are noticeably inferior in their strike capabilities to the Hmeymim base.
And yet, even in theory, the Su-33 could help their “land” colleagues in the fight against terrorists. Like other domestic fighters, these aircraft have the ability to carry air-to-surface weapons and are capable of attacking ground targets. Naturally, in this case, they have less high performance in comparison with specialized strike aircraft.
For several reasons, the Su-33 is one of the smallest types of aircraft in the Russian armed forces. From the late eighties to the late nineties, only the 26 production aircraft of this model were built. At present, according to various data, no more than 14-15 of such machines are being operated. Several fighters were lost in flight accidents, the remaining are in storage. During the long voyages at sea aboard an aircraft-carrying cruiser, there is usually only a fraction of the fighters in service. The remaining aircraft while remaining on the shore.
As a further development of the Su-27 fighter, the deck-based Su-33 retained high performance. So, there is the possibility of flying at speeds up to 2300 km / h (at altitude), and the range reaches 3000 km. Due to the use of an additional boom for refueling in flight, the duration of departure and the combat radius can be significantly increased. Thus, when an aircraft carrier is located on the shores of Syria, it is possible to complete tasks in most of this state.
The main task of Su-33 fighters is air combat. Thus, in the light of recent events, these aircraft can be involved in the implementation of cover strike aircraft when performing combat missions. According to available data, when fighting against air targets, the Su-33 is capable of carrying payloads up to 3,2 tons. For close combat, the P-73 guided air-to-air missiles are offered. The main armament at the same time are medium-range missiles P-27 of various modifications. Aircraft ammunition can include up to 4-6 missiles of each type.
The Russian aviation group in Syria includes Su-27CM and Su-30CM fighters. These aircraft can carry several types of air-to-air guided missiles. At the same time, their range of weapons of air combat almost coincides with the list of missiles that Su-33 can carry. Thus, the combat capabilities of all these aircraft can be on the same level, although there may be some differences related to the composition of the onboard equipment.
Being a fighter, the Su-33 has limited air-to-surface weapons capabilities, but is still capable of destroying ground targets with unguided rockets and bombs. There is the possibility of using unguided C-8, C-13, C-25 aircraft missiles, etc. The number of blocks and missiles is determined in accordance with the task.
The composition of bomb weapons may include ammunition caliber 500, 250 or 100 kg. High-explosive bombs, one-time bomb cassettes, incendiary tanks and other ammunition with similar dimensions can be hung on their respective holders. When the 500-kg bombs are suspended, the aircraft carries eight ammunition: four each under the wing and under the fuselage. 250 kg caliber bombs can be suspended in quantities of 28 pieces. 100-kg ammunition - 32 units. The exact amount of ammunition is determined taking into account various factors, in particular, take-off weight of the aircraft should be taken into account.
It should be noted that the use of exclusively free-fall bombs seriously reduces the possible combat effectiveness. To increase the accuracy and, as a consequence, the success of the strike requires the use of guided ammunition or special sighting equipment. Any information about the possibility of using fighter jets Su-33 adjustable bombs is missing. Apparently, in the on-board electronics there is no equipment designed to work with such weapons. Sighting and navigation system has some other features that reduce the possible effectiveness of the bombing.
Currently, the Su-24M bombers are the basis of the Russian attack force in Syria. According to reports, these aircraft are actively using unguided bombs, but at the same time they strike with rather high accuracy. For the effective use of free-falling bombs, aircraft use special electronic equipment - a specialized computing subsystem SVP-24, created by Gefest and T. This equipment collects information about the location of the target, the location of the aircraft, flight parameters, atmospheric conditions, etc., after which it processes it and provides data for dropping bombs. The analysis of all the necessary information allows to increase the characteristics of bombing. In fact, the usual unguided bombs fall into the target with accuracy at the level of the guided ones.
To date, created several versions of the system SVP-24. Various modifications of this equipment are offered for use in the avionics of the Su-24, Tu-22М3, etc. aircraft. At the same time, however, there is still no equipment option for some other domestic combat aircraft, including the Su-33. Thus, the deck fighters, when attacking ground targets, are forced to use the standard aiming means provided by the initial project, but not able to compete with the development of the firm Gefest and T by their characteristics.
In the current state, domestic deck-based fighters are capable of solving, with sufficient effectiveness, the tasks of gaining air superiority or intercepting air targets, while their characteristics when attacking ground targets may be insufficient. This, in particular, may be one of the main reasons that Su-33 is still not used in the Syrian operation: Aerospace forces already have a sufficient number of high-performance aircraft, which is why it is possible not to engage in combat work aviation of the navy.
However, under certain conditions, the Su-33 might be useful in performing certain tasks as part of a strike group. It was previously mentioned that Su-24M with the SVP-24 system can work in the same groups with aircraft of its type that do not have such equipment. In this case, the bomber with the computing subsystem plays the role of lead, performing a search for targets and carrying out all the necessary calculations. At the right moment, he must drop his free-fall bombs and thereby give the command to the guided bomber. Due to the simultaneous discharge of bombs by several planes, the acceptable accuracy of the bombing of the entire group must be ensured.
In the same group with the leading Su-24M equipped with the SVP-24, not only airplanes of the same type can work, but also other equipment, including the Su-33. Thus, the task of finding targets and processing data will be assigned to the aircraft with special equipment, which will allow other equipment to do with existing avionics. Naturally, this is a compromise solution and does not allow deck fighters to work fully without the help of bombers with the necessary equipment. Nevertheless, it is possible to solve the tasks with the existing equipment without a long and complex modernization.
Also, the joint combat work of bombers and fighters allows to solve another problem. In connection with the recent tragic events, it was decided to strengthen the destructive cover of strike aircraft. With the joint operation of the Su-24M and Su-33, it becomes possible to combine two tasks. Thus, fighters should receive air-to-air missile weapons, as well as a certain amount of unguided bombs. This will allow them to protect bombers from possible attacks, as well as help them when striking by increasing the number of bombs dropped.
It should be noted that such joint work methods can be used not only in the case of deck aircraft. Su-24M with the equipment of the company Hephaestus and T can lead not only Su-33, but also any other combat aircraft with the possibility of carrying uncontrolled bombs. First of all, from such a point of view, the Su-27CM and Su-30CM fighters, which are already based on Hamim in Syria, should be considered.
As we see, in theory, deck aircraft Su-33 are quite capable of not only participating in the current operation as fighters and bombers, but also showing a fairly high efficiency, limited, however, by some objective factors. However, apparently, these aircraft will not be able to take part in the fight against terrorists in Syria. The fact is that the existing grouping makes it possible to accomplish the tasks that have been set, and its strengthening can be carried out solely by the technology of the Aerospace Forces. Involvement of naval aviation in operation simply does not make sense.
This can be explained by the fact that in October the aircraft carrier "Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Kuznetsov", located in the Mediterranean, did not go to the shores of Syria and provide flights of its aircraft in this region. In addition, we can assume that this will not happen in the future, although it should not be excluded either. The Syrian conflict is a good ground for testing new aircraft equipment and weapons. It cannot be ruled out that in the foreseeable future, the command will decide to test not only ground aircraft, but also navy aircraft, in the context of a real conflict.
Recently, several aircraft carriers from a number of countries have participated in operations in the Middle East. For example, in late November, the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle arrived at the shores of Syria, whose aviation group added to the French Air Force grouping in the region. The United States Navy organized a full-fledged rotation, during which various aircraft carriers alternately arrive in the region. Russia, in turn, does not seem to use its only aircraft carrier and its aviation group in Syrian aviation. This assumption is supported by several facts of a tactical, strategic and technical nature. At the same time, in the context of strengthening the aviation group, the creation of new ground bases is most often mentioned, but not the use of carrier-based aircraft. However, as already mentioned, the participation of the Su-33 in the battles should not be completely ruled out. These aircraft, with proper use, may be useful for achieving the goals.
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