The Su-25 attack aircraft has been one of the most belligerent vehicles for more than thirty years. Behind the “Rooks” of the war in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, both Chechen conflicts, the Georgian campaign and, of course, the ongoing operation in Syria.
To date, the park Su-25 has been upgraded. On the updated machines, which received the SM index, modern navigation systems and an aim complex are installed. There were other improvements. But since the August events of 2008, it is already impossible to deny that the modified Su-25CM are too vulnerable in the modern war, even against a technologically underdeveloped enemy. The two main problems of the “Rook” - how to timely detect the enemy and evade the air defense fire.
“Vladimir Babak:“ We made a large set of heat traps of various calibers, and also developed various programs for their shooting, which are selected automatically depending on the angle from which the threat comes to the aircraft ””
9 August 2008 of the year in Tskhinval as a result of a head-on battle with Georgian troops, part of the battalion tactical group of the Russian 135 th mas, was cut off and, taking all-round defense, fought off enemy attacks. In 15.30, the command of the 4 Army of the Air Force and Air Defense retargeted the support of the blocked motorized infantry aircraft of the 368 th assault aviation regiment based in Budennovsk. Both ordinary Su-25 and Su-25CM participated in the operation.
It turned out that in the conditions of urban combat, when Georgian troops not only responded with small-arms fire weapons, but also actively used MANPADS, "Rooks" did not operate effectively enough. Due to the lack of modern optoelectronic systems, it was very difficult for pilots in the conditions of urban combat and heavy smoke to find the enemy. Suffice it to say that one board was looking for a target for almost 11 minutes. All this time, the Georgian military fired at the "Rook" from small arms and MANPADS.
The intensity of the work of enemy air defense in that battle is indicated by the fact that, on average, for every Su-25, which in that battle supported 135 fighters in Tskhinval, fired up to six missiles MANPADS. From the loss of the pilot-attack aircraft saved only their high professionalism. In 17.00, unable to withstand continuous air strikes, as well as Russian artillery fire and close combat with motorized infantry cut off, Georgian units and units began to retreat, and after 19.00 completely left Tskhinval. Undoubtedly, the most important role in that battle belonged to the pilots of 368-oshap.
And now you're a bomber
At the time of the first aviation strikes by the Russian Aerospace Forces on the positions of militants in Syria at the Khmeimim airbase, ten Su-25SMs and two combat training Su-25UBs from the 960th separate assault regiment from Primorsko-Akhtarsk were deployed. By the beginning of the withdrawal of troops, according to the "military-industrial complex", "Rooks" flew 3500 sorties out of a total of nine thousand. On average, each of the ten attack aircraft spent 250 to 300 hours in the air in five months of combat. Combat trainers, performing primarily auxiliary tasks (weather reconnaissance, inspection of areas), flew only 60-80 hours aboard.
Note: in Syria, the Su-25 did not work as a classic attack aircraft. They performed in a somewhat unusual for themselves the role of conventional bomber, dropped on the enemy ammunition from a height of five thousand meters. And the pilots did not even look for targets, their coordinates were laid in the onboard systems before departure.
Through the eyes of the Su-25, unmanned aerial vehicles and special operations forces fighters, who after detecting and identifying enemy targets, gave out their exact coordinates. Depending on the type of target, attack aircraft left for the task with two or four free-fall aerial bombs.
After take-off from the Khmeimim airbase, the pilot went out to the target area and activated the on-board sighting system, which brought the attack aircraft to the object, and automatically dropped bombs.
The “Rooks” showed very high accuracy in Syria, sometimes not lagging behind Su-24M front-line bombers equipped with a special computing subsystem SVP-24. Thus, according to the Military-Industrial Courier, the vast majority of bombs dropped by attack aircraft, regardless of the time of day and weather conditions, fell within meters of the 10 – 15 radius from the aiming point.
At the same time, due to the higher performance characteristics, the Su-25 managed to make more departures per day than the Su-24М and Su-34 that worked with them. In the most intense days, attack aircraft rose to the sky up to ten times.
According to the representative of the Russian Aerospace Force of Russia, familiar with the situation, now that the intensity of the fighting has plummeted, there is no need for the Su-25. But if the confrontation resumes with the same intensity, Su-25 will return first to the Khmeimim airbase, which, as the interlocutor put it, are capable of bombarding the enemy with high accuracy.
But despite the rather good results of the Syrian mission, it cannot be denied that the attack aircraft actually worked as carriers of bombs. Su-25 turned out to be invulnerable to the air defense weapons of the militants, primarily due to the fact that they flew no less than five thousand meters. There remains a serious problem with the search for targets and, as the Sukhoi Attackers CPC admits, if not for the KSSO fighters and reconnaissance drones who found targets, the effectiveness of the Rooks in Syria would have been much lower.
More vigorous and stronger
Currently, the VKS of the Russian Federation consists of four separate assault aviation regiments (Chernigovka, Domna, Budennovsk and Primorsko-Akhtarsk) and an assault squadron (Crimea). Till 2017, it is planned to restore the 899 th error disbanded during the transition to a new look at Buturlinovka airfield. So while the VKS is not planning to abandon the Su-25 attack aircraft.
According to the representative of the military, since the beginning of 90's idea to write off "Rooks" arose several times. The main argument of the attackers' opponents - the Tbilisi Aviation Plant, which mass-produced them, remained outside Russia, and Ulan-Ude mastered the production of only combat Su-25UB and created on its base, but never marched into a series of anti-Su-25T .
At the same time, the Su-25 is a reliable, unpretentious and fairly cheap to operate machine. "Flying Kalashnikov assault rifle", as the pilots themselves and the technical staff of the assault air regiments say. The experience of fighting in Chechnya has shown: only these machines could provide support for ground forces.
In 2011, the Russian Ministry of Defense attempted to find a replacement for the Gracham, opening a competition for the so-called promising attack aircraft (PSS). Several projects were considered, including a machine based on the Su-25UB, which was planned to be equipped with an airtight cabin, a new optical-electronic system, a radar and armed with anti-tank guided missiles "Whirlwind".
But as far as “MIC” is known, at present the work on PSS is closed. The military department made a choice in favor of the “Grach” deep modernization project, which received the index Su-25СМ3
According to the chief designer of Su-25, Vladimir Babak, the first works on СМ3 began immediately after Georgia was forced to peace. The attackers had to be made capable of striking well-defended mobile targets covered with modern air defense systems.
The heart of the new attack aircraft was the optoelectronic system SALT-25 and the electronic protection complex Vitebsk. SALT, which is installed in place of the Klen laser station, allows not only to detect, but also to take on target tracking, day and night, in bad weather conditions at a distance of up to eight kilometers with an accuracy of up to half a meter. The system capable of giving an image with 16-fold increase, includes a television channel, a thermal imager and a laser range finder, which not only determines the distance to the target, but also highlights it for rockets and bombs with a laser homing head. True, the work on the optical-electronic system, which the Krasnogorsk Mechanical Plant developed for the new attack aircraft, was somewhat delayed and it is only being released for testing as part of the entire Su-25CM3 complex now.
“In August, the 2008-th Georgian air defense received information from radio equipment of NATO’s southern flank. As soon as the Su-25 Budennovsky Regiment rose above the Caucasus Mountains, they were immediately detected both by stationary radar, and DRLO aircraft, and radar stations on ships. The data was transmitted to the Georgian military in an automatic mode, and a hot meeting was waiting for the Rooks. After all, Georgia had quite modern air defense systems. Not only MANPADS, but also long-range "Buki" and "Wasps," recalls Vladimir Babak.
Therefore, the second most important task, in addition to detecting targets on the battlefield, for the designers of the Sukhoy Sukhoi military-industrial complex, was to equip the Su-25CM3 with an on-board self-defense complex capable of handling both Buk, Osa, Thor and Patriot air defense systems, and with anti-aircraft gun mounts and MANPADS.
“Previously, the air defense breakthrough meant the overcoming of a certain line. I crossed it - and the resistance is already minimal. But in modern combat, all possible targets are covered by anti-aircraft defense. We must not be afraid of it, but destroy it, ”the chief designer of the Su-25 believes. Therefore, the Eite Vitebsk complex not only sets up powerful noise and imitation interference, but detecting the launch of an MANPADS missile on the plane, shoots down special traps, but also makes it possible to hit enemy radars using X-58 missiles.
By the way, “Vitebsk”, developed by the Samara Scientific Research Institute “Ekran”, became part of the on-board equipment of the Mi-8AMTSH and Mi-8МТВ-5 transport helicopters, as well as the Ka-52 drums. Machines with the newest complex, a characteristic feature of which are the balls of laser searchlights installed on the fuselage and suspension nodes, are actively involved in the fighting in Syria.
However, to accommodate the entire complex on board the aircraft, quite a lot of space is required, so part of the Vitebsk elements in containers L370-3C-K25 is placed on the suspension nodes, where the R-15 missiles that were part of the Su-25 ammunition set were installed. 60.
The work of MANPADS complex detects self-defense with ultraviolet sensors. However, again, due to the design features of the Su-25CM3, it was not possible to place a laser searchlight on its board, capable of suppressing even the newest multispectral thermal homing heads.
“When creating the Su-25CM3, we, from the experience of August 2008, laid down a situation where up to six MANPADS missiles were already flying behind the plane and each needed to be repulsed. In such a situation it is necessary to put a group interference. The laser projector copes with only one purpose. Save traps. We made a fairly large set of heat traps of different calibers, and also developed various programs for their shooting, which are selected automatically depending on the angle from which the threat comes to the aircraft, ”explains Vladimir Babak.
Su-25M3 will be able to use the full range of modern aviation weapons, including laser-guided and television-guided, as well as GLONASS-corrected. Unfortunately, the supersonic ATVM Whirlwind, already implemented on the Su-25T, was not part of the armament of the Rook, as, according to representatives of the Sukhoi Assault Rifle Scientific and Production Corporation, difficulties arise in setting up the laser beam channel needed to control the missiles.
As Vladimir Babak noted, the Klevok complex, also known as Hermes, created by the Tula Instrument Design Bureau, is being considered as a regular ATGM for the newest Su-25CM3. But as the work continues, he, alas, has not yet joined the arms of the Rook.
Russian VKS plans to receive at least 2020 of Su-45CM25 attack aircraft by 3 year. Modernization will be carried out at the 121-m aircraft repair plant in Kubinka, where Su-25CM is also launched. But the plans of the command and control crew and the Sukhoi Sukhoi military-industrial complex can be affected by the fact that during work on the upgraded Grachi, it will be necessary not only to install on-board equipment, but also to carry out a comprehensive repair of the aircraft - with the restoration of components, assemblies and mechanisms.
As a further development of the Su-25 family, its developers have now offered the Su-25SMT aircraft to the Russian HVACS.
“At the plant in Ulan-Ude there are several previously released Su-25T gliders. We offer to install on-board equipment similar to the Su-25CM3. On the new machine, the flight range will increase, and due to the sealed cabin, the ceiling will grow to 12 thousands of meters. Ready to make other changes that enhance the capabilities of the new attack aircraft. If we get good, we will be able to lift the new car into the air next year, ”said Vladimir Babak, chief designer of the Su-25,.
Change of Role
If you look at the modern aviation fleet of the Russian Aerospace Forces, it is striking that there are no relatively light, cheap, multi-purpose fighter-bombers in its composition. At the beginning of 90's, the then president of the country, Boris Yeltsin, decided that only combat aircraft with two engines should remain in the Russian Air Force. As a result, the Su-17 and Mig-27, which formed the basis of attack aviation, were written off, and their tasks shifted to the highly specialized Su-25.
As further experience of wars and military conflicts showed, the Russian Air Force was sorely lacking light, easy to operate and capable of carrying out a large number of departures per day of strike aircraft equipped with modern optical-electronic stations and using both high-precision and unguided aviation weapons. Not only the old Su-24, but also the newest Su-34 are quite sophisticated and expensive cars that require long preparation for a combat mission. It can be assumed that it was for this reason that unpretentious Su-25, which carried out the tasks of front bomber, were transferred to Syria.
Su-25SM3 is no longer a classic attack aircraft - the heir to the IL-2, as they say. This is a multifunctional machine capable of solving a wide range of tasks, ranging from destruction tanks and other armored objects and ending with the suppression of enemy air defense. The updated "Rook" can effectively act against a high-tech enemy and against militant units.
In fact, the Su-25 emerged from the niche of a highly specialized machine for direct support of troops on the battlefield and now gradually takes the place of lightweight multi-function attack aircraft that solve a wide range of tasks, spending moderate funds for this. Therefore, the appearance of the Su-25CMT becomes quite logical, which will finally consolidate the status of a multi-functional machine for the Rooks family.