Latest on VVS Procurement

Su-35

Russian Air Forces (VVS) spokesman Colonel Vladimir Drik picked the day after New Year’s to make some specific announcements on his service’s plans for procuring airplanes and helicopters out to 2015.  Not sure what inspired or spurred the sound bites, but one’s glad for every morsel.

He said the VVS will acquire up to 100 Sukhoy aircraft by 2015.  Sukhoy has three state contracts to provide, as Drik put it:

“. . . nearly 50 multifunctional highly-maneuverable Su-35 fighters (they should be delivered by 2015), more than ten modernized Su-27SM and nearly five two-seat multipurpose Su-30M2 fighters (they will be delivered before the end of 2011).”

It doesn’t read as awkwardly in RIA Novosti’s original:

“. . . около 50 многофункциональных сверхманевренных истребителей Су-35 (их должны поставить до 2015 года), более десяти модернизированных Су-27СМ и около пяти двухместных  многоцелевых истребителей Су-30М2 (их поставят до конца 2011 года).”

It’s not clear whether “before the end of 2011” applies to just the Su-30M2, or Su-27SM deliveries as well.

What Drik describes is basically Sukhoy’s VVS contracts signed at MAKS-2009 (48 Su-35, 12 Su-27SM, and 4 Su-30M2).  In all, 64 aircraft for about 80 billion rubles.

Drik also said 25 Su-34 fighter-bombers will be procured.  The Su-34 purchase has always been reported as 32. 

It’s easy to lose track – were there 2, then the 4 at the end of 2010, plus 25 for a 31?  Or was it really 3, then 4, plus 25 for a total of 32?

He concludes that, in all, there are long-term contracts for “nearly 130 combat aircraft.”

Recall that Deputy Air Forces CINC Sadofyev said the VVS order for 2011 includes the Su-27SM, Su-30M2, Su-34, Su-35, Yak-130, and helicopters, but he gave no numbers.

Now this observer counts 90 Sukhoy airframes in Drik’s comments, so that’s pretty much “up to 100.”  Less clear is where the balance of 30-40 combat aircraft will come from by 2015.  Will they be new Yak-130 combat trainers, helicopters?

Drik did enlighten us a little on VVS plans for helicopters.  He said three (not four as reported elsewhere) Ka-52 / Alligator arrived at Torzhok at the end of last month, and he noted that serial deliveries of this helicopter will begin this year.

Ka-52 (photo: RIA Novosti / Anton Denisov)

He emphasized that the Mi-28N / Night Hunter, accepted into the inventory in 2009, is no less important to the VVS.  He said Army Aviation will need it for a long time.  For trainers, series deliveries of the Ansat-U began in 2009, and preliminary testing of the Ka-60U continues, but Drik didn’t say anything about numbers the VVS expects to receive.

If this is the complete plan until 2015, it’s fairly modest.  Modest can be good.  Modest is achievable.  It may or may not be the whole picture.  We have to continue parsing the statements, and triangulating the words, to try and see where the VVS will be in the next few years.

If this is the plan, it doesn’t sound like what’s been touted as 500 new airplanes and 1,000 new helicopters by 2020. 

Yes, this is a skeptic’s viewpoint.  Maybe VVS procurement is backloaded after 2015. 

But a few other thoughts linger . . .

  • The Su-35 still faces state testing.  It was supposed to start this past fall. 
  • Seems like a lot of aircraft are gap-fillers for PAK FA.  It’ll be interesting if it’s not an obvious success well before 2015.
  • One supposes MiG aircraft are completely out of the picture.
  • Nothing was said about transport aircraft.  They’ve been emphasized a little lately, and sooner or later someone’s got to talk exact numbers.
  • Interesting that there’s so little specific said on helicopters.
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