Tag Archives: Su-35

Su-35 Update

Su-35-2 No. 902

Militaryparitet was kind enough to highlight the June issue of Vzlet (Взлёт) and current information on the Su-35S.  The Defense Ministry contracted with Sukhoy for 48 Su-35S during MAKS-2009.

Vzlet says the first Su-35S arrived at the Akhtubinsk State Flight-Test Center on May 28 to begin state joint testing (GSI or ГСИ).

The Su-35S-1 was assembled this spring, and made its first flight from the factory airfield on May 3.  It made seven acceptance flight tests by mid-May.

GSI will determine its preliminary correspondence to basic requirements, and its potential for serial production for combat units.

Prototypes Su-35-1 (No. 901) and Su-35-2 (No. 902) first flew in 2008, and these export versions completed factory testing, fully meeting stability and maneuverability requirements, power plant parameters, and basic onboard system operations, according to Vzlet.

The Su-35S has a digital information-command system, Irbis long-range phased array radar (capable of tracking 30, and attacking 8 air targets, as well as tracking 4, and attacking 2 ground targets), and thrust-vectored 117S engines.

Interfaks reports KnAAPO has built two Su-35S, and a third flew in May.   KnAAPO will build three more for GSI in the second half of this year, a source told the news agency.

Back in April, Periscope2 cited a Kanwa military source in Moscow who claims some Su-35S will go to the 6968th Air Base in Komsomolsk-na-Amure.  Basing them close to the factory will simplify maintenance.  The source also says the first Su-35S will be received in 2012.

This winter the VVS was still saying 48 Su-35S will be put into two or three regiments, but a number of sources have said more will be purchased.

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Irkut Offers Up Su-30MK

Su-30MK (photo: http://www.sukhoi.org)

On Monday, Irkut company officials announced the aircraft producer is in negotiations to sell the Defense Ministry up to 40 Su-30MK fighters.  They believe they’ll finalize the contract in 2012.

The officials say the base contract will be for 28 aircraft, with an option for 12.

Vedomosti says a source close to Rosoboroneksport says the fighters go for $50 million a piece, or $2 billion for 40.

Neither the Air Forces nor government holding company OAK reacted to Irkut’s announcement, according to Izvestiya.

Irkut President Aleksey Fedorov told Interfaks the manufacturer sees declining demand for the Su-30MK family, and wants to cease production over the next ten years.  At that time, it will be producing only the Yak-130 trainer for the military.  Irkut intends to concentrate its efforts and investment on building the MS-21 regional passenger jet.

Fedorov told Izvestiya the Su-30MK export model will be “Russified” for 1.5 billion rubles – the onboard computers and displays will change from English to Russian, and some French and Israeli components will be swapped out for Russian ones.  The Russian variant may be called the Su-30SM.

There’s been talk about a small procurement of Su-30MK, or Su-30M2, since MAKS-2009, and two Su-30 fighters arrived at a unit in the Far East last month, according to ITAR-TASS.  The Far East Air Forces and Air Defense Army’s Chief of Aviation, Colonel Aleksandr Maksimtsev said Su-30 deliveries will continue.

A number of commentators have argued for buying the Su-30 for the Air Forces instead of waiting for the Su-35.  CAST’s Konstantin Makiyenko told Izvestiya:

“The Su-35 still isn’t completely finished, and it’s unclear when it’ll be accepted into the inventory.  Therefore, a fully developed export product which has completed all RDT&E will be taken and accepted into the inventory.  This is, indisputably, a smart decision.”

ITAR-TASS wrote that the Russian Air Forces didn’t acquire the Su-30 for financial reasons.  But Izvestiya noted more than 270, in various configurations, have been sold since 1997, with buyers including India, Algeria, Venezuela, Vietnam, China, Malaysia, and Uganda.

PAK FA Engine Update

Saturday ITAR-TASS printed an interesting update on the PAK FA engine story.  It doesn’t really clarify anything (actually quite the opposite), but it’s part of the story. 

Recall last spring the engine designers were saying developing a “second phase” engine for PAK-FA could take another 5-6 years, while Sukhoy was saying it might be 10-12 years.  In what follows below, the engines aren’t specifically identified as “second phase,” but they are called “seriously distinct from the 117S.”

General Designer of the A. M. Lyulka Scientific-Technical Center (a Moscow subsidiary of NPO Saturn) Yevgeniy Marchukov claims the construction of an engine for the fifth generation fighter is going successfully, and it will go into serial production. 

The second experimental T-50 reportedly took off with this engine on 3 March.

Marchukov said:

“The engines in the experimental prototypes of the future Russian fifth generation fighter are seriously distinct from the 117S engines intended for Su-35 aircraft, both in their parameters and in their fundamentally new automated control system.  The T-50 aircraft with NPO Saturn engines fully corresponds to the tactical-technical requirements for the aircraft.  And with these engines produced serially, the PAK FA will be supplied for the needs of the Russian Air Forces.”

For his part, Saturn managing director Ilya Fedorov noted that the enterprise “supported the takeoff of the aircraft in the necessary time,” just as it was ready for flight.

ITAR-TASS goes on to add that special stand tests and service life tests on the engine continue at the Lytkarinskiy Machinebuilding Plant (another Saturn subsidiary).  Ground development is being conducted on the T-50-KNS model with aircraft systems from OKB Sukhoy at the Gromov Flight Test Institute.  Flight tests are also ongoing.  T-50-1 has more than 40 flights, the T-50-2 two flights, and the Su-27 flying laboratory has 32 flights.

Nikolskiy on GOZ-2010 Failures

On Tuesday, Vedomosti’s Aleksey Nikolskiy wrote about breakdowns in last year’s State Defense Order (GOZ).  He notes that concern about failures started with Roskosmos, but it isn’t limited to that part of the defense sector.

Nikolskiy recounts Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov’s session with the Roskosmos collegium.  The space industry only produced five of 11 satellites specified in GOZ-2010, and 6 civilian launches were postponed.  The three GLONASS satellites lost to a “childish mistake” [in filling the rocket’s tanks] cost 2.5 billion rubles.  But we’ll return to Russia’s space woes another day. 

A Defense Ministry source tells Nikolskiy GOZ failures are constant. 

Bulava SLBM delays kept Yuriy Dolgorukiy from entering service [remember the new SSBN itself had to return to Sevmash for work while it awaits the next Bulava test].  Introduction of the new Severodvinsk SSN has been put off until much later because of construction defects.  A United Shipbuilding Corporation (OSK) source tells Nikolskiy the Defense Ministry has stopped financing completion of a proyekt 677 diesel-electric sub, and work on two others laid down at Admiralty Wharves is in question.

Nikolskiy says the Air Forces’ assimilation of Yak-130 trainers is delayed by last March’s crash.  And there’s a serious delay in the testing of the Su-35 fighter, according to a Defense Ministry officer [Sukhoy was reportedly testing two Su-35s last August].  One enterprise manager claims reforms in the Defense Ministry purchasing system are holding back contracting for aircraft deliveries this year. 

CAST’s Konstantin Makiyenko says government and Defense Ministry criticism of industry for its GOZ failures could be followed by personnel changes.  In Roskosmos’ case, the situation is almost “overripe.”  But Makiyenko defends other Russian arms producers by noting that delivery delays are common even for U.S. and European manufacturers.

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.

State Tests of Su-35 Pending

Su-35

Krasnaya zvezda on 13 August ran a brief item updating Su-35 developments.

Sukhoy is completing its preliminary testing of the Su-35 multirole fighter, and plans to present it for state testing this fall.  Sukhoy chief designer Igor Demin [Dyomin or Дёмин] told Interfaks-AVN to expect this in September or October.  He said there are two Su-35 prototypes currently in flight testing, and this number will increase to 6 for state testing.  The third Su-35 will reportedly fly at some point in the fourth quarter of this year.

Demin says the Su-35 is receiving lots of testing because it has many new systems and components.  Preliminary testing substantiated its advertised characteristics — low and high altitude maximum speeds of 1,400 and 2,500 kph respectively, and a ceiling of 19,000 meters.

Sukhoy has a mid-2009 state order for 48 Su-35 for delivery by 2015, and serial production of the fighter has been arranged at Sukhoy’s KnAAPO.  The first aircraft might be delivered in late 2010, and serial production will start next year.  Export deliveries are planned for 2012, according to this report.

The Su-35’s designers say this fighter will allow for a partial rearmament of the Air Forces, and facilitate assimilation of ‘new generation equipment.’  They describe the Su-35 as a deeply modernized, highly-maneuverable ‘4++’ generation aircraft, which already uses some 5th generation technologies.

According to this article, the Su-35 sports digital avionics and instrumentation, a new phased array radar capable of long-range target detection and tracking and engaging more targets simultaneously, and new engines with greater thrust and variable thrust vectoring.  Its radar signature has been reduced several times over 4th generation aircraft by using an electroconductive coverings for cabin lighting,  radar-absorbent materials, and a reduced number of antennas.

The Su-35 is reportedly designed for a service life of 6,000 flying hours, and its controllable-nozzle engines 4,000 hours.

According to ITAR-TASS, Sukhoy reported in July that Air Forces pilots were beginning to prepare to fly the Su-35S [supposedly the nomenclature for the domestic version] in state trials.

Infomercials aside, the Su-35 is intended to be a gap-filler for PAK FA, but no one can say how long the gap will be.  Long in development and repeated modernizations, it will likely be a solid aircraft, evolved as it is from pretty good stock.  There’s foreign interest, but, of course, no firm purchases yet.

Limited Productive Capacity, High Demand for Arms and Equipment

Surprisingly little attention, beyond routine press service reports, went to last Tuesday’s (16 February) government conference on the State Armaments Program, 2011-2020 (GPV-2020).  RIAN and older media reporting indicates the GPV-2020 will be adopted next month.

Prime Minister Putin told the attendees, “We are talking about the time frames and kinds of weapons systems we need to provide to our army and fleet, that have to be put into the arms inventory.”  Noting that nuclear deterrence forces, space, and air defense would be emphasized, Putin also said:

“We have to satisfy, as I already said, the troops’ need for modern communications, command and control, reconnaissance and, of course, complete the fifth generation aircraft, new combatant designs for the Navy.”

He reiterated earlier declarations that modern armaments in the forces must be 30 percent by 2015, and 70 percent by 2020.

Other Putin sound bytes:

“We have to provide essential financial resources for this task.  The Finance Ministry, the Economic Development Ministry have made the necessary calculations, and today we’ll need to analyze them.  Right off I want to note that we can’t allow any inflated estimates, ineffective expenditures.”

“The State Armaments Program has to give long-term guidance for developing the defense-industrial complex itself.  This must enable our enterprises to embark on a corresponding modernization.”

“We’ve conducted a whole series of meetings on these issues, but the Defense Ministry must provide the corresponding technical parameters.  We have to support the technological equipping of our defense-industrial complex exactly under these parameters.”

Finally, Putin indicated defense orders will go to enterprises that will be in a condition to produce truly competitive systems in terms of combat power, range, and protection.

Participants in the conference also reportedly discussed a new draft Federal Targeted Program (FTP or ФЦП) on the Development of the OPK.

On 15 February, Putin met with Industry Minister Khristenko and Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTС or ФСВТС) Mikhail Dmitriyev.  Khristenko told Putin last year OPK enterprises received 148 billion rubles in state support (6 billion in credits, 60 billion in capital injections, 76 billion in state-guaranteed credits, and 6 billion in subsidized interest rates on export credits).  According to Khristenko, this support allowed the OPK to increase its production 10 percent.

Unnamed Defense Ministry sources said the 76 billion rubles in state-guaranteed credits are difficult to use, and not all were used.  The 60 billion rubles in capital injections were basically a direct budgetary grant, and, according to one aviation plant manager, 20 billion of it went (get this!) to compensate RSK MiG and other producers for the fiasco with their 34 faulty MiG-29s sold to, and returned by, Algeria.

FSMTC Director Dmitriyev told Putin the volume of Russia’s current arms export contracts is $34 billion, and exports will be $9-10 billion over the next two years.

Aleksey Nikolskiy writing for Vedomosti indicated Dmitriyev said several enterprises have orders for some systems scheduled out to 2017, and some foreign customers have raised the issue of quicker deliveries.  He argued that additional production capacity is needed, but Putin proposed only to review the issue of synchronizing domestic and export orders for arms.  He said, “We have to understand in what time frame we can and have to produce for ourselves and our foreign partners.”

A source close to Rosoboroneksport said the issue concerned limitations in production capacity for the S-300PMU2 and S-400 air defense systems, the Su-35 fighter, and surface-to-surface missiles that don’t allow for simultaneously meeting the demands of foreign customers and the Russian Armed Forces.  Vedomosti noted that VVS CINC Zelin already complained about limited productive capacity for the S-400.  A similar jam exists with the Su-35, which is supposed to enter the VVS and some foreign air forces by the end of 2011.  A Defense Ministry source said there’s a proposal to build two new factories for air defense systems, and to enlarge existing enterprises producing critical equipment, and the government might soon adopt the proposal.

Konstantin Makiyenko of CAST (ЦАСТ) told Vedomosti, for the past 2 years, Rosoboroneksport has received more orders than what it has supplied abroad, and the lack of sufficient productive capacity has become the main limiting factor on the growth of arms exports.  He says either increase the capacity or the army will have to wait for arms it doesn’t need too much, but air defense systems and fighters don’t fall into the category of things not urgently needed.

As Mikhail Rastopshin and others have been so kind to note, there have been a raft of OPK development and armaments programs over the years, but they don’t seem to get completed, each melding into the next albeit under a longer deadline.   In early 2009, Dmitriy Litovkin estimated no more than 20 percent of any arms program has ever been accomplished, even during the years of high oil revenues.

And you can’t do an armaments program without OPK development, and Russia’s defense-industrial base has been increasingly poorly positioned to support the arms program in recent years, according to Rastopshin and others.  And don’t forget about declining RDT&E.  Hard times for research institutes and design bureaus could mean that, rather than modern or futuristic weapons based on ‘new physical principles,’ new units of obsolete designs could be produced under an armaments program.

Here’s a telling reminder.  The  much-vaunted 2003 Urgent Tasks of the Development of the Russian Armed Forces document called for modern weapons at the level of 35 percent in 2010, 40-45 percent in 2015, and 100 percent by 2020-2025.  And now Moscow’s talking 30 percent by 2015 and only 70 percent by 2020.

As recently as 2006, the Russian military claimed 20 percent of its weapons inventory was modern.  But in March 2009, Defense Minister Serdyukov admitted the starting point was actually lower:

“. . . the bulk of [arms and equipment] are physically and morally obsolete. Natural loss is not being compensated by procurement.  As a result, the proportion of modern arms and military equipment is around 10 percent.”

This was when President Medvedev said large-scale rearmament would begin in 2011.

Nevertheless, in his November 2009 address to the Federal Assembly, Medvedev said:

“One of the most difficult yet fundamental tasks is reequipping the troops with new systems and models of armaments and military hardware.  There is no need to discuss some abstract notions here: one needs to obtain these weapons.  Next year, more than 30 land and sea-based ballistic missiles, five Iskander missile systems, about 300 modern armored vehicles, 30 helicopters, 28 warplanes, three nuclear submarines, and one corvette-class combatant must be delivered to the troops, as well as 11 spacecraft.  All this has to be done.”

A pretty daunting list when foreign customers are asking for their weapons too.