Tag Archives: Su-35S

The Next China Deal

IA Regnum military observer Leonid Nersisyan recently took a stab at preparing Russian public opinion for the eventual sale of S-400 SAMs and Su-35S fighters to China.  A major arms deal with China should be expected, especially given Moscow’s turn further east in the wake of Western sanctions.

Nersisyan aims to refute usual complaints about exporting Russia’s most advanced weaponry to China, i.e. that Beijing will quickly copy and sell it more cheaply.  He dials back to the early 1990s.

The sale of S-300 SAMs began in 1993, amounting to something between 24 and 40 battalions of three variants.  Along the way, China developed a copy, the HQ-9, similar but less capable than the original in many performance parameters.  If it had been a really good knock off, Nersisyan argues, the HQ-9 would be found in many of the world’s armies, but it isn’t.

China's S-300, Whitewalls on a TEL?

China’s S-300, Whitewalls on a TEL?

The S-300 has grown old, and the money earned from China went into S-400 development and saved Almaz-Antey from bankruptcy at a time of little, if any, Russian military procurement.  Nersisyan concludes that:

“. . . the deal was successful — the system was copied (with deficiencies) only two decades after the first deliveries, when it had already grown old, and Russia had more modern analogues.”

Nersisyan points also to the Su-27 sale.  First Russia sold Beijing 24, then 200 kits for assembly in China.  But the Chinese stopped the transfer at 100, and began producing a copy, the J-11B.  However, its engine proved unreliable in comparison with Russia’s AL-31F, which the Chinese opted to buy for their domestic fighters.  Similarly, China bought nearly 100 Su-30 variants beginning in 2000 before producing a copy, the J-16, which also lacks a reliable engine. China’s difficulty, according to various reports, is manufacturing turbine blades and plates.

Neither the J-11B nor the J-16 is being produced in volume, and Russian aircraft remain the foundation of Chinese fighter aviation.

So, concludes Nersisyan, it will take China 20 years to copy the more complex S-400, while Russia is deploying the S-500.  Copying the generation 4++ Su-35S will be complicated by its more advanced thrust-vectored AL-41F1S engine, and Russia will be fielding the PAK FA / T-50 in the meantime.

Nersisyan writes that becoming a real competitor in the global arms market requires original RDT&E, not copying.  He sums up in three maxims:

  • Modern technologies don’t lend themselves to quick copying.
  • Copiers always lag behind.
  • The copy is often worse than the original.

What do others say about the threat of Chinese copying?

CAST’s Vasiliy Kashin agrees that fears are exaggerated because people don’t understand the obstacles to successful copying or that China’s military modernization is directed against the U.S. (something that, he adds, benefits Moscow).  He also blames much of the copying of Russian fighters on Ukrainian technical cooperation with China.

Vasiliy Sychev has written that S-400 and Su-35S sales to China will be straight sales without any technical or production licenses.  Moscow typically wants to sell more, and Beijing buy less, but the sides have worked toward the middle.  A new deal (or deals) will be for 2-4 SAM battalions and 24 fighters ($1.5 billion, or $60 million per).

Nor does Viktor Murakhovskiy see anything critical because Russian capabilities will be ahead of what China gets.

More Sinophobic, Aleksandr Khramchikhin says there’s an active and effective pro-China lobby in Moscow’s power ministries and OPK, and he believes Russia needs to understand it faces a grave threat from China.

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Defense News

Some Russian defense news from August 6, 7, and 8, 2012 . . .

Sukhorukov’s Press Conference (photo: Mil.ru)

Mil.ru provided a wrap on the First Deputy Defense Minister’s press-conference on GPV-2020.

Sukhorukov “particularly turned attention” to media reports that the program’s funding will be cut.  He told journalists such a step isn’t foreseen, and the government is talking only about “optimizing” the budget load between years by using good old state-guaranteed credits for the OPK.

Sukhorukov claims 95 percent of GOZ-2012 has been contracted, and 82 percent of funds disbursed.

Arms-expo.ru also covered this story.  It emphasized Sukhorukov’s statement that the rate of defective arms delivered by producers isn’t declining.

According to RIAN, Sukhorukov said Russia won’t buy more Israeli UAVs beyond its current contract.  He reiterated the Defense Ministry believes the BMD-4M doesn’t meet its requirements, and won’t buy it.

Sukhoy reports it’s now testing the new Tikhomirov phased array radar on PAK FA, T-50-3 to be exact.  See RIAN’s story.

Sukhoy also announced that its Su-35S is in “combat employment” testing within the process of state acceptance testing at GLITs.  The company says it meets all established requirements, and has flown more than 650 times.

New Navy CINC, Vice-Admiral Chirkov made an interesting visit to the State Missile Center named for Academic V. P. Makeyev on Monday.  The Makeyev design bureau is home, of course, to liquid-fueled SLBM development.  Could not find the last time this happened.  Might be prior to 2007.

Main Military Prosecutor Sergey Fridinskiy told the GenProk collegium yesterday that abuse or dedovshchina in the ranks is down a third this year.  But, according to ITAR-TASS, Fridinskiy noted that general crimes exceed purely military offenses by a factor of two.  Specifically, he said murders are up by half, bribery has almost doubled, and drug offenses have increased 27 percent.

Fridinskiy also said nearly 3,000 GOZ corruption cases and losses worth 400 million rubles were investigated in the first half of this year.  He said, for example, Dagdizel received 3 billion rubles in defense orders, but hasn’t sent a single product to the military, and bought farm equipment and building materials with the money.  He cited losses in purchasing apartments for military men at inflated prices as well as the problem of unfinished housing projects.

Izvestiya claims a large number of young pilots are leaving the Air Forces because the lion’s share of increased flight hours and promised higher pay are going to their commanders and older officers.  Could this be a continuation of Igor Sulim’s travails at Lipetsk?  The paper also reports a number of cleaning companies say the Defense Ministry owes them 5 billion rubles for housekeeping work outsourced over the last year.

Air Forces Prospects

With MAKS-2011 underway, this is something of a moving target.  Before getting to the main topic, a little news from Zhukovskiy . . . some of today’s headlines. 

OAK President Mikhail Pogosyan told the press two more T-50 prototypes will join the development and testing program this year.  He expects more than 100 military transport aircraft to be bought under GPV 2011-2020.  Il-112, Il-476, and Il-76MD will come first, then ten An-124 in 2014-2015, and later a larger number of An-70s.  Pogosyan said, starting from 2011, OAK will deliver more than 20 combat aircraft each year.

VVS CINC, General-Colonel Zelin told the media he foresees five squadrons of Su-34 (possibly as many as 120 aircraft).  The VVS will have six by the end of 2011 and will get 12 next year under the current contract for 32 aircraft.

For Air Forces Day, RIA Novosti had military commentator Konstantin Bogdanov describe how he sees things developing for this armed service.  How he puts the Air Forces’ future picture together is worth a look.

Bogdanov says he sees, for the first time since the Soviet collapse, movement, a turnaround in procurement financing, and real deliveries of aircraft in 2011. 

Interestingly, he begins with the Su-35S.  Forty-eight of these “transitional” 4++ generation fighters will be procured, but there could be more if there is any delay in the 5th generation T-50.  Bogdanov suggests, even without a  delay, the pragmatic Defense Ministry leadership could decide to blend 4th and 5th generation technology and equipment in one aircraft.

Bogdanov maintains one Su-34 flew missions in the 5-day war with Georgia [has anyone seen this elsewhere?], then got its serial production go-ahead, and contract for 32 aircraft in fall 2008.  Modernizing the aged Su-24 is a backup plan for the Su-34.  Bogdanov claims VVS CINC Zelin has hinted that ALCM-armed Su-34s could go to LRA.

Some old Su-27s have been updated to Su-27SM, and even a few new Su-27SM3 — unsold to China — have been obtained.

RSK MiG’s future, according to Bogdanov, looks less certain.  Russia had to buy the defective Algerian MiG-29SMTs.  It’s unclear if the Defense Ministry will have any requirement for the MiG-35.  And this leaves MiG with the possibility of providing MiG-29Ks to replace the Navy’s Su-33 fighters on the Kuznetsov’s deck.

Bogdanov then mentions how Irkut has parleyed its export success into more domestic sales.  He says the firm has redeveloped its Indian Su-30MKI into the Su-30SM, and it may sell as many as 40 to the Defense Ministry.  Twelve might go to replace Naval Aviation’s Su-24s at Gvardeyskoye in the Black Sea Fleet [apparently these aircraft weren’t swept up by the VVS earlier this year].  Similarly, says Bogdanov, KnAAPO last fall sold the VVS four Su-30M2s, domestic versions of its Su-30MK2 export.

Turning to rotary-wing aircraft, Bogdanov sees stable order books for Russian helicopter makers.  The order books are balanced in terms of military and civilian, and internal and external buyers, and all sales sectors are growing.

He says by 2010 the military’s contract for Mi-28N helicopters reached 100 units and serial production of its main competitor, the Ka-52, continued.  Mi-8s have been bought by the dozens.  And the hangars and flight decks of Mistral helicopter carriers will have to be filled in the future.

Bogdanov concludes more than 100 helicopters of all types may be procured before the end of 2011.  He repeats the familiar goal of 1,000 new helicopters by 2020, and says the near-term future for this sector looks good.

Bogdanov sees more clouds in military transport development and production.  Il-476 production at Ulyanovsk still needs to stand up, and Zelin’s already announced that a new A-100 AWACS will be based on it.  Restarting An-124 production and buying the An-70 from Ukraine are possibilities with details to be worked out.

Focused on platforms, Bogdanov gives short shrift to organizational and human aspects of VVS development.  He notes the Air Forces are completing the change from mission-oriented air armies and divisions to territorial composite or mixed formations (air bases), and he briefly mentions scandals over the handling of “order 400” premium pay.  But he concludes:

“In coming years we’ll see more than a few painful symptoms in the VVS, both strictly aviation-related and internal, and those connected to the general background of difficult transformations of the country’s armed forces.  Let there be pains, but let them be growing pains.”

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.

Su-35S to Start State Testing

In their excitement about new armaments, many observers have a hard time keeping book on the latest weapons, forcing yours truly to follow a few important systems like the Su-35S.  Some even say the Su-35S is already in the inventory, but a close look at press reporting shows otherwise.

The media reported the first series production Su-35S flew at KnAAPO in Komsomolsk-na-Amure yesterday.  After these factory trials, this aircraft will be delivered to the Defense Ministry.

Sukhoy has successfully completed preliminary testing on the Su-35S prototype.  Preliminary testing confirmed that its on-board systems meet technical requirements, checked its reliability and controllability, its engines, and navigation system.

According to ITAR-TASS, a Sukhoy spokesman said:

“The Su-35S has been presented for state joint testing [ГСИ or GSI].  The first step in the framework of the fighter’s state joint testing will be receipt of the preliminary finding of the customer – Russia’s Air Forces on the aircraft’s correspondence to main requirements with the aim of providing it to Air Forces’ operational units.”

Now recall that late last August Sukhoy said the Su-35S was completing preliminary testing and would start state testing in the fall.  Fall has become the following spring, and Sukhoy announces again that the Su-35S is ready to start GSI.

The Russians advertise the Su-35S as a 4++ generation fighter, using fifth generation technologies to give it an advantage over similar aircraft.

The Defense Ministry gave Sukhoy a contract to deliver 48 Su-35S by 2015, but Voyenno-promyshlennyy kuryer, among others, says the military department will probably buy 48 more in 2015-2020.  VPK goes further:

“According to some assessments, the Russian Air Forces need 150-200 Su-35S.  The Defense Ministry now intends to buy 60 fifth generation T-50 fighters in all.”

So VPK suggests some think the Su-35S should be a primary fighter rather than just a gap filler for PAK FA.

More on the “Second Phase” Engine

Lenta.ru had an informative piece on the PAK FA’s “second phase” engine yesterday. 

It calls the “second phase” engine “Item 129” [Изделие 129].  Lenta also says the provision of the first “Item 129” engines will coincide with the first PAK FA or T-50 fighters entering the force in 2015.

It notes the “first phase” engine is “Item 117” or AL-41F1 [АЛ-41Ф1].

The AL-41F1 will be used in the prototypes and the first series models which will enter the Air Forces’ inventory in 2015.  It has 19,334 lb. dry thrust, and 33,047 lb. with afterburners.  It is equipped with a plasma ignition system, all-aspect thrust-vectoring control, and digital controls.

The Lenta piece says a less powerful variant of the AL-41F1 – the AL-41F1S or “Item 117S” – will be put on the Su-35S fighter.  The AL-41F1S has an older digital control system and a little less thrust.  

According to Lenta, not much is known yet about “Item 129.”  It was announced earlier it will have increased thrust and greater fuel efficiency than the AL-41F1.  “Item 129” will reportedly have 24,054 lb. dry thrust, and 39,566 lb. with afterburners.  The newer engine’s also likely to have a longer service life.  

Lenta adds a report from Sukhoy that it expects to finish prototype airframe testing either this year or next.  In 2013, the Defense Ministry’s supposed to get 10 experimental aircraft for combat employment testing.

What Will GPV 2011-2020 Buy?

Russian military procurement policy is an obvious focus of what you read here, and there’s lots to write about on this score lately – the GPV, defense budget, OPK modernization and innovation, etc.  It’s not possible to capture it all at once.  Here’s a start, and hopefully it will lead to broader insights later.

Writing for his latest project – the Center for the Analysis of the World Arms Trade (TsAMTO or ЦАМТО), Igor Korotchenko addressed what the new GPV might buy.  His article was picked up by VPK.name, and then a somewhat truncated version ran in Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye.  He uses the 22 trillion ruble figure rather than the 19 trillion for the armed forces specifically.  Not that it matters since it’s a wag at best anyway.

In his first broad swipe, Korotchenko forecasts that Russia will buy 500 new aircraft, 1,000 helicopters, and 200 air defense systems among other arms and equipment over the 2011-2020 period.  He admits, even with a fairly generous procurement budget [if approved and fully disbursed every year], it will be impossible to buy everything each service and branch will need after 20 years of very small-scale procurement.

And this is exactly, of course, the point that Popovkin’s deputy, General-Lieutenant Oleg Frolov was making when he argued for 36 trillion . . . .

So, they can’t have everything and will have to prioritize.  Korotchenko gives it a whack, maybe not satisfactory, but it’s a start:

  • Strategic nuclear forces;
  • Precision-guided weapons;
  • Automated command and control systems (ASU);
  • Aircraft;
  • Air and missile defense (PVO / PRO).

Korotchenko doesn’t talk specifics about his first two priorities. On the third, he calls for a unitary military C2 system to enable Russian netcentric warfare.  On aircraft, he somewhat surprisingly emphasizes transport aircraft to move Russia’s million-man army between strategic axes as needed.  And Korotchenko lists PVO / PRO without further commentary.

He supports efforts to overcome Russia’s lag in UAVs, ships, individual protective equipment and soldier systems, and armored vehicles through cooperation with Israel, France, Germany, and Italy.

Then Korotchenko turns back to aircraft, saying they are the thing that will indicate what kind of armed forces Russia will have in 2020.  Based on what’s been said publicly, he counts:

  • An-124 Ruslan — 20
  • An-70 — 50
  • Il-476 — 50
  • Il-112B — ??
  • Su-35S — 48  
  • Su-27SM — 12
  • Su-30MK2 — 4
  • PAK FA — 60
  • Su-34 — 32, possibly 60-80 more
  • Su-25UBM / Su-25TM — 10, possibly 20 more
  • MiG-35 — 30
  • MiG-29SMT / MiG-29UB — 20-30
  • MiG-29K / MiG-29KUB –26, possibly 22 more
  • Yak-130UBS — 120
  • New airborne early warning aircraft — 2-3
  • Be-200PS — 8-10

In all, he summarizes, about 500-600 aircraft by 2020.

Korotchenko doesn’t talk money, so we’ll have to think about what this would cost.  In terms of what’s covered, he’s only talked only about RVSN and Air Forces’ requirements.  You can be sure the Ground Troops, Navy, VDV, and Space Troops have their own lists.  Maybe Korotchenko will address them.

Beyond what they say they need, there are two issues.  Can they buy it all, or at least how much of it?  And, second, can the OPK produce it?  Korotchenko doesn’t get us too far into any of this.