Russian UAV/UCAV developments

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mixelflick

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Unread post24 Sep 2018, 14:31

Let's assume they build 96 SU-57's.

That would mean Russia's entire stealth fleet would consist of fewer than 100 aircraft. I suppose they could be used as a silver bullet force, but that's it. There will be no 1:1 replacement of Flankers that's for sure.

In a way I pity them. They have some very talented airframe engineers over there, let down by the fact their engines and avionics are always lagging. More importantly, an error in judgement (a big one) in developing PAK FA vs. a lighter, cheaper multi-role stealth bird really hurt them. Who was responsible? A better question may be, why the error in the first place?

IMO, they were too focused on beating the Raptor at its own game. It's the big Kahuna, the measuring stick by which all other combat aircraft (fighters anyway) are judged. In fact, I can distinctly recall quotes by Russian AF officials to the effect that it would be, "superior to the Raptor in every way". Now we're told SU-30SM's and SU-35's are "good enough" to win the day. It's hard to tell if they really believe that.

MIG had a golden chance to re-gain its former glory after the Mig-I.44 was cancelled. I'm not sure what design they put forth before the PAK FA contract was handed to Sukhoi, but I'd love to know. It was at that juncture an error in judgement was made IMO, and it's going to hurt them for decades to come. The Flanker was the final design that was a huge domestic/export success, but it's getting long in the tooth.

They may well see it flying for another 30-50 years, given what's (not) in the pipeline to replace it..
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element1loop

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Unread post25 Sep 2018, 09:47

mixelflick wrote:" ... More importantly, an error in judgement (a big one) in developing PAK FA vs. a lighter, cheaper multi-role stealth bird really hurt them. ..."


Good points. But I suspect they'd have had similar propulsion problems with an F-35-ski or MiG29 sized aircraft, namely they can't do a credible single-engine design without a reliable high powered fuel-efficient competitive single. So their design will again become marginal in performance due to the need the use two smaller, thirstier and less reliable engines, with higher production plus ownership life-cycle cost, with less capability delivered. But they may have had a chance of making that actually work, rather than stall and dissipate, and also of exporting them like hot cakes, with 400 to 450 nm range. At least then they'd have had the basis to build something with more poke.
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babybat{}.net

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Unread post25 Sep 2018, 12:12

mixelflick wrote:Just imagine if instead of building thousands of F-35's. the US built.... 12. Furthermore, imagine if instead of those thousands of F-35's, the US built 200-300 upgraded F-15's and 16's. And instead of firm orders for more F-35's, we just gave out an IOU of 96 (maybe). "We'll build more when they're ready...".


Dear mixelflick, I will try to explain.
You oppose the future Russian 96 5gen and 300+ 4+ gen, against the future 2000+ 5gen and several thousand 4+ gen NATO fighters. But Russia has neither the budget nor the capacity to wage a convection war against the USA or NATO.
Russia has a special so-called hybrid defense strategy: Global strategic weapons to prevent the United States from conducting a direct military confrontation (not only promising nuclear means of attack, but also means of overcoming missile defense, disabling missile attack warning systems, etc.), and tactical non-convection systems to ensure non-interference of large armed forces of the NATO bloc of European countries.
To counter the rest probable enemy, 4+ gen fighters, and convection, land, sea and air-based missile systems really should be enough. To reduce air defense losses in the first hours (or days) of the war, a few dozen 5gen with anti-radar missiles in the bays will indeed be useful, however, 4+ gen fighters will really be enough for the main job in the foreseeable future.

mixelflick wrote:This wouldn't be made all better by proclaiming we're working on 6th gen UAV's. If I were Russia, I'd be looking for the head of whoever got them in this mess. Not only will they have to contend with the F-35 (thousands of them), they'd have to contend with Chinese J-10's, J-11's, SU-35's, J-31's and J-20's. So on not one but two fronts, they could be fighting stealth aircraft with.... upgraded Flankers.


Unfortunately, in the foreseeable future, Russia will be integrated into the economic space of the PRC, after which, its armed forces will also be more or less integrated with the Chinese. I really do not understand how the US made such a terrible historical mistake, giving Russia to China. If a radical change of policy towards Russia is not carried out right now, NATO will receive a front line with China stretching tens of thousands of kilometers.
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sferrin

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Unread post25 Sep 2018, 13:01

element1loop wrote:
mixelflick wrote:" ... More importantly, an error in judgement (a big one) in developing PAK FA vs. a lighter, cheaper multi-role stealth bird really hurt them. ..."


Good points. But I suspect they'd have had similar propulsion problems with an F-35-ski or MiG29 sized aircraft, namely they can't do a credible single-engine design without a reliable high powered fuel-efficient competitive single.


They were going to build a stealthy Yak-43 built around the NK-321 (55,000lbs thrust) but it didn't get beyond paper. (The engine is huge by the way so I don't know how successful it would have been.)
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mixelflick

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Unread post25 Sep 2018, 14:44

I can understand those points about Russia. It's clear they don't have the $ to match the US/NATO plane for plane, system for system. Can't say as I'd be doing it any other way if I was them.

However, this point about missing the boat with a smaller, lighter semi-stealth aircraft is a big one. As pointed out earlier, it would have made a lot more sense (both domestically and export orders IMO). They could have for example not dictated super-cruise as a design point (as in the F-35). That would have taken a lot of pressure off the engine people, although finding a suitable (single) engine would have still been a challenge.

Russia has been building so many big, twin engine, long range fighters for so long (Flankers of all sorts, plus PAK FA) it makes you wonder if they're still capable of stamping out something smaller, lighter and less expensive. The epitome of this in years past would have been the Mig-21. So imagine a present day Mig-21 with as much stealth/SA as they could build into it. I'm betting it would have been a hit with former Mig-29 operators and give any Flanker fits. Single engine with thrust vectoring to preserve the super-maneuverability they hold so dear.

The ideal would be to offer something with maybe 75% of the capability of the F-35 at half the price. India, the UAE, Egypt and Iran come to mind as countries that might bite on something like that..
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Unread post25 Sep 2018, 14:48

babybat{}.net wrote:Dear mixelflick, I will try to explain.
You oppose the future Russian 96 5gen and 300+ 4+ gen, against the future 2000+ 5gen and several thousand 4+ gen NATO fighters. But Russia has neither the budget nor the capacity to wage a convection war against the USA or NATO.
Russia has a special so-called hybrid defense strategy: Global strategic weapons to prevent the United States from conducting a direct military confrontation (not only promising nuclear means of attack, but also means of overcoming missile defense, disabling missile attack warning systems, etc.), and tactical non-convection systems to ensure non-interference of large armed forces of the NATO bloc of European countries.
To counter the rest probable enemy, 4+ gen fighters, and convection, land, sea and air-based missile systems really should be enough. To reduce air defense losses in the first hours (or days) of the war, a few dozen 5gen with anti-radar missiles in the bays will indeed be useful, however, 4+ gen fighters will really be enough for the main job in the foreseeable future.


tl:dr Russia's conventional military only exists to bully smaller countries like Georgia and Ukraine around.

Which is probably an important capability for tinpot dictators with delusions of grandeur like Putin.
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Unread post25 Sep 2018, 15:48

mixelflick wrote:I can understand those points about Russia. It's clear they don't have the $ to match the US/NATO plane for plane, system for system. Can't say as I'd be doing it any other way if I was them.

However, this point about missing the boat with a smaller, lighter semi-stealth aircraft is a big one. As pointed out earlier, it would have made a lot more sense (both domestically and export orders IMO). They could have for example not dictated super-cruise as a design point (as in the F-35). That would have taken a lot of pressure off the engine people, although finding a suitable (single) engine would have still been a challenge.

Russia has been building so many big, twin engine, long range fighters for so long (Flankers of all sorts, plus PAK FA) it makes you wonder if they're still capable of stamping out something smaller, lighter and less expensive. The epitome of this in years past would have been the Mig-21. So imagine a present day Mig-21 with as much stealth/SA as they could build into it. I'm betting it would have been a hit with former Mig-29 operators and give any Flanker fits. Single engine with thrust vectoring to preserve the super-maneuverability they hold so dear.

The ideal would be to offer something with maybe 75% of the capability of the F-35 at half the price. India, the UAE, Egypt and Iran come to mind as countries that might bite on something like that..


You are right, this is the dream of many in Russia. I remember one of our professors often saying, "MiG-21 is the best airplane! Not Su-27, not MiG-29". We were laughing in those days, and then I started to see what he meant.
But the Russian air force because of the specific geography, primarily required aircraft with a large combat radius. Launch in parallel two programs to create easy and heavy fighter pilot was impossible by finances. So won the concept of average fighter, larger than the MiG-29, but smaller than the su-27. Now the LFMS program may or may not be running (time was lost). There is no certainty that Mikoyan's design Bureau is able to implement the program in a reasonable time. Their priority program is a new interceptor, a replacement for the MiG-31, which will be decommissioned by 2030.

The only one "but". If LFMS will appear, it will anyway be twin-engine like j-31.
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Unread post25 Sep 2018, 15:55

knowan wrote:Russia's conventional military only exists to bully smaller countries


In the first place is the task of protecting the strategic nuclear potential from a preventive strike by convection weapons.

knowan wrote:like Georgia and Ukraine


...Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Moldova, Balkan republics, possibly Belarus, possibly Turkey, Middle East Monarchies, Transcaucasus Countries...
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Unread post25 Sep 2018, 17:03

babybat{}.net wrote:...Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Moldova, Balkan republics, possibly Belarus, possibly Turkey, Middle East Monarchies, Transcaucasus Countries...


It's almost as if the expansion of NATO was justified.
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element1loop

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Unread post26 Sep 2018, 06:03

babybat{}.net wrote:The only one "but". If LFMS will appear, it will anyway be twin-engine like j-31.


These numbers are from specs, my calcs and some estimates (as noted):

J-31

Fuel Load ~12,000 lb (About all it could be given MTOW and implied empty weight plus claimed payload on Wiki page)
Empty Weight 37,363 lb (Obtained via claimed MTOW, minus the claimed available ‘payload’ of 17,637 lb. In 2015 Wiki claimed empty weight was 38,801 lb … so I’m being a bit generous)
Max Internal Weapons 4,409 lb (claimed 2,000 kg internal and 6,000 kg external)
TOW (with that configuration is) 53,772 lb
Remains under MTOW by 1,228 lb
MTOW is claimed as 55,000 lb

J-17 RD-93 (x2) engine thrust:
Dry Thrust lb=22,210
A/B Thrust lb=36,570

Resulting power to weight ratios with claimed full internal weapon payload used up:

Dry 100% fuel 0.41
AB 100% fuel 0.68

Dry 75% fuel 0.43
AB 75% fuel 0.72

Dry 50% fuel 0.47
AB 50% fuel 0.77

Dry 25% fuel 0.51
AB 25% fuel 0.83

Not good for a multirole fighter in the 2020s, but it's not unlike a fully-loaded Gripen E/F either. Wiki says this about J-31 payload:

“Payload
The J-31 can carry 8000 kg (17637 lb) of payload, with four munitions totaling 2000 kg (4409 lb) internally, and 6000 kg (13228 lb) carried on six external hardpoints; primary armaments include the PL-10 short-range missile and SD-10A medium-range air-to-air missile. It has a combat radius of 648 nmi (746 mi; 1,200 km) and a maximum take-off weight of 25,000 kg (55,000 lb).”

See the problem here?

Full-fuel of 12,000 lb plus the full-weapon payload gives a weight of 67,000 lb, or 12,000 lb over MTOW. In other words, you can have full-fuel, or you can have full-weapons--but you can not have both. So J-31, as it currently stands, would be unable to have full-fuel and to carry any external weapons, unless you first removed all of the internal weapons.

So external pylons on a J-31 will not be seeing a whole lot of action. :D

All of those computer pics of the J-31 flying about with a wide variety of nasty looking external stores … yeah ... dreaming.

In reality it would carry about the same internal weapon loads as an F-35B, and about 12,000 lb of fuel, into two fuel-inefficient engines, that will always have to be driven hard (even more fuel-guzzling) to produce acceptable cruise, or acceleration, or energy-recovery performance. So range would be less than half of that of an F-35, and performance and agility would be distinctly lacking after the first turn, and the practical weapons payload would be around one fifth that of an F-35A.

So basically you'd get something like a Gripen E/F in strike-range, and even worse than Grippen in deliverable weapon weights, but with added LO advantages (version 1.0). Which is useful but nothing like what the Chinese claim it as, nor clearly want it to be. So a Russian 5th-gen J-31ski is likely to run into similar limits, unless the engines are significantly better than RD-93s.

I suspect Russia could actually produce a better LO J-31ski over the next decade.
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Unread post26 Sep 2018, 09:13

I really do not understand how the US made such a terrible historical mistake, giving Russia to China

And that's the whole takeaway of Russia's current foreign policy toward the West at the moment, isn't it? "Give us these and these and these concessions or else!" Problem is, China is big and powerful enough to basically make a colony out of Russia, so I don't think Russia will pursue a closer relationship with China anytime soon.
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Unread post26 Sep 2018, 11:00

mixelflick wrote:However, this point about missing the boat with a smaller, lighter semi-stealth aircraft is a big one. As pointed out earlier, it would have made a lot more sense (both domestically and export orders IMO). They could have for example not dictated super-cruise as a design point (as in the F-35). That would have taken a lot of pressure off the engine people, although finding a suitable (single) engine would have still been a challenge.


But you will not save a lot if you make one engined stealth. F-35 is much cheaper then F-22 only because of order. Imagine if USAF decided in past they need only ~200 F-35A what price of F-35A would be then?

So Russia wouldn't save a lot going one engined stealth. We can expect one engined PAK-FA could be ~2/3 price of two engined PAK-FA. Even if it is ~50% of PAK-FA they would buy 200 (now they are planing to have 100 two engined).

mixelflick wrote:So imagine a present day Mig-21 with as much stealth/SA as they could build into it. I'm betting it would have been a hit with former Mig-29 operators and give any Flanker fits. Single engine with thrust vectoring to preserve the super-maneuverability they hold so dear.


Stealth need size if you want range and weapon load. So if it is small you need to choice between range or weapons, in case of Russia range requirement is even more important, so you would stuck with some compact stealth which have comical weapon load (two R-77 for example).
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mixelflick

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Unread post26 Sep 2018, 14:31

I understand...

It seems having the range necessary to defend the motherland dictates a large fuel load, and if it's a stealth bird it needs to be all internal. So you arrive at something like PAK FA. Even conventional designs like the Mig-31 carry enormous amounts of fuel.

OTOH, we have LFMI which (at least for export potential) needs to be on a smaller scale. It's a shame they can't do it with one engine, but it is what it is. That and the smaller airframe should have resulted in a cheaper aircraft, again being more attractive for export. But LFMI won't likely materialize due to funds being poured into the PAK FA and Mig-31 replacement. I rather doubt the export potential of both, and that's going to hurt as more and more nations sign up for the F-35 or J-31.

Tough place to be for Russia...
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Unread post26 Sep 2018, 15:58

They're about to get some economic sunshine as oil price is rising with approaching hard-core sanctions on Iran.
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Unread post26 Sep 2018, 17:01

babybat{}.net wrote:
mixelflick wrote:Everyone knows why they're buying the SU-35 - to copy its engine. It isn't because they're so enthralled with the Flanker airframe or its capabilities. If they were, why bother with the J-20 or J-31? They're clearly investing much more heavily in those, vs. buying more Flankers. They have what, 24 on order? Doubtful they'll invest much more, especially given the developmental costs of their 5th gen fighters.


Unfortunately, the 117S engine is not so good that it would be for the sake of a two-billion contract(
Of course, its researching will give some useful information, but this is not the only reason.
First of all, the su-35 is a well-balanced aviation complex for good price. He certainly will not be purchased by PRC in large quantities, but we can expect a contract for another 24 units.

Su-35 was purchased because it's better than J-11B. Very simple. PLAAF sees Su-35 as a capable interim solution from a familiar partner KNAAPO that was better than what SAC can build and also immediately available. It needed something that can replace retiring Su-27s. It also helps to have the latest version of an aircraft that everyone in the neighbourhood has so that it can train J-20 and J10B/C against them and know exactly how to take them down.

I don't see IAF needing to purchase Su-35 at anytime since they have been working with IAPO and would probably just seek to have certain technolgoies developed for Su-35/57 be applied on there.

mixelflick wrote:So they're building 96 SU-57? Where are you getting that #?, as the only firm orders we've seen are for... 12.


These 12 are not among them. Only the last 2 of them will have the appearance of the second stage. And it is after their tests the first contract will be signed. I don't think we should expect that before 2023.
This information is not classified, but unfortunately I can not tell the name of the person from whom it was received(

so far everything announced about this project has been delayed or reduced in scope. When do you think 96 su-57 will really come. By 2030?

mixelflick wrote:Even if they do build 96, they're going to be outrageously expensive - and Russia (like the US) will be tempted to ax it. That's if the 96 are real in the first place. For the sake of the people working on it, I actually hope you're right. It'll probably take export orders though to make this happen, and with such a small production run - they ain't going to be cheap.


You're right. This program is very expensive. And hopes that India will cover part of the development costs were not justified.
But, as I said earlier, it is necessary to preserve the competencies and prospects of the design and engineering school of Russia.

based on the progress of su-57, it looks like competencies have already been lost. And even if Su-57 does get into service in sufficient numbers, it's still debatable whether or not it can be considered a generational improvement over Su-35.

mixelflick wrote:They best hope one of those isn't lost to an F-22 or 35 (or God forbid an F-15 or 16), because then their export potential will be where the Mig-29's is today - in the toilet. Fine aircraft, but keeps getting reduced to hair, teeth, spare parts and eyeballs whenever encountering American jets.


The export potential of the su-35 has not yet been exhausted. Su-30 after modernization for some time to be successful.
But Su-57 will never be as common as Flanker, and even in the Russian leadership there is no confidence that the MiG will be able to create a light 5gen fighter in a reasonable time.
According to this, the main resources are aimed at UAVs and 6gen fighter.

Su-35 exports will be fine for the next 10 years. But what is Russia doing after that?

How can they build 6 gen fighter when they can't even build one that fits the 5th generation criteria? As for UAV, they are not only behind West and Israel on this, but also China. Where is their export market for UAV when China already has non-Western option countries cornered? And how does Russia develop new UAVs without export funding when it's already behind the curve?
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