Friday, July 16, 2021

Russia's LO Checkmate! No One Saw it Coming!


Via Twitter


Russia's Sukhoi is company funding development of a LO supermaneuverable optionally manned single engine lightweight (18 t) Mach 2 fighter that will be unveiled at MAKS 2021

On July 12, 2021, days ahead of MAKS 2021, Russia's Rostec announced:

“The United Aircraft Corporation will present a fundamentally new military aircraft on July 20 - on the first day of the MAKS-2021 International Aviation and Space Salon in the city of Zhukovsky

Rostec also released the following teaser video 

Ростех представит на МАКС-2021 принципиально новый военный самолет ОАК - YouTube

The video suggested that the new fighter was pitched at countries like India, Vietnam, Argentina and the UAE.

( I believe a LO short range super maneuverable fighter better meets IAF's defensive requirements that fighters such as F-22, F-35 or Su-57).

A day later, photographs of the fighter (or its mockup?) being towed ensconced in a shroud appeared on the web.


Going by the photograph above and the teaser video on YouTube, Russia's "Checkmate" features a LO V-tail that would provide some degree of yaw and pitch control. Additional yaw and pitch control required for super maneuverability would likely be provided by thrust vectoring.

Surprisingly, based on the photograph above, the fighter does not feature stealthy shaped exhaust. The S-70 Okhotnik was shown at MAKS 2019 with shaped exhausts.


Russian aviation industry officials have alluded to a new LO fighter since 2017 (with development having started in 2015), yet western media, inclined to be in denial of Russian advances in aviation technology, was completely surprised by the new Russian stealth fighter. It's likely, Western intelligence too was caught off guard. As such, Russia's chosen name for the fighter - Checkmate - is doubly apt.

On May 26, 2021, TASS reported quoting an industry source that Russia is developing its first single-engine low-observable light tactical fighter aircraft.

"The Sukhoi company is developing a single-engine light tactical plane with the takeoff weight of up to 18 tonnes. The plane’s maximum speed will be above 2 Mach. It will also have super-maneuverability and improved takeoff and landing performance, thanks to a thrust vector control engine. The plane’s thrust-to-weight ratio will be above 1," the source said.

In December 2020, Rostec CEO Sergei Chemezov told reporters that the company was working on the concept of an advanced, optionally manned, single-engine light-and medium-class.

"Work is underway to develop a combat aviation system of the future in its light and medium classes. Under the design, this may be a universal platform in the manned and unmanned versions. The company is working on the concept and the operational requirements for such a platform. We are doing this on our own initiative so far, without [federal] budget funds," the Rostec chief said.

In a news report on May 25, 2020, Pravda reported that Russia started development of a multi-purpose stealth fighter - MiG LMFS - in 2015.  The fighter is conceived as a replacement for the MiG-29 and MiG-35 aircraft and will be based on the technology used for the development of the Soviet MiG-1.44, which was far ahead of its time.

"MiG-LMFS" is designed with front horizontal stabilizers. They will be placed just above the wing to stabilize air flow in front of it. As it is believed, the aircraft should have a triangular wing and a V-tail. With a takeoff mass of about 15 tons, it will be able to take up to 5 tons of payload, for example, medium-range K-77M missiles.

The airplane will be armed with a 30 mm caliber cannon. The fighter is to be equipped with two VK-10M turbojet units with a total thrust of 20 tons. In the future, a single Product-30 engine with the afterburner power of 18 tons can be used. This engine was developed for the Sukhoi Su-57 fighter and currently undergoes flight tests.

The MiG-LMFS would feature internal carriage of weapons, have a range of 4,000 km and a top speed of 2,500 kph.

Earlier in 2017, Sergey Chemezov, the head of Rostec, told reporters about plans to develop a 5th gen fighter based on the MiG-29 with the United Arab Emirates. 

Kravchenko confirmed MiG was involved on three major development programs — a “prospective plane,” a long-range interceptor and a UAV — but would not elaborate on activities related to a potential fifth-gen jet. [source]

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Buoyed by Rezistor-E Success on INS Vikramaditya, Russian Navy to Install Precision Landing System on Admiral Kuznetsov

According to data made available to TASS by Russia's Chelyabinsk Research Institute of Measuring and Radio-Technical Equipment, Indian Navy pilots have already conducted over 1,500 landings on INS Vikramaditya using the Rezistor-E landing system which has "performed splendidly."

The Rezistor-E is a radar based air traffic control and precision approach radar system featuring digital channel data exchange with MiG-29K/MiG-29KUB fighters operating onboard INS Vikramaditya. The system has been developed and produced by Russia's Chelyabinsk Research Institute of Measuring and Radio-Technical Equipment. 

The Rezistor-E system facilitates safe deck operations even during marginal visibility conditions. The system aids the pilot to fly the aircraft on an optimum glideslope upto to a distance of 30 meters from the flight deck, after which the pilot lands on visual cues.

The Rezistor-E system has also been installed on the indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier INS Vikrant which is currently undergoing trials. 

The Russian Navy is set to replace the Rezistor-K42 precision approach system on its Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrier - which is currently undergoing repairs at the 35th Ship Repair Plant - with the  Resistor-E PAR similar to the one being used by the IN.

The Rezistor-E PAR system installed on Admiral Kuznetsov will use Russian electronics and undergo full-scale trials at one of the two NITKA shore based training facilities available in Russia.

In addition to the Rezistor-E radar based system, INS Vikramaditya is also equipped with the Luna Optical Landing (OLS) system, which provides visual descent glidepath information to pilots through a system of lenses and colored lights in the terminal phase of approach and landing on aircraft carrier, to facilitate touch down accuracy desired to to snag the arrester cables.

The IN wants an improved OLS that is visible from a longer distance than is possible with the Russian Luna system currently fitted. It also wants higher resolution for colored light to ensure clarity.

The Central Scientific Instruments Organization (CSIO) has developed an improved OLS, last known to be undergoing trials at the Goa SBTF. The current status of the indigenous OLS is not known. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Finally, Tejas LCA, Python-5 Close Combat Missile (CCM) Integration

On April 28, 2021, six years after initiating the project, the Indian MoD announced that its Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has conducted integration of the Python-5 air-to-air missile on Tejas light combat aircraft (LCA). Integration trials ended on April 27, 2021 at Goa.

The MoD press release states, "At Goa, after successful separation trials, live launch of the missile on a Banshee target was carried out. Python-5 missile live firing was conducted to validate target engagement from all aspects as well as beyond visual ranges. In all the live firings, missile hit the aerial target." 

Apparently, Python-5 was tested on the Tejas alongside the Derby-ER, a  Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air-to-air missile. The Derby-ER is equipped with a Software Based Radio RF seeker and dual pulse rocket motor. The use of SDR technology enables the seeker to be reprogrammed with software upgrades including new waveforms, duty cycles and processing techniques, addressing new threats, countermeasures and techniques that may evolve through the missile's lifespan of 20-30 years. The dual-pulse rocket motor  facilitates high energy target engagement at over 100-km range. 

According to the press release, "Derby missile achieved direct hit on a high-speed maneuvering aerial target and the Python missiles also achieved 100% hits, thereby validating their complete capability. The trials met all their planned objectives." 

"Prior to these trials, extensive missile carriage flight tests were conducted at Bengaluru to assess integration of the missile with aircraft systems on board the Tejas, like Avionics, Fire-control radar, Missile Weapon Delivery System and the Flight Control System. 

The Python-5, developed by Israel's Rafael, is an all aspect missile equipped with dual band imaging infrared (IIR) seeker. With a range that exceeds 20-km and an optional Lock On After Launch mode, the Python-5 has limited BVR capability. 

The missile was first offered to India by Rafael in 2009, when the IAF sought a replacement for its obsolete Matra-produced Magic 550 air-to-air missile carried on the Jaguar’s over-wing pylons, Rafael had pitched the Python-5 in completion with MBDA's ASRAAM. The IAF picked the ASRAAM over the Python-5.

Python-5, however, made its way into Indian Air Force (IAF) inventory as part of the SPYDER system acquired by the IAF . SPYDER is a quick reaction, low level surface-to-air missile system designed to effectively engage aerial threats such as aircraft, helicopters UAVs and precision guided munitions. The system uses ground launched variants of the the Derby and Python-5 missiles to provide integrated layered defense.

Once it was part of the IAF inventory, Rafael offered the Python-5 as a CCM that could be mounted on the outermost wing pylons of the Tejas. Ground integration of the Python-5 with the Tejas was completed by June 2015. However, the project stalled after integration issues cropped up forcing the IAF to once again consider ASRAAM as a replacement. Clearly, Python-5 integration issues have now been resolved.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Kh-35E Uran Missile Tested from INS Kora

The Indian Navy's missile corvette INS Kora reportedly test fired a Kh-35E Uran (NATO:SS-N-25 Switchblade) to its max range on October 30, 2020 in the Bay of Bengal hitting the target with precision. The Kh-35E is the export variant of the Ukrainian Kh-35 missile, a 620-kg subsonic cruise missile powered by a Motor Sich R95-300 turbojet engine. The missile features a 145-kg warhead and has a max range of 130-km. The missile cruises at 10-15-m above the sea, dipping down to 4-m during the end game.

India procured 400 Kh-35E missiles from Russia between 1998 to 2004 for use on Delhi (Project-15) and modernized Kashin-2 (Rajput) destroyers, Brahmaputra (Poject-16A) frigates, Kora (Project-25A) corvettes and Tarantul-1 (Vibhuti) FAC.

The IAF has the air launched variant of the missile, Kh-35E Zvezda (Star) (NATO designation AS-20 'Kayak). The Zvezda variant is also carried by IN IL-38 maritime reconnaissance aircraft.

IN IL-38 with Kh-35E Zvezda missile


Russia's Tactical Missiles Corporation developed Kh-35U variant of the Ukrainian Kh-35 missile entered Russian service in 2015.

The Kh-35U/Kh-35UE missile uses a UEC-Saturn engine, instead of the Ukranian Motor Sich engine. The Russian engine is reportedly a third shorter and lighter by several tens of kilograms, which facilitates improved characteristics of the entire product as a whole. 

The Kh-35UE at MAKS-2019

The Kh-35U features a dramatically reduced RCS as compared to the Kh-35, is 50-kg heavier than the Kh-35, and has twice the range (260-km) of the Kh-35.

The missile is designed to attack vessels up to 5,000 tonnes.

India is not known to have acquired the Kh-35UE export variant of the missile

The Reason Why India Declined the US Offer of MQ-9B Reaper Armed Drones

MQ-9B via Twitter


During the recent 2+2 Ministerial dialog between India and the US, the US reportedly pressured India into buying MQ-9B drones but India declined, denying President Donald Trump a foreign policy success that could have boosted his reelection chances. The deal would have secured US jobs (The USAF has lost interest in the Reaper, a weapon system honed for anti-terrorist operations, with its focus on the perceived combined threat from China and Russia) and reiterated Trump's tough anti-China posture.

 Multiple current officials speaking on the condition of anonymity told the US News that the Reaper sale was at the top of the agenda for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. India apparently signed the the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for Geo-Spatial Cooperation on October 27, 2020, an agreement that would have facilitated MQ-9B sales, but declined to purchase the MQ-9B. 

It's likely that India declined the MQ-9 offer because of high per unit cost - roughly $100 million each factoring in infrastructure costs - and the drone's limited utility in the context of the current India - China stand-off in Ladakh.

The total cost of procuring 30 MQ-9 drones from the US was projected at $6 billion which likely includes weapons and logistics support.

While, US officials believe that the armed drone would perform a critical role in better preparing the Indian army for the threat it faces from the PLA and its fleet of drones, it's likely that the Indian armed forces, with limited financial resources at their disposal, don't agree. 

The ET on July 25, 2020 did report that the services were contemplating "an emergency procurement" of six Predator-B drones, 2 each for the 3 services, from the US in the context of the ongoing confrontation with China along the LAC. However, in July 2019, the HT had reported that the services were rethinking the drone procurement following the Iranian take-down of a US Global Hawk on June 20, 2019 using its S-300 AD system. The IAF had reportedly internally raised questions about an armed drone surviving in a contested air space like over Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) or along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with both potential adversaries equipped with top of the line surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems. 

The very expensive MQ-9, which operates from medium altitude, would be an easy target for PLA's AD systems comprising S-300 and S-400 systems. Additionally, the PLA has HQ-16 (Buk) air medium-range and HQ-9 long-range ADS currently in service. 

Some sources told the US News that India may eventually buy the drones as part of a larger and more comprehensive arms package at some point in the future and that probably would be the best option for India.


Thursday, October 29, 2020

Russia Tests Ship Based Missile Launched Rocket Propelled Torpedo

Russian Northern Fleet "Admiral of the Fleet Kasatonov" Project 22350M frigate during recent weapon trials. Photo via RuMoD

On October 28, 2020, the RuMoD in a press release announced that the second P-22350M frigate of the Northern Fleet "Admiral of the Fleet Kasatonov" fired a newly developed anti-submarine missile at the training grounds of the fleet in the Barents Sea.

"The shooting was carried out as part of the qualification serial tests of the product and was recognized as successful. One of the nuclear submarines of the Northern Fleet was involved in its support, which monitored the torpedo that had separated from the rocket in the underwater environment. Also, the frigate's rocket fire was provided by the crews of the Il-38 anti-submarine aircraft, the Ka-27 helicopter and the torpedo boat of the Kola flotilla of diverse forces.

"When performing rocket firing, the frigate's combat crews demonstrated confident possession of military equipment, high professionalism and naval training."

The wording of the press release suggests that the frigate may have successfully tested a shipborne missile launched variant of its vaunted air launched rocket propelled APR-3E torpedo, possibly designated APR-3M


The APR-3M is the latest variant of the APR-3 torpedo. 

In May, 2019, the Research and Production Enterprise ‘Region’ (part of Tactical Missiles Corporation) launched serial production of the torpedo. 

Enterprise CEO Igor Krylov told TASS, "All the trials of the APR-3M missile have been completed, the process of its serial production has been organized and its deliveries to the Russian Defense Ministry are underway. In the near future, we will also start promoting this missile for exports. The APR-3M is integrated into the armament of a Ka-27M modernized anti-submarine warfare helicopter." 


The APR-3E anti-submarine warfare torpedo is a follow-up of the APR-1, APR-2 and APR-3 missiles that were in service with the Soviet and Russian Navies. These munitions are among the world’s most effective anti-submarine warfare weapons.

The APR-3E is a rocket propelled light ASW acoustic homing torpedo with waterjet propulsion. It was developed by Russian Tactical Missiles Corporation JSC to engage current and future submarines at depth from the surface down to 800 meters at speed of up to 43+ knots, and it is a replacement for earlier APR-2 light antisubmarine acoustic homing torpedo.

The APR-3E variant of the torpedo is designed to be carried by fixed wing and rotary wing platforms including Tu-142, Il-38, Ka-28 and other aircraft. The torpedo requires at least 100 metres depth of water for the initial air-drop and can be deployed in conditions up to sea state 6.

Upon entering the water, the control surfaces of the torpedo enable the torpedo to travel in a spiral path with the help of gravity without starting the engine. During this stage, the acoustic seeker of the torpedo searches for targets. Once the target is identified, the engine starts and solid propellant rocket engine ensures the target has virtually very little or no time to react, thus increasing the kill probability.


The following are the specifications of the torpedo according to the Wikipedia.

Speed: > 56 kn
Range: > 3 km
Diameter: 350 mm
Length: 3.685 m
Weight: 525 kg (another 25 kg for accessory for aircraft deployment)
Propulsion: solid-propellant rocket-powered turbo-waterjet
Fuze: impact and proximity
Warhead: 74 kg
Seeker: acoustic
Seeker range: 1.5 km – 2 km
Maximum target speed: > 43 kn

DRDO's SMART Missile

The DRDO recently successfully flight tested the Supersonic Missile Assisted Release of Torpedo (SMART) from Wheeler Island off the coast of Odisha. 

The DRDO's SMART missile is conceptually similar to the weapon tested by Russia. However, the Russian missile is likely to be much more lethal if it delivers the rocket propelled APR-3E torpedo. Currently, DRDO's SMART delivers the indigenously developed battery powered TAL light torpedo with a max speed of 33 kn

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

All Foundational Agreements Signed , but What about Tech Transfer under DTTI?

The US in 2006 proposed that India sign the following 3 foundational agreements to facilitate increased defense co-operation

  • Logistics Support Agreement (LSA). Now known as  Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA)
  • Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum Agreement (CISMOA) 
  • Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geo-Spatial Cooperation (BECA)

On October 27, 2020, India and the US signed the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for Geo-Spatial Cooperation on October 27, 2020 following the third U.S.-India 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue. Earlier, in 2016, India and the US signed the   LEMOA and in 2018, COMCASA.

India has now fulfilled its end of the bargain in its quest to facilitate increased defense co-operation. How about the US.

In 2012, India and the US signed the Defense Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI)  aimed at streamlining the approval process for release of US technology to India; removing bureaucratic hurdles with the aim of increasing defense trade and exploiting the potential for co-production/co-development.

Eight years later there has been no release of US technology to India.

The press statement by Raksha Mantri Shri Raj Nath Singh following India- USA 2+2 ministerial dialog in New Delhi on October 27, 2020 states

"In the Defence Industrial Cooperation area, we had a very candid and useful discussion. Recent initiative of 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' in Defence sector was underlined as a key driver and a guiding factor of our Defence Industrial Cooperation. I highlighted the capabilities of Indian Defence Industry and their usefulness in the supply chain of major US platforms and systems. We have identified priority Near-Term projects for joint development between respective agencies, which need to be fast tacked under the DTTI and resolved to work together in Defence R&D more efficiently."

The statement smacks of an underlying desperation on the part of India. As far as Atmanirbhar Bharat goes, India's strategic alliance with the US hasn't met Indian expectations. The alliance, however, has generously met US expectations through multi-billion dollar weapon system deals - P-8I, C-130, C-17, Apache 64E, Chinook Ch-47F - through government to government contracts. 

Despite having signed 3 ironclad agreements that increase its security dependency on the US, India has not been able to win US trust for transfer of defense technology. The fact is, India will never be able to win US trust. I think we all know that.

Not that the US has ever categorically expressed a willingness to transfer US defense technology to India. After eight years of dangling the carrot of technology transfer under DTTI, the US is now offering India a role in its defense systems supply chain through limited private sector partnership under initiatives such as Industrial Security Annex (ISA) and Indian Defence Innovation Organization (DIO-iDEX) and U.S. Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) tieup

While private sector defense supply chain tie-ups could help create jobs in India, they will not help make India self reliant in indigenous weapon system development and manufacture. More likely, such tie-ups would perpetuate Indian dependence on the US. More troublingly, they will give unprecedented leverage to the US over Indian economic and foreign policy. The US is notorious for its sanctions regime and India has been at the receiving end. The spread and granularity of US sanctions would have made Shylock look like an amateur.  

In contrast to the US approach on defense technology transfer, Russia has transferred to India technology for construction of nuclear power reactors for submarines and ships, cryogenic rocket engine, Brahmos missiles and Missile RF seekers without  any leverage.

Today, China is a very credible US adversary because the Soviet Union and then Russia transferred critical defense technology to China which China built upon to not just match but even pull ahead of US technology. India could have done the same; perhaps it can still do so without surrendering its sovereignty and becoming a US vassal.