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.