Tag Archives: Ka-52

Defense News

Some Russian defense news from Tuesday, April 24 . . .

Dmitriy Rogozin (photo: RIA Novosti / Aleksey Druzhinin)

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitriy Rogozin generated a good bit of news during his visit to the Urals last week.  It’s hard to keep up with him.  In a sense, it’d be a real shame if he’s not in the next government.

Krasnaya zvezda published a wrap of his remarks.

Rogozin indicated Russia will demand the best new weapons from its OPK, not “metal hulks” that are soon scrapped.  He laid out his reasons for not buying foreign armaments.  And, he says, Russia doesn’t want to be China, blindly copying foreign models.  But he said his country still wants ideas and technology, if not a lot of hardware, from abroad.

Rogozin blames Russia’s space launch woes of the weakness of its “element” or component base.

RIA Novosti reported his assessment that Russian military electronics lag foreign developments by 5-12 years.  Russia doubled its investment in electronics last year according to Rogozin.

But back to KZ . . . it gave this interesting Rogozin quote:

“Russia must no longer be a hydrocarbon partner, it’s time for us to become an industrial power [hasn’t this time passed?].  We could have become such a power in the last century.  Now it’s important to overcome the gap in Russia’s history.  If business won’t participate in the country’s development, then we won’t achieve anything.”

In some non-Rogozin stories . . .

Militaryparitet.com cited a blog citing Interfaks to the effect that Kurganmashzavod will not be asked to renew production of BMP-3s for the army despite earlier indications it would.  The item notes the President’s polpred in the Urals saying the army has also declined to buy the BMD-4M.

Mil.ru wrote about Ka-52 helo training at Chernigovka army air base in Primorskiy Kray.  More than half the base’s pilots already practiced on the Ka-52 at the Torzhok training center.  Chernigovka will be completely reequipped with the new helo this year, according to the Defense Ministry website.  The “intensity” of flight exercises at the base doubled over the last year and increased 45 percent in the first three months of 2012.

Mil.ru also mentioned the completion of LRA training in the Far East.  There were 40 bomber flights and ten cruise missile launches on the Litovka range according to the Defense Ministry.

Vzglyad citing Interfaks reported on Irkut’s president saying the company will make a combat version of the Yak-130 trainer.  It will have greater thrust and be intended for Russia and for export.

Last, an update on the Belevitin corruption case.  Former GVMU chief, Aleksandr Belevitin faces malfeasance and bribery charges that could net him a total of 22 years in prison.  Pretty harsh by Russian standards.  The state is also seeking 51 million rubles in damages from him.  His defense is still examining the prosecutor’s case against him.  Recall the state believes he and his deputy took bribes in return for procuring overpriced MRI machines from a foreign firm.

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.”

Mi-28N Crash

Mi-28N Night Hunter

Russia’s Mi-28N Night Hunter helicopters are grounded pending completion of the investigation into Tuesday’s crash in which the pilot died and his co-pilot was hurt.  The Mi-28N belonged to the Budennovsk-based 487th Helicopter Regiment in the Southern MD.

Unnamed sources tell RIA Novosti investigators attribute the crash to engine failure caused by metal shavings in the engines or gear box.  But one experienced test pilot told Vzglyad.ru that shavings usually don’t cause a sudden loss of control or engine failure.

Over the last year, problems with the Mi-28N’s gear box, flight controls, and tactical performance have been reported in the media. 

In January, Izvestiya’s Dmitriy Litovkin visited the flight training center in Torzhok to look at the Mi-28N.  He discussed the June 2009 crash of an Mi-28N at the Gorokhovets training range with the center’s chief, Colonel Andrey Popov.  Litovkin said people believe that crash occurred when powder gases from a rocket firing got in the helicopter’s engines.  Here’s a video.  Popov acknowledged the Mi-28N’s growing pains, and said the manufacturer is constantly modifying the aircraft.

This certainly sounds like production problems to these nonexpert ears.  There’s still a struggle between those who back the Mi-28N and others who favor the Ka-52 as Russia’s primary attack helicopter.  With stronger state support, the Night Hunter has been winning the battle, but this accident might hurt its case.  Meanwhile, a second Mi-28N squadron is supposed to be established at Budennovsk this year.

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.

The Air Forces and the GPV

General-Lieutenant Sadofyev

Last week, General-Lieutenant Igor Sadofyev – Chief of Aviation, Deputy CINC of the Air Forces (VVS) for Aviation – spoke to the press about his service’s ambitious plans for procurement under State Armaments Program (GPV), 2011-2020.

General-Lieutenant Sadofyev told RIA Novosti the VVS will receive 1,500 new, and 400 modernized aircraft by 2020.  The Chief of Aviation said the State Defense Order (GOZ or ГОЗ) for 2011 includes acquisition of Su-27SM, Su-30M2, Su-34, Su-35S, and Yak-130 aircraft for the VVS, as well as Ka-52, Mi-28N, Mi-8AMTSh (MTV-5-1), Ka-226, Ansat-U helicopters for Army Aviation.  But he provided no specific procurement numbers for next year.

Su-34 (photo: RIA Novosti / Igor Rumyantsev)

For Long-Range Aviation (LRA or ДА), he said the VVS will modernize existing Tu-160, Tu-95MS, Tu-22M3, and Il-78M aircraft.  The goal is to update 80 percent of this inventory in what he calls the medium-term future – defined by him as 2020.  What he has in mind here is service life extension and the replacement of some electronics and other systems.

For Military-Transport Aviation (VTA or ВТА), Sadofyev says the VVS will modernize its existing aircraft, and purchase more than 50 percent new ones.  He doesn’t break it down by particular types of transports.

For Frontal Aviation, some existing aircraft will be modernized, and over that medium-term future (2020) more than half the order-of-battle will be replaced with new aircraft, and 14 percent of the inventory will be ‘perspektivnyy’ (перспективный) aircraft.  One supposes that means PAK FA.  If that 14 percent is 70 PAK FAs, that would put Frontal Aviation at about 500 aircraft total.

Army Aviation, according to Sadofyev, will get 70 percent new aircraft by 2020, and 100 percent sometime afterward.  He said the VVS will begin getting the Ка-52 / Alligator next year.  And he made a point of noting that Army Aviation will remain within the VVS, despite rumors it might return to the Ground Troops.

He said serial deliveries of the Yak-130 trainer will begin next year to replace 1970s-vintage L-39 jets.  Flight instructors and technical personnel will learn the Yak-130 at Lipetsk before using it to train young pilots at Krasnodar.

Sadofyev also told RIA Novosti the number of VVS day-night, all-weather aircraft will increase 4.5 times, and this will lower aircraft losses by a factor of 10-12.  According to him, the share of precision weapons in the VVS will increase 18 times, taking it to 70 percent of the inventory by 2020.  So less than 4 percent of current air-delivered munitions qualify as precision weapons.  UAVs will be increased 6 times, taking them to 30 percent of the aircraft inventory.  So they are about 5 percent at present.  Sadofyev adds that money will go to providing a common reconnaissance-information environment for the VVS.

Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Vladimir Drik also talked about VVS procurement last week.  He said the VVS got new and modernized aircraft this year, including Su-27SM and Su-25SM, and Mi-24PM and Ansat-U helicopters.  But he had to admit only the Ansat-U is new, and he didn’t provide numbers.

There was a major garble over the Su-27SM.  RIA Novosti quoted Drik as saying the VVS “received four squadrons of modernized Su-27SM” this year.  In fact, the transfer of the final 4 of 48 Su-27SM happened in late November 2009.

Drik said Russia’s air defenses will be 100 percent new by 2020, with the VVS operating the S-400, S-500, and Pantsir-S.  Once again, no one seems to want to talk about what’s going on with SAM production.

Igor Korotchenko’s take on VVS procurement from October looks pretty on-target in light of this latest press.  He said the priorities were precision weapons, automated C2, aircraft, and air defense systems.  And, at that time, he put the acquisition numbers at 500 new aircraft, 1,000 helicopters, and 200 air defense systems.

All in all, an extremely ambitious plan.  Fulfilling it will demand complete and timely funding, and even then it will be a challenge for Russia’s aviation industry.  Also, Sergey Ivanov says the GPV has gone to the government today, so maybe we’ll learn how VVS requirements fare.  VVS will be a priority, but we’ll have to see how high.

Fifth Generation Helicopter

Andrey Shibitov

In a 13 May news conference, OAO Helicopters of Russia Executive Director Andrey Shibitov described the company’s work on a concept for a fifth generation helicopter.  His comments to the press came in advance of HeliRussia-2010 beginning today in Moscow. 

Shibitov said:

“We are actively working on the concept of a fifth generation combat helicopter.  Wind tunnel testing of two aerodynamic designs coaxial [Kamov] and traditional [Mil] has begun.  Initial results have been received.  Which of the two designs we’ll pick will become clear in the first quarter of 2011.”

According to Gzt.ru, Shibitov claimed OAO Helicopters is willing to invest $1 billion in its development, and is looking for state investment beyond that amount.

Neither OAO Helicopters nor the Defense Ministry is talking specifics about the new helicopter, but former VVS CINC Aleksandr Kornukov stated the obvious when he told Gzt.ru a fifth generation helicopter needs to be quiet and stealthy.  According to Newsru.com, Kornukov also stated a preference for two pilots in a side-by-side configuration.

In Gzt.ru, former army aviation commander, retired General-Colonel Vitaliy Pavlov said noise isn’t so significant since Mil’s X-shaped tail rotor already reduced noise on the Mi-28 by 15 percent (in comparison with its Mi-24 predecessor), but he added that reworking the engine could further reduce noise.  Pavlov doesn’t see great importance in increasing flight speed.  He sees the coaxial Kamov design as more reliable, but Mil’s traditional rotor system as more stable.  He also likes the maneuverability of Kamov’s helicopters, but he still thinks it’ll be a difficult choice between the two producers.

Also in Gzt.ru, Defense Ministry critic, retired General-Colonel Leonid Ivashov said the fifth generation helicopter could be stillborn:

“If there isn’t a state order for this aircraft, it will wither.  We’re grasping at all fifth generation aircraft, fifth generation helicopters, but for some reason none of this is coming to the troops, today we have helicopters from the 1970s in the army.  So the country’s leadership shouldn’t just rejoice at new equipment in various air shows, but also buy it for the troops.”

Then Ivashov’s deputy at the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, Konstantin Sivkov, takes over, citing his definition of a fifth generation helicopter—increased range, ‘fire and forget’ weapons, capability to engage fixed-wing aircraft, low radar detectability, and speed up to 500-600 km/h.  Sivkov sees noise reduction as secondary since radar can detect helicopters at a 150-200 km range.

Sivkov thinks, under favorable conditions—steady financing, cooperative work by the design bureaus and factories—a new helicopter could be developed in 5 years, but, absent those conditions, development could take 20 or 30 years.

Dmitriy Litovkin in Izvestiya covers a lot of the same information on the pre-design research and wind tunnel blowdown of the prototypes.  He says the so-called Ka-90’s ‘dual-contour’ jet engine could develop speeds over 800 km/h, and he cites a system development timeframe of 5-8 years.  According to him, work is focusing on canted blades with thrust vectoring as well as a new blade design.

He believes one of the designs will win out, but there could be a third hybrid design.  But he thinks there’s little time to waste since the U.S. is already testing new designs, albeit unsuccessfully thus far. 

Writing in Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye, Viktor Litovkin notes three named prototypes–Mi-X1, Ka-90, and Ka-92. 

Shibitov also talked to the press about OAO Helicopters’ record state defense order from army aviation in 2010.  He said:

“A year ago I said it was a shame the Defense Minister wasn’t buying new helicopters.  Beginning this year, I can’t say this.  Finally conscious, sensible purchases of military equipment have begun.”

“We got a record order from the Defense Ministry for purchases of combat, strike, and reconnaissance helicopters in the basic and supplementary order.  Unfortunately, we can’t fulfill the supplementary order because other commercial projects are being completed.”

“From this year, we’re delivering volume for the Defense Ministry comparable with all export deliveries of combat and strike helicopters.  In the course of the coming five years this tempo will continue, and in the period to 2017-2020 the Russian Air Forces will renew its complement of combat, strike, and reconnaissance helicopters by 85-90 percent.”

Aviaport.ru indicated the armed forces will also receive their first Mi-35D, Mi-24D, and Ka-226T helicopters, previously produced only for foreign customers.  OAO Helicopters is reportedly looking at modernizing Ka-29 or Ka-32 helicopters for Mistral, but Ka-52 is another candidate for shipboard helicopter.

CAST’s Konstantin Makiyenko puts the armed forces helicopter inventory at 850, of which 90 percent is obsolete.  He estimates it’ll cost $8 billion to renew this force.

There is evidence of life in Russian military helicopter procurement.  Talking about the GOZ, President Medvedev said 30 would be bought this year, and Defense Minister Serdyukov claimed the army got 41 during 2009.  In late 2008, VVS CINC Zelin said the plan was to obtain 100 new helicopters over 4 years, so these numbers would be in that range.