Author Archives: Jacek Siminski

Russians have started working on a new engine for their 5th generation stealth fighter

The Russians have started the test and design works, aim of which is to provide the Russian 5th Generation fighter with a relevant power-plant.

If there is one field in which the Russians seem to fall behind in aircraft development – it is definitely the propulsion systems for the new jets.

Currently, prototypes of the Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA (Perspektivny Aviatsionny Kompleks Frontovoy Aviatsii—Future Tactical Air System) which is the Russian 5th Generation fighter design, use the Saturn AL-41F1 engines, which are a series production model used by the Russian 4.5 generation fighters, such as Sukhoi Su-35.

We must remember that childhood of T-50 PAK-FA has been quite troublesome and engines have already been cause of some quite embarrassing incidents in the near past.

The current engine should not be mistaken with the NPO Saturn AL-41F engine, which has been designed for the Multi-Role Frontline Fighter, also known as MiG-1.44. The engine used by the PAK-FA prototypes is actually an updated variant of the AL-31F power-plant.

According to altair.com.pl, NPO Saturn corporation representatives recently announced that the prototype of the second engine is expected to be ready for flight testing in 2015. The new engine, shall be ready for the series production by 2020, with the first prototype being completed by 2016, and flight tests planned to happen in 2017.

At least such statements were made during the Aero India 2015 expo by Vladislav Masalov, who is the chief of the ODK company working on the jet propulsion systems.

In the meanwhile, numerous media outlets report that Russia and India are going to sign a contract, regarding the future development of a 5th Generation Fighter in 2015. According to IHS Jane’s, Yuri Slyusar, who is the CEO of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), stated that the parties are at the final stage of negotiations. The preliminary agreement has already been signed. The program is to involve the UAC company on the side of Russia and the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited company for India. Slyusar confirmed the fact that the new generation engine testing program is under way.

It is yet unclear, when we may expect the PAK-FA or the Indian fused design to be introduced into service in the front-line units though.

Image credit: Dmitry Zherdin/Wiki

 

Stunning Photographs of the Polish Mig-29s and Italian Typhoons of NATO’s Baltic Air Policing

Amazing shots of the NATO interceptors over Lithuania

The photos in this post were taken over Lithuania, at the beginning of February, thanks to a cooperation between the Lithuanian Air Force, Polish Air Force and the Italian Aeronautica Militare.

Typhoon front view

Taken by photographers gathered around the Foto Poork portal, the images are really unique as they show the jets carrying live missiles (including the Italian Typhoons at their first NATO Baltic Air Policing rotation) right before the sunset, a mixture which has yielded spectacular results. Notably, one of the shots features the Polish Fulcrum flown by a very well-known Polish MiG-29 pilot Grzegorz “Iceman” Czubski, with the afterburners lit, which is simply stunning.

Mig-29 afterburners

In a conversation with The Aviationist, Filip Modrzejewski who is the editor-in-chief of the foto.poork website, said that the organization of an air-to-air photo-shoot is quite challenging. First of all, the track needs to be placed at a proper altitude, and it needs to be planned in detail, which would make it possible to achieve high level of safety. Second, the weather conditions need also to be taken into account – since photography is very much weather-dependent.

Typhoon formation

Pre-flight briefing is equally important – during such shoots there is no place for spontaneous maneuvers – both the photoship (Lithuanian C-27J Spartan in this case) and the fighters need to know exactly what flight-path will be used. Formation flying skills are equally important.

AP8R1094

Safety of the pilots is one thing – safety of the photographers should also be taken into equation. Each of the photographers uses a special safety harness, in order not to fall out of the photoship during the shoot. When it comes to the photo-taking process itself – it may be challenging due to the fact that people on board may be subjected to g-forces.

Mig-29 sunset turn

Camera batteries are also an issue here, due to the low temperatures. It is not recommended for the photographers to switch the lenses or memory cards during the flight, for safety reasons.

Mig-29 sunset

Here’s a backstage photo, depicting the tough work conditions on board of the Spartan.

Backstage

Fortunately, the mission was flawless and the results, amazing!

Image credit: Foto Poork

 

U.S. A-10 Thunderbolts to be temporarily stationed in Poland?

A-10 Warthogs moving east

The U.S. Air Force A-10s of the first Air Force Theater Security Package have eventually arrived at Spangdahlem airbase, in Germany even though their deployment did not complete as planned: two jets had to divert for a failure (pressurization issue according to some sources) and landed at Amsterdam Schiphol airport.

According to the German media outlet “The Local”, US Navy Captain Greg Hicks, who is acting as a spokesman of the US European Command, has confirmed that the Warthogs, after a stop in Germany, will forward deploy to locations in eastern Europe.

With several airbases able to host the Hogs, it is safe to assume the Thunderbolts may soon operate in the Polish airspace, since Polish Armored Cavalry brigades are currently in process of carrying out field training program related to introduction of the Leopard 2A5 tanks into active service.

What is more, some elements of the U.S. Army have already been deployed to Poland, as a part of Operation Atlantic Resolve.

The 6-month TSP is officially aimed at enabling joint training among NATO units, but the deployment of the 12 A-10s in eastern Europe is, among all the other things, just an another way to increase presence in Europe and reassure regional allies in light of Russian increasing threat.

As we already mentioned in our first report on the deployment, the A-10 was designed to play a vital role in a possible war against the Soviet Invasion across the German plain and the Fulda Gap.

The Thunderbolt has been one of the cornerstones of the AirLand Battle Doctrine which involved AH-64s, OH-58s, Abrams MBTs (Main Battle Tanks) along with Bradley IFVs (Infantry Fighting Vehicles) and artillery – M109 and MLRS systems, along with numerous anti tank weapons. This stands in line with the fact that e.g. the Stryker APCs are currently stationed in Poland, and are taking part in some of the Polish Army exercises organized within the area of the Drawsko Pomorskie firing range. This is yet another argument, according to which forward-deployment of the Warthog in Poland would be possible.

On the flip-side, one should remember that the Russian air defense systems protecting mobile armored units, have evolved since the Cold War. As highlighted by some analysts, in case of a regional war in eastern Europe, should the NATO forces not gain total air superiority and support it with plenty of SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) operations required to neutralize enemy air defense systems, employment of the Warthogs would be quite difficult and risky.

Nevertheless, the A-10 has proved to be extremely effective role during the operations in Iraq or Afghanistan, where it is the platform of choice for the CAS (Close Air Support) mission, in spite of the impending retirement and subtle criticism: some arguments have been made in the U.S. that the A-10 is dangerous for the troops on the ground, due to the statistical data suggesting that when the Warthog was employed in that role, a rate of friendly fire incidents has been higher.

Nonetheless, it shall be clarified that it is the peculiarity of providing close air support with troops in contact – the A-10 may act close to the positions where own forces are operating, and this may lead to inevitable incidents.

Anyway, in case of full-scale air- and land-war, all the tactics would need to be ultimately reviewed and tailored to the real scenario, and little can be really predicted about the way a conflict in Europe may really develop.

The Russian Air Force has tested a strategic cargo plane in bomber role

Russia has turned an Il-76 strategic cargo plane into bomber during recent trials

The Russian Air Force has conducted tests with an Il-76MD (NATO codename Candid) aircraft carrying  training bombs during trials organized in the Tver region, north of Moscow, Ilyushin announced on Jan. 30.

According to the company, the aircraft carried four 50-kg P-50T dumb bombs on hard-points under the wings.

T-50 bomb

The “attack run” would see the crew find the airfield, visually inspect it with flares and then drop the bombs ahead of landing on the field, located well behind the enemy lines.

The drops should be conducted with 500 km/h of speed (ca. 270 knots) and 500-1000 m (1650 – 3280 feet) of altitude.

Ilyushin claims that bombs will make it possible to employ the Il-76MD in operations which would involve airfields with unprepared or unfamiliar runways, located in a contested territory.

VVS aims to train 10 crews in the new “strike” role; teams that, according to IHS Jane’s, will be stationed in the Tver, Orenburg, Pskov, and Taganrog regions.

IHS Jane’s additionally notes another issue – the place where the specially trained crews are stationed, excluding the Orenburg region, which borders Kazakhstan, will make it possible for the transport jets to conduct strikes over Ukraine or the Baltic States.

Generally speaking, using bombs with a transport aircraft is not a new idea. One should take into account the (armored and heavily armed) U.S. AC-130 gunships which were fairly successful when employed as CAS (Close Air Support) platforms. U.S. Air Force has also used transport aircraft to drop GBU-43/B MOAB (Massive Ordnance Air Blast, also known as the Mother of All Bombs) thermobaric weapons. These were dropped with the use of C-130 Hercules aircraft, mostly the MC-130E Combat Talon I or MC-130H Combat Talon II variants.

C-17 Globemasters were also said to be capable to deliver this armament.

Il-76 landing

Even though transport aircraft have been successfully transformed in bombers in the past, the heavy and scarcely maneuverable aircraft carrying weapons can only be employed during low-intensity conflicts, in areas where virtually no air-defenses exist. Otherwise, using a troop-carrier as a heavy bomber to drop dumb bombs through a SAM-infested airspace, as the one surrounding an enemy airfield, would be almost suicidal.

Il-76 taxi

Image credit: Ilyushin

 

Pro-Russia separatists conducted first air strike in Ukraine using a Su-25 Frogfoot. Maybe….

Pro-Russia insurgents say that they have conducted a first air strike on Ukrainian forces.

According to reports on several news outlets, including the Russian RIA-Novosti press agency, a Su-25 allegedly serving in the People’s Republic of h aviation component attacked a Ukrainian Army convoy which was reinforcing the Ukrainian units surrounded in Delbatseve on Feb. 2.

The news, provided by the spokesperson of the People’s Republic of Luhansk spread through the social media even though Kiev authorities have not confirmed the air strike.

The RIA Agency claims that the Su-25 was captured after the separatists damaged it and forced it to land within their territory last summer.

A video shot by separatists has popped up on Youtube recently: it shows a Su-25 Frogfoot attack plane and an L-29 trainer wheeled out of the Luhansk aviation museum being repainted with the markings of the so-called Novorossiya Air Force and readied for flight ops.

The footage also shows a pilot who introduces himself as a Georgian volunteer who joined the pro-Russia militia fo fight fascism. In spite of the claims that the aircraft could reach Kiev and the scene of the jets carrying bombs and rocket launchers, and taxing at the museum, it is almost impossible that a quite obsolete Su-25 or L-29 plane could be brought back to operational status and readied for combat missions is at least scarce.

Besides the propaganda purposes of the video, there is someone who believes the Su-25s got a new paint and some media hype to act as a decoy for a direct involvement of Russian Air Force Frogfoot jets in the conflict: according to such speculations, Moscow’s Su-25s could freely operate in eastern Ukraine pretending to be some of the jets resuscitated at the Luhansk aviation museum and operated by the self-proclamed NAF.

Furthermore, SputnikNews said that two Ukrainian Su-25s were shot down on Feb. 3 in the Delbatseve area, a report that has been denied by Kiev. Anyway, due to the large extent of losses and general bad shape of its fleet, the Ukrainian Air Force activities in the eastern part of the country have significantly decreased. According to some reports the Russians have created an umbrella of air defenses, which prevents the Ukrainians from flying over the territories controlled by the separatists.

Written with David Cenciotti

Image credit: Ukrainian Air Force