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Crazy Ivan

Sizing Up Sukhoi’s PAK FA 5th Gen Fighter

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Via Steeljaw Scribe, comes this open-source examination of Russia’s 5th gen fighter, the Sukhoi built PAK FA (which may now go by Su-50), put together by two analysts from the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA). The PAK FA’s maiden flight was on 29 January; it isn’t expected to enter Russian service until 2015. The brief examines the PAK FA’s development and compares it to the F-22; most of the commentary comes from an examination of available images and video of the new fighter.

De-constructing the Sukhoi PAK-FA (Su-50)

The brief says the PAK FA has been designed to win a close-in, air-to-air dogfight; when stealth fighters square off, they will get very close before targeting radars are able to lock-on an opponent. The PAK FA’s Infra-Red Scan and Track (IRST) might be the first sensor to pick up an enemy stealth aircraft; the F-22 lacks an (IRST). In a close in “knife fight,” the extreme agility of the PAK FA may allow it to outmaneuver the F-22 and its larger weapons load may prove advantageous as well.

The analysts have their doubts about Russia’s ability to afford development and production of the super costly fighter; their grasp of the production and maintenance difficulties surrounding low-observable coatings; the ability of Russia’s composites industry to deliver; and the technological maturity of the fighter’s avionics and sensors.

UPDATE: Steeljaw Scribe, for whatever reason, deleted the brief from Scribd. Fear not, the more web resourceful than I am Stephen Trimble over at DEW Line has posted a copy.

– Greg

Russian Blackjack Bombers Over Scotland

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

It’s a scene classically reminiscent of Cold War days or a Tom Clancy novel from the same: two weeks ago, Royal Air Force Tornados shadowed a pair of Russian Tu-160 Blackjack heavy bombers as they penetrated British airspace and nonchalantly cruised over the Scottish isles. RAF officials released photos of the intercept today.

Apparently, the Russians have been doing quite a bit of this over the past year. “People may be surprised to know our crews have successfully scrambled to intercept Russian aircraft on more than 20 occasions since the start of 2009,” said RAF Wing Commander Mark Gorringe. The Russian bombers turned around just short of the coast of Ireland.

The story quotes an unnamed British source saying the Blackjack sorties are an example of Russian saber-rattling. An article in UK’s Daily Express cites a more practical concern: a midair collision between the unannounced visiting bombers and civilian airliners in the crowded skies above the North Atlantic.

– Greg

Russian F-22 (PAK-FA) First Test Flight Revealed

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Thanks to several tipsters who alerted me to the public release of a test flight of the Russian 5th-generation fighter prototype: the so-called PAK-FA, or in English, “Future Air Complex for Tactical Air Forces.” Some observers also show it dubbed the T-50.

It looks as if the Russians are trying their hand at an F-22 knock off, with a v-tail, large monolithic wing surface and centerboard intakes. The thing literally looks like a Mig-29 cockpit bolted onto a hacked F-22 stern.

According to Global Security​.org, the Sukhoi-built PAK-FA sports two giant AL-41F engines and has a crub weight of about 40,000 pounds — a bit less than the F-22.

Given the budgetary hassles surrounding the American F-22 program and the trajectory that tactical aviation is taking into the UAV world, it stands to reason that Russia slash Sukhoi may run into the same sticker shock LockMart is encountering with American taxpayers. I hear that India is playing some role in the development of the PAK-FA, so that may help defray the costs and justify continued development.

But wasn’t it Russia that developed the simple, reliable, cost-efficient Kalashnikov? Why are they always trying to play on the wiz-bang high-tech turf America has dominated for the last 50 years in high-end military hardware? I guess it’s more a question of what the big-money buyers want (China, India), rather than what’s worked best in the past.

– Christian

Ivan to Launch Asteroid Destroyer

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009


Thank goodness for the Baikonur Cosmodrome (I just love how that rolls off the tongue).

Well, if your SLBM goes haywire and leads the Nords to think aliens are attacking, why not take a hard left turn and ram an asteroid?

If the rumblings of Russia’s space agencies are true, it looks like they’re planning to spool up the Proton rockets and blast the Bejeezus out of poor Apophis, a diminutive comsic rock scheduled for an Earth flyby in 2029. But NASA doesn’t think there’s much chance the asteroid will hit terra firma, AP reports.

When the 270-meter (885-foot) asteroid was first discovered in 2004, astronomers estimated its chances of smashing into Earth in its first flyby, in 2029, at 1-in-37.

Further studies have ruled out the possibility of an impact in 2029, when the asteroid is expected to come no closer than 18,300 miles (29,450 kilometers) from Earth’s surface, but they indicated a small possibility of a hit on subsequent encounters.

NASA had put the chances that Apophis could hit Earth in 2036 as 1-in-45,000. In October, after researchers recalculated the asteroid’s path, the agency changed its estimate to 1-in-250,000.

A few years ago space experts feared Apophis would come perilously close to Earth, making it a Level 1 on the Torino Impact Hazard Scale (thanks Wikipedia), but dropped it off the scale after further calculations in 2006.

By the way, Apophis is the Greek word for the Egyptian demon who tries to eat the god Ra.

Makes me kind of want to rent Armageddon again and plan out my End of Days festivities. Or maybe, all us cynics are wrong and the Russkies really will save the Earth.

“People’s lives are at stake. We should pay several hundred million dollars and build a system that would allow us to prevent a collision, rather than sit and wait for it to happen and kill hundreds of thousands of people,” Russia’s space agency chief Anatoly Perminov said.

– Christian