Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov

New race gathers pace between private and state defense industry in Russia

Russian Ministry of Defense, the customer of the being developed 5-th generation combat aircraft is going to specify technical requirements to its engine anew. It concerns not only technical parameters of the engine but also the cooperation of designers and subcontractors. It was publicly stated by the head of Federal Agency on Industry Boris Alyoshin and General Director of Sukhoi Michail Pogosyan at the 47-th aerospace salon in Le Bourget. Although the former mentioned that the expected decision will not affect the on-going first stage of creation, this decision could be interpreted in favor of the state run designer, i.e. Moscow-based Salyut. Unlike its privately owned competitor Saturn located in Rybinsk, which already had the status of the head designer of the 5th generation engine and the official partner of Sukhoi (the designer of the aircraft), it is interested in any changes.

The head of Salyut Yuri Eliseev informed that the decision on the new tender was taken at the recently held closed meeting of the Military-Industrial Company headed by the First Vice-Premier Sergey Ivanov. It is important to pay attention to the wordings: “the first tender did not yield results”. “Military Industrial Commission decided to open the second tender”.

It is also worthwhile taking a note that the head of Sukhoi himself suggested the following terminology. AL-41F1 is the first stage engine, which will start flight tests. Probably this is the first time when a specific name is attributed to a specific engine. As is known from the designers, they will be ready to suggest for the flight tests either AL-31M1 or M2 (Salyut) or “product 117” (Saturn).

According to Michail Pogosyan his company together with the Ministry of Defense will consider possible ways of creating perspective engines and the corresponding decision will be taken. At the same time he stressed that this is not an acute problem, because all problems regarding the engine of the first stage have been solved and the work goes according to the approved schedule. Mr. Pogosyan pointed out that keeping in mind the life time of the plane, which enters a 30-year long serial production and is intended for about 30 years of operation, the engine and other systems will undergo essential changes during serial production. It is quite normal, and today I do not see an urgent need for any new decisions in addition to those already taken, he said at the French expo.

The events around the perspective engine for the next generation Russian fighter should be considered at the background of the process of forming different holdings in the defense industry. Right at the moment aviation engine branch is the top news maker, several holdings are about to be created here. So far we have been closely following two dealing with the engines for the combat planes. They are likely to be headed by the above mentioned Salyut and Saturn. The head of Salyut Yuri Eliseev used the aerospace salon near Paris to voice his opinion in favor of several holdings to avoid monopoly. “I think there should be an integration, but an integration to the advantage of the state, he said. It could be interpreted as self assuredness. In the past year Salyut is outdoing Saturn in terms of positive coverage of its technical achievements.

Boris Aleshin in Le Bourget once again confirmed the plans of the government to set up two holdings dealing with the development of the combat aviation engines. However, there was one phrase of principle importance which is worthwhile quoting. “We (the government) support the initiative of the private businesses to unite. And the state is ready for uniting with the private businesses and including its assets in a private corporation. However, if private businessmen do not agree (among themselves), and such a probability exists, the Agency on Industry will switch over to creating a single engine-building corporation intended for aviation and energy, keeping in mind that the state is supposed to clearly identify its attitude to the assets it has. In this case we (the government) will act alone and invite private businesses only at later stages.” This is a statement which usually has “no comments” after.

However, there is another very important point to be commented in the same context. Near Paris Sukhoi focused on marketing its today’s most perspective air complex Su-35. This is an aircraft which integrated most of the developments underway for the 5th generation PAK FA, so called generation 4++. It is to compete with the 5th generation US made JSF and F-22, which are likely to come to the international markets earlier than their Russian match. According to Pogosyan first pre-production Su-35 are being finished. Flight tests should begin straight after the aerospace salon in Moscow to finish in 2009 and enter the market. General Director of Sukhoi believes that successful implementation of Su-35 program will allow for “suggesting to the international market a product with the characteristics surpassing everything that has been created so far and it will enable Sukhoi to work on the PAK FA program comfortably”.

Venezuela, China and Brazil as well as a number of the countries of Southeast Asia are considered among first potential buyers of Su-35. Candidate number one is Venezuela. By the time Su-35 is offered at the world market the Air Force of Venezuela will already have full fledged operation and fighting technique of the 24 fighters Su-30MK2, thus being ready for more perfect fighter. With basically the same aerodynamic shape as Su-27/30, Su-35 is a qualitatively new aircraft. It has a new onboard station "Irbis" with passive phased radar which will shortly replaced with AFAR, two more powerful engines AL-41F with thrust control and 14 tons thrust at after burn regime (special regime allows for 14.5 tons thrust), new optic-location station, modern complexes of communication and radio-electronic warfare. The maximum take-off weight of the plane is 34,5 tons. Normal take-off weight - 25,3 tons. Payload – 8 tons. Speed at 18 thousand meters altitude - М=2,25. Flight range at high altitude - 3600 km, at low - 1580 km. Two external fuel tank extend the range to 4500 km, with one refueling in the air - up to 6400 km. An important improvement is refusal from canards, which along with other methods reduced visibility of the plane two times.

Yuri Seleznyov