Beriev A-50: Early warning, Russian style

The A-50 developed by the Beriev design bureau in Taganrog is the only Russian airborne early warning aircraft in service. Piotr Butowski describes its present upgrades and future replacement

At the heart of the A-50’s capabilities is the E-821 Shmel (bumblebee, or izdeliye R) mission system.

Shmel is built around a radar of the same name, one that operates in the S-band (7.5-15cm wavelength), with an additional passive direction-finding channel. The radar antenna measures 10 x 1.6m (32ft 9in x 5ft 2in) and is housed in a 10.8m (35ft 5in) diameter rotodome that at its thickest measures 2m (6ft 6in), mounted on two streamlined struts 3.2m (10ft 5in) above the fuselage, revolving once every ten seconds.

After its upgrade to U-model standard, Beriev returned A-50U RF-93952, side number 45, to the Russian Air Force on December 6, 2018.

The radar antenna has three sections: a central metal torque box and two symmetric dielectric fairings, one of which houses the Shmel radar antenna and the other both the IFF antenna and the command radio antenna.

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