New fighter orders, UAVs, and a new bomber


The MIG-35 is set to undergo a slow start in both production and introduction to RuASF service. Only six aircraft are expected to have entered service by the end of 2019; 14 more are expected be ordered in 2020, deemed enough to equip the first front-line squadron.
Alex Mladenov

THE RUSSIAN Ministry of Defence looks set to place the first significant order for productionstandard fifth-generation Su-57 fighters, and an order for MiG-35s fighters is also expected.

New MiGs, new Sukhois

According to the Russian state-run news agency TASS, the longawaited Su-57 order will number 13 aircraft. A proportion are expected to be powered by the so-called second-stage engine with a significantly increased thrust rating (known as izdelye 30) compared to the first-stage AL-41F1 afterburning turbofan that powers the prototypes and the initial-production examples. The Su-57s will be produced at Sukhoi’s KnAAZ plant in Komosmolsk-on-Amur, as TASS hinted on January 16, and are forecast to be delivered over a fiveyear period.

However, the expected 13-aircraft order is not the first for productionstandard Su-57s; the first such order was placed in August 2018 for just two aircraft, each powered by AL- 41F1 engines.

According to the Russian Deputy Minister of Defence, Aleksey Krivoruchko, the first of them, dubbed T-50S-1, is slated to be rolled out at KnAAZ this year. Aircraft S-1 will be taken on strength by the Russian Air and Space Force (RuASF). Aircraft S-2, the second one, is slated for delivery in 2020.

In terms of the number of aircraft ordered, this new Su-57 contract is insignificant for Russia’s cuttingedge fighter with a strike potential, and is perhaps an indication that the long-delayed programme remains in its test and evaluation phase.

Aircraft S1 and S2, and the subsequent 13 in the second order will be mainly involved in field testing, development of tactics and for training an initial cadre of instructor pilots at the RuASF centres at Akhtubunsk and Lipetsk. According to the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, an independent defence think tank, full-rate production of the Su-57 is not expected to be given the go-ahead before 2026 and funded by Russia’s next state armament programme, set to run from 2026 to 2035.

The RuASF also plans to take on strength four newly-built MiG-35S single-seat multirole fighters this year; two MiG-35UB two-seat fighters entered service in late 2018. All six Fulcrums are included in the first production contract for the MiG-35, signed between the Russian MoD and Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation in August 2018.

Just like the first two batches of production-standard Su-57s, the six MiG-35s will be used for field testing and evaluation, and aircrew training. According to TASS, a follow-on contract covering 14 more MiG-35s, is expected to be signed in 2020 and delivered within three years.

Advanced UAVs

The Russian MoD has accelerated its efforts to field two new longendurance unmanned air vehicle systems, the first of which is expected to enter experimental testing in 2019, while the other two will begin flight testing in the first half of the year.

The Orion, developed under the MoD-funded Inokhodets programme, is the first Russianmade Medium Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) class UAV designed for a wide variety of military applications. In December 2018, Russian Deputy Minister of Defence, Aleksey Krivoruchko told Zvezda, Russia’s military TV channel, its flight testing is in the final stages and the first deliveries of production-standard systems are planned for this year.

In addition to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance applications, the Orion MALE is also touted for strike missions using three different types of guided munitions offered by Kursk-based Aviaavtomatica in 2017; the first munition weighs 25kg, the other two weigh 50kg each.

Developed by the privatelyowned Kronstadt Group of St Petersburg the Orion’s configuration includes outward canted tailfins, a 1,200kg (2,645lb) take-off weight, a range of 135nm (250km), ceiling of 24,600ft (7,500m), maximum speed of 107kts (200km/h), and an endurance up to 24 hours.

Krivoruchko has also revealed details about the status of a second UAV under development for the Russian military dubbed Altius, which is classed as a High Altitude, Long Endurance (HALE) system. Following a major upgrade, the Altius prototype is expected to recommence its flight testing in May or June.

The Orion UAV’s test and evaluation programme went fairly smoothly and the new system is expected to enter experimental service in 2019. Fielding of the armed derivative is believed to be a few years away.
Kronstadt Group
Zvezda TV/ Russian Ministry of Defence

He admitted the Altius-M programme has incurred a slight delay in its development schedule but noted that the Russian Ministry of Defence exercises a high degree of control over work on this system.

As a system, Altius-M uses the Altair air vehicle powered by two diesel engines, each rated at 250shp, with a 5,000kg (11,020lb) take-off weight, a range up to 5,400nm (10,000km), ceiling of 39,360ft (12,000m), weapon payload up to 2,000kg (4,400lb), and an expected endurance up to 48 hours.

Originally designed by the Kazanbased Simonov Design Bureau, in cooperation with the Kronstadt Group, the Altair reportedly made its maiden flight in July 2016 from the KAZ Gorbunov aviation plant airfield in Kazan.

The programme encountered unspecified difficulties and its further development, testing and series production will now be undertaken by the Ural Civil Aviation Works in Yekaterinburg, which transferred Altius development and testing work to its newlyestablished branch at Kazan.

Altius is the first Russian-made MALE UAV system, but its development continues at a slow pace; fielding into military service has yet to be time-lined.
Russian Ministry of Defence