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Jan 27, 2021
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Russia creates a plane that can become a “flying coffin”

Russia creates a plane that can become a

Photo: Evgeny Kurskov / TASS

In 2016, the Ilyushin company began work on the creation of the first “flying battery” in the history of Russian aviation, as the aircraft of artillery fire support is unofficially called. R&D was successfully completed. Serious-caliber cannons installed on board the An-12 flying laboratory demonstrated aimed fire, including for moving targets.

In 2019, the Ministry of Defense, having thoroughly studied the results of research and development, showed satisfaction with the results obtained. And from official sources, information spread throughout the media that soon a “flying battery” would appear in the Russian Air Force, which would terrify the enemy. And that development work has already begun.

And suddenly this week a message was received that this aircraft was not suitable, that it was necessary to significantly increase its strike weapons.

So what kind of plane is this?

He has a network of a very specific prototype, an American one, an aircraft for direct support of ground forces on the AC-130 battlefield. It was created in the late 60s on the basis of the A-130 Hercules military transport turboprop aircraft. His main and only weapon is artillery systems of various calibers. The main weapon is a 105 mm howitzer. There are two more guns – a 40 mm caliber and a five-barreled 20 mm submachine gun with a rate of fire of 6000 rounds per minute. The aircraft has a powerful sighting system, which includes several radars and an optical-location system.

Immediately from the factories of the Lockheed company, planes worth $ 140 million (then it was a huge amount of money) were sent to the Vietnam War. And it soon became clear that they could not provide any support to the units of the ground forces on the battlefield. More precisely, they can, but for a very short time, since a clumsy, low-speed transport aircraft operating at low altitude inevitably becomes a victim of a variety of weapons concentrated on the battlefield.

The chronology of losses turned out as follows: May 1969, April 1970, March 1972 (two aircraft), June 1972, December 1972. They were partially shot down by the S-75 air defense system, partly by MANPADS.

After which these aircraft were reoriented to punitive operations against irregular forces. They flew over the jungle for several hours and opened fire at any “movement” they saw, not knowing where the Viet Cong were, where the South Vietnamese soldiers were.

Since then, it is this function that has been assigned to the “flying batteries”, attributing them to the special operations forces, which are designed to participate in low-intensity combat operations against partisans and terrorists with limited combat potential. As such, AC-130 of various modifications “walked” in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, until it got hot there. And this saved the “howitzer aircraft” from significant losses. After Vietnam and to the present, only three aircraft have been lost. One was shot down with the Strela MANPADS. The second crashed due to a piloting error. At the third, a shell exploded in the barrel of the main caliber, the plane was killed.

The residents of Ilyushin decided to make their plane, as they say, in the image and likeness of the American one. This was most evident in the choice of the carrier of artillery weapons. Carrying capacity of “Hercules” – 19 tons. An-12 – 20 tons. Both aircraft began operating in the mid-50s. However, “Hercules” are still being produced, and the production of the An-12 was discontinued in 1972.

That is, all the latest modifications of the AC-130 – U, J and W – are based on newly built aircraft. And the youngest An-12 is already 50 years old. Firstly, it would be extremely reckless to install cannons with a caliber exceeding the aviation one (20 and 30 mm) in aircraft with a depleted resource. Secondly, it would be wrong to take these aircraft, which have already become scarce, from VTA. Because in BTA they are definitely needed, and the benefits of the “flying battery” are highly questionable. Even if we consider that special operations forces have recently appeared in the Russian army.

This year it was reported that it was decided to abandon the use of the An-12 as a base for “flying batteries”. But thirdly, and this is a very painful moment, the replacement of the An-12, which is urgent and necessary, will most likely not appear in this decade. Therefore, we do not have an aircraft for placing artillery systems on it. After all, the Il-76MD-90A, capable of lifting 60 tons into the air, cannot be used for these purposes.

As for the aircraft’s armament, it is inferior to the “American”. The flying laboratory successfully tested the use of two 57 mm cannons. In the process of development of ROC, one or more 30 mm cannons and grenade launchers should also be added to them.

The Ministry of Defense’s dissatisfaction with the progress of the development lies in the demand to supplement artillery weapons with missiles and bombs. Which again stems from, as they used to say in the old days, “servility to the West.” That is, since the AC-130J and AC-130W modifications have bombs and missiles, then we need the same thing.

But does Russia need these planes, even if they are loaded to capacity with the most advanced missile and bomb weapons? And where now they could be used, given the increased vulnerability of transport workers when opponents use not even the most advanced anti-aircraft weapons? It is unlikely that this would be possible in Syria, where the interests of the United States and Turkey converged. And each of these countries thoroughly armed their “friendly” militants.

And besides, Russia, fortunately, did not conduct a ground operation in Syria. So there was no one to support on the battlefield. Well, maybe the Syrian government troops. But for this there is an assault aviation specializing in such activities.

In the Russian Air Force, this type of aircraft is represented by the Su-25 attack aircraft, in the US Air Force – the A-10 Thunderbolt II. Both aircraft, designed to operate in a zone of intense fire, are distinguished by the highest survivability. So, in Afghanistan for every downed “Rook”, as they called the Su-25, there were 80-90 holes. And in some cases, aircraft returned to the base with one and a half hundred holes. An equally impressive indicator of survivability was demonstrated in battle by the “Warthog”, as the A-10 was nicknamed for its unsightly appearance.

At the same time, in contrast to the “flying battery”, attack aircraft have more versatile weapons – freely falling and gliding (adjustable) bombs, unguided missiles, high-precision missiles. It is possible to fight off an attack by enemy aircraft using air-to-air missiles. Use of artillery is also possible. In addition to the standard 30 mm double-barreled cannon, the Su-25 can be equipped with four suspended containers with a twin 23 mm automatic cannon. Ammunition for each container is 260 rounds.

Today, the “Rook” is breathing down the back of the head of the Su-34 fighter-bomber, in which methods of increasing survivability are also used to the fullest.

So it’s not entirely clear: do we need a “flying battery”?

And it is absolutely certain that the replacement for the valiant veteran An-12 is badly needed.

And the promising aircraft should have already been in operation, since the project for the creation of the Il-276 medium transport aircraft began to be unrolled together with India back in 2001. Then, of course, India, as usual, withdrew from the project. And the residents of Ilyushin began to declare that all the cards were confused thereby. However, two years ago it turned out that there were no maps. Because only at the end of 2018, the Ministry of Defense approved the TTZ for this aircraft. From this it follows that with extreme interest in a new medium-sized transport company, no one has touched a finger for almost 20 years.

Rumors are now circulating that the Il-276 will make its first flight in 2023. And this despite the fact that there is no progress in the project. Instead, the company “Ilyushin” is busy creating extremely questionable in terms of the usefulness of “flying batteries”.

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