Another hypersonic weapon system is being created in Russia. It is being implemented as part of the Larchinka-MD development work (ROC). Now the product is at the stage of prototyping, it has not yet entered flight tests. The new missile is designed to equip the Su-57 stealth fighters. Presumably, it will fly at speeds five or more times faster than sound and will become virtually invulnerable to modern air and missile defense systems. According to experts, the main target for the missile will be the sea targets of a potential enemy. In the future, the ammunition will replace the legendary Kh-31 supersonic anti-ship missile in the arsenal of the Russian Armed Forces.
According to the documents that Izvestia has at its disposal, the second stage of the Larchinka-MD development work started in 2019. The lead developer on this topic is Tactical Missile Armament Corporation (KTRV). The so-called product 70 is used as an engine in the rocket. It is being developed by the Soyuz machine-building design bureau, which specializes in power plants for super-high-speed missiles.
“Product 70” is a ramjet engine (ramjet). As a power plant, it is already used in many Russian hypersonic weapons systems, including the Gremlin complex. Currently, the “product 70” is undergoing fire tests.
Sources of Izvestia in the defense department confirmed that hypersonic ammunition is being developed for arming the Su-57. Now it is at the stage of ground testing and flights with mass and size models. The missile will fit into the internal compartments of a Russian stealth fighter.
Izvestia has already written that Russia is simultaneously developing several projects of hypersonic missiles to equip not only heavy missile carriers for long-range aviation, but also lighter aircraft.
“It can be assumed that the Larchinka-MD is a replacement for anti-ship ammunition for operational-tactical aviation,” noted military expert Dmitry Kornev. – It should be a hypersonic missile, probably with a range of several hundred kilometers.
The two letters in the name of the MD missile most likely indicate a short-range ammunition. Melee missiles of the air-to-air class from the same manufacturer had a similar letter designation. But it can be considered “small” only in comparison with other hypersonic samples flying 1000 kilometers or more, the expert noted.
– Most likely, the new development will replace the X-31 family of anti-ship supersonic missiles, which were created in the 1980s. Russia is surrounded by seas and our country cannot do without modern air-to-surface weapons, ”concluded Dmitry Kornev.
Back in 2019, Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko announced the development of a promising anti-ship missile for the Su-57. Work on the key component – the active homing head – was carried out in the Ural Design Bureau “Detal”, which is part of the KTRV.
The fact that Russia is developing a high-speed anti-ship missile of a new generation was announced this year at the International Maritime Defense Show in St. Petersburg by the general director of KTRV Boris Obnosov. According to him, the anti-jamming “smart” ammunition will join the company’s line of aviation weapons.
Hypersound – into the air
In mid-September, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov said that Russia for the first time ever pulled ahead in the field of creating hypersonic weapons. He stressed that now our country has a serious advantage over the leading Western states and they will try to preserve it.
Now in service is only one hypersonic air-launched missile – “Dagger”. A squadron of MiG-31K aircraft with them took up experimental combat duty at the end of 2017 in the Southern Military District. It is known about several more projects of such weapons.
So, in 2013, the then Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force, Colonel-General Alexander Zelin, revealed some details of the creation of lightweight hypersonic missiles. According to him, such an ammunition weighs about 1600 kg and reaches a speed of Mach 6.
In 2012, development work began on the creation of another hypersonic missile with a ramjet engine – the novelty was named “Gremlin”. This ammunition is intended for armament of operational-tactical aviation, including Su-34 bombers. The small size and weight should allow several missiles to be suspended on each aircraft.
Earlier, Alexander Zelin reported that in addition to small hypersonic guided missiles, a much heavier model for long-range aviation, which can reach speeds of up to Mach 12, is also in development. The novelty, on which work started in 2016, was named “Sharpness”. The rocket employs a more powerful ramjet engine known as Product 71 as the propulsion system.
In addition to aircraft carriers, hypersonic munitions are being developed in Russia for the Navy and the Strategic Missile Forces.
Two years ago, US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper acknowledged the United States’ lag behind Russia in hypersonic weapons and called for “every dollar” to be invested in development to close the gap. About a dozen new projects for the creation of such air, sea and land-based missiles were initiated.
This year, at the end of September, the Pentagon announced the first successful test of its own aviation hypersonic missile, capable of reaching Mach 5. The prototype, developed by the advanced research agency DARPA in conjunction with the corporations Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, has become only a demonstration of technology and will not be accepted into service. But future models of ammunition will be created using the received developments.
In the summer, tests began and the first prototypes of the AGM-183A ARRW combat missile, intended for the B-52 strategic bombers. None of the two previously announced tests were successful. In August, the hypersonic munition separated from the carrier aircraft, but its ramjet engine failed to start. Nevertheless, the United States does not doubt the final success and is already creating mass production for its release.
In addition to the Air Force, the US Navy and Army also have their own hypersonic missile projects. They are planned to be deployed in the coming years both on naval carriers and on land-based launchers.
Anton Lavrov, Alexey Ramm
Cover photo: Izvestia / Dmitry Korotaev