Jan 2, 2022
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Su-35: What is wrong with the Irbis radar? Even the Algerians did not like him

In the photo: a pilot in the cockpit of a Su-35S fighter

In the photo: a pilot in the cockpit of a Su-35S fighter (Photo: Yuri Smityuk / TASS)

According to the unnamed author of the American military magazine Military Watch, Algeria refused to buy the Su-35 only because the problem of integrating the radar system with electronic scanning was not solved on the fighter.

We are talking about radars with an active phased array of the second generation, known in the West as the AESA technology (abbreviation for Active electronically scanned array – active electronic scanning matrix). They say that the Su-35 aircraft are 60% more expensive than the Su-30 due to their “smart gut”, but the “performance of a set of sensors” does not meet the requirements of the time.

What’s this? Information war, or is it the truth about which the top managers of our defense industry “tactfully” were silent in recent years? The talk that the development potential of the Soviet military legacy is not unlimited has been going on for a long time, as well as that the lag in scientific and technological progress could be fatal for Russia.

By the way, this was stated by the President Putin: “It is precisely the lagging that is the main threat and this is our enemy. If we do not reverse the situation, then it will inevitably intensify. It’s like a serious chronic illness that tirelessly, step by step, eats away and destroys the body from the inside. “

So, the American magazine MW reminds that Algeria is invariably the second largest client of Russian arms exports after India and today has the largest defense budget on the African continent, more than double that of its competitor Egypt. For our defense industry, this is the goose that lays the golden eggs.

A year ago, rumors spread in the media, including foreign ones, that it was Algeria that would become the first buyer of the latest Su-57, according to NATO’s Felon classification. This was also hinted at in Russia.

“Chief of Staff of the Algerian Army Said Chengriha received the Director of the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation of Russia Dmitry Shugaev“, Reported the magazine” New Defense Order “. According to the assumption of the Internet resource, the visit of a high-ranking Russian official could be associated with the supply of Felon to this country. In any case, the local state television showed Shugaev with a model Su-57 in his hands, which only fuels rumors about a possible deal to export our newest fighter jet.

Observers and experts believe that Algeria fears the fate of Libya and today needs powerful weapons independent of the West. According to various estimates, including the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), only direct defense spending of this North African country reached 6% of GDP, which is regarded as a pre-war budget.

Now Algeria, according to Military Watch, rejected the purchase of the Su-35 due to the fact that this aircraft did not implement AESA technology. “Such radars were first installed by Japan in 2002, but by the end of the 2010s they became standard for all major fighters produced outside of Russia, reflecting the industry’s lagging behind in Russia itself,” MW emphasizes.

And this happened, the American magazine states, despite the fact that it was in the USSR that more than 20 years before any other country they created radars with a phased antenna array “Zaslon”. Then comes the devastating conclusion: the current state of affairs quite accurately reflects the extent of Russia’s industrial decline since 1991.

But what about the vaunted H035 “Irbis” radar with perhaps the most powerful radiation, reaching at a maximum of 20 kW? It turns out that this station is good for everyone, but it seems to have a huge disadvantage. And it consists in the mechanical turning of the antenna web with a two-degree electrohydraulic drive to increase the beam deflection angle. Meanwhile, in Active electronically scanned array radars, computer control of the antenna array is implemented, as a result of which the radio wave beam is focused in any direction without moving.

US experts argue that AESA is not only faster at detecting targets at long distances, but also much more reliable than “mechanics”. Hence, they say, the best indicators for fault tolerance.

That is so, but in the American community there is a different point of view. For example, the popular science magazine Quizlet states: “Electronic scanning provides faster beam redirection with solid state Tx / Rcvr cells and less maintenance than mechanical scanning. Electronic scanning, however, cannot cover such a large area of ​​space as mechanical scanning, so in certain applications it is combined with mechanical rotation. “

According to an authoritative expert Audroy Powers, in American first-generation active phased array radars, the weak link was the mechanical nature of the system, which did not cope well with targets flying at a speed of 1 MAX ++. Of course, it would be possible to create more advanced mechanical systems, but this would require greater costs and greater plant power.

By and large, the new reality makes it impossible to bypass the antenna inertia and inflexibility of a hydraulic or electromechanical scanning system. In other words, with the help of “mechanics” it is theoretically possible to catch “supersonic”, and then if you are lucky, while “hypersound” is not caught at all.

We also add that the AN / APG-81 radar for the F-35 from Northrop Grumman allegedly attracts the Nobel Prize, which, however, prevents it from being classified. The one that did not allow the Americans to sell the F-22 even to their loyal allies – the Israelis and the Japanese. By the way, Northrop Grumman emphasizes that the fifth generation fighters are equipped with AESA radar systems, which are OEM pulse Doppler radars based on solid-state technologies.

An interesting picture turns out. The Irbis radar, as you know, detects objects flying with supersonic, and the S-500 air defense radar is even capable of intercepting hypersonic targets. But the Americans argue that this is impossible due to only one mechanical nature.

Yes, overseas do not dispute the importance of mechanical reversal (although they are not welcomed from the point of view of fault tolerance), but they argue that solid-state power electronics are indispensable. And one more thing: the Yankees categorically do not want to let go of the AN / APG-77 radar installed on the F-22, but they are pushing hundreds of F-35s with a seemingly more modern AN / APG-81 radar.

All this allows us to think that the Russian defense industry still has at its disposal solid-state technologies Active electronically scanned array, but does not reveal their secrets for the same reason that the Americans do not sell the F-22 for any money.

However, back to where we started. Military Watch suggests that “China could potentially provide either a full-fledged fighter jet with such a radar, or a flanker-compatible AESA radar for Russian-assembled Algerian aircraft.”

Algeria, however, has taken a break and hopes that Moscow will close this position by mid-2020. Taking into account the fact that the Russian military-industrial complex never sells new items, this means that our developers are faced with the urgent task of creating Irbis 2.0 – just like overseas from the AN / APG-77 radar they made an export version of AN / APG-81.

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