The latest Russian Su-57 fighters are being combined into a single information network to suppress enemy air defense systems. Four fifth-generation aircraft with reduced radar visibility are involved in the sky over Ukraine. They were originally created to conduct combat operations in a single cyberspace with drones, space satellites and ground guidance points.
The creation of this kind of information network – a kind of “Skynet” from films about the terminator robot – happened with the help of an automatic communication and switching system for air strike complexes. This is how data is transmitted, navigation and identification are carried out in real time. Combining boards in a single computer space increases the efficiency of identifying and hitting targets, Rossiyskaya Gazeta reports with reference to the RIA Novosti news agency.
Major General, Head of the Federal Directorate of Aerospace Search and Rescue under the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, Honored Military Pilot of Russia Vladimir Popov said that this practice of combat use is well known:
– We have been working according to this scheme for a long time – the MIG-31s, as long-range interceptors, and the SU-57 – more unified aircraft – for tactical purposes. In addition, they are still positioned as “fifth generation aircraft.” We have already used them alone: we tried them in Syria, and there were sorties over the territory of a neighboring state, two months ago already during a special operation in Ukraine. And today they performed flights in a group of four, a “link” consisting of two pairs.
The meaning of such a flight lies in the fact that fifth-generation aircraft have received the ability to control in a fully automated system of aviation and ground infrastructure. Coordinates are being transferred for retargeting and performing tactical tasks against air targets. These are Bayrkatar and other drones, as well as aircraft of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU). You can also strike at ground targets with various methods and tactics.
SP: – The task, probably, was to work out in practice those elements that have already been worked out at the training ground, but not quite in the conditions of real hostilities?
– Still, in Ukraine there is a slight opposition from the air defense. There is also good focal air defense, which should be feared without fail, bypass, maneuver, use forces and means of electronic warfare (EW). You can strike at them with ground systems, and already aviation is finalizing. This issue still needs to be researched.
Today we have a few SU-57s in units – about two squadrons. But we are gaining experience in their operation both on the ground and in the air. The technical staff prepares the aircraft for flight on certain tactical missions, and the flight crew is gaining experience in using this aircraft.
Among the tactics are group flight and control of the lead aircraft, the commander – all the weapons located on four sides. The commander can make a decision for all the pilots at once or give a command to each individually – to complete his own, predetermined task.
“SP”: – From your words it turns out that so far these are only experimental flights, and not full-fledged combat use as part of a special operation in Ukraine?
– These are one-time flights. Mass application cannot be for two reasons. First, there are few such fifth-generation aircraft. Second, we have 4++ generation aircraft. For example, Su-30SM, and Su-35. MiG-35, created on the basis of the MiG-29, with a deep modernization. In terms of their tactical and technical characteristics, in terms of combat potential, they are practically the same fifth-generation aircraft. Therefore, we are in no hurry today to start mass production of fifth-generation aircraft with the adoption of the Russian Aerospace Forces.
We don’t often send fifth generation aircraft into combat. For example, two months ago, we flew single SU-57s and in pairs, both air and ground targets. Among other things, near Nikolaev, they stopped the functioning of the bridge, hitting its support with high-precision weapons, as they say “bull”. As a result, the bridge sank. And when the Russian Armed Forces and engineering troops took control of the territory, they quickly raised the structure on jacks and put the bridge back into operation at minimal cost. The same thing happened to us with a bridge near Kharkov.
This time, most likely, we tested the system, how it works in automatic, semi-automatic, or “director” mode, interacting with the air defense systems of our ground forces. On the territory of a neighboring state, they go on the offensive or are engaged in the localization of one or another enemy grouping – there are also several boilers there. Here aviation is finalizing and processing these enemy military formations.
A complex task was solved and, as far as I know, the results were quite good – we won’t brag, but there is such information.
“SP”: – How much does the air defense, as you say, of a neighboring state interfere with the actions of our aviation, as well as the work of American spy satellites, information from which is provided in large quantities to the Armed Forces of Ukraine?
“Both the Americans and the united Europe are working very well against us. They provide the Armed Forces with space and air reconnaissance information, as well as spatial and temporal positioning. The GPS system – on their side – works well.
This is the point of experimental flights – to determine the real opposition. It’s one thing – at the training ground, when the situation is simulated, another when the factor of surprise operates.
Here, the meaning of the time indicator for decision-making is significantly reduced. You need a minimum delta-T time to make the right decision. This is helped by highly intelligent automation, which calculates which weapon, for which initial target it is advisable to use. The pilot will need more time for all this. But he makes the final decision, we do not fully trust automation, which works well, but should be under the control of the human mind.
“SP”: – I involuntarily recall “Skynet” and “terminators” from science fiction films. And has our strike unmanned aircraft proven itself well?
“These are sixth-generation aircraft. We have some of this – the Okhotnik S-70 aircraft. It exists in a small number of copies and is also tested, performing tasks in Ukraine. In particular, it flies together with the SU-30SM and Su-35. We are trying.
There are different ideologies for creating aircraft. Many have heard about the fourth, fifth generation and, finally, the sixth generation of aircraft. The fourth, as well as 4++ – is different from the fifth. But the meaning of these differences themselves is also different – for us and for the Americans.
They have low visibility in the first place, then comes the combat potential for the use of airborne weapons, and not third – maneuverability.
And for us, maneuverability is in the first place, and today we are talking about our high degree of maneuverability. The Americans call it “supermaneuverability”. In second place is our combat potential, the ability to use weapons of different generations, both guided missiles and bombs: free-falling, adjustable and guided – the whole gamut. Stealth in our fifth-generation aircraft is in third place.
In fifth-generation aircraft, coverage matters a lot. This became clear on the example of the F-35 and F-22 Raptor. It must be changed regularly. And if they are stored for a long time in the summer sun, then after one and a half to three months, the coating on modern American aircraft is destroyed. Therefore, they have to be stored in hangars at certain temperatures and repaired from time to time, restoring the surface to reflect and partially absorb radar beams. This is facilitated by different surface angles, which scatter the radar beams.
We are also trying to do this, but we use the electronic warfare system more – electronic suppression, enemy detection and closing airspace with electronic warfare systems. This happens as needed, pointwise or along the detected beam.
Let’s say the locator beam captured the plane and immediately on this beam – strike back. So we reduce the efficiency of the locator of a particular enemy. As a result, they see a “white spot” on the display. In short, we have slightly different approaches. But the Americans, by the way, recognized the correctness of ours and taught him in their design work.
“SP”: – The Americans promise to soon release a highly intelligent aircraft of the sixth generation with navigation and combat systems. With a “virtual pilot” inside.
– They will also have a live pilot who will control the operation of the autopilot. He will fly as a “passenger” just in case, to correct the operation of the automation. What can you do, very soon the “terminators” will fly.
And our sixth-generation aircraft will be both manned and unmanned – outwardly it will become very difficult to distinguish them. You won’t understand with a pilot he flies or without. This is especially important in threatened directions, where air defense forces and means are working very actively, and the importance of the life of a pilot increases many times. We may lose an expensive complex machine, but save the life of a pilot who completes the task.
The S-70 Okhotnik also differs very sharply from the 4++ generation aircraft from the Su-30-SM, Su-35 and from the fifth generation Su-57. They can still be identified in the air using various radar or optoelectronic systems.
And the sixth generation will be special in appearance, performance characteristics and combat potential. Let’s say in a group one two planes with pilots, and three four – unmanned. And you can’t tell them apart. This is the meaning of future changes. And the four that took off in the sky over Ukraine is a harbinger of future sixth-generation aircraft.