Military Aviation


The Russians are looking at new kinds of radars and electro-optical sensor technologies that would be aimed to counter stealth

According to The National Interest, the Russian defense industry is starting to look at concepts for a sixth-generation fighter that would eventually replace the Sukhoi Su-57.

Like the U.S. Military, the Russians are looking at a wide range of concepts which include manned-unmanned teaming, directed energy weapons and hypersonics. Furthermore the Russians are looking at new kinds of radars and electro-optical sensor technologies that would be aimed to counter stealth.

One system under development for the potential new plane is a so-called radio-photonic radar.

“The radio-photonic radar will be able to see farther than existing radars, in our estimates. And, as we irradiate an enemy in an unprecedentedly wide range of frequencies, we’ll know its position with the highest accuracy and after processing we’ll get an almost photographic image of it – radio vision,” said Vladimir Mikheyev, an advisor to the first deputy CEO of the Radio-Electronic Technologies Group (KRET), to TASS news agency.

“This is important for determining the type [of an aircraft]: the plane’s computer will immediately and automatically identify a flying object, for example, an F-18 with specific types of missile armament.”

According to Mikheyev, the new “radio-photonic radar” will operate over a much wider band than conventional radars and should be far more resistant to enemy jamming. Moreover, this new system will be used as an electronic warfare system, datalink and as a communications system.

Prototypes of the new radar have already been built.

“Both the emitter and the receiver have been built on the basis of the experimental prototype as part of the R&D work. All this works and performs the location – we emit an ultra-high frequency signal, it is reflected back and we receive and process it and get the radar picture of an object. We see what we need to do to make it optimal,” Mikheyev said.

“Now a full-fledged mockup of this radio-optical photonic antenna array is being developed as part of the research and development work, which will allow us to test the characteristics of the serial prototype…We will be able to understand what it [the radar] should be, in what geometrical sizes and what its ranges and power should be.”

The Russians expect will also field a new electro-optical sensor along with this new radar.

“A powerful multi-spectral optical system operating in various ranges – the laser, infrared, ultraviolet and, actually, in the optical band, which, however, considerably exceeds the spectrum visible to humans,” Mikheyev said.

The aircraft will also be equipped with directed energy weapons—and fly as part of a swarm of drones. Actually only two aircraft in a flight might be manned, while there would be 20 to 30 unmanned aircraft accompanying those jets.

“One drone in a formation flight will carry microwave weapons, including guided electronic munitions while another drone will carry radio-electronic suppression and destruction means and a third UAV will be armed with a set of standard weaponry,” Mikheyev said.

“Each specific task is solved by different armaments.”

Mikheyev added that the future aircraft will feature a self-defense laser too.

“We already have laser protection systems installed on aircraft and helicopters and now we are talking about developments in the field of powered lasers that will be able to physically destroy attacking missiles’ homing heads,” Mikheyev said.

“Roughly speaking, we’ll be able to burn out ‘the eyes’ of missiles that ‘look at us.’ Naturally, such systems will be installed on sixth-generation aircraft as well.”

Michael Kofman, a research scientist specializing in Russian military affairs at the Center for Naval Analyses, said that while the Kremlin might not have the money to fund such a project, it is important to note that the Russian defense industry is keeping abreast of developments in the tactical aviation field.

“I think the important takeaway is that Russia defense industry recognizes some of the key trends in military science and weapons technology,” Kofman said.

“While they may lack the funding, and some of the defense-industrial base, they’re keeping abreast of what sort of nextgen capabilities might enter the battlefield.”

However as we have recently explained Russia might not need a new aicraft. According to the former head of the Russian Aerospace Force, chief Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev in fact the Sukhoi Su-57 fifth-generation fighter could be turned into a a sixth-generation fighter.

“This is actually a splendid plane and it can embrace both fifth-and sixth-generation features. It has huge modernization potential. Importantly, it is the best among the existing versions by its stealth characteristics. It incorporates all the best that is available in modern aviation science both in Russia and in the world,” he said.

A claim confirmed by Russian defense officials who have repeatedly explained that hardware elements designed for a future sixth-generation fighter, such as flight and navigation systems as well as advanced electronic warfare and radar systems, have been already tested on the Su-57 prototypes.

Photo credit: Alex Beltyukov – RuSpotters Team, Dmitry Pichugin via Wikipedia

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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