Thursday, March 17, 2011

Long Sunset Fighters Mikoyan

RSK MiG has a long and illustrious history. For many decades stands MiG (MiG) has been synonymous with the Soviet / Russian fighter at all. Glory, who came to the Mikoyan Design Bureau during the hostilities in Korea in 1950-1953, respectively, accompanied by his products throughout the Cold War, when aircraft grade MiG formed the basis of Soviet air power, many allies and satellites of Moscow. In the 90 years, the glory began to fade, and today at the words "Russian fighter" above all remember Mark Su. What happened to Mikoyanovsky firm for 20 post-Soviet years, and why it has lost its leading position?

Features of the Soviet industrial management

Pervoprichinu be found in the 70's, when Soviet Air Force, as well as Minaviaprom and research organizations shape the future fighter 4 th generation. MiG and Sukhoi, aircraft, respectively, creating the program PRL (Light fighter front) and PFI (Prospective Frontal Fighter), had to give at the output of the complementary system of two machines, just as in the United States was developing parallel to the prospective multi-F-15 and more easy, cheap F-16.
Soviet and American approaches to a large extent different levels of cooperation between manufacturers of equipment and components, without which the creation of a modern aircraft was impossible. In the United States from the beginning dealt with the possible harmonization of the two programs, especially in the kit, which, inter alia, determined the compatibility of the F-15 and F-16 on power plants. Both cars - and the twin-engine F-15, and single-engine F-16 used a product Pratt & Whitney F100, but later versions were fitted with F110 engines from General Electric. Unification of power plant to a large extent, a general unification of many smaller components that will significantly reduce the cost of upgrading the Air Force as a new technique and its maintenance.

It should be understood that, in fact, Mikoyan Design Bureau was ready to work out a scheme, and even single-engine really takes the appropriate topic, but the organization of aviation industry of the USSR did not allow to optimize the design (as well as subsequent maintenance and operations) of fighters of the new generation in this way. USSR went his own way - under the umbrella KB evolved autonomous vertically integrated structures, to work only on "their" designer. Choosing a CB immediately determined and the inferior part of the whole chain of producers, resulting in the possibility of unification have been rather limited. Logically justifiable, especially in the rising cost of a new generation of machines, the creation of a single-engine fighter with a promising high thrust engine AL-31 as a response to the F-16 was unacceptable to the Soviet industry for organizational reasons. It is they who ultimately determined entirely insufficient degree of commonality between future Su-27 and MiG-29.

It must be noted, and another negative factor: the decision on evaluation of key military-industrial order is often not taken into account neither the opinion of military or considerations developers themselves. Outdated heavy structure of the Soviet defense industry, which aims to produce large batches for multiple redundancy and paralleling the production and development resources, dictating its own conditions. In addition, the system suffered from clinical reluctance to make final decisions that are often conserved in the Sun (and hence in the production lines), competing models of equipment. Examples of this is absolutely unnecessary competition is more than enough in all kinds of military equipment and weapons - from tanks to warships and nuclear submarines. Speaking of the Mikoyan aircraft of recent decades, it is impossible not to mention the MiG-25 and its development - the MiG-31. These fighters, the need for the tasks required by the nature and organization of air defense of the USSR, initially were "incarcerated" under the narrow specialization. And the fact that the MiG-31 still in service, due to only the uniqueness of its characteristics, combined with Russia's need for such an aircraft capable of providing air defense maloosvoennyh huge spaces with sparse airfield network. In the Russian Air Force, he probably will serve more than one decade. Exports are the prospects for the MiG-31, despite the occasional reports of the preparation of a contract with one or another country can be estimated as zero.

In the market whirlpool

However, while the USSR existed, these problems are not particularly worrisome, passing
under the category of theoretical reasoning that "it is possible and otherwise." The real troubles burst out later, when in the 90 years it became clear that the Russian Federation is not physically pull the support of two technologically independent platforms, tactical aircraft, and separately - air defense. It should be noted that by this time almost finished the process of "collapse" of the global aviation industry, in which the number of independent developers and manufacturers of aircraft, both military and civilian, has decreased dramatically. The world has moved to a unified platform that uses standardized components. The life cycle of combat aircraft, including fighter jets, repeatedly increased, the basic process has not so much develop as well thought-out system upgrade platforms that had room for improvement in the deployment of the "market line" package.

In addition, in the 90 years to his full height raise issues of technological barrier for the first time identified are in the late 60's - early 70's it was in the aviation industry as one of the most advanced scientific and engineering terms of technical areas. Further increase of LTH aircraft based on known physical principles and mastered engineering solutions proved to be very expensive and time-consuming, occupying many, many years. Price of machines has increased an order of magnitude with each new generation.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union virtually all programs of national defense industry were ill-sequestration - the multiple cuts in military spending coupled with the general collapse of the manufacturing infrastructure has led to a collapse in output. Under these circumstances, the inevitable steel and a sharp decrease in the number of army and navy, and especially long-range suggests reduction of armaments and military equipment used by Russian forces. Air forces of the Russian Federation were no exception - from their composition almost simultaneously, less than three years, brought nearly all the planes of the third generation and fourth generation of machines markedly diminished. Following a question about the directions of further development of the aircraft, and here as a promising platform was chosen Sukhoi Design Bureau. However, government funding at the time - that to improve the 4-th generation, that of engineering generation of the 5 th - not only did not provide for future development, but did not always cover "the costs of the ongoing vitality." Businesses had to survive on their own in an unfamiliar for them a market economy.

In pursuit of "Cash"

Cash, allowing growth and development, aircraft manufacturers could bring only export contracts, and here the Mikoyan design bureau, it seemed, had every chance - even before the collapse of the Soviet Union's MiG-29 appeared on the air forces of many countries. True, the traditional buyers of Soviet weaponry from Eastern Europe now expressed their desire to purchase domestic equipment, but the possibility of promoting new MiGs to the markets of Asia and Africa seemed to be higher. In 1994, these hopes, we recall, were confirmed by an unexpected and therefore even more significant success: 18 MiG-29 fighters, including two combat-capable Sparky, bought Malaysia, previously used by military aircraft of the Soviet/Russian brands. The total contract value was $ 600 million, and many experts who evaluated this agreement with Kuala Lumpur as a major application for further achievements on the market.

However, after the Malaysian "breakthrough" was a pause. Amid growing popularity of the Sukhoi MiG clearly stalled. Major contracts for the delivery of new aircraft to conclude it was not possible, a significant part of the twenty-ninth, "was exported" from the presence of the Air Force, buyers generally were not the richest third world countries. Explain this gap can only be dismantled in versions of combat aircraft, which are offered on the export of both major Russian developer. "Sukhovskaya" Company back in 1993, after the first success with the sale of Su-27SK China, came to the conclusion that the need for radical improvement of the existing platform. As a "plow horse", which was to pull on his entire structure of the Sukhoi and allied companies, was selected Su-30, on the basis of which began to develop multi-functional machine capable of capabilities, including the impact to compete with the latest developments of Americans, including the F-15E, and only create the "Super Hornet". In this case, managers and engineers "Dry" does not rest on our laurels: money earned from export sales were earmarked for the modernization of the proposed machines - like the Su-30 and Su-27 base. As a result, the end of the 90-ies "Dry" has a wide range of products, which could prompt "sharpen" the tastes and budgets specific buyer. Su-30MK, MCA, MCP, ICC, ICM, MK2, the Su-27SK, the QMS ... A wide choice in conjunction with the constant improvement of financial instruments and after-sales service enable "dry" to become one of the absolute authority on the world aviation market of the past 15 years, and the fighters on the platform of the T-10 - the most sold during the same period.

Tentative hopes

OKB went, it seemed, in a similar way, but their commercial project - the MiG-29SM (CMT) is not earned laurels. Speaking about the root cause of failure, it may be noted that the new fighter, obviously, was not created by the buyer - taking into account its specific needs, "according to the model" - based on "global trends". Understanding the trends of development of combat aircraft was not enough for successful promotion of the market, and here marketing advantage of Sukhoi, which managed to sell on the fact Su-30K/MK India even before this modification "stood on the wing, has played a crucial role.

MiG your buyer is not found, and when the car was eventually created, wishing to acquire it was a little bit. The fact that the MiG-29SMT, adding to the versatility, lost in the LTH. The main drawback of the plane - a small radius of action had to be addressed by increasing the volume of fuel tanks, which resulted in not only increasing the take-off weight, but also the deterioration of the aerodynamic characteristics of fighter aircraft. Meanwhile, the MiG-29 went up significantly in price and close to the Su-30. Of course, the possibility of attack aircraft have increased, but the backlog of much heavier Sukhoi in the range of flight and combat stress played a role. Has affected the already mentioned problem with the propulsion machinery. Decline in orders in the MiG-29 resulted in, among other things a stop to the development of the RD-33 engines. They improved with a significant delay in comparison with products based on the AL-31 engine which is equipped with the Su-27 and its modifications. As a result, the benefits are double-motor scheme has MiG-29 at the start compared to main rivals - American F-16, were leveled. There is no doubt that, had the MiG-29 built in single-engine scheme with the AL-31, his destiny on the world market would have evolved more successfully - through a more modern powerplant, and the unification of the Su-27, which facilitates the simultaneous operation of these machines.

Different role in the fate of the twenty-ninth, "also played a preserved since the Soviet era a rich reserve of almost finished and semi-MiG, which the company hoped to use as" blanks "for export. This version, staged Third World countries which, because of financial constraints, chose to take the repaired planes "of existence, was not fit for sale machinery more or less wealthy nations. The situation was compounded by problems with the kit. Confirmation of this - Algerian scandal, when the above problems were the reason for the return of fighters already received and the rejection of further deliveries.

Nevertheless, hopes for continued development of MiG stayed. They were connected with two machines. This, first of all, talking about an advanced carrier-based MiG-29K, demand for which is guaranteed at least the part of India, whose carriers - both bought from a Russian Admiral Gorshkov (now INS Vikramaditya), and constructed their own - can not carry more overall and heavy aircraft, such as the same "Super Hornet". MiG-29K will appear on the Russian aircraft carrier "Admiral Kuznetsov" after its upgrade, which will begin in 2012. The second "vehicle of hope" was the MiG-35. Equipped with more powerful engines with thrust vector control, received the "glass cockpit" and a wide range of modern weapons, the aircraft finally allowed to talk about is really a new stage of development Mikoyanovsky platform. But now his fate depends largely on the outcome of the Indian MMRCA tender to supply 126 fighters.

In case of MiG-35 will not win this bid or not to win a significant fraction, with very high probability it will be possible to assert that self-development Mikoyanovsky combat vehicle would be in jeopardy. Obviously, the MiG-35 is too expensive for Third World countries against the background presence in the market and used the MiG-29 fighter jets and Chinese J-10 and JF-17. In developed countries, including Russia, the MiG-35 plays primarily a platform of "Sukhoi", which continues to improve. As a result, if in the next year or two MiG-35 will not own the customer, the most likely fate awaiting MiG already a member of the United Aircraft Corporation, - the absorption structures of Sukhoi and the creation of easy fifth-generation fighter, using already available to the aviation holding company developments for the PAK- FA program.

Ilya Kramnik
Published in issue number 7 (373) for February 23, 2011


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