Monday, April 18, 2011

Flying Radar in the Past and Present - Part II

by Ilya Kramnik

Continued…. read the last issue

By the end of 60's AWACS aircraft firmly taken their place in the Air Force's leading countries in the world. Without “flying radars” bypassed not one large-scale air operation. At the same time disadvantages of first generation AWACs severely limits their opportunities. Especially critical was the inability to detect low-flying targets.

Sunset "vigilant" stars

1April 5, 1969. The western part of the Sea of Japan. AWACS aircraft WV-2 (EC-121)Warning Star first reconnaissance squadrons (VQ-1) U.S. Navy aircraft, flying about 80 kilometers off the coast of the DPRK, in the port area Chhondzhin spotted two planes the Air Force Korea, rising from a military airfield. Scout crawled in a northeasterly direction, and noticed them fighters soon began to decline and disappeared from radar screens. The plane, whose task was to patrol the airspace, and along with the discovery of Soviet workers and North Korean radio-electronic systems, continued its flight - the distance that separated WV-2 from the air borders North Korea, inspired Lieutenant Commander Overstreet false sense of security.

Twenty-odd minutes later, North Korean aircraft were seen again. Two MiG-17 climbed almost vertically from the surface of the sea, glittering in the sunlight unpainted duralumin. In contrast to the stuffed variety of electronics WV-2; MiG in terms of equipment far away from the aircraft of the Second World: the only means of detection of targets were the eyes of their pilots, but nothing is no longer needed - a huge silhouette of a converted "super conformal" clearly projected against a background of clear sky and for the four powerful turbo propellers stretched treacherously bright condensation trails.

MiGs turned around and went on an unarmed target, as a training ground by attacking a flying radar, which could only beat the broadcast message for the post. Countered six guns of the two fighters WV-2 could not get anything, and soon the sky over the Sea of ​​Japan flourishing black ball of fiery explosions, and the surface water fountains dotted the variegated raised by the falling debris of an enormous machine.

WV-2 (EC-121) aircraft displayed the main drawback of AWACS early generations: its radar has very limited capability to detect targets at the surface and dangerous approach of fighter aircraft AWACS detected when the MiGs were in the vicinity and went on the attack.

The incident in the Sea of ​​Japan became a formidable signal for the U.S. and the USSR, an additional confirmation of the fact, which has already manifested itself in Vietnam: the height of combat employment of tactical aviation have begun to shrink. Aircraft went down "under the" arc of fire anti-aircraft missile systems, and machine AWACS could not guarantee the timely detection of even a massive raid (squadron or more), not to mention the small tactical units (steam unit) and individual machines.

In addition, the obsolescence of early generations AWACS  have accelerated the following factors: near-supersonic speed, and drum machines that have become standard at the turn of the 50's and 60's, have sharply reduced flying time, and as a consequence - decision time. The old concept of military applications, according to which the AWACS aircraft transmitted data to ground control centers, where management was carried out battle, became unfit - supersonic goal could withdraw from the detection zone before information about it will be transferred to the interceptors. Finally, the management of the battle would have been unthinkable without the electronic monitoring of activity of the enemy. In this case, was required to ensure the reduction of incoming information into a single, easy to understand and handle an array which imposes different requirements for computing equipment machines AEW. The new machine was to become not just a flying radar, but a full-fledged airborne command post. AEW aircraft converted into AWACS.


First Steps "Time"

Elaboration of a new generation AEW system began in the U.S. in 1963. Experimental radar capable of detecting targets against a background of earth, and other equipment are promising vehicles were tested on modified EC-121. In 1968 the Pentagon contracted with companies, Boeing and McDonnel Douglas in a full-scale development of media radar in the contest for AWACS aircraft. Both firms offered as platforms upgraded passenger liners Boeing-707-320S and DC-8-62 radar in both projects envisaged to place in a rotating radome mounted on pylons above the fuselage. However, the chances of Boeing were initially higher - 707 platform has already been used for the manufacture of the KC-135 refueling tankers and reconnaissance RC-135, however, to determine the carrier was easier than to choose one of two competing radar.

By 1972, two Boeing 707 were converted to EC-137D - prototypes of AWACS, they mounted the radar of companies Westinghouse and Hughes. Evaluation test radar lasted for six months, based on their results to better recognize the station firm Westinghouse. In 1974, the prototype EC-137D was additional equipment to the pre-series E-3A aircraft. Just a test involves three pre-series cars. They were to become the first harbingers of AWACS - airborne warning and control system, now often referred to as airborne early warning and control (AEW & C).

Tests of the E-3 in the U.S. Air Force began in 1975 at the airbase, "Tinker" (Oklahoma) in the 552th wing command and control. Subsequently, it will become the main base of American E-3. In 1977 the first production E-3, modified by the instructions of the Air Force, went into operation. The range of detection of low-altitude targets depending on conditions was from 200 to 400 kilometers, high-altitude purposes E -3 it could rest in bed at a distance more than 600 kilometers.

The main weapon of E-3A Sentry  became the APY-1 radar, coupled with the computer system CC-1, which employed nine operators. In addition to the two pilot EC-137D with the same equipment were produced in 1923 production machines and one E-3A, which received an advanced radar APY-2 and CC-2 computer. In the second half of the 80's 22 E-3A and two EC-137D finalized standard E-3B, getting a new computer system, 14 jobs instead of 9 operators and additional equipment for the detection of surface targets. This allowed us to use the E-3 as a maritime patrol aircraft. The remaining two E-3A, in addition equipped with a new system of anti-interference, became prototypes of an improved version of AWACS - E-3C. In what the U.S. Air Force received a further 8 of these machines. Currently in operation in the U.S. Air Force's remaining 22 aircraft E-3B and 10 of the E-3C. Two U.S. AWACS have been lost in the crash - in 1995 and 2009.


The basis of NATO air power

A total of 1977-1991 years in option E-3 converted 68 aircraft B-707, of which 34 went to U.S. allies and satellites. 18 aircraft E-3A + (they were based in Germany, but officially were registered in Luxembourg, the Air Force, who had no other military aircraft) formed the basis of a unified system of European NATO AWACS. One of these machines has been lost in an aircraft accident in 1996. Seven aircraft E-3D, get British engines and some advanced equipment, went to the United Kingdom. As part of RAF E-3D at the turn of 80-90ies have replaced aircraft Avro Shackleton AEW – powered by 4 piston driven engines, equipped with radar AN/APS-20, the very same from which, in fact, began the history of AWACS. Four aircraft E-3F, in general, echoing the British version, entered service in France. Finally, five E-3A aircraft were Air Force Saudi Arabia.

AWACS is actively used in various operations, the final phase of the Cold War and still in use today. Finest hour E-3 was the first Gulf War, when the system is fully proven its ability to work in difficult circumstances. For 400 sorties (5000 hours flown), they provided more than 120,000 sorties Aviation multinational force. Under the control of the operators E-3 were shot down 38 out of 40 Iraqi planes and helicopters, destroyed in aerial combat. For the first time control of air operations is fully carried on board the AWACS aircraft. The jurisdiction of the ground command posts were only strategic planning and management.

In the future E-3 is constantly patrolling the airspace near the border of Iraq, controlling the so-called no-fly zones in the north and south.

For all its efficiency system was not immune from mistakes. One of them was the destruction of April 15, 1994. F-15 shot two friendly helicopters UH-60 of U.S. Army. Action fighter managed to board the E-3, whose operators incorrectly identified the target as the Iraqi Mi-24. As a result, 26 people died. Investigation concluded that the main cause of the incident was the fatigue of the crew of Radio Engineering E-3, many members who are traveling more than 200 days, with implications for morale and the level of concentration. The result was the order of the Minister of Defense to reduce the length of military service E-3, increasing the number of operators on board and develop the training of operators.


Soviet AWACS

Those deficiencies, which were recorded in the first AWACS aircraft in the Air Force and Navy, were also characteristic of the first Soviet AWACS aircraft - the Tu-126. Some improvement in the equipment of the machine and reducing the height of a standard patrol up to 500 meters and below were palliative. And in 1969 decided to establish a new set of AEW "Bumblebee", able to work efficiently at low-flying targets. Analysis were that the Tu-142M, Tu-154 and Tu-126. Tu-142M were rejected because it was difficult to properly place the equipment complex "Bumblebee" because of the small diameter of the fuselage, although the Air Force insisted on this plane.Tu-154 did not come as demanded substantial modifications the basic design and differed relatively short duration of the flight. Most suitable they considered strictly Tu-126, but since its production by that time rolled up and entire rigging they dismantled, this selection remained hypothetical.

However, as the first prototype Tu-126 finally used to test complex "Bumblebee". The results obtained showed a requirement to design a new plane, and as an option has been prepared preliminary design an entirely new Tu-156 ("156") with four D-30KP engines, similar in its basic layout decisions to the American E-3A. Such a radical proposal to EDO was not accepted, the customer insisted on using one of the production aircraft. As a result, the choice fell on the draft Air Force A-50, providing for the use of mass transport Il-76MD.

Alteration of transport aircraft in the role of AEW was charged OKB Beriev Taganrog. The developer of the complex equipment made all the same NII-17, now known as the concern of Vega. Characteristics of the Soviet complex were close to the capabilities of E-3, which the A-50 only slightly inferior to the maximum detection range and number of aircraft under management. Maritime targets are detected by A-50 at the distance of 400 kilometers. Number of simultaneously tracked targets - 50-60 (the improved version - up to 150 targets), both induced fighters - 10-12.

It is believed that the A-50 superior to earlier versions of the E-3 for the purposes of detection against the background of the earth. However, insufficient number of control channels and operators of places severe limitations on the machine and does not fully realize the potential of the installed equipment.

Serial production of aircraft A-50 began in 1984, and officially adopted it into service in 1989.Just a variant of the A-50 was converted more than 30 IL-76, 19 of which are part of the Russian Air Force. Two aircraft of this type are placed in the late 80's to Iraq, three aircraft, advanced with Israeli avionics and bought India. Russian Air Force currently developed an improved modification of the machines A-50U, and over the next 10 years to the standard drill is planned to finalize all the A-50.


Prospects for Development

The possibility of "Bumblebee" (Beriev A-50), as well as E-3, you can use them as an air command and control centers that manage interspecific groups, providing the interaction of aircraft, warships, coastal armament. Improving the Early Warning System is carried out mainly in the direction of increasing its immunity, increasing the number of channels targeting and expanding the range of goals: with little additional equipment, these machines can become part of a missile defense system, timely detecting missile launch as the thermal trace, and with the help of radar. Such use of AWACS aircraft can significantly increase the field of missile defense systems, giving their calculations more time to prepare to intercept.

"Big" AWACS aircraft in the Air Force major powers are only part of the ramified family of machines. Ever since the 50's prominent role played by "flying radar" on the basis of light and medium aircraft that are used on the decks of aircraft carriers and Air Force small states.Technological advances, entailing the miniaturization of radio-electronic equipment, will significantly enhance their capabilities over the past half a century, and today the AWACS aircraft, based on medium and light platforms form a significant proportion of these machines.On them will be discussed in the third part of the article….


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