Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Continued from previous part:

Author describes how copying foreign technology sets the basis of improving domestic goods. He described copying much difficult and technically demanding process. Also he describes the contemporary developments in unmanned technology in Russian aviation schools.

Q- The Chinese are creating new types of weapons - buying equipment and copying. Can we follow that path?

This method, if we want to use it, should be public policy. Because to take and copy - it's not as easy as it seems. It is necessary to effectively understand the entire industry. This applies not only to aviation, but also mining and metallurgy, and instrument-making...

Imagine that we have a Western model, but it has carbon fiber airframe. That is, it involves a technology to produce the composite and the binder, which we do not possess. In order to reproduce it, we need to raise the chemical industry, it is necessary to establish the production technology of the same material with the same quality. Furthermore one must have experience in the climatic tests of these materials. This is the minimum that is needed to copy any sample, otherwise, it may appear as original but will not work.

Q- Is technology theft expensive?

Very much so. But this is a productive way. Since China has reproduced our Su-27 and Su-30. By the way, Tupolev did clone an American B-29 aircraft. This is the airplane, used for Hiroshima bombing. Stalin gave the command to Tupolev to clone the US bomber.The only thing that he allowed to change was the British standard Whitworth thread for the metric Of course, the result was not an exact copy - to repeat this airplane even with minor changes, it was necessary to raise all of our industry: to learn to make new alloys, new machines, new equipment and hardware.

At Yakovlev Museum

Tell you a funny case. In the B-29 was a pipe-hole to the tail pointer. Moreover, none of our designers did not understand why. But just in case the hole was repeated. Much later, meeting at air shows with the "Boeing", people Tupolev inquired why this hole? And it turned out, it was a mistake... there is a hole that was not supposed to be. But it was copied, just like everything else. and under the name of Tu-4 in our army for many years served as a clone of the B-29.

Our aviation industry had a few jerks, associated with producing technologies introduced by the West. For example, what happened after we bought the license for the Douglas DC-3 (Li-2 in the Soviet classification). Because of this we have implemented a lofting-template method. This special technology, advanced at the time, allowed constructing planes using assembly-lines. By the way, not only Li-2, we also reproduced: IL-12, IL-14 - all derived from the old "Douglas."

The second major technological breakthrough we achieved when we began to play with the B-29. The third breakthrough - when Brezhnev negotiated the production in Ulyanovsk of Boeing 747. There are only sporadic events in aviation industry where we copied West, if you want more look at what "Fiat" has done to our automotive industry.

Q- Do we have lagged behind in aviation as well as in the automotive industry?

There is no doubt that we have learned from the West. In the first years of the Institute's my curiosity led me to the library. I took our foreign reference namely Jane's, which was not available in the public domain, and found there an American carrier-based jet company Vought 1947-1949 period. So, this aircraft had ejection seats, pressurized cockpit, radar in the nose, the side air intakes, two rocket booster engine and a hydraulic control system. I knew Soviet Air Force, but what I saw shocked me because we had nothing like that in those times.

While you're right - in theory, it is the West that have borrowed from us. Even before the Revolution Sikorsky developed the largest bomber at the time. In this sense, we were then advanced in air power. but half a century latter began to copy the American bombers ... The revolution destroyed the Aircraft institutes, we were pushed back by decades.

Q- Returning to copy - whether we have a strong industry, can we could go this route?

They could, but we must realize that the copied product is still worse. Because while you are copying your competitor develops and creates a new product. There are two options for how to beat a competitor - having lots of development funds, or beating them at the level of ideas and innovation. The first option does not suit us: in the U.S. annual budget for UAVs, including procurement, developments is about two billion dollars. We do not have such funds. This means that we must focus on ideas that can really provide a competitive edge.

Q- What are your views about technology espionage?

Personally, I do not remember a single positive case how spying helped us in technology attainment. Such reports are often a compilation of the press, and now the Internet.

We have access to foreign technology only if it drops from the sky and we were able to get it. But we often cannot benefit simply because we did not have the necessary level of technology. For example, we came across US UAV "Chukar", during the Vietnam War.

One of them fell somewhere near the Vietnamese coast and was brought to us. For us it had a brilliant yet simple automatic released mechanism. It had a mechanism that separates the landing parachute from the plane to avoid being dragged along the ground by the wind. The parachute was hooked to the cylinder by an interlocking system. When the parachute was deployed the cylinder because of its own weight gradually egress out of the hook's hole and ultimately drops down. Simple but brilliant.

We have a similar device to "Bee" weighed three pounds, resembled a cut-glass tumbler. It had a futuristic camera-ball mechanism, a masterpiece of design ideas.

Ok, so then the "Chukar" was brought to us and we were asked to do the same. It turned out that we cannot. We did not have tools that allowed to achieve a surface finish of the cylinder so that it gradually came out of the hook's hole, without being stuck, but also did not drop drown too quickly. This is the technology game. If we have a forward looking technology breakthrough, we can afford these simple solutions, backed by a very big advantage. And this, I'm sorry, was the back in 1965.

Some Office Work

Q- There are two types of drones: reconnaissance and combat. The recon version is in many countries, fighting version is only in the U.S. and Israel. What kind are those that you are developing?

Both projects are primarily intelligence. In one tender being developed UAV take-off weight of up to one ton, the second tender - up to five tons. Americans have already tested unmanned activity extensively. Killing their enemies using Hellfire and Predator combo. We don't possess attack drones yet. but we are going to create them.

I'll tell you more: strike force - this is just one of the properties of future technologies. But most importantly the future of unmanned systems is different - the ability to perform tasks without human intervention in the course of the operation i.e full-scale artificial intelligence. This is a technology that can make appropriate decisions in the rapidly changing environment without human intervention.

We established the elements of artificial intelligence early in the Sukhoi Design Bureau. But in order to simulate the process of thinking, we must accurately represent it. A science that can not yet boast. This is one of the most interesting problems you don't mind to spend life.

Today all commercial airplanes without the exception can be pilotless. As the Japanese trains that go long without a driver. The Japanese, of course, worried, so in the driver's seat they put a doll, and she calms down passengers. Today the technology developed so that, in order to fly from point A to point B, a pilot is not needed. All these algorithms are executed. much better than the pilot's thinking.

The pilot is only needed to make a decision in an irregular situation: in the event of an accident, under the changed conditions of the flight, which can not be programmed. There, there is a "tree" emergencies that today's computing power is not enough to calculate or analyse. It is impossible to put the aircraft on each supercomputer. Pilot will be required until we solve the problem of artificial intelligence, machine does not sort out of trillion versions of circumstances that can develop, but to think of as men and to instantly make decision.

That's the path that will develop unmanned systems. This task is much more important than engines, materials, electronics, etc. Then the drone will be independent, even without communication with the operator to react to a radical change in the situation in the course of the mission - in combat, for example.

Q- Can we now, at least to approach these problems?

Not now. But the whole world working on it. The Americans have even a prize - a million dollars robot that will solve a simulation specific task without operator intervention comes from point A to point B in a changing environment. Now we're working on more primitive tasks.

Q- So you at present fulfilling orders from Ministry of Defence?

Of course. I'll tell you, we work on different tasks- at the same time manage large groups of aircraft. Have you ever wondered, of controlling a flock of birds or a swarm of bees?

Our goal - to teach drones to fly like a flock of birds. Then we will be able to manage one device, and the rest will be managed by the technology. If the leader dies for some reason, the function of alpha male will automatically go to the next. and so it will be continue until the last unit is alive. In military operations it is a very important technique that no one posses as of now. Virtually indestructible chain of command, indestructible thing. That's where we go, doing things that in terms of the future may be primitive. But when you start to move, it is important to see the ultimate goal.


Nicholas Dolzhenkov. Born in 1956 in the town of Berezniki Perm. He graduated from the Moscow Aviation Institute.

In 1980 he joined the OKB. Yakovlev, in 1998 became the first deputy general director of design bureau.

In 2001-2003 - chief designer of the Sukhoi Design Bureau. In the 2003-2009-m - CEO Yakovlev Design Bureau. Yakovlev.

Honored Constructor of Russia. Chief Designer of UAVs, "Bee." The chief designer of military training aircraft Yak-130, which is considered the first new (and not modernized version of existing models) plane, constructed and launched into production in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Since 2010 he has headed the direction of unmanned aerial vehicles namely "Transas".


I’m impressed, I must say. Really rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. Your idea is outstanding; the issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this in my search for something relating to this.

The very aim of this blog is to share Russian technical articles one can't find elsewhere, having engineering background myself I carefully mingle machine translation as well as my expertise & then deliver the final product...thnx for sharing

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