Advanced AFAR radars for combatant and prospective MiGs: unprecedented potential for aerospace upgrade (part 1)

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Advanced AFAR radars for combatant and prospective MiGs: unprecedented potential for aerospace upgrade (part 1)
Advanced AFAR radars for combatant and prospective MiGs: unprecedented potential for aerospace upgrade (part 1)


Integration of modern airborne radars with passive and active phased array systems into their avionics is an integral part of the comprehensive modernization of 4th generation tactical fighters to the level of machines with "two pluses", which always requires the introduction of high-tech digital interfaces for control and information conversion from new on-board radars. Recognized leaders in this area are Russian, American, European, as well as Chinese aerospace giants, which today are carrying out multi-level modernization of fighters of the Su-30, MiG-29, F-15C, F-16C, J-10B, J-15 families. as well as the EF-2000 "Typhoon". Let's start with those corporations whose programs have already managed to distinguish themselves both by the greatest export success and by the demand among internal customers, some of which are involved in work on these contracts. Say what you like, but the current favorite here is the US-based company Northrop Grumman, which supplies state-of-the-art onboard radars to Lockheed Martin as part of external and internal sales of upgraded F-16C / D and upgrades of F-16A / B modifications.

So, for example, on January 16, 2017, at the facilities of the Taiwanese company Aerospace Industrial Development Corporation in Taichung, an ambitious program was launched to upgrade 144 F-16A / B Block 20 multirole fighters, which are in service with the Taiwan Air Force, to the level of F-16V. The contract for the modernization work was signed between the Ministry of Defense of Taiwan and Lockheed Martin on October 1, 2012. It provides for the expanded re-equipment of the F-16A / B to a more advanced digital element base, advanced cockpit display equipment, as well as onboard complexes, including the AN / APG-83 SABR onboard AFAR-radar (with a synthetic aperture mode), new large-format LCDs MFI for displaying tactical information, a modern high-performance on-board computer and a new integrated electronic warfare station. The successful signing of this contract was facilitated by the long-term military-political tension between Taipei and Beijing, which was established due to disagreements over the territorial affiliation of Taiwan. In connection with this situation, the power department of the latter has embarked on the implementation of numerous defense programs to protect against a possible "expansion" of the PRC.

The second customer of a similar upgrade package for its F-16Cs was the Singapore Ministry of Defense. Despite more or less normal relations with the PRC, the richest city-state of Southeast Asia maintains very close political and defense ties with the United States, Great Britain and Australia, which are one of the main participants in the "anti-China axis." For this reason, Singapore pays maximum attention to the combat potential of its Air Force, which is already armed with 32 heavy tactical fighters of the 4 ++ generation F-15SG. The vehicles are equipped with a powerful AN / APG-63 (V) 3 AFAR radar with a typical target detection range of 165 km, and their overall characteristics correspond to the Qatari and Arabian modifications of the F-15QA and F-15SA. As for the contract for the improvement of the Singapore F-16C / D, it will upgrade 32 single-seat F-16C and 43 two-seat F-16D in the amount of $ 914 million. The third verified customer can be considered the Air Force of the Republic of Korea, which on October 22, 2015 signed a contract with Lockheed Martin to upgrade 134 F-16 Block 32 fighters to the F-16V level in the amount of $ 2.7 billion. The set of options is similar to the Taiwanese contract. Thus, only the Taiwanese, Singaporean and South Korean contracts for the upgrade of 353 "Falcon" are already estimated at $ 7.1 billion, not taking into account the possibility of starting such work to re-equip the Air Forces of Poland, Denmark, Turkey, etc. What gives the promising radar with AFAR AN / APG-83 SABR multipurpose fighters F-16A / B / C / D.

Firstly, it is a significantly greater detection range of air targets: an object with an RCS of 2 m2 can be detected and escorted at a distance of 150-160 km and captured at a distance of about 125 km. Much smaller targets are being tracked than the conventional AN / APG-66 airborne radar with a slot antenna array (SHAR). The modern high-performance computing base AN / APG-83 SABR allows each AFAR APM (or APM groups) to operate at its own frequency, simulating a complex radiation pattern in LPI ("low signal interception") mode for outdated Birch-type open source systems. Also, AFAR has several times higher noise immunity and resolution when scanning water / sea surfaces in the synthetic aperture mode (SAR). The station of the previous generation AN / APG-68 (V) 9, although it has a SAR mode, its resolution is very mediocre and does not allow classifying small-sized ground targets based on their geometric features.

Secondly, the AN / APG-83 has a much higher throughput (at least 20-30 VC in the SNP mode), a target channel (8 targets fired at the same time), as well as hardware adaptability for using part of the receiving-transmitting AFAR modules as emitters radio-electronic interference. The latter option also found application in the AN / APG-81 radar of the 5th generation F-35A fighter. Thirdly, like every radar with active AFAR, AN / APG-83 has many times more reliability (MTBF). And even after the failure of a part of the anti-aircraft gun, the efficiency of the station remains at a level that allows it to carry out a combat mission. All AN / APG-83 SABR radars entering the foreign and domestic arms markets are at the level of initial combat readiness EMD, which is fully consistent with large-scale production of products.

Similar programs are underway by European groups of companies specializing in aerospace technologies. These programs include the design and testing of a promising AFAR-radar "Captor-E". The well-known European companies "Selex Galileo", "Indra Systems" and "EADS Defense Electronics" ("Cassidian"), united in the "Euroradar" consortium, are involved in the work. The "Captor-E" station was specially designed to replace the aging SCAR ECR-90 "Captor-M" radar on part of the EF-2000 "Typhoon" multipurpose tactical fighters, which are in service with the air forces of European NATO member states, as well as the air forces of the Arabian Peninsula.; it will also be installed on new modifications of the IPA5 / 8 machine.

The performance parameters of the new radar, in comparison with the previous "Captor-M", are unique not only in the modernization line of "Typhoons", but also among the American programs for the implementation of AN / APG-63 (V) 3 and AN / APG-83 SABR in avionics "Iglov" and "Falconov". "Captor-E" has a technical feature that is rare for AFARs: the antenna array is not fixed on a fixed module, but is equipped with a specialized azimuthal rotation mechanism, due to which the viewing sector in the azimuth plane is 200 degrees, which is 80 degrees more than that of the "Raptor" Radar AN / APG-77. The new "Captor" can "look" into the rear hemisphere, which today is not capable of any known airborne radar with AFAR, except for radar with passive HEADLIGHTS. Moreover, targets of the "fighter" type (EPR 2-3 m2) will be detected by the "Captor-E" radar at a distance of 220-250 km, which is currently the best indicator among airborne radars for light multipurpose fighters. At the moment, prototypes of this station are being tested on British Typhoons, and their results are quite successful, which in the near future promises Euroradar multibillion-dollar contracts in the European and Asian markets.


The Swedes do not lag behind in the programs of updating their "light aircraft fleet" of front-line fighters. SAAB, for example, in 2008 announced the start of development of a promising generation 4 ++ fighter JAS-39E Gripen-NG. In addition to the modules of the deeply improved high-speed tactical information exchange system CDL-39, the new fighters will receive a promising onboard radar with AFAR ES-05 Raven (pictured) from the Italian company Selex ES. The station will be represented by more than 1000 APM, capable of implementing all modes of operation known for AFAR, including the creation of energy "dips" of the directional diagram in the direction of the enemy's electronic warfare. Similar to the "Captor-E" radar, "Raven" will be equipped with a system of mechanical reversal of the antenna array, which will bring its field of view to 200 degrees, allowing it to "look" 10 degrees into the rear hemisphere of the vehicle, providing shooting "over the shoulder". Naturally, the target detection range in this mode will be 3-4 times less due to the strong energy losses in the area of the transmit-receive aperture of the radar complex. Onboard radar ES-05 "Raven" is capable of detecting a target with an RCS of 3 m2 at a distance of 200 km with simultaneous tracking of 20 airborne objects. The station has liquid and air cooling systems.

Behind the Raven radar antenna module (on the upper surface of the fuselage nose, in front of the cockpit canopy), one can see the fairing of the Skyward-G optical-electronic sighting system developed by Leonardo Airborne & Space Systems. According to the information from the advertising sheet, the sensor is bispectral and operates in 2 main infrared ranges of 3-5 microns and 8-12 microns. The first range is shorter wavelength and allows excellent selection of targets with a low infrared signature against the background of surrounding objects (trees, structures, relief details); the range of this range is not as high as that of the long-wave. The range of 8-12 microns does not have the ability to implement high-quality selection of small-sized targets with a low IR signature, but its range of action is much greater than that of the former.

Optical-electronic sighting complex "Skyward-G / SHU" has 4 viewing modes: narrow-angle (8 x 64 degrees), medium-angle (16 x 12, 8 degrees), wide-angle (30 x 24 degrees), it implements visualization of the accompanied object, as well as the general mode, which covers 170 degrees in the azimuth plane and 120 degrees in the elevation. The power of the air-cooled OLPK "Skyward-G" reaches 400 watts. The station accompanies up to 200 targets in the air-to-surface and air-to-air modes.


As we can see, Western corporations are doing relatively well and with constant positive dynamics; And this is not taking into account the fact that at least 300 F-16C / D units, which are in service with the US Air Force, are being upgraded with new radars, after which these fighters will completely surpass our MiG-29C / SMT and Su-27SM in long-range air combat. How can we respond to such ambitious state programs? What asymmetric measures is the Russian Ministry of Defense working out to eliminate the dangerous tendency of lagging behind the AFARisation of combat units of the US Air Force fighter aircraft? These questions are very sore, related to the rank of strategic.

As you know, on January 27, 2017, in Lukhovitsy near Moscow, an international presentation of the most advanced version of the MiG-35 Fulcrum-F light tactical fighter was successfully held. Despite the fact that the car does not belong to the 5th generation, special attention was noted from representatives of the American and European media. And this is absolutely not surprising, because the MiG-35 is the only Russian light multirole fighter capable of gaining complete superiority over the Rafal, Typhoon, F-16C Block 60, F-15SE Silent Eagle, F / A-18E / F and even any modification of the F-35 Lightning 2. Moreover, according to statements by the commander-in-chief of the Russian Aerospace Forces Viktor Bondarev and information from other sources, about 140 out of 170 production MiG-35s will receive a promising onboard radar with an active phased array of the Zhuk family. This number of these machines is quite enough to change the alignment of forces in their favor on any air direction (VN) of the East European theater of operations; and in close air combat, the MiG-35 will defeat any NATO multipurpose fighter. At the beginning of our previous material, we already said that without taking into account the range, the combat potential of the MiG-35 with promising radars is one step ahead of the performance of the heavy Su-30SM: the speed of the Falkrum is 0.25M higher (about 2450 versus 2150 km / h), afterburner thrust is 11% higher (2647 versus 2381 kgf / m2), which means that the MiG's accelerating qualities are much higher. Moreover, the crew of the MiG-35 will be able to more quickly and reliably record sudden air threats, and then also quickly eliminate them, which the crew of the Su-30SM will not be able to do.

The thing is that on the lower surface of the left engine nacelle and on the side of the MiG-35 there are high-resolution optoelectronic sensors NS-OAR (for viewing the lower hemisphere) and VS-OAR (for viewing the upper hemisphere), combined into a common detection station attacking missiles SOAR, operating in the TV range, and capable of detecting enemy air missile systems at a distance of 30 km, and accompanying in 5-7 km. This station will transmit the coordinates of threatening missiles to the fighter's computerized control system, and then to air combat missiles of the R-73RMD-2 or R-77 (RVV-AE) type, capable of intercepting other missiles of a similar class. Also, in addition to the standard nasal optical-electronic sighting system OLS-UEM, an overhead container with a turret is installed on the right engine nacelle, in which an auxiliary OLS-K complex is installed, designed to monitor surface and ground objects in the lower and rear hemispheres. Today you will not find such a variety of optoelectronic sighting sights on "Sushki" - hence such a high interest. In terms of electronic stuffing, the car is close to the 5th generation. But is everything as good as it seems at first glance?

Firstly, 140 MiG-35s with new radars are not enough to fully cover all possible theaters near our borders on the Eurasian continent, because in the Far Eastern operational area alone we can resist: 65 modern tactical fighters of the 4+ generation + "F-2A / B, 42 5th generation F-35A fighters of the Japanese Air Force, as well as several F-22A fighter squadrons deployed at Elmendorf-Richardson airbase, and this is not counting the carrier-based fighter aircraft of the US Navy, which can be transferred in the amount of 3-4 hundred units to the western part of the Pacific Ocean. A similar situation is developing in the northwestern and western ON, where there will be a numerical superiority of the modernized F-16A / B / C / D and Typhoons, which are in service with European countries, as well as promising F-35A / B, which will be purchased by Norway, UK, Netherlands and Denmark. It turns out such a "picture" that technologically the MiG-35 is equivalent to about 2-3 F-16C Block 52+ or 2 Typhoons, but the total number of our MiGs will be 3-4 times less than the new fighters from the American allies in APR and Europe, which will not allow not only to achieve domination, but also to level the balance of power. The issue requires immediate resolution, and it is necessary to act in the same way as used by Lockheed Martin - updating the existing fleet.

At the moment, the combat units of the Russian Aerospace Forces are about 250 multipurpose front-line fighters MiG-29S / M2 / SMT and UBT, as well as several hundred vehicles of the modification "9-12" and "9-13" on storage. The most advanced modifications among them are the MiG-29SMT of various variants ("Products 9-17 / 19 / 19R"), which are present in the amount of 44 units, as well as the MiG-29M2. These fighters belong to the "4+" generation and are equipped with N019MP Topaz and N010MP Zhuk-ME onboard radars. The stations are built around a modern digital data exchange bus in the architecture of avionics of the MIL-STD-1553B standard and have hardware support for the synthetic aperture mode (SAR) with an additional mode for detecting and tracking mobile surface / ground targets GMTI (Ground Moving Target Indicator) at speeds up to 15 km / h. The functionality of the radar data is similar to the American AN / APG-80 and AN / APG-83 SABR stations for the Falcon configuration, but there are significant differences between them. If US products have long been built on the basis of active phased array with electronic beam control, our improved Topaz and Beetles are mechanically controlled slotted antenna arrays, which is why there are such disadvantages as:

Approximately such a list of tactical and technical shortcomings is present today in the "luggage" of our combatant MiG-29SMT and MiG-29M2, the number of which in units barely exceeds 50-60 units. Their onboard radar systems "Topaz" and "Zhuk-ME" have the only advantage - increased pulse power, due to which the detection range of targets with RCS of 3 m2 has increased from 70 to 115 km, which is an excellent increase for a conventional SHAR; but even this is extremely insufficient for long-range combat with European and American F-16Cs equipped with SABR radars.


The rest of the MiG-29S modification vehicles, in the amount of just over 100 units, have an even more outdated "stuffing" built around the SUV-29S weapons control system with an integrated radar sighting system RLPK-29M. This complex is represented by an early version of the N019M "Topaz" radar, which does not have hardware support for ground targets, and also has a standard energy potential that allows detecting targets with an RCS of 3m2 at a distance of 70 km and "capturing" only 2 air targets. The SUV-29S armament control system is adapted for the use of R-77 air combat missiles, but due to the low capabilities of the N019M radar, the MiG-29S can only be opposed to those F-16C “blocks” that have not undergone the modernization program and are carried on board “slotted radar of the old model AN / APG-66 with a target detection range of the "fighter" type of the order of 60-65 km. Even the modification of the F-16C / D Block 52+, which the Polish Air Force has at its disposal, will most likely be too tough for the outdated N019M RLPK of the MiG-29S fighter, especially since the Poles have long acquired the AMRAAM URVV modification with the AIM-120C range increased to 120 km. -7, and Poland alone has 48 such F-16s.

The conclusion is this: the situation with the perfection of the onboard electronic equipment of the light front-line fighters of the Russian Aerospace Forces MiG-29S, and to a certain extent the MiG-29SMT / M2, is really critical. With all the perfection of the airframe and power plant, allowing to win close air combat against any Western fighter of the 4th or even 5th generations, our serial MiGs are absolutely defenseless against any other threat of a modern network-centric theater of military operations. Some may argue that this situation can be completely and completely corrected by such machines as the Su-27SM, Su-30SM, and also the Su-35S, but this opinion is not entirely objective. Heavy tactical fighters, and especially the Su-35S, are more designed to create a powerful air defense line and gain air superiority on the distant approaches to the air borders of the state, as well as to escort AWACS aircraft, air command posts, military transport aviation from enemy fighters 4- 1st and 5th generations. They can also successfully carry out long-range anti-ship and anti-radar missions using the Kh-31AD and Kh-58USHKE missiles. There are not so many of these machines in our arsenal that it would be possible to close all the technological "gaps" observed in the sector of light front-line aviation, and especially with the current production rate of the T-50 PAK-FA.

The issue can be resolved by re-equipping all the MiG-29 aerospace forces in service with advanced airborne radars developed by Fazatron-NIIR JSC, as well as by its subsidiary, Radioelectronic Technologies Concern. Among the main contenders are the Zhuk-AE and Zhuk-AME multichannel airborne radars; These products embody the most advanced developments of the Russian defense industry in the field of AFAR, and therefore, they are already ahead of everything that is used in the N011M Bars and N035 Irbis-E stations of the Su-30SM and Su-35S multipurpose fighters, with the exception of range of action.

The procedure for the unification of new radars with the FCS of the more modern MiG-29SMT and MiG-29M2 will be carried out according to a lightweight scheme, since these aircraft were originally developed using a multiplex data bus of the MIL-STD-1553B standard, the same bus with an open architecture forms the basis of a tactical weapons control system. fighter MiG-35. As for the older MiG-29S, it will require a complete replacement of the electronic "core" of fighter control, built around the old Ts101M on-board computer, which is not designed to work in conjunction with the next generation Zhukov digital interfaces. There is a real chance to radically modernize and "put on the wing" several hundred combatant and "mothballed" MiG-29A / S, which completely eliminates the technical lag of the entire fleet of light front-line aviation from foreign fighters of the "4 ++" generation. What are the features and advantages of the advanced airborne radars Zhuk-AE and Zhuk-AME?

The first, Zhuk-AE (FGA-29), has been developed since 2006 on the basis of the developments obtained by Fazatron during the design of the not very successful early model Zhuk-AME (FGA-01), which has an unacceptably large mass at 520 kg. The new product widely uses compact and lightweight monolithic integrated circuits (MIS), which today can be found in any modern digital device. The diameter of the AFAR "Zhuk-AE" aperture was reduced to 500 mm (total diameter - about 575 m), in comparison with the 700-mm FGA-01 blade; this was done to better match the inner diameter of the radio-transparent fairing of the experimental side "154" (MiG-29M2), on which the new station was tested. The FGA-29 canvas is represented by 680 transmit-receive modules with a power of 5 W, which is quite enough to realize a resolution of 50 cm at a distance of up to 20 km and 3 m at a distance of 30 km in the synthetic aperture mode. The station's pulse power is 34 kW, which makes it possible to detect targets with an RCS of 3 m2 at a distance of up to 148 km to the front hemisphere and up to 60 km to the rear hemisphere (after). "Zhuk-AE" accompanies 30 air targets on the passage and simultaneously captures 6; in the close air combat mode, the so-called "Rotary" mode can be used, which works when synchronized with the helmet-mounted target designation system of the pilot or system operator.


Thanks to the individual control of the operating frequencies of individual PPMs (or their groups), as well as a more sensitive and noise-immune converter of electromagnetic waves reflected from the target, Zhuk-AE has a very significant advantage over other on-board radars - a slight decrease in the detection range of air objects against the background of the earth's surface, which is only 8-11%, for a radar with PFAR this figure is about 15-18%, which was proved on tests of the Irbis-E radar, operating in a wide field of view: a VTS with an EPR of 3m2 was detected at a distance of 200 km (against the background free space), and 170 km (against the background of the earth's surface). Even here we can see a noticeable plus of radars with AFAR.

The high characteristics of the Zhuk-AE are also noted when operating in the air-sea / ground mode: a group of heavy armored vehicles or an artillery battery of an ACS can be detected at a range of 30-35 km, a corvette-class surface ship - 150 km and destroyer "- more than 200 km. The "air-to-surface" mode has several dozen sub-modes, including: a synthesized aperture, the ability to "freeze" the terrain map with all detected surface objects, detection and tracking of moving units (GMTI), measurement of the carrier speed in accordance with the speed of displacement of stationary objects in fighter coordinate system, following the terrain at transonic speeds, used in the tasks of "breakthrough" enemy air defense. The field of view of the radar is standard for fixed AFAR apertures and is 120 degrees in azimuth and elevation planes, which is a disadvantage with mobile AFAR stations, for example, Captor-E, but the weight of the radar is only 200 kg, which is ideal for modernization light MiG-29S / SMT / M2. The total capabilities of Zhuk-AE are between the American AN / APG-80 and AN / APG-79 radars, which are equipped with the F-16C Block 60 and F / A-18E / F "Super Hornet". Modernization of the existing MiG-29S / SMT radars "Zhuk-AE", as well as more advanced optoelectronic complexes OLS-UEM and a modern information field of the cockpit will make it possible to significantly outstrip the Polish F-16C Block 52+ and German "Typhoons" equipped with outdated Radar with a slotted antenna array. At the same time, the lag behind the Typhoons with the Captor-E radar, as well as the F-35A, will be significant. MiG will need an even more powerful onboard radar with an active phased antenna array - Zhuk-AME.

For the first time, this station was presented at the Airshow China-2016 aerospace exhibition in Zhuhai, China in 2016. Receiving and transmitting modules "Zhuk-AME" are manufactured using a completely new technology, based on three-dimensional microwave conductors generated in the process of low-temperature co-fired ceramics LTCC ("Low Temperature Co-Fired Ceramic"). The birth of a super-strong crystal structure of conductors occurs as a result of firing a multicomponent mixture of special glasses, ceramics, as well as special conductive pastes based on gold, silver or platinum, which are added to this mixture in certain proportions. These PPMs have many advantages over the standard gallium arsenide elements used in most of the well-known AFAR radars (Japanese J-APG-1, "Captor-E", etc.), in particular:

In the case of LTCC technology, the low temperature co-fired ceramic is a low profile dielectric substrate for platinum, gold, or silver X-ray emitter / receiver conductors. It is much more heat-resistant than conventional printed circuit boards made of organic compounds and allows you to work with an increased energy potential: the transmit-receive modules of AFAR "Zhuk-AME" can have a power of about 6-8 watts. This led to the fact that the promising Zhuk radar increased the target detection range with an RCS of 3 m2 to about 220-260 km, which is comparable to the Captor-E station. According to the Fazotronovites, the Zhuk-AME was developed both for installation on the MiG-35 generation 4 ++ fighters and on the MiG-29S / SMT. The antenna module, together with the canvas and trains, has a mass of about 100 kg, which is unprecedented among Western fighters. The station canvas is represented by 960 PPM.


High-energy modes of operation "Zhuk-AME" with high resolution make it possible to accurately classify sea, ground and air objects by their shape and radar signature due to comparison with a loaded reference base of hundreds or even thousands of units. Moreover, identification of the target from a short distance can be performed when the SAR mode has a resolution of 50 cm, or in the case when the target is radio emitting. Then the base of frequency templates of numerous enemy radar assets is used, which can be integrated into the updated SPO of the modernized MiG-29. The "Zhuk" can also operate in LPI mode, to complicate the operation of the enemy's electronic warfare equipment, or in passive mode - for covert exit and attack on enemy radio-emitting targets, among which there can be both ground surveillance or multifunctional radars of anti-aircraft missile systems and RTR stations and airborne electronic warfare.

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