Undoubtedly, the most popular and fast-acting strike weapons of the 21st century are hypersonic air attack weapons, adaptable to launch from various types of carriers and capable of completing the assigned task 9-12 times faster than standard subsonic tactical and strategic missiles of the JASSM-ER and Tomahawk families. … This weapon includes both missiles and UAVs with ramjet engines and operational-tactical ballistic missiles reaching speeds of 4, 5-5, 5M. Their main advantage is the allocation of a minimum time for the enemy to detect, tie up the route and intercept with the help of medium and long-range anti-aircraft missiles. For example, if the sustainer trajectory of a 6-fly hypersonic aircraft passes at an altitude of 30 km above the positions of the S-300PM1 anti-aircraft missile battalion, then immediately after this unit enters the 150-kilometer range of the 48N6E missile defense system, the calculation has only 40-50 seconds to intercept, until the enemy aircraft is outside the elevation coverage of the illumination and guidance radar 30N6E (in the so-called "dead zone funnel", located at ≥64 °, outside the radar illumination pattern).
Even less time will remain if the enemy's hypersonic air attack vehicle has a low radar signature and is equipped with airborne electronic countermeasures. So, the capture range of an airborne object with an RCS of 0.05 m2, defended by an on-board REP complex, for an RPN 30N6E can be 50-70 km. If there is a massive use of such hypersonic SPN, then even several S-300PM1 divisions have almost no chance of fully repelling this strike. But hypersonic high-precision weapons also have significant drawbacks. Considering that the main flight of such aircraft usually takes place in the stratosphere (at altitudes of 20-40 km), they can be quite easily detected using optical-electronic sighting systems installed on tactical fighters and optical / electronic reconnaissance aircraft at distances of a couple of hundred and more than kilometers. There are also no restrictions on the radio horizon for this type of targets: the detection range depends solely on the energy potential of a ground-based RLO, the EPR of the target, as well as the presence of electronic warfare equipment in the latter. The terrain will not help to hide the location of such an object.
Another thing is tactical missiles and drones carrying high-precision weapons, operating both at high and ultra-low altitudes, where it is possible to use any bend in the terrain to conceal its presence in the air sector of the theater of operations. In the Russian Aerospace Forces, these WTO assets include stealthy strategic cruise missiles of the 3M14T “Caliber” family and even more long-range X-101/102, in the USA - the well-known RGM / UGM-109E “Tomahawk Block IV” and AGM-158B JASSM-ER. But if in this sector of high-precision weapons the positions of the Russian and American defense industries are approximately at the same level, then in the field of the development of unmanned aerial vehicles carrying guided aerial bombs and missiles, overseas "colleagues" have pulled out far ahead.
So, back in July, it became known that within the framework of the 52nd Paris International Aviation and Space Salon "Le Bourget-2017", the concept of a "non-returnable" promising long-range unmanned aerial vehicle with purely shock capabilities XQ-222 LCASD was presented to the public. Valkyrie ", the first prototype of which should take off in the spring of 2018, and reach operational combat readiness by the 20s. There is no reason to be surprised at such a rush, because the American private company Kratos Defense & Security Solutions is working on the project, which, unlike Lockheed Martin and Boeing loaded with orders for the F-35A and F / A-18E / F, has the ability to focus all efforts on the design of the "Valkyrie". And the rush itself is not an accident and chronologically coincides with a slightly earlier (April) statement by the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Aerospace Forces Viktor Bondarev regarding the imminent achievement of the initial combat readiness of the S-500 Prometheus air defense / missile defense system. Consequently, the rushed development of the XQ-222 "Valkyrie" can be considered an asymmetric response from the United States. It remains only to find out how dangerous the new unmanned aircraft complex of the US Air Force is for the sea, ground and air components of the Russian air defense.
Initially, we note that the "Valkyrie" must be ranked among the "early" long-range tactical aviation of the 6th generation. The design features of this unique vehicle indicate that the emphasis of the concept is not at all on the high combat load of the vehicle, but on a huge range (approaching the performance of strategic bombers of the 4th and 5th generations), ultra-small radar and infrared signatures, and for decent maneuverability. The first thing that catches your eye when you get to know the concept is a large "month-long" air intake of a highly economical non-afterburning turbojet engine, located on the upper surface of the fuselage, which is done to reduce the RCS of the drone during irradiation with ground-based radar from the lower hemisphere.
We can also see a very original approach of the designers of "Kratos" to the shape of the "Valkyrie" air intake in the longitudinal plane: the upper edge protrudes forward, its side sections have a 30-40-degree slope to the root radars of enemy fighters and airborne radars of enemy airborne early warning and control aircraft. Reducing the RCS of the XQ-222 is also facilitated by: 90-degree camber of the all-turning tail elevators-stabilizers and a specialized shield in the air intake channel, which prevents the passage of radar waves to the blades of the jet engine compressor. The engine nozzle has a flat rectangular cross-section with a small wedge-shaped tip: there is some resemblance to the nozzle compartment of a decommissioned, unobtrusive strategic cruise missile of the AGM-129A (ACM) type, which was supposed to become the main "nuclear asset" of the US Air Force Global Strike Command, used from suspensions strategic missile bombers B-52H and B-1B. This design is called "beaver tail" and does not apply to the parts of the turbojet engine; it is a separate cooling circuit to reduce the temperature of the jet stream, which ultimately reduces the Valkyrie's infrared signature.
As for the flight technical and operational-tactical parameters of the XQ-222, they are at a very good level, given that the machine is equipped with a non-afterburner engine. In particular, "Valkyrie" is capable of accelerating to a speed of 1050 km / h at the maximum operating mode of the turbojet engine and maintaining transonic speed for a long time. The swept wing with an angle of 30 ° has a span of 6.7 m with developed angular bends at the root chord. This significantly increases the bearing qualities of the airframe, increasing the combat drone's maneuverability at low altitudes and efficiency at high altitudes. Moreover, the probability of a stall when maneuvering at low subsonic speeds (300-400 km / h) is noticeably reduced. The minimum altitude of ultra-low-altitude flight in the mode of following flat terrain or water surface is only 15 m! At such a moment, only the S-300PS / PM1 and S-400 Triumph air defense systems can intercept the Valkyrie at a distance of 35 km (using 48N6E2 / 3 anti-aircraft missiles) and at a distance of 60-80 km (using 9M96E2 missiles). In the latter case, external target designation from the A-50U aircraft or those closer to the XQ-222 trajectory of ground surveillance and multifunctional radars will be required. At first glance, it may seem that sooner or later the Valkyrie will definitely fall into the "capture" of one of the anti-aircraft missile divisions, but not everything is so simple.
The Valkyrie's large radius of action comes to the fore here, which is realized by optimizing the internal volumes of the airframe for the maximum dimensions of the fuel tanks (for this, the most compact chassis assemblies and small-sized internal weapon bays have been designed). According to representatives of "Kratos", the range of the unmanned attack aircraft complex can be 4350 km at a high flight altitude. It's hard to believe in such figures, given that the drone has a fuselage length of 8, 8 meters. The 3500 km figure looks more believable. Consequently, the mixed flight profile "high - low - high" will reduce the combat radius to 3000 km. Such a large range indicates that the XQ-222 has the ability to fly around the most dangerous air defense / missile defense position areas that form the air lines of the A2 / AD zones, to enter the area of dropping high-precision guided weapons on the most priority targets deep behind enemy lines. In practice, it looks like this: in order for the JASSM-ER missiles launched from the F-16C Block 52+ to reach the Volga region or the Western Urals, any deviation from the direct trajectory is excluded due to the relatively short range of 1200 km; observance of a straight trajectory is fraught with hitting the range of ground anti-aircraft missile brigades.
"Valkyrie" with its 3000 kilometers of radius does not have such problems, and can very flexibly use any detail of the relief for its own purposes. The Valkyrie will feel even more at ease in an area of airspace that is not covered by air defense fighter aircraft (Su-30SM, Su-35S or MiG-31BM), or is covered, but not enough. The shortage of 9M96E2 missiles with an active RGSN also does not play into the hands of the Russian Aerospace Forces in the event of a Valkyrie appearing in the European theater of military operations. Standard 48N6E2 / 3 missiles will be able to shoot down only the VTS in the line-of-sight (radio horizon) RPN 30N6E / 92N6E; “Valkyrie” can skillfully “bypass” this zone, and nothing good will come of it. The operation of 64N6 radar detectors or 76N6 low-altitude detectors "Valkyrie" will be able to record thanks to an advanced radiation warning system, the sensors of which will be integrated into the onboard complex / defense, which also serves as a passive electronic reconnaissance station. It is also reported that the XQ-222 will receive compact infrared sensors and an optoelectronic sighting system (TV channel of sight) for conducting optoelectronic reconnaissance over remote enemy territories that are outside the coverage area of the side-looking airborne radars of strategic reconnaissance RQ-4A / B Global Hawk and E-8C J-STARS.
Next, let's look at the armament of the Valkyrie strike drone. No precise information on this matter was provided either by the developer "Kratos Defense & Securitu Solutions", or by the Western media. It is only known that its combat load is within 226 kg, and the internal weapon compartments are about 2 meters long. As you can see, the XQ-222 is not intended for delivering a large range of missile and bomb weapons to a remote battlefield and for long-term battles with enemy ground units. Its main goal is to suddenly overcome the densest anti-missile lines "A2 / AD" in the Western Military District of Russia and over the eastern part of China, carry out complex electronic reconnaissance, as well as deliver surgical precision strikes against the command and staff infrastructure, which is critical at that time, interspecific Radar stations in key air directions, automated control stations for mixed anti-aircraft missile brigades, etc.
Based on the apparent geometric dimensions of the internal weapons compartment and payload, the XQ-222 will be able to take on board such types of missile and bomb "equipment" as 2 high-precision guided "narrow" bombs GBU-39 SDB ("Small Diameter Bomb") with a planning range up to 110 km when dropped from a height of 12-15 km, or 4 multipurpose tactical JAGM missiles with a range of 16 to 28 km. The former can be used for high-altitude strikes against strategically important enemy targets, covered by a short- and medium-range anti-missile umbrella based on HQ-16A / B, Buk-M2 / 3 (to avoid falling into their radius of action); the second, for attacking short-range ground-based air defense systems (air defense missile systems "Tor-M1 / 2", "Pantsir-S1") during low-altitude flight in the terrain bend mode.
The JAGM tactical missile fits perfectly into the overall dimensions of the XQ-222 "Valkyrie" internal armament compartment: 1800 mm long, 178 mm body diameter and 48.9 kg weight. At the same time, it can be considered a fairly modern high-precision weapon with an advanced combined guidance system, which provides: the highest noise immunity from classical ground-based means of setting up a REP, as well as all-weather use. The JAGM missile is a conceptual and constructive analogue of the AGM-114L anti-tank guided missile, which received a Ka-band millimeter homing head for operation in high smoke, dusty conditions, when the enemy sets a smoke screen, as well as in difficult meteorological conditions. JAGM received an even more modern 3-channel combined seeker, which is represented by: active radar, semi-active laser and infrared homing channels. Semi-active laser and infrared sensors provide the missile with noise immunity in the event of an enemy jamming in the 20-40 GHz frequency range. A two-fold increase in the range (in comparison with the helicopter versions of the AGM-114K / L) became possible due to the use of solid rocket fuel with a reduced burning rate in a single-chamber engine.
Another interesting quality of a tactical missile is the ability to use it in the "let it go" mode with the receipt of target designation on the trajectory via satellite communication channels. Thanks to this, the XQ-222 is able to attack a target out of line of sight, for example, if it is behind a high hill or hill. In the event that an attack drone penetrated into the depths of the airspace unnoticed, the sudden appearance of this missile can be expected in any part of the rear zones, 2, 5-3 thousand km from the front line; and it is not a fact that an attack drone with an EPR of 0, 03-0, 05 m2 will be immediately detected and intercepted, because during a major regional conflict in the same European theater of operations, most of the 4th and 5th generation fighters will be involved in the execution missions to gain air superiority over the Raptors, Super Hornets, Lightnings and other promising tactical aircraft.
And do not forget that the "Valkyries" will operate not in units of 4 drones, but in whole squadrons of 12 - 24 machines. They will be supported by both stealthy tactical missiles JASSM-ER and UAV simulators / directors of the ADM-160C "MALD-J" REP ADM-160C. Calculating 24 "Valkyries" in such an air flock will be quite difficult. The only thing that can radically correct the situation by the time the XQ-222 is put into service is the beginning of modernization of the existing 4th generation fighters PFAR / AFAR radars capable of detecting new drones at significant distances of 100-120 km, as well as fine-tuning and adoption promising combat EMP generators of the "Ranets-E" type, capable of disabling the onboard electronic equipment of the UAV at a distance of 14 - 20 km and significantly disrupting its operation at a distance of 40 - 50 km. Nevertheless, this project was “safely frozen”, while the Aerospace Forces did not observe a sufficient number of 9M96E2 missiles to work on complex over-the-horizon targets.
In the meantime, it became known about the economic side of the issue of mass production of promising stealth drones "Valkyrie". In particular, the price of one unit will be 2, 5 - 3 million dollars (for the cost of one F-35A, you can create 30 or 40 such drones). The extremely attractive price and high perceived combat effectiveness is already causing serious interest in the vehicle from the US Air Force and the American government. According to the statement of the head of the company "Kratos" Eric DeMarco, the American government in the person of unnamed representatives has already shown interest in the XQ-222, having considered the possibility of acquiring 100 units. And this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the orders that may follow later. When the first contract is formalized and fulfilled, the operational-tactical situation in the European theater of operations will radically change far from our favor. What, then, can we oppose in accordance with Gorbachev's hackneyed term "asymmetric response"? The answer is predictable: nothing but the strategic KR "Caliber" and Kh-101/102. The remarkable project of the long-range strike UAV "Skat" from the RSK "MiG" was not destined to be embodied in a serial modification, which is actively entering the combat units of the Naval Aviation of the Navy or the Aerospace Forces of the Russian Federation. A single-engine 10-ton drone with a length of 10 and a span of 11.5 m, made according to the "flying wing" scheme, could deliver about 1500 - 2000 kg of lethal high-precision weapons to enemy positions, leaving a minimum chance of interception in comparison with the weapons carried by the "Valkyrie. ". Why?
The fact is that tactical JAGM missiles and "narrow bombs" of the GBU-39 SDB family, although they are highly intelligent air attack weapons of the 21st century, have extremely low flight speed and maneuverability. So GBU-39 "Small Diameter Bomb", after being dropped from the inner point of the suspension, plans to reach the target at a speed of about 0.7 - 0.9M, while its RCS is about 0.015 m2; it does not have the ability to perform anti-aircraft maneuvers, since it will quickly lose its "energy" and will not be able to reach the target due to the lack of a power plant. Modern multifunctional radars of the 92N6E type can detect it at a distance of 80 - 100 km, since the discharge is often carried out from the stratosphere. The JAGM tactical missile has a similar RCS, while the speed at the acceleration stage reaches 1, 4M. Therefore, immediately after the start is detected (at the time of engine operation), it can be easily detected by the hot torch using the L-136 "Mak-F" infrared station, which is installed on the 9A34 "Gyurza" air defense missile system. After that, it can be intercepted with the 9M333 missile defense system. Even the Igla-S or Verba MANPADS can destroy the JAGM, but only if the operator is well trained, or after receiving target designation to the tactical tablet terminal from the Ranzhir UKBP.
The main "caliber" of our "Skat" were heavy "ramjet" 2, 5-fly anti-radar missiles Kh-31P, anti-radar missiles Kh-31A, subsonic Kh-31U "Uranus", as well as any other multi-purpose missiles that fit into the dimensions of the internal compartments drone (4400 x 750 x 650 mm). The first two, despite their decent radar signature, are quite difficult to intercept using various types of self-propelled air defense systems due to their high flight speed and anti-aircraft maneuvering ability. For the Avenger air defense missile system, the X-31P family is completely outside the high-speed range of interception. Unfortunately, the Skat UAV project, just like the concept of the Ranets-E high-frequency EMP generator, was shelved back in the late 2000s.
Even in the PRC, everything is much more rosy. Firstly, many aerospace exhibitions were remembered by visitors for the appearance of advanced demonstrators of reconnaissance and attack unmanned aerial vehicles. The most notable of these are the Wing Loong and Wing Loong II percussion machines. The flight duration of the latter is about a day with a ceiling of 5000 m. At the same time, there are 6 suspension nodes designed to accommodate shock weapons. The machine is capable of striking within a radius of 2000 - 3000 km. Among the reconnaissance vehicles, one can single out a high-altitude strategic optical and radio reconnaissance drone "Soar Dragon" ("Soaring Dragon"). This drone cannot be considered a full-fledged analogue of the American Global Hawk, because the range is only 3200 km versus 4450 km for the RQ-4A and 7050 km for the naval version of the MQ-4C Triton. At the same time, the practical ceiling of 18,000 m provides exactly the same atmospheric conditions for conducting long-range optical reconnaissance as that of the Global Hawk. In the front lower part of the fuselage, you can see a similar radio-transparent segment, behind which is a powerful centimeter radar complex for mapping the terrain in the synthetic aperture mode and classifying surface and ground targets. The radar functionality fully coincides with the American AN / ZPY-2.
At the same time, the specialists of the Chengdu and Guizhou companies had to slightly alter the standard design of the American Global Hawk's airframe by installing an advanced horizontal swept-back tail unit coupled with the wing. This is done to prevent stalling and maintain normal bearing qualities of the drone with increasing angles of attack, since the center of gravity of the machine is significantly shifted towards the tail. This drawback is observed due to the installation of a heavier turbojet engine "Guizhou WP-13", which is a modernized version of the old domestic R-13-300 (it was equipped with Su-15 and MiG-23 interceptor fighters). Its mass is 1200 kg, while the Rolls-Royce AE3007 used on the RQ / MQ-4 has a mass of 719 kg. This is one of the visible answers.
Our colleagues from the Middle Kingdom also have another interesting unmanned aerial vehicle with reconnaissance and strike capabilities. We are talking about a 5, 8-meter CH-T1 drone with a takeoff weight of 3000 kg, a payload of about 750 - 800 kg and a flight speed of 850 km / h. As you can imagine from the photographs posted in May 2017 on various Chinese information resources, we have a promising ekranoplan strike drone (apparently, "disposable" / non-returnable), capable of flying in "sliding mode" at ultra-low altitudes of 1, 5 - 3 m above the water surface and 6 - 10 m above the earth's surface. Under the radio-transparent nose cone is a multifunctional airborne radar / active RGSN, which forms a digital terrain map and detects surface, ground, and possibly air targets. The practical ceiling of the product is limited to 3000 m, which is enough for carrying out low-altitude raids on island positions or aircraft carrier strike groups of the US Navy. It can be seen that the airframe of the drone-ekranoplan-rocket is designed taking into account the stealth technology: the horizontal tail with elevators has 120 - 140-degree camber, the front horizontal tail is small and motionless. Most of the structural components of the airframe are made of composite materials.
The peculiarity of the CH-T1 drones is that they are capable of operating at altitudes up to 10-15 m with numerous network-centric shock regiments of several dozen machines. It is much more difficult to detect them by ground-based radar systems than to detect, for example, a "swarm" of heavy 2-fly anti-ship missiles 3M45 "Granit" (the latter have a higher RCS than composite CH-T1, and the flight height above the water surface is not less than 5 m, while the Chinese missiles have 1 - 2 m). Chinese drones-ekranoplanes are capable of using the tactics of a massive anti-ship strike, used by our P-800 "Granite: 24 - 32 CH-T1, having formed 3 or 4 shock lines of 8 vehicles each, approach at a height of 3-4 m to the ship's strike group; one of the drones rises to a height of 300 - 500 m and scans the sea surface for the presence of enemy surface ships (scanning can also be carried out in the passive mode of ARGSN operation to reduce the likelihood of detection by shipborne radars).
In the latter case, the enemy will be tracked by the radiation of its own AN / SPY-1D (V) radar and the emitted radio channels of the Link-16 tactical system. This drone will transmit precise target designation to detected objects on board the slave UAVs "creeping" below, after which their high-performance aiming and navigation systems will quickly distribute targets. This stage will take place at a distance of 30-40 km from the targets. At a distance of 10-15 km, the vehicles will turn on the onboard electronic warfare systems and begin an attack on the KUG. About half of the CH-1T will be intercepted with the help of the RIM-162 ESSM or RIM-116 Block 2 missiles, while the rest will successfully reach the enemy ships. High-explosive fragmentation "equipment" weighing 1 ton will "turn inside out" the superlines "Arley Burkov" and "Ticonderoog", and also disable the entire radar architecture of the "Aegis" systems.
Naturally, this outcome can be countered by the presence of American E-2D carrier-based aircraft, which, within 100 - 150 km, will detect a "swarm" of Chinese drones and via the Link-16 radio channel will aim at CH-T1 4 dozen long-range shipborne missiles RIM-174 ERAM, but in the air theater, in addition to drones, there will also be several hundred other aircraft, including tactical naval aviation, supersonic anti-ship missiles YJ-18, etc. The use of these drones can be very successful. The aforementioned company "Kratos" is also working on a similar project for a "non-recoverable" strike UAV. The concept has the UTAP-22 "Mako" index and has been in flight tests for a long time. According to the manufacturer, "Mako" should be used both in conjunction with the "Valkyrie", and independently. Its aerodynamic layout is more conservative: a 6, 13-meter ogival fuselage with a swept wing, the span of which reaches 3.2 m. The external placement of the turbojet engine in the outboard ventral nacelle outwardly turns the UTAP-22 into an outdated anti-ship missile, similar to the P-500 " Basalt ", but the speed of the American product barely reaches 1120 km / h.
The range, on the contrary, reaches 2,600 km, and the service ceiling is 15,200 m. The drone has the same advanced sighting and navigation system as the XQ-222 "Valkyrie", and should also receive a variety of optical and electronic reconnaissance sensors that allow and enemy airspace is a wealth of important tactical information. While the Americans are preparing to launch their Valkyries and Mako into large-scale production, we can only hope that the continuing delays with the start of mass production of diesel UAVs "Altius-M" will finally end, and the German aviation diesel RED A03 / V12 will find a worthy replacement for the domestic development. In addition, the Kronstadt and Sukhoi companies promise to provide a turning point in the development of the Russian segment of unmanned aircraft for military purposes by the early 1920s.