NEW – June 11, 2022
Well, finally, we waited. I apologise, but the article turned out to be more for boys, as I did not try to adapt the information for the general audience. But suddenly it happened…
Official information about the combat use of fifth-generation aircraft with reduced radar visibility by the Russian Aerospace Forces has appeared. We are talking, of course, about the Su-57, four of which “broke through” the enemy’s air defence system, completed the tasks set, without making a mess on anti-missile turns. The trick was successful thanks to the unified cyberspace created between aircraft, satellites, and ground guidance and general command points.
Short reference: The Su-57, in its infancy the “promising front-line aviation complex T-50”, is a fifth-generation multirole fighter developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau. It must in a guaranteed way cope with all types of air targets, hit ground and surface targets, monitor and patrol the airspace at great distances from the base, destroy air defence systems, headquarters, control systems, etc. with high-precision weapons.
Worlds of the “Terminator”…
Russia has been talking about creating a kind of combat information network, such as the legendary “Skynet” from Schwarzenegger films, for a long time. Not on a universal scale, of course, but on a limited theatre of operations. When automatic communication and switching systems work in the interests of air strike complexes, they supply data from several sources, monitor navigation, and recognise targets in real time. The first tests were in Syria, when pairs of MiG-31s were aimed at targets covered by short-range air defence and MANPADS.
Training that was nothing to write home about is hardly such an exploit of “fifth generation” titled aircraft. After all, the main feature of these vehicles is not flight speed, manoeuvrability, stealth or armament — the meaning of the number “5” is rather the ability of the aircraft to join an automated system for transmitting objective data of all types. In one flight, land several drones, enemy aircraft and even work out high-precision weapons on ground targets.
To do this, it is necessary to overcome the enemy’s layered air defence system, which on the territory of the Special Operation is represented by foci, very strong, saturated with the entire spectrum of anti-aircraft missile systems: long, medium and short-range. With them, “fifth-generation” aircraft must fight tactics, apply electronic warfare methods, and direct high-precision ground-based complexes at enemy radars.
As far as we know, already in mid-March, the Su-57 began to be tested in a combat situation. To begin with, they were not introduced into the explored zones of active destruction of enemy air defence systems, the jets worked only with high-precision Kh-31PM missiles according to the principle: approach the target at a distance of 50-60 kilometres, do not “touch” the zone of destruction of ground-based complexes, release supplies and calmly leave.
Then the low-profile Su-57s began to fly in pairs, using data exchange between aircraft. The task looked more complicated, one jet detected a certain air defence object, blinded it, and the second attacked. Moreover, the planes tried different ones in a similar bundle. It is definitely established: near Nikolaev, one Su-57 worked on ground and air targets in tandem with a Su-35S “4++” generation fighter jet.
How it works…
The main task for 4th and 5th generation aircraft is to relieve pilots as much as possible, remove unnecessary functions of meticulous control, tracking, surveillance and guidance. Most operations should be performed by the onboard automatic system – a “virtual co-pilot”. It finds the target, determines parameters, performs aiming, and specifies coordinates in real time. And the pilot can only press the “start” button at a convenient time.
In other words, military-scientific thought tends to reduce the decision-making time as much as possible. It’s not possible to do without the most sophisticated automation and calculators. See and recognise targets, determine their priority, and start destroying them based on their level of significance and danger. A person at the helm of such complex machines as a modern combat aircraft, at huge speeds… is not able to process such volumes of information, make the right decisions. Their task today is to control automation, which, by the way, helps in piloting too.
What else is known. A couple of our Su-57s aimed to destroy the layered air defence system: they “blinded” the enemy’s radars, without distracting from the main combat mission … along the way, they downed a Turkish Bayraktar and the enemy’s Su-25. When the focal air defence system was broken open, the planes bombed a bridge in the Kharkov region with the highest accuracy of hitting.
The second episode. In mid-April, a pair of “fifth-generation” fighter jets disabled a road bridge in the Zaporozhye region, destroying one of the pillars by hitting two missiles. The structure was not destroyed, just sagged, which allowed the engineering battalions of the Russian Army to quickly lift the damaged spans on jacks, and put the bridge into operation within one day.
Now a new stage of testing in a real environment. According to stingy data, this is what happened: a combat group of four aircraft tested the “command control” system of the armament of all jets of the chain. The top made decisions for the pilots, used data from ground and on-board stations, and used “someone else’s” missiles without the knowledge of the pilots of each aircraft. What exactly and where exactly the “four” picked at is unknown, but the command remained very, very satisfied.
Speaking in the language of the military, the Su-57 passed fully-fledged combat tests, onboard and military systems were tested in automatic, semi-automatic (director) modes, when the fighter link interacts with allied air defence systems, the general command of the Special Operation, and ground-based missile systems. Most likely, the last stage of combat tests remains – work on a front of 100 kilometres … already with “six” jets, as was once promised.
This is exactly the task set by Sergey Shoigu in 2019 after large-scale exercises in the Astrakhan region, when two-seat supersonic long-range fighter-interceptors MiG-31 connected by a single control system through the commander’s vehicle popped off all the target range air targets (high- and low-flying) proposed by him, “blinding” the military air defence system at the front of 80 kilometres and over a 100 meters deep.
Now this should be demonstrated by more advanced Su-57 jets of the “fifth generation”. Let’s model: the closest daredevil who is very eager to get “busy” is the Polish Army, equipped and trained according to NATO standards. Suppose an attack is being prepared, and a classic aerial umbrella is being deployed. Four Bayraktar drones are flying, the precious American General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper hovers above them, and Israeli-made reconnaissance drones are below and slightly ahead.
The entire group is controlled from earth via satellites, as the Americans like. In the immediate vicinity of the strike group, MiG-29 or overseas F-16C “Jastrząb” aircraft are circling. All this air show needs to be intercepted. Not just to disperse, but in a guaranteed way to help them land on sinful earth. All. The personal skill of MiG-31 or Su-57 pilots is unproductive, because an oncoming aviation duel will begin, chasing after the scattering drones.
The commander of the Russian “six” takes responsibility for himself, without even warning his subordinates by voice. The automatic system calculates the most optimal sequence of strikes, suggests the priority of goals. Only then do they give short, clear commands to the rest of the planes: “five hundred and one, 10 to your left, a fighter”, “five hundred and three, 20 to your right, two drones, the first one is five above”… or whatever the flyers say.
Low-profile aircraft “make out” prey at the border of 350-300 kilometres, strike at the enemy air group at the same time, receiving adjustments from on-board systems and ground air defences. The arrow in each combat vehicle shows the deviation to the target, the pilot only leads the jet forward, frames the victim with a crosshair, presses “launch”, fires a very clever missile. It will complete the task with a 90% probability, if we are talking about an airplane, while drones have no chance at all.
The attack can also be massive. When the flight commander uses all six planes without asking the pilots. At the touch of a button, sending existing medium-range missiles from all sides. First against drones, then against accompanying vis-a-vis. If the arsenals are not emptied, it’s possible to work on ground targets. Such will be the war…of the near future, of today and tomorrow.
The test of the low-profile Su-57 in combat conditions, and in a group, very much upset our overseas “partners”, who for a long time assured the world community: only the Pentagon has artificial intelligence on the battlefield, coordinate aviation, all types of intelligence, command of ground forces up to the last baggage train. And a certain General Smith drinks coffee in the general control centre on an aircraft carrier and moves divisions, air wings, special forces and field kitchens with mobile brothels in real time.
Maybe it’s possible to carry such nonsense for video advertisements. In fact, the brave Yankees have never faced an opponent of equal military and technical strength since World War II. It is still impossible to fight the Russian Su-57s operating as a group in a fully-fledged combined-arms operation. When the tactics of the “sixes” are finalised and there are more combat vehicles than today – the vaunted American air superiority will end.
No one disputes that it is possible to cope with one Russian “fifth-generation” aircraft, it is incredibly difficult to deal with a couple, and it is almost impossible to resist a group… where everyone covers each other, and the enemy’s air defences are blinded or receive distorted data.
I heard the bold point of view of one honoured military pilot of Russia, who commented on the events around the Su-57 flight. Comrade General believes that the tactics of “micro-cauldrons” in Donbas were not chosen by chance. The whole concept of modern warfare is being figured out. When a relatively small area is covered by a network of tracking and targeting stations, aviation learns to suppress local enemy air defence systems in one flight, having time to work out without interference with intricate accuracy on objects in the interests of ground forces.
It is possible that a search is underway for tactics of real counteraction to NATO satellite intelligence, ahead of it in decision-making. While the entire chain of alerting the enemy from top to bottom will work… a group of Su-57, SU-30SM or Su-35, connected by a single automated system between themselves and the troops, works according to the situation in real time, hitting dozens of objects of various types.
Few people doubt that a training ground with real combat conditions has been created, and the United States is powerless to test its fifth-generation aircraft in a real confrontation with an enemy of equal strength. To understand which parameter of combat vehicles gets the greatest advantage: low visibility, combat potential of onboard weapons, or manoeuvrability. A conceptual dispute of principle…
The Su-57 and other models of upgraded “4++” generation aircraft are sharpened for super-manoeuvrability; stealth is the third or fourth priority. The second strong point of our vehicles is the use of weapons of different generations: from high-precision missiles, to free-falling, corrected and controlled aerial bombs. The concept of “complete invisibility” was rejected by us, preferring not to deceive radars, but to “blind” them with the electronic jamming system.
As soon as an enemy ray touches the combat vehicle, the signal suppression equipment is triggered, the enemy sees only a pulsing white spot on the screens, and not a clear point. It’s possible to launch a laser missile at random, but the probability of defeat decreases, as does the efficiency of the guidance radar station. The Americans realised this back in Syria, and began to make changes to the air defence systems and fifth-generation aircraft. But without a direct clash with our jets – this is fortune-telling on coffee grounds, whether it will work or not.
Today, we have overtaken the United States and are actively perfecting new Su-57 tactics in real combat conditions. The appearance in the sky of a whole “four” in the air defence activity zone and the successful completion of a combat mission is good news. It turns out that the defeat technique, the coordination of piloting in pairs is completed, the command is confident in the low visibility of priceless jets, their successful passage through layered radar field systems, automated onboard systems are not subject to interference, and they calmly exchange data.
We believe and look forward to other good news… when the fifth-generation fighter units become a formidable attacking force. The Su-57 was designed to work in digital conjunction with the S-70 “Okhotnik” and “Grom” strike drones, as well as two or three other strike and reconnaissance drones. I think that such tests will also be successful. One real combat mission, as the pilots say… this is a peacetime raid year. Let NATO think about who it will have to face in the sky.
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