Features of the production of aircraft A-50U and the price of modernization

Experienced A-50U, rebuilt according to a serial project and named “Sergei Atayants”. Photo Russianplanes.net

In the mid-eighties, the newest long-range radar surveillance and control aircraft (AWACS) A-50 was created for the USSR Air Force. The operation of such equipment continues to this day, and it is the most important component of the videoconferencing. However, the A-50 in its original form does not meet the current requirements for a long time, which is why a gradual modernization of the existing fleet is carried out according to the modern A-50U project.

Features of the park

Serial production of the A-50 aircraft was carried out during the eighties and ended in the early nineties. During this time, the industry handed over to the customer approx. 30 aircraft with special equipment. The equipment was distributed between four parts in different strategic directions. However, after the collapse of the USSR and the problems that followed, reductions and disbandments began.

According to various sources, at present, the Russian Aerospace Forces have about twenty A-50 aircraft of the original and modernized versions. The bulk of this park is made up of basic A-50 – approx. two thirds. Six modernized A-50Us have already been commissioned. Also, several aircraft of the old version are in storage.

All combatant A-50 (U) now belong to the aviation group for combat use of AWACS aircraft from the 610th Center for Combat Use and Flight Personnel Retraining. The equipment is based at the Ivanovo-Severny airfield and, if necessary, can be transferred to other regions of the country or even to foreign bases.

Features of modernization

The onboard equipment of the original A-50 was built on the technologies of the seventies and eighties with all their features and limitations. In this regard, in 2003, the development of a modernization project began, the task of which was to replace outdated equipment with an increase in basic flight and target characteristics.

Airplane w / n 33 after repair and modernization. Photo Russianplanes.net

The head developer of the A-50U project was the Vega radio engineering concern. Aircraft overhaul and equipment replacement were ordered by the Taganrog ANTK im. G.M. Beriev. By now, these organizations and subcontractors have mastered all the modernization processes and continue to produce equipment.

Serial A-50s carried the “Bumblebee” or “Bumblebee-M” radio-technical complex, which included a three-coordinate radar with a large-sized dorsal antenna and an “Argon-50” on-board computer. It was also envisaged to install communication equipment for transmitting data on the air situation and control. The performance of all special systems was ensured by a number of units for various purposes.

The A-50U project provides for the complete replacement of the radio engineering complex. The new complex from “Vega” includes digital radar and computing facilities on a modern element base, incl. imported. Due to this, the basic capabilities for detecting air, ground or surface targets have been improved. Communication and data transmission facilities have been updated in accordance with the new requirements. Workplaces of the so-called the tactical crew were rebuilt using new equipment. In particular, cathode-ray monitors have been replaced by liquid crystal monitors.

An important feature of the A-50U project was a sharp reduction in volumes for the placement of special equipment, as well as a decrease in requirements for energy supply, etc. This made it possible to free up space for the rest compartment for the flight and tactical crews. It has accommodations, a buffet and other necessary equipment.

Plane “33” after repainting and naming. Photo by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation / mil.ru

Based on the results of such modernization, the A-50U retains the basic flight characteristics of the base machine, but receives the benefits associated with new target equipment. It also simplifies operation and management. However, the project was criticized: first of all, due to the widespread use of imported components in the absence of domestic counterparts.

Features of production

In the second half of the two thousandth years “Vega” and TANTK them. Beriev carried out repairs of the combatant A-50 (serial number 58-05, airborne 37) with modernization according to the project with the letter “U”, after which it was tested. In 2009, state tests were completed with a recommendation for the adoption of equipment for service and production. Soon a contract was signed for three A-50U aircraft.

In 2010, the serial modernization of equipment began. The first to go to it was a combat aircraft with w / n 47 (s / n 40-05), which began service in 1984. The main work was completed in the summer of 2011, after which tests took place. On October 31, the finished A-50U was handed over to the customer. Soon the car returned to Ivanovo and continued its service.

By this time, aircraft w / n 33 (s / n 41-05) had arrived at TANTK, which was to become the second serial A-50U. The modernization work took just over a year, and in April 2013 the aircraft was returned to the Air Force. Later, this machine was named “Vladimir Ivanov” in honor of the chief designer of radio equipment for the A-50.

“Taganrog” takes off to the duty station, March 6, 2017. Photo UAC / uacrussia.ru

In March 2014, an acceptance certificate was signed for the third serial A-50U with the personal name “Sergei Atayants” – it was named after the chief designer of the aviation part of the complex. It is curious that earlier this aircraft was used as an experimental one. After testing, it was finalized and made the third serial one.

The transfer of Sergei Atayants completed the first contract, and in the same 2014 a new order appeared. The Taganrog aircraft (w / n 41, s / n 63-05) was updated according to it. Its first flight after modernization took place in December 2016, and on March 6, 2017, the car was handed over to the customer. In December 2018, the A-50U returned to the Aerospace Forces with w / n 45 (s / n 71-05)

The next aircraft was built in 1988 with w / n 42 (s / n 64-05). Work on it began in 2017 and lasted more than a year. On March 28, 2019, it was transferred to the VKS. At the moment, the A-50U w / n is the “extreme” machine of its type, which has completed the modernization. New aircraft after it have not yet been transferred.

Plans for the near future were announced last year, simultaneously with the delivery of the sixth aircraft. The management of the Vega concern said that at the TANTK im. Beriev, work is already underway to repair and re-equip the next A-50. According to plans, he will return to service in 2021.

A-50U, w / n 45 – the sixth serial. December 6, 2018 Photo UAC / uacrussia.ru

Recently, new information appeared about the future of the A-50U project. On May 18, Izvestia reported that two planes were scheduled to be commissioned in 2021. An unnamed defense industry source also indicated the cost of the work. The modernization of each of the aircraft will cost the Ministry of Defense more than 600 million rubles.

Features of the future

Thus, to date, six combat aircraft have been upgraded to the A-50U, and two more will soon join them. Of the two dozen cars, eight will correspond to the newest project. It is quite possible that a new order is already being prepared, and over the next few years the number of updated A-50s will grow.

It should be noted that the prospects of the A-50 (U) aircraft directly depend on the progress and success of another project. The development of a promising A-100 “Premier” AWACS aircraft has been going on for several years. The main part of the design work has been completed, and in 2016, tests of the flying laboratory on the basis of the serial A-50 started. A year later, a full-fledged prototype was completed and lifted into the air.

It is expected that the A-100 will enter service in the early twenties, and production aircraft of this type will begin to complement the existing A-50 (U). The Ministry of Defense has not yet told how it plans to update the AWACS aircraft fleet after the appearance of a fundamentally new model. It can be assumed that the construction of the serial A-100 will not stop the modernization of the A-50 to the “U” state. At the same time, the ratio of the number of new and updated machines will constantly change.

However, the newest A-100 is still not ready for production and operation in the army, and therefore the A-50U remains the newest model of its class in the Russian Aerospace Forces. The release of such equipment continues, although it does not differ at a high rate. Such measures make it possible not only to maintain the desired state of the fleet of equipment, but also to increase its potential. In the near future, it is the A-50U that can become the basis for the grouping of AWACS aircraft, and this status will remain for at least several years.

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