ROC “Gremlin”. Hypersonic Perspective for Tactical Aviation

The Kinzhal hypersonic missile system based on the MiG-31. Photo of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

In the interests of the Russian Aerospace Forces, fundamentally new models of hypersonic missile weapons are being developed. The first complex of this kind has already been put on alert, and another one is expected to appear in the distant future. As it became known the other day, it will help increase the striking power of tactical and, probably, long-range aviation.

Gremlin Code

Back in the early tenths, it became known that the Tactical Missile Armament Corporation (KTRV) was working on promising hypersonic missile systems. Some information was known from various sources, but most of the data was not published. Recently, Izvestia revealed detailed information about the new project of KTRV. Thanks to this, the approximate work schedule, part of the technical characteristics and the name of the project became known. Development work carries the code “Gremlin”.

R&D “Gremlin” is carried out in accordance with the contract of the Ministry of Defense, issued in November 2018. Several organizations from the KTRV, responsible for the development of certain components, were involved in the work. As follows from the available data, part of the design work has already been completed, and the R&D participants are starting to check and test individual units.

Last year, the Soyuz Turaev Machine-Building Design Bureau manufactured a prototype of the Product 70 engine for the Gremlin rocket and conducted its firing tests. Later, tests began on the mass and size models of the new rocket on the carrier – the Su-57 fighter. The models were installed on the external and internal suspension. In addition to the weight and dimensions, the on-board electronics of the products have been tested.

In the near future, enterprises from the KTRV structure will have to carry out a lot of different measures to develop and fine-tune individual elements and the structure as a whole. In 2023, the start of state joint tests is scheduled, according to the results of which the further fate of the missile complex will be decided.

Dagger rocket launch. Photo of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation

Thus, the Gremlin design and development project can be completed by the middle of the decade, after which the finished missile system will receive a recommendation for adoption and launch of the series. Accordingly, in the second half of the twenties, such weapons will be delivered to units and will affect the potential of fighter and bomber aircraft.

Technical riddles

The full technical appearance of the promising rocket is still unknown, but some of its features have been announced. Even such information is of great interest and indicates the purpose of the complex, and also reveals at least part of its potential.

It is reported that the Su-57 fighter will be able to carry the Gremlin missile on an internal sling. This means that such a product is no longer than the largest domestic air-to-air missiles and its length does not exceed 4-4.5 m. Weight parameters are unknown. It is easy to see that in this case the Gremlin rocket turns out to be much more compact and lighter than the already known Dagger.

The rocket flight is provided by the “70” engine. As far as is known, under this index TMKB “Soyuz” is developing a ramjet engine for hypersonic aircraft. Such a product has already passed firing tests at the Ts-12 stand, which makes it possible to practice high-speed flight at high altitudes. The fact of using this stand allows us to understand the approximate range of flight characteristics of the “Product 70”.

It is reported that for use on the “Gremlin” the Ural Design Bureau “Detal” provides a homing head “Edge K-02”. Products of the Gran-K family are radar seeker with active and passive modes of operation. They have already found application in the Kh-35 anti-ship missiles and have confirmed their ability to detect and track surface targets with subsequent missile guidance.

The Su-57 is the main carrier of the Gremlin rocket. Photo of UAC

The question of the warhead remains open. Most likely, the Gremlin will receive a high-explosive warhead with a high penetrating ability. The possibility of creating a nuclear modification cannot be ruled out, but the limited dimensions of the rocket can prevent this.

According to the latest publications, the maximum speed of the new hypersonic missile can reach 5-6 M with a range of up to 1500 km. To what extent such estimates correspond to reality is unknown.

The Su-57 fighter is mentioned as the main carrier of the Gremlin. It is quite possible that such a weapon will be included in the ammunition load of other domestic tactical aircraft. Also, the possibility of using long-range bombers cannot be ruled out, which will make them a more flexible tool for solving combat missions.

Expected benefits

Even on the basis of the limited information available about the Gremlin ROC, some conclusions can be drawn. So, the main features of the new rocket, which distinguish it from other similar models and determine the combat qualities, are its small dimensions and high flight performance.

Reducing the size and starting weight, even at the cost of reducing flight characteristics, simplifies the construction of the strike complex. Thus, the existing Dagger missile, which is distinguished by its large dimensions, can be used only with specially equipped MiG-31 interceptors. In this case, one plane carries only one missile. The appearance of a more compact “Gremlin” will expand the list of carriers of hypersonic missiles, as well as increase the size of the ammunition carried.

The X-38 air-to-surface missile is one of the largest munitions compatible with the Su-57’s internal bays. The Gremlin is likely to have similar dimensions. Photo by KTRV

The advantages of hypersonic air-to-surface missiles are well known. Due to their high speed, they do not leave the enemy much time for reaction, and their interception is an extremely difficult task. The appearance of a Gremlin with such advantages will seriously expand the combat capabilities of tactical aviation. In particular, fighter and bomber squadrons will be able to deliver massive strikes with a minimal chance of interception.

It should be noted that the purpose of the promising missile has not yet been specified. It is not known against what targets it is planned to be used – ground or surface. The proposed seeker “Gran K-02” is already used in modern anti-ship missiles, which may indicate the scope of “Gremlin”, but does not exclude the possibility of working on ground targets.

Hypersonic future

The Gremlin ROC news covers several key questions. First of all, they show that work continues in our country in a promising direction, and in a few years the Aerospace Forces will receive another sample of weapons with the highest characteristics. It is important that such a weapon is created for a new niche and does not duplicate an existing model. Other advantages of a combat, operational and other nature are likely to be obtained.

Thus, the domestic hypersonic program has finally moved to the stage of systematic and constant creation of real weapons suitable for operation in the troops. The next weapon of this kind in a few years will be the airborne Gremlin, followed by other models with different capabilities and missions. It is obvious that these processes will have a positive effect on the potential of the armed forces in general and the Aerospace Forces in particular.

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