One of the questions often raised in regard to Russian military radar program is why the Russians started development of their AESA so late? Relative lack of foundation in 90th, especially if comparing with the huge military-industrial complex pumping in previous two decades, is a cause of course. However, this cause doesn't exhaust the number of factors for such a late development. Other factor was curiously enough an advance of Russian radar design houses in ESA technology. Until the new Millennium, the AESA technology could not compete with Russian PESA, so there was no a cause to rush for unproved (AESA) technology, while the cost of radar is raised times with it. The western competitors however suffered with lack of so advanced PESA radars like MiG-31 'Zaslon' or naval 'Fregat' spent up to two decades for AESA development. Unlike them Russians did the same progress during short 5 years, when such a goal became actual in early 00th.
The last MAKS-2009 Airshow was a celebration day for one of the most prominent Russian radar developer NIIP. First time they have got a permission to show their cutting edge production for public. Usually only an export production is allowed for display, but this time they presented their prospective products for Russian Air Forces too.
The NIIR chiefs, general director Yuriy Beliy, general designers Anatoliy Sinani and Vladimir Zagorodniy (you can see them on the pic), presented their 'children' for journalists and foreign military delegates personally. The MMIC's were developed and made by NPO 'Istok' (Moscow), while the serial production will be organized in GRPZ plant (Ryazan). The documentation is already sent there.
The look of demonstrated AESA antenna makes a ground for some speculations about PAK-FA (FGFA) itself. You can see relatively modest dimension with depressed height. If in addition to take into consideration the upper deflection of the antenna, we can speculate about considerable flatness of FGFA's nose.
Apart with AESA X-band radar there are displayed an additional S-band radar for fighters (Su-27, Su-30, Su-35 and probably for FGFA too). This radar is very effective against potential enemy stealth fighters, like F-22 or F-35, since there is no proven stealth technology for L-band. Thus, it should be say, the progress in radars' development, effectively made by relatively low cost, does considerably nullify the huge investments, made by the Americans in their stealth machines. It could be seen as a Russian asymmetric answer to the American weapon race.
Other scoop – was 'Irbis-E' radar for '4++ fighter ' Su-35. It could be used on other Su-27 family fighters too. Unlike another NIIP's PESA 'Bars' radar, it has wider searching angle and is placed on the two-axis hydraulic drive. Then, the vertical polarization of wave can be changed to horizontal to improve conditions of observing for maritime targets. This is the radar, which the Russians were insistently refusing to sell for the Chinese. Now, with all those signs of a new Sino-American bonhomie and 'Chimerica', such selling seems to me even less possible, than a year ago. 'Irbis' capability is like a twice better than the current best PESA 'Bars' radar.
However, don’t understate 'Bars's upgrading capability! 'Bars's chief designer Tamerlan Bekirbayev says the capability for simultaneously detecting, tracking and engaging several aerial targets with one ground target already exists on the serial 'Bars' radars. During next step of upgrading :
- The air detection range will be more, than doubled!
- The number of tracked and egaged targets will be increased 1.5-2 times (from current 20 & 8 figures).
- The mapping performance in terms of target detection range and resolution will be doubled!
- The number of tracked ground targets will be doubled too.
- Some new operation modes will be added, particularly Meteo and Active Countermeasures modes.
- Interaction with other avionic systems (ECM, EO targeting) will be expanded.
- The range of weapon use will be extended.
- Formation mission capabilities will be enhanced.
After the completing this stage of upgrade, the next step will be equipping 'Bars' radar with AESA antenna. If so, it could be the first world AESA radar with additional gimbals mechanism. Even after AESA variant go for serial production, NIIP chiefs believe PESA radars will remain a low cost solution for many customers worldwide.