/Pogled.info/ The fifth-generation Russian fighter Su-57 began to be equipped with a second-stage engine (“Product 30”). One of its main features is that it allows it to reach supersonic speed without turning on the afterburner. This not only reduces fuel consumption, but also increases the combat radius of the aircraft. What other advantages does the “Product 30” Su-57 have?
The Su-57 fifth-generation fighter will begin to be equipped with a second-stage engine (“Product 30”) as part of the current batch produced under contract with the Ministry of Defense. According to the state corporation “Rostech”, the plane is now undergoing flight tests with a second-stage engine – the most advanced technologies are being implemented in the plane.
“Efficiencies continue to improve. As for power plants, the Su-57 aircraft is adapted to use both first and second stage engines,” the company’s press service said.
The Su-57 is a fifth-generation multirole fighter with advanced electronics developed by the Sukhoi Corporation, which will replace the Su-27 heavy fighter and is capable of maneuvering with high overloads. In December 2020, the Russian Air Force received the first serial fighter. The debut flight of the modernized Su-57 took place in December 2022, and its serial deliveries began in the same year. As part of the state armament program developed until 2027, the Russian Air Force should receive 76 fifth-generation fighters.
The aircraft currently in production are equipped with AL-41F1 first stage intermediate units (“Product 117”) developed by the Lyulka Experimental Design Bureau. This engine is fully controlled by a digital system based on Russian components. The engines are installed as standard on the Su-35S.
The first ground launch of the Izdelie 30 demonstration engine took place in November 2016 at the Litkarinsky Machine-Building Plant (LMZ). LMZ is a division of Lyulka Design Bureau. In December 2017, the aircraft with the new power plant made its debut 17-minute flight.
Compared to the AL-41F1, the thrust of “Product 30” has been increased from nine (in afterburn mode) to 17.5-19.5 tons, and the engine itself is characterized by increased fuel efficiency and reduced life cycle cost. According to the general designer – director of “Lyulka” Yevgeny Marchukov, in terms of specific thrust “Product 30” will surpass all foreign analogues.
From the technical characteristics, it is also known that the oxygen-free ignition system of the modernized injectors provides ignition of the fuel immediately after it enters the combustion chamber, and the new nozzles control the thrust vector. Experts agree that with the second-stage engine, the Su-57 receives a number of indisputable advantages. In addition, this achievement allows Russia to remain among the great powers leading in the construction of engines.
“This engine improves specific performance in terms of both thrust and fuel consumption. There are reports that the aircraft’s visibility indicators may change. But one of the main issues is the provision of supersonic navigation without turning on the afterburner, which will allow you to quickly and covertly reach the places of use of weapons. This is especially important when carrying out missions over vast areas,” notes Oleg Panteleev, executive director of the Aviaport agency.
Without the inclusion of afterburning, which is also provided for in the new product, fuel consumption “will be significantly lower than with afterburning operation of the engine.” “When performing a mission not at the maximum range, the reduced fuel consumption will allow an increase in ammunition, but we are hardly talking about a serious revision of this parameter. In a mode without afterburning, the visibility in the optical and thermal range will be significantly lower,” emphasizes Panteleev.
The new engine is more powerful and economical due to the automatic fuel supply control system. It takes into account various parameters, including atmospheric pressure, humidity and flight altitude. “Fine tuning of the second stage engine is the key. The non-afterburner mode enables the Su-57 to fly in the entire range of altitudes and speeds,” says Vladimir Popov, Honored Military Aviator of the Russian Federation, Major General.
The interlocutor noted the efforts of the designers and engineers, who managed to reduce the temperature of the exhaust gases, which increases the fighter’s cover from air defense systems. “The engine is working well, it has been tested in a flying lab and has passed tests, but it still does not meet the requirements for infrared stealth in all modes. These parameters must be stabilized,” the Major General stressed.
Popov admits that saving fuel doesn’t necessarily mean increasing the plane’s payload: tanks and bomb bays will remain the same. He recalled that the location of the weapons of the Su-57 should be mostly hidden, in certain niches. There are four such on the Su-57.
“If you use an external sling, then stealth is guaranteed to be lost. Therefore, the ammunition will obviously remain the same, but the range and duration of the flight will be guaranteed to increase, it will be possible to avoid the enemy’s air defense systems more effectively and to maneuver more”, the speaker is confident.
According to Panteleev, even with the engine of the first stage, the Su-57 can be safely considered a fifth generation fighter. “The generational divide is a rather arbitrary phenomenon. At the moment, the possibilities of integrating the aircraft into weapon systems are coming to the fore, when a fighter, without turning on its radar, receives all the necessary information about the environment in silent mode,” the specialist added.
Popov agrees that the AL-41 and its modifications are an advanced engine that is also used by the Chinese Air Force and is installed on their most advanced fighter, the Chengdu-20. It is considered the fifth generation in the world, although the Chinese military considers it the fourth generation. “Using afterburner, however, increases the resource consumption of the engine. Heat loads reduce the overall operating mode of the engine by 30% and more,” noted the expert.
Meanwhile, the Americans are still continuing to improve their modern fighters – the twin-engine F-22 “Raptor” and the single-engine F-35. “The US says they have been using fifth-generation machines for a long time. About a thousand of these aircraft have already been produced. But only 30-40% remain combat-ready, in the remaining cases there is a delay in action,” the general recalled.
“In fact, the plane could not do everything that was advertised,” Popov pointed out, adding that these planes often need repairs to the surface layer that scatters radar waves on the fuselage and wings if the plane is stored outdoors.
Panteleev specifies that “constant work continues on the F-22 and F-35 to improve the basic characteristics.” “But the main question is how many of these machines are in the troops,” the expert said. Popov clarifies that Russia is in no hurry to release Su-57s so that they do not become analogs of fighters of the 4++ generation.
“This should be a really high quality new device. That’s why we’re taking baby steps so we don’t rip our pants. And we have to take into account that economically we are in quite difficult conditions compared to the USA”, emphasized the major general. “We have preserved the potential of Soviet combat aviation, and with this baggage we are starting to get back on our feet,” he adds.
According to the author of the Telegram channel “Russian engineer” Alexei Vasiliev, thanks to the engine of the second stage, the Su-57 will still become a full-fledged fifth-generation aircraft, since the AL-41F1 engine “does not have all the necessary parameters in the first batches. In addition, in the future, the new engine may be used for the Su-75 light tactical aircraft.
“And such a machine is extremely necessary,” adds the expert, pointing to the tendency to reduce costs and create mass military equipment, which was especially evident during WWII. “I expect that all Su-27 and MiG-29-based production facilities will be transferred to the production of the Su-75, leaving only the existing production for the Su-57,” the analyst admits.
According to him, “this will be very reasonable”, given the interest in the machine not only of the Russian Air Force, but also of foreign players. “And if an aircraft with vertical takeoff and landing is made on its platform, it will be an excellent answer to the American F-35,” since many countries need to cover their expeditionary forces with such machines. “That is, the export potential of the Su-75 with vertical take-off may be greater than that of the basic version,” Vasiliev concluded.
Translation: V. Sergeev
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