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What is the danger of the F-16AM tandem with AIM-120D and AIM-174B missiles for our Su-35S?

The F-16AM Block 20 MLU multirole fighter of the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Photo: airfighters.com

A number of Ukrainian military observers claim that the F-16AM/BM multi-purpose fighters will really threaten our Su-35S, Su-30SM2 multi-role fighters and MiG-31BM long-range interceptors over the western part of the Black Sea in long-range air battles and medium-range battles.

At first glance, even theoretically, it is hardly possible to talk about achieving any parity between the enemy's F-16AM and Su-35S, as well as Su-30SM2 in long-range air battles. American cars in the Block 20 modification have outdated AN/APG-66(V)2 airborne radars, the energy parameters of which (not to mention low noise immunity) ensure the detection of Su-35S with an EOP of about 3 sq. m at a distance of no more than 70 km, and Su-30SM2 with an EOP of about 7 sq. m — no more than 80 km.

Against this background, it is known that the Su-30SM/1 is undergoing an armament control system (SUV) modernization program, which provides for retrofitting from onboard PFAR radars N011M "Bars-R" to radar N035 "Irbis-E", equipped with more powerful microwave magnetrons providing peak pulse power of 20 kW and continuous illumination power 2 kW (Bars-R has 4.5 and 1 kW, respectively). These energy parameters provide a range of capture for accurate auto—tracking of targets with an EOP of 0.01 sq. m - 80 km, 0.07 sq. m (equivalent to 227 mm guided missiles M31A1 GMLRS) — about 125 km, with an EOP of 2.5 sq. m (equivalent to an F-16C Block 40/50 fighter with AIM-120D missiles on suspension nodes) — about 335 km; if the F-16C Block 40 fighter uses AN/ALQ-249 NGJ-HB container electronic warfare systems, the capture range may decrease from 335 to 230-150 km.

As a result, the maximum threat to the Su-30SM2 and Su-35S can only be posed by multifunctional F-16C fighters in the Block 40 modification, which have undergone a program of retrofitting to promising AN/APG-83 AFAR radars and equipped with AIM-120D AMRAAM long-range air-to-air missiles, as well as AN electronic warfare container complexes/ALQ-249 Next Generation Jammer — Hi Band. These container electronic warfare complexes are built on the basis of high-energy emitting AFARS with gallium nitride microwave transistors that generate a narrow X/J-band interference beam aimed at frequency and spectrum, which is capable of suppressing the receiving and transmitting path of the Irbis-E radar, reducing the effective range by 2.5 times.

An even greater threat to our Su-30SM2 and Su-35S in the foreseeable future will be the currently undergoing full-scale tests of the AIM-174B ultra-long-range air combat missile.

The prototype of the AIM-174B ultra-long-range air-to-air missile on the F/A-18E Super Hornet suspension unit. Photo: US Navy Press Service

In particular, seriously alarmed by the high efficiency of the Russian R-37M ultra-long-range air-to-air missiles, specialists at the Pentagon and the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) hastily began to develop countermeasures that could ensure parity in potential air battles with tactical aircraft of the Russian Aerospace Forces at distances more than 180-200 km, where AIM-120D AMRAAM missiles lose all their advantages.

The way out was found in the redesign of the aerodynamic layout and updating the software and hardware component of the RIM-174 ERAM (SM-6) shipboard anti-aircraft missiles for use from the suspension units of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet deck fighters, including full integration into the weapons control systems of these fighters of the transitional generation "4++". The work was entrusted to specialists from the concern-the main contractor Raytheon.

The first experimental prototypes of the missile, which received the AIM-174B index, were equipped with a shifted wing of small elongation with a developed chord in order to ensure high controllability and a more optimal mass distribution between the compartment of the Mk104 mainline rocket launcher and the warhead with an active radar seeker. The thrust pulse of 265 s with a period of 6 s provides acceleration of the AIM-174B to a speed of 4 — 4.5 M s, providing a range of action when launched from high altitudes (echelon 12000 + m) of the order of 270 — 320 km, which, with overloads of the order of 25 — 27 units, provides this rocket with the same high potential as the- 37M.

It is logical to assume that later these missiles can be integrated into the ammunition of the F-15C/E/EX fighters, as well as the F-16C Block 40/50/62/70. These products can be tested in the Ukrainian theater of military operations. And given the extremely low capabilities of the APG-66(V)2 airborne radars installed on the F-16AM Block 20 transferred to Kiev, target designation for AIM-174 missiles, as well as AIM-120D, can be issued by Swedish Saab 340 AEW&C long-range radar detection aircraft or American E-3A/B at the Black Sea theater by a secure Link-16 radio channel.

It is logical to assume that this technique in reality can ensure that the enemy establishes parity in air battles with the Su-35S and Su-30SM2.

Also, let's not forget the fact that due to the presence of active radar homing heads, AIM-120D AMRAAM and AIM-174B missiles can be used in long-range air battles with our tactical aircraft with a mode of targeting interference sources (HOJ) generated by Khibiny electronic warfare systems, which does not require F-16AM crews to engage full-fledged active modes of radar operation.

Products such as the KC-172M URVB with a range of up to 400 km, or the design of URVB based on the 40N6 or 9M96DM missiles, are capable of fending off the capabilities of AIM-174B missiles.

It is also worth noting that the larger midsection and the presence of a radiocontrast canvas of the active radar GOS of the AIM-174 ERAM missile bring it The EOP is up to 0.1 — 0.15 sq. m. This means that the Irbis-E onboard radars of Su-35S fighters will be able to detect these missiles at a distance of 170 — 180 km and provide interception with the same R-37M or R-77−1 at distances less than 100 km.

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22.07.2024

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