Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Damned If You Don't!

If true, this could be vindication of some of my personal (admittedly not always correct) views on naval warfare in general and naval aviation in particular. I always loved STOVL, that is why, with all my criticism of F-35 program (and it is rather embarrassing program), I still follow F-35B STOVL development fairly close because it is the concept that is sound. In the end, some of the technical solutions in F-35B were... Soviet/Russian, borrowed from what promised then, in the end of 1980s, to be a revolution in carrier aviation--Yak-141 Freestyle

Now, Russia's Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov drops a bomb today when revealed (in Russian) that discussion on development and production of a brand new Yakovlev STOVL (based on the ideas of Yak-141) aircraft is in a full swing and that this new aircraft must enter series production in 2025. Oh boy! This is sensational and without going too deep at this stage into the details of why these are exciting news, I will present here a single (there are many more, of course) pro argument:

Modern naval combat is already deep into the missile paradigm in which any aircraft carrier, including classic American CATOBAR mastodons, are not immune from hyper-sonic weapons. But here is the thing, especially for those who intent on fighting Sea Control/Sea Denial battles--the essence of any aircraft carrier is its flight deck and all infrastructure immediately underneath it which make it so vulnerable--catapults, arresters etc. Once one of those elements is gone, and the probability of a deck suffering a major damage in real modern combat is very high, CATOBAR carrier becomes merely a huge pile of steel incapable to launch or receive its air wing. Well, this issue is mitigated on STOVL carriers--their decks are simply more "survivable": 

Now, considering a level of modern aerospace technologies where it is possible to make parameters of STOVL aircraft comparable to their CATOBAR colleagues, it becomes only natural to explore the venue of much less expensive than CATOBAR, STOVL carriers which in Russia's case would fit really well into her strategic and operational requirements. Knowing what Russians do with aircraft, it could be really fascinating to see what could be accomplished in this field. After all, Yak-141 was so ahead of its time and that is why Gorbachev rushed to close this program. Now, it seems, it is being reincarnated on a completely new technological foundation. We'll see, but this is exciting, after all, US Navy is flying F-35B, despite all of its failures. 

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