Russia to get two upgraded A-50U AEW aircraft by late 2021

The Russian Aerospace Forces will receive two A-50U Airborne Early Warning (AEW) aircraft in 2021. It properly performed in Syria and will have an upgraded radar, communications and controls. Experts believe the aircraft will effectively detect cruise missiles and control fighter jets, the Izvestia daily writes.

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Russia to get two upgraded A 50U AEW aircraft by late 2021 01 The A-50U made its first flight in 2011, and is the most recent upgrade of the original A-50, which entered Russia's service in 1989 (Picture source: Russian MoD)

Defense industry sources said two upgraded A-50U will be supplied by the end of 2021. Their capabilities will be considerably upgraded against the predecessors. The designers took into account the Syrian combat experience. The aircraft will be modernized by the Beriev plant in Taganrog. The cost of the upgrade exceeds 600 mln rubles for each aircraft. The documents obtained by the newspaper show most attention will be paid to the radar.

A-50U can fly for a long time without entering adversary air defense zone, former Air Force Deputy Commander-in-Chief for CIS air defense Lieutenant-General in Reserve Aitech Bizhev said. “The upgrade has to increase jam-resistance and the number of tracked air targets. AEW aircraft are effective together with MiG-31 fighter jets. They usually operate with a regiment of interceptors to close major areas for the adversary. The radars detect adversary cruise missiles earlier than ground radars. The targets are properly seen from above on the land background and cannot hide in terrain folds,” he said.

Russia to get two upgraded A 50U AEW aircraft by late 2021 02A-50U, flanked by two Russian MiG-31s (Picture source: Russian MoD)

A-50U distributes detected targets in real time between aircraft and ground air defense. MiG-31 was designed to repel cruise missiles and their carrier bombers, Bizhev said.

An AEW aircraft is a flying command post and a powerful radar which detects targets and provides guidance, former Commander of the 4th air force and defense army, Hero of Russia Lieutenant-General Valery Gorbenko said. “A-50U can control the defense against any air attack. It detects targets at a bigger distance than ground radars and promotes a timely reaction to the attack. The operators in the aircraft monitor the airspace in real time and provide information to the ground command posts and interceptor jets,” he said.

It is no wonder that Syrian experience was used in the upgrade. The hardware is better tested in combat conditions, the expert said. One or two AEW aircraft have been permanently deployed at Humaymim airbase since April 2017.

Russia to get two upgraded A 50U AEW aircraft by late 2021 03The A-50U's dome on top is a 36-foot diameter Shmel-M radar consisting of two antennas that rotates 6 times per minute. (Picture source: Russian MoD)

Close to 30 A-50 were produced in Soviet times. The Defense Ministry plans to upgrade them to A-50U level. The modernization will make the aircraft detect, track and identify air targets, major ground and sea targets and transmit the information to the command posts. The aircraft can independently aim fighter jets at air targets and tactical aviation at ground and sea targets.

A-50U can detect and simultaneously track a bigger number of air targets. Its economical engines provide longer flights. It detects adversary bombers at a distance of 650 km and cruise missiles at 215 km.

The first A-50U was supplied in 2011. Six aircraft have been upgraded since then. Russia is also designing a new AEW aircraft. A-100 Premier will be developed on the basis of Il-76MD-90A airlifter. It will be distinguished by a phased antenna array with higher detection and tracking characteristics than A-50U, the Izvestia said.

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