Russia Unveils Video Of Modernized Air-To-Air Missile
A Russian military flight test center celebrated its 100th anniversary on Sept. 29 by publishing a video showing the flight of a group of four Su-57 fighters, one of which carried two R-77M medium-range air-to-air missiles that had not been seen before.
The flight test center is 929 GLITs in Akhtubinsk, which conducts acceptance trials of all Russian military aircraft and their weapons.
The R-77M is developed from the currently produced R-77-1 and adapted for carriage in the Su-57’s internal weapon bays. The missile was created in the Toropov Vympel missile design bureau in Moscow as a part of the Gridien-M research and development program.
The images are of low quality but suggest the R-77M’s body is about 4 m (13 ft.) long. This is compared to 3.7 m for the R-77-1 and 3.6 m for the initial R-77 version. The 200-mm body diameter is probably the same. Externally, the most visible change in the R-77M in comparison with the previous versions is the replacement of the folding lattice fins by normal flat tail fins. The main reason for this change is to reduce the missile’s aerodynamic drag and radar cross section.
The R-77M has a modernized active-passive 9B-1348M radar seeker with a maximum lock-on range of 25 km (15.5 mi.) in its active mode, according to reports. The new double-impulse solid-propellant engine (the R-77 has a single-impulse motor) has an adjustable pause between the impulses and larger fuel reserve. The K-77M has a new path-correction radio data link with much shorter time between corrections, the more precise inertial control system and more powerful batteries ensuring longer power supply. In a 2006 presentation by Vympel, the still-in-development R-77M, codenamed 180 izdeliye, was supposed to be “better than the U.S. AMRAAM AIM-120C7 and equal to its successive versions.”
The R-77M began flight tests on Dec. 28, 2016. In February 2020, Boris Obnosov, the head of Tactical Missiles Corp., which also includes Vympel, said three new air-to-air missiles intended for the Su-57 would complete state evaluations this year. Apart from the R-77M, neither the R-74M2 (code named izdeliye 760) close air combat missile nor the izdeliye 810 very long range AAM have been seen in public yet.
The 929 GLITs video also showed a diagram with variants of the Su-57 air-to-air armament suspensions. The Su-57 has 10 weapon and stores pylons, including four inside two large internal fuselage weapon bays that are arranged in tandem. Each bay can accommodate two missiles or bombs, up to 700 kg, each carried on heavy UVKU-50 ejection release units.
Two more missiles are placed inside two so-called “quick launch” bays in the form of oblong underwing fairings close to the fuselage. Each is for a single small AAM launched from a retractable VPU-50 rail. The only weapon type that can currently be carried there is the Vympel R-74M2 (izdeliye 760) close-air combat missile. It is a further development of in-service R-74M (AA-11B Archer), with the reduced cross section due to be fitted inside the small bays of the Su-57.
For missions not requiring stealth, the aircraft may carry a heavier armament load that does not fit in the internal bays, using four pylons under the wing and two under the air inlets. As can be seen from the disclosed diagram, the underwing pylons closer to the fuselage may accommodate twin rails. An NNPU-50 gun mount with a GSh-301 (9A1-4071K) 30mm single-barrel cannon with 150 cartridges is located within the starboard wing root.
By the end of October, the first serial Su-57 fighter is expected to be delivered to the Aerospace Forces of Russia. It will actually be the second aircraft produced. The first one crashed in December 2019, just before the scheduled delivery.