Air Weapons: Poland Buys Ukrainian To Avoid Russia

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December 29, 2015: Poland is buying another 40 radar guided R-27R1 missiles. These are used by Poland’s MiG-29 fighters. Poland wants to stock up in these missiles, especially since a growing number of older ones can no longer be refurbished and are becoming so unreliable they are useless. Normally the primary supplier of this missile is Russia, because the MiG-29 and the missiles it uses were designed by and largely built in Russia. But many Russian weapons and aircraft components were built outside what is now Russia when (before 1991) the Soviet Union still existed. Ukraine, for example had a lot of weapons factories and inherited these when the Soviet Union dissolved. Ukraine has, since the 1990s, been a second source for the R-27R1 and many other Russian weapons. If nothing else this forced Russia to keep prices and quality at reasonable levels. Because of the current aggressive stance (against Ukraine and East Europe in general) Ukraine is the preferred supplier of R-27R1s, at least for Poland.

Even so the Ukrainian R-27R1 manufacturer is required to guarantee the usability period for the R-27R1 missiles for at least 96 months (if missiles are hermetically sealed in containers) and for 60 months, once the missile is unpacked (for example used by fighters during flights). The R-27 also known (to NATO) as the AA-10 Alamo is a guided medium range, air-to-air missile that entered production in 1986 and was in service by 1990s. R-27R1 can be used on a large number of Russian designed fighters. The missile is designed to intercept and destroy hostile piloted aircraft, drone targets and cruise missiles in long-range and close-in maneuverable air fight. The R-27 missile is available in six variants:

-R-27R1 uses a semi-active radar seeker which allows destruction of air targets in adverse weather conditions at any time of day. This version requires radar to track and “paint” the target with a radar signal in order for the missile to home in on the radar signals bouncing off the target. Thus s big drawback is the need for the firing aircraft to remain involved until the missile hits the target. R-27R1 has a length of 4 meters, weighs 253 kilograms and has a range of 60 kilometers. Poland wants to buy this variant.

-R-27ER1 is an extended range version and is slightly longer (due bigger solid propellant rocket-motor section) at 4.7meters. It weighs about 350 kilograms and has a range of 90 kilometers.

-R-27T1 uses infrared (IR or “heat seeking) guidance and is fire and forget missile. It shorter (3.7 meters) and more agile than radar guided versions, weighs 245 kilograms and has a range of 50 kilometers. The T1 can be used to “silent interceptions” because IR homing is passive (no emitting radar signals which can be detected by aircraft radar warning receiver) rendering older aircraft without special missile approach warning very vulnerable. There was and still is one problem because the IR sensor can only detect the target at less than 20 kilometers. For longer range shots you have to fire the missile blindly at where you thing the target will be. As a result this is useful only at much shorter ranges at head-on engagements, however at tail-on engagements the longer range can be fully utilized.

-R-27ET1 is an extended range version of R-27T1, is 4.5 meters long, weighs about 343 kilograms and has a range of 90 kilometers.

-R-27P1 is a fire-and-forget missile with passive anti-radiation seeker which can lock on both enemy fighter radar emissions. This is making it the first anti-radiation homing air to air missile ever deployed so far. The missile is four meters long, weighs 248 kilograms and range of 78 kilometers. Despite these benefits this version has vulnerabilities. If the target aircraft turns of his radar the missile will be useless. The second one the new radar technologies which are low-probability-of-intercept solution are immune to this type of homing.

-R-27EP1 is an extended range version of R-27P1 and it is slightly longer at 4.7 meters. The missile weights about 350 kilograms and range is 110 kilometers.

Although the R-27 series is a late Cold War design, slightly predating the AIM-120A AMRAAM, it has good performance and especially the long burn variants will likely to remain in production until ramjet (very high speed) variants of the R-77 family arrive.

Polish attempts to acquire these missiles shows that Poles are willing to maintain the full scope of capabilities of the MiG-29 jet fighters. In late 2015 Ukrainian companies offered to modernize R-27 missile family for Polish fighters. -- Przemys&&22;aw Juraszek

 


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