16:06 21.05.2016(updated 17:14 21.05.2016)
The Russian Defense Ministry presented the A-50U – the Aerospace Forces’ most advanced airborne early warning and control aircraft (AEW&C, or AWACS) at an air base in the Ivanovo Region.
The plane is meant for detecting and tracking a number of aerial (fighter jets, bombers, ballistic and cruise missiles), ground (tank columns) and surface (above-water vessels) targets, informing command centers about the developments in the air and sea, and directing fighter and strike aviation.
It can also serve as a command center itself.
The A-50 plane is in essence a giant flying data processing center. It is literally stuffed with equipment which is operated by 10 men. The aircraft can also protect itself by means of electronic warfare. It has an aerial refueling system.
The main feature of the aircraft is its circular rotating radar (rotodome), dubbed “mushroom” by its crews, above the fuselage. If the automatic system fails, an operator can rotate the radar with a special handle.
The A-50U, which made its maiden flight in 2011, is a further derivative of the A-50, which has been in service since 1989. The A-50 can spot targets at a distance of 800 kilometers and has an operational range of 7,500 kilometers.
In contrast with its predecessor, the A-50U is “sharper-sighted,” can transfer data better and fly farther. Its exact characteristics are kept secret.
The A-50 has participated in different campaigns over 25 years. For example, the plane was used in the operation to eliminate Dzokhar Dudayev, the leader of terrorists in the First Chechen War, on April 21, 1996. An A-50 detected Dudayev’s location by intercepting his phone call, and seconds later a Su-24 bomber destroyed the terrorist with a Kh-25 missile.
Reportedly, the Russian Aerospace Forces currently maintain a fleet of 15 A-50 and three A-50U planes.
RUSSIA STARTS PRODUCTION A-100 AWACS
Russia has started production of its new generation of Airborne Warning and Control System Aircraft (AWACS). The first Ilyushin IL-76MD-90A (Ил-76МД-90А), the newest version of what NATO calls the Candid, was delivered to the Taganrog-based Beriev Aviation Scientific-Technical Complex (TANTK) on 21 November 2014.
The A-100 Premier will replace the current Beriev (/Ilyushin) A-50s in Russian Air Force service. Between 1978 and 1992 forty of these A-50s (NATO-name Mainstay) were produced, based on an older version of the IL-76, with 20 still in active service.
At the current production rate it takes about two years for every new IL-76MD-90A to roll out of the factory, with currently 13 machines on the line. They are equipped with modern Russian-made engines, new flight navigation complex and a digital automatic flight control system.
The IL-76MD-90s are currently produced by Aviastar and tested at the airport of Ulyanovsk-Vostochny. Beriev in Taganrog creates the special versions like the A-100 from already produced new machines.
Since Russia also aims at slowly get some of these new four-engine planes into the strategic airlift units, it is yet uncertain how fast the A-100s will take over from the A-50. Therefore a modernisation program for the A-50s is also underway.
The A-100 Premier will have a more advanced active phase array radar to detect and track both multiple airborne and land-based targets. According to Russian source information the older A-50 is able to only control and guide about 10 combat aircraft packages on either air-to-air or air-to-ground missions, while very much relying on each package having its own lead-man to to relay AWACS instructions.
See details of A-50U (A-100): HERE