Why Russia Can’t Make An AESA Radar?

Mechanically steered Zhuk-ME phased array radar exported to Egyptian Air Force for MiG-29M2 aircraft.

Russia is yet to produce a production fighter aircraft with an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. Naturally, there are claims that they are coming soon to a MiG-35 or Su-57 near you. Be hold and be patient!

Read Wikipedia, thanks to Russian trolls,– Russia has too many AESA radars including one AESA radar fitted on to the abandoned T-14 Armata tank.

Who Has AESA Radar?

There are many more technologically advanced countries which do produce AESA radars for military warplane applications. These countries also have the financial resources to do it. The export field is crowded with US players and NATO allies.

The Lockheed Martin F-22, F-35, F-21 (F-16V), F-16V Block 70/72, and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet Block II all have AESA Radars. The European Typhoon, Rafale and Gripen all have AESA Radars. Even the Leonardo M-346FA light combat aircraft has an AESA radar.

The Chinese are far more likely to attempt to compete here than Russian. China already built an AESA radar based on Phazotron NIIR Corporation’s Zhuk-AME radar. The Chinese J-20, J-16 and J-10C all have AESA radars. Chinese even offered an AESA radar to Pakistani JF-17 Block III aircraft.

What is an AESA radar?

Active Electronically Scanned Arrays are considered a solid-state array system, which consists of an array of antennas which form a beam of radio waves that can be aimed in different directions without physically moving the antennae themselves. The primary use of AESA technology is in radar systems.

The evolution of ASEA technology can be traced back to the early 1960s with the development of the passive electronically scanned array (PESA) radar, a solid-state system which takes a signal from a single source and uses the phase shifter modules to selectively delay certain parts of the signal while allowing others to transmit without delay. Transmitting the signal in this way can produce differently shaped signals, effectively pointing the signal beam in different directions. This is sometimes referred to as beam steering.


The advantages of an AESA design almost demand it’s inclusion in any modern fighter. The AESA radars can spread their signal emissions across a wider range of frequencies, which makes them more difficult to detect over background noise, allowing ships and aircraft to radiate powerful radar signals while still remaining stealthy, as well as being more resistant to jamming.

Key Features

  • Resistance to Electronic Jamming
  • Low Interception
  • Increased Reliability
  • Multi-Mode Capability

Current Russian Aircraft

The latest Sukhois (Su-30, 33, 34, 35 etc) and new MiG29M2 do not possess an AESA- (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar systems. The Su-57 and MiG-35 are for now the only designated recipients of AESA radar which is admittedly running beyond the schedule; but then again, concerning that this is an enormous generational jump in radar tech is not surprising.

T-14 Armata with no visible antenna near turret which is an indication that Russian propaganda mouthpiece fabricated stories about an AESA radar on to T-14. Although an APS is visible just under the RWS.

The T-14 Armata tank is to be equipped with an aircraft-grade AESA radar suite for situational awareness-once the technology is finished. So far T-14 is gone now, Su-57 is back to the drawing board and MiG-35 doesn’t have an AESA. MiG-35 is the only aircraft Russia couldn’t sale to an export customer.

Nebo-M VHF radar that comes with S-400. Nebo-M was jammed by Israeli F-16 using Sky shield electronic attack platforms.

Here’s why Russia doesn’t have a production aircraft with an AESA radar.

  1. Lack of an advanced microelectronics industry.
  2. Lack of computer technology in chipset and CPU designer and manufacturer.
  3. No competition in the above to push innovation or R&D efforts.
  4. No very high tech industry, world-class resources, engineering talent and experience to advance AESA in the way that American Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman in particular, and European Leonardo, Saab, Thales or BAE can do.
  5. No incentives for private companies to build an AESA since the defense industry is controlled by the Russian state.
  6. Russia cannot collaborate with Italy’s Leonardo to produce an AESA due to EU and American sanctions
  7. Most Chinese military hardware is Russian and Soviet origin. Russia cannot collaborate with the Chinese on the microelectronics fields due to Russian ego. Teacher (Russia) does not want to learn from the student (China).
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Heat Issues

Zhuk radar produces heat, air cooling and liquid-cooled chamber didn’t work, — more computer challenges, and software challenges, and making everything work and play nice together in a confined space without overheating are impossible for Russian engineers who have never done it before. The Airborne radar is not Russian clunky air defense radar that can radiate heat to the atmosphere.

Not to mention heavyweights and legacy electronics which likely cause performance, power, size, weight, and reliability issues, — now you add cost, — add after-sales service. There are easier things to make and sell like the Yak-130 and Kalashnikov.

More issues in Russian AESA, –data processing side, either hardware or software. We know computers are not really Russia’s strength. It could be related to Russian doctrine, they like their equipment rugged and cheap. They operate their fighters differently than the West does, could be the technology as they see it isn’t quite ready for the way they intend to use it.

They may prefer to just build more airframes rather than upgrade the ones they have with expensive radars.

Money and More Money

Russian AESA for an export fighter aircraft? That assumes a market would exist in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia. Russia needs to demonstrate first it can do it on its own aircraft. And that hasn’t happened, except for the “ coming soon “ claims, fake Wikipedia and the professional trolls creating their fake news propaganda noises. Russia even failed to supply an AESA radar to Egyptian MiG-29M2.

Russian $65.1 billion defense budget is not enough comparing $177.6 billion Chinese defense budget or the American $1.4 trillion defense budget.

Spare your thoughts for 900,000 active personnel and 2 million reserved personnel of Russian military who receive salary from $65.1 billion, these uniformed troops did not get paid when Soviet Union collapsed. Russia will have little money left to spend on innovation once salaries are paid and rest of the funds kept for operations and maintenance of existing equipment.

No India No Cash

India, Sukhoi’s former partner/investor, had left Su-57 (PAK FA) programme. Russia has very little comparative experience in fighter carried AESA radar, but attempted to design and produce one in the NO36 radar. This is very expensive, and a far more challenging attempt than producing the PESA/MESA Irbis E radar found on the Su-35. India wanted the inherent design advantages of an AESA set carried by other frontline Western fighters.

To Summarize

Russia will continue with what works and what they can manufacture by using the Irbis-E (non-AESA) on to the frontline Su-35. Little is known regarding the status or production plans for the AESA radar onboard the Su-57 and MiG-35, other than it’s an ongoing project.

Irbis-E PESA developed by Tikhomirov NIIP for the Su-35BM multi-purpose fighter aircraft. The Irbis-E has new Solo-35.01 digital signal processor hardware and Solo-35.02 data processor but retains legacy software, receiver hardware, cooling mechanism the master oscillator and exciter of the BARS radar of Su-30MKI. A prototype has been in flight test since late 2005.

You can safely ignore fanboy claims of AESA radar being fitted to the Su-57 and MiG-35, as the Egyptian Air Force, PLA Air Force and Indian Air Force didn’t believe that claim. Putin’s propaganda mouthpiece Sputnik News is like to be saying that a theoretical radar design being touted as far more developed than it actually is.

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