Russian aircraft Su 57 to get electric drivers
The prototype of the upgraded Su-57 has to take off for the first time in mid-2022, defense industry sources said. The engineers design electric drivers for all controlling surfaces of the fighter jet. They will increase maneuverability and provide maintenance advantages.
Trials will take at least two years. They will test flight characteristics and electromagnetic compatibility of the new equipment. The system has to be reliably protected against internal and outside disturbances and lightning.
Transition to electric drivers is a sophisticated task. The result will be astonishing in case of success, experts said. The absence of hydraulic pipes and mechanisms makes the jet lighter and simplifies maintenance, as it is easier to replace parts. There will be no liquid leaks and toxic oil. Electric engines are lighter and smaller.
Test pilot and Hero of Russia Oleg Mutovin believes electric drivers will increase survivability. “An aircraft maneuvers in flight due to the movement of the so-called controlling surfaces: ailerons, stabilizers, rudders, etc. Before the jet era, pilots could control the aircraft without boosters. In the jet era, the payload and speed increased and the strength of pilots became insufficient. Designers began to introduce hydraulic boosters. It is difficult or impossible to control a modern jet without them,” he said.
Modern jets are equipped with sophisticated and powerful high-pressure hydraulic systems. Pipes have to be installed in the wings and fuselage for the liquid. They occupy a major place and are vulnerable in combat. “Pressure exceeds 300 atmospheres in some modern jets. A pipe damage exhausts the liquid in seconds and the booster breaks down. Unfortunately, I have experienced the situation,” Mutovin said.
Cables replace pipes in case of rapid electric drivers. They can have standbys in various places and damage will not break down the drivers altogether. No flammable and toxic liquid is necessary. The weight of hydraulic pumps and pipes is saved.
The US and European civil and military aviation is designing the so-called More Electric Aircraft. Electric drivers replace traditional hydraulics. It is an advanced approach.
US F-35 has progressed a lot. Its key advantage is a mixed electric-hydraulic system. American designers refused to merge the hydraulic systems to manage the controlling surfaces. Each fin element, be it a rudder or flap, has an independent hydraulic contour managed by an electric driver.
A complete drop of hydraulics is even more promising. The Swedish SAAB which produces JAS 39 Gripen considers electric drivers for its projects.
The approach is used in advanced civilian aircraft. Boeing 787 Dreamliner has completely electric brakes and chassis instead of hydraulic. They are lighter and exactly control all parameters in real time, including the wear and tear of brake pads.
Su-57 for the first time took off in early 2010 and is undergoing final trials. The fifth-generation jet has not been accepted into service yet, however several upgrades are already in store. In particular, the platform of the jet will be the main one for Russian combat aviation in the coming decades. Therefore, the aircraft will undergo numerous transformations.
The fighter jet has to be powered by the second-phase engine. At present, the first serial Su-57 have AL-41F1 turbo jet engines known as item 117. Flight trials of the latest fifth-generation engine known as item 30 are underway.
Deputy Defense Minister Alexey Krivoruchko said the new engines would consume less fuel and the life cycle would be less costly. The fighter jet will be able to make long flights at supersonic speed without a boost. The powerful engines will satisfy all the energy needs of a more electric aircraft.
After trials and batch production, the new engines will be installed in available Su-57. Together with electric controls they have to display full capabilities of the jet, the Izvestia said.