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Eyes and ears of the future aircraft

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Evgeny Fedosov: “By financing a scientific and technological base, the state increases competitiveness of national industry.” 

Eyes and ears of the future aircraft

Evgeny Fedosov interviewed by Konstantin Makienko;

Originally appeared at VPK, translated by Igor V. Rozum exclusively for SouthFront;  Edited by Elaine Ossipova.

“NII (research institutes) should not be just included in the creation of new equipment, but also be responsible for advancing national experimental base”, thinks Supervisor of Studies, First Deputy of the General Director of the State Research Institute of Aviation Systems (GosNIIAS) Evgeny Fedosov.

– How did science interacted with research and production of aviation equipment in the USSR?

– From the beginning the soviet airspace industry was developed as research and not production, and, in this regard, inherently is a science-intensive sector. Back in the 1918 the TsAGI (Central Aero- hydrodynamic Institute) had already been created, headed by Nikolay Zhukovsky. He studied aeromechanics, was a professor at Moscow Imperial Higher Technical School and Moscow State University. Andrey Tupolev did an internship at TsAGI, after-which he remained there, and soon had become a deputy under Zhukovsky. From the beginning an indigenous design school began to form at TsAGI, parallel to the fundamental research. Zhukovsky has been working on problems of mechanics, aerodynamics and ballistics, and the first airplane designs were created by Tupolev in his role as deputy-director. Herein and moving forward, soviet aeronautical science was developed alongside and in tandem with design schools.

Later a design bureau had been formed as a part of TsAGI, which had later become the Tupolev Design Bureau. In general, all of soviet aeronautical industry, in one way or another, traces its roots to TsAGI, which, at the time, had been dealing with many questions: weapons, engines, materials and flight testing. After, the process of a scientific specialization had begun. At the beginning of 1930’s VIAM (All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Aviation Materials) and CIAM (Central Institute of Aviation Motors) had been separated from TsAGI, specializing in materials and engines respectively. By the 1930’s those two branches had developed so much that they could no longer be contained in the framework of TsAGI. In the year 1939, at the town of Zhukovsky, where the airfield for flight testing was being constructed, the LII (Flight Research Institute) came into existence, which, in the beginning, was a laboratory of TsAGI. And finally, in the year 1946 our institute has been separated out of LII. Now it is known as GosNIIAS.

So in this way, towards the middle of the 1940s, a form of system had developed, a coordinated-system which included a number of institutes, design bureaus and factories. In the USSR scientific institutes had a very close ties with design bureaus right from the start, and the whole industry was a sort of a giant super-corporation headed by the Ministry of the Aviation Industry.

-How did the system evolve after the 1940’s?

– During the war, and especially after, the role of the institutes was constantly increasing due the introduction of powerful and very expensive experimental base. For example, all of aerodynamic tunnels were under management of TsAGI. In CIAM, for testing of engines, especially after the switch to jet propulsion, a unique testing facility had been built at Turaevo. TsAGI and CIAM had huge unique installations in which the government had invested billions of rubles.

Eyes and ears of the future aircraftAs for the GosNIIAS, it had been established in 1946. After the war the USSR began to analyze captured documents and materials, including the ones concerning Germany’s organization of their aeronautical industry. It was discovered, that a separate institute specializing in weapons had existed, even though during the Second World War they were relatively unsophisticated. For the most part, they were dealing with accuracy of bombs and guns.

After the war an intensive process of aircraft armament developed and linked to the beginning appearance of guided rocket munitions. An automation of targeting modes had appeared, a concept of targeting and navigation system had come into existence. They were the simplest of autonomous systems: pilot’s gunsight, navigator’s bombsight, a navigation system. All of those systems existed as completely independent products. But later, a process of integration began.

Initially a weapon control system was conceived as certain independent structures: bombing, gunning, air to air and guided air to ground missile systems, radar or other electronic systems. Each of those closed systems had a specific function. The only thing requiring integration was the display of information, to unclutter the cabin’s space having an excessive amount of indicators. So attempts were made to integrate information from several systems into a single indicator. Such was the state of things until the 80’s of the last century.

With the rapid development of an on-board digital computing in beginning of the 80’s an opportunity arose to transfer all of those autonomous tasks to software, to be placed into some unified digital medium. And the concept of Integrated Modular Avionics was born. All systems aboard a modern aircraft are built on this principal. It is one complex system, a multiprocessor structure, but combined into singular digital complex, in which different functions exist in form of programs. The transition to such a structure had been possible due to progress of computing technology. But it was also absolutely necessary due to the rapidly growing multitude of functions. In the 80’s a civil airliner had about 10 to 12 functions: navigation, autopilot, thrust-automation, takeoff-landing, and basic flight regimes. In the modern aircraft today, let’s take for example an MC-21, there are more than a hundred of those functions. There are power systems, fuel, air-conditioning, oxygen, firefighting systems, and more. Today it is impossible to do without system integration, without the systems approach.

So, to summarize, in the USSR a system of cooperation between the science, design bureaus and manufacturers had emerged in which the Institutes had a legally assigned function of testing and developing the concepts of modern aviation systems.

– What was the place of GosNIIAS in this system?

– The role of our institute had been increasing with increasing sophistication of air weaponry. Figuratively speaking, we have gradually evolved from a rear supply to a position of elite guard and at the end, being the youngest institute, took our place among such distinguished organization as TsAGI, CIAM and VIAM.

One of the tasks, I had personally faced right after becoming a deputy director of the institute, was a problem of increasing bombing accuracy of Yak-28 at supersonic speeds. A bomb spread was such, that sometimes besides not hitting a specified target area, they would miss the proving grounds completely. Besides the fact the physics of dropping a bomb at supersonic speeds differs from doing so at subsonic speeds, we had quickly realized that an essence of the problem lay in shortcomings of the OPB-16 bombsight. That specific device had been made to function as required by efforts of our institute’s material, and not by its original manufacturer.

There are other examples showcasing the role of GosNIIAS in perfecting, often revolutionary, aircraft weapon systems. As such, our organization was a pioneer in the field of laser designation for air to ground missiles and played a significant role in revamping the weapons control system of MiG-25 after it was flown to Japan by the traitor Belenko. It is largely by the efforts of our institute that the concept of MiG-31 interceptor had been developed not as an evolution of MiG-25, which had been considered at the beginning, but as a high-altitude air to air missile platform, able to control vast distances, including those in the Arctic. We were pioneers of the systems approach in combat aviation. Naturally, all that work had been done in close cooperation with the Ministry of Defense, Air Force, Design Bureaus and testers.

– What changes did the breakup of the USSR bring to this system?

– In terms of integrated structures such as UAK (United Aircraft Corporation), UEC (United Engine Corporation), “Russian Helicopters”, etc. a gradual merger of manufacturing and design bureaus have occurred. This has been borrowed from western management models, and it should be this way in a market economy. But everybody seems to have forgotten about the institutes. Sometimes it is impossible to do without institutes: if nobody has an aerodynamic tunnel, like it or not, you would have to go to TsAGI. But engine manufacturers from Rybinsk and Perm have invested a considerable amount of money and have begun to build their own test stands which completely duplicate the ones in Turaevo. Because of this CIAM, possessing powerful tools in a form of test stands, have started to fall out of the system’s process.

The same is also occurring within our domain. Weapon developers have begun to create their own modeling capabilities. As things are at this moment, they were unable to build an experimental base on par with ours. Besides the fact that our test stands are very complex, to conduct such experiments it is also required to have engineers with multiple sets of skills, able to understand location, optics, electronics, computing, and more. They should have an in-depth knowledge of management systems. And this is a world of its own. While TsAGI and CIAM are studying physical processes: gas dynamics, air flow and resistance, our world is the world of information systems. A control function is realized through software, and this is a very different medium, a world of computers is a different world of ones and zeros. It’s a very peculiar medium. I would say, it is like Newton’s mechanics and Einstein’s physics. There is a concept of complex systems. Complex systems in which classical testing methods are unable to uncover all the errors. There are millions of lines of code, forks and branches which are impossible to check by methods of classical testing.

The point I am making, is the basis of law for functioning of institutes has disappeared. The institutes’ place in a process of testing and creation of aviation equipment is not legally defined like it was in the soviet time.  In the provision about development of military equipment it is written, that modeling should take place, but who should undertake it. This is not defined. Upon general director’s choice a firm can undertake modeling at it’s own facilities, or at GosNIIAS. You understand, that nobody wants to part with funds and pay somebody else.

CIAM and TsAGI have also lost their place in a process. Of course TsAGI have kept aerodynamic research. Nobody has gone after the tube (aerodynamic tunnel) as of yet. But today aerodynamics is no longer a main priority. Of course, engines and systems are much more complex. In general, the institutes have lost the legal right to conduct scientific and technical support of aeronautical development, to control research.

So the main problem in organization of scientific support for aerospace industry today, is the absence of legal requirement for participation of scientific institutes in the test processes. This has to be restored.

– How should an interaction between science, engineering and manufacturing of aircraft equipment be organized?

– Today it is customary to distinguish nine technological levels in creating modern complex systems. First six levels are formation of a technological and scientific base. This is not just reports and paper, but creation of a functioning prototype. A system, developed to the level of prototype, should have an experimental and mathematical proof of its functionality, even though it is not yet a serial production model. Prototypes are checked on stands, flying laboratories, or sometimes even on live aircraft in a form of a subsystem. Institutes should play a key role on these six levels. By the way, at these levels the government can invest funds without breaking WTO rules. But at the levels of development work that would be illegal. So, by financing scientific and technical base, government is investing in the competitiveness of national industry.

And it is only from the seventh stage that the development stage begins. It is a creation of production documentation, production itself, flight testing and adoption by a military or a civilian customer. It is here, of course, institutes do not play a major role.

From the first to the sixth level a notion of scientific director and scientific management from an institute should exist, of course, according to its line of expertise. Institutes should be responsible for advancing the national experimental base. I would like to stress – the national base, and not a base of design bureaus, which, of course, should also exist and grow. An institution’s scientific support should also include monitoring for the purpose of protection of national interests. The designer would also understand that, firstly, the government monitors the process, and, secondly, that there is an institute that shares the responsibility.


Organizations, mentioned in the article:

GosNIIAS – http://gosniias.ru/index-e.htm

TsAGI – http://tsagi.com/

CIAM – http://www.ciam.ru/

VIAM – http://viam.ru/en

LII – http://www.lii.ru/

UAC – http://www.uacrussia.ru/en/

UEC – http://www.uk-odk.ru/eng/

Russian Helicopters – http://www.russianhelicopters.aero/en/

Tupolev – http://www.tupolev.ru/en/

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