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Sukhoi S-56 Shipborne Fighter

From the very beginning, the S-54 trainer had been designed with a shipborne role in mind. This provided for the folding wing, arrestor hook, anticorrosion coating, etc.). Such an approach was caused by taking the world (mostly American) experience in the naval aircraft developing, which says that it is easier to turn a good shipborne fighter into a regular - ground-based - one than to try to 'navalise' an Air Force fighter. The technological solution provided for the S-56 shipborne fighter will increase the carrier's fighter capacity by 2-3 times, thus enhancing the carrier task forces' combat effectiveness and enabling them to win the war of attrition waged with the enemy carrier groups.

The Admiral Kuznetsov performances determined the S-56's characteristics. The arrestor gear mounted on Kuznetsov are unable, due to their inertia, to get operational if the weight of the aircraft landing is greater than 7 tons - too hard longitudinal g-load during the breaking occur, which can result in damaging the aircraft or the pilot, or both. Owing to this, the regular S-56 take-off weight (with two medium-range AAMs and two short-range AAMs) totalled 12 t - a little bit more than that of the latest versions of the MiG-21 (8-9 t).

The S-56 would be the most compact fighter across the world. The developer strove to make the plane with its wings folded to fit the square of 3 by 3 meters. This was achieved via the double folding of the wing that folds at the point where it joins the airframe and in the middle of the wing panel, with one section covering the other when folded. Another ingenious solution was the 'squatting' landing gear. The nose strut is retracted forward with a turn, while the main gear is turned rearward. With its landing gear being semi-retracted, the fighter makes a kind of squat, which reduces its height down to 3 m, which allows new ways of housing the fighters on the carrier. Between the hangar and the gallery decks, there might be appear an extra deck, which would increase the number of fighter onboard by 2-3 times. To house bigger planes (e.g. the Su-33) and helicopters, part of the hangar deck might be preserved without modification.

Despite the problems with funding, the work on the S-54 family planes has been underway. There was some discussion of the program being accelerated, given the Indian Navy's program to include into its inventory the former Admiral Gorshkov through-the-deck-cruiser converted into a full-scale aircraft carrier. Some see the S-56 as an ideal aircraft to be stationed on this carrier, as well as on the light air defence AD aircraft carrier slated for building at Indian shipyards. However, should the Russian aircraft be late, the Indian ships could end up carrying foreign-made fighters, e.g. production Rafale-Ms or new versions of Harrier. This carrier based version was proposed and offered to India in 1999, though it was not accepted.



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