As far as i know the Tu-22 MR is pretty outdated aircraft with outdated systems. It does not have the neccessary equipment to make correct assesment of the situation and thus they had a loss.
Outdated because they haven't spent a cent on them for the last 20+ years.
Now you are suggesting a UAV can do a better job.
I don't know much about the recon version but it is made mainly of optical aperatus. Tu-22 is a huge aircraft, big target and somehow not very agile and thus responsive to sudden threat appearance.
JSTARS is even bigger and less agile and would have had even less chance in surviving.
The problem is that we are comparing a fully funded three quarters of a billion dollar a year force that regularly invades foreign countries with a count that does not spend 1% of that and has gone through a period of 20 years of poor funding support and at least 3 economic meltdowns.
You claim the cheapest option is to design from scratch a JSTARS like aircraft and make a super UAV out of it.
I suggest taking an Il-96 airliner and putting JSTARs like material into it.
Neither will result in a Tu-22MR which is a recon SEAD aircraft so I suppose that was a bad example.
A JSTARS aircraft should have been used in the weeks and months before the attack to work out their defence etc.
And here is the catch. It is possible and not just possible, today the F-22 has a more sophisticated radar than the JSTARS from the 1990s. You remember in 1996 first pentiums running at 100 Mhz and now allmost 15 years later you have on the same chip size 8 cores with 64bit capability running at 5Ghz.
I think you are confusing capacity with performance. My digital watch is far more technically advanced than anything used to get a man on the moon. That doesn't mean that with my watch I can get to the moon.
Now the other thing is: In JSTARS aircraft most of the space is used for the crew and for the so called Man machine interface terminals. Those terminals alone are not doing the computations. They are just there to interface the operator with the system. This alone is consuming muuuuch of the space.
Space is not so important on a plane as weight. Having a UAV paked to the gills with electronics and you will have a fire within 20 minutes of turning it all on.
If you take this into considerations then you would not be very surprised if the current JSTARS computational capability you would be able to put inside such UAV as Zond, Global HAWK or even smaller. There is no magic behind this, its the state of technology we have today.
I am sorry but you are confusing the purpose and strengths of a UAV with the purpose and strengths of a JSTARS.
Here is some NASA civilian research project including Global HAWK and SAR.
There you have it.
Additionally you can google out that Americans are into tons of research projects involving SAR on UAVs
Synthetic Aperture Radar on a UAV would be useful, but not all SARs are equal.
Mig-25s had side looking SARs and so do the electronic warfare Su-24s... it doesn't make them a JSTARS.
However in Tu-126 which is very old crew comfort features are minimal, even A-50 today is not too good in this because of the level of sound inside the aircraft it is virtually impossible to sleep there.
There is such a thing as ear plugs.
Not to mention that A-50 would have to be significantly upgraded in order to shrunk the needed electronics for its role and save some space. It is not that big aircraft as it sounds.
The A-50 has had upgrades and improvements over its operational life and will soon be replaced by the A-100 which has much more extensive upgrades.
BTW if you think the A-50 lacks space how big a UAV are you talking about?
Yes by processing the data onboard you can reduce the comms trafic. But you are still able to do the processing onboard on a HALE size UAV like global hawk.
Added processing power will not fill the gap because improved sensor technology will greatly increase the amount of data to be processed. A volume of airspace that needed to be scanned in the 1990s will now need to be scanned much more carefully now because target RCS are smaller and the distances you need to detect emissions is much greater.
With the increase in use of cellphones the ether will have a lot more emissions that need detection, classification, identification, and monitoring... all of which uses a lot more processing power.
HALE UAVs don't tend to crash a lot Smile
Currently they don't, though they lost a few early on to ice... and they don't have anything in service that could effectively replace JSTARS aircraft.
By the way do you know KQ-4?
It is in testing proposed tanker version.
And you do know what kind of reliability you need in such roles
So a proposed tanker version of a UAV is justification for Russia to skip a JSTARS aircraft and instead risk a JSTARS UAV.
Russia has nothing like the UAV experience of the USAF, nor the JSTARS experience of the USAF. Yet you think they should fly before they can walk?
A JSTARS UAV is redundant because JSTARS has been used in several conflicts and has never even been threatened let alone shot down. JSTARS is used in a way that puts no risk to the aircraft, yet provides valuable intel on the enemy... something Russian forces severely lacked in Georgia.
They have proposed a tanker UAV... when they get the necessary reliability and actually are in service then I will be impressed.
So to me it looks like its only a matter of time when they will replace JSTARS, not if...
Most of the worst accidents that occurred during the cold war for Russia did so because they were in a rush to leap ahead of the west.
There is no need for such foolishness right now.
Spending money on a JSTARS like aircraft is more important than whether it is a UAV or an airliner like the Il-96.
I think it makes more sense to have both in terms of a manned aircraft with all the electronics on board doing the job plus some UAVs that can be sent where the manned aircraft can't go for use in certain situations.
But overall the electronics the JSTARS had packed inside in for example 1995 - electronics with the same performance could be packed inside global hawk with ease.
With the obvious problem that even if that were true that Russia neither has JSTARS or Global Hawk.
Could you give me a few examples of what the Russian military would actually be doing right now if it had a Global Hawk?
Exactly what missions would it be flying with this UAV that it can't fly right now with a manned aircraft or satellite?
I can't think if a single use for such a UAV for Russia right now that would justify the expense.
HALE UAVs in Russia are very secret projects. ZOND series of aircrafts might be in their final stage of testing as much as they might still be only proposed models. But taking into account the lesson Russians have learned from the Osethia war, i doubt they are just models.
Russian companies have been showing drawings and prototypes of UAVs for 20 years or more, yet only a very few UAVs were ever actually bought and paid for. Most have been prototypes dragged out for airshows for the last two decades in the hope someone would spend money on their development.
The reality is that the Russian Military has simply not been interested as a whole about UAVs till 2008. The only part of the Russian military with any interest was the Artillery in the Russian Army that bought and developed the Pchelka for artillery spotting and it is a mature respectable system for what it is.
Problem is that since 2008 all branches of the Russian military have suddenly decided they need UAVs and they need them now. They don't know what they need them for, but they need them.
They are buying 100 old Israeli systems to equip a training unit because they don't even know what to expect from a UAV system or how to use it.
...and you expect them to spend hundreds or perhaps thousands of millions of dollars making a JSTARS UAV?
And there is one other significant differrence. Their salary. For one ground operator have allmost certainly much lower salary than pilot risking his own life by being onboard the aircraft in the area of operation.
The difference in combat pay and non combat pay is not great... and in conditions of guerilla warfare where the battle lines are blurred who is to say where the combat zone is?
You finish a day monitoring Chechen airspace for bad guys and then go out that night to a show in Moscow when half way through the play some bearded men and women covered from head to toe in black suddenly step up on the stage and start waving guns...
Jam the transmission to it if you can, and it will eventually switch to autonomous mode where it will do whatever he has been preprogrammed with.
Jamming JSTARS is unlikely an option, it should be able to use a satellite link to pass jamming information to the air defence forces to deal with it.
Not yet, as they are in development - but we have all the indices that this is going to change soon.
There are systems that can check the status of other systems and reboot them if needed.
But you have to take into account that this kind of thing takes advantage of allmost space level of engineering. Be it mechanics, be it electronics.
We have designed sattelites that their mission lasts for years. They are designed to work flawlessly for years. And most of them did. Russian ones as well.
A UAV JSTARS is too much of a risk right now... what they need is a real JSTARS and they can think about augmenting its performance with UAVs later.
Again this is a discussion similar to the MLRS one. Total cost of ownership. You have to take into account not just the development but also maintenance and operational costs. And if you count together all this stuff it seems the UAV approach is more efficient.
On paper it looks more efficient. In the real world however you will find costs increase and that cheap UAV is no longer that cheap if you actually want to use it.
The difference between this and the MLRS discussion is that I am quite familiar with tube and rocket artillery, but the capabilities of the JSTARS and any Soviet/Russian ELINT equivelent is something I am not so familiar with.
I know they have ELINT versions of the Il-20 and the Il-76 and the Il-80 has been mentioned in the C2 role, and I remember reading that a prototype jammer version of the Tu-22M was beaten by a jammer version of the Il-76 because its jammers were more powerful. What they clearly lack are ELINT aircraft and I think that in addition to new satellites they should develop ELINT versions of new aircraft, as this will improve performance and boost production figures for new aircraft... and allow the retirement of older platforms too.