According to Yefim Gordon's Red Star 36 book on the Yak VTOLs the Yak-41 was also able to carry one Kh-31 / Kh-35 on the centreline. There is ample space available between the lift engines and the main engine, but it may well be that this configuration was only possible in STOL mode? Both the Kh-31 and Kh-35 were also compatible with all 4 the underwing pylons.
Very skeptical of that, even in STO mode with a rolling takeoff the lift jet engines are used and their AB engines direct a lot of heat downwards that means anything on the centreline pylon would be subjected to excessive heat, plus the Yak does not have an arrester hook so all landings are done vertically or conventionally on a full sized runway.
I have a video of the 1992 Farnborough airshow where the commentator joked that the Yak was only allowed to take off conventionally and land conventionally because it was destroying the runway... they hovered of course, but did not land or take off vertically.
Conventional landings on a carrier are not possible and a vertical landing means coming in from behind the carrier slightly faster than the carrier is moving and when it gets to its landing spot its main engine is deflected forwards to slow down to match the forward speed of the carrier so it can then reduce thrust and land, which means that huge powerful jet engine blowing hot air a little forward to stop the aircraft moving forward which would also effect any item or equipment on any centreline pylon.
I find AWACS a little strange. Hey let's have an air war. Now let me get this clumsy slow prop plane in the air first.
The value of being able to see in every direction 360 degrees continuously from sea level up to any altitude you like out to 500-600km or more is incredibly valuable to any ship operating at sea... even if it can only see stealthy threats at 50km that would still be enough warning to do something about it... the alternative is dangerous stuff appearing at the horizon... you might not even have time to turn critical defence systems on to defend yourself.
Wouldn't the AWACs plane be the ultimate BVR target right away ?
If it was in the middle of nowhere I would agree, but this AWACS aircraft would be operating above the equivalent of about 6 S-500 batteries and about 40-50 S-400 batteries and about the same number of S-350 batteries, and perhaps 100 TOR batteries and maybe 40 Pantsir systems... not to mention perhaps 24 Su-57 fighter aircraft and perhaps another 36 MiG-35 aircraft, as well as guns from 30mm and 57mm right up to 130mm and 152mm guns all dedicated to shooting planes and aircraft and missiles down.
By the time this carrier is ready and these planes get to fly they should already have a range of dedicated anti missile mini missiles to protect land based convoys from Rocket and Artillery shell attack... designed to be carried in enormous numbers... such weapons could be loaded into vertical launchers on the back of an AWACS aircraft with hundreds of missiles ready to launch. With a 3kg warhead with very precise ARH guidance for direct hits on target to destroy artillery shells and artillery rockets and a range of maybe 2-3km, they would be ideal for shooting down incoming Meteors and other AAMs and heavy long range SAMs...
That's why I personally prefer AEW types that can transfer data in real time to a ground/sea based command center. A loss of such a system would at least not be as costly in human terms. AWACS aircraft can have a highly specialized crew of up to about 30 on board. UAV's would be perfect for this type of mission.
I prefer the AWACS types because AEW would be sending enormous volumes of data to the command centre, and of course the command centre would need to send out its own commands as the data it collects it determines what actions need to be taken so it needs to direct aircraft and ships and other platforms based on the information it receives.
With an AWACS those communications wont be a big deal because it is already scanning 360 degrees with powerful radar signals so the enemy are going to know where it is anyway.
With AEW the air platform is scanning with radar but the surface command vessel will also be transmitting commands to aircraft and ships etc too.
One interesting factor in using Airships for AWACS roles could be that if you used a tether the airship could operate 24/7 but also fibre optic cables in the tether could allow very high speed secure communications and orders could be directed from the airship inside encoded radar signals... so as it is scanning the airspace it could also be issuing orders and sharing data at the same time... attaching the airship to a cruiser down to a corvette would allow electrical power to be transmitted up the tether too so the airship could simply be very basic... large radar antennas and station keeping electric motors and fuel cells to cycle between hydrogen lifting gas and water ballast... it could even be unmanned.
In any case made of carbon fibre and fire proof light fabrics you could purge the airspace between the hydrogen lifting bags with nitrogen so fire would be unlikely and various anti fire systems that suffocate fires could be installed too, which would make it rather difficult to bring down. An airship maybe 100m long would have enormous internal volume and any missile that hit it... like Meteor or anything else would struggle to destroy enough hydrogen bags to make it do much more than descend. You could fit the airship with protected deflated hydrogen bags so if existing bags get damaged and leak the system could suck out the remaining hydrogen before it escapes and put it through the fuel cells to generate electricity. Vacuum units in the top of the outer shell could suck up any hydrogen released that floats up to the internal nitrogen filled space and pump that through the fuel cells to generate electricity and water and heat... the damaged hydrogen bags with their hydrogen removed will then not be used again and spare backup hydrogen bags can be filled to make up for lost lift from all the bags damaged and now emptied by the system and also the hydrogen in the top of the airship that escaped during the impact of the missile.
What I am saying is that even if hit by a missile an airship AEW platform is not going to crash in a huge ball of fire... at worst the lost lift from the damaged hydrogen bags will make it descend and eventually land on the water surface... a few Ka-31s could already have been launched to take its place... but honestly a Meteors chance of reaching the Airship are low because S-350s and S-400s would have shot it down well before it got near the AWACS because the AWACS and the ships below would have detected it very early on...
The American way isn't the only way!
Absent a CATOBAR CV/N, they could modify a few Be-12s /42 with a Wedgetail-like blade for the AWACS role. A supply ship in the CBG would be its tender. Also, extra Ka-31s could be embarked on a UDK/converted tanker/bulk carrier(s) for extra coverage to make up for any possible gaps in stormy weather,etc.
OTH, in most areas the VMF CV/Ns, not to mention UDK/LHAs would operate, they'll be in range of land based A-50/100s deployed from Russian or allied airfields.
That is an important point... amphibious aircraft could play a role... and it would be interesting to look at their collected data to see how often an A-40 would not be useful because of the sea state. (The A-40 albatross would be the best option in my opinion... perhaps with PD-16 engines replacing its four engines normally used...)
The Russians never rely on one system only to defend their tanks... they use EO systems like Shtora, and ERA and APS and Nakidka and anything else they can think of to keep their tanks safe, so why wouldn't the navy go for options.
An advantage of the A-40 as an AWACS aircraft is that it is a good sized aircraft and could be used by countries that don't have aircraft carriers.
Being able to land on the water could enable it to use dipping antenna to communicate with submarines as well.
Of course an airship could be designed to land on the water surface and act like a ship in very heavy wind conditions, but I suspect climbing to enormous altitudes and just operating above the weather would be the best solution... operating at 15-20km altitude would make it safe from storms... being able to operate at even higher altitudes might allow it to accelerate transit speeds to using the trade winds to move very fast if needed.
You could design the top surface of an airship to be flat and relatively durable to allow drones to operate from its top surface too.
The Russian designers are very innovative... I am interested to see what they come up with.