⏩ A Su-57 prototype -055 was seen carrying a 101KS-N targeting pod mounted on the port-side engine nacelle during a flyover to mark the 65th anniversary of the Lukhovitsky aviation plant on Aug. 17.
The 101KS-N is an advanced navigation and targeting system developed as part of the 101KS Atoll Electro-Optical (EO) system of PAK-FA. It is similar in function to the AN/AAQ28 Litening and AN/AAQ33 Sniper advanced targeting pods of the US military. Earlier it had been reported that to minimize the PAK-FA’s RCS it would be integrated into the airframe and would not be hanging as an external pod like the Litening or Sniper ATP on an F-16. But the photograph taken on August 17 shows it hanging as an external accessory.
🔴 101KS Atoll Electro-Optical system has following components :
1. N036UVS computer and processor / IMA-BK : It has a central baget digital computer system, which has of late been replaced by an even more smarter IMA-BK management system. This new system has taken sensor integration to the next level and prefers to show the data collected by all sensors as one big cohesive picture on the right hand side screen of operator console.
2. 101KS-O : It is a directed infrared energy counter measure (DIRCM). It works by directing a beam of energy (laser) towards the incoming heat seeking missile to confuse or destroy its tracking mechanism.
3. 101KS-V : It is an infra-red search and track (IRST) turret mounted on the starboard side in front of the cockpit. This sensor can detect, identify, and track multiple airborne targets simultaneously. It is designed to detect heat emissions from aircraft and missiles passively. 101KS-V is particularly an Anti-Stealth measure which Sukhoi claims can see F 35 and F 22 at good enough ranges to engage them.
4. The 101KS-U : It is a missile approach warning system (MAWS) against infra-red homing missiles. MAWS using ultraviolet technology can operate under all weather conditions and will not be affected by solar clutter. It provides good directional information of the incoming missile for good decoy dispensing decision making, maneuvering and to cue the DIRCM system into action.
5. 101KS-P: It has four electro optical cameras placed in frontal portion of the cockpit, these cameras allow the pilot to ‘see through’ aircraft’s body as the video feed is projected directly into the Helmet Mounted Display. This is not used for targeting purposes but for efficient low altitude flight and night landing operations.
⏩ 6. 101KS-N : The Pendant Aim Container.
This is the targetting pod in question that gives the PAK-FA precision ground attack capabilities in all weather, day or night. As explained above, the aircraft has one DIRCMs system that covers 360 degrees. The IRST it uses gives it targeting capacity in the upper hemisphere and ahead of the aircraft. In fact, long wave IRST of PAK-FA can detect targets comparable to the radar range of many 4th gen fighters and is totally passive.
The 101KS-N targetting pod option on the other hand gives PAK-FA better ability to cover ground targets and would only be used in ground attack missions when the enemy aircraft are no longer the main threat. Moreover the Gefest & T system has been reported to be rather more competent than any other targeting pod in the world.
Targeting pods are cheaper than any internal systems and can be replaced and updated more easily. You don’t need one per aircraft either. Being mounted on pylons they tend to be better for targeting ground based objects in front of or behind the aircraft and with fully rotating heads can cover much wider areas with optics and laser target markers/designators.
Thus Su-57 can be used as a swing fighter bomber. There are now land attack models of P-800 Onyx missile (Yakhont/Brahmos) available. If recent news is to be believed a version of Zircon is probably also available by now for land attack and anti-ship roles that would be a rather potent weapon for Su-57s to carry.
Then Su-57 can also carry ARMs and other ground attack weapons like Kh-38. So it is not just an air-superiority fighter but can carry out SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defences) and other missions fairly well as well. 101KS-N targetting pod enables all these virtues in the aircraft by allowing it to fire from a stand-off range.
Standoff range would be critical against air defence systems and major radar systems, but once they are dealt with ground targets can appear anywhere, meaning targets of opportunity at medium and short ranges.
Taking out a bridge for instance or an armoured formation that has just been detected.
Even if one doesn’t need to attack the target, the 100KS-N pod can allow the pilot to take images and videograph the location. The information can be later passed to other platforms. Thus it can be used as a recon pod too.