One of the most well-known defense enterprises in the former Soviet Republic of Belarus is the Baranovichi Aircraft Repair Plant (BARP) No. 558. The facility specializes in upgrading front-line fighter aircraft originally developed in the former USSR, and it is moving into new markets for its own electronic warfare (EW) products.
Three of the combat aircraft that BARP (Chalet F95) has a depth of experience with are the Mikoyan MiG-29 and Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30, as well as the Su-25 attack and close-air support aircraft. The company has developed several modernization packages for these aircraft, including Belarus-produced EW modules based on technological approaches decidedly different from Russian design methodology.
During the Soviet period, BARP No. 558 was part of a network of repair and overhaul plants maintained not by the Soviet Ministry for Aircraft Production (MAP) but instead owned by the USSR ministry of defense. Once the Soviet Union dissolved, repair facilities like BARP located outside of the Russian Federation found themselves in a predicament. They had been equipped and staffed to support aircraft now in the air forces of the Russian Federation, a foreign country that had little interest in supporting Belarusian industry. The Belarus armed forces could not provide enough work to keep the factory operating, and the company had to find external customers or close its doors.
The BARP enterprise first supported the sale of surplus aircraft from Belarus's air force (VVS) to third-party nations and also proposed modernization packages for these aircraft. The company provided technical support for other Soviet-manufactured platforms sold to Moscow’s export customers. Several nations were in search of maintenance and modernization services at prices measurably less than what Russian firms proposed, which was BARP’s competitive advantage.
BARP representatives explained to AIN, “We were able to perform services that Russian firms could not. The factories in Russia are skilled in turning out brand-new weapon systems, but they have little experience in overhauling aircraft and inserting modernized components during the rebuilding process. That is our forte.”
In the present day, the company has several streams of activity:
• Servicing and upgrading Su-22, Su-25, Su-27, Su-30, MiG-29, and Antonov An-2 fixed-wing aircraft plus Mil Mi-8, Mi-17, and Mi-24/Mi-35 helicopters. The overhauls of these models include refurbishing the electronic infrastructure of these airframes, mechanical remanufacturing, and installation of modern cockpit displays. These contracts are carried out for the Belarus VVS as well as for export clients.
• The development and installation of EW systems that are installed on some of these same airframes. “The installation of our EW designs makes it possible for these aircraft to be assured a higher level of survivability but at a price that is value for money,” explained the BARP engineer in charge of EW development.
The main product in this category is the Satellit EW pod, which is a lightweight, modular, solid-state design. Video presentations of the pod in operation against current-day airborne and SAM radars show performance equal to or better than heavier and more expensive Russian-design jamming pods.
• The third area of activity for the company is a forward-looking perspective on how it can support a future generation of Belarus military hardware. In November 2019 Belarus took delivery of the first two of a total of 12 Irkut-built Su-30SM fighters. The contract was signed in 2017 for four aircraft to be delivered per year beginning in 2020.
BARP has been focused on modernizing and servicing previous-generation weaponry for more than two decades but is now planning to support the operation of these new aircraft from Russia.
“As of now, the new Su-30SMs are supposed to be delivered with no EW systems onboard—the standard Russian EW hardware will be deleted,” said the BARP EW engineer. “What we would like to do is install our EW products on these aircraft, which will be a major step towards a new era of business for us.”