21 December 2009
Similar to the trends in the 1950s in the United States, when the first Russian air-to-air missiles were deployed, the Soviet defense industry shifted towards the development of weapons systems that comprised of not just the interceptor aircraft but also beam-riding radar-guided missiles and the fire control radar. While several design bureaus (OKBs) in the 1950s were working on weapon systems, it was OKB Lavochkin that was the first to propose the weapons system concept with what became the La-250 "Anaconda" in 1953.
The idea behind a weapons system was the each component would be optimized for each other, resulting in a more effective supersonic interceptor. Lavochkin proposed what would be designated the K-15 system which comprised of the La-250 aircraft, the K-15U radar system, the izdeliye ("article") 275 semi-active radar homing air-to-air missile as well as associated GCI equipment. The K-15 weapons system involved 11 manufacturing divisions of the Soviet aerospace industry, six other OKBs, and the Central Aerodynamics and Hydrodynamics Institute (TsAGI), all supervised and integrated by OKB Lavochkin.
Another of the Lavochkin La-250's firsts was the use of an analogue "iron bird" simulator to test the flight control system on the ground before the first flights of the aircraft. The simulator would prove to be instrumental in determining that the loss of the prototype aircraft could have been prevented with a better flight control system. Ultimately, the loss of the first La-250 prototype was only the beginning of problems with the K-15 weapons system that ultimately led to the cancellation of the entire program in July 1959 as the requirements proved to not match the technology of the day.
The La-250 was the last aircraft to be produced by OKB Lavochkin but the effort wasn't in vain- it was the first time in the Soviet Union that research institutes like the legendary TsAGI worked in close cooperation with the design bureaus and manufacturing complexes and it proved the feasibility of such a comprehensive approach. Lavochkin's expertise benefitted OKB Tupolev which introduced the large Tu-128 "Fiddler" interceptor in 1961 which remained in operational service for many years.
Source: Wings of Fame, Volume 19. AIRtime Publishing, 2000, "Beyond the Frontiers: The Lavochkin La-250 Anaconda" by Yefim Gordon, p150-157.