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Plamja-M, the Russian design bureau pecialising in ramjet powerplants, has been closed. A small portion of its staff now works in the engine department of the Science and Production Association Machine-Building (NPO Mashinostroyeniya), completing work on the 3D-55 powerplant of the Russian/Indian PJ-10 BrahMos anti-ship missile.

The closure of the bureau means that Russia no longer has an organisation able to develop liquid-fuelled ramjets. Powerplants of this type are used in three well-known Russian missiles - the 3M-80 Zubr/Moskit (SS-N-22 ?Sunburn?), Kh-31 (AS-17 ?Krypton?) and 3M-55 Onyx (export name Yakhont) and its BrahMos derivative.

The ramjets for the 3M-80 and Kh-31 were developed by the Krasnaya Zvezda Machine-Building Design Bureau headed by Mikhail M. Bondaruk, who had earlier been responsible for the 3Ts4 ramjet of the Krug (SA-4 ?Ganef?) surface-to-air missile. This bureau later became part of the Soyuz Engineering Design Bureau at Turaevo.

Work on the 3D-80 supersonic ramjet for the 3M-80 started in 1973, and despite difficulties was basically complete by 1978. Later the improved 3D-81, 3D-82 and 3D-83 variants were developed. The 3D-81 introduced combustion stabilisation, while the 3D-83 had a two-position nozzle. Work on the 360 mm diameter ?52? ramjet for the Kh-31 started in 1976. This powerplant was followed by the optimised ?52M? design.

In 1978, what was then the Plamja Design Bureau was set up in Moscow as part of the Scientific Research Institute of Thermal Processes (Keldysh Research Centre). Tasked with developing new supersonic ramjets, it was headed by Igor B. Levanov, and took over from Soyuz all the engineers from the former Mikhail M. Bondaruk design bureau.

To meet a requirement from NPO Mashinostroyeniya, Plamja developed and tested a 780 mm diameter experimental supersonic ramjet able to operate at speeds of up to Mach 4. This was intended to power the 3M-25 Meteorit (AS-19/SS-N-24), but the final variant of this cruise missile used a turbo-jet engine.

The next project was the development of a 640 mm diameter supersonic ramjet for the NPO Mashinostroyeniye 3M-55 antiship missile. Work on this 3D-55 powerplant started in 1983, and by 1987 the motor was being tested in missile bodies.

The 3D-55 is the first Russian ramjet to have a fully-regulated (moving) nozzle. During the missile?s flight it can be throttled back to minimal thrust, then commanded to resume normal operation.

In 1991 the Plamja design bureau became the independent enterprise Plamja Science and Production Association (NPVO "Plamja"), then in 1995 it was renamed the Plamja-M Joint-Stock Company (ZAO "Plamja-M").

In recent years, Russia has had no requirements for new designs of ramjet, and Plamja-M found itself in business difficulties. Late in 2003, director Igor B. Levanov died. Faced with a government that seemed indifferent to the organisation?s problems, Plamja-M was forced to close during 2004. Manufacture of the 3D-55 is being handled by the Strela Production Association at Orenburg.

February 2005



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