Friday, April 26, 2013

Russian PAK FA / Sukhoi T-50 Fighter to Enter Service in 2016

According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Sukhoi T-50 or PAK FA fighter will enter service with the Russian Air Force in 2016, a year later than was previously announced.

The Sukhoi T-50 is a fifth-generation multi-role fighter aircraft in development that incorporates stealth, super-maneuverability, super-cruise without using any afterburners and advanced electronics.

The T-50 will include an X-band Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. It also supports internal weapons carriage to help reduce its radar cross section.

The aircraft has its first flight in January 2010, the first fifth-generation fighter outside of the United States. There are currently a total of four Sukhoi T-50 aircraft being used for test flights.

Since then, other fifth-generation have appeared such as China's J-20. Both the T-50 and J-20 seem to place less heavy emphasis on stealth as compared to the F-22 Raptor.

Optimizing an aircraft design for very low observability often demands sacrifices be made in other areas. Russia and China seem to have decided to sacrifice some degree in stealth in return for a more evenly balanced aircraft.

Like the T-50, the J-20 will enter service before the end of the decade. Russia and China are intent on narrowing the gap that currently exists with the United States as quickly as possible.

The F-22 is the premier fighter currently and will likely retain the edge in stealth, but it does have some weaknesses, including high cost, high maintenance and relatively short range that other aircraft would be wise to avoid.

Russia and India are also supposed to be developing a new fighter, the Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA), which is partially based on the PAK-FA. However, not much progress has been made on that front besides some internal discussions.

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