Military


T-50 / Project 701 / PAK FA
[Perspektivnyi Aviatsionnyi Kompleks Frontovoi Aviatsyi]

The maiden flight of the T-50 / Project 701 / PAK FA, the first Russian fifth-generation fighter jet was completed successfully on Friday morning, 29 January 2010 at Komsomol'sk-na-Amur. This event is signfincant for several reasons.

  1. The PAK FA is generally similar in appearance to the American F-22, though there are so many differences in detail that it is clearly an original design rather than a knock-off copy. A direct comparison with the F-22 is probably not meaningful on an unclassified basis, but Russian marketers will probably sell it as roughly equivalent in combat potential. While the F-35 is also a fifth generation stealth fighter, the low observable characteristics of this attack aircraft are said to be markedly inferior to the all-around stealth of the F-22 air supremacy fighter.
  2. As of January 2010 a total production run of at least 150-200 aircraft for the Russian Air Force and 200 aircraft for the Indian Air Force was envisioned. If these production objectives are met, the United States might wind up with the world's third largest fleet of stealth fighters, after India and Russia.
  3. In June 2001, India was offered 'joint development and production' of this new 5th generation fighter by Russia. Russia had been trying to sell this concept both to China and India for some time. It seems probable that China declined to participate in this project given a belief that Russia stood to gain more from Chinese participation than did China. That is, it would seem that China had determined that it could produce a superior product without Russian help. With the first flight of the Russian stealth fighter in 2010, an arguably superior Chinese steath fighter might be expected to take to the skies not too long thereafter.
  4. The prospect that a country like Iran might buy even a few dozen PAK FA aircraft from Russia may well awaken interest in the F-22 in Israel, if not Saudi Arabia. The emergence of a Chinese counterpart stealth fighter may also re-awaken Japanese interest in the F-22. Production of large numbers of PAK FA by India would place Pakistan in a rather difficult position, unless it purchased similar numbers of stealth fighters from China.
The first stealth fighter, the American F-117A, was designed in the 1970s using a novel mathematical theory for determining radar cross-sections of general three-dimensional bodies, and optimizing it subject to constraints. Ben Rich, chief of Lockheed's Advanced Development Projects division (the so-called `Skunk Works'), wrote that "the Rosetta Stone breakthrough for stealth [fighter] technology" was a new theory developed by Pyotr Ya. Ufimtsev, not a new development in engineering. Although the theory was conceived at the height of cold war tensions in the mid-1970's, it was instigated by a research paper published by this Soviet radar engineer.

Ufimtsev, is known for his works in the theory of diffraction and propagation of electromagnetic and acoustic waves. Among his fundamental contributions were the the Physical Theory of Diffraction (PTD), and the discovery of new physical phenomena related to surface waves in absorbing layers. PTD is used worldwide in the design of microwave antennas and in calculations of radar cross-section of scattering objects. In particular, this theory was used in the design of American stealth aircraft nearly invisible to radar.

CIA Director William Casey, in a briefing to the Senate Armed Services Cimmittee in January 1986 stated, "We know that the Soviets are working to acquire the technology to develop aircraft and cruise missiles employing stealth features". Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger stated in Soviet Military Power 1987 that "evidence suggests the Soviets have made progress in developing aircraft that may have a low observable radar signature". The US Air Force started to address the needs of future fire control systems to handle the impact of Soviet stealth aircraft. In particular, contracts awarded by the US Air Force in August 1987 were to contain risk assessments addressing technology projection and Soviet airframe observability.

In early 2002 Sukhoi was chosen as prime contractor for the planned Russian fifth-generation fighter is called the PAK FA [ Perspektivnyi Aviatsionnyi Kompleks Frontovoi Aviatsyi - Future Air Complex for Tactical Air Forces]. This intermediate class twin-engined fighter was to be larger than a MiG-29 and smaller than a Su-27. The new fighter was said to be intended to be about the same size as the US F-35 JSF, with a primary air superiority mission and ground attack and reconnaissance being secondary missions.

The aircraft was to feature a long combat radius, supersonic cruise speed, low radar cross section, supermaneuverability, and the ability to make short takeoffs and landings. In accordance with the technical requirements, the PAK FA was to have a normal takeoff weight of 20 tons, which is close to the average normal takeoff weight of the two American airplanes, the F-35 JSF (17.2 tons) and the F-22 (24 tons). The new fighter (a medium version) was to have a traditional wing form, though the experience gathered as a result of Berkut's test flights will be taken in consideration when designing the fighter. It was supposed that it was to be created using the Stealth technology, and equipped with two AL-41F engines by the Saturn scientific and industrial enterprise, a radar system with an active phased array to be produced by the Fazatron-NIIR corporation, and high-precision weapons.

Although T-50 specifications remain classified, fragmentary data on its engines imply that this heavy-duty fighter will have a take-off weight of more than 30 metric tons and will be close in dimension to the well-known Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker. The new fighter's exterior was designed using Stealth technology, also known as LO technology (low observable technology).

Prototypes and initial production aircraft will feature many elements from the Su-35. The aircraft will be equipped with the same engines -- two AL41F1s, an improved version of the AL-41F on the Su-27, delivering 142kN (vs 123kN). A future engine will not be ready until 2015. The combat aircraft is fitted with 117S (upgraded AL-31) turbofan engines from the Russian aircraft engine manufacturer Saturn.

The new fighter's control systems, avionics and cockpit will be designed on the basis of the Su-35BM's systems, but not the radar. The N035 Irbis radar, a passive electronic scanning design derived from the Bars radar on the Su-30MKI, is being developed by the Tikhomirov Niip institute for the Su-35. The Tikhomirov Institute of Instrument Design, which developed the Irbis radar for the Su-35BM Flanker, has been working on the T-50 radar, which will feature an active antenna system, including three X-band radars (forward and side-looking), in addition to a ventral Ku-band radar including IFF and electronic warfare subsystems. The technical design was approved in December 2005, so that the radar will probably be ready before series production gets under way.

The aircraft of the fifth generation is equipped with the fundamentally new complex of avionics, that integrates the function "electronic pilot", and by promising phased-array radar. This to a considerable degree reduces load on the pilot and makes it possible to be concentrated on the fulfillment of tactical missions. Onboard equipment of new aircraft permits implementation of the exchange of data in the regime of real time both with the ground-based systems for control and inside the air group. The application of composite materials and innovation technologies, the aerodynamic layout of aircraft, measure for reduction in distinctness of engine ensure the unprecedented low level of radar, optical and infrared distinctness. This makes it possible to considerably increase combat effectiveness in the work both along the air and ground targets, at any time twenty-four hours, in the simple and adverse weather conditions.

The PAK FA can carry either eight next-generation air-to-air R-77 missiles, or two large controllable anti-ship bombs weighing 1,500 kg each. The new jet can also carry two long-range missiles developed by the Novator Bureau which can hit targets within a 400 kilometer range. The jet can use a take-off strip of just 300-400 meters, and perform sustained supersonic flight at speeds over 2,000 km/h, including repeated in-flight refueling. The highly-maneuverable plane has a range of about 5,500 kilometers. The fifth-generation fighter is equipped with advanced avionics to combine an automatic flight control system and a radar locator with a phased array antenna.

In comparison with the fighters of the previous generations, the PAC[FA] possesses a number of unique special features, combining in itself the functions of impact aircraft and fighter. The fifth generation aircraft is equipped with the fundamentally new complex of avionics, that integrates the function "electronic pilot", and by a promising phased-array radar. This to a considerable degree reduces load on the pilot and makes it possible to be concentrated on the fulfillment of tactical missions. Onboard equipment of new aircraft permits implementation of the exchange of data in the regime of real time both with the ground-based systems for control and inside the air group. The application of composite materials and innovation technologies, the aerodynamic layout of aircraft, measure for reduction in distinctness of engine ensure the unprecedented low level of radar, optical and infrared distinctness. This makes it possible to considerably increase combat effectiveness in the work both along the air and ground targets, at any time twenty-four hours, in the simple and adverse weather conditions.

"This is the great success of Russian science and design thought. After this reaching stands the cooperation more than hundred subcontracting enterprises, our strategic partners. Program PAC[FA] derives Russian aircraft construction and adjacent branches to the qualitatively new technological level. These aircraft, together with the modernized aviation complexes of the fourth generation will determine the potential of Russian VVS during the next decades. Into the plans of company "Sukhoi" enters further development of program PAC[FA], at which we will work together with the Indian partners. I am confident, that our joint project will exceed western analogs on the criterion cost- effectiveness and will make it possible not only to strengthen the defense power VVS of Russia and India, but also will be occupied worthy place on the World Market", said the Director-General of joint stock company "company "Sukhoi" Mikhail [Pogosyan], commenting on the beginning of flight tests.

Russia's "Beyond The Headlines" website reported 07 July 2013 that Russia announced at the Paris Air Show that it had completed the fifth-generation fighter T-50 engine development work. The Russian military said they had completed the first phase of T-50 flight tests, the results showed that the Russian T-50 and U.S. F-22 fighter can Raptor comparable to or even in certain aspects even better than the F-22. Russia's United Aircraft Corporation President Mikhail Mikhail Pogosyan said five T-50 fighter aircraft were being tested, which will enable designers to accelerate the development of Russia's process of narrowing the gap between Russia and the US.

The designer said the Russian Air Force T-50 reflects the latest scientific and technological achievements. This machine is the representative of the Russian military technology innovation, and its stealth technology, new materials technology and artificial intelligence techniques, so that the Russian air force into high-tech new level. The T-50 fuselage for the first time uses the latest composite materials, compared with the same hardness titanium or aluminum is 50% lighter than steel and lighter 20% -25%. On the T-50, 70% of the skin is made of this new material, T-50 weighs just a skin equivalent traditional materials used in aircraft skin 25%, the weight of these savings can be used to carry more weapons in on. Sukhoi said, "T-50 fighter radar signature and infrared visibility at unprecedented low levels." Its overall radar reflector less than 0.5 square meters, and its predecessor, the Sukhoi-30MKI's radar reflector is close 20 square meters. This means that the radar can detect the T-50 Su-30MKI area of ??only about 1/40. Such a low radar reflective surface coupled with exceptional maneuverability Sukhoi champions, T-50 was found to be locked and the difficulty of attack greatly enhanced.

In addition, the T-50 is said to have quite advanced electronic devices equipped with active phased array radar system (AESA), which can scan hundreds of nautical miles all air and ground objects, and can simultaneously target and track multiple air targets. Installed in dozens of different parts of the body can not only monitor the environment sensor, the ground also can exchange real-time data. Its "electronic pilot" analysis system continue to make scenario analysis, to provide action plans to receive a large number of missions and combat all forms of data to help pilots relieve stress, simplify the operation process, it focused on the implementation of tactics.

The T-50 takeoff and landing distance is shortened, only about 330 meters to complete the landing runway, their weapons can all be mounted inside the fuselage bomb bay to meet stealth requirements. Reported, T-50 can carry eight R-77 air to air missiles.

India joined the T-50 development and has allocated nearly $ 25 billion, which indicates the T-50 project promising to meet the highest standards requirements. India is likely in 2018, with a T-50 India-specific version. Russian experts said, T-50 will also be for export, but, and F-22, like the Russian T-50 will create special models. Russian Air Force hopes to receive as soon as possible in 2013 the first production T-50 fighter aircraft, and plans to buy at least 10 of the fighter.

Carlo Kopp and Peter Goon wrote in 2010 that "... a mature production PAK-FA design has the potential to compete with the F-22A Raptor in VLO performance from key aspects, and will outperform the F-22A Raptor aerodynamically and kinematically. Therefore, from a technological strategy perspective, the PAK-FA renders all legacy US fighter aircraft, and the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, strategically irrelevant and non-viable after the PAK-FA achieves IOC in 2015. Detailed strategic analysis indicates that the only viable strategic survival strategy now remaining for the United States is to terminate the Joint Strike Fighter program immediately, redirect freed funding to further develop the F-22 Raptor, and employ variants of the F-22 aircraft as the primary fighter aircraft for all United States and Allied TACAIR needs."




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