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

Serial delivery of 74 Su-57 aircraft to Russian troops will take place in two stages. This was announced on Saturday by Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko in an interview with the newspaper Krasnaya Zvezda 28 December 2019. “The Su-57 will enter the troops in two stages. The first aircraft will be purchased with fourth-generation engines, deliveries of which are planned until mid-2020. And upon completion of measures for its testing with the engine, deliveries with fifth-generation power plants will begin at the second stage, having increased fuel efficiency and lower life cycle costs, "- said Krivoruchko.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said in July 2018 that Moscow wouldn't seek mass-production of the Su-57 until Russia's older fourth-generation jets begin to lag behind their competitors. Alexander Pekarsh, the director of Sukhoi's Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant, said at a press conference in February 2019 that the factory was "working on two aircraft under the contract with the Defense Ministry," one that will be delivered this year and one next year, with the plane entering service with the Russian Aerospace Forces in 2020. The plane is said to be comparable to the United States' F-22 and F-35 jets. However, the Su-57 is purported to be only 40 percent of the cost of Lockheed's offering, weighing in at roughly $40 to $45 million per plane, compared to the American planes that cost well over $100 million.

When the production of the F-22 Raptor fifth-generation multirole fighter, which became a legislator of fashion in the field of next generation fighter planes, started in the US in 1997, it became clear that Russia needed to replace the Su-27 with a plane that would be up to par with its Western counterparts. Since its first flight in the early 2010s, the T-50 receiving a vast series of upgrades to its avionics, stealth and armaments, Andrei Kots wrote.

The T-50-1 prototype took to the skies on January 29, 2010, and the T-50-2 followed suit on March 3, 2011. After 40 successful flight tests the T-50-2 took part in the MAKS 2011 air show. Before taking off, however, one of its engines caught fire forcing the pilot to abort. Engineers fixed the faulty engine and the T-50-2 flight tests resumed.

The T-50-3 flew on July 24, 2012. Unlike its predecessors, the new prototype carried onboard active phased-array radar. In December 2012, the T-50-4 took to the skies with the same radar array on board. Both prototypes proved fast and highly maneuverable and their state-of-the-art radar systems worked perfectly.

The T-50-6, T-50-8 and T-50-9 (maiden flights in April 2015, November 2016 and April 2017, respectively) were second-stage prototypes, enabling the use of upgraded AL-41F1 engines, similar to the ones powering the Su-35 fighters. he second-stage engine, dubbed “Item 30,” featured a new fan and control mechanism; it will be more fuel-efficient and will have greater endurance. A pilot version of the second-stage PAK FA with a new engine was slated to fly in 2017.

The T-50-6, T-50-8 and T-50-9 also have stronger airframes, bigger wingspans and make wider use of composite materials. “Flight tests are proceeding at full swing. Everything is going well. We are already testing in-flight missile launches and the plane is performing just fine,” Aerospace Forces Commander Viktor Bondarev told reported on the sidelines of the MAKS 2015 airshow.

Su-57 / T-50 was created by Sukhoi Design Bureau within the framework of the I-21 advanced fifth generation fighter development program. Development of the aircraft was started by Sukhoi Design Bureau in late 1990s. In April-May of 2001 a tender for the I-21 / PAK FA program was put out where Sukhoi Design Bureau and MiG Design Bureau took part, both cooperating with Yakovlev Design Bureau in working out the vertical take-off project. The state committee made a decision upon consideration of tender results in the beginning of 2002 - the tender was won by Sukhoi Design Bureau’s project of T-50 aircraft (Chief Designer - A.Davidenko).

The government commission decided on 26 April 2002 to choose the Sukhoi holding company as the head company to develop and produce the fighter of the fifth generation. Performance specifications were issued by the Russia’s Ministry of Defense in July of 2002.

The prototype of the PAK FA was to take-off in 2006 and that in 2010 the aircraft was to be ready for series production. The first deliveries, both for Russian armed forces and for export, were to be possible in 2011-12. The new airplane was proposed to be brought from the concept design to a prototype series in less than 9 years. Historically, fourth and fifth generation fighters have not been created in less than 15 years. The Russian government had promised to allocate 1.5 billion dollars for the PAK FA through 2010. But the Russian Air Force was receiving less than 200 million dollars a year during this period, and would spend it primarily on other needs.

The prices and sources of funding will determine the destiny of the whole program. As of 2002 officials agreed that the initial phase of the program would cost $1.5 billion. However, $1.5 billion was the sum needed for creating a new generation of avionics for the fighter (considering the fact that pre-production models of the phased array have already been produced, and would soon be tested). And finally, designers would have to spend several hundred millions of dollars on creating a new airframe.

The draft project of T-50 was completed by the Design Bureau in November of 2004 and approved by the Russia’s Ministry of Defense in December of 2004. The new fighter's exterior design was approved on December 10, 2004. By the beginning of 2006 the wind-tunnel test of the airframe had been completed.

On September 20, 2005 AVIA.ru site based on the information Interfax-AVN reported that "Experimental Design Bureau named after Yakovlev suspends participation in the research and development work on the creation of Sukhoi PAK FA (PAK FA) ... "This is due to changes in the specifications of the main customer," - said General Director of Yakovlev Oleg Demchenko. He recalled that until recently Bureau acted as a subcontractor of the head developer of the PAK FA - Aviation Holding Company "Sukhoi".

The development of an engine for the fifth generation jet fighters involved two big companies, NPO Saturn (in consortium with UMPO) and FSUE Salyut, which are participating in this project and competing against each other to win the state-guaranteed order. The project is being implemented in two stages: firstly through upgrading the fourth-generation AL-31F engine and, secondly, the development of a basically new configuration of the fifth-generation engine. The consortium led by NPO Saturn was the winner of the first stage and their engine design will be installed on the first PAK FA engine prototypes. Their procurement was scheduled for 2010. However, installation of the unit developed by Salyut on the modernised Su-27 jet fighter had already been carried out since December 2006.

The financing for the first stage was considerably lower than the funds planned by the government to finance the second stage (according to unofficial information US$500m and US$2-3bn, respectively). Completion of the AL-41F engine (by 2007 with a readiness of 30 percent) would require, in the opinion of the boss of Rosaviakosmos, 600 - 800 million dollars. Saturn said that launching of production of the AL-41F engine would take $150 million. An improved version of the AL-31F will be used on the aircraft originally (though it is not clear how these heavy motors are reconciled with the concept of a 20-ton fighter). The upgrade of these engines will require expenditures of 1.2-1.5 billion dollars.

State financing would cover not more than 20-22 percent of the cost of the development of the PAK FA. It will thus be necessary to draw extrabudgetary sources of funding, lending the development program a principle of openness for international cooperation. In the opinion of experts, export income, if it is taken from the plants, can provide not more than 1 billion dollars. It is maintained that the insufficient amounts can be received from foreign partners.

The plane's development was to be conducted with a view of achieving a reasonable compromise between its cost and combat efficiency, and take into account the market demand. It was estimated by Russian sources that export sales of the new warplane must reach 500 to 600 fighters at a price of $35 to $40 million each to make production of the new aircraft profitable.

According to some reports, India and Russia agreed to jointly develop this fifth-generation fighter, under a scheduled entry into service in 2009. This would be the first such joint development venture between the two countries. There was little chance that Russia would have fifth-generation pursuit planes of its own. Development and construction of a fifth-generation fighter would require about $20 billion dollars, and as of early 2004 it was unlikely that the government will appropriate financing of this scale. "The problem is that economic and military authorities in this country live in parallel spaces and have no common approach to problems," according to Deputy Director of the analytical department of the Political and Military Analysis Institute Alexander Khramchikhin.

According to a report on 09 January 2008, the general director of the company "Sukhoi" Michael Pogosyan said the tests were officially planned for 2009, and "closer to 2015" its serial production must start. In general all goes according to the schedule, he said. "Now we are at the stage of constructing pre-production models of the plane. It is necessary go step by step through the stages which are directly linked to the preparation of the flight tests".

On 03 April 2008 RIA Novosti reported that Russia planned to begin flight tests of the new fifth-generation fighter in 2009. "The development of a fifth-generation Advanced Tactical Frontline Fighter is being carried out under the Sukhoi PAK FA project," Russian industry and energy minister Viktor Khristenko said in a report posted on the ministry's website. "The flight tests of the aircraft are scheduled to begin in 2009," he said. The new fighter aircraft, which will feature high maneuverability and stealth to ensure air superiority and precision in destroying ground and sea targets, will be built at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft-manufacturing plant in Russia's Far East.

In the Summer of 2009, the fighter's design was approved, and the prototype blueprints were delivered to the KNAAPO aircraft building company based in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, where three experimental fighters would be built for testing. On 07 July 2008 Air Force commander Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin said "We will begin test flights [of the new fighter] in 2009, and hope to receive the aircraft in 2013". In February 2009, the first prototype was constructed. After the plane was successfully tested on the runway, a decision was made to stage the maiden flight in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, rather than in Moscow.

"The fifth-generation fighter jets are undoubtedly competing with US F-22s and F-35s, but it is considerably cheaper even though it has similar characteristics, while in some aspects, for example, maneuverability, it does better than the US jets," Vladimir Gutenev, a member of State Duma's expert panel on the aviation industry, told Sputnik 06 July 2018. Gutenev added that Su-57s will be two and a half times cheaper than F-22s and F-35s, even though the two US aircraft have different price tags and their prices range greatly. Sputnik reported that F-22s cost $146.2 million and F-35s cost between $83 and $108 million. The Pentagon published a report late in 2017, however, saying that F-22s cost $143 million, while Lockheed Martin published a report saying that F-35s cost between $94.3 and $122.4 million (depending on the variant).

The first production Su-57 fighter will enter the Russian Aerospace Force in 2019, the second in 2020. The deputy general director of PJSC Sukhoi Company Alexander Pekarsh, who heads the company's branch in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, which produces these airplanes, told reporters on 26 February 2019. "If we talk about the Su-57 program, then we are at the stage of manufacturing the first production models. In 2018, we completed the manufacture and delivery of a batch of prototypes of an aircraft that is currently being tested. We have two under our current contract with the Ministry of Defense the aircraft with the delivery time of the first aircraft in 2019, the second aircraft - in 2020," said Pekarsh. "I am sure that we will cope with this task and the first production aircraft this year will be delivered," he added.

The first batch of machines of the fifth generation will be produced in serial form, but with the engines of the previous generation. The engine of the "second stage" (product 30), which will provide the Su-57 supersonic cruising speed, began flight tests in December 2017. It is expected that its testing program will be completed in five years, and from 2023 serial deliveries of aircraft with new engines will begin.

The President held a regular meeting with Defence Ministry leadership and defence industry heads on defence issues on 15 May 2019. Vladimir Vladimirovich said "we emphasised the development and production of modern aircraft that will determine the combat potential of Russian military aviation for the next few decades. The Su-35C and Su-57 multipurpose fighters are in the final stage of testing. They have unique characteristics and are the best in the world. We need to fully reequip three Aerospace Force air regiments with the Su-57 fifth generation advanced air system by 2028.

"Yesterday the Minister and I talked about this at the testing grounds. The armaments programme until 2027 provides for the purchase of 16 aircraft of this type. We analysed the situation yesterday in the context of the minister’s report. As a result of working on our agreement with the industry, the involved companies reduced the cost of the aircraft and arms by almost 20 percent, and we received an opportunity to buy many more combat systems of this class, virtually all of them are of the new generation. We agreed that we would purchase 76 aircraft of this type without an increase in costs during the same period. I must say that on such a scale, it is not even the scale that matters, but the fact that we have never done anything like this on a new platform in the past 40 years. I hope the adjusted plans will be carried out and that a contract for a packaged supply of 76 fighters with modern weapons and supported by the upgraded ground infrastructure will be signed soon."

The Sukhoi Aircraft Company (part of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation) has started to implement its contract for the delivery of Su-57 fifth-generation fighter jets to the country’s Aerospace Force, the office of Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told TASS on 29 July 2019. "A state contract was signed at the Army 2019 international arms exhibition between the Defense Ministry of Russia and the Sukhoi Company for the delivery of a batch of Su-57 fifth-generation fighter jets. The Sukhoi has started to fulfil its contractual obligations," the vice-premier’s office reported.

The state contract envisages the delivery of 76 Su-57 fighter jets to Russia’s Aerospace Force. As a result of the contract’s implementation, Russia’s Defense Ministry will get "the most advanced fifth-generation multirole fighter jet, which will boost the domestic Aerospace Force’s combat capabilities," the statement said. The vice-premier’s office also confirmed the earlier-stated timeframe of delivering the first Su-57 plane to the Aerospace Force. "The first plane will be delivered to the customer before the end of 2019."

The first Su-57 fighter was delivered to the Russian troops in 2020. Russia’s Aerospace Force will receive 22 Su-57 fighters by late 2024 and their number will increase to 76 by 2028. Over 70 Su-57 fifth-generation fighter jets will be delivered to Russian troops by 2027, including several aircraft this year, the state tech corporation Rostec announced on 15 October 2021. Rostec was commenting on an article in the US-based National Interest magazine, which claimed that the Sukhoi Su-57 fifth-generation stealth fighter "is unlikely to enter operational service before 2027." Rostec said in a statement "The Russian fifth-generation planes do not make the West feel easy. Su-57 and Checkmate fighters regularly become the focus of fake news. Untrue facts that have nothing to do with reality are published. The plane is already being serial-produced and delivered! Over 70 aircraft will be delivered by 2027, including several fighters this year".

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