July 17, 2016

Russia PAK FA is technically comparable to the F-22 but Russia needs high oil prices to afford strategically meaningful numbers

Russia’s first fifth-generation fighter project, the “MiG 1.44,” produced a single prototype before cancellation. The advent of the F-22 Raptor, and the expectation that the United States would follow up with large numbers of F-35s, made the development of a fifth-generation fighter imperative for Russia.

Perception of this need resulted in the award of a new fighter contract to Sukhoi in 2002. Sukhoi promised to produce a high maneuverability stealth fighter with supercruise capabilities that could match or defeat Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor in air-to-air combat.

The PAK FA will also have sophisticated avionic systems, including datalink and a variety of electronic warfare components. Altogether, the PAK FA appears to strongly resemble the F-22 in performance, with marginally less stealth and network capabilities, but potentially more room to grow.

PAK FA prototypes

Initial expectations projected the acquisition of 200 PAK FAs for Russia, 200 for India, and an unknown number for other countries.

However, the fighter continues to struggle with questions over cost and engine performance. In particular, the engines adopted for early aircraft do not provide sufficient thrust for the airframe, leaving the aircraft at a significant disadvantage compared to American fighters.

In part because of this, and in part because of Russia’s economic difficulties, the initial order has dropped to 12 (with more expected after the resolution of engine problems).

China has pushed the J-20 stealth fighter project to a stage competitive with the PAK FA

It remains unclear whether India will ever acquire a version of the PAK FA, or instead focus on indigenously developed aircraft (the distant AMCA project, which may result in a usable combat aircraft by 2030).

The PAK FA program costs about $10 billion and unit costs are about $50 million each. There would also be the operational and maintenance costs. Even at 50% of the unit cost of the F-35 and ten times few PAK-FA could cost $100 billion over four decades.

SOURCES- Wikipedia, National Interest

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