Russia should start serial production of the T-50 PAK-FA air superiority fighter jet this year

The Russian T-50 PAK-FA appears to be optimized for the air-superiority role like the F-22 more so than the multirole, strike-optimized F-35. Like the Raptor, the PAK-FA is being designed to fly high and fast to impart the maximum amount of launch energy to its arsenal of long-range air-to-air missiles—which would greatly increase the range of those missiles.

Serial production of the T-50 is scheduled to start this year.

The PAK-FA places less emphasis of stealth, and much more emphasis on maneuverability. While it could compete with the Raptor in terms of raw kinematic performance, the PAK-FA greatly exceeds the F-35. And that performance margin might increase.

Russian sources had previously stated 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. The Russian forces have a stated requirement for 420 aircraft to equip 10 regiments, each with 36 combat aircraft and six trainer-combat aircraft. . As of early 2010 total developmental costs were estimated at about $8-10 Billion, at which time the unit cost was estimated at about $100 Million.

Pre-production and initial production batches of the T-50 will use interim engines, a pair of NPO Saturn izdeliye 117, or AL-41F1. Closely related to the Saturn 117S engine used by the Su-35S, the 117 engine is a highly improved variant of the AL-31 and produces 93.1 kN (21,000 lbs) of dry thrust, 147.1 kN (33,067 lbs) of thrust in afterburner, and has a dry weight of 1,420 kg (3,130 lb) and a thrust to weight ratio of 10.5:1. The engines allow the T-50 to supercruise, or sustain supersonic flight without using afterburners. In addition to increased thrust compared to its predecessors, the engine has full authority digital engine control (FADEC) and a complex automation system to facilitate maneuverability and handling. Thrust vectoring of the two engines enable the aircraft to produce thrust vectoring moments about all three rotational axes, pitch, yaw and roll. These engines will incorporate infrared and RCS reduction measures.

Production T-50 from 2020 onward will be equipped with a more powerful engine known as the izdeliye 30, which will be a clean sheet design that will supersede the 117. NPO Saturn and MMPP Salyut are competing to supply this definitive second stage engine. The new powerplant will have increased thrust and fuel efficiency as compared to 117 as well as increased reliability and lower costs. The izdeliye 30 is being designed to have a thrust of approximately 107 kN (24,050 lbf) in military power and 176 kN (39,600 lbf) in full afterburner. Development began in 2011 and the engine is planned to be bench tested starting in 2014. Flight testing of the engine on the T-50 is projected to begin in 2017. The new powerplant is designed to be a drop-in replacement for the 117 with minimal changes to the airframe.

In terms of its avionics, the PAK-FA is closer to a Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet or F-16E/F Block 60 than an F-22 or F-35. “Some may claim that the PAK-FA is a 5th gen. fighter, but it’s more of a 4.5 gen. fighter by U.S. standards,” a US industry official said.

Failure to prioritize stealth and sensor fusion make it vulnerable to both Western fifth-gen. fighters according to US officials.

The United States has started to work on shaping the requirements for the next-generation successors to the F-22 and F-35 in the form of the Air Force F-X air-superiority fighter and the U.S. Navy’s F/A-XX next-generation strike fighter. But even before then, there are steps the Pentagon can take to mitigate the threat from Russian and Chinese stealth fighters.

SOURCES – Wikipedia, Global Security, National Interest, Militaryfactory

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