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Saturday, July 28, 2012

Russia's fifth generation fighter aircraft programme, T-50 PAK-FA: Updates & Western impression

Some updates & Western analysis about the development programme of Russia's Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft programme.


The current edition [August 2012] of the 'Air Forces Monthly' magazine includes an article about the Russian T-50 PAK-FA, fifth generation fighter aircraft programme. Titled, 'Follow-On Flaker', its written by IISS fellow Douglas Barrie and provides a Western perspective about the aircraft, especially its programme management, in face of Soviet collapse. Summarising his assessment in two words - cautious praise. Cautious, owing to past track record of Russia ability to deliver what it had promised on paper.


Jotting down some stand-out information & assessments made in the article,

  • The aircraft won't be delivered on time, or within budget & would perform less than originally envisaged.
  • The Russian Air Force [RuAF] is perhaps hedging its bet against the T-50 PAK-FA, by inducting around 90 Su-35S into its fleet, in case the PAK-FA encounters delays.
  • In the near future, RuAF fleet would comprise of: T-50 PAK-FA, Su-35S, Su-27SM, Su-30SM, MiG-29SMT & MiG-31 BM
  • Instead of 'Raptorski', the writer would like to term the PAK-FA as the 'Silent Flanker', perhaps alluding to the more advanced capabilities of the F-22 Raptor, compared to the T-50.


  • From the highs of the 80s when the erstwhile Soviet Union would induct several hundred aircrafts each year into its fleet, in 1998 the Russian Air Force could not take in even 1 aircraft due to it financial crunch.

Also: a modest proposal from the Soviets...duly rejected by Indian Babudom

  • Design of the aircraft from the Sukhoi Design Bureau beat those of the MiG & Yakovlev bureaus to win the contract to further develop & build the aircraft
  • Technology Demonstrator Su-47 'Berkut' aircraft [also identified as the S-37] has helped try & validate some of the technologies that will eventually be used in the PAK-FA, especially building with composite materials & internal weapons carriage.
  • Besides Sukhoi, work on developing technologies for the fifth generation fighter aircraft was also underway at the 2nd Scientific Research Institute & State Research Institute for Aviation System [GoSNIIAS]. The 2nd Scientific Research Institute is known to have expertise for Radar Cross-Section [RCS] measurement & reduction.
  • The aircraft may incorporate discrete plasma fields to reduce Radio Frequency [RF] reflection, especially around its chin air intake region. Russia's work in plasma fields dates back to the 3M-24/Kh-80 Meteorite Cruise missile that was being developed as part of the discontinued 'Marabou' project in the late 70s, that was then discontinued by the early 90s.


  • While the PAK-FA shows good head-on & side-on stealth features, it is not so much the case w.r.t its tail aspect stealth.
  • While the PAK-FA's present weight puts it squarely in the heavy-weight/capability class of aircraft, it begun as a search for a Light Tactical Aircraft, known as the Logkiy Frontovoy Samolyot, as replacement to the discontinued MiG 1.44 programme for 5th-gen fighter. Russian designers & manufacturers are reported to be maintaining interest in building such an aircraft, hindered only by finance & industrial capacity.



  • Other than the N-036 AESA radar that will be tested for the first time on-board the T-50-3 [third prototype], the aircraft is also believed to be fitted with secondary side facing X-Band radar & L-Band radar mounted on its inner wings.
  • The T-50-2 has been fitted with an IRST & On the rear of Its cockpit is a turreted Directional Infrared Countermeasure [DIRCM] jammer.
  • Advanced variants of the R-77 missile, the Items 180/K-77M & 180PD may be integrated for firing off the aircraft.


  • A medium range Air-to-Air Missile [AAM], currently identified as the Izdeliye 270 or Item 270, may be under development for the T-50
  • Izdeliye 810 is believed to be an extended Beyond-Visual-Range Air-to-Air Missile [BVRAAM], also called Very Long Range AAM [VLRAAM].
  • Izdeliye 760, which is a further development of the R-73 missile, may be the PAK-FA's designated short-range AAM.
  • Kh-38 missile is being developed as the aircraft's Air-to-Surface Missile. The different guidance seekers it can be fitted with - Electro-Optical [EO], Semi-Active Laser, radar & also Russia's GPS-equivalent, the GLONASS.
  • The Kh-58U ShK is being developed as its anti-radiation missile, from the baseline Kh-58. It would have a broadband passive radar seeker. The Kh-36P may be developed for shorter ranges, though there is no official confirmation of the same.
  • The PAK-FA would be certified to carry a wide variety of PGMS.
  • Use example of the unsatisfactory radar & avionics integration on-board the Su-27M, to suggest the same issue could be faced in the PAK-FA too.


Excluded some information highlights from this article, that I had earlier mentioned while summarising some other articles. If interested, you may go through these posts for them.

Note: Images, as it appeared in the original article


this picture emerged recently of the second PAK-FA prototype




Related: "it was the Dassault Rafale's apparently clear superiority over rival Eurofighter Typhoon that came as the biggest surprise to most observers & analysts"