Up close and personal with Russia’s 5th generation stealth fighter: first close-up pictures of the PAK-FA

During the recent MAKS airshow, Sukhoi allowed for the first time journalists to have a look at the T-50 (PAK FA – Perspektivny Aviatsionny Kompleks Frontovoy Aviatsii—Future Tactical Air System) from short distance. Marina Lystseva of Lenta.ru was among them and took the images you can find in this post (the rest is here).

The fifth generation fighter plane was inside a hangar at Zhukovsky flight test facility.


The aircraft is planned to enter active service in 2016 – 2018. So far four aircraft have been produced and involved in the flight testing program. A fifth T-50 is expected to join the rest of prototypes by the end of the year.

Under the current contract, the Russian Air Force is to get 60 such fighters. Even if most of its technical specs are secret, some details have emerged.


The aircraft is a stealth equipped with a front, side and rear AESA radar, as well as L Band radars. It features TVC (Thrust Vectoring Control), a top speed exceeding Mach 2 and supermaneuverability. It should carry a wide variety of weapons including air-to-air, air-to-surface and anti-ship missiles.

In other words, it will be a tough adversary for the F-22 and F-35.

H/T to Vadim Volkov for the heads-up

Credit: Marina Lystseva / Lenta.ru


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About David Cenciotti 4417 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written four books.


  1. It’ll be interesting to see how observable it really is (not that we’ll ever know). F-22 and F-35 development drove a number of advances in machining technology – due the unheard of level of precision between mating pieces of skin, rivet depths, etc.

    The Russians appear to have gone a more rudimentary route, and simply constructed a normal aircraft using a “stealth” shape. Anybody who’s personally involved with the F-35 or F-22 manufacturing programs, will tell you hands down, the “shape” is the easy part of low observable aircraft, by a huge huge huge huge margin.

    Sure is cool looking though!

    • oh yeah one S-400 or S-300PMU2 will bring down your costly F-22 Craptor out of skies, Stealth means VLO, not complete invisibility still Ruskies Radar’s can track them & wait until Indian variant of FGFA comes out which is more stealthier than PAK-FA (Russian variant).

      • LOL. Sure thing chief. According to the people trying to sell them.

        How’s combat record of Soviet built integrated air defense networks over the last 30 years or so?


        • LOL. Ruskies Nebo VHF band radar & L-band protivinik radars are optimized for counter stealth.F-22 doesn’t stand a chance against S-330PMU2.May be UCAV’s like X-47 can evade detection.But Raptor or any other 4+++ gen aircraft doesn’t have a chance.L-band radars are primarily for counter stealth.

          • Again – according to the people who are trying to sell the systems. They’re happy to sell them to countries who’ll never face air strikes from a western country with stealth aircraft and advanced EW capabilities. Yet, S-300s are conspicuously absent from the only two countries who face virtually inevitable attack from Israel or NATO. The combat record of Russian defense systems is a lot more telling than the sales hype.

            I’m sure ten years ago, Syria probably thought Israeli F-16s “didn’t stand a chance” against their S-200s……

            • Sam you (India) didn’t buy those Russian clunkers did you? I wonder what scrap prices are these days because brother those things couldn’t defeat a F15 much less a F22

            • SAMs are nearly useless, either Western or Russian. Especially if they are used by Arabs.

          • Russian radar worked really good in downing MH-17, when they thought it was the smaller Ukraine Antonov. American technology has always been at least 10 years ahead of Russia & China.

      • The one advantage “to rule them all” still is, and will continue to be, reliability rate. The Russians have never been able to defeat that old foe when it comes to advanced aircraft. Similarly, as far as the Indian’s go, I had the pleasure of a one-year exchange tour with the IAF and their in-service rates are horrendous. If the conflict lasts a couple weeks, soviet kit is fine. After that, the skies will belong to US jets. Furthermore, the seemingly insurmountable advantage in airspace/battle management enjoyed by the US/NATO would essentially render any Russian/non-Western adversary to the “fighting blind” category relative to western aircraft. Thus, even if the Russians, Indians, Iranians, or anyone else, did develop an aircraft as capable (or even more capable) than the F-22/F-35, poor reliability and weak or non-existent combat control would doom them to failure in short order.

        • an interesting point of view… so it’s down to strategic rather than tactical factors then… it all reminds me of wwii where the germans did have a clear tactical advantage at each and every point but still lost due to strategic loss of vision. conflicting philosophies, who knows what is the winning combination? 20 aircraft at 2 bil apiece or 2000 at 20 mil? we may never find out, at least i hope so…

          • He didn’t say anything about strategical factors. Reliability is essentially a tactical factor since it has it’s greatest effect upon availability of aircraft and sortie rates. That’s not strategic.

  2. I am with OGLocc looks like a lot of ping points just on the front (which is suppose to be the stealth end). I see seems in access panels, rivets, antenna, wow. Makes me question the true stealth ability and really question if it is anything near a US level stealth. Maybe more so at/under a F-15SE or the newest example of the F-18super hornet with conformals.

    Who sees who first usually gets to shoot first which that usually determines the outcome.

    • I get a feeling that the PAK-FA is built around the sweet spot between LO and performance. The “stealth” is only taken so far its worth the money as the cost of going for the full US level of stealth could not be justified.

      Especially if the manoeuvrability is extreme, the radar/IRST systems have range enough to detect, launch and strike other aircrafts before they – steatlhy or not – can detect, launch and actually reach the PAK-FA with a missile.

      Look at the F-35 where stealth probably is far more advanced then the PAK-FA but will it really matter in combat as it have a tiny radar, few missiles, poor manoeuvrability and low speed. It can be the most stealthy in the world, if it can not strike first it’s a pretty crappy fighter anyway.

        • Doesn’t matter what it’s called. It’s still a tiny radar compared to f-22 and will not really give the F-35 the same advantage against the pak-fa as the f-22 with its larger radar and smaller cross section.

    • Keep in mind that this AC may have those rivets, access, panels, antenna, ect may be disinformation for the public. When the US first generation XP-59 jets were being transported between factories & airfields, they installed dummy propellers to fool anyone observing the jet to prevent them from knowing the US was working on Jet technology. the military of any nation only releases information they want the public to know. And the Russians are not stupid. We wont know the true capabilities of this jet unless we meet it in combat or someone defects with a jet to the west which wont happen in the post Cold War world.

    • All the prototype Pak Fa’s have not got Ram coating. Hunt around on the Internet and you will if you are lucky still find photos of some early F35’s that look much the same. Rougher in fact with more rivets etc.showing. Not much point putting all the Ram and final coatings on a Prototype that will never be an operational aircraft. I imagine we might see Ram on the next final Prototype or maybe they will not bother until they start building the first batch intended to be operational aircraft. All they say is they will be using a new Nano coating. Maybe there coating is completely diff to the US one. Who knows?

  3. It may be “less stealth” than F22 or F35… But hell the russians have a huge advance regarding manoeuvrability ! So, ok, nowadays dogfights are very unlikely to happen… But manoeuvrability demos are always very impressive for the ground soldiers and can play a lot in the psychological war…

    • Your post is completely wrong. US fighter pilots know exactly how to defeat “supermaneurverability”. You just take the fight vertical as soon as you see the cobra, and then right back down onto their 6 while the jet that just did a Cobra is a sitting duck with no energy, you just shoot them. What exactly do you think they have Mig 29’s at Miramar for, anyway?

      • same reason they still have f-16’s….super manoeuvrable. out performed the f-15, f-35 etc.

  4. The F-117 was 20 year old technology by the time one was shot down. The B-2, which is a whole different generation of VLO, was already in operation for a decade before that F-117 was hit by a volley of SAMs.

    • Exactly! So you’re pinpointing out what I’m refering to:
      The B-2 (and it’s VLO tech) is now 20 years OLD too….. ;-)

      • Of course: At a range of 13km(!!!!), pretty much ANY missile guidance radar is going to get enough return off a F-117 to guide a missile to it. The lesson to learn from that regarding LO is to not fly right next to SAM radars!

      • There is not even a hint of evidence to suggest that Iran “downed” anything.

        Drones crash every single month, with no enemy action whatsoever.

        • Then can you please why Obama was begging the Iranian government to send it back?

          And can you tell me why you are lying? not even CNN is trying to lie in this case.

          • Good grief.

            What do you think I’m lying about? There is absolutely zero proof that Iran “downed” a US drone.

            Are you aware that we’ve lost over SIXTY Reapers and Predators since 2007, *none* to enemy fire. Drones crash constantly. A Global Hawk crashed in Maryland last year, another in Florida.

            The fact that the RQ-170 is the *first* drone we’ve crashed into Iran, is actually quite amazing.

            • His asking you to explain how Iran downed that drone and you are avoiding his question by saying that all these drones are faulty and crash by themselves all the time and thats nothing new . Are you trying to say that the US makes faulty drones? that can crash mostly intact? Thus allowing their enemy’s to “grab” them and steal its info and technology’s? Im trying to understand the logic behind your response here. How or why would the US send a compromised aircraft of such a sensitive nature into enemy Territory knowing that there’s a full well chance that it might crash on its own and for no apparent reason while keeping all its Data intact? it makes no sense.

              • Honeypot. I’d bet a billion dollars that the Iranians got a dressed-up POS drone (looks that way from the way it didn’t seem to have any stealth coating whatsoever in photos) with hidden sensor gear and a ton of penetration software designed to covertly burrow into any computer system it’s hooked up to. You think if we really cared about it we wouldn’t just fire a cruise missile at the thing and blow it up from the gulf?

              • Good god you people are amazing! It’s a drone! Do you not realize these things are designed and spit out like coins out of a slot machine!? It takes a couple a years to design and manufacture drones vs a programs like the F-35 that take a decade!

                Of course the U.S. wanted it back! We’ve asked for everything we ever lost in war back!

                I’m sure their are countries that can bring down US drones, Iran surely isn’t one of the, the thing failed and crashed!

      • Iran showed a picture of what they said was a US drone. It looked like something somebody built in there garage from scrap parts. It looked like nothing the US has. The Pres. was just making a joke. Beside drones themselves aren’t very hi-tech. The elctronic’s behind them is. Besides the new one from the “skunk” works does mach 6.

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