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.

PAK-FA 2

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.

PAK-FA 1

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 4428 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.

10 Comments

  1. Though I am no expert like some people here, but i think there are lots of differences in the concept and thought process of “stealth” for US and Russian Fighter Makers. While to the US it is actually reducing the observability on radars and trying to make the plane “invisible”, to the russians its about avoiding getting hit by any missiles. And these are evident in the differences in the two types of air-crafts we are discussing here. The PAKFA has lower LO than the F22 but a higher agility and maneuverable body frame. Which means that US F22 will try and avoid detection while PAK FA will try and avoid the missiles coming towards it. With the latest AESA radar, missile detection and radar jamming pods it will try and break off the guidance link of most incoming missiles and then with its superior maneuverability it will try and get away from the incoming missile path. The F22 will try and avoid detection wholly. Both these concepts have their pro s and cons. While for the PAKFA, a lot of it depends on the pilot’s skill and training to be able to track missile, break off radar link and move off the path of incoming missiles; for the F22 the concept of staying “invisible” and LO is reducing day by day with advances in radar and detection technology. The fact is while everybody gloats about the new “great” AESA radar on F22 but the same F22 will become visible to enemy radar if it uses the AESA in the full “active” mode to detect other fighters or jam incoming missile to other AESA/IRST radars.

    It is common knowledge that, newer technology will be more effective and the PAKFA when it comes will be 20 years younger than the F22. in todays world of free knowledge sharing, I dont think it is possible to maintain superiority over 20 years in one technology. While the latest F22 is much more advanced than the earlier ones, the Russians have the advantage of studying the F22 technology, assess the pros and cons and develop their own.

    I think they will not try and make the PAKFA as stealthy as F22 but will make it anti-F22 or in other words they will try and use the cons in F22 design and exploit them to make a F22 killer.
    All said and done, the Indian version of PAKFA which is being called FGFA will be different from the Russian one. And going by the recent example of Su 30, we can expect them to be much better than the Russian original version.

    • {” The PAKFA has lower LO than the F22 but a higher agility and
      maneuverable body frame. Which means that US F22 will try and avoid
      detection while PAK FA will try and avoid the missiles coming towards
      it. With the latest AESA radar, missile detection and radar jamming pods
      it will try and break off the guidance link of most incoming missiles
      and then with its superior maneuverability it will try and get away from
      the incoming missile path. The F22 will try and avoid detection wholly.
      Both these concepts have their pro s and cons. While for the PAKFA, a
      lot of it depends on the pilot’s skill and training to be able to track
      missile, break off radar link and move off the path of incoming
      missiles; for the F22 the concept of staying “invisible” and LO is
      reducing day by day with advances in radar and detection technology.”}

      Nonsense if the Pak-fa tries to avoid missile shots at it all that will happen is that the f-22 still undetected and still cruising supersonically will take more long range “freebie” missile shots at it, with every evasive maneuver bleeding more and more energy off of the pak-fa and slowing it down tremendously. It would only be a matter of time before the kinematic performance of the the pak fa would not be enough avoid the next missile. I’d say probably the third of fourth missile would be too much for the pak-fa pilot.

      Not to mention because it didn’t have to do any energy bleeding evasive maneuvers of it’s own the f-22 is still got plenty of speed and altitude to gain even more distance and separation between the two of them, to set up either more missile shots or to leave the fight entirely. It’s highly unlikely that in a head to head straight engagement with both aircraft facing each other that the pak-fa would even get a shot off. With the pak-fa pilot’s concentration totally devoted to evading all those missiles there is no way the f-22 pilot would be stupid enough to let the pak fa get closer, any smart pilot would use that time to gain even more distance between the two of them.

      F-22 is NOT a fixed design, it was designed to be a large aircraft with plenty of internal volume and space to adapt whatever new necessary technologies that emerge.

      The Russians chose the approach they did because of financial reasons. Keep in mind Mig’s 5th generation design that went up against sukhoi’s Pak-fa was indeed more stealthy, but realistically more expensive than the sukhoi. If the Russians could afford to develop an aircraft with f-22 level stealth they would have. Of course it’s not common practice with the Russians to admit limitations, so they claim they “chose” more maneuverability. They didn’t have a choice really, there are several analyst even within Russia who question their ability to deliver this aircraft as promised, they are still struggling to deliver true supercruising fifth generation engines, the avionics are far from being what was promised ect. Even the Indians, Russia’s partner are delaying signing contracts cause of concerns over reliability,( they were plagued with problems of engine reliability, with their su-30s which offered similar performance to western counterparts when, but at half the reliability and engine life)

      There is alot being made over this plane all over the internet from the moment it was shown. But it’s important to understand what it truly is.

      Unlike the fourth generation of aircraft the fifth generation is not about better aerodynamic design or cost effectiveness. This generation from the start has always been about “high technology” albeit at the cost of “HIgh expenses”. This is one category were the Russians have ALWAYS lagged behind the west. Where as the west usually lags behind in aerodynamic efficiency in it’s designs. But by trying to design a stealth fighter Russia is entering a field where they are no longer the masters and tremendous cost overruns, malfunctions, and failed promises will surely hammer this program as it did with the American fifth generation fighters.

      Even coming on the scene 20 years later than the f-22 the pak-fa “stealth” fighter isnt nearly as stealthy as the Yf-22 prototype of the late 80s early 90s.

      I can assure you that the almost decade long advantage of f-22 pilots flying and training all over the world has given them an Idea of what works and what doesn’t work in aerial combat regarding stealth fighters, they are aware of all their strengths and all their weaknesses and will be an extremely tough adversary. Where as pak-fa most of it’s strenghts and weaknesses won’t be that different from that of the flankers.

      So why does the Pak-Fa exist? Simple f-22 is a money gobbling beast of a program

      that has made lockheed tremendous amount of financial and propaganda success world wide. The sheer success of the f-22 is what set the stage for most of the countries to join in on the f-35 program, with Lockheed promising similar capability to the f-22 at much less cost. Now more than a decade later, we are seeing that it’s now true.

      Sukhoi plans to do the same. With the f-22 not available for export, how else can a country get their hands on a state of the art air dominance fighter? Answer Pak-fa.

      With no competitor except the poorly designed f-35 the Pak-Fa should sell extremely well (as long as the price doesn’t climb too much) in the foreign markets. So just as lockheed did in the 90s and early 2000s hyping the hell out of the f-22, sukhoi will do the same to get as much money as possible.

      But is it really a match or superior to f-22? The answer is yes and no, it depends on the decisions made by the american f-22 pilot on the day or night that they meet each other in combat.

      Never forget that in most fighter generations the Russian planes have enjoyed significantly better agility and performance to their American rivals, only to see them shot down in large numbers regardless, with the pilot, training, numbers, and strategic advantage playing the difference. US has largely maintained this advantage throughout the years and it’s hard to imagine a battle-space in any part of the world where they don’t have it.

      A few important questions that proponents of this plane should be asking themselves are,

      Why have the US banned foreign exports of f-22? This is the first time they’ve done this with their latest fighter. They sold the f-15 fairly early in large numbers to the Israelis and Japanese at a time when it was far and away the deadliest fighter jet in the world.

      Why haven’t the Russians done the same with the Pak-fa, if it really is more advanced than the f-22? Wouldn’t the russians be scared that it’s technology might fall into the hands of their rivals, and avoid selling it to the world.

      And most importanltly, if the f-22 was available to foreign export would india or any of the other countries considering Pak-fa and f-35 still be interested in those fighters?

      • there is also a differente aspect: Not even the US could afford the F22 and 120 F22 are not going to set the world on fire. The programme was so expensive that it’s decreasing return drove the US to the program cancellation.Pretending they are as effective you make them to be (which is debateable given the ever decreasing range at which they LO makes them invisbile) they can make a differene in one theater rather than overall. If your next best thing is the F15 or the Hornet, than you may be doomed. The germans had the Tiger tank which was way better than anything the allies had but it did not win the war for them.

    • The Russkie plane is larger & no doubt heavier than the 22 & 35. Are they using composites technology? The F-22 is advertized as being the most maneuverable jet in the sky, & the F-35 more so. I wonder how many Russkies wet themselves off the coast of Canada, when they were confronted by them.

      • it has been proven the F22 it is not the most manuvreable jet in the sky and the F35 is not even in the conversation

  2. From what I heard from reliable sources out of former Pope AFB engineers, there apparently have been more than one or two actual bits of ordinance dropped in ground combat (providing CAS/and or being part of newer joint (keyword being JOINT) w/ other types of similar air platforms. Not sure if Syria was the place, but if you guys have heard anything, post on here so I can get the skinny….thanks!

  3. I guess I don’t know much abut these things, but aren’t those canards and wouldn’t that effectively negate any stealth capability?

  4. Alas in 10 Years time America will Not be the Power it once was….The Russians and the Chinese have now Caught up with their Aircraft…And very soon China and Russia will Wipe out the Best of America`s Jet Fighters whatever Generation they are…The Chinese have Stolen secrets from America and Russia have Gained the Advanced Technology from some where else…The Tide is Turning against America and that will cause a Giant shift in Power to other parts of the World,Alas…

    • If the US stopped all technology advances, it would take Russia 10-15 years to catch up. Just with fighter jets. Their main bomber is a turboprop put into service in 1950. Ours is the B-2, with a B-3 on the drawing boards.

  5. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. Easy to say stealth is just nice to have when yours doesn’t have it. F-22 & 23 radars are designed to detect & shoot long before the enemy can detect them.

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