Newest Russian T-50 Stealth Aircraft Makes First Appearance in Spectacular New Camouflage

May 16 2017 - 45 Comments
By Tom Demerly

New Sukhoi Fifth Generation Fighter Uses Pixelated Color Scheme.

 Photos of the newest Sukhoi T-50-9 have surfaced on Russian aircraft spotter blogs and forums. According to Russian media the aircraft made its first flight to Komsomolsk-on-Amur on April 24, 2017. The flight remained secret and no public photos were made.

Between May 10 and May 12 Russian aircraft spotters began to see the new T-50-9 for the first time. The aircraft was identifiable by its new “bort” number, 509, and most significantly by a wild new pixelated paint scheme. The first photos came from the Zhukovsky region near Moscow. Some of the photos first appeared on the Twitter account of Vasily Kuznetsov with what appears to be a cell phone photo of a digital camera playback before the photos were even uploaded to the Internet. At least one air-to-air photo allegedly shows “509” with two 8,000 lt drop tanks.

The T-50 in the new color scheme (Image credit: Stepanov Yury/

Comparisons between the new T-50 and the U.S. F-22 have been popular on forums and in news stories. The short story is that the performance of the newest T-50 will be similar to the F-22 according to Russian news sources, but that the aircraft will be re-engined with a new power plant that is reported to be “ahead of schedule”.

However, considered that the Russian stealth aircraft is still being developed analysts suggest the F-22 will still have an edge in low-observable technology, sensor suites and avionics.

This appears to be the eighth Sukhoi PAK-FA T-50 prototype. Once the aircraft becomes operative it will likely receive a more common designation such as “Sukhoi Su-50”. The T-50 is made to compete directly with other 5th generation aircraft such as the U.S. F-22 and the Chinese Chengdu J-20 and Shenyang J-31. India also claims to have an indigenous 5th generation fighter program underway although no prototype has been built.

Russia has said that its fifth generation fighter aircraft (FGFA) program that is being planned with India would be a ‘completely new aircraft’ and is not linked to Moscow’s own new generation fighter.

According to Russian media outlets there are no export plans for the T-50, even though several variants are being considered for foreign markets.

Credit: DefendingRussia/Sukhoi

Most of the photos that have surfaced are very good quality images of the aircraft on the ground of taking off. One photo circulating in Russian social media appears to be an officially sourced image of the T-50-9 aircraft number 509 in flight with what is apparently a pair of long-range fuel tanks on the wings similar to the ones seen on the F-22.

The PAK-FA T-50 is quoted at approximately $50 million per aircraft current cost. According to Russian sources the aircraft is capable of a top speed of 1,516MPH (2,440kmh) and effective range of “3,418 miles”.

Top image Russian Air Force via









  • IOSux

    Couldn’t hold the F-22’s jock.. nvm compete..

  • leroy

    Those stubby little vertical stabs are out of proportion to the rest of the aircraft making it look like the ugly step-child of another better looking jet. So – where’s the beautiful twin?

    Judging solely on the basis of looks (and surely due to superior U.S. 5th gen technology) the F-22 would probably wipe the floor with this 4++ gen fighter. Considering how long the F-22 has been operational, one can see that Russia remains decades behind the US.

    You won’t see the T-50 deployed for at least a decade, if ever (they still need to design it around a new engine? LOL! That will take years). Don’t look for this plane to be operational any time soon, unlike the F-22 and F-35, both of which are flying and curb-stomping the competition. Without doubt U.S. fighter technology remains dominant.

    • Ulev

      Razputin is using his fake news in aviation…no worries, just recall their fiasco with the only new aircraft carrier……..had to turn tail and steam home…..

    • Paul

      Seriously Leroy, take that Stars and Stripes flag that is tied around your head, it’s blinding you mate. I’ve never read a more bias keyboard warrior such as yourself. It’s OK bro, just relax. ?

    • Andrew Tubbiolo

      Don’t let stubby vertical stabs fool you. You make up for lack of yaw control from a fin with spoilers to create adverse yaw at the wing tips. The future lies in losing vertical stabs totally. It’ll help with aerodynamics and stealth. That’s a genuine advance the Russians have made there.

    • Black Eagle

      You forgot on fact, that those “little vertical stabs” can move as a one part (unlike the stabs of F-22 or F-35 which work on same principe as on previous generations of fighters) and therefore they don’t need to be too big.

      “Judging solely on the basis of looks…” yeah, when something doesn’t look like cut out of Star Wars, it must be immediately a crap. That’s very interesting way of thinking.
      F-22 may be operational since 2005, but it got its very first mission just in 2014, after almost a decade of its entering in service (irony is that you are stating that Su-50 won’t be deployed for at least a decade), so no one really knows wheter it could deal with latest 4.5 or 4++ gen. fighters or with future 5th gen. fighters.

      Oh, and the new Izdeliye 30 engines already passed the ground tests few months ago and soon they will be mounted into at least one of the two last prototypes (T-50-10 and T-50-11) which should be built yet in this year.

  • Quattro Bajeena

    “However, considered that the Russian stealth aircraft is still being developed analysts suggest the F-22 will still have an edge in low-observable technology, sensor suites and avionics.”

    I would not bet on that. The F-22 was introduced over 20 years ago. Even Russia can manufacture CPUs more powerful than the ones on the F-22 by now. See their Elbrus series processors for example. Their main issue has been with the manufacture of radar T/R elements in quantity. There are rumors that the Chinese have solved that problem though, they have a lot more experienced people in the civilian telecoms industry side of things to lean upon. So if Russia really wanted, they could just source those radar elements from China. The T-50 may still have teething issues but I doubt it will be anything less than a competent fighter. Take the Su-27. It also came years after the F-15. Despite the Soviet Union trailing the USA in electronics technology it wasn’t worse than the F-15 now was it?

    The T-50 has not gone into mass production yet for several reasons. The major one is Russia simply cannot afford it right now, because of the oil price crash, and not when many other weapon systems are being introduced right now, like T-14 Armata and their nuclear submarines, at the same time they are fighting two conflicts in Ukraine and Syria. The other reason, I suspect, is because the military would rather prefer a mass production version with the upgraded izdeliye 30 engines.

    The F-22 needs to get some upgrades on its avionics and weapons suite, as well as an HMD, over the next decade. Or else do not be surprised to see Russia and China surpass it in those areas over the same time period.

    • Samuel Weir

      Wouldn’t count on the Chinese wholeheartedly letting Russia access their best technology. China is on the rise and Russia is an ex-superpower in decline. There is generally friction in such circumstances and the history of China and Russia hasn’t always been smooth, as you know.

      As for the Su-27 versus F-15, I don’t know how you can make any conclusions. The F-15 has a long proven combat record and has never been shot down in air-to-air combat. To my knowledge, the Su-27 has virtually no combat record, except perhaps for some encounters with MIGs in Africa.

      • Quattro Bajeena

        One aspect of the Su-27 is the phased array radar it has. When it came out it completely caught NATO by surprise. After what was known about the Mig-25 radar (heck it used valves) no one expected the Soviet Union to be able to do something like that. Another surprise was the all-aspect R-73 missile. Finally the Su-27 has an unstable triplane layout so it cannot even be flown without a fly-by-wire system (which it has). So it turned out the Su-27 had considerably advanced avionics, sensors, and weapons.

        How well that works in practice in real combat? Well thankfully we never found that out. The US bought a couple of Su-27 some years back (from Belarus and Ukraine) so they should have plenty of data on how to counter the older variants.

        The Chinese already import engine turbine blades from Russia. So I would not be terribly surprised if the Russians managed to do some deal with them even if they are antagonistic to a significant degree. Plus you have to remember the Russians felt comfortable enough to sell the Chinese some Su-35s. I know it usually happens the other way around but I would not discount the possibility of a Chinese > Russian tech trade happening in the future. Another thing is, as with all semiconductor manufacturing, the Russian’s T/R module manufacturing yield should rise with time. Considering the amount of time the T-50 has been in design I would not be surprised if the Russians got the yield up by now.

        Still it is too early to tell and the US should have at least like 5 years until it becomes an issue. The Chinese J-20 also does not have the proper engine yet. But they need to get a move on those F-22 upgrades.

    • Raptor1

      F-22 has had ever-expanding upgrades/capabilities, from hardware to software.
      Its stealth tech has 40+ years of operational experience behind it that no one else has; its engines were (it’s now apparent) at least 2 decades ahead of closest competitors when it came out; its computers were way ahead of the curve when it came out with tech insertion and refresh over the years; and its integrated systems are, well, not your average run-of-the-mill systems, we’ll just say that.
      The major issues are not the radar elements, although that certainly doesn’t helpthings… Much more important issues are its engines, which 20 years after F-22 are not up-to-par in either specs or stealth; never mind the fact that they aren’t even through dev yet letalone spent 2 decades flying like -119s
      Go figure, all they have to do to compete with F-22 is complete air frame design, prove out its stealth, dev out an AESA, complete dev of an engine that’s ambitious in relation to anything they’ve produced to date, and tie it all together with an integrated system – And then build, train, and stand up a fleet of a couple hundred of them – Gee, what could possibly go wrong and how much time and money could THAT possibly mean, right? :-)
      As for HMDS and other capabilities – Seriously, it’s already shown that it can dominate the best 4th++ gens without ’em… That’s a real problem for all the countries that don’t have fleets of operational 5th gens, or huge fleets of the latest integrated 4th gens –
      Which is essentially everyone.
      Now if they start mass-producing some J-20s and Pak Fas and we suddenly feel a ittle jittery, they’ll push out the 6th gen as a reality check.
      So yeah.

    • Uniform223

      “The F-22 was introduced over 20 years ago. Even Russia can manufacture CPUs more powerful than the ones on the F-22 by now”

      > just because it’s newer doesn’t necessarily mean that it is better. Would you say a 2016 Mini Cooper S is better than a 2005 NSX-R? Also the F-22s computers still have more code in them then any other current western fighter aircraft only being beaten out by the F-35 by a good margin. The CCP of the for the F-22 is mid-90s tech but this doesn’t mean that certain software codes can’t be upgraded over time.

      “Their main issue has been with the manufacture of radar T/R elements in quantity”

      > it isn’t so much quantity but their lack in quality that is lacking and in some areas (some more critical than others) far behind. Russia is yet to produce an AESA radar for their fighter aircraft, the PAKFA will be their first and even then the U.S. and the major western militaries in general is still well ahead. Russian fighter aircraft radars were never really known for their quality when compared to the West. The most recent radar for the F-22 (AN/APG-77v1) utilizes GaAs t/r modules. Future upgrades to US fighter AESA radars will use GaN t/r modules. Russia is barely even scratching the surface of AESA radars and advanced t/r modules. An example of this is their resolution of their SAR imaging. Their Su-30M has shown resolution from 1m to 5m of image resolution. The F-15E was displaying 1m resolution during Desert Storm. Now US fighter aircraft are having SAR image resolution as low or lower than 0.3m.

      “Take the Su-27. It also came years after the F-15. Despite the Soviet Union trailing the USA in electronics technology it wasn’t worse than the F-15 now was it?

      > outwardly no. Internally it was worse. The radar, rwr, avionics and general aircraft pilot interface was behind the F-15. Compare the Flanker’s early radar to the AN/APG-63 and you will have your answer.

      “There are rumors that the Chinese have solved that problem though, they have a lot more experienced people in the civilian telecoms industry side of things to lean upon. So if Russia really wanted, they could just source those radar elements from China.”

      > it’s actually the other way around in terms of military tech. Chinese military is currently heavily dependent on foreign designs. This is why China was pushing very hard to acquire the Su-35. Expect to see elements of the Su-35 (avionics and engines) in their J-20 and J-31 in the near future.

      “The T-50 may still have teething issues but I doubt it will be anything less than a competent fighter.”

      > no one really knows the problems Russia is having with the PAKFA because unlike the JSF, the PAKFA program is as transparent as sediment rich muddy water. No one is really saying the PAKFA won’t be a competent next generation fighter aircraft for the RuAF. What others like myself will say is that the PAKFA is already late to the game.

      “The F-22 needs to get some upgrades on its avionics and weapons suite, as well as an HMD, over the next decade. Or else do not be surprised to see Russia and China surpass it in those areas over the same time period.”

      > it is in the best interest of the USAF to keep the F-22 Raptor modernized and upgraded throughout its service life due to the fact that they have so few of them. Most if not all F-22 Raptors are flying with the AN/APG-77v1. BAE is upgrading the F-22s HUD with DLE components. Last year the first squadron of Raptors were capable of utilizing the AIM-9X block II now the software upgrade is being put on other F-22s. (As far as I know) the USAF still intends to field an HMD for the F-22 Raptor by 2020 despite cancelling the 2017 requirement. More important to the F-22 is to better communicate with 4th gen aircraft like F-15. The Talon HATE pod is being tested and used in high end exercise/training events. The USAF are already having successful demonstrations with F-22s and F-35s communicating and integrating with each other within and beyond Link-16.

      Essentially Chinese and Russian 5th gen fighters are trying to do what the Raptor represented some 12 years ago when the F-22 Raptor was declared IOC in 2005. Russia and China may have close the gap a bit but don’t expect the F-22 to Raptor not to utilize and incorporate (when ever and where ever possible) new tech and upgrades throughout its service life. The most recently upgraded and up to date Raptor is more capable rhen the first Raptor that entered service in 2005.

    • Tundra Meadow

      I just wanna now, why? For instance, why both east and west keep going on to develop new aircraft, tanks, weapons etc? As far as I can tell, no USA nor Russia would EVER fight each other. If they do go for it, does it really matter who has the better military toy when both countries have nukes? If USA nuked imperial Japan despiste being at full advantage, what exactly prevents them from doing the same if losing? And if the USA-NATO really outguns Russia in fight, what prevents Russia from using nukes too? Having a fancy aircraft, fancy tank, fancy bomb means nothing if you enemy have a nuclear weapon, I honestly want to get an plausible on why both east and west keep investing on this kind of stuff

      • cowboybob

        it is a jobs program in the US. Eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex. Money, honey .

  • Uniform223

    From splinter camo…

    To “shark camo”…

    I guess you can call this “digital shark”

    I like the original “shark” pattern better. Though admittedly I am bias towards F-15C and F-22 color/camouflage

  • Philo2

    1/4th the price of an American F-35.

    • Uniform223

      Here in the capitalist west we have a saying…
      “You get what you pay for”.

      • Pepe Le Cox

        You pay a lot for medical insurance in the USA, so you should have the better medical system of the world, but the reality …

        • Uniform223

          If you read the article and know a little something then you would realize that this article is inconclusive to the point you are trying to make. Medical error can be as simple as wrong diagnosis (something that happens EVERYWHERE) because biology is more complicated and varying. Malpractice however is the real cause for any death that occurs on the hospital bed and is small percentage.

          But back to the topic at hand… the PAKFA is quoted to be a final price of 50million and the F-35A is on its way to be 85million. There is a lot of high tech “wizardry” going into the F-35A. The PAKFA may seem high tech for Russian fighter aircraft standards, but compared to F-22 and F-35, it would seem sukhoi cut some corners to keep the price down.

    • Les

      Yea, but it costs a lot to maintain the technology that they and the Chinese steal from us.

    • Jack___Hole

      And 1/8th the capability.

    • leroy

      Hardly. The F-35A is on track to costing around $80M per unit. Since when is 80 four times 50?

      • Pepe Le Cox
        • Uniform223

          If your read that article that is the current price of lrp lot 9. The current price for the f-35A recently just dipped BELOW 100million…

          The 80million Leroy is sighting, is the purposed final per-unit price of an F-35A during FRP by 2019 or 2020 time frame. The trend in price dropping per new production lot of aircraft makes it look very very possible that the final price per F-35A will be 85million.

      • Alex Alexandrewitsch

        I cant belive that this f35 will cost only 80mio from 135… Jet without engine? Sorry somethig stinks.

  • John A. Nau

    Having a cool looking plane is a far cry from winning the kill chain. Further, they competition claims it handles better in a dog fight. Well, I say great, the last dog fight was in 1988. Last, one big advantage that the American breeds have will be the helmet. Sure there are some problems still, but those are dwindling. Last, I don’t here about this thing being in production. Sounds like hype to me.

    • Black Eagle

      U.S. didn’t believe in WW2 style dogfights also during Vietnam War and decided to not placing cannons in their Phantoms. Everyone know well what happened. Also one would say that when there are radars with range over 100 km in 80’s, they would be powerful enough to deal with every aircraft in BVR fights, and still WW2 scenario dogfights occured. After all, originally only F-35A should had a cannon onboard, not B and C variants and suddenly they decided to put that gun pod under the belly.

    • Pepe Le Cox

      The last dogfight was in the Gulf War (90-91), when “Rico” Rodriguez and “Mole” Underhill went in dogfight againts two MIG-29B, the first one was destroyed in BVR with an AIM-7, and the second one was in a maneuvering crash while in dogfight with Rodriguez.

      • John A. Nau

        Actually, I am wrong it was in Kosovo in 1999

      • John A. Nau

        1999 was the year of the last dogfight

  • phuzz

    I don’t know if it will turn out to be a useful fighter aircraft, but I do think it looks pretty cool, especially in that cammo.

  • Lorum-Ipsum

    It has a thought-controlled weapon system too right?! ;)

  • Horn

    That $50m per unit quote if from 6 years ago. Does anybody really believe that’s the actual cost?

    • Andrew Tubbiolo

      More like $120 million. That’s a lot of advanced materials, electronics, and the new engines won’t be inexpensive.

    • Pepe Le Cox

      Is above 100 millions now, all the models

    • Alex Alexandrewitsch

      Now its 40% less. In dollars ;) nominal

  • Lex Talionis

    That doesn’t look very stealthy, awful lot of curved edges

    • Uniform223

      It’s the angle of those curved edges and how well blended they are with the airframe. Also

    • Raptor1

      Curved edges do not an unstealthy aircraft make… F-35 is loaded with them, same with B-2 and F-22.

  • franciwzm

    Why pak-fa shuold be considered more advanced then eurocanards which even use s-ducts, while pak-fa that pretend to be stealth use no s-ducts? (while its recs gonna be larger then eurocanards on air to air configuration) According to Pavel Bulat, avionics specialist and head of the Kupol Group of Companies ” it still falls short of the 5th generation model, and is very noticeable on radar screens,” said the expert.” Pak fa rcs noway below 0,5 (and current prototypes much larger)

  • leroy

    As Russia struggles to field this 5th gen fighter, the U.S. is already working on its 6th generation of aircraft – one that will probably have the controllability needed to forego vertical stabs while still being able to attain supersonic speeds. Some think perhaps even Mach 3. By the time the T-50 ever (if ever) enters into service the U.S. will already be flying its 6th gen. NATO members will be able to buy both (F-35 and whatever new plane we develop).

    • Black Eagle

      The MiG-41 is another aircraft currently under development in Russia. It’s supposed to be new generation interceptor which should replace the fleet of MiG-31s sometimes around the 2030 year. Due the facts, the aircraft will have low radar visibility and ability to fly more than Mach 4, it is also considered as the 6th gen. fighter.

    • Alex Alexandrewitsch

      Cant belive that cause too expensive. Next step is orbital.

  • Deo Cass

    This aircraft is already with the new engines. Notice how the engine is much less exposed on this particular aircraft while the jet cones are wider than previous aircraft.

  • Silent Hunter

    An export version for Iran? How likely is that in reality?


    “…several variants are being considered for foreign markets.”

    Isn’t this actually a far bigger issue than how the T-50 would do against the F-22?

    The idea of the Russians selling an aircraft that is slightly inferior to the F-22 in a world where most T- 50 users will be facing at most F-35’s but not F-22’s would seem important. Russia is actually highly unlikely to go to war against NATO or some subset thereof. What about all the other countries in the world that don’t like their neighbours enough for it to turn violent, at least potentially?

    Imagine all the buyers of SU-27’s upgrading to T-50’s. If the neighbours only have F-16’s or even F-15’s they will be rightfully nervous. They could upgrade to F-35’s, and of course some of them are planning to, but how confident will they feel putting these up against a ‘Well it isn’t really as good as an F-22″ hostile nation fighter?

    Weapons are Russia’s most important manufactured export as I understand it. They will try to sell as many as possible. Some of the users will start fights with them – India Vs Pakisatan round 5 anyone?

    Keep in mind that the US Navy is one of the powers that has no F-22 equivalent to put against this “It isn’t quite competitive with the F-22” fighter.