Russia will begin testing its fifth-generation stealth fighter jet from Sukhoi, called PAK FA, in 2010.
Earlier reports had said that tests of the PAK FA would start before the end of 2009.
According to Russia’s Deputy Defence Minister Vladimir Popovkin, the fifth-generation stealth jet fighter from – which has been under development since the 1990s – will enter the service of the Russian Air Force in 2015.
The PAK FA fighter aircraft is being developed by Sukhoi OKB.
The ‘PAK FA’ is the acronym, in Russian language, for Perspektivnyi Aviatsionnyi Kompleks Frontovoi Aviatsy (meaning, ‘prospective (promising) aircraft system of frontline aviation’).
The prototype of the fifth-generation fighter jet being developed now, called T-50, is designed to compete with the United States’ stealth fighter F-22 Raptor (the only fifth-generation fighter aircraft in the world as of now) and the F-35 Lightning II.
However, the prototype T-50 is yet to be flown. The maiden flight of the SUkhoi PAK FA T-50 has been repeatedly put off since early 2007, for unspecified reasons.
In August 2009, Alexander Zelin, Russia’s Chief of Air Force, had admitted that there were problems with the engines of the T-50 and that “research was under way.”
It is believed that the Sukhoi PAK FA has stealth capability, advanced avionics, a ferry range of 4,000-5,500 kilometres, and an endurance of 3.3 hours.
The PAK FA is armed with the next-generation air-to-surface, air-to-air, and air-to-ship missiles, as well as two 30-mm cannons.
Initially, the PAK FA will carry two Saturn 117S engines (with about 14.5-ton thrust each) – which is an advanced version of the AL-31F. The later versions of the PAK FA will use a totally new engine (with 17.5-ton thrust each), developed by NPO Saturn, or FGUP MMPP Salyut.
In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union had stressed the need for a next-generation aircraft to replace its MiG-29 and Su-27 in frontline service. Two projects were then proposed to meet this need – the Sukhoi Su-47, and the Mikoyan Project 1.44.
In 2002, Sukhoi was chosen to lead the design for the new combat aircraft.
The PAK FA will incorporate technology from both the MiG 1.44 and the Su-47.
India and Russia had agreed, in 2007, to develop jointly what India called the Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) programme. At that time, Mikhail Pogosyan, director of Sukhoi, had announced that India and Russia would share the funding, engineering as well as intellectual property equally.
The Indian version was to differ from the Russian version. While the Indian version would be a twin-seat configuration – which facilitates greater radius of combat operations – the Russian version is a single-seater.
According to reports, Russia is optimistic that a test prototype of the two-seater version could be ready for flight-testing by 2012, and induction into service by 2015.
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