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Russia to Receive New Fifth-Generation Fighter by 2017

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Russia to Receive New Fifth-Generation Fighter by 2017

Moscow’s answer to the American F-22 and F-35 aircraft will soon be inducted into the Russian Air Force.

Russia to Receive New Fifth-Generation Fighter by 2017
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday, the head of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) stated during a press conference at the Paris Air Show that the Russian Air Force will receive its first batch of PAK FA T-50 fifth-generation fighter jets by late 2016 or early 2017, Defense News reports.

According to UAC CEO Yuri Slyusar, four prototypes, along with two test beds of the fighter have already been delivered by Sukhoi, with three more prototypes expected to be delivered by the end of this year.

“We can say that we are in the schedule and these three additional prototypes will allow us to greatly expand the testing program and do it faster,” Slyuar said during the press conference.

“What we’re speaking about in the schedule is to deliver the first batch at the end of 2016, beginning of 2017 to the customer, the ministry of defense, so the aircraft demonstrate all necessary and design characteristics.”

The PAK FA T-50 prototype (the name will in all likelihood change for the production aircraft) is a multi-role, single seat, twin-engine air superiority/deep air support fighter with stealth capabilities, and is expected to have a service life in the Russian Air Force of up to 35 years.

Fox News quotes from a factsheet distributed by UAC at the Paris Air Show:

Compared to the previous generation fighters, the PAK-FA[T-50] combines the functions of a strike aircraft and a fighter, thus offering a number of unique capabilities. As the fifth-generation aircraft, it has an essentially new thoroughly integrated avionics package providing superior automatic control and intelligence support.

As I reported a while back (see: “What’s the Status of the Indian-Russian Fifth Generation Fighter Jet?”), New Delhi and Moscow agreed in early 2007 to jointly develop a fifth generation fighter program. Ever since then, the Sukhol/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) or as it is called in India, the Perspective Multi-role Fighter (PMF) project, a derivative project from the PAK FA T-50,  has been plagued by delays, cost overrun, and unsteady technology.

For example, as IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly notes:

Enduring Indian reservations over the FGFA program include those over the fighter’s AL-41F1 engine and its stealth and weapon-carrying capability. India is also insistent on Russia restoring its workload in the USD10.5 billion developmental program after recently reducing it from 25 percent to 13 percent without consulting Delhi.

Yet, Slyusar announced that a full R&D collaboration contract would be signed in 2015 with India for joint work on the derivative version of the PAK FA T-50. The Indian version of the aircraft “will have some differences from the Russian prototype due to specific requirements of the Indian air force,” the fact sheet dryly states. For example, the Russian version will be a operated by one pilot whereas the Indian Air Force prefers a two-seater plane.

Without additional delays, the PMF will be introduced into the Indian Air Force by 2022. Russia is expected to build 250 T-50s, while India downgraded its initial purchasing size from 200 to 144 planes in 2012 at an estimated total cost of $30 billion. However, this number may rise due to China’s development of the J-20 and J-31 fifth generation fighters.

Overall, the Russians are expecting to sell 1,000 PAK FA T-50s worldwide as an alternative to the United States’ fifth-generation fighter offering: the F-35 Lightning II.