Russia’s first stealth fighter aircraft, the fifth-generation T-50 (PAK FA) multi-role fighter, will complete its first set of flight tests by the end of 2017, the commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, Viktor Bondarev, said on July 17.
“We do have something to be proud of. The first stage of PAK FA trials will be over in December and eventually we will receive such planes,” Bondarev said, according to TASS news agency. The announcement appears to indicate a delay in the T-50 (PAK FA) program as mass production of the stealth fighter jet was slated to begin this year.
Now, the aircraft’s trials are expected to be completed in 2018.
Currently, nine T-50 (PAK FA) prototypes are conducting flight trials and are undergoing technical testing with two additional aircraft to be handed over to the Russian Air Force for trials by the end of the year.
“The work on PAK FA is now at the final stage, and this year we receive the 10th and the 11th planes, which will be tested, and in the future state armament program for 2018-2025 we plan [the] first purchases of T-50 fighters,” Russia’s Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said in early June.
The Sukhoi T-50 (PAK FA) — the name will change for the production aircraft — is a fifth-generation multirole, single seat, twin-engine air superiority/deep air support fighter slated to replace the Russian Air Force’s fleet of MiG-29 and Su-27.
One of the major technical obstacles remains designing and mass producing new engine for the aircraft. The prototypes currently under evaluation are fitted with a modified engine from the Su-27 and Su-30 fighter jets. It is a derivative of the Saturn AL-41F1S engine, called AL-41F1, which has also been installed on the upgraded Sukhoi Su-35S Flanker-E.
The first T-50 (PAK FA) prototype fitted with the new engine was expected to perform its debut flight in the last quarter of 2017. However, the new engine— the next-generation Saturn izdeliye 30 — will purportedly not be ready until 2020.
The new aircraft will be armed with some of Russia’s most advanced air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles. As I explained last month:
The PAK-FA/T-50 fighter jet will be armed with beyond visual range air-to-air missiles and different variants of air-to-ground missiles inside the aircraft’s two main internal weapon bays (two additional triangular-section weapon bays are located under the fuselage). The aircraft could also be fitted with the nuclear-capable BrahMos-A supersonic cruise missile. As I reported last month, the fighter jet will also be armed with an extended range Kh-35UE tactical cruise missile.
Russia has also announced that it will build a new fifth-generation fighter interceptor, dubbed PAK DP, with research and development work on the new aircraft expected to kick off in 2019.