Sukhoi PAK-FA abbreviated in Russian language as Prospective Airborne Complex of Front line Aviation is a program to develop fifth generation fighter aircraft. The prototype aircraft designated as T 50 which had its first flight on 29 Jan 2010. It is expected to enter service with designation Sukhoi Su 50 in Russian Airforce. The aircraft is being co-developed in collaboration with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited HAL with 50% sharing of fundings. The HAL would develop an Indian specific variant named Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) whose final contract is expected to be signed at the mid of 2017 after which aircraft will be developed within 7 years. The FGFA will be tailored for requirements of Indian Air Force according to Indian Military doctrine. While the aircraft is expected to be exported in large numbers in Asia Pacific. It was reported at Paris Air Show 2017 that the name FGFA is now completely replaced and the aircraft now be called Prospective Multirole Fighter PMF. The Sukhoi Aviation Corporation claims it to be better than any other fifth generation aircraft currently available for export. It will be the first aircraft in both Russian and Indian service to use stealth technology by which they could evade detection by enemy radar to some extent. It will replace Su 27 and MiG 29 in Russian Service and MiG 21 in Indian service.
The Conventional menatality of the Americans of considering every non American things inferior to them has drawn a lot of downplaying and criticism of T 50 program even at it's development stage. The Sukhoi PAK-FA shifts focus from the basic ideology of western military planners that a fifth generation aircraft needs to be stealth and situationally aware.
- Program History
( picture credits Hesja Air Art )
In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union outlined a need for a next-generation aircraft intended to enter service in the 1990s. The project was designated the I-90 (Russian: Истребитель, Istrebitel, “Fighter”) and required the fighter to have substantial ground attack capabilities and would eventually replace the MiG-29s and Su-27s in frontline tactical aviation service. The subsequent program designed to meet these requirements, the MFI (Russian: МФИ, Russian: Многофункциональный фронтовой истребитель, Mnogofunksionalni Frontovoy Istrebitel, “Multifunctional Frontline Fighter”), resulted in Mikoyan’s selection to develop the MiG 1.44. But due to the collapse of Soviet Union in the 1991. The funding for the project dried up and the MiG 1.44 program was closed. Although not selected for the MFI program the Sukhoi developed a forward swept/ aft swept wing aircraft named Sukhoi Su 47 but it met the same fate as MiG 1.44.
Following a competition between Sukhoi, Mikoyan, and Yakovlev, in 2002, Sukhoi was selected as the winner of the PAK FA competition and selected to lead the design of the new aircraft. Sukhoi’s new aircraft project code name is Τ-50, while according to the Russian Air Force, the aircraft will be called Ι-21 and the construction code will be Izdelie 701.
Mikoyan's Submission for PAK FA
Yakolev's Submision of PAK-FA
In 2007, Russia and India agreed to jointly develop the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft Programme (FGFA) for India. In September 2010, it was reported that India and Russia had agreed on a preliminary design contract where each country invests $6 billion; development of the FGFA fighter was expected to take 8–10 years. The agreement on the preliminary design was to be signed in December 2010 but was then expected to be signed in mid 2017 and after that aircraft would be developed within 7 years. Even during the yearly press breifings of 2017 year, the Indian Air Force chief kept his words reserved for the 5th generation fighter.
Planned deliveries and development
The Russian Air Force is expected to procure more than 150 PAK FA aircraft, the first of which is slated to be delivered in 2016. India plans on acquiring modified PAK FA as a part of its Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) program. It originally planned on buying 166 single-seat and 44 two-seat variants, but this has been reduced to 130-145 single-seat aircraft and the requirement for 45-50 twin-seat fighters has been dropped by 2014. The Russian Defence Ministry planned on purchasing the first 10 evaluation example aircraft after 2012 and then 60 production standard aircraft after 2016.
In December 2014, the Russian Air Force planned to receive 55 fighters by 2020. But Yuri Borisov, Russia’s deputy minister of defence for armaments stated in March 2015 that the Air Force will slow PAK FA production and reduce its initial order to 12 jets due to the nation’s deteriorating economy. Due to the aircraft’s complexity and rising costs, the Russian Air Force will retain large fleets of fourth-generation Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-35S. Moreover it is unwise to have a large fleet of 5th generation fighters that are equipped with 4th generation engines. The new engines once running into production will propell the purchase of Sukhoi Su-57 and just like Su-27 the Su-57 will also have advanced variants in future.
A 3D model rendered as HAL FGFA , taken from aermech.in
The T-50’s maiden flight was repeatedly postponed from early 2007 after encountering unspecified technical problems. In August 2009, Alexander Zelin acknowledged that problems with the engine and in technical research remained unsolved. On 28 February 2009, Mikhail Pogosyan announced that the airframe was almost finished and that the first prototype should be ready by August 2009.
The first taxi test was successfully completed on 24 December 2009. Flight testing of the T-50 began with T-50-1, the first prototype aircraft, on 29 January 2010. Piloted by Hero of the Russian Federation Sergey Bogdan, the aircraft’s 47-minute maiden flight took place at KnAAPO’s Dzemgi Airport in the Russian Far East.
On 3 March 2011, the second T-50 completed a 44-minute test flight. The first two prototypes lacked radar and weapon control systems; the third and fourth aircraft, first flown in 2011 and 2012, are fully functional test aircraft. On 14 March 2011, the T-50 achieved supersonic flight at a test range near Komsomolsk-on-Amur.
The T-50 was displayed publicly for the first time at the 2011 MAKS Airshow, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was in attendance. On 3 November 2011, the T-50 reportedly performed its 100th flight. More than 20 test flights were made in the next nine months.
The third prototype, T-50-3, was the first prototype to fly with an AESA radar. Originally scheduled for the end of 2011, these flights occurred in August 2012, and showed performance comparable to existing radars. On 22 November 2011, T-50-3 took its first flight from KnAAPO’s airfield in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, piloted by Sergey Bogdan. The aircraft spent over an hour in the air, and was subjected to basic stability and powerplant checks. It differs from the other prototypes in the way it lacks a pitot tube. All 14 test aircraft are scheduled to fly by 2015.
The fourth prototype had its first flight on 12 December 2012 and joined the other three aircraft in testing near Moscow a month later. By the end of 2013, five T-50 prototypes were flown, with the fifth prototype having its first flight on 27 October 2013; with this flight the program has amassed more than 450 flights. The first aircraft for State testing was delivered on 21 February 2014. However the VVS lacks facilities for testing some of the aircraft’s performance parameters.
During the tests in 2013 the prototype 054 took off in just 310 m. It achieved a climb rate of 384 m/sec. The aircraft climbed 24,300 meters and was not allowed to climb further for safety reasons. It achieved a maximum speed of 2610 km/hr. The cruising speed of 2135 km/hr was achieved. All this was achieved with a full load of fuel and weight and size mock-ups of arms.
The fifth flying prototype T-50 ‘055’ was severely damaged by an engine fire after landing in June 2014. The aircraft was returned to flying condition after cannibalizing components from the unfinished sixth prototype.
It flew again on 16 October 2016 and was renamed T-50-5R. Currently this prototype was seen performing gun tests.
The sixth flying prototype 056 also the first prototype with heavily restructured airframe flew on 27th April 2016. It shocked the world as the stage ll prototypes were grossly improved over previous prototypes, changes were noted mostly on aft section of the fighter aircraft. Also radiation alert markings were noted on wings leading edge slats etc. A static test airframe also named T-50-6 is available for structural ground tests.
The seventh flying prototype named 058 took to skies on 17 November 2016, it's pictures took social media by storm as it was seen completed with all electro optical plus EW systems. Then flew the prototype 509 which is carrying the final version of avaionics for tests and it flew on 24th April 2017.
Then while everyone was waiting for 510, for reasons unknown it's construction got delayed and on 6th August 2017 the prototype 511 flew many pictures came with this prototype carrying two external fuel tanks this was supposed to be the last prototype but flew early. Later on 23rd December 2017 the last prototype 510 flew which was completely hidden from public eye, it's pictures were made available only after February 2018.
In the year 2018 the production versions T-50S1 and T-50S2 would mark formal induction of Sukhoi Su-57 in service.
[ image taken by Marina Lystseva]
To reduce the PAK FA’s developmental risk and spread out associated costs, as well as to bridge the gap between it and older previous generation fighters, some of its technology and features, such as propulsion and avionics, were implemented in the Sukhoi Su-35S fighter, an advanced variant of the Su-27.
The Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association (NAPO) is manufacturing the new multirole fighter at Komsomol’sk-on-Amur along with Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KnAAPO), and final assembly is to take place at Komsomol’sk-on-Amur. Following a competition held in 2003, the Tekhnokompleks Scientific and Production Center, Ramenskoye Instrument Building Design Bureau, the Tikhomirov Scientific Research Institute of Instrument Design (NIIP), the Ural Optical and Mechanical Plant (UOMZ) in Yekaterinburg, the Polet firm in Nizhny Novgorod and the Central Scientific Research Radio Engineering Institute in Moscow were selected for the development of the PAK-FA’s avionics suite. NPO Saturn is the lead contractor for the interim engines; Saturn and MMPP Salyut will compete for the definitive second stage engines.
Sixth prototype of T 50 , image taken from knaapo official website.
Phase ll airframes
After the tests done on static test frames and early prototypes it was seen that internal structure wouldn't be able to sustain the stress developed while performing extreme manoeuvres envisioned by the design team. Hence the internal structure of T 50 was heavily reworked and its strength was beefed up significantly in the latest airframes. The static test frame T 50-7 and flying frame T 50-8 was delivered. The new test frame was flown to Zhukovsky where tests begun.
The new test frame have engines better covered in cowlings. The repositioned airbleed doors, side looking cheek mounted radars. IRST devices and protection devices. The sting was seen enlarged which houses the backward looking X band AESA radar.
8th prototype of T 50 image taken from gallery of Knaapo official website
improved stealthy airbleed doors on phase ll airframes