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FIGHTER FOCUS |

PAK FA

FIGHTER FOCUS | PAK FA 14 U NTIL RECENTLY IT Frontovoy Aviatsii, Future Air Complex was

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U NTIL RECENTLY IT

Frontovoy Aviatsii,

Future Air Complex

was clear that the

PAK FA (Perspektivnyi

Aviatsionnyi Kompleks

of Tactical Aviation) fth-generation

ghter program enjoyed the full support

of the Russian military, funding from

the Russian government and a rst

major foreign customer in the shape of

India. Now clouds are gathering over

the project.

While funding for the PAK FA will

certainly remain a priority for the Russian

Ministry of Defense, cuts are inevitable in

the face of Moscow’s mounting economic

di culties. Increasing delays in the

yby of three aircraft. This year the T-50-4

production of successive Sukhoi T-50

provided a very good ying display,

prototypes and technical problems during

but it was not as dynamic as the Su-35S

trials have conspired to create a new

performing before it; limitations to the

situation: in Russian Air Force plans, an

permissible g-load are evident. As at

operational PAK FA is shifting to the more

previous shows there was no access to

distant future, after 2020, giving way to

the aircraft, and it was only seen during

the Su-30SM and Su-35S in the interim.

its ve-minute aerial demonstration.

The sensor suite developed for the

MAKS 2015

PAK FA was displayed in the exhibition

The PAK FA, which was the star of two

halls at MAKS 2015. However, the only

previous MAKS Aviation and Space

new element was the small imaging

Salons at Zhukovsky, near Moscow,

infra-red sensor, named 101KS-P — P

receded into the background this year.

for Posadka, landing — that assists in

One aircraft, T-50-4, took part in the air

low-altitude ying and landing. Judging

display at MAKS 2015 in August, whereas

by a part of the sensor’s fairing, with

two years ago the show’s highlight was a

which the 101KS-P was presented, it

T-50-4 ies

during MAKS

2015 in August

complete with

RVV-AE (R-77)

medium-range

air-to-air guided

missile dummy

rounds.

Piotr Butowski

PAK FA | FIGHTER FOCUS Once billed as Russia’s rival to the F-22 Raptor, the Sukhoi

PAK FA

| FIGHTER FOCUS

PAK FA | FIGHTER FOCUS Once billed as Russia’s rival to the F-22 Raptor, the Sukhoi
PAK FA | FIGHTER FOCUS Once billed as Russia’s rival to the F-22 Raptor, the Sukhoi

Once billed as Russia’s

rival to the F-22 Raptor,

the Sukhoi T-50 has

run into trouble of late,

amid rumors of serious

technical de ciencies

and indications that

the initial buy is to be

dramatically scaled

back. Meanwhile, two

advanced ‘Flanker’

variants are entering

service as stopgap

ghters for the Russian

Air Force.

report: Piotr Butowski

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SUKHOI T-50 SPECIFICATION (ESTIMATED)

Dimensions

 

14.1m (46ft 3in)

Wingspan

(First prototypes: 14.0m or 45ft 11in)

 

20.1m (66ft)

Length

(First prototypes: 19.7m or 64ft 7in)

Height

4.6m (15ft 1in)

Weights

Empty

18,000kg (39,683lb)

Nominal take-o

25,000kg (55,116lb)

Maximum take-o

35,000kg (77,162lb)

Performance

Maximum speed

Mach 2.0

Supersonic cruising speed

Mach 1.3

Maximum supersonic range

over 1,500km (932 miles)

Maximum range

3,500km (2,175 miles)

will be built into the forward section of

the canoe-shaped cover of the T-50’s

underwing weapons bay. The 101KS-P

is part of the UOMZ/Yekaterinburg

101KS Atoll electro-optical suite that also

includes the forward 101KS-V (Vozdukh,

air) infra-red search and track sensor,

101KS-O (Oborona, defense) electro-

optical locators, and 101KS-U ultra-violet

missile-approach warning sensors.

In addition, the 101KS-N (Nazemnyi,

ground) navigation/targeting pod is

under development for the PAK FA. The

selection and location of the various

101KS sensors varies among the T-50

prototypes, and it remains unclear which

option is the de nitive one.

FIGHTER FOCUS |

PAK FA

The Tikhomirov NIIP company displayed a set of antennas for the N036 Byelka (squirrel) radar for the PAK FA and a

  • 16 presentation confirmed their location on

the airframe. Here, analysts’ assumptions were proven correct. The radar has five active electronically-scanned arrays (AESA). The N036-01-1 forward-looking X-band (3cm wavelength) antenna is tilted upward by about 15 degrees. Two smaller N036B-1-01 side-looking X-band arrays are mounted under the forward section of the cockpit, on the lower fuselage sides, angled downward about 15 degrees. The lateral arrays are used for widening the angle of search and tracking of aerial targets in azimuth up to +/-135° from the aircraft’s axis, as well as for ground targets. Two other N036L-1-01 L-band (decameter wavelength) arrays mounted in the wing leading edges are used for friend or foe identification as well as detection of aerial targets. Use of the L-band radar in air-to-air mode is the T-50’s main way of dealing with stealth targets that may be detected (but not targeted) by radio waves longer than the X-band, for which reduction of the radar cross-section is optimized. From the type’s maiden flight on January 29, 2010, until fall 2015, the PAK FA prototypes have completed slightly more than 700 flights. This is not a considerable number for such a large and important program. In this time, five flying

FIGHTER FOCUS | PAK FA The Tikhomirov NIIP company displayed a set of antennas for the

prototypes of the fighter have been built, but they have spent much of their time in overhauls and undergoing upgrades. For instance, the first prototype T-50-1 was in overhaul for over a year, between August 2011 and September 2012, after sustaining structural damage. Various strengthening overlays subsequently appeared on the airframes. Recently the same T-50-1 has been modified again: in August 2015 it was photographed with changes to the upper fuselage skin. The fifth aircraft, T-50-5, caught fire on the runway after landing on June 10, 2014. The overhaul at Komsomolsk-on-Amur lasted

test aircraft), T-50-6, was stopped, and its parts were used to repair the T-50-5. Since 2014 the T-50-2, -3, and -4 prototypes have spent most of their time with the 929th Chkalov State Flight Test Center at Akhtubinsk in the Volga estuary, 130km (81 miles) from Volgograd, where they are undergoing evaluation conducted by military pilots. First to arrive was T-50-2, which touched down on February 21, 2014. As far as is known there have been no genuine weapon launches from the PAK FA — however, the underwing carriage of dummy missiles has been noted for some time.

16 months; the aircraft, now designated T-50-5R, resumed flight tests after repair

The ‘second stage’

on October 16, 2015. Work on the sixth

In February 2015, the United Aircraft

example (and the last of the first batch of

Corporation announced in a press release

Top: From the type’s maiden flight on January 29, 2010, the PAK FA prototypes have completed slightly more than 700 flights.

Sukhoi

Above: The

T-50-1 first

prototype

has appeared

with structural

strengthening

retrofits, while

T-50-5 caught fire in June 2014, and parts from the forthcoming T-50-6 were used to repair T-50-5.

Piotr Butowski

Below: Since

2014 the

prototypes T-50-2, -3, and -4 have spent most of their time at the 929th Chkalov State Flight Test Center at Akhtubinsk.

Piotr Butowski

Right: The N036 Byelka (squirrel) radar includes a forward-looking X-band antenna tilted upward by about 15 degrees and two smaller side- looking X-band arrays under the forward section of the cockpit.

via Piotr Butowski

that ‘in 2015, three more ying prototypes should join the test program’. As of now, none of these have own, however, and leaked reports claimed that at best one would y in December. According to current plans, eight pre-series aircraft designated T-50S are to be completed between 2016 and 2018. However, this timescale will likely be subject to yet further delay. Full series production is intended to start in 2019. The increasing delays to the PAK FA program suggest that rumors concerning the aircraft’s technical problems may be true, although, apart from the admission of the re su ered by T-50-5 in June 2014, there has been no o cial con rmation of them. Speculation suggests that the main design problem is the insu cient strength of the load-bearing structure. E orts made thus far to reinforce it have increased the aircraft’s weight unacceptably. New materials, which would provide the necessary strength at lighter weight, are scarce in Russia, and even if this were not the case the Komsomolsk-on-Amur plant cannot employ them on an industrial scale. Considerable investment in the factory’s tooling and personnel training is necessary.

PAK FA PAK FA | FIGHTER FOCUS | FIGHTER FOCUS T-50 DEVELOPMENT AIRCRAFT T-50-KNS T-50-0 T-50-1
PAK FA
PAK FA
| FIGHTER FOCUS
|
FIGHTER FOCUS
T-50 DEVELOPMENT AIRCRAFT
T-50-KNS
T-50-0
T-50-1
T-50-2
T-50-3
T-50-4
Non- ying Kompleksnyi Naturnyi Stend (integrated testbed) with engines,
ight controls, electric and fuel systems.
Static test airframe completed in October 2009.
‘051’. First ying prototype, made its maiden ight on January 29, 2010. Overhauled
between August 2011 and September 2012, after sustaining structural damage.
‘052’. Second ying prototype made its rst ight on March 3, 2011. Moved to
Akhtubinsk February 21, 2014.
‘053’. Third ying prototype and rst with mission systems including radar. First ight
November 22, 2011.
‘054’ is the fourth ying prototype and made its rst ight on December 12, 2012.
T-50-5
‘055’ is the fth ying prototype and made its rst ight on October 27, 2013. Seriously
damaged on June 10, 2014, as consequence of starboard engine re. Overhauled at
Komsomolsk-on-Amur and now designated T-50-5R, resumed ight tests after repair on
October 16, 2015.
T-50-6
Work on the sixth aircraft (and last of the rst batch of test aircraft), T-50-6, was stopped,
and its parts used to repair the T-50-5.
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Below: Since 2014 the prototypes T-50-2, -3, and -4 have spent most of their time at

FIGHTER FOCUS |

PAK FA

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(izdeliye 117) thrust-vectoring turbofan engines, these representing a thorough upgrade of the AL-31F as used in
(izdeliye 117) thrust-vectoring turbofan
engines, these representing a thorough
upgrade of the AL-31F as used in the
Su-27/Su-30. Each engine is rated at
approximately 14.5 tonnes of thrust with
afterburner and 9 tonnes of dry thrust.
Air and Space Force (created in August
2015
by merging the Air Force with the
Acquisition plans
Air and Space Defense Troops), Col Gen
Viktor Bondarev, previously the C-in-C of
the Air Force, shifted responsibility to
industry. According to Bondarev, the
service would buy all the T-50s that
industry is able to manufacture. ‘If they
make four — we will take four, if they
make 10 — we will take 10’. Nevertheless,
production of the PAK FA by 2020 will be
rather limited.
In January 2003 Russia and India signed
a letter of intent, followed in October
2007
by an inter-governmental

In the ‘Schedule of activity of Russia’s Ministry of Defense for 2013-2020’, which remains valid, the PAK FA’s initial operational capability is speci ed for December 31, 2016. The Russian National Armament Program originally stipulated the purchase of 60 PAK FAs by 2020, but this is now unrealistic. In March 2015, during his visit to the Komsomolsk-on- Amur factory, the Russian Deputy Minister of Defense Yuri Borisov said that fewer T-50s (reportedly 12) might be purchased by 2020, in favor of lower-cost Su-30SM and Su-35 ghters. Last August

the commander-in-chief of the Russian

agreement, concerning common development of the Prospective Multi-role Fighter (PMF), on the basis of the T-50. These were followed in December 2010 by a contract for the preliminary design of the PMF, which received the codename Type 79L.

Signature of a major contract for the next

In October 2012 a decision was made to construct a further six evaluation aircraft according to a revised design, known as the ‘second stage’. The airframe construction jigs for these aircraft are modi ed, which may indicate that they are signi cantly di erent from the previous examples. It should be noted that the term ‘second stage’, used to describe aircraft with reinforced airframes, appeared only recently. Previously, it identi ed those T-50s with the new izdeliye 30 engines, planned for the more distant future. The izdeliye 30 is a ‘clean-sheet’ design, which is expected to have higher thrust, lighter weight, a reduced number of elements and lower operating costs. Full-scale development of izdeliye 30 began in 2011. It is claimed that a rst test engine will be completed in 2016 and will begin trials on an Il-76LL testbed aircraft in 2017. Currently, T-50s are powered by two Saturn AL-41F1

Plans for the

purchase of 60 PAK FA ghters by 2020 now appear to be unrealistic due to delays and changes in con guration.

Piotr Butowski

Right top to bottom: Plans called for eight pre-series T-50S variants to be completed between 2016
Right top to
bottom: Plans
called for eight
pre-series T-50S
variants to be
completed
between 2016
and 2018;
however, this
timescale will
likely be subject
to yet further
delay.
Piotr Butowski
T-50-2 is put
through its
paces during a
display routine.
New engines
are expected
to dramatically
enhance
the type’s
performance.
Piotr Butowski
No genuine
weapon
launches are
thought to have
been made by
the PAK FA test
eet, although
dummy rounds
are carried
regularly.

Piotr Butowski

stage of work (technical design) was expected in 2013, but is still under negotiation. The Indian Chief of Air Sta , Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, said in February 2015 that the nal quantity of ghters to be acquired by India has still not been determined and will depend on nancial factors. Recent Indian media reports have stated that no more than around 65 aircraft will be purchased. Soon after, Russia’s UAC published a counter- article in its corporate magazine, in which news of the reduction in the Indian order was indirectly attributed to disinformation spread by competitors. India is certainly very interested in participating in a fth-generation ghter program, especially in the face of progress with the Chinese J-20. It was expected that a contract covering the technical design and prototypes of the PMF would be inked during a visit to Moscow by an Indian delegation in November 2015.

PAK FA | FIGHTER FOCUS
PAK FA
| FIGHTER FOCUS
‘The PAK FA prototypes have completed slightly more than 700 ights, not a considerable number for
‘The PAK FA
prototypes have
completed slightly
more than 700 ights,
not a considerable
number for such an
important program’
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Right top to bottom: Plans called for eight pre-series T-50S variants to be completed between 2016

FIGHTER FOCUS |

PAK FA

‘FLANKER’ FUTURE

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It is very likely that it will be 2020 before the Russian Air Force commences PAK
It is very likely that it will be 2020 before
the Russian Air Force commences PAK FA
purchases in numbers larger than those
required to equip a squadron for the
evaluation center at Lipetsk. By this time,
about half of Russia’s ghter units will
be re-equipped with the latest ‘Flanker’
versions, the Su-35S and Su-30SM, referred
to in Russia as ‘4++ generation’ ghters.
Currently the Russian Air Force has,
excluding training and evaluation units,
seven operational squadrons of MiG-29
ghters, eight of MiG-31s, 12 of Su-27s,
two of Su-30SMs, and two ying the
Su-35S. In addition, Russian Naval Aviation
has two squadrons of Su-33 carrier-based
ghters, one of MiG-29Ks, one of MiG-31s
and one of Su-27s. A ghter squadron
typically has 12 operational aircraft and
between two and six training aircraft.
Compared to the Su-27, the most
important feature of the Su-35 — besides
the more powerful AL-41FS engines,
similar to those used in the PAK FA
— is the new re-control system. The
con guration of the Su-35’s re-control
system is the same as in the PAK FA,
utilizing a central computing system;
however, the suite of sensors is quite
di erent. The Sh135 Irbis radio-location
system comprises the N135 radar and
L265M10R Khibiny-M electronic warfare
suite. The N135 is claimed to be able to
detect a ghter-sized target at 350-400km
(217-249 miles) at peak power output
limited to a narrow sector. During normal
search, the range is 200km (124 miles) in
open space or 170km (106 miles) in look-
down mode. The OLS-35 infra-red search
and track device can detect an aerial
target from 90km (56 miles) in a tail-on, or
35km (22 miles) in a head-on position. As
a rst for an operational Russian ghter,

Left: A Su-30SM in naval

camou

age

colors. Twenty of these ghters have been ordered for the Russian Navy.

Piotr Butowski

Right: The

Su-30SM

is already

providing a

meaningful

operational

capability with four deployed to Latakia, Syria.

Piotr Butowski

Bottom left: The focus appears to have switched to lower-cost Su-30SM and Su-35 ghters.

A total of 36 Su-35Ss have been delivered to date to two full squadrons at Dzyomgi, the Lipetsk and Akhtubinsk evaluation centers, and Tsentralnaya Uglovaya air base.

Piotr Butowski

Below: MAKS 2015 featured an appearance by Russian Navy

Su-30SM ‘Bort 38 blue’.

Alexander Golz

PAK FA | FIGHTER FOCUS
PAK FA
| FIGHTER FOCUS

the Su-35S has an ultra-violet missile- approach warning suite with six sensors enabling all-round coverage. In August 2009 the Russian Ministry of Defense ordered 48 Su-35S ghters, still the only order for this type. Although the rst Su-35S was handed over to the Russian Air Force at the end of 2011, further tests were beset by serious technical problems, reportedly related to the avionics. Only on February 12, 2014 was the rst batch of 12 aircraft delivered to the rst operational air base to receive the type, at Dzyomgi. By fall 2015, the Komsomolsk-on-Amur plant had delivered 36 ghters, which are operated by two full squadrons at Dzyomgi, and at the Lipetsk and Akhtubinsk evaluation centers. The two most recent aircraft (July 2015) represented the rst ghters for Tsentralnaya Uglovaya air base, where they are replacing Su-27s that were relocated to a squadron based at Belbek, Crimea. Before the end of this year an order for a further 48 Su-35Ss for the Russian Air and Space Force is expected.

Introduction of two-seat Su-30SM ghters to Russian service has proceeded much more smoothly than is the case for the Su-35. After years of production as the Su-30MKI for India, and then in variants for Algeria and Malaysia, the aircraft is well-prepared for service, and its minor adaptations to Russian requirements and subsequent evaluation passed without problems. On March 23, 2012, the Russian Ministry of Defense ordered 30 Su-30SMs. It doubled this gure on December 12, 2012. The ghters are to be delivered by the end of 2015, by which time it is expected that another three-year contract for 60-70 examples will have been signed. Twenty more have been ordered for the Russian Navy ( ve in December 2013, seven in September 2014 and eight in September 2015). The rst Su-30SM ew on September 21, 2012, and was handed over for trials at Akhtubinsk. The rst batch of 10 operational Su-30SMs was delivered to Domna air base near Chita, close to the Chinese border, in November and

December 2013. The next 14 ghters followed them in 2014, completing Domna’s complement of two full 12-aircraft squadrons. In September 2015, four Su-30SMs supposedly belonging to the Domna regiment were deployed to Latakia, Syria, where they provide ghter cover for a strike group consisting of six Su-34s, 12 Su-24s and 12 Su-25s (see Combat Aircraft December 2015). The rst three Su-30SMs were handed over to Russian Naval Aviation on July 19, 2014 and landed at the Yeysk evaluation and training center. In December 2014 they were deployed to Saki, Crimea. On October 13, 2015, a ghter regiment at Millerovo received its rst three Su-30SMs. By the end of the year, the regiment will have more than 20 Su-30SMs, which will replace its MiG-29s. The Russian Ministry of Defense had received a total of 40 Su-30SMs out of 80 ordered as of November 2015. If all contracts are ful lled, in 2020 the Russian Air and Space Force will have 12 Su-30SM and eight Su-35S squadrons on strength.

Left: A Su-30SM in naval camou age colors. Twenty of these ghters have been ordered for

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