Fighter Porn: Russia’s PAK FA Stealth Jet

Check out these gorgeous photos of Russia’s two Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA stealth fighters. The shot above clearly shows the second test aircraft, T-50-02, equipped with mission systems (notice what might be an electronic warfare mounting protruding from the tail) followed by the first aircraft, T-50-01, that’s being used to test out the airframe design. Both jets are sporting a new camouflage paint scheme and this may be T-50-02’s first flight in roughly four months. The Russian fighter supposedly sacrifices stealth for greater maneuverability against western fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The next couple of photos show the T-50 and the wildly-painted Su-35S as they may be preparing for the MAKS 2011 airshow in Moscow.

Look at this last photo of the T-50 where the airplane bears a resemblance to the YF-23 Black Window; Northrop’s losing competitor to Lockheed’s F-22 in the Advanced Tactical Fighter contest.

Keep in mind that Sukhoi is already planning on co-producing the jet with India and South Korea recently expressed interest in the plane, making the PAK FA the first foreign competitor to U.S. stealth jets on the international market. If the Russians can keep costs down and production on schedule it may well provide stiff competition for the F-35 as nations seek to acquire 5th-generation fighter technology.

  • Davey

    Wow Roy, you really don’t know anything. Consider the fact that maneuverability is only as good as the G’s a pilot can withstand…which isn’t anywhere near what the aircraft can withstand. Plus, I would like to see that POS maneuver around the avionic and weapons systems the US has. An F-4 could take that damn thing outa the Air before the Russians could even see it. And BTW, the Obog system on the fighters are fixed. Now get back to work and stop bloggin

  • Roy Smith

    “The Russian fighter supposedly sacrifices stealth for greater maneuverability against western fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.”

    Well,that’s not saying much right now since our “cutting edge” stealth fighters ARE GROUNDED seemingly indefinitely.

    • Oblat

      Stealth = you wont see them in a shooting war anytime soon.

      But the statement is the wrong way around. It is well known that the F-22 and particularly the F-35 both sacrifice stealth for maneuverability compared to the F-23 configuration.

      The Pak-Fa looks like it will have greater maneuverability and a better stealth configuration.

      Actually the F-35 performs like a beached whale in combat so one wonders just how bad it would have been if the tradeoffs hadn’t been made.

  • Davey

    The Northrop YF-23 aircraft was superior in every way to the “Craptor”. The US needed to ensure Lockheed didn’t go under so they purchased it. But just copying the appearance of the airframe doesn’t mean squat.

  • George

    QUOTE – “The Russian fighter supposedly sacrifices stealth for greater maneuverability against western fighters like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.”

    Well it certainly doesn’t sacrifice maneuverability for stealth like the F-35 does. If the F-35 gets involved in a dogfight with anything from the F-16/MiG-29 upwards it’s bye-bye…

    • Black Skunk

      George, please get informed before saying nonsenses.

    • William C.

      Yet it can match the F-16, an aircraft which only thrust-vectoring designs have a serious edge over in terms of maneuverability. Yes it won’t match a F-22, F-15, Su-35, or EF-2000 in the high altitude, high speeds regime, but that’s the reason why we are supposed to have larger air-superiority focused aircraft.

    • Ben

      @George

      That’s why we’ve developed high off-boresight missiles in conjunction with helmet mounted displays. As quote I remember reading from Lockheed Martin goes: “maneuvering is irrelevant”

      I say the F-35 will be a success once matured.

      • MCQknight

        They’ve been saying “manuering is irrelevant” since before Vietnam. The countermeasures always catch up, though.

        • Ben

          They didn’t have missiles and guidance systems with a 90 degree attack angle back then, though. And they relied on traditional HUDs where you had to point your aircraft at the enemy to shoot it. Now, with the F-35 and AIM-9Xs, if you can see it you can shoot it.

      • FtD

        if you allow someone to get on your six, unless you can twist you head 180deg to get a lock on, the enemy has more opportunity to cause damage than you can on to them.

        • saberhagen

          that’s why F-35 has DAS

    • STemplar

      If an F35 winds up in a dog fight with anything a whole lot of other things have gone very wrong and we are probably pooch screwed anyway.

    • Matt

      How would a non-stealth design even get close enough to get into a dogfight w/the F35? Others have already stated the F35 could hold it’s own in close w/it’s HMD/avionics/missles.

    • STemplar

      If it is in a dog fight then a great many other things have gone very wrong.

    • George

      I’ll just quote P.Sprey and W.Wheeler:
      “At 49,500 pounds air-to-air take-off weight and 42,000 pounds of engine thrust, it will be a significant step backward in thrust-to-weight ratio for a new fighter. With only 460 square feet of wing area, wing loading will be a whopping 108 pounds per square foot. That makes the F-35 even less maneuverable than the appalling F-105 “Lead Sled” that got wiped out over North Vietnam.”
      Plus it’s well known that the marine’s version only gets 7.5G structural limit.

      It’s old news that the F-35 is an ugly fat pig you can only put so much lipstick on.

      @Ben As for the off-boresight missile lock that’s something the Israelis have had for ~10 years now as do the Russians. It would have made a difference if nobody else had it.

      The Lockheed quote is just plain daft – it presupposes nobody will get close enough to the platform to threaten it but if (for example) you scramble for interception against an enemy who took a nap-of-the earth road up your airbase then all bets are off.

  • SuperiorIQ

    These Russian pieces of crap are good only for air shows but have little value in real air-combat scenario against western fighters, as history has always demonstrated. The western fighters are by far superior in terms of stealth technology, avionics, weapons systems, combat tactics, pilot training, etc. than the Russian crappy ones.

    • FtD

      same goes to F22….. they only fly @ airshows since when were they ever deployed in real combat??

      • Ben

        @FtD

        We haven’t used them because we haven’t faced an air force that warrants their attention. Yet.

        Raptors are serving largely as a deterrent for the time being. They’re our way of saying “Make my day” to anyone who thinks they can go toe-to-toe with us. Nobody messes with the kid holding the giant stick.

    • blight

      Meh. There’s always pre-war penis-waving before the shooting begins. It gives military historians a job afterwards.

      Royal Navy: unstoppable! ~1939
      American Army: Pitiful, barely the size of Poland’s! ~1939
      IJN, unproven against “true” maritime powers. Likely to be unable to wage war against UK Far East forces, or the USN. ~Japan, 1938
      Soviet Army: Torn apart by internal purges and likely to be unable to defend the country: 1938
      Germany; militarily down and out of the count, thanks to Treaty of Versailles: 1929

      We’re speculating based on patchy publicly available data, and we’ll only really figure out real capability when they are employed against their neighbors.

      • Praetorian

        Soviet Army: Torn apart by internal purges and likely to be unable to defend the country: 1938

        IMO, this statement was correct. I do see your point though, Plus one

    • Tom

      Two things to consider:

      1.) A plane is simply a piece of a larger battlefield system.
      2.) The USA has never fought Russia head-to-head; only lesser foes.

      It’s never simply plane against plane, but infrastructure against infrastructure.

    • Steven

      I wouldn’t say history has always shown. During Korea pilots frequently talked every now and then ending up in a dogfight in what must have been a Russian pilot because of their skill vs. the Koreans they normally faced. In those cases the “far superior” western fighter suddenly found themselves barely able to keep up against the Mig.

      At the end of the day pilot training is everything. They’re like calculators. Crap in – Crap out.

  • Tony C

    This is a clean design, not as stealthy as the F-22A in the engine nacelles, but
    it will evade radar from the other aspects for awhile. The F-22A is designed to
    penetrate integrated air defenses, this one is designed to get as close as possible without detection. That doesn’t mean it won’t get shot down, but it will give the air defenses less time to acquire and track them. Stealth is expensive, so it remains to
    be seen how many of these get purchased outside of Russia and India?

    • Greg

      definitely. But i guess most of the purchases for an airforce have to be evaluated by considering what they are bought for: 1. prestige and 2. the specific enemy threat.

      since most of the interested countries are probably autocratic democracies or dictators the russian 5th gen-fighter has a pretty good chance to be sold i think.

      1. it is 5th gen technology, good for prestige
      2. rebels can also be fought on a 1944 messerschmidt…so if it is cheaper than the F22 or F35 it will be the weapon of choice for most of those customers..

      Not to mention that they usually buy russian anyhow ;)…

    • Stratege

      There are “official” rumors that the serial production Su/T-50 would be equiped with a new engine which should have “stealthy” nozzles in its blueprints.

      • Ben

        Even if that’s true, nozzles make little difference. The engine intakes are linear, not s-shaped, so anything viewing it straight on with an infared scope will see straight down those engines. It’d look like to big fireballs on a screen.

        • Stratege

          Radar blocker can be working solution, isn’t?
          Seems that Sukhoi’s designers refused idea of a completely S-shaped intakes for aerodynamics purposes and economy of weight.
          Anyway, those intakes are not absolutely linear http://attach.high-g.net/attachments/t_50_engine_

  • BOB

    It’s my understanding that maneuverability means just about jack-sh*t considering that missiles are fired from so far away and at high speeds. Especially when you consider that the even the F-18’s computers limit the craft’s maneuverability so as not to kill the pilot with extreme G’s. (Don’t flame me if I’m wrong, just correct me). I mean, isn’t stuff like the movie Top-Gun complete crap?

    • Stratege

      A-a missiles has a limited fuel, worst maneuverability at the terminal stage. They could be avoided/dodged/outmaneuvered. Radar (which used for missile guidance) could be jammed.
      Aircraft maneuverability is not about only G-limit.

  • anon

    “…bears a resemblance to the YF-23…”

    Superficially, and even then only in the tail fins.

  • RunningBear

    I’m not much on Ruski planes but you have lost me with this title? Care to expand it into English or other hieroglyphs, etc.? Sorry to ask for the help!

  • Andrew

    Won’t make any assumptions about its performance but it is a pretty damn beautiful aircraft. Always liked the SU designs though (or should I say design since the 27).

    Would be pretty interesting to see Russia show up at Red Flag with a few (never will happen, I know)

  • Black Owl

    The Russians know how to make planes very well, at least ones that don’t pump toxic fumes into the pilot’s breathing apparatus. I can’t wait to see the T-50 in action.

  • Roy Smith

    The F-22 is the “Peyton Manning” of fighter jets……oh wait,Peyton is unable to play this season because he had neck surgery. Could you imagine the logic of saying that the Colts aren’t playing Peyton because they haven’t played against a team that warrants his use in the game as QB? But that is the logic being used in this thread about why we haven’t used the F-22 in combat yet.

    As far as the F-35 goes,NO fighter pilot will ever become an ace flying it. It is nothing but a sexed up,faster,prettier F-117A Nighthawk,whose mission it is replacing(the F-35C is a glorified sexed up,faster,prettier “stealth” A-6 Intruder). The F-35 is nothing more than a “glorified” bomb hauler & ground attack aircraft.

    • Ben

      Haha, I wouldn’t use Peyton Manning if I knew I didn’t have to in order to win! He costs too damn much! The same goes for the F-22. It’s a very smart move not to use it for fly swatting.

      And as far as the F-35 goes, I have no clue where you’ve been getting the information you’re basing your opinions on. That’s a bit ridiculous.

    • jhm

      remember the f16? everyone said it was crap and wasnt needed. well, look at its history :)

  • Roland

    Just buy one of their best fighter stealth ighter jets and make modifications on our best stealth fighter jets.

  • chaos0xomega

    I just want to point out that people really can’t talk about inferior Russian technology, etc. During the height of Soviet power/prior to the 80s the Russians could easily build aircraft and other tech the equivalent of ours, in some cases superior,in some cases inferior. Overall they were roughly on par with us. The concept of ‘Russian tech is junk and held together by bird droppings and rust’ didn’t really come around until the last decade or two of Soviet rule… as the country began collapsing and crumbling into ruin (more or less). Its been 20 years, things change, and Russia has been slowly clawing its way out of the pit it found itself in. A lot can change in 20 years, it only took Japan 20-30 years to go from a feudal backwater to a world power.

    What I am saying is don’t underestimate one of our oldest adversaries.

    • David

      +1 to you good sir! There’s something to be said about the concept of producing a large number of good systems verses making just a few awesome ones.

  • saberhagen

    LOL so other kind of planes can rely on their fancy kinematic capability to escape missile. RIGHT. Who need stealth, EW, planning, SEAD…when you can just fly around and have fun with the missile. Right, thanks for your expertise, genius.

  • New camoflauge paint job for “Transformers 4: Decepticons Revenge”

  • Andrew

    Regardless of the fighter’s actual characteristics, on time and within budget are highly unlikely. $50 says this thing isn’t produced en masse for another ten years, allowing for the already-outdated avionics to become thoroughly obsolete.

    • jhm

      probably, look at how many su30s russia has. a handful. su35, dont even go there. but india will probably get squadrons of pak fas. considering its overall procurement of su30s

  • OliSki

    All these comments are hypotheticals when you factor in the US pilots, the electronics, support structure etc the US aircrafts are basically untouchable air to air dog fights could be rendered obsolete with 360 degree rotating sidewinder turret. The missiles could incorporate new thrust tech and become more compact. Enemy at 3:00 boom. Enemy at 6:00 boom just like a phalanx. Also by incorporating drones becomes an extension like a tree branch that let’s you know where what and when before it even materializes. The US leads the way and pace at which military tech materializes

  • jhm

    can anyone tell me the pak fas radar? stealth and performance is all that, but i think the radar will also be a defining part obviously. the f22s radar is downright amazing. think about locking on to other fighters with alerting them of a radar lock. damn

    • Stratege

      Domestic PAK-FA’s radar configuration:

      Newly developed radar system Sh-121 for PAK-FA program:
      5 radars. One main X-band AESA (~1500 elements) + two side-looking x-band AESA radars + two L-band transmitters/receivers (those L-band are probably for ECM and reconnaissance role, the rumors saying that those are “anti-stealth” radars ).

      PAK-FA’s armament on internal hardpoints:

      – short-range missile RVV-MD (new development for PAK-FA program)
      – middle-range RVV-SD (new developments for PAK-FA program)
      – ultra-long range missile (the R-73’s sucessor) RVV-BD on internal hardpoints
      – cruise missiles in interal bays and on external hardpoints
      – air-to-ground missiles / bombs

  • Roy Smith

    In today’s bad economy,where congress is looking for any excuse to cut money & programs,the fact that the F-22 wasn’t ready for use in the early stages of the Libyan bombing campaign looks very bad for it. The argument that the F-22 is too expensive to use in such a “meaningless” campaign falls right into the argument that the F-22 is just an expensive white elephant without a mission. The present Libyan conflict gave the Eurofighter & Rafale a chance to shine & all of the talking heads noticed, They also noticed the conspicuous absence of the F-22. Like I said before,use it or lose it. If we decide to engage in an aerial campaign against Syria,like NATO is doing in Libya,the F-22 better be there & involved in the campaign. People are watching.

    • Samoyed

      When Gates left the Obama administration, he really slammed the “euros” for their inadequate performance in Libya claiming they lacked enough resources. I assume that this incudes planes. I also noticed that the US led the initial attacks. I am guessing that we have far superior tech to find and supress enemy SAMs. Some of the Euro planes have pretty good specs but they don’t seem to be able to get the job done. Is this due to lack of tech? Money? training? I don’t know.
      Regarding the F22: If this thing is a loser, they sure have fooled me. The specs are excellent with nozzle vectoring, hyper cruise the latest avionics and stealth coating more modern than the 117 or B2. The pilots and ex pilots all say they love it. We have reports of it beating Gen 4 fighters with ease etc… Are there any reliable sources who have evidence this plane is a dog?

  • Ryan

    By the time this reaches service, all manned fighters will be for the most part obsolete. A ucav will be better in almost all regards. No pilot means no life support, display set ups, interface (in the plane), ejector seat, improved shape ( no need for a cockpit), no limit to the gs it can pull other than those of the airframe. Also you have “fearless” pilots, cause they have nothing to fear other than breaking some equipment. If he does, the pilot gets to learn, and get better. Build a high end fighter or fighter bomber like that and you’ve got a virtually guaranteed winner.

    • Stratege

      “By the time this reaches service, all manned fighters will be for the most part obsolete.”

      Wrong.
      A.I. was not created. Highly unlikely that it would be developed in near future (this decade or even next) .
      Remote controlled UCAVs are too much vulnerable to jamming/ECM systems.
      So UCAVs still can’t replace manned figher jets in role in the air superiority role.

  • Stratege

    There’re no reason for Russians to equip PAK-FA with “already-outdated avionics”.
    PAK-FA got newly developed flight control system, avionics, HUD, IRST, radars and weapons systems. Flying prorotypes has “all new” looking c()ckpit, which is not resemblance of anything seen before in Russian air force (photos available). The pilots of the serial production PAK-FA should got the new “intellectual” helmet, new “intellectual” anti-G suite (fully integraded into the FCS).
    You should understand that PAK-FA program is much more than just a new airframe designed by Sukhoi.

  • FtD

    i’m sure Russians will not pussy foot on squeezing for R&D money aka LockMart, they rather get the plane finished & starting making in quantity & sell to other countries that’s where they get the profits from as they know there’s no money from the government anyway….

  • Anon

    Going to have crack at this like the rest of the armchair experts commenting here.

    The PAK-FA and the Chiense equivalent will beat the F-22 in combat. Simple. The F-22 was a platform developed through the 80s/90s and in-service early 2000s to defeat 80s/90s era Sov/Russian platforms. It is now the 2010s and both of the Russian/Chinese will come into service with the advantages of a decade+ of tech improvements and healthier defence budgets (both Russia and especially China, have money to burn). Both opposing platforms can carry more weapons to boot.

    Really the US has to look now at building the next platform, that would beat the PAK-FA and Chinese version. The F-35 is not it, with its limited stealth and performance (its still only in the same envelope as the teen series). With the US planning at least a $400 billion defence spending cut over the next decade then this is not really going to happen any time soon.

  • Tom White

    As to whether this PAK FA is better/worse than F-22, you must realize that a plane is only part of a greater battlefield system. Combat is never just about plane vs plane, but infrastructure vs infrastructure. A plane is only as good as it’s logistical support, guidance from the top, it’s pilot, etc.

    For example, if America fielded the PAK FA while Russia instead fielded the F-22, the PAK FA may become a better plane because of superior command and control, support systems, and so on on the American’s behalf.

  • The F-35 is optimised as a ground-attack oriented aircraft and wasn’t meant to perform air-to-air. This means that the F-35s orientation is offensive rather than defensive.

    • blight

      Ground attack is relevant for close air support and ground interdiction on defense as well. Tell it to the former VNAF which never went on the “offensive” against North Vietnam.

      • Lee

        Indeed. The marked is big for Russia, since most of counties will need a plane for defence, but not attack. Clear, so those who wants to attack others, they will by F35, those who wants to defend, PAK FA

  • blight

    I’m surprised the Air Force hasn’t moved towards new low-observable casings (and mounting hardware) for current air to air missiles. It would solve the internal loading problem if it could be done…

  • Alony

    I think the Pak-Fa will be a very successful fighter but it will not get exported beyond Russia and India anytime soon. Also i highly doubt we have the money to field thousands of F-35’s as some believe. We had a plan of getting like 600-700 F-22’s we have less then 200 made. so cut the 2000 F-35 order by 2/3rd’s and ull get a good figure what we can afford.

  • Aedan

    Americans need to accept the concept of they are not superior at everything. The PAK FA is already superior to the F-22 and is still in development. I honestly believe that ‘stealth’ is obsolete; modern RADAR systems can detect stealth aircraft with good range and relatively high resolution. The PAK FA and SU-35BM can outmaneuver US AIM-120 AMRAAMs. The Russian BVR missiles are faster, more accurate and have greater range. The PAK FA will see the F-22 first, shoot first and then do it again to another F-22.

  • Aedan

    Besides, nobody will beat Russia because it will just flex its muscles of nuclear weapons.

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