The T-50 is not just a modern combat aircraft. Its appearance speaks of two very important events: it is the first mass-produced combat vehicle fully developed in the post-Soviet period; it is also the first Russian fifth generation fighter.
In the mid-70s, the military-industrial complex of the USSR and the United States entered another race - to develop a fifth-generation fighter. For the uninitiated, all this looked somewhat strange, since the fourth generation fighters - Su-27, MiG-29, F-14 and F-15 were just getting on the wing. Nevertheless, on both sides the best forces were thrown into the "battle" in the person of the leading design bureaus and scientific centers.
They were given a difficult task - in a short time to create a new fighter with unique characteristics: reduced visibility, combat effectiveness of a new level, the presence of a circular information system, the ability to achieve supersonic without afterburner, super maneuverability.
The fifth generation fighter should feel confident in close and long-range combat, have on-board automated control systems and jamming systems, have increased autonomy, improved aerodynamics, which will provide it with higher maneuverability. He must also be able, if necessary, to correct piloting errors made by the pilot and to solve some tactical problems.
The fact that the Americans were the first to cross the “finish line” was quite predictable. Their 5th generation serial fighter, the F-22 Raptor, entered service with the Air Force in 2005. Russia then could not boast of anything like that, since its military-industrial complex, destroyed in the dashing 90s, had just begun to come to its senses.
In fact, directly at the Sukhoi Design Bureau, work on a new machine began only in 1998. Three years later, the concept was finally formulated and received the code name PAK FA - a promising aviation complex of front-line aviation. Its other name is T-50.
PAK FA T-50
The T-50 has incorporated almost the entire set of the above characteristics. The machine is multifunctional and "omnivorous". It can handle both air and ground targets. T-50 is hardly noticeable in any spectra - visual, thermal and electromagnetic. Thanks to the controlled thrust vector, it shows miracles of maneuverability, has an extended range of flight modes and supersonic speed, which it reaches without resorting to afterburner.
The first three Russian fighters of the 5th generation were assembled in Komsomolsk-on-Amur at the KnAAZ enterprise named after V.I. A. Gagarin in 2009, after which their tests began almost immediately. The first flight took place on January 29, 2010. The T-50 was piloted by Honored Test Pilot, Hero of Russia S.L.Bogdan.
Some features of PAK FA
About a quarter of all materials used in construction are made up of composites based on carbon fiber reinforced plastics. Most of all, they are involved on external surfaces, which significantly reduced radar signature.
For the same purpose, the fighter's armament is located in the internal closed compartments; the air intakes have a specific configuration, and the airframe is partially made of radio-absorbing coatings.
As for the engines, while the T-50 is flying with two improved AL-41F1, inherited from the Su-35. In the future, he will receive his personal engines with a controlled thrust vector, which will provide him with speeds from 2100 to 2600 km / h without afterburner.
The "eyes" of the first domestic fighter of the 5th generation is a phased array (PAR) locator with a detection range of up to 400 km. At the same time, she "sees" almost everything that flies and moves on the ground, performs the functions of navigation, identification, electronic reconnaissance and electronic warfare.
The missile arsenal (in two internal compartments) of the T-50 contains 10 missiles, of which 2 are close-range and 8 are medium-range. It is complemented by a modernized dual 30-mm cannon with 100 rounds of ammunition. If necessary, additional 14 missiles are placed on external suspensions.
The cockpit of the new fighter "borrowed" a lot from the cockpit of the Su-35. All flight performance is concentrated on two 15-inch displays. At the same time, the pilot has the opportunity to compose information in the most convenient format. Flight information and aiming are displayed on a large-format windshield indicator.
T-50 vs. F-22 "Raptor"
Since the beginning of the T-50 tests, serious disputes are raging in the Internet community about who will nevertheless prevail in a possible aerial duel of fifth generation fighters - he or his main counterpart F-22 "Raptor". At the same time, each of the parties puts forward its own "more weighty" arguments, the value of which without a real fight is highly questionable.
Do not belittle the merits of the American machine created by Lockheed Martin and which has been in service with the US Air Force for 12 years. However, according to many experts, the plane turned out to be extremely expensive - over $ 150 million each. A total of 187 aircraft were produced, of which 5 were lost as a result of accidents.
In this regard, the opinion of test pilot Sergei Bogdan, the first who raised the T-50 into the sky, is of interest. In his opinion, having lost in time, Russian developers got an advantage in the implementation of more modern technologies and developments. Repeated transfers in the adoption of the aircraft into service only indicate that the customer, represented by the Russian Aerospace Forces, is interested in a fully finished aircraft.
Evaluating the aerobatics he saw at Farnborough, Sergei Bogdan frankly admitted that the Russian Su-30 showed a more advanced program 10 years ago. He is deeply convinced that in a possible air battle our T-50 will not yield in anything.
The fifth family is expected to add
It can be safely stated that the process of creating fifth-generation fighters will not stop at the F-22 and T-50. So the Americans have a lighter single-engine F-35 (manufactured by Lockheed Martin), export-oriented.
The J-20 Black Eagle is being tested in China. Russian and Indian designers are ready to start creating an FGFA fighter based on the T-50. The Japanese do not want to lag behind either. Their promising aircraft will probably be called the ATD-X Shinshin.
What will the sixth generation be like
However, the design idea is already "surfing the open spaces" of the future, shaping the appearance of the next, sixth generation aircraft. According to Northrop Grumman, the vehicle will be equipped with a laser cannon and new stealth technologies will be added. Concern Boeing offers a "mixed wing" - a type of "flying wing".
The development of the Russian 6th generation fighter has been going on for at least 5 years. It is known about two participants in the project - "Concern" Radioelectronic Technologies "(KRET) and the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC). According to the representative of KRET Vladimir Mikheev, two versions of the aircraft will be created - unmanned and manned, flying at a speed of 2 to 5M and armed with electromagnetic cannons. The first flight is expected no earlier than 2023-25; the new machine should enter the series by 2030.