Cold Water on PAK FA

ODK General Director Aleksandr Artyukhov has dampened the prospects for Russia’s developmental fifth generation fighter aircraft, the T-50 or PAK FA.  Friday in Lukhovitsy at the presentation of the MiG-35, Artyukhov told RIA Novosti that R&D on PAK FA’s “second phase” engine won’t be complete until 2020.


T-50 / PAK FA (photo: RIA Novosti / Aleksandr Vilf)

This contrasts with the more hopeful announcement late last year from Sukhoy aircraft plant KnAAZ when the “second phase” engine or “item 30” commenced stand tests.

ODK’s Artyukhov told the media that the plan is to begin flight tests of the “second phase” engine this year.

Existing prototypes fly with the first phase or “item 117S” engine (AL-41F1S). However, “item 30” advertises reduced infrared signature, increased thrust, supercruise, improved fuel efficiency, and lower life-cycle costs.

Artyukhov’s predecessor said more than two years ago that a PAK FA with a “second phase” engine would not fly until 2017.  ODK once hoped this would happen in 2015, but OAK’s former chief Mikhail Pogosyan said possibly not even before 2019.

But even with a tested “item 30” engine, it will be a challenge to integrate and test it fully this year.  So the first PAK FA fighters to reach the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) will probably have “item 117S” engines.

As the PAK FA’s engine has slipped, so has the aircraft itself.

The VKS officially hopes to accept its newest fighter in 2017, and take delivery of five in late 2017 or 2018.  It looks toward a total buy of 55 PAK FA.

However, in mid-2015, Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov said the military would procure one squadron of 12 PAK FA.  He didn’t commit to more.  Borisov said Russia would buy fewer PAK FA than planned because the 4++ generation Su-35 is superior to new foreign fighters in many respects.

5 responses to “Cold Water on PAK FA

  1. Pingback: Cold Water on PAK FA | Policy

  2. Pingback: #UKR + Eastern Europe Update as of 292115UTC January 2017 | Blog

  3. How has outlining the plans for testing and introduction of a new more powerful engine for the aircraft suddenly become pouring cold water on the design?

    You do understand the aircraft can fly in the rain and is therefore waterproof…

    The new engines will be better than the currently used engines but getting the aircraft into service is more important than waiting for slightly more powerful engines to be ready.

    And the F-35 in contrast was ordered by the USAF in a mass production batch of the full 2,300 aircraft they need… oops, no they didn’t.

    Ordering a small batch of new aircraft is normal and standard practise.

    New problems can be identified and fixed…. efficiencies in production can be found… and as mentioned stealth fighters wont be needed in enormous numbers.

    A sniper is a very capable and very useful tool on the battlefield but only a fool would pretend an army of snipers alone is a good idea.

  4. Garry you miss the point. While its nearly always worth it to continue incremental engine development, it’s not worth it to push an expensive VLO platform when it’s not needed.

    Russia and it’s customers are on the strategic and tactical defense and stealth economics do not transfer well into scenarios featuring US assets penetrating into IADS. Current gen Sukhois with improved missle shot counts and seeker tech are more than adequate.

    • They are not developing an all stealth fighter fleet like the US is… even their most optimistic plans call for no more than about 200 PAK FA fighters.

      The main reasons the west likes to go on adventures in the middle east and indeed other places like africa is that the countries they attack have no way of responding in kind.

      Having the ability to threaten Europe with a stealth fighter attack is useful to any defence strategy…. just as the ability to launch an ICBM or SLBM or cruise missile attack also holds back the hawks in the west.

      Incremental improvements in jet engine technology improves the performance of all Russian aircraft able to adapt existing engines to that new technology and is worth it.

      For a smaller country like Vietnam or Venezuela, the potential to buy a stealth fighter from Russia and truly defend itself from foreign interference is exactly what they want, and is a much cheaper and saner alternative to developing nuclear weapons… which is pretty much the only other real option.

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