Tag Archives: Fifth Generation Fighter

Leader in Combat Aviation?

Videoconference on help to the aviation industry

On May 13, RF President Vladimir Putin conducted a videoconference from his “bunker” in Novo-Ogarevo on support to Russia’s aviation industry in the pandemic and economic crisis. He directed his ministers to shift civilian, and possibly some military, aircraft production “to the left” to give work to struggling enterprises.

In the process, he said:

Domestic aircraft compete on equal terms with foreign analogues, with world market leaders in many of their characteristics, and by the way, in some [characteristics] — in combat aviation — is considerably superior to them.

Putin’s assessment of Russia’s place as the (or a) leader in military aviation spurred Militaryparitet.com to editorialize. The comments are worth a few moments.

Deputy PM Yuriy Borisov used the occasion, Militaryparitet writes, to ask once again for Putin to erase defense industry’s chronic debts. And nothing in Borisov’s plea smells like the competitiveness Putin claims.

The site continues:

This announcement [about Russia’s lead in military aviation] is highly interesting, but it has been repeated like a mantra for two decades already. So where is Russia outpacing its competitors in combat and military aviation?

First, Russia still hasn’t gotten its fifth-generation fighter, the Su-57, into the force. The U.S. long ago jumped ahead with its F-22 and F-35, and even the Chinese claim they have 40 series-produced J-20 fighters.

Second, Russia’s fourth-generation fighters are laggards. Not a single one has an active phased array radar. This is no longer an innovation for the U.S. The French have it. And China also asserts success in putting it on its fighters.

Third, the Indians are unhappy with Russia’s R-77 air-to-air missiles they purchased. New Delhi says they lack the range and effectiveness of U.S. AIM-120 and European Meteor missiles.

Fourth, with respect to strategic bombers, Russia is renewing production of the existing Tu-160 Blackjack. A new design PAK DA will require “remarkable patience” at a minimum and, with a long-term recession looming, it probably won’t happen at all.

Fifth, Russia hasn’t managed to put an active phased array radar on its AEW aircraft because of its almost total lack of commercial electronics and microelectronics industries.

Sixth, for transports, Russia continues to rely on the Il-76 while the U.S. introduced the C-17 with nearly double the cargo capacity in the 1990s.

Seventh, Russian unmanned aviation is a complete bust. There is the single S-70 Okhotnik, but you couldn’t see a Russian analogue to Global Hawk “even with a telescope.”

Militaryparitet sums up:

So what kind of Russian leadership in combat (military) aviation is Putin talking about every time? Russia has long been on the margins of progress in this sector, and there is no hope to get to the cutting edge “by its own efforts.” We are living in a time when you can’t do anything good without cooperation . . . .

But . . . is there all of a sudden an area where Russia is overtaking the entire world in combat aviation? If there is, speak up, please. We’ll celebrate together.

PAK FA Update


Sukhoy announced that its third PAK FA prototype conducted its first test flight today.  Operating from KnAAPO’s factory runway, the aircraft flew for more than an hour.

To run back a few milestones, the first PAK FA flew on January 29, 2010.  A second prototype joined it in March of this year.  PAK FA’s first public flight was August 17 at MAKS-2011.  And Sukhoy says the PAK FA has completed more than 100 test flights to date.  The hundredth flight apparently occurred early this month or in late October.

On November 11, ARMS-TASS reported that the third prototype will test the onboard phased array radar (AFAR)  system designed by the Tikhomirov NII of Instrument-building (NIIP).  Nezavisimoye voyennoye obozreniye published the same news, citing a Sukhoy spokesman.

“Second Phase” Engine for PAK FA

More on the “second phase” engine saga . . . managing director of NPO Saturn, Ilya Fedorov has told ITAR-TASS development of the so-called “second phase” engine for the PAK FA is running ahead of schedule.  

The completion of R&D [ОКР] and provision of the engine to Sukhoy and the Defense Ministry is planned for 2015.  Fedorov says:

“NPO Saturn entities and cooperating structures are now working on a rough draft of the engine.  Everything’s been agreed.  Work’s being conducted in Moscow, Rybinsk, and in other places.  We have firm certainty that the second phase engine will be done earlier than everyone expects.”

“Work on the future engine model is in a very advanced stage . . . .”

Fedorov adds it wouldn’t be profitable to drag out development and continue putting out “first phase” engines which are being used on the T-50 test aircraft.

What’d we learn?

Fedorov emphasized what’s out there now is definitely still “first phase.”  The “second phase” team is working from a “rough,” but agreed draft, and there’s advanced work on the model.  One supposes that’s possible.  Finally, Fedorov says he’s ahead of schedule, but makes no big promises, and the story emphasizes that the delivery plan is 2015.

Fighters Flying Nowhere?

The first flight test of China’s ‘fifth generation’ J-20 fighter inspired Trud’s Mikhail Lukanin to address the subject.  If you’d like a translation of it, see Russia Today.

Lukanin notes China’s now third behind the U.S. and Russia to unveil a ‘fifth generation’ fighter, and he cites Ruslan Pukhov and Vitaliy Shlykov who conclude these future aircraft are little suited to modern wars, and are being developed exclusively to satisfy political ambitions.

About China’s “very raw prototype,” Pukhov says:

“According to its technological possibilities, China is still not ready to develop new generation aircraft, since even usual Chinese fighters are copies of foreign ones, mainly Russian aircraft.  The Chinese really still need at least ten years to get the J-20 to 5th generation fighter parameters.”

Lukanin recaps that Russia’s PAK FA, the T-50, started design in 2002, flew in 2010, and is looking for serial production by 2015.  He gives a quick, limited definition of 5th generation (that would horrify U.S. Air Force types):  supercruise, stealth, and 360° radar.

Shlykov tells Lukanin the T-50 and F-22 are unlikely to meet in battle, and employing a ‘superfighter’ in a small war like the Russian-Georgian one is senseless since today’s aircraft can handle such a conflict.  Shlykov calls the fifth generation fighter an “offspring of the arms race” created for a world war between superpowers.

Lukanin highlights the F-22’s exorbitant pricetag and the cut in its production run, and he puts the T-50’s price at $80-100 million, 4-5 times cheaper than the F-22 [perhaps it’s cheaper because it’s not a full-fledged 5th generation aircraft, at least by the USAF definition].

Finally, Lukanin returns to Pukhov, who says:

“For China and Russia, 5th generation fighters are first and foremost political projects, necessary for assuring themselves that they are leading world economies.”

Pukhov says the lion’s share of T-50 aircraft will be exported.

There are at least two interesting issues Lukanin might have addressed here, but didn’t. 

First, is it possible that China might actually be uncomfortably close to Russia in technological capabilities?  Is the J-20 really ten or more years behind the T-50?  Or how about this — is the T-50 anywhere close to the F-22?

Second, fifth generation aircraft could also become passe quickly if the U.S. moves on to a sixth generation unmanned, robotic aircraft.

There are a couple additional articles today worthy of attention.  Argumenty nedeli calls the J-20 a fifth generation Frankenstein, with the nose of the F-22, and the body of the old MiG 1.44 design.  AN says the J-20 lacks an engine [possibly also true of T-50].  The Chinese unveiling might just an elaborate PR show.

Vedomosti isn’t quite as dismissive, and says the J-20 might push Russian development faster.  The paper notes questions about what’s really inside the aircraft, and concludes the flight may have been timed for the U.S. Defense Secretary’s trip to China.

It cites Konstantin Makiyenko to the effect that, for Russia, the J-20’s first flight means it’s essential to increase the financing and pace of the T-50 program, both to preserve the military balance, and to preserve Russia’s competitiveness as an exporter.

Once again, maybe it is all about prestige and exports.

Popovkin on GPV Financing, Inter Alia

Perhaps lobbying for more money for armaments pays off . . . at least a little.

At Farnborough today, First Deputy Defense Minister Popovkin told journalists financing for GPV 2011-2020 will be almost doubled.

Popovkin said:

 “We’re talking about increasing the amount.”

“With the Finance Ministry we’re now deciding the issue of the amount and the schedule of year-by-year financing taking into account of the state’s economic possibilities.”

“Now we’re talking about 20 trillion [rubles].”

Recall early June’s comments to the effect that the proposed 13 trillion would cover only one-third of the Defense Ministry’s needs.

Popovkin also said [again] that a state program for developing the OPK needs to be adopted at the same time as the new GPV.  He said:

“Both documents will be confirmed by the President this year.”

But he didn’t offer anything on the amount of financing for an OPK development program, but said ‘negotiations’ with the Finance Ministry are being conducted.

On the fifth generation fighter, Popovkin said the Defense Ministry plans to receive its first experimental model in 2013.  He also said:

“By 2015 the Defense Ministry plans to buy ten aircraft from the first assembly run which will go to operational forces.  And from 2016 we plan to implement a series purchase of fifth generation fighters.”

Air Forces CINC General-Colonel Zelin recently told the press more than 60 will be bought starting in 2015-2016.

More to follow . . .