May 4, 2014

With recent events by Russia in the Crimea and now Ukraine, it is not difficult to see that the “motherland” just may be on the march again.  So-called experts have stated that President Putin would like nothing better than to restore Russia to global significance.  This fact may be seen by taking a close look at weapon systems now under development by their military.   One very significant system is the Russian T-50.  Dedication to this project and known specifications for the T-50 give us a glimpse into their ideology and thought processes.   Let’s take a look.



The picture above shows the Sukhoi T-50 prototype; a fifth-generation Russian stealth fighter.  The PAK-FA, many experts claim, could outperform the US F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.


With its advanced avionics, large fuel capacity, “extreme plus agility”, and ability to avoid detection, the PAK-FA could become the “most lethal and survivable fighter ever built for air combat engagements,” according to Air Power Australia, a respected authority on aeronautics.


The T-50 had its first flight in 2010, and Russia will purchase 60 production-standard aircraft after 2016.


The Sukhoi PAK FA is a twin-engine jet fighter being developed by Sukhoi for the Russian Air Force.  The T-50 is the prototype for PAK FA; one of only a handful of stealth jet programs globally. The PAK FA, a fifth generation jet fighter, is intended to be the successor to the MiG-29 and Su-27 in Russian inventory and serves as the basis for the Sukhoi/HAL FGFA, which is being developed  jointly with India. (This should serve to give us pause also.)  The T-50 has a blended wing-body specifically designed to accommodate weapons bays between the engines, and incorporates all-moving vertical stabilizers and horizontal elevators. The aircraft has wing leading-edge devices above the jet engine (LEVCONs) designed to control vortices generated by the leading edge for improved behavior at high angle of attack, allowing quick recovery if the thrust vectoring system fails. The two engines incorporate thrust vectoring (TVC) nozzles canted at an angle. Thrust vectoring itself operates in only one plane, but the canting allows the pilot to control both roll and yaw by vectoring each engine nozzle differently. The aircraft inlet incorporates variable intake ramps for increased supersonic engine efficiency and retractable mesh screens to prevent foreign object debris from being ingested into the engines. In the T-50’s design, Sukhoi addressed what it perceived to be the F-22’s limitations, such as the latter’s inability to use thrust vectoring to induce roll and yaw moments and the lack of space for weapons bays between the engines, and complications for stall recovery if thrust vectoring fails.

Composites are used extensively on the T-50 and comprise 25% of its weight and almost 70% of the outer surface. Weapons are housed in two tandem missile bays, each estimated to be between 4.6-4.7 m long. The main bays are augmented by bulged, triangular-section bays near the wing root.


The T-50’s avionics consists of the Sh121 multifunctional integrated radio electronic system (MIRES) and the 101KS Atoll electro-optical system. The Sh121 consists of the N036 Byelka radar complex and L402 Himalayas electronic countermeasures system.   The N036 Byelka radar complex is developed by Tikhomirov NIIP Institute and consists of a main nose-mounted X-band AESA radar with 1526 T/R modules, designated the N036-1-01, and two smaller X-band AESA radars with 358 T/R modules mounted on the sides of the forward fuselage designated N036B-1-01. The suit also has two N036L-1-01 L-band arrays on the wing’s leading edge extensions that are not only used for friend-or-foe identification but also for electronic warfare purposes. Computer processing of the X- and L-band signals enable the systems information to be significantly enhanced.

The radar will reduce pilot load and make use of a new data link to share information between aircraft.  In 2012, ground tests began on the third aircraft of the Tikhomirov Scientific Research Institute of Instrument Design’s AESA radar.The L402 Himalayas electronic countermeasures (ECM) suite made by the KNIRTI institute uses both its own arrays and that of the N036 Byelka radar. One of its arrays is mounted in the dorsal sting between the two engines. The system is mounted on the aircraft in 2014.

The 101KS Atoll electro-optical system includes the 101KS-V infra-red search and track mounted on the starboard side in front of the cockpit. This sensor can detect, identify, and track multiple airborne targets simultaneously. The 101KS-O is mounted on a turret in the dorsal spine and has a laser-based countermeasure against heat-seeking missiles. The complex will also include the 101KS-U ultraviolet warning sensors and 101KS-N navigation and targeting pod.


The T-50 prototype performed its first flight 29 January 2010. By 31 August 2010, it had made 17 flights and by mid-November, 40 flights total.  The second T-50 was to start flight testing by the end of 2010, but was delayed until March 2011. The Russian Defense Ministry will purchase the first 10 evaluation example aircraft after 2012 and then 60 production standard aircraft after 2016. The first group of fighters will be delivered with current technology engines. The PAK-FA is expected to have a service life of about 30–35 years.

Since its public debut four years ago, Russia’s first stealth fighter has quietly undergone diligent testing, slowly expanding its flight envelope and steadily working out technical kinks. But for all this hard work there have been precious few indications just how many copies of the Sukhoi T-50 Moscow plans to build … and how it means to use them, at least until now.

Reporting from Aviation Week’s Bill Sweetman, one of the world’s top aerospace writers, offers tantalizing hints relative to Moscow’s intentions for the big, twin-engine T-50, an answer to America’s F-22 stealth fighter.  If Sweetman is correct—and he usually is—the angular warplane with a 50-foot wingspan will be purchased in small numbers and used as an airborne sniper, elusively flying high and fast to take down enemy radars and support powerful, long-range missiles.

The T-50’s design and apparent weapons options seem to lend themselves to this niche role, which could exploit critical vulnerabilities in U.S. and allied forces and level the air power playing field for the first time in a generation.

I personally think we MUST consider Russia as a formidable contender wanting to position themselves as the number one power on our globe.  China also has that desire, and since we have positioned ourselves as being the punching bag and laughing stock relative to dominance, their efforts must provide grave concern for all thinking Americans.  We have given up our dominance in manned space and apparently are willing, on a national level, to give up our military presence.  Unless we consider the consequences, we are in for a rough ride through the twenty-first century.  Just a thought.



What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: