Sukhoi T-50 Prototype Suffers Fire On Approach To Land

AIN Defense Perspective » June 20, 2014
damaged T-50 prototype
The damaged T-50 prototype at Zhukovsky. Sukhoi said that the aircraft is repairable. (Photo: Russian television)
June 16, 2014, 7:39 AM

A prototype of the Sukhoi T-50 Russian fighter landed on fire at the Zhukovsky test base near Moscow on June 10. First reports about the mishap surfaced on local radio stations broadcasting road traffic incidents, when the fifth-generation warplane was seen trailing smoke on the approach. It was Bort number 55, the fifth and most recent T-50 prototype, which first flew on October 27 last year.

Later that day Sukhoi acknowledged that an incident had indeed taken place.

Sukhoi said that a fire broke out above the right air intake after landing and was promptly extinguished. “There are no casualties. The aircraft is repairable,” the company continued. A special commission has been set up to investigate. Sukhoi does not expect the incident to prompt a revision of the T-50 readiness schedule. The aircraft is scheduled to enter service with the Russian air force in 2016.

Local media quoted a source in the defense ministry that said an engine failure was the primary cause. The aircraft is powered by two Item 117 engines developed by NPO Saturn and manufactured by UMPO. The T-50 prototypes have suffered several engines failures, including one at MAKS’2011, but none led to damage beyond repair.

The T-50—also known by its Russian acronym PAKFA—first flew in January 2010. The first flight of a T-50 by a serving military pilot took place in April last year, with Chkalov flight-test center pilot Rafael Suleimanov at the controls. The aircraft entered state acceptance trials in February this year, when the second prototype was ferried to the Akhtubinsk test base in Southern Russia. In addition to the five prototypes already flying, two airframes have been built for ground testing. One more airframe for ground testing and three flyable ones are under construction. The company said it had conducted more than 450 test flights as of late October 2013, when the last update was provided.

The T-50 features the N-036 AESA radar from Tikhomirov’s NIIP. It has five built-in antenna units to provide all-round airspace surveillance. Some of them operate in the L-band; the main antenna in the nose operates in X-band. The latter measures 700 mm vs the others’ 900 mm and comes with 1526 transceiver modules.

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