MAKS 2011: Sukhoi T-50 Stealth Fighter Debuts as Russian Air Force Updates Re-equipment Plan

 - August 22, 2011, 5:30 AM
Russia’s stealth fighter flies at MAKS 2011. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

Russia’s first stealth fighter, the Sukhoi T-50, made its public debut last week at the Moscow Air Show (MAKS 2011), where Russian air force commander General Alexander Zelin gave an update on this and other re-equipment programs. The two T-50 prototypes flew in formation, before one gave a restrained solo display.

The debut was flawed, however, by an aborted takeoff August 21 due to a reported engine malfunction of the starboard engine. The T-50 had reached 100 km per hour when the pilot, Sergei Bogdan, decided to abort the flight and deployed the brake parachute. No more T-50 flights were held on the closing day of the air show, and less than half of all planned MAKS demonstration flights took place because of bad weather, Interfax reported.

Zelin said that the T-50, a fifth-generation fighter known by the Russian acronym PAKFA, is “our first priority. This machine is better suited to Russia with her large territories, and allows force projection over distances.”

Zelin repeated the fast timescale for development and production of the T-50, as outlined by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin last year, with first delivery due in 2013 and full-scale production in 2014 to 2015. United Aircraft Company president Mikhail Pogosian said that the next two prototypes would be ready by year-end.

The T-50 is scheduled to replace the Su-27, but Zelin also noted that Russia needs a lighter fighter, in the F-35 class, to replace MiG-29s. “We have not yet dropped the MiG-35D from consideration,” he said.

The MiG-35D is a two-seat version of the MiG-35, which was recently eliminated from the Indian Air Force medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) competition. The mtow of the T-50 is understood to be 37 metric tons (81,500 pounds), which is some 10 metric tons (22,000 pounds) heavier than the MiG-35.

Meanwhile, Zelin noted that the Russian air force is due to receive “up to 100” Sukhoi Su-35s. The first of 48 production aircraft on firm order flew at Komsomolsk last May. The service is also planning to acquire at least 18 Sukhoi Su-30SMs. This is a domestic version of the thrust-vectoring Su-30MKI that has been exported to Algeria, India and Malaysia.

Zelin announced the development by 2016 of a new AWACS aircraft for the Russian air force designated A-100. It will combine the Ilyushin Il-476 airframe with a new active array radar from Vega Radio Engineering that will be capable for ground and aerial surveillance. The Il-476 is the upgraded Il-76 with PS-90A turbofans. Zelin said that he expected the first delivery of this airlifter in 2013. The Russian air force AWACS fleet currently consists of 26 Beriev A-50s based on the Il-76.