Russian T-50 Makes Flight Test Progress

 - November 25, 2011, 8:55 AM
The second prototype of the Sukhoi T-50 flew at the recent Moscow Airshow. A third aircraft has now joined the flight test program. (Photo: Vladimir Karnozov)

The third prototype of the Sukhoi T-50 fifth-generation fighter made a first flight on November 22 with test pilot Sergey Bogdan at the controls.

The flight from the Dzemgi aerodrome of the Komsomolsk-upon-Amur Aircraft Production Organization (KnAAPO) lasted more than one hour and was uneventful, according to KnAAPO. The T-50 is also known as the PAKFA, a Russian acronym meaning Future Complex of Frontal Aviation.

Earlier this month Sukhoi said the first two T-50s had now flown more than 100 times. The first prototype (side number 51) began flying on Jan. 29, 2010, and the second (side number 52) in early March 2011. These two made their public debut at the Moscow Airshow last August, by which time the flight count had come to 84.

As the show was drawing to a close, both prototypes were grounded temporarily after developing various technical malfunctions. On the show’s closing day, number 51 experienced a surge of its starboard NPO Saturn 117 turbofan running at full afterburner during takeoff. Bogdan was at the controls and brought the airplane to a stop within the runway length. Saturn acknowledged the surge and traced its cause to a sensor supplying incorrect readings to the airplane’s control system.

Sukhoi says the PAKFA is unique in many respects, including automatic flight control; a long-range multi-mode AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar; and a datalink management system that allows real-time information exchange with ground stations and other airborne platforms.

The design bureau further claims the airplane features “unprecedented” low radar, optical and infrared signatures. The T-50 design also features all-axis thrust vectoring and an additional L-band radar with conformal antennas.

The Russian air force expects pre-production examples to be delivered next year, followed by production aircraft in 2013-2014. Sukhoi estimates the total demand for the PAKFA to be 600 units.