Warplanes: Evolution Of The F-22ski

Archives

October 2,2008:  The long promised Russian answer to the F-22, the T-50, is under construction and expected to have its first flight next year. Another experimental aircraft, the Su-35, had its first flight earlier this year. The Su-35 contains a lot of the technologies that will go into the T-50. Last Fall, the Russian Air Force showed off the first of two flyable prototypes of the Su-35. It was less than two years ago, that Russia announced its long promised Su-35 fighter, was back in development again. The Su35 is an enhanced Su-30 (itself a development of the Cold War era Su-27), and has been in development for over a decade. At one point, it was called the Su-37, but the name was changed back to Su-35. A dozen or more Su-35 prototypes have been built, and apparently no two are identical. This is typical for Russian aircraft development. They prefer to produce many incremental improvements, rather than make a huge jump to a very different new model. Thus you can trace an evolution from the Su-27 to the T-50.

The Russians want to sell their "Fifth Generation Fighter" (the T-50) to China, India and other foreign customers. There is already a deal for India to develop its own version of the T-50, while contributing some technologies (like lightweight materials) to the basic design. The Indians have announced that their version of the T-50 will be a two seater with longer range than the single seat Russian model. Russia now has the billions of dollars it will take to carry out the T-50 development program. India has become a partner, contributing cash, technology and manufacturing capability.

The T-50 is a 34 ton fighter that is more maneuverable than the 33 ton, Su-27, has much better electronics and is stealthy. It can cruise at above the speed of sound. It also costs at least fifty percent more than the Su-27. That would be some $60 million (for a barebones model, 50 percent more with all the options), about what a top-of-the-line F-16 costs. The Su-27 was originally developed to match the F-15, which is larger than the single engine F-16.

Russia is promising a fighter with a life of 6,000 flight hours, and engines good for 4,000 hours. Russia promises world-class avionics, plus a very pilot-friendly cockpit. The use of many thrusters and fly-by-wire will produce an aircraft even more maneuverable than earlier Su-30s (which have been extremely agile).

The T-50 is not meant to be a direct rival for the F-22, because the Russian aircraft is not as stealthy. But if the maneuverability and advanced electronics proposed Su-35 live up to the promises, the aircraft would be more than a match for every fighter out there except the F-22. If such an T-50 was sold for well under $100 million each, there would be a lot of buyers. Russia says it will begin production, and sales, in five years. That may be too ambitious, but for the moment, the T-50 is the only potential competitor for the F-22 in development.

 


Article Archive

Warplanes: Current 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 


X

ad
0
20

Help Keep Us Soaring

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling. We need your help in reversing that trend. We would like to add 20 new subscribers this month.

Each month we count on your subscriptions or contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage. A contribution is not a donation that you can deduct at tax time, but a form of crowdfunding. We store none of your information when you contribute..
Subscribe   Contribute   Close