Russia is building its own fifth-generation fighter jet — a plane that might even have some advantages over the U.S.’s troubled F-35.
The PAK-FA, also known as the T-50, is still in prototype, and is built to emulate and improve upon many of the successes of the American F-22 — the only effective fifth-generation airplane in the world. The T-50 achieves this by combining older Sukhoi designs along with improvements based upon the F-22.
Bill Sweetman, of Aviation Week, notes that one of the major structural improvements of the T-50 over the F-22 are the spacing of the twin engines. On the T-50, the engines are more widely spaced. This spacing provides better roll and yaw control for the T-50 compared to the F-22 in the case that the thrust-vector control system fails.
The T-50 is also designed to have extreme maneuverability at both supersonic and subsonic speeds. It is thought that the T-50 could outperform both the F-35 and the F-22 in this regard. Likewise, the T-50 can maintain a super cruising speed of approximately Mach 1.8, matching the F-22 and surpassing the F-35. In terms of overall stealth, however, the T-50 is surpassed by both the F-35 and the F-22. The T-50’s radar-cross section (RCS) is an average of 0.1-1 m 2. In comparison, the RCS of the F-22 is 0.01 – 0.001 m2 from the side and behind, while the F-35’s is 0.01 m2. A lower RCS indicates that the plane is more difficult to detect on radar.
It should be kept in mind that the specifications of any fifth generation craft should be met with skepticism. The T-50, like the F-35, has encountered its own series of developmental delays. The Russian military is also notoriously secretive, so any problems with its new flagship aircraft are likely to be suppressed.
The T-50 is slated to go into service in 2016.