Russia's prototype fighter aircraft of the 5th generation made its maiden flight on Friday, January 29th at Sukhoi's main facility in Komsomolsk-on-Amur in the Khabarovsk Region on the Pacific coast. The flight lasted for 45 minutes and was successful.
Sukhoi PAK FA T-50, Russia's first 5th generation stealth fighter jet has been in development since the 1990s. It was conceived as a counterpart to the American F-22 Raptor, the first 5th generation fighter aircraft and F-35 Lightning II. 5th generation fighters carry internal weapons, boast ultrasonic cruise speed, are nearly invisible to radars, have the ability to use shortened take off strips and are equipped with AI (artificial intelligence). The jet's computer should be able to analyze the environment and give the pilot the information as prompts.
The T-50's maiden flight was planned in 2008, but was later postponed to 2009. In December 2009 Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that the maiden flight would take place in January 2010. The 5th generation engine for the new jet was tested by the flying laboratory SU 27M on January 21st in Zhukovsky near Moscow. The press release on NPO Saturn, the engine manufacturer's, website says that the flight lasted for 45 minutes and was successful. There was no criticism of the engine's operation.
Only three jets have currently been built. The tests will take approximately 5 years. Russian Defense Ministry plans to buy the new jets from 2015. They should replace 4th generation fighter jets SU-27 and MiG-29 in the Air Forces.
T-50 is said to have bigger engine resources, more effective arms and equipment for goal detection, higher maneuverability, longer ultrasonic flight and it will be almost invisible to radio and infrared waves.
Experts say that T-50 can compete with the F-22 and F-35 jets on the international market. Konstantin Makienko from Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) said in an interview with the Russian newspaper Moskovskiy Komsomolets that some countries, particularly those in South-East Asia, will prefer them to the F-22 for military-political reasons, i.e. because they are not produced by the USA. Mr Makienko said that the only countries that are currently capable of developing 5th generation fighter jets are USA, Russia and China.
Ilya Kramnik, RIA Novosti's military commentator, thinks that the jet itself is not enough to bring Russia's military capabilities to a new level. A complex of measures and innovations is required, including weapons, communications equipment and management systems of Air Forces.