How Stealthy is the Sukhoi T-50 or PAK FA

Russia’s hottest jet project currently in development, the highly classified Sukhoi T-50 or Sukhoi PAK FA (name for serial production when enter service) is a fifth-generation stealth multi-role fighter designed to deliver awesome long-range strike capabilities using modern weapon and stealthiness.

Arguably the main competitor to the F-35 Lightning II and F-22 Raptor, the Russian-made Sukhoi T-50 is an extremely advanced, twin-engine, multi-rolejet fighter that, aside from being a top-level black project (in other words, highly hush-hush), promises to deliver an insane top speed, range and payload.

It will be first Russian airplane that use stealth technology. It is made to reduce its radar cross-section (RCS) with several specific angles in order to reduce radar waves that can be reflected. According to Russian sources, RCS of PAK FA or T-50 RCS is almost same as F-35, 0.005-0.5 square metre, but RCS of F-22 Raptor is still smaller – 0.001-0.3.

Power, which is titanic – 267 kilonewtons (66,000 pounds-force) of thrust on afterburner – comes courtesy of two Saturn 117 turbofan jet engines. The thrust has been drastically increased since the previous AL-31 powerplant and this not only allows the T-50 to easily surpass Mach 2 (a top speed of 2,500 kilometres, or 1,500 miles, per hour) but also supercruise – continuously fly at supersonic speeds without engaging the afterburner.

Sukhoi T-50The reason for the twin-engine setup, as well as the supersized fuel tanks, is to help fulfil the T-50’s design focus to specialise in long-range interdiction operations (striking at enemy targets that are located at a great range from allied forces). This is a core competency for modern Russian military bombing aircraft due to the size of the country and the great distances between stopover points.

Avionics are handled by an integrated radar complex, which includes three X-band active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars mounted to the front and sides of the aircraft, an infra-red search and track (IRST) system, as well as a pair of L-band radars on the wing leading edges, which are specially designed to detect very low observable (VLO) targets.

Sukhoi T-50 landingIn terms of firepower, the production variant of the T-50 will boast up to two 30-millimetre cannons, as well as a mix of Izdeliye 810 extended-beyond-visual-range missiles, long-range missiles, K74 and K30 air-to-air short-range missiles and two air-to-ground missiles per weapons bay. Free-fall bombs can also be carried – with a limit of up to 1,500 kilograms (3,300 pounds) per bomb bay – as well as various anti-AWACS (airborne warning and control system) armaments, such as the RVV-BD variant of the Vympel R-37.

Currently only a handful of T-50S have been produced and flown, however it is expected that throughout its 35-year life span beginning in 2016, more than 1,000 jets will be made, each unit costing between GBP 31-36m (USD 48-57m).

Sukhoi T-50 flight overSukhoi T-50 specs

  • Crew: 1
  • Length: 19.8m (65.9ft)
  • Wingspan: 14m (46.6ft)
  • Height: 6.05m (19.8ft)
  • Weight: 18,500kg (40,785lb)
  • Powerplant: 2 x AL-41F1 afterburning turbofans
  • Max speed: Mach 2+ (2,500km/h; 1,560mph)
  • Max range: 5,500km (3,417mi)
  • Max altitude: 20,000m (65,600ft)
  • Rate of climb: Classified
  • Thrust/weight: 1.19
  • g-limit: Classified
  • Guns: 2 x 30mm cannons
  • Hardpoints: 6 x external pylons, 4 x internal pylons
  • Armament: Air-to-air, air-to-ground, anti-ship