In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
Grande Strategy

The Russians Are Coming: The T-50's Flight to the Future



The Russians Are Coming: The T-50's Flight to the Future


by Meinhaj Hussain, m.hussain@grandestrategy.com

Introduction

In late January 2010, the PAK FA made its maiden flight, ushering in an end to an era of US dominance of stealth, fifth generation fighter aircraft. Military analysts of every shade and nation spent endless times speculating and awaited the first flight with sleepless nights and over bitter arguments about its final configuration, for the PAK FA was kept so secretive that none other than a very choice few knew what it would look like.

Combat aircraft are the spear tip of any military power, and play a pivotal role in air warfare. And in today's day and age, any nation that has the decisive advantage in the air war, dominates the ground war, and by extension, the political arena. The PAK FA, also known as the T-50 and possibly to be known in its final version as the Su-50, is an aircraft that not only Russia, but the world needed.  For the unipolar world that ushered in an American Empire has increasingly become an unfair and unjust world  where American arrogance and exploitation is increasingly creating fiction, not only with the Muslim world but with such powers that have had the most to lose and least to gain, such as China, Russia and Brazil.

Even some of the US's allies in Europe, staunch in their support are increasingly feeling like surrogates rather than allies, slaves rather than friends. An example within the military aviation industry is the F-35, a promised cooperative project by the US with its allies, has turned into a chain of dependence, where vital software codes and maintenance legacies will now remain in the purview of the US, with their Allies permanently dependent. It is no wonder that many Western Europeans of various shades have cheered at the PAK FA, even though it is Russian. Freedom perhaps cannot exist in a monopoly. 

The PAK FA is an answer to the US F-22, a fifth generation fighter that till now had no equal. A comparative analysis will follow later in this paper, but for now it suffices to say that it contends with the F-22 on stealth, aerodynamic performance and sensor sophistication and capability, as well as in cost, maintenance and practicality.

It must be understood that the T-50 is not merely a combat aircraft, it is an investment in technology and engineering that has implications for Russian industry, and has economic implications for Russia as well as for Su-50 customers who may thus be able to avoid conflict by deterrence. As a superficial example, two squadrons of this aircraft with Iran would dispel all possibilities of an Israeli strike on that nation.

Guesstimates on Performance

There is scant data on the PAK FA, but educated estimates can be made from carefully analyzing pictures and videos. Following are some basic guesstimates on the present prototype aircraft by this author:

Length 19.5m  20.4m 03/10/10
Height 5m
Wingspan 14m  14.7m 03/10/10
Empty Weight 18.5t  03/10/10
Wing area: 75 m2  80m2 03/10/10

Performance

Much of the performance analysis is unreliable as the actual power-plant is unknown. However, it should be in the range of a max speed of 2.5 Mach, service ceiling of 20,000 m and rate of climb greater than 350 m/second.

Armament

Guns: 1x30mm
Hardpoints: unknown, speculated to be 8 hardpoints.

Radar

The aircraft is known to have five radar modules with known primary radar to be an AESA. Innovative wing leading edge radar of lower frequency (perhaps L band) would be able to locate stealth aircraft like the F-22, a capability that the F-22 does not have.


General Analysis

Basic Aerodynamics

The wings on the PAK FA are large and well-swept, optimized for supersonic flight and for high(er) altitudes. In comparison to the F-22, given even remotely comparable engines, the PAK FA should be able to fly faster, for longer and supercruise more effectively (with lower fuel consumption and greater speed).

The all-wing shape of the PAK FA follows the same principles that was so successful with the Su-27 FLANKER and the MiG-29 FULCRUM and not only provides lift, but also provides ample space (along with the large wings) for massive fuel and/or weapons bays. Reducing drag, increasing range and payload and creating lift and stands in good light compared to the F-22s design.

Air Intakes

CARET inlets of the air intakes are useful for “wave riding”, generating increased lift for the airframe. This allows lower RCS and increased airflow. With the long length of its horizontal wedged edge (of the inlet) additionally helps lift. 

Large, moveable Leading Edge Root Extensions (LERX) over the inlets are highly innovative and perhaps plays a role in making the PAK FA super-maneuverable. It is not a flap-like structure but perhaps more like an aileron and behaves in someways perhaps like a canard. 

This is an interesting innovation and also provides a solution for the PAK FA in managing air-flow over the wing and onto the slanted stabilizers, solving problems of a twin-tailed delta configuration. 

Angled Twin Stabilizers

The twin all-moving stabilizers are innovative in that they can be smaller and have the same effect as a larger conventional stabilizer. Given that the PAK FA also has 3D Thrust Vector Controls (TVC), this makes the PAKFA a fundamentally more stealthy design given that large stabilizers contribute to RCS significantly.  Other advantages include reduced weight, stability in hard maneuvering and the ability to go supersonic in a turn.







Large Tires


The large low(er) pressure tires, a bane for space on an airframe implies that the Russians are still staying real, for in any future conflict with a comparable power, airbases could easily be destroyed and operating from semi-prepared strips would provide the Russians (and any other operator) with a key advantage over American designs, whose runways have to be carefully combed for the smallest intrusion.

Technology and Basic Industrial Manufacturing

The PAK FA is built using new methods that the Soviet Union did not have – electro-chemical milling rather than traditional welding methods. While this has been in use since the late 1950s in the West, this method has only now found its way to Russia. This would allow far better finish which has major implications to stealth and minor implications to reducing drag. Along with RAM coatings and the extensive use of composites, this spells a major industrial leap for Russian industry.

Sensor Fusion

Electronics and avionics have traditionally been an area that Russia lagged behind in. However, the PAK FA makes ground here as well. Other than having five radars, informed sources understand that it has a high degree of sensor fusion, combining sensor fusion, Electronic Warfare (EW), data linking and the general Man-Machine Interface (MMI) are said to now be in the league of the US fighters. How far this gets confirmed is yet to be seen but this author believes that given the Russian IT sector's pivotal role globally, this is a leap they have long made and are but only now implementing in their aviation industry.

RCS Reduction

The PAK FA is the first non-American stealth VLO fighter. The F-22's frontal Radar Cross Section (RCS) is compared to a metal marble, the F-35's to a golf ball and it is this author's speculative contention that the PAK FA's could perhaps be compared to a baseball. The Russians are not looking to make the aerodynamic tradeoffs to stealth that the US has made, for a variety of reasons including the effectiveness and costs of such stealth. Given that stealth in the real world would be far less effective than the advertised “metal marble” because the enemy may not always come exactly head on, nor use the radar's that the F-22s were tested with. Nor would any future competent enemy only have one radar on (but rather a plethora of ground and airborne radars at various frequencies). Further, wear and tear in a real world operational scenario are likely to reduce stealth.

The PAK FA thus would save weight and enjoy superior aerodynamics while trading off some stealth. It's S-duct may not fully hide its fan blades from every possible angle but rather perhaps allow a maximum of 5% of it to be exposed from very specific angles. These may still be RAM quoted and netted.

The PAK FA abandons stealth from the rear quarter altogether. Detractors would scoff at such a tradeoff but, considering the aerodynamics and high altitude and high speed effectiveness of PAK FA, the aircraft may not need stealth in the hind quarters, as it could always out run any enemy. Case in point, the F-35 which also remains exposed from the rear quarters would have no such capability. For air combat after a merge however, this would still be an issue for the PAK FA, but RCS reduction then becomes of little relevance, given that IR missiles and IRSTs would then be more effective in any case.

The Russians seem to have carefully watched the US fighter programs, taking the best elements without buying Lockheed Martin propaganda and stealth as the final panacea to fighter combat.

Comparison

The PAK FA compares most favorably to the F-22, surpassing it on a number of parameters while sacrificing certain parameters to the F-22. The relationship is not dissimilar to that between the early FLANKER and the F-15. Primarily, the F-22 is stealthier while the PAK FA is likely to exceed the F-22 in the critical arena of a high-high combat profile. The PAK FA also has a bigger weapons bay and greater fuel capacity. In terms of operational capability and cost, the PAK FA wins hands down to the high cost and complicated maintenance of the F-22, while the PAK FA is said to be an improvement over the maintainability of the Su-27. It could cost a third of an F-22 by its greater simplicity and managed tradeoffs as well as greater production run (being procured by both Russia and India if not any other country).

Until the US produces the next generation of aircraft, this spells the end of their monopoly in 5th generation aircraft and is likely to usher in other players such as China and perhaps give enough hope to Europe to produce its own fighter rather than sink to the humiliation to their sovereignty that the F-35 provides.

The Euro-canards now appear out-dated and out-classed, a situation unlikely to sit well with Western Europe. Given the attitude of the US towards her allies vis-a-vis the F-35, Europe now finds itself between a rock and a hard place. It is the contention of this author that Europe will get together and build a fifth generation fighter, for the spirit of Europe has not been one to see its technological edge corrode or to be demeaned by external powers.

Implications for the Subcontinent

Given that by 2018 the Indian Air Force could be receiving the PAK FA, there are serious implications for India's neighbors, particularly Pakistan. Vis-a-vis India, Bangladesh may as well stop operating an air force, for the gap in capability between the two countries is now too great to bridge.

For Pakistan, this implies that the massive resources and labor that she has spent in closing the gap between her and India will again widen as nothing in the PAF arsenal would compare to the PAK FA. The future of air combat is increasingly moving to high speed high altitude fights, something that the JF-17 design is ill-suited for. The J-10Bs may be of relevance, but would be completely outclassed by the PAK FA. Consider the simple fact that the J-10s powerplant would merely be a fraction of PAK FA's and would have no stealth to speak of in comparison.

The future of the PAF will depend on whether she can again innovate in collaboration with China to build a fifth generation aircraft without breaking the bank. Investments in R&D and a strong commitment from the military and the government would need to start now, if such a project is to succeed. A single engined fifth generation project would also be something that many other smaller powers would be looking for and could be viable in the international arms market. This plane could be built around a WS-15 with a small weapons bay and perhaps built around a high sweep delta. While such a plane may sound impossible now, given that the JF-17 has hardly started production and that China may have little interest in pursuing it for its domestic use, thinking forward could save Pakistan from being threatened again as it was after the Mumbai incident.


Conclusion

Just as the US is being challenged in global economics and is seeing a resistance to its political imperialism and empire building, the world of military aviation also mirrors this challenge in the shape of such aircraft as the French Rafale, the Chinese J-10 and the Indian Su-30MKI. The PAK FA represents the pinnacle of this challenge and puts the ball squarely back to the US court. Can the US now move on to another generation of combat aircraft? With a failing economy, ever decreasing competitiveness, ever increasing dependence on government spending and increasing dependence on indirectly taxing the rest of the world through dollar depreciation, spending billions on a new fighter project may be outside the realms of the US Empire. As such, this may spell the beginning of the end of the US as the center of a uni-polar world. That is exactly what the PAK FA challenges and symbolizes in its capabilities.




Videos of Flight:


Vision Without Glasses

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

simple, it can be a good airplane, when and just when this would be really flying. Until thar, it is just unrealible informations. Please, stop with this old and idiot ideas: "all problemes in the world happen because the evil empire os U.S.". Why don't you star to work end improve your country?

Waris said...

Anyone or one nation, which kills one man or millions without just cause is evil.

Anonymous said...

This has to be the most biased, unbalanced, ideologically motivated article I have ever seen. It's much closer to propaganda than a serious analysis. But what else can you expect from a web site that starts with ''In the name of Allah''...

Anonymous said...

Typical "Islamic perspective"! Bigoted, short sighted and utterly narrow minded to the core! No wonder Islamic nations hold the dregs of humanity!

As for "evil", Islam would only have the right to call others "evil" if it were in any measure to be considered "good". Not even an dog considers Islam to represent "good" today. Everybody from Tokyo to London has had to deal with the problem that is Islam and you claim to call others "evil" ?? Hypocrites!

Anonymous said...

Global American Empire? If so, this is the softest, least coercive empire of comparable power that the world has ever seen.

Imagine a future in which the USA pulls in its influence, and really lets the regional powers have it their way outside of North America.
Based on where in the world you reside, who would be the great power in your area?

The Europeans would have to clear their actions with Russia, the Middle East would see an extensive contest between the Saudis (or some Sunni Arab block) and Tehran (and yes, Israel would still be there), Africa would be prey to local cliques and corruption (no change, that is) East Asia would be free of the burdensome "imperialism" of America, which would be replaced by the infinitely gentler Chinese hegemony. South Asia would be allowed to "resolve" its issues without any attempt by the US to moderate tempers. Perhaps the Chinese would offer their help.

So, great news about the new Russian stealth. Just remember that this is the same bunch who carpet bombed THEIR OWN CITY IN CHECHNYA. because they thought they might kill some separatists (they didn't care much about the civilians, who after all had some "Un-Russian" religious ideas). At least they wouldn't do any of the crazy things the US has been doing lately, like invading Afghanistan.

It seems people assume that the alternative to US influence is complete autonomy and sovereignty. I have no idea what they are basing this assumption on.


Before you cheer for anyone who looks to be catching up to the Americans, spend a little time imagining them winning the race.

Anonymous said...

Good article, and excelent style. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Above poster sounds like another condescending American. Mach figures are already available from Russian official sources.We are sure seeing a lot of peace and human exploration from the US in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere aren't we?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Anonymous-no.3-from-Waris....... Do U basically support a nation influencing other nations' fates?????..... That in itself casts a doubt of American claims of "Fighting for the Freedom" of nations most americans couldn't locate on a map..... Imagine if ur nation's fate were influenced by other nations....... And the few nations America 'chooses' to fight for.... have "coincidentally", "things" America is interested on, for "other reasons"..... While the Vast majority of nations in MUCH greater need are left behind and exploited by America, since they bear nothing of "interest".....

And do u think America is a country which GUARDS some countries' freedom.....????? Those countries are being EXPLOITED, in the name of providing protection brother..... Do u think America is a land of Angels??????? That maybe a catchy line for American propaganda, but any rational man can see that its nothing more.....

A "GOOD" power resolves or tries to resolve others' problems and lets them be the decider of their own destiny, in other words, freedom..... But keeping a country in a state of dependence on oneself is a GREAT way to keep on ur "INFUENCE", in other words, uhhhh, y dont u chosse the other word..... and Weapons Business Eh????????

Anonymous said...

It is pointless to explain a donkey what is allah, americans are counting too.

Anonymous said...

Bro, stop competing with India. Just like China can never be US and India can never be China, Pakistan can never overtake India. Also there needs to be focus on building the economy vs. excess spending on military. The entire psyche of "India will eat us up if we dont have enough fire power" is just an excuse for generals to fatten and stay in UK. All this at the expense of the poor. In this context good relations with neighbours, good education and free press are a key.
- An Indian Muslim

Anonymous said...

The PAK FA that flew on Jan 10th is using interim engines that don't incorporate thrust vectoring in the way the F-22 does. It could be almost a decade before we see a bonafide fighter in reasonable numbers from this program.

Seems a bit premature to talk about PAK FA's influence on global politics...

M. Hussain said...

Sallam (peace). The PAKFA according to official statements will start service in 2015. That is less than 5 years away, a short time for strategic implications. In any case, my article wasn't the first to discuss global strategic implications of the PAKFA nor will it be the last. Judging by the vast number of articles and literature that has come about on the subject, it would be strange to call my article premature by any stretch of one's imagination.

Anonymous said...

It remains to be seen if the T50 PAKFA is at par or superior to the F22. All I know about Russian fighter aircraft is that the Russians have an excellent design but in various conflicts around the world, it seems western fighters have the better record.

Anonymous said...

funny fights :P noobs xDxD

Anonymous said...

If India gets this fighter jet, destroy pakistan and merge it with India and it will be good for their own sake.

In the name of God they are killing themselves and others and the useless politicians are weird.

Anonymous said...

I feel US dominance must end before they engulf the whole world for their fraudulent selfish motives...... PAK FA is a good solution to a global even if it means pakistan becomes bankrupt and naked, bangladesh loses its Airforce, india loses all its population ,chinese people die of hunger,or even some russians die of drought...... its a symbol of FREEDOM from american dominance.... thats what matters

Anonymous said...

"I feel US dominance must end before they engulf the whole world for their fraudulent selfish motives...... PAK FA is a good solution to a global even if it means pakistan becomes bankrupt and naked, bangladesh loses its Airforce, india loses all its population ,chinese people die of hunger,or even some russians die of drought...... its a symbol of FREEDOM from american dominance.... thats what matters"

Funny how only people in 'non-islamic' countries die for your symbol of freedom in your enumeration.
I'd suggest you start dying for your so called Symbol of Freedom.


Also this site is laughable.

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