A new Russian jet fighter, using stealth technology designed to conceal the plane from radar, is being called a “super weapon” by military experts who say that the fifth-generation Russian fighter jet actually surpasses United States fighters and could give Russia an advantage in the skies.
Known as the TA-50 PAK FA, the new Russian stealth fighter is developed by the Russian aeronautic giant Sukhoi and is set to go into action in 2016. Russia is developing the new super fighter together with India, which is kicking in 25 percent of the T-50 program’s $20 billion projected cost.
Each T-50 PAK FA stealth jet fighter costs about $50 million to build. Russia is India’s second-biggest supplier of weapons, behind only the United States.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called the new fifth-generation stealth fighter “superior to our main competitor, the F-22, in terms of maneuverability, weaponry and range.”
The Lockheed F-22 Raptor is one of the two most sophisticated stealth fighters in the U.S. arsenal, matched only by another fifth-generation Lockheed plane, the F-35 Lightning II. And according to U.S. military aviation experts, Putin’s claim was not just an empty boast.
“The analysis that I have seen on the PAK-FA indicates a pretty sophisticated design that is at least equal to, and some have said even superior to, U.S. fifth-generation aircraft,” said former U.S. Air Force intelligence head Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula, in an interview with the National Interest magazine. “It certainly has greater agility with its combination of thrust vectoring, all moving tail surfaces, and excellent aerodynamic design, than does the F-35.”
A top U.S. military aviation official, who spoke anonymously to the National Interest, seconded Deptula’s opinion.
“Performance-wise it certainly looks to compete with the Raptor,” the official told the magazine.
While the new Russian stealth fighter is said to be less “stealthy,” that is, able to evade radar detection, than its U.S. counterparts, it makes up for that slight disadvantage with its incredible maneuverability in the skies that experts say is at least on par with the Raptor and far exceeds the Lightning II.
But the U.S. fighters still hold one advantage — data technology. The U.S. fighter jets still have better “sensor and data fusion,” in other words, technology for processing information about the jet fighter’s surroundings and feeding it to the pilot in a way that lets him make quick decisions.
“In the future — while aerodynamic performance will continue to be important — [planes require] speed, range and payload to a greater degree than maneuverability,” Deptula said. “Even more important will be the ability to ubiquitously share knowledge to the point that we have faster decision advantage than any adversary.”
The Russians, however, are already at work on their sixth-generation jet fighters, which could solve the data problems and are scheduled to be ready for action by 2025.