PAK FAbulous: 'Russian Stealth' stuffing top-secret
The skies around Moscow have been even busier than usual this week, with the MAKS-2011 international air show seeing flying machines performing all kinds of gravity-defying stunts.
Pilots in their military and specialist helicopters have also been showing off their skills, alongside aerobatic teams like the Russian Falcons who have torn up the skies with stunning tricks.
The Russian stealth fighter, the T-50, enjoyed its international debut and is being touted as a rival to America’s F22 Raptor.
Rumours about the aircraft abound, but until now, only a select few have seen it with their own eyes.
To Russian aviation fans, the T-50 is known as PAK FA (short for Advanced Frontline Aircraft System).
The fighter jet is being developed by the Sukhoi design bureau under the watchful eyes of the United Aircraft Corporation, and the entire project is shrouded in secrecy – so much so, that UA said it could not even talk about it on camera.
Despite the information blackout, the PAK FA fighter jet remains a top priority for the country's aircraft industry.
“The United States and Russia are the only two countries in the world that have the technological potential to implement a large-scale national project for the development of a fifth-generation jet fighter,” believes Igor Korotchenko, Director of the Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade. “The fact that Russia is demonstrating two models at this year’s MAKS air show is strong evidence that Russian aviation is in a very good state.”
The jet can reportedly carry out combat duty in any weather at any time of day, and will feature a special coating making it less noticeable to anti-aircraft radars. It will also be able to cruise at super-sonic speed.
But most of the guesswork boils down to this: when fully developed, the Russian 5th generation fighter will give the American F-22 and F-35 a run for their money in terms of stealth capabilities, maneuverability, and cost.
Sergey Bogdan, one of the pilots who tested the PAK FA, told RT: “This being a new-generation fighter, it is much more comfortable to fly. Everything was designed with safety in mind. It has thrust-vectoring engine nozzles, so it flies safely at low, near-zero speeds. It's safe even when it flies tail first. The data environment in the cockpit is also new. The fighter provides intelligence support to the pilot.”
The jets are supposed to be fully developed by 2015. It is hoped orders for roughly 600 jets will follow, with one-third of that number going to the Russian Air Force.
But until the final touches to the project are made, the only chance to see the hope and pride of Russian aviation is at the MAKS-2011 air show.