The Sukhoi PAK FA (Russian: Сухой ПАК ФА, Russian: Перспективный авиационный комплекс фронтовой авиации, Perspektivny aviatsionny kompleks frontovoy aviatsii, literally "Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation") is a twin-engine jet fighter being developed by Sukhoi for the Russian Air Force. The Sukhoi T-50 is the prototype for PAK FA. The PAK FA is one of only a handful of stealth jet programs globally.
The PAK FA, when fully developed, is intended to be the successor to the MiG-29 and Su-27 in the Russian inventory and serve as the basis of the Sukhoi/HAL FGFA being developed with India. A fifth generation jet fighter, the T-50 performed its first flight 29 January 2010. Its second flight was on 6 February and its third on 12 February 2010. As of 31 August 2010, it had made 17 flights and by mid-November, 40 in total. The second prototype was to start its flight test by the end of 2010, but this was delayed until March 2011.
Sukhoi director Mikhail Pogosyan has projected a market for 1,000 aircraft over the next four decades, which will be produced in a joint venture with India, 200 each for Russia and India and 600 for other countries. He has also said that the Indian contribution would be in the form of joint work under the current agreement rather than as a joint venture. The Indian Air Force will "acquire 50 single-seater fighters of the Russian version" before the two seat FGFA is developed. The Russian Defense Ministry will purchase the first 10 aircraft after 2012 and then 60 after 2016. The first batch of fighters will be delivered with current technology engines. The PAK-FA is expected to have a service life of about 30–35 years.
In the late 1980s, the Soviet Union outlined a need for a next-generation aircraft to replace its MiG-29s and Su-27s in front line service. Two projects were proposed to meet this need – the Sukhoi Su-47 and the Mikoyan Project 1.44. In 2002, Sukhoi was chosen to lead the design for the new combat aircraft.
The Tekhnokompleks Scientific and Production Center, Ramenskoye Instrument Building Design Bureau, the Tikhomirov Scientific Research Institute of Instrument Design, the Ural Optical and Mechanical Plant (Yekaterinburg), the Polet firm (Nizhny Novgorod) and the Central Scientific Research Radio Engineering Institute (Moscow) were pronounced winners in the competition held in the beginning of 2003 for the development of the avionics suite for the fifth-generation airplane. NPO Saturn has been determined the lead executor for work on the engines for this aircraft.
The Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association has begun construction of the fifth-generation multirole fighter. This work is being performed at Komsomol'sk-on-Amur together with Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association; the enterprise's general director, Fedor Zhdanov reported during a visit to NAPO by Novosibirsk Oblast's governor Viktor Tolokonskiy on 6 March 2007. "Final assembly will take place at Komsomol'sk-on-Amur, and we will be carrying out assembly of the fore body of this airplane", Zhdanov specified.
On 8 August 2007, Russian Air Force Commander-in-Chief (CinC) Alexander Zelin was quoted by Russian news agencies that the development stage of the PAK FA program is complete and construction of the first aircraft for flight testing would begin. Zelin also said that by 2009 there would be three fifth-generation aircraft ready. "All of them are currently undergoing tests and are more or less ready", he said. In the summer of 2009 the design was approved.
On 11 September 2010, it was reported that Indian and Russian negotiators had agreed on a preliminary design contract, subject to Cabinet approval. The joint development deal would have each country invest $6 billion and take 8–10 years to develop the FGFA fighter. The agreement on the pre-design of the fighter was to be signed in December 2010. The preliminary design will cost $295 million and will be complete within 18 months. On 17 August 2011, Russian state-run media reported that the new fighter will cost Russia and India $6 billion to develop, and that India would shoulder about 35% of the cost.
In August 2011, the Russian Air Force said that the Sukhoi T-50 will enter service in 2014-2015. "We will receive a T-50 prototype in 2013," CinC Zelin told reporters. "Mass produced aircraft will not arrive until 2014-2015." Former deputy defense minister Vitaly Shlykov has cast doubt on the industrial capacity of Russia to produce the aircraft in significant numbers.
The T-50's maiden flight had been repeatedly postponed since early 2007 as the aircraft encountered unspecified technical problems. Alexander Zelin admitted as recently as August 2009 that problems with the engine and in technical research remained unsolved. On 28 February 2009, Mikhail Pogosyan announced that the airframe for the aircraft was almost finished and that the first prototype should be ready by August 2009. On 20 August 2009,Pogosyan said that the first flight would be by year's end. Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy head of the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies said that "even with delays," the aircraft would likely make its first flight by January or February, adding that it would take five to ten years for commercial production.
On 8 December 2009, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that the first trials with the fifth-generation aircraft would begin in 2010. The first taxi test was successfully completed on 24 December 2009. Piloted by Hero of the Russian Federation Sergey Bogdan, the aircraft's 47-minute maiden flight took place on 29 January 2010 at KnAAPO's Dzemgi Airport in the Russian Far East.
A second prototype was first planned to join the flight testing in the fourth quarter of 2010 but was postponed. On 3 March 2011, it was reported that the second aircraft had made a successful 44-minute test flight. These first two aircraft will lack radar and weapon control systems. The third and fourth aircraft, to be added in 2011, will be fully functional test aircraft. On 14 March 2011, the aircraft achieved supersonic flight at a test range near Komsomolsk-on-Amur in Siberia.
The T-50 was displayed publicly for the first time at the 2011 MAKS Airshow. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was in attendance. In June 2011, an unauthorized video was made of the Sukhoi PAK FA in flight displaying a variety of aerobatic moves. On 3 November 2011, The PAK FA program achieved its 100th flight.
The third prototype, T-50-3, was expected to be the first prototype to fly with an AESA radar by the end of 2011. On 22 November 2011, T-50-3 took its first flight from KnAAPO's airfield in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, piloted by Sergey Bogdan. The aircraft spent over an hour in the air, and was subjected to basic stability and powerplant checks. It differs from the other prototypes in the way it lacks a pitot tube.
All 14 test aircraft are scheduled to fly by 2015.
Navalized Sukhoi T-50 PAK FAs will be deployed on the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and future Russian aircraft carriers. There will be a competition between the Sukhoi, Mikoyan and Yakovlev design bureaux to choose the new naval aircraft.
Alexei Fedorov has said that any decision on applying fifth-generation technologies to produce a smaller fighter (comparative to the F-35) must wait until after the heavy fighter, based on the T-50, is completed.