MOSCOW: Russia continues to look for partners to help implement itsfifth-generation fighter program, also known as PAK FA - Prospective(promising) Aircraft System of the Frontline Aviation.
Apart from India, which has agreed to cooperate with Russia's SukhoiCivil Aircraft Company (SCAC), now working on the fifth-generationfighter program,Brazil could also join in. Alexander Fomin, DeputyDirector of Russia's Federal Service for Military-TechnicalCooperation, said Moscow and Brasilia were negotiating technology exchanges and the possibility of assembling PAK FA fighters in Brazil under a Russian license.
The new warplane is to replace the Russian Air Force's fourth-generation fighters in the next decade.
The Soviet Union launched fifth-generation fighter programs in the 1980s. By the mid-1990s, the Mikoyan Design Bureaudeveloped the Project 1.44/1.42 warplane, also known as theMikoyan-Gurevich MiG MFI. MiG is now using this designation for anadvanced MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter. Despite the non-production status ofthe 1.44/1.42 program, NATO assigned the reporting name Flatpack to it.
The Sukhoi Aviation Corporation came up with the S-37/Su-47 Berkut-- Golden Eagle/Firkin experimental supersonic forward swept-wing jetfighter. The S-37/Su-47 aircraft is an advanced technology demonstratorprototype not intended to be mass-produced.
Due to the lack of allocations, the Project 1.44/1.42 aircraft was not streamlined and never entered production.
By the late 1990s, it became obvious that existing fifth-generationfighter projects were becoming obsolete, that their production versionswould be inferior to the brand-new Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptorair-superiority fighter, and that the Air Force would receive suchwarplanes a decade too late.
In the early 2000s, the Russian government decided to develop anentirely new fifth-generation fighter. Sukhoi, Mikoyan and Yakovlevdesign bureaus boasting a reputation for their hard-hitting fighters offered several warplane versions.
The Sukhoi Aviation Corporation received project manager status andwas placed in charge of the new T-50 fifth-generation fighter program.
Various maiden flight and supply deadlines were discussed from thevery beginning. The T-50 was scheduled to perform its first flight in2008-2010. In late 2008, Colonel General Alexander Zelin, Commander ofthe Russian Air Force, said the plane would take off for the first timein August 2009.
In the summer of 2008, the officials involved said the T-50 designhad been approved and prototype aircraft blueprints sent to theKomsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KNAAPO) in Russia'sFar East where production will apparently be sited. KNAAPO is currentlybuilding three prototype T-50 fighters for subsequent tests, due tolast five to six years, while mass production will not get underwaybefore 2015.
Although T-50 specifications remain undisclosed, prototypes and thefirst production aircraft will be fitted with 117S (AL-41F1A) turbofanengines, a major upgrade of the AL-31F engine from Russian aircraft engine manufacturer NPO Saturn.
Consequently, the T-50 will be a heavy fighter with a take-offweight of more than 30 metric tons and will have the same dimensions asthe well-known Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker. The Tikhomirov InstrumentEngineering Research Institute which had invented the Irbis radar forthe Su-35BM Flanker-E 4.5generation air-superiority/strike fighter iscurrently working on the T-50 radar.
It appears that the new fighter's radar and fire-control system will be developed on the basis of the Su-35BM's systems.
A search for foreign partners in the development and production ofthe fifth-generation aircraft has been caused by the desire to share avery high financial burden involved in it. The United States has optedfor this road in the F-35 aircraft program.
Apart from investing in the fifth-generation fighter program, Brazilcould provide Russia with state-of-the-art aviation technology.Notably, Brazilian aerospace conglomerate Embraer manufactures EMB-312Tucano turboprop basic trainers and EMB-314 Super Tucano turbopropaircraft designed for light attack, counter-insurgency (COIN) and pilot-training missions.
Many analysts think both planes are especially adapted forlow-intensity conflicts and are just as popular as fighters. Quirepossibly, Russia will manufacture such planes using Braziliantechnology.