What Russia’s Stealth Fighter Developments Mean for America------Special Report

Russia’s development of the PAK FA fifth-generation stealth fightercould challenge American air supremacy, especially if Russia sells thePAK FA to its usual buyers of military equipment. In the U.S., closureof the F-22 production line has severely limited America’s ability torespond to PAK FA proliferation by building more F-22s and potentiallyselling them to U.S. allies. The U.S. needs to revise its assessment ofU.S. air superiority needs and then explore ways to modernize andstrengthen the U.S. tactical fighter force.

With America’s closure of the F-22 production line and the recent debutof Russia’s PAK FA fifth-generation stealth fighter, American airsupremacy for the foreseeable future is not as assured as the U.S.Department of Defense once predicted. Indeed, Lieutenant General DavidA. Deptula, recently departed Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence,Surveillance and Reconnaissance in the U.S. Air Force, recently madethe startling announcement: “For the first time, our claim to airsupremacy is in jeopardy.… The dominance we’ve enjoyed in the aerialdomain is no longer ours for the taking.”

To preserve traditional U.S. margins of military technologicalsuperiority, Congress should review potentially outdated requirementsand projections, and policymakers should push defense officials toenact more forward-looking budgeting and acquisition strategies forU.S. fighter fleets. Increased investment in modernization and newpartnerships with allies like Japan and Israel will be necessary toprevent the airpower balance from tilting in favor of the Russian andChinese air forces and to hedge against the potentially destabilizingproliferation of Russia’s PAK FA fighter to unstable actors, non-stategroups, and/or terrorism-sponsoring rogue states around the world. Forexample, if Syria or Iran acquires the PAK FA, it could provide thefighter to the non-state group Hezbollah to form a proxy air forceagainst Israel.

U.S. Air Power Assumptions Challenged

Defense analysts, officials, and industry personnel have long believedthat the U.S. F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II Joint StrikeFighter would not face serious threats from foreign fifth-generationfighters for the next 20 years. In September 2009, Secretary of DefenseRobert Gates repudiated claims of a looming “fighter gap”—a deficitbetween the services’ fighter aircraft inventories and theiroperational requirements. “[T]he more compelling gap,” he argued, “isthe deep chasm between the air capabilities of the United States andthose of other nations.”

In an earlier speech, he argued:
China…is projected to have no fifth generation aircraft by 2020. And by2025, the gap only widens. The U.S. will have approximately 1,700 ofthe most advanced fifth generation fighters versus a handful ofcomparable aircraft for the Chinese.

The Secretary’s claims may now be in doubt. With the cancellation ofthe F-22 and closure of its production line combined with variousdevelopment delays in the F-35 program—the mainstay of America’s futurefighter fleets—U.S. fighter inventories may be significantly smaller incoming years than initially planned. For example, initial operationalcapability for the F-35A, the U.S. Air Force version of the F-35, wasrecently pushed back two years to the end of 2015, now changed to 2016for both the F-35A and the Navy’s F-35C. These delays often increaseproduction costs, forcing reductions in the overall buy. Regrettably,other fiscal pressures will likely squeeze procurement budgets furtherin the coming years and prevent the expenditures needed to reachplanned F-35 force levels.

Meanwhile, Russian fighter and military modernization efforts areproceeding rapidly, defying the expectations of many. In August, Russiaundertook the largest airborne military exercises since the collapse ofthe Soviet Union, making “use of automated command and controlsystems.”[6] On January 29, 2010, Russia conducted the first testflight of the T-50, a prototype of the PAK FA, Russia’sfifth-generation fighter jet, which was designed to rival the AmericanF-22. With advanced stealth technology and high-tech avionics, the PAKFA could eventually—as Moscow has repeatedly proclaimed—seriouslychallenge U.S. air supremacy. Russia is also selling modernfourth-generation fighter aircraft to the Indian, Chinese, Algerian,Vietnamese, and Libyan militaries.

The air forces of Russian defense trade partners—including India,China, Algeria, Vietnam, and Libya—could also pose growing challenges.Russia has already sold hundreds of its best fighter aircraft to China,and may sell China the PAK FA as well. China is Russia’s largestpurchaser of Su-27/ Su-30 Flanker fighters, including the more advancedSu-30MKK and Su-30MK2, buying or ordering up to 624 as of 2009. TheSu-27/Su-30 fighters are produced by Sukhoi, the same firm that isdeveloping the PAK FA. Indeed, the Komsomolsk-on-Amur KNAAPO factory,which is producing the Su-27/Su-30 fighters, is located in Khabarovsk,a region that borders China. By 2025, China could have up to 120 PAK FA fighters, compared to America’s 187 F-22As.

PAK FA Program and Potential Foreign Exports

While reduced resources and growing internal defense budget imbalancesimperil U.S. defense procurement plans, Russian defense spending isgetting a boost from oil and gas export revenues, even after the2008–2010 slump in oil prices.
Russiahas the third largest gold and hard currency reserves after China andJapan. State coffers have been expanding quickly, with Russia’s foreignreserves increasing from $437 billion at the end of January 2010 to$503.7 billion by October. Although the Russian economy reliesheavily on exports of raw materials, the government is unlikely toencounter much difficulty funding the PAK FA program, especially withsignificant assistance from India, which plans to inject $30 billioninto the program.

the PAK FA is expected to be cheaper to producethan the F-22. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has recentlyclaimed that the PAK FA “would be 2.5 to 3 times cheaper.” Currently,the PAK FA is expected to cost less than $100 million per plane, whilethe F-35 is projected to cost between $100 million and $112 million,and the F-22 will cost around $140 million.

The Russian Defense Ministry initially planned to buy 300 PAK FAfighters, but has since reduced its stated requirement to 250 planes,with a preference for the single-seat version. Whether Russia will meetthis target is unclear. As part of the “2011–2020 state armsprocurement program,” the ministry is budgeting $656 billion, whichincludes funding to produce 10 PAK FAs between 2013 and 2015 and 60additional fighters between 2016 and 2020.
Although Russia is leading the program and shouldering the bulk ofthe cost, India is set to provide significant assistance, aiming tohave a 25 percent stake in designing and developing the fighter. Indiais currently negotiating with Sukhoi to build an Indian variant calledthe Fifth-Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA). India reportedly plans topurchase 250 of these fighters: 200 twin-seaters and 50 single-seaters,with an option for future orders that could increase the total to 300.

Mikhail Pogosyan, General Director of the Sukhoi Design Bureau, hasstated: “I am strongly convinced that our joint project will excel itsWestern rivals in cost-effectiveness and will not only allowstrengthening the defense power of Russian and Indian air forces, butalso gain a significant share of the world market.” Pogosyan calculatesthat there could be a world market for 1,000 PAK FAs in the next 40years.

One likely buyer is China. Although Beijing is reportedly developingits own fifth-generation fighter aircraft (the J-12), the Chinesemilitary could conceivably buy up to 250 PAK FA planes, especially ifits own program encounters delays. In addition, Russia would likelyseek to export the PAK FA to Algeria, Libya, Iran, Syria, andVenezuela. Kazakhstan may also purchase the aircraft, as could Malaysiaand Vietnam, thanks to their gas and oil revenues. Indonesia may wantto buy limited numbers to counterbalance the 100 F-35s that Australiaplans to acquire.
America’soil-rich Arab allies may also order PAK FA aircraft if Washingtonrefuses, as expected, to sell them F-35s and instead exports up to 100F-35s to Israel.

The PAK FA will likely form the basis for several foreign variants, inthe same way that the Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter spawned theSu-30MKI multirole fighter for India, the Su-30MKK multirole fighterand Su-30MK2 naval strike fighter for China, the Su-30MKA for Algeria,and the more advanced Su-34 strike aircraft and Su-35 multirolefighter. One possible PAK FA variant is a twin-seat long-range strikeversion similar to the Su-34 or the proposed (and now shelved) FB-22bomber version of the F-22.

With its stealth technology, supercruise capability, and sensor fusion,the F-22 was designed to prevail in present and future air battles. Italso has the ability to carry smart bombs for precision strike missionsin heavily defended battle spaces. Due to its supercruise ability, theF-22 is capable of covering long distances in regions like the ArcticOcean, the continental U.S., the Western Pacific, and the Persian Gulfwith supersonic flight without the need to engage afterburners. Sincethe PAK FA is planned to have similar capabilities,
only the F-22 would be capable of matching the future Russian fighter, if not prevailing over it.

The FB-22 would possess the stealth and supercruise characteristics ofthe F-22A, and it would provide a stealth and supersonic medium-rangebomber capability for the Air Force, filling a niche between the F-35fighter-bomber and the proposed 2018 long-range bomber.The FB-22 wouldbe able to carry 30 Small Diameter Bombs and have 50 percent more rangethan the F-22. In the future, Russia may deploy a medium-bomber versionof the PAK FA while the U.S. Air Force may be left without such abomber capability.

According to Russian officials, the joint Russo– Indian PAK FA/FGFAfighter should be ready by 2015 or 2016. It may also incorporateequipment from third countries, just as Russia has previouslyintegrated French and Israeli technology into its weapons systems.Indian officials hope the FGFA will be fully developed by 2016 so thatit can enter service in 2017.

With a planned price tag of about $100 million per aircraft, the PAK FAwill not be cheap, but it will likely find a market among thosecountries that have purchased Russia’s Su-27/30 fighters. Many of thesecountries have substantial foreign currency reserves. Those that wantto modernize and expand their militaries, expand their global presence,and become increasingly assertive on the world stage or in theirregions will be interested in the PAK FA. If the PAK FA proves to be asuccess, the U.S. should expect it to proliferate among countries withthe means to acquire it and with foreign policies that potentially defyWashington or look toward Moscow.

Understanding the Potential for Trouble

After successful test flights on January 29 and February 12, 2010, theT-50 began standard tests in April. Testing could take several moreyears, according to sources from Sukhoi and statements by PrimeMinister Putin, but some planes could conceivably be deployed inoperational units before testing is completed. This would not beunusual. The first operational F-22s were delivered in September 2003,even though testing continued until November 2005.[Colonel GeneralAlexander Zelin, commander in chief of the Russian Air Force, estimatesthat PAK FA fighters will be delivered to operational units in 2015.Inpreparation, Russian pilots are already receiving training in pilotingfifth-generation fighters.

As one expert recently noted: “In this modern era of stealth combat,there are two types of fighters: stealth fighters and targets.”Similarly, the commander in chief of the Russian navy stated that “itwould be impossible to win contemporary and future wars without air andspace supremacy. Whoever understands this is on the right path.”Mikhail Pogosyan says that “the most important thing is stealth toenemy radar, which allows the aircraft to approach enemy positionswithout being noticed.”

One risk is that Russia or potential PAK FA customers around the worldcould use the sophisticated aircraft to conduct sneak attacks againstU.S. forces or allies. Russian doctrine still considers the U.S. its“principal adversary,” even though successive U.S. Administrations haveannounced that Russia is no longer our enemy.

Viewing the U.S. and NATO as potential opponents in a future war,Russia has designed the PAK FA to compete with the F-22 and todevastate formations of F-35 stealth fighters. It takes more thantechnology to make an advanced fighter classified as fifth-generation,including pilot skill and training, aircraft, and tactics. It remainsto be seen whether Russia will develop advanced operational conceptsand fighter doctrine to employ the PAK FA. If this occurs, it ispossible that the twin-engine F-22, which was devised as an airsuperiority fighter, would perhaps be the only credible match for thePAK FA. Even if the F-22 proves superior, PAK FAs may still pose aformidable threat. F-35s, which were partly designed to serve as forcemultipliers for the F-22, may be vulnerable to PAK FA attack. Althoughthe U.S. plans to build more than 2,000 F-35s, the numerical advantageof the F-35 fleet could potentially be offset by the PAK FA’s largerweapon capacity, especially if it proves technologically superior.

In addition, the PAK FA could pose a threat to the F/A-18E/F SuperHornet and F-35C Lightning II squadrons operating from America’saircraft carriers. The Russian navy plans to deploy 15–20 naval PAK FAson its aircraft carrier after it is modernized, perhaps by 2020. Russiamay also seek to reduce the numerical advantage of the overall U.S.fighter fleet by building large numbers of a lighter version of the PAKFA, a possible equivalent to the F-35.

In a dogfight, U.S. Air Force models predict that small formations ofF-22 fighters would prevail over far larger numbers offourth-generation enemy fighters because the F-22’s superior stealthwould give it a substantial advantage.[39] However, how the F-22 wouldfare against the PAK FA is unclear. The PAK FAs may ultimately matchthe F-22s in capability and possibly outnumber them. It is also unclearhow mixed formations of F-22s and more numerous F-35s would fareagainst PAK FA formations or against combinations of PAK FAs andlighter variants. The Department of Defense needs to develop acomprehensive understanding of the capabilities of the various Russianplatforms to accurately gauge the threat to U.S. planes and to developappropriate responses.

The PAK FA Compared to U.S. Fighters

According to information in the public domain, the PAK FA could besuperior to the F-35, equal or nearly equal to the F-22, and superiorto fourth-generation fighters. This section compares these fightersacross a range of capabilities and discusses nascent and unfoldingsecurity implications.


The PAK FA will likely incorporate several advanced stealth features.According to the Sukhoi firm, the fighter’s “use of composite materialsand advanced technologies, improved aerodynamics, and reduced engineheat signature minimizes its radio-frequency, optical and infraredvisibility.” Like the F-22, the PAK FA was designed according to theprinciple of planform alignment, which means that surfaces andedges—such as the leading edges and horizontal control surfaces of thewings and the vertical sides of the engines’ air intakes—are aligned toshare the same angles. The pilot’s canopy is also angled to deflectincoming radar waves away from the radar source.

An additional stealth feature that could be incorporated is curvedS-ducts to mask the engine compressor blades from radar. The T-50prototype tested earlier this year was not fitted with stealthy enginenozzles, but the operational version of the PAK FA will likely havestealthy thrust-vector-control nozzles, like those on the F-22. Astealthy engine nozzle has been fitted on one of Russia’s Su-27 testaircraft.

The PAK FA is expected to be built with radar-absorbing material.About 30 percent of the aircraft fuselage will be made of compositematerials. It could also be fitted with a “stealthogenic” system, anadvanced technology reportedly developed by Soviet scientists. Thisstealthogenic technology is a form of anti-radar cloaking device using“wisps of plasma formed by pencils of electromagnetic rays from specialgenerators installed on the aircraft; the plasma absorbs radio waves,reducing the aircraft’s radar cross section (RCS) approximately 100times, making it almost invisible to radar. The U.S. Air Force isreportedly interested in using a similar, cold plasma cloaking device“as the next generation of stealth technology” for its fighter aircraft.
The Indian version of the PAK FA is said to have a radar crosssection of 0.5 square meter, the equivalent of a missile’s RCS. Bycomparison, older tactical jets have RCSs between 5 and 100 squaremeters. For example, the fourth-generation Su-30MKI has a RCS ofapproximately 20 square meters.

Russia is likely to reserve the more advanced stealth capabilities forits own aircraft. The stealthogenic cloaking device under developmentcould reduce the PAK FA’s radar cross section even further, making itpotentially as stealthy as the F-22, which has the RCS of a small birdor a bumblebee at between 0.001 and 0.01 square meter. Thestealthogenic system may even enable the fighter to carry a full loadof missiles, bombs, and/or drop tanks externally and still remainstealthy. It is possible Russia may have already tested the technologysuccessfully; if so, one could reasonably assume Russia would then bereadying it for deployment on the operational version of the PAK FA.
The F-35 normally carries two beyond-visual-range AMRAAM missiles andtwo JDAM-guided bombs in its two internal weapon bays. It could carrytwo additional AMRAAMs or AIM-9X Sidewinders under its wings, but thiswould make it less stealthy.Based on the current capabilities ofRussian airborne fire-control radars, the PAK FA’s activeelectronically scanned array (AESA) radar can simultaneously detect,track, and target six to eight F-35s with impaired stealth, offsettingthe advantage of the additional weapons.

The PAK FA and F-22 differ from the F-35 in that both can carry twoshort-range air-to-air missiles in internal side compartments, whichsignificantly reduces their RCS and enables them to maintain theirstealth outlines, even when carrying additional weapons. The F-35’sengine nozzle may give it a stealth disadvantage versus the PAK FA.This means a PAK FA flying high above an F-35 could potentially detectand track the F-35’s nozzle. In a battle against an F-35 formation, thePAK FA’s stealth and radar would likely be significant forcemultipliers.


Although the T-50 prototype probably used a modified Irbis-E radar (thepassive electronically scanned array technology used on the Su-35fighter), the Russians are developing more advanced radar systems forthe PAK FA. Approximately 30 companies are developing the PAK FA’sintegrated avionics suite.
Ultimately, the PAK FA is expected to have an AESA radar system with1,500 individual transmitter/receiver (T/R) modules. A prototype isbeing tested, and development should be completed in mid-2010.[ Incomparison, the F-22’s AESA radar system has about 2,000 T/R modules.

In addition to AESA radar, the PAK FA will have a side-looking radarand a rear-facing radar. The sting fairing in the tail, located betweenthe engine’s exhaust nozzles, may harbor a small fire-control radar fordetecting airborne targets and attacking missiles and to providefire-control solutions for its air-to-air missiles. With AESA radars inthe nose and tail, the PAK FA could cover 120 degrees of both theplane’s front hemisphere and its rear hemisphere. In addition, theaircraft will have an L-band AESA radar in conformal arrays on thewings’ leading edges. According to some reports, L-band arrays candetect stealth aircraft the size of the F-35.

The PAK FA’s design may also allow placement of additional AESAconformal arrays on the fighter’s surfaces that could provide radarcoverage of its starboard and port sides, allowing all-round radarsurveillance. Perhaps with this in mind V. K. Naik, the IndianAir Force Chief of Staff, said that the FGFA’s “highly advancedavionics…[would be] giving 360-deg. situational awareness.”In addition,the PAK FA’s AESA radar will have electronic countermeasures that canjam enemy radar. The F-35 has a similar system.

Like the F-35’s radar, the PAK FA’s radar can use radio waves to burnthe electronic systems of enemy radar, the command-and-control computerof a surface-to-air missile (SAM) battery, and perhaps even the flightcomputer of an enemy fighter. The L-band AESA radars on the aircraft’swings could potentially track, locate, and jam the Joint TacticalInformation Distribution System (JTIDS), Multifunctional InformationDistribution System (MIDS), and Link-16 communications links andemitters.

The PAK FA’s optoelectronic system may incorporate a LADAR (laserradar) to identify targets, including other stealth fighters, byproviding an image of a contact in three dimensions. The PAK FA mayalso incorporate a more advanced, fifth-generation version of theinfrared search and track/ laser rangefinder (IRST/LR) optoelectronicsystem that was used in earlier Russian fighter aircraft. The T-50prototype has already been fitted with a newer version. The system hasa sensor in the cockpit and uses infrared and television channels forday and night operations; a laser rangefinder for accurate targeting;and a “look down/shoot down” capability for detecting, tracking, andengaging targets over land, sea, and air. The system can detectapproaching fighters at 40 kilometers (km) and departing enemy fightersat 100 km.

According to some reports, a Russian-made IRST/ LR may have alreadyproven effective in downing U.S. stealth aircraft. Although the U.S.Air Force officially determined that the F-117A stealth fighter downedduring the Kosovo crisis of 1999 was shot down by a Russian-madesurface-to-air missile launched by the Serbs, some military analystsbelieve that it was shot down by a Russian-made MiG-29 operated by theYugoslav air force. According to that account, the Serbian MiG-29 firedits infrared-guided missiles at the F-117A and destroyed it with thefirst missile launched. Some accounts say that the Serb pilot used theMiG-29’s IRST/LR system to stealthily detect, track, and engage theF-117A, even though the U.S. plane was designed to mask its engines’exhaust infrared signature. According to sources interviewed by Jane’sDefense Weekly, the Serbs may have intercepted the F-117A using thefighter’s mission flight plan, which was allegedly stolen by a spyworking for Russian military intelligence who had infiltrated NATO.

The F-22 does not have a built-in IRST/LR system, but such a systemcould be added. The F-35’s electro-optical sensor system (EOSS), whichincludes the optronic distributed aperture system (DAS) and theelectro-optical targeting system (EOTS), will give the fighter 360degrees of infrared coverage for searching and tracking enemy surfaceand air targets. Using DAS, the F-35 could fire a short-rangeair-to-air missile at an enemy fighter in a lock-on mode and thenescape from the fight.[71] Ultimately, it is unclear exactly how thePAK FA’s radar systems will compare in power and sensitivity with theradar systems in the F-22 and the F-35.

The PAK FA’s combat range will be roughly equivalent to theF-22’s range, but possibly greater than the ranges of some F-35variants. According to Russian sources, the PAK FA will have a maximumrange of 5,500 km. Realistically, this is probably its maximumrange with at least one air refueling. Similarly, the Russianfourth-generation Su-30MK multirole fighter reportedly has a top combatrange of 5,200 km with one in-flight refueling. With internal fueltanks, the PAK FA—like the Su-30M—will likely have a range of about3,000 km. By comparison, the F-22 has a reported combat range of morethan 2,963 km with two external fuel tanks. According to Russiansources, the PAK FA will be capable of repeated air refueling forextended operations.

In contrast, the U.S. Air Force’s F-35A and the U.S. Navy’scarrier-based F-35C will have a range of about 2,222 km with internalfuel tanks, but the U.S. Marine Corps’s F-35B will have a range ofabout 1,667 km.

With a maximum length of about 22 meters and a wingspan of 14.8 meters,the PAK FA will be similar in size to the Russian Su-27 Flankerfighter. Both aircraft are larger than the F-22, which has an overalllength of 18.9 meters and a wingspan of around 13.6 meters. Because ofits larger size, the PAK FA will be able to carry more fuel, moremissiles, and heavier bombs internally. It will also be able to carrynumerous kinds of weapons, enabling it to simultaneously attackmultiple surface and air targets in all weather conditions— hence, itsclassification as a multirole fighter.

The PAK FA could carry a deadly mix of weapons. Russia’s Vympel StateMachine-Building Design Bureau is reportedly developing very long-rangebeyond-visual-range (BVR) missiles and short-range air-to-air missilesdesigned to fit inside the PAK FA’s weapon bays.[82] Development of thenew R-77M BVR missile is due to be completed in 2010. The PAK FA couldcarry eight of these missiles in its two main weapon compartments. Likethe F-35, the PAK FA may also be able to carry an additional BVRmissile attached to the inner side of each weapon compartment door,enabling it to carry four R-77M missiles while reserving internal spacefor two bombs or two very long range air-to-air missiles. Anotherweapon under development for the PAK FA is the ramjet-powered R-77M-PD,which has a reported range of 160 km, twice that of the R-77M. The PAKFA could carry four of them internally.

The original R-37 air-to-air missile (maximum range of 300 km) wasdesigned to shoot down valuable air targets, such as airborne warningand control system (AWACS) aircraft, Joint Surveillance Target AttackRadar System (J-STARS) aircraft, air tankers, reconnaissance planes,electronic warfare aircraft, transport aircraft, Airborne Laseraircraft, and bombers. Improved versions of the R-37 missile are underdevelopment, including the R-37M very long-range air-to-air missile(range of 300 km to 400 km) and the Izdelie 810 (range of 375 km to 450km). They will also be able to engage targets at extremely highaltitudes. Both of these next-generation missiles will have active andpassive radar guidance systems designed to seek enemy radar andelectronic countermeasures emissions. In passive mode, an R-77M missilecould conceivably target an F-35 at up to 240 km if the F-35 is usingits AESA radar in a jamming operation.

In addition to the larger weapons compartments, the PAK FA has twosmaller compartments located in the rear, which could each carry oneshort-range air-to-air missile.[88] This design feature was borrowedfrom the F-22, which has two smaller side compartments, which couldeach hold one AIM-9M or AIM-9X .

The PAK FA’s smaller compartments could accommodate several types ofshort-range air-to-air missiles. One possibility is an improved VympelR-73M short-range air-to-air missile with a high off-boresightcapability, which enables it to turn 160 degrees to engage enemytargets in the plane’s rear hemisphere using infrared guided-missiletechnology. It could lock on before or after launch, and the rear AESAradar could provide the necessary targeting information. This newmissile, the Izdelie 760 or R-74, may have a range of around 40 km. Itis due to enter production this year. Alternatively, the PAK FA couldcarry the Vympel K-30, a new compact short-range air-to-air missile, orthe K-MD short-range air-to-air missile, a new weapon for close combatand for shooting down enemy missiles, which could be developed by 2013.

In its larger weapon compartments, the PAK FA could accommodate twoprecision-guided 1,500 kilogram (kg) bombs, such as the new KAB-1500LGfamily of laser-guided bombs. The PAK FA could also carry twosatellite-guided KAB-500S-E bombs, which weigh 500 kg, or new versionsthat could weigh 1,500 kg. These bombs are dubbed “Russia’s JDAM” afterthe highly effective U.S. bomb guidance package.

The U.S. Phantom Ray unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV), which has beenproposed as the basis for a future bomber, could carry two 1,000 kgJDAM bombs, or a payload of up to 2,000 kg, on a long-range strikemission of 3,704 km. The stealthy UCAV can also carry eight SmallDiameter Bombs and refuel in the air independently and repeatedly toenable it to conduct global strike operations.[94] The PAK FA, bycontrast, could have an internal bomb payload exceeding 3,000 kg. Inaddition, the PAK FA might be able to carry two subsonic Kh-35Eanti-ship missiles (range of 130 km) internally.[95] The PAK FA mayalso be able to carry two Kh-35UE GLONASS satellite-guided missiles,which can strike land targets at a range of 260 km.

The PAK FA may also have up to eight external hardpoints to which additional missiles and bombs could be mounted.
TheIndian FGFA and the PAK FA may be armed externally with “BrahMossupersonic missiles,”[98] which were jointly developed by Russia andIndia, or the 3M55 Oniks anti-ship missile, which has a maximum speedof Mach 2.6 at altitude and a range of at least 300 km.


The PAK FA and F-22 are expected to have roughly equivalent top speedsand altitudes, but the F-35 is potentially less capable in both areas.The F-22 has demonstrated supercruise speeds above Mach 1.5 and isdesigned for sustained supersonic operation without using afterburners.Reportedly, it has a maximum supercruise speed of Mach 1.82 at 30,000feet (9,000 meters) altitude. Russian sources claim that the PAK FA isslightly faster (Mach 1.83) at 30,000 feet.High supercruise speedsenable these aircraft to control wide expanses of territory. The F-35will not have supercruise capability.

Using afterburners, the F-22 has a maximum speed of about Mach 2.5,likely faster than the PAK FA. Although the Russian air force initiallyestablished the PAK FA’s maximum speed at Mach 2.5, it revised itsoperational requirement downward to Mach 2 in December 2004.Nevertheless, the PAK FA will probably be able to reach Mach 2.45 withafterburners. The T-50 and F-22 will likely have the same serviceceiling of about 20,000 meters. By contrast, the F-35’s maximum speedat altitude is about Mach 1.6 or more than Mach 1.8 with afterburners,and its maximum altitude is estimated to be 15,000 meters.


The F-22’s engine nozzles have thrust vector control for superiormaneuverability, which can be essential in close air combat and forsuccessfully evading attacking missiles. The PAK FA will incorporatethe same capability. However, the F-35 is not planned to be fitted withthrust vector control technology.

Both F-22 and F-35 fighters will likely have shorter takeoff distancesthan the PAK FA. In air interception mode, the F-22 may be able to takeoff from an airstrip of only 274 meters.[107] On land, the Marine Corpsvertical/short take-off and landing (V/STOL) F-35B is capable of takingoff in just 167 meters. By contrast, the PAK FA requires an airstrip of300 meters to 400 meters.[109] The F-22 also has a slightly highermaximum takeoff weight of 38 tons,compared to the PAK FA’s reported 37tons.


The PAK FA will be fitted with a new “engine of the second stage,”which is set to begin development in 2010 or 2011.The engines are beingdeveloped by the United Engine Building Corporation in cooperation withNPO Saturn and Salyut, Russia’s two largest producers of aircraftengines. The engine in the T-50 prototype is the NPO Saturn 117M, animproved, modernized version of the 117S engine in Russia’s Su-35fourth-generation-plus aircraft, which already incorporatesfifth-generation technologies, including a full-authority digitalengine control system and three dimensional thrust vectoring controlnozzles. The first operational PAK FAs would use the 117M engines.Later PAK FAs would use the new second-stage engine when it enters intoservice.

According to Russian sources, the new PAK FA engine could provide17,500 kg of thrust.[115] Realistically, the engine may only achieve alower thrust. It is still being developed, and Pogosyan stresses thatthe engine will not be ready before 2015 and could take up to 12additional years to develop fully.


One feature of fifth-generation fighters is the ability to communicatevast amounts of tactical information in real time within a formation offighters. The F-22 has an advanced communications, navigation, andidentification system called the TRW AN/ASQ-220. It has multifunctionantennas distributed in conformal arrays along the leading edges of thewings and vertical control surfaces, which enable radar track warning,missile launch detection, threat identification, and communication ofthis information between aircraft.

It is unclear whether the PAK FA will have a comparable system, but itwill likely have communication equipment that allows real-time dataexchange within flight groups and with ground-based controlsystems.[119] For example, the Indian FGFA will reportedly have a “veryhigh degree of network centricity” and “multi-spectral reconnaissanceand surveillance systems.” Like the F-22 and the F-35, the PAK FA andthe Indian FGFA will presumably have sensor data fusion, which willorganize the information into a unified tactical picture and feed it tothe pilot in easily usable form.

The PAK FA may possibly be one step ahead of the F-22 and F-35 incomputer processing functions. The PAK FA’s computer will not onlyprocess data from various sensors and sources and provide it to thepilot, but also function as a battle management system. Instead of thesystem serving as the pilot’s pocket combat information center, itcould serve as a combat direction center by analyzing the informationand offering the pilot combat decisions from which to choose. The headof Avionika, Russia’s leading avionics manufacturer, described the PAKFA as having “advanced avionics that act as an electronic pilot.”Avionika representatives claim that “[t]he fighter itself analyses thesituation and offers options to the pilot,” which “greatly reduces themental load on the pilot and allows him to focus on tactical tasks.”

Whereas the F-22’s sensor fusion technology is touted as allowing thepilot to spend “less time monitoring basic systems and more time makingcombat decisions,”[123] the PAK FA’s battle management system couldallow Russian pilots to spend less time making combat decisions ifthese were already made by the fighter’s artificial intelligence. Inthis case, the pilot would then simply choose the best tacticaldecision offered by the plane’s “electronic pilot” and press a button,which could give the pilot a decisive time advantage in combat. GeneralNikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian ArmedForces, describes the PAK FA’s computer system as so powerful that itpractically has “human intelligence.”

The PAK FA’s electronic pilot can also fly the plane autonomouslyin many situations, in much the same way that a UCAV is controlled. Inother situations, the human pilot could use his discretion to fly thefighter manually, particularly to perform evasive maneuvers.

The T-50’s instrument panel is dominated by two large colormultifunction displays, similar to the Su-35’s instrument panel. Thescreen arrangement may have been influenced by the cockpit design ofthe F-35 with two large multifunction displays integrated to form onelarge display. It is widely thought to be a simpler, easier-to-readarrangement than the four-multifunction-display design in the F-22cockpit. The T-50’s displays are surrounded by control buttons, incontrast to the F-35’s touch screen technology. Touch screen technologymay be incorporated into later versions of the PAK FA, depending on howthe systems perform in testing.

Like the F-22, the T-50 currently has a heads-up display (HUD), atransparent display that presents data without requiring a pilot tolook away from the view through the windshield. In future versions ofthe PAK FA, pilots may have helmet-mounted displays (HMD), like thoseplanned for the F-35 and upgraded F-22.[ HMDs are similar to HUDs, butproject the information onto the pilot’s visor, allowing the pilot toobtain situational awareness and cue weapons systems based on thedirection the pilot’s head is facing.

Implications for U.S. Defense Policy and Force Structure

If the PAK FA proves to be as deadly as Russian officials claim, thePentagon will need to revise its assessment of U.S. air superiorityrequirements. New requirements could expose larger fighter shortfallsin the Air Force and Navy than are currently predicted—not justnumerically, but also in terms of vital air superiority capabilities.If a new, comprehensive assessment leads the U.S. Air Force to reviseits fighter requirements upward in numbers and/or capabilities, the AirForce, Department of Defense, and Congress should explore ways tomodernize and strengthen the U.S. tactical fighter force.

Specifically, Congress should:
Fund F-22 tooling to preserve future options. Given the uncertainlong-term threat environment and the possible proliferation of PAK FAfighters to countries that are hostile to the U.S. and its allies,purchasing additional F-22s may be in the national interest, both toaugment U.S. fighter forces and to enable loyal allies to defendthemselves against the PAK FA threat. The best way to preserve thatoption would have been to sustain domestic production in the U.S.Regrettably, with the F-22 production line shut down, resumingproduction may prove prohibitively expensive. Nonetheless, to hedgeagainst this threat, the U.S. Air Force has decided to “retain toolingfor the F-22” so that it can repair and modernize existing F-22s andpossibly manufacture new Raptors in the future. Congress should fundthe maintenance of F-22 tooling for the next 10 years.

Allow Japan and Israel to acquire export variant F-22s. Anotherhelpful hedge against uncertainty would be for Congress to allow loyalallies, such as Japan and Israel, to purchase an allied variant of theF-22 from the U.S. This would preserve the U.S. capability toprocure additional F-22s and improve their capabilities if needed. InJune 2010, Boeing announced that it would share F-18 technologies withJapan and allow Japan to develop a new derivative of the F/A-18 SuperHornet itself. Similar arrangements should be made for the developmentof F-22 technologies.

The U.S. could encourage Lockheed Martin and Boeing to allow Japanand Israel access to some F-22 technologies so that they can developthem further in pursuit of F-22 allied variants. Israel AerospaceIndustries is in negotiations to manufacture the wings for its futureF-35. If the PAK FA is exported to countries in the Middle East andproves as effective as Russia and India have been claiming, the F-22would be the best aircraft to guarantee the Israeli Air Force’s airsuperiority in the region.

Invest in pilot training.
The short-sighted decision to cancel F-22 production has constrainedthe U.S. ability to improve the technological and numerical advantagesof its fighters, but the U.S. military still maintains a significantskills overmatch. America’s pilots are the best trained in the world.Maintaining this advantage could prove decisive on the battlefield.However, wartime demands and financial strains from current operationsin Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere have undermined pilot training tosome degree. The range and intensity of training courses have sufferedas scarce resources have been diverted toward developing capabilitiesfor ongoing operations. Congress should renew its efforts to fully fundaviation training to help to sustain American dominance of the skies.

Fully fund the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and develop additional forcemultipliers. Investing in additional force multipliers is another wayto maximize the impact of limited numbers of F-22s. Congress shouldprovide adequate funding and oversight to ensure that the F-35 programsucceeds. Congress should fully fund the President’s fiscal year 2011budget request for 42 F-35s. Congress should then ask the DefenseDepartment to explore an additional cost-effective option to buildstealth unmanned combat aerial vehicles. These could operate from landbases and aircraft carriers, conducting intelligence, reconnaissance,and surveillance missions as well as strike operations with the F-35.In a tactical scenario, F-22s and F-35s could engage enemy fighters inair combat, while other formations of F-35s and UCAVs attack SAM andradar sites, command and control centers, and air bases, overwhelmingthe adversary’s defenses with sheer numbers.
Build an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter. IfCongress fails to fund the alternate engine this year, even though theprogram is more than 80 percent complete, the success of the F-35 willdepend on only one type of engine. In 2035, the F-35 will constitute 90percent of all U.S. fighters. Thus, because the F-35 is a single-engineplane, a problem with the engine could ground all F-35s until theproblem is identified and fixed, unless an alternative engine isavailable. Such a scenario constitutes an unacceptably high risk.Further, in 2009, Congress passed an acquisition reform law thatrequires competition for all major subsystems, including fighterengines. This engine program would also help to ensure that the U.S.maintains engine competition for future fighter programs includingpotential sixth-generation aircraft.

Strengthen economic and military-to-military cooperation with India.India’s involvement in the PAK FA program could be potentially helpful. Alarge fighter fleet in the hands of the world’s largest democracy and akey American partner could counterbalance China’s growing air powercapabilities and other powers in the region. Given the historicalrivalry between India and China, New Delhi will likely seek to convinceMoscow to restrict exports of advanced weapons technology, such as thePAK FA fighter, to China. Indeed, India may make its participation inthe project contingent on such restrictions. India is increasinglyrelying on U.S. weapons technology and equipment to fulfill itsmilitary modernization requirements, while still maintaining a strongdefense relationship with Russia, its long-standing friend.
The U.S. should continue to strengthen economic and securitycooperation with India. The U.S. Air Force and Indian Air Force shouldcontinue to conduct joint wargaming exercises, such as Red Flag in2008. Just as Lockheed Martin reportedly offered the F-35C to theIndian Navy to deploy on its future aircraft carriers, theAdministration should encourage the Indian Air Force to acquire theJoint Strike Fighter, allowing it to operate alongside the FGFA.

Continue to modernize the U.S. Air Force. The Air Force and Congressshould adopt a longer view and begin to research and develop asixth-generation fighter. For the first time since the beginning ofmilitary aviation, the U.S. military does not have a manned aircraftprogram under development. Boeing has already revealed its designconcept for a sixth-generation fighter, featuring a stealth andtailless aircraft with supercruise capability that would replace theNavy’s F/A-18E/F in 2025 and the F-22 in 2027– 2028. As the U.S.military margins of technological superiority decline across the board,select competitors and potential future challengers are embarking ontheir own military modernizations. Rather than cede ground, the U.S.should begin developing new fighter aircraft and air defenses that areso effective that they discourage rivals from developing or eveninvesting in stealth fighter aircraft. The greater the U.S. air poweradvantage, the riskier and costlier other countries’ air powerinvestments will be.

Deploy networked anti-stealth surveillance against emerging stealthyair threats. In cooperation with Israel, the U.S. should produce anddeploy a new generation of CAEW with “track before detect” technologyfor both Air Force and Navy aviation to detect stealth aircraft andlow-observable flying craft. In addition, the U.S. should deployelectronic intelligence (ELINT) aircraft with an airborne detectionsystem similar to the Czech Tamara, which can reportedly detect stealthaircraft using the signals from its avionics. Surveillance satellitesequipped with radar may also be able to detect and track stealthfighters because the upper surface of their stealth designs might notbe as stealthy against radar waves from space. ELINT satellites mightalso detect the signals from the avionics of stealth fighters flying information. Stealth fighters can also be detected with low-frequencymetric-band radars by using computers to identify low-observabletargets in a cluttered environment. Ladar (laser radar) in combinationwith radar could help to detect, track, and identify air targets,including stealth aircraft.

The decision by the Obama Administration and Congress to permanentlyclose the F-22 production line has exposed the U.S. and its allies toincreased security risks in the future. This was entirely predictable.In a rapidly changing threat environment in which rising powers andpotential rivals are expanding their global presence, developingadvanced weapons systems, and becoming more assertive, the U.S. needsto preserve a wide range of core defense capabilities to ensure thatthe U.S. military will remain dominant and can hedge against allpossible contingencies. Instead, the U.S. has reduced its aerospacemanufacturing to one fifth-generation fighter production line, whileChina and Russia are operating 12 fighter and bomber lines between themtoday.

Although the F-22 cancellation decision took a valuable defense optionoff the table, Congress can still salvage other possibilities for thefuture. Congress and the Pentagon should focus on widening the U.S.lead in the areas where the nation retains a competitive advantage,such as piloting skills, research and development, and innovation.Defense and military leaders should work with friends and allies toreinforce collective defense and to ensure that the world’sfreedom-loving democracies maintain their ability to secure the skies.
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