Su-57 starts test operation ahead of first batch delivery

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said the first stage of acceptance trials of the fifth-generation Su-57 (T-50, PAK FA) fighter jet was over and the aircraft began test operation in the troops. A contract to buy a development batch of 12 jets will be signed this year. 

IMG 6687 Two Su-57 fighter jets simulating dogfight during MAKS 2017

T-50 first prototype took off in January 2010. Ten aircraft have been built since then and made hundreds of flights at the factory airfield in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, the Gromov Research Institute in Zhukovsky near Moscow and the Chkalov test center in Akhtubinsk. Recommendations and conclusions of test pilots and engineers introduced several changes into the design and a group of instructors and technicians was prepared to train combat pilots to operate the craft.

Test operation of the new aircraft means it will continue trials and improvements and also train combat engagement. The new fighter jets will be delivered to the combat engagement and retraining center in Lipetsk which prepares commanders and pilots of future regiments.

Twelve aircraft will form a squadron and will interact in combat order which is likely to be used in real conflicts. Trials and improvements will proceed on previously built test Su-57 and then introduced into serial aircraft. The test operation is to determine the final concept of the serial aircraft.

The design of perspective multirole fighter jet began in the Soviet Union in the 1980s in the framework of the I-90 program (fighter jet of the 1990s). The first aircraft was experimental MiG 1.44, however its development dragged because of defense appropriations cuts after the collapse of the USSR and was dropped altogether. The Sukhoi Design Bureau created experimental S-37 (Su-47) forward sweep wing aircraft with numerous technical solutions and concepts of the fifth-generation fighter jet. The history of Su-57 actually begins in 2001 when the Russian Air Force launched the project of the Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation (PAK FA). Sukhoi was appointed the lead designer in 2002. The first mockups of the aircraft emerged in 2004 and flight tests began on January 29, 2010.

They will finally end when the concept of the aircraft is formed and the serial production of Su-57 with the engine called type 30 is launched. The maiden Su-57 flight with the new engine took place in December 2017 and the trials are likely to last for another 3-4 years. Large-scale serial output which is to begin in 2021-2022 is to produce the aircraft with type 30 engine.

Which Su-57 options may appear in future? The most expected one is export FGFA created on Indian orders. Its fate and production scope have not been determined so far as the acceptance into service of new arms in India is a very bureaucratic and long process. The fate of the project mostly depends on the decision to build a new aircraft carrier for the Russian Navy.

The main advantages of the new Russian fighter jet are a combination of requirements for the fifth-generation aircraft - stealth characteristics, supersonic cruising speed, developed information and control system, traditionally high maneuverability which provides supremacy in close air combat. The Russian Air Force currently procures Su-35S fighter jets which many experts rate as a transition from 4++ to the fifth generation. They are on a par with Su-57 in onboard equipment which promotes new air tactics and combat engagement schemes.

US fifth-generation F-22 fighter jets which are close to Su-57 in size and the main characteristics are inferior in the range of missions as internal arms compartments of F-22 cannot accommodate large air-to-surface munitions while Su-57 can carry them. F-35 fighter jets are better suited for attack missions but cede to the Russian fifth-generation jet in cruising and maximum speed, flight range and payload, the Izvestia said.

"The United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) plans to hand over to the Russian Aerospace Forces the first batch of fifth-generation Su-57 fighter jets in 2019," its CEO Yuri Slyusar told TASS today.

"The contract stipulates the handover in 2019," he said. The development batch will comprise 12 aircraft.

T-50 (Su-57) with type 30 engine made its maiden flight in December 2017. Missile fire tests began earlier in the framework of PAK FA program and confirmed declared characteristics. Test pilots are operating T-50 at the Chkalov flight center. The trials of the multifunctional integrated radio-electronic system with phased antenna array are proceeding as scheduled. T-50 took off for the first time in January 2010. Close to ten aircraft of the type are currently participating in test trials.




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