Russia, Brazil To Cooperate On 5th Generation Fighter Program

By on Friday, April 10th, 2009

MOSCOW: Russia continues to look for partners to help implement its fifth-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 Sukhoi Civil Aircraft Company (SCAC), now working on the fifth-generation fighter program, Brazil could also join in. Alexander Fomin, Deputy Director of Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation, 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 Bureau developed the Project 1.44/1.42 warplane, also known as the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG MFI. MiG is now using this designation for an advanced MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter. Despite the non-production status of the 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 jet fighter. The S-37/Su-47 aircraft is an advanced technology demonstrator prototype 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-generation fighter projects were becoming obsolete, that their production versions would be inferior to the brand-new Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor air-superiority fighter, and that the Air Force would receive such warplanes a decade too late.

In the early 2000s, the Russian government decided to develop an entirely new fifth-generation fighter. Sukhoi, Mikoyan and Yakovlev design bureaus boasting a reputation for their hard-hitting fighters offered several warplane versions.

The Sukhoi Aviation Corporation received project manager status and was placed in charge of the new T-50 fifth-generation fighter program.

Various maiden flight and supply deadlines were discussed from the very beginning. The T-50 was scheduled to perform its first flight in 2008-2010. In late 2008, Colonel General Alexander Zelin, Commander of the Russian Air Force, said the plane would take off for the first time in August 2009.

In the summer of 2008, the officials involved said the T-50 design had been approved and prototype aircraft blueprints sent to the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Production Association (KNAAPO) in Russia’s Far East where production will apparently be sited. KNAAPO is currently building three prototype T-50 fighters for subsequent tests, due to last five to six years, while mass production will not get underway before 2015.

Although T-50 specifications remain undisclosed, prototypes and the first production aircraft will be fitted with 117S (AL-41F1A) turbofan engines, 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-off weight of more than 30 metric tons and will have the same dimensions as the well-known Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker. The Tikhomirov Instrument Engineering Research Institute which had invented the Irbis radar for the Su-35BM Flanker-E 4.5generation air-superiority/strike fighter is currently 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 of the fifth-generation aircraft has been caused by the desire to share a very high financial burden involved in it. The United States has opted for this road in the F-35 aircraft program.

Apart from investing in the fifth-generation fighter program, Brazil could provide Russia with state-of-the-art aviation technology. Notably, Brazilian aerospace conglomerate Embraer manufactures EMB-312 Tucano turboprop basic trainers and EMB-314 Super Tucano turboprop aircraft designed for light attack, counter-insurgency (COIN) and pilot-training missions.

Many analysts think both planes are especially adapted for low-intensity conflicts and are just as popular as fighters. Quire possibly, Russia will manufacture such planes using Brazilian technology.

(RIA Novosti military commentator Ilya Kramnik)

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