The fifth-generation PAK-FA stealth fighter is Russia’s answer to the US-built F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Although US military analysts are quick to point out some of the PAK-FA’s vulnerabilities and flaws, this Russian-made fighter jet is a formidable competitor with features and abilities that are in many ways superior to those included in the F-22 and F-35.
Specifically, the multi-role PAK-FA is designed for air-superiority, which puts this Russian monster on par with the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor. Fighters like these are meant to fly high and able to deliver a powerful arsenal of long-range air-to-air missiles. They are also built for speed, and the PAK-FA is assumed capable of cruising supersonically at Mach 1.5 or higher with an overall maximum speed of Mach 2.0. All this speed is courtesy of two modified Su-30 Flanker’s engines that can produce 33,000 pounds of thrust. Although these engines certainly sound impressive (overheating has been a noted issue), Russian engineers are already looking to upgrade to the Izdeliye 30 engine, which will see service sometime in 2020.
In comparison to the F-22 and F-35, the PAK-FA was built with maneuverability in mind, and in this area the Russian fighter jet is superior to the F-35. Although the PAK-FA is equipped with a host of impressive radar, electronics, and infrared search and track capabilities, the fighter’s achilles heel appears to be its lack of data fusion and networking technologies.
The PAK-FA is the result of the FGFA (Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft) program launched in 2001 between Russia and India. Although the existing PAK-FA fighter jets are prototypes, full-scale production is expected sometime in the near future, with additional demonstrations in 2015.