Russia’s new PAK-FA stealth fighter is flawed, but formidable

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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.

The analysis that I have seen on the PAK-FA indicates a pretty sophisticated design that is at least equal to, and some have said even superior to U.S. fifth-generation aircraft. It certainly has greater agility with its combination of thrust vectoring, all moving tail surfaces, and excellent aerodynamic design, than does the F-35.Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula

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.

PAK3

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.

While aerodynamic performance will continue to be important…even more important will be the ability to ubiquitously share knowledge to the point that we have faster decision advantage than any adversary. This is the notion of the ‘combat cloud.’ It’s more about how we integrate the sensor-shooters that are resident in systems coming online, more than it is about new platforms.Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula

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.

About Author

Kristian strives to enlighten and entertain readers. In addition to his teaching and editorial responsibilities, he is working on a science-fiction novel that promises not to include exoskeleton suits and anemic aliens floating in mysterious vats of green-tinted goop.

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