30 January 2010

Russia tests next-gen fighter

Russian aircraft design bureau Sukhoi tested its next generation fighter on Friday.

The aircraft – designated T-50 – flew for 47 minutes at Sukhoi’s test facility at Komsomolsk on Amur.

The T-50 is a joint Russian-Indian project.  India currently operates the latest Russian designed fighter and ground-attack jets as well as Russian-built helicopters, tanks and other military equipment.

The T-50 is similar in design to the United States Air Force’s F-22 Raptor which combines supersonic speed and high performance with low-observable or “stealth” capability. Ria Novosti’s defence analyst gives the aircraft’s design history in a story posted online on January 29.  Ilya Kramnik claims the design efforts for the so-called fifth generation fighter began in the 1980s and ultimately led to the Su-47.

While highly capable, the Su-47 used a forward-swept wing design which may have caused some performance and maintenance concern among the fighter’s intended users.

According to Kramnik, the current fighter comes from a 1998 request from the Russian air force for a new fighter that took advantage of the design features of the prototypes in the American next-generation fighter competition that led ultimately to the Raptor.

The T-50 in the test photographs appears to be unpainted.  It also appears to be using conventional nozzles instead of the vectoring type deployed on both the F-22 and on some other Sukhoi and MiG fighter designs which flew successfully.

In the video at left, a MiG-29 test aircraft demonstrates thrust vectoring. 

The moveable engine nozzles pivot to aim the engine thrust at up to 15 degrees from straight backwards. 

On two-engined aircraft, the nozzles may also be moved independently of one another.

This allows the aircraft to turn more tightly than a conventional aircraft.  Such a capability gives fighter pilots great advantage in dog-fighting.

In this video, a pilot demonstrates the thrust vector nozzles on a Raptor.