Sukhoi starts testing new AESA radar on PAK-FA

The United States doesn’t have a monopoly (anymore) on developing fifth-generation fighters, Russia seems to be making good progress on its next-generation Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA stealth fighter–a version of which will also serve with the Indian Air Force. PAK-FA apparently stands for Perspektivny Aviatsionny Kompleks-Frontovoy Aviatsii–if anyone cares. It is amazing that the Russians managed to preserve so many of the skill-sets needed to develop an advanced fighter aircraft (and other parts of the defense industrial base) even as their entire society basically disintegrated around them after the fall of the Soviet Union.

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Sukhoi Photo

My colleague Valdimir Karnozov in Moscow is reporting that Sukhoi has started flight testing a new Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar on the third flying prototype for the PAK-FA. The Russian AESA, from what Sukhoi says, seems to feature most of the same modes that one might expect from a US-developed set. That includes simultaneous operations of air-to-air and air-to-surface modes among other features.  The Russians are also testing what they call “optical channels” on the aircraft–which sounds like it might be some sort of electro-optical or infrared camera system. I suspect something is being lost in the translation.

Read Valdimir’s story here

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Sukhoi Photo

Sukhoi is apparently gearing up to fly the fourth PAK-FA prototype in the near future. I will say that the PAK-FA, like a lot of Russian and Soviet aircraft that have come before it, is one sharp looking jet. But, up close, these aircraft don’t have the fit and finish that one might find on a Western aircraft. While there remains little doubt that Sukhoi can design a fifth-generation fighter, whether they can manufacture one is yet to be proven. Extremely precise manufacturing is a key tenet of building a stealth aircraft… so we’ll see.

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Sukhoi Photo

Meanwhile, the Russians have not given up on fourth-generation fighters. The new Su-35 Flanker-E is scheduled to enter full production in 2013. It’s already in limited production with six aircraft scheduled to be delivered to the Russian Federation Air Force this year. And, according the Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation boss Mikhail Pogosyan, Russia will continue to build Su-35s alongside the T-50 for the export market.

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Sukhoi Photo

They might also retrofit the PAK-FA AESA onto the Su-35… It currently has a passive electronically scanned array installed.FlankerEforest.jpg

Sukhoi Photo

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