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Picture: Russian Sukhoi T-50 fighter images emerge

Powerplant maker's website reveals snapshot of possible configuration of fifth-generation PAK FA combat aircraft

Russian engine manufacturer NPO Saturn's website has provided what appears to be a first glimpse of Russia's fifth-generation fighter under development as part of the PAK FA project.

NPO Saturn has been selected to supply engines for the Sukhoi T-50, which won the Russian ministry of defence's tender over a rival submission from RSK MiG.

 
© NPO Saturn   

The simplified image of the T-50 shows it to be a twin-engine design with a classic aerodynamic layout resembling the Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor. However, its smaller horizontal and vertical control surfaces reflect the fact that the aircraft is expected to use vectored thrust for pitch, yaw and roll control.

The engine nozzles in the picture resemble those of the NPO Saturn Item 117A development engines revealed at the 2005 Moscow air show. Derivatives of the long-serving AL-31F, the powerplants have been redesigned with a new high-pressure compressor and higher-temperature turbine, to support an increase in reheated thrust.

The T-50's high thrust-to-weight ratio, coupled with vectored thrust, are designed to improve short-field performance, including operations from 300-400m (1,000-1,300ft) runways.

Sukhoi general designer Mikhail Pogosyan says the PAK FA falls between the Su-30 and smaller MiG-29, but "closer to the bigger aircraft". This suggests a take-off weight of 25-30t.

It is designed to carry weapons internally and be capable of supercruising (supersonic cruise without reheat), which requires a move away from the Su-30's "integral triplane" configuration to classic aerodynamics better suited to supersonic flight.

Earlier this month the T-50 passed its technical mock-up inspection, says deputy commander of the Russian air force and chief for aviation, Gen Aleksandr Zelin. "The PAK FA must fly in 2012," says Zelin. "The timeframe set earlier remains valid. We are working to complete the work on time."

Sukhoi says it is completing T-50 drawings with a view to producing the aircraft at the KnAAPO and NAPO production plants. KnAAPO will lead the industrial phase, with NAPO a major supplier. NAPO general director Fiodor Zhdanov says his plant will make the nose section. "The airplane will have many parts made of carbon plastic," he says.

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