Ostensibly due to economic woes, Russia is to produce just 12 T-50 fighters instead of the originally planned 52
This article originally appeared in The National Interest
The Russian military is scaling back initial requirements for the fifth generation T-50 (PAK FA) fighters to twelve planes, after initially planning for fifty-two. Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov said that this was due to economic considerations.
However, Borisov noted that the Defense Ministry reserves the right to determine the number of fifth generation fighters for purchase, so the initial plans may be corrected.
“It would be better for us to have a reserve of PAK-FA and the possibility to move ahead in the future to using the 4+ fighters’ [Su-30 and Su-35] capabilities to the maximum,” Borisov said. In other words, Russia would make the most of its existing Sukhoi Su-35 capabilities, which are highly rated by experts. The United States is currently the only country with an Air Force that includes a fully operational fifth generation jet fighter, the F-22.
Production of the T-50 series will go ahead in 2016 regardless of any reduction in orders. During a visit to the plant where the planes were being constructed, inKomsomolsk-on-Amur in the Russian Far East, Borisov said, “according to the next year plans, we should have the first delivery of the series fifth-generation fighters.”
The T-50 will be a stealth aircraft, invisible to radars. It has several advantagesover the F-22: “the T-50 is significantly faster than the F-22, and has a huge advantage in terms of range—5,500 kilometers compared to the F-22’s 3,400. The T-50’s detection systems allow it to spot incoming threats at a distance of up to 400 kilometers, compared to the F-22’s 210 kilometers.” However, Russia’s fifth generation air fleet will be at a numerical disadvantage, as the U.S. Air Forceinventory of F-22s is 187.
India is also interested in the T-50, a fact that may help boost purchases. However, India wants to localize production of its T-50s “much like another Russian-designed fighter, the Sukhoi Su-30MKI, which has been in series production for more than a decade at the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) plant in Nasik.”
India is frustrated at delays in its negotiations with the French company Dassault over the contract for the Rafale fighter aircraft.