Saturday, January 30, 2010

PAK FA T-50: A Preliminary Analysis

Bill Sweetman

Well, this brings back the old days when Flug Revue would pop out some over-the-fence shots obtained from the Military Missions in East Germany, and the assembled reptiles at Flight would adjourn to our secret analysis facility to figure out what it all meant. First of all, for anyone contemplating the use of the word "Raptorski": don't. While this is an airplane that could have been the answer to the Advanced Tactical Fighter requirement, way back when, it's not an F-22 in many important ways.

In a lot of ways, the T-50 reflects the heritage of the T-10 Flanker series - it's much more like them than Sukhoi's last fighter prototype, the forward-swept-wing Su-47 Berkut, ever was. From the Flanker family, the T-50 gets the massive "centroplane" - a wide central body that blends the fuselage and inner wing - three-surface aerodynamic control and true three-dimensional thrust vectoring. The main weapons bay has been seen on a Flanker model, too. ........................Ares


Is the FLIR turret all that necessary?

It's a trademark of modern Russian design, it might give the PAK FA a passive detection edge, but it's such a RCS management killer.

The overall geometry looks good. Details [for now] rules out VLO.

Here is one dangerous proposition: Will Israeli fly a Russian air superiority fighter in 2020 n' beyond?

By 2015 the development of both T50 and F35 will at least be midway to completion. Israeli will be looking for a suitable replacement for its air superiority fighter F15C Eagle. Current exercise suggests that Typhoon can consistently beat Eagle in aerial dual even when outnumbered. So the choices really come down to three platforms: F35, Typhoon and T50. F35 is LO but by no mean an air superiority design; IDF might still acquire a squadron or two to complement existing A/G fleet. While F22 is strictly non-exportable, Typhoon and T50 will most likely be the best two air superiority fighters in the market. Now, Israeli aerospace industry has been upgrading and even customized Russian aircraft design from MiG21 to MiG29 and Su27 and is no stranger to the types. If, say, other Gulf states begin to express interest in Typhoon and T50 like Saudi did when the Eurofighter consortium had trouble financing Trench 3 Typhoon, and that F35 becomes too prohibitively expensive to field in number, would the IDF consider using a locally-customized T50 to serve as the air superiority replacement for F15 Eagle?

Realistic or not, it's an intriguing notion, IMO. It highlights two [unfortunate] trends in American fighter aircraft design: trend toward A/G at the expense of A/A and a not-that-unfamiliar run-away cost spiral.

With the foreseeable fielding of AIM120D, Meteor, "Very Long Range Missile" and alike, a new chapter of Air Power doctrine might have been opened:

Beyond Radar Range ("BRR"), that is firing a very long range A/A missile in the direction of known enemy formation well beyond the range of the shooter's own radar. It would require very high level of DATALINK (being able to 'hand over targets' between platforms) and very sophisticated BVR TACTICS (maneuvering both the shooter and the radar/sensor illuminater into the right position at the right time). IFF would probably be a bottleneck: not sure whether IFF could work at such extreme range (150-350km).

All three European deltas (Gripen, Rafale and Typhoon) have demonstrated their potentials in such extremely long-ranged/passive detection engagement. PAK FA seems to be gearing toward the same direction with even longer range A/A missiles and internal weapon carriage. Fascinating.

Introducing the ultra long range IFF: Non-Cooperative Target Recognition of Air Targets (NCTR)

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