Fifth generation fighters provide air superiority

FGFA fighter promises to be a big step forward for Indian Air Force. Source: sukhoi.org

FGFA fighter promises to be a big step forward for Indian Air Force. Source: sukhoi.org

FGFA: stealth technology, supersonic cruising speed and more top-notch features of super fighter jet

 

According to American Air force officials "The F-22 is better than any other aircraft in the world at air-to-ground except for the F-35, and the F-35 is better than any other aircraft in the world at air-to-air except for the F-22".

 

The American Air Force with the integration of fifth generation aircraft is gaining new tactical advantages that transcend beyond just stealth into areas such as enhanced maneuverability, multi-role capabilities and fused sensor and avionics systems that can communicate with other weapons systems.

 

That's why it is imperative that U.S. forces continue to develop and begin to use fifth-generation fighters as they transition to the new Pacific-based strategy, according to Lt. Gen. Herbert J. "Hawk" Carlisle, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Plans and Requirements, Headquarters U.S. Air Force.

 

"The threat environment is continuing to grow, so as we look at how we're going to maintain those competencies in the future, that's where fifth generation fighters come in," he said in mid-March. "It's not just about stealth."

 

The general said the Air Force can continue to maintain the most elite fourth generation aircraft in the world, but that won't prepare the U.S. to handle threats in the future.

 

"Our Air Force has got to keep evolving to meet these new challenges as we move forward into the future," said Carlisle.

 

To illustrate this evolution and fifth generation fighter jet technology, the general shared a scenario in which an F-22 data-links coordinates to a Navy submarine-launched tomahawk missile onto a target.

 

"Now you have two stealth platforms, a submarine and an F-22, communicating with naval ordnance," he said.

 

That level of interoperability is a large part of what makes the fifth generation Aircraft so vital to the Air Force and U.S. military in general, he added. Aircraft must not only be stealth, but also be highly maneuverable, be able to conduct multiple roles, and these aircraft must also be able to handle sensor and avionics information in a network integrated way not only for the pilot, but for the entire joint force.

 

"We have to have a fused system capability and have them networked and integrated across the force," he said. "To me, that's as important on a fifth-generation fighter as anything."

 

To tell the truth Russia has not found itself far behind the States/ more than two years ago- on December, 2010, a prototype Sukhoi T-50 fifth-generation fighter took off on its maiden flight  in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, Russia's Far East.

 

This is the first warplane completely designed and built in Russia since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Only the United States currently operates Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor Stealth air-superiority fighters.

 

In 1981, the Mikoyan Design Bureau started developing the I-90 aircraft, better known as the Multifunctional Fighter (MFI). The project was launched soon after the MiG-29 Fulcrum, MiG-31 Foxhound and Su-27 Flanker fourth-generation fighters performed their first flights.

 

The I-90 which was to have been mass-produced in the 1990s overtook the U.S. Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program which later gave rise to the F-22 Raptor.

 

Curtailed defense spending in the late 1980s and the subsequent break-up of the Soviet Union stopped the MFI program in its tracks. Flight tests planned for 1991 -1992 did not take place. Consequently, the MFI first took to the skies in 2000.

 

A prototype Sukhoi S-37/Su-47 Berkut fifth-generation fighter had been developed by then.

 

In 1998, the Russian Air Force issued a new request for proposal (RFP) for a fifth-generation fighter. As a concept it had remained unchanged since the MFI program got underway.

 

The new fighter's basic specifications included: greater agility, sustained supersonic-flight capability in non-afterburning mode, low radar visibility, low heat signature, as well as enhanced take-off and landing performance.The old designs were scrapped, and it was decided to develop an entirely new warplane fully taking into account the F-22's capabilities, merits and drawbacks.

 

In 2002, the Sukhoi Design Bureau won the pilot-project contest, after proposing a full-size and twin-engined fighter with a take-off weight of up to 35 metric tons under its Prospective/Promising Frontline Aviation System program (PAK FA program).

 

Although the new aircraft was expected to take off in 2007, the maiden flight deadline was delayed until 2008, 2009 and January 2010.

 

Given this new program's complexity and the scale of the scientific, engineering, organizational and financial problems that had to be tackled during the new plane's creation, this delay is quite understandable. All these problems are caused by Russia's crisis-ridden industry.

 

The new aircraft is designated the T-50, Product 701 or the I-21. The Indian Air Force also displayed an interest in this program soon after it was launched.

 

At first, New Delhi preferred the lighter and simpler Mikoyan-Gurevich MFI fighter. The Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG proposed the twin-engine and bobtailed I-2000, an upgrade of the basic MiG-29 model, and a single-engine aircraft closely resembling the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, a descendant of the F-35, which came out of the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program.

 

India wanted to receive this sophisticated aircraft as soon as possible therefore had no choice but to join the PAK FA program. The Indian version will feature a two-seat cockpit, a number of electronic systems and other auxiliary equipment.

 

These aircraft are expected to replace the Su-30MKI Flanker-H fighters currently serving with the Indian Air Force, in the 2020s and the 2030s. Moreover, it is likely they will be mass-produced in India.

 

The latest test flight reaffirms Russia's status as a leading aviation power. Only Russia and the United States currently have their own fifth-generation fighters, as well as aircraft industries capable of manufacturing all types of military and civilian aircraft ranging from light-weight aerobatic planes to strategic bombers.

 

All other countries, including France, Sweden, the EU as a whole, China and Japan, lack these capabilities and are forced to implement various cooperation plans in order to develop new-generation aircraft.

 

Despite their combined efforts the joint EU aircraft industry has failed to create a fifth-generation fighter in place of the Eurofighter Typhoon twin-engine multi-role aircraft. Most of the Eurofighter project participants intend to buy the U.S. F-35 fighter in future.

 

The future for new Swedish and French aircraft remains bleak. Both the Saab JAS 39 Gripen and the Dassault Rafale rank among the generation four-plus-plus warplanes. Neither Stockholm, nor Paris can afford to implement multi-billion-dollar fifth-generation fighter programs.

 

China's prospects also seem doubtful. Most analysts agree that Beijing can develop a fifth-generation warplane only if it utilizes foreign, notably Russian, experience.

 

Russian aircraft manufacturers must develop at least two competitive prototypes of a fifth-generation fighter jet, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said in mid-March.

 

“Two variants of the future fighter jet must be developed to encourage competition,” Rogozin said at a meeting with Russian lawmakers.

 

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the future fighter must possess all technical characteristics of a fifth-generation fighter, including elements of stealth technology, supersonic cruising speed, highly-integrated avionics, electronics and fire-control systems.

 

There are currently three fifth-generation T-50 fighters in tests, and a total number of 14 aircraft is planned for test flights by 2015.

 

The T-50 is expected to enter service in 2016 and gradually replace MiG-29 Fulcrum and Su-27 Flanker fighter jets in the Russian Air Force.

 

Russia’s Sukhoi aircraft maker will remain among the top three exporters of fighter jets until at least 2015, the Moscow based Center for Analysis of World Arms Trade (CAWAT) said this Februaryon.

 

“Sukhoi will export 109 fighters in the next three years, while U.S. Lockheed Martin exports110 aircraft, and China’s Chengdu -112 aircraft,” CAWAT head Igor Korotchenko said.

 

The total amount of Sukhoi fighter contracts with foreign customers until 2015 is estimated at $5.45 billion.

First published in The Voice of Russia

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