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Second Sukhoi PAK FA joins flight test programme

altThe second prototype of Sukhoi’s fifth generation fighter aircraft (PAK FA) has begun flight testing.

On Friday the second prototype took off on its 44 minute maiden flight from Komsomolsk-on-Amur, piloted by test pilot Sergey Bogdan. Sukhoi said in a statement that the flight was successful and went according to the flight plan. The flight evaluated aircraft stability and engine performance.

There are three prototypes of the PAK FA currently undergoing testing, including one airframe being used for load testing on the ground. The first PAK FA, known as the T-50, flew for the first time on January 29 last year at Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Acceptance trials of the prototype were completed at the end of March 2010.

The second prototype was planned to join the flight test programme in the fourth quarter of last year, but was delayed. Apparently there have been minor issues with the engines, according to the UK Sunday Times. The first and second prototypes lack radar and weapon control systems but a third and fourth aircraft, which will be added to the programme this year, will be fully functional test aircraft.

The T-50 is intended to replace the MiG-29 and Su-27 in Russian Air Force service and will also serve as the basis for the Sukhoi/Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project being jointly developed with India.

Mikhail Pogosyan, director of Sukhoi, estimates a market for a thousand PAK FA aircraft over the next four decades. Two hundred will be produced for India, two hundred for Russia and the rest will be for export.

Russia will buy the first ten aircraft after 2012 and will induct the type into service around 2015, making it the first all-new warplane to enter Russian Air Force service since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

On Friday Sukhoi achieved an important milestone for the PAK FA but also noted the passing of one of their most important aircraft designers. Mikhail Simonov died in Moscow on Friday after a long illness. He was 81, the company said.

Simonov joined Sukhoi in 1970 and led the development of the Su-24 fighter-bomber, the Su-25 ground attack aircraft and the Su-27, which was later developed into the Su-30, Su-33, Su-34, Su-35 and Su-37. He was instrumental in keeping Sukhoi afloat after the collapse of communism by garnering export orders for the company.

"During that difficult period, he managed to organize export sales that saved the Sukhoi design bureau and its production facilities," former Russian air force chief General Vladimir Mikhailov said on Rossiya 24 television. "His death is irreparable loss for the Russian aviation."
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