Third Sukhoi PAK FA joins flight test programme


The third prototype of Russia’s fifth generation PAK FA fighter has begun flight testing, taking to the air for the first time yesterday.

The aircraft performed its first flight yesterday in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, piloted by test-pilot Sergey Bogdan. The jet spent about an hour in the air. Aircraft stability and power plant performance were checked during flight, with no problems recorded, Sukhoi parent United Aircraft Corporation said.

The PAK FA performed its maiden flight on January 29, 2010, in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. In the beginning of March, 2011, the second fighter took into the skies. Today, both aircraft are participating in ground and flight tests. A fourth airframe is being used for load testing on the ground.

The aircraft was presented to the public for the first time on August 17, 2011 at MAKS-2011, International Aviation and Space Salon, in Zhukovsky. Earlier this month the two PAK FA prototypes reached the 100 flights mark.

The first and second prototypes lack radar and weapon control systems but the third and fourth aircraft, being added to the programme this year, will be fully functional test aircraft.

The PAK FA 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.

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.

The Russian Air Force is undergoing rapid expansion and will take delivery of about 90 new or modernized fixed and rotary wing aircraft next year, a Russian defence ministry spokesman said yesterday.

The Air Force will receive up to 10 Su-34 Fullback fighter-bombers, about 10 Su-25SM Frogfoot attack fighters, and an unspecified number of Su-35S Flanker-E multirole fighters, Colonel Vladimir Drik said.

New acquisitions will also include over 20 attack helicopters, such as the Mi-28N Night Hunter and the Ka-52 Alligator, as well as “highly modernized” Mi-35 Hind helicopters. The Air Force will also receive about 30 Mi-8 transport and five Mi-26T heavy lift helicopters.

In addition to supplying the domestic market, Sukhoi also plans to export the PAK FA. Earlier this year Mikhail Pogosyan, director of Sukhoi, estimated 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. The aircraft was recently entered into South Korea’s competition for a new fighter. “I think after 2015 we will start to see orders,” Pogosyan said.