Russia’s announcement this week that it will be operating a sizable contingent of its first stealth fighter, the Sukhoi PAK-FA (also known as T-50), by 2020 has intrigued from the defense world. The first deliveries will begin in 2016, and in four years’ time the Russians will field 55 of the impressive-looking jet, which resembles closely the American F-22.
But the aircraft’s general stealth capabilities, and whether Russia truly has entered the small club of countries capable of producing stealth technology, are still debated. Only the U.S. has stealthy aircraft in service; China has flown prototypes.
“The T-50 is a sort of work in progress,” said Richard Aboulafia, a military aviation expert and vice president at the Teal Group, an aviation consultancy firm. “There’s certainly an aspect of stealthiness, but stealth is about a lot more than just a smartly designed airframe. It’s about coatings, which is extremely proprietary.”
The T-50 is also the product of a partnership between the Indian and Russian governments, with both contributing to the cost of developing the plane, estimated at around $10 billion, but with some sources mentioning figures as high as $35 billion. The program is expected to produce about 200 jets. .. see more