Fifth Generation Fighter Update

On 26 April, ITAR-TASS reported what is now termed the ‘second phase’ engine for the fifth generation fighter could be ready in 5-6 years, according to NPO Saturn’s managing director Ilya Fedorov.  In his words:

“The RDT&E on the components for making the engine is now being conducted.  It is going on not just at Saturn.  Salyut and the Petersburg Factory named for Klimov are also conducting scientific-research work.”

Fedorov seemed confident the ‘second phase’ fifth generation engine could fly in 5-6 years, depending mostly on what decision the Defense Ministry makes.

Obviously, Saturn wants and needs the work now.

Sukhoy says the fifth generation fighter’s first test phase, consisting of six flights, was successfully completed.  The aircraft’s reliability and controls, engine operation, and other basic systems were tested at a range of speeds and altitudes.

ITAR-TASS reminds that engine signature reduction measures are supposed to provide the new fighter an unprecedentedly low level of radar, optical, and infrared detectability, allowing the plane to raise significantly its combat effectiveness against air and ground targets.

Recall that Saturn put its 117 or 117S engine–a modernized AL-31F like on the Su-35–on PAK FA as its ‘first phase’ engine.  Everything else is up for debate.  As previously written, the Defense Ministry could decide to forego a truly new engine for a while. 

Meanwhile, talk about future fighter engine work isn’t really helping sort out the competition between ODK/Saturn and Salyut, or the general shakeout in a Russian industry with many players and interested parties.

Early last month Sukhoy General Director Mikhail Pogosyan said the PAK FA would be commissioned with ‘first phase’ engines, and ‘second phase’ ones would require another 10-12 years of development.  He doesn’t sound like a fan of new engines, and obviously wants to get his airframes on the assembly line and out the factory doors.

Specifically, Pogosyan said:

“We need to determine how much financing there will be for the phase two engines, how many of them there will be, and many other issues need to be resolved.”

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