Putin walks the flight line at Akhtubinsk on May 14
Russia’s Supreme CINC boosted the fortunes of the country’s fifth generation Su-57 fighter declaring yesterday that Moscow will procure 76 of them. Until now it appeared the VKS might only receive a handful and forego series production altogether.
According to Kremlin.ru, Putin said:
“Multipurpose fighters Su-35S and Su-57 are in the final phase of state testing. These aircraft have unique characteristics and are the best in the world. It’s essential to fully rearm three Aerospace Forces regiments with the future aviation system fifth generation Su-57.”
“At the range [Akhtubinsk] yesterday the Minister [of Defense Shoygu] and I talked about this. Under the arms program to 2027 it’s planned to buy 16 of such aircraft. We analyzed the situation yesterday, the Minister reported. As a result of the work we did, as a result of the fact that we agreed with industry, — industry has practically reduced the cost of the aircraft and weapons by 20 percent, — we can buy many more of these combat aircraft of this class, of this, essentially, new generation. We agreed that we will buy over that time period 76 of such airplanes without increasing the cost. We have to say that in such volume, but the volume isn’t even the thing, the thing is we haven’t done anything like this new platform in the last 40 years. I hope the corrected plans will be fulfilled. And we’ll soon complete the contract for the systematic delivery of 76 of these fighters equipped with modern aviation weapons and the essential supporting ground infrastructure.”
Seventy-six is an odd number. Seventy-two would make three two-squadron regiments (24 fighters per).
Looks like Putin laid down a hard line with Sukhoy and KnAAPO. But hardware price issues have a way of persisting even after the Supreme CINC has spoken. Industry, after all, has to recoup its development costs and keep up with rising prices for components, etc.
Presumably, the 76 Su-57 fighters will have the “second phase” engine giving them true fifth generation maneuverability. That engine is still in testing that won’t finish til 2023. Could make for quite a backloaded production scheme.
A Russian defense industry source has told Kommersant that a 170 billion ruble contract will be signed at the MAKS-2019 air show in August. That’s making 76 Su-57s for a fly-away price of $34 million per plane. The F-22 was $150 million in 2009. The F-35 is at least $100 million. Even adding the 20 percent back in makes the Su-57 only $41 million a copy. We should be skeptical about this plan.
Maybe saying Russia will produce reams of Su-57s is no skin off Putin’s nose. In 2024, he’ll be out of office unless he officially makes himself president-for-life. Still Putin can’t fight time; he’ll be 71 when [if] the 2024 election happens. When those 76 Su-57s are supposed to be done, Putin will be 76 years old. Ironic.
The Russian Aerospace Forces celebrated the 105th anniversary of their founding today.
From VKS CINC General-Colonel Viktor Bondarev, we learned yesterday that the Future Aviation System Frontal Aviation (PAK FA or ПАК ФА) will be officially known as the Su-57.
At MAKS, it was announced that state joint testing of the “first phase” fighter is concluding. Sukhoy is beginning production of 12 fifth generation Su-57 fighters which will reach front-line units in 2019. But OAK President Yuriy Slyusar admitted publicly that the first 12 will have the “first phase” engine.
PAK FA first flew at Komsomolsk-na-Amure on January 29, 2010.
Interfaks-AVN offered the following recap of Su-57 capabilities: a fundamentally new and deeply integrated avionics system providing a high level of automated control and decisionmaking support to the pilot, supercruise without afterburners, low observability from radar, optical, acoustic, and other detection means, supermaneuverability, and relatively short take-off and landing.
As if on cue, Russian Deputy Defense Minister and arms tsar Yuriy Borisov told journalists on February 2 that production of Russia’s T-50 / PAK FA fifth generation fighter may not begin until after 2018.
“Most likely,” he said, “this will be the next state armaments program, that is 2018-2025,” TASS reported.
Borisov added that the Defense Ministry is not in a hurry. He said, as long as existing analogues satisfy the armed forces’ requirements, there is no need to spend money to buy expensive new equipment, according to TASS.
“We’ll use it on a trial basis, we’ve bought limited quantities, we’ll see how they work in practice, identify all deficiencies, put in place all changes so when the time comes to buy the models have been developed in practice,” Borisov noted.
What satisfies the requirements at this point is the procurement of 12 MiG-29SMT, two Su-30M2, 17 Su-30SM, and 12 Su-35S fighters, or 43 fighters in all, in 2016. But, after peaking in 2014, Moscow’s acquisition of combat aircraft declined some in 2015 and then fell more sharply in 2016, according to bmpd.
ODK General Director Aleksandr Artyukhov has dampened the prospects for Russia’s developmental fifth generation fighter aircraft, the T-50 or PAK FA. Friday in Lukhovitsy at the presentation of the MiG-35, Artyukhov told RIA Novosti that R&D on PAK FA’s “second phase” engine won’t be complete until 2020.
T-50 / PAK FA (photo: RIA Novosti / Aleksandr Vilf)
This contrasts with the more hopeful announcement late last year from Sukhoy aircraft plant KnAAZ when the “second phase” engine or “item 30” commenced stand tests.
ODK’s Artyukhov told the media that the plan is to begin flight tests of the “second phase” engine this year.
Existing prototypes fly with the first phase or “item 117S” engine (AL-41F1S). However, “item 30” advertises reduced infrared signature, increased thrust, supercruise, improved fuel efficiency, and lower life-cycle costs.
Artyukhov’s predecessor said more than two years ago that a PAK FA with a “second phase” engine would not fly until 2017. ODK once hoped this would happen in 2015, but OAK’s former chief Mikhail Pogosyan said possibly not even before 2019.
But even with a tested “item 30” engine, it will be a challenge to integrate and test it fully this year. So the first PAK FA fighters to reach the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) will probably have “item 117S” engines.
As the PAK FA’s engine has slipped, so has the aircraft itself.
The VKS officially hopes to accept its newest fighter in 2017, and take delivery of five in late 2017 or 2018. It looks toward a total buy of 55 PAK FA.
However, in mid-2015, Deputy Defense Minister Yuriy Borisov said the military would procure one squadron of 12 PAK FA. He didn’t commit to more. Borisov said Russia would buy fewer PAK FA than planned because the 4++ generation Su-35 is superior to new foreign fighters in many respects.
Once flagship of a robust Russian military press, NVO isn’t what it was. What is after 15 years of Putin? But NVO still has moments. Its 22 May editorial is one.
Putin at 15 May Meeting
NVO writes that recent Roskosmos failures overshadowed President Vladimir Putin’s mid-May meetings with Defense Ministry and defense industry leaders on the GOZ and GPV. Still the 9 May Victory Day parade on Red Square showed much has been done to rearm Russia. But much doesn’t mean every problem has been solved. Rather, NVO contends, problems in the realization of GPV 2011-2020 and GPV 2016-2025 are “snowballing.”
The paper offers cases in point:
- The fifth generation T-50 (PAK FA) fighter didn’t fly over Red Square even though it’s supposed to be in serial production already. The impatient Putin gave Russian designers just five years to field the T-50 while the Americans took 14 years from first flight to first delivery with the F-22 and 12 with the F-35.
- Only a short time — two years — has been allowed for serial production of the new Armata tank. The Soviet T-64 took 10-15 years from the start of testing until all development work was finished. The call for Armata tanks and other armored vehicles on the same base in 2015 is just a “wish.” Serial production won’t begin earlier than 2018.
- There are delays in other key military programs — S-350 Vityaz, S-500 Triumfator-M, and missile defense systems (no specifics provided).
Then NVO reels off a list of weapons the Russian military needs that, the editorial asserts, aren’t exactly rolling off assembly lines:
- Transport aircraft;
- Air-launched missiles;
- Air ordnance;
- Artillery and fire control systems;
- Space systems.
Regarding the final bullet, the paper notes that “even a huge investment of budget resources still won’t save Roskosmos from its systemic crisis.”
“On the whole, fulfillment of GPV-2020 and GPV-2025 has been summoned to restore Russia to military parity with NATO, if only the Russian economy can withstand the strain. If not, the history of the USSR may be repeated.”
Some will quibble about particular systems NVO claims Moscow will have trouble fielding, but the general point remains: far from everything needed by a military neglected for 20 years is being successfully procured. There are more than a few independent Russian economists who say Moscow’s current high level of defense spending is damaging an economy already challenged by lower oil prices and Western sanctions.
HT to Militaryparitet.com for pointing to Lenta.ru on the status of work on PAK FA’s advanced “second phase” engine.
Lenta (citing Interfaks) says a source close to ODK General Director Vladislav Masalov says a PAK FA with the “second phase” engine will fly in 2017.
He reportedly said the “second phase” engine will replace “item 117” and give PAK FA supercruise capability while being 15-18 percent more fuel efficient and cheaper to maintain.
Lenta notes the developmental engine is “item 30” not “item 129” as cited previously in Russian media.
The AL-41F1 is “item 117.” Current PAK FA prototypes and the Su-35S have “item 117S” (AL-41F1S) engines.
Recall, in 2010, ODK along with NPO Saturn hoped the “second phase” engine would fly by 2015. However, OAK President Pogosyan was considerably less sanguine, saying that the advanced engine might come in 2019, or later.
Burned PAK FA Bort 055
Interfaks-AVN reported yesterday that a PAK FA on a test flight from Zhukovskiy made an emergency landing.
A source told the military news agency that bort number 055 received “insignificant damage” from a fire that was quickly extinguished. The pilot was unhurt.
There are four flying T-50 or PAK FA prototypes at present, and two used for ground testing.
This wiki article on PAK FA lists the prototypes and when they first flew. T-50-5 or bort number 055 is the newest, making its initial flight on 27 October 2013.
AVN notes that the prototypes have performed aerial refueling and are working through various supermaneuvers.