Russia’s T-50 PAKFA fifth-generation stealth fighter is about to undergo flight testing by military pilots for the first time.
The Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) said on January 6 that it would take delivery this year of five of the aircraft that have been flight-tested by Sukhoi at the Gromov Flight Research Institute (LII) in Zhukovsky, AINonline reported Tuesday.
The five T-50s will be transferred to the Chkalov VKS State Flight Test Centre base No. 929 at Akhtubinsk. After reaching Chkalov center, the aircraft would be put through a two-stage program, “State-Joint Flight Testing,” that allows for military pilots to gradually take over the validation of the aircraft.
This joint testing program is in theory the last process that the prototype aircraft would undergo before the green signal is given for the T-50 to enter series production.
In the first stage of the program, the industry pilots who have been flying the T-50, developed by United Aircraft Corp (UAC), will train a cadre of military pilots to fly the aircraft.
In the second stage, flights would be conducted entirely by VKS pilots and validate whether or not the aircraft meets the service’s operational requirement.
The authorization for the T-50 to enter production need not wait until the final results of the joint state testing program, Russian defense industry specialists, said on condition of anonymity.
“TheVKS flight-test team could issue a preliminary report stating that the major points of validation have been completed and that production may commence,” one of the specialists said.
“The T-50 was a priority program for former UAC CEO Mikhail Pogosian, but since he was replaced it seems to have fallen from the top of the VKS priority list.” Another specialist added.
There is comparatively less bureaucratic push to this aircraft type for production phase, the specialist added.
Two possible reasons for this are that the next-generation fighter engine and an AESA radar for the T-50 are still not ready for series production and will have to be certified on the aircraft. At the moment the T-50 is fitted with the same Saturn 117S jet engine and NIIP-built N035 Irbis passive electronically scanning array that are part of the standard configuration for the Su-35.