Earlier this year, the Obama Administration, under the suggestion of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, canceled the further production of the Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptor. The world’s first 5th Generation air superiority fighter was seen as unnecessary since it had no rivals. Well, think again! Russia test flew their new Sukhoi T-50 jet fighter. The plane has many similar features as that of the F-22, including stealth, sustained supersonic flight and a high degree of maneuverability due to movable, ‘gimballed’ exhaust nozzles.
Side by side, one can see many similar features in the airframes of these two jet fighters. This reinforces the potential that the new Sukhoi T-50 Russian jet may be a formidable opponent to the F-22. The T-50 is a joint project between Russia, India and Israel. Like the F-22, the T-50 will carry a wide range of current and advanced, future weapon systems inside internal bays, adding to the plane’s stealthiness. The cockpit features advanced avionics, much like the F-22 and F-35 Lighting II, consisting mostly of computer touch-screens as opposed to analog dials and instruments.
Like the F-22, the T-50 will be able to travel at sustained speeds of Mach 2+, but will have double the range of the American version. The new jet fighter is expected to enter service with the Russian Air Force first within the next two to three years. Russia plans on building 150 to 200 for their own national defense. India is committed to buying 200 and will begin to take delivery by 2015. How many Israel will buy remains unknown. However, Russia is already preparing to market the T-50 for worldwide sales by 2017. At a cost of $100 Million dollars each, the plane will be significantly less expensive than the American F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, also intended for international sales. Russia believes the Sukhoi T-50 will capture at least one-third of the world’s jet fighter market. China’s version of a 5th Generation stealth fighter is still several years away.