Pics of the week: Russia’s fourth stealth fighter makes record flight

We talk a lot about China’s stealth jets here at Killer Apps because, well, they’re interesting. That being said, we haven’t heard much about Russia’s growing fleet of stealth fighters lately. The fourth Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA, as Russia’s stealth jet is called, just completed the longest flight in the type’s history. The fourth T-50 ...

Sukhoi
Sukhoi
Sukhoi

We talk a lot about China's stealth jets here at Killer Apps because, well, they're interesting. That being said, we haven't heard much about Russia's growing fleet of stealth fighters lately. The fourth Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA, as Russia's stealth jet is called, just completed the longest flight in the type's history.

The fourth T-50 took to the skies for the first time in early December 2012, according to Sukhoi. Then on January 17, the twin-engine jet then made the roughly 4,000-plus mile flight between the Sukhoi factory at Komsomolsk-on-Amur and an airfield just outside of Moscow with "several intermediate stops," according to a Sukhoi press release.

The very first T-50 flew in January 2010, the second in March 2011, and the third in August 2012. The first two jets lacked weapons systems and advanced avionics and were simply used to prove that the T-50's design was sound -- aka, that it would fly. The third jet is reportedly being used to test the advanced sensors, including an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, that are hallmarks of modern stealth jets.

We talk a lot about China’s stealth jets here at Killer Apps because, well, they’re interesting. That being said, we haven’t heard much about Russia’s growing fleet of stealth fighters lately. The fourth Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA, as Russia’s stealth jet is called, just completed the longest flight in the type’s history.

The fourth T-50 took to the skies for the first time in early December 2012, according to Sukhoi. Then on January 17, the twin-engine jet then made the roughly 4,000-plus mile flight between the Sukhoi factory at Komsomolsk-on-Amur and an airfield just outside of Moscow with “several intermediate stops,” according to a Sukhoi press release.

The very first T-50 flew in January 2010, the second in March 2011, and the third in August 2012. The first two jets lacked weapons systems and advanced avionics and were simply used to prove that the T-50’s design was sound — aka, that it would fly. The third jet is reportedly being used to test the advanced sensors, including an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, that are hallmarks of modern stealth jets.

The T-50 isn’t quite as stealthy as the United States’ F-22 Raptor, against which it’s designed to compete. Russian engineers reportedly decided to trade stealthiness for better maneuverability than the Raptor. This tradeoff may also keep the cost of the jet lower — a key selling point since Sukhoi plans to offer an export version of the T-50 for sale around the world as a competitor to the U.S.-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the only other stealth jet that is currently being marketed worldwide. (We’re still waiting to see if China offers up its J-20 or J-31 stealth fighters for sale abroad.)

Sukhoi is already working with India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to develop a twin-seat version of the T-50 for the Indian air force that would enter production around 2020. The Russian version of the jet is supposed to enter service with the Russian air force later this decade.

John Reed is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy. He comes to FP after editing Military.com’s publication Defense Tech and working as the associate editor of DoDBuzz. Between 2007 and 2010, he covered major trends in military aviation and the defense industry around the world for Defense News and Inside the Air Force. Before moving to Washington in August 2007, Reed worked in corporate sales and business development for a Swedish IT firm, The Meltwater Group in Mountain View CA, and Philadelphia, PA. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter at the Tracy Press and the Scotts Valley Press-Banner newspapers in California. His first story as a professional reporter involved chasing escaped emus around California’s central valley with Mexican cowboys armed with lassos and local police armed with shotguns. Luckily for the giant birds, the cowboys caught them first and the emus were ok. A New England native, Reed graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a dual degree in international affairs and history.

More from Foreign Policy

A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.
A Panzerhaubitze 2000 tank howitzer fires during a mission in Ukraine’s Donetsk region.

Lessons for the Next War

Twelve experts weigh in on how to prevent, deter, and—if necessary—fight the next conflict.

An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
An illustration showing a torn Russian flag and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Not planning for the possibility of disintegration betrays a dangerous lack of imagination.

An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.
An unexploded tail section of a cluster bomb is seen in Ukraine.

Turkey Is Sending Cold War-Era Cluster Bombs to Ukraine

The artillery-fired cluster munitions could be lethal to Russian troops—and Ukrainian civilians.

A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol  January 8, 2009 in Washington.
A joint session of Congress meets to count the Electoral College vote from the 2008 presidential election the House Chamber in the U.S. Capitol January 8, 2009 in Washington.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Some brief foreign-policy advice for the newest members of the U.S. legislature.