Images of Russia’s new stealth fighter prototype have begun to surface, with Russian state media saying the new fifth-generation fighter is far superior to the F-35- and even the F-22, which is currently the undisputed king of the skies.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has released footage of the PAK FA Sukhoi T-50 fighter, which is being hailed as the rival aircraft to the US F-22 and F-35.
The images were sourced from a release by the Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant and show a prototype flight of the T-50, which is supposed to replace the middle-aged Sukhoi Su-27 in Russian service.
While Russian State Television has broadcast the T-50 before (notably performing the “falling leaf maneuver”), the new images show the aircraft in stunning clarity.
According to state-sponsored Sputnik News, the new Russian jet comes at a price tag of $50 million, a “bargain basement price and with far greater capabilities when compared to the budgetary eyesore that is America’s F-35 stealth fighter.”
The F-35 Lightning II costs about $98-116 million per unit (depending on model) and has been plagued with development issues, delays and controversy.
“Not only does the T-50 have superior maneuverability compared to the F-35, but it also travels at a 30% higher speed with a range over 2,000 miles farther,” Sputnik reported.
CNN reports that the Russians have also boasted about the plane’s 30mm cannon, which can fire up to 1,800 rounds per minute, utilizing a variety of ammunition ranging from blast-fragmentation, incendiary and armor-piercing tracer rounds.
The T-50 bears passing resemblance to several aircraft, including the Northrop-Grumman YF-23 Black Widow, which was the failed competitor to the F-22.
While the F-22 is currently the only supermaneuverable fifth-generation fighter, the T-50 may have the Raptor beat in a few aspects, including trumping the F-22s two-dimensional thrust-vector jets with three-dimensional vectors. However, defense analysts say that while the F-22 would likely be less agile, the US doctrine has always favored high-energy combat, meaning the F-22 would likely bleed energy more slowly than the T-50.
Still, the Russians claim the T-50 is a superior aircraft, with mass production scheduled to start next year and a Russian squadron formed from the first batch.
The F-22 still likely holds the smaller radar cross-section, superior technology and is flown by better pilots, the T-50 rival coming from the East is likely to have Raptor drivers training a little harder.
However, despite all comparison on paper, the true contest of which aircraft is “best” remains to be seen- in a lethal scenario nobody really wants to play out.
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