Russia to Flight Test New Jet Engine for PAK FA T-50 Stealth Fighter this Year

By | Feb 17, 2017 02:51 AM EST
Not ready for prime time

Russian PAK FA stealth fighter.(Photo : Russian Aerospace Forces)

Russia's much delayed and underperforming PAK FA T-50 stealth fighter will take to the air for the first time this year with a new engine Russians claim will make the fighter a world beater capable of taking on the U.S. Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The T-50, which is the designation given to the prototype of the PAK FA, was first flown in 2010. The few T-50s being flight tested are equipped with what some describe as a "first-stage" 117C engine, which isn't powerful enough to optimize the performance of PAK FA.

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The first flight of the T-50 with the new engine, which hasn't received an official name, is expected by the fourth quarter of the year, said Russia's United Engine Corporation (UEC), which developed the jet engine.

If the tests of the new engine are successful, the T-50 will go into serial production for the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) as the PAK FA fifth generation stealth fighter. Deliveries to the VKS are expected by 2025.

The new jet engines completed their first ground tests in December 2016. It will replace the engine currently powering the 12 prototype T-50s under evaluation: the upgraded Saturn AL-41F1 (izdeliye 117) turbofan, or the first stage engine.

UEC reported a successful first ground-based ignition of the new demonstrator engine for the T-50 identified as the "second-stage engine." This second-stage engine is also identified as the AL-41F1 (izdeliye 30).

The new second-stage engine will be one of the most advanced in the world, according to Russian experts. It allows the T-50 to accelerate to supersonic speed, and maintain that velocity throughout the flight, without using afterburners. 

The Izdeliye 30 is expected to come off the production line between 2025 and 2027. That means PAK FA will become woefully underpowered compared to the American stealth fighters until 2025 at the earliest.

The second-stage engine is expected to increase the speed of the PAK FA to Mach 1.6 (1,980 km/h). The engine will also significantly improve the stealth properties of PAK FA because it uses new composite materials. UEC expects to start testing the second-stage engine on the PAK FA in 2018.

The first-stage engine currently mounted on the T-50 is an updated version of the engine used in the Sukhoi Su-27, Su-30 and the Su-35.

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