Rooskie Fourth-and-a-Half

Neptunus Lex writes a bit about the T-50, a supposed fifth-generation fighter from Sukhoi:

The Sukhoi T-50 prototype, a “fifth generation” fighter, completed a 47-minute maiden test flight in Russia’s Far East. The project, three years behind schedule, has been shrouded in secrecy during almost two decades of development and aims to rival the F-22 Raptor flown by the US Air Force, which began flight tests in 1997.

Lex notes this about the F-22:

Curious place the Raptor found itself in: Too valuable to export, not valuable enough to build.

He also notes that the photos of the T-50 don’t make it look nearly as stealthy as they claim. The comments section is quite interesting.


  1. Only three years behind schedule? That puts it ahead of the JSF (to say nothing of the F-22)!

    Even if it’s not an “F-22 killer”, if it can keep the teen series busy, maybe even the JSF, then we’d have to rely on our ten squadrons of F-22’s. Of course, that’s assuming the PAK-FA could even get off the ground before those ten squadrons of F-22’s wiped them out on the ramp.

  2. If the Indians are writing the software for this, it will probably be a pretty damn good package. And it will be considerably less expensive than the F-22.

    I bet the USAF and Lockheed love it. They can use its existence to get more F-22s.

  3. Stealth and traditional Soviet design do not mix well. Soviets are good at simple, tough, and numerous. This bird looks like a fair compromise. Stealthwise, I would put on it par with the Eurofighter. Good frontal stealth, but poor vs rear and oblique angles. Its underpowered, but that is usual with Soviet Birds. The big question is if the Soviets can get better then a 40% mission capable rate out them.

    1. “Good frontal stealth, but poor vs rear and oblique angles”.

      You are always going to get poor stealth at some angles, unless the construction material itself does not reflect in the relevant wavelengths, for insuperable mathematical reasons having to do with the hairy ball theorem. So it comes down to what trade off is made and why.

      1. In general terms you are correct, but stealth in application is not the absence of reflectivity but the mitigation of returning radio energy to the source point The use of shapes is but one aspect of the whole.

        My point is that T-50 appears to be in the interceptor mode with a narrow frontal stealth treatment but stealth does not appear to be a major factor in its design. This design is systematic with Russian positive control theory of flight operations.

        1. I don’t think I got my point across. I wasn’t talking about non-reflectivity but about how you never can get the reflections to come perfectly right; it’s just that if you can get low enough reflectivity at the angles where it doesn’t work, that saves the stealth.

          The thing is, for any angle of incidence that the radar is coming from (relative to the aircraft), there is some angle – not necessarily the same – towards which (mathematics on) most of the reflection goes, the angle of (maximum) reflection in the sense that it is the average of all possible outward angles, weighted by the amount in each angle. From the physics of reflection, that is a continuous function of the angle of incidence (mathematics off). (You could use some other definitions, but it doesn’t affect the outcome.)

          Now, what a designer is trying to achieve with a stealth aircraft is, that radar should never go back where it came from. But that’s impossible, because it would need all the angles of reflection to be different from their angles of incidence, which would mean that (mathematics on) you could use them to construct a continuous tangent vector field for a sphere by taking the angle of incidence corresponding to each point on the sphere and then simply constructing a tangent unit vector towards the corresponding angle of reflection. The hairy ball theorem tells us that it can’t be done (mathematics off), so there must be angles at which the radar reflects back (in fact, at least two of them). So either you do something to cut the reflectivity at those angles right down, or you choose angles which do the least harm – a trade off. But you never have the option of always making radar reflect in a different direction; it can’t be done. Anyone who tells you different is missing something somewhere.

  4. With the way the Obamanation has been spending our Chinese dollars, and all the unfunded entitlements projected for the next 30 years………….if we ever see one more F22, other than the ones already authorised and funded……..I’ll eat my nasty old ball cap!

    1. Agreed, though I don’t necessarily lay the blame at the O-Man’s feet on this one. His outlook on things won’t help change the course, of course, but we were already on this road when he was elected.

      Given the aging and current usage rate of our current fleet of planes, the only thing worse than the way overpriced way overhyped F-22 is not having enough of them.

      1. We were already on the road – then O floored the gas petal, hit the nito kit, kicked in the afterburners, and engaged the faster-than-light drive.


    …He argued during a press conference in Moscow on August 11 that given the currently undermanned levels of VVS units, the air force cannot adequately fulfill tasks within a set time scale. Therefore, he said, “We are now going back to our Soviet-era practice.”

    …Senior commanders report that no more than 30% of aircraft are operational. Shortages in spare parts are severe, and this is also apparent in the lack of equipment for operating and maintaining airfields, as well as the necessary numbers of drivers and technicians to service such equipment.

  6. I really hope this T-50 will provide the incentive to increase F-22 production. Yet with today’s political stupidity I doubt it.

    The USAF should have in fact gotten more than their 381 final request.

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