However, there's exciting news for aviation enthusiasts coming out of Russia. Today, the Sukhoi Company announced the successful first flight of its fifth generation fighter: the T-50. The T-50 prototype's first flight comes 19 years after the original Lockheed Martin YF-22 prototype took to the air and 12 years after the production F-22 Raptor made its first flight.
The Sukhoi T-50's first flight lasted 47 minutes and was a complete success, according to the company.
“In the course of the flight we’ve conducted initial evaluation of the aircraft controllability, engine performance and primary systems operation, the aircraft had retracted and extracted the landing gear, said Sergey Bogdan, the man behind the controls during today's maiden flight. "The aircraft performed excellently at all flight-test points scheduled for today. It is easy and comfortable to pilot”.
According to Sukhoi, the T-50 features a number of new technological advances which reduce the pilot's need to focus on more mundane aspects of flight control in order to focus instead on completing specific missions. In addition, the aircraft makes use of composite materials in addition to stealth technology to reduce its radar cross section.
While the F-35 Lightning II may be the United States' newest fighter aircraft, the Sukhoi T-50 will no doubt be compared most to America's premier fifth generation air superiority fighter: the F-22 Raptor. The Raptor received Initial Operational Capability (IOC) in 2005 and was certified for Full Operational Capability in 2007. 147 F-22 Raptors have been built and there is money budgeted for an additional 40 planes. Unit cost for each aircraft is estimated to be nearly $147M.
Sukhoi, on the other hand, feels that it's new T-50 will have no problems matching or surpassing the performance of fighters like the F-22 Raptor at a lower cost as well.
“I am strongly convinced that our joint project will excel its Western rivals in cost-effectiveness and will not only allow strengthening the defense power of Russian and Indian Air Forces, but also gain a significant share of the world market,” said Sukhoi Company Director General Mikhail Pogosyan.
In addition, Sukhoi will be selling its aircraft to a number of foreign countries including India. The U.S., however, has banned the export of the F-22 Raptor to other countries (including its closest allies).