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The Sukhoi T-50 5th Generation Fighter is a Real Threat to the West

MG is a military specialist having spent quality time in the Indian Air Force. He is also an alumnus of the Defence Services Staff College.


Beginnings from Days of Stalin

Josef Stalin the Russian leader who presided over the erstwhile Soviet Union for 29 years( 1924-53)is reviled by much people.No doubt he was a sanguine and bloodthirsty leader, but one aspect of modern Russia cannot be ignored is that he made Russian aviation a potent force. It was at the time of Stalin that the big names of Russian aviation namely the MIG, Illusion, Tupolev, and Sukhoi were started. Stalin wanted to make Russia a great power and he was instrumental in launching these aircraft factories. All credit to him as earlier, not even a bicycle was made in Russia.

The foundations laid during the period of Stalin flowered and the Russian aircraft industry got a great fillip after the end of World War II when some captured German scientists were incorporated to help out the local Russian engineers. The result was a string of world-class fighters and military aircraft, which had a spill over to civil aviation as well. An example is the TU-144 the world's first SST. This Mach 2 airliner though not a success heralded a new area in aviation.

The Soviet Union was an anachronism and within 70 years of the famous Russian revolution in 1917collapsed like a pack of cards. The result was catastrophic for Russian aviation as many front line military projects were sidelined or put in mothballs for lack of political will as well as funds. Thus famous bombers like the Backfire ( TU -22) and the TU-160 were shelved or allowed to go to seed.

This state of affairs did not last long as a new Tsar in the form of Vladimir Putin emerged. He had visions of the old Soviet power as he was a KGB officer earlier during the Soviet Unions hey days. He shored up the economy on the back of oil and gas exports saw to it that the Russian economy began to float. He also started an ambitious military aviation program and this led to a state of art war machines emerging from the Russian stables. The technology was already there but political will was lacking and this was given direction by Vladimir Putin and once again the Russians took the leadership in military aviation


The Sukhoi T-50 advanced 5th generation Interceptor.

The Russian endeavor has seen the development of the Sukhoi T-50 a state of art war machine. The T-50 is a stealth fighter as well as an air superiority fighter that mirrors the theory of Giulio Douhet, the Italian air general who had stated that to win a war, decisive control of the air environment was essential.

The Sukhoi design bureau has now put out the ST-50. This is a plane that can not only evade conventional radar but also fly at Mach 2.5 +, making it a super fast and lethal weapon system. Presently the aircraft is in testing mode and only 9 prototypes are produced. These are being tested from various airfields in Russia. The T-50 carries cruise missiles and pinpoint cannon and is a single set twin-engined plane.

Russian aviation has released the photographs of the plane in operation and the photos show the plane operating from snow lined airfields. The airstrips are not identified but they are perhaps from the northern areas of Siberia.

The plane which costs $ 50 million apiece is a cost-effective plane compared to the US F-35 which is very costly. and goes up to a billion dollars. The T-50 will counter the USAF F-22 and the F-35.


The Future

The Sukhoi-T-50 if a success will be incorporated as the latest plane in the Russian air force. The plane has already a buyer in India which plans to induct this 5th generation plane into the IAF. The big advantage of the plane is that it is cost-effective and to pay a mere $ 50 million per machine in today's world is cheap.

The plane is however not as sophisticated as the F-35 which is way ahead in avionics and ECM. But to get a marginal superior plane at a billion dollars has made even Donald Trump put on his thinking cap. The F-35 has been supplied to Israel and it will give the IAF the much-needed edge in combat over the Arabs.

The Russian's will perhaps add some ECM measures to the plane which will make this weapons system a steal and may well break into the international market.

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Last word

The Sukhoi T-50 is also christened as the SU- 57. This has now turned out to be the latest fifth-generation fighter of the Russian Air force. The plane has however suffered an unforeseen delay in its induction and the first lot of fighters have only been inducted in early this year. In contrast, American F 35 has been inducted a long time earlier.

Due to the delay, the Indian air force had lost interest in the Su-57. But there appears to be a rethink now and the plane is once again under consideration by India. Russia is now hopeful of selling the plane to Turkey which has recently been ejected by the USA from the F- 35 programs because of its insistence on buying the S 400 Russian missile system. The Russians under Putin are aggressively marketing the SU 57 to countries around the world. We will have to wait and see what is the result. One factor going in favor of the Russian plane is its cost. The SU 57 costs a fraction of the F 35 though military specialists opine that the plane could be a shade below the performance level of the American plane in sophistication and performance. Nevertheless, for its price, it is a good buy


MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on September 27, 2020:

Yes TOM, thanks for commenting.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 18, 2017:

The Russians are past masters at innovation. Their military hardware is tough and cheaper than the West. Their planes are good and I flew the MIG21 and 27. Thank you for commenting, Lawrence

Lawrence Hebb on January 18, 2017:


This was interesting to read. One of the things that the Russians are known for is copying the design of Western aircraft, and in some cases improving on them.

I know at the moment there are some 'confrontations' going on in the Baltic States with the Russians 'pushing the limits' flying right up the the edge of their airspace (just like they did at the height of the 'cold war') and at the moment the Baltic States have asked NATO for help.

Last I read, both the Germans and the British had sent the latest 'Typhoons' (price tag 80 million pounds each) which means you could get three of the Russian planes for just one Typhoon!

Great article.


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