Since the first public demonstration of 4 a year ago, the first Russian low-profile fighter quietly passed the necessary tests; the field of flight regimes is gradually expanding and systematic elimination of technical flaws is underway. But despite all this hard work, until recently there was very little information about how many units of the Sukhoi T-50 planes Moscow plans to build and how they will be used.
The Russian low-profile fighter flies faster than the US and exceeds them in range
One of the world's leading experts in the field aviation Bill Sweetman provides interesting details about Moscow’s intentions regarding the heavy twin-engine T-50 - the Russian response to the American stealth fighter F-22.
If Sweetman is right (and he usually does not make mistakes), this angular combat aircraft with an 50-foot wingspan will be purchased in small quantities and used as a kind of air sniper, elusively destroying enemy radars and high-powered long-range missiles from high altitude.
It appears that the T-50 design and the intended choice of weapons are suitable for performing such tasks, using the weak points of the US Army and its allies. Especially when you consider that the Chinese have the same approach to creating their own inconspicuous fighters.
At the MAKS Airshow held near Moscow, some of the five experimental T-50 samples appeared. The manufacturers also demonstrated missiles that can be placed in the spacious compartments of the T-50 armament, as well as under the wings or fuselage of the aircraft.
According to Svitman, who visited the Avaiashou, the fighter will not be operational for several years, except perhaps for a small test squadron. Indeed, Moscow recently moved the term for adopting from 2015 to 2016 a year.
But the appearance of the T-50, even in limited quantities, will not go unnoticed by the enemy forces. Sweetman came to the conclusion that the T-50 may be equipped with two kinds of powerful weapons: a type of X-58USHE anti-radar missile and an RVV-BD air-to-air missile.
Both are approximately 15 feet long, missiles can hit targets at a distance of 120 miles or more. X-58USHE is designed to destroy enemy radars; RVV-DB - combat aircraft.
American counterparts are AGM-88 anti-radar missile and AIM-120 air-to-air missile. Being a few feet shorter and hundreds of pounds lighter than the Russian equivalent, they reflect the specific American approach to air combat. American invisibles, including the B-2 bomber, F-22 fighters and the F-35, which is under development, are armed with relatively small light ammunition of short range.
The main B-2 ammunition is an 2000-pound bomb. For ground targets, the F-22 and F-35 are equipped with 500-pound guided wing bombs that can travel up to 60 miles under optimal conditions.
The range of air-to-air AIM-120 missiles used on the F-22 and F-35 is only 50 miles or so, although the exact value is classified. It is noteworthy that none of the American low-profile fighters can carry anti-radar missiles, in contrast to the estimated T-50 data.
MIG-29 and T-50
Air Warfare Approaches
The difference in equipment reflects the opposite of the approaches of the United States and Russia to the use of subtle aircraft. With the exception of the F-22, American aircraft that are not visible to radar are not particularly high-speed and must be nearby all the time in order to be able to use their lighter short-range projectiles. Therefore, they need the highest possible “invisibility” to make it difficult to detect them from any angle.
B-2 can fly thousands of miles, but the F-22 and F-35 have a poor supply of fuel, which makes frequent refueling of tanker aircraft necessary.
In turn, the T-50 fighter is obviously being developed in order to be able to break through a fairly straight line of defense. This fighter is characterized by high altitude and range, low radioactivity in the front, sustained high speed, range of weapons, which allows you to effectively hit targets in the rear of the enemy without the need to use tankers, which Russia has few. This does not mean that the T-50 cannot be highly manoeuvrable when necessary.
The primary targets of the Russian fighter are reconnaissance aircraft, airborne early warning vehicles, refueling aircraft and ground-based radars. In other words, support systems consisting of expensive high-tech equipment used in any US-led air campaign. Destroy support systems and maintenance personnel - and you will disrupt the enemy's air military operation.
Not only Moscow applies a similar approach. China also has a new low profile J-20 fighter. It is a large, heavy and possibly high-speed aircraft, like the T-50, with low radio-visibility in the front, equipped with modern weapons.
According to analysts of Air Power Australia, J-20 can be used to breach the enemy’s air defense, destroying fighter jets of air cover, long-range radar detection aircraft and refueling aircraft.
This is a sensible strategy. During the 2008 exercise of the year organized by the US strategic research center sponsored by the US Air Force, the F-22 aircraft fought against the older Chinese fighters like the Su-27 in a hypothetical air battle over Taiwan.
After the Chinese bombing of American airfields, only F-6 X-NUMX fighters versus Chinese X-NUMX fighters remained in service. Accompanied by support aircraft, the F-22 defenders engaged in close combat and shot down 72 units of Su-22 units. However, the remaining Chinese planes managed to break through and destroy 48 tankers, 27 early warning radar aircraft, 6 patrol P-2 and 4 unmanned Global Hawk reconnaissance aircraft, effectively paralyzing the forces of the Americans. Not having the opportunity to refuel, the F-3 were defeated when the fuel ran out, although they had survived an exchange of missile strikes.
If it turned out to be a Su-27, the newer and more advanced T-50 and J-20 with increased range weapons can cause much more significant damage with less losses for themselves.
With such tactics, it does not take a lot of Russian or Chinese aircraft to influence the outcome of the future air battles. So, Sweetman’s forecast that the T-50 fighter will not be released in large quantities in the near future serves as a weak consolation. The impressive characteristics of the aircraft and its weapons can upset the balance of power in the air.