Sukhoi T-50 First Flight

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Russia flew a prototype of its new Sukhoi T-50 fighter on Friday. The aircraft is said to be the first fighter jet designed and built in post-Soviet Russia, albeit with help from India. The unique twin-engine, all-weather, low-visibility, stealthy "fifth-generation" fighter is expected to be capable of extended supersonic flight. Its design is said to have been determined "taking into account the F-22's capabilities, merits and drawbacks," according to RIA Novosti. Having won a design contest in 2002, the Russian jet was expected to fly first in 2007. With Friday's first flight, testing is expected to continue over the next five to six years. According to Russian military commentator Ilya Kramnik, the T-50 compares with aircraft like the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, developed from the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. The Russian jets are expected to "replace the Su-30MKI Flanker-H fighters currently serving with the Indian Air Force, in the 2020s and the 2030s. Moreover, it is likely they will be mass-produced in India," as well as Komsomolsk-on-Amur (far south-eastern Russia), beginning as early as 2015.

According to RIA Novasti, the Russian T-50 was designed to include: "greater agility, sustained supersonic-flight capability in non-afterburning mode, low radar visibility, low heat signature, as well as enhanced take-off and landing performance." The T-50's specifications remain classified, but Russian sources believe it will have a takeoff weight of more than 30 metric tons and is close in dimension to the Sukhoi Su-27 Flanker. It is said to be fitted with Russian Saturn 117S turbofan engines. Short-field abilities may include the ability to take off from a 1000-foot runway and the jet is expected to have a range of about 5,500 kilometers.