Russia Tests Parts of 6th Generation, Railgun Equipped Near Space Warplane

Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA Prototype

 

Russia’s largest radio electronics manufacturer gave a glimpse into the future of Russian air superiority confirming on Monday that components for a sixth 6th generation fighter jet are being tested on the 5th generation PAK FA T-50 prototype.

Russia has begun testing hardware elements designed for a future 6th generation fighter jet, heralded as the first combat aircraft that will be able to engage targets from near space, on a 5th generation prototype that is currently undergoing flight trials according to a TASS news agency report.Vladimir Mikheyev, advisor to the First Deputy Director General of Concern Radio Electronic Technologies (KRET), a subsidiary of Russian Technologies State Corporation (Rostec), revealed that various components of the new jet have been tested on the Sukhoi PAK FA (Prospective Airborne Complex Frontline Aviation) T-50 prototype.

“Standalone solutions that will be applied in the sixth-generation fighter are now being tested on the fifth-generation jet as well as on the ground-based equipment. Separate elements of the flight and navigation system have already been installed on PAK FA,” Mikheyev told TASS news.

The PAK FA is a 5th generation multi-role, single seat, twin-engine air superiority/deep air support fighter slated to enter service in the Russian Air and Space Forces in 2018. It also serves as the prototype for the joint Indo-Russian Sukhoi/HAL Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project that has tormented the US military and industrial complex that now fears New Delhi will look to Moscow for its weapons procurement needs.

The sixth generation fighter jets planned to be unveiled by 2025 will consist primarily of swarms of unmanned aircrafts flying at hypersonic speed with developers saying that the jets would be able to transit through space.

The aircrafts will be equipped with electromagnetic cannons – much like the Navy’s railgun – which can force an enemy’s radio detector out of operation at a 10km range. The super-high frequency weapons is so powerful, however, that it will not be installed on piloted aircrafts as it can harm the pilot.

“In particular, the electromagnetic impulse, with which the SHF’s weapon will be hitting the targets, will be so powerful that it will be extremely difficult to protect a human, a pilot from his own weaponry,” explained Mikheyev.

The sixth-generation fighter jet has not yet been commissioned by Russia’s Defense Ministry, but there are hopes to finish the research and development part of the work until 2020 so that KRET can produce the first sixth generation aircraft by 2025 upon the ministry’s order.

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Flying Ahead: Russia Looks Forward to 6th Generation Jet Technology

T-50 strike aircraft at the MAKS-2013 Aviation and Space Salon in Zhukovsky

 

With the head of the Russian Aerospace Forces Viktor Bondarev earlier citing the development of the country’s sixth-generation fighter jet, it is worth reflecting on the feasibility of this project on the whole.

The debate on the development of a sixth-generation fighter jet has lasted  since head of the Russian Aerospace Forces Viktor Bondarev said in March that the work on the creation of such a warplane is already underway in Russia, according to RT.Historically, jet fighters are often categorized in generations so as to underscore improvements related to aircraft design, avionics and weapon systems.

Most experts believe that right now, there are five generations of jet fighters embracing the period from 1950, when high-speed subsonic planes were created, to nowadays.

Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor
Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor

As for the fifth-generation warplanes, they are only represented by the US Air Force’s F-22 Raptor, with Russia’s T-50 PAK FA, the US’s F-35, China’s J-20 and J-31 as well as Japan’s Mitsubishi ATD-X currently performing flight tests.

 

Meanwhile, Vladimir Mikhailov of Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation said that the sixth-generation fighter, which he said is expected to be created by 2025, will be able to fly at hypersonic speeds, according to RT.

China's J-20 stealth fighter
China’s J-20 stealth fighter

While Mikhailov said that the requirements for the sixth- generation plane are yet to be formulated, some experts believe that such jet fighters should overcome the Mach 5 threshold in terms of speed and be able to conduct long-range flights without refueling.

At the press conference on Russia’s future jet, Bondarev, for his part, said that the plane, which will be made of composite materials, would have both a manned and an unmanned version.  He added that drone equipment is “much more functional and low-maintenance,” and “can withstand any g-force,” referring to the human body’s inability to survive plane maneuvers, leading to death or loss of consciousness.

J-31 Stealth Fighter
J-31 Stealth Fighter

Importantly, experts said, the sixth-generation jet fighter should be a multi-purpose super maneuverable plane, carrying out tasks as an interceptor, a bomber and a ground attack aircraft armed with hypersonic missiles and equipped with stealth technology.

As for the United States, the idea of creating the sixth- generation warplane has been floated by the Pentagon since 2010, and a new such fighter codenamed F-X should reportedly enter service after 2030.

Unlike the Russian-made sixth-generation plane, the F-X may be equipped with powerful batteries and electric motors. Such a hybrid would take advantage of a jet engine’s speed and use electric generators so as to give power to directed-energy weapons, including lasers. It would also fly at low speeds, according to RT.

Needless to say, the concept of such a plane is just being developed by a number of US companies, including Lockheed and Boeing, which have reportedly made major breakthroughs in the matter.

In this regard, RT quoted military expert Alexey Ramm as saying that speaking of the Russian sixth-generation jet fighter’s main targets is irrelevant given that such a warplane has yet to be created.

“If we proceed from the assumption that the sixth-generation plane will be tasked with fighting the F-22 and the F-35, we should bear in mind that the tasks should be implemented by the T-50 plane,” he said.Ramm added that only after the T-50 plane enters service will it  be possible to make any conclusions about the feasibility of the Russian sixth-generation jet fighter.

In February 2016, it was reported that the fifth generation T-50 fighter jet, also known as the PAK FA, is set to enter service with the Russian Armed Forces later this year. The plane is expected to be equipped with highly advanced X-74M2 cruise missiles.