The U.S. F-22 Raptor is the only operational fifth-generation fighter jet in the world. Russia has been investing heavily in its own fifth-generation Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA. The T-50 is expected to join the Russian Air Force in late 2016 or early 2017. The development has fueled a debate on how the F-22 Raptor would fare against Russia’s deadliest fighter jet.
F-22 and T-50 have a lot in common
Defense analyst Dave Majumdar says that both the fighter jets have a lot in common. The PAK FA has been optimized as a fast, stealthy, and high-flying air superiority fighter. The two have an equivalent service ceiling of approximately 65,000 feet. Russia’s PAK FA has a maximum speed of 1,520 mph, slightly higher than F-22’s 1,500 mph. Sukhoi PAK FA has a range of 2,175 miles compared to 1,820 miles for the F-22 Raptor.
Both the F-22 and PAK FA are twin-engine, single-seat, stealthy multi-role fighters. In terms of kinematics, the F-22 has an edge, but they will be comparable once the T-50 PAK FA is fitted with new engines. PAK FA currently relies on the Izdeliye 117 engines, which limits the capabilities of its airframe. The more advanced Izdeliye 30 engines are still under development.
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Russia’s PAK FA beats F-22 in maneuverability
In terms of stealth features, the U.S. jet is far superior. Majumdar notes that the T-50’s design places little emphasis on all-aspect low observables. The Russian jet focuses on frontal aspect stealth. However, the Sukhoi PAK FA has some other aces up its sleeves. The Russian jet has a huge advantage in maneuverability.
The T-50 PAK FA is equipped with three-dimensional thrust vectoring. The Russian jet also boasts of a helmet-mounted cuing system and the Vympel R-73 air-to-air missile that is capable of tracking and hitting targets at high off-boresight angles. Majumdar concludes that both the fighter jets have advantages over each other. The debate over which one is better won’t be settled until PAK FA and F-22 Raptor meet in combat.