The Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA stealth fighter could prove to be a formidable competitor to American fifth-generation combat aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Indeed, in some measures, the new Russian warplane will exceed both U.S.-built jets, but the PAK-FA is not without its flaws.
“The analysis that I have seen on the PAK-FA indicates a pretty sophisticated design that is at least equal to, and some have said even superior to U.S. fifth-generation aircraft,” former U.S. Air Force intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Dave Deptula told the National Interest. “It certainly has greater agility with its combination of thrust vectoring, all moving tail surfaces, and excellent aerodynamic design, than does the F-35.”
Indeed, the PAK-FA appears to be optimized for the air-superiority role like the F-22 more so than the multirole, strike-optimized F-35. Like the Raptor, the PAK-FA is being designed to fly high and fast to impart the maximum amount of launch energy to its arsenal of long-range air-to-air missiles—which would greatly increase the range of those missiles.