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Russia’s new SU T-50 fifth generation fighter gets new engine and new name

Advanced fighter jet now being tested with new engine and being referred to as “SU-57”

Alexander Mercouris

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This article was first published by RussiaFeed

Certain Russian publications have in recent weeks begun referring to Russia’s new fifth generation fighter – hitherto known as the “SU T50” (a designation designating a test aircraft) – as “SU-57”, suggesting that this may be the aircraft’s name when it enters service with the Russian Aerospace Forces.

This has not so far been definitely confirmed.  Moreover the name has a much higher number – “57” – than might have been expected.

Russian fighter jets are given numbers depending on their place in the sequence of aircraft designed by a design bureau that enter service.  Thus the “SU-7” of the 1950s is obviously an older aircraft than the “SU-27” of the 1980s, with the difference in the numbers indicating the number of designs the bureau – in this instance the Sukhoi bureau – has developed between the two aircraft.

This is not a rigid rule, and it is complicated by the fact that the Russians tend to use odd numbers for fighter aircraft with a crew of one and even numbers for aircraft with a crew of more than one, though this is not a rigid rule either.

As it happens we know that between the entry of the SU-7 into service in the 1950s and the appearance of the SU-27 in the 1980s the Sukhoi bureau designed and brought into service the following aircraft: SU-9, SU-11, SU-15, SU-17, SU-20, SU-22, SU-24 and SU-25.

The surprisingly large difference in the number used for the last Sukhoi fighter jet to enter service – SU-35 – and that allegedly used by the final version of the SU T50 – SU-57 – may indicate the great number of failed and abortive projects in which the Sukhoi bureau was involved during the crisis years of the 1990s and early 2000s, only some of which are known about.  However the reported name – “SU-57” – could be wrong, or – more plausibly – it might be an unofficial name used by the Sukhoi bureau, in which case the name the aircraft will eventually be given by the Russian Aerospace Forces might be completely different.

In view of this uncertainty I will stick to using the SU T50 designation for the time being.

What is beyond doubt is that the SU T50 is now about to start testing with its new engine, which is in fact its definitive engine which has been specifically designed for it.

There is very little information about this engine, with the Russians not even disclosing its proper name (the Russians refer to it in open publications as “item 30”).

What is however known about this new engine is that it is entirely new, that is the first completely new engine for a fighter jet designed in Russia since the USSR’s fall, that it has been developed by the Saturn Engine Design Bureau in Rybinsk (the design bureau responsible for all engines used by Sukhoi fighter jets since the 1950s) and that it is significantly more powerful than the AL-41F1 engine the SU T50 has been flying with up to now.

The AL-41F1 is in fact an advanced derivative of the AL-31 engine developed in the 1970s for the SU-27 fighter.  The SU T50 has up to now being flying with this engine because in a break with traditional Russian practice the Russians initiated development of the SU T50 some years before the new “item 30” engine was ready.

The new “item 30” engine is said to be far more powerful and far more efficient than the AL-41F1, as is to be expected of a wholly new engine having no connection to the AL-31/AL-41 family of engines which have their roots in the 1970s.

The best indication of how much more powerful and efficient the new engine is has been provided in a detailed description of the SU T50 provided by the official Russian news agency TASS.

This puts the thrust ratings of the AL-41F1 at 8,800 kgf and at 14,500 kgf when using an afterburner. By contrast the thrust ratings of the new “item 30” engine are put at 11,000 kfg and at 18,000 kgf when using an afterburner.

This is a very significant increase in thrust.  It is likely that the new engine is also significantly lighter and more fuel efficient than the older AL-41F1.

Apparently the SU T50 is already capable of supersonic flight with its current AL-41F1 engines even when they are being used without afterburner – what is known as “supercruise”.   Obviously the flight performance of the SU T50 will increase very considerably once it is powered by the new engine.

Recently there has been uncertainty as to the precise date when the SU T50 will enter service.

There are reports that on 23rd March 2015 Russian Deputy Defence Minister Yury Borisov visited the factory in Komsomolsk-on-Amur in Russia’s Far East where Sukhoi fighters are built and told the workforce that the Russian Aerospace Forces would delay entry of the SU T50 into service because the highly effective SU-35 and SU-30 fighters already in service and being built at the factory offered a more cost effective solution to their current needs.

Borisov is supposed to have said that the Russian Aerospace Forces would initially only buy one squadron of 12 SU T50 aircraft using the current AL-41F1 engine – to be delivered apparently next year ie. in 2018 – and would instead buy more SU-35s and SU-30s, with total orders for the SU-35 and the SU-30 being put at 98 aircraft and 116 aircraft respectively.

Full service entry of the SU T50, and large orders for the aircraft, would in the meantime be delayed until the “item 30” engine is ready, with all SU T50 aircraft entering front line service with the Russian Aerospace Forces using only this engine.

This makes sense.  It should not be seen so much as an economy measure – as most commentators suppose – but rather as a response to the earlier than expected availability of the “item 30” engine, whose development seems to have gone smoother and faster than expected.

Given the availability of the new engine and the dramatic improvement in performance it offers, it makes perfect sense to delay service of the SU T50 until the new engine is fully ready and is being produced in quantity.

In the meantime it also makes sense to build more of the current highly potent and fully perfected SU-35s and SU-30s rather than accept into service an incomplete SU T50 whose performance is compromised by use of the older AL-41F1 engine.

Apparently the plan now is for the SU T50 to begin entering service in quantity with the new engine in 2021 with the initial order being apparently set at 60.  The Aerospace Forces will use the intervening period to familiarise themselves fully with the new aircraft by working out on the test squadron of 12 which will be provided to them next year.

This is consistent with the conservative Russian approach, which in contrast to the US avoids pressing into service new aircraft or weapons systems before they have been fully perfected and all the bugs in them have been ironed out.

This approach is not only effective in performance terms – since it ensures that new aircraft and weapons systems are fully combat capable when they enter service – but has repeatedly been shown to be more cost effective as well.  Suffice to say that many of the US’s recent procurement disasters have been caused by the over hasty entry into service of advanced new weapons systems before their technology has fully matured, and before all the problems connected with them have been ironed out.

In the meantime all comparisons between the US’s F-22 and F-35 fighters and the SU T50 using its current AL-41F1 engines – which is to say nearly all of them – are now valueless since the SU T50 will not enter service with these engines.

A more valid point critics of the SU T50 programme can make is that the Russians are bringing their fifth generation fighter much later into service than the Americans.  Suffice to say that the F-22 Raptor’s entry into service was in 2005, whilst the SU T50 is not now expected to enter service before 2021.

This delay is the direct result of the massive disruption to Russia’s aerospace industry caused by the crisis of the 1990s and early 2000s.  The fact the Russians have only now successfully matched their fifth generation fighter with its definitive “item 30” engine – in stark contrast to their historic practice, which is to develop the engine first – is a reflection of this disruption, which their industry has only now finally overcome.

The one big advantage for the Russians from this delay is that their SU T50 fifth generation fighter will be a significantly more modern aircraft when it enters service than its closest US analogue, the F-22 Raptor.  As a result the SU T50 will be able to benefit from the very considerable advances in technology which have taken place since the first fifth generation fighter – the F-22 Raptor – entered service in 2005.

I will finish with a video of the highly impressive flight display the SU T50 flight put on at the recent MAKS 2017 airshow in Moscow in June this year.  Note that the aircraft is flying with its current AL-41F1 engine.  What sort of flight display it will put on when it is flying with its definitive “item 30” engine one can only imagine

 

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Russia calls on US to put a leash on Petro Poroshenko

The West’s pass for Mr. Poroshenko may blow up in NATO’s and the US’s face if the Ukrainian President tries to start a war with Russia.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Russia called on Washington not to ignore the Poroshenko directives creating an active military buildup along the Ukrainian-Donbass frontier, this buildup consisting of Ukrainian forces and right-wing ultranationalists, lest it “trigger the implementation of a bloody scenario”, according to a Dec 11 report from TASS.

The [Russian] Embassy [to the US] urges the US State Department to recognize the presence of US instructors in the zone of combat actions, who are involved in a command and staff and field training of Ukraine’s assault airborne brigades. “We expect that the US will bring to reason its proteges. Their aggressive plans are not only doomed to failure but also run counter to the statements of the administration on its commitment to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine by political and diplomatic means,” the statement said.

This warning came after Eduard Basurin, the deputy defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic noted that the Ukrainian army was massing troops and materiel for a possible large-scale offensive at the Mariupol section of the contact line in Donbass. According to Basurin, this action is expected to take place on 14 December. TASS offered more details:

According to the DPR’s reconnaissance data, Ukrainian troops plan to seize the DPR’s Novoazovsky and Temanovsky districts and take control over the border section with Russia. The main attack force of over 12,000 servicemen has been deployed along the contact line near the settlements of Novotroitskoye, Shirokino, and Rovnopol. Moreover, more than 50 tanks, 40 multiple missile launcher systems, 180 artillery systems and mortars have been reportedly pulled to the area, Basurin added. Besides, 12 BM-30 Smerch heavy multiple rocket launchers have been sent near Volodarsky.

The DPR has warned about possible provocations plotted by Ukrainian troops several times. Thus, in early December, the DPR’s defense ministry cited reconnaissance data indicating that the Ukrainian military was planning to stage an offensive and deliver an airstrike. At a Contact Group meeting on December 5, DPR’s Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova raised the issue of Kiev’s possible use of chemical weapons in the conflict area.

This is a continuation of the reported buildup The Duran reported in this article linked here, and it is a continuation of the full-scale drama that started with the Kerch Strait incident, which itself appears to have been staged by Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko. Following that incident, the president was able to get about half of Ukraine placed under a 30-day period of martial law, citing “imminent Russian aggression.”

President Poroshenko is arguably a dangerous man. He appears to be desperate to maintain a hold on power, though his approval numbers and support is abysmally low in Ukraine. While he presents himself as a hero, agitating for armed conflict with Russia and simultaneously interfering in the affairs of the Holy Eastern Orthodox Church, he is actually one of the most dangerous leaders the world has to contend with, precisely because he is unfit to lead.

Such men and women are dangerous because their desperation makes them short-sighted, only concerned about their power and standing.

An irony about this matter is that President Poroshenko appears to be exactly what the EuroMaidan was “supposed” to free Ukraine of; that is, a stooge puppet leader that marches to orders from a foreign power and does nothing for the improvement of the nation and its citizens.

The ouster of Viktor Yanukovich was seen as the sure ticket to “freedom from Russia” for Ukraine, and it may well have been that Mr. Yanukovich was an incompetent leader. However, his removal resulted in a tryannical regíme coming into power, that resulting in the secession of two Ukrainian regions into independent republics and a third secession of strategically super-important Crimea, who voted in a referendum to rejoin Russia.

While this activity was used by the West to try to bolster its own narrative that Russia remains the evil henchman in Europe, the reality of life in Ukraine doesn’t match this allegation at all. A nation that demonstrates such behavior shows that there are many problems, and the nature of these secessions points at a great deal of fear from Russian-speaking Ukrainian people about the government that is supposed to be their own.

President Poroshenko presents a face to the world that the West is apparently willing to support, but the in-country approval of this man as leader speaks volumes. The West’s blind support of him “against Russia” may be one of the most tragic errors yet in Western foreign policy.

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Second Canadian Citizen Disappears In China

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea.

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Via Zerohedge…


For a trade war that was supposed to be between the US and China, Canada has found itself increasingly in the middle of the crossfire. And so after the arrest of a former Canadian diplomat in Beijing in retaliation for the detention of the Huawei CFO in Vancouver, Canada said a second person has been questioned by Chinese authorities, further heightening tensions between the two countries.

The second person reached out to the Canadian government after being questioned by Chinese officials, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said, at which point Canada lost contact with him. His whereabouts are currently unknown and Global Affairs Canada said they are in contact with his family.

“We haven’t been able to make contact with him since he let us know about this,” Freeland told reporters Wednesday in Ottawa. “We are working very hard to ascertain his whereabouts and we have also raised this case with Chinese authorities.”

According to the he Globe and Mail, the man was identified as Michael Spavor, a Canadian whose company Peaktu Cultural Exchange brings tourists and hockey players into North Korea. He gained fame for helping arrange a visit to Pyongyang by former NBA player Dennis Rodman, and he met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on that trip, the newspaper reported. Attempts to reach Spavor on his contact number either in China, or North Korean went straight to voicemail.

Spavor’s personal Facebook page contains several images of him with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un including one of him with both Jong-un and former Dennis Rodman at an undisclosed location.

Michael P. Spavor, right, pictured here with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, second from right, and Dennis Rodman.

Another image shows the two sharing a drink on a boat.

The unexplained disappearance takes place after China’s spy agency detained former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig in Beijing on Monday, who was on leave from the foreign service. The arrest came nine days after Canada arrested Huawei Chief Financial Officer Meng Wanzhou at the request of U.S. DOJ. While Canada has asked to see the former envoy after it was informed by fax of his arrest, Canada is unaware of Kovrig current whereabouts or the charges he faces.

“Michael did not engage in illegal activities nor did he do anything that endangered Chinese national security,” Rob Malley, chief executive officer of the ICG, said in a written statement. “He was doing what all Crisis Group analysts do: undertaking objective and impartial research.”

One possibility is that Kovrig may have been caught up in recent rule changes in China that affect non-governmental organizations, according to Bloomberg. The ICG wasn’t authorized to do work in China, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said during a regular press briefing in Beijing Wednesday.

“We welcome foreign travelers. But if they engage in activities that clearly violate Chinese laws and regulations, then it is totally another story,” he said, adding he had no information on Kovrig specifically.

As Bloomberg further notes, foreign non-governmental organizations are now required to register with the Chinese authorities under a 2017 law that subjects them to stringent reporting requirements. Under the law, organizations without a representative office in China must have a government sponsor and a local cooperative partner before conducting activities. ICG said this is the first time they’ve heard such an accusation from the Chinese authorities in a decade of working with the country. The company closed its Beijing operations in December 2016 because of the new Chinese law, according to a statement. Kovrig was working out of the Hong Kong office.

Meanwhile, realizing that it is increasingly bearing the brunt of China’s retaliatory anger, Trudeau’s government distanced itself from Meng’s case, saying it can’t interfere with the courts, but is closely involved in advocating on Kovrig’s behalf.

So far Canada has declined to speculate on whether there was a connection between the Kovrig and Meng cases, with neither Freeland nor Canadian Trade Minister Jim Carr saying Wednesday that there is any indication the cases are related. Then again, it is rather obvious they are. Indeed, Guy Saint-Jacques, who served as ambassador to China from 2012 to 2016 and worked with Kovrig, says the link is clear. “There’s no coincidence with China.”

“In this case, they couldn’t grab a Canadian diplomat because this would have created a major diplomatic incident,” he said. “Going after him I think was their way to send a message to the Canadian government and to put pressure.”

Even though Meng was granted bail late Tuesday, that did not placate China, whose foreign ministry spokesman said that “The Canadian side should correct its mistakes and release Ms. Meng Wanzhou immediately.”

The tension, according to Bloomberg,  may force Canadian companies to reconsider travel to China, and executives traveling to the Asian country will need to exercise extra caution, said Andy Chan, managing partner at Miller Thomson LLP in Vaughan, Ontario.

“Canadian business needs to look at and balance the reasons for the travel’’ between the business case and the “current political environment,’’ Chan said by email. Chinese officials subject business travelers to extra screening and in some case reject them from entering, he said.

Earlier in the day, SCMP reported that Chinese high-tech researchers were told “not to travel to the US unless it’s essential.”

And so, with Meng unlikely to be released from Canada any time soon, expect even more “Chinese (non) coincidences”, until eventually China does detain someone that the US does care about.

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Multipolar World Order in the Making: Qatar Dumps OPEC

Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The decision by Qatar to abandon OPEC threatens to redefine the global energy market, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s growing difficulties and the growing influence of the Russian Federation in the OPEC+ mechanism.

In a surprising statement, Qatari energy minister Saad al-Kaabi warned OPEC on Monday December 3 that his country had sent all the necessary documentation to start the country’s withdrawal from the oil organization in January 2019. Al-Kaabi stressed that the decision had nothing to do with recent conflicts with Riyadh but was rather a strategic choice by Doha to focus on the production of LNG, which Qatar, together with the Russian Federation, is one of the largest global exporters of. Despite an annual oil extraction rate of only 1.8% of the total of OPEC countries (about 600,000 barrels a day), Qatar is one of the founding members of the organization and has always had a strong political influence on the governance of the organization. In a global context where international relations are entering a multipolar phase, things like cooperation and development become fundamental; so it should not surprise that Doha has decide to abandon OPEC. OPEC is one of the few unipolar organizations that no longer has a meaningful purpose in 2018, given the new realities governing international relations and the importance of the Russian Federation in the oil market.

Besides that, Saudi Arabia requires the organization to maintain a high level of oil production due to pressure coming from Washington to achieve a very low cost per barrel of oil. The US energy strategy targets Iranian and Russian revenue from oil exports, but it also aims to give the US a speedy economic boost. Trump often talks about the price of oil falling as his personal victory. The US imports about 10 million barrels of oil a day, which is why Trump wrongly believes that a decrease in the cost per barrel could favor a boost to the US economy. The economic reality shows a strong correlation between the price of oil and the financial growth of a country, with low prices of crude oil often synonymous of a slowing down in the economy.

It must be remembered that to keep oil prices low, OPEC countries are required to maintain a high rate of production, doubling the damage to themselves. Firstly, they take less income than expected and, secondly, they deplete their oil reserves to favor the strategy imposed by Saudi Arabia on OPEC to please the White House. It is clearly a strategy that for a country like Qatar (and perhaps Venezuela and Iran in the near future) makes little sense, given the diplomatic and commercial rupture with Riyadh stemming from tensions between the Gulf countries.

In contrast, the OPEC+ organization, which also includes other countries like the Russian Federation, Mexico and Kazakhstan, seems to now to determine oil and its cost per barrel. At the moment, OPEC and Russia have agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day, contradicting Trump’s desire for high oil output.

With this last choice Qatar sends a clear signal to the region and to traditional allies, moving to the side of OPEC+ and bringing its interests closer in line with those of the Russian Federation and its all-encompassing oil and gas strategy, two sectors in which Qatar and Russia dominate market share.

In addition, Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey (a future energy hub connecting east and west as well as north and south) and Venezuela. In this sense, the meeting between Maduro and Erdogan seems to be a prelude to further reorganization of OPEC and its members.

The declining leadership role of Saudi Arabia in the oil and financial market goes hand in hand with the increase of power that countries like Qatar and Russia in the energy sectors are enjoying. The realignment of energy and finance signals the evident decline of the Israel-US-Saudi Arabia partnership. Not a day goes by without corruption scandals in Israel, accusations against the Saudis over Khashoggi or Yemen, and Trump’s unsuccessful strategies in the commercial, financial or energy arenas. The path this doomed

trio is taking will only procure less influence and power, isolating them more and more from their opponents and even historical allies.

Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi, the Eurasian powerhouses, seem to have every intention, as seen at the trilateral summit in Buenos Aires, of developing the ideal multipolar frameworks to avoid continued US dominance of the oil market through shale revenues or submissive allies as Saudi Arabia, even though the latest spike in production is a clear signal from Riyadh to the USA. In this sense, Qatar’s decision to abandon OPEC and start a complex and historical discussion with Moscow on LNG in the format of an enlarged OPEC marks the definitive decline of Saudi Arabia as a global energy power, to be replaced by Moscow and Doha as the main players in the energy market.

Qatar’s decision is, officially speaking, unconnected to the feud triggered by Saudi Arabia against the small emirate. However, it is evident that a host of factors has led to this historic decision. The unsuccessful military campaign in Yemen has weakened Saudi Arabia on all fronts, especially militarily and economically. The self-inflicted fall in the price of oil is rapidly consuming Saudi currency reserves, now at a new low of less than 500 billion dollars. Events related to Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) have de-legitimized the role of Riyadh in the world as a reliable diplomatic interlocutor. The internal and external repression by the Kingdom has provoked NGOs and governments like Canada’s to issue public rebukes that have done little to help MBS’s precarious position.

In Syria, the victory of Damascus and her allies has consolidated the role of Moscow in the region, increased Iranian influence, and brought Turkey and Qatar to the multipolar side, with Tehran and Moscow now the main players in the Middle East. In terms of military dominance, there has been a clear regional shift from Washington to Moscow; and from an energy perspective, Doha and Moscow are turning out to be the winners, with Riyadh once again on the losing side.

As long as the Saudi royal family continues to please Donald Trump, who is prone to catering to Israeli interests in the region, the situation of the Kingdom will only get worse. The latest agreement on oil production between Moscow and Riyad signals that someone in the Saudi royal family has probably figured this out.

Countries like Turkey, India, China, Russia and Iran understand the advantages of belonging to a multipolar world, thereby providing a collective geopolitical ballast that is mutually beneficial. The energy alignment between Qatar and the Russian Federation seems to support this general direction, a sort of G2 of LNG gas that will only strengthen the position of Moscow on the global chessboard, while guaranteeing a formidable military umbrella for Doha in case of a further worsening of relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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