Russia’s MAKS Show Highlights T-50 PAKFA Progress

The highlight of the MAKS 2017 International Aerospace Saloon held this week at Zhukovsky near Moscow was a maneuvering flight display by a pair of Sukhoi T-50s, and news that this fifth-generation Russian fighter is going into production. A new medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE) UAV was on display, as were some new versions of existing Russian aircraft. The show, held from July 18 to 20, attracted 18,000 to 24,000 daily visitors. A total of 170 aircraft were on display, about half of which flew.

Gen. Victor Bondarev, commander of the Russian Air and Space Force (VKS), declared the first phase of the T-50 acceptance trials complete. The jet is also known as the PAKFA, the Russian acronym for Perspective Aviation Complex of the Fifth Generation. Manufacturer Sukhoi will now begin construction of an initial batch of 12 operational examples. First deliveries to VKS shall take place in 2019. Bondarev also announced the start of a second phase of the testing that will focus on refining the platform and onboard systems.

Making its public debut was the Yakovlev Yak-152 piston trainer, the prototype of which made its first flight in September last year. Two examples took part in the flight display and one more was on static display. The Russian defense ministry placed an order for 150 such aircraft. The Yak-130 twinjet trainer was shown in a new version distinguished by an optical sight, laser rangefinder and target designator in the nose and various new sensors. It also features a 23-mm GSh-23-2 twin-barrel cannon set semi-recessed under the fuselage. At the show it was announced that a more powerful engine will be developed for the type, delivering three tonnes of thrust, some half-a-tonne more than current production examples.

Although the SR-10 trainer with forward swept wing and a single turbojet engine was on display before, it was taking part in the flight display for the first time. Its developer KB SAT said that the performance of the 3.1-tonne-gross-weight airplane will be further improved after replacement of the AI25TL engine with the newer AL-55.

Russian Helicopters unveiled two new rotorcraft in the static display, the VRT300 and VRT500. The first is undergoing flight trials. Clearance for production is expected by year-end, so that deliveries can start late next year. The VRT300 will provide the basis for development of a larger rotorcraft with a gross weight of up to two tonnes.

A new version of the Mi-28NE attack helicopter was on display this year. The helicopter comes in an export version whose deliveries commenced last year to Iraq. This version features a mast-mounted radar and twin controls for both crewmembers. There are also new members in the prodigal Mi-8/17 family. The Mi-171Sh-VN is intended for special forces and anti-terror troops, with improvements made to reflect the Syrian experience and increase top speed to 280 km/h (151 knots). Self-protection is provided by the President-S set, an export version of which is being supplied to Egypt. In addition, an “Arctic” version of the Mi-8AMTSh was on display. Meanwhile, certification of the Mi-171A2, expected to be announced at MAKS, has been postponed for “later this year”. UTair has agreed to be the first commercial operator for this model.

Myriad unmanned vehicles were on display, including the Orion from Kronshtadt Group (KT). This MALE UAV has a gross weight of 1,200 kg (2,600 pounds) and can loiter for 24 hours at altitudes up to 7,500 m (25,000 feet). Its fuselage and wing are made of composite materials. For foreign customers the company has developed an exportable reconnaissance version with imaging sensors. According to KT, there are now some 2,000 UAV projects in more than 60 nations. 

A new version of the MiG-35 multirole fighter was shown, and one of the few deals to be announced at the show was the signing of an MoU between Russia and Malaysia on the long-mooted upgrade of the RMAF MiG-29 fleet.

View a slideshow from the show.

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