Russia’s T-50 stealth fighter prototype, the first radar-evading warplane outside the U.S. when it debuted in January 2010, is slightly less stealthy than the American F-22 and about equal to the smaller F-35. But in several other respects the new warplane from the Russian Sukhoi design bureau is actually superior to the American models.
That’s the surprising conclusion of the first-ever public scientific analysis of the T-50′s Radar Cross-Section (RCS), complete this week by Dr. Carlo Kopp, an analyst with the independent think tank Air Power Australia.
“The shaping of the T-50 is inferior to that of the F-22 Raptor,” Kopp writes in his dense, jargon-heavy report. But the F-35 and T-50, he adds, exhibit “similar … RCS behavior.”
But Kopp’s assessment of the T-50 comes with caveats. Quite a few of them, actually. To match the stealthiness of the Lockheed Martin F-35 — to say nothing of the company’s F-22 — Sukhoi’s engineers will have to, among other changes, modify the T-50′s engines to a less obtrusive fitting and add a layer of radar-absorbing material to the plane’s skin.