Russian media reported in recent weeks two new developments concerning the PAK-FA, or the Future Aviation System–Frontal Aviation. In addition to the news of the sixth T-50 prototype taking to the air, and five additional ones being in advanced stages of construction, the Russian media reported that the T-50 would enter service with the Russian Aerospace Forces already in 2017, in other words, in a little more than a year. The aircraft’s series production would commence the same year.
It is quite a milestone for this highly ambitious aircraft program that began comparatively recently, in 2001, when the Ministry of Defense issued its final list of specifications for the aircraft, though preliminary research on the prospective successors to the Su-27 and Mig-31 fighters was launched already in the 1980s. These specifications included supermaneuverability comparable to if not better than that displayed by the Su-27, “supercruise”, or the ability to travel at supersonic speeds without the use of afterburner, multirole capabilities including the ability to engage air, land, and naval targets with a wide spectrum of long-range guided munitions, advanced electronics suite in the form of a active phase array radar with near-360-degree coverage thanks to side- and aft-looking aerials and so-called “glass cockpit” that allows the pilot to avoid being overwhelmed by information, and of course “stealth”, or low-observability in both active and passive sense of the word, with the T-50 being able to engage targets without the use of its own on-board radar.