PAK FA Update : Second PAK FA Prototype took Test Flight


On 3 March 2011 the first flight of the 2nd prototype of the fifth generation aviation complex (PAK FA) took place in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. The plane was piloted by distinguished test pilot of the Russian Federation Sergey Bogdan. The aircraft spent in the air 44 minutes and landed on the factory airfield runway. The flight was successful, in full accordance with the flight plan. Stability of the aircraft test was conducted during the flight as well as evaluation of the power plant systems’ performance. The aircraft proved itself well in all phases of the planned flight program.

Tests on the PAK FA program are in accordance with the approved program. Currently, a set of preliminary ground and flight operations has been completed involving all three prototypes, which underwent bench strength tests, ground tests of fuel systems and other work.

The first flight of the PAK FA took place on January 29, 2010 in Komsomolsk-on-Amur. Acceptance tests of the prototype were completed at the end of March 2010. On April 8, 2010 the first flight model of the fighter jet and a comprehensive ground stand for working out the equipment and systems to provide flight test program, were delivered to the flying test center of the Sukhoi Design Bureau in Zhukovsky near Moscow.

Upon completion of the required volume of preliminary tests on the stands of systems and components, including static strength tests of the static prototype, ground tests of the aircraft stand and the flight model, on April 29, 2010 the aircraft had started flight tests in accordance with the preliminary tests program. The first flight model made 36 sorties in accordance with the flight tests program.

Compared to the previous generation fighters, the PAK FA features a number of unique capabilities, including the functions of a strike aircraft and fighter. The 5th generation aircraft is fitted with essentially new avionics integrating the function of “an electronic pilot” and with an advanced phased antenna array radar. This considerably reduces the pilot fatigue, enabling him to concentrate on performance of a tactical mission.

The new aircraft’s onboard equipment makes it possible to exchange information in the real time mode both with on-land control stations and with aviation group aircraft. The use of composite materials and innovative technologies, and the aerodynamic streamlining ensure unprecedented radar, optic and infrared stealthiness. This significantly enhances the operational capability against aerial and ground targets in all weathers, day and night.

China Completes Stealth Fighter Prototype


China appears to have completed a prototype of its first stealth fighter, highlighting Beijing's military modernisation drive, but experts said Wednesday the jet will not be operational for years to come.

Photographs published online and Chinese military sources cited by the Japanese media indicate a test model of the J-20 fighter has been finished, with taxi tests carried out last week at an airfield in southwestern China.

The news comes just days before a visit to Beijing by US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, who will seek to mend military ties cut off a year ago by China when Washington sold billions of dollars in arms to its rival Taiwan.

Experts say the J-20 will eventually rival the US Air Force's F-22, the world's only fully operational next-generation stealth fighter jet -- but not any time soon.

The J-20 "will become fully competitive with the F-22, in capability and perhaps in numbers, around the end of this decade," Rick Fisher, an expert on the Chinese military at the International Assessment and Strategy Centre, a US think tank, told AFP.

Dennis Blasko, an expert on the People's Liberation Army -- the world's largest military force -- said the timeline for development of the jet was "probably considerably longer than what most outside observers would estimate".

China plans to begin test flights of the J-20 as soon as this month, with plans to deploy the jet as early as 2017, Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper said, quoting Chinese military sources.

The fighter will be equipped with large missiles and could reach the island of Guam, a US territory in the western Pacific, with aerial refuelling, although it would take 10 to 15 more years to develop technology on a par with that of the US F-22, it said.

In late 2009, the deputy head of China's air force, General He Weirong, said the country's stealth fighter would be operational sometime between 2017 and 2019, reports said.

Officials at China's defence ministry declined immediate comment when contacted by AFP about the reports.
Western military experts expressed doubts over how far the PLA had progressed with the J-20 programme.

"I have yet to see proof of a test flight. And testing for a prototype can take quite some time before production begins," Blasko said.

Other than the United States and China, only a handful of countries are working on so-called next-generation stealth fighters.

In January 2010, Russia unveiled a new aircraft touted as a rival to the US jet, developed by Sukhoi.

According to Fisher, Japan has a homegrown programme, while India is cooperating with Russia.

The news about the J-20 comes at a key moment in Sino-US relations, with Gates due in Beijing on Sunday and Chinese President Hu Jintao to visit Washington later this month.

US military officials and strategists see Beijing as a potential threat to Washington's once unrivalled dominance of the Pacific. Ahead of the visit by Gates, contacts had only resumed at a technical level.

Fisher indeed predicted that the J-20 could become a "serious threat to US air superiority in Asia before the end of the decade".

China's massive annual military spending also has aroused concern among its neighbours. Japan last month labelled Beijing's military build-up a global "concern", citing its increased assertiveness in the East and South China Seas.

China has repeatedly insisted its military growth does not pose any threat.

Defence Minister Liang Guanglie said last week that China was currently beefing up its navy, air force and strategic missile forces, while decreasing its ground forces.

According to defence industry publication Aviation Week, the J-20 is larger than observers expected -- suggesting a long-range capacity and the ability to carry heavy weapons loads.

North Korea Says War with South would Go Nuclear


North Korea warned that another war with South Korea would involve nuclear weapons, as diplomatic efforts continued to ease high tensions over its deadly artillery attack and atomic ambitions.

Uriminzokkiri, the official website of the communist state, said in a commentary seen Friday that war on the Korean Peninsula is only a matter of time.

"Because of the South Koreans' reckless war policies, it is not about war or peace on the Korean peninsula but when the war will break out," the website said.

"If war breaks out, it will lead to nuclear warfare and not be limited to the Korean peninsula," it said in a posting dated Thursday.

In a separate commentary, ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun Friday described the peninsula as the world's most dangerous place.

It reiterated calls for a formal peace treaty with Washington and the withdrawal of 28,500 US troops from South Korea.

"The Korean peninsula remains a region fraught with the greatest danger of war in the world," the paper said. "This is entirely attributable to the US pursuance of the policy of aggression against the DPRK (North Korea)."

The North frequently claims nuclear war is imminent. But military tensions have risen sharply since it bombarded a South Korean border island on November 23, killing two marines and two civilians.

Pyongyang's disclosure last month of an apparently working uranium enrichment plant -- a potential new source of bomb-making material -- also heightened regional security fears.

Prominent US politician Bill Richardson is paying a private visit to Pyongyang to try to ease tensions.

The US envoy to stalled talks on the North's nuclear disarmament, Sung Kim, was to hold talks in Seoul later Friday with his South Korean counterpart Wi Sung-Lac.

North Korea Readies Missiles as Military Drill Begins


North Korea has placed surface-to-surface missiles on launch pads in the Yellow Sea, Yonhap news agency reported on Sunday, as the United States and South Korea began joint military exercises that have upset neighbor China.

The agency also said North Korea had moved surface-to-air missiles to frontline areas, days after it shelled a tiny South Korean island killing four people. The North's official KCNA news agency warned of retaliatory action if its territory is violated.

"We will deliver a brutal military blow on any provocation which violates our territorial waters," KCNA said.
Officials from South Korea's Defense Ministry and the joint chiefs said they could not comment on the Yonhap report. "It is impossible to confirm the report as it is classified as military secret," an official said.

The exercises, in waters far south of the disputed maritime boundary, are being held in the face of opposition by China and threats of "consequences" from North Korea.

The chairman of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly will visit China from Tuesday, the official Xinhua news agency said, while a senior Chinese diplomat was in Seoul for talks.

Washington says the drill is intended as a deterrent after the worst assault on South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

Officials and journalists on the island, Yeonpyeong, were briefly evacuated to bunkers on Sunday, a Reuters witness said. The order was later withdrawn.

The nuclear-powered carrier USS George Washington, which carries 75 warplanes and has a crew of over 6,000, has joined the exercises and will be accompanied by at least four other U.S. warships, an official from U.S. Forces Korea (USKF) told Reuters.

South Korea has deployed three destroyers, frigates and anti-submarine aircraft, Yonhap news agency reported, adding the exercises were being held far south of the disputed area where the artillery firing took place on Tuesday.

"The drills have started and of course the carrier joined the exercises. But I cannot give any further details," said the USKF official, asking not to be identified.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has told ministers and aides to be ready for further "provocation" by North Korea during the military show of force.

South Korea's marine commander on Saturday vowed "thousand-fold" revenge for the North Korean attack that killed two servicemen and two civilians.

North Korea said that if there had been civilian deaths, they were "very regrettable," but that South Korea should be blamed for using a human shield.

It also said the United States should be blamed for "orchestrating" the whole sequence of events to justify sending an aircraft carrier to join the maritime maneuvers.

Regional giant China -- under pressure from other powers to rein in North Korea -- has said it is determined to prevent an escalation of the violence. But it warned against military acts near its coast.

PAK FA Update : Second Prototype Fifth-generation Fighter to Fly Before Year End


Flight trials of the second prototype of Sukhoi's fifth-generation T-50 fighter aircraft are due before the end of the year, Sukhoi holding CEO Mikhail Pogosyan said on Monday.

The first prototype of the aircraft made its maiden flight in late January and has conducted 40 in total, Pogosyan said.

"The flight trial program is moving ahead faster than we expected," Pogosyan said.

He said talks with India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) on the joint development of the fifth-generation fighter aircraft are due to conclude before the end of the year.

Earlier reports said an agreement would be signed in December.

The new warplane is expected to enter service with the Russian Air Force in 2015.

North Korea Warns Region is on Brink of War


North Korea warned Friday that U.S.-South Korean plans for military maneuvers put the peninsula on the brink of war, and appeared to launch its own artillery drills within sight of an island it showered with a deadly barrage this week.

The fresh artillery blasts were especially defiant because they came as the U.S. commander in South Korea, Gen. Walter Sharp, toured the South Korean island to survey damage from Tuesday's hail of North Korean artillery fire that killed four people.

None of the latest rounds hit the South's territory, and U.S. military officials said Sharp did not even hear the concussions, though residents on other parts of the island panicked and ran back to the air raid shelters where they huddled earlier in the week as white smoke rose from North Korean territory.

Tensions have soared between the Koreas since the North's strike Tuesday destroyed large parts of this island, killing two civilians as well as two marines in a major escalation of their sporadic skirmishes along the sea border.

The attack — eight months after a torpedo sank a South Korean warship further west, killing 46 sailors — has also laid bare weaknesses in South Korea's defense 60 years after the Korean War. The skirmish forced South Korea's beleaguered defense minister to resign Thursday, and President Lee Myung-bak on Friday named a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the post.

The heightened animosity between the Koreas is taking place as the North undergoes a delicate transition of power from leader Kim Jong Il to his young, inexperienced son Kim Jong Un, who is in his late 20s and is expected to eventually succeed his ailing father.

Washington and Seoul have pressed China to use its influence on Pyongyang to ease tensions amid worries of all-out war, and a dispatch from Chinese state media on Friday — saying Beijing's foreign minister had met with the North Korean ambassador — appeared to be an effort to trumpet China's role as a responsible actor and placate the U.S. and the South.

The U.S., meanwhile, is preparing to send a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier to South Korean waters for joint military drills in the Yellow Sea starting Sunday.

The North, which sees the drills as a major military provocation, unleashed its anger over the planned exercises in a dispatch earlier Friday.

"The situation on the Korean peninsula is inching closer to the brink of war," the report in the North's official Korean Central News Agency said.

A North Korean official boasted that Pyongyang's military "precisely aimed and hit the enemy artillery base" as punishment for South Korean military drills — a reference to Tuesday's attack — and warned of another "shower of dreadful fire," KCNA reported in a separate dispatch.

China also expressed concern over any war games in waters within its exclusive economic zone, though the statement on the Foreign Ministry website didn't mention the drills starting Sunday. That zone includes areas south of Yeonpyeong cited for possible maneuvers, though the exact location of the drills is not known.

China strongly protested an earlier round of drills in the region but has been largely mute over the upcoming exercises. Beijing could be withholding direct criticism to avoid roiling ties with South Korea and the U.S. and to register its displeasure with ally North Korea.

Washington keeps more than 28,000 troops in South Korea to protect its ally from aggression — a legacy of the Korean War that is a sore point for North Korea, which cites the U.S. presence as the main reason behind its need for nuclear weapons.

Russia Conducts Routine Test of Topol Ballistic Missile


Russia successfully launched a Topol intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Thursday to test its operational capability, a spokesman for Russia's Space Forces said.

The RS-12M Topol missile was launched from the Plesetsk space center in northern Russia and hit its designated target on the Kura test range in Russia's Far East Kamchatka region, Lt. Col. Alexei Zolotukhin said.

The missile, which was in active service from 1987 until 2007, was deployed with the 54th Strategic Missile Division near the town of Teikovo, about 150 miles (240 km) northeast of Moscow.

Zolotukhin said this test launch had allowed Russia to extend the service life of Topol missiles to 23 years (initially they were only projected to last for 10 years.)

The RS-12M Topol (SS-25 Sickle) is a single-warhead intercontinental ballistic missile, approximately the same size and shape as the U.S. Minuteman ICBM. The first Topol missiles were put into service in 1985.

The missile has a maximum range of 10,000 km (6,125 miles) and can carry a nuclear warhead with a yield of 550 kilotons.

Although the service life of the SS-25 is being periodically extended, the missile will be progressively retired over the next decade and replaced by mobile Topol-M (SS-27 Stalin) missile systems.

Russia Modernizes Fleet of A-50M AWACS Planes


Russia has started official testing of its modernized A-50M Mainstay AWACS aircraft for the country's Air Force, a Russian electronics company said Wednesday.

The A-50 Mainstay is a Russian airborne warning and control system aircraft based on the Ilyushin Il-76 transport plane. Russia adopted the aircraft in 1984, and the Air Force currently has 16-20 A-50 planes, according to various reports.

"The A-50M is the most complex aircraft and we have successfully modernized it," said Vladimir Verba, general director of the Vega Radio Engineering Corp. "The aircraft is undergoing official tests at present and has shown excellent performance so far."

The modernization of the A-50M focused on the replacement of outdated analogue equipment with digital electronics systems.

"We have greatly improved the processing of the information and significantly decreased the processing time," Verba told RIA Novosti.

In many aspects, the A-50 is compared to the E-3 Sentry of the U.S. Air Force. The A-50 can detect targets up to 400 km (250 miles) away.

The aircraft is fitted with an aerial refueling system and electronic warfare equipment.

Russia's state arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, said Monday that Russian companies would provide after-sale services for three A-50EI AEW aircraft that have been sold to India. The export version is fitted with the Israeli-made Phalcon radar system.

The first aircraft was scheduled to arrive in 2007-08 but delivery has been delayed.