Russia's New T-50 Fighter Still Can't Compete With The F-35

Of the jets in production that promise to take military fighters deep into the 21st century and beyond, the U.S. F-35, the Chinese J-20, and the Russian Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA are at the top of the heap.

The T-50 will be offered to countries — and Russian allies — looking for an alternative to the F-35, Lockheed Martin’s long-delayed fifth generation fighter. The Russians expect to sell about 1,000 fighters worldwide.

See why it won’t compete >

But those countries won’t be training pilots any time soon. According to Russia’s Centre for Analysis of World Arms Trade (CAWAT) the delivery schedule could be decades away for some purchasing nations. Malaysia won’t get their T-50s until 2035 at the earliest.

And if Americans thought they were alone in questioning the need for an advanced fighter program in today’s drone-filled skies, many Russians are also wondering at the need for their new aircraft.

“There is no mission and no adversary for such plane,” Russian defence analyst Konovalov says. “It would be more expedient to fit modern avionics to older generation jets.”

Military jets are divided into generations. We're now on the 5th generation of fighter planes.

Sukhoi T-50

The only 5th generation fighter currently in operation is the F-22, but the Russians are eager to get the T-50 into service

Sukhoi T-50

With its twin-engine design, the T-50 closely resembles the 20-year-old F-22 Raptor prototype

Russia doesn't compare the T-50 to the F-35, preferring to compete with the F-22, but the F-35 is the future of America and its allies

The T-50 will be the backbone of the Russian air force -- but it's not as stealth as the F-35. The T-50's designers are going for manoeuvrability over secrecy

Though the T-50 tops out at 1300 mph compared to the F-35's 1200 mph, the American fighter can launch internal missiles and smart-bombs while flying faster than the speed of sound

Both jets can slip into thickly defended ground targets, but the F-35 will be better at taking them out. But the T-50 is better suited for air-to-air battles.

The T-50 is said to have an excellent weapons firing range, but the F-35 has three variations tailored to specific missions

Russia hopes to capture a third of the 5th generation stealth fighter market, but the F-35 is intended to be the Allied jet of the coming decades with several countries already signed up

The T-50 can take off using a relatively short 300 meter runway -- but the F-35 also has a short take-off model as well as a vertical takeoff variant

The T-50 program is still getting off the ground. The first batch enters an evaluation phase this year. But the F-35 already has a training school for pilots and crew of its three variants

... and the F-35 it looks mighty impressive from behind-the-scenes

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