United Engine Corporation (AEC), Russia's sole aircraft engine manufacturer, has announced that it will make modifications to the engines of the Su-57 fifth-generation fighter plane giving it super-cruise capability. The company will once again pitch the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) project to India.
India which was to co-develop the FGFA or PAK-FA, which is based on the Su-57, with Russia, withdrew from the project, citing lack of super-cruise capability among other shortcomings.
Super-cruise is one of the key features of a fifth generation fighter plane as it allows the plane to cruise at more than the speed of sound for extended periods without the need to engage afterburners, which burn more fuel and increase the heat signature of the plane, nullifying its stealth and making it easy to detect.
The improved engine known as Izdelie-30 made its first flight in December, 2017 on a Su-57 and it is still being developed.
Contrary to what has been widely reported, United Aircraft Corporation and Rosoboronexport, the Russian arms export agency, denied that the stealth fighter aircraft project has been shelved and said that once the engine and other technologies which India wants to be incorporated on the plane mature and are ready to be exported, they will once again pitch the project to India.
India abandoned the FGFA project because of high cost and the refusal of the Russians to share technology and more importantly Indian Air Force, the primary user of the aircraft, pointed out serious shortcomings in the plane.
According to the IAF in its present form the FGFA doesn't meet its requirement as the aircraft it is based on, the Su-57, lacks features needed to make it a true fifth generation fighter plane.
IAF wants the following improvements in the FGFA:
- Improved engines.
- Better stealth.
- Super-cruise capability.
- Digital data links (for networking and sharing information with other battlefield assets).
- Long range 360-degree radar.