PAK FA to Enter Operational Service in 2021

Russia’s PAK FA fighter jet should be in service with the Aerospace Force by 2021, according to Russian media.

Following announcements earlier this month that PAK FA stealth fighter jet serial production will begin in 2018 or 2019, Russian media reported on February 14, 2017 that the fifth generation jet should begin entering service in 2021.

According to RBTH, two or three years after testing is complete, the Russian military will begin receiving the PAK FA. This will likely be in 2021. This year, the military will take delivery of five jets that will be put through testing.

As noted by Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov, “[The military is] looking for defects and will make the necessary improvements so that it will eventually be the best fighter plane possible.”

The PAK FA is still utilizing an engine that is derived from the engine powering Su-35S jets, referred to as the “first stage” engine. The second stage engine, developed specifically for the PAK FA, remains under development and may begin flight testing in fourth quarter 2017.

Though the engine is not expected to be ready for operational use for some time, the PAK FA was designed with the idea of replacing the first stage engine in mind, meaning that, once the second stage engine is ready, it will not require major adjustments to the plane to install the second stage engine.

Three years after the jet enters service, in 2024 at the earliest, the manufacturers of the plane may start to receive an export license allowing the sale of a (likely modified) version of the PAK FA to foreign customers. India is Russia’s primary potential client — the two are reported to be advancing with a draft contract though Indian concerns about the jet’s viability remain.

Other potential clients include Algeria, which is a large export market for Russian military hardware, and Peru. Both countries have reportedly expressed interest in the PAK FA.

The Russian order for a first batch is expected to be included in the state armament program for 2018-2025, which is currently being developed and may be released by mid-2017. A first batch may call for 12 jets, though no number has been confirmed.

About Derek Bisaccio

Military markets analyst, covering Eurasia, Middle East, and Africa.

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