Streetwise Professor

June 18, 2010

The Potemkin Legacy Endures

Filed under: Military,Politics,Russia — The Professor @ 3:03 am

Vladimir Putin is touting Russia’s 5th Generation fighter (h/t R):

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin climbed into the cockpit of Russia‘s newest fighter jet on Thursday and said it would trump a U.S.-built rival, the F-22 Raptor.

Putin watched a test flight of a “fifth-generation” stealth fighter, dubbed the T-50 and billed as Russia‘s first all-new warplane since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“This machine will be superior to our main competitor, the F-22, in terms of maneuverability, weaponry and range,” Putin told the pilot after the flight, according to an account on the government website.

Putin said the plane would cost up to three times less than similar aircraft in the West and could remain in service for 30 to 35 years with upgrades, according to the report.

. . . .

ccording to the government website, the test pilot told Putin the controls of the T-50 allowed the pilot to operate most of the plane’s systems without taking his hands off the joystick, which he said would be very useful under high forces of gravity.

I know, I’ve flown,” Putin replied. Sukhoi has said the plane should be ready for use in 2015. [Emphasis added.]

What a riot.

First of all, it just provides further proof, as if any was necessary that (a) Putin is an egomaniacal tool with a Mitty-esque fantasy life (you look so butch in those uniforms, Vladimir!), and (b) the US is so inside his head it’s hilarious.

Second, and more substantively, anybody who believes one word quoted in that article probably also responds to emails from Nigerian scammers.

The utter decrepitude of the Sovie-sorry-Russian military industrial base makes the successful serial production of a 5G aircraft a pipe dream.  Russia hasn’t been able to deliver on its repeated promises to dramatically increase new weaponry in the hands of the military–even for relatively prosaic things like tanks.  It has to buy much less complicated equipment on the international market–witness the Mistral episode and the recent reports of a $12 billion foreign arms shopping spree.  Russia cannot even build its own UAVs, and is depending on Israel for the technology and manufacturing know-how.   A good chunk of Russian defense expenditure gets lost in the maw of corruption.  Even the highest profile military building program–the Bulava missle–is an ongoing farce.

Russia has little or no experience with stealth technologies analogous to the US prior to its development of the F22.  Moreover, Russian engine development and manufacturing has always been spotty, at best, and the engines of something like an F22 are extremely complicated indeed.  (I recall reading earlier that there is a possibility of joint development and manufacturing of the 5G plane with India.  That would be the India whose Mig-21s kept crashing, usually because of failures in Indian made replacement engine parts.  That inspires confidence!)  I could go on.  Sukhoi says it will have the aircraft in service in 2015.  NFW.

Does anyone actually believe this stuff?  Does Putin?  Who is fooling whom?  Is Sukhoi putting on a Potemkinesque display for a gullible Putin who so wants it to be true?   Or is this just Putin’s cynical boob bait for that (unfortunately all too large) portion of the Russian populace–including an all too large portion of the political class–stuck in the Glory Days of superpower competition?  All that I am sure of is that somebody is being played, because  pigs will fly before the T-50 is operational.

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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by . said: […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention -- — June 18, 2010 @ 3:19 am

  2. Engine – to be developed.
    Airframe – Su-27
    Avionics – TBD
    Radar – TBD
    “Artificial Intellect” – TBD

    And also one should keep in mind that the country can’t even produce a working consumer grade mobile phone on it’s own.

    Comment by Misha Tavkhelidze — June 18, 2010 @ 3:40 am

  3. The PAK FA might well be better than the Raptor; it is certainly superior to any 4.5-generation plane.

    Assessing the Sukhoi PAK-FA
    Russia’s PAK-FA versus the F-22 and F-35

    I agree that large-scale production may pose a problem, though probably not an insurmountable one. After all Russian Flanker exports have been very successful and I’m sure Sukhoi itself has a money to retool its factory to open a production line for its new toy.

    That said this will all probably be a waste of money (just like all the other 5th-gen fighter projects). The future of air superiority combat are scramjet drones.

    All that I am sure of is that somebody is being played, because pigs will fly before the T-50 is operational.

    I’ll take you up on that. Bioengineering isn’t that advanced yet.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — June 18, 2010 @ 3:45 am

  4. At least the journos at Reuters got their story, the rest of your post is pure speculation.

    @ Mr. Tavkhelidze

    When Georgia starts producing something else than mineral water and wine, come back and lecture us. 😉

    Comment by Leos Tomicek — June 18, 2010 @ 9:41 am

  5. The T-50 will probably fly, because they are pursuing a fairly low risk dev. strategy.

    For the first tranche they are basically taking the cockpit and engines out of the latest Su-35.

    The airframe itself looks sound (though hard to say how stealthy). The main risk is integrating their new radar.

    As for this quote:

    “This machine will be superior to our main competitor, the F-22, in terms of maneuverability, weaponry and range.”

    I believe every bit. Sukhoi planes have traditionally been more maneuverable than ours. The large planform fuselage is almost certain to have good fuel capacity, and the F-22 is known to have limited range (eg, read recent things on our strategy to use AESA upgraded F-15C’s to fly ahead of and then loiter during F-22 strikes, because of the F-15C’s superior range).

    The T-50 also has a bit more internal weapons storage capacity.

    I’m not saying it is a better all round plane, but neither did Putin.

    Comment by ThomasL — June 18, 2010 @ 10:53 am

  6. Although I want to give Putin this credit. I imagine he said something calculated to be both precisely true, and yet also produce this hyperbolic effect.

    Anyone that had read the public information on the PAK-FA and the F-22 would nod and say, “Yep, that sounds right,” without really thinking Putin had said much of anything.

    Anyone in the mainstream press, where knowledge of military matters rounds down to 0, would run out and start printing gigantic headlines that the plane was actually superior on the whole.

    Comment by ThomasL — June 18, 2010 @ 11:55 am

  7. >> because pigs will fly before the T-50 is operational

    Professor, did you know that was the goal of project T-49?

    Comment by Ivan — June 18, 2010 @ 1:30 pm

  8. At least he didn’t declare “Mission Accomplished”.

    Comment by So? — June 18, 2010 @ 10:53 pm

  9. to: Comment by So?

    You’re so right! At least Putin doesn’t lynch [email protected]@ers, either!

    Happy to see you and your non sequitur fraternity are still out there.

    Comment by Dermovinov — June 19, 2010 @ 6:19 am

  10. @So–but he does! How many times has he declared victory in Chechnya?

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — June 19, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

  11. @ThomasL–even assuming that you are right re capabilities, that’s not the point of my post. I focus on serial production. And by operational, I mean not having some test beds flying, I mean having several squadrons of aircraft. I doubt the Russian defense industry is up to that (the main point of my post).

    And even re capabilities: the key things about F-22 are supercruise and stealth. If you have doubts about T-49 stealth, armament, range, etc. don’t really amount to squat.

    @S/O–yeah, I agree that UAVs will be the wave of the future, if the fighter mafias let it happen. I presume Russia has its fighter mafia just as the USAF and USN do.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — June 19, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

  12. @ Professor

    There is no actual war in Chechnya. 😉

    Comment by Leos Tomicek — June 19, 2010 @ 1:41 pm

  13. A politician hyping a national product? This is outrageous. What was he thinking? God damn barbaric Russians.

    Comment by Richard — June 20, 2010 @ 6:43 am

  14. @ Mr. Tomicek

    Georgia produces Su-25 Scorpion for instance, which, arguably, is comparable with A-10 Thunderbolt, which, in turn, was designed also by a Georgian.

    But, even if Georgia produced only wine, Russia still cannot make a simple mobile phone, you see.

    Comment by Misha Tavkhelidze — June 21, 2010 @ 2:12 am

  15. What do you think about the “deregulation” of the reminbi?

    Comment by Surya — June 21, 2010 @ 8:54 am

  16. Prof, I think your analysis is needed in Chinese matters now. What benefit is it to China to let yuan float and appreciate?

    Comment by Surya — June 21, 2010 @ 10:37 am

  17. Russia is being played up by the sovietologs in Washington so that they are not out of their jobs.
    Most of the mainstream Western press is delusional about Russia’s grandeur or regaining one (just have a look at recent Newsweek publications).
    And they will again be surprised after yet another implosion of the country.
    Spot on, professor, this thing about the plane is a desperate attempt to bend reality.

    Comment by Rama — June 21, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

  18. No war in Chechnya? That’s news to these folks:

    Comment by La Russophobe — June 21, 2010 @ 4:29 pm

  19. @Misha Tavkhelidze,

    The A-10 is better than the Su-25, and it was not designed by Kartveli. His last design was the F-105. During the ’08 fracas Russian Su-25s bombed the Su-25 factory in Georgia. The irony.

    Comment by So? — June 24, 2010 @ 2:48 am

  20. @ So? The Su-25 was designed by the Georgian branch of the Sukhoi design bureau, and as to whether the A-10 or Su-25 is superior depends on what you are doing with them, the A-10 is a dedicated tank killer par excellence, but does not have the speed or self defence capabilities of the Su-25.

    In addition, the Georgian versions have been significantly upgraded, and the Russians did not down a single one during the August war, as opposed to the several Russian Su-25’s downed by the Georgians.

    By the way, the SU-25 factory in Tbilisi is operating, and for your information the Russians were such rotten shots that they missed the factory but hit one of the runways at the international airport next door.

    Just like when they tried to hit the BTC pipeline with iron bombs (about 50 of them), and with theatre ballistic missiles.

    I suggest you get an education mate.

    Comment by Andrew — August 5, 2010 @ 4:33 am

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