“As early as Soviet times, this concept was formed when our armed forces simultaneously used front-line fighters of both heavy and light.” If in the fourth generation, the MiG-29 plays the role of a twin-engine light fighter and the corresponding heavy is the Su-27, in the fifth generation we have the same twin-engine Su-57. but its expensive. Until recently we did not have an aircraft of another lightweight class,” said AviaPort’s head of analysis, expert Oleg Panteleev.
At the same time, light and heavy fighters are designed to solve different problems. “Heavy fighters are needed to cover large areas, which means they have to fly a long enough distance before completing the mission,” the expert explained.
“A Light fighter or lightweight fighter is a fighter aircraft towards the low end of the practical range of weight, cost, and complexity over which fighters are fielded. The light or lightweight fighter retains carefully selected competitive features, in order to provide cost-effective design and performance.,” added Panteleev.
“However, in the event of engine failure, the plane is likely to crash, while a twin-engine aircraft can continue to fly thanks to the other engine.”This expert considers the idea of building a single-engine fighter to be right. “Common sense, a single-engine aircraft will always be cheaper than a two-engine aircraft if we consider comparable performance,” he said.
“But with the progress being made in improving the engines and increasing their reliability, situations, where engine failure leads to the loss of an aircraft, are quite rare. Second, rescue work has developed well enough to ensure guarantee the rescue of the pilot,” Panteleev said.
The expert also pointed out that at the test stage, Al-31FN series 3 and 4 engines can be used. Also during the construction of the aircraft, flight tests can be carried out on existing engines to check the operation of systems independent of the propulsion equipment. Of course it is not suitable for this application. all the characteristics of the engine which is the aim of the aircraft.
“We also know that the AL-31 and its modifications are a well-run and mass-produced engine with high reliability due to the modernization carried out. So at the experimental stage, its use proved to be quite reasonable,” said Panteleev.
At the same time, the expert noted that the construction of engines that can be used in the light version of the fifth-generation aircraft has been taking place in Russia for a long time.
“We remember that the new engine for the Su-57 was used and the T-50 prototype of the Su-57 fighter even flew with this engine. So there will certainly be no delay in creating a new engine,” Panteleev said.
As for the difficulties that need to be solved when building a fifth-generation light fighter, the expert notes a large number of requirements for it.
Often these requirements conflict – “compact, low reflectivity and high payload, long flight time and, if possible supersonic cruise; deployment of concealed weapons and an increase in the range of weapons carried, including relatively large long-range missiles”.
“So the main difficulty is how to achieve the optimal combination of requirements, and at the same time to compete on price so that the aircraft does not burden the Russian budget and is attractive for export.” Mr. Panteleev concluded.