PAK Man Fever

(AP photo)

(AP photo)

Russia’s attempt to build a fifth-generation fighter jet is running into serious problems, and that has their Indian partners up in arms:

In late March Russia finally admitted that they were having serious problems with their new “5th generation” T-50 (or PAK-FA) stealth fighter. The admission came in the form of a decision to cut the number of production T-50s to be built by the end of the decade from 52 to 12. Russia already has five development models of the T-50 flying, although one was damaged in a fire. The Russian announcement did not cover specific reasons for the change. But Indian Air Force officials have been criticizing the progress of the T-50 program for over a year. This aircraft is the Russian answer to the U.S. F-22 and according to the Indians, who have contributed $300 million (so far) to development of the T-50, they are entitled by the 2007 agreement with Russian to have access to technical details. The Russians were accused to refusing to provide development updates as often and in as much detail the Indians expected. The Indians know from experience that when the Russians clam up about a military project it is usually because the news is bad and the Russians would rather not share.

Stealth is like selling safety as a feature in an automobile — it used to be something only one or two brands focused on, but now safety is just as standard as the steering wheel or doors. In other words, you’ve got to have it in order to compete.

And the Russians don’t have it.