Authored By Dan Alex (Updated: 8/8/2016):
In the Russian, "PAK FA" translates to "Future Air Complex - Tactical Air Forces". The T-50 has been developed somewhat jointly through a partnership between Russia and India to which India has contributed as much as 35% to date. The Indian intent is to benefit from the program by procuring their own PAK FA-based 5th gen fighter in the coming decade. Serial production for the T-50 is slated for 2015 and the first public unveiling of the prototype was shown during the MAKS 2011 Air Show just outside of Moscow in August of 2011. Four prototypes has been completed to date (2013) with a fifth under construction. State trials are expected for 2014.
The Near Future
In the Russian inventory, the PAK FA will move in to take over the roles held by the large Sukhoi Su-27/Su-37 "Flanker" family as well as the lightweight Mikoyan MIG-29 "Fulcrum" (all 4th Generation Fighters). Both of these lines have gone on to see much use in the global market resulting in a myriad of variants and configurations. The PAK FA will also move along the joint Russian-Indian FGFA (Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft) program for the near future - an agreement reached between the two nations in 2001 - with results expected to be introduced sometime in 2015. This aircraft and will be based highly on the developmental findings of the Russian PAK FA/T-50 program with India intending to purchasing some 250 FGFA fighters at project's end.
The T-50 Prototype
The current PAK FA prototype is designated as the "T-50". As a multi-role aircraft, the PAK FA will be charged with both air superiority and ground attack roles as well as aerial reconnaissance by way of specialized onboard equipment. Her design will provide excellent performance within her altitude limitations and make possible operations in both day/night as well as adverse weather conditions. Sukhoi intends on making her an equally-lethal performer in all of her defined roles. Dimensionally, the PAK FA will reflect the size of the other proven Sukhoi flagship product, the Su-27 Flanker.
By the end of the Cold War, the need to replace Russia's high-performance "do-everything" fighters became more apparent to authorities. Several projects were enacted to find solutions for a next generation craft and two such programs produced the Mikoyan MiG "1.44" and the Sukhoi Su-47 "Berkut" (the latter formerly known as the S-32 as well as S-37). The MiG 1.44 became a highly-secretive technology demonstrator and achieved first flight on February 29th, 2000. She was intended to compete directly with the American Lockheed F-22 Raptor in the air superiority role. The MiG 1.44 sported forward canards with an underfuselage split air intake similar to the Eurofighter 2000. The Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut was the other technology demonstrator though it had the greater possibility of seeing full-scale production. Most notable of the type was its forward-swept wing arrangement (ala the Grumman X-29 concept) and decidedly large Sukhoi-brand dimensions. The Su-47 achieved first flight on September 25th, 1997 and was formally unveiled in January of 2000. Only a single known example of the Su-47 was ever built while two examples of the MiG 1.44 (the other being the similar MiG 1.42/42) was known to exist. Both were powered by a dual engine layout and much information garnered from the proceeding in-flight tests have played a role in the development of the PAK FA.