Will Vietnam Really Acquire Up to 24 Russian PAK FA Stealth Fighters Soon?

© Photo : Russian Defense MinistryPAK FA
PAK FA - Sputnik International
The speculation about Russia's alleged plan to sell up to 24 Sukhoi T-50 (PAK FA) fifth-generation stealth fighters to Vietnam doesn't hold water, military aircraft expert Col. Makar Aksenenko told Sputnik, adding that the cutting-edge PAK FA fighters have to be mass produced first.

From left: A Sukhoi-34, a T-50 and a Sukhoi-35S perform a demo flight at the MAKS 2015 International Aviation and Space Salon in Zhukovsky outside Moscow - Sputnik International
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The Vietnamese online newspaper Dat Viet recently published that Hanoi was allegedly mulling over a purchase of the most advanced warplane Russia has plans to build, the Sukhoi T-50 (PAK FA), a fifth-generation stealth fighter.

The author of the article referred to the analytical report released by the Center for Analysis of the Global Arms Trade (TsAMTO) and its director, Igor Korotchenko. The Vietnamese journalist also quoted Defense News, a media outlet.

According to the prognosis, which provides detailed data on the possible number of Sukhoi T-50 stealth fighters Russia intends to build, Vietnam could allegedly buy from 12 to 24 of PAK FA fifth-generation fighter aircraft between 2030 and 2035. For its part, Defense News suggested that the deal could be concluded in the early 2020s.

Commenting on the analysis, the Vietnamese author expressed skepticism, citing the fact that Hanoi has not yet officially confirmed its intention to acquire Russia's cutting-edge stealth fighters.

Russian Army in pictures - Sputnik International
'Works on PAK FA 5-Generation Jet Are at Final Stage'
On the other hand, the journalist remarked that "Russia cannot yet sell PAK FA abroad, even to priority customers (including Vietnam) because the aircraft has not yet been included in the list of Russian weapons allowed for export."   

Indeed, speaking to journalists at the Paris Air Show-2017, Alexander Mikheev, the general director of Russia's state arms exporter Rosoboronexport, specified that Russia is not going export its newest weapons, including the fifth-generation fighter T-50, in the near future.

"Undoubtedly, the new generation Armata tank, the S-500 air defense system, the fifth generation aircraft and some other advanced Russian weapon systems will be exported in the future, but [currently] Rosoboronexport's plans do not envisage such supplies," Mikheev told journalists.

He also said that the weapons systems have yet to be mass produced, adding that they are meant to meet the needs of the Russian armed forces first.

© Sputnik / Vladimir Astapkovich / Go to the mediabankT-50 strike aircraft at the MAKS-2013 Aviation and Space Salon in Zhukovsky
T-50 strike aircraft at the MAKS-2013 Aviation and Space Salon in Zhukovsky - Sputnik International
T-50 strike aircraft at the MAKS-2013 Aviation and Space Salon in Zhukovsky

Commenting on the issue, military aircraft expert Col. Makar Aksenenko underscored that such prognoses should be treated with caution.

"A serious analyst, and even more so, an authoritative expert body will not [make prognoses on exports of] a plane that has not yet passed state testing, and has not yet been put into service in the country's own army," Aksenenko told Sputnik Vietnam.

Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA Prototype - Sputnik International
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"After all, the T-50 has not yet entered serial production," the military aircraft expert noted. "The glory of Russian weapons is now being demonstrated by other aircraft: the Su-35, the MiG-35 fighter jet, and the Su-34 bomber, which proved to be effective in the latest military operations."

"PAK FA is still being tested," Aksenenko emphasized. "It, of course, will embody the best technological achievements and experience of combat application of its predecessors. But I would not look far into its 'export' future."

According to the military aircraft expert there are also certain doubts regarding Vietnam's need for 24 or even 12 T-50 fighters.

"What kind of combat tasks can they [T-50] fulfill in the framework of the military doctrine of Vietnam?" Aksenenko asked, adding that the timeframe highlighted in TsAMTO's prognosis also raises questions.

According to the expert, it's hard to forecast the military-political situation in the Southeast Asian region in 2035. Furthermore, Aksenenko added, the T-50 fighters have to be adopted by the Russian Air Forces first.

Back in May 2017, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that the Russian Armed Forces will begin receiving fifth-generation T-50 fighter aircraft in 2019.

"Troop deliveries of the T-50 advanced frontline aviation airborne system [are scheduled] as of 2019," Shoigu said in an official statement.

Russia's Sukhoi T-50 (PAK FA) is a single-seat, twin-engine multirole jet fighter designed for air superiority and attack roles. The aircraft made its first flight in 2010.

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