December 31, 2015
Russian news sources have been touting supposed "game changing" capabilities for the new T-50, PAK-FA "stealth" fighter currently under development, claiming that the new Russian fighter will be the first to incorporate Radio-Optical Phased Array (ROFAR) radar systems. According to Russian sources, the ROFAR utilizes photonic technology - utilizing optical fibers in place of wires to transmit signals - to reduce the weight of the radar system while offering greater resolution.
The announcements for the new technologies being offered aboard the PAK-FA come at the same time that India is reportedly considering dropping out of the program. India had been cooperating with Russia on an Indian derivative of the PAK-FA, but concerns over cost and capabilities have threatened to derail the deal. The Russian air force has reportedly slashed its own order for PAK-FA fighters down to a single squadron of aircraft (just 12 fighters), until such time as a more powerful new engine - also under development - becomes available. The Russian government has reportedly also offered to cut the price tag for transferring the T-50 prototype technologies, from $6 billion to $3.7 billion.
Surveys of civilian satellite imagery have suggested an increased Chinese air force (PLAAF) deployment to the high-altitude Hotan airport, beginning in late 2014 and continuing to this day. The Hotan airport is less than 80 miles from China's disputed border with India.
Chinese media is reporting that China's J-20 stealth fighter has entered low-rate initial production, with the first production aircraft rolling out of the factory this past month. The J-20 relies on the same engines as Russia's own T-50 PAK-FA fighter prototype. The engines are an upgraded derivative of the the AL-31F that powers the Su-27 and Su-30 Flanker, as well as China's J-10 fighter.
Taiwanese officials have greeted the news of the J-20 program's transition into production with growing alarm. Proposals to upgrade Taiwan's own air defenses with newer-model F-16s have been repeatedly rejected by Washington over the past two decades.
South Korea has signed an agreement with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for the development of a next-generation, KF-X "stealth" fighter. Under the terms of the deal, the South Korean government would provide 60-percent of the $6.9 billion needed to develop and build eight prototypes, six of which would be committed to flight testing and two to ground tests. KAI would provide 20-percent of the funding, with the balance to come from other industry or government sources, including funding from Indonesia, which is also interested in the airplane.