A mysterious, supersonic, experimental combat aircraft from the legendary Sukhoi series of fighters was the cynosure of aviation and defence experts on Monday at the International Aviation and Space Salon MAKS-2019 being held at Zhukovsky International Airport, near Moscow. The black-coloured experimental jet was the Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut (Golden Eagle), an aircraft which never entered full production but became the base for the development of Su-57, the 5th Generation supersonic stealth fighter.
A masterpiece of aviation science and technology, the Su-47 has an unusual forward-swept wing and is made of composite materials and not titanium or aluminium, which ensures that the plane is highly manoeuvrable, even at lower speeds. The forward-swept wings also give the aircraft high angles of attack, ensures protection against stalling and spinning, greater range due to a decrease in air resistance with a better ability to take off and land. The plane also sports moveable canards which give it unprecedented manoeuvrability and lift.
Only one Su-47 was ever made as the development programme became a victim of the disintegration of USSR. While it never entered service, the Su-47 served as a technology demonstrator for many features now incorporated in the Su-57.
Some of the technologies tested on the Su-47 included new flight control, design characteristics due to its forward-swept wings, advanced digital fly-by-wire flight control system, composite materials like carbon fibre. The Su-47, sometimes called the S-32 or S-37 during the test phase, was last seen at MAKS-2007.
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Designed by aerospace engineer Mikhail Aslanovich Pogosyan, the former Sukhoi general director of Sukhoi and the United Aircraft Corporation, the Su-47 is a single-crew, twin-engine jet with a length of 22.6 metres, wingspan 15.16m to 16.7m and a height of 6.3m. The jet has an empty weight of 16,375 kilogrammes, loaded weight of 25,000 kg with the maximum takeoff weight of 35,000 kg.
It is powered by two Aviadvigatel D-30F11 afterburning, thrust vectoring turbofans generating a dry thrust of 83.4 kilonewtons with a maximum speed of 1,717 kilometres per hour (Mach 1.65) while at sea level the Su-47 can fly at 1,400 km/h (Mach 1.16). The plane has a range of 3,300 km with a service ceiling of 18,000m and a rate of climb of 233 metres per second.
However, the Su-47 is not the only forward-wing design aircraft to have been built. The United States of America had in 1984 started the Grumman X-29 aircraft programme which had forward-swept wings with large canards and fly-by-wire flight controls.