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Russia's 5th Gen Fighter Delayed

berkut.jpg

Russia's fifth-generation fighter aircraft -- being developed in collaboration with India -- has again been delayed. In late October a senior Russian air force officer said that the fifth-generation fighter is expected to fly by 2012, the RIA Novosti news service reported. "The deadlines have been set[the fighter] must take to the skies in 2012 and enter service [with the Air Force] in 2015," said Lieutenant General Igor Sadofyev, the deputy commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force. "International cooperation and joint development efforts will certainly expedite the process," Sadofyev said.

(EDITOR: Photo is of an S-37 Berkut, once thought of as Russia's 5th generation fighter. There are no pictures available of the current one.)

Less than two years ago, on 17 January 2006, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Air Force, General Vladimir Mikhailov, said that Russia's fifth-generation fighter plane would be ready to fly in 2007. "Work to build the fifth-generation plane is going according to schedule," Mikhailov declared.

However, the project has encountered some financial problems with civilian aircraft being produced using money allocated in the budget for fighter planes. "Clearly, the development of aviation technology will depend on specific military and economic conditions, determining the progress of reform in the Russian armed forces and the country's aircraft construction industry, explained Mikhailov.

(At the time the general also said that "We are actively working on the modernization of MiG-29 and MiG-31 planes. New equipment could be installed in their cockpits that will increase their efficiency two and a half to three times.")

Russia and India have agreed to jointly develop the fifth-generation fighter aircraft. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who is co-chairman of the Russian-Indian commission on military-technical cooperation, said that the new multi-role fighter is being designed by the Sukhoi Bureau, which has developed a long line of Soviet-Russian fighter and strike aircraft. India has agreed to cooperate with Russia on research and testing of the aircraft, and to future joint production by India's HAL corporation.

While the categorization of fighter-type aircraft by generation is somewhat arbitrary, the technologies that best characterize fifth-generation fighters are advanced integrated avionics systems, which provide the pilot with a complete picture of the aerial battlespace, and the use of low observable or "stealth" features in the design and construction of the aircraft. Most experts agree that the U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor and the multi-service F-35 Joint Strike Fighter/Lightning II, now in flight test, are the world's only fifth-generation fighters currently flying. Both the F-22 and F-35 series are produced by Lockheed Martin.

Beyond the Sukhoi Su-47, the Mikoyan-Gurevich (MiG) design now known as the MFI is the only other fifth-generation fighter on the horizon.

India has been a customer for Soviet-Russian military equipment for a half century. Soviet-Russian warships dominate the Indian Navy, with the ex-Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov, now being rebuilt in a Russian shipyard for future service in the Indian Navy. The Indian Army uses a large amount of Russian ground combat equipment while the overwhelming majority of the Indian Air Force's aircraft inventory was built in Russia or in India to Russian designs.

The buildup of the Indian armed forces overshadows the advances being made by other Asian military forces, including the massive modernization of the Chinese armed forces.

-- Norman Polmar

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