Russia's first fifth-generation fighter jet will make its maiden flight by year-end, the aircraft's designer said, as Moscow seeks to catch up with the United States in a military aviation dogfight.
Military and civilian plane-maker Sukhoi is bidding to revive an industry crippled by the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, which left Western rivals to dominate passenger markets and Washington to launch a fifth-generation fighter.
Asked when Russia's first post-Soviet fighter jet would take off, Sukhoi General Director Mikhail Pogosyan told Reuters: "We will spare no effort for this to happen this year, and I believe we have every reason to say this work is proceeding according to plan."
Pogosyan also predicted Sukhoi would take up to 20 percent of the world's regional jet market with Russia's first passenger airliner in almost two decades, the Superjet 100.
"We expect that, in our segment of regional passenger airliners, we'll take a 15-20 percent share of the global market. We think it will take us five to 10 years to achieve this," he said.
In the Reuters television interview on the sidelines of the MAKS-2009 aerospace fair outside Moscow on Wednesday, Pogosyan said he was hopeful Sukhoi's fifth-generation fighter jet would not face any last-minute hitches.
"There are always 'nuances' in the creation of military equipment that are impossible to predict," he said. "But I am hopeful we will be able to avoid such nuances."
Fifth-generation jets, such as the U.S. F-22 Raptor stealth fighter which first flew in 1997, are invisible to radar and boast "intelligent" on-board flight and arms control systems and supersonic cruising speeds.
Asked if the Russian fighter could challenge the U.S. Raptor, Pogosyan said he had no reason to doubt that the Sukhoi plane would be competitive.
Konstantin Makiyenko, deputy head of the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) think tank, said that, even with delays, the Russian plane would likely make its first flight by January or February.
"But this doesn't matter much," he said. "There could be at least 10 years between the first flight of the fifth-generation prototype and commercial production."
mmmm. This is despite the fact that their aerospace industry was falling behind prior to the fall of the Soviet Union and has been moribund for the last 16 years. mmm. IDK folks. This seems exuberantly optimistic.