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31 Jan, 2010 04:30

Russian fifth-generation fighter: high hopes

Under secrecy, Russia's first fifth-generation PAK FA fighter jet has successfully completed a test flight. Its appearance has now been revealed by Sukhoi, the plane’s manufacturer, which released footage of the flight.

Russia's hopes for the country's newest fighter jet took off with the maiden flight of the Sukhoi PAK FA, ringing in a new era for the country's air force.

This is the world's first look at the latest advances in stealth technology and both air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons in Russia.

“In Russia and the USA, there's a tendency to divide military jets into generations. Every new generation differs in the revolutionary change of a number of tactical and technologic parameters and combat capacities,” says Konstantin Makienko, deputy director of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST).

Comparing this 5th generation jet to its younger brothers is like comparing a Maserati to a Honda. It’s a massive breakthrough in technology.

The most significant innovations are its stealth and its ability to remain flying at supersonic speeds for the duration of its flight.

Makienko believes this technology provides a number of tactical advantages. “For example, if you penetrate a thick anti-air defence area, you are fast on the one hand and hard to see on the other, thus your survival rate is increased,” he notes.

The U.S. is the only country with a fifth-generation jet currently in service: the Lockheed-built F-22 Raptor. Lockheed's next fifth-generation jet will be ready in several years.

China also plans to unveil a cutting-edge fighter of its own within the next decade.

The jets are slated to be available for counties to buy between the year 2015 and 2017 and expected to be sold for about $100 million each.

India is on-track to add up to 250 of these jets to their air force.

Ruslan Pukhov from the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies thinks “some countries will buy it for economical reasons, because the Russian fifth-generation jets would be much cheaper than those from the United States.”

Russian fifth-generation PAK FA fighter jet Pukhov adds that the jet, being a cornerstone of Russian military hardware, will be used to display to the world Russia’s technological potential.

“That's why it's so important to show that we are able to innovate; we are able to produce something outstanding,” Pukhov said.

With twice the range of its American equivalent, the new Sukhoi has the potential to capture up to one-third of the market when it comes into service in three years.