Warplanes: June 11, 2003


The Sukhoi Corporation announced that it is working on a fifth generation combat aircraft. This was the project, feared to be just around the corner, that spurred the development of the U.S. F-22 back in the late 1980s. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, so did any fifth generation Russian aircraft projects. But now, with the F-22 about to enter service, the Russians are back in the competition. Sukhoi said that their aircraft would compete on cost effectiveness, and that the new Sukhoi warplane would have extensive autodiagnosis and repair features. These will reduce maintenance and repair costs in what will be a very complex aircraft in the F-22 class. Such an approach would also make the aircraft attractive to less industrialized nations (who lack the pool of skilled manpower capable of maintaining complex aircraft). The new aircraft is still in the conceptual design phase, and the prototype is not expected to fly until 2006, and will not enter service until 2011. The Russian government is providing much of the money for development, with Sukhoi and key suppliers providing the rest. Sukhoi has been pushing for the government to get involved, and has been  testing an experimental fifth generation aircraft, the S-37, since the late 1990s. But this design is not considered suitable for active service, and has been instead used to test new design ideas. This 34 ton aircraft has also been referred to as the Su-47. It's not known what the new fifth-generation warplane will be called. 


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