Russia's Sukhoi fifth-gen fighter to fly this year

By MARTIN SIEFF  |  Jan. 26, 2009 at 6:15 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Russia's former defense minister and First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov, who still spearheads high-tech development programs, said Wednesday the country's ambitious fifth-generation air superiority combat aircraft would take its first test flight before the end of 2009, RIA Novosti reported.

"We expect the plane to take to the skies no later than the end of this year," Ivanov announced. He was speaking following a meeting of the Russian government's Military-Industrial Commission in Moscow.

RIA Novosti said Ivanov's statement suggested the fifth-gen fighter's maiden flight would be carried out several months ahead of schedule. Previously, the first flight tests of the new aircraft had been scheduled for 2010, the news agency said. It said the new aircraft would display "high maneuverability and stealth to ensure air superiority and precision in destroying ground and sea targets."

The new advanced multirole fifth-generation fighter is Russia's response to the U.S. Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning Joint Strike Fighter, and it was designed and will be manufactured by the Sukhoi complex that is now part of the United Aircraft Corp. Development will be carried out in cooperation with India's Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. under a preliminary intergovernmental agreement that was concluded in October 2007, RIA Novosti said.

Russia and India will work together in producing two different types of the aircraft -- a two-seat plane for the Indian air force and a single-seat version for the Russian air force, the report said. It said the Russian Sukhoi fifth-gen fighter would be manufactured at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft factory in Russia's Far East region.

Ivanov also stated the Komsomolsk-on-Amur factory had nearly finished work on its first prototype of the fifth-generation fighter, but it would undergo only durability tests on the ground and the plane would be shipped west to a research plant in the aircraft research complex at Zhukovsky outside Moscow. A second prototype is also being constructed and will fly before the end of 2009, he added.

The Russian missile destroyer Admiral Chabanenko sailed Jan. 20 from the Yantar shipyard in the Kaliningrad port on the Baltic Sea on an undescribed "mission of state importance" in the Mediterranean, RIA Novosti reported.

"Admiral Chabanenko urgently left the Baltiisk naval base on Jan. 20 after receiving orders for a mission of state importance," Kaliningrad shipyard spokesman Sergei Mikhailov told the news agency.

RIA Novosti also cited "a Russian military-diplomatic source" who said the warship, which has just returned from an ambitious "showing the flag" tour of Latin America, would sail to the Mediterranean Sea for "combat training."

"The Admiral Chabanenko destroyer has received orders from navy headquarters to head for the Mediterranean to accomplish a number of combat training tasks," RIA Novosti quoted the official as saying.

The official also told RIA Novosti that the Admiral Chabanenko could continue its voyage through the Suez Canal and down the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

RIA Novosti also quoted a Russian navy official, speaking on condition of anonymity, as stating the Admiral Chabanenko would join another Russian missile destroyer, the Admiral Vinogradov, which had been dispatched from the Russian Pacific Fleet to carry out anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and along the coast of the Horn of Africa.

The decision to dispatch the Admiral Chabanenko appears to have been a sudden one. The destroyer only returned to Kaliningrad on Jan. 15, just five days before it was ordered out again after its long voyage with the nuclear-powered missile-armed battle cruiser Pyotr Veliki ("Peter the Great") that had included visits to several Mediterranean nations as well as Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

RIA Novosti acknowledged the Admiral Chabanenko's "original repair schedule, including the overhaul of the propulsion system, envisioned the work being finished by the end of February."

RIA Novosti described the Admiral Chabanenko as an Udaloy II class missile destroyer that began its operational duties in January 1999. The news agency called the warship "Russia's only multipurpose destroyer" and said it was "intended to be the counterpart to U.S. Arleigh Burke class ships" of the U.S. Navy. The Chabanenko is an anti-submarine warfare vessel that has an extended cruising range, the report said.

RIA Novosti said the Chabanenko, like all Udaloy II class ASW ships, had been upgraded and its old SS-N-14 Silex anti-submarine missiles had been removed and a new armament installed of SS-N-22 Sunburn anti-ship missiles.

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