MOSCOW, Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Russia's defense industry, previously largely off-limits to journalistic scrutiny, has increasingly entered the public debate.
Among the topics under debate is the percentage of foreign components and financing in Russia's previously autonomous weapons and civilian aircraft systems, Vedomosti reported on Thursday.
Two of the top issues under discussion are the Sukhoi PAK FA T-50 fighter, a prototype for the Sukhoi PAK FA fifth generation stealth fighter jet currently being developed by Sukhoi OKB for the Russian Air Force and the Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger plane. Nationalist critics of the Sukhoi PAK FA T-50 fighter have focused on India's involvement with the project, along with the fact that the Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger plane will be powered by jet engines designed by a joint venture between Russia's Saturn and a subsidiary of France's Safran.
The Sukhoi PAK FA T-50, designed to directly compete with Lockheed Martin's F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II fighters, upon becoming operational is intended to replace the MiG-29 Fulcrum and Su-27 Flanker in Russia's Air Force inventory and furthermore, serve as the test bed the Sukhoi/HAL FGFA project being developed in a joint venture with India. The Sukhoi PAK FA T-50, Russia's first all-new warplane since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, made its maiden flight in January and has subsequently made 15 additional test flights.
The aircraft is designed to be a major element in future armaments sales by Russia's state-owned Rosobornekhsport program. Sukhoi OKB director Mikhail Pogosian has predicted that Rosobornekhsport 1,000 aircraft over the next four decades. As the Sukhoi PAK FA T-50 is a joint venture with India, the Russian and Indian air forces will be the initial recipients of two hundred fighters apiece, with an additional six hundred being manufactured for export. Initial deployment is planned for 2015. A naval version of the Sukhoi T-50 PAK FA will be eventually deployed on the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and future Russian aircraft carriers, as well as India's former Soviet carrier Admiral Gorshkov, currently undergoing a lengthy refit in Russia's Sevmash shipyard. The Admiral Gorshkov, a modified Kiev-class Soviet aircraft carrier, was purchased in 2004 by India and after refitting will enter the Indian Navy as INS Vikramaditya.
The Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger plane has a similar high profile in Russia's export plans. Saturn is controlled by Russia's state-controlled Sukhoi and 25 percent owned by Italy's Finmeccanica. Saturn's deputy managing director Yury Basyuk said that Saturn hopes that the Sukhoi Superjet 100, the first passenger plane built by Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union, will achieve 1,000 unit sales in international markets after the plane is certified, perhaps as early as October.