MOSCOW, Feb. 1 (UPI) -- The Russian military has conducted the first successful flight of its long-awaited fifth-generation stealth jet fighter.
Dubbed T-50, the Sukhoi prototype is the first fighter plane to be built by Russia since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Designed jointly with India, the new fighter took off from a base in the Far Eastern city of Komsomolsk-on-Amur and flew a 47-minute test run, landing on the airfield of an aviation plant.
Also known by its Russian alias PAK FA, the new jet aims to challenge the U.S. Air Raptor, the only fifth-generation fighter in the world since its maiden voyage in 1997. Produced by Lockheed Martin and partner Boeing, the F22 entered service in the U.S. Air Force in 2005.
Designed by Sukhoi and built by the company's Komsomolsk plant, the T-50 showed no hitches in its takeoff flight.
"It performed well on all stages of the test-flight program," said its pilot, Sergei Bogdan. "It is easy and comfortable."
The plane, according to its maker, has new avionic systems, a phased array radar and equipment to exchange information with both ground command-and-control systems and other aircraft in an air warfare formation.
The test, broadcast on Russia television, comes amid a series of ill-fated weapons systems that have rattled the confidence of the military and political establishment.
"I am strongly convinced that this project will excel its Western allies in cost-effectiveness and these planes will constitute the backbone of the Russian air force for the next decades."
Russia plans to spike military spending by 8 percent to $38.5 billion in 2010 while the country's main arms exporter Rosoboronexport announced last week that the sales of planes and helicopters comprised half of its exports in 2009, with India marking its biggest client.
Military experts suggest the successful test flight signaled Russia's return to the global stage and a first-rank military and technological power.
"This is an epic event because it's the first time in post-Soviet history that [the Russian military industry] has been able to create something brand new," Alexander Khramchikhin, an expert with the independent institute of Political and Military Analysts in Moscow, was quoted saying to the Christian Science Monitor.
"Everything we produced after the USSR's collapse was based on Soviet designs; nobody thought we could make anything so technologically complicated as this. But now, strange as it may seem, this shows Russia's level is very high."
Russian Defense Minister Vladimir Popvkin has said that the fifth-generation fighters will enter service beginning 2015.