Friday, January 29, 2010

New Russian stealth fighter makes first flight

Jan 29, 2010 MOSCOW (Reuters news agency) - Russia test-flew a long-awaited new fighter aircraft on Friday, determined to challenge the United States for technical superiority in the skies and impress weapons buyers.
The "fifth-generation" stealth fighter -- Russia's first all-new warplane since the collapse of the Soviet Union plunged the defense industry into poverty and disarray -- flew for 47 minutes, planemaker Sukhoi said.
"It's a remarkable event," Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told his cabinet, but he suggested the plane still needed work.
"There is very much to be done, in part as regards the engine," Putin said. "But the fact that the plane is already in the air is a big step forward."
Russia's main television networks led news programs with reports of the flight and showed footage of the needle-nosed, camouflage-painted plane taking off from a snow-lined airstrip at a Sukhoi factory in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, in Russia's Far East.
"The plane performed very well. All our expectations for this first flight were met," Sukhoi spokeswoman Olga Kayukova said on Rossiya 24 television. "The premiere was a success."
Foreign journalists were not invited.
Fifth-generation aircraft are invisible to radar, have advanced flight and weapons control systems and can cruise at supersonic speeds. The new plane is Moscow's answer to the U.S.-built F-22 Raptor stealth fighter -- the world's only fifth-generation fighter yet in service -- which first flew in 1997.
Putin said the plane would first be delivered to the Defense Ministry in 2013 and serial production would start in 2015. Analysts have said it would probably be five to seven years before Russia's military gets to fly the new fighter.