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World News

Russia says its stealth jet ready for use in 2015

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s new, fifth-generation stealth jet fighter -- which Moscow hopes will be able to compete with its U.S. Raptor rival -- will be ready for use in 2015, the plane’s designer said on Monday.

Russia test-flew its long-awaited stealth fighter at the end of January, presenting it as Moscow’s first all-new warplane since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union and a challenge to the technological supremacy of Cold War foe the United States.

Asked to compare his brainchild to the U.S. F-22 Raptor, built more than a decade ago, the Russian jet’s chief designer Alexander Davydenko told reporters: “The basic features are the same but we tried to do it better.”

He said Sukhoi, which produced the T-50 prototype of the jet, “had modelled duels with the F-22”.

“I think we will have a competitive price. As for the efficiency-and-cost ratio, we will be much better,” he added.

The first MiG-29 and Su-27 prototypes of the previous fourth generation took to the air in 1977. Analysts say several nations, including Libya and Vietnam, had expressed interest in the fifth-generation fighter, but serious financial, technical and even political hurdles remain before Russia starts producing it.

The aircraft’s maiden flight showed “Russia is still a solid second in terms of defence technology,” analysts from the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies (CAST) said in their latest survey published last week.

“The year 2015 is set as the deadline for the plane’s deliveries to the armed forces. We are working on it,” chief designer Davydenko said. “The model that was flown was a 100-percent fifth-generation fighter,” he said.

“Its navigation system, communications, piloting information system -- are all original, but everything has been working in the aerodynamic tests regime so far,” he added. “This plane is not yet designed for carrying weapons,” he said.

HICCUPS REMAIN

Analysts say the existing T-50 prototype’s engines do not have all the features of proper fifth-generation ones.

“While they provide the necessary amount of thrust (even for supersonic cruising), they are not up to the fifth-generation spec in terms of the thrust-to-weight ratio and fuel economy,” CAST experts wrote.

“Many observers are sceptical about Russia’s chances of creating a proper fifth-generation engine that could compete with America’s Pratt & Whitney F119,” CAST added. “Problems also remain with the new radar and other onboard equipment, but recent progress suggests that the risks here are moderate.”

The T-50 will be produced in a 50/50 joint venture with India and could be armed with jointly made BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, Davydenko said.

Analysts say the Russian stealth fighter could easily win a third of the world market if its mass output became a reality.

Asked about giant neighbour China’s possible participation in the project, Davydenko said that “there are no talks with the Chinese about this fighter jet.”

Additional reporting by Dmitry Solovyov; editimg by Myra MacDonald

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