17 june 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin observes a test flight of a fifth-generation fighter jet in Zhukovsky, near Moscow

In his conversation with test pilot Sergei Bogdan, Vladimir Putin noted that Russia’s fifth-generation fighter will be two and half to three times cheaper than its foreign equivalent. “This machine will be superior to our main rival – the American fifth-generation F-22 fighter – in manoeuvrability, weapons systems and range,” added the prime minister.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited the Central Aerohydrodynamic Institute (TsAGI) and the airfield at the Mikhail Gromov Flight Research Institute, where a one-of-a-kind, fifth-generation aircraft took off after a few minutes.

The plane circled the airfield several times to allow the prime minister and other visitors to fully appreciate the spectacle and the aircraft's technical capabilities. Mr Putin watched the aircraft closely and asked Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov and Sukhoi Company General Director Mikhail Pogosyan clarifying questions.

The prime minister later spoke with the test pilot who had been in the cockpit of the fifth-generation aircraft, Sergei Bogdan. During the conversation, Mr Putin remarked that the fifth generation fighter will cost two and a half to three times less than its foreign counterparts.

"This machine will be superior to our main rival - the American fifth-generation F-22 fighter - in manoeuvrability, weapons systems and range," Putin observed.

"And the combat spirit," the pilot added. "Above all else," the prime minister agreed.

Mr Putin noted that the first phase of the aircraft's development had cost 30 billion roubles, and another 30 billion roubles will be required to complete this project. Then the aircraft's engine, weapons systems etc. will undergo modernisation.

"This aircraft will have a long production time and a long service life," said Mr Putin. "It will serve for 30 to 35 years, with some modernisation."

The prime minister recalled that the work on this project began in 2002. In 2004 he saw a model of the aircraft for the first time, and in a year the project had received significant funding. The aircraft took off for its first flight early this year.

The pilot said this was the aircraft's 16th test flight and that another several flights were scheduled for the near future.

After a short conversation, the prime minister and the test pilot approached the fighter plane and Mr Putin climbed up into the cabin. Mr Bogdan began to explain the specifics of the aircraft in detail, drawing the prime minister's attention to one feature that allows the pilot to operate the aircraft's basic flight systems without taking his or her hand off the control column. Mr Bogdan explained that this feature was particularly important in conditions of high g-force. "I know: I've flown myself," Mr Putin replied.