MOSCOW: Russia is set to receive its first batch of next generation fighter jets by next year, promising they will surpass their U.S. counterparts, Russian air force sources told state news agency. In the meantime, the Russian military will continue renovating existing fighters.
The fifth generation jets known as PAK-FA have been in development since 2002, only being seen in production test flights in 2010.
Work has been ongoing to produce a supersonic jet which combines stealthy features, such as low infrared and radar signature to reduce visibility, with a wide array of weapons including precision-guided missiles.
According to air force colonel-general Viktor Bondarev, the Russian military will receive the PAK FA jets next year, while regular deliveries of the aircraft will begin in 2017.
“It will not be inferior to American-made F-22 and F-35 and in all practical parametres it will be superior to them,” Bondarev said.
“It will be capable against targets on the ground, in the air and on sea.” The jet will purportedly travel at mach 2 speed, which is almost 2,500 kilometres per hour.
“Testing of the jet is in full swing and it is showing wonderful performance,” Bondarev said. “The jet operates with stealth, practically it is undetectable. The entire set-up of the jet is on the most modern level.”
Bondarev did not say how many PAK FA jets have been ordered, however he added that the project would not impact the refurbishment of at least 50 Tu-160M strategic bombers and the eventual arrival of another fifth generation fighter, the PAK DA.
The PAK DA is similar to the PAK FA in being developed to travel at high speeds with stealth, but it is also specifically designed with long range bombardment of strategic targets in mind. It will enter the Russian military’s arsenal in 2023.
“Of course, producing all 24 of these aircraft at once is not possible, but as many as they make, we will take them. When they make four we will take four. When they make 10 we will take 10,” said the air force commander.
The United Aircraft Corporation, which is the state conglomerate developing jets for the Russian military, has previously said that the air force will receive 55 new-generation fighters by 2020.
The country’s military is currently undergoing a massive overhaul to introduce more ‘modern’ kit by 2020, in order to increase the figure to 70% from 2010 when it was 10%.
100 brand new jets of different classes are scheduled to replace its Soviet-era aircraft in the same timeframe. Renovation and modernisation projects are also underway with some existing aircraft.
This year Russia’s military capability in the skies, which includes naval aviation and air force, is scheduled to increase by 150 units with the newly annexed territory of Crimea being one of the major focal points of reinforcement.