Sukhoi’s 5th-gen fighter takes shape, nears flight

 - June 15, 2009, 8:02 AM

Sukhoi’s long-anticipated fifth-generation multirole fighter is nearing the start of flight trials as work continues on the prototype aircraft, the famed Russian aircraft builder’s chief executive confirmed at the Paris Air Show yesterday.

Sukhoi CEO Mikhail Pogosyan predicted the world will soon know much more about the new fighter, referred to internally as the T-50. “Let’s wait until next year, perhaps at the Farnborough airshow, to learn more about our fifth-generation fighter,” Pogosyan said. “Now we are just stating that we are working on the prototype and getting prepared for flight trials.” Observers predict the new fighter could be rolled out as early as this summer.

Russia is developing the new-generation Sukhoi to compete with the U.S. F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II, the world’s first fifth-generation fighters. Eventually the new airplane will replace the MiG-29 Fulcrum and Su-27 Flanker fighters in the Russian air force and be exported to other countries. Sukhoi is sharing development costs and engineering for the project with India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.

Pogosyan said Sukhoi has an $8 billion order backlog for its fighters and controls about 20 percent of the world export market. He noted the firm is preparing to add a third Su-35 prototype this month to the flight-test program for its last fourth-generation fighter (referred to by Sukhoi as generation 4++ ). Su-35 deliveries are slated to start in 2011 (see related story on page 21).