Russia unveils new fighter, Putin hails country's air power
Moscow — Russian aircraft makers on Tuesday unveiled a prototype of a new fighter jet that features stealth capabilities and other advanced characteristics.
Russian President Vladimir Putin inspected the prospective warplane displayed with much fanfare at the MAKS-2021 International Aviation and Space Salon. The air show opened Tuesday in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow.
Russian aircraft maker Sukhoi developed the new fighter under the LTS program, a Russian acronym for the Light Tactical Aircraft.
Its makers said the prototype is set to make its maiden flight in 2023 and deliveries could start in 2026. They said the new design could be converted to an unpiloted version and a two-seat model.
The new aircraft, which hasn't received a name yet, is smaller than Russia’s latest Su-57 two-engine stealth fighter, also built by Sukhoi, and has one engine. It can fly at a speed of 1.8-2 times the speed of sound and has a range of 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles), the jet's makers said.
Russian state corporation Rostec, which includes Sukhoi and other aircraft makers, has advertised the new plane under the tag Checkmate, an approach apparently intended to underline its superior characteristics.
It said the new warplane belongs to the so-called fifth generation of fighter jets, a definition that assumes stealth characteristics and a capability to cruise at supersonic speed, among other advanced features.
Rostec said the new design includes artificial intelligence features to assist the pilot and other innovative technologies. It said the jet was designed to reduce service costs and to be easily adapted to varying customer needs.
The prospective Russian fighter jet appears intended to compete with the U.S. F-35 Lightning II fighter, which entered service in 2015.
Rostec ran an aggressive advertising campaign in the days before the air show, publishing a picture of the new fighter hidden under a black tarpaulin with “Wanna see me naked?” written under it. It also posted a video featuring adulatory customers from India, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Vietnam and other countries, reflecting export hopes.
Plane spotters flocked to Zhukovsky last week to take pictures of the new plane as it was being taxied to a parking spot across the giant airfield which has served as the country’s top military aircraft test facility since Cold War times.
The Kremlin has made modernization of the country’s arsenals a key priority amid tensions with the West that followed Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.
It also has strongly encouraged the development of new passenger jets to compete with planes built by American aircraft maker Boeing and Europe's Airbus that currently account for the bulk of Russian carriers' fleets.
Russia's airliner programs have encountered delays amid Western sanctions that hampered imports of Western engines and other key components. But the country managed to produce a new engine for the new MS-21 passenger plane, which also was displayed at the show in Zhukovsky.
“What we saw in Zhukovsky today demonstrates that the Russian aviation has a big potential for development and our aircraft making industries continue to create new competitive aircraft designs,” Putin said in a speech at the show's opening.