Russia will soon start developing a prototype of an advanced lightweight fighter jet to supplement fifth-generation T-50 aircraft, a top government official said Wednesday.
The new aircraft is expected to be cheaper to produce and easier to maintain, but should also possess combat capabilities and performance characteristics comparable with those of heavy-class aircraft.
“The development of a light-class fighter has been included in the current arms procurement program. It will be created,” said Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, addressing the lower house of parliament.
Rogozin, who oversees the defense and space industries, said light-class fighters were in greater demand abroad, compared to more advanced heavy-class aircraft, such as Su-30 or the planned T-50 fighter jets.
Recently, the production of combat aircraft in Russia there has seen a bias in favor of heavy machinery: the Air Force receives new and modernized Su-27SM3, Su-30M2 and Su-30SM and Su-35S. Russia is currently developing the heavy-class T-50 multirole fighter aircraft, also known as PAK-FA, which will be the core of the country’s future fighter fleet. The T-50 is expected to enter service with the Russian air force in 2016. At the same time, light machines MiG-29 are upgraded, but new lightweight fighters of MiG brand are available today only for fleet. Therefore, MiG-29K/KUB should replace the Su-33 aboard the aircraft carrier “Admiral Kuznetsov”.
Rogozin, who first voiced the idea of developing a second type of a fifth-generation fighter in February 2012, said Wednesday that Russia has always had at least two types of tactical fighters that in general supplemented one another. The latest example is a MiG-29/Su-27 pair.
Rogozin did not specify which of Russia’s two main designers of combat jets – MiG or Sukhoi – will be assigned the development of the future light-class fighter. Historically, Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG undertook the development of lightweight fighters in Russia. Latest new development of the corporation, which was reported publicly, is the MiG-35 fighter. The Russian Defense Ministry announces plans to regularly purchase these aircraft, but firm contract signing is regularly postponed.
Yakovlev Experimental Design Bureau also possesses an experience in developing light combat aircrafts. Currently, in the framework of this project the Design Bureau produces trainer aircraft Yak-130, which, among other things, can be used as a light attack aircraft and fighter.