Moscow - Russia's long-awaited fifth-generation stealth jet fighter made its maiden flight in the Russian Far East on Jan. 29.
The fighter, tentatively dubbed the T-50 and designed jointly with India, is intended to challenge the technological superiority of the U.S. F-22 Raptor, and to boost Russia's own defense capabilities for several decades.
Designed by Sukhoi and built by the company's Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aviation Plant, the T-50 prototype flew for 47 minutes and landed on the plant's airfield. In a statement distributed by Sukhoi on Jan. 29, its pilot, Sergei Bogdan, said the airplane "performed well on all stages of the test-flight program design by us. It is easy and comfortable."
According to Sukhoi, the fighter - Russia's first all-new warplane since the collapse of the Soviet Union - has new avionics systems, a phased-array radar, and equipment to exchange information with both ground command-and-control systems and other aircraft in an air warfare group.
"This allows a significant increase in military effectiveness," a company statement said, stressing that the T-50 answers all requirements of a fifth-generation fighter, including a supersonic cruising speed. The sophisticated control systems "allow a pilot to concentrate on tactical tasks," while use of composite materials, the aerodynamic design of the body and measures taken to decrease the visibility of the aircraft engine provide for "unprecedented low radio, optical and infrared visibility," the statement said.
T-50 and modernized fourth-generation fighters will be the core of the Russian Air Force for decades, Sukhoi General Director Mikhail Pogosyan said in the statement.
"I am confident that our joint project [with India] will leave behind Western equivalents in terms of cost effectiveness and will not only strengthen the defensive capabilities of Russia and India, but also occupy a worthy place on the market," Pogosyan said.
The F-22 is the only fifth-generation fighter in the world since it first flew in 1997. The U.S. Congress bans export sales of F-22s.
Russian Deputy Defense Minister Vladimir Popovkin has said that the fifth-generation fighters will enter service beginning 2015.
Sukhoi said that the T-50 was equipped with new engines developed by the Rybinsk-based NPO Saturn company. The engines were first tested on a Su-27M fighter on the Zhukovsky field outside Moscow on Jan. 21.
Russia started developing a fifth-generation fighter in the late 1980s, with MiG Corp. taking the lead in research and development. But in the mid-1990s, the MiG project was dumped because of Russia's economic problems. Sukhoi began work on the fighter in the early 2000s when the government decided to return to the project.
Russian news agencies have reported that the T-50 has a range of 5,500 kilometers and can develop a speed of 2,100 kilometers per hour.