Development of a new lightweight Russian fighter aircraft will soon get underway, according to information released in mid-December 2013.
A companion to the hi-tech Sukhoi T-50 stealth multirole fighter (PAK-FA), the new fighter will be a lower-cost design that offers increased ease of maintenance. At the same time, it will also be combat-capable and able to match the performance characteristics of larger, heavier military aircraft.
"The development of a light-class fighter has been included in the current arms procurement program", Dmitry Rogozin, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister, told Russian MPs, adding: "It will be created."
Lightweight Russian Fighter
According to Rogozin, lightweight Russian fighters are a better overseas sales prospect than the heavyweight likes of the T-50 and its Sukhoi stablemate, the Su-30.
On a more domestic level, Rogozin also makes the point that the Russian Air Force has long-employed a two-type frontline tactical aircraft force, combining fighters with different but complementary qualities. Examples of this arrangement include the MiG-29 and the Sukhoi Su-27 air superiority fighters, both introduced in the 1980s and since developed into a host of upgraded versions.
Unannounced, at this stage, is which of Russia's aerospace firms will work on the new lightweight fighter.
Sukhoi T-50 Stealth Multirole Fighter
The Sukhoi T-50 stealth multirole fighter is set to join the Russian Air Force in 2016 and will soon become the heartbeat of the nation's next-generation combat fleet. First flown in 2010, it will ultimately replace both the MiG-29 and the Su-27.
Exact specifications are not known due to the aircraft's in-development status but it's estimated that the T-50 can exceed Mach 2, has a maximum range of some 3,000 miles and can reach an altitude of 65,000 feet from ground level within 60 seconds.
It's planned for a navalised T-50 variant to equip the Russian Navy and for a new 20 ton UCAV (Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle) to also be developed from the basic design.
Sukhoi T-50 image copyright Rulexip - courtesy Wikimedia Commons