MOSCOW, July 20 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday inspected a prototype of a new fifth-generation Sukhoi fighter jet that Russia unveiled at its annual MAKS airshow with an eye on export markets.
The fighter plane, which goes by the project name “Checkmate”, is likely to be presented as a rival to the American F-35 stealth fighter, said Oleg Panteleyev, head of the analysis agency Aviaport.
The fighter jet is expected to make its maiden maiden voyage in 2023 and a first batch is expected to be produced in 2026, the Interfax news agency said citing a presentation.
Rostec, Russia’s state aerospace and defense conglomerate, said the plane was difficult to detect and would have low operating costs. A brief promotional video featured pilots from the United Arab Emirates, India, Vietnam and Argentina, suggesting that Moscow wants to launch the plane overseas.
Russia has successfully produced prototypes of new weapon systems in recent years, but has sometimes struggled to move into series production.
Under Putin, he invested heavily in military aircraft and new weaponry, both for his own armed forces and also to increase export earnings from arms sales. Many of its new weapons are still based on technology from the Soviet era of the Cold War.
Russia already has fourth-generation fighter jets – the heavy-class Sukhoi Su-27 and the light-class Mikoyan MiG-29. It has only one heavy-class fifth-generation fighter jet, the Su-57, but no light-class equivalent, Panteleyev said.
“Light class fighter jets are in more demand around the world than heavy class jets – they are cheaper and more suitable for states that do not have large territories,” he told Reuters.
In 2011, Russia used the MAKS air show to unveil the Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter.
United Aircraft Corporation, which is part of Rostec, owns the Sukhoi aircraft manufacturer that dates back to the Soviet era.
Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Gleb Stolyarov; Editing by Alison Williams
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