Komsomolsk-on-Amur: Russian deputy prime minister, Sergei Ivanov, has confirmed that flight tests of a fifth-generation fighter will commence by the end of 2009.
"By the end of this year, the plane will rise into the air and flight tests will begin," Ivanov told journalists in the Russian Far East, adding that serial production will start in 2010.
Russia's advanced multirole fighter, dubbed the PAK-FA, is being developed by the Sukhoi design bureau, part of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), in collaboration with Indian defence and aerospace establishment, the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
The collaboration has been made possible through a preliminary inter-governmental agreement signed in October 2007.
The first prototype is expected to make its maiden flight before the end of 2009.
On 28 February 2009 Sukhoi director Mikhail Pogosyan announced that the first prototype of the PAK-FA should be ready by August 2009. The programme is intended to develop a fifth generation fighter aircraft that will match capabilities similar to that of Lockheed Martin's F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II, which are the world's first fifth-generation fighter jets.
It has also been dubbed as the ''Raptorski''.
The aircraft will feature a long combat radius, especially in its Indian twin-seat version, supersonic cruise speed, low radar cross section, super-manoeuvrability, and the ability to make short takeoffs and landings. The PAK-FA or the T-50 (Sukhoi designation) will have a normal take-off weight of 20 tons, which is in between to the average normal takeoff weight of the two American fighters - the F-35 JSF (17.2 tons) and the F-22 (24 tons).
The new fighter is expected to have a traditional wing form, but will incorporate experiences gathered as a result of the Berkut programme. It will incorporate stealth technology and will be equipped with two AL-41F engines. The radar will be an active phased array system and the aircraft will deploy high-precision weapons.
The Indian version has been designated the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft (FGFA) and will be a derivative of the PAK FA.
"The Indian FGFA is significantly different from the Russian aircraft because a second pilot means the addition of another dimension, development of wings and control surfaces," according to Ashok Baweja, erstwhile chairman of the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
After the meeting of the eighth Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Military-Technical Cooperation (IRIGC), Baweja had said that both sides had moved closer towards identifying the key areas of participation in the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft Programme (FGFA) for which both countries had signed a joint agreement in 2007.
According to him, India would bring into play its expertise in composites, lightweight high-strength materials that significantly bring down the weight of an aeronautical platform.
Listing the capabilities of the aircraft design, Baweja said that it would have stealth features which allow a drastic reduction in the aircraft's radar cross-section or 'signature', and the ability to 'super cruise.' This facility allows engines to fly at supersonic speeds without engaging afterburners, which results in substantial savings in fuel consumption.
The aircraft's embedded weapons will have the capability to engage multiple ground, sea and air targets. The design will also allow seamless communication between the fighter, other aircraft and ground stations.
Baweja said that the first prototype of the FGFA would fly with the AL-37FU engine, but eventually will be powered by an engine with at least 15 to 20 per cent more power.
The FGFA is expected to enter squadron service by 2015 and will replace at least three classes of aircraft in the IAF.
According to Baweja, HAL will be contributing largely to composites, cockpits and avionics. The software will also be different.