Support Russia Insider - Go Ad-Free!

Who's Afraid of the F-35? Russia Unveils Plans for 6th-Generation Fighter Jet

Russia's advanced T-50 fighter jet is expected to begin service with the Russian Air and Space Forces next year. But Russia's aviation industry is already planning for what comes next.

MORE: Military

This post first appeared on Russia Insider


Moscow has big plans for revolutionizing its air force -- and hopes to re-write the rules of modern air combat in the process. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin announced earlier this week that the Sukhoi Design Bureau had begun developing a sixth generation fighter as part of a long-term strategy to modernize Russia's air capabilities.

It sounds like an impressive plan, but some remain skeptical: After all, Russia is still testing its 5th-generation fighter, the T-50, which has suffered from technical setbacks and isn't expected to begin service until next year at the earliest.

<figcaption>Sukhoi is looking to the future</figcaption>
Sukhoi is looking to the future

But even if Russia's 6th-generation fighter takes a decade to develop, the T-50 is hardly obsolete: The jet, designed to compete with Lockheed's F-22 Raptor, can  reach Mach 4 in seconds. Even with its incredible speed, the T-50 can carry anti-ship bombs capable of hitting maritime targets over 150 miles away and has storage space in its fuselage so that the aircraft can fly sorties without appearing armed.

A Sukhoi T-50
A Sukhoi T-50

Even if the plan for a 6th-generation fighter seems premature, or impossibly expensive, Russia has shown that it can compete with the United States using just a fraction of the Pentagon's budget:

The race for air superiority had heated up in recent years, since Moscow began a $700 billion, 10-year defense modernization program designed at achieving parity with the U.S. military. While it’s clear that Moscow is unable to spend as much as Washington on defense, setting aside $52 billion in 2016 compared with $575 billion by the U.S., it has generally been able to push out weapons, tanks, ships and submarines that compare favorably with American versions.

Of course, the F-35 has set the bar so low that Russia's 6th-generation fighter could literally just be "anything new that flies and doesn't cost $1 trillion."

However, given the extreme costs and expertise involved with advanced jet fighters, Russia has always lagged behind. For example, Russia could never match the near $1 trillion costs involved in the development of the U.S. military’s F-35 multirole fighter.

The International Business Times seems to think that not being able to spend $1 trillion on a plane that doesn't fly is a bad thing for Russia. We disagree.

Actually, because of the F-35's failure, any US plans to develop a 6th-generation fighter is likely to be met with extreme suspicion. As the Fiscal Times notes:

Any U.S. proposal would face incredible scrutiny both inside the Defense Department and on Capitol Hill after the F-35’s troubled development. The program has been, and remains, plagued with technical glitches that have driven its price tag up to around $400 billion, making the jet the most expensive weapons effort in U.S. history.

A sixth-generation fighter program would be another multibillion addition to the Air Force’s development “to-do” list, which already includes finishing the F-35 effort and developing new tankers and bombers.

Moscow doesn’t seem to have those fiscal concerns, though, and is moving ahead.

Russia has always done more with less. Yes, its 6th-generation fighter is years away from realization. But with NATO massing on its border, and ceaseless provocations from the west, controlling the skies is likely a top priority for Moscow.

 


Support Russia Insider - Go Ad-Free!

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Anyone is free to republish, copy, and redistribute the text in this content (but not the images or videos) in any medium or format, with the right to remix, transform, and build upon it, even commercially, as long as they provide a backlink and credit to Russia Insider. It is not necessary to notify Russia Insider. Licensed Creative Commons


MORE: Military

Our commenting rules: You can say pretty much anything except the F word. If you are abusive, obscene, or a paid troll, we will ban you. Full statement from the Editor, Charles Bausman.