Russia's efforts to develop a new lightweight fighter that can be flown or operated as drones appear to be successful, and the official TASS agency like the RIanovosti.ru site have obtained additional information to get an idea of the performance, but also of the positioning of the new device. the development was publicly announced by Rostec Group CEO Sergei Chemezov, in December 2020. We learn that the new fighter will have a maximum takeoff weight of 18 tonnes, classifying it in the category of the Mirage 2000 or the JF-17, that it will be powered by thehe Izdeliye 30 vector thrust reactor which must also equip the Su-57, that it will have a thrust-weight ratio greater than 1 and that it will exceed the speed of Mach 2 (and not hypersonic like the title TASS ..). It will also be developed under the Sukhoi brand, and not Mig as one might think initially, and will be fully a so-called 5th generation device. On the other hand, no information concerning the implication of the federal budget, nor concerning a possible calendar was disclosed.
Such assertions should therefore be taken with caution because, without questioning them, it is common for Russian industrialists to "embellish" the picture by presenting programs in a much more advanced way than they really are. However, it is indisputable that such a device would meet many needs, both for the Russian air force and for potential export customers of the country's defense industry, and would perfectly complement the couple that will likely be formed by the Su-57, its derivative versions, and the future high-speed interceptor of the PAK DP program, entrusted to the teams of the Mig design office.
In the first place, it would allow the Russian air forces to replace their fleet of Mig-29s currently in service, by an aircraft more economical to acquire and to use than the Su-57. The Fulcrum, NATO designation of the Mig-29, in fact still represents nearly 30% of the Russian air force fighter fleet with nearly 440 aircraft in the fleet, and most of the naval air forces on board, with 22 aircraft. While Moscow aims to keep the format of its fighter fleet above 1000 aircraft in the years to come, a solution combining Su-57 and Pak-DP would be too expensive. This is the reason why the Russian air force estimated 2 years ago that the Mig-29 fleet would be replaced by heavy combat drones, such as the S70 Okhotnik-B. In this context, a device offering mixed capacities, in piloted or dronized version, would make it possible to have a more versatile and homogeneous fleet, while simplifying maintenance constraints and acquisition costs.
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