Friday, January 29, 2010
Putin praises stealthski - says better than F-22
Vladimir Putin praised the maiden flight of Russia’s new stealth plane as “a big step” towards giving the air force a fighter fit for the twenty first century.
The Russian prime minister told a cabinet meeting he wanted the first batch of T-50 stealth fighters to be in service by 2013, well ahead of earlier deadlines. The fighter will be the first all-new military aircraft Russia has built since the collapse of the Soviet Union nearly two decades ago.
Russian aviation and air force officials lost little time in boasting that the plane would equal if not better America's F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.
Experts believe the T-50s maiden test flight underlines the Kremlin's determination to overhaul its ageing Soviet-era military hardware even as it is locked in key nuclear arms reductions talks with the United States.
President Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, his Russian counterpart, discussed a new nuclear arms treaty as recently as last Wednesday. The putative treaty would slash the number of war heads both countries possess and is seen as the centrepiece of a thus far largely rhetorical "reset" in relations between Moscow and Washington.
Negotiators have been hammering out the details of such a deal for months and are said to be weeks if not days away from a final settlement.
But though Russia may be ready to scale back its ageing nuclear arsenal it has signalled it will continue to actively renew its nuclear shield. So far unsuccessful tests to develop a new submarine-launched intercontinental ballistic missile dubbed the Bulava continue apace, a new strategic nuclear bomber is in development, and the country's strategic rocket forces have asked for a new silo-based heavy intercontinental missile too.
The stealth project is so secret that until yesterday photographs of the prototype had not even appeared in the Russian media. But state TV broke that embargo on Friday and showed the plane soaring over snowy forests in Russia's far east more than 5,000 miles east of Moscow.
Sceptics believe that Russia's plans to negotiate cuts in its nuclear arsenal do not mean it is ready to downsize its military ambitions. The warheads are ageing and would need to be replaced soon anyway.
Posted by Steve Douglass at 2:34 PM