Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Russia to build stealth bomber

Russia To Build New Strategic Bomber
By Nabi Abdullaev

MOSCOW - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Monday that Russia will start building a new strategic bomber.

"We should not confine ourselves to developing just one new model," Putin said of the Russian T-50 fifth-generation stealth fighter that had its maiden flight Jan. 29. He was speaking at the government meeting dedicated to the aviation industry and held at the Moscow premises of the Sukhoi Corp., where the T-50 was designed.

"We must think and get down to work on a next-generation, long-range aviation complex, our new strategic missile carrier," he said.

Russia has been trying to modernize its aging air forces by posting unprecedented domestic orders since the Soviet era and by offering generous financial help to the aviation makers during the ongoing financial crunch.

The government said in a press release distributed Sunday that the Russian military will commission 1,500 new military aircraft and helicopters so that the Air Force will have 80 percent modern aircraft by 2020.

In 2010, the military plans to commission 27 airplanes and more than 50 helicopters, the statement said.

Putin gave no details about the future strategic bomber other than saying that the top industry priorities will be designing engines, new materials and electronic equipment.

Earlier this year, the commander of long-range aviation, Maj. Gen. Anatoly Zhikharev, said that a new strategic bomber that will replace Tu-95s (NATO codename Bear) and Tu-160s (NATO codename Blackjack) will be built in Russia and commissioned in 2025-2030.

Putin said the Russian government had directed 3.1 billion rubles ($104 million) to support the Russian aviation industry since the global financial crisis began in late 2008. The United Aircraft Corp. (UAC), the government-controlled holding led by Sukhoi, received 1.15 billion rubles and the MiG Corp., which is still outside the UAC, received 1 billion rubles. The measures helped to increase output by 7 percent, Putin said.

Turning to the T-50 stealth fighter, which is regarded as Russia's answer to the U.S.-made F-22 Raptor, Putin said that about 2,000 more test flights will be made before the aircraft could be commissioned by the military.

Earlier this year, Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin, chief of the Air Force. said that commissioning of the T-50 will begin in 2015.

Mikhail Pogosyan, general director of Sukhoi, said at the meeting that three more T-50 experimental fighters will be built before year's end.

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