On Jan. 29, a Russian pilot conducted a test flight of the first warplane entirely designed and built by Russian companies since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. The plane, formally known as the Prospective Aircraft Complex of Frontline Aviation (PAK FA), is manufactured by the state-owned Sukhoi aircraft corporation. Russian sources describe the PAK FA as the first fifth-generation multi-role fighter/attack warplane built outside the United States, but some analysts doubt it meets that category's criteria.
"Fifth-generation" warplanes have stealth characteristics, making them almost invisible to conventional radars. These attributes include using composite materials, emitting reduced engine heat, and employing other advanced technologies that minimize the plane's optical, infrared, and radio-frequency visibility. Fifth-generation warplanes also possess sophisticated, advanced integrated weapons and navigation control systems that utilize the latest artificial intelligence. Furthermore, they can "supercruise" -- flying long durations at supersonic speeds without using an afterburner.
Russian aircraft-makers have been seeking to manufacture a fifth-generation warplane since the 1980s. The single-piloted, twin-engine Sukhoi PAK FA is intended to replace the Russian air force's aging fleet of MiG-29 Fulcrums and Su-27 Flankers. It will serve along with the 48 Su-35 multi-role fighters that the air force is also procuring from Sukhoi. The Su-35 is considered a "fourth++" generation plane, with only some fifth-generation capabilities.