Global Insights: Does Russia Have a Fifth-Generation Fighter?

Global Insights: Does Russia Have a Fifth-Generation Fighter?

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.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review