The Struggle for a Contract Worth Billions
This March has all the chances of becoming the decisive period for domestic military aircraft construction. In accordance with an order of the Russian president, the lead developer of the future aviation complex for frontal aviation /PAK FA/, which is more widely known by the public as ``the fifth generation fighter,`` should be selected.
The victor will receive the largest defense order in the coming 20 years. The likelihood is extremely great that in the future the winning firm will become the only developer of aviation complexes. Not only the firms are participating in the contest, but also the financial and industrial capital, and groups within the government and the Ministry of Defense that support them.
The chief of the Ministry of Industry and Science, Ilya Klebanov, and his allies are proposing the drawing up of a tough line of control under the guardianship of the government and Rosaviakosmos. The are looking at withholding part of the export income from the defense industrial complex enterprises and directing it for the financing of such programs as the fifth generation airplane.
In February, Mikhaylov visited NPO Saturn who is building the engine for the fifth generation fighter. The position of the Commander-in-Chief can delay the final decision of the question of the lead developer of the PAK FA especially since the air force still has not allocated funds for its construction.
Nonetheless, answering the question of a Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozreniye /NVO/ correspondent, Yuriy Koptev announced that the decision, apparently, will be adopted before 20 March.
No official information about the look of the PAK FA was distributed after the meeting. In an interview with an NVO correspondent, Yuriy Koptev confirmed that it is being proposed to build and airplane of an intermediate class, which will be larger than a MiG-29 and smaller than a Su-27. Characterizing the role in the project of the Yakovlev OKB, the head of Rosaviakosmos declared that this firm ``has been working very actively with Sukhoy on a modification variant of short takeoff and vertical landing. RSK MiG also has started the very same work.
At the same time, a number of new information has appeared regarding the power plant of the new fighter. Ilya Klebanov said the ``NPO Saturn has greater chances for the development of an engine for fifth generation military airplanes.`` The minister mentioned ``four plus`` generation motors, which are being developed at Rybinsk Motors /a backbone enterprise of Saturn/. The manager of the latter, Yuriy Lastochkin, announced to the NVO correspondent that his enterprise together with the Ufa Motor Building Production Association will start tests of the AL-41F1 in 2002, which ``will a precursor for the fifth generation engine.``
It is being proposed that it will have a thrust on the order of 14.5 tonnes. All this information allows one to reach the conclusion that the new fighter will be twin-engined, and the appearance in the press of drawings of a single-engine airplane are disinformation. It is interesting that literally a week ago, the Moscow Salyut Engine Building Plant announced the construction of a modification of the AL-31F with increased thrust. Hence, the competition is intensifying among all the potential participants in the fifth generation program.
It is not east to make a prognosis about the outcome of the tender. Each of the firms has its trump cards. Sukhoy have the potential to gather more off-budget funding. They have accumulated a lot of information during the flight tests of the S-37 /true, most likely a conclusion was made about a lack of prospect of the aerodynamic makeup selected./ The staff of the lower and middle teams are a lot more qualified.
RSK MiG, while inferior to competitors for financial and in part in workforce potential, has a far greater dynamic top management team. The company already has gone through the painful integration stage. And even the MFI, in the opinion of a number of specialists, embodies an extremely prospective aerodynamic concept.
There is the likelihood of adopting compromising variants. Thus, Yuriy Koptev in an interview with an NVO correspondent announced that joint work on the project "is the most correct decision. At the head will be the one who wins. But the work will be constructed so that there is room for the too other firms, too." Unfortunately, the peculiarities of the domestic mentality and the relations between the managers of the enterprises do not give a basis for interpreting such calls with optimism.
Finally, one cannot rule out too the delay in the selection of the lead developer of the PAK FA with the fact that it is to give the firms the ability to take their projects to a more advanced stage.
Source: 15.03.02, Nezavisimoye Voennoye Obozreniye, Sergey Sokut
Translated by Roy Cochrun /http://www.toad.net/cgi-bin/cgiwrap/royfc/today/acft_news.html/
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