Russia Looks to Asia to Finance Fighter
Russia may pool resources with China or India to build a costly new-generation fighter intended to re-equip its air force and secure a competitive edge in the global market against prospective U.S. and European designs, a top Cabinet official said Thursday.
China and India have become the top customers for Russia`s beleaguered aircraft makers, who have received almost no orders from their own government in the decade since the Soviet collapse. Both countries have recently bought large batches of Sukhoi fighter planes, and purchased licenses to manufacture more.
But Russian Aerospace Agency director Yury Koptev warned that Russia risks being edged away from lucrative export markets unless it urgently starts work on a new fighter.
Russia is currently the world's fourth largest arms exporter, behind the United States, Britain and France, and fighter jets have been its top export item.
``Such planes as the Su-27 and the MiG-29 and their modifications can stay competitive only for another seven or eight years, as the United States is developing new-generation planes,`` Koptev told reporters. ``We need a new plane both for defense purposes and for preserving our position in the arms market.``
``Russia has been holding talks with its strategic partners concerning their participation in the development of such aircraft,`` Koptev said, asked about reports that China or India could help finance the project. He wouldn`t give any details of the talks.
Koptev said the Sukhoi and MiG companies are currently competing to meet an end-of-the year deadline to present their proposals for the new generation fighter to a government commission, which is to determine the winner during the first quarter of 2002.
The winning company is to present a flying example by early 2006 and make the plane ready for serial production by 2010, Koptev said. He wouldn't say how many such aircraft the government could afford.
The largest share of the new fighter's development costs would fall on building a new engine, Koptev said.
It would cost between $1.2 billion and $1.5 billion to modify the engine for the new fighter and another $600 million to $800 million to then turn it into a completely new engine, Koptev said, adding that the government expects the aircraft makers to finance the design work themselves, using revenues from fighter sales abroad.
By Vladimir Isachenko APhttp://www.avia.ru