Representatives from the Sukhoi Design Bureau say they are ready to launch a production line for a stealthy fighter jet similar to the F/A-22 Raptor.
The Sukhoi company makes the Flanker line of aircraft, which some industry analysts consider to be comparable to the top-of-the-line U.S. military aircraft.
Sukhoi officials boast that their latest aircraft have the same capabilities as American fighters when it comes to hitting air and ground targets, conducting electronic warfare and collecting intelligence.
“We do the same as the rest of the world,” said a Design Bureau official during the recent Paris Air Show through an interpreter.
And now, they say, they’ll be able to offer stealthy capabilities that the United States claims for the Raptor.
“It won’t have a bit more, or a bit less,” said the Design Bureau official. The Sukhoi official would not say when the first production stealthy fighters would come off the line. “That is classified.”
Some analysts say that’s an easy way for Sukhoi to say it can create a stealthy plane without needing to prove it.
But other industry experts say Sukhoi could get the technology to make a fighter stealthy enough to be a tough foe for the current U.S. combat fleet. The company has flirted with stealthy designs in the past decade, even test-flying the S-37 swept-wing fighter.
What the Sukhoi and the Russians have given up in stealth development, until relatively recently, they’ve made up for in maneuverability and other capabilities. With its thrust vectoring propulsion, Sukhoi Flankers can change direction with speed and agility. People stopped in their tracks when the company’s aircraft flew at the recent Paris Air Show.
“Sukhoi is not capable of building an aircraft as stealthy as F/A-22 Raptor,” said Loren Thompson, an expert at the Lexington Institute in Washington. “But it could build a fighter much stealthier than an F-15 or F-16.”
It’s something to worry about, he said.
U.S. military leaders and allies do — and moreover, about Russian’s willingness to sell technologically advanced aircraft to China. “The Chinese have been importing technology from Russia that’s as good as our own,” Thompson said.
For now, though, the United States has stealth and China doesn’t. The American rival is looking to even things out by developing metric-wave radar, said to have “high capability of detecting anti-radiation missile, high antistealth capability,” Richard Fisher Jr. wrote in an October 2001 report, “PLA and Chinese Society in Transition,” for the National Defense University Conference.
Fisher also said the PLA, or People’s Liberation Army, may be exploiting a technology called “passive-coherent” detection. Developed by Lockheed Martin, such sensors detect disturbances in television broadcast signals caused by aircraft and combine them with radar data to find stealthy aircraft.