PARIS AIR SHOW: Sukhoi secretive on PAK-FA programmes

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Sukhoi is still working on a prototype of its fifth-generation "PAK-FA" advanced tactical frontline fighter, but the schedule for its flight-test programme remains unconfirmed, despite earlier indications that the aircraft would fly in 2009.

The Russian manufacturer is focusing its promotional efforts at the show on the Superjet 100 regional jet. Director general Mikhail Pogosyan says he will talk about the fifth-generation fighter at the next Farnborough air show "or later". It is "something for the future", he says.

Pogosyan confirms that the company is creating a prototype and preparing for the start of trials, and that internal discussions regarding the prototype are under way. Beyond that, any communication on the programme awaits the outcome of trials. Last year, Russian news agency RIA Novosti quoted industry and energy minister Viktor Khristenko as saying that "the flight tests of the aircraft are scheduled to begin in 2009".

Though reticent on the specifics of the PAK-FA programme, Pogosyan is confident of success in the Indian fighter contest, in which the MiG-35 has been entered. The MiG aircraft has "a good chance of winning", he says. It has already completed flight tests with the Indian air force.

Of its existing contract with Malaysia for MiG-29K fighters, Pogosyan says that the six aircraft it is due to deliver to the nation will arrive by the end of 2009.

Meanwhile domestic demand for fighters is growing, says Pogosyan. A 50:50 split between domestic and export business is the company's target. It is also aiming at the following split of business: 40% military, 40% commercial and 20% services.

Toward this end Sukhoi is "keen on raising the quality" of after-sales service. "We really need it," admits Pogosyan, citing both the military and commercial segments. Sukhoi has accordingly focused efforts on integration of its logistics and support services, as well as closer co-operation between Sukhoi and MiG, with joint development of future products likely.

Le Bourget is "not a place where you conclude contracts for military aircraft", says Pogosyan. However, new announcements are likely at Russia's MAKS 2009 show, he adds.

Sukhoi is "not free of impact" from the financial crisis, Pogosyan admits. However, he adds that crisis had the effect of boosting the speed of decision-making, particularly when it came to decisions on acquisition of domestic fighter aircraft. "I like working at crisis times," says Pogosyan, adding that crisis made the strong stronger and the weak weaker.