Douglas Barrie/LONDONAlexander Velovich/MOSCOW

A CASH CRISIS is keeping Mikoyan's next-generation fighter, designated Object 1.42, from flying, according to Anatoly Belosvet, deputy general designer at MAPO-MiG. The funding problems are seriously jeopardising the programme's future, he says.

Belosvet says that delays to the first flight are for "purely financial, rather than technical reasons". The prototype aircraft are stuck on the ground at the Zhukovsky flight-test research centre, he says.

HIgh speed taxi trials of the prototype Mnogofunkctionalny Frontovoi Istribityel (multi-function frontline fighter) (MFI) was was conducted at the end of 1994. Despite several public claims by Mikoyan that it was on the brink of flying the prototype designated Object 1.44, the aircraft has yet to get airborne.

The 1.44 has yet to be fitted with flight-control system actuators apparently because of Mikoyan's inability to pay for the components to complete the aircraft.

This raises considerable questions about the Russian air force's commitment to the project. Russian sources question whether the air force can afford the development, let alone the procurement, of a fifth-generation fighter with a take-off weight of more than 30t.

The I.42 is a large close-coupled delta-canard design which was intended to replace the Sukhoi Su-27. The first flight of the aircraft was planned for 1990, but then the programme was delayed by problems with the powerplant, the Lyulka/Saturn AL-41F.

These have now been overcome, but the programme appears to be in considerable danger of being overtaken by events.

Russian sources indicate that within the air force hierarchy, there are senior officers who contend that the 1.42 is unaffordable, and that a "cheaper" fifth-generation fighter should be pursued.

There are unconfirmed reports that Sukhoi has continued with advanced fighter studies, including one design which includes close-coupled canards and a forward swept wing.

Even if the 1.42 programme continues, there are those who contend that it will only be used as a technology demonstrator.

Belosvet adds that MAPO MiG is struggling to complete pre-flight development of the MiG-AT jet-trainer aircraft, with actuators once again the cause of the problem.

Unlike the 1.42, however, the actuator problem with the MiG-AT is technical rather than financial. Belosvet says that the actuators require further ground testing before they are installed in the aircraft before its first flight. He declines to give a date for the maiden flight.

Source: Flight International