Alexander Velovich/MOSCOW

RUSSIA PLANS to press ahead and procure a fifth-generation fighter and a long-range strike aircraft to replace the Tupolev Tu-22M Backfire, according to Col Gen Piotr Deinekin, commander-in chief of the Russian air force.

Deinekin also confirms that a reconnaissance variant of the Sukhoi Su-27IB will be developed.

In an interview with governmental newspaper Rossiyskiye Vesti, Deinekein says that the number of different types in each branch of the air force will be reduced to one or two through introducing aircraft with multi-function capabilities.

The Tu-22M and Sukhoi Su-24 Fencer bombers will be replaced by a "multi-functional bomber with increased combat capabilities".

This statement indicates that the air force is still committed to the development of the Sukhoi T-60S, development of which was begun in the mid-1980s. There are unconfirmed reports that a prototype is under construction.

Deinekin says: "We are expecting the MFI multi-functional front-line fighter, which has recently been handed over for flight tests at Zhukovsky, to enter operational service."

Two prototypes of the Mikoyan 1.42 have been built. MAPO-MiG sources say that if air force funding is made available for flight tests, then the aircraft could be flown before the end of this year. So far, however, the necessary cash has not been made available.

Funding issues have raised a serious question mark over the future of the programme, with some senior MAPO-MiG officials claiming that the air force could not afford to buy the aircraft in operational numbers.

Deinekin says that fighter-bomber aviation units will receive the twin-seat Su-27IB, which is now being flight-tested.

Col Gen Abrek Ayupov, air force former deputy commander-in-chief for acquisition, acknowledges that, for 1996, the service has enough money to pay only for "-one and a half Su-27IBs produced by Novosibirsk plant".

Deinekein says: "Ground-attack aviation needs an advanced all-weather attack aircraft," probably referring to the Sukhoi Su-25TM.

The air force has withdrawn all older types from operational service. About 1,700 single-engine tactical aircraft await the scrap-heap.

Source: Flight International