With aircraft set to fly in 2006, manufacturer denies alternative engine is being planned

The Russian government has selected key suppliers for the Sukhoi-led LFI fifth-generation fighter development programme.

Rosaviakosmos state agency general director Yuri Koptev says: "All tenders for co-developers have been finalised, and companies selected." The LFI is scheduled to fly in 2006-7 and enter series production in 2010.

Ramenskoye RPKB and Aerospace Equipment will jointly development the integrated avionics suite. Avionics elements will be supplied by Polet, Ramenskoye RPKB, Tekhnocomplex, Tikho-mirov NIIP, and the Urals Optics Mechanical plant. KNIIRTI is tasked with the electronic countermeasures systems.

Engine development will follow a stepped approach, with the NPO Saturn AL-31 to be modified and uprated to power initial aircraft with the new AL-41 engine following later, says Koptev.

Sukhoi general director Mikhail Pogosyan adds: "We hope the recent initiative of UMPO of Ufa and MMPP Salyut of Moscow to form a joint venture will lead to their significant participation in the engine team."

Pogosyan, however, plays down rumours that UMPO and Salyut may develop an alternative engine. "There is a broad base for co-operation on the engine, especially in the area of production," he says.

The decision was made despite the AL-41 completing initial ground tests that showed it could meet the LFI requirement. The engine is of a variable cycle design that received $1.5 billion development funding during the Soviet-era, and has been flown on a number of testbeds including the RSK MiG 1.42. The 33,000lb-thrust (156kN) class LFI derivative requires another $300 million to allow flight tests to start this year and to be ready to equip LFI prototypes.

"Although the key [systems] developers have been selected, we are ready to accept wider co-operation on each system and are open to all reasonable initiatives aimed at joining forces on development of various systems," says Pogosyan.

LFI development is now at "draft design" stage - the digital mock-up was completed late last year - and set for completion next year.

Pogosyan adds: "The defence ministry has presented us with the aircraft specification and signed an agreement concerning the state funding. The participating companies will also supply development funding, he says.

Before the LFI becomes available, Sukhoi will offer "second-level modernisation" of fourth-generation fighters and sees this as "a necessary step" towards the new fighter. Such programmes will be centred on introduction of fifth generationsystems on the older designs.

Source: Flight International