Rosaviacosmos, the Russian state aviation agency, is to launch a tender for a fifth-generation fighter by November, reversing previous indications that Sukhoi would be given the programme lead without any competition.

The change of direction follows protests from RSK MiG that it is also capable of designing the LFI "lightweight frontal fighter".

Russian air force commander Anatoly Kornukov says: "There will be a tender because the law demands this. It is clear that Sukhoi has the most advanced technologies and is in the best position financially to do the job. The government will decide on the cost of the programme. In our view, the optimal and sufficient figure [for R&D] is $1.5 billion."

The defence ministry plans a first flight in 2006, with series production to start in 2008 and a 2010 service-entry date.

RSK MiG, meanwhile, is attempting to improve relations with AVPK Sukhoi's KnAAPO and IAPO production factories as well as Sokol, which builds a number of MiG designs, offering them a share in LFI development work.

Phazotron-NIIR and Aerospace Equipment (which includes Tikhomirov NIIP) are bidding to develop the radar for the LFI, with NIIR offering an active-array radar and NIIP insisting on a passive antenna with electronic scanning, combined with conformal antennas along the fuselage. Both companies, however, admit that funding shortages may force the defence minister to select an existing design, such as the Phazotron Zhuk-MF or NIIP N-011M Bars.

Uncertainty surrounds the choice of an engine, with local analysts suggesting there is too little time to develop a new design, an existing engine such as the NPO Saturn AL-41F, a further development of the AL-31F, or the Klimov RD-133.

Source: Flight International