The new warplane hidden under tarpaulin was photographed being towed to a parking spot across an airfield in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, where the MAKS-2021 International Aviation and Space Salon opens Tuesday. Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to visit the show’s opening.
Russian media reports said that the new jet has been built by the Sukhoi aircraft maker in a program of development of a light tactical fighter.
Unlike Russia’s latest Su-57 two-engine stealth fighter, the new aircraft is smaller and has one engine.
The new warplane’s name is unknown, and there is no information about its capability and deployment prospects.
The Su-57 has been built to match the U.S. F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, but unlike the American aircraft that has been in service since 2005 its serial production is just starting and a new engine intended to give it the capability to cruise at supersonic speed is still under development.
The new Russian warplane appears intended to compete with the U.S. F-35 Lightning II fighter, which entered service in 2015. Russia hopes to eventually offer the new aircraft to foreign customers.
Rostec, the state corporation that includes Russian aircraft makers, said the “fundamentally new military aircraft” will be unveiled Tuesday at the show.
Following the Rostec announcement, Russian plane spotters rushed to Zhukovsky to take pictures of the new plane—an eerie parallel with Cold War times when Western spies tried to get a glimpse of the latest Soviet warplanes at the tightly-guarded airfield that served as the country’s top military aircraft test facility.
The Kremlin has made modernization of the country’s armed forces a top priority amid a bitter strain in relations with the West, which have sunk to post-Cold War lows after Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, accusations of Russian interference in elections, hacking attacks, and other irritants.
By Vladimir Isachenkov