From the Interfax News Agency: Test flights of fifth-generation aircraft to be held in 2009.
By comparison, our “first” fifth-generation fighter, the F-22 is already operational. Our next fifth-generation aircraft, the F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) is now in limited production, although there’s some debate over how quickly they’ll be produced.
In both cases, the Russians are still playing catch-up in the fighter business–and that’s the way we want it. With initial flight testing in two years, the Moscow’s advanced fighter won’t be in series production until sometime well into the next decade. By that time, we’ll have even more advanced F-22 Raptors on the ramp, and many of the F-35s will be in service with the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and our NATO allies.
It’s called maintaining air supremacy, and it again illustrates why both the F-22 and F-35 are essential to that task. There will be one notable difference between the F-22 and its Russian competitor. The Russian jet will almost certainly be offered for the export market, while the U.S. (currently) has no plans to see the Raptor abroad. Availability of a fifth-generation Russian jet might cause us to rethink that position, although the Air Force has made it clear that no one else gets the F-22–not even longtime allies like Israel, South Korea and Japan.