CLOSING THE GAP
Russia and China could not help but have been worried in the wake of Operation Desert Storm. During that war, the Coalition led by the United States shot down 42 aircraft – including four MiG-29s.
With the F-22 prototype taking its first flight in late 1990, the two countries found themselves facing a technologically superior foe that could conceivably trash their best fighters if a shooting war broke out anywhere in the world.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, the MiG-29 and, more notably, the Su-27/30 Flanker family began to be widely exported. The Russians were selling anything for hard currency in the 1990s. With the deployment of the F-22, the Russians and Chinese began efforts to develop a contemporary to the American superfighter.
RUSSIA’S F-22 COUNTERPARTS
The Russians have three potential counters to the F-22. Perhaps the furthest along is the Su-47 Berkut – which features a forward-swept wing similar to the Northrop X-29 on an airframe similar to that of the Su-
27/30/35 Flanker family.
The Mikoyan design bureau, the descendant of the famous Mikoyan–Gurevich design bureau that produced the MiG-15, MiG-17, MiG-19, and MiG-21s that American pilots faced in Korea and Vietnam, developed the MiG 1.44, code-named the “Flatpack” by NATO.
While neither project went into production, information from the research into these prototypes would be combined into the Sukhoi PAK FA, which is slated to take its first flight in 2009.
But Russia is not alone in trying to develop a fifth-generation fighter.
China is also pursuing fifth-generation fighters – with reports centering around three designs in a J-XX project: the J-12, J-13, and J-14. The J-12 is reportedly being developed by the Shenyang Aircraft Company, which builds the J-11 Flanker (a license-built Su-27).
However, another source claims that the J-12 is design from Chengdu, with the J-13 being a Shenyang design. The reference site sinodefense. com also reported that Chengdu and Shenyang are submitting competing designs for the J-XX program.
While both the Chinese and Russian programs remain shrouded in secrecy and the uncertainties of research and development, one thing is clear: Both of these countries are looking to match the F-22.