​20-Year Lag and Still No Idea How to Make a 6th Gen Fighter, russia Admits

​20-Year Lag and Still No Idea How to Make a 6th Gen Fighter, russia Admits

All while the USA is flying its sixth-generation fighter prototypes under the NGAD program, the russian federation does not even have a concept of a peer aircraft

While the United States and other technologically advanced countries are actively developing fighter jets of the next, sixth generation, the russians admit that they do not even have a concept of such aircraft of their own.

The confession comes from Yevgeny Fedosov, an academician of the russian Academy of Sciences and scientific director of the State Scientific Research Institute of Aviation Systems (GosNIIAS), in a statement to the state-owned TASS media agency. Despite attempts to maintain a veneer of confidence, the remarks mentioned in the article reflect the genuine status of russian endeavors in modern aviation.

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An artist's impression of NGAD
An artist's impression of NGAD / Open-source image

"Currently, we are thinking about the concept of a sixth-generation aircraft, conducting exploratory research, exchanging ideas with military specialists. Such an aircraft should appear sometime before 2050, but we already need to understand what the armed conflicts of the future will look like," writes the russian academician.

At the same time, other nations are not merely conceptualizing but actively proceeding with the very development of sixth-generation aircraft. The United States, for instance, anticipates finalizing the contract for the NGAD (Next-Generation Air Dominance) project this year, with several prototypes already in existence.

Internationally, projects like Tempest and the Future Combat Air System (FCAS) signify collaborative efforts. While the Tempest initiative, involving Britain, Japan, and Italy, displays promising progress, the German-French-Spanish FCAS project faces hurdles because the parties cannot agree on the basic requirements to the aircraft and their roles in its production.

Pan-European FCAS aircraft concept dummy
Pan-European FCAS aircraft concept dummy / Photo credit: Paris Air Show

China has unveiled a sixth-generation fighter concept in 2022 and aims to surpass the United States in this pursuit.

6th generation fighter jet in Chinese iteration. Concept mock-up at an air show in 2022
6th generation fighter jet in Chinese iteration. Concept mock-up at an air show in 2022 / Open-source photo

In contrast, russia lags significantly, with nothing to offer but discussions about what their answer to this race will look like. Without a concrete concept, it is impossible to start actual development, since there is no approved project proposal, nor technical specification document. Nonetheless, russian developers assert confidence in realizing such an aircraft by 2050.

Moreover, this deadline is an acknowledgment that the russian federation is already decades behind its competitors. Even amid the relatively sluggish FCAS development, preparing for a maiden flight in 2030 and estimated to enter active service by 2040 — that is, even after at least one deadline shift — russia remains approximately 20 years behind the nearest contender.

Of course, Moscow has one more "feint" in store: to label any aircraft as "sixth generation." After all, this is how the allegedly "hypersonic" Kh-47 Kinzhal and 3M22 Zircon were sold to the public, even though both are incapable of meeting true hypersonic standards.

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