Russia’s Sixth Generation fighter plane will be unmanned

The former commander in chief of Russia’s air force, Peter Deynekin, announced that design work had begun in Russia on a 6th generation fighter plane. Deynekin did not reveal the timescale for its appearance nor its technical characteristics, but the army general underlined that this aircraft would be unmanned.

The fifth generation russian T-50 is everything that is advanced about Russian military aviation: stealth technology, a high-performance radar system, precision-guided weapons, high maneuverability and world-class onboard electronics. It is the combination of these factors together that radically sets the T-50 apart from earlier 4th generation aircraft. Currently, the aircraft is undergoing testing, while the in-service date is not expected to be before 2016.

According to preliminary assessments by the Pentagon, a “6th generation” combat aircraft needs to be stealthy and highly maneuverable. Conceivably, the future fighter would be hypersonic (faster than Mach 5, around 3,600 miles per hour). Additionally, either a robot or a pilot should be able to fly the aircraft.

Until recently, hypersonic speed was considered almost the principle requirement for aircraft of the future. Here, however, is the paradox: The commander in chief of Russia’s air force, Viktor Bondarev, when talking about the future strategic bomber (which, according to experts, was to be made hypersonic), amazed everyone by announcing that the aircraft would be subsonic.

The reason why the air force would like a subsonic bomber is simple. Firstly, it is incommensurably cheaper than a supersonic or even a hypersonic aircraft. Apart from that, in present day conditions, the aircraft does not need to leave its own country in order to strike targets in another hemisphere; this can be done using long-range cruise missiles.

As a matter of fact, the same trend can be found in fighter aviation. The F-22 is highly maneuverable, but it does not use guns to fight in close combat. Instead, it employs missiles and does not enter into the operational zone of an enemy’s air defense systems or engage directly with enemy fighters.

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