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Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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Russia Developing MiG 1.44 Derivative to Back-up Troubled Sukhoi PAK FA Stealth Fighter

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(Photo : MiG) Mikoyan MiG 1.44, on which Russia's new and cheaper stealth fighter is based.

Russia is reportedly working on a second and much cheaper stealth fighter derived from the Mikoyan MiG 1.44, a design that was beaten in a competition for Russia's fifth generation fighter by the current stealth fighter, the Sukhoi PAK FA.

Reports from state-controlled media that Russia is now developing a MiG 1.44 derivative to replace the aging Mikoyan Mig-29 and theMiG -35 air superiority fighters arming the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) seem to indicate all is not well with the production of the expensive Sukhoi PAK FA stealth fighter.

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Russia has admitted PAK FA is already its most expensive weapons system, and one it apparently can't afford given the production delays caused in part by funding shortfalls. The solution taken by Russia is to produce a cheaper and far less capable "stealth fighter" to reinforce PAK FA. 

Western military experts have long pointed out that Russia can't produce as many PAK FAs as it wants because each fighter might cost up to $100 million when equipped with new and expensive engines still under development.

By comparison, the price for the troubled Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter, which was the product of the most expensive weapons program in U.S. military history, has fallen to $102 million for one F-35A, the version flown by the U.S. Air Force, as of January 2017.

The production cost for the F-35 has plunged by 60 percent since the first F-35 was built in 2008.

JSC United Aircraft Corporation (UAC), the state-owned company overseeing all the private companies that design and produce Russian fighters, is reported to be developing the new, lightweight fifth generation stealth fighter.

This new stealth fighter has been given the name Light Multi-Function Frontal Aircraft (Liogkiy Mnogofunktsionalniy Frontovoi Samolyet) or LMFS. Incredibly, media reports claim UAC is producing the fighter out of its own funds, which is an impossibility given UAC is a state-owned firm that derives its funds from the Russian state.

Rough illustrations of the LMFS, however, reveal a completely unstealthy design. LMFS looks surprisingly similar to the cancelled Mikoyan MiG 1.44 fighter.

Russian state-controlled media said LMFS will likely have an empty weight of 15,000 kg and a maximum takeoff weight of 25,000 kg. The aircraft will have two internal weapons bays and advanced avionics.

LMFS will also be equipped with a pair of the Klimov VK-10M afterburning turbofans, which is an advanced version of the MiG-29's  RD-33 engines, each producing 22,000 lbs of thrust. LMFS should be capable of speeds between Mach 1.8 (2,200 km/h) and Mach 2.0 (2,500 km/h).

The MiG 1.44 on which the LMFS is based was designed to compete with the Sukhoi PAK FA. It made its maiden flight in 2000.

MiG 1.44 was a technology demonstrator developed by Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG that included many fifth generation jet fighter aspects such as advanced avionics, stealth technology, supercruise and supermaneuverability.

The design's development took too long, however, and was hobbled by repeated and lengthy postponements due to a chronic lack of funds.

The MiG 1.44 made its maiden flight in February 2000, nine years behind schedule. The plane was cancelled later that year as Russia chose the PAK FA as its fifth generation fighter.

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