Putin Says Russian Aircrafts An "Absolute Strategic Priority"
ZHUKOVSKY, Russia (AP) — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed Wednesday to keep the development of national aerospace industries a top priority for his government.
Putin spoke at Moscow's International Aviation and Space Show at Zhukovsky air base outside the capital, saying that supporting aircraft makers will be an "absolute strategic priority."
The show features Russia's state-of-the art planes. Boeing, Airbus and other international aircraft makers also have sent their latest products to the event.
Putin hailed Russia's latest aircraft designs, including its first stealth fighter, the T-50.
"They represent the achievements of today's Russia, the efforts of our experts, who are reviving and developing the best traditions of Russian aviation and space industries," Putin said.
The T-50 closely resembles the U.S. F-22 Raptor it's intended to match. The Russian fighter made its maiden flight in January 2010, but was kept out of the public eye before its public debut Wednesday in Putin's presence.
The T-50 still lacks new engines and state-of-the art equipment, and its serial production is only expected to begin in 2015 at the most optimistic forecast. Two T-50s are currently undergoing tests, and another pair is expected to join them later this year.
Russia has signed deals with India to cooperate on the aircraft's development, and hopes that the Indian air force will become a major customer for the plane.
The only other new aircraft designed and built after the Soviet collapse has been Sukhoi's Superjet, a mid-range airliner developed in cooperation with Boeing and Italian and French companies. The plane made its first commercial flight in April, but its marketing prospects appear less favorable than initially expected.
Other Russian combat and civilian planes displayed in Zhukovsky are upgraded versions of Soviet-era designs.