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Russia Unveils New MiG Jet fighter

January 12, 1999

ZHUKOVSKY, Russia (AP) _ A new MiG fighter jet, conceived as a Russian response to the latest U.S. combat aircraft, was unveiled with much pomp today even though the plane has yet to carry out its maiden flight.

The MFI _ the Russian acronym for the Multifunctional Fighter _ has been kept under wraps since development began in the late 1980s. In the past, the government has abruptly canceled several scheduled public displays of the new plane.

Today, the aircraft rolled onto the snow-covered airstrip at the Russian air force test center in Zhukovsky near Moscow in a ceremony attended by Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, Russian Orthodox Metropolitan Kirill and dozens of foreign military attaches.

The MAPO-MiG company that produces the MiG aircraft _ known as ``Project 1.42 in the West _ claims the new fighter would be able to outperform the most advanced U.S. fighter, the F-22 Raptor.

Like the American fighter, the MFI has a ``thrust vectoring″ system that allows it to make sharper turns than current fighters. It also has similar stealth capabilities, relying on composite materials and a special shape to avoid detection by enemy radar.

The MFI’s development amounted to a ``revolution in the Russian air force,″ Sergeyev said at a news conference following the display.

So far, the aircraft has only carried out runs on the airfield and is expected to first take to the air in the end of February, said its chief designer, Mikhail Korzhuyev.

The public display appeared to be part of MAPO-MiG’s effort to win government funds needed to finance the plane’s further development.

Sergeyev was also shown other new planes, including an upgraded version of the existing MiG-31M interceptor.

During a presentation of the interceptor, Korzhuyev observed that ``if this plane was used to beat off the Anglo-American air raids on Iraq, 90 percent of all the launched guided weapons, including cruise missiles, would be shot down before they reached targets on the territory of Iraq,″ the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

In March 1997, military officials said they were scrapping plans to manufacture the MFI because it was too expensive. Sergeyev said the Defense Ministry would support the MFI development program, and would decide on production plans following flight tests that could take up to seven years.

The Russian military doesn’t have enough money to maintain its current fleet of military aircraft or properly train pilots, and the situation is likely to further deteriorate because of the country’s economic crisis.

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