MiG-41 Hypersonic Interceptor - concept art

Russia’s leading manufacturers of combat jet aircraft, Mikoyan (MiG) Sukhoi are reportedly discussing the possibility of a joint program for a sixth generation fighter jet. Industrial director of the Rostec aviation complex, Anatoly Serdyukov, announced in the first week of September that such a program was under discussion and strongly indicated that close collaboration was a possibility. Two other sixth generation programs are already under development in Russia - the MiG-41 heavyweight interceptor and an enhanced variant of the Su-57 fighter.

The Su-57 is currently considered a fifth generation aircraft, but has integrated a number of unique technologies not found in other aircraft of its generation such as laser defences and hypersonic ballistic missiles. Prototypes are currently being used as testbeds for sixth generation technologies such as artificial intelligence.

The MiG-41 is expected to see its first flight before 2030, and is a much heavier hypersonic aircraft designed for high-end space warfare. The Russian fighter and interceptor fleets are currently formed exclusively of fourth, ‘4+’ and ‘4++’ generation aircraft, with the Su-57 itself having yet to enter service.

Mikoyan is currently primarily responsible for the MiG-29 program, an export oriented medium weight fourth generation design which has recently seen a number of sales to countries including India, Egypt, Libya and Syria. The company is thought to hold several hundred airframes in reserve - both assembled and unassembled - and is currently operating a production line for the more advanced MiG-35 ‘4++ generation’ fighter. It is also responsible for supplying parts and upgrades for the MiG-31 interceptor program, as well as pursuing its replacement the MiG-41.

The company is further pursuing a joint fifth generation medium fighter program with the United Arab Emirates. Sukhoi currently operates separate production lines for four classes of heavyweight combat aircraft, including the Su-30, Su-34, Su-35 and Su-57 fighters, which make up the large majority of the Russian acquisitions and are also its primary exports in terms of combat jets. Cooperation between the two companies, which have traditionally divided programs between them with MiG producing interceptors and air superiority and multirole fighters, while Sukhoi produced strike fighters and from the early 1980s air superiority and multirole fighter jets as well from heavier weight ranges than those of Mikoyan.

Military Watch Magazine