Up to the latest time Russian and foreign experts have been discussing the questions of what does the Russian multi-functional fighter (MFI), also known as project 1.42, look like, what is the present stage of its development programme, andis the ANPK MiG Aircraft-Building Scientific-Industrial Complex capable of putting the aircraft in the air. However, it has been impossible to find the answers to these questions, as far as project 1.42 was a top secret programme. And only now, the MFI has been rolled out from its hangar in Zhukovsky, the Moscow region. On January 12, 1999, the new fighter is planned to be demonstrated to First Deputy Prime Minister Yury Maslyukov and Defence Minister Igor Sergeyev.
It is noteworthy that the development of the MFI which fully meets the 21st century requirements is one of the outstanding achievements of the Russian aircraft-building industry of the last quarter of this century. In spite of the economic-financial crisis, Russia is still one of the world's leaders in aircraft building. Owing to the efforts by the designers and engineers of the Mikoyan Design Bureau, a new fighter has been developed which, in terms of tactico-technical characteristics is not inferior, and in a number of specific terms is even superior, to the US F-22 Raptor fighter which is the most advanced development of the US military-industrial complex.
A few words about the history of the ATF development. In answer to the launching by the US early in the 1980s of R&D under the Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) programme, in 1986, a Governmental decision was taken in Russia to start the development of a fifth-generation fighter. The leading scientific research organisations of the Defence Ministry and Air Force in cooperation with the largest aircraft design bureaus took part in defining the concept and appearance of the new fighter. Several years later, the Mikoyan Design Bureau's project was chosen by the State Commission. The necessary technical documentation was prepared with the use of an automatized projecting system. In 1989, the whole set of working drawings was prepared, after which the production and assembly started of the first aircraft at the ANPK MiG experimental facility. The work was headed by Designer General Rostislav Belyakov, Chiefd Designer Grigory Sedov, and, at the final stage - by Chief Designer Yury Vorotnikov.
Early in 1994, the MFI was transported to Zhukovsky. In December the same year the MFI piloted by test pilot Roman Taskayev made fast-speed taxiing on the runway of the Flight Research Institute (LII named after Gromov) in Zhukovsky. However, due to the absence of funds, further work on project 1.42 was put on ice.
The MFI is a heavy single-seat fighter with a canard configuration, having an all-moving canard-type foreplane and Vee tail-unit. This is the first time such aerodynamic configuration has been realised in Russia in projecting jet aircraft. The fighter offers improved takeoff-landing characteristics. Its powerplant comprises two AL-41F engines with thrust vector control (TVC), which provides for the aircraft's supermanoeuvrability in air combat in the whole range of speeds, and also for long-time cruise at supersonic speeds without afterburner. The planned maximum speed of flight corresponds to M=2.6. The variable air intakes have radar-dissipating covering and S-shaped channels to shield the engines compressors. The canard, wing and fuselage structures incorporate carbon-fibre and polymeric composite materials.The fighter has been designed to meet the Stealth requirements. Radar-absorbing covering, screening of radar-visible structure elements, low heat signature, placing the missiles in the fuselage compartments allowed to reach the same radar signature indices as these of the F-22.
The onboard fifth-generation pulse-doppler radar with phased aerial array and electronic scanning of directional pattern provides for a possibility to effectively fight air combat beyond visual range and simultaneously attack over 20 targets. Specially for the MFI, fifth-generation long-range air-to-air andair-to-surface guided missiles have been developed, realising the "fire-and-forget" principle. At the same time, the fighter is armed with a 30-mm gun. Besides, on its external attachment points, the MFI can carry any types of missile-bomb weapons presently in use by the Russian Air Force aircraft.
Against the backround of such impressive achievements, the MFI developer's current state looks poor enough. The ANPK MiG has no juridical person status and is just one of the MAPO MiG's numerous subsiduaries.
After Grigory Nemov took the post of Director General of the MAPO MiG and Mikhail Korzhuev was appointed Designer General of the ANPK, the situation started to change for the better. The project offered by the ANPK to upgrade the military air fleet of the Central and East European countries may bring US$ 250-300 million to Russia. With only a minimum support from the state, the ANPK MiG may annually earn US$ 100 million from its foreign orders.
The MFI has a cloudy future, though. In the current economic situation Russia will hardly find funds to launch the fighter into series production for its Air Force: the aircraft's cost is estimated approximately at US$ 70 million. At the same time it is unreasonable to quit project 1.42. Russia could possibly consider a proposal by China to cooperate within the MFI project,with the fighter's deliveries for the Chinese Air Force to follow. The potential investor is ready to finance all the work necessary. The only thing missing is the Kremlin's decision.