Photo Credit: Maxim Maksimov via Wikimedia
The Sukhoi T-50 fifth generation test aircraft.

Russia and the United Arab Emirates will collaborate on developing a light, fifth generation jet, Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov told TASS on Monday.

“We’ve signed an agreement on industrial cooperation in the field of military engineering. This will enable us to push ahead with the fifth-generation-jet project, in which the UAE will participate,” Manturov said at the 13th international weapons show IDEX-2017 in Abu Dhabi.

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The exact characteristics of fifth-generation jet fighters are vague. Lockheed Martin defines them as having all-aspect stealth even when armed, low probability of intercept radar, high-performance airframes, advanced avionics features, and highly integrated computer systems capable of networking with other elements within the battle space for situation awareness.

Currently, the only combat-ready fifth-generation fighters are the F-22 Raptor, the various F-35s, the Sukhoi stealth fighters which emulate the F-22, the Chengdu J-20, the Shenyang J-31, and the Mitsubishi X-2 Shinshin – all of which are currently in stages of testing and development.

Yuri Slyusar, head of the United Aircraft Corporation, a Russian open joint-stock company with a majority stake belonging to the Russian Government, told TASS that Russia’s research into a fifth generation jet was also only in its initial phase.

“Joint work on a light fifth-generation jet with the UAE is in the initial phase,” Slyusar said. “We are working on proposals addressed to the UAE. We believe it will be a good plane. We are prepared to present the results of our R&D efforts to our counterparts.”

Russia will be represented in the project by the UAC and by Sukhoi, which will contribute its research into a fifth generation MiG – its single-engine combat jet. But the concept of a new aircraft is still to be determined, Slyusar admitted, saying, “We have not formulated the concept of a fifth-generation jet so far. We are still undecided if it is going to be a single-engine or twin engine plane. The agreement signed enables us to start that work.”

It remains to be seen how Iran will view Russia’s entering a long-term cooperation deal with the UAE. The two neighboring countries have last had a state visit in 2013, when the UAE foreign minister visited Tehran. The UAE, like most of Iran’s neighbors, is obviously concerned about the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambition, and adding state-of-the-art warplanes to its air force would help calm its anxiety.

The UAE challenges Iran’s sovereignty over several islands in the Persian Gulf. Iran has criticized the UAE for allowing France to develop its first permanent base in the Persian Gulf on its soil, and considers the UAE’s giving permission to the western powers to station their military forces in the region as a threat to Iran’s national security.

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