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Russia's Fifth Generation Fighter To Fly By End January, Source Says

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russia will test fly by the end of January a new "fifth generation" jet fighter that aims to challenge the United States for technical superiority, an aviation industry source told Reuters today.

Fifth-generation jets are invisible to radar, have advanced on-board flight and weapons control systems, and can cruise at supersonic speeds.

Asked when the new Russian fighter, built by the Sukhoi company, would make its maiden flight, the industry source said: "By the end of this month."

Sukhoi is Russia's largest exporter of military planes, accunts for a quarter of Russia's annual arms sales, and has a portfolio of foreign orders worth billions of dollars. India is its biggest client.

A spokesman for Sukhoi said the plane would fly "in the near future."

The warplane is seen as Moscow's challenge to the U.S.-built Raptor. The F-22 Raptor stealth fighter first flew in 1997.

Government and industry officials had said the Russian fighter would make its first flight in 2009, but a top official announced in early December that test flights would not begin until 2010.

Analysts have said it could be at least a decade between the first flight of the Russian prototype and the start of commercial production.