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Meet Russia's Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut Fighter (Some Bet It Could Beat an F-22)

Sebastien Roblin

Sebastien Roblin


But never made it into production. 

Meet Russia's Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut Fighter (Some Bet It Could Beat an F-22)

While the awesome-looking Berkut never evolved into a production fighter, it still played a useful role testing new technologies—and coincidentally, revealed how external observers could be quick to attribute extraordinary capabilities based on a few images of an awesome-looking jet.

In 1996, the March/April issue of Russian military periodical Air Fleet Bulletin published an innocuous-seeming photo of a meeting between Russian military chiefs and aviation industry counterparts. Sitting on the table before them were two model airplanes. One was an advanced variant of the by-then well-known Flanker multi-role fighter.

(This first appeared last month.) 

The other was a strange black jet with forward swept wings—that is, the wings seemed to be swept the “wrong way.”

Whether the image amounted to an accidental leak or an intentional plant, it set off a firestorm of excited speculation in Western and Russian press forecasting a new cutting-edge jet that could outperform the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter, the production model of which made its first flight the same year.

In fact, the model represented an advanced tech demonstrator—the Sukhoi Su-47 Berkut (“Golden Eagle”).

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