In September, the Kremlin promised we’d see an ‘aviation marvel’

That’s not much of a response from Moscow. Photo by Alexei Druzhinin/AFP/Getty Images

Welcome to Team Mideast at the Washington Post. A bit of an adventure: I’m a 33-year-old Washingtonian, lived and worked most of my life in the suburbs. After a short stint in Israel as a reporter in 2009, I decided to go back to college. I’m a freelance reporter and editor, not a working journalist in the traditional sense. At night, I run a theatre with my mom, Jane. At school, I enjoy minoring in politics (something I’ve thought about doing for a while). At night, that’s fine. I’m comfortable with my choices. But I do want to enter journalism. And I want to do it here in Washington, D.C.

During my walk on East Capitol Street in Southeast, just west of the Capitol, I had heard rumors that Russia was building a new fighter jet. I wondered what it would be, and how it would be different from every other Russian plane, and what the stealth factor would be like, and if its absence of any Western influence would affect its design.

After hearing the rumors, I reached out to aviation experts, and talked to folks on both sides of the Atlantic, about Putin’s ambitions. I also contacted the Russian Embassy in Washington, looking for confirmation. I didn’t hear back from them, but I did hear from people around the D.C. area with connections to the Russian defense industry. I focused on the Russian developers of the plane, to see what they were up to. I also tried to verify the rumors that it would replace the Russian MiG-29 (MiG-29SM). Here are some tweets I reported on:

my correspondent just got DM’ed about this story. it’s a stealth jet. — Tom Ricks (@TomRicks) March 28, 2018

plane — Tom Ricks (@TomRicks) March 28, 2018

not just a bomber stealth fighter — Tom Ricks (@TomRicks) March 28, 2018

✕ @TomRicks: I also tried to confirm the rumors that it would replace the Russian MiG-29 (MiG-29SM). Here are some tweets I reported on: — Meghan Casserly (@MeghanCasserly) March 29, 2018

The Russian developer did not respond to my questions about the project, which has been in the works for a while and has not been fully disclosed to the public. (TechCrunch found out about it last summer, but as of now, there is no public information about it.)

And now that it’s unveiled, at least those who follow fighter jet news are drawing conclusions. As far as the U.S. is concerned, we’re on track. The Kremlin will ask for a meeting with top U.S. officials at the end of this month, the State Department said.

The Russians are interested in selling this jet to Russia’s former Soviet allies. But that’s unlikely. Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Belarus, and Kazakhstan are the main contenders, according to Aviation Week. This should confirm that Russia is primarily interested in getting the jet in its air force. But they’ll be able to draw on the expertise the three Kremlin allies will bring to the project.

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