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    Russia’s Ill-Fated MiG 1.44: The Stealth Fighter That Never Was

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    In the high-stakes arena of military aviation, the tale of Russia’s MiG 1.44 stands as a striking case of ambition clashing with reality.

    Envisioned as a direct competitor to the US’s F-22 Raptor, the MiG 1.44, also dubbed “Flatpack” by NATO, was Russia’s foray into developing a fifth-generation jet fighter, incorporating advanced avionics, stealth technology, and supercruise capabilities.

    The MiG 1.44’s journey began amidst the Cold War tensions, with the Soviet Union seeking to rival the American Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program.

    This ambition was embodied in the “Multifunctional Frontline Fighter” (MFF) initiative, known internally as Project 1.44/1.42, which aimed to replace the venerable Sukhoi Su-27 and keep pace with US advancements.

    Russian Air Force, 144, Mig-1.44 Flatpack (49580576543)” by Anna Zvereva from Tallinn, Estonia is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    MiG 1.44 utilized a tricycle landing gear system, with a single, dual-wheel landing gear in the front, and two single wheels in the rear.

    Under the proverbial hood of the MiG 1.44 sat a pair of turbofans just as novel as the plane itself was. Two NPO Saturn AL-41 variable-cycle afterburning turbofan engines jetting 40,000 lbf (176 kN) of thrust each at takeoff.

    Interestingly, these engines theoretically outperformed the General Electric YF-120 and Pratt & Whitney YF-119 turbofans trialed on the YF-22 and YF-23.

    Despite its innovative design, featuring a delta wing and twin-tailed aircraft with a close-coupled canard layout and thrust vectoring engine nozzles for remarkable maneuverability, the MiG 1.44 was plagued by financial and logistical setbacks.

    The dissolution of the Soviet Union further exacerbated these issues, leading to multiple project suspensions and ultimately, cancellation.

    The sole MiG 1.44 prototype, which resided at the Gromov Flight Research Institute, did manage to take flight in February 2000, albeit nine years behind schedule.

    During its maiden 18-minute flight, the aircraft reached a modest height of 1,000 meters and a speed of 600 km/h. A subsequent flight in April revealed numerous issues, and no further tests were conducted.

    78232 Chengdu J-20 PLAAF Zhuhai 11.11.18” by Colin Cooke Photo is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    Interestingly, while the MiG 1.44 program was terminated, its design echoes in the modern Chinese J-20 aircraft.

    Chengdu J-20 PLAAF Zhuhai 11.11.18” by Colin Cooke Photo is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    Some experts speculate that China’s Chengdu J-20 “Mighty Dragon” bears resemblance to, or possibly drew inspiration from, the MiG 1.44, particularly in its canard and tail section design.

    The Russian Air Force moved on from the MiG 1.44 and later adopted the Sukhoi PAK FA, subsequently designated Su-57.

    Yet, despite its shortcomings and ultimate failure, the MiG 1.44’s legacy persists as a symbol of what might have been—a snapshot of a bygone era where the competitive pressure of the Cold War spurred rapid innovation in military aviation technology.

    Relevant articles:
    MiG 1.44: Russia Tried To Build Their Own F-22 Raptor Stealth Fighter, The National Interest
    The man who stole America’s stealth fighter secrets for China, Sandboxx
    Mikoyan Project 1.44 / MiG 1.42 MFI, fighter-planes.com
    Mikoyan MiG 1.44: The Certified-Soviet Story of Russia’s First Gen-V Fighter Prototype, autoevolution

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