Russia's new carrier-based fighters will replace the Su-33 naval fighter in service with the Russian Navy after 2016, a senior military official said on Sunday.
The Su-33 (NATO reporting name 'Flanker-D') is a carrier-based multi-role fighter, which can perform a variety of air superiority, fleet defense, air support and reconnaissance missions. The aircraft entered service with the Russian Navy in 1995 and are currently deployed on board the Nikolai Kuznetsov aircraft carrier.
"The Russian Navy will adopt new carrier-based aircraft after 2016," said Maj. Gen. Nikolai Kuklev, the deputy commander of Russia's naval aviation.
"At present, we are considering modernization and extension of service life for the Su-33 aircraft. It will certainly stay in service until 2015," the general said.
He said the Navy will hold a tender on the new carrier fighter after 2010, which will involve the Su-27KUB Flanker and MiG-29K Fulcrum fighters.
"Both aircraft have advantages and disadvantages. For instance, the Su-27KUB is heavier, but has a longer flight range. MiG-29K is lighter but its combat range is shorter," Kuklev said, adding that a "golden average" has to be chosen.
At present, Russia has only one operational aircraft carrier, the Nikolai Kuznetsov, which was commissioned in the early 1990s and has recently re-entered service after a prolonged overhaul.
The ship, also known as Project 1143.5 heavy aircraft carrier, is currently deployed with Russia's Northern Fleet and has recently participated in a two-month tour to the Mediterranean as part of Russia's plans to resume its continual presence in different regions of the world's seas.
"We are considering extending the service life of the carrier. It will stay in service until 2020 and may be even until 2025," Kuklev said.
The general also confirmed that a decision to build new aircraft carriers for the Russian Navy had been adopted.
Russia's Navy commander, Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky, said in July that the Navy command had decided to form in the future 5-6 aircraft carrier task forces to be deployed with the Northern and Pacific fleets.