Notes from a ‘Felon’ (apologies to Dostoevsky)

The Existential Worries of a Developing Air Superiority Fighter in a Undeveloping Nation

I AM a sick plane. . . . I am a spiteful plane. An attractive plane. I think that my port inlet hurts. But actually, I don’t know a damn thing about my developmental ills. I am not even sure what it is that hurts, my nozzle petals feel more unstealthy by the day. I am not in radar-absorbent treatment and never have been, although I respect both aerodynamicists and propulsion experts. Besides, I am supercruising in the extreme; well, at least to the extent of respecting overland noise limitations. (I am sufficiently educated not to supercruise, but I do) No, sir, I refuse to see an engineer simply out of spite. Now, that is something that you probably will fail to understand. Well, I understand it…

…I have been living like this for a long time-about twenty years since the Defence Ministry selected Sukhoi over Mikoyan as the winner of the PAK FA competition and the lead design bureau of the new aircraft. Now I am twenty-two…

When defence journalists came to my desk at MAKS seeking information, I gnashed my leading-edge vortex controllers  at them, and gloated insatiably whenever I succeeded in distressing them. I almost always succeeded. Most of them were timid folk: naturally freeloaders in search of funky lanyards and some sandwiches. But there were also some sharper fellows, and among these I particularly detested a certain critic in the pay of MiG RAC. He absolutely refused to submit to accepting that I was actually low observable and clattered revoltingly about my endless engine failures. I battled him over that contract for a year and a half. And finally, I got the best of him. He stopped clattering. This, however, happened long ago, when I was still a swept forward wing testbed with nothing to lose but that empire that may me…

…You might be imagining, gentlemen, that I am trying to amuse you, to make you laugh? Wrong again. I am not at all the jolly aerobatic airshow aircraft you think I am, or may perhaps think I am. But then, if, irritated by all this prattle & Whitney (and I feel it already, I feel you are irritated), you’ll take it into your heads to ask me what I am, I’ll answer you: I am a certain collegiate aggressor.

I am told that the Moscow climate is becoming bad for me, that my endless woes means it’s too expensive to produce me in numbers. I know all that, I know it better than all those wise, experienced defence analysts and head-shakers. But I stay on in Moscow, I shall not leave Moscow! I shall not leave because. . . . Ah, but what difference does it make whether I leave or don’t leave.

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