Designer of famed Soviet fighter jets dies

4th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Mikhail Simonov, the designer of the legendary Sukhoi fighter jets that brought fame and fortune to the Soviet and Russian defence industries, has died aged 81, news reports said Friday.

Simonov began designing small passenger aircraft in 1959 before being named the head of Sukhoi's design bureau in 1983, a post from which he spearheaded Moscow's bid to out-duel Washington in the skies during the Cold War.

His reign at Sukhoi saw the production of the Soviet Union's most feared and powerful fighters, including the Su-27 and Su-30.

The planes, which rivalled fourth-generation US jets produced in the 1980s and 1990s, are still being produced and flown today.

Designed in the 1970s when the Soviet Union first became aware of its dire technological lag behind the United States, the Su-27 is widely acknowledged as one of the 20th century's best multi-purpose jets.

Becoming almost as famous on the world arms market as the Kalashnikov rifle, the jet attracted clients in African countries as well as China and Vietnam, with two craft even acquired by the United States for testing purposes.

The Su-30, meanwhile, is considered one of the most powerful two-seat aircraft in its class, with its production and sales growing in the post-Soviet era.

Before joining Sukhoi, Simonov served for five years as deputy head of the Soviet Union's aerospace agency.

In 1998, he received the official state title of "Legend of the Aerospace Industry".

© 2011 AFP

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