The Russian air force has already built a fifth-generation stealth aircraft, the Su-57, but the Ministry of Defense may be set to upgrade it to a sixth-generation fighter, the former head of the Russian Aerospace Force, Viktor Bondarev told the TASS news agency.

“This is actually a splendid plane and it can embrace both fifth-and sixth-generation features. It has huge modernization potential,” Bondarev, now chairman of the Federation Council Defense and Security Committee, said. “Importantly, it is the best among the existing versions by its stealth characteristics. It incorporates all the best that is available in modern aviation science both in Russia and in the world.”

Last year Russian defense officials began claiming that hardware elements designed for a future sixth generation fighter have been tested on the Su-57 prototype, including flight and navigation systems. Included in these upgrades are radar and electronic warfare systems.

Russia revealed for the first time the design of a new sixth generation fighter aircraft in March 2016. Reports suggested it could be flying combat missions by the late 2020s.

Analyst Comment: It’s unclear even if this plane can be fully developed how many of them Russia can afford to build, but clearly the aircraft represent technological advances over existing Russian fighter planes.

Why it’s on our radar: Information in this article helps satisfy Priority Intelligence Requirement 1: What are the latest indicators of a NATO-Russia conflict?  Each week in our Strategic Intelligence Summary, we gauge the likelihood and scope of conflict with Russia, China, North Korea, and in the Middle East, and track the latest developments in each region.  Subscribe here to receive our premium intelligence products prepared by Intelligence and special operations veterans.