Satellite mapping services, like those powered by Google and the search engine Bing, can be somewhat non-discriminatory in what they post online, showing in the past potential military secrets and even the supposed training facility of SEAL Team 6.
The latest revelation from a Bing map appears to show Russia’s Mikoyan (MiG) Project 1.44, an attempt at a stealth fighter jet in response to those like the U.S.’s F-22 Raptor.
Foreign Policy called attention to the map’s image, stating that the larger of the two planes represents Project 1.44.
A couple years ago, MilitaryFactory.com reported that the airframe for 1.44 was unveiled in 1999 with delays putting its first flight a little more than a year later in 2000. It notes there were two more known test flights in 2001, but the Russians then seemed to move their focus to their Sukhoi PAK FA (Prospective Air Complex – Frontal Aviation), which began tests in 2010.
But Foreign Policy stated that 1.44 wasn’t necessarily dead in the water at this point, noting the similarities between it and China’s J-20:
Just look at the tail-end of both jets and you’ll see where this idea comes from. The J-20, like the 1.44, is a big, single seat, twin-engine jet complete with an internal weapons bay and canards on the front. The obvious differences disappear there. The lines of the J-20 are a lot stealthier than the 1.44’s. The engines are laid out differently on the two jets (the 1.44’s air intakes are slung below the fuselage while the J-20’s hug the plane’s sides).
While MiG has denied giving information on Project 1.44 to the Chinese, Reuters in August 2011 cited a senior Russian official as saying “it looks like they got access . . . to documents related to the Mikoyan.”
The wire service also cited an “independent analyst” named Adil Mukashev as saying that China bought the tail section of the MiG 1.44.
In 2012, new photos of China’s J-20 Mighty Dragon stealth fighter were making their rounds on military blogs.
Read more about Project 1.44 and its history on Foreign Policy’s blog.