Top Russian aircraft designer dies at 81

11:24, March 05, 2011      

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Aircraft designer Mikhail Simonov, who developed Russia's agile twin-engine Sukhoi fighter jet, died on Friday after a long illness.

Simonov was 81, the Sukhoi company said.

Simonov headed the Sukhoi design bureau from 1983 and was known as the father of the twin-finned Su-27 family of jets, supremely maneuverable, heavily armed and far-flying fighters that became an icon of the Soviet defense industry.

The Su-27 fighter was one of the best-selling military aircraft of the post-Soviet era. Its modifications are still being produced and used by Russia's Defense Ministry.

Developed to counter the U.S. F-15 fighter, Simonov's Su-27 joined the Soviet air force in the early 1980s and won respect in the West for its range of over 2,000 miles (3,500 kilometers), its impressive agility and its ability to fly at 2.35 times the speed of sound.

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