Russia's Su-57 Felon Fighter Nightmare Just Won't End Anytime Soon

Su-57 Fighter from Russia
July 15, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: RussiaUkraineSu-57Su-57 FelonRussian Air ForceStealthMilitary

Russia's Su-57 Felon Fighter Nightmare Just Won't End Anytime Soon

The Su-57 Felon, Russia's most advanced fighter jet, faces significant production challenges and operational limitations amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.


Summary and Key Points: The Su-57 Felon, Russia's most advanced fighter jet, faces significant production challenges and operational limitations amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.



-Despite its capabilities, production issues and Western sanctions have hampered Russia's ability to field more of these aircraft, limiting their impact in the war.

-The Su-57 Felon is the most advanced fighter jet in the Russian military’s arsenal. 

The Su-57 Felon Is All Looks and No War

Despite an urgent need caused by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, the Russian Aerospace Forces can only field a handful of Su-57 fighter jets, most of which are prototypes pressed into operational service. 

Production issues coupled with Western sanctions likely prevent the Russian aerospace industry from producing additional aircraft in a manner that could make a difference in the war in Ukraine. 

Su-57 Felon Production

For years, the aircraft's production has been plagued by problems and delays. The first production Su-57 Felon aircraft crashed soon after leaving the factory in 2019. 

The Kremlin unconventionally put the first dozen prototypes into service. This rather desperate move indicates an urgency to demonstrate fifth-generation capability and join the “big boys club” alongside the United States and China. 

However, production issues and Western sanctions on military hardware and technology mean that despite innovative manufacturing processes, Russia will unlikely produce more Su-57 fighter jets soon. 

Perhaps the most impressive of these methods is augmented reality. Russian technicians have been using augmented reality to assemble the aircraft. Major parts of the aircraft carry QR codes that a technician scans and the technician then uses augmented reality to figure out where they go. Essentially, it is like the technician has IKEA assembly instructions in front of him. 

Similar technology and processes are being used in the automobile industry to facilitate the faster production of cars. 

Extreme precision in the manufacturing of aircraft like the Su-57 is essential, less its low-observable attributes, which contribute to the designation of an aircraft as stealth or not, are off. If, for example, a technician improperly installs a screw that causes the airframe to be slightly off, that could impact the fighter jet’s stealth characteristics. 

The Su-57 Felon, Explained 

The Su-57 Felon is a twin-engine, single-seat fighter jet that can perform several different mission sets. Although the Russian military claims the aircraft has stealth capabilities, Western analyses don’t necessarily corroborate that claim. 

Nevertheless, the Su-57 Felon brings essential capabilities to the Russian Aerospace Forces. In terms of weaponry, the fighter jet can carry a wide range of munitions, including R-73 heat-seeking air-to-air missiles and R-27 radar-homing air-to-air missiles, as well as cruise missiles, hypersonic munitions, glide bombs, rockets, and conventional bombs. 

The Su-57 Felon also carries a powerful 30mm Gryazev-Shipunov GSh-30-1 cannon with 150 rounds for dogfights or strafing. When not in use, the cannon's muzzle is concealed to maintain the fighter jet’s aerodynamic performance and low-observability attributes. 


According to Western intelligence services, the Russian Aerospace Forces have used their limited fleet of Su-57 Felon fighter jets in the conflict in Ukraine. However, the Kremlin has been cautious with its most advanced fighter jet, using it in limited instances and only for long-range strike missions with stand-off munitions. 

Thus far, Moscow’s technological pride has failed to meet expectations and hasn’t made any difference in the largest conflict the Russian miliary has found itself since the Great Patriotic War in World War Two. 


About the Author

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University and an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP.

Email the author: [email protected].

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