For some time now it has seemed that waiting for the arrival of the serial-produced Su-57, the Russian military's fifth-generation stealth fighter, was akin to "Waiting for Godot," but this week the Russian Defense Ministry announced that delivery will begin in the coming weeks.
"The Defense Ministry will get the first serial-produced Su-57 with the operational first-stage engine on the single military output day in December this year and four more such planes in 2021," a Russian defense industry source told Tass on Monday.
The delivery rate of the fighters is expected to grow to fifteen aircraft per year.
"As a result, the contract signed in 2019 on 76 Su-57s through 2028 will definitely be fulfilled on time," the source noted and added that deliveries of the advanced fighter with its second-stage engine are set to begin in 2022.
What It Can Do:
Unlike other Russian aircraft, the Su-57 has not been exported to date—so details on the plane have remained somewhat murkier than other platforms. Development on the advanced Su-57 began in 2002, but the aircraft only took its first flight on January 29, 2010. The Su-57 is essentially an evolution of the Su-27 Flanker's shape, modernized for low radar observability while providing even greater maneuverability.
The single-seat, twin-engine multirole fifth-generation Su-57 jet fighter was designed for air superiority and attack operations. It can destroy all types of air, ground, and water-based targets. The plane, which is the first Russian aircraft to utilize stealth technology, was also designed to have supercruise, supermaneuverability, and advanced avionics to overcome attacks from the prior generation fighter aircraft as well as ground and naval defenses. The aircraft also has supersonic cruise speed, internal weapons bays, radio-absorbing coating, and the newest onboard equipment.
The Su-57 has two large internal weapons bays arranged in tandem, which run nearly entire useable length of the aircraft. Each of the bays can carry up to four K-77M beyond visual range radar-guided missiles. Compared to earlier versions of the K-77 (NATO nickname: AA-12 Archer) the K-77M missile has a larger body and active electronically-scanned array radar seeker, allowing it to engage highly agile targets at ranges of up to 100 miles. The aircraft also stores a pair of K-74M2 short-range infrared guided missiles in underwing fairings.
Last month it was reported that the stealth fighter was being equipped with new variants of the Vympel NPO R-77 medium-range air-to-air missiles. Footage of the Su-57 appeared in an official state produced documentary commemorating the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the 929th V.P. Chkalova State Flight Test Center.
Given the costs of the Su-57, it is likely that Russia could reverse course and offer the fifth-generation fighter for export – possibly to compete with the American Lockheed Martin-built F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. In September Russian state media reported that Moscow will offer the Su-57 jet for export and it was expected that foreign demand was likely to increase after the Russian Armed Force's order is fulfilled.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.
Image/Wikicommons: PAK FA vapor during a High-G maneuver at MAKS-2015.