This is the feared Russian fifth-generation fighter

  • 9

The rivalry between Washington and Moscow did not end with the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The leaders of the Eastern and Western blocs continue to try to show military muscle to avoid appearing weak and vulnerable. One of the disputed scenarios has to do with air superiority and who has the best fifth generation jet fighter.

Among the most modern projects we find the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II from the United States and the Sukhoi Su-57, stealth fighters that presume to incorporate the latest technology. Since the American plane started flying in 2015, you may have already heard of it. The Russian, for its part, arrived a little later, beginning its official deployment two years ago, in 2020.

We are going to focus on the least known so far, the Sukhoi Su-57. The plane, according to United Aircraft Corporation (UAC)it’s a stealth multirole fighter, that is, it is prepared for aerial combat, as well as for land and sea attack. On paper, it has an avionics system that provides support to the pilot, high stealth capacity and maneuverability.

Su-57, the Russian fifth generation fighter

The origins of the Su-57 date back to 1979, the year the Soviet Union hatched the idea of ​​designing and building a next-generation fighter that would enter service in the 1990s to eventually replace the MiG-29 and Su-57. 27. However, the dissolution of the USSR stopped the project, which was resumed in 2001 due to the threat of the US and its F-22 Raptor fighter.

With the new multirole fighter program underway, two Russian aerospace companies submitted their proposals. While Mikoyán, responsible for aircraft such as the MiG-29, was betting on forming a consortium of three companies to design the plane, Sukhoi, which had been in charge of designing the Su-27, proposed to cover the entire development and production cycle.

Also, these companies had different ideas. Mikoyan was leaning toward building a smaller, more affordable aircraft with a normal takeoff weight of 16 to 17 tons. Sukhoi, for its part, was betting on a more advanced, larger and more capable aircraft, with a takeoff weight of between 22 and 23 tons. Finally Sukhoi won the bid.

Sukhoi Design 1

The project aircraft was designated “T-50” and in 2002 the development tasks officially began. Sukhoi partnered with various scientific centers and design offices for the development and construction of the avionics systems, engines, radar and other components. Work progressed at a good pace until 2004 when the Russian Defense Ministry approved the conceptual design.

Government funding for the program began in 2005 and increased in 2006. Russia announced in 2007 that the development program was complete and the conditions were ripe for the construction of the first flight-test aircraft. The tasks progressed, but the long-awaited maiden flight was postponed several times for unspecified technical problems.

Sukhoi Design 3

The first test flight took place in 2010 and the construction of prototypes continued until the ten units were completed. During subsequent tests, Sukhoi discovered that cracks formed in the airframe earlyforcing it to be redesigned with composite materials, reinforced fuselage and other changes to meet the required life cycle.

One of the flying prototypes (not all of them had the ability to fly) caught fire due to an engine problem after landing in June 2014. Serial production of the aircraft started in July 2019 already under the official name of Su-57. The first aircraft produced crashed in December of the same year due to a malfunction of the control system, according to TASS.

The commissioning of the Su-57 was finally delayed by five years. Instead of 2015, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced the official incorporation of the first fifth-generation fighter on December 25, 2020 in the Southern Military District. Until today, not counting the functional prototypes, four aircraft have been built, but another 22 are expected to be built by the end of 2024.

Characteristics of the “most advanced” Russian fighter

One of the distinctive features of the Su-57, at least according to what they say within the Russian borders, is its stealth capacity. The aircraft employs various methods to avoid detection by the enemy. For example, the weapons are carried inside the fuselage and the antennas are integrated into the surface. In addition, the materials can absorb electromagnetic waves from radar.

Sukhoi Design 2

Many of the features are “classified”, however the plane is known to possess Lyulka-Saturn izdeliye 117 jet engines. a top speed Mach 2 (2,135 km/h) and a range of 3,500 km, which can be raised to 4,500 km if two external fuel tanks are used. The range at supersonic speeds would be 1,500 km.

At the armament level, the Su-57 can carry four R-77M long-range missiles, a variant with AESA fire control radar seeker, and two R-74M2 short-range guided missiles. Also, they say, it can carry precision-guided bombs and the new Russian Kh-47M2 Kinzhal hypersonic missile. In addition, it has a 30 mm automatic barrel with 150 cartridges.

Sukhoi Design 4

One of the Russian fifth-generation fighter enigmas has to do with its low operating history, possibly by the fleet of approximately 10 aircraft (counting prototypes). Russian state-controlled media assure that in 2018 two aircraft, still as part of the test program, performed combat tasks in Syria and even fired a single missile.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has not been the exception either. TASS notes that “the use of Su-57 aircraft in Ukraine began two to three weeks after the start of the special operation.” However, he adds that they have only operated outside the zone of active destruction by enemy defense systems by launching missiles. Could it be that it is not stealthy enough?

That last question is difficult to answer, especially in military scenarios where propaganda comes into play. But stealth would not be the only problem with these planes. According to The Defense PostRussia is running out of precision weapons due to sanctions that prevent it from accessing chips, so the Su-57 could only use “dumb weapons”.

This was the Grumman X-29, the amazing fighter that dared to fly with inverted arrow wings

It also remains to be seen how the sanctions will affect the production of the planned remaining units of the Su-57 and future variants, which include an upgraded version (Su-57M) and an export version (Su-57E), which would help fund the growth of the program. India was to be one of Russia’s biggest clients, but has distanced itself from the project.

Images | Sukhoi Design Bureau (Anna Zvereva)

The rivalry between Washington and Moscow did not end with the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of…

The rivalry between Washington and Moscow did not end with the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.