Russia Tables its Su-57 'Stealth' Fighter Program


08-August 2019: In an about-face, Russia announces will produce 76 aircraft after a price adjustment from the manufacturer. This may be to attract export customers. We stand by our initial assessment that 5th gen cost-benefit ratio is incremental and uneven. The bottom line is, they are not worth the money - so the Sukhoi Aircraft Company dropped the plane's purchase price - prompting the buy. All this is still predicated on the status of the NPO Saturn  AL-41FM1 engine program, for which the Su-57 cannot supercruise.

12-July 2018. With the writing on the wall regarding the utility of stealth fighters, Russia announces it will not put the Su-57 (PAK-FA) into production. The program will be downgraded to experimental status and will be used as a test/development/manufacturing vehicle for other programs. An effort for a joint 5th gen development venture with India which failed to materialize could also be a factor. The Russian may develop an export version for sale.
Some will say Russia lacks the money to pursue a Su-57 fleet, but it is more likely the Su-57 simply is not "better enough" over Su-35S/Su-30SM and other advanced Flanker variants to justify serial production of the Su-57. The current generation of the advanced Flanker is so good - an uneven incremental improvement in a few capabilities of stealth fighters - simply does not pencil out. Something we wish the Pentagon would learn to do.

To those who have followed this blog know, we have been highly dubious of stealth fighters for technical reasons and frankly, we have concluded back in 2009 that US stealth fighters are a colossal waste of money, both in their acquisition, uneven capability compromise, operational costs, low mission capable rate(s), and carry a small number of the exact same [or worse version of the same] primary weapons - as Fourth Generation fighters.
We wrote back in 2011 regarding the F-22A "In our view  - the USAF has confounded what fighter pilots require with what stealth requires."
Just because the Americans build something does not mean the technology has merit or combat capability. The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was a complete flop as a combat aircraft - even though it displayed some advanced technologies and still retains a cult following today.

From the Diplomat

"Russia Will Not Mass-Produce 5th Generation Stealth Fighter Jet"

"Mass-production of the Su-57 is not needed now, according to Russia’s deputy defense minister."

"Russia has no plans for mass-producing the PAK/FA Sukhoi Su-57 fighter jet, the country’s first indigenously designed and built fifth-generation stealth fighter aircraft, Russian Deputy Defense Minister, Yuri Borisov, said during an appearance on Russian television on July 2.

In the interview, the deputy defense minister spoke about the aircraft’s recent deployment to Syria, but also noted that serial production of the Su-57 does not make sense at this stage and would only occur once the Russian Air Force’s older fourth-generation fighter jets lag behind their Western equivalents.

“The plane has proven to be very good, including in Syria, where it confirmed its performance and combat capabilities,” Borisov said. “You know that today the Su-57 is considered to be one of the best aircrafts produced in the world. Consequently, it does not make sense to speed up work on mass-producing the fifth-generation aircraft.”

The Su-57, he went on, is “our trump, which we can always play when the aircrafts of previous generations will start to lag behind in capabilities when compared to similar aircraft from the world’s leading countries.”  One of the reasons why Russia is not pursuing mass production of the aircraft at this juncture most certainly has to do with the country’s already overstretched defense budget.

The per-unit cost of a Su-57 is estimated to be around $40-45 million (or over 2.5 times cheaper than the U.S. F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter). Consequently, the Russian defense ministry is likely not to place an order beyond an initial pre-production batch of 12 Su-57 fighter jets. (In June, the ministry has reportedly awarded SC Sukhoi Company an initial contract for the supply of the first batch of 12 Su-57 aircraft.)

The Su-57 is a multirole, single-seat, twin-engine air superiority/deep air support fighter developed under the PAK-FA fifth-generation fighter program. The Su-57, which made its maiden flight in 2010, was originally designed to replace the Russian Air Force’s existing stock of MiG-29s and Su-27s in the 2020s and 2030s. This plan appears to now have been put on hold.

Another reason why the aircraft is expected to enter serial production soon are multiple technical difficulties that still need to be overcome.

For example, the Russian military aviation industry still struggles with the aircraft’s next-generation engine. A new engine purportedly called the Saturn izdeliye 30 (purportedly featuring increased thrust and fuel efficiency and fitted with 3D thrust vectoring nozzles) is not expected to be ready for serial production until at least 2020.

Once in service, the Su-57 would be capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear payloads, as I noted in December 2017:

The Su-57 will be capable of carrying some of Russia’s most advanced weapons systems including new beyond-visual-range air-to-air missiles and air-to-ground missiles including the extended range Kh-35UE tactical cruise missile as well as the nuclear-capable BrahMos-A supersonic cruise missile.

However, the price for carrying such a heavy weapons load will likely be reduced stealth capabilities (…) Both the BrahMos-A and KH-35UE do not fit into the aircraft’s internal weapon bay and consequently will need to be carried under the aircraft’s wings in a transport launch canister, which will reduce the fighter jet’s stealthiness.

The Russian Air Force is currently operating 10 Su-57s prototypes for evaluation and testing. The first two Su-57s are expected to enter service in 2019."


- All media found here is for scholarship and research purposes and protected under U.S. Internet ‘Fair Use’ Law -

Comments

  1. with limited budget, Russia's decision not to mass produce the Su-57 which is still immature (yet already impreasive) is pretty much logic.
    USA with much larger funds, seems to forget these principle. F-35 is a great plane, not as what we expect from a traditional fighter jet, but something new and unique, a kind of force multiplier, but not a standalone platform; but mass producing it before it's being perfected is just plain stupid. it will be bad for all, except those who benefited from the order.
    just an amateur military enthusiast insight in regards the topic.great blog btw

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    1. The F-35 design spec was that of the JSF. Its really a strike fighter. We shall see if it can live up to all the Lockheed hype. thanks for writing.
      - Boresight

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    2. http://www.airwar.ru/photo/mig31-2/mig-31m_10.jpg

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  2. Russia failed to produce a stealth VLO, unlike the J-20, Su-57 has chronic problems, such as being produced by the same tooling as the Su-35S. In 2030 the base of the Russian Air Force will be from modernized 80's fighter jets. As much as the Flanker family is capable, it can not compete with smaller RF and IR signature enemies and more advanced avionics.

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    1. Of course it can. The Flanker has 3 times the combat radius. Smaller RF jets need more air-tanking than Flanker. So Flankers shoot the tankers, and that's the end of the war. Supersonic Radio Spectrum Airfoils (Stealth fighters) Look great on paper, until you need to maintain them, learn that the air around them heats up over Mach 1 because of simple thermodynamics, and use the same primary weapons as 4th Gen fighters, and so are susceptible to the same detection and countermeasure issues that have been around since the 1980s. - Boresight

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    2. MiG-29 was the base of the USSR, had a radius of action below the F-16 and much lower than the F-35, with the aggravation of a small fleet of oil tankers. For some reason Flanker's radius of action has now become the reference between life and death.

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    3. Modern IRST under right conditions can see targets at ranges closer to 90 km – but only when you know exactly where to look i.e. when your IRST is cued right where a target is. So you can have manufacturers claim those ranges but in a volume search the range will drop to less than 1/3.

      This is why finding LO aircraft using the IRST is similar to “looking through a drinking straw”. The idea that a 4th gen. aircraft with IRST can detect F-22/35 from 50 or 90 km is a wishful thinking at best.

      To give some real world perspective, in F-35A’s IOC, 4 F-35A destroyed all SAM sites that were being guarded by modern 8 F-15Es with Sniper ATP (greater magnification/range than any IRST) and then killed all the F-15Es because they never saw them coming despite all the tactical advantage. F-15E Strike Eagles unable to shoot down the F-35s in 8 dogfights during simulated deployment

      Most Red Flag Aggressors fly with IRST and yet the results are always the same – they die without ever knowing who or from where they were killed.

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    4. Mig-29 was the point air defence fighter to replace the Mig-21. It was never meant to be the main (doesn't mean number) interceptor. Flanker is designed to replace Su-15, and later to replace Mig-25, so it's the real deal. It's to cover the vast airspace of Russia so of course the radius of action is a matter of life and death. It's between you're flying or walking...

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    5. Substitute of the Su-15 and MiG-25 is the MiG-31. The subsonic combat radius of the MiG-31 is 650nm, 100nm lower than the 760nm of the F-35.

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    6. Just how many Mig-31 were produced as compare to the Flankers? And why bother quoting the stats of a fighter which is in doubtful service condition and in limited numbers? So that we can point out the F35 has a 'radius' of 110nm,better than the Mig-31 while at the same time conveniently ignoring the fighter that has a whooping 1000km more range and is in service in much greater number? Hmmm....

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    7. Do you know the combat radius of the Su-30SM, the most numerous Flanker?

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    8. It look like the Foxhound can fly further with drop tanks arounds 3300 km. Again all the Russian have to do is shoot at, harass, disrupt NATO air tankers and AWACS. Fighter jets and interceptors can operate from dispersed locations but US-NATO air tanker fleet operation cannot be dispersed easily on the ground - so Russian cruise missiles and their other conventional missile forces could be easily employed to cripple US-NATO power protection by attacking it tankers on the ground or on their return to bases. I my view a war with russian is effectively a pointless exercise for US-NATO prower projection. NATO is simply too vulnerable, and its tanker fleets will need to deploy too far out of the area of operation to affect the battle. US has simply too many high value assets to protect/maintain to fight a war with Russia.
      - Boresight

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    9. Su-30SM has a 1500km radius of combat with 4 missiles, only 7% larger than the F-35A with 4 missiles (1400km). Who invented this story that the F-35A has a reduced range of combat? US has much more cruise missiles than Russia, it will rain far more missiles on Russian bases than on NATO bases. 1 single Destroyer has more VLS than 10 Russian corvettes. In 1 attack in Syria the US launched more than half of the cruise missiles launched by Russia during the whole campaign.

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    10. Your math and info is off. According to this House Armed Services Committee report, try about 670 nautical miles for 3 versions of F-35. So its about the same as the F-16. The Su-35 published combat radius without external drop-tanks is more that 17% greater than 670 nmi. MKI is
      link: https://taskandpurpose.com/navys-f-35-strike-radars-already-date-new-report-says

      US forces cant disperse it KC-135, and KC-10 fleets out in the woods, like both sides can do with their fighters. So its much easier for Russia to find and take out the US tanker fleet on the ground than it is for the US to hit Russian fighter/interceptors dispersed in russian forests. It a no brainer.

      - Boresight

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  3. The current Su-35S still uses a PESA radar, while the F-35 uses a much more modern AESA. The F-35's AESA has more range and better SAR resolution and is more resistant to jammer. The F-35's AESA can act as a 10 times more powerful X-band jammer than the EA-18G. Even disregarding the low observability, the F-35 is a more capable fighter.

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    1. AESA and PESA only real difference in the RF source generation. The AESA is "better" perhaps but it won't matter much, because the F-35 combat radius is too short. Something we figured out a long time ago. I so have the Russians.
      https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2018/05/navys-f-35-doesnt-have-range-for-real-stealth-strikes-house-report-says/

      - Boresight

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    3. People talking about F-35 having "short range" are clueless about its endurance. The F-35A has a 760 nmi combat radius in interceptor config. More than F-16 and MiG-29 with external tanks. The F-35 has Mach 1.6 speed limit but that speed is with maximum internal fuel load and in a strike config. (carrying 4,000 lb JDAMs). No 4th gen. aircraft will be flying anywhere close to Mach 1.6 with similar payload. Frankly, they'll be subsonic with 3 EFTs + 4,000 lb PGMs. APG-81 radar has 10 times more effective radiated power for offensive EW operations than any dedicated EW platform (EA-18G).

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  4. Dear OBrescia,
    very interesting article. I read comments about supposed Rus tech deficiency.
    May be or may be not.
    I wonder if RuAf has still the freedom to get what they need to accomplish their task, than be forced to generate corporation profits.
    Thanks

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    1. Silly Russians...
      (I forgot my signature)
      y

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  5. While the Flanker is the big winner in the RuAF and beyond, it seems that most of its other craft appear as pushovers, MiG-29 family with MiG-35 looks like it is not a problem and the Foxbat and Foxhound are just dedicated interceptors with little in the way of air superiority.

    This makes me wonder, if and when the Flanker dies, will RuAF air superiority mostly die with it? The Flanker is most definately here to stay in the immediate future, but the first attempt at replacing them seems to have flopped, and we know of no other attempts to replace it.

    On a side note, Japan appears to be wisely ducking the F-35 in favor of a homegrown jet. Although this jet is allegedly intended to be a stealth craft, could we expect it to be somewhat higher performance than the F-35 by virtue of the Japanese MoD not having a Pentagon analogue?

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    1. Hi Gurney,
      You raise some interesting and valid points. MiG seems to have lost is way and i don't think anyone knows when they are going to get their footing. A big order to Egypt finally materialized after a disastrous order from Algeria was rejected earlier for poor quality. Iraq is also going to order some MiG-35s. MiG big break will be in a following to the MiG-31 (maybe). If the Flanker dies - yes the Russian are in big trouble. They need to get very good in the ECCM department to keep up with the West. Again in our article "The War is Over" we explain that all Russian need to do is disrupt American-NATO air-tanker and AWACS ops, and that will be the end of the war - so their MiG-31 can do that job. During wartime if I was the Russians I would reactivate the MiG-25PDS as well. That thing would be a major headache appearing out of no where from a dispersed road airstrip and quickly reaching Mach 2.7 heading for your AWACS or a KC-135. A nightmare the American really haven't dealt with in any serious way.

      The Japanese made their own F-16 called the F-2 (did we mention how much we love the F-16...we do a lot!) and it appears to be a very good jet. So hats off to the Americans and Japan for a excellent project. Again, stealth fighters look great on paper, until you need to maintain them, learn that the air around them heats up over Mach 1 because of simple thermodynamics, and use the same primary weapons as 4th Gen fighters, and so are susceptible to the same detection and countermeasure issues that have been around since the 1980s. - Boresight

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  6. I thought by "homegrown jet" I was referring to the Mitsubishi ATDX "ShinShin".
    It remains a testbed right now, and is a prototype.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitsubishi_X-2_Shinshin

    That being said may it still be to early to tell? Your blog has made me acutely aware of stealth's shortcomings, and that these prohibit stealth craft from becoming any nation's mainstay of air superiority.

    What do you think is possible for the JaAF to learn from this craft if it is to remain a testbed?

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