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Deadly battle in the sky – F-22 ‘Raptor’ against ‘the Criminal’ Su-57

PANAGYURISHTE, (BM) – Russia’s official designation of the PAK-FA/T-50 jet as the Sukhoi Su-57 is just another reminder that the field of fifth generation fighters is about to get more crowded. The United States, China, Russia, Japan and Korea are all working on their own fifth generation designs, but so far only three planes, the F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Chinese J-20 are operational. Increased tensions between the United States and NATO on one side and Russia on the other have people wondering: once the Su-57 does become operational, how will it stack up against the F-22 Raptor?

To compare the two planes against each other, we need to look at their different characteristics, including:

  • Engine performance, maneuverability, speeds, fuel consumption per hour, price per hour flight;
  • Standard weapons, auxiliary weapons
  • Beyond visual range and close to medium range
  • Other technical characteristics

Introduction of F-22 “Raptor” and Su-57 “Felon” (criminal)

F-22 “Raptor” is a fifth-generation, single-seat, twin-engine, all-weather stealth tactical fighter aircraft developed for the United States Air Force (USAF). The result of the USAF’s Advanced Tactical Fighter (ATF) program, the aircraft was designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but also has ground attack, electronic warfare, and signal intelligence capabilities. The prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, built most of the F-22’s airframe and weapons systems and conducted final assembly, while Boeing provided the wings, aft fuselage, avionics integration, and training systems.

The aircraft was variously designated F-22 and F/A-22 before it formally entered service in December 2005 as the F-22A. Despite its protracted development and various operational issues, USAF officials consider the F-22 a critical component of the service’s tactical air power. Its combination of stealth, aerodynamic performance, and situational awareness enable unprecedented air combat capabilities.

Su-57 “Falon” or Sukhoi Su-57 is a stealth, single-seat, twin-engine multirole fifth-generation jet fighter being developed since 2002 for air superiority and attack operations. The aircraft is the product of the PAK FA a fifth-generation fighter programme of the Russian Air Force. Sukhoi’s internal name for the aircraft is T-50. The Su-57 is planned to be the first aircraft in Russian military service to use stealth technology. Its maiden flight took place on 29 January 2010 and the first production aircraft is expected to be delivered in 2019 with a second to follow in 2020.

The fighter is designed to have supercruise, supermaneuverability, stealth, and advanced avionics to overcome the prior generation fighter aircraft as well as ground and naval defences. The Su-57 is intended to succeed the MiG-29 and Su-27 in the Russian Air Force.

The prototypes and initial production batch are to be delivered with a highly upgraded Lyulka AL-31 variant, the AL-41F1, as an interim powerplant while an advanced clean-sheet design engine, the Saturn izdeliye 30, currently in final stages of development, is to be available after 2020.

Engine performance, maneuverability, speeds, fuel consumption per hour, price per hour flight

F-22 “Raptor” has Pratt & Whitney F119 engine which is a twin-spool axial-flow low-bypass turbofan. It has a three-stage fan driven by a single-stage low pressure turbine and six-stage high pressure compressor driven by single-stage high pressure turbine. The shroud-less fan has wide-chord hollow titanium fan blades that are linear-friction welded to the disk. The compressor stators and thrust-vectoring nozzle use burn-resistant titanium alloy called Alloy C. The high-pressure turbine blades are made of single-crystal superalloys and impingement cooled using air from the high-pressure compressor. The two spools are counter-rotating, which results in weight savings due to the elimination of a row of stators. The requirement for the ATF to supercruise, or fly supersonic without afterburners, results in a very low bypass ratio of 0.3 for the F119-PW-100 in order to achieve high specific thrust. The F119 has dual-redundant full authority digital engine control (FADEC).

The three-zone afterburner, or augmentor, contributes to the stealth of the aircraft by having fuel injectors integrated into thick curved vanes coated with ceramic radar-absorbent materials (RAM). These vanes replace the traditional fuel spray bars and flame holders and block line-of-sight of the turbines. The nozzle can vector ±20° in the pitch axis to improve aircraft maneuverability and consists two wedge-shaped flaps for stealth. The engine has a design life of 8,650 total accumulated cycles.

The initial production batches of the Su-57 will use interim engines, a pair of NPO Saturn izdeliye 117, or AL-41F1. Closely related to the Saturn 117S engine used by the Su-35S, the 117 engine is a highly improved and uprated variant of the AL-31 that powers the Su-27 family of aircraft. The 117 engine produces 93.1 kN (21,000 lbf) of dry thrust, 147.1 kN (33,067 lbf) of thrust in afterburner, and has a thrust to weight ratio of 10.5:1. The engines have full authority digital engine control (FADEC) and are integrated into the flight control system to facilitate maneuverability and handling.[107]

The two 117 engines incorporate thrust vectoring (TVC) nozzles whose rotational axes are each canted at an angle, similar to the nozzle arrangement of the Su-35S. This configuration allows the aircraft to produce thrust vectoring moments about all three rotational axes, pitch, yaw and roll. Thrust vectoring nozzles themselves operate in only one plane; the canting allows the aircraft to produce both roll and yaw by vectoring each engine nozzle differently. The engine inlet incorporates variable intake ramps for increased supersonic efficiency and retractable mesh screens to prevent foreign object debris being ingested that would cause engine damage. The 117 engine is to also incorporate infrared and RCS reduction measures.

Production fighters from 2020 onward will be equipped with a more powerful engine known as the izdeliye 30. Compared to the 117, the new powerplant will have increased thrust, lower costs, better fuel efficiency, and fewer moving parts. Those features, along with subsequently improved reliability and lower maintenance costs will improve the aircraft performance and reliability. The izdeliye 30 is designed to be 30% lower specific weight than its 117 predecessor. The new engine is estimated to produce approximately 107 kN (24,054 lbf) of dry thrust and 176 kN (39,556 lbf) in afterburner.

According to various military experts and according to unofficial data, the cost of an hour flight with the F-22 amounts to $ 61,200, while an hour flight with a Su-57 will cost $ 45.00, which confirms the opinion of the Russian engines that they will be more effective in this regard. Also, F-22 has fuel economy of 0.47 km/l – 1.10 NM/gallon, while Su-57 has 0.45 km/l – 1.07 NM/gallon.

But the difference is not only there. It turns out that the maneuverability of the Su-57 by military engineers is rated at 10 points out of 10 possible, while the F-22 has a slight difference behind – 9.4 points.

The avionics of F-22 is rated at 9.8 points out of 10 points, while the Su-57 has only 9.3 points.

Last but not least, it turns out that the Russian fighter has better performance than its US competitor in terms of speed. The Su-57 can develops a speed of 2.3 Mach, while F-22 up to 2.25 Mach.

You can see that the difference in speed between the two planes is quite small, but it is much larger in the next indicator – rate of climb. F-22 has max. 315 m/s – 62k ft/min rate of climb, while Su-57 has max. 350 m/s – 65k ft/min.

Armament

The F-22 has three internal weapons bays: a large main bay on the bottom of the fuselage, and two smaller bays on the sides of the fuselage, aft of the engine intakes. The main bay is split along the centerline and can accommodate six LAU-142/A launchers for beyond-visual-range missiles and each side bay has an LAU-141/A launcher for short-range missiles. Four of the launchers in the main bay can be replaced with two bomb racks that can each carry one 1,000 lb (450 kg) or four 250 lb (110 kg) bombs. Carrying armaments internally maintains the aircraft’s stealth and minimizes additional drag. Missile launches require the bay doors to be open for less than a second, during which hydraulic arms push missiles clear of the aircraft; this is to reduce vulnerability to detection and to deploy missiles during high speed flight.

The F-22 can carry air-to-surface weapons such as bombs with JDAM guidance and the Small Diameter Bomb, but cannot self-designate for laser-guided weapons. Internal air-to-surface ordnance is limited to 2,000 lb (910 kg). An internally mounted M61A2 Vulcan 20 mm rotary cannon is embedded in the aircraft’s right wing root with the muzzle covered by a retractable door to maintain stealth. The radar projection of the cannon fire’s path is displayed on the pilot’s head-up display.

The F-22’s high cruise speed and altitude increase the effective ranges of its munitions, with the aircraft having 50% greater employment range for the AIM-120 AMRAAM and twice the effective range for JDAMs than prior platforms. In testing, an F-22 dropped a GBU-32 JDAM from 50,000 feet (15,000 m) while cruising at Mach 1.5, striking a moving target 24 miles (39 km) away.

While the F-22 typically carries weapons internally, the wings include four hardpoints, each rated to handle 5,000 lb (2,300 kg). Each hardpoint can accommodate a pylon that can carry a detachable 600-gallon (2,270 L) external fuel tank or a launcher holding two air-to-air missiles; the two inboard hardpoints are “plumbed” for external fuel tanks. The use of external stores degrades the aircraft’s stealth and kinematic performance; after releasing stores the external attachments can be jettisoned to restore those characteristics. A stealthy ordnance pod and pylon was being developed to carry additional weapons in the mid-2000s

Su-57 has two tandem main internal weapon bays each approximately 4.6 m (15.1 ft) long and 1.0 m (3.3 ft) wide and two small triangular-section weapon bays that protrude under the fuselage near the wing root. Internal carriage of weapons preserves the aircraft’s stealth and significantly reduces aerodynamic drag, thus preserving kinematic performance compared to performance with external stores. The Su-57’s high cruising speed is expected to substantially increase weapon effectiveness compared to its predecessors. Vympel is developing two ejection launchers for the main bays: the UVKU-50L for missiles weighing up to 300 kg (660 lb) and the UVKU-50U for ordnance weighing up to 700 kg (1,500 lb).

For air-to-air combat, the Su-57 is expected to carry four beyond-visual-range missiles in its two main weapons bays and two short-range missiles in the wing root weapons bays. The primary medium-range missile is the active radar-homing K-77M (izdeliye 180), an upgraded R-77 variant with AESA seeker and conventional rear fins. The short-range missile is the infrared-homing (“heat seeking”) K-74M2 (izdeliye 760), an upgraded R-74 variant with reduced cross-section for internal carriage. A clean-sheet design short-range missile designated K-MD (izdeliye 300) is being developed to eventually replace the K-74M2. For longer ranged applications, four large izdeliye 810 beyond-visual-range missiles can be carried, with two in each main weapons bay.

The main bays can also accommodate air-to-ground missiles such as the Kh-38M, as well as multiple 250 kg (550 lb) KAB-250 or 500 kg (1,100 lb) KAB-500 precision guided bombs. The aircraft is also expected to carry further developed and modified variants of Kh-35UE (AS-20 “Kayak”) anti-ship missile and Kh-58UShK (AS-11 “Kilter”) anti-radiation missile. For missions that do not require stealth, the Su-57 can carry stores on its six external hardpoints. BrahMos Aerospace chief A. Sivathanu Pillai stated that there was a possibility of the installation of BrahMos supersonic cruise missile on the Su-57 FGFA derivative.[149] New hypersonic missile with characteristics similar to the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal ALBM is also being developed for the Su-57. The missile is to have intra-body accommodation and smaller dimensions to allow it to be carried inside the Su-57’s main central weapon bays. The new missile’s length was approximately just 2/3 of R-77’s 12 feet length, and thought to be designed to fit inside the triangular wing root bays under the Su-57’s wings.

The aircraft has an internally mounted 9A1-4071K (GSh-30-1) 30 mm cannon near the right LEVCON root. The cannon is the lightest in 30mm class with 50 kg weight, and could fire up to 1,800 rounds per minute. The cannon can fire blast-fragmentation, incendiary and armor-piercing tracer rounds and is effective against even lightly armored ground, sea and aerial target up to 800 m for aerial target and 1,800 m for ground target. The cannon is equipped with autonomous water cooling system, where water inside barrel jacket vaporized during operation.

Beyond visual range weapons and close to medium range weapons

In both indicators, the Russian Su-57 takes advantages over the US competitor.

For example in indicator beyond visual range weapons Su-57 uses R-77 Vympel missile with range of 160 km, speed of 4779 km, while the F-22 uses AIM-120 AMRAAM missile with range of 75 km and speed of 4248 km. I.e. Russian fighter jet can hit a more distant target and much faster than F-22.

The dogfight in close to medium range missile rating has better indicators for Su-57 – 97%, while F-22 has 86%. This is because Russian cannon has better thrust/weight ratio than F-22’s and musch more big calliber (Russia – 30mm, US – 20mm).

Also, in assessing this particular indicator, the maneuverability of the aircraft is of great importance, and as we said earlier, the Russian fighter is more maneuverable than the American one.

But beyond all the indicators that determine the overall rating in this category, if we look at the guns individually we will notice that the American aircraft has more functional weapons.

For example the US GAU-12/U Equalizer by General Dynamics has rate of fire 4200 rpm, muzzle velocity of 1000m/s and operational range of 3,660 m, while the Russian aircraft has less rate of fire (1800 rpm), less muzzle velocity (900 m/s) and less operational range (1,800 m).

Other technical characteristics

Both airplanes have different sizes. The lenght of F-22 is 18.9 m, the winspan is 13.6 m, the wing area is 78.0 m², the height is 5.08 m, the weight is 19,700 kg and the power is 2 x 153 kN.

The Russian Su-57 has lenght 19.8 m, the winspan is 13.9 m, the wing area is 79.0 m², the height is 4.74 m, the weight is 18,100 kg and the power is 2 x 167 kN.

Finaly – the price. Base models, without modifications and client updates, additions, or latest developments are as follows: F-22 costs $ 250 million, while Su-57 costs $ 150 million.

Conclusion
The Russian Su-57 fighter is better than the F-22 in more than 70% of all indicators and in 100% of the most important – engine, maneuverability and weapons.

But this is only in theory.

In practice, the F-22 is in many cases better than the F-35. He has combat experience and has proven, changed and refreshed over the years. In a real combat situation in the air, the F-22’s chance of defeating the Su-57 is greater than the opposite.

I would bet on the F-22 because it’s a working plane. But also because of one very important detail – the US does not sell the F-22 to foreign partners. There seems to be a reason for that.

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