No! Russian Su-57 is more 4++ fighter jet, than 5th generation fighter

This post was published in Defence24. The point of view expressed in this article is authorial and do not necessarily reflect BM`s editorial stance.


WARSAW, (BM) – According to experts from RAND Corporation, the Russian Su-57 fighter will not be available in the final, fully meeting the assumptions of the serial version before the end of the decade.

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Problems related to the underdeveloped propulsion and the compromise between stealth technology and high flight parameters mean that the machine has only some of the attributes required for the Su-57 to be considered a 5th generation machine.

In an analysis based on publicly available information, the experts of the American think tank RAND Corporation, Ryan Michael Bauer and Peter A. Wilson recognized that although the Su-57 has some operational capabilities and, above all, low detectability in the field of radar waves and thermal and electromagnetic emissions, however, its avionics, omnidirectional observation and data transmission systems lag far behind.

Despite many problems, only the F-35 currently offers both stealth technology and a system of multi-range omnidirectional observation and hard-to-detect, encrypted data exchange.

It was also emphasized that the Su-57 program is currently in a relatively early stage of development of prototypes and small-series machines, which have not yet reached their final configuration. The biggest problems, apart from the crash of the first series machine, is the growing delay in the development of target engines bearing the working designation “Product 30”, which are to provide the machine with high flight parameters. According to American experts, it will not drive Russian fighters earlier than in 3-5 years, which means the delivery of serial machines in a “transitional” configuration.

Both the problems with the propulsion and the underdeveloped avionics are to a large extent the effect of sanctions after 2014, which cut Russia off from many modern technologies and imported components. They also forced the so-called restructuring and re-nationalization of the aviation and military industry, which in fact in recent years mainly boiled down to forced consolidation and regular replacement of management staff, which does not have a positive effect on the planning and implementation of works.

An important problem is also the method of financing, which leads to the conduct of development works on credit, and the income from the sale of equipment, including due to falling oil and gas prices, I am proving insufficient. This leads to indebtedness, inhibition or suspension of works that start again thanks to funding from the state budget.

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The attempt to implement the Su-57 program in international cooperation with India ended with New Dehli’s withdrawal from the project in 2018, mainly due to delays in engine development and disputes over the scope of technology transfer and the sharing of work results.

There is also no success in exporting Su-57, which could finance the final configuration. Among the potential buyers, China, Turkey, Vietnam and Algeria were mentioned in this group, only the latter country, according to reports from 2019, had to order 12 machines.

However, information from various reliable sources suggests that the transaction is unlikely to be finalized. One of the main reasons is the low probability of delivering the machines by 2025 and the Algerian side’s requirement that the equipment be tested before being picked up on site, which Russia does not agree to.

According to RAND experts, the final Su-57 will not be ready for sale until the end of this decade. Moreover, they believe that beyond a certain range of stealth capabilities, its capabilities will be comparable to those of a Generation 4 ++ heavy multi-role machine like the F-15EX, the latest variant of the F-15 Eagle. It is to have a much greater lifting capacity and range than the F-35, with very similar capabilities of sensors and data exchange systems, but a complete lack of stealth capabilities.

Such views can be considered strongly “American-centric”, but apart from comparing the F-15EX and the Su-57, it is difficult to disagree with these theses. The Russian aircraft, let’s call it the “new generation”, does indeed face many problems, despite the official adoption of the Russian air force. Today it is basically a new body and a few gadgets, but the engine and most of the “contribution” of Su-30/35 machines.

The Russians, in a typical way, i.e. creating the great media success of “Super Sukhoi” in the daily Izvestia, admitted in June 2020 that only in 2022 the “Su-57 of the second phase”, i.e. equipped with target engines, would be flown and improved avionics. In real terms, this means that no earlier than 2023-2025, the serial deliveries of the Su-57 “version 2.0.”

For foreign customers, if they are finally found, such an aircraft with full capabilities will probably be available around 2030, as the priority will be rather own armed forces. At the same time, its capabilities can actually be something between a heavy air superiority fighter and a stealth multi-role aircraft.

Read more: Top 5 best Russian fighter jets – 4++ and 5th generations

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

In the case of sales attempts, this may constitute a limitation resulting from the customer’s operational doctrine. Thus, the Su-57 may turn out to be a success for Russia not only long overdue and excessively arousing expectations, but also difficult to consume on the defense market.


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