‘Criminal’ Su-57 hit Su-27 from behind: is this a sales pitch try?

PANAGYURISHTE ($1=1.98 Bulgarian Levs) — There is no doubt that the war in Ukraine is selling a lot of weapons right now. Primarily one delivered by Kyiv’s partners. And the public should not be surprised. You know – only the performance of a product in real conditions is the best-selling technique. Remember the Turkish drone Bayraktar TB2. Where was it three years ago, and where is it in the international drone market now, having disabled dozens of Russian Pantsir-S1 mobile air defense systems?

Russia's Su-57 fighter jet has tested new types of missiles in Syria
Photo credit: National Interest

A few days ago there were reports of two downed Ukrainian fighter jets – Su-27 and Su-24. Reports pointed to a new Russian air defense record. I.e. The S-300V4 air defense missile system fired two missiles that hit the Ukrainian aircraft at a distance of 217 km. The previous hit was 150 km away from the S-400 system. Then, over Kyiv, the specific S-400 shot down a Ukrainian Su-27.

In recent days, some pro-Russian online portals have started to claim that the two fighters were shot down by a Russian 4++ generation Su-57 stealth fighter. Military Watch Magazine, for example, claims that the Ukrainian planes were hit from behind by an R-37M air-to-air missile. This missile has a range of up to 400 km.

Such claims are difficult to prove. Neither Ukraine nor Russia has provided evidence of what kind of missile downed the two fighters. Such a situation, however, opens an opportunity for Moscow to advertise its “criminal” [Su-57’s NATO name is Felon]. However, Moscow is currently not talking about the Su-57, and analysts and Russian bloggers are just speculating.

However, Russia needs some positive outcomes for its aviation industry. The war in Ukraine has so far disproved the qualities of Russian aircraft, which the Kremlin so cleverly presented as “invincible” in the sky.

The Su-35 Flanker-E is the only one currently in serial production in Russia. It has even been rumored that Su-35s have been bartered with Iran for thousands of loitering munitions. The Su-57 has a fleet of only six aircraft, but Moscow expects at least three more by the end of the year. However, this fighter is in the initial phase of serial production. The reason for this is not the war in Ukraine – Russia had financial problems even before the invasion began.

The Su-75 Checkmate is a real “blueprint plane”. There are two prototypes, but they are not working, they are showpieces that they go around to advertise. Recently, Russia announced that the first flight of the Su-75 will take place in 2024. However, such claims, especially by the Russians, only become fact when the action is carried out. Because first the Su-75 was supposed to fly for the first time in 2024, then the Kremlin announced 2025, and now they say 2024, and in a month it is not known how many years they will change the date of the first flight.

Russia has long forgotten about perhaps its most promising fighter – the MiG-35 Fulcrum F. Light, highly maneuverable, and excellent avionics and weapons systems, Moscow did not find customers for it and kept with the few prototypes.

Russia 'shots' its most advanced fighter - the MiG-35 Fulcrum-F
Photo credit: Reddit

So, the two downed Ukrainian fighters and the ambiguity about the weapon that hit them could be used by Moscow as an advertisement for the Su-57. In action, if we abstract from our personal preferences, it is quite possible that the Su-57 hit the planes. One of the claims that support this fact is that Ukrainian fighter jets were involved in a strike on Russian territory.

The Su-57 guards precisely this part of Russia. Even when they announced the first mass-produced fighter of this class, it was immediately sent to the Western Military District of Russia. Also, the weaponry of the “criminal” allows for beyond-visual-range [BVR] warfare. The Su-57 has an AESA radar as well. I.e. Although Russia suffers defeats in Ukraine in the air and loses fighters, the Su-57 is still more of a long-range strike flying computer than a dogfight.

However, the longer the war in Ukraine continues, the worse it will be for Russian industry in the future. Even if Russia subdues Ukraine, which I highly doubt, the failure of the much-touted new Russian weapons of recent years will seriously damage the future of the military-industrial complex.

Therefore, it is quite logical that in “an obscure incident” the first line of Russian propaganda – bloggers and pro-Russian online portals – try to build a positive image of the Su-57. If this incident remains uninvestigated, within months the Kremlin may start making the same claim. The war in Ukraine closes doors for Russian weapons, so a positive image of at least one technological solution in recent years from the Russian side would be in favor of the post-war stabilization of the industry. The question is: will the world believe?

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