Rafale F4’s stealth characteristics match those of the Su-57

A few days ago, the Russian state-owned company Rostec highlighted the stealth capabilities of the Su-57, making the statement during Victory Day celebrations. Interestingly, during this event, they showcased Soviet equipment from the Great Patriotic War era, including the La-7 fighter. Back in its day, the La-7 was a modern marvel, boasting impressive take-off, speed, and maneuverability compared to German Luftwaffe Fw.190A fighters. 

Rafale F4's stealth characteristics match those of the Su-57
Photo credit: French MoD

Rostec used this opportunity to celebrate the significant advancements in Russian air combat aviation since 1944, presenting the Su-57, which is developed and manufactured by the United Aircraft Corporation [UAC]. “The main feature of the aircraft is its stealth,” the company stated. 

Rostec further elaborated, “The Su-57 can engage enemy fighters and destroy ground and surface targets. It is currently mass-produced and deployed in the Northern Military District. The Su-57 is also undergoing tests with a second-stage engine. We plan to deliver aircraft with these new engines shortly.”

How stealthy is the Su-57 “stealth” fighter?

In discussing the uniqueness of the Su-57, Rostec highlights its stealth characteristics, which differentiate it from other Russian fighters like the Su-30, Su-35, or MiG-35. However, the stealth aspect of the Su-57 isn’t widely publicized or perhaps even fully realized yet. 

Radar Cross Section [RCS] measures an object’s detectability by radar, which is essential in assessing the stealth capabilities of military aircraft. The Russian-designed Su-57 is often compared to other fifth-generation fighters, such as the Chinese J-20 and the American F-35 and F-22, in terms of RCS. 

The Su-57 is estimated to have an RCS of about 0.1 to 1 square meter. This indicates that while the Su-57 possesses stealth features, it might not be as stealthy as its American peers. The aircraft incorporates radar-absorbing materials and a specialized design to minimize its radar signature. Despite these efforts, many experts suggest it doesn’t quite match the stealth levels achieved by the F-22 and F-35.

Su-57 set to replace Su-34 in Ukraine, some analysts predict
Photo credit: Russian MoD

The J-20, F-35 and F-22 stealths

The J-20, China’s advanced fifth-generation fighter jet, is believed to have a radar cross-section [RCS] ranging between 0.01 and 0.1 square meters. This design prioritizes stealth with its angular airframe, internal weapons bays, and radar-absorbing coatings. However, some experts argue that the inclusion of canards might compromise its stealth features. 

On the other hand, the U.S.-developed F-35 boasts an estimated RCS of around 0.005 square meters. This remarkable stealth capability is achieved through cutting-edge technologies including radar-absorbing materials, an optimized airframe design, and internal weapons storage. The F-35’s stealthiness significantly enhances its effectiveness in modern combat scenarios. 

Military doesn't want the F-22, the politicians want the F-22
Photo credit: Pixabay

The F-22 Raptor, another American fifth-generation fighter, takes stealth to the next level with an RCS estimated between 0.0001 and 0.0005 square meters. Widely regarded as the most stealthy fighter in existence, the F-22’s design incorporates extensive radar-absorbing materials and meticulous attention to detail to minimize radar reflections. This extremely low RCS makes it exceptionally challenging for enemy radar systems to detect and track.

Not the stealth fighters

The F-16 Fighting Falcon, a well-known US fighter jet, typically has a radar cross-section [RCS] of around 1.2 square meters. This figure can vary depending on the specific model and any modifications made to reduce its radar visibility. 

Missile that 'punched' Russian sub will arm India's Rafale M
Photo credit: Reddit

The Eurofighter Typhoon, a result of collaboration between several European nations, also includes stealth features to reduce its radar cross-section. Typically, the Typhoon’s RCS is estimated at around 0.5 square meters. Like the Rafale, the Typhoon’s RCS can vary based on specific configurations and additional measures taken to enhance its stealth capabilities.

The Dassault Rafale, a versatile French multirole fighter, incorporates stealth features to minimize its RCS. Estimates for the Rafale’s radar cross-section range from 0.1 to 1 square meter. The lower end reflects its use of radar-absorbing materials and design optimizations aimed at reducing its radar signature. The stealth characteristics of the Rafale and the Russian Su-57 Felon are actually the same. The question is: how stealthy is the Russian Su-57 stealth fighter? Or maybe the question is different: didn’t the Russians make another fighter that could compete with the Rafale, but not surpass it?

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