Foreign operator wants F/A-18 Hornet and Su-57 for its fleet

Despite the mixed reviews surrounding the Russian Su-57 Felon fighter jet, there appears to be international interest in its acquisition. Malaysia, according to local media outlet Twentytwo13, is reportedly considering adding the Su-57 to the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s [RMAF] fleet by 2035. 

Su-57's AESA isn't dangerous to F-35, but the passive sensors are
Photo credit: Getty Images

Twentytwo13’s information comes from unnamed sources. They indicate that the first Su-57 Felon could be delivered toward the end of Malaysia’s 14th Plan, which includes the purchase of one squadron, with an option for a second. 

The sources also suggest that Malaysia will seek another type of fighter jet, likely the American-made F/A-18C/D Hornets. However, Malaysia aims to acquire these jets from Kuwait. Additionally, Malaysia plans to upgrade its existing fleet of 18 Sukhoi Su-30MKM jets to the Super Flanker standard.

'Non-classical' Su-57s are using Soviet-made Kh-59 ASM in Ukraine
Photo credit: TASS

The motives of Malaysia

The Su-57 and the South Korean KF-21 Boramae are among the top contenders, primarily because both are modern and currently operational. Initially, Malaysia evaluated several options, including the Eurofighter Typhoon, the French Dassault Rafale, the Swedish Saab JAS-39 Gripen, and the American Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. 

However, all these aircraft are classified as 4.5 generation and have been in service for about two decades. For instance, the Super Hornet is nearing its 25th year in operation, with Boeing planning to cease its production by 2025. Most experts agree that this generation of aircraft might be at or near the limit of its developmental potential. 

Truth or rumors - Algeria 'buys' 14 Su-57 fighter jets, Russia media claimed
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Meanwhile, Russia is incrementally equipping its fighter squadrons with the Su-57, also known as the Felon, in a cautious low-rate initial production phase.

About Su-57

The Su-57 Felon is a cutting-edge fighter jet developed by Russia’s Sukhoi company. It’s designed to excel in both air combat and strike missions. The jet boasts stealth, supermaneuverability, and the latest avionics. It’s set to replace older planes like the MiG-29 and Su-27 in the Russian Air Force. 

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

The Su-57 measures about 66 feet long, 46 feet wide, and 15 feet tall. These dimensions help it carry a wide range of weapons and sensors while staying hard to detect on radar. 

The Su-57’s propulsion system uses two Saturn AL-41F1 engines. These powerful engines help the aircraft reach speeds of up to Mach 2. They also allow the Su-57 to fly at supersonic speeds without using afterburners, saving fuel. 

The Su-57 has a unique wing design. It combines trapezoidal and swept wings with two engines that are widely spaced apart. This design improves lift, reduces drag, and enhances stability and control, making the aircraft very maneuverable at different speeds and altitudes. 

RuAF stealth fighter targets vital infrastructure in Ukraine - Su-57 Felon
Photo credit: Dzen

Movable horizontal and vertical stabilizers on the Su-57 have several benefits. They can change their positions to improve the aircraft’s flight. This makes the fighter more agile, allowing it to do complex moves like tight turns and quick direction changes. These stabilizers also help with stability and control during takeoff, landing, and slow flight. Most of the aircraft is made of alloys, including 40.5-44.5% aluminum and 18.6% titanium. It also uses a lot of composites, which make up 22-26% of its weight and about 70% of its outer surface.

N036 Byelka radar

The Su-57 is Russia’s fifth-generation stealth fighter. It has a radar system called the N036 Byelka, which uses AESA technology. This advanced radar can electronically steer its beam, making it quicker to spot and track targets. This improves the Su-57’s ability to see what’s happening around it and be more effective in combat. 

Completely new 'smart' Su-57 fighter jet was tested in Russia
Photo credit: AvioBlog

The N036 Byelka radar is great at detecting and following multiple targets at the same time. It also has advanced features for electronic warfare. This means it can jam enemy radars and communications, helping the Su-57 stay safe in dangerous areas. The radar can also gather information from enemy signals for electronic intelligence work. 

An important feature of the N036 Byelka radar is its low probability of intercept [LPI] capability. This makes the radar’s signals hard for enemies to detect, reducing the chance that the Su-57 will be tracked or targeted. This stealthy feature works well with the aircraft’s overall stealth design.

Su-57’s armament

Vympel R-77 missiles disrupt the stealth of the Russian Su-57
Photo by Artyom Anikeev

One of the primary weapons of the Su-57 is the R-77 missile, also known as the AA-12 Adder. It can also carry the R-73 missile [AA-11 Archer]. For long-range engagements, the Su-57 uses the R-37M missile [AA-13 Arrow].  

The Su-57 has a variety of air-to-ground weapons too. One key weapon is the Kh-38 missile. Another important weapon is the Kh-59MK2, a stealthy, long-range cruise missile designed to hit high-value targets. Its low radar visibility and precision make it ideal for deep strike missions.  

The Su-57 can also deploy guided bombs like the KAB-250 and KAB-500. These bombs use satellite and laser guidance to accurately hit ground targets, making the Su-57 effective for close air support and strategic bombing.  

Su-57 Felon entered Ukraine and flew in the Luhansk airspace
Photo by Andrei Shmatko

In addition to missiles and bombs, the Su-57 carries a 30mm GSh-30-1 autocannon. This internal cannon is useful for close-range air combat and strafing ground targets, adding to the aircraft’s versatility and lethality in various combat scenarios.

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