MOSCOW, RUSSIA — The Su-57 Felon no longer only strikes beyond visual range. The Russian stealth was involved in a dogfight, Western reports, mostly British, said. Ukrainian Su-27 and Su-24 have fallen victim to the Russian “criminal.”
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As early as October last year, signals began to arrive that the Su-57 was fighting in the air. And it is not about striking ground targets, but destroying enemy aircraft while they are in flight. According to sources, the Ukrainian planes that struck the Belgorod region last year were shot down by Su-57s. The hits of the Russian stealth took place at a range of 217 km using beyond visual range missiles.
Confirmation of last October’s events came this January. A British intelligence report points to the use of air-to-air missiles. I.e. Indeed, Su-57s were involved in shooting at Ukrainian air targets. Reports indicate that the Su-57’s participation in air combat is from the end of 2022. The same reports indicate that the Su-57 has hit ground targets since at least the beginning of June 2022.
Su-57s used R-37M air-to-air missiles. This missile has a range of 400 km. At the moment, there is no other known missile in the world [except maybe in China, but it is not known] that can hit airborne maneuvering targets in the air at a distance of 200 km.
In February, confirmation came again from Great Britain that the Su-57 shot down a Ukrainian plane in the air. The information was published in the British newspaper The Conversation. The newspaper gives more details. According to their source, the Su-57 took over the functions of the Su-35 specifically for this mission. I.e. The Su-57 escorted the MiG-31, which was supposed to destroy a ground target using a hypersonic missile. The Su-57 covered the actions of the MiG-31 by intercepting a Ukrainian aircraft and firing the same air-to-air missile – the R-37M.
The R-37M is a highly striking air weapon, supersonic, moving at a speed of Mach 5 or Mach 6. As mentioned earlier, the most effective range of the missile is between 150 km and 398 km air distance. The missile has a guidance system: Inertial with mid-course update, semi-active and active radar homing.
This is a turning point in Russian aviation, even in the world. The Su-57 is the first stealth fighter used in highly intensive military operations in the air, and on the ground, against an existing air defense system. There is evidence that the F-35 Lightning II has had strikes, but they have been in specialized military operations targeting ground facilities poor in any air defenses.
The participation of the Su-57 in the war in Ukraine, as well as the use of the R-37M missile, is a serious boost in the development of the program and for Russian aviation in general. This participation is a kind of blow to the image of the American and Chinese fighters of the fifth generation. The F-35 has existed for 17 years and so far cannot boast of the successes of the Su-57 built in just a few months.
It is no wonder that in recent months there have been reports from Moscow that the Su-57 is becoming an increasingly important program for Russian aviation. Many Western media abandoned pragmatism and realism and described the Su-57 as a failure, subservient to their preferences. However, it turns out that the Su-57 very quickly began to climb a peak that its competitors had already passed.
It is expected that by the end of 2023, the Russian Aerospace Forces will have 22 operationally ready Su-57s. That number will double by the end of 2024, according to Russian reports. Russia invested hundreds of millions of US$ in new production facilities. The Komsomolsk-on-Amur Aircraft Plant is the receiver of the production investments.
The Russian Su-57 fleet is growing at a very slow pace. However, Russia has never wanted to build huge fleets of stealth fighters like China and the US. Moscow will compress the quantity by integrating new technologies. The Su-57 can now fly and operate the Su-70 Okhotnik attack drone, which has been delayed in production for obvious reasons. The new AESA radars in the Su-57, its high maneuverability and lethal weaponry have already led until recently critics to call it the “pleasant surprise” and the “super-fighter”.
More combat experience
Let’s recall – the Su-57 was delayed for five years. Now, however, this time spent raises another question – did not the Russian engineers need this time to ensure its operational readiness? We’ll never know that.
Against the background of the successes of the Russian Su-57 in the war in Ukraine, let us consider the successes of its competitors in the air-to-air battle. The F-22 Raptor has one battle in the air that it hardly qualifies as an achievement – the downing of a Chinese reconnaissance balloon weeks ago. The F-35 also has one battle in the air, also difficult to define as significant – shooting down a drone in the Middle East. Both cases lack intense fighting.
All this happening with the Su-57 in Ukraine has opened the door for Moscow to negotiate with New Delhi on joint development of the Su-57. At the moment, it’s just reruns and the final result is unclear. But it certainly gives Sukhoi confidence that they can offer the Indians something that the other F-35, F-22 and J-20 fighters cannot – combat experience.
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