Su-57’s Kh-69/59 stealth stunner eludes Western Intelligence

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Undoubtedly, the Su-57 is considered one of the most capable combat aircraft of the fifth generation. Even though its contemporaries have been in active service for over a decade, its prowess stands out. As for the F-35, given the aerial battle over Gaza, its primary achievement is merely intercepting a solitary Houthi cruise missile. 

Photo by Giovanni Colla/Daniele Faccioli

The mission is quite straightforward. Then there’s the Raptor – a plane that adheres to the rule of all or nothing. Nearing the end of its operational run, this initial stealth fighter has only shot down a single Chinese balloon. With its staggering price tag of over $300 million per unit, this isn’t something to boast about. As the years pass by, the F-22 seems to have fewer and fewer opportunities to enhance its performance record. 

In contrast, the Su-57, developed by Russia, has a series of operations successful against adversary air defenses and numerous downed aircraft to its credit. This was revealed by the Russian Federation’s Ministry of Defense in 2023.

Do they see the Su-57?

From the data available, it’s evident that the Su-57 can be considered a reliably effective aircraft. Notably, its involvement in the conflict with Ukraine is significant, even if its participation was from a safe distance. However, Russia’s adversaries are often hesitant to acknowledge the Su-57’s engagement in Ukraine‘s situation. Only a few Western media outlets and experts, grudgingly, have conceded that the Su-57’s remote contributions don’t necessarily earn it the status of an exceptional stealth fighter. Is that genuinely the case? 

Interestingly, when flipping the argument, we encounter a disconcerting possibility – are electronic intelligence personnel, whether in AUAKs or those using the Virage system, unable to detect the Su-57? Even while reluctantly acknowledging that the Su-57 operates from afar, a fundamental question remains: If they can’t spot the Su-57, can they detect the stealth missiles it launches? It’s undeniable that in Ukraine, there have been instances where damages resulted specifically from these missiles.

Photo credit: Sukhoi

The Kh-69 proved the use of the Su-57

Finally, we’ve discovered undeniable evidence that the highly classified Kh-69 missile isn’t merely confined to exhibition displays or the colorful marketing brochures of the KRTV concern and ICB Raduga successors from Dubna. Rather, it’s currently being actively utilized by Russian aviation. But, why is this development significant?  

For one, this weapon was meticulously designed with the Su-57 in mind, its dimensions flawlessly matching the aircraft’s internal weapon compartments. Essentially, it’s a subtle indication of a new generation – a generation that engineers weapons particularly to perform the functions assigned to them.

The missile’s range surpasses 300 km, providing a powerful advantage in evading enemy air defense control zones. Also, its innovative power plant design boasts a remarkable performance reserve.

Photo by Vitaly V. Kuzmin

Kh-59 “gave birth” to the next generation

It’s no secret that the Russians have developed a missile capable of reaching up to 300 km. We’re talking about none other than the vintage military gem – the Gadfly Kh-59. This veteran missile has been utilized by Russia almost weekly since the outbreak of war. 

However, the tables have now turned. Ukraine, with the backing of its allies, has mastered the art of intercepting the Gadfly. It no longer poses the level of danger it once did. In the modern military landscape, an antiquated missile like the Gadfly is easy prey for advanced mobile anti-aircraft systems. Nonetheless, the Gadfly holds its place in history as it paved the way for the development of its successor – the Kh-59MK2. The Kh-59MK2 may appear to be an entirely new weapon, but the real transformation isn’t readily visible. The difference, as you might have guessed, lies within the “product” itself.

Little reaction time

Despite its seemingly diminutive weight of 770 kg, the Kh-69 missile packs a hefty punch. Moreover, its modular design facilitates task-specific customization, permitting the selection of an appropriate warhead – whether it’s high-explosive fragmentation, concrete-piercing, or even a cluster variant – all tailored to match the mission at hand. 

The creators of the Kh-69 proudly present it as one of Russia’s most precise cruise missiles, boasting an impressive error margin of merely three meters. Further accentuating its competitive edge, the missile’s distinctive shape and unique materials result in a dispersion area surpassing its Western counterparts, including the Franco-British Scalp EG/Storm Shadow, the US AGM-158 JASSM, and Germany’s Taurus

Photo credit: Telegram

Put in layman’s terms, this is precisely the type of weapon an aircraft with stealth aspirations needs. Essentially, the design goal of the Kh-69 has been aptly demonstrated – to ensure that by the time an enemy’s air defenses detect this missile, it’s simply too late to respond effectively.

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Air systemsAsian Defence NewsCommentDefense Newskh-59 cruise missilekh-59 stealth stunnerkh-69 cruise missilekh-69 stealth stunnerRussian Defence Newssu-57 fighter jetsu-57 kh-59su-57 kh-69western intelligence kh-59western intelligence kh-69western intelligence su-57