China: Russian Su-57 to hunt SAAB 340 AEW&C after A-50s loss

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Chinese military analysts suggest that Sweden’s recent contribution to Ukraine’s military could inadvertently benefit Russia’s Sukhoi Su-57 Felon jets. Sweden has decided to donate two SAAB 340 AEW&C early warning aircraft to Ukraine, which will undoubtedly boost Ukraine’s Air Force capabilities. 

Photo credit: Dzen

“Upon hearing this news, it seems that the most enthusiastic party might not be Ukraine but Russia. This is because Russia now has a chance to respond to earlier events,” mentioned the Chinese publication Sohu. Earlier in February, Ukraine claimed to have downed two Russian A-50 aircraft, with at least one confirmed by Russian authorities, marking the first time Ukraine shot down a special operations early warning aircraft in combat.

This incident left the Russian Aerospace Forces embarrassed, with little recourse due to Ukraine’s lack of valuable air targets like early warning aircraft. However, Sweden’s decision could be likened to providing “pillows while Russia sleeps.” According to Sohu, the deployment of Swedish early warning aircraft to the front lines presents Russia with a unique opportunity for retaliation using their Su-57 fighter jets. 

Photo credit: Twitter

So, how many steps are involved for the Russian Su-57 to take down a Swedish early warning plane? Essentially, three: detection, engagement, and retreat. Though straightforward in theory, these steps aren’t as simple for the Su-57.

First, detecting the Ukrainian early warning aircraft presents a significant challenge. In the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Russia’s situational awareness isn’t on par with Ukraine’s, especially with NATO backing Ukraine’s efforts. Given this, the Russian military might struggle to promptly detect early warning planes taking off from deep within Ukrainian territory. The Swedish early warning planes further complicate this task. 

The second and third steps—engaging the target and returning to base—test the limits of the Russian Su-57 fighter jet’s capabilities.

Photo credit: VKS

Russia often claims its Su-57 is a true fifth-generation aircraft, distinct from third- and fourth-generation fighters. Unlike earlier models, the fifth-generation aircraft are designed with one significant mission: targeting high-value air assets like tankers, transport aircraft, and early warning jets, which are widely considered prime targets for such advanced fighters. 

These fifth-generation aircraft are seen as “predators” because of their stealth capabilities and cutting-edge air-to-air missiles. However, the Su-57’s stealth features and missile performance have often been called into question. Critics point out that its aerodynamic design and stealth coating may not be up to par, and Russian air-to-air missiles have their own set of challenges.

Yet, if the Su-57 can execute its mission successfully, it likely won’t have difficulty making a swift retreat. Known for its ability to operate at high altitudes and high speeds, the Su-57 could easily evade counterattacks. 

Photo credit: Getty Images

Success in such a mission would mark a significant milestone. The Su-57 would become the first fifth-generation fighter globally to shoot down an early warning aircraft, thereby bolstering the reputation of the Russian Air Force. This could go a long way in refurbishing the somewhat tarnished image of the Su-57 as a stealth fighter. So, let’s see how this unfolds.


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