- Russia announced earlier this month that the Su-57 production has been cancelled.
- The jet had some design and production difficulties made it a challenging project with limited export potential.
- This move represents a failure of Russia to manage its huge defence budget and breadth of projects and to find buyers of Su-57 as India is heading towards America’s F-35 stealth fighter jet.
Russia’s new Su-57 ‘stealth’ fighter looks like a dud reports Business Insider.
Moscow boasted it had a new world-beater. The Su-57 stealth fighter. It was smart. It was sneaky. It was lethal. Turns out, it’s none of those things. Engine troubles. Questionable stealth. The abandonment of the project by partner India. A credit crunch thanks to international sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Crimea.
Initially proposed as a joint project with India, the Su-57 hit trouble when neither side could agree on how to split the production and technological development. After 11 years in the program, India withdrew, leaving Russia to go it alone with a weak economy. The per-unit cost of a Su-57 is estimated to be around $40-45 million (or over 2.5 times cheaper than the U.S. F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter).
The deal to manufacture Su-57 jointly collapse when India pull the plug of the co-production deal with Russia, however, that ultimately sealed the fate of the Su-57. Without India to share the enormous cost burden of developing and producing the Su-57, cash-poor Russia was unable to do this on its own. India now shows a strong interest in acquiring the F-35.
The Su-57 was a juiced-up, non-stealthy fourth-generation fighter powered by inferior engines. At worst, it was an embarrassing symbol of the high-level corruption and bureaucratic bungling so pervasive in a Russian defence industry dominated by cronies of dictator Vladimir Putin.
A senior stealth scientist, Bronk recently told Business Insider that though the jet claimed a stealthy profile, it had glaring and obvious flaws. A 2016 report from IHS Jane’s said the jet was fifth-generation “in name only.” Russia is more or less admitting defeat in building a feasible fifth-generation fighter.
The Russian military aviation industry still struggles with the aircraft’s next-generation engine. A new engine purportedly called the Saturn izdeliye 30 (purportedly featuring increased thrust and fuel efficiency and fitted with 3D thrust vectoring nozzles) is not expected to be ready for serial production until at least 2020.
It’s been a long, expensive road. But the gamble Russia took in developing its first stealth fighter has failed. It promised much: the ability to sneak up on opposing bombers and fighters unseen, to see them first, to shoot first. Then reality hit home.
Now, the Su-57 combat jet touted as being able to take on and beat the US F-22 ‘Raptor’ stealth fighter and F-35 ‘Lightning II’ strike fighter has been unceremoniously dumped.
Some 11 examples have been built over the past 10 years. Each taking the integration of advanced stealth, electronics, engine and integration technologies one step further.
The prototypes are a dead end. There will be no mass-produced Su-57. Instead, advances made and applied to the new airframe will likely be partially grafted on older aircraft, such as the Su-35.
Su-57 does not appear to have succeeded at combining these attributes with being stealthy. And the ability of its engines to sustain high speeds for long periods of time was in doubt.
President Putin at first promised several squadrons of the advanced fighter would be operational in the 2020s. Then the order was cut back to a few dozen production models. Now, there will be none.
This leaves Russia at a considerable disadvantage to US, NATO and other Western-allied nations now fielding the F-35 stealth fighter. And China late last year declared its first stealth fighter the J-20 to be in operational squadron service. Currently, China and the USA are two countries—successfully developed and operate stealth fighter, while Japan developed a stealth fighter demonstrator.
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