The Sukhoi Su-57 fighter aircraft, Russia’s first indigenously designed and built fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, will be armed with hypersonic air-to-surface missiles with “characteristics” similar to that of the Kh-47M2 Kinzhal (“Dagger”) air-launched ballistic missile (ALBM), according to a Russian military aircraft industry source.
“In accordance with Russia’s State Armament Program for 2018-2027, Su-57 jet fighters will be equipped with hypersonic missiles. The jet fighters will receive missiles with characteristics similar to that of the Kinzhal missiles, but with inter-body placement and smaller size,” the source is quoted as saying by TASS news agency on December 6.
The source did not provide any additional details about the missile. Given the relative large size of the Kinzhal, the new hypersonic ALBM will likely be smaller given that it will need to fit inside the Su-57’s internal weapons bay.
The nuclear capable Kh-47M2 ALBM is thought to be a variant of the ground-launched Iskander-M short-range ballistic missile. The Iskander has an estimated range of 500 kilometers and is capable of reaching top speeds of up to Mach 5.9 in its terminal flight phase. The Kh-47M2 is currently being integrated with the MiG-31K interceptor aircraft, a modified MIG-31BM. As I explained elsewhere:
According to the Russian MoD, following its launch, the Kh-47M2 ALBM can rapidly accelerate to Mach 4 and may reach top speeds of up to Mach 10 while performing evasive maneuvers. The MoD also claims that the new missile’s range is about 2,000 kilometers. (A recent report suggests that the missile’s range can extend to over 3,000 kilometers when fired from a Tu-22M3.)
All these claims are highly questionable, as a number of analysts have pointed out in the past.
It is also unclear whether the missile would be capable of overcoming U.S. interceptor-based air defense systems such as the MIM-104 Patriot, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Aegis Combat System, as claimed by the Russians.
The Su-57 will also likely also be equipped with an air-to-air hypersonic missile, an upgraded variant of the R-37 (K-37/RVV-BD) missile, capable of reaching a top speed of Mach 6 and an estimated operational range of over 300 kilometers.
Earlier this year, the Russian MoD announced that it has no intention to mass-produce the Su-57 fighter jet. Analysts have repeatedly questioned whether the Su-57 genuinely has fifth-generation fighter jet capabilities in its current configuration.
“For example, the Russian military aviation industry still struggles with the aircraft’s next-generation engine,” I explained previously. “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.”
The Russian Air Force has placed an order for a pre-production batch of 12 Su-57 fighter jets.