Russia is expected to showcase the Sukhoi Su-57 fighter aircraft, the country’s first purported indigenously designed and built fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, at the MAKS airshow, held at the Zhukovky International Airport, southeast of Moscow in late August, state arms exporter Rosoboronexport said in a statement last week.
“The delegations from the Air Force and all the guests of the MAKS international aerospace show in the town of Zhukovsky near Moscow will be able to view the newest Su-57 fifth-generation fighter jets from August 27 to September 1,” the Rosoboronexport statement reads. Two Su-57 prototypes also participated in the 2017 iteration of the MAKS airshow, where the aircraft engaged in mock aerial combat.
Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the Russian Air Force will procure a total of 76 Su-57s by 2028. “The 2028 arms program stipulated the purchase of 16 such jets,” Putin said on May 15 during a defense meeting, according to TASS news agency. “We have agreed to purchase 76 such fighters without the increase in prices in the same period of time.”
However, Putin noted that no contract for the 76 Su-57 fighter jets has been signed to date. Ten Su-57 prototypes are currently undergoing various stages of testing and evaluation with the Russian Air Force with two Su-57s slated to be delivered to the service in 2019 and 2020.
It is unclear whether the Russian military aviation industry has the capacity to produce 76 aircraft by 2028. As I wrote last month:
Notably, the aircraft will not enter serial production until 2020, as I reported previously. This has principally to do with delays surrounding the Su-57s engine. The Saturn izdeliye 30 will not be ready for serial production until at least 2020.
The new engine features increased thrust and fuel efficiency and is reportedly fitted with 3D thrust vectoring nozzles. All of the 10 Su-57 prototypes have been fitted with a derivative of the Russian-made Saturn AL-41F1S engine, the AL-41F1, an older aircraft engine also installed on the Sukhoi Su-35S Flanker-E.
The Su-57 lacks high-end low-observable design features and the aircraft’s sensor suite and other mission systems continue to suffer from developmental issues. The aircraft also reportedly cannot carry some of Russia’s most advanced air-launched weapons systems, including the BrahMos-A and KH-35UE, in its internal weapons bay, turning the missiles into radar cross section hotspots.
The Su-57 should not be compared with Western-made fifth-generation aircraft such as Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor of the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter in terms of stealth capabilities, as the aircraft has to fulfill different operational requirements under Russian Air Force doctrine.
It is also remains uncertain whether Russia has the financial means to build a fleet of 76 Su-57 aircraft, although Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu noted last month that the per-unit cost per aircraft and associated equipment went down by 20 percent.