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Russia set to launch its Su-57 ‘stealth’ fighter that isn’t actually stealth

T-50, the Russian Su-57 prototype. (Dmitry Terekhov/Flickr)
October 16, 2018

Russia is slated to implement the fifth-generation Su-57 stealth fighter jet into their air force fleet despite its inferior stealth capabilities.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexei Krivoruchko confirmed that the jets will be delivered on schedule, beginning next year and over the next eight years, according to a TASS Russian News Agency report on Friday.

“The delivery of multirole Su-57 fighter jets to aviation units of the Russian Aerospace Forces will be carried out in line with the state arms procurement program until 2027,” he said.

Trials of the fifth-generation Su-57 prototypes are underway and should be completed by late next year. The aircraft made their first flight in Dec. 2017, and two were deployed to a combat mission in Syria during Feb. 2018, during which they fired cruise missiles.

Russia claims the results have been promising, although outside analysts have criticized the plane’s stealth capabilities.

Although the fighter jet features radar-absorbing materials and internal weapons bays to reduce the radar signature, it did not successfully achieve viable stealth capabilities.

A 2016 report revealed that the Su-57 had numerous issues, including “engine performance, the reliability of its AESA radar, and poor stealth engineering,” Business Insider reported. An analysis showed that it had a much larger radar cross-section, and was “significantly less stealthy than its US equivalents.”

The radar cross-section of the Su-57 was estimated to be “0.3 to 0.5 square meters” whereas the U.S. F-22’s radar cross-section is “0.0001 square meters.”

Mass production of the Su-57 has been delayed until late 2020, but Russia insists that the plane’s design has nothing to do with the decision.

In July, Russia announced the mass production delay. “The Su-57 is considered to be one of the best aircrafts produced in the world. Consequently, it does not make sense to speed up work on mass-producing the fifth-generation aircraft,” said Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov, according to The Diplomat.

“The plane has proven to be very good, including in Syria, where it confirmed its performance and combat capabilities,” Borisov said.

However, the delay coupled with the fighter jet’s praise has left many wondering why Russia isn’t moving ahead with mass production if the jet is so good.

Russia ordered an initial batch of 12 Su-57 jets in a contract with Sukhoi Company at a price of $40-$45 million each. Some speculate that the delay of mass production is related to Russia’s already bloated defense budget.

The first two fifth-generation Su-57s will be implemented into the Russian Aerospace Forces in 2019.

The Su-57 is a multi-role fighter jet thought to be a counter to the United States’ F-35 and F-22 fighter jets. With a huge payload capacity, the Su-57 has the capability of carrying ballistic and nuclear weapons.

“The jet can engage a broad range of guided and unguided weapons, including air-to-air short, medium and long-range missiles, air-to-surface guided missiles of various families, smart bombs of 250, 500 and 1500 kg (the latter from outside suspension),” TASS reported.