Russia’s New SU-57 Fighter a $7 Billion Liability

  • The conclusion of a major contract has significantly reduced the cost of each aircraft separately.
  • A toothed-shaped nozzle with a controlled thrust vector will make it less visible to radar.
  • It is not as great as Lockheed Martin's 5th generation fighter jet.

Russia announced a 5th generation prototype of the SU-57 fighter jet. The new model, Metropolis,  is expected to be completed  by 2022. The tests of the Metropolis are scheduled to start in two years. Currently, tests of pre-production samples of the SU-57 are being completed.

The Sukhoi Su-57 is a stealth, single-seat, twin-engine multirole fifth-generation jet fighter being developed since 2002 for air superiority and attack operations.

The contract for the first batch of 76 production vehicles for the Russian Defense Ministry was signed at the Army-2019 forum. It should be completed by the end of 2027. The conclusion of a major contract has significantly reduced the cost of each aircraft separately. The contract was signed for 500 billion rubles ($7.17 billion) for the new SU-57 batch.

Metropolis will have a brand new engine, including brand new avionics systems. The new engine design is being completed by the EUC-UFA. One of the biggest advantages of the new engine is the increased thrust-to-weight ratio. It will allow you to develop supersonic speed without turning on the afterburner.

Also, the engine will have better performance characteristics, including an increased resource. A plasma ignition system will improve combustion of the fuel. The new electronics, with more compact elements and improved weapons systems, have appeared.

Some of the other prototypes started being tested this year. Russia released a limited amount of photos during testing earlier in the year. However, due to the Coronavirus pandemic additional testing was delayed. The Coronavirus pandemic continues to be a major obstacle for a lot of scheduled projects, including in the defense sector.

Additionally, the new jet will have a toothed-shaped nozzle with a controlled thrust vector. This reduces visibility of the fighter by radar.

The Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II is an American family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather stealth multirole combat aircraft. The F-35B entered service with the U.S. Marine Corps in July 2015, followed by the U.S. Air Force F-35A in August 2016 and the U.S. Navy F-35C in February 2019.

The head test pilot stated that “SU-57 will be equipped with the most modern equipment, while fundamental changes to the design of the aircraft will not be made.” In his opinion, the development of a new modification was made at the stage when the basic version of the fighter is not yet completed. It is necessary that the manufacturer subsequently began to produce an upgraded aircraft without wasting time.

However, as much as there is excitement about the fifth generation jet, overall, it won’t be anything amazing. At the end, some of the parts are coming from Boeing and some are from Russian manufacturers. There are much better, new technologies that Russia has and is working on.

The price point for Russia is also extreme. Suhoi also had severe issues with its civilian super jet, which included major catastrophes. Ironically, the consultant on the latter was Boeing. The jet does not even have specs to be called 5th generation. Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II is far superior. That is a true 5th generation jet.

This one is just not a winner for Russia. The costs, and already one major loss of the prototype signal, are severe problems with the jet as it is. The information provided does not constitute superiority in the defense segment. It will be a fail for Russia.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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