One of the rarest fighter aircraft ever to leave the drawing boards, the Russian Su-47 ‘Berkut’, also called C-37 was on display at last week’s MAKS airshow in Zkukovsky near Moscow.
A dramatic upgrade in technology compared to the Mig-29 and the Su-27, the Su-47 was a leap to the fifth generation. A Mach 2 top speed to outrun enemy aircraft and stealth features to hide it from the best radar technology then available, made it the most advanced technology demonstrator aircraft in the world.
With only one aircraft ever made, the Su-47 is characterized by a forward swept wing that was expected to give it unique maneuverability and aerodynamic characteristics at a time when the United States’ F-22 was on the drawing board.
The Su-47 demonstrator jet first flew on September 25, 1997 and subsequently performed at the MAKS airshows- the last one being in 2005. Since then the aircraft has not left the hangers and hence it was a surprise to see it make an appearance 14 years later, in 2019 albeit in the static displays.
The Su-47 was conceived during the Soviet era to give Russia’s an edge in combat aviation. Sukhoi Design Bureau was tasked with developing an aircraft that could penetrate heavily defended enemy territory with a full weapons load for precision attack missions.
The turmoil of the post-Soviet period was responsible for the program to have stalled at one prototype despite the aircraft exhibiting some seriously exciting maneuvering during air show displays and many of its electronic systems and engine having been validated.
However, the Su-47 is claimed to have passed on some its genes to the 57 stealth jet, the latest Russian fighter fifth generation fighter aircraft. An official from Russian’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) which controls the combat aircraft programs of all Russian design bureaus told defenseworld.net that exhibiting the Su-47 during the launch of the Su-57E “has some meaning.”
Two significant technologies that were developed for the Su-47 ‘Berkut,’ are understood to have made their way into the Su-57. A digital fly-by-wire flight control system and the use of composite materials in its airframe. The new Sukhoi Su-57 makes use of these technologies partially as a result of testing done with the Su-47.
The Su-47 was also said to be equipped with radar absorbing material and the unique shape, unlike the Migs and Sukhois of its generation, is said to have given it stealth characteristics. The all-black paint, expect for the white snout, too added to its stealth credentials.
However, the stand-out feature of the Su-47, the Forward Swept Wings (FSW) did the program in due to excessive drag despite the gain in aerodynamic ability. The FSW feature was intended to facilitate increased maneuverability at low speeds and high angles of attack, improve spin resistance, shorten take off distances, and decrease air resistance during cruise phase.