Russian Su-57 stealth fighter jet program, considered Russia’s answer to the United States’ F-35 and F-22, has completed 10 years since its first flight on January 29, 2010 but yet to enter squadron service.
While Russian Air Force has placed 76 orders for the jet in 2018 the serial production is understood to have suffered a setback following the crash of the first serial Su-57 some 110–120 km away from the Dzyomgi Airport, Khabarovsk Krai, during the final stage of its factory trials due to malfunction of the control system.
Russia‘s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) which is anchoring the Su-57 program revealed the jet’s export version designated as the Su-57E. It is not clear how different it is from the stock version. The export version was first shown to the Turkish President Recep Erdogan, amidst Ankara’s ouster from the F-35 Fighter jet program.
The Su-57 fighter jet features stealth technology with the broad use of composite materials, is capable of developing supersonic cruising speed (with second-stage engine) and has a powerful onboard computer that takes up some pilot duties, the radar system spread across its body and some other innovations that match if not exceed competing aircraft such as the American F-35, F-22 and the Chinese J-20.
The designation ‘57’ is believed to have been inspired by adding up 35 and 22, according to an official of UAC quoted in Russian media indicating that it has features of the air superiority craft –F22 and the air-to-ground combat jet, the F-35.
The Su-57’s all important “second stage” engine which allows the aircraft to perform ‘super-cruise function,’ was test-flown only towards the end of 2018. It has not been revealed if this engine powers all subsequent prototypes and how many copies of the new engine has been placed upon engine manufacturer, UEC.
The Jet has been ‘combat tested’ in Syria with all of its critical equipment performing to set parameters, according to Russian media.
Victor Kladov, director of international cooperation and regional policy at Russia’s Rostec (the parent company of UEC) has been recently quoted in the media as saying, “China has recently taken delivery of 24 Su-35S aircraft. In the next two years or so it has to make a decision either to procure additional Su-35s, build the Su-35 in China, or buy a fifth-generation fighter aircraft. So, there is one more opportunity for the Su-57E.”
While Russian officials have shown considerable enthusiasm in projecting the international appeal of the Su-57E, the fact remains that potential foreign buyers have not been rushing to see the jet in flesh and blood. An expected participation in the Dubai airshow did not materialize and the aircraft is not slated to participate in any event outside Russia during 2020.