Russia’s 5th generation fighter aircraft, The Su-57, has been in the news a lot lately. Following are the News Related to SU-57
- SU-57 deployment to war-torn Syria late last February
- India’s decision to finally walk away from the joint program
- Russia’s delaying mass production of Su-57 stealth fighter jet for now!
Russia’s inability to afford decent sized production and the aircraft’s ongoing engine saga also have taken their toll on the program. And above all else, the aircraft’s degree of low-observability (stealthiness) has long been in question, as it lacked many of the key features that define modern stealth fighters.
But none of this conclusively means the Su-57 doesn’t have some redeemable qualities and features that are worth pointing out. To some degree, the Su-57 is a misunderstood aircraft.
Here are five features we like on the Su-57
1) Side Facing Cheek-Mounted Radars
2) Infrared Search and Track
3) Directional Infrared Countermeasures System
4) 3D Thrust Vectoring
5) Unique Weapons Bay Configuration
In the end, it’s clear Russia has done the best it can when it comes to making up for limitations low-observable know-how by adding other capabilities that would help the Su-57 survive in a fight. And as we always like to stress, stealth is just one part of an array of measures that can collectively mean the difference between life and death in the air combat arena. Electronic warfare especially, when combined with low observability, is becoming more of a factor than ever in modern a combat.
And remember, when we talk about stealth, even on just the radio frequency spectrum, we are talking about how far away a target can be detected and how far it can be engaged using a particular radar operating on a particular band while viewing a target from a particular aspect.
Given the same X-band pulse Doppler radar set, maybe (just for hypothetical example) a Su-27 can be detected head-on at 90 miles, while a Su-57 can be detected head-on at 35 miles while the F-22 can be detected at under ten miles. Sure that’s a big disparity in performance, but that’s just one aspect of a very complex air combat equation. Once again, this includes networking, the sensitivity of onboard passive sensors, standoff weapon performance, degrees of low-observability from various aspects, electronic warfare, tactics, speed, range, the persistent support aircraft like airborne early warning and control aircraft, and so much more. The cost of the aircraft itself and the quantitative advantage that may go along with it can’t also be overlooked.
We don’t know the exact quality and level of integration of the Su-57’s sensors and mission systems, but on paper at least, no, the Su-57 isn’t ‘junk’ at all. It represents a rather clever mix of capabilities that are tailored to Russia’s more austere, less networked, air-battle doctrine, and it’s more than capable of taking on enemies it’s more likely to fight than some Armageddon war with the United States. That being said, with tight rules of engagement, like those over Syria, many of even its most capable opponent’s abilities are rendered neutral anyway. So if Russia can continue to finance it and sort out its engine issues, the Su-57 is set to become a capable highly valued fighter that is better than anything else in the Russian Air Force’s inventory.