Russia deployed Su-57 Stealth Fighters in Syria
Israeli satellite imagery has confirmed the deployment of Russia’s newest Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jets in war-torn Syria.
In one of the video clips, which first emerged online on Feb. 21, 2018, a Su-35 Flanker-E fighter jet, which the Russians have already deployed to Syria, is also seen flying nearby. Additional unconfirmed reports said that the Su-57s were part a larger group of Russian aircraft arriving in the country, including four additional Su-35s, four Su-25 Frogfoot ground-attack aircraft, and an A-50U Mainstay airborne early warning aircraft, all types the Russians have previously deployed to the country.
It’s not clear what might have prompted the deployment of the stealthy fighters, which remain in the development stage. As of January 2018, Russia had received less than a dozen flyable pre-production prototypes and the design has suffered repeated setbacks. The War Zone’s own Tyler Rogoway has also rightly called into question just how low-observable the aircraft really are based on number of specific features.
Russian forces have hit targets in Syria with long-range air- and sea-launched cruise missiles that it had not previously had an opportunity to employ in an actual combat setting. It has deployed its latest Flanker fighter jet derivatives, as well as the Su-34, and sent the Tu-95MS Bear and Tu-160M Blackjack strategic bombers on long endurance strike missions. It has also employed a variety of other specialized aircraft, including the A-50U airborne early warning plane and its new Tu-214R spy planes.
On the ground there are S-400 surface-to-air missile systems, ground-based cruise missiles, and various electronic warfare systems, among other assetsRussia has had few chances to use under actual operational conditions. The Russian Navy’s lone aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, even made a brief, if embarrassingly deployment to support operations in Syria.
The Kremlin hasn’t hidden its true objectives in this regard, either. Senior Russian officials often boast about how Syria has demonstrated its advanced military capabilities, despite this being a debatable assertion at best.
“According to the Defense Ministry, 215 up-to-date and dramatically new types of weapons were used. Many samples of current military equipment were put to test [in Syria],” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in January 2018. “”The use of our weapons in Syria has convincingly proven that by its armament the Russian military is among the world’s leading armies.”
If nothing else, just sending the Su-57s to Syria could offer Russia a chance to “prove” it also has an operational fifth-generation fighter jet, especially after years of delays and embarrassing accidents, regardless of whether or not that claim is true. It would allow the Kremlin to present itself as being on an equal footing as the Americans with their F-22s in the eastern portion of the country, even though two stealth fighters of dubious quality would hardly be a match for the Raptors, as well.
With all that in mind, it’s hard to imagine that the Russians wouldn’t consider sending the jets to Syria at some point in the future. In the meantime, we will be sure to keep an eye out for any confirmation that the Su-57s are in Syria now and we’ll continue to update this post as more information becomes available.