Tuesday, November 30, 2021

How Did The US Navy Add ‘Russia’s Most-Advanced Fighter Jet’ – Su-57 Felon To Its Fleet

The Russian Su-57 fighter jet is one of the most potent aircraft and the only fourth operational stealth jet in the world. Has the US Navy managed to get hold of the Su-57s? 

The US Navy’s “adversary training” unit, the VFC-12, has unveiled its first “replica” of the Russian Sukhoi Su-57 Felon.

The Fighter Squadron Composite 12 or VFC-12 is infamous for replicating enemy fighters. Based at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia, VFC-12 provides adversary training to pilots, and uses the radio callsign ‘Ambush’.  

Now, it has a Russian Su-57 lookalike in its fleet, which is basically a F/A 18-E Super Hornet with new body paint. The color scheme is dubbed “Mako” within the VFC-12 circles while the same is called “White Shark” in Russia. 

The newly painted “adversary jet” was revealed during a change-of-command ceremony on June 18 at NAS Oceana, The Drive reported

What Does VCF-12 Do?

Based at the Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia, the VCF-12 is one of the four adversary units of the US Navy that specializes in “camouflage patterns from potential threat nations”.

By replicating the color schemes, insignia, and markings of their adversary jets, the US Navy exposes the fighter aircrew to unfamiliar aircraft and challenges their visual range to distinguish adversaries from the regular US gray fleet. 

A US Navy Super Hornet in Su-57 color scheme. (Credit: VFC-12)

Known as “Fighting Omars”, the VCF-12 has in the past operated Hornets in camouflage schemes similar to Su-27 Flankers, Su-34 Fullbacks among other Russian jets.

But it has become the first Navy unit to shift from “Legacy” Hornets to operate the Super Hornets in the adversary role. 

The Super Hornets

The Boeing F/A 18-E/F Super Hornet is a twin-engine, multirole fighter aircraft which is one of the variants of Hornet aircraft in the US Navy. 

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The Hornet has been in service since 1999 and involved in significant missions like Operation Iraqi Freedom and dropped bombs on Taliban and Islamic State forces. The original “Legacy” Hornet got upgraded to Super Hornet, a larger aircraft with a more powerful engine and fuel carrying capacity. 

The Super Hornet can carry air-to-air missiles as well as air-to-surface weapons, making it one of the most lethal, advanced, combat-proven, multi-role frontline fighters in service today.

The Eurasian Times earlier reported on the manufacturer, Boeing pitching the F/A-18 Block III Super Hornet to the Indian Navy for its aircraft carriers. 

“The Super Hornet’s unique differentiators for the Indian Navy include its two-seater carrier-compatibility which provides operational flexibility to integrate future technologies related to manned and unmanned interface from aircraft carriers,” said Ankur Kanaglekar, the head of India Fighters Sales, Boeing. 

Last week, the Hornet was in the news after the US Navy made history in successfully conducting air-to-air refueling. An unmanned aircraft, the MQ-25 transferred jet fuel to the F/A-18 Super Hornet. 

“The MQ-25 is foundational to the Navy’s Unmanned Campaign Framework and is the first step toward a future fleet augmented by unmanned systems to pace the evolving challenges of the 21st century,” the US Navy said in a statement.

The Su-57 Felon

The iconic Su-57 Felon is a twin-engine, multi-role aircraft and Russia’s sole fifth-generation stealth fighter jet. 

With recent entry into service in 2020, Russia became the newest member of the elite club of operational fifth-generation jets, which includes American duo F-22, F-35, and China’s J-20.

While there is no official explanation provided by the VCF-12 for choosing Su-57 to replicate, it is likely due to the challenge the latter could pose to US’ fifth-generation fighters. 

A Russian Su-57 Felon

Experts have since been speculating on which fighter is deadlier than the other, making the three countries upgrade existing models with innovative and advanced technologies. 

Russia is reportedly making a deadlier version of its Su-57 to match US’ single-engine F-16 and F-35 jets, according to Nitin J. Ticku, a defense analyst with The Eurasian Times.

Last week, a video emerged in which the Su-57 was defeated by the pilot of the US F-35 in the popular video game,’ Battleground’. The video thrilled security and aviation experts on the F-35’s exceptional manoeuver capabilities. 

Future Plans of VFC-12 

In an article published last year, The War Zone mentioned a mix of paint schemes that the VFC-12 has planned to replicate the Chinese, Russian, Iranian, and North Korean fighters. 

There has been speculation that the next color scheme will be “Sierra”, based on a three-tone camouflage pattern. 

In a bid to replace all legacy Hornets with superior and low-maintenance jets, the US Navy is also looking to acquire F-16 Vipers from the US Air Force to complement Super Hornets in the adversary role, according to the US Navy’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget request.

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