Russian Sukhoi-57 (SU-57) makers are having a difficult time to fulfil Kremlin’s order for 76 SU-57 stealth jets.
The stealth jets first flew in 2010, but due to delays in production until 2018, the 10 SU-57 prototypes were marred with “inadequate and incomplete sensors, incomplete fire-control systems and self-protection suites, no operational integrated avionics and unreliable engines,” aviation expert Tom Cooper writes.
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The twin-engine for SU-57 is built at the Komsomolsk-on-Amur aircraft plant in the Russian Far East. According to a report in Forbes by David Axe, Sukhoi originally planned to hand over the first two production-standard SU-57s in late 2019 and two more in 2020. But the December 2019 crash of one of the jets compelled the company to halt the work on the program.
Earlier, Russian Minister of Industry, Denis Manturov, had confirmed that a contract for the acquisition of 76 Sukhoi Su-57 aircraft, Russia’s first indigenously designed and built fifth-generation stealth fighter jet, has been concluded between Moscow and United Aircraft Corporation.
Last year, Russia deployed pairs of SU-57s to Syria for what it claimed were combat trials. However, there’s no evidence to prove that the fighters actually flew front-line missions.
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“Shortly following the 2018 deployment, the Kremlin cancelled production of the SU-57 after the 28th copy, effectively cancelling the program. But Russian President Vladimir Putin in mid-2019 dramatically revived the program, announcing a plan to buy an additional 48 copies,” wrote Axe.
As reported earlier by the EurAsian Times, the SU-57 fighter jet is designed to have supercruise, supermaneuverability, stealth, and advanced avionics to overcome the prior generation fighter aircraft as well as ground and naval defences.
Russia is marketing a number of high-end combat jets to India and alongside continued sales of MiG-29 and SU-30MKI fighters. New Delhi could also possibly purchase the Yak-130 fighter-trainer and the MiG-35 next-generation medium fighter jet.
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India has shown some interest in Russia’s Su-57 next-generation heavyweight fighter, although the aircraft is yet to enter service in the Russian Air Force. New Delhi is likely to wait and assess its performance before making any commitments.
Experts stated that the possibility remains that India could seriously consider purchasing an initial batch of ‘off the shelf’ Su-57 jets from Russia to evaluate their capabilities – before entering into a contract for joint production.
According to the author, now the company plans to deliver all four fighter jets in 2020. “These are challenging tasks that will truly mobilize us,” Sergey Chemezov, CEO of Sukhoi’s umbrella company, told state media in late 2019. COVID-19 pandemic may push the delivery dates even further.
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However, Sukhoi workers are optimistic about delivering SU-57 on time. “The new aircraft is complex,” deputy workshop head Viktor Passar said, citing “composite sheathing, the latest technologies, the highest quality requirements.” “But we also have highly qualified personnel in our workshop,” Passar added.
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The author also stated that several years after building the SU-35, managers at Komsomolsk-on-Amur are setting up SU-57 production in the plant’s Shop 45. He added that managers modernized the docking ramps and upgraded the rigs for building air-intakes and engine nacelles. They also shifted airframe work from Shop No. 7 to Shop No. 45, placing as much as possible of the SU-57 assembly in one space. “Before that, there were colossal losses of time,” said Artem Oshchepkov, the Shop No. 45 supervisor.