Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Russia Eyes Three Potential Customers For Sukhoi Su-57 Stealth Fighter Jets

After some initial hiccups, the Russian fifth-gen Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighter jet had drawn considerable attention in international exhibitions earlier this year, with India, Turkey, and Algeria emerging as potential buyers.

The Su-57 is Russia’s answer to the American stealth duo — F-22 and F-35. The fifth-generation fighter comes equipped with advanced stealth technology, which ensures a low level of radar and infrared signature.

The twin-engine fighter jet can take out any target and develop supersonic cruising speed. While the combat aircraft took to the skies a decade ago, it entered service only late last year.

Despite its stellar performance, the Su-57 program did not have a smooth take-off. In December 2019, the first serially-produced Su-57 had reportedly crashed in Russia’s Far East during its initial testing. Around the same time, India also raised concerns about buying Su-57.

Besides, US think tank RAND Corporation had published a report last summer questioning whether Su-57 can even be considered a fifth-generation aircraft. It pointed out that “current prototypes have been outfitted with an older engine”.

Nevertheless, Sergei Chemezov, managing director of the Russian state-owned Rostec asserted that the second stage engine will be assembled in 2022, as per the schedule.

Although India was earlier hesitant about purchasing Su-57, now it is believed to have expressed interest in the export variant of the fighter aircraft- Su-57E. In 2019, Indian Air Force chief RK Singh Bhadauria had announced that its own AMCA (Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft) program will have fifth-generation aircraft “soon.”

The announcement had come after India had dropped out of a joint program with Russia. The indigenous fighter jet plan seems to be moving ahead, in the wake of the border conflict with China, and the Indian government is expected to approve the program this year.

The full model display of the Su-57E fighter during the Aero India exhibition in Bengaluru in February this year probably revived India’s interest in the Russian aircraft. After the IDEX-2021 armament exhibition in Abu Dhabi in the same month, Russian news agency TASS reported that Moscow has received a number of requests from foreign customers.

“If we speak about the Su-57E, this aircraft evokes high interest in many countries because it features unique combat properties and flight characteristics,” Viktor Kladov, Rostec’s Director for International Cooperation and Regional Policy said.

Other than India, potential buyers include Algeria and Turkey. Turkey, which has been ejected from the US F-35 fighter program for its S-400 deal with Moscow, could find the Russian Su-57 as a good option.

Despite such export possibilities, Russia has emphasized that its own priorities come first. The Russian military will be supplied with 76 jets by 2028, 22 of which will be operational by 2024.

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