The authoritative French newspaper Le Figaro wrote an article stating that Russian troops in Ukraine deployed «their most modern Su-57 fighter.» The fifth-generation fighter, which entered service in 2020, will be used by the Russians for air-to-air or air-to-ground missions, according to British intelligence. Let’s see where and how the Russian military used this type of aircraft.
«Ghost» modern fighter
The development of a new combat aircraft began long before its first flight in 2010. In 1999, work began on the aircraft under the nickname T-50. The Su-57 is the first aircraft in Russian military service designed with stealth technology and is intended to be the basis for a family of stealth combat aircraft.
“The concept of the fifth generation provides for low radar visibility of cars. In view of this, the entire combat load should be placed not on underwing suspensions, but in compartments inside the fuselage of the aircraft. According to Russian data, such placement of the combat load is associated with serious difficulties — only a few samples of Russian aviation weapons can be placed in the compartments of the Su-57. Based on this, we can conclude that the most modern Russian fighter is like a dove of peace: the means of defeat that it can use for an attack are so far only on paper and in numerous advertising brochures,” stated the aviation observer of the Ukrainian online newspaper «Dumskaya» Sergei Smolentsev.
So, the first sorties were made in 2010, but it entered service only in 2020. Prior to this, several Su-57s were tested in Syria. It is difficult to call it fighting. Opponents of the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria do not have any significant air force or air defense system.
Use in the war against Ukraine
According to British intelligence, the missions of the «ultra-modern» fifth-generation fighter from the military space forces of the Russian Federation were limited to «launching long-range air-to-surface or air-to-air missiles on the territory of Ukraine from the territory of the Russian Federation.» They record such activity, “at least since June.”
According to Ukrainian sources, the use of the Su-57 began in April 2022 and was confirmed by attacks on the Odesa seaport and facilities in the Kirovohrad region.
According to the Oryx, as of January 13, 2023, the Russian army lost at least 64 combat aircraft destroyed, and three more are listed as damaged, including strategic bombers, front-line bombers, modern fighters, multi-role combat aircraft, and Soviet-style attack aircraft. This is only visually confirmed information from open sources. Official information from the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reports 286 enemy combat aircraft were destroyed.
Experts attribute the limited use of the Su-57 to the fact that the Russian side fears the loss of the latest, but far from the most reliable combat aircraft, as a very strong image blow.
Incidents and numbers
According to the military statistics authority The Military Balance 2022: “the first series-production Su-57 Felon joined the flight-test program in December 2020. However, it was not delivered to a front-line unit but was instead sent to the 929th State Flight Test Center at Akhtubinsk. Perhaps up to three more of these aircraft are planned to be delivered by the end of 2021, with entry into service still some way off. According to the procurement plan, the first deliveries of the ‘tranche two’ Su-57, with a new, more powerful engine and improved avionics, will begin no earlier than 2024.”
This was the situation at the end of 2021.
Another source estimates that by mid-2022 Russia “had at least six more operational Su-57s. Some first-stage prototypes are also operational, although their exact number is unclear, and their combat potential is debatable.»
Depending on the counting system, the Russian Federation now has from three to 15 Su-57s, most of which are pre-production prototypes. In total, 76 aircraft of this type should be supplied to the armed forces of the Russian Federation.
Russian sources, as a rule, are very fond of praising their developments, although they are also forced to admit a huge backlog in the number of cars produced.
Incidents accompanied the aircraft from the beginning of flight tests. In 2011 and 2014 there were incidents without the loss of an aircraft, and in 2019 the aircraft was lost during testing, the pilot survived.
The number of Su-57s is not enough to turn the tide of the war or even to influence it in any serious way. The number of pre-production copies is small and they are unlikely to be used in open combat, because. Russia is very afraid of losing its latest developments. Obviously, if the Su-57 will be used in the war, then only for delivering missile strikes at a safe distance from the borders of Ukraine, which again emphasizes the need to transfer modern air defense and air defense systems to Ukraine.