RIP F-35: Russia Could Turn Su-57 Into 6th Generation Super Stealth Fighter

Russia could turn its first fifth-generation fighter, the Sukhoi Su-57, into a sixth-generation fighter the former head of the Russian Aerospace Force, chief Col. Gen. Viktor Bondarev recently told TASS.

“This is actually a splendid plane and it can embrace both fifth-and sixth-generation features. It has huge modernization potential,” Bondarev, now chairman of the Federation Council Defense and Security Committee, said. “Importantly, it is the best among the existing versions by its stealth characteristics. It incorporates all the best that is available in modern aviation science both in Russia and in the world,” he added.

As reported by Franz-Stefan Gady in an extensive piece for The Diplomat, Russian defense officials have repeatedly claimed that hardware elements designed for a future sixth generation fighter have been tested on the Su-57 prototype, including flight and navigation systems as well as advanced electronic warfare and radar systems.

Noteworthy Russia revealed the design of a new sixth-generation fighter aircraft for the first time in March 2016. According to Russian defense officials, the new aircraft is slated to be available in manned and unmanned configuration and could take to the air for the first time in the late 2020s.

In the meantime, the Su-57 development is continuing, but Bondarev warned that it will take time for the new aircraft to be introduced into service. “In the first year, the Aerospace Force won’t get 20 or 15 planes. It will get only two or three and so on,” he said on Nov. 1. Russian Air and Space Force (RuASF) is currently testing nine Su-57 prototypes with two additional aircraft expected to be delivered to the service by the end of 2017.

However, it is not clear yet if the Su-57 can be deemed as a fifth-generation fighter. The aircraft aimed to replace RuASF’s MiG-29 and Su-27 fourth-generation fighters. The Su-57 is the product of the PAK FA (literally “Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation”) program. The Su-57 is a single-seat, twin-engine multirole fifth-generation fighter aircraft designed for air superiority and attack roles and will be the first aircraft in Russian military service to use stealth technology.

As we have already explained the main Su-57 problem is that it still lacks an engine that can meet the specifications Bondarev is claiming.

In fact the Su-57 prototypes are equipped with a derivative of the Saturn AL-41F1S engine, dubbed AL-41F1, which also powers engine the Sukhoi Su-35S Flanker-E.