Game-Changer? Russia's Su-57 Stealth Fighter Is Packing Hypersonic Missiles

Mark Episkopos

Key point: It remains to be seen how much these weapons will increase production costs of the already expensive Su-57.

In the prior months, The National Interest discussed the possibility of Russia’s fifth-generation stealth fighter being outfitted with hypersonic Kinzhal missiles. Russian state news reported Kinzhal integration on the Su-57 earlier this week: "In accordance with Russia's State Armament Program for 2018-2027, Su-57 jet fighters will be equipped with hypersonic missiles. The jet fighters will receive missiles with characteristics similar to that of the Kinzhal missiles, but with inter-body placement and smaller size," says a defense industry insider.

The prospect of hypersonic missiles on the Su-57 was previously teased by Boris Obnosov, general director of the Tactical Missiles Corporation (KTRV): “In perspective, we can certainly anticipate this [hypersonic] weaponry over the following decade. Everything will come in due time for the Su-57, likely including hypersonic weapons.”

The Kh-47M2 Kinzhal is a nuclear-capable, hypersonic missile unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin at a high-profile speech in early 2018: “The missile flying at a hypersonic speed, 10 times faster than the speed of sound, can also maneuver at all phases of its flight trajectory, which also allows it to overcome all existing and, I think, prospective anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems, delivering nuclear and conventional warheads in a range of over 2,000 kilometers.”

Prior speculation on this topic centered around the difficulties of fitting KInzhal missiles onto the Su-57, and doing so without compromising its stealth capabilities. The Russian Ministry of Defense has not issued an official confirmation at the time of writing, leaving a host of open questions about what could prove to be a major development for Russian threat projection.

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