An Open Secret: Russia Will Never Become a Stealth Fighter 'Superpower'

David Axe
By Vitaly V. Kuzmin - http://www.vitalykuzmin.net/Military/MAKS-2017-Flight-program/, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=61602600

David Axe

Technology, Europe

Why not?

An Open Secret: Russia Will Never Become a Stealth Fighter 'Superpower'

Speaking on May 15, 2019, Putin said the Kremlin would buy scores of Su-57s over the next eight years. If Putin is serious and the Russian defense ministry follows through on the pledge, Russia soon could possess a meaningful number of stealth fighters. But there are good reasons to be skeptical.

But buying into the Su-57 program won’t magically solve the program’s problems. The Su-57 is an immature design whose production line is small and inefficient. That won’t quickly or cheaply change.

Russian president Vladimir Putin made a big show on May 14, 2019 of visiting the 929th Chkalov State Flight-Test Center in Russia's Astrakhan region.

(This first appeared in May 2019.)

Six Sukhoi Su-57 stealth fighters -- fully half of the Su-57s that Sukhoi has built since the type first flew in 2010 -- escorted Putin’s Il-96 VIP plane on the trip from Moscow to Astrakhan.

Speaking on May 15, 2019, Putin said the Kremlin would buy scores of Su-57s over the next eight years. If Putin is serious and the Russian defense ministry follows through on the pledge, Russia soon could possess a meaningful number of stealth fighters.

But there are good reasons to be skeptical. The Su-57 still isn’t a mature design. It lacks key combat systems. Sukhoi hasn’t set up a big, efficient production line for the type. And Moscow almost certainly doesn’t have the money to buy a large number of stealth fighters.

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