A numbers game that Moscow can't win.
Stealth vs. Stealth: Why Russia Might Have No Real Way to Beat America's Best Fighters
Can Russia’s aviation industry produce a sufficient number of fighters of sufficient reliability to have a significant strategic impact?
The PAK FA (now known as the Su-57) has played the bugbear for Western air forces for nearly a decade, the terrifying Russian jet that will eat F-35s for breakfast. American aviation analysts in search of something, anything that might threaten U.S. air dominance settled on the PAK FA, a frankly evil looking jet that bore a very mild resemblance to the MiG-31 “Firefox” that Clint Eastwood made famous.
Say what you will about the F-35, but Lockheed Martin has actually built and delivered one hundred and seventy one aircraft thus far. The Russian Air Force, meanwhile, has yet to receive its first PAK FA. In lieu of the PAK FA, Russia has continued to acquire generation 4.5 fighters (mostly of the Flanker family) as well as upgrading generation 4 fighters (including various Flankers, the MiG-29 Fulcrum, and the MiG-31 Foxhound). Sukhoi will likely never build the number of fighters that Western analysts expected, or that the Russian Air Force wanted.
(This article first appeared in 2016.)