For more than a century, Russians have been playing catch-up with American aviation. Though they have produced some capable fighters, their technology is always more-than-one step behind that of their global nemesis. And the new SU-57 is no exception. The stealth aircraft, though brand new, isn’t living up to its hype.
The first SU-57 flew in 2010. It is designed to be a capable opponent for the F-22 and the F-35.
The Russians are touting this new plane as an “aerial ghost.” Business Insider, cites a “senior scientist working on stealth aircraft” stateside who disagrees. He calls it a “dirty aircraft.” There are visual indications that the plane won’t evade radar as planned.
While Russia’s aviation is behind the curve, their weapons are not. They have capable weapons. Yet there’s a catch. “Two of the plane’s most fearsome weapons, the Kh-35UEm a subsonic, anti-ship cruise missile, and the nuclear-capable BrahMos-A supersonic cruise missile,” BI reports, “can’t fit in the internal weapons bay and must hang from the wings.”
Weapons hanging from the wings are counterproductive for stealth technology. The exterior angles of the plane are what deflects radar. These weapons would bounce signals back.
And while there have been numerous changes to the exterior of the aircraft, the engine remains the same. The SU-57 runs off the same engine as the previous generation of Russian fighters.
There are plans for new engines, but those plans are hardly on pace. While the current platform may be ready for flight this year, the plan for new engines are slated for 2025. By that point, the platform will be well and truly outdated, as these technologies are maturing much faster than previous platforms.
Meanwhile the United States is focusing on much lower tech aircraft. Testing is currently underway for a light attack aircraft that allow for close ground support. Most of the contenders for this role are slow moving turbo-props. The technology only works for a military that enjoys complete and total air superiority.
And these armored crop dusters, which is literally what one entrant is, are a slap in the face of those hoping to field aircraft capable of holding their own against the U.S. military.