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Is Russia Building a New Stealth Fighter to Challenge the F-35?

F-35 Russia
BF-18, Flt, Major Raven "Rost" LeClair, First External ASRAAM Flight, Edwards AFB, Ca., 8 July 2016

The Russian military has touted the features of its Sukhoi Su-57, a single-seat, twin-engine, multirole fighter that was the product of the PAK FA fighter program. Intended to succeed the MiG-29 and Su-27, the fifth-generation Su-57 is the first Russian fighter to feature stealth technology, while it was also designed to feature supercruise, supermaneuverability, and integrated avionics to overcome attacks from the prior generation fighter aircraft as well as ground and naval defenses.

Despite the hype, the Su-57 has been slow to actually arrive and the Russian Air Force only took delivery of the first of the aircraft last year. While Moscow has announced that upwards of twenty-two of the Su-57s will be produced by 2024, it appears that perhaps another aircraft is in the works as well.

On Tuesday, Tass reported that another combat aircraft will be unveiled on the first day of the MAKS-2021 aerospace show and that this undisclosed fighter could rival the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II.

“The teasers in English and the regions that the pilots presented in a video released by Rostec [state tech corporation] suggest that the domestic light fighter will be in competition with the US F-35 aircraft on foreign markets,” Oleg Panteleyev, executive director of the Russian Aviaport Aviation News Agency, told Tass.

“I am certain that the fighter’s demonstration at the MAKS-2021 will create a wow effect,” Panteleyev added. “It is not accidental that [Russia’s state arms exporter] Rosoboronexport has invited over 120 delegations from 65 countries of the world to the aerospace show.”

Few Details, Much Speculation

Tass also reported that few details about the fighter’s performance characteristics have so far been released. However, according to the data available, the latest fighter may feature low radar signatures in various bands, a high thrust to weight ratio, a large weapon payload, and advanced air-launched armaments.

“There is no doubt that in this decade Russia will be able to restore the tandem of breakthrough aircraft platforms: the heavy Su-57 [fifth-generation fighter] and a new light plane designed to cope with tactical assignments,” Panteleyev explained.

The Rostec press office also announced on Tuesday that Russia’s United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) would offer a demonstration of “a fundamentally new military plane” on the first day of the MAKS-2021 international aerospace show, which will begin on July 20 and runs through July 25 in the town of Zhukovsky, outside of Moscow. The company’s new website for the project includes a countdown to the debut at the show.

“Russia is one of the few countries of the world that possesses full-cycle technologies to produce advanced aircraft systems and is a recognized trendsetter in creating combat planes,” the Rostec press office said in a statement. “We are convinced that the new product developed by UAC specialists will evoke a genuine interest both in our country and in other regions of the world, including among our rivals abroad.”

As a source in the domestic aircraft-building industry previously told Tass in the spring of this year, the Sukhoi Aircraft Company (part of the United Aircraft Corporation) had begun development of the first Russian single-engine light tactical fighter with supersonic speed capability and low radar signature.

The Interfax news agency also reported that a meeting on aviation issues will take place on the “sidelines” of MAKS-2021, and will include the participation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Su-57 from Russia

Su-57 from Russia. Image: Creative Commons.

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.