Russia’s Su-57 Stealth Fighter – Ready for War in Ukraine? There have been some observers shooting videos of what they think are Su-57 Felon fighters over Ukraine escorting bombers for an attack run at targets to support the invasion. These are unconfirmed reports and on February 24, the India Today media outlet has fact-checked that video shared by many and determined that it is actually old footage that was shot before the invasion.
That’s why it is important not to overreact to early footage posted on social media from any war. One thing is certain, Su-57s, if employed by Russia, would be conducting their first employment aside from when they flew in Syria, where they were tested and not used in combat.
Su-57 Not Likely to Be Deployed During Ukrainian Invasion
But will Su-57s actually be used over Ukraine? Military Watch magazine said on February 17 that the aerial combat order of battle for the Russians would be focused on Su-35s and not Su-57s.
“The presence of multiple Su-35 squadrons are expected to both ensure total air superiority over Ukraine within hours, potentially deterring Ukrainian fighter from taking off at all, while also serving as a deterrent to possible intervention by NATO member states. Notably missing from any expected Russian intervention force, however, is the country’s newest and most capable fighter the Su-57 Felon which is its fifth-generation combat jet.”
Su-57 – The Numbers Aren’t There
Military Watch said that Su-57s just do not have the numbers to form a squadron and that they “lack operational readiness” and are “far from ready for a major war.” The Russian Air Force will instead “….test new technologies and armaments and familiarize the Russian military with their next generation systems.”
Specifications of the Su-57
The Su-57, made by Sukhoi, is a single-seat, twin-engine fighter with stealth characteristics. It’s not believed to be as stealthy as its competitors such as the American F-22 and F-35 or the Chinese J-20. The Su-57 will replace the MiG-29s and the Su-27s in Russia’s fleet.
Powerful Engines On-board
The two Saturn AL-41F1 afterburning turbofan engines can produce nearly 20,000 pounds of thrust and speeds of MACH 2. The range is 2,200 miles with a 66,000 foot ceiling.
It Has the Arms You’d Expect
The Su-57 can hold munitions outside and inside the airplane. It is able to carry an assortment of different missiles (anti-ship, air-to-air, and anti-radiation) plus guided and unguided bombs.
The Ukrainian Air Force Is Weak
The Su-57 may not even be needed in the Ukraine aerial campaign because the Ukrainians only have 125 aging fighter planes inherited from the Soviet Union with no fifth-generation fighters. Ukraine has not developed its own new fighter plane in decades – not since 1991.
The New Su-57 Fighter Is Still in Testing Mode
The Russians may still decide to test the Su-57 over Ukraine like they did in Syria without it engaging in combat. This could be a likely scenario as Russia’s air force could collect data on airworthiness. The Su-57 has only been in service with the Russians since 2020. They have hopes of producing 75 Su-57s by 2030.
But it has to be frustrating for the Russians that its top fighter is not ready for combat. They will likely have air superiority over Ukraine without the need for anything stealthy. They probably wanted to use the Su-57 in a bombing role as it could evade radar and destroy targets deep inside Ukraine.
Now serving as 1945’s Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, Ph.D., is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer. You can follow him on Twitter @BMEastwood.