While Russia may not have many of them, the Su-57 has all the makings of being a tough fighter in the sky. While many debate its stealth capabilities, this plane might be the best fighter Moscow has at the moment. How would it stack up against the best America has to offer, such as the F-22 and F-35? How does Russia’s Sukhoi Su-57 (NATO reporting name “Felon”) stack up to the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor? Both are “fifth-generation” combat aircraft that utilize advanced avionics, stealth technology, low-probability-of-intercept radar (LPIR), agile airframes, and supercruise performance. Each also featured highly integrated computer systems that are capable of networking with other elements within the battlespace for situational awareness and C3 (command, control and communications) capabilities.
Breaking Down the Stealth Fighters – F-22
The F-22 was the first of the fifth-generation aircraft. It was developed as an air dominance/air superiority fighter, but could also be employed in other roles including ground attack, electronic warfare and signals intelligence capabilities. The Russian Su-57 was also developed to be capable of engaging in aerial combat, as well as being able to conduct ground and maritime strikes.
The Raptor could be described as a far more “mature” platform, as it first entered service in 2005. Originally the United States Air Force had planned to buy a total of 750 of the F-22s, but the program was cut to just 187 aircraft due to the high cost, a lack of real air-to-air missiles during the Global War on Terror, and a ban on exports. In addition, the U.S. military should develop the more versatile F-35 Lightning II, and as a result, the last F-22 was delivered in 2012.
Here Comes the Su-57
The Su-57’s first flight only took place two years before the last F-22 was produced. Thus it is a newer aircraft but features many design similarities. Whereas the F-22 program was cut short, the Su-57 has failed to actually gain any momentum and to even get airborne! Development of the Felon has been protracted, and the first production aircraft was destroyed in a crash in December 2020. While the numbers of the F-22 aren’t as significant, certainly has a leg up in terms of overall numbers. Score one for the Raptor.
The Russian-designed aircraft is slightly larger and significantly heavier than its American counterpart. Both are twin-engine aircraft – Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 afterburning turbofans, each producing 26,000 pounds of thrust dry and 35,000 pounds of thrust with reheat in the F-22; and NPO Saturn/FNPTS MMPP Salyut AL-41F1 turbofan engines that can produce 35,000 pounds of thrust each with the Su-57.
Speed is nearly identical, as the F-22 Raptor has a top speed of 1,599 mph compared to the 1,616 mph of the Su-57. However, the Russian Felon edges out the Raptor in range, as the Sukhoi aircraft has a reported 3,107 miles to the 2,000 miles of the Lockheed Martin – while the Su-57 can exceed the 50,000-foot ceiling of the F-22, reaching an astonishing 65,617 feet. All of that certainly gives the Su-57 a slight edge.
Each can carry a variety of weapons including air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles, both internally as well as on external hardpoints. However, the F-22 is considered to be the more maneuverable aircraft, and with equally skilled pilots – a major variable as well – the Raptor could win the day.
Additionally, it has been suggested that the Su-57 ranks last in stealth among the various fifth-generation aircraft and very few have been produced. Its stealth capabilities should not be dismissed, however, as in combat it isn’t always about the smallest radar cross-section or infrared signature, but leveraging the platforms. The Su-57 wasn’t designed to serve as a stealthy fighter like the F-22, yet if the enemy can more readily see it, they can try to shoot it down.
Finally, it should be remembered that the F-22 was the first, and the aircraft could see its final days on the horizon, while the Su-57 still has to get off the ground.
Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.