The Su-57 Is in China: On Tuesday, the 14th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, more commonly known as Airshow China 2022, kicked off at the Zhuhai Airshow Center in South China’s Guangdong Province. Held on even years (with 2020’s event being delayed until last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic), it has become the largest airshow and aerospace trade show in China.
But it won’t be the only low observability aircraft that can be seen up close – as Russia brought out one of its most advanced fighters, the Sukhoi Su-57.
Russia’s Participation: Enter the Su-57
Russia has traditionally been an exhibitor at Airshow China, and this year, the state arms seller Rosoboronexport will display its state-of-the-art S-400 Triumf and S-350E Vityaz air defense systems, along with a variety of modern aircraft and helicopters and aerial weapons.
It will further showcase a full range of Russian military aircraft, including the Su-35 multirole super-maneuverable fighter, the Su-34E fighter bomber, and the MiG-35 multirole fighter in single- and dual-pilot configurations.
According to a report from Tass, visitors to the Airshow China 2022 will be able to see the IL-78MK-90A tanker aircraft and the IL-76MD-90A(E) military transport plane. In addition, Rosoboronexport will demonstrate the BTR-MDM multi-purpose airborne armored personnel carrier and the BMD-4M airborne infantry fighting vehicle, the press office said.
For the most part, Russia’s offerings this year could be best described as a bit underwhelming – a sentiment shared by a number of media outlets. The Jerusalem Post even noted,
“None of the Russian systems appear particularly interesting or groundbreaking. Considering Russia’s role in the Ukraine war, it is unclear if Moscow is able to show anything it has used in that war that has performed well.”
The Su-57 Up Close
It could be argued the aforementioned Su-57 (NATO reporting name “Felon”) might be the most impressive aircraft that Russia brought to China for this year’s show. Some Russian aviation experts have touted its capabilities, and even claimed it is a superior fighter to the United States Air Force’s F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II.
“The Su-57 outshines them by now in terms of the amount and diversity of armament. On top of that, the latest solutions, such as the second pilot as a system that facilitates aircraft control and combat operations, a spherical all-around radar that ‘sees’ everything and cutting-edge electronic warfare systems aboard the Su-57 leave the U.S. rival far behind,” Russian military aviation analyst Alexei Leonkov told TASS last November.
The single-seat, twin-engine multirole Su-57 combines the functions of an attack plane and a fighter jet while the use of composite materials and innovative technologies, along with the fighter’s aerodynamic configuration, was meant to ensure that it has a low level of radar and infrared signature. The use of composite materials has reduced the number of parts, but also the overall weight of the aircraft, according to Kremlin claims.
The Su-57 was developed by the Sukhoi Design Bureau and the Russian Aircraft Corporation as part of the Russian Air Force’s PAK FA fifth-generation fighter jet program, and it has become the first Russian aircraft to utilize stealth technology, while it was further designed to have supercruise, supermaneuverability, and advanced avionics to overcome attacks from the prior generation fighter aircraft, as well as ground and naval defenses. Development of the advanced Su-57 began in 2002, but the aircraft only took its first flight on January 29, 2010.
In August, Russian military officials claimed the Su-57 had been deployed to Ukraine, but even if so, it had made little if any contribution to the war effort.
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He 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.
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