Did the Russian Su-57 Score its First Victories in Ukraine? – For years, Moscow has hyped the capabilities of its “fifth-generation” Sukhoi Su-57 (NATO reporting name “Felon”). Kremlin officials have suggested the multirole fighter was designed to destroy all types of air, ground, and naval targets – and have highlighted the fighter jet’s “advanced” stealth technology that makes broad use of composite materials, and that it is capable of reaching a supersonic cruising speed.
There are also claims that it is furnished with the most advanced onboard radio-electronic equipment, including a powerful onboard computer – a so-called electronic second pilot – while the radar system spread across its body and some other innovations, in particular, armament placed inside its fuselage.
Russia has made bold claims that it was first tested in real combat conditions in Syria in 2018 – but it was hardly a level playing field as its adversaries lacked modern air-defense systems.
This could explain why Moscow has limited the role of the Su-57 in Ukraine to a few missile launches from within the safety of Russian air space.
Yet, last August, Yury Slyusar, CEO of the United Aircraft Corporation (UAC) suggested that the Felon had taken part in actual combat missions in Ukraine.
“The aircraft [Su-57] is participating in the special military operation and is demonstrating its best qualities. I have heard reports by the Aerospace Forces and the Defense Ministry and we have feedback and are very proud that the aircraft is already at the stage of its mass production,” Slyusar said at Russia’s Army 2022 International Military-Technical Forum last summer.
As previously reported, some aviation experts have questioned whether the Su-57 is actually a fifth-generation fighter at all – even as Russian officials have suggested it is practically a sixth-generation aircraft.
Did the Su-57 Felon Engage in a Dogfight?
There has been further speculation online that the Su-57 may have engaged Ukrainian fighters last fall. According to reports, a Su-57 shot down a Su-24 and Su-27 during a raid on Belgorod last October.
Such claims should be taken with a grain of salt – as Moscow would certainly be hyping such incidents.
Instead, according to a January assessment from the British Ministry of Defence (MoD), at best, the fighters are serving as bomb trucks – launching their load, including long-range air-to-surface and air-to-air missiles into Ukraine – from within Russian airspace.
Little has changed since, and as Ukraine begins to receive air-defense weapons such as the U.S.-made Patriot, there is little reason to believe Moscow would risk any of its shiny new toys in actual combat.
The other dubious claim from Moscow has been that Russia’s Aerospace Force would receive twenty-two Su-57 fighters by late 2024, while that number would increase to seventy-six by 2028.
Given the pressure Moscow has to produce any significant hardware, it is very unlikely those goals will be met.
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Author Experience and Expertise
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 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.